Monday, May 24, 2010

The importance of Unplugging!

I recently came across reference to a study about the physiological effects of being what’s termed a ‘digital native’ - which is to say, growing up ‘plugged in’ to the internet, emails, social networking, mobile phones, video games and mp3 players. Although video games, computers and portal music devices have been around for a while now, it’s only the past ten to fifteen years that the internet has become integrated into virtually every home and, accordingly, Generation Facebook is growing up quite differently to any previous generation.

This isn’t conjecture. It can actually be seen in brain scans. The brains of digital natives are very developed in certain areas (involving the skills utilised to access information speedily and play video games), but are under-developed in other regions (including the areas that are related to social bonding, empathy and emotional intelligence). The brain is, of course, malleable - I love the term ‘neuroplasticity’, but like a muscle, it’s only developed in the regions that get exercised, while other regions tend to waste.

This is a common scenario for many family units: everyone might be at home, but each will be using his or her own computer or handheld device, together physically, but in another world completely. Has the ‘information age’ come at the cost of human intimacy and closeness? Are the various ‘social networking’ websites actually creating a generation of socially-retarded adolescents are adept at maintaining their Facebook Wall but are unequipped to cope in situations involving genuine social interaction? Does this bode well for the future of civilisation as we know it? And could this blog be getting any more melodramatic?

It is an important point, however. The development of the internet has been a wonderful tool in many respects: we now have access to just about any information on just about any topic imaginable. We can connect with like-minded people and share whatever ideas we like. But it’s all too easy for the servant to become the master. I’ve found in my own experience that, left unchecked, the mind can quite happily zone out and spend hours aimlessly surfing the internet, taking in website after website, hooked into information input like a junkie on a steady heroin IV. Compulsive and useless internet usage is what I’ve deemed one of the Weapons of Mass Distraction.

Distraction from what, you might ask? I believe a distraction from ourselves and whatever it is we’re feeling within us. The only journey ever worth taking in this life is the journey within and it’s one most of us - specifically those of us still living in the ‘shallows’ and trapped on the level of mind - are desperate to avoid. Intuitively, unconsciously we seem to fear there’s a black hole at the centre of our beings and we are willing to do anything to avoid being sucked into it.

And so we place our attention elsewhere and are sucked into far more enticing but ultimately deadening black holes - useless and usually quite distorted information devouring, compulsive television viewing and, the joke of the century, social networking sites that fool us into thinking we’re being social when in fact we’re physiologically eroding the very centres of our brain that are necessary for interpersonal interaction.

I’m not suggesting we wholly abandon these pursuits. There is a time and a place for everything. I enjoy watching a little television and I have met some wonderful and very dear friends via social networking, people I wouldn’t otherwise have met. But, for me, the key is moderation. I know when to unplug. I can usually sense when I’m becoming compulsive and unconscious in my ‘plugging in’ activities. I don’t like the way it makes me feel. If I spend more than even a relatively short time staring at a computer screen or watching television, I start to feel deadened. My mind either numbs out or becomes excessively active. My body feels dull and lifeless. I find an aching restlessness within, a lack of balance and groundedness. It feels horrible, actually. And if I get TOO sucked into whatever I’m doing, I sometimes don’t even notice how yukky and gunged-up my mind, body and senses are feeling. I don’t know whether this is to do with artificial electro-magnetic fields (which, let’s face it, our bodies were not designed to handle) or whether it’s simply an intensification of mental activity, an imbalance of energy in the head, being syphoned off from the rest of the body.

I feel the exact opposite when I’m sitting quietly in the garden, or having a walk somewhere beautiful in the country. Being in nature, and bringing my full attention to where I am rather than being off on some mental trip, makes me feel alive, at peace, still and tingling with life. My body feels lighter, freer and more balanced. Often, if there is enough stillness within and enough space between my thoughts, a feeling of deep inner peace and joyfulness bubbles up within me. One more than one occasion this feeling has become so intense that it’s become an ecstatic bliss! And I didn’t need to do or be or have anything to experience this incredible bliss. It was simply there all along, my nature state of wellbeing! Sitting quietly in nature, free of mental distractions and completely unplugged from technology, I find it far easier to experience this state of peace and joy.

