Special moments happen in the most ordinary circumstances and wake us up to the joy of living. In her heartwarming new book ‘And Life Lights Up’, Alice Taylor celebrates such experiences in all their variety – taking the time to notice the beauty of a flower, listening attentively to a piece of music, appreciating someone’s small act of kindness, looking closely at a painting, enjoying a long bath, celebrating creativity through gardening, wood carving, knitting, sewing.
It’s about being in the moment and being aware of the magic as it happens. In this way we enrich our everyday living and create an inner reservoir of golden moments.
“We may not all walk in the winner’s enclosure or stand on the podium of achievement or raise the cup of victory, but we do all have beautiful moments, special times that can set our inner being aglow and wake us up to the wonder that surrounds us. But we must be there for these experiences and in them. They enrich our lives but can so easily be lost if we are too busy looking in another direction. They can then go by, unappreciated and unnoticed. They just disappear. So it is good to be mindful, to be aware, to observe and savour these special moments, and absorb the joy of them now as they are happening and take them into our soul.” Alice Taylor
A native of Innishannon, Alice Taylor is the author of the ever-popular ‘To School through the Fields’ and many other bestsellers, including ‘And Time Stood Still’, ‘The Gift of a Garden’, ‘The Women’, ‘Do You Remember?’, ‘Tea and Talk’ and ‘Home for Christmas’. ‘And Life Lights Up’ is her twenty-fifth book. Over 80,000 copies of her books have been sold to date.
Extracted from And Life Lights Up: Moments That Matter by Alice Taylor
Published by Brandon – An imprint of The O’Brien Press
Finding My Feet
The voice of the man guiding the meditation is easy and gentle on the ear. His words waft into our minds like butterflies landing on thistledown. I am on a weekend meditation retreat in the Dzogchen Beara Buddhist Centre in the depths of West Cork. Time off the treadmill of everyday life.
We came late last night when the mountain was shrouded in darkness and the sea sighing quietly around it. The centre clings to the side of the mountain and you make your way up and down steep paths to the different levels. In the Shrine Room, where the directed retreat is taking place, silence reigns but for the voices of Andrew and Stephanie, who take it in turn to direct the meditation.
Now Andrew is talking about walking meditation. I have often wondered about this. He tells us that as you walk you feel, hear, see and be where you are and that you do it slowly and mindfully. In other words: be there. Into my head swims the words of a song I had long forgotten: ‘Slow down, you move too fast’.
Then Andrew suggests that we go out and walk wherever our fancy takes us along the mountainside. It is January, so the paths are muddy with occasional pools of water. I plod along in my well-insulated boots and hear the mud squelch beneath me. It is a satisfying, earthy sound. When it feels as if I might get stuck in the mud I move on to the verge where the grass sinks beneath me and muddy water oozes up between the clumps of weeds. It slushes up around my boots. I wish then that I was barefoot.
Back on the home farm when I was a child we often jumped barefoot into muddy gaps. It was lovely to feel the mud ooze up between our toes. We also jumped into soft, warm cow dung – this was one of the delights of summer days. I know that this may sound slightly disgusting, but as children we delighted in the feel of it beneath our feet. The fields were strewn with cow dung and to land into one with bare feet was sheer sensuous delight. If freshly created, it was like soft green cream that oozed up between our toes forming a kind of poultice for our soles and heels. It was a great feeling – and probably very good for our feet. Afterwards, we would run barefoot through dewy grass and feel the dew course down in warm streams along our legs. We loved it. Who knows but maybe it was from this contact with the earth that our modern body massage evolved? When I go for reflexology now I wonder if it could all have begun with warm cow dung? In today’s world, mud, cow dung and dew are replaced by sweet-smelling oils. But it is all about soothing the senses, whatever balm you use.
Suddenly a curious robin brings me back to the present here in Dzogchen Beara as he comes to investigate. He hops on to a stony ditch beside me and cocks his heads inquiringly. He has no fear of humans. This is his place and nobody has ever done anything to alarm him.
I plod on and wind my way to a donkey sanctuary at the far end of the mountain where deeper mud puts a stop to my gallop. I look down over the mountain, which is wearing a muted winter coat, and the sea below is grey and solemn. It is winter and nature has gone to ground. The scene soothes the mind into a wonderful stillness.