I was talking with someone last night, before an online meditation, and they pointed out that I am still wrestling with doing and being. So I thought I’d take a look at that out loud.
There are many references, in contemporary spiritual books and videos, to the idea that being is enough. just by embodying in the material world is plenty. And I accept that. But there’s still a part of me that feels the urge to do something while I’m here.
But doing seems to conflict with being.
Being, to me, brings to mind what you might call active living. (But without the need for activity.) By which I mean, to be alert/aware/attentive… and that’s it. You bring your attention to whatever is happening in your immediate experience and… And nothing. If a response is needed, and you are alert, without relying on anything that has happened in the past, the most appropriate response will happen.
That’s fine. I get that. I have even lived quite attentively at times, and there is tremendous space and freedom and peace that comes from living like that.
I suppose where I’m currently living (in the countryside, with very little human contact) means I am searching for things to happen in my immediate experience. One way to make this happen is to do something.
Do what? What does the world need right now? (Future readers may need reminding that this is early 2021, during the Covid19 pandemic, just as countries are beginning to vaccinate.)
It makes sense to do something the world needs rather than something just to occupy my mind or hands. But the world itself seems to be transforming. Many or most occupations may become redundant. Most of them are unnecessary anyway. Or damaging in some way.
I had a thought this morning, that the petrol engine is only a little over 100 years old. In that time, its use and overuse has brought this planet to a point of existential crisis. The polar vortex collapsed in the last week or so, disrupting weather patterns in this hemisphere. And I have no idea what the planet needs right now.
Doing has done that.
What I’m looking for is something to do that does no harm.
Which brings me back to being.
Being, in a sense, is a doing. Because everything is connected, by being peaceful, you can materially affect the whole. It’s the step beyond John and Yoko’s ‘Imagine Peace’. It is ‘Be Peace’. The phrase “be the change you want to see in the world” meets the thing everyone has said they want at some point: World peace.
You may have heard the story about the hummingbird and the forest fire. It flies to the watering hole and scoops up a drop of water in its tiny beak, flies to the fire and drops the water onto the flames. The other animals say, “What are you doing? You can’t put out the fire.” And the hummingbird tells them she/he is doing what he/she can. When the world is on fire, every drop of peace counts.
That’s an answer of sorts. I will probably revisit this, because I’ve been wrestling with it for years.
For the moment, until it is clear how else I can help, I shall do being.
All the best to you and yours, and thank you for reading.
This is a long post. It describes the most emotionally painful experience I have had in my life, and a powerful and unexpected feeling I did not understand at that time.
You should know, in advance, that this involves the stillbirth of my first child – 27 years ago next week. I am writing it because it may help anyone who has been through – or is currently going through – very intense suffering. (Almost everyone on the planet during this time of Covid-19.)
This is my experience as I remember it – and it’s not the kind of thing you forget.
In my mid-20s, I was in a casual relationship that turned serious when we discovered we were pregnant.
Originally, we were not going to get married. But a few weeks into the pregnancy, my girlfriend said, “If we don’t get married, I’m going to go and have the baby on my own”. And at the same time, my parents said, “If you don’t get married, you are no longer part of this family.”
So we got married.
I remember sitting in the church, looking at the Fire Exit door and thinking, ‘If you got through there, it’s over’. But I stayed. I’m sorry to say, it was not a happy day for me.
Pregnancies are not the easiest times, for either person, and there was some arguing (understandably, in the circumstances). At one point, late in the pregnancy, I remember thinking, ‘I wish this wasn’t happening’. Almost immediately after this thought, the following occurred. My thought did not create this experience, but you might appreciate, it led to a degree of guilt in me later.
I had a dream where I met my son. (I love this dream.) We were sitting in leather wingback armchairs like you might imagine in an English gentlemen’s club. The chairs were on either side of a fireplace and we were talking like two old men. This was only bizarre because he had the body of a baby of less than one-year-old. There might even have been brandy and cigars.
