Tag Archive | inspiration

Meet Gwenllian ferch Gruffydd, the National Heroine of Wales

“Cymraes ydw i. I have no need for English fashions,” in one simple line from chapter two of “Gwenllian ferch Gruffydd, the Warrior Princess of Deheubarth” Princess Gwenllian summarizes her entire life and legacy, a legacy that has touched billions of lives.

But who was she and if she was really so influential, why have few people outside of Wales ever heard of her?

Born in 1097, Princess Gwenllian ferch Gruffydd was the daughter of King Gruffydd ap Cynan of the Welsh kingdom of Gwynedd.  Gwynedd’s rugged mountains empowered its rulers to remain independent longer than any other Welsh kingdoms in the country. Today the county of Gwynedd remains one of the largest and includes Snowdonia National Park. But historically Gwynedd the kingdom was much larger than its modern namesake. In medieval times Gwynedd’s capital was Aberffraw Castle on the island of Ynys Môn (English: Anglesey).  Readers of “Boudicca, Britain’s Queen of the Iceni” should recognize the name Ynys Môn because the island was the center of British druidry and therefore bore the brunt of Roman aggression towards Brythonic and ancient Celtic culture and religion.  Ynys Môn has a long tradition of being a historical hot spot (and one worthy of your next visit to the United Kingdom).


So it should be no surprise that Ynys Môn would be home to Wales’ most pivotal leaders.


Turn of the 12th century Wales was turbulent.  After his victory near Hastings in October 1066, William the Conqueror (now William I of England) set his sights on conquering the entire island of Britain.  Many of the Scottish nobles were bribed into vassalage. But the north of England and the Welsh kingdoms were different.  If William I and his new Angevin dynasty wanted to control these lands, he would have to take them by force!

William I began this task immediately.  In 1067 construction began on the first Norman castle, Chepstow in modern day Monmouthshire in southeast Wales. Located approximately 32 miles north of Cardiff, Chepstow’s location in the kingdom of Gwent made it the perfect fortress for attacking the southern kingdoms of Gwent, Morgannwg, and Deheubarth which in Gwenllian’s time had expanded to include most of south central Wales, including the kingdom of Ceredigion.

Standing in the way of this Norman Conquest of Wales were King Gruffydd ap Cynan of Gwynedd and King Rhys ap Tewdwr of Deheubarth.  Though often forced to retreat into exile in Ireland, both men blocked the outright and permanent conquest of their realms, passing on their fight to their sons and daughters.

It was in this environment that Princess Gwenllian ferch Gruffydd was born.  Like her famous brothers, she was raised in a kingdom constantly under attack. Everyone — including the king’s daughter — needed to be battle ready or risk losing life and home to William Rufus’ and King Henry I’s notoriously brutal soldiers.

Gwenllian’s life changed forever in 1113 when King Rhys ap Tewdwr’s two surviving sons sought sanctuary at Aberffraw after recently escaping exile, torture, and imprisonment at Norman hands. For Prince Gruffydd ap Rhys and Princess Gwenllian it was true love almost from the beginning of his time there.  In 1115 they married and Gwenllian moved to Gruffydd’s Dinefwr castle as its co-sovereign, beginning a twenty year war of resistance against the much stronger Normans thanks to their successful use of the Welsh longbow fired from the cover of forest, the same tactics used by the fictional Robin Hood and Maid Marion against similar Norman knights. Unlike Robin Hood and Marion, Gwenllian and Gruffydd’s stakes in these battles were far greater: if they failed, tens of thousands of Welsh would be enslaved by the Anglo-Normans.  Their kingdom was at stake and it was their job to defend it — at any price.

Gwenllian paid that price in February 1136 when Maurice de Londres captured her following a desperate winter battle.  Instead of ransoming her as the code of chilvary demanded, Maurice chopped off her head, making Gwenllian the first sovereign ever executed by the English.  It was an atrocity that could no be ignored.

To this day “revenge for Gwenllian” remains a Welsh battle cry of outrage, an execution that remains well remembered.  The Welsh have not forgotten Gwenllian and never will.  To truly understand the history and culture of the British people it is vital that you discover her story as well.

