Think For Yourself

© RCM Sheep and a Trampoline, Combremont-le-Grand, Vaud, Switzerland

I heard that a lot at school.

“Think for yourself.”

It took me years to realize that thinking for yourself is the last thing that people want, that society as a whole wants.

In fact, it’s actively discouraged.

Even in school or at university, there are actually very strict rules in place, and you have to follow those rules if you want to get the highest grades. If you write a paper for an English class, for example, no one gives a fig for your opinion. You have to refer to every Tom, Dick or Harry’s thoughts about the novel you read, synthesise their viewpoints acceptably and then: bingo! Good grade.

Silly me. I actually thought that when people said, “Think for yourself,” they meant just that.

But what people actually mean by thinking for yourself is “observe the rules and play the game.” These are the people consistently lauded by the majority of citizens.

Not that I’m complaining. Thinking for yourself makes life at once simpler, richer and more complicated. I wouldn’t want it any other way. But I do get exasperated by the double-talk.

Example: be very careful when your boss asks you what you think at work.

Does (s)he really want to know what you think or does (s)he simply want confirmation of her/his ideas?

In my experience, there are very few people in positions of responsibility who really want to hear what you think. They can’t handle it. If your viewpoint diverges from theirs, they see it as a coup d’état.

I would go further. As long as a relationship is power-based, there can be no real communication.

I have been living in Switzerland for over thirty years now and I’m often asked if I miss England, the land of my birth.

I usually state the obvious – that if I really missed England, I would be living there and not in Switzerland.

If I’m pressed for details, I go on to explain that life in the UK is complicated on a relationship level.

Why is that?

At that point, I explain that it is impossible to have genuine communication between a person who says what he thinks and a person who says what he thinks you want to hear.

Believe me when I say that the person who truly says what he thinks is in a very tiny minority.

Most people don’t know what they think. They respond to how those around them behave. Not unlike sheep.

Take tattoos, for example. Goodness only knows why this has become such a fad in recent years, but I bet that a huge majority of people got a tattoo because someone in their entourage got one.

Beards. Another sudden craze. Did you grow one because it suits you or because everyone else started growing them?

BAAH!

So much for thinking for yourself.

“To thine own self be true,” as Polonius put it.

Difficult to do if you don’t know who you are.

So start by identifying the voices.

You know, the ones in your head.

Now which ones really belong to you?

By sorting out what belongs to you and what doesn’t: parental voices, voices of friends or not-so friends, co-workers….

Remove the clutter and then you can think for yourself.

It doesn’t matter if you got a tattoo or grew a beard or whatever crowd pleasing activity you may have indulged in, as long as you acknowledge that you were following the crowd and not yourself.

Only by checking those voices, those impulses on a regular basis can you eliminate what does not belong to you and find your way back to yourself.

If thinking for yourself is what you really want to do….

Have a great week and may your life never become an endurance test.

Love

Richard

Breakfast with a butterfly, Zakynthos.

Synthetic Medicine

Photo: Myriam Zilles/Unsplash

It always half angers and half amuses me when people talk about “traditional medicine.”  

Traditional medicine in its true sense is what our ancestors practised for thousands of years using animals, trees, plants and roots and their extracts.

There’s nothing traditional about the popping of pills manufactured by huge multinational pharmaceutical companies that our current health system is based on and encourages.

Let’s be clear about this.  

When doctors, the press and people in general talk about traditional medicine, they really mean synthetic medicine.  For without the process of chemical synthesis, those huge pharmaceutical companies cannot register and protect a drug and make the exorbitant profits that they do.

You cannot put a trademark on something that exists in nature already.

Once you realise this, you can’t look at the current health system in the same way.  It’s not based on what is best for the patient.  It is based quite simply on making money.

There is a clear conflict of interest here.

How many times has your doctor suggested that you take a natural remedy and not a synthetic pill?  Probably none.

And why is that?

