Friday, 23 December 2011

Yoga school drop-out (no graduation day for me)

It wasn't the most promising start. "Oh, dear," the landlady of the ashram looked up at me pityfully from the dietary requirements section of my registration form. "Veggan? That is how you say? No milk, no butter, no cream, no cheese, no egg, no honey," she read from my form. "Curd?" she tried, weakly. I shook my head. "Oh dear," she said again.

"I can't be the first," I began, in my defence. "Almost everyone I know who does yoga is vegan and this is an ashram..."  She clasped her hands, shook her head and closed her eyes like I was delivering bad news about a relative. "We will think of something but breakfast real problem," she said solemnly. "Toast! I have my own peanut butter..." I blurted optimistically, as I followed her upstairs to my room.

"Do you use toilet paper?" she asked as I checked out the bathroom. "I'm sorry?" I questioned, sticking my head around the door. "Do you use toilet paper?" she repeated, nodding her head toward the squat toilet. "I'm not sure I understand. Toilet paper as opposed to what?" "Well, if you do, please put it in the bin and not in the toilet," she instructed, matter of factly, ignoring my question. "Do some people not use it?" I asked, genuinely confused. "We don't, we use water," the landlady shrugged. "But then you're all wet, you know, underneath. What do you dry with?" "We have a small cloth in the bathroom..." "I see," I nodded slowly, whilst making a mental note to never, ever use the hand towel in a Nepalese bathroom.

The morning yoga was a little too much pranayama (breathing exercises) for my liking and the evening yoga, although good, was conducted outside in an area surrounded by trees and therefore saw me constantly yanking down my sleeves and trouser legs, hoping to avoid mosquito bites - so I never really relaxed into it.

I just couldn't bring myself to join in with the neti cleansing conducted in the area I mentally referred to as "the snot garden". The less said about that the better. *shudder*

I came into myself for daily chanting, though. I was happy sitting in a circle, eyes closed, chanting musical mantras while some shook tambourines and bells and others banged drums. That was my favourite bit - music makes me feel connected.

The meditation needed mixing up a bit in my opinion. I know it's not meant to be interesting but it was the same technique twice a day which started to become monotonous. A bit of Osho style Bollywood dancing would've pleased me enormously but alas so-hum-ing with prayer beads were as much fun as we were allowed.

As all courses (lasting anything from one day to several weeks) begin on any day you fancy, every meal time consisted of the EXACT same conversation with the day's new faces: Where are you from? Where've you been? Where are you going next? How long are you staying? Have you been trekking/paragliding? After all that there was no time for deeper conversation and by day three I stopped wishing to communicate entirely, was very likely considered rude and moody (for which I actually didn't give a shit) and began resenting the fact that it wasn't a silent retreat. 

It was a complete pain in the arse facing the daily barrage of questions about veganism when it was noticed I wasn't given the milky breakfast products but was instead presented with an apple and a banana and so I found myself either giving short answers like "everything else" when asked what I eat if not meat and dairy or worse still, saying I'm sick of the questions and don't want to talk about it. (It gets you that way when you're forced to talk about it three times a day.) 

But the final straw came on the one day there was toast (halelujah!). Everyone was given cheese toasties and when I asked for plain toast got told there wasn't any bread left. Other than scowling at my apple and banana, I managed to internalise my tantrum, decided I'm not cut out for prison life, grabbed my rucksack and jar of peanut butter and sodded off down to Lakeside to find a drop-in yoga class. And some toast. 

Sunday, 11 December 2011

Tea and simplicity

Patient: "Doctor, doctor, every time I drink tea I get a sharp pain in my eye."
Doctor: "Have you tried removing the spoon?"

(It'd be unsurprising to learn that the doctor prescribed painkillers but that's another discussion.)

It can take a different perspective to see that something as obvious as removing the spoon - generally not considered harmful to health! - from our cup of tea can save us unnecessary pain. And it's an alternative to mainstream Western culture that will offer the path to a life of less suffering. 

If you're wondering, "What's missing?" it's doubtful you'll find the answer. Instead, turn the question on its head and ask, "What's surplus?" It's much more likely pondering this question will point you toward the right path.

Saturday, 3 December 2011

"If you love someone, set them free. Starting with yourself."
~ Lisa Cherry Beaumont, 2011

Monday, 14 November 2011

Kopan strategies

"Two toilets and one shower for HOW many people?" I enquired, certain I'd misheard. The receptionist monk counted on his fingers again, then looked skyward as he did a quick calculation to be sure he'd got it right. "Twenty," he confirmed, "five rooms of four on your floor." I winced, imagining the endless queue of greasy-haired, cross-legged women outside the communal bathroom at 4:30 every morning. "Is that enough?" I checked. "Never had any complaints," he shrugged neutrally and looked at me patiently for my next question.

With that knowledge, and having heard earlier that the food is "watery porridge, sometimes there's bread, and chips and oily fried vegetables; it's the same every day" I felt my tiara slip past my ears and tighten around my neck and so decided I'd best not ask anything else and just wait and see.

I really needn't have worried about the facilities and the food. After a day or two of settling in I was used to sharing a loo and my showers being a terrifying splash of icy cold water and got myself three of the loveliest roomies I could have hoped for. And the woman who spectacularly misinformed me about the food? Well, I wished her lovingkindness when we passed on the stairs, like a good little Buddhism student. Unfortunately this is where my excellence as a Buddhism student seemed to end.

