TT1939 – Stepping into the Centre

Stepping into the Centre

At the end of every quarter, I move into the centre of the circle.
The centre is constantly shifting and changing.
Sometimes it can feel a bit stuck in place or time.
Othertimes, it has everything spinning around at 100 miles an hour.
But there is always a still centre to be found somewhere in there.
Calmness in the eye of the storm.

It is that centre that I seek out every three months.
To give me space.
To take stock.
To look backwards and forwards at the same time.
To celebrate what has been done.
And to meditate on where we might go in the future.

This week is a particularly special time of the year.
The hard work of opening-up the combs and extracting the honey is over.
We have an angel called Heather who helps us with that part.
It is now time to bottle the sweet amber nectar.
Some say it’s been a bad season for others.
But we have been fortunate this year.  It’s looking like a good ‘un!

The honey itself pours into the jars in a vortex of swirls
Sometimes left-handed, other times right.  Never straight-down like water.
As each jar fills, the trick is not to stop the flow too early,
Nor too late before the honey overflows onto the floor and makes a mess.
There is a rhythm to it which becomes quite meditative.
Like all skills, it is a combination of practice, timing and feedback.

You are never quite sure how many jars you will fill. 
Nor how many total pounds of honey you will jar.
The mystery of not knowing whether this will be a record season.
But it really doesn’t matter.  It is what it is.
I don’t worry too much about which particular flowers they have come from. 
They make their own unique, delicious blend.

Harvest time is such a natural time of the year to close circles.
The celebration of the friendships made
And a time to reflect on those who have passed.
Now to get ready for winter.  It’s going to be a cold ‘un, they say. 
 Time put the winter quilts into the tops of the hives. 
The circle is closed.

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Hearts, Minds and Connecting the Dots

I was recently asked to comment on a blog exploring the idea as to whether or not it is critical to follow your heart”.  It got me thinking (quite a bit).  Oh, and I make no excuses for the apparent New Age flavour to this post.  It’s just how it came out!


 

Over the past few years, I have become more aware that we have several centres of intelligence. The mind is but one. The heart is another.  More recently, the gut has been recognised by scientists as having its own intelligence.

In such a fragmented world, where academics and book writers are rewarded for micro-ideas that can be framed into sound bytes (such as the one above), I find it interesting to call on history and the ancient wisdom of the Hindu/Buddhist Chakra system.  In this system, there are seven centres of energy within the body. Each system nowadays has a colour of the rainbow associated with it.  The heart charka is green and is at the centre of the system.

Chakra

One of the main issues in today’s world seems to be that the mind (indigo) and communication (blue) centres are so energetic – with our so-called “knowledge society” coupled with “mass broadcast media” that the other (lower) forms of subtle energy get drowned-out.

Maybe this is an age-old problem?  For there is also an ancient buddhist saying that “the longest journey in life is from the head to the heart”.

Anyway, I am currently doing some research on how the seven centres of chakric energy can become better balanced – not just within the context of an individual – but also in organisations AND society in general.

For:

  • Without a higher purpose, life becomes meaningless.
  • Without mind that is connected to serve others, life becomes ego-centric and selfish.
  • Without clearly articulating what you want for yourself or your organisation, others won’t understand where you are coming from and ignore you or misinterpret your ideas.
  • Without being allowed to truly express your feelings, life becomes emotionally blocked.
  • Without a sense that you are truly empowered, life becomes deeply frustrating.
  • Without a co-creative connection with others in your family or tribe, life becomes lonely.
  • Without a place to call home, life becomes frightening.

And so, to the main discussion about whether or not it is critical to follow your heart.

On thinking about the idea, I came to the conclusion that it isn’t just when the heart-centre is “in flow” – or we are “in the groove” that we get that feeling of life-is-good.  It is when ALL the energy centres are aligned to create an organic energy that is more than the sum of its constituent parts.  It is at such times that we, as human beings, are most connected to our fellow human beings – and to the natural world around us.