In the dream, I explained my theory of incarnation at that time. I said something like, “There is a room with only one door. Before you are alive, you’re outside the room, floating around. When you are born, you go in through the door and live your life. And when you die, you go out through the door, back to where you came from.”
I was quite pleased with this theory.
But my son just looked at me and said, with authority, “It’s a bit more complicated than that.”
I’m pretty sure it was the day after that dream, my wife phoned me at work to say she couldn’t feel the baby moving. There is a standard response to this, as we both knew, which is to sit down with a cup of tea and wait for the movements to start again.
That evening was my first real involvement with the pregnancy. It was the evening where the dads/birthing partners were invited along to meet the midwife with everyone else in the NCT group. There were only six weeks to go and the midwife talked us through the birthing process we would soon face. There were breathing exercises but I don’t remember anything else.
[This is where it gets very emotional for me and I still usually break down when I talk about it…]
After the evening – involving several couples in a community hall – my wife told the midwife she hadn’t felt the baby moving all afternoon. The midwife took her into another room, to check with a portable scanner. A few minutes later, she came up to me, quite red in the face. She said, “Go and get the bag. I’ve called an ambulance.”
We only lived a few hundred meters away and I sprinted to the flat, grabbed the bag which was packed and ready by the door, and sprinted back. My wife was already in the ambulance and we went to the hospital, about 20 minutes away. During the trip, I asked for the blue lights to be put on – there was no time to waste.
When we arrived, we were put on a monitor with the screen turned away. The nurse/midwife looked for a while, then said she needed to go and get someone more senior. I asked her to tell us what was going on and said I am from a medical family. She told us, “Your baby is dead.”
We fell apart. It’s the only time I have cried like that.
For medical reasons, we were told we had to go through the birth normally and it would start the following day.
We were left in a room with a bed and I don’t remember much except crying and saying things like, “He’ll always be an angel”. I think my dad came to see us, because he is medical and was known to the hospital. My wife called her own mother, who started arranging to come from across the country.
After an epidural in the morning, we had one midwife with us until our son was born, naturally, around 4.00pm. The midwife was experienced, calm and absolutely brilliant. The last stage involved the pushing and breathing you would expect, but after the actual birth, there was silence.
That was one of the hardest parts.
The midwife took him away to dress him in the clothes from our bag and brought him back to us for a few hours.
Our midwife had told us there’s a stillbirth in that hospital every couple of weeks. An organisation called Sands (the Stillbirth and Neonatal Death Society) provided a disposable camera that we used to shoot a roll of film. (I just saw on their website that 14 babies die before or soon after birth every day in the UK – so many broken hearts…)
Sometime after 10.00pm, our son was taken away in readiness for a post mortem. The next time he was with us was at his funeral, which was one of the other really hard parts. The coffin for a newborn is very small. White and tiny. It may have even had only one pallbearer.
Those are the facts. Hard to write and hard to read, but not the reason I’m writing this blog post.
For a few days immediately our son was born, I was aware of an incredible feeling of love around us. It was huge. I felt like we were being bathed/cushioned/surrounded by love. At the time, I thought our son was surrounding us with love to help us get through the worst experience of our lives.
I have told people, if we hadn’t been married at that point, I would have proposed. The love was total. Super-natural.
It was many years later – and only a few years ago – when I understood what had really happened… (I am not discounting the energy sent by our son or other entities. No doubt that was also happening.)
Near the beginning of this blog, I was given one of the most significant books of my life. The Power of Now, by Eckhart Tolle. I had just had what I call an awakening experience, following another unexpected and traumatic event, and the timing was perfect.
In this book, and on his videos, Eckhart talks about the present moment in a way I hadn’t appreciated before. (It helps to be in some kind of suffering to understand this.) It’s such an insignificant-seeming thing – one we habitually overlook – but it is the key to this whole game we’re involved in. It’s literally in front of our nose the whole time…
To really experience the present moment, you have to stop thinking about the past, the future and even the present. I mean stop. Totally.
