Thursday, 16 November 2017

Short Meditations IV: Romance, Telepathy, Intuition and the Pain at the Centre of the Heart

Gravity waves exist. The thunderclap of creation that resonate across infinity.

Romance

I'm not a great believer in romance. Now hold on a minute before you decide "poor Delia", although for all I care you've already decided that anyway.

What I mean is this. I don't think romance exists as a separate or distinct aspect of life. I think romance is, at heart, the warm, affectionate, friendly and intimate display of love. The demonstration that you really know and care about another person.

To couple that with the expectation of sex, or even merely to place it in that context, and therefore to limit it only to relationships of that nature is a great and unnecessary limitation. Be warm and affectionate with everyone you care about, and care about as many people as you are able.

Of course, those you know the most deeply and those with whom you share the deepest intimacies, these you can share the most beautiful romance with.

Telepathy

Telepathy exists, but it's possibly not what you think.

Ever been with someone you know really well, and you go into a situation that is familiar to you. Maybe something you've discussed or that you're both involved with. And you look at them and you know exactly what they're thinking. And they look at you back, they know exactly what you're thinking too. You both smile.

There you go, telepathy. You both know each others' minds. (Non-verbal communication would be an equally fair, and probably more acceptable to most of my friends, description.)

Of course it can happen at a distance too, maybe over the internet (I bet I know what some of you are thinking when you read this!). And of course it is something you can be wrong about. No certainties.

And a further thought for the Star Trek fans, yes this means empathy is the root of telepathy.

We can understand each other, we can know one anothers' hearts and minds. We can even be unified without having to agree with each other about everything so long as we can accept the differences between ourselves. If we can get there we can act as one body with many members, all different.

Intuition

Intuition is a subconscious response to stimuli (including thought processes) you're not consciously aware of. You become aware of the response without necessarily being consciously aware of where it comes from.

Just because something comes from intuition doesn't mean you're right.

Memories

I feel a bit like my life is The Butterfly Effect movie, but exactly the opposite way round. Which is why I like the movie I think.

Through my memories and who I am, it feels like I can feel pretty much the whole of the arc and sweep of my life going right back to when my memories first began when we moved into a new house in Macclesfield at the age of four. The stairs with no carpet on, the unfamiliar smell in the new bedroom that had Noah's Ark wallpaper and 1970's orange deep pile carpet. Maybe even extending a little prior to that as I have one island of vivid memories from just before I was two, when I went with my Dad on a plane to visit my grandparents in London.

But although I can feel my own personal history, and how it has shaped and weathered me, as I remember back my mind inevitably reaches for what seems like a finite (but large) particular set of memories. Those memories of specific times and places and incidents, both good and bad, are treasured possessions. They contain warmth and laughter and feelings and pain as well of course. It's where many of my best and dearest friends live.

Those memories contain wrapped up and in varying degrees of association my perception of what it was like to be me, how I thought and who I was and how that has become who I am. But beyond these specific clouds of memories it's all quite fuzzy and reaching out to remember new things, that feel forgotten, is hard although sometimes not impossible.

So my life is like the Butterfly Effect, but instead of jumping back into those pools of memories and changing things my life jumps and flows out of them. As I remember and understand who I am, as I make sense of my life, more of me is uncovered and alive. My past, past times and past people, is still who I am and there's still more to be found.

Judging and Discerning

There's a difference between judging and discerning. Judging is making assumptions without really looking, discerning is looking to see. To discern, to understand by perceiving. What a lovely word.

Judging people is making assumptions about who they are without really seeing who they are. Life is so much more fun when you don't, because you're almost always wrong (me too!) and actually seeing people is great because people are so lovely. There is not much better in life really.

It's really hard not to make assumptions. The trick, as with everything really, is to hold them lightly always being willing to be wrong. Actually look and see. But it goes a step beyond just seeing, it's what you assume about what you see too. If you see "problems" in people, and everyone has problems, what conclusions does it lead you to? The right answer should usually be "none, no conclusions", because people are extraordinarily complex and really understanding them is difficult. To really understand you need to give people space to unfold so you can see what lies beneath the surface.

You can only see deeply if you're able to let go of assumptions, and the further in you can see the more of them you can love and the more you can reflect people back to themselves. This gives people the opportunity to see themselves. Everyone wants to see themselves, we look for ourselves in other people. This is why judging people is so damaging, they look for themselves and we reflect back judgement "who you are is unacceptable". That doesn't help people change, it makes them worse. Instead tell people that who they are is good and you like them, that helps. We can be such faithless mirrors, unsure of ourselves and so unwilling to reflect back the beauty we think we may see. 

