Walking with Heroes

14 Aug

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A while back, I spent a lot of time exploring the idea of the Hero’s Journey and Mythic Archetypes… and it feels like a good time to dust some of that off and share it here for a wider audience. (My clients and newsletter subscribers got access to this programme on line, but I felt it was worth reviewing it and sharing a bit more widely).

The Hero’s Journey describes the key elements of every good story – how our hero leaves the realm of the ordinary world when she receives the call to adventure… a call which he initially refuses, but through a meeting with a mysterious adviser, steps into a new world full of tests, trials, allies and enemies.. and eventually make their way back into the realm of the ordinary, forever changed and with a magical gift that will transform the world.

We see the echoes of this story in many of our fairy tales, in the great sagas of our time. It is of course, the story of Star Wars:

In act one we find our hero Luke Skywalker, stuck on the ordinary world of farming on Tattooine, when he receives the call in the form of a mysterious message stuck in R2D2s memory. On a quest to understand the message, he meets the strange and mysterious Obi-Wan-Kenobi, who takes him under his wing and introduces him to the power of the Force.. initially refusing the call, he finds his bridges – and his farm – burned and he reluctantly heads off into the unknown. He meets new allies along the way, and encounters new enemies, yet confronts death and returns triumphant – transformed by the ordeal from simple farm boy into Jedi warrior and ready to take his place in a new world.

The same story runs through Lord of the Rings, our hero replaced by an unassuming hobbit, who encounters Gandalf the magician and the Fellowship on his journey to save Middle Earth.

I am sure you can find your own echoes of it in your favourite stories and sagas…Aladdin… Cinderella… Arthur and Merlin… Jaws… the Wizard of Oz… The Lion King… The Hunger Games… The Matrix… E.T. and so many, many more.

(I love this comic book version – click through to see a larger view)

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Disney themselves made this the core of their storywriting when Chris Vogler summarised Joseph Campbell’s “The Hero with a Thousand Faces” in a famous memo which became the backbone of the Disney’s storywriting process. The characters change, but the one great story remains.

And the reason why the story works is that it’s the story of each of our lives, in some way. It resonates with the truth of who we are, that for each of us there is an adventure ready to unfold… or an adventure that each of us is already walking. It might be a romance, or an ‘against the odds’ struggle, yet for each of us, when we recognise it, the story rings true.

The characters in the play have their own story to tell, too… the famous psychotherapist Carl Jung created the concept of an archetype, suggesting there were twelve broad patterns of behaviour:

  • Sage
  • Innocent
  • Explorer/Seeker
  • Ruler
  • Creator
  • Caregiver
  • Magician
  • Hero/Warrior
  • Outlaw/Revolutionary
  • Lover
  • Jester/Fool
  • Everyman

Carol S Pearson took this work further in her programme for individuals and for businesses, and in her amazing book “Awakening the Heroes Within”. I can only scratch the surface in this series, but I hope it will provide an accessible introduction that motivates some of you to dig deeper and pick up her book.

I love this work because unlike many of the psychological tools available today (Enneagram, Belbin, Myers Briggs and so on) this one doesn’t seek to put people in a box so much as become aspirational.

When I first did the analysis to show which the primary heroes were active in my own life, I found that the area I was weakest was as the Warrior – I was not good at enforcing boundaries and fighting for what I saw to be right. I could look at that and decide to change it… not to change the core of who I am, but to strengthen an area that I saw weak.

And as I did the work, and looked at the stories for each of these Heroes, I could see the unfolding of some stories that mirrored my life experience and helped me to understand the context, what to avoid and to see what would come next if I continued on the journey.

I and the people I have worked with have found the ideas wonderfully helpful.. and so I thought I would open it up, share it all on the blog, and let others find what catches fire for them..

So, over the next few weeks, I’m going to publish the episodes of the ‘Walking With Heroes’ programme to the blog every few days. There’s a lot of content so I don’t want to give you indigestion! I hope you enjoy it – and I suspect that at some point, if you’re paying attention, one or more of the characters will resonate with you and you’ll suddenly realise ‘’”That’s me!”

And at the end I will share the tool I have used to work out where people are on the Hero Spectrum – to see what’s working in their lives, and perhaps understand a little more of what’s going on…

Enjoy the journey…..

 

Find out more at www.timhodgson.org

Staying upright…

27 Jul

Cyclists have always had an uneasy relationship with gravity… conscious that without it our tyres would fail to grip the surface of the road and we would gain zero traction, and knowing that in an ideal world, perfect balance would be obtained whereby the force of gravity would actually hold the bike upright, we resign ourselves to a constant process of falling slightly to the left, followed by a corresponding falling slightly to the right. At speed, of course, the forward momentum of the bike reduces the effect of the sideways forces and makes falling harder. Or so the theory goes.

So, having successfully navigated the field marked ‘’Bull in Field” and had the presence of the electric fence brought to my attention rather forcefully when I accidentally brushed up against it, the field full of sheep should have been no problem. Ignoring the one rather obstinate ewe who wanted to face me down, I made my way through the gate and got back onto my bike.