When I read this, I immediately realised what had been going on for those first days after my first child was born.
At that point in the pregnancy – 7.5 months in – all your thoughts are concerned with the baby. Everything is planning, planning, planning. In one instant, that entire future had been deleted. So all those thoughts stopped. The past probably went with it. We were just in the present, and too stunned to think about that.
And what happens when all the thoughts stop, is that you notice the pure, boundless Love that is always there. The blue sky, as some people describe it, without the clouds.
You may have experienced this at some point in your life (if not yet, I hope you will) when you “fall in love”. It could be inspired by a person, a painting, a sunset, a song… There is no time – just space filled with joy.
The last time I had this experience was a year ago last summer. For one week in July, almost totally unexpectedly, I fell in love (again). It had no history and I didn’t know if it had a future – all I knew for sure was what was happening at that moment.
I remember one moment, when my lover and I were meditating on the bed, facing each other. I became aware that my mind was trying to make sense of the situation. And another part of me said, ‘Don’t try and make sense of it. It is not to be understood. This is beyond the mind.’
The idea of not trying to understand life has come back to me a few times recently. We are not here to try and understand what life is, how it works, or find out what happens next. It is all beyond the mind’s ability to understand.
Instead, we are here to live. To be alive. To be present as fully as we can. Life can’t be planned. It just… happens. And, if you just go along with it, as Dr Seuss pointed out (in Oh, the places you’ll go), “You’ll start happening too”.
But one thing I promise – and hopefully the above event will help you see – is that when the worst thing that could ever happen does happen, Love is there for you.
It’s there all the time. We only think it isn’t.
You may want to know what happened to the mother of my first child.
We stayed together for almost a year, then went our separate ways. Unfortunately, she had other pregnancies that didn’t work out. But one day, I got a message from a mutual friend to say she had had a healthy child. I’ve seen a couple of photos, and the child is beautiful.
I have since been in a serious relationship in which we had two children, who grow up fast.
In my reading of various books on the subject of death and rebirth, I have come across a couple of things that are relevant to this post – and may be helpful to anyone who has been through the stillbirth experience. (It doesn’t matter if you don’t believe what I’m going to say – belief is all in the mind anyway and my quest is for Truth. These two points resonated with me and bear repeating.)
First, I have read that a soul knows that a pregnancy will be terminated or end in stillbirth before they agree to join that body. They have their own reasons for this, which might include practising to be incarnated. (We do not appreciate how hard it is to be incarnated – to fuse our being/essence with flesh in the material world. It is one of the reasons this planet is so hard – and so miraculous. The fact that you have done it at all is a massive achievement.)
The other point is from one of Carol Bowman’s books on reincarnating back into the same family. It stopped me in my tracks when I read it…
From memory (please forgive any inaccuracy), a child was talking to their mother as they were driving one day. It came up that the mother had had an abortion; maybe more than one. And the child said they knew. The child said they were also the aborted baby. And they knew their mother was not ready yet.
A final point on suffering. The best explanation I’ve come across so far is that suffering happens when what is happening and what we want to happen do not match. Another way of saying this is that we resist the present moment as it is.
The answer (these are both extremely useful expressions and both from Eckhart) is: (a) you accept the present moment as if you had chosen it; or (b) you surrender completely to the present moment.
Why is that useful? Because suffering does not come from the event itself – it comes from our thoughts about the event. When we surrender those thoughts, we suffer less. We can then put our attention on the event and be more present with it.
This is easier to read than to do. And the last time I suffered greatly, I was consumed by it, despite knowing what I’ve just written. My whole body was electrified by the suffering, and the spell was only broken when I read an email from my daughter to tell me that she was suffering from some situation.
My mind was distracted, and I was able to fall asleep very quickly – something that I’d been finding impossible that night.
I hope you find some of this post helpful. Please feel free to comment below.
