In Bad Times We Have to Be Good… In Praise of the Great Caroline Myss

This is a moment when I fancy a bit of diversion. Last night when I looked at myself in the mirror in candle light, I thought: “Wow I haven’t changed a jot!”… which is vanity par excellence… tinged with delusion… and dicey eyesight. Such are the silly thoughts that wander through the human mind, when it happily veers away from the unthinkable — the war, its horror and the danger it presents to our world in its entirety… and let’s face it… the unthinkable is here, right now.

I just watched the astonishing Caroline Myss in her blog talking about The Age of the Unthinkable, and by the time I had finished, I felt just a bit naughty, but thankfully not too bad. Even though I have prayed and organised and even contributed to vigils, I have been trying to go elsewhere; let’s face it, we all need a few moments of cheerful distraction. Then I listened to the clear and persuasive voice of Myss, and she pulled me up, as only she can do.

Caroline Myss talks in an intimate, persuasive, slow voice as though she is standing beside you, and it is very compelling. Towards the end of her talk she explains stuff about the Divine, and light and love. Most incredibly she does it in both a poetic and prosaic way, simultaneously, which is astonishing in itself.

In her video blog she views the war and how there is “an ‘allness’ in all this” and she will throw a phrase in, and then expand on it with simplicity and elegance, as she goes on about “the grace of endurance” “the collective heart” that beats together, adding “…we need this part of our collective heart to survive together.”

She closes her blog by encouraging all of us “to pray for the people in Ukraine and Russia… we are all in this together.” She is constantly reminding us of things we think we know. She reminds us of the importance of us all… individually… and she reminds us that the Russian leader is himself a single person… and then she reminds us about her next class. But whatever she says, she has prompted us to take on board that we need to be good, and go on being good, and I love her for saying this.

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The Call for Peace

Last night I attended a powerful vigil addressing the conflict in Ukraine. It took place in Hove Methodist Church, and a great many people attended. People now need to gather to resonate with the sorrow that this war is inflicting… We all feel the pain in so many ways. I read a couple of prayers, but the prayer I had intended to read seemed too strong for that gentle company. Here it is.

A Call for Peace
Sometimes a prayer is a poem; sometimes a poem is a prayer

We need compassion
And we need peace
To kindle kindness

In the glare of war
The heat is cruel
Fire and brimstone rip and burn
Backwards and forwards we go
Goose steps, trench warfare
Arguments, supporters, twisting history
Fine fortunes, fine killing machines
Delivering death to the door

On the street
The talk is of tanks advancing
The sacrifice of self-destruction
Taking innocence with him
A weeping cry of love
Lost in the stuttering racket
Of smoke and sorrow

Because of all this
For century after century
We map-out our demands
We want peace 
Sanctuary
Forgiveness
Closure of conflict

Let the tanks rust away
Make war a friendly ball game 
Let flowers grow on death’s pathways
We want peace

From our hearts
We ask for glory
Glorious transformation
So that the warmongers relent
The peacemakers are blessed
The casualties are healed
And we have calm


And in our souls
We open up to hope
The warmth and light of goodwill
Perfect peace
Now… and for all time
Amen

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Cosmic Hand Raising – As Demonstrated by Babies, Magicians and the odd Candle

If you wander into the world of Wikipedia and look up ‘Hand Raising’ you will learn about raising one’s hand, from waving and salutes to high-fives. Yet despite all this information, there is nothing about raising one’s hand to make a cosmic connection. There’s the mindless hand raising of a fascist salute, and there is the enthusiastic hand-raising (‘please miss’) in answer to a question in the class-room, but there is no reference to cosmic hand raising, the most powerful and mysterious gesture of all. 

The business of raising one’s hand to acknowledge the universe is fascinating. It shouldn’t be confused with waving. Waving is a personal and emotional gesture. I tend to recall waving to those I like and love at times when I thought I might never encounter them again. I remember travelling on a bus and calling my sister on the mobile to tell her I would be passing by, and being overjoyed to see her waving from the window of her flat in Sussex Square. When we die we apparently meet kindred spirits waving to greet us.

But the cosmic gesture is different. The cosmic gesture is a particular movement when one raises one’s hand vertically to make connection with all the implausibly massive mysterious power above, a connection with the glory of what lies beyond. It’s something to be used when we seek help from beyond. It’s not a widely acknowledged way to connect to spirit, and yet you only have to take a look at a pack of Tarot cards to know that magicians knew all about cosmic connection. The Magus is always portrayed as holding his hand upward, usually with a wand, making the connection with the above, and then making that link manifest here on earth, as he or she points to the earth below.. 

It seems so reasonable to assume that there is something in the cosmos that we can connect with, if we so wish. Personally, when I reach up to make a cosmic connection I start with intention. I’m aware of some kind of interesting feeling or tingling in my fingers or the palm of my hand, and when I ask for help, I invariably get some kind of response… in the form of change or improvement… sooner or later.

Think about it — making a connection with the beyond is hardly surprising. Our solar system sits on the edge of the Milky Way Galaxy, which is home to between 100 and 400 billion stars, many of them with planets. Not only is the Milky Way vast in itself, but the Hubble Telescope reveals that there is anything from another 100 billion Galaxies, like our own, and very likely twice this number, so if there aren’t a few compassionate beings prepared to connect with us when we we need help, guidance, peace or healing I would be very surprised. And if one thinks that time might be an impediment, one should appreciate there are simultaneous manifestations of Qi (energy) that operate outside of time, so don’t worry about light years, they are irrelevant in this case.

I reckon that subconsciously we all know about this connection with the cosmic. At our last Power of Eight prayer gathering, a candle decided to remind me of the power of such connections, and a day later an unexpected picture of my late sister, when she was a baby, also reminded me.

Making a Cosmic Connection is Natural

So if you are low, or pensive or uncertain, and don’t feel like praying or meditating, just throw your hand up in the air, and see if you can make a connection – in the form of an idea, a message or maybe just a feeling. It’s definitely worth trying. Someone, an angel, a loving presence or a wise spirit will empathise with you, and with luck, you may be able to feel the connection, and feel better as well.

A candle to remind us all – Just keep making the connections
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The Power of Eight… Transcending Time and Space

A central figure in the explanation and support of complementary and alternative therapies and lifestyle, is Lynne McTaggart. She’s a journalist, author and director of the magazine ‘What Doctors Don’t Tell You’ and she’s done important work on the power of intention. Her book The Intention Experiment reveals the relationship between humans and healing in all sorts of ways. She’s also the author of The Power of Eight, a book about using the energy created by small groups to heal each other and the world.

About a year ago, when my pancreatitis was really making me sit up and squeak, I contacted a friend, and she suggested that I tap into a ‘Power of Eight’ group. If you don’t know what a ‘Power of Eight Group’ is, just take a look at Lynne McTaggart’s website on the subject. She says:

When individuals in a group focus their intention together on a single target, a powerful collective dynamic emerges that can heal longstanding conditions, mend fractured relationships, lower violence and even rekindle life purpose. But the greatest untold truth of all is that group intention has a mirror effect, not only affecting the recipient but also reflecting back on the senders.

I didn’t know such a group operating locally, so I went about forming a Power of Eight gathering, which proved to be surprisingly easy, and fun. Some astonishingly gifted people agreed to participate, much to my delight. As the pandemic was at its height, it seemed sensible to use Zoom, and this made it all very easy. At first, we felt it might be an idea to meet once a fortnight or once every 10 days, just to give it a try, but with the passing of time we discovered that we enjoyed the meetings, and appreciated the impact they made on ourselves and other people; we witnessed positive changes and improvements. Now we meet weekly. The Eight, all good friends, have proven to be powerful and inspirational.

With the passing of time the group has acquired a life of its own, so that at times it seems to operate outside conventional time and space.

One of our number had already participated with another Power of Eight Group. In that case the group’s leader was very enthusiastic about following McTaggart’s book to the letter, and although this may be a good thing, it may have also demotivated some attendees. In our case, and with Zoom, the group has an informality, an openness and a humour that is literally, all of its own. Our meetings are both serious and humorous — equal, open and informal. We still have far to go, and much to learn, but our successes so far — nurturing and supporting the health of friends, relatives and ourselves are truly astonishing.

Last and by no means least is the matter of being aware of other groups of this kind, which are to be found possibly all over the world. It is hardly surprising that sometimes when we meet… and gradually open our minds to the problems of planet and people… we can sense connection with other groups, which is truly empowering.

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From Pride to Poker

Time is a game played beautifully by children. Heraclitus 535 – c. 475 BC

Several years ago, before the pandemic took us all by storm, a motley crowd of people, some straight, some gay, some wistful and some something else, made their way through the crowded throng that is Brighton Pride. We knew each other because some of us were friends, some of us had belonged to the same church, and some of us were just there for the experience… like life itself. At the end of the walk we were all a bit wilty. The crowd gives one a lot of energy, but if one is in the parade, the noise, the dancing and the sights and sounds are a real blast to the senses.

And so afterward we sat down to lunch in our old kitchen and made merry, and discovered that irrespective of our diversity, we were all interested in each other, and this was hardly surprising. One was an interior designer, another a specialist decorator, another a musician and homeopath, another a homeopath, another a master tailor, another a documentary film maker and another an interfaith minister and writer. Total seven.

Life is not a matter of holding good cards, but sometimes, playing a poor hand well. Jack London 1876-1916

And as the conversation unfolded, it turned out that one of our number, apart from a great many diverse passions, which we all had, was an enthusiastic Poker player. Now games already featured amongst some of us, who play a vicious and brilliant form of Canasta. English Canasta is a sad and sorry game, but the Italian variety is fascinating, demanding and highly addictive. I believe it’s called Samba here, and I have only met one individual outside Italy who knew this version, and she was a games aficionado. But Poker is another mindset completely, and another realm. So on that Pride day, a new arrival, on observing that the kitchen table, offered us all a chance to learn how to play… and so she did.

When luck joins the game, cleverness scores double. – Yiddish Proverb

It is extraordinary how a pack of cards (or three in the case of Italian Canasta) produce such different games that call on different parts of the brain, and test different parts of the soul. For example, we play Poker for small sums of money, sufficiently small not to make anyone feel miserable, but money nevertheless. This has been a challenge to me because my mother came from grinding poverty, and had witnessed something nasty in her childhood that gave her an aversion to games played for money. This has affected me a bit, so I needed to get over my parental prejudice. That said because poker is so different to the other games we play, I can see that this is a game where different fairies and abilities rule — like observation, deduction, calm, an eye for detail, quick thinking, slow thinking, memory, and patience, to name but a few.

And so, since that moment, some years ago, we have played Poker, all seven of us. We have played during the pandemic on Zoom cramped in our attic and various diverse places in Sussex; we have played round our kitchen table (which was the inspiration behind the game in the first place) and more recently we have played in a glamorous penthouse flat beside the sea. We play everywhere.

So what is my conclusion? That games when played in the spirit of merriment have to be a good thing, so long as they are not taken too seriously… very much like life itself.

Some wise-cracking-crackpot stand-up comedian once said: I stayed up one night playing poker with tarot cards. I got a full house and four people died.

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The Return of Your Distracted Blogger

Wow, welcome to the Antbeat blog after a silence of 16 months. I do so hope that you are still there!

Just wanted to let you know… I wasn’t just sitting around snoring my way through the Pandemic, like your friend’s aged cat, I was blogging elsewhere every week, writing a novel, The Artist and the Fool, and working on the Memorial Service for the people of Brighton & Hove that died of Covid in our City – The Day of Compassion. It has been a strange, sad and busy time… well you know so well.

But today the sun is shining. We have extraordinary news. Now we know… Despite the terrible impact and circumstance of the pandemic we appear to have a government that has been partying in a haze of happy disinterest while the rest of us did as we were told. Also we have several princes that seem hell bent on rubbishing whatever reputation the UK Royal family might once have had. Maybe out institutions need the slightest overhaul… from the House of Commons and beyond. A bit more democracy would not go amiss.

So back to blogging, and even if I am 16 days late, here is a blessing for our City for the New Year. Blessings and Happy New Year to us all! Thank you for being there!

A BLESSING FOR OUR CITY AT THE NEW YEAR

Light a candle tonight
And join me on the bandstand at midnight
We’ll feel the chill of winter’s wind
And stay warm
Peer into the darkness
And meet an unexpected peace
… quiet but for the roaring sea
And the howling winds
Empty save for the spirits
… the wandering dreamers


The clock strikes midnight

Come walk with me
Give us a new page
In the history of our merry city
And bless us
Strong and weak
Young and old
Near and far

The dwellers
Sleek and meek
The street sleepers

Let’s burst open
In a shower
Of optimistic celebration
And feel the sacred kiss of hope
At the gateway of a New Year

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BLAME, BLAME, BUT NO GAIN WITH BLAME

         As we shuffle towards the US General Election with our eyes closed and half open, fearing the worst… not to mention sliding down the chair with our face in our hands as a British Government refuses to feed its own children, it’s time to open our eyes and look at blame, and avoid it from many angles.

         Blame is not lovely, but sometimes we all feel as though we need to do it. The gruesome Trump has no policies, no intelligence and no ideas, but he does do blame really, really, really well. He trumps in the language of blame. He blares on blame, and he blames Biden, the Chinese, losers, war heroes, journos, polls, immigrants from Mexico, Muslims, Hillary Clinton, Barack Obama, presidential debates, Covid-19 and on and on… he does blame so well. And now… if you want to take a look at our own watered-down version of that odious dude, think about Bojo’s capacity for blame as he lies and whines at Keir Starmer, over and over again accusing him of non-cooperation, doing hindsight, complicity with the IRA and other ugly stuff. And then there’s the list of innocents he likes to throw brickbats at – the European Union, tank-topped bumboys (his words), women, piccaninnies (his words), single mothers and on and on.

         And thus, I do blame as well. Do you? I hate blame, but I do it alright. I blame Bojo’s weakness for Dom for the breakdown of confidence in the Government’s handling of Covid, I blame privatisation and the greedy rich for widespread financial despair, I blame short term gluttony and long-term stupidity for the degradation of the environment, I blame Jeremy Corbyn for his narcissism for losing the election and on and on and on. I do blame, but I hate it. But the trouble is… blame is just an idea. It isn’t real. It doesn’t exist. People who do blame, who use it as an argument are not logical, because blame is an abstract construct like self-pity or mindless prejudice. The ancient Chinese philosophers often said “No blame” and when I kept reading this, I wondered what the hell they meant… but later… when I realised that balance, harmony, acceptance and understanding rule ones perception of the world, there’s no place for blame… 

There is a numinous [mind] naturally residing within [有神自在身]; 
One moment it goes, the next it comes, 
And no one is able to conceive of it. 
If you lose it you are inevitably disordered; 
If you attain it you are inevitably well ordered. 
Diligently clean out its lodging place [敬除其舍] 
And its vital essence will naturally arrive [精將自來]. 
Still your attempts to imagine and conceive of it. 
Relax your efforts to reflect on and control it. 
Be reverent and diligent 
And its vital essence will naturally stabilize. 
Grasp it and don’t let go 
Then the eyes and ears won’t overflow 
And the mind will have nothing else to seek. 
When a properly aligned mind resides within you [正心在中], 
The myriad things will be seen in their proper perspective.

And this is how one gets balance into its rightful place… and this is why there is no place for blame. Yippee!

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Friends… What a good thing… what a perfect thing… particularly now

I love this blog, but who would believe it? The picture with the view of the pier, the feeling of freedom that one can just about write about anything (other than one’s hatred of the Government, which must not be done, otherwise there’ll be tears before bed-time). The last blog I wrote was two months ago, I was younger, lovelier, and life was different… I lie… but only in part. With such thoughts in mind, I think anyone who has decided to read this blog, deserves a prize, and so I would like you to award yourself one… so after you’ve read this… make yourself a cup of tea, your most favourite variety, and have a biscuit as well, and class yourself as a friend.

It must be said that if you are reading this, you must be a friend, because we all want to talk, or sing, or make a noise, but only a very few of us want to actually take the time to sit down and read something, and it seems to me that only a friend would actually do this. Thank you.

