Back to the beginning- with illumination

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So simple, so amazing: a journey into awareness

Chapter 15:  Back to the beginning- with illumination

There’s a film called Propaganda which is a North Korean film about the West.  It holds a fascinating mirror up to western society.  The deadpan narration over scenes of consumer frenzy over the new iphone and Black Friday are sobering.  It mentions how advertising uses vague slogans that that do not actually mean anything.  This reminded me of what Bill Hicks said about advertising.  It also reminded me of how I used to see signs on lorries such as ‘Reality’ or ‘Be the best’ and think they applied to my own life.

Now I notice just how many signs, instructions and ‘man made’ distractions there are just along a Norfolk road on the way to work.  It’s as if they are put there to stop you having any depth of personal thought, because as soon as you begin thinking there’s a sign that jolts you out of your train of thought and breaks your concentration:  Urban Jungle (not as my husband used to think, a rave night, but a cool garden centre (if that isn’t an oxymoron)), T junction, Take That Tribute Band, car boot, road works, even the white lines in the centre of the road, as if you wouldn’t know how to drive if there wasn’t  a line painted on there for you to follow.  The road signs look plonked down, so do the electricity pylons and telegraph wires, as if we wouldn’t be able to believe in electricity unless it was spelled out to us in wires.  Even the trees begin to look unreal, plastic, like model railway scenery.

With each new level of awareness there’s a temptation to play, to test it, to work out which rules can be bent and which can be broken.  But I soon get bored of doing things like trying to make wind turbines change direction or water change colour.  I don’t even try that hard to work it all out or understand how it all works.  Ultimately it all ends with, so what? Or, what now?  And what I am left with is, what do I want to do?  What would I do if I didn’t have to do anything?  What would I do if anything was possible?  What would I do if I could do whatever I wanted?  My horizons had been limited for so long that I had to ask myself that question many times before I could even begin to start to frame an answer.

Everything is arranged so that our biggest and best experiences are early in our lives (partying, travelling, love affairs, marriage) and this, plus the emphasis on youth in shows and advertising mean that people spend most of their lives looking back to the good old days, drawn to the past, and taking all the power away from their present.  Wedding photographs on the mantelpiece, watered down nights out (karaoke, local pubs, tribute bands) with other no longer young people, and of course alcohol, always alcohol, to give the illusory promise of fun and to keep people dumbed down.

Little tests, like my car key fob breaking in my hand at the petrol station, a diversion on the way to work as I was already late.  Someone being aggressive at work.  Testing my ability to stay neutral in the face of provocation.

Little rewards:  the receptionist at work saying you smell nice, then later me coming out of the kitchen, her saying, earlier I wanted to take you out, now I want to eat you up.  A horse walking down my road.  Realising at the traffic lights that I really don’t care if they are red or green.  Going to the Roman Fort with my friend pointing everything out, the mounds, the maps and artist’s depictions of the buildings, and me not believing any of it.  Seeing a ring with a green* stone in the window and it was half price and it fitted.

*My theory is that I am green mist come down into this body for a human experience.  We thought this world up, created the idea of it as a test, an experience, or a game.  We believed in it; this gave it life.  We had experiences with emotional content; this formed memories and attachments to things, places, people and ideas.  We forgot that we made it up.  We forgot we were ‘spiritual beings’.  We even forgot about and stopped noticing and believing in ‘spiritual’ markers and creatures e.g. giants and fairies; and so we fell asleep and stayed asleep.  The ring reminds me who I really am.

At work:  that’s the benign one whose wife left him; that’s the grumpy one; that’s the one who always makes me tea.  They are in roles.  I can’t expect anything more of them.  All the feelings, relationships, attachments I have, even to family, are all in my head.

Creating little pockets of freedom: clean white technology free spare room; not washing myself at weekends.  Keep chucking things out:  today I threw out the faded pink little nodding dog that my friend Jane gave me when I passed my driving test and which has always sat in the dashboard of every car, for the last 23 years.  Keep changing:  A few weeks ago I texted my friend who I used to do a monthly healing swap with and told her I was going through a ‘cease all spiritual practices’ phase and wouldn’t be giving or receiving healing anymore.  Today I texted my friend who I am meeting in the city to say I would meet her for coffee and a catch up only, no shopping, because I am ‘staying away from malls, too much stimulation’.  The advantage of being weird is that I can just come out with stuff like that and no one bats an eyelid.

