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August 8th, 2013 § 0 comments
August 7th, 2013 § 0 comments
August 5th, 2013 § 0 comments
Wouldn’t that be better, more responsive democracy? Why do I need politicians to represent me? I can see why they were necessary in the past but why do I need them now? If I can access my online bank account why can’t I access my online Citizen account and vote daily?
What do I need politicians for? All I need is an army of civil servants to carry out the wishes of the people?
July 23rd, 2013 § 0 comments
July 22nd, 2013 § 0 comments
I took this picture in traffic one day. I used it for this meme after reading an article by Mike Taylor at Strala Yoga. You can read it here. I like to look at it every now and then. I like what it reminds me of.
July 22nd, 2013 § 0 comments
She is 13 years old. I like her suggestions.
November 13th, 2012 § 0 comments
August 19th, 2012 § 0 comments
There’s a popular myth that if you repeat an activity for 21 days it will become a habit. Scientific proof for this is thin but I’ve found it true in my own experience so I don’t care. That’s why I was delighted to come across this video by Bruce Lipton because, among other things, he outlines a very plausible way to give yourself the habit of being happy. I also think it’s a nice adjunct to Sam Harris’s video on free will I wrote about last and fills out the picture a little more.
Bruce Lipton is a biologist and cells are kind of his thing. As a seven year old, looking through his first microscope, he thought cells were little people. He went on to get bigger and bigger microscopes, a raft of impressive qualifications, teaching positions in some of the most prestigious institutions around the world and in the end came full circle to describing cells as mini people once more, he just uses bigger words now.
Like Sam Harris’s video this one is long (55 mins) so I’ll outline the highlights.
Apparently it’s been measured and about 70% of our thoughts are negative or redundant. Being a long time meditator I was used to hearing my mind go on about all its worries and negativities. I saw it as mind chatter and was more interested in the silence than what it was chattering about. The notion that what I think about is just a habit is very handy to know and refreshingly impersonal. Rather than trying to smash those pesky negative thoughts and be more positive, it’s more a case of chosing the thoughts I want to be thinking and getting myself out of the habit of thinking about things I’d rather not be thinking about.
Most of the work is done in just identifying the thoughts I’d like to change as they arise – being aware in the moment, which is basically what meditation is anyway.
I haven’t been changing my thinking for long, a few weeks now, but I’m definitely noticing changes in me. I feel my nature coming through more which is vey joyous.
July 23rd, 2012 § 0 comments
I came across this talk by Sam Harris the other day. Once I got past the schmaltzy introduction and Sam’s smarty-pants style of delivery, I found it refreshing and encouraging. Refreshing because I wasn’t expecting something that rang with truth from Sam. Not that I’d ever heard of him before but within minutes it was obvious that he was from the atheists-in-your-face crew who love Richard Dawkins and hate Deepak Chopra. Okay hate is probably too strong a word, let’s say patronise with extreme prejudice. Sam’s talk was encouraging because it pulsed with the sort of practical compassion I find very moving.
It’s a long video (1hr 18mins) so I’ll highlight some of the main points.
“Thoughts and intentions simply arise in the mind. If you can’t control your next thought and you don’t know what it’s going to be until it arises, where is your freedom of will?”
Your genes and environment cause you to make the choices you do – not you.
“You can’t take credit for your talents, but it matters that you use them. You can’t really be blamed for your weaknesses but it matters that you correct them.”
As a corollary, about six months ago I was in the middle of meditating when something arose in me. I keep a pad and paper close to hand when I meditate because usually the sorts of things that arise in me are to do with putting the cat out or an email I simply MUST send; the sorts of things that my mind will latch onto and will keep “arising,” so rather than make the focus of my meditation dropping these thoughts, I write them down and get back to the mystery.
What arose in me this day was different and when I watched Sam’s video I was immediately reminded of it. Here’s what I wrote.
I am not my money.
I am not my debts.
I am not my work.
I am not where I live.
I am not my wife.
I am not my child.
I am not my friends.
I am not my recognition.
I am not the things I create.
I am not my achievements.
I am not my talents.
I am not my body.
I am not my life.
I am not my pain.
I am not my joy.
I am not my past.
I am not my future.
I am not my experience.
The bit that Sam leaves out, the most important bit and the hardest to talk about is the presence these thoughts arise into.