In terms of organisations, as regular readers will know, I look for much of my inspiration in the work that I do a as a beekeeper. I find the universal energy which is generated in abundance from the colonies of bees that I keep is indescribable – it has to be felt to be understood. The ways that the movements and (unrecordable) energies from each tiny, individual bee are compounded to create a colony that vibrates and energises the space around for the greater good of the colony is not too dissimilar to an organisation or society where the subtle forms of energy are recognised, amplified and aligned to a higher purpose.  Religious movements are one obvious answer.  But there are many other examples – some with “good” objectives.  Others perhaps, with more dubious ones.

I’ve also come to believe that intuition and flashes of inspiration (Ahah! moments, if you like) are not from us, but come to us when we most need them or call upon them. The egoic state sees itself as the centre of the universe. But spiritual practice is about removing the ego and tuning into more subtle forces of universal energy that pull you.  It is as if you are plugged-into connected consciousness and more aware of the subtle energies that might give you a greater chance to allow your energy to be mixed in more rewarding, unique ways.

So, it probably is important to follow your heart (over your head). But true connectedness comes when each energy centre is in alignment with the whole. It is then that we give up pushing and allow ourselves to be pulled.  It is then that all the dots are joined-up and where everything makes sense after the fact. This was so well articulated by Steve Jobs when he delivered his famous speech to Stanford graduates:

“You can’t connect the dots looking forward,” Jobs told the Stanford grads. “You can only connect them looking backwards. So you have to trust that the dots will somehow connect in your future. You have to trust in something – your gut, destiny, life, karma, whatever. This approach has never let me down, and it has made all the difference in my life.”

Trouble is, it’s very difficult to put all this stuff into a few sound-bytes and broadcast them over Twitter – or even a blog post like this!


 

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The Prince of Promises and the Grains of Salt

Once upon a time in a land far from here there lived a wise King. As he neared the end of his life, his barons gained in strength and the King was forced to pass many laws which gave away power.  The kingdom became a less certain place.
The King’s eldest son, (nicknamed “The Prince of Promises”) was a quiet and thoughtful man, but was unsure of his own position in the court. He was full of good ideas and promised many things to many people when he would become King – but few now listened to him for they thought his promises were empty.
Time passed and the King became ill. Whilst he lay on his death bed, the Prince asked his father “What is the one thing that you have learnt that you want to tell me before you pass on?”
The father said “Go and seek counsel from the wise man in the mountains. He has taught me so much. He lives in an old hut that has a blue door and with a yellow circle. Ask him about the story of the grains of salt”.
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When the King finally passed away, there was a week of mourning. Soon after, the recently crowned Young King (who some now called the King of Promises) set off to the mountains to seek out the wise old man. The court, by then, was running itself with the barons creating much discontent and division in the lands.
After several weeks of travel through some very treacherous areas, the Young King arrived at a modest hut which had no sign, save the blue door with the yellow circle. He knocked and a voice said “Please come in”.
The wise old man was very natural and very gentle and said “Ah, you must be the Prince”. The Young King said “No longer a Prince. My father died last month and I am now King and have come to seek your counsel.”
Within the hour, the Young King was relaxed and finally mustered the courage to say to the wise old man “My father told me on his death bed to ask you about the story of the grains of salt. Can you tell it to me, please?”
The wise old man sighed and said “Of course!”. He lit up a pipe, drew deeply on it whilst closing his eyes. He then started to hum with a low droning noise before reopening his eyes. Looking directly at the Young Prince he started the story.
“When your father was much younger, the land was in chaos. There had been a civil war and the barons were very powerful. Your father had a good mind, which was full of many good ideas, but he had trouble putting them into practice. Before he had time to act on one thought, another would enter his mind. Maybe you have some of that in you?” he asked with a wry smile, knowing the Young King’s former nickname of the Prince of Promises.
The Young King nodded in agreement. The wise old man continued.
“Ideas are like grains of salt. There are many ideas and many grains of salt in this world. However, a single idea that is shaped into something that others understand is like 10 grains of salt. An idea that is shaped further into something that can help solve a problem is like 100 grains of salt. An idea that is shaped further into something that for people to buy because it is valuable to them is the equivalent to 1000 grains of salt. And an idea that is so useful that the majority of the kingdom will buy into it is worth a mountain of salt.”
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“And so it is, Young King.” he continued. “Be careful about who you share your many ideas with and who you give your promises to. The effectiveness of your reign will be dissolved very quickly unless the ideas that you have are simple enough to explain and useful enough to grow into the larger mountains of wisdom that you will be remembered for.”
The Young King thanked the wise old man and a day or two later, he returned to the Capital of his Kingdom. On his return he spoke a lot less, gave out far fewer promises and was much more considered in his ideas and opinions. He also listened a lot more to his subjects before laying down any new laws. His subjects said that he had been transformed from the Prince of Promises into the King of Contemplation. Some even called him the Salt King – for he re-told the story to many in his court.
He ruled for a further 35 year and although he made very few new laws, each one was very effective. At his bequest, he was buried under a nearby mountain – which was made entirely of pink salt.
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To this day, that mountain still exists in the Himalayas.
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Into the Vortex