Because doctors are actively encouraged by pharmaceutical companies to prescribe their products.  In some instances they are even bribed to do so.  Doctors may receive a significant financial kickback when they prescribe a course of chemotherapy drugs, for example.

A natural remedy is often much cheaper and has fewer or no side effects.

Everybody is always complaining about the rising costs of health insurance and expenses.

So why not do something about it and use natural remedies instead of synthetic ones?

May your life never become an endurance test!

Love

Richard

Mental Clutter

Newhaven, UK Photo:©RCM

Does your mind look something like this?

Well, here’s an exercise for the beginning of this year.

Write down all the recurrent thoughts that you have.

Doesn’t matter what they are about. Just write them down.

I mean the thoughts that keep on coming back over and over and have done for some time.

*

Let me give you an example.

A long time ago, I bought 10 coupons to go for a sauna at a local fitness gymn. There were 2 coupons left about five years ago.

Now I often drive through the village where the fitness gymn is situated and I’ve often thought that it was high time that I used up the last coupons.

But then I realised that I’d misplaced the coupons.

Now the thought became two:

“I really must find those coupons.”

“We really must use them up.”

More complicated.

I even looked for them once or twice without success.

I don’t know how many times I thought to myself that I must find those coupons or that I must use them up, but quite a few.

Finally, in November a friend came to visit.

As part of a general cleanup in preparation for his visit, I cleared off the piano in the living room.

Amongst the clutter, I came at last upon the coupons.

That got rid of one thought. Now we just had to use the coupons.

A couple of weeks ago, we finally got around to using them.

Great, I thought to myself. One less thing I have to think about.

Does this all sound familiar?

*

Physical clutter is easier to distinguish because it is physical. Mental and emotional clutter is more insidious and more difficult to eradicate.

Now I’m not suggesting a miracle cure for these thoughts that keep coming back to haunt us. You won’t get rid of them all in five minutes.

But I suggest you take a quiet moment to yourself to write down as many of them as possible.

Choose one that you can do something about.

Then do it.

That will be one less piece of clutter floating around in your mind.

Then try to do something about another one. And so on.

Don’t try to do everything at once. Just choose one at a time.

I guarantee you will feel better and you will have a little more space in your mental house to move around. Maybe even to think about things that you really want to.

*

Of course, if you’ve hung on to the thought for long enough, this isn’t quite the end of the process. It will leave a trace.

Now I drive through the village and think:

‘Thank God I found those coupons and used them up!’

Which is still a thought which doesn’t need to be there.

But at least it’s a positive one.

And eventually, I’ll be able to drive though the village and only think that occasionally or not at all.

It does, however, underline the importance of getting started.

The quicker you get on to these thoughts and resolve them, the quicker you can move on.

And the shorter the trace time.

*

I hope that 2019 brings you excellent health and your heart’s desires (as long as that hurts no one else!)

May your life never become an endurance test!

Love

Richard


The Tea Chest

When I was a kid, I went on holiday with my family once and we stayed at a place in the West Country, UK.

The owner told us a story about a woman he knew who’d been a missionary in China all her life and had just come back to England. He was bemoaning the fact that all her possessions for shipment had fitted into a tea chest. He thought that it was incredibly sad that she had worked all her life with so little to show for it and my parents agreed.

‘Just one tea chest of things, after a lifetime of work,’ he kept saying.

I was perhaps about fourteen at the time, but this story has stuck in my mind over the years, probably because I wasn’t sure whether I agreed with the others about this even at the time.

There was something about the discipline involved in not collecting stuff or in making the choice to throw a lot of it away that rather impressed me.

I’ve got to say that I’m a work in progress where hoarding is concerned. My wife would certainly say that I’m a hoarder.

But I think I know the limitations of possessions pretty well.

One of my favourite self-quotes is, ‘More is not necessarily better,’ and that applies to everything but especially to music, I’ve found.

It’s amazing how the desire to embellish and vary can kill the emotion.

In architecture too.

But there are some possessions I’d rather not be without and maybe one should start from that end and work backwards.

