Friday, 29 March 2013

Procrastination

Procrastination is my sin. It brings me naught but sorrow. I know that I should stop it. In fact, I will - tomorrow ~Gloria Pitzer

My last post was by way of an open letter to Life: It said “are we not finished yet? Why is it that I cannot get this book to the agent?

I could hear Life laughing. “So miss clever clogs, you pretend you are waiting on me, while all the time you know I’m waiting on you. And no, you’re not finished with this healing process and you cannot publish until you have finished, so stop procrastinating”

All week I have been listening to Life’s messages. Everything that has happened during these last seven days is full of clues, indicators and information. The message that came in two days ago was filled with irony and Life’s incessant humour: someone asked me to read and comment on a manuscript which must be at least 200,000 words in length, has been at least 25 years in the writing and is probably a series of three books. Well what could I say?  
                                                                                                                                          This week I heard for the first time that a family friend had been struggling with stomach cancer for about two years now, and had half her small intestines removed. When I asked whether she was now in remission, she said yes, but needed to have two further operations. Well I’m in remission too, but need to have at least one, if not two more operations. In fact I need as many operations as it takes.
  
Okay, okay, I get the message. It’s time to retreat and go into that place of total silence which I tried to do last week but all those recorded programmes, especially Criminal Minds, held me enthralled. I also allowed a host of other things as well as people to intervene. But I’m ready now to have my own operation; I’ve been putting it off for long enough, more than a year now.

But my operation is not conducted in an operating theatre by a surgeon with scalpel and an anaesthetist. It’s conducted by my own body, as long as I create the conditions within which it can do so, and it is here my resistance kicks in. I don’t want to do the pre-op preparations. I cannot summon up the discipline to do a 10-day fast in total meditative silence.

I am going to teenage-sit this Easter weekend, and then I’ll begin.

Friday, 22 March 2013

Waiting on Life

I’ve had some interesting responses following my tiny little rant on ‘where did all the money go’?  One person said that all those billionaires who paid millions for Cypriot citizenship to get access to loose financial controls and high interest rates should now help the banks.

In the main, most ‘Northern’ Europeans are incensed about having their taxes used to bail out ‘southern’ European states, seen as being reluctant to make a contribution towards getting themselves out of a mess of their own making, while expecting the north to pay for everything.  The Cyprus government say the country's fate will be decided today. We wait to see how.

I’m all for billionaires who are hell bent on hoarding money and maintaining lavish lifestyles, established through ill gotten gains and supported by certain banks, to pay. But here’s the thing: the ordinary citizen who has worked hard all their life and paid taxes and in every sense “done the right thing” must pay too.

Yesterday I heard some fifteen year old school children talking about how the recession and austerity had impacted them. Many either had a parent or knew someone in the family of friends who was out of work as a result of redundancy in the last year. Unable to find a job, they survive on rapidly dwindling savings. The thing the young people noticed most was that there was not enough food to eat. 

For a child to say that in a G8 country in the 2lst Century is just criminal; plain and simple. When would a British government consider it okay to uniliterally grab a percentage of the meagre savings of ordinary households, now used to survive day to day, on top of the already exorbitant taxes paid on every purchase? That would be grossly unfair in the face of rising costs and the cynicism of those bankers to still get millions in annual bonuses.

Yes, I know, who said Life was fair?

But it seems to me that there’s something odd going on this time; this is no ordinary recession, and Life has not yet shown us the full picture. I myself have been waiting on Life to show me what’s going for some time now.

My friend Neville called from Jamaica last week. I dread his question: “Have you completed the book yet?” he says. Neville has been asking this question for the last three years. This time I can say yes I have completed it but have not yet sent it to the agent who has asked me to submit some specific things.

“Well?” says Neville, “What are you waiting for?”

Good question; I don’t know the answer. I’m waiting on Life to tell me, and in the meantime, during a time of austerity, the beggar's friends Jasmine and Judith make sure he has enough to eat.

South African author Wilbur Smith says he cannot write until his archetypes speak. I get that completely. I don't have a problem with my archetypes speaking; in fact I can’t shut them up. I’m waiting on Life which speaks via songs, movies, news bulletins, magazine and newspaper articles, in TV and radio programmes, in the chance utterances of friends, and through events in the world – in metaphor and symbolism.

