The Power of Giving – and Why I Always Carry a Banana

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How friendly are you to strangers? Do you reach out to new people you meet or do you hold back?

Over the years I have learnt to take each person at face value and try not to judge them in any way. Friends often comment on how easily I connect with people and how effortlessly I seem to make friends wherever I go. Maybe it’s a gift, maybe it’s just my way of being – but whatever it is, the results are often magical.

Talking to strangers I meet has led to some great friendships as well as many life lessons.

I have had 2 such experiences with homeless people in London which left me moved to tears on both occasions and reminded me once again of the power of giving and receiving.

In London where I live, there are more and more homeless people, many of whom have to resort to begging, whilst others sell the “Big Issue” magazine which helps the homeless create an income and ultimately aims to get them off the street.

I met one such Big Issue seller outside my local train station – he proudly told me that his full name was Christopher Patrick McCormack. We struck up a friendship and we had a repartee going – every time I saw him I called him by his full name – and he would call me by my full name.

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Friends & Friend’s Friends Picnic 2016 (Year 15!)

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It’s time for my annual picnic in Regents Park!

Called “Friends & Friend’s Friends Picnic“, it is held every year – and this is YEAR 15!!!

This year it is to be held on Sunday, 31st July 2016.

(Post-picnic update – This year’s picnic was phenomenal with around 500+ people attending during the course of the day! You can see all the photos here on Facebook – Friends and Friend’s Friends Picnic #15“).

14 years ago, I had a vision of bringing people together in community in a spirit of fun and contribution – and so I invited all the people in my life to a picnic. And I asked them to invite all their friends too.

So my “Friends & Friend’s Friends Picnic” was born!

With all that’s going on in the world right now, I believe that it’s imperative that we come together as a people as much as possible – and what better way to meet and create new friendships than in a gorgeous setting and with a fun, friendly vibe?

“Far more unites us than divides us” – Jo Cox

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History of the Friends and Friend’s Friends Picnic

I first had the idea of the Friends and Friend’s Friends Picnic in summer 2002 when I wanted to bring together people from my family, my friends and the communities that I was part of.

Rather than inviting everyone out on different days, I asked them all to join me for a picnic in Regents Park – and to also invite their friends and ask them to invite their friends.

I had a few friends comment on how easily I was able to connect and make new friends – it was like magic to them!

So I wanted to introduce all my London friends to each other – and bring strangers together in a spirit of community and friendship in London where people seem to live in isolation and everyone is so busy.

That first year, around 60 people came, despite it being a cold and rainy Sunday in June – and the Friends and Friends Friends Picnic was born.

I chose Regents Park because I live nearby but mainly because to me it is the nicest park in London and offers so many activities for my picnic attendees.

The following year over 100 people came with some relatives coming from as far away as Coventry, Birmingham, and Brighton.
That second year I started the tradition of African drumming and dancing and that theme has continued ever since with some years over 20 drummers in full flow!

The picnic grew every year – and in the last few years we have had over 400 people attending – and it’s getting bigger every year!

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The picnic has now become a fixed highlight in many people’s social calendars and I now usually hold it end of July or early August. Experience has taught me that that is the most popular time for people and also when we are most likely to get reasonable weather.

One year it rained so heavily that we all had to shelter under the trees for almost an hour. Despite the wetness, over 50 hardy party animals stayed till dusk.

I now usually get 200 to 300 people attending every year – and in August 2015 we had our biggest picnic ever with over 400 people attending in the course of the day.

We now have even more fun activities such as laughter yoga sessions, Bollywood dancing, hula hooping, friendly football matches and the perennial favourite – African drumming.

A lot of new friendships have started as a result of the picnic – 3 years ago a good friend of mine landed a key job in television directly as a result of someone she met at the picnic who then recommended her to a job.

Best of all, a few months ago we had our first ever picnic baby! A couple of who first met at the picnic in July 2013 started dating soon after and recently became proud parents of baby Lyra.

2016 Picnic Details

Here is the Facebook event page for this year’s picnic:-

https://www.facebook.com/events/902697396543200/

It’s actually a very simple concept.

The idea is to get a lot of friends and their friends together. I invite all my friends and they invite all their friends and they invite their friends and so on……and before we know, there will be 100’s of friends, new and old, having a lot of fun.

Everyone is invited to bring their own food and drinks plus some extra to share. We will also be playing Frisbee, frisbee etc for fun, so bring those trainers and sports gear. And of course children are most welcome. If you haven’t got any, borrow some for the day 🙂

I’ll bring my giant Hula Hoops so it should be entertaining watching some people have a go!

