Telethon for Trident!

pudsey tridentI love comedy that makes you see something so much more clearly than you have ever seen it before. The NHS in this country is on it’s knees and will require a £22 billion fund over the next 5 years on top of the £8 billion promised by the government. Trident will cost £23.4 billion to renew. Our education system and social services are also facing terrible cuts.

 

What is it that we love about trident? The fact that we would never actually use it? The fact that it is a weapon of a bygone era that would be utterly useless in our current world situation? The fact that it has deterred none of the terrorist attacks across the world in the last 15 years?

 

We have to break the power of the metanarrative that believes that this kind of bomb is what ultimately protects us. It does not. We also have to break the lie that there would be no hope or jobs for the people of Barrow-In-Furness (part of the Bay in which I live) if we stopped commissioning it. There is actually other far more needed work for skilled engineers to be doing. The risk of something going wrong in the process of building this bomb is far more deadly to the people of Barrow than the thought of reimagining the future of the town without it.

 

This bomb does not bring us peace. It is a colossal waste of money and renewing it at a time when we are making such terrible cuts to education, health, social services and other vital infrastructure is utterly absurd. If we do feel so passionately about keeping it, then I do believe a telethon is the way to go!

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We’re Treating the NHS Like A State-Sponsored Prostitute

iurIf we were to view the NHS as a person instead of a mechanical system, then we would have to conclude that she is the most used and abused person in our history. She is someone with a great heart, incredible talents for healing people and who wants to do the right things for people, but she has completely lost any sense of boundaries or the ability to say ‘no’. Therefore, she is walked over and treated as a state-sponsored prostitute for anyone to come and do with exactly as they want, as if there were no consequences. However, as a result of this behaviour, the cells which make her up have become damaged and infected, her tissues are breaking down and she is dying. It is not too late for her to be mended and revived, but she must learn that she cannot say ‘yes’ to everybody and everything that is demanded of her and as she learns more appropriate boundaries, she will help others amend their own behaviour to create a loving, sustainable and mutual relationship that can last long into the future.

 

Black Friday demonstrates just how utterly consumerist we have become as a nation and we treat the NHS as if she were a commodity to be ‘had’. There is little sense of personal responsibility with diet, alcohol, drugs, exercise, maintaining healthy relationships and managing stress and yet we have a developed a meta-narrative that we can live exactly as we please because in the end the NHS will fix it. We give little thought to developing our personal and corporate well-being and why should we, because when we fall apart the NHS will fix it?!

 

We can be utterly disorganized and forget to renew our prescriptions and then shout and scream at our GPs receptionist to ensure we get our tablets (that we might not have needed to be on, had we taken more care of ourselves) turned around in a 24 hour period, as if it was someone else’s fault that we forgot we were running out of our own medications. We can fail to iuturn up to appointments when there are already long waiting lists, because who cares if the appointments are wasted – they are ours to waste after all!  We can run to the A&E when we fall over drunk and hit our head, or get into a fight with someone we’ve never met whilst under the influence because we haven’t bothered to learn any healthy patterns of processing the anger we feel. We can go to the walk in centre with a 3 hour old sore throat, demanding treatment, instead of trusting our incredible immune systems. We can continue to eat far too much meat, over injected with antibiotics, whilst we head towards the super-bug apocalypse. We can drive too fast and cause near fatal accidents (if it wasn’t for the seat-belt and airbags) and some clever surgeon will put us back together. We can smoke our lungs into a tar filled bog or stuff our arteries full of cholesterol and sugar crystals because there is medication (that is super expensive by the way, but subsidized so we don’t care) that will fix our ill-behaviour. We can experience the love, kindness and generosity of our elderly relatives, but dump them into hospital for Christmas, when they might spoil our fun. We can stuff ourselves with food, until our joints can’t take it because then we’ll either get new ones, or a bariatric surgeon will half the size of our stomach for us.

 

OH THE GOOD OLD NHS!! She will sort out all our problems……except that we are killing her. We have believed a lie that we can live exactly how we please as if there were no consequences. If we love the NHS and she loves us, then she is going to have to learn some boundaries and we are going to have to change our behaviour……..

