Brexit day: Better to light a candle

bright burn burnt candle

Better to light a candle…..

We light candles to remember someone, to honour them, to keep their memory, essence and spirit alive in our own lives and in our minds. It’s a conscious act, to light a candle. I sometimes do it in a church or cathedral to remember and honour a person who has passed from my life and our world. It’s a bit of an emotional thing to do, but it’s also satisfying. Action has been taken and a statement made.

The saying “It’s better to light a candle than to curse the darkness” is said to be a Chinese proverb. It’s been quoted as something Adlai Stevenson said about Eleanor Roosevelt. The first time I heard it said was by  Satish Kumar at a talk he was giving, sometime back in the early 1990s. It struck me as a very powerful thing to do, to take action rather than rail against the darkness, to bring light to the situation. I’ve never forgotten it.

I remember it now, as I write this a few days ahead of the UK’s departure from the European Union. Here in Britain there have been some crazy fund-raising schemes to raise money so that Big Ben – currently silent and undergoing renovation – can be allowed to strike eleven bongs at 11pm on 31st January in celebration of our leaving the EU. A vast sum of money was donated to the fund by one of the donors who is inextricably involved in the dubious promotion of Brexit. But the scheme has fallen flat and Big Ben will not bong. Thank goodness I say. What a crazy misuse of money.

Is the UK’s exit something to celebrate? Maybe, if you voted to leave, especially if the likelihood of new trade deals is believed. But what is to be celebrated? What are these leavers going to get? Sovereignty used to be mentioned as one reason, but we don’t hear much of that word now, although there’s still a fair bit of ardent Union Jack flying going on. The dodgy-sounding mantra “Take back control”, which was the Leave campaign’s motto, never satisfactorily clarifies exactly what that “control” will be. Or maybe their idea of control is putting a halt to immigration, which will leave us in need of British workers who are willing to get out into the fields to pick our fruit and veg. And who will replace the social care workers and NHS staff we’ll be losing out on? The government have made reassuring noises about getting additional NHS staff, but I’m a sceptic and nowadays I don’t swallow a lot of the duplicitous stuff that is promised.

Many people believe that Brexit is done and dusted, but in reality it’s only just about to start. The truth is we don’t know what will change in our country and in our everyday lives .

Trade deals they say – we shall be free to have new trade deals with other countries – but as I understand it, these things take several years to negotiate. In the interim, we don’t quite know what this will mean for the people of the UK; those who voted to leave and those who voted to remain will be in the same boat, the same murky, misty darkness. Some will be hoping for a bright new start, that it will all be alright, we’ll muddle through, we’re British and we won the war! Remember Churchill? Yes, of course we can stand on our own etc. etc. I’ve heard all of these arguments and more, but supported by very little of substance because the truth is, we none of us know what will happen when we move into this new, unknown space.

I read Will Hutton’s article pubished in The Guardian several days ago. As well as analysing Britain’s potential future prospects, he comes up with a sound idea for peaceful action to mark the occasion, saying:

So at 11pm on 31 January, dismiss [Boris] Johnson’s extravagant claims for what lies ahead and the faux celebrations. Light a candle in a window, at your door, in your garden; find friends to do it together. We stand for a European Britain. We will be back.

I rather like that. I feel European, but I’m also British. The two are not mutually incompatible. I wanted to remain, and that desire will not go away; I have a French daughter-in-law and extended family in France because of this, Spanish friends in Spain, colleagues with mutually-shared interests and aims in Germany, former students in Greece, Italy, Malta, Belgium, Ireland, Sweden, Bulgaria and The Netherlands. European countries all of them and in the EU too.

So on Friday I will be lighting a candle to mark the passing of our EU membership, but I will also be lighting it for a European Britain. We may appear to be physically leaving, but in spirit, we’ll always be there.

The most wonderful time of the year?

IMG_0547Switching on the radio the morning after the UK General Election (I already knew the result), what I heard was Andy Williams singing “It’s the most wonderful time of the year” – a schmaltzy Christmas song that I’ve never liked. I switched off.

For me, it’s a trite and rather dreary song, but it did get me thinking. Regardless of the result of the election, there are and will be people sleeping rough on the streets of Britain. There are and will be people barely managing, needing to go to food banks, even if they’re in work – maybe on zero-hours contracts.  Will this go away under the new, jubilant Tory government? Despite what our MP, herself a Tory, said at the recent hustings I attended, I feel in my gut that the erosion and depletion of care and concern for those less fortunate in our society is likely to continue for some time. I may be wrong, the glass may be half full, and right now there is only so long I want to stay in this rather gloomy place.

So Brexit will happen then, on 31st January….or will it? It seems a lot of  people in Britain fell for Boris Johnson’s 3-word mantra of “Get Brexit Done” and voted him in as Prime Minister, even though many of them were traditionally Labour voters. The country is still reeling with jubilation or shock, depending on which way they voted. My vote is a floating one these days, and I voted tactically – not for Boris I might add.

He’s going to have his work cut out trying to bring healing to our disunited country; time will tell if it works.  There will be much work to be done to secure and finalise leaving the EU – it will probably take years to get it done. Oh joy.

In the meantime, I’ll step out of Scrooge mode and do my best to express in my everyday life the sentiments of the quote I have on the About Me page on this blog.

Three things in life are truly important: the first is to be kind; the second is to be kind; the third is to be kind – Henry James

With the cup half full – probably a lot more full than that – here’s to more kindness and generosity of spirit, smiles, warmth and humanity towards all people, living creatures and the environment as we approach the festive season and the turning point of the year – the Winter Solstice. May the returning warmth of the sun and light awaken something more positive in us all. We need it.

At the Hustings

I’m reblogging this account of the hustings from “I Can’t Believe it!”

Last night I was  at the Tatton hustings in Cheshire, which became lively and noisy when ex-Cabinet minister Esther McVey was booed and heckled. She was depressingly monochrome and only really came into her own (drawing on her experience as a TV presenter) at the end when she did her summing up. It was like she was back “on script”, giving a performance. Hadn’t the Tories issued candidates with a crib sheet of what to say? It sounded like she’d learned it off by heart; she didn’t convince me that she was speaking from the heart.

The other candidates, however, felt and were a lot more genuine, with Labour’s James Weinberg standing out as a beacon of hope for the future, where change is desperately needed in our riven country.

Environmental issues and climate change are infinitely more important than Brexit, yet I suspect that the silent block of Tory old schoolers will vote for McVey and Boris the Blamer. Significantly, it was only McVey who blamed other parties in this debate and sought to bring them into disrepute. The other candidates occasionally referred to other parties, but did not to blame or dwell discussing or disrepecting them.

My hope (and vote) is for our once “safe seat” for “shoo in” candidates (previously George Osborne & now McVey) becomes a lot less safe and gives way to new wave of refreshing change.

I can't believe it!

We’re into the last week of the UK General Election, so we went to the local hustings, in Alderley Edge. As background, Tatton is a Conservative safe seat currently held with a huge majority (58% of voters, Labour second) by ex-minister Esther McVey.

The hustings were held in a church and chaired by the vicar. Candidates answered questions put by selected members of the audience.

Esther McVey largely stuck to the party line – get Brexit done, with little detail on anything else. She was bemused as to why there were more food banks today than 10 years ago, and why politics is now so divisive. It seems it was all caused by Labour’s creating the financial crash of 2008 and leaving the country in a mess. Nothing to do with the banks and Tory policy in the intervening years, then. Derisive laughter met her attempts to explain why police…

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Trust, truth and communication

group of people sitting indoors

Photo by fauxels on Pexels.com

It’s hard to trust much of what we see, hear, read or are presented with via the media as  the UK staggers wearily towards the forthcoming general election.

Truth and trust is a rarity. We have a prime minister, supported by members of the cabinet, who appear to be highly capable of making things up as they go along, claiming they are facts. Well they may be, but the chances are they’ve been massaged and manipulated to serve the purpose of getting the message across. I’ll be generous and say that some of them may be wrong because they’ve been incorrectly remembered or briefed, but that’s as far as my generosity is likely to go.

In most instances in this run up to the general election, it seems to be the output of the  prime minister which comes across as lacking in the trust department. He appears to be uncomfortably incapable of speaking with conviction or truth.

Time and again as he goes about electioneering, people around the country and the journalists who follow him, are asking questions which he deflects by ignoring them, changing the subject and blaming the mess we are in on other people and other political parties.

Mulling this stuff over in the wee small hours, I was reminded of some of the psychosynthesis/self-awareness training I have been  involved in delivering. We asked participants to do an exercise based on psychologist Virginia Satir’s Methods of Communication.

Taking on each of these roles in turn, so as to experience them, and with a thumbnail situation to role play within, they are

The Blamer, who shifts the onus as far away from his/herself by throwing blame on others

The Placator, who tries to please & doesn’t want to upset things

The Distractor, who changes the subject as fast as possible

The Computor, who is logical and factual but is also totally unemotional as he or she doles out the dry facts

The Leveller however is where it’s at. Levelling is about being honest, truthful, coming from what is known as your centre in psychoynthesis terms. Even if you’ve never heard of “the (your!) centre” before, you will have a sense of  what it means.

