Archive for the ‘Podcast’ Category

Silence and the sea

Wednesday, December 15th, 2010

Dear friends

This will be my last newsletter for 2010. I’m going to spend a little time beside a lake in the mountains where Finding the Field is set. I’m looking forward to plenty of peace and quiet. Silence.

Not true silence, of course, because even in the still of night, the bush has a thousand conversations.

 There are two kinds of true silence. One of them is so rare it’s almost a curiosity. The other is available to anyone, and can transform your health and well-being. I was lucky because for me, the first led to the second.

The first kind is the complete absence of sound. I experienced it half way between New Zealand and Tonga, over the Marianas trench, where it can take 24 hours for a discarded can to reach the bottom. There’s no point in telling the whole story here, but for about an hour my six-year-old son Sam and I were alone, far from the yacht, in a tiny dinghy. The Pacific was asleep, dreaming long, slow dreams; not a breath or breeze, not a ripple in the glassy water, not even a whale cry from the depths. So, for a few minutes Sam and I experienced life utterly devoid of sound.

At first, my mind objected to the silence and filled it in, making me think I could hear my own breathing and the blood moving in my veins, especially around my temples. Then, after a few minutes, it seemed that silence was itself like a sound: a long vibration. Which is how I glimpsed the second kind of silence.

Profound stillness. It’s been known since ancient times—always in us, waiting for us to notice. It’s the stillness that holds all sound, like an ocean holding a dinghy. In fact it holds everything, including us and all our thoughts and adventures. I call it Consciousness, or the Field. Quantum physics calls it the inseparable web of dynamic activity that brings forth all physical objects.

Hard to get your head around it? Imagine that you are watching a rock. Imagine that you zoom your vision down to the surface of the rock; closer and closer until you can see individual atoms vibrating, and even further in until you can see each sub-atomic particle dancing the Wu Li in empty space. And yet when you zoom out again, you see only the stillness of the rock which you now know contains a trillion moving things.

Like the rock, Consciousness moves within itself. When we find the stillness within us, we find Consciousness.

And we find ourselves. That’s the prize. Many claim it through meditation. No one needs to go to sea, climb a mountain or build a sound-proof bunker. It’s right where you are, right now. Once you’re practiced, you can find it in a second even in the middle of Piccadilly Circus. But, of course, beginners need to start looking in a reasonably  quiet place.

But there’s a catch. Many of us are instinctively afraid of losing our ego identity if we contact this profound stillness within us. Many are even afraid to sit quietly and alone without distractions. We fear the poverty of loneliness, when it is really the richness of solitude. I know, because I’ve had that fear myself, and the breakthrough for me was discovering the difference between thought and awareness.

Want to try it? Find a quiet room and gentle music. Put something in front of you to engage your visual focus; it hardly matters what—for me it’s a candle.

Now, turn off your thought track—but don’t try too hard. When a thought does come, don’t treat it like a nuisance. Instead treat it like an atom in that rock and ‘zoom’ out of it until you are watching it from a distance. It’s like lucid dreaming, where you dream on one floor of your mind and watch the dream from the next. When you’re watching the thought pass by—I think this is working, or I’m hungry, or I wonder when Jack is going to call me—then you have begun. You are in two ‘places’ at once. Now, no matter what the thought is, just be aware of it; don’t form an opinion about it, don’t judge it, and don’t judge yourself for having it. Keep ‘zooming out’ until you can no longer see the individual thoughts, but are simply aware, until you are extended way out into the universe around you.

Do you see the possibilities? What is it that’s aware that you have a body? Is it your thoughts, your mind? And what is it that’s aware that you have a mind? Is it your spirit? And what is it that’s aware that you have a spirit? What, then, is the real you?

The real you is all of that and more. Body, mind and spirit. We are like the legendary child made of salt, marching through the mountains and the valleys of its life until it reaches the ocean. It dissolves into the water, changing itself and changing the ocean that gave it birth.

The complete you is in the all the layers of the ocean, all the way to the bottom. You can wait until you reach the beach, or, through meditation, you can experience the ocean on the way, travelling the mountains and the valleys with an inner current of joy—yes, even the valleys.

Perhaps I’ll find another layer on this summer break. But perhaps not. I’m in no rush. For your own break, summer or winter, mountain or valley, may you take joy with you.

