I have of late given more and more thought time to anonymity online. A brief journey through time since the inception of the internet reveals very similar origins and outcomes when comparing it to the evolution of man and the agricultural revolution. The similarities are quite remarkable.
Clearly the origins of our eureka moment when it comes to the evolution of the human network can’t truly be validated, but if we assume that the origins of modern society was in the Middle East (Jericho, Aleppo – the Ascent of Man theory by Dr Jacob Bronowski and other historians), then the true catalyst for the dawn of our time was probably the brainchild of a single person, who came up with the idea that the cross-pollination of grasses led to the cultivation of wheat, bread, agriculture, farming, commerce, society, government, law and inevitably greed, conflict, aggression and division.
Let’s then take the internet, the brainchild of a single person, Sir Tim Berners Lee. He (with no doubt help from others) came up with the idea of the cross-pollination of data and human interaction, which led to the cultivation of technology, information, ideas, connectivity, community, e-commerce and inevitably greed, conflict, aggression and division.
Both started out with the best intentions, the betterment and evolution of humanity, but sadly it appears that both have suffered the same fate.
Society has broken down into the haves and have nots, and in each of the major developed nation states in the world, opinion is divided completely in half, it certainly is in the UK and the US which recent referendums and electoral votes validate. The exact same goes for the internet, which sees an opportunity for the tech giant owners (Amazon, Space X Starlink, Microsoft, Facebook, Google, Oracle and Apple) to grow their personal wealth whilst the masses fight from two camps against each other on social media. The divisions are clear as are the similarities in both systems.
I have a very clear path now to a life off-grid, and my plans for that will accelerate over the coming days, weeks, months and years until those back-to-basics building blocks are in place and I can successfully, physically and metaphysically disconnect myself from the grid.
The upcoming build of my “Cabin in the Yard” will allow me to construct a habitation and give me new skills which will help me further down the line. I have also completely detached myself from all big-tech online organisations this week by purging all accounts, data and profiles, to have that online anonymity, with of course the exception of this blog which is anonymous anyway.
It felt quite the cathartic process, not only in the purging of the data, but in the sense of (as they say in kundalini yoga) ego eradication, there really is no good to be had in the bloating of the self (either online or offline), the good comes, really comes, in honest and compassionate conversation without the need for hyperbole or acerbic criticism, whether that be via age-old means of verbal and face-to-face dialogue or new-age means in the form of the comments box below.
Like I’ve said many years ago, this site acts as a metaphysical timeline for myself, sharing my inner thoughts with my wife, my children and possibly (hopefully) my grandchildren and of course other folks I’ve never met. It documents the evolution and journey of a simple man who matures over time, who acknowledges the wrongs he has done in his own personal history and how he tries to put those right where he can, offering some primordial and basic nuggets of wisdom for others to read and cogitate on along the way…
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.
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.
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.
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.
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…
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.
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.
The beauty about cartoons and animations is that they invariably operate on many levels.
To the young and innocent, human and non-human forms come together in a series of fast moving caricatures which often titillate and excite the younger generation, without them having the experience yet to fully understand the more subliminal meanings behind such creations.
I’ve been a fan of animation for a long time, my first real emotional connection to the art form forging when the Dungeons & Dragons cartoon hit the UK screens in the nineteen-eighties.
Here we had a visual work of fantasy, whereby six protagonists get sucked into an alien world of monsters and magic, all given special abilities to cope with life in their new realm, pulling together as one team to find their way home.
Rewatching the entire series again during lockdown brought back many fond memories, not only a nostalgic nod to my childhood, but also to those long dark (k)nights were my friends and I would emulate the cartoon quests with pencils, paper and dice under esoteric lighting systems.
My daughter has had a passion for art since she was a youngling and as such it was an easy sell to her to watch some aged cartoons from years past, a passion we now share together; she watched my old animations and in return we doodle and draw together and watch her new wave of animations.
“When can we go to Tokyo dad”, is all I ever hear these days. At present, she fully immerses herself in anime/manga, a basic yet effective art-style I also enjoy.
Little did she know about my liking for it, watching Akira, Dominion Tank Police and the darker Urotsukidōji and Tetsuo, (not made for the eyes of a child) back in the early nineties when there was a minor explosion of manga here in the UK.
Netflix have bought into anime in a big way, so we have started to watch some of the series together as the platform is awash with them.
