The Sacred Everyday

Some time ago, I discovered the Harry Potter And The Sacred Text podcast. This was a wonderful discovery. HP and the Sacred Text takes one of my (and the world’s) most beloved series of books, and engaged with them in a thoughtful and inquisitive way, exploring the lessons and ideas the story has to offer us and providing tools for treating any text – and I would argue any part of life – as sacred.

Here’s how the founders and hosts, Vanessa and Casper, explain what they are trying to do with the podcast:

This podcast creates time in your week to think about life’s big questions. Because reading fiction doesn’t help us escape the world, it helps us live in it.

On this podcast, we ask: What if we read the books we love as if they were sacred texts? 

Each week, we explore a central theme through which to explore the characters and context, always grounding ourselves in the text. We’ll engage in traditional forms of sacred reading to unearth the hidden gifts within even the most mundane sentences.

Vanessa and Casper are so thoughtful and engaging in their exploration of Harry Potter and I have taken great joy and great comfort in approaching these much loved books in a new way.

I am also intrigued by the idea of viewing those things that might be considered ‘everyday’ as sacred, especially in light of my recent musings on my experience of religion and the church. When I was actively involved in the Christian church, one of the things I loved most about it was the chance to take a more considered approach to reading a text. I enjoyed the opportunity to explore deeper meanings and ideas and desperately wanted the change to question those ideas. The sacred practices shared on Harry Potter and the Sacred Text allow me to do just that.

On a recent episode, Vanessa beautifully broke down the elements they believe are necessary for applying this kind of sacred practice to wider contexts – not just the reading of any text but to things like writing or running – and I loved the simple clarity of it so much that I wanted to share it with you today.

  1. Faith – you must have faith that the more you do or engage with something the more gifts you will receive from it. If I persistently dedicate time to reading, writing, running, cooking or any other thing, then those things will reward me more and more.
  2. Rigour – the time you give to these things will be more rewarding still if you approach them with rigour. By ritualising the processes you use, the time you spend will be more focused and valuable. If I want to approach the reading of a text in a rigorous way, I can take notes and I can research or discuss the ideas that arise. If I want to approach my writing in a rigorous and sacred way, I can switch off my phone and focus my attention, I can carry out a mindfulness meditation before I begin.
  3. Community – find others to share the process with. By engaging in these practices alongside like-minded individuals – or even very un-like-minded individuals – you open up more opportunities for questioning, exploring and sharing ideas. If I share ideas about a text with people in my community, their ideas further enrich my own and open my mind to new perspectives. If I share my writing with other writers and readers, I will better understand the impact of my words and will be able to share the struggles and triumphs of the process.
  • I love the possibility that anything in life can be treated as sacred if we only give it the right attention and approach it with intention to do so. This is something I hope to explore and experiment with, especially with regards to writing.
  • I’d love to hear if you decide to give it a go (or decide to listen to the podcast!) too.
  • Wild & Improbable Tales – Suit Up

    No one saw it for what it really was. When they saw him striding the halls and directing their meetings, they assumed the freshly pressed suit and perfectly knotted tie were simply business dress.

    They didn’t know that, when he got home at night and loosened that restrictive strip of fabric, the rest of him unraveled with it. They didn’t know that their confident, assertive leader shed his stoicism with the layers of expensive tailoring. They didn’t know the vulnerability of his true self; that whilst his head may be in the game his heart was in the clouds, yearning for the life of a wandering dreamer.

    The daily struggle between expectation and longing was always hidden behind buzz words and neatly ordered spreadsheets. Until he was alone and free to dream, to marvel, to create, or sometimes to simply fall apart, as the world would never allow him to do in sight of his troops. The dreaming and marvelling and creating and falling took him to beautiful and terrible places, where he meandered all the night, until it was time to suit up his armour again. For he went not to work but to war.

    If only they had known, they would have unraveled with him.

    Being Emotionally Honest

    This week was Mental Health Awareness Week and all week I’ve been wanting and meaning to write something to share with you, my lovely readers. But I’ve had a funny mental health week and have just not quite been in the right frame of mind. I’ve felt edgy, restless and anxious, as if something is bubbling just under my surface. It’s an uncomfortable feeling.

    When anxiety starts to prickle like this, I try to acknowledge the feeling. In the past, I used to work hard to ignore it, or would make myself feel guilty about it, which only made things worse. It has taken a surprising amount of effort to reach a point where I can allow myself to just feel what I feel, without judgement. Like much else in life, there always seem to be ‘should’s and ‘must’s crowding in, making me feel bad about my feelings, wants and needs. But by acknowledging the truth of what I’m feeling, without trying to tell myself I should feel something different, I’m far more able to deal with those emotions. This is true of more than just anxiety.

