Sunday, 23 August 2009

Signs of Life

The wood where I walk my dog has a clearing with a bench that looks over a small meadow and trees down by a brook. Its pleasant place, except for the litter.

Litter: a strange word. Stuff cast willy-nilly into the surroundings. Like seeds on the wind, then? What of clumps of wool left by sheep as they stray through the trees: are they 'litter'? How are autumn leaves different from the crisp packets and beer cans left by the teenagers who sit talking late into the summer evenings?

Probably the most unsightly element is a pile of discarded chewing gum stuck to the bench seat, as if someone was trying to build their own little mountain. Now an irremovable reminder of someone else's salivating, it makes graffiti look almost acceptable.

Further down by the brook is a spot where boys camp out sometimes. The first few occasions I came across beer cans strewn around their burned out fire, I was really annoyed. Why can't these louts tidy up after themselves? Camping here must be illegal. It should be stopped! And so on.

But after a while I noticed it always happened toward the end of June, and always a different group of lads each year. Like end-of-school exams, it seemed to be something fifteen /sixteen year olds felt the need to do, just once. My attitude softened remarkably when I realised this. For I am glad to live in a village where children have the freedom (and the safety) to explore.

Sure enough, it has been a phase most year groups pass through. Now, they are chatting in gangs — boys and girls "hanging out" long after dark. Later, adult responsibilities will prompt them to move on again. With a house and family of their own, they will be the ones grumbling about others littering.

A few years ago I regularly chatted to an old man on our street who's blood seemed to boil every time the conversation touched on "youngters today" and how they had neither discipline nor respect. (His part in the war usually came up about then.) I had to stay quiet, for I believe our children grow up in a much better world now than he did.

Though that pile of chewing gum is still disgusting, for me it is a sign of life. A reminder that things are as they should be. Today, children are not frightened to say what they think. Neither are they oppressed by elders who feel free to act as bullies, as if age alone guaranteed superiority. Women no longer feel constrained by social convention to stay married or have children. Their choices aren't always right, but at least they can choose.

Yes, the result is a lot messier than when youngsters "knew their place". Given this freedom, will we choose to accept the constraints of good citizenship? Perhaps, or maybe the cynics were right. Either way, at least the problems we see today are problems of the life. We are no longer slowly strangled to death by buttoned up shirts of "respectability". And where there's life, there's a chance to choose a better world.

It is a curious thing, finding that lump of chewing gum both disgusting and hopeful at the same time.

Sunday, 10 May 2009

Tea and Understanding

Just like sugar in tea or salt on food, knowledge is an added extra we don't really need.

Yesterday, I did pretty well at a Taiji excercise I hope to be assessed on. In fact, I was able to go beyond the expected standard and proudly felt, "This is great, I'm doing well. Won't they think I'm good. Yay me!" So I carried on longer than I needed just to see if I could do it.

I don't know enough about Taiji and qi (chi, energy) but these excercises certainly energise; and doing more energised more. I felt great! So in the afternoon I did more gardening than usual. Mistake: my habits of thought and movement were still their usual unhelpful selves and more activity just drained me more. (Another lesson in the fact that we are whole persons and that shortcuts are not fixes.)

The problem was not the excess Taiji but my mental commentary. It was extra: not only unnecessary but (like sugar and salt) potentially damaging. And it occurred to me we don't need knowledge to live! In fact, it gets in the way.

Disembodied knowledge

Of course knowledge is essential for the science and technology we mistake for "civilization". We believe we must know things in our heads to understand the world and our ability to function within it. An awareness of how symbols (sometimes words, sometimes wordless images) connect to other concepts and implications is certainly one form of understanding. But there is another way.

Consider "tea with sugar". We may have a mental awareness of what we know as "tea", and how we remember "sugar" affecting it. Alternatively, we can embrace the real world that occasionally includes tea and sugar (or references to it). When we need to understand "tea with sugar" there will be something in the Present Moment bringing that to our awareness (often the tea itself). How can we have a need for something without being aware of needing it? Everything we require is present, literally, and we can be conscious of it if we choose.

