Heavy negative trips your parents laid on you

witchesI was sitting in a cafe In Brighton the other day, drinking a skinny decaff soy latte and pondering on the nature of existence, when I suddenly realised why things go so terribly wrong in our lives. It’s because of all those heavy negative trips that our parents lay on us when we’re young… Do these words ring any bells?.“You’ll poke your eye out with that stick!”…“We’re not made of money, you know”…“Don’t expect too much, then you won’t be disappointed.” This stuff can shape your whole outlook on life. HNTs, I call them. Thanks, Mum and Dad; I know you meant well. Continue reading “Heavy negative trips your parents laid on you”

How I Survived the New Age

Medieval illustration for Gerry Maguire Thompson's blog

Do you remember when New-Agey stuff was all the rage?  I remember it all right. I had the time of my life – but it was weird.

I happened to be in California during those times – an excellent karmic choice, as it turned out; wild and wacky and wonderful. I was on a big quest: looking for something, only I didn’t know what: the point of life, possibly. I tried everything new-agey: I received every healing, got every therapy, followed every guru, pursued every spiritual path I could find – which was a lot.

I started with macrobiotics – a kind of eating disorder. Everyone was obsessed with food and organ health and brown rice and miso. But sexually it was amazing. There were masses of young women who were full of lusty vitality, and very few young men, all of whom seemed to be weak and listless. The women only wanted to be with macrobiotic men, because they were ‘pure’. I was way more popular than I deserved to be I’d never experienced anything like it before and have never done since, as it turned out. It was great while it lasted.

I did the original ‘est’ training – which became the basis of later programmes such as The Forum and Landmark training – and the original was extremely harsh. They wouldn’t let you visit the bathroom because you might be trying to get away from some of the ‘stuff’ that was ‘coming up’ for you in the training. They basically took everybody apart emotionally but didn’t put you back together again so that you’d have to keep doing more courses. But am I bitter? Yes, probably.

I underwent healing with crystals and healing with plant spirits, healing with cabbages and healing with dolphins. I attended endless workshops on prosperity; all cost over $500 and were run by people with names like Anna Bundance, and none of them worked. For a while I attended meetings of a Jewish Quaker group; instead of the usual Quaker model where everyone is quiet and occasionally someone will say something, in this case everyone talked at once except for one person who would sit in the corner and silently sulk.

I studied under many spiritual figures, culminating in ten years apprenticeship with a Tibetan mystic who called himself Lobsang Soochong. At the end of the training he sent me out into the world to carry out his teachings with the name of Shiva Chikkentikkenanda; then he spontaneously exploded.

I learned that new-agers had to use a completely unique vocabulary: a whole new body of jargon. You had to sound incredibly precious and intensely self-absorbed, and everything people said had a different meaning from normal. “I hear what you’re saying”, for instance, actually meant “I completely disagree.” When people said “Thank you for sharing that” they really meant to say that they couldn’t get a word in edgeways. And when someone said to you “I like where you’re coming from”, that meant they wanted to sleep with you. I used that one a lot.

I also learned the new age art of the affirmation, which means trying to change your whole life by endlessly repeating statements about yourself rather than actually doing something about it. The affirmation was invented by an author called Anita De Lujonne. She taught that the key to designing a good affirmation was using words like ‘abundant’, ‘flow’, ‘joy’, ‘ease’, ‘now’ and especially ‘me’. My favourite affirmation was a cure for constipation: “Abundant poos flow from me now, with joy and ease”. That one really did seem to work. I had to be careful when I used it – especially when on a date.

Speaking of which, I discovered a whole vocabulary dedicated to new age dating, especially prevalent in California. So for instance if you were in the check-out line at the Biodynamic Organic Vegetable Superstore and you saw someone you liked, you might start a conversation by saying something like “Do you manifest here often?” Once you got chatting you might ask if they’d like to be your partner at the drop-in tantric sex class that evening. Or just come straight out and tell them their base chakra energy seems a bit stuck, and would they like some help unblocking it? Bizarrely, this sort of thing worked. More than once I received such forward responses as “Is that a crystal in your pocket or are you pleased to see me?”

There was even a set of stock phrases for declining a sexual advance. If you didn’t fancy the proposer you might reply to their invitation with something like “I’m sorry, I can’t do tonight; I’m having an out-of-body experience.” Or you just tell them that you’re on a sex fast for the next three months.

