Ants and bees – a metaphor

This is an email I received today and I’m putting it on the blog because I like it and what it has to say to all of us. It’s by Madyson Taylor and comes from the Daily Om:

“We can learn a lot from watching ants and bees living in community and working for the greater good.

When we see ants and bees out in the world, we often see just one, but this belies the reality of their situation. More than any other species, ants and bees function as parts of a whole. They cannot and do not survive as individuals; they survive as members of a group, and the group’s survival is the implicit goal of each individual’s life. There is no concept of life outside the group, so even to use the word individual is somewhat misleading. Often, humans, on the other hand, strongly value individuality and often negatively associate ants and bees with a lack of independence. And yet, if we look closer at these amazing creatures, we can learn valuable lessons about how much we can achieve when we band together with others to work for a higher purpose.

Most ants and bees have highly specified roles within their communities, some of which are biologically dictated, and they work within the confines of their roles without complaint, never wishing to be something other than what they are. In this way, they symbolize self-knowledge and humility. They also display selfless service as they work for the common good. In many ways, they are like the individual cells of one body, living and dying as necessary to preserve the integrity of the whole body, not to protect themselves as individuals. In this way, ants personify the ability to see beyond one’s small self to one’s place within the greater whole, and the ability to serve this whole selflessly.

Ants and bees can inspire us to fully own what we have to offer and to put it to use in the pursuit of a goal that will benefit all of humanity, whether it be raising consciousness about the environment, feeding the hungry, or raising a happy child. Each one of us has certain talents we were born with, as well as skills we have acquired. When we apply these gifts, knowing that we are one part of a greater organism working to better the whole world, we honour and implement the wisdom of ants and bees.”

Introducing miracles

Sometimes treatment with acupuncture produces what can only be described as miraculous, to me as well as to the patient who benefits. I am writing here and in the next few blogs about some of my experiences of these. Obviously, the patient is anonymous and where possible, I have been given their permission to write about their experience.
Chinese medicine works according to very simple principles. A person can be cold, or hot, for instance. This is internal, so that it could be said that the body thermostat is set too low, or too high. Or he or she could be damp, very common in this country, being an island surrounded by water. Or dry. Some people are just dry everywhere and it doesn’t make any difference how much water they drink.
Too much heat, as well as simply being too warm all the time; wanting to take some clothing off, or find somewhere cooler to be, can make you feel as if you are “full up”, even before you eat. It can make being in a crowd of people feel oppressive and overwhelming, “phew, get me out of here,” and irritating. Irritation is always present because there is a fire burning inside, too much of a fire and sometimes it builds up to an intensity that produces an explosion – an angry outburst. Everyone wonders – what was that about? – but what it was about is too much fire and fire consumes. It overrides everything else, including wanting to behave in a socially acceptable way, because it is the body letting off steam, literally, like a kettle of water that boils and no-one is turning off the heat. Fire is yang.
It can be more difficult for the person to handle than cold because at least with cold you can put more clothes on or carry a hot water bottle around. But cold is difficult too.
Whereas heat tends to be expansive, as in fire consumes and reaches into the surrounding environment, whatever that may be – people, or the person’s own immediate personal space – cold is restrictive. People who are cold, and I’m talking physical cold here, not emotional cold, tend to be lower in energy, the opposite of expansive. When water freezes it becomes solid and does not move. Unless it is moved by an outside force, it is literally frozen to the spot. The water in a river moves and flows. When the river is frozen the water does not move. It slows down and then it stops. Every person suffering from cold knows that if they get up and move around they will warm up, to an extent, anyway. But they often lack the incentive and enthusiasm to do just what is needed. Enthusiasm is a kind of fire and they don’t have enough fire. The right amount of fire produces warmth and comfort and the motivation to move around and do what has to be done. Cold is yin and contractive.
Damp clogs things up, makes lumps. You can see in your garden, or any piece of earth, what happens when the weather is damp. A clay soil becomes solid and difficult to work with, for example. Damp in a person produces mucus of various kinds, such as catarrh, discharges, arthritis, endometriosis and a tendency towards depression. Damp is difficult to treat because it tends to be caused or exacerbated by the external environment and then it becomes internal, although it can be internal from the beginning. Damp is not fun. If you have damp in your home you need to do something about it, because it will affect you.
So these are examples of inner climate and what it tends to do.
I am going to write about three examples of what I would call miraculous changes brought about through treatment by acupuncture. One of these is to do with the inner climate, the other two are about the meridians themselves. Meridians are channels of energy; channels in the body which carry energy.
This is an introduction. I will post the first example in the next blog. Soon. I hope you will follow.

