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.

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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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Spiritual Quotes

A selection of some of my favourite Quotations read by Will Senior.

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