Category Archives: Meditation

Freedom this Bank Holiday Weekend……..

Every morning I wake up and whatever else is happening I recognise my good fortune and articulate my gratitude. I think about the day ahead, and reflect on the day before. This morning, looking out of my study window at the world outside my thoughts drifted down a path that pondered Freedom.

Living in a democracy, perhaps I am politically free, although that is dubious given how much people pay to become politicians and how much it costs them to retain power. Their wealth supports their power grab.  But I have a vote which matters and for which people gave their lives, so partially free perhaps and indebted to those courageous people.

I am free to work and earn my living, earn my self respect. Dependent on the people above to enable jobs of course, and dependent on me doing a good job.

I am free to marry whoever I choose, and that freedom has been refreshingly extended recently, partly because of our democracy and our right to lobby and protest peacefully – although that too is under threat when police measures so obviously discourage peaceful protest and peaceful and passive campaigners are taken to court for exercising their peaceful rights.

I am free to have a religion or not have a religion, but sadly not free to express serious doubts about religions because the weight of those religions are impacting my own, and their money and votes talk.

I am free to live in the expectation that I will not be abused, although that too is impacted by others who might disregard my freedom to live safely and securely and the impotence, ineptitude and apathy of those who might want, or be tasked with, protecting me.

Despite the limitations, I live in what we call a free society. But on what does my freedom depend?

While 9 year old girls can be bought and sold and abused and raped in “marriage” in some cultures, how can I be free?  While a country with whom my own country does business and exchanges money and with whom we have a relationship, is passing into law the right to stone to death someone who has sex with someone who is married but will not pass a law to protect those children who are being sold off how can I be free? When cutting into a child  of any genders genitals and mutilating them is accepted and condoned, how can I be free? When entire corporations condone the use of an animal slaughtered in a way that my society had rightly decided was barbaric and disallowed but which has, somehow, become acceptable again, how can I be free? How can I ever be free when my fellows are trapped?

Our freedoms are bought with our courage and our vigilance. Without the bravery of the people who marched, fought and died for my right to vote I would not have that democratic right; without the real struggles of people who valued freedom I would still be my husbands property and married to someone chosen for me; without serious campaigning and people prepared to endure hostility and violence I would not be able to earn a living wage. The key to life is movement, when we stop struggling and moving we die and that liberty is lost .

My freedom is your freedom, and yours is mine. As fellow humans, as people, we share the right to the freedoms that do not reduce other peoples freedoms. I will never be really free until all people are free and for that reason I will continue to strive for freedom for all of us. Freedom from the tyranny of crime, substance mis-use, abuse and the after effects of abuse, poverty, violence, oppression, political deviance, homelessness, fear and prejudice. In my small life there are opportunities to make a difference and I have an obligation to take those opportunities and pay back some of the debt I owe. It is my pleasure to do so.

 

I am looking out of my study window enjoying the birdsong, the breeze and the people passing on the pavement below. I can do this and I can write about it because of my liberty. Let us value those freedoms and strive to enable everyone to experience the same liberation. Let us not take our eye off the ball and let in those who want to reduce our freedoms – there are many of those, and the most dangerous are those who do it only because they believe they are right, who have a belief system that values their own principles and degrades mine. The picture outside my study window is beautiful because it is my view and I value the things in it, and one of the things I value most is that those things are not reducing anyone else. As I play golf this afternoon I will rejoice that I have the freedom, means and desire to do so, and can enjoy the wonderful company of my friends. We all deserve a life worth living, in freedom and in peace.

Have a great bank holiday weekend!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The shelves in the back of my head……..

Last week I spent some time in retreat. No, I did not hide under my desk while colleagues tried to find me after an undisclosed incident in the boardroom – I went away to be silent for a while. The wonderful Aylesford Priory were gracious enough to allow me to spend time in their beautiful and majestic grounds and buildings specifically in order to be quiet.

I don’t need to tell you how hard it is to be silent: telly, radio, cellphones, games, sirens………     It used to be a pleasure to take a train journey (please, if you are under 50 years old, don’t laugh) –  it created thinking time, space in which to read, think, gaze past the window to the trees smeared against them as the train cantered towards its destination. Now it is impossible to switch off, quite literally. Cellphones ringing (if you are lucky – if you are unlucky you will be trapped in a carriage full of people with pop tune ringtones like I was recently. It is like being forcibly confined inside an especially horrendous episode of X Factor without the restraining feature of a presenter), people babbling into cellphones, laptops tapping and pinging, iPods clicking and whooshing away. It feels as if no-one realises they are in public: like the Emperor with no clothes, the reality  of self exposure is cloaked in the self deception of self absorption..

So, I needed to tap out, but silent tapping, braille tapping, BSL tapping.

My parents died within 3 years of each other, my Mother only this year. Some bad times and feelings happened because of the circumstances and I had not had time to properly hold those times and examine them, turn them over in my hands and feel them.

So, I needed to tap out, but soft tapping, tapping that came with an embrace. But not a real hug. I don’t do touch! That must be why I like the spiritual kind so much!

