Sunday, 24 February 2013

Green Living, the bad news!

I am not sure if it is because I am now a grumpy old man or if other’s share my view but I believe the various crisis that we are now experiencing, both financial and ecological are caused by human kind’s shallow spirituality caused by the growth of desire for ever more stuff!
With that said I thought it would be a good idea to visit other peoples green blogs to find out how they were living the green lifestyle so I could read and comment, hmmmm big mistake!!
All I could find was blogs selling green living, from soap to electric vehicles, admittedly there were some good blogs that consisted of regurgitated news on the subject but they themselves are supported by the advertising revenue that often looked quite dubious. (I am not speaking of green sites, just blogs)
I wanted to read what the people who have actually gone green had to say, I am not saying they are not out there, I just couldn’t find them, maybe the Google gods of search engines don’t value them, who knows.
So what does green living mean to you? Are you happy you can go online and buy it?
Of course you will not be buying an actual green way of life, you will just be buying into the same old ego success painted green.

Green living is living a sustainable life, so what standard of life would that be?
Well roughly, if you take the average USA citizen and reduce their standard of living by three quarters this reduction would not be quite enough to be sustainable, if you live in the UK and halved your standard of living, again this would not be enough to be sustainable, based on the whole world population having the same standard of living.

So what is one to do if one wants to not only live a green life but promote the benefits of a green lifestyle?
Well governments haven’t got a chance, no government is going to be voted into power on the bases that it is going to massively reduce your lifestyle.
Which unfortunately means most if not all the rich western governments are lying to their people when they talk about economics and growth.
So who really wants to sacrifice their lifestyle to return the earth to it’s natural colour.?
Well I do, and if you care to read on maybe you will as well.

It is not possible to sustain growth to a greener world, a greener world requires sustained shrinkage, in fact it is probably no longer just an option. If we cannot embrace sustained shrinkage it is likely the economic and environmental changes we are experiencing will force it upon us.

The fear of loss is greater than the loss you fear.

I believe the key to a green life is to seriously consider striving for heart success, the success of doing the right thing and not the ego success, the success of turning a blind eye to the right thing in order to have stuff and power.

We need to do more and use less but most of all we need to get out of the race to have the trinkets that say who we are and realise that all they say now is actually how spiritually shallow we are. To me wealth is not wrong but the trappings of wealth, for me, represent exploitation, somewhere along the line someone and something was exploited.

You cannot buy a green life, you have to live a green life as a whole.
Becoming a vegetarian (says the meat eater but I am trying!) is a wonderful example of doing more and using less, it takes planning and thought to eat well and be a vegetarian.
Any example I give you will be about making more effort and using less resources, that is the easy part, the hard part is to change peoples perception that success, real success, is not how much power and money you have or that you have a marble top kitchen, or the Ferrari parked outside.
Real success is sharing one’s wealth to resource others in your community, this is heart success, it is the key to the mindset that will help create a green life and combat the alternative which is the stealing by force of other’s precious resources, the darker alternative future.

For instance let us look at house wall and roof insulation, why haven’t all the houses built in the western world in the past 30 years had super insulated walls and roofs integrated at the design stage?
It is not because of cost or design factors it is because you can’t park insulation outside, or wear it to a party or show it off to your friends, unlike the success of double glazed windows which can be shown off that don’t save anywhere near as much energy as the unseen insulation
Green living is fun and I admit this post appears to be removing all the fun away from a green lifestyle but I am just trying to be real.
Now if your idea to go green is to buy an electric bike as an addition to all your stuff then you are not really helping anything other than your own ego, but if you buy the bike as a tool, an alternative means of travel it will give you the heart success I speak of, so much so that even on a cold wet evening sat at the traffic lights as the guy in the Ferrari pulls up next to you you may actually feel sorry for him!!

Friday, 22 February 2013

Nature vs Nurture, Environment vs Self

Can we change? Can we really change our selves and/or our environment for the better or is our fate and the fate of the earth set in stone?
There are so many questions, are we the product of our genes?
Can our happiness and success be ruined for ever by a lack of nurture?
Can we nurture our selves back to happiness and success?
Is it too late to nurture nature back to life?
How much does our environment impact on our selves?
How much does our self impact on nature and our environment?

The WWF Living Planet Report  (16/10/2010) key finding was -
‘Humanity’s demands exceed our planet’s capacity to sustain us. That is, we ask for more than what we have.’

If the scientists are correct the rising sea levels, destructive weather, dying out of species and loss of bio diversity are all the by products of human over consumption.
We need to change but is that possible? Let us take a closer look at the above questions.

