Thursday, 24 February 2011

If You Want to be Happy


"If you want to be miserable think of yourself. If you want to be happy think of others"

Sakyong Mipham Rinpoche.
Shambhala Buddhist Tradition from Tibet.
Four Dignities That Bring Confidence in Everyday Life

Wednesday, 23 February 2011

Be fully awake if you want to dream ~ Paulo Coelho

Be the Change


Our deepest fear is not that we are inadequate.
Our deepest fear is that we are powerful beyond measure.
It is our light, not our darkness that most frightens us.
We ask ourselves, Who am I to be brilliant,
gorgeous, talented, fabulous?
Actually, who are you not to be?
You are a child of God.
Your playing small does not serve the world.
There is nothing enlightened about shrinking
so that other people won't feel insecure around you.
We are all meant to shine, as children do.
We were born to make manifest the glory of God that is within us.
It is not just in some of us; it is in everyone.
And as we let our own light shine, we unconsciously
give other people permission to do the same.
As we are liberated from our own fear,
our presence automatically liberates others.

a return to love - marianne williamson

I have wanted to understand why there is such acceptance and lack of resistance to what is occurring in our country and around the world.? Even though day by day I am witnessing many who are complaining about the cuts there appears to be an overriding drive not to move beyond the status quo. To look at what created the system and not to just blame the bankers. And in doing so to question the system itself and look at how we as individuals and societies continue to support such a dysfunctional system.

Those with a more spiritual focus have described this system as a game or an illusion or greed. While those from political focus describe this system as capitalism. And those from a psychotherapy focus describe this system as a drama, addiction, or co-dependency. Many from different disciplines describe this as individualism and materialism. Many agree that this system is destroying our planet and killing many lives both human and non human. Many agree that this system if unchecked will devour itself and exhaust the world's resources. I would say this system is an act of violence.

I have been wanting to understand what I experience as numbing to dreams and hopes for a better healthy world. A world where the focus is on creativity, growth, potential and the best outcomes. Where people dare to dream of internal and external freedom. Not one that is resigned to choosing second best. That focuses on the worst outcomes so as not to be disappointed. One which shrinks people down, controls and limits. These acts are violent.

For years I have searched for meaning to understand what perpetuates the cycle of fear and violence that I see in myself and in others. I have dabbled in anthropology, philosophy, politics, feminism, environmentalism and spirituality. I've read many books, met many people, attended various groups, meetings, workshops and trainings. Through my searching, researching, exploring, experiencing and sharing I have come to value the teachings in all these disciplines. And I have met others who also draw on different disciplines so they can act like pieces of a jigsaw.

While I was focusing on my own healing this led me to connecting with like minded souls. For a long period I felt I had found a home within the Reclaiming Community whose aim I understood was to connect many of these jigsaw pieces. This was a place where I could experientially connect these different disciplines with an aim of creating a fulfilling alternative way of living. A place where theory could be tested; a grand experiment!

I took a step away from being actively involved with the Reclaiming Community and I withdrew from my outward search and embarked on a relationship which drew me into re-enacting a generational cycle. My mind had thought I had 'sorted' myself through reading psychotherapy, self-help books, many years of analysis and my involvement in groups and workshops. However I was yet to gain a further deeper understanding at a level which included my body and unconscious. Which allowed space for my soul to explore it's voice and begin to sing.

It was in the relationship that my Soul felt increasingly trapped and caged. My first step was to leave. Then when when I was at a safe distance I was able to embark on a deeper understanding. I began to realize how this negative cycle fed on fear through control. Control was an ever decreasing cage that trapped and squashed me. And the ultimate manifestation of this cycle was violence. I began to listen to myself and understand that my anxiety was a natural response to an unhealthy environment. I started to stop being victim to my emotional state which was being used to re-enforce my lack of self-confidence and self-worth. I had started to thaw my heart and feel my souls natural desire for enjoyment of life. And it is from that space that I was able to explore being with others. Connecting more with and in life. It this space that enabled me to see how the personal is linked with the public.

How we live in our personal lives affects how we live in our public lives. Our capacity/tolerance for personal freedoms affects our capacity/tolerance of public freedoms. Both are interlinked. If the majority of society are struggling to survive; using up all their energy on tiring low paid jobs which only the few are lucky to have or, dysfunctional relationships. Then they are more easily controlled. It works both ways. For our families are also a reflection of our society. Another way of looking at this pattern is noticying how the outside world reflects our inner world. For instance isn't uncanny that when feeling happy with yourself and the world the world smiles back? Literally! But if you are feeling isolated, impatient or angry, then the world mirrors this back through situations and people putting up obstacles.

