Feline Focus

Feline Focus
My latest puma, July 2016


Beloved companion to Sarah, Nov 2015

Window To The Soul

Window To The Soul
Watercolour Horse, June 2015

Sleeping Beauties

Sleeping Beauties
Watercolour Lionesses, Nov 2012


"Outside of a dog, a book is man's best friend. Inside of a dog it's too dark to read."

"Those are my principles, and if you don't like them... well, I have others."

Groucho Marx

Snow Stalker

Snow Stalker
Another snow leopard - my latest watercolour offering - July 2013

31 August 2016



“But first, remember, remember, remember the signs.  Say them to yourself when you wake in the morning and when you lie down at night, and when you wake in the middle of the night.  And whatever strange things may happen to you, let nothing turn your mind from following the signs.  And secondly, I give you a warning.  Here on the mountain I have spoken to you clearly: I will not often do so down in Narnia.  Here on the mountain, the air is clear and your mind is clear; as you drop down into Narnia, the air will thicken.  Take great care that it does not confuse your mind.  And the signs which you have learned here will not look at all as you expect them to look, when you meet them there.  That is why it is so important to know them by heart and pay no attention to appearances.  Remember the signs and believe the signs.  Nothing else matters.”  

I love the writing of C S Lewis, and especially the Chronicles of Narnia, of which The Silver Chair is book six.  This is kind of ironic, given that he was a devout Christian and apologist of his faith, and I am definitely not religious; but I believe in a Higher Power, a universal Creator, an Energy underlying everything (both seen and unseen), which I no longer have a problem calling God, and which is where I find myself in agreement with Lewis.  

This somehow allows me to be able to go beyond the Christian allegory within his stories, and interpret them in a way that makes sense to me, fitting in with what I believe.  This, I think, is what makes him such a good story writer.  The Narnia books can be read as straight-up fantasy-adventure (which is how I viewed them for years), or as deeper, allegorical tales: they work both ways.   

Unlike his Christian non-fiction, in which he is extremely adamant and forceful with his opinions, which doesn’t allow much (if any) room for manoeuvre or personal interpretation (I recall a quote in which he is absolutely insistent that Jesus was not a mere man and great moral teacher, but the Son of God), there is room for such here in his stories. 

My beautiful hardback copies, which I've had for eighteen years.
As to the way I view this passage, to me it perfectly symbolises the process of meditation.  The clear, still, peaceful air of the mountain-top represents the elevated state, beyond the clamour of the mind and the material world, needed to be reached  in order to be able to ‘hear’ what God is trying to communicate (and I see Aslan as representing God, not Jesus); a place where I am one with the Universe.  

Interestingly, in yoga (and other forms of meditation) this is achieved by slowing down the breath, and breathing deeper, thus allowing more, fresh air (and the energy of the universe - the breath of God, the breath of Life, if you will) into the mind and body, to clean and clear the system, paradoxically both filling and emptying it at the same time (but then I guess God is the ultimate paradox, being both Everything and Nothing, the Beginning and the End, and everything in between - simultaneously.  Gosh, I feel a profound moment passing over me…)

The thickening of the air to which Aslan refers conjures to my mind all of the build-up of energy and noise, distractions and demands, that come with living in such a heavily populated world.  It’s often very difficult to see God in the midst of all that hubbub*, to be able to decipher what S/He is trying to ‘say’ to me because of all of the complications that we, as people, bring to life: interpreting God’s signs in the context of our confused reality takes a lot of practice, and is always best undertaken with the help of someone on the same path, some kind of spiritual mentor (fortunately for me, my AA sponsor fulfils this role).

But the great thing is that I can always return ‘to the mountain top with Aslan’, anytime, if I just remember.  And it’s not complicated (not easy, but simple) - I just have to sit still somewhere, and breath deeply.  For as long as necessary.  And to remember that, ultimately, nothing else is as important as connecting with the flow of Energy, and following God, because S/He/It is all Life, Creativity, Happiness, Joy, and Freedom - no matter that the world tries to convince me otherwise.  I just have to breathe It in, embrace It, and act on It.  As the book quote says: “NOTHING ELSE MATTERS.”

So, I leave you to your own interpretation.  Hopefully it might have inspired some of you to check out the book (or books) if you’ve never read it/them: or, if you have, to return to them with new eyes, if you’ve never seen beyond the surface.

I wish for you your own mountain-top retreat - a place to reconnect with your Source, and replenish your soul.


*I double-checked the meaning of this, and found the perfect definition in my dictionary: “confused sound of many voices”.  Sounds about right.