Are we the product of our genes?
 Well yes we are, to survive we require certain things and our genes have within them the blueprint to create our ability to function in our environment. But that basic blueprint is the foundation on which we create ourselves, it is not ‘just’ what we are.
Can our happiness and success be ruined for ever by a lack of nurture?
 Yes, I believe one who has never been nurtured or has never nurtured themselves will never believe in their right for happiness and success and the destruction of their self will impact on their environment in a destructive way.
Can we nurture our selves back to happiness and success?
 Yes, I know we can, I believe The Map is just one of the many different methods available to open that path up. There are hundreds of free self help blogs where people have detailed their own paths back from the shadows of their demons.
Is it too late to nurture nature back to life?
 No, The WWF report’s one uplifting finding is that in countries that had previously destroyed much of their bio diversity, mainly the western world, that during the period their report covers there has been a 30% growth in some bio diversity.
How much does our environment impact on our selves?
 When I qualified as a nurse for people with learning disabilities (mentally handicapped people) it was at the time of the closing down of the institutions under the Care in the Community scheme. People who had lived in institutions all their lives who had been ‘managed’ by being tied to their bed and left in their own waste were suddenly moved to lovely houses, had their own bedrooms, received quality care, and were able to access the rest of the community, cinemas, bowling alleys, a pub lunch etc etc. So how does one take a damaged human being reduced to an existence of a caged animal, who in one case I know of had bitten off fingers of his previous Jailers/carers and return them to humanity? The answer is nurture them, teach them, value their existence, support good behaviour, withdraw support during bad behaviour (as opposed to punishment). The proof nurture works can be found in the care in the community system, in which one can also find the proof that if one can improve one’s environment one can beneficially impact one’s life.
How much does our self impact on nature and our environment?
 Here, in my opinion is the key to the future, understanding that each and every one of us has an impact on nature and our immediate environment, if we can learn the art of living with less consumption the more we can expand the self. Consuming stuff has become the norm to prop up who we are, but that outer show of stuff just detracts from our ‘self’, Why? Well if consuming stuff really made us happy why does one need to consume even more stuff the next day?
The art of nurturing a life consuming less is the way to expand the self and positively impact on your environment. It is doing what you can and with a little bit of luck will help to turn down the earth’s thermostat.
I believe what ever has happened in the past we can change our self and our environment for the better. It just takes the will to try.
Our fate is not set in stone, we have choice.

Wednesday, 20 February 2013

DIY Incense Powered Meditation Timers

Many people who meditate begin their meditation by striking what is often referred to as a Tibetan Singing Bowl.
The Singing Bowl Meditation Timer is made from recycled wood and ‘powered’ by an incense stick. When cotton from the rear bobbin is wrapped around the striker and pulled into the relevant timing slot the incense burns down, cutting through the cotton, releasing the striker that strikes the singing bowl, signaling the end of 10, 20, 30, 40, or 50 minute session of meditation.
The idea is not new, some of the first clocks were powered by incense, this is a copy of an ancient Chinese incense powered clock.

 Front view of singing bowl meditation timer and incense set up for meditation.

 Rear view of singing bowl meditation timer showing the bobbin of cotton that can be removed when empty to rewind  new cotton of your choice.

 The Tibetan Singing Bowl Meditation Timer is hand made from recycled wood therefore the thickness of the wood can vary from timer to timer, the timer shown here is made from an old pallet.

Tingsha Meditation Timer

The meditation timer works by wrapping cotton from a bobbin at the rear of the timer, through the appropriate slot (to give the time required) pulling one tingsha away from the other. An incense stick is placed in the hole of the base which automatically rests on the taught cotton.
To start the meditation period one can move the left tingsha to strike the right tingsha to create the required sound.

When the incense stick burns down, the cotton breaks and the tingshas clash making a wonderful lingering ring to mark the end of the meditation period.

Thursday, 14 February 2013

The Life Giving Spring Water Of Jorox

The weather has prevented me from working lately, so I decided to take a walk around our hamlet Jorox with my camera and bottle of home poured spring water. On previous walks I have seen a pair of Spanish mongoose, a toad as big as a small football and recently a family of Ibex, of course the best sights I see are only when I have left my camera behind! So you will just have to take my word for it!
At the top of Jorox is this unremarkable hole in the rock covered in a concrete ‘prison’ structure. As you can see it is a spring, a spring that supplies the whole of Jorox with spring water for drinking and irrigation.

Yes we drink that! Straight out of the mountain, as did the Jorox cave dwellers over 30,000 years ago. Jorox has many caves in which evidence has been found to link humans living here from the Palaeolithic period, sharing the cool clean spring water with Sabre Tooth Tigers and Woolly Mammoths.
Later on in human development, long after the Sabre Tooth Tiger had disappeared the Muslim Moors drank  this spring water, and cut water channels in the Jorox hillside rock to irrigate the land.
 After the Moors were removed by the Catholic Spanish, mills were built along the Moorish irrigation canals to capture the power of this spring to mill locally grown grain.
 During the time of Franco milling grain here was illegal, a proud Jorox ex resident who keeps his old family mill like a museum told me the grain was brought by the noble Andalucian Mule along secret tracks at night and milled in secret as if it was a drug.
There is only about twenty houses here now, and only two other houses are lived in the whole year.
This spring, the source of the river Jorox has been supporting life here since before history and throughout the history of man, it has seen species come and go, and possibly a few ice ages and still it flows all year round giving life.
In the centre of the village is a Catholic shrine, lovingly tended while the spring is ignored and left alone encased in its ugly concrete prison under a road bridge, no one goes there to give thanks or receive its healing secrets, well not any more but how different it may have been.

