The Elephant In The Room Is Becoming More Visible


Image by John Hain from Pixabay

This latest blog post is a complete shift away from the usual subject matter that has formulated my posts since I started blogging in 2011.  I have been prompted to write about the once taboo subject of mental health; the reason for this will become clear in due course.  Those of you who have read my book, Eyesight To The Blind, will be aware that mental health issues formed a big part of my earlier life, and for those of you who may be new readers I will give an extremely condensed summary of my experiences before I continue with the post.

For many, many years, no matter where I found myself in the world and in whatever capacity, I always felt that I didn’t belong; like I was in the completely wrong place.  I also felt, for no apparent reason, the most excruciating emotional pain that made me feel as though I was the worst person in the world.  This would normally be triggered by feelings of loneliness and worthlessness.  In addition to that I would experience paranoia (although at the time I would have vociferously denied it) and could often withdraw into myself, especially if I felt that a group of people were excluding me.  When I finally found out, by accident no less, that I had depression, which was in 1996, I estimated that I’d been living with this “thing” for around 28 years.

Now that I had a name for what I’d been experiencing I was able to go about the task of tackling it.  Notice that I have not said that “I suffered” with depression; I will clarify in due course.  I lived with this condition at a time when it was not understood and not spoken about.  If you said you were depressed it meant that you were hacked-off because your team lost on Saturday.  If you happened to persist with this notion of, “I’m depressed”, you would be ridiculed, told to man-up or pull yourself together; after all it’s only girls and sissies who get depression, isn’t it?

I initially went to my GP and asked for “happy pills”; he duly obliged, but I couldn’t stop drinking and we all know what happens when we combine the two.  It’s not exactly a marriage made in heaven.  After an experience that I never want a repeat of, I finally decided that enough was enough; I was simply tired of feeling awful.  Plan “B” was to flush my pills down the toilet, grab depression by the scruff of the neck, look it square in the eyes and (apologies to any minors, religious people, or people of a nervous disposition who may be reading!) knee it in the bollocks.  It worked a treat, I’d got to the point where I was recognising triggers, which is something you can’t do when you don’t know what you are experiencing.  Whenever a trigger reared its head, I simply acted in the opposite way to what I’d always done; for example, if I was feeling excluded I made a point of interacting with people.  However, I wasn’t quite out of the woods..

Around three years later, for a period of approximately two years, I had an experience in the workplace that caused me to be off work sick for a period of six months, with an acute stress related illness.  This was my real turning point.  I was full of hatred, anger and blame, but it was during that six-month period that I learned the root cause of the problem.. it was me.

I was defining myself by my illness and blaming the world for the way I felt.  It was only when I realised that I was the only person who could change my life that my life actually changed.  I realised that who I really am is something that goes way beyond my illness.  I could have gone on blaming other people and circumstances for ever, but no matter what I perceived that others had done to me, no matter how much I hated and blamed, the only person hurting was me.  Yes, I took certain actions, and I’d be happy to go into more detail if anybody reading this is interested; just contact me via the contact form below.  But the reality is, that all along the solution was within me.  I just had to experience what I now refer to as “my great adventure with depression”, in order to arrive in that awareness.  Now to the whole point of this post.

I think it’s fantastic that there is now a much greater understanding and awareness of what is an awful illness.  It’s amazing that more and more people are not afraid to talk about it.  What is especially refreshing is that so many famous sports stars and actors, past and present, are going public and sharing their experiences.  It proves that depression does not discriminate; it will make its home in anybody regardless of their status within society.  The elephant in the room is most certainly becoming more visible.

The concern that I have is this.  While it really is a great thing that so many are opening up about their experiences; especially with social media being so big now, it gives people a platform from which to share.  I see so many negative posts being churned out.  So many people it would seem, are defining themselves by their condition.  This is why I never say that I “suffered” with depression; I always say “I lived with”, or “I experienced”.  When we use “I” or “I am” in a sentence, we need to be very careful what words we use after because they really are defining.  The mind is such a powerful thing; we ARE literally what we think.  So, when we are constantly affirming that we are worthless, useless, inadequate, a victim etc, that is exactly what we will be.  I don’t know what the ultimate answer is, but I suppose that everyone in their own time will make the natural transition in the way that I did.  I just want to finish by saying two more things.

I’m not in any way trying to say that my experience is definitive.  We are all unique (thankfully) and we all have our own pathway.  I’m also not suggesting that the people tweeting and posting negative stuff are wrong.  It is what it is, and we are all at different stages of our journey.  In many cases they don’t know how to reach out in any other way.  I’m simply trying to highlight how harmful it can be when we define ourselves by negatives.

