Sunday, October 8, 2017

Naturally Transcendent

In the last week I’ve had 3 experiences which in one way were very similar: as examples of human interactions at their best.

On the face of it, the 3 situations were very different: a job interview, a funeral and a meal with a group of Baha’i.

In the beginning . . .
Those who know the Baha’i will not be surprised to hear that my meal with full of meaningful conversation, genuine and deep engagement and a nobility of spirit. These wonderful people are known for practicing what they preach and for demonstrating, in their day-to-day lives, their spiritual presence. Indeed, how we might do this was one of the topics of conversation that evening!

Over the years I’ve had similar experiences with groups of Brahma Kumaris and of Quakers. Each of these 3 religious/spiritual organisations make a particular effort to take their work out into their local communities and into the most needy of places around the world. Of course, one could also point out that many communities of Christians, Jews, Muslims, Hindus, Sikhs, Buddhists (or any other religious or spiritual organisation) also do the same, and deserve much respect for doing so. One might debate the extent to which this happens in some groups compared to others and also the inclusiveness of the activities and engagement and related beliefs . . .  but that is not the focus of this particular article. When it comes to demonstrations of human unity, it can be found as a tenant underlying all major faiths and philosophies.

At the end . . .
I do enjoy a good funeral. For one reason, it’s accepted that you can have a cry (a natural and healthy way to express ones feelings) and to reminisce, to talk about things that have perhaps been buried for decades. It’s a chance for deeper discussions, for meaningful engagement, particularly with friends and family one may not have seen for years. Despite that, the connections will immediately be there: be it genetic, the bond of good neighbours or that rapport of a life-long friend. Not all funerals, unfortunately, are like this, but this one was . . . a good funeral.

This may, at least in part, be because the host family are Lancastrians: one of the regions of the UK often considered particularly friendly and helpful. And so they were: no thanks to Google Maps, I was getting lost finding my way between the tram station and crematorium. On quite a few occasions I stopped and asked a local where I needed to go: the responses were also helpful and accurate but also genuinely friendly. You get nice folks in Lancashire.

But then, so do you in Wales, Northamptonshire, the Algarve (Portugal – all places I’ve lived), Penang (Malaysia) and numerous other places I’ve visited. Of course, you could bump into a grumpy person, or even a nasty person, pretty much anywhere in the world, but my experience is that, at heart, most folk are decent. Greet them with respect and an open-heart and that’s what you’ll get in return. Even in a job interview . . .

In the middle . . .
Many work situations can be sadly lacking in basic human compassion and interviews have, of necessity, to be challenging and intense. But my latest interview was an example of being firm but kind. That I had travelled all morning to attend was particularly appreciated and, just as I engaged with what they were trying to do, so they, my prospective employer and colleagues, engaged with me and my experiences. Yes, they had specific questions to ask and boxes to be ticked, but this particular interview went beyond that. I didn’t get that job but I was left feeling that this was somewhere I could enjoy working.

At the heart . . .
At the funeral and in the interview I was pleased to be amongst folk I described in my PhD thesis as ‘naturally transcendent’. Like the Baha’is they were genuine and caring, engaging and responsive, recognising the common unity between all human-beings. The difference is that they didn’t talk about it, nor would many of them have described themselves as ‘spiritual’ or committed to an ‘evolving consciousness’. They just were. The lovely people I met were just being their whole true self and treating others as they would hope to be treated. Isn’t that what being human is all about?

At the wake, as we shared personal stories of coping with heath issues and the challenges of life generally, we agreed that often all we can do to get through is to find something to smile or laugh about. We didn’t use the words soul or spirit, but we knew what we meant and what living with spirit meant.

At the interview we discussed how to make things happen, how to assure the success of projects. We agreed that a big part of this is to listen, to make an effort to understand the different perspectives of those involved. We didn’t use the words love or compassion, but that’s what we were taking about and, beneath the words, we knew that.

We don’t have to Be Spiritual to be spiritual. We certainly don’t need to talk about God, to express the divine in life. In their own way a large number of individuals are getting on with being decent human beings, naturally, in their own way, in their day-to-day lives. I might call it naturally transcendent or implicit spirituality, but it reminded me that we can often make a good impression (at many levels) not by explicitly talking about something, but by demonstrating in . . . in how we live our lives.