    Emotions are human. And as humans we experience a full spectrum. It’s no good trying to repress what might be seen as ‘negative’ emotions. If you feel angry, be angry; if you feel resentful, be resentful; if you feel sad, be sad. These aren’t necessarily pleasant things to feel but feel them we do. If, when one of these emotions crops up, we tell ourselves we shouldn’t be angry, or we should be grateful, or we have no right to be sad, we are denying some of the truth of ourselves. And the real truth is that you can’t force an emotion away. You can pretend. You can try to bury it in falsehood. But that emotion will still be there and, if you let it, it will fester.

    Like a festering wound, a festering emotion can make you very ill indeed. You have to let the ‘bad’ stuff out if you ever want to heal. One of the things that I used to worry about a lot was how my emotions might make other people feel. When something or someone made me angry, I didn’t want to be angry with them in case it upset them, especially if that person was someone I loved, who loved me, and who I knew probably didn’t mean to make me angry. When something or someone made me resentful, I didn’t want to behave resentfully towards them, and when something or someone (or often nothing) made me sad, I didn’t want to show that sadness because I thought my privileged life meant I had no right to be sad. But by being so focused on what other people might feel in response I put myself in some really dark and painful places. And the thing is, allowing yourself to feel what you feel isn’t about rubbing it in someone’s face. You don’t have to take the festering wound and smear it on the person who accidentally gave you a paper cut, or whose success distracted you from what you were doing so you accidentally gave yourself one.

    It takes a conscious effort but I will now (most of the time) deal with those emotions in one of two ways: I will acknowledge it out loud or in writing, just to myself; or if it’s really eating at me, I will speak to a friend or family member who is outside the situation and, as honestly as I can, explain what I’m feeling. These acknowledgements are usually prefaced with lots of ‘I know I’m really lucky to have X, Y and Z, BUT…’ or ‘I feel like I’m being a bitch/ungrateful/overreacting, BUT…’. With the effort of being honest about my feelings, to someone else in particular, comes the need to qualify that I know I speak from a place of privilege. The process at the moment is still partly one if seeking approval for what I’m feeling, which I hope to move beyond eventually. But this has been a huge step forward for me because I used to keep everything I considered vaguely negative bottled up inside. I would not allow myself to be imperfect in my emotions. I would not allow myself to be human.

    What I have found is that once I have acknowledged whatever it is out loud, I either feel better immediately and am able to move on, or it gets me to a place where I can then address the person/situation with a greater degree of honesty and clarity. My feelings will usually have subsided to a point where I can express them in what feels like a reasonable and healthy way. It’s a work in progress and sometimes it still takes me a while to realise I’m letting something fester, but I can feel the difference this has made to my emotional life.

    I’m also getting much better at self-care and making time every most days to check in with myself and have a moment of honesty. Some of my favourite ways to do this are by reading, listening to a podcast, taking photographs, writing and journaling. Here’s what that looks like currently:

    Reading:

    The Self Care Project by Jayne Hardy

    Reasons To Stay Alive by Matt Haig

    Red Clocks by Leni Zumas

    Circe by Madeline Millar

    (I know, I know, four books at once seems a lot. I always tend to have a lot of books on the go because I’m such a mood reader!)

    Listening To:

    The Happy Place

    The Guilty Feminist

    Harry Potter and The Sacred Text

    The Quibbler

    Made of Human

    Photographing:

    Books

    Nature

    My dog!

    Writing:

    Poetry

    Blog posts

    A young adult fantasy novel…

    Journaling:

    Quotes

    Doodles

    Tracking sleep, mood, steps

    Daily gratitude

    This Mental Health Awareness Week, and beyond, I encourage you to be emotionally honest with yourself, make the time for self care, and help continue the conversation about mental health, whether online, with friends and family, or even with strangers.

    What do you think is important for maintaining mental health?

    There is Help and Hope

    I have started writing this post several times and don’t quite know how to say what I want to say. I have heard and seen too many stories of people struggling with their mental health and not being able to find a way out; too many stories of people for whom the only escape they could see was through taking their own life. My heart breaks and bleeds for these people and their families and friends. I want to help. I’m not sure how. So for now I just want to say if you are suffering you need not suffer alone. If you are hurting there are people who want to try and help you heal. If you are struggling to see any light in the dark, please, please, call out and let someone – anyone, friend or family or stranger or professional – try to help light your way. Even if you feel totally alone, know that there are people who care.

    Please don’t suffer in silence. Let in help. Let in hope.

