Flying Off Course To Arrive

Have you ever noticed that aeroplanes don’t always take off in the direction they want to go? They need a head-wind to give them lift and so they head off into the wind, get up in the sky and then turn in the direction they actually want to go in.

Then, when they’re happily up in the sky, flying towards their destination, they’re off course at least 80% of the time.They are constantly buffeted by winds, updraughts and downdraughts and the pilot has to adjust, adjust and constantly adjust to stay on course.

We’re the same. We often take off in the wrong direction to get where we want to go – starting in abusive families, wrong occupations, wrong relationships, wrong behaviours and/or wrong aspirations. We might not think so at the time but these “wrong” take-offs often give us the lift we need to get up into clear sky. Only then can we get to where we want to be.

With writing, so many people are immobilised by two things:

1. Can’t get started
The comments are sadly consistent: “I don’t know what to write about”, “How do I know what it is that I should be writing about?” and all those other reasons that hold people back from starting. Hey, it doesn’t matter where you start or what you start writing. Just get started.

The aeroplane doesn’t care where it’s going, initially – it starts out using whatever it can to get up there and worries about direction later. So, right now, if you’re stuck, I’d suggest you ride the horse in the direction it’s going, use whatever wind that’s blowing and just start writing. Write what comes easiest, what takes least effort and research and just get revved up and spin your wheels.

2. Being constantly off course.
Many writers (including me) worry that they don’t have a particular niche, a genre that they fit into. One week they’re writing a play, the next week it’s poetry and the following week it’s a horror novel. We’re told by well-meaning people that we should focus and get clear about what we write about, as if it’s supposed to be one darned thing. Some people are built that way but most aren’t. Paulo Cuelho, who has sold over 100,000,000 books, was a successful song-writer and wrote (unsuccessfully) about black magic and he kept on writing till his truly successful writing emerged.

So, like the aeroplane that you are, keep a distant destination in mind and do not be surprised if you find yourself off course most of the time.

You see, I don’t know if you noticed, but over 90% of our aeroplanes (and Paulo Cuelho) get to where they want to be. However, they don’t get there by sitting on the tarmac worrying that the wind’s in the wrong direction today.

Just rev up, spin your wheels, move your pen, write some words and, on this rock I stand, the winds of fate will have you off course 80% of the time and will, eventually, bring you into land with a gentle rush and a happy pilot. Happy flying!

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The Problem With The World is …

many_worldsThe problem with the world is that it isn’t.

THE WORLD doesn’t exist. A WORLD doesn’t exist.

There’s your world and my world; her world and his world. Our worlds seem excruciatingly close. So close, in fact, that they seem to be one.

Okay, one simple example of different worlds …

The simplest analysis of our learning styles is VAK; that some people learn visually (by seeing things), some people learn audibly (by hearing things) and some kinaesthetically (by doing things).

If we’re a visual learner, we won’t remember much of what we hear. We may remember nothing of what others say, while noticing what they’re wearing, what they’re showing us and all the other images in the world around us.

The audible learner may berate us: “You never listen to a thing you say!”

They’re wrong. We do listen but it doesn’t go in. That’s not how we learn best. You’re not lazy or stupid or disrespectful. You’re just a visual learner. If they’d shown you a picture, put up a poster or given you a book, you would have taken the information in and retained it.

Silly-Accessories-To-Go-With-Mismatch-Day-OutfitsWhile you’re sensitive to matching the colours that you wear, they’re sensitive to the sounds around them. While they’re fussy about the music they like you can listen to any old music … or none. In fact, they can probably study and

think with music playing. You probably can’t.

Then there’s the third learner, the kinaesthetic learner who won’t read instructions (visual) or listen to anyone’s advice (auditory) and just barges in, takes physical risks and figures out life – and IKEA furniture assembly – by experimentation, by trial and error.

There is also the more complex seven levels of learning – visual, aural, verbal, physical, logical, social, solitary – which break us, and our worlds, down even further. Our differences go on and on.

The path to war

Our biggest mistake is assuming that your world is the same as mine … that if your world’s a visual one, then so is mine and everyone else’s. It’s the biggest mistake as we go to war over it, trying to force others to experience our world. They never will.

