The tale of the parent – without a storybook ending

My body isn’t used to the time change yet.  We gained an extra hour this weekend, moving from British Summertime to Greenwich Mean Time.

That’s why I found myself wide awake early this morning.  That’s when I found myself half-remembering something from dreams and something from imagination, and I decided to try to turn it into a book for my two little grandchildren – a book in which everyone, even a parent, is fallible.

Not many people dare to write such books.  In children’s stories, even an erring parent usually comes right in the end.  He might be a loveable rogue or she may be scatty and disorganised, but these storybook parents – at least in stories for small children – always put the children first, always redeem themselves, always learn from their mistakes.

Sad Child Boy Kid Crying Tears Sadness MooI wish life was like that for real children.  I wish there hadn’t been so many children in my life who had parents consumed by addictions, parents who turned to crime, parents who ran off to enjoy a new, carefree life without the drudgery of parenthood.  I wish two of those children hadn’t been my own grandchildren.

This sounds harsh, I know.  But life for those children IS harsh.
I remember the child who told me, “If my dad had liked me as much as he liked whisky and beer, he might have stopped drinking it when I asked him to, and then he wouldn’t have died.”
I remember the boy who said, “I can’t wait to grow up and get a wife. We’ll have lots of kids and I’ll look after them properly and never put them in danger, because I know how bad that feels.”
I remember the child who whispered, “I think my new teacher really likes me, so I don’t ever want her to find out what my dad did, because if she does, she might think I’m like him, and then she won’t like me anymore.”
I remember the little girl who would come into class with bags under her eyes, telling how Mum had crawled into her bed when she got back from the nightclub and spent ages recounting all her drunken escapades.
I remember the seven-year-old who sat with wide, frightened eyes, saying, “I don’t really like Daddy as much as I did before. I still love him, because he is my father, but I’m quite frightened of him now.”
And then there’s the little boy who told me, firmly, “Mums and dads ALWAYS argue. They all do.  Me and my sister go and hide in one of our special places when they start shouting. We take care of each other.”

So how to do it?  How to let children with far-less-than-perfect parents know they are not alone?  How to empower them to cope with a life where there won’t be a fairy godmother to wave a wand or a Damascene conversion that will make everything wonderful again?

The answer, so my pre-dawn inspirations suggest, lies in Chemistry (or Alchemy, or Magic, depending how you want to describe it).  So the story – if I ever manage to write it – will show the pure and inexhaustible supply of Magic that lies behind and within everyday changes.  It will show how intention can bend and shift those changes in the structure of life and of lives.  The wayward parent may choose not to change, but the lives of those around him will change.  Small children will become wiser, stronger and resilient.  They will grow as the story unfolds and they will gradually move beyond their fears and forge a better destiny because of the painful experiences they’ve endured.

I just hope I’m up to the task.

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Your point being…?

Another of those long, rambling conversations I tend to have with Life, usually around 3am.

I’m saying something along the lines of, “So you’ve thrown just about everything at me this year, turned me upside down, inside out and catapulted me from highs to lows and back again.  Could you just run me through the purpose for all that one more time?”

And Life sits there, smiling calmly and replies, “Do you need to have a purpose?”

That pulled me up sharp.

Do I?

It’s a huge, broad, sweeping question, isn’t it?  For me, it touched a raw nerve.  I’m a people pleaser – the sort who always feels happiest when I’m making things better for other people.  It’s what I’ve always done.  That’s been The Purpose.  This year more than most, I’ve been on a mission to do just that.

Oh yes, before anyone feels the need to throw in that ‘love yourself’ maxim, let me assure them that I’ve done the work on that one too.  Took me quite a few decades and the help of a very skilled life coach to get there, but I do now always add my needs into the equation.  Despite that, though, I’m at my best when I’m working flat out to sort out a difficult problem and make life better for someone dear to me.

Such work has totally consumed me since February.  And now – uh – my work is done.  Yesterday I found the vision board I’d drawn back in the spring.  It showed my little family safe in a new home, reunited with all their possessions, after having had to flee for their lives, settled and smiling and happy again most of the time with a comfortable house and tidy garden to enjoy and new friends calling round to visit.

Image may contain: plant and outdoorImage may contain: people sitting, plant, tree, outdoor and natureAlmost single-handedly, and while helping to heal some of the emotional pains and fears of three traumatised people, I’ve transformed their garden from this… to this.  Even finished it on my daughter’s birthday!

