I’ve been a beekeeper for nearly 20 years, and I’ve never experienced such losses as I have this winter. At the end of the 2022 season, I had four healthy hives, but now I have only one – called “TRUTH”. Two of my strongest hives – JUBILEE (which was named in the Jubilee year of 2012 and flourished last year), and GRACE (which had been a very strong hive for the past three years) suddenly died off between February and March.
It’s been very disheartening to see my bees struggling to get through the winter and even more discouraging to hear about the losses experienced by other beekeepers. A friend of mine who has kept bees for 20 years and maintains over 100 hives lost half of his hives this winter and had 18 hives vandalised.
The loss of so many hives is devastating, not only for the beekeepers but also for the environment. I put it down to a very frosty, cold and wet winter and spring. I suppose it’s climate change in action. Whatever the reasons, it is making me do a radical re-think of how I can maintain and grow my colonies of bees in future years. I have to re-learn to split my remaining hive into two to ensure I have the resilience of two hives – a fundamental principle of small-scale beekeeping. Let’s hope the weather starts to get warmer and dryer in the next few months.
At this time of the year, many of us are accustomed to creating New Year’s Resolutions. If you think hard, I’m sure you can come up with at least half a dozen things you want to achieve this year. Maybe more? Write them down, and hey-presto, there you are! Your New Year’s Resolutions.
Yet we all know it’s not that simple!
According to some research from the US, 80% of people give up on their New Year’s Resolutions by the second week of February. In less than six weeks, most people might as well not have done the exercise in the first place. Yet, according to James Clear (author of the excellent book Atomic Habits), it can take anywhere between two to eight months to develop a new habit or behaviour.
One of the challenges is that we all overthink the resolutions without feeling ourselves into what they might mean to us. It’s the difference between thinking you’re overweight, so you need to go on some newfangled diet rather than feeling yourself into the benefits and deliciousness of a new body shape and imagining yourself into the new you.
There is an old saying attributable to Lao Tzu (with similar ideas found in other ancient traditions) that “the longest journey is from the head to the heart”. It’s a phrase I’ve heard before but have only just begun to understand its true meaning.
If we genuinely want to create the personal and social revolutions we want in our lives rather than just spinning around in circles for a few weeks and reverting to our old patterns of behaviour. In that case, we need to continue to step along that path of the longest journey from the head to the heart and do more of the things we are passionate about and which fire us up.
It’s particularly true if our change involves other people (which any revolution is bound to do). Speaking from the heart is far more likely to initiate and sustain that change in others. They’ll switch off pretty quickly if it is all intellectual head-stuff. What do you do to shape, hold and focus your attention on your New Year’s Resolutions, so they don’t dissolve into old habits by Valentine’s Day? Please share. We can all learn about this stuff, whatever our belief system.
It’s interesting how the messages and symbolism at this time of the year rapidly move away from those celebrating the birth of Christ back towards more spiritual and pagan ones celebrating the start of the New Year. Maybe there’s a new religion of wokeism which is being forced upon us so we (in the West) are all trying so hard to be more inclusive and less tribal. It has certainly gotten me thinking about what it’s all about…
Sometimes we forget that Advent is the start of the Christian calendar. Christianity picked up and absorbed many pagan rituals when it was being designed to be scaled up and rolled-out across the Roman Empire in the early years of the first Millennium. The iconic symbol of Mother-and-Child is central to the Christmas message and has almost been trademarked by the Christian church. Yet we have so many other symbols used at this time of the year….
For the Northern Hemisphere, the 21st Dec is the shortest day of the year, when our ancestors before us breathed a sigh of relief as the days start to get longer. The Egyptians worshipped the Sun God Ra and put the Sun at the centre of their belief system and lights and candles remain powerful metaphors for a new light of renewal through the dark days of winter. (And although those middle-class folks in the Southern Hemisphere might celebrate the middle of their summer with barbecues they always seem to be up for a party whatever the time of the year!)
Janus heads up the Roman Calendar and has two heads. He was the Roman god of beginnings, gates, transitions, time, duality, doorways, passages, frames, and endings. He is usually depicted as having two faces. Looking backwards and forwards at the same time. And then we have all the other symbols picked up from Siberian shamans, such as reindeer and flying sledges – probably all dreamt up by someone high under the influence of a narcotic plant.
Add to that Father Christmas and his red-and-white image pushed by CocaCola, Holly, Ivy, Carol singing, Turkey (unless you do that at Thanksgiving), Christmas Puddings, Mince pies, boundless supplies of sweets and alcoholic beverages and we have a right-royal mash-up marketing material to make us all over-indulge and reconnect with friends and family (with all the stresses and strains that it brings to make a “Perfect Christmas”). So, I expect most people believe in one way or another that this time of year is one of renewal and re-connection, even if you are not religious.
If you believe in the Son, Happy Christmas, and for the rest, have a Joyous New Year as the Sun brings more light into your life!
And if none of this resonates, it’s a good time of the year to reflect on what has passed and what the future might hold and be truly amazed that we all exist on the leading edge of life. It’s also good to be grateful for all the things that the earth offers up to us and for the love we can give and receive to sustain our future on planet earth.
