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Monday, 17 September 2018

Presence is greater than words

Presence is greater than words

Like most people in today’s human focused world, my thoughts are often running around like a little rodent in an exercise wheel. I think I’m going somewhere fast but in fact, I’m just going around in circles. It’s the same old ego doing the same old ego tasks, keeping the status quo safe and making sure that changes are kept to a minimum. That’s the ego’s job; it’s what it was created for. It is the guard at the door that checks every new thought that tries to come in. Most new thoughts are turned away, only a few are let in, after much scrutiny. That is why humans are in so much turmoil in these times. We know we are committing species suicide that we just can’t stop ourselves. Our survival strategies that served us well for thousands of years are now obsolete and life is demanding that we change. But it’s hard. Not impossible but almost.

During one journey with Ayahuasca in Peru, I saw a great black form which I couldn’t make out at first. I could see carvings in the form, strange Aztec like designs glittering in the back light that is common with Aya’s visions. Then I noticed that it was carved from black obsidian, shiny and was embedded in the jungle. Vines and plants grew all around it. At first I thought it was just a statue, but it transformed as I looked at it. It had face, a man’s face and his eyes were shiny and sentient. I realised with a shock that this wasn’t a statue but a living organism. I stepped back from the vision and asked Aya who this was and she replied that he was a great healer.

“How can he heal when he can’t speak or move? He is made from stone.”

She replied “Presence is greater than words.”

With those words, the vision disappeared. I wrote the vision down and drew the black stone man I had seen. After the journey, I asked the Shaman if she knew who this could be. She replied that her own teacher spoke of a stone man whom he worked with. I wondered about this for a time, then like so many of Aya’s visions, I had to put the wisdom aside until I could make sense of it.
Going forward several years, the vision stayed with me, informed my practice at some level, guided my thoughts, walking thru nature, gazing up into the branches of the vine maples and Garry oak trees back home, teachers of another kind. How did they participate in the world when they were rooted into the earth? They could only move by extremely slowly by my standards. Yet they are powerful participants in the greater soul of the world. They are silent healers, cleaners of air, producers of food, perhaps they are also sending out signals of distress which so many sensitive people feel today. They are the plant sentinels at the threshold of life and death; they protect all beings who carry DNA within their consciousness.

I began to realize that the most healing aspect of my work is to simply sit with people, ask them to close their eyes to begin to make friends with themselves, with the way their consciousness is embedded in their bodies. To mirror their struggles and to notice and then reflect back questions or observations. To speak the un speakable. Sometimes with words, other times with simply…presence. And to hold for them the vision of interconnectiveness. Everything is significant in this understanding, and by nourishing the higher aspects of ourselves, we lose ourselves and find ourselves again in a larger, more mysterious and wonderful gnosis.

Then a family member came back into my life, someone I’d had a lot of conflict with in the past, but someone I loved very much and wanted to continue being close to. I realized that when we engaged in talk, especially about the past, we tried to re-interpret the past for each other. We became trapped in in sticky arguments from which there was no escape. A downward spiral into frustration, anger and lack of understanding. But when I just sat with him, we often smoked some tobacco together and drank coffee, these were times I would simply cultivate a loving presence. Not try to convince him about anything. Just be there in an interested and compassionate presence, then gradually our relationship started to untangle, to become simpler. His defenses came down to reveal a vulnerable young man whom I had never really seen before.

I sometimes joke that the best thing I do with people is to sit and breathe with them. Of course I’m doing much more, I’m turning up to hear their fables of tragedy, of pathos and heroism and of triumph. I’m modeling how they can turn up for themselves, open, curious, alert and accepting. I’m sometimes checking out their bodies to see if I can ‘see’ some energetic dysfunctions or illnesses. 

Or I stare out the window and notice what the environment is telling me in that moment, that moment when they are struggling for words, or lost in confusion. Once a feather suddenly flew by as a young woman spoke about an abusive relationship she was trying to free herself of. This sent me the message that she was like a feather in the wind, and needed to ground herself more firmly into the earth, to develop a sense of life purpose, of significance in the world. I asked the question which anxiety and depression ask of us, “Am I worthy of life?” The answer to that question can’t be spoken in words, I can only hold a surety in myself and hope that the other person finds something similar in themselves, mirror back a sense of their own inner worth. I can offer presence, it doesn’t interfere, it doesn’t intrude, it respects the path of the Other, and at the same time, I hold firm in my calm abiding in the preciousness of their life.

Try this!

1.       Next time you are faced with a difficult situation, a potential or actualized conflict with another, return for a few moments to return to a state of calm presence. Simply be present in that moment. Then set a positive presence, stay in that place until you feel a more expansive way to be there. I’m not looking forward to see Shea today; I will have to let her go from my team. I hate these kinds of confrontations, what will I say to her?

2.       Understand in this state of loving presence, you don’t have to think about what to say, or how to try to problem solve the situation. I don’t have to say anything profound of even anything that she will be able to hear. I’ll turn up, I won’t be angry but I’ll be firm. I’ll tell her thanks for her work so far, and I need to let her go.

3.       Remember that the Other is your teacher. Accept the lesson. Be grateful for the gift, even if it seems very small and ordinary. I have learned from this situation not to engage workers before I have a chance to really get to know them. Don’t give them access to my work space until I’ve tested them to see if they are a good fit. I’ve also learned not allow pity or lack of self-confidence to cloud my decisions.

Trust the Other will be alright, even if you have to let them go from your life. Trust that you will be OK and you can move through the conflict successfully and find better people or ways of living. She’ll be OK; there are other people who seem to be happy with her work. I can wish her well, where ever her destiny takes her.

Monday, 2 July 2018

Nine solutions for anxiety and depression

This morning I woke up early, around two a.m., too early to get up. I tossed in bed and tried to

practice vipassana meditation, going thru my body and relaxing each part starting with my head and working down. It didn’t work very well. I realised I would just have to lay there until something else settled in me and let me fall asleep. I am also thankful for this intrusion into my meditative calm, because it reminds me that anxiety which over time can develop into depression is the most common mental health ailment that affects people today.

