Here to hold light

To feel such joy and such sadness at the same time seems to be part of the inbuilt dichotomy of these times…and is how I feel every morning when I walk in “our” little woods to where the crescendo of birdsong just seems to get louder and more complex the closer I get to this very spot (the video I’ve attached is all about the cathedral of sound and gets better the longer it runs). The thrush song is quite tremendous this year and the exquisite thrush-wren duet is almost a daily performance, along with blackbirds, robins, chaffinches, black caps, dunnocks, blue tits, great tits, goldfinch and many, many more star performances. Yet the row of big orange diggers is poised in the field just 30 feet from this spot, prepared to start work on yet another housing estate so, very soon, there will be the deafening grumble, the shouty voices and the red London clay-dust coating everything, in ears and in mouth and settled on the surface of every water pool, as per the previous several developments (we have had them, non-stop, for the past several years so we know the ropes).

The birds in this hallowed spot will no doubt retreat in the same way as all the deer I used to hang out with on a near daily basis (which withdrew when the first phase of this same large housing development was started and never returned; this artwork “Looking Back” was my homage to that tragedy and I have seen maybe two young deer on the hillside it depicts in the last three years whereas there used to be a dozens at a time most days at dusk). Since nobody seems to be paying attention to the relentless, unconscious harm done to places where only the most perfunctory and self-invested surveys are conducted, I guess doing the inner work to try to come to terms with these things in the best way we know how, for our sanity and spiritual sanctity, is how we do the real self-development work of our lives…but I never said it was easy or that there aren’t days when I could buckle down to my knees and weep in this spot instead of fully appreciating these precious moments in the here-and-now.

If anything (and I think there are others who would agree) I feel capable of experiencing more joy than ever these days, because I think some of us are allowing more joy into our bodies as we make room for it the-more, having done so much work to clear old programs and traumas out of ourselves to make space for more light. So here is the paradox: to be able to experience more of the exquisite, through all of our refined senses, and yet to inevitably notice wherever there is still such unconsciousness, such harm and short-sigtedness going on, as though to be torn in two. Yet (and here is why I so-often hesiate to share my thoughts these days) I’m not here to be the perveyor of gloom; I don’t want people to read this and add add their own “yes, its all terrible, isn’t it?” comments below. What I really want is to incite people to feel even more of the appreciation for what we still have, to take the time to stop and absorb all this instead of rushing on by, to go even deeper into the moments of beauty and light, to truly feel them throughout their entire nervous system and take them deep into their bodies (not to go into more trauma and sense of loss but to fuel ourselves with more light) so that, in our way, we amplify it all; not joining in with the misery and woe but counter-balancing it. Refusing to be defeated by it. Holding the experience of light inside ourselves, in our awareness and as our frequency when we engage with others. Staying present with beauty and joy, holding space for it to be here in this reality, now and tomorrow. Affirming that a world of nature and beauty and radiance is what we want; not coiling up inside as though it is already “lost” to us, a done deal, giving hopelessness all our power and adding the weight of our negativity to its relentlessness.

Allow also that there is a gift in it; the sore-spots of external world, with all its frustrations and abrasions, are merely the inflammed nerve endings that lead us straight back to the central nervous system of our own consciousness where “the problem” began. What harsh, relentless, pressing things are gobbling up all the soft, creative spaces inside of me and why and how do I let them? How do I get myself into more balance? What do those things that bully my time and attention tell me about myself and all that I can do to make things more comfortable, starting with my own domain, my choices, the boundaries I set around those parts of me that are less to do with order, achievement or aquisition; those that are more about stillness, beauty and being fully present in love and appreciation. Here is work that I can do on a daily basis.

So then we become more resilient to “the other stuff” and we start to notice how our focus draws more and more such unexpectedly “higher” moments to us because of how we magnetise and multiply them (… as the unmistakably etheal strains of Chopin’s piano followed by O mio babbino caro and Agnes Dei from Fauré’s Requiem waft over my fence from the radio of a workman doing woodwork for my neighbour; I can’t remember a day when the ceaseless drone of boom box and traffic noise where I live on a main road was contributed to by a more unexpected or welcome “noise” so that, for once, I find myself straining to hear instead of jamming in earplugs and feel a profound lilt of joy course through my energy field). We notice how things that felt hopeless become near-misses as turnarounds happen; if not in the exact circumstance we wish we could transform but in others further along the path…because we held to the light.

More and more (I guess I’ve been contempating “my purpose” a great deal lately), I realise this is why I am here.

Posted in Birds, Consciousness & evolution, Conservation, Health & wellbeing, Life choices, Menu, Nature, Personal Development | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

New paradigm, now in this minute

If anyone were to ask me now, and if I was being truly honest with them, I would describe myself as “retired for health reasons”; I have desisted from the usual, relatable activities of life “for my health”. No longer in hot pursuit of justification for my existence via “what I do”, how much I am “noticed”, “valued” or “seen”, whether my output is considered “enough” or “worthy” or “commercial” out there in the world, whether people look at my life and imagine me to be “a success”, I have taken my foot off those pedals for several months now, not even seeking to plug the gap with other forms of busyness; and more so than ever these last few weeks.

Really, this has been the case for 15 long years but it has taken me this long to admit it, even to myself. That old cultural imperative, to justify ones existence, has pressed upon me, long and hard yet I find there is no shame in the admission. I found it as hard as, perhaps harder than, anyone in a nine-to-five to get off that merry-go-round of plugging the work gap in a miriad home-based ways, while I have been at home dealing with chronic health issues, in order to bolster my lumbering sense of self-identity. Perhaps there is something about reaching one’s mid-fifties that makes it feel more acceptable or appropriate to call on the retirement card but it goes far deeper than that.

You could say, I now do everything for my (physical, emotional, spiritual) health and silently pose the question “is there any other reason?” There is a word that I find myself using much more than ever and it is “allow”; I “allow myself” to just be…to be me…to be quiet and still…to be complete without needing to explain myself…to take time out…to recover…to relax…to flow…to cease believing the world and its problems sit squarely on my shoulders or that I have to save anybody and this has been a whole other layer of “retirement” taking place, as in to pull back from centre stage to my own fringe performance.

As the world spills out of lock-down today, my days continue to be, if anything (or so it seems) “smaller” than they were before it began and yet, from the inside, they are considerably more expansive than they have ever been in this and, likely, many other lifetimes.

Because there is nothing small about choosing the deep, existential journey as a priority, every day; allowing yourself to be led by whatever insinuates into your consciousness rather than by imposed (often externalised, even fear-driven) imperatives such as “I must earn money, I must be seen in a good light, I must justify my existence to others, I must keep the conversation going or everyone will forget about me and I will be left struggling all alone”. On a million zillion occassions, I have told myself “just this one last time…” as I make a choice that does not feel so authentic yet serves one of these old so-called imperatives of survival and that as been one of the big shifts lately; that I notice those old excuses bubbling under the surface and then I interupt them!

So now, days come and go and I feel no need to justify myself to anyone except my highest self; what did I learn today, how did I grow, do I feel more whole as a result?

From the outside it may seem boring or unstructured (though its not that I don’t perform necessary tasks; rather, they have become much clearer to see and thus to execute in good time) but these past months have been a roller-coaster ride on the inside. No two weeks, or even days, are the same as my journals fill up, my epiphanies multiply, my time spent in meditation and inner enquiry seems to grow and so I harvest wisdom that eluded me, or merely tickled around my edges, for years until I finally…finally…allowed myself to stop and just be.

Even when I thought I was doing just that, it turns out I wasn’t even getting close. I remained largely cerebral, self-justifying, needing to be seen to be doing what I was doing or to turn what I gathered into informational artefacts to trade with others, in order to stay safely social (nine-tenths of social behaviour is based on fear of being marginalised) and to justify myself in a worldly sense that only ever inverted the whole process I thought I was excelling at; as though I was removing bricks from the top of my own tower to begin using them all over again at the foundations.

I was caught in the trap that nothing I was experiencing felt “real” unless it was broadcast and seen by others, given that stamp of approval and related to, but I was wrong. It is very real; more real every day, when I allow myself to be in the experience with no need whatsoever to communicate it or find experiential partners, thrilling as those can briefly be. We each take this consciousness journey the way we came into life; alone and yet its the richest experience on offer, in spite of all the bad press.

It took the Gupta Program coming along and “giving permission” (to that conditioned part of me that, in the old days, might have required a doctor’s note to justify taking time off) to stop everything except prioritising my own recovery to make space for this to happen. All the many resources in the program have reinforced this choice to pull back and prioritise my own experience over any other demands that may ever seem to be “coming in at me”, whilst highlighting all the many conditioned parts of myself that have been overly paying attention to such demands, at my own expense. What I find is that we are all in recovery…every single one of us…only, for some of us the process is made so very slow, or stalls altogether, due to this obsession with busyness and self-justification, the belief we always have to operate as a pack, the entrained emotional need to mark out our days with activities ticked-off on a calendar and accolades collected, an impressive-sounding label on that business card and that well-rehearsed line we repeat at parties “this is what I do”.

Its not the I don’t tick things off any more but they are driven by a different imperative; to do with self-improvement and striving for more wholeness, greater purpose beyond the material and feeling MUCH MORE LIKE MYSELF. This part of me has been all-but absent or hiding herself in the shadows for decades but I catch glimpses of her in my childhood and early life, even flashes from the future and, now, I encourage her here to spend time with me, to chew the cud and spend playful hours exploring what really makes us tick.

Part of the process has been to cut ties with old habits, behaviour programs, addictions, compulsions, even ones like this one urging me to share my thoughts with “the world”; what makes me want or even need to do that, why do I crave an audience or feel what I “realise” is worth nothing unless I do?

I’m not sure that I do think those things, at all, any more, so (after running my checks on why I am writing this morning) it feels more like I am putting this out here, perhaps, as a sort of comma or even a full-stop in the long-running conversation of my blog. Yet, as with all things, I leave the door ajar, allowing it to be easy to flow back this way, should the (genuine) urge come back to me to share my thoughts here again; only, it must be from such authenticity now, not a mere itch to scratch. I pause much longer before I publish these days because if the driving force is emotional it passes like a weather-front; and those impulses that stand the test of time may filter through to be shared, but only if my instincts tell me so (here’s a clue to the ratio; far more posts have been left as drafts than published lately). Sometimes the desire to write can be enough…and then let it go to the wind and the same with every creative or executive urge, once all pressure is taken off them. From where I am standing, this consciousness-filtered space seems like a much healthier space; imagine a world where we all, much more mindfully, considered our actions and expressions and took pause before we unleashed them?

Photo by Hello I’m Nik on Unsplash

I’m easy either way with where my blogging goes from here but, for now, its all part of a sort of cold-turkey from conventional life that I have going on; a studied detachment from whatever feels like it is pressing upon me, to question “Why?” does that thing have any say-so to assert over my days and hours? “Why?” do I give it my attention and my energy to it. “In what self-supporting way?” does it contribute to my existence; because there are no other acceptable excuses for perpetuating behaviours in our lives than that they support us in being who we really, most authentically, are. Anything less than this quickly becomes unhealthy (I have learned the hard way).

In short, I pause long enough to really consider, do I give this thing energy or do I put my energy to better uses? All things being equal (imagine that if you can), do I want more of this thing in my future world?

If the answer is no then I take my foot off that so-called impulse or imperative (which can be so hard to do when a lifetime’s precedent urges every muscle and fibre to keep bearing down on it, in case the vehicle of life should suddenly stall in the road) and, remarkably, the world always keeps on spinning…though in a somewhat different way. Little by little and, conversely, all at once with an immediacy that continues to shock me, this changes everything.

Its how, in ways both slow and instantaneous, I am stepping into another paradigm in spite of whether or not anyone else sees the opportunity or decides to choose it for themselves (not my business); because its all a highly-personal inside job, an exercise of freedom, a self-selected outcome we each get to craft for ourselves in this moment via the sequence of minuscule, ever-more mindful, choices made throughout our days.

Posted in Consciousness & evolution, Life choices, Life journey, Meditation, Menu, Personal Development, Recovery chronic illness | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

No time to waste

In search of something “just so” to lose myself in as the reading matter of my next few weeks, over which I plan to make some considerable reading time, I am faced with a dilemma (having just finished Ted Chiang’s wonderful “Exhalation”, which has become one of my favourite reads of all time).

Part of me is drawn to reading Paul Scott’s “Raj Quartet” given how much I got out of re-watching “The Jewel in the Crown” last week. So many layers of thought came up for me, spurred by this other transitional era/generation (bearing comparison to our own); so much so that it is still feeding my dreams night after night. It is, and was the first time (when I was just 16 years old) what feels like an epic of personal relevance to me as my mother grew up “out there” in India during the rise of the Indian independence movement, as the daughter of a regimental sergeant major, and my fascination has only ever been the greater due to the fact she was always so very reluctant to talk about it. That curiosity led me to pour over novels and adaptations relating to “the raj”, to study the life of Ghandi as a special project, to take up social, political and moral philsophy at college and, in my spare time (and, really, ongoing), to wrestle with all the messed up confusion of empire and social responsibility, of how people of different races come (often clash) together and then pull apart, leaving so many tangled or abandoned threads for generations to come. That curiosity is still alive in me sufficiently for me to feel that same urge I once had to dust down Paul Scott’s hefty tombs and re-read them (I can recall reading some, if not all, of them the first time).

Quite a portion of my young life was spent pouring over such questions as an era “in flux” give rise to and its a habit in me that dies hard. I also dislike, when something provokes my thoughts to that degree, to leave it all to the abridgement of a TV or film adaptation so there is that hanging over me. My inner geek (I see her clearly when she pops up these days, still wearing the furrowed brow of the college student with exam deadlines…) thinks she wants to take a deep-dive because, retrospectively, it seems like it was once a happy or at least a comforting place to be, making it a beguiling place to return to.

However….the novels are verbose and they are long. Relatively flowing reading-matter, from yesterday afternoon’s dive into the first chapter, but still long-winded and of their era (written in the 60s) and I don’t feel I can give myself over to such a brick of a book for as long as it will take to get through them (or the distraction of it for as long as it will inevitably take, dragging me into its mindsets as reading will always do; impossible to dive deeply into a book and not have your every thought, yes as I said dreams, coloured by it for weeks or months). If I had a dozen lifelines the same as this one, and access to them all, as though I could skip between them as I might between sparkling rivulets meandering across a water meadow, then maybe in some of them I would go ahead with reading the Raj Quartet (or War and Peace…) to see how that contributes to my life. However, in this one I feel as though time is of the essence and far too valuable to squander; which all comes from having such a strong sense of life purpose, one which has always been with me and shows absolutely no sign of abating as I grow older!