It’s only just occurred to me and I don’t have any answer (yet), but it feels like one of the other big questions I’ve asked in the last few years. I’m not even sure how to express it…
Where is imagination?
We all think, dream, imagine… But where is the theatre in which the dramas play out? Where is the screen on which the films appear? It can be any size and is probably infinite. And yet it exists inside each of us.
Inside, or around? It doesn’t even feel like it has a location.
On a possibly unrelated note, I just re-watched an excellent film about David Bohm. The first time I saw it, I was delighted to see this outstanding physicist meet Krishnamurti, the Dalai Llama and others. It doesn’t relate to my question, but is well worth 70 minutes of your time.
I might come back to this question later, but this seems like a good place to ask it.
Today was my last day of this exercise, although I will continue to meditate and not blog about it (unless something significant happens).
It was another one of those days of nearly falling asleep many times, although it makes more sense today, because I didn’t have a full night’s sleep last night.
One thing I didn’t do this month was write (or “journal”) before meditating. I’ve done this before and it’s really useful. I was going to do it at some point for this exercise, but it didn’t happen. I’m reminded of it, because it is mentioned in this video by someone who is not me.
It’s very nicely shot and has some useful references to explore further…
How do I feel after a month of doing this? Profoundly relaxed. Happier about the practice of meditation. Less “holy” about it—so, if my mind wants to go somewhere useful, I will let it and see what I can learn about myself.
One of the greatest teachers our species has ever seen, Jiddu Krishnamurti, often spoke harshly of meditation. It depends, I suppose, on why you are doing it. If it’s to find enlightenment, it might work but it would take a looooong time. (If you are ready to be enlightened, there are far quicker ways talked about by Gangaji, Mooji, Rupert Spira and others.)
But if you are looking for a way to help navigate life and see you safely through the storms we all face, I agree with what I’ve been telling people for years: If you don’t have a meditation practice already, start one today.
Love and light to you and I’ll blog again when I have something to say.
Nothing dramatic to report from today’s meditation. I enjoyed the continued deep feeling of calm that I’ve felt since Tuesday afternoon. Now that the Biden/Harris election has been confirmed, I am riding the wave of relief sweeping across the world. There is hope in it. There is love and possibility.
I felt I can return to my work in music. I also felt that I am ready to meet the love of my life. (I will put this here as a placemarker. To see how long it takes between making this decision and actually meeting them.)
I also realised that these are only thoughts and if we limit ourselves to thoughts, we limit the potential of our experience. So I let those thoughts go, too.
Freedom is freedom from everything. From tyrants—and the tyranny of thinking.
Blessings to you and all the best for a more optimistic future.
[PS I will wrap up the month of meditation tomorrow, because from Tuesday I am attending a 21-day online course in opening to communication with angels. Anything noteworthy will appear in this blog.]
I should say that this feeling of deep relaxation I have had for the last few days has not gone away. If this is a result of daily meditation, I recommend that everyone in the world does it right now. It’s like I can feel every cell in my body and there is a deep, pervading peace.
Which brings me on to today’s meditation.
After acknowledging the peace I feel, I noticed by mind trying to draw my attention into all manner of narratives. But today I wasn’t interested in that.
I’ve read several times that it is impossible to stop the thoughts, but I played around with this. I tried asking for an hour of silence. I tried closing a door on the thoughts. And then I remembered something that happened last year (I may have mentioned this before), where I was meditating with someone I was in love with. My mind was trying to make sense of the situation and part of me said there is no sense to be made—don’t try and explain it—just go with it. And I did.
So I tried that today. Nothing can be explained, so don’t try.
And in this way, I could (however briefly) go ‘beyond’ the mind. Into the peace beyond the barrier of thought.
It’s great out there.
But this blog is not about out there. And so I had to bring my attention back to the within.
This, historically, is the realm of the mind/ego. It is embedded. Suffused.