“Gwenllian ferch Gruffydd, the Warrior Princess of Deheubarth” is available in English, Welsh, German, and Spanish on Amazon, iBooks, and a retailer near you.

The Law of Attraction: Sorting Facts from Fiction

In my last post I explained how in 2014 I was duped into joining whole cloth the Law of Attraction Movement.  It came to me at a time of fear of the future (especially concerning my financial health) when I felt most lost and vulnerable.  The person who insisted I watch “The Secret” claims to be an actual demon in human form.  This alone should have told me to run, not walk away, especially given my spirituality and past experiences with malicious spirits (aka “demons”).  Instead, the person’s glamour and misdirection of my own instincts (which were just starting to call me home to Wales) deceived me into trying to win his love and approval by making myself into the person he wanted.  The law of attraction movement was at the heart of that.

Background with a Planet, Moon and Star

Law of Attraction teachers like Abraham Hicks focus on emotion as the way to attain what you want in life.

The reason why the Law of Attraction Movement is so popular is because so much of it is based on solid psychology, social psychology, and sociology.  Most of it is actually good advice.  The problem is the 20-30% of it that is NOT solid and leads people into the wrong direction, often for the financial gain of the movement’s “teachers.”  It is for that reason that the Law of Attraction Movement (not the core idea itself) is a scam that predates on people’s worries about the future, the instinct to grow and improve oneself, and in the primal instinct to believe in something or someone greater and more powerful than oneself.

So what is the solid stuff worth listening to?  What parts of the advice given actually works?  Let’s take a look in detail:

  • Your assessment of a situation matters.  That is to say that how you look at something in your life or a potential future event is absolutely critical to your success or failure.  If you see a task as impossible then it will be simply because no one looks for solutions to problems that cannot be solved.  By contrast if you see a situation as easily dealt with then you will quickly find the actions that make this the case.  Your assessment forms a self-fulfilling prophesy.  You fail when you see no way to succeed and you succeed when you believe you can.

Law of Attraction teachers talk about situation assessment in terms of emotions.  It’s all about FEELINGS.  Your feelings need to be the barometer of everything because feelings work on a deeper level of the mind than your thoughts do.

The problem here:  all emotions are based on your thoughts and attitudes, not the other way around as the LoA teachers would have you think.  That is to say that if you want to change how you feel about something you need to change your mind about it.  Thoughts are the controlling factor here, at least once the ego/conscious self forms at around the age of six years old.  For example if you think all Muslims are terrorists then your feelings about Muslims will probably be categorically of a suspicious, fearful, or perhaps even hateful nature.  These feelings will then in turn alter how to behave when it comes to meeting someone or hearing about someone who is Muslim.

The Law of Attraction movement focuses on FEELINGS.  In particular, Abraham Hicks teaches that if you have any sort of "negative" feelings then you will only attract negative things to your life.

The Law of Attraction movement focuses on FEELINGS. In particular, Abraham Hicks teaches that if you have any sort of “negative” feelings then you will only attract negative things to your life.

Law of Attraction teachers tend to skip the attitude part of this when they focus on feelings.  In doing so, they take away your best and most effective tool for changing your life.  This is also why education is so vital to changing our lives.  Education empowers us with knowledge which then shapes our emotions and behaviours.

  • Barriers to success are in your mind.  When we assess situations we are quick to find the reasons why something cannot be done or is otherwise difficult/impossible to achieve.  This in turn blocks us from figuring out how to do something and achieve our goals.

Most Law of Attraction teachers focus on emotions.  The barriers to your manifesting the life you want are not in your thoughts but in the emotions you feel.  It says that “good” emotions attract good things and bad emotions attract bad things.  That in turn makes us judge ourselves quite harshly because no one can be euphoric or feel good all the time about absolutely everything — and if you do, there’s probably something unhealthy at work there!

In truth, the barriers we put between ourselves and our goals tend to be psychological and mental, not emotional.  We say, “I cannot ____ because _____.”  That because can be anything, but usually a situation or a feeling about a situation.  The feeling is not the problem because the feeling changes the moment we change our minds about something.  And genuinely there are some emotions we really do need.  We need to be angry when someone rapes someone.  We need to feel sad when someone we love dies.  We need to feel outrage at an injustice.  These feelings motivate us to make changes and set new goals.

