Friday, September 18, 2020

Doing nothing

 There are people who pick up on other people's energy - positive energy and negative energy. I am one of them. The sensitivity to all the energy out there is so profound that there are times when I, and people like me, need to be alone. You don't need to be a meditator but if you are inclined to absorb the energies about you, time to sit quietly with eyes closed and just breathe is important.

As I do that now, my mind comes into the present moment where everything is...absolutely fine. The house and its surrounds are quiet. There is a sort of vague buzzing, maybe in my ears, but it seems more than that; like I am noticing the energy of my environment.

A minute ago I noticed the rumble of a truck on the freeway in the distance and just now a van of some sort passed down the street on which I live.

I have no desire for company whatsoever but I did open the front door a little this morning (not the security door) with a support, so that the postal man knew I was there, since the front door bell is not operating. I look forward to warmer weather when that little symbol of the world outside my door, an open front door, is in place. It hasn't been a cold winter at all but the winter symbolizes COVID and the introduction of Spring suggests that maybe things are improving.

In fact, things are improving. My city is still locked down. We still have a curfew. Practically everything is still closed. Yet, there are fewer cases every day. By the end of October some services can operate; surgery will be largely resumed for the unwell.

I live in a city that is very cafe latte/chardonnay imbibing. We love socializing. There are constantly food markets and fairs, football games, cricket matches; festivals. I am wondering if it will almost be too much. We used to have so much to choose from it was almost overwhelming. It almost felt wrong to be at home for the weekend. 

In fact, I remember that when someone asked what you did over the weekend, it seemed wrong to say you gardened, or wrote, or read. You needed, it seemed to me, to report a gathering of some sort or going somewhere to see something in particular. I wonder if we will be more inclined to be still or if we will go mad; run from one event and activity to another.

The world runs on momentum. We keep moving. That seems right. Plan something. Do something. I know I feel better in a state of momentum; not too much, but enough.

Sometimes, I ask myself, what are we moving towards? Why can't we sit in the one place and just BE? Why the guilt about that? Are we social losers if we enjoy alone time?

I close my eyes, right hand resting on my chin. I hear birds chirping. I notice the breath rising and falling in my chest. I feel my feet connected to the floor below me. Now, I hear the reverberation of the refrigerator; ever so slight. And, an aeroplane flying over me; the clicking of the laptop keyboard. 

I begin to feel connected to you; the anonymous reader that might run an eye over these words. Do you ever feel what I feel? Do you need to connect in with your own body; to live in your senses? Do you notice the moment by moment passing of time that lies behind all the momentum of the world? Do you, like I, feel energized by stopping long enough to take the time to listen?

Wednesday, August 26, 2020

My Parts

A long time ago, perhaps 25 or 26 years ago, we were in Pennsylvania staying right on the fringe of the Amish community. I had long held a fascination with their lifestyle and had booked a cabin as close to the community as I could. It turns out that I had rented the cabin from a psychiatrist and among the many books in the cabin was one about family therapy. I was drawn to this book and read as much of it as I could in the time available. I knew that somewhere in the pages of that book was something important for me to know, but I wasn't ready to understand the message.

For about a year, I have been watching clips online of Richard Schwartz talking about this model of therapy wherein he gets in touch with the parts of people. Somewhere on my shelves is the book I bought Internal Family Systems. I read it and no doubt underlined key ideas  but I only took it in in a theoretical sense. I wasn't making the headway I had hoped for.

A few weeks ago I signed up for the Trauma Summit online run by Sounds True. If you don't know Sounds True, I highly recommend it to you. I forgot about this Summit and only in the last few days of the free summit I noticed an email link and began to listen to sessions. You may know that many of these free summits are only free for a short time and can be quite expensive to purchase so I drenched myself in various sessions for a day to try to catch up on what I felt was the best of the sessions offered.

In Day 6 of the summit, Richard Schwartz had given a presentation, going through the process he has for his trauma patients, and I decided to follow along, as if I were the patient. The following is what I discovered.

