Wednesday, 26 June 2019

How It Works: Systems

"I love them all, and all of them love me. 
Cus the system works, the system called reciprocity"

- Excerpt of lyrics to "When You're Good To Mama", Chicago 



"Our conception of linear causality and space-time predisposes us to believe that the minute and local could not possibly have a significant effect on a large global scale, but in a complex non-linear web of processes within processes, the emergent properties at the global scale are intricately linked with processes on the scale of individual local interactions in what, for lack of a better word, could be called a fractal-like holarchy of emergence" 

- D.C.Wahl 2002, accessed on medium.com 26 Jun 2019



George Monbiot recently talked about how one effective answer to our earth's pollution problem isn't replacing single-use plastic with natural material; from where, he asks, does that natural material come, and at what cost is it processed? This absence of systems thinking is prevalent across some green debate. Take solar panels - aside from the advantages that the end product provides, again - what kind of process and impact is involved in the extraction of the materials and manufacturing process? Isn't the aggression and scale of industrial manufacture a bigger part of the problem, than what's actually produced? Do we actually consider products as the problem because the scale of industry is far greater than a mind can possibly perceive - so far removed from the practicality of reducing our own family's pollution footprint, taking the bins out? The theme in conversation at my uni's Climate Change collective is reversal of the trend towards individual responsibility by acknowledging its limits - they argue that it's the system that must make change; we're hardly about to change the world if we stop using plastic bags. So that begs the question - how can individuals affect change?

I used to be sensationally angry. Once, at a lecture in Totnes a few years ago, not one but two people came up to me afterwards and suggested that I went to anger management therapy. What were they talking about? What I was feeling was important and had to be said, I thought at the time. Around about this time, I was experimenting with cutting foods out of my diet that I knew wouldn't reap benefits (like sugar). I felt such fire in my belly that everyone should know - I justified these explosions of words because what I had to say could benefit others.

The wonderful social scientist and empath researcher Karla McLaren says of anger that it asserts 3 vital qualities - honour, protection and boundary. In that incarnation of myself, I would have argued that I was defending the honour of myself and others by sharing this knowledge; I would have said that I was honouring the environment, sticking up for it as if it were a trembling blue-green child in the corner of a capitalist playground.

But I had anguish in my heart. And the tightness with which I gripped these subjects, for the sake of my sanity, had to soften finally - blurring my convictions at the same time. I once again found myself sharing meals without anxiety or questioning the contents or origins; I enjoyed an ice cream here and there, and began buying certain foods just because I fancied them. It felt kinder. I felt freed. But there was also a soft rumbling sense of conflict. How on earth do we hold our convictions strongly while not driving ourselves, others or the environment into the ground?

Blue Star Dancing Scissors, Shoshanah Dubiner https://shoshanah-dubiner.pixels.com/
Recently I attended a conference where the environment was at the top of our agenda. It was a fantastic event, and on and off-stage, we all greedily exchanged and gobbled up ideas of stewarding the land around us, best practices of environmental stewardship, contemporary ecology and debated extraordinary notions like the sentience of plants. So at breakfast, when my gentle complaint about the mushrooms lead to an invitation by the chef to tour the kitchen, I gladly accepted. 

And despite the college and the convention's green leanings and exquisite grounds maintenance, before me sulking in the harsh blue light of professional catering, were enormous tins of industrial tuna fish, vast amounts of cheap white-sliced Chorleywood bread, soft-luminous surface detergents in their white hospitalesque bottles waiting to blast the microbiomes out of this stainless steel jungle. As the chef described his curious method of cooking mushroom ('roasting' them under cling film in the oven, then finishing them off on the stove) to my deeply puzzled expression, I crudely calculated the 'goodness' of what we were learning at the event versus the under-bubbling of industrial 'badness' that dripped to us; the celestial algorithm assured me that what we were learning was so much greater than the sum of its comestible parts.

What's the story at home? After having eating communally for roughly 2 or 3 years, whilst in communities in Spain - I was lucky to have spent time where most meals were prepared from scratch, some grown on-site, leftovers were fed to the chickens or we helped ourselves to what couldn't be served a second time to guests - I was filled with sadness to find that house sharing in my new student life wasn't always such a idyllic story; eating cheaply for some meant relying on cheap pasta or instant soups for weeks on end, attempting, like my housemate's boyfriend, to live off £7 per week or diving into the Student Loan via greasy packaging-drenched Deliveroo and Uber Eats. In comparison, I've eaten like Henry VIII; and even when I joined friends 'urban foraging', I have had choice selections of organic smoked salmon, crumpled (but perfectly fine) bags of spelt flour or fresh fruits and vegetables. Could I proclaim the virtues of eating well, while supporting industrial monocultures somewhere at the periphery of developing nations (and my conscience)?


