Author: Jon Lavin

The deafening roar of … silence!

Why is something so obvious almost beyond reach?

Like many others, I saw the first episode of the BBC2 television programme, The Big Silence. It clearly touched many people. (Useful links at the very end of this article.)

I wanted to throw a bit of light on this fascinating subject.  As the five people in the TV programme all readily admit, real silence is rather scary to them.

Why would something so wished for by so many – an hour doing absolutely nothing – be sufficiently scary that, in reality, the majority will do everything in their power to avoid silence?

Let’s go to a video recorded by Abbot Christopher Jamison a couple of years ago in connection with the BBC Programme Finding Happiness.  Here it is:

The points made by Abbot Jamison in that video apply just as much to the task finding peace through silence.  Around the 3 minute mark, the Abbott says,

If we come to terms with our demons then we will find that we are not unhappy ….. face the unhappy demons.

We all have unhappy demons, OK some more than others.  We start to hear them when we gift our bodies and minds the grace of real silence.  I deliberately included the word ‘bodies’ even though silence is a ‘mind’ thing because resting our bodies with regular silence will also be very therapeutic for us.

What does coming to terms mean?  It means giving space to those inner thoughts so that one can clearly hear them.  You probably won’t make sense of them, indeed they may have a great unsettling effect, but they won’t hurt you.

Indeed, it’s when we try and stop those inner demons that they manifest themselves in many other ways: fidgeting, funny little unexplained aches, itchy skin, short-tempers, constant feeding of the ego, and on and on and on.

A good indication of what’s going on ‘under the bonnet’, so to speak, is to see if you can sit still in a relaxed manner for just 15 minutes.

Let’s go back to the website where you can buy the booklet on Growing into Silence.  Here’s what is written there:

The Big Silence is a BBC TWO series about five men and women all of whom believed that they would benefit from finding more time for silence in their lives. They all felt that they needed to slow down and attend more to some of the deeper issues in life. They had little or no outward religious practice but all said that they were open to religious guidance. The result is a journey that took them into a deep silence and in that silence they discovered some powerful dynamics working in their own lives. – All of them were profoundly changed by the experience.

This 44-page booklet, Growing into Silence, offers you the chance to enter into that silence in your own life. You can undertake similar spiritual exercises to those which the volunteers undertook. To help you deepen some of the insights expressed in the series, there are also details of further resources, including a booklist and websites which you can explore.

Each of the exercises in this booklet is presented as a prayerful reflection. They assume that you are not alone as you reflect on your life. You carry out this process in the company of a loving God who looks over you, supports you, and who may well have something to add to your reflections. This is not a hidden way of persuading you to go to church, or sign up to any particular belief-system. Even if you have no idea about God, you can look at whatever most brings you to life or fills you with energy. That is always the most appropriate starting point.

Look at this sentence again, “The result is a journey that took them into a deep silence and in that silence they discovered some powerful dynamics working in their own lives.

Self-awareness cannot come from outside, it has to come from inside, it has to come from what, in a spiritual sense, we call the soul.  If you saw the BBC2 programme, you may recall the Abbot saying, “Silence is the route to the soul, the soul is the route to God.

And now is not the time to have any form of reaction to the word, God.  God, as it is said, works in mysterious ways and if those mysterious ways enable you to move towards your soul then don’t analyse it, just accept it as it is.

My co-author, Paul, wrote an article about Thinking about Truth on the 11th September. He wrote about Dr David Hawkins, another great-standing advocate of the importance of consciousness. Paul wrote in that article,

Think about what Hawkins is saying. He is saying that we intuitively know, without the need of intellectual argument or ‘proof’, the rightness, the beauty, the perfection of some deeply fundamental concepts.

It’s as if from the earliest moments of human awareness, gravity, sunlight, night and day, for example, were obvious despite eons of time needing to pass before science could ’explain’ these aspects of life.

In that blog article, Paul quotes Hawkins, “True power, then, emanates from consciousness itself; what we see is a visible manifestation of the invisible.”

