The frequency of magic,
Where everything is possible,
Reflections of real beauty,
Birth and eternity,
The frequency of magic,
Where everything is possible,
Reflections of real beauty,
Birth and eternity,
Primordial pain refers to a fundamental basis of human existence and our unavoidable dependant relationship with another being; our dependency on our primary care giver; our parent.
It’s a fundamental truth that is present from the moment of our birth, that our relationship with mother (or father) is thus:
This is a fundamental basis for relating; at the very core of our being. It’s both physiological and psychological.
And, it’s something that we then carry into our later lives. It’s not something we can necessarily shake off. It can generate feelings of fear and insecurity alongside utter despair, desolation and annihilation.
Have you ever felt completely alone? Have you had a relationship with a loved one that ended? By death or by choice?
I raise my hand, I have had this happen, oh boy have I, again and again, and it has this feeling of utter dread – it has this feeling of primordial pain, the fear of destruction. If I lose you, I lose myself. But, as adults though, that’s simply not true. We are fully self dependant.
It’s also a huge lie to enter into a relationship under the false belief that they will complete you and that you cannot be without them. Doing so is acting from primordial fear.
So the next time I lose someone special, the next time I feel that primordial pain, I’ll know what it is, and in knowing gain some perspective and control. I’ll recognise and greet the feeling, acknowledge it and in doing so lesson it.
Peace and love.
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Self care, looking after ourselves, doing or giving ourselves what’s best in each moment, it sounds so simple, so why then can it be so hard to do?
Wait! Hard to do? That’s getting a bit ahead of things, even finding the notion of an inner voice of self care is difficult at times yet alone actually doing the thing we really need to look after ourselves. Self care is that thing we need, not the something we do out of responsibility for someone else or something out of duty to some other; none of those should and shouldn’t. What I am referring to here is having compassion for ourself.
I am sure we can all think of times when we haven’t really looked after ourselves well, maybe those times are recent, maybe even today! Certainly this week or this month. So how can we find the voice of our inner self care and what does this voice sound like?
Well, I have an idea for finding this voice, finding the voice and then carrying it with you everywhere you go. So here it is, a simple idea to help develop the ability to really self care. All we have to do is to ask ourselves ‘What would my ideal parent say to me?’ The ideal parent is the one that knows instinctively what we want and what we need. The ideal parent is completely attuned to our needs, it knows all that you do, feels all that you do, its a total empath with you. Of course it is, because its you. Let’s forget about our real parents for this (after all, who apart from Jesus had an ideal parent). So we pretend to be our own ideal parent, and you ask that ideal parent ‘what I should do?‘ or ‘what do I really need now?‘ Somehow its easier to hear the words of that imagined parent rather than the words of ourself in our current situation.
So I ask my ideal parent, ‘Hey, I am tired today, I said I would go out with some friends and I don’t want to let them down, but I have an early start tomorrow and I’m tired, what shall I do?‘ What would you ideal parent say? What would the ‘you‘ that’s not caught up in expectations and responsibility say. For me, I would probably be having a night in, a bath, and an early night, and I would feel loved by my ideal parent for taking such care of myself. In other words I would be giving myself love.
Peace and love!
I’ve been struggling with two philosophies that I hold dear, that are seemingly in opposition to each other, namely, Gestalt Therapy and Mindfulness. My initial impression was that the two are similar, but are they?
Present moment consciousness suggests we become an observer of the process of thought, without engaging in it. The exhibition of anger, tears and so forth should be witnessed but not engaged with, e.g. ‘Oh, I feel angry, Oh I feel happy.’ notice but not engaged with.
Gestalt proposes a ‘here and now’ approach to life, touching what is present fully and making full contact with what is. This all sounds very mindful. Part of this approach can involve allowing a polarity of feeling to fully express, that is to explore fully the expanse of possibility that we have for a particular situation (gestalt = situation) or feeling, including expression of that feeling. The expression bit doesn’t sound so mindful, I am picturing 1970’s therapy sessions, people throwing cushions around the room and screaming, flared trousers, moustaches, beards, shirts with collars for hand gliding. That approach doesn’t sit so well.
So, suddenly there appears this contrast to the practice of present moment consciousness and the gestalt therapeutic process.
I think the difference in approach originates from differences in the useful quality of our zones of experience, e.g. the outer zone (trees, flowers, the wetness of the air, sounds) are all real and to be fully experienced, thus be very mindful of them. The inner zone, e.g. my body sensations, breath, emotions are also all real and thus to be fully explored. However, there is another zone, the middle zone which doesn’t really exists, we know this as ego. A nice quote from a group with Fritz Perls (Gestalt founder) solves part of the problem for me.
