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Sharing ideas around mental health and life. In the hopes that the good ones will take flight

The Meaning Of Life Is So Simple

Staring out my office window, looking into the distance. I’m always drawn to this one house. Mainly I guess, because they are the only ones in, in the daytime. This couple are very attentive to their house and their roof patio. I have been a bit nihilistic recently, maybe because my OCD has flared up. As by nature I am certainly more cheery than this. As I was just looking at this guy watering his flowers, I thought “What. Is. The. Fucking. Point? That is so mundane, so boring, so… meaningless”. As I sat there I was quickly hit with an alternative perspective. I thought “If he doesn’t water those flowers, they won’t grow. Those flowers are beautiful and by him attending to them he is making the world and my view a better place. The meaning of life is to create life in all forms, in birth, in flowers, in nature, in art, in sport, in friendship, in love”.

Life is special and beautiful for no other reason than it is. We are hard wired to find certain things amazing, what more do we need to life than to follow our passions, to grow life?!

It reminds me of this Alan Watts quote:

The meaning of life is just to be alive. It is so plain and so obvious and so simple. And yet, everybody rushes around in a great panic as if it were necessary to achieve something beyond themselves.

Thank you to you for creating stuff that makings my life amazing, I hope I am also nurturing you.

Stu

“If Life Is A Dream” Poem

I was on the London Underground making my way out of London to go to a funeral of a remarkable women, who's life was sadly cut short. Never the less she lived a wonderful life, and the church was packed - testimony to the great impact she had on so many people.

"Whoever has the biggest funeral wins"

Tai Lopez

Her death was a reminder that we will all depart this earthly plain at some point. While I was on the train I was reminded of an Alan Watts talk called "The dream of life". This notion that life is just a dream. What we call reality is just a dream. This has been on my mind for a while, however that day I felt inspired, nope compelled to write the below. Good or bad it came from a deep place and not from my mind:

A wise man told me that life is a dream,
Which makes death the awakening,
If life is a dream,
Then death is a new dawn breaking,
If life is a dream,
Then the world is my mind,
If life is a dream,
Then I imagine space and time,
If life is a dream,
Then I am something else,
 If life is a dream,
Then this body is my house,
If life is a dream,
I wonder what is the sleepy me,
If life is a dream,
I wonder what I'll see,
If life is a dream,
In death all we lose is being mortal,
If life is a dream,
Death becomes the portal,
If life is a dream,
Then our suffering is imagined strife,
If life is a dream,
That makes death - life

Stuart Ralph (2015)

There are many THEORIES about what happens when we die. I am not certain, but at the moment I think this life is somewhat of a dream, and that our souls will join back with the pure energy of the universe (God). Maybe we'll be reincarnated as human or something else. Or maybe we'll go on to something no one can imagine.

My poem is purely my curiosity on the philosophical statement that "life is a dream".

What do you think of life? My poem? Bananas?

To your success,

Stu

Notes -

If you're interested in reading a refreshing perspective on the "after life" check out - Eben Alexander's book Proof Of Heaven.

[youtube]https://youtu.be/wU0PYcCsL6o[/youtube]

‘Leave it alone’ the 3 words every OCD’er needs to know

We are all addicted to thinking as Alan Watts would put it. If you suffer with OCD your mind is most likely working overtime, a lot of the time. Some days are better than others. Answering your worries, concerns and anxieties only inflames them. I first learned this after reading 'The acceptance field guide' by Mark Freeman. Who later went on to become my OCD therapist. Mark writes about learning to accept anything your brain throws at you, no matter how scary. Not to fight or justify your brains questions. To simply accept. This for me was extremely hard, but it has helped me greatly. Along these lines of acceptance is the idea of 'leave it alone'. I came across this in an Alan Watts video called 'The mind'.

"So in the same way
as a muddy turbulent pool
quiets itself when left alone,
you have to know
how to leave your mind alone.
It will quiet itself"

In the video Alan articulately explains that the mind will quiet itself if you leave it alone. So try accepting what your brain tells you. Also try leaving it alone. When your brain throws up those doubts and fears just leave it. Don't question it, don't answer it, don't even accept it. Just let it go. I found that after a while the mind forgets and stops throwing up the doubts. That anxiety cloud that was in my head, vanishes.
For more severe anxieties you may need to practice acceptance, but for smaller doubts and worries just keep letting it go and have faith in the process.

