Sunday, 24 July 2011

The Norway Atrocities, Amy Winehouse, Judgement & Compassion


I was going to write a blog about Friday’s horrific bombing and subsequent shooting massacre in  Norway, and the very clear connection with the dysfunctional mind…

… then I heard about Amy Winehouse’s death…

… so I decided I’d write a blog about the Norway atrocities and the passing of Amy Winehouse, and the common link in both tragedies… the dysfunctional mind…

… then I read this, on Twitter:

“91 innocents lost to us - why should I give a damn about a drug addicted singer who couldn't cope with fame and fortune! #perspective”

… a third, though more subtle example of the dysfunctional mind.

I wrote this, last week, in the 2012 & the Awakening Phenomenon blog I posted here:

"You are the key component in the transformation from a violent, greedy, ever-judgemental society, towards a veritable heaven on Earth."

Judgement/prejudgement/prejudice is one of the greatest, most destructive, most abhorrent flaws of our species. It is a virulent psychological disease that has driven the slaughter of millions upon millions of people.

It is an absence of compassion. Compassion is not a discriminatory virtue.

It was judgement and a vacuum of compassion that had Anders Behring Breivik calmly walking around Utoeya island, on Friday, summarily executing scores of children.

Hitler, Osama Bin Laden, Stalin, Pol Pot, Ida Amin… they weren’t some supernatural incarnations of evil in human form… they were human beings, with human minds… subject to the same dysfunction we are all prone to, if left unchecked.

None of these people single-handedly killed the tens of millions they are collectively deemed to be responsible for murdering…

… like a psychic virus, their judgement and lack of compassion spread, rank and file… starting with an influence of hundreds, then thousands, then tens of thousands…

Judgement can begin in one person, or one group of people, and end with millions dead. You only have to look at the history books to see that truth.

Going back to that Twitter comment…

“91 innocents lost to us - why should I give a damn about a drug addicted singer who couldn't cope with fame and fortune! #perspective”

This was similar to many other posts I saw which displayed selective compassion… judgement… hypocrisy…

Amy Winehouse was 27-years-old; a young woman, and from my perspective of being ten years older, just a kid. She was an immensely gifted singer and songwriter – a proper genius with her music – yet haunted by her own mind.

While I don’t know how or why she actually died, it’s clear that she had struggled for many years to find compassion in herself, for herself… and it’s a given that the process of addiction led to and was exacerbated by self-doubt, low self-esteem and real human agony… a shadow-life of self-judgement… critical over-thinking and inner-torture.

She lost the fight.

People that never knew her other than from tabloid news stories - who were probably singing the praises of the fall of the News of the World in the UK, earlier this month, despite getting all their gossip and having their sense of moral superiority inflated by the perpetual judgement spouted by that socially toxic publication and its ilk – are smarming to themselves, saying they saw it coming, and they display absolutely no compassion to a life lost in such tragic circumstances.

When you break down the truly shocking Norway death-toll of 92 (for the confirmed dead… and there are four people missing from Utoeya, and possibly more bodies in unstable, bombed-out buildings in Oslo) you find that they become individual tragedies…

For each life lost, there’s a devastated family with their hearts broken, right now… parents, siblings, grandparents, aunts, uncles, cousins… girlfriends and boyfriends… friends…

How different is their incomprehensible grief to that of Amy Winehouse’s mother and father, waking up this morning and remembering their little girl is dead?


Practice compassion… not judgement…

If you catch yourself judging people, if you say the wrong words, don’t beat yourself up… don’t judge yourself, too… forgive and let go. Learn and return to compassion.

Judgement will always lead us down dark paths, both in the mind and in society, and it spreads like a plague.

Compassion will always lead us to the light, and the more you practice it - the more you display it and make it part of your life - the more people around you will practice it, too.

We have a simple choice that can steer the direction of mankind… to destruction, or to salvation.

Judgement or compassion.

Which do you choose?

Tuesday, 19 July 2011

2012 & The Awakening Phenomenon


It’s important that you read this post slowly and carefully, as it contains vital information about your life. Imagine your voice is being played back in slow motion;  reduce the speed of the movement of your eyes as you look across the page and read every word, and please ensure you absorb the entire post.

The awakening phenomenon is occurring all over the planet.

Irrespective of race, creed, colour and all other demographic labels,  people are letting go of their emotional chains and destructive mental patterns – microcosmic of the symptomatic dysfunction in consciousness of a civilisation that has been corrupted over thousands of years by the will of the few – and are waking up to their true nature, their true potential, their true power and to true life.

This is actually happening.

I know some people reading will be rolling their eyes and thinking I’ve been on the gin, but it’s more than likely you know someone who has gone through the same seemingly impossible shift of consciousness, even if they’re not quite sure what exactly happened, yet.

Ask around…

And then, some of you – quite a lot of you, it seems – will know exactly what I mean, because you’ve either woken up already or have begun that process of awakening.

I’ve received a lot of comments, Tweets and emails on the subject of awakening since applying steam to the work I want to do through my blog, and it seems that at least every other day, I meet someone else who has woken up… and people of all backgrounds; just normal, everyday folk, who have stumbled into what appears to be a miraculous new world.

