The Great Mother Aya
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The Great Mother Aya

I chose to do an ayahuasca ceremony last week in an effort to reach under my ego and to
connect with something greater than the “I” we all labour under. I arrived at a farm in Noordhoek at 5:00pm, clutching bedding and a bucket which I had been instructed to bring. The bucket was for the “purge” that often accompanies an ayahuasca experience. The thought of purging in front of a room of strangers while ‘off my trolley’ didn’t exactly fill me with joy. I introduced myself and settled down next to a 67 year old silver haired woman who smiled at me warmly and shared that she was going on this journey to explore herself. I saluted her on her courage and internally scolded and coaxed my own out from where it was hiding, after all, I was sure I was going to need it.

The group was a diverse cross section, ranging from an impossibly good looking Aston Martin driving couple, to a pair of seasoned ‘psychonauts’, who had evidently formed a close relationship with our guide Jacques. I was dressed in virginal white, perhaps in an attempt to hide the stains I have gathered through a lifetime of engaging robustly with the world.

The introductions were brief and Jacques used carefully aimed words sparingly,
“If you get lost in there, remember that you will come out and the experience will eventually end…if you get yourself into a knot, come back to my voice, it will guide you back”.

The first serving was offered two by two, I felt trepidation as the strangely familiar earthy brew found its way into my empty stomach. We were encouraged to set an intention for our journey, I listened to the others and was soothed that many were working with similar issues and injuries, I chose rather to be receptive to whatever the experience had to offer.

I could write pages about what happened next (and my journal carries the full weight of those 5 pregnant hours), but this is an exercise in précis, so here goes.

After about 45 minutes I started to feel strangely open, enlivened, slowly the light of the day was beginning to fade which mirrored a feeling of descending into myself. As i dropped deeper, I became aware of my ego based fear walking next to me, like a clucking mother muttering inane, neurotic concerns. I chose to ignore her red herrings and rather connect with the soft tissue of my soul, my wild, tenacious, sometimes wise, gloriously juicy soul that has unflinchingly sustained me throughout this lifetime.

Ayahuasca is a fiercely compassionate teacher. At first she soothed me, asked if I was ready…then she gripped me firmly by the collar and moved me to the precipice of my ego, there, securely terrified, she hung me over the edge and made me look into the chasm where I witnessed parts of myself that words would only strangle. She expertly laid bare my poorly concealed heart wounds and asked me to surrender to the pain beneath, to accept that my defenses were puerile and ineffective and no longer needed if I was to become a creative expression of something greater than myself. If I struggled and pulled away in an effort to avoid the pain, she would hold me fiercely until I surrendered. I surrendered… again and again.

I’m a quick study and soon learned what was required and was able to move through the lessons rapidly. At times the lessons were too intense and I’d have to swim slowly to the surface to find Jacque’s chanting, beautifully containing voice in the tumult, to reconnect and release. I soon realized that the consciousness guiding me through my inner space had a fantastic sense of humor and at times I laughed loudly through my tears which didn’t stop flowing for hours. The Great Mother Aya is not reassuring to the ego, but she certainly supports the soul.

When the purge finally moved through me, it did so with an exquisite ferocity. I emptied the darkness I carried (both mine and my clients) unceremoniously into my woefully small bucket. It kept coming. It was messy, it was grueling, it was liberating. And finally, after what felt like eternity, I was empty, leaving space for clear soothing breaths. The storm subsided and I was left feeling like I’d just given birth. Lying there covered in snot, vomit and tears, I’d never felt so clean. I laughed again at the sheer absurd beauty of it all.

One of the great insights I still carry, is the realization of how we have all suffered from being separated from the Universal Mother from our first disorientating breath, a collective separation anxiety. The story of our expulsion from an Edenic state seems to be much older than our recent recollection of it. I became supremely aware that we are not, nor have we ever been alone.

All our addictions, whether it be to a person, a narrative, money, power, or a substance, are mere attempts at merging again with the Infinite. We become obsessed with the minutiae and forget the bigger picture.

Many of us have been so wounded by religion, that we forget that we have a spiritual dimension and this disconnection is making us sick. I could carry on about this for hours but it would sound like proselytizing, so I’ll step away from the pulpit.

Only now, almost a week later have I begun to find poorly fitting words for such a numinous experience.
I am humbled to my core.
I am grateful that I have what is left of this precious life to be a midwife to healing.
I realize that as a therapist I can no longer in good faith work only with mind, to the exclusion of the spirit.
Perhaps ayahuasca is actually from the tree of knowledge, for it connects one to the Source in a way that I have never before encountered.
Confronting ones Shadow, dropping into the boneyard is difficult work, but once you can just stay in it and feel the intensity which you have defended against your whole life, then the fear dissipates and healing can begin.