But, who am I kidding? Because, apart from cooking with locally-grown vegetables, planting up my garden with a few kitchen herbs and salad leaves, teaching yoga at uni, I rely as much as everyone else on these foods grown in lands I'll never see and can't pronounce. Despite healthier habits I've tried to curate, I've felt for the first time in my life that affecting change more widely is a very tough thing to do. I've felt, and regularly feel, the blood, guts and mess that it takes to drag the tiny gems of what I've learnt (through exposure to disturbing documentaries and media froth) into a busy, noisy, mad and beautiful world. Without becoming busier, madder and noisier. And who's listening, or busy planting up their gardens with enough food than a smattering of foliage? And I'm a single person with no mortgage - how on earth are you families doing it?! So I wonder if, like plant roots, the communication of change is already underground, in the mycorrhizal subconscious recesses of our psyches. If this is more about symbolic change (becoming greener by making arguably greener choices), can we still be considered hypocrites for not always aligning out outer world choices with our core values and beliefs? Do I condone the mistreatment and industrialisation of cows if I buy a buttery croissant for breakfast? Or is that too crude an equation? Our intellects' capacity seems way beyond that of our bodies, especially bodies that can choose a cleaner neater lighter life away from the sweaty dirt-under-the-nails lives of farmers and gardeners.

When we inherited this earth from our mums and dads, we also inherited these peculiar systems that all add up to that provocative c-word: culture. However, I'm keen to avoid adding to that cacophony of voices that declare emergency, to express disappointment or worse to the Governments; they are the same Governments that have helped create a world where I (and you reading this) can say, eat, think, do...exactly what I want, and even watch a film with an ice cream for a few hours to relax! For me, there is little room for criticism unless it is constructive; unless we are being astute citizen scientists, or market gardeners, or farmers, ourselves. We are no longer, as some recent wealthy ancestors lived, imaginations of some space ship tour of mortal life; we're not floating above the planet - we have learnt, perhaps a tough way lately, that we are enmeshed quite fixedly in the fabric of this world; the very fabric of our laundry and clothes, our crisp packets, the strawberry balanced precariously on the Friday night cocktail, the heated wooden floors, our insect-metal cars that ferry us safely over land, over the tarmac, over soil and muted earth. Yet the privileged (of which I am one...) engage that colossal power of culture and the magic (no hands!) that lets one float from country to country, one idea to the next; but at what cost to our bodies, our health, our communities and the land? Am I barking up the wrong tree? What does your conscience tell you?

pexels.com
How does one participate in this system, with humility and grace? This is the question that has buzzed around my mind for the past 18 months, or 18 years (my head hurts). Do we have a choice? There's a ruthless quality to the pursuit of a dream or an ideal and its volume can be heightened when we're not around those who share our values. But if we don't activate that degree of ruthlessness, and aggression, do we automatically disentitle ourselves to dream at all? Since returning to England and a relatively normal life of work and study, integrating into a new area with a mixture of people who all believe and live such different ways, it's vital that I create or find mechanisms to help me stay deeply connected with what I hold closest to my heart, to those who share similar beliefs while remembering to practice the softness and patience required to be around those who disagree with and challenge my beliefs. Because this is the system: how can we share, when we feel so vulnerable, in a time where sharing and communication are our greatest tools?

Highly recommended resources

Your back garden - get messy. Compost your peelings. It takes so little space.

Your kitchen - get creative!

Abundant Edge

Permaculture

Your local conservation/wildlife group - check Facebook





Saturday, 4 May 2019

Giving Up Is Hard To Do




I've always loved goodbyes, probably because I love a sense of occasion. A good goodbye has all the charm and horror of a post-argument state; anticipation, regret, the intoxication of 'forgiveness' in the unknown and soon rendez-vous. There's a neat circularity to it containing the most cinematic human emotions. 

For May's New Moon, I share with you some cleansing detox rituals that I have enjoyed using over the years, and benefited from greatly. I think of them as bodily and psychological goodbyes. And in an age of relentless TMI and hyper-empaths, a vital skill is to be able to machete away the stuff we don't want...or just gently wish the over-sharers well on their way. Following the lunar calendar and its ancient rites, we can maximise the benefits to our body and psyche. 