January 17th, 2012 § 0 comments
I’m next in line and apprehensive. She is a young widow. For seven years her husband had been fighting brain tumours. He came to me for treatment three months ago and responded well initially. Now I’m at his funeral waiting to express my condolences. The chapel is sunny. The grief is thick.
Common wisdom would say I failed him. Good sense would tell me this funeral is the last place I should be. Next thing I know she’s throwing her arms around me, sobbing, “Thank you so much John.” Before I can register what’s happened I’m being hugged by his mother, she is also thanking me – then his father.
On some level these people get what it took me years to figure out as a therapist; that what we call healing isn’t about getting better, it’s about something else.
When it came to being a therapist I was no slouch. I’d had the dramatic recoveries, the crutches that were hobbled in on, carried out under the happy arm, the surgeries that were canceled, the specialists that were flummoxed. I’d set up a well respected school, taught internationally, been featured in magazines, on the radio, the lot.
There was no doubt I was successful yet there were some people who just didn’t get better, and they were the ones that stuck in my mind. Why did some people get better and some didn’t?
Beyond the physical and emotional reasons for illness there was something deeper going on. It seemed like each person was living out an elaborate story uniquely significant to them. All the circumstances and events in their lives were an intricate part of this story. They were working something out through the living of their story, but what it was they were working out was a mystery, and I think that’s the way it’s supposed to be.
Not knowing what you’re working out seems to be part of the deal. Like not wanting to know the end of a movie because it will ruin the enjoyment of watching the movie.
Physical or emotional disharmony can lead to sickness, and so can being out of harmony with your story. What is called healing is a process of getting in harmony with your story and whatever it was you are working out through it.
In hindsight I can say the young man’s story ended with his death but at the time I didn’t know that, I’d seen it go the other way with people many times. My role was to support him to come into harmony with his story in whatever way he wanted, and in the end he achieved that.
I know he was in harmony with his story when he died because I worked with him days before his death. The connection in craniosacral therapy begins physically but goes deep; right to the depths of the being if the person being treated wants it because that’s where the healing happens. It’s not caused by anything external. Certainly not by me. No one heals anyone else. If we’re lucky we get to help someone in the process of healing themselves. It requires a lot of humility, respect for the other persons story, and a spirit of supportive non-interference. His death was part of his healing process. In terms of harmony it was no different from someone who got better.
That can be a lonely perspective to have, particularly as a therapist, because the world is very results oriented especially when it comes to health. On that bright September morning I was glad his family shared it with me.
January 16th, 2012 § 0 comments
I’m sitting with my eyes closed in a school hall in Dublin. Forty people I met only yesterday surround me. John Denver strums over the sound system and we’re encouraged to sing along.
This is the 80′s.
This is personal development.
“Sweet, sweet surrender. Live, live without fear. Like a fish in the ocean. Like a bird in the air.”
After 36 hours of emotional peeling I’m tender as a new born deer. Tears flop down my face as I cry-sing along to what I think is the most beautiful song I’ve ever heard in my life. Oh yes I want to surrender. I want to be free like that bird. I want to swim like that fish. What have I been so afraid of, so worried about? In that glowy moment it’s so clear that the universe is a benevolent force that just wants me to be happy and will take care of me, if only I will surrender, sweetly.
Fast forward to the other night. I wake up with a disturbing pain in my chest. I think I’m having a heart attack. Is this my time? I try to relax, to surrender. As I do I wonder who decides when it’s time? Not me obviously, I’d rather stick around for a while longer. It must be the universe, the benevolent old universe taking care of me if only I will surrender sweetly. Like the fish in the water. Like the. . .
Hang on a minute! The universe is in the process of killing me. Surrendering right now would be a really bad idea.
I get out of bed, and as I stand up the biggest burp in history explodes out of my throat like one of those trumpets heralding the end of time. When it finishes the pain in my chest is gone. Mental note; in future, no beer and pizza before bedtime. I sit down warm and fuzzy having just witnessed a Domino’s miracle.
Drifting off to sleep I wonder about surrender. Going with the flow is such a lovely sentiment; it’s full of relief and warmth and ease. The flow I’m going with is, well, call it the universe, call it life, call it God, call it whatever you like; it’s basically this vast mysterious thing you can’t see or touch, but you can feel in your whole being, well I can at any rate. I can feel it because it moves, in obvious ways like the wind and the sea and the clouds, but more subtly in the passage of lives, mine and everyone else’s. Like John Denver’s fish we’re swimming in a great unseen river that surrounds us and flows through us. I’m part of the river and the living of my life is part of it too.
