Where the wind meets the sun, in a flat-sea
horizon, there flies the majestic moddle hawk. They are not rare, these moddle
hawks, but they’re seldom seen.
The few who have seen these swooping flysters, red feathered paint brushes swiping the sky with invisible ink … yes, the few who have seen them have not the courage to tell of this for unbelievers can be brutal in word and deed.
Indeed, some seers of the moddle hawk have
been harshly ridiculed and, even, shunned by life-long friends who only see
what they expect to see.
Seers, on the other hand, have limitless
possibilities in their pockets and expect nothing … or, should we say, expect
something from the nothing from which they’re birthed. They expect to be
surprised, to be proved wrong and to be uplifted by that which they didn’t know
Where the moddle hawks scorch their lazy
wings on a burnished sky is where the sparkles fly, the fireworks glisten.
On the second Tuesday of a week-long week
there’ll be those who know, those with patient eyes and naïve hearts will see
the sparks of a thousand exotic colours and the odours of dandelion soup and
garlic custard or hear a giant’s chuckle and an angel’s whisper.
Not for the cynics or the geniuses, these
soft-felt caresses of the soul. ‘Tis only for the childish, the dreamer, the
meek and mild will inherit the craving for silence of a thousand waves. For the
poets, singers and carers …
Not for the punishers and controllers, the
contrivers and pamperers, do these softly hinting tongues of God speak. No,
‘tis not for the faint hearted obeyers of avarice and laws. No, ‘tis only in
defenceless anarchy do the misty soldiers of peace belong.
Yes, we say, put away your white coats,
black suits and throttling ties. Just for a moment, we say, just for a moment.
Put away your lounge’s box of programming, your rules of engagement and emerge
as if from your mother’s loins – awake, aware and awestruck. Silent, serious
then silly. Turn down your duties, diaries and demands. Go shake your friend,
take their hand and walk barefoot in the tantalising grass and look where
you’ve never looked before.
Up where the moddle hawks paint the sky
you’ll see their words as the invisible ink dribbles down the cloud-free page
and washes the sinking sun. You’ll see the thousand unseen colours. You’ll
smell the dandelion soup and garlic custard and know – for just this moment –
the breath of God is with you.
I wasn’t paying attention. No, not really.
Just taking one day at a time, alternatively planning and worrying about the
next step. Then giving up and just living. Just doing it.
And then She snuck up on me. Unbidden.
Lying on my yoga mat in a class of eleven
others and the teacher – ooh, already it’s sounding weirdly sacred – and I
started to chuckle … quietly chuckle inwardly as we were in complete silence.
In shivasana, the pose of Shiva, the god of destruction and renewal, the coffin
pose, on our backs, relaxed and with closed eyes, I felt Life move into me. She
smiled. I smiled. Then I chuckled. I still chuckle, a week later.
You see, I had done several personal
development workshops as both participant and as facilitator. Often, in these,
we are asked (or ask) to write down our perfect day. The step-by-step, minute-by-minute
activities and feelings we would have in our perfect day.
Mine usually started at 5.30 am, rising in
peace and curiosity, yoga from 6.00 to 7.00, my favourite breakfast, writing
for an hour or more, coffee and chat with friend(s) from 10.00 to 11.00ish,
lunch with my partner, an open afternoon in which I can choose work or play …
and on it goes, with all the juicy, positive feelings in each moment.
When I wrote those perfect days, way back
when, I hungered and thirsted for perfect days and they never happened. Then I
got on with life, daily life, life with its ups and downs, trials and triumphs.
Meaningless life, dutiful life, that served the purpose of filling the time
between The Entrance and The Exit. It was joyful, sad, funny, stressful, calm,
panicked and everything in between … just life, ordinary life for an ordinary
Then, as I lay in that coffin pose,
emptying my mind of its ordinariness, an extraordinary little thing happened. I
realised I was living my perfect day, every day. I didn’t always have coffee
with a friend but I could have. I didn’t always have my favourite breakfast but
I could have. I had slipped into my perfect day, unknowingly.
Life delivered my perfect day to me long
before I realised She’d done it. She’d snuck up, handed me the perfect day and
I’d gone on living, oblivious to the magic I’d eased into.
So, thanks for the day, Life. Thanks for it
every day. My greatest act of gratitude, I imagine, is a heart-felt, belly-felt
chuckle. How entirely unaware can we be? How grateful can I be? As chuckly
grateful as I am every day. Perfect!
“I’m sorry, I’m really sorry,” she said
between convulsions of laughter, trying to hold retain professional pose. I
kept assuring her it was okay and the laughter grabbed her again and she rocked
and chortled and apologised between gasps and eye wiping. I kept assuring her
it was fine, I was fine, laughter was okay. In fact, it was so good to have
laughter around me, bouncing off the walls, as I’d had so little over the last
Of course, one doesn’t expect to have one’s
psychologist laughing uproariously at you but, well, it was damned good therapy
for us both.