We’ll also have some Laughter Yoga, Bollywood dancing and African Drumming.

There are lots of things you can do in Regents Park. There is boating on the lake, heronry and waterfowl collections to visit, and of course the world famous Rose garden.

drumming at picnic 2004 in Regents Park

We will also be having some African drumming and singing. Bring along any musical instrument that you would like to play.

This year we’ll have some Laughter Yoga, Bollywood Dancing and some kick-boxing lessons.

Check out the picnic photos from 2015!

Please note that this picnic will be happening no matter what the weather is like on the day!

A hot and sunny day is forecast for Sunday so it should be a great day out for all of us.

The details are as follows:-

Date: Sunday 31st July 2016

Time: 1pm till 9pm

Location: Regents Park at the London Mosque end. Use the Mosque as your landmark, as its minaret is visible from almost anywhere else in the park.

picnic is at the spot marked X on bottom left corner

Directions:

Enter the Park via Hanover Gate, turn left and you are there. You will see a children’s play area. The chosen picnic spot is the whole of this semi-circular area of grass and there is room for at least a 1000 people.

Parking – You must pay for parking within Regents Park even on Sundays till 6.30pm. Alternatively, you CAN park free on single yellow lines on Prince Albert Road, and around St Johns Wood High St.

Nearest Tube stations: – St Johns Wood and Baker Street

For further clarification, please call me on 07803 950 250. Keep this number with you on the day, in case you are lost. Remember that Regents Park is HUGE.

Please invite all your friends and ask them to invite their friends. And so on – this could be the start of something big.

You can also register on Facebook to confirm you are coming.

As I said, this is the 15th year running that I have organised this Friends and Friend’s Friends Picnic – but if you are not able to come to London for this picnic, then no matter where you are in the world, how about organising your own?

Check out my simple guide on how to hold your own picnic anywhere in the world 🙂

For further information and clarification, just contact me 🙂

Special Announcement

I am also pleased to announce that a very special person is joining us on Sunday, and I have a request for help from all of you.

When I held my very first “Friends and Friend’s Friends Picnic” 14 years ago to bring together all the people in my different communities, the idea was to celebrate life, connect people and also to contribute to these friends in some way.

So my annual picnic is totally aligned to the 3C’s which underpin my life – Contribution, Connection and Celebration.

On Sunday we will have a chance to contribute in a BIG way to Julie Cattermole, who is coming all the way from Leicester to London with her young children, to celebrate life – and also to spread news of her life-saving fund-raising:-

https://www.justgiving.com/fundraising/Julie-Cattermole

Please help my friend Harry Jata spread news of Julie’s fund-raising appeal to SAVE her life.

All donations and further fund-raising ideas are most welcome.

Let us make it a very special day for Julie next Sunday:-).

The Future

I am so pleased and proud too that my initial idea of bringing my family and close friends together for a day out in the park has become such a huge success and a key event in many people’s summer itinerary.

I now want to build on this even more and make it bigger and better with regular events through out the year in London and other cities around the world.

I really do believe that the challenges the world faced today can only be overcome if we can come together more in unity and with a sense of FUN, community and togetherness.

Let us make it happen so that more and more people come together in such events so that ultimately we get to see that we are all really the same – and our differences simply makes the world a more interesting and colourful place.

Help me bring more people together!

Thank you:-)

a fun day for young and old!

Love is all that Matters – and NOT Just On Valentine’s Day!

So how is Valentine’s Day going for you?

Did you spend some quality time with your loved one – or was it just another day for you?

It always amuses me to see people spending a small fortune on just one day every year to show their love for someone!

What happens during the remaining 364 days of the year!?

It’s crazy and dumb to only celebrate your love on Valentine’s Day!

Why not make it a fun Valentine’s Day every day?

Does “romantic love” evoke a vision of red roses, serenading in the park, moonlit walks and champagne?

In our world of glossy magazines and glitzy media, where we are constantly bombarded with images of the ideal, love struck and “perfect” couple, is it any wonder that the real meaning of love has been so diluted!?

Love for some is about being starry eyed and going gaga over someone. The actual being in love becomes more important than ever truly loving someone.

But love is MUCH more than that.

What would the world be like if we truly loved others the way we love our close ones?

I imagine the world would then be transformed and there would be fewer or no wars and we would live in peace and harmony.

