Mind Body Spirit- the golden tripod

 

Mind body spirit- the golden tripod

 

My recent battle with illness brought home to me how easily upset my fragile balance can be and more than that, quite how acutely sensitive I am to disruptions to my baseline well-being. It’s easy to forget how complex an organism a human being is, and how aspects of one form of health affect the whole person.

After I came out of hospital the first time, I contracted an infection, probably post-operatively, and was put on strong antibiotics. Though these tablets were designed to fight infection, there were side effects that made coping with being unwell far harder. Combined with the continuing effects of the anaesthesia and the pain relief I needed, my emotional state became acute and I spent most of Christmas Eve crying. Things that normally wouldn’t bother me made me incredibly sad and filled with self hatred. I’m used to dealing with pain, but I am not used to feeling weak and unwell, and try as I certainly did, I found I was incapable of rising above it and being positive. Body, mind and spirit were all out of balance.

Over the next few days, my spirits rose a little, as the deeper meaning of Christmas sank in, but when the infection came back worse than ever, this little improvement vanished and I was hospitalised again, this time to have antibiotics fed to me intravenously. I have seldom felt so utterly bereft as I did on New Year’s Eve, and New Years Day was not much better. The drugs being pumped into me might well have been doing a sterling job of fighting infection but they did little to improve my state of mind or spirit. I made the mistake of reading Oscar Wilde’s short stories(albeit in French) and ended up sobbing silently into my pillow. The Selfish Giant has an ending that would bring tears to most eyes, and so too does The Happy Prince. But the heart of those sentiments went deeper than the tears, and within a few hours, the arrival of two new patients and the interaction with them and their stories raised me again. Looking out of one’s self at moments like this can be very helpful and these two new ladies were good company. With the addition of two hysterically funny night nurses, I went to sleep on New Year’s Day with my sides aching from laughing.

Returning home the next day, I soon realised that I had lost a lot of ground in terms of health and fitness and set about trying to regain it. I am used to a fairly large amount of outdoor exercise, usually walking a minimum of two miles every day. I’ve learned also that I can keep my default depression (virtually) under some control if I can take some vigorous exercise every single day, and the spiritual benefits of being among trees or on the seashore cannot be underestimated either.

When one aspect of health fails us, the others need to be extra strong to reinforce the whole person. You could liken it to a tripod, where each of those three vital components support the person equally. But that metaphor fails because when one element is removed or severely damaged, a tripod would literally tip over. The virtual tripod allows for another element supporting the weaker one while that weaker one is restored. I noticed that the weakening of my physical state meant that a greater strain was placed on my mental and spiritual resources. Long term the same is true: the weakening of the mental and spiritual elements also places a great strain on the physical. The human body responds to stress with a cocktail of chemicals, adrenaline and many others, that were originally responses to extreme physical threats (being gobbled up by a sabre toothed cat or short-faced bear, or similar prehistoric threats) and while being afraid that a colleague or a boss is going to rip metaphorical strips off you produces those same reactions, our responses to such stress do nothing to dissipate those chemicals and hormones. Stress places immense strain on the body: the adrenal glands can become over-active, pumping adrenaline into the bloodstream at inappropriate intervals (this is one of the factors present in panic attacks and anxiety disorders). We seek to anaesthetize the pain of these reactions in whatever way seems obvious to us, by drugs, or drink or sex or exercise.

One of the most important things I have learned about panic attacks is that they end. They ‘time out’. They have no more power than what I give to them. I’ve also learned a few tricks to stop them in their tracks: breathing into a paper bag, equalises the CO2 in the blood, as well as signalling to the spirit that you have control and the attack is not going to kill you. Stepping away and observing my vital signs also goes a long way to restoring some kind of balance. But sometimes it can be so extreme that I need someone else to remind me of what I can do.

Free floating anxiety is a different matter. At a lower level than a panic attack, it’s something that runs along almost unnoticed much of the time. It’s when something else disturbs the system that free floating anxiety comes roaring up into a full blown anxiety state. There are many ways of dealing with this, but I tend to forget all about them when it hits. That’s when I need reminding of the methods: focus on breathing, play music that soothes, take a walk…whatever works. Otherwise I become the squirrel in the cage, racing round in frantic circles, ready to bite whatever comes near me.