My Petrof, for example, even if I don’t play it nearly enough at the moment.

What possessions would you rather not be without?

All good wishes for the Christmas season and for 2019.

May your life never become an endurance test….

Love

Richard

P.S.  I must give credit where due.  I was reminded of this story while reading a short post by Derek Sivers entitled Subtract.  Well worth the read!

Of Spaces and Objects

Anyone who watched Hsieh Su-Wei playing in the Autralian Open Tennis Championships at the beginning of the year shouldn’t find it in the least surprising that she knocked out the world number one Simona Halep at the Wimbledon championships.

What distinguishes her play from virtually any other tennis player on the circuit is that her tennis is not based on brute force but on intelligence.

She hits the ball where the other player isn’t.

To understand the importance of this, it is perhaps interesting to reflect a little on the way we perceive things.

Way back when we were hunter gatherers, I imagine that our main visual concern was objects, and in particular objects that moved. A space would not have been threatening. A moving animal might well have been. Or a source of food. Hence our vision historically more attuned to moving objects than still ones and our lack of concern over spaces.

Have you ever been behind a driver on the road who brakes every time there is a vehicle coming in the opposite direction ? This is particularly flagrant with a large vehicle like a lorry or a bus. The driver in this case is concentrating on the object rather than the space available, which is usually more than sufficient. If the driver was concentrating on the space on the road ahead, he would not even be braking.

The same thing happens when a vehicle slows down to turn right (left if you are in the UK). 99% of the time, the car behind will slow right down as well. The left side of the road may be completely clear and overtaking the car no problem at all, but the car stays behind the car turning off until the road is completely clear. No end of time is wasted because of this. Again, the driver behind is concentrating on the object and not the space available.

Now, I’m not an expert in tennis. But in the last couple of years, I have watched quite a lot of highlights of matches on YouTube. I don’t have a TV and life is too short to sit through two and three hour matches most of the time anyway.

But through watching these highlights, one thing becomes clear.

The person who usually wins the point is the one who gets the opponent to run. And this involves hitting the ball where the other person isn’t.

Which brings us back to Hsieh Su-Wei.

If I was coaching a female tennis player, I would look very closely at those matches in the Australian Open. As things stand, there are far too many women trying to play tennis like men. There’s a lot of bashing away from the baseline, hitting directly to the opponent, with no real strategy at work at all. It may have something to do with the fact that the majority of tennis coaches for women seem to be men. I don’t know.

But from my point of view, any repetitive rally back and forth hitting the ball as hard as possible to the other player is a pure waste of energy on the part of both players. Sure, one or other of the players will eventually make a mistake, but it’s a very energy inefficient way of winning a point. The error rate is usually too low for this to be a viable « strategy. » They are professional players, after all.

Hsieh Su-Wei doesn’t play tennis like a man. She is not a power player. She uses her intelligence, varies her shots and exploits spaces. Watching her play is a pure delight. She usually breaks a baseline power rally very quickly, after a couple of shots.

Some players have immense presence on court. Serena Williams, for example.

Remember that driver who kept braking every time he saw a truck coming the other way.

I see her opponents behaving in exactly the same way. It’s as if all they see is the tennis player – their respect or awe prevents them from seeing and exploiting the spaces.

Serena Williams is a very fit player indeed. But she isn’t the best mover about the court. And the times when people beat her are the times when they really get her to run about.

And it’s strange because afterwards, those same players who managed to beat her by using the spaces don’t seem to understand why they won and the next time, there they are bashing away at her from the baseline again and dumbfounded because it doesn’t work.

No one can trade power strokes from the baseline better than Serena Williams. The outcome is a foregone conclusion.

All this to underline the importance of watching spaces, even if our vision is more drawn to objects.

Have a great week.

And may your life never become an endurance test.

My Left Shoe

The famous shoe….

On a trip to Porto in the North of Portugal last month, I made the mistake of trying to go for a swim in the sea.

