Learning from Dogs

Dogs are integrous animals. We have much to learn from them.

Archive for the ‘Spirituality’ Category

Our thoughts make us human

with 5 comments

Serendipity strikes again!

Recently I read a post from Val Boyco over on her delightful blog Find Your Middle Ground.  Her topic was about breathing. Here’s a flavour of her post:

I’ve written before about how our breath is connected with our wellbeing and emotional state. Noticing how we are breathing is a tool that we can use to monitor how we are doing.

There is another pause that comes with our breath which is also revealing. The pause at the end of the exhale before we take in more air. When we are distracted, stressed or in an anxious state, there is no pause. We don’t trust we have enough air and we don’t allow ourself to relax and let go.

Just take a moment to tune into how you are breathing right now. Just notice without judgment.

Pausing at the end of an exhale can only happen when we are relaxed and in tune with our mind and body. When our body and mind are aligned in the present moment.

I then left a reply in the comments section:

Excellent advice. For the last few weeks I have been using a biofeedback unit that through guiding one to breathe in harmony with a musical phrase allows one to slow the whole body down. Down to about 4.8 breaths per minute. It really underlines how slow one’s breathing rate can be and, supporting your post, the glorious pauses after each inhale and exhale.

And offered to write a post about the unit and my experiences. (Coming out tomorrow.)

However, what I wanted to do as a ‘lead-in’ to that post was to discover if there was any research into the benefits, as in scientific benefits, of slowing one’s body down in this fashion. What is surely nothing more than a form of meditation. Where to start looking? Needn’t have worried; there were many items on YouTube that covered the benefits of meditation.

There was a video from the AsapSCIENCE guys Mitchell Moffit and Gregory Brown, but I found it too jazzy and irritating, rather ironically! Then there was one from physicist John Hagelin that seemed much more appropriate to my tastes (and that is featured tomorrow as well).

By now it was coming up to 4:30pm and I had a dozen other things to do, plus try and fit in a biofeedback session – I could feel the stress rising within me.

Then I dipped into Terry Hershey’s latest Sabbath Moment and, guess what! Here’s what I read:

Learning to let go

January 26, 2015

Hershey2

Some of us think holding on makes us strong, but sometimes it is letting go. Herman Hesse

Uncertainty is the only certainty there is, and knowing how to live with insecurity is the only security. John Allen Paulos

When you let go of trying to get more of what you don’t really need, it frees up oceans of energy to make a difference with what you have. Lynne Twist

——-

Today I am sitting in a café (and bar) in Vaison-la-Romaine, in the Provence region of France, nursing my espresso.

No, wait… that was last week.

It just sounds sexier than saying, “Today I’m looking out my window at a gloomy winter sky, here in the Pacific Northwest, with a Thesaurus in hand hoping for a gushing synonym for gray.”

Welcome home. Home for me is always awaited and valued, but still elicits a bout of scotoma (selective vision), where we end up comparing the life we have, for the “life we deserve” (the actual wording for a recent advertised e-course).

My favorite part of my recent France trip was visiting family run wineries, spending time with the owner / wine-maker, with the permission to linger, sensing a comfort grounded in story and connection. Said one (when we asked him about being a small winery–in a world where big is everything), “I am glad. I am not alone. I work with family.” (Referring to his son and three daughters.)
And it makes me wonder about this mental sleight of hand we use, thinking about the life we are destined for, as somehow different (or better) from the life we now we live.

There is a Tibetan story about an earnest young man seeking enlightenment. (Earnest people must think this quite unfair–since they play a central role in most parables and stories about enlightenment.)

A famous sage passes through the man’s village. The man asks the sage to teach him the art of meditation. The sage agrees. He tells the man, “Withdraw from the world. Mediate every day in the specific way I will teach you. Do not waver and you will attain enlightenment.”

The earnest man follows the sage’s instructions to the letter. Time passes — and no enlightenment. Two years, five, ten, twenty pass.

It happens that the sage once again passes through the man’s village. The man seeks him out, grumbling that despite his best intentions and devotion and diligent efforts, he does not achieve enlightenment. “Why?”
The sage asks, “What type of meditation did I teach you?”
The man tells him.
The sage says, “Oh, what a terrible mistake I made! That is not the right meditation for you. You should have done another kind altogether. Too bad, for now it is too late.”

Disconsolate, the man returns to his cave. Staking his life on the sage’s instructions, and now believing he is without hope, the man abandons all his wishes and efforts and need to control his road to enlightenment. He does not know what to do. So, he does what he knows best: he begins meditating. And in a short while, much to his astonishment, his confusion begins to dissolve, and his inner world comes to life. A weight falls away and he feels lighter, and regenerated. When he walks out of the cave, the sky is bluer, the snow capped mountains whiter, and the world around him more vivid.

There is no doubt that all too often, our efforts–to succeed or achieve or attain–get in the way of our living. It brings to mind my favorite Robert Capon quote, “We live life like ill-taught piano students. So inculcated with the flub that will get us in dutch, we don’t hear the music, we only play the right notes.”

I understand. I was weaned on a spirituality that predicated itself on artifice. In other words, the importance is placed upon appearance, rather that just being. (It was vital to “look spiritual.” Which begs the question, “What do spiritual people look like?” As a boy, I always thought the “spiritual people” looked as if some part of their clothing was a size too small.)

What is it we are holding on to–so rigid, so firm, white-knuckled in our determination?
At some point, we’ve got to breathe.
Just breathe.
Without realizing it (and after the sage’s disheartening news), the man in the story “let go.”

He let go of the need to see life as a problem to be solved.
He let go of the need to have the correct answers (or experiences) for his “enlightenment.”
He let go of the need to see his spiritual life in terms of a formula.
He let go of the restraints that come from public opinion.

Abandon your masterpiece, sink into the real masterpiece. Leonard Cohen

Without realizing it, he took Leonard Cohen’s advice. He abandoned his “masterpiece”–the perception of what he needed to accomplish, or how he needed to appear, or what he needed to feel–in order to allow himself to sink down into this life, this moment, even with all of its uncertainty and insecurity.

