The voice of the Survivor

John Lavery, Hazel in Black and GoldThe female self who always controlled me though I denied her speaks. I feel sexy and flirtatious, capable of good and harm. The culture tells us it is not OK to be natural, even if you are cis and het. Humans can be with our feelings in the moment.

I said, we suppress them so we can live in cities. Just imagine the Tube!
-When an antelope escapes the lion, it shakes for an hour before rejoining the herd. Imagine someone screaming on the Tube, and others say, “Yeah, man, I feel you.”

In meditation, breathe a smile into your chakras, or into any part feeling pain or numbness. Or, breathe sexual energy. Check over your body, for any part which feels blocked, strong, numb or different, and allow that to dissolve. At any time notice you are breathing: it creates presence and awareness.

We whine our suffering to manipulate attention rather than state our needs honestly and ask for care. Jamie suggests ways, which I do not recognise: perhaps I do them without awareness. I realised I refused compliments, and practised accepting them. When I minimise and make a joke of suffering- oh, it wasn’t that bad- I am doing it to feel better myself, rather than seeking assistance. I did like “feeling let down by others’ lack of telepathy”.

Interview the Survivor, who writes with her right hand.

I have always been here. I am love and vivacity, my best self, happy.

What support do you need to express your superpowers as a healing force? Do not fear or resist. Welcome me and I will do the rest. Relax into authenticity, presence and awareness, where I am, always. Love and appreciate me. Accept and feel Joy and all feelings.

How shall I call upon you? Be aware of breath. Touch something to be aware of its texture.

How and where can I give these gifts to myself and others? Meeting Heather-bee; YM, writing, at the bus stop, in whatever comes.

How do you want to? On stage or film, in writing and meditation.

What superpowers? Integrity, love, presence, sensitivity, generosity, appreciation of beauty, delight, joy, creativity, acceptance, connectedness, wonder, lusciousness, sweetness, resilience, femininity, beauty, Sexiness, truthfulness, respect, energy, softness.

What excites you when you stop fearing and running? What energises you? But the time is over. I must get back to this.

Meeting these four characters this weekend- the inner critic, the shamed self, the innocent victim and the wounded superhero- I am inspired to write from that perspective. Now, Tuesday, I have written five blog posts from it.

John Lavery, Hazel as Pavlova

Resistance

Why don’t I meditate? That moment in the evening when I repetitively check blog statistics and facebook rather than kneeling. I know if I stop it, and kneel, I will sleep far better, and carry on scrolling-

I have been kneeling in my ritual space, on and off, for years, but rarely regularly. Whatever it is- opening my chakras, counting breaths, reciting my affirmation- it is all good, and I know that. Why don’t I do it?

Because kneeling, I touch reality. Humankind cannot bear very much reality. I leave the facebook fug, where something pleases or irritates me but not much, not affecting me, and face my feelings about my own life and day. Real feelings frighten me.

And those real feelings work for my good. However difficult.

It may be beneficial to turn to meditation earlier, when I have the mental strength to overcome my initial resistance, or turn my attention to the blessing as well as the work of it.

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Why do I not practise the piano?

On Saturday, I went through the music on H’s piano, and played those pieces I knew- not well, because I have not played them for ages, but sort-of. Possibly, it is because it is a real piano rather than a digital one: my digital piano has weighted keys, authentic sound, three pedals, but has a dinky little loudspeaker rather than a huge iron frame which vibrates in sympathy when I cough at a certain pitch, or to which I vibrate in sympathy as I play. That Romance sans Paroles by Fauré: I will always remember picking through it, before I learned it, and how the chord progression at the end moved me to tears. I was so far from tears and my femininity then, in my teens.

The wrong notes creep in, and they irk me. It is too much work to maintain a piece playably. I do not want to just bash through it. Yet on someone else’s piano, I bash away, affecting not to care.

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My friend visited, and told a story, a memory of which he is proud and happy, which he had told me twice before. I told him I had heard it, and he just stopped. It took telling him I had heard it to realise that I should not have. The feeling it evokes in him is delightful to him. I can allow that feeling and enjoy sharing it.

