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Above and beyond the fruitless war on Urban Food Street

Residents expressing themselves...

Deviating from my usual blogging, here I take an in-depth look at an unfolding news story in my neighbourhood, where local authorities have drastically undermined the vision and momentum of internationally significant sustainable community ‘Urban Food Street’ on Queensland’s Sunshine Coast … but there is a bigger picture and the future cannot be denied.
 
(A short version of this article can be found here on Open ABC.)
 
 
ufs

 

After hearing a ruckus on my street one morning, I looked out my window to discover a handful of distressed residents staring in shock at a line of bare stumps where 18 fully laden lemon, lime, paw paw and cumquat trees had just been chainsawed and mulched at the order of the Sunshine Coast Council (SCC).

In this exemplary self-sufficient model of sustainable community that had thrived for several years and attracted global attention, it wasn’t only the trees that were gutted. With the first regulatory curved ball pitched at residents several months before and culminating in this flexing of mulching machinery muscle, the community that was left reeling reached far beyond the project’s 11 streets in Buderim.

There was plenty of media coverage of various details and the points of view of those at the centre of this unfolding drama (not to mention the explosion of public reaction on social media) and like numerous other residents, I had the media at my door and approaching me on the street for comment.

 

View from my window of a steady stream of media and residents.

View from my window of a steady stream of media and residents.

 

With a history of looking for the best in people and valuing the importance of being open to all perspectives, all the while remembering that none of us is perfect and fault is all too easy to find, I was willing to start from a neutral place. I am aware of the SCC’s perspective and while I don’t support their actions, I understand what’s behind their desire to maintain the status quo. The founders have also publicly made their views abundantly clear, as they hold to the big picture vision. I’ve also been privy to an assortment of residents’ privately expressed points of view (including some who attended a meeting with Council) and I have a reasonable overview of the public debate. After giving myself some time to reflect on it all I decided to throw my journalist in situ opinion piece into the mix in the hope that it can contribute to the search for a greater outcome.

Some people have asked why targeted residents didn’t simply arranged the required public liability insurance and ‘free’ permit (temporarily free). I was shocked at how restrictive the permits were – there’s a devil in the details. Stepping into a landowner’s shoes, I absolutely would not want one … but then again, how does one choose between 1) being sent the bill for having verge gardens and trees forcibly removed, and 2) having a permit that requires destroying fruit trees that are fully compliant regardless, and 3) conforming to ongoing, obstructive, micromanagement policing in which you are jumping through hoops to the point of being sorely tempted to throw in the towel? The bottom line? If the SCC advised you to get a permit you were up that infamous creek without a paddle, any which way.

Litigation risk (a.k.a. societal straight-jacket) is no higher with trees on the verge than with grass and the footpath SCC plans to add. How ironic would it be if a stone flicked up from a lawnmower and hit a passer-by in the eye, or some kid playing tripped on a crack in the footpath and ended up with a cement-induced head injury.

And it makes no sense for one resident’s complaint about access to have been prioritised over the majority, especially when there was a simple solution. (A cynic might say the leverage it provided the SCC was convenient). Nor does it make sense that there are all sorts of trees planted on verges Australia-wide. A good chunk of the public debate centres around seemingly double standards and the targeting of edibles over ornamentals.

I don’t know how it could be called anything other than obscene to destroy healthy, mature trees full of free fruit when people the world over are struggling to access quality, fresh food or going hungry. I fail to see how grass and cement could be considered an improvement – as if there wasn’t enough noise pollution and burning of fossil fuels in suburbia already, in the relentless cycle of cutting grass, say nothing of the ongoing machinery disturbance of mulching, ripping out stumps, landscaping, watering new turf and the paving that’s to come. Over to you, Joni Mitchell…

“Don’t it always seem to go that you don’t know what you’ve got ’til it’s gone. They paved paradise and put up a parking lot.”

 

Where trees once stood ...

Where trees once stood …

 

As significant as all these well-publicised current issues are, my leaning is to take a more in-depth look – dig deeper down into the bigger picture and longer term, and some aspects of human nature shaping it all.

What do 18 tree stumps teach children? I don’t envy any adult who had to explain this to a child … these youngsters who had been thriving in a sustainable community environment and taking pride in what they helped to create from seed to plate; innocent ones who cannot make sense of the upheaval caused by misuse of power, myopia, discriminatory targeting and a community’s reaction – little ones who may not have the word insanity in their vocabulary yet, but who are certainly getting a taste of it.

And what do 18 tree stumps teach adults? Or in some cases perhaps more pertinent to ask, what are they willing to learn? What would it take for local authorities to evolve beyond the status quo when there is an exceptionally good reason to and when other councils nationally and internationally have been willing and able to do so?

This is by no means the only council area in Australia where this sort of scenario would play out, and yet we can be heartened by some that are creating new benchmarks. Councillor Chris Cornish from Perth’s Bayswater Council – which awesomely has a red tape reduction committee and a policy encouraging verge gardens – outlined some simple solutions and urged the SCC to call a special council meeting and postpone the current course of action, even suggesting that Urban Food Street should be heritage protected, not bulldozed.

As an avid supporter of Urban Food Street, celebrity gardener Costa (Georgiadis) summed up the limitations well, “…antiquated open space models and fear-driven health and safety measures.”

This is not about a community asking for special treatment. This is about recognising that a community is doing something incredibly special, and responding accordingly. It beggars belief that a local authority can publicly spruik sustainability and state that Urban Food Street is special while simultaneously pulling the rug out from under it. Many residents were understandably up in arms from the beginning because they could see around a corner as to what the permits and insurance requirements would create – and had already created even before the trees were destroyed.

Walking these streets is a very different experience from last year. I have stared in disbelief at rolls of turf where abundant food garden beds once were, very little has been planted in the remaining beds and with so many fruit trees now ‘resting in peace’ the pickings are almost non-existent. The joys of popping outside to pick some fresh delights for my nourishment and eating pleasure have now mostly been relegated to memories, and my shopping list is longer.

 

ufs-plot

 

People expressed themselves through signs and placards. Some flowers and notes placed at the base of an R.I.P. sign included words from Martin Luther King, “Nothing is more dangerous than sincere ignorance and conscientious stupidity.” The founders have taken some extended time away (I assume fuelled by an overdose of frustration and a bit too much verbal stoushing all round). There are some unresolved tensions, less people on the streets, heavier hearts and a downturn in happy, smiling faces.