So now what?  Is Life about to hurl me headlong into some new drama, so that I can once more prove my own worth and stamina to myself?  I suspect not.  I suspect that I’ve brought myself to this point so that I can stop and wonder whether I need to have a purpose.

Is just being enough?

 

 

Metacogknitting

…Almost the active verb derived from ‘metacognition’, but with a few extra ideas thrown in…

Metacognition, as just about anyone reading this post will already know, is a wider knowing – those inklings, impressions, fleeting ideas and gut feelings that supplement and complement ordinary common-or-garden cognition.

Needle, Knit, Hand Labor, Hobby, WoolAs for knitting, though…  I’ve always loved any kind of textile work and there is something almost alchemical in transforming a single strand of yarn into a complex and beautiful garment, using just two simple sticks and one’s own hands.

For me it can be almost a meditative practice – busying the body while freeing the mind, and creating a unique physical item as I do so.  I like to weave in different textures and colours as I go.  I like to think about how every stitch is a vital part of the whole, while appearing so tiny and insignificant; rather like ourselves, really.  Drop a stitch and the whole thing can unravel.

And how (and why?) am I combining the two into a newly coined word?  you may ask.

Well, for me, the last six months has been a grounding experience.  I’ve been heavily caught up in physical, practical day-to-day matters.  They have taken up almost all the time I might otherwise have spent pondering, writing, dreaming and wondering.  There’s barely been time or opportunity for reading, blogging, chanelling or long, rambling, metaphysical discussions with cherished friends.  There’s barely been time to miss such activities, even.  Instead I’ve been stuck firmly in this mundane human skin-suit, supporting, surviving, problem-solving and grafting away.  (The only reason I’m not digging bramble and stinging nettle roots out of my daughter’s massively overgrown garden right now is the heavy rainfall outside as the English summer fragments into autumn.)

What I have come to realise, though, is that throughout the whole process of rescuing my little family from disaster, helping them back onto their own feet, rebuilding their confidence, dealing with the practicalities of re-homing them and helping to make that home habitable, the metacognition skills I’ve been noticing and developing over many decades have become knitted into the very fabric of everyday life.

Metacogknitting is living human life and grounding ourselves entirely in the physical dramas, effort and heartache that entails, while always allowing those extra strands of ‘Knowing’ to permeate every planned action and thought.

It’s only now, as I reach the final weeks of my stay far from home and see things here settling down and being almost sorted out, that I can recognise how the pattern or blueprint of what I wished for them has come to pass.  It felt absurdly optimistic that I would be able to help to turn a desperate situation around in just six months.  The idea that these frightened, traumatised and hurt people would have a new home, close to relatives, and settle into their new environment seemed next to impossible, but I’ve learned enough, over the years, to know that holding firm to that idea and believing in it was crucial.  With deeply valued help from the wonderful Cheryl and Higgins, I learned to put that Big Dream out there, to trust that it would arrive in time and to focus on the tiny steps we needed to take, to make it a reality.

One stitch at a time, the garment grows.  Every stitch is vital.

Without all those years of practice, I could easily, in all the mayhem and stress, have forgotten to take note of the faint and fleeting metacognitions.  There was so much else to focus on.  At such testing times, though, they become more vital than ever.  I would wake at 3am, Knowing what new fears were surfacing in my little grandson’s mind, and how best to help him with them.  Later in the day, he’d pull me aside and share those fears and I’d have my response all ready and waiting.  A ‘chance’ unexpected meeting with someone would set me on alert, wondering Why now? Why this person?  What purpose do they have in this drama of ours?  There always was one.

Helping the family to integrate in their new community, I went with them on Monday to a village fete.  I managed to resist the urge to brush aside the young man asking me to buy raffle tickets for his stall.  He’d singled me out.  The metacogknitting reminded me that there’s a potential purpose behind every apparently random situation.  Sure enough, he called me that evening.  I’d won the prize.  When I went to collect it, we ended up chatting over a coffee at his kitchen table about his business and my daughter’s.  So many similarities and synchronicities.  They could help each other.  I’ve put them in touch.  Whether they act on it or not is their pattern, their blueprint, of course.  My step or stitch there was just to form a link between the two.

And that, of course, is what metacogknitting is all about.

 

 

An Open Letter to The Universe

Dear Universe,

Here we are then – another morning, another day in the Life.  Let’s decide how this one is going to go.

I have to give you credit.  I opted into this particular Lifetime in order to expand and learn through experiences and requested from you that I should have some, er, interesting scenarios to work through in order to achieve that.  You, dear Universe, certainly delivered.

Here I am in the middle of one of them.  It’s arguably the most complex, challenging and painful of the lot.  Am I learning from it?  Certainly.  Is it allowing me to expand my consciousness and understanding?  I suppose it must be.  Am I flailing about, totally out of my depth and panicking for much of the time?  Definitely.

So back to basics for a moment.  Life does not happen to me; I happen to Life.  It’s very easy to forget that when I’m in the middle of a Life drama.  It’s easy to sink into victimhood and wallow about there yelling, “This isn’t fair!  This isn’t my fault!  Someone else caused all these problems.  I didn’t choose them.”

Woman Desperate Sad Tears Cry Depression MWell no, in everyday terms I would never have chosen to have people I love suffer what they are going through.  It is all too easy to blame the perpetrators.  If those people hadn’t done those things, Life wouldn’t be this way.  If those people hadn’t done those things, I wouldn’t be here, having to deal with the fallout, day after day.  If those people hadn’t done those things… something else would have shown up in my Life to allow me to learn and expand and find ways of dealing with the issues here, because that’s what I asked for when I began this Lifetime, and that is true for everyone involved.

So let’s dispense with all the victimhood and blame and anger – the easy stuff – and move on to happening to my Life.

This is what I’m learning, you see, Universe.  You’ve given me some real humdingers to deal with in the past and I’ve often seen myself or – worse yet – people I care about, suffering, and been willing to blame others for that.  It is hugely difficult to see that every single individual concerned acted from what he or she considered to be a reasonable or practical perspective.  They each carried out what they considered to be the best or most expedient response to a difficult situation.  It’s not my task to question their actions or to blame them.  It’s my task to take steps forward and move myself and my loved ones into a safer, more secure and comfortable situation.

My little family – the woman, the child and the toddler – are in a safe, though temporary, home.  We are making plans to move them into a relatively safe and secure permanent home.  We are taking steps to make that permanent home safer and more secure, but that is still not reaching to the nub of it.  Security devices, high fences and locked gates may help to protect against physical intruders, may help to make people whose previous home has been violated, whose lives have been threatened, whose trust has been destroyed feel slightly better, but the real work is to build up inner protection.

Tunnel, LightEach of them is traumatised.
The smallest is terrified by loud noises, raised voices or passers by who remind her in some way of the ‘bad men’.
The child has just built himself a dreamcatcher – a wooden pop gun beside his bed that ‘shoots’ nightmares into a hoop, from which they are projected into a baked bean tin across the room.  For him this is serious work – serious self preservation.
For the mother, who seeks to protect and nurture the little ones while dealing with her own loss, grief and traumatic stress, there is a long, slow and painful journey.  I can see the glimmerings of a stronger, wiser, truer woman emerging.  I can see tiny steps towards the rebuilding of shattered self confidence.  I can see a brighter, clearer future that far surpasses the web of lies and deceit that were lurking and waiting to sabotage the past.

My task is to hold that image and project it to you, Universe, because then you will mirror it back to us.

Yours in love and gratitude,

Jan

 

 

Warning: Incorrigible Optimist At Work

You saw it coming, didn’t you?  Some of you even commented on it…

What do you get when you stick an incorrigible optimist in the bleakest and most desperate situation anyone could imagine?

Fantasy, Clock, Statue, Light, SpiralMagic – that’s what.

Only we know, don’t we, that it isn’t magic at all – it’s natural.  It’s the way life really can be.  It’s far, far more natural than cause and effect, far more natural than coincidence or random chance, far more natural – I’ve recently discovered – than synchronicity, even.

So, taking a deep breath, I’m going to say it:

There is no such thing as objective reality.

Certainly there IS such a thing as default reality.  That’s where almost everyone lives for the majority of their human life.  It’s the way Life goes when people believe they can do nothing about what happens, because it happens TO them.  It seems so self-evident and relentless that many people never dream that they can escape the tyrany of Fate, Luck, Chance or whatever deity they hold responsible for the events that go on around them.  Grimly and doggedly they struggle on through Life at default setting, feeling cheered when things go well and depressed or angry when they go wrong, but never thinking for a moment that they could take responsiblity for these events – far less that they could choose and affect the outcome.

