At the heart of any writers life is number one, a place in which to get a good cup of coffee; and number two, a second.
I was delighted to help to do the cupping for a new café where I live, (just a Stones throw away!) the Royal Arsenal. The cupping day was exactly the right mix of people in the area. We tasted 13 different espresso meticulously. In the end Union Coffee came out miles above the rest as a versatile espresso which was rich in this chocolate-covered-plumb aroma, heavy body, fairly acidic and very sweet with an amazing cherry after-taste. It was a double-blind cupping event, so even the Barista didn’t know which beans he was grinding. Although there were amazingly interesting coffees such as light and floral ones, we decided that this blend was an any-time-of-day kind of espresso which was good with milk and sugar if needed.
It’s great to see a community come together in helping such an important Cornerstone of modern life to flourish. In the Royal Arsenal there is such an un-London neighbourhood feel that I think having a place to catch up, wind down, get out, and to re-connect is so welcome.The building has a perfect corner location… ideal for pre-work hits, and post-work fixes. The staff pull a good espresso consistently and are authentically personable. There is also nice music, free Wifi and air conditioning.
I find it difficult to critique such a beautiful professional venue, having worked in some of the quirkiest Art-Cafes such as Nexus in Manchester whos underground culture of artists, musicians made something unique and magical. I guess this develops over time. Also as a writer and coffee lover, I see cafes meeting these two needs first and foremost! So I am biased. In the future I would perhaps like to see some local artwork of some kind because it has bountiful light from the open ceiling for it. Also I like my coffee the Italian way – with a small shot of water, so some orange or minty water in jugs (which seem to be all the rage) placed near the amazing array of jams and cheese-and-buscuit style produce, might get people closer to the shelves. Also Piccolo latte cups*… and maybe one day even actual Cortados. (*different sized espresso-to-milk ratio drinks, with their own sized cups. “Piccolo” is Italian for small and is a Ristretto, or short espresso, topped with milk and “cortado” is from the Spanish cortar, to cut and is an espresso with a cut of milk – they’re about 1:1 ratio and the milk is added after the ristretto/espresso. It’s practically how the french do machiaato, or une noisette or if it is 1:3 Portugal, is the Galão) Also I would love if there was a way to be able to get a single glass of wine without food. These would be my suggestions.
Little details which will naturally fail or fly as the business develops may eventually kill two birds with one Cornerstone. I am not a business man so there might financial trepidations in using a suggestion box, but with my Psychologists hat on, I think because the community are such a Crucible of modern professionals they could be realistic and useful. With the use of social media the cafe is already utilising customer feedback suggestions and ideas which is fantastic. It kind of reminds me of knocking to see if next door can lend any sugar. The customers here are this very special kind of customer – Neighbours.
For me, this is what makes Cornerstones different.
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Posted in City Living, Coffee, espresso, London, The Cornerstone Cafe, Writing
Tagged City Living, Coffee, Cornerstone Cafe, Creative Writing, Espresso, London
I was once told that, after hard periods of work, there is a type of energy which returns to our bodies like sap returning to a tree after a long winter. I often wonder why University held some of the best times of my life, and I wonder if it was all the points of draining work, draining my sap, to make a vacuum of space. After which I would either party with friends, work out, or make Art-collages, do creative writing or learn French. Accomplishment in my opinion is a feeling which we should talk more about, because it is often that our own standards are higher than what we need them to be. Further, they are different to the standards set by us on a daily basis. The only standards that really matter are our own. So much of happiness discourse is focused on Gratitude, and in a way Accomplishment is Gratitude to ourselves and what we give to others.
I don’t seem to always have this ‘Heart’ energy readily available as a Mid twenty something Northern [England] Alien in London. For me to have Creative energy I almost need to express another form of energy: Intellectual energy. I found that before this even, I need to express Physical energy. At the moment this is how they fall into each other. I can go to the gym, then go to work, and then I will feel like sketching or listening to music. I’m sure if they were weighted differently that might change, for instance if I had a Photography job I might feel like reading philosophy after I have reached a point perhaps. Even when I paint and draw I find that there needs to be a part of me at rest, a logical brain perhaps.
