For those making a new beginning…

closed gate

(… like me.)

My friend Terry sent a copy of this lovely poem by John O’Donahue the other day;

In out-of-the-way places of the heart,
Where your thoughts never think to wander,
This beginning has been quietly forming,
Waiting until you were ready to emerge.

For a long time it has watched your desire,
Feeling the emptiness growing inside you,
Noticing how you willed yourself on,
Still unable to leave what you had outgrown.

It watched you play with the seduction of safety
And the gray promises that sameness whispered,
Heard the waves of turmoil rise and relent,
Wondered would you always live like this.

Then the delight, when your courage kindled,
And out you stepped onto new ground,
Your eyes young again with energy and dream,
A path of plenitude opening before you.

Though your destination is not yet clear
You can trust the promise of this opening;
Unfurl yourself into the grace of beginning
That is at one with your life’s desire.

Awaken your spirit to adventure;
Hold nothing back, learn to find ease in risk;
Soon you will be home in a new rhythm,
For your soul senses the world that awaits you.

No new thing happens without the possibility of falling flat on your face in failure.

What I am learning is that most people who fail do not regret the adventure- and that out of this failure there comes new adventure.

So much better than the ‘gray promises that safety whispered’.

For today at least…

Nature deficit disorder?


Even the National Trust are doing it now- inventing classifications of mental illness.

In fact it was a US based writer Richard Louv who first began to use the words ‘nature deficit disorder’ to describe a growing dislocation between children and nature.

The NT are quoting findings from a Natural Childhood Report by naturalist and author Steven Moss, who suggests that a steady stream of surveys have highlighted how a generation of children are losing touch with the natural world.  The NT are planning to launch a consultation into what we all think about this.

The trust argues that the growing dissociation of children from the natural world and the growth of what it calls the “cotton wool culture” of indoor parental guidance impairs the capacity of children to learn through experience.

It cites evidence showing that:

  • children learn more and behave better when lessons are conducted outdoors
  • symptoms of children diagnosed with ADHD improve when they are exposed to nature
  • children say their happiness depends more on having things to do outdoors more than owning technology.

Yet British parents feel more pressure to provide gadgets for their children than in other European countries. This from here;

The statistics reveal that things have changed dramatically in just one generation:

  • Fewer than ten per cent of kids play in wild places; down from 50 per cent a generation ago
  • The roaming radius for kids has declined by 90 per cent in one generation (thirty years)
  • Three times as many children are taken to hospital each year after falling out of bed, as from falling out of trees
  • A 2008 study showed that half of all kids had been stopped from climbing trees, 20 per cent had been banned from playing conkers or games of tag

Authority figures and layers of bureaucracy have combined with a climate of ‘don’t do that’ to create an environment where fewer and fewer children play in the outdoors. This has led to a situation where kids having fun in the outdoors are painted as showing signs of anti social behaviour.

The research shows that capturing children before they enter the teenage years is crucial with the research clearly showing if you get kids hooked before they reach twelve years old, you’ll create a lifelong passion for the environment.

It has to be said that there are sceptics. Some see the NT study as nothing more than a slightly sensationalist money raising campaign, aimed at adding another layer of guilt/concern on to middle class parenting.  Others have questioned the science- writing in the Guardian, Aleks Krotosk had this to say;

…public discourse needs to be balanced and critical. Using emotive language such as “electronic addictions” and “the extinction of experience”, as this report does, undermines the so-called “science” that the National Trust is presenting in this document. Scientific claims are backed up by evidence. Preferably primary sources – not press releases.

Researchers have spent more than two decades untangling the web’s effects on our lives, and have discovered where it disrupts our existing social practices, and where it doesn’t. This is indeed an important issue for public scrutiny, but the method of wrapping up a half-truth in a lab coat and presenting it as an evidence-based review of the literature is as insidious as a PR company commissioning an academic researcher to find a predetermined outcome.

