Sensitivity & Compassion: Risks and Blessings

When we open up to Source, we inevitably become more sensitive.

This is one of the great risks of spiritual development that is rarely discussed. Why a risk? Because when we open to Spirit, we also open to all the vibrations and subtle energies that are out there, good and bad.

 It is probable that everyone reading this blog has at some point in their lives experienced a sense of energetic overwhelm from all the terrible news and suffering on our planet. You have also probably experienced over-sensitivity to other people’s negative vibrations, perhaps to the point of needing to avoid certain situations.

This is normal on the spiritual path. It comes from being more open and connected. No wonder that historically so many spiritual folk retreated into abbeys, monasteries and convents. No wonder that shamans, pagans and tribal medicine people have spent so much time alone in nature.

Because we all open up and necessarily become sensitive, I often think that at the very beginning of everyone’s spiritual journey, we should be taught two foundation practices.

The first is the skill of being able to distinguish between good and bad energies. It does not matter how beautiful an angel or spirit looks. What matters is its vibration. Supposing it is something evil that comes in cunning disguise. We need to be able to discern. Early on in my own training as a youngster, I was taught something very simple. Will the new energy say the Lord’s Prayer with you?  Decades on, I still use that technique as a guideline when I meet something new and am not certain what it is.

The second practice I believe everyone should learn at the very beginning of their spiritual journey, is how to open and close. Open to the energies you want. Close to the energies you want nowhere near you.

Once I was training a group of Christian clergy, showing them how they might open more fully to God and Christ in their worship. During the discussion afterwards several of them shared that they were concerned about opening fully to Spirit during a public service. I asked why that was so. They replied that they would then feel overwhelmed by the vibrations of the people in their congregation, especially greeting them at the church door after worship. Too many people! Too many vibrations!

I showed them how to open like flowers opening their petals to the sun and to then close their petals as night-time came.

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Managing your energy field and boundaries is also crucial for containing your own bad moods and negative thoughts. We do not want to create karma and harm other people with our bad vibes.

I remember once working with a very intense spiritual seeker who was tormented by the idea that she was casting evil spells on other people because of her negative thinking. We discussed this very carefully and lovingly. During the conversation, she had a crucial insight. She realised that her ethical concern about radiating bad energy, in fact, created a boundary. Her soulful sense of responsibility kept her bad energy strictly in her own bubble. She was not radiating negativity.

This insight was a real blessing for her. It relieved her of the worry that she was polluting her psychic environment. It also made her realise that she had a depressive mental pattern of shaming herself. Understanding this was enough of a shift that she was able to liberate herself from the self-harming thought pattern. More than that, she could see that her concern about psychically polluting the atmosphere was in fact a sign that she was aligned with her soul and seeking to live a meaningful life of compassion and service.

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Often people on the spiritual path think that their spiritual development will make their lives easier, but the further along the path we are, the more open we are, the more we are able to recognise and feel suffering. It is part of being sensitive and connected.

The greatest spiritual teachers are profound souls, aware of suffering, always developing more love, more connection, more compassion.

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This blog also appeared in May 2024 issue of Cygnus Magazine

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Energy Healing Strategy for Victims of Rape

There is an energy healing strategy that can support victims of rape and abuse.

To understand this healing approach, it is useful to know something about subtle energy anatomy. In this case, it is to do with the way that the fascia envelopes every part of the body and is mirrored by a webbing of subtle energy.  

Fascia is the thin, smooth, elastic, slippery tissue that sits between muscles and the skin, and that surrounds body organs. It is everywhere in the body, enveloping blood vessels, nerves and cells.

Fascia is also the interface between the body’s physicality and its subtle energy anatomy. It is the bridge, the connection, between physiological tissue and the stuff of the energy body – prana, chi, etheric tissue.  Fascia, for example, is the interface that enables acupuncture.

In the tragic circumstances of rape and abuse, the etheric webbing – the subtle energy fascia –  around the sexual organs and anus is penetrated.

The result of this trauma may be that the subtle energy webbing, the etheric webbing, is torn and remains open after the abusive event.  The integrity of the victim’s subtle energy anatomy is therefore broken.

The victim now experiences not only the psychological and physical trauma of the abuse, but also the less visible wound of the torn and open etheric webbing. This can create an ongoing existential sense of vulnerability and anxiety. For both therapists and victims, it is important to understand that this ongoing vulnerability is not just a psychological or physiological effect. It is also in the subtle energy body that has lost its integrity.

At best, over time, with patience, calm and trust, the webbing can reform and grow back into place. The patience and kindness of therapists, friends and family are crucial.

