I had the pleasure of giving a workshop at Trew Fields cancer and holistic health awareness festival this last weekend. It was truly inspiring to see so many people challenging their preconceived ideas and conditioning around subjects such as cancer, drugs, holistic therapies and death. However, even here I observed some resistance to talking about dying itself.
It is such a taboo subject, and yet my aim is to break this taboo by normalising it for people in a way that not only reduces fear of the dying process, but also gives you the tools to approach it in a conscious way, which is ultimately free from suffering.
The first thing to do to take us in this direction is to define death. Ultimately, what we see as death is just one manifestation of a process which is happening all the time. So instead of focussing on death as going from one state (alive) to another (dead), it is much more helpful to see it like this:
Dying is, the breaking down of one reality in order to make way for another.
What this definition shows us is that dying is a continual occurrence which is one half of a bigger process; change. The other half is life. Death and life exist as one, neither being able to exist without the other. The amazing thing about seeing death in this way is that, with it comes the realisation that this movement of energy (dying) is totally applicable to our everyday lives.
Making Dying Normal
Yes indeed, but not as heavy when you realise that loss of identity happens to us all of the time, and that carrying around the burden of old, used up realities is in fact a lot heavier than letting them go. Death happens to you every day. It happens every time you don't get your expectations met, every time you feel pain, or every time someone disagrees with you or does something that triggers you. On a slightly larger scale, it happens when you change or lose jobs, house or relationships. And, of course it happens when a loved one dies or you permanently lose a function of your body or mind.
Yes, this causes pain - but it doesn't have to cause suffering.
Your Pain is Where the Light Enters
Pain will happen. Of that there is no doubt. Whether it's physical, emotional, mental or even existential. There's just no way to control whether you experience pain or not. Sure, you could pop a pill, or distract yourself with entertainment or soft drugs. However, the problem with this is that it creates a kind of polarity in your consciousness. Me vs. the pain/loss. So you're never fully able to experience your reality in that moment. And why would you want to?
The thing is that we do have a choice how much we suffer. The paradox is that the more we retreat from our pain, the more this leads to suffering. If we chose to experience our pain so fully that that there is no longer a separate 'self' retracting from it, then suddenly all suffering vanishes (and often so does the pain with it). Suddenly it is obvious that this sensation no longer defines you. It no longer has any power over you, because you realise that there is a bigger part of you that cannot be touched by it. (For more on how to do this, see 'Be as a lake: A fresh perspective on pain')
Losing Your Identity to Find Yourself
It's a part of us that is simply present. And the best way to reach this state of being is to simply clear the path of all the inner crap that was keeping you from it. I'm talking about all those identities that keep you in a box, attached to a specific way of living. For more ways to cultivate this see the 3-part series of articles on 'the observer'.
From this essence will come certain ways of being. These will manifest as feelings such as passion, focus, surrender, compassion, and curiosity. When we realise that an old identity is no longer a viable part of your current reality, coming back to these feelings provides us with a bridge back to our essential selves. For example, if we were to lose a job which gave us a sense of purpose, of helping to better the world, then we can connect with the sense of compassion inside. Or perhaps the job provided us with a sense of achievement or innovation - in which case we can connect with our sense or passion or curiosity. For more on this process see, 'Letting go - how to do it'
Why Fear Death?
The great consequence of doing this is that the closer you come to this essential self, the less fear you have around dying. There is simply less and less to let go of when you aren't carrying so many identities around.
We may not know what happens when we finally let go of our body. However, by learning to die right now, we can begin to fully live in each moment. Coming closer to our essential selves gives us so much stability, that there's no longer anything to fear from losing that which is no longer a part of our reality. It is not an easy process. It takes a lot of courage, especially in the beginning. But, I promise you the rewards are worth it!
For personal help with achieving this, and understanding how you can apply this in your personal story, please do get in touch.
From my heart to yours,
I've been touching on the subject of responsibility with many of my clients recently. Many people see the pain of those around them, and feel a certain sense of responsibility for it. Particularly when they judge that that what they've said, or the actions they have taken, has led to pain in another. Its one theme I'll be touching on in my book 'Awakening into Change' coming out in Autumn (Fall) of 2018. And because it's such a sensitive subject I thought I would go deeper here into exactly why I say you are NOT responsible for other people's suffering.