There are others, though, whose lives turn out very differently.  There are those (and I’ve had many amongst my family and acquaintances) who expect things to go wrong, expect to be cheated, disappointed, short-changed and beset by inconveniences.  Sure enough, Life delivers.  They are not surprised.  They expected nothing more.

At the other extreme there are the optimists – those who expect that, regardless of setbacks, Life will turn out well and they will find something great and precious emerging from every situation.  They expect nothing less.

I’m one of the latter group.  Not every day and in every moment of course.  There are times when I can rail against my fate with the best of them, but it only takes a little nudge from a caring friend or a tiny synchronicity for me to remember, “Hey, yes, I’ve got this covered; I can choose how it works out.  I can learn something valuable from it.  Let me just think for a sec about why it turned up in my Life at this point.”

That’s what I’ve been doing this last week or two.

Certainly, some of the issues I’ve been dealing with have been serious and life-changing, but the example I’m going to give is of a much lighter kind – just to give any doubters amongst my readership confidence to start by choosing outcomes for the small stuff before building up to bigger and better things.

Sunglasses Glasses Fashion Style Summer HoA week ago I lost my sunglasses.  They were prescription lenses, as I’m quite short-sighted, and designer frames, so replacing them would have been costly.  I was irritated, naturally.  I searched everywhere I’d been and wondered where they could have gone missing.  What I didn’t do was to give them up for lost.  I maintained a conviction that they and I would be reunited.

Yesterday afternoon, I had a phone call from a staff member at some beautiful gardens I’d visited on the day the glasses disappeared.  I’d first noticed they were missing as I’d got out of the car when we arrived, so hadn’t been wearing them on my visit.  The other relevant fact is that I’d loved the gardens so much that I’d bought a season ticket, filling in a form with all my contact details.

“Is that Jan?” asked a cheery voice.  “I think I’ve found your sunglasses!”
I was stunned for a moment. “Well I have lost them,” I said.
“I KNEW it!” she squealed triumphantly. “I just KNEW they belonged to you. Describe them for me.”
I did so and – naturally – they were mine.
“But how did you know they belonged to me,” I asked. “The only name on them is Ted Baker’s!”
There was a slight pause before she responded, “I don’t know. I just looked at them and a sudden inspiration came to me that they must belong to you. I remembered you buying the season ticket and I knew they had to be yours.”

 

I’m happy to say that the important issues are changing too.  Since I arrived in my new temporary abode to support my family, one thing after another has slotted neatly into place.  My daughter is now also a believer in manifesting a great future and together we are planning and choosing each next positive step along the road to recovery and towards building a new, happy life for her and her children.  Still a long way to go, but all will be well … because that is what we have chosen.

In case anyone who reads this would like some specific help in manifesting change in their lives, I’d like to add a link to the wonderful words that helped us climb out of the abyss in our darkest hour and allowed us to move forward: Cheryl’s Prayer of Choices.

There is also a children’s version which I worked on with Cheryl here.

 

Lost in Conurbation

“Stone walls do not a prison make
Nor iron bars a cage.”

wrote Richard Lovelace, back in the 1600s.

I’d sometimes wondered, passingly, how true that was.  Could the human spirit rise above physical incarceration and fly free, despite all?

Life – considerate as ever – has given me the opportunity to find out.  Not, I hasten to add, that I have been walled up in some dreadful prison cell.  I’m free to come and go as I wish and my surroundings are clean, dry and comfortable.  It is, nonetheless, a cell.

I will be living, through the rest of spring and summer and well into autumn, in a square white room.  There is a tiny shower room, but all other aspects of life must be accomplished here.  Where once I had rooms, now I have corners – one for cooking, another for sleeping, an eating, relaxing and working area.  Where once I had a garden to tend, stuffed with nodding daffodils, bluebells and tulips, I now have a single pot of hyacinths on a white windowsill.   Where once I watched the sun set amidst distant hills across the Somerset Levels, now it drops below a tower block across the car park from the one I live in.

My windows look out on to other blocks of flats.  A hollow-eyed woman with dark hair sometimes peers out from the one opposite.  A gaunt man coughs and gasps in the window as he drags at a cigarette from the room below hers.  Beyond the blocks are housing estates on two sides and roads on the others.

