Receiving Darshan

16178453_1099920833467393_8797991161239728001_oParamahamsa Sri Swami Vishwananda

Last week, I was gifted the opportunity to receive darshan from Paramahamsa Sri Swami Vishwananda, a new experience for me, unexpected, as I have recently expressed my reservations about the spiritual integrity of  called modern ‘masters’ and I have no particular interest in eastern philosophy groups, although I do try to live by the buddhist principles in my day-to-day life.

The event I attended in Manchester was extremely well attended and slickly but very subtly choreographed. The atmosphere in the room was charged by singing, chanting of mantras and clapping, which got louder and faster as the time for the ‘master’ to join us got nearer. I loved it, but as a professional who has organised events in the past, I know good marketing when I see it.

However, I maintained an open mind, as I can honestly say I have never met such a healthy looking, joyful and affectionate group of people for a long time. The event was free, with donation envelopes discretely contained within a glossy brochure you were given on entry. You were asked for a donation if you could afford it. There were about 500 people there that night so I reckon they netted between £2-5k based on what I and people around me put in the envelope. Not a lot really to cover the costs of the evening.

Things got very interesting for me. I felt the master arrive in the building, goosebumps and the hairs on the back of my neck standing up told me there was a big uplift in spiritual energy taking place. I had not expected this, but my friend, who was sat facing the door of an ante-room, confirmed that I was correct in my feeling. About half an hour later, his devotees, who were mostly sat at my feet rose almost as one an turned towards the door. I don’t know if it was choreographed or not, but the love and joy on their faces and through their body language was clear to see. The song changed and the energy in the room suddenly sky rocketed.

When the man himself entered the room, he was laughing, singing and clapping with the crowd, his eyes sparkling. He took the time to acknowledge people he knew with a word, or a touch or a hug.  The only words I can find to describe what happened as he passed through the room to an elegantly dressed raised dais was that his energy felt like a caress. I can honestly say that in almost 20 years of spiritual journeying, I have never experienced anything like it before.

From the dais there was a bit of a stage show with kneeling women and flower petals on his feet, he spoke about love for a short while and then it was time for darshan. Because I use a walking stick, I was gently directed to the front of two queues of people all waiting on their knees to see him. I was not asked to kneel, one of the things that I noticed throughout the whole event was the extra loving attention paid to the families with children and elderly people in the room.

When it was my turn I stood before him, as instructed, not touching him, but close enough that he could put his hand on my head and look into my eyes (I was relieved of my glasses by a helper). The healing energy flowing from his hand was cool, like a refreshing shower. His eyes, which earlier were sparkling and full of laughter were deep and grave. I can only liken them to some of the paintings of Christ, so full of love and wisdom. Unexpectedly, he leaned forward and smiled. Then he spoke to me about my spiritual work, leaving me with a lingering question: How did he know? Only one person in that room of 500 people knew me and he had never met the master. I was just a random person in a big queue. I had tears of joy as I returned to my seat. Why? Another question that still lingers.

Did I meet the divine incarnate as is claimed? I am leaving that one open. His message is one of love – love yourself, give and share love with others freely, change the world by love. After observing him for an hour, I have no doubt that he is a master of healing and perhaps a gifted psychic, who is on a loving spiritual path. He did not speak to most people, but when he did, they beamed with joy or with had tears like me.

He had a bad cold that night. The room was freezing. I was well wrapped up with thermals beneath winter clothing, but his devotees in their colourful eastern clothing were shivering. By the time I left, his condition had deteriorated and to be honest, he needed to be tucked up in a warm bed, but I had no doubt he would have continued with the darshan until everyone had received it. My message to him as a fellow healer would be that you need to take care of physical self as well as your spiritual self.

Am I going to become a convert, a devotee? I doubt it. My path so far has been the path of the fool, but I remain open to the universe and what it requires of me. I have been reading eastern philosophy and most certainly will re-read the ‘Autobiography of a Yogi’ which has graced my book shelf for several years now – a gift from the friend who told me about the darshan. As they say. God moves in mysterious ways.

This is a man, apparently not accepted in India, as they say he is too young to be divine incarnate, something usually only achieved after a lifetime of profound study and devotion. I am not sure about that either, but he is touching the lives of thousands of people all over the world with love and helping them to develop an awareness of the divine within and that can not be a bad thing.

