Monthly Archives: June 2012

Liberating ourselves from our egos

What is the ego? No doubt a very egotistical question to ask!  I wonder about this as many millions of words have been devoted to this elusive entity.  It occurs to me that I have no real idea what the ego is.  I rarely seem to refer to it except in the broad and general terms that most of society will refer to someone very concerned with getting their own way as being egotistical.  This is odd since I have spent most of my adult life reading a plethora of books concerned with the ego.  Instinctively I find myself shying away from individuals and groups bent on conquering their egos.  Why is this off-putting for me?

My own experience of coming to terms with my own personality began some twenty-five years ago.  It came through my connection with Chrissy and the many people who visited her to consult her for advice on their problems and their lives in general and to do the I-Ching and astrology with her.  At the time Chrissy lived in a cottage in the middle of the welsh countryside.  This cottage at the time had no electricity, no central heating and an outside toilet.  Yet, whilst sitting by a fire consulting the I-Ching and reading wonderful books by firelight created an unforgettable ambience, it was not this which was the most magical and valuable element of the experience.  Instead it was the feeling that was generated for all of us by the experience of being there.  This was a feeling that no matter how difficult our situations might be, everything was ok; it was a feeling of deep peace and reconnection, a feeling of coming home.  This was odd in some ways since there were often tears and fights going on and the deepest and most difficult problems were often being dealt with and people’s personalities with all their tricks being openly discussed and exposed to the light.  Indeed, my friends and I often went with a gut wrenching dread in the pit of our stomachs as we knew that our personalities and all their tricks could be quite ruthlessly exposed.  As my friend Ali would relate, he knew as soon as he saw the gravel of the drive that he would be in tears by the end of the visit.  So what made this experience so special since it involved some very difficult experiences and regular tears and fights?  What made it so special was that no matter how hard the learning and how much our personalities might be exposed everything would be ok and more than that, that we were all accepted and loved for exactly who we were.  The impact was remarkable and all of us would rush to be there whenever we were stuck or struggling, or in many of our cases, whenever we could without imposing (and often when we were imposing!).

What was intriguing about this environment was that it did not seem to conform to most people’s expectations of an egoless environment.  Indeed, in some ways it was quite the reverse; people interrupted each other, we all boasted and showed off, people would argue and sort out quite nuclear and explosive fights between them, we would compete for attention and Chrissy reserved the right to lose her wisdom and fall in a black hole.  What made it so different and magical was that everything was out in the open; nothing was hidden.  It was challenging; there was little room for people to get away with not being honest about themselves but there was also a great deal of love. We would all show off, but everyone would enjoy each other’s showing off – we were all allowed to be special and we would humourously compete to see who could show off the most.  Nobody would mind about interrupting each other, because the key was that no-one was taking themselves too seriously, rather everyone shared in enjoying and valuing each others personalities.  We would even compete about whose personality was the worst – “you think you are manipulative, you should see how brilliantly I’ve managed to punish my friends whilst maintaining my sense of self-righteousness”.  We were all learning to take our personalities less seriously, to be less identified with them and to revel in them with humour and to revel in each others as well.  We were not being asked to change, but rather to accept our personalities and be who we were without any preconcevied judgements.  We were being trained also to take responsibility for our personalities in their full glory and to be honest and objective about them.  There was always a sense of play – of playing with our own personalities and each other and there was a lot of humour.  I learnt that I was hyper competitive, that I was very sensitive and that I could be pompous at times.  I wasn’t asked to change this but rather to accept these traits in my personality and to take responsibility for them.

