Saturday, 31 August 2019

Mindfulness - the New Capitalist Spirituality ?

Since coming across this article in  The Guardian's "Long Read" my mind has 

been full of the issues it raises- so to speak.  

Ronald Purser,  is a professor of management at San Francisco State University, and the 

author of 

McMindfulness: How Mindfulness Became the New Capitalist Spiritualit

available in paperback from Repeater Books from July 2019.

While I wait for the full book, I have considered the article and moved on to 
discuss the sentiments and assertions that Purser makes.

" To See a World in a Grain of Sand "

William Blake
"To See a World..."

(Fragments from "Auguries of Innocence"

 To see a World in a Grain of Sand
And a Heaven in a Wild Flower,
Hold Infinity in the palm of your hand
And Eternity in an hour.
A Robin Redbreast in a Cage
Puts all Heaven in a Rage.
A dove house fill’d with doves and pigeons
Shudders Hell thro’ all its regions.
A Horse misused upon the Road
A Dog starved at his Master’s Gate
Predicts the ruin of the State.
A fiber from the Brain does tear.
Calls to Heaven for Human blood.
Each outcry of the hunted Hare
The Beggar’s Dog and Widow’s Cat,
He who shall train the Horse to War
Shall never pass the Polar Bar.
Poison gets from Slander’s tongue.
Feed them and thou wilt grow fat.
The Gnat that sings his Summer song
Beats all the Lies you can invent.
The poison of the Snake and Newt
Is the sweat of Envy’s Foot.
A truth that’s told with bad intent
Thro’ the World we safely go.
It is right it should be so;
Man was made for Joy and Woe;
And when this we rightly know
Every Night and every Morn
Some to Misery are Born.
Every Morn and every Night
Some are Born to sweet delight.
Some are Born to sweet delight,
Some are Born to Endless Night.

Basically, the idea is that any little thing in the world—a grain of sand, a wildflower—contains some sort of greater cosmic truth if you can look at it with enough energy and imagination. A wildflower is a miniature heaven, a grain of sand is a miniature world… and every person and other living thing, in Blake's view, is a miniature of the Divine Human or "Human Form Divine," which he identified with Jesus. Nearly all the metaphors Blake uses in the rest of the poem tend to be like worlds hidden in grains of sand. A robin in a cage is an example of freedom being crushed by tyranny in a universal way, for example.


 Lanzarote’s early history is veiled in myth and mystery, especially as at around 180 million years old, it is the oldest of the Canary Islands. Populated for at least 2000 years, according to archaeological discoveries, Lanzarote was originally inhabited by Berbers, a people from North Africa. Grazing, fishing and agriculture were the main forms of livelihood for these first inhabitants, who became known as ‘Majos’.
Greeks and Romans knew of the existence of the islands, as shown by excavations in Lanzarote, where pieces of metal and glass were found. Dated between the first and the fourth centuries, they show that Romans  traded with the people of these islands, though there is no evidence they ever set foot there.
After the fall of the Roman Empire, the Canary Islands fell into oblivion for almost 1,000 years, to be then rediscovered in the early 14th century by Mediterranean sailors. It is thought hat the name "Lanzarote" derives from Lanzarotto (or Lancelotto) Malocello, a Genoese sailor, who first moored on the island in the early 1300s. Later Lanzarote was invaded several times by Europeans, who sought to conquer wealth and glory, by capturing natives to work as slaves in their countries.
Over the years, many expeditions headed to the Canaries, but the ultimate conquest began, in the early 15th century by the Norman explorers Juan de Bethencourt and Gadifer de la Salle. Since Lanzarote was, at that time, an extremely depopulated island, natives were willing to sign a non-aggression and friendship pact with the invaders, receiving in return protection against pirates and slavers.
Juan de Bethencourt named his nephew, Maciot de Bethencourt, the first governor of Lanzarote, and then returned to France. Maciot would then marry Princess Teguise of Lanzarote and founded a town named after her.
Conquering Lanzarote, as well as Fuertaventura, La Gomera and El Hierro was no great feat, since the small native population on these islands had already been decimated by the diseases introduced by the Europeans during the years of slave trading. So, to increase the local population, many slaves were taken from North Africa, and dromedaries were also brought to this island.
At the beginning of the Spanish conquest, the islands of the  experienced different histories. The larger islands of Gran Canaria and Tenerife still rendered fierce resistance – it took almost a century until they finally surrendered to the Spanish crown – the process of exploration and colonisation of Lanzarote was already going strong. Soon, the first churches were built and the surviving Majos were forced to convert to Christianity

Friday, 19 July 2019

Lost and Found

While looking for and attempting to organise some photographs, I have come across many of my written pieces/thoughts/poetry from the recent and distant past.

