Escaping the enmeshed relationship

My mother did not allow me to develop a personality independent from hers. My attitudes, opinions and desires matched hers. I rarely had any idea what I was feeling. Though we had moved several times, and local people spoke with a different accent, I spoke with hers, and still do. She died when I was 29, and years after that I decided it was time to rebel against my parents. I last voted the way they voted in 2010, though my politics had been diverging for years.

Do not resent the world.
Respect it.
Dance with it.

I still do not know who I am, but I am learning. I do not fit the mask my mother clamped on me. I am fey and feminine, and my mother brought me up to make a man of myself. The enmeshed relationship makes boundaries difficult. I was allowed no boundaries. Even now I have difficulty understanding the concept, leave alone- I understand the phrase is “creating healthy boundaries,” but have the foggiest idea what that might mean.

I have conflicting desires that I do not understand. My friend said, “It’s as if you want to merge into the background in the most eyecatching way possible”. I want to hide away, and I do. And I want to be seen: three times I spoke to hundreds of people last weekend.

The inner critic is quieter. It still says, “’enmeshed relationship’ is a diagnosis, you have no qualification to say that”. Well, I have no qualification in psychology, and I know what I experienced. It says, “Why are you still on about that? Why go round in circles?” And I reply, I still go on about that because you resist. I will stop dwelling on this when I have cleansed it, when I am merely myself. And, “I want to cultivate flowers as well as pull up weeds”.

I went to the Yearly Meeting, and looked forward to it for months, and Friends there noticed how tense I was. I played a part in our discernment, and am pleased with my ministry, recorded in The Friend. I like the idea of “Caste” rather than privilege: it is to whom you defer, and whom you expect to defer to you, unconsciously.

I stayed with Friends on Saturday night, and walking from Hammersmith tube to the bus station we passed three beggars. My friends gave them a few coins. I do not use cash any more, and gave nothing. One used a loud desperate pleading, almost a scream, which I find disturbing thinking of it days later. Returning, I looked out the window of the bus then the tube at the passing city, delighting in the rapidly changing impressions. My feelings flow better. I see them more clearly.

On Tuesday I went to the supermarket, and rather than merely put off going I felt the anxiety. Feeling it is so much better than being affected by it unconsciously. So I did what I had to do. And my inner critic says, “How trivial”. Well, I am where I am. I feel this is progress.

Someone ministered that the Way is not a straight road. Surrounded by darkness, having no idea where we are, we wait, pray, listen, and God shows the next risky footstep.

I love “Inside No. 9”, and this week’s episode is particularly good. You see the man with his ridiculous haircut and his pursed lips turned downwards, in the dark, old-fashioned house, and think, “Who is this weirdo?” At the end, he takes his first steps towards freedom, and I was moved to tears because it is a road I am walking too.

I would love it to be easy. Is it that, hiding away is my mother’s way, wanting to be seen is mine? That is an attractively simple view, and I am not sure of it yet. Even if I were wholly my own woman, there might still be paradoxes and inner conflict. The way to freedom is through accepting my own feelings, however challenging, threatening or incomprehensible I find them.

And I can. At any moment, I can step into the presence of my inner light. I do it when talking- sometimes I wear a mask, sometimes I speak from the heart. So, why do I not speak from the heart, all the time? What frightens me about it? What does- the other way of being- do for me?

My sexuality is completely different from what I was taught was right and acceptable. I want to be sexually overwhelmed, I want to be taken by a strong woman, and that was such a challenge to my fragile sense of self that I could only admit it within the last twelve years, though I had hints of it in the 1980s. So I have never really had a satisfying sexual relationship. Bound so tightly, I would have been a dreadful parent, though my true self, soft, gentle, peaceful, loving, creative, graceful, would make a wonderful parent. I feel such terrible loss, and waste of potential.