Incarnate comprehension

A famous roboticist, Rodney Brooks, made history in the world of AI (Artificial Intelligence) when he demonstrated that the world is its own best model. For us too, the world as it is, is sufficient. Accumulated memories and complex webs of connections are unnecessary baggage, unless we want to live someplace other than the present. Surely imagining we live in an insubstantial flicker sandwiched between a hefty past and a real future is to live in a dream world. It is a kind of madness to evade the obvious — our only be-ing is the eternal Now.

True understanding is an involved corporeal consciousness; an awareness of how things "fit", along with the consequences of that dynamic equilibrium. We may build a model in our heads but that is just a poor copy of the real thing. The important word is involved. On the occasions we visit "reality" it seems too limited for our sophisticated lives. That's partly because we confuse sophistication with living, and partly because we simply visit it.

The third person view required of science can never produce genuine understanding because it stays detatched, never embracing its subject. The world is already embracing us despite our resistance. As we return that embrace our interdependence means we are inseperable; to remove the other is to cut away part of ourselves, and vice versa. Instead, in our poverty, we gather scraps of "understanding" and piece them together as best we can. How misguided to be proud of such "knowledge"!

Alan Watts used to talk of going to a restaurant, seeing all the good things described on the menu, then eating the menu. Understanding only comes as we eat the food. And it departs as easily when something else arises in this wondrous, eternal present we live in. Travel light.

Friday, 1 May 2009


Practice means "to do". I am thinking of spiritual practice here. But the same is true of a doctor's practice: it is what they do. We expect that a lifetime of doing means we get better at it, but the "getting better" is quite different from the advancement expected from a student, for instance.

Consider waves moving sand and pebbles up and down a beach. That is what waves breaking on the shoreline do. We glibbly say that waves shape the shoreline rocks, but there's a lot more going on. These waves give some insight as to how spiritual practice brings about spiritual change.

For the wave there is power in each moment. Sometimes it is shoreward, until the power over-reaches itself. The surface water moving fastest begins to move faster than the body can sustain. The finest droplets, more mobile than the rest, leads the way but it has gone too far; there is no water beneath it so it drops. The wave's momentum means solid water follows, falling into the undertow beneath to create swirling eddies of foam. This is our daily experience.

Having lost its power, the water falls onto water and moves with it. But this water is directed by the sloping ground beneath, and the cyclic movement of the waves would leave a vacuum if this undertow were not there to rush in and fill it. So more water surges upward for a new wave, driven half the time back toward the shore by the tide's rhythmic flow. Our interaction with our surroundings have similar self-sustaining patterns.

Water is heavy, and like a child on a swing the movement reinforces itself, driven by the shape of the shore, wind and tide. This power is dispassionate and relentless. Anything small enough is caught up in the motion — sand, seaweed, flotsam, pebbles. It isn't intentional, but these have their own movement, their own actions and consequences. Of course, we aspire to include intention and consciousness, but the same is true for us: our activity has its own power.

Consciousness, as something we do, has the power to move cliffs. If we can truly be, aware of the present moment and acting from that consciousness, our intentional mind can (at some point) have the power of the wind and the waves. For then we are an agent in the only place Life happens — Now. But for most of us that is patchy at best. No surprise then, that more of us aren't "rock-shapers" yet!

The relentless movement of the shore has its own dynamic, its own shape and rhythm. Variation at this level is with the tide, the weather and the seasons. Every wave is part of this unchanging pattern: slow changes that build sand in one place while dredging it from another. The sand has its own movement. They are interdependent: if the sand was not there, the wave would break somewhere else. Each wave has no control at this level. Behaviour is a cummulative concequence of particular, habitual, interactions.

On a time scale unknown to wind and water, sand and pebbles, the rocks themselves are also changing. Scientists might talk of friction and erosion caused by a grain of sand or a stone rubbing on the rock's surface. But we may as well say that raindrops causes a flood for the amount of understanding that give us. The incessant waves are part of an equally obdurate form. Swirls and eddies maintained by the to-ing and fro-ing of mobile matter have their own relentless cycles. These are the energies of life (and why I practice Taiji).