At worst however the wounded subtle energy webbing remains open.

This can have a tragic result.  Bullies, predators and abusers may sense this energy wound and be attracted to its vulnerability to repeat the abuse. The wounding, the opening, may therefore be further enlarged, creating more vulnerability and a cycle of abuse. This is very unpleasant, wounding and can obviously be very confusing for the recipient who cannot understand why it is happening.

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This energy healing strategy, therefore, is aimed specifically at repairing the subtle energy webbing so that it reforms back into a coherent, healthy and resilient state.  

This technique is not the usual energy healing strategy of hands-on radiation that is used for example in spiritual healing.  In fact, deliberately radiating energy into the wound might make things worse. It can overstimulate and excite the area, possibly making the tear bigger.

The healing strategy that we can use here is calm, receptive and holding. It is magnetic rather than radiatory. It allows and facilitates the web to reweave itself.

It trusts that there is an underlying DNA blueprint of health — an underlying archetypal pattern of a healthy webbing that remains there despite the wound. We need to let the webbing drop back down into its archetypal pattern and reweave itself.

Our technique then is to be very gently present to the wound with calm and patient care. No excitement. No radiation except patient compassion and love.

It is as if your loving and gentle hands are under the wound, and you are magnetically attracting and allowing the webbing to sink down and reweave itself back into its healthy pattern. This requires a very light touch; no sense of urgency.

To repeat: Allow the torn webbing to sink back down into its healthy blueprint which is always there. Sense that it is reweaving. Do not actively radiate or put any willpower into the strategy.

Energy healers – Be very careful about actually touching your client.

How many healing sessions are needed? I do not know. I wish everyone a graceful and speedy healing, but we know that this may take time.

You will know if the healing is effective and the webbing is back in integrity, because the individual will now consistently feel more confident and empowered.

Victims of abuse – If you are reading this, my strong suggestion is that you do this practice when you are in a very safe, relaxed and comfortable space, perhaps in bed or curled up on your sofa. Approach the practice carefully. Maybe feel your way into it just for a few seconds. Slowly build up to a few minutes. A few minutes practised regularly over several months may work very well for you.

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I wish everyone graceful healing.

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Below you can watch a video of  this blog

Meditation for World Peace & Healing Script

There are four stages:

– Centering
– Sending Peace and Healing
– Prayers and Mantra
– Receiving Inner Peace

18.00 – Centering

We close our eyes and allow ourselves to drop down into our bodies.
Our bodies know how to be at ease.
Like sitting in your favourite armchair or sofa at home . . .
Or sitting at your favourite cafe people-watching . . .
Or out in nature watching clouds . . .
Dropping, sinking down into our bodies . . .

Move your feet just a bit to help you anchor down . . .

Notice the subtle sensations of your clothes against the skin of your thighs . . .

Notice the subtle sensations of your clothes moving against the skin of your chest and stomach as you breathe . . .

Your eyes are soft and kind . . .

Your heart warm and open . . .

And you take three or four very soft, slow, quiet breaths down into your stomach . . .

Slow and quiet now . . .

I will be silent now for a few minutes as we each settle down into our bodies . . .
And connect with each other across the landscape . . .
Heart to heart.

 

5 MINUTES SILENCE

18.10 Send Peace and Healing

Stay in the silence . . .

For the next few minutes, we send peace and healing to wherever there is conflict and suffering . . .

Calmly, patiently, we send peace and healing . . .

 

5 MINUTES SILENCE

 

18.15 Prayer & Mantras

Stay in the silence . . .

For the next few minutes we each in our own way, according to our culture and tradition, say our prayers and mantra for peace and healing. . . .

5 MINUTES SILENCE

 18.20 Receive Inner Peace and Healing

Stay in the silence . . .

For the next few minutes, so that we ourselves may model peace and healing . . .

we allow ourselves to accept inner peace and healing. . .

We breathe it in . . .

Deep into our bodies . . .

Deep into our hearts . . .

Deep into our minds . . .

We accept inner peace and healing.

5 MINUTES SILENCE

18.25 Ends

Slowly . . .
Gently . . .
Stretch . . .

Thank you everybody.
Thank you for community.
Thank you for love.

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You can download a PDF of this script here:
World Peace Healing Meditation Script

Meditation Does Not Need a Silent Mind

 

One of the most helpful insights I ever heard from a meditation teacher is this:

There are two types of meditator.

Those who require a silent mind. And those who do not.

I was in my early twenties, just beginning my meditation practice, and was confused because my personal experience contradicted what everyone was teaching, that meditators must have a silent and empty mind. In fact, many of the books and teachers asserted that an empty mind was the real outcome and reward of meditation. But that was not my experience.

