This week I have bought and drunk two kale and spinach smoothies. This would have been unheard of before now. I have always been very reluctant to even try vegetable juice, been vehemently anti food fads and super foods and so on and until recently I was fairly lax about eating properly. But I do not necessarily know what’s best. I used to be similarly dismissive of spirituality and religion, maintaining there was nothing whatsoever spiritual about me and that I didn’t believe in anything! I wonder now whether I should track back all the things I was sneery about as an angry young woman and cynical about as a grown up woman, and embrace them: starting with vegetable juice and moving onto, let’s see, success, money, forward planning, and miracles.
I went through a phase of being into the Law of Attraction and practicing The Secret but I could never get that excited about finding a parking space in a busy car park (partly because I would hate to have to reverse park into the one remaining space with a queue of cars behind me, parking not being my strong point), or visualising cheques in the mail. But I did and do believe in maintaining a level of serenity, openness and optimism which does inevitably make the day (and life) go better.
I’ve moved up a level now though. Recently I have been praying five times a day: in the morning before I go to work, at lunchtime, at the end of the working day before I go home, in the evening at home, and before bed. I kneel on the floor and say thank you and feel connected with God, and send distant healing to anyone on my list for the week. That’s it. And, oh my, what an effect it is having!
Everywhere, people seem so happy and friendly. At the swimming pool, I heard three lots of children having a really fun time with their parents, lots of laughter and no stress. In the supermarket a dad was having a laugh with his adolescent daughter, threatening to embarrass her by dancing, they were both laughing and caught my eye. The lights blew on my car and a man at a garage helped me for ages for free. My friend who has been very depressed suddenly shifted and sounded so full of change and light. I visited the university where I trained; I was glad to be able to tell my old tutor what I was doing and so touched when she said that every time she drives past the hospital where I got my first job, she thinks of me.
I had the bravery (re spiders) and the motivation to go up in the loft and get rid of stuff and tidy the house, I also had fun seeing friends, I did healing and writing, all effortlessly, seamlessly, as if this week was a microcosm of a perfect life. Shopping in the city and then going to a family barbecue, with none of my normal anxieties about time, getting everything done, getting ready, what to wear, what to say. It was all so easy, just sitting on the grass, chatting away, entertaining the kids so totally unselfconsciously then sitting with the adults later, no shyness, no blank spaces, no tiredness, just total ease… Home at 10pm, a quick tidy round and wash up without even thinking about it and certainly without any stress about getting things done.
Me and my husband both independently deciding that one evening was the evening to reconnect with each other, to ‘party’ (by which I mean a bottle of beer, a cigarette and an episode of something funny), but still, we were so happy with each other, taking a step out of the routine of the week which usually just revolves around cooking and eating and going to bed early enough to get through the next day. Thinking that evening how lovely everything is, how all this extra stuff keeps happening, all these things that I hadn’t even known I wanted but that have just been so nice, and that all this has happened since I started praying. I had this sense that it’s like my life will improve in ways I can’t even imagine. I can’t imagine, but God can… Immediately after I had this thought, my husband looked at his rota and said, ‘I don’t have to get up at 5am, I have to get up at 6am!’ I said, ‘so just when you thought life couldn’t get any better!’ Him, laughing, putting on a cool American accent, ‘Yep, it just keeps on getting better!’
The drawback with The Secret is that we are limited by our own imagination, you have to visualise it all yourself. This way (the prayer way) opens up possibilities I can’t even imagine.
Decluttering: I still stand by its therapeutic powers. Losing my sports massage virginity (therapy without words). Maybe overdoing the spiritual searching (still have a tendency to do that sometimes). Definitely catastrophising (nothing’s changed there either).
‘I long for the days when everything I owned fitted into the boot of a Fiat Uno’* (First published in July 2014)
It is no way news that de cluttering is therapeutic. Last week I did my clothes and shoes, even quite happily throwing away the (too high) gold sandals I got married in only last year. Today I tackled the really hard stuff: the art and craft stuff under the stairs. The wire mesh I made handmade paper with fifteen years ago and that I kind of always thought I might do again with my step daughter but haven’t. The little cardboard pot of sequins I used to make cards with. Coloured pencils I have had for years, little paintbrushes.
This stuff is hard because on the one hand it seems to reproach me for having abandoned that side of things- I no longer make cards or sew- but it also forces me to realise that I am not the same person I was. That can be viewed sadly or perhaps it can be viewed happily: Wow, what an amazing creative person I used to be, even when I had no money and a little child and was a single parent and was probably a bit depressed, how cool was I? I remind myself that that cool young woman helped lay the foundations for me to grow into the calm**, centred, super happy person that I am today.
This week I had an experience that I couldn’t describe in words (a challenge for a writer): a sports massage. As she twanged the big tendons of my neck my mind skated over how to describe the feeling this induced: it was not at all a sexual feeling but it shook though my body like an orgasm. It was a feeling like a loss of control and yet not. The feeling of stress leaving the body, or leaving via the body, was like a spiritual experience (except that it was physical not spiritual). As she went over and over an area of my back, working out a knot, I experienced it like a rollercoaster, up, up and over and each time me trying to relax and let it wash over me and not fight against it. The feeling of rebirth afterwards, a mild euphoria, and the next morning, skipping, singing, even my voice sounded better.
In the pool this week there was some kind of gala going on in one half and there was a PA system, plugged into the mains, on a stand inches away from the pool. I thought of people being electrocuted when their hairdryer falls into the bath. I wondered if such a big amount of water would dilute it or would we all die. Would it hurt? Okay, I thought, everyone’s okay. There would probably be compensation. I wrote my book. And my blog. I found God. I was happy. I wouldn’t have to worry about or deal with old age or illness. I accepted it. They unplugged it. Oh well, not my time.
I read a blog about blogging, in which the advice given was, that you need to do it for a year before you know if it’s worth doing. That advice could also apply to spiritual practice. Although I already know it’s worth doing, it’s more about a test of my commitment, much like how healing training takes two years.
After a weekend of complete R&R I realised I wasn’t going mad or embarking on a dangerous course, risking losing connection with my husband; I was just tired that’s all. A week of staying up too late, working late and getting up early to go to a conference, that was all. I do like to catastrophise (have I said that before?) In bed one night, my husband enfolded me into his arms and I felt our breathing merge, felt myself merging into him at each contact point. This long, no sex cuddle was like being in a cocoon or having steel bands of love wrapped around me, and the next morning I realised, not only can I love God through loving my husband but God can love me through the love my husband gives to me.
A few nights ago I was in front of the bathroom mirror thinking about Gwyneth Paltrow* when I had a sudden realisation: I am not her, I am me. I’m me. I’m me! I thought about her in front of her bathroom mirror, being her. I thought about all the time women waste wishing they were more like someone else. I thought about how it doesn’t really matter what you look like anyway. But most of all, I thought: Wow, here I am, in this life, in this body, in charge of myself.
I had the same feeling driving to work the next morning, listening to Muse, in a car that is not an old banger, is full of petrol and if I need any petrol I can just go and buy some; I always have enough money for food, I have the best job I could possibly want, my legs and arms work, I have no serious aches and pains, and despite a wild and careless youth** I have been left with nothing more serious than an occasional cold sore. And, my God, I have my husband. The fact that I have a husband is amazing enough, but my husband is so fucking cool, he lets me be so free that I don’t even recognise myself sometimes.
I thought, how did I get here? How did someone so unconfident get to the top of their career? (I could go a tiny bit higher but it would be hideously boring) How did someone who used to be so frightened that I thought I was going to wet myself on the bus on the way to college, get here?
