Wednesday 29 May 2013

Living in a sick nation, healing a sick nation.

I am most grateful for having learnt a few things from the medical world. Quite apart from medical systematics, metaphors of wellness and illness extend into the greater sphere of human communication.

Health is a balance. All physiological systems are working aspects of survival and wellness. At any given time an individual is potentially unwell. Action is taken, involuntarily and voluntarily to maintain wellness, by moving, eating, getting out of the way, smiling, shouting a warning, explaining, changing the tyre, hanging up the washing.

Sometimes it doesn't work out. By driving a man-made invention, you crash into another man-made invention. Sometimes a tooth breaks. Sometimes cells lose the plot. When this happens, unless circumstances dictate, you know something is wrong and seek help. Mercifully, medical science can do much to assist.

Political science is not as advanced as medical science. When a nation goes into denial and refuses to acknowledge aches, pains, even crises, the sickness becomes palpable. Whole sections of society may start screaming for attention. The national economy may be flat-lining. National education may have become a cadaver, offering no more than dissection. Yet those responsble dab the face with make-up and paint the toe -nails and finger-nails with self-congratulation.

I can't speak with any authority about countries I don't live in, but I can say that South Africa is a sick nation. It's quite bizarre, because while sections of the population cry out for help of various kinds, the leadership ignores this. In the human body the brain is wired to notice the moment the body goes out of order. In an ideal nation the cabinet and the presidency are there to serve the people. Not in South Africa. It's weird, embarrassing and frightening to live in a country where problems are not solved but actually created for political purposes. I've realised that it's too easy to blame a foolish president, a short-sighted cabinet and an incompetent leadership of state infrastructure.

 The national dynamic is more complicated than that. It's like blaming the ocean for having polluted drops. The answer to national illness is individual activism. This is where the metaphor of physiological repair is so different to social repair. The body's default is to heal. Human social consciousness may yet evolve to that, but it's not there yet. Individual consciousness hasn't learnt how to honour natural connection. Part of human nature is divisive. In The Bond Lynne McTaggart explains how human consciousness is, at bottom, oriented to bond rather than separate. But you have to get there. Louis MacNiece in Autumn Journal writes a line: "where the people are more than a crowd".

South African individuals are a mixed bunch. With them, conscience is not a moral issue but an individualized dashboard. The rule of thumb seems to be "whatever works for me is right". Whereas I might sincerely want to bond with the helpless AIDS orphans in my region, and offer whatever help I can, the taxi-driver who stops right in front of me and gives the finger has limited realization of any kind. No matter how much I want to lead by example in the school, the curriculum reduces my efforts to idiocy, by decree. The social signals, in general, are disempowering. If you allow yourself to be disempowered, your energy is sapped. Living in a sick nation is energy-sapping, soul-destroying.


The first remedy is stick with what's true and what's beautiful. That's a tall order, but look at what Victor Frankl did with turning his experience at Auchwitz into logotherapy. Look at what Nelson Mandela did with his time in jail, The bottom line of that tall order is not what happens to you but what you do with what happens to you.

The second remedy is action. Inaction breeds despair. Acting as a matter of personal discipline easily overlaps with spiritual discipline. Act from the heart. If your heart is overly angry, you will learn much from the consequences. Greater strength produces more incisive gentleness.

The third remedy is presence. Your greater presence in action will produce deft movement and influence. Spirit is a matter of concentration of presence, neither too much nor too little, but apt for the moment. Great moments are about powerful concentrations of expression. Not the loudness of the notes, not the histrionics, but the filling of the moment. Spirit communicates.

The fourth remedy is to practise expansiveness. Whatever diminishes your energy, twists it, contains it, produces illness of the soul and the body. Grow your soul in quiet, concentrated presence and it will pervade the world: there will be no need to invade society with an agenda.

The fifth remedy is to create peace. Whereas peace with God is found, by grace, peace with people is made. The taxi-driver, the curriculum and the thief have no interest in making peace with me: I have to test myself in making peace with these.

The sixth remedy is to lose fear of confrontation. Demonstration, the kind that closes the N1 and the N2 goes beyond confrontation. Confrontation encompasses not only standing against, but also standing for.

