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Healthy sticky toffee pudding

It feels good to eat! I've spent a few years now honing my recipes into something wholesome mainly because sugar makes my mouth go furry, gluten gives me wombat guts and solid fat greases up my skin. I bet you feel hungry now...
Here's a sticky toffee pudding recipe made with olive oil and without any cream - unfortunately a toffee sauce is not very good without butter and sugar, but I figure a tablespoon on your cake is ok.
This recipe assumes you know how to cook.

Ingredients
For the cake (makes about 10 portions) 200g of dates 150g sultanas/raisins 250g self raising flour (gluten free) A couple of tablespoons of dark brown sugar (mainly for the colour) A tablespoon of golden syrup A bit of vanilla essence 3fl oz extra virgin olive oil 8fl oz milk 1 egg
For the no cream toffee sauce 100g of brown sugar 100g of butter 100ml milk
Method
1. Soak the fruit in boiling water 1a. Preheat the oven to 170 degrees c, and fill a 8 inch square tin with baking parchment  2. Make the cake. Put all the dry ing…

Warm breeze, cool breeze

It can be quite an interesting experiment to work out what we are. The main conclusion is that most of the time we live in an invented reality that is a kind of useful way of negotiating with fellow humans but has no ultimate function. I think ancient peoples knew this well.

Anyway, let's break it down the Buddhist way.
1 - we have a body, meat and bones. It sends messages to a central nervous system. 2 - we experience sensations of pleasantness and unpleasantness  3 - we have a kind of distributed body-heart mind that experiences primitive things 4 - there are things in the mind
The second one is quite interesting because it drives our unconscious behaviour. For example, if there is a warm breeze we feel pleasant - life is good, we are relaxed. This pleasant feeling is something we desire all the time - it's why I go to coffee shops and restaurants all the time, it makes me feel good (unless I go to a mean spirited place, in which case I feel kind of unfortunate). This pleasa…

Keep a room at the back of the shop

In the olden days, if you were a certain type, you could take your leave of society and retire to the country. There, you would contemplate existence, smoke your pipe and write essays on solitude - like Montaigne, who came up with the title for this post. As an aside, I wonder where these people are now - these archetypal ageing philosophers. Anyway, perhaps there's a career option for me in there somewhere...

Back to the post. Montaigne is an interesting fellow and even more interesting is his essay "on solitude". I would recommend reading it all but the gist of this post is that you need not retire wholly from society in order to be free of its vicissitudes and small mindedness - all you need do is reserve a part of your mind that is free from such things - keep a room at the back of the shop. Now, interestingly this "room at the back of the shop" corresponds with the idea that if you rest in awareness then you need not be affected by what happens in the worl…

Update to postive mind training helper app

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I've updated my early stage mind training app. There are lots of apps out there that do a similar kind of thing but mine is going to be awesome - mainly because it is underpinned with 10+ years of practical mind training - no textbook regurgitation, all direct from the source. Also, it contains original art work - none of that hackneyed stuff, although you'll notice that I've used a lens flare thingy in the logo... but with a splendid blue monkey.







Visit the app on google play






Anyway, in this update I've added some meditation instructions and some explanations of the harder to understand phrases. More updates to come ...

Micro judgements

The group mind is a curious thing - it's what you might call society. I once read an interesting zen book called "from the zen kitchen to enlightenment" by Dogen and Uchiyama - there's an interesting chapter in there which touches on this concept - that is to say, the way we communicate with each through speech and how this creates the illusion of group mentality. Have I lost you already....? I haven't even started yet...

Here's a simpler attempt:
- We talk to each other - Generally, it is easier to get along so we conform with each other rather than argue - This creates a group mentality - It's a helpful contrivance. We get along, we chat. - Here's what I noticed. I mix in wildly different groups of people and the norms in each group are subtly different - they have different beliefs. These beliefs creep out in the form of micro judgements - little comments or phrases or opinions. - These micro judgements effect the opinion I have of myself. - This o…

Chronic fatigue - my top 5 supplements

Well, I've tried a lot of things in my time. I think it's good to keep trying new things - it gives you a sense of empowerment. Here are the ones that had the most positive effect on me:

1) Fish oil - I use one with vitamin D. Not sure if it's the oil or the vitamin D, but there was a slight easing of symptoms. Nowadays I can take it or leave it, but the doctors seem to have a fixation with vitamin D and fatigue so I keep on popping them in.

