Category Archives: Love

Perfection? Pfffffft!

I was talking to some friends online today, about parenthood, its quagmires, minefields and opportunities for guilt and self-doubt. We were discussing the fact that, however hard you try, however much you put into it, however you beat yourself up, you’ll never get it ‘right’. You can do it well. Or sometimes you’ll do it badly. You will have successes and failures. Some things will make your heart sing, others will feel like total defeats. And when it goes well, you will file that lesson away for future use in similar circumstances. And when it bellyflops and leaves you scrabbling in the dirt, you’ll file that away, too. And try not to do it that way ever again πŸ˜‰ That’s not to even mention the decisions we make for ourselves that impact our children, and the hours, days and weeks of agonising over them… Being a parent is a part of our journey, of our learning experience through this life and it is as much about teaching us to be a more compassionate human being as it is about guiding them through their own pitfalls and giving them the tools to be independent and compassionate adults in their own rights. Where and if at all possible.

Because our children also have their own paths to follow. They will have issues they have to deal with when they are older, and we cannot avoid that. We cannot make it perfect for them. “Perfect” doesn’t exist! I had a long conversation with my eldest son a while ago, during which I explained that I would always do the best I could for him, but that I knew very well that some of the decisions I make during his childhood will translate into ‘issues’ when he’s an adult. Our issues come from our experience, and for the longest time our experience is our childhood, no matter how perfect our parents were or how hard they tried. And that isn’t their fault (I don’t find that especially easy to write, by the way, but I do know it’s true). It’s the nature of the beast.

Ah. “Perfect doesn’t exist. It didn’t feel right writing that. Because, actually, I don’t believe it. But not in the way I meant it. Not that I mean to tie you in knots.

What I mean is that you, and your child/ren are perfect. You are the perfect tools by which to learn… whatever it is you are here to learn. Each of you. Your combination is perfect. I know. I know this sounds controversial. But it isn’t really. It’s easy to get bogged down in horrific specifics but that would be to misunderstand the point. If, for example, you found yourself in an abusive situation, you would learn from it. Whether that situation had an ultimately positive or negative outcome, it would still be a learning experience. And the younger you are, the more helpless and dependent you are, which is why these ‘issues’ have to be tackled when we’re older. So, just because it’s a simple equation, that doesn’t mean it isn’t unbearably difficult sometimes. Does that make sense? I hope so.

In slightly other news, I found this today. I loved it. An extremely healthy lesson in empathy:

Walk a mile in my shoes

Walk a mile in my shoes


Dietary requirements

I know I’ve mentioned before that Teddy’s ‘connectedness’ with his environment is directly linked to the healthy functioning of his little body. If Teddy’s system is happy, he is with us. If it is distressed, he is disconnected. It’s really terribly simple.

But as simple as it may be, we didn’t work it out for the best part of two and a half years. The pieces of the puzzle fell into place in a beautiful dance of awakening.Β  Last Easter we finally admitted to ourselves that something was ‘not right’ with Teddy’s development. His father was talking to his own mother about it and they discussed autism. She then mentioned an article she had read about diet, and… the rest is trial and error.

Through painstaking trial and error, in fact, we have discovered that Teddy’s tummy is happiest when he is on a wheat-free, dairy-free and salicylate-free diet. What are salicylates? I hear you ask in horror… I did too πŸ™‚ (follow the link to Wikipedia for more) The unfortunate news is that they are a naturally occurring pesticide to be found in all those foods you are proud of yourself for persuading your babe to eat: broccoli, for example, which Teddy loved. Grrrrr. And so began a couple of months of being chained to the cooker whilst attempting to find foodstuffs and alternatives that our littl’un could eat and tolerate. One of the biggest problems with intolerances is that the ‘alternatives’ have so many additives, preservatives, and last but not least, substitutes that are also untolerated, not to mention the fact that they are ridiculously overpriced as they have a desperate captive market, that they are simply not viable as the alternatives they set themselves up to be.