For the first many years, meditation or prayer was a requirement or compulsion. In his emptiness, meditation and prayer was an offering of thanks, freely given, and without constraint. True spiritual enlightenment, it seems, happens when you are not trying to impress anyone, or score any points with heavenly bookkeepers.
It sounds easy doesn’t it?
But here’s the deal: My best intentions to play the right notes can fabricate an armor that keeps me from the vividness of life–whether it be to pray or meditate or notice or give or mourn or dance or play or grieve or laugh or celebrate or love… or just to walk.

I never did find a good enough synonym for the gray (although I’ll keep looking). Gladly, the sun has broken through. And there is enough warmth to persuade us that spring may arrive tomorrow. Daffodil shoots everywhere–up through the leaves and debris–help the ruse. So it’s garden time this afternoon, turning manure into the vegetable garden beds, beginning to cut back and clean some of the perennial beds. Enough work for the back to call a time out and request reprieve. I’m headed to the swing under the maple, when I look up to see the sun illuminating the red-twig dogwood shrubs, 10 foot canes glowing, a bright cranberry red. It catches my breath. And I am glad to be alive.

People say that what we’re all seeking is a meaning for life. I don’t think that’s what we’re really seeking. I think what we’re seeking is an experience of being alive… of the rapture of being alive. Joseph Campbell

Such power in those words. Then how moments later what I had read from Terry made so much sense to me. So perfectly connected with yesterday’s post Animals make us human. So relevant that quotation yesterday about animal happiness. This one:

Neuroscience key to animal happiness

…research in neuroscience has been showing that emotions drive behavior, and my thirty-five years of experience working with animals have shown me that this is true. Emotions come first. You have to go back to the brain to understand animal welfare.

Animals Make Us Human : Creating the best life for Animals

by Temple Grandin & Catherine Johnson

Such a close parallel with that well-known saying about us humans: ‘we are what we think‘. How our own happiness, just as it is with our animals, has its roots in our emotions.

How letting go, how staying in the present, is so good for us. How dogs do that so perfectly.

How we humans have so much to learn from our dogs.

Pure, deep peace radiating out from Hazel's loving eyes.

Pure, deep peace radiating out from Hazel’s loving eyes.

 

Who am I, Part Two!

with 6 comments

Trying to make sense of our place in the world – and probably failing!

Yesterday’s post, Making sense of who we are?, was built upon a recent essay from George Monbiot: A Small and Shuffling Life. It is a terrific essay, in the very best tradition of George Monbiot. I really hope you read it in yesterday’s post because today’s introspective jaunt is built on that essay. Two particular paragraphs of his essay really ‘spoke’ to me.

The opening paragraph:

Live free or die: this is the maxim of our age. But the freedoms we celebrate are particular and limited. We fetishise the freedom of business from state control; the freedom not to pay taxes; the freedom to carry guns and speak our minds and worship whom we will. But despite – in some cases because of – this respect for particular freedoms, every day the scope of our lives appears to contract.

Later:

We carry with us the psychological equipment, rich in instinct and emotion, required to navigate that world. But our survival in the modern economy requires the use of few of the mental and physical capacities we possess. Sometimes it feels like a small and shuffling life. Our humdrum, humiliating lives leave us, I believe, ecologically bored.

In that second paragraph I sense something from Mr. Monbiot that is felt by me and Jean and appears to be shared very widely. A sense that something about today’s society is broken. That the last, say fifty years, of increasing living standards, health and prosperity, albeit not universally embraced, have brought us no closer to a golden future. That, as so clearly voiced in the preceding paragraph, “… our survival in the modern economy requires the use of few of the mental and physical capacities we possess.

My guess is that George Monbiot and Terry Hershey have never met. One might suggest that their backgrounds are as different as two people might be. Take their respective ‘About’ pages on their blogsites. Here are their closing paragraphs.

First, George:

George Monbiot Guardian Staff Byline

My work is more sedentary than it used to be, so I temper it with plenty of physical activity: sea kayaking, ultimate frisbee, running and some heavy duty gardening: growing my own vegetables and much of my own fruit.

Here are some of the things I love: my family and friends, salt marshes, arguments, chalk streams, Russian literature, kayaking among dolphins, diversity of all kinds, rockpools, heritage apples, woods, fishing, swimming in the sea, gazpacho, ponds and ditches, growing vegetables, insects, pruning, forgotten corners, fossils, goldfinches, etymology, Bill Hicks, ruins, Shakespeare, landscape history, palaeoecology, Gavin and Stacey and Father Ted.

Here are some of the things I try to fight: undemocratic power, corruption, deception of the public, environmental destruction, injustice, inequality and the misallocation of resources, waste, denial, the libertarianism which grants freedom to the powerful at the expense of the powerless, undisclosed interests, complacency.

Here is what I fear: other people’s cowardice.

I still see my life as a slightly unhinged adventure whose perpetuation is something of a mystery. I have no idea where it will take me, and no ambitions other than to keep doing what I do. So far it’s been gripping.

Now, Terry:

terry-hershey

I used to ask of myself and others: what have you accomplished? Where are your credentials? What does your job and your bank account say about who you are?

Now, my questions are different:
Are there butterflies in your garden?
What are the color of loved ones’ eyes, when they are looking at you with hope?
And when was the last time your house smelled of paper-white narcissus?
Do sunsets make you smile?
When was the last time you stood in stocking feet just to stare at the rising moon?
Have you ever seen a sunflower bloom?
Does the laughter of children do your heart good?
At what angle does the sun enter your house?

Do I understand that life is full of complications, obligations and distractions? Yes. I do. My wife and I raise a teenage son. We run two businesses. So, yes, I know a bit about down-to-earth realities.

But this, too, is reality:

I love to watch the hummingbirds dance.
I love that my son likes to put on his dancing shoes.
I love to join him when we play
old-time rock and roll.
I love to stretch out on a garden bench on a
warm summer day.
I love a hot shower and drying with an expensive,
oversized cotton towel.
I love books, delight in poetry,
and find sustenance in writing.
I treasure the certainty that grace
gives us all many second chances.
I value the times I can simplify life by letting go of my need to validate my humanity through productivity.
And I love to lose track of time in a garden.

I also know that sharing this with you – offering my practices for pausing, resources for doing less and living more, reflections in my blog —feeds me.

So I invite you, too, to join us — and together we’ll share, remind, and support each other, to “do less, live more.