I could describe it as, I always feel distinctly as though a future end-point me is drawing me towards itself along a timeline that has to be far more direct than that, to get to where it is sitting. When I come to a choice point it will either sagely nod or shake its head (really, more of a gut feeling) and I have to, sometimes, over-ride quite compelling forces of nostalgia or other compunction that would have had me dally off the path. I now get this “unnecessary diversion” feeling around much of the “old” literature that used to feel like home to me, back in my literary days…and, though I try hard to be guided and courageous, moving forwards not back, I am frequently left with a problem; what do I read next, who is writing the kind of material that feeds me in this progressive, evolutionary way (other than all the many non-fiction writers I already engage with)? Where is the contempory fiction that looks forwards, not to the topics of war, or cancer, or horror, or divorce, or past-trauma, or dsystopia, or kitchen-sink drama, or fluffy romance? Where is all the optimism, combined with new thinking and the sheer force of imagingation that is fiction?? (By the way, suggestions are very welcome.)

This is why I am drawn to Ted Chiang. Per the quote on the front cover of “Stories of Your Life and Others” (one of two short-story compendiums, “Exhalation” being the other and I only wish there were more) “Ted Chiang’s stories are lean, relentless and incandescent”.

Yes! They are lean…that is the right word for me…no surplus words to frustrate my Asperger’s, no long-rambling descriptions for the build-up (in fact, very few at all that aren’t utterly poised and essential to the narrative of an idea-delivering plotline – I wonder if he is also an Asperger’s…) Yet these stories are far from devoid of feeling, or nuance, or ideas so colourful they explode in your mind like a drug bomb of repercussions; quantum thoughts, now unleashed into the fabric of your mind, concerned with the now and the future, THIS lifetime, this point in our evolution (not some long-winded retrospective about a messy cultural shift that occurred more than 70 years ago and which has still failed to settle down in all its repercussions). If such retrospectives are like inheriting a Victorian house stuffed to the brim with artefacts you have to sort through, to ascertain what is of any use, what is just old bric-a-brac destined for landfill, his writing is like Ikea, everything clean lines and built to a purpose. He is relevant and he is provocative but, as the quote says, his writing is also incandescent…like the brightest of bright lightbulbs going off in your head, to illuminate all the corners where you almost peered into the dark at least once in your life (maybe…) but now there is no avoiding it, there on the page, familiar yet so-recently tucked away under deep layers of distraction, now exposed for anyone to see. Your paradigm is shifted because that thought is now unleashed and you will never look at things quite the same way ever again.

This is the difference between reading something like this…modern to the point of futuristic…over something nostalgic, backward-looking, combing over our mistakes and foibles of the past (useful, to a point, I agree…) but when you get into these new thoughts, new ideas, a lot of that raking-over of dead leaves becomes, instantly, superfluous…all gone, along with the paradigm that once held such thinking together into structures, now flaccid and without animation, the relics of a museum past. There is a feeling of cutting to the chase when writing gets into its futuristic groove and it draws me much more, now, than the comfort of nostalgia…but, by its very nature, there is very little of it about. It leaves the literary part of me hungry, all the time, for something to read!

For sure, some remnants of those structures played with in The Raj Quartet are very much alive and kicking today…to do with class and race distinctions, etc…but, when we look backwards, even to pick apart, we somehow strengthen those very ideas, giving them more energy, as though to breath life into a near-corpse lying on the ground when, really, we just want it to roll over and let us start over again, without all the contortions of a bygone era, when we didn’t know any better (we know better now).

When we give that energy to brand-new, paradigm-shifting “what if?” kind of thoughts, we don’t just feel we are some sort of slow-rolling transitional generation trundling in 3D slow-motion along a cause-and-effect route towards change, with all its inherent pitfalls and disappointments (as we, our parents and grandparents have been doing for the last century) but we KNOW we are a transition generation with every vital nerve of our rapidly evolving quantum biology, making instantaneous leaps of neuroplastic significance with every new thought that sparks into life inside our ever more receptive and unlimited minds. We know because, like the caterpillar having turned to mush by the eating of its own flesh, we can now sense the growth of butterfly wings. If only we turn out attention to those wings, not the mush…

So, I vote for wings and continue to look for writers, like Ted Chiang, who feed that imperative for future-looking growth (and flight…) over retrospective. Its more than possible to halt our own metamophosis with some mere twitch of an old habit, those places we allow our minds to wonder off to, our old fixations and our familiar comfort-zones…if they are going nowhere new…or we can halt the process of eating our own tail and call for those wings, right now. This is where the matter of no more time wasting comes into it. And we can tell the difference between one choice and another because of the lighter frequency we can feel coursing through our bodies once we make the more progressive choice; as though we are no longer creating a lag-factor against the very impulse of the universe to keep expanding and accelerating.

Once you get into this mindset, it percolates into other aspects of your life. What else don’t you have time to waste doing, thinking about, ruminating on? What part of your routine, your health, your perceived limitations has taken you backwards to rake over past mistakes, old piles of leaves, in case somewhere in there is the answer to all of your conundrums? How could it be far better spent, feeling into new potential realities that question the very boundaries of dimensions, seeking answers that can only be felt via the gut because, for now, there is nothing empirical to “prove” their validity, although that “proof” will surely come along as a brand new reality morphs into being before our very eyes (because we believed it would, with our ever-fertile imaginations). Never forget that reading is how we sow seeds in the fertile ground of our minds; so, as any gardener knows well, be mindful of the quality of the soil but also of the kind of seeds that you sow, and that goes for our viewing time too!

Yet I am also reminded of a wonderful quote from the mouth of a colleague of my husbands on a remote training course he once attended, who had cancer, and who said with complete lack of pathos “I don’t have time to rush”. This was in response to all those people on the weekly calls who would ask her why she wasn’t spending more time rushing about fulfilling some sort of bucket list and yet what she had to say in response became one of the most powerful things my husband ever heard spoken, and from him to me the same. Because it is so very true; just as relevant to any of us here as to her or indeed anyone else on “limited” time (though, of course, none of us know how much time we have left and we should always live that way).

However much time we have, none of us have time to charge through life as though we are on some sort of conveyor belt, never once stopping to smell those roses, to take it all in…what a waste.

Yet the wonderful paradox is, the more we slow down and pace our days, the more we hand-pick exactly what is right for us in this moment (not, out of habit, simply making the choices some earlier format of ourself might have made because we have decided that this is what we like to do). When we question what we really like, what really draws us, excites and engages us in this very moment then we are free to re-choose in every new minute of our lives, a rebirth impulse that propels us directly onto our highest timeline, towards our highest evolution…no more wasted time, no unnecessary detours or replays, just directly back home towards the wholiness of ourselves.

Posted in Books, Consciousness & evolution, History, Life choices, Literature, Menu, Personal Development, Remembering, Writing | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 2 Comments

Acts of volition

If everything has to be the result of a cause and effect chain reaction then I was a lost cause many years ago. So why do many of us continue; what drives us to hope for that which a strictly causal future is unlikely to present in the linear timescales we have at hand? What do we quietly know at our core and yet choose not to say outloud for fear it would make us sound “illogical”, “delusional” or “mad”? What thing inside of each of us is so powerful we fear it in ourselves (mostly, the fact we make so little use of it…) and what we are truly capable of, or as though its not polite to regard ourselves as powerful under our own volition (as in, not because of our “position” in life, because someone else bestowed it upon us or through having loads of money)?

When we step outside of those perameters, making that quantum leap outside of the cause and effect box, we become the creator that created that original bang out of nothingness. We step outside of the strict corridors of linearity and wander off piste where others have seldom gone. We even have a word for it: we call it “experiencing a miracle”, a rarified concept, but then I consider miracles to be far more available these days than most people tend to believe.

We also call it “making a quantum leap”, manufacturing that for which there were no ingredients just moments before. As in, we disregarded some “logical” conclusion and made an alternative happen anyway, through the volatility of our thoughts (Volatile: from French volatile, from Latin volatilis – fleeting, transitory; swift, rapid; flying, winged, birds, from past participle stem of volare “to fly”, one minute on the ground wishing for something else and the next soaring high). We are taught to think of being volatile as being “unreliable”, “hot-headed”, “likely to go up in smoke”, but the word root says different; so see how we have been detatched from our wings!

You could say, volatile means to be active in the sense of a creator; the original spark out of nowhere…fleeting but potential-loaded, poised to take flight, filled with the lightness of unlimited possibility, lit up with hope.

When put together with volition (from the Latin stem as in volo “I wish”), like a match to a taper, we create with a bang; our very will to make something happen caught on the wings of a creator power poised to take flight, not taking “no” for an answer.

We each have that volatility, plus that original will, inside of us…its what makes us human…but we mostly defer to the traintracks of linearity, trundling between stations signposted “Cause” and “Effect” on a one way line. When we are born, we are issued with that journey’s season ticket…and we renew it every time we succumb to the belief that “this is all there is”.

Yet what happens when we decide to get off the train, take a leap from its moving carriage, take that risk with our life in our hands? What happens when we spy an alternative destination from the corner of our eye and pull the emergency stop cord? It may look like “crash” but this is often what we have really done when we hit some life arresting situation that forces us to consider other options (as in, done by some subliminal part of us that dared to pull on that cord). Its in all the ensing kerfuffle of our crash that we often get to take a long-hard second glance at that alternative landscape we originally caught sight of in our sideways glance and, daring to see it, no longer denying it is there, is how we then break out of our conditioned linear thinking. You could say, the peripheral view now becomes the main view and everything changes. Because, one way or other, it always takes an interuption of conditioned, predictable, thinking to effect a paradigm shift!

Let’s not understate what it took for us to pull on that emergency cord, long before we had any logical reason why; an implusive, paradigm-shifting, act of volition in itself. It takes a certain kind of thinking (a certain type of daring…) to manufacture a crash such as that, even at the subliminal level; quite a leap of courage to take such a quantum leap, an interuption to “normality” and all its inherent comforts. We might do it because we are the natural-born contrarian, the one who always saw outside the box because of the way we are “wired”…or because we are an inventor or born shifter of paradigms, an Einstein in the making…or because we feel as though we have no other choice at the time. Yet, somewhere within that choice made out of coercion (such as the sudden chronic illness that drops you to your knees), hidden deep inside what felt unavoidable or inflicted, there may be a part of us that was, really, making the original bid for freedom, which is really the absolute choice of breaking everything down into its tiniest parts, in order to choose again, choose differently, choose freely, and thus reinvent your life from scratch!

When we feel most cornered and as though there is no other desirable option left ahead on the mainline of life, we may find ourselves digging deep within, only to find that volatile spark alive and well at our core. This can, sometimes, be the gift of breakdown…as in, we find our original spark and realise ourselves to be creators (more so than any conventional linear life path could have shown us).

We might need to do some work breathing life back into that spark, stoking its potential. So, for instance, we might explore mindfulness, take up daily meditation to make the habit of interupting our linear thoughts, dare to consider that there is much more to life than “all this” that seems so concrete, to think outside of mainstream and to prick up our senses around other examples and individuals hinting at a world that lies beyond what is “given”, “fixed”, “logical” or “linear”.

And then, in time, we become that creator…as soon as we make a choice (no matter how large or small) that is an absolute act of unprogrammed free will, neither driven by pressure nor precedent but straight from the heart. That requires no proof for us to believe in it as much as, or more so, than any medical diagnosis or announcement on the news or even undeniable “symptoms” that may scream at you that they are real and something to despair about. Ultimate freedom in action; an act of volition.

When we do that, and it could be, say, the choice to thrive when all else seems to be turning to chaos around us, to be “of nature” when artificial is the buzz-word of the era, to be well again, against all the odds; and then we follow through regardless of other people’s advice, opinions or “evidence” to the contrary, we step up, becoming that original creator. What we create may stop people in their tracks in awe…or go completely unnoticed, yet we felt it course through our veins and we can never be quite the same again. Once touched by it, and the more we practice holding our own freedom of choice in its purest potential (no longer regarded as a “fairy story” but respected as the most potent kind of creator power, made manifest by the force of our will) we can never go back to the humdrum of foregone conclusions, of an unreasonable yet (paradoxically) “reasoned” causal reality made into a false god, because we have experienced a LEAP!

But first, as I said, you have to put yourself in the mind space (which should really be “heart space”…) for making such a leap. You could say I have been doing that for the past 16 years of never, really, losing faith that I would recover my health; certainly the last 10 years since I worked on my mindfulness. I am doing it though my commitment to the Gupta Program, which is a powerful guide through the territory of creating new, unexpected, outcomes out of what feels most stuck in your health.

When you make such a commitment (forgive me yet another metaphor…being a visual-thinker, I do so love to use them!) its like tuning up in the lobby where the lifts go up and down, day after day, holding faith that an up-lift will be coming soon. If life’s most stuck, most vehemently predicatable circumstances seem like a circle or a closed loop then our paradigmn shifts are a spiral and the lift is like the tail end of the spiral that will lift you up to the next level. That level might look all-but the same as the lower level, at a glance (the view from the window, you could say, hardly any different than before) but even the miniscule difference in the view that one floor affords will start to impart insights into things that escaped you the last time you went around the loop and, gradually, you realise the game has shifted (you could say “elevated”) to another level, a new paradigm.

At face value, you may seem to be dealing with the very same stuck points, same crashes, same disappointments as yesterday but you start to realise the value of these upper floor action replays because you are now noticing the patterns that help make sense of it and afford an alternate “way out” to what you were able to see (as though you have much clearer eyes now) at the lower levels. So, day after day, without expecation, preconception or dwelling on any of the lower levels (“the past”), not even antipating what the higher floor will look like, and quite regardless of how “bad” or “demoralised” or “exhausted” you happen to be feeling that day, you simply show up in the elevator lobby (its a mindset…or heartset), wide-open to the posibility that an up-arrow will show up on the display and the elevator doors will open up to let you in.