After the feeling of being stuck. Of being bogged-down. Of going round and round in circles, the thought changes.  What if round-and-round gets you somewhere?

Water twirl 20110903-7(210).jpg

Life flows. Events line up. Coincidences happen without any effort. Dreams start to crystalise in elegant ways that you had not expected.  You deepen your ideas on where you are.  Present.  Alert.  Observant.

Life speeds up. The pace of change shifts from first gear to fourth – apparently without going second or third. Patterns emerge that you have been working on for months – or even years.  Life becomes effortless.

Tempest in a teapot.

You give up control, because otherwise those tiny rituals that were once so important will stop you from riding the wave.  You surrender to the Universal stream of Life.

Then things go quiet.  The entry into the centre of the vortex creates an intense sense of peace. You are in the eye in the storm.

blue energy tornado

All is clear. All is aligned. You can make choices that you’ve never seen before.

Play with the energy.  Feel the power and use it for the good of yourself and your community.  Point the axis to where you want to go.  New openings will appear.  New guides will arrive to help you on your new path.

You are not just in the vortex.  You are the vortex!

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 All images from Crestock.

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The Heart’s Intuitive Intelligence

Last Thursday, I had a meeting with a business colleague.  We had only met once before – but somehow the energy felt really good between us.  Conversation flowed.  Ideas bubbled to the surface.  Creative spirit abounded.

During the conversation, it became apparent that I had talked in our previous meeting about intuition.  I had forgotten this – but it  is something I have recently become very interested in.  In summary, it’s the idea that the world is far too “mental” and that many have lost touch with their intuitive guidance system – based around the heart.  I’m also a strong believer in the idea that everything is connected.

And so it was, just by chance (as happens when browsing the internet) I came across this video below:

I don’t know too much about the organisation behind the video – but just love the overall theme, messages and visuals.  It somehow helps us to remember things we have forgotten or lost – so we can get back into the life-force and remember who we are.

Sit back and enjoy!

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Blowing the Fibre

Today, the Parish of Goudhurst and Kilndown in rural Kent (which is where we live) came one step closer to achieving what most others in the UK have access to…..

It wasn’t fresh water.  That has been flowing freely from boreholes and the local reservoir at Bewl Water for quite a while.

It wasn’t gas.  Goudhurst used to have gas – but the Gas Works blew up in the 1948 – a few weeks before all gas works were nationalized.  Coincidence or dodgy insurance claims, no one quite knows.

It wasn’t electricity.  That has been delivered to all of the Parish since about 2006 when the folk in Bedgebury Forest came onto the Grid.

It wasn’t being connected to the mains sewage.  Our house still has a septic tank at the bottom of the garden.

