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Choose Your Own Adventure on World Book Day 2015

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“Begin at the beginning and go on till you come to the end,” said the King in Alice In Wonderland sequel Through The Looking Glass.

There is nothing quite like the consuming experience of enjoying a good book. The feel of it in your hands, its presence and weight appreciated and cherished. The wondrous smell of the tome, whether brand spanking new or retrieved from a dusty shelf in a second-hand bookshop. The sensation of the textured pages and the quietly pertinent sound as they turn. The way the letters and words form in paragraphs that resemble star-filled galaxies. A book is a delight to behold and tumble into like Alice down the rabbit hole.

From Alice In Wonderland to The Wizard of Oz to Around the World in Eighty Days to Le Petit Prince, Jack Kerouac’s On The Road and Alan Bennett’s A Life Like Other People’s, to Orwell’s Why I Write and Rumi’s poems, and Jean-Dominique Bauby’s The Diving-Bell and The Butterfly – a soul-floodingly beautiful work – books take us on magical trips.

They make us ponder, they inspire us, they thrill us, they haunt us, they articulate our own thoughts and remind us that time is fleeting and the world is small.

Today – Thursday March 5, 2015 – is World Book Day.

Life is a book. You are not the reader, you are the protagonist. Many esoteric traditions posit that the best way to live is to observe your life as if you’re the reader even though you are simultaneously living every sentence, every paragraph, every page and every chapter as the leading player of your own life story. It is that duality of being both fully absorbed in the action – present – with the overriding notion of being distinct from it – non-attachment.

The plot twists and turns, it rises and falls in peaks and troughs, each element informing – as Joseph Campbell put it – the hero’s journey. Without the shade, we cannot know light. In a good book even moments of seeming humdrum serve a greater purpose – to heighten the excitement even more. Oscar Wilde deemed life to be too important to be taken seriously and while the more challenging aspects of our stories may test our patience, if we experience them with grace and humour we’ll emerge victoriously in the end.

Characters come and go – some major, some minor players – but all leave an indelible impression somehow. Some of the players in my life won’t even realise how they affected me but there are so many I am grateful for, if not all, for they have made me who I am now. Interactions with others reflect the self.

How you see yourself is key. If you know and embrace your self – your true being, not your ego-driven persona – then the world around you shines those qualities back to you. If you are a protagonist who expects to see the good, the good will be what you see.

A colourful chalk-written sign on a wall I once saw read: “Our only true mission in life is learning to know and love ourselves.” If we truly appreciate ourselves, we might not be able to understand the whole world and all those in it for that is an abstraction, but we will certainly interact with our own world and the people who inhabit it – the settings and characters on the pages of our books – in a genuine and loving way.

The narrative arc swoops over as what once was the status quo is challenged and either embraced (ideally, for change is the catalyst for growth) or sunk into deeper. That is the choice the protagonist makes – whether to create the life he or she really wants or to accept their ‘lot’.

Ultimately it comes down to trust, belief, in yourself. As the Queen told Alice, you should believe that anything is possible – as long as you know what you want. She said: “Why, sometimes I’ve believed as many as six impossible things before breakfast.”

Life is a book you fill the pages of. You’re down the rabbit hole. It’s spellbinding and exhilarating and is filled with opportunity and promise. Be yourself, be kind, smile always, love unconditionally and have no regrets. There’s no such thing as a wrong choice if you follow your heart. Which route will you take? Where will the latest chapter find you?

* If these words have resonated with you, I urge you to send someone who has made a mark on your life story the gift of a book that means something to you. Anonymously if you like, but with love.

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Lasso the moon

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Whenever a bell rings, an angel has just got their wings.

Yesterday I watched It’s A Wonderful Life, the James Stewart classic. He plays George Bailey, who always dreamed of travelling the world but sidelined his wanderlust to take care of his family and friends in the small town of Bedford Falls. When his guardian angel Clarence shows him what the world would have been like had he never been born, George realises that everything he ever did reverberated in the lives of those around him.

Even though George didn’t fulfil his dreams, his was still a meaningful, a wonderful, life. As his daughter Zuzu reminds him at the end of the film, “Whenever a bell rings, an angel has just got his wings.”

Earlier in the film George tells his gal Mary about how he wants to see the world, then offers to lasso the moon for her.

Later, as he makes one of his first choices to turn away from his ambitions, a phrase on the wall reads: “You can only take with you that which you give away…” like a smile, like kindness, like love.

It’s one of those films I always cry at even though I must have seen it dozens of times, just like E.T.

In Spielberg’s finest, Elliott protects his friend from outer space by evading the authorities and cycling his BMX across the moon to get him back to his spaceship so he can head home.

I cry because I’m sad that George parks his dreams but am inspired by his kindness. I cry because I’m touched by the connection E.T. and Elliott have to say goodbye to but know that he will always be “right here”, in the little boy’s heart.

It’s the winter solstice today which, like these two films, reflect the vestiges of hope inherent in life.

In the Northern Hemisphere December 21 is the shortest day and longest night of the year. At the end of the darkest hours, the light always emerges.

That’s why you should keep following your dreams. How many people give up just before the light comes? What if the greats who lived before had given up when all was dark?

Along the way, if your heart is filled with hope and emanates love and kindness you’ll get back tenfold that which you give away.

So as long as you keep riding your bike across the moon, you’ll surely get your wings. And who knows, one day you may even lasso that orb of night.

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It’s not too much of a leap…

“You may say I’m a dreamer, but I’m not the only one…”

Imagine by John Lennon (9 October 1940 – 8 December 1980)

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IT was a giant leap for mankind when a human footprint was left on the moon on July 20, 1969.

The moon landing is hailed as one of the greatest human achievements in history.

