Serpents Rising…

There is no doubt that energy is shifting daily like the sands on a windy beach.

Getting back to nature last week and living life outside temporarily the chaos has brought new light on dark times. Ignoring the pandemic, turning off the news and revisiting the positivity of the past has of late rekindled introspection and what gives me inner peace.

Experiencing the sensory and physical aspects of reality – the flora, the fauna, the cloud formations, the rush of the sea at high tides, the setting sun, the rising moon, as well experiencing the mystical and metaphysical aspects of reality too on just what it feels like to part of something so incredible, I find myself at times in awe of such beauty and the associated feelings experienced are rekindling forgotten spiritual connections I have with some people that I have lost touch with over the years, giving me such a huge internal boost in these troublesome times.

It is seven years ago to the very month that I took my reiki training, opening the neural pathways to something quite alien, quite astounding, tapping into hidden energies that had been hitherto out of reach for the materialist I once was (and have been again over the last couple of years).

Once again it was my wife that reminded me of just who I was back in 2013 and how of late bits of my old self had returned. My “being” back then was born out of abject negativity and selfishness, with me operating as it were as a mid-week bachelor and weekend dad (replicating the abhorrent behaviour of my own alcoholic father).

Such was the shame at this realisation that I was becoming him if not already, that drastic action was required else my strong-willed wife and children would be gone, something my mother sadly never had the strength to do.

So an awakening took place, and with it a connection to a hidden and healing energy, a cosmic current taped into for the first time, opening my eyes to the fact that there was more to this reality than the five senses could serve up.

Buddhists and New Age folks say that things go around in seven year cycles, and here we are exactly seven years later and I find myself knocking on the door of my old reiki master “L” who has “upgraded” to kundalini yoga, and has her own practice based out of a majestic place in the heart of the Wirral countryside.

Although I had not seen her for many years, it was clear that time doesn’t exist (does it anyway?) when it comes to a rekindling of spirits. A quick non-non-distancing hug and catch-up revealed that we would pick up exactly where we left off and both agreed that paths we have taken across the years seem to be forever intertwined.

The same for my wife too. She has been struggling too over the last six months as a furloughed complimentary therapist with too much time on her hands, consuming the chaos, facts, lies and conspiracies for most of her waking hours, minutes and seconds each day. She too needed to refocus by joining me on this journey.

I decided after our trip to Devon to remove meat from my diet. The previous seven days had seen us consume half a farm, chickens, pigs and cows were all present on our daily calorie count and a return to the homestead made me feeling bloated and like a badly cooked steak, over-done.

I was a vegetarian for around eighteen months when I took my reiki training and with the new outlook, new friends, new energy and new lifestyle, it was only natural a diet forms part of the new me.

We have all consumed too much during the lockdown, grazing from cookie jars and overdosing on Netflix for too long over the last six months and our portly figures provide the evidence of that, so a dietary change was a must. I’ve also been out every morning running, cycling, kayaking and land-boarding before everyone else opens the curtains, and boy what a difference a week makes.

Tuesday saw our first kundalini yoga session with “L”. I like to understand what I’m getting myself into so spent sometime on Tuesday morning researching what kundalini yoga was all about. I had heard and read some negative and sensational reviews of the kundalini experiencing, ranging from mental instability to whole body orgasms and a lot of other stuff in between. Classifying it as fake news (but having an awareness of it in case I experience such – yes to the orgasms!) we joined the class and took part in what was such a different experience to the Hatha / posture-based yoga I have always undertaken.

Relatively easy positions were counter-posed by vigorous breathing techniques (breath of fire) leaving us both exhausted yet conversed completely invigorated and energised by the end. Everyone in the group was lovely, warm and welcoming, leaving us with the opinion that in some way, we had found our way home.

We spoke fondly of our experience on the drive home through the shadowy country lanes and with energy still racing when we got back home, I went for a run with the old and faithful pooch, giving new life to old legs.

Land-boarding on the promenade and looping the local marina in the morning sun as the open-water swimmers raised the mouths for breaths the next morning reminded me what if felt to be alive, a positive feelings I’d not felt in a long, long time.

If the early part of the week blew us away with positive energy, then what we experienced on Thursday made that look like a mere ripple on the sea compared to the the tsunami which was about to take place. When we have good weather and as we live close to the sea, when the conditions and tides are right, then “L” conducts her kundalini yoga class on the beach, which is accompanied by evening swims and paddling (sea kayaks and stand up paddle boarding).

As we approached, the beach car park (usually only partly occupied) we were surprised by how was rammed it was with vehicles. As we decanted our kayak and paddling gear, we looked up to see over 100 yoga mats laid out facing the sun, a welcoming inward tide and our spiritual instructor for the day in the lotus position waiting to begin. Incredible.

The session was the same as the “kriya” as Tuesday so we both knew what as to come, this time it was easier as we had had the practice, the session was more magical than the previous one, given the setting, the sheer volume of people and the communal and positive energy by all, resonating a common frequency of happiness.

Feeling again totally energised, we spent the next hour kayaking on the open and warm waters of the Mersey Estuary, totally at one with the universe and the like-minded souls we were spending time with.

Without sounding like a stuck record in reference (reverence) to Westworld, the words “Some choose to see the ugliness in the world, the disarray, I choose to see the beauty” never rang so true. If you are in the position to commune with nature and seek out opportunities for serenity, there is no better time than now. I’m mindful that we are not all in that position presently, with my friends and colleagues in India under almost full lockdown so I have to tone down my own personal journey at the moment, so not to fan their flames of despair, but they are in my thoughts and non-religious prayers.