I’ve also had quite a few emails on the subject of 2012 and the connection to awakenings, and how we should ‘prepare’ ourselves for the events of next year.

For the uninitiated, the advent of 2012 – specifically, Friday 21st December, 2012  - brings with it the end of the time and space… the Universe will cease to be…

… or it could be less widespread, and involve a global cataclysm, bringing about the end of the world…

… or the collapse of civilisation as we know it…

… or we may be liberated from our folly by aliens who will finally reveal themselves to us, disarm all our weapons, cleanse our environment and help us grow up as a species… 

… or we may shift from the third dimension to the fourth, fifth and sixth dimensions – and some bright spark is going to make a fortune from selling special glasses if this particular prophecy comes true.

There are even some people who believe that 2012 will lead to… 2013…

Heretics!

Basically, you can find thousands of different theories and variations of theories on the subject… and obviously not all of them are going to happen, if any at all… so which of the people behind these bold statements are telling the truth, which are exaggerating the possibilities and which – as we say here in England – are talking out of their arses?

I have no idea, to be quite honest, but here’s my take on how to deal with the oncoming whatever of 2012…

Don’t worry about it.

Just put it out of your mind completely, because it’s 2011 at the time of writing this…

Even if you’re reading this in the future, in the actual space-year 2012, don’t let it stress you. The very fact that you’re cozied up, browsing the internet, shows that nothing particularly bad is happening to you at the very moment of reading these words.

I suppose there is a remote possibility that you’re reading this right on 21st December, 2012, and you’re looking out of your penthouse window at the approaching Godzilla, knowing you’re about to die, and you have the urge to write one last comment on my blog, stating - probably with lots of exclamation marks at the end - that I was very, very wrong.

If that’s the case, I’m sorry – but if you’d read my blog earlier than now, you’d have had the foresight to buy a microlight for just such a situation, wouldn’t you? It’s not that you couldn’t have afforded it, what with the cost of that fancy apartment. You’d be up on the roof already, laughing as you crank up the engine and put on your flying goggles.

I digress…

I know that the awakening phenomenon is a truth, because I’ve been lucky enough to experience it first-hand.

I also know that those who haven’t yet experienced it first-hand have no idea whether I’m telling the truth, simply because it sounds so implausible that I could shift from being a ‘lifer depressive’ to being completely at peace, with ancient wisdom spontaneously flooding my head, within the space of an hour.

I love the idea of UFOs appearing all over the planet next year - and I have watched quite a lot of footage on YouTube of some very mysterious sightings - but do I really believe that they’re going to reveal themselves, en-mass?

No…

How could I possibly be 100% sure of that and say yes?

And it’s not that I don’t believe in intelligent life from other planets… in fact, the complete opposite is true – of course there must be. You just have to look up on a clear night and realise how many other stars and galaxies there are out there in the Universe, and of course there’s life out there, with species that have survived and developed for millions and millions of years, compared to the human civilisation which is only about 13,000 years old.

It’s just that when I read messages posted on the Internet (often with shocking grammar) from these so-called ancient masters of the cosmos, announcing that they are about to carry out complete disclosure and uncloaking of the motherships that are already stationed in Earth’s orbit, it all sounds a bit like someone has been on the gin and, with whatever good intent, they’re basically typing out something that other people would love to actually happen and may retweet or like on Facebook.

For me to believe this, it’s really going to be a case of them beaming into my room, looking me in the eye, and saying, either vocally or telepathically: “It’s cool, Les, we’re real and we’re here to save the world!”

Then I’d say: “Ace! But don’t ask me to spread your message to the wider world, because I have a big file at my doctor’s surgery that states I’ve been a bit of a mentalist in the past – so would you go and tell everyone else now, please?”

And I’m totally open to the fact that there may be people who have had direct contact with these beings… whether classed as aliens or angels or whatever else… but the truth is that I haven’t, so it would be wrong of me to make statements to the contrary by passing on information that I can’t verify as fact.

The difference between the awakenings and all these other speculations and predictions is that you already have this same peace and knowledge inside you, and all it will take for you to shift your consciousness is the awareness of that consciousness.

Unless you have some genuine physiological condition that affects your brain functions, it is possible for you to wake up right now.

It’s not possible for you to see a flotilla of alien craft in space right now. It’s not possible for you to witness what may happen on 21st December 2012 right now. It’s not possible for you to be in some alternate dimension right now… I know that because I don’t publish my blog there, yet, though I do have a Google+ account.

You are here, right now…

... now… if you took notice of the first paragraph of this post, you’ll have been reading slow and carefully to this point.

The physical reading of the words and the attention you gave them anchored you into the present moment.

Assuming you did place your full attention on the words… where did those scathing thoughts about that part of your body you’re unhappy with go while you were reading? Or about the bill you were worried about paying? Or the pain of that relationship that never worked out? Or that person who bullied you 20 years ago, at school?

Your mind was silenced by the attention to the moment.