The neurotic suffering is suffering in imagination, suffering in fantasy. Someone calls you a son of a bitch, and you think you feel hurt. There are no bruises, no actual injuries. Its the ego, the vanity that has been hurt. When you say you feel hurt, you feel vindictive and you want to hurt the other person.
Ego can act fast, often without a conscious process. A feeling arises and we suddenly feel the need to express something. Emotional understanding is about observing the feeling ‘oh, I feel angry’ and then ‘where does that come from?’ Going deeper, can we then investigate their sources and their fuel? Why is there this need for a reaction? Whats actually taking place? I don’t mean purely intellectualising, but witnessing the middle zone of awareness, the realm of fantasy, those stories that form our reaction to events.
This I think is the same mechanism as conscious aware process, e.g. shining a light onto a neurotic suffering. However, much of a neurotic suffering is unconscious. If we have consciousness then we have the power to witness whats taking place and transform it.
In gestalt some of the powerful expressions are about bringing awareness to the unconscious patterns of behaviour. This could be something potentially powerful, shocking, explosive and challenging. But, what comes after, is a knowing, a consciousness. In Zen Buddhism they use a Keisaku (a paddle to strike you on the back) to bring about awareness during meditation or a Katsu (a shout), both seemingly harsh expressions are about awareness.
So I don’t think that Gestalt and Mindfulness are so diverse. I think the buddhist approach is to meditate on something to understand it, e.g. to engage with it fully ourselves internally. The gestalt approach is similar although often involving outwards expression. Both probably are appropriate means of understanding the middle zone and in doing so becoming less engaged with it and more engaged with ‘here and now’.
I suppose that raw expression can be problematic. I am picturing a couple in a relationship having arguments again and again about the same stuff, this could represent a lack of processing or worse that something is still unconscious. This could but a strain on the relationship if both parties are not invested in the process of unravelling unconsciousness, especially as each will be unconscious of different aspects of their ego, thus a large degree of love, patience and acceptance is required. Meditation can be a more peaceful way, however, such a peaceful approach is not always possible without consciousness. Sometimes, we are just gonna have to suffer! As Eckhart Tolle said:
“The ego says, ‘I shouldn’t have to suffer,’ and that thought makes you suffer so much more. It is a distortion of the truth, which is always paradoxical. The truth is that you need to say yes to suffering before you can transcend it.”
I have a tendency to act quickly, to react, to become unconscious. My goal then for this week. To try to bring more consciousness of my process. To feel but not to act so fast.
And after writing this, I feel, a peace.
Do we really see, or do we see the image through the lens of the past, the lens of a theory or the lens of our expectations and future. If we do, we miss the actuality and the uniqueness of the thing.
Oh, another relationship, oh another mean person, oh another utterance of ‘thank-you’, ‘hello’. Oh, its my husband, again.
Knowledge erects a wall; we see the knowledge not the object. Wisdom is to see the uniqueness.
Perhaps an entry point to this mode of being, is to simply stop thinking and to trust the vicereal. My practice for the day. Stop thinking, start seeing.
This is a true story from a few weeks back; a bit of the anarchy perhaps, a musing of ethics and just me trying to consolidate my understanding of a complex issue. The story goes like this…
A married guy is witnessed by a female friend at a sexual health clinic. The friend knows that the man goes away on ‘hunting trips’ and that he hasn’t had sex with his wife for a long time; his wife just isn’t interested in sex at the moment. The man has a family, two children aged 10 and 12. What does she do? Tell the wife? or keep quiet? Well, in this case, the female friend confronted him but was not going to tell his wife. Her rationale was ‘protecting’ her friend and their family, it would jeopardise their family and cause undue pain and suffering, acting out of compassion perhaps.
She was adamant that overall happiness of the family was more important than the truth. I was adamant that the truth was more important. This discussion led to me rethinking ethics in an attempt to understand my belief and hers. It also led to a very heated discussion.
We have a duty to truth, because living with truth is hugely important. Being happy but deluded is, for me, missing the point of being alive. Ignorance is bliss as they say, but yet we all look down on ignorance as being a lesser realm of existence. And this view runs fairly fundamental to my view of life. My view, yes, life can be hard, the truth can be hard, but I want it real, at least with the very important stuff.