I’m not one for taking good photos, but every now and again I hit jackpot. As my wife was paddling in, I stood waist-deep in the sea as the sun was setting and pressed click, the result of which reminded me of the ethereal Pink Floyd album The Endless Sea, which sure seemed to be that way with nothing visible on the horizon, almost suggesting that infinity beckons…

Eye of the Storm…

As with every storm, there is a period of tranquility as long as you are in the right location at the right time.

With chaos and turbulence all around, there is a period of respite if you happen to spend time in the eye of the storm which gives one a time to recharge, to gather thoughts before the inevitable onslaught of a second wave.

This week I sought out the eye of the storm, and after many years of promising to spend some time on the south coast of England, airport blockades gave me the needful kick up the backside to experience what others have always said about Devon.

Keeping costs down to a bare minimum, we set up camp in Dawlish (scene of its own storm seven years ago when Mother Nature ripped apart its coastal railway to pieces) and plotted our week of relaxation, exploration and adventure.

Like the mystic who peers into the bottom of the teacup for insights, I held my plastic beaker up to the sunlight to see it also reveal a similar eye of the storm. Ordinarily that would predict an ensuing hangover but we managed to find non-alcoholic rum which tasted remarkably like the real thing when poured over “the real thing”.

Like a great many of us, lock-down has provided its own opportunities to learn new things. New hobbies, new skills, old habits which die hard. I’ve gone through extended periods of sobriety over the last six months but also recall a few regrettable occasions where empty bottles have been kicked aside by unshoed toes through bleary morning eyes.

So our trip was a sober one (save one day where we consumed a few afternoon beers) and a much welcomed change to our usual holiday boozing and excessive weight gain.

The campsite itself was the best I’ve ever been to in the UK, with outdoor and indoor swimming pools, restaurant, pub, shop, kids adventure playgrounds and five fishing lakes, and the weather made it the perfect place to kick back and whittle some.

Dawlish, Teignmouth, Torbay and Brixham provided our south coast adventures, with adventure golf, ancient caverns, forest walks and obligatory fish ‘n’ chips on the beach keeping us busy and Woolacombe Beach on the north coast allowing us to swim in the sea, embarrass ourselves with some primordial body boarding, as well as giving us all the obligatory lobstered-look the next day, as only the Brits can truly achieve with aplomb.

All of this was proliferated with several short early morning bursts of fishing on the lakes, catching bream, tench and carp (the largest of which was around six pounds – the biggest fish I’ve ever caught).

Our last day saw us take a boat trip down the Jurassic Coast, taking in the views of the coastal towns, sandstone outcroppings and the beautiful and pea green sea (apt after eating at the Owl and the Pussy Cat in Teignmouth for the wife’s birthday the night before), accompanied by clotted cream scones, jam, tea and Julie Peasgood – soap star from Brookside which set in my home time of Liverpool, who sat next to us who now lives in the area as a writer.

The overwhelming beauty about this week was just how “normal” it was. Camping is by its very nature self-isolating and socially distancing, with each family given there allotted “metreage” away from everybody else, as it was at the outdoor swimming pool, play parks and fishing lakes. The only notable difference was the directional arrows on the floor of the shop and the masks worn by the bar and restaurant staff, but done in a subliminal way.

The footfall was notably lesser too. This week being the height of the summer season (kids first week off school in the summer holidays in the UK), our last three days were spent in isolation our field of twenty camping spaces. Whether the site will be there next year with the same facilities and capacity time will tell, here’s hoping it will as the staff there were uber-friendly and it would be a real shame for it to go under. We are already booking to go back there such was its appeal and such is the uncertainly about international travel.

As I was up all week as dawn broke to go fishing, my circadian rhythm was still set to daft ‘o’ clock so I was up early today, taking the dog for a walk on my local beach up north, both man and dog happy to rekindle their morning sojourn before the day started for the rest of the troops.

The low tide brings with it the opportunity to get to the other side of our local lighthouse, and for a brief moment, a break in the dark and foreboding clouds gave the light of the sun the ability to shine through its fresnel, providing a clearer outlook, not unlike my trip to Devon this week.

Who knows what the new normal will be hereafter, but if you can take time and spend it in the eye of the storm, you will feel a lot better for it as I do today…

Divide and Conquer…

Polarise (verb) – to divide into sharply opposing factions.

Humanity, it seems, is becoming more polarised with each passing day, with little or no hope for respite. Taking a world view and with a few exceptions (where polarity is not tolerated, like North Korea), each “democratic” country on Planet Earth seems to separate into different factions on an all too regular basis.

Take my homeland, the United Kingdom. For the first 4 decades of my life, polarity centered around several themes, politics (Labour or Conservative), football (Everton or Liverpool), music (Rock or Pop), animals (Cats or Dogs), sexual orientation (Hetero or Homo) and wealth (Haves and Have-Nots), and ones choice or preference didn’t really have a major impact on society as a whole (with the exception of wealth where choice doesn’t always play its part).

The United Kingdom and the population that resides here, was until recently a relatively united kingdom comprising of four component states, each with its own nuances and idiosyncrasies and by and large we got on quite well all things considered.

We joined a bigger family when we entered the European Union (then the European Economic Community) in 1973 and again, by and large over the last four decades, we got on well, with the added bonus of freedom of movement across the member states, which I have had the privilege of using many, many times.

Something has changed of late, and not in a good way. Our political system and the society I now reside in is completely broken. We have been used to seeing Red fight with Blue to gain supreme power since it took over the reigns from the Liberal Party in the 1920’s, placing our X’s next to our party of choice ever since.

The childhood I can remember was governed by the Conservative Party when Margaret Thatcher was at the helm, growing up in Liverpool in the early 1980’s when the shipping and manufacturing industries were decimated by Tory policy, making it difficult to put food on the table in the vast majority of households.

