It’s almost Easter…

bed of assorted color flowers

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Easter this year is tinged with sadness for so many people affected in some way by Coronavirus. I’ve been spending more time at home than usual due to lockdown.

My garden has been my focus recently; it’s been looking very spring like. At Easter in previous years, I’ve gone to visit gardens to see all the spring bulbs and flowers in bloom. Spring is a popular time of year for gardens, just opened for the year. Now, government restrictions mean they are closed, with other attractions and businesses.

As an alternative to a usual visit, I came across a number of virtual tours, of popular tourist sites. Some sites have recently added special virtual tours. If you’re stuck for ideas for the Easter weekend; why not check some of these out and design your own virtual tour.

I did a virtual tour of Keukenhof gardens , Lisse, Netherlands. On one trip a few years ago I visited it along with other places in Amsterdam. The gardens are amazing to see, they are laid out with huge flower beds, full of beautiful tulips, hyacinths, daffodils, roses, carnations, irises, lilies and other spring flowers.

beautiful bloom blooming blossom

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The gardens are one of the largest in Europe and cover around 80 acres of land planted with 7 million bulbs.

Around this area near Lisse, are fields planted acre upon acre with tulip bulbs. These stretch into the distance with their striking, vibrant colours, making the Dutch bulb fields  a tourist attraction.

A very popular place to visit in Amsterdam is Anne Franks house. Her famous diary documents the years from 1942-44 in hiding; before she was captured and sent to the concentration camp, Bergen Belsen.
A virtual tour shows you around her house and the secret annex  where she went into hiding during the German occupation of the Netherlands during the Second World War.

It’s a humbling experience to see this virtual tour; particularly as our movements have been restricted so much.

yellow tulip flower field during daytime

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Easter is symbolic of new life, my poem this week looks ahead…

 

To the future

Out of the darkness

A sparkling light

Shines through

It points the way

 

From bleakness

To the future

Where our hopes

Are realised

 

Poem by Nick

Silence is deafening

macro photography of sparkling diamonds

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I’ve found difficulty writing recently; the totally consuming Coronavirus pandemic unfolding in front of us is something that’s hard to comprehend. Looking at it and trying to make sense of it seems impossible. My poem this week is a reflection of these feelings.

Silence is Deafening

In Stillness

the Quiet

Peace

and Calm

Of the Morning

Shatters

the Space

with Clear

Cool

fresh Air

💫💫💫

the Hours

merge

into Days

passing Slowly

Silently

like Nothing

Before

Compares with

the Silence

Now

Poem by Nick

#Mindfulness for calm

photo of foggy lake

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Its hard to relax and focus on calming thoughts at the moment. I’ve found practicing meditation has helped me in the past and now at this difficult time. 

Why practice mindfulness?

Clinical researchers have carried out a number of tests which have shown that mindfulness can improve your overall health and wellbeing in these ways:

  • lower stress levels
  • lower depression
  • improve the quality of sleep
  • reduce anxiety
  • encourage positive thinking
  • alter the way the mind reacts to difficult situations
  • improve decision making

How can mindfulness be described?

In a nutshell, it’s focusing our attention purely on the present moment. Doing this without letting the mind drift back to past memories or thinking about future events. Mindfulness is embracing the present with acceptance, without judgment.

The monkey mind🐒

There are so many distractions for us to focus our mind on. To illustrate the monkey mind, try this exercise for a couple of minutes.

Focus your mind on your breathing.  Think about where you can feel movement in your chest from your breathing.  Concentrate on this area, for a few minutes. You will notice your thoughts stray, thinking about numerous things other than the breath.

These thoughts are from past or future experiences. The mind is rarely focused on the present. It jumps from one subject to another, like a monkey playing. This practice is called the monkey mind.

How do I start to practice mindfulness?

Start by focusing on your senses when you carry out your everyday routine. By thinking about the feel, touch, smell and the sound of everything you are experiencing.

If you carry out a task such as washing the dishes, think about the heat of the water, the texture and feel of the plates, the scent of washing up liquid and the sound of water filling up the bowl.

“If you have a regular daily routine build some time into it every day to practice mindfulness.”

You could try changing your daily activities. For example if you regularly go for a walk and always walk the same way; try changing the route to one your not as familiar with. Or try a completely new walk.

By changing your routine to something different or new it will get your mind to focus on a familiar task in a different or new way.

stack of stones

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Thought watching

If you find while you are concentrating on tasks thoughts interrupt you. Just observe them, try not to be side tracked by them.

Introduce a label for each thought that arises; ‘I’m nervous about a exam result’, label it ‘thought’, or a feeling ‘I feel worried’ label it ‘emotion’; and go back to the task you are carrying out.

This practice will help train the mind to not follow a thought and get sidetracked by it. Just observe thoughts without judgment, acknowledging them, and labelling them. Going back to the task.

Mindfulness meditation

Taking mindfulness a step further incorporating it into daily meditation practice can encourage the mind to work in a regular pattern.

Mindfulness meditation works by silently spending a few minutes every day thinking about one aspect of the body, such as breathing awareness and acknowledging thoughts, when they arise and bringing back attention to the breathing.

Have a look at my page on Meditation for more information about suggestions for meditation practice.