Thursday, 15 September 2011

A new home for our small stone posts

To keep things simple, we will be blogging about small stones at our main site, Writing Our Way Home, from this day forth.

Do hop over there to find out more about the January '12 river, small stones, and to read about our future projects. You can also snag this delicious badge for your blog. Go see!

Friday, 5 August 2011

Gorgeous watercolours & family blogging

I wanted to share these watercolours with you, which Claire Marriott painted on a recent trip to Aquitaine. Each deliberately naïve painting has a small stone woven in between the colours. You can see the rest of Claire's lovely watercolours here. Has anyone else combined their small stones with images?

And I also wanted to share a special river-of-stones blog with you, from our youngest river participant (as far as I know!) Stuart at Pebble Finder. Writing small stones is a family affair, as his mum Josephine (Pebbleorium) and his sister Willow (Searching for Secret Passageways) also have beautiful blogs. I'll leave you with a few of Stuart's small stones - enjoy! And keep writing...


Finishing a series
I shut the book and wonder.
"What now?"


Two days ago.
On a road trip.
We stop at a restroom.
I wash my hands in the sink.
A frog pokes his head out of the overflow drain.


Sunset gives the clouds a pink outline.
Shapes appear wherever you look.
This one has the head of a fish and the body of a bird.
Wait... it doesn't have any legs.


A whole large bowl of watermelon
I don't feel too good any more.

Tuesday, 2 August 2011

We are all in this together

Fiona writes: I'm avoiding writing my novel. I put 'fiona robyn' into Google just now (I'm an ego-googlaholic). I found this!

A wonderful piece by Lara about how we are all swimming in the River of Life, and how writing small stones is another way of remembering this.

Thank you, Lara, for encouraging us to bless someone today.

"It can be a huge favor or a tiny piece of chocolate. It can be a gift, a glance, a smile, a ride."

Just like the home-grown runner beans my friend Anna gave us yesterday, and which I shall be eating for my dinner - cooked until tender, and dripping with butter.

Be kind to each other out there.

Saturday, 30 July 2011

The end, or the beginning?

The July river of stones finishes tomorrow.

You might have taken part this time, and you might not have. You might have religiously written a small stone every day, or had a few false starts, or written three and then forgotten about it completely.

It doesn't matter.

If you let them, small stones will help you to connect with the world one teensy moment at a time. They will work on you at their own pace.

Every time you pause to notice the exact texture of an egg, or the glittering thread of drool hanging from your happy cat's chin (yuk!), and wonder how you'd write it down, can be counted as a tiny triumph.

Even if you've had ONE of these moments this month, one that you wouldn't have otherwise experienced, then we'll be very happy.

We're always pleasd to hear from people - do let us know by email (Fiona or Kaspa) or in the comments section how you found the experience.

If you'd like to take your writing practice to another level, you could join one of our month-long self-study ecourses starting on Monday - Eastern Therapeutic Writing with Kaspa (koans, Japanese poetry and Morita therapy) or Writing Ourselves Alive with Fiona (curiosity, honesty, compassion & passion).

If you don't get a jiggle on quickly enough they'll repeat later in the year - here's the rest. 

We won't be posting here again for a while, until we've cooked up the next project for our river. We would like it very much if you'd follow us over to the Writing Our Way Home blog, and you could also try Fiona's weekly inspirational newsletter, or come and say hi at our community

Thank you for reading our blog, and for being a very important drop in the river.

Friday, 29 July 2011

Can we ever really 'see clearly'? (a question, not an answer)

(photo by MontyPython)

A post from the archive by Kaspa:
By way of the grape vine I heard someone asking "Does knowing we're going to write about it take away from really seeing what's there, in the moment?".

I think that's a really interesting question, but it points to a deeper question for me "Can we ever really see what's there?" 

Years ago I used to sit a lot of zazen. Zazen is the meditation of Zen Buddhism, where one just sits. When a thought comes up, you let it go. When another thought come up, you let that go too.  I imagined that if I let everything go I would reach a place of clarity. A place where I could simply be in the world and engage with the world without my own thoughts and prejudices getting in the way.

I think that we probably can wipe the grosser stains of our wind-shields, and see through the glass into the world more clearly. But I'm no longer convinced we can get rid of the glass 

In fact I literally have to look through glass, through a pair of glasses, to see the world clearly. I think this is where the edge is for me. Along with the habits of seeing that I talked about in my last post (Walk in Someone Else's Shoes) we each have a physical body and how we receive the world is mediated by our senses and then interpreted by our brains to give our conscious mind an experience that makes sense.

So we have a uniquely human  experience of each moment, by virtue of our human bodies. And I believe we have a uniquely personal experience of each moment by virtue of our individual histories. Is it possible to let go of those stories, those traumas and celebrations, entirely? 

Today I'm leaning towards answering 'No'. But what we can do is recognise all those parts of ourselves and treat them with more care, and appreciate them as the compost from which our poetry can be fed.

None of this answers the original question of course.  This post is already quite long, so perhaps that first question deserves its own post - either that or you can argue it out in the comments below....

"Does knowing we're going to write about it take away from really seeing what's there, in the moment?"

(Have a look at what people thought last time here and let us know what you think!)

Wednesday, 27 July 2011

Writing isn't always a piece of cake

Any excuse to post a picture of a piece of cake....

But it's true. Writing small stones, or anything, can be difficult. 

It certainly is for me. Some days, I'd rather do anything than sit down at my computer and begin the first sentence.

