An A-Z of Life Strategies

by Alan Wakeman
These reflections on the daily dilemmas we all meet on our passage through life have been garnered from events, books, friends and enemies I've encountered on my personal erratic trek through the past seven and a half decades.  (All entries without attributions are my own.)

Aches and Pains

Over three million years of evolution on this planet your body has developed many ways to protect and heal itself. When you cut yourself, for example, your body easily heals that cut without you. Similarly, it cures its infections, mends its broken bones and heals its diseases. So the best way to assist healing is to get out of the way of your three-million-year-old healer by learning conscious skills to provide it with the space and energy it needs to keep itself well.

Summarised from The Well Body Book, Mike Samuels M.D. and Hal Bennett, Random House Inc., New York 1973.

I've followed the above advice since I first read it the year it was published. Take the example of the common cold. Treat the first symptom as a warning that your body needs a break, go to bed, rest and drink lots of water and your three million-year-old healer can use all its energy to defeat the infection. You may be astonished how quickly you recover.
   But do as most people do, buy a cold treatment and carry on as usual and you not only prevent your innate healer from working but spread the infection to others. Unfortunately, cold treatments have far worse consequences because they suppress the very symptoms that are part of your body's struggle with the infection. Your nose runs because your immune system's trying to wash away the germs. The more you suppress the symptoms, the longer it will take your body to defeat the infection. Besides, most of the discomfort stops if you lie down. It's gravity that causes your nose to run and constant wiping that leads to soreness.
   As a result of such misinterpretations, many people never fully recover from colds, instead spending uncomfortable months coughing, sniffling and spreading infection to their fellow sufferers.

Other recommended reading
Treat Your Own Back, Treat Your Own Neck, Robin MacKenzie, Spinal Publications New Zealand Ltd. 1985.
The Massage Book, George Downing, Penguin, 1990.

See also Pain


"Prosperity doth best discover vice;
but adversity doth best discover virtue.

Francis Bacon (1561 - 1626)


For a four year old child a year represents a quarter of its entire life, for a seventy year old less than one per cent and no matter how we count - in days, months, years or decades - this same law of diminishing perception applies. This is one reason few old people envy the young. If you're young and don't believe it, ask your grandmother!

Come, fill the Cup, and in the fire of Spring
Your Winter-garment of Repentance fling:
The Bird of Time has but a little way
To flutter - and the Bird is on the Wing.

RubŠyŠt of Omar KhayyŠm,
Translated by Edward Fitzgerald, William Collins Sons & Co., London 1859

Try cutting out all animal produce.

Recommended reading
Mind and Body, Stephen Black, Kimber, London 1969.

See also Health from Seven Reasons to be Vegan

By nature I'm gentle and peace-loving so when I was threatened by a knife-wielding intruder many years ago I was astounded how my anger at his unprovoked attack instantly transformed me into a raging beast who was unaccountably able to throw him to the floor and disarm him in a trice. Discovery of the protective value of my anger was an important step on my personal road towards understanding the weird and wonderful way human beings behave - and, coincidentally, to some of these reflections. But if anger is turned inwards and expressed as guilt or shame, it becomes self-destructive and, pushed to the extreme, can lead to suicide. So our task is to learn to direct it outwards, to become assertive without becoming aggressive. If fear of your anger holds you back, try the following technique:

  1. Mark a special week in your diary as a period when you will practise calm passivity about some daily event or behaviour that normally angers you.
  2. Remind yourself each morning that your objective is to remain calm when confronted with examples of it.
  3. Observe what happens.
I was angry with my friend:
I told my wrath, my wrath did end.
I was angry with my foe:
I told it not, my wrath did grow.

Songs of Experience, William Blake, (1794)

I'm seventy-five now and occasionally detect twinges of arthritis. I've discovered that if I cut out tea and coffee completely for two weeks it simply disappears. It costs nothing and works for me so not why not try it yourself? A neat side effect is that I rediscover the wonderful aroma of coffee and the crisp flavour of tea when I start taking them again. Friends report that cutting out animal fat (milk, eggs, butter, cheese) has the same effect, but as a vegan I don't consume any so can't confirm this.


We are the flute.
Our music is Thine.

Rümi, Persian mystic poet.

In 1954 I was doing my military service at a training camp where hundreds of us national servicemen had to queue for meals outside a canteen known as Bloody Mary's. Everyday as the doors opened a six foot hulk arrived and pushed in at the front of the queue, despite much muttering from the rest of us who had sometimes been waiting for an hour in the pouring rain. One day I was third in line and when the hulk arrived I grabbed his beret, handed it to the man behind me and said: "Pass this to the back of the queue!" The hulk looked daggers at me, marched off to the end of the line to recover it, then marched straight back, shoved his face an inch from mine, and growled: "When I get you off camp, clever dick, your number will be up!"
   About two weeks later I was walking down the road into the local town when I saw the six foot hulk cycling up the hill towards me. My stomach turned over. Was my number "up"? He waved, grinned and shouted: "All right, mate!" My conclusions:

  • Bullies depend on the collusion of victims.
  • We gain respect by defending our space.


What the caterpillar calls the end of the world,
the master calls a butterfly.

Illusions-Adventures of a Reluctant Messiah
Richard Bach, Doubleday 1977

When I was young I worried about what people thought about me.
When I was middle-aged I didn't care what they thought about me.
Now I'm old I know that they don't think about me at all.

Alan Coren
English humorist and broadcaster.


Civilisation = courtesy + cooperation.

Here's a thought from Unzipped - my personal book of dreams:

Even the most skilled can be trapped,
caught in webs spun from their own cleverness.
So learn the wisdom of silence, supplicant,
and hold fast to its quick
through thin and thick.

Freedom has no meaning unless you exercise it but to exercise it you must commit yourself to someone or something. Therefore, to experience true freedom, you must learn to make - and honour - commitments.

Every time you receive a compliment, offer one to someone else.

