I had this astounding moment of clarity today where I could see that human beings, with very few exceptions, are primarily self absorbed and self-interested. Myself, most definitely included.
This is not a condemnation – it is simply a fact. It is the way we are designed, therefore we can hardly despise ourselves for it, and when we accept this and begin to look beyond it, a whole different perception arises in our reality.
I guess it is a biological thing. I don’t have the scientific words to explain it. I haven’t had the time yet to research it, but my feeling is that it is grounded deep within a survival instinct both in the mind and the body. That makes it a powerful force. I wouldn’t imagine it is possible to transcend it completely, without a high level of spiritual awareness and an absolute sense of living in a completely supportive universe thereby feeling safe enough for this survival instinct to be unnecessary.
With 7.8 billion human beings walking on this earth almost all of whom are operating out of an ego that is primarily self-interested, it is a wonder there isn’t even more conflict than there is. Fortunately we have evolved sufficiently over thousands of years to understand that co-operation tends to bring more positive results than individual endeavour. It is still pretty hit and miss though. Most people are not yet consciously aware of their biases.
Everyone operates from, and sees the world through their biases. We filter everything through our biases and belief systems, unconsciously choosing anything that fits in with our views and generally discarding the rest. If we are lucky, something comes along and shakes us out of our indifference, forcing us to change the way we live. Usually this is a trauma or an event that culturally we would label as bad. Any culture whose priority is towards physical comfort rather than personal/spiritual growth is never going to welcome or grow easily through trauma and difficulty.
We all spend our lives trying to adjust our world to make ourselves comfortable. And we waste a lot of time and energy taking things personally that aren’t about us at all. We have probably all had the experience of someone not acting towards us in a manner we expected – perhaps a new acquaintance not being as friendly as we would have liked, or a friend seeming a bit distant, and we have decided that it is about us. They didn’t like us, we must have done something wrong, we feel slighted and indignant, sometimes holding onto it for days or even years, and then we find out that something big was going on in their own life, and they had simply been focused on that, distracted, it wasn’t about us at all, and suddenly our feelings towards them or ourselves change, . We realise it wasn’t about us, but we had taken it personally. This happens everyday, many times a day, all over the world, because we are the centre of our own universe.
It’s all about us.
True altruism is very hard to come by. Many of us do things for other people out of the kindness of our heart, but there is still always an element of self-interest there. It can be to get our own needs met, it can be to get positive attention, we may need to “people please” because we have an unconscious belief that we won’t be liked if we don’t keep others happy often to our own detriment. Until we manage to transcend our ego through constant self-awareness and spiritual work, we are locked into operating from a position of self-interest. This may seem like very sad news, but it isn’t. As we accept that this is so, (awareness and acceptance helps us to stop protecting our self-interest), we can begin to be more open to life, less reactive, and more tolerant of other people. It is possible to grow into a space where we understand that our self-interest, in the form of wanting to be happy, peaceful, loving, fulfilled, doesn’t need to be in competition with everyone else’s self interest because we are able to generate these positive feelings from within ourselves. We don’t need other people to provide them for us. We don’t need physical circumstances to be a certain way, We don’t need all our ducks lined up perfectly for us to be happy. When we reach this state, we can be genuinely altruistic.
Everyone is simply wanting to be happy and loved and loving.. including the drug addict and alcoholic. There is nothing wrong with this self-interest – in fact it is healthy. The problem lies in what we are doing to achieve it. If the majority of humans were able to realise that going inwards with honesty and integrity and a genuine desire to know themselves was the way to happiness and love instead of looking for it outside of themselves, in the bottle, the drug, the other person, the possessions, the power, the position, the world would be transformed into a much nicer place to live very quickly.
There is a very obvious example of under-lying self-interest in a common experience of life which we are mostly oblivious to because it is “normal”.
Lets look at grief. This is probably going to make me very unpopular, but I just want to put this out there as a beginning in recognising self-interest for what it is. You don’t have to agree with me. I am just saying.
I believe that when we grieve for someone who has died, the sorrow is predominantly about ourselves. This does not make it bad. It just is, but there is something very liberating about recognising that we are actually crying for ourselves. Crying because our life has changed. Crying because we no longer have someone who we felt made us feel loved, safe, protected, comfortable..whatever it is, (these feelings actually come from within ourselves and we project them on to another), and from the fear that we may no longer feel them again from someone else. Crying because the dreams we had for a future have been broken. Crying because our life has changed and we were comfortable. Some people who have horrible spiritual beliefs that don’t include an unconditionally loving God are cursed with the burden of believing their loved one has gone to hell if they haven’t shared the same religious beliefs, in which case grief can masquerade as noble and not self-interested, but I still believe on a deep level it is.
Liberation comes from realising that if we are crying for ourselves, then we are not stuck as a hopeless victim of grief as a result of a loved one dying. If we are mourning for ourselves, and the effect of the death on our life, then we have the power to change the story we tell ourselves, and change the way we experience the loss. The big problem arises when we believe we are mourning the person who has died, we realise we can’t bring them back, and then we think we can’t change the way we feel, because they are gone. We end up trapped in grief, close ourselves off from life and new opportunities and fail to recognise the potential for love and joy that underlies everything in the universe. Including death.
The rise to media prominence of the Black Lives Matter movement, and the discussion around white privilege have made it glaringly obvious to me how we all operate from our own biases. Until last week, I genuinely had no concept that I had privileges simply because of my skin colour. I am not insensitive, however I had no idea that racism is so systemic and covert. I have always strongly condemned aggressive and overt racist attacks without understanding that these are simply the tip of an iceberg. The fact that I felt affronted initially at the notion of white privilege, feeling like the bad “other” (a feeling that people with darker skin than mine experience many, many times), showed to me that without conscious awareness of the fact, I had a belief about myself that my ego felt compelled to defend. Initially, everything within me arose to reject the notion that I was privileged or in anyway responsible for enabling a lack of equality. It was liberating to be able to acknowledge how I felt and simply allow myself to open to the possibility that I had a bias that I wasn’t consciously aware of. We all do. It shouldn’t be shameful to admit this. From this point, it was then easy to move into a space whereby I could see another point of view without feeling the need to defend my own. It actually takes a lot more energy to stay in your bias and defend than to acknowledge it and open to other points of view. It also feels so much better.
The last three weeks has brought me a health challenge in the form of fluid around my heart which has irritated the heart. The timing of this has puzzled me, because on the one hand, the Chinese Medicine I am taking is reducing the tumors, and I have a strong belief that I am healing, and yet I suddenly develop fluid around my heart which I am aware medical professionals believe is the next stage of the disease. I never believe that a symptom is here to stay. I always believe that it is here right now, but there is as much possibility that it will pass as there is that it will stay.
I ended up in the local Emergency Department again yesterday with ongoing heart palpitations on even the smallest of exertion. I really didn’t want to go as the last time I was there, I was stuck in an isolation room for 12 hours, but I felt it was important I went to find out whether I should be resting, and why the palpitations were happening. I was very fortunate. There was only one other person in the waiting room, and I was on a bed within 15 minutes, being examined. My good fortune continued… the nurse was lovely, and I was allocated a beautiful woman doctor from Jordan who was fully supportive of my past decisions to refuse conventional treatment for the cancer, assuring me it was my body, and she would respect my decisions. She told me that many women in her country were choosing to use herbs to treat cancer, and that she had thought she would never meet someone ” like me” in this country.
They took blood samples to check my electrolytes etc, and within an hour came back to report that the blood results were excellent. The senior consultant, another woman, accompanied the doctor, and remarked that looking at my blood results and looking at me, you could not tell that there was anything wrong with my body. She also, was fully supportive and non-judgmental and told me to continue what I was doing, because it was clearly working. It was decided that I needed to rest for a few days while the “water tablets” began working, and that the palpitations were not life threatening unless I started to find myself losing consciousness or really struggling to breathe. I was happy with this, and was on my way home within three hours of heading up to the hospital earlier.
It was lovely to receive support from the medical profession, because some doctors are less than happy if you don’t do the treatment they believe in. Today I have stayed resting in bed, much to my annoyance because I feel so well, and I have had no palpitations whatsoever, even on getting up to shower and toilet.
So I was lying in bed this afternoon mulling over the events of the last few weeks and the last two days in particular, and idly wondering why this was all happening, when I suddenly thought “what if its not all about me?… what if I simply needed to be at the Emergency Department yesterday sharing my story?… what if one of those Doctors or nurses is able to give someone else much needed hope in the future by repeating my story?”. I may never know why, or even if, it was necessary for me to be at the hospital yesterday. I may never know if it was meaningful in the scheme of things or not, but it seemed so clear to me how much we limit our own potential and our own growth, by having a tiny, tiny biased view on what is happening. Usually one based almost totally on how we are being affected. We really have no clue.
