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Increasingly, I find it frustrating when I hear of people saying with a resigned air:
I’d like to, but no, I don’t do that sport anymore [insert pursuit of choice…], ‘cause… well, you know what it’s like when you get married and have kids, get promoted at work, etc… you know… life gets in the way doesn’t it.

Yes, I DO know what it’s like, but I’ve never ever seen it as a reason to stop doing whatever it is I pursue at that time.
Surely that’s what life is about? About finding something of value that makes the hard work all worthwhile. Something that you can look forward to, even in the knowledge that it is going to be difficult to arrange things like babysitters, or transportation, finance, etc, …but also knowing that when you’re doing this thing that you love, that all the stress goes away. It’s a relief valve…
Equally, it eventually becomes something that you can look back upon through memories and friendships and laughs, when the body no longer allows you to carry on.
Surely life is about enjoying this chance we each have to make the experience of living worthwhile… and not only through our children.

Now, perhaps some people would say that I’m not the best of parent’s when I say that you should not fully sacrifice your passions so that you can give your children the best chance at pursuing theirs.
Partially, yes. But not fully.
After all, isn’t that the same as giving away a life to save a life? No net gain…? Surely better if you both have a passion to pursue…?

I actually feel that even though it is logistically a harder path, I feel that I am being a better parent by demonstrating to my children that I can have passions and interests of my own, as well as helping them find and develop theirs. I feel that I am setting a better example to follow, and a more useful one for them, for when they one day, find themselves in the same position with children of their own.

Is it not an almost equal waste of a life to live a life of living though others as opposed to living a life of not bothering with pursuing anything of interest…?
Perhaps a little bit of selfishness is a good thing.

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Forgetting remembrance

Yesterday was November 11th – Remembrance Day, and as always, I found myself in two minds when observing two minutes of silence in remembrance of our fallen, as I also observe so many around me for whom those two minutes pass unheeded.
I always have the thought of “Why the hell haven’t they put in the miniscule amount of effort required to make sure that they each observe Remembrance!
Remembrance always puts me in a sombre mood, but in recent years it also leaves me with a smile.

What’s the smile for?
Well, for the very fact that those who do not make the EFFORT to observe the two minutes of silence, live in a world where they can do this!
They live in a world where the sacrifices made by those who died in the hope that our futures would be safe and free (whatever that really means today…!?), has become a real future… a future where they CAN be forgotten.

I think that if I had fought and died, I would have been happy that my children’s children and their grand-children could forget about my sacrifice if they were living in a world better than, for example, the one the Third Reich was trying to generate.
It would mean that my death had not been in vain.

Perhaps the forgetting to remember is actually an indication of a good thing… but I, for one, shall never forget.

I’ve been rather busy lately, hence the lack of action on this blog this year.
However, I’m still around, still lovin’ life, and thought I’d tell you all about my year… as I’m actually quite proud of it.

But first…
You might recall from an earlier post on this blog (May 1st 2012) about an idea proposed to me some years ago entitled ‘The old man in me’.
The core of this idea has been a driving force for me for some years, and continues to determine how my decisions are made, and the paths I choose to take in life (.and why are they never easy?!).
By way of this, over the last three years I have been trying to put into action a number of things that will enable me to live life in the way I would best enjoy.
For many years prior to this, I had been trying to understand what sort of professional role in life would suit me best. Eventually I realised that the best type of job for any person, is one where they are doing what they would happily do for free… so, you get paid for having fun! Your type of fun.

I finally realised one day what I wanted to do when I was sitting on the side of a running track watching my son compete. I was sitting there watching all the teenagers and young men and women trying their hardest to throw, run, jump, vault, hurdle, etc to the very best of their ability, each wanting to get a new ‘personal best’ (PB), and I found myself itching to get down and help. I could see those who were a little injured. Those who’s movements could be improved, whether for power, efficiency or speed, and those who were lacking in confidence, thus restricting themselves.
And I knew from my years in Track and Field that there would be others unable to compete that day due to injury… and I wanted to help them too.
I guess that because I find it emotional watching people succeeding in sport at something that they have a great passion for; something that they have put in so many hours of hard work, knowing from personal experience the amount of blood, sweat and tears that goes into reaching that podium, or whatever equivalent there is for any given sport… that it is this connection that I share with each and every true athlete that makes me want to be a part of it… I want to help them reach their goals!
It was this day when I finally realised that where I had always been interested in the workings of the body from the perspective of sports performance (I had considered going into physiotherapy as a 16 year old), that this was now becoming my true calling.