2) Acidopholus - without doubt the supplement that had an instant effect. One of the things with my condition over the years has been problems with my gut - several million lactobacillus definitely help.

3) A vegetable smoothie every day. I've posted various recipes on this blog but beetroot, cucumber, celery, spinach and carrot seem to be the staple ingredients (topped up with some fruit juice and various berries (apparently blackcurrants are the best, followed by raspberries)). Many times I've woken up like a corpse and one o…

Become a super coper

We want life to be easy but it will throw up plenty of challenges. You might think there is a limit to what you can take but, in reality, you can take a hell of a lot more than you think you can. You probably don't know what I'm talking about if you've never been there but, when you do get there, you take take even more. Don't give up. We are super resilient!

Anyway, I don't want to go back there but if you are there then you are a hero - you are a super coper. It takes guts but we've got loads of those (apparently).

Interesting article about relaxation

Here's an interesting article that sheds some light on the history of relaxation techniques:

The man who invented relaxation
I'm a firm believer in both camps:
- relaxing the body relaxes the mind - training the mind (visualisation, mantra) leads to relaxation
They both lead to the same place, although you could have a hearty debate about the different mental factors present (if you knew anyone to debate such things with). Ah, it doesn't matter what you do as long as you do it. Go for the chilled out, super relaxed, happy, calm person who's hiding in your heart and enjoy it all.

Overcoming chronic fatigue

I read this article with interest:

http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/health/11960152/You-cant-just-wish-Chronic-Fatigue-Syndrome-away.-Im-the-terrible-proof.html

I went down with chronic fatigue 10 years ago and I now consider myself "recovered", although I use that term optimistically - I am now able to function like a normal person if I am careful and I don't do too much. So then, how did I recover?

- doctors did not help
- CBT did not help in the form it was given
- revising my expectations about my situation did help (this required an extremely honest occupational therapist) although it did not help my condition
- exercise did not help, but it became a useful measure of my recovery over time
- supplements and diets did not really help, other than it would a healthy person
- relaxation and mind control did help with day to day symptoms
- time and the healing process was the main thing

When you go down with chronic fatigue (a bit of flu, you are unable to function like a …

Allow thoughts to go unfinished

Here's quite a nice thing to do. It seems to work best first thing in the morning or when you're totally relaxed - basically when the mind has enjoyed some moments of silence.

So, the mind is silent. There's an urge to think, the thoughts appear. They are the same old thoughts but there is an urge to find the "solution" to them, to resolve them. You think: once they are resolved then you'll be able to move on or deal with the thoughts promptly when they return a few minutes later. (Look closely and you may find the inherent pleasure of this type of activity). Anyway, let's not go that far. Do this instead:

- the thought arises
- you're relaxed, you are able to see it coming
- the thought is not that urgent (you've seen them all before)
- let the thought go unfinished
- drop back into the relaxed space
- tune in to the pleasure of what you have just done

Keep going until it's time to go back to bed - the world will be a better place.

A simple way to calm the mind

The mind is a complicated business so let's simplify it a little:

1) there is the thinking mind (your wordy thoughts, inner voice, etc)

2) and there is the mind of simple presence (the one that knows, if you like)

The first mind is that one that tends give us trouble because it seems so utterly believable even when it is being completely irrational - in fact, it is telling us a story. If it is telling us a horror story, then we start to get a bit out of whack...

But let's not go there. Instead, let us visit a zen story. It goes something like this:

Student: I cannot calm my mind

Master: Show me your mind and I will calm it

Student: I cannot find my mind

Master: There, it is already calm

Now, this is a highly useful method of calming an agitated mind. In order for it work, you need to be able to recognise the difference between mind 1 and mind 2 as explained above. If you've never been in mind 2, then you probably won't even believe it exists (indeed, many people don't…

Is success a good thing?

I ask this question because I was once successful and now I am not in the game anymore I still mix with successful people and I see what they are going through and there is a great struggle going on - they achieve a lot but they have to give so much of themselves away. I also see health time bombs waiting to go off, and it raises questions about how great a successful career is.

 Should we aspire for something better? 