Yes, it would be easy to sink into self pity in this sterile, soulless, monotone place.  On my first night here, I lay in bed listening to the sound of traffic, far below, on the dual carriageway that leads to London – a soft, irregular swishing sound that rose to a crescendo and fell away again.  It could almost have been taken for waves, breaking on a pebble beach, I decided, before noticing that this gave me no comfort at all.  I’ve never much enjoyed the sea – too wide, too cold, too unpredictable.

I have with me the few comforts and essentials I was able to cram into a relative’s small hatchback and a few sticks of furniture I’ve borrowed, or bought from local second-hand shops.  It’s a world away from my lovely cottage, my dear friends and my contented life over in the west.

So is my spirit broken by this cruel exile?

Slightly battered, perhaps, in these early days of readjustment, but far from broken.  This has become an exercise in actively seeking out the positive.  Since my arrival two weeks ago, a froth of may blossom has covered the narrow strip of wilderness – a haven for dog-walkers and fly-tippers – that separates the estate from the trunk road, so that I now barely see the lorries and vans hurtling towards the city.  Tiny bluetits cling impossibly to vertical brick walls outside my window as they gather some form of sustenance from them.  Beyond the flyover, a single green field can be glimpsed obliquely from one window, if I position my chair carefully.

The greatest help, though, has come from the two little children I have come here to be with.  They and their mother have been permanently uprooted from their home, in the most traumatic of circumstances.  They, too, are living in temporary accomodation nearby, but with no hope of returning to their home and friends.  They have lost so much, yet they teach me, each day, about positivity and optimism.

“Grandma has a lake in her garden,” the six-year-old informed his mother, referring to the drainage ditch that crosses the small piece of grassland beside the flats.
Scale is unimportant. For us, now, it is a river, with meanders and tiny waterfalls created by twigs and leaf litter.

His three-year-old sister can easily spend ten minutes peering with total delight into a patch of wild violets she found there, stroking its petals reverently, or having earnest conversations with a passing beetle.

Even in my room, their imagination and creativity fills the space with magic. Image may contain: indoor A side table became an enchanted forest home for the fairies for a while.

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A garden, bath and sofa were created in a box for their toys.

For all of us, now, Life insists that we build our own joys and delights and that we trust to its bounty and goodness to allow my little family to heal and rebuild their lives, so that I can ultimately return to mine.

I won’t be the same person who left, though.  There is richness in this experience that will stay with me forever and I am deeply grateful for it.

 

 

Vitruvian Lines – Part 3

Image result for vitruvian manIn the previous post, I spoke of how well the role of an ‘outlier’ would suit those who fit within the square, rather than the circle of Leonardo’s Vitruvian Man – the sensitive people who are more comfortable on the fringes of a society.

It would seem highly likely that the ancient outliers held a position of very high status within nomadic or migrating groups, since they were responsible for everyone’s safety and the success of the journey.  What happened to them, though, when the travellers decided to settle and build permanent homes?  I suspect that they retained their revered status within the tribe.  There is a small but important piece of evidence for this.

Within the last year – so I learned from a recent BBC archaeology programme – it has been discovered that Avebury – the world’s largest stone circle – originally had a building at its centre, and that building (which predates the stones) was … a house.

Grass, Landscape, Outdoors, NatureAt first, this seems something of a let-down.  For years we have venerated and romanticised these stone structures as the site of religious rituals, meaningful astrological observation or sacrifice to pagan gods.  Are we now to believe that they went to the huge effort of building a stone circle, a series of elaborate avenues and other complex structures to honour a simple house?

I suspect that is exactly what they did.   The symbolic importance of the first settlers’ homes would have been immense.  This was the starting point for a new way of life – a new beginning for their society.  In myth, traditional stories and legend, the House of a clan, family or tribe is revered – not the building itself, so much as the dynasty it represents.

It’s hardly surprising, then, that our distant ancestors chose the site of that first home to build their stone circles as a gathering place.  The interesting thing about stone circles, though, is that they very often have outliers – stones placed at a distance from the main structure.  Often these stones mark a particular view, such as the only position from which a sunrise can be viewed in a gap between distant hills on the solstice.  They can also mark the beginning of a causeway or avenue leading to some other important place.  I think the idea of a central gathering place was hard-wired into these people, but so was the need and reverence for the outliers.

So does the structure of a settled society render outliers/ ‘square fillers’ obsolete?