A part of this belief comes from something similar to the experience machine of Robert Nozick. The experience machine allows a person to have any experience in an unreal world, the experience feels just like the real thing. The experiencer could, for example, be president, an olympic champion, Don Juan or, in this case, the wife of this man, happily married. The point of this is that we would value the real experience as greater than the fake experience, being in real life is better than being in the thought machine. We hold this as true, despite their being no palpable difference between them in terms of experience, the fake vs the real.
This doesn’t so neatly apply to the circumstance of the husband and his family. The wife of the deceitful husband would suffer some damage from inaction as her husband could not possibly be 100% committed emotionally and physically while being deceitful. Its therefore questionable which course of action actually will generate more net happiness.
The second point I have about this is based on Kantian ethics:
“Act only on that Maxim through which at the same time you can will that it should become a universal law.”
What happens if we make ignorance for the sake of happiness a universal to all mode of being. In other words we extrapolate its use for everything. In Kantian terms, lying to protect others becomes a Universal Imperative (something everyone must do), so we make ignorance to protect others our method of achieving happiness. Clearly this would be bad. We need truth, right? Without truth what do we have that we can trust? Nothing? So this would lead to a completely irrational view of the world, causality would cease to be useful as the truthful basis of our assumptions and premise would be flawed. Would this be okay? No! it would not. If the truth of the world ceased to make sense to us, if we lost trust in the statements of others, then we would trust nothing and keep meeting circumstances that plunge us painfully from unreality into reality.
My final point, is that the person has a right to know. They have a right to make their own judgement about the situation. Its their life and we have no right to withhold information about the nature of their existence. To do so, for me, would be to deprive our lives of a fundamental principle of life, the truth of our reality. My opinion is that the truth allows us to make decisions, perhaps we need to face the uncomfortable truth that marriage can involve infidelity and that we will be challenged to either forgive it, walk away or suffer from it. But that is the reality, and for me, I want my life to not just be some ignorant bliss of delusion, I want to know something about the nature of life, the universe, myself and others, the real deal; warts and all!
So for me, I would rather know the truth than live in some happy make believe ignorant bliss.
Upsetting the family by revealing the truth of the husbands infidelity would cause a loss of happiness to all of those concerned. This is essentially a utilitarian view of ethics in which we act in a way that produces more net happiness to everyone. In simple terms, saving two lives is better than saving one life, or 2 > 1. Note: the featured image for this post is an ethical cartoon along these lines known as ‘The fat man problem.’
The crux of this argument is that the ultimate goal is happiness or at least reducing suffering. In doing so it also forces us to make an assumption as ‘the judge’ about what brings about the most happiness. Do we really know what course of action will cause the most happiness? Happy now or happy in future? Perhaps the marriage will breakdown and they both discover knew things about themselves, perhaps they go on to have more successful and fulfilling marriages or relationships in future. Perhaps their children learn a lesson about the importance of truth, or perhaps they forgive each other and they both understand each others humanity better. Either way, this is all deprived by keeping quiet and turning a blind eye. Perhaps they have an unbearable nightmare that none of them recover from. Perhaps the wife kills herself, who knows!
Say there is a nuclear attack, no-one will survive, the missiles are flying as we speak. Why burden people with the knowledge, why make them less happy? Would this be right? I would rather have the chance to express something meaningful to the people I love, even though it might be laced with tears and sadness. Perhaps others might prefer to live these last minutes in peaceful ignorant bliss.
So, I see some value in the utilitarian ethical approach, but I don’t subscribe to the end point, for my reality, the end does not justify the means, for me the means becomes the end, or rather there is no end, only means.
Finally, I don’t profess to have a definitive answer to ethics. Ethics is a value judgement, its ultimately an assessment about what is valuable. But, this incident has caused me to reflect a lot on my sense of ethics, whats important for me in this life and this world. I accept that others will have different views, but for me, give me the truth, I’ll handle it.
To say, you are beautiful.
When I say you’re Beautiful
I’m not just speaking in the idiom of mirrors
I’m speaking of your unseen precious core
shaped by fire and ice and centuries of mountain streams
I’m speaking of the ever-present seasons of your being
the scented buds of spring that draw the bees
the petals that shower radiance your fruitfulness
your graceful yield to winter silence
he beauty that I greet in you is like a candle flame
in currents of dim air or like a falcon rising on a thermal
or it is the steadfastness of dawn
rising to delight our sleeping world
I’m speaking of what’s seen with inner eyes<
of what will slip the handcuffs of our best poetic words
I’m speaking both the language of the mirrors
and the language of the heart to say You are a Beauty.’
Poem by Rashid Maxwell (http://www.rashidmaxwell.com/)
Still looking for a rational answer? It feels good, but I need to know why? C’mon, just put that mind away for a bit. Enjoy without description.