Margaret Macdonald, Queen of Clubs

God is Relationship

double bass and tents (2)God is not a hypothesis. God is Relationship; Contemplation; Practice.

Actually, “God did it” is a good enough hypothesis for my day to day use: I am fascinated to hear of inflation, or Planck energy, or that the size ratio of an atom to a superstring is the same as the Universe to a ten-storey building; but I get the feeling that the scientists are bending over backwards to explain, and know that theories change over time, and are more complex than I can know with school physics. It happened. I am glad people try to work out why, but do not want to spend the effort necessary to understand the theories. My religion is so much more than an explanation of the World competing with the natural sciences.

God is relationship. Sometimes it seems that I understand what is going on, but most of the time I do not, not really. God is my sense that everything is going to be alright. God is what is, surrounding and supporting me. God is in me, responding, for so often consciously I have no idea what that response might be. God is the moments when I can’t go on, yet somehow do. God is a punch-bag- “Why have you forsaken me?” God is a friend whom I can talk to, a friend who, like human beings, surprises me as I learn new aspects of their character.

God is contemplation. God is my silence when the world changes because I notice it. I kneel in my ritual space, and hear what is around me. I sit in the silence of the Quaker meeting, with the other worshippers. God is the world made new, heaven in a wild flower, when I find a leaf and am entirely absorbed in its beauty and complexity. God is the moment Now divorced from fear and regret, anticipation and recrimination. God is in my devotion to what I do right now- washing up, cleaning my teeth, washing my hands- so washing my hands can become a ritual which brings me to awareness of the moment and all my experience in it- water, movement, the complexity of a hand. This delights me.

God is practice. God is in daily meditation, and changes I notice in that. Not that I get better at it, necessarily, because monitoring my “progress” takes me out of the practice and into evaluation of it, ambition, looking back to past experience not experiencing now. It is not about a state of mind which is purer or better than others, but about accepting each state of mind, each way of being and doing.

God is these things, as a unity, as One to love and fear. Do not ask me what I believe, or classify me- agnostic, theist, whatever.

Obeying the rules

???????????????Let me share one of my myths. It is a memory with part in sharp focus, from which I have theorised about who I am and why.

I went to the christening of my younger niece. I was in my mid-twenties. Her sister was around 24 months. At some point, I think after the ceremony, Siobhan wanted to toddle in one direction, and I wanted to move on- to the party after, probably. I told Siobhan off, firmly. No, come this way. My sister’s friends whom I did not know told her she could go where she wanted, which irritated me; I don’t think I replied.

Primo Levi says somewhere about people in the camps who tried to obey the rules, and thereby survive, and were doomed because the rules were designed to kill slowly. I have it on codex, so the search function is limited to riffling through the pages to see if anything reminds me of it, but I would like to find it, because I may have distorted my memory of it to fit this idea as well-

that my seeking to obey rules is the mark of the low-status primate in the pecking order, and that I naturally enforced it on Siobhan as I had had it enforced on myself, perpetuating the pattern. That is, my upbringing unconsciously fitted me for low status, deferring to others. This produced anger in me which I could never express because expressing anger was impossibly Bad.

In the medical centre, there was a little boy whose parents were teaching him to talk back. When we get home, we’ll bake cookies.
-You’ll bake cookies, Daddy.
-I’ll bake cookies to eat them all myself says Daddy, joke-triumphantly.
-Say “Whatever, Daddy” instructs Mummy. I caught a whiff of power games between the adults, which would only improve the child’s learning of this dynamic.
-Whatever, Daddy, said the child, exaggeratedly, mockingly, giggling.

Deference, submissiveness, whatever. I grope towards understanding, go off on odd directions, have a model which is not internally consistent, try to untangle the mixture of my trauma and anger. My mother did not want me as a baby, and now I feel tolerated rather than accepted as a woman. “God will not test me beyond what I can bear”? I don’t believe that, actually. I am an evolved being: we will not each overcome the world. All that is necessary is that enough of us can breed to sustain the population over time.

