Sunday, 29 April 2012

Choreography (Was orginally titled Dance Partner)

I spent some time with my cousin today who was in distress over her neighbour's passing. She told me he had always been there for her in the past and now she couldn't help but feel like she had let him down.

She asked me - 'What is guilt?'

My answer - 'Guilt is that which arises when we think we had control over that which was always going to happen.'

We think we could've changed that which is. We mentally go back before the event unfolded and create a story of should'ves, would'ves, could'ves, ifs and buts.

But really, that which is, is.

The fact that it happened means ultimately it was meant to happen.

Guilt seems to be the left over dregs of our personal perspective of that natural happening. We make the impersonal personal.

I write this not especially for you, but more of a reminder to myself.

We carry guilt around with us and it prevents us from moving on. It becomes a heavy burden, sapping our energy, clouding our perceptions and ultimately leads to us living in fear.

When we let go of that burden, when we see that life is as it is and always will be, we can finally accept that we are merely puppets on a string, being danced by the divine. Although we're not dances - when we think that, that's when guilt can arise because we think we should've danced in a certain way. No, we are the dance being danced by the divine.

Do we have a say in how we're danced?

I don't know.

If every thought I have I was meant to have then surely the answer would be no, and that choice is an illusion. But we don't like to think that. We like to think we're in control.

My feet get tangled at that part of the dance - a downside to thinking like a dancer.

Great choreography, though, eh!?

Sunday, 22 April 2012

What You Do Isn't Always What You Do

A young-ish couple have bought a small bungalow on my delivery and have decided to strip it of it's past and give it a new lease of life. I've seen them working on it for months and it's finally started to look like a home. When I posted a letter there the other day the door flew open and I was greeted by the lady who enthusiastically invited me in to show me how much progress they had made.

What was once a dark, cluttered and damp home (an old man had lived there by himself for years) was now a light, modern, clean and fresh home.

I had spoken to the lady's partner a couple of times before and had mentioned my book to him.

As I was leaving he asked me, whilst he was on his hands and knees with his hand in the wall looking for some kind of pipe connected to the boiler, how I and my book were doing, and how I was clearly still a postman.

I laughed.

'Yes, I'm, still a postman, but it's OK.' I began to tell him about my other writing projects, my hospice work and how I'm a trained bereavement support worker with Cruse, and how I can do all this because I'm a postman.

He smiled, stood up and wiped his hands on his already stained jeans.

'Isn't it funny,' he said, 'what people really do.' He paused in contemplation. 'You know, what people really do. You're a postman, but you're not a postman. It's just what you do. It's not what you really do. It's not what you're about. I know this cleaner and in his spare time he studies antiques, but you wouldn't think it to look at him whilst he was cleaning.' He paused again. 'It's strange. I've been saying hello to you since we started doing up this place. I've been saying hello to you as the postman. But you're more than that - now I know what you really do.'

I completely understood what he was saying.

To put it bluntly: we shouldn't go around judging people by what they do, because what they do isn't always what they do.

We judge all the time. I find myself doing it every day. We judge people by what people look like. How they dress. Their hair style. How tall or short they are. The colour of their skin. Their occupation. How they walk. How they laugh. How they frown. How they run. How they smile. How they smell. Their name.

And all the time I have to tell myself - that's not who they are.

They're so much more than the mere attributes we judge them by.

I've spoken before about how everything's a beautiful mystery and is ultimately unknowable - and by unknowable I mean beyond the grasp of the mind and therefore cannot be defined. That goes for everybody you see too.

They're a beautiful mystery just like you.

By judging them you're judging yourself.

By thinking they are the attributes which we judge them by, means that we think we are the attributes that we can be judged on by others, probably by those who we judge!

And by that we're cutting ourselves off from seeing our trueselves - from that mystery to reveal itself.

It's a constant practise of mine to be aware of when I judge someone.

And it really is a constant practise.