So going back to three years ago, I had changed jobs to a higher paid role in order that I could afford to tear down our garage and build something that could be used for multiple sporting purposes – a mini gym / dojo. Then two and half years ago (July 2012), I found myself sat on the side of that running track and subsequently starting looking into sports physiotherapy-like jobs.
So, two years ago I booked myself onto a Level 5 Sports Therapy course offered by Active Health Group in Manchester, UK (who, I’d like to say, offer excellent tuition on a really well structured course – highly recommended!), which started in earnest in September last year. From October last year I have been taking on occasion clients as a Sports Therapy student in order to have a good selection of case studies for a part of the coursework. I have however, been dragging my heels on getting the academic side of the course completed!

In and around all this I have also been training hard within the Karate system I study with the goal of gaining my 1st Dan Black Belt in June this year and then starting up a club after completing the Sports Therapy course.
Also, using the diminishing fitness built up for that Karate grading, a friend and I entered the Rat Race event ‘Scotland Coast to Coast’ which is 105 miles across Scotland on foot, bike and kayak in September this year… then two weeks after that I took part in my first ever 10k race… just for fun.

Oh yes… it’s been busy!
Now, the reason I’m feeling pretty pleased with myself is because I’ve managed to fit all this around a normal life of 40 hours a week job, normal household and family activites, which means, in my eyes, that I am heading some way towards the ultimate goal within the idea of ‘The old man in me’, which is to be able to lie in my deathbed at, say 80 years old, and look back at my life and think “Yep… I did alright. These memories were worth all that hard work.” and to die with a smile on my face.

This year (actually closer to two years) has been the first year where I’ve managed to get that close to right. And with a bit of luck… and a lot of hard work, hopefully next year will yield the same!

I’m changing…

Today’s realisation…

Expression of the self cannot be done any more succinctly as a human, than by expressing one’s thoughts, beliefs, and experiences; …ultimately, one’s personal understanding of how life is; than through poems, music and movement.
There is no greater expression of what it is to be human than through allowing the absorption of the self into these moments of creation and performance.
This is what we are…

There are some pieces of music that I can’t listen to in the company of others, and events I cannot watch; in fact anything where a person pours heart and soul into that moment, as I can be so profoundly affected by them, that I’m quickly reduced to an emotional wreck! …it becomes embarrassing… but it feels, oh so good!

But what is it in me that does this??

I can only liken it to a form of empathy in some cases, and in others it seems that there is a resonance, like a tuning fork, that harmonises with my core, spirit, or soul.
What I find really interesting is that this has only occurred since I became more spiritual… so from around 10 years ago…. and it’s still growing!
It also happens more and more at times when I witness a person performing something well; something that is hugely important to themselves… like an athlete reaching the Olympic podium, or a shy musician being recognised for the first time… and even now whilst I type this and am thinking of various examples!

Whatever it is that’s changing, it is changing because I am constantly chasing that feeling of being in tune with those things that really matter to me.
Whatever it is, I like it!

In relation to yesterday’s post (see here), there is another point that I choose to believe is true (I say ‘choose’ quite simply because there is no way of proving it true, but my observations and experiences suggest to me that it is true…).
My friend of the previous post, and I used to train together as teenagers as part of the local Track and Field team. Some of the winter training was pretty tough, well certainly for the age we were at, and I have distinct memories of the expression on her face when she was gritting her teeth, fighting hard against fatigue and the effects of lactic acid flooding the muscles… showing way back then the characteristics that are helping her today.

