Spirituality and Nature

Clarence House

Clarence House

A few weeks ago I attended a spiritual drumming class in the glade round the back of Clarence House. The class was very enjoyable and the setting led me to think about spirituality and nature.

“If we could see the miracle of a single flower clearly, our whole life would change.” – Buddha.

It is said the first Zen sermon was given by Buddha, silently. As he simply held a white flower in his hand, the onlooking monks bar one were confused at what Buddha was trying to communicate.  The monk who understood smiled. Zen gardens are intended to imitate the inner essence of nature, an aid to meditation on the meaning of life. Japanese researchers claim the subconscious mind is sensitive to a subtle association of between the rocks in these gardens.
Many cultures have ‘sacred groves.’  In Genesis, 21.33, it says,’Abraham planted a grove in Beersheba, and called there the name of God.’  In druidry, sacred groves are seen as places to reconnect with divine essence in nature. This is an example of animism, the belief that non-human entities like animals, plants, stones etc. contain a spiritual essence. In India, sacred groves are also used to protect biological resources, to provide sanctuaries for flora and fauna, especially medicinal herbs.  They are also used to provide oxygen and deep ground water reserves.

Clarence House

Clarence House

 

Sources and bodies of water are also considered sacred in many religions.  In the Hindu festivals Durga Puja and Ganseh Chaturthi, thousands of devotees immerse themselves in water to influence a deity.  Baptism is far from being just a Christian practice.  It is also practiced in Buddhism, Sikhism, Judaism, Islam, Baha’i, Shinto, Taoism and Rastafarianism.  Being in harmony with nature is central to Rastafarianism.  This is an African influence.  Traditionally, African religions embrace the ebb and tide, waxing and waning of the moon, rain and drought.  These phenomenas are seen as natural rhythms.  Perhaps these rhythms are expressed in African drumming, which can uplift the ‘spirit.’

Sufi poet Rumi often referred to nature – “raise your words, not voice.  It is rain that grows flowers, not thunder.”  Of God, Rumi wrote, “a mountain keeps an echo deep inside.  That’s how I hold your voice.”  To man, he said, “but listen to me.  For one moment quit being sad.  Hear blessings dropping their blossoms around you.”

Along with its gardens, poetry in Zen also reveres nature with its haikus, very short poems that capture a moment.  Zen paintings literally makes human beings look very small compared to nature.  This is sometimes seen as ‘nature mysticism,’ when man is held in awe by the divinity he sees in nature.

One famous Zen master by the name of Dogon Zenji said, “when we pick up a lettuce leaf or a carrot, or engage in relationships, each moment and interaction is the body of the Buddha.”  Perhaps this can be compared to one of Christ’s sayings in the Gnostic Gospel of Thomas, “cleave the wood, I am there; lift up the stone, and you shall find me there.”

By Daniel Tavet

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Spiritual drumming

Rhythm section

Rhythm section

A nature and beer adventure led our trio on an unexpected, spiritual journey to sound health.

Our jaunt’s initial goal, on this hot summer morning, appeared straightforward enough…. to re-discover Houghley Gyll, LS13. A few false starts later, from our point of departure on Bramley’s main drag, we stumbled across the green snicket that is the Gyll. We sat there a while allowing the stillness and cool of its shady trees to replenish us. Feeling refreshed we mosied down via Amen Corner to Kirkstall. It is said that Amen Corner got it’s name from medieval times, it being the last point across the half-mile distance from Kirkstall Abbey, when the communal affirmations of the monks was still audible. Nowadays you’d do well to utter a silent prayer as you walk over it since there is only one very narrow footpath on the cramped u bend road bridge, the canal is a sheer drop from the bridge’s low rise stone wall.

We took heed of a Whyther Lane billboard’s admonition to ‘go fun yourself’, and went to a nearby riverside inn. On inquiring what snacks were available, we were informed there had been a rush on the smoked duck, and fancy cheeses. Plain sort of folk by nature we  content ourselves with much simpler fayre as accomapaniment to our pints, a bag of roast peanuts. We had the pub garden completely to ourselves, the river’s slow hypnotic eddy lulled us.

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An occasional train scuttled passed but did not drown out our discussions, which included whether or not psychiatric diagnosis was useful in the overall wellbeing of those so labelled.

Hollybush farm’s gable end was just visible above the shrubs. It triggered the story of it’s heyday as a rhubarb farm, when at early dawn it’s produce was bundled aboard a cargo train, which stopped nearby at the former station. The rhubarb, a highly valued  ‘fruit’, was destined for the Ritz Hotel, in London. Toffs seemingly liked their crumble, possibly after pheasant or smoked duck!

