Solstice thoughts (where everything is either horrendous or hilarious depending on your POV)

Blimey. It’s been a while. To be fair, I have been writing a dissertation, doing an actual ‘proper’ job, and hosting a podcast. These all require a significant amount of neurodivergent/creative bandwith. All good, creative, purposeful things.

photo taken while I was still feeling hopeful!

Into the mix, however, is a broken collarbone which has YET TO BE FIXED because of two (two!!) cancelled surgeries. The first one was cancelled when I was in the hospital, already wearing the surgical gown and DVT socks, and with an arrow sharpied onto my left shoulder. This might have been hilarious if it wasn’t after six months of waiting. Then there was the 18 hours of fasting and working myself up into enough of a lather to actually be able to go to the hospital in the first place! What is everyday to the people who fix collarbones, is a really big deal to those of us who need them fixed. And some of us have brains that don’t do these sorts of things very easily.

The second cancellation – just this Monday past – rather tipped me over the edge. Today is Wednesday. I am still over the edge. And since I am already over the edge, why don’t we add having no running water into the joyful blend of Solstice cheer and Christmas preparations? Yes, why not?

Let them drink… sweet sherry and prosecco!

The thing is… these things are happening to me, and I could – quite legitimately – feel personally aggrieved. Which, I do. But I am utterly, seethingly livid about the bigger picture. Yes, it’s personal, but the personal – as my feminist forebears taught us – is political.

Friends, let me present to you: The English health service. And the English water network.

The NHS because of – God – where do we even start? Yes, I am anxious and stressed and still in pain because my operation got cancelled. But it got cancelled because staff called in sick. There is not even a nanometre of leeway in the NHS to accommodate that. Chronic staff shortages, underfunding, Brexit, and a (Not even very covert) push towards privatisation have all taken a massive toll. It is on its knees. And people wonder why nurses are striking?

Not even the USA has private water, that’s how bad it is!

And the water! My God the water. England and Wales have a privatised water supply and networks. This is monopolized (quite legally btw) by a few companies who fail to invest in infrastructure so that rainfall causes flooding, burst water mains cause havoc (and NO RUNNING WATER FOR CHRISTMAS) and raw sewage is constantly released into our rivers and seas!

If I am pissed off about my own personal circumstances, it pales in comparison to the level of seething rage I feel at the immoral erosion of these two fundamental basic human rights.

Things really are a bit crap. Let’s not pretend they’re not.

And tonight is the Solstice, and I came on here to write something spiritual and hopeful and, well here it is! We can laugh about that surely? There comes a point – when everything is just a bit shite – when all there is left to do is acknowledge it, maybe indulge in a bit of dark humour, and surrender all and any control we imagined we had. This does not mean giving up the fight, only that there are fighting days, and there are surrendering days. There are times for rolling up our sleeves and doing everything we can to make things better, and there are times for filling a hot water bottle (perhaps with boiled rainwater!) and hiding under a blanket.

So into this longest, darkest night of the year, I offer this meditation:

Everything is a little bit shite, and that’s OK. Joy and Peace and Love and Hope still exist.

And a Blessing:

May you feel the deep Peace of Winter’s stillness; the cocoon of Love that surrounds you in the darkness; the joy that bubbles up from the depths of your soul; and the Hope that lies in something bigger than all of this, and all of us.

Sending Love and Peace and Hope and Joy out into the ether for all of you who are tending anything painful this Solstice.

Jude xxx

How to breathe your way out of poverty…

(No, not really…)

Now, you know that I don’t tend to hold back in my criticisms of the wellness industry. But for some reason, I have typed a hundred sentences so far, and deleted them all. I think it’s because I don’t know where to start with this one.

I might do well to engage in some of the practices I extol, rather than ranting online about how others are getting it so wrong…

…And I do. I really do. All the time. I meditate, I breathe. I occasionally get down on a yoga mat, although not so much recently with a torn meniscus in my knee and a bit too much lockdown inertia. All of it helps. It helps me to stay relatively sane, relatively healthy (torn menisci, long Covid and underactive thyroids aside) and more deeply connected to my own spiritual practice. Yoga (no, not just the postures) is what allows me to navigate the world without being in a constant state of meltdown.

Yoga is an incredible practice for helping people with the effects of stress, this is why I practise and teach it. For this reason, it would be absolutely wonderful if everyone could practice yoga, meditation, breathwork and any number of wellbeing activities (and to have access to these things) But they don’t, and the reasons they don’t (practice or have access) are many and complex.

The fact that these practices exist within a particular socio-economic framework is perhaps the biggest barrier. My view of it is deeply critical and for that reason, not very popular. What I see is relatively affluent well-resourced people (who are mostly white) selling classes, courses and workshops to other people like themselves. Kind of like a pyramid scheme, except it’s not a pyramid. Maybe more like a swimming pool. One that everyone has peed in.

Even if yoga was the answer to all our problems (which it isn’t) it is easy to make such claims. All you have to do is go on the internet and say things, and with few qualifications, zero evidence, but just enough ‘influence’, some people will listen: about how the ‘right’ choices can influence health; about how having a healthy immune system is related to those choices; about how health is a function of individual behaviour; about how health is an individual’s responsibility. We have heard all of this and more in the past year of Covid, and some people are still shouting out their toxic ever-evolving version of it from their particular place of Insta-influence.

The reason being these things have a ring of truth to them. We all know that eating the right foods, and getting enough exercise are healthy choices. What isn’t true however, is that doing those things guarantee health. It isn’t a wellbeing vending machine transaction where we can insert organic kale at one end and get health out of the other. It doesn’t work that way. Health is complex, with individual, cultural, and economic factors. Health is social and societal.

One of the biggest determinants of health is poverty. Being poor not only limits a person’s access to so-called healthy lifestyle choices like decent food and space to exercise, being poor is in itself stressful. No amount of yoga applied to managing the effects of stress will help if the main reason for the stress – i.e., the poverty – doesn’t go away. You can’t breathe your way out of poverty.

I read something today that suggested ‘staying in poverty’ is a choice that is somehow related to healthy lifestyle and ’embodiment’. I am still trying to work out what it meant. It is an easy kind of thing to say, isn’t it? That everything is a choice. Like the myth of ‘put health in: get heath out’, to suggest that being poor is a choice also has a certain ring of truth to it. For isn’t everything a choice, limited only to individual desire or strength of character? My choice. My body. My freedom. My ‘sovereignty’.


What about Us…We…Our..?

What about, we are all responsible for one another…?

On this Easter weekend, when – along with stuffing chocolate into our faces – we are reminded of the sacrifice of someone who lived his life in poverty, in community, and in love. Who healed the sick, shared meals with the marginalised and stood up against the oppressor. Is it just possible that might we take on board his suggestion that we ‘Love one another as I have loved you’? (John 13:34)