Not one of the three elements should be disregarded. The body had needs and those needs must be honoured: good nutrition, freedom from illness and injury, sound sleep and so on. The spirit has its needs too, to be fed and cared for as another form of body, and honoured. The mind, that most sensitive of elements, needs care too, to be allowed to grow and expand and be nurtured.

So, my intention is to pay attention to all aspects of my self, and to be aware that what affects one aspect may well have knock on effects on the rest. I am not a collection of hermetically sealed units, but rather a complex system where each aspect interacts with the others in often unpredictable ways, with unforeseen results. I guess it shouldn’t take a genius to figure all this out but too often I have expected myself to cope with knocks without accepting that those knocks will inevitably throw my whole being off kilter for some considerable time.

One day, I’ll get it right.

Insight

I had a bit of an aha! moment this morning while slurping over-hot coffee to try and kickstart brain and body to face the day. The coffee didn’t really work and I’ve been dragging myself around all day; I was virtually Neanderthal by the time I walked home.

The aha! moment came when I realised that nothing I ever achieve in this life is ever going to make me happy or cure my depression. Achievements are irrelevant to brain chemistry. I bet most of us have had that secret thought now and again that says, I’d be happy if I could only….. win the Lottery, get a  better job, lose weight, stop smoking or whatever you like. Well, it ain’t going to happen.

My personal dreams and ambitions are utterly irelevant to whether I am happy or not. If I achieve them, great. Wonderful in fact. But they aren’t what is going to make me contented, at peace with myself.

I guess I’ve always known this. But today I felt like I knew it for the first time. It’s a total sea change for me, because I’ve frequently felt that when I achieve certain things I will be magically cured.

This doesn’t mean I stop seeking and trying and striving to get there. But it does mean I don’t have the same agenda and the same scope for disappointment either.

You see, I’ve begun to believe that for some barmy reason my brain uses up the feel-good chemical serotonin far faster than it can replenish it. I have taken SSRIs off and on for years (Selective Serotonin Re-uptake Inhibitors for the uninitiated) and they are a mere band aid to the problem. Something goes wrong in my grey matter. Maybe thinking too hard does it; maybe it’s purely genetic. But the fact remains that at regular intervals I am unable to feel much happiness in anything.

To realise that my goals in life will not have the power to change that makes me feel rather less pressured to achieve them. I’m not a believer in the whole pull-yourself-up-by-your-bootstraps attitude to depression, nor for that matter in the medicate-till-you-ache method either. But it does give me a somewhat Zen stance on the whole thing. It still matters whether I get there (wherever THERE is) but not because of the depression.

It’s a wildly liberating idea for me. I’d felt for so many years an intense pressure to achieve certain almost unobtainable things and every time I had a set back or a knock, it made it worse because I’d unknowingly tied up all my feelings about curing my depression in achieving that goal. I’d beat myself up far worse than any disappointment could, simply because I felt I’d failed (yet again) to find the Holy Grail.

In religious terms I might say I felt my salvation lay in works. But any mystic will tell you this is Bullshit of the worst kind. Salvation is by grace.

So God grant me courage to change the things I can change

May He grant me the grace to accept the things I can’t change

And may He grant me the wisdom to know the difference

The Parable of the Goldpanner

The Parable of the Goldpanner

 

 

  Once upon a time there was a young man who ran away to seek his fortune. He had heard that men could get rich by mining for gold and so he travelled to the gold fields only to be told that the mines were all but exhausted of gold but he could still find gold by panning for it in the streams that flowed from the mountain. Much gold still remained inside the mountain; indeed, far more remained than had ever been taken out but it had become too dangerous and expensive to go any deeper into the mountain and dig for gold and so men contented themselves with the gold that washed from the heart of the mountain. Indeed, this gold was known to be purer and need less processing before it could be used. In ancient times, the nuggets were simply taken and washed before being skilfully beaten and shaped into rings and cups of astonishing beauty. Now, gold that had been mined had to be crushed and heated and treated with dreadful chemicals to extract the pure gold and by the time the finished product was ready it had cost almost as much to produce as it was now worth.

   On his first day the young man stood knee deep in the icy waters that rushed from the heart of the mountain and panned and panned till his back ached and his feet and legs became numb with the cold. All the while he squinted into his pan and every so often he would shout out with excitement and pick out something and stuff it swiftly into his leather pouch. At the end of the day, he ran, tired and cold as he was to the Valuer’s tent and poured out his day’s finds expecting to go home to his family that day, rich beyond belief. A long silence followed that was followed by a low rumble of laughter, first from one man and then from all the men present.

