Adele’s River Lea: Finding love, but not letting love in

Finding love but not letting love in: Adele’s River Lea

Adele’s River Lea  is one of the rare songs where the protagonist talks about herself. It’s not, as most pop songs are,  just about her emotions.  It’s about her internal choices and what she’s learning about herself.

From the point of view of real relationships, most pop songs have a big flaw. They focus on the other person, and on how the other person causes the singer to feel. The other is loyal – the singer feels happy and concludes the other person is good. The other leaves or cheats – the singer is unhappy, and concludes the other is bad. Sure, that’s one part of life. But with most pop songs it’s all there is. And life contains the VERY important part where you learn about YOURSELF, not the other person.

Life isn’t just about finding love on the outside. It’s about having the courage – oh, it takes courage – that when love is there, you make the choice to open up your vulnerability to let love in.

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Something male Hollywood actors can do about Harvey Weinstein

I like to ask what I can practically DO about a situation. And I had a thought of what could be done about sexual bullying and indeed about workplace bullying in general. (Harvey Weinstein’s problem isn’t sex addiction, his problem is that he is a psychopathic bully.) And it’s something that male actors can DO to protect female actors, instead of just sounding very good indeed and talking about how awful it all is, but they never knew, gosh no, etc etc.

I put together these two reports: one, that legislators in New York are proposing to make non-disclosure agreements illegal in case of workplace harassment. And two, this story of a courageous British woman, Zelda Perkins, who is defying possible punitive retaliation to break her non-disclosure agreement and speak about what she claims happened to her. 

So here’s my idea. If George Clooney and Matt Damon and the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences [who award the Oscars] and all the other male actors and male commentators and film industry bodies want to do more than just sound very good, they could  band together and set up a fund to indemnify women who have been bullied or abused and who wish to break their non-disclosure agreements.

In other words, they’d say “If you’ve been bullied and then forced to sign an NDA and you want to tell the truth, we’ll give you the money to repay it or underwrite your legal fees if you get sued.” And so all those women, many many women, could speak out and tell the truth.  And many victimising abusers would get what they deserve.

Maybe, there are legal problems in doing that. But these would be carried on the broad shoulders of a powerful consortium of rich  successful men and rich powerful companies, not come crushing down on the shoulders of one small-scale individual.

In these situations, NDAs are vile. Effectively it means that someone who has been bullied or sexually abused in a work situation, is then subject to further bullying by lawyers – amoral enablers who’ll do anything for money – to keep them quiet.  Wouldn’t it be great if a whole cohort of women suddenly could get their voices back? Western society is a world where it is easy to speak truth about power, but very hard to make that have any effect. This is something that could make a difference. So please stand forward, the first male film star to pledge money for this fund.

(For the laborious avoidance of doubt, clearly people of all sexes and in all industries suffer workplace bullying and sexual abuse. I’m sure intelligent people will understand why I am focusing on the pure simplicity of abuse of  (a) women by (b) men in (c) the film industry.)

Buzzfeed, you’ve got it wrong. Most therapy is not like that.

Buzzfeed, you’ve got it wrong. Therapy is not like that.

Buzzfeed had a couple of jokey articles for Mental Health Week, including
19 Questions You’ve Definitely Wanted To Ask Your Therapist and 27 Things Everyone Who Has Gone To Therapy Will Understand. They are funny enough that I thought I’d answer some of the questions. [Also: Buzzfeed, I don’t listen to people’s problems.] A whole lot of the article is just wrong, wrong, wrong about what therapy nowadays involves.  Buzzfeed, it’s not like that.

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“How do you handle listening to people’s problems all day?” – therapist questions from Buzzfeed

“How do you handle listening to people’s problems all day?” – questions to your therapist from Buzzfeed. Answer: I don’t!

Buzzfeed.co.uk had a page about therapy for Mental Health week,  “19 Questions You’ve Definitely Wanted To Ask Your Therapist.” Silly yes, but they have enough sense, I thought I’d answer a few. (Also: Buzzfeed, you are so wrong about therapy.)

Question #17 is “How do you handle listening to people’s problems all day?” And the answer is … I just don’t do it!  Listening to problems is draining.  Pain, however, is different. Meeting authentic pain is inspiring. Indeed it is an honour. Let me explain the difference.