The earliest known undisputed burial of a shaman (and by extension the earliest undisputed evidence of shamans and shamanic practices) dates back to the early Upper Palaeolithic era (c.30,000BP) in what is now the Czech Republic.”

As I stood next to the spring in the rain I could imagine early humans drinking the spring water, revering this gift from the earth. From the dark underworld as if from nowhere this never ending source of life flows out to daylight.
Historically Pagans see water as a portal to the Other-world and a source of wisdom and healing.
In a way, Brigid, the Celtic Goddess associated with healing wells and spring water is a bridge between the Catholic faith and the shaman-ism of pre history. St Bridget is the Catholic equivalent.

On February 1 or February 2 Brigid is celebrated at the Gaelic festival of Imbolc when she brings the first stirrings of spring to the land. Roman Catholics, Eastern Orthodox Christians and some Anglicans mark the day as the Feast of Saint Brigid; the festival is also known as Candlemas and Purification of the Virgin”

When the Catholic faithful tend our little shrine on Candlemas I will walk on to the spring and stand a while by an unbroken link to humanity’s beginnings. Imbolc is a time of purification, I will wash in the spring waters and meditate on what I would like to grow in the coming year for me my family and this earth.

Sunday, 10 February 2013

My Homemade Music

Indian psycho


Sweet sounds

Hope you Enjoy

Botijo, Electricity Free, Clay, Water Cooler

The Botijo is an amazing example of a low/no tech water cooler and it looks  good as well!
The Botijo is made of porous clay (with no glaze), when filled, the water permeates through to the outside and works like an evaporative cooler. The filtered water evaporates off the outer surface, cooling  the water inside, and the walls of  the Botijo and the immediate environment (put a small fan behind it and create a low tech, energy saving, personal evaporative cooling air conditioner!)
The Botijo has been used here in Spain for centuries as a water cooler and is still used to this day, it is a wonderful example of an inexpensive, nearly forgotten, ancient design and technology using evaporative cooling that just works!
The big spout is for filling the Botijo with water, the small spout is for drinking the cool water.
Botijo etiquette demands the lips do not touch the drinking spout as it is usual that more than one person will be drinking from the Botijo.
To save pouring cold water down the novice drinker’s front it probably makes sense to pour the water into a glass first!
This water cooler holds about 6.5 litres of water, the drier the heat the better for evaporative cooling.
Fill it in the morning and all day long cool drinking water will be available with no cost in electricity.
My personal opinion is that the water tastes better after it has been in the Botijo for a while, and we have spring water! It is said that the minerals in the clay create that taste.

Image via Wikipedia

I tried a little experiment, I filled the Botijo water cooler and put it on a granite table in full sun, normally one would place it in the shade to aid evaporative cooling.
When I returned a couple of hours later the granite top was just off hot to touch and yet the Botijo was cold to touch and the water was cool.
I am guessing the moisture around the lower half of the Botijo was due to the evaporative cooling of the heat of the granite top ‘pulling’ water through the clay to dissipate the heat. The small area directly under the Botijo was the only part of the granite top that was cool!

Saturday, 9 February 2013

Self Esteem The Importance Of Forgiveness And Letting Go

It is hard to define what self esteem is, the research on self esteem is not clear, I have read research that says bullies have low esteem, other research that states they have very high esteem and yet more research that says they have both, presumably not at the same time!

Yet take a look at the posts on any self help forum and you will find 80% of these people will have added that they have low self esteem and cite their low esteem as a contributing factor to their particular problem. I am not a scientist or a researcher but I am a human being like you so lets take a simple human story approach to understanding how to achieve this illusive concept of self esteem.