For example, I feel disappointed and upset at the results of the 2015 Parliamentary Election in the United Kingdom; I adore Ed Miliband and really wanted him to become prime minister.  Negative emotion.  Except that in those feelings I have a determination to fight harder, to get more involved in politics, and to actually stand for MP once I become legally eligible to do so.  Negative feelings about David Cameron staying in office has made me decide to chart a new career path!

And that is the value of negative emotions, the very emotions that Law of Attraction teachers tell you will only bring more negative experiences into your life.

  • Focus on what you want to achieve, not how or when you achieve. There is always more than one way to achieve a goal.  A former friend of mine put this as the number fourteen.  How many ways can you reach the number fourteen in arithmetic?  If you see just seven plus seven then you are missing the other fifty plus ways to reach that number.  That is what we tend to do though.  We think that each goal or challenge can only be accomplished ONE WAY.  What is worse:  we tend to set specific time perimeters for achieving this.

Here the Law of Attraction teachers are dead on right.  Too often we do say “this is the way to get what I want” or “I have to have x goal by y date.  Reality is that the universe has its own way and own timing.  Everything happens the way it does in the timing it does because that is the best and easiest way for it to happen.  The key here is to keep your mind and heart open so you can take advantage of the opportunities that come your way.

  • You reap what you sow.  This is the actual law of attraction.  It is the principle that like attracts like that is well documented in social psychology.  Contrary to the popular cliche, opposites repel, not attract. At its core it says, correctly, that your attitudes, emotions, and behaviour have consequences which are similar to whatever the original attitude, emotion, and/or behaviour was.  If you smile, people will smile back at you.  If you yell at someone, that person is likely to yell back at you.  If you hurt someone, you will be hurt back.  If you show interest in someone else’s accomplishments, they will be or at least much more likely to be interested in yours.

The law of attraction itself is not the problem with the law of attraction movement.  The law is solid social psychology explaining the nature of the consequences for our behaviour. The problem with the law of attraction movement is its focus on just the feeling side of this instead of the action side.  If I feel good about something, something good is automatically going to come out of it.

Feelings are great.  But it’s not feelings in isolation that makes things happen.  It’s action.  In the law of attraction movement feelings are put above everything else.  But if you never act on your feelings, you stay where you are.  Things do not change.  Those in the movement with things to sell will say the problem is that your feelings were not lined up correctly — and we can fix that when you buy this item or experience.  Read that SCAM.

Though Law of Attraction teachers do tell you that action is important, this part of the equation is downplayed and rarely discussed in favour of emotions and how to fix your emotions.

There is a solution

But the real key to success in life is taking ACTION.  Not just any action though — it’s easy to get on the hamster wheel and tire yourself out — the hamster wheel is usually what makes us vulnerable to the scam in the first place.  Instead it is INSPIRED ACTION that makes everything happen.  That is to say ACTION WITH CLEAR DIRECTION. It’s relaxing about the how and when in a situation, quieting your mind, and letting your mind solve the problem.  Do not force it.  Do not struggle.  Your mind is expert at solving puzzles; that’s what the human brain does best.  Relax, let the answers come to you, and then act on the answers.  That is what inspired action is.  That is what brings you true success in life.

And best of all, you don’t need to buy a book, a seminar, a cruise, or anything else.  The answers actually lie within your own mind, your own heart, and within your own existing abilities.

The Human Touch: Thoughts about the Teachings of Esther/Abraham Hicks

I am really into the Law of Attraction.  I believe in and the power that our thoughts make on our reality and what comes to us.

negative emotion is

One of the best known lecturers on The Law of Attraction is Esther Hicks who is allegedly channeling a group of beings collectively known as “Abraham.”  While the advice given is generally sound, I do confess a certain unease at the whole channeling thing; it smacks of a scam, especially given there are books, DVDs, CDs, cruises, seminars, and so forth for sale in great abundance.  People pay lots of money for an audience with Abraham and to get a personalized reading of sorts from them in the hopes of turning their lives around.

In such a context it becomes a bit of a minefield as one searches for truly helpful affirmations and advice from all the clutter.

