Saturday 22 December 2018

Everybody knows: the legal falsification of marks in South Africa.

Let's stick with secondary education, because I've first-hand experience, in the past nine months. We all seem to have the idea that marks aren't what they seem to be be. Here's how it works.

And before I start, the interest that the Story Clinic has in this is neurological. Neurons, like tummies are better off with food that feeds. Not poison. The body doesn't lie. People do, quite badly. Here's the lie that stretches from grade 8 to 11 in secondary education:

In broad strokes, and I generalise, bu this happens in the majority of South African secondary schools, targets are set. Pass rate numbers. Not the average mark. Just to pass. The school principals don't set this. The circuit managers don't set this. It comes from above. Ask Angie.

Okay, so I sat there, an intellectual emeritus professor of narrative studies, taking my cue from a non-fee-paying school in South Africa, after having my soul scraped off the ceiling, after experiencing bizarre behaviour by thugs, the suffering of gentler spirits, the carelessness of learners in general, the attempted carefulness of staff, the desperate desire of the management team to manage, the callous attitude of the three blind mice from the WCED who came to tell the dysfunctional school that it wasn't functioning so well: these were all experiences from which I could learn.

But nothing, to my mind, balances out the targets. The targets are set, but I couldn't work out exactly by whom. Certainly not the school. "It's just the system". Not the circuit manager. "It comes from above". I had a chommie in head office, Pretoria. I sent a message. The answer made my blood run cold. It wasn't a chommie answer. It was a very formal answer, and it told me that I was blowing a whistle in the Arctic.

So here are the broad  strokes that work in the majority of South African schools:

less than a third pass on their own merits.

The Department says 80 - 85 percent must pass.

So marks are given out, on a bit by bit basis, bit by more basis, more by more basis, until the targets are met.

Consider that. Consider it well.

Those marks are just given. Sanctioned from above. Ask Angie.

What are the implications?

An arrogant learner body: "Give me my marks".

A stupid learner body: "I've passed, I'm competent."

An unrealistic learner body: "I can make it through tertiary education".

An angry learner body: "Why am I not making it?"

From an economical point of view I'd say that the the kind of school I'm talking about costs the tax payer R18 million a year to produce 200 potential EFF voters a year. The ANC didn't reckon on that.

Not an effective strategy.

The Story Clinic prefers healthy, wholesome stories. But sometimes you have to switch on the lights. It's difficult to extract a tooth in the dark. I should know. Two of mine broke while I was working in the dark. Gentle Dental kindly helped me.

We're not waiting for the bomb. It's exploded, yet too few are listening.

Certainly, we'll feel it. From the top to the bottom of the economy.

It's rubbish.

Ask Angie.

Saturday 1 December 2018

The post-coaching era.

What comes after coaching? Decades ago, those who could went to psychologists, some for clincial reasons, some for counselling purposes, many just to find answers. That era has moved on, and medical aids have doubts about paying for these services, often, because the medical status of psychology has moved on, too.

Arising from some psychological bases, such as the work of Virginia Satir and Fritz Perls, NLP was born: neuro-lingusitic programming, and this is the framework for coaching. What we feel and what we say work together to create a felt sense of purpose, meaning and achievement, and thus we are offered the only three ways to achieve happiness, the seven steps to fulfilled love, the four linking loops of abundance and nine ways of reducing neuro-science to a new sense of reality. New brands of coaching are created continually: the common thread to all of them is head-turning, attention-arresting, heart-touching manipulations of emotive attention. From blogs to vlogs to podcasts and pop-up word-shops, the business of arresting, persuading and getting payment for the gratification of attentional needs is getting overcooked.

I think it may be pertinent to remember that there is nothing new under the sun. The seasons turn, the cycles repeat, new imprints of life remind us of the irreversible yet unworded places that decision is enacted, and the story simply continues.

This is why I founded the Story Clinic. Literary theory may be interesting to some, but it's definitely a hollow, intellectual pursuit, and means little to the person on the pavement. (You can't say "man in the street" anymore, that's a highly suspect, stereotypical, sexist, gender-aggressive statement, as well as a localisation of maleness, and also a possible racial slur because of any white stripes that might be painted on the tarmac.)

