Tag Archives: Health

Is your context for leadership big enough?

I can’t hold myself back any more.

We need a larger – much larger – context for leadership than most of us are embracing right now.  It’s time to step up.

It’s possible that, in your role as a leader, you are the one who has been telling up-and-coming leaders that they need to think more strategically.  It’s possible that you are that up-and-coming leader, grappling to understand what “more strategically” even means.  Let’s face it, the day-to-day demands of your job keep you busy enough, without having to “think strategically” – even if you could understand WTF this phrase even means.

In 2016, it needs to mean more – much more – than it has ever meant before.

Seeing the earth from the moon

Recently, I came across a short film, The Overview Effect, which explores the experiences of five astronauts who got to see the earth from space.  These men and women describe the experience of awe they had on seeing the earth from afar and the paradoxical effect of both being at a distance from it and feeling totally connected with it – a part of the larger whole.  From this distance, they were able to transcend knowledge and to experience things they had previously known – though only at an intellectual level – are true.

From this distance, the astronauts were able to perceive both the beauty and the fragility of the planet.  I think of this as pure potential which is also at great risk.  The impact of clearing forests to cultivate crops, for example, are not only visible – they become clear.  As one interviewee put it, from this distance, it was clear that if the earth becomes sick, we all become sick.

On earth, we know this at an intellectual level and yet somehow remain separate from it.  And as long as we maintain this sense of separation, the earth’s future – our future – is at risk.

Our future:  an apocalyptic vision

Many commentators believe we are at risk: if we continue in the direction we are heading now, we face a dark and difficult future.

It’s pretty clear – as much as anyone might try to mask it – that we continue to live through major economic challenges and that, in fact, we’re not yet done.  Chris Martenson and his colleagues at Peak Prosperity, for example, continue to point to a further economic crisis, as they did in a recent blog posting, entitled Get Ready… Change Is Upon Us.  In February of this year, George Friedman gave one view of the emerging global situation, pointing to a fundamental shift in power from Europe to the US.  For me, the thought of a new era in which the US, under President D. J. Trump, is in power – well, it’s not a comforting thought to say the least.  In addition, Tobias Stone in the Huffington Post offers a truly apocalyptic view of the times we are in – pointing to a turning point in history, and a profoundly difficult one at that.

Why does it matter?

Why do we need to embrace a larger world view?

Even in the best of times, our ability to step back from our immediate concerns and view them in a larger context provides the basis for effectively assessing our situation, weighing the importance (or not) of the decisions that face us, making decisions and taking action.  Often, we see this in terms of stress management – to be able to do this is to be able to fulfil our goals whilst minimising the weight on our shoulders that comes with our responsibilities as leaders.

But our decision-making is also far-reaching in its impact.  It goes beyond our immediate well-being or that of our staff.  It goes beyond the well-being of our customers or even that of our shareholders.  Ultimately, the decisions we make contribute to the health of our planet or they undermine it.

If we have in our sights the impact of our decisions on the planet, we have some hope of shaping a future that serves life.  This is a future that is bigger than our next pay-rise or promotion and bigger than our next project deadline.  At the same time, many commentators are pointing to issues, at global level, that we are barely beginning to acknowledge, let alone to address.  Some hope that we can address them now, to avert disaster.  Some fear it is already too late.

As leaders, to do anything other than take these issues into account is to fiddle while Rome burns.

Current narratives – a wholly inadequate response

I wonder, how is your organisation responding to the issues outlined by Martenson, Friedman and Stone?

Please don’t get me wrong.  It’s not that I don’t see progress in the world.  Nor is my daily life in any way miserable – I am blessed, truly blessed.  I hope you are, too.  Counting my blessings – in my case, keeping a gratitude diary – is part of my ongoing practice.  Even as I write this, I find myself connecting with heartfelt feelings of gratitude for everything that is in my life.

At the same time, there is a larger picture.

In my work with clients across multiple organisations, I see a narrative that is old, tired and untrue.  At best, it points to the cyclical nature of the economy, recognises that we have been in a down-turn, cleans out old wood and carries on as though everything has been sorted.  At worst, it imagines that nothing needed to be sorted in the first place or maybe – as a substitute for something as bold as a statement about what is or isn’t true – ignores a larger picture in favour of getting on with this month’s project or this year’s.