Technology does have its place. But it’s not going to make us happy. Not in a million years. In fact, sitting glued to our computer and TV screens is only ever likely to obscure our innate wellbeing and joyfulness.

So, my advice is simple - make sure you take plenty time to unplug! This might be extraordinarily difficult for some people, but the greater the difficulty, the more necessary it probably it is and the more profound the results. I strongly encourage that anyone with children or adolescents be willing to teach them the necessity of unplugging frequently. It could be the most important service you ever render to them - and to society as a whole. We’re never going to wake up and come to our senses as a species so long as our minds are sucked into an illusory Matrix-world created and sustained by our compulsive addiction to technology.

Balance, as always, is key. And I do believe the best way to achieve that balance is to cut the power, go somewhere beautiful outdoors, take a few deep breaths and allow that balance to naturally and spontaneously happen. Because when we remove the obstructions and bypass the WMDs, however temporarily, it is the nature of things - and the nature of us - to spontaneously and naturally return to that balance, in much the same way as the pendulum eventually comes to centre when it’s allowed to do so.

Take some time to unplug. Regularly! Believe me, you’ll thank me for it.

Sunday, May 23, 2010

Time to kick Dawkins' ass

I find Richard Dawkins extremely...irksome. Whilst he raises a few salient points about religion and fundamentalism, it’s ironic that he is the flip-side of the coin: a scientific fundamentalist, who dogmatically follows a belief system which is just as antiquated in some ways as the narratives of orthodox religion - and in some ways just as dangerous, if not more so. The most dangerous thing about this man is that his theories and paradigms are held as absolute fact. In my view, he’s a scientific dinosaur who is sadly being portrayed in the media being a cutting edge, modern-day scientific prophet for our time, a fountain of knowledge and an oracle of information that can tell us exactly what’s ‘true’ and what’s ‘false’.

In these days when orthodox religion isn’t taken seriously by anyone but its adherents, it almost seems as though the establishment wants to propagate a new paradigm, a new belief system or hegemonic consensus that it wants the general public indoctrinated with. That maybe sounds a bit paranoid but I can’t help but feel it explains why the media is so intent on foisting this man upon us - for he gets his own documentary series, has become a celebrity and even had an appearance on Doctor Who for crying out loud. This in spite of the fact that he’s one very least charismatic individuals I’ve ever seen in the public eye (and that includes many politicians). It worries me that his theories and paradigms are presented as being absolute and irrefutable fact. This is dangerous and it’s simply untrue. Dawkins is pedalling an antiquated belief system, a model rooted in an arguably outmoded paradigm that ought to have long-since been superseded given the advances made during the 20th century with regard to our understanding of the quantum world.

I can't help but feel that Dawkins' worldview is extremely deadening and erroneous. And it’s all just conceptualisation, taking us farther away from a direct and pure experience of reality, keeping us trapped in concepts and beliefs - and in that way is little better than religious dogma. At least in mainstream society religious dogma is treated with the derision it usually deserves. But not so here. I feel this has to change.

There, I’ve had my little rant and feel much better for it. I guess the main point I wanted to make was to highlight that ‘scientific’ fundamentalism is every bit as dangerous as religious fundamentalism. Science and religion share a surprising amount in common - both seek to create paradigms for understanding reality. The tendency toward fundamentalism seems to be a characteristic of the human ego and can rear its ugly head regardless of the context or content.

I’m starting to believe that perhaps it might be best to let go of our need to explain and create narratives about life and to simply LIVE LIFE. Sure, science has brought us innumerable benefits, but to rely on it to find ‘truth’ and meaning is, in my view, misguided and insufficient. The truth is in the living of life, in simple, direct experience. This tendency to need to get lost in mind and to try and explain and answer is getting us waylaid. We’re so busy trying to explain life and gets answers to life, that life passes us by. I do believe that the key to our future as a species is not in seeking answers with the mind (because thoughts are by their very nature limited - they are second-hand and intrinsically limited representations of reality), but in consciousness itself. Space is not the final frontier: perhaps consciousness is. But thats’s another discussion entirely.