We may walk a mile in someone else’s shoes but, eventually, they’ll give us blisters. We’ll usually return to our comfortable world and it’s only a special few who have the courage to put down their blinders, put down their expectations and forgive others their particular and peculiar ways.

The only war we’ve ever had with each other is fuelled by the need to prove ourselves right (and others wrong) and to force our particular and peculiar rightness on them.

53 How can my sone be gayThe path to peace

The path to peace, then, lies in laying down our rightness, laying down our fragile egos and accepting there’s more than our way of seeing things.

Then, weirdly, when we tell ourselves the truth of these differences and give up “righting” everything, do our separate worlds collapse into each other in the most gracious and comforting way. Then, and only then, will one world remain standing.

Try it, you’ll love it!

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The Problem With Your Problems is …

Business conceptThe problem with your problems is that they’re not big enough.

You see, we spend our lives trying to have a smaller number or size of problems – avoiding them, eliminating them or transferring them to others. It’s no coincidence, then, that we feel frustrated by our small lives … never quite joining the dots.

So, let us join the dots: small problems = small lives.

Do you doubt the formula? Okay, here’s a living, breathing example:

Making Mary’s problems bigger

Mary* came to my Free To Be Me course with a husband-difficult-over-child-custody problem. She’d been separated for about six months and, from that fateful date, her kind and complaint husband had become a raving lunatic (her words) and a totally unreasonable ex-husband. He wouldn’t sign a custody agreement, often didn’t turn up at agreed times to take their six-year-old son, often didn’t return him at agreed times, often didn’t pick him up at school at agreed times and generally messed with her head and schedules and stressed their son who had become a punching bag in the stupid child-tag match.

Her biggest concern was for her son and she wanted more fairness, stability and responsibility around him … and consequences for her ex-husband’s behaviour. She shrieked when I suggested we make her problem bigger. Then she calmed down when she realised it was not for real – it was just a game.

Between us we decided to expand her problem to ensuring all custody cases were fair, stable and responsible, for all children in New Zealand. She laughed at the magnitude of the idea and then went suddenly quiet.

When she eventually found her voice, she confessed to a long-forgotten dream of studying law, something she’d put on hold when she married. By the end of the session, she was dancing to quite a new tune – she was going to find out how to become a family lawyer.

The next week she was saddened to relay the cost and time involved in that study as it would mean too much of a sacrifice for her son. I encouraged her to hold the dream and, if she couldn’t, the rest of us in the group would hold it for her.

The following week she came in beaming. While investigating the possibility of studying law, she had made some good friends at the local court and, in particular, with the Registrar. That week, the job of mediator came up and she was offered it – right time, right place! However, a condition of taking the job was that she had to complete the court’s mediator course … at their cost!

relationship-coach-shanghaiI saw her some six weeks later and it seemed a strange thing had befallen her ex-husband … a nice thing. While much of her time was now focussed on her new job and study, she’d dropped her attachment to her ex-husband’s behaviour and, weirdly, it had improved. He’d signed the custody agreement and had kept to it for the last four weeks.

You see, focussing on a larger problem doesn’t make the small ones go away. She still had to attend to her son every day and talk with her ex-husband, but, in the transition to a bigger life, the smaller one had softened.

Okay, not convinced?

So, let us join the dots again: big problems = big lives.

What size was Nelson Mandela’s problem of bringing peace to 70 million people in hate-ravaged South Africa? Yes, big. Really big. And his life? Big, really big.

And Martin Luther King’s problem of bringing peace to hate-ravaged USA? Big, really big. And his life? Big, really big.

Obviously, you’re not being asked to take on the universe and stop world poverty or planetary deforestation. However, there is always a way to make your life bigger by increasing the size of your problem(s).

The news of the day, ladies and gentlemen, is that no one has no problems. Problems are part of being human and they’ll never not be there. Whether we deal with them, avoid them or give them to others, we’ll always have them. If we get rid of one, another will turn up … and another and another. They’re like flies – kill one and the whole family comes to the funeral!

So, if we’re stuck with them, no matter what we do about them, what to do? Make them bigger!

If we have a problem of not finding work, why not expand the problem to be one of helping hundreds of people to find work?

If you do not like being abused (in your relationship, at work or wherever) why not create the problem of helping thousands of others to deal with abuse?