In spite of warming quickly to the environment, the routine and the people, it was a damn struggle to sit still on the floor of that gompa (meditation hall) and concentrate on nothing more than my breathing for an hour at a time. I could last 20 minutes before changing the position of my legs/cushions/blanket every 5 minutes thereafter, and I was so nosy! I bet his feet are cold with no socks on. I wonder how she did that with her hair. Has anyone got their eyes open? Is the teacher meditating? Her cushion matches her skirt. Are there the same number of coloured blocks in each of the ceiling squares? I'd better count them. Pen lid on, pen lid off, pen lid on, pen lid off... The difficulty of long periods of almost completely unguided meditation was too much for my monkey mind - by session three I'd mentally decorated my houseboat and decided it needs a decent oven and a serving hatch on the side through which I can sell my vegan fayre to canal strollers.

But the meditations improved once were given something to focus on and became a walk through rainbows compared to the teachings. I'll be frank: I found them ambiguous, unfounded, and littered with "scientific" anecdotes that were irrelevant or exaggerated at best; contradictory or wildly inaccurate at worst. And I had to sit, quietly gasping in shock, seething inside, without the opportunity to question or challenge any of it. And that wasn't all that was yanking my chain.

Before each class we'd to recite various mantras (prayers) and half the people (those who come back year after year - to a beginners course? You've got to wonder why) perform a set of prostrations that are like praying and then putting your head on the floor - something to do with letting go of your ego. What I struggled with was, if Buddhism is an atheistic religion, who are they praying to? It was acknowledged that this was confusing many of us but we were quickly "reassured" with, "Shut up and say your prayers". Yes, it was said half in jest but, at the same time, it didn't come with any explanation, which did not sit well with me at all; that's nothing more than dogma! As one student said, "I was brought up a Catholic - this kind of stuff makes me shudder."

Thankfully I wasn't alone in my dissatisfaction. Several people I spoke to were in strong agreement. As one confused student said to me, "Praying to Buddha doesn't make sense." Another decided to stay and follow the meditations only but sit out of the teaching classes. I too considered sticking it out, taking from it what I could and disregarding the bits I didn't agree with but that would have meant disregarding the majority of what was being taught - what would be the point? The food was great but not reason enough to stay a month.

And so after careful consideration I decided that the course was not for me. I kissed goodbye my favourite monastery dog - the one who likes to lean on you, that I nicknamed Cheeky Chops - and, along with several other disillusioned students, I left the monastery to seek a more real and tangible path to genuine, attainable happiness.

Saturday, 15 October 2011

World inside my head

As you probably know, I'm fascinated by what makes us happy and so that comes, hand in hand, with an interest in what's preventing us from being happy - kind of stands to reason, really. Therefore, ever since a few friends - some of them relatively sane - have sung the praises of past life regression therapy I've been intrigued to know more and when I heard of a workshop being run locally for a tenner, obviously I was on it like a car bonnet.

And so I rocked up at Brunel Museum in Rotherhithe on a Tuesday night sporting an open mind and leggings (I had a sense some of this would take place on a yoga mat). The evening was led by Doug Buckingham, a therapist whom I've met at various workshops and who looks and behaves, well, normal. He doesn't wear an Afghan coat and sandals, has no visible tattoos and can hold intelligent conversation. Put it this way, if you took him home to meet your mother she'd nod approvingly. (Well, right up until the point you tried to explain what he does.)

Doug explained what past life regression is, the different theories of how it works, how he came to it himself and he told us stories of (anonymous) case studies. We were helped to relax with a short meditation and were encouraged to ask questions. We were then offered the chance to experience a taste of past life regression, and out came the yoga mats and blankets.

Comfortable on the floor, we were led on a hypnotic journey into our subconscious and encouraged to discover one of our positive past life experiences - well, we didn't want to go digging up something negative in a group workshop; can you imagine? And so I stepped out of a large country house into a rose garden, a four year old girl with long curly blonde hair and bare feet, and was sucked into a colourful ball of energy above the fountain. Moments later I emerged as a wrinkly Native American grandmother with great hair and terrible teeth. I was wearing trousers and a waistcoat made from animal hide.

I found myself standing by a huge lake surrounded by tall trees. I felt calm. Beside me was a small fishing boat, and a little boy probably five years old, with big dark eyes and straight black hair - my Grandson! Looking down at my hands I could see small arrowheads and I was threading something onto a fishing wire. When Doug asked us to imagine ourselves demonstrating the skills we had at the time, I was sewing shoes. We were then asked to go to a later happy occasion in the same lifetime and I could see across the lake a large log cabin, where my Grandson was getting married, and I felt contentment.

Shortly after we this, we were brought back to the room, wide awake and refreshed. I was surprised at what my "imagination" had brought forward, considering I know absolutely nothing about Native Americans and am vegan so wouldn't normally think about wearing animal hide and making weapons with which to kill animals. So where did these images come from?

I want to believe in past lives, I really do. To me, there's comfort in the notion that "this isn't all there is" but obviously this workshop isn't solid proof of that. But what it did demonstrate to me is that there are other worlds inside our minds ready to be tapped into. And if an issue is simply too raw to address or difficult to understand in our present reality, stepping into a past life, real or imagined (it doesn't matter) could be the way to do it.

