Thursday, 8 June 2017

The body is a story

Think about where the body begins, and you'll meet a library of stories. Biology, genetics, family trees, family histories, historical eras, geographic locations, political backdrops, economic contexts and more: the moods, moments and meanings are prolific and penetrable, and could take a long, long time to tell.

And if you think your body's story is autobiographical, think again. Your voice itself has many selves and many stories. I recently read "Full Voice" by Barbara McAfee, which not only reminded me of all the possible voices of the body, but put me back in touch with voices from the long-gone past which I had forgotten about, and was so surprised to rediscover.

I owe much to my Irish friend who looked at me so many times and said the same thing: "Shit!".
I never knew what to expect after that, because he used to be a priest, and was able to choose words ultra-carefully. But what I'm thinking of was the time he responded to our conversation by giving me a different look and saying, "Shit! You're in touch with all your selves".

The older I get the more I realize that I have loved many without realizing it. Sometimes you miss what the sense of connection is telling you. I wonder how many have looked at me in ways that connected us, and I missed it.

The body itself is one big connected item, made of literally millions of sub-systems, and that magical nexus, the voice-box knows them all. Sorry for that almost superfluous label of awareness called the ego that knows almost nothing.

The body is a story, and the way to hear it is to pay attention. Special attention grows the mind, which clothes the body with consciousness. Animals and children love it, and adults try to gain it with tricks of attraction.

When we do not pay attention to what the body is expressing, the consequences are real. Sometimes we die before we should, often we don't learn what is so blatantly obvious, that we have to regroup and try again.

The sense of story and the activity of realization are closely linked. And if you fervently believe something that isn't so, then fervency is all that you'll get in the end. Big energy going nowhere.

And the converse is also true: no fire in the belly, no spark in the eye. A lukewarm life.

Each body is a cosmic drama, and our lives tend to show it. Each body is God's art, not man's science, and our souls reflect that beauty and desire. Each body is an epic poem that promises something never heard before, so it would be good to allow that voice to feel, fully, its expression in action.

The body is a story, not merely a death in waiting. And it's not one story told by a lonely passenger in an almost empty bus. It's more like a chorus chanting in counter-point, using language like a lasso to hold an impossible ideal stable in a sea of suggestion.

The more I listen, the more I hear it.

Saturday, 8 April 2017

Focusing on the sense of story

Story precedes langauge. It's a provocative statement. But I think it works. And by the way, I don't think much of the word "truth" anymore. I've experienced far too much of what other humans use as truth, and hardly any of it sits well with me. If you appeal to the authority of truth I'm not listening. Sure, there's a sense of truth, but it's more gut-like than cerebral, and that's what it is. Of the gut. Not of a special concept like a formal god you can't escape. I'm less interested in what's true and more interested in what works. Thanks, Dewey.

There are so many exciting ways of introducing the sense of story. Character, context, crisis. Relationship, romance. Juxtaposition, jokers.

Let me explain why the sense of story means as much and maybe more than the sense of love to me. My upbringing was about Bible stories. Every Biblical book, character, theme, purpose and plan was put to me as I began to know language, and I was made to listen. So I listened. My guts boiled, and head was confused. This was demanding stuff! I was required to take a stand for the entire universe. God lived or died in the name of Christ, depending whether or not I accepted something I couldn't work out. And if I failed to work it out, I couldn't do it, and if I didn't do it, to eternal punishment with ghouls, goblins, ghosts and the devil himself I would go.

Believe it or not, my neurons are still nervous, even though I have worked hard to organize a very rational mind. What you experience when you're young really is important, and the early relationships are critical.

My parents did not love me. I'll take a moment to explain this because anyone who knew my parents would be horrified to read this. They were unquestionably honourable and honest people, they did their best for family, friends, church, community. Probably not country. They prayed but my father refused to vote because voting was a worldly system. Love is realized and created emotionally. The intention thereof arises from awareness and action. But what was their emotional reality? With hindsight I realize that my father was terrified of God, because of his father, whose story I won't go into  (he seems to have been a mad missionary), and my mother was utterly homesick for the country and community she had left to commit to this lot. That;s what I grew up with. It's not so bad. Far worse has happened to very many more.