Unfortunately, at this point, gravity and I had a little falling out. Due in part to the uneven surface, but more down to my own ineptitude, I failed to make the necessary forward motion required to remain upright. Sadly, also, I managed to get my feet stuck in the pedal clips… so slowly, gracefully and perhaps even balletically I toppled inexorably sideways.

The sheep remained unimpressed by this comedy turn, although I swear I heard one of the little beggars snicker.

Gravity 1. Timmy 0.

Find out more at www.timhodgson.org

Everything is working out perfectly–10 years of craziness and chaos

25 Jul

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Just over ten years ago I set out on an adventure that was to change my life. That day I woke up, cropped my hair short and loaded the new Bon Jovi box set onto my Mp3 player and then went out on a run before breakfast… and as I ran I looked back on my life up to that point – and forward into the new dawn that lay ahead. A new vista of infinite possibilities lay in front of me. Little did I know that life wasn’t going to follow my expectations. Although perhaps I should have guessed…

But let’s rewind just a few short months. In 2004 I was working as a well respected and well liked programme manager running global IT initiatives for a major multinational, Unilever plc. I had a five figure annual salary, industry respect and the commitment and appreciation of my team, my peers, and my superiors. I was doing what I had trained to do, working in an exciting, dynamic technology environment, living on the edge of technical achievement. I travelled the world, implementing new technologies, running training courses and contributing to industry think tanks and technical peer reviews. And loving every minute of it.

My personal life was a little less perfect though – I was still recovering from a painful divorce, although I still had the love, support and close friendship of my two sons. My personal Christian faith had collapsed a few years earlier – yet I felt I had a huge amount of freedom to determine my own destiny.

In mid 2004 a harsher reality hit our technology world. The head of my organisation was ousted by those around him, and the shape of our business began to shift. Those of us who had been favoured suddenly fell from grace. As part of the subsequent reorganisation, I was offered the post of chief desktop architect – a seductive title, if it wasn’t for the fact that the previous chief desktop architect used to work for me. I was being offered a subordinate’s job. Suddenly, I faced a fearsome choice – and an opportunity. I could press for redundancy, and begin a new life.. or settle back down in the organisation and see what the future would bring.

I wrestled with the options in my head for days. I talked to my closest friends, who were very clear that they felt I should leave on a new adventure – because they could see the excitement in my eyes when I talked about it. Yet I still had the responsibility for two teenage sons – getting them through university, getting them started in life. I turned the possibilities over in my head, unable – or unwilling – to come to a solution.

While away on business, I went to the movies, watching ‘Wimbledon’ – the story of a tennis player with one last chance to be a winner… someone who felt that his best days were behind him and yet still had one chance to win… if he would own the title of ‘winner’. Around me at the movie theatre were posters – the movie ‘Hero’. A soap powder ‘Bold’. And finally, the tag line to an upcoming feature stopped me in my tracks: “In 2005, a hero will arise”. What more guidance could I be looking for? (I would point out that the movie in question was none other than ‘SpongeBob SquarePants’)

My mind was made up. I went in to my boss, who reluctantly accepted my resignation, asking me to work another 6 months to complete the project in hand. And I did. We delivered, on time and under budget, an installation that was subsequently rolled out to 150,000 computers world wide. And in the meantime, I had four leaving parties (the benefits of being an international traveller based on two continents and in three offices), rafted the Grand Canyon and lived it up in Las Vegas. Sadly my ex wife was taken ill during those months, too, and my two sons came to live with me, giving me an even greater sense that I had done the right thing.

And so, on that fateful day in June 2005, I bade farewell to the corporate lifestyle. I had no idea what I was going to do… but I knew that I was going on an adventure – a journey into the unknown, discovering what was possible.

I think these moments happen for all of us in our lives. We dismiss it sometimes as a mid life crisis, but for all of us, in some way, the Destroyer will rear his head – we look back at what we have done with our lives, and decide that we want to build something else. For some that manifests as getting rid of all that’s old and dull – throw out the Mondeo and buy an Alfa. Dye your hair bright blue. Learn to ride a motorcycle. Have an affair. Or change your career.

You see, we have to destroy in order to create. We have to tear down the security and safety of what is, in order to step into what could be. We have to clear the ground, the things that hold us back, getting rid of the comfort of what we know in order to take the first steps on an adventure into the unknown. We cannot hold on to the past while attempting to create a new future… the Universe demands that we let go of our safety net. It’s like stepping onto a rope bridge over a canyon… we can choose to stay on the safety of one side of the canyon, secure with rock under our feet. But if we want to step into something new, if we want to get to the other side… then we have to take a step onto that bridge, to step out over the chasm, unsure whether the rope will support us. As we step further out, then the bridge sways more. The wind might catch at us. We can go backward to safety – or press on into the unknown. As we step further out, then the bridge sways more wildly. Uncertainty increases. And yet we press on, hopeful of reaching the other side. Sometimes it is all we can do to put one foot in front of the other, feeling our way forward. Yet no matter how scary the crossing might be – the bridge will hold us… we will get to the other side.

One thing I did know… as well as being bloody good with technology (computers had been woven throughout my life from college onwards, back when there were no books, just typewritten notes) I was also damn successful with people. I had taken raw material and helped forge experts, industry leaders and technologists. One of my crew, a secretary when she started working with me, went on to be head of Information Technology for a major fragrance company. Another two created a very successful technology consultancy. Others found their voices and their careers blossom – so rather than diving back into technology or consultancy, I decided that I would find a way to work with people – to bring out the best in them.

And so I began to explore the options available. At first I started as a coach – working with people to help them realise their goals and make the sort of changes I had wrought in my own life. On top of this, I trained as a Master Practitioner of Neuro-Linguistic Programming (NLP) a psychological technology that restored power to individuals, allowing them to make massive changes in their lives. I added a qualification in hypnosis, simply because no-one understood what NLP actually was.

A gruelling three week programme saw me obtain the coveted title of ‘Trainer of Neuro-Linguistic Programming’ – certified to be able to run my own NLP trainings and adding depth to my ability as a public speaker. I worked with other companies to coach on major programmes, and became an expert in practical demonstrations of the power of the mind – board breaking, iron bar bending, and the fearsome firewalk and meditative glass walk.

And the more I explored the power of the unconscious, unlocking the power of human potential through helping people to rewire their conscious to achieve the results they wanted, the more I became aware that there was more to our own personal power. There seemed to be a supernormal aspect to our beings, that what we saw in this physical realm was only a faint shadow of the true power open to each one of us.

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I travelled to Peru, walking the Inca trail to Macchu Picchu and heard a still small voice speak to me as I looked down over the ancient city spread out below me. I rafted down the Colorado River through the Grand Canyon, and found myself learning deep lessons and stories from the rock around me, as we went deeper and deeper into the layers of stone etched out by the river – as we bounced and span through rapids and over rocks and waterfalls. I grew a beard and shaved my head. I learned to dance, learned to ski and to snowboard, took a course in fire eating, studied to be a bodyguard,threw myself out of a perfectly good aeroplane, got my second dan karate black belt…

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I moved town, with my children, to create a gap between my old life and my new. I made new friends. Learned new skills. Had fun.

I ran coaching programmes for sales staff, communications programmes for help line operators, worked with individuals and companies….I was regarded as one of the people who could really make a difference to people’s lives. People loved what I was doing and the encouragement I brought. I worked on inspirational leadership events, working with attendees to get them through some of the challenges they faced in the seminar programmes.

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Life was good, working out perfectly – or so it seemed…

 

And then disaster struck.

I guess I had seen it coming for a while… but I just worked hard and hoped things would turn round. In early 2008, it became clear that my business was not sustainable. There simply wasn’t enough money coming in to keep me and my family afloat.

With a heavy heart, I decided to start to look for work. I began by approaching technology companies, looking for roles like my previous one. Confident that I had the skills and the understanding to step right back in where I left off, I approached company after company. And met a brick wall of indifference. Too long out of the business. Not up to date.

I set my sights lower. And still no success.

Then I hit a new problem. I was over qualified for lower positions. So they wouldn’t hire me either.

I sold my beautiful car to raise funds. I borrowed money on credit cards to pay the bills, to help provide for my family. I took part time work as a greeter in a kitchen and bathroom showroom with a hundred mile round trip to work every day. The company went bust, and I didn’t get paid. I did display installations for supermarkets. I would have done anything to keep my family together, to keep a roof over our heads and food on the table. In those moments I tasted true desperation.

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I took to walking by the river in the early hours of the morning, before anyone was awake in the house, fingers clutched round a cup of coffee, looking desperately for answers. I was certain I had set out trying to do the right thing. I had followed my dreams, listened to my heart, looking to work with people, trying to bring more love into the world – yet here I was… lost, alone, afraid, stuck, and in trouble. And it was there, in those dark moments in late winter, that I found a new faith, a new depth of being, that would sustain me through the dark days to come. My youthful Christianity had been transformed into a new belief system and world view, based less on rules, and more on love. My finances may have been falling apart… but my heart was beginning to heal.

Eventually, when I was down to my last few pounds, I got a job working as a call centre operative for a UK communications supplier. And I hoped that the worst was over. By now I was around £40,000 in debt, and Her Majesty’s Revenue and Customs had started to pursue me for taxes I didn’t realise I had to pay.

When a friend offered me a job working for a technology startup in the Midlands, I jumped at the chance. For six months I lived in his garden shed while we started to build the technology for a new web service. To enable the move, I sold my house, at a loss, and added another £20,000 to my debt – finally finding a rental flat in north Birmingham. In that time, my mother suffered a serious stroke and was hospitalised, unable to speak – dying in hospital some nine months later after struggling through her rehabilitation, never really regaining her mobility or her speech.

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Yet in all of this, I felt there was light at the end of the tunnel. When this new project worked, we would be wealthy. We talked of company vacations in Trinidad. I would be able to repay my debts, and start out again.

I was wrong. Again. My friend decided that we had been following the wrong technical solution, and reluctantly let me go. Two years later, I was back at square one… out of work and still looking for answers.