Just briefly, Schwartz maintains, and has established over a career of 35 years, that we are made up of parts some of which try to protect us. In this process of protecting parts of ourselves become alienated. We can heal ourselves with a little direction if we can respectfully and kindly approach a Manager and get to know it. If we can do this skillfully, openly and honestly, we can release our Self with all the components that allow us to flourish. These components are called the 7 Cs - curiosity, confidence, calm, compassion, courage, connectedness and creativity.

First of all, Schwartz explained that all our parts have talents and resources, but due to trauma and attachment issues, some parts are taken out of operation. There are parts, which are referred to as Managers, who feel the need to protect the alienated parts. You might call such a Manager an inner critic but the voice, or part, that I located was one that was not so much an Inner Critic as a very deep and intense protector; insistently demanding that I stay low; silent; acquiescent; agreeable.

I should explain that this is all happened just now, and the reason I think I was able to locate it and listen to it was that I had an experience a few days ago where I very clearly heard my Protector giving me very specific instructions.

Schwartz is clear that permission must be sought to approach a part and I did ask it if I could get close with a respectful curiosity. I sat with it, trying to understand its motives.

Here's what I learned:

The part of me that is authentic, playful, open and looking to bond was injured very early on in my life. The words that authentic part heard was 'You're not one of us.' 'Run away' 'Don't take chances.' 'I don't have time for you.' 'You need to be independent.' So, by necessity, or so it seemed to the Protector, this playful part with needs, needs to be connected and bonded, childlike, but with opinions, had to be exiled.

A Manager stepped in, a Protector, another part that spoke to me, all the time, I realize now. It said, 'Don't say anything.' 'Keep quiet.' 'You can mange by yourself.' 'It's dangerous to speak up. Whatever you do, don't speak up, it will only be much worse if you do.'

That's the voice I located the other day, a voice so familiar to me that I hadn't even realized how often it spoke to me. The voice had become a part of me.

Schwartz directed us to ask the part, 'What would you like to do, if you didn't have to do this job?' I waited for the answer and it said to me, 'I would like to enjoy watching you being authentic. I would like for that hurt part of you to stop hurting, to feel whole and loved; loveable. I would like to see you have fun; be joyful not just with yourself but with others. I would love it if you could speak your truth so I didn't have to protect you any more and I could just watch you be whole.'

Schwartz asked to see if we could turn this part - an Enemy of sorts - into a friend and thank it for having done this job. He asked us to ask this part how old it thought we were. I couldn't discern an age but the protector had been with me for as long as I could remember, so I guess it thought I was still a child.

Of the 8 Cs that can emerge, perhaps all of them, I definitely detected Courage coming forth. I had approached this material honestly and I felt a courage, a calm coming forth.

I detect the Protector's voice unsure and unwilling to let go of the job as yet. I feel a warm connection to the part. I think it has been with me for so long that it's hard to imagine it not being there. But, at least we are talking.

Tuesday, June 16, 2020

My Witness

Perhaps it's my contemplative nature combined with the fact that I keep journals filled with notes and thoughts that come to me and demand some sort of voice, that I often find a sentence here or there completely resonates with the feelings I hold inside me at this moment.

So, this morning I noted on Facebook an advertisement for a woman running some sort of course. She wrote, 'We all need a sacred witness in life...'. I think that too, at the same time as I am notably private. She went on to write about 'the spirit within you' that directs you in decision making. It will vary from person to person but I think we can all get in touch with that spirit at certain moments.

And then, I happened to open a journal of mine on a page where some years ago I must have been listening to Richard Flanagan, one of our best fiction authors. I had made a note of his observation that as people we congregate within the structure of 'family'; that although we nurture, protect and love, it doesn't necessarily satisfy; that what satisfies can be unquantifiable. Maybe, he suggested, it is how something makes you feel...