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Useful sites about trees

A guide to tree preservation procedures

https://www.gov.uk/government/uploads/system/uploads/attachment_data/file/244528/2127793.pdf

Tree Preservation Orders and trees in conservation areas

https://www.gov.uk/guidance/tree-preservation-orders-and-trees-in-conservation-areas

Campaign in your community

http://www.woodlandtrust.org.uk/get-involved/campaign-with-us/in-your-community/

Becoming a Community Guardian in Greater Manchester

http://www.manchester.gov.uk/downloads/download/5210/community_guardians-essential_documents

Heritage Trees

http://heritagetrees.org.uk/

The Tree Register – with a unique database of over 200,000 of our most notable Trees

http://www.treeregister.org/

Ancient Tree Inventory

http://www.woodlandtrust.org.uk/visiting-woods/ancient-tree-hunt/?utm_source=%2fancient-tree-forum&utm_medium=furl

Woodland Management

http://www.lowimpact.org/lowimpact-topic/trees-woodlands-timber/#.VvaCFKFrhBY.facebook

Governance of community forests and woodlands in Great Britain

http://www.forestry.gov.uk/fr/INFD-7TSD7E

Trees for Life

http://treesforlife.org.uk/work/

Information about the Caledonian Forest ecosystem.

http://treesforlife.org.uk/forest/forest-ecology/

The Druidic Tree Site

http://www.spiritsofthetrees.uk/

The Sacred Grove Planting Project

http://www.druidry.org/events-projects/sacred-grove-planting-programme

Tree Care info: Finding an aborist

http://www.tree-care.info/cms/index.php?section=44

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Is Anybody Listening?

Is anybody listening?

We cannot go back and fix the planet

100 months have been and gone

It’s only getting worse

More smog

More rain

More drought

More wind

Is there anybody listening?

Less bees

Less trees

Less soil

Less air

Is anybody listening?

No this

No that

NO AIR?

NO US

Is there anybody listening?

This time it’s not the survival of the fittest

It’s survival of the one percent

The bad, the liars and the greedy

Are writing the script

For future life on earth

The rest of you are not listening

HAS ANYBODY HEARD??

 

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Kicking the bucket back!

14054150_1071693506212151_6188641893629370659_nLet’s get real about the older generations and yes, I have put it in the plural for a very good reason. My mother is still driving at 85. My Aunt of 97 has recently popped over from Canada for a short visit. We have a 34 year age span. My friend of 86 is still working for a community farm in despite two or three brushes with cancer. I could give you several more examples from personal experience, so let’s get some of the myths about frail old pensioners dispelled shall we?

The media are fuelling what I suspect is a Tory backed campaign to turn myth to reality in people’s’ minds in that old people are going to be an increasing burden because of our increasing numbers. I am now one of the ‘younger oldies’, absolutely fed up with magazines aimed at my age group that are full of adverts for stair lifts and electric scooters. So I went looking for some actual facts about old people in the UK today…and figures are wonderful things to play with – but then most of you younger people don’t know that.

2011 Census: Those aged 65 and over accounted for 16 per cent (10.4 million) of the population of the UK. By mid-2039 the raw figures show a different pattern and yes the numbers over 65 grow – but not in the way we are being led to believe.

2018: There will be 12.3 million aged over 65 – source Office for National Statistics and the lower level age for receipt of pensions  increases from there on in.

Tax:

The over 65s’ share of UK’s income tax payments was 11 per cent for the tax year 2012/13, or £17.5billion of the £157billion total income tax paid, according to Prudential’s analysis

  • So… approximately 10.4% of the population all aged over 65 paid 11% of the tax bill for the whole country. 

 

Pensions:

British pensioners pay on average £3,258 a year in income tax (but the figure could rise as the new pension freedom rules start to have an impact), a new study suggests 

The new state pension from 2016 is £8,092pa. So after deducting the tax revenue generated by taxing pensions, a shortfall of £4834 per pensioner has to be found from the NI monies that have been paid in by an individual over 39 years.(4834/39 = £123pa to be paid back for every year worked).

Life expectancy over 65

Men who reach 65 can look forward to another 19 years, while women can expect another 21 (but there are regional variations) says Public Health England.

Given this life expectancy (39 years paid in/20 average years paid out) means only £61.50pa of monies paid in is actually paid back for every year worked.

  • So… the UK national NI fund is net contributing only about £61.50pa per pensioner towards the state pensions of the over 65’s.

In 2018, given the figures above, that will be £7.56bn pa (12.3m X 61.5), rather less than the (12.3m x 8092) £99.5billion that might be assumed from raw data.