Why is this? I think a lot of the reason is that when we write, we are trying to say what's true for us. We are putting something out there that people can look at, and have opinions about. We are exposing our vulnerable underbellies, just like our cat Fatty who lies with his paws in the air and dares you to touch him...

This is also why writing is important. 

Writing gives us an opportunity to share these vulnerable parts. It gives us an opportunity to find our truth, whatever that might be.

So keep writing small stones. Keep working on your novel. Keep writing in your journal. Get support. Carry on. 

We all find it difficult. You're in good company.

Friday, 22 July 2011

Can we look anew?

There is a part of everything which is unexplored, because we are accustomed to using our eyes only in association with the memory of of what people before us have thought we were looking at.
Flaubert, quoted in preface to Pierre and Jean, in Maupassant's 'The Novel'
A post from the archive by Kaspa:
James Wood quotes Flaubert in How Fiction Works. Wood attributes the rise of the modern novel to Flaubert. But what interested me was the observation above, in a section where Wood is talking about the satisfaction of specific detail. I'll come back to that in another post.

Our minds are the repositories of stories. We tell stories about people we know, we imagine we know their lives, outer and inner. We tell stories about the places we live in, and about the jobs we do. The most powerful of these stories has to do with how we feel about ourself, "...this is the sort of person I am". This most powerful of stories tends to be at the heart of all the stories we tell.

Each time we encounter something in the world, a loved one, the view from a mountain top, a favourite book in a library, we receive it through the eyes of these stories. I am the person who loves you, we have this history together... and so on.

Flaubert's point is that we not only encounter the world through these personal stories, but that we encounter the world through the eyes and memories of others. We inherit stories, from our peers, from our parents and increasingly from the media.

When we see the Union Jack flying, we have a sense of history, of an Empire perhaps and whatever feelings that might bring up, pride or shame. We are full of stories. Who amongst us would only see a few red and blue triangles, printed onto a white rectangle of fabric?

There is a part of each thing which is hidden from us. We obscure with stories, as much as we enlighten with them.

The act of really paying attention is not to ignore these stories, but to see the transparency of them, to see them but to look beyond to the mystery too.

What mysteries will you uncover today?

Thursday, 21 July 2011

Writing to help us slow down and see

White moon, bright moon, pearling the air

light of the moon
moves west - flowers' shadows
creep eastward


Kaspa writes: When I look at the world, I look through a forest of thoughts. Perhaps there is a patch of clear light in the distance, but more often than not what I see is coloured by unconscious judgments. Either that or my mind is so frenetic, bouncing from worries about the future to thoughts of the past, that I don't see anything at all.

Putting pen to paper can help me cut through the forest of thoughts so that I can really see the world.

The Japanese word seijaku is usually translated simply as calmness, but perhaps a more accurate translation is 'calmness in the midst of busyness'.

It's easy to be calm when you're on a beach watching the sunset, and listening to the waves gently lapping the shore. It's less easy to find that space in the midst of our ordinary working lives. Creating a space for writing poetry in the middle of my busy life helps me to find some calm. Some seijaku.

Sit down. Take a few deep breaths and really look at the world. Experiment with writing slowly, with taking time over each letter. Ask yourself, in what direction are the shadows of the flowers falling? Slow down and fall in love with the world.

When I do this, sometimes I'm really able to connect deeply with what's in front of me.

Sometimes my thoughts are unremitting though. My experience is that if my mind doesn't settle my thoughts are usually telling me something important. In these cases I can use writing to help me unravel what's going on.

The moon, alone,
Taunts me from the heavens
With memories of you;
Should you feel the same, then
Our hearts would be as one.


In August I'll be running my online course in Eastern Therapeutic Writing again. One of the most popular parts last time was the waka module, where we looked at how using Japanese forms of poetry can help us connect with ourselves and world. We also experiment with Naikan to help with our relationships with others, and Morita to help us act in the world, as well as working with personal koans.

I got some great feedback from students last time. Find out more here.

Wednesday, 20 July 2011

Delicious words

To Christ our Lord

I caught this morning morning's minion, king-
dom of daylight's dauphin, dapple-dawn-drawn Falcon, in his riding
Of the rolling level underneath him steady air, and striding
High there, how he rung upon the rein of a wimpling wing
In his ecstasy! then off, off forth on swing,
As a skate's heel sweeps smooth on a bow-bend: the hurl and gliding
Rebuffed the big wind. My heart in hiding
Stirred for a bird, – the achieve of, the mastery of the thing!

Brute beauty and valour and act, oh, air, pride, plume, here
Buckle! AND the fire that breaks from thee then, a billion
Times told lovelier, more dangerous, O my chevalier!

No wonder of it: shéer plód makes plough down sillion
Shine, and blue-bleak embers, ah my dear,
Fall, gall themselves, and gash gold-vermilion.

Gerard Manley Hopkins 


This poem is calling out to be read out loud. Do it. And then hear it being read here.

Words are gorgeous. Dapple-dawn-drawn falcon. Chevalier. Gash gold-vermilion. Taste them properly. Delicious, delicious.

Today, when you notice your small stone, I'd like you to try and enjoy the lusciousness of words as much as you can. Which words sound better together? What order? Read them out loud. Do they work? Do they need to be tweaked?

Mmmm, words.

If you feel moved to do so, it'd be lovely if you shared them in the comments section below.

Friday, 15 July 2011

Are you failing?

(if you're new it's not too late to start writing small stones - go here)

A post from the archive from Fiona:
Are you failing?