Dismantle the illusion brick by brick.  Push where it moves, like Jenga- except I don’t know if I want it to suddenly all come crashing down- but maybe that is what happens.

Look around- people getting old- that’s what happens when you stop moving.  This ‘perfect’ space was ‘just’ to enable us to increase our frequency so we can move on.  You’re not like other people; so prove it.

And suddenly everyone’s doing it or talking about doing it: a man in my team who has just handed in his notice, bought a motor home, is going to rent his house out and go off travelling in Southern Europe in the winter and spend summers in the UK working on campsites.  My manager saying at my appraisal, are you planning to keep on working or are you thinking of going off to India or something.  A healthcare worker on the ward who is going travelling around India, Thailand and Vietnam for a year then onto New Zealand and Australia for another year, with the intention of not coming back.  Friends who are talking about selling up and going off to Morocco…  Anything is possible…

 

 

The end… and the beginning.

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Practical application

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So simple, so amazing: a journey into awareness

Chapter 14:  Practical application

As I said before, my aim and focus is to maintain and increase my awareness.  If it drops, I work to increase it again.  How?  By how I live:

I am vegan.

Look after physical health.  Don’t get involved in things that drain my energy or make me depressed.   Don’t get stressed, pace myself, don’t get tired.

I avoid a lot of the things that others are involved in such as politics.  It was hard not to vote in the EU referendum, harder still not to vote in the last general election, but I didn’t.  I had to act like it wasn’t real, even though I wasn’t totally there yet.

I don’t buy newspapers.  I haven’t managed to give up reading the headlines in shops or checking BBC news online yet but I am working on it.

I don’t have television, I only watch Netflix or occasionally Google play.  I only watch one series at a time and occasionally watch a film.  As I write this, I haven’t watched anything for several weeks.  Art is about trying to break on through to the other side.  Once you’ve done it, it has nothing to teach you.

I aim to go through my day mindfully, ensuring I use up as little energy as possible- don’t rush around, rest when need to- or before I need to- so in that way it’s like the principles that occupational therapists advocate for joint protection and energy conservation.  Use your biggest strongest joints and muscles to protect your vulnerable ones.  Use adaptive equipment to make the task lighter- e.g. cook vegetables inside a wire mesh basket you can lift out so you don’t have to lift heavy pans of boiling water.  Respect pain.  Don’t start tasks that can’t be stopped.  All this from a printed sheet from when I was a student that has survived every ruthless de-clutter of the past 20 years.

Every now and again, and especially after something intense/stressful, do something to reclaim energy and recharge yourself.  Pay attention to what YOU need to stay calm, relaxed, happy and neutral.  Make changes to your life that benefit you e.g. go to four days per week.

Most evenings John and I go for a walk together and talk.  There’s a walk near us that John discovered, Norfolk flat, quiet lanes and footpaths, yellow wheat fields, poppies, blue skies, and it’s there that we have had most of our big moments recently.  Walking along the middle stretch I said, what if it’s just us, having an adventure, and both of us really feeling that.  In moments like that everything seems to slow down, and in that moment I really believe.  Another time, driving home and talking, me saying the past doesn’t exist, it’s only this moment, and feeling the present moment expand and brighten as everything else faded away.

I have got rid of all of my books.  I have got rid of all my no longer worn vintage clothes and little bags and purses, including items from the 50s, 60s and 70s from my grandmother and mother.  I have deleted every number from my mobile phone that I don’t actually currently use or need, keeping only current friends and contacts and family phone numbers only.

Letting go of the past enables me to live in the now, and living in the now enables me to let go of the past.  Doing things that increase my awareness enables me to do more things which then increase my awareness still further.

I have cut my pension contribution by half*, partly to assist with managing the impact of dropping to four days a week, partly to take a step towards dropping my belief in/need for such things.  Right now, I still have a pension and life insurance.

*To do this I had to log into the work benefits site.  As well as the pension contributions there were loads of other things: childcare vouchers, cycle to work scheme, purchasing of electronic goods in instalments.  It reminded me that for every single thing you think of, there is layer upon layer of complexity and choice and detail designed into it.  Every layer, every aspect, every detail, is a hook for your attention.  This is why people talk about living simply, simplifying their lives, or reducing sensory input.  Just think about the natural world.  When I go for a walk along a path in the Norfolk countryside and stop by a fairly ordinary stream, there is pond weed and insects and layers of plants, and split, gnarled trees growing out of the water.  The detail is just breathtaking.  Then think of the rest of the natural world, the plants, animals and birds in the world, the natural world under the sea…  Let alone thinking about issues such as wars, global warming, recycling, and all the layers and details and complexities within every tiny aspect of those subjects.

