Sometimes - when low or uncertain or frightened; when feeling stuck or disappointed or weary - I can find relief in the natural world.
I took the photo above while on personal retreat a few months ago, near Lochinver in Sutherland, Scotland. It shows Mount Suilvern and other peaks, in an area known as The Assynt. The landscapes in this region are some of the most stunning and dramatic in all of Europe.
The beauty and drama of our world is a source of invigoration and inspiration for me, over and over again. In such places I can feel more easily both the terrifying smallness of being human, and the infinite blessing of divinity that lives in each of us.
At other times, I need to fall back on the creativity of others to lift me up. Art, music and literature have been my reliable allies throughout my adult life. They provide a different kind of landscape - an inner world where everything is possible.
Art that resonates within us can change us in surprising ways. It can be a subtle transformation, it can take time. Or sometimes it can be like a clap of thunder rippling through our consciousness. But the worlds and words that others create can, if done well, help us through life.
Timing is crucial here. A book read at the right time in our life becomes more than just a 'good read'. It can become a seminal moment in our development. We change for the better because we read that book when we read it, because we saw that picture when we saw it.
Songs, poems, stories, music, pictures, shapes, colours, movements....these and other human-made things can reach into us in a way that our own thoughts and actions cannot.
This is a unique experience for each of us, because we are each unique in our particular patterns of need. You have your song, I have mine. That's the way of being human.
What follows is a paragraph - from a longer essay - that helps me sometimes, particularly when I feel uninspired or defeated in my efforts somehow. It's written by one of my favourite contemporary authors, the psychologist Clarissa Pinkola Estes. (If you haven't read or heard her any of her work...well, I recommend her to you.)
I offer this to you now, just on the off-chance that the timing is right for you and that therefore it might lift you now, should you need lifting.
You never know. It might.
'Anything you do from your soulful self will help lighten the burdens of the world. Anything. You have no idea what the smallest word, the tiniest generosity can cause to be set in motion. Be outrageous in forgiving. Be dramatic in reconciling. Mistakes? Back up and make them as right as you can, then move on. Be off the charts in kindness. In whatever you are called to, strive to be devoted to it in all aspects large and small. Fall short? Try again. Mastery is made in increments, not in leaps. Be brave, be fierce, be visionary. Mend the parts of the world that are within your reach. To strive to live this way is the most dramatic gift you can ever give to the world.
I find these words (and many others by Dr Estes) motivating and a powerful reminder.
What words/music/images lift you?