There are so many roads to healing the wounds we all carry, but only if we are prepared to do the work.

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An Attitude Of Gratitude.
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An Attitude Of Gratitude.

One of the prolems with new-agey self help literature (which I must admit I have read a lot of in order to see why they sell millions of copies), is that they often take perfectly good concepts and package them in a way that the concept loses any semblance of its original potency as it is processed into thin,watery, mass consumed gruel. While I am a quasi psycho-spiritual kind of chap, I like scientific research for its rigour. With this in mind I am currently interrogating the Positive Psychology movement to see whether its findings are applicable. Read on and try the exercises below, I have (grudgingly) found them very useful.

The following excerpt is from Flourish by Martin E. P. Seligman.
A generation ago, the study of psychology was dominated by a focus on the abnormal and the negative. But more recently, there have been academic movements that have undertaken a data and research-based study of the positive dimensions of psychology, with a view toward prescribing activities that can be imbedded into a person’s life and increase that person’s structural level of happiness. One such effort comes from Martin Seligman and the University of Pennsylvania. The following is a sample of the type of activity this academic school of thought recommends based on its own systematic studies to deal with the increasing prevalence of depression in our society:

“Here’s a brief exercise that will raise your well-being and lower your depression: The gratitude visit. Close your eyes. Call up the face of someone still alive who years ago did something or said something that changed your life for the better. Someone who you never properly thanked; someone you could meet face-to-face next week. Got a face? Gratitude can make your life happier and more satisfying. When we feel gratitude, we benefit from the pleasant memory of a positive event in our life. Also, when we express our gratitude to others, we strengthen our relationship with them. But sometimes our thank you is said so casually or quickly that it is nearly meaningless. … Your task is to write a letter of gratitude to this individual and deliver it in person. The letter should be concrete and about three hundred words: be specific about what she did for you and how it affected your life. Let her know what you are doing now, and mention how you often remember what she did. Make it sing! Once you have written the testimonial, call the person and tell her you’d like to visit [him or] her, but be vague about the purpose of the meeting; this exercise is much more fun when it is a surprise. When you meet her, take your time reading your letter.

“You will be happier and less depressed one month from now. …

“Here’s a second exercise to give you the flavor of the interventions that we have validated in random-assignment, placebo-controlled designs: [The] What-Went-Well Exercise (Also Called ‘Three Blessings’) We think too much about what goes wrong and not enough about what goes right in our lives. Of course, sometimes it makes sense to analyze bad events so that we can learn from them and avoid them in the future. However, people tend to spend more time thinking about what is bad in life than is helpful. Worse, this focus on negative events sets us up for anxiety and depression. One way to keep this from happening is to get better at thinking about and savoring what went well.

“For sound evolutionary reasons, most of us are not nearly as good at dwelling on good events as we are at analyzing bad events. Those of our ancestors who spent a lot of time basking in the sunshine of good events, when they should have been preparing for disaster, did not survive the Ice Age. So to overcome our brains’ natural catastrophic bent, we need to work on and practice this skill of thinking about what went well.

“Every night for the next week, set aside ten minutes before you go to sleep. Write down three things that went well today and why they went well. You may use a journal or your computer to write about the events, but it is important that you have a physical record of what you wrote. The three things need not be earthshaking in importance (‘My husband picked up my favorite ice cream for dessert on the way home from work today’), but they can be important (‘My sister just gave birth to a healthy baby boy’).

“Next to each positive event, answer the question ‘Why did this happen?’ For example, if you wrote that your husband picked up ice cream, write ‘because my husband is really thoughtful sometimes’ or ‘because I remembered to call him from work and remind him to stop by the grocery store.’ Or if you wrote, ‘My sister just gave birth to a healthy baby boy,’ you might pick as the cause ‘God was looking out for her’ or ‘She did everything right during her pregnancy.’

“Writing about why the positive events in your life happened may seem awkward at first, but please stick with it for one week. It will get easier. The odds are that you will be less depressed, happier, and addicted to this exercise six months from now.