Metaphorically we run towards what we want, if we reach it and achieve it we feel confident in ourselves, So confident with our achievement without a second thought we run to the next thing we want with the knowledge we can achieve it. Even if we don’t achieve what ever it was we wanted we can understand why and run towards the next thing in the knowledge that the more we run to, the better our chance of succeeding.
But what happens if that first time you ran towards what you wanted, metaphorically you tripped up, lying on the ground with everyone laughing and pointing at you as if you were a freak?
As you walk home crying, without even reaching what you wanted, a crowd follows shouting abuse.
Most likely you would think twice before ever running towards what you wanted again. In fact even if you did finally achieve what you wanted you would be forever looking down at the floor in fear of tripping, never being able let go, trust, and enjoy what you had achieved.
The person in the second scenario looks at the person in the first scenario and wishes they could be more like them but let me tell you, the person in the first scenario doesn’t exist!!
We all trip, we all learn to keep an eye to the ground and we all experience failure.
So lets add some more to the second scenario, You are sitting at home re-living the pain of your experience and there is a knock at the door, you open it and standing there is the ring leader of the mob that was so hurtful, they are in tears they get down on their knees and tell you how sorry they are for being so cruel and beg for your forgiveness. Being the lovely person you are you forgive them and they leave.
All day long there is a procession of people, every single member of the mob comes to your door and apologizes and asks for and gets forgiveness from you. Until finally there is a knock at your door and standing before you is that which you had been running towards when you tripped. They speak ” thank you for wanting me but I am not for you, you didn’t fail, it was just not the time for you to have me”
To overcome feelings of low esteem you must be proactive and forgive and let go, in real life the mob are not going to come to your door to apologize but that is no reason to not forgive them.
Forgive yourself and others, allow yourself some freedom to develop and every time you find yourself thinking “I couldn’t possible do that” ask yourself why not? If your answer is low self esteem take another look, are you making up the low self esteem as a catch all for not giving yourself the freedom to try?

The path to freedom is letting go of the shackles that bind you to the past. Forgive and let go.

"Knowing others is wisdom; Knowing the self is enlightenment; Mastering others requires force; Mastering the self needs strength. " Lao Tzu

Friday, 8 February 2013

Aloe Vera

Aloe Vera.
I am a bit of a cynic when it comes to natural healing. I do fully believe in some methods of natural healing but only those that I have first hand experience of.
Aloe Vera was one of those experiences that completely failed me.
My own experience with any aloe based products left me feeling just another hyped up product that I have been conned into buying.
The thing is I had no idea whether it was just a rubbish product or whether there is no truth in the common held beliefs of the benefits of aloe.
One day last year my girlfriend and I were at an organic market here in Spain and we came across a grower of Aloe Vera selling his products.
So supposedly fresh organic aloe gel seemed worthy of another try. I am afraid to say that I noticed no benefit at all from using the product.
Six months ago a friend gave us the Aloe Vera plant in the above photo telling us every home should have one, I smiled cynically!
A couple of weeks ago I developed a painful rash, I get it every summer, it is from the heat here in Spain (43 degrees Centigrade in the shade yesterday)
So, not having any medical proven product to apply, my girlfriend suggested I cut a leaf off the plant and apply some aloe.
I have to say the result was somewhat miraculous! Instantly there was a reduction in the pain and a wonderful relieving coolness.
Three days later the rash has healed !
I now regularly use some fresh aloe, out of the leaf kept in the fridge on my body and face as a moisturizer and not only can actually see the benefit, but as an added benefit the aloe seems to have a cooling effect that lasts far longer than just because it was taken out of the fridge!
After a tiny bit of research on the net about Aloe Vera it seems if the site is selling aloe products then hey presto Aloe Vera is a cure all!
Other sites are more circumspect about the research which is definitely not in total agreement about the benefits of aloe.
You would have to make your own mind up, but for me I now agree with my friend, every home should have an Aloe Vera plant!

Thursday, 7 February 2013

Definition Of Success

Do you really want success?
Most, if not all, would answer this question with a resounding Yes.
So what can I possibly have to say? Tell you the ‘secret’ of success?
Well I have no secret to tell you, just an opinion.
There are two types of success, ego success and heart success.
Ego success is what we normally understand as success, it is the success our ego needs.
It is the part of us that continually needs to be validated, so success is perceived as having
the perfect partner,
a good job,
money in excess,
to be chosen above others by something or someone,
to have respect,
to be told we did well,
to have and hold power,
to have control
A short list of some of our ego’s needs, and though they created our communities and our sense of self, the excess of pandering to ego’s needs is now killing the planet, our communities and our sense of self.
The western social construct is built around the ideas of success and growth, it is in fact one massive great Ponzi scheme, built on growth.
I doubt a downsize to sustainable growth could even be achievable .
The run away growth that we need to sustain any kind of living in a way that has become ‘normal’ is tearing the world apart because underlying all the theorys of economics is the ego’s clawing for success after success, whatever success ego has today, when it wakes up tomorrow it needs more, bigger and better, and for every bigger and better success for the ego something or someone will need to be exploited to the same degree
There is only one reason we have massive corporations, immoral bank bonuses, crime, totalitarian governments, lying incompetent democratic governments, poverty and inequality and that is to feed the successful participating individuals egos.
So what is heart success? When I speak of heart I do not mean the romantic heart I mean the warmth felt inside for doing a good thing. An action that brings no fame, no fuss, no money, no congratulation just the knowledge that it was the right thing to do.
The anonymous charity donor,
pride in doing ones work to ones best ability,
not making judgments about others
caring for and working for the local community (for free)
respecting and taking care of animals
respecting and taking care of the environment.
Just some examples of the heart success one can feel in a life that is wholesome.
So maybe the next time you look at someone not dressed as well as you, not as attractive as you, who doesn’t earn as much you, and is not as ego successful as you, try not to judge them because they may actually be far more heart successful than you could ever know.
This post is based on an idea taken from a Buddhist teaching.

