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My opinions and views on things!

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.

On freedom and fear

On freedom and fear

The Emerald Lagoon, Quillatoa, Ecuador

We all want freedom, don’t we? And some of us may be we believe we have it. Particularly in the Western World, the lands of privilege where we might believe we are in control of our lives, that we are free to make our own choices, where we can pretty much have what we want – if we work hard enough for it. And where tyranny or poverty are not an every day fact of life.

But is that really freedom? I’m not sure it is.

Because in the Western World, our cultures have some common themes that trap us – we are as nations, primarily obsessed with power and control and burdened by the driving force of economic growth. Material possession, wealth, ownership, and competition are just some of the factors that actually keep us from the real freedoms that might help us enjoy life more.

I recently travelled to South America on an adventure trip with my 19 year old niece Natalie. One of the countries we visited was Ecuador, and its stunning Volcanic landscapes. With the equator running through it and closest to the sun, for me the exceptional and unique nature of the views came from the melding of amazing cloud formations with the land below. It is where the earth meets the sky.  We travelled through the valley of the Volcanoes (there are over 70 volcanoes across Ecuador), trekked down to an exquisite emerald lagoon in the middle of an extinct collapsed volcano called Quilatoa, climbed on snow-capped Cotopaxi, rode horses up into the mountains and zip-lined through exotic cloud forests. Thrilling and mind-blowingly beautiful experiences that most will never have the good fortune to enjoy. We are privileged.

One of the themes that kept coming back to me as we travelled to remote villages at high altitude, was that of freedom. Ecuador, at this point, is relatively undeveloped. Mostly visited by backpackers and adventurers, tourism has not yet taken hold and outside the major cities the sparsely populated land is inhabited by people who still live a very simple life. As we climbed the steep mountainsides in our comfortable air-conditioned mini van, every now and then we would see someone walking on the roadside, literally miles from anywhere, in bright coloured ponchos with hats pulled down of their eyes to keep out the sun’s glare. Or there would be a remote shack in a scratched out piece of farmed land with someone toiling on the earth to raise a crop or two.

At first sight, for many of us snapping away with our mobile devices and sophisticated cameras, this might appear a hard existence. A back breaking way to eek out a life in the harsh climate and climes of the mountains. But in fact this for me, represents real freedom. These people are not burdened by the need for possession. They lead a simple life where they are completely self sufficient. The don’t have cars, TVs, playstations or laptops. They live off the land. They don’t have peer groups pressuring them to earn more, to have more. There’s no media creating a vision of how they should look or be, their homes are a basic roof over their head with the essential comforts they need and no more.

When I was videoing the amazing emerald lake at Quillatoa where one of these small local communities is based in the mountains, I looked down to see two little girls looking up at me (you can see them in the tiny video clip below). After I stopped the video, I reached into my pocket and gave them a dollar. A single dollar. You should have seen the smiles on their faces, I wish I had kept the video going. They were ecstatic and skipped off like they’d won the lottery.

The freedom they have is dependent though. On nature. It is their provider and their existence is reliant on its unpredictability, they can do their best to manage their lives within its whims, but ultimately they must trust that whatever happens, they will survive.  Their certainty and security is limited.

And therein lies a huge dilemma for the majority of us who, given the opportunity for real freedom, are unable to face the fear that such uncertainty inevitably generates.

From my own perspective, I understand this feeling. I recently made a decision to let go of pretty much everything from the past and start again. Circumstances made that a transition feel necessary. It is the freest I have been in my life. I have few ties, I can go anywhere – and given that I have this romantic notion that we are all capable of doing pretty much anything if we really want to, I’m also open to (or maybe lost in) – the opportunity to change what I do for the rest of my time on this planet. So how does it feel? It’s frightening. It feels like jumping of a cliff with no idea where to fly to – or floating in a vast ocean, floating, but with no sense of the direction to swim in because you can’t see any land. There’s a desperate desire to head straight back to some sense of security or safety.  Ultimately, freedom involves uncertainty and that makes us fearful.

So what do you do? Well be grateful that you can you fly, or swim and just do it. It doesn’t matter what the direction is, because you just have to trust that at some point you will find what you need, what you are looking for (whether you have any idea of what that is or not) and that nature, the universe will provide whatever is necessary.

Easier said than done. But when you finally settle into the notion that you are free to do anything and stay open to the possibilities, your opportunities are endless. And your needs are actually very simple. Well that’s the theory 😉

Our conditioning, our experience, means we often overcomplicate it. Make it harder than we need to make it. We want rather than need. We overthink everything and that thinking often succumbs to the pressures of our external world. Thinking often stops us doing. I loved the simplicity of the lives of those people on the mountains of Ecuador. It seemed to me that if we think that our sophisticated way of living is the result of a progressive evolution, then we still have a lot to learn. X.

