Friday, January 26, 2007

Something a little more serious....a lot more serious

David Hicks still remains in Guantanamo. The Australian government have down nothing to help him. They have colluded by their silence. Please sign the petition to try to bring each of these illegally held prisoners a little closer to some form of justice. This situation is apalling.

as Molly Ivins wrote .."What happened to the nation that never tortured? The nation that wasn't supposed to start wars of choice? The nation that respected human rights and life? A nation that from the beginning was against tyranny? Where have we gone? How did we let these people take us there? How did we let them fool us?For more of Molly's posting follow this link "
This is the question we should be asking now? How did we let this happen to us?

It is the same question we must ask in Australia and the UK.

Saturday, January 20, 2007

Pass the sugar Tony.....

Last night in Britain 8 million tuned in to vote a housemate out of a tv show called Big Brother. That's 8 million. 8 million people who can be manipulated into paying a premium rate phone call to vote for someone they have never met and who will almost certianly have no direct impact on their lives.

In the UK and the States the turnout rates for elections which determine those people who are to represent us across all tiers of government are depressingly low. It is a truism that people will not turn out to elect that person who will make crucial decisions about their lives and yet an episode of a banal tv program will engage them. As Rolf Harris sings...."oooh it makes me wonder". .......if only we could tap that thinking and turn it to a more "productive" use.

As newspaper after newspaper headlined Big Brother stories and every TV channel (free to air and paid)had BB story as breaking news I began day dreaming.... what if we put all the politicians in a Big Brother House and observed them 24/7 going about their day, discussing real things and behaving like real people? They would have no hiding furtive conversations that weren't observed ...what then? What if we managed to see, for just a month perhaps, the real people behind the spin living under Big Brother rules? Allow yourself to imagine for just a few seconds.....Tony Blair sharing his muesli with David Cameron whilst they decided how to spend the weekly food budget for the house. Imagine George Bush, Hilary Clinton and Rumsfeld coming to an agreement about what time the light was to be turned out in the bedroom.....(oops...take back that thought!) What if we saw them the way we saw George Galloway in 2006? This is the same George Galloway who was heavily criticised for appearing on the show, the same George who made such a memorable, erudite and formidable presention to the US senate (for transcript: The same George Galloway who never wastes a publicity moment, shouting to the BB audience "stop the war" as he entered the house. When challenged for appearing on BB George said,"I believe that politicians should use every opportunity to communicate with people," he said in a statement. "I'm a great believer in the democratic process. Big Brother is watched by millions." He is correct, Big Brother IS watched by millions - more accurately near 8 million. I am sure there are a lot of people in that 8 million who haven't bothered to vote because politicians are so removed from their lives...this might just start them voting.

This way we would not only have a glimpse of who we are electing but maybe it might get those couch potatoes who can't be bothered to cast a vote in the elections to actually participate in the government of their own country, Big Brother style. (Back to the chorus again Rolf.."oooh it makes me wonder')

Then again, would I want the same people who would bother to vote for such a mind numbing show as Big Brother, to vote for our government? Yes I would. They are the people who live in this country - who are affected by the decisions and besides that ....Oh, who knows, the other lot didnt get it so right so maybe a change of tactics might just be the answer.

George Galloway:

Sunday, January 14, 2007

They stoop to conquer?

I know this is off topic but please humour me while I have a little rant.

What depths will this government stoop to? Havent they learnt yet that people are on the lookout for the spin that whirls out of their offices... we have not forgotten no WMD.....
Take tonight for instance, thereI am sitting with my glass of wine relaxing watching the news and the anchor starts telling us about how lucky we are that new eggs will soon be available that cure cancer or something like that....Riiiiiiiight!

In what sounded very much like a company advertisement on a government funded station ( no advertising is allowed for the information of those not in the UK) the lead story then informed us that a research company (which was named but I won't give it any more advertising) had played around with the genetic makeup of some chickens to create these "super eggs" that were going to cure everything. Oh for goodness sake! Give us a break.