Flourish: A Visionary New Understanding of Happiness and Well-being
Author: Martin E. P. Seligman
Publisher: Atria Books
Date: Copyright 2011 by Martin Seligman, PhD
Pages: 30-31, 33-34

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The Nacirema
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The Nacirema

There were times at University that were truly inspiring, not many mind you but when they occurred, they were pivotal. Some of the lecturers were gifted in immersing one into a paradigm of thought which could revolutionize the way I viewed the world. Psychology, philosophy and anthropology all served as mirrors to the human condition. While I certainly indulged my hedonistic student fantasies while on campus, there was often a tattered copy of a seminal text close to my recovering body. Whether it was Schopenhauer, Jung, Lacan or Bollas, I’d often re read a page in awe, amazed at the beautifully articulated perspectives offered to my hungry mind. I think that if I had not become a psychologist, I would’ve become an anthropologist, perhaps I watched too many Indiana Jones movies as a kid (yes I know he was actually an archaeologist) but I loved the idea of adventuring to remote places getting intimate with the local inhabitants and learning about their diverse culture. In first year anthropology I stumbled across the following article on the Nacirema (which I encourage you to read through…it won’t take long) and I was hooked. Read on and hopefully by the end of it, something will appear all too familiar…

BODY RITUAL AMONG THE NACIREMA
Horace Miner

From Horace Miner, “Body Ritual among the Nacirema.” Reproduced by permission of the American Anthropological Association from The American Anthropologist, vol. 58 (1956), pp. 503-507.

Most cultures exhibit a particular configuration or style. A single value or pat-
tern of perceiving the world often leaves its stamp on several institutions in the
society. Examples are “machismo” in Spanish-influenced cultures, “face” in
Japanese culture, and “pollution by females” in some highland New Guinea
cultures. Here Horace Miner demonstrates that “attitudes about the body”
have a pervasive influence on many institutions in Nacireman society.
The anthropologist has become so familiar with the diversity of ways in which different peoples behave in similar situations that he is not apt to be surprised by even the most exotic customs. In fact, if all of the logically possible combinations of behavior have not been found somewhere in the world, he is apt to suspect that they must be present in some yet undescribed tribe. This point has, in fact, been expressed with respect to clan organization by Murdock. In this light, the magical beliefs and practices of the Nacirema present such unusual aspects that it seems desirable to describe them as an example of the extremes to which human behavior can go.

Professor Linton first brought the ritual of the Nacirema to the attention of anthropologists twenty years ago, but the culture
of this people is still very poorly understood. They are a North American group living in the territory between the Canadian Creel the Yaqui and Tarahumare of Mexico, and the Carib and Arawak of the Antilles. Little is known of their origin, although tradition states that they came from the east….

Nacirema culture is characterized by a highly developed market economy which as evolved in a rich natural habitat. While much of the people’s time is devoted to economic pursuits, a large part of the fruits of these labors and a considerable portion
of the day are spent in ritual activity. The focus of this activity is the human body, the appearance and health of which loom as a dominant concern in the ethos of the people. While such a concern is certainly not unusual, its ceremonial aspects and associated philosophy are unique.

The fundamental belief underlying the whole system appears to be that the human body is ugly and that its natural tendency is
to debility and disease. Incarcerated in such a body, man’s only hope is to avert these characteristics through the use of the
powerful influences of ritual and ceremony. Every household has one or more shrines devoted to this purpose. The more
powerful individuals in the society have several shrines in their houses and, in fact, the opulence of a house is often referred to
in terms of the number of such ritual centers it possesses. Most houses are of wattle and daub construction, but the shrine rooms of the more wealthy are walled with stone. Poorer families imitate the rich by applying pottery plaques to their shrine walls. While each family has at least one such shrine, the rituals associated with it are not family ceremonies but are private and
secret. The rites are normally only discussed with children, and then only during the period when they are being initiated into these mysteries. I was able, however, to establish sufficient rapport with the natives to examine these shrines and to have the rituals described to me.

The focal point of the shrine is a box or chest which is built into the wall. In this chest are kept the many charms and magical potions without which no native believes he could live. These preparations are secured from a variety of specialized practitioners. The most powerful of these are the medicine men, whose assistance must be rewarded with substantial gifts. However, the medicine men do not provide the curative potions for their clients, but decide what the ingredients should be and then write them down in an ancient and secret language. This writing is understood only by the medicine men and by the herbalists who, for another gift, provide the required charm.

The charm is not disposed of after it has served its purpose, but is placed in the charmbox of the household shrine. As these
magical materials are specific for certain ills, and the real or imagined maladies of the people are many, the charm-box is usually full to overflowing. The magical packets are so numerous that people forget what their purposes were and fear to use them again. While the natives are very vague on this point, we can only assume that the idea in retaining all the old magical materials is that their presence in the charm-box, before which the body rituals are conducted, will in some way protect the worshipper.

Beneath the charm-box is a small font. Each day every member of the family, in succession, enters the shrine room, bows
his head before the charm-box, mingles different sorts of holy water in the font, and proceeds with a brief rite of ablution.
The holy waters are secured from the Water Temple of the community, where the priests conduct elaborate ceremonies to
make the liquid ritually pure.

