Friday, 28 February 2014

Go on, give your dream a chance and share it with the world!

One thing I've found out about having a desire, a dream, a goal, is that sharing it with others helps the desire, dream or goal manifest itself. This takes a degree of awareness, though, because I don't mean you should go and blurt out your ambition over a speaker in a city centre. What I mean is, pay attention to when you feel the need to tell someone about your plans.

Then go ahead and do it.

This was one such occasion.

I was talking to a retired chap who I've got to know over the past eighteen months. He asked if there was anything new with me. I could've said a vague, 'Just another day', but I felt the urge to tell him about my plans to move to Taiwan. At the time, I had kept these intentions quite close to my chest.

'I was in the Merchant Navy for nine years,' he said. 'I scrapped my last ship in Taiwan.'

 . . . (and there's the first connection to my desire) . . .

He said that during his time in the Navy, he had a few harrowing moments.

'Being the only engineer on-board,' he said, 'if there was any problems, the crew would come to me. That's a lot of pressure for a young lad. I remember once, we thought the propeller had broken. In the middle of the ocean, I dangled over the edge of the ship to fix the problem. Many things go through your head when faced with such an experience. I thought my time was up. Anyway, the propeller hadn't broken.'

I asked him if being in the Navy was what he had always wanted to do.

'No, no,' he said. 'When I was twenty-one, I set myself a goal to be the director of a company. I didn't know which company, but I knew I wanted to be a director.'

'Did you achieve your goal?'

His eyes twinkled as he smiled. 'Yes, I achieved it. I worked for a company for twenty years and became the director. I achieved what I set out to achieve. If you really want to do something, you'll do it.'

One thing you should know about myself is that I've only been abroad once - and that was on a family holiday when I was fifteen (sixteen years ago). I've had very little travelling experience. I've never caught the 'travelling bug' that so many of my friends have been infected by in the past - some are still trying to shake it off. Even now, I don't see my trip to Taiwan as a holiday but more as a process of uprooting. After all, we're not trees - we can move. With that in mind, it's only natural that a sense of trepidation sometimes sneaks its way into my gut when I think of the mission I've embarked upon.

This fear was completely eradicated by what my friend went on to say, which backs up what I said about encounters that help the desire become manifest.

'I had never been out of the village before joining the Navy,' he said. 'No travelling experience whatsoever. Yet, it was the best thing I ever did. I've traveled the world. Go to Taiwan. You'll love it. You only regret the things you don't do.'

Next time you feel the urge to share your dream with someone - do it!

Wednesday, 26 February 2014

Allowing Children to Enjoy the Silence

After writing my last post, I contacted a friend who teachers in the south of England.

We met back in 2001, when we both did a diploma in Dance Music Production at the School of Sound Recording in Manchester.

We were both deeply into our music - it's funny how things have changed.

As the years have gone by, we both laid the music to rest and focused our attention on other fields of interest. Mine was writing. His was teaching.

He has said in the past how much he loves his job. I admire him for this. There're not many people who can say the same. One of the things I always remember him saying was that he introduced meditation into his classroom.

Last night, after writing my previous post, I sent him a message asking him if he still asks his class to meditate.

His answer was music to my ears.

"Yes, I introduced meditation in my class first and then rolled it out to the whole school, so every class meditates at my school now to varying degrees.

"In terms of the effect it has had in my class, I would say it has created a calmer atmosphere in my class. And when a classroom is calm, the teacher is calm and when the teacher is calm, the kids are calm, etc, etc it's a virtuous circle.
"My class came up with our motto which is "A calm mind is a happy mind and a happy mind is a smart mind".
"In the middle of lessons I have introduced mindful moments. I ring the singing bowl when the kids are busy working and they immediately put down their pencils, stop working, place feet flat on the floor, straight spines and just focus on their breathing. A minute later, I ring the bowl again and they carry on. It's gives them some head-space.
"Just today, when doing some tricky maths using brackets in equations, I rang the singing bowl. The class stopped. A minute later I rang it again and they carried on. One of the kids came up to me at the end and said "I was really glad of that mindful moment because I was getting stressed with a hard question. But after the mindful moment, I found the answer". And sometimes meditation works like that. " :) (his smiley face)
Need we say more?

