Positive or negative

How I see my life is a choice.

Negative: I have always felt out of control, blown about by winds, forced into decisions, uncomfortable in my feelings and the demands of the toxic world until I have hidden away, and I have no idea what to do now.

Positive: I have always done my best to advance my own interests, and acted in love courage and hope as best I may. I have retreated in order to heal, and now I have greater self-knowledge than ever before I may seek out what I want in my heart, and take steps to achieve it. I have always been surrounded by love and beauty.

I trained as a lawyer: I could put arguments for both, but one is from a place of fear and resistance, the other from love and acceptance. I feel the second is more accurate, as well as more useful, more able to encourage me. I face this choice of negativity or positivity.

Sometimes I become negative. After the job interview and the Positively Trans workshop digging up my past, I got a little down, and I could not see something particularly positive in my life, it was obscured by something apparently negative. So I acted in fear, and did less well than I would have done, acting in love.

I hope to notice when I am negative, and talk myself out of it. It behoves me to seek the positive.

As I looked into Liz’s eye, I could see the sky reflected in her iris, and her eyelashes- yes, they are definitely eyelashes- reflected shadow in this patch of light. Everything is beautiful.

I have had repeated calls for a Mr Hutchinson from a company, and cannot persuade them that he does not live here or not to phone. So:

Mr Hutchinson?
-Yes?
-I’m phoning about the Government’s Solar Scheme. Would you answer a few questions?
-Certainly.
Are you the homeowner?
-Yes.
What kind of house do you live in, sir?
-A castle with a moat.
How do you heat your castle, sir?
-Geothermal.
And is the castle listed in a conservation area?
-No, we only put it up last year.
I think I’ll end the call now, sir.
Click.

A moat? Well, it had been raining a lot that day.

Lucas Cranach, Melancholy detail

Kathryn came to Meeting the second time when I chose to read Advices and Queries 27, my favourite:

Live adventurously. When choices arise, do you take the way that offers the fullest opportunity for the use of your gifts in the service of God and the community? Let your life speak. When decisions have to be made, are you ready to join with others in seeking clearness, asking for God’s guidance and offering counsel to one another?

She liked it, and the joyous, dramatic way I read it. We talked deeply, and my status as a recluse is relevant to her life, as she faces momentous choices. I don’t want anything from her: I mean, it would be nice if she became wildly enthusiastic and in twenty years was clerk and elder, but only if that is right for her. I thought of it as a synchronicity, a series of delightful accidents leading to that encounter, but this does not need to have been God’s Plan: accidents will do.

The ground bass of my emotion is sadness at lost opportunity and missed experience, my sense of my wasted life- better than anger and resentment, perhaps- and perplexity: always, what shall I do now? Perhaps Nothing, as a positive choice. Meditate, contemplate, relax my chronic stress. If I could change that to appreciation, for

this is all there is, and it is beautiful…

Lucas Cranach, Melancholy detail

In the town

Wig part 2: I locked up my bike, and a man came to admire it. He thought it classic, I just haven’t bought a new one since 1986. I knew it had dérailleur gears, but he knew the precise type, and told me what was the last lightest, strongest steel frame before graphite superseded it. So I got my wig out, took off my helmet, mopped my brow and put the wig on. He has exactly the same mud-guards, he said.

What is the done thing, to be policed by looks and comments? Putting on a wig is clearly OK.

Thence Olivers. I am privileged to have an Aspie friend, and we discussed spiritual experiences. A fairly standard one is feeling a sense of connection with all the World, feeling one with it and aware of it. I explained this with the analogy of a bird, its head on one side, with one eye looking for worm sign, the other aware of 360° around and every angle of elevation, to be aware of any threat. Humans normally are paying attention to our thoughts, or paying attention to one task, our eyes focused on that one object, like the worm-sign. So when we become aware of everything, our response is awe. He tells me that he is constantly aware of his surroundings, the conversations of the others in the coffee-shop, and near a 170° view (mine is closer to 100°).

Sitting outside in the sunshine, I met my new neighbour, Chris. Steph has left for the only slightly brighter lights of Zhuzhkov. He has a bantam look, appearing in a singlet, showing heavily tattooed arms, an ornate black cross on his right upper arm. The punch-bag and golf clubs are his, he does not have room for all his stuff.