The seventh remedy I'm going to leave blank. When people speak from the heart, sooner or later they get onto love. I have no clear understanding of love because I don't know how to begin to word the intensities of my heart. I have the sense of something overwhelming pouring through me, a kind of crossing through history, time and experience: a crazy space occupied by an emerging surprise of materialized spirit: a story the core of which holds a deep ache and a healing presence simultaneously.

I think Alan Paton had a similar experience in writing Cry the Beloved Country. 

There is a mist outside, as I write. In an hour's time, as usual, it will begin to lift. It will lift as individual molecules, it will lift as a mist.

The sick nation will heal insofar as there is enough intention for it to heal. That intention arises individually. It's a choice.

Monday 27 May 2013

Clarity is a feeling

When I began writing poetry in earnest, and my efforts were scrutinized by others, one comment stood out from the rest. Robert Berold, editor of New Coin at the time, after reading some of my poems, simply muttered "Cerebral".

Having one foot in the academic world, and the other in business, I realize more fully that cerebral means neither intelligent nor effective. It means that your sixth chakra is working at the expense of the others.

For better or worse I was born with a strong instinct for clarity. This is not an easy instinct to practise. It estranged me form my parents, took me away from my spiritual tribe, journeyed me through other spiritual tribes and has eventually brought me to a place of peace, where I can practise this instinct with conviction and commitment.

The question "What do you mean?" quickly brings a conversation to bafflement unless the participants have put a fair amount of cerebral activity into their homework of self- knowledge and knowledge of the world.

If you want to know anything about anything you have to think at least a little and reflect on your experience. When you reflect on experience, you create patterns of increasingly aware emotions. As humans we're far more emotional than cerebral, and as a species that's our downfall, because we believe that we're more cerebral than emotional. We're quick to protect individualism, integrity and dignity without doing enough personal scrutiny. We're quick to group, without putting enough energy of insight into group awareness.

We feel, spontaneously. We are aware, spontaneously. Thinking is a choice. We can pilot a way through emotions, choosing where to go and where we refuse to go.

Clarity involves congruence, assonance, agreement, co-operation, kindness and courtesy. You can't say that my clarity is better than yours. A clear word is like a two-edged sword. It will divide as well as create recognition, respect and reciprocity.

To reason is not merely to invoke the rules of logic. Reasoning involves the seat of response, the deepest and most resounding emotions a human is capable of, instinctive and enduring.

Reasoning, in its simplest sense, is thinking with all your heart. It's a meeting point between deliberate thoughtfulness and conscious emotion at the junction where decision is made possible by this exciting confluence of energy.

I love the feeling of reasoning, and I have found myself to be quite alone in this. I expected that in the academic sphere I would find similar intentionality in others, but indeed that experience eluded me more than not.

I am no mountaineer, but I would use the metaphor of having reasoned something through to a satisfactory conclusion as being similar to reaching the summit. Enjoy the view, bask if you wish, but you know that there are so many more to attempt.

There is no conquering of the self. There is no end to stirrings that emanate from the actvity of the imagination, the plight of humanity, the story of this planet, the jumbled emotions of the individual soul.

"Are we clear?" the master-sergeant shouts into the face of the recruit. The recruit knows what the answer has to be.

The living God asks the same question, in a different but no less challenging tone.

Responding is one thing, wording your response another. The link between these is another thread of clarity.

Thursday 23 May 2013

Biofocusing, yantras and imagination.

If I understand correctly, a yantra is an image of the activity of the universe imagining itself.

Or perhaps, the image of the universe enacting itself. Language will baffle the meaning of what I'm trying to say, because "universe" is extremely vague, and the very next point I want to make is that the basis for any activity and imagination is the same.

Just as biofocusing focuses on and focuses from, and both are equally important, the yantra points to evolution and involution of humanity. Evolution in this sense is not of the Darwinian kind, but of human extension into the material and social world. Involution takes human consciousness back to its starting point, and evolution takes human consciousness to ever-increasing perceptual finesse in the "real" world.