For me personally these Head, Heart and Hands energies are really distinct and I take the time to let them divide. They are Saltwater, to Fresh water, to Glacier water. Looking for ways to balance them and let them energise each other without privileging either. However when they are compartmentalised it is also helpful then to think about how they can flow into each others riverbeds.
For instance at work I try to tie in my creative side, whilst also being mindful of my Body and if I need to go for a walk or nourish myself. In the art studio I try to tie in societies context or important values as if the “Purpose of Art is to give life a shape” as Shakespeare said. I would also like to feel my physical state informs my work too and I guess much like Yoga is for Meditation, it is important that health and muscles are poised to free the images onto the paper or canvas. Even when thinking about my physical energy I often look for ways to seek beauty or lessons along the way, which is to me, a case of balancing nature and technology in clever and creative ways such as going for a Mindful walk, or using an electronic reward star-chart to reach goals.
The place in my life I find myself, is like an exciting new home which needs individual touches, drawing from these three resources like a tidy tool kit.
What about you?
Posted in Art, City Living, Tree House Studio, Work Life Balance, Work Work Balance, Writing
Tagged Art, cat, emotional energy, energy, hands, Head, Heart, iamamiwhoami, intellectual energy, life, London, physical emergy, Sketch, spiritual energy, Work Life Balance
Right, so I have an interview coming up and something has got to give. I’m not normally a nervous person, or at least I don’t think I am. I tend to get a tiny bit nervous at the beginning of making a presentation. However this soon goes. I am quite comfortable speaking in public too, my first job was at a Safari Park giving Sea Lion and Parrot shows to thousands of people. But there’s something about this interview that makes me have extreme butterflies.
I think the reason is that this one Interview comes up only once a year, and after some big application form hurdles already. These are not pleasant. They often mean hunting the post man and lots of people anxiously holding their breath for you. Also, if I name a Pink Elephant, there is something about being assessed by Psychologists. People who are trained to look at human behaviour, turns of phrases, non verbal communication, physical presentation and everything in-between. Further, because I feel so ready for this, I also feel a sense of deep desperation, like I have to go above and beyond myself. Which I don’t – I just have to be casual and talk with honesty.
So this year, although I feel beyond ready for the course, I will be reminding myself for the interviews sake, that it is not the destination but the journey. I can say this without meaning it, but I need to really give it thought. If I don’t get it I am young and there is always next year. I live in a bustling exciting city. I could do so much in a year. I could do the things I’ve been imagining would be a squeeze if I was on the course, with ease. I’m already learning so much at the position I am in now, so although it would be a shame, it wouldn’t matter if it was for a year longer.
Off the back of this, I have really learnt that it’s what you are doing in the moment that really counts. If I don’t get on, I will truly be doing very similar things: going to CPD presentations and seeing cases in particular. In a way I have already started the journey a long time ago. The rest is a Chekovs Gun.
There are, however some Mindful things I guess I could do to help my Butterflies.
Weeks Before the Interview
- Have a Mock Interview:learn what made me nervous
- Name it, however irrational, yet rationally tackle it. For me this is learning one or two things they probably wont ask me anyway just to remove that ounce of uncertainty. Fail to prepare and prepare to fail.
- Meditate on the lead up to the interview: In the morning and the evening.
- Create Mindful Cues to remember to be Mindful.
- Use some of my own passions in my revision prep: Let my personality shine through
- Less is more: Don’t cram, rather break down some key bits.
- Remember key areas of what not to say if I am tempted to waffle (Which I can do!)
- Practice saying things outloud: stretch your muscle memory
Just Before the Interview
- Remind yourself that Imperfection is fine!
- Staying with the Butterflies. I once heard a great phrase: Don’t push your Butterflies away, get them flying in formation.
- Drink lots of water
- Bring thoughts to the present: take an object to study like a pebble
- Contemplate the bigger picture: Nature and the Planet and Space! This always makes Human happenings seem the right manageable size.
- Staying in the moment in the interview
During the Interview
- If you start the most nervous: take a big moment to pause and relax.
- Say “I just would like to first of all say feel free to chip in throughout any of my answers”
- Relaxing my muscles – my stomach and shoulders in particular
- Sit in a comfortable position for me (Screw all this matching body language rubbish!)
- Be me – be honest
- Pause, pause and pause again. Silence is fine!