An affective (feeling) of a growth experience is an experience that can’t be cognitised but is felt nonetheless. Feeling lighter, feeling more spacious, feeling just a bit more well?
A wonderful quote from Carl Rogers from a client at the end of counselling:
“I can’t tell just exactly what’s happened. It’s just that I felt that I exposed something, shook it up and turned it around; and when I put it back it felt better. It’s a little frustrating because i’d like to know exactly whats going on”
(Rogers, 1961: 151)
My words, its simple, you healed a little.
Why is it that we often imprison ourselves in the pain of the past and the pain of the future? What if the door was open all along but we just hadn’t seen it, we could choose to walk out at any time? Would this be so hard? Perhaps it would and perhaps it is?
After all, it is scary to look outside that familiar cell? It scary to leave the known? That known yet unhappy prison cell. The thoughts perhaps go like this: ‘This is the cell that is mine, my cell, my prison, its me. And besides, if I leave the cell, where will I go? What will I be? How will I live? Surely its better to stay here, just a while longer, perhaps I’ll stay a while and try to figure it out, I’ll buy some flowers, make the cell a bit more pretty… but I want to leave, I hate this cell, this cell is a torture, why can’t I leave?’ Dejected scared but familiar, we stay in our prison.
What I am talking about here are people, like myself, that have had traumas, that hold onto those traumas and cannot seem to shed them. I am talking about people whose minds create a prison such that we are a hostage to the past. But we don’t just do this with the past, we can also do this with our future too. Those future aspirations, our carefully planned path, ‘When I have done this, this, this and this then maybe [if I am lucky] everything will be okay, won’t it?’ This is the prison of the future, the prison that takes us from being fully alive and locks us into another prison of suffering. Like the ancient Greek myth of Sisyphus, a man who was doomed to perpetually push a boulder to the top of the hill only to watch it fall down again; not surprisingly Sisyphus was in hell. Our personal boulder can be the mission for self improvement; it has no end; its a path I know very well from my own experience. The path is never ending because ultimately we don’t want the path to end. Its ending promotes the same fears as the prison cell of the past, ‘Where would I go when its over? What would I be? But most importantly – and just like the prison of the past – I don’t feel ready to leave?’
But as the Buddhists masters know, when we stop trying to get somewhere we arrive.
‘If not now, when?’
‘Wherever you are, enter Zen from there.’
So try this, say to yourself, ‘It’s okay, everything is okay.’ But not like a parent telling a child to push away the hurt, this is not about rejection or repression, the traumas were truly awful and that is acknowledged and their being is also accepted. Did you suffer as a child? If so, ‘that’s okay.’ You got angry and shouted this morning, ‘that’s okay too.’ You feel lost and scared, ‘that’s okay.’ Be gentle with yourself, ‘its okay.’ Feel angry at me for suggesting this, ‘that’s okay’.
We can put aside the past and future, perhaps only for a brief while, but it can be done. We step out of our prison, we arrive, we come alive, we smell the roses, taste our food, see the richness of life, we experience love, love of ourself, love of another and love of life. But be gentle, please don’t turn the goal of leaving prison into yet another prison; another opportunity to swing the whip at ourselves for not meeting our expectations. Perhaps we begin by leaving just briefly, or perhaps we just entertain the thought that we could leave, we don’t expect too much, we are gentle, after all we have been in prison for a very long time.
So we begin with the notion of gentleness to ourselves, we allow ourselves to feel that we are ‘okay’ and that life is ‘okay’; it hurts at times, but that’s okay, its good enough. We become comfortable with not knowing or paradoxically knowing that ‘the answer is the there is no answer.’ We cease the unending searching, the unending ‘Why? Why? Why?’ We lay the mind aside and we find peace or rather, when we surrender, the peace that was all around us finds us.
Trees and nature, showing how to embrace and accept our place in this world, how to grow and be fearless, a blessing and a prophet?
History expressed as form. Standing proud, a life before the world, with scars and wounds an intrinsic part of beauty. The twists and turns of form; magical. Unique. Broken branches, dead wood, clusters of life and leaves, unpredictable angles cutting through space. Textured art as skin.
Steadfastly growing for survival. Making the best of circumstances that cannot be changed. Forever imprisoned. Yet with stoic dignity embracing and accepting the cycles of life and death. That each year, one must start a fresh from the remnants of the year before. Another year reaching for the sky.
Sustaining the witnessed; a web of hidden growth below. Above; the visible drama of life. Below; the unknown story.
People and trees, not so different.