Just as each child is different, just as each child with autism is different, so is each child’s digestive system and tolerance / intolerance makeup. And with Ted, we have discovered that while wheat is a big no-no (we also avoid it due to intolerances – check out Wheat Belly if you are remotely concerned you might struggle with its digestion, too), its ancient predecessor spelt is just fine. So home-baked spelt bread, biscuits and cakes baked using spelt instead etc are all fine, if a little labour intensive. We have tried a plethora of milk alternatives: oat milk (he was horrified), KOKO – coconut is no good, soya he can’t tolerate and almond milk contains, however trace it may be, cyanide, and the one he finally settled on is rice milk. While he won’t drink it, it can be substituted for any milk in any recipe. And PURE sunflower margarine, or Vitalite takes the place of butter. For a long while he had no cheese at all, but we have now worked out that goat’s cheese – the hard white variety – is okay.Β  The only fruit he is allowed is Golden Delicious apples, peeled and cored, or pears. Ditto. But a little imagination goes a long way. While shop-bought sausage rolls are no good, an allergy-happy alternative is mince with onions, grated pear, parsley, in a spelt and PURE pastry. And they’re delicious. But it is time consuming. It’s back to basics stuff. The simpler the better. All home-cooked. Motherhood at its most primal. The latest technologies, fast foods, easy meals… they may just as well not exist…

Can you hear the exhausting labyrinth of ‘cooked, rejected; cooked tolerated; cooked, loved’ through this monologue? πŸ˜‰

There is a wealth of cookbooks out there, and a wealth of information. You can find recipes on Pinterest, on Mumsnet forums, oh everywhere. But the difficult truth is, all you can do is work it out for yourself.

But it is all worth it.

For those mornings after the days you got it right, when you open his bedroom door and, rather than a small person who barely notices your existence, who is locked away in his own little world, a bright-eyed and bushy-tailed toddler bounces up to you, looks you right in the eye and says “Hello Mummy.”

That’s when you remember what it’s all for. ❀

Teddy and Daddy.  Connected.

Teddy and Daddy.
Connected.

Note: I would dearly love for this, too, to be a place where we can share recipes. If you have any successful recipes you’d like to share, please do comment and we’ll get a page together where I can post them for everybody. Thank you. πŸ™‚

Trying on a new hat for a good fit…

autism3I’m considering having this made into a t-shirt πŸ˜‰

Generally speaking, in our daily lives, we are fortunate enough to have a wide circle of loving and understanding friends, who have made it their mission to investigate the situation we find ourselves in with Ted, and how best to interact with and understand him. Those who cannot understand it, or who expect us to ‘carry on as normal’, have naturally fallen by the wayside. Without rancour, but it is much too stressful to pretend to be something you are not, to have to keep apologising for something that should require no apology, to navigate places and people who have unrealistic expectations of what is possible. It is a much less stressful proposition, we have learned, to have a meal with friends at their house, or at ours, than to attempt to sit through a meal in a restaurant. Although we are learning those little tricks I have mentioned before (stocking up on little toys from pound shops etc) to get through such situations, should we have to.

We don’t encounter too many folks who clearly weren’t told not to stare as curious children, but the sad fact is that we tend to avoid areas and situations where there are too many people or too many expectations to conform to a standard mode of behaviour since, as I have mentioned before, judgment is never far behind when you are attempting to live a ‘normal’ life out in the big, wide world, with an autistic child in tow. And of course, as I have said before, part of the issue is that there is nothing obviously marking an autistic child as autistic. By and large, an autistic child looks like any other child. Which reminds me, I also love this:

met one

Because the fact is, while autism has many common traits, no two children display the exact same ones, and like every other child on the planet, each is different. So there is a very real danger of making assumptions or basing expectations for a child with autism on your experience of another, totally different child.

At the outset of Teddy’s investigations I, too, was guilty of the sentiment behind one of the most common exclamations I hear:

“Oh, I thought they weren’t supposed to be able to do that!”

It’s a difficult statement on many levels. First, your child is being lumped in with everyone else, which is never a comfortable situation, even without the challenges that autism brings. Secondly, it can engender a very uncomfortable desire to defend the diagnosis and, if you are not careful, you can find yourself listing all the ways in which he does conform to it. That brings with it a horribly dirty feeling of betraying your child, since you spend the vast majority of your life with this small beloved person focusing on the positive. On what he can and does do.

A simple example to demonstrate this point is that many autistic children cannot stand to be touched. Teddy, on the other hand, spends that small portion of his life that he is not running around his immediate environment, climbing furniture, or demanding food, snuggled into or onto either of his parents, usually with the command: “Big cuddle!”