-What’re you reading? A touch nervous, but not apologetic, I tell him of Paul and the Faithfulness of God by NT Wright, seeking to show the culture, Jewish Greek and Roman, in which Paul wrote and what his world-view and assumptions were. “Quite in depth, then,” he says. He is glad to move next to a Christian. He is a Pentecostalist. He works as a delivery driver, away from home about twelve hours a day, and notices the intervention of God everywhere. He did a delivery and the man gave him a torch advertising his business. He stuck it in his pocket. Later that day, he found another van stuck in mud, and helped the driver get it clear. This meant he was late, and had to do his last deliveries after dark- but he had the torch. He would have been struck by God’s blessing, on the other he helped and on him with the torch, “But now I just go, ‘Hmm. Yeah’.” He smiles. Another friend said, “Coincidence”. He gave up smoking ten months ago: in front of the congregation, he threw away his cigarettes. It was a blessing for them.

I say how Quakers are quiet, but we are both led by the Spirit.

Side chapel

Trust II

It becomes clearer to me how much I may trust my world.

https://clareflourish.files.wordpress.com/2013/02/fotherington.png?w=256That man with the big dog, f’rinstance- lovely bloke. One might consider how much to trust other men with similar dogs, but- he was alright. And the blessedness of the encounter delights me: it was random, and it was just what was right for me at the time. A synchronicity.

Or the karate class, how supportive and friendly it is, and how it exercises me physically and spiritually.

I try to create empathetic understanding for born-again Christians in me. They are entirely wrong about the date of creation, evolution, and LGBT issues, and substantially wrong about God, the Bible, Jesus, the world, the spiritual realm and other things. Yet they have strong community and a desire to do Good, they value the instruction to Love and they feel Loved by God. It is not my path, and I can see value in it.

My world is so beautiful. The park, the birds, my flat, my estate, my village, the towns-

the people

https://clareflourish.files.wordpress.com/2013/02/ronald_searle_exhibition_maincontent_0007_image.jpg?w=225And it becomes clearer to me how much I may trust myself. From “I can’t do X” I move to “I can’t do X yet”: I relinquish the need to be perfect immediately, and accept the possibility of learning and improving. Saturday 26th in karate we advanced in pigeon-toed stance. The knees are bent, the toes point inwards, and the leg and torso muscles are tensed. The inside of both great toes goes white as I push my feet outwards on the floor. In stepping forward, one relaxes the muscles, moves, then tenses again. I noticed how easy it is to tense, and how difficult to relax again. How wonderful, to be able just to let the tension go, in an instant!

In Meeting the next day I noticed how tense I am,  particularly my upper back, and thought of relaxing that and letting it go. This is a skill I can learn. Then in my ritual space this morning (Monday 28th) I felt that tension and accepted it. It is how I am now. It is OK. I might like to be less tense, I might develop relaxation skills, I may make things better from a place which is sufficient for now.

That is OK, and- I move to noticing my breath. That is beautiful and amazing. The most quotidian thing, and so perfect, for giving Life and for communicating.

I am sensitive

and I have seen that as a problem or weakness, and I have denied it. As I accept it, it ceases to be weakness, and I learn how to be with it.

PS: after scheduling this post, I have a reminder of that on facebook, and I tense- that experience is over, though the processing of it is not, and I want to be over it. Honestly. Lust, admiration, envy, fear, resentment- clusterfuck or omnishambles of emotion, entwined with learnings of myself which I have denied then resented and feared, and which now perplex me-

I want to be over it.

Even this is bearable.

Why I am a Christian

Because I was raised one; and when I was driven out, I had somewhere to go.

I think the Church is less poisonous in the UK than in the US. Here, we have had regulations forbidding discrimination on the ground of sexual orientation in employment, supply of goods and services, housing and education since 2006, and the Sex Discrimination Act was extended to transsexual people before then. When the Church of England came out against equal marriage in the government consultation, many members opposed that stance: most female vicars would, I hope.

