Friends

with everything

Rain falls on saints and sinners alike. That’s what it did down’ere in Cornwall on Saturday. The Atlantic wrapped its blustery rains around us and I lit my woodstove.

Classic weather for the time around my birthday, 5th September. Often it fell on the first day of the school year, when I was young – great, huh? Everyone is too busy doing other things around that date (and this is a pattern of mine too). I don’t go big on birthdays as a result. Instead I have a special day, a pilgrimage in nature, in inner space or with a special person. On my 50th, I went out on the Somerset Levels with philosopher and fellow crop circle researcher Stanley Messenger, then in his 80s, for some amazing encounters with otters and big waterfowl beings – it was a blessed day.

My 33rd was exceptional. All my friends came. It was the party of my life. Unbeknownst to anyone, including me, I was soon to start the camps movement, so it marked a departure on a journey I didn’t know I was about to make. The journey involved stepping over the line between looking after my own best interests and playing a part in a larger chessgame. Once you’re over that line, going back is difficult. There are times to step up to it and times to fall back, and it goes on through a progression of phases that seem to end only when you pop your clogs.

Two of the most special experiences we have in life are getting born and dying. There’s something hyper-magical about both, as if they’re stage-managed to set and then to release a particular pattern that is unique to each of us as individuals – the specific identity and face we adopt for the duration of a lifetime. What happens at our births and deaths is somehow meant to be. There’s a narrative, a riddle to it, a kind of cosmic punchline, personalised for us. It somehow sums up our story.

My friend Sophia, a gifted potter and sculptor, died unexpectedly in bed on the night before her big exhibition. On reflection I realised this was classic for the kind of soul she was: perhaps she needed simply to get there and to leave an artistic legacy behind, which she did, and the rewards of success might not have suited her. In the logic of our world her death was untimely and out of place, but in the logic of the otherworld it made complete sense. She went home, probably rather relieved.

Nanjizal Bay and Carn Boel

I’ve been reflecting on my birth at Hartfield, Sussex in 1950, in what, earlier, had been the WW2 American Generals’ HQ in Britain. It was in the former operations room where Eisenhower had directed the American part of D-Day. Well, that was a portentous start. It was a baby-boom nursing home after the war and, being the last child to be born there before it closed, most of the staff were present. The doctor was one of the first in Britain to use relaxation techniques in childbirth – and, lo behold, I’ve been involved in childbirth and now with dying. But my mother still had to work hard with me since we both had our own reluctances. This picture fits me neatly: war, peace, public involvements, big squeezes and acts of will have been recurring themes in my life.

I dropped much of my reluctance to be alive in my mid-30s during a rebirthing session. Finding myself pulled back to the world where I’d originated as a soul, I was taken in again by my people. This reconnected me with the source of my being – it was deeply feelingful – and, from then on, I felt more wholehearted about being here, losing my doubts.

But here’s a funny twist. Next door to Hartfield House was the Hundred Aker Wood, from A A Milne’s Winnie the Pooh. Hmm… that’s a whole lot different. There’s always been a certain childlike optimism, innocence and naivete to me, a tendency to see the angel, not the devil, in others, and this acts both as an asset and as a bane. It helps me see through and beyond many things, though it’s best that someone more astute than me does the real business. In Pooh’s world, despite their scrapes, everyone gets on with each other, and this has been big for me – people getting on – with some successes and a good few failures. But in the end life isn’t about success and failure: it’s about what we learn, what endures and what in the end really matters.

The cave at Nanjizal Bay

History eats up our lives like a big fat slug eating your lettuces. Our life-stories become buried in the rubble of endlessly progressing events. We’re forgotten, and our lives, with all their drama-rich significances, dissolve into a recycleable pile of compost for coming generations to make use of. Generations of which we ourselves might become members. Ooops.

We’re part of a planetary race – we come from it and return to it. Our purpose is to co-evolve together into a diverse yet united planetary race, and we definitely aren’t there yet. This is necessary because, without it, we can’t meet the neighbours on terms that would be good both for us and for them.

For this to happen, a few big things need to happen first. One is this: we humans need to make significant progress in becoming friends with each other. Like it or not, we’re part of one human tribe with one shared bundle of interests – especially to survive and thrive. We need to agree sufficiently on what needs to be done. Emotionally, this means feeling we are against no one, and they are not against us. There will always be differences and contentions, but the way we handle them needs to change. This is deep and historic stuff, going back to times before anyone felt a need for conflict.

Consensus and cooperation. Shifting away from competition, argument, insecurity, reactivity and strife. Sorting out our differences in other ways. For everyone to feel okay about joining this, progress on the world’s major injustices also comes into focus – without it, stranger danger and public distrust of institutions and oppressors will continue to prevail. Trickier still is this: planetary priorities need to override smaller priorities while somehow honouring and incorporating them.

It doesn’t even stop there – it’s deeper. It means the end of the human war on nature and on animals. Deeper still, it means changing the way we habitually go against even ourselves – psychospiritual stuff. Further, it involves getting friendly with the universe, with intelligences and people in other worlds and realities. Yes. Modern humanity’s wilful blindness on this matter does it no good.

Guardians of Albion, at Pordenack Point

All this sounds rather big and difficult, and it is, but ultimately it is easier and more realistic to do it than not to do it. That’s the nub of the matter.

In Britain, back in the neolithic 3000s BCE, people saw the lives of the dead to run in parallel to those of the living. They were all of the same tribe, simply in adjacent worlds. The ancestors helped the living and the living acted with their ancestors and descendants in mind. Patterns of reincarnation have changed since then, as our genetic tribes have broken down and dispersed, but the principle survives – the worlds run in parallel. In different cultures and areas of the world at different times, the breakdown meant a disintegration of the ‘ring of power’ within society. An implicit contract of care and enchantment between people and landscape dwindled too. In Britain this worldview-collapse occurred around 1500-1200 BCE, with the decline of the megalithic era.

Every problem in the world today is a solution in disguise. It’s a matter of observing crises and issues with ‘second sight’, seeing what’s underneath and behind, and ‘listening more closely to things than to people’. Nowadays, the future increasingly causes the present, sucking us toward it and facing us with issues we need to sort out – fundamentals, not tweaks. Look outside the rich world for many of the world’s dawning solutions and for the people who will bring them.

At some stage, so many big crises will happen at the same time that we are overwhelmed, and systems changes will happen. Force majeure. It will come in waves over the next few decades, up to a probable crescendo around 2050 (I’d estimate) – not that far ahead. During this period, the world’s future is likely to be decided, and things will unfold from there. By the mid-2060s the question won’t be ‘what will happen?’ but ‘what do we do with what has happened?’.

One of the central obstacles to progress is our beliefs, attitudes, principles, values and groupthink – these colour all our decisions. And: ‘for the triumph of evil it is necessary only that good people do nothing’. Where there’s a will there’s a way, but if the will is a won’t really, or if it pulls in divergent directions, then there’s no way. Here lies the root of our problem.

Humanity is in discord, disarray and dissonance. We’re pursuing conflicting agendas and, until this jangle is reduced, major global concerns won’t be resolved. The tension involved literally stirs up the atmosphere, prompting weather events and climate extremes, and it sparks uprisings, crises, outbreaks and tragedies. There are mass hypocrisies, willful blindnesses, cultural denial and an infectious pandemic of sub-surface fears to sort out too.

Carn Barra

The groupthink issue has preoccupied me all my adult life, since being part of a suppressed revolution half a century ago. It was painful, and I tried figuring out how and why it had happened that way. As time went on, studying astrology, psychology, Buddhism, history, geopolitics and allsorts, and watching the unfolding of world events, the mechanisms gradually came clearer. What set the cat amongst the pigeons, for me, was what we did at the ‘Chernobyl Camp’ in 1986, when we found that consciousness work indeed can and does affect the course of world events – it wasn’t just wishful thinking. The implications and responsibilities involved took a few years to digest.