About to depart our separate ways, one among us, bound for a spirituality group drumming circle, invited we two ‘lost souls’ of LS13 to join them. People with mental and emotional sensitivities often find making spontaneous decisions hard, and also doing several activities in one day, taxing. This was true for all present, but on this occasion, bonhomie, the sun’s warmth, and possibly the effect of the beer led to the invite being enthusiastically pounced upon.

Arriving at the venue, Leeds MIND’s, Clarence House, we were ushered into it’s temple like glade or copse.

Since the centre’s inception many wishes for peace of mind have been uttered here, and these seem to linger, permeating it’s atmosphere of contemplation.

We joined a friendly group of around half a dozen other people. The facilitator, Marion, told us how she had came to drumming as a hobby more by coincidence than design. Marion also explained the origins and materials of the impressively tall ‘ethnic’ drums. In addition other percussion instruments were available for us to choose. To heighten the already existing spiritual intent and atmosphere, candles were lit, and incense passed so that we could smell which blend might best suit our mood. We chose Nag Champya, this was also lit. One regular member of the group explained Nag in India means snake. It’s easy to see why it has this name, because as the stick smoulders, its thin shaft of smoke slithers, then hangs heavily, motionless before ascending slowly toward the leaf dappled sky above in moksha. Nag Champya is a mix of sandalwood and frangipani, and has a chypre/sweet perfume which emits an overwhelmingly heady scent. It is often used in ashrams.to promote an out of body experience which enables those present to  be transported away from their material concerns.

Among the rhythms we played were Sufi and Ghanaian, we weren’t sure if the Sufi rhythms were what accompany the whirling dervish dances, but they were infectious. Since the rhythms were complex Marion broke the patterns into smaller  sections, as we mastered one we gradually progressed enough to also improvise, playing by ear and feeling. We were also encouraged to “give it some welly”,…. very therapeutic for pent up emotions. On this occasion the drumming rhythms helped to breakdown inhibitions. Drumming to invoke spiritual states of mind has a long history.

Despite  the enjoyment of the whole day, poignancy mingled with the spiritual awareness of some present, who found themselves remembering  former MIND members who had previously shared this space, even helping to plan the garden and pond, and who have since prematurely left ‘this mortal coil’. Thoughts especially of the Michael, the drummer of the former music group Sound Health.

The Leeds Mind, Sprituality group is part of the Wellbeing Service at Clarence House and is open to members of MIND. The group is held every Monday between 2-3.p.m. If you are interested, contact details can be found here

Daniel Tavet, and Sue Margaret

 

 

 

DIAMONDS – Diabetes and Mental Illness

Without doubt, lived experience of any mental health problem is challenging. Couple that experience with any additional medical or physical condition and you might expect treatment outcomes to be affected….they are! A startling example of this is in the case of people with diabetes who in addition have a psychiatric diagnosis.

Diabetes mellitus (DM) also known as simply diabetes, is a group of metabolic diseases in which there are high blood sugar levels over a prolonged period” (Wikipedia) and approximately 3.2million people are affected in UK

Evidence suggests that “diabetes is more than twice as prevalent and has poorer outcomes in people” diagnosed with “schizophrenia, bipolar disorder and severe depression than those without. “Although behavioural interventions have proved very effective in the general population, it is not known how effective such interventions are in people” with the aforementioned psychiatric diagnosis, to that end

“Dr Najma Siddiqi is working with colleagues as part of the NHS Yorkshire & Humber Collaboration for Leadership in Applied Health Research and Care (CLAHRC) on an exciting new research project to help people with both diabetes and SMI  (Serious Mental Illness) better manage their diabetes”.

In addition ……

DIAMONDS, .Diabetes and Mental Illness:Improving Outcomes and Treatments, Stake Holder Group.of Bradford NHS Trust……are asking for the help and support of people with lived experience of mental illness/diabetes, and/or their carers to take part in the following, on-line questionnaire survey

and possibly for their attendance at.an initial consultation event to be held on

Thursday 4th September, 2014  11am – 1.00pm at

The Cellar Trust, The Old School, Farfield Road, Shipley BD18 4QP.

Tea and coffee will be served from 10.30 a.m. and lunch will be available after the meeting.

You can book on-line here

or contact sarah.kirkland@bdct.nhs.uk if you would like to attend, or have any further questions.

DIAMONDS also suggest you might like to follow them on Twitter 

In Green

  A couple of months ago (had no internet for a few weeks due to a technical glitch) I did a very enjoyable workshop at Clarence House called Feeling Good  With colour.  It was about using colour  to improve our mood.  We did a visualisation  where we imagined sitting under a giant flower and golden sunshine pouring on to us,  discussed a poem about colour in nature, colour associations, discussed colour therapy, colour harmony, and how colours are used in different cultures.  We also went into the garden and each wrote a poem about what were experiencing.  This is the poem.

                                   IN GREEN

Stillness

In green

Vegetation.

Indigo flowers

Sat in middle.

Circle of bird conversation.