In the hierarchy of magical practitioners, and below the medicine men in prestige, are specialists whose designation is best translated “holy-mouth-men.” The Nacirema have an almost pathological horror of and fascination with the mouth, the condition of which is believed to have a supernatural influence on all social relationships. Were it not for the rituals of the
mouth, they believe that their teeth would fall out, their gums bleed, their jaws shrink, their friends desert them, and their lovers
reject them. They also believe that a strong relationship exists between oral and moral characteristics. For example, there is a ritual ablution of the mouth for children which is supposed to improve their moral fiber.

The daily body ritual performed by everyone includes a mouth-rite. Despite the fact that these people are so punctilious about care of the mouth, this rite involves a practice which strikes the uninitiated stranger as revolting. It was reported to me that the ritual consists of inserting a small bundle of hog hairs into the mouth, along with certain magical powders, and then moving the bundle in a highly formalized series of gestures.

In addition to the private mouth-rite, the people seek out a holy-mouth-man once or twice a year. These practitioners
have an impressive set of paraphernalia, consisting of a variety of augers, awls, probes, and prods. The use of these objects in the exorcism of the evils of the mouth involves almost unbelievable ritual torture of the client. The holy-mouth-man open the clients mouth and, using the above mentioned tools, enlarges any holes which decay may have created in the teeth. Magical materials are put into these holes. If there age no naturally occurring holes in the teeth, large sections of one or more teeth are gouged out so that the supernatural substance can be applied. In the client’s view, the purpose of these ministrations is to arrest decay and to draw friends. The extremely sacred and traditional character of the rite is evident in the fact that the natives return to the holy–mouth-men year after year, despite the fact that their teeth continue to decay.

It is to be hoped that, when a thorough study of the Nacirema is made, there will be careful inquiry into the personality structure of these people. One has but to watch the gleam in the eye of a holy- mouth-man, as he jabs an awl into an exposed nerve, to suspect that a certain amount of sadism is involved. If this can be established, a very interesting pattern emerges, for most of the population shows definite masochistic tendencies. It was to these that Professor Linton referred in discussing a distinctive part of the daily body ritual which is performed only by men. This part of the rite involves scraping and lacerating the surface of the face with a sharp instrument. Special women’s rites are performed only four times during each lunar month, but what they lack in frequency is made up in barbarity. As part of this ceremony, women bake their heads in small ovens for about an hour. The theoretically interesting point is that what seems to be a preponderantly masochistic people have developed sadistic specialists.

The medicine men have an imposing temple, or latipso, in every community of any size. The more elaborate ceremonies required to treat very sick patients can only be performed at this temple. These ceremonies involve not only the thaumaturge but a permanent group of vestal maidens who move sedately about the temple chambers in distinctive costume and head- dress.

The latipso ceremonies are so harsh that it is phenomenal that a fair proportion of the really sick natives who enter the temple The concept of culture ever recover. Small children whose indoctrination is still incomplete have been known to resist attempts to take them to the temple because “that is where you go to die.” Despite this fact, sick adults are not only willing but eager to undergo the protracted ritual purification, if they can afford to do so. No matter how ill the supplicant or how grave the emergency, the guardians of many temples will not admit a client if he cannot give a rich gift to the custodian. Even after one has gained admission and survived the ceremonies, the guardians will not permit the neophyte to leave until he makes still another gift.

The supplicant entering the temple is first stripped of all his or her clothes. In everyday life the Nacirema avoids exposure of his body and its natural functions. Bathing and excretory acts are performed only in the secrecy of the household shrine, where they are ritualized as part of the body-rites. Psychological shock results from the fact that body secrecy is suddenly lost upon entry into the latipso. A man, whose own wife has never seen him in an excretory act, suddenly finds himself naked and assisted by a vestal maiden while he performs his natural functions into a sacred vessel. This sort of ceremonial treatment is necessitated by the fact that the excreta are used by a diviner to ascertain the course and nature of the client’s sickness. Female clients, on the other hand, find their naked bodies are subjected to the scrutiny, manipulation and prodding of the medicine men.

Few supplicants in the temple are well enough to do anything but lie on their hard beds. The daily ceremonies, like the rites of the holy-mouth-men, involve discomfort and torture. With ritual precision, the vestals awaken their miserable charges each dawn and roll them about on their beds of pain while performing ablutions, in the formal movements of which the maidens are highly trained. At other times they insert magic wands in the supplicant’s mouth or force him to eat substances which are supposed to be healing. From time to time the medicine men come to their clients and jab magically treated needles into their flesh. The fact that these temple ceremonies may not cure, and may even kill the neophyte, in no way decreases the people’s faith in the medicine men.