Because you showed up yesterday and smiled at the homeless man, you may have just implanted within him a sense of hope that helps him move towards a better life. Because you thanked the elderly gentleman who opened the shop door for you, met his eye and smiled warmly, you may have alleviated his loneliness and feelings of being worthless to society now that he no longer works. Because you listened, really listened to the person who poured out their life story to you on the train, they may have felt seen and heard for the first time in their life and that was enough for them to choose not to take their own life that night.
It is never all about us although we tend to live from this paradigm. Quantum physics talks about how a butterfly flapping its wings in South America has an impact on the other side of the world. It is becoming increasingly difficult to ignore the fact that we do not live in isolation. If, as many believe, we are all connected by a field of energy, then everything we do, everything we think, everything we say, is impacting on that field and everything in it.
Our little self has no understanding beyond the most basic, as to what is going on. We have no idea what truth is. Everyone sees everything through their own unique biases and filters. Including you. Including me. The media is particularly skilled at pretending to have no bias. It does. Once we truly understand this, it is difficult to take a stance, then vehemently defend it.
We should be fluid.
This does not equate to weak and easily manipulated. When we are clear about our values and centred in them, but not rigidly attached to a viewpoint, we are able to live life open to new experiences, new wisdom, new possibilities. We are open to change, therefore we are open to life. Life is change. Life is movement.
Underlying all the universe is Love, Joy and Peace, but we may never recognise or experience this if we live our lives within rigid, preconceived parameters of good and bad.
Drop the need to label events or people, or anything, right or wrong. Anything can be used for good. It is in our power to do so. Individually or collectively. We can choose to open, soften and grow or we can chose to close, harden and stagnate. Our world is changing rapidly at the moment. It seems that chaos abounds. Maybe it isn’t chaos. Maybe this radical global upheaval is ushering in change that will benefit the earth, ourselves and future generations. If we all choose to be open, soft and to grow, the change will not be painful. If we resist, we will eventually be dragged kicking and screaming. Either way, change will happen.
Imagine if happiness became a national ambition instead of material wealth. Imagine if politicians stood in pure integrity, seeking what was best for the people instead of trying to work out what agenda will help them get elected. Imagine if everyone realised that co-operation, tolerance and kindness made life much more enjoyable than competition and selfishness.
Humanity needs to wake up.
I think it is.
What does this mean? To be open?
I have been reading Michael A Singer’s book “The Untethered Soul’.
I have been reading this book sporadically for many months. My sister recommended it to me months ago and I bought it, but it is taking me a very long time to read it. This is not because it is difficult to read, not at all: rather, this book is one of those that you need to read a little at a time and allow the wisdom to do its work on an unconscious level. He describes things in a very practical and simple way.
In chapter 5, called “infinite energy”, he talks about our inner energy. Understanding energy, even in a very simple way, is empowering. Why? Because we are energy. Our body is energy. Our thoughts are energy. Our consciousness is energy. Why are we not taught this is High School?
We are energy.
He says “look at the times in your life when you were in love, or excited or inspired by something. You were so filled with energy that you didn’t even want to eat. This energy we are discussing does not come from the calories your body burns from food. There is a source of energy you can draw on from inside. It is distinct from the outer energy source”. Light-bulb moment for me here. My awareness sat up and took notice and said “wow, that is true, I hadn’t consciously thought about it like that before”.
To further illustrate the point, he describes a scenario where you have been dumped by your boyfriend who you believe is the love of your life. You are so depressed you can barely get out of bed. Life seems flat and grey. You feel listless. You are barely eating. Then the phone rings and he is on the end of the phone telling you that he made a terrible mistake. He realises that he really loves you and doesn’t want to live without you… Can he come over?
You experience an instant surge of energy. You suddenly feel completely alive and vibrant.
Where did this energy come from?
Michael Singer describes it thus “What you’ll see, if you watch carefully, is that you have a phenomenal amount of energy inside you. It doesn’t come from food and it doesn’t come from sleep. This energy is always available to you. At any moment, you can draw on it. It just wells up and fills you from inside. When you are filled with this energy, you feel like you can take on the world. When it is flowing strongly, you can actually feel it coursing through you in waves. It gushes up spontaneously from deep inside and restores and replenishes and recharges you”.
Does this sound like something you would want to experience all the time?
He goes on to say “the only reason you don’t feel this energy all the time is because you block it. You block it by closing your heart, by closing your mind, and by pulling yourself into a restrictive space inside.This closes you off from all the energy. This is what it means to be blocked. That is why you have no energy when you are depressed”.
So how do we keep open?
Closing is a habit. Once we are consciously aware of this energy, we can choose to be open all the time. We can feel when we close. Fear in all its forms closes us. Rigid opinions close us. Blindly believing that what we have been taught by our culture is true closes us. Our insecurities close us.
Being conscious of ourselves is the key. Recognising the difference between how we feel when we are closed and how we feel when we are open, regularly checking in, and choosing to open if we are closed, creates the habit of being open. We want to practice being open until we develop the habit of being open -this is what we want, because then it is effortless. We live life effortlessly open.
Life is constant flow and movement. Constant change. When we accept this and choose to embrace whatever comes along without resistance, suffering ceases. We are open, and life rewards us with increased energy, inspiration and flow. No matter what happens. Once we truly believe that we live in a universe designed to support us and that life happens for us not to us, we can be open. Once we realise that it is ok we aren’t perfect, nobody else is either and that we are worthy and loveable just as we are, we can be open. Once we realise that our real “I” is not the ego, but rather an eternal consciousness that is incredibly wise, resilient and unaffected by the ridiculous problems the ego obsesses about, we can be open.
The majority of beliefs that we, in the western world have been taught, close us. For several hundred years, we have prided ourselves on being progressive and even superior. And yes, we are progressive in science and technology and living conditions. These progressions are great, but when our spirituality does not progress in synchronicity with our science, we end up with the world we now live in. One where money and power and the material, physical world are the most important. This can only bring suffering. One where people are not self-aware and are driven more by sub-conscious reactive programs than by conscious choices. One where violence is idealised on screens and permeates into our homes and streets. One where people who provide us with entertainment are paid 100, 1000, 10,000. 100,000 times more than those who serve and nurture and heal. One where our leaders act like petulant children in parliament, attacking and ridiculing each other instead of acknowledging difference of opinion and calmly, respectfully working together for the good of the people. One where success is measured by how much money and possessions a person owns instead of how much their lives have contributed to lifting the consciousness of humanity through kindness, love, integrity and inspiration.
Initially, it takes courage to be open. The protective behaviours our mind develops at a young age to shield us from hurt, become our sub-conscious programs and it is frightening for our minds to let them go. Our mind developed them with the best of intentions – to keep us safe, and maybe they were needed when we were vulnerable children, but now we are adults, they no longer serve our best interests. We need to develop our self-awareness, thank the programs that no longer serve us and let them go. At the same time, we need to actively develop beliefs that inspire and uplift us. When fear leaves the room, love enters.
Living open is true freedom. It is fearless living. It is our birthright.
Living open connects us with our spirit. It connects us with Life. We don’t resist what IS, but rather seek to see how we can learn and grow in any situation, believing that a benevolent universe has brought it to us for our good. We seek to find the joy, peace and love that underlies the whole universe.
I have learned to be more open. Not always open, but working on it. I used to be closed with fear. I didn’t trust myself, I had no concept of a universe that supported me, and I feared suffering. Increasing suffering tenfold by torturing myself with worst case scenarios. Gradually letting fear go, I began to trust that it was safe to be open. When I realised my own worth, I understood it IS safe to be open. I didn’t need to cling to rigid ideas in order to keep my world the same, I was free to question and seek and try out other ideas for size. Choosing ideas and beliefs that bring me peace and love. Believing that everything that happens is for my higher good.
This week I experienced some physical symptoms that culminated in 12 hours in the local Emergency Department. I had been experiencing pain when breathing and breathlessness that gradually increased, and after 5 days, I decided it might be better to get it checked out. I am fairly in tune with my body, and although the medical professionals were concerned about a blood clot in my lung, I didn’t feel this was the case. Interestingly, because they had decided to look for a blood clot, and the scan didn’t show one, I was sent home. On reading the CT scan report with the assistance of google, I discovered that I actually had fluid around my heart. A possible explanation for breathlessness and pain in my throat, chest and shoulders on movement including breathing I would have thought. In defence of the doctor who discharged me without suggesting an explanation for my symptoms, he was very young and uncertain how much I knew about my condition. I presume he thought I knew. And I just wanted to get out of there.
