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.

*

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.

*

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’ 

The Metaphysics of Depression

It took me a while to understand what people were actually telling me when they described their experience of melancholia and depression.  They nearly always spoke about the purely psychological dimension of negative thoughts and emotions, often so unbearable that suicide seemed a redemptive relief. They rarely acknowledged their embodied physical experience.

But almost without exception, when I continued to enquire about their ailment, they would begin to talk about extreme physical states: sensations of unbearable physical heaviness,  sluggishness, immobility, inability to rise from bed, a glued physical reluctance to engage in any activity.

No wonder, I thought, that they should have such distressing emotions and thoughts. Their internal physiological state, their inherent biological ecosystem, was in an awful state; and this was naturally mirrored in their sad emotions and thoughts, at their most extreme inclining towards suicide

As a mystic and metaphysician, I would then always contemplate the journey of their soul. I hoped that I might intuit some kind of coherent story, framed by metaphysics, karma and spiritual purpose, that threw some light on the darkness of their malaise, on their dark night of the soul.

Yes it was obvious, as with any illness, that there was an opportunity for spiritual development. But I always advise caution here, because it can be nasty and insensitive to assert that someone’s illness is a purposeful part of their soul’s journey. At its worst, this kind of statement can be a soulless, passive aggressive ‘you asked for it’ banality. (Even if sometimes there may be an element of truth to it.)

Stepping back from the idea that depression can be a deliberate developmental stage planned by the soul, there are however other metaphysical perspectives that are worth exploring.

I approach all this tentatively, because it is an idea that is work-in-progress and also because I want to be sensitive to the suffering of those who endure depression and melancholy.

*

The key angle here is to focus on the physical experience of depression that I began to list in the first paragraph: the symptoms of sluggishness, heaviness and the effort required to move, as if one were being sucked into inertia.

Notice too how many of the therapies for depression encourage movement of the body, emotions and thoughts. Notice also the medicines administered for depression; their very prescription acknowledges that it is a biochemical embodied state.

But the physicality of depression is often ignored by those of us looking for a psycho-spiritual or metaphysical understanding and cure.

There are however two metaphysical perspectives, which can provide insight.

The first is from the writings of Djwahl Kuhl, particularly in his book, Esoteric Healing, dictated to his secretary, Alice Bailey.

The second can be found in many metaphysical philosophies, but is most explicit in the Yin-Yang approach of Taoism.

In explaining illness and the possible avenues for healing, Djwahl Kuhl of course talks about the karmic element. He also discusses illnesses, such as plagues and epidemics, where individuals have no choice but to participate in humanity’s collective karma and mass events.

Djwahl Kuhl also crucially discusses the inherent impurities in the stuff that makes up the body of planet Earth and consequently the inherent impurities that exist too in our human physical bodies. We may be brilliant, compassionate, enlightened saints, but our bodies are organic and carbon-based, and therefore contain inherent impurities that we share with Gaia. The substance of Gaia’s vehicle is not one hundred per cent pure. Gaia herself has karma.

This is a profound insight for metaphysical approaches to illness and healing. Some of our illnesses have nothing to do with our personal karma and dharma, but are simply part of the reality that we exist in an interdependent physical environment and we participate in its corrupt physical elements as much as in its gifts. That is just the way it is. (Try keeping your body healthy and alive forever!)

The physical experience of depression, then, may simply be due to someone’s physical body experiencing an impurity that belongs to planet Earth.

(Below: The Schwatzchild metric; gravity bending space and time.)

Then there is a second metaphysical insight. (I apologize in advance to scholars who may see this as an oversimplification.)

The Yin-Yang concept of Taoist philosophy expresses a crucial cosmic reality that is rarely articulated in a helpful and straightforward way. This philosophy asserts a fundamental truth, that there are two great forces continuously at work and continuously in balance with each other.

Expansion ↔ Containment

Yin  ↔ Yang

Yin — everything in the cosmos is in a continual state of containment, of gravity and magnetism; of taking on form.