I first learnt about the moon and its impact on our health when I happened to pick up a copy of Moontime many years ago when I worked at the incredible Neals Yard Remedies back in Manchester. I was the first employee they hired who didn’t have a holistic medicine background; I was plucked from selling beautiful overpriced Gucci shoes because the manager of Neals Yard liked my sassy sales pitches. As soon I started, thanks to a great nutritional therapist and assistant manager, I flung myself at everything…learning about supplements, herbs, attending Solgar and Viridian (supplement companies) workshops, running workshops on how to make your own cosmetics.

Before I worked there, I was a Frescetta kind of eater. For those of you who missed this company’s food and seductive ad campaign, it was the pizza that you cooked from frozen in an unheated oven that would puff up to deliver a crusty polenta ledge that was, to my late teen self, unavoidable and totally necessary for my species survival. If I wanted some fibre, I might have a few baked beans with it.

The nutritional therapist introduced me to new ways of eating and engaging with food. I didn’t consider any idea bonkers; with the state of health at the time, I couldn’t afford to. So I devoured all the ideas in it, what time of the month to cut hair and nails, when to plant seeds and when the most favourable lunar times are to feast and fast.

I haven’t read it since then, although I intend to of course (after the dozens of ethnobotanical books that sulk on my shelves) but I remember clearly the moon passing through zodiac signs every 2 or 3 days. In some days, it was favourable to adopt practices to care for a certain part of the body or avoid operating on it (except, obviously, in emergencies). For example, as the moon passes through Aqauarius, it says that any kind of nourishing skin care, like applying oils, masks, and creams, has a greater effect than other days; or during Gemini phases, avoiding manual lifting or strain on the shoulders and hands is good.

Skeptical as always, I tried all this for myself, gradually. Working through the month and as I adopted a cleaner diet, I began to really through my body and its sensations, which planets were passing through; on Sagitarrius days, I would avoiding runs, on Aries days, I could notice a slight headache if I felt out of balance; on Pisces days, I would take better care of my feet, soaking them or massaging them before bed.  And on Aquarius days, I could perceive (whether invented or not) a luminosity to my skin that was otherwise absent. Can I say that without being an asshole? Probs not.

Like many ideas, they were replaced by others over time but one thing that stuck was New Moon cleansing habits. A New Moon is the opposite to a Full Moon – i.e. there is no moon visible in the sky (not just because of clouds cover). They can symbolise, according to the moontime beliefs, starting a new project, as well as stillness from activity from the rest of the month. Whether it’s ‘true’ or not doesn’t bother me because I like a sense of occasion. And if one day a month, we can rest, reflect, make a plan for our ambitions and challenges for the coming month, ain’t no harm in that!

Dancing Clouds & Still Water,
http://wwwparastooganjei.blogspot.com/2013/06/dancing-clouds-and-still-water.html?m=1


Here’s what I do. Adapt these practices to your own lifestyle, choose what works for you and I’m not a doctor – just a curious citizen passing on what I love. Follow your intuition and you’ll find something perfect for you. My guidelines come below the suggestions so you don’t go into these all guns blazing and forget to react with sensitivity to these delicate processes!

     Try extending your fast. “Break-fast” is exactly that. So why not extend your body’s digestive resting time, and try a 24 hour fast? “But I would DIE!” I hear you shriek. Listen – you don’t know me but all my friends would not hesitate in saying my mouth is always full aka I ADORE all things edible. However, any eating produces an inflammatory response in the body and the digestive organs take so much energy and resources. Give yourself a longer break while doing as little as possible – is no skin of anyone’s nose. Naturally, if you’re underweight, frail, or a child, avoid this but maybe enjoy something lighter, like fresh soups, greens, juices.

-          Have an enema. “Are you crazy?!” I hear your bowel-curdling objections. Well, probably. But what’s not crazy is that your bowel (and mine) like all your anatomy works bloody hard to keep you upright, clean, happy, and healthy. Why not give it a gentle wash? There’s a home kit you can use and for around £20, you can have a kit for life. They hold about a pint or two of water (or herbal tea if you’re feeling adventurous), which sounds like a hell of a lot of liquid, and dear ones – I don’t know where it goes either – but fear not cus it soon comes back out.

-          Take a salt or Epsom salt bath. Add some essential oil, like lemon or lavender, to the salt to aid cleansing.

-          Restorative yoga. I find a lot of joy by being physical but once a month (or more if I can find the time), I take a restorative class (I love yogaglo online so I can practice when I want). Every time I practice restorative yoga, I fall asleep. Which tells me I needed it and was probably a bit exhausted! Highly recommend. This can be practiced by all levels and benefits from you having as many pillows, blankets and books as you can as the practice holds you propped in a deeply nourishing position.

