Thursday, 10 November 2016

Elections and choices

So we have another result to an election which has left large chunks of a population bewildered and a slightly larger chunk elated

We go through this round every 4 years or so and things get stirred up, passions aroused, and I suppose in a democracy that's how it should be 

Things got very stirred up with the UK referendum and with the recent American presidential election in very similar ways 

I'm not really in a position to go into the politics of it. But  I noticed a question come up in me that spiked my attention 

The question 'is politics from the people to the representatives' or is it 'from the representatives to the people'. 
Do we give the power to the leaders, is this what is happening during an election? Or are we electing, for convenience one person who can represent our views? Are we abdicating power (our power) to others, or are we asking someone to speak our views?

I think the difference can be quite subtle, but I feel its an important one. Its easy to 'believe in' others and expect them to sort things out, to make things better, (to make America Great Again). 

So every 4 years or so we pick one person, or one party, that's going to sort things out. And then we sit back and behave in exactly the same way, we have been doing for the last 4 years. We vote for change, as long as that change is done by others. 

So we can continue to think, speak and behave in the same way as we have always done, whilst expecting others to make the changes. My feeling is that, this is a great shame. 

We vote every 4 years; but we speak to people every day, we take actions every day. Every day we decide if we are going to make our conversations positive or negative, nurturing or toxic. We decide if we are going to thank the bus driver or not, if we are going to curse the other road user or remain calm, if we are going to spread gossip or support people. If we are going to speak well or ill of people.
Where we are going to spend our money, who we are going to bank with, who supplies our electricity, who we are going to get our groceries from, are we going to support charities, do we volunteer at the hospice/school/scout group/community centre...........  the list can go on and on 

We may not feel that we decide on these things, but we do, we just may not be conscious of it. Every one of these small actions can make a difference and we get to make them every day, over and over, not every 4 years 

I feel we have a duty to vote, but I feel that voting for others to make things better when we are not doing our active bit to make better what we can, results in a dependency on others. Where we place unrealistic expectations on our politicians that they can never live up to.

But this is not easy, to take on being as positive as we can be every day takes time, commitment and thought. I get it wrong more than I get it right. Its easier to give it away to others and say 'make things better for me'

But I feel we have to share the idea of a better future. And that however skillful, our current way of living we can make it more so. 

With persistence, reflection and  effort, we have the potential to be a cause of positive change, every day. 

Thursday, 18 August 2016

‘So am I at ease right now!’

Sometimes after a good massage/Shiatsu one can feel quite euphoric. 
This state can feel alien or other worldly, it can seem like something has been added or changed. . But I would suggest that what we are experience in these moments is a (our) natural state; just free of pain, stress, worry etc. It’s the absence of something rather than an addition 

We can layer lots of levels of discomfort onto ourselves and do so most days. Life seems to have a way of doing it. Physical pain, discomfort, unease, little niggles, rubbing, chaffing, pinching, pulling. Emotional pain, discomfort, anger, pulling away, irritation, wanting, desire,  
Some of these are quite big and we might need help to deal with, but others we can tackle ourselves. It can be about making simple little choices; How we sit, what shoes we wear, which clothes we put on, where we put our attention, what bag we use, they are small things that can contribute either to a sense of unease or ease. The trick is to keep making the more skilful choices, over and over again. 

A trick to make this possible is to keep a bit for awareness in reserve for  our body as often as we can. So in any given situation we can ask, am I at ease now? If the answer is ‘I don’t know’, then you can ask a purely physical question. Is my body at ease now? 

If the answer is no, then do the thing that makes you at ease; shift your position, change the shoes, go for a different bag, take a break, walk away, pause the conversation, stand up on the bus, sit on the floor not the sofa, really listen to the other person, change your underwear, take a deep breath. Just do the little things that increase a feeling of ease.

Over time the results can be really radical, but start small and practice, regularly 

‘So am I at ease right now!’ 

Thursday, 19 May 2016

Attention and where we put it.

We often have a tendency to not be aware of where we place our attention. It goes to the area with the most stimulus, the one that's drawing our attention most strongly at the time. Sometimes this is a good thing that needs to happen (responding to that fire alarm) sometimes, not so good.

