In this review of 2020 it becomes clear that not only is there beauty in the detail, there is also release. The more we explore and examine what arises – and what often unconsciously drives our behaviour – the easier it is released. The year began in that vein, with two posts which sought to highlight the importance of making the most of whatever life – and the body – have to offer. It ended by applying the same tactics to finally put to rest all that had happened during my training days, 20 years earlier. Consequently, this post is also about clearing the way, and seeing myself more distinctly (than ever).
Those first two posts,
urge us to stop and pay closer attention. Even when we think we have made a discovery, it pays to stand still and look again because we may have missed something important:
‘We spend so much time on the surface, playing with the superficial, when the real treasure of life lies buried beneath. We know from countless childhood stories that to reach the treasure, we have to dig. Search the depths. No matter how painful it may be, that is where true beauty and profundity dwells.’
They point towards a realisation which came near the end of the year: that this work necessarily takes time, and that patience and trust are more important than we realise. For example, the next piece, When Trust Is Present, looked at how different a relationship can be when founded on trust:
When trust is present, people move on from the possibility of misinterpretation or offence. They know that whatever is said is offered in the purest possible pursuit of truth. Such an agreement arises out of, and reinforces the kind of relationship which nurtures growth.
The themes of trust, patience and close examination continued in February, with all four posts focused on trusting the body and understanding that it has something to say. Something which, if we are quiet enough, we will be able to discern. (The fifth post is from July and relates to a session of bodywork I received from a friend. Again, it encourages a ‘willingness to listen intuitively to what the body has to say’.)
- Relax, Allow, Trust
- Gravity & The Earth
- A Childlike Curiosity
- Just By Standing Still
- The Wisdom’s In The Body
Those five – three of which relate to Qi Gong practice – emphasise how important it is to shift our focus from our mind to our body. That is not to say that we should abandon our rational thinking. Not at all. What they’re saying is that we have lost our way a little and have drifted too far from a resource which is constantly exploring, interpreting and signalling who and where we are, in ways which can be of enormous help if only we pay attention. As the fourth piece in that list says, I was shown:
…how much is available just by standing still; how much is available if we continue to explore; how much is available if we just listen. And if we do all that without any expectation of what we might find, we will always be taken to a place of surprise and wonder at who we are and who we can be.
In March the world changed for everyone as the pandemic began. I entered the first lockdown having just had the chance to witness myself in a way which showed me clearly who I am and who I can be. Three pieces sum this up, and were written following a particularly enjoyable ‘audition’ for a training company. I arrived determined and clear, and left eight hours later having shown myself fully; and with a story to tell which countered a childhood injunction (detailed in the third post) that I had not been allowed to be who I am. The childhood story and the audition story are separated by almost 50 years. What a long time to wait to be who I am. There, again, is the need for patience (and trust).
As the pandemic grew, and having written an optimistic piece called A Better World For Everyone, the world moved further and further online. I enrolled in a course from Charles Eisenstein during which I wrote a few entries inspired by his work. The pieces urged me look more closely at where I am and how I got here; to foster appreciation and acceptance; and to be more at ease with how things actually are, instead of how I think they should be. (Ah, how we torture ourselves with our stubbornness and expectations, thinking we know how our world should be!)
- The Space Between Stories
- Make Peace With Your Truth
- The Richness Of Not-Knowing
- Finding Activism In Art
In June I was able to put my learning from a particular lesson of Eisenstein’s into practice. Having posted something on social media to support the BLM movement which was so prominent at the time, I watched incredulously as someone attacked my post, attacking me in the process. The pieces,
outline how it was possible for me to react in a very different way to the instinctive response the attack created in me. Here was a case of engaging the mind to greater effect than my emotional reation seemed to want. Instead of attacking back, or trying to justify or persuade, I responded in an open way which invited consideration and connection. It was an experience I will never forget because of how easy and how effective it was:
I wrote to him [personally], thanking him at the end for the opportunity he had given me to see myself more clearly. He responded with similar gratitude, and in his words we found powerful points of connection: Unity, understanding, and a realisation that choosing any side always excludes somebody.