Working with the Council of Nine in the early 1990s helped me understand how it all works and the larger picture within which it stands. This led me to start the Hundredth Monkey Camps in the mid-1990s, in which we tested and tried world-healing methods and did some remarkable things, gathering much experience. Out of this, a smaller group of ‘Monkeys’ started the Flying Squad in which, over twenty years, we found out a lot about what long-distance, high-commitment, high-focus world healing work really involves in real-life, doable terms.

A big thing for me has been the collective psyche of humanity and how to jog it into caring for its own overall best interests. Progress has been made, experience gathered, and there’s further to go. I’d like to leave something about this behind, before I go. I’m gnawing away at it, opened up by experiences that cancer has brought. In my ‘Magic Circles‘ I seek to share perspectives and tricks to help demystify and bring alive some of the issues around consciousness work – the next is in Buckfast, Devon on 24th Sept (best to book before it fills up).

I might write something about world healing or prompt some movement in that work but, for now, I’m sitting on it, ruminating until things come clearer, watching for signs, consulting my and others’ feelings, thinking things through. The process will unfold over winter and, if conditions are right, something might emerge in 2023.

I must attend to my health, pacing myself well and giving space for the necessary downtimes that are part of the cancer process. These quiet times are important for restoration, rumination and steadying up. ‘Chemo-brain’ is not just a mental and memory issue: it has reduced my capacity to process ‘stuff’ and deal with complexity, and I need more time and space for them than before. So each time I have a busy period I need to give my psyche a chance to freewheel and defragment. But on the other side, I get insights, and it gives me time to cook up crazy blogs, podcasts and ideas, get them down and get them out. Which is how I managed to get this one out!

Thanks for reading, everyone. Bless you all. Thanks in advance for your birthday wishes. Palden.

—————–

Events and Magic Circles: www.palden.co.uk/magic-circles.html
Podcasts: www.palden.co.uk/podcasts.html
Everything else: www.palden.co.uk

Seal caves under Carn Les Boel

Off to Pow Sows

The Land of the Sowsnek

Scenes from the OakDragon Camp in Wales in 1987

Pow Sows is the Cornish name for England, where the Sowsnek live.

When you have cancer, everything becomes a much bigger challenge. It could be easy to lapse into staying inside a comfort zone to keep difficulties down, but I don’t feel like that. It’s time for a change.

So on Friday I sally forth upcountry into the great wide and wonderful, feeling a bit like the little boy I was when I made my first trip to London, around age eight – my Mum put me on the train hauled by an impressive steam loco and I was met by my aunt at Paddington. But this time, this seventysomething little boy is under the Amazonic protection of Penny and Ruby and we’re off on an adventure to meet a dragon and work a circle or two. Erk, fasten your safety belts.

We’re going to an OakDragon camp. I’ve been invited back, and this is rather an honour. I was OakDragon’s originator. It’s a long story. It started in 1983, when a friend asked me to help organise a gathering in Glastonbury for earth mysteries enthusiasts. We did one at Samhain 1983 in the Assembly Rooms, seventyish people came and it was dynamite. In 1984 I did two gatherings in May, on earth mysteries and astrology. Again, dynamite. A weekend wasn’t long enough. How could we cheaply bring people together for a week? Ah, a camp. Hm, that’s much more to sort out. I was reluctant. But I knew it had to happen, and that year too. As an astrologer I pulled on my contacts, and Glastonbury friends appeared to help run it and, in late August 1984 the first Living Astrology Camp took place. A hundred people came. The Glastonbury Camps were born.

In 1985 we did three memorable camps, in earth mysteries, astrology and music and dance, and three or four more in 1986. One, an earth mysteries camp that turned into a Chernobyl camp, was a life-changer for everyone. But the volunteer crews were burning out and much was changing. The idea for a new start, the OakDragon Camps, dawned. The camps formula had worked and started proliferating – others started camps organisations in the following years too.

The OakDragon Camps’ first season was in 1987, running seven week-long camps in four locations. It was big, intense, amazing, memorable and tumultuous. But things also started going awry. There was a rebellion out of which, the following year, were born the Rainbow Circle camps – it weakened us but we kept on going. There were internal issues too, and by the end of 1988 I was leaving, rather burned out, undermined and unpopular.

I left them to it and OakDragon carried on. Within three years I was working for the Council of Nine and, in 1995, I started the Hundredth Monkey Camps. Here I managed to demonstrate more clearly what I had been seeking to bring about – the Nine had clarified my understanding of it all. Looking back, in the 1980s so many new ideas had been taking shape, we improvised as we went along, the challenges were big, and complex dynamics tugged in different directions. Yet it was a flowering, an awakening, an eruption of possibilities, a collective peak experience, and it was great to be part of it – and I think everyone involved would agree.

In late life, I’m moved to do more circle-working, with a little help from my friends, to share new ways of doing this work that have dawned on me during my cancer process. It’s not cool to build up expectations, but what’s available is quantum group transformation, if and when it works right. It’s the principle of ‘more than the sum of its parts’: when a group of individuals synergises into one being, something can happen beyond anything anyone imagined.

I believe that, later this century, this is how things will change. It’s all to do with the hearts and minds of humanity. It’s about mass focus of consciousness. When multiple minds give attention to one objective with a certain intensity for a certain amount of time, things can change, particularly in terms of human values, viewpoints and mindsets. It is these that determine so much else. Unless at least a majority of humanity joins together to pull in roughly the same direction, I don’t think we’ll get to where we need to go, this century. Humanity is in disarray, and this is no way to run a planetary home. We need to go through a kind of mass synchronisation of basic human intent, a re-resonance of human dissonance. This isn’t as airyfairy as it sounds: we have seen something like this happen in Ukraine this year, with the mobilisation of a nation.

How such a situation can be engineered globally is anyone’s guess, but a fortuitous combination of pressures could do it, if felt worldwide pretty simultaneously and if they evoke a similar response from everyone. Today’s major crises are quite unexpected, deeply stirring and breaking new ground, so this is in the hands of the Great Unknown. But there is something in the nature of these crises that is pushing us ultimately in a good direction. They are accelerating things. I’d even suggest there’s a guiding hand behind it, forcing us to face a plethora of important issues, for our own good. I’m not referring to Big Brother but to the group soul of humanity, or the heart of Gaia (or however you prefer to see it). A crunch-point could come where multiple simultaneous crises force us over a hump of social mobilisation and a collective melding of intent. That’s when the magic starts.

What is needed is an intense global situation activating sufficient shared feeling, fear, awe or goodwill, or all of them, so that billions of people find themselves spontaneously focusing on one basic thought – probably to do with survival or breakthrough. It needs to be sufficient to create a reality-wave that tilts the scales, making life look and feel quite fundamentally different, shifting people’s values and core aims over a critical hump. If we are to succeed in solving our problem here on Earth, some variant of this is what is likely to be needed.

Small groups can’t do it on their own, but they can lay tracks, train people, gather experience, evolve networks and embed and propagate the principles involved. It becomes a body of knowhow available to others to adopt when the need arises. It is a quality, not just a numbers issue, and a matter of time. For global-scale miracles to take place, a combination of factors must be dead right.

This has been a preoccupation for me since the LSE ‘troubles’. Fifty years later, I wasn’t expecting to be doing what I’m now setting out to do, but cancer has prised me open and I’ve seen something new. This winter I nearly kicked the bucket but my rebirth instincts eventually fired up and suddenly, to my surprise, by springtime I found myself with an ‘instruction’. It’s a bit like falling into hell and finding a lump of gold there, in the murk. I get these now and then.

