Wednesday, 21 January 2015

Focus - Day 53

Day 53 (22nd January 2015)
53 villages alone, from across the UK, required no war 
memorial after World War One.
The First World War lasted 53 months, from June 28 with the attack
on Sarajero, until Austria proclaimed the republic 
and its return to Germany, November 11, 1918.
Today's post is by Jon Bartlett, who has been an important figure throughout the history of the Advent Blog series - it was his impactful post, Courage, about the experience of suffering poor mental health, which you can read via this link, that resulted in the creation of #HR4MH (HR for Mental Health). Jon works as a coach and mediator, specialising in resilience and conflict resolution. Increasingly over the past few years he has become recognised as one of the UK's foremost experts in raising awareness of mental health. Jon has an active body as well as an active mind - he walks, cycles, travels, reads, and is a valued friend. He and I met via Twitter (his handle @projectlibero is the same as his business site, Project Libero). As well as being an inspirational writer and thinker, Jon is a talented photographer - all the pictures in the below post, summarising his journey over 2014, were taken by him during the course of the year. It is said that "a picture is worth a thousand words", certainly, these pictures spoke to me. 

When my mind fractures and betrays me I often take comfort in nature. Over the years it has been an escape, a sanctuary and an analgesic. In 2014 I decided to try to make nature my teacher by studying shamanic practice. Now before you rush to imagine naked dancing round the campfire, painted faces or ritual sacrifice I had better reassure you that my studies have been far more prosaic. What they have involved is a greater appreciation of the world around me and a good deal of quiet reflection on rhythm and harmony within nature. I've looked at the seasons and the behaviour of animals, drawing wisdom from their innate reactions and responses. If I tried to write down all I have learned then we would be here a long time, so instead I offer you a quote from the photographer Ansel Adams:

“When words become unclear, I shall focus with photographs. When images become inadequate, I shall be content with silence.”

Whilst not in the same league as Adams, I take comfort from photography, as a way to record and retrieve some of the insights that nature gives me. Here are some images of my path and perceptions from my year on the “Red Road”

This picture was just an instinctive snap but actually as I looked at it again I realised that being out on the ‘trail” often helps me make sense of the thoughts which “ail” me.

I lay under this tree a long time. Although damaged by fire it continues to grow and thrive - much like I do.

“Siesta Lake Reflection"
This reminded that the very best of us is often reflected in what we do for others.


Pelicans working as a team to search and quarter the water - a theme for me professionally this year.

This sea otter taught me about being willing to relax in any environment.

This picture of rose petals reminds me of recent friendships that have crumbled and fallen, people worn down beyond the limit of their patience by the slowness of my recovery or hurt by the outbursts of rage I have fired at them. Those people remain ever bright and colourful in my mind.

At the most beautiful stage of its life this butterfly was fragile and vulnerable.

“Hiding in plain sight”
However I feel about myself, most people won’t have noticed any dysfunction.

Many of my darkest thoughts are like these jellyfish - they can give an uncomfortable sting but they are not deadly. It’s learning which thoughts are the most dangerous which takes time.

The complex connections here inspired me when I was working on a creative project this year.

“The gathering storm”
Light is sometimes found at the darkest of times.

“France to the left, Italy to the right"
Stood high on the Mont Blanc massif, I realised that most of the boundaries and limitations in my mind are man made and artificial - much like the borders between countries.  

“Last Day”
Trying to focus on the perfect sunset led to an insight about focussing on the texture / quality of my life now, right in front of me, rather than worrying about the happy ending.

Whilst there are no humans in these images Adams always maintained that there were two people in every photograph. The photographer and the viewer. I’ve told you where I am, so I hope you find something of yourself in these pictures and that you’ve enjoyed walking with me on my path for a brief while.

Landscape With Couple Walking and Crescent Moon
Vincent van Gogh, 1890

Walking Man - sung by James Taylor, 1974

1 comment:

  1. Jon, you must be a Godsend to people with mental health problems, services and organisations. As an ex-Mental health professional - who left the NHS disillusioned and burned out - your photographs and stories are truly enlightening.