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Factual, realistic, pragmatic: Inside Out is the simple truth

Factual, realistic, pragmatic: Inside Out is the simple truth

If you want a Hollywood film with true emotional depth; which expresses universals of the human heart; a film that tells life like it is: the Pixar animation, Inside Out does the job. (Trailers)

It’s had all sorts of glowing reviews, no need for more here. What I want to say is that this isn’t any type of metaphor for the human mind. This is actually how it is. There actually are sub-personalities in relationship with each other, inside our heads. This film is real, real, real.

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Fighting is not compulsory – first aid for couples conflicts

Fighting is not compulsory – first aid for couples conflicts

Do you have painful repeating habitual fights in your relationship? Do you have eruptions you can’t control, walk-outs that scare you to death, or repeating fights about the same things over and over and over … and over and over? In an earlier post I wrote about the importance of If It Doesn’t Work, Do Something DIFFERENT. This present post is a few all-purpose first-aid measures you can do to interrupt those stale, dead, painful repeating cycles.  Then you can make room for listening, understanding, intimate closeness. Many of the couples tell me  they find these rather enlightening: Oh! We don’t have to fight!

You can do any one of these on its own, or two, or three, or all four, whatever works.

[Find more exercises, including watching films together, here on the index page for relationship posts] (more…)

Don’t complain about feelings, make requests for actions

Don’t complain about feelings, make requests for actions

Relationships are about love, sex, fun, communication, emergence, transformation.  Whether you travel together for a day or a lifetime, every journey is step by step from this here and now … to this here and now. Communication works best when it is rooted step by step in the here and now. Sometimes the heart invites us to flow with deep currents; still, there is no other moment than now. This post is about keeping communication in the here and now. It is, if you like, a form of relationship meditation or communication mindfulness.

It’s simple and it is useful and it is basic to good communication. The key is grammatically-positive communication. That means that you ask for what you want instead of complaining about what you don’t want.

Far too often, we tell the other person either what we don’t want or don’t like (“I’m not happy about our sex life”, “You spend too much”),  or we ask for vague things like. “I want to feel you want me”, “I want you to respect me.” Mostly this is combined with hurt emotions imported from our own past. Such communication has no root in here-and-now physical life.  At best it goes round in circles. At worst it degenerates into a toxic cycle that can easily sink even a relationship full of love and affection.

This isn’t by any means all there is to intimate communication. But grammatically negative communication is like potholes on a runway, it stops love from flying.

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That’s meditation?! – La Roux, In For The Kill

That’s meditation?! –  La Roux, In For The Kill

In for the kill
by Elly Jackson (La Roux)

This song doesn’t sound like meditation, it certainly does not. But it is; at least if you get rid of the idea that meditation means sitting quietly still. Instead think of meditation as “choiceless awareness of life”. Then, this is a song with a certain kind of quality of meditation to it.

In any case, this is definitely a “pop song with truth.” That’s simply because the protagonist isn’t singing about needing or getting or losing the other person; she’s singing about herself. She’s celebrating herself even in getting rejected by the other person. That fact in itself makes this different from 99% of pop songs.

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“You Colour Me” by Pocket Universe – deepen your relationship via pop songs

You Colour Me by Pocket Universe – deepen your relationship via pop songs

Here’s a simple exercise to make your relationship deeper.  Listen with your partner to this track (You Color Me by Pocket Universe) – a woman laying it on the line about not being seen straight. Then talk with your beloved about seeing the real person that he or she is, and letting yourself be seen. That’s it, listen and share, and your relating will move a step towards deeper intimacy. 

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“Love, look at the two of us” – deepen your relationship via pop songs

Love, look at the two of us  – deepen your relationship via pop songs

Here’s a fun exercise to make your relationship deeper.  Listen with your partner to “For all we know”, famously covered by the Carpenters. Then talk about it; I’ve also suggested an exercise you could do. That’s it, listen and share, and your relating will move a step towards deeper intimacy.  (More relationship postsmore  pop songs of truth and love)

I got the idea from some great research by Dr. Ron Rogge that newly-wed couples can halve their divorce rate simply by watching and discussing five movies about everyday relating.  I don’t claim any such dramatic results for this playlist of pop songs. But listen together to these tracks, discuss them together, and you will at the least have a more loving understanding of each other.

