Come to rest…finally.
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Come to rest…finally.

I offer my vulnerability as a guide towards the courage of exploring your own.

I lost my mother to her madness before I was born, I lost the musky scent of her warm body when I was 9…I lost her permenantly this month.
Her mind had broken while experimenting with LSD on a distant balmy beach in the late 60’s. She became Bodicea- shield maiden, Kali-devouring dark mother, seer, telepath, crazy wild eyed shapeshifter. Her mind continually moved like shadows under fast moving cloud.

I have loyally guarded my precious little velvet bag of memories of our time together, the deeply satisfying gouda toasted sandwiches, our sword fights which she would always let me win, her jagged loving hugs.
But there are also darker images, playing hide and seek…with her disappearing for hours, sometimes days while I became increasingly frantic. The neighbors feeding me Horlicks while they stole worried glances.
And others which I will always keep unspoken.

Eventually my grandparents intervened and I went to live with them in the distant reaches of the upper middle class- going to the ‘right’ schools encouraged to get the ‘right’ marks and make the ‘right’ friends. I dutifully performed, not wanting to risk another expulsion from loving attachment. My mother faded reluctantly, uncomfortably from my heart, whenever my head turned towards the confusing, textured memory of her, it was gently, but firmly guided towards my promising future.

I had not seen nor heard from her in over a decade. I’d often stared at a thinning, faded photo of her over the years, trying to keep a feeling image of her somewhere safe in me, but it always disintegrated like gossamer thread.
When I heard that she had passed away I was unsure of what I felt, so many conflicting emotions struggled for primacy.

A deep, overwhelming sadness for the traumatic, confusing life she experienced, for how her fierce struggle against sanity had alienated everyone, including me.

Guilt, for not having wrestled her madness out of her (even though I know how impossible this would’ve been).

Understanding how the primal parental wound is the unconscious master we all serve on some level, paying homage to it in-one way or another.

How I have sought a reflection of her in my lovers eyes, impotently, agonizingly trying to repair her through them.

And relief, that I finally know her fate and that her suffering has come to an end.

A close friend told me that my mother would’ve been proud of me.

I choose to believe it true.

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As some things fall apart, others come together.
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As some things fall apart, others come together.

Disintegration has become an ally. My initial skirmishes with its power left me devastated. Now, as I familiarize myself with the topography of the boneyard, something deep inside of me settles. I’m not panicking anymore, quite the opposite, I feel sharpened like a keen blade. The observer stays in his seat, watching emotional weather fronts roll in, wreak havoc and then leave. There seems to be an intelligence to it all, it’s a fierce teacher but I trust it, implicitly. I let my heart ache, my tears roll, even as pieces of me burn and fade away, there is renewal. Small shoots appearing everywhere. I can feel the inside of others now with an acuity that is exquisitely balanced, I drop deep beneath my fatigue into the collective. I have never felt more part of the whole, yet been so alone.

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Thought for today…

Thought for today…

A THOUGHT FOR TODAY:
Life cannot be classified in terms of a simple neurological ladder, with human beings at the top; it is more accurate to talk of different forms of intelligence, each with its strengths and weaknesses. This point was well demonstrated in the minutes before last December’s tsunami, when tourists grabbed their digital cameras and ran after the ebbing surf, and all the ‘dumb’ animals made for the hills. -B.R. Myers, author (b. 1963)

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Risk- William Ward
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Risk- William Ward

To laugh is to risk appearing a fool
To weep is to risk being called sentimental
To reach out to another is to risk involvement
To expose feelings is to risk exposing your true self
To place your ideas and dreams before a crowd is to risk their loss
To love is to risk not being loved in return
To live is to risk dying
To try is to risk failure.

But risks must be taken
Because the greatest hazard in life is to risk nothing.
The people who risk nothing may avoid suffering and sorrow,
But they cannot learn, feel, change, grow, or really live.
Chained by their servitude that are slaves who have forfeited all freedom.
Only a person who risks is truly free.

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Building bridges, undoing knots…

Building bridges, undoing knots…

I have facilitated therapeutic groups in one form or another for over a decade, adolescents, eating disorders, addiction, personality disorders (not for the faint hearted)… But last night was the first time I was part of a mixed gender group that had gotten together for no other reason than to share our lives with each other. The group was born out of a real need that exists to get men and women in the same room where they can begin to explore and interrogate real and/or imagined similarities and differences between the sexes.

As confidentiality is essential to group cohesion I will not discuss content, but the process was really encouraging.
8 relative strangers came together, understandably anxious at first, curious and courageous. As the night wore on, the collective trepidation began to lift and we soon began to catch glimpses of each other, the fact that we were different genders began to fade under the recognition that our stories, injuries and experiences have no particular gender. We all have our story. What became reassuringly apparent was that underneath our individual identities made up of roles and narratives, lies the collective. A consciousness that is bigger than gendered identity and when this space is reached through sharing our vulnerability and we are privy to the wounds of others, we begin to empathically resonate with their suffering and the borders between us thins. In a world that is so deeply scarred by division, last night felt like a single step towards reconciliation.