The next day my condition hadn’t improved and I rang my palliative specialist and mentioned the fluid around my heart. The problem was fixable. She immediately phoned a cardiologist and within 2 hours I was back at the hospital having an ultrasound of my heart and an appointment with the cardiologist. As it turned out, the fluid wasn’t as significant as the CT suggested, and it was not safe for a procedure to drain it with a needle. I was sent home with a prescription for 4 different drugs.
By the time I left the appointment, I had constant significant pain and breathlessness. I had phoned my Chinese Medicine Doctor earlier and he had advised me to take some of the emergency capsules I had for any health crisis. I took two when I got home, and within 2 hours the pain had gone, the breathlessness had eased, and I felt relatively normal. I am improving each day.
During this whole experience, I felt very little stress. I believe that I will die at exactly the right time for me, so there was no fear of dying. I believed that what was happening was happening at exactly the right time, and was for my higher good, so there was so resistance, no asking “why is this happening?”. There was a mild curiosity as to how it was going to pan out, but I was open to all possibilities – an operation, dying, healing. It briefly crossed my mind that this may become my new state – breathless and unable to walk far, but there was no benefit in focusing on that, so I returned to believing that no matter what state my body is in, it can heal. It is designed to heal, and I can trust it to do that – until it can’t. It will unfold how it unfolds with or without my worrying. I choose not to worry.
At this point I am not taking the drugs that the cardiologist prescribed – the Chinese medicine seems to be working, and my body is so delicately balanced towards health that I would prefer not to introduce drugs that cause detrimental side effects, that I am then going to need another drug to combat, and another, and another. I am open to the possibility of having to take them if the Chinese Medicine no longer works. But they are a last resort for me not the first.
Because I remained open, the whole experience wasn’t negative. The hospital staff were lovely, I felt surrounded by love and support from my family, and I felt empowered and strengthened because I had faced something that ten years ago would have caused me enormous stress, but that wasn’t how I experienced it now.
The mind has great power.
The perceptions of our mind can either bring us fear or peace.
Be a rebel.
I heard the owl call my name is the title of an exquisite, very short book by Margaret Craven. It is the story of a young priest who doesn’t have long to live and is sent to minister in an Indian Village in British Columbia. One of the myths and legends that the Indian people believed was that when the time of your death approached, you would hear an owl call your name.
The events of the last few months have meant the reality of death has been forced onto our conscious awareness. This has caused a lot of anxiety and fear because many people no longer have myths and legends or beliefs that enable them to live comfortably with death. In fact, it appears to me that even the medical profession have fallen into the trap of believing that death should not occur unless you are very old and even then it is barely acceptable. It is as if death is regarded as a medical failure. While their effort to keep people alive deserves applause and gratitude, at the same time, it needs to be coupled with the understanding and acceptance that death is ultimately unavoidable and is no respecter of age or person.
Last weekend my partner and I were driving on gravel roads through the forest, and as we came out towards a main road, we saw a sign for a cemetery. I like cemeteries, I don’t find them depressing at all, so we stopped and I had a meander through it. There were graves dating back to 1902. What struck us though, was how many of the graves were for children. It was a tiny cemetery, but possibly a quarter of the graves were for children.
This could be very confronting
Because of my strong beliefs, it wasn’t. I did not feel sorrow for the children, for lives apparently un-lived, because I believe that their lives were exactly long enough, their soul incarnated into that human body with the intention of living that long and no more. This world was never meant to be our permanent home. We are spiritual beings having a human experience. I did feel empathy for the sorrow of the parents and others who loved them however: I remember the fear I used to feel, that one of my sons would die.
It is not what happens that causes suffering or peace – it is our perception of what happens that causes suffering or peace. Ultimately it is our choice which we experience, but it depends entirely on our beliefs.
To be honest, a part of me doesn’t understand why more people don’t realise this. Why isn’t this taught at school? Why isn’t this understanding common knowledge? It has the power to transform lives and reduce much of the emotional suffering experienced in the world. We have a choice – we always have a choice how we perceive life and the many experiences it brings our way. This is incredibly powerful to know and implement.
We all have beliefs. We all have a worldview. It is impossible not to. Most of these beliefs are established and carved into our sub-conscious mind when we are children. This is when we are most programmable. It is also when we are the most un-discerning. These beliefs and programs directly affect our perception because we then see what we unconsciously look for. We see what fits our beliefs and programs and live out our life reinforcing them because our perceptions are biased towards doing so. And because many of our programs are imprinted on our sub-conscious minds by the culture we are brought up in – everyone else around us has similar beliefs and so they appear to be real and valid and true.
This is very evident when we look at beliefs about death.
I am not an anthropologist, but I think it is fairly safe to say that every culture of mankind throughout the ages has operated on beliefs. Looking back over time, from our current understanding, we are confident in saying that many of the beliefs were erroneous and primitive, because they were based on the knowledge available at the time (the same will one day be said of us). Mankind has always attempted to attach meaning to life. It is the way our minds are created – and we need to or life doesn’t seem worth living. A meaningless existence is a horrible existence. I have experienced very brief periods – only an hour or so at a time fortunately, when I have suddenly felt that life is meaningless and it was awful. Unfortunately, much of our meaning-making is based in unconscious beliefs.
The internet has made easily available to mankind for the first time ever, an unimaginably huge amount of information. Within seconds, we have at our fingertips, information about almost anything: science, spirituality, language, cultures, music – anything we could think of…. with an open mind, we can take our pick of any beliefs, ideas or perceptions conceived of by man. And yet… most people continue on living from the often limiting and negative beliefs that they were programmed with as a child.
Even when they are patently not serving their best interests.
Why is this?
I imagine it must be (and this was true for me), because they simply don’t realise that the life they experience is actually completely dictated by their beliefs.
They don’t realise they have a choice.
And they don’t realise that love, joy and peace are always a possibility – in every situation.
Some religions have actively taught the belief that life is hard and difficult. A struggle. Life is to be endured in the hope of a glorious reward in the afterlife. Believing this sets you up to experience precisely that – you will suffer, because you will notice the suffering more than the good times, (the ego enjoys martyrdom) – the mind will always see/experience what it believes. After I woke up, I found this belief of struggle and suffering completely incongruent with the notion of a benevolent, loving God.
Since beginning to photograph bird-life, I have been astounded to discover how many varieties of birds there are in this area. I never noticed before. Because I wasn’t looking. The mind filters out what it isn’t interested in, it has to, otherwise we would be in a permanent head spin trying to assimilate too much information. I was driving along a main road a couple of days ago and out of the corner of my eye, glimpsed something on top of a large antenna on a house on the side of a hill ahead. I wasn’t even sure, when I directed attention to it whether it was birds or part of the antenna until I got much closer. It turned out to be two Ospreys. These birds fascinate me. I had been watching them circling lazily in the air currents high in the sky about 30 minutes earlier and had no idea where they had gone to, but because my mind is now alert for birds, it noticed them on the antenna, literally out the corner of my eye. This is a more physical example of how we see what we look for. I see birds everywhere now. It is the same for everything in our life including our emotions – if we believe in suffering and pain, people as betrayers and abusers, ignorant and annoying – that is what we will unconsciously look for and that is what we will see and experience. If we believe in love and joy and peace and the intrinsic goodness and kindness of humanity, that is what we will see. This is not to say we don’t see anything else, we do, but the underlying foundation of beliefs on which our experience of life is based on will permeate through.
It is a good exercise to sit and write down how you see people and the world in general. At the basis of your perceptions is a belief driving it. If your view of people and the world doesn’t make you constantly happy, work on changing your belief.
If we believe that death is only for the old, and young people shouldn’t die – we will suffer because reality shows us otherwise.
If we believe that death is the end of everything – we will suffer. (I believe personally, that reality shows us otherwise).
If we believe that death inevitably brings sorrow and grief -we will suffer, because we will experience sorrow and grief.
If we believe that we can’t be happy without some-one – we will suffer and live out that belief.
These are beliefs, and beliefs can be changed, and our experience will then change too.
How can we know if our beliefs serve us well?
By the life we live, and how much joy, love and peace we experience.
I used to be afraid of death. I used to believe it was a tragedy when a young person died. I used to fear sorrow and grief. I used to wish that no-one would die. I no longer believe any of this.
I am not interested in Doctors opinions of the cancer in my body. Talking to my palliative specialist yesterday, she mentioned again that statistically I should have died a long time ago. I asked her what that really meant, and she said untreated (as I have been), statistically, I should have died within 2-3 years. This cancer has been in my body now for 13 years and I still have an excellent quality of life. I have no pain, plenty of energy and am generally very well. Why? I can’t say for sure, but I think it has a lot to do with my beliefs. If you believe your beliefs don’t affect your body, you have been mis-informed. Research for yourself. (Begin with Mind Over Medicine by Melissa Rankin or Molecules Of Emotion by Candace Pert).