Sand and pebbles are the same stuff as the rocks they move over. It is inconceivable that their effects would not be mutual. So pebbles become sand, and the rocks themselves also yield of themselves under such an uncompromising onslaught.

Do the waves form the cliffs? Maybe, but it is futile to think each wave sculpts the cliff it breaks upon. In the same way, it is futile to think each practice shapes who we are. It is neither the water nor the sand it carries that makes the rock the shape it is, but the the pattern the waves fall into. The pattern is a nebulous thing without matter or energy, hardness or strength, yet without it the rocks would never change. It is the pattern of our daily life that is our power, too. This is a much bigger investment than an interest, something to try.

In the same way spiritual (or any other) practice is just activity. It is what we do, and can have no more effect than that. I for one tend to take my spiritual practice too seriously. But when I look at the waves, they play! Frolicking and dancing or angrily pounding, they do what they do with their whole being, having no thought or intention except to be what they are. Practice does not change us in the way we learn to drive a car, for instance. That just changes the practice.

But if it is in my nature to practice, having formed a lifelong habit of sitting in meditation, I miss it when I miss it. Like a swirling pebble wearing a hole in a rocky outcrop, it has made its own shape. In turn, the water that drives the pebble flows differently because the hole exists.

Is it the habit that changes us? No, that is just change at the level of behaviour. Perhaps change occurs in the dynamic equilibrium we call living, the rhythm of action and withdrawal, doing and reflection, interacting with our surroundings. Part of that scenario is us, how we are. Some parts of us are the sand and some parts are rock. Do our individual actions changes us as people? Superficially perhaps. Can singleminded patterns of behaviour change our being? Its inescapable.

Saturday, 25 April 2009


I once tried out one of my Dad's ideas on a Christian I respected, suggesting degrees of helpfulness described actions better than "good" or "bad". I was firmly put in my place and told the Bible was very clear that actions were either good or evil. Ok, wanting clarity is good; but at the expense of truth?

The world is as it is, regardless of how we view it. I have shared accommodation with bishops and beggars; been bullied and beaten, robbed and ridiculed. But among the many thousands of people I have known, I have never come across one that wasn't doing what they thought was best at the time. (Admittedly, sometimes it was only their best that was considered. And often their actions hurt others. But even when this was known it was not as real to them as the benefits they imagined.) The idea that there are "evil" people out there whose sole purpose in life is to harm us simply doesn't square with the facts.

My Dad used to talk in terms of circles: our horizons for care and action. The circle in the middle holds me, myself and I. Around it are the people close to us, either through daily contact, blood or relationships. Then there are those we live amongst; the people "like us" who live "around here", but we don't actually know. Further out are our city/county, country, race and so forth.

People like Nelson Mandela or Mahatma Gandhi work within wide horizons, but it is more usual for our care to not extend much beyond our families. The scandal of politicians or religious figures having extra-marital affairs is said to be because they have been caught lying. That may be true. However, I think the problem is their apparent care has been revealed as fake. They try to act in a wide arena, but if their circle of care doesn't even include their own partner, how can it extend to us?

Acting with Care

So what is "care"? It can masquerade as being interested, but that's just nosiness. It sometimes knows best how someone else should live, but that's just arrogance. Even worrying about people can be manipulativeness if you let them know. However, true care is known by its fruit. It produces possibilities, not constraints. It encourages growth, not compliance. It gives opportunity and freedom rather than proclaiming some moral code, even "for their own good".

Care always seeks the best for the other whatever it may cost. It cannot help but accept the other, yet it is more than simply unconditional positive regard. Care implies an embracing, an involvement where the other is granted power over us because what they do matters. It implies attention. For example, a home that is "cared for" has had time and work willingly spent on it. So with people.

Authentic care can be thought of as the eyes of the soul. Just as we need vision to move safely in the world, we need the sensitivity that caring brings when acting among people. Of course, our care is often patchy. We can do things with good intentions that turn out to be unwelcome. But those on the receiving end can easily tell whether the care is genuine, and such mistakes are not hard to forgive.