-          Take a look at my Instagram account @thejoyfulheron for an example of how to do uddhya banda on an empty stomach in the morning. This is a powerful yet gentle internal organ massage.

-          Imitate, to the best of your ability, a squat when you go to the loo. All this means is stand on something like a little stool your child stands on to reach the sink, or use a couple of thick sturdy books. If you encourage your body to poop this way, it ensures that the colon is completely emptied which reduces the likelihood of stagnant waste (and ultimately disease). Adopt this simple practice every time you go to the loo and remember to keep relaxed. I take a book of poetry or garden flowers in there. The first rule of longevity is never rush a poo!

Finally, I’d recommend that, if you live in a northern climate, like I do in the UK, save these cleasning practices for the warmer months – April to September, for example, unless you are very overweight and are in robust health. Naturally these practices cool the body, aid elimination and allow the body to come into balance which –for you- might be losing weight. Psychically, or psychologically, what we carry is more than what’s in our guts so you want to go gently into that New Moon because often a memory can surface, an idea, or something that we forgot about our healing journey, that requires some kind of action. After an enema, for example, rest for a while, take a warm bath, drink a herbal tea and plenty of warm gingery water. This is a chance to get to know your own rhythms, and that’s not an easy thing to do. Some of us aren’t used to letting go, or many levels. It requires skills around sadness, grief and creativity with your plans.  This is also true after a longer fast. Imagine that you’re weaning a baby and your digestion is merrily rolling along with very little to do; they say any idiot can fast but it takes a sage to break it! You could open your digestion with something like poached fruit or compote, yoghurt, thin porridge or warm rice or some sourdough toast, thin vegetable soup or broth with meat stock. Examples of difficult things to digest (and to avoid straight afterwards) are a nuts, cream, Full English, processed foods (refined or deep fried), croissants, crisps! You might crave your favourite foods – acknowledge the craving and remember that you can have that any time you want. Just not now!

These fasting and cleansing practices continue to teach me so much about my body, when I ‘abuse’ it with certain habits like over-eating, or propping my energy levels up with coffee or sugary foods. It almost writes like a cliché but it’s true. I feel a voice from deep inside nudging me towards a fast…and to be that passive about our body isn’t an easy thing to be. We are usually in control, and want to do what ‘we’ want but who are we without our bodies? Our heart, liver, lungs, digestive tract, brain…all have a mind of their own and just occasionally it’s worth asking them what they want, and sitting humbly aside while they take the spotlight.

For further conversation and inspiration, email me at the thejoyfulheron@yahoo.co.uk



Monday, 14 January 2019

Synaesthesia





I remember, many years ago, I was studying a Masters at the University of Kent. The subject was Ethnobotany, the relationship between people and plants. Earlier in my life, as a shy sensitive boy, I was lost in imagination. One time visiting my grandparents’ home - elaborate brass ornaments everywhere that my nana had dutifully polished: granddad’s cigarette holder, a jar of sweets that would bloom like a the jowls of some exotic plant, a large gun at rest above the mantelpiece, the  continuous sound of cowboy-and-indian films, the volume as if the New World should hear. There, on the mahogany TV cabinet with folding doors, a cover of a videotape, The Emerald Forest, that pictured various Amazonian people in native dress who gazed directly into the camera lens. I was seen, and those feelings that would stay with me for the rest of my life. I didn’t know why they were significant, but my body did.

My favourite cartoon film to watch repeatedly with my sister, my soulmate, was Ferngully: the last rainforest. We wept every time when the baddies went to cut down the forest. We hoped it was just a cartoon. But as we grew older, we began to see and learn that we also belonged to a society who seemed separate from nature and rather cruel towards it. We’d love to watch The Jetsons, too, and it appeared to us that even the 3D people off-screen behaved as if they were just on some outer space unresponsive and desolate planet, rather than belonging to something intricately connected and majestic. The growing number of futuristic devices that were making our lives easier, we would learn, were silencing rivers, forests, unseen birds in places we might never see, or want to.

I wondered if studying Ethnobotany, rather than just plants, would help me understand more of our behaviour within a cultural context that seemed to strangle our ability to connect to a simpler more natural life, regardless of how willing we are. Many times we debated the term nature – highly controversial within anthropology – and yet, we all knew what nature is. Was. We all understood, beyond words, that the term we’d given nature had wordless roots within us that spanned countless decades, even if a dry essay might fumble towards a sketchy conclusion that was proof to the contrary. Our bodies always knew the score.