This, of course, takes faith and a dose of that will I was alking about above, coupled with the all-imporant ability to detach from “what seems” for just long enough to leap into the cracks in-between. Difficult sounding (though no more than remaining stuck, surely) and its important. Because, if human choices are miniscule, yet potent, acts of volition charged with the ultimate creator power then just think what we each hold in our hands and how essential they are to what we are about to create of our world right now in this unprecedented, but brief, window of opportunity to manifest something new.


Inspired by this quotation from the short story “Omphalos” by Ted Chiang:

“…I think there are events of another category that are likewise not fixed in a causal chain: acts of volition. Free will is a kind of miracle; when we make a genuine choice, we bring about a result that cannot be reduced to the workings of physical law. Every act of volition is, like the creation of the universe, a first cause”.

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He/she/they

There is a collared dove living in our garden, we call her/him “Bob” and we love him/her with a vengeance.

Really, there is a pair of doves because they were, and are again, a couple, though only one is ever on the nest or feeder in our garden at any one time, and they (of course) could be a different pair to last year. Because this pattern has been going on for years…in fact, as long as I can remember in this house, with the very same nest in use time and time again. So, presented with two of them, which one (if either of them) is Bob?

However we know for sure, this time, that one of the “Bobs” is the same as last summer as he/she has a drooping right wing from when she/he bounced off our window, having being flustered by a wood pigeon at the feeding station, and I rescued him/her with food, water and watchful company, setting up my painting station close-by (which he/she seemed to appreciate), until she/he had recovered enough to leave the flower borders and take off a couple of days later.

He/she lives in a rudimentary nest of twigs in our disused satellite dish on the south-facing wall of our house, right under the eaves, and is often to be found sat in there, leaning against the metal bracket, peering down at us from a bird’s eye view. She/he seems to love to watch us reading, pruning, enjoying breakfast together in the garden below (as we did just the other day, before the cold snap came back…) and is both reticent yet comfortable with us, also curious and, of course, to a degree dependent on food we put out on the ground feeder. Bob has never been far away over winter, although there was no partner in sight during those months.

During the warmer days, they (as a couple) can be found together in easy coupledom, high up in the tree over our driveway, just a short swoop from their satellite nest. Up there, on the sunnier afternoons, they preen and they doze together to the background music of robin or goldfinch and it warms the heart to see them up there, familiar sight as it is from last year and, probably, the year before and the one before that.

Yet all this time, and its been quite some time now, of feeling as though Bob is a part of our family (the name “Bob” came to me when I was tending to him/her under the cover of the dahlias after the window crash…) we have no idea whether Bob him/herself is male or female or, really, any evidence at all that this is the same couple who nested in our dish last summer…or, our favourite theory, is Bob the offspring of that effort (because there was one offspring)…because they all look exactly the same.

So, Bob is “Bob” and other Bob is “Bob”, or sometimes we take a stab and call one of then Bob-ette, but not very often. They are kind-of one and the same entity that we love dearly and consider part of our expanded family unit, such that (after last night’s dusting of snow and this morning’s white frosty coating) I have just been out there to check on him/her in the nest and, with a slight jiggle of my jug full of seed, announced that breakfast is served in the ground feeder. His/her beady eye seemed to acknowledge that, yes, in a few moments, when the sun has warmed the ground a little more, she/he might deign to swoop down (before the woodpidgeons get stuck in…) and so I now feel comfortable to settle down to my own breakfast.

Often, on warmer days, when I am still on my yoga mat, its as though Bob uses the cue of my stirrings just the other side of a foot’s depth of brick wall, to take that first swoop across my window view, down to the lawn and so I get to see him/her enjoying breakfast whilst I stand in tree-pose (assuming there is any food left from the night before)…or, I’ve been known to interrupt my practice to go down in the cold morning to fill the empty feeder because I can’t bear to leave him/her wanting while I am in the zone if its been a cold night. By the same token, I remind myself, often, that I am not responsible for any of the wildlife in my garden and that they are free to come and go; am not about to get so attached that my wellbeing relies on whether they are there today, or not, because that’s an entanglement they don’t want any more than I do (they’re not pets!) so it is all easy come-and-go; we watch, we enjoy, we provide assistance where we can, we are kind…and we love.

It occurs to me, it really doesn’t matter if its Bob or not Bob, if Bob is male or female, whether its the same bird(s) as last year or different (they live about 3 years and often reuse the same nest), or indeed whether it will be different or the same “Bobs” in our garden next year. Its the essence of Bob that I’m in relationship with and it expresses as the gentle curiosity made manifest as collared doves in my garden; I don’t need to get caught up in the political correctness of pronouns to go there.The love I feel in my heart for Bob is deep and real, is pulsing and warm and strong and it is entirely unconditional of all these arbitrary labels and constructs, which feel so entirely done with where real love is concerned. I also know that he/she feels it and, in his/her own way, reciprocates and that this is enough to fill up all of our worlds with an amber-hued kind of glow that colours our days spent together.

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Coming home

This week I had a BIG release on the back of the realisation that, as a child, I externalised my sense of safety to the home (rather than it feeling like an insider job) partly because a sense of the potential to feel safe in my own skin wasn’t forthcoming or demonstrated to me by my parents (through no fault of their own, they did what they knew how to do). Their best demonstration of “how” to be safe was to make a wonderful home and stay there, come what may and that was a valid part of my sense of safety as I grew up there, but it made that safety conditional upon a set of outer circumstances whilst it remained absent within me. It was as though that whole part of my wiring remained under-developed because it had come to equate itself with this externalised or extended sense of self; so, perhaps, no wonder I have always felt as though my nervous system extends about 50 feet wider than may actual body…said tongue in cheek but I suspect there is some truth in that. Its somewhat like developing an exoskeleton when you are meant to have your supports, and your boundaries, on the inside!

That home became a set of arms around me, that held me in some sort of suspended sense of safety that I imagine might otherwise have come from the internalised touch-memory of what it felt like to be held by a parent’s arms, to know their smell, to feel that everything is in its place because they are always there for you and are teaching you how to self-love the way they love you. I can only imagine how such an upbringing would feel, though its the one I strove to give to my daughter. For me, that feeling of being held always came from stepping back through my own front door after a day at school, feeling overwhelmed, overstimulated, often bullied, insecure and ceaseless trying so hard to fit in…yet home was where I could go limpid and fall into a swoon as though nothing else mattered. My parents did well to create such a wonderful haven and I see how that feeling was an externalised version of those unspoken aspects of themselves that loved me so much; they loved through the action of providing such a home and regarded actual embrace as superfluous (however, I think this last year has taught us all, even the least touchy-feely of us as I am, that embrace is never superfluous…).

Also, their worldview only really worked if I was able to predict living in such a sheltered world all my life (obviously, something I have not managed to do…though it helps me understand how I have managed to replicate my mother’s living-close-to-home life for most of those adult years, largely through health issues). Please bear in mind that my mother was a home-maker and my dad was retired when I was growing up so I saw none of the rhythms of working life outside the home. I see now how that feeling of home= ultimate safetly they cultivated; or, the tireless search for the replica of that feeling in my adult life, has fed into so much to do with my sense (or not) of being safe and my very high sensitivity because I rely on it so heavily and anything outside the home is deemed a threat by my nervous system.

That my parents loved me and were there for me is in no doubt whatsoever but they never wrapped their arms around me in a hug or stoked my hair. I don’t remember bing kissed goodnight and, though my father put me to bed for years, what I remember was how painfully awkward he was. They never discussed with me why I was looking sad (did they even notice, or did I learn to hide it too well?) and explain or demonstrate to me how to stay feeling safe within the domain of my own experience, regardless of what others did or said around me. They didn’t demonstrate courage out in the world because my father lacked this completely (frightened of his own shadow) and my mother was seldom challenged but, when she was, came at the situation like a bull unleashed and I could see how that often made things worse. None of this, I stress and I re-stress, is any criticism of the way my parents were or brought me up but a necessary part of considering why I feel more hugged by a sense of place than by my own sense of resilience in the world. Its a sobering truth of the matter that has arisen for me as I’ve deep-dived my own “protection” issues; one of the themes covered in the Gupta Program as a means to healing my health conundrum and an inevitable topic (one I’ve scratched the top off many times before!) when you get to the root of hyper-sensitivity and chronic health conditions. When you have an uncertain or over-extended sense of personal boundary, it feeds massively into anxiety!

Therefore, it’s a topic for all of us, when all is said and done, especially in these anxiety-inducing times; as in, what makes me feel safe? What do I think I need to surround myself with, to build barricades with, to hide inside of in order to feel that kind of safety in the world? What feel like the non-negotiable boundaries required in order to feel safe and how does modern life or the demands of my work encroach on that? How did the quieter life of the past year make me feel? (as in, better or worse in terms of personal safety; FTR some of us introverts feel safer when we are tucked away at home more than usual, yes even in a pandemic!) and what does that say about my desire to keep working/living the way I used to before lockdown? What are my true priorities in life and what do those say about where I feel most relaxed and comfortable to be myself, can I make my life fit those priorities better? Is there more inner work to be done so that I can feel safe regardless and not be at the beck and call of outside circumstances the way I am? Do I have all the resources I need to feel safe unconditionally like that, even as I stand here in my socks, or do I lean too much into external factors, both for comfort but therefore also as a source of trigger when things “go wrong”? So many of these enquiries will inevitably lead us back to childhood and the way we were parented; not to judge our parents or dig over old wounds but to help us make sense of ourselves.

Back then, home to me was, in the words of my sister describing a holiday cottage she has just booked (interesting that she should also use the terminology of personal contact when describing a house…) “like a great-big hug of a place” and I felt alright as long as I was there. Its interesting, that is just how “home”, as a concept, has always seemed to me…a hug; holiday places far less so since they are unfamiliar, though I try very hard to get close, hence the great lengths I go to with feeling into a place before I will even consider hanging my hat up there, even for a couple of nights!

It’s all, to me, about the feeling of place and that feeling is something I’ve gone to great lengths to cultivate in whatever space I’ve ever called my own, all my life (even temporary student digs) to the point I have harshly judged myself for being “too materially fixated” for a lot of years; even apologised for it, just the other day, to my husband, as though my fixation on having a beautiful, safe, warm, materially comfortable place to live is a spiritual failing of mine…not zen enough to match his boarding-school-childhood-converts-seemlessly-to-monastic perspective of the world. For him, he could be alright wherever the two of us were, a good book to read, his music to listen to and a bed to sleep in (probably not quite that rudimentary, if tested, but that’s the way he couches it!) but for me it takes a close study of all the minutiae to be able to feel truly at home somewhere, and is therefore not something I like to shake-up and change very often. The thought of moving house gives me curdles!

Because (and THIS is the big realisation) for me, that sense of home has become my outer perimeter. I don’t stop at my skin or even my aura but at the boundary of my house and garden. Like a tortoise inseparable from his shell, where I go it must go, in order for me to feel safe in the world. Any wonder I have discovered my longest running triggers in the form of neighbours, traffic, wifi frequencies, smells, people from the outside wanting to come in to my inner domain without invitation…to me, these feel like penetrations of my actual skin, coming into my most personal domain, and it affects me immensely. So, which came first, my introversion or this? Impossible to sift one out from the other given the simultaneity of when they arose out of the soft childhood clay of “me” in my formative years!

Those times I’ve struggled most have, perhaps inevitably, been those when my home boundaries have felt most transgressed or compromised. So, the time when I was sexusally abused in my own home decades ago, you could say my outer walls breached, happened at a time I shared a house with my landlord and her partner and therefore had no clear sense of my own sacred domain, not even a floor of the four-story house I could clearly call my own since my two small rooms were spread out on different levels within someone else’s space; it was the least grounded I ever felt. Years later, my health breakdown came in the wake of having various lodgers and au pairs in and out of my precious home, abusing my inner spaces in all manner of ways, even stealing from me (it was a failed, if necessary, experiment in making my post-divorce life work). And, of course, the slow-subtle abuse of my first marriage, like the steady erosion of an emotional dry-rot, was an insider job yet, ironically, I made the knee-jerk choice of it because my childhood home had just been “lost” on the death of my mother; really, a double trauma for me and I knew it, even at the time. It was that very thing that decided me, abruptly, to marry rather than risk breaking up the only home I had left; my prime motivator and a somewhat more fathomable one now I see it through the eyes of how I was in no place to risk losing yet another layer of my sense of self-hood as I continued to grieve my mother at that time of my life. My very compass needle was in a spin, desperately seeking its sense of home after she died and my nearest facsimile was the shared life I had with this person, mostly because we had bought a home together and I had given it my all; if we split, it would have to be divided and sold so I sealed the deal with a wedding certificate (not at the conscious level, but this was beneath the surface).

And I can certainly recall crying myself to sleep as a teenager at the thought that one day I would have to detach from the safe-space of my bedroom for the very last time. It had become such a sanctuary from the world to me that I could come back to it, even when I lived elsewhere, and just sleep and sleep with such surrender; the kind that eluded me anywhere else.

Of course, I have that feeling here in my home of 18 years…or do I? Have I ever again found such a place, so seamlessly part of my sense of safety in this world? I’m not sure I have and maybe this is the problem with my sense of safety in the world. The less I have felt that layer of externalised boundary where I expect it to be, hugging me as no parent ever did, the less I have felt whole, supported, at liberty to relax. When youths use our road as a speedway late at night, when people throw litter into our front garden, at times when our neighbour revs his various engines all weekend long or people on the other side of us decide to billow meaty-smelling bbq smoke over our wall every non-raining day, I subliminally take each affront as a personal abuse, as though they are crossing my boundaries. It feeds into my hypervigilence, my high-sensitivity, my intolerance of any additional sensory data (because I am already overloaded).

This past year has not altered me, only made me go deeper into the effect. With my natural inclination towards introversion, I’ve only embraced the lockdown with more sense of “why all the fuss?” and, for me, there’s no compelling longing to go back to normal. For some chosen things, yes, I would like the choice of it but, as newspaper headlines fervently stir the masses back into their newfound freedoms, as the supermarkets sell out of snacks and barbecue foods this week, as our noisy neighbours lay out their garden furniture and delux-sized barbecue on their just-finished new patio, I find myself girding my loins for more afronts to my sense of sanctuary.