I believe that I will only die when my soul has finished what it came into this human body to experience. It will be the exact right time for me to die. What could I ever find wrong or bad about that?
I remember when I picked Ian’s ashes up from the crematorium, and on the label it had his name and age – 49 years old, and I felt a surge of sorrow – for the first time I had the thought – that is too young to die – my old conditioned belief arising, but it was almost immediately followed by the thought – it was the perfect time for HIM to die. And peace returned.
I do not believe that any death comes at the wrong time. I do not believe that any death is meaningless. I do not believe that death is random. Whether the death is from cancer or Covid-19 or a heart attack or murder or cot death, whether the body is 2 or 30 or 90 years old, I do not believe it happens at the wrong time. This belief enables me to create meaning and acceptance – and it brings peace. Whether this belief is right or wrong, I don’t know. In the scheme of life, I am not sure that it really matters except for its effect on my life. All I know, is at this moment, it is the highest truth that I personally know about death and the result of this belief is peace therefore I feel it serves me well. It allows me to accept. It takes out sorrow and suffering and fear and leaves a space for love and peace and joy to enter. That is good enough for me right now.
This is a benevolent universe we live in, and that is probably one of the most important beliefs to develop. It has the potential to change your life – it certainly changed mine.
When the owl calls my name, and yours, it will be with perfect timing.
We can live in peace.
“They only deserve freedom, who are prepared to fight for it”.
I read these words over 25 years ago on a war memorial, and had forgotten them until today. This blog began as a platform for me to share my experience with cancer, morphed into a place for me to share my experience of life, and now with this post, I am moving into (for me) uncharted territory… politics and war.
If you have read my previous posts, it will hopefully be clear that I am not a fan of war. I have objected to the terminology of warfare being applied to cancer. The terminology of war is fear inducing and I do not believe it is appropriate or helpful in relation to cancer or anything else really. I do not believe that fear or violence or force is the answer to any of the problems facing humanity. I have believed for the last 13 years that my purpose and passion has been in slowly and steadily releasing myself from fear in its many forms. Fear of death, fear of cancer, fear of life. Fear of speaking my truth when someone may not like what I say, Fear of not being good enough, fear of looking like an idiot. I believed that the challenges and experiences Life has subjected me to were for the purpose of preparing me to help re-frame cancer so others could also use it as a tool for personal transformation and personal liberation instead of it being a harbinger of fear.
The last two months has brought a dawning realisation that my work has actually all been about freedom.
Releasing myself from fear was the path I took – cancer was the vehicle I used, freedom was the destination. I see that now.
It is a valid path to freedom. Fear is a prison. I spent many years trapped in the prison of a mind that was run by fear. Run by beliefs that were not serving me, that weren’t true. Beliefs that kept me small. Beliefs that bound me in bonds as effective as a physical prison.
Freedom is important to me.
My freedom has been hard won. I have achieved it through struggle and pain and tears and despair and a resolute refusal to give up. The price I have paid for my freedom is great. It cost me my marriage, my house, my business, my social network, my religion. It cost me my worldview, I have had to question every belief about the world, God, life, death and myself, that I have held. I have been pushed to the limits of my endurance – beyond what I believed I could bear. I have sat with the death of my soul mate, I have sat with the inevitability of my own death. I have sat with my fear of men, in a prison, in a room full of male prisoners and shared with them my vulnerability, my deepest wounds. I have have sat with my fear of responsibility, my fear of being alone, my fear of not being enough, my fear of not having enough, my fear of not being lovable….. I have sat with my fear, my fear, my fear……
And every time I sat with my fear and refused to surrender to it – I got stronger and my fear got weaker.
This path has not just been pain. The depth of my pain and struggle has been matched by the height of my peace and joy. I have learned to live. I have learned to love life. I have even learned to love myself – and that was possibly the hardest part. I have learned to love creation and Creator. I have learned to open to and trust a Divine Presence that I can barely describe, or imagine or quantify. I have learned to listen to the voice within me. The quiet voice that keeps drawing me back to freedom, love and peace. Every step of my journey, I was supported. As long as I showed up, willing to learn and grow, Life supported me. The right people, the right books, the right experiences, all showed up – exactly when I needed them.
Freedom is our birthright.
Fear takes away freedom. Abuse of power takes away freedom. Restrictive and separative ideologies take away freedom. Selfishness and apathy create an environment where freedom can be taken away.
And this is why I have chosen to stand up.
To do what I can.
My freedom, and yours, is under threat.
I have always stayed away from politics -I am a bit cynical – intelligence and ambition without deep personal insight is dangerous. Power corrupts. It takes a person with very strong and conscious values to keep pure intentions. We are good at fooling ourselves and justifying our actions. I have questioned unfairly at times, the intentions of those who enter politics.
I have barely read the papers or watched the news over the last decade because I object to the propensity of the press to report negativity and conduct fear-mongering. Little is unbiased, you never hear the full story. And I believed that the world was going to continue on its path whether I was aware of what was happening or not. I felt there was little I could do to combat the negativity and fear. So I turned my back on it.
But the world has changed.
I have changed.
There are two quotes that I want to share:
“”There comes a time when one must take a position that is neither safe nor politic nor popular, but he must take it because his conscience tells him it is right” – Martin Luther King
“The only thing necessary for the triumph of evil is for good men to do nothing” – Edmund Burke
What I say in following is from the point of view of a person who lives in Australia, however it also applies to any other democratic country.
Our freedom is under threat from the ideologies of the China Communist Party. It is with great reluctance that I say this on a public platform. I may be wrong. I hope so. I may also be the last person in Australia to see this – after all I have made no attempt in the past to follow the news, but it seems very clear to me that the Chinese Communist Party has one agenda, and one alone: world power and world domination. For anyone who values their freedom, the time is now past to stay quiet. I don’t know a lot about living under communist rule – but the little I do know – doesn’t shout out FREEDOM.
Freedom is important to me.
How important is it to you?
Important enough to fight for?
I am not talking about fight in terms of guns and physical force. Lets hope it doesn’t come to that. I am talking about the people of this country being very aware of the threat, clear about what we want, united in our stance.
Do we, as a people, want to keep our freedom? I think we do.
So what can we, the people without any power but personal power, do?
Smarter brains than mine will come up with better solutions than me, but there are several things that occur to me:
It is naive to believe that the iron ore which has lined the pockets of the Australian economy and which the Chinese Communist Party has no doubt used to build aircrafts, aircraft carriers and battle ships, won’t one day be used against us. There is a point, and Covid-19 is demonstrating that very clearly – where a choice must be made between what is good for humanity and what is good for economies. Have we been blinded by greed? How much do we need before we are satisfied? These are questions that must be asked individually and collectively. I am as culpable as anyone in contributing to the current state of the world.
This is a call to arms. It is not a call to violence, blame or hatred. It is a call for us all individually, to collectively protect our freedom, It is a call to self-responsibility. It is a call to awareness of our own, individual part in contributing to a future of freedom. Or not.
We must arm ourselves with knowledge, clarity, rationality, morals and values. We must arm ourselves with self-awareness. With willingness to support each other and the greater good of democracy and freedom. We must all step up – or be stepped on.
Ultimately, it is a call to peace.
But it is not a call to peace at all costs by bowing to manipulation and threats.
We are stronger than that.
I have been spending a lot of time out on my bike, photographing nature while the Covid-19 drama plays out on the global stage, and in a moment of clarity this week, I understood the value of the Little Things in living a happy life.
Like many people, I have spent a fair bit of my life waiting for the big things to happen. The exciting news, the next new thing, the anticipation of a great event, the social outing. Something to look forward to… and then it is over…it never seems to last long before it is simply another memory – it no longer exists except in my mind. And then… back to everyday life.
Now I’m not by nature, great at attention to detail. I think I’m probably too impatient. It was a family joke when I was a teenager. I was competent at sewing, in fact I made many of my own clothes for a while, but I wasn’t fond of hand-sewing – too slow for me, so if a hem came down, I was inclined to simply apply sellotape to hold it up. It worked ok until I washed the clothing and then ironed it. Let’s just say sellotape and a hot iron aren’t a great mix. I wanted the quick fix. The instant result.
Looking back, I can see that for a period of years, I also craved drama. Social drama. I felt alive and energised when something was going down. Something to focus on, to distract me. I married into an Italian family – plenty of drama there. I lived in my head a lot. Lots of anxiety, fear of not being perfect: I didn’t truly inhabit my body. I was very disconnected.
I saw beauty everywhere, but often it was a fleeting recognition – an acknowledgement and appreciation that lasted for an instant before I moved on. Going somewhere else. Lost in my mind. Distracted.
