Category Archives: Bits and bobs

Modern Bodhisattvas

‘…literally a living being (sattva) who aspires to enlightenment (bodhi) and carries out altruistic practices’

That’s the definition of a bodhisattva according to the Soka Gakkai International website. It’s a word I came across years ago, which has stuck with me. I remember reading how there are many bodhisattva – traditionally individuals who sacrificed passing on to nirvana (bliss) in order to help others.

Well it’s struck me recently that there are several modern bodhisattvas, reaching out to inspire and educate us. They aim to improve not just our own lives, but society in general.

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This list could be far longer than it is, if I included everyone I have ever read a book by. I could also include more obvious people like Oprah Winfrey or Deepak Chopra; people who have been doing this for a lot longer.

Instead I have narrowed my list down to two guys whose regular podcasts I listen to often, whose feeds I’m subscribed to on my iPhone for the walk to work, plus two individuals whose YouTube videos and Instagram posts render me all aglow with positivity.

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Taken from Lewis Howes Instagram feed

Lewis Howes

Lewis Howes’ The School of Greatness podcast series was one of the first two I ever subscribed to. It’s a treasure trove of advice, promise and life lessons, helping to answer the question what is greatness for you? (No easy task!)

Lewis himself has struggled through a lot: watching the effects of bad choices on his brother; occasionally suffering that anti-climactic sensation after a shot of success; and finding his long-nurtured dreams were suddenly out of reach (to name just three).

These trials and tribulations ultimately have led to Lewis’ own form of greatness. He is great at bringing together a wealth and variety of successful people. He chats with men and women of different ages and backgrounds. Some had tough childhoods, others faced adversity as they reached for their goals.

Lewis’ academy allows us all entry as its students. Its teachers change from week to week, but its Principal ensures all lessons are accessible and hit their mark. Classes can be theoretical, challenging the mind, and practical, leading us to action; and they can often be a satisfying combination of the two.

Be sure to subscribe to The School of Greatness podcast for thrice weekly programmes, and also head over to Amazon to get a copy of his same-titled book (itself a great read).

Courtesy of marieforleo.com

Taken from marieforleo.com

Marie Forleo

Marie Forleo came to my attention through her YouTube show Marie TV, a lively mix of motivational monologues and interviews with other thought leaders.

However, Marie has had a colourful background before the launch of this, proving to us all that it is never too late and it is always possible to take a new path and try something different. She worked in the corporate world, was one of the first ever Nike Elite Dance Athletes and has authored the bestselling Make Every Man Want You.

Marie now describes herself as a “multi-passionate entrepreneur”, a term perhaps more of us should be employing in a world that demands ever more from us and where we regularly switch roles.

Questions and quandaries are welcomed by Marie and her team, and she aims to answer some of them on Marie TV, delving into her own experiences and the wisdom of others. She also works to answer questions we might not yet have encountered by bringing on a range of guests, recently including Marianne Williamson (on bereavement), Chris Guillebeau (choosing the right path for you) and Tony Robbins (on mastering your money).

Marie has strong ethics in her life as well as her work, including “enforced” breaks for her team and time away from technology to rest the mind. What a role model!

Simply type in Marie TV or Marie Forleo to YouTube to find her videos.

Taken from jeffsanders.com

Taken from jeffsanders.com

Jeff Sanders

The 5AM Miracle podcast by Jeff Sanders is the show I have been following the least amount of time, but I am already an avid listener.

The whole premise of this podcast hooked me from the start. I am without a doubt most productive in a morning. I do much better through early to bed, early to rise. This series backs up that philosophy through science and practical applications.

Once a week Jeff shares discussions with other prescribers of this way of life alongside his own thoughts and practices. Some of these practices and the ideology behind them could be called “common sense”, but it’s amazing how few of us bring them into play. For example, check out his podcast on 7 Productive Habits to Complete Before 7:00 AM and you’ll see what I mean (as well as alter your own thinking).

Jeff’s book The 5AM Miracle is on my Amazon wishlist for reading in the not-so-distant future, but in the meantime I’m staying tuned in to his podcast (all previous episodes can be found on his website too).

Taken from thebachbook.com

Taken from thebachbook.com

Jordan Bach

Jordan Bach, keeper of The Bach Book and his own YouTube channel chock full of optimistic videos, is another “modern bodhisattva” who has only just come onto my radar. Or so I thought…

Delving back through my liked videos on YouTube, I discovered I clicked the thumbs up on his first video God Loves Gays years ago. At the time I was reconciling distinct and contradictory perspectives on homosexuality in religion and spirituality. While I may not remember the exact details of that video, I can recall how deeply Jordan’s argument resonated with me. It was a source of comfort.

And this is what I would say about all of Jordan’s videos. They console. They warm the heart and soul. They shine a light into your life, even if only for the three or four minutes you’re watching. He speaks from a rich, personal place, whether reflecting on his own life or world events.

