Bored Sick.

I have a dairy allergy, which can make eating out hard work, sometimes you don’t notice and it’s bliss by contrast and sometimes it is made very hard work.  I try to notify places in advance where possible and check they can easily cater for me.  I’ve learnt from experience it’s not worth trying to eat somewhere which doesn’t want to deal with it.
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Before the law said restaurants had to have a clear list of which meals contained which common allergens I went out for a meal. I had already had to jump through hoops with the waiter, who dragged out my order by repeatedly suggesting alternatives which I didn’t want, and without explanation pushed me away from an option which I knew would have been fine, and so held up the meal for a table of 9.   I was then asked by someone at the table about my allergy and how I went about eating out normally, and what effect it has on me.  Having suffered for some time I was replying to some degree on autopilot, being as succinct as I could be but cramming the key information in in summary.  I’ve had practice narrowing it down.

Someone else then said something about my boring people by going on about it.  I let it rest at the time but in reality my answer is something along the lines of “IMAGINE HOW BLOODY BORING IT IS FOR ME LIVING WITH IT – ALL DAY, EVERY DAY not just 5 minutes at dinner, my whole life from now on?   I didn’t ASK the waiter to make a fuss and be arkward;  I didn’t ask him to avoid what I kept trying to order and knew was safe; I tried to order simply; and I was just answering someone else’s question about the restrictions (and avoiding describing the symptoms/effect since we were at the dinner table). So what exactly did I do wrong to need telling that I’m boring?!”

I do get utterly bored having to explain to staff who really don’t want to know, less so to friends who actually care and express interest,  but even then it’s an old story to me which I wish I could just download understanding of directly into their heads.  It’s why I autopilot the answer sometimes; but with waiters who are strangers and clearly aren’t going to personally care it really does get boring having to impress upon them that it really does matter I get bored of being ill, and of having to explain how I avoid it, almost as bored as I get having remember what i can get away with eating; how often; (though in the last year that’s got easier as it’s now NOTHING dairy at all if I want no incapacitating symptoms) and when I have to stay strictly clean(pretty much all of the time);  I’m also bored with having to live with a week of feeling shit and unable to do anything when I get it wrong; of feeling like I’ve been repeatedly punched in the face and my guts are going through a mincer; bored of finding it hard to enjoy food at times because it’s all such hard work.

I also get really bored of never being able to eat the cakes or treats other people bring to events; bored of not even being able to nibble an unlabelled crisp because so many of them, not just the cheese ones, have dairy in them since the crisp makers discovered a bit of milk powder makes the crisps brown more with less cooking time.  Bored of having to check every single bloody ingredients list on every single bloody thing every time you buy it because unless it specifically says totally dairy free it’s not unheard of for a manufacturer to add skimmed milk powder or whey powder to a mayonaisse or bread, to fish fingers or to hummus (none of them foods which should have dairy in normally) so yes it is very, very boring to meat times.

I share to try to help others understand if and when they express interest. I share as a giving thing not because I want to share the boredom around, but because understanding usually makes things less boring for all of us.  I’d rather the boredom just went away and took my allergy with it, but unfortunately like the health problems it’s real and there.

Sometimes (as this case was) it’s a good person in a bad place for a brief moment, being careless, but sometimes it’s a generally judgemental insensitive character.  To my mind anyone who is negative about the mild, minor and minimal impact of other peoples health issues on themselves, such as being briefly held up behind a slow moving older person, anyone who imagines that their momentary inconvenience is worse than hell of living with a health issue day upon day need to question why they are reacting so selfishly.

Sure if we’ve previously promised that we would do something and let someone down citing health as the reason, they can be frustrated at our having over committed ourselves, that’s fair game sometimes but even then, sympathy is a far more productive reaction than criticising someone for being unwell.

It’s bad enough having a serious ongoing health problem, be it allergy or invisible illness (or even visible one, tho people are less critical of this sometimes) so please don’t add to the burden by criticising someone for sharing information when asked, and certainly don’t imagine that your boredom at hearing someone has a restricted diet is worse than their boredom at having to live with it or at worse at people having negative reactions to their diet just because they are lucky enough to be able to eat anything with no ill effect themselves.

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Depression as messenger.

I make no secret of the fact I suffered badly with depression at the end of my 20s, and have been aware of it’s presence ever since.  For those at that 28/-30 life crisis point then Liz Greens book on saturn returns is an excellent tool for getting through the crises of late 20s and their attendant potential for depression.    I barely remember what is in it, just that it turned my crisis over the wrongness of my whole life, of my being an artist working as high pressured IT tech, into a new opportunity, an opening up of my life instead of the crumbling to ruin of it all.  Rather than feeling I’d blown it all and hated everything I had built I saw what had to go and what could make foundations for a new way forward.   The depression which was the peak of the crisis ensured I had to act, by ensuring I couldn’t act.  Liz Greens book, and prozac, and Spike Milligans excellent book (depression and how to survive it) all helped me find a way out, a way to rebuild using the rubble of my life as hardcore for a new future.

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Nowadays I recognise that little spatterings of depression are often a sign either of the need for change, or of the resistance to a change I’m trying to enact.  BUT, and that’s key, I’m now understand that if I respond at my best to an incursion of sudden depression or futility I can turn it into a useful purging tool.   I know the depression inclines me to inaction and doing something is hard, but i know the longer i let it lie the harder it becomes to do something, and so the sooner I act the less it will take.  So I can use the depression to identify the things in my life i need to fix, and then crack on with fixing them.  Each time my life ends up a bit better in the big picture/long run, even if it is hell occasionally in between briefly… it becomes a passing experience rather than a state of being which is so much easier to work with.  Simply perceiving the depression as something that will, if I persist go away for longer than it comes back if i address it properly (rather than temporarily forcing myself to smile, which can also help but doesn’t fix my life in the long run).