And it’s not just splashing about either, the movement of life seems to have purpose, particularly in hindsight; everything comes together so elegantly, much more so than if I had tried to organise it.
I know this because most of the difficulties I’ve had in my life came about as a result of stamping my foot and insisting things go my way. It took me years to figure out that if I can tune into the movement of life and go with it, rather than fight against it, my life is so much easier. But more than that I feel a deep sense of joy when I’m in tune with life. Not the sort of joy that has me running down the street hugging complete strangers, we’re not in the 80′s anymore, but a deep satisfying joy that comes from feeling in harmony.
Of course once I’d figured out about surrender it wasn’t long before my subconscious got involved.
It wasn’t pretty.
I did outrageous things convincing myself, “it just feels right,” which was true at the time but had more to do with my unconscious feelings than feeling the movement of life and being in tune with it.
When I hadn’t a clue I’d say, “the universe will give me a sign.” and then I’d wait for some random event that seemed to point towards whatever it was I wanted to do.
The notion of a benevolent universe was equally co-opted. I’d blunder into something with disaster written all over it telling anyone who’d listen, “If it’s meant to be, it will happen.” in hindsight I’m sure there were people in the sidelines muttering, “If it’s meant to be, it will be a fucking miracle.”
Eventually I figured out what was going on and realised that the only way to tell for certain if something was the right thing was in hindsight. Nowadays I don’t use the universe as an excuse. I make my best guess knowing full well I haven’t a clue if what I attempt is going to work out or not. I do what I want with no apologies, because as far as I can see the universe is doing what it wants too.
Even though I didn’t die the other night, it looks like it will happen at some point in the future. One day I’ll face the ultimate surrender because one day the universe will kill me like it kills everything else.
“I looked for refuge in nature as many spiritual teachings used nature as an example of divinity in action. The birds of the field, the lotus blossom and so on. It didn’t help. When I looked into nature it seemed cruel and violent. Everything was eating everything else. Cute little furry creatures were gobbled up with shocking detachment. Disneyland it wasn’t. Nothing was safe.” from Maya Noise.
John Denver’s fish and the bird probably got gobbled up by a bigger fish and a bigger bird minutes after the song ended. From the outside, benevolent isn’t the first word that comes to mind to describe the universe, impersonal is more like it. I know it’s probably seeing some bigger picture that I can’t and whether I live or die fits together elegantly like everything else but I don’t know about that. I just know what I want because unlike the universe I’m very personal. What I want may not matter to the bigger movement of life but it fucking matters to me. And it’s supposed to. The fractal, holographic, all-is-one, one-is-all, model of existence sounds right to me. The whole of life is contained within me and I am a tiny part of the whole of life. What I want, life wants. What life wants, well, that depends…
As usual I’m writing about myself because I don’t like to assume it’s the same for you. What’s your experience? Do you like to go with the flow? How far would you take it? Would you let it kill you?
January 15th, 2012 § 0 comments
“It was humbling to read a spiritual account from someone who makes no pretenses about how flawed he is as a human. It was inspirational to read a narration of the process of enlightenment (although a bit sparse; I would love to know more about the process; I’m thirsty for it) and how it’s a profound internal feeling rather than a change in personality. Life still goes on as John states concisely.
He describes feelings that I believe many of us experience but are dismissed by others with freakish glances. It is no coincidence that we collectively as a human species experience surreal moments – “matrix” like – throughout our lives. We dismiss them and discount what’s important – our intuition. John describes common paradoxes we experience (the existence of God vs. meditation/other spiritual practices). He is opinionated, crass, and hilarious. Someone I could easily connect with, making it even easier to believe that it is worth working my ass off to reach a state of enlightenment. I wish there was a recipe…
John, I wish you would write more about your process and in more detail. I’m sure we would benefit greatly from it.“
Review on Amazon.com
November 21st, 2011 § 0 comments
Once upon a time, in renaissance Italy, a master craftsman named Paddy Da Vinci was top banana. He came to Florence from Ireland at the invitation of his famous cousin Leonardo and he quickly became the go-to guy for the artistic community there. Paint mixing, canvas making, picture framing, fresco supplies, discount marble, Paddy did the lot, with bells on.