I was seeing her because I’d had to give up
work. I just couldn’t cope with it any more. Years of abusive and callous
bosses, heaped on top of sustained childhood abuse, and my cold, hard iceberg
had finally melted.
She’d diagnosed me as “on the edge of Post
Traumatic Syndrome Disorder (PTSD)”, something that those in war zones suffer
from. Mine was less intense than a soldier’s but lengthy – 50 years on and off.
The childhood trauma went until I left home at eleven but it was still in my
psyche. It was then added to with every visit home and with later actions from
afar. The employers in New Zealand and England seemed to be a caring lot and it
was a shock to come to Australia and to be treated so dismissively, so
untrustingly, so inhumanly – so like I was as a child. I was back in my
It all just rose up as one congealed lump of trauma around the same time I found out about the effects and treatments of PTSD, and when Anna, my wife, found a local psychologist who used a particular treatment for it – Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing (EMDR).
You see, trauma goes into our bodies and
stays there, building up till we release it. Animals do it naturally – when
they’ve had a fright, they will quiver till the trauma goes. They will then,
typically, take three deep breaths and return to normal.
So, EMDR, developed by Francine Shapiro from 1987, helps the client to release the trauma through body movement … quite bizarre body movement at times, I discovered!
Humans are the same but appear to be unable
to release the trauma with the quivering. We seem to need help with that or
else hold on to the trauma, infecting every aspect of our lives –
relationships, work, finances, sense of self worth, confidence, peace,
happiness and so on.
There were pains in my stomach (upper and
lower), burps, heavy breathing, shooting pains in the head, shivers up my
spine, little men in my shoulders, pushing them apart, phlegm and coughing, air
trying to escape but restricted by something in my throat – all manner of
painful, weird and shivery feelings.
To the onlooker – my psychologist – I was undergoing immense pain, along with the most grotesque and comical facial expressions and bodily flailings. Though she’d treated many patients – ex-servicemen, prisoners and others – this was just the second time she’d been hit with uncontrolled fits of laughter.
It may be inappropriate in the psychology
manuals for a psychologist to laugh at her patient but, for me, it was fine. In
fact, it was great. My life had been a flat-line grey for the last six years,
in Australia, and joy was a more than welcome intrusion in that pallid
What I learned – apart from releasing
trauma and feeling better – is that we cannot prescribe appropriate and
inappropriate responses. If we let ourselves go, without prescription, our
natural responses are always appropriate and healing.
On fact, if we let ourselves go – as
animals do when traumatised – and let the body shake out the trauma, we just
might have more healthy humans and communities.
The question was, “What is the meaning of
life?” The answer to the question is not 42. The answer is 0. The answer is
zero. Nada. Zilch. Not anything. Nothing.
Life has no meaning, no reason whatsoever.
Life is an empty crystal bowl – empty and waiting for your input.
You invite friends around for coffee and need something to put the sugar in. You choose your crystal bowl and your friends exclaim, “What a beautiful sugar bowl!” Then it’s your child’s birthday and you fill your beautiful crystal bowl with sweets and people exclaim, “What a beautiful sweets bowl!” Then you’re entertaining guests for dinner and you use your crystal bowl for the dessert strawberries and your guests exclaim, “What a beautiful fruit bowl!”
The bowl, of itself, is simply a bowl full
of nothing. Nada. Zilch. Not anything. Nothing. But you and your visitors
define it by what you’ve popped in it. Like your beautiful crystal bowl, life
is simply life, simply an emptiness into which you pop your meaning. Today your
meaning is happiness, tomorrow it’s sadness, the next day it’s … well, it’s
whatever you decide to pop in it.
If you think life is unsafe, it is unsafety
that you have filled your bowl of life with.
If you think life is joyful, it is joy that
you have filled your bowl of life with.
If you think the meaning of life is to be a
good Christian or Buddhist then Christianity or Buddhism is what you have
filled your bowl of life with.
If you think the meaning of life is to
avenge your race’s or your culture’s persecutors, it is revenge that you have
filled your bowl of life with.
If the meaning of your life is to rid the
world of homosexuals, tyrants or skate-boarders, then it is that which you have
filled your bowl of life with.
If the meaning of your life is to give
compassion and love to underdogs, then it is love and compassion that you have
filled your bowl of life with.
Some people are confronted, depressed
and/or angry at finding that life is meaningless. However, a smile returns to
their faces when they realise that their life is what they popped in there …
and, therefore, they can change it! They are not stuck with a bowl of mud when
they want a sugar bowl.
