I launched a ‘Grateful for‘ challenge to seven people in May 2019 for a year. Nine people joined the challenge and by Dec 2019 some opted to leave at the six month point, having had various degrees of success in terms of using gratutide to change the brain’s natural negative bias. Four people remained this year, and from those four, three managed a catch up in our last time period (Jan – Feb). Photographs had not been as frequently sent and those responding reflected that ‘grateful-for’ photographs were tougher to submit when times felt negative or dark, and events in Jan and Feb had felt this way. As everyone is fully aware, just a month after this catch up, the UK joined the rest of the world in a lock down to slow down the spread of the corona virus spreading within the population. Mirroring Jan and Feb there has been a very limited amount of photographs submitted by our volunteers in Mar and Apr so I felt that they may be finding things tough right now. So for our Mar-Apr ‘catch up’ blog I am sharing a gratitude attitude with them and our readers, from an inspirational woman who takes lemons and makes lemonade, metaphorically and literally, and in this blog medicinally in the form of a hot brew.
Who is this woman? Jen Le Marinel – who is described as a wild soul, a truth seeker, free spirit, foodie, dream whisperer, life coach and wanderer. Jen left the corporate world one day, walked from John O’Groats to Lands End and connected to what really matters. She then founded ‘WildFire Walks‘ in Gloucestershire to help other people connect to what matters. This year, in short, Jen headed out to Africa to have a trip of a lifetime only to have it cut short as the world went into lock down. Jen managed to get one of the last flights back to the UK and then went down with suspected corona virus symptoms. Jen still remains in good spirits, clear from all her posts, because she uses gratitude in her daily language and as a way of being in the world. Here are some of Jen’s recent posts…
03 March: San Bushmen, an indigenous people
In March I’m heading out to the Kalahari desert to visit and live with the San Bushmen – an indigenous people who still live much the same way they have lived for thousands of years. The way we used to live! Their almost inhuman knowledge of the land, their ability to know the animals and the weather patterns and track trails for days is testament to a wisdom forgotten elsewhere in the world and yet it is at dire risk of being lost forever.
Persecution, land-grabbing, lack of employment and TB sweeping their lands means that there are just 15 master trackers (3 of whom are women!) left.
Just fifteen elders who carry the skills from our ancestors, who could use them to aid GLOBAL animal conservation, anti-poaching efforts, possibly even climate change. By passing them on. By sharing them with people who want to learn.
I’m part of a group heading out to live with these incredible people for two weeks, as part of a skill share/cultural exchange project that the bushmen themselves have requested. In an effort to give the youth of their people a reason to learn the old skills. So that they can continue to live on their lands and protect the animals from poachers.
And I’ll be bringing back some of the wisdom, songs and stories of the desert to share with you. Because I believe we all crave a little of that ancient wisdom….
I believe that all of us are longing for a deeper connection to…something. Something more. Whether it’s the Earth, each other, ourselves…or…something deeper, more primal. A way of being that has been all but lost.
09 March: A Kalahari Adventure
As I start the first leg of my journey to the Kalahari Desert, I have been reflecting on the bigger journey that brought me to the point of this even being a possibility. And I wanted to share my reflections with you because although it might look as if this opportunity came about quite by chance, in fact it’s the result of following a trail of breadcrumbs over the years, and perhaps it might help you believe that you too could do something like this one day…
This breadcrumb trail started just over four years ago, with something of a breakdown. I had been signed off work with depression and I started seeing a counsellor. Over time, this angel helped me reconnected with a dream that had been squashed down deep inside me (a dream to own my own land and run workshops to help people, out in nature).
This led to her recommending a gorgeous venue to hire when I started running my own events. This venue (an organic farm, shop, cafe and eco venue which I still use today!) was so gorgeous, and so aligned with my values that I ended up getting a part time job there to bring in some extra money while I retrained as a coach.
Whilst working there, through my boss I came to learn about the remarkable Satish Kumar, who founded Schumacher College. I bought one of his books – his autobiography – from the shop and devoured it. Suddenly I kept hearing about the Dartington Estate in Devon (where Schumacher College is based) and realised I needed to pay attention.
An unconnected friend then invited me for a walk….around Dartington estate! I said yes, knowing I was potentially following some breadcrumbs, and then came to find out about a company called WildWise, who were based in the woods of the estate.
WildWise run a programme called Call of the Wild, which sounded incredible. I dithered though, and lost the last place. In a conversation with my coach, she encouraged me not to give up, and when I recontacted them, there was a space for me, so I enrolled.
Halfway through the Call of the Wild, one of the co-facilitators announced he was looking for some Call of the Wild graduates to be part of an expedition he was running, in collaboration with an anthropologist living with the bushmen in the Kalahari Desert.
And here I am, this evening, at the airport about to fly out to Namibia and then head to the desert. To live with an indigenous tribe for two weeks. An opportunity that is just not available to the average person! Or so you might think….