I would also say that Jordan is fervent promoter of others. He might not do the one-to-one chats on podcast like Lewis Howes or Jeff Sanders, or the in-depth video discussions like Marie Forleo. What you get instead is a mirrored surface, showing us all the messages of other greats past and present. In this way you see a reflection of your own spirit as well.

You only have to check out Jordan’s Instagram account to feel this.

What do all these modern bodhisattvas have in common? Well, as with the definition given at the opening of this post, they all carry out altruistic practices. They have a serious calling to improve their own and others’ lives, and they do this well.

They not only inspire us through social media and big events, but through their philanthropy and ethical business ventures.

Furthermore, they connect with other motivational figures, acting as springboards for our own interconnectivity and aspirations in life.

Lewis Howes, Marie Forleo, Jeff Sanders and Jordan Bach are my top four beacons of hope and exemplars of right living right now.

Have I missed anyone off this list who you feel should be included? I’m totally hooked on these inspirational podcasts, videos and books right now, and would love to hear any other suggestions (I’ll even accept more ancient teachers).

What I’ve learned from Brexit

Well. What a time we’ve had here in Blighty.

It’s been almost a month since we had the EU referendum, when the nation unquestionably voted LEAVE.

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I say unquestionably, but the fact of the matter is that even now, weeks on, Remain voters are very vocally arguing their cause. A cause which must be let go of, if democracy is not to be utterly undermined by those supposedly supporting it.

The nature of the beast is that when votes are cast, at least one group will not win.

In my eyes, no side has won this time, however. And I’m going to tell you why I think that.

Arrogance, greed and fear of change now reign supreme in the UK.

I was most upset on the morning of Friday 24 June 2016 to see the way a lot of Britons were responding. The way they have continued to respond.

There is a mardiness, a toddler-ish tantrum characteristic running right through the middle of many in our country. It’s a sense of if-I-don’t-have-it-my-way-I’ll-scream-and-scream-until-it-goes-my-way. The days after the referendum were, to be honest, a shameful bout of maliciousness and moodiness unbecoming of adults. Self-proclaimed intelligent adults at that.

On top of this, the referendum result highlighted a dearth among us. No longer do we seem to courageously face a situation head on and deal with it. No longer do we strive to make the most of what we’ve been handed. Only last Saturday did I listen to a podcast where someone reiterated that we rarely control what happens in life – it’s how we react to the happenings that’s important.

We might not be happy with the outcome. But Brexit happened. It’s done. None of us knows what the future holds, any more or less now in fact than before this decision was made. If tougher times come, are the British people capable of buckling down, sticking together and tightening belts? That’s my worry. Already Scotland and London have had their paddies and called out a desire for selfish independence from a united country they both normally seem to want to exploit, one way or another.

I’ve also witnessed intense hatred, and not from a source you might expect. Yes, there has been racial hate crime since the referendum. But I’ve also seen hatred of our fellow countrymen. There was a foul, unexpected tirade online and in person of Remain voters calling Leave voters “stupid”, “ignorant”, “racist” and “selfish”. Tarring all with the same brush. Are these arrogant individuals really any better than those they claim to protest against?

Lastly, but not so surprising in nature, is the fact that we remain, intrinsically, a reactionary nation nowadays. Not just in the government, but right down to grass-roots level, in our homes. This has been coming for over a year, whoever stood victorious. Why weren’t all options considered and measures put in place before then?

This reactionary and knee-jerk methodology seems to me to be the main reason the rest of the world was thrown into uncertainty from that fateful Friday morning. Let’s hope this methodology stops soon so we can be a shining light, not a dismal failure – through our own personal failings.

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In the words of our new PM Theresa May: ‘Brexit means Brexit’. So now let’s get on with things. Worse things have happened at sea.

Top 5 things to do around Ripon

Alex and I are lucky to have a “second home” in North Yorkshire thanks to his mum and dad, and as we spend a lot of time up there, I’m going to list my top 5 things to do around Ripon in case you ever find yourself up that way too.

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These are the simple pleasures in life that I love. If you’re around Ripon to relax, these will be right up your street.

Without further ado…

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(1) RHS Harlow Carr

Top of my list is visiting Harlow Carr gardens, the RHS’ northernmost site down by Harrogate. I love gardens and gardening. I could spend hours just sat outside, admiring nature and studying the intricacies of flowers. I’m desperate to grow my own fruit and veg.

RHS Harlow Carr combines all these things. There are different areas to the garden, all inspiring in their own way: gardens through the decades; woodland; streamside walks; veg patches; an alpine greenhouse.

For those with kids, there’s also a play area and often child-friendly features and “treasure” hunts.

