Living In Flow

Ed and I have just come back from a conference and exhibition in Amsterdam, ‘Fully Charged Live 2022’. This had everything from electric cars to electric cargo bikes that became a boats and also a caravanette. We tried pedal assist bikes, GoCycle, and Ed test drove the electric equivalent of a motorbike. They had iconic electric conversions and even motor homes. All in all it was an education in what you can do using pure electric power. The potential of adding a little pedal assist on some vehicles made simple journeys and even local deliveries perfectly possible. I was blown away. We came back buzzing and full of ideas.

The event was held in Amsterdam that I had only ever driven around on my way to somewhere else. Ed had been there for a stag do years earlier so for both of us this was the first time that we had actually really been and and looked at the city.

It had a profound effect on us both.

A city is a dense collection or people living and working together, yet all cities feel very different. Many cities are busy and often frantic places. People are trying to get where they need to be and as quickly as possible and other people just get in the way. This can lead to short tempers and aggressive behaviours and even violence. The intolerance of other people and other road users intensifies at different times of the day, the rush hours, and tensions mount. We were both struck by how easily, calmly and peacefully the city of Amsterdam went about it’s business. People had time for each other, showed a respect and awareness of others that was quite profound. 

You will doubtless have heard about the many bicycles that fill the streets of Amsterdam, it is true. To my psychologist observer eye the bicycles changed the way people interacted. To have many more bikes than cars meant that the cars had to give way for the bikes. This was a change for me as in the UK the bike is often seen as a hindrance to the progress of the car. In Amsterdam this went one stage further as the bikes gave way to the pedestrians. No form of transport is dominant. Cars, bikes and people flow together the achieve the needs of the day. 

This sense of cooperation and attention created a sense of calm across the city that is a rare experience. Within that calm is a sense of safety. It feels like people are looking out for each other and there is very little I, me, my and ‘pay me attention and get out of my way I am coming through’.

Getting the Eurostar back to London we stepped out at St Pancreas onto the Euston Road and both felt the uptight aggression that we know as city life which is so completely unlike Amsterdam.

I came away from the experience feeling that the big difference between the atmosphere of Amsterdam and London was the bike. The bikes slowed and calmed the streets and initiated the flow with both pedestrians and car drivers. This spreads into the everyday interactions between people in general communication. There is a sign suggesting that the car is really a guest invited into the pedestrian space. In a system where the car driver is seen as top of the pile and that the bike riders and pedestrians need to work around them it is impossible to get the balance of equality between different members of society.

From now on I shall use my bike more and try to understand how my local community can better flow together in greater social harmony.

Take care and enjoy your flow

Sean x

Well, you have just got to laugh!

I was working with someone this week who told me that we should do a podcast on humour…”for Gods sake why is everyone so miserable?”

There is a time in the madness of the world when I guess all that you can do is laugh. At this time it can be easy to feel that there is nothing good happening in the world. We have covid and the ongoing effects of covid, real wars and not just rumours of wars, the ongoing effects of Brexit, the ongoing antics of Trump and the ego stretching of Putin, what seems to be a collapsing NHS and Boris in number 10. This has to be the time to make a joke and have a laugh I think.

When did you last have a belly laugh?

Humour

This is a natural human emotion that is shared by all peoples in all parts of the world. Humour if often and emotional release typified by the fact that as a response to laughter our brain secretes happy hormones that will make us feel good. In many situations humour has a stress management function which allows for the release of tension. In some areas that are particularly stressful such as operating theatres, accident and emergency departments and ambulance or police response teams the humour may become very dark. If this humour is heard by people outside of the ‘group’ it may well be experienced as offensive, yet it’s function for those within the group is vital, it enables them to function.

Laughter as therapy

Laughter is therapeutic it can make the intolerable tolerable and it can defuse the unjustifiable. When we are mindful we live in the moment, in the present, not allowing ourselves to be distracted by the depressive past or the anxious future. When we laugh we laugh in the moment not the past and not the future. To laugh is to be mindful and to laugh with others is joyful.

Laughter may be the best medicine

Laughter will reduce the levels of stress hormone in our body. It enhances and increases the immune cells and the immune response, developing powerful infection fighting antibodies. It improves our resistance to disease and stress related illness. Laughter also has a direct effect on the brain as it releases more endorphins that increase our sense of happiness and wellbeing. These endorphins can also have an effect our experience of pain and lessen its effect. Laughter is a very powerful medicine.

 

Stress reduction

Sigmund Freud, the father of Psychoanalysis, described humour as a release of tension and psychic energy. This would suggest that we can laugh at, or find funny, what is going on in our head and not necessarily what is going on around us. We might see someone simply walking down the street and laughing at something going on in their head. When I worked in psychiatry I would often see a patient chuckling away in the corner and just letting it out, managing their stress.

Infectious laughter

Laughter workshops are weird. You arrive not feeling at all funny. You might even be feeling a bit miserable. You meet a group of people, complete strangers and the course leader begins to laugh. At first it seem ridiculous. Then you have a go. Just a little laugh. Suddenly you are off laughing so that the tears are rolling down your face. Not sure what you are laughing at or why you are laughing. Just to look into the eyes of a fellow participant who is laughing is enough to set you off again. Laughter is infectious.

