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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One hour, One night.

By Will

As I walk the dim corridors of the Oxfordshire hospital at 4am, I wonder on a spiritual level what has brought me back here once again, exactly what is it that I now need to learn? I live in London, so why am I back here at ‘the scene of the crime’, the same hospital where my Dad lay a few years ago after his cancer operation, before he eventually passed away. I knew the hospital well but never thought I would be back, especially as a patient. I remember saying goodbye to the institution as I made my way out that musky winter day a few years back. I slowly pace the endless asylum type corridors stopping to gaze at the donated paintings from former patients on the walls. I have little energy after 2 weeks of not sleeping and hardly eating, and from somewhere I hear a desperate shriek from a lost soul in a bed nearby calling out in agony. My heart was pierced by their anguish, I wish I could help them, and I thought… I am not so badly off….. I thought of God, I thought about why people suffer, and then I thought…. don’t think, separate yourself from this movie and create no-one to carry the burden, as if there is no-one to carry pain, pain cannot exist.

I run over last night’s operation in my head. The long run down the corridors to the operating theatre, wheeled by the tired porter, on my portable bed, my life carrier for the night, which seemed to transport someone else’s life. I chuckled to myself in the lift, thinking about my lift phobia, as we went down to operating levels. Coming into ‘theatre land’ and meeting ‘The Angels’ as I saw them, the  smiling anaesthetic family who somehow managed to make me laugh while they put a tube down my nose and into my throat. I am sure one of them was introduced as ‘Brother G’. I liked that, and trusted the black man in the beanie hat. I saw other angels in blue procedure cloaks surrounded by heavenly crisp white walls, and before they put me under I told them so; ‘you guys are like angels, you’re wonderful’, it had to be said, I wonder if anyone had said that to them before while sober? The last thing I remember was Barbara, the surgeon, waving to me and smiling through a small window in the operating room.

Where can I smoke? it’s been a day since my last cigarette. I come to a door that required a credit card swipe to regain access, so I may not be able get back in, but I had to get out. I walk through and start my decent down four flights of glass stairs to the car park below. The cold wind blows me sideways as I try to light my smoke with a magazine stuck between the doors keeping them slightly ajar. Why the hell am I smoking this while there are kids upstairs with cancer? What the fuck is wrong with me? How could that child in the canteen today be so happy with no hair and tubes everywhere? I deeply inhale, feeling the smoke rush over the swollen wounds in my mouth, and exhale the smoke upwards towards the cheap neon lamps, watching it drift away like a cloud. Suddenly chemicals hit other chemicals and I feel light headed and my knees almost buckle. I need to get back inside, I am weak and delirious. Should I crawl back up the stairs, who cares if anyone see’s me? Then I spot a lift and make my way towards it trying not to faint. I think about settling down in the lift for the night, that is, if I can’t get back into my room. Finally I reach the door to the ward with the credit card swipe system and hold onto the handles and my head sinks down exhausted. I notice a ‘call’ button on the side of the door. I ring and I wait, I ring and I wait, desperately trying not to keel over. Part of me wanted to collapse so that I would be at someone else’s mercy. After what seemed like hours I jump, as a monotone voice leaps through a crackling speaker, “yes, can I help you?” “I need to get back to my room” I say….. erm room ten….. I’m locked out… Sorry… can you please let me in?” All I hear is the clicking sound of the door opener and I stumble through and take pigeon type steps back to my room.

I lie down on the bed my heart beating loudly in my chest and I suddenly notice someone come into the room after me. It’s another angel, the beautiful young nurse appears and calls me by my name “are you ok Will?” is all she says and all I can muster is a murmur as my eyes fall back into my head.

A moment can seem like a lifetime and a lifetime can seem like a moment.


Filed under My Experiences On The Couch

True Connections

By Will

As long as I can remember I have always been searching for true connection with others, and I knew in my heart that something vital was missing. Discovering that most of my relationships were of a dependant nature was quite unsettling. Attachment to others in this way is perpetual, as you never truly have your needs met, and can end up continually eating crumbs. Both parties have their agendas, and both may end up feeling half full much of the time, carried with the need to go back regularly to refill their plates. It is very much like overeating in as much as there is never a particular type of food that satisfies, as the food itself will never fill the empty space inside, and so acts as a substitute.

