Tuesday, March 28, 2017

The Mind that can change anything

I wish that I could explain to people who think about taking, attempt to take, or do in fact take their lives that however bad it feels right now, it will pass. Things will get better.

I've a dear friend whose son took his life one evening when the hurdle he had to face (a new school year) seemed too much for him. Yet, with some tweaking of various elements of his life, mainly expectations, he would have gone on to have had many happy decades of life, I am sure. He was a gentle boy, very bright, and he'd have made a great contribution to this world, without question.

It's so interesting how the circumstance of one's life, which after all is just an illusion manufactured in the mind, can rise or fall on such little things, and so it seems to me that if we could just say to those desperate souls who decide to check out, especially at early ages, that what appears black today could tomorrow be a vibrant yellow.

It has been over two years since this boy took  his life and I have wondered if his mother would ever get over it. Well, I know she will never be the same woman, but would she one day wake up and be glad to be alive again? This, I have wondered.

For some time I was concerned that she too would take her life to be with him, something she said she wanted, but in more recent times she has assured me that she would never do this. A medically trained person she believes in the sanctity of life and she just couldn't do it, she said.

Still, she has also talked of 'living a nightmare' and I have tried a few different things to shift her thinking. Particularly intelligent and not remotely spiritual or religious, there are limited options. I suggested a psychiatrist to get at those thoughts and challenge them, but she's the one to take this step, not me, and I don't think she's ever going to do it.

What to do? Well, she's a woman who loves a bone to chew and she's good at what she does, so I put her onto my mother's health and in time she had that situation sorted with names of the just the right professionals. She won't answer emails about her own pains but she'll gladly write away to come to the aid of someone else.

I wanted to do something for her to say 'thank you' and it occurred to me that music might be a sort of medicine, so I gave her two tickets to a Parisian Jazz Concert in town for just one evening. She took her sister and with excitement emailed the next day to say how wonderful it had been; how the audience had cheered and applauded and stood up and danced in the aisles, including her sister. It gave her a boost like nothing else I had tried had managed to do. For one night at least, she had loved life again, and maybe, just maybe, it might turn things around for her.

She talks to her son often. She still sleeps in his room to be close to him. She knows he visits, which is troubling on one level but also sorta wonderful that this totally scientific and rational woman can be reunited with her son in this way. She blames herself for the sadness that took his life, even though she was a totally devoted mother, and she feels a need to care for him in death as well. She's the child of survivors of Auschwitz. Who am I to tell her how to live and how to think?

In moments when I glimpse the vibrant woman I once knew it feels to me that anything in this world is possible, and so when she dropped off into my letterbox a CD that they were selling that night enclosed in a beautiful card I felt a deep sort of reverence for the art of 'companioning'; of walking side by side with someone who was walking through a deep, dark storm. I can't pretend to feel her pain but I can continue to reassure her that living a nightmare won't last forever. The mind truly does wish to heal.

If you think about music it is an extraordinary gift to the planet. A set of notes is written and learned. They are played, last a few seconds and then they disappear, and yet they can change our mindset; change our lives in fact; change the state of someone's world. A set of notes can remind us that there is much to live for; that man is capable of creating abundant joy. Music is therapy. Music is life. If they try to drop music in your children's school, fight for their rights to experience joy.

Monday, March 20, 2017

Feeling Free

To feel free is to completely let go of anything and everything that holds you down. There are many definitions: to liberate, no longer confined or imprisoned; to let go.

Most likely, your personal definition or description of feeling free is quite different to mine. A person in China restricted from offering his personal opinions freely would have a sense of liberty if the situation altered and he was able to express himself freely without fear of punishment.

The child who feels constrained to become someone that their parents wish him or her to be would feel a sense of freedom if the parents were to assure the child that it was their wish simply for the child to be happy.

A man or woman who holds their opinions tight to their chest for fear of an upsetting argument would feel freed if the partner were to assure that they would remain calm and discuss the situation openly and rationally regardless of opposing views.

There is a beautiful sense of freedom away from home with no possessions but a few changes of clothes in a suitcase.

There is the freedom of the meditation cushion when the stillness of the still mind (they mean the natural/free mind which has nothing to do with thought) is reached.
 It's subject to interpretation as to whether freedom is achieved with no thoughts but plenty of feelings. There is a tendency for us to want to be free of what is sometimes referred to as the negative feelings - anger, sadness, hatred, jealousy. Yet, it's so interesting what happens when we quietly sit and allow those feelings full rein. It's hard to hold onto negative feelings for more than a couple of minutes. The physiological responses are so intense that after a few minutes of quietly sitting with them, they quite naturally begin to subside, to reduce and to  dissolve. There's a freedom right there.