So, did you reach any conclusions? My husband asked, when I told him about all this. I didn’t have an immediate answer. All I could think was, I made it hard, but I made it interesting. I spent a year doing a millinery course and two years doing a fashion course. I wondered why I didn’t take up writing earlier (because I was too scared to read my stuff out to a class until I was in my thirties). I wanted to go back and say thank you to all those people who helped me.
So, have I reached any conclusions? The only one that really seems to mean anything at all is this: someone must have been looking after me all along, because I really don’t see how I did that journey all by myself.
I am going to say a tiny bit about religion here. I am looking at it, yes. Not because I ‘need to be told how to live my life’ as atheists sometimes sneeringly say about organised religion, but because I want a framework, a method, a route to be closer to God. Yes, in theory, I can remember God just by myself, every minute of every day, but in practice, I forget to remember. That’s what a prayer habit or regular practice of any kind is all about, it’s a cue to remember.
In January, I thought my spiritual journey of the previous five years was over. But unless you get stuck and stay stuck life is a journey… a journey home, a journey to God? Anyway, despite what I thought at the time, my spiritual journey hadn’t ended. I had just paused to look at the view, and to catch my breath.
It’s important that I pause and catch my breath regularly because there are two fears that come up for me. One is the classic, am I going mad? The other is, will it affect my relationship with my husband? Will I find I don’t need him anymore? Will the presence of a third party affect things? If I get into a religion will it end up affecting our lives and relationship so much that we end up breaking up? But as someone who had embraced a religion said: I’m still me. And as my healing teacher told me: you won’t lose yourself, you are in control.
So don’t stay up all night watching you tube clips about people’s religious conversions (I haven’t done this I just know someone who has and know it is an option!). Distract myself with light and frivolous stuff e.g. rom coms and light books that have nothing to do with spirituality or religion. Exercise, sleep and eat right. Look after myself. Whatever I had decided to do before, keep doing it; writing, healing.
Remember that I can love God through loving my husband, the two aren’t mutually exclusive. That’s why religions prescribe charity, because it’s no good just having faith, you have to act on it in your life. My husband is my life.
*I have no idea why it was she who popped into my head
** When I say ‘youth’ read ‘teens, twenties and thirties’
One of my favourite posts from when I first started my blog back in 2014. Spiritual healing, religion, books, reading, managing time, being happy, Maya Angelou…
Inside I’m dancing* (First published in June 2014)
My healing teacher lent me a book a few weeks ago. She said she had been ‘guided’ to lend it me. This did not fill me with joy as it was all about grief and life after death. Was I or my husband about to die I wondered (I may be a healer and a therapist and into a spiritual life but I can imagine catastrophes with the best of ‘em). Anyway, this morning I started reading it: Beyond our physical bodies and our physical world is the world of thoughts. Beyond the world of thoughts is the world of feelings and emotions. Beyond or within that world is a world of pure love: Heaven. We can all access that place whether we are alive or dead. But like my healing teacher, the book was ever down to earth and pragmatic: of course, it said, even the dead cannot live on the top of the mountain forever. And the living must take care of their day to day life and responsibilities.
Just as I was drifting off into wondering about getting together with a group of people and us all raising ourselves up into that world of love, my husband who is suffering terrible toothache woke up and I found myself back in the practical application of love: calling dentists, making food, fetching painkillers.
Religion or spirituality can help guide us to walk along that bridge between the visible and the invisible, between this world and the world we cannot see, between theory and practical application. As each world both supports and enjoys the experiences that belong to the other, there lies Bliss.
Yesterday I had the rare for me experience of a day that was both busy and peaceful**. I accidentally slept in until 9am; I was due to be at a friend’s house to give healing at 10am. By some miracle I managed to get out of the house at record speed and arrived there only five minutes late. The healing went well and we both took our time to relax and chat before and afterwards.
Afterwards I went into town. I went into a large department store, well known for its book department which has existed for as long as I can remember. When I walked in I was alarmed to find that I couldn’t see it anywhere. For a few moments I wondered if I had been fast forwarded into the scary reality that people talk about, a reality of no books and no bookshops left. I pulled myself together and went out and in again through the main entrance. The book department had moved downstairs, that was all. It was a peaceful, library vibe and I felt an almost religious sense of calm as I dropped into the world of books and let myself choose, or be chosen by three books. As I paid for them, I wondered if there was anyone else anywhere who had bought the same three books at the same time: a strange and beautiful looking book about an exiled person and a hare, Iain Banks’ last book and an Introduction to Islam.
Then I went to see a friend and we sat in her garden enjoying the breeze and the sunshine and her garden full of flowers. The best type of friend, she is simultaneously interested, knowledgeable and non judgemental no matter what new and crazy ideas I bring up.
The hours of the day ran though but driving home towards the end of the day I didn’t feel panicky that I hadn’t yet done any housework or other chores or tired that I had been out all day, or worried that I had used up all my alone time on visiting and shopping and not writing. I didn’t feel any of that. I wonder if it’s the quality you bring to the day or that the day brings to you that determines the peace, rather than what you actually do in terms of quiet versus busy.
* ** I should make reference to the film and literary title and quotes I have used. The phrase ‘busy yet peaceful’ comes from one of my favourite books The Idea of Perfection by Kate Grenville. It is filled with many beautiful and moving lines and descriptions.
Inside I’m dancing is a film. I haven’t actually seen it, but the words just keep coming into my head these past few weeks. I am rubbish at dancing, hopelessly self conscious and uncoordinated and yet, I so feel like leaping and stretching out my arms and spinning and flinging myself around. I am so full of joy that it seems like such a natural way to let it out. I don’t though, I just think about it. Maybe, one day soon I will wait until I am alone in the house, draw all the curtains and double lock all the doors and just go for it.
Maya Angelou died just after I posted my last blog, in which I had cited her as a potential angel (as a writer I am ashamed to admit that I only just noticed that her name includes the word angel). If I feel in need of guidance, she leaves her many books of autobiography, her poetry, her Radio 4 Desert Islands Discs and Front Row interviews as well as many other interviews and many wonderful life affirming quotations and teachings. I give my sincere thanks. Rest in Peace Maya Angelou.
A book should be an ice-axe to break the frozen sea within us. Franz Kafka
For Book, you can substitute Love. This is my story:
In 2009 I drove to work in the morning and watched the pink and gold sky split open. Driving home in the evening I passed outrageously lit up lorries that looked like fun fair rides. Somehow I managed to keep one foot in the visible and one foot in the invisible. For the next six years, I followed the trail. I always joke that it was like Eat Pray Love but without the travel.
I meditated and felt as if my skin was being bathed in soap and soft water. I saw situations worked out from behind my closed eyelids. I had the most amazing physical sensations. I took up Yoga. I had deep tissue massage and experienced profound physical and emotional release as she worked my knots out until her fingers got down to my bones.
I practiced Paganism and Wicca, I went for walks and stared at leaves, gathered foliage, wrote spells and held rituals every full moon for almost a year. I was invited to a women and Islam open day. I bought books and began praying five times a day. For a few weeks my life was illuminated.
I chanted the Hare Krishna Mantra every morning for three months. Things led on from each other. I felt purified, and wanted to feel even better. I had trouble with someone at work. In meditation I said, I have no protection against this person. The answer came: ohyes you do, you have this.
I did an evening class in Buddhism. Stepping out onto the top floor of the car park after class, the sky filled with birds, the breeze cool and warm at the same time. Listening to The Stone Roses on the way home: This is the one, this is the one she’s waited for, yes, I thought, yes, this is it. But no sooner had I filled the house with Buddhas than I woke up one day and realised I had burned through that as well. Or it had burned through me, whatever.