On the other hand, acting outside our horizon of care, we are like a monster truck oblivious of the traffic: an accident waiting to happen. Some personal motivation, unrelated to our field of activity, drives us on. Powerful actions have powerful consequences and care-less actions are almost certain to cause trouble.

Sure, the results can be good. But even the good is meager, minimal and mechanistic compared with the abundance born of care. It is like comparing the effectiveness of well-meaning bureaucracy with the natural ability of love to heal, grow and bring joy. Years ago there was a saying, "If you're not part of the solution, you're part of the problem." We are part of the solution when working within our ability to care. Work outside our ability to care and we are part of the problem.

Yachts and Motor-boats

Dynamic people are respected. There is pressure on us to be doing, and to be doing good. Also, we see problems all the time and are tempted to rush in and fix them. Where those actions are guided by genuine care, we may make small mistakes but the main things generally work out well. However, where such care is not the guiding principle, the action still has a motivating force. It has a direction and power that is very likely to cut across the needs of others because it simply doesn't see them.

Good action is like a sailing boat: it get where it is going by co-operating with the wind and waves, accepting there are some directions it cannot take. In contrast, a motor boat forces its way straight there, powering through whatever seas are in its path.

We need sensitivity to recognise the limits inherent in co-operation, and grace to submit to them. The "motor-boat" approach has neither, so it cannot tell when action is ok and when it is not. The co-operative "sailing boat" way is not only safer, it is sustainable. Just as motor-boats need fuel, proactive behaviour requires an external source of power, too.

Its not that "motor boat" action is inherently bad, just that it provides the opportunity for badness, along with temptation to use short cuts with questionable merit. When, in the Lord's prayer, we say "Lead us not into temptation" we are asking for the "sailing-boat" rather than the "motor-boat" way.


If this concentric circles idea is right, there are two sources of trouble. The first is that all horizons are necessarily limited. The second is that bad things happen when we act outside our horizon of care.

The ripple effect of actions in a complex world means wrong-doing is inescapable. We stand at a specific point within the social landscape, with an horizon beyond which we cannot act and another beyond which we cannot see. No matter how high a position we choose, there will always be issues we cannot perceive and actions beyond our ability.

One consequence is that it is best to maintain an humble attitude, keeping in mind that others around us may be able to see or reach further. Thomas Merton defined humility as being content to eat ordinary sliced white bread from the supermarket, just like everybody else. This acceptance that we are nothing special might be seen as an acceptance of both our horizon of care, and its limitedness.

The answer to the second source of trouble is meekness. Humility and meekness are often confused. Where humility relates to perception, meekness concerns how we behave. It involves accepting our horizon of action and its limitedness. As we have seen, confining our actions within our horizon of care is a good thing. This is meekness.

Avoiding the temptation to "make our mark in the world" is possibly one of the most powerful decisions we can make. In willingly limiting our sphere of activity to those who already know us, we are already co-operating, acting the "sailing-boat" way. The "motor-boat" way of forthright action is self-destructive, so ultimately can have no future. Only the "sailing-boat" way is sustainable enough to win in the end. Jesus put it like this:

Blessed are the poor in spirit,
    for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.
Blessed are those who mourn,
    for they will be comforted.
Blessed are the meek,
    for they will inherit the earth.

Saturday, 21 March 2009

The Fruit Tree

(Dedicated to my father, Peter Willmot. He told us part of this story when we were small, although he never saw how it turned out in the end. Despite knowing what is written here, he allowed us to endure that mandatory inoculation against Christianity known as Sunday School.)
Jesus said, "The hour has come for the Son of Man to be glorified. I tell you the truth, unless an ear of wheat falls to the ground and dies, it remains only a single seed. But if it dies, it produces many seeds."
John 12:23,24 (NIV)

Many of the trees in the orchard bore good fruit, but one was especially fine. The rest merely fed on the soil's nutrients, but this tree absorbed all the dross and waste and rubbish that lay on the earth; transforming it into the most fabulously scented, lucious fruit imaginable. As well as being good to eat, the fruit seemed to have healing, life-giving properties.