Yet, despite the differences in backgrounds, cultures and much more, to me there is a common openness, an honesty shared, and a passion for the truth.

All of which is a very long introduction to this week’s Sabbath Moment from Terry; republished in full.

ooOOoo

Finding sanctuary and grace

January 19, 2015

Today I am sitting in a café (and bar) in Vaison-la-Romaine, in the Provence region of France, nursing my espresso. The old men of the village (actually all of them are about my age) gather. They unload, swap stories, sip pastis, and watch petanque on TV. Some read the newspaper–with stories about Charlie Hebdo and photos of “Somme Nous Charlie“–carrying reminders of hope in our fragile and broken world.

I am glad to be here. Today. In this place. There is an air of familiarity among the men, and comfort in their ritual. I am grateful for reminders and invitations to live well into a place. Not just a physical space, but a tonic and sanctuary to the spirit. The invitation is a permission to settle down. (In the words of Jesus, “to come away and rest awhile.”) A sanctuary is a place that restores us, replenishes us, nourishes us. In this renewal, we are reminded, once again, of what really is important.

I agree that it is easy to sentimentalize. But living into the moment doesn’t smooth the edges of our life. It allows us to pay attention. I like to think that we can name the edges, to welcome and invite them into the sanctuary.

Outside a bicycle club gathers in the village center parking lot, ready for their weekend excursion. Their spirit is eager, their uniform bearing homage to their journey to the top of Mont Ventoux.

Sitting in the café, my thoughts meander, with no agenda or responsibilities to tether them. So I let them wander, a gift to embrace. But my reverie is interrupted with worry … I need a Sabbath Moment. And I don’t have a clue (I tell myself). It’s not easy on vacation. Especially without wi-fi.

I am on my annual trip to Europe with my good friend Bill McNabb to taste wine. He’s a wine writer (and pastor) in the San Francisco area. But mostly, he’s a friend. I’m his aide-de-camp and connoisseur.
We travel to wine regions and are blessed to taste beverages that we cannot afford, but offer us a glimpse of heaven.
Yes I’m biased. But then wine is not a beverage here; it is an experience. Your choice is to savor and take delight.

We visited wineries harvesting grapes from vines 100 years old. These are businesses passed down through the generations, grandfather to father to son (and now thankfully, often to daughter). A world where terroir is king, the personality of the soil. Meaning that this wine is born of a place, a very specific place. Here in the Rhone Valley, I’m honored to be in the company of crafts people. Like being with a great gardener. The men and women I met coddle their vines–they call them trees–lovingly.
Unlike Peter Mayle, I don’t have “A Year in Provence.” I only have a few days. But that’ll do… It is my first visit and I’m sure won’t be my last.

We’re in our gite–a rural rental property in France–we relish the evening light, a layer of bruised purple (pourple) above the slopes in Provence (Cotes du Rhone). Below the hills, vineyards roll through the landscape, the vines–still in winter and pruned–pose as menorah renderings in the dusk light.

Yes, this scene is a tonic. There is something about these moments that carry significance, because they are reminders, and they are sacraments. Partial, yes, but containing the full sustenance of grace.
And I think of the question a friend asks me, “What holds you?”
In other words… What sustains you, and carries you gently through your days?

Ryoken, a Zen master, lived the simplest kind of life in a little hut at the foot of a mountain. One evening a thief visited the hut, only to discover there was nothing in it to steal. Ryoken returned and caught him in the act.
“You may have come a long way to visit me,” he told the disillusioned prowler, “and you should not return empty-handed. Please take my clothes as a gift.”
The thief was bewildered. But he took the clothes and slunk away.
Ryoken sat naked, watching the moon, “Poor fellow,” he mused. “I wish I could have given him this beautiful moon.”

Sometimes I feel like that thief. Standing–in my own home, or in front of an audience, or in a crowd, or all alone–I am looking for something, for whatever ails me or creates a hole or emptiness; but, like that thief, not finding it. “What am I missing?” I ask myself. What am I wanting, yearning for, that I find myself in such a pell-mell-hurry or weighted down… hoping to fix it, or find it, or mend it. So I run and race and call on God, or the sky, or roll the dice with some prayer from my childhood. This will solve it, I tell myself. But the more I push, the more I ask, the more I beseech, the further I move from the center.

Here’s the deal: In my state of distraction, I cannot see that the core of my identity, the place where I stand in this moment (even at times without clarity, or stability, or faith, or answers)… I stand smack dab in the center of an awesome and illogical grace. Smack dab in the center of the sacred present.

If I do have the permission to see that place, I know that I am grounded.
I am now able to breathe in
and out,
and rest in this acceptance.

Last night, above the slopes to the south, a slivered crescent moon rests, the sky a cobalt blue canvas. It is visceral, arresting, piercing. And for whatever reason, reassuring. This snapshot is imprinted, and I know in my heart that it is in some way essential, indispensable. I accept this gift of the moon, even though I don’t yet know why.

I don’t know what to tell you to do, exactly. Only that I too, wish I could give you the gift of that crescent moon.
I know this for certain: when we do not pay tribute, we are like the thief in the Zen story–without even knowing it–and we settle for less. So much less. So it is not just a question of what hold us, but of what holds us back… from being wholehearted, true to our self, fully alive, unafraid of uncertainty, and grateful for the gift of this moment.

Lord knows we look for ways to bottle it and sell it, when I reckon we should just get out of the way.

Our gite sits squarely in a vineyard and a working farm. A perfect setting to replenish. For years I’ve been writing about sanctuary and the need for restoration. And I’m my own worst enemy. There’s not a week that goes by that a Sabbath Moment friend doesn’t remind me to follow my own advice to pause… and let my soul catch up with my body. Gladly, this week I did.

ooOOoo

My penultimate reflection to today’s post is with a short, six-minute video from Professor Dan Gilbert. The video is entitled: The psychology of your future self. I hope you see it as offering a calming perspective to two days of inner psychological ramblings!

Published on Jun 3, 2014
“Human beings are works in progress that mistakenly think they’re finished.” Dan Gilbert shares recent research on a phenomenon he calls the “end of history illusion,” where we somehow imagine that the person we are right now is the person we’ll be for the rest of time. Hint: that’s not the case.