Years of meditation and deep spiritual work have taught me to slow down. To be more present. To be immersed in the moment. About ten years ago, I was working with clients with Autism, and I read a book called “Autism and Sensing – The Unlost Instinct” by Donna Williams. It is a stunning and eloquent account of her personal experience of living with autism. This is an excerpt from the book where she describes a chandelier:
“A chandelier would become a collective of interacting, seemingly playful sparks of colour, the image of which would trigger the associated sense of the chink-chink sound that would be made if the smooth hard (glass) pieces from which the colours emanated were touched together”.
“Recently, having moved out of this sensory I looked up at a huge over-head chandelier and remembered the drug-like addictive effect such an experience once had on me. When asked about it, I recalled experiences like it as ‘merging with God’ because I would resonate with the sensory nature of the object with such an absolute purity and loss of self that it was like an overwhelming passion into which you merge and become part of the beauty itself. It was the ultimate in belonging and ‘company’. The feeling was completely compelling and addictive and by comparison, the call of the world of interpretation seemed pale, weak, insignificant, foreign and of little reward”.
This particular post isn’t the time to comment on the neuro-typical persons perception of people with autism, and our attempts to make them “normal”. My immediate reaction to reading Donna’s description of her experience was a longing to know that experience for myself. It speaks to me of One-ness – the experience longed for by spiritual seekers the world over. Complete immersion in the moment. Total one-pointedness. Total attention. Timelessness. Aliveness.
Our senses are constantly assaulted with noise and visuals – more so than ever before in the history of mankind. Fortunately, our brain is very clever; to cope with the constant barrage, it creates filters and interpretations and labels to avoid over-whelm. On a normal day, we see the big picture and little of the detail until we direct our attention specifically and intentionally on one thing – this is when we experience the detail, and often a sense of timelessness. This attention and intention is where the power of creation lies. It is a portal to Now. It is a transcendence of self.
Watching and photographing birds, and taking macro shots of plant and insects has brought home to me an ancient truth – that it is the little things that make up the majority of the life we live, and if we can find pleasure in them, our capacity to live a joyful and happy life increases.
Photographing birds requires stillness and patience. I love the zoom on my camera, and how, when seen up close, even the seemingly ordinary and boring Pacific Black Duck, is breath-takingly beautiful. To zoom in on a flower and see its exquisite detail burst into life on the screen of my camera fills me with awe. I see colours and contrasts and perfection and beauty I have not ever noticed before. A single bush can give me an hour of wonder and delight as I photograph; the juxtaposition of light and dark, the fresh bud emerging, the flower in full bloom and an old flower dying. Moss on the branch, a new shoot, bees gathering nectar from the flowers, a wax-eye paying a fleeting visit, ants on the trunk. The warm sun on my skin, the happy hum of bees, the chatter of the birds, a gentle breeze teasing the leaves, the smell of damp earth.
I am beginning to take a baby step into Donna’s world. To immerse myself fully into the joy and wonder of the moment. To be fully embodied in sensory delight. A part of my surroundings, not just passing through with headphones on, oblivious. Life is a journey. Life is awe-inspiring, Life is full of incredible detail and beauty. Life is to be enjoyed; life is to be sensed, and lived and felt and smelt and tasted. We inhabit a body on purpose – to experience physical life in all its diversity. This is A path to joy and ultimately to God. There are many paths. This is just one.
We have eyes to see, ears to hear, hands to hold and touch – lets not waste these gifts on things that don’t inspire or uplift us.
I know I often bang on about western culture, but I think it is indisputable that somewhere, we have taken a step in the wrong direction. Instead of happiness, love and peace being what we are all striving for, (even though this is what we all long for), we’ve been brainwashed into jumping on the money, work and “accumulate more things” train which is hurtling full pelt towards destruction of the earth and our mental and physical health. The signs are evident – depression, suicide, mental illness, chronic diseases, anxiety and stress affecting more and more people.
The only way we can turn things around, is for more people to wake up. More people to wipe the sleep from their eyes and realise that underneath the hustle and bustle of frantic fast-paced driven living – we all just want to feel loved, happy and connected. And the way to that isn’t through money and possessions. (Athough there is nothing wrong with these as secondary pursuits). Clearly, the direction our culture is taking as a whole isn’t achieving that for us. Find your own way to connect with the joy, peace and love that lies behind and within the physical world – and within each of us. Its there… we have just drowned it out with noise, and covered it with busy-ness. (Busi-ness?) Each person who wakes up and makes changes with peace and joy as the objective, contributes to the overall uplifting of world-consciousness. There is no greater service to the world that is available to every person to give – be happy, know peace.
Live, love, enjoy now.
I have been spending a lot of time recently in contemplation of Life.
My life in particular.
Viktor Frankl wrote a book called “Mans Search for Meaning”. Viktor was a prominent Viennese psychiatrist before WW2 who spent time in Aushchwitz where he was able to observe the way that he and others coped (or not) with the experience. He saw that the sort of person the concentration camp prisoner became was the result of inner decision and not of camp influences alone. He noticed that it was the men who comforted others and gave away their last piece of bread – who lasted the longest, and he came to believe that mans deepest desire is to search for meaning and purpose.
Meaning and Purpose.
Nietzsche said “He who has a why to live for can bear with almost any how”.
Last week you could say I had an existential crisis. Very unpleasant. I felt disconnected, agitated, felt I had no purpose and wondered if perhaps I had been mistaken and life was meaningless and random after all. Fortunately it didn’t last more than 24 hours: my heartfelt compassion to those who experience depression if that is what it feels like.
As often happens, it was a prelude to breaking lifelong habits of thinking that have constrained me and kept me stuck. The process is not always comfortable.
Feeling despair galvanised me into deeper meditation with the intent of obtaining clarity. Everything is useful in a universe designed to support our spiritual growth.
It had been bothering me a little for a while that I am writing a blog ostensibly about cancer however I often don’t mention cancer. I have realised very clearly that I am not, and never have been interested in cancer per se except as a vehicle for growth. For me, that is the sum of it. Cancer itself, in my mind is neither good nor bad – it is merely an opportunity for self discovery and ultimately freedom, and I believe that once it has outlived this purpose for me, either it, or I will go.
Who knows which.
I don’t want to write about various treatment options, there are many, many sites out there who do that well. Physical healing has always been of secondary importance to me. Healing emotionally, mentally and spiritually through cancer has always been my focus. Interestingly, I am still alive and very well long after statistics suggest I should have died. Perhaps I am not so foolish after all.
The connection and impact of mind and spirit on the body interests me greatly.
Freedom interests me even more.
This was another realisation I had in the last week. That for the last thirteen years I have been focused on becoming fear free – working to release myself from beliefs that prevent me from living in total peace no matter what, and I thought my purpose was about fear. Perhaps working with people who have cancer and are fearful, or people who are dying and are fearful, but lately this hasn’t felt quite right which probably initiated the collapse into meaninglessness. If this wasn’t my purpose after so many years thinking it was, then what was?
I realised that behind the desire to be fear free was a driving force to be free.
I am not talking about physical freedom although that is an aspect of it. I am talking about being free from the past. Being free from programmed sub conscious beliefs that don’t serve me. Being free to choose, consciously, how I AM in any given moment without being triggered into reactions. Being free to make decisions and choices based on what I feel is right for me, not because it is the “right thing”, or I “should” do it. To not be controlled by emotion.
Being present; not lost in thoughts of the future or cling-ons of the past. In the present is where life is. Everyday I go out in nature and photograph birds, and I see them serenely living their lives in each moment. It seems to me that the little Honey-eater doesn’t sit on the branch brooding and resenting the magpie that chased it, planning revenge. Or the Great Egret I saw yesterday standing in the estuary suddenly dive-bombed by bullying seagulls didn’t appear to dwell on it. They moved on. It moved on. Serenely.
It appears to be only humanity that is both blessed and cursed with a mind that thinks beyond survival instinct. This mind is not harmless or powerless. Not at all. This mind makes our life enjoyable or not. This mind creates the experience of how we live our life. This mind affects our relationships. This mind creates our perceptions then directs us to see only what we believe. We see nothing as it really is because we see it all through the biased filters of our mind.
Our mind has the most powerful affect on our life. Above anything else by far.
We think other people upset us, but it is our mind that upsets us. We think our environment affects us, but it is our mind that creates the perception of our environment that affects us.
I believe we have a choice.
We are being lived regardless, either way. Life will unfold as it unfolds. We actually have precious little control over much outside of ourselves as you may have noticed. This Covid-19 scenario is helping us to understand that a little better – our illusion of control, the illusion of stability of economies, the illusion that death shouldn’t happen – even among the elderly.
We have a choice. We can continue to believe we are predominantly a body and a mind, and leave the mind in control – the unruly, undisciplined mind in control – that way lies suffering.