While I’m waiting, I’ll do a blog.

Tuesday, 19 March 2013

Where did all the money go?

I am having a rant today.

Today is the 10th Anniversary of the invasion of Iraq which turned out not to have weapons of mass destruction after all, but a band of political tricksters generating false evidence in support of their aims.

Ten years later Iraq is still occupied and there apparently is good reason for this. We dare not leave, not yet, not for a long time. Even after we’ve gone at the end of this year...next year…(?)…we will still be there, providing ‘technical assistance’.

In the ten years of his premiership Tony Blair involved Britain in at least five wars – the second gulf war, Somali, Bosnia, Afghanistan and Iraq, the latter of which cost Britain billions – no wonder the coffers are empty. If it was up to him the UK would now be engaged in armed combat in Syria, and probably Libya and Mali.

Today the former premier insists that he has ‘no regrets about deposing Saddam Hussein’. He neatly sidesteps the ensuing carnage and senseless destructiveness that has gone on over ten years. In 1993 he hoped that the ‘war on terror’ in Iraq would be short with minimum loss of life. Ah, the best laid plans of politicians. Nowadays we can no longer identify a terrorist state; the terrorist – destroyers of life, limb and liberty – are individuals who turn up everywhere and anywhere.

For me there is another kind of terrorist: governments – destroyers of dreams and savings. God forbid that I should ever be on the same page as the ‘out of Europe brigade’, but the European Union (EU) does itself no favours. Did it really sanction the Cyprus government's proposed unilateral plunder of the bank accounts of all its citizens, including ordinary hard working people, in order to pay for the profligacy and laxness of the State? Who should pay? As usual, the ordinary man, woman and child who did nothing wrong, while billionaires get away with it.

Apart from money the various European nation states have spent on wars and bailing out rogue banks, what about all the money the EU lavishes on itself, while disparaging whistleblowers?

There is something really smelly going on in the United States of Europe.

Monday, 18 March 2013

Why?

The other day a friend quoted Neale Donald Walsch (of Conversations with God fame) on her facebook page:

"Why?" is the most useless question in the universe. The only question with any meaning is "What?"

Asking "Why is this happening?" can only disempower you. Asking "What do I want to make of this?" does exactly the opposite.

Here is a great secret: the ‘Why’ of anything is to produce the ‘What’ of everything.

It’s not the first time I’ve heard that. One of my spiritual mentors used to say give up wanting to know why; you don’t need to know why.

Yes I do.

As far as I am concerned there is no such thing as accident, random, chance, coincidence.  So I am always interrogating Life. My friend Glynis tells me that I over think and over analyse everything. I would say that I just see differently and want to know why things are like they are, especially if what I see does not make sense and/or seem absurd. It was the pursuit of ‘why’ which saved my life. In pursuing the ‘why’, I discovered the ‘what’.

Going back to my last post, When Sickness is Good Business, if I was told that my body was incapable of fighting off infections because it was resistant to existing drugs, my first question would be why. Why would the body develop resistance to existing drugs? I’m not sure that the medical profession can actually answer that, but one response so far has been that lowering anti-biotic use is critical to slowing the evolution of resistance. Now there's a major clue.

Excessive medication simply masks symptoms and even worse, disables the immune system. Only those who suffer with one of those auto-immune diseases know what a bummer it is to live with a compromised immune system. 

A good friend recently asked to use my health crisis experience as background for doing some work with the UK’s National Health Service, but my experience is so atypical it would not help her; I simply do not fit the mould. When my doctor told me that I would need to take four different drugs, including a Beta-blocker*, every day for the rest of my life, I ran like hell. That was simply not going to happen. 

The body's own healing mechanisms require support from agonists, not to endure a lifelong bludgeoning by antagonists, or alien enemy combatants (as Americans would say)which is what drugs are at the end of the day.

Five years later I’m still here, minus antagonists and doing very well thank you. But I had to go on a long tortuous journey to understand the ‘why’ around my symptoms and the nature of the silent killer disease that stalked me, in order to get the 'what' to do about it. This is a luxury that a public health service simply cannot afford and that's why my experience would not contribute to my friend's work.