The mind state of unresolved fear can pervade all aspects of life: relationships; work; foundational well-being; spiritual, emotional and physical health. It also contributes to chronic diseases; and persistent autoimmune diseases. It is the underlying drone of doom that sounds beneath our daily lives. These troublesome states of mind begin with fear, and if not attended to in a functional way, will migrate into depression, psychotropics addictions, disassociation from our bodies or other destructive behaviours such as addictions to materials, food, drugs, unhealthy relationships, technology or sex. This anxiety also drifts into an inward turning into oneself into a self-absorbed habitual trauma state that attempts to deny the acuity of the situation. More common now in our present world, anxiety can be fed by or perpetuated by technology addictions, which is essentially the turning towards machines which smart monkey minds have developed to keep us all asleep. Of course we can also be lulled into believing that the present state of personal and world crisis is over exaggerated, overwhelming and must be denied or complied to.
Here is the startling fact that can start you on the road to lasting recovery:

There are good reasons for your anxiety and …you can take action towards resolving your discomfort if you are courageous and committed to your own spiritual growth.

Let’s begin with the biggest container possible for life, the earth, Gaia and all the life systems that support beings. Gaia herself is the global consciousness that has developed life in its myriad forms as we know it today. Gaia is the planetary consciousness that has developed this long narrative of millions of years, a unifying force that brings life and death into reality with mind bending complexity, beauty and ultimate love and sacred intention.

Gaia is everything, don’t be misled. Without a healthy Gaia, we die. When we are dead we are no longer able to participate or experience anything. Read that again, it’s true.
Gaia is anxious about human caused environmental destruction, climate change; species die off, and unconstrained dimensions of human cruelty and suffering. She, since this consciousness can be most accurately described as feminine, is disturbed by our blind and rampant suicidal rush to self-destruction. We are her favorite child and She is disquieted by our perfidious reluctance to embrace the next stage of our evolution.

Anxiety is transmitted to us in mysterious and hidden ways. Perhaps one way it is communicated to us is thru all the three worlds of Gaia-mineral, plant and animal. In The Hidden Life of Trees What They Feel, How They Communicate—Discoveries from A Secret World by Peter Wohlleben (2016), the author describes how trees communicate to each other about insect and viral threats. I wonder if plants are also trying to communicating with us, perhaps thru stress hormones or other transmittable molecules that are released thru the air, water or mycelium growing for hundreds of miles underground. It is one of those unprovable theories, but it seems to make sense to me because I work with so many people who almost inexplicably have anxiety at levels that are crippling and destructive.

The first step towards resolving your anxiety is to commit to daily actions, thoughts and beliefs that protect Gaia and future generations of life on our planet. This may be as simple as taking care when driving cars, not to waste Gaia’s precious resources, to consume consciously and to limit the number of children each woman has to one child for each woman. We need to stop thinking about large families as being inherently good and instead to foster the model of one woman, one child for our human family to survive. Of course, if you already have more than one child in your family, then you must commit to raising your children in the most responsible ways possible.

Many anxious people today often do not have trauma in their history, have good healthy attachments to their care givers, nourishing social lives, and hold gratifying employments. But anxiety and depression take hold of them. Most often these are young people, middle class, educated, don’t have severe mental health problems and appear to be sane on all other fronts. Perhaps the single most outstanding feature of this new anxious demographic is that they are emotionally sensitive and informed about world events. I also think that perhaps a certain percentage of the population are Water Way souls, as described in my first book, The River Books-Love, Work and Spiritually (Star, 2007). Water way souls are people who see the wholeness of life and dwell in spiritual dimensions more that the majority of people who are Earth Way. Earth Way souls are concerned with the needs and wants of the individual, production, work and maintaining a hierarchy that protects their practical, self-centred and short term world view.

Nine solutions for anxiety and depression:

·         First, acknowledge your anxiety. You are not crazy. There is nothing “wrong” with you. Don’t believe the lies that the dominate culture is presently trying to lull us back to sleep. Your present state of high anxiety is not an illusion created by your dysfunctional mind or brain chemical imbalances. You are simply responding realistically and healthily to a global crisis. There is good reason for all of us to be anxious, and very apprehensive about our present state of affairs. In all three realms of being of Gaia, mineral, plant and animal, there are massive destructions taking place. In the personal, relational and spiritual realms of experience, many beings are alarmed about the survival of life on this planet. We all need to develop bigger vessels of understanding.

·         Do not become overwhelmed by the enormity of the present world state. Be aware of it, don’t try to deny it, minimise or ridicule it. These crises can be creative, healing and ultimately will lead to the greatest self-growth and progression in the known history of humanity. Believing that you can respond effectively is part of the recovery from crippling anxiety and its attendant response, depression. Watch when you see yourself slipping into denial states, such as accepting lies about of the inevitability of things never getting better, that we are all doomed, that nothing will ever change, that you’re not good enough…. These denial states will creep in as the underlying foundations of depression, anger, resentment, self- criticism, anhedonia and hopelessness.
We will all experience negative emotions from time to time, but catch them and recognize them for what they are-resistance to growth. The greater truth is that consciousness cannot be destroyed. We can suffer greatly, but our consciousness is beyond time and space that our lives are a great drama to make us grow, be creative and show love and caring for Gaia in the same way She loves us.
Remember these three guidelines:

Start today
Act with the resources on hand
Work with the people in front of you

Even if you take the verbs out of these guidelines-start, act, work- you will still progress. You will still be using this precious human life to contribute to the great goodness that is Gaia.
·         Take action today. Anxiety is a call to action. Always.
Don’t just believe, contemplate, talk, think, or run and try to hide. Act positively, each 24 hours. Keep records of your positive actions if you need as a reminder of your progress. Journal your development, even if it appears to be progressing at a snail’s pace.
Take action in all three realms of your being, each and every day.
Earth; production, work, livelihood, contribution to the world thru discipline and effort
Air: relationships, family and communities, the practicing of compassion and love
Water: spirituality, a vision of the whole, living with consciousness of interconnectiveness, honouring our first mother, Gaia.