The comedy club

It can be the same when you go to a comedy show. In research, if the blood of people entering the show is taken and the levels of stress hormone and happy hormone measured and recorded and then same is done when they leave we find that after the show peoples stress hormone and decreased and the happy hormones have increased.

In her book ‘The Secret’ Rhonda Byrne describes a lady who was given a terminal diagnosis. She went home and watched every video that she could that would make her laugh. She claims that she laughed her way back to full health. I am unsure or the veracity  of this claim though I am sure it would have improved her chances of survival and recovery.

Humour in unexpected places

Some of the funniest times I have had have been in hospices, often with people who were dying. In these situations humour and laughter is a tremendous stress reliever. I have also been at a funeral when a relative became hysterical with laughter which was infectious to some but greatly offensive to others. She was simply relieving her stress in that situation. And humour shared in a disaster situation has often saved the day. Once we see that laughter and tears are both ways of dealing with stress and releasing tension it can make a bit more sense.

Finally, laughter is a good thing and we should do more of it. To be able to laugh, lovingly, at yourself and your fellow human beings is a gift. However in your humour be kind and  mindful and try not to offend others. 

Take care and be happy and keep laughing

Sean x

The power of a smile that says ‘you belong’

This week I am revisited the effects of smiling because it is happening for real right in-front of my eyes. I have a series of team building exercises to do as people who are finally returning to the workplace after the Covid distanced working. That means people are, in most cases, looking each other directly in the eyes and smiling. It is quite a magical thing to watch as people reaffirm their relationships as friends and colleagues after such a long time apart.

A few years ago I had been listening to a TED talk, while on a plane, that was concerned with the neurolinguistic pathways between the brain the muscles of the face. I love research generally but when it matches the Ayurvedic theories that I studied in my early training it does make me smile. How is it the the Rishis (scientific researchers) thousands of years ago knew things that we can only now verify with brain scanners and nerve tests? The ancient Ayurvedic science of Mudra explains how the structure of our body expresses who we are and the nature of our personality. It also explains the emotional and cognitive relationship between stance, expression and gesture.  

The research behind the Ted talk explained that when you are in a good frame of mind your brain responds by releasing positive endorphins. This process initiates a neural muscular response that results in you smiling. The muscles in your face around your mouth and eyes respond automatically. When you see someone walking down the road smiling you know that their brain is full of positive endorphins. Smiling is common to all human beings of all races in every country across the world. Smiling is a universal response saying that things are okay.

Smiling has a powerful social function in that it tells others that we are friendly and not aggressive or that we are not going to kill them it confirms that we accept them into the group. As a social signal smiling bonds groups on two levels. The first is cognitive recognition that things are alright and the second is the collective out pouring of positive endorphins in the group brain and the corresponding warm emotional feelings that are produced.

When I smile your brain creates positive endorphins and you smile. 

How weird is that?

Smiling it would seem has been with us throughout evolution as both an expression of inner feeling and as a social signal of group bonding.

The importance here is in the realisation of the synchronicity between brain and face muscles. The relationships is based in that when the brain produces positive hormones the muscles of the face smile. What we now know is that if the muscles of the face force a smile the brain responds by releasing positive endorphins which can make us feel better. 

Some time you need to fake it to make it

Even if you are feeling really down, sad and blue and your face looks sad. When you force a smile the nerves and  muscles in your face send a message to your brain telling it that things are good or at least getting better. Your brain then begins to responds by initiating the secretion of happy endorphins. I love the brain though its responses can be limited. For example your brain is unable to tell the difference between whether something is actually happening or if you are only imagining it or, in this case, forcing it.

One physical aspect of a smile, that is so important, are the eyes and the forehead. When someone only smiles with their mouth and not their eyes and forehead it is not a real smile and often looks and feels insincere. For a smile to be real and have the required effect the eyes are open wide producing laughter lines in the corners.

Enter Botox 

Consider this relationship between the muscles of the face and the endorphins in the brain. The way it works is as though they are either end of a tube, you can’t have one without the other. Positive brain smiley muscles, smiley muscles positive brain.

Now, what happens if the brain wants to smile but the muscles of the face are damaged or paralysed? The system breaks down. As much as the brain wants to create a smile the feedback from the muscles is that there is no smile to be had. When people use Botox they are paralysing their muscles so that there is limited feedback between the muscles and the brain either way. Positive endorphins in the brain cannot create a smile and a responsive smile in the muscles to a good event cannot tell the brain that there is something going on to make it worth releasing some positive endorphins.

So now we have Botox induced depression. 

Botox can become an addiction. As with any other addictive type behaviour. The problem is that addiction tends to increase as the effectiveness of the substance diminishes. With Botox the drive is towards creating more positive endorphins, the just person wants to feel good about who they. So perhaps, someone is feeling a bit down about how they look and decide to have some Botox to make them feel better. The drive to feel better is the common emotion behind all addictions. 

