Headspace…

There is a term often used in Buddhism called “mind monkey” which attempts to describe times of unsettled, restless or uncontrollable states of conscious awareness; those periods of self-generating noises and voices inside one’s own head which are difficult to turn off.

I only came across this phrase last week which my seventy five year old yoga teacher very accurately described monkey mind as those subconscious thoughts which surface and compete for primary attention during times when we least want them to; as we drift off to sleep or in this case the fifteen minutes of meditation time at the end of the session. 

She gave the very clear and accurate advice on how to clear our “headspace” as she called it, a technique which would act as a sort of mind enema.

Last weekend, I attended a philosophy / yoga talk with her eighty five year old husband entitled “Awaken Your Healing Potential”, the pair of them are a true inspiration to others and an incredible advertisement for yoga (and he himself is recovering from a broken back using only yoga breathing techniques for pain relief rather than the prescribed morphine tablets from his doctor).

After sharing some of his decades of accrued wisdom, he instructed us to take in a full breath (a breath which represented an action in the physical realm). As we approached full lung capacity, he asked us to focus our thoughts on the “headspace” between the brows (the location of the pineal gland / third eye) and try to activate a connection with the meta-physical realm / universal prana field (also the location of the higher mind). Our instruction was to hold the breath and stay in that state for as long as we could before becoming aware of the physical realm once again by breathing out and channeling the tapped-in energy to areas of the body which required any healing attention. 

This action was to be repeated until we reached a state of pure relaxation and deep meditation, and as a bi-product the total annihilation and expulsion of the monkey mind.

I have been doing yoga on and off for the last four years yet this simple explanation and exact instruction gave me the instant ability to find a place hitherto unreachable within the space of a few minutes. I have connected with the prana field on many occasions previously through kundalini reiki but found the practice too strong for me, literally riding the lightning and wreaking havoc on my tinnitus. This approach was different, a calmer and more effective approach for inner peace and well-being.

As I am not working away at the moment, some focus has rightly turned to getting my house in order (physically and mentally) and part of that was to tackle the attic space. I had grand designs last year to build a “meditation loft” but decided in my infinite wisdom to erect a outside bar and seating area.

So I sat down and discussed my plans with the wife and she stated that the attic was currently a metaphorical and physical representation of my “headspace” in that it too  was loaded with junk making things that much more difficult to gain access to when required (trying not to take it too personally of course).

Whilst agreeing with her completely, there was one word that stood out immediately; headspace. Not only had my yoga teacher and husband mentioned this on separate occasions recently, not only had I downloaded the Headspace mindfulness / meditation app recently, but here was my wife giving me yet another subliminal message to go create that yoga suite upstairs and once I had finished it, to use the space to connect with my inner self and beyond and cleanse the system.

If minimalism has taught me one thing over the past few weeks it’s be ruthless. Pulling down the ladder and peering over the ledge revealed the truly mammoth task that lied ahead. Bin bags, boxes, books, board games and everything else beginning with the letter B (plus every other letter in the alphabet) was looking at me head on as if to say “I dare you to take me to the tip”.

Mindful that if I threw any of the wife’s stuff away without having her explicit permission beforehand would end up with me sleeping on the dogs blanket for a few nights, I was nevertheless very successful in my first cleansing exercise, and with the resulting twelve bags full of crap safely ensconced in the local recycling centre, I can once again see the exposed floor beams and fiberglass insulation goading me to cover them immediately with floor panels, laminate, Persian rugs and zabutons…

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A Rough Guide to Happiness…

Ask people what do they really want out of life and the response from the majority will be that first and foremost they want to be happy.

Beyond that initial claim and things start to become more diverse, a lot more subjective. How we all achieve and measure our own happiness is quite rightly a personal thing and there is neither a magic formula nor a percentage barometer to measure whether one is in a nirvana state of mind.

happy

I sat down in front of the Apple TV after work on Friday and once again found an interesting documentary on Netflix called Happy, which had some real thought provoking moments and dovetailed in nicely to my new minimalist approach to life.

According to research, a study has found that around fifty percent of our happiness levels are from our genetic code, so for each and every half of us, our parents dictated at a biological level whether they passed on happy or unhappy genes to us (though I’m sure they were not thinking of that at the time, just their own, immediate and intimate “happy ending”).

Some people often speak of others in not so pleasant terms that folks who are grumpy or negative or psychotic are not “wired up” in the same way as others, so on reflection (although those words should not be used) there is some truth in that.

Imagine if you will that our happiness is a workman’s vertical spirit level, when the bubble is on the line, everything is normal and in balance. There are several mood related neurotransmitters generated by the brain which have a positive or negative effect on our “spirit” level. Serotonin is one (who can ever mistake that chocolate rush for something else) but the main one is Dopamine.

serotonin-and-dopamine

When Dopamine is generated in higher doses, the body reacts in a positive way and our pleasure centre creates a sense of happiness. Conversely, if not enough Dopamine is created, then the pleasure centre shuts up shop for the day so negative and depressive states of mind occur, and in extreme Dopamine lows, suicidal thoughts (when mixed with other factors).

Dopamine is created in naturally occurring higher doses when we experience positive variety or new things, be it from meeting new people, new exercise regimes or by travelling. We can also unnaturally temporarily increase those levels via other means (like drugs and alcohol) but what transpires after the hit is a real low when coming down, the spirit bubble falls way below the equilibrium point, and feelings of unhappiness return until either the body re-adjusts itself or the vicious cycle starts again, ad nausea.

Of the remaining fifty percent of happiness level, ten percent is attributed to our present circumstances (what we earn, where we live, our social status, our current health condition) and forty percent is attributed to intentional activities (actions we choose to do).

So it’s easy to see that with the right balance of a good genetic code, amiable social circumstances and varied / new experiences that folks would be naturally happy. It is also easy to see why those whose family have been troubled with a poor biological code who live under difficult circumstances and only run around the same track every day become depressed and seek out ways to alleviate their experience by turning to synthetics and chemicals.

No one person is excluded from the calculation above. In the current Western society, many folks presume that the happiest people must be the ones with the most money, the nicest houses and the best jobs. Not so.

Jim Carrey once said “I think everyone should get rich and famous and do everything they ever dreamed of so they can see that it’s not the answer”.

People are largely extrinsic or intrinsic when it comes to goals and life objectives. Those who have extrinsic goals focus in on money, self-image and social status, whereas those with intrinsic goals focus on personal growth, good relationships and a desire to do things for others.

There is no doubt that money and the availability of resources has an important part to play in everyday life, but beyond a certain point having more money and more things beyond the basics adds no value in terms of happiness.