Here’s a great article by Steve Taylor entitled "Deconstructing Dawkins", which makes numerous excellent points in its analysis of Dawkins' philosophy and the whole paradigm of materialistic, mechanistic science. It was this article, in fact, that inspired me to engage in a little bit of much-needed Dawkins-bashing! Enjoy!

(PS I haven't actually gone that deeply into arguing points or why I take issue with Dawkins' philosophy, mainly because I don't have the time, but also because Taylor's article does it so expertly. I agree with pretty much all of what he says.)

Saturday, May 22, 2010


Below are some words I wrote today while contemplating life and death. They are reflective and contemplative I suppose and they seemed to spring from that deeper place of stillness that's beyond the surface level of mind; that deeper level of intelligence from which all fresh ideas, insights and creativity emerge. I share them with you that you might simply consider them - not with mind and through the filter of belief systems, but with the heart.

In a way death seems so cruel...savage almost. But it’s not. The consciousness comes to reside here for but a short time and then it moves on. The flickering dream-forms of this world come and go, come and go, ever changing, ever in motion. Birds sing, the sun shines, clouds continue to drift across the blue sky, blossoming trees sway in the morning breeze. This has happened for millions of years before this unit of consciousness stepped in and will continue to happen long after it has stepped back out.

The enduring element, a string unbroken, is consciousness. Things appear in consciousness and then disappear again. I am not this body or mind. Neither is anyone I ever meet their body or mind.

What am I? Awareness, unconditioned consciousness. That is all. That is everything. And it is the building block out of which the world of form is created, in much the same way that the ocean is responsible for the wispy clouds that travel across the sky in ever-shifting shapes and which eventually return again to the ocean. However long a time it takes, they eventually return to their source. How can that be in any way tragic? Is it not in fact something sublimely beautiful? Perfect symmetry, perfection in the rhythm of what we call “life” in the phenomenal world, the world of “things” born of the void of “no-thing”.

Ignorance of our true nature and the true nature of all things is the number one cause of all suffering in the world. When we dwell solely in the surface level and have no awareness of the true depths of life, the vast ocean that lies beneath the rippling surface, then we suffer and the cessation of form is a grave tragedy. This is because we’re locked in the world of 'things' - things that come and go and can be taken and destroyed. We are unaware of the vast immeasurable field of unity, the invisible and unmanifest, the deathless realm that underlies and sustains and is the true essence of all particular things.

When the form returns to the formless, in many ways it is more a birth than a death - a rebirth of unimaginable proportions and a return to wholeness, to the very ground of creation...a blissful, undivided, undifferentiated unity. The only tragedy in this is the tragedy of our own misunderstanding and ignorance. The truth is beyond the mind. And it’s always more beautiful than we could ever possibly imagine.

Thursday, May 13, 2010

Video Blog: Accept Yourself

I've been toying with this for a while, the idea of creating little video blogs every so often - and I finally decided to go for it. I've never spoken on front of a camera before, so it was a rather strange experience. I'm not really sure how it turned out or whether it's something I will do again. You know what it's like when listening to a recording of your own voice - it can be a little uncomfortable and you tend to pick yourself to bits. This is doubly the case when viewing a video of yourself! But I resisted the temptation to erase it and, as a measure of accepting myself (gotta walk the talk!), decided to post it anyway.

Sunday, May 09, 2010

Baby Blog: Fears of Adequacy

In order to keep this blog alive following its recent resuscitation, from time to time I'm gonna do 'Baby Blogs' (which are basically just short entries). Anyways, I posted the following on an online forum I am part of (Mysterious Wisdom), and for some reason thought I felt compelled to share it here, because I believe it's an important message for us all. It was written in response to the following quotation, which is from Marianne Williamson (but is often falsely attributed to Nelson Mandela). It's ways been one of my favourite quotes and has great power to it.

Our deepest fear is not that we are inadequate. Our deepest fear is that we are powerful beyond measure. It is our light, not our darkness, that most frightens us. Your playing small does not serve the world. There is nothing enlightened about shrinking so that other people won't feel insecure around you. And as we let our own lights shine, we unconsciously give other people permission to do the same.

