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A New You Resolution from Cleo

My daughter Cleo posted two messages this week that I thought were very good. One was a kind of New Year resolution, or maybe it should be called a New You resolution because it’s about Cleo’s new feeling of the joy of being, and the potential of what life can become. It’s a mission statement for herself, a prayer for the love that she has for herself and for the world.

The second is a Christmas message, much more poetic and touching than the Queen’s. You could say this the Goddess’ Christmas message. It is touching and beautiful. It is based on a Christian view, but if goes beyond that as it overflows with love for life, and enters you with the truth of her feeling.

 

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December 30, 2017 at 11:20 pm Leave a comment

Is Labour in Danger of Becoming the New Nasty Party? An Open Letter To Jeremy Corbyn

Dear Jeremy

I was pleased that you came out with such a strong statement on sexual abuse and harassment. It was long overdue. But there is another form of harassment – in fact there are three kinds of harassment – that you have not stood up forcefully against. Allowed to continue, this abuse and harassment will turn your party into a nasty party, and you will not get elected as PM.

But before I list them, let me say that I would like to see you become the next PM. I admire the vision enshrined in your manifesto, which is so attractive, clear and understandable. A government that sets out to achieve even a few of those aspirations would be welcome, since change in our society is sorely needed. I watched your annual conference and found it full of positive spirit and energy. This is because you have given people hope after so many years of fear and anxiety.

But there are problems in your party that you need to deal with now. There is a level of vitriol and abuse emanating from the left wing of the Party which if it is allowed to go unchecked will become a hindrance to your aims, and will create the image of a nasty party which will stop you getting elected.

I base my opinion on a number of incidents from the past year. One is the problems is Anti-Semitism, which has not been dealt with adequately. The second is abuse directed at some of your own women MPs by other Labour members and the third is abuse directed at Tory candidates by Labour supporters. Each one of these shows a clear pattern of unpleasant and uncalled for harassment, which is harmful to your cause, and will repel a great number of voters.

The Anti-Semitism problem was poorly addressed by the Chakrabarti report although at conference the party did adopt a new standard to judge Anti-Semitism. This was a positive move, but the missing ingredient was your failure during your speech to take a strong personal stand against Anti-Semitism, and this showed a lack of leadership. To see real leadership in action, look at the response of the US Air Force Academy leader after five black cadets had “Nigger Go Home” scrawled on their doors.

http://www.npr.org/2017/09/30/554698359/air-force-academy-leader-addresses-racist-writing

He told the perpetrators of these hate crimes to go home if they were not able to accept diversity. Not suspension or a dressing down – just get out. Simple and effective. Instead, the Labour conference once more had a messy fringe event in which Jews again felt unwelcome, where some people called for Jews to be expelled from the party, and another speaker declared that Holocaust denial was a legitimate area of debate. Can you imagine the uproar that would ensue if at a Labour event people called for Muslims to be expelled from the party or that denial of slavery was deemed a suitable subject for debate?

Anti-Semitism in the Labour party is not like neo-Nazi right wing race hatred. It is political Anti-Semitism, which emanates from the Israeli-Palestine conflict. The righteous anger that many of your members feel about Israel  can easily morph into an anti-Jewish stance. This is a danger to society as a whole, since anti-semitism is like the canary in the coal mine, it is a precursor to a darker, larger and more pervasive set of hatreds. The only solution to anti-semitism is to fight it decisively and stop it in its tracks.

The second area where there is a toxic atmosphere is the relationship between the wings of your party. In 2016 a number of Labour women MPs wrote you complaining about the abuse levelled at women MPs. Their letter said: “Rape threats, death threats, smashed cars and bricks through windows are disgusting and totally unacceptable in any situation.This is acknowledged by all factions yet the simple words of condemnation offered in response are inadequate. We expect swift and tangible action against those who commit such acts. “

Harassment of Labour MPs, whether female or male, by fellow Labour members is dangerous and divisive. If you want a unified party, you must stop attacks like this.

The third area of concern is electioneering. At the recent general election, a Tory councillor running to be an MP suffered the following abuse from Labour supporters:
She was spat on many times and was abused verbally on the street, called a nazi, scum, and a whore. Her posters were defaced with similar epithets and her campaign headquarters vandalised. Lies about her voting record were published in Labour election literature and had to be withdrawn after breaking electoral law. Canvassers were threatened to the extent that police had to be called out. A canvasser’s car was spray fainted with vile abuse. Momentum members congregated outside the candidates’ home to intimidate her and her family. Voters were afraid to put posters in their windows for fear of retaliation.

These three kinds of harassment in your party are your Achilles Heel. They will cause you to go lame just at the time when you will need all your strength to continue the struggle. You have given people a new sense of hope, and now you must give them a feeling of protection, and by protection I mean security, an essential requirement of a successful state. You need to convince voters that you will fight terrorism, will reduce levels of crime, and create a society that does not live in fear. If your supporters engage in divisive acts of harassment which make people feel a mixture of fear and wariness, you will not succeed. The voters will not trust you; they will be scared.