My mother went to church weekly before her marriage, and throughout her pregnancy, before my baptism, and when I needed to be carried there she carried me. Then I toddled there, and throughout childhood going to church was as regular as going to school. I carried on while at university, and have never stopped. I took my Christianity seriously, and read the Bible Speaks Today and the Daily Study Bible series of commentaries, as well as reading the Bible straight through more than once.

In healthy human development, the teenager separates herself from her parents, and I did not. My beliefs and attitudes were those of my parents, which were conservative and old-fashioned even for their generation, and they were forty years older than I. Only in my thirties did I come to understand that I needed to rebel against my parents in order to be my own person. I had a gradual liberalising of my views: my parents were strongly opposed to the ordination of women, I became weakly then strongly in favour.

I moved to Oldham, 240 miles from them, in 1995 to get a job, and attended the parish church. I put on a cassock-alb to serve at the altar- I still value the Otherworldliness we may obtain in worship by putting on special clothes and performing ritual actions. Then I found the Metropolitan Community Church and attended there, expressing myself female. I would go to the parish church in the morning, MCC in the afternoon on Sundays. But though we tried to be serious- I have my copy of the New Jerome Commentary, much of which I have read, because Andy led an evening class to get us to preach sermons- it felt to me like playing at religion.

In 2001, I decided I could no longer worship God disguised as a man. I told the priest, and he said that he would try to ensure that I was not driven out of the church, but when he saw me female it revolted him. I am 99% certain he was celibate, and 70% certain he was gay. So I went and joined the Quakers. My friend Barbara felt driven out of the URC she had worshiped in for decades. She had formerly arranged the organ rota, and her replacement asked me to cover. I went, expressing myself female, and one woman warmly welcomed me and took me into the hall for coffee after. No-one else talked to me but for a stiff, formal welcome from the preacher, and I was not asked to play the organ again. Fortunately in the Quakers I was welcome. We have a larger proportion of LGBT folk than the general population since the publication in 1973 of “Homosexuality from the inside” by David Blamires, who worships at Central Manchester meeting where I first regularly attended.

-------------------------------------------

Why am I a Christian? I never stopped. Barbara told me, “I read Richard Dawkins, and the scales fell from my eyes”, though her conversation remains littered with Biblical allusion: it is to an extent who I am, and if I do not believe at various times, I am always a Cultural christian. My parish church in Oldham introduced me to my best friend there, and my Quaker meetings since have been my best source of friendship and company.

Beliefs? I do not believe in the virgin birth, it is based on a misunderstanding of Isaiah born of the use of the Septuagint by the author of Matthew. More seriously, I do not believe in the Crucifixion as the perfect sacrifice, oblation and satisfaction for our sins- that puts me well outside the mainstream of Christianity, many would say outside it altogether. Afterlife? The image,

When we’ve been there ten thousand years,
Bright shining as the sun;
We’ve no less days to sing God’s praise,
Than when we first begun!

does not appeal to me. Indeed, I am so much more than the conscious I- the ancient Egyptians may have had it right, with their idea of 14 separate souls in each person- that I do not see how this conscious I could survive, or whether it would want to.

I believe in synchronicity. I believe in the value of Quaker worship and the Quaker business method. I value the Bible like a wonderful friend, alien and infuriating though it is. I have experiences which I call experiences of God, though what God is I am unsure.

God is. And, God is not.

Impressions

File:Claude Monet-Waterlilies.jpgAt Gospel Oak, rain flowed down the steps as the crowd moved from one platform to the other. Men with brooms pushed water towards the drains- one varied his chore by pushing and then using a backhand sweeping motion. In the underpass, water spurted from holes in the walls. In the crowd, I moved selfishly, fruitlessly attempting to pick shallower points in the puddles, and to hurry: and the crowd accommodated that.

On Kilburn High Road, a group exhorted passers-by to turn to Christ, and what grabbed my attention was Mere Christianity by CS Lewis on their stall. They noticed my attention, but I moved quickly to escape, taking a flyer and then looking around for a bin for it.

The pineapple juice, not from concentrate, tastes so much better.

