Searching for ‘Wa-hee!’

You were waiting for the Wa-hee! moment and it wasn’t happening.

You were sitting there and it felt flat and dull.

You were not happy about that and wondering what was wrong.

Surely if all was well, and complete, and in place, then Wa-hee! would be occurring and you would feel great, excited, on top of the world and bursting with creativity!

So you decided, because you had learned (although you briefly forgot) that ‘being with what is’ is the best show in town, to feel the flatness.

To explore it with – if not enthusiasm – at least some willingness.

What was it like? Well it was flat. A bit empty. The temptation to think, ‘Fuck this, let’s do something more exciting’ arose. But you just sat there. And slowly flat began to give way to sad. Sadness happened, washing over you like a wave of slow heavy salt water drenching everything. You named this and just allowed yourself to be engulfed in it, and slowly it became apparent that there was peace. The engine of hope had relaxed, the search for a better state slowed right down, and there was just a shimmering presence and a deep connection. And there was a quiet humility which hummed through the space. It was obvious then that there was nothing to be achieved, nothing to be done. And all the ambition and the jittery, anxious, driving motor to achieve some better experience relented. There was nothing else.

And then love arose. A simple, connected, sweet love of being which included us both; personal and not personal, including all of existence.

And then we wrote a little song called ‘Searching for Wa-hee!’. Well, we didn’t actually write it, but it appeared, coming tumbling out of our mouths like a bubbling brook. Although there were just two of us singing, I could hear a symphony of harmony voices singing full-throttle about the search for Wa-hee!, and the surrender through flatness and sadness into the infinite peace of being which unexpectedly led to the unstoppable creation of the next song.

For Fran

Not Knowing What to Do

When my daughter Ruthie Lua was a child, she used to get the most awful headaches. Headaches which made her throw up with pain, and which could last sometimes for days. I was worried sick and tried all kinds of things to help her. I took her to the doctor. I spent a small fortune on cranial osteopathy, homeopathy, kinesiology, acupuncture and guidance from medical psychics. I tried cutting wheat, sugar, dairy and chocolate out of her diet. I fretted, and secretly feared that she must have some kind of tumor. When I gave her painkillers they seem to have no effect at all. I would massage her and try to talk her through meditations in which she could be supported to be kind and soften around the pain, and focus on other parts of her body.

But the thing I found most difficult was to open to the fact that I simply didn’t know what to do. I found it difficult to just be with her and love her whilst not knowing what to do. Surely there must be something I could do, or someone I could think of who could help. And I believe that what she most needed was my loving presence with her; she needed to know that I was ok with her being as she was, and that I could simply be with her and love her; she needed to know that it was not her fault and that she was not a problem to be solved by me; fundamentally she needed to relax, and all my struggles around it were not helping.

It is probably the hardest lesson for a parent to learn: that it is ok and unavoidable that the child feels pain at times, and that the greatest act of love is not to try and take the pain away but to be there with them in their suffering, and let them know that pain hurts but it is ok to feel it. So going back to my story, I am not suggesting that I shouldn’t have sought the treatments I sought for her, but that my worrying and endlessly looking for solutions took precedence over (and actually got in the way of) my capacity to simply love her where she was.

The other ‘technique’ I practiced was to immerse myself in another persons’ suffering as if it were my own. I decided early on – and I remember it, I must have been 6 or so – that if I took on as fully as possible my half-sisters’ pain (both of whom had lost their mother when they were 5 years old); if I imagined my own mother dead over and over again and made myself cry every day about it, and walked around with a cloud of dread over my head, that this would somehow alleviate them of the burden of having to carry it alone. Basically I believed it would help if I took it on. I carried on believing this without ever really inspecting it for many years (and sometimes still catch myself acting as if this were so!). So, back to Ruthie and the headaches, I would sit there for a bit – and I couldn’t take it for very long – imagining I had the headache, feeling guilty that I was alright while she wasn’t, basically making myself miserable and I’m sure making things worse for her.

I did get better, over the years, at recognizing that I couldn’t take her pain away and I didn’t need to engulf myself in it as if it were my pain. That I could enjoy the relative ease of my own body whilst supporting her in the difficulty of her body. That I could allow myself to love her and be with her and trust that all things move.