It’s a simple step to connect what the Abbot is saying with that sentence from Hawkins.  Silence is the way to hear our consciousness, and those sounds, those inner voices, are the manifestation of what, otherwise, we don’t ‘see’.

Here are the last three paragraphs from the article on truth:

A very well-known magical attribute of the human brain is what goes on in the sub-conscious, our ‘back-office’. Give the brain some space to process a dilemma such as deciding what to do for the best and it does come up with what is best for us. Often the best space we can provide for our brain is a good night’s sleep. It’s common folklore to ‘sleep’ on a problem.

My co-founder of Learning from Dogs, Paul, says that often in sleep we find the truth. I think the same could be said for meditation and prayer, as in a spiritual sense more than in a religious sense.

Just reflect again on the power of what comes out from those two paragraphs. Truth is not something external to us; it is within us, all the time. Our level of consciousness is the key to this truth. Our self-awareness is the tool by which we understand our level of consciousness – our mirror to our soul.

I completely agree.

By Jon Lavin

Want more information?

The Big Silence

Growing into Silence

The Way

Growing into Silence booklet

Dr David Hawkins

The earlier article from Learning about Dogs, Thinking about Truth

Professor James Lovelock, the way forward

Prof. Lovelock is a most amazing thinker.

This makes fascinating listening and thinking. I am referring to the BBC4 programme, Eureka Moment, first broadcast in March 2010.


Some frightening stuff to reflect on, however, he is a tremendously positive person. His level of thinking and orginality is breath taking. Painful and not pleasant, but a snapshot of a possible outcome.

Interesting from a David Hawkins point of view to measure his level of integrity on the scale of human consciousness that Hawkins developed.

I’m delighted to see that the BBC still has a huge amount available about Lovelock’s claims.  A small extract from here.

The man who achieved global fame for his theory that the whole earth is a single organism now believes that we can only hope that the earth will take care of itself in the face of completely unpredictable climate change.

Interviewed by Today presenter John Humphrys, videos of which you can see below, he said that while the earth’s future was utterly uncertain, mankind was not aware it had “pulled the trigger” on global warming as it built its civilizations.

Here’s a video, taken quite recently, of the Professor explaining his approach to his science.

But whatever, don’t lose heart. Keep the faith in a better future, as Paul wrote yesterday.

By Jon Lavin

Times are hard – let’s stop developing our people!

Times are hard – let’s stop eating!

Of course, that’s a crazy idea.  So why in business do we so often find almost a direct parallel?

Most people who have had anything to do with manufacturing in any form know that the first thing that generally gets cut in a down turn is training and development.

Why? Because it’s seen as a ‘nice to have’ and most companies reckon they can do without it.

In the very short term, that may be true; note the ‘maybe’

True, because things will seem to be normal.  In fact there will be an important change almost immediately – a drop in morale, which many managers will not notice!

But who is in business for the short term?  So we need to look at the longer term and see if there is any valid strategy for cutting back on the most vital resource for a business’s people.

Look what has happened to much of our manufacturing capability. Outsourced abroad. Clearly if it’s cheaper to do that then why wouldn’t you?


Why is it cheaper, though? Because, I believe, most British companies weren’t able to adapt and change quickly enough. Shareholders or senior management got fed up and the decision was made.

Change is a funny thing. If it’s our idea then we’ll do it but if it is seen to be inflicted on us, resistance is guaranteed. This leads us into the next thing:

You can’t impose change. People need to be facilitated to find their own solutions.

Engage with people, ask them where greater efficiencies should be made. This is the only way towards successful change and requires high levels of interpersonal and communications skills.

What’s good for business is the same outside for that matter. Without these skills it is very difficult to develop the relationships which are necessary to encourage people to pull together in times of hardship. These do need developing in people and not to bother is a highly risky option.

So, investing money in planned and structured people development, where benefits and performance improvements can be identified, is a good use of money, especially in difficult times.

By Jon Lavin

We are all together

A wonderful reminder of the power of community

Hopefully, by the time this Post is published (it’s being written on the 12th) the steel rescue chamber above the trapped Chilean miners will be in action, carefully and steadily bringing the men to the surface, one by one.  The event will be mainstream news so Learning from Dogs will simply watch from the side.

