Still


I Like for You to Be Still – by Pablo Neruda

I like for you to be still
It is as though you are absent
And you hear me from far away
And my voice does not touch you
It seems as though your eyes had flown away
And it seems that a kiss had sealed your mouth
As all things are filled with my soul
You emerge from the things
Filled with my soul
You are like my soul
A butterfly of dream
And you are like the word: Melancholy

I like for you to be still
And you seem far away
It sounds as though you are lamenting
A butterfly cooing like a dove
And you hear me from far away
And my voice does not reach you
Let me come to be still in your silence
And let me talk to you with your silence
That is bright as a lamp
Simple, as a ring
You are like the night
With its stillness and constellations
Your silence is that of a star
As remote and candid

I like for you to be still
It is as though you are absent
Distant and full of sorrow
So you would've died
One word then, One smile is enough
And I'm happy;
Happy that it's not true

Spread a Little Happiness


This is a simple and sweet story of a man who is offering a wonderful expression of love.  I especially love the simplicity and earnestness of this gesture and admire him for uncompromisingly opening his heart in such a wonderful way.

Once again thanks to Bowl of Miso for originally posting this – http://bowlofmiso.com/2012/02/24/yoshis-blend-brings-hope/

http://vimeo.com/mackfilm/yoshisblend

Not Just a Material Girl Part (2)


All health is in balance.

In neuroscience there are now a number of theories (e.g. the somatic marker hypothesis – SMH – to name just one) which suggest that our faculties of reason are just as impaired by lack of emotion as by an excess of emotion. Frequently, people who suffer damage to the ’emotion centres’ of the brain – while maintaining highly functional reasoning abilities – make very poor rational decisions. The theory is that the lack of ‘feed’ from the emotions (as it’s the only thing that has changed) is responsible for this poor decision making. So, it seems, that in order to make decisions based on logic and reason it is necessary to include input from processes which would which would appear to be the direct opposite of this process – namely feelings. (1)

The principle is clear in this study – even at an individual level we are systems of oneness, cohesive units in which every part and process has a contribution to make to the whole. Whenever this is not possible, an imbalance is necessarily created.

In other words, the question is not if the functioning of the whole will be affected by leaving out one of our faculties but rather how it will be affected.

Excluding any of our faculties, physical, mental, emotional, spiritual has exactly the same type of outcome. Relative to the circumstances, some parts will present more obviously than others but all need to be in good running order if we are to achieve optimum efficiency in any of our systems.  It isn’t a good idea to be run by any one of our ‘dimensions’ – not even our much prized Western intellectualism – coherence between all of our dimensions will always bring the best results. In other words, we need coherence between all of our systems to be effective in any one area of our functioning.

All health is in balance and coherence.  Inside as well as out…

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Not Just a Material Girl Part (1)


Two things can be true at the same time.

In order to create harmony within our societies we need to first create harmony within ourselves. How many internal and external struggles exist because we try to style ourselves as entirely one thing or another?

On the one hand we might see ourselves as totally rational beings, devoid of a ‘higher nature’ and motivated only by narrow self-interest – we’ve even given that story of ourselves a name – homo economicus.

On the other we might try the ascetic route and disappear into our non-material side to the extent that we deny – or at least don’t entertain – our physical/material selves.

Maybe it’s time we dropped the dichotomies?  Maybe it’s time we recognised them as the unhelpful and fragmenting conceptual constructs that they are and instead tried to see the whole picture in everything?

On an instinctive and intuitive level we know we are multi-dimensional beings – emotional, physical, mental, spiritual – we call our ‘dimensions’ by different names but we really do know our reality is much more than a simple physical, or even psychological, truth.

As Jordan Peterson, the Canadian psychologist points out,

Modern people are fundamentally materialistic…and the fact that we’re materialist in our scientific philosophy has made us extremely powerful, maybe too powerful for our morality but extremely powerful from a technological point of view. But it’s also blinded us to certain things and I think one of the things that it’s really blinded us to, is the nature of our own being.

Because we make the assumption that the fundamental constituent elements of reality are material we fail to notice that the fundamental constituent elements of our own reality are not material. They’re emotional, they’re motivational, they’re dreams, they’re visions they’re relationships with other people, they’re conscious, they’re dependant on consciousness and self-consciousness and we and we have absolutely no materialist explanation whatsoever either for consciousness or self-consciousness and we don’t deal well from a materialistic perspective with the qualities of being.

And everyone knows those qualities exist I mean for most people there’s nothing more real than their own pain. Pain transcends rational argument – you can’t argue yourself out of it, it’s just there. And materialist or not there are very few people who will allow the claim that their pain is merely an epiphenomenon of some more material process. Pain is fundamental. Consciousness is fundamental. (1)

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Photograph – The photo of the Schie sisters at 71 – is part of a larger series, taken by photographer Barbro Fauske Steinde in 1989.
See the rest of the photo series of the Schie sisters on our web sitewww.arkivverket.no/webfelles/manedens/mars2009/hovedside….

(1) Jordan Petersen – Virtue as a Necessity

Stories Are Us


We use stories for everything – it’s how we understand the world. 

We tell ourselves stories to explain what happens inside our heads – “I think I fell in love with her that day I saw her walk across the street in the rain.”

We tell ourselves stories to explain what happens inside our bodies – “As soon as I eat mushrooms I can feel the blood rush to my head.”

We tell ourselves stories to explain what happens outside us – “Everything was OK until the day he got that job and left for China.”

Even when we go crazy we invent new stories to explain the surreal world to ourselves.  To others it may be hard to understand what we are thinking and doing but even so, regardless of how mad we really are, within us we are following a definite, coherent narrative that makes sense within it’s own world.

We work our way through the maze that is life because we narrate our lives to ourselves,

to each other,

out of the past,

into the future.

Coarse and delicate, soft and hard, terrifying, comforting, hopeful, black and white and grey and red and pain and flow and plans and hopes and kisses and tears and touches and blows and green and hot and then and then and then…

The destiny of the world is determined less by the battles that are lost and won than by the stories it loves and believes in.  
-Harold Goddard

This is How We’re All Connected


We all know that we are connected to our loved ones.

Many of us can tell stranger-than-fiction stories about incidents in our lives when we have ‘known’ something and we cannot explain quite how we do know it.

Perhaps our experience of these connections becomes conscious when we are also conscious of how we feel about another person?

But conscious or otherwise.

Known or ignored.

For better or worse.

We are all connected to everyone else on the planet – even when we don’t know them or love them or think about them.

This is just a material fact.

It doesn’t need to be taken on faith alone because this is how it works…

Thanks to Michaela at The Living Room for finding that wonderful clip – http://room4truth.com/2012/02/22/why-everything-is-connected-to-everything-else/

The entire programme from which this clip is taken is well worth watching – here is the link to Part I, in case you are interested (the other parts are also on YouTube)

Whispering, Murmuring, Swarming, Pulsating Wonder


English: The flock of starlings acting as a sw...

a murmuration of starlings

At the heart of the universe is a steady, insistent beat: the sound of cycles in sync. It pervades nature at every scale from the nucleus to the cosmos…thousands of fireflies congregate in the mangroves and flash in unison, without any leader or cue from the environment. Trillions of electrons march in lockstep in a superconductor, enabling electricity to flow…In the solar system, gravitational synchrony can eject huge boulders out of the asteroid belt and towards Earth…Even our bodies are symphonies of rhythm, kept alive by the relentless, coordinated firing of thousands of pacemaker cells in our hearts.  In every case, these feats of synchrony occur spontaneously, almost as if nature had an eerie yearning for order. (1)

Synchrony is a spontaneous tendency towards united order and it is the most pervasive drive in all of nature.  As a phenomenon, it occurs right across the board – from inanimate objects to complex organisms like human beings.

We wring our hands in despair when we see the difficulties around us in the world, positive that we can never learn to work – or even live – together in unity.

And yet metronomes, starlings, pacemaker cells and schools of fish can spontaneously work together with ease.

Why?

If this is a natural condition, then why do we, sophisticated as we are, have such huge difficulty accessing it?

If we increased our powers of empathy and extended our understanding of love would that increase the ‘harmony’ between us?

Are we somehow getting in our own way?

And if so, how exactly are we doing this?


This is an amazing – and totally beautiful – video.  Enjoy.

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(1) Steven Strogatz, Sync.

The Magnificent Self-Made Person


Everyone is familiar with the concept of the ‘self-made’ person – the man or woman who pulls themselves up by the bootstraps – (usually) from poverty – and (usually) makes a great deal of money.  This person is lauded and admired and held up as a example to all of us of how we can succeed in the world in spite of humble beginnings.

But there is a much more powerful way to understand the concept of being ‘self made’.

A way that isn’t as widely recognised but which is much more important for our well-being than mere financial success.

We can come to see that we are truly the creators of ourselves – because…

If we act with kindness – we become kind people.

If we act with generosity – we become generous people.

If we act in a courageous fashion – we become brave people.

And so on.

These actions of ours are what confer our real identities on us.

Not the circumstances of our birth.

Not whether or not we were lucky or unlucky in the ‘decent parents’ and ‘enough to eat’ lotteries.

Not our gender or race or how wealthy or educated or lucky or even beloved we were in our early lives.

Not our unemployment or accomplishment or even our successes.

I am not underestimating the difficulties of overcoming abuse or grinding poverty or neglect or abandonment or grief or the myriad other things that cause us suffering.  All the pain in the world is real and it all deserves to be acknowledged and alleviated if at all possible – it just doesn’t get to define us.

This may seem like a small point but I feel it is of vital importance in a world where when we’ve been victims we are afraid to say we have suffered, because we are frightened to be labelled as broken in some important way that makes us less valuable or capable or wise.

We are afraid that we are tainted by our suffering when, in fact, suffering has the capacity to make us stronger – like tempered steel – and more valuable, capable or wise than those who have suffered less.

Or, as Khalil Gibran puts it,

Out of suffering have emerged the strongest souls; the most massive characters are seared with scars.

Refusing to be created and defined by our suffering gives us back our power.  The more we learn to feel pride – and shame – for our own actions, the less we feel ashamed of what may have befallen us in our lives.

And it’s not all about ourselves.  If we saw that we ourselves are the sum total of our own deeds and not a misshapen creation of our victimisations, then we’d be able to see others in the same way.

If that happened, social stigma as a result of rape, poverty, abuse, disability etc, would evaporate like a mist and, while the pain of the ‘suffering’ would still exist, at least it wouldn’t be complicated by undeserved shame.

We may not always have a say as to how we suffer but we do have a say in how we see it.

So, in the spirit of real self-sufficiency, let’s try to be the magnificent, scarred, battle-weary, tempered, self-made people we were always meant to be…

The mind and spirit of man advance when he is tried by suffering. The more the ground is ploughed the better the seed will grow, the better the harvest will be. Just as the plough furrows the earth deeply, purifying it of weeds and thistles, so suffering and tribulation free man from the petty affairs of this worldly life until he arrives at a state of complete detachment. (1)

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Picture: UNICEF/Rokiatou Guindo

(1) ‘Abdu’l-Bahá, Paris Talks, pp 178-9

Can You See Now?


A mother and daughter travelled the world to film stories of ordinary people making a difference.  This is their story –

http://openingoureyes.net/our-subjects/

Thanks to Katherine at Bowl of Miso – http://bowlofmiso.com/2012/02/18/opening-our-eyes/ – for pointing me in the direction of this very interesting video.

The Contagion of Sadness


 

Sadness is not contagious.  In our valiant efforts to be constructive and positive in a world full of difficulty, we can mistake avoiding the distress of others for a way of maintaining our own positivity.

Thanks to our mirror neurons and our natural empathy with other living creatures, encountering sadness most definitely touches us and can even make us feel upset.

But while avoiding the pain of others may momentarily make us feel better, it doesn’t really contribute to our own well-being – or even our own happiness.

Engaging with others in their suffering has an important place in our development as individuals and as societies.

The Charter for Compassion, founder, Karen Armstrong, has some interesting points to make about this subject.

In Buddhism, compassion (karuna) is defined as a determination to liberate others from their grief, something that is impossible if we do not admit to our own unhappiness and misery…It is, of course, important to encourage the positive, but it is also crucial sometimes to allow ourselves to mourn…Today there is often a degree of heartlessness in our determined good cheer, because if we simply tell people to be ‘positive’ when they speak to us of their sorrow, we may leave them feeling misunderstood and isolated in their distress.  Somebody once told me that when she had cancer, the hardest thing of all was her friends’ relentless insistence that she adopt a positive attitude; they refused to let her discuss her fears – probably because they were frightened by her disease and found it an uncomfortable reminder of their own mortality… (1)

Life is hard and trying to maintain a constructive and positive outlook is both necessary and challenging.  The distress of others will seldom prove to be a cause of unbearable suffering within ourselves.  Occasionally, someone else’s story may resonate so strongly with our own that we do feel pain – but that pain is not caused by anyone else’s pain, it is our own pain. It is already there and might just need an occasional remembrance if we are to maintain a mostly positive and constructive outlook.

There are consequences for us collectively, and as individuals, when we intentionally turn away from the pain we encounter.  We might believe we are better off because we have avoided any collateral sadness involved, but we may well have paid a very high price for this momentary comfort.

Because when we do this we lose something so important it isn’t worth the tiny gain – we lose not only an opportunity to bring comfort to another human being but also the strongest thread that can bring us to our own happiness – a connection to our personal suffering.  Without this connection we can’t offer compassion to ourselves and so, we will struggle with our quest for happiness, no matter how often we look the other way.

As Karen Armstrong puts it so beautifully,

…make a conscious effort to look back on the events that have caused you distress in the past…Make a deliberate effort to inhabit those moments fully and send a message of encouragement and sympathy to your former self.  The object of this exercise is not to leave you wallowing in self-pity.  The vivid memory of painful times past is a reservoir on which you can draw when you try to live according to the Golden Rule.*  By remembering your own sorrow vividly, you will make it possible for yourself to feel empathy with others. (2)

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*There are many variants of the Golden Rule but they all boil down to the same message – Always treat others as you would wish to be treated yourself.

(1) Karen Armstrong, Twelve Steps to a Compassionate Life, pp 72-3

(2) ibid, p. 73

Two young children, one crying. 1922. Stanley Field Expedition to British Guiana

Participants: Bror E. Dahlgren and John R. Millar