Whereas humans use, abuse and disabuse language as they please, the story that speaks through them, arising from deeper places that they can't imagine, whispering, screaming or singing from the guts, as the case may be, simply can't lie. I wouldn't necessarily say there's just one story communicating through us. There could well be many, but that's too difficult to start with. I mean, how many minds do we have?

Maybe I could create a workshop to identify your seven minds in five easy steps. But I think I've made my point. R.D. Laing once remarked that when his patients asked why they were paying all this money for no result, and walked off, it was called a cure.

So I think coaching could be fined for going over a speed trap in due course. I don't have anything particular against coaching. I think it often does good work, and changes lives for the better. On the other hand, it's often superficial, frequently expensive in respect of training, and deceptively condescending in that it's bottom line is that the answer is in you.

So what on earth are you actually paying for?

Stories are time-honoured: that's why I like them. There's no one definition for what a story is, but we do know that the body uses them, persistently and consistently to create a sense of coherent meaning. So I'm suggesting that when coaching cools off, or just gets too confusing for wonderful choice, the stories of who we are and what's going on will still be there. We need to get closer to them, and learn to listen more attentively, both to others and ourselves. So I am bold to announce the beginning of the post-coaching era, and the arrival of storied-time. It's called"storied-time" because when we get involved in our various narratives on purpose, things change vividly. It's a natural way of approaching what would seem to be unapproachable. And not so expensive.

Friday 31 August 2018

Organic energy, molecular energy, atomic energy, sub-atomic energy

You get to the point where language fails awareness and consciousness. Language is a bridge between rationality and irrationality, and using language to answer questions is usually a waste of time because the questions, cloaked in language as they are, seldom ask real things. This experience of being alive: what is it? I can't think of any way that language can actually answer that. Instead, I want to observe what I've learnt about energy, another elusive word that's become the go-to for many holistic practitioners. 

Energy, vibration, biocentrism, chi, the field, and many more is what we're part of, we're told. And it's not remote. It's here, now, infinite, eternal, and it's the "me" that is the central register of my experience and all experience for that matter. What that means to me is that a continuum of experience is possible. Let's play a little.

Organic energy relates to the experience of being a whole, alive body with senses working well, piecing and placing habits, norms, expectations and values in terms of what is perceived and felt. This level of energy plays sport, eats out, drives a car, captains a craft, works during the day, converses and creates much. It's where our conscious minds work, mostly. Choice is multifarious at this level. 

We're less conscious of molecular energy: when the body becomes ill or damaged, our attention goes to this level, and suffers there until health is restored. By the same token, we can indeed focus our attention to this level by becoming aware of what's in the stomach, the intestines, the movement of blood, what occurs at the alveoli, what is blocked or enhanced in neurotransmission. Smokers and heavy drinkers should be able to reflect awarenesses like these. Choice is not practised as much at this level, because we do not habitually go there. 

Atomic energy: can we go there? We're not taught to think like that, but I suggest that the continuum from consciousness to unconsciousness is falsely worded. We know about being awake, day-dreaming, lucid dreaming, REM dreaming, being comatose and my view is that these terms are attached to organic and molecular energy. When we talk about being dead, when molecular and organic energy no longer work, the atoms and sub-atomic energies have longer stories to tell. 

I've heard that the elements are indestructible, and if that's the case, can I feel what they're telling me, now?

Some intuitive imp tugs my sleeve and tells me that these shamanic journeys they talk about aren't about going there and coming back. It's more about the vivid fervency that's gone into myriads of journeys that brought me here, and then going back. 

With a little learned focus, I feel it's not impossible to allow the intention and attention of the atomic  and sub-atomic me address and inform the molecular and organic me. 

The precision of maths, the astonishment of music, the heart-felt moments of beauty and the hidden stories of atoms have something in common: this body of self-awareness and experiential acuity. In and by itself, its story and journey go to startling places. Beyond that sense of self how much more can there be? We could start with a cupful of universes. 