Even as I face an inevitable dilemma, this year, and start to approach people to help us to maintain our modest garden because, the truth is all too plain to see (every time I have tried to do the slightest bit of physical gardening work for the last few months, it has resulted in several days of exhaustion and enhanced pain…I am simply not capable of what I could do even a year ago) I flinch at the very thought of bringing outsiders “in”. It’s now occurred to me to try to find a woman gardener, someone whose words in some advert or website suggests we are on a wavelength. Because, to me, one of the most abrasive, even traumatic things I could do (and I know this from having been forced to do it in the past) is call in the kind of contractors that come into my rarified space brashly and noisily, puffing their cigarette smoke, blaring their radios, shouting into phones, shout-talking to each other swarily even though they stand at arms length. Even when I have, previously, dealt with some affable-seeming front man to shake hands on a price, I have invariably found that these are the people that show up on the day my garden needs digging and I have, honestly, tried to get over it; to tell myself not to be so sensitive and just stay indoors until they are finished. But the truth of the matter is that it feels as though some sort of abuse is taking place, my garden ravaged, its rarified quality, the air of stillness and reverence for nature we cultivate, the very frequency that draws in so many birds, butterflies and bees left tattered and torn in their wake. The garden just doesn’t feel the same when its energy walls have been breached in that way.

Its a dilemma that has my mind circling in the night right now because I can’t manage the garden myself any more and with my husbands injured knee (and he’s not an enthusiastic gardener, but I can usually direct him at some digging to be done…not this year) I am at a complete loss. Without some assistance, the overgrowth of last year is set to take over, undoing ten years’ efforts since I redesigned the space into an eclectic collection of small areas made for enjoying season-round usage and turn, instead, into over-leggy monstrosities buoyed up by weeds. I rely on this outdoor space far more than I can put into words, spending as I do almost every dry day in it from March until October as though it were another set of small rooms in my house. Its one of the reasons for how shrunken my energy feels in the winter…because, in spring and summer, my energy field relies on having this extra outdoor space to tag-on to itself, to feel closer to its naturally expanded state, which is not constricted indoors or sofa-bound but expansive and colourful but, in winter, I am forced to shrink back down into a more contracted version of myself, like it or not. All those birds and bees thriving in my garden reflect my own internal energy picking up in its verve in springtime, singing and birthing, feeding and playing…so, this isn’t “like “ how I am feeling, as some sort of elaborate metaphor, it actually IS me and to have anyone trample all over feels like a slap to the face, a kick in the guts, a personal abuse.

I guess you could say, its the ultimate “growing” test for me, in a way, as I have to be able to trust someone enough to allow them to come into my inner sanctum and help me to maintain it so that I can enjoy it for myself (work in progress as a stream of “sorry we can’t help” emails land in my inbox today). Perhaps I just need to become more open and positive in my imaginings of such a person and they will manifest in just the perfect timing, looking for a small job like mine, the begining of a working relationship. Perhaps, for me, this is how I make myself stronger through vulnerability the way others might do from sharing their innermost thoughts (I have no problems doing that but seeking practical help is my absolute weak spot). Perhaps with women gardeners I can dare to be more open about why I need their help…not the usual, formal, request for a quote. This is how we change the world, inch by inch, need by need, vulnerability by vulnerability, collaboration by collaboration.

In this taking solace from the garden aspect, I find also my father who “lived for” his garden though a shoehorn wouldn’t get him away from our home for even a night spent somewhere else (in fact, the garden was often his excuse). For me, its not the green-fingered approach (I’m not someone who relishes more than the most basic gardening tasks) but a deepest appreciation of the feeling of it, a need to just be out there in it, reading or painting or listening to the birds. Dad and I did that together too, sat wordlessly side-by-side for hour after hour, even on an overcast day, and at the time it sufficed for the hug that was always absent. After all, I didn’t know what I was missing, we just didn’t do that touching stuff in our family and we didn’t discuss the feeling stuff either, we just shared this space we called home and it felt safe, felt reliable, felt like who we were, collectively and in our independence of each other. I find a similar “vibe” in the homes of each of my siblings, like we have each carried a portion of it on…and, meanwhile, none of us even scratch the surface with each other; we just don’t seem to be able to do it at all, its all small talk and no real contact to be had. I suppose, as we step into each other’s houses (not that we do that often) the feeling is meant to suffice as the hug we would otherwise give, only the house and the hospitality does the unspoken hugging.

Am I too late to learn a different way to be with myself; is this old dog too old to learn new tricks? Will I ever know what its like to feel as contained and whole in myself as I do in an externalised place called home and which I hanker for with every cell of my being? Will those places that are “not home” always feel so alien, even threatening, to me to the point of making me ill? I am reminded of Dorothy at the point she realises the world often isn’t as roaringly terrifying as it all seems with its loud booms and its flashes of smoke (manifested by little men tucked behind the scenes) and that, while there really is no place like home, that home was never somewhere else but “somewhere” that is always with you. We find ourselves just the other side of the same common-or-garden rainbow that was always there right in front of us.

Have you ever been struck by how extraordinary and etheral a rainbow can make the most everyday scenes appear for a few moment, reminding us that there are other dimensions at work in every single moment? That happened to me just the other day when, after a gloomy dark day and not feeling well at all, wanting nothing more than to stay close to home and give in to the feeling, I somehow persuaded myself that a slow walk would do me more good than staying rooted to the sofa. Looking back at the dark sky as we crossed the common in wind and rain, a massive bowed rainbow appeared with the thickest end I have ever seen and that end came down right over the roof of my house, as broad as its entire roofline; something I would never had seen if I hadn’t persuaded myself to step out of it for a while. Yet I knew the feeling of home (and the beauty of the moment) was there with me looking back at the scene, not back there where I would have been oblivious to it. It was due to the wonderment I was able to feel because I know what home feels like, and that becomes a benchmark for resonant experiences, which then keeps us open and optimistically looking for the same frequency for as long as we live (and refusing to settle for less).

So, home is a frequency, not bricks and mortar. We might think we need to attach the feeling to a particular place, to guard it, fence it in…but what gave the place the rarified feeling we have long sought out, even caught glimpses of at different points in our lives? It was always us, our own heart-light turned up to its full beam, generating that feeling of landing back home, emmiting the frequency that not only serves us best but which enables us to radiate our own best-selves in a way that others are deeply and positively impacted by, without need for superfluous words or gestures (thank you parents for teaching me that). When in fear and dread, of course, that light is (at best) a very dim flicker, which can seem to corroborate our darkest fear that some outside force is here to invade our inner sanctuary and quash the light. What if, by realising the feeling of home is an immutable aspect of self, one that can’t be sullied or taken away, we can stop dreading these dips into the lower frequencies and spend more time in the higher ones, regardless of outer circumstances. As ever, for me, its work in progress but I feel I just made a significant step in the right direction.

Posted in Consciousness & evolution, Health & wellbeing, Life choices, Menu, Personal Development, Recovery chronic illness, Spirituality | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 5 Comments

Magnificent contract

Our lives can sometimes feel like a contract we signed one night in a dimly lit bar, having had too many drinks…without checking the small print. Once signed into it, we can feel as though we spend all of our time trying to wiggle out of its constrictions, escaping through every bit of our guile and our many fixations (or addictions), trying to play the system, to soften the bonds that hold us to something that, often, feels “not quite right” like we landed in the wrong life. For more people than not, it can be a struggle.

I have this wonderful friend Mary who, ten years ago on Wednesday (24 March 2011) did her very utmost to get out of the contract of her life (in her own words, due to the “murky irreconcilability of the earthly and heavenly realms”, having yelled, in vain, for help reconciling metaphysical experiences she had been having for over 10 years) such that she sat down and, in the most premeditated of ways, swallowed 97 pain and sleeping pills with 3 glasses of wine over the course of 22 minutes.

The next morning, by some miracle, she woke up, in terrible pain…and one could argue (I’m sure she would argue) that the ten years since have been her best yet, through a process of wholesale expansion and exploration that has seen her give talks to hundreds of people and impact the life of even more through her work. I’m sharing nothing private here; you can read her incredible story in her book, soon to become a screenplay, The Unwitting Mystic and on her website and blog, also hear her unique brand of inspiration in countless interviews and videos. Yesterday, she celebrated her rebirth day with friends all over the world (and shared an inspirational post about what she has learned these few last years on Facebook; recommended reading).

So, we can wiggle out of our contract whenever we want…or can we? Not if its part of the contract that we live through all those doubts and stay away.

My own big breakthrough, or rebirth, moment also happened in March 2011, the 11th to be precise (and its interesting to me how both of our stories line up with quantum physicist Carl Calleman’s assertion that the Ninth Wave of Creation, a unity consciousness wave here to reconcile our polarities, started to activate that very month; look up my previous posts on “ninth wave” for more on this). At the time, I was really struggling to see the point at all, my body was in so much pain and dysfunction and had been for years, I had met nothing but hardships, abuse and trouble fitting into “normal” expectations, one after another, and above all my energy and morale, my very spark, was seriously waning.

In my case what then happened out of the blue, and I have described the experience many times before, was more like suddenly breaking out of an egg. One moment I was in the dark, feeling my way through it all from some deeply subjective experience. Suddenly, I had broken out of that “egg” in a golden glow of new perception and could see it all, even my part in it.

I guess you could say, I saw the contract laid out on the table and, from then, it made it all so much easier to be alive; in fact, I no longer questioned it but took on every challenge with a new curiosity. I no longer felt as though “something else” was holding me captive against my will in a dysfunctional plot line of a life because I could see, so clearly, that the “signature” on it was mine. I had underwritten it, every word.

In other words, I had agreed, wholeheartedly, to have this particular human experience, with all that entails including the ups and downs. It changed everything for me, on a pin head.

Over the intervening ten years, while Mary was becoming a nun in India, meeting the Dalai Lama, setting up her charity, writing a book, talking to crowds of people, all over America and beyond, about love and fearlessness and embracing life, you could say mixing the metaphysical with a wonderfully grounded route to bringing that into the everyday lives of other people, I was conducting my own unique method of standing with one foot in each of the two camps that I now regarded as part of the human experience.

Or, it often looked like, I was vascillating (wildly) between expansive metaphysical enquiry, which is really a case of “just knowing” all we needed to know and reminding ourselves…and the continued direction of my human parts, where life can still feel so limited, confusing and very hard to swallow. If unity was the aim of this newly awoken awareness of my diversity then I was struggling to hold it all in without feeling torn assunder.

In the part that was still in the thick of the experience and which liked to analyse and disect (or which saw no other option if I was to “get to the bottom” of my experiences), much like in the short story “Exhalation” (Ted Chiang) mentioned in a previous post, it was as though I set about constructing an elaborate periscope with which to view the back of my own head and take my brain apart, bit by bit, looking for signs of consciousness “in action” within the human construct. At the other end of my scale, I already felt what consciousness was…was riding on its metaphysical currents which, in those first few years, I became quite addicted to, spending more time out there than perhaps was balanced for someone with family responsibilities…but in this other, uber analytical, place, I wanted to get down into the nitty gritty of myself, to look under every stone and to figure out why so much struggle, such pain and conflict in the human situation.

At times, I became so abstract in my spiritual seeking it was hard to ground myself but then, by focusing on all the details, fixating on the process of scrutiny, I could bring myself back down to earth with an incentive…into a body that fascinated as well as bewildered me with its range of capacity for such magnificence and joy, yet so much pain. In fact, the source of my pain only ever seemed to get more diverse, more intense and perplexing, as though the enquiry (meant to fill the hole) had only been digging it wider…the very same soil I was using to fill one hole of enquiry creating yet another hole for me to peer into.

So, over the exact decade now since my wake-up, life for me has been a constant see-saw with one player onboard, having to run from one end of the see-saw to the other to keep it moving. Times when I’ve found balance have been few and far between…more so, even, than before I “woke up”, I suspect, because the polarities I incorporate only seemed to become more and more diverse, thus spaced-out, from each other the more I explored myself. The only way I could ever meet myself, in balance, was to sit in the exact centre of the see-saw but that, of course, ceased its momentum and, as per my earlier post, I suspect there is a kind of existential dread around that moment, as though to aim for it is to hasten one’s own death. Because, of course, once everything harmonises, equilibrium achieved, we know the “show” is over.

(Or, perhaps, something completely new is birthed by the same unfathamoable impulse that birthed our present universe out of “nothing”.)

So, I guess you could even say, my resistance of balance (perhaps all of our resistance of balance) is proof of life. We clearly want to be here or we would not tip ourselves off-balance so vehemently, giving it all we’ve got!

Meanwhile, those two “ends” of me, in equal proportion to each other, still feel irritated and challenged by their opposite part, if not quite so irreconcilable as they once were. They are like incompatible classmates forced to work together on a project, teeth gnashing, arguing over the protocol though, at some other level, they don’t really mind each other either. Yet, when they work together, even fleetingly, they somehow manage to collaborate on demarking the edges of a kind of vastness that is universal….a mirror to the very universe they strive to come to terms with, each in their own way. One says “I’m way out here, walking the perimeter, looking out for new territory over the edges” and the other one, not to be out done, hollers “and I’m way over here, way off the centre, exploring something mindblowing”. Together, they are both aspects of me, and I love them both equally.

By the way, I once spent some time trying to shut down my hyper analytical, left-brained, “egoic” part, (as though it was “wrong”), as we are often told to do in spiritual circles, but it didn’t feel right to turn on myself so vehemently and, besides, the more I tried to do that, the more abstract I became which only took me way off balance!

So I have come to accept myself as a mirror of universal vastness (as we all are) and it is in the accepting of this that I have finally unleashed just so many of the hints and clues to it that I had, for so long, suppressed as the “socially inappropriate traits” of my neurodiversity. Ironic, really, since the acronym VAST (variable attention stimulus trait ) is my latest, acquired, label in the attempt to better understand myself, and no other label ever fit me more exactly. If I seem fidgety and inconsistent, you could say “all over the place”, it’s because I am. Its because I swallowed a universe before I came here…and I know it. Aham Brahmasmi (Sashkrit) = “I Am the universe”.

In fact, we all swallowed that same universe, but not all of us realise it yet…though more and more people are getting there. I suspect neurodiverse individuals are just one step ahead of the game in realising this, mapping out the all-inclusive diversity of the universe in action and, the more diversity we allow in the world, the more everyone gets to notice it in plain sight. As above, so below.