At Swanston station, I sat beside a woman on a bench and she started a conversation by asking me how I liked my Kindle. Yes, you can adjust the size of the print. (Print, type, “words” is the only word to avoid hot-lead metaphors.) I like the feel of the back of it, on my fingertips. Then she told me of her holiday reading, Fifty Shades of Grey. She has read it and the two sequels. Round the pool, everyone was reading it, and it File:Monet - Die japanische Brücke im grünen Farbklang.jpgwas so hot the glue was melting and the pages falling out. A male friend asked her what it was about and she could not tell him. I have heard of it, but not read it. “It’s very hot” she confided.

After a Reiki session, I wash my hands, and forearms up to the elbow. I am extremely conscious of the water and the soap and the movement of my hands on my skin; absorbed in my task, I perform it slowly and carefully- reverently.

On the train from Gospel Oak to HGL, Jenny sat beside me, and somehow we got chatting. She had been to a party, and then come back with her sister; she had wanted to be heard, and her sister had not had the time. So I said I am getting off at HGL, and if she wanted someone to hear her she could come for a coffee. So she did. Both of us have had the strange, dislocating experience of calling the Samaritans and the person saying they have no more time and the call has to end now. I explained I could hear her distress and Earth it, let it flow through me and away. I take pleasure in the fact that I can make her feel better. I noted her aged prettiness, thought of blogging about it, and “the encounter” as a story, here- and I think I was present File:Monet - Die japanische Brücke in Giverny.jpgenough to do some good as well as enjoy myself at the time. She paid, we hugged, we parted.

It was a synchronicity, though. I had phoned H from Gospel Oak, and she had not responded. Thinking it a little early to pop round for the evening, I had been glad of something else to do; but H had no note of a missed call. She had been around, and I could have gone there immediately.

Cuddling with someone, not U, I thought how each time after seeing U I feel weak and weepy, and thought that is the last thing I want to be thinking of, in this particular situation. Now at least, it behoves me to be present.

After eating the blackberries, I thanked the brambles, and my gratitude made this a spiritual experience.

Coffee with T

T loves Costa Coffee, and loves talking of Zen, the mind/brain interface, consciousness and ways of thinking, and these topics please me too. Whence comes Inspiration? What happens when you sever the corpus callosum? His younger brother, who was gay just after “sodomy” ceased to be a criminal offence in England and tried so hard to be straight, is a spiritual medium, and his sister was a homoeopath, and T, a former hypnotherapist, has this wonderfully thoughtful, rational way of dealing with these issues. We dispose of Naive Realism- how would you know if you were living in The Matrix- wonderful film that, the sequels were rubbish- and have such similar interests and perspectives that the conversation is a delight. What do you mean by “I”? Well, there is this physical object, or process, continually taking in or excreting substance and ideas, which being an evolved animal has a strong attachment to its own continuing existence. How could new ideas change brain structures? By reinforcing new pathways through the brain. Well, it happens, we cannot say why. How can I talk about a soul or even an “I”, when if I suddenly stop taking oestradiol I get all emotional, weepy, impulsive, angry, and if I take it again I become more even-tempered? That is a chemical process, surely, rather than an “Individual”.

What I want to discuss is healing, and how I cannot justify it with my rational being: so how just to trust my emotional being? Of course I did that before: transitioning from acting male to expressing myself female makes no sense at all, rationally, apart from the fact that I Wanted to do it. I so want my rational brain to be able to justify healing work, and it can’t. I grew up having to justify everything rationally, being unaware of my feelings.

Have I told you this story? I decided to kill myself (No, he says, I have not told that story. When was that? Oh, years ago, not recently). I got my pills, and I went into my living room to get whisky to wash them down with, because I thought that might make me lose consciousness more quickly and be better able to go through with it. But in my living room I found my bath water flowing through the ceiling. A join in the drainpipe had given way, and the water flowed out. So I called the landlord, and the plumber, and got it dealt with, and after the plumber left the immediate desire to die had gone away. A Synchronicity!

But what about all the people who decided to die and didn’t have something like that to distract them? he asks. Yeah, yeah, I know. Still, that was my Proof of the Existence of God for years. And- why Libya but not Syria? Is that the same question?

