One Door is Enough

eck…and still I have this feeling that I need to check out as many different spiritual traditions as I can, to select a wide range of flavours from the buffet so I’m not missing out in any spiritual vitamins. If there are people out there finding clues to enlightenment, then I need to find them too. I hold onto them, so I can finally nourish myself at a later date; there is a feeling that I need to build up weapons in my arsenal so that I can launch an assault against the ego at some later point. Or to use a less violent metaphor, I am assembling a huge spiritual jigsaw puzzle. I need to fill in all the areas and some point the overall picture will become clear.

Buddhism, Vedanta, Zen, Taoism, Gnosticism, Siberian shamanism (?!) – I’ve studied or at least had a peep at them all, and I often end up frustrated when I can’t understand ancient texts, or freaked out by traditions that are too weird for me.

It’s then that I return to this guy, who speaks in the language of today, who reminds me to stop this vain searching, who has actually digested a wide range of spiritual traditions, for what it’s worth, but knows that one door to freedom is all you need. Eckhart points out that you can only ever free yourself now, not in the future, when you are telling yourself everything will be in place. Eckhart’s message is expressed through a deep peace and compassion which, he points out, is the primary aspect of the message. So don’t worry about the words. They are only pointing to the simplest truth, which lies beneath.

 

 

Transforming Fear into Love

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Last night I went to a discussion about the book A Course in Miracles. One of the things that stuck with me was the teaching that love is the opposite of fear, with most people being in a perpetual state of fear.

I am seeing it everywhere today, this low-level fear and apprehension, in the eyes of people I meet on the stairs in my house (even though they say ‘hello’), in the people I pass on the street or at the bus stop. What must that fear do to your mind and body? It is the response of our ancient fight-or-flight self preservation system to the challenges of modern-day living, where overcrowding, overwork, over-stimulation and media-led panics combine with the miserable underlying truth that shopping does not actually fix anything.

I walked side by side with fear for a long time, always hyper-conscious of my self image, worried about how I interacted and terrified of dissapproval, all of this combined with misery over my unrealised potential, my loneliness and my OCD fears. It leaked out into my face, creating a catch 22 situation where my attempts to make social bonds were stymied by the inextinguishable look of terror and discomfort in my eyes.

The spiritual path that I’m on has led to the letting go of a lot of fear. A connection with the inner ‘I’ underneath my historical self and its struggles, has given me a lot of space and calm, to the extent that sitting on a bus seat opposite someone without wierding them out has become just about possible most of the time.

I feel connected with the people around me because I am not as preoccupied by my fear and it has left my face. I feel the contrast as most of them look quite wrapped up in their worries, and they sometimes look surprised, seeing that a strangers’ heart is open to them. It is quite alien to a lot people, but others you can see them relax a little and open like flowers, giving you a returning smile.

If we have a collective responsibility, maybe it’s to dissolve the fear around us with love. It can be done. It’s transformational and everybody needs it.

Permission to Live

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Permission to speak

It starts with the word

Who can express

Who’s seen and not heard

 

Permission to feel

What’s deepest within

To dare to expresses it

And not fear sin

 

Permission to love

Do you have to ask

Have you been waiting

As if it’s a task?

 

Permission to heal

And see your own wealth

I give you permission

To love your true self

 

Permission – who gives it?

And who’s to recieve

Who has the right

To choose, to believe

Unconsciously, we wait for permission

Following old tracks, with clouded vision

 

Just allow it   …   Allow yourself   ….   Your self

 

A smile is contagious

It welcomes the day

Your spirit leaks out

And shows others the way

 

My neighbour upstairs

Is glad when I sing

I let my voice fly

Then she does the same thing

 

When a dancefloor is bare

It takes a decision

For one to get up

And give all permission

 

The casting off

Of unwritten rules

That we never question

And follow like mules

 

Like wildebeest waiting at the riverside

They all have to cross

It takes one has to decide

 

To reach the far shore

And find what we lack

We must realise

What’s holding us back

 

Permission

We spend our lives proscribed

Between what’s disallowed and what’s self-denied

But who’s permission do you actually need

To start a new life at a different speed?

 

I see many people

Waiting at the lights

Awaiting the signal

That lets them take flight

 

Frozen in profile

Awaiting permission

To finally move forward

And live their own vision

 

 

(Tom George 2016)

Do We Need a ‘Men’s Day’?