(Oh, I didn’t mention, another tactic I tried early in the meditation is to accept the mind. To welcome it as well as ask it to keep quiet for a while.)
“As above, so below” is something we’ve all seen somewhere and so I tried to discover (aha—I’ve just seen the answer…) how we can touch the peace that’s out there by going within. The answer I’ve just seen is that we have to stop trying. There is no explanation. There just is.
(You can see why writing about this kind of stuff is tricky. If you take that last sentence alone, it makes no sense. You have to read everything up to there to know what it means, even if the total answer is contained in it.)
In my current meditations, I’m sorting through habits and patterns. It’s not sitting and focussing on the breath, but it feels useful so I’m going with it.
Today, I looked at fear, illness and death. I decided that fear is something that comes from the mind, rather than a real thing. It is a response to a possible event. When someone is afraid, we tell them not to be. Why? Because we can see there is no thing to be afraid of.
Worry and fear appear to be located in the head. Moving the attention towards the heart or below the navel, I could not find them.
Illness, especially in these days of Covid-19, is something we could choose to fear. Or cancer. What would happen if they arrived?
When people are genuinely ill, there is an acceptance that doesn’t involve fear. The fear may move to a fear of death, so I looked at that.
One day, through illness, accident or old age, death will happen. It is a certainty. I have watched enough Near Death Experience testimonials to know that consciousness survives death. It is more a case of consciousness without a body is our natural state and having a body is our unusual state. I don’t feel we appreciate how difficult it is for consciousness to incarnate, squeezed into this meat vehicle with its aches and pains and belief that it is special. (It is special, but not in the way we normally think.)
And if you know that death is not a thing to be afraid of, what is the point of worrying about illness or accidents either?
It makes sense of that saying, “The only thing to fear is fear itself”.
Yesterday late afternoon, I started feeling more relaxed than I have felt for a long time. I realised this was tied to the increasing probability that the most tortuous presidency of modern times is coming to an end.
This feeling has stayed with me ever since, and I took it into today’s meditation.
I decided to enjoy it. I also tried to see where it came from. The closest parallel is like the feeling when you come out of a dysfunctional relationship. And I realised that I had been in a form of relationship with that presidency. An attachment.
I remember the shock of the election result four years ago. And, even though I have never listened to a speech and do not follow this person on Twitter, I am one of billions of people negatively affected by it. I have, I suppose, resisted it. Been alarmed and scared by it. Had to watch while that presidency wreaked havoc in the US and across the world.
I have also watched, while people who claim to be spiritually aware in some way have supported what I have seen is a horror show.
My rationalisation for this period of time is that we have needed to see the worst forms of behaviour of which humans are capable. Yes, we saw plenty in the 20th Century. But this has shown us that we have plenty more sickness to bring to the surface, where it can be healed.
As a planet, we have been tormented by a dangerous narcissist. That has been my experience. And it is coming to a close.
Even though we have extraordinarily challenging times ahead of us, which I will not put into words here, it feels wonderful to have a brief holiday from it.
The relief, as I explored during the meditation, feels like love. And long may it last.
Today, I decided to work with a suggestion from Mooji, on a video I watched yesterday.
The suggestion is to stay with the expression “I am”.
And see where it goes…
For me, today, it went towards unconsciousness. I had some moments of feeling well grounded, but plenty of feeling like I was falling asleep.
This has happened several times during this month. I haven’t seen a pattern yet. I am sleeping well at night. I can’t explain it right now.
I’ll add something that occurred to me a while ago, regarding “I am”.
We use the expression often, when we talk to other people, to describe a state of mind or a feeling. And what occurred to me was that it is a contraction. The full expression is, more accurately, “I am pretending to be” or “I am playing at being” and then whatever. Happy, sad, brave, scared…
As I type this, “I am playing at being” feels closest. As in, I am playing as being someone writing a blog post.
I’m not sure if this is useful for you, but it amuses me greatly. I am playing at being amused by it…