I had one card up my sleeve left to play. Early retirement. Very early retirement. I had had some very good years at my final position with my previous company – because I was retiring so early, I wouldn’t retire as wealthy as I might have done, but I would at least be comfortable. Having got my creditors under control, I decided on two things. First, that I would retire, so that I didn’t have to deal with the uncertainty of unemployment ever again, and second, that I would take a year out to travel the world.

I used a small lump sum to buy some cheap flights around the world, and to buy a rucksack and a good pair of boots. I invested in a couple of tours, and a couple of courses I wanted to attend. I spent the next few months planning an itinerary that would take me to many of the places I had dreamed of visiting since I was a child – places that were so far away and wonderful, that had lit up my childhood imagination.

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And in July 2011, I set off. I came back for a month once I had finished the US/Mexico leg of my trip, poking sticks in volcanoes, exploring American’s National Parks, learning Hawaiian shamanism, savouring the exuberance of Cuba, climbing Mexican temples and chasing down Mayan legend.

The next leg of my trip took me ten months – round Australasia and Asia, into China and across out through Tibet & Nepal. My budget was tight, so I lived on ramen and red peppers, banana pancakes and street food. I slept in hostels and dodgy hotels, and made friendships that have lasted to this day. When I was down to my last ringgit, I worked Chinese New Year in exchange for a bed for the night. I took buses rather than trains, motorbikes and tuk tuks rather than taxis.

And I saw so much. And I saw places that made me glad to be alive, sights that filled my heart with joy. I saw things that made me ashamed to be human – reminders of atrocities past too horrible to consider, yet too important to forget. I lost my passport and credit cards and got stuck in Cambodia. I lost my passport again (d’oh!) and got stuck in China.

As I wandered, I found myself learning to listen to the whispers all around me – to develop a new understanding of Spirit, and of the nature of humanity. I found myself deeply and permanently transformed. Perhaps I was still uncertain of my role in the world… but certain that there was more than I saw with my eyes. I decided that only I could be the arbiter of what I held to be true – and that only I could be the architect of my own destiny. I began to carefully look into what I believed – and what I didn’t. I had few preconceptions – open to the thought that there might be no deeper reality to this world, yet somehow convinced in my heart that there was something other behind this reality.

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I stood under a waterfall in Mexico near the temples of Palenque, and heard a voice from beyond my own knowing speaking directly to my heart. I watched as lightning lit up the sky above the Rio Grande in Colorado USA, and began to understand a little of what I longed to teach. I sat still in a Buddhist temple in Cambodia and allowed truth to be unfolded to me. I found deep peace walking by the Tongariro River and felt the power of the creation at the Aratatia Waterfalls in North Island New Zealand. I found a new peacefulness practicing Tai Chi overlooking Hong Kong harbour under the guidance of ‘Mr Peacey Mind’. I went through a moment of transformation as I walked through a lava tunnel in Hawai’i, after marvelling at the iridescent power of the lava flow on Big Island. I looked into the skies above Mauna Kea and glimpsed something of power that lay beyond the stars. I looked up at the stars and marvelled as I lay out under the night sky in the Red Centre of Australia, under an Arizona sky, from the decks of live-aboards in Halong Bay, Vietnam, and on the Great Barrier Reef. I looked out to see from a simple wooden pier in Fiji and found a new hope growing in my heart. I learnt, studied and read in countless coffee houses, buses and train journeys, and I learned to listen to both the stillness and to the chaos – to see beyond what seemed to be happening to what was really real.

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All great things must transform into something new, and so, exhausted with travel, I returned. My ex mother in law was ill, and I wanted to see her before she died, and I was missing my family terribly.

For a while I stayed with family and friends, until one of my friends offered me a baby camper van, and I travelled the country and lived in my little camper for a few months… eventually scraping together enough money to get my stuff out of storage where it was being held ransom by the storage company and rent a small flat, back where I had started out five years before.

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A friend of mine worked as a DJ at a local dance organisation, and offered to give me a lift there.. arriving early, I was soon put to work sweeping floors by the event organiser, who excitedly declared ‘I’ve always wanted a minion’. I started to help out more and more, becoming an invaluable part of that organisation and supporting their web site and by travelling across the UK… the appearance of two ‘Despicable Me’ movies transforming the concept of a ‘minion’ into a small yellow thing with goggles and dungarees, and a fondness for bananas.

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Slowly, I began to rebuild my life. Although I had reached an agreement with my creditors in early 2009, I knew that unless I could create considerable wealth rapidly, I would never be free of my repayments, and so, reluctantly, I elected to make myself bankrupt. I expected that this would eliminate the final payment to my creditors but, to my surprise, due to a change in the law, my repayments actually quadrupled, causing me to shrink back into myself, bringing new limitations and restrictions. I found myself severely restricted as to what I could or could not do..causing me to drastically rethink my relationships and my lifestyle.

And finally, as I write this in the middle of 2015, I have now been discharged from bankruptcy. My debts have been written off, and I feel a new sense of freedom again. Sadly, due to a disparity between business law and personal law when it comes to bankruptcy, repayments continue for another two years or so.. but there is light at the end of the tunnel. I rage sometimes at the seeming injustice that means that a company director can go bankrupt and escape any real penalty for his error, able to go back into business almost immediately, while a personal bankrupt is stripped of his financial freedom for three years. And yet I know that the decision to pursue bankruptcy has created a step change in my life – shaking up a world that had perhaps become safe and predictable.