There are people who seem emotion less and people who are too emotional and in both cases to sit quietly with oneself and check in - how I am doing? how am I feeling? - is liberating for the busy self. It's having an awareness of your state that can free you from being in an automated state, as if unattached from your self, or unhinged. We sit with 'our whole body' on the meditation cushion. We have arrived. There is no where we need to be and no-one else whose needs come before our own. It's a liberating thought.

For several years it was possible with very little effort to take me to a bimbo state of mind. A translation of that state would be sexually liberated, or the object state of mind/no mind. This happens less now than it used to and the question for myself is if I am in some way to blame for the situation. Am I less inclined to 'let go', something that was so natural, so easy for me not so long ago?

Philosophies and spiritual teachings tell us that there are no mistakes (which I find hard to accept but let's go with it for now). That is, we are not dust in the wind. We are the wind. We are not part of life. Life lives through us. If that's the case, I haven't made a 'mistake', it's just that 'letting go' into the bimbo part of me is not often available to me at this juncture in my life.

On my meditation cushion the experience is with myself. I am in relationship with my self. The experience of being free is available to me at any time when I choose to let go and enter the stillness of the still mind.

In my dreams or daydreams, my fantasy life, bimbo is readily accessible to me. She simply never goes away for the very reason that she is respite from the worried, harried mind. I can, if I wish or must, enter a state where liberties are few and expectations are sordid, and this frees my mind; relaxes me and subdues anxiety. I would never banish her for the very reason that she is so necessary to me.

Needless to say I thrive, not just survive, when bimbo in all her vivid colour splashes onto the canvass. This state is not available to me without the aid of the artist who wishes to paint a particular image; who with instinctive and particular knowledge can apply the brush strokes with just the right flow and smoothness to create the texture most satisfying.

It happens effortlessly when the artist is in sync with the canvass, knows what he wants and feels into his heart how the brush will work with him and for him to create something of beauty and liberating force. Each painting created in this way will have its own essential life force. Like love, it happens when both elements in play reach into something innate; something derived from nature. Only then can they both be liberated.

Friday, March 10, 2017

Feeling State Theory and Intense Sex

I am becoming familiar with Feeling State Therapy. An example was given of a young woman who was crying herself to sleep every night because she missed her boyfriend so much. They had recently broken off their relationship.

The therapist asked her to think of a time that was particularly memorable with her boyfriend and she remembered immediately a time when they went dancing. She was asked how that make her feel and she replied that at that moment she felt "special" which is, of course, a perfectly normal and natural human desire.

There were lots of aspects of their relationship that she didn't miss and hadn't enjoyed but dancing with him, feeling special, had become associated with him, and she missed that feeling, more than she missed him, which was quite a revelation to her. This conversation eased her loss of the relationship and she stopped obsessing and stopped crying too. Now, she was free to find the feeling of being special in some new way other than feeling it all hinged on her boyfriend.

This prompted a somewhat new line of thought for me. I thought about the times when I have felt elated, buoyant, fully present and alive and I would have to say, as sluttish as it is going to sound, that I have felt most thrilled and exuberantly happy and authentically me when I have had sex in something of a primal way.

I remember once thinking that if a man gives a woman an intense full body sort of orgasm, in her mind regardless of their future projectory, they would be somewhat wedded for life. That is, in the corner of her mind, no matter how far into the distance the experience was, she would hold a torch for that man. For example, I remember once an orgasm so overtaking of my senses and so overwhelming that my mind completely shut down in a total yogi sort of way. I go to that particular second in time quite often and relive it in my mind and my body because it was a moment that stands out to me as one of the most significant moments of my life.

I don't think I felt "special" or that I "belonged" or that I was "cared for", the big things that people desire. I just felt authentically me. I felt...alive. I felt..."free". Yes, feeling free is a big human desire of some people.

If we associate our big desire with a person, or a thing, we get some addictive or obsessive thinking going on. I know this from experience. In Feeling State Theory I believe the idea is that if it is not possible to feel free with that person any longer for whatever reason, it's the therapist's job to help the client find some other way to feel free, or whatever it is they desire to feel.