This community has certainly had the wind knocked out of its sails. While a well-attended neighbourhood gathering soon after affirmed a collective intention to thrive regardless of what happens, any attempts to restore a robust verge garden community model will take some resolve. While it was successful, the project has not been fully representative of all residents’ diverse wishes for it. While nobody would say it’s realistic to believe it could be and many roads lead to Rome, some have wondered whether this shake up could lead to it potentially morphing into something even greater – that is assuming some bridges can be crossed and some fences mended. Constant assessing, adapting and evolving is the mark of any successful endeavour – as is a co-operative relationship between the community and local authorities.

Whether this momentum killer was strategic or inadvertent on the SCC’s part, only they know. Either way, it’s not a good look. Based on their much publicised regulatory perspective they would certainly want to see the whole thing pared back. Some residents would agree and had expressed concern about the effect of the high level of public interest, however, there are other, less dramatic ways to address that.

Based on the Grand Canyon between their words and actions, the SCC now has a massive credibility problem. They have seriously underestimated the backlash and the ongoing echoes of fall out. I’ll pop my ‘I used to be a public relations consultant’ hat on for a moment to safely bet that whatever procedures are in place for public relations advice, the system is broken. Perhaps after being at the receiving end of the massive, self-inflicted public outcry they just might review it. They would also do well to create a new position for a ‘Common Sense Adviser,’ as it is patently a specialised field.

 

Residents expressing themselves...

Residents expressing themselves…

 

When something new gets created that is outside existing parameters, far beyond what the rule makers could have ever seen coming and that offers a compelling reason to evolve, how are the authorities to respond?

They could try to contort it into a familiar box marked ‘This is how it is, rules are rules, it’s all there in black and white and we’ll patiently explain how you will conform and comply or suffer the consequences.’ (Which the SCC repeatedly refers to as ‘collaborating with local residents.’)

Would it not be more visionary and progressive to say, ‘How can we adapt our governing to cater for something incredible and unique that makes us all look good, that we can all be proud of and that enhances our collective future.’ …? (Rhetorical, of course.)

Advances in our civilisation are essential and guaranteed. What is not guaranteed is that governments will keep pace (or praise be, be one step ahead) – but it is possible. When local authorities in Italy were tipped off about some underground temples that had been built in secret, they went looking for them with the intention to destroy them – in other words, a cookie cutter local authority approach. After all, its creators had not made the project known to authorities and there were no regulations to cater for underground constructions.

…but that’s not what happened. The authorities were so incredulous and amazed with what they found, they updated the rules to make the structure legal. Where there’s a will…

In the age-old battle between oppressors and oppressed, slavery and segregation were legal once, and very much the status quo. It took activists many tumultuous years of campaigning before the laws were finally changed. There are countless examples society and lawmakers can look back on and say, “What were they thinking?” Even now, in spite of an increasing number of governments worldwide updating marriage equality laws, many others are still resisting it. They cannot hold out forever. The future will not be denied.

Sustainable community models are also part of that future.

I likely speak for the majority when I ask, what would it take for governments on all levels to stop dragging their heels when change is inevitable? Even if they can’t see it. If the majority see it, want it and choose it, as representatives of the people in a democracy they have a fundamental obligation to put their personal fears and preferences aside. We all know that’s how it’s supposed to work. (Sigh.)

 

A symbolic gesture accompanied by the words of an exemplary, inspirational leader.

A symbolic gesture accompanied by the words of an exemplary, inspirational leader.

 

So … what else is possible?

Where to from here?

When life gives you lemons – make lemonade.

When the authorities take away the lemons – keep making lemonade.

As history has shown us time and again, no glorious vision for the future can be snuffed out when the people rise.

What would it take for the SCC Mayor to have a Gandhi-inspired epiphany? “I must follow the people for I am their leader.”

The majority of leaders (globally) clearly do not have the sort of innate visionary capacity that great leaders possess, though it can be learned to a degree by those who are willing. However, the reality is that while ever they thrive on abusing power in a toxic, dog-eat-dog system and as long as their decisions are based on fear, reactivity, convenience and agenda, they can have little incentive to change the status quo.

Fear – which underpins all of it – has a nasty habit of seducing people into smallness. It’s humanity’s Achilles’ heel. While most fear is illusory, to be fair, it can be insidious and very convincing, and none is immune. It has seduced us all in different ways at different times, however those in power have a greater responsibility to rise above it and to have the fortitude and humility to totally own it and call it when they err … and be willing to do whatever it takes to put things right. Even if they believe they haven’t erred, if the majority believe they have it’s time to prioritise putting things right.

While many responses from residents and the wider public have been constructive and solution-focused, others have thrown fuel on the fire. While that may not be helping, authorities need to have more resilience in the face of predictable fallout and provocative verbal attacks – after all, you can’t whack a beehive with a big stick and not expect an angry swarm of threatened bees.

 

A young Urban Food Streeter takes the initiative to chalk 'SCC was here' at the 'scene of the crime.'

A young Urban Food Streeter takes the initiative to chalk ‘SCC was here’ at the ‘scene of the crime.’

 

Encouragingly, when an idea’s time has come, there is no stopping it. President Eisenhower had the smarts when he said, “When the people lead, the leaders will follow.” Ultimately, this assault on Urban Food Street – justified by outmoded rules and outmoded thinking – is proving to be a fruitless war for myriad reasons, not the least because it’s a simple matter of cause and effect. The powers that be must surely know that when they don’t have their finger on the pulse of public sentiment, and when people don’t like their choices and don’t respect their behaviour, they risk being changed out for new leadership that can keep pace with the people they represent and an ever-evolving society. The SCC has put a mountain in front of itself to climb to win the trust of its constituents. Let’s just say the next local council elections will be mighty interesting.

 

(I digress momentarily for a nostalgic story …
Once upon a time, King Bob reigned over the fair land of the Sunshine Coast. He was wildly popular, progressive and benevolent, and they all lived happily ever after…until he went away. The people cried. The end.) 

 

There was a slither of hope (albeit mixed in with justifiable cynicism) that the pressure of public opinion may have been starting to create cracks in the SCC’s armour when the Mayor agreed to Costa’s request for a meeting – a request that pre-tree mulching was dismissed and ignored. The Mayor stated, “All is not lost and I intend to work with the community. I think there will need to be some compromise on all sides … we need to think about the interests and wishes of our community.” Welcome words, however, the proof will be in the actions, and on that basis, there is justification for concern.  There has been no media coverage or announcements from Costa or the project founders to indicate that a meeting went ahead. Some of the residents met with the Council only to discover they made a statement to the media the following day that was the complete opposite of the understanding that was reached in the meeting.

Just to indulge in a little bit of Utopian dreaming, a more expansive leadership approach could well look like being open to asking residents whether they would be willing to put forward a proposal for a solution for the SCC’s consideration that has the approval of a majority of landowner residents and that fully covers off the Council’s concerns and obligations. When you empower people, harness their passion and skills and give them some wiggle room, you just might be pleasantly surprised by what they come up with. It otherwise remains an untapped resource.