I believe there is great truth in this. When we're lost in fears of inadequacy it's because we're mistaking our ego as being what we are...and in a strange sense, we're right - the ego can never be 'good enough' because it isn't even real and it's only the palest reflection of what we truly are. But I believe hand in hand with this fear of the inadequacy of our false self is the fear of our true nature, which is beyond all conception and which I think we intuitively realise is vast, expansive and immeasurably powerful...and this freaks us out!

I believe this fear of embodying what we truly are stems from wanting the approval of others. Many of us build our entire lives and personality/ego structures around the desire to secure the good opinion of others. This pathological need to micro-manage the opinions others have of us is exhausting and self destructive. I know. As I wrote in the "Sedona Method" post below, once we become aware of the underlying 'wants' beneath our feelings and beliefs, we can clear them, chipping away at them bit by bit.

I found a LOT of approval-wanting and control-seeking (as in controlling other people's opinions) embedded within me like layers of underground rock. As I chip away at them I feel freer and freer, and less willing to cover up what I really am just so others won't think I'm 'weird' or, gasp, 'different'!

I invite everyone else to do the same. The world really, REALLY needs us all to step up and be authentic now!

Wednesday, May 05, 2010

Sedona Method: How to quickly release negative emotions!

I wanted to share about a technique that I’ve found hugely effective at shifting all kinds of negative feelings and emotions, from the superficial surface-level ones to those deep and sticky ones that seem to bubble under the surface for years on end.

It’s called the Sedona Method and it’s actually been around for over 30 years, although I must confess I hadn’t heard much about it. The name was vaguely familiar, but I’d never taken the time to check it out. But, oh boy, I’m glad that I did! It has been hugely helpful in so many ways and it is the essence of simplicity itself.

At the moment, it’s EFT that’s all the rage (Emotional Freedom Technique - a systematic system of tapping various points on the body in order to clear blocked emotions). However, having practised both, I have to say I find the Sedona Method far better: it’s much easier, simpler and you can do it absolutely anywhere at any time and no one will be any the wiser. Try doing EFT in front of your boss at work or on the bus and it’s surely only a matter of time before they’ll have the doctors in white coats knocking on your door.

The Sedona Method is almost ridiculously simple - but it works. As a species, we humans are incredibly emotionally retarded. We simply don’t know how to deal with the ‘bad feelings’ that come up. It’s not something we’ve ever been taught. And so we either suppress them and numb ourselves out with any of the Weapons of Mass Distraction (which include alcohol, drugs and any number of excessive and addictive behaviours even as seemingly harmless as compulsive TV watching and internet surfing) or we blindly react to them, often in very destructive and harmful ways.

I’m absolutely certain that there would be little problem in our society with drugs or violence if people were better educated in how to deal with their emotions. We’re a species of dysfunctional, emotional cripples and this really has to change if we’re to continue living upon this planet without blowing ourselves to smithereens.

I've always found Buddhist psychology far more 'switched on' when it comes to dealing with emotions, than anything else I've come across. I’ll never forget Thich Nhat Hanh’s admission that, instead of ignoring or denying or unconsciously reacting to our emotional state, we must instead befriend it and treat it as a young infant crying out for attention. If we bring our attention to it, our compassion and kindness, holding it in our awareness and cradling it like an upset child, it gradually lessens its hold and dissolves into peace. The light of our awareness - conscious, sustained awareness - is what heals emotion.

Also extremely helpful are Eckhart Tolle’s teachings on what he calls “the pain body”, the accumulated past pain that lives on within us as a kind of energy field, and which can be triggered by even the slightest event which might resonate with that past pain (such as issues of grief, fear or abandonment). This pain body can completely take us over, colouring our entire view of the world, of ourselves and others, making us behave like wounded animals, creating dysfunction in all aspects of our lives and relationships. Again, he recommends that the only way to heal this repository of emotional pain is to bring our conscious attention to it. Awareness changes whatever it touches. It heals. But it can take a long time and a lot of sustained, directed attention to dissolve some of the more deeply-ingrained emotional scars within us.