And through that silence, you awakened… however briefly…

This same silence is there when people read books, listen to music, dance, laugh, paint, sculpt, write, surf, skydive, stare out across the beauty of mountain landscapes and make love (not all at the same time, unless you’re some ace multi-tasker).

It’s through freedom from the destructive, repetitive, critical dialogue of the mind that we experience the greatest joys of real life.

And when you disarm the dysfunctional, egoic mind, you simultaneously remove yourself from the dysfunctional collective consciousness that causes the wider horrors in humanity.

At any point during the careful reading of this post did you feel a strong urge to have your country go to war with another nation? Did you have a particular revulsion to homosexuality, people you may have earlier considered were the wrong colour, or a staunch belief that women shouldn’t drive cars or be able to vote?

Present awareness gives you the peace within to force the silence of the mind that allows you to wake up, to experience true consciousness… and that’s why I would say that nobody should be worried about 2012, or any of the possibilities to come, because you have life available to you right now.

To change the world, we must first change within – and this internal change is absolutely possible, as you know, because you’ve just proven to yourself that you can silence your mind and rid yourself of all the destructive mental debris that you may have felt would never allow you to change.

This is more important to you than possible UFO saviours, developing an understanding of crystals and energy balancing, or trying to prepare, emotionally, for a cataclysm.

You are the change.

You are the key component in the transformation from a violent, greedy, ever-judgemental society, towards a veritable heaven on Earth.

And when you’re there, in the moment, at peace, loving your life, you’ll know that all that’s needed to make that change happen across the whole planet is more people just like you.

Saturday, 16 July 2011

Titan Talks!


Whoooooop! I just found this short video inside a musty folder in a dark corner of my computer, close to the chain-sealed files that the photographs of me with a pony-tail live.

Although the image quality isn't very quality, this is my favourite clip of my little guy, Titan - simply because of his excellent meowing performance.

You can also hear me speaking fluent Cat back to him.

This must have been taken six or seven years ago... and he doesn't look a day older. Meanwhile, I've lost all of the hair on my head and occasionally find new ones in my ears.

Lovely Titan.

Friday, 15 July 2011

Introducing... Titan the Ticklepuss!



This is short video featuring my excellent little friend, Titan (aka ‘The Ticklepuss’), who really is the happiest and friendliest cat I’ve ever had the pleasure to encounter, in my life.

There’s a true-life incident, featuring him, elsewhere on my blog, in the ‘The Curious Incident of the Cat in the Daytime’ post, which recounts the time he very nearly had me sectioned under the Mental Health Act. Go have a look, if you haven’t already…

I can’t recall a single time that Titan wasn’t purring: he purrs when you look at him or call his name, as soon as he wakes up, when din-dins is being served, when din-dins is being eaten… in fact, even whenever the phrase din-dins is used; when he’s sitting hopefully at the back door, meowing loudly to go outside, and particularly when the door is open and he can run about the garden, chasing things that only exist in his crazy brain.

He also has the nickname of ‘Pavarotti’, because he enjoys singing so much – and he’s actually very good at it, but his catty renditions of Nessun Dorma aren’t greatly appreciated at 3am, when he’s standing hopefully at the back door, purring, foolishly thinking he’ll actually be let out at that time.

Unfortunately, as lovable as he is, it seems his nemesis is his own brother, Orion – a very lovable, but occasionally very grumpy big ball of black fluff. Although they never hurt each other, they do quite a lot of slow-motion fighting, like some cat version of The Matrix.

Their mother, Scratchy, also doesn’t seem too fond of Titan, as he sniffs her bum a lot… she quickly sees him off with some fast-motion ninja strikes to the face, though.

Despite all this discord, and the fact that they pretend not to get along under the watchful eyes of humans, they are quite often  found all snuggled together in a big lump of fluff, fast asleep.

When Scratchy had her second litter of kittens, I once walked in and found Titan – who was about a year old at the time - lying on the bed with her. He had nudged the mewing kittens out of the way and was securely fastened to one of Scratchy’s titties, purring very loudly indeed. I can clearly recall that the look on Scratchy’s face suggested she was thinking, “Wtf?” and Titan had an expression of rumblement as he looked up at me.

Another thing about Titan is that, when the other two cats call me off the computer and I get on my bed to stroke them, you can guarantee that Titan will be there within 30 seconds, sitting at the foot of the bed. He has incredible intuition when it comes to cats that aren’t him being stroked. I can literally start counting down when I get on the bed, and there will be a dull thump from elsewhere in the house, then his little black ears will appear nearby.

I was there at the moment he was born, and we were friends before then, too, when he was just a bump in Scratchy’s belly.

Wednesday, 13 July 2011

Shiny Mind. Shiny Head. (Video)



I love my life. I go to bed happy, dream happy things, wake up happy and then have a happy time happily carrying out happy tasks, before I repeat that whole happy process the next happy day.

If I could bottle this, I’d happily give it away to everyone in the world – even Rupert Murdoch.

The great thing is, you don’t need that… you already carry the magic formula within you, and you just have to recognise it’s there for it to begin working.