It takes more courage to resist violence with peace and love than with yet more violence. If you can't manage peace and love, at least try to respond with courtesy...


Courtesy + cooperation = civilisation.


I May Not Be Totally Perfect, But Parts of Me Are Excellent
Ashley Brilliant, Woodbridge Press, California, 1979.


"All cruelty springs from weakness."

Seneca (4 BC - 65 AD)

A date is a commitment you make to someone else. Honouring commitments is vital for your self-esteem as well as your date's. Anyone who fails to honour a commitment to another merits the same treatment. This includes you!

Coping with being stood up:

Once  - Forgive and forget. We all make mistakes.
Twice - Tell them how you feel.
Thrice - Refuse all future dates. Explain that their actions have resulted in future meetings depending on chance encounters.

In the latter case, you may find comfort in the thought that you may have had a lucky escape because those who fail to honour commitments to others are unworthy of true friendship. (This includes you too!)

See Commitment and Unpunctuality

During his last decade my father suffered from Parkinson's Disease. As a result he completely lost his desire to dominate which had always made communication with his family difficult. As the disease progressed he virtually stopped speaking altogether and became gentler and more appreciative of our attempts to understand what he needed or wanted. Finally, when it was clear he was dying, I painted and sent him this card to reassure and comfort him on what turned out to be his last birthday:

My father's last birthday card.

And at the exact moment of his death, he said:

"There's nothing wrong.
You're just having a bad dream."

Some years after my father uttered those wise wonderful words I had a "good" dream myself which I offer here in the hope that it might be of comfort to any reader who fears death:

A Dream of Death

I was one of a huge crowd of stark naked strangers chastened by the knowledge that we had all just died and were waiting our turn to enter a dark fissure in a vast cliff that stretched away into the distance.
    When it was my turn to enter the fissure I discovered that, inside the cliff, it stretched away to a distant shaft of brilliant white light. Wordlessly, meekly, we shuffled along a vertiginous corridor lined with perfectly square doors mirroring each other on either side. The doors were all unmarked but somehow each of our line of silent souls knew its unique door and went humbly in.
     Thus I found my door and entered a glowing white cube with no apparent features of any kind - except a tiny pinprick of black in the centre of the facing wall. I approached it and suddenly understood that infinite divine compassionate love lay beyond it. I fell to my knees and began recounting my lifetime of errors. The mysterious consciousness behind the pinprick remained silent until at last I began weeping and somehow knew all my neighbouring souls were weeping too, each in its personal prison. Thus, separately and collectively we each knew our true worth as equal divine beings. One by one we left our cells and rejoined the line of shuffling still-silent souls.
     Back in the corridor, each soul saw that the gap between each door now displayed a photograph of its shriven soul in its moment of utter isolation and despair. But we also somehow knew that each would be spared the sight of its own image in that gallery of desolation.
    After what felt like years I arrived at the end of the corridor, stepped out into a square of dazzling daylight and awoke, safe, at home, in my bed.

And here are a few other dreams on the subject which are mostly taken from my latest published book: Unzipped - A Year of Dreams:

All that dies is the illusion
that any part of your being was ever separate.

We were born of cosmic dust
and must return to the stars, where,
released from its earthly entrapment,
our spirit flies.
Do not mourn this elevation to a higher state.
Death, my beloved, is freedom
and may be celebrated.

The only part of us
that must die
is the only part that wonders why -
the part called

Death should be surrounded
by revelry, not despair.
It is the beginning of the greatest voyage of our lives,
it is the beginning of the homeward journey of the soul.

In a moment of jubilation,
yet while doubt rained down,
a splendid horse came to lead me away.
And I knew it was death who had come,
that my moment of truth had arrived.
But I knew too that the old man I was become
had no fear of this splendid spirit horse.
I mounted joyfully and rode away.

Love Solves Death

Finally on the subject of death, here's one of my favourite verses from Omar KhayyŠm's RubŠyŠt, translated by Edward Fitzgerald, William Collins Sons & Co., London 1859:

So when at last the Angel of the drink
Of Darkness finds you by the river-brink,
And, proffering his Cup, invites your Soul
Forth to your Lips to quaff it - do not shrink.

But Michel Montaigne should have the last word::

All the wisdom and reasoning in the world boils down
finally to this point: to teach us not to be afraid to die.

Montaigne (1533 - 1592 AD) Translated by Donald M. Frame. See also Grief

Here are two practical ways of finding out what you really want. Either...

  • Write your dilemma down as a Yes/No question.
    (e.g.: Shall I accept X's offer?)
  • Place it under your pillow.
  • Sleep on it.
  • The first thought that enters your head on waking is your answer.


  • Write your dilemma on a sheet of paper as before.
  • Make For and Against columns.
  • Enter everything you can think of For and everything you can think of Against.
  • Your decision will make itself.

If despite all this the result turns out badly, you can comfort yourself that you made your decision responsibly and turn your attention to what can be learned from the outcome.

Despair stems from low self-esteem. How you feel about yourself is your responsibility. Self-esteem based on other peopleís opinions is fugitive. A helpful thought came to me in a dream which I've tried to apply ever since and find works for me:

A kindness a day keeps despair at bay.

You have the power to change your state of mind at any time. (If youíre feeling low right now you wonít have enjoyed reading that!) Whatever your state of mind now, try this simple exercise:

Stand up and close your eyes. Imagine youíre suspended by an invisible rope from the crown of your head. Imagine the weight of your body pulling your spine downwards as you hang from this rope. Notice that youíve grown an inch or so. Note how much better you feel. Note how you feel as you relax back into your normal posture.

So the power to feel better about yourself is yours all the time. What do you think it tells you about yourself if you donít want to feel better? Whatever it tells you may clarify your current dilemma. Remember also:

We have three heavenly gifts: hope, sleep and laughter.

Emmanuel Kant.

See also Self-esteem.