The Time to Be Happy Is Now

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So simple, so amazing: a journey into awareness

Chapter 13:  Time to Be Happy Is Now

I used to live life looking down, you taught me to look up.  I want to say thank you.  I love you.  I see you, I believe in you, and as long as we’re together there’s nothing we can’t do.  (Sense 8)

When I lived at our old house, the light bulb reflecting on the bathroom wall made an image of a tiny high window.  Thinking the worst, I thought it was a prison cell window.  I thought that perhaps I was in prison but didn’t realise it.  Maybe that was true.  But now, instead of looking ‘down’ or ‘backwards’, to something worse than my current situation, it’s the other way around.

From where I am right now, which is good anyway, I am seeing windows and doors everywhere, windows and doors to something even better.  Walking around the town I notice haylofts, alley ways with little gates, high lit up windows and huge wooden doors.

If self analysis and ruminating about the past is like trying to untangle a ball of wool that a kitten has played with*, then it suddenly dawned on me that I could just chuck it out and buy a fresh ball.  I could forget all my mother’s conditioning about recycling and not wasting and just go out and buy a new one.  Or even decide that I don’t like knitting after all and go and do something else.

*As I was thinking this, I saw a sparrow pecking one of those mirrors people have to help them reverse out of their driveways, it kept flying around to look behind, then back again to the front and pecking, totally futile.  A much better metaphor (than I could have made up) than the tangled ball of wool, for our endless introspection (re the past) and navel gazing.

Saturday morning in bed, talking, in the moment, really in the moment, so that we felt like two Gods looking down at what we had created.  Reviewing our lives, how we got here, what we gave to each other (money and security, fun and happiness).  What we mean to each other now that we don’t need anything.  Experimenting with the idea of letting each other go, to travel separately, to take a job in another country.  Even thinking the unthinkable, the possibility of separating:  Maybe my work is done here John said, we had a good run.  Is this how divorce happens, just an idea that gets spoken aloud?  Of course not:  you fight, and make each other unhappy.  We are not like that.

Long talk with John about setting ourselves free, e.g. selling the house, moving away from the kids:  what would you do if you only had one life?  Both felt tingly all over.  Looked up properties and jobs in Scotland just to get in the zone of putting it out there, that we are up for it…

Enjoying friendships more, finding friendships more satisfying, even though one might think the opposite would be true.  Realising that this world and most of the people in it are illusionary doesn’t lessen the pleasure I get from nature or good company.

I saw a black and white cat using a zebra crossing today, the woman in the car behind me saw it and laughed too.

Where is this book going to go?  Back to the beginning, with illumination.

This is what a good man looks like:

When I was still into healing and chakras**, John had a hernia operation.  He was quite poorly in the recovery and in severe pain.  Later I looked up the emotions associated with that area according to my chakra book: anger, resentment and frustration.  He said he ‘always holds it in’ and ‘is left with it’ (this is about difficult interactions with his children’s mother).  A hernia is a hole in the wall of the intestines.  So anger, resentment and frustration had literally burned a hole inside of him?!  I thought, right, maybe the cure would be to let her have it, to say all the things he never says?

Much later, when I told him all that, and suggested letting her have it, he said:  If that’s true, if that’s why I had the hernia and if that’s the cure, and if I had the choice between letting her have it both barrels, and having the hernia and this operation, well then I’d take the hernia, because I know how much my actions hurt her.

** I have shredded my healing logs, reflections, student journals and my certificates and registration card.  Why?  I realised I don’t know what it is I am doing; that people should probably heal themselves; that I should focus on myself; but above all, to make space for newness.

Beyond Spirituality

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So simple, so amazing: a journey into awareness

Chapter 12:  Beyond Spirituality

It was only after having an orgasm for the first time in weeks that I realised it wasn’t good for me.  Immediately it brought me down, into my body, into the bed; infusing me with a yearning that I couldn’t shake off.  It clouded my new found awareness so that none of that higher plane existence seemed important.  All I wanted was this world physicality.  Like alcohol, like eating badly, it brought me right back down to earth and I realised I didn’t want to be there.  I’d been to, been in, another place, and that place was better.

Although it wasn’t so much an actual place, as an idea, a state of mind.  The idea was that this world we live in isn’t real.