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“Your true colours are beautiful” – deepen your relationship via pop songs

Your true colours are beautiful – deepen your relationship via pop songs

Here’s a fun exercise to make your relationship deeper.  Listen with your partner to Your True Colours are Beautiful by Cindy Lauper, then talk about your true colours; I’ve suggested some topics. That’s it, listen and share, and your relating will move a step towards deeper intimacy.  (More relationship postsmore  pop songs of truth and love) (more…)

A few understandings that help with anger

A few understandings that help with anger

This is a short auxilliary post (a “lemma”, indeed) to the Friday in Heaven, Friday in Hell post on radical non-dual acceptance. It offers a few understandings that help you step out of anger. And to avoid doubt, meditation always needs such understandings. The body-oriented meditation approach makes them much easier to use, it doesn’t replace them.

These refer to the Black Friday example, but you can easily apply them elsewhere.

When you are angry, don’t assume that anger is the main or final emotion. It may be. But until you let your body move freely, with an alert consciousness as to what it happening each moment, it is hard to know what the emotion is. Underneath anger can be pain, fear, all sorts of things. You can’t necessarily take your surface thoughts at face value. As your body moves in anger, all sorts of other things may come up.

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If it doesn’t work, DO SOMETHING DIFFERENT

Icon insanity different einsteinIf it doesn’t work, DO SOMETHING DIFFERENT

“If you do what you always did, you’ll get what you always got.” – Anon

“All life is an experiment. The more experiments you make the better.”
– Ralph Waldo Emerson

“If it doesn’t work, don’t do it. It if works do it more. If it might work, give it a try.” – Anon

“It is common sense to take a method and try it. If it fails, admit it frankly and try another. But above all, try something.” – Franklin D. Roosevelt

OK, you get the message – this post is about trying different things. Particularly it’s about doing what works, not what doesn’t.  Simple, but effective. Obvious, but almost universally overlooked. Do what works for you!  There’s an exercise lower down that page, Moments I’d Like More Of, that I can’t recommend too highly. Not only will it help your relationship a lot. It will immunise you from having to read those silly lists on the internet of “Ten things to improve your relationship.”   You already know this, you just need to trust yourself and do those things more.   [More like this: index page to relationship posts] (more…)

Gurdjieff Sacred Dance: meditation, but the very opposite to silent sitting

Gurdjieff Sacred Dance: meditation, but the very opposite to silent sitting

Gurdjieff sacred dances AmiyoToo often, meditation is presented as: sitting in silence, plus mindful daily actions. This is very incomplete. Sitting in silence suits only some newcomers to meditation. The ones it doesn’t suit feel left out or “I tried meditation and it didn’t work for me.” Really, for beginners, sitting in silence is delightful for the part of each person which is quiet / receptive / passive / allowing. Other exercises are every bit as much meditative, but give delight to our active / engaged / expansive / assertive energy. This “male meditation” is sadly neglected. In this post I’m going to present one very beautiful meditation for the active essence. It’s advanced, indeed difficult, and not for all. Please be assured I’ll explain DIY, active+silent meditations very soon which are dead easy.  But this is so beautiful to watch and to write about that I’ve put it first: Gurdjieff Movements, also called Gurdjieff Sacred Dances. For video links see below on this page. [Click here for all meditation posts] (more…)

“Thank you for hearing me” – deepen your relationship via pop songs

Hawking gratitudeThank you for hearing me – deepen your relationship via pop songs

Here’s a simple and fun exercise to make your relationship deeper.  Listen  with your beloved to Sinead O’Connor singing about gratitude. Then share together things you are grateful about. That’s it, listen and share, and your relating will move a step towards deeper intimacy. 