Japan is a country I have never visited before (and I kicked myself for not going over there when I lived in Malaysia) but there is no doubt that it is by far one of the most diverse places in the world; it is both the happiest and saddest place on planet earth.

Take Tokyo, a highly extrinsic city which focuses mainly on money, image and status and breeds a culture of working until you drop and is quite literally working some of its people to death, so beyond the bright city lights a very sad and depressive place to live for some (not all) of its populace.

elderly_japanese_couple

In stark contrast take Okinawa, a highly intrinsic island which focuses almost solely on a sense of community and an ethos of human and spiritual connectivity with a wanting to do things as a collective and to do so for others and with it so much happiness. They live long and happy lives and it is the place on earth which houses the most centenarians.

It’s clear that when individuals are fuelled by ego and extrinsic values that unhappiness follows.

It’s also clear that everybody has to deal with adversity from time to time but in football terms, the happier and intrinsic people have improved levels of “bouncebackability” and return back to the centre line on the spirit level a lot quicker.

Society’s primary aim should be to produce a long and happy life for all of its citizens (not just the privileged few), but sadly in today’s climate it instead peddles such extrinsic values on the masses as this generates more income for the coffers and the rich get richer (though ironically and ultimately no happier).

So we can we do to become happier? I’ve revisited some of my old books and come up with a neo-Buddhist approach for happiness, a rework / take on the Eight Fold Path:

1. Right Diet: The right balance of all the things you are meant to eat, in the right quantity to the right amount of calories for you, everything in moderation.

2. Right Exercise: The right amount of aerobic exercise, the right stresses and strains (nothing too excessive or unnatural).

3. Right Community: The right selection of family and friends, surround yourself with the right amount of people on the basis it’s quality not quantity.

4. Right Things: The right amount of things to own, make sure that each item has a purpose and a value to you.

5. Right Hobbies: The right activities which keep those Dopamine levels up, seek out new and meaningful experiences.

6: Right Attitude: The right way to be and the right way to act around and towards others, commit to acts of random kindness on a regular basis.

7. Right Goals: The right things to achieve and the right way to achieve them.

8. Right Priorities: The right order in which to do things and not to forget which things are always important and take precedent.

And above all, don’t worry, be happy!

Minimalism and how to value things…

After what seems like decades of being submersed and trapped inside the capitalist / commercialist paradigm, I came up for air this weekend and it smelled good.

I was flicking through Netflix on Friday and as usual found little substance in the movie section, so I headed on over to the documentary section and found a programme which caught my attention called “Everything That Remains” fronted by a pair of Amercican hipsters who go by the name of The Minimalists.

Although a little self-centred at times, a lot of what they said (not neccessarily in the manner in which they said it) made total sense. Less is most definitely more. However, minimalism it seems, is not without a sense of irony as our hipsters friends try to sell us their library of written materials in an effort to “unminimalise” our bookshelves. 

I read “Faithlessly Religionless” by Timber Hawkeye on the long haul to Cape Town recently and whilst I was somewhat disappointed by the way in which the book was written (again rather self-centred for a modern Buddhist and the overuse of exclamation marks also grated after a while), one thing I did take away was his sound approach towards simple living or minimalism.

Here we had a man who worked in corporate America, a man trapped inside a machine who wanted to get out, a man surrounded by things he did not need. Whilst his next steps were admirable in leaving his life and possessions behind on the mainland, heading out to a gregarious lifestyle of sorts in Hawaii, as a single man with no committments it was a relatively easy thing to do, not much hope of a man with a wife and three children in following those footsteps quite as easily (not that I would want to either, well not just yet).

My main take away however was simplicity. He left behind his gizmos, gadgets and wardrobes full of clothes and reduced the amount of things he owned and travelled with to a more manageable and mobile level.

I have over the past seven months lived out of a suitcase (and a very large suitcase at that), travelling to several exciting and exotic locations for both business and pleasure. It was after getting back on the bathroom scales which displayed a particularly woeful number that I realised that entropy was back with a vengeance. There was no structure in my diet, there was no structure in the things I owned, there was no structure in my wardrobe. Chaos was once again reigning supreme but at least I had been able to stand back this time and acknowledge that disorder had made an unsavory reappearance.

I was both willing and able to change, starting off with the diet. My eldest offspring treats his body like a machine, his motto is “calories in vs calories out, try not to think about how good the food tastes, know that you can pretty much eat what you want as long as you have a set calorie limit”. Whilst no doubt that is flawless logic, knowing in advance what and when to eat requires thought process and planning so I began to adopt a minimalistic approach to breakfast and lunch. Every morning I eat low fat yoghurt with granola, every lunch time I eat a bowl of bran plus a banana, and my evening meal can have the variety the mind seeks to satisfy the wants of the needy limbic system.

My minimalistic meal approach very quickly reaped rewards and the seven kilograms I had gained during the previous seven months of travelling were literally flushed down the pan (very literally in Cape Town after suffering a particularly nasty bout of seasonal gastritis). 

It does become easy after a while, removing the noise from within for craving something different to eat helps to free up time for other activities, there is no pondering at the fridge as the majority of the food is predetermined, there is no anxiety over cravings after a while as the mindset towards food changes. What we give away in terms of palatte pleasure we take back in calorie reduction and more importantly time saved.

Still, there was more to do, a lot more. I opened both of my wardrobes and saw yet more disorder, not only were the clothes spewing from all angles, half of the clothes I did have I never wore. So again taking the minimalist approach, I took a scythe to the lot. I decided that five was a good number (it seemed to work well for the Jacksons and Enid Blyton) and that everything I owned should be reduced to five. Two large refuse sacks later, the law of five reigned supreme; five casual shirts, five formal shirts, five ties, five white t-shirts, five black t-shirts, five jumpers, five jackets, five jeans, five shorts, five (times two) socks, five (times two) pants and five shoes. I followed this up with five gizmos (Kindle, iPhone, SmartWatch, Wireless Headphones and Wired Headphones) and five (times three) books, so I now only possess ninety things. Ninety things sounds like a lot but from where I started from it is a big improvement. Not only has the local charity shop benefitted from the cathartic clothes purge, but I now get back the decison time back to do other things; when in work choose one of the five shirts, when not in work choose a black or white t-shirt with jeans.

Once again the noise of choice has gone, and with it comes real value. I am already starting to really cherish the few items I have in my possession. Going forward, I no longer need to buy anything new, anything which will break that rule of five simply will not be purchased, except to simply cycle out the items I have with replicas when the old ones become dysfunctional.