"You are what you eat." is only a truism because it's true. Every cell of your body begins with sunlight falling on green leaves. Consider the implications of this: it means we are literally made of sunlight! Even the meat beloved by inveterate carnivores starts as sunlight falling on the leaves of plants eaten by grazing herbivores.

See Eat well to stay well
      Seven reasons to be vegan

A practical technique for dealing with an attack of general everyday distress is to compile a list of simple, personal everyday pleasures. Try it and see how quickly you feel more centered. Here are a few items from the authorís current list as an example:

The smell of roasting coffee.
Walking in the rain.
Making bread.
The blackbird that sings outside my kitchen window.
Lying snug in bed, listening to the rain outside.
My favourite comedy radio programme.
A glass of wine with my supper.
Listening to the music of Bach, Boyce, Purcell, Vivaldi, Handel,
Mozart, Beethoven, Pink Floyd, the Beatles etc.
Having dinner with an old friend.

Here are two more entries from Unzipped - my book of dreams:

Unequivocal statements and certainty are the signs of a charlatan.

Doubt, though painful, is the key
to life's eternal mystery.

Who holds the key to loving
on the superhuman shore
if not the very doubter
who brought you here
from far

If you don't believe dreams are important, ask yourself why men have erections when they dream, or why people who are prevented from dreaming suffer nervous collapse.
    Why not keep a dream book by your bed? Unzipped, my "Year of Dreams" on this site was a direct result of my doing this and here's just one example of the many wonderful ideas that were revealed to me as a result:

Arching through foreign skies
on aching journies of tremulous pain,
the soul travels incognito through the night
seeking the subtle skills of time travel
and the unravelling of truant distance
to rediscover its moment
of original departure.

See also Inner Being

Here's another entry from Unzipped - my book of dreams:

Ice cold
and free
the soul
conducts its journies
without reference to "I" or "me".
In the deep of the night
it accomplishes the real business of the day.
In fancy's flight it soars and roars
the one true way.


Give thanks for a strong enemy.

Ancient Chinese proverb.

Without knowledge of evil how can good begin? Without understanding of death how can life be celebrated?

Is God willing to prevent evil, but not able? Then he is impotent.
Is he able, but not willing? Then he is malevolent.
Is he both able and willing? Whence then comes evil?
Is he neither able nor willing? Then why call him God?

Epicurus (circa 341-270 BC)

Walking is the best exercise there is. It's also free and doesn't damage the environment. Avoid lifts! (U.S. "elevators".) Walking up several flights of stairs is good for your heart, legs and general circulation. One of the most absurd sights of modern urban life is people taking lifts to skyscaper gymnasia to spend hours walking up virtual stairs using electric exercise machines that not only waste their money, but harm our environment expending unnecessary energy and using up fossil fuel. The healthiest way to do longer journies, is to cycle.
    It's also beneficial to stretch your whole body luxuriously like a cat before rising from your bed every morning. (If you find this induces cramps in your calves, stretch from your hands to your heels first, then from your hands to your toes.) Best of all, do Seven Sun Salutations - a simple daily stretching exercise to keep you supple, like this:

Stand tall
and relaxed.
2 Inhale
Stretch up
and back.
3 Exhale
Relax forward. Don't force.
4 Inhale
Throw one leg back, raise head.
5 Hold breath
Throw other
leg back.
6 Exhale
Lower knees, chest and face to floor..
7 Inhale
Lift trunk
and head.
8 Exhale
Fold in two.
9 Inhale
Throw same
leg forward.
10 Exhale
Throw other leg forward and relax.
11 Inhale
Stretch up
and back.
12 Exhale
Stand tall
and relaxed.

See also
Relaxation exercises and Help green the planet

Every living thing is an experiment. That includes you.

Here's another entry from Unzipped - my book of dreams:

towards an unknown future,
eyes wide,
face clear,
who can deny that to live at all
is an act of daily faith?

Details may differ but the broad sweep of our little lives remains the same. The famous and great feel no less and no more than the meek and poor. Fame and fortune are idle pursuits and will not get you wisdom. At the moment of death alone lies the discovery of your true accomplishments.

  • Our task is to discover who we are.
  • Anonymity is required to accomplish this.
  • Desire for fame expresses low self-esteem, nothing more.

The strongest poison ever known
Came from Caesar's laurel crown.

William Blake 1757-1827

Fame is a poison good to take in little doses.

From A Daughter of Eve by Balzac.

See also Self-Esteem

I've never paid any heed to fashion, but every few years someone tells me my clothes are fashionable, imagining they're paying me a compliment! A fact I find amusing because I've always simply worn practical everyday clothes in the bright colours I've also used to decorate my home. Nevertheless, the way we dress reveals important truths about ourselves (See Nudity) and if you allow others to dictate how you take care of your hair and beard and the very clothes on your back, you will never discover your true worth.
    To the discerning eye, men look better if they let their hair and beards grow into the shape nature intended and women look better without all that garish paint on their faces
because, may I point out, men's beards and moustaches are as much a part of our faces as our eyebrows and ears, and women's eyes and lips are more beautiful when they aren't plastered with make up. But few men and women seem to understand this or even have any idea what they truly look like. If you don't believe me, if you imagine you shave for purely practical reasons, why don't you shave your eyebrows off each morning? Conversely, why don't women shave their scalps instead of their armpits, and put lipstick on their noses rather than their mouths? The sad truth is that the fashion industry is a gigantic con trick that preys on vulnerable people's insecurities for the sole purpose of profit. A plague on it!

Those who make their dress a principal part of themselves, will,
in general, become of no more value than their dress.

William Hazlitt (1770-1830)
English essayist and inhabitant of Soho, London.
From The Clerical Character.

Forgiveness heals the forgiver as much as the forgiven - so forgive for your own sake too.

Oh Thou, who Man of baser Earth didst make,
And ev'n with Paradise devise the Snake:
For all the Sin the Face of wretched Man
is black with - Man's forgiveness give - and take!