Samadhi in the here and now

I was recently at a retreat where the retreatants were surprised to learn that samadhi was something you could settle into at any moment - as opposed to some mental state that you had to work yourself into by some feat of mental endurance. So, let's enjoy the knowledge that you can drop into the large welcoming cushions of samadhi whenever you feel the need - just by tuning into the sensations and dropping in. There's an ocean of feathers in our minds whenever we want it.

There's a catch though. We have to know what it is before we can tune into it. We need to know what the mental factors feel like when samadhi is present, otherwise we are groping around for things we cannot see. So, it requires cultivation and practise to open up to the giant sofa of the mind - but this is a question of lifestyle persistence rather than a supreme mental effort. Plump the cushions, open the mind and drop right in.

The mind massage - access concentration

I use the concept of a mind massage quite a lot when I want to get the mind back into a calm, integrated state - something akin to access concentration (a staging post for developing a deeply absorbed jhanic state).  So then, imagine your everyday mind - you're stuck somewhere in the frontal lobes doing things, being yourself, getting things done. This is what we've been trained to do - it's productive, we're functional, making our contribution - let's enjoy that illusion. It pays the bills.

Now, the everyday mind is just one aspect of our being - we have other modes we can drop into. These modes change our perspective of who we are and what it means to be a human, so they are worth a visit. They also increase our mental prowess, heal our fractured souls and generally make us super people. 
So let's use the mind massage as a tool to take us there:
- we are in our stressed state but we want to relax
- we take a comfortable seat somewhere quiet. You can put your …

When everything is happiness

This is where we are heading. We might not be there yet, but the potential is in all of is. It's a sublime state of mind. It comes and goes. Most of us will get there in the end. The real question is: how much of our life do we want to spend there?

Feel good techniques app

In the spirit of mind training I created a simple app.

https://play.google.com/store/apps/details?id=com.muwuprojects.feelthelove.fgtkarma


It's a reminder of some of the things I go on about on this blog. 

Lojong mind training

I appeared to have ended up in the world of mind training and it's a good way of keeping the mind away from the dark side. You can invent your own system, but you could also just adopt something like the lojong mind training phrases - they are fairly comprehensive but some of them require some extra curricular knowledge to know what they are going on about. In essence, your mind training program should cover :

- a body mind technique like meditation or yoga or tai chi
- a pointer to the unborn / zero mind
- positive reinforcement
- wise behaviour
- an expanded, no self sense of the world
- wholesome thoughts

Hmm, that's probably enough.

You might think that you don't need mind training because it seems to working just fine as it is. However, there's more to life than what your mind is giving you. You don't want to miss the other marvellous things on offer, do you?

The power of mindfulness

Mindfulness is everywhere these days and I've avoided using it on this blog for no real good reason. However I do find it more and more useful these days so I thought I'd write a little about it. Mindfulness is the relaxed, detached awareness of events passing through the mind. Once you have tuned into this mode of operation, you effectively have no problems - you are outside whatever is bothering you. This is where I find power in mindfulness.

The thing underneath it all

Investigation is a good way to blow your mind. We inquire into something, like 'who am I', and we go to very, very interesting places - which is quite handy if you can't get out much.

So let's go somewhere interesting:
- I have a mind. I see things, hear things, think things. - I can hear a sound and not think about it. Just sounds, coming and going. - The same with thoughts and sights - although your eyes might go funny and things might disappear - We might recognise the movement of the mind to recognise things.  - We might recognise the mind just letting things go - We might see the activity of the mind. Coloured lights or other speckled rushes. - if we hang out there, we let go. - we might see our self forming out of this activity - we might see awareness forming - we might not bother to have any awareness form. We are just a light thing. - now, we might sense that there is a fabric of reality underlying all this activity. It's what everything is made of - the t…

It's easy to feel good

I've been hammering away at this feel good stuff for a few years now and there's nothing new under the sun. I've been finding books written over a hundred years ago that basically say the same things. So, it turns out it's not the message that changes, it's how it is delivered and who the audience is. This brings it down to a kind of marketing exercise.

Anyway, it is easy to feel good.

Forget tomorrow.

Forgive yourself.

Say yes a lot.

Breath deep and relax.

Forget tomorrow.

It's OK.

You did well.