Definition Of Good And Bad Relationships

Our position in the world is defined by how we relate to everything and everybody. How we relate to our friends, our environment, our partner, our family, our government, our neighbors, our poverty, our riches, our education, our boss, our workers etc. etc. Our problems come from how all the above relates to us!
Our daily lives are determined by our relationships, and by how good or bad they are. This is not just with those close to us, but how one relates to everyone we can meet during the day makes the difference between a good day and hell on earth!
Let us first define what a bad relationship is. Well we have all had one but other than laying blame on ones self or the other person what were the building blocks that made it ‘bad’?
A bad relationship is a ‘Not our Destiny’ relationship. Where lies and inhibition prop you up, where you are influenced to not be the real you, where you drift along powerless, not knowing who you are in a cycle of ups and downs that lead nowhere.
An example – a controlling partner who forbids you to have contact with your own friends – you are influenced not to be the real you. Now this could also be your boss forcing you to lie or cheat to make more sales or a shopkeeper who seems to always give you the fruit and veg that is off but you are too nice to make a fuss! The only difference with these examples is it is easier to walk away from the shopkeeper.
A good relationship on the other hand can be described as ‘Us, our Destiny’. Where two people can fully be who they are, supporting their relationship with truth and free expression and in turn that relationship responds and supports the people to know they are supported and valued for who they are.
An example – An honest boss with an interest in his/her workers who actively promotes development for the workers sending them on courses etc. The shopkeeper who saves the best fruit and veg for you, treating you as a valued customer. And last but not least the partner who is happy to babysit while you go to see your friends.
The keyword is value, if your input in the relationship is valued and you yourself value the relationship then the likelihood is that it is a good relationship. If there is a lack of feeling valued or you do not value the relationship then the likelihood is it will be a bad relationship.
Obviously in life nothing is so black and white, in between good and bad relationships lies grey areas where all sorts of factors can come into play but for the sake of this short article and as a good rule of thumb when looking at any relationship, the key thing to look for is value.
Good relationships make for a happy life. Bad relationships make for a hard life. So how can we guarantee only good relationships? Well the secret is to learn how to identify bad relationships early and get out quick!
There is no way to guarantee a relationship will be good, but there is no point in staying in a bad relationship and delaying your chance of happiness, unless of course you believe a bad relationship is better than no relationship at all. I am of the belief that a bad relationship is like an ice cream that has been dropped on the floor, whatever you do with it, scraping it off the floor, putting it in the freezer, it will never taste like it did before you dropped it.
The road to good relationships and a happier life starts when you decide to no longer entertain bad relationships.

Wednesday, 6 February 2013

Shiatsu, Beer and Cigarettes

Acupuncture chart from the Ming Dynasty: The P...
Shiatsu is a Japanese acupuncture without needles. In shiatsu points on the body (tsubos) are pressed in. Shiatsu always  has appealed to me as it totally one to one, no oil no needles.
Recently I was asked by a friend who wants to get involved with Complementary Medicine if I could recommend anything.
Just to give you a  quick background as to why they should ask me, I have studied various different types of massage, reflexology, Traditional Chinese Medicine and Nursing for people with learning disabilities.
The massage training was in a purpose built building in Melbourne, it was a very professional school, not only did we have to learn every muscle in the body we were taken to the local university to examine cadavers (cut up bodies in formaldehyde) to actually see the muscles and muscle groups and see how they worked.
With my new learned skills I searched for a job and found myself working as a physiotherapy assistant in a nursing home in a Melbourne suburb, it was a bit of a con really, there was no physiotherapist for me to assist, the nursing home could not afford one and I knew nothing about physiotherapy! As it happens though, it turned out to be the best job I have ever had in my whole life.
With no knowledge of physiotherapy I was given a free hand to use the skills and knowledge I did have, I tried to be as professional as I knew how, keeping notes, making assessments, formulating achievable goals and treatment.
Treatments would consist of many types of massage, exercises, heat treatments or just having a chat.
Nearly all the patients in the home were stroke victims, I was only paid to work mornings and there were 60 patients which meant I had to ration my time, in my head I had this concept that there were three types of patients there, those that were actually physically or mentally incapable of improvement, those who were physically able but had no will to improve and those who had the will to improve physically, it was the latter I concentrated my time with.
This gave good results to those I chose to work with and caused friction with the nursing staff who wanted me to work with their ‘favourite’ patients.
The nurse in charge was a lean mean through and through hard Aussie ‘Sheila’ I could not stand her and she could not stand me, so after ignoring her taunts that I only treated my favourite patients she ordered me to do some work with a patient that was special to her.
To me this patient was a complete lost cause and I was angry that I was going to have to waste my precious time with this poor soul who never spoke, was incapable of much movement and spent all day either in bed or in a chair asleep in her room.
Not really having a clue what, if any, treatment I could give the woman I asked the nurses to get her out of bed and into her chair, this they did and left the room.
Traditional Chinese Medicine has a method of diagnosis that has never failed to amaze me with its accuracy and that is pulse diagnosis. One takes the pulse at three different levels and depending on the whole quality of the pulse (not just beats per minute) one can get an insight into the patients condition.
I took this woman’s pulse and the ‘picture’ I got from her pulse was heart energy problems. I had studied Shiatsu in Melbourne and part of the course included various treatments, one of those treatments, pressing ‘tsubos’, acupressure points on the inner fore arm, was a treatment for heart energy. So I proceeded to ‘treat’ this lady.
I took it slow, one of the reasons being I was not even sure this woman was aware of what I was doing and I did not want to frighten her. The ‘treatment’ lasted about half an hour, by the end of which I was pretty sure she had known what was going on and had enjoyed it.
The nurses came in to wheel her chair into the corridor and the lean mean nurse in charge asked the woman if she enjoyed her massage. To my complete amazement the woman opened her eyes and in a broad Aussie accent said.

