The Presidency

One of the things about the new presidency is the subtle knock-on effect of his speeches and actions that, when multiplied by millions of citizens, can become catastrophic. I'll give a simple example. If I believe my government cares about the environment I'm much more likely to recycle my household items responsibly, take care about litter, and think about my carbon footprint and how to reduce it. Now, when a president arrives who openly favors fossil fuel use over solar and wind power, who is determined to revitalize the polluting power of coal, and who guts the EPA, then -- gradually I begin to look at my efforts to consume and pollute less and say: "What the hell difference will it make if I act responsibly? Placing this empty can in the right bin won't offset fracking, those oil pipelines and global climate degradation." Now multiply that by every citizen in the US. Multiply that again by every current belief system, such as taking care of the poor, the homeless, the disadvantaged -- and any other cause you can name. Can you see how this goes? Our job is to keep the faith and do what's right simply because it's the right thing to do.

Old story

As Trump lurches towards his inauguration I'm reminded of an old chinese story, much repeated. An ancient sage was sitting by his hut when an excited young man rushed up to him and said, "Some wild horses have come to the village. Everyone's running around capturing them! Isn't that great!" The sage answered: "It could be good, it could be bad. Who knows?" The young man shook his head and left. The next day the young man rushed up to the sage again. "Your son just got thrown from one of the horses he was trying to train. He broke his arm. That's a tragedy!" The sage looked up and said: "It could be good, it could be bad. Who knows?" The young man walked off, shaking his head. The next day the young man didn't come. Instead an old woman hobbled up to see the sage. She said, "This morning the Emperor's soldiers came to the village. They took away the horses and all the young men to fight in the war. They left your son behind, though, because he had a broken arm." We may want to consider this message at such a difficult time.

Manifesting

Several people have written, deeply puzzled, asking about manifesting and wondering how Trump managed to get to where he is. Is that, they ask, how manifesting works? Do we have to lie and cheat and make back-room deals to get where we need to be? The point about manifesting is that we get what we are, not what we want. That's an often repeated maxim, but it has never been truer than now. Trump is a power and money hungry egomaniac, and what he has manifested is a situation in which he has power and money but no certainty, although he has plenty of mania. He has achieved his ends but without any sense of personal peace. Personal peace cannot come to him until he realizes that all his striving will not produce it. He hungers for power - so the universe gives him more hunger. He cares deeply about money - so what the universe gives him is more cares around the issues of money. He wants respect - so what the universe gives him is a situation in which he wants it more than ever, and isn't getting it. He has manifested a situation of wanting. He should be lesson to us. The Law of Manifestation does not discriminate between good and bad. It just is, like gravity. It does ask us some important questions, though, about who we are at the core of our being. Trump has never asked those questions. If we are to manifest the best version of ourselves we have to start by being the best version of that self we are capable of being. That takes work, and care, and love. Are you ready to do that?

Ancestors

According to reliable sources libraries these days (especially in the UK) have fewer books and more computers - computers that are increasingly used to research ancestry. It seems that in a volatile world the pursuit of ancestors, or of nostalgia, is consoling for many of us. I can only agree. I found myself last month researching my uncle, killed in action in 1944. Not much existed on-line, although I did turn up a picture of his grave. The thing is I could presumably have contacted the widow of his son, or someone from the family. I know they're alive. Unfortunately I don't know their names or where they are. My father didn't really keep up with them. What might this tell us? Perhaps that in earlier times ancestry (for those of us who aren't aristocrats) was something that didn't matter much. People had a pretty good idea of who they were and of their culture. They knew they had relatives scattered around and didn't worry about that much. Today we are more neurotic -more desperate to know who we are because the media tells us so often who we ought to emulate, but forgets to ask us to value who we actually are.

Time Waits for No One

Character - it's an old concept, and one that we often get confused about. Character is not your past, nor is it your promises about the future. Character can be boiled down to this; how do you treat Time? Are you always late? Does that offend people? If you're always late you'll generate different opportunities for yourself than if you are, say, always early. And from those opportunities come choices. Those choices will shape what becomes your character. How you decide to live with Time effects what you decide. Do you waste time? That will create opportunities, too, but they may not be much fun. Do you come to snap decisions? That can be good, but it can also lead to prejudice and stereotyping - and so on. Time is character.