Yesterday, I listened to a recording of a talk by Rick Hanson, who I admire very much; a lovely guide for meditators and an incredibly intelligent and caring psychologist. He was talking about the fact that perhaps a good question to ask about an interaction with another person is 'Do you feel bigger/open/supported, or pushed down, needing to prove yourself more?' Ultimately, he said 'they will do what they do'. Very true.

Somewhere in the discussion he mentioned feeling that some interactions were 'tender and sweet'. A bell went off in my head. Did I experience the transactions with my mother as 'tender and sweet', now or ever? I think at times she has tried to be that person, in her own way. I think she feels more than she can express.

Sometimes, I visit with her and I come away feeling, not necessarily uplifted, but not unhinged by the visit. That's a very good visit. Mostly, I come away feeling deep internal distress that I simply cannot put into words. I don't experience anything tender or sweet about those exchanges, most particularly when I go towards her body to say goodbye and she puts her arms behind her back. I am left to peck her on the cheek. Lately, that's felt like a dagger going through my heart.

I think every human does need a witness to their lives. It could be a priest, or a parent, or a friend that knows you just as you are, and accepts you just as you are. It could be someone new as well; perhaps a mentor for someone overcoming an addiction. Maybe it is only half the time a 'family' member. We have the ability to create our own family, or become fiction writers, or keep a journal, or write poetry. Whatever allows us to express what lies dormant in our soul is right. Thus, I continue to write here, in  my tiny corner of the Internet. Thank you for being my Witness.

Friday, June 12, 2020

No-one saves us but ourselves

In a guided meditation it might be suggested to you that when resting in a quiet and calm space, whatever thoughts, feelings or sensations might be floating along in your mind, it's okay.

If you think of yourself as like a container, or a vessel - an empty container or perhaps an uninhabited vessel - whatever comes and whatever goes doesn't have the power, or the opportunity to disturb that sanctum.

The vessel may notice the thoughts, sensations and feelings passing through, but it doesn't change or alter the container or vessel. Do the flowers change the vase?

The container sees no reason or purpose in latching onto what is passing through and nor does it feel compelled to repel a thought, a feeling or sensation. Since the container itself is perfectly fine, being the witness of all, any and every occurrence - so called 'wanted' or 'unwanted' events - it experiences  default ok-ness.

For most people, I am going to guess that this sort of idea isn't taken on immediately. (I am already imagining someone suggesting a vase might break...) As I experienced a tumble of thoughts during meditation, at times I had to get up and move away from my meditation. Certain thoughts derailed me; certain experiences had me feel my breath was urgently out of control. These things usually take time.

It is said that if you want to achieve anything good, it takes practice. So it is with a spiritual practice. If you want to be more warm-hearted, for example, it would be helpful to actually sit and generate kind thoughts until it becomes more natural. I don't think this is particularly different from feeling you aren't a natural cook and yet after several attempts you do manage to cook an edible and even delicious cake.

The thought of a quiet and calm space which one inhabits, and the thought of living in an open-hearted way resonates for me even in a political context. One might have feelings of contempt for a political leader at the same time as one can be open-hearted towards all human beings, even at the same time as one votes to oppose a leader, or as one might be dismayed at a political result.

Once you take this idea into the core of yourself it goes well beyond a useful thought in meditation. It becomes a way to live. Hard and fast expectations, judgments, even disappointment in people can pass through your mind as observations without needing to feel that they have in some way derailed you, impaled you or set you off course. You have, you see, removed the opportunity for that to happen. A thought is a thought is a thought is a thought.  In five minutes you will have a different thought; even an opposing thought.

When you sit quietly and still, observing what is there in the mind without judgment or labels, whatever is observed can be seen as the 'what is' of the present moment. The need to disassociate, to ignore, to freak out, is unnecessary. You've established yourself as a strong, indestructible vessel of peace and consequently whatever the mind conjures is withstood. With curiosity about the thoughts, feelings and sensations of the mind and body these observations are observed much as one might observe and examine a rare species in a museum. Isn't that all quite fascinating!