Yesterday I watched the latest James Bond movie, Skyfall. Bond’s boss ‘M’ tells him that orphans make the best agents. She does not say why. I wondered whether whoever wrote the script knows why. Orphan children have no fear. The choice between between death-in-life (what my doctor was offering) and life-in-death is a no-brainer for orphans. They will always choose the road less travelled.


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*Beta-blockers also known as beta antagonists, beta-adrenergic blocking agents, or beta-adrenergic antagonists, are drugs prescribed to treat several different types of conditions, including hypertension (high blood pressure), angina, some abnormal heart rhythms, heart attack (myocardial infarction), anxiety, migraine, glaucoma, and overactive thyroid symptoms.

Related Post: When Sickness is Good Business

Thursday, 14 March 2013

When Sickness is Good Business

This week the UK’s Chief Medical Officer (CMO) published her annual report. It presented a view on a looming threat to our health: the body’s inability to fight off new infectious diseases and its resistance to existing drugs. The CMO said this threat was as serious as global terrorism and climate change. Oh really, why is that then?
In an interview the British CMO said unless we take urgent action, and within the next 25 years or so, our societies were likely to revert to a pre-antibiotic era because over the last 30 years very few new antibiotics had been developed. Her report highlighted the fact that while diseases evolved and become resistant to existing drugs, there have been very few new antibiotics developed leaving us vulnerable to new infectious diseases.  

It is important therefore to preserve our current stock of antibiotics. This means taking steps to prevent infections including being more scrupulous around hygiene but in particular, prescribing fewer antibiotics and only when absolutely necessary. Lowering anti-biotic use is critical to slowing the evolution of resistance.
Well that’s a tough call, since nowadays we are demanding anti-biotics, even for the common cold. The chart below from research undertaken by the Centre for Diseases Dynamics, Economics & Policy puts Europe and North America in the frame. While USA is highlighted, France and Greece seem to be having a real tough time.
The British CMO went on to say that the pharmaceutical industry had to be ‘incentivised’ to invest in producing new anti-biotics. Oh?  Why? Because there’s no money in it for them otherwise.  
Once you have completed your course of anti-biotics your symptoms abate and you may not need medicating again until the following year, or another five years, or longer. It’s more profitable to produce drugs that become part of daily life.
Last year I watched as a friend refilled his weekly pillbox with approximately three or four tablets for each day of the week.  We keep the pharmaceutical industry in healthy profit with our unhealthy lifestyles and dependency on generic prescription drugs. Illness makes good business sense.  

Tuesday, 12 March 2013

The Pope-makers

Smoke%20coming%20out%20of%20smokestackThis afternoon, on the 2-hour mark, smoke billowed from the chimneys on the Sistine Chapel and it was black, jet black.  At least that’s what the BBC commentator said. Great drama.

Is it me, or does it seem that the whole world along with those in St Peter’s square is waiting with bated breath for the new pontiff to emerge? I don’t remember having even the vaguest interest in the popedom in the past. It must be the level of political in-fighting in a dyfunctional Curia, Vatileaks, the Vatican bank under investigation - when was it not? Remember god's banker found hanging under a London bridge? And then there's the interminable sex scandals. A church in crisis. Poor Benedict, the first pontiff in nearly 600 years to abdicate, he was apparently done in by it all.

Right now 115 ‘princes’ of the Church (60 Europeans, 19 Latin American, 14 North American, 11 African, 10 Asian and one Australian) representing 1.2bn Catholics are choosing the 266th pope. The Guardian Newspaper surveyed the candidates – diplomats, academics, intellectuals, hardliners, conservatives, moderates and mavericks as well as those who defy categorisation. The following descriptions and direct quotes emerged:

- Four cardinals choosing the pontiff are facing question about what they knew about the abuse of children by priests in their dioceses.

- One said same-sex unions was an aberration and asked ‘would you want to be adopted by a pair of faggots or lesbians?’ He is also alleged to have said ‘women shouldn’t go around being so provocative – that’s why so many get raped.’ (Hard to believe a cardinal would say that).

- African cardinals tend to hold similar views – vehemently against same sex relationships, and scepticism about using condoms to halt the spread of HIV/Aids. One suggested that Africa had largely escaped the sexual abuse scandals thanks to its strong taboos against homosexuality.

- One Cardinal is said to appear to hint that the church should acknowledge homosexual partnerships – ‘there are other forms of cohabitation and it is good that they be recognised’, he said.