There remains one other kind of practitioner, known as a “listener.” This witchdoctor has the power to exorcise the devils that lodge in the heads of people who have been bewitched. The Nacirema believe that parents bewitch their own children. Mothers are particularly suspected of putting a curse on children while teaching them the secret body rituals. The counter-magic of the witchdoctor is unusual in its lack of ritual. The patient simply tells the “listener” all his troubles and fears, beginning with the earliest difficulties he can remember. The memory displayed by the Nacirerna in these exorcism sessions is truly remarkable. It is not uncommon for the patient to bemoan the rejection he felt upon being weaned as a babe, and a few individuals even see their troubles going back to the traumatic effects of their own birth.

In conclusion, mention must be made of certain practices which have their base in native esthetics but which depend upon the pervasive aversion to the natural body and its functions. There are ritual fasts to make fat people thin and ceremonial feasts to make thin people fat. Still other rites are used to make women’s breasts larger if they are small, and smaller if they are large. General dissatisfaction with breast shape is symbolized in the fact that the ideal form is virtually outside the range of human variation. A few women afflicted with almost inhuman hyper-mamrnary development are so idolized that they make a handsome living by simply going from village to village and permitting the natives to stare at them for a fee.

Reference has already been made to the fact that excretory functions are ritualized, routinized, and relegated to secrecy. Natural reproductive functions are similarly distorted. Intercourse is taboo as a topic and scheduled as an act. Efforts are made to avoid pregnancy by the use of magical materials or by limiting intercourse to certain phases of the moon. Conception is actually very infrequent. When pregnant, women dress so as to hide their condition. Parturition takes place in secret, without friends or relatives to assist, and the majority of women do not nurse their infants.

Our review of the ritual life of the Nacirema has certainly shown them to be a magic-ridden people. It is hard to un- derstand how they have managed to exist so long under the burdens which they have imposed upon themselves. But even such exotic customs as these take on real meaning when they are viewed with the insight provided by Malinowski when he wrote:

“Looking from far and above, from our high places of safety in the developed civilization, it is easy to see all the crudity and irrelevance of magic. But without its power and guidance early man could not have mastered his practical difficulties as he has done, nor could man have advanced to the higher stages of civilization.”

References
Linton, Ralph. 1936. The Study of Man. New York: D. Appleton-Century.
Malinowski, Bronislaw. 1948. Magic, Science, and Religion. Glencoe, Ill.: The Free Press.
Murdock, George P. 1949. Social Structure. New York: Macmillan.

And just in case you’re wondering why you read this…Nacirema is American spelt backwards.

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Are we all just codependent?
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Are we all just codependent?

As a society, I find we generally label and diagnose feverishly in an effort to understand our world.

Everyone is allergic to something…gluten, dairy, intimacy, loneliness. Everyone now has ADHD, depression, autism and restless leg syndrome. But somehow, codependency slips under the radar.

We all love love. We find acts of selflessness to be heroic. We honour the martyr.

This is a slippery slope though. As a relatively intuitive empath, I have always been drawn to those who have difficulty emoting, people who are overwhelmed by their feelings. I become a kind of emotional dialysis machine for them. Likewise, I seem to pull pathos out of those who bury it under logos. Consistently connecting with people based on my ability to be available at times of need, contributed to my feeling that self-worth was centered on how helpful and “understanding” I am. I understand that after early separation and loss of my mother, I clung onto women for soothing whether it was my grandmother or aunts, friends or eventual lovers, I soon worked out what they needed (often an empathic ear) and bought proximity through sensitivity.

I had created a dynamic within which I felt safe and valued. I spent years in one-sided connections, giving endlessly of my time and emotional energy. I spent time I will never get back in relationships with addicts (of one form or another), the mad, the bad and the sad. I was addicted to people who didn’t really know how to relate. So I had bought proximity but remained emotionally undernourished. Learning to trust and receive is an ongoing journey.

In less extreme and more commonly occurring examples, I see couples who so love being with each other that they spend nearly all of their non-working time together. Friendships are lost, hobbies abandoned, plans for the future forgotten. The masses may label these relationships as “sweet,” “committed,” or simply “being in love.”

I propose that there is a spectrum of codependency. It may range from the stereotype of the mum, bruised housewife living with the abusive, drunkard husband, to the guy who just wants to “save” his girlfriend from any “negative” feelings or situations, meanwhile feeling jealous and angry when she seems fine and social and interacting with anyone other than him.

When looking at these scenarios, a Buddhist may bring up questions of attachment. As someone who has spent a good deal of time with addicts, I see elements of addiction even when a substance is not involved. Byron Katie says, “Addictions are always the effect of an unquestioned mind.”

So let’s question. Let’s look at how we are in relationship with others.

Read the following statements and choose the most honest answer: 1–rarely true, 2–often or sometimes true, 3–almost always true.