You know what? It’s a minefield. You think one thing is positive and a sign of hope, and then someone in the field of paediatric care comes along and says “Ah yes, they often do that. It means…” something completely opposed to the hopeful spin you had given it.

But no matter what anyone else thinks, says, or has experienced, Teddy surprises and delights us every day. The moments in which we throw one another puzzled or dismayed glances at some particularly troubling new development or behaviour are regularly and completely eclipsed by the moments in which our hearts and souls soar with love, pride and joy at some tiny, tiny milestone we were never sure he’d reach.Β Speaking to his occupational therapist the other day, I said to her “It’s baby steps, really…” and she looked at me quizzically.

“Have you said that before, during this meeting?”

“No. That’s the first time.”

She paused.

“Then it was one of the mothers I saw this morning. The exact same words, in the exact same tone.”

There’s a reason for that.

As soon as the word autism has been heard (and you will never unhear it), the facts, experiences, and literature ingested and digested, the biggest and most helpful thing you can do is open your mind (your heart, of course, is already cracked wide open) to everything. And your eyes and ears. Because, if you are not careful, you can miss those baby steps.

Two years ago, when Teddy was progressing more or less as you would expect for an 18-month old child, he could tell you all the sounds the animals make. It was one of our favourite party tricks and I remember very clearly the pride we felt as we heard his beautiful responses.

As he became less and less verbal and responsive, he stopped doing that.

But with the acceptance of his challenges, investigations into changing his diet which produced immediate and dramatic results, we have watched him slowly coming back to us.

Driving to nursery the other morning, we passed a field of cows.

“Moo,” said a little voice from the back seat.

Baby step. Don’t miss it!

“Yes…! … Teddy? What does a sheep say?”

“Baa!”

“Yes! What does a dog say?”

“Woof woof!”

Once, such responses were taken for granted. Now, the smallest response can set you up for the rest of the day. Once, I was grateful for big things, and took the rest for granted. Now, the smallest things rock my world.

If you want your child to be understood, I have begun to learn, then you need to teach people how to understand him.

autism2


Peaks and Troughs

I don’t think my heart has ever been this heavy.

But, paradoxically, I don’t think it has been as light either.

Which, I suppose, brings a kind of balance to life, doesn’t it?

Yes, we’re on autism again πŸ™‚

It’s all so relatively new, and we’re wading through it, learning more each day, struggling through the hard times: the unpredictable and sudden lashings out and meltdowns; rejoicing in the good: taking Linsey’s hand and walking into nursery without a backwards glance. Grateful, oh so grateful, for people like Linsey, who understand. And friends, too, with children on the spectrum, or with other challenges, who are not only mines of information, but incredible support. These are the ones (and you know who you are) to whom you can make confessions nobody else would really know how to respond to. You can say to them “I don’t know if I’m cut out for this” and they know what you mean. They know you don’t mean “I’m about to run away, this is too much”. They know you do mean “I’m struggling. This is tough. Sometimes I just can’t get my head around it”. They know you’re not feeling sorry for yourself, but that you are full of worries: how will he be accepted by the world, what will he struggle with, how much will he be capable of, will he ever have any independence, how much has he progressed already, what can I expect for him, I don’t know I don’t know I don’t know what’s normal…?!

And then they tell you you need an SEN. And you look at them blankly. “A Statement of Educational Needs” they explain. And you nod as if you suddenly and miraculously understand. But you don’t, really. So you own up. Why? What is it for? “It’s so he can get the help he’ll need.” Oh. It will tell you how severe he is. If he gets a level this or a level that will make all the difference. You find yourself hoping he gets a levelΒ that so he can get more care, even though a level that means he’s more challenged… And you chide yourself for wishing such a thing.

They ask you to fill in a form about him. They explain that they will, too, and that when you read theirs you mustn’t be dismayed by how negative it sounds. It’s just so he can get the help he needs.

It’s a strange in-between world you’re asked to inhabit at this point. You spend your life looking at the positives, noticing the tiniest yardsticks of progress: “He just said ‘Where ‘loon gone?’! That’s a whole question!” “Did you hear that? He just said ‘Door’! He wants you to open it!”
And then there’s the other place where they want you to look at all the challenges, all the difficulties he has, all the things you spend your daily life glossing over, ignoring, attempting to improve without actually saying them out loud. You find yourself on this strange rollercoaster of believing the best whilst being asked to prove the worst.