It was strange because I had honestly felt I was heading for the final fall. But suddenly Life was saying, ‘No, there’s more’. I work on the basis that, if it is meant to happen and if I can pull it off, I’ll be helped and kept alive for it. Or the right thing will happen, whatever that needs to be. We shall see. But it does fire me up, this. And, as a cancer patient, having a good reason to stay alive is, well, a good reason to stay alive.

Meanwhile, OakDragon still exists decades later – and well done to them for doing that. No doubt it has changed a lot. I haven’t been part of it. I go now to the OakDragon as a guest, though it’s a bit like going home. It’s a healing. Everything comes round in the end, especially if we let it – and this is what’s happening. I’ll be interested to find out how I manage with camping – it’s one of those addictions I have difficulty letting go of, despite bone cancer.

On Tuesday 2nd August, during the camp, it’s the first ‘magic circle’ in Glastonbury and, whatever state I’m in, I’m going. Just as well, really. As a cancer patient I don’t know how I shall be on the day, so I can’t necessarily put on the competent airs of a normal person and get away with it. I’ll have to fall back on my root-resources, and there’s something rather special about that. It puts me on the line. Something in me loves that because it pulls out a second strength, or ‘superpowers’ that normal life doesn’t demand. So it doesn’t worry me, whether I’m weak or strong – the right thing will happen. It does. And, believe me, it’s a wee bit easier than operating in a war zone.

I have no idea when I shall next write a blog or do a podcast. They will come when they do. I’m peripatetic for two weeks, and around 15th August I return to Cornwall for my next shot of cancer immunotherapy, and to take a break before September adventures start. For you who cannot come on August 2nd, we’ll be in session from shortly before 14.00 to about 18.00 UK time so, if you wish, take a few pauses during that time to see if you can get us and pick anything up. Get a sense of the invisible presence that, I hope, will be with us. The next magic circle is in Avebury on Saturday 13th August (info below).

Hey, I really love you – whether I know you or not. I really appreciate your eyeballs and the goodwill you seem to feel, and it really does me good. Thank you so much for that – it makes a big difference to me. Thanks to Bruce, Ivan, Jackie and Jeanne for organising magic circles, and to Penny, Ruby and Lily for holding my hand. There’s an enormous smile on my face.

Muslims give God ninety-nine names, and they leave the hundredth entirely open. That’s pretty nifty. The Nine used to refer to ‘what you call God’ – they had their way of putting things. When Parkinson the talkshow host asked the Dalai Lama whether he believed in God, the Dalai Lama simply said, ‘No’. Spot on, Tenzin. Lao Tzu said, ‘The Tao that can be named is not the eternal Tao’. So when I say ‘God bless you’, you know what I really mean.

God bless you.

Paldywan Kenobi

The photos are by Tara Dancer, taken in Wales and Cornwall. Ironically, the campsite for the first OakDragon camp, held at Sancreed in Cornwall, is but a mile from where I now live, and I have the same landlord!

Podcasts: www.palden.co.uk/podcasts.html
Magic Circles: www.palden.co.uk/magic-circles.html

Here’s a rather historic amateur video record of the second camp ever, Beltane 1985, at Butleigh, Glastonbury, made by the late Mark Walters:
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=kZaNwHo9wrM

World Work

Inner work to aid humanity’s evolution

The Isles of Scilly from the West Penwith mainland, Cornwall

I’m not a lightworker or a conventional prayer-circle type. But I believe we need to take a multi-pronged approach to ‘world work’ – meditative, religious, psychic and process work to assist the world. I’m esoterically more activist and gutsy – it’s born out of a political background, humanitarian experience and an aged-hippy approach to life.

If you do psychic work over a period of time, in conjunction with inner friends or ‘guides’, then you’ll tend to develop an operating style between you – and that’s what happened to me. It’s not that I’m an advanced psychic. It’s more that I’ve been at it for a long time, with formative and defining inner experiences along the way.

An example: when I was 41, in an inner process I found myself walking backwards toward the abyss – a vulnerability we humans just aren’t happy with. I had tremors of fear but just had to go over the edge anyway. Tipping backwards, I fell into the void, falling, falling… until an instinct made me turn, spread my arms like wings and fly… Since that moment, I’ve been able to set my mind more free, and my busy brains don’t interfere so much.

One bizarre benefit of cancer has been the inner experiences that have come with it. Forced to spend time in bed, I went on adventures. It gave me a sense of usefulness at a time when I was wondering whether it was all worth it. But no, the management clearly said “Don’t ring us – we’ll ring you“. Well, you do get some comedy sometimes!

I’m of the opinion that, if you give a flower to an asshole or shower them with light, it will likely be a turn-off and inappropriate, with the opposite effect to what was intended. Billionaires and terrorists don’t change just because you want them to, and you wouldn’t either. You have to get in there, make friends, gain trust and work it out, as if there, relating to a real person – albeit perhaps to their wiser, more feelingful self.

Sometimes I’ll give a backrub to a mountain jihadi, or sympathise with the rigours of a politician’s life, or make an etheric cup of tea for an old lady – ‘confidence building measures’. It goes on from there. Dialogue with them as a guest in their space. When someone can see it’s in their own best interests to change, they’ll change (though not always). Typically for stroppy humans, if you push them around, they’ll resist.

If you want to penetrate a computer, work with climate issues, deal with a natural disaster, do longterm work with ‘megatrends’ (like population growth or deforestation), it’s a question of getting right inside the matter, stepping into people’s shoes, seeing what life looks like to them, getting into the back office, ferreting through the datachips or feeding helpful ideas to people in need.

One key thing is social attitudes and particularly the freeing up of groupthink, cover-ups and polarised positions. These can involve societal resistance or oligarchies who like to believe they’re in control. Changes in attitudes form the basis of world change. A valid notion here is unconcealment, the exposure of things people should know of and think about – whether withheld, or people don’t want to know, or it is simply thitherto not known.

This is not about steering things in ways we want to see things go: it’s about helping humanity accelerate its evolution. Humanity’s group soul knows what it’s doing even if we humans don’t. Sometimes the ‘wrong’ thing seems to have to happen in order to catalyse a wholesome and fundamental change. This concerns defining moments – events embodying big issues and forcing critical shifts or decisions. By this means the collective unconscious and force majeure leak into real life.

In 1995 a circle of eighty or so of us worked with Bosnia – a powerful and moving session lasting some six hours. We heard later that, while in session, some drunken Serbs had bombed a marketplace in Sarajevo, killing 60. This was sobering, shocking – definitely not our intention. What had gone wrong? Yet, a week or so later, this defining event made NATO go in, ending the war within a short time. Something ‘bad’ led to something ‘good’ – though we couldn’t and wouldn’t have designed it that way. We can’t say we made NATO go in, and that wasn’t our thought, but the synchronicities, considering the war had gone on for three years, were too close. We must assume some involvement, even if but to oil the works or connect some dots.

One of the big lessons here is: carefully consider what you pray for. Also, only take on doable challenges, and be willing to follow them through later on.

The main idea is to help foster forwardness and a sense of progress – it’s like midwifery. We cannot force progress but we can do our best to facilitate it. Deep change doesn’t happen overnight, and sometimes we must work at it over time. Humanity’s problem is that it feels blocked, jaded and discouraged, as if nothing will make any difference. So the key issue is to help people gain a sense of relief and momentum – get a taste of the benefits of accelerating evolution.

It’s a matter of getting our politics, cultural judgements, ideologies, values and comfort-zones out of the way. This isn’t easy. It helps to have travelled outside the rich world to see things from another angle. Be aware of the way the media and your education shape your thinking, and listen more closely to events than to what people say. Study a little history, background and smallprint. Step over your beliefs and conditioning, using sensitivity, imagination and intuition to experience things from the inside, to see the dynamics going on underneath. It’s a challenge to set ourselves aside – though just for half an hour or so.