I get the feeling that an ego-less state is often seen like a perpetual nirvana where we live in a constant transcendental bliss, modest and receptive, loving everyone and never interrupting, competing, boasting, arguing or losing our temper.  We are constantly mindful and therefore never lose our keys, burn our toast, forget what someone was saying etc.  My own concern with this is that it seems to come up with a lot of judgements of what is good and what is bad.  Indeed there seem to be a lot of “shoulds” and “oughts” involved and I meet many people who are absorbed in judging themselves and finding themselves and others wanting.  It can feel a very painful, constricting environment where everyone is watching out for egos.  Yet paradoxically this description of the ego-less state feels a very egotistical state to me.  It seems to be a construct or mind-picture about how we have to be, even if it is at odds with our nature.  Don Juan in the Carlos Castaneda books says that the only enemies of a man of knowledge are self-importance and self-indulgence.  Somehow the hunt for our ego seems a somewhat self-important and self-indulgent activity, a search which seeks to make us perfect in our own or other people’s eyes.  Perhaps it is driven by the sad fact that we all often feel inadequate, that we must be better if we are going to be loved or accepted, that we are not spiritual enough.  I remember Ram Dass saying that he worked so hard to be spiritual yet he noticed that more and more people would thank him for being so human! Accepting our imperfect natures with all their creative energies and flaws seems to involve less pride.  Trying to not be something we see as bad (take your pick from competition, greed, jealousy etc.) always seems to hold the danger of driving it underground and making it come out in shadowy unconscious ways.

Is it possible that trying to eradicate our egos is a construct created by the ego?  Certainly the pre-occupation with being good and all the things we should be doing to be enlightened seems to catch people in a competitive spiritual materialism – who can be the “goodest”, most mindful etc.   I realise that perhaps I was lucky to be introduced to an environment where the focus was on accepting everybody and ourselves just the way we were – including all the “worst” elements of our personalities.  Knowing the worst elements of our personalities and being open about them meant we could see them in plain view and so we could not kid ourselves when we acted from a closed heart or were jealous, hurt, competitive etc.  Strangely it meant we were less likely to hurt others and to accept them for who they were.  I can’t help feeling that much of religious and spiritual practice is caught in “trying” to be something, rather than simply being who we are; that really we are all children no matter how old we are and that we already are divine since we were all created just the way we are.  In the end the path of trying to be something is a boring one, it takes a lot of energy and a creates a stifling environment.  When I look at all this I realise that I even have to accept and have a sense of humour about the side of myself that wants to be perfect by not being perfect!! I realise there is no escape but to have a sense of humour about myself.  This is only my own journey and perspective; perhaps it is all a clever construct of my own ego or competitive nature?! I’ll leave others to judge from their own experience and hearts.

Having written this some weeks ago, I have been thinking about this further over the last few weeks and realised that this is in many ways a description of the Taoist concept of wu-wei – doing by not doing.  This also links in to Tim Galwey’s notion of interference.  That is that our role is not to try to become something – a saint, a perfect person, a good person, an ego-less person.  Instead our role is to be aware of ourselves exactly as we are and to accept that and be conscious of our personalities so that we do not try to make them do or be something they are not.  When we bend ourselves out of shape like this it ends up closing our heart down.  It is not that we need to focus on being spiritual and loving but rather be conscious of where we might close our hearts, to watch out for and be very aware of all that could close our hearts down to others so that we can inhibit it.  I know that I can easily get caught in feeling I ought to feel more loving, but if I pretend to be more loving than I am, I usually end up caught in closing my heart down.

As the I-Ching says;

where the moods of his 
own heart are concerned, he should never ignore the possibility of inhibition, 
for this is the basis of human freedom.
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What’s the story?

Whilst with my friend Chrissy today we were looking at charts depicting our transits over the course of 3 years as a chart.  This allowed us to consider the storylines in our lives.  Chrissy was also speculating on what the story might be for us collectively in terms of transits and in particular the generation who experienced the Neptune, Saturn, Uranus conjunction in Capricorn growing up.  It is interesting to note in this regard that Capricorn is again playing a significant role with Pluto currently being there.  At the same time Uranus is again involved being square Pluto.  So this got me thinking about what the collective story might be.