[youtube]https://youtu.be/emHAoQGoQic[/youtube]

I hope this offers you some rest bite and acts as a stepping stone to your recovery.
Stu

Be Water My Friend

"Treasure is uncovered by the force of flowing water, and it is buried by the same currents" - From the book The Alchemist

I started reading The Alchemist again today for the bizzilioneth time. And the above quote slapped me round the face (figuratively). I can never remember reading this quote which to me enforces the idea that good books should be read multiple times over many years. You can learn more as your perception and understanding of the world will grow over time.

I guess for me the reason why this stood out, is that is mirrors a path I have been walking for the last year. The idea of oneness, enlightenment and that in the words of Alan Watts "we are God". These concepts are so alien in the western world. To think such things may be considered madness. However the more I have studied this look at life it resonates more and more with me. Sometimes truth is felt, not understood.

Having OCD for as long as I can remember and dealing with mild depression over the last two years, I have been seeking that promise-land of piece and understanding. Thank God I am starting to see. The above quote speaks to me because we in any given moment can reveal our own treasure or bury it so far into the abyss. Each moment is a choice. A choice to remember what we truly are or to keep playing that we are not. Each moment, in the choices you make, hide or reveal your treasure (which is your truth).

Love each moment, and make your choices according to your Godly nature.

To your success,

Stu

You are a what the whole universe is doing, in the same way that a wave is what the whole ocean is doing.

Alan Watts

You must be shapeless, formless, like water. When you pour water in a cup, it becomes the cup. When you pour water in a bottle, it becomes the bottle. When you pour water in a teapot, it becomes the teapot. Water can drip and it can crash. Become like water my friend.

Bruce Lee

The Homeless Market

I’m a big believer in end to end charity or social enterprise initiatives. Those charities that do their best to make sure the recipient never needs the charity again. That’s why I’m a big supporter of Centre Point UK. So big in fact I’m sitting here writing this blog in a Centre Point t-shirt and wrist band. They are a great example of a charity that ends the cycle. Check them out >>

I had an idea. Dangerous I know. There are some people that believe that homeless people can get out of homelessness if they use their initiative and some people think they are helpless. I am on the fence. I believe there is always a way, however I also believe that in the UK at least, we don’t make it easy for homeless people to break the chains of their situation. For example there aren’t many employers that will hire homeless people. If homeless people manage to buy some products to resell whether through handouts from the public or on credit (if possible) they can’t sell anywhere without a permit. Which of course they can’t afford. So if no one will employ them or allow them to easily make money, how can they turn it around?

My idea – The Homless Market or 'THM' for the cool kids.

Either a new charity can be formed or the key homeless charities in the UK can merge to secure an area in London once a month to start, where homeless people can sell anything. Without the need to have insurance (covered by the event organiser) or market stall cost. To fund the whole event 5-10% of the homeless persons profit can be paid to the organiser. They will only have to pay if they sell, and then only from profit.

The Homeless Market will give homeless people the opportunity to sell whatever they want, whether that's artwork, crafts or other goods they've bought to resell. The charity could go a step further by creating a wholesale programme. The charity buys various in-demand goods in bulk to get a reduced price, the homeless people can then buy these items at cost to resell for a profit.

In terms of them buying the goods in the first place, they can either use money that has been given to them as handouts or the charity can offer a credit system. They get the goods on loan. What they don't sell they give back, and what they sell they can then pay back the cost.

Other than charities like Centre Point there is no structure or ladder out of homelessness. I see something like The Homeless Market as one idea to create a platform for change, an opportunity to help homeless people help themselves.

Good or bad idea, it's worth thinking about.

What do you think of THM? Can you think of other ways of offering a ladder out of homelessness?

To your success,

Stu

Never Look Down On Someone Unless You're Helping them up

You Go, Motherfucker.

There is no real insight in this post or any revolutionary idea. I simply felt compelled to share the below image.

You go motherfucker

If you are struggling in life, and making your way through the thick of something, know that you are still here, still in the game. So you go, motherfucker!

Keep finding the joy in life, never give up on that, because you're awesome.

To your success,

Stu

"When you're going through hell, keep going" - Winston Churchill

P.S. Who ever wrote this, what a legend!

Stuart In The Arena. Daring Greatly?