The RHS website explains how Harlow Carr’s ‘chief aim was to set up a trial ground where the suitability of plants for growing in northern climates could be assessed’ when originally established by the Northern Horticultural Society in the 1950s. This is still evident – we always spot some sort of trial going on whenever we visit.

There are regular flower shows and other events (such as the Peony Show held on June 26) to excite your interest. The perfect way to finish off is with a browse around Harlow Carr’s ample garden centre and gift shop (I’ve never come away empty-handed!) and something to eat or drink in the on-site branch of Betty’s tearooms.

I now have annual RHS Individual membership (which cost me £42.75) as we go more often, and it gets both Alex and myself in “free” and easily each time. Other packages are available here, and of course you can then access other sites for “free” too. Otherwise, entry is £11.00 each for adults paying with GiftAid.

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(2) Eating out in Ripon

I love to eat out with Alex. Ripon is an absolutely amazing place to eat, to say it’s so small as a town. There’s no shortage of choices. Places we’ve tried at least once and loved include:

  • La Grillade: Italian and French cuisine in a little Parisian-style place opposite the cathedral.
  • The Water Rat: Delicious “pub grub” by the river, perfect for sunny days (although the conservatory is cosy for the rainy ones).
  • Byblos brasserie: Mediterranean food in a small and comfy environment, again near the cathedral.
  • Balti House: Quite possibly the best curries I have ever eaten in my life, plus it’s bring-your-own-booze which can reduce costs quite a lot.
  • So! Bar & Eats: We love this place with its gorgeous food AND it’s amazing cocktails – we’ll often eat elsewhere and still end up drinking here (before and/or after!).

You’ll also find your chains like Prezzo and Wetherspoons in the town centre, and for a no-frills takeaway Zorro Pizza can’t be beaten.

One place in Ripon we still haven’t eaten at, next on my list, is Lockwoods – it looks small but sweet!

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(3) Shopping in Harrogate

What Ripon has in the way of dining, it lacks somewhat in shopping. It has the basics, like a WHSmiths, Boots, supermarkets and even an Edinburgh Woollen Mill (!), plus a few lovely little boutiques, but if you want more variety of chain stores, head to Harrogate.

What’s more, Harrogate has a quaint arts and antiques quarter, the Royal Pump Room museum, and amazing-looking furniture and fittings shops to inspire and provide.

You can find some fancy bars and eateries dotted about the side streets.

There’s also a pleasant stroll to be had through the Valley Gardens if you get a moment (that said, I did see a man peeing slap bang in the middle of the lawns once when I went with a friend..!).

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(4) Newby Hall & Gardens

We’ve only been once, but it’s made a lasting impression, and it’s definitely somewhere I want to visit again. Newby Hall itself is a grand old house which visitors can have a look around as long as it’s not closed for a private function.

The hall is set within picturesque grounds sloping gently down to the river. It incorporates lawns, large flower beds and wooded areas. Exhibitions are regularly held at Newby – we visited during a large outdoor display of African sculpture, most of which was for sale.

The Yorkshire Party Company runs a restaurant in the grounds for when you get thirsty or hungry, and there is a small giftshop and garden centre by the entrance/exit if you’re after a souvenir or feel horticulturally inspired.

House & gardens tickets currently cost £15 each for adults, while gardens only are £11 each on arrival.

(5) Fountains Abbey & Studley Royal

Definitely go and have a wander round this surprisingly well-preserved ruins of this old Cistercian abbey. When weaving in and out of the weathered chambers and columns, Alex and I even spotted robed children! I presume they were on a school trip, and not ghosts of monastic life past…

After the majesty of the soaring stonework, take in the pools, follies and wooded hillsides of the landscaped grounds beyond. Keep your eyes peeled as deer can be spotted over fences and through gaps in the trees.

There are places to grab refreshments such as paninis, scones and cuppas around the grounds.

Just after you’ve made your way in, you’ll come across Fountains Hall – which I had never heard of – and although you can’t look around a lot of it, what you do see put me in mind of Wuthering Heights and rugged pre-Industrial Revolution living (albeit aristocratic!).

It costs £13 each for an adult to visit Fountains Abbey with GiftAid, and £6.50 for children, but a family ticket costing £32.50 can also be purchased.

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Other honourable mentions include: beautiful Ripley Castle; a trip out to the scenic Pately Bridge (where my own parents have a “second home”); beautiful York; the market town of Thirsk; a drive out to the coast at Whitby; Leyburn and Aysgarth Falls by the Yorkshire Dales National Park; and Markenfield Hall, if you can time your trip to fit in with its few open days (it’s still someone’s actual family home, after all!).

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Is there anywhere in North Yorkshire that you think I’m missing? I’d love to hear of any other suggestions for future stays up in Ripon, so share them below, and remember, you can follow my blog on Bloglovin’ or follow me on Twitter and Instagram!