The Atlantic waves hit the shore there with terrific force. After all, there’s nothing between there and the East coast of America to stop them.

Now I’m a strong swimmer and trips to the seaside never go by without my swimming in the sea. But in this case, I must admit I hesitated.

I stood and watched the waves for some time on this particular afternoon. The sea seemed calmer than it had for a couple of days.

I chose my moment and launched myself forward.

I never got to swim.

The waves threw me about a bit and knocked me down unceremoniously.

It felt like a betrayal considering my privileged relationship with water.

I crawled out as best I could, but not before the sea had swallowed my left shoe.

An outrage!

Now this was my favourite pair of shoes.

I can walk, run, swim, do virtually anything in my Vivo Barefoot Ultras and they’re as light as anything. I think it’s great to be able to wash them easily too.

I wear them all the time.

I can’t tell you how disappointed I was to lose one.

A man who was walking his dog on the beach looked rather concerned as I emerged from the water. He talked to me in rapid Portuguese, which I don’t speak, and he didn’t speak any English.

I managed to communicate that I had lost a shoe.

And he managed to communicate, as our attempts at conversation continued, with some additional drawing in the sand thrown in, that I should return between 9 and 10 the following morning because that was when the waves would be at their strongest and that I should look on the shore to the north of the point where I had lost it.

The Beach….

So we did.

I can’t say that we really believed we would find it. The chances seemed very slim.

It was raining as we progressed along the beach and my wife and I walked for a while, inspecting jetsam brought in by the sea.

But suddenly, at a distance and in front of a group of rocks, I spied my shoe.

It was sitting proudly upright on the sand as if held out on the outstretched palm of the ocean.

There wasn’t even any sand in it.

I was overjoyed as you can imagine. It really made my day to be reunited with my shoe.

A lesson in humility and hope.

Have a great Ascension weekend.

Love

Richard


P.S. I saw the man later on the same day, so I was able to thank him properly for his help.

P.P.S. Associate Links!

Midnight Positivity Ritual

Unusual Cloud
© R Morgan

I know I’ve talked about thankfulness before, but I think it’s worth reminding you about it again.

Here’s a little video from Mindvalley with a twist that you might find useful:

The ‘Midnight Positivity Ritual’ – How To Make Gratitude Your Default Setting | Dr. Srikumar Rao

I must admit that I don’t actually do this myself before I go to bed.

But I do first thing in the morning and during the day whenever I can.

I can’t stress this enough:

Being thankful is probably the most important habit to get into if you want to develop a positive mindset.

You may think you’ve got nothing to be thankful for, but if you sit down for a moment, I’m sure you can come up with something.

And then something else.

And then….

And then….

And just being thankful once in a blue moon isn’t good enough. You need to make it a habit.

‘We are what we repeatedly do,’ as Aristotle said.

And it’s not enough to think thankful, you’ve got to feel it, as the good doctor in the video says.

You may start without much enthusiasm, but that will come if you keep it up.

And you may wonder to whom you should say that you’re thankful.

It can be God, the Force, Father Christmas, your life compagnon, your pet or even just yourself.

Just do it.

It will force you to look outwards rather than inwards.

It will put all your troubles into perspective.

And I guarantee you’ll feel happier about yourself and your life and those around you will be happier with you too.

Here’s the video link again:

The ‘Midnight Positivity Ritual’ – How To Make Gratitude Your Default Setting | Dr. Srikumar Rao

Have a great weekend.

May you life never become an endurance test!

Love

Richard

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Talking in the Same Room

In a cabin on a ferry crossing the Channel

For the first seven years of our life together, my wife and I shared a one room studio apartment with a tiny kitchen and a bathroom.

There was a magnificent white cherry tree outside the window and a view over pasture that has now, unfortunately, been heavily built upon.

We didn’t have a great deal of money.

Fast forward to now.

We have more money.

We have a house with different floors and a number of rooms.

There is a small hedged garden which requires quite enough work, but not too much.