About humanity

It’s Sunday morning. I thought I would buy a newspaper and catch up on all the awful things that are currently happening around the world, particularly in the Middle East.
I’m not a journalist, I’m not a political commentator, I’m not a historian but I hope I’m a human being. I have a heart and I feel empathy and horror when I see other human beings in distress. And a lot of human beings are in distress. Almost certainly a lot of human beings are in distress of varying degrees all the time. But it seems as if the world stage is fully taken up with human beings in distress, and that includes the other human beings who are causing the distress, having themselves their own particular distress.
It’s ghastly watching or reading the news. I look at the headlines and pick a paper, usually The Independent. Then I open the paper or turn the television on with trepidation; how awful is it going to be? How many people have died or been injured in horrible circumstances? Who is going to their aid? Is anyone going to their aid?
Politicians are not, generally, in the business of humanitarian aid, for all their words to that effect. Politicians are in the business of looking after their own interests. Hence the humanitarian disaster that is Syria goes on, and on. The humanitarian disaster playing out in Gaza, on a smaller scale than Syria, thank God, has been eclipsed (conveniently?) by another humanitarian disaster happening in Iraq. And the Ukraine is in there somewhere too, and Mr Putin… But this time, in Iraq, we see David Cameron and Barack Obama jumping up to denounce this particular disaster and dropping a few bombs, which they hope are strategically placed and then saying to the world and each other, okay, that’s sorted now. Nothing more needed there. How would they feel, I wonder, if they were to spend a few days, or even hours, walking in the shoes of a Yazidi, or a Palestinian, or a Syrian refugee. Or even a few days in the shoes of an ISIS warrior, to have some insight into their particular view of their reality, as in the suggestion of the unknown North American Indian: to paraphrase – you cannot judge a man until you have walked a mile in his shoes.
However, there are a few little lights going on in a few places, in a few people’s hearts. As follows:
Robert Fisk writing in The Independent on 26 July under the heading, “What if it had been 35 Palestinian dead, and 800 Israeli?” goes on to say, within the article, “Impunity is the word that comes to mind…..Because – and this has been creeping up on me for years – we don’t care so much about the Palestinians, do we?”
Jon Snow, reporting on Channel 4 News, from Gaza a couple of weeks ago, and visibly moved by what he was witnessing and reporting on, made a You Tube video expressing his concern and his emotional response to the devastation and destruction he saw. It has now been watched by over a million people.
The Independent on Sunday, 17 August, included an article informing us that the United Nations top humanitarian official in the Middle East “issued an impassioned appeal for a new deal for Gaza to end the ‘collective punishment’ of its 1.8 million inhabitants imposed by Israel’s seven-year blockade of the territory”.
In the same paper the Comment article is by Sir Richard Shirreff, until recently the Deputy Supreme Allied Commander Europe. He expresses his opinion on the “spineless lack of leadership…” and says, about what’s happening in Iraq, “If the right thing must be done, then have the guts to do it, irrespective of focus groups”.
It still comes from the heart and is concerned with what is happening to other human beings, expressing empathy as well as frustration.
News reporting is including emotion, which it must when what is being reported is obviously having a huge emotional impact on the reporter and the readers and viewers. This is a human response to human suffering and distress. We empathise and this is essential because if we do not, then we are lost. Our humanity,that which makes us human, is lost.
It was not always so, and some journalists argue that news reporting should be “straight” so that those receiving the news can make up their own minds. But a report, such as Robert Fisk’s or a video like Jon Snow’s are not necessarily putting forward a point of view which is intended to manipulate or persuade their readers and viewers. They are pointing out and standing up for something that is patently obvious and to ignore it, to not acknowledge it, would be impossible, if not actually morally wrong. They are pointing at suffering. An emotional response is not the same as a point of view.
A few days ago I watched “The Pianist” on television. It is the story of what happened to the Jews in Warsaw in the second world war, told through the eyes of a pianist who escaped the deportations to the concentration camps and somehow survived to tell the tale. I wondered how much the Israeli aggression and bullying comes from repressed anger and humiliation at what happened to them then. A political “peace” and “solution” means nothing and indeed will not work if there is no possible peace, which must include forgiveness, in the hearts of any side in any conflict.
If you start looking, and I have, evidence of emotion, feelings of indignation, empathy, compassion, is there. It takes a change of perspective to see it and it is the only thing we have to give us hope for something better than what we are currently witnessing in so many places – the execution of power over others at any cost.
It is our emotions that make us human, that give us the quality of humanity. Carolyn Myss, an American medical intuitive and writer says this, “Emotions tell the truth. If we open ourselves to feel what others are feeling, we then must either act on that input or consciously act against it, thereby denying our own emotional experience. This is valid both in terms of how we interact within our personal lives and how we interact in the larger, impersonal area of our institutions. Consider that we go to great lengths to keep emotional input out of business, politics, government and other major decision-making institutions. We are, as a whole, not prepared to respond to the emotional input of other people and of the other kingdoms of life.”
This was written in 1999 in “Creation of Health”, co-authored with Dr Norman Shealy. Fifteen years later emotions are creeping in, as above, and personally I think this is good thing. Without them we can never learn to feel compassion and without compassion and forgiveness and hope nothing will change.

