Saturday, 21 January 2017

Take a Look at my Writing

You might have noticed that I've shuffled things around on my blog so that on the right hand side of the screen, just below the links to my popular posts, is a section called 'My Writing'. There you can read any stories or poems I write and publish here and, if you want, can request a free PDF copy to read on the go!

First up is my short story Scarlet's Way Out - you can read it here http://robthevegangeek.blogspot.co.uk/p/scarlets-way-out-short-story-for-pdf.html.

Then there is my first collection of poems called Frayed - you can read it here http://robthevegangeek.blogspot.co.uk/p/frayed.html.

There'll be plenty more to come, I'm pretty much writing every day now. Everything will be published here and available as a PDF, for free and free of copyright.

Friday, 20 January 2017

What is Anti-Consumerism and Why Should You Try It

As well as becoming a minimalist, I've become an anti-consumer, the two really go hand in hand quite well. You see consumerism is killing the planet. Think about it, we want stuff, so people make stuff and sell it to us to make themselves money. All well and good but the world isn't Space, it isn't infinite. Everything that is made takes resources and many of the resources aren't renewable. When you upgrade your smartphone, your TV, your car, your games console, you are indirectly harming the planet. Unfortunately it can be a hard truth to realise, I only did so about a month ago!

The western world is built on consumerism and capitalism, we consume new products constantly, spending billions upon billions of pounds every year whilst much of the world is left developing, striving to function at all let alone reach our consumerist level. The US consumes 30% of the world's resources, so when all of Africa and Asia reaches ours and the US' levels of consumerism the world will have insufficient resources to sustain life. Humanity as we know it will inevitably begin to die out. Forgive the simplified explanation, this is about the gist of it rather than the minutia.

If that weren't bad enough then there's also the short term to consider. We (as in society) put ourselves under great stress and strain to earn the money we need to acquire more things. Many of us work jobs we hate, we tire ourselves, cause ourselves stress related illness. And if we still can't afford the new phone, car, house then we use a credit card or take out a loan, putting ourselves in the debt of massive corporations. And why? To get the slimmer version of the phone we have? A phone that often still works! To buy a bigger TV? A faster car? A house with a pool?

Not to mention the vast time and effort needed to face down our social, political and economic short comings. Think about it: billions of pounds spent yearly on 'goods' could be put to improving environmental efforts, helping those fleeing war, helping the homeless, working in local communities, travelling, learning.

Consumerism is destroying our humanity and our planet. Our relentless pursuit of materialistic goods will annihilate our habitat in the long term and annihilate our physical and mental health in the short term. It allows for social and political injustice, it facilitates corporate greed. By saying no to the new thing, by questioning what really adds value to your life, what goes in to making something, by saying no, you can make your life and the lives of others much better.

Want to know more? Check out http://www.enough.org.uk/ and http://www.moneylessmanifesto.org/.

Wednesday, 18 January 2017

A Bit of What I Want From A Government

A lot is made of the youth and politics, what young people want, what we vote for etc. I myself take an active interest in politics and here is some of what I want from a government.

An Overhauled Education System. 

When kids leave school knowing that Henry VIII had six wives but not knowing how taxes and mortgages work then your education system has failed. Sadly this is the reality in Britain. Don't get me wrong, history is important, so is a lot of what is taught at schools, but schools need to teach us how the world works. We need to be teaching people to understand taxes, mortgages, rental agreements etc. School should prepare someone for life.

Nationalised Public Health

It's no secret that the Conservatives are hell-bent on privatising the NHS, I would like a government that abandoned this dangerous idea and pumped funding into a fully nationalised health service.  After all, what's more important than health?

Significant Cuts to Military Funding

I would like a government that realised Trident is a waste of money, that stops funding proxy wars and that greatly reduces our spending on destructive things. Pump the money into important things like health, education and infrastructure instead.

Massive Tax Reform

It is too easy for companies and individuals to avoid paying tax. For our country and its services to work at their full potential everyone needs to be paying their full and fair share. Massive corporations should pay more, the poor should pay less. It's really quite simple.

Nationalised Public Transport

Our public transport system is a disaster, its expensive, unreliable and does not reach far enough into rural areas. With a publicly owned, publicly funded transport system we could get to work correcting this.

Nationalised Phone and Internet Services

Communication is crucial in our 21st Century western world so why is it in the hands of greedy corporations? All homes should have phone and internet access. The two of them are simply too crucial to modern life.

Genuine Work on the Environment

We need a government that moves away from our current lifestyle. One that makes genuine attempts to look after the environment, one that highlights the true cost of our diets, of our consumerism, of capitalism.

So there you have it, a small snapshot of what I, as a man in his mid-twenties, want from a government.

Monday, 16 January 2017

What is Minimalism and Why Should You Try It

One of the large changes I have made in my life during my time away from the blog has been to adopt minimalism.

'What's minimalism?!' I hear you cry. Well its simple: I own and pursue only that which brings true joy and meaning to my life and the lives of others and those I care about. Gone are the stacks of video games, gone is my unnecessary spending on trinkets. My pile of possessions has been reduced to what is meaningful or essential. I spend less time and energy pursuing more stuff, worrying about my stuff, worrying about other people's stuff. I appreciate some people find true value and joy in their things and so clearly minimalism is not for everyone but I would urge you to at least think about it and maybe look into a bit further - if for no other reason than the interest.