“Yeah that was great, now all I need is a beer and a cigarette!”

There was a complete uproar of laughter from all of us.
The now smiling woman was wheeled into the lounge for the first time, a table was put next to her and completely against the rules, she was given her beer and ciggy!
I learned that day that lean mean Aussie nurses know their stuff, we both developed a healthy respect for each other, from that day on the patient spent her days chatting in the company of her peers, I would like to think she still gets her daily contraband beer and ciggy, but most of all I learned that Shiatsu really works!

Depression And 'The Diamond'


There is a way to relieve the pain of depression, and replace it with a manufactured joy instantly. I call it getting to the diamond.
I have known about it for years and have used it many times, it not only has the ability to bring joy but it has a strange effect on one’s personality that somehow draws good things to one’s life.
I have rarely written or spoken about it because I have no idea how it can possibly work or really how I could possibly explain it for others to try but I am going to attempt to tell you here how to get to the Diamond.
Yoga, meditation, tai chi, chi gong etc all have one thing in common, the breathing. One is told to take the breath down to the stomach, to breath in and fill the stomach and then as one breaths out one pulls the stomach in , squeezing the air out.
It is physically impossible to get air into the stomach and if you did you would not be exhaling from your mouth or nose !! But we do not tell our esteemed instructors that our lungs are not connected to our stomachs, neither do we exhale through our colons in front of the yoga class!
I am trying to make a point here that from now on, trying to stay logical as you read what I am about to say will not help you understand what I am trying to say, speaking in terms like “fill the stomach with air” which actually does ring true because that is what it feels like, is, in fact, the only chance I have of explaining how to get to the Diamond.
I will start by trying to explain what the Diamond is. When we are happy or joyful there is a wholeness about us, a freedom, it is not contrived, the Diamond is more of a contrived joy, that is not to say it is not real but a good analogy would be those performers who balance spinning plates on sticks, without manipulating the stick the plate will go all wobbly and fall and yet with just a little manipulation the plate begins to spin in perfect balance.
I make no claims this is a cure for depression, and if one can think of real happiness and joy as a plate spinning in mid air with no stick supporting it, the person with depression may be thinking they have as much chance of being happy as a plate defying the laws of gravity, but if the plate is real happiness, is it so wrong to start it off supported by stick?
The Diamond feels to me like it resides mid way between the throat and the navel, it feels like a tickle, butterflies, like the relieving touch of one who loves you, an exhilaration that makes one feel alive and it makes you smile, a lot!
So let us try and get to the diamond, I want you to accept there is a diamond in your chest, mid way between your throat and and your navel, it is dull and lifeless at this point, we need to feed it with air, literaly to blow it up into a full shining star inside our chest. Breath deeply, with every breath imagine the energy from that life you are breathing in is filling your diamond.
Now here is the bit that I just do not have the words to describe exactly but you have to take that imagined energy and manufacture the joy from it. It is a physical process, though only a split second process, you have to discover for yourself there is that door to open to replace emptiness or pain with the contrived joy.
I would give one tip, at first it might be helpful to try this while listening to some music that effects one emotionally, uplifting dance music worked for me.
For me it is like a fire of ‘feelgood’ that grows in my chest spreads to my arms and shoulders and temples but it is a fire that has to be stoked, as soon as one stops consciously stoking the diamond the ‘tickle’ goes away but not the effects.
The effects of the diamond I offer here for your information, I doubt many, if any, will believe what I am about to say, I have used the diamond, inducing the feeling of joy to dance all night at raves without drugs, I have used the diamond to get a bank loan, I have used the diamond in a job interview and got the job, I have even used the diamond to play chess. The Diamond is part of the ‘The Map’ story I chose not to put into The Map self help tool because it is unverifyable but I would like to end by quoting the little I have written about the Diamond .