More and more of us are having metaphysical experiences than ever; and, thankfully, the support systems are starting to appear so we can have those and still not loose our footing in a more grounded life (unlike ten years ago). Dare I say, it is becoming more commonplace to experience the exceptional, a dichotomy if I ever heard one, which is how we get to bring more and more of our universal aspects into life, in order to dig our dominantly logical wheel out of the muck and get this two-sided cart rolling again. We need both sides to get ourselves to the next way stop.

We each swallowed the entire universe, a souvenir from our origins, right before we signed the contract to come here to see what it feels like to make that universe compact enough to contain within a human body, an experience and a micro world. So, if we don’t always seem to fit into ourselves, if we spew over its edges, is there any wonder? We are all the more courageous and determined and awesome than we give ourselves credit for, even for trying. When we get out of bed (again), shake ourselves down and s-q-u-e-e-z-e ourselves into that tight fitting body-suit to give it another go (as in, being the vastness of a universe in a localised, limited circumstance) we are little miracles in action, every single day of the week.

It takes a magnificent contract, fuelled by a cosmic impulse (underwritten by ourselves), to attach us to all this so we don’t disappear off at the first hurdle…really, a contract-ion, as in, we have to pull ourselves into our smallest part, an unfeasible-sounding experiment, the eye of a needle. So when we feel excruciating pain, feel limited and small, feel hopelessness, unable to see a way out, when it feels as agonising as trying to ram something vast into a small, rigid box and slamming the lid on before it can escape then, yes, this is it, this is what contraction feels like…and is an experience we contracted to have, in order to get to know ourselves better.

So, recognising that and bringing the knowing of it into the very situations where it is most needed is a breakthrough; such as, “today I am in unfathomable pain…so I allow that it is just a contraction taking place, without having to know exactly why it occurred”, then doing what we can to minimise the discomfort, staying watchful for ways that we might be feeding the contraction with certain thoughts and attitudes. Doing all this really helps us to not to get so invested in the inevitable contractions of life as much as we used to be. It’s all just pain, a hurdle, just a passing moment; and this too shall pass.

Yet it is also a valuable reminder that, in order to hurt so very much, we must be the very vastness we have temporarily forgotten or denied. Because, if we were really as small and helpless as we often dread we are, there would be no struggle or pain whenever life seemed to limit us. We would just suck it up…instead of feeling so very much discomfort and resistence at the attempted limitation, which is because we feel our vastness shouting back at us that this is not who we are; it does not define us.

And what contracts must, by the laws of the universe, also expand…which is what awaits us the very moment we glimpse the potential for expansion, even for a second, like the inevitable out breath for the in breath…of life.

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Writing as compared to nest-building

It occurred to me today during meditation that writing a blog (for me at least) is something like building a nest; a process I’ve had a bird’s eye view of from my window this week as the goldfinches continue their construction right outside my window.

In busy bursts, usually in the mornings (just like those birds), I also set to work placing, let’s call them, carefully selected materials into the outline structure of some idea I have had; rearranging them, weaving them into the fabric, combing and teasing some of them out to make them more expansive. It may look a little rustic by the time I’ve “finished” (that point which, much like these birds I’m watching, I struggle to decide I have reached, such that what started as a modest idea grows and grows…often added to some more, even after publishing, never quite satisfied). Yet, however it looks, to the one working on the construct, there is always an underlying design, a coherence or an intention to it.

And of course its raison d’être is to “give birth to” something, to hatch out a new idea or two, or (perhaps) not such a new idea since, like baby birds, they come and they go year on year…flying away, only for more to arrive that seem, to the naked eye, identical to the previous year’s crop (as the saying goes, there is nothing new in creation). Yet, to me, it is always driven by the the urgency of newness coming forth…must get the nest finished in time… and so this birthing process feels like the be-all-and-end-all of my mornings. It is literally everything while I give my all to it…and then its done, or paused, and I spend my afternoons “singing in the sun”, or whatever my equivalent of that happens to be that day (in the sunshine, if there happens to be any). Yet in its morning urgency, writing is compelling, pressing, absorbing and I am completely driven in this act of carefully placing and weaving materials which, to me at least, are the carefully selected outcome of some deep plunge into what, to others, might just seem like a useless pile of old rotting leaves, the spewing innard of some worn-out matter, dried twigs from another year’s old growth lying around on the floor…old stuff…repurposed into meaning and future significance in my head.

What difference that writing makes, in the end, is no more than the ripple made by a pebble thrown into a vast ocean; an infinitesimal blip in the consciousness of humanity and yet, just as each newly fledged bird taking to the sky is important in a world of increasing scarcity, it plays its part…in something bigger than itself…as do all thoughts and words. Perhaps this one lands with someone, one day, and being there at just that very moment, makes that all-important difference, if only to brighten the view or uplift the mood with a different melody, interrupting the pattern of normality.

Just as I seldom return to my own writing, how many birds return to their old nests? Some do, or use other’s, of course, but mostly there is this ceaseless drive to repeat the process, year after year, with never one iota less consideration taken as to what materials to use, the way they are woven together, the amount of liner used to soften the impact, or not. In fact seldom a misplaced detail of any kind, really, since (as in life) there are no mistakes in writing, its desire to be there being its very reason for existing, however it is constructed. You could call it the enactment of a universal urge; an out breath to balance an in breath.

Like birds building nests, we don’t need to question it; only to decide whether to engage with it or not and, just as some people never seem to notice all the beautiful birds around them, many don’t read very much either…but, for those of us who do, the delight of discovering other people’s nests is a deep and impactful one; we seldom forget a good one and, some, we return to many times for comfort, like the pair of collared doves who have now spent months in the same dishelvelled nest under my eaves as last year and the year before (built against a disused satelite dish!) because they know what they like!

Like a scattered community of different birds across a landscape of dense trees and hedgerows, just as my garden and surroundings seems to be at the moment, you can feel the shared-energy of optimism and passion, of creativity and hope tucked inside nearly every discrete and dark-seeming corner of life when you seek out its writers and that’s enough to give hope and uplift in abundance to fellow writers like me.

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Being in balance

Though I’ve sought out balance for many years, knowing its importance so very well, I don’t think I’ve ever invoked it more fervently than over this Spring Equinox period as the planet herself finds her own state of balance. Yet, more so than calling it forth (though I do that for all of us) I realise the real power comes from being it, living it, embodying it…and that part is forever work in progress.

Though its an old one, this is a theme that has come up a great deal for me lately, as though to finally and irrevocably drum itself home. Without listing them all, every topic I’ve wrestled with for months has vehemently brought me back to the conclusion, a balanced approach is my answer.

As someone who is such a contrarian, a paradox, a contradiction in terms (something else I’ve never owned more whole heartedly than of late), I see now how balance has had to be the core theme of my life. When I get it wrong, the effect is pretty dire for someone so spread out across such seemingly contradictory traits.

When you are someone who relishes and thrives in a quiet, introverted life and yet who’s soul relishes, and generates, great enthusiasm and excitement, as I do; who can be impulsive, chaotic and fidgety for all I am orchestrated, fixated, diligent and studied; controversial, even provocative yet the compulsive seeker of compromise and solutions; intense for all I am calm and gentle; urgent, eager and demanding in proportion to a health circumstance that demand saintly patience and stillness; as chatty and animated as I can be deeply pulled in to myself and oblivious to others (paradoxes alluded to in my recent post I am VAST on LW), there is no other comfortable place to land except in balance. In my health too; I want to be proactive with my recovery and with teaching my body how to move again, I refuse to stagnate or become a couch potato and yet there are times when it serves me far better to refrain from too much movement and let the the recovery happen. Now is a point in case because, on Monday, I overdid it a bit, going for two walks instead of one because the weather was so spring-like, then spending more time reading in the sun than I had for a very long time, which always takes a while for my uber-sensitive system to acclimatise to. “Old” me of a few months ago would have insisted upon making two walks a new “thing” to be strived for, every day from now on, but new, wiser, more balanced, me realises that, while I feel this crashed and in pain from the first attempt, this week needs to be a time of pulling back for a further day or two, longer if necessary. Slow and steady wins the race for this live-wire!

So knowing…and owning…my diverse traits as I now do, I see all-too clearly how its VERY easy for me to knock myself off-kilter with a burst of over-zealous enthusiasm for this or that; and its a trait I now watch out for more than ever. The joy is, the more I own my diversity, and the core need for balance, the more I can enjoy the gifts of my traits…rather than rueing the many downsides of them.

Balance comes into the very paradox that, whilst chronic fatigue and pain limit my everyday manoeuvres, I can seemingly dance, not once but usually twice a day, but then dance has had a lot to teach me about balance. Not all dance is the same, by a long stretch, and adapting to what meets me best, wherever I am that day, is one of the ways I have become a much closer listener to my body on this very topic of balance, adjusting accordingly. If I overdo it, I’m quickly put out of action so, when I adhere to the thumb-rule of balance, I can get much more dance out of my body so its well worth my while!

What I’ve discovered is that balance is the very home of neuroplasticity because, when we are in balance, its as though a new potential opens up; as in, a place that we haven’t seen before, out of which new possibilities can be coaxed, if we are prepared to stay there and refrain from thinking we already “know best” because of all our previous experiences. In that new place, we have to be prepared to know nothing at all and to remain curious enough to engage with the new. This happens because a crack or interruption forms between the habitual behaviours that tell us one thing is the correct way to be / think or, no no, its very opposite is better, places most of us rigidly hold to, or swing between, for huge swathes of our lives. However, new paradigms can only be born out of that paradox crack, the place where none of our presumptions strictly hold together…but where a kind of mixture or alchemy can occur, the short word for which is, guess what, balance.

In eras when a lot of people start to reach this balanced, paradoxical, place at once (balance can even come out of the state of not knowing which way to turn because admitting this, surrendering all the old thoughts, can be that powerful!) its as though a renaissance of new understanding is given rise to and so a new paradigm or shift of realities starts to occur. I am hopeful that we are in one such era right now. After all, unpleasant as it has been, the pandemic has served as one particularly major interruption of behaviour patterns!

It’s in the interruption of habit, that point where we are forced to stop behaving according to reflexes driven by “this is the way things have always been done”, that we realise we have no other, viable, choice except to take responsibility for our own actions. For a time, we may get it even more wrong than before, defaulting to the opposite of what “used to be” in reaction to that old paradigm, and this can seem to make things even worse for a time. However, really (what I have found is that) the answer seldom lies in the polar opposite to the old paradigm but in something more comfortably in the middle of it all.

It’s an equation I have faced, yet again, these last few days on the back of concluding, and not for the first time, that hormone imbalance (which affects us all, men included) lay at the route of some of my physical stuck points. If this sound like too personal an issue to be of interest, think again as my pet theory is that, these days, we are nearly all off-kilter in our hormones (which profoundly affect human behaviours on a grand scale) as a result of all the xenoestrogenic environmental pollution going on in the air, food and water supplies, and the culturally endemic tampering with hormones that goes on from puberty to the grave, especially in the case of women who often leap straight from the birth control pill to HRT. For just one example, its been found that many of the popular oral contraceptive brands remodel the female brain over time, making women more masculine, which then affects their ability range, the way they process information, their emotional traits and how they perceive and prioritise the issues of the world, for instance they have been shown to be less articulate and less empathic, if better at spatial tasks, they even look different. So just imagine the effect of these chemical effects on the tilt on our world situation over the last 50 or so years…but don’t get me started.

To quote Belinda Pelizer, who has conducted studies to examine the effect of oral contraception on the brain:

“Within about a century, physicians, biologists, and chemists around the world elucidated the physiology of the ovary, manipulated its function, and triggered a global experiment, which influenced our society”. 

She continues:

“when athletes take steroids we call it ‘doping’ – it’s considered abuse and strongly condemned by society. But we’re happy for millions of women to take these hormones every day, sometimes right through from puberty to menopause”.

Belinda A Plezer & Hubery H Kerschbaum – “50 years of hormonal contraception – time to find out, what it does to our brain“, 2014.

For years, I have taken care of my own hormone balance using natural means suggested by a well-reknowned Harley Street expert in this area (now retired) because of early-onset osteopenia triggered by fibromyalgia, but it occurred to me lately that I had become oestrogen dominant again (a common modern phenomenon so its easy to do). For exactly a decade, I have used a natural bioavailable progesterone cream (not progestins; they are not the same – the former is synethetic, the bioavailable version derives from a type of yam) to modulate the effects of oestrogen dominance and bone loss but two things had happened lately, one being menopause which has, no doubt, thrown my hormones even more off kilter than before. Another was that I became susceptible to a belief broadly “out there” on the internet that progesterone is “no good” and should be avoided for Ehlers Danlos Syndrome, making connective tissues too soft and worsening the condition. So, without actually stopping my daily dose, I certainly became more haphazard and hesitant about using it, just when I probably needed it the most.

So, I played around with a higher dose for a few days, for the first time in a few years (and the very first time since menopause) and have actually found the increased softness has mitigated some of the most intense kinds of pain I was previously experiencing (an effect suggested by a pain therapist on one of the EDS forums to a bunch of worried people afraid to try progesterone cream) in a way that makes it potentially worth the, yes noticeable, increased laxity of joints. Other people with chronic pain are also writing about this. In my own case, I can recall it helping hugely in the days of my most excruciating jaw and facial pain, which was tension-worsened (thankfully, flare-ups of those are rarities for me now) and it always helps with migraines. I’m now finding increased evidence from studies that progesterone shows promise for more general pain management in preference to opioids, even to improve therapy outcomes for covid recovery in men (conversely, higher oestrogen levels have been linked to covid survival rates in women but I still wouldn’t rush out and get HRT, personally; however, this see-saw suggests to me that oestrogen protects beforehand and progesterone soothes afterwards). The way my intense, very hard to mitigate or ignore, pain of last week and most of the month before has “softened” these past few days has been an affirative for me. It came as a welcome relief to suddenly have all this fluidity back where rigidity and pain had been for weeks; but now to make sure I didn’t over-extend myself or overdo it (which increased elasticity can encourage)!

Of course, too much laxity and I am in a different kind of trouble, the kind where limbs don’t work appropriately, to the threshold of subluxation (very grateful that I’ve never had an actual dislocation), or my bladder loses its grip (not good), I can even find that I become too dreamy and abstract to do very much, so I have to be careful as my executive functioning can take a further nose-dive. Oh and it seems to worsen PoTs, resulting in low blood pressure moments and dizzy spells. It can even make me borderline depressed or certainly more teary and pint-glass-tipped-over than usual if anything “goes wrong”, so that’s also something to watch out for, although the plus side is that I can go deeper into my spiritual abstraction and mediation gets easier (as long as I’m not too distracted by all those heightened emotions that get unleashed to settle my mind down…).

