Time Out For Family

I will continue my journey in about a week’s time because I need to sort out some urgent family issues.

We all have to wait.

Have a great week.

PostScript

I was thinking about the sequence waking consciousness, dream, dreamless sleep and the void (sunyata)

The Void: Words cannot reach it. It is beyond time, space, concepts and categories.

Teachings lead us through life and then often point passed everything to the Void, mystery and nothingness.The teachings only tell us about what we can experience and the rest is left unanswered because it is simply impossible to talk about.

What lies after life is only imagined.

Here I think I can equate the Void with Death.

Just a thought or something to think about in idle moments.

PPS I now find that what the Buddhist Tantra calls the Void (Shunyata)  is not simply “nothing” as I have supposed, but that which is like nothing known to us.

It is the ultimate formless reality that is contrasted with form (appearance).

More thinking to be done I think.

 

 

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Expect the Unexpected

Well, that took me by surprise!

I said two days ago that when looking for an ally “a companion will come from my dreams and not from physical reality”

Then being the driven person that I am, I went on to prepare my ritual for looking for my ally from the waking world first. Silly me!

Little did I know that before I managed to prepare all the bits and pieces I felt I needed for the waking revelation, I would take a nap in the afternoon beforehand.

Dream Ally

So during that short dream there came to my childhood house a man with a dog on a lead. He wanted entry to the front gate so I gestured to him to come through the gate and onto the garden path and I, in turn, went out to meet him.

When I got there the man had faded but a dog came in, as dogs do. It grew in size as it came along the path towards me and I felt the tables turned. For I had gone out to protect the dog from the occupants of my house, but instead, the dog looked every bit as though it could look after itself.

I felt a slight faltering of spirit but then greeted the dog and it became friendly and we went head to head as one does with dogs. And that is how we remained for a short while until I woke up.

As I said in my post title, “expect the unexpected”.

My Dog

When I woke up I thought the dog looked familiar and then I realized it was the dog my parents had when I was a child. It died when I was about eight years old, but until then it was always my protector, especially when I was in the front garden of our house.

What better protector and ally could I possibly find?

I was looking for and expecting a person as an ally, but actually, that dog is far more reliable than any person has ever been in my life.

Now I realize why the dog got bigger as it came closer, in my dream, because I was only a child. And we were head to head because we were indeed similar heights when I was so young.

The home is either literally my childhood home or more importantly my Self. And we meet at the threshold where I have very strong associations and is indeed my very first clear memory as a child.

There is no doubt this dog is a powerful ally and I feel very blessed and fortunate to have it in my life again.

Man’s Best Friend

Dogs have played a major role for thousands of years for Man (and Woman).

For me, dogs:

  • Are the guardians of the home
  • Protect us from surprise attacks because they have such acute senses of smell and hearing
  • Represent unconditional love, loyalty, friendship and trust.
  • Don’t fail us even when we are in grave danger.
  • Can lead us to safety
  • Are intelligent and cunning on our behalf

Having a dog as a power animal and ally is truly awesome!

PostScript

So what of my ally-search, waking-ritual? Well, I will continue with that tomorrow, but in a slightly different way to acknowledge my dream dog.

Actively Seeking Allies

The dream I had last night confirmed strongly that my approach is correct. I woke up feeling even more determined to continue with the next step on my journey.

It felt good to know there are forces inside me that concur with the direction I am taking. And it now is up to me to contact those forces to identify more closely the nature of my allies.

Today’s Exercise

I will start with a ritual in my waking state.

The idea I have in mind is to attempt to tap into a personification of a vital principle that operates in my life.

This specific vital principle is the one that guides my development and may be thought of as the conduit that harnesses the energy flowing from the universe through me so actualizing my potential and propelling me to self-fulfillment.

I feel this would be a very useful ally to discover for my quest.

For after times of stagnation and disillusionment, it would be most helpful to have someone or something to help reinvigorate me and inspire me to keep on going forward.

Another benefit is for the ally to offer a different perspective to observe my situation with compassion and some greater degree of detachment. Self-judgement is never a great position to be in for I find we can often be without mercy toward ourselves.