Omar KhayyŠm
RubŠyŠt, Translated by Edward Fitzgerald,
William Collins Sons & Co., London 1859.


He who binds to himself a joy,
Doth the winged life destroy;
But he who kisses the joy as it flies
Lives in Eternity's sunrise.

William Blake
Poems from the Note-book
, London 1793.

Friendship, like plants, needs watering to thrive.

We are composed of more than three trillion living cells every one of which has our unique DNA at its core but no single cell has a label that reads: "This is the centre of your being." When we say "I" and "me" it's shorthand for this personal cosmos of living cells acting as a whole.
   Planet earth is a similar collection of living cells - referred to as "Gaia" by the author and scientist, James Lovelock - and you and I are a part of her - as well as every individual mote of dust, pebble, crystal and grain of sand. My personal belief is that moments of heightened awareness, of universal consciousness, or overwhelming feelings of the immanence of god are all the result of Gaia's attention momentarily passing through one of us. Although such feelings are compelling they don't solve the problems of everyday life. And why should they? After all, if you place your conscious awareness momentarily in your left thumb, you don't expect it to have a fit, stop being your thumb, withdraw to a mountaintop and start meditating on life and the stunning fact of your existence. Its job is to be your thumb, nothing more and nothing less. And your job is to be who you are. Luckily, there's no way to fail at this, though the experience may entail suffering and despair.

"Öas the atmosphere circulates water, dust, spores, pollen, seeds, lichen, microbes, insects, spiders, birds, bats, man and other odd beings and baggage, acting somewhat as the planet's breath, which is occasionally infectious as well as refreshing, so is the sea a kind of blood to the Earth's living body that continuously conveys not only all the obvious creatures but, along with the already mentioned invisible ones, immeasurable quantities of germ cells, eggs, hormones, enzymes, vitamins, chemicals and other mysterious, subtle secretions that influence and coordinate the whole in space and time."

The Seven Mysteries of Life, Guy Murchie, Houghton Mifflin 1999.

Recommended reading
The Ages of Gaia, James Lovelock, Oxford University Press 1995.

See also Help green the planet

As a gay man myself, I could write a thick book on this topic alone because my personal belief is that sexual diversity is essential leavening in the human loaf. For the moment let me briefly relate that my direct personal experience was that my sexuality ceased to be a problem for me as soon as I found the strength to come out and live my life openly and truthfully.
   But anyone who's been through this traumatic event knows how much courage it takes and, remember, many gay people live in states that treat us as, at best, second-class citizens and, at worst, as criminals. So here's a thought for those still struggling to find the courage to come out:

Supreme excellence in warfare lies in the destruction of
your enemy's will to resist in advance of perceptible hostilities.

Sun Tsu (500 B.C. Chinese warlord philosopher.)

       See What exactly is heterosexuality, and what causes it?


If he is infinitely good,
what reason should we have to fear him?
If he is infinitely wise,
why should we have doubts concerning our future?
If he knows all,
why warn him of our needs and fatigue him with our prayers?
If he is everywhere,
why erect temples to him?

Percy Bysshe Shelley
(From The Necessity of Atheism)

"By virtue of his reflective faculties, man is raised out of the animal world, and by his mind he demonstrates that nature has put a high premium precisely upon the development of consciousness. Through consciousness he takes possession of nature by recognising the existence of the world and thus, as it were, confirming the Creator. The world becomes the phenomenal world, for without conscious reflection it would not be. If the Creator were conscious of Himself, He would not need conscious creatures; nor is it probable that the extremely indirect methods of creation, which squander millions of years upon the development of countless species and creatures, are the outcome of purposeful intention. Natural history tells us of a haphazard and casual transformation of species over hundreds of millions of years of devouring and being devoured. The biological and political history of man is an elaborate repetition of the same thing. But the history of the mind offers a different picture. Here the miracle of reflecting consciousness intervenes - the second cosmogony. The importance of consciousness is so great that one cannot help suspecting the element of meaning to be concealed somewhere within all the monstrous, apparently senseless biological turmoil, and that the road to its manifestation was ultimately found on the level of warm-blooded vertebrates possessed of a differentiated brain - found as if by chance, unintended and unforeseen, and yet somehow sensed, felt and groped for out of some dark urge."

From Memories, Dreams, Reflections, Carl Gustav Jung. Originally published in German as Erinnerungen, Träuma, Gedanken, Random House, 1961.

Every single person you know and every single person you care for will die one day. The only thing we don't know is when, or whether we or they will die first. So there is literally no way to escape grief. But here are a few techniques and strategies to help you to survive the loss of beloved friends and family. They are based on personal experience which has taught me that grieving takes many years.

Visit places you and your beloved went together.
Make a pilgrimage to the place your beloved died.
Make a pilgrimage to the place your beloved was born.
Make an album of photographs, letters and souvenirs of your beloved. (Restrict working on it to half an hour a day.)
And above all, let yourself cry - in private if you prefer - because...

As water is to the body so tears are to the soul.

We all have a dark side. Denying this uncomfortable truth only gives it power and may lead to truly terrible consequences. One way to deal with it is to acknowledge feelings of hate as they occur. Here are a few techniques and strategies:

  • Stand erect with your eyes closed and your hands hanging by your sides.
  • Imagine your hatred as slime covering your hands and fingers.
  • Throw the slime away by flicking your hands from the wrist . (You'll know it's working when your feet start to bounce!)


  • Carry out unexpected acts of kindness to strangers.
  • Punch a cushion while visualising the object of your hatred. (Don't get carried away and hurt your wrists!)
  • Sit comfortably, close your eyes and repeat the following mantra till it loses all meaning:

Out! Out! Out! Rage, fear and doubt!

Recommended reading
Memories, Dreams, Reflections, C.G. Jung, Fontana Library of Theology and Philosophy, London 1967.