All the great artists of the time used him.
(Photo – Jennifer Martinez)
One day cousin Leo came to visit Paddy at his workshop. He put a small painting of a young woman on the easel and flopped in a chair, very dejected.
“What the feck is wrong with you?” Paddy asked.
Leonardo told him that the picture was broken and he wanted Paddy to fix it.
“No better man.” says Paddy.
He examined the picture closely. The only thing he could find wrong was a small chip in the gold leaf of the frame which he quickly set about fixing. An hour later he presented the picture to Leonardo with a flourish. That’s what they did back then. Flourish.
Leonardo wasn’t happy. Not even slightly. When Paddy asked him what was wrong, Leonardo said the picture was still broken.
Paddy’s professional pride was wounded. He’d examined that picture thoroughly, had found what was, in his highly trained and expert opinion, the only flaw in the painting and fixed it and now he was being told his own trade by, an artist of all people. It was too much. Paddy let fly with a stream of insults that would have melted your ear wax. Leo gave as good as he got, calling Paddy’s lineage into question, barnyard animals were mentioned, Oedipal copulations outlined.
Eventually, a bit over it all, Paddy said, “If you’re such a feckin’ genius why don’t you just tell me what’s wrong with it.”
“It’s her mouth.” Leo replied.
“Yes, there’s something wrong with her mouth. Her smile is not right.”
“Yes, now can you stop fecking about and just fix it, please.”
Paddy laughed. The same thing had happened the previous year when Leonardo was painting The Last Supper. He’d summoned Paddy all in a flap, concerned that nobody would figure out all the hidden messages he was putting in the picture about the holy grail, and Mary Magdalene, and had he made her too masculine?
Paddy took the little painting off the easel and handed it back to Leonardo.
“I can’t fix this feckin’ painting,” he told him, “No one can. No one except you because you’re the only one who knows what you’re trying to express.”
Leonardo took the painting. He didn’t argue because in his heart he knew Paddy was right. He thanked him and apologised saying he wasn’t thinking straight because Lisa’s non stop complaining was doing his head in.
“Who the hell is Lisa?” Paddy asked.
“She’s the woman in painting.”
“She’s paying me a ton of money but she’s such a sour puss it’s really hard to make her look even slightly happy in the painting.”
“That’s great Leo. Look, I’ve got Michelangelo coming over at two, so can you like, you know, clear off.”
“Okay Paddy, but I’m going to have the last laugh with her. I’m going to call the painting something like, That Feckin’ Moaner Lisa.”
Paddy laughed, “You might be a genius Leo, but you’re some feckin’ tulip.”
And with that Leonardo went off into the pages of history and Paddy went off to the nearest pub.
Whether it’s Paddy the craftsman, Paddy the doctor, Paddy the political, Paddy the therapist, or Paddy the guru, the idea of the all knowing expert is a velvet notion to say the least.
It’s patiently obvious that Leo asking Paddy to fix a problem only Leo could fix, was not the way to go. It can be much harder to know that no one else is better able to live my life as the best expression of who I am than me.
By the same token no one else is better able to live your life as the best expression of who you are than you.
It’s fine to ask for feedback and suggestions, wise even, but it only works if I ask for the feedback and suggestions knowing that when it comes to my life, I am the creative genius. Without that knowing I’m open to the wrong kind of influence. If Paddy had been a different kind of person he might have given Leo all sorts of advice that could have sent him off in the wrong direction and the Mona Lisa would never have happened, at least not as we know it.
The difficulty with this knowing I’m talking about is recognising my life as a work of art. It’s hard to notice because for one thing my life is so big, it goes on for years, and for another it’s not finished. My life is more like a movie than a painting and depending on what part of the movie I’m in it will have a different vibe. Am I in the happy part, the sad part or the getting fit montage.
What you and I get to see are a series of apparent problems but really they’re no different to Leonardo trying to get the Mona Lisa’s mouth right.
The nice thing is if I’m feeling a bit lost then knowing I’m the creative genius behind this work of art can help me get a sense of what is being expressed. In any situation I can stand back like an artist and ask myself, what would this situation convey to others? This helps me get a bit of distance from the situation by imagining what it looks like from the outside.
Then I can ask myself, what does it convey to me? If I’m really quiet I can hear the shadowy voices of my unconscious rising up to answer this question.