It hardly needs saying that our politicians aren’t doing much – no, any – better.

Measures of good health in the world

How do we begin to assess the health of our leadership approach?  I offer some thoughts below:

Are we pursuing life-serving goals?  How does your organisation support life on earth? Does it frame goals within the context of the health of our planet or of people, animals and habitats?  One of these goals relates to the distribution of wealth, such that people can meet their most fundamental needs – for food, water and shelter, for example, and to live in relative safety.  Yet research tells us that our resources are increasingly concentrated amongst the world’s most wealthy – only recently the charity Oxfam highlighted how the world’s 62 wealthiest people own the same as half the world’s population.  Take a moment to reflect on your goals or that of your organisation and how clearly they are designed to serve life.

Do we value all life equally?  In America, the current conflict between Native Americans and commercial interests over the proposed Dakota Access Pipeline point to continuing systemic discrimination against particular groups of people.  This has also been highlighted in 2016 by the Black Lives Matter movement.  The current rise of the right in countries around the world suggest that as much as minority populations are asking for their needs to be given equal weight, majority white populations resist the implications of true equality.

Perhaps more profoundly – much more profoundly – this unknown speaker suggests, in a short video posted on Facebook, that the narrative of white versus people of colour “us and them” has a history and a purpose which distracts – deliberately – from the real issues that underpin the way the world works today.  This is the context in which I ask, to what extent does your organisation serve black and minority ethnic populations  including your staff, your customers and groups of people who are not within your immediate purview?

Are we looking after tomorrow as well as today?  How does your organisation act to conserve the planet for future generations?  Culturally, traditional native American thinking emphasises the importance of this goal and, as a result, indigenous tribes have long been campaigners on environmental issues.  At the time of writing, their continuing action to protect water supplies from pollution by a proposed oil pipeline illustrates how fiercely our quest for wealth is colliding with the protection of our planet for current and future generations.  Initial reactions to Donald Trump’s recent election highlight the likely impact on climate protection – see recent comments by Noam Chomsky, for example.

For some, climate change seems distant and somewhat unreal yet its effects are already visible if we choose to observe what’s going on in the world.  The history of the war in Syria – described by Al Jazeera as the deadliest conflict the 21st century has witnessed thus far – points to severe drought as a prompt for migration from the countryside into cities, prompting growing poverty and social unrest.  As a leader, you know whether sustainability is about multiple bins for the disposal of rubbish or whether it permeates your organisation’s vision, mission and values – climate, yes, but also education, prosperity, dignity and more.

Do we work within frameworks that support life, both now and in future?  There is a much larger question, which is about the frameworks in which we operate.   I am thinking not only of your organisation’s policies and systems (though this might be a good place to start) but also beyond this to legal frameworks, trade agreements and more.

Let’s take the economy, for example.  In 1992, James Carville, campaign manager to Bill Clinton in his successful bid to replace George H. W. Bush as president, coined the phrase “The economy, stupid”.  As long as you get the economy right, everything else will follow.

Clearly, we are not getting the economy right.

It’s clear that the world economy went through a significant downturn in 2008.  More fundamentally, George Friedman points to the fact that economics as it is currently conceived and designed doesn’t work, a topic that exercises Bernard Lietaer, author of a number of books on money.  Here’s Lietaer talking about Why Money Needs To Change Now.

The economy is just one example of the frameworks that govern us and you may say, “but we don’t create these frameworks”, which brings me to my next question:

Are we proactive in shaping our frameworks with clear, life-serving goals in mind?  Are you and others in your organisation playing a role in influencing the context within which you operate, such that the frameworks that guide you also support you in doing business in ways which serve life?

This is the point at which, as a leader, you begin truly to step up.  In this context, power is no longer something you seek to gain as proof that you are capable, worthy of the next pay-rise, successful or otherwise “okay”.  No, in this context, power is something you receive with humility and seek to exercise with the greater good in mind.  I am not talking about mindless self-sacrifice or corporate martyrdom.  Instead, I am talking about the mindful recognition that you are the guardian of the resources at your disposal and about a curiosity to define goals which maximise your opportunity to serve.  Sometimes, this is about doing what you can in a given context.  For the mindful, it is also about questioning whether you are in the right place – the right job, organisation or broader context – to do what you feel called to do.

If you’ve read this far… phew!  You have read!  And my own sense is that more – much more – needs to be written.

For now, though, I want to end with a question:  what next?

Perhaps you want to step back and ask yourself, how big is my “bigger picture”, and is it big enough?  Perhaps you want to allocate regular time to do your own research.  Perhaps you want to reflect on the questions above or to leave a comment below.

I hope so.  Our future depends on the sum of our contributions.

Recovery takes time

I was on my way home last Thursday evening when a headline in the Evening Standard caught my eye:  “Recovery takes time, says PM”.  A short article spoke of how the closure of two of the last three deep coal mines overshadowed a tour by Prime Minister David Cameron of the regions.  The article did not state which regions, though in present-day UK “regions” is often code for “outside London”.

The headline had a resonance for me which was probably not intended by the author at a time when I feel particularly tired.  I have been all too aware that, just as some of the challenges of recent months are over and just as it’s time to get back on track… just, even, as some juicy new opportunities are opening up, the weariness and the emotion I feel are close to the surface.

The thing is, I know I am not alone.

When the weariness of times past collides with opportunities to step into a new future

The recession, long and deep – biting, even – has brought with it many hardships.  We’re told the economy is looking up though you may not be convinced – yet.  You know, though, that it’s time to put your best foot forward… even at the same time as you yearn for rest.

Perhaps you’ve struggled to maintain your sense of perspective as you’ve sought to maintain a job in the midst of repeated rounds of redundancies.  As a leader, you’ve probably had to play a role in reshaping activities, designing out valued jobs and even breaking the bad news to equally valued people.  You’ve survived what looks like the last round and it’s time to prove to your bosses that you are worth keeping.  At the same time, you are physically and emotionally drained.

Maybe you’ve secured a job after a period of redundancy.  You may even have secured a job at a level to match the job you lost (though this is not guaranteed).  You’ve noticed how the people who called when you were in a job stopped calling when you lost your job (though you’ve not let that stop you from seeking out and pursuing new opportunities.)  Now you’ve succeeded and it’s time to put your best foot forward and show what you can bring.  At the same time, now you’ve got a job, your body is screaming at you – you need to rest.

Perhaps you are recovering from illness.  Maybe a short, sharp burst of something not-too-serious or a long and painful bout of something you could not ignore.  You’ve had the time off work and everyone’s waiting for you to make up for lost time.  Except that, in truth, you’re still recovering.  You still need to take things gently.

Maybe you have experienced something that is completely independent of our global economic woes.  You have lost a loved one – a parent, a partner or even a much-loved child.  You have taken compassionate leave and said goodbye to the person you loved (maybe, even, hated) so much.  The thing is, your colleagues are expecting you to get back to work but you know that you are only just beginning the process of grieving.

I wonder if you are experiencing anything similar – when the need to rest assaults you just as you feel the pressure to put your best foot forward.

Personal lessons in how not to

I can’t claim superior insight when it comes to looking after myself.

When my friend Sarah (let’s call her Sarah) was in crisis last year I did what I could to support her.  (I wrote about the experience here on my blog under the heading Preventing employee suicide.)  I have no regrets about the role I played… and still, I under-estimated the emotional and physical toll that such an experience would have on me.

When, soon after, I found myself on the receiving end of some heavy-handed action in a context I won’t name, I did what I felt was best both for me and for my colleagues in that context.  I have no regrets about making a stand for an approach in which everyone’s needs mattered… and still, it happened just as I needed to recover from my first experience and added to my physical, mental and emotional exhaustion.

At Christmas, when I needed to rest, I said yes to a few things too many and no to a few things too few.

If you’re self-employed, anything you take on away from your work can easily eat into your work.  As the year started, I was acutely aware of the need to re-focus and I’m glad of the opportunities that are opening up for me as a result.  At the same time, I notice how much I am – even now – in need of rest.

