Communicating liberation

In November 2021, I stepped into my grace. Is it possible to state this in a way people will understand? Mine is a project of self-liberation: can I express my insights in order to liberate others? Or, I cannot liberate anyone, but I might help them to see some truth, so that they liberate themselves?

It’s a poetic metaphor- “I stepped into my grace”. I have begun to write about this. I have spoken about it, and on Wednesday night someone rhapsodised her gratitude to me, quoting that phrase. She had heard me at a moment when it really spoke to her. I felt slight embarrassment, but also great joy which continues today.

Poetry works. It spoke to her. It might only speak to a few people in the same way. I expanded the image-

God=Power
Goddess=Grace

Reading the Tao Te Ching over the last twenty years, it has seemed that I understood the poetry when I had already learned the spiritual lesson. Now, from experience I have an idea of what “flow like water” might mean, which expands as I grow into it. So rereading different English versions I might see more in them, and come closer to living like that.

Rumi (translated by Michael Burch)- “Your task is not to build love, but to bring down all the barriers you built against it”- speaks to me. I am taking down the barriers.

I hoped I might write a book one day, a spiritual autobiography saying how I had won my freedom, if I ever was successful in life, in the hope that it might speak to people and help them win freedom too. I would describe my journey to find God in me, and what God was.

My own journey does not fit everyone. Human spiritual maturity requires us to bring what is unconscious to consciousness. Different people are conscious of different things, and have different blind spots. I feel my trauma and continuing recovery is relevant to people as my trauma is not unique, but not everyone is traumatised in the same way. There is that of God in everyone, but it may be very different in each.

I can get something from Isaiah’s servant songs. For example, Isaiah 52:13-53:12. My God within seemed acquainted with infirmity and held of no account. It was an “offering for sin” in that my wild free femininity appalled and frightened my mother, because her spirit had been crushed out of shape too by her society. The sin is the failure to accept human diversity. The offering is that diverse people are crushed. And now my God within begins to see light and find satisfaction.

I don’t know if the Songs’ authors had a similar experience to me. I take the words to bolster my understanding that I am on the right path. I look back at that path, and see echoes of Isaiah. What is on the path ahead I cannot know.

But there are lots of ways to seek wisdom. I recommend sitting in silence, in meditation, Buddhist worship or online Quaker worship. Many people value A Course in Miracles. I dabbled with it. I keep thinking I might return to it and never quite do.

Noticing what moves me to tears may help me see unconscious needs. In this radio programme, one sentence at 12.15-25 had me sobbing. “Tammy, meanwhile, feeling alienated from her televangelist peers, found herself identifying less with them than with the objects of their scorn.” For me it encapsulates why people loathe Christianity, yet I love it. Jesus identifies with the oppressed, and the gospels are full of calls for us to do the same. So far as I liberate God within me, I see its oppression, and identify with it.

My judging it stops me seeing God in me. God speaks, and I say, that cannot be God. It is too weak and silly. Yet I am sure that it was. Gosh, that was 2015. This is going so much slower than I would have wished. I continue to be liberated, and pray that we all may be.

Trauma and rock bottom

Trauma and rock bottom both involve immediate fear of death.

The alcoholic goes on drinking, and pretending about it to themselves, being enabled by relatives or colleagues, until some immediate threat emerges which they can only escape by not drinking. Perhaps their enabler gives up, or something else changes in their world. Then their illusions are stripped away, they begin supporting themselves rather than relying on others, and they experience it as freedom. They do what they need to do. Not drinking is hard, but drinking is impossible.

I heard about this phenomenon and wondered if it would ever happen to me. How bad did it have to get, before I started doing what I ought to do? I rely on others, and want that to continue. As I wrestled with emotion, fear, suppression and internal conflict, I had this ideal of the whole human, stripped of illusion, acting rationally for its highest good. I wondered if anything would make me like that.

