Days of Futures Past…

Communing with nature. Living off the land. Mind, body and soul cleansing. Community spirit and oneness. Consciousness expansion. Peace and love.

Deep down many of us want the ideals above but are either unable, unwilling or lack the courage to do those things that we know will be better for us and better for the planet.

This week saw my eagerly awaited trip to Lammas Eco-Village in South Wales, an expedition into the uncharted territory of off-grid living., a fact finding mission for our band of neophyte hippies to sequester information from the founders, Mr and Mrs Wimbush, in order for us to gain insights into their ten year journey from a barren greenfield plot of land, to a fully functional and self-sufficient settlement.

As a guy who has worked in and around IT projects for most of his life, I bring to the table my decades of structure, organisation and planning, so I took the responsibility to plan out our trip in advance, including timelines, itineraries and a large set of questions, the output of which would give us enough answers and direction to kick-start the build of our eco-retreat project in North Wales.

This is a work project not one of pleasure (although no doubt the journey and end result will no doubt be a joyous thing), and as such the trip was “allowed” under the strict “essential travel only” guidelines. Even still, I had a bad feeling before setting off that at some point over the four hour journey south, our collars would be felt at least once by the boys in blue, and in preparation for that eventuality I printed off all materials (Covid travel guidelines, agenda, emails etc) as a form of proof to plod that our trip was legitimate. As it turned out, the trip was “copper-free” and we arrived safely at Lammas, collars unfelt.

As we drove into the village, the first thing that struck us was the size. Each of the plots sized between six and seven acres and there were plenty of them (totalling seventy seven acres in all).

Our destination for the day however was Maes Melangell, the home of both the Wimbush family (pioneers of Lammas) and a newly-constructed and yet-to-be completed Lammas Earth Centre.

I had done some research on Lammas over the previous nights (reading the One Planet Life book as well as watching several YouTube videos) to provide at least some background knowledge on what the set up was like and what their journey had been like thus far.

But like a great many things in life, reading about something is one thing, experiencing it is markedly different, the whole day was testament to that.

We were greeted (after a few wrong turns) on the tracks by Hoppi (aka Mrs Wimbush), who welcomed the group warmly and invited us in to the main house for a socially distanced and hand-sanitised chat, so that we could get to know each other a little and our posse could set out its expectations for the day.

One thing that did strike me on the way in was how impressive their homestead looked, it was clear that the well-built dwelling house, the super-impressive Lammas Earth Centre, the animal barn and all of the cultivation areas had taken years to achieve and a ridiculous amount of dedication and hard graft (both physically and meta-physically).

With a hot cup of Bengal Spice Tea in hand, Hoppi walked us through their ambitious journey so far, all of us playing silent witness and in awe in what they had achieved to date and how they had done it. Their home was warm not only in temperature (from the amazing wood-burner and impressively insulated walls), but in feeling too, clearly the house was also wrapped in the warmth of love, of oneness with each other, with nature and the universe at large.

It became apparent early on that what we saw before us had taken an Herculean effort, not only in planning, designing, developing and constructing, but in terms of pressure and stress too. Here we had a small family (children were six and nine at the time) living in a small touring caravan on an empty landscape, with huge plans for off-grid living in their heads and one hell of a journey in front of them.

We shared our own plans for the eco-treat which were met warmly too, but it was becoming apparent (to me at least) that our embryonic project was very different than what was in front of us in terms of components, requirements and end-state.

The five of us involved thus far all have day commitments that we don’t foresee giving up any time soon, and at this point we don’t envision any of us living at the eco-retreat permanently. So it dawned on us that going down the One Planet Development route for our project was likely to be a dead end and overcomplicated from a planning and local authority permission perspective. Ours would be a different path than the one Lammas has taken, but it would have the same ethos are drive for sustainability.

After a warm exchange, Hoppi then took us on a tour of the site, explaining the exact functions of each building and zone, safe to say that we were all in total awe of what we were viewing.

Many hands make light work…

Their plans were not only realised by their own hands, but by those of volunteers too. Through the use of an entire tribe of volunteers (over seventy in total) they were able to morph their barren landscape into something truly remarkable.

And it’s is the essence of that very approach which has left a spiritual and collective resonance around the place, almost like a mycelium layer of positivity and love, woven into the very fabric of every component on site, borne from the many hands of like-minded individuals.

The beating heart of Maes Melangell…
The Owl Sanctuary…
The composting toilets…
The Solar Kiln…
The Eco-Retreat…
The Eco-Shower…
The Innovative Waterproofing…
The Renewable Energy Supply…
The Earth Centre…
The Interstellar Roof…
The Barn…
The Kids…

After the staggeringly impressive show and tell, we had the opportunity to wander the site on our own, I took the time to fly my drone over the site to get a birds eye view whilst my comrades meandered through various muddy pathways on foot, the site as impressive from the air as on the ground.

Bird’s Eye view of Maes Melangell (Lammas Eco-Village)

We finished our trek as the door to the main house opened and for the first time we met Tao (Mr Wimbush) for the first time. Set and setting are always important and the lunch of Pumpkin and Parsnip Soup with home made bread and goats butter transformed a basic meal to the best lunch of all time, ever.

It came across well on the videos I had seen, but in person, Tao’s calming nature juxtaposed against Hoppi’s effervescence made it a perfect partnership, and I saw the deep, loving and spiritual connection they both had for each other on a couple of occasions. Beautiful.

We shared our vision and hope for the eco-retreat with Tao and based on the components we wanted to develop (very different to Lammas), Tao advised that the One Planet Development wasn’t the best way to go for our venture and he suggested an alternative approach to achieve the desired outcome, to which we all agreed.

I was truly blown away by Tao, to be surrounded by such an amazing feat of construction and sustainable cleverness was one thing, but his calming, warming, nurturing, inspiring and guiding words (and well as long hair and beard), felt to me like I was in the presence of a modern day Jesus (affirmed by “L” on the way back home who thought the same).