In my experience, operational leaders and visionary leaders are two different types of people. You want both types on a senior leadership team. Too many of the first and the team gets bogged down in the detail. Too many of the second and the team ends up in LALA land.
The thing that can balance up either one is a shared purpose (or strategy). I particularly like using Amazon’s Narrative approach as a way to find this for common ground. More at:
As we pass Midsummer’s Day 2021, it is a good time to reflect on what we have achieved so far this year, be honest about we are now, and set some stretching goals and objectives for what we are aiming to achieve for the rest of the year.
For many, the past eighteen months have been very different from anything that has happened to us in the past. Some of us have lost loved ones. Others have lost jobs. Yet others have been forced to take really tough business decisions that we never expected we would have to make.
In contrast, for some lucky folks, these times of change have presented new opportunities to change direction and grow. I have often found in life that the greatest opportunities present themselves in the times when things seem darkest. Just as the dawn precedes the coldest part of the night.
Through all these ups and downs in life, the one thing that I have found most useful throughout any period of change is to take one week out every 3 months to reflect and re-orientate myself. To give me (and those close to me) an opportunity to a complete a frank and honest self-assessment of what’s I’ve done that has worked, what I want to celebrate, what I want to change so that I can focus my precious time, energy and effort over the next 12 weeks into the things that I love.
It sounds a bit “corporate” , I suppose, but IT REALLY WORKS!
I have three broad areas that I create new agreements on where I want to focus. I take one sheet of A4 paper for each. The three areas of objectives and agreements that I have are:
The well-being of myself and my close family
The wider community
For each of the three areas, I pick one (or a maximum of three) objectives that I want to focus on in the next three months. The trick then is to write them down! It is well known that one of the major factors that separate successful people from less successful people is that the former write down their goals and objectives and are crystal clear on what they want to achieve. I would suggest that success is impossible without a clear set of written objectives which are time-bound and specific and meaningful to you as the ultimate designer.
Further, given that we live in such an interconnected world, most of these objectives will require the energy, input and skills of others to achieve them. So another key factor is creating agreements with yourself and others as to how you will achieve those objectives.
This all sounds simple, but many people find loads of excuses not to do this type of exercise on a regular basis. If it was easy, everyone would be doing it! Personally, I’ve tried loads of apps and pieces of software – but at the end of the day, I always seem to come back to pencil and paper – which I then type up into a final draft which I print out and refer to daily.
Like any discipline, it requires practice, practice, practice. However, if you take these ideas and adapt them for your own needs, I’m sure they will give you a more successful three months ahead, where you find more meaning and purpose for yourself and those around you – whatever challenges present themselves.
In future articles, I will outline how I define these objectives and agreements in more detail and how I’ve created a personal support network of “circles” which help me achieve my objectives. I would love to extend an invitation to you to join one of these circles. Please message me if you are interested or leave a comment below if you have other tips and tricks you would like to share on how you set and achieve your objectives.
There are three types of flight
A honeybee takes in her lifetime
The orientation flight,
The scouting flight and
The foraging flight.
There are useful analogies between
The honeybee flights
And the journeys a young person
Takes when leaving home
For the first time. For each flight
Is different, you see.
The orientation flight is designed
To learn how to get back home.
There is no point in going out
Of the nest and lose your way back.
So the orientation flight refines
Your homing insinct
The foraging flight is a well-worn path
Which many other bees have flown.
The knowledge is passed on by a ritual
Called the "waggle dance".
The more vigorous the dance,
The greater the source of food.
The riskiest flight is the scouting flight.
This is a leap into the unknown
There are no maps. No tribal knowledge.
No leaders to follow. Just instinct.
Many scouting flights do not bear fruit
And many scouts die on the wing.
As humans, we all have an innate
Pioneering spirit of adventure.
A call to explore the unknown.
Which would you rather bee?
A newbee, a forager or a scout?
I know which one I'd rather bee!
Let the words flow onto the paper
So that you can feel the scratch.
Feel the texture of the paper
Underneath your writing hand.
Feel the flow of black graphite
As it runs off the tip of your pencil
Creating the next letter
In the word
In the sentence
In the paragraph
Of the chapter
Of your next book!
The whole experience being guided
From somewhere else.
Written in a space of timelessness.
Written in a space that is yours alone.
Written in a space of pure potential!
Black on white.
Written as if you are in the story
Guided by characters that are performing
In front of you - true to form.
Written as an observer of human frailty
Woven into a storyline that is not yet
Completely obvious - even to you!
You are but a hollow bone.
A reed vibrating to the dance of time.
A pool of water reflecting what is true.
A breath of wind blowing onto other's faces.
A timeless channel of pure consciousness.
Just observing what's obvious.
Come! Join me in my land of plenty!
Let the flowers bloom;
Let the birds sing;
Let the music play;
Let the rich tapestry of colours
Be woven into our future!
As we come out of the Great Lockdown, it is interesting to reflect on the roller-coaster of emotions and experiences that have accompanied the disruption to our relationships both at home and at work in the past few months.
