Positive ActionPosted by Ann Algie Sat, June 04, 2016 06:33:05 At the moment I am visiting my family in the UK and while out for a walk I met an old friend. I didn't recognise him as he approached because he was walking backwards! I was intrigued because I had seen someone a few days earlier doing the same thing in another part of the country. I must admit the thoughts that ran through my head were along the lines of "maybe they have something wrong with their legs and so find it easier to walk backwards?.", "maybe they are a bit 'strange' and I should be wary" or "maybe it is a new form of exercise?" He explained that he was doing it because it was thought to be very beneficial for the brain and helped to build confidence too. Apparently it has been known in China and Japan for years that 'retro walking' is good for you in many ways. For those over 50 its thought to be particularly good for improving balance and coordination. It improves the functions of the cerebellum which coordinates and balances our bodily movements as well as flexibility. It also sharpens your senses as you have to be constantly aware of pot holes, dogs and other potential obstacles!
As I walked away from him it did occur to me how amusing it would be if I then walked backwards too and we would gradually see each other disappearing into the distance in a 'long goodbye'!
Learning from naturePosted by Ann Algie Fri, April 29, 2016 17:22:51 Here is our hen, recently named 'Zen' after almost a year of being called 'Hen'. I have just spent the entire morning with her as she helped me to 'dig' and 'weed' the garden. She is the last survivor of a long line of hens bred by our elderly neighbour who died 2 years ago. We thought she would be lonely so this spring we got three new hens to keep her company but she still seems to prefer to spend time around humans. I suppose moving three 'teenage' hens in to share her home was a bit cruel!
We can always learn things from spending time around nature and hens are no exception. They can apparently recognise more than 100 faces. Each hen has its own unique personality and they have 30 different sounds that they use to communicate with each other. They are of course very much 'in the present moment' as animals tend to be - not having our ability to think about events in the past and worry about what might happen in the future! As I write this she is lying in a hollow in the warm soil that she has carefully crafted - where I have just planted some potatoes. I think she is probably sitting on one - probably she thinks its an egg!
Maybe today's 'Zen hen lesson' is to sit in the sun while its shining - especially when you've been busy scratching about all morning! Nature always has times of rest and everything still seems to get done!
InspirationalPosted by Tom algie Mon, April 04, 2016 11:59:08 Ann and myself had a wonderful experience this week. We visited a place called Embercombe in Devon. A 50 acre garden for growing people. The people we met who have planted themselves there seem to be growing very well. Embercombe has 8 staff and 10 or so associates and many volunteers some who live on site in a variety of cabins and yurts. They build shelters, grow most of their own food but more importantly welcome hundreds of volunteers and students to the site each year.
The business leaders, volunteers and students come to Embercombe to learn about our fragile world and how we can all play a powerful leadership role in transforming our own future. The most amazing thing is that 20 years ago this garden didn't exist. It was a small private Tarmac runway and a couple of aircraft hangers in the wilds of Devon.
Then along came, one man, Mac with an idea of a garden for growing people. Mac is amazing and we are very pleased to have met him. Mac has inspired a whole host of people to help with his vision. We also met other lovely Trustees, a great MD and some fantastic staff. They are all inspired by this same vision and have transformed this Tarmac strip and hangers into a beautiful place which has most of the elements needed as a model for a new sustainable society. It is not perfect and they still need help to take it to the next stage. If you have some time or money to spare or want to do a course we would highly recommend it.
Connecting with othersPosted by Tom algie Fri, March 25, 2016 12:24:07 Ann and myself have been thinking a lot about the recent Brussels incidents over the last few days. It is very sad for everyone, especially the families of those killed and injured. It is extremely sad that a very small number of disturbed human beings have caused such suffering to many other innocent humans. We have been thinking about the friends and families of the victims. How do you to come to terms with such an event. We have been thinking about how other people usually react to this type of event, especially politicians and the mainstream media. Perhaps we all need to think about what our individual human responses could be to an event like this. Anger? Fear? Something else?