In the words of John Lennon, just imagine a brotherhood of man and imagine all the people sharing all the world. It’s easy if you try.

As we look around the world today, such unity would seem to only exist in our imagination and in songs.

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Help Me Help Baby India

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Have you had ever had a life-changing experience around children?

An experience which changed you and your life for ever?

Today I am going to share a key experience from my life – and also the incredible and moving story of baby India. You will then understand and appreciate exactly why I am taking part in the London Marathon this coming Sunday.

I have had 2 life-changing experiences around children – one of them was when I experienced unconditional love for the first time in South India whilst visiting Nirvana School.

A few years before this, I went through an experience which affected me deeply – and it was only recently that I had a sense of completion.

We are talking about a time over 20 years ago. My eldest brother’s wife was expecting twins and there was much excitement in the family – my parents especially looked forward to their first grandchildren.

One evening I got the call that the twins, both baby boys, had arrived prematurely and I rushed off in total excitement to see my newly born nephews. But it was only at the hospital that I found out how just premature they were – and how seriously ill. They had been put into intensive care straight away.

Even worse news was being told that one of the babies was really weak, under-developed and unlikely to survive for more than a few days. But the prognosis was very promising for his twin brother.

As you can imagine, we were all in shock – the good news followed by such devastating news.  I still remember to this day how what sustained and encouraged us was the incredible kindness and support from all the hospital staff. Such tender kindness was so welcome during those torrid days.

Four days after the birth of the twins, the doctors told us that they were losing the battle to save the weaker twin and it was only a matter of a couple of hours.

So they gave us the space to be alone so we could say some final prayers and be with the baby.

There we were, the entire family in a private room and we were handed a tiny bundle. We then said some prayers around my little nephew, smaller than a 2 lb bag of sugar- and even lighter.

Having seen the little guy previously just through his incubator, it felt so good to actually hold him – incredibly tender and fragile looking and yet so much personality and presence already after his first 4 days of life.

It was an incredibly poignant and sad moment in my life to feel this little guy, his heart pumping away and his tiny nostrils fighting to take in some last gasps of oxygen.

I can’t even being to imagine what his mother and father were going through. As for my own parents, they were trying to keep a strong facade but I could tell just how hard it was for them too.

And then it happened – the baby was in my arms and I could feel the heart beating ever so slightly – and then no more. A life had been extinguished even before it had much of a chance.

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8 Ways to Bring More Love into the World – Before it’s too Late

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Have you ever wondered what it is that every human being ultimately wants in their life?

Well, wonder no more – I can tell you what we all ultimately want to do:-

We all want to make a profound difference in the lives of others.

Deep down you already know this – but you may have not been willing to acknowledge it. Or maybe in your world, it’s not considered cool to openly declare your desire to help others.

As I look around the world today, I am so encouraged to see so many more people stepping up and wanting to create their legacy and to live a life of contribution.

You may argue that maybe that’s just the circle of people I move in. Well, that could be true but then again I seem to attract people who want to make a big difference in the world!

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Right now, the world is shocked and moved by the plight of the millions of people affected in the Philippines after the most powerful typhoon recorded in human history. And this could just be the beginning of many more such massive natural catastrophes to come in the years to come.

What has been so heartening and moving is how so many people around the world have stepped up in their efforts to help the millions of people affected in the Philippines.

What is it about the human heart that so moves us in making such superhuman efforts?

Maybe it’s because the path to Nirvana lies in kindness to others

My Update from the Last Few Months

As some of you will have noticed, I have not been blogging much over the last few months. It seems a long time ago since I wrote 100 blog posts in a month and wrote 28 relationship articles in the month of February 2011!

I have been on quite a journey over the last few months – and like for so many of us, it has been a time of deep soul searching and retrenchment.

This year began for me with a wonderful Yoga experience with Sadhguru in February which really reconnected me to my true core and made me realise what’s important to me.

A World full of love, light and laughter. It’s time has come. Let’s make it happen!”- Sadhguru

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Why Love is all That Matters Beyond 21.12.12

Did you know that the world is supposed to end today!?

Unless you have been living in a cave, you have known by now about all the hype about the world ending today. Hollywood made a blockbuster movie about 2012, very imaginatively called 2012 and even the BBC got in on the act this week.

Come to think of it – living in a cave is probably the safest place to be today if all the predicted doomsday stories come true!

The world is of course not going to end – but I would like to imagine and hope that a new consciousness is being borne and with it a new way of being. A way of caring, sharing and giving.  Before it’s too late.