Being in a Monastery has a specific feel to it. The grounds of this one are glorious anyway, and the sun dripped through the autumn leaves and created some spectacular ripples on the lakes and dapples on the hundreds of geese, ducks and swans and bounced brilliantly off the stained glass. The ancient buildings smelled of age and wisdom and the place is still in my nostrils and my head.  Silent communal prayer – silence and your God, whatever or whoever that may be, shared with other people – has a healing drench to it. It seems to get right to the centre of things and iron out some of the wrinkles and kinks. Of course, some of the wrinkles and kinks are there for a reason and remain firmly in place! It takes time and effort to gain the wisdom of wrinkles, even those inside your head, so I will hang on to the useful ones, thank you!

As I slipped gently and gradually into reflection and became absorbed in that special kind of thoughtless weightless thinking that leads to real meditation and communication with something like self, I remembered that I have held so many things against myself. I mentioned in my last post that it had occurred to me that Justice begins inside us and if we are to live justly we have to be just and fair with ourselves. That doesn’t come easy. And it isn’t self-absorbed or selfish to try to be fair to oneself – the damage that is done to our relationships if we can’t get right the relationship inside us can be phenomenal. If I am uncomfortable with who I am, how can I expect others to be comfortable with me? And if others are not comfortable with me what use am I? What purpose can I have? None of this means not taking responsibility for our actions, or absolving ourselves for deliberate malicious actions and intent. Quite the opposite, actually, it means, more, knowing the difference between what we have done with bad intent and what we have done either thoughtlessly or with good intent that turned bad. For some people it is hard to leave behind the grief and the emotional flagellation – there is some comfort in not facing reality, that someone has gone, that it is too late to say those things you never said, that there were some things said that shouldn’t have been. That Life has changed forever. Sometimes, for some people, that is too hard to bear and it becomes easier as time goes on to slip back into that sense, to cling to the pain like a babies rattle, at once annoying and pleasing, but always distracting. But unless you release the grip you have on it, allow it to slip away where it needs to go, that pain, however comforting you think it is, will stop you breathing. It will tether you to the spot where it happened. It needs to be freed to allow you to grow.

So over that strangely unquantifiable period of time of silence when I had the opportunity to reflect and pursue ideas wherever they took me I began to realise that I am still here. A bit weird, maybe – of course I am still here. Perhaps only an eejit would need time out to notice that! But I think what I mean is, I noticed that things had changed and I am still here. I have changed and I am still here. I had been waiting about for some forgiveness from my Mother for not being able to spare her those last miserable painful, tortuous days of her death. And it occurred to me that I didn’t need to wait – she has moved into another place and my own forgiveness and angst has no meaning for her now. Neither she nor I need it and neither of us would be able to give or receive it – things have changed. And her death had a consequence: the hospital where she spent those last few days which were so miserable was a dreadful place, filled with well meaning people who failed at every turn to provide the caring service that they are tasked with providing. I had to fight for every last shred of dignity and care for my Mother and witnessed some frankly evil events which were rooted not in evil but in carelessness, thoughtlessness and laziness. And I made a fuss (would you believe!). It was a sustained, draining, challenging, loud and long fuss.  I made a fuss for my Mother and we got a better end for her than we could ever have expected without the fuss. But a miraculous thing happened:  the overall, long term, result of that wail of a fuss was that changes were instituted in the organisation and on the wards. Really major changes, life changing changes, changes that took my breath away when I heard about them. These changes, told to me by the people managing those services, sound like good changes – they were a long time coming, and although they sound good I cannot evaluate them myself because we have moved on. But if even half of what I was told has been done to improve those services materialises the change would be incredible. So her forgiveness comes, perhaps, in the form of the knowledge that she made things better for the people who came after her, and that is some satisfaction. I have the benediction of knowing that good came of evil.

So, with that as my starting point, and what a good one it was, I managed to clear out and tidy up most of the shelves in the back of my head. I had a good rummage around in there and a bit of a mop and dust, mended the wear and tear of some of the things, threw out the accumulated rubbish and folded things as neatly as I could and put them back. Some things will never fold properly – they are too bulky, or too worn, or too fragile. But knowing they are still good and are stored properly is a comfort. And I can take them out again when I need to and run my hands over them, smell them, and take care of them.

If I could say one thing to you it would be: try silence. Try stopping, and listening, and looking and waiting. Have you ever seen a kingfisher swoop? Have you then gone back to that same spot and tried to see it again – the magical flash of colour and the whirr of sound. If you have seen the kingfisher swoop and want to see it again you have to wait. You have to go back to that same spot, wait, and wait. You know it’s there, you know it will be there, but you have to wait. And then, suddenly, joy of joys, it is there and it is gone . You have seen that splendid flash of colour and heard the whirr, and it is because you have waited that you had that.  Waiting, listening, pausing and being still are wonderous, and reward us so well.

Do the shelves in the back of your head need some attention? Is a bit of a rummage in order? For your sake and for the sake of the people who care about you, try silence.

%d bloggers like this: