Tuesday, December 27, 2016

Into a new year . . .

I can't believe it . . . can you?
Time has passed so quickly.  It seems incredible that we're about to enter another year.

Nonetheless, I'm sure we'd all agree that 2016 has given us more than enough to ponder on . . . more than enough by way of fear, anxiety and uncertainty.

This was brought home to me very forcibly when I learned that an armed gunman is currently guarding the crib at Canterbury Cathedral.

But the year has featured many differing anxieties, and a question has come to the fore.

What, would you say, is the chief concern for the voting populace?
Bill Clinton, who was confident that he knew the answer, made "it's the economy, stupid!" his election slogan.

However, this past year has shown that Clinton could well have been mistaken.  Attitudes and priorities have changed.
As the previous Chancellor of the Exchequer, George Osborne, observed recently:
" . . . what's interesting is we've moved more to a politics of identity than a politics of the economy".

It would appear that it's no longer simply a matter of financial viability,  it's also a question of who we are . . . of how we are valued.  As we said the other week, it's those at the bottom of society's pyramid who, anxious about their position in an uncertain future, are finally demanding recognition.

Not only that, during the past year we, in the UK, have seen cracks appear in the very fabric of our stressed society, cracks that are spreading and widening.

We have a fractured NHS, a fractured rural transport service, a fractured prison system, a fractured care facility, and who can deny the fractures permeating the country's two main political parties.

Has truth become another casualty of this destructive period? Are we truly in a 'post truth' society?

But let's pause and reflect . . . is all this fracturing a bad thing?  Not necessarily.   As a wise man once said, cracks exist to let the light come in.
We'll need a guiding light to lead us through the darkness ahead.

This seems the perfect moment to share a speech from 'A Sleep of Prisoners' by Christopher Fry.

Surely these words have never been more timely:

Dark and cold we may be, but this
Is no winter now.  The frozen misery
Of centuries breaks, cracks, begins to move;
The thunder is the thunder of the floes,
The thaw, the flood, the upstart Spring.

Thank God our time is now when wrong
Comes up to face us everywhere,
Never to leave us till we take
The longest stride of soul men ever took.

Affairs are now soul size.
The enterprise is exploration into God.
Where are you making for?  It takes
So many thousand years to wake . . .
But will you wake, for pity's sake

          *         *         *

It's time to say goodbye to 2016.
Let's move together from the birth-pangs of the past into the light of the New Year . . .

Monday, December 19, 2016

What If?

What if there never was a virgin birth,
No cattle bearing witness to the sight;
What if no angels sang of peace on earth,
No star shone tribute in the winter's night?
What if it were a dream? Would aught remain
Within the ashes of a cherished myth
To raise the cry "Hosannah!" and sustain
Man's soaring spirit on the wings of faith?
I know not, Lord, what history would flout
But Christmas bids us leave our flocks for thee,
And calls us, through the darkness of our doubt,
Towards the light of thy nativity.
We need not journey to a distant inn
When faith, and hope, and love are born within.

Tuesday, November 29, 2016

Did you know . . . ?

Did you know that, in November this year, when the temperature at  the North Pole would normally have been minus twenty degrees centigrade, the ice was at melting point? 

To learn more about this disturbing situation, click here.

Did you know that, in the view of the World Wildlife Fund and the Zoological Society of London, 'humanity is taking a chainsaw to the tree of life'?

In a recent report they jointly predicted that by 2020 two-thirds of the world's wild animals will have gone.

To obtain full details of the Living Planet report,  click here.

Did you know that the human population, which is currently seven and a half billion, is forecast to grow to eleven billion by the end of the century?

Eleven billion people in need of oxygen, food and water . . . not to mention space.

Did you know that we are no longer in the stable Holocene epoch, which has lasted for twelve thousand years?

Through our own actions the Earth is so profoundly changed that the Holocene must give way to the unstable Antropocene.

But that's enough of the alarming news . . . let's turn to the positive variety.

Did you know that the answers to climate change won't be found by delegates at an international conference?
It's a responsibility that rests with us.

Did you know that the current crisis is far too important to be left to world leaders?
They need to be guided by us.

And if you're overwhelmed by this concept, by the scale of the problem, and are bereft of any ideas, then read the Living Planet report.
It's full of ideas . . . and full of hope.

