A Month in the Shadows

By Will

Apart from a few short outings, I have spent the last month at home with a painful and uncomfortable disk problem at the base of my spine. I have been living in a barren land of flesh and bone and usual activities involving movement, walking and sleeping have taken my full concentration and effort. Sometimes it feels like I’m imprisoned here at home, and I imagine being stuck here forever, in pain and fear of what may be. Part of the self loves to dwell on imprisonment, darkness and stuck-ness, and would quite happily keep me chained up forever. This same self, who I like to call the wolf, runs these horrific story lines past me over and over again in an attempt to convince me of my helplessness and vulnerability. The wolf’s only concern is being in control, and sometimes he has me on my back with his bloody teeth snarling down at me with his dirty paws on my chest.

There have also been times where I have relished the sereneness of being still and used this time to write, reflect and ponder…  my form of meditation. I am fortunate in that the view from my window overlooks a park and the River Thames. Each day I lay watching the children play, animals going about their business and stare at the clouds and the water rising and falling about the wilderness. Having therapy sessions over the phone is not the same and I feel a huge distance between myself and my teacher. Wishing the out of date rules of psychotherapy would allow a home visit, a cup of tea with him, relaxed in my own space. Life as I know it has been put on hold. This recent stillness has led to inner change and a new perspective which is impossible to put into words. Words which may lie somewhere over the distant rainbow. I’m a weary traveler who is resting his bones, a much needed rest perhaps.. My back has done it’s best to support me over the years.

My heart has had time on its hands. Past experiences, especially thoughts about old flames, have been resurfacing and floating around. What could have been’s, and some kind of inner cleaning and clearing is in perpetual motion right now. I feel the need to write letters, to apologise, to explain and to move on. In particular one person from the past has been drifting around inside of me like an ocean, as well as in my dreams, which have been so colourful and vivid. I have a need to reach out and touch this gracious ghost from the past while the memory of her beautiful face is still vivid. I want to show my love and gratitude to her for sharing half a decade with me while I was a lost soul. I want to apologise for not being fully present back then. The timing was all wrong, the wind was blowing in the wrong direction, and now she has beautiful children and a new lover. The wolf is envious, bruised and battered while the true self sits graciously smiling and feeling so happy for her. I have been worrying that my time is passing like the currents beneath the deep river so close to my door. Have I been living my whole life in the confines of fear.. O’ sweet heart show thyself and bless the stillness and the shadows within.

The self is more distant than any star  ~ G.K. Chesterton


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What We Choose and Who We Become

By Will

There is a story told by the Indian mystic Osho which involves two men imprisoned. “It was a full moon night; both were standing near the window of their dark cell. The full moon was there. One was looking at the moon, it was rainy season and there was much water and mud in front of the window. Dirty, and it was smelling and stinking. One man continued to look at the moon, the other continued to look at the mud. The man who was looking at the mud, of course, was feeling very miserable. And the man who was looking at the moon was aflame, aglow; His face was reflecting the moon, his eyes were full of beauty. He had completely forgotten that he was imprisoned.” Both men are standing at the same window but both men are choosing different things. Both men are seeing and focusing on different external objects that reflect their inner sense of self. Osho also uses another good example; that of the rose bush. Some will focus on the beautiful rose and some will focus on the thorns. However, If we looked at the rose bush fully, we would look at the rose and the thorns. If the rose represents light and the thorns represent darkness, we need to be aware of both to live consciously. Interestingly, the thorns protect the beautiful rose. The darkness is also there to protect us. Physically, if we did not have pain sensors and nerves, we could seriously damage our physical body. Without darkness the light would be too blinding for us. So to be conscious means to be balanced between the light and darkness, to be aware of both, without letting one override the other.

Unconsciously, many of us have a tendency to create or be involved in the very problems and scenarios that we are also trying to solve. This juxtaposition is created for a reason. If we were not fighting against someone or some part of ourselves, we would not be engaged in something. If we had no hope or strife, what would we be striving for? What would we be left with? More often when we eventually work something out that has been troubling us we tend to feel empty. Our ego likes something to get it’s teeth into and often gets away with us. Many of us at some point have struggled with our parents, constantly saying ‘no’ to them. Therefore we have a ‘no’ to fight against and this identity to hold on to. When we leave the family home we may feel empty as saying ‘no’ gave our whole life meaning. Now who do we say ‘no’ to? The tree does not fight against the wind. It does not tense up as the wind starts to gust against it. The trees roots are deep, and naturally it is grounded by it’s roots and sways in the wind naturally.

So if we are aware of both dimensions of our thoughts and our feelings, and practice being conscious of these, we will start to grow deeper and sturdier roots and our blossoming can start to happen. To begin with this can be very difficult as we are conditioned as children by our parents, grandparents, school and society not to have our own voice. Letting go of their voices can feel like death, so many of us may pull back and stick to what we know and are used to. But if we can continue, we start to disappear and we give space for something more divine and true to enter ourselves.