(Oh no ! Not the poetry again !  I hear you exclaim).

I think this one is worth revisiting however, if only to show thankfulness and gratitude to whoever or whatever did "somehow help".  Obviously a culmination of many things, but I am pleased to say that I travelled through that dark and helpless place that I wrote of, and came out the other side and back to "normal" (relatively ! )

Hope others may identify.

Perhaps you could somehow help,
for all the things that I held dear
have left me.

Everything I thought I owned,
all the treasures of a personal world,
all that I called mine, gone.
And not just the material things.
But yes they are gone too.
The things that mattered and made me what I was, 
the books, ornaments, memory trinkets of the past.
Pictures, photographs and music.
All lie useless in this new unasked for life.
I did not see them disappear; I did not watch them go.
Their new whereabouts, and whether they will return, unknown.
The pleasure of the coming dawn against the slowly fading night
or watching a last piece of daytime slide behind clouds.
The smile, or cry, of my child’s child ;
the tiny hands, the questioning eyes, the innocent touch.
A loved ones embrace, a kind word , a cared for thought,
now meaningless and of no point in this place I now inhabit.
Of which I did not choose and can’t escape.
Stolen parts of me which make me into someone else.
Someone I do not like or wish to be.

Perhaps you could rescue me
and take me back
to what I was before.

copyright Brenda Gunning

@ Write - Place Publishing

Wednesday, 12 June 2019

To Daniella - “The first draft is just you telling yourself the story.”

It was the last night of my four night visit to Rome.

I'd walked myself to the verge of exhaustion again and was having a final cup of tea in the

bar/restaurant next to my hotel. Some new brick paving was being laid on the street and the bar was

struggling to keep down the dust, even after the builders had finished for the day and the air

conditioner was doing it's best to pump out some cool, moist air onto the tables and customers sitting

outside with food and drinks.

Emerging from the haze of cold air combined with concrete dust, was a woman, glasses hanging

lopsidedly from their cord around her neck, speaking a combination of English and Italian, from

which we customers understood that she had something annoying in her eye.  She lurched across to

my table and asked if she could "leave this here a moment" , laying down an A4 notebook, whilst

squinting and protesting about the "something" in her eye as she did so.

"This stupid thing - it keeps coming and going," she announced to everyone.

Someone at the table next to me asked if she would like a mirror and she took it gratefully and

began inspecting the offending eye. After a while she gave up looking, returned the mirror and, still

blinking and squinting, sat down at my table.

The conversation that followed was not unique to me in it's substance. In fact, it seems that the older I get, the more likely I am to meet a woman of "over middle age", who explains to me that she is a writer and we then discuss the ins and outs of writing and publishing, finding that we have much in common, in the process.

In Northumberland, some years ago, I met Sylvia who spent her time between there and the Orkney Islands whilst writing,  and we were able to exchange copies of our latest published work.

In Malaga, I met Suzanne who was Swedish and a retired nurse, writing her memoirs and hoping to publish when completed.

And here in Rome was Daniella, a German ex - model and ex -  tourist guide living around the corner from the very place where I  was sitting. I was clearly "in the right place at the right time" again, as she asked me if I would look at her writing and give her my views on it.

Perhaps, as we discussed, there are some sort of "like souls" at play in these meetings.

Perhaps I - subconsciously or otherwise - attract these people who are kindred spirits, or so it seems.

Or perhaps it is plain and simple coincidence.

Whatever the reason, it pleases me that these meetings occur.

I have written my name, phone number and this blog address in Daniella's little brown notebook, at her request. 
Unfortunately her computer had refused to turn on that day and she does not have either the internet or a smart phone at the moment.

So this is for her, just in case she manages to get online soon and can continue telling the very interesting story of her life and her family. I would like to keep my suggestion to her that I will edit her manuscript and help her to publish it.