My final reflection is the lesson that dogs teach us; that one about living in the present.

Cleo living, and sleeping, in the present moment.

Cleo living, and sleeping, in the present moment.

Yet life is what we make of it!

with 5 comments

Events!

Perhaps the fundamental reason why I am so hooked on this world of blogging is because there are always wonderful surprises.  What do I mean by this?

Yesterday’s post, Sometimes the world seems very strange was a rather bleak affair. I had been affected by, and reported, a couple of items read elsewhere that seemed to me, in a rather dark and miserable way, to highlight what is wrong with our so-called modern society. Perhaps, no more clearly expressed than in my reply to a comment left by Sue Dreamwalker.

Here is what Sue said, and how I replied.

I agree with what Alex has to say… The super rich live in a totally different reality… Have no clues on the real structure of how their wealth is being created often on the backs of the poor. Who are squeezed ever tighter at every conceivable way of extracting more in the form of taxes, both on incomes and on everything else..

Change will come but what frightens you Paul is that when it does come it will come swiftly.. We have seen the social unrest in other nations… What is happening in many countries is the injustices and discriminations which are getting ordinary peoples backs up..

Stupid Gun Laws to teach children how to handle weapons..

Yes Paul sometimes the world is very Strange.. and also Very Stupid!..

Thank you and wishing you and Jean a lovely week
Sue

oooo

Sue, a wonderful reply from you. Thank you. What I find so strange is this. That here I am, turned 70-years-old, having enjoyed a fabulously interesting life, full of variety and opportunities. That, to some small degree, I believe I have a better, albeit still partial, sense of how we humans tick than, say, 20 years ago. How our lives fundamentally revolve around our relationships, with the most important one being our relationship with ourself and, flowing from that, some understanding of who we are!

Yet, (and you knew there was a ‘yet’ coming, didn’t you!) beyond the very small world of loved ones, family and close friends (and I count blogging friends in that last category) the world around me becomes more strange, more remote, more alien almost on a week-by-week basis.

I was born in the middle of London six months to the day of the end of the Second World War in Europe. Those first six months would have been unrecognisable to the later world I grew up in, and got to know. My fear is that I will spend the last six months of my life in a world that is similarly unrecognisable from the world I thought I knew.

Thank my lucky stars for a wonderful, loving woman in my life and for so many fabulous doggie friends.

Sue, apologies, I went on a tad – nay, a tad and a half!

Fondest love to you and your Hubby.

Paul

I think that makes it pretty clear what my mood was like yesterday morning.

Jean and I were out from 9am until 12:30 pm and it was coming up to 3pm when I sat down in front of my PC. Frankly, I didn’t have a clue as to what to write and still felt pretty miserable about the ‘strange world’.

However, one of the first things that I saw in my ‘in-box’ was the weekly email from the Rev. Terry Hershey. Here is how his email opened up:

Live deeply and deliberately

January 12, 2015

Hershey

“The purpose of life is to live it, to taste experience to the utmost, to reach out eagerly and without fear for newer and richer experience.” Eleanor Roosevelt

“To be fully alive, fully human, and completely awake is to be continually thrown out of the nest. To live fully is to be always in no-man’s-land, to experience each moment as completely new and fresh. To live is to be willing to die over and over again.” Pema Chodron

“On his right hand Billy tattooed the word love,
and on his left hand was the word fear,
And in which hand he held his fate was never clear.”
Bruce Springsteen: “Cautious Man

To live is to be willing to die over and over again.” Wow! Did that ‘speak’ to me or what!

Then the very next item in my ‘in-box’ was a note that “Deaf Duke is now following Learning from Dogs“. I try and make it across to every new follower of this blog and thank them for their support.  Seems the least I should do.

So it was with ‘Deaf Duke’. But I have to quietly admit that before clicking on the link I found myself wondering just what Deaf Duke was.

Then I went across to their place and was uplifted; hugely so!  Because Deaf Duke is the name of a blog that … well in their words ….

Duke

About

Deaf Duke is an American Bulldog mix that my boyfriend (Tyler) and I got just after the Fourth of July this year. He was only 6.5 weeks old when we got him so he had some issues to begin with. When he was about 6 months old we decided to take him to a trainer, we thought he was a bad dog because he would never listen to us, we soon found out that he was becoming deaf. He wasn’t a bad dog he just couldn’t hear us. Our lives changed a lot from that moment on. Everyone says that training a deaf dog is no harder than training a dog that can hear, which is true on so many levels but they never talk about how difficult it can be for the owners who are primarily vocal beings. This blog is about the upbringing and stories about Duke and his life.

Here’s a post from Deaf Duke from last December.

Skinny Boy

SB1

When we got Duke at 6.5 weeks old he was very under weight. Finding out that he was deaf could explain why he was. Deaf dogs generally don’t wake up for feedings because they cannot hear when the other puppies in the litter are eating. Duke is now a healthy and happy 7 month old boy learning just like his parents are to train him and us.

SB2

So thank you Terry, and thank you Duke and your Mum and Dad, for reminding me that life is utterly and whole-heartedly what we make of it!

Onwards and upwards!

Synchronicity!

with 17 comments

Two very different expressions of hope and sense about the present era of change.

First off, up until yesterday morning at 6am, I had completely different ideas for today’s post.  But sitting up in bed yesterday morning reading my emails, I saw there was an email from Jon Lavin that included a link to this: Hope for the New Year: some thoughts on emergence, evolution, freedom, love and choice, by Bronwen Rees. Dr. Rees describes herself, as:

Bronwen is a UKCP-accredited psychotherapist with nine years experience and a practice in Cambridge, Suffolk and Hungary. She is trained in the Karuna Institute in Devon in core process psychotherapy, which was the first mindfulness-based therapy in the UK. She adds to this her unique understanding of western and eastern spiritual traditions, combined with findings in new science – to find ways of helping individuals align with their true destiny. She runs retreats and workshops and group work at different times of the year.

I was vaguely aware of the name. Perhaps unsurprisingly as I was familiar with the work of the Karuna Institute at their beautiful location at Widecombe-in-the-Moor, Dartmoor, Devon, some eighteen miles from where I used to live in Harberton, Devon.

