An accidental experiment yesterday revealed the true power of inflammation and the fundamental reason why as a race, humanity is so ill from the inside out.
I’ve been known in the past for being self-righteous and it’s a trait I’d like to think I no longer have, but last nights meal out with some old friends hit home just how much what we consume wreaks havoc on our often quite fragile internal mechanics, so this post is a guide to all on the evils of certain food and drinks, not me being a smug bastard or a paragon of health.
I’ve been off the “inflammatories” for the best part of two months now and during that time, I have seen my weight come down to my target, my BMI likewise following suit, and the general lethargy and bloated feelings disappear completely.
Whilst Wim Hof (not that I’ve read thus far) doesn’t share any real nutrition advice to his acolytes, other than to eat a more plant-based diet, he does hit home on the impact inflammation has on the body, and the amount of deaths that are directly (actually covertly) attributed to inflammation. Think about that for a second, there are over sixty million deaths per year associated to inflammation, the main causes are heart attacks, stokes, diabetes and cardiovascular diseases, all of which account for the number one cause of death in the West.
Perhaps controversially, put that against the one million Covid deaths, and to paraphrase the late and great Bill Hicks “where is my commercial, where is my war on food and alcohol, where is my lockdown”.
It’s also clear that those with high levels of inflammation have perhaps passed away more often from Covid than those without, and I have friends and colleagues who have seen this pattern and have gone on to develop dietary and exercise plans to reduce the risk of severe illness or even death.
As I’ve mentioned several times in the past, Dr Jacob Bronowski first brought inflammation to my attention with his book and series The Ascent of Man. During his life, he studied the evolution of Homo Sapiens closely, and shared the stark fact that our bodies are not built to withstand the barrage of inflammatory foods we gorge on each day. Our ancestors were hunter-gatherers for a reason, what they could grab, kill and eat sustained their bodies, and that happened rather well for hundreds of thousands of years, until a chance interbreeding of grasses in the Middle East created the first wheats, the first breads, the first crops, the first farms, the first towns, the list goes on and on until we get to where we are today, technologically advanced yet evolutionally retarded.
The Wim Hof Method teaches us to reduce the inflammation in our bodies via breath work, increasing oxygen levels and supercharging our system reduce the acidity and increase the alkalinity of the body, the key to a more healthy lifestyle. The cold therapy (via cold showers or ice baths) also helps to flush out inflammatory toxins from the internal organs. If we go beyond the practice and reduce or omit the amount of inflammatory food and drink in our diet, then not only does that put us closer to the lifestyle of our ancient ancestors, but it gives us all a better chance of longevity, and with that, as Wim says, we become “happier, stronger, healthier”.
So just what are the things we should avoid, what are the things we should include.
Well for me, there is no better article than the one I found via a random Duck search (to Duck Duck Go is to Google, without the sharing of personal data to Big Tech!).
The missive on Dr Jockers website clearly articulates what inflammation is and the why and the how we should avoid it.
Without asking for permission (the link to his website and an acknowledgement of how awesome the article is here should avoid any litigation), I’ve included the great “info-graphics” from the article here, as an at-a-glance guide on the dangers of inflammation and what we can do to avoid it.
Like I said, this is not me being self-righteous because I do most of these things already, it is simply a guide for others to consider because I am really seeing the benefits of this approach.
Last night I fell off the inflammation wagon. I went for a meal with two old friends, our table was a vast sharing platter, a communal smorgasbord of Western loveliness. Still avoiding meat, I took bread, I took grains, I took fried potatoes and tempura vegetables, all washed down with alcohol-free beer (which still contains hops). I left the bar so bloated that by the time I “fork-lifted” myself into bed a couple of hours later, I felt awful. I woke up this morning feeling crap, my stomach distended still from last nights overload.
OK I had a great night catching up with my old buddies, but today my system is screaming at me, telling me stay on the right path and ditch the bad stuff. I told it in no uncertain terms to pipe down a little as we still need to have fun, right?!
It’s not an easy path to take either, our brains have been hard-wired to crave sugar, to crave advertised fast-food, to opt for the brightly coloured and wonderfully packaged processed supermarket foods over the grey, boring and time consuming preparations from our vegetable racks, but if we can gain the power back over our minds and turn off the razzmatazz generated by highly-paid marketing consultants who want us to buy more and consume more, then maybe we can truly be happy, healthy and strong…
Today officially marked the start of the rest of my life. With the first seven cycles of seven years out of the way, and according to Buddhists the closure of my forty-nine adolescence age (my wife and especially daughter just said I’ll never grow out of it, The Scouse Peter Pan), I am approaching the adult age with a lot of optimism.
Yes I’m still concreted into the corporation I’m so desperately trying to “kango” myself out of, yes I am still surrounded by abject chaos due to the never-ending pandemic and global geo-political instability (as we all are), but the events of today have solidified my post-retirement plans.
I had been looking forward to today for a long time, ringed in red several times on the kitchen wall calendar, and it did not disappoint.
I was surprised about the lack of certified Wim Hof Method instructors in the UK, especially in Wales and the north of England, a grand total of two, covering a population of over thirty million people.