Docs - Those related to writing, rather than medical issues

So, just when I decided that it's time I really ought to get back to using a pen or pencil instead of a

keyboard constantly, I find this function on my phone.

It's called Docs, which is simple enough for me to remember what to look for even when having a

senior moment or ten.

Whether it's been available all the time I've had the phone or if it's a new thing, I don't know,

but I do know that it's a lot easier and quicker than the memo facility and, whilst there is

definitely something to the feel of writing on paper- especially brand new paper and I've

got a beautiful new notebook that is crying out to be used -  needs must, as they say and

my old age and the conditions it brings with it mean that using one thumb as opposed

to a whole hand is a more pleasurable experience.

I understand that I can write, edit, save and share whether online or not so have visions

of me tapping out my next best seller (next ?) while sat on a beach, on top of a

mountain, in the woods, on a boat ( not likely) or wherever I happen to be when the

muse hits me. Yes, I am expecting it to hit me again sometime very soon.

The risk of losing my notes somewhere is lessened and though the risk of losing my

phone is always "Category High" my manuscripts will be safe as they will have been

sent to some other device in a different location. Magic.

The test of the real benefit of my findings this morning will be if I manage to send this

to anywhere else successfully. If you are reading this somewhere other than on

my phone then I reckon this is my most useful find this week.

And it's only Wednesday so who knows what I'll be doing by the weekend ?

Monday, 4 February 2019

Doubles - A Story of Twins


Alice was older then Evelyn- by twenty minutes precisely. They'd come into the world quite calmly and quietly, the midwife had said, at 7 am on 17th June; definite identical twins. Gemini, in fact.

Even from that first moment of new life, it was clear that they were going to be a little 'different', though no one was quite sure how or in what way. They'd been wrapped up immediately in stiff green linen and laid side by side in a hospital cot where their where their wide open eyes had gazed at each other as though trying to establish their togetherness, from the start, oblivious to the other bawling babies in the hospital nursery. Neither of them cried, even when hungry and they needed little in the way of comfort from nurses arms. Their solace seemed to lie in each other and as long the two babies were in the same cot, they were content.

No one in later years was quite sure what had become of their mother - or father either. Rumours had passed around over time of course; something about the mother's "mental state", what with her being under age and all. But for whatever reason, the twins had no known parents and their early family life consisted of growing up with others in a similar situation in the local authority children's home. Their childhood years were not unhappy, yet their guardians always felt that the twins were unlike the other children who passed through their care. Alice, being the elder of the two, possessed a slight authoritarian attitude towards her sister and Evelyn, in her turn was a little servile.

During the summer months of their seventh year, the twins played in the garden of the large building which was home. Tennis was their usual choice and a rope washing line was stretched between a flowering cherry tree and the gate to the enclosed area, serving as a net. The girls were becoming quite proficient at the game and called out the score in unison, at each pass of the ball. Any bystander would have noticed that it was Evelyn who ran to retrieve the stray ball whenever it chanced to roll, while  Alice waited patiently, racquet poised, for her sisters return. No words were ever exchanged as to the inequality of this procedure as none were needed. The girls knew their roles and complemented each other perfectly.
When they had reached their eighth birthday, a series of foster homes became available to Alice and Evelyn. They anticipated these changes with childish excitement and spent many hours discussing the likelihood of the nature of their future "parents" and home.

"It will be  family with lots of ... ", Alice would begin.
"Children", Evelyn would finish for her.

"There'll be a great big garden ... ", Alice would start.
"With apple and pear trees". Evelyn would complete the sentence.

Then they would gaze into each others eyes as if nothing else existed, and nod and smile their agreement.

Although they were not unsociable children, there were never any real friends for the twins. Each others company was always more than adequate for them. They were dressed similarly, but not identically. Alice's favourite colour was rosy pink, and her clothes were chosen accordingly. Evelyn preferred a pale shade of lilac and though the styles and patterns were the same, each sister could be indentified by others by the colour choices.  
During their primary school years it became noticeable that the girls were becoming more withdrawn from the children around around them. Teachers would call out individual names to mark attendance registers, but both would answer to both names and soon  they were referred to as "The Twins" and they could reply as one, which suited everyone.
A day was never recalled when only one twin attended school. Through epidemics of childhood illnesses where class numbers where greatly reduced, the twins could always be found patiently waiting in their places for the start of their lessons.