Because of the muscular paralysis there can be no positive feedback to the brain, the desired effect of the Botox fails to be achieved. There can be no feedback between the muscles of the face and the brain. In fact it can end up having the reverse effect making the person may feel worse not better. They have invested time and money in this procedure to improve the way that they feel and see themselves and their mood in general and now they feel worse.

The standard response in addictive behaviour to such a situation is to use more of the addictive substance because that is what we belief will make us feel better. This is called chasing the dragon in opium dens. The reality is that the more of the addictive substance we use the less is its effect and more we need, or think that we need. This is why all addiction get worse over time. With botox the more that is used the more the problem increases. If the Botox is the very thing that is stopping the positive feedback between muscle and brain we now have what is now viewed as Botox induced depression.

Simply smiling in the mirror could be more effective than using Botox

For me the self induced disfigurement of Botox, fillers, lifts, piercings and tattoos is a huge sadness. The human form has a natural beauty that emanates the positive feelings and attitudes from deep within us. To mask this natural beauty with what is seen as adornments and enhancement is so sad and represents yet another behaviour that we use to avoid facing who we are, and actually sorting our problems out, in the drive to make shortcuts to our happiness. But, then as someone who has never been able to get my head around why people need to wear makeup I must own to being out of step with modern social thinking, I have an anachronistic point of view. 

Perhaps the reality is that when we feel good we look good and simply attempting to make us look good may not make us feel good at all.

Whoever you are and however you choose to present yourself ensure that the end result is increasing your own happiness not making your feel worse.

Take care

Sean X 

Is Generosity the Key to Happiness?

With covid, food banks and the Ukrainian war the concept of generosity and giving comes, for many of us, clearly into focus. Often we feel helpless in the face of all the trauma and the need to give something can ease our emotional burden and make us feel better.

When I talk to people about generosity and giving the first thing that comes into their mind tends to be money. There are many levels of generosity that I will come to later but let’s begin with the idea of money and stuff. Most selfishness, xenophobia and meanness is about our inability to share money, possessions, food and things.

Now, many psychologists tell me that the drive for selfish hoarding is a natural selection trait that developed in the evolution of our social psychology to ensure individual and group survival and the survival of our genes in the gene pool, ‘the selfish gene’ and all that. I can see that, and I see how we as groups developed socially to create alpha males and alpha females right through to the entire inequality of social structure that now dominates all human interactions today. The only thing is that I really don’t buy it, I don’t believe it, I don’t believe that this is simply the way that it is.

Equality in action.
When I look at the remaining hunter gatherers on the planet, who are the nearest that we can get our ancestors, I see an equality that does not exist in the agricultural, urban and industrial societies of today. For hunter gatherers everything is shared. It is a case of we own this not I own this. When a hunter from the group catches an animal to eat it does not belong to the hunter alone it is shared equally by the group. The sense of my and mine is superseded by the collective need of we and ours.

Can you imagine a world where we shared our food so that no one went hungry. We shared our resources and technology so that everyone had a place to live, where they were warm and safe?

Generosity requires that we examine our current concepts of ownership and perhaps make some adjustments for the good of us all. My fear is that if we do not we will begin to see the decline of humanity.

So what about other ares of generosity?

Physical generosity
To hold a door open, help someone on or off a bus, to help someone across the road, cut their grass, to go out of your way to help them ‘do’ something is an act of physical generosity.

Social generosity
To check that another person is okay, that they have a dinner at Christmas, that they are not alone or lonely, to run them to the hospital, look after their kids, pick them up when they fall down are acts of social generosity.

Experiential generosity
To run scout clubs, take the poorly to Lourdes, to go on treks to the Himalayas and help in schools, to raise money in mad ways for comic relief and Pudsey Bear, cook meals for the homeless and help in the homeless shelter on Christmas Day, to run a News Paper that only tells good news are all forms of experiential generosity.

Financial generosity
To give 10% of your net income to the poor and needy, to support children in foreign countries, to give money national and international appeals are all forms of financial generosity.

Responsible generosity
To sit on committees, become a councillor, to be a school governor, to be an advocate, to help out in the local CAB, to volunteer to help adults to learn to read and write, to set up protest groups against planning applications, to fight for the rights or those killed at Hillsboro are all forms of responsible generosity.

Spiritual generosity
It may not feel like but when you open the door to someone who wants to save your soul by you following their faith it is their act of spiritual generosity. To act Dharmically, to always do the right thing, and to do your best in every situation, to consciously not hurt or damage other people and if you do then doing your best to repair any damage, to try’s and get the best for all are acts of spiritual generosity.

To have an open heart, sharing love and care, do what you can to help and assist others in whatever way is necessary and appropriate is generosity.

One last thing. To be able to accept the generosity of others requires that you have a generosity towards yourself. Charity begins at home we cannot accept the help and generosity from other if we do not value ourself, we need to worthy and worth it. First love yourself, then love others.

Getting beyond the issues of today will take a lot of generosity and love.