Today earmarked the first instalment of the journey to hopefully becoming an instructor myself one day, a one day Wim Hof Fundamentals course set in the beautiful hills of North Wales, just a few miles outside of Gwrch Castle, which houses a pair of likeable Geordies and D-list celebrities from time to time, who have scheduled challenges of their own.
Eager to get there on-time, I was the first to arrive and was greeted by our instructor for the day, Paul Roose. I had dozens of questions for Paul but didn’t want to barrage him from the “hoff”, so waited patiently until after our comrades had all fallen in.
He did however share two things that shocked me. The first, was that the course very nearly got cancelled, on the basis that his ice supplier had let him down, and he had to scrabble around the supermarkets of North Wales for alternative supplies (water, water everywhere, nor any drop to freeze).
Thanks to Comrade Justin at the local Food Warehouse, he managed to acquire the required amount (120kgs) and safely ensconced them in the on-site freezers (which were just about big enough).
Strategically spaced around the girl guides hut, Paul shared with us the background behind the InnerFire movement and the Wim Hof Method, plus some details behind Wim’s backstory. Whilst interesting and already known to me, what blew me away was Paul’s back story, inspired by his honest, humbling and heart-felt journey from the brink of despair to where he is today. What Paul lacks in height (his words not mine!) his towering strength of will and determination has got him where he is, and made his case for change (in terms of his ten disciples for the day) an easy sell, to me at least. Here we had a gentlemen bearing his soul and past dilemmas with a bunch of strangers in an effort to bring our own reasons for being present today front of mind.
So after listening to Paul, and as he proceeded with asking the group to introduce ourselves, I fell out of time as I do periodically and more frequently these days, and spent what felt like hours viewing in 8K IMAX, a panoramic review of my life with two questions running around in my head. Why was I here, and how the fuck did I get here?
The why was simple. Or was it? I’ve convinced myself that the why was because I wanted to put in place a post-retirement plan so I didn’t have to work in the corporations again, to keep some money coming in and to keep my mind from not procrastinating into dementia. But in an instant, I realised that it wasn’t about any of that, it was about my journey, all of the rotten things that have happened to me, all of the rotten things I’d done to others, and how, through the last ten years since my self-scribed “spiritual epiphany” I have gained the wisdom, empathy, life experience and communication skills to help others.
As for the how, I guess that is down to either fate, choice or blind luck.
The first chapter of my two chapter book of life was mainly about taking. I have given my children the best possible chance of success and my wife a comfortable, adventurous and happy life (mostly!) and my buddies some fun and frolics, but beyond the irregular charity donations, very little in the way of philanthropy.
The realisation of what I must do next hit me like a hammer. I must learn the skills and competencies to help more people going forward, to help heal broken people in the way that Paul was inferring with his honest approach to the neophytes that sat before him.
I’m not built for traditional yoga, the meditation manual I wrote many years ago is far too complex that even I don’t believe in it or follow it, and reiki is best administrated by those closer to “the source” than I, but here we have a method so simple in structure and accessibility, yet so strong in it’s ability to change people’s lives, that by navigating through its many levels, I have the opportunity to be proficient in a toolkit that gives people happiness, strength and health, which is all anyone needs beyond the five basics elements for living; food, water, air, shelter and sunlight.
After the full round of introductions (including my own), Paul give us a good account of the basics of the Wim Hof Method, after which we had our first exercise, a simple breath retention after a single breath. I managed to knock out a 1m33s retention which was good I guess, but no surprise as I’ve been practicing my breathing techniques for over two months now.
The second was again to take a simple breath and complete as many push ups as we could, I managed just nine, not surprising with what my daughter describes as ”chicken arms”.
The third was to submerse ones hands and feet in ice water (the former being more difficult than the latter), something I’d not done before, but with focus and calm breathing, I managed three minutes for both. Once the body gets over the initial shock and mind overcomes matter, it is actually quite easy, the blood rushing to the surface of the skin, providing as it where, a barrier to the nervous system which would otherwise be screaming “get me the fuck outta here”.
Returning inside with grass-filled feet, we then took to the floor to practice the breathing method, again something I have practiced for a little while now. That said, there were things I was not doing correctly, so the fine tuning helped me acquire a new personal best of 5m30s of breath retention (not that I’m counting, as Wim says himself it’s not a competition).
It was as this point that Paul asked us to again “politely piss on the pH paper” (my crude alliteration, not his), which showed up any differences in body alkalinity after doing four rounds of breathing when compared to none earlier in the session, with mine showing a little improvement, others massively so. After this, we then did another round of breathing and redid the push up challenge, all of us doubling our efforts, with my meagre nine turning into a rather impressive twenty two on an exhale. Not bad for a bloke who makes Mr Muscle look like Arnold Schwarzenegger.
After a spot of light lunch, it was time for my first proper ice bath. I had been preparing in the months prior to the course with cold showers every day and my make-shift plunge pool in the garden, but temperatures only ever get to 16c minimum so not that cold. Today was different, today was cold! Beforehand, Paul taught the group how to do the horse stance, which was like tai chi movement but with a bit more gusto and chanting. Warming up and with the right focus and intention, I got straight in the birthing pool filled with iced water up to my ear lobes, closed my eyes, and breathed calmly until the body shock subsided.