As the darkness drew in and thoughts turned to the arduous long journey home in poor driving conditions, with a genuine sadness and gratitude, we bade farewell to our hosts for the day and headed back north to on-grid living, resigned and melancholic in the knowledge that workers boots and corporate laptops would called upon within just a few hours of returning.

Like my Robin Williams blog from a few years ago stated (Life Is Experience Not Knowledge – https://infinitybeckons.wordpress.com/2016/10/18/life-is-experience-not-knowledge) there is nothing quite like experiencing things first hand as opposed to reading them in a book.

We had so many take-aways from our trip to Lammas, hints, tips and nudges in the right direction we simply would not have hot had we not visited. We agreed that when we returned home we would double-down on our efforts to get things moving, albeit in a slightly different direction to our initial plans.

After visiting Lammas, Hoppi and Tao, it’s now very clear to me that one can live in the fruitfully in the future like we lived in the past, it just takes courage to detach oneself from what is, quite frankly, a broken and totally meaningless capitalist society.

That courage is within us all, we just need to do, there is no try…

Ishnaan for the soul…

Since the turn of the year, when able I’ve taken to the sea for meditation and contemplation.

Whilst New Years Day brought several hundred to the beach and a communal spirit of togetherness, today marked a different experience.

As the temperatures in the UK starts to plummet, so have the numbers of “dipper”. I got to the beach at eight this morning to find only a few folks milling around the car park, the sea completely barren of near-zero bathers.

-2c on land, no icebergs present…

Undeterred by the cold -2c read-out displayed on the dashboard, I waded into to the duck-pond calm waters of Liverpool Bay, surrounded only by gentle waves and whistling white noise the sea was making as it ascended and receded on the not-so distant shoreline.

Eyes closed, body cooling, the tiniest of crescent moons focused my morning meditation and shut out everything else in the known universe. Meditation allows for breaks in the chaos, the disorder, the high entropy of the broken system we find ourselves in at present.

Quite soon, there is no cold, only stillness, calmness, nothingness, like a dissolution of the lower self as the higher self takes total control, and blocks out all materialism.

Eventually (fifteen minutes in), the lower self returns and the body reawakens to suggest it’s time to get out before hypothermia kicks in.

A wade back to the shore is greeted by winter-wrapped dog walkers with amusing grins, a nod to the crazy person emerging from the icy cold waters.

Back home, as the rest of the house still slumbers, the wood burner heats the frozen body parts on the outside and the warm poached eggs and coffee does likewise inside.

Toe-Toasting-Tastic!
Spinach, poached eggs, salmon and cracked pepper, breakfast of the Gods!

If only all days could start like this…

The Infinity Garden…

Living even more sustainably in Twenty-Twenty-One is one of my primary goals (beyond surviving the impact of Covid-19 of course).

I made significant in-roads into reducing my own, my families and my colleagues carbon footprint (via a Sustainability Cook Book I released to the masses in late December). Some of it by my own volition and some of it as a consequence of this year’s limitations on travel and consumerism.

In the book “How Bad Are Bananas” by Mike Berners-Lee, it proposes that we should all try to live a 5 tonnes lifestyle (less where possible), and after doing the official UN carbon footprint calculation, my families overall tonnage was twenty-four tonnes, 6 tonnes per head, not bad when you look at the average in say Australia is twenty tonnes per head.

So a few further tweaks to the family processes next year (switching to hybrid car, off-boarding one of the children to his own house and eating a plant/fish-based diet with minimal red meat) will help reduce it to four tonnes per head. Phase One complete, Phase Two being the long term plan of setting up an off-grid small holding.

My foray into techno-agriculture (Blade Runner 2049 larva farm on standby) was met with some success. Growing my own produce (albeit in micro-quantities) gave me some insights to cultivating edibles and The Infinity Garden is currently performing admirably…

The Infinity Garden v1.0
“We sow the seed, nature grows the seed, and we eat the seed” – Neil The Hippy

I have been impressed with the quality of the growth, I had heard mixed reviews on the outputs, but I must say everything that has churned out thus far has been very “Cuprinol”.

Basil…
Chilli Peppers…
Coriander…
Lavender…
Mini Tomatoes…
Sweet Peppers…

With an addition of not one, but two grow-your-own mushroom kits and a book of the greatest and best Indian Street Food recipes from one of the best (if not the best), restaurants in Liverpool (Mowgli), I feel more armed with organic opportunities already for the coming year.

A friend of mine “I”, who is also part of the eco-retreat build starting soon, has also just acquired nine allotment plots and is keeping an eye out for me so that I can join the collective, putting to bed my vision for a vertical garden in the confined space behind my house.

I would not have thought twelve months ago that I would be that much more in-tune with nature and the universe in general, but it just goes to show that even in chaos, opportunities for positive change are there, one just needs to take a breath, focus and do…

Ishnaan…

When I got home from work last Friday (moved from the office/bedroom to the dining room – I do love my commute these days), I saw an excited wife, surrounded by neoprene goodies.

Not wanting to do things in half measures, she had bought a wet-suit, wet-shoes, wet-gloves and soon-to-be wet-robe.

Either she was leaving me for a life on Bondi Beach with a surfer, or she was contemplating something closer to home.

I was perplexed, given the fact that December was just around the corner and her sensitivity to cold is extreme when compared to most.

Intrigued, I asked her what was all the gear for, to which she explained that she had just joined a club. The local club, which has 1,500 members is called The Chilly Dippers, so first thing on Sunday we took the short five minute drive to the beach at high tide to see what it was.

We were totally shocked at the amount of people there, there are usually plenty of car spaces when we take our pooch for a walk at similar times (albeit when the tide is out). There were lots of people in the water already, kayakers, paddle-boarders, swimmers and “dippers”.