Take care and be happy

Sean x

Staycation

As Ed and family enjoy the joys of spring in the UK is it better that we all have a staycation? With global warming and fuel shortages and the pandemic… 

…is it selfish to go on holiday abroad? 

Between the 1950s and the 1970s Britains favourite holiday destination was Britain. The West Country was heaving with people, not only from the UK but, from all over the world. The area of Torbay was known as ‘The English Riviera’. B&Bs, hotels, caravan parks and campsites were bursting at the seams. Then came cheap air travel and cheaper holidays in poorer countries such as Spain and Greece. With the marketing for cheap flights to cheap hotels and guaranteed sunshine in Spain, “I’m off to sunny Spain” they all sang, the bottom fell out of the British holiday market. Could this be the time for a the British holiday to come back?

When all that there was, was staycations the road systems in the UK were so bad that to get to Devon from London took way over eight hours. It was easier to set out at 11pm the night before, drive overnight, and arrive for breakfast in a cafe the next morning. Most people would get the train, it was easier and often quicker. Actually, not so many people owned a car then. The railways ran a service where they collecting your luggage from your home. Your holiday trunk would then be sent down to your destination a few days before you left. It would be there waiting for you at your hotel when you arrived. At the end of the holiday the reverse happened and your trunk arrived at your home a few days after your return.

The Council Estates would empty out onto the holiday trains going to Kent, Norfolk, Devon, Cornwall and so on. Train seats would be booked in advance. The best were with a table, where we could sit as a family, play games and watch the countryside rush by the window. It felt like such a big occasion, a real adventure. These days it seems that we do not feel that we have had a holiday unless we have been abroad which usually means taking a plane. 

I have only recently really realised the cost to the environment of air travel. The carbon footprint of long hall a holiday, especially in a jumbo jet, would require you to plant at least seven trees to compensate for it. (www.Quora.com) Considering that I was flying to the Middle East for one week every month for several years I owe the planet a lot of trees.

The Real Staycation

The real staycation meant staying at home for the six weeks of the summer holiday. Some of us on the Council Estate could not alway afford a holiday even in the UK. There was that embarrassing moment in September when we returned to school and the first thing we were asked to do was write a essay “What we did on our summer holiday”. We overcame the problem by describing what we had as “Days out”. Then followed a fictitious account of what would have happened of we had been able to afford to got to the zoo, the Natural History Museum and so on. When we had to read these out to the class those that enjoyed endless trips to the seaside would look sadly at us describing our ‘days out’, we all knew that we hadn’t been anywhere.

There was a time when people worked seven days a week and the only time that they had off were the ‘Holy Days’ of the religious calendar. Eventually Holy Days turned into Holidays and the Holiday industry began. As the train network developed people went to Spa towns to ‘Take the water’. In the south Brighton and Blackpool in the north became holiday destinations of choice. Gradually people by the sea or by lakes realise the sales potential of holidays for workers from the factories and the Bed and Breakfast industry was born. Then came the Hotels with star ratings, started by the AA, from two stars to five. Then came the package holiday and the trips abroad. 

Is it selfish to holiday abroad at the moment?

Covid is still active and spreading. We have just witnessed the holiday makers who rushed to Spain as soon as the lockdown was eased only to find that they were in another wave of infections leading to their return flights being postponed, holidays cut short and potential for ten days of isolation on their return as they could be bringing the Covid infection back with them and become infection spreaders. Is it too early to return to holidays until we know that the infection has passed? Is it selfish to go abroad on holiday? Should we be deciding to settle for a real staycation?

Holidays in the Uk make sense to me provided that we take sensible precautions and attend to sanitisation. Not travelling too far would make sense for two reasons. One limiting the spread to areas that have been low risk and reducing our carbon for print.

The ultimate staycation

Many of us, during lockdown, have been having the ultimate staycation. This has been good for some and a horror for others. How did you get on? There are also many people who either from choice or anxiety will remain in a shielded lockdown for weeks or months to come yet. 

One thing that I am hearing about is the redevelopment of community. Groups of people, neighbours, family and friends gathering in small community groups for a picnic, bring your own food, and a chat. Some have been so successful that they are becoming weekly events. Some have raised the need of some community members for support and people are helping each other out from the tech on a tablet to a cake recipe. Could this be the start of a new community based awareness?

One of the things that I have learned during the period of lockdown is how beautiful the place that I live is. On our walks and bike rides we have discovered tracks, byways and cycle paths that were unknown to us. These have introduced us to whole areas all around us that we never knew even existed. We live on a beautiful Island.

Here is a question that occurs to me, Why do we go on holiday in the summer? If we going to take a flight to somewhere warm why don’t we do it in the dark months of winter when we could really benefit from a vitamin D boost? Perhaps we could spend the summer holidays actually enjoying where we live and getting to know it better.

Whatever you do this summer take care, stay safe and be happy

Sean x

Degrees of consciousness and the rise of fascism

Well, I have got Covid 19 for the second time. This has meant that I have needed to cancel a lot of this week and will have lots to catch up on next week. The one thing that Covid does give is time to think. Everywhere I am looking I am seeing the expanding crisis with Putin in Ukraine. As I look across the world it all seems so much like an action replay of the 1930s prior to the Second World War.