A friend and I (who have both been there) had a conversation with other friends who hadn’t and tried to explain that one of the big issues with depression is that once you’ve been there it’s easier to slip back.   We described it as if paths in your mind are worn like grass, it’s easier to be drawn into the pain and onto the path that is worn and easy going and then the lack of feeling that comes with depression can be appealing subconciously when all you are feeling is pain, but just because we are aware of that capacity that doesn’t mean we’re permenantly broken. Everyone has that capacity, we are more at risk, but also more aware so though we are more likely to come under attack our past experience lends us arms against it.  CBT and positive thinking wears new good paths back to mental health and we know how to hook them up to our bad paths.

To combat depression in an ongoing basis what you have to be is aware and paying attention to your life so that firstly you build a good life that is right for you and what you honestly need, one which is less likely to trigger it; and secondly that awareness means that you recognise it from smaller and smaller signs when it shows it’s face and so can head it off with the adjustments your life needs faster and before it’s done harm or retrod the paths again.  Those are the adjustments which it is there to tell you about.

In a sense depression can be a generous safety net of a psychological tool, it’s a messenger service that our life is not as we deserve it to be.  Sometimes it’s easy to see why (bereavement or grief over some kind of loss) sometimes it’s less easy because we think we ought to be happy with all we have, but don’t realise that we’ve tailored it to an imaginary Ought rather than our own very personal Needs.

Once it’s been activated it is there, not always active but always accessible.  This doesn’t mean we’re permanently broken, just that we’ve covered more ground, visited a strange and different land, a place which those who haven’t been there yet can sometimes roughly imagine with a description, just as we imagine a friends holiday, but postcards are nothing on experience…  we have to read what is written as well as look at the pretty picture, even more so listen to a persons tales of how it was to really get a feel for it.
Talking about it can be one of the tools, one of the ways of changing our lives, and hopefully those we talk with hear us, and maybe even heed our warnings and take on board our suggestions for how to treat those returning from that life changing trip.

Beginning to understand…

Another post based on a spin off from another conversation.

Someone was using the phrase “you can’t begin to understand unless you’ve been there.”
What it was in relation to was irrelevant, because the very language is the opposite of the truth.  That is exactly what you can do if you haven’t been there.  You can ONLY begin to understand.

If you’ve never suffered from actual depression then you will find it hard to comprehend fully how it impacts on a person and their life, their family and their long term wellbeing.    If you aren’t or don’t have Aspergers/Autism in yourself or your family then you will never get the same depth of subjective understanding that experiencing it can.  The same with many many other things, being blind, being bereaved, schizophrenia, being a redhead, being a person of colour, being a girl, being a boy… all have a varied degree of impacts on a persons life experience, and some of that impact is utterly subjective.

It is true that an important part of understanding comes from first hand experience.  It is only an element of truth tho. It is not the only way.

I agree there is nothing like personal experience for fully understanding in some ways, but personal experience has draw backs, someone who hasn’t experienced something might be more likely to base their view on a wider ranging input. Someone who has experienced something personally might sometimes be guilty of assuming others experience is just the same as theirs, not realising the range of ways a thing can show itself.

There are many different ways of understanding anything.
Personal subjective experience is only one of those ways, and the depth of understanding is sometimes stronger because a person has good empathy rather than because they’ve been there themselves.

Second hand personal subjective experience can be gathered by reading works by good writers who can explain what their experience of it was like with clarity and understanding, with the advantage that we can have multiple variations of that personal subjective experience.

There is also the objective experience of a thing.  This can also be sympathetic or compassionate but isn’t clouded by experiencing it and the emotional reactions or historic associations, a bigger picture overcomes our tendancy to use our own lives as a milestick of expectation and assumptions for others.  So someone who suffered childhood abuse neglect might deny that they suffered any harm from it, but an outsider might see them acting out if the issues haven’t been made concious, addressed and made peace with.

The deepest understanding is going to come from someone who is emotionally mature, has strong empathy, has a wide range of input from other peoples experience, and has their own experience to draw on as well as that, but who essentially also has the wisdom to recognise that their own experience is only definitive of themselves, not of that experience for everyone, and has processed any strong associations which colour their reaction.

So you absolutely can very much begin to understand things if you haven’t been there yourself, it’s exactly what you do, begin to understand and create a foundation to build better understanding on, it’s just whether you can fully understand the nuances and depth of it’s impact without more layers of understanding that could be questioned. Even then an emotionally mature person will recognise that there may always be aspects and be open to learning more.

So don’t drive people away telling them they can’t possibly understand, work on your own communication skills and start to learn to explain it so you can help them understand.

Public Mourning is the new Black?

Many of these blog posts grow out of discussions else where:  Not long back someone was using the Anna Akana/Carrie Fisher incident to condemn all expressions of mourning and grief for public figures on social media.  Last year was after all quite full of opportunities. These were my thoughts in response.

The only real extended mourning I’ve seen in my newsfeeds has been from friends who are Bowie fans who really did feel it very personally,  for all he represented in their lives, and all they seem to be now losing.

