Nick Inman’s Guide to Mystical France

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Nick Inman’s beautiful book about ‘Mystical France – Secrets, Mysteries, Ancient Sites’, published by Findhorn Press, £14.99, is an exciting and useful addition to any travel library. And it is a volume particularly pleasing to me given our recent purchase of a lovely 17th Century Manoir in South West France, a house and land which are also steeped in secrets and mystery to be unravelled.

A well-known and accomplished travel writer who lives in France with his family, Nick has explored the country with a keen eye and intellect, evidenced by the comprehensive coverage of many sites – and sights – not on the regular tourist route. He offers historical fact, well-researched details of little-known places and their significance, and 240 lavish photographs to illustrate them.

This is an excellent guide to a subtle and rewarding France beyond wine, sunshine, food and fashion, with secrets many visitors don’t know about, and if you are planning a visit or even just passing through, you will discover a wealth of fascinating places of interest. The book is versatile and lends itself both to planning an itinerary of sites that intrigue you, and to dipping in and learning about a wide range of fascinating topics from labyrinths and stained glass, angels and fairies, King Arthur in France, pilgrimage routes, little known caves and their paintings, the Tarot and the Templars and much more – some 60 individual features and 14 standalone chapters.

Highly recommended for anyone interested in the hidden beauty of this vast and enticing country. And – as I mentioned to Nick when his book arrived, it’s a multi-sensory experience too, not only rich in colour with heavyweight paper, but it has that delicious (to me) smell of a good covering of ink!
Get a copy whether you plan to visit France or not – there’s much to learn here. 

Christine Miller 

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Find out more about Nick Inman: nick-inman
http://www.findhornpress.com/blog/cat/ni/post/nick-inman2/

Making Education Work

Christine

Christine Miller 

 

Fail your way to success

This post is inspired, or maybe provoked, by the recent press coverage of a new UK report called ‘Making Education Work’ which is calling for ‘A-Levels to be axed in favour of a new ‘Baccalaureate’ (Telegraph), and as the BBC declares: Education ‘fails to deliver skills for global success’.  

The report has been put together by an independent 14-strong expert group including Sir Roy Anderson, former rector of Imperial College London, Sir Michael Rake, Chair of BT and head of the CBI (Confederation of British Industry) and Sir David Bell from Reading University. It was commissioned by Educational Publishers, Pearson, and is recommending a broadening of the curriculum and that so-called ‘soft skills’ like emotional intelligence, empathy, team working and other interpersonal skills are given more prominence in equipping young people effectively for the workplace.

I haven’t yet read the full report, and this piece expresses my immediate response as a provocation and encouragement to further thought and comment.

Whilst education reform might be necessary and desirable in some instances, to equip our workforce for employer’s needs and boost economic recovery, I wouldn’t like to see a system which only wants people who are fit or skilled for a limited purpose to be determined solely by business interests. To me that would be stultifying the potential breadth and depth of human beings, would inhibit the true engagement of young people, and create mind and body prisons which ultimately would not serve the values, morale and flourishing of individuals, families, communities, and nations.

Education – that political hot potato that gets thrown from party to party, government to government, a vote-winner because it’s fundamental to the values and aspirations of all of us. Education has always been one of my key concerns and I believe we miss the mark and fail to serve our young people in many ways, and that it is a subject we all need to be aware of and interested in.

But although universal,  it’s not a one size fits all situation. And it’s not meant to be simply a mechanism for churning out bodies and minds with just enough skills and knowledge to supply business with willing and able fodder – ‘human capital’ – to produce its wares and do its bidding. Nor should policies change to win votes, there needs to be a consistent approach where what works is what is important regardless of which party is in power.

It’s an old and somewhat wizened chestnut, but ‘Education’ (‘educere’ in Latin) is really meant to be a process of ‘drawing out’ and fostering the individual skills and talents of each person in order that they may live a fulfilled life and be of service to their community. Given that we are all different and have a variety of abilities, natural and otherwise, which can be developed, honed and practised, any education system needs to encourage independent thinking, recognise differences and offer a range of experiences which cater to academic, practical, emotional, physical and spiritual needs and preferences. We have more opportunity to deliver a quality, varied and relevant curriculum today with the advent of technology and increased knowledge sharing than ever before.

christine-millerBut let’s face facts – some people just don’t want to and are not suited to the intensity of academic study. They don’t want to pore over text books, immerse themselves in literature, conduct scientific experiments and learn periodic tables or historical dates, grid references, or biological processes. It’s still important that they should have literacy and numeracy in order to thrive, but the basic failure in these skills, if it occurs, happens much earlier in the system than at ‘A’ level, and needs to be addressed in a timely manner with understanding and specific interventions.

The more practical type of person might want a big picture overview, a general knowledge, of the way all these disciplines work in order to better understand their place in the world, but they would rather build something, create something, get their hands dirty, than read about it. They have ‘doing’ skills which are critical to our world, and need to be nurtured, encouraged, and valued, equally.

I know I have always marvelled at the spatial visioning abilities of people who build things to work out how the pieces all fit together. I have watched in awe as carpenters, bricklayers, plasterers and other talented tradespeople read and interpret plans or listen to instructions,  and turn them into real structures and objects before my eyes.