I’ve been giving a lot of thought to friends, because every week I do a blog (another blog) called Words of Connection — which I suspect is one of the reasons why I’ve neglected Antbeat. This week the Words of Connection was dedicated to the theme of friendship, for the simple reason that we need our friends so much now. The pandemic has been cruel, and our leaders have been more than incompetent. We live in times of such uncertainty that one cannot begin to list the uncertainties – just to say that the most powerful world leader appeared on TV last night and screamed and screamed until he was nearly sick, behaving like a three-year-old. Meanwhile we (in the so-called UK) had the privilege of hearing from our own leader, saying very carefully – “Piffle, wiffle, sniffle, six pillars of pifflers with a shloppy, floppy, acuity and inter-continental vacuity. Northern Pifflers do it too.” And so, you and I have the privilege of being able to appreciate that our lives, and the lives of those we love, are in the hands of some of the most self-absorbed, inane, talentless, blobby white creatures on the planet. Bear up… And don’t be afraid. As Teresa of Avila said “Let nothing disturb you, let nothing frighten you, all things will pass…”

That’s why we all need our friends.

I made a new friend this week. A day or two ago, when I went for my early morning walk, a pretty young fox followed me down the road, and she did something similar the next day. I offered her a piece of cheese, and since then we’ve become the best of friends. I suppose this is another way to make friends. Fancy a piece of cheese?

Thank-you, friend, for reading this blog. Let’s blog again soon.

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Light in the Lockdown: The Faith Response to Covid-19 in our City

For well over 20 years, the Interfaith Contact Group of Brighton and Hove (which I chair) has been serving our City, bringing all the various faiths together to share ideas, and events and generally find common causes we can talk about. A couple of years back we ran a competition to find The Angel of Brighton & Hove, which was a fun exercise that proved a big success with adults and children alike. Last year we ran a Tree of Life event that also revealed the spiritual wisdom that comes from different faiths and the importance of the tree as a spiritual symbol.

This year we set off singing and dancing, intending to celebrate the year on the theme of light. With the help of Brighton Museum and its curators, we planned to hold a family day celebrating light with music, talks, games and all manner of jolly activities. We also planned to draw attention to religious festivals like Diwali and Hanukka where light plays an inspirational part in the lives of people from the Hindu and Jewish faiths.

But, of course, it was not to be. When the Coronavirus struck, and we went into lockdown, everything came to an abrupt halt. We responded to the crisis as best we could, staying in contact with members and friends. We set up a weekly poetry, prayer and reading service called Words of Connection which features topical items alongside historical and related topics. The feedback was amazing, and thanks to the help of various supporters we were able to present Words of Connection in different formats – as a weekly email, and also as a blog on our Website.

But the greatest record of the faith’s response to Covid-19 came from a brilliant documentary film made by Sarah West of West Creative. Entitled Light in the Lockdown, it lasts just 17 minutes, and tells the story about how the people in our City are looking after each other, in every sense, both physically and spiritually. I urge you to look at it. It is both compassionate and moving. 

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New Lessons in Walking Round Things

I would never have thought that to go out I would need little or no cash, a phone and a mask as essential items to travel with. But thus it has come to be. Today I have to walk into town, and this is the weird shopping list I have strapped to my mind, as I contemplate dancing around all and sundry.

Also… I would never have though that my age would single me out in some way, because like so many older people I have not, as yet got used to the idea of being old ; I was always a late starter. But Covid and our glorious Government say that older people must be careful, so I am following the rules. I follow the rules for the benefit of people working in the NHS, and nice people, not those broken by non-electable non-ministers in charge of everything.

In fact, the pandemic has made me fitter. I have taken to walking every day. The tedium of having to avoid people in the street has driven me out at 5.30 every morning to walk alone, if possible without the interruption of dancing warily around sweaty joggers or dog walkers. The solitude of the park in the early morning is a treat and an education. I have come to know the local fox that hangs around. He is a sad, solitary and mangy young thing who is constantly having arguments with the local bird population. Meanwhile all the beasts in the park fight over the stuff left by humans – the bits of bread and pizza, and over the weekends this is spread far and wide for all to see, but during the week the park is good and clean.

Maybe the most lovely part about haunting the park at the crack of dawn is the reaction of the wildlife. Originally all the birds and squirrels would scatter, sometimes warning each other of a stranger’s impending arrival. Now they just can’t be bothered. I reckon they say to each other “Oh it’s her again, don’t bother,” and I find myself having to walk around them while they forage. One way or another, it looks as though from now on I’m always going to be walking round a human, or a bird or some wild beasty thing.  The only birds that still fly off hysterically (as though they’ve never seen me before) are the blobby woodpigeons, but I was always thought of them as bird brains.

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