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Floods, Fire and Fresh Thinking in the North

imgresAs I was driving along the A6 today, between Carnforth and Morecambe, on my way to visit an elderly patient, I experienced in the space of a few moments both exhilaration and dismay. I was exhilarated by the magnificent view of the mountains of Cumbria, just across the Bay in the beautiful sunshine and felt very grateful for living in such an inspiring and spacious place. And then onto my radio, came the voice of the Prime Minister in response to Jeremy Corbyn at PMQs. He was asking David Cameron about the lack of government response to the floods in Cumbria of 2014. This direct lack of action across the North of England (despite clear warnings) contributed to the appalling flooding that thousands of people have experienced over the last month. That, coupled with de-forrestation and the clearing of land upstream was a recipe for disaster once the storms hit us. Mrimgres Cameron, however, seemed to think it more important to mock Mr Corbyn on his shadow cabinet reshuffle rather than address the very serious questions in hand. The floods have been no laughing matter for the North. They have been devastating and could have been avoided had the North been treated with equity to the South.

The North is a remarkable place, filled with people of great heart and courage, a people who have historically had the ability to unite at a level to bring about significant change. As one example, it was a petition of the people of Liverpool, Manchester and Sheffield that saw the end of the slave trade in the UK. So, when the people of the North get a fire in their bellies, you can guarantee that change will come.

imgresWell, the floods are serving as a catalyst for this fire. The floods are only another indication of the injustice the North suffers in favour of the politically lucrative South. The South is not to blame and nor is this post intended to be divisive in any way, but it is high time that the North stood up to be treated as an equal partner and not a poorer brother. In my area of passion, health and well-being, the differences between the North and South are completely unacceptable and indeed detrimental when it comes to making effective change to health outcomes.

As already stated on this blog, despite all the worst health outcomes being in the North, 94% of all health research money is currently spent south of Cambridge. We have conclusive evidence from the Academic and Health Science Network, that health outcomes are significantly better in places where research is carried out , because funding follows the research.

We also know, from Health Education England, that when a direct comparison is made head for headimgres between the North and South when it comes to recruitment and staffing levels there is a £17million deficit in the North. It’s not that we can’t attract people to work here, we’re just not given the money to pay for them in the same way.

imgresWhen it comes to council cuts, again we see the North punished in comparison to the South, even though the need is greater here – which area has the highest use of food banks? The answer is the North West! If you study the map on council cuts (deep red = heaviest cuts, blue = increase in spend) – you will see just one blue area in the North, but major areas of protection and even significant growth in budgets for the South.

 

In Lancashire alone, the county council has to cut £262 million from their budget in the next 2 years. This is going to have devastating consequences to public health provision and social services, which is in in effect a cut to the NHS also. We are already seeing severe bed blockages in our hospitals and without social workers to support our elderly citizens, the crisis will only deepen.

 

imgresMy hope is that the North harnesses the emerging fire to come to a place of equal partnership with the South, raising its voice for justice and love rather than in vindictive, competitive vitriol. I hope that the North will together decide what it is to become a “Northern Powerhouse” rather than being prescribed what it will mean via the ideas and ideals of the Chancellor in Westminster. From my perspective, the North is about a different way of doing things. The North stands for a more equitable and co-operative society. In this moment the North can stand for a forward looking culture in which:

Men and women are equal.

Children are prioritised.

The environment is stewarded well.

Hospitality is an art form, practised and adhered to, where all are welcome and all can find a home.

Inter-culturalism thrives as mutual respect for difference is a core value.

The elderly are honoured and cared for with dignity.

Justice involves much more restoration and less retribution.

The rich do not become ever richer whilst the poor become ever poorer, but cycles of poverty and deprivation are broken through hope and aspiration.

Work is done, not simply to earn money and pay debt, but to create more joy, beauty and care in the world.

Well-being is more important than economic growth which involves people being used as fodder to drive the ever hungry machine.

People take responsibility for themselves and each other leading to more sustainable systems (health/education/social services etc) for all.

Healthcare and education is free and accessible to all.

The North must rise up, not to dominate but to become a different kind of “powerhouse”. A house in which power is poured out for the sake of those who need it most in order to create a more fair, just, loving and peaceful world. This is the new politics, not the farce we are seeing in the corridors of power. People learning to live together differently, having important conversations together to create a future that is more beautiful. Come on the North – let’s use this passion for good!

