Tuesday, 10 March 2015

A direct experience of your life

I first  reviewed the Art of Life Tarot in 2012, but I have yet to use it much. I have kept it though, through many deck culls, because it appeals to me as something that is handy to have for daily draws, for the expression of the heart of each card's meaning. Today's card is the High Priestess, with a quotation from Lao Tzu.

At all times we can trust our deepest inner knowing. We just don't always see how to get to it. So much gets in the way. We allow circumstances, situations, people, dogmas, or systems to come between us and our truth.

We think it requires bravery to know who we are and what we want. We may be afraid to look at what is. All of this comes of illusion, of images, rather than from reality. Even the attempt to name 'what is' results in a new layer of illusion separating ourselves from our truth. And we think that if we confront the truth of what is, it means we will have to change, to 'become'. This is an illusion, a world of images, but not reality. We are taught that life is about striving to 'become' something, to seek transformation. But have you ever considered that transformation only occurs when we let go of the concept of 'becoming'?

I have been contemplating the teachings of Jiddu Krishnamurti recently. Consider his thoughts on the concept of 'becoming': 

'The mind has an idea, perhaps pleasurable, and it wants to be like that idea, which is a projection of your desire. You are this, which you do not like, and you want to become that, which you like. The ideal is a self-projection; the opposite is an extension of what is; it is not the opposite at all, but a continuity of what is, perhaps somewhat modified. The projection is self-willed, and conflict is the struggle towards the projection. You are struggling to become something, and that something is part of yourself. The ideal is your own projection. See how the mind has played a trick upon itself. You are struggling after words, pursuing your own projection, your own shadow. You are violent, and you are struggling to become nonviolent, the ideal; but the ideal is a projection of what is, only under a different name.

'When you are aware of this trick that you have played upon yourself, then the false as the false is seen. The struggle towards an illusion is the disintegrating factor. All conflict, all becoming is disintegration. When there is an awareness of this trick that the mind has played upon itself, then there is only what is. When the mind is stripped of all becoming, of all ideals, of all comparison and condemnation, when its own structure has collapsed, then the what is has undergone complete transformation. As long as there is the naming of what is, there is relationship between the mind and what is; but when this naming process - which is memory, the very structure of the mind -is not, then what is is not. In this transformation alone is there integration.'

- J Krishnamurti, The Book of Life
The High Priestess teaches us that we already know what is. Krishnamurti affirms as well that we already are 'what we are' as well as 'what we want'.  All conflict, all becoming, is disintegration. Therefore, let us not concern ourselves with naming of 'what is', or naming of what we want to become. Let us relax into a direct experience of our lives.

Friday, 6 March 2015

Can you look beyond the image?

'Is it possible to observe without the thinker? I look at everything with an image, with a symbol, with memory, with knowledge. I look at my friend, at my wife, at my neighbor, at the boss, with the image which thought has built. I look at my wife with the image I have about her, and she looks at me with the image she has about me: the relationship is between these two images. This is a fact,it's not an invention on my part,it's a fact! Thought has built these symbols, images, ideas. Can I look, at first, at a tree, at a flower, at the sky, at the cloud, without an image? The image of the tree is the word I have learned which gives a certain name to the tree, tells its species and recalls its beauty. Can I look at that tree, at that cloud, at that flower, without thought, without the image? ... Can I look at life, the clouds, the stars, the trees, the river, the bird on the wing, my wife, my child, my neighbor, this whole earth - can I look at it all without the image?' 

- J Krishnamurti 

The above quotation from Krishnamurti reminded me of the Joni Mitchell song 'Both Sides Now'. I used to think that song was about lost innocence, probably a break up, but it isn't. It's about the fact that no matter how we conceptualise reality, as good or as bad, we still haven't actually experienced it, we've only experienced our images of it. Understanding this is the key to many doors. 

 How have you looked at clouds? Can you look at clouds and just see them, without naming them, without creating an image of them, without conceptualising them? Can you just experience clouds? Love? Life?

Rows and flows of angel hair
And ice cream castles in the air
And feather canyons everywhere
I've looked at clouds that way

But now they only block the sun
They rain and snow on everyone
So many things I would have done
But clouds got in my way

I've looked at clouds from both sides now
From up and down, and still somehow
It's cloud illusions I recall
I really don't know clouds at all

Moons and Junes and Ferris wheels
The dizzy dancing way you feel
As every fairy tale comes real
I've looked at love that way

But now it's just another show
You leave 'em laughing when you go
And if you care, don't let them know
Don't give yourself away

I've looked at love from both sides now
From give and take, and still somehow
It's love's illusions I recall
I really don't know love at all

Tears and fears and feeling proud
To say "I love you" right out loud
Dreams and schemes and circus crowds
I've looked at life that way

But now old friends are acting strange
They shake their heads, they say I've changed
Well something's lost but something's gained
In living every day

I've looked at life from both sides now
From WIN and LOSE and still somehow
It's life's illusions I recall
I really don't know life at all

I've looked at life from both sides now
From up and down and still somehow
It's life's illusions I recall
I really don't know life at all

-Joni Mitchell, 'Both Sides Now'  

Sunday, 22 February 2015

My retreat

9 Feb 2015
I arrived at the Krishnamurti Centre about 2.45 in the afternoon. A nice man called Wilfred showed me around all the facilities, then to my room, and explained about meal times. He left. So there I was. Now, usually arriving at holiday accommodation means plunking down the suitcases, a quick cup of tea after figuring out how to plug in the kettle, slurped whilst examining tourist leaflets and speculating on what we can manage to see before it gets dark. After all, we're on annual leave, no time to waste, gotta see what we came to see! (The itinerary would have been planned - by me - weeks in advance, but with some leeway for weather and travel time. Cause you know, I'm flexible.) But this time -- I was on my own. It was just me. And this is where I am; there's nothing to do, nothing to accomplish. This is it. For the next. Four. Days.