By the way, progestins, which are a man-made “chemical” mimicker of natural progesterone, are now known to be far more prone to such negative effects than natural progesterone; from experience, birth control pills messed horribly with my emotions and, I would say, personality when I was in my 20s and I now realise that this highly-sensitive person should never have gone anywhere near them; they feel like the subplot of my worst-ever decade for poor judgement and copious regrets. Worth knowing that those original reports of positive effects from progesterone supplementation done back in the 60s used natural progesterone for the studies but then, as they couldn’t patent that, the version that was rolled out for the next few decades, ongoing, is a synthetic concoction with very different qualities; its actually a close relative of testosterone. Those that don’t have this effect, taken by a much smaller portion of the population (around 17%), are known to have an anti-adrogenic effect as-in to make those who take them more feminine than they would otherwise be but none of this chemical cocktail could be said to support, or even allow, natural balance.

So what I am interested in here is the balance of my natural hormones yet, as soon as we start trying to tip the balance one way or the other, even of these more biocompatable versions, what results might not be anything like “natural” balance because of our interference. Truth is, the whole of modern life with its exposures is one giant form of interference so its very hard to refind that balance outside of a campfire existence. What I am reminded of once again, after further experimentation with my classically exagerated body (experimentation being something you have to dare to keep doing if you want to take responsibility for your own health), is that neither natural oestrogen nor progesterone is a “saviour” nor “wrong” (at least, not in their natural biological, human-compatible, forms (when I mention oestrogen, I mean that I use food sources of phytoestrogens, such as legumes and herbs, to keep the other half of my see-saw in shape).

Rather, there is a particular hormone balance, somewhat like the holy grail, that is in deep support of the endocrine and all the other subtle, sensory, emotional, chemical-balancing systems of the body to be found; one which is quite particular to each person and no doctor or scientist has the exact or person-specific answer, nor the full grasp of how many minute aspects of being a healthy human this balancing act influences during the average human lifetime (far more than “just” reproductive matters or now, no doubt, surviving covid will get touted by the backers of HRT), nor will they ever, in all likelihood. There really is no “one-size fits all” dose to be doled out so ham-fistedly…thus I am still busily finding mine, which will, no doubt, continue to alter the exact location of its pivot-point over and over again as I continue to age, so I can never take that balance state for granted. Life, as ever, is a continual balancing act, not something we can set and declare “done”.

One other thing I want to add is how I notice, vehemently, that progesterone makes me more receptive. In March 2011, I had what I refer to as my spiritual breakthroug or “wake-up” experience but that wasn’t the only thing that happened that week.

The other is that I took my first dose of progesterone cream (and have taken it ever since).

After that, it was as though my mindsets and attitudes, everything about me, softened its rigidity and entrainment patterns and suddenly I was open to the entire universe. My spiritual expansion began with a “bam” that year and nothing was the same again as I was no longer trapped in a subjective perspective of “victimhood” but realised I was the active participant in a design for life that might deliver challenges…but was never “against” me. Compared to how I was before (especially all those years I was on the pill!) which felt tight, constricted, defensive, beset with anxities and the need to do more and more to survive and as though there was no way out of the prison cell of an ill-fitting life, the rebalancing effect of progesterone was profound (regarded in hindsight). I am left wondering if I would have been one of those bed-bound people with chronic conditions without it, such has been its assistance with keeping my head above the waterline of perception.

What I shared above is a reminder that there’s certainly no place for complacency when it comes to achieving good health and the modern trend for handing all responsibility for your own body over to some so-called medical professional who gets to decide how to dose you with this or that, without having an informed viewpoint or say-so of your own, does not feel like balance…at all. We should all be involved, as a primary player, in our own health evaluation and maintenance.

So, yes, one thing I consistently find out about that balance point is that it requires of us that we take responsibility for ourselves. We can’t just truck along in the grove of some belief-system that tells us “this is the only way” or follow the crowd. We have to dare to be contrary and to stand up for our own needs and traits; and to get to know those traits intimately since we are each our own expert. And we have to be vigilant, conscious, aware…prepared to tweak, to adapt and adjust. It takes, emphatically, staying present, ever-attentive to this moment. This is no place for sleep-walkers through life. Its not where we will find the masses; it is a rarified place where you are just aware enough of everything around you…no, not hypervigilant and paranoid (those are a case of severe misbalance!)…but enough so that you can walk your own path in a poised way, looking forward, standing tall, relaxed yet responsive.

This is a truth I find played out in my own body when I take its hypermobililty for a walk. I really don’t do so well in all those tight elastic supports they recommend for holding joints together in the case of hyper mobile joints; I find, in using them, that I lose my own sense of innate balance even more, surrendering it to lycra. Rather, when I go out, over rough terrain and in mud and water, as I do every day, wearing barefoot shoes as I prefer, which feed back all of the texture and energy of the earth beneath my feet, I defer to another form of support and its an insider job, yes, made up of balance. Because, as I walk along, I know from hard experience that if I don’t pay attention to how I hold my body, ramming my hands lopsidedly into pockets or gripping a camera in one hand rather than keeping them swinging and balanced at my sides; if I allow my hip to open too far or lock my knees hard as I over-reach or tackle some unevenness rather than planning the move, keeping the joints soft, I will suffer the consequences later!

Its a different kind of strength and it comes from some other source than the externalised kind that has become so popular, advertised by gym-bunnies and the favoured ground of corporate achievers pushing towards their deadlines. This kind of strength has nothing to do with the brash, left-brained kind of confidence that will (it is hoped) deflect an attack or win the race. My kind of strength comes from believing in my body, encouraging the gifts of its hypermobility (rather than focusing on its weak points) and listening to its needs, measuring my successes according to quality of experience “in the moment” over some far reaching target ticked-off.

Instead of the old way that I used to move, eyes fixed ahead, tense in my body or so terribly distracted I might as well not have been there (I passed several people like this yesterday) I find my strength from remaining soft yet core-strong. I take small calculated risks of movement but not reckless ones, adapting them to the circumstances (dancing has helped with this enormously by strengthening my previously not-so-good proprioception). I keep my spine straight, my arms of equal length and moving freely (or, I use Nordic poles) and I keep my neck and head stacked appropriately. Oh and, of course, I roll my foot from heel to toe but then the vivobarefoot walking boots help with that (see their short video on how to walk…so many adults don’t know how)! I wear layers and keep my neck warm, even on misleadingly sunny days, and I always wear a hat for head protection, even though its style alters throughout the year. I don’t tense but I allow myself to feel strong as a feeling, gain that strength from the smooth rhythmic gait that covers ground almost effortlessly and, whilst I sometimes love to stride-out a little more, I don’t push it hard or race along. I allow nature to slow me down and there is always room to stop and enjoy the stillness of a view, a moment watching the birds, being present with other creatures who, I find, stay close when we are there whereas I notice them scatter when other humans come along. I suspect this is because balance in action is a language nature responds to, speaking it fluently!

I even find balance being amply demonstrated, in clear view, right outside my window where the goldfinches I invoked into my garden last year through my goldfinch-themed art (we used to have one or two a year, last year we had regular flocks!), have now started to build a nest in the old seed head of our neighbour’s overhanging cordyline australis tree; an interesting choice but I have read online of goldfinches liking this particular tree (they certainly enjoyed its fruit in the autumn). The timing is uncanny since, just a few days before they began, I started work on twin goldfinch watercolour paintings which have been propped on an easel right next to the window pane outside of which I have the nest in my line of vision. I couldn’t have wished for a better chance of more intimate engagement with this, my favourite (once rare…I had never seen one until three years ago) bird than this view straight into their living space from four of my windows, but then I do, repeatedly, find birds reward states of balance with their proximity; they will only stay where they are most comfortable.

Watching the goldfinches has been a fascinating business because they never seem to tire of nest building all morning and then sing and chatter their hearts out together in the adjacent trees (there are quite a few of them, presumably all nesting close by) all afternoon long; what a great balance of work and play. How big this particular nest will be by the time they have finished I can only imagine since it already resembles an upturned felted hat big enough for me to wear. I glanced out of my window before I began my yoga one morning at 6.30 and one of them was already there, wielding a piece of white fluff so big it was struggling to push it through “the front door” of the flower head into the nest and then began the usual combing and teasing of the fluff, distributing it so thoughtfully into the fabric of the nest’s weave. Several days later, the process continues. Honestly, I have never seen a nest more soft and downy in all my years and all I ever see in their mouths, when they return from a forage, is this soft white lint they are bringing in from somewhere (a discarded sofa or deckchair, or is someone going to find their garden cushions dismantled?) So, in their case, softness is the name of the game, yes…but only because those eggs are so brittle, fragile they need all that cushioning, and besides rearing a young family in a hesitant springtime can be a hard business; so, achieving balance, yet again. Neither one without the other would do. If the highly-protective egg along the mother’s diligent attention on top of it is the ultimate symbol of an oestrogenic impulse (the things we associate with easter or “ostera” – linked to oestrogen) then the downy nest is progesterone; they work together in harmony to assist in the birth of newness.

When those goldfinches completely disappeared late one afternoon into the following morning (call me supersticious but) it felt like a signal of my loss of balance because I did…for quite a few hours…quite markedly lose my balance. Somebody popped up in my world that I hadn’t heard from for quite some time and, for a couple of reasons, this threw my balance into complete disarray, a most perfectly-timed example of how lost-balance can feel, how sudden it can be too, ready to be included in this half-written post. I was able to notice just how many emotional and physiological effects this lost balance had on me; I was all over the place for a while there (perhaps my hormonal tweaking was part of the effect…) and, meanwhile, no goldfinches to be seen. Then it occured to me that perhaps they would return if I could only get my throughts and feelings back into proprotion, back to feeling like “me” and not some earlier format that this old contact had jolted back into animation like a Frankenstein version full of anxieties. A little while later, feeling much calmer from a gentle start to the day, reading the short story I refer to below, I looked up and one of the goldfinches was on the fence looking straight at me, head slightly tilted, as if to say “quite right, glad you sorted yourself out”.

There’s another side to this: if it took an increased softness (aided by progesterone) to release old emotions that needed to come out and see light of day, there is a kind-of balance to that too. A reminder that, in nature, our hormones and our rhythms aren’t fixed but ebb and flow with the moon and all of nature’s other cycles, allowing for both contraction and release in equal proportion, like an in breath and an outbreath.

None of this is a new “lesson” nor a rocket-launching one, in fact it may sound very obvious plus we are all familiar with it in our own ways. I have faced the issue of balance head-on many times in my life, not least over all these years of testing health conditions…but then I have also had to relearn it many times too; a person could never declare themselves an expert without risk that life will do its utmost to quickly prove them wrong. Each time I have found myself heading off-kilter again, after some highly promising start on my recovery, I have been forced to admit that, in some way or other, perhaps quite subtle, I had lost my balance again which is easy to do. It can be done by losing your sense of humour, by assuming “your way” is the only way, becoming over zealous, turning on all of the old ways without stopping to appreciate that not everything that came before was unworthy or a mess, even turning on the future because of some misplaced idea that all the halcyion days of old have been replaced by a horror show. In fact, nothing ever is that heinous mistake we spend half our lives worrying about…there are no mistakes, really only gifts…but when we draw the conclusion that, now, we are right and, then, we were wrong, or vice versa, we (guess what) quickly find ourselves out of balance. Its something I see happening on the fringes of every promising new movement, from spirituality to feminism; people throwing the baby out with the bathwater to become as one-sided or dogmatic as anything they profess to abhor.

So, see how easy it is to not be in balance; how quickly and readily it becomes the default mode? Take it from one who has become so micro-sensitive to imbalance that one iota of if in my body or routines can cause severe pain and disability. I can’t bear the cold but if I get even slightly too warm, bam, I’m in intense discomfort; I need movement to keep my joints from seizing-up (and because my soul is vigorous and demands it!) and yet, with the slightest bit too much, I have quickly overdone it, with extremely exaggerated effects. In other words, I’ve been forced to pay attention.

Why do I seem to have to expend so much time and attention “consciously” trying to stay in balance instead of it coming naturally? Its a question many people with health issues end up asking themselves but, perhaps, most of us get to it at some point because life itself provides its question mark, challenging balance at every step.

Could it be true that perfect equilibrium seems to people like a kind-of death, do we subliminally fear it? That’s another question I’ve found myself asking, many times.

With such perfect synchronicity, I just finished reading a genius short strory by Ted Chiang called “Exhalation”, in the anthology of the same name, and it spoke to this fear in me so directly it almost gave me shivers. There were just so many synchronistic layers of enquiry in this one short story, for someone so deep into considering questions such as “what really drives me, what is neuroplasticity, why do I get so stuck in my thoughts, why do I hold certain memories so strongly but not others, what am I beyond my thoughts, memories and this body-conundrum of mine, why oh why do I feel like I’m caught in an air trap and can’t breathe some of the time..?” (and many more). There are nuggets of gold in this story for two groups of people in particular, I would say, being those who ponder the very nature of consciousness and the universe and those who struggle to hold health equilibrium to a very dire level without really knowing why, such as people with chronic health conditions (so that’s me on both counts). Its also a beautiful story, with a coherent and uplifting ending.

One passage jumped out at me:

“in truth the source of life is a difference in air pressure, the flow of air from spaces where it is thick to those where it is thin. The activitiy of our brains, the motions of our bodies, the actions of every machine we have ever built, are driven by the movement of air, the force exerted as different pressures seek to balance one another out. When the pressure everywhere in the universe is the same, all air will be motionless and useless; one day we will be surrounded by motionless air and unable to derive any benefit from any of it”.

Ted Chiang – “Exhalation”

It occured to me on reading this (hard to refrain from spoilers so please omit this paragraph of my post if you plan to read the story yourself) that, as per the story, we are experiencing two different “air zones”, the internal and the external, which seek to reach equlibrium as per everything in the universe. This makes the outside world seem to be runnning faster than it once did but really there is just a balancing taking place. As the world around us “irons out” into more balance, the loss of external pressure results in lack of momentum, in fatigue, in limbs that grow harder to move, in sluggishness, as per the story.