Thursday, 29 September 2011

Kiss me, kismet!

A few years ago I was fortunate enough to have suffered from depression. Yes, obviously it didn't feel like that at the time - I was utterly miserable - but I say I was fortunate because, otherwise, I may never had been introduced to Cognitive Behaviour Therapy (CBT), a psychological approach which taught me that, it's not what goes on in your life that determines your level of happiness, it's how you deal with it. And that's important because, let's face it, crap stuff happens to ALL of us so it's brilliant to learn how to surf the waves without wiping out.

A few months ago, I felt like my landlord had whipped the chair right out from under me; he decided to sell my home. I'd only been there a year and, in spite of my CBT training, I was struggling hard to get my rose-tinted spectacles to stay on my nose. But after the initial shock and a little time spent re-evaluating my lifestyle, it transpired he did me an enormous favour.

See, much as I loved my beautiful home, this re-evaluation forced me to notice just how trapped I was. Underneath, I ached to go off to live a simpler life in order to learn about myself, but I couldn't see this because I was too busy running on my go to work/pay the rent treadmill. And anyway, how could I go swanning off when I had a job and furniture? What a waste of money it would be putting my stuff into storage - oh, boy, I had a lot of stuff for someone living in a studio (seriously, where was it all?!) - and how on Earth would I get all that time off work?

Then a mad but simple idea came to me - quit your job and get rid of your stuff. Seemed like a pretty radical concept for me at the time but, let's be honest, loads of people do it, it's not really that big a deal and so that's exactly what I did. Next month, I fly to Nepal and it feels like the most natural thing in the world. And it has led me to ponder other things that have gone on in my life that seemed awful at the time but were actually a catalyst for positive change.

Sometimes upsetting things happen and we don't take notice of the great things that came out of them. What events have happened in your life that seemed really rubbish at the time but turned out to be the best thing for you?

Thursday, 22 September 2011

"Work with your energy,
not against it."

~ Lisa Cherry Beaumont, 2011

Saturday, 13 August 2011

Tuesday, 9 August 2011

Anarchy in the UK

“People have been very angry and frustrated at the system for a long time and now they are having an opportunity, due to a snowballing effect started by one piece of police violence, to let some of that anger out. It's not necessarily always in a good way but that's what's happening in London at the moment. With a system that is built around oppression what do you expect? How many rich and prosperous looters have you seen on the streets this week?” ~ Alan Buttle

Is it a surprise that there is so much discontent, crime and anti-social behaviour when our primary role models are the rich and famous?

From birth, our society forces people to believe they'll be happy only if they "have" - excess money, material possessions, a particular lifestyle - that they're only worthy and will be accepted if they do. So when people don’t achieve this lifestyle they’re made to feel worthless; unimportant; underachievers. When something happens to “prove” their worthlessness (like the death of Mark Duggan, for example, and then being subsequently ignored when they peacefully protest) they fight back. Really, how can this be a shock to anyone?

If, in order to be happy and harmonious, we need to be kind and gentle toward each other why does our society promote rivalry and greed? We teach and reward competition against each other, the biggest show of this being the Olympic Games (which, for the record, I am vehemently opposed to). We’re taught selfishness and greed and then we punish those who steel. When TV game shows give the winner a mountain of cash or material prizes, what message is this sending to us? Why are we not taught by our parents and teachers how to be genuinely content? Contentment comes from inside; to be happy with who we are and what we have.

There's nothing wrong with being "poor" and having “nothing”; only managing to scrape by - some of the happiest and kindest communities in the world live this way. What is wrong is being made to feel worthless and guilty by a society that values material possessions above community.

Did you know that the last place on Earth to get television was a Buddhist country called Bhutan in the Himalayas where the society was peaceful, content and crime-free until 1999 when TV began broadcasting? Since then, Bhutan has joined the rest of us in our dissatisfaction with ourselves and our material wealth, and our high crime rates. Want truly happy children? Show them what's truly valuable! Turn off the TV and throw away your celebrity gossip magazines, they're poison. Let your children experience the simple pleasures. If your child is bored without a computer game that's your doing. You must engage him; inspire him. Recognise his interests and encourage his talents, but without pushiness. Give him your time and your love, not material possessions. If he doesn’t behave himself that's because you haven't taught him how to be satisfied. It takes patience, time and persistence.

When you decide to have a child, you take on the responsibility to raise him. Don't stick him in front of the TV, spend time with him. Teach him how to take care of himself, how to cook, how to clean, how to sew, how to mend a bicycle, how to paint a wall. This will give him discipline and make him feel valued. Take him on picnics, walks and bike rides, engage him in conversations about wildlife and the world around him to help with his understanding, appreciation and compassion. Give him a plant to take care of or, better still, a small vegetable patch and let him connect with nature and appreciate the fruits of his labour. If your child sees your dissatisfaction with your own material wealth, with your image and with your life this is what he’ll learn for himself, what he’ll help to spread within his peer group, and what he’ll pass down to your grandchildren and out to the rest of society, and so it will continue.

Our society perpetuates the chain of discontentment and so we have the power, as individuals, families and communities, to break it.

Wednesday, 29 June 2011

"The worst thing you can do for the world is to be disconnected from your spirituality. This is because instead of getting your energy from source you'll fight with others for theirs."
~ Lisa Cherry Beaumont, 2011.