35 53 Donald car crashLike Mary, your big hairy plans (e.g. becoming a lawyer) may not work out but they’ll lead you to something bigger than you’ve got right now. In Mary’s case, it was moving from being a stay-at-home, single mum to a family court mediator and a single mum.

The strange twist in this process is that you only have to dream up the what. You don’t have to come up with the how. The how will come, later. That will reveal itself as you step out into your shiny, new, bigger life.

Try it. You’ll love it!

* Name changed to protect the jubilant

The book, 53 SMILES is available by clicking here.

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The Problem with Problems is …

data_950x700--upscaleThe problem with problems is that we think that problems shouldn’t be. We spend our lives trying to rid ourselves of problems – avoiding them, reducing them, eliminating them.

The battle-cry of the age is for everyone to Make A Difference … the acronym of MAD. The madness (or insanity) of this is that we all make a difference, whether we try to or not. Our inate goodness, if we allow it to breathe, infuses the world with grace and love. We can’t help it when we let go.

However, the MAD brigade are set on eliminating problems – stopping tyranny, dishonesty, ignorance and abuse. In truth, all of those things have always existed and they always will. No amount of MADness will eliminate them.

There are such good and earnest people trying to improve the face of the world but they’re not getting anywhere. In fact, many feel we’re going backwards – every time we conquer or solve a problem, the solution becomes a bigger problem.

Solutions beget problems, it seems

People, with the best of intentions, introduced rabbits into New Zealand and Australia for hunting and for meat and, at times, the explosion in rabbit populations decimated millions of acres of farmland.

People take a pill to help with their heart-burn and the side-effects are that they get diarrhoea. So they take another pill for the diarrhoea and a side-effect of this second pill is that they have dizzy spells. So they take a third pill which helps with their dizzy spells but it aggravates their arthritis. So they take another pill to help with their arthritis and it makes them feel depressive and it goes on and on. So now they have heart-burn, diarrhoea, dizzy spells, worse arthritis, depression and a medical bill they cannot afford to pay.

jacinda_ardern_next_magazine_1120x640-e1508874944843

Jacinda Ahern, NZ Prime Minister

We have kind and mature leaders like Justin Trudeau (Canada), Jacinda Ahern (New Zealand) and Imram Khan (Pakistan) and some vainly imagine they herald a new dawning, a new and enlightened utopia. But the world is always in balance; there will always be an equal number of immature and arrogant leaders.

While we continue to think that problems shouldn’t exist, we’ll spend our lives on a frustrating and fruitless search to eliminate them, thereby creating a greater number of problems which divert us from the grander destiny that awaits us. Like the mythical hydra, every time we chop off one head, another two grow back – every solution leads us to one or more problems.

So how can we change our lives?

03 53 Eric loved EricaSimply by saying, problems exist. That simple. This may be too simple so you could use the more complicated version which is, problems should exist. Either way, simple or complicated, an acceptance that problems have always existed, will always exist and should always exist, will bring you a huge sigh of relief. In that acceptance will arise an ability to dramatically change your life.

So, to change your life you can try two things:

  • Firstly, accept that life = problems and that no-life = no-problems.
  • Secondly, you can create a problem that’s large and grand enough to be worthy of you. We will talk of this next.

Sound simple? Maybe too simple! What you can do to transform your life is actually very simple and very difficult. The difficulty is that resistance may arise. This we will talk of this soon.

The book, 53 SMILES, is available by clicking here.

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Primordial Action, Self-Harming and Peace

Ouroboros-dragon-serpent-snake-symbolAs the snake crawled out of the rain and into the carpenter’s shed, the hand-saw, lying on the bench, bit him, drawing blood. Acting on his primordial impulses, the snake retaliated. He wrapped himself round his attacker, squeezing it tighter and tighter … all the while, having more and more blood drawn by the offending blade. The saw didn’t give up and nor did the snake, eventually ripping itself to death by its “protective” response to pain.

Though we have an intelligence beyond the primordial, we seldom display more sense than the reptilian-brained snake. We continue embracing that which harms us, which limits us, which kills our spirit. Afraid to let go of our most destructive behaviours, most divisive reactions, most self-defeating thinking, we bemoan an unfair world.