Set a small goal that you are certain is attainable, but set it with enough challenge that you can strengthen yourself. If you’re serious about resolving your anxiety, or if you want to grow and develop a better foundation for joy in your being-work each day this is the best way to proceed.

For example:
Earth: Today I will draw for one hour, doesn’t matter what I draw or how terrible an artist I am, I’m just going to draw something that attracts my attention for an hour in the afternoon while I’m having my tea break.
Air: I’m going to phone a friend I’ve been thinking about for a while and chat.
Water: I’m going to go for a long walk along the beach by myself in the morning and do walking meditation.
You notice that there aren’t rigid times to each of these areas of activity, but they are specific enough that you will know when you’ve achieved them. This way you can build success you’re your life in small incremental steps.

·         Spend at least 20 minutes a day in the not-human world. Go for a walk outside, sit with your spine resting directly on the earth or against a big tree, don’t let any intrusive thoughts interrupt your rest from the busyness and distractions of the human and machine world.  If you have a dog who needs to be walked, then let your canine friend take you into the natural world. We need time every day, and ideally, several weeks a year, as far away as possible from the human world to replenish those deeper parts of ourselves which are beyond the fixing, talking and producing parts.  This is where we all started from and need to return to every day in the same way that we need to sleep and return to the sub consciousness to maintain our sanity, stability and healthy perspective on life.
I show you how to connect with the environment in my latest book: Soul Catching, Finding sacred connections in our environments (Star, 2017). This book will show you how to draw nourishment from your environments, and especially the natural environments. With time, you will come to understand the environment as your greater self, and learn how it can be used for guidance and catching lost parts of yourself.

·         Live each day with balance, even if those around you demanding that you live without balance. Let each aspect of your being be nourished by your day-personal, relational and spiritual. If you are imbalanced in one of these areas, then notice how that is affecting the rest of your being. Is your anxiety preventing you from connecting with others, and by others I mean not just other people, in fact that is the least of what I mean. I am referring to the non-human world, nature, environment, other animals and plants. So if the human world is overwhelming for you, which is common with anxious people, then connect with nature by going for a walk every day for at least 20 minutes, take some time to appreciate beauty around you, to simply be in your body by breathing, movement and appreciation. Take long breaks away from machines and technology. Don’t be duped into thinking that using any kind of technology it a substitute for embodied connection. If you go for a walk, don’t listen to music, listen to the environment. If you are visiting with friends, leave your technology at home. If you have spiritual practices, do them with a scared and present mind state. Leave machines out of it, their intentions do not hold our best interests in their purposes.

·         Define your gifts are and commit to developing them every day, no matter how trivial your contributions seem. Remember the story about the widow and the mite that she gave to the temple in the Book of Mark (12) and Luke (21). Christ notes that her tiny contribution which appears to be much less than the offerings of the rich men and women, in the eyes of Soul, are greater and more significant.
So define what Soul has given you as a gift for the world. For a sparrow it may be a sweet song of five notes sung in the hot summer afternoon by a forest path. For a stone, it may be to receive rain drops along a garden wall. For you it may be some work that you can do well and which you dedicate to Gaia.
As I wrote this, I had to run down to the laundry room to get my laundry. It reminded me that for years I helped out my parents with a small resort by doing all the laundry during the summer months. I spent hours in a small outdoor laundry room, with the radio playing. The windows were high up, but I could catch glimpses of the arbutus tress that grew close by. I had lots of time to think as I folded, sorted and took clean laundry up to the cabins. It was a time of inner peace and clarity for me, a meditative practice that I gradually came to love. Now that they are both passed on, I am so thankful that I was able to contribute to their lives in a positive way. I’m glad that I was able to re pay them in a tiny way for the years of caring that they gave me when they were younger. Consider all your work, whatever it is as a repayment to the good mother, Gaia for the gift of life she has given you. Of course, you can extend gratitude to anyone or anything by dedicating your actions to them.
Do one small creative task every day. This can be making muffins, drawing, dancing, and writing in a journal. It is NOT going on line, and connecting with other people on “social media”. I often suggest that anxious clients be less tuned into the world’s woes. As Lao Tzu said in the Tao Te Ching, to let your heart wander will only make it sore. So take care of  your heart.

·         Review the three foundational practices of physical well-being-good sleep, nutrition and fitness. And I have lately added a new practice, reduce your screen time, avoid needlessly upsetting media sources and begin reading from paper sources for at least 20 minutes a day. You can be the most spiritual, productive or compassionate person on the planet, but if these foundations of well-being are ignored, you will be greatly hindered by your poor life style choices. Even saints and spiritual teachers must pay attention to these basics. So must you.

·         Remind yourself every day that you are interconnected with all beings in an interdependent net of consciousness. This isn’t a phantasy, it is real. You have the power to influence everyone and everything just by being authentically yourself, by living with integrity in line with your deepest core values. I notice than many anxious people are afraid of living with the strength of their convictions. They are cowards. Live with courage. The universe rewards those who take risks for Her.
Remind yourself every day of these truths:


Only by embracing of truth of interconnectiveness of all life on this planet can we survive. A tall order indeed! This need to leap up in consciousness calls for nothing less than a massive awakening into spirituality. By whatever name or description you want to call this aspect of your being, we must recognize our inter dependence and interconnectiveness with the greater aspects of who we are.

·         Clear the central channel. Physically, depression and anxiety is held in the body as blocks in the central channel, or spinal nervous system. Un-integrated experience becomes embodied within you as blockages in your central channel. The central channel is that energetic flow of consciousness that comes in from the earth into the root of your spine. This is the first place that life energy enters your body at birth, and continues until your last breath, when the life energy will enter into the root of your spine and travel up your spine and out of the crown centre at your death. The life energy that keeps your body alive and well enters thru the spine at that area between the sit bone and travels up the spine with each breath. The life energy or consciousness travels up thru energy centres or chakras, from the root to the lower belly, to the solar plexus, heart centre, thru the throat, then mid brain and finally up into the crown of your head. There it pauses and gathers guidance and nourishment from spiritual aspects, and then begins the journey down the spine again, grounding back into the earth. The process begins anew with each breath. In this way we are connected with the earthy aspect of our beings which are embedded in our bodies in this moment. In the journey up the spine, we become aware of more spiritual aspects and finally we ascend into the transpersonal aspects of our beings which are beyond time and space.
If this journey of consciousness is blocked in the central channel, dis-ease begins to develop. Dis-ease develops in a myriad number of ways, physically, emotionally and spiritually.

