Many years ago I came across the book ‘The Heart Aroused’ by David Whyte – a book about bringing Heart into the Business world and found it inspiring.
Last week I came across one of his talks, where he propounded the theory of my title. These are the 3 illusions of which he speaks:
That we can somehow construct a life where we are not vulnerable
That we can somehow construct a life where our hearts do not get broken
That we wish to see to the end of our life from where we stand right now
1. He talked of how we hope to avoid the pain of loss and illness. Yet just as nature is cyclical – an unavoidable cycle of birth, growth, decay and death, so too are many aspects of our lives. In wishing to only relate to the first half of that cycle, we find ourselves at war with ourselves and nature for 50% of the time.
That struck a chord. I am no lover of vulnerability, and have spent a great deal of time and energy from time to time, attempting to avoid it. Yet as Brené Brown so succinctly puts it:
“Vulnerability is the birthplace of love, belonging, joy, courage, empathy, and creativity. It is the source of hope, empathy, accountability, and authenticity. If we want greater clarity in our purpose or deeper and more meaningful spiritual lives, vulnerability is the path.”
2. It goes without saying then, that if we are going to live a life imbued with any of these qualities, that at some point, we will get our hearts broken. David Whyte argues that if we love the work we do, we will get our hearts broken professionally as well as personally.
Rock and a hard place then, folks. It’s that full cycle thing again. Most of us (all of us?) want to love, to belong, to experience joy and to connect. So apparently the choice is, allow yourself to be heartbroken at some point, to feel pain, sadness, rejection, or be alone, disconnected, numb and half dead while alive.
3. The recent spate of terrorist attacks on innocent people eating in restaurants or walking across the wrong bridge at the wrong moment, and the floods sweeping Africa, Asia and America are a stark reminder that we have no guarantee of safety in this lifetime. (Interestingly, reports of Hurricane Harvey flood my newsfeed – 9 dead, 30,000 homeless. I have to search harder to find the 1,200 dead and hundreds of thousands homeless in the recent monsoons, but that is a rant for another time).
Last December my father, though 88 and suffering from dementia, was hale and hearty. I stood in the shower one Saturday morning and suddenly remembered my passport was about to expire and I would not be allowed into South Africa until I had renewed it. That lunchtime I had a text from my mother to say my father had fallen and was in hospital, but seemed OK. He died at 4am the following morning…
I mentioned at the beginning of this month that the blogs I would write were a way of reflecting on issues that troubled me. If they help anyone else, great, but at bottom I am finding ways of pausing to consider the ramifications of the choices that I make in my life, to think consciously about them, and to try and change them if I find them unhelpful. The principles espoused in this last sentence are of course also the basic tenets of the Alexander Technique. They say you teach best what you most need to learn…..
My parents, though British, have lived all my life in Africa. I am the divorced mother of an only daughter. Her father’s family have always got together at Christmas and celebrated lavishly. If I loved my daughter, it seemed obvious to let her spend Christmas Day with them, and I learned to hold the day lightly, and to celebrate whenever I was able to get together with what family I had here in the UK. But I also learned to dread the familiar question (as early as September) –‘What are you doing for Christmas?’
Today, having the gift of a daughter here, but a mother on the other side of the world, I have been aware both of the joy of having a child, and the sadness of those who do not have, or are not able to be, a mother; of those who have had a child but no longer are with them for whatever reason, for those who are not able to be with their mothers.
These days of supposed celebration, much touted by the media, are often for many, a reason to feel disenfranchised, on the periphery, lonely and not part of something which feels important.
Because I know that pain, I wanted to write something to let those people know that they are being thought of, and reached out to, even if only in writing.
My training in Alexander Technique taught me the importance of peripheral vision. On days like this, this translates for me into being aware of those of our friends and acquaintances who may be feeling isolated, and finding ways to connect with them.