"I know that of what I've written so far, most are not actually small stones. Like I said at the beginning, maybe it's enough to write something every day, but I'm not even managing that. Have I failed already then? I don't think so. I am looking more closely and I am thinking more clearly, whether I write it down or not. So, I'm not going to beat myself up but be grateful for the space to reflect on such things. I've been in a pretty negative place lately and that has already changed. I'm feeling grateful for all sorts of things and a joy that has long been absent has reappeared. There are glimpses of hope and so I press on, trying to be more disciplined in my daily writing and reflecting on it's value. Perhaps other things have changed that might account for this change of heart, I don't know, but it seems to me that small stones are building new foundations."

This is from Ghost Writer at Lime Tree Legends

I wonder who else out there might have started with good intentions and tailed off. Or missed a day and given up. 

As Ghost Writer says, it doesn't matter. As writers (as people) the important thing is to begin again. 

And again.

And again.

One small stone, or even ten seconds of looking for one, is better than none. 

Do share your own experiences of perseverance (how to or how not to!) in the comments.

Wednesday, 13 July 2011

Writing and spirituality

“When you are present, the world is truly alive.” ~ Natalie Goldberg

When I was younger, I read Natalie Goldberg's classic, Writing Down the Bones. In it she says many sensible things about being a writer. She also talks about her practice as a Buddhist. 

I was a proud atheist at the time. But the things she talked about (mindfulness, faith) seeped into me somewhere. Seeds were planted.

Fast-forward to the present day, and I'm married to a Buddhist priest - and I'm following a similar path myself. My practice as a Buddhist is important to me on many levels. But are there links between spirituality (however you define it) and writing small stones?

I think that spirituality is good at putting us in touch with something that is larger than our 'small selves'. Something that knows better than we do. You could see this as mother nature, with her seasons and her endless recycling, or you could see it as something more mystical. Either way, connecting with what's around us can help us to find a new kind of wisdom.

I also think that spirituality and a writing practice can both help to steady us. Life is a roller-coaster. Sometimes knowing that we have a daily meditation practice or writing practice gives us a place to return to, a  structure, a reassuring constancy in the middle of impermanence. 

Finally, spirituality and writing are both good at opening us up - softening us - so we can connect more mindfully with those around us (including the planet). It helps us learn about ourselves, and others. It helps us see more clearly (including the bits we'd rather not see). Ultimately, it helps us to love.

I'd love to hear what you think about the links between spirituality and writing - do share in the comments below.

I'll leave you with another quote from Natalie - 

“Stress is basically a disconnection from the earth, a forgetting of the breath. Stress is an ignorant state. It believes that everything is an emergency. Nothing is that important. Just lie down.”

Monday, 11 July 2011

Paying attention to strangers

(it's never too late to join the river....)

Outside our conservatory windows are a mass of petunias. 

They are fuchsia pink, deep purple bleeding-at-the-edges, salmon pink, lily-white. 

They change every day. I watch them extra-carefully, because I planted them. I watered them as they grew from teensy little things into great blooming bushes. They are 'mine'. 

We are especially fond of things that we attach to our 'selves'. They are 'my' petunias, and so I have a good relationship with them. I take care of them. I appreciate them.

But what about the lemon-balm that was here when we arrived? What about the weeds blooming on the path round the back of the house?

Writing small stones encourages us to notice the things that aren't attached to our selves, and to pay them exactly the same kind of attention. To stop and wonder how strangers are, as well as our friends and family. To love them just as much.

Can you do this today when you look for small stones? Can you look beyond your self?

Friday, 8 July 2011

Really seeing the other leads to freedom

A post from our archive by Kaspa:
This week my teacher Dharamvidya David Brazier has been in Israel leading some workshops on psychology. In one of them he talked about how really seeing the other can set you free.

What he describes is also the philosophy that underpins this whole project, and I owe a great debt to him, and others, for teaching me.
"...the focus is upon discerning the truth of the other and achieving spiritual maturity. One achieves liberation for oneself by releasing others from the attachment generated by one's own deluded and stereotypical perception of them. The self-construct is the mirror image of these false views of others. To see the truth of the other is to release them and thereby, incidentally, to release oneself from one's self-construct." Love and Its Disappointment blog
As we more clearly see the other, the other moves away from being what, on some level, we want it to be, and becomes more real. In this way we release the other and give it freedom to exist - and we release ourselves too. As we take away the prop to our 'small self' and grant it existence, we become liberated.

The truth shall set you free.
(John 8:32, The Bible)

Wednesday, 6 July 2011

small stones as a gratitude practice

As part of our morning practice, Kaspa & I do a few minutes of something called 'Nai Quan'. 

We sit quietly and ask ourselves three questions - over the past 24 hours, what have I received from others, what have I offered in return, and what trouble has my existence caused others?

This morning I decided to focus on the first question, and my immediate surroundings. 

After feeling thankful for my zafu (the cushion I sit on), I turned my attention to the lamp we bought from IKEA last year. The photo above really doesn't do it justice. 

It has a double layer of golden woven rattan, in an elegant tulip curve. It sits on top of a silver 'bud' and a simple stem, and the light makes warm patterns on the walls as it passes through the weaving. 

After thinking about receiving the beauty of this lamp, I went on to think about who had made it. Who wove the shape? Where was the rattan grown and picked? The sun shone on it, and someone watered it. Where did the metal come from? How was it made? Where is the smelting factory? Who made that? Who works there?