    If you’re unsure how or who to ask for help the resources and websites below might be a good place to start. Take care of yourselves and each other, lovely people. 💛

    The Blurt Foundation – https://www.blurtitout.org

    The Samaritans – http://www.samaritans.org

    Mind – http://www.mind.org.uk

    Young Minds – http://www.youngminds.org.uk

    Papyrus (prevention of young suicide) – https://www.papyrus-uk.org

    Self Harm UK – https://www.selfharm.co.uk

    Time to Change – http://www.time-to-change.org.uk

    Rethink Mental Illness – http://www.rethink.org

    American Foundation for Suicide Prevention – https://www.afsp.org

    It’s #TimeToTalk, Now

    It’s easy to be too busy

    Or say

    It’s not the right time

    To worry that you’ll make it worse

    So you accept their fumbled

    “Fine.”

    It’s hard to find the moment

    For hearing truth

    And depth

    But really we’re just finding excuses

    To keep ourselves

    Deaf

    To all the pain that gathers

    When people can’t speak

    Truth

    And have to keep it bottled up

    For fear of hurting

    You

    But what happens when you leave it?

    When you let the silence

    Grow?

    What if their pain is your pain too

    But not asking means

    You’ll never

    Know?

    So let’s all breathe together

    Hold hands and take

    A dive

    Into conversation

    With neighbours

    Strangers

    Friends

    And lovers

    Because

    Now

    Is The Time.

    • JH

    ***

    If you or someone you know is struggling with mental health then please don’t be afraid to reach out and talk to someone. You are not alone and help is available. By opening up and starting the conversation we can move forward together and look to a mentally healthy future. Below are links to a range of fantastic organisations that can provide information, advice and services.

    The Samaritans – http://www.samaritans.org

    Mind – http://www.mind.org.uk

    Young Minds – http://www.youngminds.org.uk

    Papyrus (prevention of young suicide) – https://www.papyrus-uk.org

    Self Harm UK – https://www.selfharm.co.uk

    Time to Change – http://www.time-to-change.org.uk

    Rethink Mental Illness – http://www.rethink.org

    American Foundation for Suicide Prevention – https://www.afsp.org

    Please do not struggle alone.

    It’s #TimeToTalk Switching Off

    Sometimes, all is noise:

    Busy

    Bustling

    Chaos.

    The mad rush from here to

    There.

    The happy buzz,

    The anxious struggle,

    The beeping, bleeping, never ending

    Asks and answers,

    Frets and favours,

    Coffee percolating,

    Email answering,

    Frantic searching,

    Forgot what I was doing,

    Hamster-wheeling,

    Plate spinning

    Noise.

    And sometimes

    There is

    Silence.

    • JH

    It seems a little ironic to talk about switching off when I’m typing a blog post on my phone (thanks to a broken laptop) which will be read online and shared through social media, but being switched on and plugged in all the time is not good for us. It can in fact be really damaging to our mental health. We are caught in a constant onslaught of exposure to anything and everything. Bad news, images of perfection, and unrealistic expectations are everywhere. It’s enough to make anyone feel inadequate and exhausted.

    Being plugged in all the time also prevents us from really engaging with the people around us. Looking around a crowded train carriage on the way into town or even around a restaurant on a Friday night, you see people everywhere staring at screens. Don’t get me wrong, I love my screens and technology as much as the next person, and I’m guilty of checking my phone more than I need to, but sometimes it really is nice to step out of the digital world we’re so caught up in and take a moment to enjoy the reality around us.

    So set yourself a challenge to unplug for a while, even just an hour, and start a conversation with someone. A real conversation. It’s time to talk.

    ***

    If you or someone you know is struggling with mental health then please don’t be afraid to reach out and talk to someone. You are not alone and help is available. By opening up and starting the conversation we can move forward together and look to a mentally healthy future. Below are links to a range of fantastic organisations that can provide information, advice and services.

    The Samaritans – http://www.samaritans.org

    Mind – http://www.mind.org.uk

    Young Minds – http://www.youngminds.org.uk

    Papyrus (prevention of young suicide) – https://www.papyrus-uk.org

    Self Harm UK – https://www.selfharm.co.uk

    Time to Change – http://www.time-to-change.org.uk

    Rethink Mental Illness – http://www.rethink.org

    American Foundation for Suicide Prevention – https://www.afsp.org

    Please do not struggle alone.

    It’s #TimeToTalk – Fear

    1afraidofmymind

    Image found here.