Since those days, I have continued to train in various disciplines, but for the last 16 years it has been in traditional Martial Arts.
Being constantly active, and being forever surrounded by the same type of people, I have seen some of them grow old, but never really suffer much from illness, and those few that have, seem to have the presence of mind to attack their illness like it is just another hard training session; i.e. something to grit your teeth against; something to fight against, and most importantly, something to overcome!

Similarly, it seems that my distant friend has also continued to train in one way or another over the years, and before she was diagnosed with cancer, she was training hard in Crossfit, and taking part in daft events like Tough Mudder’s.

In the light of what she is going through, but more importantly, how she is handling it, it further reinforces my belief that those who take part in tough physical training; tough enough that it also becomes mental training through having to develop the will to overcome the body’s desire to rest; will be those who are best equipped to deal with the worst that life has to throw at them.

I believe that something grows within those who regularly fight the little battles by choice, something that enables them to find the will-power to overcome the bigger battles likely to come later in life.

So… my advice to those of you who enjoy sitting back and watching the soaps on TV a lot more often than stepping up and staying active, is quite simply – you need to make a decision as to whether you would regret the easy, fun life when a bigger, unavoidable battle comes along.

Read this [The old man in me], and think hard, then make your chosen future happen!

There is a friend of mine (not yet 40 years old) that is currently fighting the battle of her life against a rare and aggressive form of cancer.
In doing so, she is proving to be one of life’s special people in that she has instinctively turned to face it head on and obviously has no intention of backing down!

I haven’t seen her for over 20 years, but through the wonders of Facebook, have fairly recently got back in contact… even though she is now the other side of the world!
In her own inimitable fashion, she feeds her Facebook friends with regular updates on her condition and progress, and in doing so has revealed her true colours… and incredible colours they are!
As much as it was nice to get back in contact with her, I’m am now so glad that I did as she is proving to be the sort of person I admire the most – she has what I consider to be a warrior nature – a willingness to fight for what is right, with an unremitting strength of spirit that simply doesn’t know how to give up! – and I now feel honoured to know her.

So many of her friends regularly reply to her updates by saying how amazing she is, how inspirational, and what a fantastic attitude she has toward beating the illness.
One of her replies was to say thanks for the comments, but really she’s just getting on with it, that there’s nothing special about her, and that anyone would be able to do it.

But that’s just it, isn’t it.
She is the only one in the wrong position to see what’s see’s doing. She is the only one inside the cocoon of the illness, all others are outside looking in. I don’t think she realises what this illness has brought out in her. Inversely to the debilitating effect of the cancer and the treatments, it has made her shine so brightly that her positivity is almost blinding. It is truly awe-inspiring.
If she was right that anyone could do it, then people wouldn’t react in less positive ways than she is, people wouldn’t give up, everyone would have that ability to soldier on regardless… but her friends are seeing something different to the norm, they are seeing something greater… and that, of course, is what they are astounded by.
She has unwittingly become a leader to her friends, a leader by example, an inspiring person, and one that makes the greatest of leaders.

At the risk of losing the last remnants of my manliness, I’ll admit to being in tears as I type this, but not through sadness of her suffering, emotional weakness of my own, or any other such anti-masculine reason, but through some kind of resonance I feel that makes me smile and feel so alive and good when I encounter people like this lady, and hear of their experiences that to me, epitomise the very essence of life.

No matter what;, today is a good day… some other days may be even better, but rain or shine, if I’m breathing, then every day is a good day!

I hope that if I ever have to fight a big battle that could cost me my life, that I’ll be able to show the same strength of character as my friend… and I hope I can be even partially as inspirational as her.

Between now and your death, or between now and the time where you can no longer do the things that enhance your enjoyment of life; what are you going to do with your time?
Do you really want to continue sitting at that desk for all your future working years punching away at the keyboard?
…or surfing the internet for nothing in particular in the evenings… just filling time?
…or going to the gym to keep fit… but without definable purpose or reason… just to fit in?
Perhaps you are faintly aware of your life years, months , weeks, minutes and seconds gradually ticking away from you, never to return. Each one you only get once… or as Dan Millman wrote ‘There are no ordinary moments.’ …each second, and the events within are special. They occur only once!
Do you feel trapped by your circumstances?  …are you what is meant by Erwan Le Corre’s ‘Zoo humans’?