I knew I ought to meditate, and I did not: perhaps because I expected to feel all Spiritual and lovely while meditating and feel good afterwards, and was always disappointed. Now I kneel in my ritual space, and feel my anger or my fear, and get up confused. One gloss I could put on this is that I feel my anger, and its energy, or my fear, and its vulnerability and increased perception, so that if I can sit with it rather than blocking it out, it will benefit me. But that is to predict where this process might end, which is futile. Better to just go with it, which is my old way- head down, obey the rules.

This is my 900th post.

Breathing

Pieter Bruegel Babel detailI kneel in the ritual space, and breathe. I count breaths for ten minutes, then observe them for five. I am breathing quite regularly and deeply, and immediately I judge and question that. Is it “natural”? Is it some imposed or habitual thing? Previously my breathing has varied. Such a strong feeling in me:

This is new

and therefore to be resisted.

So strong. Perhaps not ideal, to be that conservative: if everything new is a threat, I am stuck with what has not worked before. Oops, positive: if I am wary of everything new, I may stay with what has worked in the past, I will not run after silly fads (it is hard to be positive both about conservatism and New-seeking).

Conservatism. Something I have to change in myself, something not in my interests, something indicating I have bad habits. Yet another thing to fear. Or- one voice in a multitude of voices, within me, all worthy of attention.

So much of culture is designed to affect how we see things, how we judge or perceive them whether by thinking or feeling: this is the right or normal way to see that particular thing. That is what a “spin-doctor” is for, to manipulate perceptions, and those who work against equal marriage are distressed that not everyone is as disgusted by gays as they are. On the bus, a man moaned that he had not had his heating allowance (jargon: winter fuel allowance) yet. “They begrudge paying it, that is what it is.” Either he would moan about anything, or a short delay has made the government look worse than it need to.

There is not only no right way to feel about something- someone dies, so you should be grief-stricken, and anger is just weird and horrible and no way should you feel that- but no one way to feel about something. I meditate, and pay attention to my breathing, and as well as the suspicion there are other feelings, which my conscious mind may give attention or not: they are all me.

I used a thing until it was beyond worn out, and its replacement has just cost me £6. Here is abundance-world. I bought a printer, with two ink cartridges included, for £10 more than two ink cartridges, and it has a scanner/ photocopier function. So my scanner is not unnecessary. If I can’t give it away I will throw it out, and that feels wrong, wasteful, yet is a reasonable response to the circumstances.

Counting breaths

File:KamakuraDaibutsuSlide.jpgHow could you get breathing wrong? Well, you could hyperventilate.

I kneel in my ritual space to count my breaths, and notice how I second-guess even my breathing. It is supposed to be natural, unconscious, autonomic, but when I observe it, it becomes self-conscious. It fits what I have been taught to think about breathing, what I have learned about it. A deep breath calms, relaxes and centres a person.

Though at the poetry slam, before starting to recite, I took my deep relaxing breath too close to the microphone, and it echoed round the room HOCHHHHHHHHHHHHHH

But here, I should be simply observing. Is that first deep breath then learned behaviour, or is it what my body does, assuming this position? How could I know?

My anxiety to get things right:

Ah. Positive self-management. How to think of this, to feel the right thing? My anxiety has spurred me to learn many things, but it has also been too much for me. I have given up, rather than fulfil my own demands. If I practice observing, before jumping to conclusions (oops, that is judgmental) If I practice observing, I will see everything is alright really. Deep breaths…

Jack has the theory that people breathe more File:Man sitting under beach umbrella.JPGshallowly as a method of social control. We are taught this in childhood, and it keeps us quiet- then and now. If we breathe more deeply, we can be raucous, or boisterous, or Stand in our Own Power.

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I have no mind’s eye, but I can think in pictures. It seems that some people, with their eyes closed, can visualise things, which seems to be similar to actually seeing them. So I read of an NLP technique: imagine a bad memory as a small monochrome photograph, and a good memory in as much detail and colour as you can.

