Mental states

How could one not be “present in the moment”? I have no time machine. Humans cannot simply “be”- we are always doing something, even if only breathing and taking in sense-perceptions. When we sleep our brains are making connections. It seems there is a “spiritual state” I would call “present in the moment”, which makes me think there are other states, somehow less than that. Moulded or traumatised, I live in such sub-optimal states; or, well-adjusted, I flit between states, choosing the one appropriate to my surroundings or task.

My ideal, now, is to “flow like water”, as the Tao Te Ching has it. In that state I am doing something without consciously controlling it.

I read that spirituality is not about “states”, but of course it is. An analogy: having learned the piano I can play scales in 24 keys, but there was a time I could only play a few, and had to learn the others.

Presence is not simply immediate experience without language. I know what a “table” is, can recognise or use it, because of the word. I cannot divorce experience from language, but there does seem to be a time when I am classifying and assessing verbally, and a time when I am relating. Relating seems better to me.

Colouring in these pictures was called “a quiet mindful moment in the spirit of self-care”, where I would call it a sensual activity undertaken simply for its own sake. Such activities are a way of not doing what one has to do. They may be recreational, in which case, choose the recreation which most delights you, or addictive, in that you use them to avoid pressing duties. Cleaning your house can be self-care, showing that you deserve it.

There is rumination. Like a cow, I return to old thoughts, and chew them over again. I tend to feel there is always some progression when I return to old thoughts, but then cows ruminate to digest grass. Things recede into the past.

There is paying attention. I look at an art work or listen to music and it occupies my conscious mind. There is worship, when I pay attention to the situation I am in. Sometimes, then, the ministry which is only for me comes to mind, a new realisation, which is unconscious processes making connections.

Or I just keep clicking through the same websites for dopamine, and the less dopamine I get the more desperately I click. I don’t know why I would rather read articles than books. I want to know.

Sometimes a physical need overwhelms me, and sometimes I am conscious of it, I pause to do something else, and the need gives me an extra kick to get my obedience. Different parts of the brain seek different activity, and strive for dominance.

I pause for a moment to check what I feel. One feeling recently seemed to deserve its very own German compound word- anticipation of delight, where the anticipation was so strong it was painful. Freudeangst.

There are things going on in my brain and body of which I am not conscious. I so want it always optimised. I never trust it is. I do so little because I rarely believe it will be safe.

The meandering route to recovery

I spend a lot of time with those who come under that “shirkers and scroungers” banner, and I often help them claim benefits. They nearly all have reasonable physical health – but quite severe mental health problems. What I see in them is not laziness and a desire to have others run around and support them – but rather that they are so damaged by life’s circumstances that they have endured that they have no capacity to help themselves. If they get sanctioned (i.e. benefits completely stopped) then they just lie down and take it – like a dog that’s been beaten one too many times…

People who are loved – and they may need that love for many years – can slowly start to believe in themselves again. With patient encouragement to take one step at a time, and constant support – lives can be rebuilt. And personal responsibility will then develop too.

-From a facebook thread.

Compassion is not at all weak. It is the strength that … allows us to bear witness to … suffering, whether in ourselves or others, without fear; it allows us to name injustice without hesitation, and to act strongly, with all the skill at our disposal. To develop this mind state of compassion … is to learn to live, as the Buddha put it, with sympathy for all living beings, without exception.

– Sharon Salzberg, Lovingkindness:
The Revolutionary Art of Happiness

I need to know my limitations, and they are hard to accept. I used to work with people after heart attacks claiming benefits, who would often say that sitting down, they felt completely normal, like before, so they went to get up and felt shocking breathlessness and pain. One imagines the default, the normal, often even after repeated proof of the lesser ability. Denial is just one of my blind spots.

I find my energy levels varying, and here am I even now thinking, “I can do that this afternoon!” When it comes to this afternoon, I won’t feel the energy.

Of course I want to see how to improve and build abilities. I am doing my best, all the time, because people just do. And, rather than writing this blog post about limitations or going out leafleting for Labour I am whiling away my time on heated facebook threads, about whether a Quaker can be a Conservative. Some who are both resented the challenge. I was going to write, “I went into my why can’t we all just get along? mode,” but really I sought to bridge the gap. I put my energy, care and expressiveness into explaining each to the other and finding common ground. Not all I wrote was perfect.

