May 14

MINISTRY OF HAPPINESS AND WELLBEING

Just imagine for a moment that a Government of a modern day country chose to establish a ministry dedicated specifically to the happiness and well-being of its citizens and residents. Sounds outlandish, right? I mean, a Government  (according to Wikipedia and the Business Dictionary) is a system or group of people governing an organized community or state…that sets and administers public policy and exercises executive, political and sovereign power through customs, institutions, and laws within a state. Not much room for the exploration of happiness and well-being in such a stiff-necked, protocol following world of Government one might say. Having worked within the structures of local government in the UK, I can testify that I witnessed no proactive strides to foster happiness and well-being within either written policies or human practices. Job descriptions were flooded with to do’s, but no attention was given to how the civil servants felt. Feelings were simply not questioned unless they rose to high levels, spilling over into ‘misconduct’ that interfered with the carefully planned out functions. No wonder there is so much talk of ‘extended tea breaks’ in our public sector world.

 

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Anyway, imagine how surprised and delighted I was upon recently visiting the UAE (United Arab Emirates) and discovering that the Emirates had the foresight to establish a fully staffed government ministry…not just a department…dedicated to the happiness and well-being of persons living in/visiting each of its seven (7) federate areas (emirates). Now I was part of a theatrical delegation from Jamaica, proudly representing a monodrama piece, “Who Will Sing For Lena?” by Janice Liddell, at the biennial Fujairah International Arts Festival. From the moment of landing at Dubai airport, there was an immediate sense of feeling welcomed and respected. The feeling permeated the entire visit. It may not sound like a big deal, but having lived the majority of my life in England and had opportunities to travel, I can tell you that ‘welcome’ and ‘respected’ are not words that readily come to mind when recalling arrivals on the tarmac (in the earlier years) at many world airports. Even when returning to my UK ‘home’ soil I did not feel the warm and dignified welcome I got upon landing in Dubai. The point I am working to make here is that our Arab brothers and sisters, contrary to the stereotypical portrayals in the western media, took me aback with the genuine and consistent royal treatment meted out to our Jamaican delegation from the day we landed, right up to the day we left!  Are we following the right models?

 

 

Now back to the UAE Government’s bold and refreshing move to establish a ministry for happiness and well-being. It became apparent as our festival package unfolded that many of the volunteers coordinating same were high ranking government personnel, including a Chief Happiness and Positivity Officer (what a job title!), that willingly answered my many questions about life in the UAE and the practical work of my now, favourite ministry. It was clear to me that the work of this ministry is more than just words on paper or that the officers pay more than just lip service to the cause/mission of the ministry.  It was in the air. In the smiles. In the social conduct. I was impressed.

 

 

Having packed up and relocated my life from England to Jamaica some years ago, I, for the first time, found myself considering whether or not another relocation was now in order. Had I become complacent in my assessment of the place I call home? Had my love for Jamaica blinkered me to really examine whether or not it is STILL the best place for me to continue calling ‘home’? What criteria have I been working with? Being the birthplace of both my dearly departed parents, Jamaica is a place I fell in love with even before first setting foot on the island in 1989. I recall vividly hearing my father’s stories of the land he loved and yearned to return to. I remember the first vacation here, when I bawled on a dingy, out at sea, at Doctors Cave Beach, because I didn’t want to go back (to England). I wonder now if all of these retained reflections are mere sentimentality. Dare I take off the rose tinted glasses and take a real hard look at my perception of my tropical island home. The unique, world emulated culture, natural beauty and spiritual potency of this island are just a few of the things that still tick my boxes. But are these enough? If so, why then, after 23 years, has a visit to a distant land, with a very different culture, a language that I can’t speak, got me (re)considering my love affair with Jamaica? Like any relation-ship I must now ask, is it sailing in the right direction? Have I given back to the country as much as it has blessed me or was it a one sided relationship? Are we still compatible after our respective evolving?  Why all the questions all of a sudden? (Sorry, that was another one!). Was it the potent sense of peace, consistent civil order or just the reciprocal respect that prevail on a daily basis in the UAE that caught my eye? Could it have been the reverence and respect shown to the country’s women and children that wood me?  It is do-able, I kept telling myself! I am not ignoring the fact that the nations common practice of Islam must certainly play a role in fostering greater unity and social cohesiveness, but short of a wholesale conversion to Islam in Jamaica, perhaps we could start with a simple Government implemented solution, that we might make our people happier and healthier…perhaps?