Immerse yourself in a hundred thousand blessings

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The good news is that if you are a mouse, recalling happy memories will relieve you of depression. As humans, the same thing applies. Why stop at one happy memory? Immerse yourself in many blessings and live from that place. Your mind will never be the same again.

May I be happy

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If you're looking for a technique to make you feel good then this is it. It's simple, works on all layers of the mind, and is totally transformative. It does, however, require some persistence. If you persist then the results are truly amazing.
Here's how it works:
1. Repeat the phrase "may I be happy" over and over again, all day long. 2. Don't try to make anything happen, just repeat the phrase. 3. You can mix in other phrases, such as "I love you", just keep them simple. 4. When you find yourself thinking about something else, bring back the phrases. 5. Repeat for a couple of weeks
That's it. It just works.

Develop your yes mind

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Give it a try, things tend to go more smoothly with an instantaneous yes response. Clearly, we don't want to become a doormat and this is where assertiveness comes in. It's like a professional yes even when you mean no. 
The mind training here is a kind of letting go. Yes allows us to stay in a more open, relaxed attitude.

Rapunzel wisdom and the mind

I'm using wisdom here as 'seeing what is going on'. It turns out that once you can see something (in your mind) and name it, then it no longer has the same power over you. Hazar! Therefore, once we understand a little bit more about how our mind works then we learn to loosen up a little and things don't seem so bad. That's why people keep writing self help books and why scientists go through a life of bearded bliss trying to figure things out so we can understand what is going on.

So then, what are the basic wisdom nuggets regarding our minds? What can we name?

1. We are not our thoughts. This comes through loud and clear. They are mind processes.

2. Feelings, thoughts and the environment shape each other. If you can see this, then you have made a significant step into wisdom.

3. We can't control what happens, but we can learn to control our responses.

4. We can control who we associate with, how we feather our nest, what we do in life and how we choose to spen…

Essays on idleness

I came across this book recently - it's like a mediaeval Japanese blog. There are plenty of little gems within the pages but perhaps we should take delight in the art of idleness ourselves. Idleness is not being lazy, it's about cultivating space in our lives to do nothing. We observe time passing, we feel our moods, we find still places in our mind. These are not trivial things. After all, nothing really happens to anyone - as the book suggests. True wealth is watching time pass, not letting it slip by unnoticed. Explore idleness, explore the joy in being idle.

Beyond the wanting mind

There's a lot of ecstasy out there. Then stillness.

 Now, we get a glimpse of something different. A mind without concepts is different from an everyday mind. There is no time, no things, no you and me, no such thing as yesterday or tomorrow or now. Without these things there is no cause and effect universe, which is interesting. Perhaps the world is not what it seems. Perhaps there is another way of seeing things.

Now, I'm a rational person but these things make you wonder. What is beyond the human mind? What is the universe really?






















The common thoughts of human beings

I was reading the work of Levi-Strauss (the anthropologist, not the Jean maker) and his attempts to find common essence of human thought across different tribes and cultures. If we look at our own minds, it is possible to see the construction of thought but the contents of those thoughts and how they relate to society are complex - clearly the way we think is a cultural phenomenon and culture is a  thing all of its own outside of our individual selves. Do we try to understand this thing or do we let it go? How do we engage with it? 
Well, I'm not sure. You can gauge the well being of a society by the culture it produces - the music, the art, the way it expresses form. It is a complex language and it shapes how we think. Now, you could spend a long time investigating this but the key thing to recognise is that The thoughts it produces in Us are something we do not directly control. However, how we react to these thoughts and how we shape future thoughts is something we are responsi…

Exploiting the body mind complex to shape thoughts

In my last post an attempt was made to explain away thoughts - they are causal, we have little control over them, we should chill out about them. The mind makes thoughts like a factory makes widgets. They are not us.

However, we all know how difficult thoughts are - they can make our lives a misery. As westerners, we have a duty to stop this misery and control them in some way, and there is a glimmer of hope if you put the effort in.

The first thing to be aware of is: the more you think a thought, the more likely you are to think that thought again. The more you moan, the more likely you are to moan in future. The more generous you are, the more generous you become. And so on. In short, think good things.

The next handy thing to know is: you can't think a thought without contracting a muscle somewhere (this is why dead people don't do thinky things). The body and mind are two sides of the same coin, they are inexorably bound together. This is useful because we can influence th…

What is a thought?