Early on I had discovered that I could go into a very mellow, centered and watchful space, with my mind, the proverbial monkey-mind, continuing its chatter. I was, it seemed, one of those meditators who did not need a silent mind. But importantly, I did need to manage it.

This blog then is about managing mind-chatter and comes from my experience of practicing and teaching meditation over five decades.

The crucial factor is whether you are able to observe your mind-chatter with friendly kindness.  Compassionate equanimity.  If you can step back and witness your chatter, then your consciousness has expanded; and expansion of consciousness is one of the wonderful outcomes of meditation.

As an observer then, like a supportive therapist, you can watch with friendly interest what arises in your mind-brain. With patience, emotional intelligence and benevolence you can usefully interpret the chatter and guide it.

 

The Saboteurs of Impatience and Self-Criticism

Watching myself and many others, my experience is that the main saboteurs of managing mind-chatter are impatience and self-criticism.

These two attitudes are usually the result of bad teaching. You may well have been taught, like I was at the beginning, that your monkey-mind must be silent. So, understandably, you may get judgmental and impatient when your brain is still creating thoughts.

Much of this erroneous teaching derives from the frequent misinterpretations and mistranslations of Buddhist terms like ‘sunyata’ or Christian ‘emptiness.’ The void, the emptiness of meditation, is not a frozen space with nothing in it. It is an infinite, vast dimension, ocean and space that contains everything. It also moves and flows.

The void contains the whole cosmos, Buddha consciousness, Christ consciousness, Nirvana, mysteries and levels of awareness beyond our human understanding. It also contains us. We ourselves are in the vast ocean of the void. Nothing is excluded. Nothing can be excluded and that includes our mind-chatter.

You may appreciate too that any meditation tradition and teaching that comes out of a mainly male, militaristic, martial arts, monkish, background may tend to reflect that culture and be emotionally frigid, stern and insisting on an absolutely silent mind. Don’t move. Obey. Be quiet. Empty your mind. Be a good and obedient soldier of your tradition.

 

Anchorperson, Host and Compere

A helpful teaching here is that you can imagine your mind, your consciousness in meditation, to be the world’s best host at a great and wonderful party, the infinite party of the void.  One of your guests at this extraordinary event is your mind-chatter. As a great host, you are not just at ease with the chatter, but you warmly welcome it with friendly and supportive curiosity. In meditation you are the experienced anchorperson and compere of this extraordinary event, which is your psyche in relationship with the cosmos.

 

Your Brain is Endlessly Stimulated

Here’s a biological angle that may help us better understand our mind-chatter.

From one perspective our brains are like flowers sitting on top of a trunk, a shaft, a stalk, of nerves and chemistry. This trunk runs from the base of the spine, up along the gut, then stomach, lungs, heart, mouth, nose, ears and eyes, into your brain. This central nerve also branches out through every cell in your body, including your skin. Your brain, sitting on top of it all, is triggered into activity by endless chemical and electrical events, which are themselves triggered by endless events, experiences, stimulations, conditionings, memories, senses and perceptions – some strong, some very subtle – that arise from every part of your body.

Your biology is designed for survival, with the brain as one of its major functions, perpetually noticing and interpreting lived and felt experiences. No wonder your brain keeps churning out thoughts as it is aroused and stimulated by relationships, money, oven on or off, digestion, pains, itches, tensions and every other major and minor trigger that sends ripples through your neuroendocrinal system.

There is often too much information, overload. In particular, the brain is designed to keep functioning until there is a satisfactory interpretation and closure, so that all possible threats are ended.

All of this is to articulate that, of course, your brain keeps creating thoughts. That is its job, and it sits in a complex and vulnerable endocrinal vehicle, your body, that itself sits in a never-ending culture and society of events, perceptions and stimulations. In meditation we calm the whole system.

 

Many Strategies, One Universal State

Because of this biological reality many different strategies have been developed to help people drop into a state so that they can meditate. These many strategies include breath, movement, reading sacred texts, mantra, body awareness, emptying and more.

Whatever the tradition or strategy, they all result in a universal experience that we call meditation. This experience does not include the frigid silence of the mind.  This universal state can be summarized as including:

  • Your body is at ease and not stimulating the mind-brain.
  • Your mind-brain is at ease, maybe burbling, but not causing anxiety, tension, or impatience in your body, your neuroendocrinal system.
  • Your mind-consciousness is able to step back and observe everything, body included, with compassionate equanimity.
  • There is a sense of connection with a benevolent Oneness (there are many words and terms for this.)