Tuesday, 25 February 2014

Mindful Children

A few weeks ago I visited Glasgow to watch the showing of the Studio Ghibli film, The Wind Rises.
The weather wasn’t too good, so I decided to grab a seat in the theatre’s cafe and read my book.
I didn't intend on sitting there for two hours, but that’s what happened. I was quite content watching people come and go, in and out of the movie theatre. Some were anticipating the film they were about to see, and others were sharing experiences of the film they had just seen. All the while, I sipped my coffee, read my book and occasionally looked at my watch to make sure I didn't miss the 16:40 showing.
Two elderly women sat down at the table next to me. With them were two boys of about nine years old. Who the women were in relation to the boys, I don’t know.
The boys started to colour in a colouring book whilst the women spoke about wine and the latest results on The Voice.
I drifted off into the world that my book provided me with. All of sudden, they started to talk about (it probably wasn’t all of a sudden at all, but for me this topic of discussion came from nowhere) . . . . meditation and mindfulness.
My eyes were focused on the page in front of me but weren't absorbing anything whatsoever. My ears, on the other hand, were on high alert.
One of the women said, ‘I just can’t do it. My mind won’t calm down. I have too many thoughts – it’s hectic. I just don’t know how he does it.’
Then this is where it got interesting. One of the boys said, ‘I’ll tell you how I do it.’
The ‘he’ the woman was referring to was one of the kids!
The boy continued, ‘When a thought comes, I just let it go. Like a cloud. I watch them and don’t grab onto them. Then they just disappear.’ He then went back to his colouring.
It turns out that these boys were being taught mindfulness and meditation at school.
That’s fantastic.
Every school should include mindfulness and meditation as part of the national curriculum.
As the Dalai Lama said, ‘If every eight year old in the world is taught meditation, we will eliminate violence from the world within one generation.’
It sounds far-fetched, but imagine if it’s true!
I know some schools have already introduced such methods in their daily routines. Like sitting in silence, eyes closed, for a few minutes before class starts. Or doing a few minutes at the end of the day.
I’ve just read this interesting article from last year. It was published in The Guardian and was written by Andrew Jones who is the head of religious studies and sociology at a Goffs School in Hertfordshire.
Oh look, more clouds.

Monday, 24 February 2014

Killing Time

Time  - do we really have enough of it to kill?

Some simple calculations massively changed my perspective of the time I had here on this amazing planet.
  1. If I live till I'm 80 years old, from the moment I was born, I was assigned approx 29,200 days. 
  2. This is also the approximate number of sunrises and sunsets that are available to see.
  3. If I live till I'm 80 years old, from the moment I was born, I was assigned approx 4160 weeks.
  4. This is also the approximate number of the amount of weekends I will have. 
  5. If I live till I'm 80 years old, from the moment I was born, I was assigned approx 960 months.
  6. This is also the approximate number of full moons I would get to see (if I remembered to look up).
  7. If I live till I'm 80 years old, from the moment I was born, I will get to see approximately 320 springs, summers, autumns and winters (although the winters could do with being less . . .)   
Your reaction to these simple figures will depend on your perspective of life and ultimately yourself.

I know so many people who talk about writing a book - who talk about starting a blog - who talk about starting a business - who talk about enrolling on a course . . . but they're just empty words because they're not backed up by action. 

The majority of those people, once those words have been expressed, sometimes with passion and determination too, get buried beneath idleness, doubt and ultimately fear.

I've lost count of the amount of people who say such things, but when they go home they sit in front of the TV or computer all night, watching videos, TV series and playing on computer games. Now, I'm not against these things, each to their own. We all have our ways to relax. But it's when those same people complain about and/or mock those of us who are trying to make the most of our time here, that pisses me off. Those of us who have looked at the figures above and said, 'Shit . . . I don't have much time left. I'm going to do it!' . . . whatever that may be. Yet, when things start to go well and fit into place for those of us who make the effort, the idle ones sit back, the TV screen shimmering on their faces, and they say, 'They're lucky.'

It has nothing to do with luck.

It has everything to do with desire, ambition, determination, self-belief, faith and tenacity.


By the time they've finished watching all of Breaking Bad, they could've finished the first draft of their first book - easily.

By the time they've completed the new Grand Theft Auto, they
could've started up a blog and be having thousands of hits . . . possibly a blog about computer games, which could be earning them a second income.

By the time they've finished watching meaningless videos on youtube and vimeo, they could've enrolled on a course . . . they could've even completed it and be walking on a new improved path.

Do NOT kill time - it is murder.

I was shown a postcard yesterday. It was written by a boy of six years old. It read:

"Yesterday is history, tomorrow is a mystery, but today is a gift. That is why it is called The Present. Make the most out of each day."

He might've got it from Kung fu Panda, but who cares!?

Tick Tock Tick Tock Tick Tock Tick TockTick Tock Tick TockTick Tock Tick TockTick Tock Tick

Sunday, 23 February 2014

Life's Little Pokes

So, after embarking on the vast mission of learning Mandarin through the traditional system known as Zhuyin (also known as Bopomofo), instead of Pinyin, I've decided to do a TEFL course in preparation for my Taiwan trip.

If you don't already know, TEFL stands for Teaching English in a Foreign Language.

As a rule of thumb, if something gets brought to my awareness three times or more, I take it as a sign that I need to give it more attention. It's like Life is saying, 'Listen to me, will you!!'