Begin with a daily practice of taking a few moments every day to develop awareness of how the breath moves up and down the spine, and then notice where in your spine you lose awareness in your spine. Practice circular breath. For instructions in this, see my previous blog about this excellent meditative practice. You will realise that the areas in your spine where you don’t have awareness are areas that hold un-integrated experience, discomfort, trauma or injury. Then you begin to focus on these areas and consciously bring awareness into them. You will notice that when you become more conscious of these blocks, you can gradually clear them, and they will come into alignment with the central channel.
Over time joy and foundational well-being can be re-established, with the four traits of enlightened existence: sympatric joy, intuitive discernment; equanimity and compassion. These are the true antidotes to anxiety and depression.

Of course, this is a long and arduous task and these four qualities will not be handed over to you easily. This can take years, or even life times. Then gradually, you can develop the ability to hold spiritual awareness. And with this development comes a gradually return of foundational well-being.

My newest book “Soul Catching-Finding sacred connections in our environments (Star, 2017) is for sale thru my website

Joy in the journey!

Thursday, 10 May 2018

Breathe in beauty, breathe out gratitude.

Breathe in beauty, breathe out gratitude.

When a beautiful soul harmonizes with a beautiful form and the two are cast in one mould, that will be the fairest of sights to him who has the eye to contemplate the vision.

I feel as though I’ve got my life back.

I don’t know exactly where it went for the past 50 or so years. Somewhere along the way, a veil was cast over my perceptions which clouded my ability to hold and experience life in a direct and joyous way. As a holistic counsellor who uses therapeutic altered states such as holotrophic breath work, I have been developed ways to clear perception. I’ve peeled back the veil and at long last the term, I feel that I am awake.  This is one way to describe the sudden, after over 30 years of hard sloughing personal work; I’ve got my life back. The veil has fallen away and now I perceive the love, beauty and interconnectiveness of life, my life, the life of Others (mineral, plant and animal) in this magnificent creation of Gaia.

Here is what rent the veil for me.

I was walking along the river, one of my favorite walks on a fresh fragrant spring morning. This walk reminds me of my spiritual teachers, the River. They once told me that achieving happiness was hard work. At the time, I thought they meant that I had a lot of trauma and unintegrated personal insight work that I needed to do before I could win the right to be happy. But then I remembered that they also said that happiness is not given as a reward, at a future date, for tasks well done, a better pay cheque, more recognition, and more people liking me... and so on. The work was in actuality, realizing that I have happiness already within my body and mind as a foundational, natural state of being. The work was returning to the moment and holding this natural state of being.
On this one morning, I gazed up into the clear morning sky and wondered how to communicate in a more lasting and meaningful way with the greater soul of the environment. I was able to hold this inner joy for moments, especially when I meditate or walk thru nature alone. But I wanted to hold this inner peace for longer periods of time, to be connected to this space more often. Then these words came to me, from where I can’t exactly say.

Breathe in beauty,
Breathe out gratitude.
Connect inner meditation with breath and the outer environment.
Connect the holy trinity of mind, body and environment.

I tried it. First I gazed about for something that caught my attention as being beautiful. Something which stepped out from the environment and said “Look at me”. My attention was drawn to a willow tree by the path, dripping with long fuzzy pussy willows. I walked closer and for a moment just focused on these beautiful willow flowers. I was filled with a sense of the hopeful, idealistic and innocent anticipation of spring and plant joy at renewed life and rebirth after a long dark winter. I breathed in all of those sensations into my body; let those feelings of goodness and connectedness radiate into my entire body and being. 

Ahhh… Then I focused on the outbreath. I raised my eyes up to the clear blue sky and breathed out, gratitude for the environment which supports all life, all spring flowering, all rebirth and renewal. I felt my heart opening and calm entered my being.

I am so grateful for this practice which I’ve been using every day since it was given to me by Soul. I pause for a moment, and notice something beautiful, then expand the experience into my body by imagining that I am breathing the beauty of what I’m seeing into my body. I focus especially my heart. Then I breathe out into the environment my gratitude for that specific phenomena as well as all the supporting world that holds that event (seasons caused by the earth’s tilt, perfumed air of blooming plant world, forests, mountains).

This connects me to the world in a way that is deeply satisfying. This is the moment by moment connection with sacredness that I’ve been missing in my life. Until now. Even when I’m feeling a little off, sad or anxious I’m able to pause, find something beautiful in my environment and breathe it in with a moment of expand awareness.

As I practice this more, I notice that I can also breathe in things that are not beautiful and still integrate them with my out breath of gratitude.  Strange, in some ways the way that this practice of connecting to unpleasant or challenging things is more important than the original technique of starting with beautiful things.

I was waiting in line in a cafeteria yesterday and feeling that old sense of irritation that somehow life was fitting me quite right. Then I remembered my new practice, I paused and gazed out the window to some small islands that were glittering in the sun. I realized how beautiful the environment is where I live, how I can look out the window at almost any time and see beauty. So I breathed in the way the tiny islands were bathed in sunlight and on the outbreath I was surprised that I wanted to breathe out a sense of appreciation for all the people who were working in the cafeteria. So I did, and then I was filled with a sense of all-rightness. As I gazed around, I noticed that everyone was working towards some common goals, perhaps at some level, all of us were working towards spiritual goals which we were only tangentially aware of. I could see that even irritating moments like waiting in line for breakfast can be filled with a sense of sacredness.