Everyone around me at the moment is experiencing a lull in work and money.  People’s pay is being frozen or they are being made redundant, for consultants there is less work around.  If we look back to the generation and events of the Neptune, Saturn, Uranus conjunction it was the during the 80s and early 90s that the conjunctions were taking place.  This was an era which gave us Dallas and Dynasty as well as power dressing – with big shoulders (very Capricorn – lots of ability to bear responsibility on our shoulders!).   It was an era when the Berlin wall came down – the capitalist west had won and a whole block of countries were exposed to the capitalist free market system.  Gordon Gekko in the film Wall Street in 1987 said “greed is good”.  With Uranus now square Pluto in Capricorn and the banking system in disarray this no longer seems as accurate a picture!  Indeed the illusions of Neptune in Capricorn are giving way to loss and chaos as Neptune has moved into Pisces.  Whilst in Aquarius Neptune seemed to expose us to the virtual world of computers.  Neptune has also been conjunct Chiron.  Somehow the love affair with money has turned sour.  Yet at the same time, something interesting is happening.  Whilst no-one seems very happy and life has turned sour in material terms,  I notice that people are getting more interested in a spiritual perspective and they seem to be having more compassion for each other.  People seem to be turning away from ambition and hierarchical advancement as the road to fulfillment.  No-one seems to be enjoying life as much but in all the coaching I am doing people seem to be looking for deeper answers or answers outside simply work or work progression.  I wonder if we are weaning ourselves off being so attached to money to provide a sense of fulfillment?  In the work context, speaking to a client yesterday they were describing that the motivation in their department is at an all time low and everyone feels down.  This has produced a blame or scapegoating effect where everyone is sure it is someone else who is to blame for the fact they are feeling miserable.  They seemed to think that in the long term it may be no bad thing, in that everyone is having to adjust to not seeing money as so primary.

Certainly my own journey seems to reflect this.  With Saturn and Chiron conjunct in the second house squaring my Sun and opposing Pluto-Uranus, fears about money and having enough have always been a source of anxiety, despite the fact that I have earned well over the years.  Recently, with Chiron in Pisces touching my Saturn I have been experiencing a fall back in my usually very dependable abundance of work.  Initially the shock of this was a fright, but as I have adjusted I have watched myself becoming more interested in the day to day interactions I am having with others and having more time for friends and people that needed my help or that I could share a common experience of how difficult things are at the moment with.  Somehow, this giving up and going with the flow feels very liberating and it is easy to see how the abundance of work had its dangers.  At the same time, it is creating a fresh set of challenges about the nature of dependence with so many people feeling desperate and wanting to grab or attach themselves to others.  I have also been struck by the commonality of challenges and potential black holes that close friends and I are encountering.  We are even throwing similar lines and hexagrams in the I-Ching.

I recognise this is only my story or description, yet it is clear to me that stories are the way we make sense of the world, our ability to store learning and to take meaning from our context.  One of the tests of mental illness is that people lose their ability to tell stories – their ability to make sense of their world.  I borrowed a way of using stories from a seminar with Liz Greene.  She talks about the Sun being our hero, the Ascendant being our Journey and the Moon being our resources.  When I run programmes with people I ask them to describe themselves as if they are a hero from a book or film and to describe their journey and their resources; what fatal flaw they have and what obstacles and monsters they have to overcome.  The results are always quite remarkable.  We ask the individuals to share their stories and everyone is amazed at how accurate the stories are about the individual and their lives.  What is strange is that usually the individual does not see it at first, they are unaware how deeply accurately their unconscious has described their own journey and motivation.  I also ask people what the role of stories is in our lives and they are very astute at describing the way that they convey meaning, create vehicles for learning, carry and re-inforce culture etc.  They are also very insightful about the role of heroes, monsters and magic.  Heroes reflect our aspirations in life but they also allow us to play with aspects of ourselves through analogy and imagination in order to become more than we are, to fulfil our potential.  Monsters reflect our shadow, our fears, illusions and negative aspects.  It is no co-incidence that in so many fairy tales the hero or heroine embraces the beast, the ugly crone or the frog and through their embracing of them, transforms them into something beautiful.  We can see this in practice in being able to embrace our own shadow, our negative sides that we would hate to identify with, that once embraced makes us a fuller and deeper human being.  Also, it is often light – clarity and insight, which disperse the shadowy monsters of our fears or anxieties.  I think that magic in books and films is about awareness or consciousness.  It is interesting that magic takes difficult situations which appear unsolvable and transforms them.  I think this parallels our experience in life, somehow awareness and the perspective it brings transforms situations, even though the situation itself might not change, how we understand it and see it changes.