So far as I have seen, we have all had very individual experiences depending on our conditions going into lockdown.
For some, living on their own has been much more of a trial than for those that live with others. We are social creatures by nature. Results of a 2011 United Nations (UN) report raised the question – “Should isolation be permitted under any circumstances?” UN Special Rapporteur Juan E. Mendez concluded in the report that “solitary confinement for more than 15 days…constitutes cruel and inhuman, or degrading treatment, or even torture”. The relaxation of rules will be most significantly felt by this group of folk living on their own – perhaps as if they are not just being let out of solitary confinement but out of prison itself.
Yet others on the key-worker frontline, life has been probably pretty hectic and at times very stressful. Many have used the analogy with the military and are predicting that the stress will start to show itself in longer-term mental health issues such as PTSD.
For others, financial worries have been in abundance – particularly for those leaders in companies who continue to have to make difficult decisions about the future of their employees and contracts whilst they balance their income with their outgoings into 2021. There will be many casualties – particularly for those who are not having restrictions lifting like theatres and live performance venues.
And there are those fortunate ones who have perhaps seen more benefits than stress. Relief from a long commute at the start and end of each day. Closer bonds with family and friends. More time with their children. More community spirit and predictable days if you are lucky to have a job where you can work from home. We’ve been using communications technology in ways that we couldn’t conceive of at the start of 2020 that will change the whole way we think about how and where we work in the future.
With all these changes, we have seen other glimpses of the future. Things that people consider changes for the good that we don’t want to lose as well as the slowing down of life to the point where the decisions we take are more conscious and deliberate. Last week I lost a good friend to the virus. It reminded me of the fragility of all of our humanity and the importance of being far more conscious of nurturing the relationships that are important to me as well as to spend the time I have more wisely.
As human beings, we are an incredibly adaptable species and we will surely adapt ourselves to any so-called “new normal”. But before returning to any type of normal, it is so important for us to meditate a while on the things that have been good about the past three months that we might soon forget.
For me, it has been a time where time was somewhat frozen. I’m not exactly sure what I have achieved during that time. Maybe that was the point? In any case, I have become more conscious of the importance of the things that I promise myself and others – and I have become more determined to follow-through on those promises rather than waste my time on more trivial things that don’t matter.
Please share below any answers to the following questions so we can all learn from the past few months – before we forget and pretend everything has returned to normal.
> What did you learn? > What are the changes that you want to stick? > What things are the ones you only happy to let go of? > How could we make the important changes stick – and not revert to the old patterns?
In classical Greek Mythology, Persephone (Who was also known as Kore or Cora) Was the daughter of Zeus and Demeter. Hades abducted her to his underworld Where she lives before returning in spring To cause the cycle of life to continue.
Even though it is now springtime in the North Cora has drawn humanity in her underworld In a way not seen for a generation. This prolonged winter is out-of-sync with The natural seasons, but gives us time to reflect And become more conscious of the world around us.
How should we best prepare for Cora’s return? Many minds are mulling on this at the moment. They say that even when she returns, The world will never be the same again Our expectations, our structures, our systems They will all have to change.
So, for each of us, we have an opportunity. We can spring clean our lives before her return We can make a list or an inventory Of those things we like and want to keep And those things that we want to let go of. In preparation for Cora’s return.
Deeper than that, we can choose to make New life choices that affect other people Use the time to pray for, ponder and meditate On a better world for all. To reconnect to our own true nature and To remember the fragility of humanity.
More than anything, to rediscover our ability To create and nurture deeper relationships With the things that matter most to us And to simplify our lives by reducing clutter And unnecessary noise in our busy lives. So we are truly ready for Cora’s return
As the weather starts to warm up, the hives are starting to wake up. Each bee knows what to do. The queens are starting to lay eggs. The few new young workers are keeping the hive tidy and the others are out foraging for pollen and nectar when the sun gets up and it’s not too cold or wet to go outside.
Yet, as a society, most of us are in the equivalent of October or November, going into hibernation – or as we call it “self-isolation”. The bees don’t know that. They can’t get our kind of virus (though they have plenty of their own to contend with).
However, just as in the beehive, there are those workers who are stretched to the max. The health workers. The supermarket delivery folk. The engineers working out novel ways to make vital equipment with 3D printers. Those lucky enough to have a job where they can work from home.
But for many (particularly those over 70), the next few months might become lonely and frustrating. As humans, we all have an innate need to serve society and be useful. I’ve just volunteered to the UK’s National Health Service – but the system itself is just not designed to take on a flood of volunteers. The old systems can’t cope with taking on a flood of volunteers. There are too many rules and the processes are too slow.
The bees don’t work like that. If something needs doing, it gets done. As a bee goes through life and picks up new skills, it applies those skills to the job in front of it. They are a complex society driven by a much simpler and more effective set of rules than the way we are organised in our so-called modern global economy. I’m going to be writing about my thoughts on this in the coming weeks.
Additionally, next week, at 17.00 GMT every day, I’m running a half-hour Zoom call to swap ideas on effective volunteering in the lock-down. Spaces are limited. Please like or comment below if you want an invitation.