You can go a long way with this line of enquiry.

Before you begin, it's important to do some groundwork. First, you need to purify the mind (or clean it out). To do this you need to be a generally decent person pursuing wholesome thoughts (generous, forgiving, seeing the good) and then you should be able to calm the mind down by allowing it to rest on an object and then letting it relax (like taming a wild animal of sorts).

Once the mind is calm, you can see what's happening. To cut a long story short, a lot of stuff is happening - it's like you've been driving along the road looking at the trees go by and then a hole opens up in the bottom of the car and you see the Tarmac whizzing by and things happening very fast. Not to worry, you're a complex organism so you'd expect a bit of action.

Next step is to attach some labels to the features of the mind as they emerge. The central feature is perception - attaching labels to stuff. What stuff? Well, it's mainly…

Superfood your muffins

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If you go on a strange food diet then you'll need some cakes at some point - I've found muffins to be a bit of a life saver over the years, especially on the wheat free stints. Here's the basic muffin recipe:

Preheat your oven to as hot as it can go. Have about 12 muffin cases arranged in a muffin tin.
- 250g self raising flour (I use a wheat free blend, with some variations) - A few teaspoons of sugar (experiment with this, if you make 10 muffins allow half a teaspoon per muffin, more if you can't stand it). Sometimes you can go sugar free, depending on your flavour. - A teaspoon of baking powder - A teaspoon of bicarbonate of soda - 1 egg, optional if you don't have one - 3 fl oz extra virgin olive oil, or other health giving oil - 9 fl oz of milk or orange juice ( enough fluid to make a slack mix)
Then you add your flavours, this is the superfood bit.
- a handful of chia seeds (Mexican endurance runners like this apparently) - a handful of sunflower seeds, or ot…

VE day celebrations May 1945 Alexandria

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My Granddad went through the war. Here's how they celebrated the end.








It seems very civilised. I like the idea that they enjoyed a tombola and some donkey racing. I imagine the boxing competition would have been fierce.



Don't think too hard, it might never happen

In fact, the opposite might happen. Clearly, one day the bad thing will happen, and it's clear to me that unfortunate things happen all the time. It's part of growing up - we can't hide from the onset of poopishness. It's what happens. That's not to say that we sit there considering all the poopishness in the world and trying to defend ourselves against it (defensiveness = prison). Perhaps: we see the poop, we anticipate the poop, we acknowledge that we may soon be up to our neck in it, but we give ourselves a choice. Perhaps now I will think about something different. And therein lies freedom.

Exploration of pleasure and feeling good

Here is a deep and curious exploration that goes right to the core of our quest for happiness:

What is pleasure?

We may begin with the simple things - eating an orange, a fried egg, some toast. Things taste nice. We stroke our cheek, run a nail across our lips - things feel nice. Perhaps we become aware of a little release of niceness - some endorphins or oxytocin or dopamine, feel good brain chemicals. But still we wonder:

Why do they feel nice?

We might realise that 'nice' is a label that we assign to a particular sense experience - there is nothing intrinsically nice about the sense contact. We might realise that pain and pleasure are quite similar as sense contacts. It does not end there. The thought of a nice experience can become self sustaining - something pleasureable or satisfying. We can saturate ourselves in this chemical wash of satisfaction, but these are just labels we attach to physical experiences. There is just sublime contentment. We are not longer seeking p…

Does anything really happen?

The answer to this is no. Nothing really happens. Even if you think something has happened, your recall of what went on is not actually what may have happened, if indeed it ever happened at all. So relax, things change, we all move on. That thing we did ten years ago, no-one really cares now.

I was browsing through a book this afternoon that was talking about liquid society - our society where nothing stays still. Is a liquid society a perfect system for productivity? Is this rapid response culture changing the way we view ourselves as people?

I digress. We are details in this process, like little flowers.