What it was that we came one step closer to getting half of the Parish – perhaps more – onto Superfast Broadband.

The next stage of the scheme is due to go live next week – in time for the end of June go-live for four of the cabinets in the village to be fibred-up to Superfast Broadband.  And the spectacle today was watching the fibre being blown down the plastic ducts that have been laid under all the key roads in the village.

The event went off without an audience – large or small.  Simply two engineers diligently waiting whilst the meter showed how far the end of the fibre had been blown.  The fibre wrapped over the right arm to give it control as it entered the plastic duct pipe.

Looking forward to the fibre being lit next week.  Come on, light my fibre – or something like that!

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Holiness or Wholeness?

I got into a discussion with a friend yesterday about religion.  You know the sort.  It became a discussion about basic beliefs and ideas about what had happened in the past with facts that neither of us could prove.  I capitulated, not wanting to tread on ground that was sacred to them, yet still holding true to my own beliefs.  In past times, I might have argued the point.  But I was tired and did not see the point.

It got me thinking about this religion and holiness and that sort of stuff and reminded me of a phrase my father used to say to me: “All great religions die with their founder”.  He was a spiritual man with his own religion.  He is now dead.  So I suppose, in his own way, he was right.

holiness-title-slide

In so many things in life we seek out the differences.  And religions are often a major culprit.  If you believe in one version of history and someone else another, then you are different.  You have different religious beliefs and are not of the same system, creeds, language etc. etc.  And even within a religion, there are sub-sectors, different interpretations and different organisations supporting them.  Yet what is common between religions is far more powerful than what makes them separate.

And so it is also true in the business world.  We have finely-tuned sensors to work out if another company is a competitor or a potential “partner”.  What are the “differentiators” that make you special?  We have defined a set of rituals for ignoring or attacking other businesses.  Just as in human relationships, these reactions can be commanded on a whim.  Defined by tiny variations in perceived behaviour or circumstance.  Individual differences are to be highlighted.  Sameness is boring.

Yet there is a counter-force which is found much more commonly in nature.  This is the unifying force which finds similarities and which seeks out common ground in any given situation.  It requires a different way of thinking and a different way of feeling about a situation.  More inclusive.  More holistic.  More local.

I am not an economist.  Nor will I argue the pros and cons of globalisation in this short piece.  Yet it seems to me that with all the rational arguments for globalisation and free-trade markets we have lost the ability to balance the world with this holistic energy – because responsibility has been taken away from what makes sense at a local level.  We could blame Adam Smith and his ideas on how to increase the quantity of pins produced in pin manufacturing – so aptly celebrated on the British £20 note:

AdamSmith20Pounds-A450

It is as if the new religion of global banking and global economics has become the new church which must be obeyed.  Making money at the expense of making things whole, rounded, sensible and appropriate at a local level.  With differences, of course, but much less important in this context.  Much less expensive, for sure, because it does not carry the burden of national or international overheads.

And so it was that I was browsing a book, “The Nature of Order” by Christopher Alexander, one of the greatest architectural thinkers of our time.  He describes wholeness as a series fifteen ideas or factors which are represented in the diagram below:

CA Wholeness

The Elements of Wholeness by Christopher Alexander

So, I wondered, with these fifteen design ideas, what would a new bank look like?  What would a new economic system look like?  Globalisation ideas don’t fit very well with concepts such as “Boundaries”, “Local Symmetries” and “Inner Calm”.  Then again, that shouldn’t be too surprising!

If you are a wordsmith, you will notice there is a lot more in common between the words HOLINESS and WHOLENESS.  The only difference is that makes the first unique is the letter “I” and the second that has the letters “WE”.  Not that I am pushing one over the other, but it makes you think, anyway!

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The Ultimate Purpose of a Bee

Last Sunday, I took my friend Sam to visit my bees.  He has been trying to keep bees for three years – but to no avail.  The last swarm that I gave him on his birthday two years died off the first winter he had them.

