The tale of the lengths gone to, to get a new bell ‘inviter’ 🔔

So my ‘big bell’ one of many I use in my mindfulness teaching practice went on a long journey from a Buddhist monastery in Asia to be with me… A Plum Village nun bought it and shipped it to France for me. It took 4 months to get there. Mary from Dublin was visiting so she flew home with it in her backpack 🎒A few weeks later she came up to Belfast on the train 🚞 with it.

Finally it was mine and it served me well for about 10 years, until the 28 June this year. I was doing a day of workshops for a client, Workspace In Draperstown. It was a great day and all went well. As always I pack my bell away in my big bag. A month later I got it out again to teach my monthly Sunday mindful self-compassion workshop and the ‘inviter’ was missing!!

You may like to call the inviter a big stick but as my teacher Thay says: “We don’t hit the bell, we invite the bell to sound.” This is why it’s an inviter🔔

You can imagine if it was such trouble to get in the first place, replacing it would be very difficult and it was! I scoured the internet to no avail, I bought small imitation ones and even tried a rolling pin but nothing was right!

I decided I need to get one made but where to go? Who makes such a thing? The answer is a wood-turner. My 6 week Namaste class started back in August and I told the class the sorry tale. The wonderful Lesley Neil said she would text me the name of a man In Donaghadee.

I rang Tony at Ark Woodturning, he’s 76 so he couldn’t make me out on the phone, so one day my husband and I went down to see him. I was a bit dubious but low n behold he totally understood, said he had the perfect piece of hard wood (Iroko) reclaimed from an old church! He drew out measurements, cut the wood and the next thing shavings we’re flying everywhere as he produced the most beautiful perfect new inviter🌟Amazing 💛

But still the problem was not fully solved I needed to get the inviter covered with leather to get the sound right. Someone said ‘try the shoe mender on Botanic’. So I did, he said he was too busy to sew it but he sold me a scrap of leather for a £5. So now I just had to find someone who could sew leather…

Again Lesley to the rescue, she suggested Lisa Dunn, who is known locally for her sound healing work with her husband Brian, they are the wonderful Soundhenge. I left my inviter with Lisa and now I have the perfect tool to invite the bell. I’m so happy and grateful!

Come to any of my public classes to hear what it sounds like 🙂

The picture shows my bell with the new inviter check out my Instagram to see more pics of the inviters journey 🙂

The Good News

They don’t publish
the good news.
The good news is published
by us.
We have a special edition every moment,
and we need you to read it.
The good news is that you are alive,
and the linden tree is still there,
standing firm in the harsh Winter.
The good news is that you have wonderful eyes
to touch the blue sky.
The good news is that your child is there before you,
and your arms are available:
hugging is possible.
They only print what is wrong.
Look at each of our special editions.
We always offer the things that are not wrong.
We want you to benefit from them
and help protect them.
The dandelion is there by the sidewalk,
smiling its wondrous smile,
singing the song of eternity.
Listen! You have ears that can hear it.
Bow your head.
Listen to it.
Leave behind the world of sorrow
and preoccupation
and get free.
The latest good news
is that you can do it.

–Thich Nhat Hanh

I LOVE this poem by Thay so much! For long part of my career, about 20 years (!) I worked in the media. My first university degree was in Communications, Advertising and Marketing and being a Belfast child I was brought up glued to the evening news every night. But I’m over with it now, I’ve overdosed on the news – it’s too much and I’ve come to the conclusion it never really changes,especially the political news – though it seems to, it’s just the same old story with different characters… do you agree? Let me know in the comments 🙂 You could have left Northern Ireland twenty years ago and come back to the same old same dramas… It seems to me to be the the same in every country…

Every day on my social media (Facebook, Twitter and Linkedin) I publish a ‘quote of the day’ today’s is by Rolf Dobelli: “We are not rational enough to be exposed to the press.” It’s so true the media wind us up. I wish were all sane and rational creatures but the evidence is clear (even those of you who are reading this thinking ‘no I’m the one sane person who is not influenced by what I read, hear and see) we’re emotional beings. We react to stories and pictures and news based on our personal history, our family history our circumstances our religious beliefs, our ideas and feelings and hormones who else is in the room or our life at the time…

So today instead of reading the news on Twitter, which I must confess has become a source of news for me now that I don’t really do the other sources or watching the Ten O’Clock news on ITV, just sit down and breath for 10 minutes. Whatever decisions, dilemmas, joys or troubles you are dealing with will not be made any clearer by watching or reading news but they may well be made much easier by just ‘simply being’ or conscious breathing 🙂

P.S. I’m not saying never to watch or read news or bury your head in the sand about what’s going on in the world. I’m just saying we all need to cut down our consumption a little and perhaps be more aware how the media manipulate us. Not to say that the media have bad intentions, I worked in media too, it just our culture of news in general gives us anxiety and makes us think everything is awful when the truth is there is lots of good and beautiful things, the negativity bias of our brain means we take more notice of the negative – all of us are subject to this and need to try to balance it with taking more notice of the good news. Just like cutting our consumption of meat, sugar and alcohol is a good idea, cutting our consumption of news media is also a good idea sometimes. 🙂

Mindfully breathing my way to enlightenment

People who are interested in meditation and spirituality are often looking for something magical and mystical.  Maybe enlightenment.  All my study of the great teachers and traditions tells me the opposite.  In order to have, seek or find a spiritual experience you must first go to something very simple, very ordinary, very present: the body and the breath.

Our breath is the link between the body and the mind, when we cultivate awareness of breathing we begin to become present and increase our concentration and capacity for insight. Insight will lead us to enlightenment.

So there is a path to enlightenment, but the path begins with the practical step of mindful breathing.

Mindfulness of breathing will help us right away. It will enable us to calm down, to slow our heart rate, activate the parasympathetic nervous system enabling us to release and relax tension. Healing.  Eventually we can learn to turn off what in Plum Village they call the NST – the non-stop thinking radio of the mind.

If we continue to practice over time, neuroscience shows that this type of meditation will shrink the areas of our brain to do with anxiety and stress, (the amygdala) and will thicken the parts of our brain to do with happiness and contentment (the right pre-frontal cortex).

How amazing is that? Just from making an unconscious process (breathing) conscious we are changing our brain, rewiring the mind for happiness.  Once this begins to happen perhaps we will no longer feel the need for enlightenment or perhaps this is enlightenment?

To be happy and contented in our own skin, to have the capacity to bounce back from disappointment and failure (resilience) and to handle all of life’s vicissitudes with equanimity…  This is the kind of enlightenment I’m seeking. J

Try some mindful breathing right now:

Breathing in I know I am breathing in, Breathing out I know I am breathing out.  In, Out… repeat and enjoy.