We can choose to go a little deeper, open our minds to being more than that. Align ourselves with our spirit. Seek meaning, clarity, peace and purpose above money, assets and materialism and discover the joy that lies beneath. And begin to rein in the un-managed mind.
In his book, Viktor Frankl says “everything can be taken away from a man, but one thing; the last of the human freedoms – to choose one’s attitude in any given circumstances, to choose one’s own way. Fundamentally, therefore, any man can, even under such circumstances (concentration camp), decide what shall become of him – mentally and spiritually”.
Times are changing. We can’t afford to keep sleeping. We need to become more conscious of the choices we make. Conscious of our attitude. Consciously choose our attitude.
First we need to believe that a consistently peaceful, happy mind is possible… Then seek to have it for ourselves.
Learn to immerse ourselves fully in each moment. Really truly experience life. Get out of our head.
(First, I just want to say, I love this photo. A magpie, knock-kneed, disheveled, feathers awry, completely oblivious to its appearance, just going about its business. There is a lesson in that for me.)
“Healed By Cancer” is the title of a book by a woman called Jayka Duncan.
I love this title – it perfectly summarises my experience with cancer also – to be honest, I wish I had thought of it first!. I also love the book, and highly recommend it as a raw and honest account of emotional healing that is very easy to relate to – for everyone.
Let me tell you how I came by this book and how it has helped me. It is a classic example of synchronicity – of how life is designed to support us. There is an old saying that “when the pupil is ready, the teacher arrives” and I have proven that this is true over and over again, but I still sometimes forget to simply set an intention and then be open to whatever arises rather than trying to force life to work on my terms. If we have specific ideas about what and how things should happen, we miss so many opportunities for growth and healing because we don’t even notice them.
About a month ago, my therapist commented on me being strident. I was extremely indignant, and vehemently (stridently?), asked him to rephrase it – which he did. (Ironically, it turns out it came down to perception. My idea of strident is “harsh and loud” – backed up by the Oxford dictionary, his interpretation is “forcefully putting your point forward” also backed up by a dictionary, but I latched onto the definition that fitted what I believed. We have since had a good laugh about it). I reacted to my understanding of the word, and it really rankled. About a week later, in a conversation with an old friend, I mentioned my indignation about being called strident, and he agreed that I was strident, adding “in the nicest way, you don’t have a mean bone in your body”. I was not happy. Again, fixated on “loud and harsh”. I felt that clearly I had no clue what I came across like, and to be honest, I was pretty devastated (and humiliated) that I was considered “loud and harsh” (or so I thought). It eventually dawned on me that I could stay stuck feeling indignant and unacceptable, or alternatively, investigate why I was reacting. Why I felt so defensive. This was based in fear… I needed to do some deeper inner work.
So I simply sat in quietness and said “I want to understand why I cannot accept being called strident”. I set my intention then carried on with my day.
I have been a member of a facebook page – Holistic Cancer Healing for a while. I am not often on it, but that day, I saw a post by a woman anxious about finding a lump in her armpit while having radiation for breast cancer, and I decided to reassure her not to panic, it doesn’t mean she is going to die in the near future. Then another woman added a comment – Jayka Duncan, and mentioned that natural treatments hadn’t worked for her, but she had healed quickly after doing emotional work. She named the book she had written about her experience “Healed by Cancer”. My interest was piqued because I have always believed that if I am going to heal from this cancer, it would mostly be due to emotional and spiritual healing. I downloaded her book on Kindle and started reading.
It felt like she was writing my story.
Obviously many of her life experiences were different, but what was essentially the same were the emotional wounds that had kept her stuck in playing out patterns of behaviour that weren’t healthy. You see, fundamentally we are all very much the same. We all want to be loved and approved of, but we have all had experiences in life and particularly in childhood when we are not able to apply reason to experiences, that left us feeling unworthy in some way. It is almost impossible to come out of childhood without feeling like this. In childhood, while we have limited understanding, we develop defense mechanisms to help us feel better about ourselves, and we carry them into adulthood as subconscious programs. The problem is, until something major happens that forces us into deep inner work, we spend our entire life running on a program of woundedness, reaction and defensiveness, and we project this onto the outside world.
I went to bed that night and asked again “why can I not accept being strident? and why did she (Jayka) heal and I haven’t?”.
Suddenly, with complete clarity, I could see that the reason I couldn’t accept being seen as strident was that despite all the inner work I had been doing for years, I still could not love every aspect of myself. I saw I still believed that in order to be acceptable, I had to possess certain attributes and strident most certainly wasn’t one of them. I still couldn’t forgive myself for not being perfect.
Now, as I have mentioned before, I have a very strong fundamentalist Christian background, the first 40 years of my life spent trying to love a God I was actually terrified of. I had a deep seated subconscious belief that I needed to be perfect like Jesus, and because I clearly wasn’t that, then I was unworthy and unacceptable. Obviously this didn’t make me feel good about myself. For many years, I didn’t even realise this was a driving force in my life. (Who/what do you have in the drivers seat in your life?).
As a result, I spent most of my life attempting to be perfect. This might seem to be a noble aim, but it actually isn’t healthy, especially when its roots are based in fear. (Aiming for personal perfection is a lost cause because it isn’t attainable. Earth is a spiritual learning and growing school. If we were perfect, we wouldn’t be here). The roots of my need to be perfect were based in a deep fear of being completely unacceptable the way I am. Not good enough. Unloveable. Unworthy. As I discovered, at the very deepest core, was the belief that I was so disgusting I shouldn’t be seen. I didn’t deserve to be alive.
As a child, (and in particular, a female child), I absorbed the belief that I needed to be quiet, submissive, gentle, self-effacing, humble, amenable, calm, easily controlled, patient and in control of my emotions. I tried to be these, I really did, but I was born with a very different nature. For many, many years, I managed to suppress myself and worked hard to fit into what I thought I should be in a desperate attempt to be worthy and approved of. The end result was that one day I realised I had no idea who I was. There was no “Rebecca”. There was simply someone who had shaped herself to be what she thought everyone else wanted her to be. I literally had no concept of my will being as valid as someone else’s. I had no idea who I was.
The day I woke up was over thirteen years ago, and I am now a very different person. I think a better person. Some may disagree, but that isn’t my business. At the very least, I am much more authentic. Cancer has been very much a part of the healing process, but obviously there is still a program of fear running in me if I can be so discombobulated by “strident”.
So I sat with myself and acknowledged all the parts of me that didn’t fit in with the notion of the ideal female I had absorbed in my childhood – and there were many parts that didn’t fit. Following Jayka’s lead, I allowed myself to feel the inadequacy, the fear and shame and reassured myself it is ok to feel like this. It is ok to be those things. I am acceptable. I am loveable. I surrendered the need to be seen and heard, I surrendered the need to be a certain way to be loveable. I surrendered the need to be perfect. I accepted that at times I could be strident in the worst meaning of the word, but that did not mean I was completely unacceptable as a person. I saw that I had been acting as though I was ALL strident, All the time.
Healing is a process. It usually isn’t linear. There have been many times over the last decade when I have breathed a sigh of relief, thinking “great, I have dealt with that one”, only to revisit it later.. again, and again. But each time, going deeper and deeper. If the pain and fear and patterns of behaviour are strong and deep, our mind will often only allow us to work a layer at a time. Like peeling back an onion.
These fears will arise again. I know that, but the difference is, instead of getting stuck in them and unconsciously living from the fear and reacting, realisation will quickly arise and I will see the pattern and be able to step out of it and make a conscious choice to act and think differently. This is why awareness is so important – from it we can make conscious choices.
This, my friends is real freedom. To NOT be bound in chains of reaction and patterns of behaviour that don’t serve us well. To be able to love ourselves in all our glorious, messy imperfections. We are all the same. All imperfect, all learning and growing. Some consciously, most unconsciously. If we cannot love ourselves – including the parts we don’t really like, then we are condemning ourselves to a life of intolerance towards others. Other people’s words and behaviours will impact on us, stealing our peace, upsetting us, making us feel angry or frustrated or hurt or offended. These reactions only ever arise from our own unhealed, unaccepted parts but we hide from this by believing that it is the other persons fault – if they were different, hadn’t said that, hadn’t done that, we wouldn’t feel like this. Not true.
Over the years, through utter frustration and helpless rage at what I saw as someone else’s bad behaviour they refused to address, I slowly learned that I could choose not to take it on board, I could choose not to suffer simply by looking inward and asking “why am I reacting like this?, what part of me needs to feel offended and upset? why does the role of victim fulfill a need for me in this?”
It is probably one of the hardest things we can do – take responsibility for our own actions and reactions. Own them and acknowledge that each time we are triggered to react it is an opportunity for US to heal – not the other person – the timing of their healing isn’t our business.