 

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Christmas

In my last blog post, I talked about the concept of meta-narratives and how they effect our health and wellbeing. For me the Christmas story is the ultimate meta-narrative (the big story with which I align my life). It changes the idea forever that God is a far off hierarchical, imperial, power-hungry megalomaniac. It eradicates the notion that we must go to him where he is in some special sacred space and will only find him if we clean up our act and start behaving in certain ways. No. He comes to us. This story (as JRD Kirk says) is not one of God changing his mind about humanity, but about humanity changing its mind about who God is.

iuHe comes to be with us and changes himself in the process. He becomes utterly human, not some weird, ready-break glowing child, but deeply human and in so doing destroys the stories we have told ourselves about what he is like. He comes to us. He comes right to our very situations, our joys, or triumphs, our brokenness and our shame and says, I AM with you.  And if you run away, I’m there with you. And if you turn away, I’m there with you. And if you hide away, I’m there with you. And if you fail, I’m there with you. And if you don’t believe, I’m there with you in your unbelief.  Because contrary to the caricature of Dawkins, I am love itself. A love that will pour itself out time and again.  A love that is stronger than bitterness, hate and division. A love that is willing to be misunderstood, misinterpreted and misrepresented. This is not the story of a God who slaughters his enemies in order to protect himself and those he holds close (a narrative upon which the nation state is built and uses to predicate the violence it does to others – and if you don’t believe me, then you haven’t read enough history). No, this is a story about a love that will lay its own life down for its enemies and enables us to do the same.

As Steve Chalk says, Jesus never came to start a religion. He came to start a political, social, economic and spiritual revolution. God with us – wherever we are. The God who prioritises the poor, the refugee/marginalised/outcast, the sick, the prisoner, the woman, the child, the environment. The powers have never and will never understand Light in Darkness-02or overcome this light. The promise of the light is peace. Peace on earth. If we embrace the way of love, anything is possible. Even in the midst of all the turmoil in our world this Christmas, I find great hope in the idea of God, who is love, with us in it all. I believe that when we embrace this light and this love as our meta-narrative, as our raison d’être, we find healing for ourselves individually and corporately.

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How Well Are You?

I have the joy of leading some health and well-being retreats with a good friend of mine, who is a life coach. The retreats look at the idea of alignment. Human beings are unique and beautiful, incredibly intricate and are made up of layers, like an onion. Some of those layers are individual and some are corporate, because no person is an island. At the core of who you are is your spirit, your unique self. Then there is your soul – that sweet mixture of emotions, thoughts, ideas, hopes, longings, memories, hurts, resentments, desires, etc. All of that is encased in a physical body, with all the complexities that the intertwining systems entail. And these 3 parts of you are constantly interacting and affecting one anoiuther. For example, physical pain caused to you by another person, may cause you to feel emotionally hurt also (soul pain) and crush your spirit. Or indeed, as I see many times in my work, emotional pain leads to a resentment, which causes a bitterness which manifests itself in a physical pain and so too your spirit is negatively affected.

But you do not just float around in a bubble. You exist in a corporate body, in a family, group of friends and community. You live in an environment of some sort, and your surroundings have an incredible amount of ability to affect your health and well-being. This is evidenced in the effect of air pollution on respiratory disease or the effect of isolation or indeed bullying on mental health. We are all aware of the sights, sounds, smells and stressors in our physical geographies. Added to this corporate body is our corporate soul. And in the corporate soul we find corporate memories, ideas and beliefs, fears and dreams, things we have been taught, world views that shape us and all of this feeds into our meta-narratives, the stories with which we align our lives, that give us some sort of meaning. Surrounding all of this? The corporate spirit. Love. God is Love, not fear, or hatred or violence or bigotry or judgment, but Love. We find time and again in our own lives and in the lives of those who come on retreat the misalignment/disalignment/nonalignment that happens so easily, not necessarily through anyone’s fault, but because life is so complex.

 

It’s not as simple as tweaking one thing and then everything falls into place. Many of us still have to live with chronic and enduring illness of various sorts, be that mental or physical and achieving images“perfect health” may not be possible. But alignment is possible and it is this that gives us a sense of well-being. So, how well are you? Do you know how much you are influenced by the corporate body and soul? What are your meta-narratives? How aligned are you? There are things we cannot change, but we can chose how we respond to them and the choices we make within them. I want to unpack this a bit more in subsequent posts, but this might just kick off some musings.