1. People are not trustworthy.

2. I feel uncomfortable asking for what I want and need.

3. I worry my partner may leave me.

4. Other people’s problems keep me up at night and distracted during the day.

5. I give to others much more than others give to me.

6. When someone I care about is upset, it is my responsibility to help them feel better.

7. It is difficult to receive compliments or praise.

8. I don’t really believe other people love me.

9. If people would just fix their own problems, I would be happier.

Brush up those maths skills and add up the numbers associated with your answers. As with any over-simplified system, I invite you to use these results not as a diagnosis, but as a springboard for taking a critical and compassionate look at yourself.

(9–14) Highly Healthy—You have a calm confidence and appreciation of self. You may have moments of doubt or worry, but you also have a strong base of self-worth and trust in others. You can savor intimacy and ask for help. While no sane person enjoys watching another suffer, you can appreciate that your role in their suffering is never the sole cause, nor are you their saviour. You can be present and balanced for both your own and others’ hard times.

(15–21) Room to Grow—You have moments of clarity, peppered with stress. You may find that when alone you can sense being a whole, fulfilled human being, but when around certain people, you can’t hear your inner voice as well and feel a bit shaken. You may be sensitive, unsure of yourself or wanting attention. You may feel pulled in many directions when someone you care about is hurting. Be aware of all of these reactions. I invite you to ask yourself: when (someone else) does (something), how do I feel? Or, when I believe (a stressful thought about myself, someone else or a situation), how do I feel and what do I do?

(22–27) Help is Out There—You have some things going on that would cause most anybody some emotional stress. Not only can this be internally, spiritually damaging, but nothing exists in a vacuum. Are your relationships with other people all that you want them to be? Do you feel, or understand, happiness? What role do other people play in your life? Counseling, Codependents Anonymous (CODA),research on codependency and the development of a mindfulness practice may be paths to the construction of a stable internal core self that can relate intimately with others without losing its own innate strength and beauty.

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Sunday Musings…
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Sunday Musings…

Something knocked in my soul,
fever or forgotten wings,
and I made my own way,
deciphering,
that fire,
and I wrote the first, faint line,
faint, without substance, pure
nonsense, pure wisdom of someone who knows nothing;
and suddenly I saw the heavens unfastened and open,

Pablo Neruda, “La Poesia”

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Pillow Fight Club
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Pillow Fight Club

I’m just gonna let this one roll without any dressing… Au naturel.

I have been “up against it” for the last two weeks. What I am trying to express is that I have been completely pressed by everything in and outside of myself, like a pressure cooker.
Great F’ing start to the year!

The good news is that I can easily see the mirror—that all of my experiences in the world are a reflection of my inner state of being. How I treat myself is reflected. What I stuff down is reflected; dealing with this is no joke.

Needless to say, I have needed some tools. I usually meditate daily anyway—do yoga, dance, climb, juice, jeez, I even prayed…all of it, but none of it these last weeks was “working”. By working, I mean bringing some semblance of peace and sanity to my life.

Hello, edge my old friend-how are you doing?

Basically, if there were a camera hidden in my room yesterday you would have seen me going completely psycho, hitting my couch with a crazy pillow that looks something like one of the monsters from the book “Where The Wild Things Are”. At first, I was grunting like a piglet and then I got me some Rarr out—to say the least.

PIllow-hitting-session take one? Ok…let try it I thought. I started pretty intensely, Wham, wham wham!

Then I was like, “Man, this feels f*ckin’ great, this is better than any yoga class I have ever been to!” Wham wham, wham!

After a little while, because of my amazement at how great this release was, of contained yet reckless abandonment, I set my timer for 15 minutes and went for it! Wham, wham, wham, wham!
It was totally liberating!

All of the muscles in my usually floppy little flexible yoga body engaged. I sweated! I was sinking deeper and deeper into my power. All of the obstacles—Wham, wham, wham, wham!

“That’s right, I am attacking you on the astral level, you dense-matter f*cker. I’ll show you! Let’s see if your subtle body can take that! And that!” and with that, in all honesty I went a little mad. Wham, wham, wham!

I am no stranger to hitting therapy.

Even though I’m a shrink and often in my head, I love using my body to discharge emotional intensity. Karate and Kung-fu were full of delicious full contact sparring where I could focus and externalize my pent up feelings in a healthy way instead of projecting them onto innocent others.

When I was a kid, my friends and I would have epic pillow fights often ending in someone begging for mercy. This is perhaps not something you would typically imagine from a quasi-Buddhist, sensitive, creative, Vegan, inquiring child, but we loved to whack the sh*t out of each other.

I am going to air my dirty laundry even more and just go out and say it: I hate New Age spirituality.

Yes, I hate it. I hate it with a passion. I am hitting it with my large stuffed pillow right now.