Thursday, 28 April 2011

The boy and the bubbles

On the sunny Easter Sunday just gone I was hanging out at a beach in Cornwall with a girl friend. While she sat calmly I was fidgeting so I decided to leave her to it for a while to take a walk along the seafront. Passing a seaside shop a box of bubble swords caught my eye. You know the thing; a large plastic test tube of bubble mixture with the wand attached to the handle. They’re fun to use; they make bigger-than-average bubbles and everyone loves to watch them, chase them, pop them... I’ve got a couple of bubble swords at home but I forgot to pack one so when I saw they were only £1.50 I thought I’d treat myself to another and that I could just give it away to a child at the end of the holiday. Children, dogs and even adults love to play with bubbles and as I meandered back along the seafront creating streams of bubbles I enjoyed watching the delight they created.

Later that afternoon, I found myself sitting on a grass verge waiting for a bus, so I took out the bubble sword and started making bubbles to pass the time. From around a bush a little boy appeared, about five years old. His huge white eyes and excited smile gleamed from his dark brown face – he was the cutest thing and I was instantly in love with him. I could see he was nervous but excited, not sure if I’d mind him popping my bubbles. I smiled and encouraged him by blowing more bubbles his way. His Grandmother appeared after a short while saying, “Come on, Izza, these are not our bubbles.” I didn’t really understand what she meant by that so I told them we could share and he stayed a while longer. We took the same bus and ended up waiting for the same train.

On the train platform we had another long wait so I took out the bubbles again, much to the little boy’s delight. I blew bubbles, he laughed and chased and popped them. He was so adorable I actually felt a physical ache in my heart. I gave him the sword so he could use it. He looked so surprised and happy my eyes filled up. I knew he’d appreciate and take care of the bubble sword so I asked him if he wanted to keep it. He appeared shocked and looked up at his Grandmother for her approval. His Grandmother said that yes, he would love to keep it. “Say a big thank you to the kind lady.” “Thank you!” he said loudly with wide eyes and a broad smile.

While Izza was occupied with the bubbles, his Grandmother took me to one side and told me quietly, “Izza’s aunty came from Canada yesterday and brought all four of them a present, and Izza’s oldest brother got bubbles. Izza wanted bubbles instead of the present he got but we told him the bubbles are not yours, Izza, if you want bubbles, you must pray for them. It’s his fifth birthday tomorrow and to teach him the lesson that you get what you pray for we were going to go to the shops early in the morning to get him some bubbles. But now we don’t need to do that.” She smiled at me knowingly and turned back to her Grandson as I stood there speechless while the story – and the lesson - sunk in.

Thursday, 31 March 2011

Wood for the trees

See if you can relate to this: It’s a weekday afternoon and you can’t see the wood of your desk. This is because it’s covered with the usual half cup of cold coffee, an empty water glass, desk phone, mobile phone, computer, keyboard, mouse, and a whole host of open files and folders, and piles of paper, and colleagues keep walking past adding more to the pile… Your inbox is rammed with questions and queries, and responses to your own questions and queries, all interlaced with junk mail all needing sorting through, and dealing with or deleting. There’s a problem you’ve been trying to think of a solution to that you just can’t seem to get your head around – if only the effing phone would stop ringing! There are two slightly stressed-looking colleagues hopping from one foot to the other, loitering around your desk waiting for you to come off the phone so they can speak to you and you haven’t even had the chance to get lunch yet. You’re meeting friends later at a new bar and restaurant, you’re not sure if you’ll make it on time, and you haven’t had time yet to see where it is or how to get there. Sound familiar?

Now imagine this: You stick out your right arm, lay it across the left-hand side of your desk and sweep it strongly to the right, clearing the whole lot on to the floor in one fell swoop - NOW you can see the wood! You stand up, walk past your astonished colleagues and go find a quiet meeting room with a lock and a comfy chair, and have an hour’s nap.

When you return to your desk feeling refreshed, you find your computer, keyboard and mouse placed neatly back on your desk, along with your phones, a hot cup of a tea and a fresh glass of water. All your filing has been done – paper and electronic – all junk has been binned and the rest of your emails, paperwork, files and folders are placed neatly in order, with tasks flagged for priority. Somehow you’ve thought of a brilliant yet simple solution to the problem that’s been going around in your head. You feel less stressed; you’re smiling and feel ready to take on the world.

“As if!”

Well, I’m here to tell you that all this loveliness, and more, can be yours! No, really, it actually can. And it’s free of charge and doesn’t require a management consultant nor a life coach. You’ve heard of it, I promise, but you’ve probably dismissed it as pointless or “not for the likes of me.” Well, it IS for the likes of you. Yes, YOU.

“Well, get on with it, woman, I haven’t got time for this, spit it out. What is this miraculous, free, magically life-changing product?!”

It’s meditation. Yes, really. Stay with me, nearly there...

“I don't know the first thing about it; how would I get started?”

