Saturday, 19 November 2011

Sometimes life doesn't feel the least bit spiritual

Sometimes even trying to live life from a spiritual perspective is irritating. I suppose it is a lesser version of the 'dark night of the soul,' when the paper-taste of life is strong in one's mouth and all you want to do is spit it out.

Sometimes things are just crappy, shitty, awful, hard, horrible, disappointing, tedious, upsetting and utterly pointless. Or at least it feels utterly pointless and perhaps that place of pointlessness is just where one needs to be.

A good rant or rave at life, god, consciousness, the world, fate or whatever the fuck runs this crazy place can be very satisfying. Swearing is good too. The worst words you can think of are the most satisfying no doubt because they have had shock value for centuries and that is retained in cellular memory.

Sometimes life stinks. Sometimes it is cruel, unfair, mean-spirited and the thought of 'making the best of it' just makes you feel like sticking your fingers down your throat and vomiting back at life the ghastliness of it all. It doesn't sound very spiritual but then that may be a seriously subjective judgement. Perhaps it is more spiritual than anything because it is so real.

Putting Pollyanna in her place, not just taking it and taking it and making the best of it can build grit, determination and ultimately a sense of humour. As the alchemists of old and new would say, it is in the 'worst' of things that we find the 'gold,' and the treasure is that which is thrown away and not valued.

We don't have any true answer to life. All we ever have is a set of beliefs, which are our 'answers' and which make sense to us most of the time. Sometimes nothing makes sense and those answers are as dry as the dust of an endless desert and as destructive. And yet even the desert is seen as a place of growth - it's true value and nourishment being hidden.

But no doubt it will pass. And in the words of  Mr Bennett in Jane Austen's Pride and Prejudice - no doubt sooner than it should. But for now, perhaps the task is to rejoice in the utter awful disappointment of it all and to recognise that life, in many ways, is utterly ridiculous and should sometimes be seen as such.

Saturday, 8 October 2011

Understanding what we mean when we use the word spiritual

 What's in a word? Quite a lot actually. There is a common understanding of what a word means but many words, if not most, will also have extended or greater meaning which , if we do not understand them or know what they are, will lead to misunderstandings.

It is where the phrase, 'divided by a common language comes from.' We assume if we share a common language that we understand each other well but that is not the case. Just as an example, we all know what a cat is and when we use the word 'cat' we recognise, at least as English speakers, the animal which we call cat.

However, beyond the literal meaning of the word, cat can mean many things. For one person it may be delightful companion and gracious pet; for another it may be dirty animal and ungrateful pet and for someone else it can be the source of allergy, asthma, suffering and fear. But the thing about a cat or a dog or a horse or a rose is that it is easier to fully explain what these things mean to us in particular. Not so with a word like spirituality!

A cat or dog is a material thing. We can look at it, study it, take it apart and gain great understanding of it even though we may never experience its 'catness' as a shaman or seer might. We can't do that with Love however. That is an intangible thing. Love is like gravity; we know it exists because we can see its effects but we don't understand what it is and we can't prove its existence in any empirical way.

And that is the same with spirituality. More so with spirituality because it is a word like 'God' which has negative connotations for many. Not only is it misunderstood by those who would embrace it but it is also misunderstood by those who would reject it. Many people would put 'spirituality' in the same category as 'religion' or something equating with God. It can be associated with those things but it does not need to be and that is not what it really is. At least not to me. It may very well be all of those things to someone else.

When I pick up a book or decide to read an article which contains the word 'spirituality' I am expecting to find explorations and explanations emanating from a perspective of connectedness, holism and a capacity to see this world, human beings and our lives as being about more than the material - as being part of something greater, more complex, more connected than most believe.

Living my life as a spiritual and material being means that I believe everything has meaning, even though I may not understand what the meaning is and everything works just as it should even though I may not like it.... it is weaving a tapestry of the tangible and the intangible. We do not understand gravity; but we know its effects and we do not understand spirituality; but we know its effects ... or at least we do if we choose to look, explore and experiment.

Spirituality can be a part of religion but it does not need to be although religion benefits. Spirituality can be a part of science although it does not need to be, although science benefits. Spirituality embraces everything, even that which we do not understand and draws upon the rational and the intuitive; the known and the unknown; the 'certain' and the uncertain; the mythical and the mathematical; the logical and the illogical... you get the picture... and it does so with reverence, awe, curiosity and enjoyment.

All of which would probably have those who choke on the word 'spirituality' recoiling in horror anyway. So how can I more simply explain what spirituality means to me? Let me try to apply it to one of my great loves, cooking.

Taking a spiritual view of this I don't just need the knowledge of cooking... the scientific aspect.... I also need the ingredients ... the material ... and I need the spiritual which includes the art, the intuition, the reverence for the ingredients and the recipe .... both need to be of the best quality and all need to be respected and a belief that the honouring and respecting of the ingredients, the process and the end result, the eating, adds another ingredient... love.... which will not only influence the quality of the end result but which will also be offered to and received by those who eat it.

Seeing life from a spiritual perspective also means that I believe the food has its own energy; the act of creating a dish has its own energy and the appreciation, honour, reverence, attention etc., which I put into the process also has its own energy. And all of these energy sources come together to create the final dish and contribute to its flavour, it's texture and its nutritional value. 

I suspect that the materialists would find it easier if I used the word 'art' to describe spirituality but that is missing the point. The best art is deeply spiritual and materially excellent; the spiritual does not need art but art needs the spiritual. 

Living a spiritual life is seeing the world as one; a connectedness of consciousness whether it is you, me, a cake, a cow, a skyscraper, a stone, a tree, a television set.... everything which exists at the material level is sourced in the spiritual. And in that belief there is wonder, awe, fascination and delight. The world is a truly wonderful place and even more so when we see it through spiritual 'eyes.'

Wednesday, 5 October 2011

A life well lived

How quickly we forget.

I suspect it is part of our survival mechanism but I am once again conscious of how quickly we forget. I wrote a poem today called, How Short This Life.... no doubt the impetus came from inner thoughts or ponderings but, as is the way with creativity, it popped out.

And it reminded me of my time huddled in the wardrobe in Angola as bullets flew around the house and the realisation I had when the terror ended and I was safe, as to how important it was to 'do the work' and deal with things on a daily basis. I know that is hard but it is a worthy goal.

