Sunday, 26 August 2007

I survived but am exhausted....

I returned to London at ease with my spiritual experiences and free from the need to explain them from the point of view of any link between my eye and the brain. This is a huge relief for me....let me unfold how all of this happened.....

I arrived in Bath on Friday afternoon. Bath Spa university is three miles out of Bath I took a taxi to the conference. I tried to engage the taxi driver in chat but his answers were monosyllabic so I gave up and gazed out of the window. We turned up the drive to the university and the view of the landscape in the brilliant sunshine just took my breath away. I felt a little sad when I leaned over to the taxi driver and said 'isn't the view just beautiful' , his answer was a noise which resembled a grunt. I understand that he probably drives there everyday but for me there is something about allowing yourself to be moved by the beauty of nature no matter how familiar the scene might be. To allow oneself to be moved by nature opens the heart preparing the way for spiritual awakening. For me, nature is the form of the Divine and so when I spend time in nature I feel close to the form of a Presence that I really don't want to name. This absorption in nature is free from thoughts. The most powerful experience I had of this was surprisingly not of nature but was the building dedicated to love which is the Taj Mahal in India. When I rounded the corner and saw this building I felt something well up from deep within me. I think the principle is that if we allow it our souls will respond to beauty of whatever character.

The taxi driver dropped me off at the reception area. The woman asked me my name and then looked for my badge. This was an anxious moment because if there's no name badge then this says all sorts. But to my relief my badge was produced with a flourish and a smile. I signed in and was given the key for my room. I had to smile when the woman handed me the key and said 'you're in Hungerford'! My memory is not that vivid but I understand that Hungerford was put on the map with the Hungerford massacre. I wondered whether this was an omen for a possible mental massacre which I would be involved in before the conference was over. I have absolutely no sense of direction. With some trepidation I set off in the general direction of where she had vaguely pointed. I was pleasantly suprised when I managed to find it without too much trouble. Went up to the room and it brought back so many memories of my cubicle when I was in the boarding school in Ireland. I unpacked a few things and then made my way back up to the registration area where there was going to be a wine reception at 6pm and then dinner.

The beginning of a conference is a very interesting time. At this time it is important to talk to someone interesting because it is likely that it is this person you end up speaking to and having meals with for the weekend. I walked up the path and immediately saw lots of people sitting outside at tables. I noticed that there didn't seem to be anyone under 60! I sat down at a vacant table and looked around. It was a balmy summer like evening and I thought how easy it is in a beautiful setting like this to be relaxed and connect with that Presence which is immanent in nature. Alas my peace was soon to be shattered when a man and his wife ambled over and joined me. I always find the beginning of conversations a strain because I normally have to wait until the end of a sentence before I can understand what someone is talking about and then I have to compose some kind of response. This time wasn't too bad because they had had a nightmare of a journey to get here so I listened to that. After a few minutes they left to unpack their bags with a cheery 'see you later' to me. I settled back and looked at the green trees silhouetted against the blue sky and felt this strong wave of contentment and some of then apprehension which I wrote about in an earlier blog entry seemed to fade.

A woman who was also on her own at the table next to me asked me if I would watch her bag while she went into get a coffee. I agreed. When she came out she suggested joining me. I said OK and we got chatting. She was a teacher for young people with dyslexia. She had given up her job as secondary school teacher and I could see the passion in her voice as she spoke about it and the children she teaches. We had an interesting conversation about the connection if any between the right brain and dyslexia. I ended up telling her about the spiritual experience I had had and my conviction that it had something to do with the right side of the brain being stimulated. I explained that the reason I was at the conference was to speak to a neuroscientist and see about the possibility of having an MRI scan done of my brain.
She was supportive and interested and wished me luck. I thought to myself 'I'm going to need it'. I was under no illusion to go down the path I was going to go would take huge courage. This was a conference called 'Beyond the Brain' and I was going to say that my experiences tell me that there is NOTHING beyond the brain, this really was like going into a lion's den. Most of the participants were there because of their belief that there was everything beyond the brain. The sub-theme of the conversation was 'Contemplation in Action'.

At 6pm we went into the restaurant to reclaim our complimentary glass of wine. I felt in desperate need of a cold glass of white wine. Took a sip and to my delight it wasn't too bad. We returned to our table. Shortly another two women joined us and that is when my irritation began in earnest. Both were psychotherapists and it was their attitude which began to grate. One woman was talking about her cleaner and she said 'I don't want my cleaner to cook my food anymore, she doesn't cook the food with love'...really...I wonder if that has anything to do with your attitude towards her'. For some reason I felt really irritated and wanted desperately go get away on my own. I once again experienced the apprehension and thought, gosh if they are all like her, I'm going to find meal times and social events a struggle.

At 8pm we had the first lecture of the conference. This was called 'Being and Doing'. The basic message was that we live in a world which emphasises DOING, where we gauge our value by how busy we are. We need to shift the emphasis to BEING. The lecturer gave the example that when he puts all the emphasis on DOING that he never seems to have enough time to do everything. When he catches himself and shifts into BEING that suddenly there is enough time. This resonated with me because I find that my state of BEING which has arisen from a profound spiritual experience I had in 1999 means that I always have enough time. I don't have any stress as is proved by the slow heart-rate I wrote about in an earlier blog and is proved by medical records. Everything flows and is in harmony. All of this is available if one shifts their focus from DOING to BEING. This is not easy in the beginning because to be still and perceive and engage with life from a point of stillness seems to be counter-intuitive. We seem to equate BEING with non-doing. But this is a false distinction. In a state of BEING there is space created and actions which result from BEING are harmonious, appropriate for the event and deep. I equate the DOING state with being like a hamster going around and around on a wheel. Very busy but achieving very little.

This is a common theme in spiritual writings. The shift from DOING TO BEING, the shift of the consciousness from outer/doing to inner/being. It is scary for the mind this shift because the mind needs activity and is threatened by non-activity and will do all in its power not to let it happen.

After the lecture a bar was opened for delegates to buy a drink. I was tired so decided to call it a night. Walking back to Hungerford I was aware that my mind was agitated and irritated. I was irritated at the lecture because I hadn't learn't anything that I didn't know already. I recognise that this irritation is of the mind. The mind wanted something else to have to think about, it did not want me to go into contemplation about it. I noticed that while the lecture was being given I was totally absorbed and the mind was quiet. It was interesting that the irritation started again when I wanted to contemplate and be quiet - the mind detests quiet. But don't just take my word for it. Stop whatever you are doing NOW and be still...what if anything happens?

I found 'Hungerford' easily enough and let myself into my room. Got washed and lying in bed I reflected on what the next day would bring.......

I could put everything into this one blog entry but that will make it very long and tiring to read. I'll finish this entry at the end of Friday and wite separate blogs for Saturday and Sunday to ease reading....

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