We are a world of people who don’t love ourselves enough. How can we tell? By the way we treat each other. By the way we treat nature – polluting the very environment that sustains our physical life. By the way we treat ourselves -the mental and emotional abuse we inflict on ourselves by castigating ourselves and endlessly worrying, anger, fear, intolerance and not attempting to heal our wounds; the physical abuse we inflict on our bodies by not nurturing and keeping them healthy, eating chemical filled non-food disguised as food, smoking, not exercising. The list goes on.
Gandhi said “Be the change you want to see in the world”.
And I am learning to forgive myself for not being perfect.
Love or fear.
Which do you choose?
At the risk of boring everyone by going over the same thing again and again, I am going to talk about fear.
We have conned ourselves.
We have conned ourselves into believing that fear is a normal state. I don’t believe it is. Actually, let me re-phrase that. Fear IS now a normal state to live in, because we have accepted it as such, but it doesn’t need to be.
You know, stress and anxiety are forms of fear. Their roots are based in fear. Had you ever thought about that? I didn’t realise it for a long time. It wasn’t until I went through my “Dark Night of the Soul” and the fear got so intense it almost paralyzed me that I began to really investigate and unpick my fear. I had to, because I couldn’t live like that anymore. It ended up being the greatest gift.
There are several cute acronyms about fear that are frequently bandied around. One of the most common I want to mention is “FEAR – False Evidence Appearing Real”. Very cute, but in my opinion, of no value whatsoever (apologies to whoever thought it up). If you are feeling fear, someone telling you that it’s “false evidence appearing real”, isn’t helpful. At all. I mean seriously, it’s very real to you right? You can feel it. Let’s be real – It is going to take re-programming a belief system to get you out of fear, and someone telling you that what is causing the fear isn’t real isn’t going to achieve that.
Fear is a massive problem for humanity.
If we want to improve the way that humanity lives on a global scale, the level of collective human consciousness needs to rise above the level of fear. Into Love. When fear leaves, love enters, because love is what we are, at our essence, underneath the fear. Let’s start a revolution -stop the fear, feel the love. (A revamp of the 1960’s “make Love, not War”).
Fear is the pandemic we need to address on a global scale once this insignificant (in comparison) Covid-19 pandemic is dealt with. Fear contributes to more deaths annually than Covid-19 has caused, it just isn’t so obvious and death isn’t so quick. On a collective level, covid-19 is the focus at the moment; on an individual level however, now is a good time to address fear – many more of us than usual have TIME. No excuse!.
(If you are more than fleetingly interested in the subject of fear in relation to covid-19, then check out https://londonreal.tv/dr-bruce-lipton-coronavirus-epigenetics-immune-system-most-dangerous-part-of-covid-19-is-fear/?utm_source=drip).
If you feel called to be an activist for global change then follow that call…. for the rest of us, the best thing we can do to create a better world is to work on our own fear. Yes really.
Lets start by defining fear. What is fear?
A general definition is “An unpleasant feeling triggered by the perception of danger, real or imagined”.
Note that the definition says Perception of danger, real or imagined. One of my favourite spiritual teachers -Byron Katie uses the analogy of confusing a rope for a snake. When we realise it is a rope not a snake, we can laugh and relax. We have no fear. The problem is, our mind sees snakes everywhere, we need to begin to see ropes instead. That is how we get out of fear. It is all about perception and awareness.
Lets look at several different forms of fear:
These all have their basis in fear.
How many of us have experienced or are experiencing anxiety or stress? Most of us. Have you really, deeply understood that it is fear? Pause and think about that for a moment. Yes, stress is a fear response. Anxiety is a fear response.
When I was about 35 years old, I started a Certificate in Mental Health, and in one of the classes, a condition called Generalised Anxiety Disorder was discussed – In a moment of sudden clarity, I realised I had all the symptoms. I had no idea there was a name for it, let alone a solution. I thought it was just the way I was, because I had been like that for as long as I could remember. It had become normal for me. I don’t think I am the exception to the rule. In fact, I know I am not. Statistics show otherwise. The problem with anxiety and stress is that these are the two most toxic forms of fear. Why? Because they tend to be chronic… they are ongoing, and we just get used to it. But it has an increasingly negative effect on our health.
Fear is a primitive survival instinct.
Way back, when the human body evolved, or when we were created, whichever belief you subscribe to, life was much simpler. When we were confronted by (an analogy Bruce Lipton uses) a sabre toothed tiger, in an instant, our sub-conscious mind perceived a threat and triggered fear – a chemical response initiated by the brain to activate the body to fight or flight. As a result of that trigger, chemicals flooded our body, creating physiological changes such as:
(There are many more changes, however these will suffice for now.)
Clearly, it isn’t healthy for any of the above reactions to continue for long periods of time. The reason anxiety and stress are so toxic, is because the body stays in fight/flight mode, and as a result, it is constantly flooded with chemicals and hormones that are only meant to be short-term. The reason you feel that weird sensation in your stomach when you feel fear? It is the blood vessels constricting in your digestive system. The body is perfectly designed to be in fight/light for short periods, but not long ones.
The fight/flight response works beautifully when confronted by physical danger that quickly passes. It fulfills its purpose well. However, these days this response is generally triggered by different kinds of perceived threat – and different fears – that don’t pass quickly.
We Need To Stop. Right Now.
We need to stop and take a good look at the values we want to live by, and what is really important to us as individuals. Not the values or the definitions of success that a sick society conditions us to believe in (the biggest cult of all is our culture – it brainwashes us to think a certain way, and although we are all individuals within it, we are still programmed by our culture more than we imagine). As a result of our conditioning, most of us are seriously afraid underneath that we aren’t enough (meaning worthy of love), and that we haven’t got enough, that maybe there isn’t enough to go around (hence the rush on toilet paper) and these are the fears that sub-consciously drive us.
Why is this?
Because we are programmed all throughout our lives to believe this. It starts with our parents (they can’t teach us what they don’t know, and they just teach us the programs they have running – we can’t blame them, most of them do their best, just like we have done our best bringing up our children). When we are little, we receive incessant subtle and not so subtle hints that we should be better. We realise very quickly that if we want to be loved we need to do/be certain things. We go to school and on top of the expectations at home, we discover more is expected of us. We learn that winners are grinners and we are supposed to be good at everything; maths, writing, spelling, sitting still, listening, suppressing our nature exuberance, sports. It we aren’t good at something we are shamed. We are graded and compared with others. And it only gets worse, after a while we realise we need to have the right clothes, the right appliances – ipad, phone etc, the right shoes. Our teeth need to be straight, we shouldn’t smell, our body (particularly if we are female) should be a certain size. We become fixated on the bits that aren’t up to scratch instead of being thankful that our body actually works.
Then we graduate from school. We can’t wait to be grown up and out of school. But it gets worse. The pressure to be and to have gets worse. Now we need to get a job – a good job, we need the house and the cars and the phone (the latest), we need overseas holidays we need fancy food, we need wifi and bigger TV’s, appliances and more and more and more and more…..
We are bombarded with visual advertisements that undermine our sense of worthiness and our sub-conscious fear even further. If you have this or that you will be more beautiful, skinnier, happier, more popular, more successful. Beautiful, photo-shopped, air-brushed models lure us to shipwreck on the rocks of our “not good enough-ness”. The Media pedals fear, inundating us with the horrors human beings inflict on each other from all over the world as well as locally. Reporting “bad” news with breathless excitement. News announcers – really? is this what you were born to do…. promote fear? Do you really realise what you are doing in the name of a “good” story?
And then we have to juggle… we have to work full-time to pay the mortgage and the loans while we are trying to bring up our children, and do the housework and cook. Keep on moving, can’t afford to stop. Go, go, go, quick, quick, quick, busy, busy, busy….. no time to think, just blindly follow. (Do you know what you are following? Do you really know where you are going? Is accumulation of stuff your ultimate purpose? Is it really worth devoting most of your time to?).
Now we need the alcohol, the drugs, (legal and illegal),the cigarettes, the mindless TV shows and movies, computer games, facebook, instagram, twitter, under-eating, over-eating, over-exercising, sex addictions, shopping addictions, caffeine addictions to get us through the day because we are over-stimulated and over-stressed and fearful.
We have been trained to be consumers and blindly worship the gods of materialism. Striving, ever striving, thinking that somehow happiness, peace, love, joy will be our reward. We’ve got it “arse about” folks. We are putting our faith in the wrong gods.
And we call this living?
Then something collapses. It might be our mind, it might be our body that just can’t take it any longer.