Did you know that we still have three years left in which to save life on our planet?
Who knows . . .  we may have a future after all!

Sunday, November 13, 2016

A time for hope . . . ?

This week I heard an uplifting talk by the American evolutionary biologist, Elisabet Sahtouris.
Along with other wise advice, she recommended that we should abandon our long-held preference for pyramids.  We must move on, she told us, to the wisdom and maturity of the circle.

Her comment set me pondering . . .

It's true, we live in a world of pyramids.  There are national pyramids, political pyramids, religious and corporate pyramids . . .  I'm sure you can think of many others.  Pyramids that compete with each other, pyramids that, on occasions, go to war against each other.

Within each pyramid there's the leader holding his own at the top of the pile, the supporters below keeping him in position, and those at the bottom maintaining the stability of the structure.  You'll note that I say 'his' and 'him, the pyramid is essentially a masculine concept.

The leader's position is always precarious.
Those just below him may be his supporters, they may also be wishing to usurp him.
His attention is focussed on retaining his position, which means that he's largely out of touch with the workers who form the base.
He's privileged, obeyed . . . but isolated.

For those on the way up the situation is different, they can have dreams .  . . they can aspire to reaching the top.  At the same time, they, too, rely on those below them to ensure their stability and safety.

But what about those at the bottom?  They have little to aspire to.  Looking upwards all they can see is the rear view of those above.
Yet it's on their strength, and their willingness to co-operate, that the stability and permanence of the pyramid depends.  Should they pull away, the whole edifice tumbles.

Isn't this what's happened both in the UK Referendum and the US Presidential Election?

The pyramids had grown top-heavy, those at the top were out of touch with the base, whilst those in the middle were doing well out of self-serving alliances, thereby distorting the structure and making it harder for those below.

Understandably exhausted by the weight and the lack of reward, those at the bottom finally rebelled.

As Elisabet Sahtouris pointed out, whilst civilisations are young and growing, the pyramid structure encourages expansion and enterprise.  However, with age it becomes top-heavy, unwieldy and out of touch with its components.

The circle, a feminine concept, is devoid of the competitive factor.  There's no high point to aspire to, no-one is carrying a burdensome weight.  Each person is individual, but equal . . . each voice is heard.  Those in the circle communicate whilst looking at each others' faces, not at the back of their legs.  Whilst pyramids are sharp-sided, circles blend.  Pressures and tensions are borne equally and contributions are shared on a communal basis.  With competition no longer rampant there is a calming down of the energy, a collaboration of effort, a lifting of pressure.

All of which makes sense.
But what if we added another simile to this story?

Nature, as we know, is constantly evolving.
What if we looked upon the pyramid as the caterpillar stage of man's evolution?  What if the move from pyramid to circle was also a move from all-consuming caterpillar to self-supportive larvae?

And what if, in the not too distant future, a resplendent butterfly was waiting to emerge . . . ?

It's impossible at a time of transition to see what lies ahead.
But, as the pyramids crumble and the circles start forming, could this, perhaps, be a time for hope . . . ?

Sunday, November 6, 2016

A choice of words

I'm worried . . . let me explain why.

First of all, with your agreement I'd like to carry out a short experiment.
Below, I'm going to type a series of words.  Please read them aloud, one after the other, and feel the effect they have on your body as you do so.  Take it slowly, and see what happens.

Off we go:

'Anger' . . . 'Fear' . . .  'Hate' . . . 'Anxiety' . . . 'Deceit' . . . 'Aggression' . . . 'Duplicity'

How did that feel?  Did you find your body tensing, particularly around the chest?  Did your breathing become more shallow and rapid?
Did you become rigid in your seat?

Now, let's repeat that with a different set of words.

Once again:

'Compassion' . . . 'Generosity'. . . 'Decency' . . . 'Respect' . . . 'Trust' . . . 'Understanding' . . . 'Compromise'

Did you feel any difference?
Was there an expansion of the body?  Did your breathing deepen?  And was there a feeling of warmth, a renewal of energy?

I said that I was worried, and I am.
I'm worried because language is important, vitally important.  The words we choose to express our thoughts affect us physically and colour our world.
I'm sure we've all experienced how words that are negative and destructive not only enfeeble, they can even paralyse.