Finally, I wasn’t going to mention any individuals, but I’m going to mention the ex-footballer, Dean Windass.  He was an absolute beast in his day and still looks quite fearsome, but he is one of the many brave souls who are bearing all to the world.  The reason I mention Dean is because he posts regular videos on twitter.  Those videos are never rehearsed, they are completely raw; showing his humanness, and he always says how he feels but also he regularly sends out the message that if you are having a bad day; reach out to someone!  These days there is always someone who will listen respectfully, so don’t suffer in silence!

Like Dean’s videos, I hope that this post has reached out to you, that it has made at least a modicum of sense and that you have been able to take something from it.

Don’t forget, if you want to ask any specific questions about how I dealt with and beat depression, just get in touch via the form below.  Later people…

 

The Lightbulb Analogy


Image by Susan Cipriano from Pixabay

Here we are then, the last day of 2019, and with 2020 peering over the parapet, I thought I would provide you with some food for thought to take into the new year.  Many of you reading this, particularly if you are from the UK or the USA, will be wondering what the hell is going on with, and in the world.  I’m not going to mention any particular politicians or political parties, but there appears to be millions of people experiencing great hardships, with no foreseeable signs that things will improve.  I also, find this very difficult to comprehend, especially when I allow the world’s dramas to influence my thoughts.  However…

There are a couple of things I’m going to share with you that will give what is happening a bit of perspective.

Imagine that you had some sort of hideous boil on a part of your anatomy.  You would obviously want the boil to heal up and go, but you would also understand that before the boil can heal, all the poison in the form of puss has to make its way to the surface and ooze out.  This is what I feel is happening now as I type.  How long will it take?  Who knows?  The process will probably not be complete in my life time, but at least it is underway.  What we are seeing is the outer reflection of the puss that the collective consciousness of the human race has allowed to poison it’s soul; “as without, so within.”

Another thing to consider is this great analogy that I came across some years ago, but it seems so apt in relation to what is going on today.  Imagine you had a warehouse that was lit by a 40 watt bulb.  One day you get fed up with trying to find stuff in such a dim light, so you decide to replace the 40 watt bulb with a 100 watt bulb.  All of a sudden you can see all the dust and cobwebs that you couldn’t see before.  It’s not that they were not there, it’s not that they have suddenly miraculously appeared; it’s just that you now have a stronger bulb in place that is highlighting all the dirt.  The aforementioned puss was already there, and indeed, has been with us for a very long time.  However, now that the human race is waking up, now that people are becoming more enlightened, now that the light of consciousness is illuminating our planet, we are now noticing the negative stuff more.  Why?  Because it no longer resonates with who we are; we are evolving (or simply awakening to our true nature) and it does not serve our soul purpose; or purpose for Being.

We should also understand that there is so much positive stuff happening in the world too.  This however, is not newsworthy and therefore comes a poor second to all the sensationalist stuff we see and hear in the mass media.  If we simply shine our light wherever we happen to find ourselves in the world at any particular time, and never miss the opportunity to give a helping hand when it arises, then we will not be going far wrong.

I wish you all peace, love, happiness and abundance for 2020.  See you next year!

Be Careful What You Ask For


A very greedy construction mogul wanted to get his latest project off the ground.  For the project to be successful he required an on-site water source in order for his planned operation to run.  He identified the area where his project should take shape; he simply needed to find the exact spot.  He’d heard a rumour that there was a rich underground water source at a particular location, however, if he were to go ahead in that particular spot it would be very detrimental to the local people, causing untold disruption to their lives.  The mogul had no qualms about this and simply wanted his project finished so that the money could start rolling in.

The greedy businessman had heard that there was a wise master in the region, and on learning that the master ran a hermitage in a nearby village, set off at once to seek his guidance.  Showing no manners at all the man barged into the hermitage demanding to see the master immediately.  He was pointed in the direction of the hall where the master was giving a discourse.  He walked straight through the master’s followers who were all seated on the floor listening intently, and thrust the blueprint of his project right under the master’s nose.

Without pausing for breath he went into great detail about his plans and the need for a good quality on-site water supply; all the while the master smiled and nodded slowly, as if in agreement.  Finally, the mogul demanded, “so can I drill there?”  The master, still smiling peacefully, said, “yes, you can drill there with confidence.”