The overall cost of replacing Britain’s Trident nuclear weapons system would be £167bn  (that’s 22 years worth of pensions payments)

  • So the lesson is… figures can provide a lot of smokescreens – there are lots of anomalies buried in the figures that are not all easily found or explained and I have not even tackled the social care bills in this essay, but currently:

853,615 old age pensioners currently receive essential care that allows them to live independently (less than 10%)

The proportion of the population aged 65 and over who were living in communal establishments  declined to 337,000 in 2011 and … The resident care home population is ageing: people aged 85 and over represented 59.2% of the older care home population

2013: Residential care homes were more profitable, at 31.3% of total income, compared with 27.4% for nursing homes

At the end of 2015: research by wealth manager Killik & Co and think-tank the CEBR found that the average annual cost of a nursing home has risen by 3.8 per cent over the past year alone to £39,300, while the cost for a residential home has increased by 2.4 per cent to £29,300. 

  • So I propose that the reason older people are now being billed as ‘becoming a burden’, is that (2011) Barely 10% of total care provision remains in state hands and the private care sector needs ‘growth’ for its shareholder investors. Diverting pensioner wealth and government pension provision into residential social care funding is the only way that can be done – in the short-term at least.

and todays headlines? = https://www.theguardian.com/society/2016/nov/26/nhs-elderly-care-close-to-collapse  – a crisis deliberately created by those with vested interests in private ownership of the care system?

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Joint the quiet revolution: 10 first ethical steps for low income households to help defeat the establishment and protect the planet & yourself

images

  1. Switch your gas and electric away from the big six – go green

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Big_Six_Energy_Suppliers_(UK)

  1. Read the news online – from more than one source – stop picking up the free papers

http://educateinspirechange.org/alternative-news/great-britain-owned-run-5-billionaires/

  1. Get a basic bank account that has no charges and does not let you overdraw

http://www.which.co.uk/money/banking/bank-accounts/guides/best-bank-accounts/best-basic-bank-accounts

  1. Recycle absolutely everything you can and harass your council to do more

http://www.sita.co.uk/waste-as-a-resource/recycling-in-the-uk

  1. Buy second-hand from local not national charity shops

http://www.charitychoice.co.uk/charity-reports

  1. Walk in preference to any other form of transport – even public transport is internationally owned

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/FirstGroup

  1. Learn to cook fresh food – stop buying stuff in packets and jars – 10 companies control most of the products you buy

http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2012/04/27/consumer-brands-owned-ten-companies-graphic_n_1458812.html

  1. Buy British – stop using the pound shops – for example Poundland now owned by South African Company Steinhoff

http://www.steinhoffinternational.com/02-our-group.php

  1. Shop local – use the markets and local traders

https://www.theguardian.com/money/2013/dec/06/shop-locally-small-business-saturday-seven-reasons

  1. Use the library to learn more and keep information free to all

http://www.voicesforthelibrary.org.uk/campaigns/10-things-you-need-to-know-about-library-closurescampaigns/

 

 

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The authenticity of spiritual practitioners

 

healing-photo

Before I write, I will lay my credentials on the table:

I started my training as a spiritual healer in 1999 under the watchful eye of an elder of the Christian Spiritualist Centre in British Columbia. I continued it here in the UK. First with the Corinthian Church from 2000, with the Lancashire and District healers and finally with the National Federation of Spiritual Healers. All in all, I probably did over 2/300 hours of hands on training plus studying the appropriate texts.  I did a healing apprenticeship if you like, over a five-year period during which time I worked as a volunteer in healing centres across Lancashire, alongside dozens of other healers of varying degrees of experience. I also undertook some Shamanic training in the Norse tradition and became a practising dowser. Ten years down the line, I trained to Reike Master level and discovered that I could read the cards as a means of counselling those in need of help. I became aware of angels as I studied comparative religion at degree level and found an affinity with the basics of buddhist philosophy, although I am not a practitioner of any religion.

Let me tell you up front. None of the above taught me how to heal or how to be psychic.

What they did teach me were the skills I needed to develop my gifts and to use them to help other people in a safe, respectful and professional manner: Self control, empathy, discretion, a grounded attitude to the energies flowing through me and the knowledge that I was only the channel for, not the originator of, whatever the person in front of me was experiencing. That what I was experiencing was only my interpretation of reality, not what others could or should be experiencing.