And out the other side

Way back in the late 1990s I left my job in electronics to take up Reiki as an holistic practitioners and life-guide. Or rather, I began my conscious path of personal and spiritual development. The heart and soul had gone out of the company I worked for and I needed a career with meaning and value. I’d previously taken Second Degree Reiki training to help me sort our my relationships, which never seemed to go anywhere. And so began two decades of seeking, of exploring different faiths, philosophies and techniques to help me reconnect to who I really am.

I’m now thinking and feeling that this phase is over. It’s been a transitional period of working on my issues, coming to terms with the state of humanity and reconnecting to my natural, flowing, self.

Before, with the exception of not having a proper girlfriend, I’d been a happy soul. An active part of the community (Morris Dancer, panto performer, residents association), a rewarding role within a team at work, pushing back the frontiers of Quality Assurance. I was usually cheerful and able to throw myself into my various activities with mind, body and soul . . . although I would probably not have been able to talk about such things.

Then life intervened and showed me the other side of human nature and human ways (in the form of the company that took us over) and the shift in electronics from useful state-of-the art developments to ‘how can we make money out of this’.

During my transitional phase including years in the wilderness of the Algarve mountains and intellectual challenge of a PhD I have learned much about how I, and humans generally, can better use our minds; how we can attain a transcendent state of consciousness that embraces rational though and sensory knowing but goes beyond to connect us into life itself, the one-ness of reality. This I recognises as the same flow and insight that I’d previously had naturally. But now I could explain it in ways that academia could understand and business could benefit from.

In parallel with the integration of inner knowing with outer knowing has been a huge mental clear-out; releasing mental blocks, grieving for old dreams and ideas that would never match reality, undoing beliefs about life and myself such that I could accept how different we all are. Through first-hand experience and through study (in the deep engagement sense of the word) of others and the ways of the world, I’ve come to see things for what they are . . . without getting too depressed or annoyed by them.

True, there will always be things that irritate or get me down, but now I’m able to face my own emotions and allow them to settle . . . and for others to be as they are.

In many ways I’m (almost!) back to how I was up to 20 years ago: a happy chappy with an enquiring mind, never happier than when throwing myself into a natural scene or creative endeavour, always keen to co-create and engage heart to heart with those I meet . . . in whatever situation.

In other ways I’m a changed man: a good many fears have been faced and doubts resolved. With mental blocks zapped away I’m more able to take life as I find it and find people and places to engage with in a meaningful way. And, I’m aware of all of this. As and when required, for example when with other active seekers, I can share my experiences and models as someone who has ‘been there done that’. But I no longer need to make this seeking, this conscious inner work, my sole occupation. I can let it go. I need to let it go! One of my big lessons has been how I, like so many others, get attached to ideas, to goals, to labels and, in so doing lose the plot, lose my connection to the natural flow and loving relationships on which human fulfilment depends.

So, for me, my seeking has been a phase. My conscious, explicitly spiritual, self-development has enabled me to undo bad mental habits and reconnect to the me with a zest for life. I’ve come out the other side of the seeking, transitional phase, hopefully much better able to be a happy and successful me. With many thanks for those who have shred the journey with me and apologies to those who’ve had to put up with me during the more difficult shifts. As they say, old habits die hard: but we can work through them and come out the other side. Now the problems facing the world are clear, but so too is the potential for our species and the knowing that I’m ready and willing to play my part in an emerging, more evolved and aware humanity.

Friday, September 1, 2017

Countering Extremist Threats

How can we respond to extremism? What is the underlying issue and what responses are needed to make any worthwhile and effective difference?

1. Why does an individual become radicalised?

Because they feel they don’t belong. They feel isolated, un-appreciated, misunderstood.

And it’s not just potential terrorists that feel this way. Listen to the mood of the general public, as reflected in recent votes, and this feeling is widespread: an indicator of the general state of unrest, dis-satisfaction and a real and strong sense that all is not well with society.

The few individuals who become radical extremists are but the tip of the iceberg. Humanity is in crisis. We have had enough of the status-quo. We feel that the way things have been in recent decades (in attitudes, how things are run, in approaches, in strategies and priorities, etc.) are all taking us, humanity, in the wrong direction.

Underlying all of these thought and feelings is a simple human need that many feel is not being satisfied:

“Nobody cares about us. Nobody cares how we FEEL. Nobody is listening.”

This is reflected in so much about the politics and business-world of our time. For example:
Politicians, individually and collectively, who slag each other off, trying to score political points whilst failing to see, far less address, the growing frustration with such behaviour.

