My Swim Gym Can Heal your Spine – Part 1

Nine months ago I joined a gym. I didn’t join to use its machines, but mainly to swim, use the sauna and steam room. However the gym also offered yoga classes, so I have returned to a yoga practice that I abandoned about 10 years ago. The results of this regime have been good. I am certainly stronger and more flexible than when I started. Small bodily complaints, like my left thumb feeling painful (from arthritis ?) and an intermittent twinge in my left knee have both mostly gone away. My body shape has also improved, and a friend of my daughter said I looked younger this year than last. I have more energy and my gait (walking) has improved. My heart feels stronger too. All extremely positive.

This must be down to my regime. Looking into my swimming practice I wanted to understand why swimming is so good for me. Firstly I don’t just swim, but also do various exercises in the water,  many derived from yoga. Because my body is supported by the density of the water I am able to move in more weight-free ways than on the yoga floor. I’ll describe these in detail in another post, but today I want to discuss something different.

I knew vaguely that in evolutionary history we emerged from water to become land-based animals. Doing some Googling I discovered that the creatures that emerged were called Tetrapods (4 legged) and these eventually led to all land-based animals. But I also knew that somehow we derived from fish. But what exactly does that mean? What do we have in common with fish? After all. they live in water and we live in air. We die in water and they die in air, so what is it that we share with fish? The answer is that we share our bony structure with them. The fish gave us a skull, a vertebra (spine or back-bone) and ribs. We are all vertebrates.

The fish’s spine is covered with connective tissue, and their muscles are held in place (to the bones) by this tissue. This enables the fish (not all types, but most) to move its body (or dorsal (rear) fin) in a wavy side to side motion, which is how it swims. Now here is the interesting point. The connective tissue which covers the spine of the fish has evolved and moved in humans to the gel-like substance which is found only in the discs which separate our bony vertebrae. When these discs dry out, they cause problems, such as bulging or being compressed. This is what we refer to as slipped discs. Now I can’t tell you how to keep your discs wet, although I suspect that if you eat well, sleep enough and do some regular exercise (like swimming or yoga) you might be able to keep them in a healthy state.

Here’s where my regime comes in. We are two legged animals, and the weight of our upper body is supported by these discs, piled vertically one on top of the other . When we were four legged, the weight was distributed more evenly on our front and back limbs, and the spine didn’t have to work so hard.  Now when we swim, we take on the posture of fish, and our spine is once more held horizontally and not vertically, which gives the spine great relief. And since our weight is supported in the dense water and we float, the spine and discs are free to move as we swim. In the water it is easy to move our upper body and pelvis from side to side and we can also swim down into the water and up again (I see this as dolphin-like), bending the spine and giving it a great deal of exercise. I believe my swimming, which emphasizes these movements, is one of the keys to my current good health.

One other benefit of being in the water which is more spiritual than physical, is the fact that in embryo, we are surrounded by water not air, and I believe when we swim and submerge in water our subconscious mind (which is body-based) remembers that floating sensation in the womb, which must have been a pleasant one.  What is there not to like ?

 

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July 23, 2017 at 5:01 pm Leave a comment

How to Combat Terrorism

Three terrorist incidents in a short time has brought out Mrs. May’s  hardline approach : root out Islamic terrorism in the UK . I believe that imams and mosques that are encouraging young Islamic men and women to fight for Isis or to create terror on our streets should be rooted out. But this can’t be the only approach. To put more of a spotlight of media and police pressure on the Islamic community  will only create more inter-communal tensions and may alienate even more of the Islamic young .

To create policy based on fear and anger will only create more fear and anger and will lead to increasing hate attacks on the Islamic community.

What is is needed is a policy that has some hope for the future, and Corbyn has been giving us a vision of that hope in his recent appearances.  If we can create a more equal society, a fairer one and a more caring one, we can then live in a better relationship with our neighbours. If we can create better education, with more skills leading to better paid jobs, then more people can feel a part of this country and not alienated by it .

A society like this would be a great attraction for young Muslims to join and women in particular would appreciate that this kind of open society is one that is better for their children than one that is shut off from the modern world.

It is up to Corbyn to present the voters with his vision of a better society and his belief that a better society would be one in which terrorism would be rooted out not just by outside pressure but by the success of the society that we all share.

June 5, 2017 at 3:54 pm Leave a comment

Where is Labour’s Brexit Team?

I watched the Leaders’ Question Time programme the other night. I thought Mrs May looked a bit rattled, and uncomfortably stiff and grimaced. Corbyn seemed fairly relaxed and looked like he enjoyed getting into it as time went on. Several of the exchanges made an impression on me. The most important was when Mrs. May remarked that the Brexit negotiations were due to start 11 days after the election. That is a short period of time. If I was a wavering Corbyn supporter or one who was thinking about backing him but was on the cusp, this FACT would get me a little worried. It takes time for a new party to move into power. So my questions would be: With these talks about to start so soon, how will they handle it ? Are they ready for this? Who is doing the negotiations? How prepared is he? How able is he?