And yet, in all of this, I AM STILL HERE. The experiences I have had over the last ten years were not the ones I expected – but they are the ones I needed. Many of them have been hugely painful, stripping me back to the core of my own truth and my own being. I have come from having everything to understanding what it means to have nothing. I have learned what it means to have no roof over my head, to live wild, to have nothing but the gear in my bag. I have been in situations where the only choice is to walk, as there is no money for a bus – where I have been counting the change in my pocket to work out if I can afford to eat. I have stared despair and disappointment in the face… and have decided that they shall not have power over me. I know that I made the choices and decisions that were right for me, at the time… I had adventures and experiences that made me rich in all the ways that truly count. And now I am living with the unexpected outcomes of those decisions with my head held high.

I’ve learned that it’s actually impossible to make a wrong decision. Why would you? How could you? It might not be, in the light of what unfolds later, be the best possible choice – and yet, in that moment of deciding, you made the best decision you could given the information that you had. How can it be anything else? And even when we do make decisions that take us off our path – the Universe is self healing. It will find a new route to take us where we need to go – if we trust it to.

A friend asked me yesterday if I would I do anything different, if I had the chance again? Some days, I do look back and imagine that my life would have been easier if I hadn’t leapt into the uncertainty of self employment. But it would never have been so full, so exciting, so rich.

I hope that I would still do the brave thing, the risky thing. I hope I would still launch myself into an uncertain future rather than living in the ‘what if?’ I hope I would still choose to live from faith and love rather than live from fear. And perhaps the only thing I would do differently would be to live bigger, to dream more, to be more certain, more confident, more bold. Because perhaps the only mistake I made was to shrink down and be less than I truly am.

And I can see the blessings of the decisions I made. So, so many blessings. A tough, demanding career that laid the foundations for me to retire early and have adventures that I would not have dreamed of. A career path that had me at the front of the technology revolution and that gave me huge insights into the path of progress.

I have two incredible sons that gave me the freedom to pursue my dreams, and the space to find myself again. I had freedom from the need to find employment that helped me work with my dance teacher friend to help her build her business. I have friends that have supported me at every turn. Over the last few years this life has not perhaps been what you might call ‘comfortable’. But it has been rich, and rewarding, and beautiful. It has been full of incredible and wonderful friends. It has stretched me, and challenged me, and caused me to grow. It has brought me wisdom, and character, and depth. It has allowed me to explore meaning and truth, power and reality, faith and reality.

It has given me a new simplicity to living: being glad for simple joys and pleasures – a walk by the river, a bike ride in the country, sitting and watching the rain. It has given me a new empathy for the homeless, for those that are struggling, for those that are a little lost.

It has opened my heart and made me more sensitive to something ‘other’ – something deeper, something more real. 

And although I thought I would become wealthy and prosperous, I have been reminded that actually I am already still easily in the top 5% of incomes around the world – and been reminded that true wealth isn’t found in an income stream or a pay check,

And above it all I find myself deeply, deeply at peace. At peace with myself, and with Spirit. At peace with others. At peace with circumstances. I may be frustrated at times – yet in all of this it comes back to a deep inner knowing that, as my Hawai’ian Huna tutor taught me – everything is working out perfectly. What seems to be imperfection is actually perfection.. what seems difficult is actually a space where miracles can – and do – happen.

So now what….?

Baby steps. I am still finding what I want to do unfolding every day, as I learn more and as I learn to listen, to meditate, to take time out to hear the still small voice of my own heart. I have laid down my writing for a while to see what develops, and I will start to let that grow again – letting go of the need to create money and responding to the call to share my heart. I’m going to learn listen more closely to the voice of Love, because Love brings all the madness we need to unfurl ourselves across the world. I’m going to look for opportunities to share what I do know, where those might be helpful to others. I’m going to find ways to be a mender, to do what I can to bring healing into a world that truly needs it.

And I will carry on learning and growing, following my own path wherever that might take me. For me, there are no such things as mistakes… as one of my wise sons said years ago – there are no mistakes – there is just.. what happened.

And there is always, no matter what we have done, and no matter what mistakes we think we might have made, there is always hope.. and peace.. and Love.

Find out more at www.timhodgson.org

 

Looking back–five years

20 Jul

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Five years ago almost to the day I set out on a huge adventure, travelling the world for a year… just me, my computer and a backpack, and accompanied by Tigger (a tigger) and Snuff (a seal).

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Over those twelve months I explored a whole new world of beauty, of adventure, of experience.. some moments were scary (losing my passport in Cambodia, diving into the Mexican cenotes) while some were inspirational (trekking down into the Grand Canyon for an overnight stay, watching the thunder and lightning unfurl on an Arizona plain) and some changed my life (listening to the voice of the Universe speak to my heart in Mexico… walking round Uluru in Australia… sitting in  Buddhist temple in Vietnam…watching lava creep across the landscape in Hawaii..sitting in peace and tranquillity in a park in Tibet..and others were simply unforgettable…standing at the foot of Mount Everest… diving into the waters of the Great Barrier Reef… walking the Tongariro trail into ‘Mordor’… sailing down Milford Sound in New Zealand… chilling in the history of Havana, Cuba… cruising Halong Bay in Vietnam… practicing Tai Chi in Hong Kong harbour.