- Another who is said to travel around by bus told people not to waste their money on plane tickets to Rome to see him become a cardinal but to give it instead to the poor.

Very soon, white smoke will emerge from the Sistine Chapel, and hey presto, as though through a process of transubstantiation, an Infallible (perfect, flawless) Pope will emerge. How about a Tunde or a Luis?

NEXT DAY: Not a Luis but a Jorge - first Latin American, first Jesuit and first Pope Francis - who went round the Argentine on a bus, good for him.


See The Guardian, Saturday 9 March 2013

Sunday, 10 March 2013

Mother as Zen Master


My beloved Divine Mother
Dance with me
under the soft moon shining
in the wide open fields
far beyond the toil and trouble
of my busy mind

My beautiful Divine Mother
This universe is your body
Alive and blushing with cosmic streams
And rivers of love
                                                                           {Ethan Walker: Soft Moon Shining}

Today in the UK we are celebrating 'Mother's Day', and Ethan Walker’s Soft Moon Shining is a fabulous anthology of devotional poetry honouring the Divine Mother. Among the most universally recognised archetype, the mother is nurturer and giver of unconditional love, and a very significant dynamic in shaping the child’s personality, and steering them towards their destiny.
                 The mother (and father) has two roles, parent and mentor/teacher. Parents make sure that you are protected, have food, clothes and a roof over your head, but they may never see who you are. The mentor/teacher on the other hand, operates in an entirely different dimension, often not conscious even to them. The mentor is less focused on your well-being and more concerned with your spiritual growth.
                The parent as mentor/teacher whom the child often seeks outside the home, is the person who sees who you are, sees your beauty, falls in love with it, helps and inspires it, giving it a chance to bloom in the world. Many people, including me, complain that their parents do not really know them; they have ‘parenting’ issues that they may well replicate in their own lives as parents.
                Today, and every day since I became a little more conscious, I express gratitude for the fact that my own mother’s performance of both her ‘parenting’ and ‘mentoring’ roles was outstanding. In terms of Maslow's Hierarchy of Needs pyramid, my mother worked hard to ensure that my basic physiological needs were met. She also laid the strongest foundations for me to pursue self-actualization needs, which lie at the apex of the pyramid.
              Nowadays on Mother’s Day, long after her death, I smile and bow to my mother, as the student does to the Zen Master, because she modelled one of the greatest spiritual tenets, that of non-attachment.  

Friday, 8 March 2013

Soul Purpose


Google's International Women's Day Logo
Understanding the Soul's Purpose
International Women’s Day is an appropriate time to explore the meaning and purpose of soul.

According to the Shorter Oxford English Dictionary, ‘the soul is the principle of life…the spiritual part of humankind, in contrast to the purely physical…the seat of emotions, feelings or sentiment…the essential part or quality of a material thing’.     

The Merriam-Webster Online Dictionary has eight different descriptions of ‘soul’ – the immaterial essence, animating principle, or actuating cause of an individual life; the spiritual principle embodied in all rational and spiritual beings; a person's total self; an active or essential part; the moral and emotional nature of human beings.

Transpersonal psychologists use the word ‘soul’ interchangeably with the word ‘psyche’. The word ‘psychology’ itself is an amalgam of spirit and soul.  James Hillman, a High Master of the art of psychology, said that in using the word ‘psychology’, he is referring to the study or order (logos) of the soul (psyche).

Our ‘spirit’ or masculine qualities and attitudes are described as active, hard, outgoing, penetrating, logical, aggressive and dominant; while our feminine soul nature is defined as receptive, soft, inward, encompassing, intuitive, emotional passive, empathetic and relational. These motivations are governed by the left and right brain respectively.  These qualities are equally represented in men and women but will be more or less developed, in distortion or in balance, depending on culture, early life experience, and other factors. 

 Jung described this feminine and masculine polarity as anima and animus, respectively. Human beings tap into these innate anima and animus responses at will, depending on whether they choose to be receptive and relational or active and dominant. The ‘animus woman’ has an abundance of active masculine qualities; while the ‘new man’ is regarded as having more receptive and relational qualities.

From time immemorial the dominant left brain of logic and rationality, the masculine principle, has generally abandoned the intuitive aspect of its existence. However, the relegated right brain of emotion and intuition, the feminine principle, may be overlooked and undermined, but can never be annihilated.