Going deeper into relaxation

In the last post, I rambled on about getting relaxed. The are many stages to getting deeply, deeply relaxed - getting past nuisance thoughts is just the beginning. So, let's assume:
- you are relaxed - you follow a breath in, you follow it out, you don't get distracted - you rest between thoughts in an inviting sense of peace - you can follow ten cycles of breathing with ease - you are maintain an awareness of the breath in the whole body
You have options in this position. You can carry on just following the breath with the intention of letting - just keep letting go - until the body starts disappearing and the mind starts expanding. Or, you can tune into the sense of pleasantness that comes with relaxation. The in breath is pleasant because it brings a sense of energy, the out breath is pleasant because it brings an immensely feeling of relaxation and the pause in between is deeply peaceful. This sense of pleasure will grow the more you focus on it and it will feel like you ar…

Blockages to pure relaxation

Relaxation is the key to feeling good but learning how to relax is a tricky business. You could try to relax right now but it's not so easy - things get in the way. These things are generally intractable thoughts (anger, wanting, aversion, etc) or the idea that you should be doing something else. (Buddhism wraps these blockages up as the five hindrances). However, they are thoughts that lead us down a garden path that never ends.

These thoughts block relaxation and we feel impossible to stop them but this is just an illusion and a cognitive distortion. In fact, they end very quickly if we gain the right perspective and turn our minds towards something more wholesome. The general sequence goes something like this:

- we are stressed, we realise we are stressed and we cannot relax
- we take some deep breaths
- we consciously turn our mind to focus on breathing
- we breathe in, we breathe out, we rest in between
- we feel the mind pulling us away, we feel tension in the body supportin…

Relaxation is the key to happiness

This is just a reminder. Are you relaxed? Are you ever relaxed?

If you master relaxation, then you are most of the way there.


Different thoughts have different consequences

We are all probably familiar with the technique of distracting ourselves with some activity to avoid something painful in our lives - perhaps we are facing social misery of some sort. We give the brain a less stressful thought process to keep it occupied and it feels nice not to think about the other crap in our life. So, if we take a little step back and see what's going on, we find that emotionally charged thoughts about things we cannot solve place our bodies and minds into a stressful place. The unfixable nature of the situation churns us up - not nice. On the flip side, thoughts about activities where we do reach closure - perhaps we plan an activity, or we review something we have done successfully - these thoughts bring a sense of openness to our whole being.

The next step is realising that all thoughts are transient things and there is no imperative to think a particular thought. We can choose which way we direct our mind. Perhaps this seems like an impossible task, but al…

Between the body and the thinking mind

There is the body. There are the thoughts. Then there is the space between them where there are no discursive thoughts but we are fully alive in our bodies. This space is HUGE. If we spend enough time here we start to become indifferent to the thoughts and compulsions we previously had. We become calm, we become contented, we feel good.

Now, we wonder why. Why did no-one explain this? Then we start looking and it seems that there is a huge amount of stuff out there that explains exactly this, and then we realise that wisdom is just not getting through. It's there but only if we want it ...

The multi-modal brain personality

I didn't quite know what to call this post, but I was in the library the other day reading a medical neuroscience tome and it was saying that different parts of the brain did different things - nothing new there ... Then it explained some cases where the left and right hemispheres had had their connections severed so that the left side of the brain could not talk to the right side of the brain (and vice versa). It then said that these people had two separate self identities. So left brain would decide to put some gloves but the right brain decided to take them off again. Left brain was enjoying reading a book (because that's what it's for) but right brain was bored (because it did not participate in reading).

Clearly, the idea that we are one person is more complicated than we might think. We are many different people competing for the right to be in charge. We are a fragmented whole.

Anyway, I thought that was quite interesting. What's even more interesting is that yo…

Meditation reveals the flaws but is also generally blissful

I used to be a miserable man and I still am to a certain extent. Life seemed like an endless stream of broken promises, but let's not go there. Instead, let's focus on the upside - life is full of tremendous potential to be completely satisfying. How do we glimpse this satisfaction? Well, meditation is kind of a gateway. Unfortunately, meditation takes us on a journey and part of that journey is to see the flaws of what we have become - all the mean things, the greed, the hatred, the disappointment, the longing. Not so brilliant. These are the underlying currents that bring us unhappiness. They are the conflict, the root of our automatic thoughts. They are not us, just what we have learnt. If we persist with meditation we can get underneath this layer of  **** and start to reveal the true nature of our being, which is pretty decent. There is nothing wrong with us. We are blissful, at home. We have our slippers on and the dog is fed. You get the idea.

If we are lucky meditation…

The vast distance between you and yourself

It's there.