“We may then try to slow our thoughts so that our physical torpor is less conspicuous to us, but that will also cause external processes to appear to accelerate. The ticking of clocks will rise to a chatter as their pendulums rave frantically, falling objects will slam to the ground as if propelled by springs; undulations will race down cables like the crack of a whip”.

Ted Chiang – “Exhalation”

Sounds horribly like fibromyalgia and chronic fatigue, leading to my increasing hypersensitivity; is this why the feeling of dread that can underly chornic conditions, as if you are onto something “happening” that no one else is noticing yet? So perhaps this is an inevitable process, albeit a long one, as the universe heads towards its inevitable conclusion of perfect equibrium restored, as per the moment before it was first created…but not in my lifetime or yours; just something to ponder and be aware of, this existential panic in the face of balance, should we happen to dial into it (and find ourselves then, unconsciously, resisting balance as though our lives depend on it, even when we say we want it).

What I have learned, to my joy, is that the more you find this place of balance and stay in it, using the best possible tools you can muster to recognise imbalance…defuse…soften the learned responses and move back into that balanced place of potential, the more you start to live there, most of the time and then the choice of being in balance, or not, is yours (instead of a state inflicted upon you by circumstance). From that core of balance you can choose when and how to eliven yourself. I heard someone say just yesterday that they had had two what you would call “enlightened” people stay at his house and, rather than being rather flat and boring, lacking in personality or vivre, these people were the most lighthearted and lively he had ever hosted, so quick to burst into laughter or play around with childish enthusiasm, because their external concerns had been disengaged, they had no baggage from the past or fear of the future but could be fully themselves…yes, I dream of being more like that!

This brings to mind the character Ketuk, a Balenise medicine man, in Elizabeth Gilbert’s autobiographical novel, “Eat, pray, love”. Gilbert becomes overly fixated upon finding balance, ending her romantic relationship prematurely, but Ketuk reminds her:

“To lose balance sometimes for love is part of living a balanced life”.

Elizabeth Gilbert – “Eat, Pray, Love”

So, the more balanced, thus healthy, I become, the more I am (very) likely to engage in some of the excesses of my highly colourful and enthusiastic personality and that’s fine, its good, its a choice we each get to make. I don’t plan to take up cross-stitch and sit by a window every day for the next 30 years, though I can if I want to (and probably will some of the time). Perhaps we need to remind ourselves that balance isn’t an end-game but a beginning point.

Back to neuroplasticity again; find that balanced place, even a little bit and, suddenly, you are in a rarified zone where more balance can be (as it were) manufactured by choosing new habits and then strengthening them. If those new habits are designed to be balanced ones from the outset, more balance becomes your “new normal” and so things become much easier thereafter; so, its a self-propelling, momentous process that unfolds exponentially, in stark contrast with just how stuck, or pendulum like (swinging back and forth…) you felt before.

It’s what I have been doing with my health this year, using The Gupta Program, which consists of some powerful tools designed for doing just what I have described; as in, breaking out of old stuck patterns and resetting myself from a place of balance. On the back of it, I am already noticing some fascinating things, like the fact that some of the foods I thought I “had” to give up forever or triggers I couldn’t be around can now be tolerated…in balanced moderation of course…because my body’s over reaction to them has withdrawn. That last example is just the tip of an iceberg of a range of new, balanced, habits I am making my own using the various methods of the program and the result is not only there as my improving health plus the softening of some of the most ingrained “bad” habits of my five decades of existence but also the fact that some of my old health-related fears are starting to get into much more proportion, then starting to dissipate one by one. I feel so much more balanced in my core…that is, both my physical body and my mental and emotional states are each benefiting, so the unified effect is to feel more together as a whole.

Of course, it’s an ongoing process and, really, I would say, the process of finding balance is a lifelong task we each face, each and every day of our lives, for as long as we live; yet it only starts in earnest once we realise its importance and that part is up to us…some people may never realise this, for as long as they live, but we each have our own journey to take. In my case, I would go as far as saying it is the most important thing of all; the very crux of my human existence, to prioritise and learn the ropes of balance to the best of my ability, from which point I can better withstand the extreme vagaries of the world, plus truly start to enjoy some of the complexities and apparent paradoxes, the most unusual gifts and flights of fancy, of my colourful personality (whilst remaining grounded in soundest health). Getting there in a, mostly, balanced way.


Disclaimer: This blog, it’s content and any material linked to it are presented for autobiographical, anecdotal purposes only. They are not meant as advice. They are not a substitute for medical advice, diagnosis, treatment, or prescribing. This article does not constitute a recommendation for the treatment or choices. Please consult with a licensed healthcare professional if you have or suspect you might have a health condition that requires medical attention or before embarking on a new treatment plan.

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The power of life review

I’ve been diving into a deep pool of nostalgia lately as quite the powerful (actually) catalyst to conducting a sort of life review across so many levels. Its turned up some incredibly powerful insights about myself and, in my “switched off” from thinking time, as-in when I dream or meditate, its as though I am now busily reconnecting and ironing out long-absent or badly distorted parts of myself from the sense of who “I Am” as they surface from the annuls of this personal history.

Some of the most powerful mechanisms for conducting this exercise which, by the way, didn’t begin as an “an exercise” but its as sure as anything turned into one, have been deep-diving the particular music I associate with various eras, re-reading old letters and diaries and also going through old photos and videos. I’ve talked about the music aspect before, in particular those playlists I’ve compiled (an ongoing project) to dance to as part of my daily routine and “feel good” exercises. I now have playlists put together for the first three decades of my life and they act like a soup seasoned with the very essence of who I was and what was “going on”, in those eras; in fact, a surprisingly nutritious dish that I now serve up for myself at times when I need them, not just when I’m dancing…though not quite so much that third decade, which is the noticeably spartan playlist so far (something which I find quite telling in its own right), but more on that in another post. I have no doubt that the marriage of these memory “soups” with dance is a therapy that is helping me to move some energy through my own memory banks and release, not to mention whip up, some life-affirming feelings whilst shifting any blockages though none of this started as a plan; it has just taken shape organically.

Lately, on a mission to clear out cupboards, I’ve also been trawling through old photos and scanning them in (or at least the better ones), throwing many out and boxing some of them up for my daughter, should she want them. I also dug out all those old video cam cassettes from my top shelf and, after an aborted attempt to transfer them myself, using software and leads that didn’t seem to want to play ball, I sent them all of to a professional who returned 28 cassettes that had been taking up copious amount of room…now transferred onto one single USB stick!

So, when these got returned to me on Monday, I held my nose and dived feet-first into the dark mire, hardly knowing what to expect but the effect was far more pleasant than my braced nerves had ever imagined (I’d put this task off for years, assuming it to be an abhorrent one).

I mentioned a few weeks ago (in my other blog, I think) that I had watched one of these videos on the actual camera it was found in, with the powerful effect of reminding me that I was a far more animated, “together” and hands-on parent than I had allowed myself to imagine across all the years of holding myself culpable for all the mess-up of my first marriage. These other tapes were a mystery as I no longer had the correct sized camera on which to play them back but, given they were from the very early months of parenthood, when all I tend to recall is a feeling of drowning in horribly distressing circumstances regarding the state of my marriage, I wasn’t particularly hopeful that I would enjoy them. Its true, my marriage was a flimsy excuse for a supportive relationship at that time and I was in dark despair in that portion of my life but I think I tend to tar all those times with what I have come to realise about all that in hindsight, more so than what I was consciously thinking about day and night at the time…bearing in mind that I was mostly preoccupied with my little daughter and all that entailed. I think, when we are more circumspect, we can really surprise ourselves with just how much we can actually cope with when we are “in” a situation and its the later analysis that can shock us rigid (take the horrors of childbirth, for example, which we do get through “at the time” even though, in hindsight, we wonder how we survived it).

As a result of tarring all those years with this “it was all bad” brush, I had, in effect, cut them off from my timeline, thinking this was OK for me to do, like deciding to sever a badly wounded limb and expecting myself to hobble around without it from now on, but now I realise my mistake. Now, I see the importance of having that limb reattached, in whatever shape it happened to be in, because…actually…it was stronger than I knew and is part of who I am today but it just needs reanimating!

Because the effect of “chopping off” this part of my past has been to leave a giant gaping fissure in my life, extending from mid twenties to, well, mid thirties and that’s really quite the chasm, one that I can’t help feeling has something to do with the state of my health ever since, so this is important for me to address.

For the first part of that decade, I don’t have video coverage but I do have the photos, albeit absent of me (apart from, quite literally, one or two) since my ex never pointed the camera at me…but those photos do serve to take me back, nonetheless, to the very memories I had been keeping at bay…of trips to Scotland and the lake District, getting our first dog, buying our first house, the occasional social gathering, birthdays and outings. And I think it’s something a lot of us tend to do, don’t we, after the divorce…thinking we have to rip up all the evidence of that entire era as though it never happened; but what, as in my case, the relationship lasted for 12 years? This is a time chunk I can’t afford to loose and I would rather make amends with it now than at the very end when I am facing my maker (far more useful to me this way too).

And, of course, I did have those two VHS videos of my first wedding just waiting for me to dive right into the era.

So, as a total afterthought, I sent off those to the video guy with all the mini cassettes and, of course, back they came on Monday with all the rest. And is it now telling that they were the first 2 that I sat down and watched from beginning to end, out of a choice of 28? Perhaps I just felt the need to establish the chronology in its correct linear format. That decision, after all, to marry came first, before the one to go ahead and “have a family”, as the phrase goes though, for a lot of years, it felt a bit lean to consider what I had as a “family” given it mostly felt like my daughter and I against the world (there is a telling segment in one of the videos where my daughter kept calling our dog “daddy” as her real one was never there). However, at the time of that wedding, I clearly envisioned having two children, ideally a girl and boy.

In fact, there is a segment in the video, a moment I remember (but couldn’t recall it being taped, I think one of the kids must have got hold of the camera…) of me talking to my lovely Aunty Margaret, who is long gone from this world, towards the end of the reception, in which, prompted by her, I describe what I envision…a move to a more rural “spot”, how many kids, all my aspirations for the future; I am so lit up, so on to something with my passion for this envisioned life path as I talk that its now fascinating to me to watch “her” (me) and wonder what happened to all that. When did things get so taken out of my hands with divorce and ill health? Is all that I can take from that the belief that life is shit and then you die? But then I have NEVER succumbed to that kind of thinking, even now, so how do I reconcile such optimism shining in my face that day, knowing that I began to crash just a couple of years later?

I can recall talking to Margaret on the phone, a surprise call she made to me (we never normally talked by phone; we wrote letters) after I announced to her I was getting a divorce and she brought up that conversation to me then: “You really knew what you wanted, Helen, with such optimism and such a powerful vision of the future…I had no doubt you would achieve it because you shared with such conviction, such enthusiasm in your voice, I was so impressed by you that day, everything looked bright…” Thankfully, she wasn’t saying she was less impressed with me that my marriage had failed so soon, but she was (I could tell) deeply disappointed for such vision having been “derailed” and wanted, fervently, for things to work out for me again. Impossible to miss all the sheer pathos hovering around as I recall all this and yet that doesn’t make it too painful for me to behold, although perhaps it did for a long time. What it does is remind me who I was in that video, talking so animatedly, and of the fact I am STILL that person not so very deep inside. Yes, life has its curve balls and can have its rough and ready way with us but these things, such as what animates us and our intrinsic passion, never go away and, in fact, often grow stronger, polishing-up all the more for all the friction that life doles out and this reminiscence has been one of the strongest exercises to come out of the videos (so far). I still identify with that person sat there in the gold dress (yes I wore a gold silk…with gold brocade and flashes of purple lining up the long back slit… self-designed, self-beaded with colourful glass droplets, beautifully crazy dress that only I would have come up with and that uniquely creative and confident person is still alive and well!) so I claim her back now, newly dusted off from life’s bumpy ride.

I was also struck my just how many people, first off, made all that effort to BE at my wedding, from far-flung places and busy lives. Whilst the marriage didn’t last, the feeling of deepest gratitude for that remains intact because they were here for me, not for “the marriage” per se and this in itself is important to sift out of time’s abrasive effect. My husband asked “what on earth do you want to want to watch those for? I can’t imagine anything worse than watching my first wedding play out, blow by blow!” but he was missing the point. I was revisiting the part of myself that was there on that day, having spent months putting my all into a meticulously planned event that was as quirky as it was a great party with a Beatles tribute band in attendence and, besides, these were all people that meant something to me and, in many cases, still do…that proviso being because quite a handful, some older but some not so old, are no longer alive and that was quite the sobering count-through. One woman, my mother’s best friend from years back, with whom I kept in touch for well over 20 years after my mother passed, only died recently, sad news I received in the post over Christmas from her husband. Simply taking in that she and he, and just so many others, came all that way “just for me” was a sobering realisation, perhaps more appreciated by the me that is 52 years old and knows how much upheaval is involved in travel and overnight stays, than the 30 year-old I was at the time. I found myself fervently hoping that I went around and individually welcomed and thanked every single person there, though I know all too well how carried away people get on “their big day”, how it all turns into quite the blur as to what you did and said and to whom…which is why video footage can be gruesome as well as nostalgic. Thankfully, I found mostly nostalgia!

I was also taken aback at just how many people there are friends that I have completely lost touch with or, at best, have infrequent and often only surface-deep catch-ups when we once ran much deeper; and if you had told me that about these people, at the time, I would have been astonished. This has been for a whole variety of reasons, of course, but one of the biggest, there is no doubt, is that I became just so isolated and “cut-off” from everything in the years of that marriage and the aftermath of divorce, leading straight into chronic illness. There is nothing quite like the effect of a personal disaster scene to act as a forcefield that keeps you out of all but the sturdiest social connections. Conversely, I see in those videos a handful of individuals that were to truly stand the test of time, one of whom I chat to almost every week, for which I am so grateful. Its a measure of that friendship’s resilience but also the fact we still recognise in each other worthy qualities that we each had way back when and sometimes this kind of mirroring effect can help to ground us in our sense of self and to hold steady through the tough times, as-in, when me see ourselves reflected back in the eyes of a resilient friendship it helps us to believe we have not lost our sense of self and that it endures and is worthy, whatever else unfolds.