Bowie was, as well as the private person, a great icon and a symbol of many things.  He is still representative of the acceptance of being different; of being allowed to feel free and to explore creatively; to change who we are and evolve rather than conform. He made his successful living from not just making music and singing songs but from reflecting the state of our society, and often how the outsiders feel with in that society.  Effectively his death is another reflection of how we feel with the current state of the world.  The loss of him from our lives is reflective of the loss of freedom and youth as well as the loss of his awesome output of audio art and social commentary.

However every one of those mourning him in this way are decent people who wouldn’t dream of making it about them *if they were ever in the presence of the family of the bereaved* which is the key difference.   (Sometime I’ll write something about circles of mourning/support).   In the company of the family they would be compassionate and sympathetic, they would tell the bereaved family possibly how grateful they were for all that the deceased had given us all.

In their social media accounts, sharing with their own friends and connections they are talking about what he meant to them and how the loss has affected them.

Away from the contact with those “closer to the loss than yourself” then it is quite reasonable to allow happenings in the world and deaths of those who were significant to us to touch us, it’s human compassion, acknowledgement of what someone was to you and can also be very healthy.    Our society has more than enough problems actually dealing with death and grieving.  It may be that celebrity mourning is teaching us to start to reconnect with what it is to actually grieve genuinely and openly, and some parts of society may be clumsy and naive, but if that is so it’s probably because we have buttoned it up and swept it under the carpet and kept a stiff upper lip for far far too long.   However self centred it might sometimes look – at least we are trying to feel again and to understand it.

It can also help immensely for people to process other bereavements that they have been unable to address. When Lady Diana died I know of at least one woman who was for the first time able to mourn her own mother properly, because she had lost her at the same age that the kids were when Diana went.   As a child she had been told to be brave and grown up about it because she wasn’t allowed to talk about it, she shut it down and got on with life.   As an adult she looked at the bereaved kids, and saw how very little they were, and she had been when she lost her own mum, and grieved for her child self and her loss of her mother, as a result.   Outsiders who knew no better would have assumed she was overreacting to Dianas death, as it was there was valuable and important processing of very personal grief happening.

Celebrities become archetypes and tell us stories of our own lives as well as their own.

If their deaths can be part of the process that brings us back to more compassion for other people they will have actually achieved something vastly more valuable than all their glory and success, all the entertainment and stardom, ever could.

That said anyone who either breaks news bluntly just in order to be the first on the scene reporting it, or those who pesters friends and family to comment, they are being insensitive and deeply offensive and do need to learn a lesson in decency.  In general the most persistant elements of that seem far more likely to be the official media, having a sense of priveledge and imagining themselves excused from normal human decency rules.

Most grown-ups on social media don’t broadcast to the whole world either when discussion grieving or mourning, but to our friends;  most of us share news we come across with our friends if we think they would want to know, to add our personal response to it is human; sometimes that response is one of strong loss.

To broadly criticise all users of social media is throwing out baby with bath water.

In the Carrie Fisher incident the character in question sounds to be a genuine self publicist, but then a youtube star with 132,000 followers is hardly your average social media user, and there’s an easy way of dealing with not liking her reaction – that is to not follow her.

I agree it was deeply insensitive to broadcast it to the world before her family were told through more dignified official channels,  but to tar all mourning on social media with the same brush is harsh and unreasonable and misses the great potential for development there is in actually facing death a bit more squarely by actually talking about it openly, and seeing others do so.  If we can learn to cry a few tears for strangers, maybe it’ll get easier for some people to cry them for the lost family and friends, for their own pain, and in doing so they might start to heal.

Bee the recovery…

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There was an article a while ago in a druid group, about how we didn’t really need to save the bees at all in the first place because lo their numbers were starting to recover.

It was an article with very general raw statistics, very little meat on the bones. It was pretty much argued that because the bees weren’t all already gone that it was an unnecessary fuss to bother with testing pesticides etc.   I didn’t keep the link to the original.  But my reply stands without it.  My answer slightly tweaked follows:

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There are three main points: first the evidence is weak; secondly the evidence is inaccurate, thirdly even if the evidence turns out to be relevant it does not prove that their was a problem so much that the problem is reversing, which might be expected since we have been making significant efforts to do exactly that.

 

Sure the loss of bees currently is less bad than the worst doomsayers feared it might be by now some years back, BUT such generic unclear statistics don’t tell much of a story at all and I’d certainly be very very wary of reading into that much either way without more information one way or the other.

I’d like to see a breakdown of which of those bees being counted are commercially farmed mixed variety bees; how many are the african bees known to attack local bee populations and actually make the problems worse; and how the local native bees are doing in comparison. Is there still the biodiversity, and are they native species or are these farmed bees being shipped half way round the world to replace all the colony collapses which are still happening on a larger scale than they used to (local bee keepers who have got out of the games have shared anecdotal evidence which I trust at least as much as I big agri businesses stats). As I understand it there is a problem in America with non-native bees proving to be aggressive.

As an aside I’ve also since seen articles refuting that African bees are aggressive, saying africans manage to live along side them fine.  The main complaint of aggression as I understood it is that they are aggressive towards european bees, and can therefore make problems worse,  not that they are dangerous to people.  This has got mixed up with american tales of Africanised Bees, (note the -ised it’s a specific Name) which are a hybrid engineered by people trying to make more honey to increase profits, which accidentally escaped and is one of the most invasive species we have known, it is noted for being more aggressive in defense of it’s hive.   The horrific killer bee attack is mostly very rare with any bees and the product of hollywood.