Word spread and the orchard people worried so many visitors might damage their tree. Wanting to share their blessing (but seeing "a little regulation was needed here") guardians were comissioned to ensure the tree continued bearing fruit. They agreed the best way to protect the tree and honour its specialness was to build a walled garden around it.

Time passed and the tree continued to bear fruit. Some noticed the fruit were smaller than they remembered. Others thought their fathers might have exaggerated when describing the scent. Its fruit had been rationed for a long time, so it was already a commonplace that no-one could actually live on it like the stories claimed. But one thing they did comment on: while other trees in the orchard grew old and died, this one merely grew tougher.

To help new generations of Guardians, the Lore of the Tree was Written. Each generation of pilgrims came and gazed upon The Tree. "Eating from the Tree" was now a sacred ritual. The Guardians did their best to ferilise the garden and feed the tree, but it was not enough. Each century the tree looked a little more bowed, knarled and lifeless. Each crop tending to be a little smaller, a little paler than before.

Meanwhile the land was prospering. Businesses were thriving and the people were healthier and wealthier than ever. Children who once might have looked in wonder at the lucious fruit, now passed it by, favouring brighter attractions. The Guardians blamed "progress" for leading the children astray. But the walled garden was, in fact, shabby and old; the tree was struggling and the fruit nothing to write home about.

Something had to be done. The tree was once a fresh, lively green. So the Guardians painted it a fresh, lively green colour. They researched stories of the Early Fruit and hung pictures of fruit in the branches. This attracted some interest and the Guardians recognised that the "party buzz" was good — the community echoed something of the Old Tree As It Once Was, so they encouraged lively meetings and mutual support. Things were looking up.

But inevitably, the children growing up in this new-born community wanted to taste the fruit for themselves. And of course they were not fooled. Their parents might have their vision clouded by dreamy memories, but they saw quite clearly that this decrepid, half-starved fruit tree was worse than the other trees, not better. They tasted the fruit and it was dry, not life-giving. The branches were so brittle they needed propping up. The bark required continual protection from insects that knew this tree had had its day. And trained eyes were needed to make out tiny fruit, only fit for "ceremonial eating" now.

The Guardians were perplexed. For centuries they had never failed to keep the soil around the Tree pure. They had been diligent in protecting it from all the dross, waste and rubbish that lay on the earth outside the walled garden. With their children turning their back on The Tree, the Guardians' job was clearly now only hospice care. It was just a matter of time. Eventually there were only two Guardians left and they agreed on a fitting end. With care, they uprooted the tree and buried it near the rubbish heap at the back of the orchard where few people ever went. They covered it with earth, said a few words, and laid it to rest.

That winter there was no Tree, but there was no-one to miss it either. As spring came, life went on as it always did. Children were born as the elderly passed away, and businesses thrived amidst the usual troubles. Some got sick, others were poor, but the indomitable spirit of the people meant they largely overcame their trials; as they had been doing for centuries. Near the rubbish heap, where the old tree's roots were buried, the ground was full of all the dross and waste and the rubbish that lay on the earth. Nobody recognised the shoots that first appeared, but they were the brightest, gentle green.

Wednesday, 11 March 2009


The Parable of the Cyclist is about enlightenment. I don't care for that term; like being "born again", abuse has obscured the meaning it was intended to have. One of the reasons for these difficulties is that the transcendence they are pointing to is beyond language of any kind; like trying to express the scent of a flower using pen and ink.

The most explicit description I've ever come across is Martin Heidegger's analysis of Being and Time. To achieve that precision he needed to more or less invent his own language. Very good for those of us who can grasp hermeneutic phenomenology, but (as Jesus knew) most of us get more out of stories.

Us and Them

At a forum of there has recently been an interesting discussion about New Age shops. As often happens, the discussion polarised according to those who were sympathetic to new agers and those who were not. That is, those who had approached to topic by feeling from the inside (the "us" view) versus those who were treating the topic with rational objectivity (it was about "them").