Embrace the contradiction. None of us perfect. We make it up on the spot and then spend hours trying to fix it. It's not a problem, it's a feature. 
Laughing is a wonderful cure,

Now what should I do with my life

So I've had the massive multi-year decade spanning illness and there's a galactic black hole in my cv and my children have nearly grown up and I'm left with the question: what next?

I'm sure something will turn up, but for now I'm kind of at that point. Adrift.

This is the reference moment.

The unbroken chain

There is sometimes a pleasant relief in realising that we are all part of an unbroken chain stretching back before the dinosaurs and into the misty soup of frothy bacteria. There is the fun in knowing that a few thousand generations ago your grandmother was a fish and that we are part of a fabric of life that is diverse and compelling. There is no will in this process, it is semi automatic, a wondrous machine that keeps on rolling because it can. We are alive for the briefest of moments, moving through the system. What we think is irrelevant. We are here, we are laughing, we are smiling and we are visible from space. What more could we want?

Thought experiment regarding transferring a person into a computer

This is a popular science fiction theme - man builds a computer, man transfers himself into the computer, the computer is him. This is an appealing fantasy but let's think it through. If I did it, which part of me would be transferred?

My memories - I don't really use them that much. They are generally horror stories so I wouldn't want them dragging me down in my computer wonderland.

My personality - this is hard to pin down. I respond differently to different people in different situations. Perhaps there is a true me in there somewhere, but which one is it. My personality also varies depending on my exhaustion, whether I stubbed my toe or not, and whether I managed to get what I want. I wouldn't want to take these in with me because most of them get on my nerves anyway.

My intellect - there is nothing special here.

My soul - by this, I mean the essence of me. The essence of me is derived from the world around me. The world is in me as much as I am in the world. In a s…

Your mind is perfectly happy without you

When you examine what makes you sad, there is generally one common theme - you. This might seem a bit of a useless insight, but it is quite handy when you realise that 'you' is a kind of moveable feast - it changes with the weather. Indeed, days fly by quite nicely if you manage to drop the incessant you-ness and instead open up your awareness into the magical spaciousness of the mind. At some point you might come to realise that the reason this works is because 'you' are not really a thing at all, just a constellation of ideas coming together at any particular moment to 'get your way'. Then the real wonder begins.

I realise that I have been 'excessive' with the quote marks in this post, but it felt like the right thing to do.

Sensations

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I sat still for a few moments and noted the sensations it was feeling, mainly from my body but also in reaction to my thoughts. I rated pleasant feelings as 1, nothing feelings as 0 and unpleasant feelings as -1. As you can see it changed a heck of a lot. These are pure sensations. You might notice that there is a lot going on and that I am not actually in control of any of it - they mostly just happen. 
So, if you've been reading my last few posts, then you'll know that we naturally want pleasant things all the time, and yet now it seems as if the pure sensation of pleasant arises for no real reason at all. There's our problem right there. Want does not always get. You get what you're given. Now I'm starting to sound like my mother ...

How to get what you want without doing much

In my last post I suggested that if you wanted to change yourself you should do nothing and let change happen by itself. Now clearly people want to achieve certain things - be happier, thinner, better job, successful, and so on. We can be ruthless, driven and push ourselves hard but it comes with  a certain cost which I'm sure we can all identify. However this seems a bit more proactive than doing nothing.

So then, for those of you who still have things to achieve, there is a middle way. The way we behave and make choices in the world is largely unconscious and a learned behaviour. This is the first lesson - manipulate our unconscious reactions. The next thing to note is that as you change other people will change with you to accommodate the new you - in other words, change is possible.

Here's the practical part that makes it work. Do the relaxation I mentioned in the last post and then drop some intentions into your mind - I like myself, I want to be happy, I am confident. Vi…

Time for a change

It's a new year and there's a sense of freshness now that the old year has been completed. We want to change, be a new person, but is change possible? How do we change?

Here's the short and curlies of it: we can change but it's very difficult.... The thing that needs to change is the thing that doesn't want to change - you. You want things to be different while you stay the same. It's one of those mind bending inside out situations.

So, it's best to let go of wanting to change and relax instead. Find a nice chair, do some breathing exercises, find a gap in your thoughts and let everything go. Do it everyday and things will never be the same again. You will change in ways you never thought possible.