With that woman, I wanted a relationship, I wanted romantic involvement, and it appears she just wanted sex. I am complaining about “Of course I’ll still love you in the morning,” which as a cliché may be outdated. It activates so many of my insecurities. Yes. I am claiming to be a woman, with a woman’s reactions. Not all women, maybe. Not how women ought to be, necessarily. Yes I was born with testicles. And I am a woman, reacting as women so often do.

This is who I am.
I am Clare.
I am a woman.

Entering the Now

When I think about it, I enter the Now. Nonduality accesses consciousness. These words are the best approximations I can manage.

People say in this state they feel joy. It depends. If I am by the river, and lay down my useless burden of rumination, and use a mantra such as “I am here. This is. I am”, I will notice the uncountable tones and shades of green, the birds, perhaps some wild flowers, the path and the grass, and am likely to feel joy. Sometimes I feel terrible misery.

I share because it is good to have these things recognised. A man asked how I was, and I replied, “In Heaven and Hell at once”. He said, “Yes, it can be like that for people who feel deeply,” and I felt affirmed. Even if no-one responds, here, at least I am shouting into the void with the possibility that if I were wrong I would be contradicted. And putting things into words often clarifies them for me.

I am still working on negative and positive thinking. It is never good to deny uncomfortable reality in the name of positivity. And, I do not like how my life has turned out: all these difficulties while I ploughed grimly on. We all have our crosses to bear, and it is good to count our blessings. Perhaps it is as simple as that.

I have been hot from the world in Meeting with a bit of facebook nastiness winding me up, and I have felt that I am larger than this befuddlement. So I allowed it to rant as it needed, and felt that I was a calm presence holding and permitting it.

And there is the voice of my inner light speaking the truth. There I am, video-calling with my Friend. I want to say something, and cannot get it out without upset- my voice breaks near tears- then I settle into being the Light. The pitch of my voice goes up, and the inner critic is angrily denouncing me- that’s weak, put on, unreal, etc, etc- but I can say what I needed to say calmly without tears. I call this

the voice of my inner light speaking the truth.

As I grow to accept it, the misery may become less. In Pendle Hill worship I pick on this mantra/affirmation to repeat:

I am who I am.
It is as it is.
It is all right.

That self feels unbearably soft. Release the judgment, and I might release the agony. I am still exploring. Am I improving? Integrating is a better word.

Calling this a particular mental state, different from other mental states I often or habitually inhabit, has value to me. It feels different, just as practising a more erect posture feels different. I am conscious of it, as my muscles or mental pathways adjust to the unfamiliar way of being. Some time ago, it was magical and extremely rare. Now, it is more common. Speaking from it still requires a conscious adjustment, while I pass through discomfort.

I am in conscious incompetence. It behoves me to analyse, to notice, to adjust. And there is innate wisdom, so that letting go has value too. I need to value myself before I can complete this task, so I repeat,

I am a human being.
I have value.
I am a human being.
I have value.
All shall be well.
All shall be well.
All manner of thing shall be well.

---

I am a human being, or, perhaps, I am a living creature. So, whatever else I get from someone, I should oppose their cruelty to me at least as much as I would oppose their cruelty to, say, a cat.

This self feels unbearably soft, and yet, more real, more authentic, than the male mask. I suppose I am performing a teenage task: creating an adult persona for myself. I spent an hour on the phone with Jane from the Samaritans, on my various difficulties, my current rumination, and this decision, and feel affirmed.

I have presented to the world in shards of my male personality, though I know they do not fit, and often then cried and gone into the authentic self, speaking with a softer tone, telling the truth from my heart. Now I want to speak from that soft self all the time. I have heard the inner critic. I know the soft self is the real self. This may mean that I may keep some privacy: someone on Zoom admired my thick head of hair, and I surprised myself by not revealing it is a wig. Instead, I just smiled.

Sitting with the mystery

Human beings are unknowable, even to ourselves.

In Meeting, I sit with my hurt, fear and lack of control as in a twelve-step programme. Some say that being present in the Now creates a feeling of joy, and sometimes it does for me. At other times, the pain is as much as I can bear, but shutting it out I blind myself. Suddenly perceiving the depth and complexity of feeling is like a symphony with too many instruments. I might surf it, if only I resist the temptation to understand it. But understanding has been the way I have sought safety for so long.