But maybe more so is the ‘overview effect’, a term coined by writer Frank White in 1987 in his book The Overview Effect – Space Exploration and Human Evolution, which refers to the experience many astronauts have had upon observing our planet from space.

In the brilliant documentary The Overview Effect, he said: “Many of the great wisdom traditions of the Earth have pointed to what we’re calling the overview effect. That is to say they had realised this unity, this oneness of all life on Earth.”

Space adventurers see the world with no boundaries, no divisions – only elegance and grace. In space they see a glorious, conscious, breathing organism where every living part contributes to the whole.

Their view of humanity and our world changed when they were in orbit in that they realised with their hearts, minds and souls that Earth is small and vulnerable, a speck in the fabric of the universe.

Astronaut Nicole Stott describes it as “this dynamic, alive place that you see glowing.”

From space, it seems, any human is instantly hit by the beauty and fragility of Earth and in a split second realises how ridiculous conflict is.

It would have been former South African President Nelson Mandela’s 96th birthday on July 18.

When I interviewed his former prison guard Christo Brand for The Times earlier this year he told me how Mandela survived 27 years behind bars thanks to his belief in the good in the world.

Christo also told me: “He would work on his prison garden. He’d always have some daisies or other flowers in his garden… He would say, ‘There’s still life… the flowers still bloom.’”

A friend of mine believes that a way to highlight the absurdity of violence would be for one side to launch flowers to shower the opposing side with, much like the famous Banksy image of the rioter throwing a bunch of blooms.

I reckon everyone who’s ever been into space would probably concur and think an act like that could prove to be the greatest leap ever for mankind.

* If this has resonated with you, please make a donation to a charity that fills your heart with hope for the future.

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Bear thrills

Bear Grylls courtesy of Channel 4 Pictures

Bear Grylls © Channel 4

HE’S an adventurer extraordinaire, a plucky pioneer and a dashing daredevil.

And when I met survival supremo Bear Grylls I found he had the infectious enthusiastic spirit of a fearless and wonder-filled child.

I met him at the launch of his new Channel 4 TV show The Island, which sees men aged from 21 to 70 from all walks of life endure the perils of the wilderness with no food, no water and no technology – as an experiment in whether modern man can cope in the wilds of nature.

He left the 13 men on a remote Pacific island for 28 days to see what would happen but feared they could come a cropper.

He was scared one of them would be dead within 10 minutes after they were stranded without outside help days in a supreme test of their survival skills.

“I was worried about people dying. Genuinely,” Bear, 39, said.

“You let people loose with machetes and it’s like, ‘You almost took your knee off.’ It’s so easy to go like that – boom – and it’s straight through the leg.

“You cut an arterial vein and you’re dead within 10 minutes.”

He continued: “I could’ve found the island they expected which was a beautiful Fijian paradise. But I wanted it to be about the hardship.

“What they got was a swamp – a crocodile, snake and scorpion-infested s***hole.

“It tests what they’re made of. This was an experiment in trying to find some answers about modern man.”

He continued: “Men totally feel emasculated at the moment.

“In olden days it was always clear – they used their speed, their agility and their brains, their resourcefulness and their courage. All that stuff made a man.

“Nowadays we’ve swapped the bow and arrow for the iPhone. It only uses a fraction of what it is to be a man.

“What I wanted to do – and I didn’t know the answer to this – is if you strip man of everything – the microwave, the bed and all of this stuff that we take for granted – when pushed and the bravado’s gone would they crumble or are the skills still somewhere in there?

“In the modern world what is masculinity?”

Bear has tested his manly mettle to the max via paramotoring in the Himalayas to martial arts training with a karate grandmaster in Japan, escapades with the SAS, and, at 23, being one of the youngest climbers to scale Everest.

And Bear – whose eyes glisten with verve – reckons it’s all about your mind… and your heart.

“It’s more important what’s in your head and heart in these kind of situations,” he said.

“The mental battles that these guys went through, I think they’ll agree, were much tougher than their physical ones.”

Bear gave the lads just one day’s survival training before abandoning them.

“They had the clothes on their back, a couple of machetes, a couple of knives, water for a day and that’s about it.”

He said it was important they felt truly isolated and weren’t just playing up for telly, which is why four of the group were embedded camera and sound crew.

“I wanted it to be really authentic. As soon as you put a TV camera in front of someone there’s always that bravado so that’s not a true indicator of what’s really going on inside of people.

“You only get to know people when they’re under pressure and they’re being themselves.

“When you’re vulnerable with people you create a bond. And where’s there’s a bond there’s strength.

“If society started to live like some of these guys, you could totally change the world.”

He added: “It’s an accelerated course in manhood and I hope it’s inspiring and encouraging.”

Meg Hine courtesy of Channel 4 pictures

Meg Hine © Ch4

I received an accelerated course in survival thanks to words of wisdom from Bear and a training session with his close pal Meg Hine – a mountaineer and expedition leader – in the tough terrain of the, erm, Channel 4 garden in the City of Westminster.

She taught me one of the most important things you need in a survival situation – how to create a fire.

Following your instinct is essential. Preparation is key. And it seems being in touch with your feminine side is crucial to thriving.

One of the major elements of her kit is a stash of tampons which, when smeared with Vaseline lip salve, become highly combustible.

She said: “They’re one of the best things for starting a fire. And soldiers carry them in their kits because they’re good for bullet wounds.”

I created a fire from the lady accoutrements and bark I’d peeled off silver birches. I ignited it with flint and a flick of the wrist, then added knife-chopped kindling to get it roaring.

Meg then taught me a vital skill needed in ANY situation – how to brew up a cuppa.

We positioned metal receptacles in the roaring flames, added water – which we’d collect from rain or a nearby stream but which was from the Channel 4 canteen – and then sprinkled in some nutrient-packed leaves.

