jump

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

Come Together

fireworksThe French expression ‘la petit mort’ (the little death) refers to the loss of self at the point of orgasm. It is impossible to think, or have any opinions or concept of time at this moment. The ego is not present, which enables a state of spiritual bliss. Makes you think that death might not be so bad after all…

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

The Open Mind of Carl Sagan

Carl Sagan was almost unique in his day for being both a respected scientist and a talented broadcaster. As an astrophysicist and planetary scientist he was advisor to NASA and over the course of his career published over 600 scientific papers. His TV programmes such as Cosmos (1980) brought the mysteries of the universe to millions, but this was not the usual boffin for whom the questions of ‘what it’s all about’ can only be answered by science.

Sagan’s interests in philosophy, spirituality, UFOs (and, it recently came to light, dope-smoking) has cemented his legend as an open-minded seeker.

Some of the visual effects in this programme, made before digital computer graphics and the images of the Hubble space telescope, may look a little outdated (or perhaps  endearingly ‘vintage’), but Sagan’s story telling is masterly and his sense of wonder, infectious.

35 minutes in, Sagan turns his attention to the spiritual traditions of India. Walking barefoot around a temple, he discusses the parallels between modern astrophysics and ancient Hindu philosophies, which he describes as a “a premonition of modern cosmological ideas”.

Modern science is very rarely presented in the context of humanity’s long search for meaning. But as Sagan points out here, astronomers are only trying to do what religion has always done: “The big bang is our modern scientific creation myth”.

Walking the Fog

fog park nightI walked through the park at night in the fog, past the faint white ghosts floating on the lake – the sleeping swans. As I walked I brought my attention to every sense. I have realised the word ‘attention’ works much better for me than ‘mindfulness’, which sounds like a conundrum from the off. We all know what attention is, and we can direct it where it’s needed.

The trees were dripping their foggy wetness on my face, the river was rushing in the distance. The dark grey of night fog was impenetrable. I brought my attention to its void without fear, accepting its blankness like a mirror of no-mind.

Every so often, voices in the distance would push through the fog, or footsteps would emerge behind me – people still need to empty their dogs no matter what the weather. But I resented the presence of humanity encroaching on my dark wet solitude.

As I walked toward the long straight path out of the park I breathed consciously while reciting a version of Thich Nhat Hanh’s breathing mantra: “Breathing in, I am the body…breathing out, I am the body”. I have realised that centring in the body is the most reliable way of finding presence, for me. Presence – one of Eckhart Tolle’s favourite words. I haven’t visited his teaching much over the last year, having spent time exploring some its sources, such as the many Buddhist doctrines, which are insightful but don’t massage my heart in the way Eckhart can.

Walking up the path, centred in my body, I felt that my ‘mental and emotional complex’ – a phrase that spontaneously occurred to me, maybe derived from the ‘military/industrial complex’ in the USA! – was hanging in front of me like a hardened shield or something attached to the front of me or hanging around my neck. I could see that it wasn’t me; and every ratty little bit of frustration or anxiety that was still buzzing around was happening inside of IT, not me. Since my time away from Eckhart, I could see that I had slipped back into identification with it.

I sat down on the wall outside the park, and fully stayed with where I was, not in my shield, with all the battles it wants to fight and all the enemies it sees. I wasn’t concerned with the cars driving past me, not imagining their drivers’ opinion of me: thief, wierdo, alcoholic – how I normally worry that I appear when I let myself wander and drift. I was content to watch it all like a child – the headlights swishing through the fog as the leaves floated down from the majestic trees. I was thoroughly in the moment. That elusive NOW that we never actually leave.

Fathers and Sons

2006ak9833_shiva_dancing
Shiva – male Hindu deity

For reasons too personal to go into here, it is very important to me to regain some sense of confidence and pride in being a male. My reconnection with the natural world and a sense of wildness in nature are part of that. I have recently been reading Robert Bly’s “Iron John – Men and Masculinity”, which takes its name from a German fairytale that tells of a young prince who is mentored by a ‘wild man’ in a forest.

Bly’s thesis is that myths and folk tales can offer clues and paradigms to help modern men reorient themselves in a culture which has lost touch with its mythic identity. Bly spent years researching traditional societies and their mythologies; he believes that industrial societies lack the initiation processes needed, particularly for boys to become men.

Although I found parts of the book hard to grasp because of the poetical nature of Bly’s musings, some sections were riveting to me. Particularly his reflections on fathers and sons:

“When a father and son do spend long hours together…a substance almost like food passes from the older body to the younger…I think a physical exchange takes place, as if some substance was passing directly to the cells. The father gives this food at a level far below consciousness…(the son’s) cells receive some knowledge of what an adult masculine body is. The younger body learns at what frequency the masculine body vibrates. It begins to grasp the song that adult male cells sing, and how the charming, elegant, lonely, courageous, half-shamed male molecules dance.

father_day_photos_02

 

During the long months spent in the mother’s body, his body got well-tuned to female frequencies…Now, standing next to the father, as they repair arrowheads, or repair ploughs, or wash pistons in gasoline, or care for birthing animals, the sons body has the chance to retune. Slowly, over months or years, the sons body-strings begin to resonate to the to the harsh, sometimes demanding, testily humorous, irreverent, impatient, opinionated, forward-driving, silence loving older masculine body. Both male and female cells carry marvellous music, but the son needs to resonate to the masculine frequency as well as the female frequency.”

