Wednesday, 16 March 2011

Cartesian Un-Ending...

"So many things are contained in the idea of a thinking thing that it would take whole days to unfold them.  We shall be dealing for the moment only with the most important things, and with those which help to make the notion of a thinking thing more distinct, and which will help us to avoid confusing it with notions which have nothing to do with it.  By a 'thinking thing' I mean..."

(The Search for Truth)

Love to all, x

Wednesday, 9 March 2011


I saw a friend the other day who is in the midst of making a decision that will impact hugely on her life and the life of those close to her.  She was so caught up in the process of indecision, that she was behaving in a most peculiar way.  So distracted and troubled as she was by the unanswered questions in her mind, that she couldn't look me or anyone else in the eye, couldn't keep still to the extent that she paced the room in a frenetic, distracted fashion, and could hardly string a sentence together.  The woman appeared to be in the most vivid mental and physical discomfort.  Frankly, she appeared to have gone a little mad.

The circle of friends this woman has, has been working overtime.  It seems that almost everybody has a strong opinion as to what this woman should do, and they are telling her.  They care about her, they want her safe, they want to help ease her discomfort and bring her to the conclusion that they anticipate will bring her relief and final resolution.  They are, without a doubt, attempting to interfere in this woman's life, and the justification for that interference is that it is what it means to be a good friend to someone.  The thing is, whether or not that is true, nothing is happening.

Something will only happen when the woman herself makes a decision.  Does this show that one can push and pull at someone all one likes, but in fact it is not possible to ever really control the thoughts or behaviour of another?  It might look as if sometimes one does, but isn't that only because what they have chosen to think or how they have chosen to behave, happens to accidentally coincide with what one was pushing for? Purely coincidental.

She will make the decision she makes, when she makes it, and whilst she might listen to opinions, the decision will only ever be hers, and no-one can interfere with that.

Monday, 28 February 2011


The purpose of life is joy.  Isn't that just the most fabulous thought? Don't those simple few words just make your heart swell and sing with happiness? Just the very idea of that thought feels good.

That something feels that good, is not to be sniffed at.  When some random thought or idea feels good to you, and sometimes really, really good, do you not wonder why? And when some other thought or idea does not feel good, for no reason of which you are particularly aware, do you not then also wonder why?

Could it be that our feelings, our emotions, are trying to tell us something? Or if not actively trying to tell us, then perhaps gently guiding us? Gently giving us a system of guidance by which to live what can seem like our very complex, difficult, painful, confused lives?

How many times have you, like myself, um-ed and ah-ed over which decision to make, which turn to take, which action to make? The agonies one puts oneself through when trying to decipher 'right' from 'wrong', 'good' from 'bad'.  Have you read up on a subject? Sought the opinions of others? Consulted an expert? Written your own lists of pros and cons?

I find it intoxicating (in a really exciting, thrilling, hallelujah-esque way) that I might already have all the guidance I need for any possible dilemma, there, right inside me, all the time; that in fact there really is only one question: does it, whatever it is, feel good?

What's that old doctor joke?

A man walks into the doctor's consulting room. 
MAN: Doctor, it hurts when I do this.. (man demonstrates)
DOCTOR: Well, don't do it then.

Tuesday, 22 February 2011

Dark Words

To deal with the darkness outside, you must first deal with the darkness inside.  One of those pretty sentences, that seem to offer so much insight and illumination (pun intended), and yet actually lie pretty thin on the ground, hiding behind the elegance of the language.  Often this type of writing is praised, and from a beauty of language point of view, I understand.  From the point of view of furthering human understanding, I'm not sure it adds very much.  Many people who put pen to paper, or finger to keypad, are lauded for this kind of thing, when in fact they are simply not criticised because readers feel intimidated and unsure of the meaning of the words, but instead of thinking their lack of understanding comes from a fault of the writer, they take it upon themselves and assume their own ignorance or lack of mental capacity.

So let's unpick it.  One reading would be that it is essentially saying that it is harder (not impossible) to deal with trouble outside of yourself, in your relationships with others and the wider world, if you are troubled within.  Well, if you are troubled by things inside, your judgement or ability to see things objectively (as objectively as any of us can from our by-definition-subjective view point) will presumably be hampered because you are coming at the thing outside with so much more baggage.  Baggage is a weight to carry, you lean into it, and away from the direct view.

Another reading could be that the darkness outside is in some way caused by the darkness inside, therefore deal with what it is inside, and you simultaneously deal with what is outside.  Two birds with one stone and all that.  Or in fact there is only one bird in the first place...  And what is this dark bird? This darkness? 'Trouble' as I said before?  Conflict? Confusion? Unhappiness? Anything that doesn't feel 'right' or good? Perhaps simply dark as opposed to light...un-illuminated in contrast to illuminated.