After that I settled down under the canopy erected between trees to enjoy my wild nettle tea, infused with a smoky aroma and bits of ash from the fire, and became one with my surroundings.

But while Meg and Bear can handle themselves in such solitary situations, they both admit that in the long run, humans are social creatures.

Meg said: “You can go three minutes without air, three days without water, three weeks without food and three months without company. We need other people around us.”

And Bear said of the 13 men on the island: “The thing I really noticed with these guys by the end, above everything, was an incredible respect for each other as human beings.

“They’ve walked in each other’s shoes a little bit and that’s an amazing thing.”

He added: “We need connection.”

Sipping my tea, I mused on metaphysical poet John Donne’s famous words: “No man is an island, entire of itself; every man is a piece of the continent, a part of the main.”

Here are Bear’s top survival tips:

KINDNESS

“What’s the most important quality in a tough, big, butch mountaineer? Kindness. That is not a word we associate with man is it? But it’s incredibly butch to be kind on day 29 when you haven’t eaten for 11 days. That is a man.

“What you really want from the people you are with is that they are kind.

“You want to be a great adventurer in life and in the mountains? It is simple: be kind.”

CHEERFULNESS

“The Royal Marine Commandos with whom I worked a lot in my military days, have the phrase ‘cheerfulness in adversity’ as one of their founding principles and it is a great one to live by.

“It is easy to be cheerful when everything is going like a song, but the real time to be cheerful is when everything is going dead wrong!

“My dad always said: ‘Be the most enthusiastic person you know!’”

INGENUITY

“The key bit of survival kit you possess is your brain.

“What I have always loved about survival is the resourcefulness of it, how you can take a shoelace and a tea bag to make something useful.

“It is ingenuity that can change a situation dramatically.”

FLEXIBILITY

“I try to maintain fitness all of the time really – I consider it part of my job. I train hard most days.

“I also do a lot of yoga which keeps me flexible and bendy for hanging off trees etc. It is functional strength that I am looking to achieve rather than big muscles.”

HARD WORK

“The key to survival is one thing – hard work. Everyone thinks it’s about the bandana around the head, the flexing the muscles, attacking the crocodile – it’s not, it’s about bloody hard work.

“Quietly get up early, be the first to collect the firewood, spend 12 hours trying to light a fire – it’s just hard work.

“The key to success on the island, as well as in life, is just hard graft. The rewards go to the people who work the hardest.”

PERSISTENCE

“I can sum up survival in one quote: ‘When you are going through hell, keep going.’

“We’re all more resilient than we believe.”

BE PREPARED!

Bear is the head of the Scouts whose motto is: ‘Be prepared!’

 

 

 

 

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Childlike spirit

“Every child is an artist, the problem is staying an artist when you grow up.”

– Pablo Picasso (25 October 1881 – 8 April 1973)

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CHILDREN are running around laughing as a street artist creates huge soap bubbles above their heads. They skip out of the way of them or jump up to pop them with smiles etched permanently on their faces. For them nothing else exists but this moment of pure fun.

This was the scene that I watched on the streets of Edinburgh during the Fringe (read my write-up on the world’s biggest arts festival here) this summer.

There was creativity in the air anyway thanks to thousands of writers, actors, comedians, dancers and other performers descending on the city which sits in the middle of rolling hills.

But it was perhaps nowhere more alive than in these children whose hearts were brimming with joy for the fun they were engaged in.

Creativity emanates from children. They truly know how to live.

For them the past and the future do not exist – only the now. They know no fear. They make the best of what they have. Their enthusiasm knows no bounds, nor does their imagination. They are bundles of energy operating on a high frequency. They love unconditionally. They let go. A smile is never usually far away.

When I was a kid I used to love to get on my bike and cycle with friends into the nearby countryside to climb trees and play on rope swings at the side of streams. Pretty much nothing could be finer except perhaps returning home to find butterscotch Angel Delight was for dessert.

So it’s disheartening to hear that large numbers of children in Britain aren’t connected to nature.

A new study by the RSPB found that only 21% of children between eight and 12 are exposed to the outdoors.

The charity’s head of conservation Sue Armstrong-Brow told the BBC that spoilsport adults were dampening children’s natural curiosity and love of nature.

She said: “There is definitely an attitude out there, in some cases, that nature is not perceived as interesting or engaging.

“In some cases it is perceived as a dirty or unsafe thing, and that’s an attitude that won’t help a young person climb a tree.”

She continued: “If we can grow a generation of children that have a connection to nature and do feel a sense of oneness with it, we then have the force for the future that can save nature and stop us living in a world where nature is declining.”

Nature is all about the creative force and it is that force that is inherently powerful in children and should be encouraged.

If that is lost then what hope is there?

For the children dancing in the bubbles in Edinburgh, where the magnificent greenery of Arthur’s Seat rises proudly in the distance, the force of nature is strong.

* If you’ve enjoyed reading this, please spend one day this month immersing yourself in and appreciating nature.

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Coincidence in chaos in the conscious cosmos… The science of synchronicity

“And still, after all this time, the Sun has never said to the Earth,
‘You owe me.’
Look what happens with love like that.
It lights up the sky.”

Believed to be written by Rumi – mystic poet and philosopher (30 September 1207 – 17 December 1273)

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ONE of my earliest memories is looking at the stars through a telescope, shimmering blue, oscillating red. Without being unable to comprehend quite how far away – in distance and years – they were, or indeed exactly what they were, I somehow understood how impressive they were.

I became fascinated by the cosmos and, along with learning the alphabet, one of the first things I knew was all the planets and some of the major constellations.

To this day my idea of perfect romance is heading into the countryside at 3am to watch a meteor shower overhead. Or waking in the early hours to watch the sun rise over the sea. There’s nothing like viewing the  sky.