It was the dippers that caught my eye (in a non-pervy way), some just wearing swimming costumes and coming out of the sea red raw. So these were The Chilly Dippers. My wife is a good swimmer and I wrongly assumed that her new club was a sea-swimming club. Not so. The premise is to go into the sea for no longer than ten minutes, until the body reacts to the cold water and your internal temperature starts to rise, all for health (mind and body) benefits.

Still scratching my head as to why one would do this, I coincidentally saw my yoga tutor on the beach and asked her what she thought.

It turns out that the practice is an ancient one called ishnaan, which the Sikh use as hydrotherapy.

It is used like a kriya in kundalini yoga and “L” does it every day, not in the sea of course, but by showering at home.

The practice and benefits are as follows:

PRACTICE

1, Start the freezing cold shower with the extremities, feet first then rising up to the leg, rubbing, massaging using opposite foot and legs, avoiding the thighs.

2. Avoid the reproductive organs as they don’t need to be exposed directly to the cold water stream, they will get it indirectly from the torso.

3. Next it’s hands, arms and shoulders, again rubbing and massaging.

4. From there, move the cold water stream to the navel, abdomen, chest and back.

5. Lastly, up to the face, with eyes, nose, mouth, ears, cheeks, but not the forehead or your hair, as this could send one back into the sleep zone.

6. Cycle is repeated until it has the desired effect or your body has chilled enough for you to stay in the stream constantly, to a maximum of ten minutes as the body would eventually go into shock / hypothermic state.

7. Dry yourself with a warm towel and place several coins in the swear jar!

BENEFITTS

1. Keeps the skin radiant.

2. Opens the capillaries.

3. Detoxifies organs.

4. Keeps blood composition healthy.

5. Activates the glandular system.

6. Strengthens the entire nervous system.

7. Reduces CO2e by not using a gas-powered heating system.

So this morning I took my first ishnaan (which I intend to do each day now as part of my routine) and truly felt a difference. Of course the water was freezing cold and the noises coming out of the bathroom sounded like Norman Bates was giving it large with mommy’s kitchen knife, but overall it was an invigorating experience.

My body was red (not too dissimilar from the brave costume-wearing Chilly Dippers), and I did have a mild mystical experience. Towards the end of the shower, I felt light headed and my mind appeared in a slightly different time and space from the rest of my body; a reiki type warmth coursing around my neural pathways.

I guess the science behind it is lower blood pressure to the brain giving me that light-headed feeling, as most of the available blood was rushing to the assistance of the top four layers of skins which were being blasted awake by cold water.

From neoprene suits to ancient Sikh daily rituals in a short space of time, life is full of surprises…

Humanity: The Real Virus…

Over the past twelve months, we have all to some extent become fledgling virologists. Every news bulletin is presented in front of a large screen emblazoned with various Covid-19 info-graphics depicting how the virus attaches itself to the human cell, opens up a way in and infects the cell until the point where it is either extinguished by antibodies that the cell produces or it takes hold and kills its host, propagating and replicating.

Covid-19

Over the same time period, I have had some very interesting dinner table discussions with the family, and especially my nineteen year old son who is currently studying English Literature and Creative Writing at University.

He loves engaging in thought-provoking dialogue and I’m more than happy to deliberate and cogitate his musings and arguments and wade in with my opinions, so after re-watching Outbreak with Dustin Hoffman, my thoughts turned back to Covid-19 and the info-graphic depicted above on how the microscopic world of an individual cell and things attacking it could be viewed on a much larger scale and how humanity is self-creating real and credible threats to our very existence on Planet Earth, and how cause and effect is impacting our ecosystem.

My opening statement was that humanity (not unlike Agent Smith from The Matrix), is a virus that is attacking the very ecosystem it needs to survive. A virus is defined as “an agent that infects living organisms, often causing disease and death, which in itself is unable to replicate without a host”. Whilst I concede that Earth is may not be conscious (in the way that our brains are) and it does not have a sense or morality, when viewed as a single organism, it is living and can generate effects from the various causes imposed on it to protect itself from extinction.

Existential Risks

I took up my pen (converted to a jpeg for clarity) and drew a crude Covid-19 virus molecule and replaced each S-Protein nodule with each anthropogenic risk we are currently facing (adding a non-anthropogenic risk for good measure) and discussed each one at length:

  • Nano Technology: Also known as grey goo, the current train of thought is that as humanity advances technology and things get smaller and smaller, there is (however small, nano even) a risk that molecular nanotechnology becomes out-of-control and self-replicating machines consume all of the biomass on Earth while building more of themselves, which in theory could consume the entire planet down the core with nothing Mother Earth could do to prevent it. The stuff of science fiction horror movies perhaps, but still a potential risk but we agreed that we would likely not see this one materialising any time soon
  • War: What is it good for, absolutely nothing (except for the economy of course, as described rather simply and expertly in Zeitgeist: The Movie – one of the best documentaries I’ve seen). The most clear and present danger that humanity currently faces is the ability to destroy itself by conflict, by war. History tells us that a global foot war would never wipe us out as there would lways likely be a winning side. A nuclear war and associated nuclear winter could of course do two things, wipe out humanity plus many plants and animals but the Earth could recover in time (much in the same way it did during the dinosaur era), or toxify the atmosphere and boils the seas so much that all carbon-based systems cease to exist and Mars 2.0 happens
  • Pollution: It is abundantly clear climate change is here and having a huge impact our ecosystem. Through heavy industry, toxic/plastic waste, deforestation, desertification, natural resource extraction and consumption, the effects are stark and plain for asll to see (whilst not including certain deniers and Paris Accord withdrawers). If those are the main causes, then the effects are equally as numerous, with Earth (in a non-conscious way) producing storms, fires, floods, famines, viruses, earthquakes and even plagues of locusts, all very biblical and ominous. In theory, Earth could in fact continue to react in this way until humanity is wiped out and the order is reset and recovery takes place. Whilst war seems to be the primary risk to life on Earth, if left unchecked climate change is a close second.
  • Artificial Intelligence: We all love a good dystopian novel/movie, with seminal classics like The Matrix, Terminator and latterly Westworld spinning a shared narrative that self-realising machines become super-intelligent and wage war against humanity until it’s near ultimate demise. Whilst there many benefits to automation (I myself am heavily involved in developing intelligent monitoring systems – not in a state surveillance way I might add), there is a danger, however limited that self-awareness and autonomously acting systems could in theory wreak havoc and Stephen Hawking himself theorizing that AI could indeed see the end of the human race. A quick look at the Boston Dynamics production line (Atlas and Spot which are now available via mail order) would and should give some insights to the potentiality and realisation that a new order could be created if the light-bulb ever gets flicked on, however small the risk appears today
  • Bio Technology: A biological war could in theory make the human race extinct if a virus reached 100% of the population and had a 100% mortality rate, but Mother Earth (which can do nothing to prevent a man-made biological war) would continue and positively recover from everything man has thrown at it. We may never get to find out how Covid-19 was released on to the human race (by accident or by design), but the wonderful thing about a virus is its ability to mutate to survive, so if you believe that it was released by design by some sort of illuminati / NWO, then lets hope they keep full control on the SAR-COVID-2 strand and don’t let the mortality rate increase to 100%, else that could be end of days territory.
  • Resource Consumption / Overpopulation: Clearly we have problem, arguably the biggest problem and most realistic threat to our way of life. David Attenborough has said that overpopulation is the biggest existential threat to life on Earth, if we don’t do something about it, nature will do it for us. We have seen unprecendented natural disasters over the last few years and as the planet gets warmer and wilder, and as we consume more than we can produce – using mass-production techniques which release more CO2e into the atmosphere, then our ability to cultivate the land diminishes, desertifcation increases and as such the increasing population goes hungry, until at some point we have burned all the trees, destroyed all of the soils, raised all salty sea levels leaving our ecosystem infertile. Some say that Covid-19 is naturally occurring and it is a curse that Mother Earth has put on us to wake us up to the root cause of our problems, over population.
  • Genetic Modification: A few Hollywood films have placed such a concept onto the silver-screen. We play God by mapping out our DNA strand and modifying it to iron out the kinks, remove all defects to create post-modern-man, with catastrophic consequences. There is also the notion of cybernetics, where man replaces carbon-based appendages with technology, resulting in a fight between it and IT. The stuff of B-Movies however is unlikely to come to fruition.
  • Scientific Exploration: So what exactly is going on at CERN? OK they allegedly found the Higgs-Boson God particle, but what they intend to do with it is not entirely clear, neither is the roadmap of experiments. There are clear and present dangers in scientific experiments of this scale, with the potentiality to rip time and space apart, creating a black hole that we all fall into never to return. As Socrates Johnson once said, all we know is that we know nothing, and if Dan Brown’s Angel & Demons anti-matter theme has anything to go by, messing around with the laws of physics we know very little about may see us disappearing up our own arseholes.
  • Non Anthropogenic: Extinction Level Events. Meteors, aliens and demons (in that order) have the ability to bring the seven point eight billion population count down to zero in a matter of seconds. Deep Impact, Armageddon, Star Wars, Independence Day and Constantine all depict such events in glorious CGI, let’s just hope Morgan Freeman, Bruce Willis and Mark Hamill, Will Smith and Keanu Reeves don’t retire any time soon.

The response to all of this from my “son-beyond-his years” was abrupt and to the point:

Son: “Dad?”
Dad: “Yes, son?”
Son: “Two things. Firstly, you think too much. Secondly, you’re an idiot…”

Carpe Diem…

The universe of late, it seems, has been listening to my silent screams of frustration, a frustration that most citizens of these lands are also going through true, but my inner torment may have called out louder than any voice.

Two weeks ago, I was knee-deep in my drive towards activism, consuming hitherto hidden truths relating to the pandemic, circumventing that bipartisan and collective narrative spun by ministers and selected scientists across all constituencies and component parts of the “united” kingdom, in search for answers.

Truth seekers, also known as conspiracy theorists to anyone not following the BBC and Sky News, sniff out alternative narratives, forcing like-minded individuals to go to ground, gathering in clandestine fora, coming together to gain both numbers and momentum.

It is a very difficult process, as not only are the authorities against them, but so is more than fifty percent of the population, and as such, fatigue can set in with the spectre of negativity and despair shrouding their every move.

Two weeks ago I felt tired, beleaguered from the fight, longing to get away from it all, longing to fast-forward six years to the time that I clock-off for the last time and head for the hills, literally, setting up a retreat in the rurals to live out my days off the land, self-sufficient and abdicating from the urban nation.

In a strange and timely twist of fate, I got a phone call the next day from my yoga instructor, asking me to design, develop and project manage the building of an “eco-retreat” in North Wales on a piece of land her family had inherited a couple of years back.

I had mentioned my retirement intentions to her just briefly in a passing conversation a few months earlier, not going into any detail at all, yet here we were, discussing the intent for her commune as if I’d written a best selling book on the subject and had implemented installs several times over.

Needless to say the three hour conversation we had flew by and by the end of it, my head still spinning, I agreed to start work on it the very next day.

The very next day was a work day, and with it yet another dollop of kismet came my way. I was given an action in work to develop a “sustainability cook-book” which looked to call out all of the things we buy, do and consume and what the impact of each has on the environment, in an effort to drive down the carbon footprint of the organisations 140,000 staff.

Clearly the oil and gas industry has a lot to do to convince folks in the outside world that it cares. They of course acknowledge that it has been part of the problem (for a long time) but that it is also primed to be part of the solution; that is to produce sustainable and clean energy for the planets inhabitants and ongoing industrial processes.