Evidence-based argument is the hallmark of the lively and informed debates we as a population have engaged in since the reformation, and is the cornerstone of an engaged and critical society. The 27-page press release published by the National Trust that describes a made-up disorder is only intended to inspire a reaction and fuel uncertainty. Rather than open up debate, this kind of thing serves to close it down. And that is just not scientific.

She has a point. People said listening to the wireless would make us deaf and watching TV would turn our brains to jelly, and all the changes brought about by the internet on the way we humans interact may indeed considerable but are also irreversible.  We are on the brink of one of those paradigm shifts and it is difficult to know where it will all lead, but there is no going back.

However, many of will read the words of the NT’s National Childhood Report and feel that it is saying something important. It may be rather difficult to scientifically quantify, but we instinctively feel that our disconnection with wild places might yet be a huge mistake.

It might be a huge mistake because in losing our place in the natural order of things, we lose something of ourselves.

It might also be a huge mistake because in losing our connection with the natural order of things, we might also be part of the destruction of everything.

When I was small, my mother took me camping. I found a dead squirrel and it was so lovely that I sneaked it into my tent, along with a lot of still alive fleas. I swam in a river for hours and ended up with stomach ache from something I swallowed. I climbed trees and had to be rescued.

We also joined a rambling club. I still remember those long trudges through Derbyshire, almost too tired to speak.

These experiences, good and bad, never left me. They became the platform for my own adventures as an adult. I hope for the same for my own children. And theirs.

I believe these are reasons for optimism.

Travelling well with the Jones’s…


Many of you will already follow the on going adventures of the Jones family- Andrew (aka TSK) Jones blog is after all essential reading for many of us who are interested in what is happening on the edges of the known (and not yet known) Christian world.

A year or so ago, the family were living in Orkney off the northern coast of Scotland, when they bought an old truck, converted it into a living/entertaining space for themselves and all sorts of others. You can read something of their adventures travelling through Europe, Asia and North Africa here.

The point of all this travelling was to connect with all those small beautiful projects, and small and beautiful people who were working out the mission of Jesus in the lesser known places, and to support and encourage them.

It is an adventure that many of us feel a combination of envy, admiration and incredulity in relation to. It seems both bonkers and wonderful at the same time.

Anyway, the point of this post is to give a plug to Andrew’s new book project- you can pre-order it in order to support the next phase of the Jones journey, into Asia.

Details of the book, and how to order are all here.

We need people like the Jones clan to remind us that other ways are possible, and that other lives in far away places might teach us much about our own, so go on- order the book now!

What do you want to be when you grow up?

Michaela reckons that when you are small this is what people ask. They do not ask what you want to do but rather what you want to be.

A subtle but important difference she felt.

Michaela wanted to be a nurse. Nothing really surprising there, it is a rather typical thing for girls to aspire to, or rather it used to be. Hopefully the options have broadened out these days. Certainly Michaela has no desire to be a nurse any more, although when you think about what nursing might have seemed all about to a small girl- the caring, the looking after, the seeking to heal and restore- these attributes are still part of who she is. You might even say that these were who she was always meant to be.

Can you remember what you wanted to be when you were small? Might it contain something significant about your way of being, if not your current way of doing?

I wanted to be in the Navy.

I wanted to sail to far away places and have adventures. I wanted to be in a fast ship along with lots of people doing similar things. I still get a little excited when sleek grey ships pass the house on the way out to who knows where. I want no part in war, but still I find myself proud and unable to turn away.

As I think about it now, I wonder about the longing in me for the far horizon. There is in still the need to form a band of adventurers and go to explore new places, new ideas, new ways of being.

That ‘being’ word again…

Or perhaps it was always just about the uniforms.

Canoeing the Congo…

Little mishaps aside, I love canoeing.

Since my accident a couple of years ago, I realise I have been much more cautious, particularly on the sea. Whilst caution might well be understandable, and even (particularly from Michaela’s point of view) a welcome corrective, I do not like it.

I do not like the shrinking of the far horizon, or the idea that adventure should be avoided. I do not like decisions to be dominated by anxiety/fear in relation to things I used to do with an easy smile.