Get Your Act Together

Today (November 20th) The New York Times suggested that the rest of the world is waiting, in this post election period, anxiously for the US to "get its act together". Ah, the myths we tell ourselves. I spent the first 30 years of my life in England (mostly) and I have to say that many people in Europe even then felt that the US never actually had its act together at all. That impression has remained, as far as I can tell, ever since. In the US we tend to think of ourselves in slightly grandiose terms - that we're somehow looked up to by every one. Envied for our wealth - yes; Envied for our power - yes; Looked up to - not always.... I can recall American tourists in Europe thoughtfully wearing Canadian flags on their clothes for exactly that reason. They wanted to be treated as people, not as "Americans". The Trump era is one we'll all have to work hard in - trying to make sure our country is kept relatively stable and intact. Let's do that. Let's work hard -- and then we'll see that we will indeed be looked up to.

Election Fallout

A number of people have expressed fear and sadness to me about the election results, and asked for help processing what happened. While I'm always happy to offer my counseling services to those who need them I can also offer you some practical advice for something you can do right now, for free. If you can, take a walk somewhere with trees. There's no need to talk to anyone, just walk. Then make yourself a snack of some kind. Something small and easy to prepare -- an English muffin with your favorite jam, and perhaps a cup of tea of coffee. Sit and eat and drink slowly. Again, there's no need to talk or to text. Be quiet with your grief and disappointment. Then, if you can, do something to tidy up your immediate space. Put papers away; empty the dishwasher; do laundry. Whatever is close and easy. If you're at the office you can tidy your desk. You may have to do this once or twice a day for a couple of days. Gradually you will send your Unconscious a powerful message -- that you are taking care of yourself and that the struggle is not over. You will get through this. Because you absolutely will get through this. And when you emerge you'll be ready to take on any struggles you need to.

Treadmills

Treadmills are wonderful - you get on, you exercise, and then you get off. That last part is important. You have to get off when you've done your workout. Staying put is not a great idea. The same thing is true for those mental treadmills we find ourselves on. Sure, stay on - for a while. Use the time to work out whatever it is you have to work out as much as you can manage for that day. Then get off. What cripples us is staying on the same thought, day after day, working hard and never getting any further with it because we've become habituated to the mill, rather than using it for what we need it for. Watch out for those mental treadmills.

Inspiration, anyone?

I often get inspired by my students. Today I heard from Krista, via Facebook, that she's training to run a marathon. Not too unusual, you may say. Krista has learned how to rock climb, become a civil rights lawyer, and generally done a whole lot of inspiring things. And now the marathon. There's just one more thing you need to know about Krista - she lost the lower part of one leg to childhood cancer. A strong woman who will not be kept back by anything -- that's inspiring.

Happy 950th Anniversary

Today is the 950th anniversary of the Battle of Hastings. I don't usually like to commemorate events of slaughter, so you'll have to bear with me on this. When the invading William The Conqueror defeated the Saxons in 1066 he imposed Norman-French rule on every citizen in his new realm; new language, new laws, new officials, new systems of government at every possible level. It was the most complete power take-over the country had ever known, and the last time the British Isles was successfully invaded. It was, to be plain, brutal. What happened was that over the next few centuries the local cultures began to push back, slowly. English eventually became the language of rulers and ruled alike. Powerbrokers and peasants could actually communicate once again. A new country arose from the bloodbath. It wasn't a miraculous rebirth; it was painful and hard and often it must have felt counterproductive much of the time. Yet gradually the people curtailed the power of the gentry and moved towards something that might look a bit more like democracy. So today I'd like to recognize the battle, but also to show gratitude to those uncounted generations who pushed back against tyranny, inch by inch. To paraphrase Gandhi: remember, whatever you do may seem inconsequential, but it is important that you keep doing it.