Historical context is a good place to locate the sense of story. Never mind the psychology. Do a Frank McCourt. 'Tis. Do a Robert Ruark: Uhuru. Do a William Styron: Sophie's Choice. He wasn't there physcially, but spiritually he was. He suffered depression. Not surprising.

Love is a word, and the reality behind it, with it, because of it, is many more words that lead towards awareness of unpredictable emotional metastatis. The opposite of cancer, love is about controlled growth, economic (imporant for South Africa now), social, spiritual and personal. Yet "growth" is also a word: what does it mean?

A story grows. Do we co-operate with it, or does it co-incide with our livingness? I have noticed that how you word your important stories resonates with the unexpected, if you're being honest, spontaneous and real about what you say.

The sense of story isn't merely about being caught up in a book, movie or drama. It's about the shape of your heart. Thank you, Sting...

We all sit at the gate of our story. When we die, what happens between our atoms doesn't. There's a huge story there that no one has yet told, although Bruce Lipton has got as far as the  cell membrane, and the messages that are so astute, there.

Who tells the story you hear, want to hear, need to hear or even avoid?

To answer that you need to deal with Presence. Amy Cuddy is good for that. So is the Old Testament. Try the New Testament too, but take care, it's been hacked many times. Rainer Maria Rilke is good too. There are many, many others.

The sense of story precedes language. It's the place where language and intuition want to meet, and can't quite, sometimes can, and also instinctively know when to avoid each other.

Monday, 13 March 2017

That life and death are not opposites.

I wish that they hadn't taught me that life and death are opposites. I learnt about opposites early on in school. Antonyms, they said, and they worked in pairs, one word meaning the opposite of the other, like hot and cold, wet and dry, up and down, and even boy and girl. It was a rule, even a law, that things worked in opposites. Later on I learnt that this is not dissimilar to Kantian logic, where a thing can be only what it is, not something else. Logical positivism.

I learnt about death before I went to school. I was taken to many funerals because my parents were very supportive of bereaved people. The coffin lid was frequently left open, and once my mother was really cross with me because, as she said, "Why do you want to put your nose in there?" The truth was that I was supremely curious, and not scared of finding out.

But what they taught me at church was a big problem: I soon grasped that although they pretended to know what happened when you die, they didn't. They were heart-broken, no matter how much they believed in Jesus. And the more I asked, the more unsatisfactory were the answers.

Now that I'm over sixty years old, and have kept on asking, all the time, I have to say that life and death are not opposites. Crucifixion and resurrection work together, every autumn covers our garden with leaves and beauty, each spring returns flowers and grace.

The awkward truth about dying is that you know, even if you believe in reincarnation, that you, yourself won't come back. It's a real ending. I have thought about this sad feeling a lot, and the following answer has come to mind: I have ten unique finger-prints on the ends of my fingers, and I feel nothing special about them. Not even one of them. The knowable cosmos is filled with infinite uniquenesses, from snowflakes to stars.

When it comes to people, the same is true.

The feeling of being alive isn't any one particular feeling. It's a magnificent range, the pattern of which is unique to any individual. I have found  that few people go the whole length to the available depths. When they get put out there, they quickly want to move back to a safe place.

There is no safety in music. If you listen carefully you will hear the stuff of cosmos, the knowing of heaven. Strange that it's beautiful and heart-rending at the same time, comforting and turbulent, knowing yet stretching to what seems unattainable.

The story of being alive is just that, glimpses into the greater narrative that we don't control, individually or collectively.

I was brought up as a Christian, and I don't think that that collective has got too much right. The rogue priests who speak truth to pope and arch, the protests, the faithful and fervent, the silent kindness of the ordinary people and the earnest intellects of those who attempt to overcome pomp: these impress and inspire me. And those who show that God and art are in relationship. And those who reject dogma for freedom, fearlessly.

Two things tell me that life and death are not opposites: music and the table of elements. Both are absolutely neat, predictable, explosive, creative. One creates awareness, the other makes creation aware.

In that creative activity, each unique human is caught up in a web of counter-point: feelings that pour through us, from us, to us.