Learning some lessons from my clients in how to move towards recovery

When I trained as a coach my trainers (the wonderful Ian McDermott and Jan Elfline) counselled against seeking to be perfect before coaching others.  “Your clients”, they said, “will bring issues to work on that you will recognise as your own”.

In recent days, I’ve been reflecting on the things I can see so easily when working with clients and which have eluded me in my own situation.  These are some things I notice:

People struggle most when they resist the truth of how things are:  Lost your job and still trying to live the life you could afford as an employee?  Grieving the loss of a loved-one and yet believing you should be working at your old rate of 120%?  Whereas we struggle when we resist the bare truth of our situation, we can be infinitely adaptable once we notice and accept the way things are.  One truth that can nurture and support us is this – whatever your situation, you’re not the only one.

We are most attached to doing things in a particular way when we lack awareness of what needs we’re trying to meet:  Want to prove your worth by landing the next big job?  Want to meet your need for acceptance by bringing in the best sales results ever?  I’ve noticed how people can be most attached to the goals they have set themselves when they are least honest or aware about why they want to meet them.  Even if grabbing the monthly sales trophy does bring a measure of acceptance, your life might be less stressful when you know it’s not the only way.  Understanding why it’s important to us to achieve goals x, y and z opens up new possibilities in terms of how we achieve those outcomes we most desire.

Self-care is an essential part of recovery:  Sometimes, the body gives us clear signals that we need to rest.  We know that.  What’s more, if we don’t attend to our need for self care, the body will probably give us louder signals – or more painful.  We know that, too.  But there’s more.  What if the part of your job you enjoyed the most is the part that was designed out, for example?  What if the source of your struggle is not in the place you thought it was but somewhere you hardly dare acknowledge? Oftentimes, it’s precisely when we step away from the things we’re struggling with that we find a new perspective – a place from which we can find a way forward towards a full recovery.

We have all the resources we need:  In challenging times, we often find ourselves looking around us and longing for something to change.  Surely it’s obvious to our boss that s/he needs to adopt a more reasoned approach?  If only the business would let one reorganisation work its magic before embarking on the next one!  As long as we’re looking outside of ourselves for something to change, we can end up feeling powerless, frustrated, exhausted.  Once, though, we face the truth of our situation, we discover we have the resources we need – the inner resources as well as the outer ones – to find a way forward.

What is it we recover?

If you’ve read this far, you might want to reflect on what you want to recover.  Is your answer “the big-shot job”, “the six-figure (and some) salary” or some other external manifestation?  If it is, I invite you to ask yourself what it would do for you to achieve your goal?  Because it’s not the goal, it’s what your desired outcome would do for you that really counts.

For my part, I know there are things I want to attend to out in the world.  I’m excited about work that’s just around the corner, for example, when I shall be travelling around Europe as well as working in the City and with clients at my Sunday coaching clinic in Harley Street.  I love contributing to others’ learning and well-being as well as meeting my own need for fulfilment and self-expression.

At the same time, right now, I need time to recover.

If you don’t see or hear much from me next week, don’t be surprised.

Being at choice

The kitchen is finally moving towards completion.  Gary has put together his “Schindler” of all the things that need to be done before we can say it’s finished.  I am looking forward to populating the cupboards which need to be painted inside before I can finally move in (meantime, Gary and Wills have been making liberal use of them for tools and other items of their trade).

Wills was full of cold at the beginning of last week and I, too, succumbed so that on Friday I caught myself reflecting on all the reasons why I might have caught the cold – catching it from Wills, the impact of the long hard slog of accommodating work in the kitchen, the cold weather…

…and then I caught myself in the act of thinking that somehow the cold had “happened to me”.  To a degree it had of course.  Henry Dreher, in his book The Immune Power Personality (which I’ve mentioned before on this blog), talks of breakthroughs in 19th century science, when “the researches of German physician Robert Koch and French physician Louis Pasteur led to the theory of specific etiology – the idea that diseases were caused by a single microorganism and could be eradicated by a single strategy for destroying the invader”.