And then, the light-bulb. What an astonishing invention. The electricity that comes through the wall into our house. Who laid the lines underground? Where is the electricity made? 

I could go on. All this, so I can press a button and let golden light into our shrine room. 

Today, see your small stone practice as a gratitude practice. Look around you. What have you received in the past 24 hours? What can you notice? What are you thankful for?

Tuesday, 5 July 2011

For when you get scared

A post from the archive by Fiona:
Writing can be a thorny business.

I've been doing it for many years now. I have four completed novels behind me, a book of poetry, a book of small stones, and a book of questions

The blank page still scares the bejesus out of me. I sit down to write my work-in-progress and think 'what am I doing thinking I can write? of all the deluded (mumble mumble)....' I have avoided writing poems for almost a year now. 

Maybe your small stones will leap eagerly and willingly into your laps, but if you're like the rest of the human race you might also have occasional thoughts like this. 

How can we continue when we're convinced the whole project is pointless and that everything we ever write is utter rubbish?

By taking a pen and writing a single word. And then another.

Thank your doubts kindly for their input, and continue anyway. Reassure your critic that you WILL allow them out, when you have written your small stone and you want to start polishing it, but not until then.

Writing can be a thorny business. But then so is life.

We are all in it together. The river of stones, and the river of life. We can encourage each other (do visit each other's blogs next month and say what you like). We can take comfort in the knowledge that every single writer ever has had terrible doubts about what they're doing. We can learn how to encourage ourselves, and get better at this as we go along. We can eat chocolate. We'll be JUST fine.

Monday, 4 July 2011

First day of our sesshin

As you read this, we will be in the afternoon of our first day of sesshin in our Buddhist retreat centre in the middle of France. We might be sitting in front of this Buddha right now. 

We might be sitting quietly in the bamboo grove, or walking slowly and silently through the beautiful countryside, or chanting or bowing or singing. Maybe we'll be drinking a cup of lemongrass tea, slowly and mindfully.

We won't be talking to each other. We won't be on our laptops or our mobile phones. (Wish us luck!)

This will give us the perfect opportunity to look out for small stones. We'll be catching them all in our notebooks and putting them online at the end of the week. 

But you don't have to go on retreat to find small stones. The whole point of the practice is that it fits into all kinds of lives, no matter how busy they are. Who doesn't have five minutes to spare in a day? If you don't have five minutes, then just NOTICE your small stone instead - thirty seconds should do it. 

Try not to get too caught up in whether your small stone is any good or not (although I'm sure most of you will, because you're human). Just notice. Just write them down. 


While we're away we won't be sharing these articles anywhere - do help us out if you can by sharing the links with your friends and on Twitter and Facebook if you enjoy them. And do support each other in your small stone practice. Deep bow. 

Friday, 1 July 2011

The river begins!

(to find out about joining our July writing challenge click here)

This is how we begin today.

We notice one thing properly. We write it down.

It doesn't matter how long it is, or how clever it is, or whether you've spelt it right.

It matters that you pause for a moment. It matters that you really hear the whirr of your lap-top, or the squeaky wheel as the cyclists passes you. It matters that you smell those tomatoes-on-the-vine and notice their earthy sweetness. It matters that you take a minute to skim your fingertips over your smooth silk shirt. 

We notice one thing properly. We write it down.

Thursday, 30 June 2011

One day to go - river's eve!

1 Mosaic

"I am astonished in my teaching to find how many poets are nearly blind to the physical world. They have ideas, memories, and feelings, but when they write their poems they often see them as similes. To break this habit, I have my students keep a journal in which they must write, very briefly, six things they have seen each day—not beautiful or remarkable things, just things. This seemingly simple task usually is hard for them...
...Their journals fill up with lovely things like, "the mirror with nothing reflected in it." This way of seeing is important, even vital to the poet, since it is crucial that a poet see when she or he is not looking—just as she must write when she is not writing. To write just because the poet wants to write is natural, but to learn to see is a blessing."
~From The Art of Finding by Linda Gregg
Join the river of stones to practice this way of seeing. If you are a writer, it will help your writing. If you are not a writer, you soon will be, but, either way, this kind of seeing gets you closer to the world. I've used a longish quote from Gregg's article because she describes how the type of exercise we're proposing can help make us better writers and poets. We found Gregg's article during the January challenge I think, and it's confirming to see other writers encouraging people along the sames lines as us. We're not saying anything new though, really, just encouraging lots of people to join us.

renegade reds dot
a leaf brown landscape—
a pack of newports shouts
viridian blue

Robin Turner

I hope all of your journals fill up with lovely things like "the mirror with nothing reflected in it", and that you share your small stones with us on your blogs. Find out how to get involved here.

We begin tomorrow!

P.S. Remember that Fiona and I will be on a silent retreat next week. We'll be keeping our small stones in our paper journals and writing them up online at the weekend, when we'll also enjoy diving in and reading all of your lovely contributions.

P.P.S Thanks to Leo Renyolds for the countdown photos this week.

Wednesday, 29 June 2011

Two days to go - almost there!

2 Mosaic

"Since you are like no other being ever created since the beginning of time, you are incomparable", and "Everybody is talented, original and has something important to say.” Brenda Ueland
You should join us in July because you are incomparable, talented, and original. Each of you is unique - there are beautiful observations about the world that only you can make.