In fact many people do not realise that they can decide, or at least influence, where they place their attention. 

Developing an awareness that we can choose to place our attention on given objects is a powerful thing. It allows us to direct our thoughts and perceptions in a way that we choose rather than where stimulus takes us. 

It can be easier to focus our attention if we are very interested in the subject, a craft we love, a piece of art work we really admire, a great book, someone we are in love with. Are all relatively easy things to be attentive to. 

I always remember focusing on my father slurping his cereal in the morning. I can become obsessed with people's leaking earphones on the train. I can focus on the negative comments or feedback I get rather than the positive.
In this way we can focus on what is in reality often a small amount of information, and by doing so ignore the majority of the available information. In the process often reinforcing less skilful or negative ways of viewing our daily world. This can result in a feeling of the world being more negative than it actually is, a real shame. This can have a result of increasing our level of stress and anxiety. 

Until we learn to direct our attention; where it goes, is where it's gone before, in effect old habits.

So how do we start to be aware of and move where we place our attention. 
Well I would suggest starting with the body.
An awareness of how our body feels, how our posture is; are we holding tension? Is a practical way of remembering to check in with where our attention is. I have noticed that if I become aware of slumping, I can then see that I have lost mental awareness. If I correct my spine then my awareness increases without having to 'make it'. If I notice that I have a tight jaw, I also notice that I'm often having negative thoughts. 

We can play with attention exercises. Say for the day we will; notice every time we see the colour blue, notice every time we have a judgmental thought, notice ever time we are offered service. 
If you have a mind that's been allowed to wonder where it wants for years, maybe decades, then it takes time and practice to 'behave' and go where you want it to. However the results of working on this can be interesting, and in some cases life changing. 

If you are interested in taking this deeper, I would recommend the courses held by the Todo institute.

The books of David K Reynolds are also good places to start 

Thursday, 12 May 2016

Ping ping ping

Someone I know recently lost their phone. Aside from the very real problems with having no ones numbers and not being contactable her comments on the effects were really interesting. 

She realised how many times a day she, 'checked' her phone. 

I think if you are one of the majority of folks who have a smartphone you might recognise this. Or you might not, or you might have an idea but maybe your not aware of quit how often you do it. 

Most of us now have; email, text, whatsapp, Facebook and many more apps on our phone. Most of us have an alert to tell us when we get 'events' from these apps, a ping, a vibration or maybe both. But most of us will be in the habit of checking the phone to see if we have received any communication. 

As Sandi Toksvig said; it's like having a working doorbell but repeatedly going to the front door 'just in case'. 

You can make an argument that we are here becourse our ancestors were vigilant. They avoided danger long enough to breed. Vigilance seems to be a learned part of our make up. And if you have ever driven a car or walked late at night through a dodge area you know it's still often needed.
But think about how you feel during these times. After a long drive one is normally shattered. The same after that really important meeting etc. 
It's to do with the difference between the sympathetic and para-sympathetic nervous systems, but I'll go into that in another post. 

Being constantly vigilant is really damaging to our health. 
Our lives are full of situations that make us vigilant or stressed, a lot of them we may not be able to easily avoid. But maybe how we relate to our smartphones and computers is a good place to start. 

When you become aware of the itch to look at your phone, maybe take a good moment, a deep breath in and out and see if you really need to. Try it for a week or two and see how you feel. Can you turn down the vigilance dial a bit. You might find you; sleep better, feel better, talk to loved ones more, digest your food better, see that tree in blossom.........

Thursday, 14 April 2016

What do we pay attention to and what do we choose to ignore?

Those who are enlightened about delusion are buddhas. Those who are deluded about enlightenment are ordinary beings.
~Dogen (Shobogenzo, Genjokoan)

Some time ago I was sitting on a bench and took a picture of the sun coming through the foliage. Im sitting on the same bench as I type this now. 

The scene below is what is on the ground. Did I not see it, did I ignore it, or did I not want to share it with the world?  

And maybe more interestingly what aspects of myself is the ground, that I don't see or maybe glimpse and don't want to share, my delusions?