We started off with My Hero Academia, a great show about kids in University with special powers (quirks), banding together to overcome a hoard of enemies.
Then we had Blue Exorcist, a great show about kids in University with special powers (magic), banding together to overcome a hoard of enemies.
Both of the series were great, very enjoyable and much like the Dungeons & Dragons of old, segmented episodes with an overarching quest, with themes of good versus evil and a spirit of team work.
What we have watched/are watching at present is in my opinion, the best animated series I’ve seen to date; Full Metal Alchemist.
The central tenet is about two teenage brothers who lose their mother through illness and who try to bring her back to life via their rudimentary understanding of alchemy, which rebounds tragically and spectacularly on them, leading them to go on a quest to search for the fabled Philosopher’s Stone in an effort to return their lost body parts.
Oddly, and almost in a nod to somewhat cringeworthy end to Game of Thrones, the original series was created in the early noughties and finished before the manga/comic book version had had the chance to complete, with disastrous consequences, leaving the audience aghast with what can only be described as a Scooby Doo ending.
We scratched our heads after sitting through fifty-one episodes, feeling a little dejected at the end (for me in the same vein as Vanilla Sky).
A colleague of mine advised us to watch Full Metal Alchemist: Brotherhood, a full and expanded remake of the original, and with just ten episodes left of the series, we are both blown away by just how awesome it is.
Not only are the visuals fantastic, but the show is different from others in that it is one complete and continuous storyline/timeline, again not too dissimilar to Game of Thrones (it even has a wall to the north covered in snow), and more importantly it has that deeper level of meaning, which really struck a chord with me.
The band of bad guys in the series are based upon the seven deadly sins (Lust, Envy, Sloth, Gluttony, Greed, Wrath and Pride for the uninitiated).
Each of the sins is represented by a bad guy/girl, a Homunculus (which the dictionary defines as a representation of a small human being made by an alchemist), the traits of which come across very well to the older and wiser viewer.
It was only really this morning that it hit me. Lying awake in bed at five am, I tried to get back to sleep but the vivid visions of last nights mini-marathon of twelve episodes in one sitting prevented me from do so.
I had a somewhat biblical conversation with Weltanschauung yesterday (and do stop by his site, in my opinion one of the [if not the] best on WordPress – and imagine my shock this morning when I actually visited his home page for the first time only to see the strap line The Philosopher’s Stone, the central tenet of Full Metal Alchemist!), so it was only natural that this morning that as darkness still enveloped the land, my thoughts turned to my own reflections on whether or not I have succumbed to the seven deadly sins.
1. Lust: I have almost reached the half century now and no longer have the sexual desires I once had during my virulent heavy metal days and have come to understand just how wrong pornography is, objectifying men, women and others.
2. Envy: I am no longer envious of others, be it the material possessions they have or the successes they achieve in life. I don’t recall using the word jealous in a long time and gain joy in hearing success stories from family, friends and colleagues.
3. Sloth: One thing is for sure, I never rest on my laurels. I’m a firm believer in the concept that there is no such thing as boredom, there is always something to do, if I find myself scratching around for something to do, I find something meaningful to fill the void, including exercise.
4. Gluttony: This year gave me the opportunity to put a balance to my diet, spending half of the year taking a paleo and pescatarian approach to what goes into my body.
5. Greed: I have also of late (with the exception of Christmas presents) been very mindful to purchase only what I need and not what I want. I need to do more next year and stop filling the pockets of Mr Bezos. Giving back is also something I’m keen to do, invariably we live a take lifestyle, giving is so much more rewarding and I’ve started to do that more now (even if it is more time for others, time is actually the most precious thing we have to give).
6. Wrath: Since working from home and not travelling, I have become less fatigued. The lockdown has also given me the opportunity to go back to yoga and get back to nature, and as a result I feel calmer and the conflict situations I have had (with the exception of dinner table arguments around differing opinions on the potential truths behind Covid) have diminished dramatically.
7. Pride: Back in the dark days of twenty-twelve, my “Wolf of Wall Street” lifestyle nearly destroyed my marriage. Replacing cocaine with booze, I was a big shot, top of my game at work, climbing the corporate ladder, travelling all over the world, the big I am. It came at me like a lightning bolt when my wife asked to separate. My ego, arrogance and self-importance had taken over from duty, loyalty, sense and reason. Looking back at my behaviour eight years ago still fills me with disgust, but it acts as a constant reminder not to be that person.