Trees smooth out                                                                       treespirit-greenwood-tree-primavera-500

Blunt sunshine

Cool breeze

Pats the back

Of golden heat

Calms the whirling

Brain chatter.

Buttercup open

Like greeting hand.

(image from otherwisetrading.co.uk)

Leeds Mind Peer Support Conference 6th June #peer14

The fantastic Peer Support team at Leeds Mind are presenting a free Peer Support Conference on Friday 6th June. Could your organisation benefit from using Peer Support ? Do you want to network with other organisations involved in Peer Support?

– tickets are free but need to be booked here via Eventbrite.  There are limited spaces so do book quickly!

The twitter hashtag for the event is #peer14

 

peer support flyer web

Clandestine Cake Club #somewhereovertherainbow: Mental Health and Wellbeing day

#SomewhereOverTheRainbow  is a special cake club event for people who struggle with their Mental Health and Wellbeing every day.

This will be held in the centre of Leeds on Sunday 6 July 2014 from 2-4pm

 We want to share the happiness that we get from attending cake club.

Rainbow small size

(Rainbow photograph by Evan Leeson, Flickr: Creative Commons)

The idea of this event isn’t the same as our usual Clandestine Cake Club events… it’s to try encourage people to come along and see if tea and cake and meeting people with similar problems can help their Mental Health and Wellbeing.

There really is something special about baking… it’s a therapeutic hobby, the weighing of ingredients and then patiently waiting for the cake to bake, I find it a good way to relax and de-stress after a busy day at work.  The good thing about this event is that if you aren’t able to bake then book yourself in with a friend who can do the baking… that way you get to come along to cake club, bring a friend or relative to support you and they’ll bring the cake!

The event has been arranged following twitter conversations about Mental Health and Wellbeing. We have launched this event solely for people with or recovering from Mental Health problems. 

For some people just getting up in the morning is a real challenge mentally. For others life is a real struggle to cope every day. These are the people we are reaching out to. Hopefully we can reach out to people on twitter too so if you talk about the event please use the hashtag #SomewhereOverTheRainbow

This isn’t a charity fundraising event, we’re not linked to a charity, it’s just something special where we hope people will have a few hours of fun over Tea and Cake and generally help with their/your wellbeing by baking a cake and perhaps coming along with a carer/best supportive friend.

I’ll be taking all the bookings and will sent out email confirmations in due course. The event is at a secret location in the centre of Leeds and the venue will be announced to the people attending about a week before the event.

If this is a success and over subscribed, we may look to do this again at a much larger venue, but we wanted to create a more intimate event in a smaller venue to start with.

Places are limited so please don’t miss out, follow the instructions on the link and book in asap.

All the details are here at Clandestine Cake Club – somewhere over the rainbow,  if you would like to come along or know someone who you think would then please either use this link or send it to the person to book a place.  This might be yourself, a friend, relative or even a client you see who you think might enjoy this event.

If we have bright and colourful cakes attending the event we will definitely brighten up the venue and our day!

King regards

Sharon Clarkson
Pudsey & West Leeds Clandestine Cake Club
@PudseyCCC on Twitter

Time to Change Experience coming to Leeds

Volition is one of the partners in an exciting project to bring the “Time to Change Experience” to Leeds. The new Time to Change campaign will show the small, everyday things you can do for those you care about – whether that’s a chat over a cuppa, sending a text, or giving someone a call to catch up and ask them how they are. Look out for the new TV advert on ITV, Channel 4, Five, Sky, and on catch up TV.

Along with the Time to Change Leeds team, Leeds & York Partnership Foundation Trust, Leeds City Council, Leeds Mind, Touchstone and others, Volition are working with the national Time to Change campaign team on a public engagement event at the White Rose Centre on Saturday 8th February. They are looking for volunteers, so please pass this information on to people you know who might be interested…

Would you be willing to talk about your personal experiences of mental health problems to help break down stigma? Do you live in or near Leeds?

white-rose-centre-leeds

What would it mean to volunteer? Well apparently Volunteer Co-ordinators will be there to support you throughout, and you’ll get the chance to attend a free training session, with a choice of time and locations in Leeds before the event. The face to face training includes role play and films to help you speak confidently to people “and have lots of fun!” Travel expenses will be paid and a fee of £15.

According to Volition,

“the Time to Change Experience is a ‘pop-up’ space where people can learn the truth about mental health in an engaging and fun way. Time to Change volunteers will challenge stereotypes of mental ill health by talking to the public about their lived experiences of mental health problems. This is the flagship community engagement event being organised in conjunction with Time to Talk Day which takes place across the country.”

To find out more about volunteering at this event, including what to expect, training, and how to apply, go to the Time to Change website, download the poster (pdf 350KB) or contact Gill Crawshaw at Volition. Tel.0113 2421321. gill.crawshaw@volition.org.uk