What can you be responsible for?
There is a very important difference to make here. You are not responsible for how others react to your behaviour. However, you ARE responsible for how you behave, and how you treat others.
I understand how grey this area can be. I expect we can all think of situations where something that we've said or done has had a direct impact on someone else, causing them pain in the process. It's bound to happen when interacting with others, especially for those living with families.
So, what's the best way to treat others? Are you:
Discernment is key
Sometimes the loving approach is to call someone up on their stuff, even if it does lead to pain. Sometimes, it's not the right time to do that - perhaps they're already in great emotional stress and aren't in a place where calling them up will have any benefit. Or, perhaps you've told them the truth many times before, even if it's just about establishing your own boundaries, and they refuse to accept that truth. Perhaps the loving approach is to meet someone in their pain exactly where they are.
The point is, how someone reacts to any stimulus is their own responsibility and theirs alone. How disempowered would you feel if you found out someone was always protecting you to prevent you from feeling bad? Surely it's your decision how you deal with your own pain? Not only this, but why would you take on the burden of someone else's pain? It's both disempowering for them and it puts unnecessary strain on you.
Let's be clear. I totally understand how hard it is to tell someone an uncomfortable truth, knowing that it may lead to suffering. I've had this pattern for most of my life, being a people pleaser in every sense of the word. How wonderful it is when people are happy. Then you can be happy right?
Reflections in the mirror
How you react to other people's pain is exactly the same as how you will react to your own pain. If you will do anything to prevent yourself from feeling pain or suffering, then you will also take on the responsibility for others, because you won't want to see this mirror. It reminds you of your own buried pain. But if you have become comfortable with your pain, because you recognise its the route to your own light through self-realisation, then you will also be able to approach others pain and be with them through it. Even if something you said/did has triggered this pain.
Stephen Levine tells a beautiful story in his book 'Who Dies' which shows us exactly how beautiful this can be.
"I have a friend, a chemotherapy nurse in a children's cancer ward, whose job it is to pry for any available vein in an often emaciated arm, to give infusions of chemicals that sometimes last as long as twelve hours, and are often quite discomfiting for the child. He is probably the greatest pain giver the children meet in their stay in the hospital. Because he has worked with his own pain, his heart is very open. He works with his responsibilities in the hospital as 'a laying on of hands with love and acceptance.' There is little in him that causes him to withdraw, which would reinforce the painfulness of the experience for the children. He is a warm, open space which encourages the children to trust whatever they feel. And it is he who the children most ask for at the time they are dying. Although he is the main pain giver, he is also the main 'love giver'"
Becoming completely 'okay' with your own pain
The only way to overcome this pattern of taking on responsibility for other people's pain is to work with your reaction to your own pain. Can you sit with it and not run away with distractions or medication? Believe me I know how hard this can be. But there is a light at the end of the tunnel. Dealing with your own pain leads to an end to suffering. Not an end to pain - just a way of dealing with it that brings you into the full light of who you are. Expansive, present and so much more than the pain. To deal with your pain and end suffering see the article 'Be as a Lake' A Fresh Perspective on Pain.
If you don't judge your own pain then you no longer judge the pain of others. If you no longer judge their pain, then you don't need to save them from it any more. You don't shy away from expressing your truth, even if it may lead to someone else's suffering. And the unbelievably beautiful thing is, you can be right there with them as they go through it showing them that they are not alone. Because pain is something that unites us all.
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I've recently had the pleasure of meeting Nicola Offner, a local artist and poet. She has a very deep connection with nature and has many psychic gifts. She expresses these with beautiful pieces of art and poetry. Here is her website The Sentient Garden
She read me this poem over the phone and it blew me away. I touched aspects of my own current journey which really spoke to me. Here it is.