 

 

When asked about the crime rate in his area, a senior UAE police officer (who invited us to be guests at his home) had to scratch his head to recall the one (1) murder that happened back in 2013. A domestic dispute. I remember blowing down heavily at his response, as I reflected on the lives of those lost and being lost in Jamaica daily. The officer spoke of doors and gates to compounds being left open at night. I immediately recalled hearing my father speak of the same comfort in his rural home community in Manchester, back in the day. Today’s Jamaica has two States of Emergency, multiple murders daily, women and children looking over their shoulders, young disenfranchised men being rounded up in packs and detained at police stations for days without ‘due’ processing…we know the rest. Don’t get me wrong, while it saddens me to reflect on the dark side of our island, I remind myself and others often that the majority of my country folk are kind, loving, decent and honourable people, that will light up your day with the wittiest one liners…stop to help a roadside damsel experiencing vehicular distress and sing sincere hit songs of love! All is certainly not lost, but while we witness the media hyped destabilization of our peace and security, perhaps it’s time for our government officials to try something outside the box…as their Emirati counterparts have clearly had the foresight to do. In the meantime, while we await the injection of conscience for our leaders, we can each be our own Chief Happiness and Well-being Officers, taking stock of the contribution we are making to the happiness and well-being of our fellow country folk? How about a little more compassion and empathy for ALL Jamaicans, non-judgement of those outside our circles and a refocused perspective of hope for starters? Wouldn’t hurt us, neither on an individual nor collective level right about now.

 

 

Radical changes do not have to come from revolutions by fed up citizens. Should, perchance, the collective conscience of our government officials, led by our current commander in chief, give rise to a commitment to work towards the happiness and well-being of EVERY citizen…(more) bloodshed may just be averted. I’ve been called the eternal optimist a few times in my life, so should you at this point scoff at my lofty idealistic notion of putting government and conscience in one sentence, my only retort at this point is …”God nah sleep”. Mystical magical manifestations were not confined to the biblical era.  Let your consciousness be focused on the positive attributes of our land, the many possible solutions and Love. We will always attract what our powerful collective minds dwell on most. It’s divine order.

 

 

While the state of ‘Wakanda’ is being brought from fiction to reality, for now, I’ll continue to assess my relationship with Jamaica and determine whether or not we need to take a little break or work to re-ignite the passion!  What do you think?

 

Happiness, Wellness and Plenty Blessing!

 

Nov 6

Rethinking Gravity…and life.

 

RETHINKING GRAVITY…and life.

 

In my mature years, I seem to have developed a ravenous interest in and curiosity about things metaphysical, neuroscientific, spiritual and metabolic. Unlike my less ravenous years as a young student, I am now armed with the understanding that at the most basic level, all the above (and all else in our world) are intricately connected.

 

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Let me share a little of my most recent ‘learnings’. The other day, a friend of mine came down with a bout of vertigo. Head spinning, dizzy feeling and unsteadiness on her feet. Now my knowledge of the human vestibular system, housed in the inner ear section of the head, caused me to speculate that this delicately balanced system had been adversely affected by some sort of infection. While discussing the matter, we ventured onto the subject of gravity and our relationship to it. It occurred to us that something as simple as vertigo or an ear infection, can so easily disrupt our relationship with this phenomenon of physics. Now I’m not alluding to the apple falling on the head moment that gave Sir Isaac Newton his aha moment, preceding the claim that he had ‘discovered’ something that had existed from creation. I’m talking about the dynamics of this natural law that we take for granted daily…until our personal relationship with it is thrown off. If it is a constant ‘law’ how can it be altered in some persons’ reality (e.g. vertigo) and not others’…at the same time?

 

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Gravity is often described as a ‘pull’ or ‘force’, though Einstein insisted it wasn’t a force at all, but that’s another story. Simply put, Earth’s gravitational pull compels/draws you toward the centre of the planet, but the ground is in the way (thankfully); said ground pushes up against you, matching the force of gravity exactly. It is this push that makes you feel heavy (not the whole pizza you ate last week!). Now we know that astronauts in their space ships are no longer subject to the law of gravity in the same way as they are on earth, but did you know that a person also weighs less at the equator? Yes, if you stand on the equatorial line, say in Uganda, you will weigh less! If that isn’t enough, you would actually weigh three times less if you lived on Mars, just in case a future trip is open to you. Now before you consider relocating, as an alternative to managing your ‘mass’, read on.

