Monthly Archives: April 2013

The Power To Move Mountains

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When I was little my absolute favourite movie was Star Wars: The Empire Strikes Back. I could quote great tracts of it (much to my sister’s annoyance) and I was fairly certain that if my X-Wing ever got stuck in a swamp I would be able to lift it out using the power of my intention. Now that I am a little older I have found that although I don’t have a lightsaber (much to MY annoyance) that in some ways the power of intention to affect the physical world around us is very real. Thought becomes belief, belief becomes action and action is manifested in what we do. As Esther Hicks often says, a belief is just a thought we keep having. So changing our thoughts changes our reality. But where do these thoughts come from? What depths do they bubble up from to continuously disturb what we’d like to be the placid pool of our waking mind? For some people it is a constant struggle to “keep a lid” on their thoughts, some people are more like some Joycean stream of consciousness. I went to see a comedian once, Jason Byrne, who seems to be of the latter persuasion. He told us how every time he and his exasperated and pre-embarrassed wife go out she gives him a bag of words and tells him “Here, this is what your allowed to talk about tonight, if it isn’t in the bag of words, you can’t talk about it!” But where does this need for constant talking come from? I think it comes from fear.

Fear is a multi-faceted diamond. It may have some beautiful faces but may also have come at a heavy cost. For some of us fear is an inspiration to try harder, to push ourselves beyond what we perceive to be our limits, or love more passionately. Some people are afraid to admit that they have any fears, a contradiction really when as a human being it is our nature to have fear. We are born with two fears, loud noises and falling. All the rest are learned, some sensibly. I have learned not to grab hold of an iron to see if it is hot just after you switch it off. It is, by the way. Some fears are not so sensible or rational. The fear of silence, for example. Many people speak to fill this silence, asking how the weather is even when standing in it, or having the radio on so as to not feel lonely. Why would you feel lonely when you have your own incredible imagination to keep you company? The philosopher Pascal once said “All of humanity’s problems stem from man’s inability to sit quietly in a room alone.” So many of us are filled with anxiety when we have nothing to do. We may feel shame at being “lazy” or “stupid” or any number of labels we attach to ourselves. But where have these labels, these fears, come from?

Next time you call yourself a negative name, or admonish yourself for something ask yourself this. Do I really believe that about myself? Is it really me that is calling me that name? Close your eyes and listen, whose voice is it? Someone else’s thought that I have inherited. By continuing to have that thought, it may have become a belief. Are you stupid? No, of course not. But someone who was threatened by your intelligence when you were young could have called you that and it may have been during a formative period in your development. Just because it is someone’s opinion doesn’t mean it is true. I happen to believe that Orange and Lime Tic Tacs are the vilest “food” I have ever has the misfortune to taste. tic_tac_line_orange-1It doesn’t mean that I’m correct. Although I am. But it also doesn’t mean that my belief you are a lunatic for liking them is true. Although you are.

The point of all this is that although our fears are a natural part of us. We don’t have to believe them although we do need to understand them. As Yoda (Star Wars again) says “Fear is the path to the dark side. Fear leads to anger. Anger leads to hate. Hate leads to suffering.” While this is not always a pleasant path to tread it is the other foot of the path of light that we also walk down. We all have a shadow side, a dark side. Fear, anger, jealousy, hate, Tic Tacs. To deny it is to deny a part of ourselves. As James Ray says “to damn a part of ourselves is to dam a part of our existence”.

Understanding where our motivation comes from is a powerful tool and it is through practicing awareness that this can be achieved. Constantly looking at whether our motivation is fear or love, pleasure or pain. The light and shadow are two sides of the same mountain, when one is is sunshine the other is in darkness. As ever, balance between the two is where peace will be found. mountain-landscape-wallpapers-640x400Anyone who has tried the “just think happy thoughts and you’ll be happy!!” approach will probably have found it to be flawed. Our shadow side rears up to smack us in the face, belittling us for not having the will power to be happy. Also dwelling in the shadow side for too long is unbalancing and challenging too. But it’s all fine. All of it is an opportunity to learn about yourself. Try to remain aware of which side of the mountain you are on, and which side you maybe need to sit on for a while.

A very wise man once told me in order for roses to flourish you sometimes have to work through the shite at their roots. Life healing is a process so it takes all of your life. Let go of the conditioning that tells you to avoid your shadow side, to deny its existence. We will always move between shadow and light, that is what being human is about.

Meditate or procrastinate

ImageWe know there are many benefits to meditation; improved sleep, lower blood pressure, increased immunity and fertility, emotional balance and calmness to name but a few. But there is a misconception that meditation needs to be done in a place of perfect tranquility; in full lotus up a majestic mountain or by a river surrounded by flowers and sunlight. Or at least in a quiet room with no noise or disturbances. It is the excuse of not being able to find the time or the perfect place that stops many people meditating. The reality is there is no perfect place, or rather every place is the perfect place. Meditation is, as Sogyal Rinpoche puts it, the process of “bringing the mind home”, of taming the mind and finding the peace that exists within us all. We look to create this peace externally but it is found internally.

The true nature of the mind (and by mind I don’t mean my brain but more my whole awareness of being) is like the eternal blue sky. Thoughts and emotions are like the clouds that are ever changing and flit across this sky, I peacefully acknowledge them and let them pass. There are certainly situations that make it easier to meditate; a quiet room, setting an intention, surrounding oneself with inspiring objects or pictures but there will always be a distraction. I remember at a meditation retreat (which you can read about here) a Buddhist nun was speaking about how she had set up her room perfectly, taken the phone off the hook, locked the door, closed the windows etc but after a while she could hear a clicking. As she was meditating with her eyes open she had a quick look but couldn’t see anything that might be causing the sound. After a short while the clicking returned and she suddenly realised it she could hear herself blinking. The point of this is there are distractions everywhere and it is the skilled meditator that can use these distractions as a means of returning to a meditative state by allowing them to bring us back to present. A technique I use is to always wear odd socks. Whenever I notice the different colours, or when someone points it out to me, I use it to become aware of whether I am off in thoughts of the future or the past and if so to try and be present instead.

Every moment is an opportunity to meditate. I’m not suggesting it is easy but it is simple. You can try it now as you sit and read this. Straighten your back (especially if you are curled like a prawn), relax your jaw so it is slightly open and breathe naturally. Now just feel your breath as it enters and leaves the body (easier if you stick with the sensation in just one place, maybe the nostrils or the belly) and that’s it. If thoughts come, let them come then bring your awareness back to your breath and begin again each time. Each breath in is a new beginning, each breath out is a complete letting go. This can be done when you are sitting at traffic lights, as you are doing the dishes, during the adverts of your TV show, anywhere! We cannot force a baby to fall asleep, we can only create the conditions in which sleep can happen. Similarly, you cannot force yourself in to a meditative state, but you can create the conditions in which meditation can happen.