Paul asked me if I was ok half way through, I said I was fine and focusing on a tree in the far distance. And there is strength in nature, in trees, which are firmly grounded and avoid fragility when facing turbulent weather, the same could be said for us. As Wim says, be strong like a tree!
After four minutes of being submerged and my body becoming very warm, I submerged my head under for a further thirty seconds (thus stimulating the vagus nerve which is responsible for regulating mood, heart rate and the immune system). Jumping out, I did a few laps of the field and the horse stance until my body had warmed up.
Everyone did amazingly well at all of the challenges, none more so than the ice bath, all of us staying in for two minutes or more.
Feeling invigorated, we came back inside for some closing words and advice from Paul and an invitation for us all to take home and practice what we had learned, so to overcome the obstacles he clearly has in a complex and fucked up world.
Naturally I hung back at the end to fire a few quick questions at Paul, not wanting to hold him back any for getting home, he very kindly obliged and gave some sound advice on the Wim Hof Academy and the training and annual accreditation process.
The course exceeded my expectations and the best part for me was hearing Paul’s story and his journey into now (to paraphrase Eckhart Tolle), and if I have just one ounce of his passion and drive to help others to find their own paths, then I can’t fail to succeed.
Clearly I can’t recommend Paul highly enough, a great guy inspiring others to be happy, strong and healthy.
Wim Hof Training Day Two – Four with Paul’s northern comrade Emma is coming up in October for me, a course conducted in and around the picturesque town of Kendal in the Lake District. It will be cold. It will be wonderful.
Oh and that second thing that shocked me, he had already read this blog site before I met him today, that my friends is synchronicity in action…
These are just some of the positive aspects of travelling. As scribed in past posts, I’ve had the privilege and freedom to travel all over our “little blue dot” over the last four decades, without any restrictions whatsoever, with the exception of border crossings and passport control.
And it is for that very reason, that I have seen a remarkable self-transformation, into someone that my former hedonistic self would probably not recognise. Travelling to around thirty countries, I have over time embedded myself into the DNA of each one which has given me exposure to a different world-view, based on the geological and societal evolution of each locale.
It’s not only me that has benefited from this approach to life. My wife has accompanied me to most locations and she too is aligned in terms of wisdom and spiritual maturity. My two sons had the privilege of attending one of the best international schools in the world for three years, and both recall with fondness our holidays in Asia, Africa, Europe and The Americas, and both have turned out to be amazing human beings, very different from one another but possessing the same moral compass at their cores which is guiding them through life.
But today, we live in a very different world, a world which is effectively closed down (temporary or permanently) when it comes to travel, and as such, my daughter will not have the same world view afforded to her parents and siblings, through no fault of her own. Disenfranchised.
It’s fair to say that I am now torn. Although I am not done with adventuring on Planet Earth yet, if it came to the crunch that I could not travel anymore (for reasons other than Covid travel restrictions), then I (on personal level) would probably be alright with that, but because of Covid and the global alignment of governments the world over, what we now have is a clear choice between free will and control when it comes to the freedom of movement.
Our government today declared, in no uncertain terms, that it will only be those that are double vaccinated or fully vaccinated (inferring a programme of mandatory boosters lies ahead) will be allowed to travel across borders, and this was likely to be “forever”. Unprecedented.
As previously mentioned, I’ve already made the decision not to take the Covid vaccine (for reasons I’ll not repeat here), which leaves me in a very sticky predicament, do I stick to my strong principles and erect the middle digit to Westminster and other world leaders cranking up their own Orwellian travel rulings, or do I roll up my sleeve with gritted teeth and a foaming mouth and accept a double jab so that I can accompany my daughter on her path to cultural and spiritual enlightenment?
I’ve always said that my “ikigai” is my family and I will always do what it takes to support them, nurture them, evolve them into better human beings, and if that means overruling my deepest instincts for the love of them, then I guess that’s exactly what I must do.
On reflection too, now that I am forced into making that tough decision (taking the “blue pill”) for my daughters next few formative years, I don’t think I want to be stuck on this little island forever. I’ve never classified myself as English or British, and with a post-Brexit entrapment with perennial Tory governments in seat, I actually despise these lands now. Never have I witnessed such a polarised nation, with every single topic, idiom, way of life divided equally into two camps (with the exception of the “1%ers”, the haves and have nots), which continues to destroy and erode the community cohesion I have grown up with. That said, are there any better countries to live in just now, I suspect they are all going through the same process?
The simplicity of the Wim Hof Method and it’s accessibility to all, is, as I have found out, the secret to its success.
I took it upon myself to dive straight in to several experiments (not all that are offered), namely breathing (including retention and meditation), cold therapy (twenty day challenge to take cold showers for three minutes per day, culminating in my first ice bath this morning), and certain physical exercises (push-ups, stretching, inversions and horse stance).
As already mentioned, I have tried a lot of eastern-based practices over the years, yet this western variant (no not Covid related) seems to resonate with me more, allowing me to stick rigidly to it, compared to the other methods.