Are you in the arena? Or are you just prancing around the edges?

"It is not the critic who counts; not the man who points out how the strong man stumbles, or where the doer of deeds could have done them better. The credit belongs to the man who is actually in the arena, whose face is marred by dust and sweat and blood; who strives valiantly; who errs, and comes short again and again, because there is no effort without error and shortcoming; but who does actually strive to do the deeds; who knows the great enthusiasms, the great devotions; who spends himself in a worthy cause; who at the best knows in the end the triumph of high achievement, and who at the worst, if he fails, at least fails while daring greatly, so that his place shall never be with those cold and timid souls who know neither victory nor defeat."

Theodore Roosevelt

So the above (amazing) speech was given by Theodore Roosevelt over a 100 years ago. Recently it's been playing on my mind. Not in the sense of caring about 'the haters', or critics as Theo puts it. But more of "Am I fully in the arena, risking enough?". I think the answer is no. I'm great at being in the arena. Sadly though I'm great at sticking to the walls, not being fully seen, not immersing myself fully in the experience of the arena. Instead, prancing around the edges. Living more than being in the crowd but nothing in comparison to those in the heat of the battle, in front of thousands of spectators.

Stuart Ralph In France

This luke-warm place between the crowd and the battle is in someways worse than staying in the crowd or by the food-court outside the arena. At least the people in the crowd have plausible deniability. They have a good excuse to which they can lie to themselves or keep them in the 'matrix'. So that they never have to face their potential. Instead, live a life of mediocre comfort. I've come to far. If I stay in the stands it will be torture for me. Once you've swallowed the red pill you can't go back.

I think/assume a lot of people who are into bettering themselves through personal development, philosophy or psychology may suffer the same dilemma as me. You know you must enter the arena for your growth, and to truly live. So you act courageously and enter that proverbial arena. You can see the whites of the lions eyes and of the other gladiators. You smell the blood and feel the dust splatter across your face. With this you know that walking further into the middle may mean death. So you skirt around the edges hoping to go unseen but last long enough in the arena that you win. That you can get the easy kills. Because these small safe victories are more comforting then taking that leap of faith. Even though you know that (most likely) you will survive. The unknown is terrifying. Hence why a lot of people seek religion, to answer that ominous question "What happens when I die?".

I believe we have many arenas in life. One for each area. I've played it semi-safe for so long. Which reflects in my luke-warm results. I want to know failure. But I also want to know success. I want to bathe in the triumph of high achievement and to feel what it's like to fail, while daring greatly. A life lived like that is no doubt a life that will end with a smile. A life lived boldly.

So I'll ask you again - Are you in the arena? Or are you just prancing around the edges?

To your success,

Stu  

Tom Church on How learning martial arts helps increase creativity

"Do external things distract you? Then make time for yourself to learn something worthwhile; stop letting yourself be pulled in all directions. But make sure you guard against the other kind of confusion. People who labor all their lives but have no purpose to direct every thought and impulse toward are wasting their time - even when hard at work."

Marcus Aurelius, the last of the Five Good Roman Emperors wrote this in Meditations, a practical guide to Stoic philosophy I devoured years ago. There and then I decided to take something up, an activity I could focus on outside of work, direct my energy through and learn something from. I tried Salsa, Tango, Swing, as well as CrossFit, running and rock climbing, but finally settled on a little-known Brazilian martial art called Capoeira.

The first time I tried Capoeira something strange happened. Instead of concentrating fully on the move we were practicing - an esquiva lateral - my mind drifted to tea, of all things! But not just any tea, Chado, the Japanese Tea Ceremony.

Chado is a meditative ritual in which you concentrate fully on each step of making tea. You can do it at home by giving your complete attention to putting the water in the kettle, turning it on, taking out a mug, putting in a tea bag, pouring the water in, allowing it to brew and serving it to a guest. It's simplicity is its beauty. As Soshitsu Sen, Grand Tea Master XV said,

Tea is nothing other than this:
heat the water, prepare the tea, and drink it with propriety

No Twitter or distraction, use the act of making tea as meditative practice. It was a bizarre moment in class, but as a kick came over my head and I escaped by moving into a low crouch, I remembered the shape of steam rising from the tea pot the first time I experienced Chado when traveling across Asia.