This is a tough blog and very much embedded in our time and the very things that are happening around us. Across the world there is political lurch to the right that, in many cases, is becoming fascistic. The last world war happened because, at that time, the fascist, totalitarian, dictators in Germany, Italy, Spain, Japan and eventually Russia all came out to play. The war lasted six years and encompassed the world. The estimates vary between a death toll of 60 to 80 million people during the war, including the 6 million in the holocaust. 

Are we about to do it again? And, if we are why?

We have a very human problem and it is the lack of awareness or lack of awareness in the vast majority of people. This allows for headless chicken syndrome where short term objectives override the longterm effects of our decisions. I have worked for many years with thousands of people and my work would suggest that what I was taught in my Ayurvedic training about human awareness, when I was a novice, is true. This understanding was as follows. The awareness pyramid shows an ascending scale of awareness the world’s population. The percentages are arbitrary but I think you will get the point. 

Deep asleep – about 50% of the population

In the darkest state, the human consciousness is only aware of its limited self, only aware of the importance of the individual ego. Here it is too dark to see anything or anyone else, this is isolated aloneness. Therefore the deep asleep person treats everyone and everything around them with total insensitivity, oblivious to the damage that they are causing, they simply cannot see it or feel it and do not understand. It is only when things become lighter and brighter that we begin to see what is around us. In the darkness, we are all blind and alone.

If as I suggest that half of all humanity are deep asleep then levels of social and political awareness will be low and the decision made only have a chance of serving us well.

Dream sleep – about 20% of the population

In this stage level of awareness is the realisation that there is strength in numbers the individual realises the benefits of co-operation with other individuals. This may be the simple realisation that sleeping with another person is warmer than sleeping alone. Or there may be a benefit from mutual security and support or help with hunting bigger animals and so on. The problem is that once we have group based on common interest we have those inside the group and those outside the group. We have ‘us’ and ‘them’ and all the prejudice and bigotry that comes with not, not understanding or being fearful of ‘them’.This is what is currently playing out with the migrant issues across Europe and the USA and the fears other religions.

The Waking State – about 12% of the population

In this state people want to be different, they no longer want to comply with the norms of the group they have new ways of looking at things that threaten the group rules. When we close down and confine our support to only those of our group, say on the immigration issue, it is these people in the waking state that question and fight for the rights of those not in ‘our’ group. But these people are not yet truly awake and their demands may be made in ignorance and be unrealistic. It only when human consciousness awakes that we see the ability to make things difference because the currency of awareness is power.

Awake-ness – about 8% of the population

Power is often seen as a dirty word. In reality those that are awake exercise power over those that remain asleep. the asleep people are referred to in politics as ‘the silent majority’. The sleeping people hold the ability to dictate the outcomes in human evolution but they do not realise it so those that have the power manipulate them to achieve desired outcomes.

Power is like a knife, it is neutral. A knife can be used to create a work of art, a wonderful meal or death and destruction. The knife is neutral. It is the holder of the knife who dictates what it will do. It is exactly the same with power. Often, money or influence and power go together. In the case of politics it is power, influence and money that get people elected. 

It is easier for a rich person to wreck the world 

than it is…

For a poor person to become president

People that use power negatively use those that are asleep as the cannon fodder in the market place and in wars.

Objective Consciousness – about 5% of the population

Those that can see the effects of the power brokers can see things objectively and will work to control a restrain the unfettered use of power. These may be parents attempting to moderate the behaviours of their adolescent children or it may be people trying to encourage us to be different with transport and pollution.

Objectivity is often parliament and rules often the only control that can have an effect on the excesses of power, However, sometime objectivity can easily become a set of rules and dogma that become fixed and immutable laws that do not bend this is when “the law is an ass’.

Intuitive Consciousness – about 3% of the population

This level of awareness is above thought and above word. The currency of intuition is meaning. This is direct knowledge without knowing. Those that have a deep intuitive function have long sight that realises outcomes that those who are less awake fail to see. Those that are in deep sleep see everything in terms of the immediate effect. Those in intuitive consciousness do not focus the effect of things today, next month or next year, they are seeing ten, twenty and hundred year ahead. Often these people are described and Indigo or empathic.

Creative Consciousness – about 2% of the population

The currency of creativity is in images. Advertisers spend their lives attempting to manipulate those in asleep-ness to buy into ever changing images of what they are now told that they definitely need. But this is at a low level of awareness the truly creative image makers give humanity inspirational images that last for decades or entire eras. The images shared but Moses, Jesus, Krishna, Buddha and Mohamed have inspired millions of people and many hundred of years after the events their teachings are still active and alive.

Negative creativity

There is also a negative side of imaginative inspiration. Hitler’s managed to persuade hundreds of thousands of people to go around the world, to kill and to die, all for this cause that he managed to inspire other people to enact. We see a similar thing going on with Putins war. 

At all levels of consciousness we have a choice to act positively or negatively.