We cracked on as any community would do under the same circumstances, and we did it as a pseudo-syndicalist collective, coming together as one to support each other during what were difficult and challenging times, putting two fingers up to Thatcher and her “managed decline” edict, with the help and support of Tory MP Michael Heseltine, an unlikely hero still in these parts.

The wealth and the glory of bygone years (due to the profiteering of shipping merchants during the truly abhorrent Slave Trade of the 1700’s) and the excitement of the Merseysound had all but gone, but the city got itself up off the floor, dusted itself down, and had a renaissance in 2008 when it was awarded the European Capital of Culture, and with it, truly significant investments from our EU comrades. Run down areas and tired city centre establishments were all defibrillated back into life and until very recently, the city had enjoyed an upturn in fortune.

The real turning point (for me at least) was Brexit (as I have mentioned in my State Of The Universe Part 1). In Liverpool, we had just short of 60% voting for remain, a real mandate to keep things the way they are, but alas no, the wider collective decided against it, pushing the entire nation into the abyss, to go it alone.

We then had three and a half years of stagnation and another election, putting the Conservatives back in action for another term.

Now we have Covid, and with it, something even more divisive, even more worrysome. Never in my life have I seen and witnessed such polarised views.

Once again, we are faced with choice and what we believe in; truth (Fact or Fiction), masks (Wear or Don’t Wear), science (Real or Not Real) and political integrity (Honesty or Conspiracy). I dare say more choices are to follow, namely cure (Vaccinations or No Vaccinations), legislation (Support or Reject) and possibly totalitarianism (Acceptance or Anarchy).

Whilst previous views were by and large for or against the establishment or a personal preference which had no material impact on society as a whole, what has happened over the last few years (spiking with Covid) has turned (wo)man against (wo)man and with it the birth of divided factions, and with that some quite appealing behavior.

The venom with which targeted abuse is delivered is something to be utterly ashamed of too and it really brings into question the fundamentals of ones personal relationships.

Social media makes it far too easy for people to become keyboard anarchists, sitting comfortably in their socially distanced locales, cowardly brandishing all manner of vitriol and verbal abuse on platforms that were meant to connect people together in a positive way, not to pour petrol on incendiary situations like we find ourselves in today. This week has already seen non-virtual altercations occurring in shops and supermarkets as the factions clash face to face, now that masks are compulsory.

It was a very easy decision for me to disconnect from all social media applications (with the exception of WordPress which is for me an anonymous and cathartic vehicle) and from what I have heard and seen most recently, the decision in January this year was the right one.

I now have to make a different type of choice, a preference as to whether the opinions and subsequent behavior of some of my “friends” is something I chose to acknowledge and accept or choose to walk away, safe in the knowledge that whilst we knew each other in different and more pleasant times, we enjoyed each others company but that can no longer continue as our moral compasses point to different poles…

State of the Universe address (Part 2)…

“Even a casual glance at the media whether in print or streaming form reveals a distinct shift in energy and sadly not a positive one. Recent events from all over our little blue dot have shown that humanity appears to be on a disturbing downward spiral, towards a destiny I don’t think any of us can predict. Even the glass half full brigade is starting to see the drink drift towards the bottom of the tumbler.

The have been several events of late which have upset the balance in the Universe which even videos of kittens playing and falling off stuff are failing to have the desired uplifting effect”…

Those exact words were scribed here on the twenty sixth of July, twenty sixteen during the aftermath of the Brexit vote here in the U.K, my abject disbelief in the majority (not overwhelming by any means, but majority nonetheless) of citizens voting to go it alone, to disconnect from a union which gave more freedom of movement, more freedom of choice, more freedom opportunity for cultural exchange, just more.

The pursuing three and a half years in stasis were frankly embarrassing, like two school children endlessly bickering in the playground over which colour was best, blue or red, only to be resolved by asking the question all over again.

I was, as were many of my close friends and family, truly disappointed by the outcome of the general last year but it was apparent to us that a different type of politics had emerged. The time of robust, transparent and progressive manifestos had gone, replaced by rhetoric and hyperbole, and the more succinct the better. A manifesto of three words won the election. “Get. Brexit. Done”. That was all it took. No five-hundred page visions of the future required, no clear or quantifiable plans to take the U.K to the next level. Simply, these three words resonated with original voters and with new found sympathisers in socialist strongholds (depleted of energy in a stagnating country) who were targeted by social media campaigns and the less-than independent and biased views of the BBC.

As much as I admired Jeremy Corbyn in the past, it was clear that all hope was gone leading up to the election result, when so many people uttered the words “I cannot bring myself to vote for that man”, choosing instead to hand Boris Johnson a fresh set of keys to Ten Downing Street.

After the dust settled and a period of reflection, it was clear to me that the election was lost by a total destruction of the “Red Wall” due to the beleaguered populace wanting an immediate end to the vacuous stalemate in Westminster on Brexit which only the Conservatives were truly offering. It was a vote for capitalism and the self rather than for socialism and the many.

One thing that did concern me during the whole period (and even more so today) was the role media and social media organisations play in such events, and how much of our personal data is used against us to influence what we think, how we think and how we subsequently act.

1984

The rules of the game have changed. Take a step back in time and look at the amount of information or personal data that was available to organisations in the past (government, civil service and private organisations). To say it was sparse compared to today is an understatement.