I do this practice now many times a day, whoever I can, driving, talking with others, cooking, cleaning. I can do it on a walk, or when I’m with clients. I’m aiming for prolonging this practice so maybe I can stay with it for longer periods, hours perhaps or at least moments.
The in breath is precise, focused on one thing-flower, clouds, music, birds. The out breath is expansive and goes out with my gratitude into the greater soul of the environment. My appreciation stretches my being towards larger containers of personal joy and inner peace, for the life systems that hold for sky, water, air, earth. Deep in my pelvic chalice, I feel goodness like a seed of life. It is not simply of place of human fertility, the place of where my younger body stored human life eggs, but energetically now my second chakra holds the womb of the Mother, of mater, of Gaia, of life itself. I hold it, nourish it deeply and from here from my belly out to the horizon, it goes and blesses all that I see.

So the work is to retrieve and restore my natural state of human being which is calm abiding, sympathetic joy and compassion.

Try this!

In this moment look around for something beautiful.

I look around my office and see a potted lantana tree. I brought it in for the winter, now it is sending shoots out through the dead branches which died off during the long cold spells we had. I am amused and uplifted by how it is still alive and although I am trying to prune it into a tree, it wants to return to its wild shape as a bush. I breathe in its resiliency, strength and the way it let of many branches over the winter, but now it’s being re born in spring.

 Now on the outbreath, breathe out appreciate and gratitude for the greater container which holds all that you are looking at.

I breathe out an appreciation for the air which is everywhere and which fills my lungs and then goes out into the world. Even here, in my writing room, with the fire burning, which is also taking in oxygen to be, there is a great abundance of oxygen for me, gazing at this plant, and for the plant also. I breathe out gratitude for the entire plant world, who engage with us in this transference and inter dependence of life.

Now try this practice with something more difficult and challenging.

I see a dead bird. I don’t know if this is beautiful but it is where my focus landed on. The little female yellow finch is heart wrenchingly painful for me to gaze at. I love her and I want her to come back to life.

Now on the outbreath, breathe out appreciate and gratitude for the greater container which holds all that you are looking at.

I breathe out gratitude for life and death systems. And the appreciation of all who are alive in my life right now. I especially see an analogy of my son in this omen. He is struggling so hard and I’m afraid, like this little bird who mistakenly flew into the glass window, he won’t survive. This of course fills me with unbearable sorrow.

Although these thoughts take me to difficult places, such as the great song bird die off everywhere in the world, I wonder, how can I be grateful for that? Perhaps after this age of species die off, when humans return to a more balanced role as stewards of the world instead of destroyers of the world, we will appreciate that in death there is also re birth. I’m also wondering if a carrion bird will come and eat the finch’s body. In nature, in the greater soul, little is wasted.
image downloaded from

Thursday, 12 April 2018

The cruel ideal-Six ways to develop self acceptance

The cruel ideal-Six ways to develop self-acceptance

What if, everything you’ve ever done and everything you will ever do is …OK?
Our culture has developed unrealistic high expectations to maintain high production standards. Our media if full of ways to improve, be better, more beautiful, more free, more everything! It’s ironic that most of these standards drive us to adopt cruel ideals that are unattainable and drive us further into misery. We have cruel ideals of what it is to be a good person, mother, father, wife, daughter, worker, student… the list is infinite and each person can tailor them for themselves. For some, they feel they are too fat, too skinny, too this or too that. The details are not important, what is important is that sense of not fitting into our lives. We believe that the shape of who we are does not fit comfortably into the places, times and demands of our lives.
This was the first lesson of the Buddha after he reached a state of great understanding which he called enlightenment. He said that life is essentially -dukkha. This is a Pali term which has commonly been translated as suffering. However, the original meaning came from a wheel which doesn’t fit into the axel. Dukkha will always stick, not move harmoniously, and make sounds that are unpleasant, put extra strain on the horse or ox who pulls the cart. In Buddha’s world of pre industrial transportation, the sticking wheel would have been a common problem which his listeners could relate to. Dukkha is a colourful analogy for the cruel ideal.
Some uncomfortableness is necessary for personal growth and evolution, when there is the right amount of challenge. Attainable challenges are beneficial and lead to greater well-being. But some challenges invoke pointless suffering. These kinds of suffering are associated with past events which leave a shadow of trauma, and understandings and beliefs which are no longer healthy. The child who blames herself for her parents separation and copes by imagining that is she were cleaner, more organized, thinner…then she could control her life better. That is the cruel ideal.
The cruel ideal is usually an attempt to get more control of future events, which may or may not transpire. Obsessing about these events create needless sufferings and will persist unless there is deep personal work. By releasing the cruel ideal, we can come to appreciate the richness and beauty of our lives- as we are. Not as we think we should be. The release of the cruel ideal will help us develop more purposeful action, combined with compassion for others within the context of soul.
Six practices for self-acceptance
1.       Look in the mirror every day and practice complete acceptance of what you see. Best to do this completely naked. Notice something beautiful about your body, and then breathe in that beauty. On the out breath, breathe out a sense of gratitude. Really feel both the in breath of beauty appreciation and the out breath of gratitude. Let that sense of deep self-acceptance sink into your whole being.
(In breath) I find the colour of my eyes to be beautiful. (Outbreath) I’m so grateful for my vision; it brings me so much joy and connection in my life.

2.       Notice when you connect into the harsh demands of the cruel ideal. Then immediately catch those thoughts and change them.

I’m getting old and losing my looks. Change that to-I like the way my face is becoming more mature, and I especially enjoy how age is giving me so many insights and compassion towards others.

3.       Look out into the world and notice beauty. This is the greatest antidote to the cruel ideal. Does the chickadee worry if it’s too small or its voice isn’t loud enough? No! Nature is our greater soul, when we look out into it, we can see wisdom and resolution if we can interpret its messages.

I see the spring pussy willows right now from my window. They remind me that plants go through many changes through their life cycles. Each cycle leads to another and contributes to the whole environment. The difficult changes in my life can also lead to contributions in ways that I can’t grasp right now.

4.       Differentiate between what is achievable and helpful to change, and what is a cruel ideal.

I will never be young again, but I can continue to go to yoga twice a week and keep up my flexibility so I can age well.

5.       Journal every day a small section about ways you can become more self-accepting. Notice where those cruel ideals came from originally. Most likely they did not start with you; they were probably passed onto you from others’ needs and demands.