I’ll be back in a few weeks.
Namaste.
Michael

Confessions

Wednesday, December 1st, 2010

Dear friends

This week is different. Something significant has shifted in me and I want to share it, in the hope that it’s useful to you. I especially owe this to you if you have read or listened to Finding The Field.

A little background. I was 10 when I first started to wonder, Why is there pain? Actually, I’m smiling right now, remembering my egocentric outrage that such a thing had dared to enter my life. But even then I sensed that there was more to the cause of pain than the most obvious cause in front of me. (No, no details… I just want to get to the point.) Within another 10 years I was seriously looking for answers to the big questions: What’s it all about? Who am I? Why am I here? What’s my place in the universe? It took another 40 years for the answers to fall into place, and then into Field. In spite of what I’m about to tell you, that has not changed. The answers are satisfying to many, it seems, which is wonderful.

Now, let me try put my recent discovery into words.

I’ve been startled by new understanding of something I’ve heard many times, and so, probably, have you. I wrote it into Field: The journey is the destination; the destination is the journey. I learned that one when I journeyed through the Andes looking for the Truth in the classic way. Ironic, yes? I thought I understood it fully back then; but I didn’t, because I somehow never saw the connection with the first universal truth: You are entirely the creator of your reality. Existence is subjective, not objective—even in the hunt for the Truth. Yes, I know, it’s way too academic. Too much thinking. Which is exactly why I missed the point. Here’s the point…

Stop looking.

I must stop looking for enlightenment, because if I believe it is not here, it is not. If I believe it is elsewhere, it is. My beliefs create it so. And I must stop looking even inside myself, because if I believe it is hidden, it is.

Call off the chase. Stand down. Just remain quietly open, aware, relaxed.

Through intense, anxious decades I chased: answers, truth, enlightenment, awakening, fulfilment, self-realisation, serenity, all of that, chasing a butterfly I couldn’t see. What did it look like? Was I running towards it, or away from it? Would I recognize it if I saw it? I didn’t know.

Now, I must stop and allow it to settle gently on my shoulder.

Some have that butterfly on their shoulders all their lives and never speak about it or even think about it. They just live it. But we can sense it, if we want, when we are very still, aware of the silence that holds all sounds and the light that holds all sights and the invisible ocean that holds all thoughts and all things.

You know, I feel wonderful right now. Butterfly safaris were never this good. Why on earth did it take me so long?

Well, I do know the answer to that. I was like the Buddhist student who wanted to impress his master.
     “I’m going to plant this seed,” he said proudly, “and its growth will be an allegory for my spiritual growth.”
     “Yes it will,” smiled the master.
     And the student planted the seed and watched its growth anxiously. He gave it too much water and too many nutrients and it struggled to grow. So he dug it up and re-planted in different soil, again over-watering and over-feeding. Again it struggled and again he re-planted.  And so it went on.
     The day came when the master arrived to see the results, and there was, of course, little to show. The student hung his head.
     “I’m sorry, master. I wanted it to be an allegory of my spiritual progress, but it hasn’t worked.”
    “Yes it has,” smiled the master.

So, this newsletter is something of a confession. I am certain of what went into Field, but that doesn’t mean that the butterfly was flapping vigorously on my shoulder as I wrote. In some ways I was blinded by my own words, even though there is truth in them. My thought of the truth is not the same as the truth. My thought of who I am is not who I am.

But no one has to worry about such things. Why? Because everything works perfectly anyway. We lose the butterfly when we are separate from Consciousness, we find it again when we re-connect. It just doesn’t matter; one state is no better than the other, because  separation and connection are fundamental to creation. They are fission and fusion in perfect dynamic balance and the one has no meaning without the other. Consciousness does not have accounting columns marked right and wrong, good and bad. Jesus and Judas were two faces of one being.

Which means that there’s simply nothing that has to be fixed. Certainly our efforts to fix things add to the great adventure of life, but our efforts are not a requirement of existence. Nothing has to be proved. No one has to be saved. Nothing has to be done. What liberation!

I think I just dealt myself the get-out-of-jail-free card.

I surely have something in common with the man who said, “When I was young, I prayed to Allah to give me the strength to change the world. When I was middle-aged, I prayed to Allah to give me the strength to change those around me. When I was old, I prayed to Allah to give me the strength to change myself.” Well, I think that’s me. But I would add one thing—when I depart this body, I might pray that I have had the strength to be true to my heart. Which is what I seem to be attempting right now.