I don’t mind telling you it’s tough.

Then you have nights like tonight, where you’re plum tuckered out with it all, and he’s just dumped two pints of water out of the bath all over the floor, and your strength is waning.

And you get him out, onto your bed to get his jim-jams on, and his chubby little arms snake around your neck. He sticks his little lips out, as he’s seen the frog do in his favourite film, and he pulls you in for little hot kiss after little hot kiss. Then he just holds you, around the neck, your cheek on his cheek, and before you know it, his breathing has become deep and even and he’s fallen asleep.

His world is exhausting.

And you dress him through his sleep, and deposit him in the strange makeshift bed on the floor (because he refuses to sleep in a real bed) and you’re on a strange and wonderful high.

Those little arms are still around my neck.

And, believe me when I say this, because it’s from the heart, suddenly I remember: I’m grateful.

Addendum: I guess, what I’m really trying to say, is that it’s all too easy to lose sight of Teddy in the sea of ‘requirements’… And Teddy, put simply, is perfect. Just as he is. πŸ™‚

My Two Wolves

I’m sure this story isn’t new to many of those reading this. But it bears repeating since, like so many things in this adventure called life, it is just a strand of the tapestry that has recently taken a more discernible form in my consciousness.

So here it is:

An old Cherokee is teaching his grandson about life.

β€œMy child, there is a battle raging inside us all. It is between two wolves.

β€œOne is Evil – It is anger, fear, envy, jealousy, sorrow, regret, greed, arrogance, self-pity, guilt, resentment, inferiority, lies, false pride, superiority, and ego.

β€œThe other is Good – It is joy, peace, love, hope, serenity, humility, kindness, benevolence, empathy, generosity, truth, compassion and faith.”

The grandson thinks about this for a minute or two.

β€œWhich wolf wins?”

β€œThe one you feed.”

It’s simple, isn’t it?

But, like so many things of such apparent simplicity, although 1) it’s true, 2) it’s much more easily said than done. Partly because the battle isn’t confined to an arena within ourselves. And ye gods, it’s a tough enough battle when it is confined to that arena.

Before I go any further, I’m not talking here about good and evil. There is no evaluation or judgement in what I am trying to say. What has become abundantly clear to me is that so much human relationship goes wrong when the relating is fear-based, and love is forgotten.

There is of course, the moment you start talking about love, a very real danger of sounding like a blissed-out hippie (which is no bad thing in itself, incidentally πŸ˜‰ ) I mean, the Beatles, man. They said it, right? “All you need is love”? And YES! I want to shout. It’s TRUE! And if everyone is operating from the same field, removing ego from the game, without becoming a doormat (another fine balance) then there’s nothing to fear. You’re safe to love, and to be loved.

Trouble is, as I see it, if one person is operating from love, and the other from fear, the wolf driven by fear will keep on, teeth bared, until one of you backs down. Usually Love, because Fear will just continue attacking, for fear of being attacked. At which point, after repeated attempts to stop the fight, a few bite-marks and battle-scars acquired, Love shrugs his shoulders, patches up his wounds, and whispers (inaudibly, to Fear) “When you’ve lost your snarl, retracted your teeth and claws, I’ll be here. Until then…”

It seems to be another truth that people will suspect you of operating as they do. Their prediction of your response is based upon the way they would respond in the same circumstances. And if you are driven by fear, then attack is your predominant modus operandi – kill or be killed – and you will expect attack from everyone else, regardless of the wolf they feed. You feed fear, so you expect everyone else to.

It is a very difficult thing, eschewing fear and embracing love. (It is actually also proving rather difficult to talk about without sounding… oh, I don’t know, trite, or naive, or as though you have all the answers – hah!) Maybe it’s something you can achieve once and for all. Eventually. When you attain enlightenment. πŸ™‚

But for most of us, it is a battle we are invited to on a daily basis. And the most important thing I have learned about this fight,Β every single time it comes around, is:

The more you feed love, the stronger it becomes.

And fear? Well, it just kind of ceases to matter….

 


A life’s work. A gradual dawning. Acceptance.

He bit someone today.