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Christmas Number 1?!

A few months ago, I was moved by the Syrian Refugee crisis to write a song. I sat at my piano and played some chords and imagined what it must feel like to have to flee the place you call home and to throw yourself on the mercy of strangers. I let myself feel the pain that many Syrian people must feel as they see the walls being built around the borders of Europe, a continent which only a few decades ago was tearing down the Berlin Wall but is now erecting barbed wire fences.

So, this song emerged. I recorded a little youtube clip. A friend of mine, Claire Askew (who plays drums on the track) heard it, played it to some
pUnknownroducers (Sugarhouse uk) who generously offered to record the track for free. The amazing charity that is World Vision then heard it and it was agreed that we would release this single as a way of raising money (100% of all the money from singles sold will go to World Vision) for Syrian Refugees this Christmas.

I don’t know if there is a better narrative for a song in this season. The song of a refugee, fleeing home due to powers beyond their control, only to find there is no room for them…..

On one level, I would love the NHS to get to the number 1 spot for Christmas; I definitely don’t want x-factor to get the spot! But, what if this Christmas, we decided to spread the word as far and wide as possible and help World Vision raise a huge amount of money to help those stranded, cold and homeless. The single only costs 99p – less than most of the bottled drinks we will consume this Christmas. I have no power at all to make this happen, but it would be amazing if the Syrian Refugees could be this year’s Christmas Number 1!

So here it is. “Will You Love Me?”

https://itunes.apple.com/gb/album/will-you-love-me-feat.-claire/id1063998040?i=1063998267

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Walk Out, Walk On

walk-out-walk-on-logo

 

 

I’ve recently returned from a fantastic holiday in one of my favourite places – La Belle France. It was a wonderful time of relaxation, restoration, reconnection and reflection. My summer reading was the quite simply stunning book, “Walk Out, Walk On”, by Meg Wheatley and Deborah Frieze, recommended to me by Prof Stuart Eglin. It resonated with me, provoked, challenged, encouraged and envisioned me and I heartily recommend it as a MUST read, if you haven’t done so already.

It flows in the same stream as ‘The Art of Hosting’ and is refreshing in its style – one of learning, rather than teaching, an invitation instead of an instruction manual.

The basic premise of the book is this: many of the current systems we have, “are failing to create solutions to the very problems they were created to solve.” They have become large, over-organised, lumbering bureaucracies that stifle creativity and use people to support and uphold the structures, rather than releasing the people and supporting them to live and work more resiliently.

When we recognise that a system is failing, we can spend an enormous amount of time and energy trying to put sticky plasters on it, attempting to fix and repair what is there. Perhaps this is because we are afraid to let go, perhaps because we develop a kind of idolatry or sentimentality towards what was or we simply cannot imagine a different way of being. But there are pioneers who look for new alternatives and they fall into two types.

1) Some will look to create new alternatives within the structures and help the old transition into the new.

2) Others will create new alternatives outside of the old system and invite others to slowly join as they discover new ways.

Both pioneering types are vital – and share the same core DNA – they are ‘Walk Outs’. What is vital is that they don’t just walk out, but that they walk on to reimagine a different future. Walk Outs are not motivated by greed or power, but by love and kindness, recognising the damage caused by the current system and looking for an altogether better way.

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Walk Outs can often feel quite isolated and alone, but once they begin to find each other, connection and community become key ingredients to finding the way forward.

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This challenges our management school and well rehearsed ideas in western thought about how growth and change occurs within organisations and systems. We do not need to continually look for maximising growth and profit. There are alternative motivations and more sustainable futures than the ones we are currently choosing.

My personal focus in the next few blog posts will be to apply this to the NHS and healthcare at large. I will take each chapter in turn and draw out some of my learnings from the amazing communities around the world brought to life in this book to help reimagine what healthcare is for.

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Lessons from the Secret Garden

SEC3If you have never read ‘The Secret Garden’  by Frances Hodgson Burnett, then read no further, go and read that book and then come back! Seriously – it is one of the most beautiful children’s stories ever told and I have just finished reading it to my eight year old daughter.