None of us know how long we have on this earth and few of us are prepared, or would choose, to leave it with regrets of things left undone. Not everyone has a choice of course but we have more choice than perhaps we realise or utilise. The saying, 'never go to sleep on an argument' is in the same vein and while not all arguments can be resolved, or perhaps the foundation of the argument, in an instant, there is no doubt that one can lay the groundwork for resolution sooner not later.

What stops us doing it is often ego, and sometimes fear. Ego demands one is right instead of being gracious. Fear demands the same thing, but more from a horror of looking foolish, or of feeling disempowered. In reality, at the point of death, they are both irrelevant.

I crawled out of that cupboard thinking, if I had died, what would I have regretted not doing... what wounded relationship lay unhealed? There was only one and I immediately set to say what I would have said if I had known my life would be over in an instant... as it might have been.

In reality, there can be no pain, no hate, no fear, no rage without love and at that moment of death there is no pain, no hate, no fear, no rage.... there is only love.

So it seems to me that saying sorry, even if you don't believe it is your fault; offering an olive branch even if you think it might not be accepted; acting with graciousness no matter the outcome and simply realising that most of the things which tie us up in knots are trivial in the face of what really matters: we are born, we share our lives with people we love and we die. The only bit over which we have any control is the middle bit and we get to choose how we share.

More laughter, more grace, more compassion, more understanding, more hope, more tolerance.... these are the ingredients which make for a life well lived and at the end of the day the only thing which matters is that a life is well lived. All the rest is dross and dregs.

If you believe there is nothing beyond this world and you happen to be right,  then a life well lived is all you have to experience and to offer and if  you believe and you happen to be right, that this world is merely one step on a long path of learning and becoming, then a life well lived is invaluable; both for the here and now and for the hereafter.

Monday, 12 September 2011

Love shoots brightly from the mutilated twig and stem of Self.

Our garden in Malawi was pruned while we were away. The photo above shows the result...  persecution not pruning. This is just one of the half a dozen or more lush, leafy, six foot high bushes around my garden. Or rather, what is left of it!

The savagery of the 'pruning' left me shocked and savage it was. I was reminded of that this morning when walking around a neighbour's garden which, despite being pruned had not been reduced to stumps in the way that ours had. And that made me ponder the symbolism of it all, for everything is symbolic and nothing happens without a reason, whether that reason be known or unknown.

Everything is energy and everything is connected and everything which happens in our lives, all manifestations of our material world, reflect what is happening at an inner level. That is what I believe. And interestingly I could see that the elements of being 'savagely cut back,' 'harshly pruned,' 'reduced to the 'bare minimum,' left 'naked, bare, vulnerable and ugly,' by circumstances beyond one's control had been at work in my life on other levels.

'Reduced to the stub of one's self' applied both to person and to plant. If foliage 'dresses' a plant and allows a soft and beautiful 'face' to be presented to the world, then being 'laid bare' means it is taken back to the very substance of itself and in that place, until new growth begins, it will be revealed as the 'least of itself.'

And it is with the prunings that we get to 'see' who we are behind the facade, behind the foliage. Often it is not a pretty sight but unless we know the 'roots' and 'core' of Self then we do not truly know who and what we are. 

The fact that the gardening 'party,' and I am sure there was vigorous enjoyment of the 'laying waste' to leaf and branch, should so reduce my garden when they have not done so in any of the three other gardens in the complex, is also a message that one has happened has meaning beyond mere twig and leaf.

 I can only hope that the savage cutting has not taken the plants back to such a vulnerable state they cannot recover.  But perhaps that too is a message; that we can be 'cut back',  we can be 'reduced' to the 'stump' of ourselves; we can be 'laid painfully bare' and yet we will recover. Although it is a reality, that some do not, whether plant or person.

'It  will grow back,' the head gardener said when he came to inspect the devastation. 'When the rains come it will grow fast.'

And the rains will come in a month or two for windy days and overcast skies portend the return of the wet season. I wonder if those rains equate with the tears shed in recent months and if it is tears, the 'rain' of our soul, which waters, nourishes and restores. I am sure it is.

And if so then I have had and at times continue to have, to a lesser degree, my own 'wet season' of mammoth proportions. And that means my 'growth' will be fast and it will be strong.

With plant as with person, the ability to withstand such 'attacks' will be sourced in how strong and stable our root system is; how well we are connected with the earth. In mystical tradition being 'cut back' is something which is required if we are to be well shaped, true-formed and vigorous. In the alchemical tradition it is about being reduced to the dross of Self; being burned black before we can become bright once more.

Gardening is so symbolic of a spiritual life and even here, when it would be a stretch of credulity to call the pruning, gardening, it is a reminder that even when things are done in ignorance; even when we are damaged or almost destroyed, we can still 'grow back' and blossom.

I believe that to be true of the plants in my garden and I know it to be true of myself for I have been 'cut back' before and no doubt will be again.

And perhaps in a personal sense, it is more important to be 'trimmed back' regularly so we may remember our inner 'shape' and learn to trust the process of 'healing', for that is what new growth is. We are formed and shaped by such prunings and perhaps they come in savage form when we have not taken the time to do it ourselves. 

Love sends 'shoots' bright-green from the most mutilated 'twigs' of self. My garden will rise again from the dust  and cut of suffering and so too shall I for that is the nature of life.

Monday, 29 August 2011

Is there such a thing as unconditional Love?

If love is unconditional acceptance,without judgement or demands, then how do we establish boundaries, standards or civilization?

How do we teach our children if we do not make judgements, have demands, establish boundaries and set standards? And if we are to enable our children to learn, even if we choose not to teach, then we must establish through our actions boundaries and standards and that requires judgement and demands.

Learning to talk, walk, become toilet trained, write, read, eat with a knife and fork, clean up after yourself, make your bed, tidy your toys..... all of these things require demands from parents and the establishment of boundaries and standards. One could argue about those boundaries and standards but whether minimum or maximum they will exist, they must exist.

As human beings we learn to be functional, productive, loving members of society by taking into account the feelings and needs of others. Interestingly those who give the most in this way are also going to be healthy as studies show. We are hard-wired it seems to be kind, considerate and helpful.

And yet, to be any of those things we have to be aware and respectful of boundaries and standards. There are quite simply things which a civilized society rejects. We are called to control our anger and not to take it out on others; to apologise when we have hurt others; to respect other people's possessions; to be mindful of the needs others might have for space or privacy;  to be grateful when things are done for us or given to us; to remember things which are important to people like birthdays, Mother's Day, Father's Day, Christmas and any significant family anniversaries.