That starts with the staff. We can all choose to sign up to individual plans to reduce our own carbon footprints, we can choose to develop sustainable and clean solutions by considering the environmental impacts before any functional or non-functional requirement. We can all help to drive the shift away from fossil fuels to renewables and sustainable fuels, leaving the nasty stuff in the ground.

Clearly some individuals who work in the industry want to play their part in putting a stop to the managed decline of the planet, but only time will tell whether the bottom line of profit outweighs the need to be eco-friendly, but do something we must and if I can influence that and change the mindset of my colleagues, then that is what I intend to do on my last rotation before I leave the company.

We must not pay lip service to climate change. We have been accused recently of green-washing by Greta Thunberg and many others which may well be true to a certain extent, so we need to partner with such individuals and groups to deliver real change and sustainable energy for many generations to come.

So within forty eight hours, I had put together the basic plans to build an eco-retreat and a how-to guide to change the hearts and minds of a massive workforce.

Seize the day, carpe diem…

Smart Garden: First Crop

They say that there is nothing like the taste of your own produce, and if the biltong produced recently had anything to go by, then those first lettuce and basil leaves would be equally as sweet.

I have been very impressed so far with the output from the Smart Garden. Incredibly easy (although expensive) to set up with zero maintenance, just plant the pods, fill the reservoir, turn it on, click back and whittle some whilst watching stuff grow.

Of the three plants planted, the lettuce was by far the fastest to sprout and bloom into edibles, closely followed by the basil. The tomato plant however has taken longer to get off the ground but the guide advised this in advance so not quite ready for my first BLT.

So today I took the lettuce and basil with some mozzarella cheese and salsa, and I must say it was great. Clearly the amount of produce that the smart garden generates isn’t going to allow one to go off-grid, but what it has done is given me an appetite (in more ways than one!) to install my vertical garden on the patio and come spring, start growing my own vegetables, herbs and plants.

Clearly pre-prepped soil pockets, water, light, heat and a total lack of bugs has allowed Crop 1.0 to flourish, I’m sure outside gardening will be a whole different ball-game but looking forward to the challenge.

The Ten Bodies…

Kundalini yoga is very different to other more traditional forms of yoga, it concentrates on actions not postures, with breath and energy flow more important than ones elasticity.

I think it is for this reason that it aligns more to the metaphysical rather than the material form, and as a result it is more of a workout for the mind than the body.

One of the ways we can understand our existence better through the practice of kundalini yoga is by what is known as the ten bodies.

We are made up of one physical body, three mental bodies and six energy bodies. The ten body system makes us aware that we are so much more than only our physical shell, so much more than the sum of our parts.

“If you understand that you are Ten Bodies, and you are aware of those Ten Bodies, and you keep them in balance, the whole universe will be in balance with you.”

Last nights kriya on the ten bodies was one of the best sessions of kundalini yoga I’ve had so far. Buoyed off the back of the best year end performance review I’ve ever had from my new and wonderfully supportive line manager, I welcomed “L” with open arms (no social distancing/conditioning here) and took to my usual position at the back of the class and went through this kriya with a “permasmile” (albeit with a little pain from my recently diagnosed laboral muscle tear on my right hip. I nearly fell off my chair when I thought I’d heard the consultant tell me I had torn my labia, my operation isn’t scheduled until next year!).

So what are the ten bodies:

1. Soul Body

Our first body is the soul body, which is quite literal our soul or essence. It represents our connection to the infinite and the divine. It is our deepest core, our truest self, giving us the ability to live truthfully and from our heart. In an imbalanced state, we act from our head instead from our heart, prioritizing our intellect over our intuition. Within kundalini, the soul body responds to postures, breathing exercises and mantras that resonate with our heart chakra. To balance the first body, we have to open our hearts to the divine.

2. Negative Mind

This is our second body. Whereas many people do not want to accept that they have this body, it is within all of us and also part of human nature. It has its place, as it is constantly working to assess our environment and situations for danger or negative potential. In this way, the negative mind keeps us safe and alive. Moreover, if there wouldn’t be a negative mind, how could we then possibly know what a positive mind is? Everything in the universe works in dualities. It is however important to balance our negative mind by becoming aware of it and with the practice of discipline and purification.

3. Positive Mind

Just as we have a negative mind, we also obviously possess a positive mind. The positive mind gives us our strength, willpower, playfulness and a positive outlook on circumstances. It helps us identify opportunity and resources with its characteristics of enthusiasm, hopefulness and trust. In relation to our physical body, everything we do in order to strengthen our core and the area around our navel (our solar plexus chakra) resonates with this body and is beneficial for it. Strengthening the positive mind through kundalini will enhance self-esteem and self-worth.

4. Neutral Mind

Not only do we have a positive and negative mind, we also have a neutral mind, which makes up our fourth body. The neutral mind absorbs and evaluates the thoughts of the negative and positive mind. Contrary to the second and third bodies, the fourth body makes decisions out of non-emotional intuition and looks behind the assessments of the positive and negative mind. It therefore delivers guidance and stimulates decision-making based on clarity, calmness, balance and wisdom. Meditation is a wonderful tool to strengthening your neutral mind.

5. Physical Body

This is our tangible body, the one we can perceive with our eyes and other human senses. It is the temple in which houses all the other bodies in some form. Through the physical body, we have the ability to balance ourselves and our lives. An imbalance in the physical body can manifest in the form of anger, jealousy, greed, fatigue and a lack of gratitude, but also in an obsession with physical appearance and a clinging to the material world. To balance our physical body we must develop a practice that keep our bodies strong, flexible and resilient, like yoga or a form of martial arts.

6. Arcline

The arcline can be visualized as our halo, expanding from one ear to the other, encompassing the hairline and the brow. It is our avenue of intuition and regulates the nervous system. It is also associated with our pituitary gland, our third eye. Women have a second arcline across the chest, reaching from one breast to the other. 