Some people cannot: a trick to develop the skill is to imagine a sandy beach, sea, blue sky, three elements, two straight lines, the photo on the right is too complex. I have tried that.

How to explain my experience?

I have actually thought in pictures. I thought, I could drive home by [] or by [], and this was a total shock to me: I am thinking in pictures– and the shock of realisation remains in my memory, ten years later. If I close my eyes, what I see is blackness, or light through my eyelids, and if I imagine something, like that yellow parasol-

sometimes I can know what it’s like. As if there were a black veil, but I somehow perceived what was behind it. This may be worth practising.

Elgar’s mind’s ear was so good he could hear an orchestra in his head from looking at a score. I can hear an orchestra in my mind, remembering a piece of music. The fidelity gets better if I concentrate.  I can hear the sound of a violin playing a tune I have not heard it play: that too needs concentration.

The poor will be with you always

https://i1.wp.com/upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/commons/thumb/9/97/William_Holman_Hunt_-_Isabella_and_the_Pot_of_Basil.jpg/363px-William_Holman_Hunt_-_Isabella_and_the_Pot_of_Basil.jpg-So we needn’t bother trying to help?

At the house of Simon the Leper, or Lazarus, at Bethany, an unnamed woman, or Mary, who was Jesus’ friend and Lazarus’ sister, pours pure nard, an expensive perfume, on Jesus’ head. The disciples, some of those present, or Judas Iscariot object, saying the perfume could have been sold for a large amount, and the money given to the poor. Jesus said,

The poor you will always have with you, but you will not always have me. In Mark, he adds, and you can help them any time you want. The perfume was for his burial. Matthew and Mark then tell of Judas agreeing to betray Jesus. John says Judas was a thief, who would have taken that money.

Footnotes refer us to Deuteronomy 15:11: There will always be poor people in the land. Therefore I command you to be open-handed towards your fellow Israelites who are poor and needy in your land.

Work like you don’t need the money.
Love like you’ve never been hurt.
Dance like nobody’s watching.
Sing like it’s Heaven on Earth

We may always give to the Poor, but this could only be done now. It is a Sign of beautiful, extravagant Love, or a Sign that Jesus will die.

Menis Yousry told us to listen to the cabin crew when next we fly: when the oxygen masks drop down, put your own on first, or you will be unable to help anyone else with theirs. I thought of GJ, the Wise Woman in Top of the Lake, who speaks so contemptuously of her followers- first they look for love, and can’t find it, so they look for Enlightenment, and they don’t find that either.

So you’re on your knees? Good. Now die to yourself. To your idea of yourself. Everything you think you are, you’re not. What’s left? Find out.

Stop. Stop thinking. –What are these crazy bitches doing? Meditating? You’ve got to work. No-one will pay you for closing your eyes.

You people all want to help someone. That one wants to help Africa. Help yourself first.

Why should I tell you when you don’t listen? All you hear are your own crazy thoughts, like a river of shit, on and on. See your thoughts for what they are. Stop your helping. Stop your planning. Give up. There’s no way out. Not for others, not for you. We are living out here at the end of the road, in a place called paradise. How’s it going? Perfect? No. You are madder than ever. You are tired? So lie down right here. Be like a cat. Heal yourself. There is no match for the tremendous intelligence of the body. Rest.

I copy it out, because I am thinking about Enlightenment.

Metta meditation II

Probably, S would not think of herself as a bitch.

Nor do I, really. That one sentence, taking my entirely understandable action and making something mean out of it: it got to me, though I managed not to scream and shout swear words until after the phone call was ended. I admire her, I would like to be friends, and when she is around stuff happens and I can see that it might be interpreted in a colder light than I would like it interpreted. This is not entirely projecting.

It is the situation which makes us unfriends. There is nothing I can do about that, though I could try not to make it worse. When D, whom I also have some reason to dislike, suggested by passing on a chain email that I spend a moment of metta meditation on people I dislike, I felt some irritation.

On Christmas day at 12 miday to take a moment to think of just two people who have been a challenge in your life (currently or in the past) and fill their AURA with the rose magenta of love and mentally wish them well and then let them go.
 