There are many ways to do world work, and if you resonate with what’s written here, then give attention to feeling your way forward, developing your own path. Use the inner tricks, tools and background you already have.

Here’s a crucial, human bit: we need to connect our own issues, pain and challenges into this, to power it up emotionally. We know what our own pain is like, and plenty of people round the world are in similar or worse situations. So they can act as a psychic entry-point. You can see life through their eyes. In recent months I’ve experienced heartbreak, and plenty of people in Ukraine, or Palestine and Yemen (the two main places I regularly focus on), have heartbreak too, and we all need a bit of there-there, and thus we can serve each other well.

With cancer, I tune into cancer patients, because it means something personal to me and I know what it’s like. The feeling-tones around this gives the work more grace, astuteness and firepower. If you’re a nurse, a truck-driver, a gardener or a pensioner, tune in through your own situation and its problems and joys and use this empathically to connect with others.

There are holistic and surgical/pharma treatments for disease. In this context, disease can encompass riots, volcanoes, storms, wars, famines, insecurity, collapses and ‘black swans’ – events no one expected. Holistic treatment works best for building conditions for good health and immunity, while surgery and pharma are best when it’s too late or too serious. This kind of meditation is more surgical, applicable when deep matters of principle are at stake.

But it depends really on whether this is your thing. Or perhaps you might be best continuing with what you already do, with a new slant to it.

There are all sorts of methods and procedures, such as mopping up dead souls after disasters, working to raise the level of the collective mood, inwardly supporting threatened species, love-bombing and truth-mining a conflict zone, or working with whatever comes up in the news that really gets to you. If it’s Ukraine, work with Ukraine because you will also assist other places and situations where similar issues apply. One longterm aim is to remove enough problems from the overall system so that its inherent, homoeostatic self-healing capacity can revive.

Sometimes it’s an A&E and intensive care job, and cutting out a tumour or infected organ can save the whole body, if that is the only option left. That’s how focusing on specific acute issues and crises can help the world as a whole. Don’t forget to support the helpers too: the on-the-ground activists, good-hearted people, dedicated public servants, people who hold society up and do the donkey-work, and people who take brave initiatives. I’ve even found myself sitting with an abandoned dying person in an apartment block in Sian, China, and it was good for both of us. He found a comforting welcome on the other side.

If you do this once a week for a year, out of fifty meditations, ten will be really worth it. When done in a group (three upwards), even if remotely at a chosen time, it powers it up. Stick with it. Don’t seek results – just do it. Give it time. This is a life-long work. It can empower other stuff you’re doing or give meaning to what you might believe to be a meaningless, insignificant life.

Based on earlier experiences in the 1970s-80s, in the 1990s I started a large-group project doing ‘inner aid’, the Hundredth Monkey Project, which pioneered much of this approach, and later a smaller group, the Flying Squad, continued in this work for twenty years. They’re both closed now, but the meditation time-slot, agreed with the Council of Nine thirty years ago, is still open every week on Sundays at 7-7.30 GMT (8-8.30 BST). I’m there, every week, wherever I am, dead or alive, and with a number of others (I know not how many). Tune in on that channel if you wish. If you continue over time the management will give you a direct line.

In my experience there is more personal growth in ‘world work’ than in personal growthwork. You find that out by doing it. The more you do it, the better you get. So just work at it, don’t make a big deal, keep motivation simple and intelligent and, remember, it is for the highest good, for the wide, longterm benefit of humanity, our planet home and all who live in her.

Thanks for reading. We’ll be covering this in my forthcoming ‘magic circles‘.

Love from me, Palden


If this subject interests you, here is an article and a report I wrote in the 1990s. My thoughts have developed and changed in some respects but it all still holds. I’ll revise them sometime. Or not, as the case may be.
www.palden.co.uk/consciousness-work.html
www.palden.co.uk/psychic-work.html

The Flying Squad site is worth a look:
www.flyingsquad.org.uk

My podcasts: www.palden.co.uk/podcasts.html

Carn Les Boel and its seal caves. This cliff sanctuary sits at the western end of the Michael Line

Epiphanies

Seeing is believing | latest podcast

Carn Galva, looking through Lanyon Quoit, West Penwith, Cornwall

Epiphany comes from Greek. It means to cause to appear, to bring to light, to make visible.

Pattern-setting realisations we occasionally get which suddenly show things as they actually are, rather than what we, up to then, told ourselves they were.

Listen more closely to things than to people – a chunk of wisdom from the Xhosa of South Africa.

We need many more epiphanies, for individuals, social groups, nations and the world. This is crucial in the 21st Century, and our future depends on it.

In the 2020s we’re being served waves of crises that seem designed to invoke epiphanies. It’s a reality-shift, and it started during the Covid crisis.

There’s more coming. We face all sorts of escalating crises and it’s increasingly stretching us open. These are mostly questions we needed to address earlier, but mainstream society didn’t really want to look.

It’s a shorter and simpler podcast, this one, compared to a few recent ones. It was recorded down the old trackway on our farm. 18 mins.

Or get it on my website: palden.co.uk/podcasts.html
or on Google or Apple Podcasts.

Continuation of the Soul

Yes, you and yours too

For those of you who are interested in the kinds of things I gibber on about, you might find this video really interesting. It’s down below.

Jeffrey Mishlove comes at matters of the soul and psyche from a completely different angle from me, yet I completely agree with what he says. He’s a psychologist with a really open mind, while my qualifications in this subject are zilch, haha, yet I draw on my own experiences. Which, over the years, have become a bit of a list…

These have included a near-death experience, talking to a soul (my son) before he was born, talking to souls after they’re gone and even handholding them over the threshold, re-experiencing a good number of ‘past’ lives and a couple of ‘future’ ones, and all sorts of other out-of-time experiences of many kinds. These qualify me as a madman or rather sane, depending on your viewpoint. (Actually, for all of us it’s somewhere in between – Gurdjieff used to call people of the muggle variety ‘mad machines’.)

I don’t actually consider myself very good at this stuff. Believe me, when meditating, I get booming brains and endless diversions at least as much as anyone reading this. But the issue here is giving it attention and going into it, giving it time and space and doing it over a period of time – such as the rest of your life. Simply do this, and you do pick up experience. Keep doing it. Occasionally, you’re lit up with grace, wonder, healing, resolution and light.

So, I am not a good meditator. I’ve been with people who go far deeper than I do. But the issue here is to sit with it and do it – at your own pace, with no shoulds or oughts, as a part of your life like breakfast and lunch. Give space for the world within to speak.

I’ve been doing a weekly meditation without fail on Sundays at 7pm GMT (8pm BST) for half an hour, since 1994. This is the Nine slot when the channels are open, run by Altea. If you wish to join, just do it – though pls take your boots off before entering and spend the first few sessions just listening and, if necessary, waiting. It works like that.

Otherwise I meditate randomly when it’s right to do so. Sometimes I’m just sitting there churning over my stuff and nothing much seems to be happening – as far as what a meditative state ought to be (ahem). But then I draw out, up and back from myself and see it differently. ‘Removing self from self’. I see myself churning around and it looks very different. It changes instantaneously.

One day I had a breakthrough. It was when I was with the Nine in the early 1990s. I found myself letting my watchers upstairs enter right into my psyche, allowing them to see parts of me I didn’t want them to see. I didn’t want to see them either, and I’m still discovering new hidden shadows down there in the depths. It goes on and on – there’s no retirement in this game.