There is a lot to be said for minimalist living, it gives back time, it gives back money and gives a sense of real value in those things we do possess…

The digital self…

Many see the human brain as an organic equivalent of a computer’s hard drive. When a computer boots up for the very first time its memory is empty and as time goes by more and more programs are installed, increasing the functionality of the system and eventually over time giving an understanding to the self of how the whole thing works.

computer-brain

If we are lucky, our computer lasts for its intended (albeit finite) lifespan, with only a few minor problems which have no major impact on how it operates, how it runs.

In those early days, some people will come along and install good programs, programs which enrich the computing experience which in time teaches us how best to fine tune the system so that we can harmonise all working parts, guiding us to make the right decisions on which programs are best.

However, some people come along and install bad programs, sometimes for their own pleasure or selfish misguided ends, resulting in our computer not working as it should, crashing constantly and in certain cases to the point where the only solution appears to be to power off one last time never to be booted up again.

malware

There is a solution before such terminal measures are taken. As long as we are aware that our computer has a problem and that we are willing to fix it, then there is hope. There are those that have the knowledge of how to find the bad programs (the malware and viruses) and these people can show us the way to erase or partition those bad sectors to a place which does not affect the main running of the system.

Once we possess the knowledge of what is good and what is bad for the computer, we then have ultimate control of what gets loaded and what does not, having the experience and understanding to know what happens when bad programs are installed and how well the system functions when not.

When we are imbued with this knowledge, we can then educate others on what is good and what is not good; wisdom we did not have in those early days and when we do that, we have the ability to break the previous chain(s) of bad programming, forever.

Talking to professionals, talking to those who have reformatted their hard drives, talking to those who have experienced the good programs and the bad can help all of us who seek the path to optimisation…

The Consciousness Within…

God can be (and has been and will continue to be) defined as a great many things, including:

  • The Creator of the Universe and the Source of all moral authority.
  • A perfect and all-powerful spirit or being that is worshipped.
  • The One who has power over nature and human fortunes.

I’ve never proactively gone to church, but I have over the last two weekends, not only as an opportunity to see parts of a location not usually frequented but also as a way to remove myself from a heavy workload, tourist schedule and external factors, even if just for one hour.

St Georges Cathedral in Cape Town is steeped in history and is renowned for the political stance it took during apartheid and is recognised as a strong symbol for democracy in South Africa. It’s significance lies not just with the building itself but also by the actions of different clergymen, including Desmond Tutu, the first black archbishop of South Africa who led numerous marches and campaigns for the formal end of apartheid from the front steps. It was a common meeting point for all activists of all races as well as woman’s rights groups who were part of the resistance to apartheid laws and the struggle for social justice, equality and human rights.

cape-town-cathedral

As I sat there listening to the gospels and hymns, one thing struck me. When I started to strip back things within this place, a certainty revealed itself to me at least, hidden for those who choose not to, or know not how to, peel back the layers.

Take away the church building itself. Take away the religious symbols and iconography. Take away the ceremony. Take away the physicality of the congregation. What is left is connection; oneness of being in the same place, a spiritual and aggregated consciousness tuning in to the same frequency.

Whilst in quiet contemplation or prayer during certain times of the service, external reality closes off its influence on the mind and allows one to go beyond the physical to get closer to the core, to inner essence (call it Heaven, call it Nirvana or call it Consciousness – for me it is the same thing).

On the topic of the resurrection, we were reminded by the Bishop that we ourselves should not fear death as life is eternal, and when we leave our mortal bonds we become one with God and join him in Heaven. It was at this point that I was also reminded of a lyric in a song I hold dear, “Presence” by Anathema:

“One has to come to term us with one’s own mortality, and you can’t really help people who are having problems with mortality if you’ve got problems of your own. So you have to begin to sort things out and I thought I had sorted things out until I saw this excerpt from this book, of certainty I shall remember what it said:

“Life is not the opposite of death. Death is the opposite of birth. Life is eternal.”

And I thought that it’s the most profound words I have ever heard and it really put me at peace. And that’s it, what else is there to say? Life is eternal. Surely the opposite of life is not the death, but life is eternal. There is no opposite. It is a state of pure consciousness, stillness and silence. What we are looking for now, we are searching for and we have been searching for is already there; there for ever to seek. It is there and it’s going be there, all the time, forevermore”…

Leaving church left me with a great many things to contemplate. Without the offertory, the amount of churches would diminish and with that those who rely on buildings and ceremony as symbols for hope and peace would be lost. Churches, synagogues, temples and mosques are bricks and mortar, but true spirituality lies within its patrons and not itself, yet if by going to them reminds one to be more spiritual and less materialistic, then one should go.

So it was no shock to me that soon after my return from the cathedral, that flicking through the channels on the afternoon TV I found one of my favourite films Groundhog Day, an ontological orgasm of a film, whereby Bill Murray plays out the Buddhist eternal return (resurrections included) until he gains enough knowledge and wisdom to move on.

After the film had finished, I phoned home and asked the wife how things were going three weeks in to my six week stint in South Africa, the first words from her mouth were “It’s like Groundhog Day”.

capture

As if that was not odd enough, I was in work this morning when my colleague and friend shared with me the last two chocolates from the UK, namely two boxes of Mini-Smarties. He turned to me and said “What’s the answer to life, ‘maybe Smarties has the answer’ eh?” the jingle/phrase that accompanied the product on a UK TV advertisement. I turned to him and said “Well you know the answer to the ultimate question is 42 (according to Douglas Adams and his Hitchhikers Guide to the Galaxy) and if there are 42 Smarties inside that box then that is proof that there is something else beyond physical death and life is eternal”.

So there he sat, next to me counting out the Smarties in the small cardboard box into piles of ten. The look of shock on his face and mine when, after four piles were laid out on the desk, he showed me the open box to reveal two left inside.

An extraordinary synchronicity, could that have really been just a coincidence or was it a message from the other side?

Life is experience not knowledge…

What better way to share knowledge than through the written word. Since we picked up the first quill, we have over the ages scribed masterpieces from ancient texts, through Shakespeare and the Classics and on to modern theories of Life, the Universe and Everything via the internet.

Whilst it is just to read to expand the mind and become more knowledgeable, just reading is simply a data transfer between paper/screen and the hippocampus. Life is not simply about reading, understanding and sharing the words of others, life is about taking in knowledge to better experience. Quoting Freud or Nietzsche whilst in dialogue with friends and colleagues only shows that you have retained the knowledge once shared by great thinkers and writers, living and experiencing theories is however something very different.

I have not read a great many books cover-to-cover in my life, I have a tendency to read about fifty to sixty pages of a book, ponder over its content and existential relevance and put it down again perhaps for months, even years, taking in such nuggets and using that knowledge to enhance my experience on Planet Earth.