In a sense the argument that the worldwide total bee population is on average stable is similar to saying we needn’t protect the red squirrels any more because the world wide squirrel population is growing. Which it is; but there’s still an issue with red squirrel welfare.  Or we could say that Scotland is full of various moggies, some of whom are feral,  so there’s no concern for the scottish wild cat. They really aren’t the same thing and counting them all together doesn’t win the argument.

Maybe it means we don’t have to panic about never having fertilised fruits for food again at all if there are some others bees which are growing, great but at least it got everyones attention and helped them understand how much we owe to the bee, it was a great image to start the discussion, and is still valid, after all even the imported bees often die after one season so its not like it’s not possible still;  maybe that scary image was  just the potential worst case scenario from a concerned speculator.
It seems ridiculous to have to point out (but it seems I did have to) that it is of course possible that the increase in bee populations reported was a direct result of the awareness that was raised by the campaigning and protesting, the goal of the changes implemented.

There are a number of reasons those bare statistics might be as they are and none of them mean there wasn’t/isn’t a problem.

1) Stats are up because of the increase in the business of raising bees to ship around the world to farmers who no longer have local bee populations (happens more and more) where often the imported bees have to be reimported the next year not being native they don’t always survive.  If these bees are counted as bee population, no wonder it’s growing they’re being farmed as a commodity and sold as a tool.  They are not by any measure STABLE bee colonies but disposable supplies for industry.

2) The increases in population are at least in part, if not largely a result of the campaigning to support the bees which have been in place for the last 8 years.    Since 2007 and before people have been campaigning for changes, (in the article in question which used statistics just from Canada, the numbers do a dive just before 2007 and then pick up since)

Since then especially in the UK, which was one of the places with a big problem loosing the native wild bees, which we still have, just things have been done to support them.
Many people have changed planting; there have been billions of free seeds which are good for bees for food given out to households; there have been awareness drives; most people are vaguely aware of it being a good part of a garden to have bee food in it;  it must have changed as garden centres now mark plants as bee friendly or not responding to public demand.

This is 8 years of work.

Saying the been populations have improved doesn’t mean that work wasn’t needed in the first place – it means it is quite possibly helping the bees massively and was anything but wasted, may even have been exactly what they needed.  After all an increase in bee population and improved stability was exactly the aim of all the activities people have been working on for the last 8 years isn’t it.

Neither of those reasons mean that there was anything untrue in all the concerns that many of us campaigned about.   They actually potentially validate the campaigning and are something we should celebrate – that it’s working. (just not enough yet).

But again with so few details in the article in question it’s not really much information at all, it doesn’t tell us if the wild bee populations are in decline or not, or if they are extinct in even more places now.

The campaign wasn’t primarily about managed hives and farmed bees, which this includes.   It was for ALL bees.

Loose statistics with no same measure before and after is not proof of much if you don’t know accurate details.  It becomes something people can read into it what they will and I personally would think it more likely and reasonable to see it that the effort is working, and it’s worth carrying on planting more bee freindly plants and avoiding pesticides, rather than the effort was never needed in the first place.   It was after all the hoped for result.

The fact that big-agri-business can now ship us crates of bees from the other side of the planet as a regular business practice, and only some of them die on the way, and most of them live long enough to pollinate that years crops really isn’t that much of a reassurance.

Sure it gives us food security of a sort, but that is only one part of why it’d be good to keep the bees and not have all the native european bees die and be replaced with a narrower genetic mix of african variants, not used to our climate or ecosystems. (and which our eco systems are not used to either).   We have a track record of buggering things up rather grandly when we start shuffling species around the planet for our convenience.  Ask the Aussies about rabbits, or the British about importing elm tree (or now ash and oak) .

 

The combination of the campaign working, and the farming of bees as product, seems the more logical reason for any changes, since an increase in populations was the effect that was aimed for with all the bee support campaign and we know that business is increasing the numbers because more farms are having to buy in bees because there just aren’t the local ones around.

 

Group Journeying

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I recently read a blog article by a friend which talked about groups and how much we open up or not in them, and whether some of us will drop our guard at all with others if things like meditation are happening.

It triggered some memories I thought I’d share in case they stimulate any thoughts for anyone else.

I think it really does depend on the mix of folks there and essentially the leader of the groups character and development. A very lovely lady  used to run a moonlodge group which I attended some years back in hampshire.   I trusted her with my life, and her judgement of and influence on the other members of the group.

There were people there I would have taken time to trust without the group who I still see as connected friends even though I’ve not seen them for many many years.

As part of it we often had a guided shared meditation/journey with space for personal experiences and lessons. I remember much of what we all got was generally fairly small to the outside world (no revisiting royalty certainly and very little that would mean anything to anyone), and often things that were big to us personally (the kind of thing that gives you AHA moments and a leap forward in your comprehension of a situation or yourself, if not then then a few days later as it’s significance struck you).

We got a sense of real progress by just being open and honest and trusting each other in a non-competitive environment. (We were also all thoroughly smudged on arrival every time and all trusted our hostess.)

After each journey (which generally comprised a guided part followed by a free form part) we would share what we felt was appropriate with the circle, one at a time using a talking stick device.

One of my treasured memories of that group will always be the time when I came out of journey unable to make head nor tail of what i wanted to say, even though the stick came to me first, so i passed it over (unusual for anyone especially me) and I tried to untangle the fact that the key thing that stuck with me from the journey was the cat who kept distracting me all the way through the guided bit, however much I tried to focus (I love cats anyway)  and my verging on tears for no apparent reason during and after.