One of the dinner ladies at the school - as they were then called -  a Mrs Baker, often recalled the day she came across the twins in the playground. The pair were seated on the rough ground, Evelyn with a protective arm around her sister who had tears streaming down her cheeks. On asking the reason, the puzzled woman was told through the sobs,
"We've hurt our knee".
On inspecting Alice's leg more closely, brought even more surprise when it was found to be unmarked, but on glancing at Evelyn's leg, a large graze  oozing blood could be seen.
Mrs Baker recounted this tale many times and  revelled in the astounded reactions she managed to gain from her story.

Many people also remembered the annual ball at St. Thomas Secondary School, the year the twins turned sixteen.  The whole of the fifth year had longed for this ball for the past twelve months, planning what they would wear, who they would dance with and what music would be played.  The twins were also involved in the anticipations, though their conversations were only with each other.
It was expected that they would dress in their favourite colours - pink and lilac, for Alice and Evelyn respectively. There was no reason to imagine that the ball would affect any changes in preferences.
When the ball began and the twins arrived, it caused quite a stir for the whole party to see both Alice and Evelyn dressed in a profuse shade of rosy pink. No one commented to the twins on this at the time. It didn't seem quite right to mention it, but what many did comment on, later, was that when Alice was asked if she would like to dance, Evelyn followed her onto the dance floor, and when Evelyn was brought a drink, both girls took alternate sips from the same glass.

After leaving school, the twins became employed by the local hosiery manufacturer, checking and packing stockings into large cardboard cartons. Work colleagues reported that they barely spoke to others on the factory floor, in the canteen or on the bus to and from work. Yet the dialogue between the sisters was constant and eavesdroppers marvelled at the amount of talk that passed between two sisters who lived, worked and spent their leisure time in only each others company.  

Suddenly, without warning Alice became ill.
Leukaemia, it was thought.

Evelyn took leave from work to nurse her sister. Staff at the factory became more concerned as time went by and sent messages each week to the sisters. Replies were brief.
"We are grateful for your concern".
"Everything is as well as can be expected".
"We will keep you informed of the situation".
Then came the message which shocked everyone.
"To inform you of the passing  of Alice. She has passed on peacefully. No flowers, thank you".
The letter was unsigned and gave no clue as to the informant.
A small funeral took place at the local Parish Church, followed by a cremation.
It was incredulous to the to the whole community that the surviving sister did not attend either occasion.

Evelyn did not return to work. Nor was she seen around the village. When milk bottles accumulated on the doorstep of the twins home and neighbours reported no sightings or sounds had been heard, the
police were informed. The front down was broken down and the search revealed that there no signs to suggest that anything in the house had been removed or even touched.
Newspapers reported on the "Marie Celeste home of Twin Sisters", and of the disappearance of Evelyn.

Gradually the story faded from the front pages . The police search was called off, the twins former house cleared and sold ; the proceeds put into trust, for the event of Evelyn's return. The memory of the twins drifted from the minds of all who had known them.

Except one.

Dr R Hinton, GP.

Nothing could erase from his mind the memory of the day he was called to the Reilley house to pronounce one of the sisters dead. The day of whose events he spoke about to no one all through the funeral proceedings and the following investigations. Or for the rest of his life.

Alice had been laid on the bed in an upstairs room when Evelyn had guided Hinton to her side. He'd seen and assessed hundreds of corpses in his career, and there was no reason to think that this one would be any different.

Evelyn moved ahead of him, slowly, smoothly and silently as if floating rather than walking up the flight of stairs. He followed , dream-like . Powerless against an invisible pressure pushing him forwards. He felt his blood rushing through the veins in his body, making his ears pound as if by sledgehammers, as he continued his ascent. The door of the bedroom was open slightly as Evelyn moved into the room, revealing her sister, motionless on the bed, her hands crossed neatly across her chest, fingers entwined.
Turning to glance once at the doctor, as though in confirmation, Evelyn's form took it's position of that of her sister, laying her body against Alice's until the contours of each melted and merged perfectly into  one. The twins were at peace.

Copyright Brenda Gunning - 1994

Mindfulness - the New Capitalist Spirituality ?

Since coming across this article in   The Guardian's "Long Read"  my mind has  been full of the issues it raises- so to spe...