We are fortunate enough to live in the countryside with more cows than human beings.

Now here’s the thing:

In which abode do you think it was easier to communicate?

Answer: the studio.

If you only have one room, your interlocutor is obviously in the same room.

But the more rooms you have, the greater the chance that the person you want to talk to is in another room, on another floor, in the garden.

Communication becomes more complicated.

There is interference of all kinds: kitchen noise, bathroom noise, music, computers, mobile phones and so on.

There is more clutter in every sense of the word.

You have to repeat yourself a lot.

We actually enjoy staying at hotels and studios or taking cabins on ferries whilst travelling because it takes us back to those days when communication was simple and there was not a lot else in the room besides ourselves.

So my question to you is this:

What percentage of your conversations with your loved ones takes place in the same room?

If you feel frustrated because there is less than perfect communication with your partner or family, then this might be a place to start.

Particularly if you turn the mobile phone off.

May your life never become an endurance test!

Love

Richard

 

 

Deciding What to Talk About – and Not

Floor mosaïque of gladiators, Kourion, Cyprus, photo: © R. C.Morgan

Families are rarely simple.

And with Christmas fast approaching, we will all have another opportunity very soon to taste the unfortunate truth of this.

Some people – a small minority, I think – have supportive families, but for many of us, this is not the case.

So here’s a small suggestion.

Before you go back to see your parents or your parents-in-law, or your sisters and brothers or your cousins or whoever, take a moment to decide what you are willing to discuss and what you are not willing to discuss.

Sound calculating?

Maybe, but you’ll thank me for it.

It’s a question of survival, of self-care.

You don’t have to tell Mummy everything.

I’ll say it again.

You don’t have to tell Mummy everything.

This might come as a shock to some of you.

Perhaps you’ve always communicated everything with your parents, siblings etc.

This is perfectly ok if said parents are supportive and do not judge you.

If, however, you are secretly dreading another bout of sarcastic and belittling remarks, not to mention more arguments, then you owe yourself protection.

And the best way to do this is to decide what and what not to talk about.

If you are in a couple, then you must spend time with your other half making sure that you are on the same wavelength about this.

It’s no good not talking about that wonderful but expensive holiday you had in October that you haven’t told your parents about because they always complain that you go on holiday too much and anyway where do you get the money? – if your girlfriend blurts out what a wonderful time you both had in Botswana.

Get your stories straight and stick to them.

Believe me, this is a vital step towards self-preservation and if you’ve never tried it, then I urge you to do so.

It’s not a question of lying to people.

It’s a question of setting limits.

Are there things that you’d rather keep to yourself?

Then do so.

For example, perhaps you’ve recently become unemployed and need some time to get things sorted out without having confusing and unwanted careers advice from the whole family.

You don’t need to talk about it if you don’t want to.

Just be very clear about what you are going to say if Daddy asks you about work.

In my experience, many people and unfortunately many parents, take information given to them and use it to hurt you either instantly or later on.

Don’t ask me why.

I don’t have children.

And I can’t understand the point of having them if all you are going to do is judge and belittle them. It doesn’t make sense to me.

Shouldn’t you all be playing on the same team?

Instead, some parents are toxic.

So change the parameters.

Learn to say to yourself,’I don’t want to talk about that and I’m not going to.’

If you just talk about the things you feel reasonably comfortable with, then this Christmas might actually turn out to be the simplest and least fraught with friction for a long long time.

May your life never become an endurance test!

Love,

Richard

Breakfast with a butterfly, Zakynthos.
Breakfast with a butterfly, Zakynthos.

TTAC Live Symposium

Just a last quick reminder that the Truth About Cancer Live Symposium will start in a few hours (8.30am EST, 1.30pm BST, 2.30pm CEST) and goes on from 5th to 7th October 2017:

These are pretty good events which you can watch for free.

You’ll pick up all sorts of helpful information about improving your health.

The link again:

Health Symposium

Love

Richard

P.S. Affiliate links.