Yang — everything in the cosmos is in a continual state of movement and expansion.

Without gravity and magnetism – Yin –  the cosmos would have no form, no solidity, no coherence.

Without movement and expansion – Yang –  the cosmos would be an unimaginable block of inert matter, a sucking black hole of density, never developing and growing.

These two forces of expansion and containment balance each other to create all the forms and matter of life. Moreover their relationship is always dancing and in a state of transformation. They exist alongside and within each other.

At the same time, these two forces are felt in our bodies and our psyches.

Too much Yang, too much expansion and movement, and we become hyper.

Too much Yin, too much magnetism and inertia, and we get sucked into depression.

*

So here we have a metaphysical perspective on depression. It suggests that the physical matter of someone’s body may be too inclined towards gravity, containment and magnetism; and has lost its balancing outwards movement of expansion and development. The depressed person’s cells and atoms are not moving and expanding in a balanced way. There is too much dense, sluggish gravity.

Why should this be in some people’s bodies? Yes, there is the possibility that it is the soul’s choice. But there are all the other more obvious reasons — ancestry, DNA, environmental conditions  — which come from being part of an interdependent species of planet Earth. Please do not get me wrong and start sending me emails stating that people can influence their vulnerability through changes in behavior and attitude. That is only too obvious. What is not obvious to many is how we share in the collective experience of the whole planet, sometimes willingly, sometimes innocently and by chance.  

Depression can be, so to speak, a natural event that occurs sometimes because our bodies are made up of matter over which we sometimes have no control. Birth and death are also indicators of this reality.

*

Moreover, many people who do not suffer severe depression, do also experience cycles of melancholia, ups and downs. These are natural too and built into our biology.

Two of these cycles are very well-known.

The first is seasonal. Many people experience lows when their bodies are deprived of sunlight in the Winter; and then recover energy when stimulated by the renewed light of Spring and Summer. The warmth and rays of the sun work directly on the physiology to stimulate activity. Deprived of the stimulation, many bodies sink into melancholy.

The second cycle is the equally natural one of sadness following a period of activity or a peak of success. The body seeks balance. Having been in an extreme state of liveliness, it swings back into an extreme state of morose sluggishness. Some people, as we know, suffer lifelong swings of mood, not as disturbing as suicidal depression but nevertheless extremely uncomfortable.

*

So to an important question. Can any of this approach to depression bring relief?

I do not know.

I do know however that anything that expands our understanding might in some way be useful. It progresses the conversation.

For people however who are dedicated to their spiritual development and have developed the practice of compassionate witnessing, then this approach may give them a new angle to contemplate. Possibly, better understanding their metaphysical and physical anatomy, they might intuit an insight into how they can mobilize themselves out of too much gravity into more expansion and movement. I do not know. I do however pray for the relief of suffering.

*

Often my friends who suffer from depression and who have a spiritual approach, will say: I don’t belong here. I wish I had not incarnated. I want to go home.

I may then ask them about their sense of home. They always reply that home (usually in the heavens) is healing, safe, friendly and beautiful.

I find it very poignant when they say that, because I perceive extraordinary hope and optimism in their sense of home. We mystics who, fortunately, do not endure depression, are, in a way, always at home. I wish that for my melancholic friends too.

Why Are Some Meditators So Smug?

There is a lovely human contradiction here.
Meditators are strung out between being primal primates and transcendent gurus.

The organic reality is that meditators sit in a complex system of nerves, juices and synapses. These  biological essentials are hardwired into basic instincts for survival — for the individual and for the species. Sometimes these built-in nature drives can be bloody and harsh.

In the culture of traditional eastern meditation this is reflected in the classic Tibetan Buddhist mantra:
I am a sack of skin filled with unpleasant things.

Less harsh is the mantra:
I have a body, but I am not my body.

Softer and emotionally literate is the more modern version:
I have a body, but I am more than my body;
I have emotions, but I am more than my emotions;
I have thoughts, but I am more than my thoughts.