The Buddha had it worked out a long time ago. 'No-one saves us but ourselves.'

To be clear, this individual stance in no way suggests inaction. In a state of clarity of mind and conviction, there comes a time, usually a collective time, when change is sought; demanded. This is a troubling time for this world and yet a time that offers great promise. I choose to believe that we are up to the task.

Thursday, April 30, 2020

Re-evaluate

The coronavirus came upon us quite suddenly, at the same time as various circles of people understood that it was just a matter of time before we hit a world crisis. My little sanga of people attempting to walk the spiritual path had access to information that suggested that the time was close.

Jane Goodall came out and said in the past few days that we had brought it on ourselves. Imposing on the habitat of animals had forced them to come closer to one another and to us and that put pressure on the relational systems of animals and humans living together. It could be more sinister than even this idea. I don't know about that. I am not a conspiracy afficionado but I acknowledge that there are evil forces in the world, so maybe so.

This is a way of saying that I wasn't completely shocked by what has occurred, but anxious and sad and worried, just like the rest of us. I am, one could say, a bit better off than those in large cities such as New York or London, and yet there has been a breakout in an aged care home just a moment from where I purchase petrol (gas) and a few minutes walk from my home. It is everywhere.

I eat well. I sleep well. I take supplements to boost immunity. I do yoga and shake daily (TRE) and I keep on top of how I am breathing, thinking and feeling. I stay at home almost all the time aside from a daily walk. I am doing all I can to stay well and ensure I don't make other people sick. I am in awe of front line workers. They deserve our praise and appreciation. They deserve Medals of Bravery.

Whilst at home I have used the extra time to do a lot of research. Whether you call it self-differentiation, or healing from a toxic relationship, or self love, or what have you, it really does boil down to the same thing, I think.

Some of us are too nice. Part of this is our personality (also looked into the Enneagram) and some of this is learned behavior and surviving a situation where we were brought up by people with a narcissistic bent (to put it nicely).

If that's the case, (and I bet it is for most people reading here) the trick now is to let yourself shine, as best you can. Just as it is understood you put on your own breathing mask if there is an emergency in a plane, and then put on the breathing mask of others around you who need your help, so in life we empaths needs to understand that we must put ourselves first.

Since I also study spirituality and seek to live that life, of course we don't become selfish ourselves. We need to live in balance, caring for ourselves at the same time as we keep in mind and attend to those other people in our lives. Another way to say this is that we put boundaries in place. We do all the caring things but we don't let people walk all over us. Maybe we did this to survive as children, but we don't have to keep doing the same things as adults.

As we come to know ourselves intimately, what triggers us, where the wounds are, we come to see that we don't have to absorb the behavior of others all too willing to hurt us or ignore us to boost themselves up. Instead, we observe them. We become a bit detached, in a good way, because now we are differentiated from them. We know where we end and they start. We build a strong backbone. We become strong at the same time as we stay warm and tender. These are not people who can change. We are people who can change, grow and mature.

It definitely isn't easy. It was very hard for me. But, I assure you, it is entirely possible. Check out The Avaiya University online for tonnes of material.

We are in a period of huge transition in every way. It's a very hard time for nearly all people, but I am betting on the fact that this is a reality check we, unfortunately, needed to have and that good people will come forth to make the changes for our world that need to be made.

Selfishness and greed won't go away. People like this have and will always be with us, but I think we have a good chance to reevaluate where we are and what we have to do as a Universe. We need every good person now to be counted. That's why you need to heal, energize and ready yourself. The world needs every good person in this fight.

Wednesday, March 18, 2020

A positive direction in perilous circumstances

In this troubling time, when nothing seems quite solid, reliable or certain, I believe we need extra heavy doses of positivity, gratitude, courage and endurance.

Of course, we should all be sensible and careful. We should wash our hands regularly and distance ourselves from other people in ways that make sense - working from home and staying home, wherever possible. We need to be vigilant about keeping our immune systems healthy. There is plenty of information on the Internet as to how to do this.

