Wednesday 23 January 2013

UN Trade Report 2012

Further to my post of the 20th I followed some of the links in George Monbiot's article, specifically this one to the United Nations Conference on Trade and Development report 2012. The summery and conclusions sections speak for themselves (even if the body of the report is a bit financially technical). Why has this not featured VERY CLEARLY in the news? As Monbiot says this report 'should have been an obituary for the neoliberal model developed by Hayek and Friedman and their disciples. It shows unequivocally that their policies have created the opposite outcomes to those they predicted.' Given the economic difficulties we are now facing it will be even more difficult to envision an economic system not based on continued growth and able to deliver true prosperity for all. Yet our so called leaders can't even seem to free themselves from the neoliberal model yet alone consider stable, sustainable models not based on continued growth. The world so very much needs true visionaries, elders, statesmen and stateswomen. I wonder if they will come forth.

Considering my own position on all this I ask myself 'is this so David or are you caught up in your own prejudices?' My feeling is that I've always mistrusted this whole neoliberal movement and that I've been right to doubt it. I wonder what place doubt in the minds of our politicians? There doesn't seem much evidence of the kind of doubt spoken of in spiritual practice.

Tuesday 22 January 2013

Black & White

These pictures were taken with my phone, which takes colour pictures! But winter trees and snow under a heavy sky and more falling snow produce a black and white world!

Sunday 20 January 2013

Time to see how we are connected

I usually start the day with a check of email followed by a look at the BBC news website. I found this article about soldiers returning from Helmand very moving, so sad. And other even more devastating stories could be told. And they are so young. Just why do we (as a species) do this?

A bit of an internet trawl to see how people are feeling about the austerity measures we are being made to undertake produced this result with which I find I am in deep agreement. The UK government economic policy is not about sensible solutions it's ideology.

There is a link between fighting wars and neoliberalism. I am not referring to the whole grubby business of making money out of arms trading, no, the link is far more basic; a belief that we are separate beings in competition with each other. And this is my fundamental objection to right wing politics and the awful neoliberal experiment of the past thirty years; it ruins communities. And as the failure of the Western economic system has shown, it also ruins economies. The big problem now as I see it is how to generate stable communities, finances, work, environments and services to enable people to live reasonably peaceful and meaningful lives. Clearly any sustainable solution can't rely on continued growth; we live on a finite planet and can't keep digging stuff out of holes in the ground to make things to throw away into other holes in the ground. Nor can we throw huge numbers of people into unemployment and expect society to thrive. We have to move away from this failed experiment and make the financial sector the servant of nations, not the master. And George Monbiot is right; it's about power not economics. There is yet an other war going on here; the one between the ultra-rich and the majority of people on the planet.

Tuesday 15 January 2013


This picture is not the one I was looking to take this morning but it will suffice to illustrate what came to mind as I looked out on the snowy scene about the house. We are fortunate to have a view across several tree filled large gardens and this morning the trees were white with snow and the scene was still and clear. I immediately thought to take a photo and write a post but I knew my eye and mind together were capturing (/ making) an image which the lens on any digital camera device to hand would not replicate. Sure enough, as soon as I looked at the image on the screen my doubts were confirmed so I headed out for a walk with a view to getting an image. By the time I'd arrived at my intended subject(s) the snow had started to melt and  the image above was the best I could get. There is too much action in this picture, movement is prevalent; the tyre marks, the car, the foot prints, the people in the distance... BUT, there is also the stillness in the snow covered trees. And in that respect it's not a bad picture. The picture I was looking for was all stillness, all white branches, spacious and light filled. Why? Because that was what greeted me in my first glimpse looking out this morning and I responded with a silent  ah! The 'ah!' I then thought, is because scenes like that show the stillness which even the busiest times and places are cut through with; the very stillness which holds all. The poets write of such scenes because they do indeed seem to point to the very truth of reality; we find ourselves in zazen. The scene seems to help us 'take aim for no target without trying'! I guess this happens in part because snow covers up variation and smooths everything out into basic forms. Colour is reduced yet where present it is more vivid. The extraneous noise (literal and metaphoric) is stripped away and we are left with a more direct experience.  Of course this is in part because the scene is novel for us but it is also because virgin snow implies that movement has not (yet) taken place. Foot steps are not present, moving and melting is yet to come... Not that zazen is about stripping away anything. Zazen isn't about anything. Just seeing moment to moment, non-dual.