 

Uganda equator

 

There are also some other fascinating facts pertaining to this little discussed (by your average person) law! Did you know that if you are located/live on the equator, when you pull your plug in the sink, the water goes straight down the drain, as opposed to north and south of the equator where the water first spirals either clockwise or anticlockwise, depending on which hemisphere you reside in? Literally, if you stand on either side of the centre of the earth, gravity behaves differently! Again, variables on what we might have previously believed was a simple ‘what goes up, must come down’ law.

 

Stay with me now, here is where it really gets interesting (or not). This gravitational pull that keeps your feet firmly planted on the earth, is strong enough to keep us ‘grounded’… is weaker than the magnetic force of the magnet on your fridge! A little scary if you think about it. No wonder one refers to being magnetized by a man or woman one is attracted to! Remember that when you write your next Valentine’s Day poem. ;). So, remember, the magnetic pull is stronger than gravity!!!

 

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If that thought is not scary enough, do a little research on the ‘God Helmet’, a device developed by a neuroscientist called Micheal Persinger, which involves placing it on the head of a person (specifically in the region of the right temporal lobe) then transmitting weak electromagnetic impulses that stimulate that part of the brain. While the magnetic force is not as strong as the magnet on your fridge, it is sufficient to induce altered states of consciousness…expressed by thousands of participants as ‘being in the presence of God’. Outer body experiences, where gravity ceased to exist, were also reported. Mr Persinger is apparently working on a virtual reality video game that might very well have the next generation exploring spirituality through technology!!! One such version is already available for consumer purchase in the form of the Shakti Helmet. Memba mi tell you! What was once considered mystical and magical is now scientific fact and viewed as standard biology.

 

Anyway, back to my discussion with my friend, which started with vertigo. It soon moved on to the following video, which for many reasons impacts me greatly each time I watch it. It speaks to some fundamentals of the human existence, but touches also on one man’s newly formed relationship with gravity and spirituality. A relationship that both took him off-the-grid and transported him into another realm entirely…let’s call it divine, since that’s how he describes it. I suppose any departure from what we refer to as the ‘rat race’, must give one a sense of divine connectivity. Anyhow…watch the video and experience for yourself how life can be altered by ‘divine science’.

 

 

Now, how do you feel about your life and your relationship to gravity? Makes you wonder, doesn’t it? Can you imagine how much more turned on to learning our children would be if they were exploring and experimenting on such mind stimulating topics in high school? There is clearly a thin line between imagination and reality!!!

 

The next time you pull the plug in the sink or bath…take notice of the direction the water takes going down the drain!

 

I’ll save the discussion on levitation for another time ;).

 

[This blog is dedicated to the late Sushil Jain, a regular reader who relished each monthly feature. The last time we spoke on life and matters ‘spiritual’, he strongly suggested that I read the Bhagvad Gita. RIP Sushil, gravity no longer holds you down]. 

 

Aug 8

WHERE DO THE CHILDREN PLAY?

 

WHERE DO THE CHILDREN PLAY?

 

 

Now this question, that I recall from the Cat Stephens song by the same name (I prefer the Everton Blender version above 😉 ), used to resonate with me deeply in the context of children growing up in the heavily industrialised areas of England, where green areas were not yet the standard feature. I grew up in such an area and even though we had a long back garden where nuff ramping took place, other children were living in high rise flats (apartments), yes, like that of the Grenfell Tower in London. The box-like structures, with tiny balconies and multiple floors of concrete never struck me as child friendly places, but, for ‘convenience’, the Government could house multiple families in smaller spaces, packed in neatly like sardines in a tin. There is, of course, no need for me to highlight the potential physical dangers of such a town planning fiasco, but for those still standing, the question still remains…where do the children play?

 

SUMMER HOLIDAY FEVER!

 

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It’s that time where thousands of children are still out of school and parents are still hearing  those common words…”I’m bored”.  Many will be tempted to retort…”In my day, we would go outside to play and find things to do!” Then of course, there is the modern day definition of ‘play’ which involves electrical devices of all shapes, sizes and capabilities. So, getting your child outside may indeed be the biggest challenge. So, what has happened to play?