The usual reaction from most people is a mixture of anger and fear. This is a normal reaction because we feel threatened. The level of threat we feel is magnified by the reaction of others. Many politicians in France and the U.K. have said we must increase our security and step up the intensity of the 'War on Terror'. We need to put more resources into fighting the people who are to blame. They are at the root of this. Drop more bombs on terrorists and potential terrorists in other countries. There will of course be some unfortunate 'collateral damage' of more innocent humans. This is an inevitable consequence of a war that we need to win at any cost. We need to put more resources into protecting our borders and we need more surveillance of everyone. We must be vigilant and spy on each other. Extreme events seem to be producing an extreme response. Is there another response which may reduce this threat? I feel that although I don't have an answer, a very wise monk living in France may have an idea.
One of the benefits of our wonderful life here in France is the time we have to spend thinking and reading. I have read a couple of very good books by Thich Nhat Hanh.
He is a Vietnamese monk who also lives in France not far from us. He influenced the work of Martin Luther King and campaigned in the USA against the Vietnam war. During the campaign the monk met an angry American who berated him for coming to the USA and told him he should "get back to Vietnam where the real problem was". After a very deep breath and thought the monk said something like "to help a plant to grow you need to water the roots, not the leaves."
I think we need to look for the "real roots" of these very big problems we have in the world. I think that some of the roots may be in the complex political and economic systems we have created and are desperately trying to protect. Within these complex systems, countries, governments, corporations and individuals compete for resources. There are sometimes unintended feedback loops in this competition for resources which can often make bad situations worse. So I think to start with we should try to feel LOVE for the friends and families of all the victims in all affected countries. If we can begin to feel that connection to them as individuals, just like us, rather than 'others' perhaps we can begin to change the systems which I believe are contributing to the problem.
You can find out more about this amazing monk here
The yellow brick road of fear - Victim or Hero - the choice is yours!
The Wizard of Oz is a very odd film, I watched every Christmas as a child, and it left an odd impression, in particular that yellow brick road. The world is changing, constantly changing, more quickly, each day. This road into the future can be a source of fear but these changes will continue to happen. Why not accept this reality and simply decide what you want your role to be, in this constantly changing world. If you are reading this it is likely that you have some choice in how your your life could be. The choices you make can create a new reality for yourself and others. Along with choice comes responsibility, which sometimes makes the choice difficult. What if I make the wrong choice? Even if it is difficult, the choice must be made. At some fundamental level we know which choice to make. The choice is yours, victim or hero.
I know that life is difficult for many people on this precious planet. People are struggling with basic needs such as food, health, shelter and companionship. Many of these people have no choice and really are victims of systems beyond their control. But if your basic needs are met, you can start to think about what else you want, and what you want to give. I am guessing that if you are reading this, your basic needs are met and you are able to choose what to do with your life, or as someone put it to me recently, what is it that you love? How to spend your precious life? We choose how to spend our money but our lives are much more valuable. Being in a place of choice is a luxurious place to be, a place of great privilege.
Let's not waste any more of our precious time on pretending we are victims and waiting for a hero to rescue us. Who is the hero we are waiting for, a spouse or parent, a child, a government, a corporation? Instead we can all become our own heroes. It is wonderful to sit and think, meditate or even simply do nothing at all, for a while. Eventually though, we have choices to make on how to move forward with our lives. Making these choices can be difficult but by making them we can stop being the victim, overcome fear and become the hero of our own life. Also, if we truly care about the real victims in this world, we can choose to do something for them too as we walk our own yellow brick road.
In The Wizard of Oz, for me, the yellow brick road is the frightening path of choice which needs to be walked by each of the 4 main characters. By walking it, we find ourselves, by facing our fears and making difficult choices. So look within, become your own hero, become powerful, take some action in your own life, and walk that road.