I found the breath work to be both invigorating and serene at the same time, the supercharging of my body through increased oxygen surging through veins, arteries and capillaries, waking them up and working them to provide a natural high and the ability to hold my breath for four minutes, and it is during that time that I experience a real peace, and all for free. I recall in desperation paying a not too insignificant amount to partake in a transcendental meditation course which never really worked for me.
The cold showers shocked my body into life after the breath work, and even though the temperature was only a cool nineteen degrees centigrade, it was still cold enough to make a difference, to calmly withstand room temperature water, which is quite odd. I can walk around the house naked (what a horrible thought) for hours and not be affected by nineteen degrees centigrade, but turn that same temperature into water and you feel the immediate difference.
That’s biology at work. The reason the water feels colder than air is because water is the better conductor of the two. When you plunge into a nineteen degrees centigrade shower or pool, heat escapes your body much more easily across the entire surface area, than it would if you were simply standing in nineteen degrees centigrade air, as the water takes more heat from your body, and quicker, it feels colder.
Naturally, I wanted to experience an ice bath to take it to the next level, and after some serious contemplation and lack of opportunities in buying a large wooden barrel, I acquired a portable bath (yes it’s a thing), prepared zip-lock ice bricks and took my first ten minute plunge today. At fifteen degrees centigrade (which is just cold enough for the magic to start working according to The Hoffer), it didn’t take my breath away, probably down to the cold shower preparation each day. I’ll need more bricks to get the temperatures down to below ten degrees centigrade (when the real magic happens), I just need to broker a freezer space deal with the wife!
The horse stance and “tai-chi-esque”manoeuvres do seem to raise the body temperatures to counter the less-than arctic blast of cold to the system, and these are much needed, as simply towelling of doesn’t seem to increase the temperatures rapidly enough before the chills set in.
My wife and I also took it upon ourselves to take the practice to the beach early one morning this week, where I found a perfectly flat rock to do my breath work and horse stance on, sandwiched between a dip in the sea, which again was a relatively warm eighteen degrees centigrade.
My plan is to do the breath work in the garden before my tribe rises each day and take a plunge, to set my intention for whatever the day should bring, giving me more power in the mind to succeed, at whatever it is I need to do.
One thing I have noticed, is that the method certainly gives me that grounding and stable platform for the day, but within a few hours of getting back on the corporate treadmill, the same old duhkha reappears, so I may have to carve out a “WHM siesta” at lunchtime to see me through.
One thing is for certain, the method helps, but it can’t change everything. Over time, I hope that I will have that power over the mind, and with that find the courage to make a real change in my life, to ditch the stressful job, live with the financial consequences of that decision and find more a meaningful venture and peaceful existence.
In August, I am booked on a one-day WHM course with a qualified instructor over in North Wales, with a view to seeing if I too could embrace the method more deeply and see if there is an opportunity to become qualified, to learn the deeper levels of the practice so I could teach others of the benefits that are clearly there, and with that take a bold and brave step into the unknown world of financial insecurity yet corporate liberation, and with that, a freedom from the bondage of a system that doesn’t work for me.
Baader–Meinhof is a phenomenon in which after noticing something for the first time, there is a tendency to notice it more often, leading to a belief that it has a high frequency, and perhaps (taking it a step further) there is an esoteric force at work, pushing it into consciousness, giving the self a nudge to find out more.
I had never heard of Wim Hof until recently. The first time I heard the name was when I took to the road last year to survey the land for our planned eco-retreat (the progress of which is near zero due to pandemic related logistics issues). Our trip to the Lammas eco-village soon after raised his profile further, and further still with my foray into ishnaan (ancient cold water therapy first practiced by Indian sheikhs in the Punjab) and finally Russell Brand who has waxed lyrical about the guy for the last eighteen months.
As my recent duhkha post detailed, I have been trying far too hard to find enlightenment, peace and equilibrium over the last decade, in a desperate attempt to find answers to the hard questions of why are we here, how do we maintain a healthy mind and body and what happens to our soul when we die.
I have undertaken many practices during that time, yoga, meditation, mindfulness, reiki, kundalini and all forms of holistic therapy. Whilst that was not wasted time, I found that I was no more balanced than before, wiser of course and more knowledgeable, but still somewhat out of kilter.
One of my commune comrades started to talk about Wim Hof again a couple of weeks over breakfast, and I decided to take a deeper look into this guy to find out what his method was (WHM – Wim Hof Method).
After watching some of his (and Russell Brands) YouTube videos and downloading his free app, I found that his approach to wellness was simple, so simple in fact that it was instantly accessible to all, free at the point of entry, which used our mind, lungs and skin to help retune our physical and meta-physical states of being to bring back balance, calmness and a super-charged immune system to boot.
Contrast that to the other forms of conditioning out there, chemical conditioning via Big Pharma, mental conditioning via Big Therapy, physical conditioning via Big Trainers, spiritual conditioning via Big Religion, all of which comes at considerable expense.
Even the spiritual practices like yoga, transcendental meditation, and holistic therapies don’t come cheap, but the WHM looks to give you all of that balance for free via (in the main) breathing techniques and cold water therapy. That’s it. No detailed rules, laws, regulations, dogma, trinkets, gadgets, just you, your body, your time and water.