So on reflection I think I have done my level-best to purge the vast majority of the seven sins, and of course there is always room for further improvement.
There are hidden messages that ripple up to the surface from time to time, sometimes in the most unlikely of places (like children’s cartoons), freeing ourselves from sin (in a non-biblical way) raises our consciousness and helps to find them…
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.
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.
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…
I guess there are a few reasons why have decided to take up a more agrarian lifestyle (or at least the start of one).
Weary of the bloatedness that accompanies eating meat in significant volumes has led to a pescatarian diet over the last six weeks has already reaped rewards in a two kilo weight loss, and its a more sustainable way to live. Spending time during the same period rambling across the green and pleasant lands of England, and getting back to nature has given a fresh appetite to put materialism to one side (after the basics hunter-gatherer equipment has been bought and delivered from Amazon – naturally), wanting a life of less that gives me more as a result, and its a more sustainable way to live. Detoxifying the body by reducing alcohol and sugar intake, flushing out unfriendly bacteria and negative Covid knots via the esoteric practice of kundalini yoga and with it a new vigour for life outside the norms of society.
Sadly, I am a hypocrite (and my nineteen year old learned and wise-beyond-his-years offspring concurs this on a daily basis without the need for prompt) and I acknowledge that. Working in an industry which is doing precious little to address global warming and investing in renewable energy sources burns deep within my eco-citizen higher self. With over twenty years invested and with retirement just around the corner (albeit a long, long corner), I have too much invested to just walk away.
My mission is simple, do what I can to be more sustainable now as an individual and as a family (even though on the grand scale of things that is insignificant). Try to improve sustainability and promote green issues in the workplace (knowing that a cultural shift from within will help change the mindset of others on a larger scale than the self or the family). Once I do eventually retire, look towards an off-grid lifestyle, becoming self-sufficient by living off the land and via renewable resources, and if possible go a step further set up a new family (an eco community), starting off small and growing over time, with mind, body and soul at the core.
I’ve admired Jacque Fresco for so long and his Venus Project vision, but it stagnates in this rule-bound material world and having a fully operable and autonomous collective which sits outside the taxation system in the US is in my opinion a tall order to achieve.
I may face the same obstacles in the future here in the UK, but there is hope. One Planet Development in Wales is starting to allow applicants to set up sustainable small holdings to help reduce the countries carbon footprint, something Westminster hasn’t done yet across Offa’s Dyke and may not do, ever.
My recent micro-expeditions over the last six weeks has pushed my retirement thinking further forward, to the extent where it is all I’ve been thinking about for the last seven days since returning from Roman Northumbria. It’s clear to me that not only will I need to detach myself from most of the day to day operations I do now, but I will need to acquire brand new skills and an improved physical prowess should I succeed in what will be the final chapter of my Book of Life.
So like Alice, peering down the rabbit hole into an unknown world, I have started to do some research on what skills I will need. Although the list will be long, it will need to be exhaustive and complete by the time I exhaustingly hit fifty five.
Thumbing through the pages on the internet last week, I decided it was time to get back to basics, real basics, and with that I tried to get an understanding of prehistoric history of Britain, and more specifically the Wirral where I currently live.
Whilst I intend to craft a full post which addresses those historical knowledge gaps from the Palaeolithic age, through the Mesolithic and on to the Romans era, what I have uncovered thus far is that the first Homo sapiens remains in the UK were found (rather remarkably – coincidentally?) at Kents Cavern in Devon where I took the family a few weeks back. These remains carbon-dated to around the year forty thousand BCE and exhibits found revealed our true hunter-gatherers forefathers (and mothers); animal bones, archaic tools and means of illuminating the deepest and darkest caverns by using flints, dry mosses and shells (ancient Yankee Candles).
The trip to the caves fascinated me as did the lifestyle, free from the problems we have today, although they had entirely different problems and dangers to face of course.
Survive they did and we are all evidence of that, but how did the sustain themselves and their tribes, what methods did they use to succeed?
Leaving the hunting aside for another post, my focus turned to gatherering, and what we call foraging today.