Life will continue; hatred and negative force are ending” – Shaman Juan Osco.

As my good friend Zeenat Merchant-Syal, India’s  leading personal development blogger, put it so eloquently in her latest blog post 21/12/12 The End of the World or A New Beginning:-

“I think this is going to be a day like any other day. Yup! No big changes or earth shifts. What is going to change and has been changing are our thoughts.”

I could not agree more!

Yes, there may be significant energy shifts going on at a cosmic level – and if that means that it shifts human consciousness for the better, than I am all up for cosmic energy shifts!

However, unless we consciously change, all these perceived or real energy shifts will mean nothing. Zilch. Zero.

Then perhaps we would be better off if the world did end! Nothing would matter if we don’t become a more caring, sharing and loving race in the coming “New Age”.

That brings me very nicely to the question of Love.

What does the word LOVE mean to you?

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Help Me Help Jess

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Do you get deeply moved by stories of brave, sick children?

And then are you moved to help them in some way?

Today I am going to share the incredible and moving story of Jessica, also known as Jess.

You will then understand and appreciate exactly why I am taking part in the London Marathon.

On Sunday 13th April 2014, I’ll be lining up with around 36,000 other runners and each one of us will be raising awareness and sponsorship for their chosen cause.

I have chosen Well-Child, a charity that helps look after sick children like Jess.

Some friends have been asking me why I am so passionate about WellChild and why I am taking part in the London Marathon for them once again.

Well, this is my way of contributing and making a difference to children. And you too can do your bit by sponsoring me.

Please Click here to go to my sponsorship page

Your contribution will be helping Jess and other brave children like her.

(I have been given permission by Jess’s family and WellChild to share her moving story).

Here is Jess’s story:-

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Why You Shouldn’t See the Japanese Earthquake as a Hollywood Disaster Movie Set

Japan Earthquake

A week ago life changed forever for the people of Japan.

Unless you have been living in a monastery, by now you will heard of the earthquake which hit the region around Japan. The subsequent Tsunami and nuclear power fallout has meant that the world will never be the same again.

What we are seeing is a human tragedy on such a vast scale, it’s beyond our comprehension. The earthquake happened in an instant and not even an economic superpower can withstand this force of nature.

The blanket media coverage of this catastrophe has been relentless – it’s almost as if we are all drawn to tragedy and suffering.

Some of the videos of the massive Tsunami waves have been quite horrific, yet spectacular and somehow hard to stop watching.

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How to Always Speak With a Kind Heart

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People may not remember what you said, or what you did, but they will always remember how you made them feel.

You may have heard that before, but when you really think about it, you will realise that you actually have great power and responsibility in each of your day to day interactions.

Whether it is a business or social conversation, by thinking about what you say, and how you deliver the message, you have the power to make a great connection.

You have the power to contribute something meaningful, and you also have the power to be hurtful.

Always use your power for good and speak with a kind heart.

Here are my 8 key tips to do just that:-

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Mother Teresa – 6 Key Life Lessons from a 100 Year Old Woman

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Today is the 100th anniversary of the birth of Mother Teresa.

She would have been 100 years old today had she not passed away in September 1997.

A while ago I wrote about the 6 key lessons in life from a 140 year old man.

Just like Mahatma Gandhi, though Mother Teresa may not be around anymore, her legacy and message of peace and love live on – something that we need in our lives more than ever before.

A while ago, I wrote about Mother Teresa and what she had to say about loneliness, love and peace

We need more compassion, understanding and acceptance of other people and their cultures. As I wrote only last week, Muslims love their children too.

(As bloggers, a lot of us already know about love and being a great lover – check out my 12 reasons why bloggers make the best lovers).

On this day of celebration of her life, what inspiration and learnings can we take from her life?

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Muslims Love Their Children Too?

Pakistan flood victims

Have you ever had your home and all your worldly possessions swept away by a giant wall of water?

If you are able to read this right now, then probably not. But for a quirk of fate, this is exactly what could have happened to you. And this is just what’s happened to over 20 million people in Pakistan.

We are in the middle of one of the worst human tragedies ever – probably the greatest overnight displacement of human beings in our history.

Unless you have been avoiding all media for the last 2 weeks, you will know that there has been a major natural catastrophe in Pakistan, where millions of people have been affected by the worst flooding in almost a century.

Thousands have died and millions have lost everything they own.

As you see these images, you cannot fail to be moved by the plight of all these millions of people.

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