Monday 6 August 2018

Shamanic paths and the Spirit of Christ.

Read up on the background of shamanic practise and you'll discover that this has been a time-honoured way of travelling between different realms of spirituality, dating back to pre-history.

Read up on the spirit of Christ, the Holy Spirit, and you won't find much about different realms of spirituality or travelling between them, but I submit that the Spirit of Christ is about everywhere there is to travel to.

An easier way of putting that is that everyone has their own story, and if you are prepared to listen carefully to that story, and travel with the teller, you will find the Spirit of Christ in the details. Not the devil.

The more vulnerability an individual discloses, the more of that suffering, restoring and resurrecting spirit you'll encounter.

Another approach is to acknowledge the story that you unwittingly embrace. Some endorse a religious story, some the incomplete narrative that scientific research attempts. Nothing wrong with either of these, but then healing remains incomplete. I suggest that the Spirit of Christ does not give you something, but takes you on a journey, yes, one from which there is no return, and which is inevitably linked with the planet earth, the table of elements, communication with all that is communicative and that is very inclusive, if you are prepared to go beyond the merely human.

A big clue is to go beyond one rhetorical or jargon set to speak your truth no matter what it is. What is the purpose of the Christ-like path? Freedom, healing, redemption or simply wholesome living? What is the shamanic path? To relieve, restore, reconnect or simply realise? Do you have to beat drums or Bible-bash? Is trance a requirement? Is correct theology imperative?

For me, it's become mercifully easy enough to read a person's words, attitudes and intentions. I said read, not judge.

It's enough for me to say that I recognise the sameness of intent in those who speak from these two paths with sincerity and purpose. So are they really two paths? Sure, the words and logical imperatives are quite different, but as I write, one rain falls. It knows no words, only wetness. It knows no distinctions, only nourishment, and if over-supplied, then flood, fear, and the sense of failure.

And something in the soul tells me not to fear words, but those who abuse them. And to accept the Spirit of Christ, and to examine the shamanic path, as an honour to those who have always been brave enough to seek healing for all.

Tuesday 24 July 2018

Shamanic words

Few words do justice to the distance they've come.

The human ability to reduce a sense of reality to words, and then reduce these again, to what works for me, is an affront to the actual shamanic reality of words.

Let's get clear about shamanist stuff:

I'm not seriously into beating drums, chanting for hours and entering altered states for the sake of altered states.

I'm a mystery to myself, and missing a lot because of ordinary ignorance, and I realise much of this enigma is because is the weird mix of feeling and language. Read NLP.

But even getting a handle doesn't mean opening the window for much needed oxygen.


They go all the way down into sound.

How flat and artificial is human noise.

When even one note of real connection comes out, and is lost,
so many multiverses of possibility go.

At least they come again.

We live in a forgiving place of living,
but I have the sense we can't take it for granted.

Human words are human sounds.
They'll last for a bit.

After that, silence.

And after silence,
who can tell?

The outpouring is the same as the

We all know it,
but our words are too

Believe in your heart.
It's a big as the widest sunrise
you'll ever see.

We are where we'll ever be.
Knowing this should
help. One small practise,
and you'll see.

Saturday 5 May 2018

The Healing Stories

Almost all of the narratives jangling in our conscious awareness are semi-framed snippets of attempted coherence. The brain does its best to make sense, but the immediate environment has been too toxic for a long time. "Man is a wolf to man" said the philosopher. "At bottom, everyone is selfish," said my English teacher. There are only two certainties: tax and death, says popular cynicism. 

I have other suggestions to make. 

I have given up to a large extent on the story that I am an individual making my way through life before I succumb to death. Individualism is an overpraised heroism, and I have actually experienced its complete disappearance when I once drowned in the limitless ocean of perception with no possible boat to be known. 

It's more invigorating to realise that each and every human organism, as are others, is a fragment of the living, organic pulse that spreads over the cooling crust of Mother Earth, participating in a living ecology that is both sensitive and strong. One thing leads to another in every possible way, and the living stories are the ones to look out for. 