No one ever won a war and gained peace or freedom but we continue fighting. No one ever won equality by judging but we continue judging. No one ever won an argument and a friend but we continue arguing.

It’s not just the bullied teenager that self-harms. We all do it.

While we continue to see the inert, unconcerned world (out there) as the attacker, we’ll continue to retaliate. Meanwhile, the inert, unconcerned world remains untouched by our vicious embrace.

We’ve all heard of letting go and this is the reason. Letting go means unfurling our fists, unfurling our fury, unfurling our judgement. It means unfurling like a dog, lying on our backs and exposing our vulnerable bellies to this inert, unconcerned world. Only then does it become concerned.

Sleeping dogNone of us kicks a happy, trusting dog on its back, pleading for its tummy to be scratched. We can’t help it – we just have to bend down and pat it, scratch it, play with it and smile.

And the world with us.

As we expose our naked, trusting vulnerability, the world cannot help it – it just has to bend down and caress us, play with us, nurture us and smile.

How do I know? I tried it … over and over.

After years of fighting, blaming and judging, I gave up the game. Gave up the pain. With my attack arsenal finally spent, I realised the world was bigger than me. It had more weapons than I’d ever possess.

Exhausted, I gave up, gave in and stopped pretending I knew … anything. I stoically gave up the pretence that I was in control.

I rolled over, smiling, as I realised I knew nothing and would never know anything! Then, suddenly nothing happened. Nothing did happen but it was sudden. Then, eventually, after an awkward space in time and rhyme, the world bent to caress me with its silent breeze of peace. “You need do nothing,” it silently whispered. I listened. I did nothing.

It rose me up as an urge, a knowing, arose in my chest.

But, yes, I fell back into primordial habits, self-harming thoughts. I fought them, bargained with them and slowly, slowly, slowly let them go. Peace did not come easily but I fought for it … fought for it by ceasing to fight. I diligently watched every thought, action and word. Step by painful, letting-go step did I crawl towards peace.

happymarried_headerAs I did, the world crawled back to me. We met fully at the junction of knowing and undoing.

I remain unknowing – happily unknowing – and feel the redoing through my veins as I bare my vulnerability to the inert, unconcerned world … its inertness now gone and its concern washing me in every moment.

Try it. You’ll love it!

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Mind Controlling the Pulse of Life?

pb hospitalI was last in an operating theatre 58 years ago for the removal of my tonsils. It was not a space I was accustomed to.

I woke from my appendectomy operation – taking out my burst, gangrenous appendix – fighting through the fog of anaesthetics. It was not a normal day when I just got up of my own volition. No, today, the drug world was in control and so I fought valiantly and unsuccessfully.

I tried to stay calm, realising I was not in control, and that distorted my perception. I chatted with the Warriors of Medicine and then allowed myself to lose control and consciousness again. I vaugely remember being wheeled back down the corridor, down in the lift and back to a different bed space. I fondly imagined it was about 8.30 pm and later discovered it was closer to 11.00 pm. My, how time flies when you’re having fun … or an operation that goes for five times as long as anticipated.

This bed space was directly opposite the nurses’ station and, as I was wheeled into place, I was besieged by eight caring and chattering medics. The reason for this new bed space and the concern was that my pulse was down to 39 while I slept and shot up to 50 when I woke. I tried to explain that my 30 years of meditation had given me some control over my body. I tried, in my drowsy state, to explain that I had requested my body to save as much energy for healing as it could and the unseasonably 39 could be the result of that request. Then, to deal with the state of wakeful sense-making, I had to power my machine up. It happened every time thereafter – 39 while asleep and 50 as soon as I woke. It was a mystery to them and none considered my possible explanation. They probably thought I was bonkers.

What seemed to get in the way of my message was resistance to the thought that we have any mind control over our bodies. The only influence we have, they seemed to think, was at the same level as the body itself; the physical bodily level of knives, needles and chemicals.

We know what we believe. We see what we know. And, if we believe the mind doesn’t affect the body, that’s what we’ll come to know and, therefore, what we’ll observe. I knew I couldn’t change any perceptions – except the ones that wanted to be changed – and simply smiled and beamed out my okayness.

na_Rosemary_cornfieldsI was fortunate to have spent three months with Jimmy, an Aboriginal elder, near Alice Springs some 15 years ago. I also spent two days with John Imi, a Hopi elder. Both of these men showed me the power of the mind over the body; Jimmy becoming invisible before my eyes and John explaining how his people affected the growth of corn with song and loving thoughts.