So does this new relaxation mean that I will become an aimless, protoplasmic blob?

Of course not. I aim to enjoy myself, including plenty of earthly pleasures in the mix. I aim to live fully and love well and make a difference to the world of people around me. But I don’t have to do anything. How terrific to know that everything is part of the perfection of existence—including that pain I experienced as a 10-year-old. How terrific to know that my individual existence will not be weighed on scales. How terrific is that?

And I will not think too hard. Maybe sometimes I will not even describe the smell of roses—I’ll just smell them, for heaven’s sake.

But I will keep writing these newsletters. Yes, I will, as long as you value them and as long as people keep asking me about Finding the Field. Don’t worry, I won’t always treat this newsletter as a confessional.

A last thought. In my writing I have dipped into compassion. But I realise now that I just had my toe in the ocean. The butterfly whispers to me about how vast that ocean is and I suspect that when I have as much compassion for a scorpion as I do for a puppy, I’ll have this whole thing sorted.

But I’m in no hurry.

Joy to you.
Michael

Nicola’s pencil

Wednesday, November 17th, 2010

In 15 years of television journalism, the interview I remember most was with a five-year-old girl called Nicola.

Here’s what happened. Nicola was dying of muscular dystrophy, but was still well enough to attend school classes in her wheelchair. I was in her classroom, making an item on the mainstreaming of disabled children into normal schools. The children adapted quickly to our presence and got on with a normal day.

Nicola dropped her pencil. She leaned over the edge of the wheelchair and looked for it, frowning. Immediately, half a dozen other youngsters, both genders, dropped what they were doing and cast about under the table, until they found the pencil. Then only two of the helpers returned to schoolwork. The rest stayed as Nicola held court about the birthday party she’d had in the weekend. She waved the pencil about, punctuating her statements in the air.

She was obviously very popular.  Was it because she was in a wheelchair? Were they sorry for her? Had the teacher instructed them to look after her needs… especially today? Was it the presence of a camera, or the unusual attention of adults?

It wasn’t any of those things.

The sequence finished and the camera operator nodded at me. The teacher changed the activity. Now it was posters and group discussion. Video-taping began again. Nicola continued to be a strong presence, her every utterance doted on by other five-year-olds. And beside me, smiles grew on the faces of the cameraman and sound recordist, who, like me, had seen many things that don’t lead to smiles. The teacher said nothing, but her smile was knowing. She saw this every day.

They were entranced by Nicola.

I was fascinated.  This was more than superficial popularity. What was it that gave this five-year-old such magnetic presence? Her physical looks? Well, no, she wasn’t pretty in any conventional way. Was it the way she spoke? I noticed that she never stumbled over her words. So perhaps the secret lay in her words—but I could hear nothing essentially different from those of her friends. And yet, somehow, here was a small child with charisma. The ‘X’ factor. How does that happen?

The explanation didn’t emerge until the interview.

For that, the camera crew set up outside, then Nicola and I wheeled and walked across the playground towards them.  On the way, there were a couple of clues. When talking to me, she did not speak child-to-adult, but person-to-person. Also, a waiting television camera crew can easily be intimidating to a child, but she showed not a shred of self-consciousness.

The red light winked on, the tape rolled. Nicola did not change in any way. She continued to chat with me without self-consciousness, as if there was no camera at all. Somewhere in the middle of the interview—I couldn’t resist it—I nodded in the direction of the classroom and commented on her effect on other people.

“You’re very popular.”

Recognising the question for what it was, she screwed up her face and cocked her head to one side for about five seconds of serious thought. Then her expression cleared and her eyes came back to mine.

“I think it’s because I like them,” she said.

Not they like me, but I like them. That, from a terminally ill five-year-old, was an interesting reply. But it was years before I understood it.

Here’s the second universal truth. Your life is your mirror. It shows you what you’re creating and who you’re choosing to be. In the language of the Maori, our indigenous people, Ko au te taiao, ko te taiao ko au: I am the world, the world is me. What you think, feel and believe is what you get, and every object and event is an external reflection of your internal adventure. It’s the secret language of things and events.

The day we know that is the day we start to place what we want in our mirrors.                

There is no physical universe that exists independently of you and me. Everything is an expression of Consciousness, which includes your mind. And your mind—both conscious and subconscious—expresses itself constantly, creating your own adventure stories around you. But so that our adventures can be real to us, we forget that we are the creators. We forget that our thoughts, feelings and beliefs are potent, casting themselves around us like movie projectors.

As we grow, our challenge is to take conscious control of our thoughts, feelings and beliefs—and conjure our life story deliberately.                                         

I didn’t finish the story about Nicola. Yes, she died shortly afterwards, but not as expected. She died in an accident, sparing her the prolonged death of muscular dystrophy.

You know, even as I write this, I realise that I missed out the essential word in her five year life story: love. Nicola loved everyone around her—and it came back constantly in her mirror. Her love included me, a complete stranger. How about that? I love her for it. I’m about to have a glass of wine, I’ll raise it to her memory.

Namaste
Michael

Take me to all the five universal truths

Passion: the cutting tool of consciousness

Wednesday, July 7th, 2010

Passion is the cutting tool of Consciousness, the leading edge of the creation that never ends. It is also the magic ingredient in all successful recipes for achieving the power to have, do, or be what you want.

As well as writing about the nature of reality, I teach presentation skills. The trainees most difficult to help are those so fearful of the bad opinion of others that they have shrunk their passion (and their presence) to the bare minimum to get by undetected. Some tell me directly that they don’t feel strongly about anything. In that state, it’s nearly impossible for them to move an audience.

In life, the passionless are powerless. Until we grow our passion, we cannot move our world; we must wait for the world to move us, and hope for the best.

Here’s the opposite. I remember an Indian trainee (I’ll call him Rajit), who had plenty of internal passion. At first, it was stifled by his fear that, “They will see I have wrong words and very bad grammar.”  But on the second day of training, Rajit got the point and was suddenly, delightfully, an excellent presenter. When we stopped applauding, we asked how he had done it, and he said (with passion), “Now I am understanding. When I am speaking with passion, no one is caring I have wrong words and very bad grammar!”  So we applauded him again.

The passionate are powerful. When we grow our passion, we move our world.

Picture a children’s story wizard casting a spell. He thrusts his staff to the skies, and cries out—in the midst of thunder and lightning and wind and rain—his command that the powers of darkness bring down a plague of locusts upon the king’s enemies. That vivid image is no accident. It has not built in our collective consciousness by chance. It represents our intuitive knowledge that personal power requires intense, focused passion. Even in Harry Potter, the power is more inherent in the person than in the ritual.

Consciousness is a giant passion and we are different faces of that passion. Descartes said, “I think therefore I am”, when he should have said, I feel therefore I am. Those who know this, also know that extraordinary power is inherent within us. Apply within. Then harness the passion and become a conscious creator, able to have, do, or be what you will.

How to grow your passion? Read about the Quickening in Finding the Field: an adventure of body, mind, and spirit.

Why I know that you and I will live forever

Tuesday, June 22nd, 2010

I will always remember the moment I discovered, beyond doubt, that I am immortal and so is every human on the planet.

I was on my hands and knees at the time, high in the mountains of Peru. I had climbed too fast, too hard, from a village on the Amazon side of the Andes, up to the altiplano – a frozen desert more than 16,000 feet above sea level.  With too little oxygen to sustain such effort, I reached the altiplano as the headaches began and a clamp grew in my chest and upper right arm. It was too late to turn back and suicidal to lie down in that cold. So I stumbled on, gradually slowing, eventually sinking to hands and knees and crawling, shale cutting my palms.

I had seen no other human being that day, but now, incredibly, there were two, on the other side of a tiny lake. They were tending a herd of white llamas, their multi-coloured ponchos shockingly vivid in that bleak landscape. I called out for help, using the wrong word ‘ayuda’, rather than the correct one ‘socorro’ – I’m smiling now remembering it – but they probably didn’t understand Spanish anyway. And perhaps they were afraid that I was a trap of some sort. For whatever reason, the two turned away and shrank themselves and the herd away into the greys and whites of the altiplano. I remember my first feeling: a child-like hurt that they could just walk away.

Then I found myself simultaneously inside and outside my body. This is hard to describe because it was seamless – no real separation. The inside part of me was locked into pain and fear.  But the outside part of me had a very different experience. It was utterly calm, peaceful and strong… and expanded as if I was connected with everything to the far reaches of the universe. It knew itself as the enduring essence of me. It loved the body-locked me. It was the mother that loves a child, even as it is changed by the child; it was the wind that drives the sailboat, even as it is stirred by the sailboat, which may choose its own direction. It occupied a gateless realm that requires no entrance qualifications whatsoever: there was nothing I could do that was bad enough to deprive me of ownership of that realm.