What would it take for this unique, inspirational community and conceptually spectacular community model to resurrect and thrive once again, and for this conceptually spectacular community model to not only be re-imagined and re-built into something even greater; but to no longer be unique after having inspired and shaped other communities the world over?

What would it take for aspiring communities everywhere and their corresponding local authorities to learn from what has taken place here and resolve to find more effective and benevolent ways to co-exist, co-operate and win/win?

In complete contrast with living in standard suburban streets, my first-hand experience as a resident here (during its halcyon days) has been consistent with abundant evidence that exists – there’s zero doubt in my mind that this community model is richly rewarding, makes a massive contribution to the well-being and thriving of society on multiple levels that are beyond measure and it is far, far too important to be undermined by the unreasonable enforcement of antiquated rules by an inflexible council that has not had the community’s back. It’s certainly high time the SCC started singing ‘The Times They Are A-Changin’.’

And while not everyone is on the same page about where to from here, gratitude to the founders, the many residents, and the huge number of supporters from the wider community who passionately believe in sustainable community and who have in various ways wholeheartedly thrown themselves into the challenge of finding a way forward – and kudos to Costa for being such a passionate advocate with a ton of common sense.

While there has been upheaval and unease, and a need to restore cohesion and momentum, and while we lament that the SCC has chosen (thus far) to be on the wrong side of history, I am quietly optimistic that this whole fiasco will catalyse greater national and international resolve to embrace an inevitable future, and that this frontier community will at some point in the future turn lemons into lemonade, eventually rise from the ashes and in time, thrive again.

The world needs it to.

…lemonade, anyone?

 

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~
(A short version of this article can be found here on Open ABC.)

Some excellent ABC news articles:

Residents horrified as Sunshine Coast Council chops, mulches trees in Urban Food Street

Urban Food Street: D-day arrives for more grower residents as council defends position after tree cull

Urban food street: Costa to meet with Sunshine Coast Council over ‘stone-walling’ policy

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A gratitude tsunami coming your way!

gratitude

You know those times when you’re having a moment?

The universe gifted me a magnificent moment…and I’d like to share it, and pay it forward – to you.

Everyone likes to be appreciated, and from various conversations over time I was already aware of most of the gratitude that came my way at a recent lunch with half a dozen friends on a random sunny day…BUT this was different.

Just imagine what it would feel like if various expressions of appreciation over time all lasered into one spontaneous moment and synergised into a big wave of energy that swooshed over you… a massive tsunami of love and gratitude all at once.

Uh huh…that amazing.

Flowing out of a conversation we were having, one friend started the gratitude rave. That triggered another friend to add to it, then another leap-frogged off that, then another until everyone at the table had linked themselves into a collective story in which I was apparently the ringleader.

The sudden chink, chink, chink of it dropping into my awareness in quick succession was the kind of head warp anyone would be happy to have. As the next person and the next person added their bit…chink, chink, chink…the realisation grew. All the threads synchronistically co-woven with me that connected everyone at the table to each other; to what it created in their lives and what they have gone on to create out of that, touching many more lives. Relationships and friendships had been forged; new career paths, business partnerships and creative collaborations were developed; workshops were held all over Australia…the stories kept coming. They were palpably immersed in gratitude and all at the same time they sent it my way. As I soaked up the big wave of energy washing over me, I ‘got it’ on a whole new level.

This glorious gratitude wave came at an interesting point in my life – after a year of being immersed in solo time and low key everything, with my work on hold and my social life on ice. As much as I had been flowing with all that and it felt right, questions had arisen in my mind on occasion. Should I be doing more? I have so much to contribute and yet I’m doing so little…am I wasting precious time?

As I sat with the enormity of what I had contributed to everyone in front of me – and via them to so many others – it was a beautiful reminder of something we rarely reflect on. Everywhere we go, everything we do, we are creating ripples. We are shaping the history of the planet; we are weaving the fabric of the universe. (No pressure!)

Can you ever really wrap your head around all the contributions you have made? All the ripples and rivulets you’ve created as you flow along this river of life? (…I’m guessing that would be a no! Where would you even begin?)

It reminds me of an old movie, ’It’s a Wonderful Life‘  where the main character gets to experience life in his town as it would have been if he had never been born. I highly recommend it to anyone who is tempted to think they are not having an impact, or not doing enough.

Everyone has done enough to receive waves of gratitude. If you haven’t had such a moment spontaneously gifted to you as I was so fortunate to have had, I invite you to close your eyes and create a gathering for yourself.

It’s been proven scientifically that the unconscious mind can’t tell the difference between real and imagined, so why not imagine a bunch of people who you know have gratitude for you and for what you have contributed to their lives? Why not gift yourself how it feels to have all of them beaming at you and appreciating you? You can receive the energy of that even if they are not physically in front of you.

Enjoy being immersed in a tsunami of gratitude, and thank you for being you, being here on the planet, and making a difference in multitudinous ways waaaaaaaaaay far past what you could ever comprehend. How amazing is that?

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Kindly reconsider

kindly_reconsider

I have come to realise that while it is my definite preference to be kind and considerate to others, if it compromises my kindness and consideration towards myself – no deal. How about you? It strikes me as quite funny that when people are not treating you kindly because they are being self centred, they think they’re looking after their own best interests.

What they seem to fail to factor in is that the person on the receiving end of the unkindness may respond by withholding gestures or benefits or assistance or opportunities that would have enhanced their world – sometimes BIG time. Usually they actually have no idea how much they have lost out.

 

Cloud 2

Just one example: I intended to offer something to someone that represented a benefit to them of several thousand dollars. Their continual unkindness to me caused me to change my mind. If they had any idea how much they had lost out as a result, they would be totally shocked.

My take on it is that being kind and considerate is ultimately an act of self interest regardless of the intent behind it, and the other person gets to experience kindness instead of unkindness, so it makes much more sense all around.

One little caveat though – when someone is unkind to me and the unkindness persists, I have come to realise that if I continue to be kind I become a door mat.

Some say continue to be kind irrespective of others, if that’s your nature. I’ve tried that. It’s been fabulous in certain scenarios.

Some say ‘match the energy’ of what is being delivered to you. I’ve tried that. It’s been fabulous in certain scenarios.

By withdrawing kindness or not offering kindness, that’s not to say I must then be unkind. There is a neutral place I can be in that is neither kind or unkind – that isn’t laced with emotional, reactive stuff. In philosophical speak, this is a place of ‘observer’. It’s a potent place to be.