What always baffled me about films and stories was how unrealistic it was that the hero would take on vast armies single-handedly and defeat them.  Yet, having experienced periods at work when recessions happened, I began to see the truth of this.  When working at Ernst & Young at the turn of the last century (I love saying that, it sounds like it was a hundred years ago!), the dot-com bubble burst, Andersens collapsed and Enron went into self-destruct.  The accountancy firms went into turmoil.  I saw at that time that the Lord of the Rings with Aragorn and others taking on vast orc armies was an accurate analogy for life.  I watched the effects of fear and anxiety transform vast swathes of people in the firm, like a marauding orc army, changing people into their worst aspects.  It was intriguing that the only thing that did stop this rampaging army was individuals.  These individuals were the ones who were brave enough to get the fears (particularly their own) out into the open and not be caught by them.  They prevented those around them being injured and were able to be honest and challenge the fear based actions and negative emotions surrounding them.  Their impact was astonishing.  Not only this, but I began to see that the stories people used provided unique insights into their journeys in life and that stories in general were really describing important aspects of these journeys.  For instance, taking the Lord of the Rings again, I saw that each main character in the Lord of the Rings has their counterpart who represents what they could become if they are corrupted by power.  For Gandalf it is Saruman, for Frodo  it’s Gollum, for Aragorn it’s Sauron, etc.  Not only that but Frodo takes Gollum as his guide in letting go of power.  This is interesting for me as my own learning about power is that it is not being good which is important in not being corrupted by power, but rather being aware of all in us that could corrupt us – our desire for power, greed, competition etc.  If we have the more primal sides of our personality follow in view, they become our guides in preventing us being corrupted by power and being able to choose not to act on them.  It is a similar picture in Harry Potter.  Harry Potter’s shadow is Voldemort, they are the same person.  This is clear from the fact that their lives are so intertwined and they share their link through an old wound which never fully heals – a modern Chiron myth!   It is also intriguing to note that Harry always has to face his most dangerous moments without the support of those parental figures who could help him.  Dumbledore has always been called away to the ministry when things come to a crisis, each figure that Harry becomes attached to is systematically killed off – first his parents, then Sirius Black, Dumbledore and finally even Snape.  It is a journey about taking responsibility to deal with our own difficulties in Life.  What is fascinating is that those people who chose Harry Potter as their hero invariably had lost parents at a young age or had a journey where there had been little or no support for them and they had been unrecognised for many years (like Harry in the real world).  Yet they had not been aware of these connections consciously when they chose the story.

Another level where stories play a significant role is in reflecting our current level of evolution.  Having not watched television or films for many years I was struck by the fact, when watching films again recently, of some of the dominant themes and how they reflected very closely the actions we were taking collectively.  For instance, it was clear to me that most American action films shared a common theme.  The ‘good’ guy was wrongly hurt by the ‘bad’ guy and then set about attacking the ‘bad’ guys and destroying them, in order to protect everyone, or simply for revenge.  This was the same plot that informed films liked Avatar which was haled as somehow groundbreaking but depressed me in repeating the same myth.  The essence of the myth is that if you are the good guys then it is ok to use power and violence to achieve your ends and defeat the bad guys.  In effect that “might is right”.  I couldn’t help feeling that this was dominant myth prevailing in the approach to Iraq and Afghanistan and the response to the Twin Towers.  I watched the way that films manipulated you into feeling that it was great that the heroes were killing the baddies – that they deserved it and it was somehow justified but of course by the end there was no difference between the goodies and the baddies; both were violent and destructive and both justified their violence and power to themselves.  This didn’t strike me as much of evolutionary step.  So perhaps we should be paying attention to the stories we are telling and what they are telling us about ourselves and our own individual and collective evolution.