There are so many different types of meditation and I am NO expert by any stretch of the imagination, you just have to find the method that works for you – a bit like exercise; some people love running, others love swimming, badminton, dance classes, golf... same with meditation – you may need to try a few techniques until you find one you click with. All I have is a meditation CD that a friend gave me a few years ago and that CD and I, we’re mates; we just “get on”. Do an internet search and see what pops up and what you’re drawn to – it could be a YouTube video, a course, a book, an article, a CD… And then get on with it. You know, it’s not during the meditation you find this amazing mental clarity and calm, it’s afterwards in your regular day to day stuff when you realise that everything around you is just SO much easier to deal with. Just like someone came to your desk and cleared it all up, polished everything and put everything in order, that’s how your head feels – like someone climbed inside, emptied it out, gave it a good clean and made three piles with the contents: one for the bin, one to pass on, and a neat pile of all the good stuff to keep for yourself. Wouldn’t that feel terrific?

Meditation will sort your head and your life out. Guaranteed. I dare you to try it...

Wednesday, 16 March 2011

"When you hurt, make someone else feel better."
~ Lisa Cherry Beaumont, 2011

Monday, 14 March 2011

Air on the G string

On the back of my previous post, a friend asked:

Do you believe in a creator?

I believe the closest there is to a creator is a life force; a special energy. I don't for a second imagine there's a "God" or creator. This is such a huge concept for us to get our heads around that whatever it is, is likely beyond human comprehension, HOWEVER the concept of there being an energy force makes a shed load more sense to me than there being one "divine being" who's in charge. I mean, if there's one divine being in charge, WTF is he up to allowing all this suffering? Nope. I believe in the whole interconnectedness and balance thing, yin and yang, cause and effect, as everything about it ties in with absolutely everything else that I (think I) know and am learning. The concept of a divine creator ties in with none of my other beliefs or understanding of anything whatsoever.

When I say "God is love" (i.e. follow the path of love) I'm over-simplifying in order to make it tangible but what I believe is that showing love, kindness and compassion is the PHYSICAL part of the realisation that we're interconnected. Do you know what I mean? Those who see beyond our illusion of separateness, those who fully realise that we're interconnected - not just with each other but with everything - and that everything is ruled by cause and effect, will automatically treat everyone (and everything) with love and respect because they know it fucks up the balance otherwise but, anyone who doesn't really get that can simply follow the path of "God" (love) and end up having pretty much the same effect without having to understand, or believe, the nuts and bolts of it.

I’m now going to explain the Lord’s prayer
(Oh yes! It’s all go this morning, isn’t it..?!)

Our father
(god-> the life force/energy, manifesting itself as love)
who art in heaven
(which can be seen/realised when the mind reaches peace->clarity->nirvana)
Hallowed be thy name
(which is highly respected, sacred)
Thy kingdom come
(This place, this heaven, this nirvana, will be reached in our minds)
Thy will be done
(when we will realise our interconnectedness and treat others with love)
On earth as it is in heaven
(in our day to day lives.)
Give us this day our daily bread
(When we ask for our basics for survival, nothing more, without greed)
And forgive us our trespasses
(We will be treated by others with love, kindness and compassion when WE fuck up)
As we forgive those who trespass against us
(when we treat others with love, kindness and compassion when they fuck up.)
Lead us not into temptation and deliver us from evil
(Let’s steer clear of greed and attachment and our minds will be free from pain)
For thine is the kingdom, the power and the glory
(because this realisation of our connectedness, and therefore our loving treatment of others, is what it's all about; it's the only power that will make us happy and healthy, and allow us to know true happiness: nirvana)
For ever and ever
(and although our lives are impermanant, these rules are not.)

My interpretation of The Lord’s Prayer:

Our life force, which is sacred, we will come to know when our minds reach nirvana.
This place, this heaven, this nirvana, will be reached in our minds
when we see beyond our illusion of separateness, when we realise our interconnectedness, and treat others with love in our day to day lives.
When we ask for our basics for survival, nothing more, without greed, and when we treat others with love, kindness and compassion when they fuck up, we ourselves will be treated by others with love, kindness and compassion when WE fuck up.
Let’s steer clear of greed and attachment and therefore keep our minds free from pain, because this realisation of our connectedness, and therefore our loving treatment of others, is what it's all about; it's the only power that will make us happy and healthy, and allow us to know true happiness: nirvana.
Although our lives are impermanant, these rules are not.

Saturday, 12 March 2011

The Holy Bible and other horror stories

What I’m going to do is shed some proper light on all the religious guff we’ve been fed since children and show that, if we strip away all the obscurity, the deity (e.g. the bearded man in the sky) and the metaphors, what we’re actually presented with is the truth, and a way of living our lives that will GENUINELY make us happy.

Stick with me, keep reading. I’m going to make sense of something for you – this could make a big difference to your life.

I think, for some reason, we’re given the bearded-man-in-the-sky stories to “help” us to understand something, to keep us on the right track and to make us scared of going against the common good. But unfortunately, it simply doesn’t work for most of us because it’s so exaggerated and shrouded in so much bullshit that it doesn’t make any sense and so we disregard it as nonsense. Well, I know I always have.

So, I’ve been doing a lot of thinking, and here’s what I’m realising:

We all came from the same stuff.

We didn’t just land on the planet ready-made, did we? We came from something, probably after the big bang, there was this bacterium that then multiplied and then all these different bacteria mutated into all the living beings on the planet, changing bit by bit, over the years, to fit into their different environments. It makes perfect sense if you think about it, doesn’t it? So, going WAY WAY back, you and me, we’re related! Oh, and we’re related to next door’s dog and your mum’s cat and those goldfish in the tank in the dentist’s waiting room. Yes we are; we’re family, innit! So let’s treat each other as such! And no, I don’t mean arguing about the washing up; you know what I mean.

