On Life & Love

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Love is in the Air…

Love is in the Air…

… Literally.

Love is indefinable. Not in the sense that it is necessarily difficult to understand what love means to us individually, but in the sense that it is unique to everyone – and that it is boundless. How we feel love, how we give love and how we understand it ,can have a myriad of variations. If we are open to it, there is also a dimension to love that is infinite. It might be described as connection; although in a sense that word is too limited by its implication of stretching across the seabeing a linear link; this connection has no limitations in its form, it is not confined by parallel lines. It is in the light, it spreads everywhere, it is throughout the universe. And therefore it is beyond life. This is love as a soul connection.

Whether you are skin to skin or separated by oceans, the connection is there. Always. It travels through space and time, it is eternal, it is in the air.

Whatever happens in this life, or in the next, or out there in the light, soul connections never break. They are forever.

A&E, Love always…

Vote for #Manchester, Vote for PEACE

Vote for #Manchester, Vote for PEACE

Picasso's Dove of Peace

Waking up to the news this morning was sickening. Heartbroken for the lives lost and also for the thousands of lives that have been devastated by this despicable act.

We have an election coming up, for me, it’s a message that says vote for a party that is pro PEACE.

This World does not need any more Governments that are Pro Weapons, Pro War, Pro Power and Control and it certainly doesn’t need a Government that is Pro Oppression. Oppression creates conflict.

Of course there are requirements for protection, but we need to be specific in the policies we adopt to identify and deal with terrorism, not take a blanket approach either in the controls that are employed or the judgements that are made. As long as we continue to shut down people’s freedom in general, we will fail to deal with the World’s issues. More oppression will lead to more conflict on a wider spectrum. The basic principal of dealing with hate with hate, fighting arms with arms is disastrous. It puts into context the disgusting announcement that the US has just agreed a multi billion dollar arms deal with Saudi Arabia. Even more that it is lauded as a great commitment to the American people. It is not. It is an incitement to more conflict, more aggression. And don’t be fooled that it is about Jobs; that’s a mere bi product, a convenient justification. It’s all about Power and Control.

The World is becoming more dominated by the politics of power than ever, where fear is a held as a premium by the controlling authorities, where freedom is replaced by control, where truth is irrelevant, an illusion.

When people are oppressed and their voices are not heard, when basic principals of humanity are a cost of wealth, power and control, when human beings cannot be – and live – as who they are, when beliefs are supervised, when our basic happiness is sacrificed for economic strength and global strength, the only outcome can be disaster and misery.

So for what it’s worth my vote in his election will be a Pro PEACE Vote. Rest In Peace, beautiful souls from Manchester.

Sant Jordi’s Day: A Celebration of Love and Life

Sant Jordi’s Day: A Celebration of Love and Life

Yesterday was Sant Jordi’s Day here in Catalunya in Spain – it’s the equivalent of our Saint Valentine’s Day in the UK, but this is an altogether different kind of celebration, one which I wish we could echo. I was lucky enough to experience my first with Anna, my partner in life and love, in the coastal town of Vilanova I La Geltru

There are many differences that make this day such a special experience, one which is far freer of the commercialism and cynicism that seems now far more obvious to me about St Valentines.

For one, here, as in so many of their traditions, it is much more of a community event. Many towns here have a Rambla (and Vilanova has one of the longest in Spain) where it is customary to wonder the street, meet friends and family, have a coffee and enjoy the sunshine and the atmosphere. It’s a fabulous vibe on most days, but on Sant Jordi’s its’ even more special. The street is lined with stalls selling roses – and books. Here, the tradition is to buy not just a rose, but also a book for your loved ones You wonder down the avenue together in the company of thousands, all celebrating each other, love and life.

The original tradition springs from the legend of Sant Jordi  – and the story is similar to our own legend of Saint George, the dragon slayer. But in the case of Sant Jordi, after he has saved his Princess and slayed the dragon, a rose grows from the blood of the dragon’s heart. So on the anniversary of this day it has been the custom for a man to buy a rose for their Princess and for their Princess in return to buy a book for them.

But it has now become more of a celebration of love for everyone, not just romantic love, but of love generally. You see everyone carrying roses, men, women, children – and pets!! This is as much about expressing familial love or friendship as the love you feel for your partner. In the UK, Valentines Day has become way too much of a pressure, particularly in heterosexual relationships, to spend a fortune making grand gestures to prove the power of your love. Here, it is far more about the thought. The tradition is to buy just one rose, but to choose it carefully for its meaning. It will probably cost you no more than 3 euros.

For the flower, your choice might be about the meaning of colour, red, white, yellow, even blue!! Or you might make your selection based on the charity or foundation that the sellers are supporting; humanitarian, animals, politics, religion, education and many other causes that you and your loved ones might like to support.

And then there is the book. I absolutely love this as a way of sharing not just your love for each other, but your life. Every book, whether a fictional story or a non fiction work, offers something valuable. Whether it be a lesson, history, information or simply entertainment. Wondering by the book stalls and seeing people thinking about the books they will buy is a joyful experience.

For the whole day wondering through the city, you see everyone with roses, no age, gender, persuasion, race, relationship status or even species excepted. It is a day of celebration of love and life, it is a day in which you see and feel so much expression of it that it is literally true to say that love is in the air. And the simplicity of it is extraordinary. To enjoy it; to feel it; all you have to do is walk down the street and just breathe.

Grief is a journey into Life

Grief is a journey into Life

The last week has been a challenging one, another of those weeks in which my experiences of people and what I haveRumi - Grief and Compassion
seen published has made me grow in understanding in a meaningful way. I watched a couple of videos today that were really poignant for me. One was by Rio Ferdinand, the British footballer who has been making a TV documentary about his wife’s death. Although what I saw was brief, it echoed in some respects my own loss experience, his wife having been in hospital for three months between diagnosis of her cancer and her passing.

Rio’s wife Rebecca passed a little under 2 years ago – and I remember the place he is in now, where he is on that never ending journey through grief, the things he has felt and experienced, how far he has yet to go.

The second video was of me, in an interview with the brilliant and so supportive Alice Frick, who is helping me with a new initiative I am launching to help people experience more happiness in their lives in even the darkest of circumstances. That video in itself was painful – because it raised so many memories and churned up so many of the feelings that are so very difficult to deal with in getting your life back. Guilt, for wanting to be happy again, anxiety about whether it appears disrespectful, sadness at the acknowledgement that Maria is no longer here… so many feelings.

But it also made me think, with huge gratitude, about the lessons I have learned during this journey.

I have had to learn a lot about myself and my weaknesses, my damage, my issues. The things about me that have made me behave the way I behave - and the way I approach my relationships and life itself. Grief is an intensely personal experience, but for many, two of the major things that can happen when you experience this kind of devastating loss are:

  1. Your defences are shattered and you become totally exposed, pure involuntary vulnerability.

That openness, that raw vulnerability, means you have the opportunity to face into everything that has made you into the person you are today. And to address and strip away all of things that you no longer believe or need, it offers you the chance to go back to what is your true nature and to be who you truly are without the fears and barriers that are created by the influence of others and the insecurity of caring about what others think

  1. You get to understand more about life

My specific experience of Maria’s passing was devastating, but death gave me the chance to understand more about life. That might sound cruel, because it was Maria who lost her life – and why should I gain from that experience? Well you can believe me when I say that I have beaten myself up about that one for years. But ultimately life is a precious gift that we need to appreciate and make the most of. And the point of life is to enjoy it – to be happy. Maria knew that more than most.

Those two opportunities are astoundingly powerful; should you choose to take them. They also require a huge amount of bravery to embrace. Because in rebuilding yourself you must explore, admit to and own your weaknesses, your mistakes and the behaviours you do not like. You must confront and go through the dark emotions… depression, sadness, guilt, anger, shame… and you have to acknowledge and accept them.

It is a painful part of life’s journey.

But the ultimate reward is a kind of freedom that most never get to experience. An understanding of life, purpose and what’s important that allows you to make more of your time on Earth. More than most even start to comprehend. It gives you greater compassion and understanding, yet also gives you the strength to set the boundaries that can stop you being abused and exploited by the agendas of others. Above all, it lets you know that it is not only ok, but essential to be happy, without guilt or shame for being so. Because in this World, where what we see seems to be so dominated by hatred, anger, fear and ignorance, taking personal responsibility and – yes – delight in your own happiness, is the most powerful way you have, not only to take full advantage of this precious gift called life, but also to have a positive impact on the collective happiness of the World.