It would be the first of many instances where Capoeira connected disparate parts of my memory together to form new ideas, new understandings, new viewpoints. And this has helped hugely in my creative work.

I write a creative design blog called Screams where I pull inspiration from multiple disciplines including literature, history and philosophy with areas such as art, design, music and photography. I stir them together and draw out new ideas. Capoeira has helped me develop this skill with its unique characteristics of combining fighting with dancing, music and philosophy.

A circle is formed (called a roda) with two or more people playing musical instruments at the front. One instrument, the berimbau, is a stringed bow that controls everything. How you play, how you move, how you fight all depends upon the berimbau. You have to listen and respond. Two players enter the roda in a circular motion (perhaps with a cartwheel) and begin to play a jôgo de Capoeira (a game of Capoeira). Steeped in history, Capoeira is considered a game. Something fun and friendly. As such the point is not to knock-out or pin down your opponent but to dodge and evade their attacks, respond with your own and position yourself towards a single take-down. You learn to play like a game of chess, predicting movements and thinking three steps ahead. It combines the practice of visual observation with listening, moving and strategic thinking.

Along with writing a creative design blog I'm also a suit tailor. For London's top hedge fund managers, CEOs and corporates I craft bespoke handmade suits with a small Yorkshire firm. Capoeira, with its spins, kicks and flips has helped me develop a new understanding of the relationship your body has with clothing. It sounds waffly but knowing how the size of an armhole impacts your movement but also vulnerability has a big impact. Being able to spot subtle differences in someone's behaviours - John stands upright, Mark slouches, David leans left - is the difference between a suit feeling like a straightjacket or a silk scarf.

  • You can see some of Capoeria's impact more directly in the work of the creative design agency I'm a Director of, FullScream. Take a look at this fashion film we made and watch it until the end.

You will have experienced the frustration of a plateau. You take up a new skill, project or business idea and work hard at it until three months in you hit a brick wall. An obstacle. You reach the peak of a learning curve and begin to plateau, not making progress for weeks. What I've found with learning a martial art such as Capoeira is that it helps you overcome these by training you to see the opportunity in obstacles (something Ryan Holiday writes about in The Obstacle Is The Way). It helps you be more creative in your thinking. You exercise and join different parts of the mind together and see things in a connected way. Slowly it all comes together.

As Mestre Acordeon, the founder of contemporary Capoeira, said to me when discussing similar thoughts, "Grain by grain the chicken gets fed."

——
You can follow Tom on Twitter @tomchurch

What Is Normal? Is It Just A Bollocks Word?

So I tweeted this the other day:

What is normal? Be careful of this word. Remember that mass genocide was normal in Nazi Germany. Normal doesn't always mean good.

It was just something that was on my mind. I will expand on it a little if you're interested. If not, see yah (wink).

The idea of normal is something I used to cling to. I can be extremely random and weird especially with my friends. People would often say "that's not normal behaviour". Sometimes with a cheeky little grin and sometimes deadly serious. What is normal? And even if we decide that. What is normal today wouldn't have been normal 100 years ago and may not be normal 100 years into the future.

In my opinion normal is an ever moving fluid set of beliefs that the majority of society believes often because the mass media or government has normalised it. Normal would have previously been set by the church, mosque and temple.

It used to be normal to do LSD, now it's a class A drug. It used to be normal to not have sex before marriage, now people are bumping uglies on the regular. It used to be normal in Nazi Germany to kill Jewish people for being 'impure'. The idea of normal changes and what was normal in the past is wrong now, and equally so what is wrong in the past is normal now. Let's face it, every generation has never and may never nail the true normal. We are probably doing things now that in 100 years people will look back and deem us evil.

Why would you want to be normal? UK and western society says living a normal life should consist of working 9 to 5 coming home, watching TV and repeating for 50 years. Retire then enjoy life. Why the fuck would you want to be normal?

So what does this mean to you?

Well firstly acknowledge that there is no such thing as normal. Then you are free to be yourself. Know when someone says "that's not normal", just laugh safe in the knowledge that they are still trapped by this crazy idea of 'normal'.

Try not to judge others. I used to do this all the time and still do on occasion. But the more I see a 'weird' bit of behaviour, or see something that is out of my comfort zone, I try not to judge, and instead see the beauty in their 'abnormality'. From this I start to see life as the buzzing, thriving hub of energy that it is.