While it's true that organisms wear out, the concept of death is a non-concept, when it comes to clear thinking. Thinking and words go together, and too bad for cognition that lived experience is slippery to the attempted touch of truth. "Three things are true (or real...?) "said Woody Allen. "Birth, sex and death."

I'd include eating, as an effect of MasterChef. 

Whilst we have the experience of being alive as humans, let's notice what the healing stories are. Help is often needed to do this: the small meanings, the details of delight, brief journal entries of joy. The fleeting yet necessary withdrawals, the hour of silence, the minute of bafflement, the second of recognition and a repetition of one daily ritual that brings safety. 

The ticking of a well-known clock, a dog's ears, one sound known to only one person, and a moment of exquisite touch that links all procreation of the planet. 

The healing stories are not merely the optimistic ones, but the leaking of one ocean into another, the dialogue of one universe with another. Humans are both unbearably stupid and brilliant star-gates at the same time. Mike Dooley is good at this perspective. Thanks for "Playing the Matrix", Mike. 

The healing stories aren't difficult to find, but difficult to accept because of the overwhelming toxicity of the immediate environment. The healing stories emerge from human organisms, they aren't some kind of staircase, or magical passage out there. Paying attention, to what, where and how is key. And to leave your own organism out of this is poor strategy. Shared attention is a frequently used baseline for creating a narrative, and when someone takes charge of it, you're not in charge of it anymore. Politicians and preachers. They always want to kill the poets. Beware the story hijackers, who come as political leaders, business interrupters, evangelicals and coaches, those who seize a very little bit of academic research and weave their own powerful story thereon. You need this story. You will listen, and you will part with money to know more. Your rush of emotional curiosity and need will know no constraint. When must-have is manipulated and urged, so does a market arise. 

The healing stories are less sales-like and more slow, like the slow drops after the downpour, not the crescendo of the impending storm. 

The body knows the healing stories but we hesitate to follow their titles, because of their unassuming nature. While the immediate toxic environment wants to baffle, capture and use attention at every possible juncture, the healing stories have no such strategy. In the past few days I've watched pigeons use their tail feathers to swerve, land and perch with such aplomb. And this learning has come naturally to them. Compared to this, my own mind is immeasurably immature. 

The healing stories are better than the toxic messages that fill our daily awareness. They are surprisingly real, more fruitful than the desperate attempts to dilute poison by engaging directly, although this is also honourable. 

More on  

Wednesday 28 February 2018

Is the bottom line rationality, irrationality or non-rationality?

Today I attended a town gathering where all the town's church leaders prayed for rain, God's presence, support for farmers and for the community in general. It was a worthwhile experience, and there was a spirit of community that I had not yet encountered in this town. 

One thought that I pondered was about praying for rain. Since the Western Cape is in dry straits, and there is plenty of stress and desperation, the cry is obvious. But really, the notion of a personological God who is able to change weather patterns when pleaded with to do so? 

I went over the important lessons I have learnt, and remembered the huge relief that came over me when I learnt about non-formal education. For two blessed years I was taught by UCT's best in the Department of Adult, Non-formal and Continuing Education. Formal education is what most of us experienced on a compulsory basis, fulfilling certain requirements and meeting obligatory standards, complying with legal definition. Informal education is everyday learning, and non-formal education falls between the cracks, defying definition but nevertheless having real effect.

We're often baffled by the irrationality that strikes: why do I have cancer? How come I lost everything? Why is there just no sense in being alive? Why did my baby have to die? On the other hand, rationality explains everything, we simply need the time and opportunity to work things out. 

We live in an almost super-rational age, having left magical thinking behind, knowing better than belief, and intuiting on the basis of being coached by the best and the most expensive. 

The third position of non-rationality does us the favour of side-stepping opposites which are the hallmark of the logical red herring. According to Kant something was either itself or not itself. As far as mind is concerned, motivation can be either rational which means you know what you're doing or irrational, which means you haven't thought about what you did. 

I reckon the mind is capable of operating rationally, irrationally and non-rationally. Non-rationality gives us all the freedom to be who we are, rationality notwithstanding. Irrationality is best avoided. 