Letting them in was like an enormous burst of self-forgiveness. They didn’t do anything except take a look inside an interestingly fucked-up humanoid on Earth, but for me it was a release and relief, an opening up and a step forward. I saw myself as I was, not as I told myself I wanted to be, or feared I was, or believed others saw me to be.

My birth chart. Jupiter, down the bottom (like a 4), holds the key to my chart – it’s called a bucket-handle. My chart is a bit like a foolproof instruction manual on how not to be a billionaire.

For a Jupiter in Pisces type like me, this kind of thing is an undoubted peak experience.

Whenever I am troubled, I open myself up for them to take a look. After a while it becomes more of a habit. That opens out a load of things. It shifts the context, I see things more as they are, and this helps me do an update on myself. It’s not as easy as it sounds, because guilt, shame and fear are so deeply embedded and sometimes demand some wrestling, but it helps me move forward.

It’s like mindfulness practice: whether it’s you or your ‘inner guides’ being aware of what’s happening in your psyche, it’s essentially the same awareness being aware of it.

We are not the separate individuals we believe ourselves to be. Here on Earth we’re swimming in an enormous and rather busy psychic collectivity, and it’s like a swirling, whirling, jangly cacophony. We’re all members of tribes and groups that go way beyond this life.

At this time of history we’re being asked to recognise something further: that we’re all of the same tribe, the same people. We’re all so different yet we’re part of one planetary tapestry, one species. We all breathe the same air and see the same Moon in the sky.

Without recognising this in our hearts and in our bones, we will give ourselves a very hard time in coming times, and we’re already well advanced in this. It’s that simple.

Tibetans have a philosophy of doing good and of practicing loving kindness not only because they’re good things to do, but also because they set up conditions for our forthcoming incarnations. It means that, in future, there will be less of a pile of difficult issues to deal with if we make progress on them now. It helps us stop causing problems we don’t really need. Perfection isn’t required: all we need is forward motion. Whether or not you subscribe to such a perspective, it’s worth contemplating. It’s ecological, sustainable and just. It involves what Buddhists call non-duality

recognising that the inner and the outer worlds are two sides of the same coin, of equal reality, and they’re thoroughly interactive and mutually-responsive in detail and down to the subtlest of nuances. The toxicity, injustice and tragedy out there in our world are totally connected with those that lurk within our own psyches. Oh shit.

If humanity gets this equation, sometime, somehow, we will make it through the crisis we have here in our world – and we’ll make good use of it. Miracles will happen because we will be creating reality differently. For some (not all) of us here, this concerns our future lives as well as those of our grandchildren, who could become our parents. What we’re doing now creates conditions in which, in coming times, we and everyone may thrive and fulfil our purpose.

Everyone has specific instructions programmed into our psyches and genes, but the two main purposes we all share are… to learn and to make a contribution. No one is here by accident.

This video is by an old friend, Tim Walter, a film-maker and dowser who’s interesting in his own right – check out his videos on YouTube, such as this…

With love, Paldywan

Costs and Benefits

A new Paldypodcast

Here’s a new podcast. My creative mojo seems to be returning and I’m churning it out at present… erk. This is what it’s about:

In our time we’re going through an intensification of events and pressures, globally, socially and individually. We’re heading into harder times, and it’s not going to go back to normal. But there are things we can do about this. It doesn’t have to be as bad as currently it looks.

The costs and difficulties we have in life can be made a bit easier by not grinding on about it quite so much, by making things less difficult inside ourselves. Sounds easy, but it takes some work.

There are also gifts in any situation that become visible if we shift our focus, take a deep breath, own what we’re responsible for and focus on what’s really most important.

I’ve faced some stuff in recent times and seem to be gaining something from it, deep down, underneath. It’s a lot to do with finding what’s available in any situation – anything that can cheer us, lift us up and open up pathways – and going on from there. Following a path.

If your spirits have some sparkle, you’ll be alright. Though often, ‘alright’ isn’t what we originally thought.

17 minutes, with love from Palden.

Listen on Spotify:
https://open.spotify.com/episode/5W7HTEsIrryRSqs0syUK0w?si=36bw0NqbS1CFS_NnDo1Yyg

If you don’t want to use Spotify (or Apple or Google Podcasts – it’s there too), then go here: www.palden.co.uk/podcasts.html

Three Wars Old

What wars do

Thinking of people living in places like Kharkhiv in Ukraine, and what it’s like to be on the receiving end of war, here’s an article by a young Gazan, called ‘Three Wars Old’, about her experiences as she grew up. What’s remarkable here is that people like the author, Samah, can be far more balanced and accepting of their benighted situation than we would expect, when we see things from our own viewpoint of living in a (largely) safe and comfortable country. Not that it’s easy for her. I’ve learned so much from people like her.

Some years ago I was involved with We Are Not Numbers, an NGO which trained young Gazans to write articles about their lives in English for worldwide consumption. It is so important for people in wars to know that other people round the world know what’s happening to them. They feel isolated, unseen, uncared about. One of the functions I’ve served in the Middle East has been the simple task of ‘witnessing’ – sharing people’s experiences, hearing their stories, letting them express their feelings and feel heard. This is a great healer in itself.

Later, the NGO started training young Gazans in working with video, supplying the necessary equipment and support (smuggled, probably). This bore fruit in the last Gaza war, when young Palestinians communicated freely online on Youtube, letting the world see fully what was happening to them. And the world got it. In a way, they won the propaganda war in that instance. That’s the amazing thing about Palestinians: they get beaten every time, yet they never lose. That’s called resistance.

You hardly ever hear of cholera, widespread starvation or absolute destitution in Gaza: whatever their situation, they act together to deal with whatever comes at them. They’re well organised and have the right attitude. Nevertheless, once upon a time I asked a young friend who had been a male nurse in Gaza, asking him what had been the most difficult thing about nursing there. He said: ‘Holding down a person while we operated on them without anaesthetics’.

This kind of thing is a personal matter too. Warfare arises from the deep belief that other people are different from us, a threat, and they’re hurting us. This happens in everyday life, in our own lives. In recent months, struggling with a deep emotional issue, I’ve been faced with my own self-defensive patterns of falling into this, of thinking badly of others, flailing around in aggrieved resentment and pain which rears its head and grinds around in my psyche when I’m wobbling and grinding my stuff. Then I get a battle between that side and the understanding, empathic, compassionate side of myself, which sees things completely differently. In a way, that’s even worse, with the contrasts of viewpoint and feeling grating and scraping against each other.

I grind and wrestle, sometimes getting lost, sometimes getting found, churning inside over and over, digging in the pain and feeling the pain of the other person or people too, lost in a confusion of exaggerated inner dramas. Yet, like spilt petrol on a wet road, there’s a beauty that emerges, a peace that dawns surreptitiously from underneath. It comes eventually. I come to a smiling peace again, worn out perhaps. So I’m at least making progress. But even then, when I feel I’ve laid something to rest, it can come back with a vengeance later on and I’m back to square one. It’s relentless.

Isn’t it strange? We humans, we make so much more difficulty for ourselves than we need to make. We externalise our grating struggles onto others – talk of crimes against humanity, we’re all at it. Confused mass murderers, us lot. Go on, own up. Look at what you’ve done. Don’t worry though, ‘cos I’m much worse than you, and you can take consolation from that! I’m the worst sinner around, hehe.

Well, that’s a part of us. But there’s another part too. It really is a matter of which part we choose, and how we then deal with the other part that got sidelined. This is what is at stake in wars. We humans create horror and destruction for each other – and even the winners never truly, fully, permanently win, and all that is won is eventually lost. It’s tragic. This seems to be in the nature of things on this planet. We share a home and threaten to blow it up, just to prove that it’s ours, not yours. We do it because we refuse to sort out our differences by other means.