You came into this world utterly unbiased, pure and innocent without any preconditioned notions of who you were. Zen people call it the ‘original face’. ~ Osho


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By Will

The child is separated once again from its parent,
He gazes up through tears of worry,
Will someone pick him up,
Or is his death imminent,
What will become of the boy,
Without mindful caring,
His worst fears play on the big screen,
While crystals become warm in the palms of two.

*Poem dedicated to Peter Wilkin


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Spiritual Freedom

By Will

People will go to extraordinary lengths to avoid facing their inner darkness and demons, and why shouldn’t they? Who would want to wage such a watchful and unfailing war against the false self in the name of attainment? Why should we aim for something when we have no evidence at all that it exists? Perhaps, us would be soldiers in the cause of truth, have no other choice. Our lifelong search is not something that can be explained, only something that can be lived. When we have witnessed the sweet taste of truth, there is no way back but foreword.

There is no greater challenge facing us than for us to look inside and allow our spiritual freedom to take flight. After all, all else is an illusion. Inner freedom cannot be attained externally, it is already within us, and lies dormant until we release it. This reminds me of a Rastafarian friend of mine who once said to me “you can’t learn to love yourself, just love yourself”. love is already inside we just have to release it. So what gets in the way of our spiritual freedom, what challenges our inner peace and harmony? Our dis-harmony is down to where we are, and where we think we want to be. If these two places were the same, we would be in harmony. Unfortunately it is more complicated than this, as although we may know in our hearts where we want to be, we may not be fully conscious of where we truly are to start with.

Take relationships for instance. A friend of mine teaches Thai Chi and over the last 6 months he has found himself increasingly attracted to one of his students. As in all matters of the heart, he watches her carefully, and has come up with all kinds of stories about who this woman is, without truly knowing. He imagines that his student will be able to fill the void inside of him and make him whole. He has created these stories in his head because his head likes to create elaborate fantasies and attachments. Therefore, from the very start, he was not fully aware of who he was, so how could he expect this woman to provide the spiritual harmony and freedom that he so desired. Interestingly, when he found out that his desire for her was not reciprocated, even more internal stories were created about how he may have handled the situation better to win her affections. So why did his mind create this diversion? Because it knows that the true self does exist, and it does not want to set the true self free, as the mind or ego would loose its power. This is the war we are waging. But by being conscious and aware of where the mind likes to go, we can watch it grasp things, something the mind will always do, and we can then let them go.

In as much as my friend may have grasped mentally for love we also cannot grasp mentally for spiritual freedom. Paradoxically when we let the idea of freedom go it is then allowed to be our friend. Space is allowed to be space when we do not fill it with internal chatter and projections about the future. If we can cleanse our hearts of selfishness, hate, and greed and serve others, this will help our true selves to unfold. By helping others we help ourselves. Much of the time we fear this letting go as we believe we may fall, or not attain what we think we need. We may also believe that if we give our time to others we will not have enough left for ourselves. The path to spiritual freedom is very individual and personal and we have to make our own way through the forest. If we follow another’s path it may lead us in their direction, not ours. If we lead with our hearts on the long journey, we can be sure we are going in the right direction, and we will never tire of the search as our hearts never grow old.

I am so small I can barely be seen. How can this great love be inside me? ~ Rumi


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Love is the Cure

By Will

I go begging door to door, for divine love,

Carry me to a world beyond, these aching limbs,

My lover always alone, while surrounded by others,

Ten thousand thoughts, about why I am less,

Like an oasis in a desert, I am a foolish son,

Inferior to anything under heaven’s sky,

She share’s my pleasure, but not my pain,

This poem calls, for love to cure.


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Change is not a Choice

By Will

It always amuses me when I look back to around 4 years ago when I entered therapy for the second time. I had just become a Father for the first time and I desperately wanted access to my son, he was all I could think about. I accept now that I had a pretty firm script in my head about how my new analytical process would proceed. All I thought that I needed was six sessions of CBT, to rid my panic attacks and curb my anxiety over my new responsibilities, and I would be back on the road again. I mean, I had already been through five years of analysis before, and during this time I had gone back over my younger years with a fine tooth comb. In retrospect, I think I must have been using an afro comb with rather large gaps in between each bristle. Much of my first 5 years of analysis was spent avoiding the darker shadows of myself.

My family, friends and my analyst all say that I have changed since then, and I do feel like a different person. I am more aware of my compassion for others and myself and my thought processes are more mindful and steady. This brings to the surface the whole question of legitimate change and whether it is possible, but I will leave that for someone else to write about. What I can say, is that change for me was not a choice, something just happened, and I became different. Over the last 4 years much of my time was spent doing exactly the same things as I had always done, while analysing my behaviour, thoughts and processes simultaneously. This circular process continued undisturbed until real life events happened. My Father and best friend passed away within an 18 month period. Initially this created huge regression, where anxiety rang like bell, and I could have drowned in the combination of all my tears. Somehow those long days passed and eventually I was left very much alone with the dreaded nothingness that I always unconsciously feared. This was one of those periods where I was so grateful to have my therapist alongside me, someone who seemed to have walked a similar path. By facing and living in this desolate and remote land of tumbleweeds and sand, eventually something shifted. All things eventually come to an end.