From this new perspective, I will also be better able to choose how to loosen the iron chains of bad habits and tighten my grip on the golden chains of better behaviors to find a path of courage, growth, and positive actions.

Well, that is my agenda for today. A little optimism may be required!

PostScript

I listened to the radio yesterday and hear about a trainee suicide bomber in the Middle East who had escaped his minders. He said that he was told that life is just a test and a preparation for the afterlife.

I was reminded of training courses and tests I had encountered in the past. These were simulations of what to expect afterward. What I remembered was that the preparation and the tests were never as bad or as desperate as the real thing that came afterward.

I couldn’t help wondering what that said about the afterlife to come. I guess it could be a similar situation where the real thing is much worse than the testing ground.

Is that why there is so much written about Hell but so little written about Heaven?

Then I thought about the chapter called Revelation in the Bible and realized that my chance of going to Heaven was slim and none, as they say. So nothing to worry about there. I guess most people end up in Hell as Dante the poet described.

Finding the Door

My objective now is to find the door to where I need to go to find myself.

I know that even when I do find the door that reason will bar the way.

Karen Armstrong, the religious commentator, has argued that there is a common trend to read religious texts these days. And in so doing, we read them in a way they were never meant to be read, and as a result, we get caught up in the precise meanings of the words, the concepts, and the arguments.

But the original way people were communicated to regarding their religions was through images, icons, music and actions.

Words, reason, and concepts simply get in the way.

So to enter through the door I seek I know I will need to set reason on one side.

And indeed to find the door reason will not help me, instead, I need to do it through imagination, music, and physical action. The process is holistic and not logical. The other side of the door is more an enchanted realm and not a physical realm.

Finally, I suspect that the journey I have embarked on is not one I can continue with alone. That is just a “gut feeling”. I am sure someone will join me, but I don’t know where they will come from as yet. They may come from reality or possibly from the dreaming realm. It’s all very exciting so let’s wait and see.

NB. I have just seen the association between the dream with my mother and the Rolling Stones rock band that featured. The answer leads directly to the idea of a companion who will come from my dreams and not from physical reality. So that is very helpful information. (You may not see the connection but it’s a strong on for me)

PostScript

I can relate to Karen Armstrong when she says “‘God’ is merely a symbol that points beyond itself to an indescribable transcendence.” I prefer to think of gods as plural. Elohim for some strange reason in the Bible is a plural noun in Hebrew. Now I am getting stuck on words! Move on.

Elevation Not Orientation

After some introspection, I have realized that the next part of my journey should be guided by elevation, and not by orientation.

According to my dictionary,  elevation means the action or fact of raising or being raised to a higher or more important level, state, or position. And this fits where I want to be.

Whereas, orientation means the action of orienting someone or something relative to the points of a compass or other specified positions.

So when I talk about turning left or right next, or of proceeding forwards or reversing backward due to obstacles, these observations are not really that important.

The best direction for me is to take note of the lie of the land and to head downwards and inwards to the heart of the matter. I will need to travel across the liminal regions of my mind and into enchanted dream worlds.

Exploring the Depths

This is why the term “depth psychology” has been adopted by those exploring the relationship between the conscious and the unconscious mind.

According to Wikipedia,

“Depth Psychology refers to approaches to therapy that are open to the exploration of the subtle, unconscious, and transpersonal aspects of human experience. A depth approach may include therapeutic traditions that explore the unconscious and involves the study and exploration of dreams, complexes, and archetypes”

I am not a psychologist, but I feel some of the practices of psychology may be appropriate for where I am heading. I certainly don’t exclude psychology, but I don’t want to be bound by it in any way.

That’s about it. I am taking the weekend off. Have a great time all.

Moving Past The Past

I have spent some time in reconnecting with my past and in particular with my parents and my upbringing.

For this to be an authentic learning journey, I need to learn something, and here is an important lesson.

Why do I as an older man bother about how I was brought up by my parents? It was well over half a century ago

The answer is that despite me thinking of myself as a mature, responsible adult, I still relate back to that time to some degree.