I was fortunate enough today (for now as this is my last project with my current employer) to be sat in a Business Class seat on-route to Cape Town where I will spend the next six weeks working (and being a culture vulture at weekends). I’m not the greatest of flyers so struggle a little on long haul flights so try to find things to do to keep me occupied for eleven hours fifteen in this case, as sleep as rarely an option. Armed with three books (A New Earth by Eckhart Tolle, Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance by Robert Persig and The Doors of Perception by Aldous Huxley), a fully loaded iTunes/Spotify and the in-flight entertainment system, I felt that I had enough to keep the turbulence palm sweats at bay.

Apropos the in-flight entertainment system, I guess like most others I headed straight on to the documentary section and quickly settled on my selections for the flight. The documentary picks where quite easy; Cosmos narrated Neil De Grasse Tyson, Through the Wormhole narrated by Morgan Freeman (materialism vs mysticism checklist complete) and Robin Williams Remembered (a look-back at the life and works of one the modern-day greats).

Robin-Williams-Death.jpg

I recall the days after he had died as not one of my finest moments. News had reached the UK that he had taken his own life which was a tragic event but what I could not understand at the time was why people where literally crying in the streets, and everybody seemed to share their own grief on social media. My point (wrong as it transpired) was that just because someone a famous person takes their own life, doesn’t make it any more or less tragic than someone who is not, a life is a life. There is some truth in that I guess but this stance got me into some sticky conversations until I rightly rescinded my comments once the views of others had been taken in.

The in-flight fifty-five minute documentary showed a true genius at work, from small beginnings to an Oscar winning performance, from a loner to a global megastar and back again, leaving gaping voids in the people that knew and worked with him.

After I had watch the three documentaries, I cycled through the three-hundred plus films on offer, hopefully taking the opportunity to watch an ontological/existential flick as I rarely get chance at home. Sadly there was nothing there.

Coincidentally though, Good Will Hunting starring Mr Williams was there. It’s a film I watched a long time ago and I recalled it was quite good so on it went. Having read a little Freud recently, I remembered that Williams played a shrink so quite a relevant film (a visual experience to go with the transfer of knowledge). Needless to say and in my opinion (at last!) the film is an absolute classic, with Williams a genius and humbling watch. His performance rightly won him the Oscar, arguably one of the best pieces of acting I’ve ever seen on film.

gwh

There is a scene in the film where doctor (Robin Williams) and patient (Matt Damon) are sitting on a park bench. Here on display, in Technicolor at 37,000ft is a monologue to end all monologues, which describes in majestic detail that life is about practice and not about theory. I just have to share this verbatim as no analysis or opinion is required (SPOILER ALERT!):

“I thought about what you said to me the other day, about my painting. I stayed up half the night thinking about it. Something occurred to me. I fell into a deep peaceful sleep and I haven’t thought about you since. You know what occurred to me, you’re just a kid and you don’t have the faintest idea what you’re talking about. You’ve never been out of Boston.

If I asked you about art, you’d probably give me the skinny about every art book ever written. Michelangelo, you know a lot about him; life’s work, political aspirations, him and the Pope, sexual orientation the whole works, but I bet you can’t tell me what it smells like in the Sistine Chapel? You’ve never actually stood there and looked up at the beautiful ceiling, I’ve seen that.

If I ask you about women, you could give me a salver of all your personal favourites, you may have even been laid a few times, but you can’t tell me what it feels like to wake up next to a woman and feel truly happy.

If I ask you about war, you will probably throw Shakespeare at me right: “Once more into the breach dear friends”, but you’ve never been near one. You’ve never had your best friends head in your lap and watch him gasp his last breath looking at you for help,

If I ask you about love, you’d quote me a sonnet, but you’ve never looked at a woman and felt totally vulnerable knowing someone who could level you with her eyes, feeling like God put an Angel on earth just for you, who could rescue you from the depths of hell and you wouldn’t know what it’s like to be her Angel to have that love for her that will be there forever through anything, through cancer. And you wouldn’t know about sleeping up in a hospital room for two months holding her hand because the doctors could see that in your eyes the term “visiting hours” don’t apply to you.

You don’t know about real loss, because that only occurs when you love something more than you love yourself. I doubt you’ve ever dared to love anybody that much.

I look at you I don’t see an intelligent confident man, I see a cocky, scared shitless kid, but you’re a genius Will no one denies that. No one could possibly understand the depths of you but you presumed to know everything about me because you saw a painting of mine and ripped my fucking life apart. You’re an orphan right. Do you think I’d know the first thing about how hard you’re life has been, how you feel, who you are because I read Oliver Twist? Does that encapsulate you?

Personally I don’t give a shit about all that because you know what, because I can’t learn anything from you that I can’t read from some fucking book, unless you want to talk about you, and who are you – then I’m fascinated. I’m in. But you don’t want do that do you sport. You’re terrified on what you might say”.

Calmly and expertly delivered, Williams is sharing a part of himself with the viewer, both fragile and moving.

In the final scene, Damon opens up and sobs after Williams (who himself reveals his historic abuse story) repeats time and time again “It’s not your fault; it’s not your fault”. I guess I was kind of glad all of the blinds were down on the airplanes windows and most of the folks were asleep as the tears were rolling down my face like the Victoria Falls I was flying over at the time.

We would do well to remember what William’s said on that bench, life is about experience and not knowledge. If we have had bad experiences thrust upon us, then we can and must try to lose that historical knowledge and live life in the present moment…

To err is to human…

One is never too far away from chaos, from disorder, from entropy. Conjure up if you will an image of a person who appears to be in perfect harmony with the Universe, a person who has a decent understanding of the human condition and who operates a nicely balanced mind, body and soul.

Take that very same person and inject them into a situation where that balance is completely and utterly destroyed by substances they imbibe to the point where everything that they truly believe and everything they actually possess teeters to the point of non-existence.

Whilst it is commonplace (not obligatory) to take alcohol in social situations, excess is a very dark and dangerous path to Freud’s Ego and Id, a solitary and lonely path to disorder.

the-path

Advanced states of inebriation dissolve the Super-Ego like the inevitable next day Berocca; something solid which melts away to reveal churning and cloudiness. Introducing alcohol in large quantities into the system temporarily removes conscience and pride, the staple diet of the Super Ego and without it, all that is left is the bloated Ego and the selfish Id, and with that all reason is lost.

And so it was on Saturday, where I took it upon myself to smash myself out of the park for no real apparent reason, or perhaps one that my external self chooses not to reveal under normal circumstances.