Issues old and new

While wondering what to write about in my blog I looked briefly at the news. My goodness, plenty of issues there!
There’s female genital mutilation, abbreviated to FGM, which was the subject, along with forced child marriage, of a conference in London yesterday, the Girl Summit, hosted by our Government and Unicef.
In order to speak about a subject you have to use words and the words pull the mind where it wouldn’t otherwise want to go. Words give a thing a label and it then becomes part of our consciousness. But the mind, or mine anyway, recoils from contemplating something as barbaric, cruel and abusive as mutilated genitals.
It is reported that 125 million women worldwide have been subjected to this. 170,000 of them are in the United Kingdom. The NSPCC set up a helpline a year ago, which has so far received around 300 calls. Nearly 130 of those were passed on to the police or Child Services.
Mothers and grandmothers, who have themselves been mutilated, do it to their daughters and grand-daughters. It’s apparently part of an ancient tradition. Started by whom? And why? Who first had the idea of doing this to a woman in order to disempower and subjugate her at the most basic level? I wonder who the first victim was, how old she was, and why this happened, and continued to happen and still happens. What a power trip for someone.
Malala Yousafzai, the girl who survived being short in the head by the Taliban because she wanted to go to school, spoke at the conference yesterday:
“Traditions are not sent from heaven, they are not sent from God. (It is us) who make cultures. We have the right to change it and we should change it. Those traditions that go against the health of girls, they should be stopped.”
The “health of girls”, mild words indeed, but what a brave girl she is and what a marvellous role model for girls and women everywhere.
Then there’s the MH17 aircraft that was shot down and the chaos and politicking that has ensued and the rhetoric being thrown around, including that from David Cameron, ever anxious to score points and with his eyes on the General Election next year.
In marked contrast, the Dutch Prime Minister gave a speech which was from the heart and focusing absolutely on the human aspect. It’s worth reading, as an example of a leader of a country who is also, and has remained, a human being. It was reported in the Huffington Post. This is the link: http://www.huffingtonpost.co.uk/2014/07/22/speech-un-mh17_n_5609363.html?utm_hp_ref=mostpopular
And a bit of humour. My home page, when I turn on the computer in the morning, is BBC News and I found this while looking around: http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/blogs-trending-28426819
It’s a 3 ½ minute video poking fun at the North Korean leader, Kim Jong-un, made by a Chinese man with 190,000 followers on Weibo, the Chinese equivalent of Twitter, and it’s been watched in China over 55 million times. It’s a lot of fun and worth a look.

It’s turned out to be about yoga!

