Wednesday, April 26, 2017

Being a Christian, Being a Scientist, Being Wholly Human

By Beyond Thought we mean beyond dualistic thinking; beyond those either-or choices we’re so often expected to make in life. Like the great Science: Religion debate, for example.

Thus, when I hear someone ask how they can reconcile being a Christian with being a scientist, I’m puzzled. I’ve always been a Christian (my parents were both active with my local church whilst I was growing up) and always been a scientist (since studying Maths, Physics and Chemistry A-levels) and never had a problem being both together. So how have a managed to do this whilst others seems to suffer agonies over the supposed dichotomy of conflicting world-views?

Well, that’s the first point: since reflecting on such things consciously I’ve been willing to acknowledge dichotomy, embrace a paradox and rise above (apparent) contradictions. Science and Christianity (or any religion) are merely (to me) two perspectives on what we call reality. Neither is right nor wrong, good nor bad, better nor worse: they’re just different! It’s looking being either side of a window: we can be inside looking out or outside looking it. Two very different views through the same window.

Being a scientist, to me, is about exploring my reality, making sense of the world and my place in it through rational enquiry . . . by asking question. By understanding things better I improve my relationships with life  . . . I become more whole, more conscious. As science expands itself to embrace quantum physics and consciousness, this journey become even more fascinating and rewarding!
Being a Christian has two facets for me: being a Christian within a community is about practicing rather than preaching. To love your neighbour  . . . and love your enemy. And being a Christian on a personal journey is about developing my Christ-consciousness: become more whole and complete through improving my relationship with God, with life.

So, to me, both paths are about creatively growing towards greater consciousness.  As I pursue them, with conviction, willingness and openness to deeper understanding and revelation, they meet each other. I’ve found that both paths amount to a common path towards finding ourselves and being a whole, fulfilled, human-being at peace with themselves and the world. That journey might take all of our lives, it may involve embracing paradoxes, but isn’t that why we’re here?

May your reflections be enlightened!


PS This particular image of a view through a window was taken around Nov 5th some years ago. Fireworks can be enjoyable and instil a sense of wonder or a very scary experience. It all depends on your perspective . . .

PPS Some readers might be surprised to see this article from me, since I rarely, explicitly, describe myself as Christian, and am just as likely to be writing or speaking about Buddhism or Taoism. But I was confirmed into the Church of England as teenager. And I have no problem relating constructively to any other (constructive!) philosophy, religion or approach to life . . .

Monday, April 3, 2017

The One Spirit of Brexit

How can we best stay positive and hopeful during the next 2 years (and perhaps longer) during the Brexit process? How can we all, each and every one us, play our part in smoothing the process and bringing about the best result for everyone: Brits and fellow Europeans alike?

Because isn’t that part of the reason the vote for Brexit went the way it did: that so many individuals felt excluded from the EU and related political and bureaucratic decisions and benefits? If we want a better, stronger, Britain as a result, such factors have to be taken into account!

And, underlying the practices and projects, the mechanisms and debate, what is it that matters most here?

This song, to me, sums it up.

Amongst my very good friends are Polish, French and Greek (well, Greek-Australia, actually: which further makes my point!). I’ve lived in England, Wales and Portugal, worked closely with Scandinavians, Germans, Irish, Belgians and Italians. I’ve had wonderful holidays, for example, in Croatia and Spain. I’m proud to be English but am very much a European . . . and that won’t change one iota during and after Brexit.

Why? Because in all my relationships with my fellow Europeans, I’ve enjoyed our differences (e.g. in exploring the wide-ranging cuisine of our continent) and, at the same time, connected with them as fellow human-beings.

Brexit will succeed because of the British Spirit, a One Spirit of Friendship to those we live amongst and work alongside . . . particularly in times of uncertainty.

Brexit will succeed because of the human spirit: our underlying need to belong and engage with each other: the One Spirit of Co-operation.

Listen to, and preferably sing along with this song . . . (or audio version here)

The family of Man keeps sowing
The seeds of a new life every day

What sort of seeds are you sowing, every day?

Let us each, in our own way, endeavour to sow seeds of friendship, by smiling, by actively listening.

Let us each, at every chance we get, sow seeds of co-operation by being willing to open our minds to perspectives different from our own.

Let us each, day by day, live in the One Spirit that is Human love for fellow-man and for our wonderful home planet.

Thursday, January 19, 2017

Beyond Thought . . . Beyond IT?

My own life has paralleled the rise of IT: I was running training on PCs before most folks had heard of them and using the internet before there was a www. And I try to keep abreast of developments, making use of cloud storage for collaboration and so on. But I do wonder where it's all taking us . . . and whether we might be depending on it a mite too much?

Thus I've written an extended article, expanding on what we mean by 'Beyond Thought' in daily life, on how IT may merely be preparing us for something even more powerful and transformative: Connected Living: Beyond the Cloud

It's based on an article I wrote and put on-line at least 15 years ago:

Tuesday, January 17, 2017

Responding to the post-truth era

We start 2017, it seems, in a new era. One where certain individuals and groups seem happy to invent their own truth and promote it as the one Reality. This sort of thing has always gone on of course but, through social media, a piece of info, by trending, can become de facto truth . . . If we let it.

We each have a choice now more than ever. We can allow fabricated information to flourish or even support misleading posts . . . or we can counter such creeping untruths by, for example, sharing only news or perspectives that have integrity.