This quote (pictured) nails it. Givers need to put boundaries in place because takers never do. I’ve come to see that this is a healthy thing to do when an unkind person keeps taking. If I don’t have my own back and put boundaries in place, it becomes a lack of self love, a lack of self respect. Sacrificing kindness and consideration towards myself is an unloving choice that I don’t choose any more. If I don’t have my own back, I can’t expect others to.

I have finally come to realise that while it is auto-pilot as part of my nature to be kind and considerate to others, it’s BS to judge myself as not being kind when choosing not to extend kindness where it is unappreciated or taken advantage of. It’s be kind to me day! …every day.

 

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Hell bent on negativity

hell bent

After sharing an incredible street art image on Facebook an interesting conversation took place. I say interesting because it demonstrates how locked in we can be to a downward spiral, and it can serve as an opportunity to reflect on how we interact with the world…

 

I’m sharing it in case it helps anyone to think twice before starting a negative thread – it’s so easy once you start to get on a roll, to get so much momentum that you can’t stop. It can become a habit. Next thing you know, you wake up one morning and you’re negativity central. It’s much harder to claw back from that place than to not flirt with it too much in the first place.

 

Facebook friend (FF):
Beautiful street 3D art, but unfortunately it also resembles a giant sink hole, which we are seeing everywhere…. thumbs down ..only because of the resemblance to sink holes…

 

Me:
I didn’t think sink hole when I saw it and I still don’t. Each to their own.  I choose to appreciate the artistry and the effect, and how it can remind us that underground caves and caverns can be magical places.

 

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FF:
I love underground caverns, those that are easily accessible, I dreamed of a grotto with crystalline blue clear water, I was sitting along the rocky edge watching people canoeing in and out of this grotto, I then saw the tide roll inside this grotto, I know I walked in it but was not going to be able to swim out, then I woke up. Though this street art represents underground caverns, let’s not forget the sink holes that form from nothing.
 
Me:
I’m happy to not think about sink holes.
 
FF:
That’s great for you, that you care not about INNOCENT lives lost from these sink holes…I think I will now say good bye to you ….good day….!!
 
Me:
That’s an interesting point of view.
 
Immediately after this conversation this Facebook friend (who I have never met) unfriended me. (Saved me the trouble!)
 
(I would love to credit the artist, but I don’t know who it is. Rex isn’t much to go on!)

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Does your BODY choose suspense?

body

When it comes to movies, TV shows and games that are all action, thriller, suspense…what does your body think about it? I can almost hear you say ‘Huh?’Some 25 years ago I became aware of the stress response in my body while watching my favourite sci-fi drama series ‘The X Files’. During an ad break I closed my eyes, and I noticed my heart racing and the adrenalin pumping. I was shocked to realise how stressed and unhappy my body was and in that moment I made a conscious choice to stop watching anything that felt like that.

 

Recently I was exposed to it again while I was a guest in someone else’s home and my body could not tolerate it at all, even though I was only hearing it (the volume was overpowering what I was listening to on the internet with my earphones).

 

 

Copy of shutterstock_118070155-WEB

While I used to love those kind of shows and I can certainly understand people wanting to watch them, now that I know what I know, I sooooooo cannot comprehend how we humans can abuse our body like that for ‘entertainment’.

 

When I studied NLP (Neuro-Linguistic Programming), I understood more about why – EVERYTHING we see stays imprinted in our mind even if we’ve consciously forgotten it, and the unconscious cannot tell the difference between real and imagined, even though cognitively we know violence in a movie is make believe.
Many wise teachers have suggested not watching the news – which focuses obsessively on the negative without balancing with the positive, and which is repeated ad nauseum so we get to churn things over and over and over again. I stay informed and engaged with the latest news via the web, where I can read headlines and choose what to read more of, rather than have TV news editors decide what is visually appropriate for me. Plus I keep in mind there are a zillion incredibly special, beautiful, positive things happening in the world every moment.
I’m a far more content, heart-peaceful person these days, for a multitude of reasons, but choosing not to expose myself to the societal ‘disease’ of trauma, drama and upset as it plays out on the screen has made a huge contribution to my health and well being, and therefore my life and what I can contribute to the world.
I invite you to experiment next time there’s an ad break in a suspense thriller or violent program. Close your eyes, listen to your body. I’m sure it would appreciate the opportunity to let you know how it’s getting on.

 

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A silver lining on a 9/11 cloud

silver_lining

When you look for silver linings on clouds, it is amazing what you can discover. Below is a really wonderful example of that, posted on Facebook by Ruchit Patel. Ruchit said ‘Here is an amazing story from a flight attendant on Delta Flight 15, written following 9-11′.

On the morning of Tuesday, September 11, we were about 5 hours out of Frankfurt, flying over the North Atlantic . All of a sudden the curtains parted and I was told to go to the cockpit, immediately, to see the captain. As soon as I got there I noticed that the crew had that ‘all business’ look on their faces. The captain handed me a printed message. It was from Delta’s main office in Atlanta and simply read, ‘All airways over the Continental United States are closed to commercial air traffic. Land ASAP at the nearest airport. Advise your destination.’

 