This can be done while the lunch is cooking and will take no time at all really. If you care to join me a number of things will happen 1. If enough people join in there will be an outpouring of love across the whole world. 2.You will be letting go negative stuff you may have been carrying around for years. 3. you will be actively aligning yourself with positive forces that can only be beneficial to you at all levels, mentally, emotionally and of course physically.

It bears repeating. It is a prayer for good.

May I be safe and protected

May I be peaceful and happy

May I be healthy and strong

May I have ease of wellbeing

First of onesself, then a benefactor, then a friend, then someone one dislikes, then of everyone in the World, perhaps All Things, perhaps in stages, in groups. But I find it difficult, I cannot always pray that for myself, and have difficulty moving on to others.  So the suggestion that one just do it for a moment and feel the Love, and increase the Love in the world, seemed facile. I had already meditated Metta for S, because it seemed essential that we get on, for the next week at least.

I suppose I could forget things which happened years ago, even see them from her point of view. I might not have understood anyway. I find it hard to trust her after that, and I am not sure what harm she could do me. Generally, she is simply coldly correct with me, and mocking only occasionally. And it seems essential to my good that I see her in the best light I can, and respond generously.

I have had some lovely moments this Christmas season. I spent some time with H’s granddaughter, placing hundreds of tiny coloured cylinders to make Disney fairies. It’s the Joy of Six!

Practice

You would think, hitting someone, that “throwing” a punch would make it stronger. The shoulder goes forward, the body goes forward so that there is a straight line through the arm, shoulder, torso, leg, back foot, rooting the punch in the ground. But no. As I punch, I keep my torso vertical to keep in control and able to move in whatever direction I wish. Tempted to put my shoulder forward, as I would pushing open a stuck door, I learn that this is weaker, twisting the torso: instead I keep it straight, shoulders parallel with hips, and move my hips. This brings the power of hip, thigh and calf into the punch. The jargon: hips off, one hip toward the opponent; as I punch I bring “hips on”, my whole front facing the opponent, my fist at his stomach or face or side.

This morning we were feinting with the left to the face, and as the opponent’s blocking left knocks that out of the way we punch the right to the unprotected side. So, instantly after blocking above we must block below. As it is an exercise, we match the punches and blocks together beautifully. The blocker then comes forward with a stomach level punch. I was with the beautiful Alex, 6′ and 16 with floppy curly hair, who floats like a butterfly in sparring. We were practising that as well, launching forward off the back foot to punch then pulling back out of range. I have skinned my big toe, landing on it. Aiming, keeping torso vertical, leaping in and out, it is too much to bring in hips off hips ON as well.

It is a spiritual thing. We seek no-mind, the relaxed state where the body uses the muscles necessary for the move without tension, and responds to the opening or the blow without conscious thought. And, we have rules and techniques to learn, and others to do it with.

Centering prayer, on the other hand, my mind goes all over the place. I would like an understanding. I want to do it right, and while I realise that it will take practice, I do not want to spend half an hour at a time if I am not Getting Somewhere with it. So I asked Facebook: You meditate. Your attention wanders, and you draw it back to your breath, the Mystery at the heart of the Universe, whatever.
Are the thoughts merely distractions, or are they ever Useful?

One response which I love is that, of course thoughts are useful. But they are a tool,  and one can get into unhelpful thought patterns: so it helps to have the life-skill, developed through meditation, of stepping back from the thought, realising it is only a thought, and choosing how I wish to think. “It helps to not get annoyed with the phenomenon and stay compassionate to onesself”.

So, I may enjoy the practice, if I become conscious of my breath, and luxuriate in appreciation of my wonderful body and its functioning. I also love the idea in meditation of, when realising I have been thinking rather than appreciating the Breath, of thanking the thought, which has done its job, rather than getting irritated with myself because I have been thinking, I have not done it right. I am assured, though, that meditating without thought is possible.