At the current time the all-pervasive language of fear and criticism is overwhelming.
And it isn't just found in the Press, and used by politicians . . . it's the common currency for all of us.  We're all contributing to the explosive atmosphere in the world.

Wouldn't you agree that, if we're to unite in recognition of our shared humanity, we need the healing energy of a compassionate vocabulary?

It could also be said that we'd benefit from putting words aside and absorbing the gifts of nature . . . the gifts of a spectacular autumn.

Now, there's a word to warm the heart . . . 'Gratitude'!

Friday, October 28, 2016

I have a dream . . .

Were you able to listen to any part of Global Oneness Day?

If so, I'm sure your reaction was the same as mine . . . a sense of deep gratitude.
Spanning a period of thirteen hours, and featuring the views of over forty participants, it was a truly memorable event.

You may remember that Chloe accused me last week of being addicted to the 'News' bulletins.  She was perfectly right . . . I plead guilty.

However, as one of Tuesday's speakers pointed out, there's very little that's new in the 'News', the correct definition should probably be the 'Olds'.  This is because, in the belief that 'if it bleeds it leads', the media usually focuses on what's breaking down.  It provides us with accounts of all that's tragic, alarming and fearful . . .  items that paralyse our minds, and strip us of hope for the future.

Global Oneness Day produced scientists, academics, spiritual teachers, diplomats and peace workers all of whom told a different story.  This was the new 'News'.

And what did I learn?
From the scientists I learned that we are currently well into the process of the sixth mass extinction.
An extinction which, unlike all previous occasions, has come about not through natural causes, but by our own behaviour.
This was confirmed by the BBC News yesterday.

But it seems that, in addition to the elephants, the hedgehogs and all the other species, there are also dinosaurs facing extinction, dinosaurs that we have created.

These dinosaurs are the large institutions . . .  political, financial and industrial . . .  institutions who have outlived their beneficial aspects and are no longer functioning for the good of the whole. 
The scientists cautioned us not to be alarmed, this, we were assured, is no more than a stage in the constant evolution of the universe.

From the academics I learned the value of appreciating the broader picture.
As James O'Dea pointed out, who could argue against our common unity when we share our DNA with cockroaches and bananas?

And, extending this to the universal viewpoint, who could fail to warm to Ervin Laszlo's description of the universe.
It is, he said,  'an informed, self-organising pattern of vibrations held together by a cosmic mind.'
Doesn't that definition carry your soaring spirit way beyond Brexit and the American Presidential elections?

All the diplomats and peace workers were united in their wish for change, counselling that this should come from unity, not friction.  Change, they told us, won't come about by alienation, or by fighting existing conditions.   It will only be achieved by uniting to make the old ways obsolete.

As for the spiritual teachers, whilst an acknowledgement of our divine source underpinned the contribution of every speaker, there were several who saw this era as being a time of profound change in human consciousness.  One spoke movingly of the support and guidance offered by the angels.
And who could disagree with Steve Bhaerman's encouragement to 'leave the static of the head for the ecstatic of the heart'?

So . . . with Global Oneness Day over for another year, what part is there left for us to play?

Clearly we need to unite, we need to hope . . . hope, we were told, is active not passive, or, as Matthew Fox put it, 'a verb with its sleeves rolled up'.
We also need to acknowledge the link between joy and consciousness, love and creation.
Above all we need to recognise the theme under-pinning every discussion . . .  our intrinsic oneness.

A time of mass extinction this may be, but it's also undoubtedly a time of new birth.
Birth pangs can be painful, so it might help to remember something.
Martin Luther King didn't say, "I have a complaint," what he said was, "I have a dream!"

Monday, October 17, 2016

Cats to the Rescue!

Hello, it's Chloe here . . . have you a moment to spare? I've a real treat for you, and I'll put it online quickly whilst my Mum is out.

Talking of my Mum, I really can't understand why she does it, but she regularly listens to something she calls 'The News'.

No self-respecting cat would ever depress themselves by listening to 'The News'.  It's invariably gloomy, usually alarmist, and it's always about humans and their stupidity  . . .  I've yet to overhear a single item about an intelligent animal.