The tendency for this distinction to become a division is understandable. Knowing who are like us and those who are not (them) avoids misunderstandings. It is the good work of our protector mind (ego) keeping us from disillusionment and pain. After all, expecting people who are not like us to behave as if they are, can only lead to disappointment, right? It is the first step down the slippery slope toward being a cynical old fart.

Well that's true, if the ego is all we have. The "everyone is us" view is only possible when we are in contact, at least partly, with the universal mind (spirit); the source of power to forgive without limit, to tolerate abuse without retaliation, and the endless outpouring of healing that can restore damaged or hopeless situations.

So do we have to reject rational thinkers that divide the world into us and them? NO! Eckhart Tolle points out that the only way to maintain contact with spirit is for there to be no blocks. These express themselves emotionally as resentment, intellectually as judgement. So rejecting those who divide the world (unlike us?) is the surest way to lose any maturity we have. Does that mean we have to tolerate the imprecision of fuzzy thinking or people who cause trouble through poor judgement? NO! "Toleration" is merely the polite disguise of resentment. We have to embrace them with enthusiasm and accept them with love, just as we love and accept ourselves!

Disgusted? The Parable of the Cyclist was for you. Read it again. The stabilizers are the constructs/understandings our ego mind makes as we "make sense" things.

Making Sense

There are two places where the boy is without stabilisers: before he is able to ride, and after he has learned to ride skilfully. The thoughts we have about things are scaffolding our ego mind uses to support us -- to help us live. But these are no more than crutches, helping us through the transition time between birth and maturity. They are part of our growing up, but we are supposed to grow out of the habit of trying to "make sense" of things. (If you know the Tarot, look at where the Swords end up.)

Those of us who are good at "making sense" of the world don't like that very much, hence Avoiding Bethel. Even though the gateway is open and stepping into it is simple, we prefer the "riches" we have, even though in real terms that choice keeps us poor. Our ego mind shies away from the simplicity of the present moment. For we can only simply be by laying down our precious understanding.

Does this mean we have to abandon rationality? Only if that is where you live; if it is important to you, your "riches". Like the stabilisers, if you are depending on them, they are getting in the way, preventing you from learning how to live. For the only way we can live is in the present moment, and thoughts are at best no more than constructions about it.

It is like looking at a window; the ego (protector mind) looks at the pane of glass where our spirit (universal mind) looks through it. Looking beyond doesn't mean we no longer distinguish things or lose our powers of reasoning. We can still understand what is and think concerning what we see there. But the discernment loses the edge given it by our protector mind; there is no longer the need to judge what is good (us) and what is not (them).

The same acceptance that enables us to abide in the present moment dissolves ego centred distinctions. We no longer need the "sense" we made that propped us up. We realise that life is actually more fluid (and more fun) without over thinking things. And we are happy to let our stabilisers go.

Monday, 9 March 2009

The Parable of the Cyclist

I've looked at clouds from both sides now, from up and down, and still somehow it's cloud illusions I recall. I really don't know clouds at all.
Joni Mitchell

The Kingdom of God (or enlightenment or authentic being or whatever) is like this...
A boy was born, and he had so much to learn: digesting food for one thing. Eventually his limbs were under his control (more or less) and the world was his. However, crawling wasn't enough. He enjoyed the rhythmic movement and getting places, but walking seemed to be the thing.
Trouble was, walking was dangerous. All his life he had been trying to stay balanced. But walking seemed to mean being deliberatly out of balance half the time. Then he got his first bike. Shiny and big and posh, he loved sitting on it. The peddles got in the way, though. Until he found a use for them.
Then there was no stopping him. He went everywhere on that bike. Always one stabilizer wheel bobbling furiously along the ground. He got used to the leaning -- generally favouring the right, which made turning left quite hard. As spring turned to summer he had got the knack of lurching from one stabilizer wheel to the other. Those light evenings he was always out; on the yard or pavement — and out in the park or the woods whenever anyone would take him. Happy times.
But part of him knew he was supposed to grow out of stabilizers. There were occasions when he noticed, between one stabilizer and the other, a different sort of glide. It was fun and he tried to do it more often. But mostly there were always places to go, things to investigate; and he was much faster on three wheels than two. However, the world was changing around him. Some of the other boys were riding bigger bikes, without stabilizers, and he had a hard time keeping up. His Mum and Dad kept asking him, and one day he agreed to try without his extra wheels.
Disappointed and bruised, he cried with frustration that first day. So Dad put the stabilizers back on, but it wasn't the same. He knew what he had to do. It wasn't easy -- he was so used to riding with extra wheels. He felt he'd wasted so much time and thought, "I really don't know bikes at all".
Eventually, he felt it. That smooth glide, catching the balance before imbalance, in rhythm with the pedals. If he went fast enough, and kept in a straight line... And it dawned on him: he didn't need his stabilizers any more. In fact they were a hindrance, stopping him leaning into clean, fast curves. His Dad was thrilled when (this time) his son asked for the stabilizers to be taken off. His cycling days had begun.
Err... "Whoever has ears, let them hear" ?