All of these things amount to standards and boundaries and are in essence rules. There is no absolute freedom in any relationship or in any society because that would create chaos if not anarchy. As human beings we have no choice but to establish and abide by certain codes of behaviur.

Those who do not generally have few friends, limited family contact and lonely lives. Instinctively we know this and that is why we respect those rules, as they function in our culture. When we live in another culture it behoves us to learn the rules of that society and to respect them.

All of which means there is no loving relationship without some sort of rules of behaviour.

Which begins to suggest that there is no such thing as unconditional love and perhaps it is our misunderstanding of what Love is which creates such confusion. When someone treats us rudely, meanly, unkindly, discourteously or without consideration we have the right to state our needs and to tell them how we feel. And in the doing, even if it is done with compassion and an attempt to understand the woundedness which makes them what they are, we are establishing boundaries and standards and we are making demands.

Just because someone is damaged or wounded it does not give them the right to inflict wounds or damage on others and that means, at some point we must take action or speak out, or both, to show them that some things are simply not acceptable in a courteous, civilized world.

One could argue that 'courteous' to some degree is in the eye of the beholder. Indians for instance do not have a word for thankyou in Hindi and yet they have standards of courtesy that we do not understand. One of the first things we do in the West is teach children to say please and thankyou. And this is because they are not just words, they are indicators of consideration, of courtesy and because they are not necessary in terms of understanding, they are symbolic of consideration.

Small children are often naturally kind but they easily become distracted and have to learn to be considerate of others. Most children learn this but clearly some because of nature or circumstance are better than others at mastering this skill; for it is a skill.

Some people grow up to be more considerate than others but most have a reasonable level of courtesy which is automatically a part of who and what they are. But some do not.

My mother was like that and I have met others like her, people who have an almost total obsession with and focus on Self. It is as if to consider the needs, feelings or circumstances of others is too terrifying to comprehend and so there is no consideration given .... all thought, all action, all focus is turned toward the needs of Self.

It is hard to live with people like this because, as I discovered with my mother over many years, it is actually impossible for them to change or to understand how selfish and inconsiderate they are. No doubt to see the impact of their own actions would imply some responsibility which in turn would suggest some need to change and change is something they cannot countenance.

So what do you do with such people if you must interact with them? If they are friends or acquaintances you can choose to see little or nothing of them but if they are family that is not possible. And few of us are saints and will tolerate such behaviour without question.

I would just say if you have difficulty with a person and you are the only one who does, there is a good chance that the problem lies more with you than them. But if you are one of a few or even many who experience the same difficulties, as clearly happened with my mother and with others in my life, then it is clear that you are dealing with someone who is deeply wounded if not irrevocably damaged and you have to find a way to work with them as a part of your life.

In reality the only person we can change is ourselves but generally when we do that, others around us will change.... not so with those who are emotionally and psychologically damaged. All you can do is work to the best of your ability to keep your relationship with them civil and hopefully harmonious. And there are a few guidelines which can help you to do that.

First of all, hard as it is to do, it is important not to take it personally but to see the insensitivity, rudeness and lack of consideration as arising from their woundedness rather than anything you or someone else might do.

The second thing is to establish boundaries and standards which you clearly articulate as and when it is needed without actually demanding that they change.... you merely deal with the situation at hand. This may require limiting interaction to some degree in order to keep the relationship civil, if not bearable.

And the third thing is to use them as a teacher to become more aware of your own thoughts, actions, reactions and responses and your ability to live through any interaction with compassion and with love.

It can be a tall order but if you can remember not to take it personally and to establish boundaries based on courtesy, grace and kindness you can make the unworkable, workable.

I suppose in a way it is tough love. It is also pragmatism and making the best of the bit you are in. I know with my mother I reached a better place once I stopped needing her to be other. She was trapped in her woundedness and the only thing I could decide was how much time I needed to spend with her and how that time would be spent.

Sometimes you just have to do the right thing, the courteous, considerate thing, but you don't have to do any more than that.

Saturday, 13 August 2011

Spiritual questions of life and death

The Ides of August or the Winter of my Discontent or just a time of Grief!

There are times when the challenges rise up around us and when so many things are happening at the same time we begin to wonder if we have offended the Gods. 

I am more likely to put it down to astrological influences and the Soul demanding that inner work be done now. I do believe that what appears in our outer world reflects what is going on in our inner world. But that does not necessarily make the process of pain any easier. 

The first week of August, barely a month before I was born, and I remind myself I was three weeks late, does seem to be a 'time of challenge' for me. August 3 marked the 31st anniversary of my father's death; August 5 marked the ninth anniversary of my father-in-law's death and on August 8, a friend, mother figure and mentor of some 45 years died.

 My father-in-law, Roy, whom I adored and who was mother and father to me and even more special on that count because of the difficult and complex relationships I had with my own wounded parents, died on a Monday and was buried on the Friday. Sadly we were flying back from Africa on the day he died and our children were not able to attend the funeral so it was an even more demanding day for Greg and I. Maxine, who was the mother of one of my oldest and dearest friends and who yet, while often mothering me became one of my best friends and one to whom I could at times offer mothering, died on a Monday and was buried on the Friday.

And all of this happened at a time when Greg and I were separated because he was caught up with work in Africa and I was here caught up with work sorting family and watching their struggles and pain and feeling helpless, powerless and confused in the face of it. A bit like our response to death I guess but then any change is also a 'death' and involves grieving. So perhaps it was not so much a winter of discontent as one of grieving; or perhaps it was and is both.

There is one sure thing in life and that is Spring will always follow Winter; beyond the darkness, ice and death there is new life and fresh becoming. Hecate is the Goddess who tends to us at such times and she is a mighty force who protects but does not hide; who supports but does not carry and who tends but does not enable. 

I think and feel that death is confusing because we don't want to believe in it. Things do end and things are destroyed but in truth, there can only be new beginnings if this happens. But sometimes things end irrevocably, as they have with the death of Maxine because with her passing also comes the end of an era. Her home, which she shared with her husband Bill until his death two years ago was an extra 'family' home for Greg and I for 45 years. With both of them gone it will be sold and there will be no more 'dropping in' for a chat, a drink, a comfort at Pine Avenue.

Such finality is even more absolute than the finality of death. All gone, in what seems an instant. Death is so final but when something material like a home goes at the same time, it is an even greater shock. Of course there were slow signs that this way of life was ending, would end, but there is nothing like reality to provide the greater shock. At the wake I stood and looked at the slightly dishevelled garden and it was a sign that things were being allowed to pass; a letting go.