One thing to remember, as hard as it can be, is that people's behaviour always makes sense to them (or can be made sense of even if they don't understand their own behaviour), as in the behaviour comes from somewhere. From their particular experience and context and current capacity, who they are and what they do it can be understood. It is possible to understand the why, even if not the deeper reasons behind that. It's possible to see the pressures and pains that led someone into a situation, a way of being or a course of action. This is empathy, understanding without blaming. Even when people do objectively bad things, damaging to themselves and others. Being able to see things from someone else's point of view is a precious gift. Strive for it.

This is why I find the words of Jesus on the cross so hauntingly beautiful: "Father forgive them, for they don't know what they're doing". He didn't judge them.

But telling people they're wrong doesn't help. Pretty much everyone will respond with "no you're wrong". It's a basic psychological defence and the cause of tribalism.

Instead we can generate enough light that everyone can see the effects of their actions and attitudes, and then they have the genuine chance to change. 

The only way I know how to generate light is to be on fire. We need an enormous great fire. And then the darkness simply cannot stand. 

Which of your inherited prejudices are you not willing to drop in order to be able to love and accept people as they are? 

This is why most churches accepting gay marriage is inevitable. As the reality of married gay couples attending churches becomes more common Christians will be faced more directly with the stark reality of accepting people as they are or being unable to love them. And most people are genuine and will want to love people, so they will change. They will be afraid to change at first, but as more and more people are willing to speak out it will just become normal and eventually we won't be able to imagine thinking any different (how could we have been so cruel?).

At the moment many churches simply don't have out gay couples and people are free to hold onto old beliefs without being directly confronted with the harm it does. 

The tide of history has already turned. As a society we now know that same sex love is real love and is normal, both in nature and in humans. So the question for Christians today is simply this, which side of history do you want to be on, how do you want your legacy to be seen? Which is more important to you, the old way of seeing things or the reality of being able to love and accept people?

Understanding without Blaming

There is one situation in particular where applying understanding without blame, along with viewing behaviour through the lense of struggle for survival as base motivation, is useful. The Israeli - Palestine situation. Wherever you stand on this issue, and I have opinions, it is hard to deny that there is a lot of hatred in the world for Jews and Israel.

It isn't very hard to see why Israelis feel like they have reason to fear a people group who have sworn by word and deed to destroy them (and yes balance of power and proportionality are relevant but we're looking from a particular perspective). Do you acknowledge Israel's right to exist? If not why should they listen to you at all, and in fact why shouldn't they see you as an enemy? Maybe that doesn't worry you because you feel like the emnity is justified. That's a valid position to take if you feel that way of thinking works.

Looking at, God save us, the political reality of change it seems to me more likely that first acknowledging Israel's right to exist before telling them how wrong they're doing it is possibly a good start. Survival will not be a negotiable card for the Israelis, that will come before any other consideration. So if you try to withhold acknowledging their right to exist as a negotiation tactic (or create that perception from their perspective) you automatically create a deadlock. They will not move from that unless survival itself dictates it.

So you can possibly change things by war.

Political correctness will say that because this isn't the conclusion we want to reach (that we should understand Israel) it is morally wrong to pursue lines of thought that might lead us to that conclusion.

To put things another way, if you're able to make people feel secure in who they are and that you're not a threat to their existence then they are much more likely to see their own behaviour from your perspective. If you seem like an existential threat then any effort is justified in eliminating your perspective from their thinking.

The Pain at the Centre of the Heart

Over the weekend I recalled, for the first time in possibly decades, the poetical explorations of my teen years. Thankfully no evidence survives.The theme of those poems was inevitably "the pain at the centre of the heart", which tells you something of my teenage years whilst also being startlingly far from unique.

My thought at that time was that the path to ecstasy was only through the pain at the centre of the heart as despite the pain ecstasy can only possibly be found at the centre of the heart. It seemed to me then that pain at the centre of the heart was the essence of the human experience. Therefore I guarded my pain jealously, as a nursing mother, for it was precious to me.

And now? I'm not so sure. I certainly know a heck of a lot less than I did when I was a teenager...

As a codicil, I did actually find an alternative route to ecstatic experience. That didn't really end too well for me.

How much it hurts and how barely I can feel it. The pain at the centre of the heart.


And Then There are Legends

And then there are the legends of Cthulu. That the creators of our universe are an ancient, malevolent, race of vast and supernatural beings called the Old Ones that now sleep. There are magickal rites that can awaken the Old Ones, Cthulu amongst them. If wakened Cthulu (The Flying Spaghetti Monster) will devour the universe. 

So messing around with the occult, performing strange rites not understood, may wreak not only your own destruction but destroy the universe. Some men only want to watch the world burn. This is the magick of the death cults, not black magick but death magick.