I am sorry—please forgive me, but I do. What I hate about it is that it is “lite”—as in not light but something fat-free from the early 90’s, before we knew our brains needed fat to function. It’s all affirmations and repression of primal, core feeling. It’s sanitized and often packaged like fast food for digestion without being truly nourishing.

If anything, as you go deeper into your heart you are forced to find your true grit. It takes grit, it takes endurance, it takes a whole lot of personal work and accountability to live a life beyond mediocrity.

Being my unveiled-tender-sweet-fierce-animal-skin-self is the only thing I really care about right now. It is what I use to describe that palpably pleasurable feeling when I am totally in the intelligence of my body—it is real, it is shadow and it is light, real light. I guess you could just call it being full, but I like animal-skin— it came to me when I was in the bath.

Mediocrity is like banging our head against the wall, except we don’t know we are doing it—everyone sees that we are being lame but we just keep at it over and over and over. The only thing I will give mediocrity credit for is that it’s safe for the ego, but not for the soul.

A lot of times in polite society (which is actually repressed society) we don’t have any room for big emotion, or our intuition, often they get unceremoniously exiled to the basement. This is something we have seriously got to resolve as humane beings.
I believe that repression of real sh*t and piss emotion is why people go postal and bring guns into work, beat their wives, cut themselves, become addicted, anxious and depressed.

I know that it may sound like a simplistic understanding of difficulty, but I do believe that insanity in the world can be reduced to a basic lack of emotional intelligence. Emotional intelligence is not New-Agey, its primary to successful evolution. When an animal senses an attack or violence, its teeth start to show and it growls. My dogs teach me this all of the time: they are honest about what they feel, that’s emotional intelligence.

Do I need a Ph.d to say that it is not healthy to repress emotions, but it is healthy to have tools that address difficult emotions in constructive ways?

Let’s get back to natural— create opportunities for our wild animal selves and then regulate back to calm. So much in spiritual jargon is pretend, is soothing “look to the heavens and repress your shadow” inane claptrap. Lets welcome the light and learn to look at the dark full frontal.

We need to stop making it wrong to feel the darker emotions, fear, frustration, anger, despair, hopelessness. We need to make it okay, a part of our self-care beyond green drinks, self help books and a couple of cleansing breaths. So go and grab some f*cking pillows, dance, run and shout on a mountain top, get it out! Feel the fire in your belly, in your heart.

It may not be the complete answer to world peace, but I know for myself, beating the sh*t outta my couch certainly got to the root of my perceived external agitation.

I was a lot kinder afterwards.
I felt like I needed to at least pass the suggestion on.
Ps: international pillow fight day was on the 6th of April, check out
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Pillow_fight_flash_mob

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The Art Of Change
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The Art Of Change

“It may be hard for an egg to turn into a bird, but how could it learn to fly by remaining an egg?” C.S. Lewis

Change is a natural part of life.
Most of us are continually making small adjustments that reflect our changing needs or interests such as pursuing a new friendship, learning how to put different ingredients together or finding a more efficient way to do a task at work.
How we react to a change may depend on the result we think it may bring. We may feel excited about a new change that involves a gain, like a promotion, or the birth of a baby, but we often worry and stress about change that involves loss, such as a divorce or retrenchment.
We love changes when we are the ones making a decision, but we don’t particularly like changes imposed on us by outside sources, we often view them as challenging, but the familiar can become a false sense of security, even if it is a behaviour or bad habit that doesn’t serve us.
Fear prevents us from moving forward, the “what if?” questions arise, “what if its the wrong decision?”, “what if I’m not successful?” , “what if it doesn’t work out?”, ” what if they don’t accept me?” When your current reality is continuously generating signals of discomfort, listen to that information and use it to make positive changes.
We can actually begin to look forward to change when we trust that the Universe is presenting us with opportunities for our highest good, when we are able to understand change in this way, we can find something positive in it.
Looking back at our lives we can see that most changes were not only for the best, but moved us into the next level of our evolutionary process.
It is a skill to embrace both the familiar and those parts of our experience that are constantly changing.
Life is ever changing and no two moments are the same, our bodies are different from one moment to the next, so why are so many of us obsessed with trying to keep things the same?
French philosopher Henri Bergson wrote, “to exist is to change, to change is to mature, to mature is to go on creating oneself endlessly “.
Change can reveal new opportunities and core strengths we didn’t even know existed, new experiences can bring us knowledge and greater problem solving strategies that allow us to hone our skills. Change can supply us with inspired moments of creative energy. Change can help us focus on priorities and give us new perspectives of ourselves and others. It can make us more empathetic, understanding and loving. Once we accept change as the natural order of things, we can learn to be more receptive to this ever present visitor in its multicoloured, ever shifting forms.
Bring it on!