 

It is a story at many levels, but ahead of its time it reveals the power of our psyche in affecting our physical health and how changing the way we think can alter our wellbeing – both physical and mental. Colin, a rejected and yet thoroughly spoilt boy believes he is going to develop a hunch back and die young. His entire life is driven by anxiety of what might happen and a kind of hatred of himself and the world around him. That is until a girl, who was once very similar to him and a boy, who is as free and loving as any human could be, enter his life and awaken the possibility of transforming hope.

 

I have seen so many patients over the years who believe incredibly negative things about themselves and the world around them. Some of them have evidence to back this up and others most certainly do not. What amazes me time and again is that those who allow their minds and thought patterns to be transformed become much physically stronger and more whole. Those who refuse to change the way they think (because it is actually a choice and a retraining of our thoughts – no one else actually makes us do it) stay as they are and get worse, which always makes me sad. It is not simply about the power of positive thinking. It is choosing to align yourself with a wholly different story, with a different set of imaginings, with hope for the future in place of despair, with love in place of fear.

 

Colin finds the ‘magic’ that helps him to change. The same magic that causes the plants to grow and the seasons to change; that allows creatures to give birth and the birds to sing their songs. The magic that teaches a boy to walk, a girl to reach out, a hardened old man to cry and a father and son to restore a broken relationship.  The magic that allows the place of our greatest pain to become a place of redemptive joy. The magic that allows a human heart to soften and learn to love. It’s what John Newton calls ‘amazing grace’. It’s what I call the Holy Spirit. The dancing One who breaths life through everything and invites us into this same dance. To throw off self-pity and shame and to find life in all its fullness instead. All it takes really is the deliberate choice that we can change and once we open up the possibility, well, truly anything can happen!

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Integration and Collaboration

In my opinion there are two main systemic barriers to providing great health care on the NHS, currently (there are other ones also but in terms of the system itself – these are the two biggest). The answer to overcoming them btw is not privatisation via the TTIP. I like to look for solutions to problems, rather than focus on the negative….

So, firstly (and it really isn’t that hard to do, it just requires some funding, which in the medium/long term would be money seriously well spent):

 

iuAmalgamate patient electronic records and share them across the system. There is so much time/money wasted and clinical errors made because of this very easy to solve issue. I’m sure there are reasons why citizens may feel concerned and I really do understand them, but given the great work already going on in Tameside at the hands of the excellent, Dr Amir Hannan, and the positive feedback from patients, this needs to rolled out as far and wide as possible.

It helps patients feel more able to manage their own health conditions and ensures notes are always available at each consultation. It means medication changes are managed more safely and effectively and information is shared between professionals in a timely way.

 

And secondly:

iuBreak down the silo mentality and reality of the various care organisations. Breaking down the walls that prevent effective team working and amalgamating the budgets of health and social care will be a huge breakthrough for care. We are already seeing this with the establishment of Integrated Care Teams within general practice. The teams comprise of: GPs, Community Matrons, District Nurses, Community Therapists, Midwives, Health Visitors, Mental Health Teams, Social Workers, the Police, the Fire brigade, and a Care Co-ordinator to pull it all together. If you also throw into the mix third sector organisations aligned with practices and patient volunteers, you have an amazing force for good!

 

There are some warnings to put in place. Manchester, which is the first place to really try this under ‘Devo Manc’ is having a huge overall budget cut (20%) as it launches into it. The hope is that by working more collaboratively and in an integrated way, savings will be made. But the ‘Save our NHS’ group have some major misgivings.

 

 

If you wanted to know more about the details of DevoManc and the health impacts of that. You can find the Memorandum of Understanding here: http://www.nhshistory.net/mou%20(1).pdf and the Five Year Forward View here: http://www.england.nhs.uk/wp-content/uploads/2014/10/5yfv-web.pdf
Innovative collaboration and integration of our health and social services does not have to mean the privatisation of them. But if the TTIP comes into effect, despite huge public opposition, then the NHS as we have known it will be over. IMO the TTIP deserves a full referendum by the people of Europe. If you don’t know about the TTIP, you need to, and you should seriously think about writing to your MEP to tell them why this deal needs to be stopped.