A million memories, and a truly transformational experience – of solitude and yet knowing I was being cared for, of living from day to day not knowing quite what the next day would bring, and of listening, above all, to my heart and to understanding who I am and why I am here. Some of those thoughts and insights are intensely personal. Some of them I have never told another human being.. while others I have shared in some of my more personal posts at www.registereddisciple.wordpress.com

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I told the story of my adventure in a hundred or more blog posts and photographs over at www.exploretheadventure.com but here’s the post I wrote when I got back: The Boys Are Back In Town

Since my return, life has been – well, interesting. More learning. More transformation. More changes. Growing up is never easy. Discovering who you are is never just a walk in the park. And that’s maybe a post for another time. But I know that my life and my destiny was forged in those twelve months on the road…and that who I am today was shaped in that decision to let go of everything, and see where the adventure took me.

 

Find out more at www.timhodgson.org

A new era–thanks, Huey!

17 Jul

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It should be pointed out that Huey is a motorcycle… a Huonaio Hn125-8 FireBird to be precise…bought off my friend Andy two years ago for £500 – and he bought it as a Chinese grey import for £700. Huey has been reliable, economical and damn good fun to ride. £20 a month is pretty good value for transport. I’ve had mobility that I wouldn’t have had otherwise. We will ignore the incidents when the battery fell out, or the headlamp unit fell off. We will forget the embarrassment of the top box that made a break for freedom. And we will forget the several times that the reserve tank hasn’t been enough to get me home… you can build real muscles pushing a motorbike. And perhaps we should draw a veil over the day that, overladen with gear, Huey and I toppled slowly yet spectacularly into a ditch.

Huey is where I learned to ride.. the L plates are long gone.. something I never got round to when I was younger. And sometimes I think that the car driving test should include an afternoon on a motorbike – it would make everyone aware of what it feels like to be vulnerable.

So, what’s next? A silver Yamaha Fazer actually, bought after great deliberation and two hours in a bike showroom trying to work out what to get. Another chapter in the story unfolds.

But what is it about riding a bike that appeals to me? It can be damn cold, damn wet and damn uncomfortable. Gravel is lethal. White lines on the road hold their own dangers. It’s no good for going shopping on. But it’s ‘can’t wipe the smile off my face’ fun. There’s something about the manoeuvrability, the rapid response, the flexibility. There’s something about the connection to the road – rather than being insulated by the steering of a car, steering a bike is something you do with your whole body. There’s a sense of living on the edge, of needing your wits around you. There’s something almost meditative about being so aware of what’s going on around you… mindfully aware of every potential hazard, every pot hole, speed bump, patch of diesel, every pedestrian, every other driver, every crazy animal. There’s something about the camaraderie among riders, who acknowledge each other as they pass. It feels like ‘me’ somehow.

It’s raw and real, being connected to the world in a way that no driver in a car can be. Feeling the wind whip past.. aware of the environment around me.. feeling the road, reacting to every moment.

We’ve had some adventures, Huey and I… loading up with camping equipment for a weekend under the stars.. riding to meet friends.. all part of the richness of life. And doing it in a car wouldn’t bring the same memories, somehow..

So , thank you my friend… I salute you!

 

Find out more at www.timhodgson.org

PS – it’s been a while, but blogging is back on the agenda…

I surrender–again

24 Apr

surrenderA while back, I took a great and momentous decision. I decided NOT to comment on anyone who reposts stupid or just plain wrong stuff on line without researching it first. When I was younger we used to have to spend hours in something called a ‘library’ to check whether something was true or not. Nowadays it’s simple enough to check on Google. But no-one does….

I said this a while back, and I have found myself sucked back into commenting in some vain last ditch heroic effort to get rid of some of the crap that circulates on Facebook. Stupid, stupid, stupid.

Yet still I try, like King Canute trying to hold back the English Channel.

Because it annoys the hell out of me.

So please. Before you repost something… CHECK. It’s easy. Google it. Run it past Snopes or Hoax Slayer (see below). See if it’s still valid. See if it was ever valid.

I used to run big email and networking services, and it irks me to see so much crap filling up my newsfeed and going everywhere and back again when there’s so much really great stuff that I DO want to see. I want to hear people’s news. I want to be inspired. I want to laugh. There’s some amazing stuff out there. There are heartwarming stories. Amazing science. Crazy exploits. There are things that we really should be taking notice of. Big, planetary issues. Big social issues. Helping people who are hurting. Rejoicing with people who are rejoicing.

What I don’t want to be is to be buried under posts that have their origin in fear. ‘Your food isn’t what you think’. ‘There are scarier critters out there than science ever guessed’. ‘Facebook is trying to steal your data.’