We shouldn't go around judging people by what they do, because what they do isn't always what they do.

Saturday, 14 April 2012

What do you expect?

Everybody has a story to tell. When somebody reveals to you part of their story - it might only be a chapter (in the form of a tale lasting only 2 minutes) - you end up looking at them differently. Their story gives them character and colour. It gives them an edge which you weren't aware of before.

Recently somebody told me a chapter of their story.

I was shocked and disturbed, but I couldn't help but feel empathy and compassion for this person, knowing now what they once went through. I was also inspired by them because of how they rose above it.

We all know the saying, 'What doesn't kill you makes you stronger,' but what if what doesn't kill you, makes you wish you were dead?

What this person told me had the enormous potential to drive somebody down a slippery slope.

'I used it to my advantage,' they told me. 'I was just so grateful to be alive. "Bring it on, life!" I would say. People have ended their life because of similar circumstances - but not me. I'm stronger because of it. It's life. You've got to deal with it and learn from it. I wasn't life's victim, I was just part of what unfolded.'

What can you squeeze out of a difficult situation? Even if it's the tiniest drop.

Let that drop of whatever, whether it be hope, wisdom, bravery, optimism, knowledge, love or inspiration, and allow it to grow into a puddle.

Then into a stream.

Then into a river.

And let it flow through your veins and into your life and into everything you do.

Allow it to be the positive driving force behind your words and actions.

Use that drop to help others grow.

When my friend shared their experience with me, I was reminded of this little story, which you might already know.

Twin brothers. Both brought up by their violent father who was an alcoholic. One of the brothers was happy, optimistic and an inspiration to others. The other brother was miserable, an alcoholic and also violent, just like his father. When asked why he was so miserable, he said, 'My father was an alcoholic, what do you expect?' When the other brother was asked why he was so happy and inspired, he said, 'My father was an alcoholic, what do you expect?'

Sunday, 8 April 2012

Not so Oaty

Today I went to my fourth Quaker Meeting.

I'll stop right there and suggest you put aside any preconceptions of who Quakers are, what they stand for and also what they look like. I too had the preconceived idea that they all looked like the guy from the Quaker Oats box.

They don't.

At all.

They look like me and you. They dress like me and you. They talk like me and you.

They are people who, as one author nicely put, don't believe what they told. Quakerism is very experiential. They have to experience something in order to believe it; to take something on board and make it a part of who they are.

It's very common to hear that Quakers don't believe in violence. This is true, but only to an extent. As an elder Quaker member told me on my first visit, 'Yes, we believe in non-violence. Then someone comes along and says, "OK then, what if I have a knife to your sister's throat, then what would you do?" And to that I would I have to say, I don't know. Why? Because I've never been in that situation, so how could I know how I would react?'

One thing which Quakers do have in common is that they honour and worship (a nasty word, I know)silence. This is why every Sunday they gather around and sit in silence for an hour or so.

'But why?' as my mum asked this morning.

Because it is in the silence that they can reflect. It is in the silence that they can be spoken to by the divine (and when this happens it is called minister - if you are spoken to you're called to minister (to share) with the rest of the group the fruit of your contact which you have had with the divine).

So basically, they meditate.

They don't preach or plan to minister. This wouldn't be a form of contact with the divine - it would be just you wanting to share a product of your mind with the rest of the meeting.

I'm assuming (and I know one shouldn't assume, but I can't go on my own subjective experience) that when you're spoken to, you know it.

With today only being my fourth time attending the group (at Birdsedge, in a 17th century converted barn, surrounded by stunning landscapes) I'm without doubt still learning about Quakerism - and the Quaker elders will no doubt humbly say they too are still learning about what it is to be a Quaker.

The path of Self discovery is a never ending one, right?