I grew up in the early nineteen seventies:

  • We got the bus to school and work every day, no personal data at all
  • We had newspapers delivered each day which contained information on current affairs, no personal data held other than our local corner shop knowing which publications we preferred
  • We had our post delivered each day with letters and postcards from loved ones, no personal data captured other than offline credit card and bank statements
  • We went to the shops to buy food, clothes and toys, no personal data held other than store receipts
  • We had three television channels with one daily one-hour news bulletin on two of them, no personal data held other than we had a television licence
  • We listened to music on the radio, vinyl, cassette tapes and watched films on video tape (eighties) and at the cinema, no personal data held other than store or picturehouse receipts
  • We had a landline telephone, which allowed us to communicate with others, no personal data captured other than the more left-wing voters with affiliations to certain political groups having their lines tapped (and I know a couple)
  • We borrowed books from the library to enhanced our knowledge on certain topics that interested us, no personal data captured other than which books we had to pay fines on as invariably they were overdue
  • We went on holiday in the U.K due to limited funds to travel abroad, no personal data captured
  • We had a voting card (well my parents did) and placed our X next to our preferred candidate, no personal data captured other than the binary choice (red or blue) we made on the day which made the peg count in election of the day

Life was much more private then, simpler, with only rudimentary individual/consumer profiling available to those who sort it, which in itself was minimal, marketing types really. Not so now. The migration from analogue to digital has heralded an unprecedented technological evolution the likes of which we could only dream of back in the seventies.

Clearly our lives are enriched by the positive aspects of technology advancement:

  • The multitudinous, multifaceted and multifunctional devices we have at our disposal
  • The wealth and depth of information that is available to us via online search engines and thousands of media channels
  • The convenience of online shopping and having any goods delivered the very next day
  • The immersive audio/visual experiences we take part in through online games, streaming films and music from all genres tailored to our particular tastes
  • The majestic and global reach of contacting others via phone/video/email many thousands of miles away making the world a smaller place
  • The ability to pay for goods, services and travel through credit and not cash, via a watch on a wrist, an app on a phone or a contactless payment/travel card
  • The ease of voting online, never having to traipse in the English summer rain to the polling station

IsaacNewton

But as the late and great Isaac Newton famously once said, “To every action there is always opposed an equal reaction” later paraphrased by Albert Einstein (“For every action there is reaction”).

Big data is big business and, in my opinion, a big risk that could lead to a Big Brother.

In the current capitalist/consumerist paradigm we find ourselves in, social and economic profiling by identifying the what we think, the way in which we think it and how we subsequently act and react is something a lot of people are very keen on understanding. Big business and big governments appear to be launching a crusade to uncover everything there is to know about us and how access to that data that can or will influence our actions and reactions.

The vast majority of us buy into that paradigm, myself included (although I am taking active measures to “anonymousise” my digital footprint). Take a step back if you will and see how proactively we are feeding the machine.

Every single digital transaction we make (from Google search, to Amazon purchase, to Facebook like, to Twitter retweet, to Instagram photo check-in and beyond) leaves behind a digital footprint, breadcrumbs of data which can be used to build up a profile of us.

Marry that up with every text or social media message we send, every phone call we make, every Alexa command we utter and we very quickly come to the conclusion that Edward Snowden was right, our social interactions, our online presence is being monitored constantly. We have all experienced an advert popping up on Facebook for something obscure we have just been talking about the day before.

The learned and the well-educated will know that already, but the less well-educated or socially unaware will remain in ignorant bliss. They will be blind to the more subliminal methods organisations are using to profile them, turning them and us into perfect consumers.

Events over the past few months relating to Covid-19 have, in my opinion, taken profiling beyond consumer and economic and are now venturing into a dark realm of social, physical and even DNA profiling. Only yesterday did we hear about the U.K government allowing a private AI company (Faculty) to access sensitive patient data against the rules of GDPR to execute algorithms and produce predictions on how things may materialise and how measures can be taken to combat the pandemic. We also heard that the government are launching a tracking app which will use the GPS signal on the smart phone to monitor the movements of the population.

Whilst I don’t believe that there is a covert operation currently underway towards the creation of an Orwellian-esque New World Order (I can’t see Johnson, Putin, Trump, Xi, Jong Un, Merkel and Macron collectively agreeing about anything just now), we do seem to be setting the foundations of Big Brother via big business and this pandemic, and that is something to keep a very close eye on over the coming days, weeks, months, years.

In closing, take a good long look at the Rehoboam in Westworld Season Three. How do you think something like that would start off, what foundational building blocks would need to put in place?

Last Words…

Steve Jobs’ last words. He died a billionaire at 56. He may not have inspired me in life [although I respected his outputs as an admirer of Apple products], but he did in his impending death.

I enjoy the relationships and friendships I have forged at work over everything else. The kudos, recognition, monetary awards, appraisals, promotions and company shares mean literally nothing to me. If I leave my company at some point in the future with a little black book of names, full to the brim peoples names and numbers who have declared an interest to keep in touch with me, I will know that I have succeeded…

“I reached the pinnacle of success in the business world. In others’ eyes my life is an epitome of success.

However, aside from work, I have little joy. In the end, wealth is only a fact of life that I am accustomed to.

At this moment, lying on the sick bed and recalling my whole life, I realize that all the recognition and wealth that I took so much pride in, have paled and become meaningless in the face of impending death.

You can employ someone to drive the car for you, make money for you but you cannot have someone to bear the sickness for you.

Material things lost can be found. But there is one thing that can never be found when it is lost – “Life”.

When a person goes into the operating room, he will realize that there is one book that he has yet to finish reading – “Book of Healthy Life”. Whichever stage in life we are at right now, with time, we will face the day when the curtain comes down.

Treasure love for your family, love for your spouse, love for your friends…

Treat yourself well. Cherish others.