What gets in the way is trauma, also an immediate fear of death. There are different traumas, but the small child needs unconditional love, which upholds a precarious sense of safety. Whatever happens I will be fed and kept warm so I can survive. Then the child loses that sense and is terrified. Perhaps a parent dies, or they are separated. In my case my mother could not accept me as I am, and needed me to be otherwise.

I am back considering this. I know I was traumatised. I realised that it did not matter whether I suffered pressure no human being could possibly withstand, or was too-

Oh, this is hard to write, even now I know it. Was too fragile, was useless to begin with, stubbed my toe once and that broke me. I suffered pressure strong enough to break me. In my forties I said, “The monster will get me”- a small child expression of a nameless fear of death which still controlled me. I was bringing it into consciousness for the first time. I was aware there was a fear which affected me, was beginning to be aware of how it affected me, rather than merely being unconsciously affected by it.

A fear of death which I was not conscious of, would have thought was ridiculous and impossible, made me cling to particular illusions and ways of being. However bad my life got, the bracing shock of rock bottom, which would get me firing on all cylinders, all parts of me pulling together, never happened because the fear of death had already forced me onto a different path.

I am not a child any more, I said. I am not dependent on my parents. If The Monster devouring me is my mother withdrawing love, it should not affect me now. It is ridiculous. I could not accept that it ruled my life.

I know myself better, now. I have an understanding of my strengths from observing my responses, and, well, some self-respect, actually. It took more to break me than stubbing my toe. And the break was so fundamental that it still affects me.

On top of God within, the trauma grafted on a set of particular responses to the world which were, to my conscious self, the only possible ones. I was strongly motivated to respond as programmed, in order to survive. Then I lost motivation. Those responses are not the way to survive. Or, I can survive without them, though at a level that being created by trauma, the tamed self, found unpleasant. My inner conflicts reached a static equilibrium. I stopped.

And there have always been things I loved, found worthwhile, pursued. I am busily constructing from them a self-concept, an understanding of who I am, which the tamed self attacks, trying to ridicule and undermine it. Self-acceptance grows, and the ridicule ceases to work. From past experience it seems that there will be things I love and pursue, and even possible that from them I will construct a life worth living. Or, that my recovery is the point.

I will my own good. That has led me into trauma responses, to survive, and now leads me into self-respect for the untamed self beneath, which said No. It says what it can. My conscious self is listening, though the traumatised, tamed self is noisy.

There are adult traumas- the soldier seeing his fellows die under enemy fire which he cannot see how he can avoid is traumatised, and some might protect the word from me. These soldiers are traumatised, I should not diminish their experience by pretending to it. That is echoed by the tamed self which says, of course I am not traumatised, how could I be. It clings to its illusions. Refuting the illusions takes patient work, and constant repetition.

Varieties of spiritual journey

What? You talk of “nonduality” as one or two peak experiences for a moment, in your entire lives, years ago? Ha! I am nondual all the time!

One of my judgments is that it is wrong to boast of spiritual growth, but as I spoke to Friends of God in me, and the judgment or thought that second-guesses God and stops God from speaking, the words “melts away” formed in my mind. I had intense judgment against that, the claim to wisdom or spirituality, and yet-

In me there is that of God, and what else? Judgments, ego, introjects, something I do not fully understand but attempt to, using whatever language I have and concepts from philosophy or psychology. In that moment, speaking to Friends, the “whatever else” seemed to melt away, and I felt extreme joy. I do not want to boast, and I want everyone to experience that joy.

I experience inner conflict between that of God and the something else, and experienced it in that moment- the insistent words “melts away” and the horror at claiming something I do not know to be true, and the self-doubt- and then it melted away, and I spoke the words. Anguish gave way to acceptance and wonder.

Heaven is human integrity, where that of God within shines out through that person’s thoughts, words and deeds, and there is no alloy or admixture of anything else: that person is nondual.

I felt shame this week, does not matter what for, and it was clear to me that it was my own rather than some introjected shame- a feeling to help me reach my goals and best self, rather than anyone else’s demands. Instead of being my enemy it was my friend. That felt new, and delightful.