I have of late likened my time living in the corporate world to that of a marionette; an executive order controlling my every move telling me what to do and when to do it, much to the annoyance and disappointment of my inner self. There are times (and that is becoming increasingly regular) that I loathe capitalism, commercialism and coin-based economics, such things never truly bring real happiness. Sometimes it’s seems an easy option to turn to drink to banish those thoughts even if only temporarily, yet invariably things turn out very ugly indeed.

puppet

I do have a grand plan, a plan one day to leave behind all of the pandering to bosses and reliance on money, but for now (with having three children) my Super Ego keeps things in check and perspective (and rightly so) and puts that plan ten years hence, which ordinarily I’m ok with.

However, when the balance is knocked severely off kilter with such force and aggression (mental not physical), egotistic and selfish needs and desires come out to the front of class and exhibit a rather loathsome and disrespectful show and tell, leaving strangers bewildered and confused and loved ones bemused and upset.

The cold light of the next day brings back the conscience ten-fold (leaving pride to scuttle off under the bed), as if its absence the night before needs to take centre stage for every waking moment for days to come, deliberating, cogitating and judging the self’s embarrassing stage show the night before.

We are never too far away from chaos and should do everything to avoid entropy at all costs; we must be reminded that a life of moderation and not excess brings balance.

“To enjoy good health, to bring true happiness to one’s family, to bring peace to all, one must first discipline and control one’s own mind. If a man can control his mind he can find the way to Enlightenment, and all wisdom and virtue will naturally come to him” – Buddha

A State of the Universe address…

Even a casual glance at the media whether in prints or visuals 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. The following events have directly impacted my well-being and at times left me despairing for humanity and the direction it’s heading towards.

Brexit: The Rise of the Right

Arguably, the British Referendum whether or not to stay in the European Union was the most important X I’ve ever had to place. I like many others found it extremely difficult to understand what a vote either way would do for the UK fiscally, politically or morally. Both sides made claims that the UK (and the inhabitants therein) would be financially better off (richer individuals / communities and better run institutions). Both sides made claims that the UK (and the inhabitants therein) would be politically better off (being in a system which benefited the UK). Both sides made claims that the UK (and the inhabitants therein) would be morally better off (being in a system which gave the inhabitants a true sense of community).

With so much fact and counter fact, the vast majority of the country had no alternative but to best guess and hope that whatever decision was made by the collective in the end, the UK came out better for it. Sadly from my point of view it didn’t, far from it. What transpired was a total shock to the system, the exit campaign had won. I was absolutely gutted. I am a firm believer of oneness and a world without borders, where cultures and minds are advanced when we live, breathe, eat and love with folks from different cultures, backgrounds and religions. Our aim should be for global oneness, not ancient divisions of land with invisible lines dictating when one can or can’t go.

Brexit Heatmap

I poured over the voting heat-map the next day to try and see where the battle was won and lost. I was glad to see the good folks of Merseyside sided with my way of thinking, and looking beyond that a pattern was emerging. Where there was wealth (The City) there was orange. Where there were seats of learning (all major University towns) there was orange. Where there was a yearning to be part of a bigger community (Northern Ireland and Scotland) there was orange. Everywhere else on the map was blue, deep blue is some areas. Why?

It came out that the vote was swayed by two things. Firstly, most aged folks (those over the age of 60) voted for nostalgia and what the UK was like in the good old days and not how a vote for leaving the EU would impact future generations. Secondly, the referendum saw one of the highest turnouts of young voters from council estates who in the main voted to leave too.

It was disappointing but slightly predictable that the older generation voted to leave, but what came to light was that there are a lot of disenfranchised, poorly educated young people in the UK from less affluent areas who were sucked in to the tripe the Brexit campaigners were peddling. It literally gave some the excuse they needed to release their pressurised and pent-up bigot valve and let rip. Racist incidents went up nationally by 42% overnight. I heard some absolute horror stories from all over the UK (Birkenhead, Wirrral included) where people took it upon themselves to tell other of perhaps a different skin tone or geographic heritage just exactly what they thought of them and where they should all go (some turning verbal threats into physical attacks).

Skinhead

People said that a vote for Brexit did not mean that 52% of the population were racists, which is a fair comment, but it did show one thing; there are pockets of ignorance in this country, ignorance which has been allowed to fester and enter into periods of “managed decline” by moderate/right wing governments decade after decade (Tory and New Labour). Education is the only way forward, and moving towards a state of self-governing academies which are not regulated like schools is only going to make matters much worse.

The only true way forward is to educate humanity, to embrace humanity, all of humanity (not just those who are white and have the same accents), share what resources we have and divorce ourselves from wanting and greed, only then will we advance as a community, a nation, a world.

The Conservative Party: Cameron, May and PMQs

The obvious fallout from a Prime Minister who led us into the referendum in the first place (which I think on reflection was a catastrophic failure on his and the Tory Party to leave such an important decision to the demograph as outlined above) was for him to tender his resignation with immediate effect, which he duly did (and pretty damned fast too). The nation had spoken and even though he had 4 years left of his manifesto to deliver, he decided it was in the best interests of the country to hand over the reins to someone else. As PM, I’m not sure it was wise to drive the Remain bus; if the worst case scenario came true (which it did) he would go down in history for one thing, he was the Prime Minister who took the UK out of the EU and reintroduced bigotry and divisions on the streets on the land he allegedly loved so much.

I don’t think he has done anything particularly outstanding during his tenure, but this one sticks out like a sore thumb.

David Cameron

The election campaign for the Leader of the Conservative Party saw several candidates, but shockingly not the main protagonist of the Leave campaign Boris Johnson. His “I’m not standing because of X” was jaw-droppingly repugnant and typical of a man who spent months peddling inflammatory and incendiary remarks, saying on many occasions in the past that he “just doesn’t like foreigners”.

After several spats, votes and withdrawals, Theresa May was elected Leader of the Conservative Party and with it the title of Prime Minister (unelected of course). Here we have a woman who wishes to introduce snooping laws to control the miscreant inhabitants of these green and pleasant lands even more and who wished to withdraw from the Bill of European Human Rights. During her first speech, she stated that under her reign she would look to see a United Kingdom which worked for all of the people not just the privileged; hypocrisy from day one.

Theresa May

And so today she had her first Prime Ministers Questions and what did we get, nothing but sound-bites, snide remarks and jokes; how not to run a country. Her performance was an absolute disgrace, folks in this country are sick to the back teeth of these politicians who constantly direct negativity to those who genuinely want things to change for the good of everyone, so to divert the attention away from the fact that they themselves are delivering nothing of value.

