Monday, December 21, 2009

Norwich Cathedral - a WellBeing resource...

I recently 'gave' WellBeing 'tours' of Norwich cathedral, which were offered to folk I work alongside. It was just before Christmas and I wanted to give folk something unique to me. Working as an historical educator and interpreter who has done a lot of work in the cathedral I wanted to share my particular perspective with others. Although my focus was historical - in particular, exploring the contributions of ordinary people to this grand building -, I also wanted to demonstrate what a fantastic wellbeing resource the cathedral - and similar buildings - are for the people of Norfolk.

I always think that the Five Ways are best illustrated retrospectively; that is, once they have been experienced. Accordingly, I was able to draw out the following elements to our experience within the cathedral:

We came together to share some quality time and explore this building together

Take notice:
We were able to appreciate the beauty of this special place, and were also invited to slow down and look within.

Be active:
We spent nearly an hour rambling through the building. Gentle exercise I know, but nonetheless, genuine exercise

Keep learning:
We learnt from each other as we passed through the building. For instance, in this exchange, a young girl was able to point out a mason's mark that I had never noticed before

We gave our time to each other; shared insights, laughter... comfortable silence.

This is a building which - regardless of whether you have Christian faith; faith from a different tradition, or no faith - does things to you - if you will allow it to...

The spire and the ceilings encourage us to look up and experience a sense of awe and wonder. The more intimate spaces of the side chapels, and darker east end, prompt more reflection and, possibly, introspection. The candles invite us to be lost in the dance of their flame.

I would encourage you to explore this and other special places. These 'sanctuary spaces' are, potentially,  such a powerful wellbeing resource!

Wednesday, December 9, 2009

A Wellbeing Workplace...

I feel that we need to make our working environments, both, more brain and planet friendly. Why, for instance, do we insist on having static meetings? There is an old phrase that says, "it is solved by walking". Some of my best eureka moments have been when walking along in conversation with someone else. The sky is a brilliant roof - much better and more likely to inspire than some dismal strip-light!

The trouble is - to extend the walking metaphor - we tend to fear an untrod path. However, when we dare to do different, and experiment a bit, the results can be amazing. For instance, I recently completed an intensive teaching qualification, writing several thousand words in a day. I did it by working in twenty five minute bursts, punctuated by ten minute breaks. The 'breaks' when, ostensibly, I wasn't working often proved to be the time when I experienced those moments of synthesis and inspiration which a nose to the grindstone culture so efficiently stifles. The optimal performance of the human brain is sustained for less than half an hour at a time.

Why then all the dreadful long meetings? It reminds me of a thought from the wonderful Ken Robinson video I posted here recently.  I think that this fear of rest and relaxation stems from an attitude to people equivalent to the strip-mining of our planet - and, as with such reckless plundering, it is equally unsustainable. A well chaired meeting with regular breaks and changes in the mode of delivery - visual, aural, read/write, kinaesthetic - is bound to produce more of value in less time. And perhaps in those 'breaks' we might get to know each other - and ourselves - better. We might CONNECT and GIVE and KEEP LEARNING, TAKE NOTICE. If we walk and talk we might even BE ACTIVE. In other words, as the Foresight Report has established, if we build these five 'ways' into our daily lives our wellbeing is likely to improve.

I have been experimenting with this in my own working life, and have found that when colleagues and partners are amenable to playing with some of these ideas, we're achieving more and feeling better for it.

It ain't rocket science folks!


Wednesday, December 2, 2009

A Wise Wellbeing Woman...

This video was recorded recently by my friend Finbarr. Here, he interviews his nan, Hilde - a wise wellbeing woman if ever I saw one!