With International Womens’ Day being celebrated across social media, our phones and computer screens are resplendent with pictures of female icons, inspiring messages and news of IWD-themed events. And with it, there come the usual voices from the wings, exemplified by comedian Richard Herring asking on twitter when there will be an International Men’s Day.

These grumpy calls are often met with derision, as if they are actually attacking the idea of female equality, but they actually represent a cry for help, an almost desperate response to a gaping void in men’s lives.

There’s no doubt that women still face financial equality – battles over equal pay and conditions pay continue to be fought, while sexual violence and sexism in the media are ever-present. And that’s just the UK. Globally, the oppression of women in many countries has not changed in centuries and in many cases is getting worse – we all know about Boko Haram. But the idea that global patriarchy only damages women is the great myth of feminism.

From the dawn of humanity ‘men’s work’ has always been the most dirty and dangerous, with the highest rates of death, injury and illness. Male workers are invariably at the sharpest end of costcutting and lax safety standards around the world. During the 34-year construction of the Panama canal, an estimated 28,000 workers lost their lives, many due to malaria. And this is not just a historic phenomenon; almost 1,000 workers were killed in Chinese coal mines in 2014 (and that was one of the safest of recent years), while a similar number have died in Quatar building facilities for the 2022 World Cup. I think it’s safe to say that the vast majority of these would have been male deaths.

This is the legacy of a system that has historically used men as the primary providers in the family. It’s a system that gives no choice of options, any more than women are given the option of whether or not to bear children. Men, as a result of their gender, have been locked into a brutal regime of back-breaking and particularly dangerous toil. But it is not just men’s bodies that have been sacrificed in such huge numbers; men’s roles in the industrialised era have subdued the nurturing and compassionate side of their nature, diminishing their ability for self-care, and creating a world of damaged and dysfunctional behaviour.

For the intensity of mens’ torment, you only have to look at the suicide figures – in the uk three times as many men kill themselves as women.

In general, women have a wealth of support systems to call on, both officially and through age-old family and friendship networks, whereas mens’ camaraderie often only extends as far as back-slapping and friendly bravado. The suppression of the nurturing, feminine side in men is perhaps the biggest, unspoken, loss that patriarchy inflicts on us.

Most men only find an outlet for sensitivity through the women in their lives and their male culture gives them no access to this. Men know that their societal role leads them to suffer worse mental and physical health than women. Herring’s envy over IWD – a widespread one, I believe –reflects a male need for the kind of solidarity and self-love that women do so well.

What might a men’s day look like? The most high profile recent mens’ movement, Fathers for Justice (a charity demanding rights of access to children of separated fathers) was, rightly or wrongly, perceived as an outlet for a vindictive kind of male anger. Any celebration of mens’ empowerment needs to acknowledge that anger itself is one of challenges that many men need to overcome.

Such a movement would need to acknowledge, without guilt, the impact that that mens’ dysfunction has had on women and at the same time celebrate the leadership and inventiveness that men bring to the world. These characteristics don’t have to be seen as solely inherently male, just as nurturing and co-operation are not the sole preserve of women. What we need is a new vision of manhood and womanhood that softens these gender constructs.

Men are not the winners in the patriarchal system, and women are not the only ones that need to transcend it. No more talking sides; we have to advance together.lonely-man-boat-galaxy_223886

Journal entry 15/1/16

Recently an acknowledgement that the ‘wanting to know the great texts’ is connected to the egoic thing of having missed out on learning and wanting to feel well-read and wise. Realised that there’s a lot of reaching and wanting in my exploration of old texts. Remembered zen approach of ‘leave all this – too much mind-work’. People can reach enlightement spontaneously by themseles. Hui Neng was illiterate after all. A lot less about reaching and wanting, more about being where you are and uncovering. Getting close to the enlightened soul within. Looking at the Tao Te Ching, feeling yet again, I am struggling with a difficult text that I’m gonna have to put some time in to study and understand. Stopped myself there and then. Decided not to struggle to finish it or understand it all, just go with whatever catches your attention and speaks to you. Saw a single line –  “without desires, there will be peace”.Old_book_library_ladder_bookshelf_books_desktop_1920x1200_wallpaper-7274.jpg

How To Forgive

Woman and teenager handshake, on blue sky

“Forgiveness is to relinquish your grievance and so let go of grief. It happens naturally once you realise that your grievance serves no purpose except to strengthen a false sense of self. Forgiveness is to offer no resistance to life – to allow life to live through you…The moment you truly forgive, you have reclaimed your power from the mind…the mind cannot forgive. Only you can” – Eckhart Tolle, The Power of Now