My mind was opened to its power and it would not have been if it wasn’t open to being opened!

It’s now morning and the tribe of doctors is visiting and assessing their patients, a phrase heavy with the scent of control, their serious faces giving testimony to the gravity of their beliefs.

At the same time, I overheard a nurse telling my nurse, Nerisza, that it’s so lovely that she’s always smiling. Nerisza’s smiling reply was, “If you’re grumpy, the world will be grumpy with you. It’s much easier for me to be happy.”

Her choice to feel happy shapes her physical world in ways that knives, needles and chemicals cannot.

JK-1Yes, we need knives, needles, chemicals and other physical implements of this world but they’re not the only tools for shaping the world we see and experience. The choice to spread happiness with our smiles must be the cheapest, simplest and most effective tools we know.

Note: I really don’t know if my mind dropped my pulse rate to 37 and then up to 50, or if it just happened. It is, however, a coincidence that the four times they took my pulse when I was waking it was 37 – exactly 37 each time. Then, five minutes later, their shock and horror urged them to do it again, it was always up to 50 – exactly 50. We’ve all got to make our minds up on that one.

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Building A Better God

animated-bob-the-builder-image-0045The God I’ve built is not one with eyes, ears, judgement or kindness. This god is not even a He. Or a She. Or an It. This God is a process, a system.

It’s at this point you could become alarmed, upset, let down and/or generally disappointed. I was when I built this new God … and when I realised any alternative is little more than personifying that which is beyond human imagination or creativity; like giving clothes and a name to something like faith, hope or charity.

You see, I had this fond affection for a loving father watching, guiding and supporting my every move. My own father was both angry and distant and the God I built mirrored the father I wish I’d had – loving, accepting, communicating, guiding and always there. I felt safer in an unsafe world with this bigger Father watching my every move, looking out for me and clearing confusion whenever it enveloped me.

I’d heard of other gods – harsh ones, judgemental ones, dispassionate ones, fickle ones – and mine was better than any of them: accessible, able and artful. Never absent, avenging or arsehole.

Mine was special and he was mine … and he was definitely a He, echoing my need, I realised many years later, for a nicer substitute father. Someone in my corner.

heartSo I plodded through life in the glow of God’s ever-present kindness, falling back on him whenever pain or indecision cut in. This God got me through many scrapes – suicide attempts, physical and emotional attacks, abandonment, guilt fear and loneliness. I have so much to thank him for and, even today, I can call him up when the munchies chew at my soul.

Then somewhere, sometime, something went click. A dawning at the speed of thought over the softening landscape of my life. I noticed that I’d built the god I wanted, the god that filled the biggest hole in my soul … and that we all do this.

Some people like being slapped round the chops so they build a vengeful, punishing god.

Some people like being cuddled and caressed so they build a gooey, sweet god.

Some people want – and therefore see – a complicated world and so build a complicated god … or a whole congregation of complicated gods.

In fact, our gods tell us nothing about God and everything about us – the perfect analyst’s tool!

So, having peeled back the worst of the layers of anger at my father – do we ever peel them all back? – I realised that, as Forrest Gump might say, God is as God does.

In other words, having become my best friend, I was in no need for a friend substitute. I was, however, in need of understanding about Life, the Universe and Everything. I wanted to know how it all worked. I was in mechanical mode – practical, objective and process-focussed.

So I built a Process God.

And, yes, there was grief. Sadness. Mourning. My old God was dead; a lifelong friend was gone. I missed him but knew he didn’t fit the new me that now walked this earth.

Oregon17I hear you asking and the answer is, “Yes, I still miss my old God, like an old friend I’ve lost touch with and feel little connection with, now. When we meet up it’s nice but it’s neither deep nor enduring any more.

My new God now suits me perfectly – as do all our Gods. Faceless, emotionless, impersonal and unerringly reliable; the Rolls Royce of gods who never breaks down, never has a bad moment and purrs in constant comfort. He never smiles nor grimaces. He just does the job he’s assigned to do and is content to do my bidding … as I am to do his.

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