I read The Secret and practiced The Law of Attraction. Not to get cheques in the post or to get parking spaces, but just because it made life easy and more beautiful. Simple things like walking up to a crossing and it turns green just as I get there. To the sublime: Arriving home one night I pulled into the car park, and in the second before I turned into the parking space the headlights lit up the hedge in front of me and I saw a mouse on a branch. A mouse on a branch! Almost immediately, the thought came into my head: I hope you enjoyed that, because it won’t happen again. I thought straight back, yeah, I did enjoy it, and no, I don’t expect it to happen again, who would. And I don’t need it to happen again, because I saw it the first time.
As well as experiencing anything and everything I was also searching for a spiritual or scientific explanation that made sense to me. A unifying theory, if you like. After about six years of searching it arrived in my mind fully realised in a dream: we’re all green mist, we created these bodies because without bodies we can’t pick up a pen and write poetry or kiss each other. But the kissing and the poetry are so distracting that we forgot that we’re green mist come down for a human experience… but maybe that’s the point. You can’t enjoy a party if you stand at the door with your coat on and maybe spiritual beings can’t enjoy a human experience on earth unless they fall in feet first and forget their previous incarnation….
I woke up on the massage table as if I had just arrived there and looked at this new person in the mirror: hair everywhere, skin glowing, mind wiped clean of all previous concerns. But you wake up again every moment, and in this moment I can’t imagine anywhere else I’d rather be than right here.
Call off the Search: How I stopped seeking and found peace
Chapter 12: Green Mist Theory 8:08
This came to me, fully realised, in a dream:
You created a machine, a robot cyborg of flesh and blood, the movies etc. are clues or faint echoes of this truth. We think they are fantastic fantasy but they are nowhere near as exciting as the truth: We were ‘mist’ (we are energy) and we created a vessel that can cry and feel and we created the world we live in. But then we got distracted by our bodies and sex and forgot. (I even got/get distracted by that in the dream/my dreams).
Look in the mirror, at yourself crying, at your face melting, at it going through all ages.
Me to my mum: ‘Mum, are you awake?’ (Use of the word ‘Mum’ as a mindfulness bell (or spinning top, or programmed pendulum) as I don’t call her that). ‘Is there a club for people who are awake? Is there training?’ ‘Yes, in a mental institution.’ Oh yes of course, you’d think I’d gone mad… But it’s everyone else that’s mad, the mad people are the sane ones. But fair enough, you’d think I’d gone mad if I said ‘None of this is real’. The trick is, to knowthe truth but to still carry on living in the world (to keep one foot in the visible and one foot in the invisible). We did this for a reason, perhaps we forget for a reason? Maybe sex, and beauty etc was a trick we inserted to help us forget.
We made the body like people make robots but then it began to become real (like robot AI stories again) so yes, when you feed something, it grows. And so we began to feel emotions in our bodies, emotions began to live and be processed in our bodies; so that our bodies became more than just a vehicle to hold the mist in or to transmorgophy the mist. We only really need to remember this at death, that these bodies were only made up, and that we go back to being mist, and that this adventure was just a dream.
You get more out of the experience of being here by not being locked in a mental institution so it’s best to follow the earlier advice and keep most of this to yourself.
My attempts to ‘start a conversation’ and wake everyone up, were hey, let’s talk about being little kids, about when you toilet trained, about toilet stuff, hey, I wet myself once, or what about sexually when you are a child, did you ever, or let’s talk about sexual abuse… (groans from John) okay, okay, let’s talk about… and John as old, lots of grey hair, beard.
(Not, how you used to always have in your draft manuscript as a footer, ‘all you have to do is meditate’- all you have to do is write, (which you are doing) so you don’t actually have to do anything: stop studying, stop meditating, stop all ‘spiritual practices’).
Looking in the mirror and crying, saying, what if I could create a machine that cried and moved how I wanted and could change its expression, and, and, and, that I could totally inhabit, so that even my emotions would be felt in its fleshy parts, because this machine is flesh not plastic and metal. Oh look, I did.
Re aliens: we are aliens. We transmorgophied, and dropped into, or integrated into, living spacesuits, hence all the sci fi things along this line (no wonder I don’t like them). They distract us by giving us something that seems fantastic yet the truth is far more amazing- it’s not made up on television, it’s here, in front of the mirror, take a look, if you look carefully, you can see. (And if you take magic mushrooms, you can literally see)
Bodies are important as they are our vehicle to live on here and do things, so look after them.
Practical application: do my best to look and act normal at work; do as little as possible, for now, out of work, in order to leave space to remember to remember and to write it down. Cease all spiritual practices. Allow maintenance, allow reminder activities? Cease seeking behaviours but allow documentation? My reminder activities: read my writing, write my writing, old stuff, and maybe new stuff, read books e.g. Russell Hoban and Krishnamurti and Liz Gilbert. Quiet time, meditation, contemplation, self healing, exploration. Do healing, do writing, food and exercise of course, no fb just check for messages.
Mum: ‘People used to say, remember to remember, but I’ve forgotten what that was about.’
But we must have done it for a reason (made these machines to live (love?) in and come down to live in this world) and seeing as when we die we go back to being green mist again, then that must mean that whatever the reason is it is what we do on the planet with physical bodies.
So it’s not correct to say ‘none of this matters’ and maybe it’s not actually correct to say ‘none of this is real’ because it’s what we’ve got- it’s all we’ve got, until our bodies expire. You can spend some time hanging about as green mist (e.g. meditating, doing metta bhavna) and that is very nice but I wonder if it is not what you are here for? You weren’t given, you don’t transmorgophy into a body and arrive here to sit in a room on your own and play at being mist again.
It’s useful to look down at yourself from the point of view of the green mist. E.g. when to take a break from the computer, when to leave work on time.
In the dream I kept trying to write this all down but kept falling asleep or not being able to read it back, or kept getting distracted by sex, and then someone said they would read it out to me from a book, so I thought, oh well, it’s in a book, of course it is, I thought I’d thought of that myself…. but it isn’t in a book, unless I write it.
Call off the Search: How I stopped seeking and found peace
Chapter 10: Every Day Healing
Going through boxes as part of getting ready to move, old photos of me as a child- how terribly sad I looked at ten, better a bit later. My school books, I threw out. My son’s, I kept. My mum’s CV- travelled the world hitchhiking alone in 1968, all sorts of different community projects, renovating a derelict house singlehanded with two young children. My grandmother’s travel diary from when she took me as a sulky fifteen year old to Italy. Photographs of me in dresses my other grandmother made. A note from my grandmother after my grandfather died, ‘from grandpa with his deep love for you’.
Ancestors give you stuff; they pass on their attributes, and their weaknesses, they give you experiences, they show you how to be, as well as how not to be. They invest in you, give their love and time and attention, but the fruits of their labours may only fully blossom and then ripen once they and most of their things are long gone.
My mother’s mother commented on others’ lives right up to the end. She tried to control my mum’s life, or at least she commented on it, right up until she died, by which time my mum was in her sixties. Right up to the last months of her life she would tell me I was fat, in front of visitors and other family members. My mum doesn’t say anything directly to me, which is an improvement. And if I can learn not to tell my son what to do with his life and not talk about him behind his back, then that will have improved things even more. (Don’t tell my son how to live his life- this includes indirect references to things that could be construed as, or actually are, unsolicited advice- telling him about the Hare Krishna mantra was borderline at best.)