Absolutely not.

In many primal societies people with this special skills-set – heightened senses, an ability to link telepathically to other times or places, other dimensions, even, and a degree of separation from the everyday life of the society – are appointed as shamans, healers and seers.  Their role can be to travel between worlds, to care for the psychological health of the group, to look into the future or past to provide the answers they need or to uncover the reasons for sickness or misfortune.  They are the psychic equivalent to the outlier – visiting regions the rest can’t reach and feeding back necessary information.

Humanity is always journeying forwards.  We have seen that these talented and unusual individuals are not particularly popular with leaders and experts in our society’s structure.  Some, though, manage to have a profound effect despite officialdom.  When they do, they are responsible for creating the huge shifts in perception that move society into new areas.  The Einsteins, the Teslas and the Newtons are able to access insights and understanding simply not available to the common man or woman.  These people work silently, compulsively, alone and – for reasons we’ll see later – are able to make huge leaps to a higher level of understanding of how the universe really works.

I’m fully aware that so far I’ve written well over 3000 words on this subject and not yet addressed the core issue I promised to discuss – an explanation of how autistic perception works.  Stay with me.  The first few sections were an overview, showing how our present Western society isn’t structured to encourage or promote autistic perception, while others apparently are or have been.  They have also demonstrated the persistence of autistic perception and touched on its value to society.

The next section will begin to look more closely at what it involves, while after that, I’ll attempt to draw in research from three very different disciplines so that we can finally examine what autistic perception is, how it works and the benefits for the population as a whole.

When My Two Worlds Collide

Summer is the time I connect with family.  Some come to stay with me, while I head off to stay with others.  It’s been a crazy few weeks of checking dates and train times, bustling about, packing and unpacking, making up beds and sorting menus.

Space, Universe, Outer Space, PlanetThat’s not the hard bit, though.  The hard bit is trying to live between my two worlds.  It’s been harder than ever this year.

My accustomed world is here – full of long, rambling, enlightening conversations with like-minded souls, either in person or on my computer.  We ponder the metaphysical and wonderful, the numinous and semi-visible, the psychic and arcane.  There are conversations over coffee about sacred geometry.  There are conversations over Whatsapp about probability.  There are articles about consciousness to read and references to check and ideas to share.  Even as the mundane carries on around me, my mind rarely strays far from this world.

In the other world there are grandchildren and aunts, cousins, sons and daughters.  We go out for meals, wander the grounds of stately homes, discuss jobs and houses, share memories and plans, sightsee and chatter.

I can manage both.  I enjoy both.  I need both.  But they are mutually exclusive.  I’ve learned – the hard way – to keep them well apart; yet this year they moved too close for comfort.

I was trying to work on both levels at once with an elderly relative.

Figure, Man, Stand, Back Pain, SciaticaThis amazing lady has enjoyed excellent health and vitality for almost 90 years.  She still lives independently and works – a complex, computer-based job that requires a flexible mind and sharp intellect.  Just recently, though, she’s been in tremendous pain.  Her physiotherapist seemed unable to help.  Pills, Medicine, Medication, MedicalThe GP arranged blood tests and X-rays, shrugged and put her on 30 tablets a day (a terrifying mix of painkillers, along with all the pills to cancel out the side-effects of the others) and told her not to sit for more than 20 minutes at a time.  She’s 89!  She still had the pain.  She had to give up driving because of all the tablets and she was – understandably – at the end of her tether.

From my accustomed world, my response was to send her distant healing and to ask my friend Will (a splendid medical intuitive) what was causing the pain.  Armed with only her name and a rough geographical location, he correctly identified the affected area and told me the pain was caused by bones in her back ‘breaking down or weakening’ and that there was something wrong in the stomach or lower torso area which might or might not be linked to this.

In the other world, I arranged to go and spend some time staying with this relative, told her a friend’s mum had symptoms similar to hers and used that to share the diagnosis Will had given, and discussed not-too-wacky alternative treatments, such as acupuncture.

Acupuncture, Herbs, AlternativeIt all went well to start with.  Like me, she has a deep distrust of Western medicine’s way of papering over the cracks, so decided to cut down on the painkillers except for the ones that seemed to be helping slightly.  She made an appointment with an acupuncturist and demanded an appointment at a pain clinic.  Her results came back from the doctor.  Osteoarthritis.  All other results normal.  “Oh good,” she said, “I had been worried that it could be cancer, because I do have some digestive problems.”