- Smile, Nod and use fillers like Hmm and Ok, to punctuate my silence if it helps keep rapport
- Notice my breathing
- Take sips of water
- Notice my lower body weight
- ‘Show my working out’ – speak through my ideas and structure outloud. Take time.
I will be back on this plantet Toute de suite. I am revising for a Doctorate Interview. I need to manage my time better I realise! Working on being kind to myself – and also have a new Blog website concept in the pipeline so watch this space
Love Mr Taurus
Life With Full Attention
WEEK TWO: Mindfulness of the Body
Week 1: Reflection
During the second week of the Life with Full Attention Course, I was able to really notice some benefits of the weekly resolutions I had set. I have by no means been keeping them perfectly (meditating in a morning is an especially tricky one!). However I have been ‘failing better’ and taking each day as a new opportunity and taking the time to learn from when it hasn’t all gone according to plan. It was great to share these with our course buddies, and to share tips.
A collection of tips for Meditating daily:
- Learn the 5 stages of the Metta Bhavana or the Mindfulness of Breathing, or how to do a Body Scan.
- Download a great smartphone app. called Insight Timer, which alows you to set interval bells as well as giving you different types of encouragment for achievements.
- Pick the same spot and the same time of day to Meditate. Routine really helps to remove justification and choices which can get in the way.
- Try short meditations first such as 5 minutes – then build it up. Even try a few ‘Mindful’ breaths if you miss a practice.
- Expreiment with evenings vrs. mornings. Mornings are a popular time to meditate. I find that a calm attitude stays with me for longer, and reduces my morning Cortisol (stress hormone) spikes. I also forget less things like Wallet / Keys / Oyster card!
- Try geting up a little bit earlier and drink some water or strech before hand.
Week 2: Mindfulness Of The Body
Explaining Mindfulness of the Body for me was captured in this one sentence: ‘We are nature’. The Mindful walk has really helped with this concept. Returning to nature is so important. It’s so good to know that if I am feeling like I have Cabin Fever I don’t have to have somewhere to go in particular, but a walk will help.
I did try various walks: around the building I live, and the building where I work… taking a walk rather than the bus once. I even tried a Mindful Boris Bike ride through London. However I realised how important it is to chose a walk which you already take. One which is between 5 and 20 minutes. I was thinking about taking a little something from each walk (Like a twig or leaf or pine cone) and putting them in a Vase to ‘bring a little outdoors in’.
As a writier, I am hoping to use a Mini Body Scan more frequently before writing because I tend to procrastonate and make drinks or get up and stretch alot after surfing the internet for music. I hope to set my timer for 5 minutes with an interval bell half way through and go through my lower body, relaxing the muscles, for the first half and my upper body for second.
I also tried a body scan on the tube in a morning. I found myself noticing the world outside: the samllest details in the world: a very distant flock of birds; the artistic double reflections of coulds on windows; the sun breaking through the clouds. This sounds so cliche but it cheered me up a lot and brought a sense of perspective much needed in a morning commute.
Stress First Aid Kit: A Tool
A great thing I learnt this week was a breathing technique for stress. My computer crashed several times this week and it made me so stressed so quickly.
- Catch it early as stress can take over fast
- Feel your body especially the lower part of the body
- Blow out an extra long, smooth, slow breath like blowing through a straw, without taking a big in-breath. Do this several times.
I will leave this weeks post with a quote about something discribed as a ‘discrepancy monitor’: how we measure our ideal self against our actual self.
One of the challenges of spiritual life – of any life that involves the wish to move towards ideals, towards happier, calmer, wiser states of mind – is finding ways of activating change without becoming over-concerned with discrepancy. One of the antidotes of rumination is grounding our experience in the actual sensations of the present. The key is to bring the mind into the body. Maitreyabandhu
Posted in Uncategorized
Tagged body scan, breathing techniques Tagged Art, Charcoal, city life, City Living, commute, course, insight timer, Life with full attention, London, London Buddhist centre, meditation bells, Mindfulness, mindfulness course, motivation, planning, Psychology, Third wave cbt Edit, Writing
Life With Full Attention
WEEK ONE: Day-to-Day Mindfulness
I have been meaning to sign up to this Mindfulness course for the good part of a year. It is called ‘Life with Full Attention: A practical course in Mindfulness and it is by Maitreyabandhu who is an amazing teacher at the London Buddhist Centre. Mindfulness is about the way we live in the present moment, paying attention in a particularly purposeful, immersed and non-judgemental way. One which accepts reality for what it truly is. Whenever the course came up, I always missed it – realising it’s already the third week in. Not very Mindful really. I realised it was starting on the same day it was, but something in me decided to clear my diary for the next eight weeks and carpe diem. So I picked up the phone and put my name down. Thankfully there was one or two spaces left, the person taking my booking asked me for my phone number – “I don’t know it off by heart, but hopefully I will be able to after this course” we chuckled.