It’s too much. It isn’t natural the way we are living, and it certainly isn’t healthy. Humanity is sick and getting sicker by the year. Sicker mentally and emotionally (depression, suicide, mental illnesses, addictions all on the rise), sicker physically (cancer, diabetes, heart disease, stroke, all lifestyle diseases on the rise), sicker spiritually (unconscious of a connection with a higher power).
We are letting fear rule.
Stress and anxiety are an indicator that something is wrong – we need to address it instead of ignoring it. Long-term stress and anxiety weakens our bodies, but even worse, in the meantime, it kills our capacity to live fully and deeply this precious life.
Medication is a temporary bandaid, not a solution. Addictions are ultimately self destructive. If we can’t change the external circumstances, we need to change the internal environment – our mind. Our perceptions. We need to start seeing ropes everywhere, not snakes.
We shouldn’t just accept fear as normal. It doesn’t need to be. We all have the capacity to live happy, peaceful lives. The only thing preventing us from doing so is our mind.
I ask you…. Please. Stop right now, and make a commitment. Make a commitment to eradicate fear in all its forms out of your life. Believe it or not, we live in a universe that is designed to support us. If you make a conscious choice to recognise fear as the enemy, and choose to live fearlessly, live true to your own inner truths, then life will bring you every experience you need to assist you in achieving this.
We need to make a commitment to being open. By this I mean being open to change. Open to understanding how we can grow and benefit from every experience. Open to perceiving differently. Open to questioning the status quo. Open to seeking peace and happiness above everything.
Within all of us, (as Dr Melissa Rankin calls it), is an Inner Pilot Light. When we begin to listen to that, we begin to live with integrity to ourself, to our own path, to our life.
Covid-19 has given many of us the chance to slow down. Let’s use it wisely. Don’t waste it on worrying about what might be. Use this Pause to spend some time in meditation, contemplation, in nature. Journal. Spend some time with yourself. Really with yourself, no distractions. Examine yourself, Meet yourself. Know yourself. Love yourself.
The antidote to fear is Love
Love or fear.
Which do you choose?
“When I loved myself enough.
I began leaving whatever wasn’t healthy.
This meant people, jobs, my own beliefs and habits –
anything that kept me small.
My judgement called it disloyal.
Now I see it as self-loving”
(From When I Loved Myself Enough by Kim McMillen)
This is a time for reflection.
A pause in Life.
It is a time for simplicity, a time to slow down.
A time to love yourself, nurture yourself. How long is it since you have done that?
Do you even know how?
This time is a gift….. or not.
So many opportunities we miss, because they don’t come packaged as we thought they would be. So many opportunities for learning, for growing. For love instead of indifference. For rest instead of rush. For quiet instead of noise. For peace instead of fear.
As Eckhart Tolle says in his exquisite book Guardians of Being:
“We get lost in doing, thinking, remembering, anticipating –
lost in a maze of complexity and a world of problems.
NATURE CAN SHOW US THE WAY HOME,
the way out of the prison of our own minds”
“We have forgotten what rocks, plants and animals still know.
We have forgotten how to Be –
to be still, to be ourselves, to be where life is:
HERE AND NOW”
Most people live in the prison of their mind, thinking that is just the way it is. This is particularly apparent at the moment. So much fear and anxiety, whinging and complaining. Even abuse. Yesterday I heard stories of people with foreign accents being snarled at and told to go home. This is fear talking. Fear is dangerous because it can make people act in ways that are self-serving and ugly. It makes some people vicious. we don’t want to contribute to the fear.
If you are filled with anxiety and fear or anger and frustration, and you cannot be happy in this moment, then your mind is your prison.
It doesn’t have to be that way.
Do you know what real freedom is?
This is what I think it is:
Real freedom is a peaceful mind. Real freedom is not being upset by our external environment. Real freedom is not being reactive because we have healed our emotional wounds. Real freedom is the ability to be present, totally in the moment. Real freedom is not believing our thoughts. Real freedom is being able to love deeply and fearlessly. Real freedom is seeing beauty everywhere. Real freedom is being consistently happy. Real freedom is not being afraid of dying. Real freedom is accepting what we cannot change. Real freedom is trusting that everything is unfolding as it should. Real freedom is knowing that we have no control over anything much except how we choose to experience life. Real freedom is knowing that we are worthy just by virtue of being alive. Real freedom is knowing that we are not just temporary bodies and minds, but more importantly, eternal Soul.
I am taking this time to reflect on my life. On how I am living my life. On what makes my heart sing, and ensuring there is more of that in each day. I can see clearly now, where I have been careless and arrogant, taking things for granted. Where I have not respected the earth, where I have chosen to be lazy, and where my actions have not been congruent with the values I believe are important.
It has been humbling.
For an interesting and rewarding exercise, go online on http://www.motivationalinterviewing.org and check out their personal values card sort. You can download and print them off (or just write them down if you can’t print). Sort them into piles of very important, important and not important. Reduce until you have eight values in your Very Important pile. These are the values that you want to embody. Then sit and review different areas of your life and see how they fit with the values you have chosen. ie in your relationships, hobbies, work, actions, thoughts etc. This can really help to get on track and living a life in congruence with your deepest values.
We can take this time to reflect and grow or we can whinge and stagnate.
Again, Love or Fear.
Which do you choose?
The photo above is of the swamp at the entrance to the estate I live in. At first glance, it is butt ugly. And sometimes it smells less than fresh (to put it politely). It kind of reflects what I want to write about today.
Most people take no notice of this swamp because it isn’t beautiful, you have to leave the sealed path to get into it, there are much more obviously appealing places to go and generally people are in a rush. Plus it is enthusiastically patrolled by marauding mosquitoes who viciously attack the second you arrive.
But I love it.
As always, it is about perspective.
I love it because it is raw and gritty and has depth and texture. A bit like life at the moment. It is also home to an incredible variety of birds (and probably insect life but I haven’t got that up close and personal yet). At the moment (autumn), it has donned a mantle of many different shades of brown.
To see the beauty of this swamp requires Stillness. Silence. I need to wait patiently with awareness (protected by my extra strong insect repellent).
The breeze whispers tenderly to the trees, strumming the leaves like a classical guitarist, and caresses the water like gentle fingers stroking a lovers back, ripples of ecstasy shivering across the surface. The reeds murmur in delight as they sway and dance, slim and flexible, and the messy paperbarks rustle indignantly.
Dead trees stand in stark dignity.
A heavy Pelican grooms itself; unwieldy and lumbering on land, but gloriously stately on water and in the air, it stands on the dark branches of a tree long since dead that sprawls in the water, tenderly stoking each feather with its long beak, stretching its elongated neck to rub its head with sensuous enjoyment under its wings. On another branch the Yellow-billed Spoonbill balances on one leg in drowsy contemplation as a family of Pacific Black Ducks mill busily in the water below.
The Black Swans arch their graceful necks as they float serenely and in the shallows the Great Egret in long legged pure white elegance slowly stalks, pausing to admire its reflection in the water.
A lone Little Pied Cormorant perches in a dead tree, luxuriously spreading its wings to dry as the warm sun slowly rises in the sky and the Pink and Grey Galah’s squabble in raucous rivalry in the Norfolk pines.
The White Faced Heron shyly skirts the reeds, prim and plain in its soft grey, like a governess from a forgotten era mindful of her humble place and the Osprey sits at the top of a tree surveying the scene with haughty grandeur.
It is a place of enchantment, buzzing with life. Many different species dwell in harmony here, and they come and they go, and they barely leave a footprint.
I sit in the peace of wild things and look over my shoulder and see the road and houses and cars and power-lines and busy rushing people, oblivious to the wonder and beauty just metres away.
And I feel sad for the Great Loss that humanity experienced when we forgot how to be still. When shallow sophistication, money and busyness became our new Gods and we kissed their feet in homage. When we began to see the natural world as something to be used, exploited and abused. Or when we simply became indifferent, tucked up tight in our safe, solid buildings, secure in our technological superiority, cushioned from reality.
Not any more.
In one swiftly moving and silent virus, our smug complacency and denial of death has been confronted, and we are displeased.
When I take time to be present and sit with nature, I quickly understand it is only the minds of mankind that are in uproar and chaos. Nature is undisturbed. Peace and harmony still reign. The cycle of life and death is uninterrupted. Life continues to express itself through Form on this earth as it has for millenniums past and will for millenniums to come if we stop our abuse and indifference.
What lies beneath the chaos and mayhem is PEACE and JOY and LOVE.
It is there in the silence. It is there in Nature. It is in us.
We have covered it with our noisy foolishness. Fortunately we cannot destroy it.
In the midst of our feverish busyness, Nature (with the reluctant endorsement of our governments), has offered us an OPPORTUNITY TO PAUSE and REFLECT. To become WISER and STRONGER, more COMPASSIONATE and CONNECTED.
Which do you choose?