I watched Maxine's coffin lowered into the earth, as I had watched my mother's.... I was not there for my father's funeral and Roy was cremated so a small curtain closed at the end of his ceremony. We did however scatter his ashes a year later, in Spencer's Gulf, as he had requested. And in that lowering, that passing of timber and flowers into cold, wet, tumbled earth there was and is the sense of emptiness, of pointlessness, of how, so suddenly, it all comes to nothing. It is then that we so dearly want and need to believe there is something beyond this world, there is a point to this world and it is then so very, very hard to hold to that belief.

The birds were riotous in that moment; lorikeets, galahs and parakeets jostling in the nearby eucalypts. It wasn't a bad day for a funeral given that it is winter. The sun shone a little, the clouds edged aside to reveal a glorious blue and the winds were stilled. It could have been even more bleak; grey, wet, windy and freezing. But it wasn't.

It was the music which made us all cry, even sob.  It is always the music which touches our very heart and soul. It is said that the universe is made of music, of sound, of holy notes and I can believe that. Music touches us like no other. Many cried during the service and most cried as we stood on the artificial grass at the graveside. It is strange that grass, so green, so plastic, so unreal as if to pretend this is a pretty, easy thing. The flowers, the music, the false grass, the soft words are all there to help us pretend it isn't real..... her body is not in that coffin being lowered into the cold ground; dressed in her best as the physical decay begins to seep and stain .... that she is not dead.

I can tell myself that it is only the body, that the real Spirit, Soul, Self of Maxine is not in there and I can believe it but the truth is that it was her body which warmed and hugged and held and laughed and cried and talked and was and that is absolutely gone. At least for me and those who loved her in this world.

I remember when my father-in-law died, for I loved him dearly and missed him the most, thinking that I just wanted one more hug - a hug from someone with skin on! Any dream appearance or apparition would not be the same as that big, warm, flesh-full, human, living hug.

And when we look into the face of death it is not just past losses which scramble for attention, but future ones which lurk and taunt; the utter awfulness of losing someone even closer like a husband, a child, a sibling.  I am sure it is why so many go into shock at such times; there are realities too awful to bear. It is then, I believe that Hecate, with her black compassion, draws down the shades upon true consciousness.

But there it is and now, after 13 hours sleep and days if not weeks of tears and grief, I am ready to move on, back into life. Until the next time. And that may be a small 'death' or a big one; an emotional death or a physical; a literal or a metaphorical but return I will, as we all do, because loss and grief and death is an intrinsic part of life and of being human.

We cannot escape and we are not meant to no matter how much we may wish we could. We can only embrace life, ensuring our craft is sound and our sails are strong and learning, all the time, to navigate the calm waters and the chaotic. And even as I write this I know I am using images and symbols to describe the indescribable; to distance myself from the reality of what is the worst of times.

But sometimes it helps to see things symbolically, to look at the outer experience and events and to interpret them symbolically for that will show what is at work within. My outer world has reflected back to me issues of loss, abandonment, rejection, powerlessness and helplessness, all of which are sourced I am sure in my Karmic lesson which began when I was hospitalised near death at the age of one and did not see my parents until I had recovered. That was how they did it in those days.

It was 1950 and there was little or no comprehension of bonding, nor the trauma experienced by a child in such a situation. It wasn't her fault, it wasn't really anyone's fault; it was just the way it was. But I am sure the child had no-one to blame but her parents. At such times small children are faced with the most awful of choices; to survive they have to rely on their own power.

Was it one week or two? It doesn't really matter, the sense of abandonment, rejection, powerlessness, loss and helplessness must have been enormous and created, as it does in young children, a feeling of being unworthy, undeserving of love and unwanted.  Such responses have been studied in children and babies in orphanages and clearly show two instinctive responses; surrender which often brings death, or the will to fight and to live which often means the child separates from the unbearable pain and develops, along with the determination to survive, a determination never to be hurt in such a way again - a determination to control his or her world.

My mother told me I was standing in the cot eating a banana when she walked in to get me. She said I looked at her as if I did not know her. I am sure I never expected to see her again. I am also sure it was a ripe banana, probably very ripe and I have always loathed the smell of them. 

And yet again, when I was nine my mother disappeared again - this time into a madness from which she did not return, except in physical form. It was only as an adult that I realised my mother died when I was nine for the woman who returned to take her place, some three years or so later, was not the mother who had left. Yet more loss, more death, more grief and more desire to control.

And therein lies the impossible dream for this world cannot be controlled and Death laughs hardest in the face of such fantasies. Grief is in essence a working through of all such responses and feelings, to greater and lesser degrees depending on one's woundedness; depending upon how solid is the emotional foundation on which we stand. When we are wounded or damaged as children, because so much is subconscious, it is that much harder to do the repair work which is necessary and so it is a process of repair and restoration which takes place with every loss; with every time of grieving.

The work must be done. It is as simple as that and if we do not go willingly to the work it will come to us. I thought I had but perhaps not enough. We are good at hiding the truth of ourselves from our consciousness; some of us are masters of the art. That too was a part of the survival process.

There is a saying: 'Those who will the Fates guide; those who won't the Fates drag! When Death appears, most of us are dragged.

Grief is at times a desperate, drenching process but it is, after all, Life and without Death we would never appreciate Life in the way that we do. Perhaps that is the sole lesson of this world!

Saturday, 25 June 2011

There is no path, there is only life....

 There is no denying that choosing to find or walk a spiritual path through life is rewarding and perhaps the only way we begin to live a spiritual life, but in truth, there is only life and there is no path for that suggests that either side of the path is something which is non-spiritual and that cannot be. All was and is one and is connected.

It is the connected nature of our world which is so evident, when we choose to look, either as an individual or as a scientist, or as anyone who wants to know how and why this world works as it does. Everything happens for a reason and every single act or thought has an impact whether we know it or not - just as the Butterfly Effect attests.

This famous 'story' suggests that a butterfly flapping its wings in South America can affect the weather across the world. No doubt, like many things, it is a simplistic scenario which should be taken metaphorically more than literally but there is no doubt that in a world of energy exchange, for that is what this world is and that is what we are, every exchange of energy has an impact beyond what we may perceive or realise.