See also A Universal Daily Prayer


Eat well to stay well
Seven Reasons to be Vegan
Help Green the Planet

Recommended reading
You Can Heal Your Life, Louise L. Hay, Hay House Inc., Santa Monica CA USA 1984, 1987.

As a member of the majority, it's all too easy to take your social privileges for granted. But if you want to know how it feels when they're taken away, have a look at a wall poster I originally wrote in 1975 as a light-hearted fund-raiser for the world's first ever season of gay plays in London's West End. I've heard reports of sightings from New York to New Zealand, Sydney to Sao Paulo and recently discovered it on an Internet page where it had scored more than a million hits. For the record, it's all my own work and, although I originally wrote it as a contribution to the gay community and have never made a penny from it, I do ask for my name to be included in any quotation. (Note: if you want a hard copy you can right-click it (PCs) or ctrl+click it (MACs), save the image to your hard drive (as a gif) and print it out in the usual way.)

What exactly is heterosexuality? And what causes it?

Here are a few reasons to be cheerful all taken from Unzipped - my book of dreams:
It should be easy for intrepid travellers like us, surrounded as we are by miracles. Failure to notice them is merely a want of perception. We already hold the key to loving and can easily become happy poets or simply learn to enjoy our perplexity. After all, we've done so much already. We possess superabundant wealth and we all passed last night among the stars accomplishing the real business of the day before the sun - or we - rose this morning. Think how much more you can do in a world as miraculous as this. You've already demonstrated thousands of tiny acts of daily faith. So if you sometimes feel lost just remember that you embody a secret globe of peace that will help you hold fast to your inner being and above all, that you have a homing device.
   If you doubt any of this, remember that doubt is a virtue. And if you're still unconvinced, try silence before facing the freedom that death alone will bring.

Here's another entry from Unzipped - my book of dreams:

A torrent of words swarms into view,
each clamouring to be the chosen one.
But deep and quiet lies the clue
to the meanings they wish to fix themselves upon.
And holy silence is the key
to their constant cries of "Me!" "Me!" "Me!"

One day in the sun
lying down
stretching my legs
along the ground,
at my ease
among the flowers,
I saw a little spider
no bigger than a speck
trying to build its web
between a flower and my leg.
Stupid helpless creature,
(the thought came unasked)
to spend its time and energy
on such a fruitless task.
For the life of that web
depended on me;
and such a huge important being
was never going to bother
with a tiny little spider
no bigger than a speck.
Why, the moment I decided
to simply move my leg
all its time and effort
would be a useless wreck.

But then another thought came to me
lying in the grass:
what if all our cities
and all our works of art,
what if all our learning
and all our careful plans
are like that spider's web
spun between a flower and a man?
And the flower is the Earth
and the man is Time.
And everything is relative
to those who know the rhyme.
What then my friends?
What then?

Like the little spider
trying to build its web,
we would hurry to and fro
between the flower and the leg
stupid helpless creatures
who no one thought to ask
spending time and energy
on all our fruitless tasks,
the life of our webs
depending on another
that never shows its face
that isn't of this earth
but of another Time and Space.

If I have seen further it is by standing on the shoulders of giants.

Sir Isaac Newton (1642-1727)

If you feel it's your duty to try to improve the world, just remember...

Today's solutions create tomorrow's problems.


"I do not know what I may appear to the world, but to myself I seem to have been only a boy playing on the sea-shore, and diverting myself in now and then finding a smoother pebble or a prettier shell than ordinary, whilst the great ocean of truth lay all undiscovered before me."

Sir Isaac Newton (1642-1727)


The soul that rises with us, our life's star,
Hath had elsewhere its setting,
And cometh from afar;
Not in entire forgetfulness,
And not in utter nakedness,
But trailing clouds of glory do we come
From God, who is our home:
Heaven lies about us in our infancy!
Shades of the prison-house begin to close
Upon the growing boy.

William Wordsworth (1770-1850)
From Intimations of Immortality.

Inner Being
If you donít believe weíve got one, why do we say "Iíll sleep on it." when faced with a problem? Besides, who else do you think does your dreaming? Here's yet another of my ideas generated from Unzipped - my book of dreams:

Hold fast to your inner being
and countless facets
of a hidden diamond
will throw beams of multicoloured light
into the bowl of eternity
illuminating your darkest fears.

There is a place in all of us that is available at all times, and our inability to make contact with another human being is our own inability to get out of the place we are stuck in.

Doing Your Own Being, Baba Ram Dass, Neville Spearman Ltd. London 1973.


A kindness a day
keeps despair at bay.

On that best portion of a good man's life;
His little, nameless, unremembered acts
Of kindness and of love.

From Lines written a few miles above Tintern Abbey
William Wordsworth (London, 1798)

Intuition is a combination of intelligence, observation and imagination. Women are encouraged in it, men discouraged, but we all have all these qualities and can all develop them further. Techniques and strategies include:

  • Observe people in public places (cafés, buses, etc.) and ask yourself what are the best and worst things that have ever happened to them? What makes them happy? What makes them unhappy? Do you trust them? (It doesnít matter if youíre right. Thatís not the point.)

  • Try reading your friendsí palms. (It doesnít matter if you believe in palmistry.) The object is to awaken your intuitive powers. Read a book on hand-reading first to learn the vital lines. An added bonus is that it gives you a reason for touching people. But note, because everyone loves hearing about themselves, if you start doing someone in a group, a queue will quickly form and youíll become the most popular person there.


The laws of God, the laws of man,
He may keep that will and can;
Not I: let God and man decree

Laws for themselves and not for me;

And if my ways are not as theirs

Let them mind their own affairs.

Their deeds I judge and much condemn,

Yet when did I make laws for them?

Please yourselves, say I, and they

Need only look the other way.

But no, they will not; they must still

Wrest their neighbour to their will,

And make me dance as they desire

With jail and gallows and hell-fire.