The cages we place ourselves in are cages around our hearts. And these cages come lined with deluxe furnishings. With the trappings of gold and plasma TVs pumping out 'reality tv shows' or shows on 'make overs' to create perfect human beings with perfect homes. We are fed and feed images to compare ourselves with thus creating envy. We want to live the impossible dream.So we keep our cages comfortable, full of desirable material things to keep ourselves occupied. An illusion of security. These cages fed by addiction is what Capatilism thrives and relies on. Hence the frequent remark in response to percieved negative feelings, overwhelming emotions or situations ~ 'I am off for a bit of shopping therapy' or 'I could murder for a pint'. Until we look at the drivers behind addiction, we will not stop the bankers earning huge bonuses or people craving more and more money through credit. And society will not own up to the fact that alcohol is a drug which is the cause of so much violence. Because the terrible truth is that so many in society are addicted to violence. So many in society are not aware what is violent.

In "Freedom for Sale ~ How we made money and lost our liberty" John Kampfner refers to private and public freedoms which I think has parallels to what I have referred to as personal and public freedom. He divides his book into different countries including Britain. Under Britain: Surveillance State, John Kampfner first quotes Brendan O'Neill " Britain used to export textiles, iron, steel and pop music; now it exports Orwellian methods for monitoring the masses".

"By the time Blair left office in 2007, he had bequeathed to his successor a surveillance state unrivalled anywhere in the democratic world. Parliament passed forty-five criminal justice laws ~ more than the total for the whole of the previous century ~ creating more than three thousand new criminal offences...The scope was extensive: police and security forces were given greater powers of arrest and detention; all institutions of state were granted increased rights to snoop; individuals were required to hand over unprecedented forms of data. Abroad, the government colluded with the transport of terrorist suspects by the US government to secret prisons around the world, giving landing rights at British airports for these so-called "rendition" flights. At home, new crimes were created, such as glorifying terrorism or inciting religious hatred"

So the message is clear. Remain in terror. There is an increasing threat of criminal behaviour. Of terrorism. The cage is just a barrier to keep the dangerous out. Them and Us. And because the enemy is within we have surveillance. Depending on the society and culture cages come in all shapes and sizes. In his book John Kampfner shares his investigations into the different countries of Singapore, China, Russia, United Arab Emirates, India, Italy, Britain and USA. He suggests that there is a world wide pattern. He says:

"The specific rules varied between countries, but the template was similar. Repression was selective, confined to those who openly challenged the status quo. The number of people who fell into that category was actually very few ~ journalists who criticised the state or published information that cast the powerful in a negative light; lawyers who defended these agitators; and politicians and others who publicly went out of their way to "cause trouble". The rest of the population could enjoy freedom to travel, to live more or less as they wished and to make and spend their money. This was the difference between public freedoms and private, or privatised, freedoms. For many people this presented an attractive proposition. After all, how many members of public, going about their daily lives, wish to challenge the structures of power? One can more easily than one realises be lulled into thinking that one is sufficiently free.

This is the pact. In each country it varies; citizens hand over different freedoms in accordance with their own customs and priorities. In some it is press freedom; in some it is the right to vote out their government; in some it is an impartial judiciary; in others it is the ability to get on with their lives without being spied upon. In many it is a combination of these and more.
"In the global order of the past two decades, the alliance of political leaders, business and the middle classes was the key. The arrangement was built on a clear, but usually discreet set of understandings. What mattered in all these societies was that the number of people who benefited from this deal gradually increased, and that the state remained flexible enough to meet their various needs. These needs could be summarised as: property rights, contract law, environmental protection, lifestyle choices, the right to travel, and the right to earn money ~ and keep it. the people who mattered ~ the wealthy and the aspiring wealthy ~ were to be protected against the use of arbitrary state power. But could such protection be provided without the tools of conventional democracy, such as free elections and open media? That was the conundrum that authoritarian capitalists faced"

This book was written prior UK coalition government's right wing radical changes which are sweeping UK under the banner of necessary cuts. And the more recent events in the middle east. The middle east uprisings have created a wave of hope not just in the middle east but across the globe. On the wave has lept British PM David Cameron through publicly travelling middle eastern countries speaking of democracy and freedom at the same time ensuring future investment in arms. Ofcourse he has to utter both in the same breath. And I think what is so disturbing is he believes in what he does and says. The swift timely eager response of his tour for me betrays his anxiety to ensure the continued arms trade; in order to keep the status quo in tact. And of course there is big money to be made. But what would happen if more and more people began to believe that there was not this ever present and increasing threat? That started to question the morality of the arms trade. No longer being 'lulled into believing they were sufficiently free', began to believe in more liberated ways of living? Maybe then revolution might even occur on our own doorsteps here in UK and other countries. This is what unfortunately David Cameron and many others fear. With change comes the potential of fear. But I would also add that with change come the potential for excitement.