And how illuminated by these words do I feel now? Not very.  They sound nice, but the intended reading is not clear.  Beware dark, unclear words.

Sunday, 13 February 2011


Lessons come from the strangest of quarters, and when one least expects them.

This last week I have had so much on my mind.  I have been troubled by what I should do, when I should do it, why I should do it.  In being caught up in these trials and tribulations in my mind, I know I have been less present in the moment.  In the pits of my grief and my fear and my anxiety, I have sunk down and left the surface.  In my focus on future possibilities and happenings, I have all but abandoned the now.  Apart from myself, who is my Now? My little girl is.  I have gone through the motions of parental care this week, but I have not fully inhabited them.  I have been short with her, where my mind has been occupied with other matters, and my heart divided.  In the absence of being able to tell her how I really feel, what I am really thinking about, how my heart has been troubled and hurting, I have scolded her for an untidy bedroom, and been impatient with her with one thing after another.

Tonight, my daughter, my gorgeous little girl, taught me a lesson...gently and lovingly.  After my own supper and evening, I came upstairs to check that she was settled and asleep, as I usually do.  She normally plays quietly on her own in her room before going to sleep, perhaps listening to a story on disc.  Generally making even more mess to be tidied up the next day.  Tonight, things were different.  Tonight, when I silently entered her room, I saw an entirely different scene.  My little girl had used her play time, her own private lovely time when she does as she wishes in the privacy of her own room, to tidy that room.  The floor was completely clear, toys were neat and ordered, desk tidy.  I know how long that would have taken her...all of her own time.  Then, she had gone one step further.  There, in the centre of her floor, was a little person laid out in the guise of her school uniform, pants and socks, all neatly arranged, ready for tomorrow.

My daughter herself was tucked up in her bed, clutching her teddy bear, fast asleep.  After completing her task, she had put herself neatly and uncomplainingly to bed.  Quietly, I kissed her cheek, her forehead, tears flowing without sound, as I thanked my little angel for teaching me a lesson.

Monday, 7 February 2011

Obstructing Your Self

If you were to see a great gushing stream, and decide to stick your hand in it to push the water and make it flow better, what would happen?

Even as you moved your hand through the water, the water behind your hand would find it an obstacle to its direct progress.  The water in front of your hand could go no faster because of the weight of water in front of it, and if anything would falter because your hand, the obstacle, is preventing the water behind it from steadily pushing it on.

You would be messing with the currents, messing with the flow.  The same is true of creativity, but it is the hand of self-consciousness, of fear, of stress....we try to meddle with the creativity (whatever the form it might take, and I include simply responding to new situations in our daily life) because we are focused on the outcome, be that social or professional, or egotistical.  In so doing, we obstruct exactly the creativity we want. 

A person's health shows a similar phenomenon.  'Bad' health is easy to define in terms of injury, disease, illness, pathology.  What is 'good' health? It is the absence of all those things, but a description of absence is not a description of the thing itself.  Health is what we have already, we don't need to contrive it...when it is 'bad', it simply means there is something in conflict, something in the way of our natural state.

Too much preparation is often observed to be counter-productive.  Again it is obstructing, it is trying to mould what cannot be moulded.  Be yourself.  Spontaneously.  Your creativity is there, your job is not to mess with it -  being honestly in the moment as much as possible, enjoying the wonderful flow, responding spontaneously from a place of far greater integrity. 

Be yourself.  (Everybody else is already taken).

Sunday, 30 January 2011


There is something I am wanting and I am yearning for it.  I am yearning for it so much I feel sick and anxious with longing.  Sickness and anxiety born of fear that perhaps I won't get it.  It is not a good feeling.  Then there came a little suggestion: what if I were to imagine I had that thing now? If I had that thing right now, how would I feel? How would I act?  This is an interesting exercise when in the agony of wanting something one does not have.

There are two possible outcomes.  One is that in imagining one already has this thing one wants so much, imagining it so vividly that one feels, moves, breathes, and looks as if one already has it, it feels fundamentally better than the way one acted or felt before.  Or, it doesn't feel any better.  And then one has a choice.

If imagining one has the thing makes one feel fundamentally better, then why not allow oneself to carry on feeling that way? Never mind that one hasn't 'actually' got it yet.  Why prevent the good feeling of possibly having it, with the bad feeling of wanting it painfully.  What does the yearning serve? In our normal conception of time, the 'having' is a future thing, it hasn't happened yet, but nor has it not a way, allowing oneself to feel the pain of not having it, is like crossing a bridge before we've got to it. 

Go with the good feeling.  And if the imagining of the having of the thing did not make one feel fundamentally better, then let go of the wanting, because having the thing won't make one feel any better than one does right now.  Either way, doesn't one feel freer? Happier?  One is no longer locked into self-imposed unhappiness and constraint...