Week one, really was Day-to-Day Mindfulness.
“What is Mindfulness? What is questions have limited value. They’re fine for practical purposes – What is a Victoria sponge cake? To find out what Mindfulness is, you will have to …put it into practice” Maitreyabandhu
One thing that struck me about this was Planning. I thought planning was thinking about the future and thereby not very Mindful. I think this is still true, but to create a sense of mastery for Day-to-Day Mindfulness there is an idea that you can plan in a Mindful way. I am slowly learning that preparing for an event itself can be fun. Most importantly not forgetting to be in the moment when you ‘get there’ – which is the rub. I’m reminded of my Nan saying that my Uncle used to always ask “Mum, what’s for lunch tomorrow?” when eating lunch at the table.
I recently heard someone say “Over-plan, then go with the flow.” which I quite like, I think that’s the key. I have seen way too many times that ‘The best made plans often go awry’ and cause anxiety and headache.
The other great thing I was reminded about this week was on Motivation. The course highlights the myth of wanting to do something before you actually do it (which is very ‘third wave’ CBT). A good example in my own life of this is that I always prioritise my writing over my art work, perhaps because it was originally less enjoyable, so I felt quite guilty (crazy!) when doing my sketching or painting. Sooner or later I began to enjoy the writing more, and procrastinated on the sketching! Therefore I have applied this to my week: I sketched on Sunday. After which I was reminded just how much I enjoy it.
The third thing I will share, is about ‘Failing better’ and having a sense of humour around the journey of becoming more Mindful. This fits so well with the Buddhist stance of Imperfection. Just keep trying. I think I certainly laughed at myself when I put antiseptic cream on my toothbrush not so long ago.
So here is what I have applied to the course. Perhaps they will give somebody somewhere a flavour of what kind of practical steps we can put in place. I will review how it is going next week.
Aims for Full Attention
- Integrate my main passions in life more (Languages, Psychology, Fitness, Writing and Art)
- Increase the quality (over quantity) of my social input (including communication, non-verbal communication and my memory)
- Feel less rushed
- Meditate in a morning
- Read without distractions
Three Ways to Reduce Input
- Technology reduction: Delete social networking apps; Listen to new music on an mp3 player rather than my phone; Turn off my email in between tasks at work.
- Exercise one main muscle group only at the gym, more thoroughly per session eg. shoulders / abdominals.
- Fine tune my morning routine by doing less, moving some tasks and preparing more.
Collige, virgo, rosas.
I’ve added my own bit to the course which is based around days of the week and being Mettaful (kind to yourself) and being Mindful, imperfectly. So whereas in the past I may have tried to catch up with myself if I failed to do something (Like catching up with Nanowrimo, the November ’50 thousand’ words writing project and feeling like I was drowning – not conducive to creativity in general). I will instead try to dedicate a day of the week to something creative. These are tentative and will no doubt permutate. If something comes up, then that’s fine, although I will gradually try more and more to protect their time until establish a routine. If I have failed, then it has already happened! The trick is to try to keep going and seize the day instead of regretting having ‘not done’ one thing. To put that energy and learning into the next week. To increase my motivation and planning.
- Monday – Write a Haiku
- Tuesday – Get an early night (After an 11 hour shift!)
- Wednesday – Go to the Buddhist Centre: Course / Meditate
- Thursday – Read Psychology journals critically
- Friday – Hand write a ‘metta’ letter
- Saturday – Practice French
- Sunday – Sketch / Paint
Posted in Buddha, Charcoal, City Living, London buddhist centre, Mindfulness, Psychology, sanguine, Writing
Tagged Art, Charcoal, course, Life with full attention, London, Mindfulness, mindfulness course, motivation, planning, Psychology, sanguine, skull, Third wave cbt