Dreher also talks, though, of the work of Claude Bernard, the mid-19th-century French physiologist.  To quote briefly from Dreher’s already much abbreviated description of Bernard’s work, “Health was predicated on balance, and disease was a by-product of imbalance in the interior environment”.  Germs were not so much omnipotent as ready to to take root when the conditions were right.  Reflecting on my own health at this time brought home the tiny deteriorations in my normal health regimes in recent months – drinking far less of my usual “Supergreens“, overlooking my usual vitamin supplements, a diet that isn’t quite up to par, less walking… I knew I was reaping the results of small changes I was already aware of.  I have been telling myself that I’ll get back on track when the kitchen is done.  This is true – and still, the accumulation of small changes is also the sum of my own decisions in recent weeks.

At one level, I’m talking about a common cold.  At another level, I’m also talking about the wider question of what mindset we bring to our lives.  When something goes wrong, do you focus on what has happened to you?  Perhaps wish things were different that are beyond your control?  Or do you focus on your own contribution – what you have done that has made a contribution and what you can do to move forward?

There is a phrase used by some coaches (and no doubt others, too) – “being at choice”.  We are at choice when we focus on our own choices rather than seeing ourselves as the helpless victim of circumstance.  Others use the term “in your own power”.  Over the years I have seen how successful leaders have mastered the art of being at choice.  These are the leaders who use their power of choice to achieve outcomes they desire.  They are often optimistic and resilient in the most difficult of circumstances.  Rather than expend energy in wishing (fruitlessly) that things were different, they harness their creativity to the question “what can I do?”

And lest you are beating yourself up right now or yearning to do things differently and not knowing how, I hasten to add that this isn’t an “either/or” scenario.  Most of us have moments when we are at choice (standing in our power) and others when we are not.  Moving to a more powerful position is something we do one step at a time.  For me, in recent days, just noticing that I am not at choice has opened up possibilities to make different choices.  

Giving up on coffee – one year down the line

Sometimes readers of my blog have long memories and sometimes they find something that goes back a while simply by browsing. So I don’t know why it surprised me when a colleague recently reminded me of my pledge, made in August last year, to stop drinking coffee for at least a year. How did I get on?

It’s worth saying that, even though I was only drinking a mug a day (OK, a single small cafetiere’s worth of high quality, strong coffee) giving up included some unpleasant withdrawal symptoms. In particular, though I rarely suffer from headaches, I experienced a few in the days and weeks immediately following my decision to stop drinking coffee.

Then there were more subtle forms of addiction. These were the moments when I thought – as a matter of habit – “ooh! I’d enjoy a cup of coffee right now!” Setting a target to give up for a year worked well for me in relation to these habitual responses. I found that saying no in the moment whilst knowing it might not be for ever was easier than saying no for ever.

Over time, these bonds of habit have loosened so that I rarely have those “ooh! Wouldn’t it be nice…” moments. I’ve been happy to keep coffee in the house for visitors and I now know that’s what it’s there for. Meantime, I have discovered that all those herbal teas that used to smell divine and taste like cardboard now smell and taste divine.

August was an interesting month as the year’s anniversary approached. Let’s be clear, I knew I want to continue to live my life without coffee. Still, the thought that I might celebrate the year anniversary by enjoying a cup of coffee before giving it up – well, it did cross my mind. In the end though, I realised both that I didn’t want to risk rediscovering my love of coffee and that I am enjoying myself just as much without.

On a path to living an enjoyable and healthy life, giving up coffee has been just one small step. Still, it’s a step I celebrate.

Stepping softly into the New Year

Most years I like to take a few days out over Christmas to reflect on the year just gone and to look forward to the year ahead.

This year was slightly different! Three weeks after I first wondered if I was going to go down with a cold Christmas came and so did my cold, a drawn-out weary affair which was certainly not flu though it came close. After Christmas with family (as it happens, a time to bring our diverse winter germs together and compare notes) I holed up in my London home for a few days to recover. Having listened to my body’s feedback I postponed my time to reflect and took time to relax. It was good to have these few days with absolutely no agenda other than to listen to my inner guidance and to ‘hole up’. Donny Osmond was the perfect companion.

