When did spirituality become sexy?
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We've all told numerous fibs, 'white' lies of convenience to defuse awkward situations, protect people, and spare the feelings of friends. But beneath all that, why do we really do it?
I remember arriving in London in 2013 and making a beeline with my daughter for Gap, Zara and H&M to gorge on dirt-cheap fast fashion. I knew no better. Now I do. Now I ask myself one question before I buy. Where are my clothes coming from? A straightforward question, with huge and complex ramifications.
I tend to pile on praise with a trowel, for my daughter, my husband, the dog, myself. So imagine my discomfort when confronted by a huge body of research, spanning decades, which posits the theory that praise and rewards are just as detrimental to children and adults as punishment.
I have never liked kissing. There, I've said it. Exactly as the old song says. In my opinion, a kiss is just a kiss. Yet even uttering it feels like sacrilege.
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Since the birth of our daughter in 2005, my husband and I have never once seriously discussed having another. Tacitly, deeply, we both realised one was enough for us. And this begs the question: Why?
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I decided to ask 12 friends, ranging from 43 to 50 years of age, what they thought about this murky, surging undertow as we forge ahead into the next part of our lives.
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In workplaces, schools and universities, there is still a sense of covertness to this fact of life, even a lingering sense of shame. We are well-versed in hiding the telltale signs, clutching the tampon or pad in our fist or handbag while we scurry to the toilet. I still wear black on my heaviest day, terrified of the accidental smear.
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It's the panic that wakes us in the middle of the night, fearing we don't have enough. It's the illusion of scarcity. An illusion, that while we logically know has no basis, never seems to fade. If they have more, then we don't have enough.
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In our house we now have many beds, some king-sized, others single, and we swap and change according to weather, mood, snoring level and tolerance.
I'm a writer. I've written lots of stories over the years, real and imagined. But the process of writing my own obituary has proven to be the most profound narrative I've ever attempted.
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I'm one of those crazy people who swim every single day, even through the winter. I first learned that I could actually do it, that my body wouldn't protest, that I could in fact swim on cold days and not catch the flu or die of hypothermia, from a group of women and men ranging from their sixties to their nineties at Avalon ocean pool.
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When I get my ego out of my art I can experience the freedom of non-attachment to outcome. When I approach the empty page as if I've never done this before, I can access the simple vastness of not-knowing. And not caring too much about it, either.
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I could argue that any pet doesn't really belong to us. They are sentient beings, with mind and heart and agency, so to think of them as belongings, like a new car or computer, is to flirt with a slavery mentality.
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What does it mean to be grey for a woman? In our culture, it generally means old or well past their prime. For men, the clichés still hold water; distinguished, suave, sexy, a silver fox.
There is a denial of death in our culture. It is sanitised, smoothed over, preferably happening to someone else, over there. In the postmodern, affluent West, we don't see people die, wash their bodies, dress them lovingly, and watch over them for a day and night in our homes
Are we able to sacrifice our comfort for a fellow human being? I ask myself as much as I ask you. If we can save one precious human life, then that may be enough, for now.
Ram Dass, the Western spiritual teacher, refers to it as 'this energy transformation dance called dying'. If I'd approached it in that way when I was diagnosed with melanoma in 2009, I wouldn't have been so paralysed by fear.