These lessons have served me almost more than anything else in how I am with those who come to work with me. I regularly work with people who have suffered awful and sometimes horrific early life situations and are facing the ways in which past trauma collides with present day situations. It is my capacity to differentiate from them and yet feel them, whilst staying firmly rooted in my own body and feeling responses – and fully allowing myself to not know what to do which allows me to be with the suffering without taking it on. This place of not knowing can be a painful one, when faced with another’s pain, confusion, despair or shame – there is such a natural urge to want to help and know how to. But I have found that again and again it is my willingness to surrender to having no idea which allows ordinary and unexpected miracles to happen. Things reveal themselves, doors open, not so much because I did anything but because I was willing to do nothing and know that that was ok. And I was willing to feel – often intensely – the pain of where they were at and our shared common human predicament.

In the twenty or so years since I have been offering sessions in groups and to individuals I have also been in an on-going process of training both with my teacher of 20 years and many other teachers whose work as called to me over time; somatic experiencing trauma work, shamanic work, psychotherapeutic work, working with the voice, movement, meditation and deep presence work. But more than any techniques I have learned, what is way more profound is an increasing trust in life itself and how things unfold when I stop trying to do anything.

I find myself on a daily basis sitting with someone going through God knows what and falling into that space where there really is nothing I can do to help. And I just let myself fall. I wait. I let myself feel what I feel as I sit with them. Sometimes it is boredom or awkwardness; sometimes it is intense pain or bewilderment; sometimes it is tenderness, compassion; sometimes it is anger; or sometimes I find my mind drifting off and a kind of fogginess occurring. These days I take all of this as useful information. I let myself touch a deep respect for the fact that each life is precious and there is an honor and privilege in being included in someone’s unfolding. And then I find myself falling through the space of having no idea – out of the mind and into a wider dimension. And it is like a falling. And the fact that someone is suffering in front of me and I have no idea what to do is very touching; I feel my own impotence and let myself love that. I know that this has nothing to do with my worth. I don’t have to prove anything to anyone, I can just be with who I am with. I can trust the magic which happens when two or more people gather together with a shared intention to wake up and allow life’s natural movement and inclination towards wholeness to happen.

This is what I love most. I am often awed by what comes through. And the obviousness that I am not separate from whoever I am with; that we are absolutely interconnected and what happens in you is felt in me because of that – all of this becomes palpable. And I find myself surprised by the fierceness which comes through me, or the tenderness or the hilariousness of it all. In those moments I realize that I can be as surprised by what comes out of my own mouth as I am by who I am with. And there is a simple rightness in what then happens in the alchemy of our mutual exploration.

Sometimes people come to me and it is obvious they are seeing themselves as a problem to be solved, and my job as the problem solver or the healer. That attitude never bears fruit. We are in actuality both lost and both found, and sitting in the revelation of that is what is needed. And then what is actually needed has the space to be revealed. Because there are real needs which need addressing and meeting; but what those really are is often obscured.

If I do ever fall into the trap of thinking that I am the one who is sorted and the person or people in front of me are the ones who need sorting (and many people will attempt to perpetuate that fallacy with me, so it can be tempting to believe it), it goes tits up. It is increasingly obvious to me that who I am with is an extraordinary mirror to me – in their wounds and their gifts; in their magnificence and their small mindedness and self obsession; in their addictive and habitual tendencies and in their quirky originality. Not that we are the same – we are wonderfully different in fact – but in all of that distortion and glory there is a remarkable shared humanness. And I find that we are way more like each other than I ever realized before.

I am not sure if I have remembered this completely accurately, but someone once told me about the origins of modern day Ho’oponopono. Ho’oponopono is a Hawaiian forgiveness practice based on the words I love you, I am sorry, Please Forgive me, Thank You. I was told that there was a psychiatric hospital somewhere which was famous for its extremely high staff turnover rate. The nurses and therapists working there would leave after few weeks suffering from anxiety, stress and nervous exhaustion. The patients were people diagnosed with incurable and severe mental illnesses most of whom would be stuck there for life. Then one day a new director was hired and after a few months the change was radical. The staff were happy and had no reason to leave; the patients were not only stabilizing, but in many cases improving dramatically. One day, a stunned relative asked the director what his secret was. He answered something like – “It is simple. I sit with each patient, sometimes not even face to face. I tune into their condition and I allow myself to acknowledge and feel the ways in which I am similar to them. There is always, if I go deep enough, a place I recognize in myself which is like that. I let myself feel the remorse for not having been able to address this in myself. I then ask them to forgive me for the ways that my unconsciousness is contributing to them being in the condition they are in. And at that point I am ready to thank them for helping me see and heal myself. And in this open acknowledgement of our sameness, even though we are different, miracles happen.

Of course this is advanced stuff. To be able to do this in absolute integrity because it is real to do so, rather than as a prescribed formula picked up somewhere, takes mastery. But the principle is profound, and can be increasingly lived if there is the interest, maturity and capacity to do so.