The Labour Party: Corbyn and the Moderate Coup

I joined the Labour Party because of Jeremy Corbyn. I joined the Labour Party because I truly believe that his way of thinking and modus operandi aligns to the way things should be. Ideologically, he is a true socialist and believes in parity across the board, and his ethics are sounds, in my opinion without reproach.

What has happened since he took over as the Leader of the Labour Party has also been an absolute disgrace. Here we have a man with a fairly significant mandate from the membership who is constantly criticised in the media, constantly undermined by his own MP’s (who are supposed to represent the very members who voted for him in the first place) and is constantly having to defend himself and his dysfunctional party against the government attacks.

The Labour Party Announce Their New Leader And Deputy Leader
Most folks would have quit a long time ago, but not Corbyn. People say he is weak, but just look at what he is up against. It takes a certain person to put up with all the shit he puts up with but he carries on regardless because he truly be lives that there is one direction to go in, and that’s forward and a forward together as one and peacefully so.

Post Brexit, I wrote down on a piece of paper exactly what would happen in The Labour Party over the pursuing weeks / months and “everything is proceeding as I had foreseen it” to quote Mr Palpatine.

  • I predicted that there would be a vote of no confidence in Jeremy Corbyn – Check.
  • I predicted that one or more moderate would raise their head(s) above the parapet and force a leadership challenge – Check.
  • I predicted that there would be in all likelihood and bun-fight within the moderate camp and then only one challenger would be put forward so not to split the vote and repeat the previous leadership election campaign – Check.
  • I predicted that final candidate would not be a Blair baby (eagleout) on the grounds that a vote in someone so war-hungry in light of the Chilcott Report could spell danger in a general election down the line – Check.
  • I predict that Jeremy Corbyn will win the next Labour Leadership election and the Moderates will once again launch yet another bid to take hold of the Labour Party next year and the year after that until the moderates finally get their way and declare it a victory for party democracy.
  • I predict that the goals of the “Moderate Coup” will eventually be satisfied and they will all rejoice in putting the non-socialist Labour Party back on the map, at which point the party splits in two, with the left looking to take the unions with them to create a Socialist Labour Party (suggestions for new name on a postcard).

If Jeremy is true to his word and his beliefs and there is enough membership support to follow him (I would), then he should make a break from it and let the weakened Labour Party fight amongst themselves and let them realise that they had a chance to deliver the socialist agenda through Jeremy but chose not to.

The Turkish Military Coup

I have been working in Turkey over the last 3 months, Istanbul to be precise. I had been to Istanbul once before and fell in love with the place. Such history, such a cultural melting pot with incredibly warming and hospitable people, it is truly one of the world’s most incredible cities.

The last time I was there I met some really special people, very spiritual folks without being religious who were the ultimate hosts, probably the friendliest people I’ve ever met. Back in 2013 things were a little different; there were no areas out of bounds and travelling across the ancient town walking down aeons old thoroughfares was literally a journey through time. We visited the Blue Mosque, Hagia Sofia and the Grand Bazaar a market place not changed for a thousand years. We also spent some time with our new friends in the rock bars and clubs, enjoying some of the local beers with a back drop of Turkish heavy metal.

CMX6XR  The Sultans Topkapi Palace at sunset, Istanbul, Turkey..
Things have moved on a lot over the past few years and Turkey is sadly quite an unstable place today. The Kurdistan Workers Party (PKK) has waged an armed struggle against the Turkish state for cultural and political rights and self-determination for the Kurds in Turkey, who comprise between 18% and 25% of the population and have been subjected to repression for decades, and then there is ISIS.

Before I left for Turkey in May, a company travel advisory was issued stating that only essential business travel was allowed and that should folks be travelling to Istanbul, then they should avoid crowded areas, especially tourist hotspots. We of course took this advice very seriously indeed and within three days of arriving, the PKK had indeed claimed responsibility for the loss of eleven lives in Istanbul.

Thankfully, no one in the office was affected and there were no further incidents during the remainder of our first trip. The yin and yang of life was however very present during those three weeks. Whilst it is incredibly sad that Istanbul is going through some turbulent times, the spirit of its people remains resolute and resilient.

The first weekend saw Dragon Boat Racing, our team finishing second by milliseconds, once again the Turkish spirit was flowing and a great time was had by all, and the team had also took time out to get me a birthday cake in between the heats to serenade me with a Turkish rendition of happy birthday.

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The second weekend saw a few of us travel out to the Princes Islands in the Marmaris Sea, where we took another step back in time to a place with no automobiles – only bicycles and horse drawn carts, swimming in the sea and trying all of the local delicacies. After getting back to the office, we took time out to make a parody video of one of the company’s official TV advertisements, so much laughter and fun was had by all.

After getting back to the UK, a few days later I heard on the news that Ataturk Airport had been hit by the so-called Islamic State, killing forty one and injuring over two hundred. There by the grace of God go I.

It was at that point that I coined the phrase “The Window of Fate”. I seriously began to question why it was that I was not in the airport during the bombings and came to the conclusion that it was not my time. I no longer buy into randomness; I firmly believe that things do (or do not) happen for a reason and events like these when avoided (call it fate, pre-determination or a message from our higher selves) gives the inner self more evidence to suggest that we do exist for a reason, to experience this thing we call life and upload such learnings to the hidden collective consciousness. Only those that are truly awake can understand this, those that cannot see this are spiritually immature (perhaps through no fault of their own) and in time (either this time or the next) they will learn that there is something out there.

I was then faced with the decision to go back to Istanbul to finish of the job we had started and I agreed to travel back accepting the risks. Travelling back to Istanbul the weekend after Eid was probably not the wisest thing to do and on arriving there was chaos with around three thousand passengers trying to get through passport control, but re-enter to Turkey I did and back to the hotel I went.

The first few days were by and large uneventful and we went live with the new system on the Wednesday, a real success considering where we were two years ago at the start of the process. We were all taken down to the Bospheros by the management team for a celebration meal on the Thursday night, enjoying the best seafood and raki Turkish Lira could buy, oblivious to what was to occur just twenty four hours later.

After another particularly thankful uneventful day in the office, we ate locally and went back to the hotel where our new BFF “H”, runner up in Barperson of the Year 2015, prepared us all a special Long Island Ice (Turkish) Tea and off we headed up to the Executive Lounge on the thirty second floor, where our friend regaled us in the history and ancient of this most famous of cities. After a while he disappeared and we carried on taking in the vista of the town until our glasses were dry, at which point we descended back to the lobby for a refill, only to find chaos.

