Wednesday, 10 July 2013


How easily we go to war chasing dreams and demons;
how smoothly do we follow lies into realms of hell,
while telling those who listen, and ourselves,
that it is in a good, just cause and it is something
which is being done for  the benefit of all. As if
good could come through dull, dead eyes and shreds
of decimated flesh. As if good could come from lives
dismembered, as no more, than mounds of  bone and
meat; as if good could ever come from suffering and death.
But deception is a determined friend and cannot
be easily dismissed; although it can be easily denied.
And even as we stand by watered gutters where
the blood runs forcefully on its way, and the shadows
of gaunt, bitter, broken buildings cast their dark
shapes upon our faces, still we can hold the hand of
deception and smile into the crippled depths
of our belief. Still we can tell ourselves that what is
being done, in our name, for it is always in our name,
is just and does have purpose. Although, in the
splintered shatterings of night and reason, a small
voice murmurs it cannot be so. But small voices
are easily made silent, even though, they will echo
through time and mind, in ways which bring in
sickened, stark relief, images of remembering.
But deception is always there; cold fingers clasping,
holding firm, to the dying warmth of conscience;
whispering that it is not for us to change the world,
but to trust as the world is changing. However terrible
that change might be. The longer one believes in
the words which deception casts upon the ground
of cold compassion, the easier it is to keep believing.
It is only when the Soul sighs, deep and grieving,
that some will gather themselves up, from the rutted
furrows in which they have been planted, and demand
change. But the sigh of Soul is so like that of
whispered deception, that one must listen very carefully,
if it is ever to be heard, or not mistaken, for the wind.

Tuesday, 9 July 2013

Finding a path through panic and depression

It is decades since I have had a panic attack but anyone who has experienced them always remembers the experience and has deep sympathy for those who encounter them; or rather, are called  into or captured by those realms.

What I took time to learn was that the panic attacks, like the depression, anxiety and fear, all had purpose and meaning and if they were approached as a guide, instead of as an enemy, and embraced with practical pragmatism, as well as courageous curiosity, the time would pass and they would become a thing of the past.

The modern medical approach to such experiences is to drug them away. That can certainly be useful for a couple of months to get you over the hump but it is no cure and in fact just delays the changing and the healing which the psyche is demanding and which is expressed through such symptoms. I was not aware of Homeopathy when I was experiencing panic and depression, but, if I had known then what I know now, I would have made use of it.

Having said that, there is no doubt that being forced to find my way through has taught me valuable things. I would not take medication because I knew enough about the psyche and psychology to know that it could only ever be a ‘bandaid’ and temporary and so I had no choice but to do the ‘hard yards.’ I am sure, doing it ‘hard’ gave me greater confidence and trust in myself and it certainly ensured that I developed practical ways of dealing with or managing being me.

There is no doubt that Homeopathy can have a profound and lasting balancing and healing effect because it acts on the body to heal at all levels – emotional, psychological, physiological and spiritual – but, I also believe that facing the lessons through the worst of it, is a crucial part of the healing process and invaluable in terms of coming to know one’s self.

We are all different and no experience will ever be exactly like that of someone else, but I do know what it is like to have panic attacks which can last minutes or hours. I know what it is like to wake up in the morning and to be engulfed in a wave of terror which makes putting one foot out of bed almost impossible.  I know what it is like to be engulfed in cold fear at the thought of going to work, going shopping, seeing people. But I did find ways to work with them and through them to reach a point where I never had another one again.

They happen for a reason of course and ultimately, to move beyond both, it is usually important to do the inner work, but there are practical management techniques which can help.

The first thing I realised, which got me onto more stable ground, was that it was not so much the panic attack which was the problem but the fear of having one and the fear of experiencing one. The fear of having one can trigger them, because you are already in a state of high alert and heightened tension, and the fear as one experiences, exacerbates.

The goal is to diminish or remove the fear – when I reached that point, and it did not take too long, I never had another one. And that was 30 years ago.