Widecombe-in-the-Moor

Widecombe-in-the-Moor

Anyway, back to the theme of today’s post. Back to Jon Lavin’s email with the link. This is how that essay from Dr. Rees opened:

by Bronwen Rees on January 1, 2015

In the face of the on-going and now undeniable social, economic, environmental and political crises, there are plenty of seeds of ‘emergence’ that point to a new way forward. These are flowering in the area of sustainability, spirituality, and the reworking of ancient systems of wisdom. They point to a new way of being and relating where, it is implied, one can manifest at will one’s desires.

Whilst there is a distinct truth in much of this, and many examples where this can obviously work (vis the outpouring of new technological companies providing ever more zany products), they are very early developments fostering to individual satisfaction rather than being consciously channeled into the benefits of the collective. The scale of change in terms of consciousness has largely not yet been realized. One of the main reasons for this is the as yet imbalance in the relationship between the collective and the individual, and the lack of a conscious ethical foundation.

I sort of understood the central message but the words were getting in the way.  Take this later paragraph, for instance:

Humanity is at a bifurcation point – a point of irreversible change – where conscious choice determines the future that is created. Neo-Darwinian theorists would argue that this is merely a point of survival, and given the current scientific data about the material conditions – peak oil, energy, economic chaos, severe mental health issues, the conditions would suggest that we are as a species heading for disaster. Balanced between over-population and yet greater and greater individualization with more and more apparent choice – how can the two perspectives be reconciled on this seemingly increasingly small planet?

Indeed, my email reply to Jon, having struggled through the full essay said: “Good day to you, Jon, Yes, what a fascinating essay albeit written in a manner that makes it a very tough read! Nevertheless, I have no doubt that the good Dr. is spot on in her analysis.

The very next item opened in my email inbox was notification of a new post from Sue Dreamwalker: My Dream ∼ Translated I just had to share. Let me, in turn, share Sue’s post with you; with her kind permission, I should add.

ooOOoo

My Dream ∼ Translated I just had to share

Don’t only practice your art, but force your way into its secrets, for it and knowledge can raise men to the divine.” ― Ludwig van Beethoven

On Jan 3rd I had a Dream.. Please click on the music video below so you can get a sense of some of my experience.. .. Sunday I tried to capture some of the images I had in the dream… So I painted.. But I saw Oh so so much more………

In the beginning of the dream.. She was Me.. As I began to sing.. but then I became the observer.. This has to be the best Dream experience ever… .. So I had to share.. I heard the Music… Music like I have never heard upon this earth… the video music is about as close as I can get to that feeling of being exalted to a higher place.. I am still so excited I cannot tell you the Love I felt within this experience.. If this is the beginning of 2015.. Whoooooh… Let it roll……..

My Dream..

“She stood in a gown that was a rich golden brown. Its fabric shimmered catching the light that reflected from the crystals of natural quartz that sprang up around her. The gown was long and flowing not only did it reach the floor, but it spiralled out around her in a never ending dance as it became one with the sphere of the Earth.

dream-love-song-_thumb

Sue’s painting.

 

She took a deep breath; here she stood in the centre of the globe called Gaia.

Her hair was so long the wind picked it up to billow out behind her in long tresses. Birds flew in and amongst her strands of hair, Insects and butterflies danced within making it their home.

With breath still poised, she raised her arms like a conductor of an orchestra. She expanded her lungs and she began to Sing…. Her Soprano voice was pure. The moment her voice vibration raised higher the spiral of her gown buried deeper into the Earth. The Grass became part of her gown. Trees sprang forth from the folds of it swaying to her melody of love; Flowers opened their blooms, each petal giving separate notes in a wonderful exotic dance of harmonic ripples.. Love notes rippled like the keys of the piano. The buds on the trees open their leaves their notes sounded deeper like a million cello’s. Birds sang their flute like songs and the butterflies wings danced lighter than bell chimes.

Water trickled into streams, clear and sparking like the strings of the violin.. They swelled in a crescendo in waves that beat the rocks crashing in like kettle drums smashing like symbols into glistening spray..

The Whales joined in her song a mournful lament, while deep in the jungle the elephants gave a low rumble to acknowledge they had heard.. The roar of the Big Cats were heard above the cries of the orangutan’s

As the Thunderous machines of man cut swaths leaving deep scars that screeched like vultures circling over head, to give way to silence………. as they circled over the corpses of everything left dying in its wake..

She paused……………. ready to continue…….. Her arms raised high above her head, she Sang.. her voice becoming a crescendo with the Earth, her breath became the Spiral.. Her Hair became the Wind.. The notes she sang sprang forth from her mouth forming hearts and stars.. Every living creature now joined in her song…