Now it’s ok to recognise that these forces of childhood exist, but to find I am still living by them is not ok.

I know I should have already taken full responsibility for my thinking and I should have cleared out all these old “tribal” things long ago. But clearly not yet.

As I said, moving past the past is sometimes tricky because we haven’t paid enough attention to what it gave us. So I have learned something for sure about who I am.

Next Steps

I don’t have a plan just yet. Turn left or right?

I begin to see that value of a physical pilgrimage. For when setbacks occur one can still look back and see some distance covered. There are also comrades on the journey that one either sees or recognise or actually speak to. Fellow companions who also have their ups and downs.

I too need to make some physical path to walk each day, to at least give the illusion of progress. Wow. All this and I have only been going a few days. I should have packed more carefully.

I have some ideas and will spend today mulling over them to determine the next step.

This is much harder than I thought. We old people who have faced many trials of life already think anything now should be easy but it’s not. I will keep you posted.

PostScript

As I try and develop on this journey, I will come across seemingly unrelated things that I just don’t want to miss and I want to record. I will try and add them as a PS like this.

So I was thinking about how the underworld or heaven or whatever you call it is portrayed in different cultures. In ancient Greek myths, various people are taken on trips down to the Underworld. The characteristic I notice is that some of the Shades there are recognisable.

Likewise, in Dante’s Inferno, Dante meets people he knew from his life in the living world. He discusses their fate with them and they seem to remember everything about their lives.

However, in some Eastern cultures, this seems not to be the case. When people die they leave their personalities behind and become, at best, archetypes being maybe demons or saints.

I wonder where this leaves me in looking for myself. I guess I need to follow the European viewpoint of my soul carrying major aspects of my personality with it.

But this doesn’t fit my experience of people I know getting Dementia, Senility, Alzheimer’s disease or whatever you call it these days. These people are already losing their personalities and mental faculties long before they pass on.

How can their souls carry those pieces of personality if they have already disintegrated?

That is the question.

 

Dreams of my Mother

Being largely raised and supported by my mother has been the biggest influence in my life that I can think of.

In the last couple of days, my mother has appeared in my dreams. This is unusual for me so I guess I have released something in my psyche by considering my parents in more detail than normal.

My mother has always been supportive and that is how she was in my dreams too.

Mother in my Dreams

In one dream she pointed out to me that there are some messy things in my life that remain unresolved. I have swept stuff under the carpet, but it never goes away, but just sits there as a constant reminder. But I try to ignore it. I am given a pen to communicate with but instead of writing, I just use it to make random marks. It’s a start but there is more to do yet.

The other dream was rather more positive. Mother came to a concert I had organized to be given by the Rolling Stones rock band. My mother has always disliked the band but comes anyway to show her support. In return, I make her very welcome and pay attention to her comfort and well-being, like a loyal son should.

Doorways feature in these dreams. A few I lock to keep “bad” aspects of me out, but also, I find others to open to reveal new experiences.

Overall Parental Analysis

As a child, I learned some ways of behavior that have repeated themselves many, many times in my life.

A simple analysis regarding dealing with conflict becomes very clear.

My father’s main approach to serious conflict in the home was to use force, which is characterized by a high concern for the objective combined with a low concern for other people’s feelings.

Whereas, or possibly, as a result, my mother’s approach to serious conflict was smoothing, which is characterized by a high concern for the other people’s feelings combined with a low concern for the objective.

My Adopted Strategy Regarding Conflict

The pressures were great, and my main concern was always survival since there were many other things going on at the same time. So I found that withdrawal was an acceptable strategy. This approach is characterized by a low concern for the objective combined with a low concern for other people’s feelings.

Withdrawal is actually a strategy of accepting losses but, perhaps in my mind, minimizing those losses and surviving to play another day.

Perhaps the most negative side of withdrawal as a strategy is it involves leaving. And that is what I have done many times in my life. In fact coming to Singapore was an instance of that strategy that I still fell back on even a quarter of a century after it was initially installed during my childhood.

Conclusion

So what have I learned from all this?

I have found a number of instances of strategies installed during my childhood, of which this is but one. These strategies are triggered by events and I don’t even realize they are happening.

