Ministry of Silly Walks

Before too long on mystical travels, one finds oneself observing one’s own (and other people’s) silly walks.

These are the habits, the psychological nervous ticks, the background dramas we all have; the familiar comfortable painful mental patterns we walk with and freely share with others without a care for why we have them and let them take control all the time.

There’s one over there. Every third step in the walk has to be a bow, a hip rotation, and a salute. And another one there. See him wringing his hands and looking nervously around as he makes his way down the path. What about this one? She’s crawling along on her hands and knees. I wonder why that is? Then there’s me. Keeping my head artificially high whilst nervously clutching to my belly so nobody can see my soft underside.

And so on.

Once it starts to look as ridiculous as it really is, my love affair with it starts to be over. When I notice (those lucky times I do) my own silly walk, I think, ‘why on earth do I do that all the time? Oh yes. I remember now. Well how silly!’ The silly walk can start to turn into what it needs to be; a walk. Not extraordinary. Not slouching. Not tense. Not half asleep. Alert, but not hyper. Just what it needs to be and nothing more.

And then my walk can be a ministry to others, because I’m not giving them my bizarre body movements to contend with on the path as well as their own. I can deal with theirs because I can see mine. And that means I can share the same path more easily.

Language and Intention

Sticks and stones will break my bones but names will never hurt me.

This is of course the biggest bunch of crap.

Reality is that humans care deeply what others think of them. It’s possible to train ourselves away from that behaviour, but it is deeply engrained in many of us (Alain de Botton makes this point well in his book ‘Status Anxiety’).

Reality is that punches knocks and falls hurt bad. But we recover from them. Our bodies are ingenious at that. It will be a long time before robots become as good at self-healing as living systems.

But there are subtleties to this. If someone calls you a shit head but you know they are joshing (playing) with you, then the comment rarely ‘counts’ psychologically.

So the issue isn’t really about language; what people say to us. It’s actually about intention.¬†(I’ve actually learnt this from Tim Field who wrote a not-very-well-known book called ‘Bully in Sight‘. It’s a great book, but the pain the author went through also comes through in the writing so it’s not for the faint-hearted.)

Intention is the key. If someone intends to hurt you and then says something about you or your behaviour then that’s much more likely to ‘count’ psychologically.

But there’s another subtlety to this. It’s to do with time.

A few intended comments, nit-pickings, public shaming, disempowerments don’t actually count for a lot. We all have a level of resilience to this; after all, we survived the playground at school didn’t we?

But our levels of resilience are different and, over time…perhaps even years… any human being can end up psychologically damaged by someone else’s words and actions. Psychological violence.

I was staggered to learn, when bullying¬†happened to me, that because of the way our brains work some of the damage was actually physical. Our brains are psycho-physical things. They’re also very weird because unlike computers the software can rewrite the necessary hardware. In other words our electrical ‘thought’ activity can, over time, reroute neurons as required.

Recovering from poor mental health I was staggered to learn that part of the necessary healing was physical. My neuron pathways had to reconnect, and connect in different and new ways. Sometimes it was like I could even tell that this was going on (but not prove), because I’d get the most profound and unusual headaches and not be able to do much with myself mentally or physically.

And no amount of meditation or anti-depressant drugs were doing to do that work. Only time could fix it. Only the body-mind could do that part. I just had to let the process be what it was.

I found it interesting that my then meditation school had a set of ‘rules of the dojo’. One of those rules was that sick people and mentally unwell people should not enter the dojo. This sounds harsh. But it has something to it. Even the meditation dojo can’t do that fixing work. Only the body-mind and time can do that part. (Self-nurturing will of course aide this natural process.)

I guess my key learning here is, don’t consider people’s language. Consider what they are intending to do with it. ‘Are you intending to hurt me?’ is one of those good questions to ask people. They will rarely say ‘yes’, and when they say ‘no’ they sometimes back down – and that stops their action from ‘counting’.

Because of these subtle things – intention not language, words causing physical harm over time, harmful intention in a short amount of time causing little damage, none of the damage being visible – and of course our collective fear (because any human can be a victim of bullying) we tend to either want to misunderstand bullying, or even if we want to understand it we misunderstand.

After many many years (at least 8 now) of working on myself, I can (on a good day) talk through something I found difficult with someone; ask them if they are OK; and mentally give their own pain back to them. Vindictive behaviour rarely comes from a simplistic ‘evil person’ place. Show me an ‘evil’ person and I’ll show you someone who is suffering. (Many Buddhist authors such as Thich Nhat Hanh have written on this point.)

I wouldn’t go so far as to say I’ve become bullying immune. But I have found this knowledge to be power. Knowledge that vindictive behaviour points to suffering in the other person. Knowledge that names do hurt – really a lot if given enough time to do so. Knowledge to look at intention not words.