All of the big screen TV’s in the lobby / bar area where on CNN and it looked quite serious, wherever it was going on. As our Turkish was still rudimentary, I asked someone to put on BBC World Service and was shocked to see that we were in the heart of a coup and that the action on TV was outside our hotel in Istanbul; the military had closed the two main bridges in Istanbul and had taken the airport. We sat in silence watching events unfold in front of us, watching the people take to the streets and march past our hotel in their thousands towards the main square all carrying the Turkish flag, all to the backdrop of distant gun fire.

Military Coup

After a few hours feeling relatively safe in the hotel, I went to bed and sat and stared out of my twenty eighth floor window for a few hours with only the BBC for company (not my preferred choice of media outlet but still). I decided to try and get some sleep around 3:30am and was almost successful until the F16 Strike Eagles started roaring past my bedroom window making any attempt to sleep futile. After another hour or so fatigue got the better of me and I drifted off, awoken only by the sunlight through a slither of open curtain a few hours later.

I received several phone calls from the company who advised us to stay on lock down in the hotel which we of course complied with, but what was becoming apparent was that everything was very quickly returning to normal and by Sunday morning, it was and we were allowed to venture out for a breakfast and a beer-filled afternoon trying to get our heads around what had just happened. We came to the inevitable conclusion (based on the series of events that led up and followed over the course of the next few days) that the coup was staged, rigged by a despot who will do anything he can to control the state of Turkey and all of its inhabitants, to oppress and remove those who stand in his way of total and utter domination, eradicating the previous works of Mustafa Kemal Ataturk; a revered individual from Turkey’s quite recent past and rightfully so.

Ataturk

versus…

Erdogan

The next few days were once again uneventful and so it came to the time to leave. We were all given a glass Hand of Fatima, an amulet to ward off evil spirits (which we all took gladly given what we had just witnessed), but more importantly I had the memories and bonds of lasting friendship which I had acquired over the previous few months.

The Future: What happens next

Like I said at the start of this massive missive, there is an energy shift to a dark place happening right now; even over the last few days there have been endless breaking news articles about individuals raging individual wars against innocents, organisations and governments, taking lives to increase the spectre of fear all over the world for their own alleged just cause. Right now, nowhere where safe because nowhere is.

What can we all do to stop this, very little it seems, but it all starts with the individual. It may mean that we turn of the TV set and media apps to block out that negativity, temporarily. As long as the individual has a positive outlook, then that’s a start. If the individual shares that positivity outwards to family, friends, colleagues and the social media community, then the spectre of fear should start to be banished to the shadows where it belongs.

As Gandhi once said “You must not lose faith in humanity. Humanity is an ocean; if a few drops of the ocean are dirty, the ocean does not become dirty.”

Magnum Opus…

Magnum opus or opus magnum, from the Latin meaning “great work”, refers to the largest, and perhaps the best, greatest, most popular, or most renowned achievement of an artist.

Taking a snapshot of history, many figures have produced their magnum opus: Shakespeare has his Hamlet, Da Vinci has his Mona Lisa, Brando has his Godfather and Bon Jovi have their Slippery When Wet.

Recently, I pondered on the phrase magnum opus and whilst I am not an artist, I took time on it to reflect on what (if at all) my magnum opus would be and how it came to be. I’m no writer, no painter, no actor, nor musician, but what I regard as my masterpiece thus far is my children (and my wife takes fifty percent of the credit of course).

Modern life is such a complex thing, adding three children into the mix could herald additional dangers to leading the “perfect life”, but with risk comes great reward as the following will document.

“J”

I met “J” when he was just two years old in a chance meeting around the renovated docks of my old home town. Trying to blow away the memories of a Friday night down at the club, the cool and chilly sea breeze coming in off the Mersey seemed to be doing the trick. After walking for a while I bumped into what was to be my future bride with a pushchair in hand, trying to shake off a guy who she had unfortunately swapped numbers with whilst under the influence the previous night.

I was a single person at the time and had been living alone for over a year, and for a serial “relationship-ist” a year was long enough. At twenty seven, one comes to terms with the fact that future partners may or may not have children and once I had passed the quarter century mark that didn’t really concern me (although it may have others).

When our eyes met, there was a something; some metaphysical gravity instantly fused us together and it was not long before we had our first date and although there have been rocky roads in between we are still together seventeen years on, as strong as ever.

To say “J” was a handful at the start was putting it mildly, our first true meeting was on a train for a trip to Newcastle and I’ll always remember the very first words he said to me after settling into our seats for the next four hours. Looking deep into my eyes and with incredible force for a young boy he exclaimed “You’re not my Dad!”. Ouch…

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His tantrums were legendary. He was a floor dancer, every time he didn’t get his way he would drop to the floor, kick and scream and run around his own head whilst prostrate, a skill Homer Simpson knows only too well.

In time things began to settle down and mum and him moved in with me, stability in his own home life reflected in his mannerisms and by the time a new addition to the family came along, he was great. He took ownership of the big brother mantle and gave it is all, taking his first steps into being responsible for something and he did it very well.

“J” was very bright and did well at school, going to his mum for reading and me for maths and his progress was solid (especially maths and science). He also started to develop a passion for martial arts and quickly started to progress through the coloured belts in Taekwondo until I had a call from the new boss who asked me if I would like to take up an expat posting in Malaysia for three years. After some serious consideration (family & friends versus opportunity), we decided to take on the challenges South East Asia cared to throw at us and left.

Before we left, his grandma on his father’s side pulled me aside and expressed her deep gratitude to me. Taken aback slightly I asked her why, and she said that the love and support I had shown for “J” in a society which often treats step-children and lesser mortals had made him into the remarkable young man that now stood before us, those words humbling me deeply.

“J” took a little while to settle into his new school, forgetting books and equipment on a regular basis and initially falling behind as change is something he continues to struggle with (as do I; as do we all). Once he had settled in though, he started to deliver and deliver well. The international school he went to was at the time in the top twenty international schools in the world (now ranked second) so the education and opportunities it gave him mixed with travelling to far off and exotic places and continued support offered by his mother and I gave him (in my opinion at least) a solid foundation in life and what can be achieved through drive and positivity.

When our three years were up, we came back to the UK, back to the old house, back to the old Taekwondo School and “J” was accepted into grammar school where he shined and excelled as predicted (acquiring his black belt in record time too). Deciding that college was not his thing, he instead took up an apprenticeship where once again he attained top of the class status and he continues on well today in the workplace, already off the family payroll.

“L”

As previously stated, some children can be a handful when they are young and some can be angelic. When “L” was born, he was the later – a polar opposite to “J” (noting the obvious behavioural changes would follow and they did, oh the drama…). He literally slept like a baby; he was charming from the outset, never cried at all, never played up and was a happy baby. It was apparent very early on that not only from a behavioural perspective, personality wise “J” and “L” were also dichotomised. “J” is very structured and academic, whereas “L” is chaotic and creative, and that came out early on in school.