Thursday, 5 March 2009

Avoiding Bethel

If you understand the reference to Bethel you're probably in the right place. However, this blog is for anyone who has had a glimpse of God or Spirit or Reality or The Way Things Are, only to lose it again as soon as we try to grasp or understand or think about what we've just experienced. So if you are sure of your beliefs, know what life is all about, or never ask questions like "Why are we here?", I can save you time and trouble: there is nothing here for you. However if, like me, you still need those who sell water by the river, read on.

Why the curious name?

When the Internet was still very much the Wild West, I signed up for my first domain at That was 1994, and Jacob's dream of a ladder reaching toward heaven with angels going up and down was my dream too. A year later I had my own wresting with the Angel of God and, like Jacob, the only way He was going to win was by breaking me. He didn't touch my hip, but I lost just about everything else apart from my wife and family.

They were challenging years. Figuratively speaking, I was lost like the children of Jacob (now Israel); taking another turn around the mountain because of their refusal to follow God's lead into the promised land. I could write a guidebook about that mountain.

In fact, that's partly the inspiration for this blog. I have been writing posts for a while on onlineClarity, where the blog is only accessible by other Change Circle members. That's fine for Yijing (I Ching) stuff. This blog is less confined. It has the blessing of anonimity (I'm not under any illusions about anyone reading it), so I am free to write about the conundrum that is the focus of my life these days: authentic being. Doubtless, these pages will eventually include snippets of Martin Heidegger's philosophy (from "Being and Time", 1927). Authentic being is his term, contrasted with the normal, everyday life of the "they-self" as he calls it, inauthentic being.

Hide and Seek

One of the characteristics of inauthentic being (ego, lower self, small mind) is that it assiduously turns away from authentic being (our higher self, spirit, Big Mind). Reminiscent of Jeremiah 17:9, (roughly) "The human heart is deceitful beyond imagining; who can plumb its depths?". Whichever way we turn, however we try to escape, our ego is ever vigilant -- ensuring we are always "safe". And so it should; it is the job of our natural intelligence, honed over many thousands of years, to ensure not only our survival but our prosperity. Unfortunately, the ego's idea of life and abundance is rather limited. It can only conceive of contact with that-which-is-beyond-understanding in terms of things within its ken, like images of a ladder ascending into heaven. Even this image is designed to limit and contain the contact; making it "safe", understandable, known. For our minds recoil at anything "beyond" and refuse to face it unless absolutely forced. Anyone who has tried to sit simply conscious of their being, but without the buzzing thoughts, knows how hard we find it to just be in the present moment. We are so easily distracted, it is tempting to think we are complicit in this turing away.

Our natural mind will always try to avoid Bethel -- that place where we meet God, the Source, Being, the Universe, or whatever term you wish to use (I think YHWH is particularly good). If there is any way to avoid actually being, the ever watchful ego-mind will find it. One of the most common ways is to indulge in talk about spirituality. So this blog joins the ranks of thousands of other spiritual blogs, as we avoid living by talking about it. Hopefully we can learn to enjoy this fascinating game of hide and seek as we take on that master of the art -- ourselves. Until we are ready to enter the promised land, we can at least discuss the journey as we make yet another tour through the wilderness.