Others have described it better, or described the theory of it better:  Bill Hicks, The Secret and the Law of Attraction, but it’s one thing reading other’s ideas, thinking about them and even believing them, it’s another thing knowing and seeing for yourself.

Seeing the commuters as my train passed through a station, everyone in grey.  A woman in a grey work outfit but with orangey pink trainers on, perhaps she got changed so she could walk to work like I would, and then she put on some orangey pink sunglasses just to complete the picture.  Meanwhile, a man dressed casually in a grey t shirt and chinos, carrying a full carrier bag, brought out of the bag a grey hoody and put it on, looking totally relaxed.  Matching but different.  I like plain clothes.  I thought, I couldn’t have designed that better.

Arriving at Nottingham train station, all the commuters, almost all in black and white, me thinking, this is all background.  Knowing, really feeling, that they weren’t real.  Creepy, almost, like being in a film.

On a walk, going past dog roses, thinking, I made that.  I even have a tattoo of it.  Maybe I also made guns, and nail polish, and fish, and shells.  Seeing the flowers; the irises, the orange colour that jumps out, peonies, gladioli, lilies, inky purple.  Thinking, some of us went crazy on the flowers, others on the birds and animals.  I like to claim ivy, and maybe twisted roots.

Thinking that the birds are on a loop; when you look up at the sky it’s only so long before a bird or usually two flies over, but how many do you watch before you stop watching?  One, two, three at the most?  So it could easily be on a loop of ten and no one would notice; you’d have to study and remember each one and watch for a long time and who would bother to do that?

I was stuck on (in?) writing about the past, so I went for walk, and all this came, written on my phone.  Standing in the sun, which I shouldn’t have done as I got too much sun the day before and made myself feel ill, but I couldn’t move, I couldn’t even walk to a shady area, I had to write it down there and then, my feet rooted to the ground.

I am focussed on the knowing, the evidence, the feeling that I know, not the intellectualising of it.

I mentioned in an earlier chapter that I had gone off the word ‘spirituality’.  Rather than think of myself as ‘being spiritual’ or not being spiritual, now I think of awareness.  It’s about awareness, losing awareness, maintaining awareness, developing awareness.

And making the darkness conscious- maybe anglers leave their lines lying around on purpose to kill birds because the birds eat the fish.  They maim and kill fish for fun, so why not?

Knowing the truth, this is what I am working on now.  It’s so hard, it’s easier to just go back, to get distracted and sucked back in.  It’s hard to maintain this awareness, it slips away, it’s hard to hold onto and the process is tiring.  I need to look for chinks in the illusionary world, to dismantle it brick by brick.  To unhook itself from me and me from it, by making my surface smooth and slippery so it can’t hook onto me, so I don’t get stuck.  How, by being neutral; I even dress neutral, grey long sleeve top, black vest, plain dark no rips jeans, simple jewellery.  Keep healthy, stay away from politics, don’t get stressed, don’t get over tired.  Live in the Now.  As much as possible stay emotionally neutral.  Remember to remember.

Slaying the dragon

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So simple, so amazing: a journey into awareness

Chapter 11:  Slaying the dragon

Sharing my sexual fantasy kicked off a few weeks of us having probably the best sex of our relationship; and yet very soon after, we began exploring the idea of giving up sex altogether.

For a few weeks we allowed ourselves to get lost in fantasising and fucking.  And then we woke up.  We began to realise that sex is a way that we get lost, lose control, and lose our awareness, and fantasising whilst having sex is, or could be a kind of sex magic.  I resisted at first, thinking, how can something that feels so good be wrong?  But of course that is a ridiculous argument- look at bacon sandwiches.

Unthinkable that me, an earthy Taurean who loves to feel my bare feet on the ground, who loves walking, exercise and nature, who is totally wedded to the physical, who loves food, loves sex…  could give up sex.

It had been mentioned before, during our foray into Buddhism.  We had been talking about craving and how things fall away and John said, eventually even sex might just fall away.  I remember feeling very strange about that, as if it opened a door to a possibility I hadn’t considered before, forcing me to think the unthinkable.

I found it hard to imagine us giving up sex without some distance or withdrawal occurring; either because that’s the only way we’d be able to do it, or because that would be a consequence of us stopping having sex with each other.

Years before we even met, John had been into tantric sex, Tao, the idea that orgasm depletes your finite reserves of energy.

Why do this?  We’ve done everything else.  We’ve had enough sex to last a lifetime.  It’s like the lifestyle equivalent of when my hair had been every colour (orange, black, purple, red, pink, platinum…), the only place to go was natural.  Why not try the one thing we’ve never tried:  No sex.