So, when did I start to live underground? When I couldn’t watch the destruction any more. People were bombarded with news of the devastation that enormous industries were creating, and yet, still bound to and enmeshed by them, life as they knew it carried on as normal, eroding. But it wasn’t normal to me, and my heart knew it. It has always been a soft heart, barely ready for that kind of world. I retreated a lot. So being underground seemed like the most natural thing in the world to me.
At first it was suffocating, but no more so than above ground. We can come to bear hardship if there’s a pay-off and mine was rich: amongst so many companions, surrounded by so much love. And the density of our situation, its intensity, only added to the feeling of being connected to everything. Not in a booky intellectual way, but actually. We woke and slept beside each other, we listened when the other spoke, we saw what they saw, even at distance. We raised each other’s children. We were built to last. And that was probably over 25,000 years ago.

When did I last go above ground? Well, it isn’t as simple as that. We’re not encouraged to see because we’re not sure if we still have hearts, and seeing things we probably shouldn’t might confirm that we possess one because it would surely break into pieces. So we’re happy not knowing. Maybe that makes us as ignorant as those above ground except that we are aware of them; they couldn’t possibly imagine what’s happening 24 hours underneath their tarmac roads, their litter, their leather boots, their car tyres. If those things are still there. One member went up briefly, about 120 years ago, and they were asked so many frantic questions: people pleaded, what do we do? If they would be still and just listen, they’d know exactly what to do.

Sunday, 9 September 2018

Gayviation



Airports suck. Is it any surprise that celebrities take private jets? In fairness, I oughtn't complain because despite snuffling out the cheapest flight and obviously selecting 'zero' baggage, my credit card began to tremble as each of every 10 knuckles scuffed the floor as I hauled a puffy princess sleeping bag and another large hessian bag stuffed like cartoon popcorn with superfoods, magazines, books, peanut butter (for the protein crashes on a 2 hour flight obvs) and naturally the forbidden 2L bottle of water. In addition, strapped to a bulging rucksack was approximately a croc dundee straw hat, Birkenstocks from the free shop* and an inflatable mattress.

UK customs: STOP! *surrounded by armed police* I scream, and next thing I'm naked, Birkenstocks busted and bent over in ways yoga could never have taught.

Yet...

Spanish customs: Cabellero, no pasa nada.

No pasa nada, indeed. Flying high, luggage stuffed like foie gras under the seat in front of me because it's approximately 10 times the girth of the overhead rack. None of the stewardesses blink an eyelid. Gotta love Spain.

HOWEVER, the gaycation of these cheap thrills stopped abruptly as I surveyed the food hall (a total mis-moniker). Gillian McKeith would not be happy. In fact, I'm not sure which celeb chef/dodgy nutrition doctor would. In front of me is an ocean of plastics (obvs) and carbohydrates and the airport pootlers are lapping them up until they're literally blue in the face. Gross.

I find a speck of a  tienda sandwiched gracelessly between an overpriced hairdresser and the back of some dodgy foodchain. A middle-aged woman disgraces her post-yoga bod by hunching over the miso avocado bowl, defying the Botox by furrowing her brow in despair at her iPhone. I like it here. It's cool. Populating the shelves are smoothies, fresh juices, salads with sauerkraut, seaweed...the freakin' works. I pause my delight as I survey the Euros. Ah actually not bad. The thickies which are impressively embossed with a singular number as well as the name of the meal that they're replacing: 1 = Breakfast 2 = Mid-morning Munch 3 = Nourish ...but my heart temporarily stops as an elegant label displays that these babies will set you back 12 Euros a piece. A 60 Euro set of pureed meals is basically another flight with 25kg of luggage. So I'm sticking to salad. I'm throw in a cheeky pack of BIO FRUTOS SECOS (dried fruits actually translates to 'nuts') which are basically organic roasted cashews. Soon after, realising that they were 9 Euros, I swallow my shame and stomp back, tell the guy there's no way on God's green kale-strewn earth that cashew nuts were ever 9 Euros. He nods in agreement and hands me the coins that exhale in my hand.

Turns out that I could have got all this stuff, in less glamorous surroundings, for half the price around the corner in the Espanol version of EAT. They are advertising sandwiches a little too enthusiastically, in gigantic type with an urgent font. Note to EAT - Spain already has sandwiches. A lot. In fact, so many, that the pigs can't keep up. Look at them - comic pig legs lining the walls of every other airport tienda, while salivating Spaniards kebab the meat off, stick it in a gauged out "home made" baguette and call it a sandwich. Colonial Brits are still pests.

