Conscious Voting…think about it

June 8, 2017

I’ve been in two minds about this coming General Election.

 

Usually I can’t keep to myself my thoughts about these types of events and I’m not shy of sharing it on social media. However, I’ve suffered the consequences previously, and, to be honest, and it’s made me a little more cautious.

 

So this time has been different. Since the past two elections, I’ve realised one of the things I have no control over, nor any chance of predicting, has been the outcome of a public vote. I have realised I know little of how the majority think.

 

It’s left me a little despondent and until now, I have kept my trap shut and tried not to get too upset about what is happening in the world – that which I have no control over anyway.

 

Yet now I want to share what I feel is all we can hope for in the coming week, and that is that the nation decide to vote more consciously in this election.

 

We’ve all heard the stories of the number of people searching on the term “Brexit” the day after the results of the EU referendum, and I do not doubt that there was a large proportion of people who voted without realising the full implications, or worse, having being hoodwinked by some of the propaganda.

 

Now I am one of these people who often gets accused of “thinking too much”, and this may be true, but in the context of one of the most important General Elections of our time, I think it’s a quality that could be pretty useful right now.

 

I’d like to hope we can all exercise Conscious Voting, that is, thinking about where we place our ticks on June 8th.

 

All too often we go through life not thinking about things, but instead being led by our pre-conditioned responses – we vote the way our parents vote because we don’t know any different, we vote the way we always have because we’ve never really questioned it, we vote for the person we feel we can most relate to, or dresses the way we think a politician should dress.

 

Yet should we not be asking the more important questions – like whose values we most closely align ourselves with, whose policies we most strongly believe in, and whose manifesto best resonates with what we want for the country.

 

Instead I worry that so many people have been misled, their opinions shaped by a most-certainly biased media, and their sublimal messages suggesting whose leadership we would be most “safe” under.

 

At best this is appealing to our innate sense of fear and insecurity in times like this when there seems much danger in the world. At worst, it has been a blatant hate campaign, aimed at taking down one man in particular whose differing views, background and appearance seem to be a threat to the establishment.

 

An example of how the parties and their propaganda machines work to create “unconscious voting” is the straplines used for Theresa May, which I believe were also used as part of a paid-for advertising campaign on the front of this very newspaper (Good on you Echo though for admitting this though, many wouldn’t have!).

 

“Strong and Stable” they tell us, but what does that actually mean? I hear people repeating these words when justifying why they are going to vote for her, but I’m yet to hear a valid argument as to what makes her the stronger and more stable candidate.

 

For me, I have never seen such a display of strength and resilience as Jeremy Corbyn has shown, not just since becoming leader, but way before that. For me what makes a strong leader is someone who stands by his principles, not just says whatever the spin doctors tell him to say to win votes. I doubt that JC was ever really intending to be Prime Minister, but no matter what you think of him, his integrity is certainly not under question.

 

Even with issues like Trident, he stands by what he believes in, although though his party stance is different. I am not trying to influence anyone how to vote here, but I just hope as a nation we can look beyond appearance, tone of voice, dress, and the headlines that are designed to influence our decisions.

 

I hope people think about it. I hope that, whoever wins, we never have to witness again what we have in this election – the vitriol, the downright bullying of a strong leader who has overcome adversity and stuck to his guns throughout. I hope we exercise Conscious Voting and that the outcome reflects the values of a nation, not the prejudices.

 

 

gandhi

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Silver Linings

December 15, 2015

Let’s face it, it was a difficult week. With all that is happening in Syria, and the serious floods up in my home town of Carlisle, I have to admit it has been a challenge to stay positive.

I’ve always been an advocate of optimism, of looking for the positive in every negative, but this week has got me thinking:

“Is it healthy to always think positively? Is it even possible?”.

I can’t imagine saying to all those people who have lost their homes, “oh, but look on the brightside…”, or even, “one day we will see the lesson in all this…”.

I wouldn’t blame them for never speaking to me again if I said that. It’s just not helpful.

In theory, to keep your face to the sunshine, to see the positive in any situation, is always going to stand you in good stead. But, in reality, there are times when this kind of advice just isn’t appropriate.

Let’s face it, s**t happens, and sometimes it’s not fair, it’s not deserved, and it’s unfathomable. So surely it is more than justified to feel angry, upset, or sad, and we should allow for this.

An emotional response is to be expected, and to deny or repress these emotions, is as unhealthy as to let them spiral out of control.

The key is finding a way to accept and acknowledge these emotions without letting them run wild and stay with us too long. We need to allow ourselves to feel, but just for a reasonable amount of time. We need to remind ourselves that “this too will pass”, that things will get better.

Eventually, but perhaps not straightaway, we may be able to find the silver lining. We need to believe that there is one, we need to look for it, and at least try to find some little thread of consolation.

In one of my favourite films, “The Silver Lining Playbook”, the main character Pat, played by Bradley Cooper, has a motto called “Excelsior”.