And I know, also, that others watch with awe as academics, researchers and people like myself write reports, novels, articles, poems and weave arguments, conclusions, revelations and patterns of words together in a way that seems to defy possibility to those who are not inclined in the direction of word-smith, analyst or poet.

Some people are deeply engaged and interested in studying the theoretical complexities of how the world works, relish academic study and excel in that world. They need a different kind of nurturing, an education which allows their intellect to blossom and expand, to bring forth solutions and inventions, and their requirements demand a different style of teaching, a stimulating environment which values their skills and abilities as seekers of ideas and creative inspiration.

We need to remember that no one particular style, inclination or talent is superior to another, although in the past, practical skills have been undervalued. We are all, with our biases and complexities, essential components of a world which is constantly changing. Our human needs for love, caring, connection and relationship do not change, though. Whatever form of education we experience, we cannot do it in a vacuum – we do need those skills of listening, understanding, respecting, trusting and sharing as a team which bring personal and professional success and fulfilment.

So in equipping our young people for their lives and for the workplace – (and who knows exactly what the workplace may look like in the future) – we need to cater for the diversity of the whole person in the ways we do the following:

      • Respect and celebrate difference
      • Value individual skills and learning styles
      • Foster existing aptitudes and preferences, while encouraging new ones
      • Recognise the unconventional, the disrupters and change makers
      • Create safe spaces with loving, listening and caring teachers for experimentation and mutual cooperation

Then and only then can we say we are advancing education and serving our young people adequately and effectively,
equipping them for life and not merely a living.

 

Christine Miller

© January 2014 All Rights Reserved

More thoughts on Education & Young People:
How to Fail Your Way to Success
Teens, Troubles, Treasures

I’m Giving Up Nothing for Lent

Christine Miller

Rising from the ashes – still crazy after all these years?

(with credit to Paul Simon) 

The French House

The French House

I found this blog post from 5 years ago – interesting to reflect on how much has changed – writing this in France, in our dream home, for one thing – how much is the same – the actions I was choosing then I choose now, so perhaps they are perennials which keep life moving and us growing.

And, yes, definitely still crazy, and delighted to be so.

Ash Wednesday

Yesterday was Ash Wednesday, the first day of Lent for those who follow Christian traditions.  I’m not a churchgoer any more, but I still recall the walk up the church aisle to experience the scratchy feel of ash being marked in the form of a cross onto my forehead by the priest.  I guess it must have happened for each of the 14 years of my schooldays, and more.

I was brought up in a devout Roman Catholic family, and my childhood memories of Lent are about loads of pancakes on Shrove Tuesday prior to ‘giving up’ something I liked on Ash Wednesday for the remaining 40 days and 40 nights in preparation for Easter.  It was usually chocolate. It probably still should be chocolate. Or wine. Or cheese.

Anyway, I haven’t given anything up for Lent for more years than I care to recall.
And I’m not about to start again.

Not Giving Up

I’ve decided to follow that hackneyed quote from Winston Churchill: ‘never, ever, ever…give up’.

But I am going to do something.
Not penance, but productivity.  
Not denial, but delight. 

I am going to do more.

No, not more chocolate, wine and cheese. Not more of anything material. But definitely more fun. More stuff that delights, surprises and stretches me. Maybe even more stuff that’s good for me like – walking and water.

Being pragmatic, things and actions I’m in control of:

  • Meeting more people, online and offline
  • Launching my leadership and transformation retreats at my new home in SW France 
  • Creating more crucial, constructive conversations
  • Writing at least one blog every week
  • More exuberance and fun
  • More kindness and love

People Ideas Action

So I’m not giving anything up.

I’m keeping hold of what I have that I love.

But I am expanding my life with fresh people, ideas, and most crucially, actions. It’s going to be a fascinating forty days, for sure.

Spring Talks

And as part of the action –  crucial, constructive conversations – if you would like to share your experiences I’m also doing a series of 5 minute ‘Spring Talks’ interviews for publication so contact me for more information and let me know if you want to join in.

Leave a message here or contact me via christine at christinemiller dot co (and no, the ‘co’ isn’t a typo, it’s correct)

Tina Seskis – words from the heart

Christine Miller

Tina Seskisw book

Launch of Tina Seskis book

Christine Miller

It was an honour and a delight to finally meet Tina Seskis – best-selling author of the tautly engrossing psychological thriller ‘One Step Too Far’ - in person at the launch of the paperback version of her book, published by Michael Joseph.

Apart from being a great writer, Tina is a very enterprising and able marketer. She initially self-published One Step Too Far in 2013, when I had the pleasure of being one of the first readers and reviewers through NetGalley. The link to that review is here.

I was completely hooked right from the beginning, and delighted to help Tina garner reviews, readers and sales for the book, because it genuinely is one of the most compelling stories I’ve ever read.

And believe me,  I’ve read a large number of  books …

Christine Miller LondonfromStrand802The launch was generously hosted at Penguin’s beautifully sited headquarters in The Strand.
We were on the 10th floor with magnificent panoramic views of a sunlit London from the terrace.