So If these are real issues, then I think Labour needs to bring out Keil Starmer fast, since he is the person who can answer those questions, and give people the vision of a different Brexit than the one the Tories have been proposing.   Starmer would also show that Corbyn has a team and is backed by people of substance and character. His abilities would be convincing.

The second issue that resonated last night was Corbyn’s Trident problem. When he told a questioner, “I don’t want the deaths of millions on my hands,” and then added “and neither do you,” it struck home. No one wants to be responsible for mass murder, and Corbyn had explained that he wanted to use all the diplomatic ways to get North Korea away from their aggressive stance. But he didn’t give enough specifics –  such as working with China – or give it a sense of urgency that these talks could take place immediately. So faced with the madness of North Korea, people are not convinced about Jeremy’s ability to deliver this non-nuclear world.

 

June 3, 2017 at 6:48 pm Leave a comment

XTRO Re-boot

We – Harry Bromley Davenport and I – are at the start of a plan to make a new version of XTRO. It’s going to be called XTRO -The Big One, and I’ll explain why later. Harry and I made the original XTRO in 1981-2 and it was released in 1983. It was very successful for New Line Cinema, who were in dire need of cash-flow at that time and XTRO kept the company afloat until they found massive success with A Nightmare on Elm Street.

Harry went on to do two sequels to XTRO, neither of which I produced. Two years ago he asked me if I was interested in working with him again on a new version and I thought that was a good idea. Harry introduced me to a writer he wanted to work with- Ken Segall. With Harry and Ken in LA and me in London, we had to use email and skype to send scripts, notes, ideas and comments back and forth. A slightly cumbersome process, but one which seems to have worked. The new script, which has gone through about 6 drafts,  is now in good shape. It’s full of that special blend of XTRO weirdness.

The story of the new film imagines what it would be like if an alien invasion took place during a massive earthquake – hence the title XTRO – The Big One. The new film is certainly not lacking in scope or ambition. We are really pushing the boat out.

So now comes the big problem of all indie producers – raising the money.  How do you raise enough to make an exciting film featuring good actors and with imaginative and striking FX that will stand comparison with other Sci-Fi films?

Easy ? Difficult? Impossible ?

More next time.

January 6, 2017 at 8:19 pm 1 comment

Step by Step – From My Journal

A 2003 journal entry.

Mark Forstater's Blog

April 7 2003 – 49th anniversary of my father’s death. Cleo (my daughter, then aged 12) was in Hampstead Heath climbing trees. Looking up at a large tree, nervously examining the possible foot and hand holds, she said, “I can see how to get up to the first branch, but what do I do from there?” I said to her that when she got up to the first branch she would know where to go.

The world would look different from there- new perspectives, a new way of looking at the situation, so what seems a problem standing on the ground disappears when we are sitting on the first branch.

So it is with many things. The problems which seem so massive when we begin disappear once we start, because the problems are made from a particular perspective, which alters once we change position. This is a universal truth.

To…

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November 24, 2016 at 10:17 pm Leave a comment

James Baldwin Quotes

James Baldwin has been almost forgotten by the mainstream media but he was a brilliant and troubled American writer. Being black and gay, the son of a poor preacher, Baldwin had more than enough tsuris in his time. He wrote about the pain that he lived through with a fierce and truthful style.

During this Brexit upheaval, which is showing us examples of racism and hatred, and demonstrating the result of alienation and deprivation, I think some of his quotes are timely:

I imagine one of the reasons people cling to their hates so stubbornly is because they sense, once hate is gone, they will be forced to deal with pain.

Not everything that is faced can be changed, but nothing can be changed until it is faced.

Anyone who has ever struggled with poverty knows how extremely expensive it is to be poor.

The most dangerous man is the one who has nothing to lose.

People who treat other people as less than human must not be surprised when the bread they have cast on the waters comes floating back to them, poisoned.

Hatred, which could destroy so much, never failed to destroy the man who hated, and this was an immutable law.

Children have never been very good at listening to their elders, but they have never failed to imitate them.

The world is before you and you need not take it or leave it as it was when you came in.  

I’ve always believed that you can think positive just as well as you can think negative.

Those who say it can’t be done are usually interrupted by others doing it.

Pessimists are the people who have no hope for themselves or for others. Pessimists are also people who think the human race is beneath their notice, that they’re better than other human beings.

No one can possibly know what is about to happen: it is happening, each time, for the first time, for the only time. 

There is never time in the future in which we will work out our salvation. The challenge is in the moment; the time is always now.

 

 

 

July 2, 2016 at 5:56 pm Leave a comment

A Spiritual Almanack- July – Dispersion (Brexit)

Hexagram 59 – Huan

hex 59

Wind

over

Water

We live in interesting times. But to some people all times are interesting. As the Zen Monk said, Every day is a good day. Therefore every day is also an interesting day, but this week we have been consumed by an avalanche of serious dislocations – changes of far reaching political significance.

There is a potential revolution in the air, and it seems incredible that it has been put in motion by three Old Etonians, two of them members of the Bullingdon Club. How has this happened?. Clearly it’s not deliberate – a thought out policy or a strategy. It’s more likely a failure of strategy, in fact a colossal blunder, leading to an escalating series of blunders.

