Being able to give… the greatest blessing.

I can smile and skip and scurry in hurry along the winding road

I can speak, chide and compliment and listen to lighten your load

I have food work and sustenance and a humble comfortable abode.

 

I am blessed with unfaltering hope and love and wings to fly

And distant dreams to share and amazing opportunities to try

And firm friendships love and family that death will always defy.

 

My family are a blessing and they give me hope each and every day

When I am lost they give me sense of purpose and help me find my way

They are my anchor in stormy weather when I would rather run away.

 

May you find your inner strength in the gifts of love you receive

May you give back compassionately to those who are in need

And remember that the most bountiful blessing is in the deed.

 

Alison Jean Hankinson

This was created in response to Paul Scribbles poetics challenge for d’Verse on the theme of blessings.

 

5 things I learned from practising Mindfulness

Be present
Practise Meditation
Accept pain and suffering

I guess it probably does seem like the in thing. I started my journey in 2011, when a wonderful duo Elke Radewald and Dr Rutger de Ridder offered me the opportunity to participate in a pilot programme of MBSR at Whangarei Base Hospital. They were lovely people and it was a fabulous and at times slightly challenging opportunity.

What does MBSR stand for? It means Mindfulness Based Stress Reduction and the practice was pioneered and promoted by Jon Kabat Zinn. In medical or clinical realms, the stress reduction is largely linked to dealing with and managing pain. For me, it was a golden opportunity that I will always be eternally grateful for being fortunate to participate in as it did indeed help me to accept and live with chronic pain.

There were about a dozen of us in the pilot and we all had different health problems that involved debilitating chronic pain that was interfering with normal life, at the time I was actually using morphine daily as well as high dose steroids to deal with an unusual presentation of inflammatory arthritis. The actual process involved active meditation and practising meditation on a regular basis and this proved to be very difficult for some of the clients to accept, they had significant pain stories and had often experienced discrimination and been challenged by health professionals about the “reality” of their conditions and they therefore were more keen to express their pain and frustration rather than practice mindfulness meditation. About 8 of us made it through to the end. By the end I was able to ditch the morphine. So for me the act of meditation and mindfulness successfully enabled me to accept and live with the pain I was experiencing.

How did it do that? Firstly I am not a clinician, so my answers here stem from my personal understanding and experiences and not scientific evidence based material. I think that the practice of meditation alters your biophysical responses. In a sense, it resets a balance and creates some form of internal homoeostasis. I think it might be the relaxation and controlled breathing that lowers blood pressure, heart rate and has a marked effect on chemicals released by the brain and their consequent uptake and for whatever reason this enables a resetting of the body’s pain sensory mechanisms. I had a flare of inflammatory arthritis that affected a significant number of joints and the simultaneous pain from this overwhelmed my pain sensory system, the pain was so great. Within the mindfulness training, it was made clear that the goal was to accept and embrace the pain, not an easy thing to learn how to do when all you want is for it to go away. However, it can be done.

By meditating and controlled breathing and accepting the pain I was able to experience one single pain-free breath and recognise it for what it was. One pain-free breath can be increased to two and so on. When one accepts that there are moments that are painful and moments that are pain-free one is able to let them go. Somehow by letting them go you reset the clock.

I still go back to active meditation when I experience periods of pain and still benefit from the training I received.

Did it work for everyone? In short no. People who live with chronic extreme pain are rarely understood in a clinical setting. Clinicians talk about numbers for pain and anyone who has experienced chronic pain would realise that a scale of 1 to 10 does not hold enough dimensions to accurately appropriately describe pain. People experiencing long-term pain, sometimes appear anxious, grumpy, depressed because chronic long term pain is debilitating and frustrating and destructive and yet clinicians often mistake these attitudes and moods as the cause or contributor to the pain rather than the effect. Most people with long term pain want to be able to tell their story, have someone listen and understand their pain and ultimately make it go away. So asking them to mindfully chew a raisin and accept and embrace their pain isn’t usually what they want to do or hear. Plus they want it to work NOW, this moment and the truth is it takes practice. So some people are unable to participate and give it a chance to work and this is no different than with some drugs and medications, which in truth don’t work for everyone either.

Life is based on suffering. I had a great enthusiasm for Buddhism in my younger years, but couldn’t deal with the natural position being set at suffering. I didn’t want to think that life was about suffering. I thought life should be about something more positive and optimistic than that. However, through being sick and at times extremely unwell I learned that suffering often is the base point on the scale and that what enables us to survive the suffering is to find the beauty and joy and pleasure in the single moment that is. This one moment might be the only moment, or the final moment or the most important moment and therefore we need to savour it and recognise it and value it for what it is. I learned to look for these moments and to cherish them and find them in as many places as I could. I think this is active mindfulness, and I think I learned to recognise it from the meditation and practice and the words of Jon Kabat Zinn.

Be present in the moment. I think part of me already recognised this. I remember when the girls were small there were times when they were ill and I was up in the night loving them back to life and I always cherished the moment realising that there would be a day when they were far away and I wouldn’t be able to care for them when they were sick and in need. However, through the practice and teachings of mindfulness, I realised that being present in the moment needed to be the default setting, not something that only happened on occasions. I have practised this and continue to practise this daily. It is about being cognisant of the very moment that you are in and seeing the colours and experiencing it completely without interference from brain buzz, brain drift, worry, white noise of the mind. It is about an ability to focus and concentrate on the exact moment as it is now. It requires conscious practice and conscious awareness.