Nothing happens in a vacuum; everything affects everything else. A relationship exists because two or more people are involved and each contributes to the reality and function of that relationship. One could argue the same applies to the relationships we have within between the differing aspects of Self. Every decision we make, every thought we have, every act we carry out has an effect on ourselves and on others.

I have personally experienced the power of changing myself and then seeing my partner and my relationship change. In fact it was only when I realised that the only thing I could change was myself and that if I wanted my life to change and my relationship to be other than it was then the work had to be done on me. I was as surprised as anyone when I saw that as I changed, my husband and our relationship changed.... fortunately for the better although that is never a given. Whenever we seek change, even in ourselves, there is a chance that a relationship will not endure because it no longer works for those who share the relationship with us.

It is the understanding of that connectedness which enables us to make the greatest changes in ourselves and our lives. In truth, while many people believe, as so often demonstrated, that it is Love which is the greatest power in the world, many do not also recognise that Love is the absolute in connectedness. The opposites are in fact Love and Fear. Love is always embracing, connecting, sharing, accepting and opening to all things while Fear is rejecting, separating, demanding, judging and closing to many things.

When we operate from a place of Love we fear nothing because we reject nothing and we know that we are connected to everything and everything is connected to us. When we operate from a place of Fear we love nothing because we see ourselves as separate, endangered, vulnerable, and needing protection.

Love possesses the power that it does because it reflects most completely the underlying source, power and energy of this world and it is therefore most in harmony with all that is. It is most in harmony with what we call God. We can only experience Fear when we see ourselves as separate, as 'other', as isolated and therefore vulnerable. There can be no fear when we are living Love because we are always and utterly connected and therefore accepted, supported and validated.

And if the greatest power is Love and there is something to which we give the name of God as being all that is, the source, foundation and being of everything, including ourselves then all is One and all is God and all is as it should be.

In this world of ours, if we see it as a spiritual experience then every single thing is God and is spiritual. A path is something which leads somewhere but it also exists to divide and separate from that which is on either side and if God exists, and I happen to believe S/HE does, then everything is God and we are not material beings having a spiritual experience but we are spiritual beings having a material experience.

And, by the very nature of such a God, this material world is an expression of God, a spiritual expression, made manifest in matter. The stuff of which we and all things are made is conscious energy and that energy differs only in the speed at which it vibrates. This material world vibrates more slowly than the world beyond this which we call Death and no doubt it vibrates differently to the countless other worlds which must exist. But it is all God; it is all sourced in the same energy expression.

When we can see the world like this, as one, as absolute connectedness, as a perfect, material expression of that which we call God, we are then unable to see ourselves as separate, to see things as other, as divided into spiritual and not spiritual and at that point there is no Path, there is only Life.

All spiritual teachings urge us toward connectedness and counsel against seeing ourselves as separate in any way from this world and everyone and everything in it. It is in becoming one, or becoming conscious that we are at one with all that is, that we are not separate but connected, that we find God and our place in this magical and challenging world.

In ancient times it was believed that the world was like a web and the Goddess sat spinning, this world and everything in it, including us and our lives. Quantum physics allows us to see this world like a net where energy expressions emerge and fall back in an ever-constant play of life upon the cosmic web. When you see yourself as an energy expression emerging from a web of energy there is no way you can see yourself as separate for the energy which creates you connects you to everyone and everything else in this world and beyond.

Visualize a net, a fishing net or a cobweb, it doesn't matter, and then see this as the universe with everything from worlds to whales emerging from that net of energy or consciousness. We can never not be connected except in our minds. We can never fall because there is nowhere to fall. We are inexorably, in the net and of the net and from the net of cosmic consciousness which we call God.

In essence the spiritual path is a process, a practise, a structure which takes us to the place where we realise it is only that. It is not who we are nor is it who we need to be indefinitely. It is a bit like therapy where you can gain insight and grow emotionally and psychologically within the therapeutic structure but the goal is to move beyond it; to realise it was merely a support you needed for a time but something which must ultimately be found to be unnecessary and if retained too long, a hindrance.

In this instance, unlike the journey to Ithaca where it is the journey which matters and not the destination, it is the destination which matters and not the journey. It is understanding that the journey and the destination are one which makes for a truly spiritual life.

Unless the spiritual path leads you to a realisation that you do not need the path, nor the concept of the path, but that it is a spiritual life which is what matters and that you are that life, then you will always remain separated, held to a narrow path where you may look back, forward and to either side but without the sense of connectedness which true spirituality bestows.

It is in knowing yourself as a spiritual being having a material experience in a world which is a part of all that is that you find all that you will ever need and all that you will ever be. We are God and God is us and every atom of this world is a spiritual expression of God. God creates us and we create God in a wonderful web woven throughout time in a perfect expression of Now!

It is at times like this that I wish there were another word for God because these three letters conjure up such fixed images and have such connotations that they obscure the very reality of what could or must be 'God.' God is the consciousness, the energy which is all things.... you, me, the web, a grain of sand, a planet, a spider, a breath..... All that is is all that is and within that 'All' is everything which has mattered, does matter and will ever matter in this world of Matter.

Everything is One; Everything is Now; Everything is God. And this God need have nothing to do with any religion. In fact, God often has nothing to do with religion because religions are, in the main, man-made and seek to limit and confine God as an instrument of power. God was, is and always will be far, far more than anything a few words, a book, a set of rules or a system could ever describe or explain.

The Tenth and final lesson on the spiritual path is that there is no path, there is only life.

Wednesday, 11 May 2011

There is far more to this world than meets the eye or the I.

Energy follows thought and where we put our focus is where our energy goes. When we consciously focus our vision that energised thought becomes even more powerful.

We have a choice about where we put the focus of our vision and I am not suggesting that everyone should or could or needs to put it in the same place, but I do believe it is something worth thinking about.

All too often we don't question what our view of the world is or why we have it. Such things are often absorbed, like 'ink' on blotting paper, through family, friends, society, religion or culture and we 'see' through them to a world of our own creation and interpretation.

It's a Rorschach world out there! Just as the famous psychological test reveals perceptions and beliefs, conscious and often unconscious, so too is the world we see and experience the result of our perceptions and beliefs.

Perhaps the truest words ever spoken are: All is perception. And what you perceive is sourced in what you believe and what you believe is mostly what you have learned, by omission or commission, and often not what you would choose.

So what does it mean to say that you take a spiritual view of the world? It means that you see the world as something far more complex than what is available to the five senses. It means you see, or seek, a greater purpose in all that happens and divine a meaningfulness to all that you experience.