I did feel better when I stopped fantasising- even straight away I noticed good things happening day to day, as if I was being rewarded for purifying my thoughts.

We went three weeks without an orgasm.  The effects were felt in terms of increased energy (John) and increased awareness (both of us).

We didn’t stop having sex, but we did limit it by setting certain days and by going as long as we could without having orgasms.  Having sex without the intention of orgasm changes things, and creates new ways of having sex and new ways of finishing.  Finding the moment to stop and then sitting or lying together as we let sexual excitement wash out.  Not using hands, not trying so hard.   Treating it more like giving a massage.  Accepting it as an experience complete in itself.

The experience of having sex and stepping back from orgasm, wanting to come but managing to stay conscious.  Like just having a lick of an ice cream when you want the whole thing or ordering a slice of chocolate cake and only eating one mouthful.  Like stepping right up to heaven and then walking away…  because you can.  Because you are strong enough.  Because you are so strong you are able to see this for what it is, an earthly desire that you can control.  And when you do control it, you feel powerful, you feel aware, you feel risen, separate, up above the earthly pleasures of the bed.  Why?  To teach us to walk away, not in a self harm/punishment way (although I can see how religions saw this and corrupted it) but to make us realise that…  We can walk away from everything.

In bed, got hot talking about sexual fantasy, up until then, had been conscious, lovely sex, then lost it, wanted to come, did come, and fell right back down, into the body, with energetic ties so thick they were almost visible: to sex, to my sexual parts, to John.  Bound, wanting to go back to it, like getting drunk one night and wanting to just go back to the pub again the next day because it’s just too hard to drag oneself out of it to somewhere else.  Like getting stoned and forgetting about the dishes.  I lost my awareness. 

So I figured I must be making progress, to notice these changes.

Erotica (Warning: Adult content, sexually explicit, may offend)

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So simple, so amazing: a journey into awareness

Chapter 10:  Erotica 

 (Warning: Adult content, sexually explicit, may offend)

 

 

 Love letter 2017

 

The erotica story I had planned to write turns out not to be a story after all but an email to my husband.

I had planned to write a story about my ‘kink’ after we had spent a sex and drug fuelled weekend talking about our sexual fantasies.  ‘Don’t make it about me’ you said.  Which put me in a difficult position as I most definitely wanted the story to be about me and there is no way I would want to write about myself with anyone else.

In the story I had planned to write I tell you that my ultimate sexual fantasy is for you to meet and begin a sexual relationship with another woman, preferably someone much younger than me and for this relationship to develop into the long term.

This stays in your mind as it stays in mine.  You think about it.  You meet someone, or notice someone.  It comes into your mind.  You become friends.  You become closer.  Eventually, sexual attraction and sex comes up.  We talk.  We had already discussed that having sex with another person once certainly wouldn’t break us up.

You have sex with her for the first time.  I accept it really easily, you really enjoy it and you like her a lot, so we agree that it doesn’t have to stop there.

You have sex with her again.  And again, and again.  I want you to do it as much as possible to help it sink in: the quicker I realise this is where we are, the better.

A routine of sorts ensues: you see her when I am at work, you tend to have at least two days off in the week so you can see her without it really affecting me.  You have a friend to hang out with, who also happens to be a very attractive young woman who you have sex with.

We talk a lot.  I get used to you talking about your relationship with her.  You get used to being able to talk to me about your new relationship.  I process feelings of fear and jealousy by doing yoga, writing, internet support and speaking with you.  Each new stage we negotiate brings us closer.

You buy her jewellery.  You tell Dan and the kids about her.  From the very beginning, I looked forward to it being that established.

I experience some exquisite highs (loss of control, submission) and some lows (pain, jealousy).  When I need intense closeness with you (sexual or emotional), I ask for you to piss in my mouth.  I ask you if you want to see her.  I appreciate you seeing her.  I am grateful, loving and appreciative.

You don’t deliberately say, suck my cock it’s got her on it, it’s more that we’re both relaxed about whether it has or it hasn’t.  If we want to have sex when you come home after being with her we do.  You know there’s no need for you to shower before coming home- after all, there are no secrets.  We don’t have any rules about what you can and can’t do.  I trust you.  You are a free spirit and so is your cock.

That was the story I had planned to write.  But I am so bored with myself for planning every little thing out!  In real life, if we did it, I wouldn’t make any plans.  The only plan would be that from now on you can do whatever you want.  I’d want the rest to be a surprise.