Our individual uniqeness is one thing, the wording and experience of living another. It's a pity that we have kept language and living apart. The formal world is responsible for that. At bottom, humans are intelligent animals and creative spirits, not formal units for political and economic purposes.

The sense of aliveness is most keenly experienced when we embrace the depths we fear. That means when we cease to fear, and to wonder more, and accept more. Just as we do from the moment we're born, until we're forced to accept opposites.

That's why I say life and death are not opposites. I am not a lone story that stops. I can't tell where the next wave will take me, but I can sense the planet's water move through each cell that makes me who I am.

Thursday, 26 January 2017

Focusing on truth

It's difficult to be truthful.

There are a few reasons for this: mankind is technologically advanced but not spiritually enlightened, also not philosophically clever, morally evil, verbally stuffed, to put it politely.

We speak and do not know of what we speak.

I have learned a little about respect, which means that you recognize and act appropriately to what's in front of you.

Reality is the stuff you don't argue about. I had the opportunity to learn about medical hypnoanalysis, and the one thing that has stuck is the injunction "Physiology, physiology, physiology". Thank you, Jeffery Rink, for this.

Physiology is truth. It's worth pondering, because everything boils down to experience, at least on this planet, and concepts are concepts, and birth is birth and death is death. Woody Allen said that there are three real things, birth, sex and death. My brain registered that, too.

The  Buddhist system of belief is based on the respect of truth. Taoism is based on thre balance of truth. The Christian approach is to recognize the personification of truth. There are many approaches to truth.

This is why I don't like truth. In the end it boils down to a sense and formalization of truth.

It's not a helpful word.

But it means something really big and unavoidable.

Like birth.

Like death.

Sex is important but not as important.

If you talk to me about truth, be prepared to walk across a few boundaries of soul, and to declare. One of the fun things I've learnt about truth is that as well as being for real, it's also about joy.

As a child, I enjoyed going into the docks ts Cape Town harbour. The customs officials required us to stop, be looked at, and then waved on. Sometimes we had to open the boot, just for fun. We always had nothing to declare, we were just going for a joy-ride.

But then another way of attention crept in: truth was a total commitment, a no-return ticket, an eternal embrace from which there is no return. A very religious way of defining the ocean of emotion. I had to buy in, there was no other way.

If you focus on the sense of truth, you will soon discover your limits, learning and heart-language. Your heart-language is what you say before you say it. Your heart is God's, naturally, unless you deliberately choose otherwise, which is a little bit stupid.

So what does your heart say? What is it's truth? When my music teacher died, I thought I'd try to be psychic. So I practised a bit and then asked him what was going on. He said it was beauiful where he was, that he'd died of heart medication, and then, the important bit, that heaven necessarily involves spontanaeity.

Truthfulness, when it comes to words, as any child can tell you, is spontaneous. Reflection comes after, purpose follows, action results, maturity is learnt, wisdom is born. Maybe without words.

I have huge respect for educationists who know what they're doing - thank you John Gilmour, Graham Nolan, David Knowles - and for medical practitioners - there are many - and for a few priests. Some of them are not formal, and don't know they are priests. Julius Smeets was a friend, a formal priest.

Back to truth. What a word, and I wonder about the story behind it. Of it.

I think that if you want to experience truth, tell your story to someone who knows how to listen. Or even to someone who doesn't. In the heart, there's something really fierce. And clever. And intelligent. We're not taught about this in schools or universities.

I am not a woman, and I don't know about giving birth. But I will tell you about the fierce things in my heart, and about arriving on this planet, and about re-cycling, which is green and good. Although the humans can be so evil, there is a cosmic capacity for redemption. Shoreshank is good for that, so are many other stories, and that fierce and lonely thing in your heart which wants and avoids words is also good for that.

The ultimate story is not about repeating but by creating daily, even minute by minute. And really, it doesn't have to be as solemn as some would have it. Thank you Anthony, for making that clear.....(he's a priest).

For truth, go to heart.

For heart, go with truth.

In between, there's language and story. Good luck! Better, good birth.....bodies are born,
mind arrives, meaning is made.

Tuesday, 25 October 2016

The ethics of story-owning: South Africa, a case in point.