 

Some Hints on Managing Mind-Chatter

This still leaves the challenge of finding the right strategies for managing the brain-chatter. Remember. The issue is not to silence the brain-chatter. The issue is to develop your compassionate and wise observer. So here is some advice, which I hope you may find helpful.

Be Friendly.
Develop your ability and your attitude to be affectionately curious and interested in what your mind-chatter is saying. This is also useful personal development that can spill over into the rest of your life. Be patient and friendly towards yourself – and others.

Contemplate and reflect.
Learn to assess whether the mind-chatter is useful. For example, perhaps you really have not switched off the oven, so get up and check. Perhaps it may be a good use of your meditation time to contemplate a difficult family relationship, or a financial problem, or your next steps in personal or professional development.

This is one of meditation’s greatest gifts. When you are quiet, at ease, observant, and with a sense of connection, you are in the best possible state for wise contemplation about yourself. Know thyself.  This is good contemplative, reflective practice.  Where better to look at the challenges in your life? You can then guide this reflective contemplation to a close when you have had enough.

Use your mind in other ways
It is very useful to know that many meditation traditions actually teach activities that the mind can practice. This is to say, do not close down your mind. Use it in other ways. Well-known practices include prayer, healing, seed thoughts and reflective contemplation.

So when you assess that you have had enough reflective contemplation on your mind-chatter and its meaningfulness, you can direct your brain into one of those other activities. It is, for example, always good to pray for the relief of suffering.

Patience
Always, always, dissolve your impatience and develop patience.

Meditate Longer
Finally, over the decades there is a consistent piece of advice that I have given to students, colleagues and to myself. If you are experiencing challenges with your practice and your mind-chatter, meditate longer. If your usual time is twenty minutes, stretch it to thirty. If your usual time is thirty, stretch it to an hour. Stretch through the discomfort and develop your skills and capacity – more love, more consciousness, more compassion.

The groove of meditation is highly enjoyable and I always smile at Yogananda’s assertion that one good meditation is worth a year of ordinary human development.

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This blog was triggered by my friend, Jan Cisek, who nudged me to look at Arnaud Delorme’s new book ‘Why Our Minds Wander: Understand the Science and Learn How to Focus Your Thoughts’ 

In the Age of Zoom Do Tribal Spiritualities Have a Future?

When meditation, shamanic or pagan groups meet online where is their actual meeting? In what dimension is their gathering?

I pose this enquiry because it is relevant to the future and survival of regional and indigenous spiritualities.

Culturally we obviously need to safeguard regional and tribal spiritual traditions. They have value, beauty and uniqueness. Their disappearance is a poignant tragedy.  

People are also understandably upset by cultural appropriation – a form of absorption and watering down – when they see, for example, a white person wearing the hairstyle, ornaments or clothing that belong to the priesthood of a tribal culture.

At the same time, there is another inevitable, evolutionary magnetic force. This is towards a global culture in which previously isolated traditions merge. This has been of great benefit, for example, in the field of world music and added huge value to the art. Spiritual and wellbeing practitioners too benefit from the practices of previously parochial spiritual cultures. Yoga and meditation are two obvious examples.

Over the longer term the major world religions, especially Christianity, Islam and Buddhism, have all subsumed animist traditions. This had great benefits as well as causing great harm.

Today online spiritual groups are creating another substantial shift. Geography and locality are becoming irrelevant in a way that is both obvious and also subtle.

The obvious dimension of the online group connection is purely materialistic.  It is just a group communicating over the internet, like a telephone or zoom conversation. This is normal physics.

The second dimension is more weird, metaphysical. People report that they are also connecting energetically and telepathically. The digital connection, they say, helps to facilitate and even amplify this subtle experience.

It is relevant that prior to the internet, many groups and individuals practised subtle connections over a distance. Abbeys, convents, monasteries and individual meditators, healers and shamans, have long asserted the efficacy and necessity of subtle energy and prayer work over a distance. I live close to Glastonbury Abbey, which I once heard described as a ‘prayer machine for the world.’

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Many people I work with nowadays say that they really enjoy online meditations, groups and courses. This is different from when I first started online teaching and many people complained about it. There was a lot of tut-tutting about technology versus ‘real’ spirituality and the loss of in-person meetings.

A few years on however, opinion has dramatically transformed. To their surprise, many people find that they value and even prefer the experience of online meetings. Covid and the lockdowns accelerated this change in attitude.