In "Peace is the Way, Bringing war and violence to an end" by Deepak Chopra refers to three major components to the ultimate myth of security ~ the ultimate manifestation of violence and control; the arms build up:
Money brings happiness
Technology brings well-being
Military strength brings security

This holy trinity of capitalism is the ultimate cage. The ultimate trap that does not make us safer. Living outside of the cage is safer. I believe that peaceful change is a stronger power. Because it is life affirming. I hear that many in the peaceful uprising in Egypt were inspired by the works of Gene Sharp who speaks of peaceful ways of liberation. It was not as the media have promoted the power of technology such as Internet and mobile phones that was key to the revolution but the message of peace. So when other regimes try to stop peaceful liberation through blocking Internet and mobiles they will in the end fail.

His Holiness the Dalai Lama said; "'If we want to change the world, we have to begin by changing ourselves".

The veil between humans and nature, between private and public, between mind and matter, between thought and action, between being and doing is an illusion. There is a third way which can also be described as multi-disciplinary or holistic. That moves away from a dualistic/conflictual/advisory mind set. Creating an expansive space. Moves away from the rigid and brittle. To the flexible and changeable. Opening up up new possibilities. This is the creative spark which is Divine. That is light and Dark. It is Consciousness. It is Infinite. It is.

As Gandhi said:"Can you be the change that you wish to see in the world?"

So I take courage and inspiration from those who are able to connect with peaceful liberation. Whether that is on a mass scale as in Egypt or on a personal scale. Both are the change that can be seen in the world. And there by changes the world. Which reminds me of the chant that is so often used at Reclaiming gatherings:

"She changes everything she touches and touches everything she changes!" Blessed Be!


Britain can push democracy or weapons but not both. By Simon Jenkins.

UK arms sales to the Middle east, who do we sell to, how much is military and how much just 'controlled'?.

Gene Sharp Web page Albert Einstein Institution

Freedom for Sale: How we made mondey and lost our liberty. By John Kampfner.

Peace is the Way: Bringing War and violence to an end. By Deepak Chopra.
Reclaiming Web page

Sunday, 20 February 2011

Finding Treasure where you Least Expect

I wish in future I can cherish each moment in the moment. In doing so I will be able to fully experience. I will not be living out of regret.

How often when something or someone seems so vibrant so strong they can be suddenly be gone. I can find it hard to believe that all is transient. Not to focus on the Loss but instead focus on all that I have experienced. To celebrate and enjoy.

What set this particular train of feeling and thought in motion, was that my local charity shop has had it's management change hands. And the manager was incredibly significant. He was in the tradition of British Eccentric. Wealthy and with that came an ease of behaving. He was I think a member of another wonderful tradition of artists. Incredible intense. Incredibly creative. And at times deliciously non PC! With a gift of story telling so that in every telling the story became more dramatic. I was never sure of what was 'the reality' which was rather liberating and refreshing!

In his shop all and everyone was welcome and included. I had the experience that it was a place where if people dared they could be what they wished. They could try on a role or costume. On one momentous day I met a Transsexual who literally spent the day trying on women's clothes asking advice from Stephan the Manager, me and Adam Ant who ran into the shop seeking refuge from his nightmares. On that same day I was helping out behind the counter as the young lady who usually helped out, took exception to Adam and walked out. Shortly after a woman came in and ended up getting a psychic reading from Hazel the resident witch; otherwise known as Elizabeth or Silver Fox. Due to having her dog stolen.

That day was like a Reclaiming 7 day WitchCamp intensive ~ compressed into 1 day. And it took me quite sometime to recover from such a high intensity of experience! For Stephan ~ well this was not quite his average day but I imagine not that extraordinary.