An empty muffin case lies flat and folded in the road like a fan, abandoned mid-dance. 
Peggy Riley

Each of us is falling in love with the world in our own way, the things you notice will be different to the things your neighbour notices - and both will come from a wonderful place. Human beings are born to be creative, and this creativity comes out of the unique relationship each of us has with the world. Notice one thing each day, write it down and share your very special creativity with us.

Let us know you're joining (click here). Get the badges, and tell your friends to join us too!

Happy writing!

P.S If you haven't read Brenda Ueland's books about writing, I can highly recommend them!

Tuesday, 28 June 2011

Three days to go

3 Mosaic

"...even on a material level, the other is a great mystery. When we struggle to relate to it, we fall back into personalised approximations. Keeping our sense of wonder and our willingness to encounter the other requires a special kind of reaching out." Caroline Brazier 
Why you should join the river: Because having a notebook, or a blog, and a vow to write one small stone in it each day can help you keep a sense of wonder about the world. Deciding to take part in the July challenge, to notice something each day and write about it, sets in motion that willingness to reach out - that willingness to really look and listen to the world - and to stand in awe.

Some days our sense of wonder will be clouded, and that's okay and normal. The commitment to write something everyday can keep us going (and writing) through those cloudy days until the sun comes out again.

On the black river,
a pair of great-crested grebe nod
towards the ceremonies of spring.
Kate Noakes

Let us know if you want to join us. Put our beautiful badges on your blog, and share the joy on twitter and facebook (use the buttons at the bottom of this post).

Happy writing, see you in the river of stones!

Monday, 27 June 2011

The joy of July - four days to go!

4 Mosaic

I really look forward to getting back into focusing on the things around me. Too often we just get so caught up in the stress and chaos of our daily lives that we put off being observant. I really need the discipline of learning how to slow down and take a good look around me. The River of Stones was a wonderful exercise for me in January and hopefully I won't stop after July. ~ Mary-Jane, Cracked Sugar Bowl
Why everyone is joining the river: Like Mary-Jane, in January hundreds of people made a commitment to write a small stone every day. In July we'd like you to join us as we do the same again. To reach beyond yourself and notice one small thing each day, and to write it down.

We believe that it's better to be connected to the world, than not to be. We believe that it's better to notice the unnoticed, the weeds in the cracks in the pavement and the aphid on the bud of the rose, than to let them slip by. And we believe that writing can help us pay attention to, and become intimate with, the world.
It is like a bonus, the thirty-first day. Suddenly, no more fog. Blinding sun. Raging blue, and lacy wisps of cloud to prove the Earth hasn’t stopped in its tracks. Oh, wow. We are never still.
Lis Harvey
You can keep small stones in your paper notebooks and journals, or like hundreds of people did in January you could make a blog for them. Click here to find out how to let us know you're taking part, and click here to dive in the river and see the small stones people have already started writing.

Sunday, 26 June 2011

River of Stones book on Amazon

Floresta Amazônica, até quando? / Amazonian Forest, until when? / Amazona Arbaro, ĝis kiam?

That's a photo of the Amazon river to celebrate that the book pay attention: a river of stones, that we created after the January challenge, is finally available on and

I can only imagine that the reason it took so long is because a real, living, human being needed to read and approve the book before it appeared on their sites, rather than the completely automated process of Lulu. But it's here! We've had some lovely feedback from people who bought the book earlier in the year, so if you've been waiting now's your chance!

pay attention: a river of stones is a collection of lots of your lovely small stones, and some longer prose pieces about the process of writing them. It was winter in the northern hemisphere during the first challenge and there are lots of beautiful stones about that season (and some sunny ones, from our friends in the south) as well as some more esoteric small stones.
the red cherry
at the bottom of the glass
to the beat
from the dance floor

Mary-Jane Grandinetti
The July challenge, to notice one thing and write it down, every day, begins on Friday. Are you ready? Click here to find out how to take part. I'm looking forward to reading all of your July small stones!

Saturday, 25 June 2011

Wedding pics

Fiona writes: 
So, the knot is well and truly tied!

We had a wonderful time on honeymoon and we're very much enjoying being mister and missus.

If you'd like to have a sneaky peek at a few of our Buddhist wedding photos, here they are.

Many of you wrote us small stones on the day, and we're looking forward to making these into a website later in the summer.

We were overwhelmed by everyone's support and good wishes on the day - our friends and family, and our friends across the world. A heart-felt thank you and deep bow to all of you.

So, what's next? There will be no more talk of weddings, because.....

The river is nearly upon us, of course! We begin this Friday, the 1st of July. Have you got your badge yet? Have you invited your friends to join you? I can't wait....

Happy weekend, all!

Saturday, 18 June 2011

Today is our wedding day...

Today is the day.

As you read this blog, we'll be putting our posh clothes on, or greeting all our friends and family with a hug. We might be in the middle of our Buddhist ceremony (with candles and water and chanting and a specially-designed wedding scroll to sign), or eating a wide selection of puddings (you can tell it's Fiona writing this post) or dancing to the Irish fiddle, or having post-wedding-drinks at our hotel with our lovely friends.

The photo is of Kaspa in India - before we got together, when he was still a Buddhist monk (that's another story), when we were courting by email. We didn't admit that it was courting at the time, but courting it was. I am very very lucky to have found him. I'm grateful for every moment we have together.

We'll put up some pictures up when we get back from our honeymoon, but in the meantime we're hoping you might be noticing something and writing a small stone and sending it to us here

I hope you have a wonderful day. Let some of our happiness shine out from the Malvern Hills and warm you, wherever you are. And we'll send you some virtual pudding, too. 

