The Hidden Valley.

Out in the Sticks

This picture is of a hidden valley in the South Downs National Park.  The truth is, you are unlikely to find it unless you go up to almost the top, down the track to the left, then down into the next valley, sharp right along the valley floor … yes, you’ve guessed it:  I’m not going to tell you where it is. But last week my beloved brother Gerald was working there, clearing out the rubbish with his forestry equipment.  Gorse, brambles, scrub soon overtake the grassland, and his job is to open up the pathways again, and give the grass a chance to regrow.  What he did last year looks absolutely lovely now.  This will look great in a year. (All overseen by the appropriate countryside ranger, you understand.)

So I joined him for 24 hours, watching the fire into the night, him sleeping in his  stunning handmade traditional living van, and me in my trusty VW T4 camper.  A fry-up. Mugs of hot tea. Rich mutually encouraging conversation – not least about coaching!  Gerald is one of my closest friends, and I guess we’ll always be there for each other. It got me thinking.

Sometimes we fail to notice how the rubbish of our lives, the clutter of our homes, has gained ground. Sometimes it is only when a radical change like moving house forces us to really see it that we take action. And occasionally that can overwhelm us, we don’t know what to do or where to start.  But the longer we leave it, the worse it gets.  The thicker the scrub grows.  The more ‘no-go areas’ develop. You ought to see my workshop!  No, forget I said that!

If that’s you, the sooner you start the better.  It takes honesty to face up to the need, but you’re the sort of person who can start, aren’t you? And if you need some encouragement, just let me know.  I’ll help.

I’m not quite sure how I got my two-wheel-drive camper down there in the first place, and getting it out of the uphill deep-rutted tracks was a bit of a skill I thought I’d lost, but I made it home (with the overgrown rubbish sorted).

So will you.

The Phantom Box

We went for a walk on Thursday, my friend and I.  Not the Kind Stranger, you’ll be interested to know – though he was probably somewhere around too, but a friend I’ve known for about thirty years.  My friend is a highly skilled trainer.

The South Downs at Amberley.

We got to talk about our work and he mentioned a training he had attended where the guy had a ‘new take’ on Thinking out of the Box. You know the theory: Don’t just go for the same old-old. Be creative! Dream new ideas. Come up with something different.  Think out of the box – in a different dimension!

As we stood leaning over the five-bar gate admiring the vistas of the South Downs National Park, I said, “J, there is no box. It’s just a concept.”

I’ve thought a lot about that since. The box is an illusion and always has been. We cannot actually think inside it or outside it, because the reality has never existed and never will. The illusion is merely the creation of people who would have us perceive ourselves in boxes. Who first decided that we are all in boxes? Who was it  lumbered us with thinking from inside them? And what purpose did the concept of boxes serve? Perhaps it allowed that person to exhibit his superiority by calling us to think outside his phantom creation?

The concept of boxes make us feel secure. It enables us to enjoy the illusion that we can take control of our lives. Or each others’.  In the natural world there are no sealed boundaries, but everything flows subtly into everything else – and you’re part of that natural world. The universe is not insular. Ask any quantum physicist. Even I, as I write this blog, am changing the brain patterns in your head. Though we may seem to be separated by space and even time it is not true. We’re not separated, are we? You just read this. There is no box.

Living without the pseudo-security of an illusory box out of which we are supposed to think can challenge our very roots. We are tempted to ask questions. How old was I when I began to accept being ‘boxed’? Where did I learn that limiting skill? What were the motives of my teacher? What has this done to me, to us?

In a world that is a wide open space (not filled with wide open spaces – that supposes natural boundaries again!  It’s deeply ingrained, isn’t it?) it is a joy to know that nothing can separate us from each other, except the belief that we are in different boxes. If we choose to abandon our belief in boxes, all is revealed. We are part of the whole, and the gap between you and me is gone.

Like Neo in The Matrix, I seem to have swallowed the red pill.  Ah well…