As we grow older, and hence wiser, we slowly realize that wearing a $300 or $30 watch – they both tell the same time…

Whether we carry a $300 or $30 wallet/handbag – the amount of money inside is the same;

Whether we drive a $150,000 car or a $30,000 car, the road and distance is the same, and we get to the same destination.

Whether we drink a bottle of $300 or $10 wine – the hangover is the same;

Whether the house we live in is 300 or 3000 sq ft – loneliness is the same.

You will realize, your true inner happiness does not come from the material things of this world.

Whether you fly first or economy class, if the plane goes down – you go down with it…

Therefore.. I hope you realize, when you have mates, buddies and old friends, brothers and sisters, who you chat with, laugh with, talk with, have sing songs with, talk about north-south-east-west or heaven and earth…. That is true happiness!!

Five Undeniable Facts of Life:

1. Don’t educate your children to be rich. Educate them to be Happy. So when they grow up they will know the value of things not the price.

2. Best awarded words in London … “Eat your food as your medicines. Otherwise you have to eat medicines as your food.”

3. The One who loves you will never leave you for another because even if there are 100 reasons to give up he or she will find one reason to hold on.

4. There is a big difference between a human being and being human. Only FEW really understand it.

5. You are loved when you are born. You will be loved when you die. In between, you have to manage!

NOTE: If you just want to Walk Fast, Walk Alone! But if you want to Walk Far, Walk Together!

Six Best Doctors in the World:

1. Sunlight
2. Rest
3. Exercise
4. Diet
5. Self Confidence and
6. Friends

Maintain them in all stages of Life and enjoy a healthy life.”

doG | God

Undeniably, dogs are intelligent creatures and my own is no exception. He may not be as advanced as some of the other pooches in terms of parlor tricks (when comparing his abilities to those on YouTube), but nonetheless even his basic functions intrigue me.

It’s safe to say that “C” and I have had a chequered history. After we returned from living in Malaysia, the family decided to get a dog and after much deliberation and cogitation, we landed on a springer spaniel. I’d never owned a pedigree dog (and I still think don’t think I do), plumping instead for “portmanteau pooches”, more commonly known in the UK as mongrels. As with all puppies, the joy of the spending time with these energetic bundles of fun to some may be impossible to beat, the smell of puppy breath having the same knock-out punch of an attractively lady wearing Chanel No 5 or the aroma of a freshly baked loaf of bread. The cuteness factor of them makes them desirable beasts, for a time. The hard work kicks in after about 6 months when the honeymoon period is over, when my own millennial’s turned their attention back to technology and the dogs energy is transferred from play to destruction.

1

And so it was with “C”. He ate most beds we bought him, munched through a kitchen worktop and curled more slippers than the Ottoman empire. I was working away in London during the week and typically came back with fatigue and stressed finding it difficult to settle into a challenging role. He was obviously pleased to see me when I returned, but that soon turned sour when it was clear that I had no time for him at the weekends, with my tiredness boiling over to slipper-whacks when he ruined something else. Over the coming months, every time I returned he would approach me at the door, lower his head and ears waiting for me to pet him, which sometimes I never did. Needless to say my treatment of an innocent and lovable canine was shocking and I still feel guilty now looking back (as well I should).

Things came to a head one week when I told the wife I had found a new home for him over a hundred miles away and that he was going at the weekend. At first she reluctantly agreed and I was all set for the trip. The night before I left, we discussed the matter in the living room, both of us in tears. They say a dog is for life and not just for Christmas and how right they are. As he sat there looking up at us from death row (he did have an orange coat but that’s not important right now), we agreed at the eleventh hour a stay of execution and a plan for my wife to properly train him whilst I was away. She bought a book, took some advice and cracked on and within months, he had taken his rightful place at the bottom of the family ziggurath (with the exception of one of my sons who has never really liked him) but at the top of our hearts.

I noticed the change and over the years, our bond has grown from strength to strength and he is by far the best dog I have ever had. I look forward to seeing him every Thursday night when I return from the City, and even at the age of Nine, he always jumps up, wags his tail, lolls his tongue out of his mouth and does a little wee in excitement. The next five minutes are usually spent with me and him of the floor having cuddles and eventually a little play fight before bed (I’m the only one who does – it’s “our thing”).

SAMSUNG

Whilst away this week, I watched several episodes of “The Ascent of Man” by Jacob Bronowski, the content of which has made me think more about the evolution of all living things, which in turn reminds me of my very first post on Infinity Beckons, Do Amoebas Have Souls and of course my dog.

My wife thinks I think too much and live in the realm of fantasy and she is probably right (wives always are of course!). Whilst I appreciated the output from Dr Bronowski and his thirteen-episode series from 1973, we diverge when it comes to consciousness and the spirit. I knew he was a materialist reductionist before launching into the box set (like his post-modern contemporary Prof Brian Cox is – who’s “Human Universe” series is blatant rip-off of “The Ascent of Man” – which I reminded him one day when I was very drunk and trolling, which was in those days was a “harmless bit of fun”), who believed that consciousness only exists in humans and that it is merely an epiphenomenon of their evolved brain. The venom he used against Eastern philosophy / belief systems and the unexplained (he cites ESP amongst other woo -woo theories) shocked me, it was like Richard Dawkins had written the script (no surprise that Dawkins has written the foreword in a re-released version of the book that accompanied the series recently).

I have read many noetic volumes over the years, studied in part Eastern belief systems and as a part-millennial listened to various podcasts on alternative therories regarding life the universe and everything. Based on examples and data points, I am very open to the idea that there are two forms of consciousness (local [lower] and non-local [higher]). Local consciousness is our present awake state, the state we exist in between birth and death, with non-local consciousness existing beyond that which our senses can perceive (and this site has over the years cited personal examples of why I think that way).