During the journey I started out trying to focus, but after trying to concentrate I stopped and gave in and loved the cat a bit as is my nature, and so didn’t pay proper attention to the guided part of the meditation at all really.

As the stick travelled round the group I was realising I just had to say that I thought I must have been distracted by being upset although I hadn’t realised it when I arrived, and had thought I was fine, but I must have been cause I had tears, and that i was not being properly in the journey and released into openness, because I imagined this cat and indulged my love of cats as a self soothing device, and by doing that and venting upset unexpectedly instead of doing spiritual work and connecting to the whole I felt I’d slipped up, but clearly needed it.

That’s what I expected to say as the stick crept round the circle.

I have felt a special bit of love for fellow group member Julie ever since then, she being the friend who was lying next to me during the journey.

As she came to her telling and told how her cat had recently passed on (I hadn’t known) and how he had visited her and been significant, and how she’d felt much love for him but had been sad she wouldn’t cuddle him in the material world any more.  etc etc….

Suddenly I understood.

It wasn’t that I wasn’t in it properly, I wasn’t out of the room in my own head, it wasn’t that I couldn’t open up with others around.   I was so open and relaxed I was eavesdropping and actually connecting to the conciousness next to me and her potent emotions about an area of life which is essential to my being too.

I hadn’t known about any of these things before, it was a real validated connection and it gave me one of the strongest boosts of confidence at the time in the process, a wonderful sense of being connected to a friend through both friendship and a common love and calling, and since then has helped me move forward on my path (which includes life coaching and counselling, helping others on their journey and through their pain and losses by sharing).

I fast learnt that to me the remote and less valuable stuff was the cool sounding dramatic stuff, the awesome impressive experiences in meditation, the flying the royalty, these are usually symbolic of internal stuff for the individual to understand and grow from before sharing, they are broad sweeps which help us grow, but to me the stuff that really matters is often the little stuff, the pearls in our hearts that are strong and small and essential anchor points for our souls.  I think that recognition serves many of us well once realised, and beyond broad strokes, often the even fancier stuff is ego speaking over spirit I think, if we do see ourselves as royalty it’s not that we once were necessarily, more that we are recognising that we need treating better, or we just desperately want to be more important than we are in our day to day lives.

It also makes me very very wary of joining groups when I know I pick things up, not just by concious association and physical sharing and talking to people,  but by whatever is hanging around on those other people on every level, that anything and everything that is with them may and often will then also hang around you by association if you are open and unguarded to that degree around them.

If you share space with people you share a bit of who you all are and taking on bits of others, it’s one of the great strengthening and bonding things about any community or strong family, and you let all they are and have drawn to them connect with deeper parts of you. It’s a risk at any open group.

Outside of meditation practices in the physical world it’s also a  potentially really dirty side of free love that the condoms just can’t cover you for.   I’ve sensed dirt on unfaithful lovers myself before now and I suspect this psychic baggage (along with subtle physical clues like tiny amounts of body scent or perfumes) are why some people in relationships just instinctively know they are being cheated on and lied to.

I’ve know people suggest that psychic illness, and even bodily manifestations of that in the form of physical ailments, can spread in a group in that way, (through meditational opening up as well as sexual liasons)  but even without that, I want a filter on what attaches to me.  I’d like to at least retain a few guards about even just what turns up in my dreams and the easiest place to do that is to be very cautious about what groups I join or let my guard down in.

Still, all that reflected on,  sharing a visit from a passed over cat with a friend, that will remain one of the most touching experiences I’ve had ever.

Gates of Autumn – Wildways on the Borle – 20-22nd September 2013.

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We headed off to this new weekend event with very little idea what to expect.

It was titled “Gates of Autumn”, filling a lull in the wheel of the festival year, marking the changing season.  I knew there would be like minded folks with druidic leanings there so hoped it would be relaxed but stimulating, interesting and enjoyable. I knew there was to be some music and a story walk.  I hoped it would be a time apart to enjoy, with a good connection to nature, and to the others in the temporary community who formed.

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It exceeded all those hopes and every expectation I could have had of it.  It reached parts I didn’t know needed a hand in moving on and growing; and it was super fun with lovely, lovely people, intelligent, creative, sensitive, fun people all.

For starters the site it is based in, Wildways, is wonderful all on it’s own.  The lovely wooded valley with cosy clear meadows, babbling river, overhanging gorge edges and amongst all this subtly scattered artworks and special spaces.  The woodland is managed wonderfully inobtrusively, just enough to help you appreciate that people are living in harmony with the land there, but mostly just feeling spacious and natural.   Just when you least expect it there are occasional inspirational lines casually placed on little tranquil, natural boards.

If you’d missed quite how wonderful the site was on the first evening in the dark when much of the time was spent in the exceedingly cosy and comfortable, snug and holding yurt then the story walk made sure we were all engaging with the land as we squelched through the bog of despondency and transformation or as we noticed the troll turned to stone in the hillside, mouth open, so like a small cave, or the rocks he threw at the middle son by the pond-lake home of the serpent, and the monster in the undergrowth.  The power of a well crafted story, told by a talented bard, wove not only the adventure of the newly created mythology into the landscape, but over it’s telling during the walk it wove each of us into the whole.

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The various speakers over the weekend kept a very casual and relaxed air to the proceedings.  Each talking about their specialist areas of knowledge and helping us all find common ground and learn something new in an informal style.  Journeying to explore questions with the aid of power animals had a variety of responses, all of them in some way significant to the travellers.  As for the sound bath, I can barely describe it – it was a totally awesome wrap up. I have experienced a few different gong baths and sound therapies in the past, but this really was a tremendous journey of healing joy.