Recently, here in Bristol, UK, was a beautiful spring day. I went out at dinnertime and so nearly didn’t go back into the office…
It was moments like that eighteen months ago that made me awaken to the fact that I am in the wrong job; that I must change career.
Those changes are now well underway, but I am still painfully aware of my life seconds slipping away. I might be getting paid for my time, but money can never pay for the time passed, it is only a token gesture.

I believe a person, any person, YOU! – should aim towards those things that draw your attention; those things that interests you; that which makes you smile; that which makes you feel good inside; the events of life that make you go ‘Wowww!’ with eyes wide, or make you cry with joy, or pleasure, or compassion, or empathy… it is those indicators that you should be looking for, as when they occur, that is the universe telling you what you should be doing with your time here on Earth… some will say that it is God talking to you… others will use other explanations, but all will agree that it is that feeling that is telling you what you were made for!
…just as a tuning fork will start to ring when the same pitch of sound is placed near it… your spirit will start to resonate when you are near those things that are in tune with you. It is that attraction to things that shows you the starting point of your intended path of life – it literally feels right!

So sit for a while, think about what it is that makes you feel this way.
Write down those events that you have enjoyed and wished they would never end… a bit like a bucket list! (…you do have one of those don’t you…? I hope so…)
Try and find the common denominator within these times.
Now comes the hard bit… now you need to look to find a role in life that would repeatedly give you that feeling again!

Now, go sit and think! …good luck.

“Another week done!” said my boss on my way out the door.
“Yep, another week of my life gone.” said I.
“Aww, don’t look at it that way.” he said.
‘Why not? That’s what it is.‘ I thought, but said “Yeah, but it’s just the way you choose to use it…”
“That’s it!” he said… implying ‘That’s a better attitude!’

Couldn’t help but think that he is using the culturally accepted way of justifying a ‘waste’ of life time. [sic]

Each hour of our lives belongs to us and only us. How we choose to use those hours is a matter of choice.
It may not be a direct choice, i.e. you may have previously chosen to commit to a mortgage, and in turn you committing yourself to having to pay for it… which, for most of us, means working. However, it is still a choice!

To my mind, I choose to work for the amount of hours needed to pay the mortgage and bills… and to pay for future dreams!
I do NOT subscribe to the idea of the accumulation of money as being a goal worth substituting my life hours to.
Each hour that passes will never pass again… what I’m doing in those hours better be bloody worth it!

It is the stuff in between things that is important; the stuff that truly matters.
Not the things in the middle, bounded and described by the space around them.
Like the substance that Dark Matter is made of; the stuff that strings the galaxies of the universe together, and keeps the stars circling forever,
…the essence of which the scientists are searching for.
Like the way that the walls of a building define and contain useful space. The walls themselves, having less useful properties.
Like the lines on a football field, and the rules of the game, they are in themselves useless, but it is what they describe that matters.
Like the timing between the notes in a piece of music, rather than the notes themselves.
Like the intangibility of love, and hate, and the other emotions; the stuff that holds people together, or pushes them apart.

It is the understanding of the relationship between things that holds more value than the things themselves.
It is here that the supporting framework is found; the framework that places things and events in the right places, and creates the illusion of the importance of material things.
But it is our relationship to those things that we really need see and perceive… the gap between us and it.

To become truly wise, one should seek this understanding, as all things are linked by the space between them, not the things themselves.
This is what is meant by ‘all things are one’.

The Universe is made of existence and non-existence,
interaction and change.
It cares not for the aspirations of man,
nor of his vanities, nor love of money.

The rules of the Universe provide the potential for utterly limitless creation…
this is the limitless potential of possibility!

The Universe expresses itself through form, radiation, life and constant change,
…and in one form of life, it even has the ability to look back on itself,
and that form once said:
Life is the means by which the universe understands itself.” – Brian Cox