“I have already tried to explain the Diamond, but maybe like the chess game I do not have the words and maybe all the correct words could block attaining the Diamond and maybe it is a different feeling for everyone, maybe this is all I should say, imagine relaxed joy, feel it as a force, smile, close your eyes and feel, don’t think.”

Tuesday, 5 February 2013

Post And Beam Strawbale Extension Part 6

Well it has been about 4 years of work but finally I have finished something!
The outside of the straw bale extension is now finished, rendered with clay and then lime and lime washed.
When I say finished I mean not temporary while we live with it! The whole of the rest of the house was never finished because, one, we are living in it which often leaves no drying time for finishes and two, no money!!
The plan is now to finish the inside of the extension and then move in to it lock stock and barrel and empty the rooms we now live in so I can finish the rest of the house.
So my experience of lime seems to run contrary to a lot of what I have read. When I first started to use lime as a render, a lime wash and a mortar I used plain old cheap builders lime (hydrated lime) it was all I could get. I used it for mortar for the limestone stem wall for the cob bathroom, render and lime wash, and found no problem at all with it which is completely contrary to what I read, (mainly from sites selling extremely expensive hydraulic lime).
In my experience a few bags of building lime dumped into a container of water and left a few weeks makes perfectly usable lime putty which can then be used for mortar, render or lime wash.
For the extension I used traditional slaked lime which I found in a local farm shop, this is the fired limestone that one has to put into water to activate. It is quite an amazing process, dump the bag of stones into a large container full of water, wait thirty minutes and one has a boiling mass of dangerous (there is a reason lime is used to destroy the flesh of diseased dead animals!!) white bubbling spitting lime putty. Wear protective clothing, glasses and stand back!!
In a way I was quite disappointed that this lime was no different to the bagged lime available in any builder’s merchant but it is much more fun!
Traditionally one is meant to add horse hair to a mix of lime render to stop it cracking when it dries, we don’t have any horses but though we do have dogs I thought they would prefer not to be shaved so I used sawdust as the fibre content.
The mix was 12 shovelfuls of sand to 2 shovelfuls of lime putty and 4 handfuls of sawdust and this gave a mix that has not produced one crack!
The lime wash was put on with 5 thin coats, it could do with another couple of coats but those I will do when I do the whole house.
Pressure and time are the secrets of lime. Limestone is created by a downward pressure on trillions of shells, and for some reason that is where lime as building material is best, where there is a downward pressure such as mortar. Lime render needs pressure to push it up against whatever one is rendering and lime wash needs to be pushed into the mortar with a suitable brush (not a roller). And where as cement takes days to harden, think months with lime, time and pressure!

Next job is turn this below into a beautiful living space.

Post And Beam Strawbale Extension Part 5

Above is a reminder of the problem that needed to be solved, in the picture you can see the light clay straw wall has been built up to the level of the lower roof leaving a gap between the lower roof and the upper roof.
The narrow width of the light clay straw wall (it is a none load bearing interior wall) was not sufficient offer the degree of protection needed as an outside wall, what I needed was something reasonably light in weight but strong to bridge the gap between the two roofs.
 I mentioned I would be using cob wood to bridge this gap and it went quite well.

Most of the structural support for the cob wood is taken up by the lower roof and the unseen wooden supports on top of the light clay straw wall (attached to the interior uprights)

From the inside it looks like this -

A lime plaster -

And when the lime plaster has dried out and cured completely (it has been raining here on and off for weeks!) it will have a lime wash finish brushed on.
In between the wet weather I am now lime plastering the walls.

I guess render is the correct word for outside plaster, as you can see it all looks a bit of a mess with the untrimmed roof and ragged plastic protecting the walls but as soon as the lime render is on and cured and lime washed it will all look great!
Lime is a wonderful material to use, lime render has a soft rounded look and lime wash is a relaxing white, not at all clinical, but much more of the drama of lime in the next update!

Post And Beam Strawbale Extension Part 4

The plastering of the bale walls is the most enjoyable job so far on this project.
The sand, clay earth and chopped straw plaster is mixed up in a cement mixer and with a pair of rubber gloves I slap it on and work it in to the straw wall to ensure a complete covering of me and the wall in mud! This first coat of clay helps preserve the straw, no one is quite sure why but as clay is a moisture regulator it is thought it draws out any moisture from straw bales.
The problem I did encounter was running out of sand, and at that point in time our flood damaged road had not yet been fixed so I have only been able to do half of the outside wall.

While I waited for the road to be repaired I decided to make the inner wall separating the two rooms out of light clay straw, this requires no sand.
Straw, coated in a clay slip (clay melted in water) is left to dry slightly over night.

 and then packed down in a form attached to posts in the wall.

After the clay straw is packed down a post is inserted on top to bear the weight of the next load and hold the formed clay straw in place.

