Wednesday 28 August 2013

Demon to tea

A couple of weeks ago with a little too much time on my hands one of my demons came to see me. I decided to really invite him in, to deliberately put myself in the place where we face each other; the place the button gets pressed. The result was a complex mixture of emotions resulting in a fairly deep depression. Fortunately I retained objectivity and knew that this was 'the black dog' and not some sustaining truth. The 'black dog' moved off on Friday. Depression it is said is anger spread thin. There certainly seemed to be truth in that this time; the emotional mix was grief, sadness, shame, anger, and confusion. And there is self loathing lurking in the roots of it. I believe in looking at my demons because I think they have something valuable to tell me. I know I have to 'invite them to tea'. The trouble is that they have such poor table manners and I don't always remember that the tea party can take longer than perhaps I'd reckoned on! The depression was just part of the party. This demon is a big one. It's complex and I can't see it all in one go. I also have a feeling that my relationship with it is at the level of my life force; the desire to have experience, to live, to be in the world. All demons are about our wanting our experience to be a certain way; the nature of samsara. But beyond little and/or unwholesome desires there is the very will to live. I believe we come out of unity in order that the very unity of which we are might see itself. This is my understanding of nirvana in samsara; that the two are one and the same. So, I notice I experience desires which seem to run very deep and although they may not be clear I feel they point to my reason for being in the world. It is as if some part of me is saying 'look closely; this is what you came here (into human form) for'. Now a demon tied up with this is guarding a treasure. Not a trinket or a toy but, I believe, a dharma gate and the path back to the market place. Could it be that the gift of this demon is to see the nature of the very will to live; the nature of birth and death? I've got shame around this demon; the shame is part of him. This is because I feel I've wasted time in my life through fear and perhaps (for me) worse, ignorance. I find it difficult to accept not knowing, being ignorant. This too is about fear. When triggers in everyday life get mixed up with feeling that I have in the past and/or still am in the present wasting my life I am looking at this demon. There are complex issues of feelings from the past which I believe were not fully felt at the time together with feelings about the present. This makes it difficult to know how much is historic and how much is contemporary. As ever with such things all one can do is to invite softening, keep breathing and gently hold the question 'what is it that wants to emerge?'.  Not pushing away/repressing, not getting too caught up. But I have to say I don't find it easy to keep the master at home when big demons come to tea, even if they do get invited! Perhaps an interesting question is 'just who is it that invites them?'

Tuesday 20 August 2013

Desire; not so simple methinks

A few times recently I've recalled this post about Blue. There is intended in the post a pointing to my sense of a sort of coming home to myself. I find this post on Jade Mountain Buddha Hall interesting in that there is a picture of a blue moon lit sky starting a post about desire.

Tuesday 6 August 2013


Sitting at my desk, looking at my computer I notice a small patch of light slowly drifting, as if floating through the air. I pay it attention to realise that it is a small rainbow and one of a number now cast upon surfaces in the room. Ah, I thought, the sun is now low enough to shine through the small glass angel shaped rainbow maker hanging in my window. A pleasant way to be reminded that autumn is approaching. Another year is slipping gently by, sometimes at an alarming rate. By August gardens take on a spent look and September is preparing to make that clear. Soon it will be fast approaching Christmas. But summer is not gone yet.

I feel an acute need for a new spring in my own life. This is a chronic condition and one requiring both the effort of action and the non-effort of patience! There is a need to notice saṃkhāra-dukkha and the necessity of the creative act. The economic conditions are still difficult and new opportunities seem few. I find it challenging to face what can seem like my own lack of imagination yet I know that there is a lesson in surrender; not a giving up but accepting. In many ways it is a good summer, one still here, and I must not let desire for any kind of spring bring on the worst parts of winter! It is another glorious day today and I feel it calling me to walk in the countryside.

Thursday 1 August 2013

Eros v Control

I started this post some weeks ago.

On a Friday evening:

Looking out my window I see him
Lovely in a boy next door way
Late teens early twenties
Clean, relaxed and happy
She stands next to him in her socks
Throws her shoes down
He kneels, puts them on her feet
She stands (child like) and lets him
I notice my objection to her (playing the child) and also
my awareness that I could be mistaken
He reaches around her leg to tie the lace as if it were on his own foot
She runs her fingers through his hair
I feel it - soft and thick
Pangs of longing and sadness - she has what was out of my reach...
He stands, they kiss tenderly for some time
I feel the desire in him
I note (my fancy of?) the manipulation in her
Suddenly they part and run off together
I feel a familiar wretchedness

What is wretched for me is the recollection of my own experience in those years. Struggling to accept my homosexuality and with low self esteem I was not playful and relaxed and not enjoying intimate relationship. For years I thought the only loss was the simple erotic connection. But of course the real loss is in the wider emotional aspect. The pain remaining is rooted not just in what was not but in the deeper who I was.

Ah well, the years since then have passed and now the weeks since looking out my window upon this scene have also passed.

Last night I watched program about a number of people with OCD undergoing intensive treatment at a camp in the USA. Seeing this group of people I recalled just how debilitating my own experience of OCD was from about age nine to thirteen. Back then the term was not in common usage and I thought I was the only person in the world with the feelings and rituals. I was scared people would think I was crazy and that I would have to undergo some treatment that might make me worse. I never went to see a 'professional'  for help and that may or may not have been wise. I was ashamed and exhausted. At eleven I so wanted a holiday from myself and realised that that was not possible. By thirteen I decided to go cold turkey and just stop. I must have intuitively hit on what is now known as exposure and ritual prevention and I freed myself from the prison of OCD. Or, maybe it just faded in intensity as I somehow learned to cope with uncertainty. For many years I thought I had just a few residual habits left over from OCD. But of course that's not quite true, in reality OCD is a condition which in my experience has receded to virtually nothing and can resurface under certain conditions. Thankfully though, I've not been imprisoned by it the way I was as a child since deciding to stop. But it is nevertheless, an insidious condition from which I think one is always recovering. OCD is a coping strategy to deal with risk, with the uncertain. I was trying to gain control to strike a bargain with the unknown; I do this ritual and the bad thing I've just thought of or feel won't happen. I must have been feeling a pressure of uncertainty from a very young age to come to OCD. Now I see this in terms of emptiness; I saw the frailty of everything, that things are insubstantial and subject to change as conditions arise and pass and that the change can come sudden and 'out of the blue'. This is seeing emptiness, interdependent origination and the arising of the moment from the reality of a single point of consciousness at an age when I simply did not have the wisdom to cope with it. Scary stuff. At about eleven I was shocked by the realisation that I would be a different person had my surroundings and family been different; where was the essential me?

So it was against this background that I came to the realisation at about fourteen that those feelings of being different from a young age now had another aspect; I was attracted to the boys not the girls. I decided that I would grow out of it. I knew only too well the mental pain of self loathing and I knew I would likely feel terrible about myself if I acted upon those oh so deep cravings to be intimate with another male. So started the compartmentalisation of my sexuality. It would take years to take the compartment walls down. There would be no relaxed youthful intimacy. Sexual freedom as a gay man would be won only as a process involving considerable risk and uncertainty. The very things OCD is about avoiding. Eros, the creative impulse, is stifled by excessive control and yet without control Eros is powerless.