So if we are to permit legends to have life, to breath life into myth within our very selves, then maybe we risk everything. Maybe we breath life into these legends too and we risk finding the Old Ones, or making them within ourselves. 

If we do, together, create our own reality and the collective life of our unconscious fearful dreaming can tap the subconscious power of the psyche both individually and collectively, then maybe we risk unleashing the forces capable of consuming us that are currently held in check by our rigid unbelief. 

Maybe merely having this thought is enough for it to begin to happen. Perhaps an ancient evil is already stirring from its slumber. 

Maybe.

Maybe we risk unleashing all hell. But being real for a minute, isn't that already the case? Isn't hell real and isn't it all around us, haven't we all seen it and feared it and haven't some of us been there.

Maybe locking these things out of our conscious minds, our internal reality, and shutting them away deep in our subconscious forces them to be manifest in our external reality. What you won't give conscious expression to will have unconscious expression. If we won't face the horror within ourselves then maybe life will present it to us anyway.

Maybe the worst evils can only have life in us to the extent that we are willing to give ourselves over to evil. The more aware of ourselves we are, in spirit and in truth, the more light we are willing to let in and the more of ourselves we are willing to face, then the more we are able to use our will and determine to be good and to cast evil from us. Maybe we're good and not evil and evil has no place amongst us. 
James 4:7 Resist the devil and he will flee from you.

Mindfulness

On the "mindfulness of breathing" meditation, which I learned more than twenty years ago from Buddhists in the (as it was then called) Friends of the Western Buddhist Order community in Cambridge. I've meditated intermittently ever since, but for about the last seven years or so I've meditated for an hour almost every day. 

Mindfulness as taught by the Buddha is the deliberate practise of learning to still the mind. In trying to focus only on the breath, the ephemeral and fluid and impermanent but very real breath, you have to learn to let go of other distractions of body and mind and soul. It turns out that practising letting go of things is both very pleasant and very healthy. 

There comes a distinct point, which the Buddha called Jhana or Dhyana and which I've only reached a handful of times and not for a while now, where you've pushed all other distractions aside so far that they don't come back. All there is is the breath, flow state, time stops, you are completely relaxed but completely alert at the same time. Usually just realising it's happening is enough to snap you out of it, and then you realise you have absolutely no idea how long you were doing it for. 

Someone described it as "stepping back into the garden of your mind". Apt. And to continue the metaphor, tending the garden is exactly the same work as merely settling back to enjoy the garden.

Frosina Fecoriu

Delia's grandmother, Frosina, was an interesting woman. She was a subsistence farmer in Romania, living in a two room cottage with no running water. She had a well, but no toilet, into her nineties. She was 94 when she died in 2014, still drawing water by hand from her well.

She got up and went to bed with the sun, kept chickens and ducks on the farm, and pooped in a hole she dug in a field in a new place every few days. Delia developed an abiding hatred for duck from the tough and fatty duck meat that her grandmother would cook only once their laying lives were long past them. Much to my chagrin as duck is one of my favourite meats.

When we went to Romania after getting married Frosina presented us with a live chicken as a gift, which my father in law put in a plastic bag in the back of the car. When we got home we opened the boot and saw a shredded plastic bag and a very indignant chicken. My father in law took the chicken away discretely and we ate roast chicken for dinner.

Frosina was a hardy old soul though, tired of life and ready to go many years before she did. She brought Delia up every summer. Delia, a cousin and an auntie (all similar ages although Delia's auntie is slightly younger than her) would stay at the farm all summer and roam free in the countryside whilst her grandmother worked the land. They all slept in the same bed, so if one of them peed the bed at night which would sometimes happen, they got to argue over who it was.

Most families in the village had a cow and every day one family from the village would take the cows out to graze and bring them home again. Delia remembers helping her grandmother bring the cows in when it was their turn, each cow knew which house was home at as they led them through the village.

Horror

One of the reasons I like mild horror, like Stranger Things, is for the same reason I like halloween. It is a little bit spooky and a little bit scary, and yet whilst watching or participating we know it is entirely safe to be a little bit scared because we also know it is completely made up. Not real at all. We can enjoy the feeling of being a little bit scared, because we can just stop at any point, and in this way we teach ourselves not to be scared of these things and not to be afraid of being afraid. It's fun and interesting as well. You can weave some really interesting stories, strolling through some of the stranger possibilities of imagination, when you're not afraid to explore.

In my experience knowing how to not believe in scary things, like by switching off the TV, is a very useful psychological trick to have up your sleeve. Being able to switch off and shut things out like that, if not over used, is a useful coping technique for some of the scarier aspects of life that your imagination might present to you.


"Those who love, even though they are in pain. Those who forgive from the heart even though they hurt. This is the most exquisite of beauty, and yet it is all around us if you care to look."

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