Buoyed by my mid-morning blackberry breakfast in Northumbria last Sunday, I did a bit of research and was delighted to find that there was a foraging course in Ruthin (small market town in North Wales) which just happened to coincide with my sisters birthday in a couple of weeks from now. So with debit card already in hand, I dutifully booked us on the course (including my eco-wife to-be), and acquireds a few beginners guides and tools, ready for our first foray into foraging.
Annoyingly, I was off ill from work this week, the kundalini yoga on Tuesday seemed to release many built-up toxins and with it a serious migraine ensued which lasted all of Thursday and Friday, and with it an unwelcome return of my tinnitus, turned up to eleven. Already sprouting cold sores on the lips, I put myself into a dark room and nestled under a duvet for two and a bit days, unable and unwilling to focus and concentrate on the deployment of intelligent IT monitoring systems at work (A.I. won’t get ill, one of the benefits of my work for my employers further down the line after my presence becomes redundant, a victim of my own success).
During my bed-bound sabbatical, I did manage to watch some YouTube videos on foraging, sometimes drifting back off to the land of nod.
There were a few videos that stood out for all would-be pickers:
1. Ray Mears Wild Food
2. Ray Mears Bushcraft
3. Ray Mears Wild Britain
4. Wild Food UK Back To Basics
I guess when it comes to cult of personality and living off the land and it’s resources, Bear Grylls instantly springs to mind. I have liked watching his shows over the years, but find them somewhat contrived and of course a little extreme, sensational not educational.
My quick bimble through some of the online guidance revealed some important principles before taking the first step outdoors:
1. Acquire advice from professionals first
2. Acquire reference books to validate what you forage and if it is safe to eat and don’t taste test
4. Acquire a diary to catalogue where and when you forage
5. Only acquire what you need for yourself/family. Only take a third of the fruits available
6. Don’t take on the edge of agricultural land, especially if the foolishness is brown, likely due to pesticide spraying
7. Don’t trust identifying apps like Google Lens
8. Don’t uproot plants on common land or agricultural land unless permission is granted
9. Sample small amounts during initial forays to make sure one isn’t allergic to the plant
10. Give plants a good wash before consuming to remove dirt and bugs, especially at ground level
Feeling a little better this morning (although looking a whole lot worse due to the “scabification” process on my bottom lip), I headed out towards the old beach line on the coast.
As I passed houses and front gardens with a more watchful eye than usual, I found quite a few interesting trees and bushes, all of which were bearing fruits. On one road alone (all with one hundred yards) I found what I believe to be hawthorn bushes, rowan bushes, a cherry tree, a pear tree and an apple tree.
The road itself has a lot of history. Wellington Road has a set of sea-facing villas, built one hundred and fifty years ago by James Atherton, a local luminary and merchant at the time. The villas still stand strong today with majestic views across the Irish Sea, each unique and picturesque. They are all built on an old tunnel system which dates back hundreds of years when bootleggers would use them as stores for forbidden fayre, the sandstone caves providing good hiding hold for non-taxable contraband.
Taking a fruit from each bush/tree for validation when I got back home (except for the apple and pear trees which were pretty obvious), I headed off to the old cliff line, known locally as the Red Noses (due to them being sandstone proboscis that stretch out to sea). These are now set back from the beach down to the creation of the UK’s longest promenade, built over one hundred years ago, leaving the cliffs a few hundred metres back from the shoreline and with it a thick growth of vegetation.
My old faithful and now off-lead comrade loves it there, as all of the long grasses, bushes and shrubs provide him with plenty opportunities to sniff around and roam for critters.
The main source of foraging here appears to be nettles and blackberries, the small stretch of greenery also lies next to a train track and the bushes grow wild up to the protective railings and are mostly impenetrable (except perhaps with a set of fishing waders which may look a little odd).
Whilst this brief outing was more a “recky” rather than a gathering for breakfast or replacing the “Friday Big Shop”, I did take a few blackberries on the way for sustenance, some sweet and some sour, but sweet anyway in the knowledge that I know they are there and my empty jam jar at home sits waiting for the first foray into preserve making.
Returning home through the back streets, yet more nettles and blackberries grew at the side of the local nine hole golf course, giving me even more evidence to suggest that even in urban areas, opportunities are out there, one just needs to look…
There is no doubt that energy is shifting daily like the sands on a windy beach.
Getting back to nature last week and living life temporarily outside the chaos has brought new light on dark times. Ignoring the pandemic, turning off the news and revisiting the positivity of the past has of late rekindled introspection and what gives me inner peace.