When you are at peace
When you are at peace
With the silence that surrounds you
When you are at peace
With the noise of life
When you succumb
To the tension
And give it all up
To the Spirit within
Then … then
I will come to you
Can I come to you
And show you the door
To your sanctuary
I cannot push
I cannot offer
I can only be
And when you only ‘are’
And accept what is
Then … can the space around you e x p a n d
And let in what you have been looking for
When… you cease your searching
When… you cease your wanting
When… you say yes to now
And give it up to me.
There comes a point in life
When the burdens may be washed from you
Breathe, feel and know:
My arms are open wide to you
In the vast expanse
Breathe, and you can follow
Breathe, and you can sense
Breathe, and you can release
Into the night of your existence
All that no longer serves
And willingly will I take it from thee
For you to return to me.
Sit silent now in the stillness
And open to the expanse
The infinity of me
I’m not talking specifically about men (though this does need to happen). I’m talking about the masculine aspect of the energy that makes up the universe (yang). This energy lives within all of us, men and women, and so we can all contribute by healing it within ourselves.
The problem has been that masculine energy has gotten so easily distorted over the centuries. In it’s pure, aligned form the divine masculine is clear, wilful, passionate, protective, committed and focussed. However, when it gets distorted it can turn into domination, perversion, and aggression. This usually comes from some need to control the environment because of a need for a specific outcome.
So, how can we heal it?
Firstly, we need to recognise that masculine energy in it’s pure form IS divine! It’s very common, particularly in spiritual circles, to strive for traits such as love, peace, compassion and acceptance. How often does will power, focus, passion and courage get overlooked! But these traits are needed too. They are deeply catalytic.
On a more practical outer level we can use masculine energy to initiate change in our lives. To take that bold, but necessary step into the unknown. It is also needed to establish boundaries, asserting what is okay for you and what is not. This is particularly important for empaths and highly sensitive people. It can be so easy to lose yourself in others, particularly when you always see their point of view. The masculine energy protects you from this, establishing a boundary so that you remain clear in who you are.
Coming into alignment
I have met many women out there (men too) who subtly deny their masculine side, convincing themselves that it is too aggressive to assert themselves instead of simply trusting that what they’re getting is right for them. I would say there needs to be a recognition of balance here. Indeed, you draw to you exactly the right circumstances for you to come closer to yourself. But, there also needs to be an inquiry into why you’ve attracted it. Does it serve you to be accepting in this circumstance? Perhaps it does. Or, perhaps the right action is to stand your ground, asserting that what is happening is not okay.
I have also met many men (women too) who overuse their masculine side, seeking to control and dominate a situation in an effort to get something from it, even if it’s just an ego boost. I would say there definitely needs to be an expression of masculine energy when it wants to come through, but in a way that doesn’t seek to gain power over someone else. Can you stay in your own power without disempowering someone else? Why would you need to disempower somebody else when you can find all the strength you need inside? It can be a challenge, especially when it is so ingrained into our psyche. But it is needed to heal both men and women. It even comes down to the language we use. Can we admit we have a problem without needing to change it? Can we take responsibility for our own emotional pain? This is where true strength and courage lie.
I’d love to hear how you feel about what you’ve read here. Does it push your buttons? What have been your experiences with masculine energy?
With love, as always.
This is a very simple video. Not a long essay. And yet for me it touched something very deep inside. So, here I will share it with you. What does it do for you?
Anyone on the path of self-realisation will agree with this - there comes a time when we have to step out of the box. I'm talking about our own, self-made limitations, which either hold us back, or impose unreachable standards on ourselves.
It is the latter that I'd like the focus on in this article. Many of us, especially those in spiritual circles, may have an idea of what a spiritual or self-actualised person may be like. Perhaps you imagine that this person is compassionate and confident. Perhaps they are always at peace, never getting angry or upset.
The problem with this mind-set is that, if we cling to these ideals we limit ourselves to certain states of being and certain behaviours. A great example of this is the 'love and light' identity bubble that many spiritual people carry around with them. If one is only love and light, then so much of life is denied. This may be true at the purest level of the soul. However, we are still living in a dualistic reality, with karma that needs to be played out. Therefore, how beneficial is it to us to deny the places we get stuck, angry or fearful? Isn't this the path to our self-realisation? Surely to be enlightened is to be self-realised through all experiences, no matter how dark.