Full marks to Will!

Then she looked very hard at me, with those piercing, alert eyes and said, “But what is it YOU are doing?  Ever since you arrived, I’ve felt so much better.  The pain is far less.  It’s getting better by the day.  I think you must have some sort of – magic.”

She wasn’t joking.  It wasn’t a trite remark.  She was puzzled and confused and she wanted to understand.

What was I supposed to say?  My family don’t do weird.  They don’t believe in energies, psychic phenomena, anything that can’t be seen, poked and physically examined.  I tried a bit of logical common sense:  ‘You probably feel more relaxed having someone else around the place.  Chatting with me takes your mind off the symptoms and so you’re not dwelling on them like you do when you’re alone.’
All true.  All acceptable.  But she didn’t accept it.

“Yes, maybe so,” she said impatiently, “But that’s not what I mean.  When you’re around me, I can feel something happening in my body and it’s really making a difference.  Explain that!”

 

Meditation, Spiritual, Yoga, MeditatingSo, feeling deeply uncomfortable, I explained aspects of my world to her.  I told her that, to my way of thinking, we are far more than our bodies and brains.  I told her I believed that when we get out of balance in some way – too tense or anxious or angry or lonely, for example – it can spill over into the body and cause physical symptoms.  I told her I believed that we can send healing energy to one another by using loving thoughts and clear intention, and that that was what I’d been doing in the days before I’d arrived and – in a more focused way – now that I was there.

She was very quiet for a very long time.

“And there’s more that you’re not telling me,” she finally said.  “There are other things you can do, aren’t there?”

I told her I’d probably said far more than I should.

“You know you’d have been burnt as a witch if you’d lived a couple of hundred years ago?”

I nodded and suddenly the tension was broken we both laughed.

“Well I don’t pretend to understand,” she sighed, “But please keep doing it.  It helps.”

So I do.

 

 

 

Always will.

Glass, Shattered, Window, DestructionTen years ago, I was just finishing the most terrifying, exhilarating, exhausting and arguably the most successful year of my life as an educator.

I’ve spoken about it before, but not for a while, and a few things have happened this week (like the message from D) to make me want to look back at it.

Briefly:  I worked in a primary school at a time when everything was controlled by THEM – the curriculum, the standards, the targets, the methods.  As educators we were under stupid amounts of pressure to conform and jump through all THEIR hoops.  The alternative was Special Measures.

Ours was a smallish school and – as sometimes happens – in that particular year, we were struggling with an above average number of, um, challenging pupils.  The reasons for the challenges weren’t hard to fathom – parents in prison, parents who had died or were seriously ill, parents with substance abuse issues, violent and abusive siblings and step-parents, family break-ups, history of sexual, physical and emotional abuse.  Those are just the bits I can remember.  There was also peer influence and imitation; children would pick up on the behaviour of others and copy it.

Run Riot, Anarchy, City, Urban, GraffitiEvery class in the 7-11 age group had a few hard-core rebels and several who copied their behaviour.  Teachers felt their standards slipping as they struggled to deal with daily disruption.  Some were refusing to teach certain children or to have X and Y in the same class.  Exclusion of these youngsters wasn’t an option.  It was frowned upon by THEM, and anyway, we wanted to help these kids.

As a senior management team, we pondered long and hard on how we could organise classes for the next academic year.  No combinations worked.

Until I had my crazy/wonderful idea.

I opted to teach a mixed-age class of just 16 pupils, containing every one of the challenging children and a few others who had their own issues and difficulties, despite not being disruptive.  My conditions were that the National Curriculum would not be followed, testing would be optional – and then only at the very end of the year, targets would be replaced by frequent ‘look how far you’ve come’ reviews, the education would be holistic, with a different programme of study for each individual based on their personal circumstances and emotional needs as well as the educational ones.

Luckily, I had a brave, supportive head teacher and some brilliant, visionary and courageous support staff.  I was also able to buy in help from a very talented play therapist/counsellor.  Annoyingly, the local authority insisted on adding in its Behaviour Support Team, who tried to get me to run the class along the lines of Pavlov’s dogs or Skinner’s rats.  Not helpful.