So I have been grateful this week for a relatively gentle start. My coaching appointments have all been over the phone and I have yet to have any early starts. I have been able to send out invoices to those clients who pay me a monthly fee. (I always do this with joy and gratitude, for this exchange is what makes it possible for me to meet my needs whilst also supporting my clients). I have had time to meditate with ease – though not to meditate and to write on my blog (until today). All this has given me time to return to my aims for the year ahead and to begin to shape the two page document which will guide me through 2009.

I confess that for a few days, this experience has knocked me off my ‘smug healthy’ pedestal, reminding me that I am not omnipotent. As Dr. Christiane Northrup so often puts it (in her wonderful books on women’s health), “sooner or later, the body presents the bill”. My diet has played a huge part in keeping me healthy in 2008. Still, I know that I am currently in the midst of a challenging personal decision and that this is taking time and energy. I wonder how much the widespread germs and colds we have been sharing so generously reflect a time of concern – about the economy, about world events. I don’t know.

Still, here it is. 2009. As I step softly into the New Year I do not know what will happen in the world around me. Still, I know where my direction lies. This latter is enough for me.

A decaffeinated farewell

It’s about nine months since I decided to give up coffee.

In Month One, I did pretty well – withdrawal symptoms apart, that is. I had a whole month without drinking a cup.

My birthday proved testing. Let’s just have one celebratory cup of coffee, I thought, and reminded myself how much I enjoy the aroma, the taste, the sense of indulgence and luxury. That was it! Whilst far from being back to my daily cup, I suddenly had regular reasons to have a cup of coffee “every now and again”.

As my holiday drew to a close, I decided to give up coffee completely for a full year. That was four months ago. In truth, I’ve been surprised at how easily I’ve sat with clients in coaching sessions or in coffee shops with friends and been entirely indifferent to their coffee drinking.

Every now and again I do come away from a meeting or conversation and find, suddenly, a little voice says: “Ooooh! I’d love a cup of coffee!” I’ve come to recognise this link between the most challenging of my experiences and coffee, the great soother.

Still, I’m saying no.

Emotional Freedom Technique: trying out a new approach

A good coach, in my view, is also a committed learner. After all, whether your clients are senior executives, Olympic sportsmen and women, or any other man or woman who (like you and me) is trying to find their way in life, who wants to work with a coach who lacks the wisdom that comes from engaging in their own learning?

When my friend Alex invited me to a session of Emotional Freedom Technique, something he has recently invested in learning and is now beginning to practice with clients, I am aware of all the experiences that have prepared me to try out this new technique. I am also comfortable to try something that is as yet unknown to me.

This proves to be just as well, not least because we hold our session in the open air outside the Royal Festival Hall. I am comfortable that passers by may see – watch even – a process which involves tapping on my hands, face and body, like acupuncture without the needles. I am also comfortable that, should the process stimulate emotions in me (which it does), passers by may see – watch? – as I sit with them.

On the surface, the issue I choose to work with is not close to the emotional bone. In the summer of 2007 I started to experience some physical discomfort in my left knee which has not completely disappeared. Still, as the session progresses I start to make some connections. A penny drops as I realise this started less than twelve months after my father died. Is there a connection? I also realise that, whether or not there is some causal link, I have made a link in my mind, fearing that this is the beginning of a journey towards a debilitating old age. No wonder I am impatient and anxious when I think of my knee.

As the session progresses Alex asks me what’s coming up for me so that I am able to share the thoughts, the emotions and the physical sensations I experience as we go. Throughout the session he is ready to go with the flow, adapting to whatever comes up along the way. At the end of the session I am experiencing no changes in the physical sensations in my knee, though I am open to the possibility that change may occur and I have made some connections along the way.

Over the weekend, as I go about my usual activies (walking to Blackheath and back to collect my dry cleaning, digging in the garden, etc.) I notice the sensations in my knee. There are moments when the pain shifts to another part of the body altogether. There are moments when my knee is quite comfortable. Above all, my relationship with the discomfort I experience is changing. I know that the changes I am currently making to my diet are likely, over time, to create the optimum environment for good health in the second half of my life, I know that my father’s experience in old age need not be mine, I know that – whether the pain goes or stays – I can handle whatever comes my way.