Abraham Hicks emotionKey to the philosophy taught is that emotions are on a sort of hierarchical scale ranked from good to bad.  These are allegedly arranged by vibration — a high vibration emotion is certain to attract what you really want in the LoA while a low vibration emotion is said to greatly hinder you in manifesting it.

In  general there is a measure of common sense to it.  Obviously if you are hateful and vindictive, you are not going to attract love.  Like attracts like.  So hate bring more hate.  This really is common sense.  It speaks to the core of the law of attraction — you reap what you sow!

But a side effect inevitably comes when you rank order your emotions:  you repress the ones that you judge wrong or inappropriate.  That is to say you still have the emotions because they are part of the human experience. They make us Sentient spiritual creatures.  There is no capacity to love if there is absolutely no capacity to hate as well; the capacity for BOTH is what defines each on both a psychological and practical level.

So to love you have to also be able to hate.  To trust, you have to be able to not trust.  To be honest, you have to possess the ability to lie.  This is also what I find troubling and unrealistic about the ways that Christians talk about God.  If God is ONLY LOVE, COMPASSION, FORGIVENESS, ETC and CANNOT experience those other things as well then is God truly a Sentient and living being and therefore objectively existing at all?  No wonder it is easy for atheists to argue that God was created by humankind and not the reverse!

And so we are brought back to this organization of emotions.  What happens to you psychologically when you tell yourself “I’m only allowed to feel THESE emotions?”  Answer:  you repress the other ones.  This in turn means you put up walls within your mind and spirit which, intentional or not, naturally grow into walls between yourself and other people.  You end up FEELING LESS.  Empathy wanes.  You lose the ability to understand and relate to other people.  This in turn makes you LESS LOVING, LESS COMPASSIONATE, LESS HAPPY.

In cutting yourself off from the emotions Abraham says are bad for you, you ultimately destroy your own humanity and the best parts of yourself. This in turn makes it easier for you to harm yourself and harm others.  It is, after all, the person who feels the least, who is cut off from her or his emotions that is most capable of destructive behavior — to self and others.

permission to walk away

And this is the danger point with Abraham and why it would be perhaps correct to label them as demons or manipulative spirits.

That is not to say that they are completely wrong.  But each assertion needs to be thought about and weighed for its value with a focus on balance.  Instead of arranging emotions from “good” to “bad” recognize that all emotions all important.

I am no longer a Christian, but I see the wisdom in Ecclesiastes 3:1-8:

To every thing there is a season, and a time to every purpose under the heaven:

 A time to be born, and a time to die; a time to plant, and a time to pluck up that which is planted;

A time to kill, and a time to heal; a time to break down, and a time to build up;

 A time to weep, and a time to laugh; a time to mourn, and a time to dance;

 A time to cast away stones, and a time to gather stones together; a time to embrace, and a time to refrain from embracing;

 A time to get, and a time to lose; a time to keep, and a time to cast away;

A time to rend, and a time to sew; a time to keep silence, and a time to speak;

 A time to love, and a time to hate; a time of war, and a time of peace.

Abraham would have us believe that if we experience both sides that we are harming ourselves.  In reflection I disagree.  We are only harming ourselves if we 1) repress emotions instead of embrace them or 2) focus our energy on hurtful emotions (and therefore attract more hurt to our lives).

Tulips Bouquet

There are many sources of wisdom and inspiration.  The human experience has no limit to these.  Balance comes from applying wisdom from MANY sources of inspiration — from Christianity, from Judaism, from Islam; from Wicca, from Buddhism and Daoism, from Shamanism, from Asatru, and a thousand voices from across time and space.

Embrace your humanity.  Feel your feelings.  Keep your focus on what you want and always phrase everything positively.  Look honestly at your life and think about what barriers your mind projects between the direction you choose for yourself and achieving it.  Believe and have faith and confidence in your ability to achieve and reach what you focus.  Say “I WILL” instead of “I want.”

The law of attraction is powerful. It is common sense. But even as mindfulness about it offers the potential to bring great good and joy in our lives, how we go about it also makes a difference.  For when we wall up part of our emotions in our pursuit of happiness we ultimately destroy our ability to feel, to connect, and therefore be truly happy.