(And to the huge joy of millions, we now all know the miners are safe! Jon)

But there was something that caught my eye from the BBC News website on the 12th.  Here’s the extract:

Meanwhile, Alejandro Pino, a journalist who has been in daily contact with the miners and advising them on handling interviews, revealed that he had been helping them prepare a speech.

“I asked them to give me just one word and with that word I would show them how to create a speech,” he said.

“It was just a try, so I can repeat to you what happened because I was touched by it and they were touched by it too, not because I made the speech but because the word they chose to start with was extraordinary: it was ‘comradeship’.”


It doesn’t take very long to realise that mining is one of those crafts that relies on comradeship.

Here’s a quote from Antoine de Saint-Exupery, “The greatness of a craft consists firstly in how it brings comradeship to men.

From the word ‘comradeship’ it seems a small step to the word ‘community’ and all that is implied for the health and welfare of mankind.


William Morris


Here’s a lovely reminder from William Morris in a paper on community by Mark K Smith published on the Infed website (for citation see end of post).

Fellowship is heaven, and lack of fellowship is hell; fellowship is life, and lack of fellowship is death; and the deeds that ye do upon the earth, it is for fellowship’s sake ye do them. (A Dream of John Ball, Ch. 4; first published inThe Commonweal 1886/7)

Fellowship, community, comradeship – call it what you will, it will have to be the essence of mankind’s future.

By Jon Lavin

(Full citation is: Smith, M. K. (2001) ‘Community’ in the encyclopedia of informal education

Follow up to The Four Divine States

“We can’t solve problems by using the same kind of thinking we used when we created them.” Albert Einstein

A few days ago, I published an article setting out the place of the Four Divine States in our daily lives.

A regular follower of Learning from Dogs, Patrice Ayme, posted a comment on the article.  This is what Patrice wrote.

No empathy survives contact with the enemy. This is the problem with the business of goodness, and how it ties up with evil.

The problem with goodness, or lack thereof, is that it is not how hatred and war are generated. More goodness does not a peace make. All it can very well do is reinforce the tribal instinct.

Understanding may start with the heart, but it survives only through the facts. Most humans have known and experienced love. To teach them love is to teach them water: the height of emotional arrogance. The truly good, instead, will teach the facts.

This is my attempt to shed more light on my approach, for followers of truth on the same path.

With great respect to Patrice, who is clearly a great thinker, I shall avoid justifying what I wrote previously or engaging in debate as the truth is non negotiable.

Take a look at the following chart. (Note: We inadvertently published the chart without the written permission of Veritas Publishing and upon being advised, immediately removed it.  The map of consciousness may be viewed on the Veritas Publishing web site and purchased for the small sum of $6.00.)



This ‘Map’ was developed by Dr David R Hawkins to show the logarithmic levels of human consciousness.  Here is how it is described on David Hawkins’ web site:

Over 250,000 kinesiological calibrations spanning 30 years of multiple research studies conducted by The Institute for Spiritual Research, Inc., have defined a range of values corresponding to well-recognized attitudes and emotions.

Important areas to look at occur at level 200, the doorway at which integrity is possible, and 500, where information is processed differently and we move out of a factual world, controlled by the intellect. The 400s is the world of science and the intellect, the 500’s, the beginning of the world of the non linear.

Patrice’s, or anybody else’s, great level of intellect is being used to explain something on a higher level – it just can’t be done! The Buddha, Christ and Krishna were all what the world calls avatars, i.e. on levels of 1000 or greater.

The Brahma Viharas where developed by the Buddha, a divine being at level 1000 or over.

By Jon Lavin

The Four Divine States

A route to be free of hate and ill-will and a guarantee of happiness – read on:

The Brahma Viharas are also known as the Four Divine Emotions or The Four Divine Abodes. They are the meditative states, thoughts, and actions to be cultivated in Buddhist meditation. They are the positive emotions and states that are productive and helpful to anyone of any religion or even to the one with no religion.