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No one said a word about what this could mean. We knew it was a serious situation and we needed to find terra firma quickly. The captain determined that the nearest airport was 400 miles behind us in Gander, New Foundland.
He requested approval for a route change from the Canadian traffic controller and approval was granted immediately – no questions asked. We found out later, of course, why there was no hesitation in approving our request.
While the flight crew prepared the aeroplane for landing, another message arrived from Atlanta telling us about some terrorist activity in the New York area. A few minutes later word came in about the hijackings.
We decided to LIE to the passengers while we were still in the air. We told them the plane had a simple instrument problem and that we needed to land at the nearest airport in Gander , New Foundland, to have it checked out.
We promised to give more information after landing in Gander. There was much grumbling among the passengers, but that’s nothing new! 40 minutes later, we landed in Gander. Local time was 12:30 PM …. that’s 11:00 AM EST.
There were already about 20 other aeroplanes on the ground from all over the world that had taken this detour on their way to the US.
After we parked on the ramp, the captain made the following announcement: “Ladies and gentlemen, you must be wondering if all these aeroplanes around us have the same instrument problem as we have. The reality is that we are here for another reason.”
Then he went on to explain the little bit we knew about the situation in the US. There were loud gasps and stares of disbelief. The captain informed passengers that Ground Control in Gander told us to stay put.
The Canadian Government was in charge of our situation and no one was allowed to get off the aircraft. No one on the ground was allowed to come near any of the aircrafts. Only airport police would come around periodically, look us over and go on to the next aeroplane. In the next hour or so more planes landed and Gander ended up with 53 aeroplanes from all over the world, 27 of which were US commercial jets.
Meanwhile, bits of news started to come in over the aircraft radio and for the first time we learned that aeroplanes were flown into the World Trade Center in New York and into the Pentagon in DC.
People were trying to use their cell phones, but were unable to connect due to a different cell system in Canada. Some did get through, but were only able to get to the Canadian operator who would tell them that the lines to the U.S. were either blocked or jammed.
Some time in the evening the news filtered to us that the World Trade Center buildings had collapsed and that a fourth hijacking had resulted in a crash. By now the passengers were emotionally and physically exhausted, not to mention frightened, but everyone stayed amazingly calm. We had only to look out the window at the 52 other stranded aircraft to realise that we were not the only ones in this predicament.
We had been told earlier that they would be allowing people off the planes one plane at a time. At 6 PM, Gander airport told us that our turn to de-plane would be 11am the next morning.
Passengers were not happy, but they simply resigned themselves to this news without much noise and started to prepare themselves to spend the night on the aeroplane. Gander had promised us medical attention, if needed, water, and lavatory servicing and they were true to their word. Fortunately we had no medical situations to worry about. We did have a young lady who was 33 weeks into her pregnancy. We took REALLY good care of her. The night passed without incident despite the uncomfortable sleeping arrangements.
About 10:30 on the morning of the 12th a convoy of school buses showed up. We got off the plane and were taken to the terminal where we went through Immigration and Customs and then had to register with the Red Cross.
After that we (the crew) were separated from the passengers and were taken in vans to a small hotel. We had no idea where our passengers were going. We learned from the Red Cross that the town of Gander has a population of 10,400 people and they had about 10,500 passengers to take care of from all the aeroplanes that were forced into Gander!
We were told to just relax at the hotel and we would be contacted when the US airports opened again, but not to expect that call for a while.
We found out the total scope of the terror back home only after getting to our hotel and turning on the TV, 24 hours after it all started.
Meanwhile, we had lots of time on our hands and found that the people of Gander were extremely friendly. They started calling us the ‘plane people.’ We enjoyed their hospitality, explored the town of Gander and ended up having a pretty good time.
Two days later, we got that call and were taken back to the Gander airport. Back on the plane, we were reunited with the passengers and found out what they had been doing for the past two days.
What we found out was incredible…
Gander and all the surrounding communities (within about a 75 Kilometer radius) had closed all high schools, meeting halls, lodges, and any other large gathering places. They converted all these facilities to mass lodging areas for all the stranded travellers.
Some had cots set up, some had mats with sleeping bags and pillows set up. ALL the high school students were required to volunteer their time to take care of the ‘guests.’
Our 218 passengers ended up in a town called Lewisporte, about 45 kilometers from Gander where they were put up in a high school. If any women wanted to be in a women only facility, that was arranged. Families were kept together. All the elderly passengers were taken to private homes. Remember that young pregnant lady? She was put up in a private home right across the street from a 24 hour Urgent Care facility.  There was a dentist on call and both male and female nurses remained with the crowd for the duration.
Phone calls and emails to the U.S. and around the world were available to everyone once a day. During the day, passengers were offered ‘Excursion’ trips. Some people went on boat cruises of the lakes and harbours. Some went for hikes in the local forests.
Local bakeries stayed open to make fresh bread for the guests.
Food was prepared by all the residents and brought to the schools. People were driven to restaurants of their choice and offered wonderful meals. Everyone was given tokens for local laundry mats to wash their clothes, since luggage was still on the aircraft.
In other words, every single need was met for those stranded travellers.
Passengers were crying while telling us these stories. Finally, when they were told that U.S. airports had reopened, they were delivered to the airport right on time and without a single passenger missing or late. The local Red Cross had all the information about the whereabouts of each and every passenger and knew which plane they needed to be on and when all the planes were leaving. They coordinated everything beautifully. It was absolutely incredible.
When passengers came on board, it was like they had been on a cruise. Everyone knew each other by name. They were swapping stories of their stay, impressing each other with who had the better time. Our flight back to Atlanta looked like a chartered party flight. The crew just stayed out of their way. It was mind-boggling.
Passengers had totally bonded and were calling each other by their first names, exchanging phone numbers, addresses, and email addresses.
And then a very unusual thing happened. One of our passengers approached me and asked if he could make an announcement over the PA system. We never, ever allow that. But this time was different. I said “of course” and handed him the mike. He picked up the PA and reminded everyone about what they had just gone through in the last few days. He reminded them of the hospitality they had received at the hands of total strangers. He continued by saying that he would like to do something in return for the good folks of Lewisporte.
He said he was going to set up a Trust Fund under the name of DELTA 15 (our flight number). The purpose of the trust fund is to provide college scholarships for the high school students of Lewisporte. He asked for donations of any amount from his fellow travellers. When the paper with donations got back to us with the amounts, names, phone numbers and addresses, the total was for more than $14,000!
The gentleman, a MD from Virginia, promised to match the donations and to start the administrative work on the scholarship. He also said that he would forward this proposal to Delta Corporate and ask them to donate as well.
As I write this account, the trust fund is at more than $1.5 million and has assisted 134 students in college education.
I just wanted to share this story because we need good stories right now. It gives me a little bit of hope to know that some people in a faraway place were kind to some strangers who literally dropped in on them. It reminds me how much good there is in the world.
In spite of all the rotten things we see going on in today’s world this story confirms that there are still a lot of good people in the world and when things get bad, they will come forward. This is one of those stories that need to be shared. Please do so…

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Skeptically open to the unknown

Skepticallyyyy

There is room in the world for every point of view, based on personal experience…and we all have our own experiences and that’s all we can go by – and that’s perfect.

 

My life has been greatly enriched by my initially skeptical but open minded curiosity about the metaphysical…it has broadened my view beyond my once conventional existence and rocked my world in wondrous ways.

 

I don’t know what else you would call it when I knew the day before Princess Diana and Dodi died that they were going to die (and the world was going to be rocked by it). That’s just one of a gazillion examples from my own experience.

 

Young woman thinking with question mark circulation around her h

 

Given I have personally experienced my own psychic capacity let alone a number of genuine psychics who are way more tuned in than me – countless examples over many years, it is beyond doubt in my reality.
 
For people who have not experienced a genuine psychic, I think a healthy scepticism is essential. The key is that an open minded skepticism allows for possibilities beyond one’s experience to exist, and offers the potential for a richer experience of life – a closed minded skepticism does not.
 
I agree there are people at risk of giving their power away and relying too heavily on others outside themselves, and there are dodgy ‘psychics’ just like there are dodgy anything else you wish to name, and there is a lot of new age ‘fairy floss’ out there – but if you discount them all you can miss the gems.
 