The quote, in situ (in my large, omnibus edition, which is also about eighteen years old)

25 August 2016

Thought Bypass

This is what I need when attempting to navigate my mind...

“All action is born of thought.”  Author unknown

Okay, so I just checked my blog to see when I last posted, and it’s been just over a week, again.  It doesn’t seem that long, but then I have no sense of time, so how would I be able to tell?  This is why I now have a calendar notification set to alert me once a week: so I get the question, “When was the last time I wrote my blog?” popping up every Friday as a reminder.  I need something to prod me, given that my initial, over-enthusiastic posting has rather drastically waned to the more familiar dribble.  Ho hum.

This is not to say that I haven’t actually been writing this last week - or trying to.  I have started five separate pieces (they’re all sitting there, in various states of fruition, at the bottom of my screen - waiting…)  

But, unfortunately (as I mentioned last week), my attention has been divided between them and the Olympics - and when something like that happens then you can almost kiss goodbye to the writing; or, at least, to my being able to stick with one thing, and see it through to completion.  

My brain cannot cope with two things or more at once demanding my focus, and it will always choose the most stimulating, but least taxing - the one that gives instant, easier stimulation and gratification.  Writing does stimulate my brain, once I get going, and give myself over to it; but it requires no distractions, otherwise it just ends up as a sporadic, rambling mess, which needs a whole load of editing (if I even manage to complete it).  

It can also seem like too much effort when directly matched against the immediacy of the internet - one click of a button and I can be zoned out within seconds.  This is why I bang on so much about my problem with the internet - it’s a quick-fix to me, which is not good.  It certainly isn’t any good for my creativity and productivity. 

So, kind of moving on…  

... and this is what I imagine my mind looks like.  Scary.  No wonder I get lost.

… to the quote at the top of the page.  Whilst I agree wholeheartedly with this saying, I also think there should be a companion to it which goes, “All inaction is born of too much thought.”  This would perfectly embody my problem with thinking.  

I think too much.  I can think myself into, then out of, a course of action within seconds.  And then back in, and out, in and out, on and bloody on, ad nauseum…  I tire myself out with my thinking, which is why it’s never a good idea for me to give too much thought to what I’m going to do (or to anything at all, really, ‘cos by the time I’ve finished I’ll be too knackered to do much of anything).  

This is partly why I don’t do plans - ‘cos I think myself into and out of them, changing my mind about them every sixty seconds, redesigning them, changing the parameters, worrying about them, blah blah blah, and basically living in the future with the plan, and missing out on the moment: ’cos I am not one of those people who are able to make a plan, and then get on with what’s in front of them in the day.  

It’s like giving my mind the opportunity to talk my way out of it in advance; much better to catch it unaware by simply living in the day,  trying to bypass the receptacle of noise that is my mind, and tune into my higher Self (God - who exists only in this moment, ‘cos this moment is all moments rolled into one - deep, I know) for direction on what to do now.  

Easier said than done.  But I keep trying.  Plus, it is the essence of yoga (and I am, supposedly, a yogi).  Note to self: this might explain why I’m taking so long to reach ananda (the state of bliss that comes with being one with the Divine).

Interestingly, the time when thinking before acting would come in useful is the time when I don’t do it - or, at least, not conscious, considered thought.  I’m talking about just before I leap onto the internet with gay abandon, which I do with the vague idea that it’ll be alright this time.  And it never is. *heavy sigh*

So, once again, as with everything else in life (it seems), it all comes down to balance: too much thinking, and I turn into a catatonic potato; too little, and I turn into a fried potato (from jumping into the frying pan without looking where I leap).  And I don’t do balance.  I do erratic swings and roundabouts.  I guess I’ll have to get used to being dizzy, then.  You’d think I’d have grown accustomed to it by now, I’ve been doing it so long.

Right, I’m off.  Hey, look at that, though.  I managed to focus, and get this written all in a few hours, on the same day.  And I didn’t give it much thought beforehand: just had the title and a vague idea this morning, and off we went.  Yep, thinking is definitely overrated, in my opinion.  Just wish I could get my mind to agree.

I wish you peace and blissful union in the moment you’re in.


17 August 2016

Olympic Madness

Okay, so I’ve checked my blog to see when was my last post, and it’s been just over a week…  Classic Lisa, boundless enthusiasm for a short while, and then nothing.  So, to stop the rot, and do what I said I would do (post something regularly, to keep a sense of continuity), here are a few words.  Well, two words - Olympic Games.