The cover story of the latest edition of New Scientist magazine concerns the nature of space and time. In the piece, the author Anil Ananthaswamy states: “A light ray always moves at one unit of space per unit of time – in a sense it is n the edge between space and time.”

This is perhaps why many are spellbound by the night sky so much. Maybe the light-emitting stars which dwell at the point between space and time echo the pause between the in and the out breath – which is where eternity and infinity exist.

It’s often said that we are made of stars… and we actually are. All the elements we’re comprised of originated in the stars. The carbon, nitrogen, oxygen and other atoms in our bodies were created in stars over 4.5 billion years ago.

In the 1980s, astronomer Carl Sagan said in his popular American TV series Cosmos: “We are a way for the universe to know itself. Some part of our being knows this is where we came from, we long to return. And we can, because the cosmos is also within us. We’re made of star stuff.”

Ann Druyan, who co-wrote Cosmos with her late husband Sagan, describes the series’ central revelation as being “our oneness with the universe.”

In this sense, we are part of a holographic universe where each component reflects the whole.

StarscopyrightNBrooks2013There’s no doubt we live in a chaotic cosmos marked by constant change and turbulent force. But in all chaos there are patterns to be found – because of the holographic nature of things. If you were to write out a series of seemingly random numbers for the rest of your life there would be various patterns to be found in there. In fact there are mathematically-ordained sequences running through everything. Take the twirling Fibonacci sequence – which is to be found everywhere from sunflowers to our own DNA. It seems that by design, it’s in (our) nature.

In terms of this coincidences can be seen as being connected as two similarities in an ocean of chance, even though they are not two events linked by causes and effects that the world at face value appears to operate on.

The meaning which emerges from two acausal events is known as synchronicity and was coined by psychologist Carl Jung. It’s what he believed proved there was an underlying order to the chaos in the cosmos.

In his book Synchonicity: An Acausal Connecting Principle he details the case of one of his patients who, during a critical moment of therapy, had a dream in which she was given a golden scarab beetle. When she was later relating this to Jung, he heard a gentle tapping at his window and turned round to see a flying insect knocking against the glass.

He said: “I opened the window and caught the creature in the air as it flew in. It was the nearest analogy to a golden scarab one finds in our latitudes, a scarabaeid beetle, the common rose-chafer (Cetonia aurata), which, contrary to its usual habits had evidently felt the urge to get into a dark room at this particular moment.”

I thought of this the other day when I was walking past a hedgerow and spotted a stag beetle on the ground on its back with its legs flailing and unable to right himself. I found two twigs and gently flipped him over onto his feet.

Synchronicity happens to us all. How many times has a song come on the radio that you had been thinking about hours earlier? How often have you been drawn to a book and opened it on a passage that has particular wisdom you were looking for? Or maybe a friend mentioned a classic film in passing that you had only just watched the other day?

The more you notice and even to a certain extent expect these unexpected occurrences – perhaps ‘glitches in the matrix’ – the more they seem to happen. It’s as if your subconscious has turned from red or amber to green.

Many scientists are now coming to believe that synchronicity is further proof of the interconnectedness of everything. In his absorbing book The Holographic Universe Michael Talbot details how many scientists including Nobel Prize winner Niels Bohr, along with Karl Pribram and David Bohm, theorised the universe is a hologram brought into existence in part by the mind (consciousness). The theory goes some way as to unifying disparate occurrences and effects in the world. It would explain things such as synchronicity in that acausal events are linked because everything is – holographically.

For me synchronicity represents hope. Hope is the one thing that mankind cannot live without.

And it is perhaps in the ever-present shining stars that hope resonates out across the universe too.

What would someone think when looking from another vantage point in space back at the “Pale Blue Dot” or “pixel” we call home – Earth?

Use your eyes, heart and soul to study the stars above… to the nth degree from this Pale Blue Dot.

In observing the coincidences, the chaos and the cosmos we truly see our consciousness.

“The universe and the light of the stars come through me.” (Rumi)

* I often use this site to link to good causes. If you’ve been inspired by this post I would ask you to give a book on astronomy to a child – or someone with a childlike spirit – who you know.

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Each step is the way

“As people are walking all the time, in the same spot, a path appears.”

John Locke – Enlightenment philosopher (August 29, 1632 – October 28, 1704)

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IT’S New Year’s Day 2013 and this afternoon I took a walk along tree-lined country lanes through verdant fields in the whipping whistling wind.

A downpour worthy of Gene Kelly’s iconic scene in Singin’ in the Rain had just ceased as I stepped outside and watched the clouds break to reveal an untainted duck egg blue sky.

As I set off I thought of a book a friend recently gave me called The Art of Wandering by Merlin Coverley, which covers the history of walking writers from Plato to Rousseau and William Blake to William Wordsworth.

In it the Danish existentialist philosopher and poet Søren Kierkegaard is quoted as having said: “Every day I walk myself into a state of well-being and walk away from every illness. I have walked myself into my best thoughts, and I know of no thought so burdensome that one cannot walk away from it… Thus if one keeps on walking, everything will be all right.”

Meandering is a method of giving meaning (or order) to madness (or chaos).

Your thoughts emerge then slip away like the clouds you’re walking under.

If the universe is a field of infinite quantum possibilities then the fields offer that too for a notion, an idea or even a paradigm shift can spring into existence when you’re ambling through nature.

It’s as if the combination of freedom and solitude – even if you’re walking with others – in motion charges and changes your cells.

You feel revived, refreshed and renewed even if you’re cold and exhausted.

And things can be viewed in a new light.

The special process involved in walking has been recognised the world over since time began.

From hikes in the beautiful British countryside, to the Aboriginal walkabout, to hikes to the summit of mountains and treks across Antarctica or the countless pilgrimages that have taken place for centuries.