The second thing I realised was that in order to reduce the fear of having one, I needed to find meaning in it and to understand the physiology. A panic attack is something sourced in our primal or reptilian brain, the Fright, Fight, Flight response. Fear triggers it, conscious or unconscious, and then our adrenal system gets ready to fight and to help us run away, but of course there is no-one or nothing to fight and sometimes nowhere to run. The desire to run, to escape, increases the sense of panic.
The feelings are exactly the same that one would experience confronting a charging lion – but what messes with our heads is that we are feeling this way while sorting the washing or driving a car.

Our body is having a major physiological reaction and we are not doing what it needs, which is either to walk for a bit or to even run or jog; or, if we cannot, to trust the process as an experience of feeling – releasing the energy. I know, the thought of standing or sitting still and allowing that feeling to wash over you where you feel you might collapse, die or lose complete control is terrifying…. but when you do it, you realise that it does pass.

I remember reading that the physiological response to fear is the same as that for excitement – the difference being how we interpret it. People who bungy jump or parachute, experience what we call panic attacks, but they enjoy the sensation and so there is no fear – just the massive rush of energy and its release. It helped me to think of this.

The other thing which helped me was to think – fine, if I fall on the floor, frothing at the mouth, scream hysterically, piss or shit myself, die of a heart attack, who gives a fuck……at some point I will just pick myself up and get on with it. And the fact is that with panic attacks you don’t do any of that …. and you know what, a lot of the time no-one else is even aware of the terror and turmoil inside. I remember years after the worst of my time, talking to people, probably acquaintances more than friends, about my experience and they were astonished to believe a. that I reacted like that, and b. that I hid it so well.

As a reformed ‘control junkie’ who relapses regularly, :) I would also say that panic attacks usually happen to those who feel a need to be in control – it is if you like the ultimate loss of control – well, it isn’t, but it sure as hell feels like it.
I also found that if I saw the panic attack as an expression, like weeping or sobbing, another skill I mastered, including doing it in front of others – Quelle Horreur – and as a releasing of feelings, emotions, physiological responses I did not understand, it also helped.

My other approach, combined with the rest, was to tell myself that I would allow the feelings of panic to be felt for five minutes, just sitting or standing with them – this is of course best done at home where you can set a timer – and then, bring the cerebral into it and observe what is happening. Make notes even. What are you feeling? Where are you feeling it? What images come to mind – what thoughts – write it all down. The process of observing detaches you from the feelings but, having honoured them initially, they won’t mind.

Seeing the panic attacks as your psyche trying to communicate with you – as a guide – also gives the experience meaning and when we can find meaning we feel calmer. Panic attacks terrify because we cannot control them, we don’t understand why they happen, and we fear we will die, lose control or lose our minds.

We are all different but the goal was to remove the Fear factor from the panic attack. And I found, once I stopped fearing them I stopped having them. In time I did the same thing with depression and got the same result. From decades, until my late thirties, when depression would swallow me up for weeks and months at a time, into the darkest most horrible of places, I reached a place where depression would come to visit and I would welcome it and it would stay for perhaps hours or a day…. no more.

My journey was a long one, beginning in a place where I feared the sort of insanity which swallowed my mother, but taking me to an understanding of myself and the psyche which has enriched my life. I read a lot and found therapists less useful than one might hope; psychiatrists not much use at all because they pretty much do drugs which can certainly help get over a crisis period of a few months but are not a long-term answer and sought the support of others who had been there. Books were my companions, guides, angels and friends and the ‘right one’ would appear just when I needed it.

It’s a bit like being an 18th century explorer in deepest Africa where there is not much of a map, most people have never been there, you don’t know what you will find, or if you will survive.

I guess I am just saying, for anyone who finds themselves in this place, it is worth it, there is a point and a purpose to it, and you will find your way through it. And, while I was reluctant to talk too much about my psychological state for some years  when I did, I was surprised at how many people had experienced similar things.It is often shame and embarrassment which keeps us silent and yet both of those things are sourced in ego and have no place in Soul work. For it is soul work. Only by sharing can you bring insight, comfort and companionship to others who might need it.

It is the leap of the Fool, as the Tarot Deck, describes, into an unknown which is the beginning of an adventure which leads you on – life, love, light and understanding. Such experiences are a calling to Self and at the end of the day, more rewarding than most might imagine.

Monday, 1 July 2013

On growing old .... the only way to avoid it and wrinkles is to die young.