My blog is taking a new direction. I am an independent woman, but now I know what I’m doing and where I’m going. I’m no longer, at least for a while, asking the question “What shall I do with the rest of my life?”
That’s a good feeling, a comforting feeling. I practise acupuncture and I teach yoga. I trained in both of those many years ago because I discovered them and made a decision that they would work for me and I could work using both of them for a long time, until I dropped.
The teacher of the style I use in yoga now, Vanda Scaravelli, died around 10 years ago, still practising and teaching – she only ever taught one-to-one – at the age of 91. She wrote a book called “Awakening the Spine”, of which I have a copy. There is a picture of her on the back cover, at an advanced age, in sleeping pose. That means she is lying on her back with her feet behind her head, supporting it, and her hands are under her back, supporting her back, with her palms facing down.
images Vanda Scaravelli
What! I will never do that!
But her yoga is not really about getting into contortions like that one. I think she just loved to get into those positions.
I still love both of the subjects I practise – the yoga and the acupuncture.
I would say that the yoga she taught is above all else about freedom of movement; the freedom of the body to move intelligently and as it wishes. You only have to observe any animal for a very short time to witness freedom of movement and the comfort and appropriateness of that, how it is at one with itself, comfortable in its own skin.
Many of us humans have lost that comfortableness. Yoga helps to direct us back to that, listening to our bodies from within as well as being directed from without by the teacher, or ourselves when we practise. I know it has kept me sane in difficult times. It is a discipline and it does take time and commitment but both of those are good for us and benefit us in lots of ways that we couldn’t or wouldn’t initially think of.
I often combine yoga and acupuncture, for instance if someone comes for acupuncture to help with stress, chronic fatigue or back problems it can be very helpful to use a few basic poses, to help with relaxation or to encourage the muscles to let go of tension.
I have practised yoga for 27 years now. When something feels right you keep doing it.
I’m just off to do a class now.

Raw milk and other things

I’ve just started buying unpasteurised milk. I’ve been reading about the health benefits of raw milk and the loss of those benefits when you drink pasteurised milk. Raw milk contains beneficial bacteria and enzymes, including lactase to help digest the milk. When milk is pasteurised these bacteria and enzymes are destroyed. There are lots of websites giving information, and opinions, on the benefits of raw milk and raw milk products. This is one of them http://www.hookandson.co.uk/RawMilk/index.html and also http://www.westonaprice.org which also has a lot of interesting stuff on diet. Weston Price was an American dentist in the 1930s who visited indigenous peoples all over the world to investigate their ways of eating because he found that they had perfect teeth and bone structure and bodies that were in excellent shape generation after generation. They had no degenerative disease and there were no inherited defects. He put together a diet based on eating what he calls traditional foods, using the principles of the diets of primitive peoples i.e. those living apart from so-called civilisation.  

You can look on the Survival International website http://www.survivalinternational.org/ at the photographs of some of the few remaining indigenous people living in this way. It is striking how healthy they look and how beautiful they are. That is, the ones who have not been moved off their lands and on to Government-run reservations. Then they immediately have problems.

In fact, I used to travel 12 miles to a farm, when my children were very young, to buy raw milk. I mostly made yogurt with it, which meant that it was, of course, no longer raw, but it was delicious and the milk had not been processed in any way except by me.

Now I buy milk from Home Farm on the Goodwood Estate just outside Chichester. I’ve seen the cows in the fields and watched them trundling across the track (while I waited!) on their way to the milking shed. So I know they’re pasture (grass) fed and similarly the lambs which generously provide the meat I buy there. It’s worth looking into the issue of meat from grass-fed animals. The balance of the Omega 3 and 6 fats is as it should be because the animals are eating their natural diet. And of course they’re out in fields instead of being shut up in sheds and eating grain, which is not their natural diet and produces an unhealthy imbalance of essential fatty acids, which then gets passed to us if we consume their products. There’s an animal welfare issue there too. The animals obviously have a better time out in the fields and feel better eating their natural diet. They then live the life of an animal, rather than a food production machine.