My life has changed so much for the better, but that hasn’t come about from reading a library of books on enlightenment, sitting in a dark room, chin-on-fist, pondering the workings of the Universe, or even through extensive treatment with electro-shock therapy…

… it’s our natural state of being, when we recognise that the things we allow our minds to obsess on and worry about aren’t actually important at all.

Bobby McFerrin was right…

Tuesday, 12 July 2011

My Second Mountain (Video)


I mentioned Grange Fell in The Illusion of Loneliness blog back in May – and this video was taken from one of its three summits… the highest, called Brund Fell, which rises over the Borrowdale Valley, with views north towards Derwentwater, Keswick and Bassenthwaite in the English Lake District.

I climbed this mountain by accident…

Last Autumn, I was living and working at a hotel in Rossthwaite, a small village in Borrowdale, and since there was no Vodafone signal in the valley, my fancy iPhone had become little more than an alarm clock and MP3 player.

I heard tell that there was a great signal up in the hills – though I used to walk up about 800-900ft each day or two, to my meditation point (from where I took the background photograph that’s on both this blog and my Twitter page), and I didn’t get any bars on the phone there…

… so, one day, I decided to head up to the highest part of the hill I could find, and ended up at this spectacular position.

I didn’t realise it had a name, at the time, or that it was so high. At 1363ft, I was almost 90ft closer to space than when I climbed The Steeple, in Lochgoilhead.

And when I got up to the top, my phone started chiming like a bell falling down an escalator, with all the messages and alerts finally able to get through. I even made a few phone calls from up there, not that the people I phoned likely heard more than the sound of the gusting wind.

Here are a few photos, too, which you can click on to see them full size:


Sunday, 10 July 2011

Sheep. Boy. Love.



During one of the long, lazy summers of my youth, while the schools were on their extended break, I worked for a fortnight – along with my older brother - on my godmother’s farm. I think I would have been ten-years-old at the time, and, thinking about it now, I’m not sure that was entirely legal…  or at all safe… but I was young and I needed the money… for sweets.

On hindsight, it was a mostly ghastly job. If I wasn’t scooping up cow poo from the cattle sheds, or choking on the dust from lugging around hay bales, I was putting rubber rings around baby baa-lamb’s scrotums or chopping off their tails with a very sharp knife… at the time reassured that it didn’t hurt them at all, though that seems like complete twaddle as I write this.

There was a lot of death on that farm, but not a lot of care. I remember finding drowned kittens in a water trough, watching crows vaporise from the blast of a shotgun… It didn’t do much for my appreciation of farmers. Ronnie, who ran the place, was the sort of guy who would shoot your dog and not bat an eyelid. Farming was in his blood, though… that’s the life he’d lived, all his life, and as the farm had been passed down through the generations, he knew no different.

One day, Ronnie had us all – my brother and I, and two of my godmother’s boys who we were the best of mates with – jump in the tractor trailer, and he drove us up to one of the fields, telling us there was a lame sheep that he had to take to the vet… which was quite a surprise, because I would have assumed that he’d have preferred to have shot it, while laughing.

When we found her, we could see she was in a state. She must have caught her leg in a barbed wire fence, as the flesh had been ripped quite badly… and while struggling, she’d used her forehead to try to break free, leaving a nasty wound.

Ronnie tied her legs – so she couldn’t leap away, not that she looked as though she was in the condition to do so – and we loaded her into the trailer. Obviously, she was in a lot of pain and agitated, but my brother and I sat beside her and stroked her, giving her as much reassurance as we could offer. Before long, as we drove the few miles to the vet, she had calmed down… her breathing had slowed and she seemed very relaxed when we reached our destination.

We took her down from the trailer and into the vet’s, and – since Ronnie was obviously a very busy man and had things to shoot – headed back to the farm.

A year later…

… I was fishing in a stream in one of the farm’s fields, in a beautiful, mossy glade, far away from roads. It was just the countryside, a few grazing sheep, the sound of birds and me… never any fish. I was a completely rubbish fisherman.

I was just sitting on the bank, whiling the day away, when I was nudged in the back, nearly knocking me into the water.

I turned around and saw a sheep standing there, just looking at me…

… and she had a bald patch on her forehead, where there was a large, healed scar.

She’d remembered me. Those brief moments of care and attention the year previous must never have left her, and when she recognised me, she came over to say hello.

Maybe my brother and I were the first (and perhaps only) human beings who had ever treated her with love, rather than as a cash-crop?

She sat down beside me for a while as I continued not catching fish, then went back to the flock when Ronnie appeared in his tractor on the far side of the field at feeding time.

I never saw her again… but I smile when she crosses  my mind, though that’s tempered with a tinge of sadness, as I’ve never been vegetarian for more than a few months. She was no dumb animal. I saw her in pain, she responded to love, and she remembered me. It seems so callous that I’d still eat her kind, when I know how intelligent they are. It’s time to make another life-change.

Saturday, 9 July 2011

My First Mountain (Video)


Despite having spent a lot of time working in the English Lake District, and having them all around me, I never climbed a mountain until I moved to Lochgoilhead, in the Scottish Highlands, a week or so after my awakening.
The Steeple – standing at 1,279 feet – looms over Loch Goil. Although it’s fair to say it’s not one of the tallest mountains in the Highlands, it looks all the more mighty due to its proximity to the village – basically, once you step off the mountain, you hit civilisation.