But these mantra pose a really interesting and substantial paradox. Who is the “I” who has all these things?

The “I” is obviously still a persona, an identity, a “me!” But this “I” is claiming to transcend and be detached from the sack of skin, the body, emotions and thoughts. This “I” is more than the flesh and blood identity.

In the Christian tradition we know only too well the problems associated with detaching from and condemning the physical body. The arising challenges range from a gentle dissociation that is harmless to others, to an uncontrollable flood of repressed, corrupt and abusive libido. This pathology of course is not restricted to Christianity, but may be found in any tradition that represses the body and its instincts.

But there is also a psychological challenge which is hardly acknowledged and requires more enlightenment. It is more subtle and has to do with status and survival. And is sometimes very destructive.

It is one of the most ordinary basic instincts in human beings. It is the survival drive that requires a stable sense of status. Where we sit in the social pecking order is a crucial element of psychological stability. We can see the politics of dominance hierarchies playing out all across the animal kingdom.

In the human species, status anxiety, and not knowing where one stands in the social hierarchy, can lead to mental illness and suicide. Moreover when someone’s status is threatened or disrespected, it can trigger powerful basic instincts of defensiveness, anger and aggression. This is the culture of gangs, bitchfests, prisons, mafiosi and dictators.

When a meditator, therefore, self-soothes and calmly observes the world around them, they transcend the usual dynamics of status and survival. In their consciousness the meditator is detached from, higher than, everyone else who is caught up in the noise, arousals and delusions. By virtue of being calm and watchful, the meditator has achieved – at least within their model of reality – a higher status.

This higher status gives them, as a biological creature, quite naturally, feelings of superiority. No wonder some meditators feel smug. At its worst the gentle smile of a meditator may be an expression of conceit.

And . . . perhaps they have genuinely achieved a higher status. Perhaps this is a positive evolutionary step onward for human beings.

If calm meditative watchfulness is a positive evolutionary step onward, then what matters now is whether the meditator has the reflective skills to understand the trickiness of the human psyche and whether they have insight into the hardwired drives of their sack of skin filled with unpleasant things. What matters too is whether they have an instinct for compassion.

Looking back at my own practice, I remember that in my twenties i was a smug meditator for a while. I did not know better and it was a stage before I developed a more insightful and loving temperament. 

In fact, I now wave a flag and will assert that the experienced meditator has reached a higher stage of human evolution and development — has higher status!

But this higher status, in the context of the great ocean of cosmic consciousness, is meaningless. (Try competing with a galaxy!)  As meditators experience over time, there are never-ending new and higher states of consciousness in our infinite enquiry into love, wisdom and the mystery.

Our plateau of calm awareness is but a starting point for ever more expanded states, more compassionate awareness and service.

So yes, I would have everyone on the planet able to practise the skills of calm awareness. But I would also want them to understand and appreciate the flesh and blood realities, the basic instincts of their biological creaturehood.

*

Meditation requires insight at all levels.

*

The image below is of St Simeon the Stylite who lived on top of a pillar for decades.

New Evidence for Health Benefits of Spirituality

Some good news.

JAMA the journal of the American Medical Association has just published new evidence for the physical and mental health benefits of spirituality.*

“This study represents the most rigorous and comprehensive systematic analysis of the modern-day literature regarding health and spirituality to date,” says Tracy Balboni, lead author and professor of oncology at Harvard Medical School. “Our findings indicate that attention to spirituality in serious illness and in health should be a vital part of the future of whole person-centred care.”

In summary the conclusions of the paper are clear: People who describe themselves as spiritual tend to live longer, smoke and drink less, and have better mental health.

This research mirrors exactly what was found in Harold Koenig’s 2012 paper** which reviewed over 3,300 studies of health and religion/spirituality; and also in the 2009 paper by McCullough and Willoughby***, which analysed eight decades of rigorous research and concluded:

‘Believers performed better, had better health and greater happiness, and lived longer than non-believers. . . . were, on average, 29 % more likely to be alive at any given follow-up point . . . 25% reduction in mortality….’