But what has that got to do with my dog. Well…

Using Bronowski’s evolutionary theory (and my next post will be a long read about “The Ascent of Man”), dogs have also evolved over the last few millions of years, originally being nomads themselves, wild animals travelling in packs and hunting to survive. They too found themselves within a domesticated environment (albeit domesticated themselves), living side by side with humans for at least the last twelve thousand years (predating the agricultural revolution in the Middle East / Jericho)

Like early man, they too have a rudimentary communication system (whimper = pain, bark = warning/danger, growl = anger) as well as other metaphysical identifiers (sighs = boredom; tongue out/tail wag = happiness). Something I’ve noticed about my dog though goes beyond canine norms, precognition. It sounds very odd but in the moments before I take him for a walk he is already aware of it. I don’t even have to talk about it, he is there, knowing what is about to happen. I can even be in a different room and when a silent decision is made inside my head, he typically comes in, lolls his tongue and wags his tail in advance of me making my way to the kitchen door to grab the lead.

Dogs reaction times are so much faster than humans, throwing scraps of food easily shows that human time and dog time are not the same. It’s like me throwing him some food on earth with the moons gravity, he has time to watch the flight path and adjust his position to catch the morsel each time (well mostly, he’s getting old now).

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So do dogs operate within different space-time, do dogs have a consciousness that is intrinsically somehow linked to our own and is there such thing as a doggy heaven? Maybe, just maybe there is…

Pendulum…

Looking back at the output timeline on this blog reveals many things. Intense periods of writing where creative juices are flowing sees posts flying in from all directions, powered by conscious experience and time to document, catalog and share. At other times, relative epochs go by where pen never touches paper (or fingers strike on back-lit keys as it is nowadays).

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The one-directional arrow of time (if there is such a thing), never appears to change, seconds, minutes, hours and days when objectively measured will confirm that. Subjectively however our perception of time periods can change, periods of joy may render time to be fleeting whereas pain appears to elongate time.

The pendulum of the human experience seems to swing between two points (order and disorder; low entropy and high entropy). I only have to review this site’s content to realise that extended periods away from the keyboard herald high entropy, disorder and chaos. Twenty Twelve (my original annus horribilis) was equally as light as Twenty Eighteen in terms of posts, both years extremely challenging for different reasons and I’m glad to see the back of them.

Twenty Twelve was the year that I did everything for myself and forgot who I was, Twenty Eighteen was the year that I did everything for everyone else and forgot who I was.

We all strive for a life of balance, a physical and metaphysical equilibrium so in-sync with each other that we function at optimum levels. When things slip beyond the median point, they slip so very quickly and migrate away from harmony and onto discord, more often than not due to the ineffectiveness of our metaphysical state.

Change does not help and although change is constant and inevitable, too much change can turn a shoreline wave lapping peacefully on the turning of the tide to a mega-tsunami heading straight towards us with no obvious means of escape. Avoid it we must and avoid it we do, learning lessons from it to review where things have gone wrong and what we need to do to move the needle back to the centre point (until the next time).

I’ve pledged to my other half (for the second time in the lifetime of this blog – things really do seem to go around in seven year cycles as the Buddhists say…) that Twenty Nineteen will be one of adventure and positive experience, only today we sat down and soaked up all Thirty days annual leave that I have, planning to explore places old and new, ancient and modern, with and without our children.

So in the immortal words of John and Yoko “… Happy New Year, Let’s hope it’s a good one, Without any fear …

Choose Life…

“Choose life. Choose a job. Choose a career. Choose a family. Choose a Samsung television with cinema sound. Choose a range cooker and integrated appliances, a Mazda CX-5 Sport, iPhones One through X and Sauvignon Blanc wine chillers. Choose good health, low cholesterol and a manageable Body Mass Index. Choose a tracker mortgage. Choose a timeshare. Choose a move to the capital and an affordable pied-a-terre. Choose a minimalist wardrobe in fifty shades of grey. Choose three different waistcoats in a range of fabrics. Choose listening to Radiohead on your meditation chair. Choose watching thought-provoking Netflix documentaries about Di-Methyl-Tryptamine. Choose Lego building days. Choose retiring from the rat race at the end of it all, enjoying your last years without listening to the demands of shareholders. Choose your future. Choose your friends. Choose life . . . But why would I want to do a thing like that? Actually, I do choose life. And the reasons? There are no reasons. Who needs reasons when you’ve got love…”

We are all, to some extent, subsumed and consumed by capitalism and consumerism, seemingly perma-fixed into the cyclical behaviours society deems necessary for us to function properly. Life it seems, continues to devolve on a daily basis as we move away from marvelling at the wonders of Life, the Universe and Everything to being preoccupied with treading a path of materialism and the possession of things.

There comes a time during most white collar careers (being it fleeting or perennial) when the daily slog around the corporate treadmill becomes too much to bear and the dream of quitting the “rat race” becomes a desired outcome, a desire in fact over everything else.

We define the concept of “rat race” as a way of life in which people are caught up in a fiercely competitive struggle for wealth or power in an endless, self-defeating and pointless pursuit. This exhausting, repetitive lifestyle leaves little quality time for enjoyment or spiritual fulfilment and ultimately leads to stress, anxiety and eyes fixed on the nearest exit sign (via any means of escape).

I’ve been there many, many times over the last twenty five years of employment. On several occasions, I have come to the conclusion that a life less hectic away from the corporate ziggurat and into a new career would bring the required level of happiness and satisfaction (whatever that level is), yet each time I have chosen to stay on the same path as I have to consider not only myself in each decision, but those around me who rely on my support.

As time goes by, responsibility diminishes and with that the realm of creative opportunity opens up so that alternative careers and lifestyles become achievable.