I believe one of the biggest factors which prevent us being able to get beyond old wounds and open up to our potential, is both our identification with and shame around having those wounds, and being run by the behaviors borne of them. If, as a healer, guide or therapist, I am genuinely not holding myself superior or beyond any of what the person in front of me is bringing to be explored – this goes a long way towards dissolving the shame and lessening the identification. It is not by any means an instant panacea. But in my view it is an essential element if the process is to be effective. And here I am speaking about the ‘process of presence’, or what I think Jesus meant when he said “When two or more are gathered in my name, there I am with them…”

When I – with my worries, my fears, my need for self aggrandizement, my need for solutions, my pity and my judgments – attempt to guide and support someone, I become part of the difficulty they may be facing and I can compound it unwittingly however good my conscious intentions. But if I step out of the way and allow myself to fall into the empty space where you and I are not separate; where there is only a shared humanity and no idea what to do; and if I can allow a presence which is intrinsically mysterious, compassionate, humorous and intelligent by turns if not simultaneously – and includes both or all of us – then Life itself can do the work it loves to do. Which is, it seems to me, to be born, to do what it can to optimize its chances to grow, to blossom, thrive and then let go into death when it is ready.

Some simple needs

I need to sit still, because it means I stop – for a while – the momentum of a busy life. I get to listen to the silence, and remember my own death. I remember that this fixation with worldly things/people/experiences is only temporary. And that feels relaxing, relieving and revitalizing; a blessing which makes each moment more precious.

I need to move my body – not to get anywhere or do anything but for movements’sake – because it draws me down, out of the dominance of my mind into a visceral, simple, direct experience of the moment. And if I give this enough time, and if I am lucky, I get to feel that I am being moved by life rather than making anything happen. This is glorious, very very satisfying and wonderfully pointless. Fingers touching space, opening like blossom; breath invited into every available cell; rocking hips dancing to a music I cannot hear with my ears. Today as I move, it is gentle and slow.

I need to write because it plugs me in to what is moving in the stream of my mind – in a way which starts to form a satisfying coherence to seemingly random happenings. There is never a final statement about anything, but I love how when I give space, this intelligent life form that I am, seems to want to create order and meaning and shape to the unfolding of things.
I love the play of body and mind together.

For years I was at war with my mind and its endless, tedious, repetitive chatter; its’ catastrophizing, self obsession and boring dramas. These days I feel more or less at peace with all of that, it is less in the foreground, and I know it for what it is, which is often just outdated old habits.
And having spent decades focusing on the wonders of embodiment, right now, it is the intelligence and capacity of the mind which thrills me. Not that I have a particularly brilliant mind for a human, but I love that it is able to make meaning and pattern and it is able to communicate through words and be heard and – on a good day – understood. That seems wondrous to me! That I can think something and then write it down as I am now with these funny little black symbols on a computer screen. And that you can read it and have some idea of what is being expressed. The less I take all this for granted, the more amazing it seems.
And then, even more amazingly, I can talk with someone and bounce ideas around, and on a good day we can spark each other off, create projects, make sense of things which previously seemed to make no sense at all, or fall about laughing at the absurdity of something which suddenly strikes us.

As I get older my memory is going. When I name this (having just forgotten the name of someone I know quite well) I see most people nod their heads in agreement. Our memories are suffering these days, and I don’t think it is just age. I think we are overloaded with information and the mind is simply over stuffed. So perhaps you are reading this now and I am contributing to a bit more stuffing.
Sorry about that.
But one of the things about a waning capacity is that it highlights the sense that everything is falling away and it would be a huge shame not to appreciate what is still here. In many ways I am happy to say I am still as bright as a button.

Back to these needs of mine – to sit still, and move, and write…

What makes me sad is that often I don’t.

I let the speed take over and make it seem as if these things are not necessary; and I give in to a strange resistance which would prefer not to feel anything much and just get on with what needs to be done – a thousand jobs to do in the house or the garden or admin or emails or people to attend to
And the difficulty with this is not only that I am less happy and less at home in my own skin, but I am invariably more inclined to mess up in my relationships, love less and contribute more to the general fuck up.

So this is, apart from anything else, a semi public pledge to myself (and maybe an inspiration to you reading), to spend time each day, however short, to give attention to what is precious, to what brings me home and what supports me to appreciate the incredible bounty of what it is to be human – whatever happens, regardless of whether I am in the mood or don’t think I have the time.

What is true in this beautiful and terrible life?