Our fundamental interests are actually shared, and we sit in the same boat. It’s not about you and me, it’s about us. We have a dilemma, and something needs to be worked out.

It’s not just about diplomacy, treaties and cease-fires. It’s about that inner conflict, the feeling that others are out to get us and do us in, and that we’re the best. This will take generations to heal, and this is one of the key areas of focus in the coming decades. It’s a deep emotional issue and, in a way, the wars of today are, with tragic repetition, acting it out.

It’s difficult to believe, but over time there is progress. Regarding Kharkhiv or Gaza or Yemen or Mali, the devastation is exhausting us, taking us up to the fence where humanity has to choose. For, as a Bosnian said in the video from Sarajevo I posted on Facebook a few days ago, ‘In war, who loses? – everyone‘.

Samah in Gaza demonstrates how even those who have had the worst happening to them, grilled by the painful intensity of life, can become remarkable people. I think she has a future.

Peace and Goodwill

A podcast about something that’s becoming increasingly necessary

Following on from my last blog, I did manage to get up on a windy solstice morning to record the Massed Corvid Choir of Grumbla, Cornwall, and their melodic chants top and tail this podcast.

Experiences of the last two years have drawn us surreptitiously toward new values, a rehumanising of society – and there’s more to go on this process. Here are some insights on conflict, migration and dehumanisation, with a little on the Holy Land. And peace and goodwill. 

With explosions and atrocities going on, the environmental, social and cultural issues of our time will not be resolved. This needs to change, for very practical reasons. It involves every one of us looking at our own conflicts. Planetary healing.

Peace and Goodwill | Spotify

It’s on Spotify, Apple and Google. If you prefer not to visit those, go to my site to hear it there.

If you were interested in the first podcast on Intelligence, you can find the second one there too. This time it’s about psychic-intuitive antenna-twitching.

With love from me

Palden

Far Beyond Timbuktu

A people-sized aid project in Tinzibitane, Mali

Some of the villagers, in front of the school

In the 1300s-1400s, when Europe was reeling and depressed after the Black Death, Mali was the richest place in the world – the source of much of the gold that eventually financed the rise of Europe (and eventually its takeover of Africa in the 1800s). It isn’t like that any more.

Those of you who have been following me for some years will be aware that I have been helping and supporting a small village of desert-dwelling Tuareg people called Tinzibitane. The village is roughly 60km west of the historic town of Timbuktu, in the desert.

Lessons!

The Tuareg are an ancient people, formerly the camel-truckers of the Sahara. They’re different from other West Africans, and they aren’t treated well. They’re Muslims yet they have their own ancient traditions, with Goddess roots to them going back millennia. Some Tuareg have become jihadis, further north in the desert, but this village is not involved with that – and you’ll notice they’re educating girls and boys equally. The women of the village are strong.

In Tinzibitane they have a wise chief, around my age (71), and my contact, Anim Touareg, a Millennial in his thirties, is likely to become the next chief. He’s a good man, and a single father (his wife died some years ago in childbirth – we tried to save her but it came too late). In my illness, with cancer, the chief prays for me, and I pray for him too.

The village

Over the years, various of us have been helping finance the re-stocking of their camels and goats, the sinking of a new well in the village, and the building of a school there, after a time of devastation (drought and war) around 2012. They are educating their kids in a Tuareg way. The alternative is to send the kids to the towns for education – and, this way, the young people are lost, heading for the cities and for Europe when they grow up. We are seeking to change this, to help the villagers meet the 21st Century while retaining their traditional desert life – and this means helping the kids stay in the village by educating them in a Tuareg way.

The new well, with the school behind

I am no longer able to run fundraising campaigns fully on their behalf and I need some help with crowdfunding and similar things. I’m good at writing material and liaising with the villagers but I can’t deal with the necessary details around crowdfunding and the necessary networking. I’m not fast enough and my memory for details isn’t as it was.

School dinner

So I am looking for one or two people who might help me with this, willing to do the necessaries that I cannot do and to stick with it for perhaps a few months, working online with me. It needs some focus, work and commitment, but not too much, plus some necessary support-raising skills. This is a really good cause. The aim is to raise money to pay the teachers, who come from other parts of Mali to stay in the village and teach the kids. They are dedicated teachers but they cannot keep their own families alive and happy without pay.

Tuareg women of the future

If anyone is interested, please contact me. This is a people-sized, small-scale enlightened-development project. The Tuareg of Tinzibitane are a self-sufficient people who don’t like to ask for help, but they do need support in dealing with money-interactions with modernity and the outside world. It has felt good working with them over the last seven or so years – they’re good people, with integrity, and they’re taking life in their own hands. I need some assistance in helping them.

Anyone interested? If so, please contact me. They also make remarkable handmade crafts, which you can see on Anim‘s FB page.

Back Roads

A place I love that I can’t return to

Recently I haven’t been in the best of health and spirits and I shall write a blog about that soon, when my energy is right. But if you want clues, listen to my last podcast Popping Clogs and Kicking Buckets.

Meanwhile, I’ve begun a kind of preliminary goodbyeing process, and in the last 24 hours I’ve been wishing I could be back in Palestine, with friends and ‘family’ there. So I was moved this morning to post a chapter from Pictures of Palestine, to share this feeling with you.

(If you like this chapter, you can download a free PDF or e-book version on the site, or order the print version.)

It was written in 2009 but, while details in Palestine have changed, the situation has not, and this chapter in essence has not dated.


The Back-Roads of Palestine – arriving in Bethlehem

“Where you want go?” “Beit Lahem”.

“Where you from?” “Britaniyya.”

“Ah, my son, he in Leicester, doctor in hospital.” I’m never sure whether to be happy or sad when they say things like this, but most Palestinians seem quite happy that at least someone in the family is chasing a future abroad. It’s their family insurance policy.

I was the first to the yellow eight-seater VW service bus, so I would have to wait for more passengers to appear. That was fine – I wanted to assimilate being in Jericho again. Everyone was friendly. If ever you come to Palestine, be ready to be overwhelmed with hospitality – it’s quite moving and takes a while to get used to. It’s not a front. People come up and shake your hand, saying “Wilcome, wilcome to Falastin”, and they really mean it. They know it takes some resolve to get here.

I went off and found some Egyptian mango juice and Jericho springwater to guzzle. The dense Jordan valley heat was like an engulfing blanket but, being thin, I’m fine with that – it’s chilly, damp British weather I have a problem with! I went over to some guys standing around talking. The usual friendly questions. Where you from? What your name? Where you going? How many children you have? What you doing here? They’re often interested in my age, and eyebrows raise when I tell them – Palestinian men of my age often look older and more worn than I do.

I took photos of some of them – they seemed to love it. But some didn’t want it, gesticulating ‘No’ with a quick wave of the finger, and I knew why. It’s politics and security: they or their family have had trouble with the Israelis, or they supported Hamas or another faction, or they had a history, or their brother was in jail, or… Long ago I had been in similar straits and I know what it’s like: it’s not just that you want to avoid the gaze of the powers that be, but also that you don’t want to keep reminding your friends or even yourself that, rightly or wrongly, you’re toxic property.

Eventually the service taxi-van was full and we were off through the streets of Jericho, an ancient city with an 8,000 year history. We left the town, driving some miles up to the main Jerusalem highway and then turning right, following the road as it ascends through the Judean desert hills. It sweeps through the valleys, climbing up and up just to reach sea level, marked by a sign in Hebrew, Arabic and English. After making good progress, still uphill, we suddenly slowed down and pulled off near the Ma’ale Adumim interchange onto a bumpy, crowded road and into a scrappy Palestinian township near Al Azariya.