The chat-up line I found most effective when I found someone attractive was “Excuse me, but you seem very familiar. Have we met before?” They’d invariably reply that they didn’t think so. I would continue “That’s strange, you seem so very familiar…Wait a minute, I remember now. We were married in a past life, but the relationship was tragically never consummated…. But maybe it’s not too late to do something about that now?” Strangely, this nearly always worked ; California girls would laugh and reply to the effect “Hey, I know you’re making that up, but why not?” Details didn’t always work out as planned, though – many vegans thought it unethical to have oral sex.

When my money eventually ran out, I started to wonder how I could make a living through my own new age offerings. I started an event called the Mind Body Wallet Festival; I booked speakers, exhibitors, gurus, therapists and assorted charlatans. It was a huge success, and made me a lot of money, always culminating in a huge combined barbecue and fire-walk.

Next I became a Feng Shui consultant, specialising in serving rich female clients having difficulty attracting and holding on to sexual partners. I’d get them to do stuff like growing pussy willow in their front garden, and keeping a potted venus fly-trap plant in the bedroom. The more people paid, the happier they seemed to be. Then I gave counselling sessions where I channelled guidance from a Mesopotamian warlord reincarnated as an angry traffic warlord in downtown LA.  My most successful and satisfying venture, though, was running workshops and offering one to one consultation on The Willie As A Healing Tool. It’s so neat when you can combine business and pleasure in one activity.

Probably my most dramatic new-age experience came when I was at a very low emotional and energetic point. I was told that my chakras were “effectively f****d”, especially the heart, throat, hara and anal chakras. The good news was that I go on a waiting list for a chakra transplant. It was my very good karma that, just at this point, a set of those very chakras became available for transplant, after a leading Californian NLP Master had perished in a ghastly fire-walking tragedy. Chakras, it seems, keep working for quite a while after death.

The quadruple transplant operation was successful and I was restored to energetic and emotional health. I did, however, notice certain NLP-related side effects showing up in my professional life. I immediately began to inordinate confidence and incredibly high self-esteem; I found myself running half-day workshops in which participants could gain Mastery in anything at all; I believed that I could achieve anything I wanted by simply changing my name using appropriate words (I opted for Gerry Amazing Powerful Wealthy Attractive Importance); and I had an irresistible urge to triple my professional feels overnight and continue increasing them on a monthly basis. It was a very expensive operation, but I ended up way better off.  So that’s all good. What a shame the New Age era is over….

Gerry Maguire Thompson photo

Contact Gerry at gerrymaguirethomnpson.com or check out his social media presence on myassinyourfacebook.com

 

This time last year in the wildlife garden

What was going on in the garden a year ago this week?

Photo of sparrowMarch 1st  2020

Spring is well under way and warm weather predicted for much of the month. The sparrows are in their mating colours. The plumage of the house sparrow is mostly shades of grey brown,  giving them good camouflage as a prime prey species; but there are distinctions between the male, female and juvenile and these are more noticeable at this time of year, especially with the male and his black bib.

Sparrows are of course extremely gregarious. The call of the sparrow is a very frequent chirping which is used variously to make contact, to proclaim roosting rights, invite romance, protest or express hostility, and just about everything else. The individual does a lot of ‘social singing’ with the flock, calling together for long periods  from cover. Sparrows love  to tear apart any flowers that are yellow in colour; no-one but them knows why. They fly at 15 wingbeats per second, and can swim happily.

The house sparrow has been living with humans for eleven thousand years. Its split from its closest relative via a mutation which allowed production of an enzyme called amalay which enabled it to digest starch for the first time. This was exactly the same time humans in the middle east began settling down and growing agricultural grains which are extremely starchy but which they could therefore digest. The birds then  spread alongside humans with the development  of agriculture and the first cities. This niche helped make this bird an extremely successful and widespread species, the most widely distributed wild bird in the world, and widely adopted in human culture as a symbol of lust and sexual potency.

Adult females are known to be dominant over males despite their smaller size. How do they manage that? Maybe the males are post-feminist. Females fight over the males in the mating season, not the other way round. Sparrows are generally monogamous but can engage in extra-marital copulation, and copulation is always initiated by the female.

March 4th

Our ever-inquisitive spaniel Rosa was barking at something in the garden today; she didn’t know what it was but she knew she didn’t didn’t like it. I went over  and saw it was a big green frog. Maybe she hadn’t come across  one that size before, or maybe she couldn’t understand why it  didn’t hop away from here as frogs should.