She knew her Song of love was being joined by so many more.. She was ONE with ALL.. She was part of our Earth Mother..”

~~~~

I hope you enjoyed reading about this Dream and I hope you enjoyed listening to the wonderful music of the PianoGuys

See you all very soon…

~Sue~

ooOOoo

In a very strange way, I read the same messages from Dr. Rees and from Sue but presented in such opposite ways: one way so complex and one way to clear. So strongly reinforced by their respective closing words. Here’s Dr. Rees:

Whilst there is real potential for the expansion of consciousness, this does not by any means suggest that this will arise without individual effort and struggle. All the enlightened masters of the past needed to move through this gateway – the difference between then and now is that the conditions are far riper for more individuals to undergo this – and indeed can be seen as a biological necessity for the survival of the human species. Thus as individuals, we cannot avoid this, but what we can do, and indeed as a biological and spiritual imperative, we can support one another and help organize ourselves in dedication of this purpose, in a mutual recognition of each individual uniqueness yet shared destiny.

Here are Sue’s closing words: “She knew her Song of love was being joined by so many more.. She was ONE with ALL.. She was part of our Earth Mother..

However, there is one uniting theme I read from both of them: Hope!

Life is never a rehearsal.

with 4 comments

I’ve learned that people will forget what you said, people will forget what you did, but people will never forget how you made them feel.” Maya Angelou

maya-angelou1

In a poignant way, it seems appropriate to feature that quote from Maya Angelou in opening today’s post simply because this wonderful, spiritual woman died earlier on this year; on the 28th May, 2014.

Born in 1928 in St Louis, MO, Maya was, “… an American author, poet, dancer, actress and singer. She published seven autobiographies, three books of essays, and several books of poetry, and was credited with a list of plays, movies, and television shows spanning over 50 years.” (Wikipedia)

In case you are wondering why this post is reflective on life, and the inevitability of death, it is simply because in thirty-minutes time, the last (draft) chapter of ‘the book’ is being published in this place, and I was looking for something to ‘set the tone’, as it were. That last chapter is entitled: And show us the way to embrace death, and the companion to: How the dog offers us a way into our own soul, that was published yesterday.

To be precise, I had in mind two elements in setting the tone. The first being that powerful quotation that is today’s sub-heading and the second being the reposting of a recent item from Val Boyco.

As is the way in this interconnected world of blogging, I hadn’t previously heard of Val Boyco until she signed up to follow my humble scribblings in this place. Naturally, I went across to her blogsite, Find Your Middle Ground, and very quickly signed up to follow her, in return.  That’s how I came to see ‘All Things Change‘; reposted here with Val’s very kind permission.

ooOOoo

All Things Change

ValB

All things arise

Suffer change

And pass away.

This is their nature.

When you know this …

…you become still.

It is easy.

The Ashtavakra Gita

—-

We spend so much time and energy avoiding the way life actually unfolds, and most of the time we are unaware that we are doing this.

We have created these habits over time to avoid facing the uncomfortable feelings that are a part of life.

When we pause and create spaciousness, the resistance begins to dissipate and our inner consciousness grows.

Each time we make space, trust grows.

The more we trust, the more we grow beyond our conditioning and habits and create more space.

With space, life flows freely.

Taking time to connect inwards will not save your life, but may save you from a life of struggle and discontent.

Namaste

ooOOoo

I’m going to close today’s post with a wonderful quote from Sharon Salzberg, taken from her book: Real Happiness: The Power of Meditation. It seems as relevant and as powerful as that opening quote from Maya Angelou.

It is never too late to turn on the light. Your ability to break an unhealthy habit or turn off an old tape doesn’t depend on how long it has been running; a shift in perspective doesn’t depend on how long you’ve held on to the old view.

May we all turn on the lights in ourselves so that we may better leave a light burning in the hearts and minds of others.

For our lives are for real!

Written by Paul Handover

December 23, 2014 at 00:00

The book! Part Five: Stillness

with 13 comments

The last quality that I want to write about, as in the last quality that I see in our dogs that we humans should learn, is about stillness. There was a very deliberate reason to make it the last one. But, if you will forgive me, I’m not going to explain why until near the end.

Stillness! The dog is the master of being still. Being still, either from just laying quietly watching the world go by, so to speak, or being still from being fast asleep. The ease at which they can find a space on a settee, a carpeted corner of a room, the covers of a made-up bed, and stretch out and be still, simply beggars belief. Dogs offer us humans the most wonderful quality of stillness that we should all practice. Dogs reveal their wonderful relationship with stillness.

In the August of 2014, TED Talks published a talk by Pico Iyer. Despite the uncommon name, Pico Iyer was not a person I had heard of before. A quick search revealed that he was a British-born essayist and novelist of Indian origin. Apparently, Pico is the author of a number of books on crossing cultures and has been an essayist for Time Magazine since 1986. Pico Iyer’s TED Talk was called: The art of stillness.

It was utterly riveting. In a little over fifteen minutes, Pico’s talk touched on something that so many of us feel, probably even yearn for: the need for space and stillness in our minds. Stillness to offset the increasingly excessive movement and distractions of our modern world. Or to use Pico’s words:”Almost everybody I know has this sense of overdosing on information and getting dizzy living at post-human speeds.

Now Pico has clearly been a great traveller and the list of countries and places he has visited was impressive. From Kyoto to Tibet, from Cuba to North Korea, from Bhutan to Easter Island; a man having grown up both being a part of, and yet apart from, the English, American and Indian cultures. Yet of all the places this man has been to he tops them all with what he discovers in stillness: “… that going nowhere was at least as exciting as going to Tibet or to Cuba.

Here are Pico Iyer’s own words from that TED Talk. Firstly:

And by going nowhere, I mean nothing more intimidating than taking a few minutes out of every day or a few days out of every season, or even, as some people do, a few years out of a life in order to sit still long enough to find out what moves you most, to recall where your truest happiness lies and to remember that sometimes making a living and making a life point in opposite directions.

Then a few moments later, him saying:

And of course, this is what wise beings through the centuries from every tradition have been telling us. It’s an old idea. More than 2,000 years ago, the Stoics were reminding us it’s not our experience that makes our lives, it’s what we do with it.
….
And this has certainly been my experience as a traveler. Twenty-four years ago I took the most mind-bending trip across North Korea. But the trip lasted a few days. What I’ve done with it sitting still, going back to it in my head, trying to understand it, finding a place for it in my thinking, that’s lasted 24 years already and will probably last a lifetime. The trip, in other words, gave me some amazing sights, but it’s only sitting still that allows me to turn those into lasting insights. And I sometimes think that so much of our life takes place inside our heads, in memory or imagination or interpretation or speculation, that if I really want to change my life I might best begin by changing my mind.