But, honestly, I haven’t got time any more to comment on everyone that reposts silly things without checking. I want to spend more of my time creating great stuff, writing blog posts, recording programmes and sharing some of the awesome things that are going on in the world. And dancing. And keeping fit. And having fun. And spending time with my friends. And falling in love. And splashing in puddles. And creating wealth. And listening to my heart and its resonance with the Universe. And being happy.

So here’s some things you’re going to have to work out for yourselves….

1) Anything that asks you to do something complicated for someone else to protect their privacy. Just bonkers. Privacy is actually pretty simple. Contrary to popular opinion, Facebook are not stupid and they do have controls in place to protect your privacy. Set it to ‘Friends Only’. Simples.

2) Photographs of ridiculously sized animals are probably fake. This includes very big spiders/snakes/creepy crawlies. Just think whether these things would actually function under Earth gravity. The same goes for pictures of very small animals. If it looks like a normal sized cat made very small by Photoshop, it probably is.

3) Crazy offers for stuff from web pages that have only existed for two days yet promise to give away hundreds of thousands of pounds worth of kit are almost certainly false. (If you just tell them what colour you want. Oh, and fill in a ridiculous questionnaire to give away your personal data so they can spam you or steal your identity.)

4) Ridiculous claims about margarine/ onions/ chicken nuggets are actually patently untrue – if we just checked.

5) Denzel Washington/ Lady Gaga/ Jon Bon Jovi are not dead. Just check before writing that tearful obituary…

6) Posts claiming that Microsoft/IBM/Amazon/The Red Cross will donate money if you like a post are complete tosh. That heartwrenching photo of some poorly child got used without their permission… so don’t perpetuate the misery. (A more recent version of this one designed to pull on the heart strings of the spiritual asks you to respond with ‘amen’ to pray for the health of a poorly baby. It doesn’t work that way, people….and what right do we have to share some poorly child’s picture around the internet without the parent’s permission?)

7) ‘Did you see what she did in public?’ video clips really ARE there to steal your data.

8) Pictures that ask you to like them or comment to ‘see what happens’ will, in fact, shock and stun you by REMAINING EXACTLY THE SAME. You know this.

9) There are far more instances of three Fridays, three Saturdays and three Sundays in one month than are sometimes claimed. Like, it happens a couple of times a year.

10) If it seems totally implausible that the guy can fly a plane with a wing missing… it probably is.

11) There are no free Tesco/Asda cards waiting for you if you just click ‘like’ on that post. Neither is there a free Audi RX8 waiting to be won if you just tell them what colour you’d like.

So please. Before you just repost it, do some research. Check it out (and, yes, I have been fooled before, and probably will be again. But not often). I know you’re busy… but as soon as you post that junk on your newsfeed, all your friends suddenly have to deal with it too. And they are busy as well.

(While I’m here, and I don’t see why I shouldn’t loop off on a tangent, I’m also irritated by ‘share to win’ offers that clutter up my newsfeed. I want to see interesting stuff, not find out that someone wants to win an ipod/corset/holiday. Would you tell me this stuff in conversation? Do we really want to do people’s marketing for them? I don’t want to see these and I bet you don’t either. Give me some stuff that’s interesting.)

Heretical moment: I also get a bit frustrated with the constant petitions for Starbucks/Amazon/Tesco/ whoever to give some of their money back in taxes because they are paying it somewhere else. We should complain to a government who allows this sort of tax loophole, not try and shame companies who are trying to make a profit and keep people in jobs – and, believe it or not – actually trying to follow the rules and then wake up to find the world has turned against them because they (shock horror) tried to maximise their profit. Because – and be honest now – if you could save tax by doing it… you’d do it too. OK, rant off.

Oh. And posts that trade on other people’s misery. Just cause they are in a video doesn’t mean they’re not real people with real feelings… just cause they’re overweight or lack ‘normal’ dress sense doesn’t mean we can just photograph them in Walmart and laugh? Does it?

So here’s a couple of sites that you’ll need, in my absence.

a) FaceCrooks.com

b) snopes.com

c) hoax-slayer.com

d) thatsnonsense.com

Do what I do. Assume it’s crap first and then challenge the internet to prove me wrong. Especially if it sounds as if it’s based on fear. If you’re going to repost it, for heaven’s sake check it out first. Surely?

So what DO I want to see? Well, if we can get rid of all that junk then I have loads of time for you to tell me what you had for breakfast or the fact that you’ve just had coffee. Really. Make it funny and I actually AM interested.

But especially send me

1) Pictures of cats doing funny things. Big cats or small cats, I don’t really mind. Or dogs. Or monkeys. I’m not speciesist.

2) Heartwarming stuff. Photos that make my heart sing.

3) Inspirational stuff. Videos that make me think. Quotes that make me ponder a bit. Stuff that interrupts my thought patterns. Beautiful pictures of amazing places.

4) News. I like to know what you’re doing, if you think it’s important enough to want to share it with me.

5) Interesting ‘oh my god that’s amazing’ stuff. Clever ideas. Science that takes my breath away.

6) Things that make me laugh. Or cry. Or both at once.

7) Witty pictures involving coffee. Or cake. Or both.