I take refuge in writing. Almost until I would have been too late for meeting, I was playing on the Guardian comment threads. I put a brilliant argument that people with complete androgen insensitivity syndrome, and the external genitalia of women, are called “women” by a social convention. There is no simple definition of “woman” that includes CAIS women but not trans women, and no moral reason to define the word that way. That comment disappeared when a comment up-thread, “Keir Starmer should dial back the woke nonsense”, was removed by a moderator. I wrote another comment and got a “Guardian Pick” which got hundreds of up-votes. I care about this stuff, so I give you the details.

Last week, I learned Richard Dawkins will be speaking at Greenbelt, and I started thinking about what I would say if I got the microphone from the floor during his session. A paragraph has repeated in my mind as I test variations. I judge myself: I should not be thinking about this so much.

Living in the present moment, or sitting in Meeting, should I not be thinking? Well, if I were jamming a twelve bar blues, I might be better to count the bars until I felt them. Thinking has its place. I do not want to shut down any part of myself.

I started this blog post a week ago, and it was all about her. We exchanged several texts a day for months and had hours of video calls, and she was going to come to my house- and then at the end of March she withdrew, and I was wondering, why? I thought she ceased contact because she had coldly and calculatingly sought to subjugate me, and when I baulked, she withdrew. So I shamed her publicly. Afterwards, I wondered if she had been scared of me. From an earlier draft:

So many people have feared violence from me. There’s the normalised phobia of “biological men”, and there have been claims I might personally be violent. I have so much anger in me, all directed inwards. I let it go, slowly. My violent acts have been self-destructive rather than aimed at others, and I have several times been the victim of violence I could not resist. That others might fear me is a threat to my safety, and it distances me from other people.

You told me of a time you might reasonably have feared that man, and you have to be cautious in your line of work. You were under great pressure at the time.

Was it because you feared that you sought to impose complete control? I must serve you, my will subsumed in yours. I was obsessed with you, thinking of you all the time. Then I said I would not do those things, and you dropped me. I did not imagine that you feared me. I thought you had consciously, calculatingly, made me obsessed with you in order to control and negate me. That seems cruel. I would rather imagine you frightened or cautious than cruel.

This omits that after she withdrew I lashed out, attempting to shame her before fifty people. I could say, well, that was exceptional. It is not who I am really. But it was who I was in the moment that matters. I cannot say “I lost control”- there was no part of me that stopped me acting, at the time. I am one human being. If “being pushed beyond endurance” is an excuse for me, it is for others too.

I thought of asking her, but it would be ridiculous. “Were you cold and calculating, or fearful, or cautious? Was there something else?” I could not answer a question like that. What narrative has she in her mind, or would she want in mine? There is a time to create a narrative, and sometimes I just have to let the mystery be.

There is something chilling about her. She is not a nice bourgeois woman who would do nothing objectionable. Neither am I. I miss the contact, but you can’t separate bits out of a human being, missing one part but not another. Each of us is one. I see her enthusiasm, energy and intelligence- these are perceptions, not narrative- and for her I may be just another sub. I thought I would rather think of her as frightened rather than cruel, but, why? I will do her the honour of believing she can be “mad, bad and dangerous to know”.

The thought crosses my mind- “I love ‘The Ancestor’s Tale’.” And I am back writing. I decide to spend the last ten minutes of Meeting with  these people, here. How are they? How is the worship? In meeting, it behoves me to foster order, reverence, harmony, and Love.

I shall spend some time this month ruminating about her- her and that man, her and her subs, her and me. Eventually I will stop, though for now I remain open to contact from her, however unlikely. The narrative I need is that I sought as best I could publicly to shame her.

I write blog posts and comments, rather than the more sustained work of publishable articles or even a book. Writing is my skill, which gives me pleasure. Confusion and desperation recede from consciousness as I do what I am good at. Then I obsessively check for views and upvotes, as a substitute for human contact.