I have fantasised about you having sex with another woman for years.

Yet every time there had been a flicker of a possibility, I jumped on it and put it out.  I sincerely apologise to you for that.  You met a woman with great tits and into NLP and spirituality on a train.   You struck up a friendship with L and she went on and on about how amazing you were, how attractive.  And more recently, X.  I’m sorry.   But I didn’t know anything then.

I thought that feeling jealous meant that I didn’t or couldn’t want to do it in real life.  But reading on the internet, they all feel jealous, that seems to be part of it; and jealousy isn’t about the act itself, it’s about fear and insecurity.  If you have no fear or insecurity, you have no real jealousy.

I know it looks as though I had it all planned out, but that’s only because I imagined it, explored it, worked through it and wrote about it, all to get me to this point.

At this point it could go several ways.

Maybe nothing will happen and we’ll just talk about it in bed.  Like at Christmas, me on all fours, you fucking me with your fingers, me saying Oh my God, I’m sorry, there must be something wrong with me, I can’t help it, I just get so turned on by It.  You saying: It’s okay, it’s hot, I like it. 

Maybe you’ll  explore apps (there are several designed specifically for people in open relationships, or for people to hook up with people in open relationships, meaning that the women know from the start what they are getting themselves into.)  Maybe you’ll go totally crazy and take us on a sexual and emotional rollercoaster ride.

Or maybe you might, just might, next time you meet someone and you make a connection, you might just think about it…  let the idea sit…  let whatever happens, happens. 

I finish the email and press send.  A whole day of knicker-soaking anticipation consumes me.  I don’t expect a long reply, I know you how much you hate typing.  But when your message comes, it takes my breath away.

‘Ok.’

Therapeutic writing

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So simple, so amazing: a journey into awareness

Chapter 9:  Therapeutic writing

Why bother? 

  • To find what is interesting about my life, past and present
  • To add interest and purpose to my life via the writing of it
  • To see patterns or a purpose via the process of reflection, noticing and writing
  • To work out solutions or
  • To document solutions/changes/resolutions as they occur and develop
  • To overcome depression and anxiety
  • To make peace with the past

I am increasing realising that it takes lateral thinking to interpret the signs from the universe.  My mum gave me a children’s book she had found when moving house.  She said, you liked this, I mean you really liked it, that’s why I am asking you if you want it.  So I took it and read it and tried to remember it, but I just couldn’t.  But a year later I realise, it wasn’t about remembering the book, it was the message I needed to remember.  The book was about doing drawings that came to life, drawings that came true…  So it was about me being reminded that the act of writing can influence the future, like magic, writing literally spells for me.

If there’s nothing I want to change and nothing I need help with, or if I’m simply integrating new insights, growth and awareness, then I won’t be writing.  I will go in and out of writing and day to day life.  Like going underneath the water to look at the fish, and up again to breathe and feel the sun on my face.

It’s a science experiment, it’s a memoir, its personal therapy, and for others, maybe it’s at least validating if not actual self help…

…Take a fearless moral inventory, as they say in AA.  I am such a shameless student that I even looked up online to see if there is a template you can download for doing this.*  But all I really need is this, my fingers tapping on my keyboard…

*There is, of course

 Orlando:  The writing, the looking, the process of writing, leads to something else, and it is the something else that it is all about.

The tingly feeling when you feel like you are writing your life into existence, or delving into your subconscious:  It’s all about the present moment- although that is fleeting.  Past, present and future all exist at the same time and the ‘aim’ if there is one, is to integrate them into a whole.  Into the present moment  (I accidentally wrote, integrate them in the present moment, which is also true).

Ok, so this is how the magic happens:  At the end of a piece about the past, I intend to type the word boring but mistype it.  (After all these years I’ve never gotten good at typing and I think too fast for my fingers so that when I pause for breath every paragraph is littered with red lines.)  I click on the misspelt boring and the word ‘bemiring’ comes up.  I didn’t know what it meant so I looked it up on the online dictionary- and it wasn’t there.  Just as had happened before (documented in my previous book).  But just as had happened before, the ‘word of the day’ on the dictionary home page was something significant- sticking out in bright red this time:  Goth*.  Just as I’d been back in the past.  Reminding me that it’s the Fairytale Past.  It has no more relevance than if it had never existed.  I am so far away from someone who sits around thinking about the end of the world and death (not in a gloomy kind of way anyway).  Teaching me that funny spell checks and the word of the day are spells that work for me.  As I write this my fingers are tingling, they are writing by themselves, my eyes are pricking, the inside of my nose is tingling.

