Tag Archives: kindness

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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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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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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