The dance and the game

As she looked at me, I felt my softness being valued. In her regard, my delicate flower stood tall. She said it was beautiful to look at me. I have to accept my sadness completely, in order to appreciate my delight. We are present to each other.

This is how I want to be, and I enjoy it, then analyse it. What am I doing, now? I take off my masks. I speak from the Real Me. Or, I show my vulnerable, feminine self. Three ways of seeing it each casting light from a different direction, each illuminating parts other images leave in shadow, none complete. The mask seems welded on, and to be seen without it is liberation, my only desire.

Burnt Norton: In the still point of the turning world, there is only the dance. There is who I am and what I do in the moment, and how I imagine it looks or want it to appear falls away. In almost all my actions there is care for appearances, more to myself than to others, and self-consciousness, and here I might flow naturally, unconstrained.

Nirvana is nonbeing. There is no I. There is only the dance. Possibly I should only do this with a lover (not with her) or possibly it could expand to all of life. This is paradise everyone old has dreamed of all their lives: the deep blue air that shows nothing, and is nowhere, and is endless, behind high windows Larkin could only look through, hoping that couple of kids were free to fly, like birds.

As a potential partner I have a great deal of beauty but fear I have little use. My earning potential is minimum wage at best. So I unfankle all the mess, the masks and pretence, the desire for appearance rather than reality, the impossible falsehoods. “I” is the whole animal process dancing with the world, changing it as I am changed, and “I” is the illusion that blocks the flow, the demands not to feel that were branded in me.

Mind-blown, I went to the Quaker group. With adolescent certainty I told them where they were going wrong. There is the dance, and then there is the game, which has rules. The business meeting is on the second Sunday of the month, and members should send agenda items to the clerk by the first Sunday so that the agenda may be circulated in good time.

But—but—

The DANCE!!!

If only I could put it into words. But those words would become dust as soon as they were spoken, not even a finger pointing at the moon. Human kind cannot bear very much reality.

If only we could trust the wisdom we know. If only we could sit in silent worship in the business meeting. You only speak once, so you gather what you must say. You seek the good of all, and not appearances. You listen to Friends, and see their unmasked beauty. It is not a committee meeting where we talk over each other.

Nirvana is possible, and ungraspable. I fall away from it into habit. The words cast light and shadows. And I dismiss the rules, for they only permit a game, which is less than the dance. But there is wisdom which might let us dance freely. And I delight in my adolescence: I have been stunted, welded in, and adolescence is growth and life.

The untamed human

Can I take down all the barriers to Love that I have erected? Can I speak and act from God in me, all the time? I believe I can.

Moving from the idea of God within as Power, to God as Grace, seemed a decisive step. So I sought a meeting with Friends to explore this: not quite a meeting for clearness, as I was not making a decision, but finding that of God- the Light, the Seed- within me.

What is within? Gabrielle Roth talked of a moment, dancing, when she is being danced- the movement comes from something spontaneous, unconscious, liberating- powerful. Anna Akhmatova wrote of “something not known to anyone at all, but wild in the breast for centuries”. Mary Oliver: “Let the soft animal of your body love what it loves”. Ladinsky’s Hafiz poems have “The God who only knows four words, and keeps repeating them, saying, ‘Come dance with me’.” This is not Michelangelo’s God in a pink shirt and grey beard, reaching out in Love to us, but a liquid God, flowing and sparkling. If I observed it, I could only say where it had been, not where it is, now. If I surrender to it-

Four Friends. Earth, Air, Fire and Water. Spring, Summer, Autumn and Winter. A psychotherapist and a lawyer. Two men, two women. I wanted one of the men to be straight, and he got things that I did not fully articulate. With no false modesty, I asked for, created and received a celebration of Myself, me in my purest form.