The yantra is an objective portrayal of the path from the inner to the outer, the merging of the subjective with the objective, the geometric metaphor of body, soul and spirit as one.
Looking at a yantra, we see evolving and involving patterns. Our lives reflect the same, more mysteriously. Can we understand our lives? No. Can we live our lives knowing peace and fulfillment? Yes. What are we to make of seemingly random acts of horror and loss and mankind's abominable cruelty? From the outer perspective we can't make sense; from the inner perspective nothing is lost.
My essay into making links at this point is to suggest that what we experience in respect of imagination is yantra at work. Our eyes see the graphics here, our souls experience both the vey inner and the extremities of the outer when we expand our consciousness into active imagery. As we go towards the point of origin, we expand. As we journey into the physical world, we concentrate. The geometry of the yantra reflects that these are made of the same movements.
I have my hand on the steering wheel as I negotiate the traffic. I pressurize my finger in exactly the way the scalpel requires. Yet at the same instant I am at the very heart of God. I am in my home of homes.
Time as we know it in terms of days and hours is a construct: I imagine that when we leave the body, the journey takes as long as we want the adventure to last.

The logic of the body, the logic of mind and the logic of spirit are difficult to pin down as a set of rules. This is a ridiculous understatement, and that is exactly why the imagination is so quick, absurd and creative. At every instant creativity pours everywhere.
The Eastern mind will no doubt resonate more easily with this connection. For the Western mind, schooled for centuries in attitudes of rationality, be told that reason and imagination are extensions of each other.
I think of philanthropic statesmen and politicians, pioneering scientists, missionaries who have more than a cultural agenda, compassionate individuals everywhere, kindness made manifest in the human sphere.
 I think of intensity of purpose, clarity of vision, energy of action.
And then I think of an engine out of tune with its proper operation: the soul out of order with balance between the inner and the outer.
Etymologically, "yantra" means "support" or"machine".
The facility of the imagination is neither a thing nor objective, like a yantra. Yet is is a necessary mile, maybe ten or more, of the journey that we're all on.


Tuesday 21 May 2013

Poetry demystfied.

People have a way of backing off from poetry. Not for me, only for clever people, I hate poetry, can't make sense, haven't got time, why?, not cool, not hot, what's poetry?

Poetry involves two steps: making meaning, and making meaning with language.

The bad news is that there isn't any ready-made, given meaning, which is really very bad news for fundamentalists, and the good news is that we make it for better or worse all the time.

We make meaning with whatever creative means is immediately at hand, with purpose, within a context. I have come to realize that the astute and creative business person is as expressive and produces as much beauty as any artist, musician and poet.

Language is the plumbline of human meaning since it's the most immediately available means of expression. The subtlest thought, intention, idea and action are birthed in language, as intuitive consciousness strikes spontaneously.

The difference between deliberate and intuitive consciousness is language.

An important aspect of my education began in my first year as an undergraduate when I reached for pen and paper and began to write my spontaneous thoughts. In the very first sentence I learnt that my spontaneous thoughts were rubbish. In my second paragraph I asked for wisdom. That was good, but it was a mistake. I should have asked for wisdom in respect of what to ask for. That would have put me in line for a more efficient introduction to deliberate consciousness.

Of course you can pay deliberate attention to anything you want, When you pay deliberate attention to uttering truthfulness from your core, you're doing poetics, which may or may not result in good poetry. If you ask an academic what good poetry is, you won't get a clear answer. As professor of English I would have brought the house down if I had tried a definition of good poetry. That's not allowed. As a coach I can state with much confidence that good poetry is poetry that creates resonance.

Words uttered (spoken or written) from the core that find felt resonance with the cores of others are much like music, in an objective sense. A,B,C,D,E,F and G are not only letters of the alphabet, they're particular sounds, too. As well as all the sharps and flats. Unlike writing, music is not an invention but a discovery. As Andre Rieu says, if we all made more music together, there would be more peace in the world. If we uttered ourselves more skilfully in terms of speech and drama on the everyday stage of soliloquy, dialogue and chorus, and spiritual, social and individual identity blended perfectly into an undeniable presence of character and character of presence, communication would regain much of its art, and lose most of its pragmatic teeth.

If you cannot find your presence in the street, you will not see your character in the mirror.

Are we doing poetry yet?

When I was explaining this to one of my classes, I put it in a poem:


Many leaves, one tree;
many people, one poem.