Yep, that’s what has taken my focus this last week, and back onto the internet, to randomly, purposelessly trawl (thinking, as I do, that I could “just have a bit of a look”, and then come off and go straight back to being focused on my writing and whatnot.  Yeah, right: like that’s ever happened, or ever likely to).

And here’s the ridiculous thing - I can’t actually ‘watch’ the Games, because I don’t have a tv licence (along with not having a television, which I gave up about fifteen years ago), so instead I read the instant updates about it, and then watch the clips when they’re available.  And in between waiting, I drift off and look at some of the other topics I’m interested in/obsessed about (the most recent ones being books and reading).  Just my mind’s way of finding a way to get back on the internet.

The other ridiculous thing is that I don’t actually agree anymore with the idea of competitive sport, despite loving sport, and being competitive by nature.  I used to love doing sport at school, and I was good at it, but it brought out my competitive nature to the extreme - I was an appalling team player because I would even compete with my team mates.  I didn’t know how not to: I just am not a team person (like I’m really not a people person, though I’ve moved past the “I hate people” phase I was in for many years.  I’m just not comfortable or happy around them).  I’m not the type of person who should be let loose with a hockey stick… or any other piece of sports equipment that could double up as a lethal weapon.  

Even when playing ‘friendly’ games, I couldn’t help myself.  My friends hated having to partner me when we played badminton doubles, because I would simply take over the whole of our side of the court, and hardly allow them to get a touch of the shuttlecock.  I couldn’t share, I didn’t trust them, and I hated to lose.  And boy did I hate it when there were five of us, and I had to take my turn off the court…

And whenever I used to watch sport on tv, I would become vicariously competitive, and turn into one of those awful, judgemental, nationalistic fans, shouting at the television about how great my side were (I’m English when we’re playing Scotland, Ireland, or Wales, and British when we’re all clumped together, as we are for the Olympics; and if no-one from my nation is playing, I’ll ‘adopt’ someone else’s team/athlete); how shit the others were; and how they'd cheated if we lost.  Or I’d turn on our side if I couldn’t blame the others, and say how useless we were.  Such a lovely person.  Sport brings out the monster in me.  Here’s the irony - I’m actually a pacifist at heart.  I hate conflict.  

Having grown more thoughtful about what I do, think, how things affect me, and who I am, etc, I now understand that in order to not feed a negative character trait or behaviour, I have to do the opposite (yeah, I know - I should maybe give it a go with the whole internet trawling thing…).  It’s one of the reasons I don’t do sports anymore, and only do yoga.  

Mind you, there are people who have managed to corrupt yoga.  Can you believe there are yoga competitions, and people who actually want to turn it into a competitive sport?  Here’s where my tolerance of people gets a little flaky (where thoughts of violence float up, and I want to bash them over the head with their yoga mats, or maybe a bronze statue of Shiva - much more effective) - ARE THEY FUCKING BONKERS?!!

Do they not know the meaning of the word ‘yoga’, or the purpose of it?  It translates as ‘union’ or ‘yoke’, and means to unite the mind, body, and soul: to become whole, one with ourselves, God, and the rest of the universe - which includes other people.  Competition is about separation, trying to prove yourself to be better than everyone else.  How does that bear any relation to yoga?  ARE THESE PEOPLE DUMB, OR WHAT?  No doubt we’ll see it included in the Olympics some time in the future.

I know there are those who say that sport brings people together, and that it’s a safe way to channel and burn off energy.  And I agree that maybe it does for some people.  But I think for others it’s merely more fuel to the fire of their nationalistic pride, their hatred of others, and their desire to conquer and subjugate, just played out in a sports arena rather than on a battlefield.  

I don’t think you can make the blanket statement that participating in sport is a substitute for war - if that were the case, we’d have less wars going on: yet (unless I’m really missing something) that doesn’t appear to be the case.  For some people it seems as if sport is a substitute, but merely to pass the time, and keep in shape, for when the next war comes along.

And people wonder why our world is divided, and in such a mess, with countries, groups, and individuals all competing with each other for power, glory, and money/material gain.  And no, I don’t mean that sport is to blame (or the Olympics specifically).  I guess it’s just a microcosmic view of what goes on in the whole world; wherever there are people, there is competition, which can sometimes engender conflict.  It’s human nature.  It’s a bugger.

So there we go.  I’ve probably wandered from my original point, and said more than I set out to do.  It was meant only to be a brief update.  But what do I know about how to be brief.  And at least I’ve broken my duck (it’s a cricketing term, ironically - means to finally score after being on zero for a while).