In my reclusive life, this is what I do: I find my I Am, and- whatever else there is in me, my internal conflicts. What ought I to do? What do I want to do? The answer surprises me. I wanted to write about the EHRC and the conversion therapy consultation, and I did. It was a lot of work. And I stopped applying for jobs because, while applying was stressful, I did not sense until I was weeping and screaming how stressful it was. Something blocked my awareness. That something is the Trauma.

If I do something freely, I am motivated to do it. If I do it under constraint, I am not. You clean your teeth as a routine part of preparing for the day, or for bed. I clean my teeth to make my mouth feel good, and do it carefully, because it is important. But if I do it because that is the rule, because I am supposed to, there is no life or motivation in it. I might lie in bed all morning, listlessly thinking, I ought to clean my teeth, yet I do not move. This perplexes and distresses me, as my apparently rational being says, of course I ought to clean my teeth, and cannot understand why I don’t. And there is-

something inside so strong

that is so battered, so hurt, that all it can say is, “No”. And it will say “No” until it is heard. Then it says, “I Am”. Then for a long time I was in a stage where it was like a beaten animal, to be managed. My conscious self, apparently rational, would spend some time listening to it, humouring it, so that it would come round, and obey the rules again, so that I would be safe and rational, doing what I ought to do. But somehow it, unruly, unmanageable, saw through this stratagem.

I could not hear God within because of trauma. Imminent fear of death made me willing to do anything to survive. It is not a trauma I remember, only one I have deduced from experiences. Then its guards are active, telling me, that is ridiculous, I am not traumatised, I am pretending or acting.

They tell me no-one will believe me. That is, if I want to assert my ridiculous nothings, I will be completely alone. So all I can say is “No”. As a child, controlled by my mother, the only way I could assert control was to refuse food. So I did, and she fed me a limited diet of beefburgers or rissoles, chips and beans, which I accepted. I don’t remember the negotiation, only its result. That was what I could control, by saying No, and that was the control I was allowed.

As an adult I have found clues, and the clues convince me. They bubble up from my unconscious mind.

With Tina in Southampton, I mentioned that my mother told me I liked it when my pram was placed under a tree, so I looked up and watched the light through the leaves. And- I went back there. I was in the pram, feeling overwhelming rage and terror.

In the Hoffman process, at 6am in February I lay on the ground outside, and imagined I was in my grave. I looked up, and people walked by, looking down at me. Imprisoned lawyer Alasdair Hall said, “Well I’ve never been that low”. Then, lastly, my mother looked down and said “I never wanted you”.

In the film “Ma vie en rose”, a child decides to express as a girl. The family is driven out of their home. Her mother has a nervous breakdown. At the end, the mother accepts her daughter. Seeing that, suddenly I was on the floor, in the foetal position, weeping and wailing. H was concerned.

If I commit to a task, I commit to it completely, not acknowledging any difficulty I have with it. I do not give up until I am dangling on the end of a rope. Realising that was a profound blessing.

To speak of these experiences on Monday, and have my experience accepted, was profound for me. The guards of trauma, who deny my experience, were silenced.

Preparing for the experience over the previous week, I noticed how frightened I was. What if God acted through me, and it harmed me? The Farmington prophecy came through Licia Kuenning’s inner God, which was insane.

On the train, I made a list of what is inside me, what might be in God in me, what might be in ego. A simple taxonomy is a tempting illusion. Anxiety; denial; self-improvement; motivation; survival; pain; refusal; recordings (when I tell a story in the same words); rationality; feelings; suppression from my consciousness; inner critic; professionalism; history; trauma; love; collective unconscious; God; Ego; introjects; presence in the moment; the soft animal of my body; grace. I do not want to expunge anything, I just want it all pulling together.

In the meeting, I spoke and was heard, about my history. One did not see what I meant by rejecting power, but one did. I articulated it after: Grace is powerful, but not an ideal-masculine power. It is not subduing the world to my will, but dancing in blessing, taking what I need from abundance, acknowledging the worth of whoever or whatever I work with.

I recited my Two Souls poem, which they liked.

He leaves behind the master’s role
She welcomes him, and I am whole.