Emails, ‘smartphones’, telephone handsets all around the house, television, junk mail on an almost daily basis, advertising in all its many forms, always lists of things to do; and on and on. It’s as if in this modern life, with the so many wonderful ways of doing stuff, connecting, being entertained, and more, that we have forgotten how to do the most basic and fundamental of things: Nothing! It’s as if so many of us have lost sight of the greatest luxury of all: immersing ourselves in that empty space of doing nothing.

Thus it wouldn’t be surprising to learn that more and more people are taking conscious and deliberate measures to open up a space inside their lives. Whether it is something as simple as listening to some music just before they go to sleep, because those that do notice that they sleep much better and wake up much refreshed, or taking technology ‘holidays’ during the week, or attending Yoga classes or enrolling on a course to learn Transcendental Meditation, there is a growing awareness that something in us is crying out for the sense of intimacy and depth that we get from people who take the time and trouble to sit still, to go nowhere.

Even science supports the benefits of slowing down the brain. In an article[1] posted on the Big Think blogsite, author Steven Kottler explains what are called ‘flow states’: “a person in flow obtains the ability to keenly hone their focus on the task at hand so that everything else disappears.

Elaborating in the next paragraph, as follows:

“So our sense of self, our sense of self-consciousness, they vanish. Time dilates which means sometimes it slows down. You get that freeze frame effect familiar to any of you who have seen The Matrix or been in a car crash. Sometimes it speeds up and five hours will pass by in like five minutes. And throughout all aspects of performance, mental and physical, go through the roof.”

The part of our brain known as the prefrontal cortex houses our higher cognitive functions such as our sense of morality, our sense of will, and our sense of self. It is also that part of our brain that calculates time. When we experience flow states or what is technically known as ‘transient hypofrontality’, we lose track of time, lose our grip on assessing the past, present, and future. As Kotler explains it, “we’re plunged into what researchers call the deep now.

Steven Kotler then goes on to say:

“So what causes transient hypofrontality? It was once assumed that flow states are an affliction reserved only for schizophrenics and drug addicts, but in the early 2000s a researcher named Aaron Dietrich realized that transient hypofrontality underpins every altered state — from dreaming to mindfulness to psychedelic trips and everything in between. Sometimes these altered states involve other parts of the brain shutting down. For example, when the dorsolateral prefrontal cortex disconnects, your sense of self-doubt and the brain’s inner critic get silenced. This results in boosted states of confidence and creativity.”

Don’t worry about the technical terms, just go back and re-read those last two sentences, “For example, when the dorsolateral prefrontal cortex disconnects, your sense of self-doubt and the brain’s inner critic get silenced. This results in boosted states of confidence and creativity.”

All from stillness!

Back to Pico Iyer’s talk and his concluding words:

So, in an age of acceleration, nothing can be more exhilarating than going slow. And in an age of distraction, nothing is so luxurious as paying attention. And in an age of constant movement, nothing is so urgent as sitting still. So you can go on your next vacation to Paris or Hawaii, or New Orleans; I bet you’ll have a wonderful time. But, if you want to come back home alive and full of fresh hope, in love with the world, I think you might want to try considering going nowhere. Thank you.

At the start of this chapter, I mentioned that I would leave it until the end to explain why I deliberately made this one on stillness the last one in the series of dog qualities we humans have to learn.

Here’s why. For the fundamental reason that it is only through the stillness of mind, the stillness of mind that we so beautifully experience when we hug our dog, or close our eyes and bury our face in our dog’s warm fur; it is that stillness of mind, that like any profound spiritual experience, that has the power to transform our mind from negative to positive, from disturbed to peaceful, from unhappy to happy.

The power of overcoming negative minds and cultivating constructive thoughts, of experiencing transforming meditations is right next to us in the souls of our dogs.

Sanctuary is where you go to cherish your life. It’s where you practice being present. And it may not be that many steps from where you are, right now.” The Rev. Terry Hershey.

1,523 words. Copyright © 2014 Paul Handover

[1] http://bigthink.com/think-tank/steven-kotler-flow-states

Written by Paul Handover

December 19, 2014 at 00:30

The book! Part Five: Forgiveness.

with 2 comments

Dogs offer a multitude of examples of forgiveness that many of us probably don’t see. Well, do not see that quality of forgiveness of dogs in such a clear, specific way. Yet think of dogs that are treated cruelly, often over months or years, and then find a new, loving home. Think of dogs that have spent weeks and months in confinement at the local humane centre. Or more terrible to comprehend are those dogs that have simply been abandoned; just thrown away by a so-called human.

We take it totally for granted, when dogs find that new loving home, that they will adjust quickly and easily. For example, one of the dogs that we have here at home is Casey. He was found in the local dog rescue unit down in Payson, Arizona, when we were living in that part of America. Casey had been confined in the dog rescue unit for coming up to a year, and probably hadn’t found a new home because he was a Pit Bull mix, and looked it. Two weeks before he was due to be ‘put down’, classified as being unadoptable, Jean brought him home.

The speed at which he settled in to his new home including, not too much later, a house move from Payson to Southern Oregon, was just wonderful. Casey never for a moment displayed any cautiousness or nervousness towards Jean and me, or, even more importantly, didn’t reveal any anti-social inclinations towards visitors who came to the house. Casey has a wonderful temperament and is a happy, lively, affectionate dog. Clearly, Casey harbours no grudges from past experiences. His forgiveness of the way his life had been dominated by the actions of humans is flawless.

With Payson in mind, there’s another example of how a dog so quickly puts past experiences behind them and embraces their new life.

For in Payson we knew the author, Trish Iles, who has the blog Contemplating Happiness[1]. Here is a lovely story from Trish, in her own words:

What the dog knew!

I was pondering the eternal question: why does two weeks of relaxing vacation seem like so much more time than two weeks of working like my pants are on fire, here at my desk? My sweet husband and I talked about it a little bit, but came to no definitive answer. I chatted with friends about it. No insights. Google had no opinion, either.

Chloe came to us from a rescue organization. I think sometimes about what her experiences have been in her young life. She started out as an abandoned puppy on a reservation in New Mexico and was soon in the pound where she was on the euthanasia list. A kind woman rescued her and took care of her until she found us: just when Chloe was becoming at home with the rescue lady, she was uprooted again and sent home with two new people. What must she have been thinking?

Chloe didn’t close her heart to us, though. She watched for a few days. When she decided we weren’t going to make dinner out of her and that she was really staying with us, she threw her whole being into becoming one of the family. She let herself trust us.

I’m not sure I would have had the courage to trust a new set of people again. I’m doubly not sure that I give a rat’s patootie what those new people thought of or wanted from me. Chloe was willing not only to trust us, but to love us. She forgave us immediately for ripping her from the home she knew, and she adopted us right back.