A retrospective look over the last two and a half decades has seen that things have worked out for the better each time a major life decision was to be made based on informed and sound choices and taking chances that bring about positive change.

From experience, there are two key questions that need answering before any major life decisions are made:

1. What realistic and alternative choices are there?
2. What are the chances that changes can bring about positive outcomes?

Those who believe in free will or self-determination will concede that there are seemingly infinite possibilities in life and the choices that we make (to paraphrase quantum physics parlance) collapse all other available pathways so that outcome of such decisions produces what we know as consensual reality (created without external influence).

Then there is chance and probability. If there are seemingly infinite possibilities in life, then there is a certain probability attached to each choice we make, which although subjective, determines whether the decisions we make will bring about a better (or worse) experience for us.

Change occurs only once we have committed to making a choice based on the best chance of likely positive outcome.

Ultimately, each and every choice we make is ours and ours alone to make as we act out those decisions both physically and meta-physically, but a significant amount of decisions are influenced by third parties. Family, friends, colleagues, organisations and legislation help and/or hinder those choices and our life-journey is shaped accordingly.

The choice to surround ourselves with those who have positive influence in our lives is also ours.

When I look back at my life thus far, I have removed those who exerted a negative influence (fear) on my choices and instead surrounded myself with positive people (love), and whilst certain decisions have brought about shock and horror to some, my life and the life of those I care for is richer and better for it.

Life is an adventure, a joyous adventure and if we do only get one crack at it (well one that we can remember) then we must always make the right choices and with chance on our side we can change ourselves, those within our immediate vicinity and eventually the wider world for the better.

Choose love and not fear…

Choose life and live it…

The Eternal Return…

Ouroboros. Kundalini. Eliade. Reincarnation. Cyclical time. All of these are antiquus terms to describe the eternal return, in that Life, the Universe and Everything recurs until the point at which the soul (or self depending on your outlook) has matured enough to understand the true meaning of existence and no further lessons need learning.

And so it is with me. This year was always going to involve significant decisons and marked change. My position and the physical office I was attatched both became obsolete due to a strategic change in policy, meaning that staff had to relocate to London, Bengaluru, Den Hague or Houston or face redundancy (albeit with a golden handshake).

Earlier this year (as this blog advised) I had resigned myself to moving on to pastures new, paying off a significant portion of my commercial and financial committments and finding a new position in a new company. That decision in itself came with the stark realisation that our long term plan (the wife and I) of retiring at fifty-five and leaving behind the conglomerates and corporations to venture out across the globe in search of peace, love and understanding was dead in the water.

Not only was that a rather depressing thought after making abitious plans, but also was the actual reality of finding alternative employment at a significantly reduced rate of pay (due to the fact that this country is still very much London-centric and the concept of a “Northern Powerhouse” is simply a hollow promise from a woeful and totally inept government).

So too was the realisation that I would most likely have to go contracting again until another permanent position came up, which in itself would mean that I would have to travel again and with that the uncertainty and insecurity a life of short term job hopping brings.

The alternative was of course to change career and lifestyle completely, giving up on the broken capaitalist system we all find ourselves in today by downscaling our operations; selling the family home and car to something more affordable and green, reducing the monthly overheads and finding a job with less pay and a spiritual uplift but that “hippy path” would bring with it so much change and resistance that I had no doubt that the family unit as a whole would not entertain that, not even for one second (and perhaps I’m not even ready for that, yet).

Then something changed. My manager left the company mid-year and was replaced by one of the most inspiring leaders I have come across in a long time, who managed to convince me that I was a valued member of staff and would continue to be so should I change my mind and relocate to London.

After some serious contemplation and family discussion, we decided that I would move. From a personal perspective, the decision was arguably the most difficult one I have ever had to make. Here we had a carbon copy of the position we found ourselves in when we came back from Malaysia; the family in the North and the father farther South, two hundred miles away from his spiritual epicentre. Geographical displacement is one thing, spiritual disconnection is something quite more significant.

As I have scribed on many occasions, my wife and I drifted apart last time, almost to the point where we were no more. Only the finest and brittle of filaments existed and it took months if not years to turn that thin strand to a bond of steel once again as it is today (I hope). In project parlance, the change we now face introduces a significant risk which we are trying to mitigate by putting firm actions in place to make sure the same thing does not reoccur.

If that was not enough, our situation has now become identical, an exact facsimile of time gone by. When we returned from living aboard we tore down the walls of our house, stripping everything back to the bare brick and starting over, whilst at the same time I had to work in London every week. Last week a sink hole appeared in our kitchen and once I peeled back the layers of flooring, a great many things were revealed. First was the stench of old things, rotten to core. Then it was the darkness I was staring into, a deep and vacuous void that exists underneath. Then it was the stress and chaos of putting all of the broken things right.

So here I am, a Scouse version of Phil Connors, staring directly at the groundhog pleading for guidance and moral support, pleading that I did learn the lessons from last time so I don’t repeat the exact same self-centred mistakes of yesterday today…

Hiking#1: Snowdonia (Beddgelert Day 2)

Waking to the chimes of Elegia by New Order is replaced today with the chides from my inner dialogue aiming directly towards the West Country folks on the next pitch who decide to continue unabated with the excessive noise levels of the previous evening. Whilst slightly annoyed, it does at least give me the get-up-and-go to get up and go.

After donning the trusty boots that served me well the previous day, I walk towards the lake and the morning dew on the grass gets to work on removing the mud from yesterday. The lake is shrouded in fine mist and is an eerie yet beautiful sight. I perch myself on a rock next to the lake and cease all thought processes, instead tuning in to the distant roar of flowing water, gulls swooping over the lake and the nearest snores of happy campers.