Within days, huge trucks carrying all the drilling equipment came rolling into the area.  Tests were to be carried out to find the best spot to commence the drilling; all of which was at great financial expense to the businessman.  Before long the rig was set up and drilling commenced.  They drilled quite deep but there was no sign of water.  “No problem”, thought the mogul, “the master said I could drill with confidence, so we will just go deeper.”  They drilled some more and there was no sign of water, so they drilled ever deeper; to depths that were much greater than the norm.  When there was still no sign of water, the frantic mogul went back to the master, once again barging in to the hermitage and demanding council with him.  The master was sitting peacefully in the garden and the man approached him, “I came to see you before and you told me I could drill with confidence in that location.  I’ve drilled to the greatest depths I’ve ever drilled but there is no sign of water.”  “I could have told you that”, said the master.  “You didn’t ask me if you would find water, you only asked me if you could drill and I said you could.”

This little story reminds us that we need to be very careful what we ask for.  It is so important to understand that the ever-generous universe will ONLY give us EXACTLY what we ask for.  We all know people who are constantly complaining; never happy with their lot.  What those people don’t realise is that “the lot” they are complaining about is being created and recreated over and over again by themselves and no one else.  When we constantly affirm “I want”, “I need” etc. the universe receives our message of affirmation that our lives lack, and duly obliges by giving us more lack.  Likewise, when we constantly affirm “I am useless”, “I have no worth” etc. the universe will bring more situations to our lives that will further nurture such feelings.  The universe has no judgement, it listens intently to the thoughts our minds churn out, processes those thoughts, and then manifests our grandest version of the greatest vision of what we believe about ourselves and the lives we have.  Had the man in our little story given more consideration to others, had he not been blinded by his own greed and ignorance, he would not have wasted so much time and money by drilling in the wrong place.

This is a concept that many would have difficulty accepting; especially those who are suffering.  However, I can say with hand on heart, that it was only a grasp of this understanding that ultimately helped me to rise up out of the darkness.  Once we realise that no one is in control except us it opens the door to magic!

Emptiness

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Photo by NASA on Unsplash

A master was addressing a group of young monks.  He asked, “can any one of you demonstrate to the group how emptiness can be grasped from the air?”  A single monk raised his hand.  “OK”, said the master, “come out here and show us how to grasp emptiness.”  The monk made a grabbing action in the air and then stood with his fist clenched.  “Have you grasped emptiness”, said the master.  “Yes”, replied the monk.  “Show us then”, said the master, and the young monk opened his fist and stood with his palm facing upwards.  “Where is it?”  The master asked, “I can’t see it; can anyone else see it?”.  The master looked at the monk and asked, “emptiness doesn’t appear to be there, no one here can see it, would you like me to show you how it’s done?”

The young monk, looking rather embarrassed, replied, “yes master.”  There followed uproarious laughter in the hall as the master grabbed hold of the young monk’s nose and gave it a very hard yank.  “You may sit down now”, he said!

This rather amusing Zen parable covers a range of spiritual topics that I’ve written about quite often in the past.  But, I wanted to share it with my readers, not only because of the humour, but because it is so typically Zen in its subtlety and depth of meaning.

Firstly, the young monk should have known better, and realised that the master had something up his sleeve.  But, ego got the better of him and he wanted to demonstrate to all present that he could indeed grasp emptiness from the air, and hopefully impress the master in the process.  Then we have the humiliation, which is nothing more than the master giving the monk the direct experience of his ego.  Finally, there is the reminder that all is emptiness (consciousness); that all form is an appearance within consciousness; that our true nature is not that of the bodily form, but the vast emptiness of consciousness.

 

Maybe…


There was once a simple farmer who kept a horse in his field.  One day the horse got loose and ran away.  A neighbour heard this news, and on crossing paths with the farmer said, “such bad news about your horse.”  “Maybe”, said the farmer.  A few days passed and the horse returned, bringing with it two more wild horses.  Again the neighbour heard this news and on meeting the farmer in town said, “fantastic news about the horses.”  “Maybe”, said the farmer.

One day a few weeks later, the farmer’s son was breaking in one of the new horses and it threw him, fracturing his leg in the process.  The neighbour came to visit and on hearing what had happened said, “such bad luck with your son’s broken leg.”  “Maybe”, said the farmer.  Soon after this incident some officials from the military came calling.  They were drafting young men into the army to go and fight in a war.  On seeing the son’s condition they didn’t bother with him and went away.  Again the neighbour heard and on seeing the farmer exclaimed, “such great luck that your son does not have to go to war.”  “Maybe”, said the farmer.