So is it okay to pray for rain? 

Could God really tweak weather for us? 

Non-rationality says I can leave that to be an open question. In a universe where cause and effect are God, rationality says no. In an irrational universe, where nothing makes sense in the long run, you can put a frog on a stone and sacrifice virgins to make anything happen. 

In a non-rational universe, you can step into a sacred space which is also a badly managed main road in a divided town and pray for rain. Your idea of God is no doubt also badly managed, and needs both moisturiser and night-cream. But I liked it when the Caltex man who stood next to me and I had a spontaneous hug because we were praying for each other, in whatever way we knew how to. 

It was a good experience, observing and sensing the badly managed main road remind itself and all those present that it's always a sacred place, if one would simply hold it as such. 

And the frog that harboured itself in our bedroom some nights ago was put back into the pond, and it seems to have remembered that somewhere closer to water is where it belongs. 

Thursday 15 February 2018

The rubbish of everything.

It's not negative, just a vague attempt to say something real. When one delves deeply into one's unsaid things, they tend to flare.

But I have come to the end of participating in human pretence, from the highest echelons of academic  self-recognition, to walking with the one scratching in the bin for food.

It's the pretence that bothers me.

The hunger of humans, dying each hour,
and the deep desire for

There's no balance.

If you're comfortable, it doesn't mean that you have to
give it up.

But the heart staggers.
Whose's carrrying the weight?

Who's pushing the pyramids of

Apparently my accountant knows nothing about what
money means,
although the balance has to
stand still, from time to time.

But the question is,
what counts, the moving colours of
seasons caution us.

Speaking for myself,
I'd try to avoid the rubbish.
After that, if you can do it,
sunrise always says something
If you get up early enough,
and know how to watch,
you'll see something that wil make you
think again.

Thursday 25 January 2018

The reason why God, healing and wholeness are the same.

Humans, being part of the living planet, are involved in a very delicate ecology. The illusion that everything is okay, and that the weekend is coming up to be enjoyed, is the way the western world has stumbled upon, in its quest for normality. That's not normal for millions, who are either below the breadline, on the breadline, or ill, and desperate.

I was brought up to believe that God is in charge, but what they didn't add was that they prefer to be in charge of God, because that gave them a lot of power.

I don't think that the planet is sick, but I do recognise that humans put greed, self-righteousness, fear and fervour above reasonability, compassion, carefulness and connection.

It's because in our early years we are more malleable than mindful, because our mind is in formation, and at the mercy of malicious purpose, of which there is plenty.

People may or may not choose malice consciously, but certainly they practise it, and the result is twisted emotion, their own, and those around them.

Choosing to connect with God can't evade choosing to connect with the whole, which means all of living, which is actually our default. The table of elements knows no exclusion.

Medical science has come a long way in knowing how to manage the body when things go awry, and need to be stabilised while natural healing occurs.
That kind of intervention is conducive to but does not imply a purposeful movement towards wholeness.

The path to wholeness involves recognition and respect of what is naturally there.

In short, we don't need any kind of special understanding of God to experience ourselves as being part of a much bigger living that defies language and perception. We are wrongly taught that life and death are opposites. Our aliveness is part of a bigger aliveness. Dead doesn't mean not alive, just as  trees know that winter isn't summer, and autumn isn't spring.

In a nutshell, we heal into wholeness, and the body, experiencing this miracle, knows it for what it is. Some recover from illness, some do not. The reason has nothing to do with good, evil, sin or salvation. The ecology of nature and mind is not evidence, but practise, and the further up the conscious mind tree you are, the more you need to recognise the tree for what it is. Many depend on money to get them through, and money grants options but not meaning. In my own quest for natural medicine, I recognise God in each connection between mind and matter that urges not only the individual but also the collective towards wholeness.

Human tissue is made of universal atomic movement. It's reasonable to to stop arguing about perceptions, and notice subtleties that strongly agree.