At some events alcohol plays a significant part, here we were high on the land, on the sounds, on the experiences, but even so, we didn’t let that stop us sharing a little home made mead around the fire on the second evening, in much the same way as we had been sharing the tasty pot luck food in the kitchen & dining areas through the rest of the weekend.

This was one of those short events which packed in what felt like weeks worth of wonderful experiences without there ever being a sense of being rushed or bustled.  A wonderful time of being utterly present in all of the experiences so well crafted together.

At the end I had heartfelt thanks to offer to Wildways’ guardian: Elaine,  our story guide: The Travelling Talesman/Cliff Eastabrook, Phillip Shalcrass and his wolves;  Leo Rutherford; all the musicians and artists, the wonderful guests and participants I met there, especially Harriet for her lovely crumble, the most seasonal food you could ask for helping connecting us to the land, (more special than you’d imagine) and last but by no means least: Massive thanks to Steve R for causing this excellent festival and celebration, a superb ritual for transition, which worked on me at many levels, to come into being in the material plane.

May our memory hold what our eyes and ears have gained,

because it was so very much.

I can but hope that I am able to attend next years “Gates of Autumn” and again contribute what I can with the other lovely souls gathering to mark the seasons turning, and our own growing,  in an awesome location.

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What’s that got to do with druidry?

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‘Maybe you think you’ll be entitled to more happiness later by forgoing all of it now, but it doesn’t work that way. Happiness takes as much practice as unhappiness does. It’s by living that you live more. By waiting you wait more. Every waiting day makes your life a little less. Every lonely day makes you a little smaller. Every day you put off your life makes you less capable of living it.’

~ Ann Brashares

This was posted on a druidry facebook wall recently.  Someone questioned that it had anything to do with being a bard, ovate or druid.   I though my answer was pretty much a blog post in itself so here is a tidied up version of it for you. 

 

In my view and experience, self knowledge is a key foundation for any other spiritual development, it is therefore very relevant.   Engaging in life is essential to achieve any realistic self knowledge – this passage urges us to do that. A good broad self knowledge also involves knowing how to train yourself to be a constructive positive person

(if you so chose and if you want to be a positive influence on the world around you then you will likely eventually find that you need to heal and become positive and willing to engage and act, as the quote say to Live more).

What is the point in saying, in public rituals “may there be peace/love throughout the world” if we do not give peace and love, if we give lip service and yet inside ourself we feed festering resentments and wounds against bits of that world.

Sure in doing that you shouldn’t hide your negative traits or suppress them, that’s like ignoring a physical wound, it gets infected and gets worse and can end up disabling because of it.   However you can reduce your negative traits if you want and are willing to make the effort, and no, it isn’t easy.  By understanding their sources we can address the pain and clean out the wound, and heal them.  Rather than cling onto our wounds as some kind of damaged birthright, a battle scar we insist on the right to have even though it poisins us,  we can chose to continue growing and healing.

One of the ways to do that is by practicing happiness and gratitude for what we have.

In doing  we heal our minds and start to make up for any lack of nuturing or any pain and neglect

the past experience of which makes us less than loving, positive and able to engage with the world around us.

(Real measurable physical changes happen in the brain as well as habits changing when we meditate and practice

gratitude and happiness)

If you fully own your own emotions and live them, and go beyond that and understand them, all of them, and heal the wounds, and look after yourself, then you can actually be happy through the saddest of times and great losses even.

I have been happy, during the experience, that i have had the honour of being with a beloved pet as she died, that she went naturally and stayed nuzzled to my hand to the end, that i was able to give her a good life and have the joy of her in mine. I lived the experience completely.    I didn’t like that she was dying, I didn’t think watching her die was fun, but it was an honour and a fascinating experience.  Sure I spent a good while after she’d gone sobbing my heart out and barely able to stand, I had my insides ripped out emotionally.   I felt urges to cry whilst she was dying, but i knew that would distress her and I would do her more good by being calm, so I asked my emotions to please wait, stepped out of the room to gather myself once, but was able to remain calm and loving all through the experience.   It was an incredibly dark time, I was very alone, I don’t avoid dark, I understand balance, I’ve seen the twisted dark too.

In my view the suppression of all dark and imposition of all light without understanding the dark leads to acting out, all kinds of problems and a distinct lack of balance.    Equally though indulging the damaged dark, encouraging the wolf who is fear and hatred inside us is the other extreme and is equally unhealthy.   Allowing expeirences to happen and engaging with them fully, but still making positive choices and being grateful for the things which make us happy and focussing on them when we remember to do so  is the health balance.  It is the moderate dark and moderate light mixture which it is healthy to engage in, which doesn’t pervert our character into something permenantly damaged by our choices in life.

That bereavement I lived through so vividly was an intense healthy dark, it didn’t come from old festering wounds, it was a fresh one, the kind you take the cut from and then use the happy and properly living to heal it healthily so it doesn’t skew your future disproportionately. i knew I was crying in the time afterwards to release the tension and because I knew I would miss her bright little soul, I almost floated to find someone else who would let me not be alone as I was so out of myself with grief,  I still have moments where I miss her now, but it doesn’t really hurt, it’s just the way life is, I accept it because I can’t change it, and  because i practice positivity my reaction on remembering her is to be grateful i knew her, touched by her last moments.    Not to mention I can get creative and say if I really want to see her I can do a meditation to visit our memories together.