The result will be a good person, free from hate and ill-will. Those who cultivate the brahma viharas are guaranteed to happiness. Those who further cultivate equanimity, may reach insightful states and wisdom of enlightenment experiences.

The Four Divine Emotions

1. Loving-kindness (Pali: Metta)
2. Compassion (Pali:Karuna)
3. Joy with others (Pali: Mudita)
4. Equanimity (Pali: Upekkha)

The Four Divine Emotions are known in Pali (Pali is a literary and liturgical language only) as the Brahma-viharas and are also known as the divine abidings or the divine abodes. They are emotional states to be strived for.  By practising and developing the divine emotions, we will have a peaceful and patient daily life practice.


Loving-kindness is a soft, affection and care for others and yourself.It is not a hard, romantic type of love and not a love that includes extreme attachment or controlling feelings.

Compassion is like an open heart that cares for everyone. It includes empathy, being able to see the other person’s position and caring for and about them.

Joy with others, sometimes is called sympathetic joy or appreciative joy. It is the ability to be happy when you see others happy. Their joy becomes your joy as you welcome less suffering and happiness of others.

Equanimity is the balanced state of mind. It is the middle way state of mind that is neither clinging nor pushing away.

The above was an excerpt from the best selling book The Complete Book of Buddha’s Lists — Explained, by David N. Snyder, Ph.D., with a Foreword by the Venerable Madewela Punnaji. The full version can be downloaded for free from here.

By Jon Lavin

Anniversary message from Jon

On coming of age

It’s been a partly exhilarating and very scary 12 months since the launch of Learning from Dogs. I can’t remember a time when there has been so much change and uncertainty that hits right down to the foundations of everyone.

Twelve months ago these changes were merely hinted at, and then only to a few in the upper strata of the finance world, from my point of view anyway. How everything seems to have changed now!

Where lies ahead?

Warnings abound about our use of our worlds’ resources. Our seeming need to procreate without self imposed limit is leading us to a place that coupled with climate change, we will be unable to sustain the current world’s population, let alone the projected increase within 20 years or so. Water is becoming scarce in many parts of the world and so is food.

For those who are awakening from a media-induced slumber which distorts and bends reality to suit who can apply the greatest financial influence and weighting, the reality of the situation we are facing as a planet, is rapidly catching us up.

We still have choices – all is not lost and they will require a highly integrous group of people and thinkers to guide us through the next hundred years or so. In other words, in our children’s or children’s, children’s lifetimes. People who are not driven by the ego, but to serve the highest good.

So what can we do as individuals? Enjoy what we have, perhaps? I think, work on ourselves through awareness and expose ourselves to everything positive and integrous.

Most of our problems lie within, from that thing called an ego, that would rather drive us to death, rather than admit it might be wrong. The world would be an even more positive place if we worked on ourselves and our awareness rather than looking for all the answers ‘out there’, with somebody or something else.

So, how do we work with that? Well, no surprises there really – by bringing in awareness and coming out of the dream state, or nightmare state, depending on how you see things at the moment, and into the Present or Now, as some writers have called it.

How do we do that? It can simply begin by remembering to breath! So by bringing our awareness to the breath, we come back into our bodies and out of the trance going on in the mind. Approximately 95% of our time is spent in this self-induced trance-like state, by the way.

Think you can’t survive without ‘your mind’ or ‘your thoughts’. There’s no such thing really. By coming out of the mind and back into the body, slowly, with practice and awareness, the noise gently starts to subside and we become aware of spaces of silence or no thought. That is where the answers lie, not in thinking.

The intellect and what we have learned kicks in after the quiet, to allow us to put into action what has come up through the silence.

Most of us have such a huge investment in ‘our thoughts’ or ‘our ideas’. If we could just make the time to sit still, in peace and quiet, so much more would be revealed to us.

So in this brave, new world going forward, to badly quote Einstein, we must aspire to move onto a higher level than the one that triggered this road we are relentlessly pursuing. We need to start becoming aware of the interconnectedness of all beings and focus on activities that are for the highest good, that benefit everyone, rather for the benefit of the few, to the detriment of the many.

