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Introduction

Why a blog about Business, Buddhism and Creativity?  Well, they are three things that I’m currently not so good at, but will need to be as I set up my own creative web business based on ethical principles culled from Buddhism. Find out more…

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Creativity

Gift of Music

James Littlewood and the very fine slide guitarist Christine Bougie conspired to record this instrumental version of my song Summerfields as a surprising and delightful birthday present!

I’m so privileged to know such talented people.  We were so pleased to catch up with Christine and her band Tuxedo at the Cameron House in Toronto this summer.

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Buddhism

More research on the benefits of meditation

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Buddhism Business Creativity

The Wagon

Two years ago, on 26 August 2011, I gave up drinking alcohol.

When I mention that to people, the first thing many people assume is that I had a “problem” with alcohol. I think that shows how pervasive alcohol is in our society – that people immediately wonder why on earth you would stop doing something that is considered the norm… a social custom or convention, even.

So, did I have a problem? I didn’t think so at the time. I had recently gone freelance, and so much of the routine and structure that comes with a Monday to Friday, 9 to 5 job suddenly went out of the window.

One of the reasons I started working for myself was the flexibility it afforded. I wanted more time and freedom to choose what I wanted to do in life – both in work and out of it. I wanted to pursue my meditation practice, write more music and study yoga.

By nature, I’m something of a workaholic, and so I immediately found myself working long hours – often into the evening – to get the business off the ground. As a result, I started to have a few beers early in the evening – essentially to stop me working.

I’m a web designer/developer and it’s pretty difficult to write code after a few beers. However, it’s also pretty difficult to do any of the other things I wanted to do with my spare time after a few beers. Anyone who has tried to meditate after even one drink will find it’s impossible to cultivate any mindfulness at all.

So, in that respect, I did have a problem – drinking was stopping me doing the very things I’d give up full-time work to do more of.

After a few false starts, I decided to give up alcohol “forever” in August 2011. I was conscious that this was quite a momentous decision, but was pretty certain that this was a change I wanted to make.

I was worried that I might freak out friends and family if I used the word “forever”, so initially I just told them that I’d given up for a month – to have a break from the booze after the Edinburgh a Festivals. I also told them this to take some of the social pressure off myself – to not have to justify my decision as a life choice, but rather talk about it as a “detox”.

A month quickly became two and three months, and after a while I realised that I didn’t actually want a drink. I still don’t.

So, was it difficult thing to do? Surprisingly not, although it’s strange how not doing something can sometimes feel more difficult than doing something. I know people who have alcohol dependencies that are much greater and deeply ingrained than mine ever were, for whom giving up drinking will be much more of a struggle.

However, I think that with any changes in life that you want to make, if you let your subconscious work on them for long enough, your conscious mind finally gets the message and you can make big changes. Maybe not on the first, second or even the tenth attempt, but eventually. I think it’s just a case of keeping focused on the benefits.

Bitburger Drive 0% alcohol
Bitburger Drive 0% alcohol

And, after all, there are so many zero alcohol beers out there these days. It’s not like the bad old days when the horrendous Kaliber was the only choice of beer for the teetotaler. There are dozens of great tasting, alcohol free beers out there now. The Germans are particularly good at this kind of thing, but I guess that’s because of their zero tolerance policy on drink driving – they’re well ahead of the game.

My main concern about giving up was the social pressure to drink – especially in the UK. I found that this wasn’t an issue. In particular, I really didn’t want my friends to think that my decision was in any way a judgement on them or their drinking habits – it isn’t… it was an entirely personal decision. Friends soon realised I could still go the pub with them – and often don’t even clock that I’m not drinking if I have a zero alcohol beer in my hand.

And the benefits of no alcohol? Well, as you’d expect, I quickly felt much healthier and energetic – especially in the mornings. My mood has been much more consistent since I stopped drinking, and I’ve been able to take on a lot more of the challenges I set myself when I went freelance.

The most rewarding part of the experiment has been losing around a pound in weight per month without dieting since I gave up drinking. Not a lot, but the calories quickly add up.

I’m going to try and get around to reviewing some of the alcohol free beers in a future post. In the meantime, I’ll raise a glass of Schneider Weiss Alkoholfreies to your health.