We’re all in the same empty bowl, a bowl called life. Our bowls just look different for we’ve each popped different things in them … some have pooped in their bowl and some have popped in it!
You can tell me the meaning you’ve popped into your bowl of life but I cannot see, touch, smell or taste that meaning. It has little impact on me. However, the meaning I’ve put into the bowl of life is important for me as I can sense it in every way and it’s with me every moment of my life. Yours is only before me when you tell me and when you go away, so does your meaning, to me.
So, like a previous blog – The Problem With The World … – we live in different worlds. The same empty, meaningless life but different worlds, depending on what meaning we’ve popped (or pooped) into our empty bowls.
So, our exercise – yes, I must take my own
advice – is to simply observe what we have popped into our bowl of life. We don’t
need to change it. We just observe. We’re disinterested onlookers, watching a pair
of birds squabbling. We watch, smile, grimace and let what we see be there. Do
nothing. Zero. Nada. Zilch. Not anything. Nothing.
“It’s like a conversation with bodies,” Mabel
explained when I asked her how she planned and remembered the full sequence of
a yoga session. “I have practised it, over and over, and know how it feels for
me. Then I must be present to you and your bodies. I observe how they’re moving
and what these movements are saying to me. I might adjust my plan for there
will be a group conversation, a group body request, to do this a little more,
that a some less. Maybe add something I hadn’t planned.”
She started with practise, practise and more practise. It was so ingrained it became her. She became it. Then she let it go so, in a sense, it wasn’t about yoga. It wasn’t about the individual asanas (poses). It then became about the group’s silent and subtle request, a request she would not have heard had she not practised, had she not taken it past memory and into her very essence.
Without the strain and focus on memory, she
could let herself be fully with us. She was beyond thinking. She was having a
conversation just as you and I do with close friends over a coffee. No words
are contrived or planned. They fall as the moment arises, as the conversation
rises and falls, changes and loops back on itself.
Later in the session, Mabel told us about a tea ceremony she attended in Japan, this time last year. The older woman entered the room with a strong, gentle presence. She was there without fanfare yet fully the master of the room, quietly obedient to everyone. It was not so much that it was done in slow motion but that it was done in flow motion, as if the ladle directed her to pick it up, the leaves directed her to scoop and pour them, the water directed her to release it into the pot. It wasn’t about the tea any more. It wasn’t about the individual movements. It became a conversation with the implements, ingredients and the people in the room.
The true master, it seems, has practised,
practised and practised and, having gone beyond memory, is no longer aware of
their own actions. Through the complete mastery of the art, the art itself then
takes us to the presence of others, to the wishes of others, to the
conversations of others.
The master becomes so much the master that
she is now the servant of all. The circle is complete.
“You need to move out of your comfort
zone,” he said and I wondered why. “Because you can’t just stay where you are.”
I wondered again. “Well, what’s the purpose if we’re not here to evolve?”
“So, the label on the box when you were born said he must evolve, did it?” I asked, curious.
“Well, not really …”
“So, is it etched in the sky or the soles
of your feet that you must eternally change and move out of whatever comfort
zone you’re in?”
“No, but you can’t stay where you are, can
“Well, you just can’t.”
We can’t just stay in our comfort zones and
yet, when we do, there’s no bolt of lightening through our heart, the earth
doesn’t stop spinning and the sun comes up tomorrow.
In yoga – as in life – there are yang sessions and there are yin sessions.
Yang sessions are about extending
ourselves, pushing ourselves beyond present limits. Yang sessions can be
sweaty, aerobic (lots of panting) and we generally move from asana (pose) to
asana to asana in quick succession, constantly on the move.
Yin sessions are about accepting ourselves
as we are, about discovering where we’re at and acknowledging that. In an hour
we might do six to ten asanas, holding each for a longer time, being with the
extent of our bodies, being present to our limits and melting into the peace
that comes with that.
And, yes, there is this current fad of getting out of our comfort zones and, if we’re not, there’s something wrong with us. Like all fads, though, it will fade.
There’s value in extending ourselves,
learning new talents, discovering new lands, overcoming fears. Huge value.
However, if we’re constantly doing that,
we’re always on edge, always at tipping point, always slightly off balance.
It’s exciting, intoxicating and it can be addictive.
Remember, though, the reason for addictions is to avoid the inner (and illusory) fears and guilts that we carry everywhere with us. We can run but we can’t hide – they follow us from womb to tomb.
We need the excitement at times and we need to come back to balance – yin and yang.
The most fearful thing for a human is to be placed in solitary confinement with no sensory input – a dark and soundproof room.
And yes, deprived of outer input, we can
still and own our inner fears. We can befriend and release them.
The way of stillness gives us balance,
acceptance and maturity and a greater strength with which to slay all those
dragons out there.
You see, even God had a rest on the seventh
day. Why not us?