Emotional freedom – stepping gingerly towards a new approach

My professional training as a coach, as well as giving me an excellent underpin for my work with my Executive Coaching clients, opened up a whole new world for me in terms of alternative approaches. It’s as if all paths are leading to some emotional and cognitive Rome – from Emotional Intelligence in the field of leadership development, through Neuro-Linguistic Programming in the field of personal and professional effectiveness to… the list is endless.

My friend Alex has been studying something called Emotional Freedom Technique (or EFT) and recently offered me a session. His text reached me whilst I was in Dubai and I have taken a few days to engage with this possibility. This evening I google EFT and find Gary Craig’s website (http://www.emofree.com/) with its introductory video (http://www.emofree.com/splash/video_popup.asp). I have said yes to a session with Alex and I am thinking about what to bring to the session to work on.

I am struck by the range of issues mentioned in the video including a number of health issues – both common and uncommon. In common with many other “alternative” approaches, the video makes a link between our emotional and our physical health. The idea that our emotional landscape plays a role in our physical health can sit uncomfortably with some, even whilst offering great hope to others.

I am also curious about a particular moment in the video when the speaker talks about the effect of using EFT on the blood. Having recently had my blood tested to check the results that are accruing from making changes in my diet, I recognise the differences between healthy and unhealthy blood.

I drop Alex a line with some possible dates to meet. I am curious. And I am definitely up for experiencing this new approach.

Ramadan, a time of spiritual reflection

The sun set at 18:39 this evening, here in Dubai. This is significant, for today is the first day of Ramadan. Sunset is the time when Muslims break their daily fast.

The Gulf News has been preparing for Ramadan. Yesterday it ran an article with advice for those people who, during Ramadan, experience a variety of symptoms which, together, might simply be labelled “indigestion”. The problem, a dietician advises, is not the fasting during the day. Rather, it is the choice to eat high cholesterol foods as part of the evening celebrations. A simple solution is to eat plenty of fruit and vegetables.

The hotel has also been preparing. A single sheet is distributed under doors throughout the hotel on the eve of Ramadan, offering advice for guests on etiquette at this time. The hotel’s restaurants have also been preparing. Even in Dubai’s relatively liberal regime, the bulk of restaurants and cafes are closed during the day throughout the month whilst the hotel has special dispensation to continue to serve its international clientele with certain provisos. (The commercial opportunity that this represents is not lost on the Restaurant Manager). Normally highly visible, the Brasserie has been cloaked with curtains to reduce visibility. The evening buffet will be an Iftar throughout the month of Ramadan.

Some concerns remind me of home. An article this morning, again in the Gulf News, outlines the number of people arrested last year during Ramadan for begging. Some of them were found to be living in hotels. This reminds me of the ongoing debate in London about whether or not to give money directly to the homeless. It seems that here in Dubai, there are people who are ready to come forward to receive the gifts of Muslims at a time when the focus is on acts of kindness.

For the non-Muslim, maybe even for the Muslim, it is easy to be cynical, to make light of everything that Ramadan brings (from the tetchy tempers in the workplace – beware your smoking colleagues at this time – to the fasting followed by – in some cases – excessive consumption), perhaps even to feel anxious: there are so many ways as an outsider, unknowing, to offend.

I take time to reflect on the purpose of Ramadan, recognising the opportunity it represents for a spiritual homecoming, a time to reflect on one’s values and what they mean in practice, a time of kindness and charity. And as I reflect I wonder if, whether Muslim or not, we are not all alike in grappling with the fundamental question: “How shall we live?”

Blood test “before and after” – the results speak for themselves

Today I received my photos following my visit to see Kate A’Vard. Kate is helping me to make a transition towards an alkalarian diet. My aim over time is to eat about 75% vegetables. It’s an “up and down” journey for me, so it was encouraging to get her feedback when I met with her recently.
I feel excited when I look at the difference between the photos from my first visit (above) and the photos from my second visit (below). Something I’m doing is obviously working.
I especially feel excited as I think about becoming healthier and healthier as my life progresses.
I am celebrating as I write.