Current Social Cycle

The goodwill and drive for cooperation that developed after the Second World War is now coming to a close. Right wing xenophobia is in the ascendant. It is happening at all levels in all countries and in most cases it is being driven by fear. The fear that is felt by the majority who are, in my estimation, are asleep. I suspect that we are collectively blundering into future crisis that is not yet in focus. Hopefully not a Third World War.

I say these things from my position of working with people…

If we all look after each other we will all be ok

My concern is that we blunder into another global war and turn the cycle again before we return to a more caring and sharing world order.

The world could be, and often is, such and wonderful place. Why do we choose to create conflict and pain?

Take care

Sean x

Be Kind

Will Smith: “Violence in all of its forms is poisonous and destructive. My behaviour at last night’s Academy Awards was unacceptable and inexcusable. Jokes at my expense are part of the job, but a joke about Jada’s medical condition was too much for me to bear and I reacted emotionally,” Smith wrote. “I would like to publicly apologise to you, Chris. I was out of line and I was wrong. I am embarrassed and my actions were not indicative of the man I want to be. There is no place for violence in a world of love and kindness.”

We live in a strange world where physical violence is seen as bad and verbal violence becomes acceptable. Is it okay for someone to make a joke about your partner on national TV? Do we sit back and say nothing? To be kind is so easy and creates so  much positivity. Why do we need to get nasty?

According to Wikipedia kindness is a behaviour marked by: 

Ethical characteristics, a pleasant disposition, and concern for others. 

It is known as a virtue, and recognised as a value. 

Google defines kindness as 

‘The quality of being friendly, generous, and considerate’.

How do you define it?

When I was a kid we read the book ‘The Water Babies’ by Charles Kingsley. In the story there was a wonderful character called Mrs Do As You Would Be Done By. She ensured that whatever the children’s behaviour it was reflected back to them. Later in my travels I discovered the laws of Karma and Dharma and the concept that ‘what goes around comes around’.

If the law of karma is real then we should all have a vested interest in treating other people well on the basis that we will also be treated in the same way. This can make acts of kindness and altruism begin to sound too calculated though, in terms of social stability, in any community or group of people, treating others fairly means that I will be treated fairly as well. This makes good sense.

In Ayurvedic psychology acting positively and serving the needs of others without expecting anything in return is termed ‘Bhakti’. People such as Ghandi, Mother Theresa and Nelson Mandela, amongst many others, would fall into this category. People who have given of themselves without great reward or aggrandisement. You will probably know of people in your life or community who are like that and are Bhakti.

Kindness or treating other people fairly and well is enshrined in most religions and philosophies. In the Ayurvedic and Hindu worlds acting in the right way is termed dharma. According to…

‘The word “dharma” has multiple meanings depending on the context in which it is used. These include: conduct, duty, right, justice, virtue, morality, religion, religious merit, good work according to a right or rule, etc. Many others meanings have been suggested, such as law or “torah” (in the Judaic sense), “logos” (Greek), “way” (Christian) and even ‘tao” (Chinese).’ 

Though there are no equivalent word for the concept/word dharma in the Western lexicon.

‘Dharma has the Sanskrit root dhri, which means “that which upholds” or “that without which nothing can stand” or “that which maintains the stability and harmony of the universe.” Dharma encompasses the natural, innate behaviour of things, duty, law, ethics, virtue, etc. Every entity in the cosmos has its particular dharma — from the electron, which has the dharma to move in a certain manner, to the clouds, galaxies, plants, insects, and of course, man. Man’s understanding of the dharma of inanimate things is what we now call physics.’

For me psychological or spiritual dharma is to act in the right way in every situation all the time. An ideal to aim for, though hard to achieve. This is what we in ‘live in the present’ term mindfulness. To be mindful in the moment, to be aware of yourself and the other people around you means that you can do nothing but act in the right way which is to act with kindness. Being mindful, being positive, being kind and being happy are all facets of the same attitude of mind and way of being.

Kindness is in the same spectrum as love. It is part of the positive forces that brings people together, solves problems and creates happiness.

However you would express your acts of kindness, it would be good if we could all spend one day each week being consciously kind it might change the world.

When Will Smith slapped Chris Rock, live on TV, after he had just insulted his wife, was he creating a bad karma or was he acting Dharmically. We could say that Chris Rock had it coming and that it is never okay to belittle other people. Or we could say that Will Smith gave a bad example of how not to act when brought to anger. 

What would you have done?

Be kind and be happy

Sean x

Happiness is infectious

Let’s make a pandemic (of happiness)!

As the various disruptions have happened in society over the last few years psychologist  tell us that happiness is really a state on mind. I guess most of us would agree that this is in most ways true but I would think it takes a lot of strength and belief to keep cracking jokes when the bombs are going off outside.   (https://www.happiness.com/magazine/inspiration-spirituality/why-happiness-is-a-state-of-mind/) 

Over the last few years leaders from across the world are also now deciding to tell his that happiness is a state of mind. Bhutan is held  up as a world where happiness is described as their “gross domestic product” (http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/world-14243512).  This seems a level of enlightenment that the rest of us can only observe with envy or discount as nonsense. It may be something that we all need to tap into right now.