InspirationalPosted by Ann Algie Wed, March 09, 2016 08:15:50 Can a traffic bollard inspire you? What does inspire you? On The One Course we spend time looking at what or who inspires us and how we can use this to enable us to enjoy life more fully, feel more supported and also to grow and develop further by experimenting and creating more in our own lives. (We will come to the inspirational traffic bollard later!)
Inspiration can come from all sorts of places and can affect us on many different levels. Sometimes we hear a fantastic speech, watch a film or read a book and feel utterly 'blown away' by what we have heard or read. This can even cause us to change an aspect of our lives from that moment on! In many cases though the happiness we feel from coming across something that is 'slightly out of the ordinary', surprising or fun can be equally beneficial to our lives. Becoming more aware and open to these smaller 'events' that occur on a day to day basis can increase our overall enjoyment of life and inspire us to create similar 'surprises' and inspiration for others.
Here are a few pictures to illustrate what I mean by the smaller events in life.
A stone mermaid Tom and I came across on the beach at Saltburn, UK. Some of the knitted characters on the pier at Saltburn (no-one knows who the 'knitters' are - though I expect someone must know!) Ahhh now we meet one of the many inspirational traffic bollards to be found at Winchester, UK and probably in other places too! A beautiful clover flower in our garden in France. The gate to my vegetable garden (the frame of the gate forms an 'A' for Ann - bizarre - but may inspire some of you to create gates with letters on - some letters are easier than others!) and finally some cheese 'straws' shaped like hearts.
All small things on one level but all have the ability to bring about joy or to inspire someone else to do something different. Things don't have to always be the same - we can create surprise and variety in life. How much is only limited by our imagination!
So inspiration can sometimes be HUGE in terms of people doing amazing things, but it an also be small and almost hidden. I would like to advocate that the small inspirations in life can add up to have a big impact overall if we begin to see them. We are all capable of being inspiring in one way or another! Go inspire!
Positive ActionPosted by Tom algie Wed, March 02, 2016 15:57:11 The U.K. EU referendum is finally underway. When a chance to vote comes around, as it usually does in a democracy, there is always some interesting action. Unfortunately most of this action is negative scaremongering. There are usually two sides and both sides aim to scare the voters into not voting for the 'other side' by claiming the 'other side' will wreck the econonomy and cause suffering for all. The winner is usually the one who scares the most people to vote for them as they are obviously the safer option. I actually think it is good to vote, although I don't really believe it makes that much difference to me who wins.
In an established democracy with a large public sector and massive corporations, do elections actually change things significantly? Public and private sector systems are entities which inherently try to sustain themselves. This benefits the people working for those organisations. Both organisations aim to win more resources and influence, which creates a continuous feedback loop which can only be sustained through exponential economic growth. In a similar way to politicians, their arguments for more resources are based on fear that if certain policies are not pursued the corporation will relocate to another country or the public service will no longer function. This is not anyone's fault, we created these systems and we could create new systems which would behave differently. In a finite world we cannot have exponential growth. So, is it all hopeless? Are we all doomed?
The answer is a resounding negative, NO! I am positively confident we can change things, starting with things in our own lives which are close to us. We can create our own systems which are smaller and take positive action which will provide positive feedback in our own day to day lives. These systems can involve friends and family and business acquaintances which we enjoy interacting with every day. These things can be independent of the bigger systems which are out of control. We don't need to wait for the next referendum or election to express how we feel with our fears. We can start now, today and express our feelings of love and focus our precious attention on doing things we love, and being with people we love. That is how our own positive actions can change the world. Why not start today?
Learning from naturePosted by Ann Algie Sat, February 27, 2016 16:06:32 I love eating mushrooms and living here in France we don't have to go far to find some lovely specimens! We are careful which ones we eat and stick to the 3 or 4 varieties that we feel 100% confident of identifying. Our elderly neighbours are very knowledgeable and taught us the best places to look and which ones to avoid eating.
There is still a great deal to be discovered about mushrooms and what they are capable of. Recently it has been found that the spores released by mushrooms cause rain to fall. In this way mushrooms are helping to promote their own survival by creating the ideal conditions for their growth. Amazing!