Letting go

The path to self-realisation is learning about letting go. We have all to a greater or larger extent rejected ourselves and adopted a character to get by in life. What character that might be, depends largely on decisions over which we had no control: decidsions made by our parents, our families and our teachers. We simply adapted by adopting a character, a way of being that got us through all of that. The problem is that we forget this was just a strategy, a character that we created to get by; instead we end up believing we are that character and the “certainties” the character contains. We believe that is…

The trap of spiritual materialism

Chogyam Trungpa (who died in 1987) continues to be an important teacher to me. He coined the phrase “Spiritual Materialism”. The term describes a common experience; it is what happens when you give your ego the job of searching for your truth. The ego, with its desire to always be right and always be in control, with its need to be the star of the show, happily accepts responsibility for the search. But because it’s the ego, any piece of spiritual wisdom is used simply to inflate itself. After a retreat the ego feels pumped up: “I am so much more spiritually mature than these ignorant others”. The desire to…

The Power of “How”

As I have mentioned before in these pages, my childhood was one of trauma, abuse and abandonment. In the psychology of resilience a metric is used called ACE − Adverse Childhood Experiences (Experiencias Adversas Infantiles). The ACES score is a measure of the number of childhood traumas you experienced involving abuse, neglect, trauma etc. According to the Adverse Childhood Experiences’ study, the higher your score, the higher your risk for later problems in health, addiction, social, emotional, and/or cognitive impairments. Long-term, ACES are a major determinant of your health and social well-being. As your ACE score increases, so does the risk of disease, social and emotional problems. With an ACE…

The power of ignorance

I recently read of a man who was released from prison after being incarcerated for 37 years. DNA tests showed that he was innocent of the crime for which he had been imprisoned for his entire adult life. It seems the police wanted to close the case; they found a likely suspect and stopped looking. A nightmarish as this is, we are all guilty of the same error; once we think that we know or understand something, we cling to a certainty and stop looking. Worse still, we stop seeing!  Like the policemen who imprisoned the wrong man, we will massage the facts so that they support our belief. Our…

Compassion is the key

When we practice mindfulness and/or meditation with an attitude of compassion − that is kindness to ourselves − we embark on a life-long voyage of discovery that is rewarding and immensely satisfying. If we don’t adopt this attitude, we run the risk of using meditation like a drug: getting a buzz, an escape from our lives, a way of momentarily feeling better. If this is all we seek, we will soon tire of our practice and find an excuse to stop. Compassion is not feeling sorry for someone; that is called pity. It is not “feeling” for someone; that is called empathy. Compassion is to recognise the suffering of another…

Why meditate, what is the point?

When we ask that question we should ask ourselves the question, what is it that we want in our lives? The answers that pop into your head might include such things as more money, a romantic partner, a better job, greater material security. To my way of thinking, these describe form rather than essence. It is of course, nice to have these things, but they are all external and temporary; they come and go, giving a brief respite from “dukkha”, and can even be the cause of greater dissatisfaction. Dukkha is a Pali word used in Buddhism. In the west we have no direct translation of this word; the expression…

Misunderstandings about meditation and why bother to meditate

When I talk about meditation I am also talking about what is known as mindfulness (which, after all, is a type of meditation). Mindful meditation is simply about intentionally bringing your attention to a single point of focus; something that is occurring in the present moment, such as the breath, bodily sensations or your senses (eg. sounds, sights). It is important that we pay attention in a certain way. Our attitude is always one of open curiosity (that is to say acceptance, without judging anything, without believing that we should be thinking different thoughts or feeling different feelings than the ones that we observe are present). We do this with…

Do we have addictive personalities or addictive behaviour?

Here we have a real ‘cracker’. So much utter crap is spoken about addictive personalities when in reality, the idea is no more than a notion. The idea has absolutely no scientific basis. Let’s take a closer look at this. Whilst I was addicted to nicotine, my behaviour was that of a drug addict. During that time I could say that I had an addictive personality. I indulged in self-destructive behaviour. I did something which I knew rationally was damaging me but felt I simply couldn’t live without it. I was less vital, more stressed and constantly anxious to ensure that I always had a more than adequate supply of…

The bee

The other day as I sat at my desk absorbed in writing, I became aware of a furious buzzing and bumping sound from my window. I recognised the sound as a trapped bee banging against the window, trying frantically to get out. I realised that if I didn’t do something quickly then the bee would probably die of exhaustion. So I got up, walked the 8 steps or so to the window and opened it. Without so much as a ”thank you” or a “bye your leave”, the bee flew away. The whole experience started a chain of thought about perception; what we can know and how to behave. Perception:…