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The Guardian Of All Things.
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The Guardian Of All Things.

Recently I have been exploring memory and am currently reading two books on the subject. The first is called Memory Mastery by Harry Lorayne and provides practical, lucid techniques to augment memory. I should have read this book years ago, I would have saved months of anguish. I cannot recommend it highly enough if you have ever struggled with your memory, or are concerned about its erosion. The second book is called The Guardian of All Things by Michael S. Malone, this is more about the process of memory and although memory is one of the most powerful of all human forces, it still remains an enigma to scientists:

“As long suspected, memory creation is the result of a biochemical reaction that takes place in nerve cells, especially those related to the senses. Recent research suggests that short-term, or ‘working,’ memory operates at a number of different locations around the brain, with special tasks tending to be handled in the right hemisphere of the brain and verbal and object-oriented tasks in the left. Beyond that, the nature of this distribution, retrieval, and management is the subject of considerable speculation. …

“[Some] theories hold that short-term memory is, in fundamental ways, just a variant of long-term memory. But almost all brain scientists agree that the defining characteristic of short-term memory is its limited functionality — both in duration and capacity. Simply put, short-term memory fills up fast — scientists speak of four to seven ‘chunks’ of information such as words or numbers, which short-term memory can hold at any one time — after which its contents either fade or they are purged. Rehearsal can temporarily keep important short-term memories alive, but ultimately the information must either be transferred to long-term memory or lost.

“Long-term memory, though it uses the same neurons as short-term memory, is, as one might imagine, quite different in the use of those neurons. Whereas the short-term memory is limited in scope and capacity, long-term memory takes up much of the landscape of the upper brain and is designed to maintain a permanent record. Only in the last few years have researchers determined that memories are often stored in the same neurons that first received the stimulus. That they discovered this by tracking storage of memories in mice created by fear suggests that evolution found this emotion to be a very valuable attribute in a scary world.

“Chemically, we have a pretty good idea how memories are encoded and retained in brain neurons. As with short-term memory, the storage of information is made possible by the synthesis of certain proteins in the cell. What differentiates long-term memory in neurons is that frequent repetition of signals causes magnesium to be released — which opens the door for the attachment of calcium, which in turn makes the record stable and permanent. But as we all know from experience, memory can still fade over time. For that, the brain has a chemical process called long-term potentiation that regularly enhances the strength of the connections (synapses) between the neurons and creates an enzyme protein that also strengthens the signal — in other words, the memory — inside the neuron.

“Architecturally, the organization of memory in the brain is a lot more slippery to get one’s hands around (so to speak); different perspectives all seem to deliver useful insights. For example, one popular way to look at brain memory is to see it as taking two forms: explicit and implicit. Explicit, or ‘declarative,’ memory is all the information in our brains that we can consciously bring to the surface. Curiously, despite its huge importance in making us human, we don’t really know where this memory is located. Scientists have, however, divided explicit memory into two forms: episodic, or memories that occurred at a specific point in time; and semantic, or understandings (via science, technology, experience, and so on) of how the world works.

“Implicit, or ‘procedural’ memory, on the other hand, stores skills and memories of how to physically function in the natural world. Holding a fork, driving a car, getting dressed-and, most famously, riding a bicycle — are all nuanced activities that modern humans do without really giving them much thought; and they are skills, in all their complexity, that we can call up and perform decades after last using them.

“But that’s only one way of looking at long-term memory. There is also emotional memory, which seems to catalog memories based upon the power of the emotions they evoke. Is this a special memory search function of the brain? Is it a characteristic of both explicit and implicit memory? Or, rather, does it encompass both? And what of prospective memory that ability human beings have to ‘remember to remember’ some future act? Just a few years ago, researchers further discovered that some brain neurons can act like a clock in the brain, serving as a metronome that orchestrates the pace of operations for the billions of nerve cells there.

“Why? These and other features are but a few of the conundrums in the long list of questions about the human brain and memory. What we do know is that — a quarter-million years after mankind inherited this remarkable organ called the brain — even with all of the tools available to modern science, human memory remains a stunning enigma.”

The Guardian of All Things: The Epic Story of Human Memory
Author: Michael S. Malone
Publisher: Martin’s Press
Date: Copyright 2012 Michael s. Malone
Pages: 12-14

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The Aleph-Paulo Coelho
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The Aleph-Paulo Coelho

The Aleph

William Blake used to say that we can see the infinite in a grain of sand and eternity in a flower.