 

There are days when all I see is the horror and the despair…

All I see is that wild fires and storms are raging across the world, and people losing their homes, their livelihoods, and sometimes their lives. Along with thousands upon thousands of wild creatures.

All I see is a new generation of young people who are hooked on smartphones, social media and a technological world in which play and nature and simple face to face contact seem more and more rare; and that they are overwhelmed with eating disorders, neuroses, anxiety, depression and soaring suicide rates.

All I see is a world in which leaders like Trump and Kim Jong-Un – incompetent ignorant and power driven men – are taking us to the brink of nuclear war, denying the climate chaos which is already upon us, and supporting more and more extreme take-overs of profit driven corporations over the value of life itself.

All I see is our lunacy, and the fact that even amongst apparently sane, educated, well fed people, very few of us seem able to relate reliably in a healthy, life affirming, nourishing, and growing way with one another.

On days like this, I feel pessimistic. I feel fundamentally despairing of the human race and our chances of survival; as for the notion of us and the natural world thriving, and an “evolution-of-consciousness-the-likes-of-which-we-have-never-known” which some foretell (including myself on happier days), seem delusional and far fetched in the extreme.

And I realize that all of this is happening in my mind. All of it is thought. Yes, there are horrifying bare facts. And there always have been, when it comes to the history of humanity on Earth. And each generation has thrown up their hands and said, at some point, this is as bad as it gets.

But depending on my mood, the time of the month or the phases of the moon, what happened last night between Colin and I, who I happened to talk to today, or what I happened to read of a million possibilities; what I dreamed last night whether I remember it or not, what my body feels like, or what the weather is doing, what I heard on the news … depending on these and countless other factors, my mind will throw up different outlooks, different perspectives.

What is true? I do not know, and I strongly suspect there IS no truth, as such. There are just different perspectives on different days and at different times and what remains is to not take any one point of view as the right one. What remains is to feel for the response, to come home to the body and a consciousness which is aware of it all and willing to step forward and come back into a creative stream. Which is actually what Life is, when we are here for it. A creative stream of happening. An extraordinary unfolding in which we are all participating.

 

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It helps hugely to remember this. To slip my body and aching heart back into the water of this stream, and allow myself to be drawn by the current, swirling, eddying, pooling, trickling. It helps to connect with nature and to people I love, or people I meet along the way, and step out the narrowness which only thinking brings. And sometimes, like today, it helps to talk to myself out loud as I walk through the fields and woods, speaking out loud what is most precious to me in each moment, speaking out loud my love of the wind on my face; the beauty of the dancing leaves, the feel of my strong legs striding, the appreciation of my beating heart, and the birds wheeling wildly through the darkening sky. And then it helps to write all about it, to let my tears flow freely, let the despair roar through my chest, let the joy of just letting it through lift me up dancing like these autumn leaves… yes I dance a wild stomping fiery dance and then flop down softly on the ground, emptied out and ready for the next chapter of this beautiful and terrible life.

we are all addicts

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Ah, early Sunday Morning.

The people who are staying with me are still in bed.

I get up and clean the kitchen; I sweep and put away the dishes, each cup, glass, plate, bowl, spoon has its place to be put away into. I love that sense of order. I never thought I would, but I do. I love that things have their place and when each thing has its place there is a sense of simplicity and ease.

And then I sit overlooking this magnificent garden with my cup of tea on the deck. There are so many wonderful big trees in this garden; oak, ash, chestnut, eucalyptus, beech; there is willow and hazel, and birch and rowan; there are apple, pear, medlar, plum, mulberry and cherry trees; there is buddleia, bay, and goodness knows what else which I have not even recognized. And all of them have been quietly, majestically living their lives here while we live our own complex human existances.

I went outside and stood under the ash tree. Majestic, huge, towering over me and gently, gently shedding its leaves. I felt grateful for this being, so different to me, so always, simply there, offering up its beauty, and a home and perch for hundreds of creatures…

It is complicated to be human. And not just in these times but (I imagine), always. We have these remarkable brains! We have the capacity to abstract, to conceptualize, to make meaning of all that happens. We know, however much we try and fail to make sense of it, that we are going to die. And we don’t know, actually, how the hell this thing called life came into being and how we got here in the first place. It is not particularly helpful to know about conception and procreation in this sense; it doesn’t help us have any kind of sense of WHY we are here. WHAT is it all for, and how on Earth did this all happen?

We look for answers, or ways to make sense of it all, and – failing that, in most of our cases – we become addicts.

I have been contemplating addiction this morning, and I think it is a particularly human phenomenon. I don’t imagine it happens in the wild animal kingdom (although animals who have been closely engaged with humans in some form or another, and have not been treated with a mutual respect, do show signs of it… painfully so).

I don’t think there is anyone I know well in which I don’t see signs of addictive behavior. I see us all craving and indulging and unable to resist doing things which we know are not doing us (or the planet), any good. I see us grabbing chocolate, junk food, sugar, salt, coffee; I see us over over eating, dieting, under eating; I see addiction in emotional dramas, in energy highs; I see it in alcohol and drugs; I see it in sex, and in excessive exercise. I see it in pornography, in and all kinds of fiction from thrillers to romances. I see it in bullying and people pleasing; I see it in attention needs, in talking, in the need to be busy; I see it in smart phones, social media, computer games; I see it in self development and the obsession with self-improvement; I see it in shopping and socializing; I see it in emotional catharsis, I see it in spiritual seeking, I see it in gossiping…

The list goes on, it is EVERYWHERE.

Often I catch myself marveling, and judging other people’s addictions; and then I am humbled to realize that I am no different, we are ALL in this.

I ask myself why this is.

And these are the answers I have coming.

We don’t know who we are any more (if we ever did).

We are lost, and afraid of dying (not to mention the dying of the planet).

We want to feel good, all the time.

We are running from facing the emptiness and confusion brought about by having no clue why we are here and what this is all about.

We are desperatedly lonely, because we have lost a sense of connection.

We are creatures of habit and we are deeply affected by the waters we are swimming in, by the culture we are living in, and here, addiction is normal.

It is normal to need more and more, to feel we ourselves are not enough, and to think we don’t have enough (whether it is physical, emotional or spiritual).

And we have these extraordinary minds which have the capacity to roam endlessly in the past and the future and are not that interested in being rooted to the present moment; that have the capacity to perceive themselves as separate from the rest of existence. And whether we know it or not, I believe we are all longing for a deeper sense of presence, of rootedness in the moment. And this is not easy with a brain like our one! Particularly in times like ours. Where more and more of life is lived out virtually on a billion screens, where so much of what we live is disembodied and disconnected.

In those times when I am really listening to what is most important for me in each moment; when I am blessed with a deeper sense of presence and therefore the capacity, readiness and interest to really be where I am, as I am; when I can give my energy and attention to a reverence to life which wants to be in service to each moment to the fullest of my ability; and when I am able to forgive myself and others for any lack of such capacity, readiness and interest – then the forces of addiction no longer hold sway over me.

And this takes dedication, commitment and an ongoing willingness to see what I am up to, and feel the pain of my own disconnection and addictive tendencies – and an interest to attend to what is most important again and again and again. And a love which wants to open to the wonder of life again and is willing to do whatever it takes to come back to it even though the addictive patterns would have us reach for the next fix.

Coming back to the trees, these magnificent ones, they help a lot.

I want to write

 

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I want to write.  I am hungry to write and to share it to anyone who is interested.

Over the course of my life I have periods when a certain form of expression starts knocking on my door; it keeps knocking despite a well-honed capacity to pretend I can’t hear.  It has eventually got too strong to ignore and has resulted in periods of painting, mosaic making, song writing, dancing.  Recently the one knocking is the writing muse.  And it is not just that I want to write, it is that I want to communicate.

So here I am creating a space in which I can allow my thoughts of the day or the week to be aired.

Unlike a conversation with someone in which there is an intermingling and a mutual stimulation of creative mind, these words are just what move in me as I move through my life. And having said that, they are always, inevitably, drawn out by the events and people in my life; what is touching, inspiring, devastating, ordinary, delightful in the unfolding of this personal (and collective) history.

These are extraordinary times. I feel an urgency, a call, an imperative, both personally and in the face of our shared human predicament, to step forward.

I am not here looking to do anything grand, just to open up my own mind – connected up with my heart and grounded in my body – and attempt to communicate, and see what comes through in the process.  Not as a teacher of anything, just as a human being attempting to make sense of life again and again.

I have been afraid to step forward like this.  But really, I am tired of holding back because I am afraid of not being good enough, inspiring enough, accurate enough, light enough, deep enough, funny enough… already enough… here I am… like this, right now.  And, for goodness’ sake, I am a grandmother now – it is absurd to keep running those stories when I have a beautiful grand-daughter to love and cherish, enjoy and some day to guide!

So today, as I launch this thing, I decided not to show any close friend, who might be encouraging and discerning, to read it through and give me the confidence to get on with it.  I just need to say it because I want to say it.

Thank you for your interest.