Christine Miller LondonFromStrand3

Christine Miller LondonFrmStrand804

As the wine flowed, the conversation buzzed and there was a wonderful atmosphere of celebration and success as the crowd of family, friends and supporters gathered to congratulate Tina on her triumphs.

Christine MillerStrand5

What also emerged last night was the poignant ‘story behind the story’ of what prompted Tina to write in the first place. Her mother was unwell, and Tina used the book as a means of engaging her mother’s attention and interest – in her own words, “to keep her going”.  The guidance and insights from her mother helped Tina keep the book’s characters and their actions real and thereby remain sympathetic and appealing to readers, thus sculpting the storyline as credible yet compelling.

When we spoke, Tina told me that the words had come straight from her heart, directed by her mission to keep her mother occupied, as she wove ‘One Step Too Far’ into the fascinating story with the terrific plot twist that led Penguin to pick it up and offer her a completely well-deserved 3-book deal rumoured to be worth a substantial 6-figure sum.

Tina’s humble and heartfelt tribute in her speech to her (sadly now deceased) mother, who she described as the one person who really should have been there, to her husband, her son and all her family, and to everyone who supported her, was beautiful. Also moving were the brief, entertaining and powerful words from Louise Moore, one of Penguin’s managing directors, who justly praised Tina for her creativity and writing skills, her persistence and determination, and her refreshingly open approach.

This is a success story which carries great hope for talented writers wanting to get noticed, a lesson in determination, perseverance and guts.

And I have a strong sense that we haven’t even seen the very best of Tina Seskis yet – definitely one to watch – and read and enjoy.

Thanks to all for a wonderful evening,  and if you haven’t already, go get your copy of ‘One Step Too Far’ HERE.

Christine Miller

The Tao, Miracles and Reflections on Love

Christine Miller
The Butterfly Nebula - aspects of reality

The Butterfly Nebula – aspects of reality

Understanding and Reflection

I’ve had a lot of experiences of Being Love, of practising Love, and holding Loving spaces as I’ve been deliberately researching Love for the past three years. It really seems though that my whole life has been a crucible for developing awareness and sensitivity, resilience and understanding of Love in its many ways of being present and expressed.

As part of deepening and expanding my inner understanding of Love at Work whilst I prepare my ‘data’ for publication, I find myself exploring various texts, ancient and modern. At the moment I am contemplating the Tao Te Ching and A Course in Miracles, both of which have recently re-emerged into my life.

The latter has surfaced again because I’ve been reading for review Gary Renard’s fascinating ‘Love Has Forgotten No-One’ (Hay House, November 2013), and I was drawn to the Tao again at the beginning of 2014 and treated myself to a beautiful volume translated by Stephen Mitchell.

Action

What I’m choosing to do is to take the Tao verse by verse, one each day, and sit with it as inspiration and insight, and to dip into the chapters of A Course in Miracles, whilst following the lessons in the workbook as my course of action. It’s an experiment in taking existing material and allowing it to expand my work on Love. I’m fascinated to experience what unfolds and flows.

Meaning

With my ‘Love in the Boardroom’ book I am currently sifting through the many ‘meanings’ my research participants have given to and for Love, and derived from Love. So this snippet taken from Chapter 1 of ACIM (A Course in Miracles) resonates:

“The course does not aim at teaching the meaning of Love, for that is beyond what can be taught. It does aim however, at removing the blocks to the awareness of Love’s presence, which is your  natural inheritance.” 

Closely followed by:

“Miracles occur naturally as expressions of Love. The real miracle is the love that inspires them. In this sense, everything that comes from Love is a miracle.”

The first lesson in the workbook also relates to meaning – in terms of undoing attachment to the material:

“Nothing I see in this room (on this street, from this window, in this place) means anything.”

The Tao Te Ching tells me that

“The name that can be named
Is not the eternal Name.”

and that:

“The unnameable is the eternally real.”

The learning here seems to be that it is in the unknown, the un-manifest, mystery, beyond, that real Love, and what is real, lies. And about letting go of the meaning we attribute to what we have created in our world.

As ACIM says in the introduction,

“Nothing real can be threatened,

Nothing unreal exists…”

Contemplating….

Christine Miller 

 

 

Christine Miller – The Love of Art Talk

Christine Miller

The Love of Art & The Art of Love

Christine Miller


This is the unedited, uncut audio recording of a short talk I gave at the Strarta Art Exhibition at the Saatchi Gallery in Chelsea, London in October 2013.

[jwplayer mediaid="2949"]

Some of the exhibited pieces mentioned in the talk:

John O'Connor Solitude Bronze Statue

John O’Connor Solitude Bronze Statue

Solaris Water Art  Nicky Assmann

Solaris Water Art
Nicky Assmann

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Hubble Telescope photographs of Cometary Knots and the Spitzer Nebula as mentioned 

The images below show the Universe in creation – I was delighted by the similarity and resonance with Nicky Assmann’s work ‘Solaris’ shown above.

Cometary Knots

Cometary Knots

Spitzer Nebula

Spitzer Nebula

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

About the Harmonic or Golden Mean

© Christine Miller 2014