I hope that if you are watching the Olympics, that you are enjoying them in the true, Olympic spirit - by that I mean that you are able to admire the skill of each athlete, regardless of which country they represent; embrace the ethos that says “it’s the taking part that matters, not the winning”; and not turn into a maniacal zealot.  

So, here’s something that confuses me, though - if it’s the taking part, not the winning, that counts, then why give out medals?

Wishing you peace, health, and wholeness.


07 August 2016


BOOK - THE SECRET GARDEN by Frances Hodgson Burnett

“One of the new things people began to find out in the last century was that thoughts - just mere thoughts - are as powerful as electric batteries - as good for one as sunlight is, or as bad for one as poison.”

My very old, well-loved, and frequently-read copy of The Secret Garden

This is another children’s book which I missed out on reading in my childhood, but was fortunately introduced to in my thirties (by the same person who led me to Pooh, and many other classic children’s books, re-igniting a love of children’s literature which I believed I had outgrown); and which transcends the children’s/adult literature divide.  I love this book, and felt a deep connection with Mary Lennox, and her contrary personality - despite the fact that she is not autistic.

One of the things I find most remarkable about this quote is the fact that it comes from a book that was published in 1911.  Yes, that’s the beginning of the last century (the twentieth) - which means that the century to which she is referring in the quote is the nineteenth.  People had figured out back then in the eighteen hundreds that our thinking has a powerful impact on our health.

I think I was gob-smacked when I first read it; to think that there were those in the Victorian age who were becoming enlightened about things that people now talk about as if they’ve only just been discovered - ‘reinventing the wheel’ is, I believe, the applicable phrase.

And, despite the fact that the evidence for these things being true has been around for over a  century, there are still those today who don’t believe it.

I don’t know why this should be a surprise to me, because I am purportedly a yogi, and yogis have been propounding the same beliefs for a lot longer (we’re talking over two THOUSAND years, not just over a hundred); but maybe it’s to do with the fact that India and the East has a long-standing association with the spiritual and metaphysical, whereas I think of the West as deeply entrenched in religion (which is different in my mind to spirituality), and the material/physical world.  

We had not long since gone through the Industrial Revolution, which gave no consideration to a person’s mental, emotional, or physical wellbeing, only to how much work could be forced out of them.  People, it seems, essentially became an extension of the machinery they operated.   

All of which just goes to prove what slow progress we human beings make, despite our much-vaunted intellectual evolution; and that there really isn’t anything new - people are essentially the same now as we were back then: we’re just recycling the same ideas, but from a different perspective.  Plus, we simply obfuscate the truth with different language.  Jargon, anyone?

And as to whether the theory is true or not, I have only to investigate my own life, and how depleting is the impact of harbouring negative thoughts.  As the saying goes, “Like attracts like”. 

Peacock butterflies in my own sort-of-secret garden
A Red Admiral butterfly
My own small, semi-secluded garden

02 August 2016


“No person likes to think he is bodily and mentally different from his fellows.”  Big Book, page 30

You know what amazes me about the Big Book?  The fact that, if you break it right down to its individual, component sentences, you can see its relevance to the whole human experience.  You don’t have to be alcoholic (or have any of the other illnesses that traditionally share the 12 Step Programme) to find something of value or usefulness.  You just have to be open-minded - another way of saying not rigid in your thinking (which explains why I have a difficult time with this concept).

Obviously, the original application of this statement is meant to reference the difference between alcoholics and non-alcoholics; but for me, right now, its relevance is in regard to the difficulties I’m having with accepting that, as an autistic (with adhd thrown in as a bonus), I am differently-wired to other people.

First of all, I’d like to note the use of the word ‘different’.  There is no moral judgement in that word, no condemnation - which, as alcoholics, tends to be something we’re accustomed to either hearing from others, or applying to ourselves: that we’re somehow weak, bad, worthless, damaged, faulty, useless, abnormal, etc, and it’s essentially all because we can’t control our drinking.  When you really think about it, how daft is that?  

Well, a similar thing applies to being autistic, and having adhd.  Some of the judgements passed on us are that we are weird, difficult, faulty, useless, damaged, bad, worthless, etc.  It’s not generally something that anyone wants to be or have - which you can tell by the fact that people are worrying about the evidence that it seems to be on the rise; and that there are scientists out there trying to find a way to eradicate it.  It doesn’t make you feel warm and welcomed to the planet, I have to tell you, when the thing that is part of the very essence of who you are is judged to be some kind of undesirable abnormality.