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Creativity

Sunday Street – the new song

Written & performed by The Loving Palms. Produced by Mike McWean – download: http://www.mediafire.com/download.php…

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Loving Palms gig – Dock Street Market, Leeds, UK

Photograph by Dan Akers

The Loving Palms Appearances 2012

Sunday 7th October – Sela, Leeds, UK

Sunday 12th August – Dock Street Market, Leeds, UK

Saturday 28th July – Harrogate Fringe Festival, UK

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Creativity

The Loving Palms Acoustic Set

The Loving Palms returned to Harrogate Theatre for an acoustic set on 28 July 2012.

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Long Lost Summers of the Past video

A Film by Jonathan Gibbins (http://vimeo.com/channels/gradisca) to accompany the Loving Palms’ new song.
Recorded and Produced by Mike McWean

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Creativity

Runaway

A new song by the Loving Palms, after all these years…

The Loving Palms – Runaway

Featuring Christine Bougie – Guitar www.christinebougie.com/
Produced by Mike McWean @mike-mcwean
Mastered at Abbey Road Studios, London
www.mediafire.com/file/62hg1v2a5nd6vj3/Runaway.m4a

Runaway

Barcelona sunrise
Sleeping in my shoes
A shadow on a summer lawn
With nothing left to lose
I threw away the key
Threw away the news
Threw away the tears
Now I don’t sing the blues,
I don’t sing the blues
For the runaway,

I chase the dream in front of me
Runaway,
Find another way
Dry your eyes,
I may never reach the end,
Wouldn’t it be fine if I just ran?

Maria from the mountain
Paints an endless sea
She takes the highest bottle down
And says “this one is free”
So burn another page
Hail the refugee
The passenger of time
Is always free
Time is always free
For the runaway,

I chase the dream in front of me
Runaway,
Find another way
Dry your eyes,
I may never reach the end,
Wouldn’t it be fine if I just ran?

Once in your life turn your heel and walk away
You’ll see, like a dream, you are free
Wouldn’t that be fine for you and me?

The waiter never comes
The afternoon is slow
People hurry by,
Searching high and low,
Searching high and low
For the runaway,

I chase the dream in front of me
Runaway,
Find another way
Dry your eyes,
I may never reach the end,
Wouldn’t it be fine if I just ran?

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Buddhism Business Creativity

Aloha Supreme! Micropatronage and Karma

Christine Bougie - 'Aloha Supreme' CD
Christine Bougie – ‘Aloha Supreme’ CD

A pre-release copy of Christine Bougie’s new CD ‘Aloha Supreme’ arrived with me this morning, and I’m like a kid a Christmas waiting to play the Canadian jazz-guitarist’s second solo independent release.

You see, after living in Toronto briefly in the 1990s I became a huge fan of new Canadian music, and these days I tune in avidly to CBC Radio 3 to discover emerging independent musicians. But more on that later in a dedicated New Canadian Music blog post!

However, what makes my latest CD purchase so special to me is that, in a small way, I helped to make this latest CD creation happen through a micropatronage scheme set up by Christine.

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Buddhism Creativity

Why Buddhism? #1

Nana Wiggy and me (1978)
Nana Wiggy and me (1978)

I grew up in a family without any strong ties to religion, which I now see as something of a privilege – although at the time I used to envy my friends their Sunday School adventures. Neither were my family overtly humanist agnostic or atheist. I just can’t remember any sort of conversations about faith or religion at all in our household.

The only person I vaguely remember speaking about religion was my grandmother on my father’s side, who we affectionately knew as Nana Wiggy. No one can remember why the family started to call her ‘Wiggy’, but she was a wonderfully kind, strong and opinionated lady who must take some credit for bringing me up in my early years during my mother’s battles with post-natal depression.

As I’d never been Christened, Nana Wiggy always worried about my immortal soul, fearing I would remain in limbo forever more. I can’t remember Wiggy ever going to church herself, but for those like her that grew up in real poverty there was a sense that if you couldn’t be wealthy at least you could be respectable. Therefore, the ritual of Christening perhaps took on a vaguely superstitious quality for her and mattered, even though she wasn’t a practicing Christian herself as far as I’m aware.