The best bit is that any half-decent psychic will tell you that we all have the ability to be psychic (often latent, but can be developed) and they will also tell you that the wisdom and power is within you…indeed they for the most part are tuning into your own innate knowing and bringing it forward into your awareness (to tune you more into yourself). They also will tell you they don’t predict the future, but can bring your awareness to potentials, which you can choose to step into or step away from as a being of free will.
 
My life has been greatly enriched by my initially skeptical but open minded curiosity about the metaphysical…it has broadened my view beyond my once limited, conventional existence and rocked my world in wondrous ways. Today I sit here in total awe and appreciation of the power within us all, and I thank myself for choosing to seek it :o)

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The future is in our hands

future

Maia looks at the escalation of positive change on the planet and highlights how you are pivotal to the outcome.

Have you noticed the shift in the global consciousness? More and more we are seeing signs of a turnaround. Fuelled by an explosion of organisations and movements dedicated to resolving the current crises. Fuelled by the internet. Fuelled by conversations around the barbeque. Fuel that is also finally galvanising the media into action (albeit slowly), which is absolutely crucial for accelerating change.

These changes are the result of people engaging in the process in some way.

 

“But change is too slow – too little, too late.” you may despair. Yes, that’s a scary potential BUT…we are approaching critical mass.

 

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It begins slowly…slowly. Thoughts, words and actions feed awareness and change. Results fuel encouragement and more progress. The ripple effect exponentially expanding and accelerating until it reaches the point where, suddenly, it all starts to happen in a BIG way.

 

We are well on our way. When will we reach that turning point? Well, that’s up to you. Critical mass includes you! Your choices and actions can either help speed it up, or slow it down. There’s a wonderful African saying, ‘When you pray, move your feet.’ It’s action that will bring about the answer to our collective prayers. The time for apathy, procrastination and immobilisation through despair is over. Fortunately, we are collectively finding better ways to coordinate and propel our individual efforts.
Even those who say “I’m too busy” can do a lot more than they realise – initiating discussions in online and offline social and business networks. Word of mouth is powerful, and there’s plenty worthwhile to talk about – not the least how easy it is to sign online petitions and how successfully they are producing change.
Share any inspired ideas you’ve had…good ideas have to start somewhere and they can’t amount to anything if they stay in your head. Even if you can’t evolve an idea yourself, someone else might be able to pick up the ball and run with it, so why not put it out there?
Proof of this trend is how many organisations have sprung up over the last few years – Avaaz, The Sum of Us, Change, GetUp! And many more. These are basically independent social movement platforms harnessing the internet to bring like-minded people together to bring participation back into democracy.
The increasing number of these types of organisations sends a very loud and clear message to governments that change is needed. There’s a saying, ‘where the people lead, their leaders eventually must follow.’
And while some are going through the front door, others are using the side door. There are stunningly successful examples of empowerment through participatory democracy, in Iceland, Norway and Sweden just for starters.
UN Habitat Special Advisor, Mr Nicholas You, believes it’s about looking at processes that break the ‘business as usual’ cycle – and empowerment through participatory democracy is proving successful.
“There are examples of consultation with empowerment from developing countries, where they have a participatory budget. The city sets aside a percentage of the budget for the priorities the community has identified.
“Once there’s an enabling structure and ownership of the process is invested with people you begin to see some pretty surprising solutions.
“The public authority says ‘right, we’re handing over the decision making process to you, but we can only respect your priorities if you engage in the consultative process.”
“It was the people who started chipping down the Berlin Wall, not the Government.”
On a systemic level, the call is for a paradigm shift in governance and economics – designing our economies to meet our social goals, not vice versa; with more participatory processes to engage and empower the community.
On an individual level, we need to become more informed – that it’s a duty to be better informed, take action, demand change!
According to Green Cross International’s founder, Mikhail Gorbachev, “More than ever we need to build a strong public consensus in support of peaceful, just and sustainable solutions to the crises which threaten our future.”
“It is our job to make this voice louder and stronger, and ensure it reaches the people with the power to make changes. World public opinion is now considered a superpower in its own right, and we have a responsibility to make use of this power to drive positive action for a sustainable future.”
Add the push being made by people who are in a position of influence, and the picture looks even brighter. High profile people like Richard Branson and Arnold Schwarzenegger, the Google head honchos, Hollywood stars like Pierce Brosnan and Leonardo Di Caprio, as well as countless others who aren’t well known but who are making the most of their capacity to shape the future.
There are ‘electrifying’ developments and plenty of innovation happening around the world that reflects how just one or a handful of people can create a shift in the ‘business as usual’ modus operandi. Take the fabulous Telsa Roadster for example – a very funky, high performing, all electric sports car, and the new Tesla battery that will be able to easily power homes off the grid.
It’s also wonderful to see how the likes of the Conde Nast building, Four Times Square (New York), has forced mainstream developers, investors and corporate tenants to sit up and take notice. The stunningly successful, sustainable skyscraper has set a new benchmark for development. Running costs are lower, impact on the environment is greatly reduced, occupancy is high, employees are happier and more productive and a big selling point, power blackouts don’t affect the building at all. It has put a permanent dent in the old paradigm and kick-started a trend of green developments in New York and beyond.
These are just a little taste from the countless examples of where we are heading.
It is said that if you give people information, incentive and opportunity, they tend to act. Well, you now have some new information and incentive to freshly inspire you – you know what to do! Look around you and you’ll see opportunities to make a difference. With very little effort, you can do so much to help shape the future. YOU play an important role in the new world superpower. The future really is in your hands.

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Floating your way to health and harmony

