Thursday, 19 July 2012


 My Response to

 How do we begin to feel real gratitude as opposed to something that we do because this is 'the right thing to do'? It seems to me that it has to come from the heart rather than be something that we practice in order to get into a certain mindset. If we practice gratitude because it will be better for society, or for it to become a social norm, or because it is 'good for us', then it just becomes another set of manners, way of behaving, just like getiing children to say 'please' and 'thank-you'.
Now there is nothing wrong with getting kids to say 'please' and 'thank-you', it helps them become more aware of other people's feelings, and that people like to be treated with respect and sensitivity. But it has nothing to do with gratitude. Real gratitude comes from the heart, it cannot be taught, or practised. Like Love it has to be spontaneous and free, and comes when you least expect it. We can become more conscious of the feeling when it arises, be more open and give it space to arise, but we can't make it happen. It surely denigrates gratitude when we feel we can 'manufacture' it by 'Each night before you go to sleep, write down five things you are grateful for'. And then when we start making rules about it eg 'A good recipient doesn’t reject a gift offered', we have completely lost the plot. When you have to be grateful for something you don't want, then that could be called abuse.

Tuesday, 17 July 2012

UK Food Sovereignty

Last weekend July 8/9, I attended the 'Transform our Food System' gathering in London dedicated to UK Food Sovereignty in collaboration with the European arm of Via Campesina, a global peasant movement which represents about 200 million farmers worldwide.  A wide range of food interests were represented, organic farmers, anti GM activists, permaculturists, land squatters, transition towners, War on Want, etc mostly young people wanting to take back control of our food system. I went as someone who has been involved in setting up food projects locally, and helping to initiate a Food Strategy for Bradford. Two days of intense discussions in small groups, using open space, delicious food provided by Organiclea's Hawkwood Plant Nursery, a ceilidh on Sunday eve, and a moving 'Mistica' introducing Monday morning, connecting by heart resonance, made for an inspiring event. I joined a group looking at how to communicate with compassion to others that may not share our viewpoint, emphasising listening, and sharing with where people are rather than trying to convince them. Our final declaration was to set up a UK Food Sovereignty group, to connect with international and indigenous struggles worldwide.

Copy of letter to Hearts in Healthcare, and reply

Thank you for initiating this inspiring movement.

I am contemplating the possibility of a colonoscopy, and I visualised this morning asking the professionals involved to stop, just before undergoing the procedure. I wanted to express that though this may be routine to them, this was my body and very precious to me. Could we take a few seconds, a few deep breaths to be really present and mindful of what is happening? Can we set aside any other concerns and pressing responsibilities to be here now?

I realised as I imagined this how difficult it would be, for a patient to exert that sort of control. Hospital systems are set up so that patients - in a vulnerable state- are submissive to routines, and generally feel grateful for whatever is provided.

 Increasing the heart in healthcare is as much about patients exerting some control over their bodies, as about healthcare professionals making the time to listen to them. We are all patients at sometime, and need to encourage ourselves to speak up for what would make us feel safe and cared for.

and reply:
Thanks for writing. Yes, that's a very serious challenge. My last interaction with hospital services (as a patient) I found I was unable to call out to ask for a blanket, when reduced to a shivering wreck with pain, sleep deprivation, and cold - while left alone and near naked in a cold room.
Among our networks we have a number of inspiring health consumer leaders and they will become members of the HEARTS in HEALTHCARE community, in dialogue with the professionals. Some are working on ways to empower patients and not waiting for the professionals to change.
I believe there are many things patients could do to support their health professionals to be more compassionate. That's a strategy that my wife Meredith is really interested in exploring.
Kind regards, Robin