Allow, accept, appreciate. I may enjoy my breath. I may accept the thoughts, appreciate them, and see them, and then I may enjoy them. Rather than fighting to keep my attention on my breath which does not interest or motivate me, hungry for moments of enjoyment, judging all my “failures”, I can just do it, so enjoy it all. I may even get “better” at it, if “better” has any meaning.

Next day I am stiff all down the legs, so that I waddle rather than walking, and have skinned my big toe painfully- I should land on the ball of the foot, not the toe. It is good to learn and improve. In the Quaker meeting, I find myself thinking on an old sore, so I leave the meeting room, lie on the floor and cry. That is what I had meant by the thought being useful- it came up in a safe space, and was healing. And- while out of the meeting room, I put on the kettles so the water is boiled for tea.

I have improved the look of my site, with parent pages and sub-pages, which means I can have more pages: Polemic on arguments, and Photography organising the pictures. Have a look at my new page, “Gorgeous“. I had lots of portraits of me before deciding to transition. They reassured me that I could appear female. Alas the HTML which allowed me to emphasise some words with the font Pristina is not currently working.

A choice of practices

Anders Zorn - Le tubWhat can I get from spiritual practices? What do I want? (Yes, I am still goal-oriented. There is a lot of conditioning there, and it may be primæval.)

I heard Valerie Brown’s guided meditation on paying attention to the breath. It was richer than I had imagined, the breath flows through the entire body, the breath is rich and varied, the breath is like waves, the breath is Life and Spirit. The effect it produces is calm and consciousness, presence in the moment. And- I can enter that state. I can have that appreciation of things, and of my own body. I can be in a task- cleaning my teeth and washing dishes do it for me- or present in a place, the park or the supermarket. She says how Meeting for Worship may be the only time in the week the busy Quaker gets to sit down in quietness- well, that may be true of a busy attorney, who even makes time to write Pendle Hill pamphlets- but it is not true of me.

In her book, she also describes the Christian practice of centering prayer. Rather than calling attention back to the breath, one calls it back with a particular word. I thought, what if that simply gets me into the same state of Presence- I have read that the Way is not about seeking “states” but that is where I am, it seems a useful apprenticeship for my eventual Union with God, or whatever.

My practices of metta meditation for me, and channelling Qi for me, are practices of self-care, because self-care and self-valuing are what I need. And- my link to God is at the core of my being, and I want to find and express that Real Me beneath the layers of conditioning and scarring. Will it help me journey There?

What about using as the focus word, rather than “Jesus” or “God” or whatever, the word “I”?

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Félix Vallotton Baigneuse penchée à droiteI boasted that I can attain Presence any time, cleaning my teeth, so “Prove it” said Johanna my inner critic. Here I am, cleaning my teeth with an electric toothbrush, in the morning, before showering. I close my eyes to reduce the sensory input, which might otherwise overwhelm. I feel the vibrations, the liquid in my mouth, the movement on gums and the inside of my cheek. I hear the motor, and a car outside. My attention moves to my fingertips in the air, and my feet on the floor. I do the task.

Presence showering is more difficult. With cleaning teeth, I start the task and continue it, I will not break off half way through. Showering, turn the  taps, get the  right temperature, soap, rinse- so many opportunities for breaking off into reverie, and indeed imagining writing this. I feel the water. I see the familiar decorative tiles, with fish, anemones and a sea-horse. I break off into reverie. In presence with a task, now, my task has to be simple.

I see the value of this state, being less involved in repetitive thoughts of past and future, which get in the way of feeling, seeing, being- look up, there is the lily, petals, stamens, stigma, fallen petals round the vase- as a thing to practise at any moment of any day, and for extended periods with breath. If I look to the horizon- “I lift up mine eyes unto the hills“- I can get that sense, in this rural area, of being one with my environment.

It felt a breakthrough, and I recorded it on facebook:

 success is illusory

failure is illusory

Then my friend wrote, Illusions are illusory. Bummer. I wrote back, the line between profundity and platitude
is illusory. Jings crivvens, profound, eh? Whom shall you follow, Lao Tzu or Clare Flourish?