floatinggg

Maia shares her experiences discovering the healthful and delightful benefits of floatation tanks – seriously awesome bad vibe busters!
20 years ago, despite all my attempts to bounce back from a double whammy of physical illness and emotional trauma, I was still struggling to get on top of things. A healthy diet, relaxation, meditation, various other strategies—as helpful and worthwhile as these were, it was a slow process.
I had in the past been intrigued by the idea of floatation tanks, so when it was suggested that I might find floating helpful, I was willing to give it a try. Good move. It has proved to be one of the most potent ways I’ve ever found to fast track from stress and fatigue to relaxation and well-being.
As a first time floater, it was reassuring to have everything explained to me. Firstly, that it is impossible to sink, or drown—the Epsom salts in the water make it so buoyant that floating is all you can do, and in any case the water is very shallow. I wondered about claustrophobia, but they say if you can travel in a car with the windows up you’re fine. I wondered about hygiene, and I discovered that the high salt content keeps the water sterile, a filtration system is used between each float, and all floaters shower before hopping into the tank.
I wondered about getting trapped or locked in the tank, and I was told I would have control at all times. You have total privacy in your own float room so you can get in and out when you want, and the sliding door on the tank is light, easy to use and has no catches on it. Some people like to leave it a little bit open initially, just to reassure themselves, but I didn’t find it threatening at all to slide the door shut. In fact it felt to me like a wonderful sanctuary—dark, peaceful, with the amazing sensation of floating on a silky, silent sea. I lost all sense of time. The water temperature is the same as body temperature, and I also lost all sense of separation between my body and the water.
Scientists estimate that 90% of the brain’s normal workload is caused by the effects of environmental stimulation—your muscles, nervous system and sensory organs are always busy responding to things like gravity, temperature, touch, light and sound. In our stress-producing modern day lives there’s an overload of sensory stimulation, especially with sight and sound. The whole idea of the float tank is to get rid of all sensory stimulation, which provides a unique opportunity for sensory relaxation. It is so quiet in the tank that you can sometimes hear your own blood circulating.
The effect on your body, both physically and psychologically, is quite phenomenal. Floating re-sets the body’s chemical and metabolic balance, strengthening resistance to the negative impact of stress, illness and injury. It alleviates the effects of a number of diseases. It’s also deeply restful. Muscle tension, blood pressure, heart rate and oxygen consumption drop dramatically. It increases oxygen and nutrient flow to the cells, removes ‘stress’ chemicals (adrenalin, cortisol, lactate) and releases endorphins—often called the body’s natural opiates—which give a sensation of intense well-being and improve memory and learning.
Your powers of emotional control can improve—reducing negative emotions and helping in the fight against addictions like alcohol, smoking, and compulsive eating. It balances and synchronises the left and right hemispheres of the brain. It also enhances theta activity—theta brain waves are responsible for creativity, inspiration and learning capacity. Measurements of the brainwaves of experienced zen meditators during deep meditation show large amounts of theta activity, but for many of us they are somewhat elusive at any time other than during sleep. Now for the best bit—all you have to do is lie back and relax. All of these things happen without you having to do a single thing.
After my first float, I felt physically and mentally cleansed, deeply relaxed and I experienced a wonderful sense of inner harmony. My second float brought on about three days of laughing for absolutely no reason, which amazed and delighted me. My third float produced uncontrollable sobbing—I couldn’t stop crying for at least half an hour. It didn’t feel good at the time but once I’d cleared out these deeply buried emotions I felt a wonderful sense of release and relief, and once again a deep sense of harmony.
From that point on, once I had settled into a routine of regular floats, I really started to reap the benefits. At the time I had a very stressful and exhausting job, and floating was my saving grace. It was so much more than just a lovely indulgence that I looked forward to. It was the biggest stress-buster I had ever come across in my life, and boy did that feel good. It noticeably slowed down my hyped-up tendencies, refreshed and rejuvenated both body and spirit, and helped me to have a much clearer head—and consequently a much clearer perspective. I frequently experienced flashes of inspiration, and sudden, insightful solutions to problems.
I’ve heard that a 100 minute float is equivalent to a full night’s sleep. My weekly floats not only melted away the stress and fatigue of the previous week, they also rejuvenated me and gave me a much greater capacity to cope with the busy week to come. They also helped me substantially in my chipping away at the longer term stresses and problems that had worn me down over time.
One friend who came for a float one day commented that if everybody in the world floated, there would be no wars. I would have to agree with that! It was with great interest that I browsed through the visitors’ book at the Float Centre in Brisbane to read comments from some other floaters. There were so many positive comments about the impact floating had had on them, and it was an eye opener to see how it affected people in different ways. I made this observation to co-owner of the Centre, Karen Poole.
“Some say it’s deeply nurturing, like returning to the womb,” she explained. “Some talk about a heightened perception. Again and again comments about the incredible feeling of harmony, contentment, deep relaxation, cleansing of mind and body, a new perspective.”
“It’s deeply satisfying to read these comments, and see the change in people from when they go in to when they come out,” she continued. “There was a couple once, where the husband had been yelling at his wife and was really stressed out—she was also pretty frayed around the edges as you could imagine. Floating did them both the world of good. After the float he was a changed man, calm, passive, relaxed. He was like a little puppy dog.”
“Michael Flatley came here for his very first float while he was performing Riverdance in Brisbane. He loved it so much he was back the next day for an extra-long float and wrote a comment in our book, ‘My feet will dance free tonight’—apparently wherever he goes in the world now he wants to know where the float tanks are.”
Sounds too good to be true, doesn’t it? Well, there are many impressive, credible statistics to prove what is outlined here, and if you’d like to investigate further, I can recommend ‘The Book of Floating’ by Michael Hutchison. Floating was such a profound experience for me that I sought this book out—along with other information available—to fully understand and appreciate just what was going on.
Floating has been around since 1954, when it was first developed by researchers at Washington’s National Institute of Mental Health. The effects of floating have been scientifically validated all over the world. It has been researched and documented for mental health, physical health, resistance to addictive habits, accelerated learning and elite sports performance at Harvard, Stanford, Yale and other universities, as well as hospitals and sports training facilities around the world. Carl Lewis and many other famous elite athletes have used floating as an essential part of their training. The Australian Institute of Sport has been using floatation tanks since 1983.
As few as three floats bring significant benefits, but there is no doubt in my mind—or in the minds of anyone who has floated regularly—that regular floating provides a phenomenal improvement in personal well-being and mental attitude.
“It’s great at any time just for general maintenance,” Karen explained, “but it’s especially helpful when your body is under physical, mental or emotional stress. It’s also a wonderful and supportive complement to anything else that enhances health and well-being.”
While it is true to say I am totally biased, my bias comes from direct, personal experience! If you haven’t tried it, you’re missing out on a real treat. Your body will thank you, big time, if you decide to check it out for yourself. And who wouldn’t be tempted by such a blissful indulgence?
Floaters’ quotes…
Al  “Reality is madness, this state is true paradise.”
Peter  “If it’s possible to feel 200% I’m at that stage!”
Susan  “This was my first floating experience. Even after years of self-healing, positive thinking and Tai Chi, nothing has made my heart sing tears of joy like this float.”
Roxanne  “Blissful womb-like experience of safety and serenity.”
Kellie  “This is my first float. It was truly wonderful. Being 25 weeks pregnant I felt at one with myself and my baby. Not only was I so relaxed I could hear and feel my own heart, but that of my baby’s as well.”
Elise  “I’m six months pregnant, so I enjoyed the experience very much. I felt
totally in touch with my baby, I understand what it must be feeling.”
Kaz  “I feel soothed and sweetened a little. (It was good to spend some time with the real me.)”