TEFL got brought to my attention three times and more.

So I trusted the nudge and signed up.

It has cost me £299 for a weekend course (which ends in a certificate) but because I don't have a degree in English, I thought it would be wise to also complete the 120 hour online course.

This is the link I used:

I'll report back my experience after the weekend.

Teaching English in Taiwan wasn't originally part of my plan (I say my plan, may be it was always part of Life's plan). I'm remaining open-minded though, happy to flow along with Life's nudges. Trusting Life takes a lot of faith, but I've found that the more I trust -
the more faith I have in Life's plan, that Life tends to treat me like a best friend; constantly bringing opportunities to my door, helping me move forward, which leads to growth and expansion.

I'm starting to realise how fortunate I am to have English as my mother-tongue.

After all, if you can speak English and Mandarin, you can speak to over half of the population of the planet - pretty cool, eh!

Check out this Westerner known as Dashan. He's relatively unknown in the West, and his popularity in the East can be put down to his ability to speak Mandarin better than even some Chinese people. I'm determined to speak as fluently as this guy:


Pay attention to those nudges - Life's little pokes.

Friday, 21 February 2014

Old Dog - New Tricks

I'm not one to shy away from a challenge.

It's for this reason that I've taken it upon myself to learn Mandarin.

Not only do I intend to learn Mandarin, but I'm putting aside the romanisation system known as pinyin and focusing on the traditional characters and way of reading them, known as Zhuyin.

Why would I put myself through such torture at the age of 30?

After all, you can't teach an old dog new tricks, right?


You can teach a dog new tricks if it's willing to learn them, regardless of its age.

Language has never been my strong point (the irony of a writer, I guess). I didn't start speaking till I was four years old. My parents said I made up my own language, and in my sleep I spoke in tongues. At school I hated studying French and German - opting to focus on German as I found it resembled English that little bit more.

So why have I decided to learn Mandarin, when I thought I had put all the 'language learning days' behind me?

I mean, I've always been drawn to the East. I've been a martial arts buff since I was knee-high. Bruce Lee has been my idol for as long as I can remember - even more so when I started to read his books and understand him as a philosopher, rather than a guy who only kicks ass on screen.

(Growing up, I knew my Nan shared the same birthday as Bruce Lee. I told her and she found it quite amusing and I found it cool. When she died in July, the date seemed somewhat familiar to me. And the reason was because she died on the same day as Bruce Lee, too. It may mean nothing, but to me it forges a connection to the guy who still inspires me to this day.)

Because of Mr Lee, I was drawn to Eastern thought and philosophy. I enjoyed watching documentaries about the East and even loved watching the Chinese cooking programs. I started drinking green tea before I was 10. And I've always found a bowl of plain rice really comforting!

So, I will ask again: why have I decided to learn Mandarin?

The answer can be reduced to four words.

I fell in love.

It's as simple as that.

Not only did I fall in love, but I fell in love with a girl who I met whilst living in a Buddhist Center and she was visiting the UK from . . . Taiwan.

Out of duty, she went back to her land far, far away and we intend to be with each other before this year is through.

So it is love that is my driving force. It is love that inspires me and eradicates all the fear and doubt I ever had about learning a new language. And the best thing is, I'm loving it. I'm truly enjoying the [slow] learning process that I've undertaken. I'm fascinated by Mandarin and how it all works. I'm fascinated by Taiwan and its history and its people.

And the more I learn the more I feel like I'm reminding myself of something which has always been within me.

I don't know about reincarnation or past lives (it makes sense if we consider that life has no beginning and no end) but it would explain my pull to the East.

As my girlfriend said, 'I feel like I've come to bring you home.'

And that's exactly why this old dog is wagging his tail.

(I know that most of you who are past your thirties will argue that 30 is young - but I'm afraid we in our thirties won't listen to you.)


I would like to introduce you to my website at 
Finally having a website to act as a secure base for my writing is something I’ve wanted for a long time.
I was going to have a website last year. A friend put me in touch with his web designer and I was happy to go along with it. But last November I bumped into a chap at the Post Office who I had met while playing badminton. We had only spoken two or three times, so we shared semi-awkward hellos, which was then followed by silent fillers; such as complaining how cold it was and whatnot.
More silence followed, but this time I had the urge to tell him I was putting money aside for a website. I can remember thinking, why would I tell him that? But this need to speak up wouldn’t leave me alone.
So I did.
‘Really?’ he said. ‘You do know I’m a web designer, right? That’s what I do.’
No I did not know that!
He handed me a business card.
I told him the price I had been quoted and he said he could do it for half of that!
Not only that, but the support and patience which Afzal (at HD1 Design) has provided, and continues to do so, has exceeded my expectations.
I’m truly grateful.
If you want a site creating, I highly recommend you get in touch with him.