They are now facets of who I am. (But I am still not sure if behaviors count in who I am)

Perhaps I could change them? Well, I am not there yet. This is still a learning journey.

Being positive, there are many instances where withdrawal is a good strategy. At least, it is adopted by various people whom we might admire.

The big question is, after withdrawal for these people, do they disappear forever (permanent withdrawal), or do they return to the mainstream with benefits, teachings, or other useful things (temporary withdrawal)?

I am pleased with the progress on my journey that I have made over the last couple of days. There is still a long way to go, but my approach is already bearing fruit.

PS. I notice that everyday thoughts are very like dreams because they are unattached. If I try and remember my thoughts of yesterday, they are mostly lost to me and the ones I can remember are somewhat confused. And I don’t mean events here! I do remember those.

Some Past Influences

Dreams are taking on a different meaning for me these days. I see them more as independent living entities that inhabit my body and mind. It’s as if my brain is the hardware that supports all different kinds of thoughts that plant themselves there.

Some thoughts and dreams flourish and thrive while a good many of them whither, and for all intents and purposes, disappear. My blog tagline says “set them free”, meaning give them some space to breathe.

I know, now I am beginning to sound a little crazy as if I am not in control of my thoughts. And that is seemingly true for me at any rate.

Try sitting quietly for 10 seconds and see what thoughts arise in your own mind. Then ask yourself, “Where did they come from?” I can never predict exactly what thoughts will come up. Perhaps now, if you tried this, you may find me a little less crazy. I like to think of me as “creative” instead.

Exploring Decisions

I have found in my life that anytime anything goes really badly wrong, it is often due to me having made an important and difficult decision.

I think this is because a difficult decision is difficult because my head says one thing but my heart says another.

If I have followed my head, I have found that I have often ended up in deep trouble.

Exploring Thoughts of My Parents

I believe that my parents have either knowingly or unknowingly built into me all sorts of beliefs, values, stereotypes, paradigms, opinions, etc. So exploring my memories of my parents is a good way to uncover some of these.

My Father

I have tried to imagine what it must have been like for my father when I was growing up. He was not available much of the time because he was busy. He was definitely an artisan with serious craft skills, as well as being something of an intellectual too. He was very gregarious.

I wonder how many thoughts I have are memes and opinions of my father planted during the time he taught me about sociology, philosophy, and values.

My Mother

On the other hand, my mother when I was growing up, was the mainstay of the family. Always reliable, always there and very practical.

She also imparted words of wisdom to me on a day to day basis a bit like the trickle of a babbling brook.

I rebelled against my parents as many young people do, but I realize now how wrong I was on so many things.

Like all parents, they did their best, as I have done in turn for my own family. There is no perfect parent other than one who cares.

What I learned

I learned the usual stuff from my parents, but importantly, it is probably different usual stuff compared to what you learned. Let me just list a few here…

  • Children are a blessing
  • Long life is a blessing too
  • Reason beats intuition
  • Evidence beats hearsay
  • Everyone has a soul
  • If you work hard you will succeed
  • You need a pension to retire
  • The Justice system is fair
  • Progress is the goal
  • People are generally trustworthy
  • Superstition is untrue
  • Everyone seeks the truth
  • Etc.

I believe these, and other implants, have influenced my life enormously. I believe that everything we do, see, understand, etc is built on the stories we constantly tell ourselves. That is why understanding and identifying these stories is important. They are just stories and we can change them anytime we like.

So understand better now the stories I live by so can move on. This inner pilgrimage is not going to be exhaustive. I am no perfectionist. It’s good enough to make even a little progress each day. I expect to come this way again in the future. This is the first pass on this trip.

 

First Steps

This is a bit more on more on who I am from a worldly perspective…

Accident  of Birth

Well, by accident of birth I was brought up a Christian, white, male, English-speaking, etc.  So my identity must have been flexible enough to adopt those aspects rather than if I had grown up in a different environment such as Africa or Siberia.

My identity was constructed somehow and it continues to grow since I can tell I am not the same person I was when I was a child.