Experiencing the sensory and physical aspects of reality – the flora, the fauna, the cloud formations, the rush of the sea at high tides, the setting sun, the rising moon, as well experiencing the mystical and metaphysical aspects of reality too on just what it feels like to part of something so incredible, I find myself at times in awe of such beauty and the associated feelings experienced are rekindling forgotten spiritual connections I have with some people that I have lost touch with over the years, giving me such a huge internal boost in these troublesome times.
It is seven years ago to the very month that I took my reiki training, opening the neural pathways to something quite alien, quite astounding, tapping into hidden energies that had been hitherto out of reach for the materialist I once was (and have been again over the last couple of years).
Once again it was my wife that reminded me of just who I was back in 2013 and how of late bits of my old self had returned. My “being” back then was born out of abject negativity and selfishness, with me operating as it were as a mid-week bachelor and weekend dad (replicating the abhorrent behaviour of my own alcoholic father).
Such was the shame at this realisation that I was becoming him if not already, that drastic action was required else my strong-willed wife and children would be gone, something my mother sadly never had the strength to do.
So an awakening took place, and with it a connection to a hidden and healing energy, a cosmic current taped into for the first time, opening my eyes to the fact that there was more to this reality than the five senses could serve up.
Buddhists and New Age folks say that things go around in seven year cycles, and here we are exactly seven years later and I find myself knocking on the door of my old reiki master “L” who has “upgraded” to kundalini yoga, and has her own practice based out of a majestic place in the heart of the Wirral countryside.
Although I had not seen her for many years, it was clear that time doesn’t exist (does it anyway?) when it comes to a rekindling of spirits. A quick non-non-distancing hug and catch-up revealed that we would pick up exactly where we left off and both agreed that paths we have taken across the years seem to be forever intertwined.
The same for my wife too. She has been struggling too over the last six months as a furloughed complimentary therapist with too much time on her hands, consuming the chaos, facts, lies and conspiracies for most of her waking hours, minutes and seconds each day. She too needed to refocus by joining me on this journey.
I decided after our trip to Devon to remove meat from my diet. The previous seven days had seen us consume half a farm, chickens, pigs and cows were all present on our daily calorie count and a return to the homestead made me feeling bloated and like a badly cooked steak, over-done.
I was a vegetarian for around eighteen months when I took my reiki training and with the new outlook, new friends, new energy and new lifestyle, it was only natural a diet forms part of the new me.
We have all consumed too much during the lockdown, grazing from cookie jars and overdosing on Netflix for too long over the last six months and our portly figures provide the evidence of that, so a dietary change was a must. I’ve also been out every morning running, cycling, kayaking and land-boarding before everyone else opens the curtains, and boy what a difference a week makes.
Tuesday saw our first kundalini yoga session with “L”. I like to understand what I’m getting myself into so spent sometime on Tuesday morning researching what kundalini yoga was all about. I had heard and read some negative and sensational reviews of the kundalini experiencing, ranging from mental instability to whole body orgasms and a lot of other stuff in between. Classifying it as fake news (but having an awareness of it in case I experience such – yes to the orgasms!) we joined the class and took part in what was such a different experience to the Hatha / posture-based yoga I have always undertaken.
Relatively easy positions were counter-posed by vigorous breathing techniques (breath of fire) leaving us both exhausted yet conversed completely invigorated and energised by the end. Everyone in the group was lovely, warm and welcoming, leaving us with the opinion that in some way, we had found our way home.
We spoke fondly of our experience on the drive home through the shadowy country lanes and with energy still racing when we got back home, I went for a run with the old and faithful pooch, giving new life to old legs.
Land-boarding on the promenade and looping the local marina in the morning sun as the open-water swimmers raised the mouths for breaths the next morning reminded me what if felt to be alive, a positive feelings I’d not felt in a long, long time.
If the early part of the week blew us away with positive energy, then what we experienced on Thursday made that look like a mere ripple on the sea compared to the the tsunami which was about to take place. When we have good weather and as we live close to the sea, when the conditions and tides are right, then “L” conducts her kundalini yoga class on the beach, which is accompanied by evening swims and paddling (sea kayaks and stand up paddle boarding).