It’s widely believed in these instances that the places people attend have some sort of magical power like Lourdes for example. But I think it’s actually in the journey taken to get there and the hope inherent in that trip that imbues the place with whatever one believes.

Walking, wandering, taking steps; therein lies the magic.

Along the way on my stroll I encountered two Shetland ponies grazing by a stream as the sun broke through the ashen nebula.

It was like a scene from a children’s fantasy adventure like The NeverEnding Story, The Princess Bride or Labyrinth where Sarah ventures into a huge maze to rescue her baby brother encountering weird and wonderful creatures along the way – like Goblin King David Bowie. You can’t beat a bit of Bowie.

Labyrinths are thousands of years old and have been found all over the world. The spiralling cyclical design is Fibonacci-esque – found in the patterns of sunflower heads and the twisting of our own DNA. It’s a symbol for wholeness and connectedness to the holographic universe and the world within.

The labyrinth is a walking meditation with a single winding path weaving its way around from the edge to the centre. The same path is used to return to the outside. There are no tricks, choices or dead ends in a labyrinth (unlike the one in the 1986 film). There are no wrong choices.

It is a symbol for the journey of life we all walk on with its twists and turns on the single path we take.

I consider the words of the Wiseman in Labyrinth who tells Sarah: “The way forward is sometimes the way back. Quite often, young lady, it seems like we’re not getting anywhere when in fact we are.”

The labyrinth loops back on itself over and over. Just as it seems you’re close to the centre it leads you away again.

It reinforces the idea that the journey is key and if you really experience the fullness of the way there, that’s what makes the destination what it is.

It’s in the way there (‘there’ never comes, only the here and now exists) where the threads of yourself are created and weaved together to form the ever-evolving tapestry of yourself.

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On the way back from my amble I noticed a rainbow curving through the heavens and felt glad for the rain that had fallen not long before.

I was invigorated and inspired for the year to come.

If you treat yourself and everyone, everything and every experience with a smile, full heart and kindness then you won’t take a wrong turn.

Each step is the way.

Wishing you an adventurous, laughter-filled and lucky ’13!

“The sum of the whole is this: walk and be happy; walk and be healthy. The best way to lengthen out our days is to walk steadily and with a purpose.”

Charles Dickens – author (February 7, 1812 – June 9, 1870)

* If this prose resonated with you, why not make it one of your missions for 2013 to take part in a fundraising charity walk?

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EXCLUSIVE: “They kept E.T. alive,” says Dee Wallace as classic film turns 30