To your success you abnormal freak,

Stu

Disclaimer - Use common sense. Killing people is not normal. If you get the urge to do this, just go play the xbox after you call a psychiatrist.

My Walk Across Wales (Sort Of)

I only got to day 3. The trip was cancelled at 2pm on day 3 in Builth Wells, about 65 miles in.

I'll start with the sob story, then share some highlights and finally show you some pictures.

I'm a little bummed I didn't complete the goal. In short I underestimated the difficulty of the landscape and the hours needed each day to walk the required mileage.

Duncan and I covered 65 miles (40% of the country) in the two and a half days of walking. Originally I assumed we could walked the 23-25 miles a day in 7 hours, leaving enough time to rest and recoup. However I never factored in how mountainous Wales is. It's all hills! Also, I didn't consider how much slower we would be walking with 11-12kg on our backs, and how much quicker this would fatigue us. On the second day walking through the Breacons I got sunstroke and later that night I was awoken with a splitting headache and then proceeded to projectile vomit alongside my sleeping bag - nice. The third day I was recovering from this, I was dehydrated and my feet were in agony (Blisters. Big blisters). At 2pm on Wednesday the 15th April, I ended the trip. I just couldn't possibly face or bare any more miles. Wales had succeeded in breaking me.

The 65 miles we did was definitely the hardest 3 days of my life. From the middle of day one, I was relying on motivation to push through the pain and 12 hour days. If you donated to Centre Point on my behalf and aren't happy with my incompletion I will happily cover your donation and give you your money back. Drop me a message.

On the brightside of the trip. Between long stints of agony, there were glimmers of sheer beauty. The Welsh countryside is unbelievable. Miles and miles of rolling hills, amazing rivers and sheep. It was lambing season so there were tons of little lambs galloping around their fields, which picked our spirits up. The two nights we slept wild were clear, so we fell asleep under the stars (a little cold). The Welsh people have to be the most accomadating, friendly and happy people I've ever met. Big thanks to all the people that helped us along our journey. Thanks to Duncan for walking with me, and picking my spirits up when I needed it. We had some good laughs, mostly at the pain.

My friend Tessa once told me walking long distances was really hard. I did not believe her. Now I do. Only wussies run.

Key learnings -

  • Correct training is important - although I trained I didn't train in hilly areas and I didn't train with a weighted backpack. I deteriorated quicker than I hoped.
  • Music - I was careful with my phone battery. I could have brought a spare this would have allowed me to listen to music to keep my spirits higher, allowing me to push for longer.
  • Why - You need a powerful why. I had a good why, however after 3 days of constant pain and grinding I was miserable and this allowed me to break. For such a savage task you need to either love pain, have an incredible reason to do it that resonates so deeply with you or you need to have marine like will power.
  • Pack lighter - if I ever do or try anything like this again I will be ruthless in my packing aiming to carry no more than 5kgs.
  • Welsh people don't hate the English - I had always grown up thinking that Welsch people somehow resented the English. From my first hand experience I don't see how this is possible. They showed me more respect than any other country I've ever been too (even my own).

So there you have it. My humbling experience. My naivety failed to allow me to see the size of the task. But as my Dad told me "nothing ventured, nothing gained". Thanks to Centre Point for working with me, although I didn't complete the task hopefully I still did you proud, and raised some vital money and awareness for your great cause.

To your success,

Stu

P.S. Thanks to all who donated. Your money will be put to good use, helping young people who need a chance in life.

P.P.S. You may wonder if I will attempt it again. My answer to you "No fucking way". I joke. My ego won't let me not attempt it again. Next time I will remove the things that hindered me i.e. heavy back pack, certain routes and swap sleeping wild with hotels. "I'll try anything once, unless I fail. Then I'll try it twice".

P.P.P.S. Here are some pictures from the trip:

Map Reading

Reading the map outside Pontypridd.

Hillside view

Amazing view to wake up to after the first cold night under the stars.

Breacon Beacons

In the Breacon Beacons. Behind me is Fan Y Byg (lol).

Duncan of Spirit Pig Hiking

Duncan always looking emasculate. About to start the descent out of the Breacons.

Broken Man

This is what a broken man looks like.

Bivvy Bagging

Bivvy bagging post projectile vomiting.

Builth Wells Bridge

Builth Wells Bridge. This is were the trip ended. What a view.

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