From the end of June onwards, my writing focused on two things, both of which arose out of the many regular conversations I was having with Karaj. Firstly, there were the loose ends of challenges he had been giving me for two decades. Each one feels as though it has now been thoroughly addressed for the first time in all the years I have known him, and each is reflected in the following posts, which address the subjects of clear boundaries, love, acceptance, and humility:
Which brings me to the final four pieces in October, which draw to a close the investigation we had begun in earnest with our conversations in 2014. During that time, and for a few weeks this Autumn, we looked back in rigorous detail at what had happened during the early days. The four pieces below accentuate the importance of love in a relationship, especially one as full of the kinds of challenges Karaj always offers. They also look more deeply at what we created during that time; and why I am the only one from that era who is still in contact with Karaj (although, as we shall eventually see, that contact may not be as regular as it has been).
That final piece is the one which caps everything. It talks about the environment Karaj established from the beginning. It was challenging, and his presence was often a formidable one, but there was also love, trust, truth and wonder. There’s that word again: Trust. This paragraph comes from that entry:
It’s something which takes practice to develop. It demands courage and vulnerability, too, because trust can so easily be undermined, which is why the best place to start is with yourself. Learn to trust that you are good enough; trust what your body is telling you; trust that you can cope with difficult situations as and when they arise; and even trust that you carry brilliance within you. Invest that trust in yourself and you will find it easier to extend it to others, and to life itself. (Having a genuine trust in life has a peaceful, liberating magnificence about it.)
A Challenging Finale
The year didn’t end there, as the challenges continued to come. He challenged me about my intention to write a second book. (Not about the writing itself, but how I intended to go about it, insisting that we should work on it together.) And, significantly, he challenged me about being a parent and what it meant for the well-being of my son.
His point was that I had said for so long that parenthood was the last thing I wanted, yet here I am, the father of a 3-year-old. His challenge hit me hard, even though it’s something I have thought about extensively since the day my son was born. He was most definitely planned, and conceived within a deeply loving relationship, but when my reluctance, doubt and resentment surface, as they do (although in ever-diminishing intensity and frequency), I wonder what damage I might be doing to his development by any dissonance I radiate.
I will write about these latest two challenges in more detail in future posts (Love, Relationship & Healing and The Paradoxical Parent), but it is important to note that each time I was challenged, it felt like I was being punched in the stomach. What happened next was revealing: I listened and told myself everything was okay and that there is a way to receive Karaj’s words which are not painful. His challenges and how I received them made me more open and more focused – especially the one about being a parent – and as a consequence, both areas saw immediate improvement.
I relaxed about the book and began to feel as though it could be a truly impressive piece of work if we do it together. And I felt an increased commitment to my role as a father, which saw an immediate change in my son as a result. In short, I was challenged, I heard him, and my life (and the lives of those close to me) improved instantly. That is what he does best, as difficult as it can be to be on the receiving end of his intensity.
Indeed, in the two calls which followed, I felt I’d heard and had enough of it. He seemed to want time to reflect. He was prickly, especially in the final call two days before Christmas; and my feeling after I hung up was that we might not speak again for a while, and that I’m okay with that.
Throughout the year, there is a clear thread of looking more closely, of slowing down, accepting and appreciating ourselves for who we actually are and what we actually do, no matter how insignificant those things may appear upon first inspection. There has been a definite move towards clearing my path and tying up loose ends, all of which helps to prepare the ground for what may come. There has also been an increasing emphasis on the body and what it can do for us and what we can do for it – in itself, an encouragement to connect and relate more.
All in all, it has been about paying closer attention, because there is both beauty and release in the detail of life. When we stop to pay direct, focused attention to whatever is there (it’s there anyway), we make it easier for it to shift and move on, and for us to move on too.
I ended the year taking regular cold showers, and in the middle of a book by David R. Hawkins called Letting Go. The cold showers feel as though they are healing me and bringing me more to life (which reinforces August’s well-being summary, In The Zone). And in the pages of the book there is further encouragement to explore what lies behind our thoughts and feelings with an intention to let it go. By continually seeking the root of our thoughts and actions in the underlying feelings and emotions, it becomes easy to release ourselves from years of intrusive, draining and unhelpful patterns of behaviour. Then, like a balloonist releasing ballast, we rise.