That’s not imposed or suppressed happiness, that’s a natural reaction, no it didn’t always used to happen, I worked hard to get here.   I also work hard at doing just what the quote says – living properly, being in the moment, taking what happiness there is and enjoying it.  Practicing gratitude for what I do have, and where i would be tempted to regret or resent what i don’t – actually doing something positive about it and being grateful that I have the chance to change it, even if what i do is change my thinking about things i have no way of changing the reality of.

We can chose to live life waiting, in pain, resenting, blaming others, or we can grasp our lives and make them into a force of good in the world in a way which suits our character, to do that we need to know ourselves, to know our true selves we need the damage of our history dealt with and healed.  We are far more than a collection of seeping wounds, knowing the self behind the wounds is, I would think, one of the real happinesses in life, and really valuable if you are to do anything well, including being a bard, ovate or druid, or even just being a decent human being.

So in my world in many ways, that quote about living fully and in the moment absolutely is to do with being a bard/ovate/druid. It’s one of the key things about it.

It’s not really all about wafting around in robes, telling stories and singing songs,  or mixing herbs and reading omens,  or casting special magical spells.

Often the most powerful and deepest magic is the stuff we work on ourselves.

Review of ODE Cafe’s First Birthday Event

Last Sunday’s first anniversary celebrations at ODE Cafe in Shaldon were a demonstration of how a little English Summer Rain (that inevitable contribution to so many outdoor events) can’t spoil your day if you don’t let it.

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It was a lovely day out.  The relaxed but busy atmosphere was a great way to counter the intermittent light showers and our day started with a far nicer wet – a good cup of fresh and tasty, rich, hot coffee.

The storyteller, The Travelling Talesman, told the tales of the king of the fish to a rapt audience of adults and children, for the second tale the adults were still listening, some  keenly, by now some of the children had the bug of activity in them.  It was quite impressive seeing the storyteller continue in his flow, whilst making passing adaptations to his stories referencing the line of small children who were now running in a tight circle around him.  A novel performance addition.

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As he finished the childrens energy was fast drawn to the various games on the lawn for them to play with which seemed to provide all day entertainment for many of them, certainly at the end of the day I saw a number of children still grasping wooden blocks or bits of rope from the various activities.   Little ones were also drawn to the lovely cheerful real lemonade stall on the lawn (raising funds for the local pre-school) and the  visual element of the massive bubble making.  I enjoyed sitting back and watching the relaxing liberty of the very few bubbles which escaped small fingered popping as they drifted off up into the sky with a background of deep green trees on their way.

Whilst others took in the wonders of the brewery tour, we chose to sample the brewery’s produce and some of the wonderful looking food we had been watching being delivered to the other eager customers.  Our party chose the classic fish and chips and the more unusual venison burger.  The fish was local pollack, chunky and moist and meaty, cooked to perfection with a wonderful even swirled batter that was light and crisp all round with not a single soggy or gooey spot to be found.  The venison burgers  were moist, juicy and incredibly tasty: utterly delicious with the chilli jam. The rich thick garlic mayo was clearly freshly made and complimented the perfect golden fries, which really were perfect.  By our standards all fries should be, crisp and golden on the outside and soft and fluffy on the inside.  These were. Perfection.  Refreshingly the selection of leaves served with the meal was more than the usual sad trimming on the side and was a tasty and well thought out element in it’s own right, a good balance to the red meat.  It was a pleasant surprise to find an old friend, the great quality Luscombe ginger beer (and other flavours) on sale too.

 

ODE ale was a real treat: gently tasty, smooth and friendly with a bright refreshing aftertaste.  I was very aware on the first sip some caution would be needed as it was so very remarkably drinkable and fun as it might have been to give in to temptation I’m no longer young enough to knock back a pint at speed at lunchtime without it having a noticable impact on the rest of the day and however pokey the coffee earlier I didn’t want to spend the afternoon napping on the benches, even if they are recycled from Eden.

Sitting outside we had been admiring the sedum roof and reading all about ODE’s eco awards, we rapid concluded they were well deserved, everything about the place seemed to be at once both efficient and relaxed, friendly yet professional, ecological and yet centred around delighting the customers.  Tim has struck a great balance in what he’s done with the place, and clearly it is much appreciated by the regulars who all seem to know him and many of the staff by name.

Adjourning inside thanks to the rain for more stories from the sea, including an appropriate tale which urged anyone who doubts we can save the planet/all the starfish to do what we can, when we can, with what we have, we were able to enjoy the open barn space, which thanks to the use of windows through to the lawn one way and the brewery the other, is pleasant and light, yet at the same time cosy.  It had space enough to fit in musicians who entertained us with music for much of the afternoon and even had some people dancing, and more still foot tapping or singing along as orders of more delicious looking meals and puddings arrived.

Much entertainment was had watching long benches full of kids trying to eat sugary doughnuts without licking their lips.  Then another brewery tour happened and just when you were ready for a last sit down there were more stories from The Travelling Talesman, in the barn at the end of the entertainment.

We rounded off our visit to ODE cafe with a delicious treat – Rose, Almond and Cardammon icecream, not in the least bit over floral or perfumed as my partner feared, but just as the rest of the day had been,  just right for a perfect day.  Rich without being sickly, gently spiced and clean tasting, and served in an awesome crunchy ginger biscuit cone.

Our whole day out was finished off with a recommendation from the ever helpful staff – that we couldn’t go home without taking a walk down the Smugglers Tunnel to the beach, which we dutifully did and were suitably impressed.