And so it was, I was completely charmed that, on Tuesday morning, he rang me to say that a swarm had gathered on the window of his office – exactly above the desk he works at!  We set about to catch them later that day – and yesterday we installed the swarm in one of his new hives not so many miles from here.  I’m sure the bees will stay with him now.

This evening, I came across a beautiful piece by Tolstoy about the ultimate purpose of the honeybee – which I thought I would share with you.  

 It has been a magical and charmed week and the honeybees have truly touched my friend, Sam and me with this amazing encounter.  Long may the honeybees swarm into people’s lives as they did for me so many years ago.

Bee Banner

“As the sun and each atom of ether is a sphere complete in itself, and yet at the same time only a part of a whole too immense for man to comprehend, so each individual has within himself his own aims and yet has them to serve a general purpose incomprehensible to man.

A bee settling on a flower has stung a child. And the child is afraid of bees and declares that bees exist to sting people.

A poet admires the bee sucking from the chalice of a flower and says it exists to suck the fragrance of flowers.

A beekeeper, seeing the bee collect pollen from flowers and carry it to the hive, says that it exists to gather honey.

Another beekeeper who has studied the life of the hive more closely says that the bee gathers pollen dust to feed the young bees and rear a queen, and that it exists to perpetuate its race.

A botanist notices that the bee flying with the pollen of a male flower to a pistil fertilizes the latter, and sees in this the purpose of the bee’s existence.

Another, observing the migration of plants, notices that the bee helps in this work, and may say that in this lies the purpose of the bee.

But the ultimate purpose of the bee is not exhausted by the first, the second, or any of the processes the human mind can discern.

The higher the human intellect rises in the discovery of these purposes, the more obvious it becomes, that the ultimate purpose is beyond our comprehension.

All that is accessible to man is the relation of the life of the bee to other manifestations of life. And so it is with the purpose of historic characters and nations.”

Extracted rom Leo Tolstoy’s War & Peace: Chapter IV

You can also find this, and other bee stories on one of my other blogs – http://beelore.com/2007/08/07/the-ultimate-purpose-of-the-bee/

Photo from iStockphoto

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Democracy, Accountability and the Power of Protest

This week three events happened that highlighted to me that the way that the world owns, controls and governs the 7bn people on the planet is under extreme pressure.  Yet signs that the new world is responding in sensible and more conscious ways are encouraging.

As the old-world sovereign-states governments try to balance their own budgets and wrestle with their own, unique, local problems, multinational companies increasingly put two fingers up to them to avoid paying corporation tax.  Apple is a good example which, this week, apparently saved over $9bn in tax with a “bond manouever”.  If you were Tim Cook, you’d probably have done the same.  Yet the countries that need the tax revenue  to help get themselves out of the debt that they have are being out-manouevered by the multinational tax avoidance network that serve the corporate giants that belong to no country and are accountable to, well, their shareholders, of course.  Big companies seem to get it all their own way.

In the middle east, even after all the investigations over the justification of the Gulf War and whether or not Saddam Hussein did or did not have weapons of mass destruction, we are fed confusing news that civilians are being sprayed with nerve gas in Syria – and that West military intervention is, once again, becoming more intellectually justifiable.  Soil samples have degraded and there is not enough evidence for going to war.  So we have to wait.

Yet there are interesting counter-pressures.  As a beekeeper, I have been keenly following developments on the EU which, this week, voted for a two-year restrictions on the nerve-agent pesticides (called neonicotinoids) blamed for the dramatic decline global bee populations. The EU decided on a narrow majority of 15/27 votes.  The UK was one of eight countries that voted against the ban in spite of a petition signed by 300,000 people presented to Downing Street last week by fashion designers Vivienne Westwood and Katharine Hamnett.   The Independent has also campaigned to save Britain’s bee population.  The British government’s choice to vote against the ban was based on the fact that “there was not enough evidence” that bees were being affected – and that the samples in various tests had been contaminated.  The uncanny similarity between degraded soil samples from Syria and contaminated samples that voided tests for the bees made me think: how convenient!  How convenient it is for a government or a leader to ignore evidence when “tests are inconclusive” or when the “evidence is not clear”.  No decision is better than a decision that you could be held accountable for!