This link between the amygdala and the limbic system and the frontal lobe- different voices, then Consciousness, the illusion of the I-

An even more personal story. I get a little weepy-
……………………………..and then I relax.

I went to a Healing Development Group with the Healing Trust. They have a particular procedure, first giving energy to the seven chakras, then to the parts of the body in turn. And I felt my hands grow warm, but when I passed over the leader’s arm, my hands suddenly felt cold. It felt so different. And I did not have the courage to tell her, or anyone until now. Could that be- sensing something? Could it be real?

Actually, now I have shared this story, trusted to share it, I feel- different. More relaxed, and Much, Much Happier. Wonderful. It feels real. I can respect that feeling.

People describe the flow of energy, or Qi, with very precise technical terms, in great detail, similar to the descriptions anatomists use, yet not describing anything an anatomist could observe. It mimics rationalism, but the rationalists can’t accept it. This is the weepy bit- my rational being has to be content with Unknowing. This is the joyous bit- in that Moment, I can trust my feeling.

Out into the sunshine. There is a busker in a dinner jacket, bow tie and fingerless gloves playing the guitar, and I stop to listen. Then Candy recognises me, and we chat with the busker about that time when the violinist played in the railway station– was it New York? Not sure. Candy is almost a stranger, we exchanged a few words when I was working. Now we exchange phone numbers. Impromptu conversations in the street! Not what I am used to. I feel relaxed, more real. He plays Bach. There is a group of rough-looking men four yards away, and one suddenly barks like a dog- RuhRuhRuhRuhRuhRuhRuh- loudly at another- rough looking men, hearing the music.

To the garage to get my car fixed, where I meet Ganesh. God is everywhere!

Bad things happen to good people

Things at the moment are not as I might have hoped, and my friend Anne said, things happen which seem bad at the time, and then after you have a good experience, and you realise that that good experience would not have happened but for the experience you called bad. And I find this view ridiculous, repellant, a tempting falsehood.

Good things happen, good things happen all the time. Who is to say that, had I not had this unpleasing experience, I might not have had a string of far more wonderful experiences following on each other? After this experience, I think my situation is worse. So I think Anne’s view is a false way of finding blessing in a bad situation. The bad experience has not caused the good experience, and might have prevented better experiences.

I am all for finding the Blessing in every situation. What I think of as a bad experience may lead me to find strengths within myself which I had not previously called upon, or see opportunities which I would not otherwise have taken. But I do not want to sugar the pill by claiming a blessing where none is. 

Even if every hair on my head is numbered, that does not mean that everything which happens to me is part of a divine plan, blessing, test, correction or encouragement. I think the lesson is, I have been floored before, and have survived it. So I have found a way through, and I hope I may this time too. But, Now, I want to see clearly where I am, and consider my options, not seek out any consolation unless I can clearly and confidently pronounce it to be True.

And then, I read this Hafiz/ Ladinsky poem:

This place where you are right now
God circled on a map for you.

Wherever your eyes and arms and heart can move
Against the earth and sky
The Beloved has bowed there-

Our Beloved has bowed there knowing
you were coming.

Synchronicities

Jenny knew what they were- something happens to make you feel better. Steve knew what they were, something happens and you learn something. I had experiences of both kinds, and also, possibly, giving them to someone else: I said something to him, and my nephew, then ten, just stood still, eyes moving from side to side, processing. Wonderful. Adults do not do it so visibly. Or an accidental encounter just might be something good for another person, I hope. And even when things all come together and something happens to make me feel really, really bad- a Dyschronicity- some good has come out of the experience.

A particular experience eighteen months ago made me aware of a certain hurt, and seek healing of it, which opened me to meaning in Chakras- before, chakras, as places in the body or around it, seemed to me so much gibberish. As I move forward with that healing, here is Tim, who leads a meditation in August involving seven chakras, and it has meaning for me. And I become aware of the Golden Light Project, and am enriched by the meditation through thirteen chakras.

It is almost enough to make me believe in a personal deity, Who is guiding me through this world. My inner rationalist comes out at that, and wants to shave the idea away with Occam’s razor. Indeed, it could be merely that all the learning is There, and all I need do is become aware of it.