As someone who faced the very real threat of losing a child in the process of divorce, I also wish to encourage everyone who knows of someone in that situation to do as much as they can for any parent (mother or father) to help them bear that excruciating loss, and further to help prevent it if at all possible.
I have been pondering what it means to be a mother:
• Motherhood is a lifelong commitment, whether one outlives one’s offspring or not
• It is a gift that demands one’s utmost – in creativity, resolve, patience, selflessness, energy, time, fierceness, and longevity of commitment.
• It is way of loving which transcends dislike, exhaustion, frustration and pain
• One can leave country, city, town, village, job, lover or husband, but for me the bond with my daughter is the one constant that it would be unthinkable or impossible to sever. Even as I write this, I am aware that for some, because of fear, illness, pain, or addiction, this may not be true, and the children of those mothers carry the excruciating pain of rejection – whether or not that rejection was deliberate or unconscious.
And those who have not been granted the gift of motherhood have to find other ways to express their creativity, resolve, patience, energy, time and commitment without the daily reminder that children offer. It is therefore a harder task, and I honour those who manage it.
So while I rejoice in this ‘Mothers’ Day, for what it is worth, I send love and good wishes to all those women for whom this day would otherwise be one of sadness, loss or isolation. And to those who have chosen otherwise, I wish them a very happy ‘un-Mothers’ Day!
Recently I have been made aware that I am acquiring a teenage readership.
So I thought I might as well give you all something to get your teeth into, and what more exciting than sex and spirituality, particularly as there is so much information on ‘what to do and how to do it’ and yet very little on either love, or the impact of having sex.
These days I understand life, not through a lens of morality, but of energy. I realise that this leads me into immediate potential difficulty, as I only have ‘A’ Level physics, and even my brief reading of the correlation of energy and matter (eg Einstein’s equation E=mc2)makes me realise that I am unable to explain many of my ideas in strictly scientific terms. The scientist part of me (I have a degree in Maths, for those of you who don’t know me), balks at being fluffy. However, as this is merely a blog and not a scientific treatise, and is intended to provoke thought and discussion, I will continue.
So I will own at the outset that these are observations based on my experience, both of life and working with people and meditations learned over a period of 25 years.
I have been spring cleaning, and came across my old meditation notebooks, which I have been re-reading. I came across one of my many mind maps from a winter meditation of 1997.
It stated that Sexuality and Spirituality needed to be the same – viz. an expression of finer energy, leading to blend and nourishment: that a split causes problems, that sexuality is often fantasy and emotional release.
So I have been thinking about that, and how I could explain it in a way that might make sense to 16 year olds. In my generation and slightly younger, when people start talking about energy in relation to people, others almost instantly label them as ‘sandals brigade new agers’, but that is probably meaningless to the generations of the noughties, as I think it is rather 80’s or 90’s.
Interestingly we live in a world today that takes energy for granted – wifi, bluetooth, Facetime. Snapchat etc are all part of daily life that we absolutely take for granted unless they are not available, when it becomes extremely annoying. Personally I still find it mindbogglingly extraordinary that I can hold a tiny piece of kit in my hand, press a button, and both see and hear my mother SIX THOUSAND MILES AWAY on the other side of the planet. Please just stop and think about it for a moment, and what that means in terms of the speed of transfer of all that energy which is organised into picture and sound.
I find that I need to go back to basic Physics when I am thinking about how we embody and transfer energy through ourselves, rather than through electronic devices. In our ‘O’ Level physics (GCSE to you), we did an experiment which involved magnetising a knitting needle. So if you stroke a knitting needle with a magnet enough times, the knitting needle itself becomes a magnet. If you put the needle on a piece of paper and pour iron filings around it, the iron filings will form themselves into a pattern around the needle.
I have included a link below on how to make a compass from a sewing needle for those of you brave enough to venture where there is no GPS.
The point is, that the molecules of this supposedly solid object actually rearrange themselves and align up in a particular way, creating a magnet that is capable of attracting and/or repelling other things.