My contribution is simply to say that this too shall pass; that we have to get through this, that when the crisis is over, the opportunity is there to come out of it better than before, depending on one's interpretation of  'better'.

This crisis is a medical emergency and we must be vigilant. This crisis is also a moral and spiritual opportunity. We either take that opportunity and run with it or we allow fear to overtake us.

I belong to a group and the following was the offering to the members of the group this morning by the leader of the group. I just loved it and would like to offer it here to anyone who passes by these parts:


“And the people stayed home. And read books, and listened, and rested, and exercised, and made art, and played games, and learned new ways of being, and were still. And listened more deeply. Some meditated, some prayed, some danced. Some met their shadows. And the people began to think differently.
"And the people healed. And, in the absence of people living in ignorant, dangerous, mindless, and heartless ways, the earth began to heal.
"And when the danger passed, and the people joined together again, they grieved their losses, and made new choices, and dreamed new images, and created new ways to live and heal the earth fully, as they had been healed."
~Kitty O'Meara

Be well. Be happy.  Be safe. Have faith.

Wednesday, March 4, 2020

Order, disorder, reorder

I woke early and slipped out of bed with my novel, 'Wide Sargasso Sea' to read on the couch underneath a warm woolen blanket. In the quiet of the early morning I was fully engaged with the novel, the unraveling of the first Mrs Rochester (of Jane Eyre fame), when I became aware of the experience of sitting there in the quiet and the very distinct sound of bird song close by; some traffic sounds from much further away.

I registered that the sounds were coming to me clearly, as clearly as if I was engaged with conversation with someone right beside me. It was as if a portal had opened in my mind, a portal that brought with it clarity.

So profound was this experience, and yet so simple and everyday, that I turned away from the book and simply sat in the experience of living this moment.

It may be insignificant to the reader but as a meditation teacher it is significant to me, that I made no observation of my breathing, highlighting the fact that as we have revelations in a meditative or contemplative state of mind, that our transformative thought is all that draws our attention. We are fully immersed and engaged with that experience of the mind. The body doesn't come into it.

This was pointed out to me by a wonderful visiting meditation teacher from the USA and came as a surprise to us as students, but she is absolutely correct.

In a theoretical way I knew what I am about to say, but theory and practice are two very different things. As I sat there, silent and alert, it occurred to me that I was living this moment of my life. The past was truly the past and unless I particularly wanted to do so, there was no good reason to think about it.

I considered, 'if I didn't engage with the past, I didn't engage either with difficult moments from the past. In essence, if I didn't engage with the past, I also didn't need to think about, or assess or analyze events from the past which had been painful.' I know what I know, of course, but when living in the moment, so what?

It was like I had an eraser and all the writing of the blackboard, the complicated formula that had taken up the blackboard was brushed away, leaving a blank slate on which to write again.

It also occurred to me that in this present moment awareness I had full acceptance of myself. I wasn't flawed. I hadn't been neglected. I didn't have doubts.  I simply sat. (This, by the way, is the mindset of 'the doll'.)

This transformative thought happened at 7am and it is now 2pm. It wasn't just a flash in the pan. It feels more embedded as the day progresses.

As I communicated with people throughout the morning, this profundity was my constant companion. I was acutely aware that I was my own entity, empty in a sense, and thus in some way, available to them and yet untouched by them. I mean this in a good way. I was untouchable, in the sense that neither good news or bad news seemed to effect me one way or the other.

Words are hard to describe all this but I would say that I was looking out at the world not as me with a constantly thinking brain but as an observer; free floating.

Father Rohr, a Franciscan friar, talks about transformation having three components: order, disorder and reorder. To use his words I would say that this morning I had a sense of what that meant; that the disorder (the suffering) had somehow become reordered. On one level it blows my mind. On another, I am so chilled it's almost too subtle and smooth as to be an event.