On the physical plane this rejection of a vital aspect of self finds reflection in every society where woman is undervalued and repressed, and even destroyed in utero.  The rejection and relegation of the Feminine Principle is obvious in the world at large - in government and politics, in the economy, in religion. The abuse and violation of women is tantamount to the abuse and exploitation of the Earth, a global symbol of the Feminine.

Wednesday, 6 March 2013

Embracing the Feminine

Google's International Women's Day Logo
Friday 8th March is International Women’s Day.  I believe in some countries it is a national holiday; good for them. The push for women to gain more and better political and economic access is a critical and essential spearhead in the battle for universal human rights.                  

        It is also fabulously fitting that this year IWD is happening during a period when that conclave of Anti-Feminine, the Vatican, is in the process of choosing a new head of that regressive movement.  For me International Women's Day is not simply about the 'feminist cause', more critically it is also about embracing and honouring the  Feminine aspect of humankind. I am going back to First Principles.

 One condition of being human is to live in illusion. Unfortunately it means we have to split the reality of Oneness and express that rift in our behaviour in the world. The perception of duality is lodged deep within the brain structure and is expressed in our actions, perceptual understanding and experience of the physical world. Our experience of duality is embedded in our language – good and bad, left and right, up and down, hot and cold, black and white; thinking and feeling, quantitative and qualitative and all the other dualities in life – and within us.
   The concept of Spirit and Soul (symbolised in the mythology of Adam and Eve) represents the first duality into which humanity had to fall. To my mind this is the ‘original grief’ (not original sin) inherent in leaving Oneness. It is Oneness we seek to re-experience – or re-member. This is a huge problem for popes and catholic priests who fervently desire this experience, while at the same time rejecting it.
The practice of celibacy is absolutely fine when it wholeheartedly embraces and experiences the true marriage of Spirit and Soul. However, celebacy tends towards the shadow when it is predicated on the rejection of an aspect of the unified Self. That’s why the sexuality of many catholic priests gets expressed in the shadow, literally. What’s this? Just pause for a moment and think about it.
In the meantime, I can hear the Catholic wing of my family having a nervous breakdown. 'Oh my god', one lot says to the other ‘have you read her blog today? Did she really say that'?  ‘Oh yes she did’, says the other. But let me not focus just on Catholics, Mullahs also have a problem; so did Buddha.
     If you require further food for thought, then read the writings of Thomas Moore, a former monk, Jungian analyst and author who understands the nature and purpose of the erotic rhythms of Spirit and Soul. See Moore’s The Soul of Sex, and Dark Eros: the Imagination of Sadism. [The one vaguely redeeming feature in the hypocrisy of the British Cardinal, who resigned last week following revelations about his ‘inappropriate’ behaviour towards young priests, was to publicly own up to his own dark Eros tendencies]
     Spirit and Soul are equal partners in sustaining physical, emotional and mental health, as well as a state of wellbeing on the planet.  It is our own perception of separation, the split from our ‘ground of being’ or innate source of supply, which lies at the heart of our troubled mind. The truth is the masculine spirit has a burning desire for its feminine soul; when the two get together it is sheer ecstasy.


Monday, 4 March 2013

The Myth of Separation


Creating a world of heart-centred relationships
Continuing the theme of disparity and inequality between and within nations, it is striking that as the ‘age of austerity’ - the 6th year of it - hits all of us, it reveals the huge paradox that sits at the heart of the wealthiest nations on earth.

On the one hand Europe is discarding hundreds of tons of food every day, including dead fish thrown back into the sea because of a ridiculous and unworkable quota system, while many people are scrabbling in waste bins for food to feed their families. How does that make any sense? We won't mention parts of the world where children go to bed hungry and die of malnutrion.

Since austerity hit the UK, hundreds of food banks feed the  thousands who nowadays queue for free food; and the numbers are said to have doubled in the last nine months. What is there to say about that? How does that happen in a society that prides itself among the top seven wealthiest nations on the planet? And these people are not the usual suspects: the homeless, and 'residual poor', but ordinary citizens who have lost their livlihood or whose income is now insufficient to meet everyday needs. 