So, in a nutshell, poetry is very much about presence. You recognize presence more than you see presence. You sense presence more than you perceive it.

The five senses are good for physical survival, the sixth sense puts it all together and gives humankind identity in the cosmic scheme of things.


He gently blows this smoke-ring
through the first.
I'm silent,
pretending to puff a pipe I don't have.

My colleague who teaches Afrikaans poetry has told me that the moment anyone opens their mouth to speak, he instantly knows everything about them. I think I'm going to test this today.

Thursday 16 May 2013

The hypnotic effect of relationships

As often as I can I teach students that there's no such thing as an isolated monad called an individual. There are two-legged walking  and breathing junctions of emotional patterns. Far more than air surrounds and connects people. Significant others and the self combine in patterns of intended, unintended and enduring feelings, more objectively known as emotions. Emotions are not nouns, even though you feel them. They are swirls and eddies of a vast ocean of intention that connects with physiological cells resulting in habitual recurrences or more open-ended movements.

Relationships play a huge part in creating the sense of self. Even the lack of relationship does this. Sense of self is basically a resonance of relationship, or even more pointedly, a resonance of presence. I have come to realize that when we personify God, we don't help our understanding. When we look for holy presence rather than a powerful uncle we are more likely to be awed for real.This may well happen, even when we're not looking for it. A bit like the back of the cupboard that opened into Narnia, we can always approach the interface between the physiological and the spiritual, yet the mystique of what's real at the end of the day (and the cupboard) is not up to us.

When people communicate with each other, by definition, currents and patterns of emotional resonance are set up. These continue, even when one is alone. One is not merely alone with one's own feelings. The fight that you had last year is still rolling around in your chest. The affection that a single smile washed over you a decade ago still warms you. The man in the Avis ad will never recover from being treated so nicely. He will stand there, holding his forlorn flowers forever, not being able to take in that she treats everybody that way.

It's fine to be flippant about this realization, another to go back to the places in the past where communication got knotted, trust was cut off, hope was burnt and love remained a dream.

There is a well of emotion deep within that calms, corrects, heals and restores the heart. I'm not sure which relationships to describe that have impressed this truth on me. I have experienced much kindness and generosity, and from these experiences I have learnt to approach the source, to separate the words from the wisdom to which they point, and to trust. Emerson wrote "Take the way from man, not to man" and I think this is the path to which he referred. Mankind is not the centre. Human emotion is strong, variable, unpredictable and arises, mostly, from unconscious places, resulting in life-changing scenarios.

I don't think of emotions as fleeting feelings, although these are included in the experience of sensate vitality. The senses are the skis, the emotions the movement. When I am deeply moved, I am reminded. I am reminded of where I come from, who I am, who my friends are, who my beloved is. Also that I am beloved.

Few relationships have a neutral influence. Freeing, fruitful, somewhat destructive, distracting, challenging, confronting, caring: the values carried in relationships are a matter for perception.

Where this relationship got stuck, you got stuck; where that relationship petered out, you petered out. Where another blossomed, you bloomed. When the most significant one died, you did not.

There is no death of this deep movement that links experience to experience via the meetings between one self and another. The ocean is made of limitless movement, just as the Tao is spoken of as water, and the Holy Spirit as wind.

I know a preacher who says,"I preach until I see the light of understanding in their eyes". Unless he has remarkably outstanding techniques of communication, his sermons are bound to be long. It can be difficult to shift patterns of felt belief.

On the other hand, if one is willing and hungry and thrsty enough to go back to where the heart lost clarity and confidence, it's easy to be relieved of unnecessary burden. Truth is not to be found in a concept but in relationships.

Wednesday 15 May 2013

What impresses people.

I suppose the main motivators are signals of wealth, power, physical prowess in one form or another and physical and personal attractiveness.

From these basic ones perhaps we could move on to qualities of living, occupational skills and creative expression.

If I go to my core, and try to find a general sense that might apply to the majority, I would pick on the words "leadership" and "charisma". The heroic sense of being a leader has changed: today it could mean something more passive in respect of gaining a following rather displaying courage and active integrity in terms of responding to a situation.