fathers 2

 

Bly believes this masculine learning process has been disastrously disrupted since industrialisation:

“…by the middle of the twentieth century in Europe and North America a massive change had taken place: the father was working, but the son could not see him working. Throughout the ancient hunters societies, which apparently lasted thousands of years…and the subsequent agricultural and craft societies, father and sons worked and lived together…in all these societies the son characteristically saw his father working at all times of the day and all seasons of the year. When the son no longer sees that, what happens?…a hole appears in the son’s psyche. When the son does not see his father’s workplace, or what he produces, does he imagine his father to be a hero, a fighter for good, a saint, or a white knight?…demons move into that empty place – demons of suspicion. The demons, invisible but talkative, encourage suspicion of all older men. Such suspicion effects a breaking of the community of old and young men.”

I’m sure many men will relate to that.

Fresh Feet in the Forest

Today I went to a place that is rather special for me: Freshfields forest near Formby beach. I’ve been feeling a deep need to reconnect with wildness. Inspired by a friend I did it without shoes.

freshfield

As I enter the forest I spontaneously greet the trees with a call that echoes across the undulating landscape – this forest is on a gently descending hillside created by sand dunes that have become covered by pines. The trees are quite widely spaced, letting dappled sunlight in to the forest floor. Moss coats the ground, and brambles and ferns grow thickly in the hollows.

I find a high point to look down on the hillocks of dunes. There is a stillness here. Only the occasional bird calI can be heard. I sit down with my coat for a blanket. It’s late September but this forest is still looking lush – sunlight twinkles off a million leaves and butterflies flirt here and there.

I lie down and take my shoes and socks off. These feet are amazed at the shock of fresh air.

I sit for a long time. Nothing is needed in this immersive re-connection. I am bathed in warm and green. For my ears, there is only the faint rustle of the pines in the merest breath of breeze, the occasional bird call, and the acceptable intrusion of a small propeller aeroplane overhead. And there is something else – the silence behind it all. Just being there is my meditation. Occasionally the distant ghost of something like a thought seeps in to my consciousness, but finds no purchase and melts away.

Lying at ground level, I find I am becoming part of the landscape for invertebrates. All around me tiny spiders and ants are making their way through the micro-forest of moss and shoots and continuing their journeys over my hands and feet, up my back and into my hair.

I set off across the moss-covered dunes, savouring the cool natural carpet underfoot. My feet bend and flex according the contours of the ground as they were designed to; gripping the slopes as I walk rather than just landing on them. It’s like my feet are remembering something that they hardly ever had a chance to learn in the first place. Walking barefoot is a natural sensory experience that we deprive ourselves of since – who knows, a thousand years of footwear? Until very recently in much of the world, shoes were a rarity and a luxury. The connection with the earth taken for granted by millennia of human beings has within a few generations been obstructed by these “coffins for the feet”.

Of course, walking across the landscape is easy if you have the leathery soles developed from everyday  walking. Mine are lily-white, baby soft feet. Locked up and sweaty inside shoes for forty-odd years they have barely aged. But my enthusiasm knows no bounds. Scrambling across the dunes I reconnect with abandon, grinning as I wince at the sharp sticks and brambles. A bloody scratch appears between my toes. I wonder how soon my soles will remember their true calling and toughen up into primal leather.

I stop on a gentle slope covered with pristine moss. The pines end here the sun floods in. I take out sesame seeds and carrot sticks and look out on the dense scrub that slopes down to the beach. I start to hear tiny impacts on the ground around me. Something is dropping from the tree above, small chips of vegetation. I reach for one; it looks like a fragment of nut casing. I look up and see a tail twitching far above – dark red against the sky. Soon after, the squirrel discards the core of a pine cone, then another.

After lying, then meditating I experience a strong breakthrough into the profound present moment. Everything is suddenly more sharp and real.

I curl myself around the trunk of a pine and don’t move for ten minutes. Hugging a tree one is aware of a uniquely still energy. I have heard that if you put your ear close to a tree you can sometimes hear it growing. The sap actually makes a noise as it travels up the truck. I can’t hear anything but the blood flowing through my ears. These life forms are living on a very different timescale to us. They can teach us, but not in a way we can understand.

I have no idea what time it is but the sun is getting low in the sky and the breeze becoming fresher. Small birds start to appear in the trees around me, chatting to each other as they find their roosting spots.

Freshfields, I hope you don’t mind that I took some pine cones and sampled your blackberries. I’ll be back soon.

Waiting For the Mantra

TOM GEORGE ARTS

Nowadays it seems everyone is getting spiritual. Meditation and mindfulness in particular are booming, with courses and classes available all over every city. We tend to think of meditation as a silent practice, but there is one meditation method which is anything but silent.  

Mantras are repeated phrases, chanted or sung as part of various religions to induce a feeling of connection with the divine.

The person chanting a mantra isn’t thinking about anything; the chanting stops the flow of thoughts and allows them to find a beautiful, calm place inside and a feeling of ‘oneness’ with the universe.

This approach has had a small but significant influence on rock and pop culture.

In the late sixties, George Harrison became interested in Hinduism, and started to reflect it in his music with the Beatles and then in his solo work.

In “My Sweet Lord” from 1970, George celebrates…

View original post 288 more words