And it would never die, but would go on creating many adventures in many bodies in many lifetimes. My body would die, but I would live forever.

Suddenly, I was back in my body, no longer afraid of death. 

Now this may sound strange, but instead of accepting body-death on the spot, I was filled with more love of this life than I had never known before. What had been desperation to live became determination to live. I kept crawling, then found the energy to rise to my feet and stumble on until I reached help in the next village.

A lot of my growing up happened in the Andes. Some of what I experienced is written into the novel Finding the Field: an adventure of body, mind and spirit.

 For more on how and why we live forever, click on the fifth universal truth 

A wonderful servant, but a terrible master

Wednesday, June 16th, 2010

Your ego makes a wonderful servant, but a terrible master.  The popular meaning of ego disguises its real potency. Its purpose is not to raise you above others, but to maintain you as a separate entity—seemingly disconnected from  all else—so that you can go about your life with independent free will. That’s its only job description. It must make you believe that you are not connected with Consciousness, so that you will then long for the homecoming, and have real adventures on the way back. Separation and connection: that is the eternal dance of Consciousness.

To boost your journey, your ego whispers the essential message: you are distinct and unique. Fine; you need that in order to be human. But ego doesn’t know how to stop; give it half a chance and it moves on to whispering: anything that is not your mind and body is not you. Then it discovers it can isolate you even more if it makes you afraid: you are isolated and alone; out there beyond your skin is stuff that can hurt you. Which means that you can live through entire incarnations blighted by anxiety, apprehension, and dread. And your ego can even whisper (listen to how cunning this is) your suffering makes you special. Which means that you may be instinctively unwilling—not unable, but unwilling—to stop suffering. 

And where does your ego get these gratuitous, destructive whisperings?

From you.

How can that possibly be? For more, click on the fourth universal truth 

Redefining what it means to be a human

Wednesday, June 9th, 2010

It’s the most profound discovery in the history of science – so fundamental that when the implicatons sink in, the human race will redefine what it means to be human. Modern scentists, hunting for the fundamental building blocks of the universe, have discovered that the behaviour of subatomic particles depends on what is going on in the mind of the scientist. Yes, you read that correctly. More: they have also discovered that even the existence of those particles depends on what is happening in the mind of the scientist. No, it’s not a misprint and it’s not fringe science; it has been replicated many times.

Of course the implications are stunning. As one science commentator put it, “Physicists these days are battling insanity.” Einstein wasn’t at all happy and said darkly, “I like to think that the moon is still there even when I’m not looking at it.” However he did also say, “Reality is an illusion, albeit a persistent one.”

Traditional science is fighting back. It doesn’t argue with the discoveries themselves; instead it says, “Just because that happens on a microscopic scale doesn’t mean that it happens in the everyday macroscopic world.”  Which is like watching a large animal with tusks, a trunk and loud trumpeting, bearing down on you and failing to call it an elephant.

You’ve seen the implications, haven’t you?  Each of us is creating our world around us as we go.

How can that possibly be? For more, click on the first universal truth 

Pain, the art and the artist

Wednesday, May 26th, 2010

We all experience anguish. Of course we do… that’s life. But have you ever wondered why?

I did. As a child (after bad behaviour) I was astonished – no, I was outraged – by the existence of  physical and mental pain in my life. And when I was older, I realized that many people lead lives of quiet desperation, filled with anguish and fear. So I began to wonder, What is it all about? Who am I? Why am I here? What makes the universe work? And when the answers fell into place decades later, I wrote Finding the Field.

Imagine looking at your life as if you were looking at a very narrow, vertical strip of wood. The strip is decorated with a complex pattern of light and dark colours (that’s your pleasure and pain). Then you suddenly find yourself looking at the same piece of wood from the side – and it looks utterly different from that angle. It turns out that the narrow strip was only the edge of a picture frame and now you can see an exquisite work of art, featuring you, created by you. You are the art and the artist. Seen from the perspective of Consciousness, your life – including all pain and all pleasure – is not only beautiful, it is perfect. In fact, you are already in your spiritual home

Have I taken leave of my senses? How can that be? For more, click on the fourth universal truth.

Michael