Thank you for reading, lovely readers.

Wednesday, 15 June 2011

What this strawberry whispered in my ear

Fiona writes:

Since I got home a couple of hours ago, I've been faffing about.

You may have heard on the grapevine (!) that I'm getting married on Saturday. Today's task is to write some blogs for the river while we're away on honeymoon and in France. Instead I've been faffing.

And then I ate a bowl of strawberries. And this one whispered in my ear...

Look at me... it whispered. Look how shiny and red I am. Look at how the red deepens at the top, near the place I was attached to my plant. Look at my tiny seeds.

Smell my sweet strawberry scent. Imagine the field I was plucked from. Imagine the journey I've been on, to end up in your white bowl. And now.... eat me! Taste me! Pay attention!

The strawberry reminded me that it doesn't matter if I'm getting married on Saturday or in two years time. What I've got is today - now - with the rain coming down and jobs to get on with and this exquisite bowl of strawberries.

Writing small stones helps us to hear what the strawberry has to say. Trust me, it has a very quiet voice. But once you start listening to the objects around you, they will remind you of what's important. They will bring you back into the world. They will calm your jitters, pre-wedding or otherwise. They will show you how you can love them.

If you want to experiment with a daily small stone practice, join our river in July. Or just choose an object from around you right now, and hear what it has to say. Let us know in the comments!

Friday, 10 June 2011

Why join the river in July? Joy.

So, what's this river small stones thing? And what does that bird have to do with anything?

Just a bird?

A goldfinch. Notice his golden stripe. The red blush across his crown. His pink scaly feet, gripping the dandelion-head. Observe the fluffy seeds, ready to lift off into the breeze. The tatty yellow petals.

Now imagine paying this much attention to a 3D goldfinch - listening to him singing, touching the soft seeds, a breeze brushing your cheek and carrying the scent of roses...

This is what the river of stones is all about. It will give you the opportunity to notice the world properly, one glorious day at a time, all July long.

To take part, all you have to do is notice one thing every day and write it down. Ta-da - a small stone.

You don't have to be a writer. You don't have to show anyone your small stones (although there are plenty of places where you can share them.) You just have to pause. Look. Listen. Smell. Touch. Hear. Feel. Snuggle up closer to the world. And then write down what you've observed in your notebook.

Give yourself five minutes a day in July, and you will receive clear-seeing, insight, connection, compassion, richness and joy. You will receive the world.

We do hope you'll join us. Get our badge. Tell your friends. We'll see you in the river!

Wednesday, 8 June 2011

Without gratitude, nothing is enough

Yesterday, I was grumpy.

Maybe it was wedding nerves. Maybe it was a build up of those little day-to-day annoyances. Whatever it was, I couldn't shake it. People were nice to me, and made me soup, and made me cups of tea, but the grumpiness stayed.

One thing helped. From within my black cloud, I looked at the world. And the skies were blue. The clouds were white and fluffy. And I felt grateful for this, even from the middle of my grump. 

It felt OK to be grumpy. We are all human, and we all feel grumpy, sad, and confused from time to time. 

But we can try to remember to pay attention. And, if we're lucky, the blue sky will infect us with its cheerfulness and we'll hear the birds singing again. Paying attention helps us to practice gratitude.

During July, we would like to offer you the opportunity to pay better attention to the world, one day at a time. To notice something every day, and write it down. Give yourself a gift this July. Join us.

If you have ten minutes to spare today, do watch this video which inspired this post - Julio Olalla talking about gratitude. It's very moving and very true. 

"Without gratitude, nothing is enough."


PS Have you got your badge yet? Have you added your blog to our blogroll? Have you let your friends know (on Facebook and Twitter) that you're taking part, and asked if they'd like to join you? Did you know we're doing mindful writing prompts on Tuesdays now?

Wednesday, 1 June 2011

Blogsplash: Wedding Small Stones

Blogs all over the blogosphere are reposting this post to help us celebrate our wedding by collecting as many small stones as possible. If you'd like to help us celebrate please copy this post to your own blog! (Instructions here)

Thanks to everyone that has taken part already!

Fiona and Kaspa have taken over my blog today, because they need our help...

They are both on a mission to help the world connect with the world through writing. They are also getting married on Saturday the 18th of June.

For their fantasy wedding present, they are asking people across the world to write them a ‘small stone’ and post it on their blogs or on Facebook or Twitter.

A small stone is a short piece of observational writing – simply pay attention to something properly and then write it down. Find out more about small stones here.

If you’re willing to help, we’d love you to do things:

1) Re-post this blog on your own blog any time before June the 18th and give your readers a chance to hear about what we’re doing. You can simply copy and paste the text, or you can find the html here.

2) Write us a small stone on our wedding day whilst we’re saying our vows and eating cake, post it on your blog, and send it to us.

You can find out more about our project at our website, Wedding Small Stones, and you can also read our blog at A River of Stones.

We also have a July challenge coming soon, when we’ll be challenging you to notice one thing every day during July and write it down.

Thank you for listening, and we hope we’ll be returning from our honeymoon to an inbox crammed with small stones, including yours.

Kaspa & Fiona

Sunday, 29 May 2011

Can you help us on Wednesday?

In three days time, on Wednesday the 1st of June, we're having a BLOGSPLASH. 

A blogsplash is where lots & lots of bloggers publish the same post on the same day. 

Our blogsplash will be an invitation to write us a small stone on our wedding day, the 18th of June. 