All that we now know about brains and neuroscience tells us that this idea is really on the money, and that we all do create our own experience, in the sense that we do have choices as to how we respond to any event in life, even the worst. It is hard to decide whether the political drive behind publishing such an idea as happiness for all is real concern for our welfare or a way of making the difficult decisions about economic cuts in mental health support more palatable.

Many apps now offer us ways to step over our negative thoughts and feeling. Our friend Andy Puddicombe at http://www.getsomeheadspace.com/, is actively attempting to change that way that we all think and feel with his headspace meditation programmes.

My own area of work with mangers in both the private and public sector to develop a coaching style of management that improves the moral of staff because, surprise, surprise, a happy workforce is more productive.  Check out this article (http://m.guardian.co.uk/money/2011/jul/15/happiness-work-why-counts?cat=money&type=article), it explains why a positive work force might actually save money and even make money.

In my own work I know that when an organisation decides that their customers are more important that their staff, they have lost the point.  The principle is simple, if you look after your staff they will always look after your customers because it is in the ethos.  Just go into an Apple Store, or a branch of John Lewis and you will realise what I mean.

When I first started my training in psychotherapy my teacher said very clearly “what you hold in your bindi will come to pass”.  In western psycho speak we would say “thoughts become things”.  Now neuropsychology tells us the same thing.  Once we understand that we are in control of what we do and think, we do have choice.  The biggest realisation is that we are also in control of what we feel.  Mindful managers, politicians and leaders who understand this encourage others to feel positive and good. This has never been more important. In the likely troubles ahead as things get tighter we need to stay positive.

If we take the politics, the news and Covid out of the idea then it is exactly and completely true.  The only reason that anyone is not happy is that they have learned to be that way.  When you are in a miserable or unhappy state it can feel that the task of being happy is impossible and that the idea of having a choice is ridiculous or even demeaning.  It may be hard but the one thing that I have to tell you is that if you are not living a happy life then you have learned that way of being, thinking and feeling, probably from the moment of birth. These habits do not serve you well, and, whatever your situation you can change it to create the life that you want.  It may sound far fetched, it may sound ridiculous, but over the years I have worked with thousands and thousands of people who have down exactly that, including me.

So, how about for a little while we forget the politicians, health and wars and concentrate on ourselves, how do you feel today?  If your response is anything other than “I’m doing ok” or at a pinch “it’s tough, but i’m getting there” you need some help to the get your head on the right way around. There are plenty of books and ideas that will help you in your task including the resources on the liveinthepresent.co.uk website.

Marharishi Mahesh Yogi, the inventor of transcendental meditation had one simple aim.  If he could get six million people meditating a the same time then the bioenergetic mindbank would be great enough to affect the course of human destiny for the good. I wonder how powerful the mindbank would need to be to change the course of Russias aggression.

Have you meditated today? When you do meditate you add a bit more positive energy to the collective consciousness.

Take care and be happy 

Sean x

Listening to your inner voice  – it might be your friend

We all have that inner voice that tells us if we are doing right or wrong. I say we all have it even a full blown psychopath has an inner voice it is just that it is never heard or listened to. Your inner voice is your conscience.

When we look at our friend Vladimir we can see that he is unable to hear or listen to his inner voice. He is able act in ways that cause others pain, distress and death or worse to many thousands of people. What does it take for us to listen to our inner voice? Well like all aspects of human consciousness it is the same, either pain or awareness. Either we are aware and awake enough to listen to it or we need some pain to make us wake up enough to listen. We could say that Vladimir, who is probably the product of a highly dysfunctional childhood, has no consciousness, though he does. What we do not know is how deeply it is buried within him and if there will come a point when he will be able to hear it.

Do you ever wonder why you have a conscience? Could it be that your conscience is actually a very important part of your life process? If you think about it, you would be in big trouble without it. Without some kind of internal voice you would never question what you were doing or why you were doing it. This leads to real narcissistic and totally self centred behaviour that allows us to do whatever we want and take whatever we want without any consideration for the effect that it might have on other people. Psychopaths are unable to hear their conscience and sociopaths have learned to ignore their conscience.

Your conscience is your positive inner voice that is giving you sound advice though It can create internal arguments that may lead you to suspect that you are going mad…

‘why are you doing that?’

‘I don’t know’

‘But you know you shouldn’t be doing it’

‘I know’

‘So why are you doing it?’

‘I don’t know’

and so on….

It can feel like your conscience is a pain and a problem. Many people attempt to quiet their inner voice with intoxication or use their intellect to create rationalisations and justifications to avoid facing up to the demands of their inner voice. Yet to the awake mind the inner voice is very positive thing. Could it be that… 

your conscience is really your very good friend!

 

You inner voice isn’t the enemy, it is a friend who’s delivering the positive criticism to enable you consider your feelings, the feelings of others and the outcome of your actions. You probably have friends or family who do that for you from time to time. Well, your inner voice is doing it all the time if you listen to it.