We know that water can exist as a solid, liquid or gas depending on temperature. When the temperature is low enough, or the molecules are vibrating slowly, water exists as ice. As the temperature, or speed of vibration increases, the ice melts and forms a liquid, and as the temperature and speed increase, they turn to steam. Heat emitted from a radiator is not visible unless there is sunlight falling on dust particles near the radiator, at which point the heat is visible as a shimmer of the dust particles. But just because we can’t see energy, doesn’t mean that it is not present. I sometimes have a minor freak out at all the wifi energy passing through me!
Feelings and emotions carry energy. If someone says something particularly cruel or hurtful, we can experience it as a thump to the stomach area, and feel physically winded. Equally experiencing kindness and love can make us feel warm and soft, or excited and aroused.
I understand spirituality energetically. People use the term ‘Higher Energy’ sometimes to describe spirituality. This is because, as I understand it, we can channel energy that is either quite dense, such as anger, or we can channel love, which is a finer, fast moving energy. Love is a particularly powerful energy – diffuse but deeply penetrating. There have been scientific experiments done with buddhist monks, which have demonstrated that after 10,000 hours of meditation, there is a change in the structure of the brain (exciting topic of neuroplasticity) in much the same way as continual stroking of a needle with a magnet creates a change in the molecular structure of a needle. This is one of the reasons why the practice of mindfulness has become so popular, and is even being introduced into schools. Taking time to meditate or pray regularly, in my understanding, is a way of aligning our energy so that we are clear and can trust our bodies and intuition. In my teaching of Alexander Technique, I have noticed over 25 years, that the body does not lie. If someone tells me something that their body is strongly contradicting, I will usually give more credence to the body because we are sometimes past masters at fooling our own minds, but not our bodies.
Sex, and particularly penetrative sex, is a very powerful transfer of energy between people and my point is that it is not possible to have sex with someone without it having an impact, depending on the energy that is present in the two people at the time. Just as the air temperature will have an impact on us, so will sex. It is also true that depending on the individual’s sensitivity, the air temperature will have a greater or lesser impact. I think the same is true of sexual intercourse, but the impact will be present, to a greater or lesser degree.
Back to basic physics and resonance. Resonance occurs in two objects when the first object is vibrating at the natural frequency of the second object. In terms of sound, this is experienced in an increase in amplitude of the sound wave, and increased sound.(Link for further study of resonance below)
In sexual terms, it seems to me that when two people are able to blend their energies harmoniously, resonance occurs and the experience is a fulfilling, nourishing one. Sadly, the prevalence of porn on the internet as a way of understanding and learning about sex, means that any understanding of blend and harmony is often absent, and at best sex seems to be about emotional release, and at worst, all kinds of dominance, bullying and power.
True blending can only take place when two people are willing to be vulnerable to one another. One of the many reasons for sexual infidelity within relationships is that people find it too difficult to be vulnerable with the person with whom they are deeply emotionally involved. They then try to separate the arousal and excitement they experience in sex (particularly with a relatively unknown person) from the vulnerability that comes from sharing this most intimate of experiences with someone who knows them and all their weaknesses.
But in the same way as you would be unlikely to put yourself in the way of someone who was going to beat you physically, be wary of putting yourself in the way of someone who would energetically beat you up through the medium of sex. In the same way that convected heat can only be seen when sunlight and dust particles are present, the damage from the abuse of energy in sex is often (at least initially) invisible but nonetheless powerful. Learn to pay attention to your body and your energy – if you feel a ‘nagging anxiety’ or physical pain when contemplating sex, pause, listen to it and follow it. It has much wisdom, and particularly when you regularly pay attention to yourself in aligning and clearing your energy.
The law of energy conservation states that energy can be neither created nor destroyed, but only changed from one form to another and transferred from one object to another. So without going into morality, right/wrong, good/bad, when you decide to engage in sex, take some time to think about what energy you are giving or receiving, for there is no getting away from it and it will impact on you either positively or negatively……