Naturally this sounds too good to be true, but as with many things in life (with the exception of injecting heroin, jumping out of a plane without a parachute or supporting Liverpool FC), I’ll try anything once.
So I did just that, and all that I can say is that it works, or at least it is starting to.
Breath work I have done before in yoga (relaxing and energetic), but never have I attempted body oxygenation and breath retention. Within the space of just a few days, I found myself being able to hold my breath for just shy of three minutes, post-which my stress levels plummeted to absolute zero. No technique I’ve done thus far has allowed me to go from breakneck speed to a dead stop so quickly. Remarkable.
The cold therapy I found quite easy too. New Years Day this year saw me in sub-zero temperatures in the sea close to home, albeit with a swim suit on, and I have taken cold showers since, but not with such routine or regularity. Every day I wake up now, energised after unbroken nights of slumber (another benefit of the WHM), almost racing for the spare room where I take my morning “meds” in the form of breath work and contemplation, followed by either a cold shower or a quick dip in the sea if the tides are right before the work day commences.
I am already seeing the benefits, I feel my head is less foggy, my body is reacting well to the new practices, and conflict situations in work have been dealt with as matter of fact rather than “oh no!” scenarios.
Naturally I wanted to know as much about Wim Hof as I could, so my wife bought me his recent book for my birthday which came today, three chapters down already at lunch and I’m in awe of the guy. Humble and honest background, no bullshit, easy to read and the words come straight from the heart, giving me the impression that this guy is both authentic and awesome in equal measures.
Incredibly, he has twenty-six work records, mostly ice-related shenanigans, but it was his clinical trials that pricked my attention most. Here was a guy in his fifties, deploying his own breathing/cold therapy/mind over matter techniques being injected with ecoli under lab conditions, monitored by medical practitioners to see how this man really reacted when his body was put under a real attack, only to find that his immune system was so strong, the bad bacteria had no impact on him whatsoever. He repeated the experiment with twelve of his trainees a short while later and all twelve tests had the same outcome.
What is this? Is it luck? Is it good DNA? Is it poor test conditions? Or is it the fact that here we had a man who could manipulate his immune system in such a way that made him somewhat impervious to bacteria and viruses, even when injected directly into the body?
From what I have read thus far, the science backed up the latter.
Many have frowned upon me when I have told them that I will not be taking the Covid vaccines, on the basis that I believe that I am healthy enough for the virus to only impact me slightly, and that the vaccine is still only on emergency licence until 2023 with no clinical conclusions reached. Mr Hof it appears has now given me the opportunity and associated techniques to boost my immune system even further, which I will embrace with freezing arms (from the cold showers).
I’ll continue to do the daily exercises to see how the practice improves my mind, body and soul, but may leave the ecoli injections a while longer…
Seven years ago, I completed the first draft of my meditation manuscript, entitled “The Power of Se7en”, its central tenet has numerology at the core.
Twenty-Fourteen saw me evolve to the next stage of evolution really, become more aware about what the Universe was and what it wasn’t. What it wasn’t was meaningless, what it was, was becoming clear after forty-two years of human experience.
When one becomes more aware, more awake, synchronicities (or breadcrumbs as I have called them) appear with increasing regularity. It was being more alert that brought about the number seven and its increasing significance and abundance. Seven colours, seven musical notes, seven chakras, seven deadly sins, lucky seven, seven wonders of the world and the Buddhist cycle of seven years, which infers that one goes through seven times seven-year cycles and at the age of forty-nine, we depart our “childhood” phase and mature to the “adult” phase of existence, and with that enter into a period of spiritual growth, focusing on non-material values, gravitating towards the ethereal, the esoteric, the eternal.
With that in mind, I had planned last weekend very carefully, last Friday being my forty-ninth birthday, which, as it turned out, could not have been better.
The most magical place I have ever been to in the UK (probably the world) is Glastonbury, the Isle of Avalon. My friends and I have been going there on and off for the last three decades and over that time, I have connected with the place on a deeper level each time. From campsites to hostels and now AirBnB’s, all have given me a place to rest after tapping in to the towns vibe, a majestic current of consciousness that runs through everything.
And so it was, that the dawn of my forty-ninth year commenced. At four in the morning, slightly tired still from the chaotic travelling the previous day, my eyes opened to commence their second cycle of existence, and with that a dawn jaunt to Glastonbury Tor. My internal GPS system kicked in as I made my way through the dark streets heading north out of the town centre, through the even darker tree-covered lanes which led to the Tor. Thankfully, and as I would have hoped, there was not a cloud in the sky. I bimbled my way over styals and through the greenest of paths until I reached the steps up the concentric and circular hill the Tor sits atop.
The first step gave me another breadcrumb, indicating that my previous two posts of Duhkha and Suhkha were on point, Yin Yang, balance is the key.
I could already see a few people were atop the hill as I ascended, like-minded folks who were also seen the sun rise over the Isle of Avalon, each for their own reasons.
So I took my lotus perch and sat patiently waiting for the sun to rise. The moon was also playing its part, sitting just to the right of the rising sun, in a perfect crescent, plainly clear to all just how it gets its interstellar luminosity.