It means to be solid, honest, secure,  true and “right on” in what you’re saying and doing, to be authentic…..if you’re coming from this place, and are levelling (like speaking your own truth and admitting you don’t always know the answers to things), people will respect you and believe you. You will be credible because of your vulnerability and authenticity. These are some of the qualities that a good leader will express.

So now, what I’m doing every time a politician speaks in this dreary, dreadful, divisive Brexit-ridden election, is remembering to apply some of Virginia Satir’s wisdom to their style of commuication, and form my own opinion.

The Magic of Psychosynthesis

We are living in troubled, unsettling times, not just here in the UK where I sit and write, but in many countries around the world. Brexit, now exposed for what it really is, has morphed into an unpleasant can of worms and the effects reverberate not only in the UK, but in other countries in the European Union which are involved in this mess. France is having prolonged demonstrations with the gilet jaunes, and in Catalonia, the people are demonstrating against the lengthy prison sentences given to the leaders of their bid for independence. We are connected in our European angst, but unrest is global. Hong Kong and Chile have political protests, Libya too; the Extinction Rebellion movement and the Friday school strikes for action on the environment have spread around the world. Change is prevalent.

As an astrologer and practitioner in astrological psychology, I can turn to my ephemeris to see what might be going on through an astrological lens, knowing full well that Saturn and Pluto have been in Capricorn for sometime now. Working alongside, they’re gradually grinding down and clearing out the outworn structures of the so-called “establishments” which are taking the hits. Like industrious workmen, they get on with their own jobs, coming together from time to time to combine both energy and effect. From April to June 2019 they rubbed along together for a while in conjunction; they touch base with each other again in December, staying in tandem in the near future until February 2020.

Will book cover

What, you’re probably wondering, does this have to do with Will Parfitt’s new book – The Magic of Psychosynthesis: initiation and self development? The answer is just about everything. The book is a treasure trove for anyone on the path of personal growth and self discovery – what the author calls The Work. Moving from the stage of Aspirant (as we all are) to Adept (what we aspire to) Will offers clear and detailed signposts for how to navigate, travel and develop our inner world, yet remain fully grounded and connected to the changing world and environment we live in.

The book acts like a spiritual satnav, gently guiding the reader through the principles of Assagioli’s Psychosynthesis with a wealth of practical exercises to support the journey. Students of Astrological Psychology will already be familiar with the Egg Diagram, and with the analogy of the orchestra, the sub-personalities being different players within the orchestral whole, or Self.

Using reflective meditations based on Assagioli’s four steps in experiencing the will, readers are encouraged to explore their awareness and use of their own will, with techniques to build up muscle and strength here. In astrological psychology, developing the way the Sun – the sense of self – functions in your own chart could be worked on alongside this. I liked Will’s questions here: Who is running your life? Are you directing your life? Are you in control of your life? To what extent is the direction of your life determined by outer events?….

Other compatible approaches are introduced for use alongside the The Work, such as Kabbalah and Tarot. The practical exercises throughout the book can be taken at leisure; there is no pressure to work on them in a linear fashion and I for one will be going back to the section on training the imagination to do the suggested work on automatic drawing. The exercise on selling your soul I found particularly potent, with challenging and thought-provoking questions which hold up a mirror we may prefer to avoid looking in.

Developing the transpersonal qualities of Love and Will underpin much of Assagioli’s Psychosynthesis; both are required, and while it is important to engage with the will, without love there is no cohesion, connection or wholeness. The Work, Will asserts, is about travelling the path of self discovery…and the journey has to include love too. Focussing on and developing the heart is therefore equally important, especially in these times of change and uncertainty. Will suggests that the simplest and most profound way to deal with obstacles, difficulties, challenges, opposing viewpoints (very pertinent right now in our Brexit-splintered society) is to remain heart centred. That, using an astrological psychology prism, requires stepping beyond the personal emotional needs of the Moon – our emotional needs and feelings –  in the chart and taking the leap to connect with the pure and highest manifestation of Neptunian energy – of acceptance, inclusivity and non-judgemental love.

The text of Will’s book is richly supported by references to other psychological and esoteric traditions such as Crowley, Gurdjieff, Regardie and Fortune. These do not intrude on the flow of the text with footnotes but are listed in appendices at the end of the book, along with an index of Practices and Spells.

Drawing on forty years of is own personal and spiritual development and his experience as a therapist, Will writes clearly and with warmth, as though he is speaking personally. For every exercise he emphasises the importance of grounding in real life what the reader discovers on their own explorations of the inner world. He emphasises the importance of coming back to earth, of being here now, in everyday reality and to opening the heart to love in all interpersonal relationships. This, he suggests, is especially needed in these challenging times of global change and upheaval and relates to what we as individuals can do, which is to live with a deeper consciousness of our self, and to live every day with love in action.