The call of nature kicks off my own call of nature and I make my way over to the toilet block noticing that the sun is rising over the distant hills to create biblical campfire in the sky, the early morning mist hanging like smoke in the air.

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The condensation is heavy on the tent so we shake it off and pack it away in record speed. I love the simplicity of the Nova Two Hundred, up and down in minutes and only two kilograms to carry in the backpack, it will really come into its own when I go wild camping soon.

After the morning evacuations are over, we concur that the on-site toilet paper was akin to wiping ones ass on a velvet owl, so smooth was the experience, quite unlike the majority of other sites we have visited. With our gear safely packed away in the boot of the car and the day pack ready to roll, we drive off to our starting point for the day, Bethania, which sounds like a country within a country to me. Once the parking ticket had been stuck to the driver’s door, we dine on cereal bars and water and head across the road to the start of the Watkin Path, from which we will split off from to take the path to Yr Aran, which standing at 2452ft is Snowdonias’ forty-second highest mountain for those counting.

We have been to the summit of Snowdon three times before but I decide against that today as I want to start “bagging” the ninety-three “Furths” and “Hewitts” in Snowdonia. Luke has already taken the majority of the path we intend to take today as his DofE Gold Award took him through the ridge line which dissects Yr Aran and Allt Maenderyn.

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As we start off on the path, I hear some fellow ramblers talking in Polish nearby (using several words I recognise from my many travels to Krakow) and the party leader makes his way over to me and asks for directions to the Llanberes path which is quite some distance away on the other side of Snowdon. I tell him that I think he is in the wrong place which gets lost in translation and after he asks for directions to “the big mountain” I show him the route up to Snowdon via the Watkin Path and off the party go.

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In terms of preparation for hiking (and I’m only a novice starting off) but there is too much preparation, the right preparation, not enough preparation and no preparation at all and our Polish walkers sadly fall into the latter, dressing in velour tracksuits and pink Converse will likely mean they will struggle ahead.

We cut the trail through the wood which opens out now so that we see the first views of Snowdon and the free-flowing water cascading down the hillside, noting that there will be plenty of opportunities to re-use the new water filtration system today.

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We head off our Polish brethren at the pass and take a short cut across the grass and swampy area to leave them with their path and clean trainers and quickly reach the point at which we leave the Watkin Path and head for Yr Aran. A small path heads up slightly and we get our first glimpse of the peak in the distance, not only does it look far away but looks quite tricky too, but when proximity occurs such peaks very rarely are.

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After a while we glance across at the Watkin and find no evidence to suggest that our Eastern European comrades have taken the trickier part of the path and presume that they have headed back down to the comfort of both the ride to Llanberes and the train up the mountain, where on board their choice of clothing for the day is absolutely welcomed.

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We reach the ridge line and see that the way up Yr Aran isn’t as difficult as is looked from below.

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We cross a few dry stone walls and circle around a small tarn and as we start our final ascent of the weekend, the wind starts whipping up. Thanks to the Uni Qlo down jacket my sudden onset of cold is banished and I beckon Luke to crack on, only he is now spent. The activities of yesterday, the hard slog across the pathless hillside to this point and having no requirement to bag Yr Aran today, he insists on sheltering from the wind which I dutifully nod to. I ask him to look after the backpack and throw the cars key on the top and head onward.

I guess like most peaks in Snowdonia, there are paths that pretty much take you to the top and Yr Aran is no exception to this. It takes about twenty minutes to peak the mountain and I take some well earned Haribo, sat strewn between a handful of soon-to-be woolly jumpers enjoying mid-morning breakfast of grass and more grass.

The view from the top is pretty good, the summit of Snowdon hidden from view by the clouds which makes it all the more mysterious as I’ve not seen it from this angle before. Off in the distance I see Llyn Gwynant where we started out this morning, a long way away now.

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As is now customary, I take a small rock from the top of Yr Aran to add to my growing collection back home and make my way back to Luke and the backpack. The path down is often more taxing on the knees and legs and there is no exception here. I temporarily forget where I had left both son and bag and jog right past both of them them, thankfully I am “singing” one of the tracks from the latest Royal Blood album as I trot and Luke pops his head over the wall to holler and I stop and wait for him.

We retrace our steps back towards the Watkin and as we reach the path again we see a couple on a quad bike with three sheepdogs in tow. The lady alights and puts a whistle to her and the dogs sprint off to round up several stray sheep, with a particular plump one struggling to escape, possible and sadly ending up nestling under a heap of mint jelly later on in the day.

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We reach the end of the path and with that, all cardiac activities cease for this weekend. Rather disappointingly, I end up with a bag full of plastic bottles collected on the way down (as I tend to do when I have space) from inconsiderate and accidental tourists.

With the car looming into sight as we make it back to the road, it hit me.

“The car keys” I scream, “I left them by the wall!”

“That’s unfortunate isn’t it” Luke replies smugly, “I’ll wait in the cafe for you, can I have some money for a coffee?”.

“Oh man, I can’t believe it.”

“Believe this.” and he reaches into his pocket and pulls out the keys. The relief on my face must have been a picture, but I think it was a missed opportunity for him as if it was me, I’d have at least seen him take a few steps back up the mountain before the jangling took place.

We check back in at the Caffi Gwynant and successfully access the free wifi after several attempts of inputting the lengthy and complicated Welsh password and send our first message back home due to the total network blackout in the Beddgelert region.

I reflect on our first dedicated overnight hiking trip as we quaff some hot java and it has been a great trip for many reasons. The digital detoxification goes without saying, the test of the new equipment was a success and as for spending quality one-to-one time with Luke, priceless…