And so we come to me.  It’s very difficult not to absorb all of this negativity (especially when you’ve kind of invited it in by going looking to see what other people have to say about autism and adhd), so it shouldn’t really be a surprise that, despite all of my positive speeches about how I’m merely different not faulty, and created by God, etc, I have yet to really accept my differences, and I frequently resort to judging certain aspects of myself harshly, mainly because I feel that they are getting in the way of me making any progress.  

Except that the progress I seem to be trying to make is in becoming less like myself, and more ‘normal’ ie non-autistic/adhd.  I choose to measure myself against non-autistics, and look to them for ideas about how to deal with life.  Is it any wonder I have a difficult time?  It’s like asking an oak tree to be a sunflower: it cannot do it, and to try to do so would leave it stunted and deformed.  And boy do I frequently feel stunted and deformed.

The page in the Big Book from where the quote is taken

I think the major aspect that I struggle with is the issue of having acute sensitivity, because it encompasses things not apparently obvious to me when I was first diagnosed.  I thought it was only about things like hearing (noise can distract me and drive me nutty, so I spend a large proportion of my time either wearing earplugs or headphones, and listening to brown noise - like white noise, only a different colour); taste (I am EXTREMELY sensitive to sugar, in any form - artificial or not - including fruit, and all the other ‘healthy’ variations); and touch (eg my sensitivity to the weather).  

What I didn’t count on was being sensitive to other peoples’ emotional energies, peoples’ opinions (which combines with me being literal, gullible, and serious-minded), and the electro-magnetic emissions emanating from some electrical devices: which, along with my distractability, causes me massive problems, particularly when using the internet.  Which I don’t want to admit, or accept, ‘cos I’m obsessed with it.  Like I once was with alcohol.  And sugar.  And television (another electronic device).  Bugger.

So I guess this possibly contributes, in part, to an explanation of why I experience such rapid sensory overload.  At least it sounds quite feasible, though I’m not quite certain.  As I said in the introduction to this series, I have no definitive answers: I’m just making this up as I go along.  But then neither, it seems, does anyone else know for sure.  So I guess it’s okay for me to shove in my twopenn’orth.  After all, it does affect me. 

I also have a thing about plans.  I want to be a person who can devise and follow a plan.  The amount of sites I’ve read about planning could sink a battleship.  I am obsessed with plans.  I’ve been obsessed with them since I was a kid.  And they’ve never worked for me.  Why would they work now??  (I need to make clear here that I am not referring to my daily routine, which includes the stuff necessary to keep my life ticking over - things like yoga, eating, bathing, and suchlike.)  

Fortunately for me, in AA we have something ultimately better, which is called living one day at a time, and following God’s guidance for us.  And, interestingly, God never informs me of what’s in store for the week ahead (never mind the month, year, or decade).  S/He/It doesn’t even let me know what They want me to do for the rest of the day.  I guess They know, and accept, better than I do that if there’s a plan to follow I’ll deviate from it: which is why They provided me with a solution that doesn’t force me to have to try to do something that I cannot do, ‘cos God isn’t interested in making my life difficult.  I do a good job of that myself. 

So, no, when it comes to certain things about being autistic and having adhd, I don’t want to be different.  But what I want, and what I need, are two separate issues, and I guess God had good reason for creating me this way.  And though it makes sense, I can’t say it makes it any easier to accept. *grumpy sigh*     

Snow Leopard

Snow Leopard
An experiment in watercolour and gouache

Quotes Quota

"Do you believe in Magic?" asked Colin.

"That I do, lad," she answered. "I never knowed it by that name, but what does th' name matter? I warrant they call it a different name i' France an' a different one i' Germany. Th' same thing as set th' seeds swellin' an' th' sun shinin' made thee well lad an' it's th' Good Thing. It isn't like us poor fools as think it matters if us is called out of our names. Th' Big Good Thing doesn't stop to worrit, bless thee. It goes on makin' worlds by th' million - worlds like us. Never thee stop believin' in th' Big Good Thing an' knowin' th' world's full of it - an call it what tha' likes. Eh! lad, lad - what's names to th' Joy Maker."

From 'The Secret Garden', by Frances Hodgson Burnett


Copied from photograph of the same name by Roberto Dutesco

Quotes Quota

"There is no way to happiness - happiness is the way."
The Dalai Lama

"If you don't stand for something you will fall for anything."

Malcolm X

On The Prowl

On The Prowl
Watercolour tiger

Quotes Quota

"What saves a man is to take a step. Then another step."

"There are far, far better things ahead than any we leave behind."

C S Lewis