The Sedona Method works on this premise, and it works astonishingly quickly. I highly recommend the book ‘The Sedona Method’ by Hale Dwoskin. It’s a complete and comprehensive course on how to use the method yourself. I like the fact that this book isn’t simply some big advertisement which tells you all about the benefits of the technique and then on the last page tells you that in order to learn it you’ll have to sign up for some horrendously expensive course or an over-priced set of CDs. On the contrary, the book leads you through the entire process.

You can learn the technique in two minutes flat, but the book goes on to show you deeper and deeper ways to use it, to clear out all the emotional muck that’s been creating havoc in your life. It has worked wonders for me, and I’ve been teaching my family to use it as well. It never fails to work. I truly believe that this is the kind of thing that needs to be taught in schools.

You can try it now.

Identify something that’s causing you emotional pain, be it grief, fear, disappointment, hurt, jealousy, anger, or whatever it might be.

The process works by asking yourself a set of specific questions which lead you to simply release that feeling. How do you release it? This is actually something that happens quite naturally and spontaneously. If you pick up a burning hot object such as a lump of smouldering coal, how do you let go of it? You just do. You just drop it. You don’t even need to think about it. How do you let go of a negative emotion that is causing you immense emotional pain? You just do. You just drop it. You don’t even need to think about it. The moment you consciously decide to let it go and to stop holding onto it, it just disperses. The sensation is one of sudden relief and lightness, like releasing a tightly-clenched fist.

Here is the process. Try it yourself, right now.

  1. Identify something that’s causing you to be upset. Ask yourself: what am I feeling, right in this moment, about this issue? It might be a strong feeling or a subtle feeling, or a mixture of feelings. Try to identify what it is, but keep mental discussion and rumination to a minimum. Stay focussed on the emotion and where you feel it in the body.
  2. Ask yourself: could I allow myself to welcome this feeling? Most the time we strenuously resist feeling bad, but for this process it’s vital to welcome the feeling, no matter how painful. Allow it to be. Embrace it with your awareness and allow yourself to REALLY move into it and feel it. Witness the energy of this feeling.
  3. Next, ask yourself: could I let this feeling go? Allow a ‘yes’ or ‘no’ answer to come. No matter the answer, proceed to the next step.
  4. Ask yourself: am I willing to let it go? Avoid mental debate, just see what answer comes up within you. If the answer is ‘yes’, proceed to step 5. If ‘no’, then ask yourself would I rather have this feeling, or would I rather be free? Work with this until you get a ‘yes’ answer or else proceed to step 5 anyway.
  5. The last question is, to simply ask yourself: When? This is an invitation to let it go NOW. You may find yourself easily releasing it.
  6. Repeat steps 1-5 as often as needed until you feel free of the initial feeling you wanted to clear.

If you find it difficult to clear something, then it might help to give yourself permission to hold onto it for a minute. Allow it to be there, in your attention for a while longer, until you move on to release it. Sometimes we have unconscious attachments to our feelings, even the ones that are causing us immense suffering. Bringing awareness to this and seeing the insanity of it really helps us dissolve that attachment. In any moment we can choose to hold onto our pain, or we can choose to be free.

Now, some people might say that to simply blast away our feelings like this is a bad thing, that our feelings are part of who we are. Whilst they can sometimes be helpful messengers, it is a grave mistake to think our feelings are ‘who’ we are or can tell us anything about who we are. The majority of the time they are simply the body’s reaction to the content of our mind and the thoughts we are thinking. To invest emotions with a sense of self is a dangerous thing, for when we become attached to our feelings - however painful they might be - we become chained to them and they literally sap the life energy out of us. It’s a perfect recipe for a life of misery.

Emotion might be thought of as energy in motion (e-motion). Like clouds in the sky, they drift by, ever changing. Emotions are not a problem in themselves, but when we get ‘stuck’ on them, and caught up in a certain emotional reaction, it creates a blockage in our system which will eventually lead to all kinds of mental, emotional and physical problems. So if you find yourself particularly attached to a certain emotion or emotional reaction/pattern, then this is a warning sign and an indication that you most certainly need to let go of it. It’s likely that you’ve invested a sense of ‘self’ in the emotion and this will create all kinds of imbalance and problems, as well as skewing your entire perception of reality. It’s important to be willing to release that emotion now...or even just to allow yourself to release your attachment to it.