One reason for this transformation is that people, for example, doing meditation work online no longer have to deal with the coughing, shuffling and other irritations that happen in an in-person group. It is not easy to be serene and sensitive to subtle dimensions when someone close by is breathing heavily, wheezing and ruffling a cough medicine packet which refuses to open; or a latecomer in Minnie Mouse high heels clip-clops across the wooden floor; not to mention some people’s pungent perfumes, or choking on incense.

Introverts and quiet types also find that they like studying online, because they are free from the exhaustion of social interaction. It is easier to stay open and aware of subtle experiences when there is not the stimulation of other people in your space. In fact, many report to me that their meditations, healing and inner work go deeper when they work online. They assert that it amplifies their experience. That certainly tallies with my own experience.

None of this, of course, is to underestimate the healing, enjoyment and encouragement that can come from real life groups and communities.

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There is an interesting mystic and evolutionary perspective here too.

Teilhard de Chardin and then Peter Russell suggest that the network of global communications was evolving to resemble the neural connections of a global brain or global heart. This, they propose, is a huge step forward in human evolution. From geographically isolated and separated tribes and nations, often in conflict, the internet and digital dimension is now fully demonstrating humanity’s holistic connection and interdependence.

I like that interpretation, even if it is just a hopeful metaphor. I use it as a lens through which I look at the sad chaos of social networking — Facebook, Twitter, TikTok, Instagram, etc.  Optimistically, I choose to see these current troubles as the birthing pains of a new global culture. Painful now, perhaps even dangerous, but something new is arising.

But here is the question that I posed at the top of this piece. What happens now to the metaphysical, magical and spiritual traditions that are rooted in particular geographies? Will cultural appropriation and the inevitable forces of globalisation mean that they disappear completely?

In my own history, I feel that my roots are deep in the Middle Eastern and European mystical approaches — gnostic Christianity, Qabalah and Sufiism. I have a personal sense too of a relationship with the traditions of Tibetan Bon, Berber and central African shamanism. Many of my close friends feel their roots in other geographies, particularly shamanism in north and south America, and Scandinavia.

To repeat my enquiry: What happens now to these regional jewels?

I found part of the answer in the last months when I interviewed Grandmother Flordemayo of the Mayan tradition and Puma Quispe Singona, an Andean medicine man, for an online Shift Network event.

Both of these teachers were born into and are rooted in their traditions. Both are loving, experienced and wise practitioners.  They also teach online. Without my prompting they had the same core message:

We are one humanity, one people.

We must learn to be still, to connect with Source, and spread love and compassion.

These two influential, indigenous teachers, deeply anchored in their cultures, truly enjoy teaching online. They celebrate the opportunity to connect with students and colleagues beyond their local geography and outside of their culture. They celebrate too the unity and the interconnectedness of all beings. First and foremost, they teach connection, love and compassion.

Teaching connection, love and compassion is not anything new in their traditions. That indeed is what they and their ancestors were imparting long before the digital world wide web.

Before the global digital revolution, wise mystics universally taught the universality of all life.

From this perspective, we can reasonably suggest that the universality of the digital web mirrors classical spiritual teaching.

People often forget that all the kit — the hardware, wireless and wiring — all derive from resources in the natural world. They are not magicked out of thin air.  They all, in another language, emerge from Gaia. Where else? The digital web is not separate from nature. I might want to criticise Elon Musk and Mark Zuckerberg, but I cannot deny they belong to our interdependent species.

The isolation of tribal groups and nations always meant that there was a challenging transition as they met other peoples. As I wrote above, the major world religions all subsumed indigenous traditions.  Some tribal folk, of course, held on to their old ways and fought for their local traditions and sense of identity. Others embraced the new times.

The history of what we call civilisation and the growth of the world religions, is filled with terrible persecutions and genocides, as well as with inspiring evolutions and development. We are a mixed species!

The digital ecosystem is potentially benevolent because it is inherently democratic, accessible and universal. Anyone can now make news. And that, of course, has its awful shadow elements.

But I take an optimistic stance. The world wide web and online groups enable us to be simultaneously global and local without conflict. Our sense of identity can be located one hundred per cent in the Earth where you stand; and also one hundred per cent in the global village, still on this same Earth.  We are not either local or global. We can easily be both.

When we participate in online groups, we are precisely experiencing being in these two dimensions: local and global. And for many of us a third dimension too, one that is metaphysical.

Our demons then are not globalisation or the extremes of identity politics. Our demons are the usual suspects. Greed. Insecurity. Bullying. It is these negative traits that create the real problems.

So as we integrate locality and globalism, we need also to celebrate our ethics. Connection. Love. Compassion.

Remember the call to action:

Think global. Act local.

We might add to that call another ethical mantra:

Local roots. Global compassion.