As we approached, the beach car park (usually only partly occupied) we were surprised by how was rammed it was with vehicles. As we decanted our kayak and paddling gear, we looked up to see over 100 yoga mats laid out facing the sun, a welcoming inward tide and our spiritual instructor for the day in the lotus position waiting to begin. Incredible.
The session was the same as the “kriya” as Tuesday so we both knew what as to come, this time it was easier as we had had the practice, the session was more magical than the previous one, given the setting, the sheer volume of people and the communal and positive energy by all, resonating a common frequency of happiness.
Feeling again totally energised, we spent the next hour kayaking on the open and warm waters of the Mersey Estuary, totally at one with the universe and the like-minded souls we were spending time with.
Without sounding like a stuck record in reference (reverence) to Westworld, the words “Some choose to see the ugliness in the world, the disarray, I choose to see the beauty” never rang so true. If you are in the position to commune with nature and seek out opportunities for serenity, there is no better time than now. I’m mindful that we are not all in that position presently, with my friends and colleagues in India under almost full lockdown so I have to tone down my own personal journey at the moment, so not to fan their flames of despair, but they are in my thoughts and non-religious prayers.
I’m not one for taking good photos, but every now and again I hit jackpot. As my wife was paddling in, I stood waist-deep in the sea as the sun was setting and pressed click, the result of which reminded me of the ethereal Pink Floyd album The Endless River (Sea in this case), which sure seemed to be that way with nothing visible on the horizon, almost suggesting that infinity beckons…
Steve Jobs’ last words. He died a billionaire at 56. He may not have inspired me in life [although I respected his outputs as an admirer of Apple products], but he did in his impending death.
I enjoy the relationships and friendships I have forged at work over everything else. The kudos, recognition, monetary awards, appraisals, promotions and company shares mean literally nothing to me. If I leave my company at some point in the future with a little black book of names, full to the brim peoples names and numbers who have declared an interest to keep in touch with me, I will know that I have succeeded…
“I reached the pinnacle of success in the business world. In others’ eyes my life is an epitome of success.
However, aside from work, I have little joy. In the end, wealth is only a fact of life that I am accustomed to.
At this moment, lying on the sick bed and recalling my whole life, I realize that all the recognition and wealth that I took so much pride in, have paled and become meaningless in the face of impending death.
You can employ someone to drive the car for you, make money for you but you cannot have someone to bear the sickness for you.
Material things lost can be found. But there is one thing that can never be found when it is lost – “Life”.
When a person goes into the operating room, he will realize that there is one book that he has yet to finish reading – “Book of Healthy Life”. Whichever stage in life we are at right now, with time, we will face the day when the curtain comes down.
Treasure love for your family, love for your spouse, love for your friends…
Treat yourself well. Cherish others.
As we grow older, and hence wiser, we slowly realize that wearing a $300 or $30 watch – they both tell the same time…
Whether we carry a $300 or $30 wallet/handbag – the amount of money inside is the same;
Whether we drive a $150,000 car or a $30,000 car, the road and distance is the same, and we get to the same destination.
Whether we drink a bottle of $300 or $10 wine – the hangover is the same;
Whether the house we live in is 300 or 3000 sq ft – loneliness is the same.
You will realize, your true inner happiness does not come from the material things of this world.
Whether you fly first or economy class, if the plane goes down – you go down with it…
Therefore.. I hope you realize, when you have mates, buddies and old friends, brothers and sisters, who you chat with, laugh with, talk with, have sing songs with, talk about north-south-east-west or heaven and earth…. That is true happiness!!
Five Undeniable Facts of Life:
1. Don’t educate your children to be rich. Educate them to be Happy. So when they grow up they will know the value of things not the price.
2. Best awarded words in London … “Eat your food as your medicines. Otherwise you have to eat medicines as your food.”
3. The One who loves you will never leave you for another because even if there are 100 reasons to give up he or she will find one reason to hold on.
4. There is a big difference between a human being and being human. Only FEW really understand it.
5. You are loved when you are born. You will be loved when you die. In between, you have to manage!
NOTE: If you just want to Walk Fast, Walk Alone! But if you want to Walk Far, Walk Together!
Undeniably, dogs are intelligent creatures and my own is no exception. He may not be as advanced as some of the other pooches in terms of parlor tricks (when comparing his abilities to those on YouTube), but nonetheless even his basic functions intrigue me.