 

The trick is to understand that your inner voice is on your side delivering genuinely constructive criticism. It is the inspiring coach who urges you to do your best. Your inner voice and your happiness are not mutually exclusive they are, in the end, the same thing. The easiest way to get to know your inner voice is to still your outer voice. This is meditation – the silence in which you are able to hear the answer to your problems.

When we have an issue, a question or a problem we tend to turn outwards ask for advice or reach for Google. While there is nothing wrong with seeking feedback and advice from other the answer often lie within. We just need to be still for long enough to listen to it.

Most people will start with five or ten minutes a day. This can build to twenty and then thirty. The best effects come from a daily one hour. I won’t the word meditation. It is enough just to sit in silence, allow your mind to do what it want and be still. Ideally in a quiet room with your eyes closed. There are plenty of recording on the LITP site.

Gradually, over time, your mind will become still and your inner voice will become clearer. 

 

Be still and listen.

Take care 

Sean x 

Message in a bottle

We have been asked in this episode to look at addiction with particular attention to alcohol.

We use the word ‘addiction’ to indicate an illness which is based on the behaviour of a person who is compulsively or habitually ‘addicted’ to a substance or a set of behaviours. Most behaviours that are described as addictions are seen as negative. When we hear the word addiction we tend to think of drugs or alcohol. We might even consider the workaholic. Which ever way we view it addiction is seen negative.

I will get onto alcohol in a minute but first consider this…

Perhaps we are all addicts

I would like to suggest another way of looking at it, we are all addicted, we are all addicts, it is just that we are often unaware of what we are addicted to. So my question is…

What is your addiction?

An addiction is simply a chemical state, that is in both our brain and our body.  We become addicted when we have learned to accept this chemistry as our ‘normal’ state of being. The chemistry comes from the habits that we have practiced from the moment of our both. We know that when someone exercises regularly their brain responds by releasing powerful endorphins. We also know that once this chemistry has been established  as their normal they can become addicted to this exercise. Once this habit has been established we find that if they are unable to exercise, perhaps because of an injury, they go into withdrawal just like any drug addict. All the symptoms of drug withdrawal are played out through their brain and body until either they restore the exercise and the chemistry or undergo the ‘cold turkey’ of drug withdrawal and re establish a new chemical norm.

Any behaviour from meditation to sex, from knitting to hill walking, from laughing to crying, will have a chemical effect on our mind body system. Once these are established in our mind brian they become our habit and our chemical normal. The issues of anxiety, anger, depression, love and happiness may also be our addictions.

As an ex drug addict, mainly opium and having had an interesting relationship with alcohol, I know quite a lot about alcohol and drugs as a therapist but also as a practitioner.

Let’s have a look at alcohol

Alcohol 

Alcohol is probably one of the most natural substances we can become addicted to. I have seen horses in very strange states after eating fermenting apples that had fallen from the trees in an orchard. Human beings probably slipped quite easily into using alcohol as the vegetables and fruits around them fermented and the relationship was made between the alcohol and the pleasurable feeling of being tipsy or drunk.

The way that alcohol works is that it turns off the frontal lobe of the brain which takes away our worries, concerns and feelings. Alcohol is an emotional anaesthetic. We stop feeling. Then we get the rebound of the depressant effect as the frontal lobes attempts to fire up again. When the depressant effect is on us the easiest thing to do is to have another drink, known as the ‘hair of the dog’, and anaesthetise the depression. Once the cycle is established it is the normal behaviour of addiction. However the cycle will vary. Some people can drink a lot of alcohol before their frontal lobe switches off. For others it may be half a glass of wine. The thing is that once the frontal lobe switches off resistance to more alcohol and normally unacceptable behaviours diminishes. Plus all reason and cognitive thinking is lost.

Controlled drinking/drug programmes 

My experience is that for the vast majority of people controlled programmes do not work. For most of us you are either in or out. One of the main problems with alcohol is that, outside of Muslim countries, there is an alcohol pusher on every street corner, in every super market and in television adverts. It is the wests acceptable addiction.

Therapy

Therapy is usually the only answer. That often means rehab and some supportive medication as the addictive cycle quietens down in the system. In our society in the UK I do still commonly deal with alcohol, nicotine, skunk and anger addictions. Though I experience that we are all addicted to something even if that means being addicted to having a completely clean system.

So what is your addiction?

Your chemical normal is the one that makes you feel just right. It comes from the habits that you have established throughout your life. If something happens to alter your ‘normal’ you will adopt behaviours that will return your chemistry to recreate your normal. My normal involves meditation, cooking, often running, definitely playing music, mainly guitar, certainly working with other people and always my lovely Rie and holidays away. When I am deprived of my addictions I feel withdrawal and need to act to bring my chemistry back to my normal.

Some addictions are good, as in they do not harm us or others. Bad addictions do harm us or other people. We have a choice. Once we mindfully examine our behaviours we can decide which addictions we will feed and allow to grow and which once we will starve and allow to wither.

We may decide that allowing our children to develop the habit of internet gaming is a good or a bad addiction. Current evidence would suggest this is a bad addiction.

Be happy and check your addictions.

Take care

Sean x