During this time I experienced various forms of spiritual awakening. One time, I awoke one night to find everything crystal and clear. I visualised my whole life flashing before me and I understood why I am the way I am, and what events had caused me to suffer over the years. I realised we were all connected in a very loving way and I realised how pain and fear were feelings that were crucial to us all and that they all contained necessary energies that we can use. I thought I had finally been enlightened and I actually jumped out of bed and danced under the moonlight. I would love another hit of spiritual awakening but they are illusive, they come when they come. I remember having my very first consultation with a psychotherapist in London in my early twenties and she explained that when the psyche had difficulties, like a tennis ball that had gotten wet, the mind takes it’s own time to dry out. I left that session and never returned, but perhaps in retrospect she was right. Something just happens and you feel different, it is very difficult to explain but on this new phase of my path I became curious once again. I began to venture out and see new things and feel new experiences. That was the biggest change.

Then somewhat out of the blue, something stirs inside once again as new uncomfortable sensations and feelings come to the surface. You hold onto your previous experiences, knowing that nothing lasts forever, but begin to use these awkward emotions as a chance to discover something new about yourself. It enables one to gently pass over scenarios, that happened before your change of feelings, where you may discover a link to something, sometimes something very small, that potentially triggered these new emotions or fears. Change involves faith, faith not only within yourself, but faith in others and in the whole process of living. If you view uncomfortable feelings as bad you will experience them so. I believe that the influence of other people and intimate relationships are fruitful and can enable you to share your depths but ultimately, I am what I love, not what loves me.

The art of love… is largely the art of persistence ~ Albert Ellis


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A Dangerous Method

By Will

In the wonderful film adaptation of John Kerrs book ‘A Most Dangerous Method’ we see Sabina Spielrein at the hub. The beautiful and disturbed young woman comes between the deep friendship of Carl Jung and Sigmund Freud, and ignites their turbulent relationship. It is as though over some time, Sabina’s neurosis is somehow magically transferred and displaced onto Freud (The Father) and Jung (The son). The dynamics between are extremely complex and endless, and initially the gravity of these dynamics seem to focus on sexual energy and intellectual discovery, Sabina providing the fire. The trio form the most perfect recipe for turbulence, and for me the essential premise is a reproduction of some triangular previous family setting, where each one of them is fighting to be seen by the other and have their needs met.

With Jung’s real Father passing away when he was young, he perhaps needed another father figure and mentor, and Freud needed a natural heir, someone to carry on with his analytical work, or rather to further enlarge his ego identity, and hence the relationship was established. As this relationship developed neither party managed to get their needs met which made them “bitter antagonists, locked in a savage struggle that was as much personal and emotional as it was theoretical and professional.” The rationalist Freud knew that Jung’s religious and superstitious approach was not concrete enough for the students of the mind and could jeopardise his theories within the analytical community.

During her analysis with Jung, Sabina painfully confesses to getting exited both before and during the beatings from her Father, especially when her Father mentioned ‘The little room’ where this took place. Sabina’s very physical symptoms mirror the physical abuse she once endured and her juxtaposition between getting attention by beatings, enjoying it and feeling guilty about it, created a serious splitting of the self and promoted her extreme self loathing. This humiliation was made worse by her having to kiss the very hand that beat her after her torment’s. Sabina ‘fell’ in love with Jung, his care and non judgemental empathy allowed her to stay with these awkward emotions, but ultimately she desired to return to the beatings and to conquer them by reciprocating them with Jung, in a safer environment. Ironically their relationship was both traumatic and healing. These ‘love beatings’ confused Jung as he seemed caught between his natural wolf instincts, promoted by the coke sniffing Otto Gross, and his genuine passion for helping others and becoming a prominent and original psychoanalyst. ”Never repress anything,” was Otto’s belief, and he acted as the catalyst that both freed and trapped Jung.

When Jung broke off their intense relationship to avert public scandal, It is said that “Spielrein found in Freud a friend and mentor, confiding to him the details of her attachment to Jung.” Perhaps Sabina wanted her relationship with Jung validated and made real, through confiding with Freud, insisting that she was genuinely loved in return. Instinctually part of her picked up on Jung’s guilt, and in her search to reclaim power, she engaged with Freud knowing that it would give weight to his theory’s of sexuality that Jung did not entirely agree with. Freud could then use what he knew about Jung’s personal life to exert further control over the psychoanalytic movement or again another attempt by Freud’s ego to be god like. It is very interesting that Freud fainted twice in Jung’s presence or perhaps it was what Jung symbolised to Freud…. A real God, not a fake one.

After Freud and Jung’s friendship came to a close, Jung was deeply ambivalent about the future. Jung perhaps witnessed this as another painful loss mirroring the loss of his own father, and suffered a 6 year long breakdown or breakthrough, where in solitude from the outer world he dug deeper into his own inner psyche, emerging as a prominent psychoanalyst in his own right.

“More ominously still, both men privately justified their disregard by implicitly casting her once more into the role of patient, as though that role somehow precluded a person from having a voice or a vision of his or her own” ~ John Kerr


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