Lu Tung-Pin writing in the 9th century, put it like this:

Some people appear on the scene when they should disappear, coming forward when they should withdraw; not knowing how to maintain tranquil silence, not knowing how to watch that fullness does not reach overflowing, they sometimes go awry by impetuosity, sometimes go awry by conceit. Heedless of subtle indications appearing, failing to carefully examine changes when they occur, day by day they proceed along the path to misfortune, regret and humiliation, so that the path of humanity is lost.

Who went awry by impetuosity? David Cameron, when he promised his rebels a referendum. Who went awry from conceit? Boris Johnson, whose ambition knows no bounds. These two ‘leaders’ have now put the UK in danger of a recession and the breakup of the kingdom. It would be a farce if it wasn’t a tragedy for everyone who is not rich – ie 99% of the people who will pay in one way or another for the failure of leadership shown by these tin pot politicians.

The I Ching is an ancient Chinese classic that deals with changes. It’s title translates as The Classic of Changes, and it is a tool that assists in the observation and understanding of the anatomy of events. Hexagram 59- Dispersion– deals with a situation like the one we are living through, when things are falling apart. It’s about a time of disorganisation and disorder, when things separate or scatter. What does it tell us to do so that we can survive through the forthcoming chaos?

The hexagram itself represents the elements wind over water. Water represents the deepest part of our body and therefore of our selves, but water also represents danger, as anyone who has lived through a flood or tsunami knows. The wind is something that penetrates into all places and also disperses things to all points of the compass. The strong and deep emotions and thoughts that have been unleashed by the Referendum are all now dispersing widely, reaching more and more people. These emotions are both positive and negative – anger, resentment and selfishness are there, but so is compassion, openness and affection. Which set of emotions will be given power to thrive? In Nazi Germany it was anger and resentment that were encouraged, and look at the disaster that led to. In our day it must be positive emotions of love and companionship, otherwise we are all lost.

We need a leader with wisdom and foresight to help us get out of this chaos and find a stable footing. In a time of revolution, anything becomes possible. New thoughts can be taken up, new ideas tried. We all must know by now that something is wrong with our society and it needs to be fixed. Surely the Leave vote was in part a protest by millions of people against austerity, against a lack of good jobs, against overpriced housing, insufficient school places and fears for the future of the NHS. At heart this is a protest against a ruling elite that is completely indifferent to their lives, that literally couldn’t care less. If we want peace, if we want good lives, and if we want some happiness then it should be clear what is needed. If it’s broken, we’d better fix it or it’s going to get worse. We have to do what is needed, and that means reversing the gross inequality in our society. It is not difficult to do, it just takes political will, but it will be difficult to get everyone on board the project. People will have to be persuaded that this is the only thing that can really save us. And that is why we need a leader who can make that case.

My late teacher Liu Ming wrote this about Hexagram 59:

You are caught in a very vigorous tide of events, but there is no misfortune. Big changes bring no trouble, because the flow of change is a natural (group) event and not the result of personal (selfish) effort.

A miscalculation provides a chance to go forward. In misunderstanding a situation you experience a small loss. This loss creates an opportunity to recalculate and ultimately succeed.

You are rescued from a dangerous situation. A setback becomes an opportunity to establish security and success.

The changes that the I Ching talks about in Hex 59 are not ones we personally make, but huge changes that come at us swiftly and surprisingly and with overwhelming shape and scale – just like a flood. We know that in a flood many of our possessions will be either swept away or rendered unsalvageable. We know there is no option but to go out and get new ones. But first we have to clean up the mess that the flood has left behind. Well, our flood has passed and if we open our eyes we can see the devastation it has left behind. It is now our task to mend things.

What is the best way to resolve dispersal? We find ourselves at a crossroads. To go along the way we have been going- economically and politically – will continue to create inequality and foster anger, resentment and hatred. In this way we will make society worse and encourage all the negative emotions that have been stirred up. The other way is to change how we order our society, to encourage greater equality and to lose the selfishness that has driven our economy and politics. If we do this then the positive emotions that we want to encourage – the fostering of community and solidarity – can lead us to a better society.

It is a matter of acknowledging the truth of the situation, that austerity and capitalism have created an alienated, unhappy and unhealthy population, and the only answer has to be to stop creating more inequality.

Auden in his poem September 1, 1939 said this,

All I have is a voice
To undo the folded lie,
The romantic lie in the brain
Of the sensual man-in-the-street
And the lie of Authority
Whose buildings grope the sky:
There is no such thing as the State
And no one exists alone;
Hunger allows no choice
To the citizen or the police;
We must love one another or die. 

Later in life Auden rejected this poem as being untruthful. But 
reading it now, we can see that he was not only prophetic about 
the devastating horror of the 2nd World War (which started on 
September 1, 1939) but also of the environmental 
crisis that will soon engulf us. 

Remember that Quantum theory says the universe starts 
anew in every instant; another world is possible. 

July 1, 2016 at 3:06 pm Leave a comment

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