How did things become so uncivilised? A few hours before arriving in Madrid airport, I was chuntling through Seville airport (layovers are the dark side of cheap flights) convinced that hunger would be a stranger to me. Wrong. About 14 minutes before the Boarding Call, a demonic hunger arose in me worthy of a mention in something like the Bible. And the only thing I could find that was approximating the logo FOOD was a cold slice of pizza topped with the bargain basement phrase, Med veg. It felt healthier as I chased it down with the old reliable H2O.

It's no wonder that when we're ejected from the flight via some craning plastic tunnel that a feeling of relief drenches us, like the inverse of vomiting. We are released from the satanic glass cage of the airport halls, the constant bonging of 3 languages that inform us in all certainty that it will not tell us the flight details. It insists - "You must check the screens". Just tell us, asshole! We're all chomping Ritalin to ease the shattered senses, the prodding, the belt and sandal removal, the compulsion of guilt as we pass under the chalk grey obelisks that may BOOP! at any moment and before we know it, a far too attractive security guard is pulling out the half digested Med veg pizza instead of the imagined marijuana, patting us on the bottom to reassure us that it's finally OK to leave.

Keep It Gay

In an attempt to alleviate the doom-laden scenes of everyone pretending this is normal - no, enjoyable - I head to the Tom Ford stand. In department stores in England, no-one would approach me looking the way I did. But happily the Spanish still know that we're human and are happy to mist me endlessly in blousy wafts of violet flowers, jasmine, tobacco and vanilla essence...knowing that the closest I'll get to acquiring these heavenly aromas is a mere scribble of Santa's wish list. She doesn't care. To make it more professional and ethnobotanical, I ask her if the fragrances are natural or synthetic. Maintaining eye contact, she offers nat-ural in that amazing syllabic way as I feebly donate sintético to remind her she's probably lying. We speak in broken English and Spanish. I want her to be my friend. Only if she has free samples.

I want flowers. I want fruit trees. I want pineapples. I want salad growing off the f*cking walls. This is what my body is screaming for as I push down the feelings with an oversized slice of flan at Paul's. And a hot chocolate that comes from a machine. I even PAY a machine as the handsome but dreadfully bored Spanish assistant gesticulates to a large black machine on my left that I am oblivious to...with a blinking red line, eager to satanically gobble my coins. Well, Mr Capitalism, I'm not quite sure why staff are still even necessary except to bark orders and swan around with fraying patience. Unless the automaton need human friends in order to work? Is the future Support Work for lonely robots? Min wage still. Forget it.

Bog Off

For laughs and being half-serious, I order the Hindu Vegetarian meal on Iberian. It never comes. I look more attractive in their loo mirrors than I ever done in ANY aeroplane toilet EVER. I love Spain. The black girl who is serving us is utterly beautiful, and I restrain myself from telling her that she ought to consider modelling as I realise that I am a model scout for no-one. I write frantically next to 2 burly Spanish men, the nearest of which oozes hair from every part of him that isn't swaddled in man-textile. He can't take his eyes off the furious motion of my nib and, suspicious that he can understand the words, I write in psychiatric doctor scrawl. When I revisit the article to upload on my blog, I have no idea what it says.

I used to buy weekend papers just for the supplements. Partially because I'm shallow with little attention span, and partially to see the ways of the rich and attempt to imitate them. That worked quite well. Now my day, except for the minimum wage part, flows like maybe a C Lister; two daily yoga workouts interspersed with HIIT, superfood smoothies on top, Paleo salad, organic produce from the garden, monthly chamomile enemas, astrology consultations to keep me on track. Off-the-scale anxiety. And I think everyone should live this way. Because it is solid and good, and makes you feel alive. Why can't airports reflect that, instead of bunging us up with all manner of carbon-hydrogen stodge that only brings horror to the colonic therapist? Those choc chips get bloody stuck up there.

Rehab

It's time to de-clog the system... starting with airports aka vast greenhouses. It's time to use all the shit and piss from air travel to do some good - feed the fruit trees that are yet to grow in the vast areas around the flight paths. It's time to get some mycelium spelunking its way underneath that tarmac and bring some beauty back to what is defiantly the largest contributor to carbon, and carb ahem, emissions - air travel. With such a genteel and light combination of words, air travel - if someone upsets you today, turn away and say air travel and your troubles will disappear - how can it be, you ask as you insert another bagel into your bouche. Airports are basically doing to the planet what the tree-ripping-out scene did to you in 3D Avatar when you hid your face so no-one could see you weeping like a kitten. You are the leader of this new world. You have a SOUL!