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Dependence, Independence and Interdependence

When at work I use a model for helping people integrate into new roles and new organisations.  This model has three stages; Dependence, Independence and Interdependence.  I first came across it when at Ernst & Young.  At the time I had just been promoted to a new role as part of a small group of partners running a firm wide change programme.  The move involved transferring from the Bristol office to the London office.  Yet despite the excitement of being promoted and in a new large role the first six months were terrible.  I ended up being expected to pay for my travel to London and being on less money than I was on before being promoted and the more I highlighted this the more resistance I got from my boss.  The insightful points I raised a team meetings were argued with and rejected and gradually I began to feel more and more on the outside.  I was definitely in a black hole.  I considered leaving and tried all that I could to try and change things.  In the end, this model of Dependence, Independence and Interdependence came to my aid.  I realised that if I wanted to succeed I first had to be included.  In order to be included I was dependent on others.  I realised that my attitude had been one of “finally they have recognised my brilliance and promoted me” whilst they seemed instead to be excluding me and rejecting my brilliance (strangely I’m not sure they defined it as brilliance!).  I realised that I had stumbled over the issue of how to make transitions.  If I was going to make a contribution, I first had to find a way of being accepted and this brought me up against the issue of modesty.  I decided that even if I just made tea and coffee for everyone at the beginning of the meeting, it was an expression of my modesty and interest in them.  If I wanted them to be interested in me, I was first going to have to be interested in them.  Things began to change quite rapidly.  At the same time, we also had the difficult event of our second child being still born a week after he was due.  This re-inforced my position of vulnerability but it also opened everyone’s heart to me tremendously.  Somehow my vulnerability and dependency on others was the key to everyone’s heart opening up to me.  I also gave up on asking to make changes to my salary and simply accepted the situation.  What amused me to notice was that within a year my boss was fighting to get my salary raised as high as he could whilst I had genuinely given up and was less concerned.  Once I really felt that I had been accepted (and I had accepted others) they began to really listen to the unique or independent points I was making and to value them.  I found my own independent role and within time a strong sense of teamwork and interdependence was created.  A few years later, when I went on secondment to a new organisation as coach and change manager for a high profile transfer of a local education authority to private ownership, I found myself in a similar position, pushing to show my worth and value and make a contribution yet this time after two weeks I could see that I was stuck in the same black hole and changed my approach to work on modesty.  The difficulty with being included is that we are dependent on others to include us, we cannot make ourselves included.  This is why modesty is the key attitude to a situation of dependency and being included.

A few years later in the midst of another transition, I found myself in a similar black hole, but this time, it only lasted half a day.  In my coaching of others, I have found this model of Dependence, Independence, Interdependence (or Inclusion, Assertion, Co-operation as it is sometimes called) very valuable for helping people understand the black hole they often fall in when joining new organisations or taking on new roles.  The temptation and pressure is very high to prove oneself, so we often go into assertion mode of proving we have a valuable contribution to make and showing we can stand on our own two feet, but this only leads to frustration, competition and conflict.  Once people see that they need to do the modesty or inclusion stage first they are able to adapt and put right their poor start within quite a short space of time.  I have been surprised that this has been the basis for most of my coaching where I have been asked to work with individuals who are on the verge of being rejected by their organisations.

Recently, I have been experiencing (with Neptune squaring my Mercury) the nature of this in a different respect.  My son at nineteen, is a fully grown male, standing some inch and a half taller than me.  He wants his space now and to be respected as an adult, yet he lives under my roof, supported by me.  In January he went to Tignes in the French Alps to ski for the season.  Having been independent for three months the return to being at home was not easy.  My friend Chrissy told me that I was being a wimp when I was disturbed by this and that I had to explain that since I was head of the family and supporting him, he was going to have to be respectful or he could set up his own household and become independent (for information on this see the following: www.chrissyphilp.com/heart/What_we_need_to_know_%28I_think%29….html).  I explained therefore that I was top dog and expected to treated with respect but that he was free to set up his own household and be free.  Luke being an Aries responded well to this direct approach and has been a quite brilliantly helpful and dutiful son ever since.  He said he found it very helpful to have it clearly spelled out.  I realised in this, the nature of our interdependence.  I was dependent on him to play his role as a son and not make my life untenable and he was dependent on me to still support him and help him make the transition.  As long as we understood this, all was well.  The I-Ching places great emphasis on this in Hexagram 37 The Family it states that “When the family is in order, all the social relationships of mankind will be in order”.  This is in many ways what we are struggling with globally at the moment, what is the right relationship between dependence, independence and interdependence.  As the nature of the world through global business marketplaces and the internet become more global we are increasingly recognising our interdependence.  We have made attempts to create a sense of interdependence through structures such as communism but this was flawed because it sort to eradicate independence (individuality).  Europe is struggling with the same issue, if you don’t allow countries a degree of independence or ask them to be independent in being able to stand on their own two feet, you create a mess.  Fortunately, getting in a mess is the very thing needed to learn about it and put it right.  Luke and I would not have learnt and put the relationships in their right relation if we had not first got in a nice black hole.  We are in a collective black hole currently with the financial position in the world and also with things like global warming but it is important to understand they are part of a growing process where we are learning about interdependence.  The recent disputes over rivers and dams in China and other countries illustrates this learning stage we are going through.  If a river runs through a number of countries all are dependent on it and the river cannot be said to belong to one country, China’s damning of major rivers from their sources in Tibet is causing havoc in Bangladesh and they are not the only ones doing this.  We are getting to a stage where we are being challenged to learn how to get this balance of dependence and independence right so that we can make the transition to genuine interdependence.