He created a community. On entering the shop he would introduce everyone to that person. And whatever name he chose was your name! Over the years the shop got fuller and fuller with more donations, more people and the walls covered with pictures, photos, poems and mementos. And the shop displays were wonderful. People's discarded 'junk' could be transformed into a rich diverse delicious display. It was a treasure trove. It was a place where he was the Grand Master the Warlock as he loved to declare. And the funny thing is, even though I had the sneaking suspicion he thought he wasn't. He was in fact a Mage! Because for me he did transform. He did create a space where so much more was possible. An Alchemist in your local shop. How subversive is that!

I have known him for over 10 years ~ during which he has moved from charity shop to charity shop within this vicinity. This last 5 years he spent at my local charity shop. He gave me so much. And he would say time and time again how much I gave him.

However he moved on without me having a chance to say goodbye or to find out where he is going next. And for me it was a shock. I knew something was up coos the shop had been closed 'for refurbishment' for ages. Today I had a free Saturday and went in. It had been stripped bare. With a rather nervy new manager behind the counter. With only 2 customers. And the walls a bland white with only a few items clearly priced. Not to be enjoyed and/or to be part of creating an experience of sharing and community. Just things to be sold on in an ordinary shop. A place of transience. Of things people have discarded. Not a place for the ordinary to be extraordinary.

For me the timing in which I saw this charity shop ~ now an empty space ~ comes at a time when I am experiencing the UK government speaking of 'Big Society'. While at the same time wanting to sell of forests and get rid of Public Libraries. Wanting to strip away so much richness, so much diversity, so much creativity. Was to say the least sad.

So this is a big thank you to Stephan which I imagine is one of many names. I wish you safe travels, happiness and peace. What you created is in my heart. And because your vision was shared, this can be re-created by many because you shared so much.

Saturday, 12 February 2011

Dare to feel. Dare to Care.

"Placing the blame or judgment on someone else leaves you powerless to change your experience. Taking responsability for your beliefs and judgments gives you the power to change them" ~ Byron Katie ~ Peter Gabriel 'Digging in the Dirt'.

When in discussions on peaceful ways to responding to violence I have found this question is often posed: "What would you do if a person had a gun and was going to threaten to kill someone?". And the people asking this sometimes go on to add ~ "Because you do not want to harm them; would a peaceful response mean just standing by and not intervening? Would you stand by and let them kill others?" Not surprisingly I have found myself struggling to respond.

I have heard a a range of answers. One which I have found very moving is that a peaceful person would stand in front the person with the gun. They would risk their own lives to protect others. Selflessly. That it is the vacancy of fear that breaks the cycle of violence. And on hearing this I have pondered whether I could do such a thing, whether I could act not out of fear. And to be honest my answer has been that I am not confident that I could.

Then I remembered a time when I saw two young men deep in a very bloody fight. I went straight up to them and split both of them a part. They stopped. I didn't shout. I felt no fear. Just a desire for them to stop hurting each other. I was with another who when we left the two young men was enraged with me for intervening. He had watched on in fear for himself and me. He said to me what if one of them had turned on you with a knife? Or had a gun? He said I was stupid because I did not think of my own safety or his. I responded that I wanted them to know that someone cared. That it was not OK. That I did not want them to hurt. I remember feeling this very strongly.

I also remember many a time when I was a child where my father would be submerged in a mad rage. And I use the word mad as I now consider he had lost his self and sanity. Such was his level of madness he had at one time almost killed my mother. And if I think if he had a gun when he 'lost it' what then? If someone had stepped in would love and compassion have touched his true self through the madness?

Back to the question. This pondering then led me to ask why were people so frequently posing this question. I began to realize that this question kept me in a mental bind/dead end, that saw the violent act in isolation. Could this question, this moral dilemma be in fact a trap which would not help in finding responses to violence? In fact in order to respond to violence and create peaceful loving living maybe what is needed is a different approach. And this could lead to different questions being asked. Could the question itself actually be part of the problem of how violence is seen?

Growing up in a violent family I have only recently began to appreciate how this has given me much insight, with regards to violence. This journey continues and so far has taken over 20 years of searching to understand. And I am sure I have more to learn, more healing will occur and with that further understanding. Key to this learning and discovery is how the violent act follows after a range of non physical violent behaviours. This abuse can come in the form of emotional, psychological and mental communications. The hit is like a confirmation of all that has been before. The violent physical act is like a locking of a door. And it's key is control carved out of fear.