Chloe was born knowing. She knows about joy. She knows about living a life in balance. She knows about forgiveness, trust, exuberance, a passion for learning and the power of a good nap. I think that when I grow up, I want to be just like her.

Chloe knows about forgiveness.

Moving on. Much too late to make me realise the inadequacies of my own parenting skills, I learnt an important lesson when training Pharaoh, a German Shepherd, who came into my life as a puppy back in 2003; the first dog I had ever had. What I learnt was that putting more emphasis into praise and reward for getting it right ‘trains’ the dog much more quickly than telling it off. The classic example being scolding a dog for running off when instead there should be lots of hugs and praise for the dog returning home. The scolding simply teaches the dog that returning home isn’t pleasant whereas praise reinforces the belief in the dog that home is the place to be. Summed up by a phrase that I read somewhere: “Catch them in the act of doing right!

Like so many things in life, so very obvious once understood! There is no doubt in my mind that this approach, this philosophy, works with youngsters in just the same positive way.

Let’s focus now on the nature of forgiveness in people; in us humans.

There are, essentially, two options that we can choose to act out when we are hurt by someone. We can hang on to those feelings of anger and resentment, and possibly have thoughts of revenge, or respond with forgiveness. The first leads to wounds of anger, bitterness and resentment. The second leads to healing, to the rewards of peace, hope, gratitude and joy.

H’mm – deciding upon the best option could be tough decision! Apologies, I couldn’t avoid that flippancy!

The powerfully positive outcome from acting with forgiveness is that the act that caused the hurt loses, or is denied, any real emotional force upon one. You quickly put it behind you and focus on other, more positive parts of your life. That’s not to say that a significant act of hurt is forgotten, possibly not so for some time, it’s just that it lessens its grip on us, often significantly so. Indeed, quite often, forgiveness can give birth to feelings of understanding, empathy and compassion for the one who hurt us.

Moreover, forgiveness doesn’t mean that you are blind to, or deny, the other person’s responsibility for causing you to be hurt, nor does it minimise, let alone justify, the wrongness of the act. The person can be forgiven, without excusing the act. Forgiveness brings a kind of peace that helps you and I get on with our lives.

Actually, the benefits of forgiveness are even more tangible than the subjective meaning of peace.

There is real evidence to show that the letting go of grudges and bitterness, of offering forgiveness can lead to:

◦ Healthier relationships
◦ Greater spiritual and psychological well-being
◦ Less anxiety, stress and hostility
◦ Lower blood pressure
◦ Fewer symptoms of depression
◦ Stronger immune system
◦ Improved heart health
◦ Higher self-esteem

Beats a few bottles of pills in spades!

Now, as I read back over those last few sentences it struck me as having the slight tone of a Sunday sermon. That what needs to be added to those stirring ideas is how does one learn to forgive, learn to forgive in a practical manner.

Psychotherapists, and others from similar backgrounds, say that forgiveness is the result of change; or more accurately put, a commitment to a process of change.

To put some flesh on the bones of that last idea, that forgiveness is the commitment to a process of change, what now follows are five recommendations. Resist the temptation to read on without pause, indeed just say to yourself that after you have read each of the five recommendations coming up, you will reflect for sufficient time for your head to embrace the meaning of each recommendation, and still remaining paused, give your heart time to engage with your head. I hope that’s clear.

Bring up in your mind an episode where someone else caused you hurt. It can be a recent episode or one from long ago that still has the potential to hurt you. Dwell on it for a while.

So to the first recommendation: Consider the values of forgiveness to you, not at a theoretical level, but to you in terms of where you are at this point in your life, and by implication, how important those values of forgiveness are to you at this given time.

Stop! Look away from the page! Reflect on what that means. Think it with your head, feel it with your heart.

So to number two: Reflect on the situation, the real facts of what happened, how it came about, how you reacted, and to what degree the situation has affected your life, health and well-being; or has the potential to so do.

Stop! Look away from the page! Reflect on what that means. Think it with your head, feel it with your heart.

Here is the third recommendation: Actively choose to forgive the person who hurt you. Possibly by re-reading this chapter down to this point. Actively chose to forgive that person now!

Stop! Look away from the page! Reflect on what that means. Think it with your head, feel it with your heart.

Number four, the penultimate recommendation: Stop seeing yourself as a victim of the hurtful event. Understand that by continuing to feel victimised, you are unable to release the control and power that the offending person, and/or the situation, has over you.

Stop! Look away from the page! Reflect on what that means. Think it with your head, feel it with your heart.

The final recommendation; number five: As you let go of the pain, of the hurt, of your grudges, your life is now no longer defined by how you have been hurt. Better than that, the letting go opens your heart to finding compassion and understanding for the other person.

Think it with your head, feel it with your heart.

There is no question that forgiveness can be challenging at times, especially if the person who’s hurt you doesn’t admit wrong or doesn’t ever speak of his or her sorrow. But never allow yourself to become stuck. Reflect on the times when you have hurt others and when those others have forgiven you. Share your burden of finding forgiveness, such as writing in a journal, or through pray or guided meditation; even better open up to someone you’ve found to be wise and compassionate, such as a spiritual leader, a mental health provider, or an impartial loved one or friend. Nearly forgot: share your burden with your dog! They are such great listeners!

Never forget that finding forgiveness is a process and even small hurts may need to be forgiven over and over again.

In the vast majority of cases, forgiveness can lead to reconciliation. Especially so when the hurtful event involved someone whose relationship you really value; for example someone emotionally close to you. However, there is one case where reconciliation is impossible. That is the case where the person who hurt you has died. However, even if reconciliation isn’t possible, forgiveness always is.

A quick afterthought tells me that there is a second case where reconciliation is impossible: when the person who hurt you refuses to communicate with you. As they say, it takes two to tango, and you always have the choice to walk away, to move on, to reflect that someone who hurts you and then stands in the way of reconciliation may possibly be better off disconnected from you; temporarily or permanently.

Never forget to respect yourself, to keep an open heart and mind and do what seems best for you in the specific situation.

The final thought for this chapter on forgiveness is not to think that it is about the other person needing to change; that isn’t the point of forgiveness. Forgiveness is about us, how it can change our lives through bringing peace, happiness, and emotional and spiritual healing. It also helps, enormously so, in allowing us to recognise our own faults, our own mistakes, and the times when we have hurt others, so that we can offer our apologies in an open and honest manner.

Forgiveness is one of the many precious qualities that we can learn from dogs.

2,036 words Copyright © 2014 Paul Handover

[1] http://contemplatinghappiness.blogspot.com/p/my-books.html

Written by Paul Handover

December 15, 2014 at 00:30

Follow

Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

Join 1,409 other followers

%d bloggers like this: