Sunday, August 28, 2016


'Indigenous Brits' are associated with the Celts - Scotland, Ireland and Wales. The Celtic Migrations spread from deep in the heart of Europe. The edges of where the Celts roamed is where the language legacy is most likely to be found now. Far from the core. The Gauls were also Celts. Germanic tribes pushed those who didn't assimilate out. The Germanic Franks formed the Kingdom of France after the fall of Rome (which held Gaul from 51 BC till 486 AD). The Angles and Saxons pushed onto the British Island. France emerged as a modern power during the Hundred Year War (1337-1453). The 16th Century was dominated by Religious Wars between Catholic and Protestant. The 18th Century saw the overthrow of Monarchy and the 'declaration of rights' . The 19th Century the Napoleonic Wars, and Empire building within Europe and Colonialism around the world. 

Yellow (C6th BC); Light Green (By 275BC)
Dark Green (Areas where Celtic Languages remain widely spoken)

Self-Expression – The Dalai Lama & Desmond Tutu (Tim)

It’s a sad truth of life that when we grow older, we tend to become less spontaneous and less creative as we acquire more social anxiety. A lot of times, we’re so worried about what others think of us that we have no idea how to relax and be ourselves. The generally agreed principle in psychology is that social anxiety has to do with the ego. While the ego is something that we tend to protect and cherish (See Donald Trump), the good news is that long-term meditation works to strip away the ego. And if you want proof of the joy and spontaneity that a lifetime of meditation can bring, just watch these clips of the Dalai Lama goofing around with his chum, Desmond Tutu.

Conclusion of a 7 part series on Self-Awareness

Saturday, August 27, 2016

Self-Compassion – Hakuin (Tim)

There are many forms of anxiety, but paradoxical anxiety is my favourite. This is the (highly ironic) anxiety that results from fear of being too anxious. And so it is with the over-eager meditator, who expends a great deal of mental energy on not thinking too much, and thereby…well, you get the picture. In fact, the Zen patriarch, Hakuin seems to have suffered a nervous breakdown on the way to enlightenment. The answer to this paradoxical malady? Go easy on yourself. For example, when you are mediating, and you find your mind wandering, be gentle about re-focusing your thoughts and avoid the temptation to scold yourself. Stupid jerk that I am, I’m not very good at this, either.

Part 6 of a 7 part series on Self-Awareness

Missing Tooth

I have spent a lot of time recently thinking about how to build communities. I am reading 'Sapiens' in which it talks about the Cognitive Revolution which preceded the Agricultural Revolution and Industrial Revolution and completely changed the way we organised ourselves. By being able to anthropomorphize groups, we were able to create communities that took on identities. Making stories into 'real' people. We speak of countries, religions, countries, companies, political parties, genders and all other sorts of stereotypes as if they exist separately. Creating communities is giving life in the form of a story.   

This morning Gem and I went on a Street Art Tour of Paris. One of the places was called the Missing Tooth. This is a name for where buildings are torn down, or fall down, or for whatever reason are left vacant. It reminded me of 'the $2 thing' in Christchurch, New Zealand. Christchurch responded to tragedy by coming together. In Paris, an area was turned over to artists after a building collapsed. People are resilient, creative and able to fill our lives, our missing teeth, with stories that bind us. This is most obvious when things fall apart. When all is okay, we can become complacent. We can get angry and throw stones at each other. We forget we are on the same side. It is the rough bits of life that seem to remind us of how much we care about each other. The difficulty that creates a story bigger than us. A beauty that binds us.

Friday, August 26, 2016


Large Scale Governments were originally forged through force and conquest. The Kingdom of Saudi Arabia was formed in 1932 after 30 years of conquest bringing together four regions. It is one of the few remaining Absolute Monarchies with hereditary power. Saudi Arabia is home to the two holiest places within Islam - Medina and Mecca. Muhammad was requested to come to Medina to act as a peace maker between bitter warring tribes. Thought to be the world's first, the constitution of Medina committed the tribes to mutual co-operation under his leadership. Mecca is home to the Kaaba and is the direction Muslims face during prayer. More than 15 million pilgrims visit the spiritual focal point each year.

Remaining Monarchies in the World
Red (Absolute) Orange (Semi-Constitutional)
Dark Green (Constitutional), Light Green (Commonwealth)
Pink (Sub-national Monarchies)

Self-Discipline - Mo Farah (Tim)

The old cliché of meditation is that it’s a blissful state of relaxation. Unfortunately, meditation is not always blissful. It’s a lot more like running the 10,000m; great when you have the fitness, but it takes discipline to get there. To begin with, it’s generally recommended that you start with some form of mindfulness meditation like mindfulness of breathing. All you have to do is pay attention to your breath. When your mind wanders, just bring it back to your breath, again and again. As you do this, you slowly get in the habit of catching your errant mind. Eventually, you find yourself catching negative thoughts all the time. By the principle of neuroplasticity, your brain slowly but surely changes for the better. Or so I’ve read.

Part 5 of a 7 part series on Self-Awareness

Thursday, August 25, 2016


With Kingdoms starting to form around 3200-2800 BC, Iran was first unified under the Median Empire of 678-549 BC. Under Cyrus the Great, Iran reached its largest Geographic incarnation as the Achaemenid Empire (550-330 BC) as we started experimenting with centralised bureaucracy, postal systems, road systems and official languages. It's peak population was about 44% of those on the planet. After several Empires came and went, the Arab Rashudin Caliphate brought Islam. The blossoming of literature, medicine, art and philosophy saw Iran at the centre of the Islamic Golden Age. In the 12th century, it is estimated that about three quarters of the population died in the Mongol Invasions of Genghis Khan. In the 1500s, Ismail I led a conversion to Shia Islam and Modern Iran is the only official Shia nation in the world. An Anglo-American sponsored coup in 1953 put Iran at the centre of the cold war. In 1979, the Islamic Revolution led to Iran becoming an officially Islamic Republic.

Self-Awareness – Matthieu Ricard (Tim)

While self-help and psychedelics may be dismissed as snake oil, the benefits of meditation are increasing well documented by science. Matthieu Ricard is a Tibetan Buddhist monk who has the distinction of being both the “happiest person in the world” and one of the most studied individuals in the history of neuropsychology. Studies on the brains of Ricard and other skilled meditators showed that they were significantly more active in areas related to compassion, conscious attention and happiness, but significantly reduced in their capacity for negative thinking. This is down to the capacity of even the adult brain for growth and change – neuroplasticity. And, as you would have guessed by now, the engine for change in this case is meditation.

Tim Casteling
Part 4 of a 7-part series on Self-Awareness
(1) Self-Doubt (2) Self-Criticism (3) Self-Discovery