By Jon Lavin

On being … well, honest!

Conscientiousness isn’t all it’s cracked out to be!

(Foreword from Paul.)

Jon is one of those rare individuals who not only has been committed to a path of self-awareness for more than 30 years but who has also studied incredibly hard so as to be able to help others and do so from a base of real competence, as his own Blog describes.  I can speak as a current ‘client’ of Jon who is assisting me in my own journey.

But then I realised the great strength in what Jon has written.  It is this.

There are many notable teachers out there who thousands upon thousands have turned to for a deeper understanding of what life is all about.  As far back as time itself teachers have surfaced and given spiritual guidance to those that come in need.  But it’s very difficult to read or listen to these great teachers and connect with the fact that they were born, as we are all born, with nothing.  And all of them, like many of us, went through Hell on wheels to come out the other side with a greater self-awareness and a deeper understanding of the real truths in nature.  Like all of us who wish to rise above our present place they first acknowledged their own frailties. It is the starting point.

So, let me get to the point.  Jon has the awareness and understanding to offer real help to those that seek answers that are currently beyond reach.  Jon’s article is an wonderful illustration that he experiences the same fears and feelings of helplessness that you and I feel.  You and I and Jon and all of humanity are much more closely connected than we realise.

Paul H.


To see in is to see out!

I’ve been running my own business for about 12 years now. In the beginning it started because I had a thirst for wanting to make a difference in small business in our local area and a passion for wanting to do it through working with people directly, on their behaviours. Still have, really.

I think this came as a form of acknowledgement to the few exceptional people managers I experienced while I was employed, and the all too common, terrible ones.

I was also mentored by a group of people to whom no developmental tool was barred. My eyes were well and truly opened to how a change of view could change outcomes.

The final boot up the backside was redundancy in the late 90s. I was all ready to go and just needed a kick.

My work ethic, trained at home and then through an engineering apprenticeship, was to conscientiously work hard and try hard and to treat people the way you want to be treated. Nothing wrong with that. I assumed automatic reward would follow as long as I did those things.

Over time I wised up and became a bit less idealistic and a little more politically aware but carried on in much the same way.

Much later I found myself embarking on a whole new adventure, with a lovely wife and family, all dependent on me, with a few contacts to start getting work from!

It took a year before the first jobs came in that didn’t necessitate robbing the almost non-existent savings and redundancy payment just to keep food on the table. Then, work slowly picked up and it started to get quite good for a one-man band. We were able to go on holiday once a year, camping, but still great, and then abroad.

All the time, I beavered away, trying hard, being very conscientious, as I’d been brought up to be, but slowly getting very stressed.

Time was when it took Friday night to de-stress, then 3 days, then 10 days and recently, not at all.

So faced with this present downturn, which is likely to go on for much longer than any of the others I’ve seen and survived, I’m wondering just what new strategy to adopt. Money is already getting very tight and everything is feeling very ‘hand to mouth’. Can’t really see one month in front of the other.

I notice our local farmer who I went to school with but didn’t really know.

I’ve got degrees, lived abroad, can speak Finnish fluently, (what use is that, I hear you say!), and can turn my hand to most things, but I still feel quite dis-empowered and at a bit of a loss.

My farmer friend is always smiling, he’s got a flock of geese he’s fattening up, the same with his beef cattle, does livery for half a dozen horses or so, has fields planted with various cereal crops, and has his finger in lots of different pies – and definitely does not look stressed. He is also renting his land plus another farm.

I honestly don’t know what to make of this all except for a few really important things – the importance of diversification, relationships and appreciating what you’ve got, especially people things, here, in the now.

I have also come to the realisation that I still haven’t cracked the main thing with being self-employed, and that is replacing fear with trust.

It’s been said by various enlightened people that we see a reflection of the world we hold in mind. Going forward into this brave new world I would like to see opportunities rather than fear, I will diversify into things which make more use of my wide range of talents, and I will swap fear for trust.

By Jon Lavin

Fire lighting

The answer to whom we turn to when the times are tough.