Whilst sitting in the silence this morning my senses were awakened. I could hear the usual rumblings of stomachs from other sitters - plus my own. I could hear coughs and sniffs and people talking outside. I could also hear a great tit outside showing off by shouting, 'TEACHER! TEACHER!' repeatedly. Then I heard a pheasant squawk, and then to my surprise a woodpecker started to drill every four seconds or so. A wonderful sound. I just sat there and smiled to myself.

Then something interesting began to happen.

With my eyes shut I sunk into the darkness of my eye lids and felt my consciousness expand.

Slowly at first, it expanded to the rest of the meeting. Then it filled the room, not missing out a single crack in the wooden seats we were all sat on. Then it spread to outside - and outside is quite vast, you know! It included every noise. Every sensation. I could sense the interconnectedness between me and everything else.

I was everything else!

I became the birdsong. I became the plane flying overhead and it's hundreds of passengers. I became the clouds and the trees and the sun.

I was sat there with my eyes shut just smiling.

I lifted my eye lids and looked down at my body. It looked so small, but significant and beautiful.

Just like yours.

I don't call myself a Quaker, but I don't believe that matters. Quakers are grateful for people to show up and share that space with them. You just show up, shake hands with some wonderful people, sit and be patient in the silence. You practise being with others. Then you shake hands again, have a cup of tea, a biscuit and a chat. 

As my friend, William West said, 'The space that Quakers offer is truly amazing'.

I agree.

(If you'd like more info on Quakers and would maybe like to experience a meeting near you, go to

Friday, 6 April 2012

Michael Jackson's Instruction Manual

I write about trust quite a bit on this blog. I think it's a vital component to living a balanced life.

I haven't written any fiction for a while. This is due to a shortage of ideas and also a lack of tenacity to develop any of the ideas that do spring up, into fully formed story.

The other day I got thinking about a documentary I saw about Michael Jackson. They were interviewing him in his studio and he was asked where he got his ideas from. Commenting on Billy Jean, he said, 'I asked for it and it came.'

He asked the universe or God, or whatever you want to call it, for an idea and it delivered.

'I asked for a catchy bassline hook. I let it go. Some time later I was driving and in my head came this bassline.' And he started to hum the bassline for Billy Jean.

Pondering on that I asked out loud, 'I could do with some help for a new book idea.'

I let it go and got on with my day just like Jacko did. I think this process of letting go is very important. It allows the seeds to sink slowly into the ground without adding too much water (attention) to them, which could ultimately kill them.

Sat at my laptop two nights ago I had an urge to sift through my bottom draw, known as the Draw of Crap. There I found articles, papers and booklets which I hadn't seen for a very long time. Two thirds through and I come across something which gave me a 'Ah haa' moment. I smiled and said thank you.

Lets just say I got was I asked for . . .

Now the idea is bubbling away in my mind and I hope I have the tenacity to see it through to completion. No doubt I will ask for help with that too.

The universe is such an amazing tool but we don't know how to use because we lack an instruction manual.

I think every one of us has a manual hidden within us.

And it's a manual written and designed for you - by you.

It's what your heart, not your head, tells you.

And for that reason it deserves to be trusted.

Monday, 2 April 2012

Travel Sickness EFT

At the weekend I went to see Steve Taylor speak in Hebdon Bridge. I was getting a lift with my good friend Elaine and her friend Sally. I've known Elaine for about three years. She's a counsellor but also taught Spirituality at Higher Education in Kirklees, of which I attended. Steve's talk started at 11am so I had to be at Elaine's farm at 9:30am, which would give us plenty of time to get there.

We set off in Elaine's brand new 4x4 KIA. A very nice motor. But something struck me about Elaine's driving; lets just say she knew how to put her foot down. It wasn't how I expected this calm and gentle person to be behind the wheel. I sat back and tried to enjoy the trip.

Ten minutes into the journey and we came across an injured crow bouncing around at the side of a very narrow country lane. Elaine, being the animal lover she is, stopped the car and we all got out to try and catch it. It was clearly evident it had a broken wing.