It seems that for some of us, intense sexual experiences are deeply desired and freeing, and there's nothing wrong with that, so long as you embrace that with someone who also wants to give you those intense experiences, and that this arrangement works into your life in a harmonious way. It's perfectly simple really, in theory anyway.

Wednesday, March 1, 2017

Tapping into wisdom

When change happens, perhaps a cancer diagnosis of one member of a relationship, there will be a wave of emotions. Each person is riding the waves of their own emotions before they can come together to ride the waves together. It is a 'sink or swim' time as each person deals with their own fears.

It was Kubler-Ross who many years ago laid out the five stages of grief. In my earlier days I thought  Kubler-Ross's model of loss applied only to death and dying, but I've come to understand that the model applies to all types of significant grief and loss in one's life; perhaps the loss of good health, or the breakdown of a relationship. There is going to be denial, anger, bargaining, depression and ultimately, acceptance. It's just the way the brain works, it is thought. I have linked to an article here that does a great job of explaining the stages of leaving a toxic relationship and the justifications one can make of remaining in such a union.

Whether it is a diagnosis of ill health or the breakdown of a relationship, or a significant issue of a family member under your care perhaps, the thing is that it didn't just occur overnight. It wasn't just a wrong step here or there but multiple missteps and flawed thinking processes. The question then becomes, 'You are where you are. What are you going to do about it now?'

In the case of cancer, medical science tends to consider the body as a piece of apparatus. The body developed a problem, so let's get rid of the problem; slash and burn. Medical practitioners rarely have time or interest in looking at the reasons why your particular body developed this particular problem, but they do have some ways to assist and that's what they'll offer. It's always worth hearing what they have to offer.

It's interesting though that we know a lot now about how the body responds to stress, to emotions, to good nutrition or the lack thereof, to sleep or a lack of sleep. We also know a lot about hope, and how vital it is for the brain to develop a positive approach in the light of a  serious challenge. This material can make a real difference, potentially a life saving difference, especially when medical practitioners can't necessarily offer a satisfactory solution; when they offer next to no hope.

We are even coming to learn that not all tests ordered by the doctors to diagnose problems are necessarily safe. It happens in every life time that what was thought of as safe is sometimes later determined not to be safe, so it makes sense to have some healthy skepticism. For example, microwaves may not be nearly as safe as we once thought, nor are the dyes in some X-rays necessarily non toxic. We've taken a lot for granted in this modern world and now it's time to start rethinking the game. What is the wrapper around your hamburger actually made of? It's not just one little thing like a wrapper that matters but all the bits of a modern world that we inhabit that may not be good for our health or peace of mind.

Worrying about this won't solve anything but awareness of what we do and how we live will. We need to supersede the denial and the bargaining and so forth with action that matters. If, for example, one is given a cancer diagnosis, the important thing to do first is to stop and process. If it took years and years for your body to get out of whack and for a cancer to form, do you need surgery tomorrow morning?

It's not that I'm saying 'don't trust the medical profession' but rather 'put a little faith in your own body and your own self' to aid in the healing process.

Consider these options or additions to any plan devised:

1) Get rid of all the junk food out of your diet immediately. Eat plenty of colored fruits and vegetables, whole and juiced. Get into vegetarian cooking with plant based proteins such as quinoa in the recipes. Make sure you have plenty of garlic, ginger, pomegranates, and citrus. You'll find endless advice on the Internet about the best foods to heal cancer. Dark green leafy vegetables are wonderful.

2) Reduce the stress in your life. Focus on living your life in the Now and put the issues in your life into perspective. Rather than worrying a matter, see what you can do to take action to make the situation better. For every action there is a reaction. Choose wisely.

3) Meditate every day even if for just a few minutes. Get to know your own mind and what thoughts are trundling through it. Remind yourself you are not your thoughts and go home inside yourself to the peaceful soul that resides inside you. Giving your ego free rein is not going to work. Get in touch with your inner peace.

4) Maintain a positive attitude. Those people that beat cancer are those that believe that they can beat cancer, even visualizing cancer cells being broken down as they go through the healing process.

We've reached a stage where, thankfully, we have stopped dream walking through our own lives and giving the responsibility to other people to do the right thing. We are beginning to take responsibility for our own health, our own behavior and the consequences of foolish decision making.

It feels like we are at the precipice of accepting responsibility for our own behavior in countless ways and calling out those people when something doesn't make sense or doesn't feel right - economically, spiritually, financially, emotionally. We're learning to trust in our own judgment and that's always a good thing. We all have an inner wisdom. We just have to tap into that.