How are these benefits achieved?

Here is one way of understanding it.

Your body is an interdependent and holistic system.

Connection with Spirit (by whatever name)

— Helps develop harmony, calm and flow

— Brings a sense of Oneness and community with nature and cosmos

— Creates meaning and purpose in a confusing and complex world

— Supports and encourages love, service and compassion

All of this can cascade through your mind, emotions and body, improving wellbeing.

*

 

To support people in exploring spirituality and how to put it into practice, we in the Spiritual Companions Trust have developed this free resource Secrets of Spiritual Health and we also deliver a 10-hour practical programme. For more  information: https://spiritualcompanions.org/secrets-of-spiritual-health

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References:

https://jamanetwork.com/journals/jama/article-abstract/2794049

** Harold D Koenig : “Religion, Spirituality, and Health: The Research and Clinical Implications”, International Scholarly Research Network Psychiatry Volume 2012, Article ID 278730

*** Michael E. McCullough and Brian L. B. Willoughby, ‘Religion, Self-Regulation, and Self-Control: Associations, Explanations and Implications’, Psychological Bulletin, January 2009

Care versus Provocation for Personal Development and Spiritual Growth

Right now, with covid and global warming, my concern is that people will hunker down and seek to be soothed, instead of rising to the challenge of the provocations.

 

The Russian mystic George Gurdjieff was rumoured to have hosted orgies for his normally well-behaved middle-class followers. It is said that he created a seductive atmosphere and hypnotically inducted his party guests into their orgy. Then, when they were all fully engaged in their sensual activity, he would clap his hands and shout Wake up! Wake up! Do not be animals. Be fully conscious and awake!

True story or not, it hints at a long tradition of provocative activities intended to shift people into a new state of consciousness. Wake up, he was saying. Do not be robots. You have higher consciousness.

This startling tactic recognises the usefulness of discomfort on the spiritual journey to enlightenment.

Does the usefulness of provocation and discomfort have any relevance to covid and global warming?

*

I once sat in a meditation class where the teacher hit my back with a stick to correct my posture.

I have also experienced workshops where the doors were locked and there was no organisation or structure. The group stormed, normed and were expected to enter new states of detachment and awareness. Sometimes the result was a good-humoured shift. Other times just irritability.

There are provocations that are more gentle, for example in the Zen and Sufi traditions where humour, riddles and paradox are used to shift consciousness. What is the sound of one hand clapping?  is one of the most well-known.

Shortly after a stroke which paralysed one side of his body, the American hippy guru, Ram Dass, wryly commented: I now truly understand the sound of one hand clapping. He fully appreciated the tradition of provocation and paradox.

In nursing and social work, there is an appreciation too of what is sometimes called post-traumatic awakening. In my own life I have had two long and painful illnesses. In both there were key moments when I realised I had a choice. Continue moaning, complaining and being victim — or shift into another state of consciousness.

The new state was more detached, but also kinder, more accepting and more appreciative of life in general. I understood that these painful experiences were an opportunity for growth and learning.

This is not to say that I applaud or want illness and pain for myself or anyone else. Equally I want to muzzle those cleverdicks who respond to others’ pain and suffering with a passive aggressive, know-all quip that someone’s suffering and misfortune are useful stimulants for personal development.

In this context I often quote the professor of nursing, Margaret Newman. Between birth and death, she taught, everyone experiences cycles of health and illness. A nurse’s obvious role and calling is to relieve suffering. But equally important, she suggested to them, is that they midwife consciousness. Patients could make more sense, find greater meaning in their illness, if they woke up to a higher consciousness. To be more conscious, more discerning and more connected, can provide the deepest relief and healing of suffering.

And here we have the raw poignancy and paradox. There is a polarity. On the one hand we can relieve suffering through care. On the other we can relieve it through awakening.