Ma’ale Adumim is one of the biggest Israeli West Bank settlements, a Jerusalem orbital town and an asset Israel is unlikely to abandon, whatever foreign politicians want. This new town and the roads servicing it, built on confiscated Palestinian land, split the West Bank into northern and southern halves, rendering Palestine territorially sub-functional as a nation.

But we were not going to Ma’ale Adumim. Instead, we hit a bumpy side-road which, for Palestinians, is a key trunk road linking the northern and southern West Bank. It weaves through a small town, then weaving along valleys and up and down the high hills, with sharp switchbacks, steep inclines and loads of traffic. In Britain we’d regard it as a back-country ‘B’ road, but actually it is ‘Palestine Route One’. Nowadays it is being modernised but in 2009 the only sign of its trunk road status was the density of traffic.

Some of the areas it drives through are poor and dilapidated, the houses quite scrappy, the land stony and dry. Garbage, wrecks and piles of rubble are heaped here and there – an alienated landscape where the locals have lost their care and pride. They’re probably rural refugees, thrown off land the Israelis have taken, such as at Ma’ale Adumim. It’s one of the tragic aspects of this country. But then, many Palestinians harbour little hope, so they’re unlikely to invest in longterm improvements. They half-expect the Israelis to come in some day, wreck everything again or drive them out, and they do have reason to anticipate that.

Yet there are some pretty nice houses along the road too, in other locations. Palestinians who are go-getters or beneficiaries of the PA or foreign agencies take great pride in their new-builds, many of which have a fine vista and attractive courtyards with flowering trees and bushes. It’s as if their optimism compensates for their others’ lack of it. It also reveals an emerging class divide between those who benefit from foreign subsidies and advantages and those who do not. Palestine has its haves and have-nots and they nowadays live in quite distinct economies.

The road is exciting to travel as it climbs up steep hills and tips into deep valleys, weaving through an impressive limestone upland landscape, passing through hilltop villages with prominent mosques and affording views stretching many miles. Yes, this is a trunk road – but it’s heartbreaking too. Privileged Israelis drive along their fast, wide highways while Palestinians have to heave up, down and around on side-roads like this: transportation apartheid. Although the West Bank is occupied by Israel, its cars have different number-plates from those of Israelis, conferring different driving and access rights. Go up the wrong road and you could, on a bad day, experience a sudden hail of bullets at worst, or interrogation at best.

It’s not easy, living under military occupation

We passed through only one checkpoint, which today was open. The Israeli soldiers leaned against their booths and bollards, talking to each other and idly gazing at passing traffic. Poor guys – what a job. There they stood sweating, posted in an unfriendly spot next to a Palestinian hilltop village, perpetually on guard against a foe who nowadays rarely materialises and might hardly exist.

In the distance I could see the Herodeon, near Bethlehem, a prominent conical hill and ancient site going back millennia. It looks like a volcano but it was shape-enhanced in ancient times and contains, allegedly, the tomb of Herod the king. Naturally, we didn’t head straight toward it – our route was still sinuous and tortuous. After another twenty minutes we pulled into Beit Sahour – Shepherds’ Fields, referring to the Christmas story – near Bethlehem. The family that made up most of the passengers in the bus was dropped off right outside their gate. The remaining woman asked me, on behalf of the driver, where I wanted to be dropped. I decided to go to Manger Square in central Bethlehem to catch some food, take a rest and ascertain where Ibrahim Issa was to be found.

Church of the Nativity, Bethlehem

There I bundled out of the bus dragging my wheeled bag, my precious technology bag over my shoulder. Containing a netbook computer, camera and lenses, digital sound recording equipment, DVD and card readers, cables, plugs and adaptors, with room for travel papers, passport and a bottle of water, this technology bag is neat – but rather a wrench on the shoulder muscles.

The Christian taxi-drivers near the Nativity Church, seeing a Westerner – who of course must be rich – started hollering at me for my custom. You learn how to gesticulate ‘No’. One bright young driver with a pleasant face got my attention, though I still said no to him. I wanted to sit down and have something to eat. He shepherded me to a nearby café and within seconds a pitta stuffed with salad and falafel was set in front of me, along with fresh carrot juice. What a relief! All the taxi-drivers stood round asking questions and smiling, all very amiable once they’d realised I was no source of business for them right now.

I rang Ibrahim, but no answer. Did I have the right number? Hmmm, what next? Leaving my bag at the café, I went wandering. As I returned, the young taxi-driver signalled me: “I help you. What your name?”

He took me to the Hope Flowers School at the far end of Al Khader, west of Bethlehem, but it was locked and deserted. On the way I noticed that the town was in visibly better shape than on my last trip in 2005, just after the second intifada, during which the Israelis had wrecked Bethlehem and still then staged periodic incursions and searches. But now the separation wall had been built and Bethlehem, imprisoned behind it, was safer and more relaxed. The security wall protects Palestinians from Israelis as well as vice versa. This relaxation of tension was visible on the streets. Another sign of progress was the condition of the trees in the central reservation of the Hebron road leading to Al Khader.

These trees, planted in 2005 by the Earth Stewards, were all intact and growing! I had joined them – mostly Dutch, German and Austrian green activists – in a tree-planting project organised by Hope Flowers. Ibrahim had known the Earth Stewards when he lived in Holland in the 1990s and he had organised PeaceTrees as a joint project with them in Bethlehem, not just as an ecological but also as a social empowerment project. The trees’ continued existence showed that something had worked – the locals had got the message.

During the intifada people had lost hope. It had followed a period in the 1990s when peace and progress came close and then ebbed away, prompting the uprising, a mass expression of sheer frustration. Israeli measures taken against Palestinians were terrible and Bethlehem had been an epicentre of conflict – remember the shoot-out at the Church of the Nativity in 2002? By 2005, when the intifada had subsided, the locals needed jump-starting with initiatives to help them improve their lives and encourage them to invest energy in the future. The regular experience of seeing houses demolished, parts of town wrecked, buildings shelled and people carted off had given Bethlehemites a feeling of futility and pointlessness.

By planting a large number of trees in a very visible place – the main road’s central reservation – we caused mild fascination at first, followed by interest and questions. Then people joined in, then energy and enthusiasm grew. We wrapped up the project by saying, “If you don’t look after these trees, they will die, so it’s up to you” – and we left. The trees survived: someone had made sure they were watered and cared for. PeaceTrees had worked.

The Old Town of Bethlehem

As the young taxi-driver and I returned to central Bethlehem, he told me that he was a student of accountancy in Hebron and drove his uncle’s taxi to pay his way. He wanted to be my friend and I promised I would find him again. Subsequently I had a number of lifts with him, and only half the time did he charge me. He dropped me off and I headed up to Manger Square, standing there awhile, taking it all in. A wide, large square, milling with people.

A man approached, asking in quite good English whether he could help me. Adnan took me to his shop near the square, where he sold souvenirs – olive-wood religious objects, Arabic dresses, Bedouin rugs, decorative inlaid boxes and allsorts. Some of the woodwork was exquisitely carved and the rugs and clothing came in lovely colours, all with a very hand-made feel to them. Mint tea appeared and people came and went as we talked. Adnan discovered I was a webmaster and asked if I would help him make a website – I said I would consider it. He rang a friend who knew Ibrahim – an answer would come soon about where to find him.

I got out my computer and skyped my cousin, then my son and then my ladyfriend back in England, to tell them I’d got here. I wanted to share it with them. A small crowd gathered round, goggling at this visitor’s neat technology, and they said hello on Skype, all very thrilled. My son just said, “Cool”, and carried on tapping on his computer. Then he looked up and suddenly saw several faces looking at him through the screen.

“Who’re they?” “I’ve finally got to Bethlehem, and these are some of the kids here”. “Cool”, he repeated, in his perpetually unfazed way, still tapping keys.