Image courtesy of the wonderful ‘The Float Space’ (Maroochydore, Qld, Australia)

 

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Philosophical lessons in life

Philosophical

The profound and positive effect this philosophy has had on my life has motivated me to offer a taste of practical philosophy for seekers of wisdom, unity and truth…

After being inspired with new insights about life through participating in courses at ‘The School of Philosophy’, Maia sat down for a chat with one of the School’s facilitators, Rex Howard.

Maia:  As many fascinating and worthwhile concepts as there are, I’d like to touch on some of the bare essentials so readers can get a feel for the School of Philosophy.

Rex: The essence behind any philosophical teaching is to give anyone who’s interested the opportunity to unleash his or her potential – and when we talk about potential what we mean is consciousness. The consciousness in every human being is identical; it’s the consciousness that created the universe. The problem that almost all human beings face is that they don’t know that’s true; they think they are limited individuals with no real connection to the greater working of the universe. In the philosophical tradition we follow, that’s not true – it’s an imaginary separation. People are searching; they have a sense that something is missing and so they are potentially open to learning.

Maia: Do you feel that searching comes from an innate, deeper wisdom from the consciousness within us all, which so many of us tend not to be fully aware of?

 

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Rex: Because the consciousness of the individual is identical with the consciousness of the universe, every individual has this feeling within them ‘there is more’ – they may not know what that is, and they may look for it in the strangest places; but in the end when you reduce all human activity to its essence there is the desire to rediscover that forgotten connection – to answer the question ‘who am I?’ Most human activity is misdirected and doesn’t actually achieve that end, but that’s what motivates people. The closer individuals get to realising that ultimate connection, the happier and more satisfied they are.
Maia: So what learning approach do you use?
Rex: The whole point of the organisation is that it is a school of philosophy, so it’s based on knowledge, and knowledge is not information; it’s information which has been experienced in practice so you actually know it is true.
Maia: “He tastes nothing who has not tasted for himself”?
Rex: Exactly. You can be told a cake tastes good, but you can’t really know if it’s true or not until you actually taste it yourself. You’ve got to put philosophy into practice to know whether it is true or not for you. We are all remarkably similar in a lot of ways so all of these things have a similar effect on every individual, but there are always differences – different history, different background, different problems.
Maia: You ask participants to neither accept nor reject the information you provide. Do you find that works for students? Can they lose sight of that?
Rex: The problem is ever-present because it’s the nature of the human mind to want to take hold of something – to either accept or reject, and we tend to accept or reject on the basis of what we think as opposed to what we know.
We always get people who react negatively or positively; there’s not much difference between the two. In a way the positive is better insofar as it doesn’t set up blockages; you’re still open to what you’re hearing. Outright disagreement tends to set up a blanket blockage so you stop hearing everything, but both need to be transcended. We need to hear what is said, consider it rationally and objectively, then put it into practice. Individuals have to come to it in their own time, in their own way, and verify for themselves in their own experience, and that is always the approach we take.
Maia: And you base everything on Advaita?
Rex: The basic premise of the philosophy is encapsulated in the word Advaita—not two, the philosophy of non-duality. There is an underlying unity that is the basis of all manifestation, which unifies all experience. That underlying unity is given many different names: consciousness, the Absolute, God, etcetera. As far as we’ve discovered, the Vedic approach to philosophy is the most concise, accurate system for the discovery of truth.
Maia: Philosophy has an effect on individuals and how they interact with other people, but does it also provide a general uplift in the underlying universal consciousness?
Rex: The two go hand in hand, you can’t separate them, but they can be distinguished; so providing you can provide the technique for individuals to realise who they really are, at the same time, as a consequence, it provides an uplift in society, in its general level of consciousness.
The school also sponsors creative works of art, composition and performance of music, dramatic works, publication of books and that sort of thing, which feeds into that same broad field of raising general awareness in society.
Maia: I’m fascinated to know what determines an individual’s response, or decision to take a certain path whether right or wrong, constructive or detrimental. What’s the philosophical view of this?
Rex: There are two factors involved: one being the inner potential of the individual, and then there’s the circumstances they find themselves in. It depends on how those two interrelate. For some people it’s a foregone conclusion. There are forces from the past which tend to govern the way a person acts, but there is always the opportunity for the operation of reason – it’s always open to the human being to choose. Everyone has the potential for that, but it depends on how you act as to whether you reduce your ability to make that contact – whether you’re capable of accessing that choice, and it’s possible to keep acting in a way as to remove all possibility of a choice entirely.
Maia: And then what?
Rex: Like all other forms of human activity, what you practise doing you get good at; what you practise changes your nature. So, if you practise being unreasonable and irrational, you naturally become more and more unreasonable and irrational. If you practise habits over and over without exercising a rational choice, then eventually you find yourself incapable of exercising a choice and entirely at the mercy of habit and external stimuli.
Maia: Who participates in your courses and what feedback do you get from students?
Rex: A wide variety of people come along. It’s open to everybody from mid-teens, and is most often attended by adults. Some are into it straight away, others are more cautious or overwhelmed, others find it really challenging – a bit too uncomfortable – but often you can’t predict the ones who will drop out.
The main positive response we get is things like, “I’ve been looking for something like this all my life”, “It’s changed my life”, “I know where I’m going now, where I want to go”, “I’ve got a technique to guide me, it’s not a matter of wanting to change, it’s a matter of knowing how to change” and generally that it provides inspiration and guidance, and that it’s good to see others who have gone before.
There can be some quite negative reactions in the first week or two, but it seems usually to be because things come up that some people don’t want to deal with. Rather than use it as an opportunity for self-examination, they can strike some inner resistance, become overwhelmed and lash out at the object outside – that’s just the way some people respond.
The School was founded in London in the 1930′s. and evolved into principally focussing on Platonic-based philosophy, with some influence from modern philosophers like Gurdjieff and Ouspensky.
By 1961 the school came into contact with the man who introduced Transcendental Meditation to the west, Maharishi Mahish Yogi, and the practice of meditation became part of the School’s approach. The School evolved still further after contact with the head of the Maharishi’s tradition in India, Shri Shankaracharya Shantananda Saraswati, and he is the School’s main source of Vedic philosophy as it is still used today.
There are many branches of the School throughout the world and it continues to grow. The schools are dotted throughout England, Scotland, Ireland, the USA, Canada, Trinidad, Greece, Malta, Spain, Italy, Belgium, The Netherlands, New Zealand, South Africa and Australia.
The School has also branched out into teaching philosophy to school children in many countries by running numerous infant and primary schools, and in some places high schools and boarding schools, to give young people a head start in life.

 

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