This year, I intend to get out in the canoe a lot more.

Having said all that, I am not sure I am quite ready for this, no matter how much the idea of it excites me;

Here is a quote from here;

At night, in the absence of firm ground, my technique would be to paddle as hard as I could and ram myself into the thickest area of reeds I could find. I’d then try to somehow drag and push my way further through, until I was securely wedged in with little risk of capsizing. I figured that since I was surrounded by tightly packed reeds, I’d have to be pretty unlucky to get a surprise visit from anything big enough to fit my head in its mouth. On more than one occasion I was awoken in the middle of the night by crashing, splashing sounds, but after a while I got used to it. Crashing, splashing sounds are one thing – something horrible ripping your leg off is quite another.

Thankfully, there are no crocodiles in the West of Scotland.

The Midgies have eaten them all.


WANTED- people ready for some small adventures…


So- a new year turns.

If you are like me, you will have been indulging in a little self examination- thinking about how life has been, and what possibilities the new year might bring.

Perhaps you have had thoughts of stepping out the old routines, and opening up some new things- finding new places, new connections and deeper spirituality.

Perhaps you are ready for some adventure. Small ones perhaps- not all of us are Bear Grylls!

Anyone fancy some fish by the way?

Assuming that this is not your fancy- how about joining us for trips into the wilderness to find something slightly more palatable?

If so, we at Aoradh would love to hear from you.

We are planning some trips out into the wild places hereabout- to find places where we can appreciate the beauty of the mountains and hills about us, and also to use some of these spaces for group and individual meditation. These will mostly be based within Argyll, Scotland- or in the Cowal Area, where we are based.

Nick and I have been working on some wilderness meditations- some of which are on the aoradh website- here. We would very much appreciate some folk who are willing to be our guinea pigs (or should I say, Red Squirrels) as we give them a wider road test.

As part of this, a few of us are planning a trip to a small uninhabited island on the bank holiday that begins Friday the 1st of May. We have not finally decided the venue for this yet- there are a couple of possibles, and it rather depends on transport. Past trips away have included trips to Coll, Little Cumbrae and the Garvellachs.

The format of these trips has been that people are prepared to be self supporting- with their own camping and back packing gear. We will then make our own small community for a weekend, in a beautiful, wild and uninhabited space.

For the weekend trip, there may be some transport costs- but that is all, we are not interested in profit- but rather in friendship with each other and a deeper relationship with God.

So we are clear about the legalities of this- we offer a partnership- not a package tour. You come at your own risk!

For those who need to be more organised- we have set some dates for later in the year when we hope to organise one day events- which will include a mediation around a ‘found’ space in the wilderness- caves, rivers, mountains etc.

16th May (Family weekend??)

20th June

18th July

19th September

24th October

contact me for more info!

Pull up a log- sit by the fire. The Kettle is on…


Canoes and wilderness- a perfect combination for the soul…

Will and a Loch Eck Cranog

Will and a Loch Eck Cranog

Living where we do, within reach of wonderful lochs and mountains, is such a blessing.

A few years ago, we bought an old beaten up ex-outdoor centre canoe. It still gives amazing service. I slap on a bit of filler around the wear points on the hull every now and again, but on the whole, it seems indestructable.

We have taken it out to the islands of Eigg and Gigha, and paddled many lochs and rivers. We have been buzzed by sharks and dolphins, paddled through packs of slightly scandalised seals, and used it for canoe-camping trips and beach barbecues.

I think the kids take it for granted a little. I sometimes have to persuade them it is a good idea. Michaela has never been totally comfortable in it- despite the fact that we have never once capsized. It can feel very exposed however when the wind and rain whips in, and it is very difficult to make progress if you are heading into the weather.

But canoes get you to places that few other forms of transport can- and their quiet, sedate way of achieving this means that are much more likely to encounter wildlife.

I came across the following clip which kind of dwarfs our humble little adventures. Enjoy…