Sunday, 15 July 2012

Hearts in Healthcare - an inspirational movement to re-humanize healthcare

From Anna Betz

When Dr.Robin Youngson promised to 'mess' with our minds at the introduction to his seminar in London I became curious how that fitted with who he was: A deeply compassionate and caring physician.
What happened during the 3 hours of sharing his experiences as a medical practitioner was  that the approx. 120 people present in the room became  fully present to themselves, their hopes and ideals that inspired their choice of profession in the first place. We shared some extraordinary and joyful moments from our work as health professionals. Different practitioners came forward to talk about some extraordinary experiences that touched them so deeply that it shifted their understanding of who they were as people and as health professionals. In every case both the patient and the practitioner grew in understanding and compassion which improved the quality of care.
Robin connected us powerfully to our own internal resources not through a technique or a philosophical idea but through his own authenticity and trustworthiness. His stories and the ones he encouraged us to share, strengthened that part of our brain thats about positivity, optimism, hope, love and empathy. His presence and living example became a healing influence for everyone in the room.
In this video clip we watched  nurses, doctors, therapists and patients share their thoughts on the importance of compassionate, whole person care and how we can work together to create a worldwide movement to transform healthcare.
Robin  skillfully weaved together the moral component of healthcare, science, personal experience and motivation, moral courage, interpersonal neurobiology, leadership, communities of practice, social movement making,  empathy and compassion.
His bottom-up approach called 'Hearts in Healthcare' demonstrates that change of the whole system of healthcare starts with those of us who have re-connected with the heart of healthcare practice and thus find our own flourishing, wellbeing and happiness in our work.
Networks both locally and globally begin to flourish when we share stories and ideas, inspire each other and learn and share new practices. Once enough people value this kind of exchange, collaboration and networking, the ground will be fertile for building Communities of Practice (CoPs) of like minded individuals around themes we feel passionate about.
He believes that Communities of Practice (CoP) are the real engine of change where progress in compassionate caring will happen and from where it will spread by linking such communities together across the world.
Once CoPs across the world link together something really interesting is bound to happen: The new practices will become the norm. The tipping point will be reached when CoPs have attracted a critical mass which he believes will be 15% of the healthcare system.
I left the inspiring evening with the decision that bringing mindfulness, heart and compassion to work will be my new norm and I will actively look for like-minded colleagues to build a Community of Practice within the NHS.
Lets connect the dots within ourselves to become whole and lets connect the dots locally and globally to build mindful and compassionate institutions. Lets make a choice to love work and work with love in our hearts.
As many studies have shown Compassionate Caring saves time and leads to better outcomes. The secret of quality is LOVE. This is why the moral component of the NHS needs revising.