And how am I to face the odds

Of manís bedevilment and Godís?

I, a stranger and afraid

In a world I never made.

They will be master, right or wrong;

Though both are foolish, both are strong.

And since, my soul, we cannot fly

To Saturn nor to Mercury,

Keep we must, if keep we can,

These foreign laws of God and Man.

A.E. Housman


The mystery of life is not a problem to be solved,
but a reality to be experienced.

Van der Leeuw

Great cities multiply chance encounters with strangers until they become a daily commonplace. Yet every such encounter could still be the beginning of a marvellous adventure. This is the excitement of the city; this is why we put up with the pandemonium and the pace, the pollution and the pressure.
   How paradoxical then that we should spend so much of our time pretending those people queuing with us for the bus, or sitting next to us in a restaurant, are not there at all! And how paradoxical the consequences of our dishonesty! For as a result of it our fellow citizens become as isolated from us as the myriad dummies arranged in graceful poses in glittering shop windows all over the city.
   Why do we continue with this folly despite the inescapable truth that, like us, every one of our fellow citizens has lived a life of 60-minute hours, 24-hour days, 365-day years, year in and year out, leading inexorably to that inescapable moment of miraculous clarity when we finally understand that simple acknowledgement of their equality dissolves loneliness forever?

"... a thimbleful of water is only midway between an H2O molecule and the oceans, so that if you should dump a thimble of water into Liverpool Harbor today and wait a few years for thorough diffusion, you probably could not dip a thimbleful out of the Straits of Magellan or Tokyo Bay without its including at least a few molecules of the same water."

Music of the Spheres, Guy Murchie, Houghton Miffin, New York 1961.

It follows that every molecule of water in your body has been in every ocean and every human body in the world. So, no matter how lonely you feel, it is simply a statement of the truth to say that we are all literally made of the same stuff.

Be humble for you are made of dung.
Be noble for you are made of stars.

Serbian Proverb.


An ounce of love
is worth a ton of sex.

Peter Granger (1953 - 1986)

Children of the Future Age
Reading this indignant page,
Know that in a former time

Love! sweet Love!
Was thought a crime.

William Blake
Songs of Experience
, London, 1794.

Here are two more entries from Unzipped - my book of dreams:

Insubstantial though it may be
the soul carries weight where it counts:
it mounts the vortices of spirit
like a lark in summer the columns of warming air,
accomplishing distance without transference,
a formless projectile
with a homing device
called love.

Superabundant wealth is having love to spare.
Crippling poverty is having only things.

Recommended reading
The Art of Loving, Erich Fromm, Unwin Publishers., London 1975.

Here are two amusing procedures for coping with the healthy, normal human attribute of lust. They work, are easy to do and have at least two pleasant side effects: first, they reveal that lustful feelings can be enjoyed without producing a corresponding desire to do anything about them; second, they reveal that it's agreeable to view desirable beings as gorgeous blooms in a public garden where we may walk for our delight provided we don't try to pick the flowers:

  1. Resolve to remain entirely passive for one week and observe how it changes the way other people respond to you.

  2. When out walking, count everyone you pass till you see someone who attracts you then restart your count from zero. Repeat this procedure till you've discovered an average figure for the proportion of humanity that excites you. (Prepare to be astonished!)

If you find one of your friends spends most of your time together condemning the behaviour of other, absent, shared friends, you can be sure they do exactly the same to you when you're the one who's not there. Avoidance is the best policy towards such wounded souls - unless you truly wish to take on the thankless task of helping them shoulder the pain that has resulted in such self-destructive behaviour.


Recommended reading
The Massage Book, George Downing, Penguin, London 1990.

Everyone experiences monthly mood cycles which have profound affects on how we feel about life. If you don't believe it, keep a chart of your daily disposition for a few months and observe your growing understanding of yourself. Try scoring the following aspects out of ten every night before going to bed:

  1. General well-being.
  2. Appetite.
  3. Physical energy.
  4. Friendliness to others.
  5. Sex drive.

You might be surprised at the outcome.

For more than twenty years (in the days when my books were earning enough to permit it) I spent my summers on a beautiful Mediterranean island called the Ile du Levant where, among many other attractions, everyone could and did swim and sunbathe naked, weather permitting. So I know by direct personal experience that nudity promotes calm repose and simple honesty while clothing promotes nervous prevarication and unavoidable deceit. I once spent five continuous months there and still remember my shock on my return to the mainland at how ugly everyone looked in their crinkly, ill-fitting, flirtatious, fashionable, casual clothing. Try it yourself and discover this important truth: Naked people look you directly in the eyes when conversing with you. So it's by direct personal experience that I know the heavy price we pay for the physical comfort of clothes; and, more importantly, that those who haven't been fortunate enough - or brave enough - to experience their bodies in their natural state can't begin to realise how beneficial it is in every way.

Pain - Back/Neck
If you habitually hang your head (in shame!) your posture will be adversely affected and neck/and or back pain will be one certain result. Although the design of modern furniture rarely helps, most neck and back pains derive from bad posture which itself usually derives from low self-esteem. So, although the following basic exercises will definitely help relieve the physical symptoms, in the long run you will need to deal with the root cause of your pain by learning to hold your head high and walk tall - an impossibility if you don't love yourself!

  1. Before rising from your bed each morning, stretch your whole body luxuriously like a cat.
  2. Do ten minutes of Sun Salutations every day.

    Recommended reading
    Treat Your Own Back, Treat Your Own Neck, Robin MacKenzie, Spinal Publications New Zealand Ltd. 1985.

    See also Arthritis, Exercise

Pain - Head
If you suffer from chronic headaches, you should consult a doctor, but mild ones can usually be gently stroked away with a simple face massage, so if you have a trusted friend don't hesitate to ask for one. (Remember - most people like to help others.)

Recommended reading
The Massage Book, George Downing, Penguin, London 1990.