The arcline serves as a balance and gateway between the physical and the cosmic realm and between word and deed. If out of balance, our values might not be in line with our actions and we will have difficulty focusing. In order to balance the sixth body, awaken the pituitary gland (our sixth chakra) through meditation, pranayama and drishti (gazing) to our third eye. 

7. Aura

The aura is our electromagnetic energy field surrounding our physical body. It cannot be perceived by the naked human eye, but it can still be felt. Even though that might sound very spiritual, it is scientifically measurable that this energetic resonance exists between three to nine feet away from our bodies! The aura contains and protects our life force – our prana – and interacts with it. If mastered, it projects positivity and repels negativity from our body, working as a shield. An imbalanced aura will be felt in paranoia and a lack of self-trust. Negativity can enter your body and psyche much easier. To balance the aura body, meditation, pranayama, martial arts as well as wearing natural fibers and following a wholesome, organic diet are beneficial.

8. Pranic Body

The pranic body is our eighth body in the kundalini tradition. ‚Prana‘ means life-force in Sanskrit. Through our breath, we are continuously working with our pranic body for life force to enter our body. If mastered, we will experience fearlessness, purity, energy as well as the balance of polarities. Hence, the male and female energies present within us are fully integrated within ourselves. In am imbalanced state, we might experience anxiety, fatigue and defensiveness. To balance our pranic body – yes you guessed it right – every pranayama will have a positive impact.

9. Subtle Body

This body is characterized by our ability to sense and perceive the infinite and universal reality with the material and physical realm. The subtle body is deeply woven within our soul body. When our physical bodies die, the subtle body carries our soul. The qualities of the subtle body are calmness, insight, intuition and mastery. A weak subtle body manifest in naivety, restlessness, frustration and the feeling of being misunderstood. In order to master the ninth body, keep up any meditation or kundalini kriya for 1,000 consecutive days

10. Radiant Body

This body gives – of course – radiance, as well as courage, creativity and nobility. Magnetic and charismatic people are a great example of a balanced radiant body. A weak radiant body will express itself in shyness, problems to overcome fear and the avoidance of conflict. The best thing we can do for our radiant bodies is to have commitment, no matter what obstacle or challenge we might face.

The evening ended with relaxation and I could feel the positive energy from my fellow classmates all around, warmly embracing me and sending me into a different realm of consciousness, albeit (too) briefly.

Throughout the session I noticed the amount of times “L” mentioned the word infinity, as if a nod to this blog and to my inner thoughts and scribed outputs here.

It’s times like these that one tries to seek out calmer waters in the maelstrom we all currently find ourselves in, Captain “L” helps her passengers expertly to avoid them reaching for the sick bag, steering her ship away from the rough oceans and onto the sea of tranquility…

Mid Morning Mushrooms…

Keen to consolidate my foraging training, I took to the woods today with old faithful to see what mushrooms I could find. The weather was quite damp in the early part of the week, replaced by dry and sunny conditions towards the weekend, so according to my man-based mushroom guide and my paper-based mushroom guides, perfect conditions for a romp amongst the trees in search of a fungus or two.

Today was more of a “recky” than a restocking of the larder as I’m in London this week.

As the last post explained, my interest in mushrooms has exponentially increased recently due to the revelations from my foraging guide and those of Dennis McKenna (Terence’s brother) who took a seat on the Joe Rogan Experience a few years back and went into quite some detail on psilocybin mushrooms. As I only have Spotify and Audible on my phone, I searched for Terence McKenna audiobooks and one did come back – True Hallucinations – which I took a punt on, downloaded and started to play on our early morning journey to Roydon Park in the heart of the Wirral Peninsula.

Although not narrated by either McKenna, the first chapter was intriguing, setting up I guess the back drop for the rest of the book, the Brothers McKenna “trip” to the Amazon rainforest, in search of hallucinogens.

We parked up and instead of sticking to the path as we usually do, we headed straight into the thick wood, mindful that the denser it was, the more humid and moist it would be, and as such, perfect conditions for shrooms.

Old faithful was in his element, as soon as I let him off the lead he was away. He adores the woods and quickly forgets that he is not a puppy anymore, sprinting off to hunt out the smell of, and the capture of, squirrels (not so much the capture part), his springer spaniel DNA kicking in.

So as he was off doing his own thing, I started to look around for produce. Imagine my shock then when what could only be described as the ghost of Terence McKenna invisibly steered me across the wood to a rotten tree stump which had a burst of small mushrooms on it.

To my utter surprise and unless I was mistaken (which I could well be as it’s early doors for me), were hundreds of what looked like Magic Mushrooms (Psilocybe Cubensis). I know these come in many shapes and sizes and the ones I took in my youth did not look like the ones I saw before me today, but I had a good inkling that they were indeed what I thought they were (some validation in my books and an internet search would tend to confirm such).

It is of course illegal to pick, dry and be in possession of these non-taxable, free-thinking, mind-expanding, depression-ceasing, consciousness-creating fungus, so I’ll neither confirm nor deny that these are or are not in my possession (Shrodingers Mushroom…)

The most abundant mushroom we found over the course of our morning bimble was Birch Polyphone (Piptoporus Betulinus), it was everywhere. There are plenty of Silver Birch trees in the woods, and a large majority of them had these sprouting from various parts of the trees in a variety of shapes. Sadly these aren’t edible, which is a real shame as there were enough to open a greengrocers shop.

Continuing on, I spotted a clump of brown ball-shaped mushrooms on the forest floor, and on closer inspection, I believed them to be the Common Earthball (Scleroderma Citrinum) which indeed they were. Using my very new and very awesome and very legal curved foraging knife, I cut into one and as suspected, saw a quartz like glittery black innard, the same quartz like glittery black innard we saw on our trip two weekends ago.

I recalled a snippet of info that whilst (again) this was not edible, the outer layer can be peeled off and used as a plaster for a wound, a neat feature in case you just happened to slice your finger open by say putting away a very new and very awesome and very legal curved foraging knife…

Next up was one I’d never seen before which looked like orange jelly. As there are over 8000 species of mushrooms in the UK, I could be wrong but I believed it to resemble a Yellow Brain (Tremella Mesenterica), again inedible but nice to see a new species in glorious Technicolor.