Quilotoa, Ecuador

Losing our senses: the devolution of touch

Losing our senses: the devolution of touch

Anna Garcia Cuartero - exquisite touch

Our five senses are obviously the miraculous ways in which we experience the wonder of our world. They offer us the awe inspiring ability to create a sensual understanding of what is happening around us and to us – they feed our mind, body, heart and spirit.

My own awareness of the world around me has been heightened in the last few years and I totally delight in enjoying its wonders with every ounce of the senses I can apply to my experiences. But developing a better appreciation has led me to believe that we might be in danger of losing one of our senses – touch. And I mean that seriously. The expansion of non physical communication really does have the potential to affect our human evolution.

And I think we’re losing it not just in its physical form but in its definition as the ability to touch in a wider sense, as an emotional connection.

With online and mobile communication ever dominating our lives, the need for the physical presence of other people is rapidly diminishing. We don’t need meetings when we have google hangouts and skype. Social lives can be largely fulfilled with texting, Whatsapp and social media. And who needs a date when you can exchange words, pictures and videos online? It’s extraordinary how many relationships start and end now with a fast and furious exchange of sexts. I find it a huge irony that is is the expansion of touch based technology that is largely leading to the erosion of our human experience of physical connection.

Camille - the exquisite art of touch
Camille - the exquisite art of touch

And of course there’s the knock on effect in the context of touching each other emotionally. Relationships are becoming more a function of practical necessity, more about exchange of information and the sharing of resources than of emotion, more disposable, more easily swapped in for the next option because people perceive they might find a better, newer model on the market. Like the latest phone or the latest car. Why bother to take the time to attach to what you have when you might want the next upgrade? Even procreation is becoming less reliant on physical interaction.

Touch is the most critical of the five senses in connecting us, in establishing our collective humanity. The closest to our spirit. And perhaps it’s the diminishing of that physical and emotional connection that’s one of the factors in the growing violence and tragedy we are seeing. If we do not touch each other, we do not feel for each other. We are removed emotionally, we lack compassion for others because they do not touch us, nor we them.

Touch is an essential part of existence. It’s also a huge pleasure in life. In a physical sense the experience of texture, the flow of feeling that is generated from contact, is joyful, sensuous, it feeds our souls. Form the perspective of connection, it is vital. It is a fundamental expression of love.

If we’re going to evolve, we had better start to understand that we need to touch, be touched, be in touch with each other. To connect. At the risk of being over cheesy in what I think is a serious issue, maybe we could all be a bit more Diana Ross and reach out and touch every day, it really could make the world a better place.

For interesting reading on the nature of relationships and love, take a look at Liquid Love by Zigmunt Bauman, frightening and enlightening at the same time.

The Benefits of Weed

The Benefits of Weed

… or should I say weeds 😉

Weed (the flora definition of) is one those words that, in my opinion, does more harm than the poor hapless plants it targets. These are dictionary definitions:

  1. a valueless plant growing wild, especially one that grows on cultivated ground to the exclusion or injury of the desired crop.
  1. any undesirable or troublesome plant, especially one that grows profusely where it is not wanted: e.g The vacant lot was covered with weeds.

Well I took this photo recently on a walk with some very good friends. It struck me as I looked at the “vacant lot” all run over with weeds, how glorious it was. In a space where the plants had been allowed to grow wild, untamed, uncontrolledWeeds on a building plot, there was exceptional beauty. Not only that, but allowing these wild flowers to flourish means that more
of nature’s spectacular creations can proliferate too, like butterflies and bees.

It strikes me that it’s kind of analogous with our propensity as human beings to control, manipulate, judge. How arrogant we can be!! How can a plant be valueless, undesirable and troublesome when it supports our wonderfully natural ecosystem?

But then that’s one of the issues that we have isn’t it? That we believe we are right, that we are the Masters of this Universe? That we make better and more informed decisions about what should and shouldn’t be allowed to grow and flourish. How foolish we are. Nature has been here for billions more years than we have. It is far more powerful. It has more grace, more intelligence and more courage in its natural growth than we can ever have if we continue to restrict ourselves to a human evolution that is dominated by such ego.

It’s true I guess that where a plant has an overwhelming desire to spread, there might be a case for encouraging some regulation – but wouldn’t it be better to do so in a way that embraces its wild beauty and allows it to live in harmony with our own desires for the space it occupies? Do we really have to stop its passionate disregard for order in its tracks?

I would have thought it should be possible. But if not and there has to be a choice, I’m with the weeds…

(Oh and if you want to find out about some "relative" benefits of weed - as in marijuana - there's an interesting article on The Independent about how it's 114 times less deadly that alcohol. Another reason to be with the weeds?)