I wrote that in 2003, and it expresses my aim, now.

I had wondered if I wanted to speak from other parts of me, which I believe are not-God. I spoke of seeing other people as beautiful. One asked, are you beautiful? The voice in my head saying you can’t say that was only an echo. It had no real power. I said, Yes. I have wonderful intelligence, humour and expressiveness, and deep wells of compassion.

I said I do what I see is good to do. Then I said “I don’t get paid for it, which bothers me”. I wondered after where that came from. Is it true? Is it from God? Is it from some conventional self which wants to be earning my living? Is it from a male self which needs to surrender and be integrated? I do not know.

On Wednesday I hosted, and Jamie wrote after, “They all adore you (rightly)”.

After, I wrote,

I speak from my integrity.
I act from my integrity.
I do what I want to do.

This utter gorgeousness!
I Am- beauty, wonder, delight.

How could I trust something that could only say No-
only scream No because I could not hear it until it was screaming?
As I trust it, it says more
I let it withdraw, and it acts.
There is still “I” judging, but more and more it fades, judgment goes away.
I within, I choosing emerges.
I am here, now, real, truthful, loving, whole.

I knew what was sensible, what I ought to do,
and God said, No.
I could not do it, as God said No
and I wanted to do it,
I knew it was sensible,
I knew I ought to do it.

I commanded, and God resisted.

So I decided to humour God.
I would listen for a bit,
make God feel better,
get God on side,
then I would tell God what was sensible and God would go along with it.
But this did not work. God still said, “No”.

I despaired.

Then God said, “I Am”.

I do not know what is sensible. I do not know what I ought to do.
What I thought I ought to do is meaningless to me.
And, there is, “I Am”.
I Will Be.

There is the dance.
I only know the dance when I look back, and see what I have danced.
The dance continues.

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?

Meeting for Stillness

Does the term “Meeting for Worship” put off people who are “Spiritual, but not religious”? Jan Arriens in The Friend suggested “Meeting for Stillness”, and Peter Jarman dismissed worship as “what happens in other churches”.

As an Anglican I believed in God the Eternal Father, Whom I worshipped. Just before I came to Quakers I found Matthew Fox’s explanation of Panentheism, God suffusing all that is, and later William Blake’s statement “Everything that is, is holy”. Rather than worshipping, I was communing- with the Mystery, with that which is greater than myself.

I took a combative line as a Christian against the non-theists: it’s a Meeting for Worship, we must be worshipping something, and was referred to Old English: weorþscipe, meaning worth or dignity: noun, not verb. But I still think Quakers have always used the term as a transitive verb. We worship God. What of those who reject God, as refugees from the Churches, or consider God a superstition? Meeting as a spiritual practice has value, and does not depend on belief.

Some might come to us having meditated, as a Buddhist or even non-religious practice. We tell them our meeting for worship is not meditation, as it is something we do together. Well, Buddhists meditate together, but in Meeting someone may feel moved to speak in love for the others gathered there, and for the World.

Jan referred to David L. Saunders’ article saying stillness is so much more than silence, which is merely the absence of speech or noise: it is about Presence. Be still and cool in thy own mind. In stillness, Saunders says, we seek the place of being, encounter, power.

There is no silence outside an anechoic chamber. Friends can worship at a noisy demonstration. There will always be distraction: I try not to be distracted, and sometimes the distraction inspires me.

Stillness is also a deceptively simple concept, the absence of motion. I sit in stillness for what happens in stillness to my perceptions, of my surroundings, the others with me now, and my accumulated experience of life in the world.

In a “Meeting for Worship” I still think you must be worshipping something. I turn outward to the mystery of all that is outwith myself, and inward to what is within me but beyond my ordinary conscious experience. What do I worship? If forced to put it in a simple phrase, I would say the “Mystery of being”, but the phrase does not satisfy me. I want a phrase which is immediately understandable- like, “Meeting for Stillness”- but which leads the enquirer attender or member into new depths. If I said I worshipped God, I would mislead some, and deter others. I am not a theist.