[1] Independent: What is TTIP? And six reasons why it should scare you:
http://www.independent.co.uk/voices/comment/what-is-ttip-and-six-reasons-why-the-answer-should-scare-you-9779688.html
Huffington Post: Corporate Courts — A Big Red Flag on ‘Trade’ Agreements:
http://www.huffingtonpost.com/dave-johnson/corporate-courts—-a-big_b_5826490.html
[2] MEPs will be voting on a resolution on TTIP in Strasbourg on June 10th. It’s not a legally binding vote, but what MEPs decide will send a strong message back to the European Commission about where we all stand on TTIP. If there’s enough opposition, especially to the worst parts of TTIP, it could damage the deal for good:
Euractiv: What will Parliamentarians vote on TTIP?
http://www.euractiv.com/sections/trade-society/what-will-eu-parliamentarians-vote-ttip-313845
[3] You can find out more about the European Citizens Initiative and who’s involved here:
https://stop-ttip.org/

 

If you want to, you can sign a petition here:

https://secure.38degrees.org.uk/page/s/eu-ttip-petition#petition

 

We need to continue with the kind of healthcare we actually believe in, improving it where this needs to happen, without it being stolen from those who need it most because of greedy trade deals.

 

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Healing our Corporate Soul

In my video blog about ‘Reimagining Health’, I talked about the fact that our well being is not and cannot be an isolated, individualistic experience. The truth is that we are part of a Corporate Body (that is a community of people with a physical environment in which we live) with a Corporate Soul (a set of beliefs/mindsets/worldview) and a connection to the Corporate Spirit (which in my view is either the spirit of love aka God or the spirit of fear). These corporate experiences have a massive impact on our individual sense of health and wellbeing, and actually, as we are part of the corporate, our individual wellbeing has an impact on others around us also.

Our Corporate Soul is the issue I want to concentrate on in this post. It is complex and something to which I believe we pay little attention. However, it’s effect on our individual and corporate wellbeing is vast. Take a moment to think about the subliminal messages that come through our various forms of news and multimedia everyday.

“Your life isn’t as good as your ‘friends’ on Facebook”

“You need to be on Facebook or you are missing out on so much”

“Unemployment is being caused by Immigrants – be wary of them”

“Be afraid – people hate our country and are trying to kill us for the ‘values’ we uphold”

“The way our country does things is right and just and those who die for ‘our country’ are never to be forgotten”

“Pollution is rising – we are heading for natural disasters”

“Buy the new car – you need it, don’t worry about the pollution – live for the now”

“The chocolate industry is built on the slave trade”

“You can’t change anything, so keep on eating all the chocolate you want”

“Banks are to blame for the financial crisis”

“We have bailed out the banks with taxpayers’ money, because we need them so much.”

“Really the reason for our national debt is the poor, who claim too many benefits – we should blame them because they are lazy – we won’t bail them out”

“We all need to live longer”

“We can live however we want – our healthcare is free”

“Our children aren’t doing as well as some other children around the world when we measure them against a set of very narrow targets – therefore we need more targets and more testing”

“The only way to keep our nation really safe is to keep the nuclear deterrent – in the end, this is what makes us safe”

“Our armed forces protect us by using violent force to topple regimes which do not suit our national interest. Power vacuums are now left in those nations with untold turmoil and the rise of significant extremism of which we should be even more afraid and need to silence. We will do this with more force. The use of violence make us feel safe”

 

No wonder we are so messed up. We have some very damaging and also conflicting messages coming at us, especially through the (social) media 24/7. When do we stop to ask ourselves how healthy our worldview/beliefs/mindsets are? How much of our life is driven by fear? A fear of want? A fear of lack? A fear of the ‘other’? A fear of loss? A fear of debt? A fear of attack? And how much of this feeds our individual(istic) souls of self-protectionism?

How badly we need some conversations together that enable us to challenge some of our current core beliefs. We will not find a place of health and well-being, happiness or wholeness until we do. We have aligned our lives with the Spirit of Fear and our Corporate Soul is entirely broken as a result. We must realign ourselves with the story of Love. There is so much goodness out there. Can you see it? Only love can drive out fear. Only love can heal and awaken our souls to another holistic way of being.

 

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