I had my porridge and looked at the news on the internet. Two stories took my attention, one about garlic smuggling and one about DNA samples from gay men. The first story just sounds bizarre! But in fact it's about trade and not paying import duty. The second story raises questions. The thing that jumped out of this story for me though, was this: 'a former soldier from Salford, was convicted of gross indecency in 1983 because he had sex with another soldier when both men were under 21, which was then the homosexual age of consent'. When I beat myself up for not coming out sooner it is because I forget that that was the climate back then! I turned sixteen in 1983. I went out for my walk.

Normally in a post I like to tie-in the various strands to one common theme and that gives me the title. This time I am going to leave it at that... 

Wednesday 9 January 2013

Misguided feeling

Somewhat out of the blue came an OCD flare-up at the end of last week. Well, maybe not out of the blue; there was a bit of stress to trigger it. It has passed now. For many years I used to think that I had got over OCD and just had some residual habits left. I used to think this because I would recall how it was as child up until about thirteen when it would be excruciating. At about thirteen I found I could control it; I could just stop the rituals and tolerate the discomfort and it would subside. I would go cold turkey, I had discovered what I now know to be called Exposure and Ritual Prevention. At that time I (and for that matter most people in my world) had never heard the description Obsessive Compulsive Disorder and I had no name for what I was experiencing, was terrified that people would think I was crazy, was ashamed about it and received no professional help. It must be six or seven years ago that a therapist suggested to me that my OCD was probably not so much cured but (well) managed. Thinking back to the excruciating times between nine (when I think it started) and thirteen I thought 'no, it's nothing like that'. And that was and is true and I am not consumed by the compulsive need to carry out nulling routiens. But the therapist was right in some respects and much of my anxiety did and does still manifest in OCD. There is a particular flavor to it; an insidious gripping doubt coupled with a feeling of great peril a sense of responsibility and a need to make it safe. It being some aspect of life and more generally life its self. Such feelings cloud rational judgment and skew the perception of the odds of things going wrong towards the bleak. As a child I had seen emptiness too soon, way before I could cope with it let alone fully understand its fullness. OCD was a desperate attempt at control. In some way it probably helped me survive the awful feelings that triggered it; that is why we adopt such strategies. And like all attempts to control the world out there, it ends up controlling one's internal world. I am experienced now in observing my own body-mind and see much more clearly how thoughts and feelings resonate. So called rational thought has a lot more to do with the feeling of the thought than might be supposed. And it is in the feeling of things that the stickiness of OCD resides.

As a child I was particularly sensitive to unwholesome energies. I still am. This colored how I understood my OCD.  I perceived some malevolence that I felt I needed to protect myself against. It felt like somehow my (intrusive?) thoughts could make bad things happen and I would have to cancel them out with (what I now know are called) nulling routines and magical thinking. I realised that I was making some kind of a deal; I do the routines and the bad things won't happen. And that meant that there was some force that had power to do bad or stop it. And that force was thus not nice because the default seemed to be to do bad. There must have been (at least) two things happening here; 1) OCD - a psychological response to the feelings of vulnerability and the associated need to control, 2) a sensitivity to the energies around me. A mix of genuine spiritual insight (and sensitivity) and magical thinking was playing out in the experience of a sensitive small boy. When I look back on that boy now I see he has a radiant sensitivity to his inner and outer world and I wonder just how separate they seemed to him.

Now OCD is part of common speech (although I wonder how much people understand about it) and I have a far greater appreciation of the nature of life / the universe. And that appreciation is inextricably linked to the Three Jewels. The interesting thing about last week's flare up is that yet again I see that insight alone is not enough. The same stuff comes up. BUT it passes quicker. In that respect insight is enough.