In the short term this kind of intimidation may win seats, but its success will inevitably lead to an escalation of these kinds of tactics which will become self-defeating. Don’t allow shock troops to flourish. If you allow your party to become the new nasty party you will not be able to unite the country in the way you desire. There are people who will be attracted to this kind of nasty politics, but are they the people you want to attract?

Your aim is to support the many, not the few. But in order to get power, and to have the chance to really support the many, you have to convince them to support you. As long as you do not crack down on all forms of harassment, and show true strong leadership, you will not convince enough of the many to vote for you, even if they are attracted to your ideas.

Kind Regards

Mark Forstater

November 9, 2017 at 12:25 pm Leave a comment

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 ?

 

July 23, 2017 at 5:01 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

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- May: Flourishing

Hexagram 46: Growing Upward

 

Earth over Wood.

Wood grows up from the earth,

An image of flourishing.

In correspondence with this,

The superior person cultivates his virtue,

Accomplishes small things

And evolves to a higher level.

 

Karma is a mysterious path.

May 1st – Mayday- used to be the day created by the workers to celebrate their unity and solidarity. But now that almost all of us are workers (or self employed), we no longer feel there is anything to celebrate. For many of us work has become a drudgery, a form of indentured slavery that we must perform to make money to pay for our daily needs; a kind of curse, without joy, without pleasure, without satisfaction, without meaning. It is rarely performed as an end in itself, but as a means to an end.

The Bhagavad Gita presents a yogic view of work that is radically different than our contemporary view. The yogic view of work is called karma yoga, and is a transforming vision of how to live. If we could follow its teachings we would create a revolution in the way we think of ourselves, our actions, our relationship to others, and to the world, and this would reinvest our lives with deep meaning and purpose. The Gita shows us how to transform work from a mundane and deadening activity to a form of spiritual teaching and inner evolution.

In the Gita Krishna, a God who is the incarnation of the Hindu Trinity – the gods Brahma the creator, Siva the destroyer and Vishnu the preserver – teaches the warrior Arjuna about spiritual duty and the search for spiritual freedom. In this dialogue Krishna makes the clearest statement about karma yoga, the yoga of selfless action,

Do your work, but don’t go looking for any benefits from the results. Don’t be motivated by the fruits of your actions, but you must never become inactive either. Do your work in the peace of Yoga, free from selfish desires, not moved by success or failure. Yoga is evenness of the mind, a peace that is always steady.

Work done for reward is much lower than work done through the Yoga of wisdom. Take refuge in wisdom, because those who are motivated by the rewards of their work are to be pitied. With this wisdom and stillness of mind, we can go beyond good and evil. So practise yoga, for yoga is perfection in action.

Looked at in this way, work can be an evolutionary process by which a human being progresses towards a state of being which is at one with a greater purpose, which we call the divine, or God, or Tao, or the Spirit. This aspect of the divine is not a stranger to us, as it lives within our inmost core as our deepest self, and the aim of yoga is to allow it to emerge and flourish so that it can inform our very consciousness. Karma yoga is a process of spiritual evolution.

Karma yoga calls on us to perform the ordinary activities of life, but to remain detached from their fruits or results. It asks us to concentrate only on the act itself, operating solely in the moment, considering each act as an end in itself, and not motivated by future results.

If a person’s reason is unwavering, and she is free from the desire for the results of action, she is liberated from the limiting aspects of actions performed while being attached to the objects of sense.

The unenlightened do things with attachment to results. The enlightened, however, do things with the same energy but without attachment, and so guide others on the path of selfless action.

The modern view of karma yoga is of selfless action undertaken for the good of others. But this is not the way the ancient Gita sees it. To be truly selfless does not mean to be altruistic, since actions undertaken for ends, even good ends, are still attachments and are less perfect than acts undertaken exclusively for themselves.

Krishna says that the wise, aware that there is no escape from the duties of life, fulfil their duties and submit to their work in a spirit of joy. However mean the work, they do it well, but without attachment or selfish desire. Work undertaken like this can perfect the soul, so the type of work does not really matter. As Swami Satchidananda says,

Once you are free of selfish desire

You work for the joy of it

And all your actions are as play

People worry that if they give up their ego-driven focus of work, nothing will get done. Without desire won’t we just vegetate and stagnate? Krishna explains,

The forces of nature accomplish everything. But when our minds are clouded with ego, we think that we have made things happen. Arjuna, the person who understands the relationship between the forces of Nature and actions, and sees how the forces of Nature work together with other forces of Nature to make things happen, does not become their slave. If we are deluded about these forces of Nature then we become attached to nature’s functions.

It is the forces of Nature (The Three Gunas) that really make things happen, but we delude ourselves into thinking that it is our will that has actually accomplished something, and so our ego and pride inflate, taking us further away from reality.

Once we understand that it is the potent energy of the universe that makes things happen we can stand back and let go, and this letting go allows us to function freely and easily in the world, and through this playful freedom we are able to effect the healthy flourishing of body, mind and spirit.

May 2, 2016 at 12:30 pm Leave a comment

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