As long as one man or woman remains a slave,
then the Messiah will not come.
For we shall make our own paradise or not have it at all.

Hunting Midnight, Richard Zimler, Delacorte Press, 2003.

Parties and how to survive them

  • Don't go if you don't enjoy them. (There are plenty of other ways of making friends.)
  • Leave the instant you've had enough.

    See Friends

  • Passive Aggression
    Everyone knows someone who despite being apparently quiet and meek manages to dominate any group they join. Many years ago I knew just such a man when he was a troubled teenager. One day a group of us went for a picnic on a beach. The sun was shining, the sea was blue, it was a lovely day and we were all happy, relaxed and smiling. Except this young man, who wouldn't join us but wouldn't go away. What he chose to do was to hover nearby and stare beseechingly at the group till I fell into his trap and accused him of anti-social behaviour, thereby confiming him in the victim role he'd chosen and justifying his outraged : "Who, 'ickle me?" response.
       Recently, twenty years later, I was walking along the street when I saw him sitting in a cafe and greeted him. I hadn't seen him for many years and was genuinely pleased and surprised to see him, especially as I'd heard he'd been ill and he was looking well, even prosperous. His response was to deliver a vile torrent of abuse at me using offensive swear words I choose not to repeat.
       On reflection, I realised this recent encounter confirmed what I'd detected all those years before - that, despite the victim role he'd chosen to play then, he had as much aggression and rage in him as everyone else on the planet. Of course. But I didn't enjoy this recent encounter and hope never to see him again. Nevertheless I prefer the honesty of his recent hostility to his counterfeit meekness then.

    The pace of life in modern cities is a recipe for stress and irritability and certainly doesn't nurture the virtue of patience; but the busiest person I know lives in splendid rural isolation where he still manages to spend every day rushing around doing "important tasks". So these calming techniques may be helpful for centring yourself wherever you happen to be - for example, during enforced waits for buses, trains or planes, or in long queues:

    • Say a Universal Daily Prayer.
    • Use the opportunity to correct your posture. (See Posture.)
    • Try to interpret the body language of those around you.
    • The human comedy is a non-stop road show. Find ten entertaining examples.

    Here's another of my ideas generated by dreaming Unzipped:

    Happy ending
    and hopeful beginning
    are separated only by a flash.
    For every moment is the beginning of eternity
    and every moment is the end of human history.
    So permit no distraught thoughts to how
    "then" and "soon" can parry
    their artificial divisions.
    Your present perplexity
    has existed always
    and will exist

    Recommended reading
    A Guide For The Perplexed, E. F. Schumacher, Jonathon Cape Ltd., London 1977.

    See Help Green the Planet

    Standing as tall as you can is guaranteed to help you feel better, whatever your current circumstances. Whenever you see someone with bad posture, use it as a useful reminder to check your own:

    Imagine youíre suspended by an invisible rope from the crown of your head. Imagine the weight of your body pulling your spine downwards as you hang from this rope. Notice that youíve grown an inch or so. Note how much better you feel. Note how you feel as you relax back into your normal posture.


    Poverty enobles. Wealth corrupts.

    The only power worth having is power over yourself. Practice self-discipline and watch your self-esteem grow.

    Twenty years ago a dear friend died of bronchitis. We had often discussed life's ineffable mysteries so when my sense of loss became unbearable I felt moved to say a silent blessing for him. Some months later I was overcome with doubt and began to wonder if it could possibly serve any purpose other than to comfort me. That night my friend came to me in a dream. "Everything for me comes directly to me," his dream self said and I awoke feeling comforted. I've never forgotten this magical gift of his. This is the silent blessing I used (and still use) whenever I think of someone I love:

    Bless you (name).
    May you live in peace and joy
    and light and love forever.
    And here's a prayer used in Tours Cathedral where St. Martin was Bishop 371-397 A.D.:

    May this candle I have lit
    be LIGHT from you
    to lighten my way through hardship and decisions.

    May it be FIRE from you
    to burn up my selfishness,
    my pride and all that is impure in me.

    May it be FLAME from you
    to warm my heart
    and teach me to love.

    I know I cannot stay long in your house.
    May this candle be a piece of myself
    that I offer you.
    Help me to continue my prayer
    in all that I do this day.

    See also Silent prayer
               Universal Daily Prayer


    I'm not interested in music, or any other form of art, that fails
    to stimulate enjoyment of life and, what is more, pride in life.

    Sir Thomas Beecham

    Click below for two simple relaxation exercises I've found helpful in times of crisis, one physical, the other spiritual:

    Relaxation Exercises

    Relaxation Exercises


    We all need a little satisfaction every day if we're to stay spiritually healthy. But it doesn't have to be important things. Set yourself simple projects (making bread, taking care of your plants, cleaning your home, painting a picture, writing a poem, ringing a friend etc.) so that as you lie down to sleep at night, the thought of those few small things accomplished sets your mind at rest.
       And remember, a simple cup of tea or coffee tastes as good to the poor and meek as it does to the rich and famous - indeed, it's easy to argue that it probably tastes better.

    See also Fame

    "Love your neighbour as you love yourself," say Christians, but seem not to notice the injunction is useless if you donít love yourself. Yet every day feelings of worthlessness lead desperate people to take their own lives and every day each of us must somehow find enough self-esteem to go on living despite lifeís bitter blows. Having good friends is a help but self-esteem based on the opinions of others is fugitive. Almost all the self-healing techniques here will help to escape the downward spiral of despair. Donít prejudge them! The mere fact of beginning starts the healing process:

    1) Compile a list of everyone youíve ever known. Take as long as you like but start today observing your self-esteem on a daily basis as you proceed. Try to add more names every day till you reach, say, two hundred. Ignore that voice that says your memory isn't good enough - you donít have to think of two hundred at once, just a few each day. Here are the first few names from my personal list as an example of how easy it is to start...