  “Why are you laughing?” he asked, bewildered and angry that they should mock him so.

  “Because all you have found here is Fool’s Gold,” said the Valuer, wiping his eyes of tears of mirth. “Every man here did this on his first day. Until you know what gold really looks like, you will think that this mineral here is it. Let me show you.”

  The older man pulled from his pocket a small leather bag and extracted from it a small rough lump that shone like the morning sun rising above the hills. It was brighter and somehow purer in colour than the iron pyrites that he had shown the Valuer, and instantly the young man knew what it was he was actually looking for.

  “The old man who taught me gave me that lump so I would know what I was looking for and not be misled by fakes and forgeries. And now I am giving it to you because sometimes when the winter sun fails to shine and you are cold and miserable, you will need to look at the true gold so you can remember what you are seeking,” said the older man. “And one day, you will pass this nugget onto someone else so they too know what they seek.”

  So the young man returned to his icy stream bed and began again. Sometimes he would see a gleam that made his look again but it only took a second before he knew he was once more looking at Fool’s gold and he would sigh and carry on.

  Weeks passed and then months and all the time he carried on looking, his small reserve of money dwindling each day that passed until one day he had no money left to buy food. He looked at the gold nugget the Valuer had given him and considered whether he should sell that so he might eat that day, but after looking at it, he realised that he would maybe one day forget what true gold looked like and be led astray once more. So he put the nugget away and carried on swirling the water and sediment in his pan and suddenly, like the sun coming out from behind a cloud, he saw first one and then another tiny lump of pure gold. All that day he worked and when he trudged back to camp, he had enough gold to sustain him for weeks.

  As the years passed, the young man accumulated gold, and slowly and steadily he grew richer and older until one day, standing knee deep in the water of his stream, his bones started to ache with cold and tiredness like they had never done before and he waded back to the banks of the stream and sat down.

  “All I have had of this stream, I have spent and enjoyed so very little,” he said to himself. “I have bought food and only the necessaries of life. Maybe it is time I began to enjoy the gold I worked so hard for.”

  So packing up his kit he walked back to the camp, which by now had become a small town, and went to the Valuer’s tent to say goodbye to his old friends.

  “I’m going back home,” he told them. “I have enough now that I can support my parents and maybe even marry my sweetheart and start our own family.”

  As he started to leave the tent, a second young man came in. His eyes were filled with feverish excitement that the first young man recognised at once.

  “I’m rich, I’m rich,” shouted the new arrival, pouring out on the Valuer’s table the spoils of his first day’s work.”

  The laughter that had seemed once so mocking now seemed friendly and rueful, the recognition of a mistake the men had all made in the past. The new youngster’s face became red and angry and he seemed almost in tears with frustration.

  “I’ve never seen gold before,” he admitted, sweeping his pile of Fool’s Gold to the floor in his disappointment. “How am I supposed to know if no one has ever shown me?”

  The first young man, no longer so very young or so very foolish, went over to the other man and put his hand out.

  “Here,” he said. “This might help.”

  In his hand was the gold nugget he had once been given to help him know what true gold is.

  “But don’t you need it any more?” asked the newcomer.

  “No,” said the first young man. “You see, after all this time, I think I will always know gold when I see it. And I have found enough gold of my own now to be able to be sure I will always know how to find more if I need it.”

  And so our not-so-young man walked away, and went home to his family richer and dare I say, wiser than when he had set out years before.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

A bit of fun…

If you fancy a little wander around an enchanted forest and discover what your power animal is, then the attached link will give you a smile. Don’t take it too seriously though…

http://www.poweranimalsunleashed.com

Snake oil and me

On Wednesday I finally managed to get a film developed that had been stuck in my old camera since the summer of 2006. I’d actually forgotten most of what was likely to be on it, so I sat down outside Boots and leafed through the wallet of photos. The camera had jammed at the very end of a film and I’d not dared try and retrieve it in case it hadn’t fully rewound. A colleague from work who is a photographer kindly retrieved it for me, in a special dark bag, so I was able to find out what was on the film. I intend to post a few at a later date but need to do a smidge of research for the article I want to write about one.