Friday, 6 July 2012

Excerpt from Transformation Through Intimacy Bringing Sex out of the Closet

Integral Life
July 2nd, 2012

Sex is arguably still in the closet.
Yes, it’s wearing a lot less and showing a lot more than was the case forty or fifty years ago, but it’s still not truly out in the open, except in mostly superficial ways. Its ubiquitous exposure, highlighting, and pornification simply camouflage it. However brazenly explicit sex now is, it nonetheless remains largely hidden, its depths mostly untouched, its heartland still largely unknown, obscured by the tasks to which we commonly assign it, especially that of making us feel better.
Just as getting openly and passionately angry does not necessarily bring us any closer to truly knowing our anger, being frequently expressive of and/or pervaded by things sexual does not necessarily bring us any closer to truly knowing—or being intimate with—our sexuality. 
How-to books and courses on sex abound, pointing out various ways to get turned on or more turned on in a relationship, with little or no attention given to actually exploring the very turned-off-ness that seemingly necessitates finding out how to get turned on. Judging from the sheer volume of such books and courses, plus an immense amount of personal testimony from all quarters (for example, the great number of American women who admit that they don’t enjoy sex with their husband), it appears that there’s an abundance of sexual dysfunction and dissatisfaction within relationships.
There is plenty of focus on this, accompanied by all kinds of remedies, but not nearly so much focus on how dysfunction and dissatisfaction in the nonsexual areas of relationship might be affecting one’s sexuality.
We are usually quite reluctant to cast (or even to permit the casting of) a clear light on what is actually happening during our sexual times with our partner—other than biologically—but without this, we are simply left in the dark, pinning too much on what we hope sex will do for us.
And there is so much that we expect sex to do for us! More often than we might like to admit, we assign it to stress release, security enhancement, spousal pacification, egoic gratification, pleasure production, and other such tasks. We may use it as a super sleeping pill, a rapid-action pick-me-up, an agent of consolation, a haven or hideout, a control tactic, a proof that we’re not that old or cold. We may also employ it as a psychological garbage disposal, a handy somatic terminal for discharging the energies of various unwanted states, like loneliness or rage or desperation. Mostly, though, we just tend to want sex to make us feel better, and we use it accordingly, whether in mundane, dark, or spiritual contexts.
Not only do we hear more and more about “sexual addiction,” our culture itself is so ubiquitously sexualized that it could be described as sex-addicted. But sexual addiction is not primarily about sex but about that for which sex is a “solution.” It is so easy to think that our sexual charge with a particular person or situation is no more than an expression of our natural sexuality, when in fact it may actually be an eroticizing of our conditioning or of some need we have. (For example, arousal in a certain pornographic fantasy may be secondarily sexual, its primary impetus being rooted in one’s longing to be unconditionally seen, loved, and wanted.)
There won’t, however, be any real freedom here until we release sex (and everything else!) from the obligation to make us feel better. So long as we keep assigning sex to such labor—slave labor—we will remain trapped in the very circumstances for which sexual release is an apparent “solution.” Increased stress means an increased desire to get rid of stress, and if we attempt to do so through sexual means (which does not really get rid of stress, except in the most superficial sense), we simply reinforce the roots of that stress. In addicting or over-attaching ourselves to erotically pleasing release, we also frequently addict ourselves to the very tension that seemingly necessitates and sometimes even legitimizes such release.
The abuse of sex, particularly through the expectations with which we commonly burden it, is so culturally pervasive and deeply ingrained as to go largely unnoticed, except in its more lurid, obviously dysfunctional, or perverse extremes. Even more removed from any telling awareness is our aversion to truly exploring and illuminating the whole matter of human sexuality, not clinically nor in any other kind of isolation, but rather in the context of our entire being, our totality, our inherent wholeness.
That is, sex does not need to be—and in fact cannot be—crystallized out and set apart from the rest of our experience (as those overly focused on the mechanics of sexuality often try to do). Rather, it needs to be seen, felt, known, and lived in open-eyed resonance—and relationship—with everything that we do and are, so that it is, as much as possible, not just an act of specialized function nor an act bound to the chore of making us feel better or more secure, but rather an unfettered, full-blooded expression of already present, already loving, already unstressed wholeness.
To embody such wholeness requires a thorough investigation of the labor to which we have assigned—or sentenced—our sexuality.
That labor and its underpinnings are eloquently revealed through the stark slang of sex. Many of the words and phrases regarding our sexual functioning bluntly illustrate the frequently confused, disrespectful, and exploitive attitude commonly brought to one’s own sexuality and sexuality in general. Consider, for example, the notorious and enormously popular “f” word, for which there is an incredible number of non-copulatory meanings, a fucking incredible number, all pointedly and colorfully describing what we may actually be up to when we are busy being sexual or erotically engaged.