Important also to take on board that not all friendships are meant to last forever; I prefer the analogy that we are often just ships passing on their otherwise diverse routes and that more ships will pass up head. Perhaps its the Asperger part of me but I tend to regard most people’s expectations of staying friends “forever” a little bit odd and rather limiting if some of those friendships are not suitable to be tied together as our lives evolve and unfold in new directions yet some people are still tied to these old, ill-fitting obligations. I prefer to hold to the vision, and I do, of other friendships up ahead that I have yet to even imagine but, as I said, I truly value those that have stayed the distance and feel so deeply “myself” in those as there is already the continuum in that history that has otherwise been missing in my thinking (as above) and there is often something special that occurs when you have been intimate for that long through thick and thin, so a mixture of both is my ideal. I would much rather have a few quality friends than enough for a sizeable wedding party but perhaps that is an inevitable reflection of the age I was then compared to now (for the record, when I remarried, we had just two friends, our two children and my husband’s parents there at the quiet country manor it was held at and it was, in its own way, perfect and very beautiful for its intimacy).

Moving on from those wedding videos into those taken when my daughter was born, yes, its hard to sense in my voice just how weary I was (seen also in my face of the handful of photos taken with me and my daughter over those first few months…I was parenting as though alone though people “saw me” as having a husband’s support, which is a dire combination) but then you could say this is typical of early parenthood. Also, in hindsight, I believe I had more than a touch of post natal depression, of course not helped by feeling emotionally abandoned, and bullied, by my husband (which I was). Yet, something interesting now is, I also see in his face a range of telling expressions, over and over again…and they tell me he was also in some sort of post-natal depression of his own; I guess this also happens to men too, if less reported about. Whilst I chirup on in the sing-song voice, doing what mothers do, in the rare footage when he was around (in which he appears as a somber faced, sunglasses and leather jacket wearing persona, mostly adopting the aloof demeanour of some sort of security guard in attendance or blankly ignoring us two from some ceiling-gazing position on the sofa) I now see a hardness and blankness that potentially belies an inner terror, a feeling of falling or of having taken the wrong turn in life. With the objectivity of over 20 years having passed, I can allow that he realised, almost instantly she was born, that he had made a terrible mistake becoming a parent and it left him feeling spun out of control, landed in the wrong life and with a sense of walls pushing in on him at every turn.

This isn’t to excuse him at all; after all, its not as though the decision was an accident, we had discussed and then planned it for years, but to say that he didn’t know the strength of his own unresolved trauma around his own abysmal childhood (which he had confided in me years before and around which, knowing both of his parents, I could well believe the scars he carried…he remained, very much, the little boy abandoned inside and now he had competition he couldn’t deal with for my attention). He went in to this “plan” blindly optimistic we could rewrite all that history, and also knowing it was what I wanted or I would have married someone else, but instead he clammed up and became hard…harder and aloof than I had ever known him…which confronted me with a choice, either me and my daughter or this marriage; and for the sake of (mostly) her at the time, I chose the former. Again, facing up to this and allowing the relief of accepting we have each had our pain load to carry has been cathartic this week, allowing a rivulet of healing to start leading where floods may later follow (easier to do now my daughter is all grown up).

The biggest gift of all, and I have hardly skimmed the surface, is that I have been introduced to the me that was the busy and animated, often funny and always so on the ball person pre all those years of chronic illness and this feels so timely. As I work so hard at reprogramming the glitch that has embedded as those health issues (courtesy of The Gupta Program…still going well) it feels important to have a sense of that person alive and well …and, yes, so animated…at my core. Somehow, after just an hour or so of footage, its as though I have got one of my wheels back into the train track of me and there is a sort-of course correction taking place at the subliminal level; its as though parts of me “are back” through enhanced familiarity of what that looks, sounds and feels like. I feel there must be an analogy I could use, something from biology or stem cell engineering but the reminder of how I thought, acted, moved, even span my high energy out of myself into a room in such a way that it engaged other people with my enthusiasm and creativity, yes my joie de vivre, all those years ago is influencing the me of now through direct contact with it, a sort of transference process, allowing “lost” parts of me to be brought back to life through this highly visual means (and, given I process in such a visual way, a typical autistic trait, I would say super-power, this part is important). Seeing through my own eyes, though my engagements (how did I spend my time, what sort of things did I make happen), through my highly animated feet and hands, through flashes of the colourful clothes I wore, is helping to reconnect me with aspects of me without the distortion that has been ill-health. I’m so grateful now for all the many times I decided to reach for that camera with one hand…tacitly, to record memories of my daughter but they appear to have also captured important memories of, as well as for, me.

And, oh, the love for my daughter that comes flooding over me when I reacquaint myself with her 1, 2, 3 and 4 year old self; how could I ever doubt that I was a good parent, allowing myself to think I didn’t do or love or protect or anything enough…I see now how much I loved then and feel how much, even more so, I love now and it is the most powerful incentive for being alive and well to feel this mother-daughter charge run through me as the biggest gift of my life bar none and to want to be here for her, with her, for many more years to come.

This is made all the more powerful, in a sense, from the fact I am the one holding the camera as I move around and talk, without seeing myself (as per real life) because boy do I talk. I now appreciate why my daughter is the highly animated consciousness she is if she was immersed in me giving my full attention to every nuance of parenting like I apparently did, with so much experiment and fun (there are scenes of entire rooms being turned into paint-by-feet experiments, for instance), so much pointing things out, prompting her to notice, asking what she thinks or feels about things, encouraging her to process in new ways, to think outside the box, question why, explore…and oh what a live wire child she was, always on the move, giggling, exploring, in to everything and so bursting full of affection, wanting to hug everything from strangers to every kind of creature we encountered from chicks to goats to snakes and lizards, all the same to her. And boy did we go to some places, so many farms and animal sanctuaries, trips to Cornwall and Devon with just me, her and Buster (my Rhodesian Ridgeback) crammed into my little blue Uno, riding welsh ponies up hills when she could barely get her legs over the saddle, sleep overs and B&Bs with our friends, a spontaneous trip to Venice with my friend and her son and, for her, dancing classes and local playgroups. If she was chock-full of energy and enthusiasm for life, I was apparently matching it inch for inch back then…in fact, we were (and are) a dynamo for each other and this reminds me what an absolute gift parenting has been for me. She is still the one person who can inspire me out of the very worst crashes to want to be full of vivre again in an instant and it is from that deep wanting to be fully alive that I have always found my bounce-back factor.

When I have looked back to those years I have tended to, most unfairly, recall the hard times when coping with the transition phase of the divorce and almost losing my house (it was precarious for a couple of years) forced me to office work and farming her out into the care of other people who sat her in front of the tv screen with the sugary snacks I had to keep telling them, repeatedly, not to give her (I had never felt such guilt as when she had to have four “baby teeth” removed under general anaesthetic in hospital because of sweets doled out by a minder while I was working full-time). I’ve held onto memories of not coping with the juggle, of being snappish, of having those melt-down moments that all parents have at some point.

My mistake has been that I have tended to “make large” that relative blip of time, mostly overlapping when she was in school most of the day, compared to what was actually four solid years of me being the full hands-on, completely dedicated, highly attentive and responsible parent, making the full-time job of it from the day she born…I was, frankly, awesome…and re-owning this, reattaching it to myself, has been MASSIVE in terms of my sense of self, also my sense of “what I have achieved in this life” (women are conditioned to be so very poor at acknowledging their parenting achievements as amongst the most important things they could have spent their lives doing…). Its so very easy to look back and judge myself for not having had that successful “career” but what about this important work, ongoing but never more important than all that I put into it back then. That was when I put the solid foundation down, for both her and, yes, and for myself too as I settled down into learning the ropes of parenthood from scratch, having had very different precedent from the way I was parented and having no one else around me for support, guidance or even an extra pair of hands. On top of which, I now know about my Asperger’s as a light shone on why I simply didn’t relate to so many of the approaches to parenting I heard about from other mums in my postnatal circle…I just knew I had to invent my own way and trust in that and in my daughter’s ability to meet me half way, as she always did (she has since thanked me, profusely, for my unconventional parenting as it has made her into the self-assured individual she is today). In short, I did really bloody well!!

And now I own it. In fact, I own all of it, all of this, the whole history of my life, even the mistakes, and looking it all in the eye is such a big part of it rather than just giving lip service as before – “I’ve made peace with it all” – but really it was because I was averting my eyes, being selective, filtering out the harder bits.

Ironically, what I find is that “the harder bits” were not as hard, or should I say rewardless, as some of these more recent times have been struggling with my health; all the physical pain that feels manifest out of some previous, if more abstract, sense of struggle that came first. Again, I can’t help feeling that if only I can get over this sense of past hardship weighing me down like a concrete breeze block, all that can self-resolve too.

You could say, and some people do, that there’s no merit in winding back the clock to delve into our past histories but I would suggest that the more strongly a person shrugs this need off, the least comfortable they feel at the prospect…and, thus, perhaps they, above all people, would truly benefit from getting curious about why that is, why the big avoidance, the shrugging, the averted gaze?

These uncomfortable feelings left as residue in our energy bodies can haunt us, though we don’t yet know it (and perhaps never will make the association) as issues with our health, unresolved feelings that hover for years and years, as sore points or avoidances around certain topics that make us flinch, or as the various stuck patterns that play out in our present day life. We don’t need to do deep analysis, I’ve found, to get to the root of these since the subconscious will do most of the work for us when we start to explore but, in my case, just recognising that there was a closed door with a “do not enter” sign hung on it around some of this territory and, gently, prising it open to let in some light has been extremely powerful for me, already (and there’s more to come as I go further into these tapes and at least one more giant box of photos plus a load of albums).

I used to question the merit of video recorders and find them a bit “naff”, that is until I became a parent and now those tapes of my daughter’s unmistakable giggle, of those soft curvy arms and that tussled yellow-blond hair that I can almost touch and smell, are the priceless gift of all priceless gifts to me (they have now been backed up multiple times so I never lose them again!), there is medicine in every moment I spent with that little person, who can never be lost, since she is inside of my heart for as long as I breathe and her essence is still in the grownup person I speak to almost every day. I remember they once told me there was nothing like a mother’s love for her a child…I now realise I have spent 22 years unpacking the marvel of that discovery and am so grateful for the miracle of it, no regrets, no talk of hardship or juggling, no room to complain left in there any more and I know this year of enforced separation has driven the message home like never before. I am so thankful for the life path, with all its foibles, that showed me this unmatchable joy because not all parents seem to realise it.

Even if there are no tapes to be had, digging out old photos, old music, or just allowing the mind to go soft and to wander down long closed-off corridors can be a lead into this kind of “re-attachment to yourself” and “making whole” practice. Not so long ago, I surprised myself by “thinking myself” back into my childhood home during a spontaneous mediation and, impressed by all the fine details that came up (I’m sure these have increased lately on the back of the nostalgia exercises I’ve been doing, especially listening to certain songs, as they can transport me in an instant to particular moments in childhood…the radio on as my mother cleans the windows on a bright sunny day or the feeling of our sitting room on a chilly February morning when the fire had just been lit, etc) by taking a little wander around the house to see what else I could see. What I discovered was that I could walk from room to room as though I was wearing a virtual reality headset, it was in 3-D and had such incredible detail it was as though I was really back there.

So, I take in the wallpaper around the fireplace, the way the sunlight hit the yellowish curtains, see the paint scuff on the sitting room door, feel and almost smell the metal door handle as I turn it, feel the tread of the carpet in the hallway, notice the light through daffodils in a vase on the hall stand, the bumpy wallpaper, then turn to go up the stairs, past the little shelf that I used to climb on, around the corner and on tip toes to look out the window towards the main road with its buses going past, go into the bathroom with the “Wedgwood blue” bath fittings, see the curled wallpaper below the sink, the smell of the soap we used, reverse out and into my bedroom, the exact feel of the floor, how it had a raised patch in one corner near the boiler pipes, the number or paces between the bed and the chair, hear the creak of my wardrobe, the feel as the catch released, the musty smell of old wood inside and the “secret compartment” where I hid my diaries, run my finger along familiar books on the wooden bookshelves my dad built over the sealed-off fireplace, go into my parents room next door, always painted yellow, and bounce belly first on the creaky sprung bed, try to stand on it like jelly and feel through my legs how I always wobbled precariously as I did this, the very noise it made and jump back on the floor…you get the picture. It’s all intact, every nuance, stored up in there for life and we carry it around with us, whether we own it or not!

By owning it, we make ourselves more whole and we cease denying parts of ourselves, or indeed others we are irrevocably connected with. In fact, we soften towards them all, releasing the kind of tension that only every hurts us in the end, because we can see much more clearly why we are connected at the bigger scale, you could say in the bigger “plan” that led us to where we are now. These countless stories we carry are no longer splintered off from the idea of what we are prepared to accept as our truth because they are no longer seen as negating that truth. Instead, it is all “truth”, as in, it happened and so it must have been necessary to “make me who I am today”. That oh-so important person, the me of here and now, gets to feel the completeness of it all and this is then reclaimed as the source of so much sense of personal empowerment, replacing what came before it, which was most-likely a much more vague yet infinitely more dangerous sense of having been fatally wounded by life or of having “messed things up”. Yes, we can finally let ourselves off the hook and allow that things are perfect just as they are; which is more likely to show itself once we stop being in such a wrestle with what was. We might not be able to change all that…but we can change how we react to it!

Really, there are no messes just so long as we are comfortable with who we are at the core of all the incidentals than come and go and its so much easier to sense who that core person is when we allow the continuum of experiences that, for all it flips back and forth between “good times” and “bad”, always had this one thing in common…steady and unwavering…and that is who we are at the consciousness level, that part of us watching the show or, you could say, this is our essence. My own sense of essence has grown so much stronger and more resilient of late, even more so this week as I continue to open up this even-more visceral box of memories to explore. The array of feelings that have been jogged out of deep-freeze has been astonishing, I have watched aspects of me that I forgot I even had reanimate, almost without skipping a beat, including more youthful (which is a state of mind…) and optimistic, dynamic feelings stirring inside of me but most of all, if I had to label it, the most resounding feeling that has come out of it all has been love….love for everything and everyone I have ever had in my life, deep resounding love and gratitude for my daughter and, yes, deep love as-in appreciation and knowing and unconditional acceptance for myself, which is the most important ingredient of healing that there is.

JUST REALISED today is my 10 year anniversary of writing this blog! There could have been no more apt post than this one. And within 5 minutes of posting, the doorbell rang and beautiful flowers were delivered from my daughter for Mother’s Day…now that’s timing!

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