How to build a lighthouse: Part One

In times of uncertainty or darkness, we often look for light, guidance, or support; something to help us navigate unchartered waters.  A familiar, recognizable beacon easily visible amongst the darkness.  I have used the metaphor of a lighthouse to illustrate this during these challenging times and have recently considered the question: what is my lighthouse right now, my go-to, my support?


I came across this image, the image of a lighthouse, the other day when I was looking through photographs I’d taken on our trip to South America last year.

We had been staying in Ushuaia for the New Year and were halfway through our 2-month adventure through Patagonia.  Incidentally, Ushuaia is the most southerly city in the world, and right on the coast of the dramatic Tierra del Fuego archipelago. We decided to take a half-day boat trip along the Beagle Channel which separates the mainland from many smaller islands, to experience the wilderness and wildlife of this fascinating region.

The boat trip was a dazzling experience, even on this cold, grey day.  Hundreds, if not thousands of sea lions, and comical Magellanic penguins jostled, huddled and waddled on the rocks and islands we passed; the boat slowed from time to time, enough for us to watch these incredible creatures in their natural habitat, and marvel at their extraordinary resilience.  This area is known for its cold, strong winds, with blasts up to 60 mph, particularly during the summer months, December to February.  These forceful gusts, mold trees into twisted shapes, literally blow people right off their feet and test mariners, however strong their constitution!  

Around us, gulls, petrels, and skuas dived and soared, and we gasped as an Albatross appeared alongside the boat, its awesome wing-span effortlessly and gracefully slicing through the air, right above our heads.  A ship-wreck, stranded just off the coastline decades ago, sharply reminded us of the forbidding and sobering history of this place.

Then in the distance, on top of a shallow island strewn with sea lions, we glimpsed a familiar sight, amongst all of this unfamiliar territory – The ‘Lighthouse at the End of the World’!  Tall, majestic, and painted red.  A fully operative, automated, solar-powered, hundred-old-beacon!  Its reliable, guiding structure and light, shining out through the wildest and most extreme of places.

This was a welcome memory after rediscovering this photograph, and an analogy which I am finding supportive during this challenging time.  This lighthouse metaphor – a beacon; something familiar and reliable; something to help us ‘weather the storm’ couldn’t have been brought to mind at a better time and I wanted to share with you the lighthouses that burn brightly for us individually and collectively, in these challenging times, when we are in need of guidance or reassurance.

Over the next few days, I am going to rekindle some of my lighthouse metaphors – as I remember that boat trip along one of the wildest, truly unpredictable and yet incredibly resilient terrain at the ‘end of the world’!  We must take care of our personal lighthouses, of course, remembering that they are not necessarily fully automated like the one in the Beagle Channel.  They will undoubtedly need some maintenance, perhaps even some repositioning.  Perhaps we can use other lighthouses until we find one of our own, using them as a blueprint to build one for ourselves.

Today I will share my first ‘lighthouse’ metaphor with you.  This is one that I call to mind regularly.  It was passed on to me by the very wonderful Jenny Mosley, of Quality Circle Time. 

This is a technique that is most helpful when needing to be fully present for oneself or others; when we may need to ignore or let go of unhelpful distractions or negativity.  All that external baggage – some of which we can manage and control, and some of which we simply cannot.  It’s a straightforward, grounding action we can do to remind us to let go of what we cannot change, help us to plan and deal with what we can, and draw from within, our very best and highest selves.

It’s simple, easy to remember and it takes just a few minutes to do.  Here it is.  Don’t expect anything too technical.  The simplest actions are sometimes the best ones!

Lighthouse Number One: ‘Bin it, bag it, bring it.’

Step 1: Bin it: This is about letting go of the thing that is playing on your mind and causing you to worry, but alas this is also the thing that you know you cannot change, it’s out of your control, so we bin it!  The action needed, is to mime throwing something with both hands into a waste-paper bin on the floor in front of you.  Use both hands in a forceful downward motion as you call ‘the thing’ to mind that you can’t change, then throw it into your imaginary waste-paper basket, and as you do so, say out loud, the words “bin it”!

Step 2: Bag it: This is about the task or tasks that you needed to do yesterday, or the day before, or last week, and yet you still haven’t done it or them!  You’ve put it off for whatever reason, so you bag it (for later)!  The action needed is to mime putting something in a zippy bag and then zip it shut.  Call to mind the task you need to do and as you zip it shut inside your imaginary zippy bag, say out loud the words “bag it”!  (Remember to write down this bagged task on your “to do” list.  We’ll come on to that ‘lighthouse’ another day!).

Step 3: Bring it: This is about remembering and recalling one of your best qualities – something you are good at, maybe you’re a good listener, maybe you are particularly patient, or maybe you are a very giving person.  Perhaps you have been told you have a lovely smile that makes others smile too.  It could be that you make wonderful bread, great pasta sauce, you may be that person who picks up the phone and builds bridges …. however small or big this quality is – bring one to mind now!  Yes, you do have at least one, and actually probably dozens – they just maybe a little hidden from view sometimes.  The action needed is to put your hands together in front of you, with your palms turned upwards as if you are presenting a special gift to someone.  As you present your hands in this way, call to mind the quality that you’re good at, and say out loud the words “bring it”!

Now, keep this in mind for the rest of the day.  Don’t take that ‘thing’ out of the bin and keep the bagged item bagged, until YOU are ready to deal with it!

Tomorrow I’ll be sharing a ‘To Do List Lighthouse’, which might help to address the bagged tasks, but only on YOUR terms.

Enjoy the quality that you have brought to this day, whether you have brought it forward for yourself or for others.  This quality is one of your ‘lighthouses’ – your beacon of positivity; something you can begin to turn to for guidance, familiarity and reassurance in challenging times.