My ladyfriend was dumbstruck at talking live to some real Palestinians. Palestinians are people you hear about on the news, you don’t expect to talk personally with them on Skype. Everyone helloed, and she helloed back. While I was talking to her, the calling to prayers started up – really loud, since we were right next to the Omar Mosque. She was visibly moved at the sound, as it hit her that I was really there. She and my cousin were serving as ‘ground control’ back in England, and it was fitting to share with them my first taste of returning.

Eventually the grapevine worked and Ibrahim Issa came to fetch me. I’d last seen him five months earlier in England during one of his speaking tours. He had looked tired, not really wanting to stand on stages giving speeches, and I was concerned about him, wondering whether he was burning out. But today he was his sprightly self, at ease, smiling. He’s rotund, like a cuddly bear, with a character-filled face and a bright countenance.

I feel brotherly toward him, as if we had made some mutual contract way back in the mists of time, yet I’m old enough to be his father. We hugged in the middle of the street – much to the interest of onlookers – and looked at each other for a long moment. I knew he felt some relief that I was back and had probably wondered whether he would see me here again. Foreigners come and go, saying they will return, but only a few reappear.

Hope Flowers had started as a kindergarten in 1984 and by the late 1990s it was a school with 500 pupils. It shrank after 2000 during the second intifada, as the Palestinian economy tanked and hardship set in, but now the school is growing again and a community development centre was started in 2004. I’d been working with the school from Britain, running its website, writing and editing grant proposals, newsletters and outreach material. Now, one aim of my trip to the school was to re-work the website, then perhaps to edit some teacher-training manuals, possibly even help Ibrahim start writing a book about peace education. That was the idea.

The story of the Issa family and Hope Flowers is poignant. Ibrahim’s father Hussein, an advocate of non-violence, found himself in a dilemma some years ago when Ibrahim narrowly escaped paralysis, shot through the back by Israeli soldiers. Later, Ibrahim saw Palestinian radicals accuse his father of treason because of his commitment to reconciliation. The family was under attack from both Israeli troops and Palestinian radicals. Ibrahim knew the situation was complex but, to quote him, “The most painful thing for me as a child was that I couldn’t recognise the difference between a peace activist and a collaborator – it took years until I did. Palestinian radical groups also couldn’t recognise it. When I grew up I started to see the difference”. But some Palestinian radicals and Israeli Zionists still don’t see that difference, and this makes life risky for people who work for reconciliation.

In 1991 Ibrahim moved to Holland to get out of harm’s way. He studied engineering, got a job and became a permanent émigré. He attended courses on ecology, non-violence, community-building and psychotherapy too, mixing with interesting people, some of whom later came to do stints as volunteers at the school in Palestine. Then his father died unexpectedly in 1999 and Ibrahim was asked to return. This involved leaving a secure, promising Dutch life to jump back into the Palestinian frying pan, taking on a burden most sane people would turn down flat. I greatly admire his steadfastness.

Hope Flowers

Returning to Bethlehem in the midst of the second intifada, Ibrahim joined his sister and his mother in running the school. Later another sister, a teacher, joined them, as did Ibrahim’s new wife, once a kid at the kindergarten. They run the school with a remarkable team of teachers, managers and supporters. It felt right to work with these people – I like them all very much.

Now Ibrahim and I went to a café, had a drink and munched nuts, smoking apple-flavoured hubble-bubble from an ornate water pipe. We discussed what I would do during my three months’ stay. There was certainly a lot to be done and three months might not be long enough.

Ibrahim told me of difficulties he currently had with a faction in the Palestine Authority (PA). It was the product of an awkward public debate concerning the value of negotiating with the Israelis. Ibrahim, a committed peacemaker and bridge-builder who had had regular contact with peace-oriented Israelis, was under suspicion as a collaborator, and this was complex. The PA, seeking to establish control over an ungoverned non-country, had applied a mixture of Western regulations and Arabic bureaucracy, with not a few personal fiefdom issues thrown in, making life difficult for ordinary people. A peacemaker in a conflict-polarised society is susceptible to accusations of collaboration.

The discussion in Palestine about how to relate to the Israelis was heated and ongoing. Palestinians had bent over backwards to comply with international agreements as part of the 1990s peace process, and yet in Palestinians’ perception the Israelis hadn’t budged an inch on crucial issues such as settlement-building, land-seizures, Jerusalem or refugees. The result had been continued losses for Palestinians and a growing number of them were now convinced that negotiation and accommodation were pointless, even though very few wanted any return to conflict. Negotiation had been worth trying in the 1990s, but it had not delivered. It’s a tragic predicament: if you neither want to negotiate nor to fight, what do you do?

Hope Flowers had been teaching the kids Hebrew to help them understand the Israeli mindset. When the kids were older, this would help them deal with Israeli people and officials. The school set out to help the kids understand the perspectives of the very people who had killed or jailed their own fathers, uncles and relatives. This was not a matter of agreeing with or sucking up to the Israelis, as some suspected. It was a matter of following the old military adage, ‘know your enemy’. It was a key issue in preparing Palestinian children for a time when the nightmare of conflict ends – which it shall and must do one day. But in 2009 that day was receding and there was simmering frustration in the air.

Some Palestinian officials didn’t like what the school was doing and didn’t want Palestinians having connections with Israelis. Ibrahim, who had learned to be patient with Israeli arbitrariness and obstructionism, even having been arrested by them for allegedly harbouring terrorists, understood this viewpoint well. But as an educationalist and peace-builder, he stood up for dialogue with people on the other side just as his father had done.

Westerners, with a tendency to see things in black-and-white terms, oversimplify the intricacies of this situation, failing to understand such sharp dilemmas. “Why don’t Israelis and Palestinians just make peace?” Well, as Rabbi Lerner, a Jewish-American thinker, once pointed out, both sides suffer from PTSD, post-traumatic stress disorder – they’re super-touchy, super-reactive and suspicious – and untangling this mess isn’t as simple as outsiders would like it to be.

It had taken me some 20 years to understand the intricacies of the Israel-Palestine situation, and only visiting the place had brought better comprehension. I started as a peacemaker working on both sides, with the best of neutral intents, but found myself gravitating to the Palestinian cause. I was not turning against Israel, but I felt that they shot themselves in the foot by the hostile attitude they took toward Palestinians. I work where I can most assist, and while Palestinians seemed to appreciate my input many Israelis didn’t seem to think there was a need for me to be there. So I ended up working with Hope Flowers.

That’s also why I had sobbed from the soul when I arrived in Jericho earlier that day – there was something personal and emotional about all this. As a British dissident, I had had nonsensical and painful experiences that would shock many people, so I could empathise with the Palestinians’ dilemma. I saw Ibrahim’s dilemma too – that of a peace-bringer whose work is regularly screwed up, not just by Israelis but also by the double-standards of Westerners and the militancy of some Palestinians.

Perhaps Palestinians embody something that exists within many of us when we are repeatedly let down by forces beyond our control, when Murphy’s Law applies itself over and over, or when the narrow interests of the powerful few prevail incessantly over the needs of the majority. It’s a futile feeling that, whatever one does, nothing will really progress. This kind of thing happens everywhere but, in Palestine, people have internalised it and adapted to it more than is healthy for them.

I stayed at the Issa family’s place that night and next day Ibrahim took me to the school, where I was to stay in the volunteers’ accommodation on the top floor. Back again – and now to work.


Things don’t change a lot in Palestine, but one good thing that has changed is that Hope Flowers’ methods and philosophy is now being replicated across the Palestinian school system in the West Bank – this was a major breakthrough a few years ago. However, the school still struggles on financially under, as always, difficult constraints.

The book’s website is here: www.palden.co.uk/pop