I’ll look forward to seeing your good stuff. The rest.. well, just think before you post it. Check before you post it. Please!

And let’s use this amazing, incredible technology to spread a little love and happiness.

TimSignature

PS I know you’re going to ignore this and carry on anyway… but I feel better already!

PPS I’m also going to ignore grammatical disasters and misplaced apostrophes. While it will still make me twitch, you’re on your own, grammar wise.

Seeing stars….

27 Mar

So. I haven’t been feeling great this week, so I felt that I needed to get some fresh air. In my infinite wisdom, I decided that this could best be achieved by a trip to Stamford. In order to maximise the ‘exercise’ part of this jaunt, I felt it would be best to do this by bike. A quick check of the map suggested this would be around a 50km round trip. Not too shabby. To add interest and make it a bit tougher, I thought I would take a short cut across some tracks and through the woods (it seems that the idea of going from Oundle to Stamford fell out of favour a while back, compounded by the fact that someone built an air base in the way). To add incentive, I promised myself a large vanilla milkshake when I got there.

The journey out was uneventful. I failed completely to get lost, break down, get a puncture or even lose anything. I had however failed to recognise the combined effects of listening to the entire 3 CD set of ‘Greatest Prog Rock Tracks Ever!’…. although this contains some wonderful gems by the likes of Curved Air (Back St Luv), Nazareth (This Flight Tonight), Argent (Hold Your Head Up) and The Sensational Alex Harvey Band (Faith Healer) the combined effects of too much jazz based guitar noodling and overblown synth playing may have left my head rather fuzzy. (This CD set brought to me by the best brother on the planet (and I don’t care how great your brother is, I’m not backing down on this one) who has the knack of buying the best possible presents EVER).

But I digress. Stamford duly reached, vanilla milkshake duly consumed, I am back on the bike. I make good progress home, although a late start has created a certain amount of increased pressure to get back before dark. I set off across the country track and make it to the woods before disaster strikes. A flat tyre. In the gathering twilight I duly repair this puncture, the process being aided by it being quite clearly obvious where the damn thorn went in in the first place.

All sorted, I ride on. I decide to take the road out of the wood rather than the track I came in on. However, it becomes apparent that this is the (very) long road out of the wood. I decide to take a shortcut and head down another track marked on the map. This track is not particularly well travelled (for a reason which will become clear in a couple of paragraphs or so).

I ride down the track, avoiding the occasional marshy area and the worst of the ruts, but failing to notice a large tussock of grass in my way. Such a nice word, ‘tussock’ all soft and rural gentle. Do not be deceived. They lie in wait as traps for the unwary.

The tussock stops my front wheel. Dead. Stopping the front wheel, of course, invokes certain other potential side effects in order to dissipate the kinetic energy I have put quite a lot of effort into creating. The first of these is to launch one (1) human over the handlebars. The second is to pivot the rest of the bike over the front wheel, ensuring that it then is launched over the top of the aforementioned human.

I am, very briefly, flying, albeit pursued by a cartwheeling bicycle. I do not really have time to enjoy this experience before I have to deal with the concept of landing. I forget all my training to ‘tuck and roll, minion, tuck and roll’.

I land. Face plant. In the mud. If a face plant can be said to be perfect, this is one of the perfect one. I am of course wearing my helmet. This helmet is of no use whatsoever, of course, because it is actually my face that has hit the (fortunately fairly soft) ground, avoiding neatly the helmet covered part of my head. However, there is quite a lot of kinetic energy still to dissipate, so the rest of me is now launched over my own head in an ungainly somersault. I am not sure which bit of me hurts more. I am pretty certain I have the right number of legs and arms, and the requisite number of fingers and toes attached to these.

However, I now have a flat nose, and a suspicion that I might have actually broken my neck. Gentle exploration and tests suggest that while it’s going to hurt like buggery in the morning, I am, all things considered, in one piece.

I gather my scattered belongings and take some comfort in the fact that no one was watching, and set off down the track. Which ends at an impenetrable hedge. There are tyre tracks leading up to the hedge, so whether some sort of Platform 9 3/4 magic is going on or not I do not know. It is clear, however, that I am not getting home that way.

I set off across a track, probably forged by others who have fallen into the same trap as I (although probably without the whole ‘tussock’ incident). It seems I have been misled again. The track dumps me into a small wood of brambles and trees, which would be difficult to navigate even without a bike in tow.

Finally I find a gap, leap the ditch and head across the field. The stars are now truly beautiful, although I am still a long way from dinner. Finally, my tyres touch the cold hard tarmac of a rural Northamptonshire road. All is well.

Until I stop and realise that my phone is missing. Although I had retrieved it after the somersaulting circus performance, it seems that it is no longer in my bag.

I set off back across the field. Uphill (to add insult to injury). Fortunately I have a torch. I retrace my steps to the tussock of doom. No sign of a phone. I set off back again, navigating my way through the mini-forest on the path I think I can remember taking. Hurrah! There is is, the little beauty, all safe and sound..I can relax again (and cancel the early morning alarm that would have me back at the crack of dawn to check again).

Back across the field, pausing yet again to look at the stars. They really do look beautiful tonight.

TimSignature

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