We’re all just big children trying to be happy.

In order to be happy, we need to look outwards. This means being good to others and not just to our friends and family but EVERYONE and all living beings (see above about us being family): colleagues, neighbours, strangers in the street, people on the bus, next door’s dog, your mum’s cat, the dentist’s goldfish and all those gazillions of beings living all over the world. Being good only to ourselves makes us selfish – think about a world where it’s every man for himself: we push to the front of the bus queue, we barge our way through doorways first, someone loses their wallet and we find it, thinking how lucky we are – is this really the way to live happily and in harmony? Course not. Now imagine a world where everyone is kind to each other… take a moment to think about it. The last time someone in front of you in the check-out queue let you go first because you’ve only got one item and they’ve got a massive trolley-full – how did you feel? Aww, that’s a nice feeling, isn’t it? Did you say to yourself that it’s restored your faith in human nature? I bet you did. That time you saw someone in the street crying and stopped to check that they’re OK – how did you feel? Better? Warmer? Kinder? More connected? Happier? It touched your soul, didn’t it?

What are our excuses for when we’re being selfish?

I’m in a hurry. To go where?

Strangers are not kind to me, why should I be kind to them? Be the change we want to see in the world – be a good example, it’s contagious.

If someone found MY lost wallet I bet I wouldn’t get it back. So we’ll be selfish, so other people will be selfish, and so the cycle continues. Let’s break the cycle.

Material possessions mean nothing.

Imagine the world blew up and, after the explosion, you’re left roaming around for days, alone in the rubble of houses and buildings, mucky hands and face, tatty clothes. What would you hope to find… An iPad? A pair of Kurt Geigers? A plasma TV? A Rolex? A Bentley? “Don’t be daft, Lisa!” I hear you cry, “After food and shelter needed for basic survival, I’d hope to find a fellow human being for companionship, to share my experiences of the explosion, to help me make sense of what’s happened!” Damn right! Would you fight this person and see them as competition, or would you be glad of the friendship of this stranger and share your food and shelter and hope they’d do the same for you? So, what’s the difference in our world of plenty? Why are we fighting and grabbing for more for ourselves instead of caring and sharing? Does the grabbing (working all hours to earn more money) make us feel satisfied and content or do we just run faster on the hamster wheel, filling our homes with more and more crap..?

Attachment is the root of our problems.

What’s attachment? It’s the unhealthy way we fasten ourselves to thinking that we “need” something and, it’s so unhealthy that, if things don’t go our way, if we don’t get what we want, it makes us truly miserable! But it’s not not getting what we want that makes us miserable, it’s our minds telling us that we’ll be unhappy if we don’t get it. For example, you want a bigger house. You see this beautiful house, in the street of your dreams, you put in an offer and it’s turned down. Oh, the misery! Boohoo, poor me! But really, it’s just a house. Becoming detached does NOT mean you don’t care about anything, what it means is that you’re flexible to the outcome, that’s all; that you don’t rest your worth or happiness on external factors.

So, who is God and how will following him make me happy?

Well, this is what gave me my Eureka moment this morning while I took breakfast on the balcony. God is simply love. There’s no bearded man (like you imagined for a minute that there actually was – I credit you with WAY more sense than that). Let me explain. If we let it, love can be the guiding factor in our lives. When we struggle to know what is the right thing to do, if we turn our focus outwards (instead of worrying about our own selfish needs – or attachment), if we show love to everyone around us, if we treat others with kindness and compassion, then THIS is what will help us to see the right way, and will make us happy because it makes us ALL happy. Do you get it? Read it again ‘til you do because it’s important.

And what about this eternal damnation; burning in hell??

Oh crikey, it’s no wonder we don’t like religion if we worry that if we put a foot wrong, we’ll burn in hell! What I believe this refers to is the loneliness, emptiness and mental torture we’ll endure if we behave as though we’re independent, cut ourselves off from the outside world, are greedy and selfish, and treat others with contempt. There may be more to it, something to do with karma, but this is as far as I’ve got. It’s enough for now.

And redemption?

Well, we’re none of us perfect, are we? But if we realise where we’ve been going wrong and we stop being led by greed (attachment) and look outwards and treat all other sentient beings with love, kindness and compassion, our loneliness, emptiness and mental torture will cease.

It’s quite straightforward, really, isn’t it? We don’t need a big fat book of convoluted horror stories. If we stop being greedy and grabbing and starting from now begin treating absolutely everyone with love, kindness and compassion, we’ll receive the one thing we all strive for each and every day of our lives – happiness. :o)

Sunday, 6 March 2011

Hands together, eyes... open.

Do you pray? Do you put your hands together, close your eyes, and ask for something in your life, and give thanks for what you already have? If not, you may wish to start doing so, as I've figured out why it's so beneficial and, here's the thing: -

It's got bugger all to do with God!

Oh, you are gonna love this... (can you tell I'm excited?)

Whether anyone can hear us or not, when we pray, it's two-fold:

1) We ask for something
When we ask for something we've made a decision about something that we want. We've removed the airy-fairy concept from our mind which is usually jumbled up with all sorts of other crap, and formed a concrete idea of exactly what we're looking for. We've made sense of it, we've said it out loud and, in doing so, affirmed to ourself that it's what we want. Sound familiar? Sound a bit like the law of attraction? Oh, yes it does. And whatever you believe about the law of attraction (or The Secret), at the very LEAST it helps us to realise what we want, and to look out for it and because of that, we're far more likely to spot the opportunities we need in order to get it.

2) We give thanks
We look at the good things that we have in our lives and express gratitude. Sound like point 9 of my top ten happy tips?? Oh yes. A few years ago, a psychologist named Martin Seligman asked 600 people to focus on some positive aspects about themselves and their lives, which included getting them to write down three things that went well each day for a week. Because these participants were focusing on the positive things in their lives (rather than the negatives), their happiness levels increased significantly, and stayed that way for at least six months. (I've done this many times as have several of my friends and I guarantee it works every single time.)

It's really that simple. Those people who feel that they're getting what they want and their lives are better since they started praying are right, but not necessarily for the reason they think!

Food for thought, hey? Try it for a week; see if your life improves. And let me know! :oD

Monday, 31 January 2011

Higher state of consciousness

It's not easy to reduce a full day's workshop into a five minute synopsis, particularly without sounding like a complete fruit-loop, but I'll do my best to explain the main findings of Saturday's Higher Consciousness Workshop.

As I understand it, we exist on 3 levels:

the bit we paint on top to protect ourselves. It's not our true self but made from fear.

who we are fundamentally, what our true strengths our, why we're here.

our life force, our energy, the timeless bit, the thing that carries our soul, brings it to life.

Almost all the time, almost all of us, are only in touch with our egos and are therefore coming from a perspective of negativity and fear but, calmness and real contentment can be brought about from looking at the bigger picture which is, it seems, that we're all made from energy and that the day to day stuff is largely unimportant.

The workshop was really to help us get past the ego and tap into the deeper levels to allow us to see our own souls a little clearer, to realise our own purposes, and also to feel our spirit energy connections with others. The man taking the class, Paul, believes that he has the ability to help us channel these energies, that he's in touch with the bigger picture and wants to help other people see it and connect with it. Awesome!

None of it was really all that "out there". This guy was normal, neither stiff suit nor tie-died fisherman's pants, just sweater and jeans, really nice and down to earth. I trusted him. Each of us received a crystal for our soul, our spirit and our twin flame. He spent about a minute working on each crystal, capturing the energies and attuning them to our personal energies. I confess, I was a bit skeptical.

When we each received our soul crystal we had to sit with it quietly and then tell others what we felt. I felt bugger all. I had no idea what they were talking about. A bit embarrassed I explained that I'm new to this, I didn't know what I was doing or looking for. It just made me feel a bit smiley, that's all, that can't mean anything, can it? Paul took my crystal and after a few seconds this is what he said:

“This is a very positive crystal, I feel joy. It’s all about happiness. You're here to bring joy and happiness to others, but specifically I see groups. You’re here to bring joy and happiness to groups of people. Are you a psychotherapist?”

Whoa. I explained that I'm studying psychology because I'm especially interested in positive psychology and what makes us happy. Afterwards I thought about how I enjoy arranging events in the hope of creating communities with the end purpose of connecting people to make them happy. And how I do go on about connection, community and happiness a bit sometimes. ;o)

Each person who held my crystal said it was full of joy and made them feel really happy - yay! I held Dominique's crystal and I felt an upward surge of energy. She told me hers made her sit up straight. I held Emily's and I felt like a jumping bean inside, left to right to left to right, but upwards, like a positive energy trying to escape, and she laughed and told me that's hers in a nutshell. They got two crystals mixed up so I held them and could tell the difference and gave them back to the right people - WTF?! So my skepticism was hushed a bit...

But the BEST BIT: We got our spirit-attuned crystals and had a group meditation, with Paul 'channeling our energies'. My mind became completely silent (no mind chatter, nothing - God, that was BRILLIANT in itself), then I felt a force inside my head, an actual physical force pushing up toward my skull, a building intensity and then for a few seconds... hard to describe... just incredible bliss. Like an orgasm for the mind - best way I can describe it - way more intense than what amazing music has ever done for me, and without emotion, just the bliss. Then it subsided to deep, silent relaxation for a few seconds, then the intensity built up again and it happened for a couple more seconds, then subsided... This happened maybe five or six times, then he called time: open our eyes, come back in the room. And he asked us to describe it. Nobody could speak. Before that we'd all been chatty (11 of us, sitting in a big semi-circle of chairs). Not a peep out of any of us now. I was stunned.

So, go on, let it start, bring it on. Ask me for the scientific evidence. Tell me it's mumbo jumbo. Warn me that I'm being lied to and ripped off. And I'll ask you: How could I feel the difference in those crystals? And when was the last time your mind was completely and utterly silent and you had a (drug free) mindgasm?

Friday, 28 January 2011

Inky thinky parlez-vous

A thought about tattoos:

"Don't let a tattoo anchor you to the past. When choosing a design, choose something about yourself that is a constant; that runs all the way through you like the letters in a stick of rock. Then in times of self-doubt it may serve as a reminder of who you truly are, your authentic self, not of something you once were."

~ Lisa Cherry Beaumont, 2011

Friday, 21 January 2011

"When friendship reaches out, grab hold."
~ Lisa Cherry Beaumont, 2011.