The other main insight I learnt was that after I had become a victim of an abusive relationship was that I had internalised the oppressor/aggressor as well as the victim. Some describe this as a Shadow part. And that this Shadow had two faces both the oppressor and aggressor. Which like a cloaked figure whispers words; giving a warped view on the world. I also realized ~ How else could I have accepted someone else treating me like this if I had not this Shadow inside?. If I had not normalized violence. The healing for me was to see this cycle of violence. To see that I could step outside of the violence. I had choice. I had power.

I think we need to see physical violence as a symptom and not cause. If we do then I think we begin to see that violence is not just a physical act, but in fact part of a much more complex problem which we all can be locked into. Because we are all connected. And because we are all connected then we all have power to create positive change. Physical violence comes after a long history of behaviours which can be as subtle as a thought expressed in word or even a look. It is generational in families and in societies. If we see that violence is not an isolated act done by evil individuals, then we can also see the connections that led to the violence. We there by step out of blame and into sharing responsibility. This is an empowered place to be. A place of believing and knowing that we all can have a positive impact.

Violence is normalized and accepted in our society. Children are taught this at home and in school. The highs of the emotional intensity that we see daily in our press, on the TV, in our films is an addiction covering up pain, loss and isolation. It is deeply dysfunctional that violence is romanticised through endless disaster movies and violent computer games. So many have a need to forget they have a disconnection to true self, that is expressed through the numbing of pain that is created by and creates violence. It can be a vicious cycle.

So when we are given moral dilemmas like this question, I would suggest stepping back and asking why this question is being asked. What might be the hidden agendas? That in fact there is another way in responding which adds to further understanding. That address the causes. Enabling more ways to heal. More ways to step in earlier. More ways to prevent the violence because we will be more equipped to respond, having addressed potential wounds in ourselves and in our own relationships and ultimately in our societies. We can see how all of us can have an affect by sharing ownership and responsibility. We can step outside the duality of them and us. How though it might seem fear has the upper hand ~ healing is possible. We then will be more empowered ourselves and able to support one another, in being in a place of compassion. Out of Love.

Yes it can be painful thawing the ice. But unless we thaw our hearts not only will we not feel the pain inflicted on ourselves and other humans, but also our beautiful nature and planet.

After I had split the two young men up, I heard that they later on went back and started fighting again. This was when I was out of their view. So I leave with this thought what do I choose to focus on. That they continued with their violence or that for that moment they stopped. That they saw that some one cared?

I believe that we create life how we want it. So I believe in the power of love. I believe it is never impossible. I believe it is never too late.

So mote it be.

A link to Gene Sharp whose work has been so influential as has been read by activists in Egypt. The Albert Einstein Institution.

and a wonderful book:
"Small Acts of Resistance. How Courage, Tenacity, and Ingenuity Can Change the World." Steve Crawshaw & John Jackson.

Friday, 11 February 2011

Turn On Your Light

The new era is already here:
Here the new time begins anew.
The new era happens every day,
Every day is a new world,
A new calender.
All great moments, all great eras,
Are just every moment
And every day writ large.
Thousands of years of loving, failing, killing,
Creating, surprising, oppressing,
And thinking ought now to start
To bear fruit, to deliver their rich harvest.

Will you be at the harvest?
Among the gatherers of the fruits?
Then you must begin today to remake
Your mental and spiritual world,
And join the warriors and the celebrants
Of freedom , realisers of great dreams.

You can't remake the world
Without remaking yourself.
Each new era begins within.
It is an inward event,
With unspected possibilities
For inner liberation.
We could use it to turn on
Our inward lights.
We could use it to even the dark
And negative things positively.
We could use the new era
To clean our eyes,
To see the world differently,
To see ourselves more clearly.
Only free people can make a free world.
Infect the world with your light.
Help fulfil the prophecies.
Press forward the human genius.
Our future is greater than our past.

Ben Okri 1999
Found in Mental Flight.

Monday, 7 February 2011

The Wind One Brilliant Day by Antonio Machado

The wind, one brilliant day, called
to my soul with an odor of jasmine.

"In return for the odor of my jasmine,
I'd like all the odor of your roses"

"I have no roses; all the flowers
in my garden are dead."

"Well then, I'll take the withered petals
and the yellow leaves and the waters of the fountain."

the wind left. And I wept. And I said to myself:
"What have you done to the garden that was entrusted to you?"

translated by Robert Bly

Saturday, 5 February 2011

Daphnia pulex

The common water flea, Daphnia pulex, has more genes than any other animal known - including humans scientists have discovered. Photo by Dr P Herbert