My curriculum was, very broadly:  Term 1 – learn to tolerate and begin to like yourself.   Term 2 – like and take some responsibility for yourself and begin to tolerate one or two others, so you can manage to work in a very small group.  Term 3 – take responsibility for your own behaviour and actions and begin to tolerate and work with larger groups and the whole class.

Girl, Boys, Children, DevelopmentEach of the 16 who stayed at the school (such families travel around a fair bit, so some moved away) went on to rejoin a normal mainstream class the next year.  All of them opted to take part in the end of year tests and did as well or better than expected.  In the final term they did a whole class project and cooperated as well as any group I’ve ever taught.

Obviously the hardest bit – so hard I still have to fight back tears as I remember – was to get these lovely young people to tolerate and, later, like themselves.  Once that was achieved, the rest flowed relatively easily.

As I mentioned earlier, several synchronicities have turned up recently, drawing me back to 2007.  Some will have to wait for another post, but I will mention D.

He was one of the oldest in that class – an intelligent, painfully sensitive, deeply troubled young lad who somehow transformed during the year from having always been the class weirdo to becoming an excellent and much admired role model for the younger boys in our group.

Last night – as he does from time to time – he messaged me.  Said he hoped I was doing OK.  We chatted briefly.  I told him what was happening in my life; he told me a little about his.  Then we signed off.

“Thanks for remembering me,” I said.

“Always will,” came the reply.

I’ll always remember him, too, and the rest of the class who taught me that once you can like yourself, there are no limits to what you can do.

 

 

 

 

Trying to Re-Member

There’s a group I attend from time to time here in my town.  Each week they provide cups of every kind of herbal tea you can imagine, biscuits or cake, and a speaker.  The talks range over many areas and subjects, but they must always be positive.  That seems to be the only rule.

Abstract, Background, Pattern, ArtisticI’d never heard of that night’s speaker, but his subject was ‘The Eight Elements’ and partly because I’d been pondering on elements for quite a while and partly because he was speaking as a follower of Krishna – a Truth quite new to me – I decided to go along.

The gentleman stood calmly before us, looked around the room at the sea of faces and announced, with total certainty, “I’m not the only person in this room who has been to the breaking point.  I’m not alone in having reached a point in my life where everything I lived for, everything I believed, everything I cared about was swept away, leaving me lost, broken and utterly alone.”

All around the room, heads nodded slowly, solemnly, mine included.

The talk was excellent.  Krishna’s take on the elements was oddly familiar and linked in well with the Egyptian, Greek, Shamanic, Medieval and alchemical ideas I’d been reading and thinking about.  What I was left with above all, though, was that idea of the breaking point – the need to go through what feels at the time to be a crisis, a disaster, a destruction of all you’ve held dear.  It is the tower card in the tarot – the card I used to fear above all others, back in the days when my life was settled and sorted (although very far from perfect).

I thought of the many friends and family members I’ve seen hit that point, whether through a sudden incapacitating illness, a financial meltdown, a job loss, a relationship breakup or what’s commonly called a nervous breakdown.  Often – as in my own case – it’s a mixture of several of these.  Like the body of Osiris, we are broken up, hacked into pieces and scattered in the waters of Life.

Shell, Broken, Empty, Close, LeaveThere follows a time of the most awe-ful emptiness.  We shut down.  We exist from moment to moment, day to day, with no clear idea of how or why we are still functioning.  This is the time we need to hide away, to withdraw from everyone and everything, knowing at some instinctive level that we require peace, and that healing will eventually flow from this.

Despite the kindness and ministrations of others, there’s ultimately only one place that healing can come from.  It comes from within.  It comes from our soul-selves – the part of us that is, and has always been, whole and complete.  Slowly and painfully, we begin to re-member ourselves – to put ourselves back together.  This time, though, we will be different.  We will have shed the limiting beliefs that we are not complete without money/ health/ family/ possessions/ career/ home/ friends or whatever we relied upon for stability and identity in the past.  That’s not to say we won’t regain or rediscover some of these, but they will no longer take centre stage.

Now we will have re-membered who we truly are.  We will recognise that we are whole and complete in ourselves.  We are not – primarily – parent or employee, partner or owner.  We are infinite aspects of the great I AM and as such, we have no limits.

“Your pain is the breaking of the shell that encloses your understanding. It is the bitter potion by which the physician within you heals your sick self. Therefore, trust the physician and drink his remedy in silence and tranquility.”

Kahlil Gibran: The Prophet