23 03 2008

I have in the past experienced moments of ‘flow’, intervals during which it feels like something big is working through me. For example, on occasion I teach a course called ‘The Power of Self-Esteem’, and another called ‘The Power Of Purpose’. They’re usually taught as six evening sessions to small groups of up to fifteen. They are experiential in nature – the students learn mainly from the experiences they have whilst following the course material. This can involve self-reflection, journal work, watching and listening to presentations, listening to the course ‘mentor’, and sharing their own story and experiences with the others in the course. During those times when I am speaking or interacting with a student it is important that I supress or set aside any agenda of my own devising – the course material works just fine as it is without any additions of my own, and trying to fit a student into some mould I have assumed is a fit for them is more often than not a mistake – it is vital to really listen to the students, to be 100% for them, to believe in them and know that they will often themselves have the answer they are seeking. When I achieve this, this level of detachment, where my own ego and will are set aside and I just open my mouth and let the words come out, it is then that I experience ‘flow’.¬†Most often the words that I speak, whilst in ‘flow’, are somehow so apt and fitting, and seem to hit the mark with the students.

After such evenings I often feel excited and grateful and humble. I know that something remarkable has happened. It SEEMS that when I set aside my will and allowed it in, something far bigger than myself was able to work through me and touch in a profound way the life of another. It would be easy to say that it was ‘God’ or ‘the divine spirit of life’ or some other supernatural cause at work.

It feels like that. I feel tingling, like my chest and head are clear like mountain air and there is a kind of glow around me.  And I am at peace Рmy purpose for the moment is fulfilled РI have been part of creating something special Рa transformational experience for others.

And yet … perhaps a simpler explanation is that by quieting my conscious mind I was able to tap into a deeper, sub-conscious wisdom that exists within me. It’s the same same wisdom we access when we say we’re following a hunch, or a gut feeling, or an instinct.

Perhaps we all have this inner wisdom, it’s just that few have the skills with which to tap into it.


The God Question

13 03 2008

Why do so many, with so little evidence, believe in God? All around the world, there are millions of people who believe on one level or another that God exists. They often visualise God as an old man with a long white beard who resides in ‘heaven’. They go to church or the mosque or the synagogue. They worship God. They believe that a book holds his words and base a huge part of their culture and social systems on what that book says. They believe that their beliefs are the only true beliefs and from that stance create vast human misery and suffering.

Right now, I don’t believe in any of that. I don’t believe that there is an entity, call it God, or Allah, or whatever, that exists independently of the universe and that created us and loves us and nurtures us. Nor is it listening when people pray.

I was challenged recently by a commenter (mormonsoprano) to this blog to start a practice of daily prayer to God. I was assured that if I was sincere he would listen and if I listened out for it I would hear his answer. I have though long and hard about this challenge and concluded that I will not do it, mainly because I will find it impossible to be sincere; how can I sincerely and without hypocrisy talk to an invisible supernatural entity which I do not believe exists.

Mormonsoprano says that when she prays God answers. I believe that she prays and then coincidentally something happens and that she puts a meaning on that event; namely that God did it to answer her. This naturally reinforces her belief in God.

I don’t need God to give meaning to my life. I am quite capable of doing that myself. I am self-conscious and have the power to make choices. I can choose my purpose.

The Passing Of The Bodhi Tree

2 03 2008

I was moved by art today, but I still don’t understand it fully.

Today is Mothering Sunday. For the first time the children thought of and bought on their own initiative small gifts for their mother. Whilst she was at church we cleaned up around the house, and after she got back we all went out to the Manchester Art Gallery, a place she’d been wanting to visit for some time.

Once at the gallery we went straight to the cafe and had a somewhat disappointing lunch. We then toured the various exhibitions. In the modern extension to the gallery there was an exhibition of work by a young asian artist, Jun Nguyen-Hatsushiba. In one large vacant room they were screening a short film, The Ground, The Root, and the Air: The Passing of the Bodhi Tree. We entered just as it was beginning and took our seats on a padded bench.

In the film a group of about thirty powered canoes were motoring up a large swift river between jungle clad mountains. Each narrow boat had a man crouched near the stern, steering and keeping the powerful engine going. Nearer the prow on each boat a second person was seated at a rought easel painting with black ink, or drawing with pencil or charcoal, on sheets of white paper.

The river was wide and powerful. The boats were all struggling up-river against the current. At one point the film focussed on the whirpools and turbulent water. The scenery was spectacular mist enshrouded hills. Each bend of the river would open up more vistas of jungle trees, rocky cliffs, and receeding mountains vanishing in the clouds.

The painters all worked in silence. Sketching the landscape. Filling in the details of the jungle and the river. None of the seemed to be terribly good artists. In fact I would their work was often childlike, but they were engrossed in their art. I wondered why noone was using a camera to more accurately capture the beauty of the scenes constantly unfolding as the boats bore them on and on up the river.

At the beginning of the film there was some very dramatic bhuddist music, with drums and cymbals. But that faded out and was replaced by the sounds of the boat engines, chugging and labouring against the river. No one spoke.

Occasionally the film would cut to a group of people in new modern running shoes and sports clothes running around and around a very delapidated sports arena. Eventually these scenes were overlaid with shots of a lantern, rotating with the heat of a candle. The exterior of the lantern had dragons and animals around it.

Back on the river, the boats continued their journey and the artists were still painting. The boats neared a large, old tree on the side of the river. It appeared to be a holy place with a stone embankment and steps leading up to a space beneath the tree. The painters all stopped painting and stood up in their boats, looking intently towards the tree. One jumped out of his boat and started the very risky swim towards the tree. Another followed, and another, and soon there were few left in the boats, which continued on their way up river, as the credits rolled.

As we left the viewing room I felt energised and excited. I was smiling. The film had been visually rich and emotionally interesting and I was sure there was some important lesson I could learn from it, if only I could put my finger on it.

I interpret the film as an allegory of a spiritual life; we are all artists, seeing the world with child like eyes; some are willing to risk all to worship the sacred and leave the main stream.

Am I an artist, on a spiritual quest against the current or am I just running in pointless circles? Would I jump? Would I leave behind my life’s work and risk all to experience the sacred and spiritual?