If I tweet extremely often, or have an extensive facbook presence, are others impressed by my online presence, or do they impress themselves with their own online presence in respect of my online presence?

I'm not being facetious. Once I spent time and money seeking advice about promoting and branding my product. I learnt that image, virtual presence and increase of recognition are paramount. In a word, marketing.

When I was a child, the family went regularly to the Epping market on a Friday evening. My mother believed in fresh produce at good prices. Our home overflowed with far too much fruit and veg. We shared, gave away: I don't remember how we managed to dispose of all the nutritious fibre. What I do remember is the shouting of the vendors as they vied for attention. Potatoes, sacks of cabbage, boxes of plums, peaches, bags of onions, cartons of grapes. Two for forty cents, and ten for a rand. Take the lot for five rand. This is the kind of marketing I grew up with.

This very morning on the radio chat, someone asked the question "Why drive an expensive car?" You only lose capital, get left with something expensive to maintain, and nothing is really gained. There's truth in all of that, yet I prefer to drive expensive cars, myself. The quality of the ride is what impresses me.

What impresses people, in respect of marketing, is what they are led to believe rather than what is credible about the product or experience. Product is easier to debunk, experience can be manipulated by persuasion. If I spent so much money being in this hotel or on that cruiser, I must be having a good time. Is there really a difference between wearing one brand of jeans, another and no-brand jeans? And what makes one G-string utterly superior to another?

I have learnt that not everybody is impressed by God's attention. This surprises me. In fact it leaves me nonplussed. In my experience so few turn towards, and indeed many prefer to turn away from God's attention, that there's nothing left to do. If God's attention is to be avoided, why would anyone want to listen to my input?

"God's attention" is of course a highly-charged phrase. To strip it of religious sense and bring it closer to experience and perception, think of emotions being slammed shut, hearts being closed on purpose, minds refusing to acknowledge their own expanse, and aborted decisions based on fear.

Courage impresses me. Beauty impresses me. Musical expertise impresses me. Personal detail impresses me: how a face changes ever so slightly, yet communicates some deep thing aptly from one moment to the next. How the timbre of a voice tells you more about the person at that moment than the confession does.

Too much marketing has left people jaded. The personal, the mindful attention to service, the detail that fascinates, the discipline of the collector, the dedication of the chef, the resilience of the competitor, whatever makes that excitement of personality shine through: impression doesn't come easily these days.

Finally, what is memorable is a test of what impresses, too. One night after church, on the way back home, our old Morris Oxford broke down close to Mostert's Mill.  I think somethng in the gearbox went. Someone stopped to help us fairly quickly. I remember sitting in front with the kindly, clearly professional gentleman who had supplied a tow-rope and was taking us to a nearby garage before dropping us off at home. Dr Metcalf. I have no idea of who he was, and never had any contact again. Yet I vivdly remember the experience of his kindness and his name. And perhaps the comfort of the ride. I was about five and a half at the time.

Monday 13 May 2013

Instinctive intelligence

C.S. Lewis wrote that love is intelligence in action. I would agree. I would also add that the intelligence instinct in humankind is far less developed than in the rest of our living planet. The soil and rocks behave better than we do.

Being probably the most aware and conscious species - some have suggested that dolphins may be more aware than humans - the instinct for intelligent behaviour  is surprisingly overtaken by ferocious, possessive, demanding and peverse instincts.

My guess is that this has happened because the intelligence instinct has been limited to teleological application. In other words, humans use intelligence to make whatever they can to improve quality of life. From heat to transport to shelter to communication to food, unimaginable levels of quality have been achieved.

Yet human intelligence has failed to find an answer to the most basic question of who mankind is in the ultimate scheme of things.

The are strong signals of intelligence in action: curiosity, compassion, contemplation, wisdom. Give a child a milieu in which these are practised, and humans may develop these traits exponentially.

The academic world does not guarrantee such signals of intelligence. I was never more disappointed than to realize that senior degrees are far more frequently evidence of egoism than cogent curiosity wisely applied.

I think the most critical window for loss of natural intelligence is the path from childhood to adolescence. The displacement of curiosity is a strange phenomenon. Is curiosity contracted, extracted, distracted through this window? Could it be attracted to that which it serves as matter oof course, as Steiner believed?