It means you are open to everything and all possibilities as part of the rich fabric of this world and your life.

What it does, I believe, is to make life more meaningful, more substantial and more purposeful and it is meaning and purpose which human beings seem to need for their survival more than anything else. That and relationship. It also broadens your horizons and possibilities and that of the world, beyond imagining or perhaps because of being able to imagine or accept that there is far, far more to this experience, this life or this world than 'meets the eye' or the I. There is so much we do not see because we take a limited, materialistic vision of this world.
If one takes a spiritual view of this world, or rather, approaches life with a spiritual focus or vision then it does change things dramatically and for the better. Although 'better' is a subjective description.  A better way to put it, perhaps,  is to say that a spiritual view of this world is richer, deeper, higher, wider and far more wonderful than any other.

And let's be clear, taking a spiritual view of the world has nothing to do with religion. Religion can of course be a part of it but it does not need to be and in fact, religious belief and religions systems often limit our ability to see the world through spiritually focussed eyes. And that is because all systems are about rules and paradigms and structures and religion is no different.

Anything which has rules has limits. That is not to say there is not a place for rules in this material world because there is. They are in fact vital to the maintenance of an ordered world: but that is where they should stay, in the material world.

The spiritual world by its nature does not have and does not need rules because it is not a literal thing but a way of 'seeing' and experiencing. It is not a system nor a paradigm; it is a state of mind.  A spiritual view of the world is open to everything - we disbelieve nothing - and that doesn't mean we believe everything, it just means we reject nothing because everything is possible.

A spiritual world is a resource we can mine to gain greater understanding of this material world, our material selves and everything else. It is infinite, without limits and without rules. It is about being open to all that is and seeing all that is, no matter how traumatic, challenging, painful or shocking, as a part of something greater.

Seeing the world through spiritual eyes does not make life easier, but it does make it richer. It does not make you safer, but you will probably feel 'safer' because in a spiritual world there is no safe place which means there is no dangerous place - there just is the experience.

Seeing the world through spiritual eyes will not necessarily make you wiser or smarter, but it will make you more content; with yourself, with others and with the world. The thing about seeing through spiritual eyes ... which is about what walking a spiritual path is ...will be a clearer focus on how perfect, meaningful, wondrous and magical this world is. And how perfect you are.

When you see through spiritual eyes there is no right or wrong; good or evil; black or white; right or wrong ... there is just the experience and the challenge to find meaning, purpose and fulfillment in everything you experience. In truth, a spiritual life is not a life, it is a succession of moments; a continuous state of being in a Now which is as perfect as it is as you are and always were.

There is no right or wrong way and not everyone is called to walk a spiritual path or to see the world through spiritual eyes... but many are and even more do not know it.  And when you see the world through spiritual eyes you don't leave your material focus behind, you take it with you. It's a vital tool, like the ego, in functioning in this world... but it is just a tool.

The problem with seeing the world through material eyes is that it makes it impossible to also see it through spiritual eyes. The material paradigm which came to us courtesy of Newtonian/Cartesian beliefs has no place, no room and no time for the spiritual.

But the spiritual view of life is more than happy to spend time with the material ... in fact it welcomes it, because, the spiritual view of life embraces and incorporates everything, including the material.

The easiest way to find out if 'seeing through spiritual eyes' is for you is to spend a week, making a focussed effort, to see everything and everyone through a spiritual focus and see how it makes you feel. If it doesn't make you feel any better then you are absolutely fine as you are and should trust your own view of the world as the right one for you.

But if it does make you feel 'better', as in calmer, more content, more compassionate, more loving, more fulfilled, then it's a sign that you are meant to see the world through spiritual eyes and it is time to begin to learn to do just that.

The Ninth Lesson on the Spiritual Path is: Choose how you see the world.



Saturday, 9 April 2011

The way of words

Words are such inadequate vehicles of expression in many ways, but they are all we have. However, while Words may not always convey what we want them to, they will always convey something ... words have power.  Being aware of the power of words, to hurt or to heal is important.

Energy follows thought and words are thoughts made manifest; a process of creation in this material world as well as the etheric. We don't think enough about the words we use.

Actually, most of the time, we don't think at all about the words we use...they just appear... floated, exploded, directed, displayed, offered, gifted, whispered, murmured, screamed, shouted ... words have their way in our world. 

And every word will, to lesser and greater degrees, have the capacity to create a thought, a feeling, an act in the form of response, and an etheric form. Thoughts expressed powerfully and constantly take on their own life and their own shape even though we may not know it.

Those who are sensitive 'pick up' not just the feelings of others but their thoughts as well. Highly sensitive people who have been traumatised in such a way that their protective energy shield is wounded can pick up so many thoughts and feelings that they become disoriented at best and insane at worst. Bombarded by thoughts, energy forms, feelings and spoken words, can be more than some can bear.

It is important to be aware of not just what you are feeling but what you are thinking and what you are saying because all of this is being shared with everyone around you that you don't know and everyone you love, wherever they are.

The saying, 'what you give out is what you give back' reflects the boomerang nature of thought. Your thoughts are not your own; they belong to everyone because we are all manifestations, or expressions, of the same field of life and what you think, you are, and what you are, is shared. We are all one.

I am sure there is some flexibility in this cosmic consciousness of which we are participator and also creator, otherwise there would be chaos.... all those undisciplined thoughts and feelings would drown each and every one of us. We are equipped with filters so not everything gets in but it exists as part of the cosmic soup all the same.

Becoming aware is the first step to becoming mindful of what we think and what we say and in the doing we learn mastery of Self which makes us conscious co-creators and participators who can choose what we offer to ourselves and to others.

The words are powerful forces and we should use them wisely, carefully and mindfully. There's a reason why religions often taught that the 'name' of God could not be spoken and that is because the ancients recognised the power of words.

The Eighth Lesson on the Spiritual Path is: Words are power, use them well.

Saturday, 12 February 2011

A conversation with fear

So, here you are again my friend, my companion, my teacher, my guide, my nemesis. Did you ever leave? Probably not. How many conversations have we had? Too many? Not enough? Do they ever stop?
I think from the first breath I swallowed Fear. Watching, waiting, biding.

With Saturn in the Eighth House, sitting on top of my Sun Sign in Virgo there was probably little chance I would live a life free of fear. Saturn is the fear-master; the symbol of death although Pluto is often far more fearful and death-bringing. But Fear is part and parcel of the Saturn energy and here you are, here you have always been. Does it mean you will stay?