Part of the way I might help others experience that joy, and understand humans or humanity, is to describe my own experiences. How much this has value depends. Is the inner God of other people like mine, or does it vary as human character and personality varies? What else is there, and is the something else in each person different? How does the spiritual journey differ- there is an unveiling of God Within, until it stands fully visible, in all its beauty, but does the way the unveiling proceeds differ between people?

I saw God, and so God Within, as “powerful,” and letting go of that concept has helped me see God in me so much more clearly. Yet it seems to me that God in others might be powerful, or that at least the concept would not get in the way of others seeing their inner God as it did for me. Words are at best a way to approach reality.

Are there people who grew up in ideal conditions, such that their inner God was nurtured and cherished and there was never much in the way of veil to begin with? Quakers aim for such nurture, “leaving [children] free to develop as the Spirit of God may lead them”.

If I call the something else “ego”, there is the word “egotistical”, meaning self-aggrandising, but my inner judgments called me worthless. Carl Rogers pictured the self-concept and organismic self overlapping, and in my moment of becoming conscious of the spiritual journey, when my understanding of the world seemed completely contrary to how the world is, mine seemed to be entirely separate. My conversion might be like a Road to Damascus moment, but not everyone’s need be. Possibly, some might be unable to bear such an experience.

And there is common humanity. Because our eyes have cones and rods in similar formation, our experience of colour is similar, and different from a dog’s. While I cannot know my experience is like anyone else’s, we have a number of words for emotions which have a similar understanding in each of us to be useful, and we can look at another person and guess or sense what they are feeling. We are programmed to recognise faces- the youngest infants will respond to them- and who knows what else is programmed? We are eukaryotes, mammals, apes.

Some people may simply be nondual. Others may approach that. It is my way to worry and question, and also to use my analytic mind soberly to assess what is true. It is my aim to see God in myself and others more clearly which will mean loving God more dearly, and to help others do the same, and I will grow in my ability to do that.

Approaching nonduality as a physical being

Nonduality is a spiritual goal, and I am a living creature, a being made of matter.

I am a creature that changes, that works out its nature, that is what it is, does what it will, because it can be and do no other. I want that: I want this living being to live and be, which means growing and integrating, action proceeding from nature, always developing, always fitting my circumstances in the moment.

We shall be with each other always, and cannot lose each other. Our lives intertwine as we are woven together, and I contain every one of you, as you all contain me.

That got a lot of likes on facebook. I approach nonduality, where the God Within, the natural human, is the source of thought speech and action. And consciously I worry about this. Conscious me says, how will I know?

Nonduality is Heaven, and it does not mean not being hurt, tired or confused, just not resisting or resenting these feelings. All is well, but not necessarily comfortable. I am a living being, so do not escape my situation and my problems, even if I might not now be facing them with so many internal blocks and conflicts.

I consider my desires. Some come from I Am, some from society. Of the ones from Society, some are clearly harmful to me and others: the desire to make a man of myself is the clearest. Transition was the necessary though not sufficient step towards self-actualisation. Arguably fatphobia is also clearly harmful, though if we name it self-discipline aimed at a healthy BMI that’s not so clear. And not everyone who watches their weight is anorexic.

I have various words which appear on the surface to make a clear distinction, between a healthy and unhealthy consciousness of weight, and when I burrow down into what that would mean for individuals it becomes unclear and shifting. Heather wanted to fatten me up, and found my refusal of a biscuit joyless- “’No thank you, I’ve had one’,” she would say, mockingly. Her apron objectively showed her relationship with food was unhealthy.

I trust myself to serve myself the food I need, and feel, directly perceive, my body’s needs for fat, salt and protein, more in winter or when doing more physical activity outside, less at other times, and the one thing I could not resist, where I would finish a kilogram tin, was salted peanuts. I don’t have a problem with addiction and self-soothing with food, and see some people do.

Another verbal distinction which appears clear but is shifting. Addiction is bad. Self-soothing is necessary or unavoidable, and asceticism is also harmful. Words might help the conscious self get a grip on the goals and pitfalls. I hope the “promptings of love and truth in my heart” will help me get it right, and am unsure.