Sunday, 23 January 2011

Your Hand in Mine

When I was walking into school with my daughter the other  morning, I had one of those moments when the world quietens itself for a moment, and one becomes suddenly aware of one tiny detail.  The detail was my daughter's hand in mine - soft, small, and warm.  She chattered away and probably didn't even notice I was holding her hand, so normal an event as it is.  But one day she won't want to hold my hand any more, and that day may not be far away.

I felt sad for a moment, poignantly but discreetly feeling her little fingers curling round mine.  And then I felt elated.  My heart drifted suddenly from down to up - I could almost feel its movement in my chest.  I realised that if that moment was about to come, the moment when her hand was no longer in mine, then it was perfect.  It was just as it should be.  I would have done my job.  My job is to make it so that she no longer wants or needs to hold my hand.  To say, 'alright darling', the day she chooses to no longer place her hand in mine, and 'I love you' as I use my hand instead to wave her off.

As we walked and she looked up at me and smiled, scenes from her future appeared before my mind's eye: I saw her lovingly taking a friend's hand to comfort them; I saw her wiping tears from her own face; I saw her hand looking adult, grown-up and strong, and yet also one day once more slipping inside the larger hand of another, but so different this time to the parent's...the hand perhaps of a man she will love, being squeezed, and squeezing back.

Her hand will only be able to do all these things, because, at just the right moment, it let go of mine. 

And mine of hers.

Sunday, 16 January 2011

Speech is Silver, Silence is Golden

A little hiatus this week because I have been thinking about talking.  I have been thinking about talking, rather than talking itself, until I worked out what I thought....or more simply I was, in time-honoured fashion, thinking before speaking.  I have been thinking about myself, my friends, people I don't know but whose words I read or listen to, about the whole richly articulate bunch of us.  And I was wondering: is there a time to talk, but also a time to shut the f*** up?

I adore words.  They are exciting, thrilling, beautiful.  One can toss them out there, sometimes they catch a breeze, sometimes they do not, but they fall somewhere.  When someone else catches them, even just one single person, and hears them as one intended and meant them, I can weep with gratitude.  How utterly exquisite is it to be heard, and to be understood?  How uncommon it is in normal interaction to be truly listened to on that level.  And that's the awful, damaging, ugly, frightening side of words.  They can also be taken from you, dragged from you kicking and screaming as they are twisted, contorted and betray you in front of your very eyes (ears).  It has been done to me, and I recall my  anguish.  My futile half-sentences: "But it's not what I...." "But I didn't mean..." "No, please listen, I really..." It is a horrible feeling, knowing someone is not hearing you, but believes they are.  The consequences can be far-reaching, a great deal further than a personal feeling of injustice or upset.  Understanding the fickleness of these labels that we attach to our thoughts, in order to share said thoughts with others, much of my undergraduate philosophy degree was spent honing the rigour of our use of language.  Nit-picking possibly to the outside ear, but actually so necessary when one considers the endless possibility of misapprehension and ambiguous reading...and yet simply not feasible or practical in most people's everyday communications.

So, words: friends or foes? Well, I'm writing this, aren't I? Albeit wincing at all the holes I have laid bare into which to stumble...just look out for them would you? I know they're there, and I apologise, but I hope you'll feel we are all in this together.  And to paraphrase something I heard the other day: "When there is nothing left to say, I promise I won't say it." 

Friday, 7 January 2011


New Year's resolutions.  Hmm.  There is a problem with resolutions.  If you are resolving to act or behave in a particular way, then it indicates there will be a conflict.  If there is a need to resolve, then there must be something to resolve against.  If you are feeling the need for a fresh start, feeling the need to make a resolution to either do or not do something from this moment forth, then there must be something inside you which has caused you to act or behave in the opposite way up until this point.  So, you have a battle on your hands.  You have a conflict.

The scientist Emil CouĂ© referred to the Law of Reverse Effect.  In other words, we do things in such a way that they bring the opposite result of the one intended.  We collide with the very thing from which we are trying to save ourselves, because our consciousness becomes focused only on this.  Driving a car, there will be one small obstacle in the road, we have plenty of space to pass, no problem whatsoever, but we become focused on this obstacle, determined to avoid it, so what happens? We hit it.  We diet.  We resolve to eat no more cake.  What do we begin to crave in a way we never did before? I ask you absolutely not to think about (the classic) a pink elephant...please, absolutely, on no count whatsoever think about a pink elephant...

Beware of anyone who has to swear or utter an oath against anything.  There must be something more profound inside them against which they are having to swear.  An oath or resolution is a surface, conscious mind, thing.  The thing against which it is being made is inside, in the labyrinthine powerful sub-conscious.  What happens when we restrain or suppress a thing? The moment the (exhausting) control is relaxed, the thing surges up.  Remove a dam, the river gushes forth, as it always was.  The dam does nothing to the river.