It’s safe to say that “C” and I have had a chequered history. After we returned from living in Malaysia, the family decided to get a dog and after much deliberation and cogitation, we landed on a springer spaniel. I’d never owned a pedigree dog (and I still think don’t think I do), plumping instead for “portmanteau pooches”, more commonly known in the UK as mongrels. As with all puppies, the joy of the spending time with these energetic bundles of fun to some may be impossible to beat, the smell of puppy breath having the same knock-out punch of an attractively lady wearing Chanel No 5 or the aroma of a freshly baked loaf of bread. The cuteness factor of them makes them desirable beasts, for a time. The hard work kicks in after about 6 months when the honeymoon period is over, when my own millennial’s turned their attention back to technology and the dogs energy is transferred from play to destruction.
And so it was with “C”. He ate most beds we bought him, munched through a kitchen worktop and curled more slippers than the Ottoman empire. I was working away in London during the week and typically came back with fatigue and stressed finding it difficult to settle into a challenging role. He was obviously pleased to see me when I returned, but that soon turned sour when it was clear that I had no time for him at the weekends, with my tiredness boiling over to slipper-whacks when he ruined something else. Over the coming months, every time I returned he would approach me at the door, lower his head and ears waiting for me to pet him, which sometimes I never did. Needless to say my treatment of an innocent and lovable canine was shocking and I still feel guilty now looking back (as well I should).
Things came to a head one week when I told the wife I had found a new home for him over a hundred miles away and that he was going at the weekend. At first she reluctantly agreed and I was all set for the trip. The night before I left, we discussed the matter in the living room, both of us in tears. They say a dog is for life and not just for Christmas and how right they are. As he sat there looking up at us from death row (he did have an orange coat but that’s not important right now), we agreed at the eleventh hour a stay of execution and a plan for my wife to properly train him whilst I was away. She bought a book, took some advice and cracked on and within months, he had taken his rightful place at the bottom of the family ziggurath (with the exception of one of my sons who has never really liked him) but at the top of our hearts.
I noticed the change and over the years, our bond has grown from strength to strength and he is by far the best dog I have ever had. I look forward to seeing him every Thursday night when I return from the City, and even at the age of Nine, he always jumps up, wags his tail, lolls his tongue out of his mouth and does a little wee in excitement. The next five minutes are usually spent with me and him of the floor having cuddles and eventually a little play fight before bed (I’m the only one who does – it’s “our thing”).
Whilst away this week, I watched several episodes of “The Ascent of Man” by Jacob Bronowski, the content of which has made me think more about the evolution of all living things, which in turn reminds me of my very first post on Infinity Beckons, Do Amoebas Have Souls and of course my dog.
My wife thinks I think too much and live in the realm of fantasy and she is probably right (wives always are of course!). Whilst I appreciated the output from Dr Bronowski and his thirteen-episode series from 1973, we diverge when it comes to consciousness and the spirit. I knew he was a materialist reductionist before launching into the box set (like his post-modern contemporary Prof Brian Cox is – who’s “Human Universe” series is blatant rip-off of “The Ascent of Man” – which I reminded him one day when I was very drunk and trolling, which was in those days was a “harmless bit of fun”), who believed that consciousness only exists in humans and that it is merely an epiphenomenon of their evolved brain. The venom he used against Eastern philosophy / belief systems and the unexplained (he cites ESP amongst other woo -woo theories) shocked me, it was like Richard Dawkins had written the script (no surprise that Dawkins has written the foreword in a re-released version of the book that accompanied the series recently).
I have read many noetic volumes over the years, studied in part Eastern belief systems and as a part-millennial listened to various podcasts on alternative therories regarding life the universe and everything. Based on examples and data points, I am very open to the idea that there are two forms of consciousness (local [lower] and non-local [higher]). Local consciousness is our present awake state, the state we exist in between birth and death, with non-local consciousness existing beyond that which our senses can perceive (and this site has over the years cited personal examples of why I think that way).