Here’s a partial list, the majority of which overlap in meaning: ignorance (“Fucked if I know”); indifference (“I don’t give a fuck”); degradation (“You stupid fuck”); aggression (“Don’t fuck with me!”); disappointment (“This is really fucked”); rejection (“Get the fuck out of here!” or “Fuck off!”); manipulation (“You’re fucking with my head”); disgust (“Go fuck yourself”); vexation (“What the fuck are you doing?”); exaggeration (“It was so fucking good!”); rage (“Fuck you!”); and, perhaps most pithily revealing of all, exploitation (“I got fucked”).
Throw together the various meanings of “fuck,” plus the “higher” or more socially acceptable terms for sexual intercourse—including the vague “having a relationship” and the unwittingly precise “sleeping together”—and mix in some insight, and what emerges is a collage composed of (1) the dysfunctional labor to which we have sentenced our sexual capacity; and (2) the expectations (like “Make me feel wanted” or “Make me feel better”) with which we have saddled and burdened it.
When we primarily assign our sexuality to stress release, security reinforcement, egoic reassurance, the fueling of romantic delusion, and other such chores—thereby burdening it with the obligation to make us feel better—we are doing little more than screwing ourselves, dissipating much of the very energy that we need for facing and healing our woundedness, the woundedness that, ironically, we seek escape or relief from through the pleasuring and various sedating options provided by our sexuality.
This is not to say that we should never use our sexuality for purposes such as stress release, for there are times when doing so may be entirely appropriate, but such usage needs to be more the exception than the rule.
We are living in a pervasively sexualized culture—“sexy” as an adjective has infiltrated just about every dimension of life. There’s much more openness regarding sex than there was fifty or sixty years ago, but much of that openness has more to do with breadth than depth. We have more permission to experiment with sex and to talk graphically about it, but we nevertheless don’t talk about it in real depth very often—exploring, for example, the nonsexual or presexual dynamics that may be in play during sex—for to do so would put us in a position of real vulnerability and transparency, not so able to hang on to a semblance of “having it together.” Seeing what we are actually doing in nonsexual contexts while we’re busy being sexual may not be very high on our list of priorities!
And this is the era of informed consent, centered by the myth—yes, myth—of consenting adults. In sexual circumstances, many of us may not be clearly considering what is really going on and what is at stake, instead making choices from a desire (largely rooted in childhood) to get approval, affection, connection, love, or security, or to be distracted from our suffering. At such times, we are operating not so much as consenting adults as adult-erated children (and/or adolescents) whose “consent”—however “informed”—is largely an eroticized expression of unresolved woundedness or unmet nonsexual needs.
The deepest sex, sex requiring no fantasies (inner or outer) or turn-on strategies or rituals of arousal, but rather only the love, openness, and safety of awakened intimacy, cannot be significantly accessed without a corresponding depth in the rest of our relationship with our partner. Without such mutual maturity, it doesn’t matter how hot or juicy or innovative our sexual life may be, even if we have many orgasms, big orgasms, together.
In fact, when we make coming together a goal, we simply come apart, separating and losing ourselves in our quest for maximally pleasurable sensations. “Sensational” sex is precisely that: sex that is centered and defined by an abundance of erotically engorged sensations. The romanticized presence of these sensations is often misrepresented as actual intimacy, at least until the rude pricks of reality do their vastly underappreciated job.
Most couples we see are not really all that happy with their sex life. Some of them have gone flat sexually, having had little or no sex for a long time. (Not surprisingly, the rest of their relationship is also usually flat, emotionally depressed, low in passion, unnaturally peaceful.) Other couples are more openly frustrated, wanting more than they are getting (such a quantitative focus being mostly a male complaint), or wanting more connection before sex (such a qualitative focus being mostly a female complaint). And others initially act as if they are doing fine sexually, being reluctant to reveal their discomfort with the direction that their sex life may be taking (like tolerating a partner who prefers porn to them). And so on.
The good news is that such dissatisfaction, if allowed to surface in its fullness, will often goad a couple into doing work that they would otherwise avoid or postpone.
As a couple explores their sexuality, and explores it deeply, they will discover that what’s not working in their relationship usually shows up in their sexuality, often in exaggerated form. And conversely, as they ripen into more mature ways of relating, they will find that this revitalizes and deepens their sexuality. No sex manuals or tantric rituals are needed, nor any fantasies or other turn-on tactics—their increased intimacy and trust in each other are more than sufficient, creating an atmosphere within which love-centered, awareness-infused sexual desire can naturally arise and flow, carrying the lovers along into the sweet dynamite and ever-fresh wonder and ecstasy of what sex can be when it has deep intimacy’s green light.