This is neither about poverty nor austerity, it's about a self-serving, self-perpetuating and hugely dysfunctional system. And the periodic shuffling around of players on the political game board is not going to change it. But it will change, in fact it is in the process of change now, even while cosmic wheels turn very slowly.

Western perceptions and beliefs about the ‘survival of the fittest’ were shaped long ago by ideas formulated in the 17th Century and developed into theories by Newton, Descartes and Darwin et al – theories that presented human being as separate from each other and from their environment.  In the main, we assign a hierarchy of power and privilege. We lose sight of community, in its broadest sense, and of interdependence.
         
          We readily accept that everything in our biological bodies are connected, one organ system is dependent on all other for optimal functioning, yet one of the defining characteristics of human nature is the belief that we are separate from the earth and from each other.
          
         Our perception of separation is expressed everywhere in our lives, between humankind and the nature kingdom, in our relationships one with the other, particularly between men and women, between work and play, in families, communities, cultures, religions, within and between different races and nationalities (we even place a value on how much a life is worth, based on ethnic and/or national origin). In turn this separation is reflected back to us in the disparity in the health, wealth and status of nations and in the very geophysical structure of the planet itself.
        
           Our sense of separation from each other and from Mother Nature, regarded as here to serve us, continues to result in major catastrophes for the global family and for the earth itself. With the advent of globalization, the autonomy of nations states, traditionally unassailable is now being challenged, and the impact of the global financial catastrophe, which began long before it actually started to manifest in 2007, continue to reverberate in our lives.

          The interests of nations now overlap and it is impossible to stand apart from the rest of the world and assert sovereignty, if this poses a danger to planetary resources important to the well-being of the whole. Yet there are those who ignore the critical link between interdependence and survival. We wait with a mixture of hope and despair to see how the leadership of the G7/G8 resolve a situation that, in some nation states, threatens to seriously derail social cohesion.  Our solutions do indeed lie with growth, but to focus solely on 'growth in the economy' no longer cuts its.

Friday, 1 March 2013

Webs of Deceit

In an age of universal deceit, telling the truth is a revolutionary act (attributed to George Orwell)

There’s some dispute about whether the above quote can be attributed to George Orwell, but who cares. Whoever said it, it is true today. All sorts of people, in all spheres of life, including and especially scientists and professionals in the medical and other fields (even journalists) are being imprisoned, humiliated, shunned, vilified and otherwise gagged, in some way, and prevented from telling the truth.
Into%20The%20Void
Webs of Deceit

It has been suggested that the government knew from 2011 that contaminated horsemeat might be getting into the food chain. The scandal over the dodgy dossier that took us into the Iraq war caused a scientist to take his own life; and even that is disputed by his friends.

All politicians prevaricate and obsfuscate; nowadays it is called 'spin', lie by another name. They do this for all sorts of reasons but especially because power is very seductive and a corrupting thing. Remaining in power at all cost is the order of the day, even if you might be dying from cancer.

In the last few weeks and months in the UK, it has come into the open that the National Health Service gagged staff who knew about the level of abuse suffered by patients; and that some deaths in hospitals were not from natural causes. Whistleblowers were harshly treated and threatened, until one man decided that enough was enough, and lost his fear.

After five years of struggle with a critical illness, I know that the National Health Service (NHS) cannot heal; that is not it's fault. Most 'care workers' and medical professionals, from nurse to consultant must suffer from some form of post traumatic stress themselves. So, the NHS is doing the best that it knows how; it can only assist you to ‘manage symptoms’. After a while there is only one thing it can say: there is nothing more we can do for you. And we al know the subtext attached to that one.

In spite of a claim to 'put patients at the heart of decisions that doctors make about their healthcare': "No Decision About Me Without Me", I know that the health service is deeply entwined with the pharmaceutical industry, and cannot therefore function in my best interest. Nevertheless I remain engaged with a matrix of collective thought that promotes extensive use of allopathic drugs with severe side effects, including the unnecessary use of anti-psychotic medication. I continue to periodically ‘sign in’ with my GP (family doctor) just so that she does not ‘de-register’ me as a patient, as previously threatened. Why would I do that? I do that because part of me still lives in the illusion.

But we all lie don't we? We are economical with the truth, whether in lying to ourselves, or in order to shield those we love; or so we think. But after years of working as a therapist, I know that is not true. Lies corrode the soul. In time the truth will have to come out because the truth sets us free.