Autumn Wisdom from Children’s TV

Do you remember Bod?

When there weren’t endless channels of choice, we had just one programme at lunchtime each day for us kids. Well, that’s how I remember it.

Bagpuss & Pipkins were good, but my favourite was Bod. A triangle shaped person with their own theme tune. In fact every character had their own theme tune. Perhaps you can choose your own theme tune for today?

Anyway, Bod had mellow adventures, and once there was a snippet about trees losing their leaves as the seasons changed. (We didn’t have Mutant Ninja Turtles back then, or Zombie pizza games… )

I remember Aunt Flo was sad about the trees losing their leaves, but Bod offered an alternative way of looking at it. Without the trees losing their leaves, they wouldn’t be able to grow cherry blossom next Spring, or the Cherries in the summer after that.

The nature of ‘impermanence’, and how things are always changing was a simple yet profound insight for someone like me, who’d had something of a chaotic start to life, with 5 different families and homes in my first year alone. Perhaps a first glimpse of the Mindfulness traditions that would continue to be a foundation of my life.

As a grown up, I notice on a sunny Autumn day how you can see more of the blue sky with fewer leaves on the trees. Nearer winter, you can even see the birds more clearly on sparse branches. I practice this stubborn optimism to nudge out the winter blues!

It’s all about where you focus your attention.

I later discovered the creators of Bod, Joanne and Michael Cole had Taoist beliefs. Bod has a slight look of a monk, now I think about it. Serene face, bald head & a stubborn optimism.

As a kid growing up in Birmingham in the 70’s I’d not heard of Taoists or Buddhists, but this stuff made sense to me. Perhaps I was a ‘Bod-ist’ long before I set foot in a Buddhist temple years later. (Excuse the pun!)

Finding the wisdom in the everyday is where the gold in life is. It could be from Kids’ TV, a line in a favourite song or film, something your 6 year old says when the cat gets sick, or watching the dog relish every sniff on a morning walk, discovering the same park anew; all things can remind us of these simple but profound truths in life.

Seemingly endless huge changes in all of our lives over the last 18 months for sure, but hopefully if we look up, still some glimpses of blue skies to tide us through the colder months ahead.

Having changed the clocks last night, tonight’s earlier darkness will be noticeable. But we can keep our focus on the light, whether it’s candle lit pumpkins for Halloween, or scouring Youtube for a clip of Bod, perhaps that Cherry Tree episode…

Photo thanks to Unsplash, as our pumpkin is already roasted & half eaten!

The wisdom of the Sat Nav…

Sometimes you find wisdom in ancient teachings. Or by spending time in nature. At other times, the car Sat Nav barks a single word that sums up the state of the world right now. Recalculating. Recalculating. Recalculating.

Thanks to roadworks, on a rare car trip to deliver food shopping to poorly friends, the car spoke perfect sense. Recalculating is what we’re all currently doing. From Wuhan to Worcester. From the Italian village of Nerola, to Nuneaton. In tiny bedsits, shared flats, busy family houses, and in spacious mansions. For those who’ve had solo quarantines, and those who’ve had housefuls of all generations, with home schooling squished into the same space as ‘home office’-ing.

We are all recalculating and recalibrating, as things change daily. Most of us still trying to figure it out as we go along, and make the best decisions with whatever information we have each day. It’s not easy. Understatement. Change and uncertainty can be frightening; and there are still so many unknowns in the road ahead.

So, what can we do? Our best. A daily choice, to keep doing what we can. And practice not focusing too much attention and worry onto the stuff outside of our control, or else we’ll dissolve into puddles of fear. It’s not easy. That understatement again! Especially if some of our loved ones are still shielding. Instinctively we want to visit family and friends, invite them into our home and hug them tight.

But instead, we recalculate and do what we can. We might deliver food cooked with love, and sit outside the window, waving and talking to our favourite people on the phone. Perhaps it’s hours of FaceTimes, Zoom quizzes and WhatsApp messages; any means of connecting with our loved ones.

And for ourselves? When the landscape of work is unrecognisable, we might seek temporary solace in the land instead. Marooned in the desert island of our own homes for months, you may have noticed the trees, flowers and birds changing as Spring evolved lazily into Summer. Whilst we’ve been ‘recalculating’ our route around the delays of the pandemic, daily meanders to the park might have been a chance to breathe, and escape the worries of our own heads by focusing on the changing skies.

You think social media updates itself regularly? Try scrolling the sights, sounds and smells that change as you walk the same streets. It’s calming and reassuring to note that nature isn’t phased by the same events that have smashed up the world as we knew it. In fact it’s been quietly flourishing in our quieter streets, and more noisily at times. Our nest of scruffy baby blue tits know that home schooling is rarely a tranquil time…

When the world at large is overwhelming, do something small. Bake a cake, fiddle with a jigsaw, plant some seeds, write a letter – where did you put the envelopes in this world of email? But don’t feel obliged to learn mandarin, set up a new business, or have everything figured out just yet. We’re still in the recalculating, recalibrating phase of life. Making it up, one small thing at a time. Tidying your sock drawer might feel like a huge achievement. And that’s ok.

And while you’re taking baby steps, maybe a little daydream of what changes you’d like to keep from these strange lockdown months. Or how you’d love your life to be different in the future. ‘Dreaming, after all, is a kind of planning’ Gloria Steinem once said.

Worry is a terrible waste of your imagination. They taught us that on a meditation retreat years ago in Brighton. Remembering those words reminds me to press ‘pause’ on the worry loop inside my head. I also remember the amazing cake they had at the Kadampa centre. Cinnamon spiced carrot cake with juicy raisins, and the sweetest banana bread, dappled with walnuts. Something practical, like baking gives your hands something to do; following a recipe gives your mind something to gently focus on; and there’s plenty of time to daydream as you wash up. I’m sure there’s some carrots looking lonely in the fridge, they could soon be ‘recalculated’ into a cake…