The Story Clinic is deeply perturbed about Jacob's assumption that he can own South Africa's story. Story-owning has been practised since humankind woke up to itself, and is probably the original sin. The story that anyone owns is the one closest to that organism you call yourself, and is limited. The limitations are linked to your experience, and that's where they belong. The moment you extrapolate, believe, assume and otherwise declare for others, the story expands to where it doesn't belong.

Jacob has no idea that I exist, depend on his role, experience the repercussions of his actions.

Whatever story he believes about himself, his role, his background, his identity, his value, his meaning, has not only done me no good, it's done me harm.

I'm prepared to speak for myself and my family: I am willing to stand for my own story and those close to me.

This man is harming the entire nation, and his denial of that is plainly evil. I wouldn't trash univesities and burn private property as the so-called students are. I would ask a quiet assasin to politely pull a trigger, and trash the political game. I do not hate Jacob. I have looked into my soul, and asked what the appropriate reponse is. Jesus says to love your enemies. Jacob is not my enemy. So I do not love him. I do not hate him. I have nothing against him for being black, that's irrelevant. as much as anything could be.

I hold him in utter contempt, for thinking and assuming, and feeling, that he owns my story.

He hasn't the first clue of what my story is, and that's what makes him disrespectful.

He really doesn't care.

He is uneducated, and that's not his fault, but as an uneducated person, he should admit to his limitations, and not push against the tide of common sense, into the swamp of self-indulgence, which is his basic policy, dressed up as national policy.

To take sides with corrupt and cruel African leaders, and take sides against the hard-won sense of justice just because it's seated in the West becomes obvious for what it is: juvenile side-taking with a continent that struggles to emerge, not because of economic bullying, but because of an intrinsic cruelty that has to own the story.

Let's uncover the story-owning: economically, a hostile take-over is a good exampe of story-owning, an excellent one.  Politically, a coup is on the same par. Religiously, well, leave your intellect at the door. In the market for something? Buy into our's the best, the most, the only.

Don't underestimate the unconscious power of narrative.

So The Story Clinic desires to send Jacob's ownership of South Africa's story to hell, where it belongs.

You've manipulated unbelievably cleverly, Jacob, you've bought and paid for (with my money) your people, but never their loyalty once the money runs out (watch that), your organism baffles me with its huge need and greed (I'll give you a free consultation if you want to deal with that).....

You need to know that your story has nothing to do with South Africa.

It's just personal.

I'm sorry about that, but I'm more sorry for South Africa, because the entire country is suffering the shyte
of your personal story.

I don't hate you Jacob, you're a really poor man.

Free consultation any time you want: The Story Clinic.

Tuesday, 30 August 2016

Where stories are born

There's a strange place in the human soul where not many people tarry. It's the no man's land between experience itself and language. It's the starting block before the pistol fires, that moment before you say "I do", the instant when you admit to something really big, those few times when you use the word "love" for real, the utter smudge of time after some-one close dies or goes away, or the sense of falling far away from who and what you are because all possibility of control has gone.

It's neither a good nor bad place. It's a place that's pre-verbal, pre-rational, pre-lingual. If Broca's area, Wernicke's region and the angular gyrus are the language axis of the brain, perhaps the skin is the entry point to where stories are born, because it's literally the edge of ourselves.

At various stages of development from neonate to adolescent through adulthood, subconscious emotional filters create platforms quite independent of human choice and preference. These platforms are where we stand, metaphorically, and when they collapse, we do, too.

But the moment I write about platforms, I have made up a story. We enter the conscious world on the back of a story. One's own narative has begun, regardless of who's telling it, what inspired it, how the chapters will be divided, how it feels as it goes along, what drama and desire prompt necessity and purpose, and what sense of ending prevails.

Let's take away the platforms, strip away the "cool web of language", remove rational thought, eternally distance ourselves from reasonability and totally obscure belief. What we have left are the neurons, the synapses, and the messages that race, meet, connect, reconnect and resume racing.

What's it all saying? Well, he who has ears to hear, let him hear.

I used to tell my Irish friend about the dreams I had at night. He always looked at me with goggle-eyes and his mouth slightly open, and his response was always the same: "Shit!"