What have I learned from this? ALWAYS follow the breadcrumbs!!
Why do I tell you this? We often wait for the ‘perfect’ thing to come along. It rarely does. We wait and wait and wait….and it never comes.
But sometimes, you have take the opportunities as they come, and trust where they lead. At each opportunity ask “does this feel good?” Or, “does this lead me closer to my vision?” It might not take you straight there, but every step is a little closer, and boy do you learn a lot along the way!
What breadcrumbs are available to you right now? What could you say “yes” to, even though you don’t know for sure where it will lead?
10 March: No WiFi for Two Weeks
And we’ve arrived – Windhoek and then an hour’s drive up to our rest camp. It’s hot! Namibia looks utterly gorgeous after the best rains they’ve had in 9 years. Usually arid and sandy, the land has exploded in grass and leaves and flowers. Some of the group saw giraffes and an ostrich on the drive north, I missed those but I did see some antelope!We had a stunning sunset, and the sounds and taste of Africa are in the air. We heard ostriches booming and jackals or hyenas cackling! Our camp tonight is relatively luxurious compared to the rest of the trip, so it’s a chance to acclimatise and get to know each other as a group. Tomorrow we have a loooong drive north, before reaching the Nyae Nyae Conservancy – and the bushmen – the day after. This is probably the last time I’ll have access to WiFi for two weeks, so thought I’d give you some initial pics to whet your appetite until my return! Sending love from Africa…. xx
20 -21 March: Heading home before the country goes into lockdown
Coming home…! We had to rather abruptly curtail our trip and make a thirteen hour overnight drive down to Windhoek trying to book flights on the way, before the country goes into complete lockdown at any moment! Thankfully most of us now have flights home today. I think I got the last one.A rather dramatic and disappointing end to what has been an incredible experience, one I can’t wait to tell you all about! But for now, I’m on my way home. Phew!
Back on English soil and reunited with my bag. Tears of relief, gratitude and feeling for those of my group still stuck or in transit.
Final leg – the coach home – to come. Thank you so much for all your well wishes and support! Please extend them to those of my party whose journey home has not been as smooth. Some are parents with young children at home. One of those children has the virus. Planes are dropping out like flies from Namibia and South Africa. I got lucky, but it feels awful to have had to separate as a group.
I have a feeling this is going to be a hard adjustment. But I know I am so unbelievably fortunate compared to many. Thinking of you all and sending love xxx
My friend met me at the bus stop with groceries – including flowers and cake! So I have food to eat for the next couple of weeks [as panic buying has commenced]. Thank you Eunice Learmont, you are an unbelievable blessing!
So weird to not be able to hug, but I’m conscious I’ve been in three different airports in the last two days so self isolation is in order and I’m just praying I haven’t picked it up on the way.
Feeling overwhelmed with gratitude, and my somewhat sleep-deprived brain is still trying to catch up and unpick the realities of the situation from the hysteria.
At least I have cake!
Ps it’s bloody freezing here!!
04 April: Isolation
I’m missing going outside. I should have been down on Dartmoor this weekend, under canvas, among the trees, around the campfire, for a reunion with my Call of the Wild tribe. 🔥🌳🐺
But. I do have this lovely window ‘seat’. Which gets the sun until just after midday. I can hear the birds singing, get some fresh air, and watch the world go by.
Fascinating watching it change from this morning’s mist to a beautifully sunny spring day.
Feeling grateful for small things. And big things. Today I showered AND got dressed AND collected my post from downstairs. That’s my exercise for the day 🤣 now just need to catch my breath for the next few hours! 😳
I have been nowhere near as sick as some people. And who knows if I’ve even had COVID. I don’t know. But, whether I have had it or not, it is not nice, I’m still so tired, and I’m feeling extremely grateful for every breath 🙂🙏🏼 xx
07 April: Feeling Grateful
Today was a tiring day, but a good day. I washed my hair (first time in over a week, yay!), put a wash on, spoke briefly to a friend and my mum, sat outside in the sun for 15 minutes (first time in nearly two weeks!) and carried shopping upstairs.
Now feeling wiped out! But also feeling so grateful.
I’m grateful to be at home. I’m grateful to be breathing. I’m grateful for the sunshine and the birdsong. I’m grateful to Eunice Learmont for bringing me the food that Gem and Nath added to their online delivery for me, and for bringing me a teapot too!
I’m grateful for Jo Turner bringing me lemons and homemade soup within moments of hearing I was not well.
I’m grateful for Sarah Ryan posting me some beautiful oils to help me breathe.
I’m grateful for Jane De La Haye talking me through some breathing exercises when I was finding it a little harder to breathe one day. I’m grateful for my elderly neighbour messaging me every day to check how I am.