Then it happened, the first glimpse of the sun as it appeared over the horizon line, the first time I’d ever seen it from this position as most of the time spent at the Tor in years gone by was at night, partying mostly, home in time for bed before our life-giver made an appearance.
Clearly all that witnessed this majestic site where in awe of the sheer beauty of the vista before us, and with that a surge of energy hit me hard, energy from the invisible ley lines, that meet at Glastonbury Tor, the Tor acting as one of the major nexus points in the UK.
As the accompanying plant-medicine kicked in, my being became very small in the sheer vastness of time and space, and for the first time in a good while, I felt at one with the Source.
As the sun rose further and the dawn turned into day, I took a few obligatory camera shots, exchanged a few pleasantries with my consciousness comrades and made my way back to town.
When I got back, my wife was waking from her slumber, so we took breakfast and I shared my experience and photos with her. A short while later, we got our things together and headed over to Goddess House, for a treatment I had booked us both into, to celebrate our seventeenth wedding anniversary. What happened during those two hours confirmed just how magical and powerful Glastonbury really is.
We were greeted at the door by our two therapists for the day, who guided us through the many rooms of the old manor house and explained what our treatment consisted of, namely a ninety-minute aromatherapy massage followed by thirty minutes of healing.
The treatment started with a blessing and some words of love and wisdom from the Lady of Avalon, a spirit who still resides over the place and entwines her energy with that of the therapists and on through to the clients. The aromatherapy session was relaxing, and then the hands-on reiki healing took place. I have had reiki many times before, but the surge of energy and warmth was like nothing I’d ever experienced before. Somehow, the energy was going straight to all my “duhkha points” without me having to explain where my grumble zones where, as if guided by invisible hands.
What followed next is difficult, almost impossible, to describe. When we entered the room earlier, we had seen crystal bowls used for sound healing, and neither my wife nor I had ever had a sound treatment before. Even though I have tinnitus, I was keen to give it a go, to see if the frequencies of the singing bowls could give me relief from the constant noise inside my head. Amazingly, the bowls stayed in their position on the other side of the room, but with eyes closed, the therapists played the bowls, at which point the material Universe dissolved (for me at least). There was no body, no thoughts, no time, no space. Just sound, reverberation and pure energy. I was sound, I was energy, and it was good, very good, yet another step closer to the Source.
After the bowls stopped singing (however long that was I couldn’t tell), the therapists then resumed the reiki healing and gave a final blessing from the Lady of Avalon, and it was at this point where all the negative emotion I must have had locked away came out all at once, tears streaming down my face, accompanied by uncontrollable chin-wobbling.
After the treatment finished, I opened my eyes to gaze upon my therapist through waterlogged-peep holes, and there she was, smiling at me, softly saying, that “she is here, she is love, she is healing, she does that”.
Relaxing in a side room after we said goodbye to our goddesses for the day, we sat and drank herbal tea and took red fruits before heading back to town, and when we did, I felt light, so light, due to physical and meta-physical burdens being lifted from me (for a while at least). For the first time in aeons, I felt cleansed, unblocked.
I now start the second cycle of my life, a cycle that will leave behind materialism once and for all, leave behind the broken society and attempt, in my own way, whatever that way becomes once I have acquired the skills, to heal others in the manner I had been healed during what can only be described as a rebirthing ceremony.
Glastonbury, you never fail to disappoint me, I am forever yours, forever connected to you…
“In darkness, look to the light” is a line from the Dungeon Master, for those of you old enough to remember the old Dungeons & Dragons cartoon from the Nineteen-Eighties, a line I’ve carried with me through the last four decades.
Whilst my last post outlined and detailed the current dissatisfaction points in my life, that of course is just one side of the coin.
My wife read my post yesterday and whilst holding back on the many other problems she sees from her position (no doubt), she asked me what gave me satisfaction, what gave me suhkha, suhkha being the opposite of duhkha, those things in life which keep our wheel in kilter, spinning perfectly.
The list below is a definitive one using the same categories and clusters from yesterday, and although no doubt others could argue against a few of those, this captures the things that please me, that put me in the PMA zone (Positive Mental Attitude) and allows me to function at my best;
◦ I am well respected in work as someone who works hard and achieves greatness
◦ I mentor and nurture others to help them realise their potential
◦ I am liked by my work colleagues
◦ I am paid very well for what I do, and have a good work/life balance
◦ I am fit and healthy for my age
◦ I have optimised my weight and BMI
◦ I am in tune with my health and can listen to my body, adapting my habits when required
◦ I like to take alternative therapies to keep my balance (mind, body and soul)
Mental Well Being
◦ I am happy compared to others I know
◦ I can recognise when I am under stress and have the right tools to decrease anxiety
◦ I have friends for life, not many compared to some, but loyal and honest soul mates
◦ I like spending time with friends and they like my company
◦ I am a good judge of character and don’t suffer fools / waste time on pointless relationships
◦ I like being a part of my local community / tribe
◦ I like it when people I know and like do well in life
◦ I like reading
◦ I like blogging
◦ I like music and live concerts
◦ I like the arts, film and theatre
◦ I like time spent in nature
◦ I love my family, my family loves me (my ikigai)
◦ I am liked by friends, neighbours and colleagues
◦ I am seen as fun and energetic by others
◦ I believe in life beyond death which settles me
◦ I am wise and see the world how it really is, not how it is presented by others
◦ I am kind
Life is all about balance, good vs bad, light vs dark, day vs night, but such things are not conflicting or fighting against it’s opponent, it is complimenting it.