 I am disappointed I didn’t become a university professor. Wait, where did that cruel ideal come from? Ah, yes. My mother always wanted me to be a university professor. But by avoiding the restrictions of academic life, I was free to develop my spirituality.

6.       Finally, look for the gift in the cruel ideal, once you have resolved it and accepted yourself and your unique soul path.

The gift in that cruel ideal was that I spent many years at university which has given me the gift of understanding of how to communicate with people who are trapped in the reductionist world view.

Wednesday, 21 March 2018

Our first attachment is consciouness to life

Our first attachment is consciousness to life:
Three questions that determine if you are securely attached

Attachment theory was first postulated by John Bowlby and Mary Ainsworth in the early sixties. (Bowlby, 1969; Bowlby, 1988; Krumwiede, 2001).

Their model developed from observations of how the infants reacted when their primary care giver exited from the clinical room. The infants they defined as securely attached cried for a moment when their mothers left the room, but then quickly adjusted and often were able to be comforted by a stranger. The securely attached babes were able to trust that their mothers would soon return, and they were quickly comforted when the mother returned. The infants they defined as insecurely attached cried for longer periods, sometimes hysterically when their mothers left the room. They took a longer time to calm down after their mothers returned. Also most interesting, the insecurely attached babes would often punish the mother when she returned by crying, turning away and resisting the hugs that their mothers tried to give them. They appeared to be angry that their mothers had returned although moments before, they were deeply distressed when she was gone.

Attachment theory states that a strong emotional and physical attachment to at least one primary caregiver is critical to personal development. This theory postulates that our first attachment as new born babes is to our birth mothers, and later to our fathers or other primary care givers. This attachment is the most critical relationship of our lives, and underpins of all our future relationships (Tatin, 2011).  The nature of this first attachment influences such factors as our ability to trust, form healthy relationships to others, take the perspective of others, and forms the basis in our adult lives of morality, efficacy and forming healthy boundaries.

Much is laid at the feet of the birth mother, so much that many individuals in counselling or after reading one of a myriad of self-help books that ascribe to this model, develop contempt and anger for their mothers, and all care givers in their early years. They blame their suffering upon their mothers and other caring adults in their infanthood for their inability to care for them with faultless presence, affection and responsiveness. But in fact, no mother or care giver can be perfect; can always be attendant of their children with selfless devotion.

The proponents of attachment theory therefore put another crown of thorns on the heads of women and child caretakers, along with all the other beatings at the hands of Caesars who demand submission of care givers to uphold the capitalistic market system. The dominate culture proposes that if you are unhappy (depressed, anxious, unable to maintain long term relationships, joyless) it is because your mother (Primary care giver) wasn’t attentive enough. This lets the global human community off the hook for environmental and sociopolitical factors which are equally or more relevant.

There are many individuals who defy this model of development. For example, people who had almost nonexistence attachments to mother, or whose care givers were burdened with addictions, ancestral trauma and other mental health issues. But somehow these individuals mature into secure, compassionate people. Conversely, there are people who have had wonderfully secure attachments to care givers and who never the less develop severe mental health concerns, especially in recent times, who suffer from intense anxiety and depression.

Often in my private practice, clients return to memories of infanthood in states of regression. They will ask me to hold them like a baby or infant to help them to re attach more securely to their inner Mother. Once the biographical attachments are repaired, a deeper and more essential attachment yearning arises. Over time, I’ve noticed that this yearning is to re attach in deeper and more spiritual ways. This yearning is a transpersonal attachment to the meaning and significance of their own individual lives.

We yearn to re attach to the original soul purpose of why our consciousness attached into this life. We yearn to fulfill the purpose of why our consciousness attached into matter which we call ourselves and our bodies. Matter derives from the Latin for mother-mater. So when consciousness first enters the cells of the newly formed fetus or babe, this is the moment of first attachment. We yearn, not only for the comfort that a mother or primary care giver can give us, but more deeply and more significantly, we year to re attach to the original purpose of why our consciousness attached into this life in its first nexus.

If there is not a transpersonal container which can hold this sense of soul purpose, then the first most essential disruption develops. This disruption is not fetus or babe to mother, but consciousness to life, which is the entering of individual consciousness into the body, into human flesh and mater. Later, when the baby is born, with its attendant need for food, comfort and protection, inter personal attachments develop. But those needs are secondary to the first needs of consciousness into matter, the need for us to fully attach to our original soul purpose of this life.

The quality of this first attachment is also in a wider sense, attachment to Gaia, who is our fundamental mother, environment, and the living systems that Gaia provides for us-breath, body, bone, flesh, blood. It is also attachment to the wider spheres which we live in of human social environments-political, community and global safety, justice and well-being. If these environmental influences, including the more-than-human environments of air, water, earth, other life forms of the plant and animal worlds, are not secure, then we naturally develop an attachment disorder. The babe senses at a deep level that she is not securely living in a system that is safe and nurturing. . If this first attachment is secure, then, as we mature into adults with adult responsible, we can be a steward of the world, of Gaia and of others, including the more than human worlds.

This is why currently we are seeing so much anxiety and depression. Our first attachment to mater is disrupted. As a counsellor, I am meeting an increasing number of young people and children who are securely attached to their primary care givers, but still sense a deep unease about their lives. This is because; their attachment disorder is much deeper and nascent than the inter-personal attachment to mother, father and /or other care givers. It is an unease, dis-ease of sensing dis-attachment of consciousness to life. This is where we need to focus our attention when we are trying to heal ourselves, our clients and loved ones.

The goal of effective psychotherapy therefore, is fundamentally the healing of our first attachment of consciousness into life. Our path towards this first and embryonic attachment ought to be towards discovering and supporting a sense of soul purpose, rather than diverting our attention with whether our primary care givers were loving and preternaturally present for all our needs. Then we can form more fully secure, joyful attachments to the interconnectiveness of life.

Three questions to ask yourself to determine if you are securely attached
·         Can you take purposeful, meaningful action in your life?
·         Do you have compassion towards others, including the more than human world?
·         Can you live with a big picture, spiritual, or transpersonal perspective?