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ONE of Hollywood’s busiest, most talented and well-known actresses, Dee Wallace has hundreds of film and TV credits to her name.
Brilliant turns in movies such as Cujo, The Howling and The Hills Have Eyes earned her a reputation of being a ‘scream queen’.
Her co-stars have included Harrison Ford, Brian Cox and Malcolm McDowell, as well as Dudley Moore and Julie Andrews in 1979 comedy 10.
On TV she has appeared in everything from Law & Order to My Name Is Earl to the U.S. version of The Office.
But it’s her role as Elliott’s mom in E.T. that cemented Dee’s legendary status forever.
And here in an exclusive interview to mark the 30th anniversary of the classic Steven Spielberg film – which opened in UK cinemas on December 9, 1982 – Dee tells how no one realised E.T. would become the classic it has, how E.T. was kept ‘alive’ in between takes so the young cast could talk to him, why she found her overnight fame hard to handle and how E.T.’s message of love and hope resonates stronger than ever today. 
DEE Wallace’s aura is mesmerising.
Not only is she one of the most famous faces in cinema, but she radiates an innate sense of joy and love.
As a result of her open heart I feel like Elliott – whose encounter with an extraterrestrial is one of the defining moments in movie history.
We speak about metaphysics for while she’s still a working actress Dee is now also a healer. Her latest book is Bright Light: Spiritual Lessons From a Life in Acting.
Later on in our interview she reveals how E.T. – which is unbelievably 30 years old this year – was just supposed to be Spielberg’s “little film”.
“I don’t think any of us realised it would become a classic. It was supposed to be Stephen’s little film,” she said.
“I knew it the minute I read the script, what a special movie this was.
“I knew this was the kind of project that I really wanted to be involved in.”
She continued: “You just really never know what’s going to make a mega-hit. I remember saying to Blake Edwards when we were doing 10, ‘Oh Blake, this is going to be such a big hit,’ and he said, ‘Honey, if we knew what made a hit we’d have a lot more of them.’
“The audience is what decides that. You go in, you do your best and create the best work that you can.
“You hope that the audience embraces it and it certainly has with E.T.
“Would I have thought that we would still be the icon that we are 30 years after the movie was released? Probably not.”
She added: “But yet I remember saying after the opening that this is our generation’s Wizard of Oz.”
In E.T., Dee plays Mary – mum to Elliot (Henry Thomas), Michael (Robert MacNaughton) and Gertie (Drew Barrymore).
And although she was not yet a mum in real life Dee, who was then 33, admits she felt protective over her on-screen brood.
“Absolutely. It was a big family atmosphere. The kids would all play together. We’d hang out together. 
“I really felt very responsible about taking care of Drew on the set and going, ‘Ok Drew, now you know this is a scary scene but we’re just acting.’
“When kids are that young they often can’t distinguish between fantasy and reality.
“For example I went to get Drew right before the scene where we walk in and E.T.’s dying on the table.
“And E.T. was real to her. They kept E.T. ‘alive’ all the time. There was somebody working him because she’d go over and talk to him all the time.
“So I said, ‘Ok, we’re going to go and do this scene now Drew but you know it’s all pretend and he’s acting just like we are.’
“She looked at me and said, ‘I know Dee, do you think I’m stupid?’
“So I picked her up, we walked over to the set, she took one look at him and burst into tears, screaming and said, ‘He’s dying Dee.’
“That’s what I mean. They go back and forth like that. So I was very aware and of course we were all aware of never swearing on set, stuff like that.”
She added: “On most film sets you become a family anyway because you’re in such focused working conditions together for so long. Especially when you’re working with kids.”
When E.T. was released in 1982 it became an instant worldwide hit. It was the highest-grossing film of all time until it was knocked off the top spot by Spielberg’s 1993 film Jurassic Park.
Today, it is the fourth highest-grossing film of all time and a mainstay of Christmas scheduling on British TV.
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But Dee – born Deanna Bowers in Kansas – found the glare of the spotlight difficult and didn’t make the most of her newfound fame.
“I come from a relatively poor family and I had been given a lot of messages about not going too far too fast, never saying you’re good enough, never allowing people to say you’re good – all the things that fame brings with it.
“And so when E.T. came out and it was a major hit and I was an instant star, all those old subconscious messages that I had been given started coming back in and I thought, ‘Oh wow, Deanna you can’t handle this, you better pull yourself back.’ So I did.
“And I really stopped creating myself. I worked for a while but I didn’t work in the way that I probably should have been after E.T.
“I just pulled way back. And when you do that, and we all do that, whenever we get hurt or threatened or we’re in fear – any of that stuff, we are taught to shut our hearts and shut down and protect ourselves.
“In reality, it’s the opposite thing that we should be doing. We should be opening our hearts and going, ‘Ok, I was hurt but I’m not going to stop creating me. I’m going to go and create me some other way, in some other place, with some other person.’”
She added: “Perhaps that’s why this happened to me, so I’d be in a place where I could actually share that with other people and help them look at where they stopped creating themselves.”
Dee has been working as a healer since losing her husband, fellow actor Christopher Stone with whom she has a daughter Gabrielle.
She said Gabrielle, also an actress, inspires her every day “by letting me experience this unconditional love that I have for her.”
Dee was engaged to her soulmate Christopher when the pair worked on The Howling together.
He passed away when she was filming The Frighteners.
She said: “Chris and I were married 18 years, he’s the father of my daughter and he was my soulmate.
“He was my soulmate, my protector, my confidante. He’s the first one that taught me about philosophy and creating your own life.
“We just worked. We were happy when we were together and that was pretty much all the time because we lived together and did a lot of work together.
“It broke my heart when he died and I lost him. It was also terribly devastating to my daughter who wasn’t even seven when we lost him.
“But it was also the beginning of the healing work because I dropped to my knees and said, ‘I don’t want to be angry and in fear any more, I want a way that we can heal ourselves.’ And within seconds I became clairaudient and started getting messages. It just kind of spiraled from there.”
She added: “I wouldn’t be surprised if he was out there orchestrating all of it.”
Dee said the biggest lesson she’s learnt throughout her career is that the most important thing is love.
“My personal philosophy is that there’s only love and wholeness in this world.
“If we have a different perspective it’s because we’ve chosen it.
“In any moment of our life we can choose joy and happiness and an open heart. No matter what happens we have the ability to choose that.
“When you start exercising that right your whole life turns around.”
Dee said that the key was to love yourself unconditionally.
“You have to love yourself. Get up every morning and go, ‘How can I love me more?’ And we’re taught the opposite.
“We’re all pretty much taught that it’s ok if you get the love of yourself from what you do. That this is what I do so you can love me or you can respect me. “But just to love yourself just for the pure choice and joy and experience of loving yourself – we’re never taught that.
“Ergo the problems in the world right now. We don’t know how to love our neighbour because we’ve never learned to love ourselves unconditionally.
“If you can’t acknowledge your magnificence, the universe can’t acknowledge it for you.
“When you know that you are god, and you are – you are the god of you, you are the creating force of you working in co-creation with THE energy, and that’s an important part of it too – working in co-creation.
“But the energy can’t work in co-creation with you until you decide to commit to that.”
Dee aligns herself with E.T.’s central message that the journey home comes from following the heart.
“I think E.T.’s message is very very clear – keep your heart light on.
“Your heart light goes out. If you close your heart down you can’t get back home.
“And where do we always all of us want to be? We want to be in the home, in the freedom and the love that we naturally are.
“We want to live in the balance and peace and harmony that we know is possible.
“But we must keep our heart lights on and live in love.
“A belief system that goes against universal love in any way will not create the life you want.”
She continued: “E.T. is obviously a career highlight because I think when I’m lowered into the ground that’s the theme song I’m sure they’ll be playing.
“But also because it did so much for the world and it’s still doing so much for the world.
“I have a crop of brand new fans that are four, five and six that have just seen it.
“I’m just so proud of being a part of a film that affected the human consciousness as much as E.T. did.”
For now Dee is busy shooting other films and conducting her healing seminars which she is hoping to bring to the UK when she goes to the Edinburgh Festival next year.
Dee is particularly looking forward to coming to the UK because she’s a fan of British drama.
There’s one show she would love to be a part of – Downton Abbey.
“Downton Abbey is one of my favourite shows. I would love to be a part of that creative team. I would just love that.
“It’s so well acted and it’s beautifully shot.
“It’s just class. It’s real class.”
Just like Dee herself.
* For more information on Dee’s healing work and books, visit: iamdeewallace.com

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Wink at the moon

“In one of the stars I shall be living. In one of them I shall be laughing. And so it will be as if all the stars were laughing when you look at the sky at night.”

The Little Prince by pilot and author Antoine de Saint-Exupéry (June 29, 1900 – July 31, 1944)

HE took a giant leap for mankind and proved that anything is possible – even those fantastical things that are out of this world.

The first man to walk on the moon, Neil Armstrong, has passed away at the age of 82.

The American astronaut was 38 on July 20, 1969 when as commander of the Apollo 11 mission he touched down on the Sea of Tranquility.