2. What can be done?

We need those in positions of authority to listen. Really listen. Actively listen.

We need those on different sides of the political spectrum, of the business community and of society to commit to working together, to seeking consensus, to co-operating for the sake of our whole society.

Left-wing, right-wing clashes need to be consigned to the history books. What wing is the great British Blackbird? What wing is the magnificent eagle? Birds need their two wings working in harmony: so does British politics!

That’s it. The solution, in theory at least, is simple: stop arguing, stop mud-slinking, stop avoiding the deeper issues and question.

Instead, really listen to each other and to those who are unhappy, frustrated, if not furious. Care about their feelings and issues. And show you care.

Despite all the rhetoric and clever words (used by politicians and business leaders alike) the general feeling is that the needs, feelings and deeper concerns of ordinary people are being ignored.

Because of this, what starts as a minor frustration, instead of being resolved with compassion, understanding and a win-win approach, becomes deep, seething resentment. There is a lot of it around. It can only be addressed by appreciated the deeper sense of disconnect, of isolation, of not-belonging.

This approach is already taking root in activities celebrating Jo Cox, in More-In-Common (Hope not Hate) and similar grass-roots movements across the country. These, and the heart-felt responses to recent atrocities and tragedies represent and reflect the true nature of the vast majority of British public. What we need is for administrations, government bodies, companies and other organisations to follow their example.

The country needs its leaders to put heart and soul into their leadership; to practice sincerity and genuine co-operation. The way forward is as simple as that.

It is true that the practice may not be easy, because shifting to this way of thinking d behaving may mean changing the habits of a lifetime. But that’s no excuse not to make the effort. With commitment and perseverance, behaviour and attitudes can be changed. Nationally and locally, in many forms, a movement exists that would welcome the opportunity to help our leaders undertake this growth process.

We call for an emphasis on growth in awareness, in compassion and understanding and a willingness to look at and deal with our own limiting beliefs and dubious attitudes. This is the sort of growth that our country needs now, more than ever before.

Wednesday, April 26, 2017

Being a Christian, Being a Scientist, Being Wholly Human

By Beyond Thought we mean beyond dualistic thinking; beyond those either-or choices we’re so often expected to make in life. Like the great Science: Religion debate, for example.

Thus, when I hear someone ask how they can reconcile being a Christian with being a scientist, I’m puzzled. I’ve always been a Christian (my parents were both active with my local church whilst I was growing up) and always been a scientist (since studying Maths, Physics and Chemistry A-levels) and never had a problem being both together. So how have a managed to do this whilst others seems to suffer agonies over the supposed dichotomy of conflicting world-views?

Well, that’s the first point: since reflecting on such things consciously I’ve been willing to acknowledge dichotomy, embrace a paradox and rise above (apparent) contradictions. Science and Christianity (or any religion) are merely (to me) two perspectives on what we call reality. Neither is right nor wrong, good nor bad, better nor worse: they’re just different! It’s looking being either side of a window: we can be inside looking out or outside looking it. Two very different views through the same window.

Being a scientist, to me, is about exploring my reality, making sense of the world and my place in it through rational enquiry . . . by asking question. By understanding things better I improve my relationships with life  . . . I become more whole, more conscious. As science expands itself to embrace quantum physics and consciousness, this journey become even more fascinating and rewarding!
Being a Christian has two facets for me: being a Christian within a community is about practicing rather than preaching. To love your neighbour  . . . and love your enemy. And being a Christian on a personal journey is about developing my Christ-consciousness: become more whole and complete through improving my relationship with God, with life.

So, to me, both paths are about creatively growing towards greater consciousness.  As I pursue them, with conviction, willingness and openness to deeper understanding and revelation, they meet each other. I’ve found that both paths amount to a common path towards finding ourselves and being a whole, fulfilled, human-being at peace with themselves and the world. That journey might take all of our lives, it may involve embracing paradoxes, but isn’t that why we’re here?

May your reflections be enlightened!


PS This particular image of a view through a window was taken around Nov 5th some years ago. Fireworks can be enjoyable and instil a sense of wonder or a very scary experience. It all depends on your perspective . . .

PPS Some readers might be surprised to see this article from me, since I rarely, explicitly, describe myself as Christian, and am just as likely to be writing or speaking about Buddhism or Taoism. But I was confirmed into the Church of England as teenager. And I have no problem relating constructively to any other (constructive!) philosophy, religion or approach to life . . .