Attachment Theory ( 2018) Downloaded from
Bowlby, John. 1969. Attachment and Loss. Pimlico;London, UK.
Bowley, John (1988) A secure base: Clinical applications of attachment theory. Routledge, New York, NY.
Hazan, C. & Shaver, P. (1994) Attachment as an organizational framework for research on close relationship. Psychological Inquiry. 5 1-22.
Krumwiede, Andreas. (2001) Attachment Theory According to John Bowlby and Mary Ainsworth. German National Library. 
Takin, Stan (2011) Wired for Love: How Understanding Your Partner's Brain and Attachment Style Can Help You Defuse Conflict and Build a secure relationship. New Harbinger Publisher; Oakland CA.

Monday, 13 November 2017

There is no 'letting go", there is just letting in

Our mysterious beings are held in our bodies by structures which capture
energy into life systems that are held in turn by structures of ancestral and personal experience, culture, societal beliefs, values and aspirations. Just as our physical bodies are held into this time and place by complex structures of DNA, and a multitude of other physical biochemical, physiological and cellular pathways, so too, first at an emotional and spiritual level, our beings are held in place by structures of ego, familial memory, pre conscious and supra conscious layers of being.

Integrative therapy has the purpose of clearing away all structures which no longer are useful. Presently, these structures can be called trauma, but I prefer the term, unintegrated experiences. In the same way that we go into the garden in fall and gather together all the deadwood and dying plants, so too, in therapy we have the opportunity to go into the garden of our souls and clean out all un wanted structures.

This process is not always one of simply ‘throwing away’ or ‘letting go’ of unwanted structures and understandings. Rather, these old structures are recycled or composted into new clearing, maturity and wisdom. These unintegrated experiences were often formed before we had words or discernment to understand them, so they get laid down in pre-cognitive areas of mind and brain. There they dictate the responses of the limbic systems and at higher levels; they also dictate thoughts, actions, identity and interpretations.

This means that distressing memories, although they are not happening now, are kept alive by the limbic system in corresponding parts of the body with messages of distress, hyper vigilance and discomfort. In cases of PTSD or complex PTSD (c-ptsd), these unintegrated experiences stimulate the limbic system to cause insomnia, physical symptoms of threat response and other signs of high stress and the fight, flight or cluster responses. These signals travel from the memory centre in the neo cortex to the rest of the body, telling us that the experience is not finished. So the brain interprets them as still proceeding in real time. But of course, they are not. The unintegrated experience can be from the previous moment or forty years ago. In the kind of timeless state of the interconnected mind body, the essence of the distressing memory remains alive as if it is still happening in the present time.

First, the old dysfunctional structures must be recognised and acknowledged. They existed because, much like the garden in fall, they bore fruit which at one time was useful. So often the first step is not to grab the weed and swear at it as we pull it out with vengeance. But with some careful consideration, first understand how the weed got there in the first place. And then with the same gentleness and sense of the wholeness of our life, to consider what its function was in the past. Otherwise without an understanding of the whole, we are simply pulling out one weed and making room for another to grow.

The resistance to recognize dysfunctional beliefs, thoughts and actions is one of our more egregious qualities. In our drive to ‘get rid’ of those aspects that are causing problems, we want to turn away, ignore, deny or attack these weeds. But the best way to proceed is to first recognize them with gentle compassion. They served a purpose in the past and that purpose often has deep soul connections which we must acknowledge before we can effectively grow beyond them.

To integrate these experiences we must first have the courage to face and recognize them directly, bring them out of the shadows into the cognitive mind. These troublesome aspects are experiences which were too powerful for us to understand at the time. The tragic loss of a loved one, sudden injury, emotional trauma, sexual trauma, ancestral memories of famines, wars and other violence-these are few examples of experiences that were overwhelming at the time they occurred. So we put these memories aside because we don’t have the means to cope with them. This doesn’t mean they ‘go away’. They just get filed for later consideration. They are filed, wisely, by our minds into places within our bodies where we can find them easily.

We know from epigenetics that experiences change not only the body but also change our DNA. Therefore the body can be understood as a kind of physical filing cabinet for all of our memories. Much like any competent secretary, the filing cabinet is well organized into logical sections for ease of access. Sexual trauma is filed in the pelvis; feminine trauma is filed in the breasts etc.
So, unintegrated experience can be found in corresponding physical places usually assigned up and down the spine. Each energy holding centre or chakra is organized according to general areas of human experience. Root chakra: survival and death; sexual charka: creativity and boundaries; solar plexus: will, grief and loss; Heart chakra: love, compassion and connection; Throat Charka: communication and discernment; Third eye or hypothalamus: connections into past and future and throughout the body: Crown chakra: connection to higher aspects of soul and openness to growth and evolution.

One very effective way to find where the trauma is filed is to notice where there is discomfort or dis-ease in the body. And then to relate the area to the closest chakra and then connect that to the experiences that placed it there.

We can layer all kinds of coping mechanisms on top of trauma and the on-going sense of unease. Denial, intense and persistent physical pain, diseases such as cancer; addictions, anger, numbing out or other means of turning away. If the memory is held with dis-ease, then the harm of the unintegrated experience can slip over into interpersonal relationships, violence, prejudice, transference, and armouring of the heart centre.  Over time, these denial mechanisms become so habituated that we no longer see why these mechanisms were created in the first place.
We learn to forget that we are forgetting.

If psychotropics are used by the client to dull the unease of the distressing experience, then denial becomes even more habituated and concretized. Locked into this unresolved state, the client can be held in a chemical straight jacket which prevents any real therapy from occurring because the mid brain does not have access to the memory centres and therefore cannot fully integrate messages of distress and unease.