Excelsior is a Latin word meaning “ever upward”, and Pat uses this mantra to climb his way back up after a mental health crisis. He says “I’m going to use this negativity and use it as fuel, and I’m going to find a silver lining”. Whilst this is a healthy response, he is also required to first look at the reality of his situation, and this seems to be the missing part.

Strategies come in useful when we are choosing how we respond to a situation, but this may not come straight away. First we need to accept where we are, and perhaps how we feel, for what we resist, persists.

I’m not sure there is always a silver lining in everything that happens. In the case of the poor people of Syria, it is so hard to make any sense of what is happening to them and find anything that may console them.

However, I have been watching avidly what is happening in Carlisle, and what I have seen is that it has brought out the very best in people, in terms of kindness, compassion, and community spirit. Even those right in the midst of it have been able to find the silver lining.

My old school friend Dave, who is now a fireman and one of the rescuers during the floods, posted this yesterday:

“Have been reflecting on today’s events and of the people we rescued from their homes. In the face of such personal adversity I am deeply humbled by the spirit and positivity of those people affected by such tragic events. The response from the community has been astounding and brings a real definition to that word – community. People rallying together and helping each other through. Proud to be Cumbrian and proud to be a firefighter today because I got the opportunity to help you wonderful people”.

It reminded me that, even if we can’t find the silver lining in the event itself, even if we can’t initially think positively when bad things happen, to respond with grace and courage in the face of adversity, is a fine thing indeed.

 

Travelling Light

September 20, 2015

So, I am on my travels again. just for a week, running a yoga retreat in Granada. As I write, I am on the plane, gazing out of the window, I can see clear skies and fresh landscapes, and I breathe a sigh of relief.

I needed this. To get away. It may be work, but it’s just the most perfect timing, after a week fraught with some of the inevitable stresses that follow moving house and changing circumstances. I had felt like running away, but at the same time, coming to Granada, it’s like coming home. It’s familiar, full of fond memories with fabulous people, and every time I come here, it feels like something very special.

It helps that I leave Exeter in thick fog, and I will arrive into glorious sunshine, warmth, and an array of sensory delights.

As I said, the timing is just perfect. It feels like I am leaving it all behind (although taking certain things with me that are close to my heart, and will stay there).

I often say at the beginning of a yoga class, during the opening meditation, something along these lines…

Inhale everything that you want to keep, that will be useful for you, for the class, and exhale everything that you no longer need.

Simply put, breathe in all the good stuff, and breathe out all the bullshit.

I am doing that right now.

And I have a lot fo good things to take with me, so much I am grateful for in my life right now. There’s just a load of crap I need to leave behind, other people’s stuff mainly. I need to let that shit go.

This is hugely important. Firstly, if I don’t let it go, then all the good stuff in my life will be affected, and I don’t want to happen. I won’t let this happen. I can do this. I will do this.

Perhaps it would help to talk it through, as I believe that sometimes telling our story helps in the process of working through our challenges, and moving on.

I recently read The Zahir by Paulo Coelho, in which there was a group of spiritually minded people who would meet once a week and share their stories. Throughout the sharing, people found comfort, connection, therapeutic benefits, and at the same time it cleared them of the blockages that held them back, moving them closer to spiritual wellbeing.

For me, I chat to myself through my diary. Sometimes I share this publicly, if I feel that it will be useful, and won’t cause anyone else any harm. The other stuff is my real rants though, unfiltered, raw and hopefully never to be read by another living being.

By writing, I feel it lightens the load. It gets it out of my head and down on the paper. It also helps me make sense of what is actually going on in my mind.

Throughout this process today, I realise that I don’t want to be carrying around excess baggage anymore. I need to travel light. This will come as a surprise to the cabin crew today, who saw me board with the largest suitcase on the flight as hand baggage. i was proud I fitted it all in, but actually I didn’t need it all.

I remember a meditation session I was leading in India as part of my teacher training a few years back. It hadn’t been part of my plan, but it just came to me as I was talking.

The class was full of people from around the world, many like me, who were living out of a rucksack.

I asked them to imagine taking their backpacks off after a long and arduous journey, and to feel the weight s being lifted off their shoulders. They could then choose which rocks they needed to unpack, to mentally do this, and instead fill the sack with beautiful white feathers.

Whenever I see a white feather, I always think it is a sign there is a angel there looking out for me. Even if it’s not true, I like to believe it, as it gives me comfort and a feeling of being taken care of, which I find helps me on my journey, especially when I am alone or feeling under attack.

For this trip, I am determined to travel light *even though I have pushed to the limit the restrictions around cabin baggage(.

I’m doing this for me, for all the good things in my life that I want to keep, and for the people I am about to meet in Granada. They don’t need that shit either, and I want to give them the very best of me, and help them unload their own rucksacks.

As my friends in cabin crew, Claire Louise and Karen, would tell you

“You have to put on your own gas mask first”.

Or in this case, get rid of those fucking annoying rocks in your rucksack that are weighing you down. There, it’s done.

I’m travelling light.

Amen to that.


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