I recorded this video (and took the photos) on the second day of my HappyTwoBirthday celebrations, on April 9th, 2010. I’d just been cleared of a cancer scare a few days before, and obviously I was on top of the world… but I went a little higher!

Super Mark, one of the Scout Leaders at the camp I worked in, could run up and down the mountain in about 45 minutes… which is a bit crazy, but he’s mega-fit. It took me around an hour, and it was a pretty hard, steep slog in places…

Getting to the top was very satisfying indeed, and the views were breathtaking, as I’m sure you’ll agree from looking at the photos and watching the video.

Not that I noticed him at the time, but it appears that Darth Vader was standing behind me when I recorded the video clip… how odd!

(Click on the images, below, to see them full size!)



Proof of Yetis (Video)



Men of science and wonder have been searching for the elusive Yetis for hundreds of years, but the best they could come up with was some dodgy footage of a man with hairy arms walking through the woods…

Here, for the first time ever, is conclusive, unarguable evidence that yes… Yetis are real, they’re among us… and they’re breeding.

I took this amazing footage on the slopes of The Steeple, a mountain in Lochgoilhead, in the Western Highlands of Scotland.

Strangely, the local folk didn't talk at all about their Yeti issue - but I expect that's the same sort of insular defence system that the people of Yorkshire fall back on to hide their werewolf problem.

A Baby Yeti - Staring at me...
Yetis... everywhere...

Friday, 8 July 2011

We Might Be Giants


I was out walking the other morning, when I was suddenly transfixed by… a streetlight. 

I’d seen the same one and many just like it countless times before, but this time I stopped and stared at it. It wasn’t because it was shining so brightly it had caught me in its glare like a hypnotised rabbit – in fact nothing to do with the illumination from it at all - but because of its height.

I looked up at it, gauging – in relationship to my own height – that it must have been around ten meters, and I thought: “That’s how tall I must look to a cat.”

I imagined a huge, lumbering humanoid bounding over towards me, saying: “Come here, little human! I just want to give you a kiss and a cuddle.”

I would immediately call the Ministry of Defence and request an airstrike. And they’d send it.

With that sort of difference in size, you’d hardly expect the approaching ogre to be gentle, would you? To be able to pick you up without squeezing the life out of you; to ruffle your hair without accidentally snapping your neck?

No wonder birds fly away. It doesn’t matter how kind a heart you have – I would make a quick getaway, too, if something the size of an office block was approaching.

It should really come as no surprise that kittens let out that very worrying ‘mew’ when they’re picked up and dragged into the sky.

And try to empathise with the fright of a spider when it sees some mountain-sized figure with a cup and a piece of paper chasing after them?

Yet, you watch the average human when they’re playing with their pets, and how delicate and soft their touch is (unless it’s rough and tumble with a dog) or how carefully they hold a bird with a broken wing, or oil in its feathers, in their hands.

In the vast majority, we are a caring, kind, considerate and compassionate species, with an immense appreciation of life.

If we didn’t care, there would be no happily rehomed dogs, no kittens and cats rescued from trees, no mass efforts to save oil-soaked shags* after environmental disasters, or hosing water onto distressed, beached whales, sitting with them and comforting them while waiting for the tide to come back in. There would be stains of former spiders everywhere.

* Shags are goose-sized dark, long-necked birds similar to cormorants. Always gives me a titter, mentioning them. Juvenile. Sorry.

We are giants to these beautiful creatures in more ways than one.

Many times, I’ve heard people say, about their cats or dogs, that these animals show them complete and utter love, without judgement or criticism or any condition attached…

Do you see why this is, though? It’s because we show them complete and utter love, without judgement or criticism or any conditions attached.

If a cat could express itself, vocally, in English, it would probably say something like: “I don’t know why you love me as much as you do, but I love you, too. Now, can I have some din-dins, please?”

Compare a relationship between a human and a human, compared to a human and a pet..?

If, five years ago, your cat had peed on the television and shorted it, you wouldn’t – all that time later – hold it against them, would you?

If your husband or wife did it, you’d probably have divorced, and you’d be telling your friends, up to this day and probably for the rest of your life: “Well, it was the time they peed on the television which stands out as last straw in our marriage.”

If you’d stood on your dog’s paw and it had turned and snapped at you, you wouldn’t say to it, years after: “I can’t believe you did that. I’m never, never going to forgive you.”

Yet, in an argument with a human, perhaps in the heat of the moment, hurtful words are spoken and held on to… rarely forgotten… played over in the mind again and again and again.

So… why do we perpetuate conflict with humans when we let misdemeanours slide so quickly with our pets?

It’s another trick of the mind. We are capable of forgiveness to all, but we selectively hold these things against our  fellow humans, when we would let go of them with animals.

Another thing I realised… a cat lover is a cat lover… a dog lover is a dog lover… a bird lover loves birds. There are many different types, colours and personalities amongst those species, but we generally don’t have a sense of prejudice against a particular colour or breed.