My Own Exploration of the Box
Recently, I've been letting go of many limiting identities, most notably what it means to be a 'good father'.
I've carried this identity around with me for a long time now. I always imagined myself to be a very involved father, always there for my kids, whatever they needed. However, over the years this has caused me a fair bit of suffering, and I'll tell you why.
The idea of being a good father put me into a box. It was a self made casing, which dictated how a 'good father' should behave. For me, it was someone who had infinite patience, who enjoyed being with the children in whatever pursuits they were taking part in. However, I've come to realise that there are many aspects of this box that just aren't who I am.
I often butt heads with my daughter. She pushes my buttons and I push hers. This has, in the past, brought a huge sense of guilt. When I got into conflict with her I was judging myself for not handling the situation with serenity and unconditional fatherly love. But, now I realise that it's not about striving for this, but just seeking to be who I am in each situation. Perhaps this is real unconditional love, because there are no confinements put on the situation. What's really happening is that I'm now loving myself unconditionally. And when this happens, how can we do anything else but the same to others?
A Change of Question
So now, the question that I ask myself has changed. It is no longer, 'how can I be a good father?' Now it's, 'who am I in this situation?'
I'm learning that there are many things that I don't feel like doing as a father - and that's okay. For example, I really get down with messy play and painting. And, there are some times when I just won't feel like playing with the kids at all (my children are currently aged 6 and 3). My children do not always find this easy, but that is part of their path.
And you know what - it makes the time that I do spend with them more precious. Instead of focussing on quantity, there is more quality to the time.
Being Everything that you ARE
Readers of my articles will already know that I advocate getting right into your pain and darkness in order to expand through to the essence of who you are. This means, before anything else, that we allow ALL aspects of ourselves to come forth, including all the conditioned behaviours and fear and judgement. Only then with the question, 'who am I in this situation?' work. Give yourself the space to work through this stuff.
Once you've come closer to a sense of who you are, then it's important to express this. In this way, you establish authentic boundaries. Situations will come up that you feel to say no to. Of course this doesn't necessarily mean you'll only do things that make you happy. It's more about feeling what is 'right' in the situation. Some less desirable things still need doing (for us right now, there are regular soiled pants to wash). However, there will always be a sense of the empowered choice.
In order to step out of the box of impossible standards, we have to change the question we ask ourselves.
Instead of asking ourselves, 'how would a good (fill in the blank) behave?', we simply have to ask, 'who am I in this situation?' Then it's just a matter of expressing that and watching what gets reflected back to you.
Hugging. It can be one of the most powerfully healing ways of connecting with someone, releasing oxytocin into our systems. It can help us to feel connected, release emotions and experience love. However, if you, like me, are quite sensitive to other peoples energies this can pose a problem. Empathic people often take on other peoples 'stuff' just by being in close proximity to them. It's part of the reason why they can seem overwhelmed by some situations, introverted, or just overly emotional. It is particularly an issue in spiritual gatherings, where the 'social norm' is often to hug one another. But, to highly sensitive people, what had the potential to be a loving connection can turn into a very uncomfortable and invasive feeling, which is difficult to recover from afterwards.
With so much pressure and expectation around hugging at spiritual gatherings, how can we establish boundaries, while still experiencing deep soulful connection with those around us?
I don't always get it right. The last time I attended an event where hugging was the norm, I came to a guy who seemed to have a very gentle energy. However, the hug spoke entirely differently, with this guy practically massaging me mid-hug. His energy felt extremely needy, especially when I tried to cut this contact and he practically clinged to me. Afterwards, I had to spend a few moments releasing some of his stuff which I felt within me, and re-centering myself, before I was able to commune with anyone else.
It takes some practice to feel what your boundaries are, and even more practice to express them. I find this especially true in gatherings where hugging is not just invited, but expected. You may not want to risk offending someone by saying no. Firstly, I would say that a persons reaction is not your responsibility. Secondly, a short explanation can go a long way. Thirdly, there are many less invasive alternatives to the full-on embrace.