    Auntie Nellie 
    Auntie Ida 
         Uncle Frank
    Auntie Winnie 
         Uncle Eric 
         Auntie Dora 
    Uncle Dudley 
         Auntie Dot 
    Uncle Philip 

    2) Remember that taking good care of your body is an effective way of expressing love for yourself which still works when you find it a bore.
    3) Give yourself occasional (healthy!) treats: a bowl of your favourite cereal, a glass of wine with your supper, a visit to your favourite place. (But be careful! Indulging addictions - such as smoking - express and encourage low self esteem!)

    Recommended reading
    You Can Heal Your Life, Louise L. Hay, Hay House Inc., Santa Monica 1984, 1987.

    See also Despair

    Joyful serenity can be attained by all who accept life mindfully. But note that it is not a reward for good behaviour, nor is failure to achieve it a punishment for bad. It is merely the blossom that flowers at the end of each branch of the tree of life. Be patient, your bud is forming. The blossom will be yours!

    Within moments of your birth the question: "Is it a girl or a boy?" was almost certainly asked and answered, and the seemingly inescapable process of pigeon-holing the miraculous diversity of your humanity had begun.
       But did you know that there's an island in the Caribbean where a significant proportion of girls turn into boys at puberty? Did you know that much of our understanding of the true nature of our sexual anatomy is derived in part from scientific research carried out on that island? Did you know that it is now generally accepted by the scientific world that the natural form of the human is female? Did you know that the male embryo has to follow an extraordinarily difficult route if it is to make it as a man? Did you know that the embryo has both male and female interior anatomy, that all men have vestigial vaginas and all women have vestigial penises? (Have you never asked yourself why men have nipples?)
       The scientifically proven truth is that maleness is achieved - with varying degrees of success - by hormonal activity in the mother's womb before birth, during babyhood and again, vitally, at puberty. The outcome of these complex bodily processes is far from a foregone conclusion and widespread variations are common.
       One mother on the Caribbean island, four of whose six sons had started out as daughters, was asked if she found this fact troubling. "No," she said. "It's God's work and God knows what he's doing." Thereby showing more simple goodness and humility than those deeply troubled souls all over the world who prescribe how men and women should behave.

    An ounce of love
    is worth a ton of sex.

    Peter Granger (1953 - 1986)

    See also Diversity

    Here's are two more entries from Unzipped- my book of dreams:

    Into the black vaults of night
    the soul's messengers
    streak halfway to the stars
    before thought can even begin
    its stately journey.
    What secrets are uncovered
    by these mighty curves?
    What tasks accomplished,
    that the daily self
    might sleep thus all unknowing?

    Entering outer space from inner
    we must put on our space suits,
    for the inner being cannot function
    in the world of objects
    without the protection
    of its shell of flesh.

    Take good care of your teeth and you can keep them for life. Though having a check up once a year is a good idea, what you do at home will have a far more positive affect on your dental destiny than anything your dentist can do. In particular it's vital to thoroughly remove plaque at least once a day. (If you're not sure what it is or how to do it properly, see a dental hygienist.)

    Recommended reading
    Good Mouthkeeping, A Parents' Guide to Dental Care, John Besford, Oxford University Press 1984.

    See also Eat Well to Stay Well

    Travel - Top Ten Travel Tips...

    • Never carry anything important in a shoulder-bag. (If you have to carry a lot of cash, keep it in a money-belt or Tubigrip.
    • Make a list of the numbers of your passport, credit and cheque cards, driving licence, International Driving Permit and travellers' cheques (together with the address of the refunding agency) and put a copy in each item of your luggage. See Blank security information sheet
    • Take a torch.
    • Take a universal plug.
    • Take an effective insect repellent.
    • Always ask to see a hotel room before accepting it.

    Plus, for hot countries...

    • Have a gamma globulin injection against hepatitis A.
    • Take the appropriate malaria pills from one week before leaving to six weeks after you return home.
    • Keep a supply of pure water in a flask, so that you're never forced to drink infected water.
    • Take a diarrhoea remedy for times (such as on a long bus journey) when you have no access to a lavatory.

    Here's another of my ideas generated by dreaming Unzipped:

    Make no mistake!
    Be on your guard!
    Whenever there's trouble
    come down on them hard!
    They're all out to get you -
    you know that it's true -
    so get them before they get you!
    Don't ever trust!
    Don't show that you care
    or admit that you're lonely!
    Don't ever dare!
    Follow these rules
    and none will suspect
    your soft inner part
    or try to connect
    with your true inner heart.

    Every time you tell a lie you place a brick in a wall that, if you persist, will rise up and separate you from your fellows forever.

    Truth lies within ourselves; it takes no rise from outward things, what'er you may believe. There is an inmost centre in us all, where truth abides in fullness and to know rather consists in opening out a way whence the imprisoned splendour may escape than in effecting entry for light supposed to be without.

    Robert Browning

    If you arrive late for every appointment and have a collection of individuals permanently waiting for you to show up somewhere, I suggest that you're practising passive aggression at your friends' expense. This is not only inconsiderate, but unkind. Once you've made the decision to honour your friends' time as you do your own, it's simple to allow enough time for the journey and a little extra for the unexpected.

    See also Passive Aggression


    Poverty enobles. Wealth corrupts.

    The world is more marvellous than we can know. Exaggeration is impossible. Stupendous discoveries await all with an inkling to conceive them. Through its puritanical filter pedestrian power rarely glimpses what throws geniuses out of kilter.


    Getting and spending, we lay waste our powers.

    William Wordsworth

    The Final Word
    Here's the last of my ideas generated by dreaming Unzipped:

    The final word
    of the most brilliant thought
    which can be expressed
    is no more than the first word
    of that thought to which we strive.

    Text & Illustrations Copyright Alan Wakeman © 2011

    Contact Alan Wakeman
    Publications Publications Site Map
    Site Map
    Home Page Site Exit Contact Alan Wakeman