    Fear can be a crippling thing. It’s even worse when the thing you fear is a part of yourself because there is no running and hiding. How can you run from yourself? We have a tendency to follow ourselves wherever we go. And then it becomes a vicious circle because not only are we afraid of ourselves, of our own minds but we are afraid of the fear. It is a terrible thing to be afraid of your own mind. And we must fight against this deepest of fears. We must try to hold on to the knowledge that we are beautiful people, every one of us. That whilst our minds can create fear they can also create the most amazing things. There are whole worlds, whole universes inside us and we should be able to embrace that without fear. But that is not an easy thing to do. Not at all. So we need to be able to lift one another up. Sometimes we cannot see for the fog inside our own heads and we need a light from the outside to guide us back to hope. So reach out, shine alight into the lives of those around you. You never know when a kind word, a hug, a text or email, a funny tweet or a smile might be just the glimmer to pull someone away from their fear of themselves.

    If you or someone you know is struggling with mental health then please don’t be afraid to reach out and talk to someone. You are not alone and help is available. By opening up and starting the conversation we can move forward together and look to a mentally healthy future. Below are links to a range of fantastic organisations that can provide information, advice and services.

    The Samaritans – http://www.samaritans.org
    Mind – http://www.mind.org.uk
    Young Minds – http://www.youngminds.org.uk
    Papyrus (prevention of young suicide) – https://www.papyrus-uk.org
    Rethink Mental Illness – http://www.rethink.org
    American Foundation for Suicide Prevention – https://www.afsp.org
    Please do not struggle alone.
    x

    It’s #TimeToTalk – What’s Saving Your Life?

    IMG_8148

    Image found here.

    In my experience it has not been big things that have changed my attitude towards mental health but a thousand tiny things and a millions tiny moments. These tiny things and tiny moments saved my life. They have given me the strength and courage to seriously consider my mental state and do something about it. The little things that save our lives is exactly what this rather fabulous post is all about. Is four minutes in the nude saving your life too?

    Here’s a list of some of the little things saving my life right now:
    – Books. Huge piles of books. Everywhere.
    – Little moments in the car. My mum will get this even if no one else does. Sometimes when it’s been a long day and I get home from work, I just switch off the engine of my car and sit there in silence for a few minutes. Sometimes I’m thinking and sometimes I’m just sitting peacefully, but those few minutes are like a deep relaxing breath to me. So if you ever see me just sat in my car for no apparent reason, now you know.
    – Doodling. Nothing major. Nothing fancy. Just little doodles on post-its, round the edge of my journal, anywhere really. It’s my version of a pensieve.

    So, what’s saving your life right now?

    If you or someone you know is struggling with mental health then please don’t be afraid to reach out and talk to someone. You are not alone and help is available. By opening up and starting the conversation we can move forward together and look to a mentally healthy future. Below are links to a range of fantastic organisations that can provide information, advice and services.

    The Samaritans – http://www.samaritans.org
    Mind – http://www.mind.org.uk
    Young Minds – http://www.youngminds.org.uk
    Papyrus (prevention of young suicide) – https://www.papyrus-uk.org
    Rethink Mental Illness – http://www.rethink.org
    American Foundation for Suicide Prevention – https://www.afsp.org
    Please do not struggle alone.
    x

    It’s #TimeToTalk – What Is Normal?

    1normal

    Image found here.

    When we are struggling with mental health it is easy to fall into the trap of wishing to be ‘normal’. Wishing to be like everyone else. Believing that because we struggle we are somehow not normal. Well normal is an illusion. What is ‘normal’ for the spider is chaos for the fly. The ‘normal’ we think we see everyone else enjoying is quite probably not what it seems at all. It’s very possible that the person who’s normal you envy is looking at your in jealousy of your ‘normal’. Don’t get sucked into craving something that doesn’t exist. Life is complicated enough without that.

    If you or someone you know is struggling with mental health then please don’t be afraid to reach out and talk to someone. You are not alone and help is available. By opening up and starting the conversation we can move forward together and look to a mentally healthy future. Below are links to a range of fantastic organisations that can provide information, advice and services.

    The Samaritans – http://www.samaritans.org
    Mind – http://www.mind.org.uk
    Young Minds – http://www.youngminds.org.uk
    Papyrus (prevention of young suicide) – https://www.papyrus-uk.org
    Rethink Mental Illness – http://www.rethink.org
    American Foundation for Suicide Prevention – https://www.afsp.org
    Please do not struggle alone.
    x

    Words of Wisdom

    Yesterday I had the loveliest evening with one of my favourite ladies. We ate good food and watched a good film and had a lovely old catch up. During the course of the evening this lovely friend of mine also came out with a real gem of wisdom. So important is it’s message I decided it needed it’s own blog post. And indeed it’s own motivational poster format…

    IMG_7040.JPG

    Read it well and take it to heart folks. Truer words there never were!

    Love you H. ❤️