Remove the plywood form and -

This is the wall finished up to daylight. From here upwards I am going to use cobwood to close off the outside, what cobwood actually is you can find out in the next update, thanks for visiting and sharing the slow progress of me hand making a house.

Post And Beam Strawbale Extension Part 3


As you can see from the photo above all the straw bales are finally in place and covered in plastic to protect it from the unusual weather we have been having, it isn’t meant to rain here in September!


 As you can see each bale is tied tight to the bale beneath it, this creates a strong stable wall. Each bale gets compressed down on to the bale beneath it. The string is connected to the cross beam at the top and the upright posts by hooks, it is now impossible for the bale walls to move.
This unorthodox method of bale attachment using string has many advantages, the first is that it easy for a one man operation, no lifting bales on to rebar, or problems with rebar when you get to the top of the wall under the roof.
As the wall goes up it is stable, one can lean ladders on it and climb all over it.
It compresses the bales one by one, the importance of this is lost on my extension that is post and beam connected to a stone cottage at one wall, but for a complete straw bale construction of at least four walls I would think using string as I have done would make the solid base for the roof as in the ‘Nebraska’ style load bearing walls system of building bale houses. There being no necessity for the post and beams holding up the roof.
The next job is plastering the outside and cobbing in the top where the roof meets the wall. An extra straw cob mix will bridge the gap between the top of 
 the bale wall and the underside of the roof.


I am in the middle of experimenting how to do the plastering.
Above is an image of a clay earth, sand and chopped straw mix, put on by hand and then with my thumb pushed right into the bales (hence the holes) to key it in.
On top of this will go another mix of the same but slightly smoother, without the holes, on top of that will go a thin layer of lime plaster which will then be lime washed.

To be continued

Post And Beam Strawbale Extension Part 2

Last winter the road to our village was washed away in heavy rains, above is my trusty ex military landrover  that enables us to get in and out of our, home across a narrow country track. Why I mention it is because the only supplies, including building supplies we can get has to come in via the landy.
This means only six straw bales at a time !
So here is a pic of the progress so far.

The first obvious problem I came across was the size of the bales, they can vary from 95cms long to 125cms long. This is not a big problem as I just have to resize the bales but it is time consuming.
Resizing the bales is quite simple, one just has to re tie the bales to the length one needs by poking a new piece of string through the bale at the required length with a piece of narrow iron bar.
This image shows the bales each tied down to the next, this is working out very well and making a secure stable wall , though it took a bit of fiddling to work out how to tie the string without losing the tension needed.

It is a two hour round trip at the moment to get six bales so progress is a little slow but little by little we are getting there!
To be continued…..

Post And Beam Strawbale Extension part 1

Developing our creativity is how we develop our personal growth and how we can value ourselves and how others can value us”

Part of my own personal creativity is the house I am renovating/building here is Spain.
I feel that the first step in sustainable building, which is what we are trying to achieve here, is to start with a building already built, therefore not requiring the use of yet more land to cover with concrete.
What I am showing here is the steps taken so far in the Post and Beam Straw Bale extension I am building on the north side of our house.
Step 1.
Landscaping the ground to make two terraced flat spaces to build on.

2 flat platforms (dug out by hand)

This was done by hand using a pick ax and a spade. It is laborious work but does not require surrounding trees and land to be destroyed to make access for a mechanical digger.
Another benefit of working by hand is that clay rich soil, rubble, large rocks and top soil can all be separated into their own specific piles, with the exception of the top soil, everything else will be used back in the build. A pain to do at this stage but if you are making a ‘handmade’ house it pays dividends later when building.

Digging out the strip foundations.
I decided to make strip foundations as most of the build is on solid rock.

Strip Foundation

The foundations are dug wider than the straw bales they will support.
Step 3
Fill the strip foundations with rubble for good drainage, and support for the stem wall.

Rubble trench

Step 4
Pour some concrete into the strips and lay a stem wall. For the stem wall you can see we 
have used two rows of concrete blocks .

stem wall

After the blocks were laid, concrete pads were put in for the posts to stand on.

concrete pad

In this photo you can see the different floor heights of the rooms with the simple posts and beams in place. The bags of gravel were put in before any block work was done to save me having to wheelbarrow tons of gravel in to use as a base for the flooring.

Wall and beams built around 
 pre-placed bags of gravel

Another photo of the posts and beams showing the two levels of roof

Post and Beams

Step 5
The roofs, tongue and groove, insulated and covered with EPDM roofing.


They have not been edge trimmed yet to offer greater rain protection while building the Straw Bale walls.
The plan is to eventually create green living roofs on top of the EPDM.

Roof beams and tongue and groove.

Window Box

Step 6
Here you can see one of the boxes made to hold the window in place, at the moment there is no supporting beams for the bales that will go above the window

Step 7
The blocks have a waterproof membrane on and the ties to hold down the first row of bales have been put in.

Stem Wall with membrane and bale ties in place.

This is as far as I have got so far, the ties are my own idea and we will have to see how well they work.
To be continued …………