How absurd would it be for some woman to love her ginger pussy ** but have a bitter hatred of grey or black cats? Or for a guy to see his male dog trying to hump another male dog, and being outraged that the pet he used to love was displaying homosexual tendencies, so he abandons the dog in the street or calls for it to be put down?

** Juvenile again. Sorry!

I find it very worrying when people announce that they hate cats, or they hate dogs… it’s a strong sign that they’re of a generally hateful nature, however unconscious that nature is.

We could learn so much from the relationship we have with our pets… in that love is love; it is expressed without demand and without condition. Mistakes are quickly forgiven and we do not judge them by colour or actions, however curious we may find them.

Imagine if all in the human species could treat their fellow humans with such unconditional respect and love?

We’d be living in Nirvana.

And… you know what? It is possible. We could have it today if we all woke up to ourselves.

Tuesday, 5 July 2011

The Time I Had Cancer (Part Two)

'The Melanoma'

If you haven’t read the first part of this blog, you can reach it by clicking here… or here… or even here. But NOT there – really… don’t click there! You’ll regret it!

It’s a very strange thing, being told by a doctor that he suspects you have cancer.

If some random stranger came up in the street and shouted “You have cancer! I can smell the filth in you!” you’d probably take no notice of the information they’re attempting to express to you, most likely running away instead.

But a doctor… you know they’ve trained for years to recognise that sort of thing; their words carry a weight of authority, so that when they tell you they suspect you have cancer, you suspect you have cancer, too.

To say the news was a bolt out of the blue was an understatement…

An hour previous to walking into that surgery for my appointment, I was living the greatest time of my life… I was happier than I’d ever been, I was content in my job, I was filled with such an exquisite sense of inner-peace all of the time, and after decades of allowing myself to be tossed and blown around by the storms in my mind, I had finally reached a point where I could look at my thoughts and find nothing,  absolutely nothing that could hurt me.

Walking back down the road from the doctor’s, I have to say that I was shaken out of that peace… mentally and physically, with tremors in my hands.

It wasn’t that I wanted to sit down somewhere and cry about it… there was a numbness to it all… a feeling that it just wasn’t fair.

I mean, it felt like a rotten trick – after all these years – to be happy, and for that happiness to be slashed away through the news that I could have some sort of terminal illness; that, now I’d found out what real life was about, it could be taken away from me.

Despite the doctor’s advice not to worry, he was working on the assumption that the mark on my toe had only been there for a couple of months, whereas I knew that it had been there for significantly longer.

I don’t know why I didn’t tell him that information. I guess I felt stupid – faced with the prospect of it being cancer – that I hadn’t sought help as soon as it appeared, because of course I would have spoken to someone about it if I’d even had the remotest of a suspicion that it could be life threatening.

So… it wasn’t just the possibility of having cancer that was a concern, but the possibility of having cancer and, through complete ignorance, allowing it the time to spread.

I made my way back to the Scout camp. It was running with a skeleton staff (not literally, which was good, because that would have made things even scarier) and there was only one person covering the kitchen that day… a young chef named Nicky.

I was still in a state of shock when I asked if I could talk to him. I supposed I felt the need to talk to someone, but, on hindsight, Nicky probably wasn’t the best option and he confirmed that by bursting out laughing when I told him the news from the doctor.

He said: “I am really, really not the person to talk to about this.”

I’d reached that conclusion already.

I know there was no malice in his reaction… that it was probably a nervous thing… but there was nobody else around and that left me feeling a little lost.

I went back to my room, sat on my bed and tried to take it all in.

I didn’t have my computer up there at the time, so I couldn’t even get on Twitter or Facebook to post a status update: Les is now in a relationship… with cancer.

I couldn’t phone my Mother about it as I didn’t want to worry her. She had turned 71 a month earlier and wasn’t in the greatest of health herself, so I didn’t want to be telling her that her ‘baby boy’ might have something terminal.

My ex long-term girlfriend,  a wonderful soul from Sweden who I was still good friends with, had lost both her grandmother and, more recently, her father to cancer, so as much as I wanted to phone her up and talk to her, I didn’t want to upset her.

Bizarrely, the greatest comfort came from a BBC TV ‘celebrity’ who I’d befriended on Twitter not long before, but she’s always been a woman of few words… she offered me positive affirmations when actually what I could have done with was a hug and someone to talk with, not listen to, but she was appreciated.

I still believed in loneliness then, and, thus, I felt lonely.

I spent the evening up at Scout Rock…

The smile had turned into a frown; my brow was furrowed. The awakening occurred just over a month earlier, catalysing a time of pure joy, but there I was again, contemplating the dark possibilities.

I wondered, was it all over, so soon? Was this the descent back to how it was before?

Something was different, though…

I knew that if I’d been given that same talk by the doctor two months earlier, I’d have been a complete wreck. I’d have quit my job and headed back home, back to the comfort zone of feeling sorry for myself and having people around me who would feed me sympathy. I’d have entered a state of limbo and allowed my mind to torture me with all the possibilities ahead, and it would have burned me until I found out exactly what was wrong.