If we do not have opposites in play which bring the balance, how can we truly evolve as individuals if everything we have or do is positive.
I have spent this weekend in one of the most magical places on Earth (in my opinion), the Isle of Avalon, Glastonbury, where I am penning this blog from now, the majestic Tor sitting atop its ancient mound in view from my temporary bedroom window.
I have been coming to this place for the last twenty-seven years, and every time I visit I feel closer to The Source.
Adding what happened this weekend would not do justice as a footnote here, so I will save that experience for another post, but I will leave you with a pictorial reminder the both duhkha and suhkha exist, and it is our challenge to find the right balance, so we become balanced, which for me is enlightenment…
“I got nighty nine problems but a bitch ain’t one” is a horrendously offensive line from a rap song from the ultra-materialist Jay-Z, but the origins of that line go back millennia.
Whilst I may have personally been impacted by the pull of the brace of supermoons recently, and unconsciously by the pandemic, there is something not right at my core. I feel like there is a huge fatberg in the sewers of my mind, building up quickly now, and with it a huge pressure on the entire system.
Why I gravitated to the dusty tomes in my loft this week I don’t know. As I have been off work this week enjoying the sunshine, I took some time to rearrange my personal bookcase in the bedroom, with the four quadrants of my Billy bookcase organised from left to right (History, Science, Noetics and Nature). Alas, one book was missing (and I didn’t even know I was looking for it) in Steve Hagen’s Buddhism: Plain and Simple.
Eager to reread, I recalled buying it on iBooks several years ago, so spent some time this week refreshing my memory on the content, whilst the physical book remained hidden somewhere in the attic.
The book explains the concept of duhkha, not easily translated into English, but can be attempted by saying dissatisfaction or as the book puts it, those things that puts our wheel out of kilter.
The extract below details quite accurately explains the human condition today and how none of us really want any problems to deal with:
Once upon a time an affluent farmer approached Buddha with great hope. He prostrated before the sage and sought his blessings. Buddha raised his hand in benediction.
“O Venerable One!” the farmer said, “I have a major problem and I know only you can help me.”
Buddha kept quiet and the man went onto narrate that his good-for-nothing son was troubling him and that he was mad at his wife because she supported her son over him.
The man said, “Do something so their minds change and they realise how much I’m doing for them.”
“I can’t solve this problem for you,” Buddha replied and lowered his eyes again, in a meditative state.
The farmer told Buddha how he was worried about the upcoming harvest as the weather didn’t seem too favorable and the monkeys were destroying his crop.
“I can’t help you with this one either,” Buddha said calmly.
Still hoping in the powers of Buddha, he told him that many people owed him money and he was having hard time recovering it from his debtors. And that he too owed money to lenders and creditors. He asked Buddha if the sage could give him any remedy or amulet.
“Hmm…” Buddha said, “I can’t solve this problem for you.”
“What good are you then?” the man yelled. “Every one says you are the enlightened one and here you can’t solve any of my problems. Is there absolutely nothing you can do? I’m tired of my terrible life.”
“You see,” Buddha said patiently, as if he hadn’t heard the man’s tirade, “at any point in time, you’ll always have 84 problems in your life. The 84th is the key.
If you solve the 84th problem, the first 83 will resolve themselves.”
“Please solve my 84th problem then,” the man said, going back to being humble. “How do I do it?” he added.
“First, we have to identify your 84th problem.”
“What is my 84th problem?”
Buddha smiled and peered deeply into the man’s eyes that were full of desire, doubt and anxiety.
“Your 84th problem is,” Buddha said and paused, “you want to get rid of the first 83 problems.”
So whilst I understand that we can’t solve all of our problems, and that if we do pop a few off our list, inevitably a few new ones will be added, I felt it was time to actually document all of the things that cause me duhkha right now, and see if any (or all of them) are significantly increasing the size of the fatberg that grows within.
The process is the same as Step Four from the 12 Steps to Recovery programme those with serious addictions go through, and it was quite cathartic jotting those down and reflecting just how much each one was impacting my being.