But wouldn't you agree that, over the past few months,  this 'News' has been getting steadily worse?
Either humans are getting more stupid, or they're pushing each other into more and more stupid situations.  And a right mess they're making of things.

I worry about humans, and this seems a good moment for an intelligent cat to put a paw in. 
Humans need to be told that their behaviour really doesn't need to be like that.

A video on Facebook will show you just what I mean.

In this video two sensible cats demonstrate how to behave when milk is in short supply.  You don't fight, you don't yell at each other, you don't act like a stupid human.  You bargain a little . . . and share a little . . . and, true, there's a moment when voices are raised just an iota, but it's hard not to pick up bad habits when you live in close proximity with humans.

After you've watched this video, may I suggest that you ask yourself a question?
If that milk had been an ice-cream, and if those two cats had been excitable small humans . . .  well, I've known lots of small humans and I'd bet my last whisker that they'd behave very differently to those sensible cats!

To see the video click here.
Now, the next time you listen to 'The News' ask yourself this question . .. although human society may be going to the dogs, how about getting it back on track with the help of wise and civilised cats?

Just thought I'd mention it . . .

Thursday, October 6, 2016

Something to share . . .

Something struck me the other day.  I realised that, when I hear something interesting, or make a surprising discovery, my immediate impulse is to share it with you.
You may well have noticed how frequently I start these letters with the words, 'May I share something . . . ?'

Why, I wondered to myself, do I have this need to share?   Do we all have it?  If so, why this need to reach out and communicate?

And there's more to it than that.  Who in my mind, am I communicating with?
The contact feels intimate, not remote . . . almost like a bee returning to the hive, or a drop of water returning to the ocean.

If you remember, we spoke the other week about The Wood Wide Web, the communication network below the ground that links all trees in a common understanding.
This would seem to be the human equivalent . .  . a network, independent of the internet, that subtly connects us all in ways beyond our understanding.
I'm sure you've known such occasions . . .  a friend comes into your mind and then, seconds later, that same person phones you.  Inexplicable . . . but strangely satisfying.

These thoughts were triggered by an email I received this week.  It was sent to remind me of Global Oneness Day, an event which takes place on October 24th.

Did you know of Global Oneness Day?
It was launched in 2010 with the support of over a hundred and fifty countries, and the backing of the U.N.
Over the past six years it has grown steadily in scope and influence.

As the organisers say on their website:

"Today Oneness is expressed through many diverse streams - religions, philosophies, ancient/indigenous traditions, and science.  These streams are overflowing their banks, commingling, and converging to form a single stream, a universal Oneness movement.
Global Oneness Day is our day to celebrate unity in our diversity . . . "

If those words have encouraged you to learn more, and to discover the names of the fifty speakers who'll be taking part in this year's online celebrations, click here.

In an increasingly troubled and fragmented world, a world where we lean towards self-interest rather than service, caution rather than compassion,  the message of Global Oneness Day is ever more relevant.

I hope to participate on October 24th . . . will you join me?

Friday, September 23, 2016

The Wood Wide Web

If you're planning an autumn walk in the woods, may I waylay you for a moment?  The facts revealed in an intriguing new book will definitely add to your enjoyment.
Let me whet your appetite.

Called "The Hidden Life of Trees", the book's author, Peter Wohlleben, a German forester, was interviewed on the "Today" programme on Radio 4.
"For the past hundred years," he told us, "we've been looking at nature like a machine . . . " he then went on to prove just how mistaken we've been.

Trees, it seems, are tribal.  Each member of the same species is intent not on personal growth, but on the wellbeing of the family.   Each species, according to Peter Wohlleben, is "genetically as far away from each other as you and a goldfish".

He went on to tell his listeners that the trees within each tribe communicate by means of electric signals from the roots, these roots being brain-like structures which have brain-like processes.  This information can range from the whereabouts of nourishment in the soil to warnings of insect attacks.

What's more, it seems that, at the point where the web of roots cease, the information is still carried forward, this time by means of the surrounding fungal network . . . not so much an inter-net as an under-net.  In fact, this is what scientists have named the complex network, they call it The Wood Wide Web.