In truth, a simple moment of inner harmony is enough for that to happen.

That is where the great problem resides: we almost never allow ourselves to realize that the present moment in itself holds all the glory.

Sometimes, it expresses itself in a completely casual manner. You are walking in the street, sit in a certain place and suddenly the entire universe is right there. The first thing that comes up is a huge desire to cry – not for sadness, neither for happiness, but simply to show emotion. You know you are comprehending something, even if you are not even able to explain it to yourself.

In the magic tradition, this type of perception is known as “diving into the Aleph.” Human beings have an enormous difficulty in concentrating their minds on the present moment; we are always thinking of what we have done, how we could have done it better, what the consequences of our actions will be and why didn’t we act as we should have. Or still, we worry about the future, what will we do tomorrow, what measures will we have to take, what dangers are waiting for us at the corner, how to avoid what we don’t want and how to attain what we have always dreamed of.

And so, we begin to wonder if there is really something wrong with us.

Yes, there is. It is called routine. You think there is something wrong because you are unhappy. Others live for their problems; they keep talking compulsively about them – problems with children, husbands, school, work, friends.

They don’t stop to think: I am here. I am the result of everything that happened and that will happen, but I am here. If there is something wrong I have done, I have the power to correct it or at least apologize for it. If there is something I did right, that makes me happier and I feel more connected to the present moment.

Concentrate yourself in your Aleph and you will see that a little confidence in life doesn’t hurt at all – much on the contrary, it will allow you to experience everything with much more intensity. The things that disturb your life lie in the past and are awaiting your future decisions. They numb you and they pollute you and they don’t let you understand the present. Working with experience only means repeating old solutions on new problems. I know many people who are only able to have an individual identity when they start talking about their problems because these problems are connected to what they judge to be ‘their story’.

Morihei Ueshiba, the founder of Aikido, a well known martial art, used to say, “The search for peace is a way of praying, which ends up generating light and warmth. Forget a little about yourself, know that wisdom and compassion lay in that warmth. As you walk through this planet, seek to notice the true form of the heavens and of the Earth; it is possible if you don’t let yourself be paralyzed by fear and decide that all your gestures and attitudes will correspond to what you think.”

If you trust life, life will trust you.

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Compassion fatigue
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Compassion fatigue

I carry on
I do my duty
I nurse an invisible ache
I forget to eat
I drink too much
I sleep too little
I care for others but
I don’t care for myself
I don’t think I’ve ever known how to truly care for myself
I’m learning,
The hard way.
I can hear a soft whisper within
It says
Enough…enough.
Put down your load,
Walk,
In silence,
Look for the signs,
They will lead you back to yourself.
Listen.
Save yourself
For a while.

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The 30 Day Woman Fast
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The 30 Day Woman Fast

Disclaimer…(The following post is fictional, more of an invitation…and a collation of the narratives of many of my male clients)

When I suggested a “woman fast” to a client, I realized that I may actually be onto something. You see, a woman fast is not about sex. Its about identity and self-worth. I had been noticing for a long time how much I base my worth as a man on the affections and attentions of a woman. Many men labour under the belief that No Woman = No Worth.

As a consequence, many of us leak energy everywhere in the hopes of falling into the gaze of an attractive woman.

For example, on any given day, I might spend a solid 90 seconds loitering in the produce section fondling strange vegetables I don’t have a clue what to do with in the hopes that a pretty brown-eyed girl perusing bananas might notice me so I could feel better about myself. Add an extra five minutes spent on the leg machine at the gym after little miss juicy pants pulls up to the thigh buster beside me and I suddenly decide my leg routine isn’t finished.

And yoga class? In some cases being around women was the only reason I even did yoga. Which I guess is not so bad, either; but still, it took me forever to put on my shoes after class, or at least until the last cute yogini had left the room.

L.O.W. Syndrome (Lack Of Woman Syndrome; it’s an imaginary disease based on real life circumstances) combined with the fear of rejection is a nasty mix! This debilitating brew had me spending so much time engaging in impotent coping behaviors: urgent online dating, empty flirting, medicinal masturbation, massive chocolate consumption and more.

However, the biggest cost of imagined L.O.W.-Syndrome reveals itself in the decades I have spent in relationships that weren’t satisfying, thriving or even healthy, simply because they gave me some semblance of identity, validation and self-worth, even though I often felt like shit…or worse, empty.

Well, I finally had enough of my insanity. I was feeling ridiculous and exhausted, and I wanted my life back. I decided to try and disrupt these patterns by quitting women cold-turkey for 30 Days.

The “Rules”

No sex, no flirting, no loitering, no number exchanges, no dating, no lingering hugs. And masturbation? Well, it’s a little known fact that men are horrified to leave their penises idling for long. We really believe if we don’t use it, we will lose it. So I went about two weeks without, which in dog-time is something like 50 years. Progress, not perfection.