With your help, I need to find out who owns these airports and bring on a showdown of compost, volcanic dust, raised beds, petunias, wild strawberries...the whole permaculture shebang. If nasty skin-tight uniforms on the overweight staff can pass Health & Safety, and espresso-swigging policemen can keep their trigger finger alert and twitching, then it's time to keep it real with real food, real prices, real water, real life. The world musn't become Call of Duty. Air travel. I want more prayer rooms, more yoga rooms, a meditation pop up, a guru in swashbuckling robes that reminds us to feel in the in-breath and be as light as air in our impact of the earth. Out with the vending machines with their 4.50 Euro water and in with fountains, complete with ornate Grecian-style dolphins and lion's manes. OK, you take the point. Just say no. To Toblerones. No-one wants one although they might coo wickedly at the idea while thinking of Julie Andrews leap-frogging over cows in the Alps. They just make the roof of your mouth sore.

If you want to see the state of airports improved and for them to become future examples of stewarding the environment, offsetting their own emissions, please add your name to my petition (coming soon). Let's make Britain, and the world, GREAT again! Air travel.




Thursday, 26 July 2018

Karma Chameleon

Shimmer on Water Shoshonah Dubiner                                                                                                                                                                  cybermuse.com

I live a double life. One part is enchanted with scent, songs, folding laundry, cooking, being in my garden or in a bubble bath, looking at really close-up things, stretching my body, learning the piano, tweezing. The other goes out to work, brings home the bacon, often cooks the bacon in a cafe I thoroughly dislike, or bashes away at bamboo roots outside houses whose owners pay good money for horticultural titillation. We all have these double lives, right? For so long I considered that I must be strange, peculiar, depressed. I don't connect easily with others. I rush home, or to a fitness class, after work for that lovely haven to drench me with the things I love.

I am deeply fascinated with life and what it means to be alive, to perceive, to touch, to think critically, to taste.  My body is a riddle, a vessel, and our bodies are just a drop in the ocean of who we are, full of fluid clues. I am fascinated with what makes me (and others) tick, with what lies beneath the semi-ridiculous material facade. I wonder if the material world is entirely incidental, just an accumulation of choices.

Feather Pillows

TONIGHT my bike, a gift from my dad a few years ago, was stolen. Reading a few books on angel presences that a friend lent to me, and skeptical about appearances of these angels in every day life, there it was in front of me, as my friends consoled me - another feather on the ground, defying me to remember that it's all, well, small potatoes really. How could I be angry? My body was still, contemplative. I've learnt this year to keep my cool because it's in these strange crevices of life that real life seems to lurk. What's to be learnt in the puzzle today?

Nothing Ever Happened

For as far back as I can remember, life has been such a complex puzzle for me. A supremely self-conscious child and teenager, I wondered why on earth I was in a snoozing suburb of Manchester with parents who didn't look a thing like me, or my sister. They often joked that my sister and I were found under a cabbage leaf but my child-mind wondered what the cabbage looked like and where it was. As a newborn baby, I couldn't even accept my mother's milk, neither cow's milk. My digestion wasn't ready for this, not ready to belong. Some cellular cosmic part of me belonged elsewhere. The boys at school, in the street, knew it and teased relentlessly. Unkind people still do.

Naturally, then, taking flight in the world has been fraught with hellish times, financial difficulty and a willful galvanisation to find what, where and with whom I belong. I, my body and I, exhaled, deeply, soulfully, at Sunseed , a sustainability project where I spent a year. From the moment of my arrival, there was no question of my oddness, my to-ing and fro-ing between the deeply male and female parts of myself, the bird of paradise style yellow blonde mohican hair, the colourful clothes. We were all the same, and very different and unique. I bawled like a baby when it was time to leave. The morning I left I sung a moving goodbye and my beloved community all lifted me in the air on their hands and arms as my voice clamped shut with tears of relief. For the first time in my entire life, I felt like I belonged. I belonged. Yet, I had to move on and follow the challenge of finding my tribe outside of that dreamy bubble.

From that sandy stratosphere, it's a nose-dive into planet earth again but this time, I had a voice and I had found my spirit-feet. I headed to the Algarve where I met other gay guys in Portugal who showed such kindness, a reaction among the gay community I had never felt before. The crevice of insecurity that runs in minority groups ironically can trigger such cruelty especially when one of its members mirrors those insecurities, or simply fails to conform to its brittle conventions. So for now, I wafted around, I ate small snails with garlic, cleaned the pool, worked out. I was a welcome guest. I liked so much being a guest but it was borrowed time. My feet were hovering above ground.