He then stepped out onto the surface of the moon and declared: “That’s one small step for (a) man, one giant leap for mankind.”

His footprints are still there today, a reminder of the steps and leaps humanity has made in making sense of the universe we inhabit.

The pilot’s adventure to the moon, and that of his cohort Buzz Aldrin, is perhaps the most amazing achievement known to man.

But Neil was a modest man who was uncomfortable with public acclaim. He felt his pioneering trip was one that had symbolically been made by the whole of mankind.

He said: “Looking back, we were really very privileged to live in that thin slice of history where we changed how man looks at himself and what he might become and where he might go.”

Not even the sky’s the limit!

When asked what it was like being on the moon for some two-and-a-half hours, Neil said: “It’s an interesting place to be. I recommend it.”

Neil’s family said: “For those who may ask what they can do to honour Neil, we have a simple request.

“Honour his example of service, accomplishment and modesty, and the next time you walk outside on a clear night and see the moon smiling down at you, think of Neil Armstrong and give him a wink.”

How lucky we are to have such a magnificent viewpoint from our little rock that floats through space.

And what a joy it is to look skyward and consider the wonder and magic of it all.

Adventures are always into the unknown and are made of the stuff of dreams.

But Neil and Buzz, and all the other explorers throughout history from Sir Walter Raleigh to Amelia Earhart to Sir Ranulph Fiennes, have demonstrated that there are no boundaries when the human spirit is in full force.

Neil’s family also said: “While we mourn the loss of a very good man, we also celebrate his remarkable life and hope that it serves as an example to young people around the world to work hard to make their dreams come true, to be willing to explore and push the limits, and to selflessly serve a cause greater than themselves.”

As NASA’s Mars rover Curiosity sends back images from the red planet, perhaps the next landmark will be a human leaving footprints there.

It’s something experts believe will happen in due time, maybe before the end of the century.

But that is only possible thanks to the small steps and giant leaps that have paved the way.

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Jubilant London

“By seeing London, I have seen as much of life as the world can show.”

Samuel Johnson – author (September 18, 1709 – December 13, 1784)


LONDON is electric at the moment.

Maybe it was the brief few days of a heatwave – and by heatwave I mean sunny and over 20 degrees for a couple of days – that has charged the atmosphere with palpable energy but Britain seems Great again.

It appears David Cameron has fixed the country! Nice one Dave. Cheers mate.

There is a definite celebratory air but then we do have a few big things to get our knickers in a twist over this summer such as the Queen’s Diamond Jubilee, the Olympics and best of all the fact that Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom is being shown on an outdoor screen at Somerset House. Pimms o’clock or what?

This weekend the bunting is adorning the country’s buildings and will no doubt also become attached to several drunk chaps who find themselves wrapped around lampposts with small triangles of the Union Jack.

As the Queen marks 60 years of her reign and listens to the likes of all her knights and dames – Sir Paul McCartney, Sir Elton John, Sir Cliff Richard, Dame Shirley Bassey and erm, JLS – in a concert outside Buckingham Palace, scores of Brits will be partying like it’s 1999.

There will be picnics in parks, trestle tables piled sky-high with dry potted meat and cucumber sarnies and pubs filled to bursting with folks making the most of a four-day bank holiday weekend. God bless the Queen.

Not that Brits need an excuse to go down the boozer. If things are good – sink a pint, if things are bad – sink a pint. You can, of course, substitute a pint for a good old cuppa – ideally accompanied by a chocolate Hobnob.

One nibble and a few seconds later the whole packet’s gone.

Most folks I know are staying well away from London during the Olympics. A mass exodus is going on to anywhere but the Big Smoke from July 27 to August 12.

London’s Mayor Boris will love it because he’ll be able to get around on his bike without being harangued or harassed.

My only worry is that visitors will think they’ve spotted one of the Fraggles pedalling around like a lunatic.

The only people who’ll be in London during the Olympics, besides Boris, are the athletes – who’ll be nowhere near the centre – and Americans, as far as I can discern, who love Britain.

We have great music, great comedy, great literature, great history, great architecture, great Press, great greenery, great nights out, great breakfasts, great biscuits, great tea, terrible weather, poor transport services, and constant moaning but, deep down, there is that indomitable spirit.

I’ll hammer home my point by adding hot buttery crumpets, bangers and mash, Marmite, Twirls, and words and phrases like ‘luv’, ‘alright treacle’, ‘me old china’ and ‘flower’ – especially when men use them between themselves as terms of endearment.

Then there’s Bonfire Night, Sunday lunch and James Bond movies on a Sunday afternoon.

And though we’re a small island that is almost three times smaller than the state of Texas, we are home to the oldest football club in the world, we discovered the Periodic Table and the first Briton in space was a woman. We invented the telephone, television and even the World Wide Web.

Apologies, I’m sorry, but Britain really is Great.

And here, in a snapshot of a couple of days in London, are yet more reasons why…

Jay-Z or Jean Michel Jarre?

BRITAIN’S brightest comics are gathered in an underground bunker near Old Street Tube.

It sounds very Keep Calm and Carry On but the only danger afoot here is not getting your pizza delivered at half time.

Not that we’ve ordered pizza – me and my pal will geekily share an egg mayo sarnie during the interval.

Our other two friends though have ordered the pizza from the restaurant upstairs. Oh the joys of living in the 21st century.

This is the City Arts and Music Project and we’re here for the Laughing Boy Comedy Club where comedians from Channel 4’s Stand Up For The Week are trying out their latest material.

There’s the likes of Jon Richardson, Seann Walsh, Josh Widdicombe, Sara Pascoe, Andrew Lawrence and Paul Chowdhry all for the not-so-princely sum of £4. A genuine bargain.