I love you. I’m sorry. Please forgive me. Thank you. (Ho’oponopono)

The following is a translation of an excerpt of ‘Ho’oponopono’ by Dr Luc Bodin, translated from the French by my Aunt.

‘My research conducted me after my medical training to look at ‘la medeceine energetique’. On researching the undeniable results obtained by that energy. I decided to study quantum physics. …all the atomic particles that make up our world are composed of infinitesimal waves of energy that vibrate like a chord and each chord vibrates on its own frequency like the different notes produced by a violin. Its these notes that compose our universe.’

‘Human thoughts are nothing more than information carried on a wave. There is Russian research that has established that thoughts are capable of affecting and transforming matter. So this theory of waves explains that all the universe is linked together. …There are allusions to God, or divinity. Divinity in us. All religions have the same ‘essence’ or the same ‘vibration’ in that sense. Words only indicate simply the presence of an element superior to us; an element that is situated above our manifest dimension…

‘When I started to study Ho’oponopono I realised it amplified the theories of quantum physics. Our interior and our exterior are one, and it is easy to see that we create our own world.’

Ho’oponopono is a wonderful tool that does not need long hours of study. You do not need a master guru or scientist. The technique is of childish simplicity and curiously if we listen to our intuition we sense within ourselves that the way is just.

‘With the principle to repeat in our environment anything that does not go well, any suffering or disharmony.. from there you have to say that any disharmony is the reflection of our interior suffering coming from our past memories, and the key the solution consists simply to send love, pardon to the memory…in order for it to disperse by enchantment. It appears to be too simple to be true.’

‘It is sufficient only to try it. Once the problem diminishes our reality is profoundly transformed. Ho’oponopono shows us that we live in a reflection of our internal reality; everyone creates their own reality like an artist creates a canvas. We are capable to create within ourselves paradise or hell depending on our reaction to our memories.’

‘Memories never go on vacation or retire unless you retire them. “I love you” dear memories. I am grateful for the opportunity to free all of you, and me. (“I love you” can be repeated quietly again and again.) “Thank you” – This process can be used with or in place of “I love you”. As with “I love you”, it can be repeated. …There are simply four statements that you say in order:

I love you.

I’m sorry.

Please forgive me.

Thank you.

When we experiment with Ho’oponopono, we see results in our life and are never the same again.”

Will we carry our karma into space, too?

I’ve heard friends say it. I’ve heard a top business advisor in my area say it, and I’ve heard people I meditate with say it. ‘One day, we will have to go into space’.

The thinking is that one planet will not be enough. Aware that our lifestyles already require between 3 and 5 planets to be sustained at their current rate, or aware of overpopulation, or vaguely alluding to environmental crisis, or a combination of these things with a look to the future, people seem convinced that ‘space will be the only way to go’ if humanity is to have a future.

I have to take deep breaths when I hear it!

When I meditate, what I recognise with a non-dual mind is that everythingness and I are indivisible. Indivisible from the trees, the grass, the stones, the birds, the cats, the worms.

Knowing this changes my behaviour towards everything ‘else’, because it is indivisible from ‘me’.

It is human centric to think that if there are not enough resources for our preferences (actually, our insatiability) on one planet – we must get off this rock (in whole or in part) to pull in more.

Imagine we did find other planets to seed and inhabit. Imagine we did successfully exploit more of known space. Would we be happier?

Couples retire and sometimes buy property in warmer climates. Where I live, that’s usually in Spain. A few years ago there were stories of angry retirees selling up in Spain because of heat waves, recession, and in some cases simply divorce.

Wherever we go, our karma follows us like our shadow. It never fully leaves us. All we can do is gradually lessen the extent to which it governs and dictates who we are. Through practice. Mindfulness. Paying attention. Going to the still point of inner peace, and taking decisions from that place.

Karma will follow us to our new life in a hot country. And it will follow us to our new life on planet Mars.

When I’m walking on the pavement, I sometimes keep my eyes down, making sure to tread on as few beings by accident as possible. Last Autumn, because of climate change and a wetter weather pattern, there were tremendous amounts of snails. I tried to make sure I didn’t stand on them when walking past.

The snail on the pavement has as much right to its life as I have to mine, and Oneness teaches me this.

Oneness also teaches me that I really don’t need 5 planets to live happily. It is more important to extinguish my passion of insatiability. When I do, there is incalculable wealth in poverty waiting for me.

We must wake up quickly, I think, and understand that being at the top of the food chain does not mean we will always be there, deserve to be there, or have a right to be there. If we do not love our bees, or tend our trees, we will make the future very hard for ourselves.

Every being is important, and meditation teaches me this. If I do not take it to heart, then, I have not learnt a thing!

Zen Gardens, and the pursuits of the mind

A Zen Garden represents the human mind.