Both Elaine and I took off our coats and tried for several minutes to catch the crow. It was in a state of panic. Luckily, every time a car came the crow somehow knew to cower in the grass next to the dry stone walls at the side of the road. After several attempts we finally managed to get it.

Watching Elaine handle the crow, she clearly knew what she was doing. She slowly lifted up its damaged wing to find blood. It had either been hit by a vehicle or a cat must've had a shot at it.

Sally held the crow on her lap as we headed back to Elaine's farm. She spoke to it and stroked its small black head. I watched as it looked at her, making eye contact, as if it knew it was in good hands. It was such an incredible creature. I love bird watching anyway, so to be up close and personal with one was something quite special for me. The majority of us take birds for granted, but I can guarantee that if tomorrow there were no more birds, you would notice a massive difference in the sound of the outdoors.

Once back at Elaine's we placed the crow in her greenhouse with some straw and some water.

'Right,' said Elaine, 'we really must get a move on or else we'll be late. The crow will be OK. I'll look at its wing when we get back.'

. . . Skip forward 30 minutes . . .

Elaine's driving took on a whole new level.

'By the way, Gavin,' she said, whilst taking a sharp left, then right, then speeding up narrow lanes between parked cars, 'I used to be a racer.'

Just when you think you know someone, they tell you they used to be a racing driver!

I was sat in the back holding on for my life. I was chucked left and right, pulled forward and pushed back. I knew what was to come if this continued.

Travel sickness.

I've had it for as long as I can remember, which is probably why I hate being a passenger when going further than a few miles.

The symptoms are:
  • Being quiet. This is because all of my attention is focused on not throwing up. And it makes it so much harder when that seed in my mind has been planted, because every corner waters that very seed.
  • Cold hands. I have no idea why I get cold hands.
  • Then come the sweats.
  • Then comes the watery mouth.
It's truly awful. I just kept on thinking, I can't throw up in Elaine's brand new car. But what if I did? How would she react? Would we still go to Steve's talk? It's like my mind goes into overdrive.

Then Sally mentioned she could feel a migraine coming on.

Great, I thought. A bit of selfless compassion and empathy might divert my attention away from myself and alleviate some of sicky symptoms.

'Could you pass me my bag, please, Gavin?' she said. 'It's in the foot well.'

Now, there's one thing that you definitely don't do if you get travel sickness - look down.

I closed my eyes, held my breath and reached for Sally's bag and handed it her.

My attempt at compassion and empathy didn't work.

My mouth was filling up with watery saliva causing me swallow heavily every seven seconds - I was running out of time.

'Why don't you try EFT?' said Elaine to Sally.

EFT!! Why didn't I think of that?! So I started tapping the pressure point on the karate chop part of my hand, whilst repeating the term, 'Even though I feel sick I fully and lovingly accept myself.' If you've read anything on EFT, it's a phrase like this that you repeat whilst tapping certain pressure points on your body.

I was tapping like a mad man.

My tapping hand started to ache so I switched hands.

And would you believe it, it started to work!

The sweats began to cease, my stomach began to settle and I began to feel normal again.

Then Elaine accelerated up and over a hill.

The sweats came back. The sickness returned. I continued to tap like a crazy fool in the back of the KIA!

'Even though I feel sick I fully and lovingly accept myself. Even though I feel like shit I fully and lovingly accept myself. Even though I might throw up I fully and lovingly accept myself.'

It finally it began to work again and within minutes we arrived at Hebdon Bridge. I wanted to kiss the ground and roll around like Kevin Costner does in Robin Hood when he reaches the beach. I was so happy and relieved.

I'm fed up of getting travel sickness Every F&^*"!£ Time!

At least now I know a cure for it.

Oh, and Steve Taylor's talk was awesome. Check out his books: Out of the Darkness, Waking From Sleep and The Fall. Highly recommended.

(For information on EFT visit:

Happy Tapping!