No, comes the word in my mind. When the lesson is learned there will be no fear.

Is being in a state of no fear the same as being fearless or without fear?

Yes and No comes the answer. The key to Fear is to observe it but not be it; to see it but not run from it; to feel it but not be consumed by it; to accept that it just is what it is.

More easily said than done I reply, to Fear or to Saturn or to God or to my Guardian Angel or to whatever consciousness is talking to me, in me and through me. Or even to me if I am talking to myself. Maybe I need a good talking to.

It is meant to be, comes the reply. If it were easy it would not achieve. Nothing happens without effort; nothing is gained without practice. To practise, in the face of fearful situations, feelings or thoughts to be without Fear is to learn not just mastery of Self but mastery of Fear. When we master Fear we master everything for Fear is the greatest test of all. When there is nothing that you Fear you are liberated. You need nothing, you demand nothing, you Fear nothing, not even Fear itself.

So, it is all happening for a reason, I ask.

Absolutely, comes the reply.

Well, that makes me feel better, I respond, not really believing what I am saying.

You don't have to believe it; you just have to be it. Believe has Be It contained within. It also has Live.

It also has evil!

Of course it does, for evil is no more than Live turned backwards; life not lived as it should be lived is evil. In essence evil is no more than ignorance.

But not everyone lives a life where Fear is such a presence.

Not everyone has the same lessons to learn. You are judging it as a negative when in fact it is a gift which is invaluable on the path to Self Mastery and spiritual power.

Are you saying this is the only way to learn those things to become those things?

No, it is just the way for you and some others to do it.

I am not sure if that makes me feel better.

It is not meant to, it just is. You are choosing how you define Fear and what it means to you. You can choose to change that.

Yes, I do know that the physiological response for Fear is the same as that for Excitement. All that is different is perception and interpretation.


But fear must serve a purpose; adrenaline boost and all that.

Except you have just said that excitement does the same thing.

I think I would find it hard to be excited coming face to face with a lion or a car on the wrong side of the road.

That is your choice. At such times of true danger, other responses kick in. Most Fear and all of yours is about things which have not happened and probably will never happen. It is Maybe Fear! Fearing something which is pure imagining serves no purpose.

You just said it did. This is my lesson.

But you may choose to complete the lesson at any time. You are producing the imagined fears because you need to learn.

That sounds far too simple.

Things usually are. People make things complex by what they choose to believe.

I think I have said that more than once. How much easier it is to say things to others than to one's self.

There is no point giving advice if you have not used it yourself. It is the experience which makes it manifest.

I feel I have learned almost nothing when it comes to Fear.

You don't really believe that. You have come a long way but what you want is not Self Mastery of Fear but for someone to take Fear away completely. That won't happen. It can't happen. You may have been born with more hard-wiring for Fear than others but you are the only one who can master Fear and live a life without fear.

And it's not about unresolves traumas in the past? I don't have to find things which happened and understand the programming?

Such things are useful in terms of understanding how you have become who you are but as you know, understanding does not necessarily change anything.

What about re-programming, there are a few methods for that?

It can work but you don't believe in it so it won't work for you.

What about hypnosis, therapy, acupuncture, past life regression?

They can all help and for some they cure but not for you. But you know that.

Yes, I do and I have tried some of them. Which leaves God just taking it all away. Gone in an instant.... I know, that works for some but not for me.

Know yourself. Be true to yourself. Walk your Path to become all that you are meant to be. You have a particular lesson to learn here but there is no-one on this earth who lives without Fear and most live with a great deal of it most of the time. Mastering Fear would take humanity on a huge leap forward.

But that sounds so trite. There is a circular feeling to all of this. Around and around and around. How many years spent observing Fear while flying, driving in fast cars or crazy freeways, being on or in the ocean or deep water, becoming unwell or thinking about illness and not a lot seems to change.

You are no longer the feelings. You have gained great wisdom and self mastery when feeling Fear.

Yes, but.....there must be reasons why I am not comfortable flying, driving in fast cars etc. etc. all through the Fear Trigger List?

There are, but that is not the point. You know most of the reasons and have guessed the rest. It hasn't changed much. The change has come through the work, through the practice of observing from a calm place. I know, you just want to never feel Fear again and I have to tell you that will not happen. What will happen and where the Path will take you is to a place where you have no Fear of feeling Fear and the nature of Fear will have changed.  But mostly, you will not Fear thoughts or feelings which you call fearful. That is the only place to find peace of mind. The place where you are completely at peace with all you think, do, experience and feel.

God it's hard .... but I know what you mean. I stopped having anxiety attacks when I stopped being frightened of them; I stopped getting profoundly depressed when I stopped being frightened of feeling depressed.

It is harder than it needs to be. Greet Fear as a welcome friend every time and you will lose your Fear of Fear which means you will live a life which is without Fear. Feelings are feelings; words are interpretations. Words lock feelings into the negative or the positive. You choose the words you use and you choose what those words mean. Change the word or the meaning and you change what you experience.

But at the start of all this you said I would reach a place without Fear. This sounds like there is still Fear but I don't mind.

If you don't Mind it doesn't Matter. You have said that. What you Fear is a certain kind of Fear. That is the Fear which will pass. Changing your words and interpretations will change the nature of  the experience and the Fear that you Fear will be no more.

Believe in the purpose of things and trust the process?

What other choice is there?

I am sure there are plenty including Drugs, Denial and Distraction.

You have tried all of those and you know they don't work.

I thought I tried embracing Fear as a friend?

It remained a Friend you Feared. It's easy to do work in your head, all that Aquarian energy in your Moon and Rising sign, but the real work is experiential... it is practised, not thought about, talked about or reduced to words. It is physical practice.

I am clearly a slow learner.

But at least you learn. Slow and steady wins the race but of course, this is not a race. There is no contest here, just you grappling with aspects of Self to become who you are and who you want to be.

I'm not sure talking to myself or thinking Fear is talking to me is going to get me far.

You didn't listen. The way is not of words or talking, the way forward is through doing and being as you practise what you preach.

Ouch, that felt and sounded like a dig.

It was a reminder. Easy answers are not answers they are distractions. They take your mind off the job and make you think you feel better but the work remains. Practise, practise, practise. No mastery of anything is possible without practice. Whether it be a sport, a musical instrument, artistic expression, language... whatever, no skill is mastered without practice. Mastery of Self is no different. Why would it be?