But what has that got to do with my dog. Well…
Using Bronowski’s evolutionary theory (and my next post will be a long read about “The Ascent of Man”), dogs have also evolved over the last few millions of years, originally being nomads themselves, wild animals travelling in packs and hunting to survive. They too found themselves within a domesticated environment (albeit domesticated themselves), living side by side with humans for at least the last twelve thousand years (predating the agricultural revolution in the Middle East / Jericho)
Like early man, they too have a rudimentary communication system (whimper = pain, bark = warning/danger, growl = anger) as well as other metaphysical identifiers (sighs = boredom; tongue out/tail wag = happiness). Something I’ve noticed about my dog though goes beyond canine norms, precognition. It sounds very odd but in the moments before I take him for a walk he is already aware of it. I don’t even have to talk about it, he is there, knowing what is about to happen. I can even be in a different room and when a silent decision is made inside my head, he typically comes in, lolls his tongue and wags his tail in advance of me making my way to the kitchen door to grab the lead.
Dogs reaction times are so much faster than humans, throwing scraps of food easily shows that human time and dog time are not the same. It’s like me throwing him some food on earth with the moons gravity, he has time to watch the flight path and adjust his position to catch the morsel each time (well mostly, he’s getting old now).
So do dogs operate within different space-time, do dogs have a consciousness that is intrinsically somehow linked to our own and is there such thing as a doggy heaven? Maybe, just maybe there is…
After having watched the first episode of Westworld, one of the more thought-provoking ontological lines from the show was “Have you ever questioned the nature of your own reality?”
For a large part of my life I often wondered about the vastness of space and the beginning of the Universe without going further down the rabbit hole. After reaching what I have come to know as my spiritual epiphany a few years back, searching deeper within myself and questioning the true nature of reality revealed something quite special, that there was something beyond what we perceive with our senses and believe with our minds.
Once a connection with the inner self and wider collective consciousness has been established, materialist layers start to peel away to open up a brand new way to perceive and understand the reality we live in day-to-day.
I have of late not watched much TV during my downtime after the kids have gone to bed, on the basis that the schedules are truly awful and lacking in both quality and substance. One only has to cycle through the channels to see that, from Booze Britain to The “Real” Housewives of Someplace, all cheap TV showing humankind at its worst and most shallow.
So Tuesday night came and tired after a day at work and household chores, I gave the “magic moving pictures box” another shot and of the four-hundred channels of abject garbage, the only programme of note was The Himalayas: Natural World, narrated by the wonderfully calming voice of David Attenborough. The scenery was breath taking, the accompany dialogue just as impressive, on display a majestic and remote ecosystem devoid of greed and ego (no humans present), just the animal kingdom in all of its glory showing its own primal need to exist as individuals and co-exist with others.
By stark contrast, take the human kingdom; here we have a catastrophically dysfunctional ecosystem, rank with the fetid stench of ego, greed and extreme aggression. Switching channels I watched a programme called The Lost Children of Syria, a harrowing account of several children dispersed across Greece living on the streets with no security, no hope and no future, evidently. Our external reality it seems is destined to implode sometime soon based on this evidence and other events going on all over our little blue dot. What these kids have seen and experienced will stay with them forever, some will die even (perhaps soon), some will never recover yet some will go onto use their experience to help others and do some good in a chaotic world.
Closing down the TV for the night made me feel both sad in what I had just witnessed and helpless as an individual who seemingly has no real impact in what goes on in the world. Sure I have my own political opinions and the right vote. Sure I have some designated charities which help out in a small way. Sure I have this blog which reaches out and propagates to both like-minded individuals and the collective consciousness but what real impression does any of this have? All that I know now is that what I am doing as an individual is positive, and by sharing that with family friends and the internet is the right thing to do. I can and will do more when the time is right.
All of that said there is magic in this world and whilst there are atrocities that occur on a daily basis, one must not give up on humanity. We are reminded on a daily basis how majestic and humbling just being in the here and now can be, like every morning when my daughter climbs in to my bed for morning cuddles before school.
As Dolores Abernathy says in Westworld episode one (my favourite quote of the show): “Some people choose to see the ugliness in this world, the disarray. I choose to see the beauty”.
There is no doubt there is a shift in the world with writers like Eckhart Tolle, Ervin Laszlo and Anthony Peake who are rightly bringing into question the whole materialist-reductionist paradigm and with that the questioning of reality itself, and the follow-on action for change. If their words reach out and resonate with growing millions then so should we share those words via the means available to us. If we all have a book in us, then we should make it happen, especially if it the content changes the materialists mind-set.
Something further to ponder on is a question I’ve been asking myself for a while now: Are we living out a mundane and meaningless existence; are we living in a mystical and evolving era which feeds and evolves a hidden stream of consciousness or are we living in a virtual reality simulation our futures selves have created.