If you're willing to join us in our splash, the post and full instructions are here

You could also help by sharing this link on Facebook and on Twitter before Wednesday. 

We'd like to celebrate our wedding in style, with as many small stones as possible. You can help us make it happen.

Thank you : )

(PS less than 3 weeks to go! eek/yay!)

Friday, 27 May 2011

The colour of the leaves - the sound of the wind

Sun Yat-Sen

"When I sit down in the bamboo and look around me, I am immediately struck by how much I did not include in my writing this morning... Realising the gaps in my recall makes me look more carefully. I look to the bamboo stems, stunning in their clarity, and as I do so, I feel shocked by confronting the chasms in my memory."
~Caroline Brazier writing in Acorns Among the Grass
In her new book Acorns Among the Grass: Adventures in Eco-Therapy, Caroline Brazier has a section about using writing in order to connect with the world. Her book rests upon the premise that we have much to learn from the Earth, and that really being in connection with the Earth can be a healing experience. Our small stone writing rests upon a similar philosophy.
Writing can be a useful way to sharpen the mind and connect with the world, but it can also dull our perception, for we all too easily get caught in words and the familiar patterns of our thinking, preventing ourselves from seeing the real things around us...
...We need to keep asking ourselves, "Is what I have written true?" and, "Can I put this more succinctly, more accurately, in more detail?"
Acorns Among the Grass

We can ask ourselves these questions when writing small stones too: Have I fallen back into old ways of thinking? Am I writing a cliché? Can I put this more accurately?

Write down what you see and hear and then look and listen again, at the world if you can, or in your memory. Have you seen or heard what was really there?

It's impossible to remove the subjective completely of course, but these questions, and writing small stones, are designed to bring us into contact with what is real.

Even the act of intending to write can make us look more closely - when we go into the world we go with these questions in mind. What are we really looking at?

Go into the world, touch what is real and write about it.

Wedding small stones!

A reminder - Fiona and I are getting married on the 18th June, and would like you to help us celebrate by writing a small stone for us that day. You can also help by letting other people know about the wedding small stones by taking part in our blogsplash on the 1st of June. Click here to help us celebrate: Wedding small stones & blogsplash

Tuesday, 17 May 2011

So – Kaspa & I are getting married on the 18th of June. In less than four weeks. Eek!

I’m getting nervous about whether we’ve got everything ready for the day, and whether everyone will have a lovely time. But I can’t WAIT to be a married woman.

We're having a Buddhist ceremony (which apparently involves having water sprinkled on us) and I'm also looking forward to my favourite puddings - banoffee pie, chocolate cheesecake and summer fruits and cream. A little of each, I think ; )

As a way of making our day even more special, we’re inviting people all over the world to give us a special gift on the day by writing a small stone. And we need your help, river-of-stoners...

We’re hoping that people will pay attention to something on the 18th of June and send something through to us, whether or not they’ve written a small stone before. We’ll put all these small stones on a website (when we get back from our honeymoon!) and they’ll be a wonderful record of our day.

We'd love you to take part, and we'd also love you to join our Blogsplash and post instructions on your blog on the 1st of June so that other people can hear about the project and get involved themselves. You can find out how to do this (and how to send us a small stone yourself) at Wedding Small Stones. We do hope you can help us.
In other news, we're also excited to let you know about our new self-study e-course, ‘The Art of Paying Attention’. The first of the four week-long modules (which also works well as a self-contained course) is ‘How to Pay Attention to the World’, and we’re offering this completely free of charge.

The course includes a Workbook (including essays, stories and exercises), daily emails, four short videos of Kaspa & I, and exclusive access to a private group on the Writing Our Way Home forum where you can share your learning with fellow participants.

If you’d like to find out more, click here. And here's me & Kaspa talking about the course in a bluebell wood...

So – wish us luck : )

Thursday, 28 April 2011

A special announcement for our wedding

We’re getting married on Saturday the 18th of June, (yay!) and we’d love you to give us a special wedding gift by writing us a small stone on our wedding day.

Kaspa has made us a brand new site at Wedding Small Stones, which has all the instructions you'll need if you're able to take part. We hope you do : ) In brief:

 1) Help us spread the word by posting information about the project on your blog on Monday the 1st of June – our ‘Small Stone Blogsplash’. This is to give people a chance to hear about our project before our wedding day.

2) On the 18th of June, whilst we’re putting on our nice clothes and saying our vows and eating cake, pay attention to one thing around you, write it down, and send us your small stone here.

We hope to come back from our honeymoon to an inbox full of your small stones. It would be the perfect wedding gift. We’ll put them all up on the wedding site – with your name and blog if you’d like us to include them.

We’d just love it if the whole world paid proper attention to one thing on our wedding day. Make us happy and share our day with us! 

Tuesday, 26 April 2011

Making ripples

Pond Life
(Pond Life by Fujoshi)

When you throw stones into a pond the ripples go all the way to the edge. If you put a drop of ink into a clear tank of water and wait, the clear water will colour. We're hoping 1000 of you will throw small stones into our River during July. In the meantime ripples from the January challenge are still travelling across the web.

On Friday Fiona and I recorded a YouTube video of the two of us talking about The River of Stones. Here it is:

On 22nd April, Kirsten Cliff  reposted our video at Swimming In Lines Of Haiku, as an Easter gift to her readers.

On 24nd April, Amber wrote about small stones on her blog Soul living resources:
Small stone moments can occur at any time. They have a brightness and vividness that makes them stand out from ordinary moments. I have a sense that the more I pay attention to life and the world around me, the more I will notice small stone moments occuring.