Psychotropics are like a crutch used by a patient who has broken their leg, after a while, using the crutch seems natural and the thought of trying to put weight on the injured limb seems an indomitable task. And it may be, after years of relying on the chemical solution, the psychotropic has become a highly habituated within the mind body composition. However, these psychotropics tie up the neuropathways and stop any possibility of real change from occurring.
Here is where therapeutic altered states are so incredibly useful. From what we can see from brain scans and MRI’s recording brain activity, altered states first flood the brain with serotonin. This is the ‘feel good’ neurotransmitter that is released in situations when we feel connected with others and the environment, when we feel successful and satisfied. So immediately the threat response which may be habituated for decades is diminished. Then the mind can explore the scary parts of the unintegrated experiences which are troublesome without feeling the need to protect the person through evasive denials. The distressing event does not have to be re-lived fully. Only the way the event was embodied by the individual needs to be remembered, brought into consciousness, experienced and then integrated.

The important aspect of using therapeutic altered states is that the patient has the opportunity to fully experience the essence of the unintegrated experience and then to come to terms with it, during and after the session. Also, as the process of integration begins, the patient begins to enter into the most important phase of the therapy, which normally most therapies do not allow due to reductionist beliefs of a mechanical universe which hold that if there is a problem, like a mechanic, you can take out the offending part and throw it away. But in integrative therapy, after we have examined how the distressing event was laid down in the mind and body, then we can gently bring that memory to the surface and finally to allow that experience to inform us in good and practical ways. In integrative therapy, there is no ‘throwing away’. All experience can be integrated towards a more whole person who is compassionate, effective and works with a big picture or soul perspective. So the distressing event isn’t thrown away, its let in, so the individual can learn and grow from it.

There is no letting go in this universe. It is self-enclosed and self-resembling. There is no ‘out there’ to let go of distressing experiences into. There is no garbage dump where we can throw away parts of ourselves. We are intimately interconnected and inter dependent, all of us without in the world, and all of our experiences within also. The therapeutic way to proceed is to recognize, honour and integrate.

Then in a paradoxical way, with this total acceptance, the unintegrated experience or trauma disappears. This is the true ‘letting go’. 
Image downloaded from

Saturday, 2 July 2016

From here to the horizon

Yesterday I walked along one of my favorite hikes, beside a tributary of a
larger river. This river has been home to people for thousands of years. First Nations people lived at different parts of this river as it flowed from the mountains, down through vast silent forests and finally out to the bay. Those who lived along this river harvested reeds, trees, salmon, shellfish and a multitude of different kinds of berries for at least four thousand years. They also hunted animals who came to the river for fresh water: mink, otters, deer, wolves, and birds. Bears also lived in this area, but the people who lived here then, did not hunt them because they believed these creatures were too alike to humans to be killed and eaten.
                After first contact with Europeans, this river was dredged to make it easier for ships to come into the bay to take away logs from the surrounding forests. This disturbed the river bed and its flow. Many fish stocks were lost, animals and birds lost their food and water sources. The men who planned and executed this destruction had no idea of the long term effects of their actions, rather like many people today. Or perhaps even if they had known the far reaching consequences of their actions, they would not have changed them. They were possessed by hungry ghosts and addictions which blinded them to the world.
                As I walk along this river, I wonder how it manages to keep flowing, to keep alive and offering nourishment to creatures who still live along its banks. Most people here don’t remember, but this estuary and its flood plain was once filled with so many birds that they would darken the sky. Even I, in my life time, can remember this. Now, if I spot flocks of perhaps ten or twelve birds, I am thrilled.
                There was a time in my life when human destruction of the earth and her creatures dismayed me so much I sunk into a deep depression. I contemplated suicide. I couldn’t bear to watch the progression we have chosen towards world death. But my love for my son, my family and the commitment I felt towards my spiritual teachers and ancestors kept me alive. Still keeps me alive. I will see this learning through to the end. I will be witness and as much as possible, I will bless and direct the coming times towards the best possible outcomes.
                My new teacher has shown me that energy is indestructible and in exhaustible in nature. But from my small place of a woman living in a human body with loving commitments towards others, these turbulent times are difficult. I fight the temptation to sink into hopelessness. To re-bind myself to my commitment to be a spiritual teacher and counsellor, I remind myself every day of my soul’s purpose. I remind myself of why I choose to be born and live in these times, with all the beings and beauty of this wondrous world.
                One of my practices to keep my intentions alive and strong is to bless the world when I walk. As I walk, I bless everything I see, hear, small and touch , from me to the horizon. And beyond to clouds, stars, sun and moon. All of it. Just as I must accept the terror of the coming times, so too I accept and bless all that I see in the world, in the moment, from the tiny pebbles that my shoes walk on to the majestic clouds that hover along the horizon. I can’t fully understand all that goes on in my life, but I can hold the intention of witnessing, accepting and blessing the three worlds of our good mother: inanimate, plant and animal. This will not prevent me from acting with discernment once my walking mediation is over, it will not sugar coat the darkness in my life. On the contrary, blessing the world as I walk helps me come back to the battle renewed with vigor and most important, with compassion and a greater vision of the whole.
Try This!
1.       Take a walk through your world, out in nature is best but if you live in an urban area or even within your home, take a walk through that world. Clear your mind. Just notice with all of your senses.
2.       Now notice something close to you.  I notice my computer in my office.
3.       Bless that-whether it is inanimate, plant or animal, it still has sentience and is participating in your life in an active and conscious way.  Blessings to my computer.
4.       Now bring to mind, all those things, actions, people, meanings that are connected with what you noticed. Bless all that also.  Blessings to all those who made my computer and the technology that supports it. Blessings to all the animals and plants who feed the people who worked on the computer. Blessings to all the inanimate sentience of the materials that are in my computer, the oil, copper, the refineries where the materials were made…Keep going, there’s lots of interconnections you can bless.
5.       Now raise your eyes and see as far as you can, to the horizon. Imagine a line from where you are standing to the horizon. Try to notice as much as you can about what is happening between you and the horizon. Bless everything in that eye line. E.g. From where I stand in my office, I can see to the mountains across the bay. Between me and them, there are houses, people living their lives, animals in the forest below and on the other side of the bay, all the creatures who live in the sea, along the shore line, the plants in the sea and along the shore,  birds who fly through the air, a multitude of insects visible and within the soil. I bless all I can see from here to the horizon.

6.       This practice will aide in the development of understanding the interconnection of all being. This awareness alone and by itself would save humanity from the impending crises which are approaching.