ODE true food Cafe (to give it it’s full title) is a delightful cafe, with lovely staff, delicious food, excellent drinks, and to know all this is done with a respect and reguard to the environment, and using local high quality produce, really boosts the enjoyment of it all.  I have been finding myself recommending them to various people since as a lovely place to visit for the sake of visiting for a lovely meal, not just if you’re in the area, but worth the trip in their own right.

I was very glad to share their first birthday with them and wish them very many more happy returns (and very much hope to return there soon myself).

Vaccinations and Responsibility.

I know a number of people who have a number of different takes on vaccination.
I grew up believing it to be all good and took my own vaccinations and happily vaccinated my cats.  Having seen a cat survive cat flu because it was vaccinated I was glad to have done so.  I think the mortalities and distress avoided by effective vaccinations are great and some years I even take myself along for a flu vaccine if I feel I’m heading into winter with a weaker than usual immune system.

As time went on I have adjusted my view a little over the years, mostly when I discovered that the rabies vaccine regularly (up to 1 in 1,000) causes tumours in cats.
It’s why they try to inject them in an extremity, not in the body, because if your cat develops a tumour then they can cut the leg off and keep the cat alive, where as a tumour in the middle of the cat is going to be the end of the cat so to speak.  When I read about this I decided my cats were never travelling abroad as I didn’t want to have to give them this dangerous vaccine.

I think anyone with a realistic view understands that pharma-chem-corporates are motivated by profit above all else.  They don’t broadcast it but they would’t deny it, they are businesses with shareholders after all.  They care about ethics only so far as it affects their bottom line. So I have sympathy with parents who distrusted the combined MMR vaccine when it was speculatively linked with autism.  Now don’t jump on me here, I’m not saying it’s causal, I’m saying a good protective parent, seeing the panic is quite possibly going to back off from the idea.  Some looked at research and were reassured, others looked and weren’t reassured, others didn’t look, they were too scared already.  Either way you can’t blame them for wanting to protect their children from what they perceived as an avoidable risk.
Sure the risks from measles are avoidable too but there is an immediacy to sticking needles in your child which can be scary, and somehow, maybe because we see inaction as more innocent, it can be that a sin of omission seems less damning than a sin of commission, even if the results were the same.

So I do understand and have sympathy for both sides of the argument.

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More than anything else though I think it’s a real shame that when the MMR fuss came about the authorities didn’t just make the vaccines available separately. Available as individual separate shots, as they are in other countries,  so that scared parents could still feel comfortable getting their kids vaccinated.  After all it’s what happened at the time: those with enough money just paid for private or foreign clinics to do exactly that for their kids: give them the vaccinations, but separately, just to be completely sure there wasn’t an overload on the system or a combined impact of damage to the body caused by being attacked on 3 fronts, just in case there was a link.

However that was deemed to be not possible, it was seen as wrong to give in to panic. In order to make a point the authorities had to insist that it was all (at the same time) or nothing for anyone getting it on the NHS. 

We’re now having people dying in avoidable measles outbreaks.  Although it could have been prevented by parents giving kids the combined MMR; it could also have been prevented by the authorities making the more trusted single vaccines available. 

Given the problems that we have had in the past from stuff provided by medical companies, stuff which we were told was safe but turned out to damage people for life, it’s really not surprising that when people thought they’d found a parallel to the rise in autism and the combined vaccine, that there was panic. 

Since the authorities didn’t manage to cut off the panic at all before it grew or provide sufficient clear reassurances once it was on the rise,  they should have been looking for the responsible thing to do.  Their priority should not have been just proving that they were right, but acting in the best interest of the children concerned and in the best interests of society as a whole.  It seemed they preferred to just squabble about winning a point as if they were children themselves; almost as if the authorities and the public were a couple in a deeply disfunctional marriage which had become more about point scoring than mutual benefit. (A situation I’m sure I’ll consider some other time).

To my mind the responsible thing to have done would have been to offer the vaccines separately for a while, to parents who had had a chat from their GP (which would have reassured some). Then offer it to those who still weren’t reassured of the safety of the combined option,  whilst simultaneously running further medical tests.  Tests that the public were fully informed of and whos results were announced and analysed publically, tests which would have been used to prove the combined vaccines safety before removing the single shot option.  A very many parents would have continued with the combined vaccine, many others would have been happy with single shots, and most importantly it would have vastly increased trust and left the population with far better coverage than we currently have.

Instead the view points on vaccines are if anything even more polarised now.
Large groups of people are feeling less empowered and less trusting of the authorities partly because they feel they are being bullied not listened to; they feel the Pharma-Chem-Corporates are the only ones being heard.  Pharma-Chem are not trusted, we know they only care about profits, you only have to look at research into strokes to know that they aren’t about curing and improving health, but about making money.

The authorities, now happy that they made the right choices because they are reassured that there isn’t a causal relationship between the vaccine and autism are overlooking the causal relationship between a deep distrust of doctors who are seen to be in the pockets of big business, and the potential for panic when the public think their health is in danger because of profits coming first.

As a result of this relationship of responsibility which is being ignored it will be even easier for another panic to happen.   Maybe the public shouldn’t panic – but they do, saying they shouldn’t won’t stop that, especially when so much of the media loves winding people up and giving them something to get riled about.

One side of the relationship needs to start behaving like a grown-up and taking responsiblity and understanding that responsibility doesn’t actually mean trying to take control by attempting to force your will on others, but to be wise enough to step back and look all the possible responses available and then to carefully consider, objectively what is most likely to have the most beneficial and positive long term results for everyone involved.