Some might argue that it’s important for us to hold onto our grievances and anger, believing that without them we wouldn’t have the impetus to take action in life, or to tackle situations that require change. Letting go of our painful emotions does not make us less effective in life, however. On the contrary, it makes us infinitely more effective. It’s natural to be angry and upset at certain situations but the longer we remain choked by those emotional reactions, the more we tend to perpetuate and even worsen the situation.

Action is far more effective when it comes from a place of peace and balance, as opposed to anger, resentment and knee-jerk emotional reaction. That’s why I’m learning that when something upsets me, it’s important to first release the emotion and THEN take whatever action I can to change the situation. This enables us to be more effective and balanced in everything that we do instead of being walking tornadoes of emotional chaos and unrest.

To take this process a little deeper, you can trace each emotion back to one or more of the four underlying WANTS. Every emotional reaction that we have can be traced to wanting approval, wanting control, wanting security or wanting to be separate. Sometimes it’s a combination of these.

So, for each feeling that you are dealing with, ask yourself: what underlies this feeling? Is it wanting approval, wanting control, wanting security or wanting to be separate? Again, look for an intuitional rather than analytical response. Allow the answer to come to you.

Once you have identified the wants that are at the core of your emotional reaction, you can release them using the same process:

  1. Get a feeling for this sense of wanting approval, control, security or separation. Can you locate the sense of this want in your body? Where is it and what does it feel like?
  2. Ask yourself: can I allow myself to welcome and accept this want?
  3. Could I let go of wanting (whichever want it is)?
  4. Am I willing to let go of it?
  5. When?
  6. Repeat the process until you feel you have cleared the underlying want and then move onto the next if there is one.

By clearing the sense of want that lies at the core of the emotion, you can clear it by the roots rather than just by the surface. As with weeding your garden, tackling the issue at the root will allow for a deeper clearing and will usually prevent it from re-appearing.

It’s amazing when we realise just how much of our lives, our behaviour and reactions are based upon the desire for approval, control, security and from wanting be separate. Letting go of these wants frees up great amounts of energy within us, dismantling long-held pockets of resistance, allowing us to truly be free. Your mind might initially object to the idea of giving up wanting things such as approval, security and control. The thought of giving up such seemingly-important desires might seem insane. But, ironically it’s usually our deep-seated need for something that prevents us from ever actually getting it.

As the saying goes, “want doesn’t get”. Can you see where this is true in your own experience? Have you ever wanted someone’s approval so desperately that you unconsciously sabotaged yourself and ended up behaving like a complete idiot, therefore eliciting precisely the opposite response than you’d intended? Experiment with letting of of the four big wants. You will come to see that giving up ‘wanting’ something is usually the best and most effective way to actually get it! And the real bonus is that whether or not you do actually get it, you’ll be at peace.

I hope you find this process helpful. The book goes onto elaborate in greater detail, with a range of ways to apply it to your life in every area, including goals, relationships and letting go of resistance. You find that as you work with it, more and more things rise to the surface to be cleared. This is a actually a good thing and is not reason to be discouraged. We all carry so much baggage around with us and it all has to rise up in order to be cleared. It can be an exhausting process at times, but I believe it’s a necessary part of the journey if you truly want to be freer, happier and more at peace in life.

So, release, release, release! The more we let go of this crap, which is totally foreign to what we truly are, the more we come into contact with this deep and ineffable peace and joy which lies at the core of our being. When all the obstructions are cleared, it’s like stormy clouds dissipating in the sky, allowing the sun to shine unhindered, bringing everything to radiant life.

The Sedona Method is the perfect way to clear out the emotional aspects of an issue, and can be used well with Byron Katie’s The Work, which is excellent at clearing out the mental levels, such as negative thoughts and belief patterns. These are the two methods of psychological/mental/emotional clearing that I recommend the most. Psychologists would do well to adapt them into their line of work and, indeed, a growing number do.

So there’s really no excuse for continuing to pollute yourself and the world with our toxic emotional energy. It’s not that negative feelings will never come up again, for such is the nature of being human, but at least now you have the ability to deal with them.

So there’s really no longer any need to continue feeling mad, sad or bad!