Reasonability is also a sign of the intelligence instinct. As an adolescent, I was always baffled when adults refused to reason when it came to testing belief, and trashed my soul in defence of their inability to cross emotional boundaries. Emotional intelligence is instinctive to the extent that growth is experienced as imperative.

Instinctive intelligence finds a royal highway in ecolgical intelligence. The first drawing of the sabre-toothed tiger meant that the observer was no longer running away, but enjoying the beginning of appreciation, which is the first building block for the intelligence instinct. That tiger is a beautiful animal, though you're its dinner. Losing the fear of becoming another's dinner and learning to appreciate may be difficult in the beginning, but so are most things.

In the oceanic chaos of emotions there's a cold current that reminds us of true north. That truth is a direction, not a destination, and when you follow it one thing leads to another. Truth is not predictable, as dogma would have it, but your being will always find a way, if you trust.

Intelligence is deeply natural, and the natural is continuous to the spiritual. Words have a terrible way of dividing understanding artificially when they are used by humans who are either naive or manipulative.

The extremely artificial nature of school education has resulted in expectations of varying intelligence and social classification. In NLP each individual is being as intelligent as possible at any moment. If you are more sensitive to the cold current, that's a gift and a blessing. Rarely will a school environment promote intelligence for its own sake. A good school will make an attempt at pride which is a steeping-stone towards but not a replication of intelligence.

Intelligence is core. It's what the emotions do when the joy of aliveness is chosen rather than the fear of diminishment and death.

At the core of human consciousness there's a strange, very versatile, ambitious, creative and affectionate animal. Elusive as the abominable snowman, sighted as rarely as an extra-terrestrial, almost forgotten by the humans as they know themselves, it has no enduring name by which to identify itself. Fiercely bound to the territories which gave this species it various births, racked by reminders of a greatness which seems ridiculously immodest, every now and then one of them steps forward to make a claim. Often, the deed itself produces significant movement. Sometimes an irrevocable path is created. Blessed with the gift of language, they have a very vague grasp of the genesis of the leap between language and greater meaning. Mesmerised by story, drama and what's going to happen next, they offer immature attemtps to enter into the presence that hovers and whispers.

Follow, follow, the will o' the whisp persuades: but they draw back, asking for sun, where's there's twliight, and a hesitation between worlds of knowing.

Would you dream, know, or create?

Stand for some time, where you are, and it will come, if you want the answer...

Friday 3 May 2013

Ideas from heaven

Try imagining that you're already in heaven. That you don't have to die to experience spiritual living. That you're in your official spot, in heaven, at this moment and that your experience right now is what you're sorting out from your celestial platform. That the whole of humanity has been, is being and will continue to be held in place as biological life by committes, consortia, hierarchies and echelons of working energy. That the same energy applies to the sustaining of the blazing fire in the centre of the earth, the crust of the earth, oceans and all animals, plants, in short everything that forms the ecology of a living planet.

Heaven honours this planet and all that's on it. Human thinking has, for some centuries if not millenia, gone against the grain of this. To honour heaven, we should simply pay attention to heaven on earth. Everyday experience inclines us to entrapment of economic, formal and communicative kinds. Mindful experience begins to take us towards eternity. The here and now and your current celestial platform are one and the same. Obviously "current celestial platform" is metaphoric language, but it's the best I can do at the moment.

The arts remind us of this heavenly status. We are capable of producing experiences of immense beauty. Even a simple stand against destructive patterns of living can be beautiful in itself. Schindler's List.

Heaven is a situation of beauty and truth, at least. These can be realized in the here and now, with enough ease. Yet human purpose continues to thwart, unnecessarily, these obvious requirements. So, we should keep crossing between heaven and earth, by the bridge of our bodies which are created to approach both sides simultaneosuly. Mind, thoughts, feelings, decisions; the marriage of these with skeletal movement, the Christmas tree of the neurologial system, endocrinal spontaneity, the womb of wonder and the insistence of sensate internality, as blood renews each cell in tireless cycles.

I am no desolate ego. I am a brief space and time for heaven to impart one or two fruitful ideas and actions, a few experiences of beauty to share, and the sense of truth that leads to peace because there can be no other outcome.