And lastly, and most importantly:  if I hadn’t stopped writing, I wouldn’t have been able to write this.

*goth:  a type of rock music that often has words expressing ideas about death or the end of the world

Self help

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So simple, so amazing: a journey into awareness

Chapter 8:  Self help

There’s a big book by Christopher Booker called The Seven Basic Plots.  I bought it when it came out in hardback, very unusual for me, for £20, but I didn’t actually start reading it until about twenty years later.  Even then (now) I only read enough to get me here before I left it and moved onto something else.  (This is the same way I have treated religions, spiritual practices, etc etc.)  The idea is that there are seven basic types of story that are repeated in all genres and all over the world.  These stories seem to appear even in cultures that have no apparent links with each other, via the collective consciousness or archetype explained by Jung.  Once upon a time there was a…  and then one day, something happened.  A hero, a villain, obstacles, things getting worse to crisis point and then an untangling, a resolution.

It struck me that I could work out which plot I am in and then as a result identify where I want to go and what to do next.  I could look for characters and work out what questions to ask to illuminate my journey.  Maybe my plot is The Quest, or Voyage and ReturnCertain conditions have to be met before any story can come to a fully resolved ending.

I googled therapeutic writing and found a study that found that participants’  mood went up as the agency in their storytelling went up; and they were connected; and the writing came first!  They wrote a story in which the protagonist had more agency in their lives, and then their lives picked up!

Of course, we have free will, so we can choose.  More than likely, we will see several plots or possible plots within our lives.  The expression losing the plot.  Had I lost the plot both metaphorically and literally?  I had stopped writing for a year.  Christopher Booker took 34 years to write plots…  Maybe I was just sharpening my axe?* Which plot am I on?  We’ll see whether or not I finish this book… and what else will I do?  I can decide….

*One of the psychologists (Beth) at work told me this lovely story:  When she was in the middle of doing her PhD she had got herself exhausted and super stressed and was taking it out on the house, frantically cleaning and about to set about vacuuming.  Her boyfriend, concerned, tried to get her to stop and have a rest.  At first she refused, but then he wrapped his arms around her, walked her to the sofa, got her to sit down, put a blanket over her and said I’m going to tell you a story:  Once upon a time there were two woodcutters.  One chopped wood all day without a break, and even though he began to tire and his axe got blunt and he was hungry and thirsty, he did not stop chopping wood until night fell.  The other wood cutter chopped until it was lunchtime, and then stopped to eat a lunch of bread and cheese, and took time to sharpen his axe and to rest his tired muscles.  After his lunch he returned to his work until night fell.  Which woodcutter do you think ended up chopping the biggest pile of wood?  Beth, her boyfriend said, you need to sharpen your axe.

I am my own obstacles.  I am the villain of my story**.  ‘Normal’ society is too; it constrains us, other people constrain us…  and what makes people like this is the lives we live, what we do to ourselves, everyone individualised, worrying…  It’s not obvious like if we were living under ISIS occupation, rather it’s a quiet suffering that goes on and on.

**The amount of things I do to myself, even now, to knock me off my path, or just to spoil my present moment:  beating myself up for not having painted the entire kitchen this weekend, getting so far into something on YouTube that it completely freaked me out, not eating properly, getting over tired.  (However, I also know how to fix all those things and so today I cooked a super nutritious vegan feast, had a nap in the afternoon, unsubscribed from a YouTube channel, and painted a bit of the ceiling and was happy with that.  And wrote this, of course.)

On Writing

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So simple, so amazing: a journey into awareness

Chapter 7:  On Writing

Named after the really great book by Stephen King On Writing (I can’t actually read any of his books because I don’t like reading anything scary, but I love this book about the writing process.