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The Tree Of Life.
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The Tree Of Life.

Sunday afternoons are sacred to me,
I like spending them on my own.

Today, without any week weary artifice, I watched the world as if it were new, made of gossamer threads that glisten and churn magically in the light.

I marveled at the sheer variety of feeling that moved through me, such diversity and texture, each with its own tone and hue, delicate and magnificent.

I sat on a park bench under a generous Oak as the clouds played above in the wind, ever changing as sunlight dappled thoughts came and went, some lingered, others overstayed their welcome, but eventually they too passed,
as everything does.

I slipped the shoes from my feet and felt the soft grass beneath my toes, I closed my eyes and listened to the cacophany of sound flooding the small refuge within this beautiful city.

I stretched my forgotten limbs and climbed the inviting tree whispering to her as I went, higher and higher,
until I could feel a familiar softening of my heart, on I went until I found a thin perch and here I clung to her sunwarmed limbs.
She promised to keep me safe,
hidden here between her boughs.

Together we watched life beneath her branches, unobserved like small open children,
wearing her leaves,
blood sap mingling, full of delight.
A moment,
a fragment of Edenic merging before fear and have to’s awoke
almost apologetically.

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The 10 000 hour rule…
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The 10 000 hour rule…

Today’s selection is from Focus: The Hidden Driver of Excellence by Daniel Goleman.

The oft-cited 10,000-hour rule, which states that you must spend 10,000 hours practicing a task to attain mastery, is only half true:

“The ‘10,000-hour rule’ — that this level of practice holds the secret to great success in any field — has become sacrosanct gospel, echoed on websites and recited as litany in high-performance workshops. The problem: it’s only half true.

“If you are a duffer at golf, say, and make the same mistakes every time you try a certain swing or putt,10,000 hours of practicing that error will not improve your game. You’ll still be a duffer, albeit an older one.

“No less an expert than Anders Ericsson, the Florida State University psychologist whose research on expertise spawned the 10,000 — hour rule of thumb, told me, “You don’t get benefits from mechanical repetition, but by adjusting your execution over and over to get closer to your goal” …

“Apart from sports like basketball or football that favor physical traits such as height and body size, says Ericsson, almost anyone can achieve the highest levels of performance with smart practice. …

“Ericsson argues that the secret of winning is ‘deliberate practice,’ where an expert coach takes you through well-designed training over months or years, and you give it your full concentration.

“Hours and hours of practice are necessary for great performance, but not sufficient. How experts in any domain pay attention while practicing makes a crucial difference. For instance, in his much-cited study of violinists — the one that showed the top tier had practiced more than 10,000 hours — Ericsson found the experts did so with full concentration on improving a particular aspect of their performance that a master teacher identified.

“Smart practice always includes a feedback loop that lets you recognize errors and correct them — which is why dancers use mirrors. Ideally that feedback comes from someone with an expert eye and so every world-class sports champion has a coach. If you practice without such feedback, you don’t get to the top ranks.

“The feedback matters and the concentration does, too — not just the hours. …

“Daydreaming defeats practice; those of us who browse TV while working out will never reach the top ranks. Paying full attention seems to boost the mind’s processing speed, strengthen synaptic connections, and expand or create neural networks for what we are practicing.

“At least at first. But as you master how to execute the new routine, repeated practice transfers control of that skill from the top-down system for intentional focus to bottom-up circuits that eventually make its execution effortless. At that point you don’t need to think about it — you can do the routine well enough on automatic.”

“And this is where amateurs and experts part ways. Amateurs are content at some point to let their efforts become bottom-up operations. After about fifty hours of training –whether in skiing or driving-people get to that ‘good-enough’ performance level, where they can go through the motions more or less effortlessly. They no longer feel the need for concentrated practice, but are content to coast on what they’ve learned. No matter how much more they practice in this bottom-up mode, their improvement will be negligible.

“The experts, in contrast, keep paying attention top-down, intentionally counteracting the brain’s urge to automatize routines. They concentrate actively on those moves they have yet to perfect, on correcting what’s not working in their game, and on refining their mental models of how to play the game, or focusing on the particulars of feedback from a seasoned coach. Those at the top never stop learning: if at any point they start coasting and stop such smart practice, too much of their game becomes bottom-up and their skills plateau.”

So if we could apply this model to the game of life, paying specific mindful attention to those parts of our personality structures, cognitions and behaviors that we are trying to ‘upgrade’ would the same strategy not apply?

Focus: The Hidden Driver of Excellence
Author: Daniel Goleman
Publisher: HarperCollins Publishers
Date: Copyright 2013 by Daniel Goleman
Pages: 163-165

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