which side are you on?


We place fences everywhere.

Fences between our houses. Fences delineating our gardens. Fences alongside railway lines. Fences around yards, car parks and compounds. Fences to keep the animals in, fences to keep them out. Fences around parks and ponds. Fences marking out the route the country pathway takes. Fences shaping fields and grazing land. High fences around prisons. Low fences around vegetable plots. Fences between thrusting motorway carriageways and their speeding contents. Fences on bridges. Fences at the stadium. Fences at the racetrack. Fences at the top, or bottom, of the stairs. 

Some keep us out, some keep us in. Some are to indicate the way. Some to stop us meandering off the way. Some show possession.   Some deny access. Some deny exit. Some are aesthetic, some very functional.

Which side are you on?

And what about the fences of your mind?

The fences that determine choice. The fences that set out appropriate or inappropriate behaviour. The fences that inform us we can’t or we shouldn’t. The fences that motivate and drive action or tell us inappropriate or unachievable action. The internal fences that keep us safe. The internal fences that restrict our growth and learning. The fences that allow us to see potential, the fences that blind us to reality.

Invisible fences, but often just as effective.

Which side are you on?

it’s all #fakenews …

As human beings we live in two worlds.

There is the external physical world. The world where we can touch a tree, watch a wren dart from shrub to shrub, scratch our elbow when it itches.

Then, there is the world of our mind and imagination. The world where we can feel hurt by what that person said and imagine what they meant. We can dream about our tomorrow and recall distorted truths of our past. A world where we believe the stories and myths of our mind. Our own fake news generator, if you will.

This second world is a virtual reality that can appear and feel just as real as the external physical world. The shoulds and musts are powerful, motivating, compelling.  Indeed, when it comes to your emotions and your imagination, the virtual world of your mind can be more real than the real world.

Our mind seems to muddle these two worlds. What is true? What is real? What is imagined? What is story? What is fake?

It seems too that our society is slowly shifting to value this second virtual world more than the first real, physical world.

For now it seems, in our modern media enabled world, we not only create our own virtual stories and myths, not only listen to those of our family and friends – those we might meet within the real world – now, we are bombarded by the stories, myths and imaginations of billions of others from around the globe. Real people we will never meet, with all their distorted stories of self and associated experience.  And we believe them. Or respond to them. Or worry about them. Or take them on as ours.

Recently, I read that more than 15% of Twitter’s 319 million users were not human. So not only are we engaging with the thoughts of other people, people we don’t know; we are listening to robotic programmed outputs from 48 million unknown devices. All adding to the melting pot of real and unreal, true and imagined, solid and distorted.

Yet each interaction is enhancing our own virtual sense of the truth. Augmenting our own thoughts and emotions. Building a more complex, layered perception of self, our place in the world and all its global dangers and intents. Causing us to be more curious, more mentally stretched, yes. Enticing us to respond, to debate. Yet also to worry, to feel pressurised, scared even. It drives a need to know. A need to be part of. Inclusion not exclusion. Powerful emotional draws deep within our ancient animal brain.

I wonder if this contributes to the rise in mental health and well-being issues? I wonder what this holds for our future as a species?

The internet increasingly drives our lives. You’re using it now to read this. We read reviews of products from unknown people and trust them. We read tweets from unknown people and respond to them, emotionally, cognitively. We scan page after page of Facebook posts, skipping across our timeline like a never ending movie.

You are reading this blog. In one sense it’s not real.

I am of course.

But these thoughts are the creations from within my mind, my virtual world. True, you can choose to ignore them. You might see reason in them. You might concur. You might though, above all else, wonder what else you interact with in the world that isn’t real?

Challenge yourself to be curious; to question what you hold in your head and how that in turn impacts your thinking and how you feel. Is it real? Is it your imagination? Or is it a distortion of someone, or something, that doesn’t serve you well in maintaining your mental and emotional well-being? Maybe anything that does that, whether true or not, is the real fake news?