There is a growing demand for raw milk and other dairy products. Selfridges in London started selling raw milk but then were stopped by the FSA (Food Standards Agency) who are currently considering the issue of raw milk. At the moment it’s only legally available to buy at the farm where it is produced. However, cheese made from unpasteurised milk is generally available in most supermarkets and certainly in specialist shops and delicatessens and some branches of Waitrose have started selling unpasteurised butter. I got some in Chichester. You can get salted or unsalted; it’s made in France, the label is Isigny Ste Mere and the salt is Guerande, which is untreated sea salt. So it’s good stuff and reasonably priced.

All of these are my personal choices. I’m finding out about and choosing what I want and at the same time supporting what I feel to be right. 97% of the food we buy now comes from the supermarkets. That gives them a lot of power to make choices for us. I think the remaining 3%, coming from farm shops, independent butchers, fishmongers etc, probably needs to grow a bit bigger. I use the supermarket because it is convenient but I also shop elsewhere when they haven’t got what I want or I don’t want what they have got. We are defined by the choices we make, in what we eat as much as in anything else. Let’s hang on to the power of choice. It matters. A lot.

Reading books

I read a lot of books. I love books. I have always loved books. At the moment there are easily a dozen books in my living room, in various stages of receiving attention. I have just started learning about astrology so there are several books on that. There’s a book about angels, lent to me by a friend. There are lots of books but not many novels. I don’t read many novels. But the book which is getting most of my attention at the moment is “A Tree Grows In Brooklyn” by Betty Smith, which is a novel.

This is a lovely book so I’m writing about it. I think it was quite well known at one time because I have heard of it before but never read it. It was published in 1943. It’s about the immigrant population in Brooklyn at the beginning of the 19th century, before the First World War, and is really social history made into a novel. It’s written mostly from the point of view of a young girl called Francie Nolan. Her father is Irish and her mother is from somewhere in Eastern Europe. She is a sensitive and intelligent child, also rather isolated and lonely and as she observes the world around her we learn about her life and the lives of her family and the people in the neighbourhood.

Maybe Betty Smith is writing about her own childhood. There is extraordinary detail in the minutiae of ordinary life. There is also an acceptance of how things are – the poverty and harshness of their lives, her father’s alcoholism and feelings of inadequacy coupled with his gentleness and love towards her. Her mother is the one who takes responsibility and who copes, and works, works, works, to keep them all together with a roof over their heads and a minimum amount of food in their stomachs. And it is a minimum; they are often hungry.

We are now more than a hundred years on from that time. There are things that spring out from the pages – the strength of the family unit is one. It’s not clear what the old country they have come from is, but wherever it is they are peasants there and America in any form is an improvement. They see it as a land of opportunity, freedom and, most of all, hope.

A strong sense of loyalty to the community also springs out, especially in comparison to the community that we no longer have today. Also compassion, understanding and gentleness. There is no feeling of hierachy because everyone is struggling, just like the tree in the book title. Everyone has a place, the old as well as the young.

 There are two good second hand bookshops where I live and I got it through one of them. I think the copy I have is a proof-reader’s copy and the pages are slightly ragged, not clean cut as for a bookshop sale. It’s a hardback with small print and it’s very old and it’s a real book. No Kindle for me thank you.

I recommend it. It’s good reading for baby-boomers and for everyone else too. It’s also very salutary: we are having quite tough times but really we should be so grateful for what we have. Most of us have a roof over our heads, food in the fridge (and the fridge itself!) and a comfortable bed to sleep in. Too many people in the world don’t have these basics.

 

How do I feel

I’m a speck of dust

floating in the light

of a sunbeam

shining through the window

 

How do I feel?

I’m one drop of rain

falling on a grey morning

on someone’s umbrella

 

How do I feel?

I’m a child’s breath,

warm and sweet

in the morning,

cuddled in bed

before the day begins

 

How do I feel?

I’m a bead of sweat

on a furrowed brow

anxious, tired, afraid,

alone

 

How do I feel?

I’m a flake of snow

trodden underfoot

on a winter morning

 

How do I feel?

I’m a single cell

in a human body

dying of cancer

 

“It is not half so important to know as to feel”

So said Rachel Carson.

 

Did you know

the most powerful antibiotic

discovered by Alexander Fleming

was in

human tears?