More people than not, will read this and regard it as selfish, naïve, unrealistic and all other manner of negative things. They are the ones who have not seen or embraced death or life. The majority of people pass through life with no understanding of its purpose, they are like computer processors, passing each day with no appreciation of the gift they have been given and the endless potential it has to bring them happiness. If only they could see it. This is not to say I do not understand the hardships of life – again, you can believe me when I say I have experienced many. More than some, less than others. But the point is, there is always something to be grateful for, to enjoy. The simple pleasures of life are the most profound. I have been to the edge and back. To the few who understand and appreciate this message, congratulations – I know, like Maria and me, despite the challenges that may confront you, the choice will ultimately be, to make sure for at least part of every day, you are dancing in the light.

When the Sea is like Glass

When the Sea is like Glass

Elaine Sturgess and Anna Garcia Cuartero

When the sea is like glass
A reflective place
Stand at its edge
Look into your face

It’s a mirror of nature
It flows on your skin
Floats across your eyes
Sees the life within

Capture its stillness
Bathe in its peace
Roll in its depths
Breathe and release

Soak in its wonder
Read what you see
They’re the words of guidance
What is meant to be

In the silence of calm
Hear the voice of your soul
Feel the beat of your heart
Let your spirit be whole

And when the storm is raging
As it surely will be
And the chaos prevailing
Tests your strength in degree

Remember the glass
And the face that you saw
Its return is as certain
As the sea to the shore

You are as constant
As that calm that’s beneath
The storm’s brief affair
Is just a test of belief

You have more courage
Than the surf’s cruel blast
You can ride the waves
Your balance will last

The wind will drop
The tides will pass
And your reflection will smile
When the sea is like glass

By Elaine, For Anna

Belief is more powerful than Truth

Belief is more powerful than Truth

Illusions, believe your own Truth

Over the past few weeks, watching Donald Trump start a dangerous and painful period in human history, one of the most difficult things for many to grapple with has been the search for the truth. In classic narcissist behaviour, Trump and his team have used a number of techniques to manipulate, hide, and alter information to leave a largely confused population scrabbling to establish just what the truth is. It’s a cruel and masterful control tactic. It creates confusion, fear and division as the various factions fight to defend the position that, in their belief, is the truth. Perhaps what we need to learn to understand, is that the most powerful word in the previous sentence is not truth, but belief.

The Truth in relation to fact, is a rare thing and sometimes not as valuable as we think it should be. The Truth in relation to honesty, has a huge value, but more in terms of the honesty itself, than in what it may reveal. Because the truth is, we each have our own truth. And it becomes our truth, because we have been conditioned for it to be so. I have been blessed (and cursed) with a brain that always wanted to know the real truth, to find the answer. And then a few years ago my wife died – and I was faced with the truths and the questions that I would raise, but for which I could find no answer. About the meaning of life, about God, about death. And I kept on trying to find some answers, until I finally realised that there were none and that were no truths – and if there had been, they would have been irrelevant. What mattered, were my beliefs. 

Trump’s fake news, alternative facts and misinformation have brought that period of search back to me. And it made me think about the nature of truth in our lives. Trump is certainly not the first US President or World leader to use the tactics of fear and confusion – far from it, though he is probably one of the least subtle! So I thought about history in general; that we learn about history from the records and from our teachers, we accept what we are told as fact. But actually, all that we have most of the time, is a perception of what happened from one or more persons point of view. A record gleaned from someone having being there and witnessed some part of it, or having seen a photograph or unearthed a relic from the past. But because we receive this information from people or records that we respect, we accept it as truth. But really, it was only their truth. Just like Chinese whispers, that truth has been handed down and reconceived, polished, altered based on the viewpoint of others.

But we do not have to accept the truth of others.

Beauty is Truth
"Truth is Beauty" at The Burning Man - sculpture by Marco Cochrane, San Francisco Bay Area

We can hold on to our own truth, or we can choose to change it if we encounter a viewpoint that affects our understanding. But it is often futile to spend time trying to find “the real truth”. More often than not it either does not exist or is irrelevant.

So what really matters is what you believe. And whatever you believe, remain true to it. And know that you cannot change the beliefs of others. What you can do, is talk about, practice and reinforce your own beliefs. In doing so, you may influence others, but change will be of their own will, not because you tried to control or have power over them. Trump does not care that we might be saying negative things about him, he does not care that he gets caught out in a lie, all that matters is that we keep talking about it – because that distracts us from the reality and keeps us from focusing on our beliefs and making progress with our own agendas. Which is exactly what it wants, to take away our freedom of thought. The way to take that power and control away from him is to stop seeking the truth about what he and his team say and concentrate on your own truth and your own beliefs and upholding them. You are one of many. The force of good in this World far outweighs the force of evil. There obviously have to be controls to deal with extreme and harmful situations, but in my view, the general balance is better cultivated by simply concentrating on upholding the beliefs that you believe to be good.