Given my interest in the Universe as a co-creative healing partner,  I now prefer to call myself a natural healer. Keeping it simple. The three core values that I aspire to are honesty, integrity and love. Values that today are needed more than ever as we deal with the confused society around us.

So with all this behind me, I am confident enough now, some 17 years down the line, to speak out about what seems to be the rapid growth in what I call ‘spiritual inauthenticity’ this last year or two. Something I fear will only increase as people look to find answers in the midst of the current chaos of Brexit and Trump.

Politics aside, what has got me worked up enough to write this blog is the recent emergence of self appointed ‘western masters’ of spiritual practice who offer ‘personal transformation’ at very high cost. Some of them are people who I knew when they were just ‘Joe Bloggs’ only a few years back on the spiritual path. They now offer ‘transformational’ activities that I would really like the trading standards people to start looking at more closely. In my world view, they are not ‘masters’, they are ‘experiencers’ on a spiritual path with the rest of us (but with less transparency). They remind me of the American religious channels, all shout but no substance. At a time when connectivity with all of our own kind and the planet is the key to our very survival, their way is not the only way, despite the slick marketing.

I would say truthfully that all that can be done for the person wanting to follow a spiritual path is to hold for them a space that can support them into their own learning. That holding takes more time and effort than a course or a workshop can offer. Spiritual transformation is personal development and no-one can give it to you in a couple of hours, or in a weekend or even on a retreat. You have to do the hard work yourself and it is a forever thing.  There is no fast track to success, no matter whatever beguiling theory or spiritual practice that anyone tries to sell you. It is the journey that matters, not the outcome.

I live in hope (literally in Hope Street) and hope is ‘that beautiful place between the way things were and the way things are  yet to be’ (source anonymous) and I believe the time has now arrived when all of us who are aware of our spiritual gifts are beholden to help others do the same.

Such interactions should probably no longer include money changing hands and if we are to be authentic practitioners, we must now expect other methods of being rewarded for giving of ourselves. Of course we will still need to have money coming in to pay the bills as long as we continue to live in a consumer based society, but my experience over the last few years is that non-monetary exchanges are already becoming the norm, in many alternative fields of endeavour.

Willingly putting myself in the flow of such abundance, by giving so much of it away, has more than been matched by a sufficiency of funds to keep a roof over my head and food on the table. In addition, I have gained an unexpected richness to my life that is increasingly important to me as I gently slide into my retirement years.

How wonderful would it be if  the ‘western masters’ remembered that it is act of the giving that fuels their own spiritual development and personal prosperity.?

 

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I am Human?

blackely-new-forest

Last week I went to watch the film ‘Human’ put out by Paradigm Screenings. The film was a montage of people’s stories sandwiched between glorious aerial cinematic photography of the planet. I thoroughly enjoyed it.

The stories centred around the universal human themes such love, life & death, happiness, dreams for the future. They were told from the point of view of the poor, the dispossessed, the bereaved and brought to mind a recent Guardian article about the missing voice of the working class.

Following on from the film, there was an audience discussion led by a panel of academics and whilst it was clear that the stories had touched many people deeply, I realised that I had experienced a different film from everyone else. Most of the discussion was about the anthropological and political aspects of the film and the intent of the filmmaker (Yann Arthus- Bertrand). It was, to my ears, a dry, academic and analytical discourse…

and I wondered am I not human?

I had sat spellbound at the sight of ancient deserts and salt lakes, huge river basins and the sheer destructive power of wild water as it tumbled down rock faces and across the ocean floor. I had seen a portrayal of the insignificance of the human condition in the face of the breathtaking magnificence of planet Earth, seemingly filmed from the point of view of a soaring eagle.  All of this, for me at least, dwarfed into insignificance both the scenes of human activity despoiling all that it touched and the moving individual stories that were told by means of headshots direct to the camera.

It was the very insignificance of mankind on the planet that the film brought home. How our lives means so very little when framed by the bigger picture. I came away thinking about Anastasia and her philosophy that we are here to co-create. That we alone as a resident species have the power to make the Earth even more beautiful than it already is.

For me the film showed how badly wrong we are getting this. For me the message of the film was that the planet can survive without mankind, but that we are so wrapped up in the experiences of our brief lives, that we have forgotten how we depend on it for our very existence. That the ongoing relationship between us and our home planet will only work if we nurture its abundance and respect it awesome powers.

(The photograph above of a tree spirit apparently in great pain was taken in Blakely New Forest in Manchester by myself. I did give healing to the tree at the time)
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