The list below is a definitive one, and although no doubt others would add a few more, this captures enough for me to cogitate on for a while. They formed natural clusters once the list was complete, so it felt natural to categorise them:
◦ I don’t like the ethics of the company I work for
◦ I don’t feel in control of my own career
◦ I don’t like my job
◦ I don’t trust my chain of command
◦ I don’t like the ringing in my head (tinnitus)
◦ I don’t like the pain in my “man pipes”
◦ I don’t eat the right things, too much processed food
◦ I drink alcohol but I don’t like it’s effects any more
◦ I don’t exercise enough
◦ I don’t walk the dog enough
Mental Well Being
◦ I don’t relax enough
◦ I don’t do yoga enough
◦ I don’t do meditation enough
◦ I don’t speak nicely enough (curse too much)
◦ I don’t want to be stressed
◦ I don’t have enough like-minded friends
◦ I don’t spend enough time socialising / connecting with friends
◦ I don’t spend enough time with my sister/niece
◦ I don’t speak to my parents
◦ I don’t like how I am too self-righteous and judge others on their actions/inactions
◦ I don’t like the way I judge others on how they look and not how they are
◦ I don’t do enough for others
◦ I don’t like having a big mortgage
◦ I don’t like the way I spend too much money on things I don’t need
◦ I don’t like the way society is (broken) but do little to change it
◦ I don’t read enough books
◦ I don’t blog enough
◦ I don’t spend enough time learning the ukulele
◦ I don’t spend enough time with nature
◦ I don’t do enough sports
◦ I don’t want to live my life without being enlightened
◦ I don’t connect with my higher self
◦ I don’t always make the right choices
◦ I don’t react well in conflict situations (too quick without thinking)
◦ I don’t like the way I want to control things beyond my control
◦ I don’t like acting upon my cravings rather than acknowledging them
◦ I don’t like feeding the addictions my ego desires (sugar, alcohol)
◦ I don’t always make the right choices
◦ I don’t like other people controlling what I do, how I look
It’s quite some list, and likely not unique either, I’m sure most of us have experienced some, most or all of them over time, and perhaps continue to do so.
The more serious ones, the ones impacting my mental and physical state of being, do need to be addressed now.
Acknowledging our duhkha list is, in my opinion, the first step to recovery and unblocking the sewer, just how we do that depends on many factors, but the overriding one for me is courage, courage to make difficult decisions or to change deeply engrained and programmed habits and behaviours.
To have that mindset, that ability and willingness to change, often needs a catalyst, and that will be the topic for my next blog.
In a world that is riddled with disparity, zealots and false philanthropy, it is difficult for some to see that there are alternatives out there. Such alternatives go completely against how our controlled society operates, but they do exist.
This week I open my door to Ubuntu. No I’m not wiping my hard drives of all Apple and Windows operating systems in favour of Linux (although the penguin is mega cute). I am, for the uninitiated (and I included myself in that up until last week), referring to the concept of Ubuntu philosophy – which is a collection of values which allows for human authenticity, with honest, ego-free individuals coming together into tribes, communities and micro-societies, with the emphasis on caring for others in the belief that a universal bond of sharing and supporting each other connects all humanity, free from power, greed and control.
“I am because we are”.
If we are to believe that we are one consciousness experiencing itself subjectively, and everything in the Universe is interlinked, then having a set of core principles which brings us closer together (not fragmented further, more isolated) gives us a chance to become more in tune with the cosmos, and with each other.
My recent foray into a more sustainable and agrarian way of life at a local communal / cooperative allotment collapsed spectacularly recently, much to my disappoint (for many reasons I won’t go into). Here we had an opportunity to do something different, to put the middle finger up to the way standard society operated, but alas it wasn’t to be.
Maybe it’s because we have had two super moons in quick succession (the last one happening tonight with a lunar eclipse). Everything is energy, including matter (which is energy condensed down to a slow vibration – another Bill Hicks quote in case you missed the first one above), and I really seem to suffer when such cosmic events take place. I have been all over the place the last couple of months, not being able to focus much on anything, a world away from the clarity and serenity I usually have. This will change from tomorrow as our closest celestial body buggers off back to where it belongs.
So why ubuntu? Well, the Universe moves in mysterious ways and quickly it seems when it sees an opening. A comrade and I took a herbal tea last Friday in our local cafe and chewed the fat over the sad demise of the allotment, at which point he pulled out two pieces of paper. Now time is a funny thing, as is energy. What happened next as he reached into his pocket was quite profound, and much resembled a video recording set to slo-mo. It took a long time to fetch the paper, almost double that time to unfold the two pieces wide so that I could read them. As he did (in what seemed like time out of space), the flow of energy into my being was something I’d not felt for quite sometime, what ever was about to be revealed was going to have some sort of positive and uplifting effect.
No shit! As I took hold of the parchments, the electricity surged around my body to awaken any cells that were still in “morning sleepy mode”, and with that a required focus. The pages are below:
Here we had a special moment, a vision of what I had been trying to find for some time now, like-minded people who want to push aside the norms of the day and operate in a way which levels everything.
Imagine, if you will, the middle-class IT consultant who banks two hours of time fixing a computer for someone who cannot afford the service fees, and exchanges that for a one hour basket weaving course by a bloke who lives in his van, and a one hour ukulele lesson from a local artist, both for his daughter without the exchange of a single penny.
The above is a real example of how it works, and for me is ubuntu. We all have skills, different skills, but have become accustomed to demand the exchange of money for such. That model clearly isn’t working, as it is breeding so much greed, power and control for the few (not the many), and so if we are to evolve, truly evolve I mean, then that system needs to be deconstructed, starting off in local tribes / communities.
The age of Aquarius is upon is, heralding significant change. I do hope that our local tribe tests out the Ubuntu model here and succeeds, my community is strong here so it stands a good chance if enough time and focus is given by the participants, and conflict or the current broken paradigm doesn’t play a part.
Mandela’s take on Ubuntu is below, if I can’t convince you, perhaps he can…