The wind is always there

My simple prayer this evening:

cockatoo in flightHoly Mother, Creatrix of all you know I trust in you and truly believe that everything is happening as it should, that there is a hidden wind beneath my wings. I know that though my feathers are wet from torrents of rain and snow, I know in my heart you are always there to strengthen me.

You also know that for all my faith and trust, sometimes I feel sad. Sometimes those wet feathers feel so wet I am not positive all the time that I can fly. Sometimes I feel a bit anxious because if I fall, it looks like a very long way down.

But for all the inner tremblings, I know your wind is always there. All I need to do is believe in your gentle guiding wind. In the gale, it sometimes feel like no bird can fly. But you are there.

 

Please, Holy Mother, Creatrix, help me to feel your wind under my wings when my feathers are soaked, bring people in my life to cheer me on and tell me they believe in me.

Every bird must fledge, must dare to touch the sky. Be with me and show me how to soar.

Reblog: The Reality of an Unreal Career — part one

Over the weekend, I joined a new social networking site for creative professionals called STAGE 32 which has numerous industry useful resources and blog posts.

 

I really like today’s blog post called “The Reality of an Unreal Career, part one” and have to share it.  Read it on the Stage 32 website on the title link.

 

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Today’s blog comes from Beau Janzen, a visual effects artist based in Los Angeles with over 23 years experience in digital animation production. Beau has served on a wide variety of projects ranging from feature films, television series, commercials, and stereoscopic ride films. Most of his career has been spent working at medium to smaller-sized studios of films such at Life of Pi, X-Men, The Secret Life of Walter Mitty, Yes Man, and television shows such as Game of Thrones, Arrested Development, Bones, Black Box and many, many more.

In this entertaining 2-part series, Beau will take you through his two decade plus journey in the entertainment industry and impart some great advice for all creatives along the way.

From animating a vegetable conga line to learning how to reverse engineer an 8 ft tall phallus-shaped green screen character, I think you’ll enjoy the ride!

RB

Despite the fact that my job as a visual effects artist is anything but glamorous, I was asked to write about my experience of building a career that has lasted over two decades. I’ll work to avoid being self-indulgent and try and extrapolate out some bits of wisdom relevant to anyone working to sustain a career through a creative endeavor.

As is the case for essentially all visual effects artists of my generation, I spent my childhood constantly drawing, building models, obsessing over Star Wars, and being generally geeky. I often set up my bedroom as a makeshift stop motion studio where I would make goofy little Claymation movies with an 8mm movie camera. The main thing about me that was notably different was that I never had any dreams of making movies; I was always motivated to work in education in some capacity.

While pursuing a master’s degree in education, I was able to land my first job as an animator with a PBS affiliate for a series of six, nationwide daily live broadcast classes (a broadcast precursor to on-line classes).  I was plopped down right in the hot seat as the sole animator to coordinate, design and generate graphics for six hours of classes every day.  In taking on this new job, I quickly realized how shockingly unprepared I was.  I had never created animation with a computer and knew nothing about all the technical issues of broadcast graphics, and the technical director of the classes was not in the least bit shy about making my ignorance abundantly clear.  He was a Vietnam veteran who was initially skeptical of the new graphics I was introducing to the classes.  Part of my initial training involved running repeated wind sprints up from my workstation to his control booth so I could see on the scopes exactly how my graphics were in violation of FCC broadcast standards.  After this initial boot camp, I sponged up as much knowledge as I could and did ease into the job quite well. There was an experimental nature to the classes, and I was able to push the boundaries of how I could use my animation as a communication tool.  The fact that my boss hired me for this job which, at least on paper, I was so clearly unqualified for leads me to my fist chunk of wisdom:

For entry-level jobs, people are rarely hired due to their current skills, but because they are a good investment

With my own experience as a primary example, I have seen so many people hired for entry level jobs not from their resume lines, but from an affable personality and an obvious desire to work, listen and learn.

While I was working with the classes, I took it upon myself to learn every piece of animation software they had in the building which included the old Wavefront software, my first foray into 3D animation.