However, we beekeepers must thank the internet protest networks – led by Avaaz.org – who managed to get enough support in countries (other than the UK) to swing the vote against the vested interests of  Bayer and others who have, until now dominated the decisions taken in our food chain –  from the seeds we plant, the agricultural methods we adopt through to the quality of foods we eat.

4-Beekeepers-AFP

The bees have a short respite and Avaaz is now pursuing the real Dark Lord in the battle for  Mother Earth.  Go on.  Vote.  It can only help a growing wave of public opinion to counter the madness of global corporate arrogance that they are accountable to no one.

I believe that there is hope for us all with this new type of democracy emerging.  The vote to ban neonicotinoids was a turning point for me.  It would appear that these online campaigns really are starting to get policy makers in multinationals to think again and change their minds.  They have a new body that they need to recognise – and a protest can come from nowhere and expose issues is uncontrollable ways.  PR companies and even newspapers are becoming less and less effective in this new world of informed  internet politics and political activism.  Even governments must be encouraged as it gives them a new reason to act, not just sit on the fence because “there is no evidence”.  After all, most of them want to get voted back into power.

Interested to know what you think – please do leave a comment below.

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Spring Forward, Fall Back

Last weekend, for many of us, the clocks went forward and we lost an hours sleep.  Many in the West celebrated Easter – either by going to Church or gorging themselves on chocolate.  Perhaps both.  March ended and April began.

Today remained bitterly cold – and although some of our smaller daffodils are out, the larger ones are still tight in their spring green wraps.  We seem to have been locked in a strange weather pattern in the UK for a year now – with March being the coldest on record for 40 years.  Many forget that this time last year we had 18 months of drought.  Whoever did the rain-dance this time last year sure did a good one!

In China and other countries in the East, it was a holiday – the Qingming Festival.  This festival has various translations including: Pure Brightness Festival; Clear Bright Festival; Ancestors Day or Tomb Sweeping Day.  Traditionally celebrated on the 15th day after the Spring Equinox,  it is a time for people to go outside and enjoy the greenery of springtime and to tend to the graves of their departed ancestors.

Tomb sweeping

The festival’s origin is credited to the Tang Emporer Xuanzong in 732. Wealthy citizens in China were reportedly holding too many extravagant and ostentatiously expensive ceremonies in honor of their ancestors. Emperor Xuanzong, seeking to curb this practice, declared that respects could be formally paid at ancestors’ graves only on Qingming.  The observance of Qingming found a firm place in Chinese culture and has continued to root itself in many other parts of Asia.  Any excuse for a holiday!

The idea that we come out of the winter and into pure, clear brightness – and spring-clean the tombs of our ancestors does not really have an equivalent in the West.   The Christian Church displaced many of these more pagan traditions for  celebrating Spring by defining it as the most important festival of the Christian calendar: Easter.  The chocolate companies partly displaced this with Easter Eggs and everything chocolate.  We don’t really have an equivalent celebration or holiday to go and sorting out our ancestors’ graves on one particular day of the year.  I suppose the closest we get is the idea of a “Spring Clean”.

Whatever your belief system, though, Spring is a magic time of the year (if is ever  going to be allowed to break free from the cold clutches of winter this year).  It is a time of hope.  A time of renewed energy.  A time for cleaning those parts of your life that need cleansing.  A time for being positive and leaning forward.

Spring is sprung and the green shoots are surely going to break through soon!  Happy Qingming Festival – and may your ancestors’ graves be much cleaner today than they were yesterday!

Source: Wikipedia, http://www.chinatouradvisors.com (picture) and my Garden

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