Growing older is a skill which takes commitment and practice if one is to do it well and become the best that one can be as the years pass, continuing to grow, as opposed to shrinking into the smallest (safest?) parts of Self as so many do.

From observation I have formed the view that many people as they grow older, become more rigid in their habits and views, locking themselves away in essence, into ways which give some illusion of control. This is hardly surprising given that age brings with it greater uncertainty and experiences of less control; but it is not healthy and rarely leads to someone expressing or becoming the best they might be.

If nature demands that we 'loosen up' in a physical sense and 'soften' in appearance and form, then it is highly unlikely that what nature requires is that we 'harden' emotionally or psychologically. And yet this is what so many do; or rather, what so many either allow to happen or create.

Growing older demands that we experiment with less form,  not more; less control, not more; less rigidity of opinion or habit, not more - in other words, it calls upon us to practise trust, acceptance and flexibility for these are the skills I am sure which death demands if we are to pass from this world to the next as easily and harmoniously as possible.

It is ironic that we live in a youth-obsessed age when, if one lives to a reasonable age, as most can expect, say 85, the majority of one's life will be spent as an adult who is not 'young' per se: or 'young' as society defines it.

If we take adulthood as 18, then we have say 20 years before our body will begin to register what we see as signs of aging, although there are individual differences in that process.

That means we will have 50 years, half a century and perhaps more, living as someone who is 'not young,' and continuing to see physical evidence as we grow into our mature selves; as women, our Crone selves.

It is yet another reason to have children in your twenties or thirties because age can bring with it, not as an absolute but as a possible, less energy and having and raising children requires energy. It is nothing to have weeks of sleepless nights and demands 24/7 when we are in our twenties or even thirties, but the situation changes for most once they get into their forties in many ways.

Fertility declines in both men and women from the thirties; of course there are exceptions but it remains a factor. In a youth-obsessed society we have begun to indulge in denial that it doesn't matter when we have children and a reliance on a procedure, IVF, which will remain truly unproven for at least three generations.
So, having children naturally and having them young is wiser if it can be done. What many people today do is ignore the reality of the numbers. Have a child at 25 and you will be 45 or so when they are off your hands, and, depending on their lives and destiny, a grandparent sometime between the age of 50, if they have a child at the same age, or 65 if they leave it later, as so many do.

However, if you have a child at 35, you will be getting them off your hands at the age of 55; probably within the menopausal phase, where your parents are in their seventies, eighties or nineties depending on when they had you, and, if they have children young, you will be a grandparent somewhere between the age of 60 or 80.

If you have a child at 40 and they have a child at 40 you will be a grandparent in your eighties. Let's just say, in a world where mostly both parents work and the help and support of grandparents is vital if not crucial, being in your sixties is, for most, better than being in your eighties. When it comes to age, numbers matter more than wrinkles.

Even if we have the luck or the genes to remain looking 'youthful' or 'beautiful for our age,' we will still carry the signs of age and not look as that which is defined as 'young and beautiful,' beyond 50. So, at best, we will have 35 years as an someone who is not 'young and beautiful,' although we may well be beautiful, the young will have long passed.

So whether it is 35 years or 50 years, depending on how kindly the years treat us, we will spend most of our lives as 'not young,' or, as the young will see us and society might label us, 'old.'

Deciding who we want to be and how we want to be during these years is probably the most important thing we will ever do, for living the years as 'not young' when there is less time ahead than there is behind; when some dreams whether of people or profession or just life become less likely; and when it becomes harder to deny the reality of aging, which of course walks hand in hand with mortality, is not easy unless we can bring full acceptance to this irrefutable fact of life and embrace all that it brings.

The more we know who we are and the more we can enjoy all we become as the years pass, the better our life will be lived and the greater our contribution to Self and others.

Logic suggests, that given we will spend most of our life in this phase, we should put our focus on it sooner, not later. In a youth-obsessed world that is hard to do and harder for women than for men because of the hold which patriarchy and sexism still have on cultures, but, the stark reality is that there is only one way to avoid getting wrinkled and getting old and that is to die.

'Dying' to Self and Ego and physicality is a much better alternative and makes for a life well lived no matter what age we may be.