It’s been an unusual and challenging year for the whole world but, amidst that, I will acknowledge, for me personally, there has been an invitation to acknowledge and appreciate my many blessings. So, it seems fitting to end the year with a focus on all the things I am grateful for.
Not surprisingly it has been shown that developing a focus on gratitude can have a positive effect on your well-being. I certainly appreciate the benefits of a regular gratitude practice, especially this year when it would have been easy to get mired in all the things that were missing! So, inspired by a couple of my mentors, I am ending 2020 by reflecting on 12 blessings of the year. I hope you enjoy reading my 12 and I wonder if you too may want to consider what you are grateful for to mark your year end?
So, in no particular order, 12 things I acknowledge with gratitude this year are:
My family. Of course my immediate family who I have been able to share more time with than usual this year due to lockdown. And also my wider family, The fact that despite an ocean I have been able to FaceTime with my parents regularly. Also the new tradition of a family Zoom with Adams parents, sister, brother and their families. I last saw my parents in February and I am missing them lots but searching for a photo of us all together made me smile at happy memories. The one I share here is from a couple of years ago when my parents celebrated their 50th wedding anniversary at the venue of our own wedding (also on the same date).
The animals who share my life, no surprise, deserve a few entries. So, first, I will mention my wonderful horses, Helios, Paddy and Dexter and Toudoux and Kylie’s herd members Willi, Blackjack, Sinclair and Berry. Spending time in being mode, with the horses, keeps me grounded and the practicalities of caring for them keep me fit! The horses regularly invite me to learn new, and not always easy lessons, as I undertake their daily care and it is with gratitude I accept their invitation and encouragement to growth.
Which brings me to, the new home for my little herd on the edge of Bambesch forest. Many of you know this story but I have been watching and fantasising about this field for many years as I walked Ella in Bambesch forest. Years ago I put a note through the owners' door and finally that small act of bravery came to fruition this Spring when the field came available to rent. For me, real validation of the power of intention and the need for patience (acknowledging the second is not always easy!)
Much gratitude to my friends who have been there to offer a listening ear this year when things felt tough and to share their own trials and triumphs. Also to the small group of loyal and dedicated family and friend helpers who have made the practical aspects of the move to the new haven for my herd possible.
The animals who share our home have definitely made us smile over the long months of lockdown. Our long-time family companion, Ella, our rats Salt and Pepper and the newest arrival, our kitten Liam who joined the family in June. He is such a bundle of fluff, delight and mischief and his interest in and exuberance for all things are a true inspiration. I truly feel my animals help keep me grounded and cuddles and strokes offer an oxytocin release to help me feel connected.
The wonderful mentors I have met on my journey have certainly helped me to continue with renewed energy this year when the going got tough and face-to-face work had to cease for a few months. Special mentions go to Rosie Withey who was instrumental to me taking my early steps on this journey, Ines Kaiser who continues to offer inspiration as my professional Supervisor, and my friend and partner in HERD, Kylie Morrison who is always there to offer friendship, support and clarity. Thanks to them all for being exemplars of nurture, challenge and reflection and for setting such a beautifully high standard for this special work we bring to the world.
The clients I have worked with are my reason for doing this work. It is a delight and privilege to be a companion to others on their journey of personal growth and well-being. I can truly say I learn something from each person I work with which, in turn, enriches my professional practice. I recently heard this referred to in a podcast as the secret joke of coaching. This is the kind of win-win joke that makes me smile.
Our home. Despite searching for a new one for so long, during our quest to find a place with space for the horses, this house has become our home-base this year. And although I have, at times, experienced a burning desire to return to England to be closer to family, it finally feels like things are falling into place. The horses settled into their own haven of well-being and freedom just up the road and, right now, I am enjoying being exactly where I am, at home.
My meditation practice has guided me through a few tough times and this year has been no exception. I have been particularly grateful for the generosity of the many of the thought leaders in the field for the online resources that have been freely offered this year. Guides who have supported my practice this year include Tara Brach, Jack Cornfield and Rick Hanson’s Just one thing newsletter and Being Well podcast. I have even been inspired to record and share some resources of my own.
Likewise, the rich offers of on-line development this year have really deepened my practice. Discovering the power of Mindful Self-Compassion through the work of Kristen Neff and Chris Germer has been a game changer in inviting me to be kinder to myself. Likewise, the quality development programmes offered by Future Learn, Sounds True and Commune have all guided my practice this year.
Going back to school. A high point of this year has been beginning a Masters degree in Mindfulness-Based Approaches at Bangor University. Despite the fact that our ‘residentials’ this year have been virtual and conducted over Zoom, the quality of teaching and interaction has been superb and I enjoying getting to know other likeminded students. You can explore some of the guided meditations from the Centre for Mindfulness Research and Practice here.
Opportunity to explore my faith. This last one is something I am a bit reticent or shy to share but seems particularly appropriate to share as we approach Christmas. 2020 has provided plenty of opportunity for reflection and that has invited me to revisit my spiritual Christian roots as I begin to explore Buddhism in more detail and also honour the wonders of nature. I am particularly grateful for the opportunity to attend an on-line Alpha course with the Anglican Church of Luxembourg. And in the synergistic way life sometimes works, at the same time I have been reintroduced to the practice of prayer by Caroline Myss’s beautiful book ‘Intimate conversations with the Divine’ which offers guidance through Caroline’s own exquisite prayers . The reflective Examen practice for me personally, dovetails into my other spiritual practices and invites a reflective end to the day.
Writing this article has, in itself, been a wonderful act of gratitude but it has, if I am honest, also sparked a stab of guilt. I am aware that not everyone will have the luxury of a list like this and that 2020 has brought loss and hardship to many. Sharing these gratitudes is in no way an attempt to diminish or discount this. And yet, as the year comes to a close, I feel drawn to reflect and give thanks.
I would like to end with a wish of loving kindness for all beings:
May you be happy, May you be healthy, May you ride the horse of your life with exuberance and joy May you know peace whatever comes your way And this year may you experience the love and wonder of Christmas whatever your faith or belief system.