I used to own every console Nintendo, Sony and Microsoft had ever made. And dozens of games for each. I bought things just to stick on a shelf, things that I would worry about breaking or losing and things I would spend time dusting. Now all that money, thought, time and effort can be spent on other things, like writing stories or poems, learning about new things, spending time with loved ones. By owning less and by desiring less I am able to better enjoy what really matters to me. I can't take a new Xbox with me and I won't remember it like a gathering of friends and family on my death bed.

I'm not crazy, I still own furniture and things like that, I'm just less materialistic and I'm healthier for it. Why not take a look at it yourself by checking out Becoming Minimalist, a site that can far better explain the finer benefits of this amazing lifestyle than I can!

Friday, 13 January 2017

How and Why to Meditate

Meditation is surprisingly simple and magnificently powerful. Many know of it and many mock it but few have actually given it a try. Here is how and why you should start meditating.

1. Do it Little and Often

You don't need to start meditating by embarking on a hour long trawl through your inner most thoughts and feelings. The best way to start meditating and to keep meditating is to commit to just two minutes each day. Maybe try getting up just five minutes earlier in the morning and, before you do anything else, sit and meditate for two minutes.

2. Don't Worry About Where and How to Sit

Don't worry yourself with buying special cushions or getting into the sort of position only an experienced Yogi could manage - lord knows I don't! Just put a cushion on the floor, sit on it cross legged and try to keep your back straight, maybe by sitting up against something. Be relaxed, be comfortable, just rest your hands in your lap, close your eyes and...

3. Just Breathe

Focus solely on your breath, in and out. Don't do anything to alter it, just breathe naturally and focus solely on that. On every out breath count one, two, three etc. When you hit ten start again at one. If you feel your mind wonder and start to think about things ( this is completely natural) then just come back to focusing on your breath.

When you feel ready gradually bring your focus back to where you are, wriggle your fingers and toes a bit, open your eyes, raise your head, maybe stretch a bit, and then get up and crack on with your day.

You should feel peaceful, aware of yourself, your thoughts, your feelings. Meditation allows you to reflect, to pause, simply to stop and just be for a moment. No worries, no frustrations, no expectations, no pressure. It is a blissful experience and I urge you to try it and see so for yourself.

Thursday, 12 January 2017

Depression and Meditation

Six months ago, to be honest maybe even three months ago, if you had mentioned meditation I'd have scoffed. A bunch of idiots sat in stupid positions humming inanely. Utter nonsense. Yeah, three to six months ago I was a bit of a dick when it came to the idea of meditation.

Now I must stress I am not a spiritual man, I'm an atheist, anti-theistic and do not believe in energies, the afterlife or anything in that spiritual vein. But I think meditation is one of the most useful, awesomely powerful things someone can do for themselves. Seriously, try it. It was recommended to me whilst I was being helped with my depression, I didn't try it for quite a while but it was part of my course and I was recommended the app Calm. After trying a few minutes of it in my course, with no real understanding of what it was, I realised it was an interesting idea. So I tried the app and went through the 7 days of Calm, basically an introduction to meditation. By the end of it I knew meditation would be a part of my life forever.

You see it turns out it isn't a bunch of spiritual nonsense. It also isn't hard to get started, all you really need to do is sit quietly and focus solely on your breath. You don't need to change your breathing, study complex mantras or anything like that. Just completely clear your mind by focusing solely on your breathing. Try it, you won't regret it.

Now if I feel down, angry, anxious, confused - pretty much if I am not happy with how I am feeling, I know I can find a quiet space and spend a few minutes focused solely on finding wellness. I can clear my head, scan my body, understand my thoughts and feelings and come to a state of calm and well-being.

A lot of things have helped me with depression, they've helped me understand it, confront it, embrace it, but nothing has helped me manage it in quite the same way that meditation has.

Saturday, 7 January 2017

We Should All Make More Room for Silence

These days we are constantly bombarded by noise. Self inflicted noise. We never give ourselves the chance to take stock of things, people, of our surroundings. No chance to unplug for a second and just think.

I've been just as guilty as most.  At home alone I had a YouTube video on my phone, a series on Netflix or music on my headphones, plugged into my iPhone. Out walking my headphones were in, a song playing, podcast streaming etc. Even if I was on the loo, the speakers had something coming out. I never experienced silence.

Some people do it to feel less alone or less anxious. I don't know enough to say whether this is a good idea or not, though I suspect it isn't. I was and am not one of these people. Much like being distracted by Facebook et al I was distracted by the sounds, filling the air with anything, meaningless noise. Then I realised this just filled my head with nonsense. So off went the sound.

Now when I'm out and about I can think about things, reflect on thoughts, feelings, my surroundings, people I pass. When I'm at home I can reflect on my day, how I'm feeling, what negative or positive things happened and how I handled them. I can think about creative projects, think about things I want from life, things I want to learn, reflect on things I have learnt. My head isn't full of noise so I can focus.

Since doing this I've been far more creative, more aware of how I'm feeling, more aware of what I want. I feel less in a bubble and it's marvellous, well worth a try.