If I look at an old passport photo that is perfectly obvious. Oh, that haircut and those weird clothes.

Be Yourself

Nor am I a single identity.

For example, the person I present myself as to my wife is not the same person I present myself as to colleagues in the office.

People often give the advice in public speaking of “Be yourself”, but that certainly would not work. I need to act the role as presenter not as a husband or as a father.

You See Me but Not Me

I don’t believe I am the same person that you see me as since I have many private memories, thoughts, views, experiences, desires, preferences, and beliefs.

I feel that I adjust who I am many times during each day to enable me to conform to society’s norms and enable me to relate to other people successfully.

Conflicts

I also have conflicts in my head regarding who I am. From Monday to Friday, I hold business objectives in high esteem, while on Saturday I am supporting my family. Then on Sunday, I am drawn to go to attend church and hold God in my mind for a short time.

No wonder I get confused.

There are many more of these conflicts in my mind, such as on the one hand, I am a scientific person, but on the other hand, I love the feeling when I experience awe and mystery.

More Dilemmas

One of the problems I feel is that I present myself as one thing but in my heart I am often something else.

For example, I present a Singaporean passport, and returning from a trip abroad, I am greeted by immigration officials with the words, “Welcome home”, but in my heart, I remain totally English.

Then again, being English is no more than an accident of birth that I have adopted. It cannot really be any part of who I really am.

Look at the Evidence

When I look in a mirror and see the objective evidence that I am a bald, fat, grumpy old man, I cannot accept it. Surely that is not me.

That is not who I am. Help!

Likewise, 45 years ago when I looked in a mirror and saw myself as a hairy, lean, happy-go-lucky young man, was that not me either?

For if it was, then that would be the end of my Quest!

And I hope there is more depth to me than that.

No, I think that proves it, our identity is a pure fiction and a construct of our minds.

What do you think?

 

 

Quest Day 1

I feel a bit like Frodo in the movie, Lord of the Rings, when he leads the questors out of the gates of Rivendell and asks Gandalf should he turn left or right.

Which way shall I go?

Well, the Feng Shui Masters would tell me to take some action to confirm my commitment to the quest. Here the simplest thing I can think of is to prepare a space in which to pursue that quest. I have selected the chair and the room and the medium already, which by default is this writing.

It reminds me of tourist maps that have a little red dot that says “You are here”. But where is that?

A Start

As for the times and the frequency, well it’s Monday to Friday and whenever I have progress to report. I will write at least once a week whether there is progress or not. I suspect there will be flurries of activity followed by days of coasting and a fair few dead ends.

I think a ritual is important to signify the times of my quest experiences, so maybe I have to get a candle to light when the clock is ticking. I will also say a prayer each day to help set a consistent tone.

How Long Will This Journey Take?

I wonder how long it will take and I think 3 months would be a good time, but I don’t know the terrain so well yet. But I won’t worry too much, as Orison Swett Marden, founder of Success Magazine, said,

“Go as far as you can see… then you will see a little further”

It all seems a little anticlimactic, but then every quest, no matter hold long, starts of with putting one foot in front of the other. But I still need a direction.

I guess that will occur to me somehow…

Where/who did I come from?

I just went out today and was assailed by the smell of incense as the woman across the corridor was praying to her ancestors. I hate the smell but I think the idea has some merit.

Maybe that’s where I will start.

I keep saying that when we are young we are given values and beliefs of our parents not only as parents but also in their role as representatives of society.

I live in an alien culture and I may have forgotten many of the things from where I came from. But they are still there inside me having an effect. I think it’s good to explore a little to find out what they are.

So I won’t turn left or right on my quest but continue straight on by checking out some things in my memories and see how they might influence me now.

This reminds me of unweaving the rainbow.

By chance, I just saw this quote and it resonated with me…

Everything focused toward the north; every curve and asterism of the glittering sky became part of a vast design whose function was to hurry first the eye and then the whole observer onward to some secret and terrible goal of convergence beyond the frozen waste that stretched endlessly ahead.
— H. P. Lovecraft, The Dream-Quest of Unknown Kadath, 1943