She loves him. But he bit her. Not out of spite or malice. But because she was trying to get him to follow the rules. Rules that he, in his little autistic world, didn’t want to follow. Rules that, if he broke them, would cause anarchy in the nursery school. So she carried him away from the wet, slippery, tyre playground. And he bit her.

Broke the skin on her arm and bruised it.

Even as she told me, as she showed me her arm, she told me how well he is doing, how brilliantly he is adapting to nursery school, how fond she is of him…

Being given an autistic child is, without a doubt, the toughest challenge yet. I’ve been through divorce, estrangement from my family of origin, house moves to different parts of the country… All processed and accepted.

But this is all new.

It is unconditional love at its purest and simplest. I don’t know what he thinks, how he feels, what he can process, what will set him off. I can guess at all these things, but I don’t know. Any given moment could be a ‘good’ one or a ‘bad’ one. He may throw his arms around me for a ‘big cuddle!’, or kick out at me, pull my hair and knock my glasses off.

He struggled as I strapped him in the car, kicked. Lunged for my hair. Reached for my glasses.

I drove home weeping. The sadness threatened to overwhelm me.

I parked the car, turned on my phone, found this:

“The 9th principle of Buddhist psychology in The Wise Heart: Wisdom knows what feelings are present without being lost in them.

From the perspective of Buddhist psychology, each sight, sound, taste, touch, smell or thought will have either a pleasant, painful or neutral quality – one of the primary feeling tones. Then, born out of this simple feeling tone, there arises a whole array of “secondary feelings” – all the emotions we are familiar with, from joy and anger to fear and delight. It can be quite a lot!

This stream of feelings is always with us, and yet we sometimes have the mistaken notion that life is not supposed to be this way… When a painful experience arises we might think we have done something wrong, and we try to get rid of it by ignoring or changing it.

As we become wiser we realize that fixing the flow of feelings doesn’t work. Primary feelings are simply feelings, and every day consists of thousands of pleasant, painful and neutral moments, for you, Condoleezza Rice, the Dalai Lama, Mick Jagger and the Buddha alike. These feelings are not wrong or bad. They are the stream of life.

Jack Kornfield

The low gives meaning to the high. The sad to the happy. The ‘bad’ to the ‘good’.

And vice versa.

So often I repeat these words to friends: this too shall pass.

This time, I say it for me: This Too Shall Pass.

I am grateful.

I am grateful for the love she showed my beloved son even through the necessity of showing me what he, through no fault of his own, had done. I am grateful for his ‘big cuddles’ and for his love.

I am grateful for the unlocking of my heart that loving him is giving me. For having him in my life.

And today. Today, I am sad.

But, with the help of Jack Kornfield’s timely reminder, I will not get lost in it.


Teddy. No more. No less.

http://firstolympian.tumblr.com/post/61590796969/a-break-from-beard-oil-time-to-focus-on


Wisdom

 

Synchronicities abound once again.

I hear something.

I like it.

Maybe I make a note of it.

I move on.

It snags my attention elsewhere, in a new guise.

And I smile to myself, grateful for the signpost. πŸ™‚

wisdom

So, (you might be forgiven for thinking you’ve read this sentence before) I was listening to Wayne Dyer: Change Your Thoughts, Change Your Life. At times of increased stress / distress, I find his gentle voice and helpful interpretations of Lao Tzu’s Tao Teh Ching have the power to ground and balance me more quickly and efficiently than I can manage alone.

He quoted Henry David Thoreau, including the line from the photograph above, and it got me thinking.

It’s all about worry, really, isn’t it?

And, like all ‘spiritual tenets’, voicing it aloud puts you in danger of being thought naive. But I’ve long given up caring about others’ opinions of me – that one is a lesson well learned (remember our mantra? “What you think of me is none of my business“) πŸ˜‰

While you are forming in the womb, after you are born, in your early months as a baby, you don’t worry. You’re not concerned where your next meal is coming from, or if it’s coming at all. You don’t lie awake at night hoping you’ll still have a roof over your bed the following night. Frankly (and sadly) even if you are born into a horrendous situation, you just accept. You expect your next meal to arrive when you’re hungry and, for the majority of us reading this post (and the person writing it), it does.

If you translate that to your life now, the vast majority of us, again, have made it – we’re still here; nothing we spent hours, days, weeks, months or even years worrying about actually killed us. We wake up to embrace, fight, love, struggle, soar, work through another day. The things we wasted so much now worrying about, have become a then we can barely even remember.

worry

But there is more to it even than that.

When you’re a baby, and your hunger is being alleviated through the next meal that didn’t fail to arrive, and your tummy is full, you turn your head away. You don’t stockpile your food in case the next meal doesn’t come. You don’t demand more, regardless of those around you who are also hungry, simply because you believe that your needs are greater than anyone else’s.

And then a friend posted this (click to read it):

greed2I love this guy’s intensity. πŸ™‚

He’s right of course. We all need just what we need to survive, in comfort is nice but not necessary; in luxury is fortunate, but not necessary. The pressure we put on ourselves in desperate pursuit of the ‘more’ that we feel we need can only lead to suffering. We lose sleep. Our health – both physical and mental – suffers. Our relationships fail.

Is it worth it?

I remember listening to another of my favourites – Jack Kornfield – some time ago. He told this story (cut very short here):

Two friends attend the funeral of a wealthy man.

One whispers to the other:

“How much did he leave?”

His friend, visibly surprised, replies:

“Why, everything of course!”

Follow your path, keep your integrity, work steadily towards your goal, and you will be okay.

Finally, for today, this too is one of my favourites (there is some debate about who this quote should actually be attributed to, but I struggle to care about that either – it’s the meaning that is important after all):

the-endPeace out πŸ˜‰ x


Too many cooks

I was in another room.

This is what I heard.

“No, you can’t have any more! You had loads on the last one!”

Uh-oh.

That’s like the starting bell at the beginning of a round at a boxing match.

I’ll set the scene.

It’s breakfast. Which on a school day is big American pancakes made, thanks to various dietary anomalies, with spelt flour and rice milk. They’re eaten in various ways, but the most popular is with golden syrup, which I now buy in bulk πŸ™‚

Bertie, aged 6, coming in at number four of five boys, and possibly the most audible member of the household, applied his own syrup this morning. But the plate is small, had two pancakes on it one atop the other and, once the first was consumed, the second looked tragically bare.

So he’d come back for more.

Only to encounter two older brothers, who had their own opinions on what he should or shouldn’t have, was or wasn’t allowed… With, it appears, no regard for Bertie’s breakfast.

It would only have taken imagining the paucity of their own pancake under similar circumstances to ignite a little compassion, wouldn’t it?

Control.

It’s not the first time, either.

With an age range of children under this roof from 3 to 13, we have a wealth of books, something for every ability. They wander, these tomes, between bedrooms according to who wants to read what and when.

At bedtime the other evening, Bertie was trying to choose something to read. He bypassed a whole pile, and when I questioned him, replied: “I’m not allowed to read those ones. I’m too little.”

Of course, it emerged that he had wanted to try, but been told not to by an older brother. I had become quite cross at this point, and asked said older brother how he was to learn if he wasn’t allowed to try?

I am a firm believer that we learn from our mistakes. Perhaps a more positive way of expressing that is that we learn from what we do that works, and what we do that doesn’t. But that does, of course, require our being allowed to experiment. It’s no good trying to mould yourself to fit someone else’s idea of what life is, means, requires of you, or someone else’s idea of who you should be, no matter their status in your life, perceived or biological.

The way I see it is that your need to control others is directly proportional to the necessity to learn self-mastery. The more you learn to control yourself, the less you feel the need to control anyone else.

The questions for these big brothers are Why does it matter to you? Why is it important to you how much syrup your brother has? Why do you mind what books he reads? Teaching them to turn that spotlight inwards and examine their driving forces…

I am also aware of the necessity to avoid making assumptions or ascribing motivations, such as “Are you jealous of his ‘extra’ syrup? Is it because you didn’t get more?” It is all too easy to make terribly ungenerous assumptions about people’s motivations. I read yesterday something that was rather synchronous, given the various lessons on autism going on under our roof just now, too. Don’t assume: ask questions. Make sure you have it clear. And try to assure that your questions themselves do not contain evaluation. Keep your mind entirely neutral as you seek the truth.

It’s going to be a lengthy process attempting to pass this wisdom on. After all, if we teach by example, and these are all lessons I am still very much needing to practice…

And lest we are feeling overly sorry for Bertie, he is unfortunately already learning by example and is capable of giving as good as he gets.