Just think about it for a moment, centuries before the advent of the computer, trees had an equally efficient social network by means of which they could support each other.  By this understanding, a spruce tree in Sweden, known to be well over nine thousand years old, has been 'online' for a very long time!

The information was fascinating.  Did you know, I didn't, that a mother tree can recognise its own seedling?
Not only that, it can provide the seedling with food, and nurture its growth.  It will even curb its own root growth to make more room for its progeny.

I was equally astonished to hear of the antipathy between the beech and the oak.  A hostility so strong that beech woods can intentionally weaken the growth of any oaks on their periphery.  Willows, it appears, are loners . . . poplars keep themselves to themselves.

Wohlleben's experience had taught him that trees can make decisions, have memories and even different characters.  "City trees," he declared, "are like street kids, isolated and struggling."
I'll be looking at London's trees very differently in the future.

It was an absorbing interview . . . but surely some of its conclusions were anticipated by Shakespeare?

"And this our life, exempt from public haunt,
Finds tongues in trees, books in the running brooks,
Sermons in stones, and good in everything."

Enjoy your walk!

Tuesday, September 13, 2016

An eventful week

I wonder if your attention, like mine, was captured by an interview on Radio 4 last week?

The person being questioned was the Professor of Folkloristics at the University of Iceland.
The topic being discussed was the intriguing and unlikely subject of elves!

Elves are recognised in Iceland, their sacred sites are respected.
However, following an earth-slip in the proximity of a supposedly enchanted elfin rock, the rock had been accidentally moved and muddied. In the wake of this mistreatment, several disturbing incidents had reportedly taken place.

The elves, it seemed, had needed to be appeased, and a decision had been made by the Iceland Road Administration to replace and clean the rock.  Click here if you'd like to learn more.

As for the bemused interviewer on Radio 4, it was clearly beyond his comprehension that intelligent Icelanders should give credence to such beliefs.

Nor has it just been the elves who've made their presence felt this week . . . there were other items in the news that further undermine our notion of being in control.

Is it mere coincidence that international newspapers, which have long made no serious mention of UFOs, are now falling over themselves to disclose the latest information?

The Sunday Express reported that astronauts, on a recent space walk from the International Space Station, were taken aback by the unexpected appearance of UFOs  - click here for a video and more details.

Then, with the American Press circulating news of sightings off Malibu, the British Press has responded by featuring photos of a UFO zooming low over the rooftops in Manchester . . . all in the past few days.

Elves . . . Extra Terrestrials . . . could it be that the universe is more complex than we've allowed ourselves to believe?

Preoccupied with the creation of artificial intelligence, intelligence designed to serve our own needs, have we been blinding ourselves to what is already there?
Could it be that, hovering on the edge of our blinkered vision, other life forms are observing us?
Life forms, perhaps, whose intelligence exceeds our own?

Judging by this week's events, we could be about to find out.

Thursday, September 1, 2016

Worth more than medals

May I share some good news . . . some good news relating to trees?

In order to appreciate its significance, just glance at this map of the British Isles.

In particular, study the outline of Wales . . .  appreciate the size, note the considerable distance from north to south, from east to west.
Now, picture a forest the size of the area you've been studying . . . a beautiful, natural forest, an area of woodland free of invasive towns or industry, with no more than the occasional road winding its way between the trees.
Wouldn't you agree that this would constitute an impressively large forest?

However, and this is the good news, what we've been imagining is no myth.  It has very strong roots in the soil of reality.
Back in 2010, with the support of the Prince of Wales, a Welsh charity was founded.
It was born out of anxiety and determination . . . anxiety at the rapid disappearance of the world's rain-forests, and a determination to do something about it.

There was, however, a guiding stipulation . .  .   any areas of forest that it took under its wing needed to be the size of Wales itself.
It was an inspired idea, an idea which gave rise to the name of the charity, 'The Size of Wales'.

Since its inception, forests have been established on the continent of Africa in Guyana, the Republic of Congo, Uganda, Sierra Leone and Kenya which, together, cover an area the size of Wales.
Now, with the Olympics and Paralympics focusing the world's attention on South America, the charity has set its sights on Peru.

But the good news doesn't end there, it extends to the Olympic Games themselves.  The lasting legacy won't be limited to the precious medals that many athletes carried home.  Although they represent success, they lack the long-term value of the gifts handed to the athletes at the Opening Ceremony.