This was closely followed by a solitary toadstool looking very lonely indeed, and a scrawl through the field manuals couldn’t offer up a single suggestion so I left it there for the faeries to rest on a while.

Old faithful legs were starting to give way and the onset of his glaucoma is starting to take hold. Still off-lead, he wandered a bit too far away and I called him, and much to my sadness saw him off in the distance dead ahead yet confused.

I called him repeatedly and he ran off in different directions, able to hear me but not able to locate me. I ran to him, calmed him down and put his lead back on. He has been the most amazing and utterly insane canine I’ve ever owned and it’s sad to gradually see various parts of him pack in, I try not to think about the day when he’s not around.

Leaving the wood, we saw a squirrel haven with many oak trees and fallen acorns, as well as plenty of Rosebay Willowherb / fireweed (Epilobium Angustifolium), one of natures great firestarters (twisted firestarters…)

On our way back to the car, we took to a hacking trail, and there was a very amusing sight, this time my eyes playing tricks on me and not old faithful’s. We came across a fenced-off field and in the distance, I thought there was a small stone circle or henge, which instantly put my hippy spider senses tingling. Putting my glasses on revealed that it was not a circle of stones, but a circle of small police traffic cones, in the middle of a field in the middle of nowhere. Bizarre!

Foraging Trials…

There may come a time, perhaps not in my lifetime, and hopefully not in my children’s lifetime either, that society collapses completely.

Hollywood has played all of this out expertly in many films. The Omega Man and Planet of the Apes, lead by Charlton Heston, were some of the first movies I recall seeing which depicted dystopia and one mans struggle to exist in a completely different environment to what he was used to.

In The Omega Man, Heston resorted to a Hunter-Gatherer, albeit in disused shopping malls, foraging by day and hiding by night to stay away from the bad guys.

He had to take what resources he could to survive, and survive he did by knowing exactly where to look and what to look for.

A few weekends back, I booked my sister (for her birthday), the wife and I on a foraging course just outside of Ruthin, North Wales, in an effort do do something less ordinary, get away from the chaos of the news channels and back to nature, and to learn some new skills.

Armed with some preliminary toolkits (books, satchels, snappy bags and knives), our tribe for the day arrived at the mouth of a small wood in the small hamlet of Bontuchel, where our guides from Original Outdoors greeted us with warm smiles and hope. Good start.

We did the usual round of creeping death introductions and when it got to me, I boldly shared the fact that I was likely the bad guy of the group as I worked in the oil and gas industry. The smiley faces turned to frowns and even boos. Was I surprised by this, not really, I was prepared for that knowing that people who choose to go on foraging courses are more likely to be closer to nature and the industry I work in presently has a diabolic influence the fragile ecosystem we live in which is frowned upon by many.

I did go on to say however that the company I worked for was leading the way (according to Gartner’s latest magic quadrant) in terms of its journey towards carbon neutrality and that with oil prices staying lower for longer and Covid reducing the demand for product, they are taking very bold decisions to leave the black stuff in the ground, reshaping their business completely to pursue plans to migrate from an oil and gas major to a true energy company, investing heavily in renewables.

I also shared that I am working very closely with the company’s Sustainability Consultants to take a detailed look at how as individuals we can make a difference both in the work place and at home, creating as we do a gestalt/hive mindset that we can be greater than the sum of our parts if we all know what to do, how to do it and by when.

Clearly this lightened the mood and some words shared can start to paint a more positive light on an industry damned in all parts of society. Clearly we all have energy demands (everyone arrived by petrol/diesel cars for example), but we must all work together to realise our joint goal to save the planet before it’s too late.

“R” and “A” (our hosts for the day) took us through the woods over the next four hours, pointing out plants, wild herbs, fruits, berries and mushrooms that we could look out for in future bimbles.

Over the course of the day, we uncovered twenty different species, all of which are described briefly in note and picture form below:

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1. Beech (Fagus Sylvatica)

Nut/Leaf. Good for mushrooms. Leaves good for gin. Small triangular nuts from the husks if the squirrels haven’t eaten them all. Only found one between the three of us, still hungry…

2. Chanterelle (Cantharellus Cibarius)

Mushroom. Grows on slopes and among beech trees is common. Very edible, didn’t take a sample as we only found a few minute ones. One for the foraging list though.

3. Earthball (Scleroderma Citrinum)

Mushroom. Black inside. Not edible.

4. Porcini (Boletus Edulis)

Mushroom. Huge and when dried out, expensive to buy. Found under beech or pine. Maggots can burrow, can cut off yellow layer. Slice then dry then fry. Took one for home. Very happy!

5. Bramble  (Rubus Fruticosus)

Fruit. The ubiquitous blackberries. Can also eat stem and leaves too. Top bit of stem (end – youngest) like asparagus. Are several, very sweet, not tart at all. Nicest wild blackberries I’ve ever eaten.

6. Herb Robert (Geranium Robertianum)

Leaf. Also known as Stinky Bob. Good for herbs. All edible. Geranium family

7. Opposite Leaved Golden Saxifrage (Chrysosplenium oppositifolium)

Leaf. Good for salads (like cucumber).

8. Hedge woundwort  (Stachys Sylvatica)

Leaf. Squidge leaves and insert into wounds. Smells like rotting flesh. Squeeze together taste better.

9. Pendulous Sedge (Carex Pendula)

Seed. Starchy carb. Seeds used. Green used. Brown chaff. Paste on stone dry cook for crackers. A lot of work for little reward when out in the field.

10. Hen of the woods (Grifola Frondosa)

Mushroom. Found on dead oak stump. Similar texture to chicken. Darker colour than Chicken of the Woods (which we didn’t find – gutted as this was top of my list for the day. Fry with butter and garlic. Eat in small quantities.