Again and again I have found that these unfulfilled needs originate during our first special relationships with our parents or guardians. Most of us have to believe that our parents were good parents, as to think otherwise would be terrifying. Parents can be good with their intentions, but if they are not connected with themselves how are children to assimilate connectedness inwardly. A parents love may be intermittent, conditional or possessive which creates a longing in the child for love and recognition. The child will never feel enough.

As a substitute for legitimate connection I choose being noticed externally during my younger years, initially through sports, and then through playing in bands and Djing. Although I may have been playing music in front of thousands of people, and hobnobbing with the so called elite and celebs, I never felt truly connected to others in ways that I desired to be. I would role play and created an externally confident identity. When I entered therapy for the first time in my early twenties I had a glimpse of what true connectedness felt like and it was both scary and exciting at the same time. To share your deepest thoughts, fears and feelings with another in a safe environment was liberating at the same time as being very threatening for the ego self. I began to notice a pattern where during one session I would be intimate and during the next I became aloof and cocky and a general know it all. Hence what followed was a kind of peeling back of the ego defences and an awareness of the darker aspects of my psyche which initially left me even more vulnerable than before.

In the words of Eckhart Tolle “When another recognises you, that recognition draws the dimension of being more fully into this world through both of you.” During my current work with my therapist intimacy has become lighter and almost divine in its form. True connectedness also contains paradox and duality where the painful realities of life can be shared but not judged, like seeing things just as they are. This new awareness feels very much like coming home.

The ego creates separation, and separation creates suffering ~ Eckhart Tolle


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The Raging Child

By Will

Most of us are probably aware of the terrible two’s where a child realises over time that he is not the master of the universe and everything in it. That he is governed by another, namely his guardian, and he is not in control of all people and things. It raises a tough question in the child’s psyche; so if I am not everything… I am out of control, and others, have control. Paddy’s often follow with kicking and screaming, until there is some kind of acceptance while he tries to make sense of the world around him. However I don’t feel that there is full acceptance, but more of a storing of the child’s inner wishes, so that someday he may seek revenge and reclaim control of his world once again. The rage that the child feels is red hot and stays with the child throughout adult life and the terrible two’s is one of the many examples of rage inducing disappointments a child may have to endure in his development stage. The more that I delve into my own experiences as a child I deem this to be true.

Rage is hardly attractive, in our culture as we know it, and so the hot coal of rage has to be dampened to fit in with our society and our friends and family. This can be achieved in many ways but on the whole rage is stored inwardly if it is not expressed. I think the same situation arises in adults and toddlers as without the ability to express their needs, instead resort to whatever behaviours they can carry out saying “no” and acting against the world at large and with adults this can mean depression. I remember reading many years ago that depression is anger turned inwards and I would agree with that on the whole. Rage in adult life it may be expressed through delusion and clinging to false hopes and also by letting off steam in ways that are not conducive to our true nature.

Rage has it’s place, however wrong it may feel, and when we acknowledge this we can allow it to breathe and flow like a volcano. It is both natural and damaging and damaging and natural. It is our thought about rage that enrages us, not the existence of a demonic but necessary part of our fuel for life. We seek to rid ourselves of rage and keep it hidden at all costs. The main cost however is a stifling of our energy and time that may be wasted on situations that harm us. Many of us may ask, how can I get rid of this rage, and sadly the answer may not be how we can rid ourselves of it but how can we use it, rather than being used by it.

And die of nothing but a rage to live ~ Alexander Pope


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Growth and the Search for Oneself.

By Will

Staying with very difficult and stormy feelings is about as testing as it gets for man. Sometimes a kind voice from another can gently nudge you out of these dense and believable feelings. Staying with the pain and recognising it and investigating it is very hard. We may find that the hurt is old somehow, in as much as it seems familiar, and we may get the sense of our unease having been around before.

When we are surrounded and somewhat engulfed by our sensations we may lean towards keeping them inside as they can be viewed as ‘dangerous’ feelings. The thought of sharing them with others may annihilate the listener or may lead us to believe that we may be outcast or abandoned by the other person. We also have a tendency to believe that we should not be feeling or thinking such thoughts which creates a divide inside of how we should be feeling against what we actually are. Self soothing and acceptance can help and personally I find it helpful to share these feelings with others.