I do not like the word “Meeting for Worship”. I thought of “Meeting for Contemplation”. Meeting needs our concentrated attention, and diligent practice.

Another alternative is simply “Meeting”. At the moment it is shorthand- we go to Meeting, we say. It could be the whole term. Meeting what? Each other, or- something else, perhaps.

I thought of “Holy Meeting” or “Sacred Meeting”- a time set apart from worldly concerns- but these words remind me of the Christianity which at least since Constantine has been used to oppress people and maintain worldly control, and I support the seeker’s rebellion against that.

Meeting. Or, Meeting for Stillness. A practice of Love which helps human beings reach our full potential as individuals in community.

Quakers in Britain have a similar issue having rejected the word “Overseer”, meaning, roughly, pastoral carer, but not agreed on a single preferable term yet. We should check the terms we use periodically: might they mislead, or put off, someone who might otherwise join us? Are they accurate descriptions of the things they refer to?

Joy in the World

My calling is to manifest joy. That is a Truth about myself that I know. It fits my experience. What does it mean?

I have chronic depression, with little energy to tackle tasks (most of it channelled in this blog). Depression is not a matter of sadness but of motivation. I know I should, for example, clean my house, because it would be more hygienic and pleasanter to live in. At some level I might say I want to clean it; and yet I don’t, for weeks. I am not sure I can distinguish energy and motivation. Depression is different from anhedonia, the inability to experience pleasure, which I do not have. I bit into a ripe pear this morning, and felt delight.

Joy may be linked to the state of being aware in the present moment. I find that a heightened state, which gives me pleasure. There is the monkey-mind, ruminating all sorts of old stuff, mostly fantasy rather than reality, and I drop out of that into Presence.

Joy is linked to positivity, to seeing possibilities and opportunities, movement, growth. Denial, the refusal to face uncomfortable truths, is anathema to it, because you never succeed in denying, you are always aware of the Problem on some level. Bracketing can be useful- I know the unpleasant Fact exists, and I will deal with it later but must deal with this first. Avoidance, picking anything to deal with rather than the Problem, is harmful.

There is joy in action towards a goal. “There is no ‘try’,” as Yoda said, that’s avoidance too, faking an attempt at doing something because you don’t believe you can achieve it. Joy in action is linked to exhilaration in movement.

Humanity is being, doing, knowing, and there is joy in our simple existence. It is filled with possibilities.

My niece, when she was a toddler, at one time had a practice of going up to her significant adults and saying “I love you”. “I love you, Uncle Stephen,” she would say to me, and I was at a loss how to respond. Eventually I said “That is what you are for”. That is the child’s value. Love will grow into action in time. Only love is real. She grew up, perceptive, with compassion and a strong sense of integrity. Now her daughter is three, and my nephew reports she too is very smart, loving and generous. They played a game together where you throw beanbags at targets, and when he missed she put his beanbag where the target was. Competition is all very well, but that was the common goal.

If my calling is manifesting joy, is this unique to me? Possibly stronger in me than in others. It is my fundamental nature. Someone ministered that our certainties are stripped away, and insofar as they come from outside us, from the culture, our certainties about ourselves may need to be (though it is possible that somewhere there is someone who is “normal”). Humans have different gifts.

I said in my revelation that my calling is manifesting joy, and communicating it. If I am simply myself, that may bring joy to others. If something makes me joyful and I show that others may see the delightfulness of that thing.

This is something I want to grow into, this year. The revelation is like a gift. I will explore it more deeply, and come to know it. I end with Edwin Muir’s description of a wise man, not elsewhere on line, from Collected Poems p288:

I think the shrewdest sweetest man
I ever saw, modest and yet a king
among his harvests, with a harvester’s eye
that had forgotten to wonder why
at this or that, knowing his natural span,
and spoke of evil as “the other thing”,
Judging a virtue as he judged the weather
Endured, accepted all, the equal brother
Of men and chance, the good and the bad day.

That is something to aspire to.