Whiling, or practising, or even engaging in a medium where feelings are strong, though transitory?

Menis said to me, Have mercy on yourself.

One Conservative voter messaged me, Thank you for coming to my aid on fb. You are a kind Friend indeed! When we got to 😇😇😇 I said It is extremely important to me to see myself as a good person! which provoked her XD XD .

So, there. Self-nurturing, as well as thinking things through with words, and practicing writing. Not a waste of time at all!

I recognise myself in those first two paragraphs above. I knew I have to write about what my difficulties are, because without that, plans can never work. Plans which do not take account of difficulties will founder on those difficulties.

Everything I do is for my good; and not everything I do forwards those conscious plans. Some ways forward proceed unconsciously. Of course I know I must write of my difficulties. I must get to know them from patient observation of what I do, rather than imagining I know myself, or that I really am that normal default- because I am sitting in the chair, and not exerting myself to rise from it. And I get to know them, consciously and unconsciously. After hours on that facebook thread, thinking, writing, reading and re-reading, I showered at 1pm, and in the shower my Assertion surfaced, and I said, emphatically, insistently,

I am
I am writing it

I am writing my account of my difficulties. I was working on it then. Just, not consciously.

 ♥♥♥

The road to recovery lies through a full and complete understanding of limitations. I know that I am loveable. I love myself. I like myself. This is great progress. And, I have no trust in myself or others. I have experiences of my failure and others’ angry or hostile reactions to me, which matter to me, which affect my conduct, thought, anticipation and planning, and however much I think of my success and others’ favourable or supportive reactions to me, however many examples I retrieve from memory, they are insignificant beside the weight of bad experiences. I think,

It was ghastly!
It will be ghastly again!

If I can win my own trust, I need to develop trust of others. I might delve into why the bad experiences have so much weight- perhaps they are from early childhood, where it really was as black and white as it seems now.

So I retreat, and I fiddle, and I don’t do what I obviously must do to improve my lot

even while I work to improve it, in unimaginable or ridiculous ways

I follow my heart, however much my head knows it is right.

Politics, anger, non-action

Tao Te Ching 48:

In pursuit of knowledge,
every day something is added.
In the practice of the Tao,
every day something is dropped.
Less and less do you need to force things,
until finally you arrive at non-action.
When nothing is done,
nothing is left undone.

True mastery can be gained
by letting things go their own way.
It can’t be gained by interfering.

Non-action. I think that is something to do with presence or mindfulness. Rather than consciously thinking about what I do, I can just do it. Washing up can be like this. It is a simple task. Often I would switch off and think of something else while doing it, but I can pay full attention to the task itself. Several times in the day I wash my hands: I can stop conscious verbal thought, and notice the scents, feelings, the look of it as my hands simply move. A novice golfer is thinking of their position and movement, a professional just does the stroke.

Politics is horrible now. What the BNP did to get votes fifteen years ago, and UKIP last year, the Conservative party is doing now, after the Brexit vote: as well as working to destroy the NHS, by depriving it of staff and funding, and privatising it. I hear of housing costs and my hackles start to rise, and if the speaker is angry I am likely to go off on one. Of course there has been extremism in the Tory party before; I may still have somewhere The Sectarian Song-book, written by young men deliberately trying to shock:

Burn the broad Left in their middle-class homes
Crush Wedgwood-Benn and make glue from his bones

Oh we’re saying goodbye to the Left
As safe in their graveyards they rest
[can’t remember, diDada diDada]…a regular army
the boot-boys of FCS.

The Federation of Conservative Students was replaced by the Conservative Collegiate Forum in a purge of leadership by the party hierarchy, before I joined.

Mrs Clinton’s record of lying is a disgrace. Politifact puts her at 10% false, 2% “pants on fire”. It is not enough that it is not as bad as Mr Trump’s. So, on politics:

I will tell the truth as best I know it.

I will permit my anger, but not get overwhelmed by it; to be calm and loving in action and demeanour.

I will hear the arguments of my opponents, and address them, rather than only my own side.

I will think of other things beyond politics. However I cycled to Swanston to the Independent Socialists meeting to hear Derek Wall and get his book Economics after Capitalism: A guide to the ruins and a road to the future. I may even read it!

The British drama 1990 has dated but its title sequence remains evocative. The world is beautiful and strange, and may be seen through a glass darkly.

dew-on-the-web