 

The last time my mood got really low was during a period of stress at work, a minor distance from my husband, and loneliness in my female friendships.  On top of that, I had stopped writing.  At the time, I didn’t care, I didn’t even put it down as a hobby when I filled out an application form.  Instead I put singing!*  I spent the day alone watching Boyhood (real time film about families and growing up that shows just how fast it all goes).  It showed the good bits and the mistakes and got me thinking of all the things I could have done differently.  I called a few friends, they were all busy or unavailable.  I panicked:  should I go back to counselling?  Was I depressed?  Or was I, as I suddenly realised, just a writer who had stopped writing?  My fingers tingled, and I began to write…

*I moved and had to find a new yoga class.  The yoga teacher introduced me to someone who lived in my new town.  That person invited me to join a pop up singing group.  I was blissed out after yoga and agreed.  I thought maybe it was about me getting rid of my inhibitions.  It did do that, but it led onto something much more important.  The singing group woman also invited me to a book club and gave me the names of the two books they were reading.  I went to the library, it was closed, I went to the book shop, it only had one of the two books in- Orlando.  I made my excuses about the book club but I read Orlando.  It was better, much better for me than the singing; seeming to unlock my writing, focus and structure, and if I had to pay my dues in advance by wearing a silly hat and singing out of tune in public then it was a fair price.

The fact that I got so low over a film shows how fragile my state of being was and how sensitive I was that a film could put me in that place, and how this new found neutrality is quite literally a life saver, that now I can run over a baby rabbit on the way to work and barely give it a second thought.**

**If you are like I was, and find even reading that upsetting, let me ease you by saying:  It ran out in front of me as I was driving along a main road, hurtling across the middle.  I put on my brakes- I didn’t slam them, but nor did I check in my rear view mirror either, so that evens out the me-rabbit balance, but I felt it go under the front driver wheel.  I wondered afterwards, would it have been better not to have braked?  If I had been going slightly faster, would I have gone past it, or at least would the front wheels have gone past it?  An old boyfriend of mine told me that animals have better instincts than us and it is best not to brake as they will have judged it.  So are all the dead animals and birds at the side of the roads not as I always thought, due to people driving too fast, or animals and birds walking , running or flying unavoidably out in front of you, but are actually the result of caring drivers slamming on their brakes?  Probably not.  I think he was mainly referring to deer, as he had hit one a few years previously, driving through Thetford Forest.  It had run out, no way to stop it.  He said they made eye contact as it hit the windscreen.  That was my Vietnam, he used to say.  I don’t know if baby rabbits are as capable as grown deer of judging speeds and distances of traffic on main roads.  Apparently they don’t even know what to eat, they just eat anything and everything and it’s just luck or trial and error if they survive.  So it’s not that I didn’t give running over a baby rabbit a second thought, it’s just that I decided not to get upset about it.

The Fairytale Past

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So simple, so amazing: a journey into awareness

Chapter 6:  The Fairytale Past

Maybe it wasn’t that bad after all.  Maybe I had a lot more agency that I have previously admitted:  because to be honest, a bit of me had realised, realised even at the time, that I did.  I knew I was different, and even in the midst of being humiliated by their I-bet-you-get-all-your-clothes-from-jumble-sales taunts, I felt superior.  I made no effort to fit in.  I remember that time as friendless, and yet it turns out I did have a friend after all:  Miranda, who also went on to become a healer and a yoga person.  I met her again recently at a yoga class, she recognised me and said we used to sit beside the tennis courts and talk, and when we went up to high school and I went to boarding school she was devastated.  I didn’t think I had any friends, I said.  Well you did, she said, you had me.

And then I remembered that at junior school I used to stay in at break times with a boy called Keith and work on our stories that we’d been doing in class because we didn’t want to stop writing.  I used to choose to stay indoors and write, instead of going out to play.  So nothing’s changed then, in forty years.

I lived through all that, experienced it all and so I can travel back there to that 1970’s school play ground and take a fresh look.  No time machine required, because my body was there, wasn’t it?  Its imprints are in my body, passed from cell to cell like batons in a relay race.

And later, now I return to my past, to myself with illumination

 I sometimes wonder if we as we are now make up our pasts- because they don’t really exist do they, except in our minds.  Why is it that we talk about them?  To make ourselves seem more substantial?   Like John telling people he’s been to India, or me telling people I’ve lived in New Zealand for a year- except last time I met new people I didn’t and just presented myself as I am right now.  As my friend Jane said, it is feelings and how you are that are important.

Wouldn’t we look at ourselves as we are now and make up our pasts exactly as they are?  Me with the Albion Fayres, him with the hard drinking family that made him teetotal and the craziness that made him such a survivor.  Do we look at what we are now and make up a back story that explains it, that offers us an explanation?  (Me:  Sexual appetite and promiscuity= sexual abuse.  Social awkwardness= bullied at school)

What if you were brave enough to offer yourself up (to others and to yourself) without explanation or apology?   What if you were brave enough to live with yourself as you are now- no back story, no past, just living right now in this now moment, this now place?