So there were the basic rules: no dating, no sex, no flirting, no hugs—basically no f%#*ing hope!

Which brings me to my first discovery: I’m addicted to hope.

Hope for what? Hope that someone will finally complete me. As a young, single man, I would wander around believing I’m incomplete without a woman. Then I would bring that belief into a relationship, expecting my partner to complete me. Of course she never could, and I would eventually resent her for it. This addiction to the hope that someone else will complete us is insidious and eventually destroys all that’s good in our relationships. It wreaks havoc in our relationships.

So, 30 days.
I was shaky at first.
Sexuality is a tricky thing. It’s a natural thing. This fast was about noticing the difference between healthy expression of my sexuality and expressing it from a needy place of lack, of not feeling good about myself and trying to get someone else to fill me up.

Discovery Two: I was ashamed of my sexuality.

Which I find totally bizarre. I’m an average heterosexual man attracted to women who have vaginas that are my age. Why would I be ashamed?

As I looked closer, I saw that my culture taught me from a young age that I should be ashamed. Boys are dirty. They just want to get in girls pants. They look at dirty nudie mags and play too much with their dirty penises. Somehow girls just seemed to know they should run away from me on the playground. So like most boys, I figured I had two choices:

(1) Embrace my dirtiness openly and just try to get in their pants. You know, presumed guilty? May as well act it!

Or

(2) Hide it and pretend I don’t feel what I feel.

Wanting to be a good boy, I chose to hide it.

I have always possessed a very healthy sex drive. I’m a single man. I’m like an unpaired electron zipping around the universe surrounded by beautiful protons! I’m ready to couple! Naturally, I want to be respectful to women, and I want to be my crackling-electric electron self! Still, the signs of shame around sexuality are rampant in the world around me.

Collectively, we are clearly ashamed of our penises and vaginas. Our mass entertainment will show heads chopped off before it shows a penis or a vagina, and heaven forbid a penis entering a vagina.

On a personal level, us men go to great lengths to hide our goods from each other, even though we’re anxious to see how we measure up to the next guy, literally speaking. I once hiked with five other men for over a week and we never once saw each other naked. In public restrooms we go to great lengths to ensure the next guy over can’t see what we’re packing. And I’ve certainly never heard of women hosting vagina-viewing parties.

Although I’ve seen my share of vaginas up close, I’ve seen so few penises that I used to think there were only two kinds: the kind like I have and the porn-star kind. Then I went to Sandy Bay. There I discovered there are as many varieties of penis as there are varieties of orchid on this planet—and just as exotic looking too! Like vaginas, penises are extraordinary! Why are we so ashamed of our genitalia?

Byron Katie said, “Just because a man has an erection, doesn’t mean he has to do anything with it.” There’s a sweet spot of living that clearly still eludes our society: simply allowing our authentic sexuality to be whatever it is without needing to either suppress or indulge it.

Here’s my Third Discovery: I’m genuinely lonely.

I miss the experience of village family. Like many of you, my family is spread across thousands of miles. I have amazing friends in many places and have lived an adventurous life, but I haven’t cultivated that rich family experience; you know, four-generations sitting at a chaotic dinner table, a routine gathering of countless wondrous people-stories interwoven like colorful threads in a sturdy tapestry that forms the legacy of one epic family. I want that. I’ve never had that. Most any woman’s attention is going to be a great momentary distraction from that epic loneliness.

But now that I clearly see that, I can work to create it with the right woman for me. To start, I figure I should at least minimize the desperate grasping behavior that likely short-circuits that bigger vision.

That was the point of this fast.

These 30 days helped deepen my awareness of who I really am, independent of external commentary, and what I really want beneath all the distracting behavior that keeps me blind and in pain.

By consciously eliminating the grasping behaviors I was using to get the outside world to make my inside world feel better, I was able to reconnect with that profound inner knowing that has always quietly assured me I’m already perfect just as I am in this moment. The mental rest I created for myself during those 30 days helped me clearly see that regardless whether any pretty woman shows up to confirm it, I am completely worthy of love. Right now. Not only am I worthy of it, I already embody it. I know it’s cliche, but this fast reminded me deeply that the love I was seeking from others is already present within me. I don’t need the world outside to give it to me.

Of course, I do want to share this love and the wonders of life with others. Tony Robbins says relationships magnify human emotion. That primal drive to take the passionate love surging inside me and pour it into a woman is alive and strong! I wouldn’t want to eliminate that for anything.

So, if you do spy me loitering in the produce section with niche vegetables in hand, just know that I’m preparing for a life of vibrant family and am honestly puzzling this one out. I’m also still an unpaired electron, so feel free to smile and offer guidance if so inspired.

I’m already whole, either way.

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