Relieve Suffering
Care <–  or  –> Awakening

So when the meditation teacher struck my back with his stick was he helping to birth my consciousness or just being abusive? Was Gurdjieff perverted or strategic? Is the sound of one hand clapping just a cleverdick’s quip?

*

It is surely obvious that when someone is in a state of trauma, it is offensive and abusive to use provocation to awaken them. Trauma requires care and patience.

But when someone is not in trauma, but just habitually complaining or just habitually unconscious in their thinking and behaviour, then provocation is useful.

But who is to judge whether someone is in trauma or not?

Over the last few years, the concept of trauma and its effects have become very well-known, almost fashionable. It has added deep and useful insights to our understanding of psychological distress and development.  There is also a problem here when trauma is wrongly diagnosed and is equated with the suffering that arises when people’s desires have not been met.

Not getting what we want, being thwarted in our desires, is not trauma.

No family, for example, is one hundred per cent perfect.  Therefore, is it appropriate to claim trauma because there was not enough affectionate parenting or kind schoolteachers? There is a difference between active abuse and a lack of love.

This is a difficult grey area and requires sensitive reality checking.

In Christianity the greatest symbol of this challenging ambiguity is Jesus on the cross — a messenger of unconditional love in a state of torture. I have several friends who in sincere states of spiritual enquiry have contemplated Christ’s passion and crucifixion. When in their contemplation they have approached his tortured body on the cross, Jesus smiled and winked at them with loving good humour. 

We are in a very grey area here.

Sometimes comfort, care and soothing are one hundred per cent necessary.

Sometimes to care for someone who is complaining, is to collude with them.

Other times a provocative kick is appropriate.

Occasionally the spiritual path asks us to take risks and throw ourselves into chasms of fire.

How can we steer ourselves through these raw ambiguities? The only way forward is an ongoing reflective practice in which we apply compassionate awareness and a moral compass. We learn our lessons, become more conscious, and perhaps wiser and more loving.

 

But this enquiry is not complete unless we also address the elephant in the room. This is the human shadow.

 

 

 

Here is a reality check and some unpleasant observations about human behaviour and psychology:

We can be obstinate, self-sabotaging, cunning, nasty and cruel. We are capable of ignorance, sociopathy and a complete lack of moral compass. We can be ingenious and self-sabotaging in how we deny and cloak our shadow behaviours, harmful addictions and compulsive polluting habits. We can invent so many stories and excuses to justify our meanness and closed hearts.

Look at any awful behaviour . . . There but for the grace of God go we . . .

It is therefore normal that our spiritual paths to more love, consciousness and connection can be fraught.

Our shadows do not go away just because we ignore them. We have to acknowledge, wrestle with, heal and integrate our shadow aspects. This is a normal part of personal development.

So although we may not appreciate or like it, it is crucial to identify and own our shadows.

As Carl Jung put it: One does not become enlightened by imagining figures of light, but by making the darkness conscious.

This then is another blessing brought by provocations and crazy gurus. They can wake us up and they can illuminate our shadows.

 

The injustice and suffering experienced by our fellow beings should be enough to provoke our awakening.

But when the pain of others does not trigger our hearts and birth compassionate mindfulness, then provocations and crazy gurus are surely to be welcomed, even invited, into the privacy of our growth.

Of course, external provocateurs can be threatening, even traumatising. I do not want meditation masters hitting me or hungry ghosts jumping out of the shadows.

But I do know that risk and stretching beyond our usual comfort zones can be crucial in awakening.

Right now, with covid and global warming, my concern is that people will hunker down and seek to be soothed, instead of rising to the challenge of the provocations.

In times of crisis, we especially are called to model spiritual leadership and be the change that we want to see.

So if I have any advice for the coming year it would be:

Think, do and be different from your usual patterns.

Stretch beyond your comfort.

More spiritual generosity and good humour.

Stop complaining. Stop being surprised by the state of the world. Be surprised by yourself.

Throw yourself into the chasm of fiery enlightenment and awakening.

Relieve suffering. Midwife consciousness.

More love. More compassion.