Honestly, would the person who thinks we viewers are totally credulous please stand up? Do you think we are going to not see through this "snake oil spin"? Why aren't we able to watch the news without knowing we are being manipulated? I am not a conspiracy theorist generally but every so often I widen my eyes in disbelief at the blatant spin that goes on.
The new headlines are transparently selling us genetically engineered foods.......
the scary thing is that most people will fall for their tactics. The headlines didn't say a company has been genetically modifying chickens despite there being concerns in this, no, no instead the anchor said something like " eggs packed with wonderful healing qualities that may cure cancer" blah blah blah "will soon be available". It is my understanding that Americans lost the battle against genetically modified food some time ago but here in the UK we are still fighting to stop it going further than it has.

On the same day I read in today's paper that Blair's government is putting forward even more proposals to have access to personal data and personal information. They actually want to have access to people's private medical records...

Oh my....pass me the wine......

Thursday, January 11, 2007

Asking the BIG questions

People come to my workshops because they are looking for something more in their lives. They sense there is something more but they just don't know what it is. Most have been sold the story that happiness lies in getting a good career, making a lot of money, owning lots of things, earning a good degree and holding down a secure job until one day they realise that they have got all that and they still feel there is a big nagging hole in their lives. It is not an unusual feeling. The thing that has really struck me is that I am getting more and more young people coming to the workshops now. I can tell you there are huge numbers of young corporate men and women around 29/30years old who are really miserable. They have played the game, they have done what they were told to do to be successful and they don't want what they have got. Their whole life has been designed around their own "needs" as defined by who? They just dont get it.

It was an intuitive decision rather than a well thought out strategy to start my workshops by asking

"What kind of world do you want to live in?"

I am always faced with the same response and I am still suprised. A deafening silence! This is not a question that many of us have considered. It is not a question that is floating around schools or coffee shops with discussions of what college should I apply to or where will I spend my Gap Year? Maybe we feel powerless to have impact on the rest of the world, maybe we are too "me" focussed, maybe it is just too big a question. It seems that we (and I include myself in this) rarely take the time to consider the impact of our personal visions on the rest of the world. I have a strong feeling that it is urgent that we begin now to ask these questions of ourselves.
I am not suggesting that we don't care when situations arise...look how many of us drag ourselves off to a demonstration when a cause arise or a march against soemthing like Iraq.
Perhaps there is another way. Perhaps things have only escalated to that level because we, as citizens of this world, have given up the day to day thinking about "the world"- our world.

I believe it is only by creating a vision of the world that we want that we can begin to understand where we are going and the principles and values behind our personal decisions. As Laurence Boldt said..."it is up to each of us to determine the cornerstone principles upon which our society stands and determine for ourselves the kind of society we will create". I believe we can only do this by taking these "world vision" questions back from the TV and media hacks, back from the academics and get them right into the middle of the living rooms. Have these questions floating around the cafes and when people meet on the street. For too long these questions have just been the domain of the academics and the TV bosses.

These are our questions. They are questions that challenge us to think about our own values and actions. They are questions that help us determine our life choices.It is only when we begin to see a picture that is bigger than our own little world that we can position ourselves in the whole scheme of things. We can extricate ourselves from the fear culture and imagine how things just might be. We can create leaders who really represent us and our values.

If we are "to be the change we wish in the world" as Ghandi said then we must know what it is we wish for. To know that we must explore our own thought about the world, we must talk to each other about it, we must educate our kids to consider these not see them as TOO BIG nor to give programmed responses.

" A man's value to the community primarily depends on how far his feelings, thoughts and actions are directed toward promoting the good of his fellows" Albert Einstein

Wednesday, January 10, 2007

Ghosts of past dishes!

As usual what started out as a simple blog update gets swirled around in the quagmire, that is my mind and comes out looking very different to my waking moment's thoughts.

My focus at the moment is my Brighton workshop. Even though I have run them many times I always want it to be better than the last. In truth I see myself as a fairly simple soul. One driving motivation I have (amongst others) is simply to leave people feeling better about themselves after we stumble into each other, hence my commitment to my creativity workshops. I really do believe that when people are creating works of art or writing or gardens or wonderful meals they are doing much more. In doing so, they are"creating a richer inner landscape" in which they themselves can wander. If you turn out to be a Pulitzer prize winning author or an Oscar winning director is, in my mind, irrelevant. What is relevant is that in creating your work you are driven to forage around in your basement and attic. You are forced to hunt around to find that thought that you "know" you once had but had locked away in one of those boxes until you needed it.