 Today, Margo Roby has a great interview with us on her weblog WordGathering:

How do you see, or define small stones?
Fiona: The most important thing about a small stone isn’t how it looks or sounds but how it you find it. The idea is to pay more attention – whether you’re in your living room or climbing a mountain – and notice things that you wouldn’t otherwise notice. Notice one thing properly, and write it down. That’s it.

Thursday, 21 April 2011

Zen and the Art of Writing

"Just write something." Much easier to say, than to do.  When I run drama workshops I know that the most paraylising instruction I can give to someone is "Just go and perform something". A blank page, or canvas, or an empty stage, can freeze our creativity.

If we have this experience more than once, we can start to believe that we simply don't have any creative powers, or that any powers we did have dried up.

In the theatre it's much more empowering for an actor when I give them a more specific instruction. When their creativity is given limits, it is much more able to produce work. "Perform something, but don't move outside of this small square." Or, "Perform something using these few words." Then magic can happen.

In Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance, Pirsig tells a story about one his writing students. She doesn't believe she can write; faced with a blank page she is frozen. Pirsig instructs her to go into the main street, and to look at the bank there. He tells he to look at a specific brick in the bank's wall, he tells her how many rows in this brick is, and instructs her to write about this brick.

She brings pages of writing into the next class. She had begun writing about this one brick, and it had led her to explore the history of brick-making in the town, and how the demise of the industry had affected the whole society. Starting from this one brick, she had become fired up (excuse the pun) and created something interesting and wonderful.

Someone else starting from the same brick would have written something completely different. Any object, or writing prompt, is like a gateway into our own personal imagination. Wherever we start from, something that is important to us will appear on the page.

This is why the various writing prompts here are so good, they give us a seed and unlock the door to our creative powers. With the same prompt each of us produces something different.

There are prompts all around us in the world as well; the shout of the scrap-man, "Any old iron", opens one worldthe Sylvia Edwards print of Noah's ark is a gateway into another, and I have talked before about just how much there is through the office window.

Pick one thing, and start writing.

Monday, 18 April 2011

Praising Spring

This is one of Lynda Bruce's beautiful paintings - it's called 'Song for Spring'. Lynda has just joined our community (join us!) and we're hoping to speak with her at some point for our new series of interviews with creative types. The first one is with illustrator Jackie Morris, and if you haven't seen her paintings of leopards & bears you should go see now. 

I don't feel very springlike this morning - I woke up feeling full of mud and I'm still ankle-deep. A spring cold is probably brewing in me. 

Even more reason to pay attention to everything I can. 

I've been enjoying this poem by Linda Gregg over the weekend. Two Lindas/Lyndas, and two homages to spring. 

Don't forget to pay attention to the passing of the seasons, to the weather, to the cat curled up on the chair. To every degree of flourishing. Write it down.


Praising Spring

The day is taken by each thing and grows complete.
I go out and come in and go out again,
confused by a beauty that knows nothing of delay,
rushing like fire. All things move faster
than time and make a stillness thereby. My mind
leans back and smiles, having nothing to say.
Even at night I go out with a light and look
at the growing. I kneel and look at one thing
at a time. A white spider on a peony bud.
I have nothing to give, and make a poor servant,
but I can praise the spring. Praise this wildness
that does not heed the hour. The doe that does not
stop at dark but continues to grow all night long.
The beauty in every degree of flourishing. Violets
lift to the rain and the brook gets louder than ever.
The old German farmer is asleep and the flowers go on
opening. There are stars. Mint grows high. Leaves
bend in the sunlight as the rain continues to fall.

- Linda Gregg

Monday, 11 April 2011

Our wedding, and wanting 1000 blogs (and a winner)

We're getting married on the 18th of June : )

If you're going to join the river, we'd like you to keep the 17th of June free for a special event which we'll tell you more about nearer the time. It will be the perfect wedding present for us...

It's going to be a part of our master plan to get (at least) 1000 bloggers involved in the river of stones challenge this July. We have 80 already - I've just added a nifty little widget on the right hand side to show us our progress. 

Also, I just picked a name out of the hat to win a lovely hardback of the 'pay attention' book - congratulations to Milagros! Everyone else who entered will have to add it to their Christmas lists...

It was a gorgeous sunny weekend here. I hope you have lovely weeks!

Tuesday, 5 April 2011

Swinging below a star

Look for a lovely thing. This is Lolly's new blog for her small stones... a lovely thing in itself. A few people are creating separate blogs for their small stones, ready for our July challenge or to start now if they can't wait. You can see all the small-stone-only blogs at The River, and the other participants in the blogroll here on the right. 

Of course, small stones are ugly and annoying and heartbreaking as well as gorgeous and sparkly and marvellous, but I'm sure some of you will write some others to balance Lolly's out. 

There have been a few little changes over at the Writing Our Way Home forum, and now our blogs are at the top. If you scroll down far enough, you might even find a hiding Issa poem.... do come and say hi, and think about starting a group if you have an idea of a writing project. The April Writing as Spiritual Practice e-course is now underway - so there's an early bird discount of £15/$20 to join the May one if you sign up before the 17th of April. 

And to borrow Lolly's Sara Teasdale quote:

"Stars over snow, And in the west a planet. Swinging below a star-- Look for a lovely thing and you will find it, It is not far-- It never will be far."
--Sara Teasdale