Saturday 13 January 2018

Attending Story Clinic

The reason why anyone attends Story Clinic is the beginning of the new story to be told.  An individual might want to get to grips with the story of being alive. An interest group such as micro-light pilots, stamp-collectors or boutique wine farmers might want to forge a new identity and project in respect of their focus. A town might want to re-negotiate its reason for existence. A school could want to re-communictae itself. A bank might have run out of internal goodwill, and want to re-assure its branches of a new normal. A hospital management team might decide on kindness to patients as well as clinical expertise. A president could think again, and decide to recalculate.

Here are some basic aspects to the bones of Story Clinic:

There is a huge space between language and reality. Be prepared to explore this. It's safe.

Formality is merely formality. It has no power, unless it is given power. Being alive isn't formal, and neither is being dead. And language is a non-formal convention.

The story that anyone finally believes doesn't make it so. The table of elements has a stable description, but the universe behaves beautifully and badly at the same time. Our planet, solar system and galaxy are all about chemical behaviour, mostly fire, ice, wind and nothing. But we're here to experience, observe and respond. And that makes the real difference.

Consciousness, pre-consciousness and unconsciousness are levels of arbitrary. Choosing on purpose is a huge privilege of being an alive human.

Much of spoken language is voice-box, throat, neck, mouth and facial posture. Mimic that and you've got the communication if not the words.

In Story Clinic we ask:

What stories have you kept to explain your sense of reality?
What made those stories rise within you?
Did they arise in healthy or unhealthy ways? (Your body will instinctively know the answers.)
Turn those big stories into chapters, pages or even one-liners. Do you choose to keep them, toss them or re-write parts?
Your body is part of a material as well as energetic story. To which word-sets do you limit yourself? How well do you know your internal ecology? To what extent do you recognise and respect your external ecology?
When it comes to external ecology, which stories attract your attention? Current affairs? History? Activism? Finance? Let your natural attention explain something about your story-relatedness to you.
Who are the significant people in your story? And from which era are they? And in what sense do you control or not control their presence?

There are, of course, plenty more story-questing ways of teasing your being into presence.  The healthy stories do this, while the unhealthy ones stifle, stop and stuff the soul into the unwashed sock of a contrived sense of reality that smells bad although we all seem to agree that it's necessary to do this. This is strange behaviour based on making ourselves acceptable to each other.

Attending Story Clinic is about paying attention to the experiment of being alive. And we are both the researcher as well as the research population. It's an exciting and fun way to play with normal and new, always with the purpose of understanding what healthy means and does.

Thursday 4 January 2018

Talking about love

"Love" is the biggest word in the English language, perhaps after "God". The biggest presupposition, an unlikely label for a preferred reality, for many just a desperate desire with no hope of fulfilment, a feeling with a really abstract label, a fascination with an unattainable desire.

I don't mind the word, but I have no understanding of what it means, in just one word.

"I love you" ??

Let's try again, imagining the scenario.

You are my child, I will always care for you materially, and emotionally.
You are my friend, I commit to communicating with you, in your best interests, always.
You are my spouse, I will always honour you, sexually, financially, communicatively.
You are my community, I will always be loyal.

But in each scenario, there's a further analysis to be made, more detail of an ethical purpose that depends on emotion, and the effects thereof.

Once you get the sense that love isn't a thing, but is alive, it starts to get slippery. That aspect of experience, that really important one is more like a lizard than the stone on which it's sunning itself. Notice it, and it runs, losing it's tail to distract your further attention.

So, go into the beauty of your soul, which is really there, and ask what the ultimate word means.

You may be surprised. Every word that proceeds from your mouth or heart is ultimate. "Love" is more like the canvas, your intentions and actions more like the picture that gets splashed, sometimes more, sometimes less attractively.

Your love?

What does your heart say? Your body know? Your skin fear or acknowledge?

I learn about love by observing bodies, especially when they ask for help. I hope that I know how to respond. Those real levels of requirement, like trauma, truth and touch aren't really up for much conceptual analysis. You know how to fix, or you don't.

That's my kind of medicine.

So when someone is really stuffed in the department of love, it's a good strategy to look at the heart, and not the words.

"God" happens to be there, too.

But  physiology is the short-cut to both. It's really fascinating to have all the answers literally in your hands.