Some of the photos were from our last holiday before we moved here. We stayed with friends in North Yorkshire and some were taken at the very top of Roseberry Topping and some at a secret beach unknown to all but locals. Since the place is a former pit village, no tourist expects a glorious beach there and even in high summer all you find are locals and a few ex-locals like us. It’s also a brilliant beach for fossil hunting.

Anyway, there a couple of pics taken of me wading in the water, having a wonderful time. Due to some abnormality(light, film whatever) I am surrounded by a pinkish aura, with a deeper pink blob around my right hand. It occurred to me that it would be easy to make a case for this being an accidental Kirlian type photo, showing my “true  colours” and my “healing nature”. I had a small giggle at this and went home.

In the post that day was my copy of The Cygnus Review, which is a book company that specialises in Mind Body Spirit type books, reviewed and with articles etc. This dates from my time as a therapist and I stopped getting it for a while; then I ordered a book via them and I seem to be getting it every month as before. I’d had a long chat a few years back with one of the owners of Cygnus Books basically discussing how I found it disappointing that the vast majority of the books were so light weight and also by the same authors producing yet more books, cards sets and merchandise and how this might be remedied. I’ve had a similar conversation with the owner of our local mind body spirit style shop and it always comes back to the same thing: that’s what most people want. They want the next book by (I won’t mention names) because it’s going to be more of the same. There’s no surprises, no challenges and nothing to make them wake up.

One of the books in this months Review is about Orbs. Now, I am sure there are a lot of things out there that are unexplained that really are of supernatural origin, but I am a firm believer in Occam’s Razor: the simplest explanation is probably the right one. Looking at my pinkish pics, I am certain that nothing is going on there that a good photographer can’t explain by the age of the film or other factors. But Orbs? Try a swift Google search and see what it comes up with.

So much of the MBS world is built on existing books and these are not checked for either sense or authenticity. Because it’s been around a few years, it becomes a source, and an acceptible one, for people to build their own research(ha ha) on. And people want to swallow what seems nice to them. Go into your local bookstore and visit the MBS section; I can almost guarantee you will find a massive array of books on angels (probably by three authors) plus oracle decks and divination sets. Now my own experience and beliefs suggest that angels are real entities; however, my opinion is that a lot of what is written is wishful thinking, delusion and merchandising. I also suspect from accounts from people I know and respect of their encounters with this type of being, the writers of the popular angel books would die of fright if they ever encountered the real thing.

In my novel, “Little Gidding Girl” I had the enjoyable task of creating a range of spurious therapies for a secondary character to offer as part of her therapy business. They included: Egyptian Rejuvenation Therapy, Angel Healing(with range of angelic beauty products) Japanese Forest Therapy(using Bonsai trees) and Mayan Heart Retrieval. I drew the line at musa-rectal therapy (musa= banana) because it was just too gross. Although I had fun inventing the therapies, I got quite worried because they were altogether just too convincing. My daughter reckoned I could sell any one of them as a genuine therapy and they would actually work. I’ve deliberately not explained them here in case someone somewhere has actually started them(since then, various angel therapy courses have appeared; don’t know about the beauty products yet, but it wouldn’t surprise me)

It scares me because it would be so easy to exploit the very real and very human need for healing and wholeness, and I am fully equipped to do so. I have an inventive brain, a personality that can sell anything and a flair for media ideas. I frequently see ideas I have thought of appear on TV and ads and be successful.

And yet, this appals me. I am no guru. I am no Messiah. I want people to find their own way and if I can help, I will. But this is not what most people want. They want the books that come out every six months, they want the next set of cards or crystals or the next course or whatever. Maybe this IS their way of finding their way; but it doesn’t seem to be helping anyone but the fatcat authors and publishers and the whole merchadising industry surrounding it all. The sad thing is there is a grain of truth in every glossily packaged book or course; but to get to that truth you have to swallow a whole pack of lies, dross and frankly bullshit.

There’s a berry known as Miracle Berries that make everything from drain cleaner to shit taste sweet and nice. Someone out there has found the equivalent in the MBS area and it’s going to kill people eventually. Their bodies might go on but their souls are going into shutdown. It’s not why I got out of therapy work but it’s why I’d not want to ever go back. In the end I value my integtrity too highly to sell something that is unreal or damaging.

I’d rather be able to distinguish between good and evil and have the sadness that comes with this than eat poison and never know it.