Maintaining Deep Soulful Connection
The number one way of connecting deeply, soul to soul with someone, without taking on their energy, is eye contact! They say that the eyes are the window to the soul, and I really feel this is true. Not only does eye contact allow a non-invasive, soul to soul connection, but it also provides you with a mirror to your own soul.
There are many ways of compromising when you don't feel to hug someone. All of them involve eye contact. Here are a two of the best ways that you can do this:
Of course, there may be times when you absolutely don't feel to engage someone. That's fine - being clear about it without being judgemental is very powerful. Discernment is key. The people you come across will feel this.
Being open as a being and yet being clear about your energetic boundaries can sometimes feel like walking a blade edge. It takes practice and plenty of self-awareness. However, you'll find that when deep soulful connection happens, the authenticity of it will actually magnify the experience.
I wish you an interesting and rewarding exploration.
For me it's a song about being who we are. And I mean really being who we are, underneath all the fears and attachments to identity. It's a song about expressing and being empowered by the path of self-realisation.
Here are the lyrics. I offer a brief personal interpretation, but really just let them say whatever they need to say to you.
There's plenty of things I could do
Life is a house with so many rooms
And behind each door there waits concealed
A lesson to be learned, a secret to reveal
And the only way to know is to open them and go
Turn the sacred handle and walk on through
Great interpretation of the path of self-realisation. The only way is to step through the door.
Cos I'm the only one that's ever been me
The only one to see the things that I've seen
And though this body's bound to act
And this mind is bound to think,
There's something deep inside saying I am free.
The real 'us' is beyond the body and mind. Our essence is the quiet point inside which whispers to us. From this place comes all the aligned traits of the soul - freedom, compassion, will-power, etc.
I don't want to sit here entertaining myself
I want to get up and use these hands to help
And sing about Love, sing about God
Sing about who we truly are
Cos the only way to grow is through this path that I've been shown
And what's the use, where's the truth in anything else
Entertainment for the sake of distraction takes us away from our true self. And, to be our true self we have to express it in every moment. This will lead us into situations where we can most grow and become self-realised. There's really nothing else going on!
Cos I'm the only one...
So I'm going where I've never been before
And when I get there you're gonna be waiting at my door
See I'm crossing every ocean to reach the furthest shore
To meet back with the one
The one that I adore..
On the journey of self-realisation, to get 'back to the source' we have to dive right in, take risks and embrace change. If we're committed we'll surely get there.
Cos I'm the only one...
Finally here's the video to the song. Enjoy!
Wow, I just discovered this game. This could be of huge benefit to people. Not only people who are dying and their relatives, but also anyone who wishes to explore death and therefore come closer to life!
The game poses a series of interesting questions. It is designed to spark conversations about death between relatives who find the subject difficult to breach.
But, not only is it great for this purpose; it can also be used for increasing self-awareness around death. Therefore, it can be used by anyone.
This is a practice I developed a couple of years ago. At first it was just a bit of fun, designed to see how far I could go with it. However, I quickly realised that this exercise could help me to confront all my fears about uncertainty in a relatively safe environment. It challenged me to literally step into the unknown. Even though I knew that I was safe doing so, the exercise brought up my fears very quickly and I was able to confront and soften into them.
The great thing about this exercise is that even though it’s safe enough, it will still challenge you very, very quickly. It will bring up all your fear about stepping blindly into an unknown situation, but without any major consequences for your life. It also provides a very effective way to deal with the fears that arise, so that when you do need to step into the unknown down the line, you are already hard-wired to be able to cope with it.
The other great thing about this practice is that it is so simple and so flexible that it is possible for everyone to do. It can be done alone, in pairs, or in groups. I do it mostly alone, but it can be very powerful in a pair too, especially as an extra safety net. It can be planned or spontaneous, for example when out for a walk in the countryside.
So here it is:
This exercise, when done fairly frequently, will give you a great tool for dealing with any situation which brings up fear of the unknown. Feel free to go at your own pace. You don’t need to complete all 9 steps each time. Feel free to make your own alterations to the exercise. Be creative, and have fun with it.
My name is Richard. I love to write, and here you can find my general musings, observations and articles. Enjoy!
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