We often speak of trauma  as a bad thing. If something's traumatising, what follows must be something deleterious and irrecoverable. And yet, what if the scars of trauma are necessary for a hard pruning of the spirit? Where is the point at which we break? Only we, as individuals - or, adults - can know. I often justify stress because the outcome is learning all the time how to be kinder. Is it a deceit? Is kindness the same as learned behaviour on how to be polite, hidden? I was unhappy with so much and for so long, while constantly working and thankfully distracted on becoming happier. I'm happy dancing wildly to loud music. I'm profoundly happy singing jazz and blues songs. I'm very happy when I bounce on a trampoline. And written words are my world, while conversation can knacker me out. I'll do my best to make you laugh, though, cus I love to make you smile. Is happy the only gauge I have?

Future People

This weekend, I say a final farewell to my childhood home. A few months ago, in preparation, my family and I watched footage of childhood holidays and Christmas and birthdays, and I marveled curiously at the smiling boy on screen while my heart unexpectedly sunk; the colours, the indescribable browns and greys of it, the smallness of it, my mum's oversized tinted glasses. What didn't she want to see, or look at dimly? This was pre-internet, where a children's birthday party was literally your semi-detached living room with a record player which your mum switched on and off by hand for sleeping statues. I felt at once tremendously sad, and also full of gladness that the little boy I could see, me, was not bothered one single jot. The past is firmly in the past.

I serve so many seniors at the cafe and they move almost as slow as sleeping statues. They reach for their purses as if penetrating lunar dust with thick white boots, perhaps the might required against the youthful gravity of life. They quickly confuse with the jangling clinking coins in there, they wonder exactly what amount their goods came to. And a part of me wriggles again, and fights against this impatience, and bodily complains. Why? Do I envy their slow ways? How do they get anything done? Am I sad that they are dying? Here we are, face to face, occupying the same world that is planets apart. We can learn from each other. Do we?

The modern mind at once values speed and efficiency, haring around like diarised lunatics. For the thrill, to conquer, to continue, in a contemporary way, the Victoriana that my grand-dad and his brutal peers propagated almost 100 years ago. The colonial, the learned hunter, imagines that everything in-sight and on the horizon belongs to him, if only he could arrive there, even covered in sweat, or blood, even half-dead. He, we, did it. And the world, temporarily, is ours. Is mine. But it never happens that way, because there's always one more corner to turn, one more door to open. Without sugar, my morphine, I need to learn how to be softer and more light-hearted in my navigation. The stamina he thinks he has is just a nerve-gas of second, or even third, wind. Then, the stillness of my miniature pond delights and stills me, its glass reflection of the grasses that surround it and the immovable sky. I could stagnate here. I sometimes pretend that, outside of the garden fence, nothing is of much importance.

CANTERBURY this is my hymn to the mostly appalling 9 months of life that you have birthed through me. The Hebrew tarot-style cards showed me last summer, when I asked about my fate, they showed me an image of a man diving into a blue pool. They showed me the word "excellence" and "courage" and my imagination roared with possibilities of how excellent I could be. I fell at the hurdle, I didn't prosper...I scraped by, ticking or barely scratching boxes. Did my spirit survive? Barely, but I am here and only fools dismiss this as extravagant nonsense, as over-reaction. A friend took her life, my nana contracted pneumonia (recovered), I smashed my leg (fully recovered), I got tennis elbow (almost recovered), my hairline continued to recede. I can call no-one here a close friend. I have stuck to my old friends through WhatsApp and trips; I have stuck to social media, to those I admire and who inspire me. Praise be to technology, to music, to natural beauty. To dreams that keep our body alive when, darkly, the spirit whispers of a better place.

What now? Will I return to the Masters in September? Do I want another harrowing year? I considered myself the luckiest guy in the world until the end of 2018 but then the circus tent caved in on itself. Now the fun, the real fun, can begin...without masks, without etiquette or shame. My spirit reminds me that I came to conquer, not the world, but myself through an urgent and profound need to self-actualise. No excuses. What does that mean? No idea, but I guess it looks like another layer of authenticity, really looking at myself and my life and being fully accountable in a way that is alien and new to me, terrifying. Community was wonderful in its way, but it was too easy to be invisible. The masked hero is but a coward. The real one has wrinkles, scars, trauma, deep regret, a hearty soulful laugh and a veiny love for life that isn't swayed by a dose of bad luck.