Instead, I was just a bit low… but I think it’s fair to be ‘just a bit low’ after a doctor tells you that you may have cancer.

I sat, watching the clouds drift by, staring at the mountains and the tide turning on the loch. It was wondrous. There was a bat darting around as dusk fell, running a circuit that brought it to just a few feet above my head.

I noticed that the memory of the day slipped in and out of thoughts. When I was absorbed with just watching the world, there was peace, but then I’d bounce back into thinking, and that’s where the mind’s discord began again and I’d follow the fear.

Then it hit me…

What exactly had changed between waking up that morning, happy, and then me being there, sitting on that rock, being worried and unhappy?

If I did have cancer, then at most there would be a few extra nasty cells in my body, but I didn’t feel any different… I hadn’t suddenly developed cancer pain and my hair hadn’t spontaneously fallen out (though it looked like it had, sadly).

The only discernible difference came from processing the information I’d picked up from the doctor, which I’d allowed to become a source of great discomfort… in my mind.

Yet, when my mind was silenced by the sensory overload of witnessing and being a part of the breathtaking scenery around me, there was no discomfort. There was no fear whatsoever.

Since the awakening and moving up to Lochgoilhead, I had been using the mantra ‘My reality!’ I’d say it when I was on the mountain, or standing by the loch, or sitting in my room in the staff-block… it was an affirmation of the present moment… of being alive and feeling happy.

I smiled and said it again, in the indigo dusk.

“My reality!”

Nothing had changed that day. I was as alive as I was when I woke that morning.

Even if I did have cancer, I was alive right then… so why would I waste my time fearing a possible grim future when I had all that life available to me in that moment?

This was before I’d ever heard of Eckhart Tolle, ‘The Power of Now’ or present awareness, and there I was, sitting on the mountain, practicing the lessons in a multi-million-selling book which I wouldn’t read until seven months later.

I woke up that day at peace and happy… and I went to bed that night at peace and happy.

The next morning, with a new group of kids due in, there were three of us in the kitchen – myself and two chefs, Nicky and Gillian.

Gillian was a big lezza, as she described herself, and such a lovely woman. She’d run up and hug me for no reason at all, so was much more supportive than Nicky hadn’t been the day before. Her mother had died from breast cancer, so she knew a lot about the process from referral to treatment and was giving me nuggets of very useful info on the whole procedure.

What she didn’t give me was sympathy, but she didn’t give it in a much more positive way than when Nicky hadn’t given it. She made me laugh instead of allowing myself to slip into feeling sorry for myself… and despite the revelation of the night before, there were those moments where I’d frown and think too much.

We always had music playing in the kitchen outside service times, and Bob Marley was the first song of the morning…

Gillian came up to me, with a smile on her face,  and said: “Bob Marley died of cancer. I think he died of toe cancer, too. Spooky, eh?”

Nicky started roaring with laughter, but I laughed too… probably calling them a bunch of bastards, and rightly so.

The next song was Fields of Gold, by Eva Cassidy – who died of cancer.

Gillian was practically crying with hysterics when that came on. I wondered if they’d both conspired to make a ‘died of cancer’ playlist on the iPod, but she assured me – after reciting the Twilight Zone theme – that it was just a coincidence.

The cancer jokes were thick and fast after that (and in the days ahead)… it may sound a little grim, but they were so helpful in keeping my spirits up. I laughed a lot, and laughing is an excellent reminder that you’re alive.

I received the letter from the hospital a few days later, confirming the appointment with the dermatologist, and I have to admit that my hands started shaking again when I read it.

The letter from the hospital...

Although I was generally doing pretty good, there were times when the possibilities hit me like a freight train… really shook me…

I had aches and pains in my back and sides… some quite brutal headaches from time to time, and I wondered – especially after reading up about that particular flavour of melanoma, and that there are often no symptoms until it is well advanced – if it had spread around the rest of my system.

Was the rapid weight loss really down to exercise, or was something more sinister causing it?

I was 35-years-old… I’d hoped, even though I’d left it late, that I’d find someone to settle down with and maybe have children one day.

It dawned that there was a chance I’d never experience being a father… or a husband… or even fall in love again… that I could be bones in the ground the same time next year.

I didn’t have the ‘skills’ I have now… so even with a positive mind set, those darker possibilities crept in. I’d shoo them away, but they’d keep coming back.

Then, sometimes I’d think that I was crazy even considering I had cancer… that there was no real proof except for what the doctor had said, and that he was wrong… but then I’d flip round and realise that he’s a doctor, and wouldn’t have told me that for the fun of it. He must have had real cause for concern.

The letter from the hospital was looked at too many times. It was unreal, but I’d keep reading it just to check that I hadn’t imagined the situation.

The pattern of gliding and crashing repeated over that intervening period, though the crashes were never really more than a bump on the ground before I pulled myself skyward again.

There was no prolonged terror… just the sudden realisation, now and again, that I didn’t know what was happening inside me, and I wouldn’t know until I got to that hospital and saw the dermatologist… and then there was another stretch of time after that, from biopsy to test results.