Good question. I don't feel I have learned anything I didn't know.

You haven't. That's the point. You know what needs to be done so stop looking for ways to avoid doing it. Just do it; be it. Live it don't talk it.

The seventh lesson on the spiritual path is Live it don't just talk it.


Friday, 28 January 2011

Everything matters and nothing matters

One of the hardest things to learn is to just 'be.' That means no demands. Not even living a spiritual life; no demands, expectations, wants, desires, needs or goals. Just learning to be is something that we all need to do some of the time and most of us more of the time.

In truth, there is nothing other than just being. We only ever 'be' because we only ever 'are' it is just that it all gets whirled together into a maelstrom of demands, expectation, wants, desires, needs or goals. All of these things will create dissatisfaction with what and who you are and where you are.

Just being means accepting that everything matters and nothing matters. And that just means that whatever you are at any point in time is absolutely perfect; it matters and it doesn't matter. It matters because everything you experience is a part of your life and it doesn't matter because it doesn't commit or condemn you to anything in particular.

This world is what it is. We are what we are and if there is point and purpose to this life, what we are is just fine. That is not to say we will not be different tomorrow, or next week or next year and that difference may manifest as more fulfilling, more rewarding, more loving and more insightful but the reality is what we are, just now, is perfect. Take a moment to think about that. If what you are in this moment is perfect then there really is nothing to worry about. Worries are always about the future or the past; always about expectations, needs, desires, demands and goals. Peace of mind comes with the realisation that everything is just as it should be.

In the words of Hildegarde of Bingen: 'All is well and all is well and all manner of things are well.' That may be slightly paraphrased but it doesn't matter. It is the gist of what she was trying to say. That it doesn't matter what is; it is all fine, it is all well, it was all well and it will be all well.

It is a useful little phrase if you are feeling troubled. Somehow just repeating it is relaxing. It fits with the Let Go; Let God philosophy but is more neutral. God in a way is also a desire, a need, an expectation, a demand and perhaps a goal and all of those things create dissatisfaction with the now and draw us out of the Moment.

We will never understand everything and there are times when we should stop trying to understand. Trying to understand is another form of 'control.' When we can 'name' something or 'place' something it creates the illusion of being in control. In such a place we are very busy 'doing' whether mentally or physically and we are not experiencing our own 'beingness.'

In just 'being' is a level of calm acceptance. What is, is and will be until it no longer is. It reminds me of the line in the movie Zulu, when a very frightened young soldier says to his wise, solid and pragmatic (and possibly equally scared) Sergeant: 'Why me?'  The reply is equally simple: ' Because you're ere lad, because you're ere!' In other words there is no answer to the Why beyond the fact that it is what it is because it just is.

You are here and everything matters in that it all serves a point and a purpose, albeit one you may not understand, and nothing matters because it is all just part of a process of living your life. There are no mistakes, no wrong turnings, no errors.... just different paths, different opportunities and different ways to be.

It may all sound like waffle and perhaps it is because words are also a way to 'control' and 'order' our world,  but learning to 'just be' with absolute acceptance of what is brings you immediately into the Now and it also brings peace of mind. So often our lives are much harder than they need to be because we keep trying to hold on, trying to control, trying to do, trying to create, demand, expect and maintaining desires. That is not to say such things do not have a place because they do; but not all of the time.

Sometimes we don't want to think anything, do anything, follow anything, strive for anything or be anything in particular. I suspect that at a subconscious level people find ways to 'give up the burden of the desire for control' by 'creating' situations where they can hand it to someone else. Becoming ill, losing your job, becoming dependent in some way are all 'opportunities' to 'just be' by handing control over to someone else. But it does not have to be that way if we consciously recognise that we are not in control, we do not need to be in control and neither do we need anyone else to be in control. There is no real control; everything matters and nothing matters. It all just is because it is!

Letting go, letting things be, allowing yourself to 'be' gives 'time-out,' or a 'rest' from the demands of this world and this life. That time allows body, mind, soul and spirit to recuperate and, very often, to do what they are meant to be doing without interference from us, whether unconscious or conscious. We are so busy 'watching', demanding, expecting, needing and desiring that we often interfere with the otherwise seamless running of our body and mind. One presumes the Soul and Spirit can over-ride a lot of it but there is no doubt that body and mind need to rest at times.

In some ways we have lost the art of daydreaming or reverie. Our lives are too busy and the demands are too great. Even living a spiritual life is a demand and practising meditation can become more burden than joy because it too is a demand. I am sure meditation is important for many, crucial for some and good for body, mind and Soul but I find it hard to believe that human beings were created in such a way that without meditation they could not be spiritually fulfilled or developed.

That is just another expectation; demand. It does not make sense. Meditation, prayer and many of the religious and spiritual rituals which are used are simply methods which help some people, not all, to make a spiritual connection. Others do it through their lives; through their work, through gardening, caring for their children, cooking, painting or just being.

If seeking to live a spiritual life feels like a burden then give it up. Take time out. Days, weeks, months, years or forever. Anything which becomes burdensome is doing so because desire has turned into a need to control. It is the need for an outcome which reflects the underlying need to control. The spiritual path has then become just a 'tool' to be used to create an outcome. It is not meant to be a tool but an experience and an experience which is not controlled.

And in truth, so much that happens is beyond our control. Events often do dictate where we go, when we go, how we go, if we go, what we do, what we say, what we experience, what we think, what we feel and who and what we are. There is no doubt that self-mastery can introduce a greater element of 'control' although better words are influence and mastery and direction but even with all the self mastery a mere human being can muster we will never, ever be totally in control of ourselves or our lives.

And that is where learning to Let Go is so important. Give it to God if that works for you; give it to your Higher Self; give it to Cosmic Consciousness; give it to Fate or simply give it up and let it go for God, Cosmic consciousness, Higher Self, Fate and all the other 'powers that be' are all still a part of expectation, need, desire, demand and goal.

It is the need to control which has created religions, spiritual philosophies and spiritual 'paths' for that matter. Any structure will become a system and any system will create demands, needs, desires and expectations. There is no doubt that many if not most human beings feel better within a structure or system but within the 'gift' of the illusion of certainty is the 'curse' of need disguised by countless 'shoulds' and 'musts' and 'wants.'

The sixth lesson and one of the hardest,  is accepting that Everything Matters and Nothing Matters. Therein lies the paradox which both liberates and comforts.