I used to just have guilt around my mother and my son, then I learned to have a little bit of anger as well, to be able to say aloud (or at least, to write down): bringing up my son was very difficult, I had a difficult child to bring up. (He was brought up by a teenage mother who didn’t know what she was doing, so he probably has loads of anger too, but that is for him, not me.) Into and throughout my adult life, I have had a mother who has very strong opinions and judgements about most things, especially men. It’s not so much the views themselves, but how stridently they are held, so that it’s hard to be free to be yourself. Myself.Funny how that’s hard to write. (But it’s not about her needing to do anything or that she should do anything- it’s for me to do the work, it’s for me to set myself free, to be free, and just do whatever I want without defending or justifying myself).
Emotions to deal with: anger: access and make friends with it, enjoy allowing myself to feel it and then let go, but I can’t let go until I stop repressing it. I could even be angry with my younger self, instead of always being so compassionate, poor her, etc. etc. You could have done so much, you were hot, you were powerful; you silly stubborn thing, determined to be miserable! I am perfectly happy now, but I am just saying; Wow, you made it hard for yourself/us!
Maybe instead of guilt being my default response to everything I could experiment with other things, like anger, like hedonism, like self care comes first, for example.
I hardly EVER go in record shops but I was with a friend who collects vinyl so we went in one, and there in front of me was a Jesus and Mary Chain Psychocandy poster. I thought it was an original old one, I didn’t realise it was advertising a 30 year anniversary tour. If I’d said anything out loud the record shop man or my friend might have realised I was confused and put me right, but I didn’t. Thirty years ago I was fifteen and so desperate to see them, I was at boarding school and not allowed out. A boy in my year went, his dad made an excuse so he could go, I was so jealous. They played for fifteen minutes with their backs to the audience and walked off but still, it had been one of life’s big regrets. But luckily for me the universe gave me another chance. A few weeks later a patient asked to go to a concert-this is a fairly unusual request- and I also fairly unusually offered to get involved and look up local gig programmes… I looked up the UEA programme and there it was, Jesus and Mary Chain Psychocandy 30 year anniversary tour £25.
Oh, thank you, thank you, so much pleasure. I went on my own to just soak it all up. A sound bath; the lights red with gun like firing of individual white lights, a wall of dry ice lit white, almost all the stage eclipsed. Seeing mosh pit kids, a girl with dark hair, her face lit up with happiness. Images on the screen, a serious, sad looking girl (me, at fifteen, thirty years ago) and then at the end a pair of infrared heat image hands, (me now, healing hands). I don’t want anything to come between me and this awareness. The bar tender gives me free sparkling water, a man gives me a token for free car parking. You don’t need to ask for help to make your path, you have created this life, and it is perfect.
On healing… I don’t believe in spirit guides or anything like that, not for me anyway, they may well be true for other people. I’ve been doing it a while now, and with experience comes confidence that it will come, and so it comes… I only have to think about healing, or raise my hands above a person and they heat up. I relax and tune in to all that feeling, and concentrate my mind and energies on giving healing- just thinking that that is what I am doing is enough really, and then just staying in focus. I start with resting hands lightly on shoulders, then go over the chakras, then back to the shoulders. And, often, bliss: like being ensconced in a bubble of love, feet swaying, body swaying, dizzy, feels almost the same getting it as giving it, except when giving I stay in focus that that is what I am doing. I see green light sometimes. A lovely warm feeling, purposeful, like I know what I am here for.
Healing a woman who said she felt as if she had stress in every area of her life, but was ‘trying to think positive as there’s other people worse off’ (i.e. telling herself off for feeling bad). I think trying to be positive when you don’t feel it is self invalidating and can cause more suffering and I also think the message has been corrupted; it’s more about remaining intact, having faith no matter what, not being happy no matter what. It’s like how people have interpreted mindfulness to be stopping all your thoughts- which my counsellor says is nonsense.
I am finding my own opinions, my own way of doing things. My own levels of healing: I had met John as I started to heal, more stuff came up, re childhood stuff, I dealt with that and moved on. Later, more stuff came up, I began counselling, and as I am healed, I become a better healer. I am a stronger healer for having gotten better (lately got really strong, same time as the counselling?
My teacher said, ‘this is Sadie, she is a very powerful healer.’ I remember her saying a while back, you have to sort yourself out first, i.e. before you become a healer, well yes, to a certain extent but then the healing helps you to further heal, in ways you may not have identified without embarking on it (like art therapy and having to have your own psychotherapy along the way as part of it). It’s perfectly natural really that it should be this way.
Practiced healing on Kim after yoga. She is a healer and I worried, what if she doesn’t feel anything, but afterwards she said it was the strongest energy she had ever felt from a healer. She doesn’t work full time, each morning she does chi gung and meditates and sends healing to people- goes through their bodies, sometimes does an hour as she has time and it made me realise, it validated: This stuff is important, even though work is the thing that pays the bills, or, the fact that work pays the bills doesn’t mean it is the central thing of value in your life. Meditation and healing are the pivotal things around which life can revolve (this concept of pivots etc comes up a lot in yoga). Build my life outside of work, invest in these things, and they will invest in me/all will be well.
Did healing on John- he said my hands felt so hot he could feel the heat off my hand which was on his chest, he could feel the heat on his throat, under chin, and when my hands were on his shoulders he could feel it all through his body.
At work I saw someone at lunch that I hadn’t seen for ages. I think it was to show me that I am different now. Sometimes you only notice by encountering a person or situation from past and finding that you respond differently and feel different. I noticed the way he seemed so supportive yet it is just business; the way he criticised people I liked, the way he gave me advice… And I realised, I don’t need your advice and support, I have outgrown you. I am not that anxious awkward person in awe of having dinner at the Premier Inn with people from head office. I am capable and confident.
Swimming pool empty and friendly- two people talked to me.
Car park almost full, spaces looked a bit tight for me but then I find two spaces next to each other and what was more, one also had a space in front of it so I could drive straight through to be facing ready to go.
Two staff at the whole foods shop, astonishingly friendly, talking at length about their cats.
Driving home in the dark, I noticed the pretty pointy silhouette of a chapel, a beautifully illuminated pink neon No Vacancies sign and a pretty yellow window lit up.
A meeting got postponed so I only have to do one report not two this week.
The secretaries next door offering me biscuits just as I was getting hungry at 4pm.
All falling into place ‘live life as though everything is rigged in your favour.’
Sitting on floor, stapling papers, staples ran out and I remembered I’d found a little chunk of staples the day before and put them by my computer just within arm’s reach.
A member of staff I don’t know being extra nice and friendly, like the staff in the whole foods shop.
Finding some extra pouches of cat food so I don’t need to go shopping today.
Home, stars, little walk.
My stepdaughter saying ‘let’s go home and have hot dogs* and watch Buffy on the sofa with blankets and one cat each, what more could we want?’ *vegetarian ones
Someone at work introducing me: ‘this woman is one of the nicest people you’ll ever meet, and you can tell by looking at her that she is just like this at home too’.
Someone else saying that I have the happiest team in the hospital.
One of my staff bought me a posh houseplant ‘because you’d been having a hard time recently, I wanted to give you something happy.’
A moment shared with a member of staff on her last day. ‘As you go up the ranks it can be, ‘Lonely’’, we both said at the same time.
After going to a friend’s party, John saying, that’s the most relaxed I’ve seen you in company, even making jokes!
An old friend asking, are you still writing and me saying yes, he said I’m glad and me asking, are you still drawing and him saying yes, but it’s just a hobby, I’ve accepted that and me saying me too (except I haven’t, not really).
Massage today, didn’t have the surface niggles, so went deeper.