In 2012 we were involved in a car accident that could have been significantly worse than it was. We were travelling down a country road and a van overtook us at 100km whilst at the same time a car pulled out of a side road on the opposite side of the road, it was a recipe for carnage and I could see it was going to happen. I had an awareness of the vehicle and the children in the car but knew that I had to remain calm and focus on the next few critical seconds and knew that regardless of what appeared to be happening around me I had to slow the car and stay on the road it was our only chance of survival.

The Van hit us full on and carried on going right past the front windscreen and over the fence and into the field where it rolled and ended up on its roof. I managed to stay on the road and slow to a halt, and we remained upright. We were alive and shaken but not hurt, the Van driver was also alive and well but his van was a write-off. I totally believe that it was the ability to completely focus on the moment and remain present that enabled us to stay upright and on the road and ultimately saved our lives.

Namaste. Love to you on your journey.

 

Alison Jean Hankinson.

 

Insomnia

Can’t sleep, can’t stop thinking

Can’t stop worrying about the drinking

The bills, the wolf howling at the door

The need to always give that little bit more

Buster’s new shoes, Molly’s lose tooth

Worn out carpets on our worn out floors

Can’t sleep woes, Can’t sleep blues

If you know me well enough avoid me in the morning

As I’ll have the can’t sleep short fuse.

Insomnia.

 

Alison Jean Hankinson

Written today for d’Verse... we had to save a life on an issue…I chose can’t sleep which I am sure affects many people a lot of the time.

Kindness

Fever 104

Death knocking at the door

And she gave the gift of kindness.

Caressed my burning brow

Spoke with soft and soothing tones

Let me know I was not alone.

 

Alison Jean Hankinson

January 2011 and I was extremely ill and with fever, there was this wonderful nurse who throughout the Saturday night as doctors came and went, cared for me, she put wet flannels on my head, and came every 10 minutes to let me know I was not alone, it was the middle of the night and all my family were gone and her kindness will always stay with me. It was at that point in my life that I think I really understood that the kindness of a friend or stranger is always one of the most bountiful and unexpected gifts.

The photo is from St Ann’s Square in Manchester today, I was struck again by this word. It will always have more power than hatred. A tribute to the nurse that cared for me and the people of Manchester.IMG_2244

 

The challenge tonight as d’Verse was to write about a gift.

A student’s lament

Third row back

never back chat

yet nobody knows my name.

I am the classroom ghost

Faceless to most

Silent learner lurking in the shadows.

 

Alison Jean Hankinson

 

I am putting this in for the open link night. I wrote this last week and yes it is/was inspired by my day-job…. Foe d’Verse open link

d’Verse

The inspiration actually came from a very lovely student who gave the description “lurking in the shadows” when asked what skulking meant. I sent a postcard home.

Transcendental Glory at Morecambe Superdrome

Echoes in our heart and footprints in the sand

Staccato and tremolo of Tijuana brass

Morecambe Superdome with Don Lusher, a silver black Scirocco

Alan Tomlinson Conductor and lead of our bluesy big-time band

Children of Sanchez, superb shrill of trumpet solo

Transcendental glory in times gone by.

 

Alison Jean Hankinson

This was my treasure for the poetics challenge. I wish I could let you hear Alan Tomlinson playing Children of Sanchez…. mind you to hear him play anything was a gift. His repertoire and range were exceptional and his passion for music and desire to pass it on to anyone especially young people were equally as exceptional. I played with the LCBB from about 1981-1985….

It was the most magical period of my young existence. As a young trombonist and big band member it was the pinnacle and zenith of my life and career. We played at the Morecambe Superdrome and supported Don Lusher…Stardust was his melody… and I had made it. This was the moment of exaltation when you know that it just doesn’t get any better and Alan Tomlinson hit that note in Children of Sanchez and you know this is the moment in life that you were born to notice. Transcendental Glory at Morecambe Superdrome.

Prose poem at the bar….all at once….it was a complex week… my memento..

Web about Alan Tomlinson…

Stuart GRILLS AND ALAN tOMLINSON

memento

prose poetry

 

For both poetics and prose at the bar…

 

What am I?

 

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I am the face of hope,

In the fast fading light.

 

I am the distant dream

Driving forwards, when the day draws to a close,

The Star-bright shining in a suburban sultry night.

 

I am the laughter and the tears, the fear and guilt and pain,

Felt by all the mothers before me, the broken and the humbled, the joyous and loving,

I am the seed, the seedling, the roots, trunk and branches.

I bear the fruit. I am the womb of time.

 

I am me, fifty and finally come of age, woman.

 

Alison Jean Hankinson

 

It is open link night #190 at d’Verse and so we are encouraged to submit anything we choose, this was part of something I wrote a while back, and I guess it is what I need to believe at the moment. Returning and coming home has been nothing short of gruelling, nothing has been simple at all. It has been a little like hurling yourself from a small cliff into a ferocious and stormy ocean. I have to know deep down that it will come right and that the storm will pass. To do this I have to peel back the layers and remind myself of what I believe I am and then slowly start to pick myself up again.

The image is Ellen and the tree- the second version…and my children are very much a symbol of what I am.