On entering the Maracana Stadium each athlete was given a precious seed, a 'Seed of Hope'.  When the Paralympics are over, these seeds will find a permanent home in the Deodoro Olympic Park to the west of Rio.  An area which, in time, will be known as The Athletes' Forest.

This was where the equestrian events took place . . . where Valegro gave his winning performance.
The Park also housed the modern pentathlon, shooting, rugby and hockey . . . not forgetting throngs of enthusiastic spectators.

The arenas, car-parks and tiers of seats will be removed.  What remains will be the perfect setting for a potential forest . . . and, who knows, the top-quality manure deposited by the horses could help the seeds to grow!

In the short term, let's celebrate those well-earned medals.
But, looking ahead, it's the more permanent items of good news that deserve our gratitude.
The news that The Size of Wales is establishing a global imprint . . . that The Athletes' Forest will literally take root in Brazil.

Athletes of the future may well have courage, ability and determination, but, above all else, they'll need oxygen . . .   this is the vital life-force that forests alone provide.

Do you see what anxiety and determination can achieve?
And, fortunately for all of us, The Size of Wales and the IOC are not alone in their endeavours.
To see what else is going on, click here . . . and marvel.

Thursday, August 11, 2016

Tips from Chloe!

Hello, it's Chloe here . . .  Mum's out, so I've a moment to get my paws on the keyboard!

Now, there's something I need to sort out.  I don't know how many Mums and Dads are reading this, and how many cats and dogs.  But could I ask, very politely, that, before we go any further, you Mums and Dads switch off your computers ?

Why?  Well, although the cats and dogs might find my thoughts helpful, they wouldn't be of the slightest interest to humans . . .  in fact you humans would find them terribly, terribly dull . . . a positive waste of time.

All right  . .  have the Mums and Dads gone?
Good!  Now, cats and dogs, let's share a few tips on how to handle those humans we live with.

We'll start with the irritating matter of cutting short visits.
All too often, when I'm out visiting and everyone's enjoying my company, my Mum will suddenly stand up and announce that we should be leaving. 
Why?  I'm being the perfect guest and no-one wants me to go.

So, what do I do?  I close my eyes very tight and pretend I'm asleep.
Believe you me, it works like a charm . . . !  Humans never like to disturb you when you're sound asleep.
A word of warning, if you try this ploy when you're out visiting, just make sure that the tip of your tail doesn't twitch.  It can be a bit of a give-away.

There's another annoying thing that humans do . . . you may well have experienced it yourself. 
But, once again, we can be smarter than they are.

When my Mum and I are out enjoying a walk, she has a very bad habit of looking at her watch and, without even asking my opinion, declaring that it's time to go home.

I first pretend I haven't heard.  Then I quickly look around for a handy seat . . .  and very firmly sit down.

If you follow this strategy, look as though you intend to stay on that seat for a long time.  Give the impression that you need to ponder on Higher Thoughts. Humans have great respect for Higher Thoughts.

Perhaps Higher Thoughts aren't your saucer of milk?   Don't worry, there's an alternative, more active ploy that would suit you perfectly.  Pretend you've spotted something in the flowerbed . . . something very exciting that demands your immediate attention.
Lean forward with an excited expression and quivering whiskers . . .  give every indication that you need to concentrate, and can't possibly be disturbed.

That, too, works like a charm . . . humans are surprisingly cautious of unexpected things appearing in the flowerbed.

And if all those ploys have been used up, and you're nearly back home, then, take heart, you still hold the trump card!

Go to that last bit of bare earth and give it a serious sniff.  Turn it over a little with your paws . .  even dig a small hole.  Act slowly and thoughtfully, as though your mind is on important matters . . . and you can drag out this performance just as long as you like.

No human will take you back indoors if they think you need to make a puddle!

Well, that's all for now.  These delaying tactics have all been tried and tested . . . I do hope you find them helpful.

Just one word of warning . . .   please delete this letter.
Our Mums and Dads mean well, they like to think they're running the show . . . we wouldn't want to spoil it for them, would we!