I can tell you this for sure; that when I looked into the eyes of my wife and saw the light leave her as she passed from this life , the only things she took with her were love and the knowledge that she lived her life fully and being true to herself. And in the end, that was all that mattered.

I have no idea how Trump’s Presidency will ultimately be recorded in history, but what I do believe is that he will teach the world some very important lessons, about the real nature of truth and freedom. And one of those lessons will be to stop trying to find the truth, it is a diversionary tactic that confuses and controls. Instead, think about your own beliefs. Live them, share them and be honest and true to them. The Universe will do the rest.

Heaven on Earth

Heaven on Earth

Siurana, Catalunya

On the first day of 2017 I visited a magical place in the company of magical people. Not in a fantasy land of media making, but a real one here on earth. It was the third time I have experienced that feeling of being in a heavenly place in recent times – and I realised that on each occasion, it involved a sense of being above the clouds – and in amazing light. The first time was at Machu Picchu, where the sun rose over a distant peak and spread its glorious rays through a carpetSunrise over Machu Picchu, Peru of clouds that rose between the mountains. It was ethereal. The second time was on a plane as I gazed at the Supermoon recently, it shone across a stretch of cotton wool sea, as we flew above it. And the third time was on New Year’s Day at Siurana in Catalunya, where the clouds again rose between the peaks and the sun’s setting light made for an almost surreal view, you know, one that you look at in retrospect in a picture and can’t quite believe that you really saw it?

Each time, the thought crossed my mind, “this is heaven on earth”.

But this time it also occurred to me that contemplating the nature of heaven is just like contemplating the nature of life. Ultimately, when there are no real facts to hold on to (and when you really think about it, very few hard facts actually exist), our experience and understanding come down to what we choose to believe. And that belief is personal to each of us and ours to own. Recent events in my life have brought me to the belief that we – and everything around us, far beyond what our eyes can see - exist of and in light. We are light and our light shines beyond our current lifetime and across boundaries we barely know exist. That belief helps me to now experience life with more gratitude, simplicity and happiness than before. And with less fear.

Heaven is not just a place that we go to when we pass from this lifetime, neither is it just a place on earth, it is wherever, whatever or however we perceive it to be, either real or imagined. We do not have to be constrained by the understanding, beliefs or knowledge of others. We each have our own truth. We can create our heaven with the pure magic of our own belief… and what is even more magical, is that we can choose what we want that to be…

Think Less, Feel More

Think Less, Feel More

The Medina, Marrakech, Morocco

“Relationships are laboratories of the spirit” – Marianne Williamson

Visiting Marrakech recently was an extraordinary sensory experience, for many reasons. It is a hypnotic place. Every one of your senses is consumed by the surroundings, the smells, sounds, sights, tastes, sensations of touch… but there is also a profound feeling that seeps into your soul that extends beyond the perceptual reality of human sensory limitation.

That feeling of being there - and the feelings that have permeated since, have been almost impossible to define. But perhaps that is the point. There are some feelings that are beyond definition. Or perhaps more accurately put, those feelings are not meant to be defined, they are meant just to be felt.

Medina Pharmacy, Marrakech, MoroccoJust as the natural pharmacies of the Medina offer a myriad of ingredients almost too bewildering to choose from and for which the possible combinations are beyond our ability to calculate, so the feelings that we experience from some moments in our life are a complex, intricate and delicately balanced mix of emotions that stretch beyond our capacity for understanding. It is that which makes them so intoxicating.

These feelings are a product of nature’s force, a recipe that is created by our spirit and kept secret from the analytical filter of our minds so that it can flow with purity to our hearts. Right now, it is an important lesson the world seems to struggle to learn. That we should think less, feel more and trust that nature offers us those experiences because it’s what we individually need – what humanity needs - more than anything.

It is not without irony that in a sweet moment of childhood memory, it was the words of Winnie The Pooh, written by A A Milne, that expressed this for me today with such profound simplicity:

Piglet: “How do you spell love?”  

Winnie the Pooh: “You don’t spell it, you feel it.”