 

Play is a part of the healthy development of all children, wherever in the world they live. The exploration of their outer world, themselves and other members of their human family through play and touch are pivotal to their healthy association with their environment. One of my favourite sounds is that of children laughing, shrieking and shouting in a playground. The psychological ill-effects of children confined to spaces where they cannot play freely and/or restricted by adults telling them to ‘sit and keep still’ has perhaps been tested in some controlled experiment somewhere, but for now, let’s just use our common sense and deduce that such children may not develop/flourish in the same way as children given the freedom of boundless play. Fast forward to present day, where electronic gadgets have replaced jacks, skipping ropes, frisbees, marbles, footballs (made from all manner of creatively crafted items). Now, the physiological and neurological aspects of a child’s development are further impacted!

 

In light of the above, this short blog wants to draw focus to one place where some of the child-play neglect can be addressed, here in Jamaica…our kindergardens, prep and primary schools! Good God man! Children as young as 5 are being chastised for the fact that their cursive writing is not well developed enough (actual sharing with a parent I consulted with last week). The battle to ‘win’ some sort of competition has taken over the minds of many parents that want to be able to say that their child is academically advanced because they could read or write at age 3 or 4! In my opinion, no child should be asked to hold any writing implement, other than a crayon, until they are 5-6yrs old! My son was introduced to the prep school scene at the tender age of 2.5yrs. Had I known then what I know now, I wouldn’t have had him start school until he was 6yrs old! That is also the guidance I was given after the fact, by a seasoned and well respected educator in Montego Bay. Boys, in particular, need that time to play, explore and develop themselves in ‘natural’ order. Especially if they are bursting with abundant energy as my young prince was. Telling him and his peers to sit behind hard desks on hard chairs for hours upon end and (teachers) getting frustrated with them when they ‘move’ to express the kinetic energy building in their little dynamo bodies, is tantamount to torture. Yes I’m being a little dramatic here, but think about it. In my subsequent child development, learning therapy and psychodrama sessions with so called ‘problem’ kids brought to me by their concerned parents, it was often as simple as guiding the parent through a change of perception and inviting them to see their child through fresh eyes, without the opinion of the ‘school experts’ that slapped that ‘troublemaker’, ‘disruptive’, ‘unfocused’ or (worse) ‘dunce’ label on a child that was simply in full expression of their personality, giftedness and talents.

 

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In an environment where exam passes are still the gauge of an intelligent child that is destined for success in life, your child might just be one of those gifted geniuses that are made to feel worthless because of an outmoded system that starts by removing or limiting the best building blocks to a child’s character development….PLAY!

 

When I am conducting a Psychodrama or other developmentally supportive session with the children in teen bodies that have experienced trauma, play is one of the easiest ways to fully engage them. God knows…even I get lost in the soul freeing, escapism of that pure un-ADULT-erated world of play. Two weeks ago I was at the beautiful Tryall home of a family, where my dear friend was consulting with the parents. While I waited in the living room (as the rain had halted my beach plan) one of the children invited me to “come play with us…we’re playing Leggo Land”. I didn’t wait for a second asking. “Of course I will”, was my eager response. As I sat on the floor of the girls room, I was transformed from ‘big ooman’ to a live adventurer in this miniature world of leggo houses, leggo animals, leggo food, leggo people (of all colours and creeds!), leggo doctors and vets and leggo vehicles. For about an hour, I was transported to their regular child world and when their 5yr old brother got wind of the fact that there was a big person playing in the girls’ room, he was in like a shot, vying for my attention by jumping all over, wanting some rough and tumble action! He was soon simmered by his bigger sisters and convinced to enter the leggo world. Big people! Let me tell you something. When the bible tells us that we cannot enter the Kingdom unless we do so ‘as a child’….Mi believe! Lordy was I in the Kingdom that day!!!

 

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Why not try it yourself? Next time you get the chance, have a pillow fight with a youngster (tek time wid them though…no full strength strikes allowed J ), chalk out a hopscotch game on the pavement, get your stones and jump! Go out onto your well manicured urban lawn that only the sprinkler water dances on and play a game of tag (‘tick’ for the English based readers). The therapeutic benefits, after you have first released the constrictive thinking that says “I’m too big for this” will make your soul soar.

 

Let the children play…and allow your inner child to play with them!