Ooh, this is new. I am not walking a tightrope, where a loss of balance to right or left will cause me to fall to perdition. Rather the path is the golden thread of my best self, which exerts an attraction on me, so that I can drift away from it and it will pull me back. That thread is God in me, despite the controlling messages of society.

I want what a human wants- to be loved and admired, say. I have various models for this. Conscious me second-guesses God within, and its fear and judgment pulls me away from her balance. Possibly the best thing conscious me can do is get out of the way.

I consider that pulling things into consciousness and analysing them has value. What is going on? What do I feel? What do I need?

Oppositions come to mind. Immediate impulse v long term goal; my own impulse v ones imbibed from society; goals imposed by society which oppress me v getting on in society for my own good; good v evil. I will continue to write about these, and analyse them. Does nondual reality mean that these oppositions do not exist, or that they are spectra rather than separate things?

Forgiving the teenage self

I find myself deeply upset about an incident forty years ago. As Louise says, the feeling comes from how I am now. She also says I should let go of the past. I feel that I have to process it first. I judge myself harshly and reflexively, so the incident upsets me.

I have forgiven myself a far more serious incident. Aged about twenty I drove a gay couple from my church. I was authoritarian, seeking safety in rules, including that Unmanliness was wicked, and utterly self-righteous about this at the time. I have come to accept it. I did wrong because I knew no better and was under particular pressures. I have accepted my femininity, and that enables me to accept other people too. Christianity is about living well, which is not about obeying rules.

The two new ABBA songs reminded me of a comparatively trivial incident, when I was around fifteen. There was a boy a year younger at school. I cannae mind his name, call him Iain. Like me he was unpopular, comparatively friendless. Now, I might call him a “nerd” but did not know the word then. His parents drove him to Obaig for the day out, and allowed him to bring a “friend”- he invited me.

I don’t know why I went along. I was remorselessly ungracious. I think I thought I should patronise a younger boy rather than be friendly. We listened to ABBA in the car, because he liked it, and his mother asked me, “Do you like ABBA?” No, I said. Then they were thought of as naff. Since then they have gone from guilty pleasure to Premier Pop/Rock Group of the Seventies. Also, I knew pop music was meretricious, only classical music had value.

There were no more friendly invitations.

Now, I don’t know what’s hurting me. My unfriendliness, my loneliness, my inability to anticipate the musical taste of my middle-aged self? The child could do no better, any more than the young man could. Some confusion and resentment of the time, which I have carried unprocessed since? The inner gaslighter’s ability to persecute me for anything and second-guess all my actions however long ago?

There was a trauma which made me want to make a man of myself, find myself repulsive and inadequate, worthless but for what I could achieve, unable to attain the perfection I demanded from myself. Recognising that trauma and the concomitant idea that all the imperfections which shame me are blameless, or at least not my fault, felt like a huge step forward, and now I have this to deal with.

In worship, I started thinking aimlessly of things like where I put dried goods so I used those bought earliest first. Such things are my biggest concerns, now. Then I thought of going to Obaig with Iain and am gasping with the pain of it.

It’s not just forgiving the mistakes, it’s bearing the confusion and pain of the child. I remain in pain and confused. And I understand more, accept more, than the child could. And I am safe for now. I can look after myself given the pressures on me now.

Monday morning I still feel wrecked. Writing this was what I had to do. From Greenbelt I have the concept of “body-mapping”.

I have an outline drawn round my body on two long rolls of paper by a woman I have met before. In that exercise the lifechanging event was the pandemic, but mine might be this: making an inventory of myself and- I hate to write “my struggle” because it makes me think of Hitler, but the challenges I have faced.

My responsibilities are to care for myself and to use my gifts for the good of the World. No pressure there, then. All these questions are worthwhile.

Or maybe, my responsibility is to care for myself and heal myself, which requires all my love and courage, and leave the World to look after itself for now.