Light your own fire!

Regular readers of Learning from Dogs will know that a few days ago, Sherry wrote a piece entitled Light My Fire? It expressed her view that lately she was finding it a problem to be inspired, finding the passion as Sherry put it.

I have been thinking about Sherry’s article for the last few days and a couple of peripheral things come to mind.

We tend to get more of what we notice and orient towards. By allowing ourselves to become absorbed in the negative, that is what we tend to notice.  The fact is that the media thrive and make vast sums of money focusing on the negative. Just compare the amount of negative with the positive in any news cast.

That is not to say that we should not be aware of the negative or hide our heads in the sand. We can however change the way we view things and that has to come from within.

In fact, the answer rarely lies “out there”.

Change in how we view things, i.e. our attitude, needs to start coming from “within” ourselves.

The one thing that characterises these times is uncertainty.

A lot of us don’t even know where the next bit of money to pay the bills is coming from. In spite of the tendency to look ‘out there’ for strong direction, I still feel that the inner resolve has got to come for inside.

Another thing, I don’t believe it’s possible to think ourselves out of this one.

Although it’s a subject I go on a lot about, the sense of direction and well being has to come from us, or rather the feeling of interconnectedness that we share with everything. At a level, we are all connected.

We are all connected.

The one thing that gets us all through is a faith in some higher consciousness, that we can all tap into when we remember and ask for that miracle of clarity.

This is not thinking. The opposite in fact. This is a process of trust and ‘allowing’.

Allowing requires a power that few can sustain for long as we’re all geared to doing.  ‘Allowing’ requires us to turn off the noise machine that is in our head and creating a quietness and space for awareness to surface.

Paul recently wrote an article on Living in the Present that describes this way of letting go rather well.  I know for a fact that Paul is new to these ideas but already he is finding a peace and clarity emerging that shows that there’s always a good time to start – NOW!

Back to my thoughts. I am not advocating lying down and letting the world roll over us – the opposite in fact. By bringing awareness into this whole mess, we are more likely to take the right action.

I have honestly noticed that the more effort and circular thinking I have put into my present financial difficulties, and I’m a real expert in worry and circular thinking, the worse things have got.

I notice that by returning to silence and simply observing, a background is created that allows solutions and options to rise.

By asking to be shown the way forward and then letting go of the need for an instant solution, subtle options and ways forward present themselves.
Then right action follows.

An acceptance that in any moment we are all operating at our maximum level of consciousness. We are all doing the best we can. If we knew better, we would do better.

Therefore, what is going on in the world is a reflection of ourselves and is absolutely perfect for where the sum total of all of us are. (“Perfect”, does not mean we have to like it but it is, never the less, inevitable)

It follows, therefore, that the best way to help the world is to work on ourselves by striving to be the best we can, in every way. And the only way to do that is with awareness.

I think it was Abraham Maslow who coined the phrase, “Self Actualising”, meaning, being the best we can in every way, mentally and physically.

During these undoubtedly troubled times in the earth’s history, we all tend to turn to someone or something to provide a sense of direction.  That someone you need to turn to is yourself.

By Jon Lavin

Feeling safe!

Safe, as in psychologically as well as physically, has its rewards.

Jon 05'
Jon Lavin

I had a very interesting session recently. I did some coaching work with a client company who managed a small team. The day was split into two – the morning with the client and the afternoon with the whole team.

What struck me about the day was the power of good leadership and the importance of leaders who are aware of how they come across and are capable of forming a relationship with their teams.

My client was struggling with her team because she was unaware how she was communicating, not only with her team but with other people in the organisation.

Unfortunately, becoming aware of how we are in a relationship with others brings us face to face with ourselves and requires a willingness to accept ourselves, warts and all, before trying to change anything.

After we all had lunch together and broke the ice a bit we focused on what was working (not what was not working), what was missing, what inspired and what was possible. By examining these areas and so creating a safe environment, everybody was able to reveal more of themselves and what they needed to have a satisfactory, safe working relationship with each other.

By Jon Lavin