I ‘woke up’ on the massage table, hair everywhere, enlivened, thinking, what if I just arrived here, what would I observe about myself? I am hungry for good healthy food, I have a nice job, Iam a healer in training, I am married,I have an adult son and two step children, I drive around a lot and go away with work no problem, Isleep well, I exist separately to my thoughts.
I get up early in the morning, compared with John anyway, who gets up half an hour before he needs to leave, I allow about an hour and a half or two hours. Partly because I faff around a lot and also this year I have been meditating but the real reason I like this time is that now and again I will have a little treat: I will put the internet on and check my emails or I will sit at the bottom of the stairs and read for five minutes or I will do a little sorting out job, something that I wouldn’t normally do in the morning before I leave for work. I had one of those moments looking at my bookshelf. John’s sister was coming to stay with her friend and spiritual guru so I had been getting the room ready. I started thinking about books and the bookshelf as it is in the spare room. I thought first about if I had anything to lend John’s sister, and then I thought about if they looked through the books on the bookshelf, and wondered if I should put them in any sort of order.
I looked at them impassively, as an outsider would, and this is what I saw: John’s books, sci fi, psychedelic, spiritual novels, and mine: New Zealand literature and creative writing books; a set of women’s erotica, all containing a short story written by me; Eat Pray Love, various other spiritual journey books, all mixed up and mixed in with Lace (from when I was 11 or 12, not the original copy, although it looks like it, old and battered. I can still remember the woman being fingered and brought to orgasm in the cellar, whilst wearing a primrose suit). Princess Daisy, ditto, loved for the hot lesbian scene; When Hitler Stole Pink Rabbit and Goodbye Mog by Judith Kerr, and The Fault in my Stars. All the books I have listed are my favourites. If that paints a picture of me, I feel it is strangely accurate. Looking at myself reflected back to me via the medium of my bookshelf was a thoughtful and nice experience, a concrete illustration of my eclecticness. That I am made up of a lot of different things that are strangely synthesised into something pretty. I like the way the bookcase is, I am happy for people to look at it.
Call off the Search: How I stopped seeking and found peace
Chapter 9 Discernment
Two episodes of House of Cards and then he puts my hand on his trousers and we have sex on the couch and I swear it was exactly like being on MDMA but with no side effects, no horrible head fucking thoughts. It felt like being in a film, so turned on it was surreal, happy MDMA-type tears, eyes watering by themselves. I said afterwards, ‘I went somewhere else’. The light, the room, juddering and flicking from side to side like it does when you’ve taken a ton of MDMA and him going up the stairs to bed saying what we were both thinking, ‘Who needs drugs’. We haven’t spoken about it since but oh my God, proof of everything, if we needed it.
We’d spent most of 2015 completely straight: no drugs, no alcohol, I had also given up caffeine, John had also given up sugar. And then the Buddhism wore off…
But at its height it (Buddhism) felt ironically like being on drugs (high after class, the air cool and warm at the same time). We both realised it was over at the same time. We were standing in the kitchen by the backdoor and both realised we didn’t want to do the next class after all (we had planned to do the year long foundation course). John said, we burn through things quickly now don’t we? I had just bought him all this Buddhist stuff (we still have a Buddha in almost every room of the house) but neither of us were offended about the other suddenly going off it.
Shortly afterwards I went out to dinner with a friend and tried to explain, referencing Krishnamurti (don’t follow anyone) and John and Yoko (I don’t believe in magic, mantra, etc.)
‘It sounds like you’ve gone through some kind of enlightenment,’ she said and then asked, ‘are you still vegetarian?’
I was puzzled, thinking, it’s not that I’ve given up on awareness, and once you have it you have it.
Suddenly it just seemed pointless, the rigid no drinking at all, no caffeine, even the Buddhist teacher had said it doesn’t necessarily mean no wine can pass your lips, it’s just about not being intoxicated. It’s a barrier between me and friends who drink, so I decided that the day we went to another friend’s I would have a coffee and some wine. We made dinner while we got a bit drunk and we couldn’t mash the potatoes because they were still raw and it was all a bit chaotic for a bit. Maybe just one glass of wine is good for me now. And then when I went out the other night with friends I had a glass of wine, felt better re barriers, they were drunk, and we all got on really well, and I felt really relaxed.
So how does that lead onto MDMA? The MDMA is me, wanting that again, we both were, but now he is talking about never doing it again, maybe we just needed to remind ourselves we can if we like, maybe. Or just remind ourselves what it is like, the good and the bad- 3 or 4 days recovery. No music, singing along to YouTube, lying paralysed, naked and sweating. Marrying you was the best thing I ever did with my life. Or for my life: it gives me all this freedom, and it gives me excitement and bad boy tendencies without the angst and drama that wrecks and destabilises lives.
MDMA is like a searchlight, but this time at last there was nothing to find, we lay in each other’s arms on the couch, for an extended period with no tv, film or music, just us, talking, and aside from a bit of smutty sharing of sexual fantasies, there were no surprises, no dark secrets or hidden longings to discuss, no marriage, no children, no family secrets, no adolescent incidents of previously paralysing shame to heal…. It wasn’t boring by any means: it was wonderful, that we could be so free, relaxed and spacious, but at the same time, have we reached a clearing, a clear place? So maybe we can give it up now? Certainly, we have had sex sober that was every bit as amazing as sex on MDMA, and with us both entirely present in every way, from the cerebral to the mundane to the spiritual to the tantric ecstatic.
We said at the time, we should make time for this: lying together, smelling each other, just love, no conversations re kids etc., and if you can have a spiritual drug free rave and get high with strangers and no drugs, surelyweshould be able to do it alone in our house?
Well I guess we already did, last night. Sometimes you have an idea and realise you’ve already executed it, like life or the forces of life were faster than your ideas and imagination, which I guess is often or maybe always the case but doesn’t always get realised….
Christmas 2015: slacking off re caffeine, chocolate, sugar, alcohol and drugs and then realising I actually prefer life as it was: getting stoned really stoned once or twice after not doing it is great, and sex was amazing, but doing it every nights for four nights, it wears thin, and leads to eating chocolate, and being sluggish next day, sleeping in and being too lazy to do exercise. I prefer walking and doing yoga every day with the occasional blow out. It’s the same re the internet and facebook, food, shopping and time- discernment and awareness is the key.
Thinking about what it would take for me to enjoy it- what do I enjoy that could be done at Christmas?
Things I enjoy or that make me feel good that with some effort, dedication and single mindedness I can do in spite of Christmas: a Yoga class on YouTube, an hour long walk, eating healthy-ish, even doing a bit of writing- just a snatched half an hour while everyone goes out (this is probably not even so much about the writing but about having a little oasis of alone time during the festivities)
Things I like about Christmas that go on anyway and I can just join in with: not going to work Fri, Sat, Sun, Mon, drinking Baileys at any time of day, staying up late watching films with my step son, sleeping in, eating whenever and whatever I like(contradicts previous bit I know!)
Funny things such as realising for what seems like the first time, why people/a person/me might enjoy Christmas: the change of routine, the party atmosphere, the laying around, drinking, not having to go to work, holidays. Ignore the shopping and the stress and the religiosity/consumerism debates, the hand wringing, the sad stories and the stress. Just look at the lights and think of chocolate.
(I haven’t written any Christmas cards, nor did I last year, and possibly the year before. I used to make them all by hand and deliver them on foot!)
‘The family that I have chosen’, I said on Boxing Day when I crashed through the door, falling on the couch with a bottle of Baileys and all family visits done.
Looking through my old, much scribbled in address book at all the names that are no longer a part of my life; old landlords, hairdressers, work contacts, book clubs I am no longer in, people who have died, people I have lost touch with, people I never really was in touch with… Hopeful contacts, someone I met at work that I thought might have become a friend. People I’d met through work who once the work finished I never saw. People who I had been to their house once: a mum at the school, who invited me to her house for lunch, she cooked lasagne, we saw each other now and again but didn’t really become close. The doctor from work who invited me and my boyfriend for dinner with her lawyer husband in their huge barn conversion. We were too in awe to return the invitation. Some relationships hopeful, some forced, some I wonder about calling, I think they would be happy to see me, but wonder if we really have anything still, or maybe just feeling awkward that it’s been so long. Others I know I will not call- it never was anything, and I am happy to let them go. And some of course long standing friends that I am still in touch with even after all these years.
The point of all this rambling and reflection is that I have always had some difficulties/concerns around friendships- namely, that I haven’t got enough, that I don’t call people enough (although actually with the exception of one or two people I don’t think any of them ever call me), and I often don’t feel myself with them. Or that I don’t know what sort of friends are me, or that I want. Because I haven’t known who I am, how can I expect to know what friends I should have? And how can I expect other people to know me when I don’t know myself?
Looking back I have felt so awkward with a lot of these people, it’s surprising we are still friends. When I lived in a council flat I felt awkward just going to anyone’s who had a reasonable house. I overcompensated: when I was in a middle class book club in Norwich I remember one night it was my turn to host it at my flat. Only one person came, and there was all this cheese, I must have spent twenty pounds on cheese alone. I understand now that my attitude must have created something of a barrier. But I also think that maybe I have struggled to meet people who I really click with because I haven’t really clicked with myself.
One of the side effects of a spiritual awakening is loneliness within your friendships. I don’t need to talk about it anymore, but I needed to when it was first happening to me. I told one friend that it felt like a miracle, meeting John, and she said yes, I think it is a miracle, which was nice. Several friends read my book, and put up with me. But still, it’s not the same when your friends are not going through the same thing and I often felt worse for trying to explain what was happening as I just sounded crazy. Nowadays I have a few people I can talk to, as they have discovered it since and some have come to me or come into my life and talked about it, but back then it was only me, and John. Not that I want to be with the really ‘out there’ people either- I want the down to earth. Which is why it was so nice at Yoga, the healing, with Kim and Melinda, feeling instantly comfortable, they are both down to earth and into healing. They don’t wear robes or anything, are not false or pretentious or over the top. I don’t need to find people that believe in exactly the same things, I just need people who have an awareness of something else, but in a genuine, quiet way, not in a provocative or statement way.
It’s well reported on that during or in a spiritual journey it can be lonely; you can feel disconnected from your friends, you can even feel critical of them, of their negativity, of their asleep ness, of the fact that they don’t have a spiritual practice and of the fact that they don’t ‘get you’. But aside from the advice of the Dali Lama which is that it is more useful to identify a single shortcoming in yourself than a hundred in others, which I will endeavour to remember, your friends have every right to feel at least as disappointed in you as you do in them, after all, they haven’t done anything wrong, they haven’t changed. You, on the other hand, could be seen to have to a certain extent abandoned them.
Sometimes I visit a good friend and feel distant, unable to connect. I feel more connected with a person I just met on my yoga class and the thought flits through my mind of abandoning all my friends and making new ones.
Sometimes I just have my usual old problem of not really planning or living my days according to my needs: I make a list of friends like a to do list, contact everyone, do loads of visiting, regret the time alone I lost. (I have read since that as your vibration level rises, or your frequency rises, friends do sometimes fall away. Also, that you don’t desire to see people as much, and need more time alone.)
Other times I visit an old friend, feel relaxed and connected, talk about all sorts of things including politics (her topic) and healing (mine). I maybe meet her halfway by raising politics (a subject I normally avoid like the plague) re getting active with food cycle, and she maybe meets me halfway by having healing, getting into it and talking about feeling a spiritual shift.
This ‘process’ I am going through is having a cleansing and purifying effect; spring cleaning me, applying search and destroy, finding residual issues to work on. ‘It’ works in a different way to worry, where the mind skates around, looking for things, real and imaginary, to worry about. This works on an unconscious level so that, for example, when I need to work on my thoughts, I pick up a book and open it at the ‘thought lab’ page containing everyday thought exercises. I keep it open there for weeks, and when I do pick it up to look at other exercises, all the other things I find are so totally not me that I scurry back to the thought lab page and leave it open there in the bathroom for another few weeks.
Call off the Search: How I stopped seeking and found peace
Chapter 7: Buddhism
Throughout January and February I meditated almost every morning with the Hare Krishna mantra, following the visit to the temple on New Year’s Eve. The advantage of this mantra is that even if you get distracted, even if your mind wanders whilst you are doing it, as long as you keep saying it, you are still doing it; and what you are doing is chanting God’s name. I was too worried about the neighbours and self conscious about my own voice to chant aloud so I did it in my head, which probably doesn’t help with distraction as if you say it aloud, enunciating each syllable clearly, it is more to hang onto. But still, I credit the Hare Krishna mantra with the purification and development I experienced during these two months: my counselling, working on my OCD, maybe even John getting into Buddhism and us giving up drugs for the best part of a year, who knows, a lot happened from those two months.
In March John started a course in Buddhism, bringing home information sheets to read which I fell on and read each week and we discussed them in preparation for the next week. They advise don’t start with meditation, as most people do, me included, instead start with the theory and the ethics, then do the meditation, because then you have a framework. I look back to how crazy I was when I first started meditating, and realise this makes sense. So on John’s course they didn’t get onto meditation until later, but as they did, I started doing it too. I switched from the Hare Krishna mantra to Buddhist meditation, one day Metta Bhavna and the other day mindfulness of breathing.
Focus on the breath not the breathing, as you follow it, it quietens and disappears, so you think, what am I following, and then, I’m not breathing, I’d better breathe, and then you are focussing on the act of breathing not on following the breath which you are doing consciously, so you are doing two things at once, actively breathing, and following the breath, which doesn’t work. So you have to let go, and let the breath be as it is, sometimes big and fast and gasping, sometimes so faint you can hardly find it, and sometimes disappeared or stopped altogether, but you have to trust your body will take care of breathing when and as it needs to.
I started a different Buddhism course a bit later, each week we were given homework, such as The Four Winds (Loss and Gain, Pain and Pleasure, Praise and Blame, Fame and Obscurity): We were told to pick a pair and focus on that for the week. I focussed on Loss and Gain, or how I specifically in my life seek to avoid loss and sought to gain: thinking about mine and other’s air time in conversations; wanting to be asked questions, wanting to ask questions but not asking them, also like praise and blame or fame and obscurity, at my mum’s seeing an old family friend, I wanted to say, look at me, look what I am, look what I’m into, but he just wanted to talk about old age, house prices, people I don’t know, and although he seemed pleased to see me, he was not interested in any of the things I was interested in, and even poured cold water in my plans, (I felt) and I came home in a bad mood.
But it did have a positive effect, the Buddhism course(s):
Before work, John and me had one of those hugs that are really close, well almost all of the hugs he gives me are like that, where he folds me in really tight, and I put my hand on the base of his neck, in between the shoulder blades, where it always feels hot for me, a healing point/love point, and it felt really good, the hug, and I said, ‘things are good’ and he said, ‘yeah, things are good’, and I said, although I didn’t need to, ‘and we’re not even on drugs’. I went to see my son and as there was no parking at his we went straight to the park and had a walk in the only break in the weather. I did an extra hour of healing at the mind body spirit fair and even though I’d got up early and been out for hours, I felt relaxed and unpressured. I went home and made a complicated new vegan meal effortlessly with no stress.
One night after my Buddhism class:
I stepped out of the double door and into the open air of the top floor of the multi-storey car park. I always park on the top floor, ostensibly for exercise, and while that is true, it’s also because it’s always got plenty of empty spaces and I get anxious about parking. And at the end of an evening or an afternoon of shopping I like to look at the view, the big sky, the cathedrals, the whirling flocks of birds that always seem to be there. My husband and son find my choice of parking annoying and always complain about the six flights of stairs or make us go up in the lift. I do it for me though, for the view, to take away the parking anxiety, to test my fitness, or perhaps, just to give me this moment tonight:
It was cool and warm at the same time, the sky grey with clouds, still light at around 9.30pm. I paused, leaning on the barriers, looking, and I just thought/felt: This is it
Earlier, the teacher had said, ‘if you catch Buddhism… but you may not, you may leave this and go off onto something else’, my neighbour said, ‘Islam’, which was funny because I’d been through an Islam phase a few months back. But I thought, please no… I wanted to say, ‘Don’t let me be out there again’ (like that bit in When Harry met Sally when the couple say to each other, ‘please say I’ll never have to be out there (dating) again’); but I am working on not talking as much and certainly not interrupting, so I don’t.
I have tried things: Islam, Paganism, various different New Age Practices, Hare Krishna , worship of a man, self abasement, therapy, all for three weeks or three months. It’s over
In the car, I put some music on The Stone Roses: This is the one, this is the one she’s waiting for. Windows down, warm cool breeze, lights bright like on MDMA.
Yes, (the clue’s in the title of the book) this turned out to be yet another one of those moments when I think, this is it, I’ve found it, this is the thing, this is what I believe in, that later slips away. And yet, I don’t regard any of it as a waste of time. And even though this was one of the strongest incidents in recent times, as the same Buddhist course later taught me, there is nothing to find.
There is nothing permanent, nothing lasts, nothing exists, only interactions. We all just knock against each other but all our scaffolding stops us connecting properly. Re finding yourself, your identity, personality, Buddhism says there is nothing to find= Scary. We are not fixed, we can change= Comforting. Suffering doesn’t last either. We do have a ‘relative self’- it’s good to be predictable to children (and patients) etc but with others this can be limiting (e.g. how we behave in our family). It’s hard to be your (new)self with family as they like to keep you the same.
The death of spiritual ignorance, is when you see things as they really are, e.g. work. Things are both much better and much worse than you previously thought.
Meditate on our bodies being made of the same things as everything else
Our teacher, in meditation, became aware that a strand of hair, attractive on the head, becomes repulsive in a plate of food. Same with toenails, she put all her nail clippings and hair onto shrine and thought, is it ‘repulsive’ because it reminds us of death and decay?
The mind changes much more than the body; at least the body persists relatively the same week to week, year to year; whilst the mind changes all the time, likes and dislike change. Tastes change with Buddhism (me and The News Quiz on Radio 4, I used to think it was funny, suddenly it just seemed mean). People refine their tastes with Buddhism (or with anything that increases your awareness?)
Where is yourself? Your self? In front? Above? Colour? Shape? Can’t find it? Because it isn’t anywhere; it doesn’t exist. (So therefore who did that mean senior manager hurt when she told me off on Friday? No one).
It is the clinging to the sense of self that causes all the suffering.
Get out of yourself. With more happiness and helping others. A cause outside of themselves, a musician, artist, all else swept aside in the service of what is. Really focussed; most people don’t do this and are dissipated. What is it that we really want and go for it. Hone in one something. Realise why we dissipate our energies.
See ways that we let life happen to us rather than directing life in a way that can be more fulfilling.
Buddhism advocates doing creative things, artistic things, if you decide you can, e.g. live without much money etc. Self expression is a generous act.
‘The spiritual life is a continual process of purification and elimination of unskilful states.’
‘Our experience is much richer than we realise. We are much better and much worse than we realise’ Deeper meditation helps to integrate this.
Buddhism helped, but I don’t know about the future… don’t throw the baby out with the bathwater- this clear awareness is great, don’t mess it up with caffeine, drinking, etc, yoga is good, meditation is probably good.
Everything I’ve done has been part of what got me here, but what got me right here was not meditating for a week or so, and going to bed early.
I’m even wondering if helping others really is all that, maybe it could just be about yourself, and those around you…
Re working, re healing, re thinking up an alternative career: when do I get to just enjoy life as it is, to do what I’m doing with both feet and not always be thinking I should be doing something else?
So right now, reading this, I feel wistful: I feel, I want to meditate, I want to do the Buddhism course, I want to get back into being spiritual again. But what would that do? What do I think that would do? I could do a load of yoga and meditating, do more healing, whenever I do it it feels so good, I want to focus on that… But what about the writing, not sure what is happening with that… How do I get to a place where I can conceptualise what it is I am doing- every time I get to where I think ‘this is it’, it changes, so where is my vantage point? There isn’t one, or there is, but it shifts from (and form) moment to moment. Suggestion: Pick one and write from that? What is the vantage point that I want to select and choose to write from- with so much choice I can choose one- after Buddhism, when I am into Krishnamurti? When I am just coming back from practical house selling and working mode? When I am back to meditating? When I am reflecting on all the things that have got me here? All the spiritual processes, yoga, body work, healing, reading, MDMA?
Why not just admit that there’s nowhere else you’d rather be than here: waking up on the massage table and realising, I am the kind of person who has this in her diary, and this, and this, and does this, and does this, and does this, and laughs at this and cries at this, and cannot watch horror films and is scared of big ships and on and on and on and on…
Work going both really well and really badly, as always
Loving being married at the same time as longing for more time alone
Ceasing all seeking behaviour yet knowing this is just another ‘thing’ I’m doing on the path
Happy with life as it is and thinking of new things to do and be
Everything is good, you are just making up things to worry about because you are scared of realising how good things are.
Call off the Search: How I stopped seeking and found peace
Chapter Six Marriage
Leonard Cohen: You know that I love to live with you, but you make me forget so very much. I forget to pray for the angels, and then the angels forget to pray for us.
It’s easy, (even for us! as I am fond of saying), to become bogged down, stressed by the things that don’t matter (decorating, paperwork) and neglectful of the things that do (how we are, how we are together) and before too long a distance is created, one or other or both of us are dissatisfied and then, well, nothing really, we might have a rubbish go at sorting it out the first time and end tense and cranky, me getting defensive and going off to bed, and then the next morning, he leans his leg in, I lean mine, we talk, we make plans. It’s not about what things we were or weren’t doing, it’s all part of it, it’s just about getting back on the path again.
He’d been feeling distance, we hadn’t been doing anything together. I’d thought it was all hearth and home or having ‘gone beyond’ but you never ‘go beyond’; and looking back it had been a bit distant, I mean, I haven’t been feeling that happy either. Then he goes into a charity shop in Dereham (Norfolk) of all places and finds a George Harrison book (I Me Mine) and in the introduction by Olivia his wife it sets out what their lives were like, and John said, that’s like you and me, well, without all the massive fame and wealth and so on. And I should have been happy and I was, but I struggle to appreciate things in the moment sometimes, especially unexpected big stuff and especially when we haven’t yet made up from some tension or distance (but that was him making up or trying to make up from tension and distance) and I poured cold water on it, mentioning his (George Harrrison’s) affairs etc- there was no reason for that, but John was better than me and didn’t appear to notice or mind.
Making dinner after getting the new sofa, me very seriously saying, well, it’s had half an hour but of course it wasn’t pre heated, John never pre heats, and him saying you really are mad aren’t you and me suddenly having a sense of my own madness and saying, I had a very weird background, you have to embrace the madness and him saying, I do, that’s why I married you.
Last night, I forced us to sit and watch something, and he sat through two episodes of a box set the same way a cat does when you are forcing it to sit on your lap when it doesn’t really want to.
Our marriage at the stage, already- that when planning his holiday (of which he has only a very small amount) for next year he said about going to Latitude on his own and said, it will be nice for me to do something on my own. I smarted for a second and then realised, that means I can go away on my own too. I’m free to go on that yoga retreat I mentioned that he wasn’t really into. Haven’t I been dreaming of a white room, meals, silence, simplicity?
He checked the oil in my car on Sunday even though we weren’t really speaking
I had this sense re the margarine left out and the toothpaste lid left off and I suddenly saw it as endearing- wow, how much I’d miss those things if they weren’t there, because they are a marker of him, his presence in my life, in the house. If they were the same as you you wouldn’t notice them or their presence, this shows they are here…
Now: talking about how much time we’d need to get ready to die, and we both said six months, me to get my head round it and to finish whatever I am working on and him because there’s places he still wants to see. Talking about the shortest day coming and saying after that it will get lighter again, and yet not wanting to wish life and another year away, one less year to live, but John said, if you are truly living in the moment then that doesn’t matter.
I thought about that later when we had a few cross words and I was sulking and he was angry and I laid in bed wondering what to say to elevate us above this situation and change it, at the same time as feeling the old waves of urges to bang my head against the glass or cut myself or scream, as well as going over the evening, how we got there, who said and did what, etc, etc, analysing it… but then I remembered, it is only the present moment, and do I want to spend it like this or do I want to change it? And I realised, before I can change us or him I have to change myself, so I lay and just focussed on my breathing and slowly, slowly I felt myself calm and come back to calmness, felt love come in again, felt love go out to him, then finally I rolled over and put my arms around him and said I love you, I’m sorry. I never normally apologise and like magic, it was all washed away, and the angry snarling man had been replaced by the man I love and everything was as it was. I cried then, not because I was sad but because I was happy and because for once I’d done something different and it had changed things, that with just my love I can transform him, just as he can transform me with his love also.
In meditation: warning for the future: you had everything and you threw it all away; So do the opposite, really nurture all that I have, appreciate it, give it my attention.
I don’t want your thanks. I just want your time and attention.
(When I was in meditation, thinking, I should pray, I should say thank you)
When I first got together with John, I had a student who had been to Japan, and she ran a calligraphy group, I did John’s name, it means ‘God has given’ in Japanese. I had forgotten that. God has given, why would He take away?
The problem with living together is that your moods don’t coincide: the first week back at work after Christmas, I was high, drinking Baileys, smoking cigarettes and staying up late watching Orange is the New Black and meditating, full of gratitude. He was miserable.
The second week- last week- both run down and going to bed as early as possible, but me with a busy, teeming head, bursting to talk about therapy, but him not talking, just watching OITNB.
This week, tonight I come home high after listening to Jeff Buckley track 10 of Grace over and over. Thinking about us partying next week, loved up, and in my head thinking maybe we’d stay up a bit and get stoned together. I walk in, he’s about to go to bed and also is very grumpy. I don’t blame him of course, but I’d had fantasies of a smoke, an episode, maybe a chat about love, or at least about looking forward to our few days off together next week, I know you can’t have expectations, but…
I guess that’s why people have date nights, so you both gear yourselves up to be happy and looking forward to seeing each other so both in a good mood at the same time rather than leaving that to chance, as well as you both being feeling like going out at the same time, which it seems is too much to hope for- both wanting to go out and both being in a good mood, all at the same time!
Still, I coped; my bubble might have been burst- from being in the car, feeling full of love and magic. But I wasn’t distraught. And maybe the still space I had was useful- I stayed up a little, read some Elizabeth Gilbert stuff online. Maybe it was for me to do that, a little bit of women’s stuff, or maybe it was just a reminder that my mood need not, must not, depend on his.
A few weeks later we went for a bracing January walk on the beach and we spoke a little about the day where we hadn’t spoken all day, he couldn’t remember what it was he’d been pissed off about, but it certainly wasn’t watching two episodes of Twin Peaks. I had made up a whole schema around it and it wasn’t even true. He said, seriously, you don’t ever have to worry about days like those, about silly arguments, about moods. Nothing you can ever do will stop me loving you. You have nothing to worry about.
For the first time, I am glad he didn’t let us have a child. I used to resent it; I remember complaining to people at work in a rare moment of lunch break confidences: We can’t even talk about it, I know it can’t happen, I earn the money, I’d have to go to work and leave the baby, I’d hate to do that; but I see now he put a firewall up, which prevented us ever getting near. And now, today, I’m glad, because I couldn’t have achieved all this, and for me, it smacks of a lack of imagination, you fall in love, you have a baby, no, God gave you the love of your life, your life became illuminated and you were free to become, to do, become spiritual, be a healer, write a book, etc etc.
That’s a conversation we’re probably never going to have; because I can imagine him saying well I never wanted to have one anyway so it was no risk, and me being hurt because there’s a bit of me that would have wanted him to want one too, even though that would make me regret that we didn’t even though I have just said how grateful I am for not letting us…. Even when I am past the menopause it’s going to be better not to have that conversation, in case he does admit it, in case, heaven help me, he says he regrets it, and it would unleash a veritable torrent of anguish. No, keep that where it belongs. I don’t think he would have wanted to anyway- and conversely, this is also something I don’t want to hear, as it’s not nice to know he didn’t want to have a baby with me, the supposed love of his life, however sensible and practical that decision was/is.
Nice evening paying cards with John. Add getting stoned and that would have been his favourite type of evening. Played several games, me totally relaxed, even winning some hands, and him seeming so pleased- ‘look at you, I’ve created a monster’, etc. It’s the small things that count. So I am so glad I learnt to play despite how hard it was for him/me. (I have a real aversion to learning and playing games). He said connecting with the person you are in a relationship with is a spiritual practice. He appreciates: dinner, sex, playing cards, watching films with him.
‘God has given’ what to do? Answer: all we have to do is love and allow ourselves to be loved.
Is the nature of a marriage all to do with your own energy field, it’s just you, reflected back at yourself? And if you aren’t careful you can blame the other person for things- convenient- but if you look back honestly you realise those things have always been there, your own problems or ways of doing things that you don’t like, you might think getting married will sort them all out, but of course it can’t, you don’t realise any of this consciously though, and then when things or problems arise, as they would have done anyway, it’s easy to blame the other person, as you have conveniently forgotten how you/your life used to be before you met them.
I went for a walk to the church, John said say a prayer for me, for my soul. I didn’t actually go to the church in the end, my legs took me along the footpath, past the big ivy covered trees that marked the start of my spiritual awakening. I said a prayer anyway though: I pray that John will be happy and free from worries and that I will be able to rise above the day to day worries and stresses that sometimes cloud things between us, and connect again to that force of love that brought us so spectacularly together in the first place. Anyway, it worked: he said this morning, ‘let’s have an early night, let’s go to bed before we are tired so we can talk’ (!) and sent me nice messages at work. I like the way one of us always comes forward, or should I say back. Like sometimes I think he’s moody and distant and sometimes I try to be loving and cuddly and sometimes I am distant and stressed and he is all compliments and cuddles and come ons. But we get there, the two of us, thank God.