I sat down on the bed, at a loss. Then I noticed the welcome folder on the desk and opened it and the very first page of the folder contained this quotation: 

'I think it is essential sometimes to go on retreat, to stop everything you have been doing, to stop your experiences and beliefs completely, and look at them anew, not to keep repeating like machines whether you believe or do not believe. You would then let in fresh air, wouldn't you? That means you must be insecure, must you not? If you can do so, you would be open to the mysteries of nature, and to things that are whispering about us, which you would not otherwise reach; you would reach the God that  is waiting to come, the truth that cannot be invited but comes itself...

'In a retreat, do not plunge into something else, do not take some book and be absorbed in new knowledge and new acquisition. Have a complete break with the past and see what happens. Do it, and you will see. You will see vast expanses of love, understanding and freedom. When your heart is open, then reality can come. Then the whisperings of your own prejudices, your own noises, are not heard. That is why it is good to take a retreat, to go away and stop the routine -- not only the routine of outward existence, but the routine which the mind establishes for its own safety and convenience.'

-- Jiddu Krishnamurti, 1952 

I was struck by the phrase 'That means you must be insecure, must you not?' Ah ha. So this uneasy feeling I was having, this unfamiliar situation of a completely neutral environment with no programme, no companion, no goal -- is a normal reaction! Reading that helped me relax at once. It was okay to feel unsure.

Sunday, 1 February 2015

Book Review: The Holy by Daniel Quinn

The Holy: A Novel by Daniel Quinn

One of the great things about surprises is ... they're a surprise. I recently had a birthday, and was delighted to receive a gift in the mail from a friend. One of the items in the parcel was this curious novel by Daniel Quinn.

I have to admit I had never heard of Daniel Quinn. His books Ishmael, The Story of B and My Ishmael form a trilogy that seems to have been quite influential in the 1990s. Ishmael apparently won the Turner Fellowship of Tomorrow Award (which I hadn't heard of) and inspired a Pearl Jam song 'Ishmael' (which I'd never heard). Everything about this book and its author constituted a surprise for me, then!

I was even more surprised when I opened the book to the title page and saw this:

Saturday, 10 January 2015

Feeling good

Language of Letting Go, Hay House 2005

Today's card comes from a deck that is not a tarot and it is not an oracle -- though you could use it as such. It's a set of affirmation cards by Melody Beattie, based on her book of daily meditations called 'The Language of Letting Go'.  This card is called 'Feeling Good'.

It seems counter-intuitive to think that sometimes we resist feeling good. But actually -- we do. Some do it more than others. What are some ways we resist feeling good? We focus on irritations. We dwell in the past, and the things we dwell on are bad memories. We stuff food in our faces without tasting it. We criticise ourselves. We criticise others. We allow the news on TV, internet and radio to darken our day. We lose sight of the value of our lives. We become pain seekers.

The back of each card has an affirmation. This card reads:

'Today I will let go of my need to be in pain and to suffer through crises. I ask God for assistance in moving as quickly as possible through my sad feelings and problems. I ask for help in experiencing joy, peace and gratitude every day. I will accept what's good in my life today!'

Who would have thought that we have a 'need' to be in pain. And yet, looking at our habits, some of us will see that we do have such a need. We can let go of this need, Beattie remind us, with help from our Higher Power.

May I move through this day in search of joy instead of trouble.

Tuesday, 23 December 2014

When is it ever enough?

Interesting that this lady should turn up today, because I've started thinking along Queen of Pentacles lines in the last couple of days.

Diabetes and overweight run in my family. I know this. And yet for the last few years, I've not only stopped working out entirely, I've also eaten with more or less wild abandon. It's almost like I've got a death wish. In the last year alone, I've gained 10 lbs. But these last few days in particular have brought home to me the peril I'm putting myself in. Three days in a row, I've baked a cake. The two of us have eaten the whole cake each day. They're small cakes, but each cake contains 1 cup of sugar in the cake, and 1 cup of icing sugar in the frosting. So that means in the last three days, I have eaten THREE CUPS OF SUGAR in the form of cake. This does not include the sugar in the jam on my toast, and other sneaky sources. I have also had a really intense headache that I can't shake, despite having Beconase and paracetamol. The ringing in my ears is also louder to me. I may be getting a sinus infection, don't know, but I can't help but think it's the gigantic sugar consumption. I know it's kind of dangerous to diagnose using online tools, but Warning Signs of Type-2 Diabetes lists 17 signs, and over recent months, I have had 8 of them. In any case, stopping this behaviour will only be good for me. My poor pancreas. How could I do this to it?

Today's card is Queen of Pentacles from Tarot de St Croix. Apparently she is the Queen of Sheba, and the companion book places more emphasis on abundance and the good life, but the Queen of Pentacles is grounded in the body as well, and concerns herself with health. Even the symbols of the good life here are natural ones -- fresh fruits and vegetables, fresh air and sunshine, etc.

It's an odd time of year to embark on a health kick, but to be honest, I don't feel up to any more junk. My appetite for it is greatly diminished, as if my poor little pancreas and other vital workings are finally speaking up in outrage.