It’s an empowering perspective because it means if I get sick, for example, instead of throwing myself on he Doctor or Therapist’s couch and demanding to be “fixed”, I can focus on what is being conveyed by the sickness.
If I’m strapped for cash instead of running abound like a headless chicken trying to shuffle money from one credit card to another in the hope that friction alone will cause the money to expand, I can wonder about what the lack and the fevered attempts to avoid it could mean.
If I find myself taking extra long bathroom brakes at work I can wonder what my intimidating boss is about and why I’m so afraid of them.
If I find myself having meaningless sex with someone while snorting coke and taking swigs from a bottle of Jack, I might conclude, like Dewey Cox that, “This is a dark fucking period.”
Seeing your life as a work of art is an approach that may not work for everyone but it works for me.
Try it yourself, if you look at your current situation as a passage in a great work of art what does it convey?
*Remember, sharing this article with your friends and on your facebook wall will bring you great wealth and happiness and make you more attractive to the opposite sex.
November 5th, 2011 § 0 comments
Yeah, yeah, yeah.
At least he doesn’t make a big deal out of it. He doesn’t even find a slippery way of making a big deal out of not making a big deal. Nor does he think enlightenment is particularly wonderful (though I doubt he’d trade it for anything).
The book is about how it happened, what it means, what he’s learned, and how simple it would be for the rest of us.
I have doubts about that last, at least for myself. Still, all in all, this is a great story. It’s not pretentious, pious reverent, or silly. And it’s funny.
One more thing. This book is really well written. Unless I’m off the mark, this is a guy with real talent for writing who carefully put together the book with much thought and countless rewrites that give the illusion of simplicity.
I’ve extracted just one example of simplicity, of Dalton cutting to the essence on religion. While so many people get so worked up about side issues like, for example, the existence of God, Dalton advises us that,
“…you don’t have to believe in God to experience God. You just need to look with an open heart.”
Dalton works into his story his take on…
What’s real? What’s God? What’s enlightenment? Why do people and countries fight?
…and gives us a few non-preachy suggestions on each of those.
In the mood of the book, I’ve written a rather restrained review with no “wows.” But this is a wow book. The wows are in the content and the skill of writing rather than in the author trying to find wow-inspiring rhetoric.
And it’s only one dollar/pound/euro if you have a Kindle. Can’t beat that.”
Review on Amazon.com
November 5th, 2011 § 0 comments
Review on Amazon.com
October 26th, 2011 § 0 comments
All you need is a satellite to see it.
I was grumbling around google maps a couple of weeks ago looking for the regional office of a car hire firm in Australia. My wife had asked me to locate these offices as the company were hiring and she wanted a map embedded on her website to help possible migrants see just where the hell they might be migrating to.
I found the office in Broome and was about to move on to the next location when, out of boredom more than anything else, I switched the map to ‘satellite’ view. I don’t like to use the phrase, ‘I couldn’t believe my eyes,’ but I genuinely had a couple of moments where I couldn’t make sense of what I was seeing.
If you’ve spent any time on google maps you’ll know that it’s generally not that appealing to look at, it’s either checkerboard cities or wide open spaces of not much, so when the image of this azure tree framed in verdant relief appeared beside the town of Broome it just didn’t fit. I zoomed in and out a few times just to be sure it wasn’t some glitch with the map but there it remained; this magnificent image.
I talk about the finger prints of God in Maya Noise and how I see them all over the place. Well here was another example, on google maps of all places.
Here it is for you to see for yourself.
October 24th, 2011 § 0 comments
It’s a blowy Monday in Dublin and I’m feeling self-conscious. I breezed in on my bicycle, now I’m holding it like a security blanket. I’m trying to look like I belong but I don’t know anyone here and could be mistaken for just another onlooker, of which there are many.
I remember I’ve brought my camera with me. I snap away purposefully.
The little tents look out of place on the concrete forecourt, like something a child, determined to go camping in the back garden, would put together. There are handmade posters taped about the place too. Not Disney princesses or Winnie the pooh, but drawings of evil bankers and strangled economies and Irish flags.
The Occupy movement came to Dublin at the weekend and I’ve come down to take part but so far I’m having trouble getting into the swing of things. I don’t really know what I thought it would be like, more civil rights chic and less Glastonbury campsite I suppose.
In my book, Maya Noise, I describe how I got enlightened in 1996 and how part of that realisation was about taking responsibility for everything in my reality regardless of whether I knew how to change it or not. That included politics and business, both of which didn’t have much realness or heart or beauty, not compared to laughter, or sunshine, or dust swirls and the like. So I left politics and business on the periphery and focused on the good.
And now here I am with a bunch of people I don’t know personally but because they’re here I know share a common recognition that things need to change. This is not just trendy crowd surfing. I’ve done my research. I’ve read and read and read, and the more I’ve read, the more there is to read and, probably like many people, I’ve come to the conclusion that all my research hasn’t changed my gut feeling that I sum up in simple phrases like, “It’s just not right.”
Take the situation here in Ireland, I don’t know all the facts and I’m not an economist, but I don’t have to be to know that there’s something very wrong with our banks behaving criminally and getting away with it and then being bailed out by the Government and your average Irish person having to shoulder the burden. That’s just not right.
And I’m not saying your average Irish person wasn’t complicit in the Celtic tiger biting them in their own arse. When I returned to live in Ireland five years ago it was full of self-admiring amateur property developers, many of whom are on the dole now. I think your average Irish person would now admit that their aspirations to own an investment property in Estonia were a little excessive. It’s not talked about much now, like a drunken table top dance at a wedding, there’s a general feeling of, “I’m not proud of it, but hey, I was drunk.”
And while your average Irish person got drunk on the wave of money washing through the country, what was going on below the surface went unnoticed. When the tide finally went out they were left on the jagged rocks of a shockingly corrupt banking system that the government has been ineffectual to do anything about. There have been two elections in the last five years here but nothing has changed. Unemployment is high, negative equity is even higher with many people trapped in homes that were thrown up in the boom years and are now worth a quarter of the huge mortgage they are left to be pay. No bailouts for them. Meanwhile the good old boys of our banking elite play hide and go seek with their millions, all the while hysterically demanding bailouts for their institutions in order to “save the county from financial catastrophe.” And they get them! Like I said, it’s just wrong.
My fellow protestors have started chanting. One person leads the refrain and the crowd repeat it in a sort of human megaphone.
“We’re having a meeting…”
“WE’RE HAVING A MEETING…”
“At two o’clock.”
“AT TWO O’CLOCK.”
“If anyone would like to volunteer…”
“IF ANYONE WOULD LIKE TO VOLUNTEER…”
It reminds me a bit too much of Catholic mass so I take it as my cue to leave. I haven’t been here that long but I will return again often. I will add my photos to the stream. I will “Like,” and tweet, and share, and promote, and generally take my place with the millions of other strangers who I would probably disagree with about many things except one; that things can be better, kinder, softer, more caring and more loving.
If this article resonates with you please share it with your friends, real and virtual.
October 5th, 2011 § 0 comments
I realized a long time ago that most of the unhappiness in my life was in my head. Worrying about things that had happened or might happen, feeling pain about lost loves or future slights. All the sort of stuff that most spiritual teachings talk about as taking me out of the moment, out of the now. To combat this I used action to erode my unhappiness and generally stop worrying.
The deal was simple. If I started worrying about how much money I had in my bank account, for example, I could do one of two things. I could either stop whatever I was doing and go and look in my bank account, or I could stop thinking/worrying about it.
It meant I got out of bed a lot at the beginning. My mind loved to wait till I’d found the most comfortable spot and I was just at the soft edges of sleep before it started to wonder if I’d left the back door open or if I’d enough petrol in the car or if I’d paid the gas bill. The deal was always the same.
‘Stop thinking about it or get up and check.’
After a while my mind gave up. It got sick of tromping out to the car in the cold night to check how much petrol I had or going to the nearest ATM to check how much money was in my bank account, this was after all in the last century, you know, before online banking.
In the end it was easier to stop thinking/worrying because I knew I would take action if I didn’t. My old spiritual master Barry Long used to say, “action purifies,” I don’t know if I was more pure but I worried less and I was less unhappy, which was good, right?
That would be the end of the story except the deal didn’t stop there. It expanded. Once I stopped living in my head so much about gas bills and back doors, the deal expanded into current affairs and world issues. If I started worrying about the latest war or starving injustice the deal kicked in.
‘Am I going to do anything about it?’ I’d ask myself.
‘Yes,’ I’d reply, ‘I’m going to think of a way the situation could be resolved.’
‘Yes, but am I going to take any action about it?’ I’d ask again.
‘Well…no.’ I’d reluctantly admit.
‘Then let’s stop thinking about it.’
This caused ructions inside me. “Compassion Capping,” “Suppression of Creativity,” “Enforced Callousness,” These were some of the placards in the internal demonstrations that followed this expansion. And when they didn’t work the old faithful, “People Mightn’t Like Me.” was dragged out but it was all tosh really because I couldn’t escape the fact that I knew I had no intention of taking any action about all this stuff I was thinking about. I was just filling up my head-space with thoughts about it. So dropping all that extra chatter brought me more into…well…wherever I was. Which meant I was really in the moment, really in the “Now.” Good, right?
And that would be the end of the story except the deal didn’t stop there either. It kept expanding to include other people. Whenever I found myself thinking I knew what other people should do it would kick in.
‘Do I live in their bodies? Do I know what the world looks like from their perspective?’ I’d ask myself
‘No, but I can imagine. It’s called being empathic.’ I’d reply.
‘I can call it what I like, but it’s the same as wondering how much is in my bank account, except for one big difference. With other people I have no way of checking. There is no action I can take. I can’t physically see the world from their perspective. I only look out of my eyes, feel through my skin, hear through my ears. I only know my perspective and I have no way of knowing for definite if their perspective is the same as mine. To do that would be an assumption. So firstly, let’s stop assuming that other people are having the same experience I am.’
‘And secondly, if I don’t know what experience other people are having then I definitely don’t know what they should be doing in their lives. So let’s stop thinking about that too.’
Knowing this inserted a very large pause in my dealings with people. I truly didn’t know how it was for other people so I stopped talking like I did. My language, once peppered with the third person, began to get more honest. “People, this…” and “We, that…” and “You, the other…” all fell away. As did ultimate truths, because now I knew that the only thing I ultimately knew about was my perspective. All of which was good, right?
Take this article, for example. I’ve spent the whole time talking about myself. I know I’m doing that out of respect for you, that I don’t presume you’re having the same experience I am or that what’s right for me is right for you, but you may not see it like that.
And as for ultimate truths, well, compare these two statements, “Existence is an illusion.” and “Existence is an illusion, for me.” The second one, while more accurate, sounds pretty lame in comparison. I can see why people don’t use it. It would be hard to gather a crowd around you with that kind of talk.
The other downside is that I became painfully aware how few people communicate like this. Even in more enlightened publications where the average writer is a little more thoughtful, a little more respectful, everyone is telling me how it is and what I should do about it. And by “it” I mean everything from my sex life, to my health, to what the ultimate truth is. The third person is out in force and used with full certainty.
‘Calm down,’ I think to myself, ‘it’s just a way of speaking. It’s okay to slip into, “you should do this,” and, “you should do that.” It’s cumbersome, and a bit lame, to keep reiterating that this is just their perspective.’
But I can’t buy it. I think it’s very important to keep reiterating that it’s just your perspective. If everyone added the phrase, “or at least that’s the way it looks to me.” to the end of every ultimate truth sentence it would change the world…or at least that’s the way it looks to me.
Try it for yourself. Pick your favourite inspirational passage, your most cherished manifesto or truth and add that phrase to the end of every sentence where the author isn’t talking about his or her own perspective.
“It is better to be violent, if there is violence in our hearts, than to put on the cloak of nonviolence to cover impotence”…or at least that’s the way it looks to me. ~ Mahatma Gandhi
“Anyone can deal with victory. Only the mighty can bear defeat”…or at least that’s the way it looks to me. ~ Adolf Hitler
It can be quite an eye-opener. For me, it highlights how much I want to believe in ultimate truths because I come away from the exercise feeling a little deflated. ‘Aw, that was just that guy/gal’s perspective. That means I still have to figure it out for myself.’
Try it on your way of speaking too. Pick a conversation. Whenever you hear yourself talking in the third person or delivering an ultimate truth, add the phrase, “or at least that’s the way it looks to me” at the end. Your conversation may be a little flat but it will introduce a gentleness into it too. A bit of space for the other person’s perspective and their process. Good, right?
I think if everyone adopted this more honest approach to communication it will eventually lead to world peace… or at least that’s the way it looks to me.
What do you think? How does it look to you?