I took Rosa into the house where she  couldn’t see me, closed the door and went outside again. I picked up the frog, which didn’t seem to mind, and carried it by a circuitous route to the pond, placing in on the edge, whereupon it leapt into the water. When I went back into the house, Rosa wanted to go back to the frog. I let her out; she went straight back to where the frog had been and started sniffing around for it. Not finding any scent trail on the ground, she sniffed the air, picked up the scent, and with her nose lifted high proceeded to follow exactly the route I’d taken with the frog, ending up at the precise point where I had placed it at the pond’s edge. Working out that the frog was now in the pond, Rosa was happy to call off the search and move on to the next item of interest. And that’s why they use cocker spaniels to track down drugs.

Photo of frog in pond

March 7th

Nest building is reaching fever pitch. In previous years we gathered bits of sheep wool off barbed wire fencing on country walks and hung it up inside those square suet-block cages, for the birds to pull out and use in their nests. But last year when cutting a hedge back in winter we found that strands of Rosa’s moulted hair formed a significant component in the inner cup of some nests, so this year we’ve been filling another suet cage with her copious haircut trimmings. When offered the choice of these two nesting materials, the birds have now switched to dog fur and left the sheep wool untouched, perhaps because Rosa’s coat is extremely warm and soft whereas the wool has natural grease in it. They empty the cage the day it’s refilled with the cosy black fur.

The birds’ choice here demonstrates an interesting principle in wildlife behaviour: they will use whatever they can get and be perfectly happy with that, but when something better becomes available they’ll go for that instead. They’re adaptable. It’s also a small way in which Rosa and ourselves can play  an interactive role in the garden’s ecosystem.

 

Looking back on winter in the wildlife garden

Winter is passing; how was it for the garden wildlife?

Photo of garden with snow

Winter is all about survival for resident and visiting garden species; reproduction is on the back burner – but not for long. It’s all about finding enough to eat and trying not to get eaten.

It’s been a somewhat mild and wet winter here on the south coast of England, but with a week or two very cold snap, and snow just about everywhere. But there’s always plenty of wildlife activity in this particular garden,

Sparrows are my great favourites, all year round. Even in the coldest weather I hear their din of cheerful sounding chatter at the start and the end of each day. I change the seed feeder to a suet block cage at the very coldest times. Blue-tits are on this as soon as the sparrows leave it. Other birds feed on the bits dropped to the ground below: especially the pair of blackbirds, he chasing her away – he’ll change his tune soon, for spring – and the robin, who holds this territory and sings all year round to achieve that.

The food I supply like this is only supplementary; there’s plenty of natural food in the garden for most of the year: insects, nuts, fruits, berries, foliage and roots. The blackbirds have also been eating the last of the decayed windfall apples, getting inebriated on the alcoholic content, and the ivy and holly berries which they’ve had to share with visiting flocks of Redwing from Scandinavia. On warmer days, bumblebee queens have come out of hibernation to sip on nectar from the winter flowering Mahonia. The grey squirrel has been looking for the hazel nuts she buried in the autumn, and not always finding them, so that we get a forest of new saplings to give to others for their wildlife gardens. The woodmouse has been gathering seed fallen from the feeders too, but also raiding our apple store.

Predators have been around too. Foxes are making their bloodcurdling winter calls as they work up to mating. The visiting sparrow-hawk snatches the occasional unwary sparrow, evidenced by a neat circle of its feathers on the ground. When this happens the other sparrows keep a low profile for a couple of days, staying under cover when  making any noise.

The hedgehog has been hibernating, but will be out and about soon. We’ve had to rescue a very young one that was out and about in the cold and didn’t have enough body weight to get through the winter; the local animal rescue centre stepped in, and will release it, fattened up, when hibernation time is over.

Photo of hedgehog in care

It’s been a good winter; most of our garden residents and visitors have survived. And spring is definitely on its way. Watch this space…

Photo of cobweb with frost

Why do we love to hear birdsong?

Photo of nightingale singing

recording of a nightingale singing, recorded by the author:

 

Why does birdsong sound so beautiful to us?

Everyone loves to listen to birdsong, but have you ever wondered why?

To other birds, birdsong doesn’t sound beautiful – it’s full of either self-advertisement – “Look at me, I would be a fantastic mate for you” or venom and vitriol and swearing – “Keep away, this is my blank blank blank territory”

For a long time I found myself wondering why birdsong should sound to great to us. The question I always want to ask about these matters is, what’s the evolutionary benefit we would get from finding it so mesmeric when for the birds it’s a very serious expression of life-and-death struggle for survival and reproduction?