When I asked him why he was so rude, it turned out he was jealous. "I wish I had dreams like that," he said. "Tell me how!"

I have learnt to beware of anyone who fervently and finally believes anything, from scientists to salesmen to socialites. Interestingly enough, scientists can be the most closed-minded of all. My life is no doubt based on a true story, but I wonder if anyone will ever tell it, or indeed, if it can be told. Like rain after falling, words evaporate. Their energy remains, but dissipates unless someone with ears hears and recognizes. The power of story is that it connects. If I am convinced of anything, it glues my sense of self more strongly.

Then again, something severe happens, and it all falls. Painfully, sometimes never, we reconstruct and re-tell ourselves, moving through no man's land. If it seems I tell a sad story about no man's land, it's not my intention. No man's land is to be claimed. Humankind has blasted sensible meaning as well as meaningful sense out of the water, and has greatly contributed to establishing no man's land. The no man's land where stories are born is however, a fecund place.

Out of failure, new beginnings are imminent. From separation and divorce, it's possible to divine a newness of love. From loneliness, great giftedness is recognized. Careers change, not always for the worse, and if we are to contemplate the seasons well, life and death are not discontinuous. Something is always afoot.

To move out of no man's land at least just start a new story. To make a claim, you have to stake it. Read Amy Cuddy who re-ran her own story to arrive at her admirable work. Write your own journal and see what happens. One paragraph a day. One word of change at a time.

The place where stories are born is the heart of imagination, and that's not an unreal place. To the contrary, if anything is to be taken very seriously, it's imagination, because image, mood and story feed each other, and communicate that heart directly.

We experience that heart, our own heart, each other's heart on an hourly basis. Certainly, we are interrupted, usually overwhelmed by formal narratives, accidental anecdotes, unwanted messages and a thousand acts that are unnecessary to our own drama.

As a service, The Story Clinic offers short jouneys to the heart of no man's land and back again. It's a safe trip. Anyone coming?

Monday, 4 July 2016

The Story Clinic

Biofusing is pleased to team up with The Story Clinic.The purpose is to make biofocusing more concrete and accessible. Biofocusing began with the awareness of how to manage attention, since we tend to take attention almost entirely for granted. Paying affective attention has been largely ignored in favour of paying cognitive attention, and how we pay volitional attention is a conundrum, because how can you choose to attend or ignore when you're wired to and for instinctive response? The body has its own story to tell, and that's a large part of The Story Clinic.

Stories do not come in books. That's a side-story. Stories and awareness work together to explain experience, and experience is multi-layered, ambiguous, slippery, and mostly uncontrollable. The nuts and bolts of story are words, sentences and paragraphs, and the machine is fascination, the basis of which is focused emotion.

Emotion is the problem as well as the solution. Good feelings are nice to experience, bad feelings are better avoided, and the movement from one to the other is bitterly difficult to control.

The difference between a story and a lie is often too difficult to tell. How do you know when you're telling yourself lies? At a personal, social, group, community and national level, this is part of what The Story Clinic does. Put more kindly, the story that you tell yourself about everything is the hinge to everything you know. This is not a trite remark. When I discovered that truth, I did not expect to survive it. I waited, every hour, for the heart attack or stroke that would result from the psychological and physiological tension of testing every story I thought I knew. I didn't die, but it took me two years to calm down.

More and more, companies and conglomerates begin to realize that their myth might be about more than money. One significant aspect of the real story is that we live in heaven and on earth simultaneously, and so a good question is why money is so important on earth when it doesn't exist in heaven.

The Story Clinic is versatile because biofocusing is a living tool. The alive things are scary, and thus we try to make them friendly. Stories. Are they friendly or fearful? Well, they're full of energy, bursting into systems of structured concepts, inconoclasting beliefs into better nothings. It's too bad that humans are more rational than animals and can't deal with nothings. So, all the time we have to come up with a story to sort out experience.

The Story Clinic knows how to listen, reflect and return a response if not a solution. The solution is never far away, but depending on how serious it is, it may take a narrative or two, and at least a bit of honesty. I have the sense that this will grow because it's how things actually work. In the meantime, welcome, and thank you for taking the time to touch something here.