Sadness

Learning French, I had only two weaknesses- grammar and vocabulary. Now, I have only two things I feel sadness about- my relationship history, and my career. There was a third, and I seem to have talked myself out of it. I hope this is a positive post, finding a way to let go a burden. That needs facing and accepting the sadness.

The current theory is that if I deny sadness I do not deal with it, and it builds up in me. My parents did not let me acknowledge my own sadness, perhaps unable to acknowledge theirs, and so I made defences against it. Stop whining. It’s not been that bad. You have nothing to complain about, I told myself. I trudged grimly on.

It seems that the sadness accumulates because my defences say to me, there is no real problem, don’t worry about it. The sadness accumulates and I become less able to bear it. I trudge on until I stop, but am effectively still doing the same stuff that didn’t work before, even though that now means being frightened to go out.

The inner bullying made it hard for me to conceive of my life being any better than it is. It is not that I accept reality freely, but that I am forced to, and resent it, and rebel: and so am even less empowered to improve it.

I trudged grimly on, but now I have more or less come to a stop. I am like a fly on its back on the windowsill, buzzing but unable to turn itself over. (Pesticides kill most insects now, and the birds seem fewer, without insects to eat.)

I had conventional understandings of how to improve my life, but they did not really appeal to me. They did not “make me come alive”. That means that I am more likely to give up: “I tried that, and it didn’t work”. I don’t know what would make me come alive.

On Tuesday 6th I was thinking of my relationship history in the shower. There was that, and that, and that… and then I was wordlessly wailing.

I did not acknowledge until 2013 that Mum controlled and dominated Dad, and Dad liked that. Just before he died he acknowledged it in our only honest conversation about it. I was 47. Before then I had not seen what would fulfil me in a relationship, to take a supportive, “feminine” role. Instead I wanted a relationship like a gay man’s “beard”, so I could pretend to myself to be a normal man.

I want a relationship. I want to see and be seen, love and be loved. I fear not being attractive to anyone and not being able to connect sexually. I feel sad that I have missed so much, been hurt repeatedly, been confused and in denial.

I have been hurt by a lack of language for describing this kind of relationship, and a lack of positive role-models. I have no way of draining the shame I feel at being who I am.

I feel trapped in an inner conflict. My sadness is mostly unconscious, but the burden is my mostly unconscious struggle to deny it, minimise it and claim not to be bothered- to keep trudging. I want to use “It really was that bad” and “It really has been that bad” as keys to freedom from the burden. X was not something I should just shrug off but X was ghastly.

The thought that “All this sadness is unbearable” is a problem. It only means I shove it out of consciousness. It does not mean that I cease to have to bear it. I have the additional burden of the work to suppress it.

On Tuesday I wrote, I feel not joy exactly- but something of the joy I feel when in a state of aware presence. Or I am closer to that aware presence. I also feel tired after the struggles of this morning, the inner conflict surfacing. I felt I was re-aligning in my attitude to it, accepting the sadness of my emotional being -or, perhaps, my Inner Light- which might help me bear, or even process, digest it.

I came to the thought, My gifts are not wasted. I am beautiful and valuable, and if my gifts are used for nothing more than keeping me alive, they are well used. (This is a New Thought!) But I would like them used for more of the Good of the community. I think I expressed this better two days later:

If all I can accomplish is my own survival,
then my gifts are well used,
because I am valuable.
And I accomplish more than my own survival.

Valuing myself seems essential to building myself up and recovering.

“In Our Time” led me to consider hope. It could be a fantasy, “Something will turn up”, leading me not to act. Or it could be an antidote to the despair which would keep me from acting. Christians have hope in a loving God. To be open to opportunity, you need hope.

The twelve steps might help. “We admitted we were powerless over alcohol – that our lives had become unmanageable.” I don’t have a problem with alcohol, but perhaps- all the sense of control I have ever had has been illusory.

Admitting I am powerless, or my ego/self is powerless to enforce its illusions on the world, may help. I had not before yesterday read the twelve promises of Alcoholics Anonymous- the twelfth is, “We will suddenly realize that God is doing for us what we could not do for ourselves”. The God I believe in is the Inner Light of the evolved human being, freed from the illusions of the Self. I believe in the Tao, flowing like water:

Help thou my unbelief!