Large stones sit in the garden as if rising up out of the pebble carpet. Around these large stones are usually ripple patterns in the pebble carpet, representing movement or a disturbance in the pebble carpet caused by their uprising from beneath the carpet layer.

Everywhere else that the large stones do not ‘rise up’, the pebbles are usually set out in meticulous lines, representing order or harmony.

You contemplate a Zen Garden from a balcony. Sometimes this balcony is entered through a special gate house, where you take off your shoes before entering.

The idea is that each large stone represents a thought arising in the mind. But what you must realize (sic.), is that you are not the large thought arising. Neither are you the ripples and disturbances caused by the arising of the large thought. Neither are you the bliss represented by the ordered pebble carpet, because if you identified yourself with that bliss (or nirvana), it would just be another large thought, and not the same thing as that bliss itself. You are instead the person who observes all of these things, gets up, turns around, and walks out.

Over time it is possible to still the mind in sitting meditation enough that when you do have a large thought arise, no other thoughts surround it. In this state of mental clarity it is possible (though difficult) to investigate that thought a little bit.

This is not the object of meditation, and not really something to distract oneself with. But occasionally it just happens.

Sometimes when it happens, reflecting on the first large thought encourages the arising of lots of other thoughts, and before too long there is no clarity and calm; only monkey mind.

Provided the still and clear state is maintained, however, it is possible to just look deeply into the one large thought which has arisen.

Again, it is easy to start judging it as a good, bad, wise, or silly thought. This, again, is not much use as an exercise. This is not what I mean by investigating a thought.

But it is possible to ask yourself, what is behind this thought? If I acted on this thought, who would gain what? What would I stand to gain?

Through such questioning, it is possible to notice that most thoughts – perhaps as much as 90% of thoughts* – are not relevant at all to things which must be done today. Instead they are supporting some kind of drama, or story, or power game that you (we all) are involved in creating.

And so it is that the mind (the ego) is almost always pursuing some kind of power game; some kind of pursuit towards grandeur (even if it is negative grandeur).

In the same way, some say “what is ego anyway?” or “how is it possible to function as a human being without ego?’, and that is because it is very difficult to overcome the ego. In terms of the pursuits of the conventional mind, the ego is taking up so much mental energy that it becomes impossible to imagine one’s self without it.

*I believe Eckhart Tolle suggests something like 98%.

Questioning Mind

Delivered at a workshop weekend in High Wycombe, UK.

A questioning mind is the best frame of mind for understanding what it is I seek to understand.

But a questioning mind is not a mind full of questions. It is the opposite of this. It is a mind emptied of everything, supple, and left only with its inquisitive vast potential.

Empty of questions, anxieties, frustration, impatience, fatigue…I am able to see the things I seek to understand simply for what they are today. Not what they were in the past. Not what they remind me of. Not what I want them to be for myself. Just what they are right now.

Following this comes the true understanding I am looking for. And following the understanding comes answers. And with answers, there can be skillful action in the world. Good karma.

So, to act skillfully I need an approach. For an approach I require understanding. To understand, I need a clear mind. In other words, to answer my questions I must let go of every question. Attachments. Emotions. Preoccupations. I would like us to do some letting go together.

Sit comfortably. Relax upper…lower…become aware of your breathing. Take deep breath in. Breathe out.

20 minutes of silence starting and ending with a bell. Focus only on breathing in and breathing out. Your mind will wonder frequently to other things. When it does, don’t curse yourself. Concentrate on the breathing in and out again. Through this it is possible to let go of attachments, and empty out all questions. Just keeping focussed on the simplicity of drawing a breath. On breathing. A beautiful painting starts with a blank canvas. Perhaps you are wondering what sort of beautiful painting. What sort of canvas. Just breathing. In. And out.

Bell. Distant.
Bell. Once.

Racket body pain

In psychology (Transactional Analysis), there is a concept called ‘racket feelings’ or ‘racket thoughts’. The idea goes that certain situations in life will invite us to recollect (and relive) feelings and thoughts from the past. In other words, we are invited to racket-ball all the way back to something that happened, say, twenty years ago, just because something that is happening right now has enough signals in it to remind us of that past feeling or thought. (This is a very rough description, and nothing beats reading a few book chapters on the subject. ‘Racket moments’ rely on another concept, called ‘scripting’, which I won’t go into here.)

As I’ve been going deeper into recovery, and getting used to avoiding more and more ‘racket thoughts’ when they surface, I have made what I think could be a new discovery. Racket moments do not just extend to thoughts and emotions. They extend to physical conditions, too.

Here are some of my racket body pains:

– Hunched shoulders deriving from early teens when growing bigger felt awkward

– One shoulder usually higher than the other deriving from a paper round I used to do

– Bad posture derived from low self-esteem

I have also learnt through meditation and mindfulness that:

– Mindfulness can assist me to let go of these old body pains

– There is nothing that is broken that can not be healed over time.