I can think of a number of possible answers. As an ancient species out in the wild without wristwatches and calendars, birdsong for us would be one useful indicator of time of day and of the progression of the seasons. It would also be an indicator of potential food opportunity – and of potential danger when alarm calls are sounded. Plentiful birdsong may have indicated that we nomads are in a wildlife-productive  area that may make it  worthwhile to hang around for a while. Birdsong in general  is one of the strong sensory experiences that draws us into the world of nature and wildness to which we’re still so primordially connected.

But there must be more to it than this – it doesn’t really explain the auditory beauty aspect – and there is. Biologists at McGill University in Montreal have recently discovered that songbirds and humans have very similar biological hardwiring in the brain that shapes how we each produce and perceive sounds. Young birds, they’ve found, are intrinsically predisposed to learn certain particular kinds of sound pattern over others, and these favoured patterns happen to resemble those found most frequently in human speech and in human music too.

These common brain mechanisms or  ‘universals’ had already been demonstrated by linguistic experts as occurring across all human languages. Naom Chomsky postulated that these constitute a ‘universal grammar’ which aids language learning in the individual as well as communication across language and cultural barriers. But the direct link to the same patterns in birdsong is new.

So when we listen to birdsong we’re connecting directly to the ancient common linguistic forms that our innate brain wiring recognises. And the more of these universal patterns a bird weaves into the song – as with blackbird, nightingale or song-thrush – the more spellbound we become.

Photo of robin singing

 

Secret Jam: a tale of rural intrigue

home made jam and breadThis is how it began.

Every Tuesday morning, I travel to the delightful Sussex village of Ditchling for yoga class; I’m the only man among thirty delightful Ditchling ladies. At the end of class, another delightful group of Ditchling ladies takes over the space for a choir rehearsal. As part of this activity they make wonderful cakes, chutneys and jams, and sell these to one another to raise funds for the choir. I purchased a jar of this home made jam from a delightful choir lady at the produce table, and brought it home; it was the most delicious jam I had ever tasted.   Continue reading “Secret Jam: a tale of rural intrigue”

Our wildlife garden

How to Create an Amazing Urban Wildlife Garden
– what we’ve learned in 15 years

Gerry Thompson

In 2002 we moved our family home from Brighton UK to a nearby town. The reason? – we didn’t have a garden. Our new home had two gardens, neither very large. The rear would be the domain of our lively cocker spaniel Rosa, and the front space would be for …wildlife!

Now, 16 years later, that front patch is a wildlife paradise – a veritable jungle among many houses with more sterile gardens or hard-standings for their cars. So what better than having wild nature right where you live? Continue reading “Our wildlife garden”

Euro-English: where is it going?

The European Commission has just announced an agreement whereby English will be the official language of the European Union rather than German, which was the other possibility.

As part of the negotiations, the British Government conceded that English spelling had some room for improvement and has accepted a 5- year phase-in plan that would become known as “Euro-English”. Continue reading “Euro-English: where is it going?”

The ancient Celtic concept of thresholds in time and place

THE BETWIXT AND BETWEEN: a Celtic glimpse

”This is a time that is not a time
In a place that is not a place
On a day that is not a day,
Between the worlds, and beyond….”

Why is the Celtic festivals of Beltane (April 30th) and Samhain or Hallowe’en (Oct 31st) traditionally associated with spirits entering our world, and with potential for divining the future?

What were the medieval royalty of Europe up to when they went out at dawn on the first day of May, to roll around naked in the morning dew in a most undignified manner? Continue reading “The ancient Celtic concept of thresholds in time and place”

Community response to Lockdown

The Ballad of Connaught Avenue

In Shoreham town there is a road
It’s great to be a member of
Where friendship dwells in each abode
In Connaught Ave there’s so much love

This lockdown thing has brought much grief
And things there are no stockpiles of
But human contact brings relief
For Connaught Ave has so much love

We formed a WhatsApp group right quick
‘Twas started off by Sas n Dav
To give support with just a click
There’s so much love in Connaught Ave

It helps us all to borrow or beg
Or give what we have too much of
To swap a plant, or lend an egg
For Connaught Ave has so much love

This social distance thing’s a pain
But metres gap’s the thing to have
While social closeness is our aim
There’s so much love in Connaught Ave

It’s great to live in Connaught Ave
They treat you like a sis or bruv
They range in type from posh to chav
Yes, Connaught Ave has so much love

If life’s to you a bitter cup
And hopelessness is all you have
The friendship here will lift you up
There’s so much love in Connaught Ave

And after all this lockdown’s gone
The thing that we’re all thinking of
Is: stay connected, carry on
With Connaught Avenue’s Big Love!