The sarnies we’re eating are a remnant from earlier in the day when I met up with a colleague for a cuppa at a nearby Pret A Manger.

As we were leaving, we were delighted when the manageress asked us if we wanted to take any of the sandwiches “because the charity can’t come today and they’ll all go to waste otherwise”.

In that truly British way we spent about five minutes saying, “Really? Are you sure?” before going for the least extravagant thing on offer. Not for us a hoisin duck wrap or a wild crayfish and rocket bloomer.

There is that apologetic demeanour at work in full glory.

I apologise yet again to the doorman at the comedy club for having to ascend the Bond-like evil subterranean lair to use my phone.

I’m very polite so I don’t rudely use my phone when I’m in the company of friends.

Anyway, I was using my phone to text my friend where we were because the place – being about 100 foot below the streets of London – was somewhat tricky to locate.

Luckily I am naturally good with directions so can impart our whereabouts with ease.

It’s always the folks who have an iPhone who ask you where the train station is.

You’re the one with the piece of satellite communication! Use it!

It seems technology is shrinking intellect. How can you not just know north, south, east and west?

I retreat into Blofeld’s den and settle myself for the show.

The compere Suzi Ruffell is brilliant.

But then, for me, she didn’t have to be.

I don’t know what it is but there’s something about seeing live stand-up comedy with your friends that is hilarious. Even if the comics aren’t funny.

Perhaps they pump laughing gas into these places or maybe it’s just the fact you can always share a giggle with your pals.

If the comedian is funny you laugh together at his or her observations. If they’re not, you guffaw in embarrassment for them or chuckle because you’re reminded of something else.

The comedians on the bill tonight are particular favourites anyway. Then again, I am a big fan of British comedy full stop.

It’s just so… good. And so… funny.

As part of my job I’m lucky to have interviewed and spent time with the likes of David Mitchell, Kayvan Novak, Johnny Vegas, Nicholas Parsons, Kevin Bishop and Robert Powell (think The Detectives not Jesus or Holby City) at various events like the TV BAFTAs, the British Comedy Awards, and the Loaded Laftas.

It’s like being in your very own sitcom, hanging out with these guys.

Like how David Mitchell became Mark Corrigan when accosted by a beautiful blonde lady at the bar.

Despite her advances, he told her: “It just wouldn’t work because, well, you’re you, and I’m… well I’m me.”

Mitchell and Robert Webb’s BAFTA-winning comedy Peep Show is a personal favourite of mine.

It’s sometimes nice to have Mark and Jez on in the background when I’m tidying up or washing the pots. It’s like I’m their third housemate.

One of the most memorable scenes for me is when they go on a double date to the theatre to see a rubbish play.

Mark: “If this was on television, no one would be watching.”

Jez: “Oh God, why aren’t we watching television?”

Mark: “I can’t believe coming here cost more than a film.”

Jez: “I’ve got Heat on DVD at home. We’re watching this, when for less money we could be watching Robert De Niro AND Al Pacino.”

Mark: “I’m going to pretend I am watching Heat.”

Jez: “Ok. Let’s pretend we’re just watching Heat.”

This is a sentiment I’ve had at various events from time to time and Mark and Jez’s Heat tactic is one I use.

I used the Heat tactic when I went to see Jay-Z – or Jay-Zed as I prefer to call him, in a similar way I call Will.I.Am William – and Kanye West at London’s O2.

Obviously these two fellas are very good at what they do and sell millions of records but they’re not exactly my cup of tea. I quite like some of the melodies – mainly because they’ve been nicked from songs I like such as Daft Punk’s Harder, Better, Faster, Stronger – but I’m not such a big fan of the words or the way in which the words are shouted rather than sung.

You may be wondering why I went to see these blokes if they’re not music to my ears.

I went as a guest of my friend along with a load of journalists and PRs and watched from a box right at the back of the arena which had big comfy sofas.

Perfect. I could sit on one of the settees and pretend I was watching De Niro and Pacino at work.

I did wander onto the balcony area though to see the show. And luckily, because of the giant images of the likes of sharks and leopards, I could also pretend I was watching Planet Earth with the true legend that is Sir David Attenborough.

My mind wandered to the privilege I had of meeting this great man and him assuring me that he wouldn’t retire.

It lasted a while but then the noise was too much. Attenborough whispers for goodness sake. He doesn’t, as far as I know, rap.

So then, thanks to the neon light projections and the smattering of electronic samples I pretended I was watching French synthesiser supremo Jean Michel Jarre.

Oxygene Part IV anyone?

The encore went on and on and on. It was the same song done about six times. I’m not just saying that because I’m not an aficionado of the music, it genuinely was just one song on repeat.

Clearly it’s a crowd fave because they went crazy for it.

Mr Zed and Mr West acknowledge this because they shouted out for about 15 minutes, “That s*** cray.”

And just to reiterate the fact, the words kept popping up on the screens.

I was in no doubt they were saying, “That s*** cray.”

Hang on a minute though. How lazy has the world become that we have to shorten a two-syllable word?

I’m later informed by someone more knowledgeable than me that ‘cray’ is not short for crazy but instead refers to the 60s London crime lords the Kray twins.

I don’t know if that’s true but if it is in a way that’s worse because they spelled it with a ‘C’ instead of a ‘K’.

I’m sure Monsieur Jarre wouldn’t have made such a schoolboy error.

Maybe though there’s another explanation.

Perhaps Jay and K had a similar experience to the one I had at Pret and had been offered free sarnies when they nipped in for a brew before one of their gigs.

“Take any of the sandwiches,” the manageress told them.

“Any? Any at all?” Kanye asked.

“Yes, otherwise they’ll just go to waste.”

“Ok, I’ll take the wild crayfish and rocket bloomer. That s*** cray,” said Jay-Z enthusiastically.

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