Freeing the Spirit

If ego is wrapped around spirit like ivy round oak, how do you become spirit
naked spirit
unencumbered spirit
free spirit?

Is it by letting go of something?

I do not let go words. “Seek to know an inward stillness, even amid the activities of daily life.” I might let go words which distract from that.

Can you stop seeking to persuade? A multitude of words to persuade that trans women are harmless amid a long scream that women need to exclude us and are entitled to.

Descriptive words- words drawings and symbols describe a Saturn V rocket, and if you followed those words you could send people to the moon again.

Words as truth. Words as poetry. Recognising that words always have a tincture of persuasion or judgment, and of inaccuracy, so I cannot set down a set of rules to follow. I get better with words.

What of Desire? Trauma? Let go of illusion and the Idol, the wish to seem.

Should I let go of fear of the future? There’s a way of thinking I don’t like- imagining a particular threat, and pleading with it, or shouting at it. That’s not fair or this is what really happened or its wrong to do that, when I feel others will not agree with me but I’m still right. Partly it’s rational, thinking through how I could be most persuasive. Partly it’s denying reality, emphasising the truth of what I say and the complete wrongness of how I believe/know/fear/am unsure about how others will see it. Partly it’s picking up a particular fear and dwelling on it without doing anything to improve things.

Possibly I only hate this habit of mind because my experience is often that others don’t agree with my arguments, when I eventually put them. I am like William Brown, desperately or defiantly but pointlessly crying “I was just statin a fact”.

I can escape that habit by making my life so simple that there are few of the threats that would engage my attention in that way. Maybe I have faced so many threats that I can’t bear them any more.

A more horrible experience of rumination is replaying incidents in the past. For those ten years old or more I have mostly distilled these to “I was right, they were wrong. It didn’t matter.” For ones less than ten years old, it’s “It was what it was. I suffered more than I deserved, perhaps. I wasn’t perfect.”

A woman who used to research and write articles for a think tank had a traumatic brain injury. Now she finds her mind is as quiet as she had wished. It is in a state she had sought through yoga before the accident. It could just be that her life of argument is wrenched from her, and all that remains is her recovery and being able to “run errands without getting lost”. The kinds of issues she was writing about no longer matter to her, so much of the content of her conscious thinking has become unnecessary. It’s not that she does not care about the homeless, it’s that she cares about them as fellow suffering humans, rather than as a topic which affects her own position.

Then there’s the experience of the divided mind. You know the quote “When the facts change, I change my mind. What do you do?” Well, judge myself harshly, go into denial, freeze. I know I ought to X. But I don’t want to, because it will be uncomfortable, and involve admitting I was wrong, at least in the sense of making the wrong decision when full information was not available.

I am seeking spiritual enlightenment, that “inward stillness”, in order to be better able to engage with the world. Enlightenment does not mean no longer having to face conflict, loss, or error. It just might mean having a trick, or a knack, for dealing with what Kipling called “impostors”.

Calling it a gimmick is showing disrespect. I am serious now.

I want that inward stillness to be large enough to contain my fear and hurt so that it does not simply burst out of me, so that I am conscious of it, and can bear it. The law, the method, the way, seems to me to be Love. I judge myself- my fear, anger or resentment is unbearable- I deny or suppress it- it bursts out of me- I suffer. I love myself- I accept my fear, anger or resentment- I contain it, and see how best to act. I love the world- I see it better- I respond and act better.

Love is the answer. Love is the way. Yes, spirit is like the oak, and ego like the ivy- though they might look like one plant, spirit provides all the strength to hold ego up, as both seek the sunlight, which is the love of God. I am bombarded by experience and my emotional reaction to it, even when I rarely go out. The only way to bear all that is to love it all. It’s not letting go, it is accepting.

There are other spiritual lessons to learn. Accepting the fact of your death is a big one; but the greatest of anything is Love.