Self-mastery. It’s our lesson du jour. (…du mois… de l’annee… pour la vie) πŸ˜‰


Alchemy?

I’m constantly amazed by the way life works.

In awe, really.

I’ll start as I so often do: a few things have been tumbling around my head lately πŸ™‚

I suppose what it really is is an amalgamation, a sort of alchemical process by which several truisms, so often bandied about, posted on facebook (guilty as charged) and generally thrown casually into conversation that they have become cliches, have all become one big ole realisation somewhere deep down. Like dried yeast in warm water, it has bubbled up and popped on the surface of my awareness just in the last day or two, and I’ve been trying to find a way to express it.

Putting it into words is tricky – it’s much more a feeling, or… not even that… a kind of new part of what I have come to know, I suppose. Eek, you see? I’m already tripping over myself! I guess I’ll start by listing the four main components of this one new whole:

1) Orange Juice

This is the patently obvious truth that if you squeeze an orange, the only thing you’re going to get out of it is orange juice. You can’t squeeze it and expect a sparkling Pinot Grigio, or a glass of milk. In just the same way, if someone squeezes you, you can only react with something that is already inside you. Or, put another way, you can’t give something you haven’t got.

2) Hatred and Love

“Hatred cannot cease by hatred, but by love alone is healed.” Originating from the Buddha and used by such noble fellow beings as Gandhi and Martin Luther King.

3) Fear

Fear paralyses. Fear of the future (and what is a ‘What if…?’ if not fear of a future calamity?) is a waste of the present, leads to negative, defensive and angry pre-emptive behaviour, escalates animosity, perpetuates hatred… And the rest!

4) Boundaries

Accept no abuse. Value yourself more than that. You would not sit by and watch someone you loved being abused, so why allow it for yourself?

In some way or another all of these lessons have been kneaded and melted and moulded and shaped into a single way of being, of looking at myself and the world of my fellow human-beings.

First off, eliminate the fear and hatred, both of which we are all too easily seduced by. Like pretty much everyone else I have known the paralysis of fear, and I can categorically say it served no purpose whatever, neither in preparing me for what I had to face, nor in helping through it. We live through what we live through. We take the lessons from those situations that they had to teach us. And we carry them into the next.

“Security is mostly a superstition. It does not exist in nature, nor do the children of men as a whole experience it. Avoiding danger is no safer in the long run than outright exposure. Life is either a daring adventure, or nothing.”

– Helen Keller

Or indeed:

“I’ll tell you a secret about fear: it’s an absolutist. With fear, it’s all or nothing. Either, like any bullying tyrant, it rules your life with a stupid blinding omnipotence, or else you overthrow it, and its power vanishes in a puff of smoke. And another secret: the revolution against fear, the engendering of that tawdry despot’s fall, has more or less nothing to do with ‘courage’. It is driven by something much more straightforward: the simple need to get on with your life.”

– Salman Rushdie

The point I am trying to get across is this: if you can drive fear and hatred out of your heart (and I am not suggesting for a moment that a) this is easy or b) I have cracked it), then when you are squeezed they cannot come out. And if they cannot come out, there is more chance of healing both at a personal and a universal level. But this, too, is an affirmation of healthy boundaries. Because if there is no longer fear and hatred inside you, and you are squeezed (abuse is attempted), and a compassionate response has no discernible good effect, you can walk away with your boundaries intact and your inner life undisturbed. Nor, happily, are you likely to have made the situation worse. We cannot control others or their reactions, after all: only ourselves.

It’s all part of the process, and there are no shortcuts, but each milestone is an enormous liberation, containing enough lightness to propel you to the next. I’ve listened to a few of my favourite gurus today: Dr Wayne Dyer and Jack Kornfield being two of the most influential in the help with shaping my thoughts. Jack Kornfield described his return from years away, meditating and practising as a Buddhist monk. His mind was trained, he was an unflappable spiritual being… Until he came back to the States and discovered that he was really rubbish at relating with his fellow human beings. So his message must be that it’s all well and good understanding what this Practice is, what these lessons are, the path of least suffering, and it’s pretty easy to get a hold of, excel at even, when you are alone in a room, or meditating, or…

But using it in everyday life – there’s the challenge!