I’m grateful for mum Marita Rowland sending me teabags when I was running low, and for calling me every day, and to dad Martin Le Marinel for figuring out technology so we can Skype and for sending me a video he took of the village I grew up in, on a sunny spring day.
I’m grateful for the thoughtful cards I’ve been sent, and the messages, and the well-wishes, and the calls. For all the offers of help.
I’m grateful for Netflix!
And of course, I’m grateful for everyone who is keeping this country running right now, especially those on the front line.
Tired tired tired. But a little better every day. And always grateful xxx
09 April: Out in Nature
Today I’m feeling grateful that I’m feeling well enough to venture out for my first gentle walk in two weeks. I fell in love with Nature all over again! Spring’s just doing her thing…! 😍 Feeling blessed.
09 April: The Great Leveller
I have seen several discussions about whether this global pandemic is or is not a great leveller. THE great leveller. In some ways, it seems it is. No one is immune to this virus. Everyone is subject to the same lockdown rules.
And yet, this is also The Great Divider. The split between ‘rich’ and ‘poor’, inner city and rural, front line and work-from-home; the impact of the virus affects those on either side of the split very differently. Significantly and tragically so. It doesn’t seem very levelling at all, when you look at it like that.
But what if this global crisis COULD be the great leveller? What if a global economic crash could be the catalyst for doing things differently? What if, rather than returning to ‘normal’, things got worse, before they got better? What if this is the greatest opportunity of our time?
The toughest, yes, undoubtedly, but I have faith that we humans are far tougher, far more resilient, than we give ourselves credit for. If my time living with the bushmen in the Kalahari taught me anything, it’s that we can survive – and be happy – with a whole lot less than we have now.
I’m well aware I write this as a privileged, white, edge-of-the-countryside dwelling, single, childless young woman who, despite being far from rich, is reasonably well off compared to vast communities in the uk, and (as all of us here in the uk), the rest of the world. And so many will shout “what do you know about struggle and hardship?” And yet, there is a calling in my heart that says some good must come of this.
And I see so much good around me. I feared riots and fights and everyone-out-for-their-own mentalities and whilst that has happened in small doses with stockpiling and skirmishes over loo roll, I actually see communities pulling together.
Neighbours chatting for the first time in years as they stroll past front porches or share a beer over the garden fence. Parents out playing in the sun with their children. Companies adapting and pivoting so employees can work flexibly. School teachers walking 5 miles a day so children don’t go hungry.
People digging allotments and growing their own food. Old friends reconnecting with each other. People exercising outside and appreciating the nature around them. Neighbours supporting and helping those more vulnerable in their community. People sewing face masks and scrubs for frontline workers. Children drawing rainbows. Whole streets having dance parties and clapping for the NHS.
People considering their priorities.
People making sacrifices.
People uniting for a common cause.
If it gets worse, and I am pretty sure it will – economically if not health wise – would we let people struggle and starve? Or would we all be willing to go with a little – or a lot – less, in order to help those more needy?
What if we started seeing more sharing of surplus, and living more simply?
What if we learned to go without, but reaped other benefits – community, connection, collaboration?
What if we return to a time when “it takes a village to raise a child”? When we only take what we need, and share the rest. When we work with the Earth, rather than use and abuse it. When we work as a community, for the good of the community.
When we believe that we are all worthy, and all of value. When we believe that we are all powerful, and all capable of bringing about change. When we believe that just because something has always been done that way, it is not true that it must always be done that way.
What if now is a time to rethink what normal is? What if now is a time to embrace the challenges, and ask how we WANT the world to be.
What if now is not a time to rush back to normal, but to slow down, simplify, reevaluate what is really important to us?
I don’t know what the solution is. But I’m convinced it is down to us. This one isn’t going to be solved by the politicians alone, but by the public. By communities coming together. And amidst the chaos and the crises and the fear, I see love. I see fierce spirits who are fighting for what they believe in. I see courage and audacity and creativity. I see strength and resilience and collaboration.
I see hope.
If you would like to keep up with Jen her Facebook Page is here. I look forward to the time Jen has the time/energy to share what she has learnt from the San Bushmen.
What are you feeling grateful for today?
I am feeling grateful for being a key worker in a supermarket, so I get out of the house and at the end of my shift can collect a few food items. For having a room to live in, and enough money to buy food to eat. Drinkable water. Electricity, a recent power cut made me very mindful not to take this one for granted! My car and money for petrol. A new key worker job just on the horizon. Tim Whild and Diana Cooper’s guidance and meditations on the ascension process. For my pony, who is such an amazing soul he can reduce me to tears if I stop what I am doing and just tap into our connection. Grateful for this worldwide opportunity, which as Jen feels too, could level things in a way we could only have imagined (as Lennon once sang about I guess). We have all known at some level that things are unjust and our system keeps us in a disconnected state, but I am so grateful people are seeing/feeling/hearing/sensing their connections to the web of life and turning their dials from fear to love.