This lovely little parable aptly illustrates several things that can be the cause of pain and suffering if we remain unaware of our true nature (consciousness).  The farmer was obviously accepting of “what is.”  He also understood that good and bad are simply personal judgements, and that the nature of the phenomenal world is cyclic.

He did not judge each situation as it occurred.  He simply accepted each scenario in the understanding that the natural flow of nature would soon carry it on its way.  Had he not accepted the seemingly unfortunate events exactly as they were, and instead formed a judgement that they were “bad”, the story playing out in his mind would have caused him to suffer.  Equally, had he allowed the seemingly good fortune of events to carry him off on the crest of a wave, the judgement made by the egoic mind when the fortunes were reversed would have also caused him to suffer.  In consciousness there is no relativity, no phenomena, nothing to judge.  Instead of becoming embroiled, the farmer remained “the witness” to the dramas playing out before him on the stage we call life.

 

 

May Your Dreams Not Come True


A rather brash young student heard that there was a very wise Zen master in the region and went to seek him out.  He located the master in a mountain temple and turned up there one day asking for council.  The young man was shown into the garden by one of the monks, where the master sat in peaceful contemplation.  “I am very ambitious and I want you to tell me how I can fulfil my dreams of a successful life”, said the young man.  Without looking at him, the master replied, “may your dreams not come true.”  The young man became angry, “what do you mean, what kind of answer is that?  I came here asking for your guidance, and that is all you can say to me; it seems that you are just an old fool.”  Still angry, the young man turned and left.

Years passed and the brash young student became a brilliant architect; well respected in his field.  He’d never forgotten his visit to the temple and what the master had said to him; in fact, it had played on his mind all through his studies and working life.  It got to the point where he couldn’t stand it anymore and he decided to take a trip back to the region, seek out the master, and tell him exactly what he thought of him.  He made the journey to the temple and demanded to see the master, who by now was quite old.  He was shown once again into the garden where the master sat in peaceful contemplation.  The man launched into his speech, “I came to see you many years ago to ask your guidance on my future, but you said, “may your dreams not come true.”  I went away and studied and now I am a successful and well respected architect.  Had I listened to you I would have achieved nothing, what do you think of that?”

The master looked at the man, smiled and said, “yes, I remember you.  So, you are now an architect are you?  Successful and well respected you say?  It seems that the only thing you are the architect of is your own bitterness.”  In that moment, the man suddenly realised what the master had meant all those years ago, and bowing his head in gracious humility, he apologised for his rudeness and left.

This story, at first glance, doesn’t appear to make any sense; why would anyone not follow their dreams?  Did the man not become very successful in his chosen profession?  However, the beauty of such stories is that they are very profound, and the reader has to dig much deeper in order to find the truth contained within them.  When we focus on outer goals, while at the same time neglecting the inner, we are only strengthening the ego.  The man in the story illustrates this by having held on to his bitterness for so many years.  The soul, however, contains unlimited possibilities, so by focusing our attention on one worldly goal we are blocking those possibilities.

When we focus on the inner, we are allowing life to open up to us in countless ways.  Had the man in the story not been so headstrong, he could have been a successful and well respected architect whilst at the same time enjoying all the unlimited opportunities that life offered.  Instead, his success (which was only relative) came at a price; the bitterness that poisoned his soul, until the penny finally dropped and he understood the master’s teaching.

The Lantern


Photo by Terry Jung on Unsplash

In ancient Japan it was quite common for people to walk with lanterns at night.  They were made out of paper and bamboo, and held a candle.  An old blind man had been to the temple, and as he was leaving to go home, a monk offered him a lantern.  “I don’t need a lantern”, exclaimed the blind man.  “Darkness or light, it’s all the same to me.”  “But you need to carry a lantern so that others may see you”, said the monk, handing him the lantern.  The blind man seemed to have walked no distance at all before someone bumped into him.  “What are you doing”,  he said, “can’t you see the lantern?”  “My friend”, replied the stranger, “I’m very sorry for bumping into you, but your candle has gone out.”

This beautiful parable tells us that external lights are limited and temporary, and will ultimately burn out.  Our inner light, on the other hand, will always “light” the way for us. The light in question being “the light of consciousness”, which is our true nature.

There is an added teaching here that tells us that we can find ourselves in situations that would appear to be disadvantageous (like the blind man), however, it is possible that when we are in those situations, our purpose is to light the way for others.