“L” was always performing whether it be in class or on small productions, and some of those performances came home with him too which we quickly got on to and dealt with. Whenever there was an opportunity to get on stage or grab the limelight he was always first to raise his hand. He dealt with the move to Malaysia probably better than all of us put together, settling in to his new class and making friends very easily. He did well academically, but again he shined in the school plays (acquiring the role of Harry Potter in the last performance before we came back to the UK).

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Once again “L” settled back into his old school very easily, regaling his old (and new) friends of tales from far off lands and countries most had never heard of. He also took up a place in the local drama club (which he quickly outgrew) and moved instead to the premier drama school on this side of the Mersey and whilst there he went from strength to strength, landing actor of the year two years running (awards from UK film director Mark Heller and UK actor Celyn Jones). Once again, he felt that he needed to move to further stretch himself as a budding thespian so joined Sir Paul McCartney’s Liverpool Institute for Performing Arts where he continues to excel today. He has also appeared on UK television as an extra in Hollyoaks, getting a real buzz and insight into full televisual performance and what goes on behind the scenes.

In school “L” is also well liked and is not far behind “J” now in terms of academic performance, again his focus on working hard and being positive about the things he does will no doubt bring the associated rewards.

“K”

If there was ever a time to redress the gender balance in our family, Malaysia was the time. My wife could not have worked even if she had wanted to as she was only given a “Spouses Visa” which meant she was subjected to three years of sun, relaxation and coffee mornings so we had the opportunity to try for the girl she had always wanted and as if by some divine magic (or flip of a Cosmic coin) out popped “K” two years into our expat stint.

“K” was very much like “L” in terms of her baby and infant behaviours; sleeping well and never throwing any tantrums. Much like “L” she took to school very well and again was always first in line to perform, never shying away from the opportunity to stand up and narrate, dance, act or sing (and has since joined her brother at LIPA as it’s “buy one get one half price”).

What makes “K” is her endearing nature to others, be it friend, family or animals. I know I’m biased as all parents are, but in terms of all-round-loveliness she really is a model young citizen of Planet Earth. She has been selected many times already by her peers as School Councillor and instead of asking for gifts last birthday she asked to sponsor an animal (Sumatran Tiger) at the local zoo.

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I guess it’s a little early to tell what life will throw at her and what path she will choose, but so far it’s working.

Life is balance. Balance is life.

Having the right balance in life is the most important thing. The Yin-Yang principal holds true with bringing up children too.

It is the balance between nature and nurture. It is finding the happy medium between doing things with the kids and doing things for the kids. When the balance is out of kilter on the “for the kids” front, a lack of independence can very easily lead to what I have coined “barnacle-ism”, creating that invisible rod for your own back by doing too much for the kids so that they don’t have too. Much in the same way, doing too much “with the kids” and not giving them the freedom to develop their own interests and relationships can very easily lead to what I have coined “crutch-ism”, making it difficult to choose their own path without have the parental support to guide them.

Looking at my three children, I think they have the balance in the right proportions at present, which sometimes means a nudge from me or my wife when the scales of justice start clanging heavily in one direction.

I look at my kids passions and they are twofold. Some are shared passions with me (music, film, theatre and some sports) and some are not shared passions (martial arts, amateur dramatics).

As they get older the shared passions we have dissipate somewhat as they find their own way in life and that’s already starting to happen.

Surround yourself with only people who are going to lift you higher

During one of our many weekend trips to the mega-malls of Kuala Lumpur, one day I noticed a huge billboard on the side of the road with a quote from Oprah Winfrey:

Oprah

At first glance, I was taken aback. OK I understood that Oprah had a pretty horrendous time when she was younger but to only surround yourself with positive people was surely not a reality we all live in as many individuals in our lives have issues and as result, negativity attaches itself to both them and to you by proxy.

That comment lay dormant at the back of my mind and every now and again popped up and my answer was always the same, I simply did not agree. That was until a few years back, when I saw for the first time just exactly the message that Oprah was trying to get across.

When my wife was diagnosed with cancer, like everyone else who is associated with it, your world changes. All of a sudden the happy path of life branches off down a dark and as yet untrodden path and there is little you can do to avoid it. Cancer does not discriminate. Yoga, meditation and reiki cannot help the victims of cancer; only materialism can, by means of synthetics (chemicals) or surgery.

So here we had a situation where negativity was forced upon us, and we were floundering. At that time, both my aunt and uncle were also diagnosed with cancer (albeit more aggressive and terminal in nature) and as a result (being a positive person) I spent as much time with them as I could before the reaper took them, whilst at the same time looking after my own.

Sadly, my own extended family did not offer the same level of support to my wife and I either pre or post-surgery, we were left to deal with everything alone which didn’t sit well with me, but deal with it we did and as this blog has well documented over the years, we nearly never made it. Ultimately this resulted in a “contract termination” with my extended family, but not due to the lack of support during those dark times, but due to the negative influences they had on me and my own.

After rekindling my search for enlightenment, I have looked to alternative sciences for answers, Buddhism and consciousness studies have kept me well entertained and pondering the meaning of life over the last few years now. More recently, I have looked to justify my decision to walk away from the bloodline to see whether it was (and still is) just.

From a parental perspective, I see them wholly as very negative people behind the scenes. The personas they portray to friends and family are polar opposite to what they truly are. I have deconstructed my early years recently and come to the conclusion that their negativity has influenced me. Alcoholism, Atheism, drug use, infidelity, corporate fraud, misogyny, racism and a lack of support and morality are the true causes of negativity during my formative years, all of which were kept very much behind closed doors.

Thankfully, I had the (as yet unaware) foresight and wherewithal to know at the age of eighteen that this constant was grinding me as a person down and as a result I left home. Sadly, my sister was younger than me and suffered the same fate as our parents. It really was a tough decision to run for the hills but something inside me said that it was the only way to break the circle of despair and even today I live with that decision.

Even though times were a little grim for me growing up at times, they were of course not as grim as some other folks I know. Over the years I have truly tried to reconcile things with both parents and sibling but their pattern is ever-concrete.

I know I get accusatory looks and comments from friends and excommunicated family members who judge me as a person for deciding to walk the path alone, and leaving behind the chaos and bloodline responsibility. Not a day goes by where I don’t think of them (or in more recent times unconsciously dream of them on a very regular basis), but what I have to ask myself is do I want my children, my magnum opus to be surrounded by chaos and negativity all because society deems family unit cohesion sacrosanct and unbreakable irrespective of circumstance.

I know the answer to that, as do my children…