But… on the whole, I was filled with a determination to live, simply by living and enjoying my life. I increased my walking routine and would go up to Scout Rock two or three times per day. I enjoyed the company of my new friends… went to the pub a few times per week and shared the laughter, there.

Despite the possibilities, and apart from those moments I hit the ground, I was happy… and I’d never been so happy before in my life.

The morning of the appointment came… I wanted it out of the way… and it was snowing when I looked out of the window.

Mike, my boss at work, had offered to drive me to Alexandria, where the hospital lived, but when I went in to see him, he shook his head and said the pass had been closed. Delivery drivers had been forced to turn back… basically, nobody was getting in or out that day.

It was the mountains…

… and it was particularly shitty timing by Frosty the Snowman, who I’d previously had a lot of respect for.

So… I had to rearrange the appointment and was given a new time, a week later… which meant another week of having to fight that fear of the unknown…

I’d say that time felt longer than the two weeks, previous, because there was the added stress of wondering whether there’d be a fresh snowfall which would block the pass again – and also because I didn’t know what was going on inside my body. I could picture the docs telling me: “Well, if we’d caught it a week earlier…”

But I trudged on… sometimes creaking… the cancer jokes weren’t as fun anymore…

The day came, again – this time, no snow. It was two days before my 36th birthday.

Mike had a busy morning in the kitchen, but he told me he knew the route and the time it would take, so there was no chance of me missing the appointment. I was getting a little nervous as the clock ticked on, but then we were on our way.

I kept looking at the clock as we were travelling, thinking that I’ll know what’s happening in a couple of hours… that I could plan my next move… if it was cancer, then at least I’d know it was cancer.

Just outside Alexandria, we hit a traffic jam, and I started to get a very bad feeling that I was going to miss my timeslot and have to rearrange again. We inched through the traffic for hours, even though it was only 15 minutes or so in real-world time…

Half a beard later, we got there. Mike pulled up outside and said he was going to park up and have a ‘power nap’ in the car while I saw the consultant, so I wandered around to locate the right part of the building and spoke to the receptionist. I was a couple of minutes late, but she assured me it wasn’t a problem, which was a huge relief.

A while later, after staring at daytime TV, I was summoned by a woman with a big smile, who led me up a corridor, into a treatment room.

Her small talk was ace and she put me at ease straight away, directing me to sit up on a bed and take my shoe and sock off.

I watched her face as she frowned, looking closely at the mark on my toe.

“I don’t think this is pigment,” she said.

I didn’t have a clue what that meant.

She grabbed a scalpel and took a sliver of skin away… then another…

“No, it’s not pigment.”

I still didn’t have a clue what that meant, until she looked up and smiled.

“You haven’t got anything to worry about, here,” she said.

Whoooo-hoooooo!

Gosh, I’ve got happy tears in my eyes just writing that down.

The relief was… something else. It was almost (but – really – not) worth thinking I had cancer, to find out I didn’t have cancer.

I grinned the bigliest I’d ever grinned as she explained that it was likely a haemorrhage – that I must have burst a tiny vein in my toe and, because the skin is so thick, it had settled underneath the layers, turning that shade of dark brown, which looks almost exactly like a melanoma. She couldn’t tell for sure until she cut the skin away. If it had been ‘pigment’ it would have gone through to the flesh.

All clear!

Marriage, children, happiness, peace… life… all back on! Decades suddenly stretching ahead of me again, rather than months…

It was a beautiful moment.

I was on a high for the rest of the week, despite getting back to the camp and being told by everyone that I’d just been attention seeking for the past three weeks by pretending I had cancer.

It was definitely one of my greatest birthdays, too… and very good to know that – unless I got cancer or something – it wasn’t going to be my last.

In fact, it was so good, that I had another birthday the day after, so the 8th and 9th of April are now my Happy TwoBirthdays.

Summing up… though I’m obviously delighted to report that I never actually had cancer, physically; on a psychological level, I went through the same process as someone who didn’t get such a fortunate diagnosis… and I’d say that highlights just how much agony the mind can put us through – pulling us out of real life and into that realm of over-thinking… of focussing on the worst possible scenario, rather than waiting until all of the information is in and then coming up with a positive action plan on how to deal with it.

When you’re sick, the last thing you need is your own mind turning against you.

There are so many inspiring stories of bravery from people who didn’t get the good news. As much as I can emphasise with that period of suspicion to diagnosis, I can’t relate to the knowledge that… yes it is cancer. I don’t ever want to know what it’s like, either.

But one thing seems clear… when that bad news is absorbed, the light of life so often shines the brightest it ever has in these people. They realise that, though time is short, they are still alive and they will squeeze every last drop of joy from that life while they can.

We’re here to live…

… don’t wait until your time is running out to realise that.

Life is right here, right now.

“With all its sham, drudgery, and broken dreams,
it is still a beautiful world.
Be cheerful. Strive to be happy.” 
- Max Ehrmann, ‘Desiderata’

Taken later in the afternoon, after returning from the hospital with an 'all clear'. :-)