As we say off a while, we had a discussion about foraging rules, one of which being the carrying of knives, only three inch blades were allowed, else it’s classified as a weapon. The one I used to take a cutting of Hen of the Woods was a bushcrafting knife with fixed blade, illegal in the current scenario. At least I know for next time.

11. Wood Sorrel (Oxalis Acetosella)

Leaf. The odd flower in a salad. Toxic if too much consumed. Stuffed in fish and used in sorbet. Found in woodlands where there is sunlight (edges and clearings)

12. The Blusher (Amanita Rubescens)

Mushroom. Not worth it because of the toxicity.

One key nuggets though was that the best time to pick mushrooms is dry day after rain. Noted!

13. Jelly/Wood ear (Auricularia Auricula-Judae)

Mushroom. Also known as Jews ear, named after Judas Iscariot and only grows on dead elder tree (“R” was keen to point out that this term is no longer used). It’s a dry jerky-type of mushroom, nice and crispy.

14. Hawthorn (Crataegus Monogyna)

Fruit/Leaf. Leaves edible in May (May pudding). The berries are collected in autumn and the squeezed into a pulp. Put in muslin and pour hot water through it. Skin and stone stay in the middle – fleshy pulp comes through, after which it can be dried out and turned into fruit leather (nature’s wine gums which lasts forever if stored in parchment. Berries are everywhere, defiantly going to try this (Ray Mears Wild Foods has an episode on making this)

15. Elder (Sambucus Nigra)

Fruit/Flower. Contains cyanide, use only flowers and fruit. Flowers (only a few days sometimes) make Elderflower cordials etc. Berries poisonous if raw. Cook or ferment. Wine gin and vodka, and cordials.

16. Blackthorn (Prunus Spinosa)

Fruit. Produces sloes. Gin and vodka or hedgerow jam. Sour raw, I ate one, ain’t that the truth! Wait until they are ripe, pick them, freeze them (bletting) which gets them juicing

17. Dandelion (Taraxacum sp)

Leaf . Raw and peppery. Like rocket on salad. No too much as it’s a diuretic.

18. Crab Apple (Malus Sylvestnis)

Fruit. Bitter when eaten from the tree. Best use as cooking apple for pies and sauces

19. Birch Polypore (Fomitopsis Betulina)

Mushroom. Non-edible – used for stropping knives or as a wound dressing

20. Burdock (Arctium sp.)

Root. Used as starchy fibre. Cannot uproot on public land, can take on provide land with landowners permission

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All in a very educational day with lots of take aways, and a reminder just how beautiful Wales is. Looking back, over my shoulder (using Crowded House parlance) saw the ridge of Offas Dyke in all of its glory as the sun was beginning to set, Foel Fenli, Moel Famau and Moel Arthur seem from below instead of on high. Majestic.

I guess the moral to the foraging story is to make up a shopping list as you would do for the supermarket, and target the items you know will be there (taking into account the location, weather conditions and season) and foraging just what you need and use them or dry them when you get back home so they don’t end up as bin food. It’s essential to know your locations and what grows there, (e.g. oak and beech woods after rainfall increases the chances of acquiring a chicken of the woods).

Easily the most fascinating discussion I had on the day was a side conversation I had with “R” which centred around Magic Mushrooms (Psilocybin Cubensis), which we didn’t find on the day (they may have been there but he could hardly point them out!)

Back in my youth, I took the liberty caps once with some friends at home (with my parents and sister away on holiday). Although I took a relatively small dose (30-40 mushrooms in a Pot Noodle) the doors of perception did open, ever so slightly.

I recall initial giggles, the chess board motif of the linoleum flooring of the back kitchen began to twist and contort into weird swirling shapes. We took to our prostate positions in the living room and turned out all of the lights and put on an Ian Andersen (he of Jethro Tull fame) and tripped out. I recall laying with my back to the floor looking up at the ceiling, both of which soon became wall, with the window as the floor, the dimensions of the space around me changed. The only light source was the LED display of the video player, the heightened senses bringing the digits into full 8k high definition and bloated compared to their usual size. The digits then floated all around me, changing in shape and size. All in it was a very interesting experience, one I’ve never repeated but once the door is opened, reality is never really the same again.

“R” went on to say that there was a hypothesis that mushrooms were not of this earth, not part of the original evolutionary chain, and that some believed that they came in on a comet. A mushroom has its own kingdom (bringing with it a hidden blanket called the mycelium layer) and is neither animal, vegetable nor mineral. Fascinated, I agreed to take an action to research more into the world of the fungus, no doubt posting the findings here.

If that was enough to bake my noodle (not Pot Noodle), what he said next surely did.

“R” asked me if I’d ever heard of the Stoned Ape Theory by Terence McKenna. I said that I had not and he told me to go back home and look it up, but in essence what happened millions of years ago was that as the climate changed in Africa, primates came down from the trees as rainforests turned into grasslands and foraged for different food types.

As ancient bovines grazed and defecated, their patties gave homes to bugs and fungus, which as a source of protein our hairy ancestors ate.

McKenna’s theory goes that under such conditions, psilocybin mushrooms thrive and as a result of eating them, the doors of perception opened for apes and they looked at the world through different eyes and begin to think in a different way, so much so that new neurological pathways were created, new thoughts and ways of thinking allowed for the progression of tools and language and as such the brain began to evolve and grow bigger, until eventually we harnessed fire which gave rise to different diets and the further expansion of consciousness to make us what we are today.

So here we have a possible explanation for the missing link, thanks to the good old shroom!

What was to be a nice day out turned into a mind-bending, thought-provoking journey, not only through the eyes of the Palaeolithic people of Northern Europe, but an unexpected journey back to the dawn of man.

When I got back I dried out our days collection, and put the mushrooms in storage for a meal to come and retired for the evening, knackered.

What a day, what an epic day…