I got the idea from some great research by Dr. Ron Rogge that newly-wed couples can halve their divorce rate simply by watching and discussing five movies about everyday relating.  I don’t claim any such dramatic results for this playlist of pop songs. But listen together to these tracks, discuss them together, and you will at the least have a more loving understanding of each other. (more…)

Universal love and “private-reality” love in your relationship

Icon Rumi love barriers yellow flowers 1Universal love and private-reality love in your relationship

Before I start, I want to make clear that I never start work with any couple by talking about things like this. Relationship counselling can be very successful, indeed sometimes more successful, without ever mentioning such things. Couples benefit most from starting with (maybe staying with), a practical and direct approach that each partner is brilliant and together they can draw on what’s brilliant in the relationship to heal things.  For practical everyday relationship exercises, see for example Watch movies and grow closer and If doesn’t work, do something different. So this post is kind of what’s going on under the bonnet. It’s pretty advanced. You can most often drive the car without knowing. ( Index page to all relationship posts)

In your relationship, in every sexual relationship, there are three versions of love. THREE. There is universal love, in itself complex and multidimensional; love in relationship, love in presence of being, and infinitely so much else. Plus on top there are two versions of  what I’ll term “private reality” love: your private version of love, and your partner’s version. If you want to feel a deep and nourishing flow of intimacy and close connection with your beloved, you need to begin to step out of private realities about love. Real love has a universal quality. It is not interested in, does not care about, your private ideas around what love should or must or ought to be. These only get in the way. The challenge in answering the call of love is to step out of our private realities and into something larger.

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Barefoot stress counsellor: a solution-oriented self-help tool

Be realistic miracle colourThe Barefoot Stress Counsellor: a solution-oriented self-help tool

This is a good self-help technique which is different and effective. Its a series of questions you can ask yourself, based on a research-validated method called solution-oriented therapy.  You can do it on your own, or with a friend. The exercise was originally by Chris Evans of the Brief Therapy Practice in London, but I’ve edited it so much over many years I can no longer be sure where what he wrote ends and mine begins – anyway, BIG thank you Chris.

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Friday in heaven, Friday from hell: radical non-duality in action

Friday in heaven, Friday from hell: radical non-duality in action

Important note. Beginners to mindfulness meditation traditionally start with 20 minutes a day of mindful breathing. To give a sense of scale, I’m going to call that  “primary school meditation”. On that scale, some parts of this page are postgraduate-level. I’m not suggesting you leap straight from introductory breath awareness to doing what is on this page on your own. In fact, please don’t do that. This post is an artificial example for explanation purposes. I’ll get to simple practical related self-help meditations very soon.

With that out of the way, I’ll invite you to imagine Friday afternoon in two alternate realities, two parallel universes, Friday from heaven, Friday from  hell. I’ll use these scenarios to show you an active-plus-silent, radical meditation approach to anger that’s completely opposite to Buddhism. It’s “radically non-dual”, in the sense that it treats joy and anger exactly the same. It’s a practical, if postgraduate, approach to meditation that many people use and find transformative.

Radically non-dual means: remain the same while moving into opposites. This is what Krishna says in the Gita: In pain or pleasure, be the same; in success or failure, remain the same. Whatsoever happens, let it happen — you remain the same. Instead of life jerking your leash up, down, this way, that way as events unfold you have a centre of integrity, of serenity that you remain in, or quickly recover, as events pass through.

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Secular mindfulness cannot escape the sacred

Secular mindfulness cannot escape the sacred

I have to say am not a fan of secular mindfulness, aka NHS or evidence-based mindfulness. It claims to capture the good bits of Buddhism, the useful essence, and surgically excise the oriental nonsense. It certainly has value, great value. It introduces people to the practical basics of one  type of meditation in modern language. It presents the element of Buddhism to those who might be put off by its undoubted complexities (my critique of Buddhism today.) In our highly outward-oriented society, it’s indeed a breakthrough that people are being invited to look into themselves, In so far as it goes it is valuable to help people be less depressed, less anxious, cope more resiliently.

But Buddha’s proposition is something far, far more radical. Even at its best, by Buddha’s standards, NHS mindfulness doesn’t go far at all. It cuts out every essential thing that makes Buddha’s proposition, and what I’m calling radical meditation generally, so uniquely valuable. In this post I’m going to focus on one very specific, but to-me central, limitation: secular mindfulness is at war with the miraculous.

Watching a sunset, perhaps the word comes to the mind unbidden: this moment is sacred. Or in a certain moment of making love, the same: this moment is sacred. Yes, these moments truly are sacred, precious glimpses of the mystery of being.

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