I suspect as we begin the process of exploring space further (as is bound to happen now that space exploration has been taken out of government hands and released into the private sector) we will encounter increasing pressure to agree on how we manage interdependence.  If asteroids start to be mined then who owns them?  Who owns the moon?  Who owns Mars when we get there?  We have started to address this with areas like Antarctica but the challenges will increase.  Bodies like the United Nations are likely to become increasingly important.  On the financial side, it might well take a global solution to deal with our financial issues and at the very least we will be much more mindful of our interdependence from now on.  The internet poses similar problems with its virtual nature and the fact that no one country can legislate about it.  Interdependence is intriguing, it seems to me that the key is how the individual and perhaps the most vulnerable individual is treated.  When we can treat the country or person who is most vulnerable with the greatest respect or compassion then everyone can trust us.  In this respect how we are now treating Syria is critical.  I am not sure that we are doing it well.  We must have compassion for everyone and be on everyone’s side to get this one right.  I noticed that when I first heard about the recent attacks and killings of families and children it came in the same news bulletin that detailed a family in Afghanistan having been killed by bombing.  I struggle to see the difference between these two.  If we are going to generate the trust to achieve true interdependence then both must be a source of sadness to us and learning so that we work to make sure neither happen again.  Recognising that the west is as culpable as the leaders in Syria would be an act of genuine interdependence because it would recognise our common ground of complicity and need to change and we would not be condemning the leadership of Syria whilst perpetrating the same acts ourselves.  We would instead, recognise it is all us and acknowledge our common humanity.  It would be intriguing to see setting the example of what we want to become and mutual learning being the currency of global influence rather than military might and power.

Personally I love Star Trek and I would love to think that we are taking our first baby steps towards a collective view of earth; a federation of every country and person.

 

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Cleaning our connection

If Pim van Lommel is correct (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=YOeLJCdHojU) that consciousness is non-local (ie. exists outside time and space) and he is not the only one who is providing evidence that this is the case, then it has some interesting implications for how we learn and become wiser.  Pim van Lommel describes the brain itself as a transceiver or interface to consciousness rather than a generator of consciousness.

As one of Chrissy Philp’s students, I learnt to distinguish between my personality and my “owner”; my “owner” being the part of consciousness that could stand back from identifying with my personality and see it more objectively.  I have tended to think of this “owner” as being like a parent for the personality; it’s role being to understand, take responsibility for and get the best from our childlike personality.  Ram Dass, from a spiritual perspective, talks about how we become identified with our “space suit” in each incarnation and that part of the goal of enlightenment is to be able to separate our identity from our spacesuit so that we can be both “in the world but not of it”.  He describes consciousness as the “witness” and this is common in many spiritual writers such as Ouspensky and Rudolf Steiner.  It is also common in most religions where meditation attempts to still the mind and allow us to step back from the “mind chatter” of our personality in order to connect with the pure consciousness of being.  There are also interesting implications for astrology.  Is the personal horoscope describing the shape of our transceiver or the nature of our connection to consciousness?  Perhaps it is both.  And what of mundane astrology, is this describing the nature of consciousness more generally – the whole frame? Or is it describing the framework or field on which consciousness plays out?  Perhaps, again it is both.