Never pass up an opportunity to learn

While the Wavefront software was cutting edge for its time, by today’s standards, I might as well have been using a diesel-powered abacus to create my graphics.  But, I feel grateful that I went through this initial learning curve on a more rugged tool since it forced me to find creative technical solutions.  With the amazing capacity of the tools available today, I’ve seen a tendency in some newbies to sit back and be more of a passive software driver. At the risk of sounding like a crotchety old-timer, I’m glad that in order to create what would now be considered rudimentary effects, I had to MacGyver together some clever trick to get the job done.  Going about my work with this more “MacGyvering” approach I feel has made me more fearless and creative with my software.

Drive the software – don’t let the software drive you.

At work, my responsibilities expanded beyond the classes to include show openings, interstitials, and the like.  I also took on my first outside freelance job for a commercial.  This proud moment in my career was a commercial for a local taco restaurant which featured 3D animated peppers, onions, and a tomato all wearing sombreros, dancing and shaking maracas. Although the taco restaurant did go out of business a month or so after the commercial aired, my animated conga line of vegetables was never proven to be the direct cause of their economic downturn.

For the pre-calculus class I worked with, I created an animation depicting how the Greek mathematician Eratosthenes was able to measure the size of the earth in the 3rd century BC with only basic geometry.  I was quite proud of the video and felt it was a great example of how I could use my medium to communicate abstract concepts, but never thought that anyone outside of the classes would give it much attention.  A colleague encouraged me to submit this animation to the SIGGRAPH conference.  Every year, the SIGGRAPH conference is a mecca for computer artists from around the world, and their Electronic Theater is the holy grail of computer animation festivals featuring the most beautiful and cutting edge work in the CG world.  I honestly thought it was rather stupid to think I my work belonged anywhere near the conference, but after some coercion, I figured all I had to lose was some postage and a sliver of pride.  A few months later, I remember reading and rereading in disbelief the letter from the conference saying that my animation was accepted into the Electronic Theater.  Compared to the other entries in the festival, my animation was very low-tech, but the story was good and it had a compelling message.

A strong idea, even when presented a humble way, is still compelling.

Getting my work in such an international venue did draw a good deal of attention, and, long story short, I was eventually offered a job at a major visual effects studio. I did have a demo reel I had pieced together, and interestingly enough, the part of it that seemed to impress the studio the most was the clip that was the most “low-tech”.  In my work, I had felt that I was often fighting a certain inertia in terms of the look the software could deliver.  For this one piece, I decided to go in a completely opposite direction in terms of look, and hacked together a clever little low-tech cheat to create something that looked completely different.  The resulting novelty of the look impressed them, and they were even more impressed when I told them how simply I had accomplished it.

This studio where I was hired was a place I had worshiped from afar for many years, and getting a job there was an odd mix of exhilaration and “oh crap, what have I gotten myself into”.  Again, I see that I was hired on as an investment probably more than for the current quality of my work.  The job took me and my wife to Los Angeles, and to compound to the surreal nature of the move, the LA branch of the studio was in a small place up in the Hollywood Hills immediately under the Hollywood sign.  The studio was actually the closest structure to the sign, and if the second O in Hollywood were to become dislodged and fall over, it would have crushed my workstation.

The first feature film I worked on was probably one of the most fruitful learning experiences of my life.  This was due not only to the fact that I was still new to the visual effects industry, but also because nearly everything that could happen wrong in production did, and I had a plethora of lessons in “try to make sure this never happens again”.  For this feature, I was given a sequence to create in which a CG creature was to fight two actors and eventually be beaten into submission.  My first “try to make sure this never happens again” lesson was that the whole sequence had already been shot before anyone knew what the creature was supposed to look like.  In the footage I was given, the actors were essentially beating the hell out of what looked like an 8-foot phallus covered in greenscreen material, and I had to figure out what to put in there in place of the giant phallus.  I was able to reverse-engineer a design for the creature and figure out what actions I could make it perform in order to have the fight make sense.  I think what I came up with was pretty effective, although it resulted in my creature being an abysmal fighter.  The creature had to make many unwise moves which always seemed to place some part of his body in the path of a punch every 20 frames or so.

Tomorrow we continue with Part 2 of The Reality of an Unreal Career.


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