Take cooking for instance. I love pottering around in the kitchen creating new dishes. I can never can cook anything without being rubberbanded back to conversations with people in my past around food. I remember my mother, as she stirred the porridge in the morning or my "haute cuisine" sister who tried to instill in me the basics of preparation. "Cut the egg whites with a metal spoon, don't use a wooden spoon" she whispers in my ear as I make a mousse. Wasn't the way she created wonderful dishes a reflection of the way she had lived her life? With precision, love, careful measurements and attention to presentation, she created. These were her hallmarks in life. Even now, when I cut a tomato I remember the first meal my ex husband prepared for me over 30 years ago. Oh my, as nice as he is I should have been alert to the messages then and there. I wasn't very grateful then..but why? Who was I , ask myself. The list is endless and growing each task, each ingredient or each dish may be a trigger for a wonderful life memory.... my mother in law, my good friend's husband.....all prompt a plethora of thoughts and invite people now gone to float around the kitchen while I "create".

Gardening , weaving, writing....wherever we stop a minute to think about how something might be, everytime we surrender to just "doing", to being in the now..the past floats around us like the hair of the underwater swimmer. When we stop it is there...right in our our face. How can anyone plan a garden or weed a newly turned bed without exploring? The smells, the colours, the way the garden curves around the perimeter..they all build on where we have come from and where we want to go.

But then I stop for a while in Nick Smith's blog which leads me to Wades postings which lead me to Lessig's lecture and this has me rethinking the whole concept of creativity. Oh my! Therein begins the planting of a jungle in my own inner landscape.

Tuesday, January 9, 2007

Some blogs are just amazing

Every so often you read a blog that is justy brilliant. I love this one: -
It just seems that every posting on that blog is worth "reflection time"
and I always seem to wander there just when I shouldn't stop and read it but I cant resist.

Monday, January 8, 2007

There is more than this! - Finding the Blueprint Workshop in Brighton

"Our deepest fear is not that we are inadequate. Our deepest fear is that we are powerful beyond measure. It is our light, not our darkness, that most frightens us. We ask ourselves, who am I to be brilliant, gorgeous, talented, and fabulous? Actually, who are you not to be?'
Nelson Mandela

I am busy getting together the material for the next "Finding the Blueprint" workshop in Brighton in a fortnight. It does feel like ages since I last ran it and I don't know why I have let the time elapse because I absolutely love doing it. I really enjoy it when some one calls me afterwards to tell me they have made big changes in their life and they are now on track to doing what they want whether it be work or travel or relationships or whatever. It seems I always have to add to and rewrite all the course material before each workshop because even though I have done it for so many years I just keep learning more and more in the time between the programs.

I try to keep them fairly inexpensive so that they are accessible to more people but each time the venues get more expensive.It is important to me that I hold them in a welcoming place where people can relax and enjoy the two days. Brighton is now a commuter town for London and I have had quite a few young succesful women and men calling me up to book in. There seems to be a theme that resounds with these people..they are educated, successful and fed up! They want something more. They want to live a life that has quality and an inner landscape. They want more than the power they thought they wanted in the early days. The other group that seems to be interested in changing their life is the group of 50+. They have worked a long time often doing work they didnt want to do and now know they may have to work longer. It is time to start creating a life that is fun and meaningful. Is it any wonder I love doing this?

Isn't it just crazy that we often end up doing work that has no relationship to who we are or what our dreams might be? We think we can put our talents in the back of the closet and only remember they are there when we forage around for something to make us look a little special. But all the time they are niggling away reminding us that we are something more. Barbara Sher said it so perfectly when she said "I know I'd be brilliant at it if I knew what it was". We have put away our dreams for our lives so long ago that there are hidden beneath the boxes of shoes and the old dress and the Marilyn Monroe hat all stacked on top. And yet we all get that niggle every morning when we are heading off to do work that is not a reflection of who we are...that despondency that there is something more ..there has to be something more to living than just doing this.

So this is why I love this workshop. It is exciting to see the "excavation" work going on and the fun we have. I remember one woman who really stands out because she was so angry ..really angry with everything and was apparent in everything she did. In her hair cut (all spiky), in the way she talked. The workshop goes for two days and I really didn't think she would come back on the second day but maybe the wonders of sleep and the processing that must have gone on overnight saw her walk in chirpy and ready to design a plan for her future. I get so excited and happy when I see things like that. It is not rocket science. We are not happy when we are not being authentic or using the talents we are born to use. She called me about a month after the workshop to tell me that she got so much out of the 2 days and especially she got "hope". She also was able to put in place a life plan with steps to make her dreams happen even though she was in her late fifties.

I often have people tell me to "be realistic". "We all have to eat and pay the mortgage" they say and they are right. We do have to eat and we do have to pay rent and often we do jobs that are providing the way for us to move forward on our path. Just knowing we are on track to that goal makes the work worthwhile and we become grateful for it instead of resenting it.

I think it is difficult to keep on track without support from friends and family. They are often the ones who worry most about us and they try to urge us into safe secure work. There are stories that abound about people who had stopped in the frantic money making race to find out who they really were. They then went on to change their lives. The result was that they now ere living with such passion for their work that they ended up being more successful than they had ever could have imagined and the barrier between work and life had blurred. Being around people who enjoy their work and life is just wonderful. It inspires others.

If you are a Brighton person and want to take part just send me an email. You're welcome.

Sunday, January 7, 2007

More than my possessions..

I have just got back from the Brighton market. Even though it is Sunday morning and cold and damp... very cold. I made a huge effort and dragged myself out of bed before the sun came up. I remind myself that I am in England at the moment and the sky is so grey it is tricky working out if the sun has risen or not. I did manage to get there early enough to catch the stallholders as they were unpacking their trucks. (photo by David Gray-see URL in side column)

Like all real bric a brac markets, the stall holders arrive in rusty old trucks and vans with their goods in any sort of container they might have had hanging around...old suitcases, collapsing cardboard boxes or old biscuit tins. I am a regular bric a brac visitor but I never buy much..the occasional piece of jewellery or the odd vase or trinket that catches my fancy but I just like going there. It is as if I am visiting a different world run by different species of people.

It is the "citizens" of this world, the stallholders, that interest me. They aseem to me to be different to the rest of us. They look different. There is a knowing look in their eye that sees through "the punters". Between you and me I have a secret belief that they are the true zen masters. Isn't it just a given to them that this thing we call life is merely a transient phase? It is their job to know this! They feed themselves on our impermanence. Their whole business is based on this. While we sit for hours in uncomfortable meditation positions trying to come to terms with the nothingness of everything, they simply go about their business of cleaning up after us. Like dung beetles, they tidy up after humans have moved on. They simply drive up to the now "departed" home and gather all the flotsam and jetsam into their rusty van until no sign of the life once lived is present. The photograph that had once been awarded pride of place on the mantelpiece is just another piece of the leftovers to be thrown into the truck and carted away.

I remember this as I fossick through the old suitcases and turn over pieces of costume jewellery and I find an old wedding photograph. I try to imagine the person stading looking out at me, the person who once treasured these things. The photograph reminds me that each of these jettisoned articles was once the very focus of a person's life. For just a few minutes I try to honour that one moment in the picture and hope that it worked out as welkl as the picture promised. I untangle a cheap looking gold chain from a little varnished box. Cheap looking to me but precious to someone, once.

I dont want you to think this is a depressing visit to me. It is quite the opposite. It is liberating. It reminds me of the absurdity of focussing a life on acquiring things, or "needing" to own things. It reminds me it is all an illusion. I remember the wisdom of people like William Morris and his quest that all things we use should be beautiful and useful. I try to remember that the real legacy of a life is in the eyes of the grandkids or the story of the good things they have done, or a myriad of actions that led to someone else's life being better. That's all that matters. Wasn't it the Dalai Llama who when asked what his philosophy was, said "Kindness, simply kindness"?

My early morning trip to the market reminds me that all the angst I allow myself to thrash around in is a waste of my creative time. The real value of a life is in what is created... what is learned along the way and in the times I made the life and journey of another easier.

Friday, January 5, 2007

Courage in the face of memories

I have been pondering what makes a creative person. I know that people often say artists and writers are lonely people. I question that. I have a very strong certainty that these people arent lonely rather they are just "alone" people, people who value and need alone time. They need the time to meet themselves and to feel the inspiration that we sense in the presence of true creative works.

Take for example a writer. What makes a writer? It is easy enough to accumulate a bag of words and a great thesaurus. You can even learn by rote the rules of sentence structure and grammar. But even when faced by technically exquisite works some just don't resonate with the reader's heart. There is something more. There is something more to being a creative writer and I suspect it is courage.

I somehow feel that the authentically creative person is one who will take a flashlight down into the cavern of history and turn over some of the muck as well as opening the treasure chests that glisten. A person who is brave enough to kick aside the overturned bucket just in case something is there.

I often hear people say...."Oh I dont want to write my autobiography or memoir".
"Is that possible?" I think to myself "Is it possible to write anything without writing your own story, your own history?" I just dont believe it is.

The window we look through, the references we make, the subject and story choices we make are all determined by who we are. Equally as important are the choices we don't make. Often those very things that we try not to explore in our writing are the very things we probably could throw the most light on for our readers. Are these self imposed "no go" areas limiting our creativity? I dont know. I have this suspicion that the braver we are the more substance our writing has.

For me, I feel the most productive creative times come when I am just meandering through my thoughts and as if by magic I wander down a lane I haven't been before. One step in front of another with no idea where I am heading, I wander, as if led there. Am I uneasy? Sometimes. Sometimes I feel physically a little queasy and that is a sign to me that I am going into a place that maybe I have avoided. Isn't it funny how closely our physical body works with us? Isnt it incredible how your gut just lets you know that this might just not be a walk in the sunshine? It is then that I know that my writing has stirred something that I have covered up. I can choose to go there or I can turn down another lane which bypasses it. (I suspect that visual artists also experience these feelings because isnt great art, art that resonates with our personal experiences?).

I find the wonderful thing about writing is that you can write whatever you want and you can keep it or delete it. When that frightened voice murmurs "stop" in your ear then ,if the time is not right, then you can just hit the delete key and "khazzam" its gone. But it is never completely gone. For now you have shone the torch on the overgrowth and you will always wonder if you should go back and explore....maybe one bramble at a time to find out what treasures lie hidden.


Wednesday, January 3, 2007

A New Year and the Creative Journey Blossoms

The shortest day of winter is over and the days are going to get brighter. It is a great time to think about being the "creative" individuals we are. Whether we write, or sing, or garden, or paint, or cook (or any of the other millions of tasks we can do which allow us to give "voice" to our creativity) now is an excellent time to begin. The New Year symbolically heralds a new opportunity for us to remember who we are and how "magnificent"we can be. As Nelson Mandela said we seem to be frightened of our potential to be great.

The beginning of the year is full of hope. It is a clean page to write our life for this year. The New Year symbolically offers each of us the opportunity to be more authentically ourselves and to identify who we are and where we want to go. Even if our plans might not be realised for 10 years, this new year offers us the opportunity to take that first step toward that dream - that outcome. It is exciting and full of promise.

For those of you who wish to write and doubt your talents who not try a few pages of writing first thing in the morning? No one will read it but you and it is a way to "clear the decks" of all the flotsam that has been floating around and preparing you for a fresh start to the day. See it as a conversation with can swear or complain, you can be grateful or be angry. You can get it all off your chest and at the same time hone your writing skills. We rarely take the time to listen to ourselves and to remember we are much greater than our opinion of ourselves. I even keep coloured pencils beside my bed and if I feel like it colour the page and draw stick figures to illustrate my writing.

Maybe your personal story has been undiscovered. Maybe it is time to remember who you are and where you came from. To write your own biography just for your own reference. To forgive yourself and to congratulate yourself for the way you have dealt with the challenges and survived to tell the tale. 2007 is going to be a great year!

PS Dont forget there is a Biography workshop in San Diego in February. Not too late to apply to join us.