Maybe take time to stand with your hand on a tree.  Ground yourself.  The tree is real.

Go well people.

it’s not about…

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image by: Hikaru Cho

When interviewed recently, the man releasing to the media private tapes of his conversations with a princess said, “It’s not about the money.”

Have you noticed we say that to cover our tracks when, in reality, that very statement means invariably it really is about exactly that.

“It’s not about me” means “It’s all about me.”

Just as “It’s not about being right.” means “You’re wrong.”

Of course if it’s really not about something, we don’t need to mention it. Why would we?

I don’t sit down to a meal and say, “It’s not about being hungry.” Nor do I get in my car, start the engine and pronounce, “It’s not about going somewhere.”

Reality is often best hidden in plain sight.

Piccadilly paradox

The other day travel news reported severe delays on the Piccadilly line.

Not in itself unusual.

However, the postscript revealed that the severe delays were due to a shortage of trains.

Where did they go?

Is someone scratching their head, muttering "I'm sure they were there last night"?

Maybe someone forgot to lock the train shed doors and they slipped away for an adventure of their own? Right now, they're chuffing along on the outer reaches of the Metropolitan line – gone for a day out in Amersham.

Maybe someone parked them all in the wrong siding and train drivers are meandering all over Cockfosters calling for their lost trains?… "Fenton!"

Maybe the fat controller said "park them at Harrow" and was misheard? Trains are right now queued up at Heathrow instead.

Anyone seen the trains?

I hope they're found before Monday.

not the mannequin challenge

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In a world or urgency, a life of striving, a treadmill of anxious achievement, one thing seems to be increasingly necessary. An antidote to the stresses of this harder, faster, greater, further, more more more existence.

Stillness.

Not in itself a thing. You cannot hold it. It has no form. Stillness isn’t just freezing your limbs, fixing your gaze, holding your breath.

Stillness is a way of being. It is the gap between the doing.  A deeper consciousness. An awareness of your very existence.

Stillness offered another is truly a gift. A place from which connection comes. A foundation for attention. Being with.

Stillness within. That is the real challenge.

The past can only be remembered now

Reflecting on your day, hundreds, or thousands, of things happen. In fact each day of your life this is so. This moment, Now, is therefore only one of many, many moments.

Yet this moment, Now, is as it is. Indeed, it cannot be otherwise.

Moments of the past are merely as we recall them. Moments of the future are dreams, creations of thought. The division of moments, the division of our lives, into past, present and future is mind-made and ultimately illusory. The past can only be remembered, now. The future only imagined, now. So in essence all there is that is real, is Now.

When your attention moves into the Now, there is space, clarity, simplicity, peace. There is also an alertness.
Many people confuse Now, with what happens in the Now. But the Now is deeper than what happens in it. It is the very space in which it happens.

This moment, Now, is the one constant truth. No matter what happens, no matter what changes, one thing is certain … it is always Now.

Makes you wonder why we dwell on the past and worry for the future, doesn’t it? Wasting Now.

Don’t waste it, embrace it. Now.

people are falling off the planet

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Walk any city in the evening and you will see people in shop doorways settling for the night. Huddling, or lying prostrate. Walk any side street or back alley and the stench of stale urine will rise to greet your nostrils.

Travel early in those cities and you will see, wrapped in sleeping bag cocoons or under piles of cardboard, those not yet risen. Some you will see with large bags or shopping trolleys to transport their worldly belongings. The lucky ones may have been left a coffee by a passer by or by a charitable agency.

Walk any city during the day and you will see an array of cardboard notices outlining each individual’s plight; some held, some lying by cap or cloth on the pavement. Or you will encounter those seeking some loose change or perhaps a spare cigarette.

This seems to me to be getting worse. More people with less. More living at the edge of humanity.

Yet, for the most part, we walk by. Perhaps increasing our pace or looking away to avoid eye contact. Maybe it’s shame? Maybe it’s fear. Maybe it’s security? Or maybe we simply can’t face what is happening around us?

What has gone wrong?