The American psychologist Rollo May said “We are more apt to feel depressed by the perpetually smiling individual than the one who is honestly sad. If we admit our depression openly and freely, those around us get from it an experience of freedom rather than the depression itself.” Another quote from Rollo May which may give our emotions a sense of purpose is “One does not become fully human painlessly.”

If you are working towards a greater understanding and acceptance within yourself with the help of therapy, old stories and ways of viewing the world and ourselves are slowly eroded away leaving a sense of emptiness. When this happens not only do we feel a sense off loss, we may also be left wondering about our purpose in life and who we really are. We may realise that our old patterns of behaviour may have not served us well in the past and it makes sense that we need to grieve and say goodbye to them. It takes courage to say to the world, this is me take it or leave it. It is much easier to conform to ourselves and society and this is what most people tend to do. We may be in limbo with anxiety, who’s purpose is to keep us away from discovering our true selves, but when we can manage to live with anxious feelings by our side, our next step is to face what is underneath, which is yet another difficult and painful task, but a task that is necessary for our personal growth and freedom within.

“Steady, patient growth in freedom is probably the most difficult task of all, requiring the greatest courage. Thus if the term “hero” is used in this discussion at all, it must refer not to the special acts of outstanding persons, but to the heroic element potentially in every man.” ~ Rollo May


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Coming Home

By Will

My therapist, who I now like to call my ‘spiritual guide’, has an uncanny way of tuning in and summarising or pinpointing exactly where I am at, especially when I am trying to explain or describe a particularly new sensation that may be beyond words. He sensed today that I was ‘at home’ on the couch which is exactly how I felt. I was glued to the couch today, akin to the grounding one feels when meditating or in deep relaxation, my eyes were fixed on the white cotton clouds that I could see through the window for the entire time. Today’s session had no agenda, nothing specific was discussed or worked through, we simply took a leisurely stroll with our conversation among the many gaps of silence which were like long deep relaxing breaths. It produced a beautiful image in me of a Mother and baby relaxing together, where the baby is happily kicking it’s legs and doing it’s own thing, and the Mother is simply being and not interrupting the babies flow. I think I may have been influenced by Winnicott in this case.

This longing to ‘come home’ is what so many of us strive towards. However many of us feel ‘away from home’ much of the time. We are all searching for something that is already within us that has been lost somewhere along our paths. This does not mean that we all have the potential of continuously being at home, in some kind of enlightened state or ‘Ānanda’ as some Buddhists may call it. However enlightened one is, I believe that we all have certain tendencies developed in our past that tend to rear up over certain issues, which is why acceptance of who we truly are is essential. I often try to be a more spiritual and enlightened person but what is that exactly? It’s just and idea. All I am capable of is being aware when something uncomfortable arises and noticing it for what it is and staying with it rather than trying to fight it off. As soon as I engage my old stories and patterns of attachment to a particular way of feeling I land myself in trouble. ‘I should not feel like this’ or ‘why is this happening again’ only reinforce these old patterns, as well reinforcing my neurological pathways. An example of this is the morning my Father died. I remember, just after I received the news, I walked to the window and watched some kid’s playing happily outside and thought, how can they play joyfully when this is happening!

Developing your own style of daily practice is essential for healing. Tara Brach said on mindfulness, that for some suffering with trauma, practising mindfulness and breathing may cause a sense of suffocating. There are ways of practicing that may suit you better. For myself, yoga has been a wonderful practice but right now I am practising Chi-walking around nature, mixed with prayer and meditation, just because it feels right to me. I seemed to stumble upon this almost by accident and this is where I seek refuge at times when I feel exacerbated. This daily practice is slowly developing into something very lucid for me and helps me to be more centred and free when faced with uncomfortable emotions. It is one thing meditating and practicing and another thing to stay focused when faced with daily experiences that put you on the spot. As Jack Cornfield said ‘If you can always find contentment just where you are, you are probably a dog’. The idea of being a perfect spiritual human being can only lead to feelings of failure. It is though the unconscious knows this and almost sets you up to fail. There are plenty of other things outside daily orthodox practice that can help us like music, art or film which may give us a new sense of purpose and hope. We are individuals and we can engage in being compassionate to our own unique way of living, even if this is not how we planned it.


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Zen Photography and Daily Meditation.

Zen photography and daily meditation and relaxation.

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