Wednesday, August 3, 2016

An invitation to Rio

May I share some good news?
It's a heart-warming story, one that we can celebrate together.

Did you know that, amongst the national teams at this year's Olympic Games, the IOC has chosen to include a ten-member team of refugees?

"These refugees have no home, no team, no flag, no national anthem," said the IOC President, Thomas Bach, "they will show the world that, despite the unimaginable tragedies that they've faced, anyone can  contribute to society through their talent, skills and the strength of the human spirit."

This is not a token team, one that has little hope of achieving medals.  Instead, it comprises skilled athletes who have been training hard in the countries that have offered them a home.

Refugees from Syria, South Sudan, Ethiopia, and the Democratic Republic of Congo.
Refugees who now reside in Germany, Brazil, Kenya, Belgium, Luxembourg and Kenya.

Yusra Mardini, who comes from war-torn Syria, now lives and trains in Berlin.
Four years ago, as she was trying to cross the Mediterranean in an overcrowded boat, the flimsy vessel started taking on water.  Yusra slipped down into the water and helped to push it towards the safety of Lesbos.

As she struggled in the sea, could she, I wonder, have dared to dream just where these swimming skills would lead her?

Only her own courage, coupled with the generosity of the people of Berlin, made this possible.  "I want to show everyone," she says, "that after the pain, after the storm, comes calm days."

And what of Anjelina Nadal Lohalith, who hasn't seen or spoken to her parents since fleeing Southern Sudan at the age of six?

Helping her parents is her chief motivation in the build-up to the 1,500 metre event . . . whilst coverage of the Games will, she hopes, enable them to discover her whereabouts.

This Friday will see the realisation of their dreams . . .  the moment they've been focussing on will finally arrive.
The refugee team will walk into the Olympic Stadium ahead of the host country, Brazil.
The Olympic flag will precede them, and the Olympic anthem will be played in their honour.

Against all odds, they will be participating in the Games.  It's the outcome of the IOC's wisdom, coupled with their own courage and abilities.

However, as I'm sure you'd agree, there are two other factors that mustn't be overlooked.  Firstly,  the generosity of those countries who not only offered sanctuary to the refugees, but also provided the all-important training that's transported them to Rio.
And, secondly, the families of the refugee athletes, many of whom are still trapped in areas of heavy fighting.  May this be an opportunity for them to rediscover their offspring, and rejoice in their abilities.

Would you like to meet the team?
Then click here . . . and join me in wishing them every possible success!

Wednesday, July 27, 2016

Just sit there . . .

I was offered some excellent advice this week. May I share it with you?
To call it advice is, perhaps, to diminish its vitality.   It comes as a very firm instruction:

               "Don't just do something;  sit there!"

Summer is very much a time of doing . . . a doing that frequently involves sport.
There's the enjoyment of Wimbledon, the Test Matches, the Tour de France, and, every few years, the Olympic Games.

This summer the sporting fixtures are all taking place, but have you noticed how they're being sidelined?  It's the chaotic doing at a national and international level that's grabbing the headlines.

Political parties have been torn apart . . . warfare has given rise to mass migration . . . a failed coup has caused instability . . . some would-be leaders have made spectacular advances, others have sunk out of sight.

As for random shooting and terrorism . . .  tragic incidents of this nature seem to be occurring on a daily basis.

There's too much doing . . . far too much doing.

The one certainty, at this time of considerable uncertainty, is the stress it's placing on all of us . . . particularly on young people.

The three men responsible for the horrific carnage in Nice, Munich and Ansbach, were all under the age of thirty, and had all been receiving treatment for mental health problems.
Our stressful world not only increases the risk of such problems, but it can aggravate the sufferers to such an extent that they're tragically vulnerable to terrorist enticement.

Wouldn't you agree that, when it comes to pausing and sitting, there's a lot we could learn from the the wisdom of the natural world?

Might I suggest that you stop for a moment and study the pictures to the right and to the left.
Can you feel the tensions easing in your body . . . ?
Is there a smile spreading across your face . . . ?

So what about giving serious thought to the advice I was offered?
What about just sitting quietly and doing nothing . . .  if only for a brief spell every day?
What about giving reflective wisdom the chance to reassert itself?

No, don't tell me what you think of that idea  . . .  just sit there!