I have long considered that consciousness is separate from the body because of the realisation that consciousness does not age, most people describe the fact that they feel no older despite the years passing and it occurred to me that this was because consciousness itself lies outside the aging process; it is eternal.  Thus our consciousness is no different at seventy than it is at seven.  If our brains are transceivers (and perhaps given recent evidence our whole bodies) then what does this mean for our development?  What I learnt from Chrissy was the importance of keeping my heart and my mind open.  The heart and the mind are, as I have discovered, almost the same thing.  What I mean by that is that they influence each other so symbiotically that it is almost impossible to separate them; when our heart is closed to someone our mind tends to close towards them and when our mind is closed our heart tends to close down too.  To test this, imagine the person you find most difficult to deal with coming down a path towards you, there is no way to escape and you are going to have to interact.  Now notice your thoughts, how long would the conversation be, what chance is there that it would be open and fruitful?  Now imagine someone you really love coming down the path towards you and notice the difference in your thinking and assumptions.

So why is keeping the heart and mind open so important.  Given Pim van Lommel’s conclusions, keeping the heart and mind open is critical because it keeps our connection to consciousness as pure as possible.  When our heart and mind close down it is like interference on a radio station.  This echoes Timothy Galwey’s concept in the Inner Game where he describes the fact that the role of helping or coaching others is to reduce interference (which is internal not external).  Galwey describes our ability to use our talents as a function of our potential minus interferences.  Our role he posits is not to work on potential but to clear away interferences.  This also fits with Don Juan’s idea in the Carlos Castaneda books, where he talks about the tonal and the nagual.  The tonal is everything that exists and is knowable in the material world and the nagual is the creative agent that works through the tonal.  Again, he sees the role of wisdom as being the cleaning of our tonal, in order that we are a perfect receptacle for the nagual.  Pim van Lommel states that the those who have had a near death experience (NDE) are more trusting of their intuition and operate from closer to a position of unconditional love.  This seems to fit with the idea of an open heart and mind.  One of my lessons as a student of Chrissy’s was that the intuition cannot be trusted if our heart is not open, that if it is closed our intuition gives us faulty data.

All this brings me to the I-Ching and taoism.  The Tao-Te-Ching states that “the great man does nothing and yet nothing remains undone” which fits with the notion that the role of the brain is not to generate or lead but rather to be an open receptacle for consciousness which has its own purpose.  The I-Ching itself in Work On What Has Been Spoiled (Hexagram 18) talks about our role being to clear up that which has been spoiled or gone wrong – to clean our connection, ie. to open our hearts and minds back up again so that our connection to consciousness is purified again.  The I-Ching also states that “all men are one in their hearts” – that there is only one heart.  If our minds or hearts are closed by interference then all we hear is a fuzzy static rather than beautiful music.  In this context the black holes that we experience are the signs of where there is interference in our connection and also perhaps where new channels can be discovered, that is new areas of consciousness can be opened up to allow us to evolve. Armageddon has long been feared as the end of the world, but perhaps, like all good black holes, it is the catalyst for evolution and new understanding.  Certainly in our individual lives experiences that feel like Armageddon are ones we look back on as having been key periods of learning or experience in our personal growth.  Looking up the origin of the word Armageddon, it is believed to relate to the mountain of Giddon, yet the mountain here is a tel, a jewish word for a man-made mound where each civilization built on the previous ones until a hill or mound was formed.  In the same way, the Armageddon prophesied by Revelation and feared by many in the shape of ecological destruction, nuclear war etc. may be no more than the transition to a new understanding or level of civilisation – a new city built on the old one.  This new understanding of consciousness may be just such a moment in our evolution as a human race, particularly as we are moving from the age of Pisces-Virgo, to Aquarius-Leo.  Surely separating the brain from the mind, or consciousness from the individual must be symbolised by the Aquarius-Leo axis?

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