Tuesday, 11 January 2011

Do anything you wanna do

Is there a hole in your bucket? Do you sometimes feel that no matter what you fill your life with, you’re never quite… happy… satisfied… content?

Psychologists generally agree that the most important factor in happiness (after food and shelter and all that malarkey) is having positive relationships. We seem to instinctively know this and therefore naturally strive to be a part of something: a social group, a romantic partnership.

But do you sometimes find yourself in situations where you feel you ought to pretend to be something in order to “fit in” with those around you, for them to like and accept you? Do you feel inclined to behave a certain way that doesn’t quite sit with you, wear a style of clothing you don’t particularly want to wear, or even live your life by rules that you don’t quite agree with, in order to be accepted into a certain social group or in order to attract or keep a romantic partner?

You most likely came across negative group pressure from a very early age. A child is picked on for being different and the other children feel they must join in the bullying in order to fit in. Maybe the bullied child was you or maybe you were a bully or maybe you just stood by and watched it happen knowing it was wrong but not wishing to be ostracised. When you were older perhaps you were persuaded to smoke, have sex or skive off school because the other kids were doing it.

As an adult perhaps you feel obligated to fit into a stereotype or role. Isn’t it time you bought a house of your own? Shouldn’t you be a manager at work by now? When are you going to get married and have children? Doesn’t someone who lives in a house like yours usually own a 4x4? UGG boots/camel coats/trilby hats are what everyone is wearing now, you need to go shopping… Probably nobody has said any of this to you outright but when you look around and this is what “everyone” in your peer group is doing, surely you’re expected to do the same. Right? ... Right? No! Of course it’s not right. (I know you knew this.)

If you find yourself comparing your life to that of others, and we all do it a bit sometimes, stop it! Stop worrying about what you think you should be doing. What someone else is doing isn’t necessarily right for you. Heck, it may not even be right for them! Of course it’s natural to want to fit in and be accepted because it makes us feel happy but only when we’re being accepted for who we really are. Those quality people who truly care about us are not worrying about what car we’re driving or whether it’s time we got a promotion but ONLY about our wellbeing. They want to spend time with us because they like us, not some pseudo personality we’ve adopted to fit in. If people want to be with you for artificial reasons that’s not real friendship and cannot be counted as a positive relationship; you can bet your boots if you found yourself in hospital they wouldn’t be waiting at the ward door at five-to-visiting time with a bottle of Lucozade.

In order to attract positive relationships we must be true to ourselves. Take some time to think about what things are important to YOU and take small steps to draw them into your life. If you think it’s not “the norm” so what? So you like trainspotting/taxidermy/going to raves in neon lycra – then get on with it! When you scratch the surface of some of the people you think you know, I guarantee you’ll find a bit of a weirdo underneath their “normal” veneer. Someone who doesn’t fit the mould; isn’t the same as everyone else, in spite of what they might have you believe. And that’s because we are all the same in that we are all individual.

I used to know a girl called Diane Bowers who had a saying, “You’re weird if you’re not a bit weird.” Isn’t that a great saying? Eight words that speak volumes. One of my interpretations is that she finds you strange if she is unable to properly connect with you because you’re covering up your true self; the things that may be a bit different, that make you YOU.

So if, like psychologists say, the most important factor in happiness is having positive relationships and if, like Diane says, it’s impossible to properly connect with someone who is hiding their true self, then doesn’t it follow that the only way you’ll ever be truly happy is to be your true self? I think it does, ya weirdo. ;o)

Saturday, 1 January 2011

Morgan and coke

Continuing my theme of reiterating amusing conversations, I'd like to share with you one which highlights some obvious but surprisingly frequent boy-meets-girl-in-a-club faux-pas.

On a lively dance floor, 2am, New Year's Day, a decent-looking but over-zealous bloke started dancing with me.

Bloke: Was that your boyfriend?
Me: Huh? No.
Bloke: Is your boyfriend here?
Me: [continuing to dance] No, I don't have a boyfriend.
Bloke: What's your name?
Me: Cherry.
Bloke: [feigning a swoon] Whoa, sexy. I also have a sexy name.
Me: [feigning belief] Really?
Bloke: Yes, it's Morgan.
Me: Ohhh, nice, hello Morgan.
Morgan: So, how old are you?
Me: I'm sorry?
Morgan: How old are you? What, 19, 20..?
Me: Are you serious? Why are you asking me that?
Morgan: Beautiful: tick! Single: tick! Just wondering how old you are...
Me: How old are YOU?
Morgan: How old do you think I am?
Me: [peering through the disco lights] I don't know... 26?
Morgan: So, how old are you?
Me: How old are YOU?
Morgan: Errr, yeah, 26.
Me: [narrowing eyes suspiciously] Riiiight... Where are your friends?
Morgan: [scanning the room] Errm... Where are yours?
Me: [shrugging] Scattered.
Morgan: Yeah, mine are scattered.

After less than another 10 seconds, and before I could calculate what was happening, Morgan's arms were around my neck and his tongue was trying to get into my mouth. I struggled free whilst attempting to remain courteous.

Me: [re-organising my hair] Excuse me, I need to use the bathroom.
Morgan: [nodding and looking disappointed like he knew he'd fucked up] OK.

Good grief, am I old fashioned? He didn't even offer to buy me a drink! Obviously I didn't return.