Of course, what constitutes dependable or worthy information is debatable. How can we best ensure we respond to a suspect post in the 'right' way?

By giving ourselves chance to reflect and recognising that this is up to us! We can no longer rely on teachers, politicians or any expert to know what our needs are. Even if they happen to be honest they are still unlikely to be aware of our particular circumstances enough to offer the best advice. Deciding what is right for us really is our own, personal responsibility. Surely, at some level, we know what we need to know?

Well, yes, we probably do: but accessing it, as and when we most need to, is trickier. Somehow we need to be able to sidestep those bits of us that are impatient for instant results . . . and ignore (or rise above) those nagging voices in the head that come from inertia or fear.

What tools and techniques are available to help?

Thankfully, these days there are many practices (and related teachers or mentors) that are enable connection into the deeper reality of a situation. I usually turn to Reiki (go here for a free, short explanatory webinar).

For example I'm writing this on a train journey home from a short weekend break. The carriage is fairly empty but at the other end to us are a group of young woman. I find myself getting irritated by their loud voices and raucous laughter. I tell myself that they're just being themselves and enjoying themselves - something I'm often encouraging others to do. That I have difficulty tuning them out stems from never having developed that ability: because I never needed to. But I do see that it’s my issue. So I go into self-healing mode (although Reiki is often presented as a therapy you have a therapist do to you, it is at its most powerful when learnt for self-healing, relaxation and personal growth). I become aware that it’s a rather ancient train and carriage which make a lot of noise when travelling at speed: something else I might find myself getting annoyed by. I smile at the paradox: one irritation has neutralised another! The old train, by being noisier than newer ones makes the sound of other passengers less of an issue.

This is what ‘being present’ is all about: finding a way of seeing a situation that makes it easier to accept those things we cannot change . . . or provides the motivation or courage to change those things that we can. In the post truth era, when we cannot, perhaps, trust others, we can and need to, develop our own ability to see and respond from our own deeper/higher truth. Just the job for Usui Reiki.

Sunday, November 20, 2016

Reiki in the Workplace

Beyond Thought Today is about bringing together the conventional and spiritual worlds. Here's a great example:

At the time I took my Second Degree Reiki, 20 years ago, I was working in the electronics industry, on the quality and reliability of the very latest silicon chips . . . such as were used in the first digital telephone exchange (remember BT’s Buzby?). A world away, you might think, from Reiki. Indeed, shortly after taking Reiki Masters I resigned my electronics job to become a Reiki teacher. But there are many applications of Reiki to the workplace and overlaps between my work then and with Reiki: not least that both are concerned with subtle energies. And, even in those first few months as a ‘Reiki 2’, I made good use of the symbols within the Research and Developments labs where I worked.

For example, if one of our product failed it would be my job to find our why and to ensure it didn’t happen again. Continuous Improvement is key to any business be it holistic health or electronics. We had and would follow systematic processes for analysing the failure but, more often than not, no obvious or logical cause could be ascertained. Enter Reiki. I needed to think laterally, to put myself in the position of the user, for example; to take a step back and ‘see’ what had happened a few days, weeks or months previously. If that’s not a job for transcending time and space by using the Reiki symbols, then I don’t know what is!

If we look at ‘healing’ in the broadest sense, then Reiki is about building bridges, understanding different perspectives and connecting, for example to colleagues, clients and suppliers, beyond the hype and theory. This is fairly obvious in a therapy context: in giving Reiki we’ll tune into our client and are often able to intuit factors relating to the reason for visiting us. Exactly the same idea can be applied in any working relationship.

Say, for example, we thought we’d agreed a new project or collaboration but everything has gone quiet. We’re getting anxious and frustrated that nothing is happening. What do we do? We send absent healing to the situation, tuning in to those involved. More often than not, in the stillness of such healing we’ll sense that the other party is just very busy or got personal issues to deal with . . . or that they have changed their mind. Either way, the Reiki can help us acknowledge the changing reality of a situation rather than get stressed up about it.

Thus, the ability of Reiki to connect us to ‘every thought and every feeling that ever was, is and might be’ (as I describe a distance healing in my Reiki 2 sessions), has huge potential in any workplace. In the hustle and bustle of a business, particularly dominated by so much on-line, instant everything, don’t we need, more than ever, to take a step back to see what’s really going on beneath the promises and procedures? It’s the ageless paradox: the reason Reiki is so needed in the workplace is precisely the reason it seems so out of place there.

Not forgetting the obvious
Added to these benefits is the obvious physical value of Reiki as a tool for relaxation and stress management/prevention. An introductory Reiki session one lunch-time, for example, will allow staff to sample the effects, feeling for themselves the chilled results. Those most interested can then be offered First Degree training, so they can do it for themselves whenever they need to.

All of the above uses of Reiki can be offered under a broader umbrella. A few years ago, for example, I was working with Bangor University on their Employability Award which provides opportunities for students to gain credits for intern-ships, volunteering and training to help prepare them for working life. I devised a series of workshops called Working with Wisdom, aimed at complementing a student’s subject-specific study with broader life-skills. Included in the series was an introduction to Reiki (for relaxation), Making Friends with Time and Cultural Awareness, each looking at one facet of being generally more aware. Besides including a specific Reiki session, I referred to it in the others sessions and always included some practical, reflective practice. Anything to help these students, often stressed by academic pressures, to step back and tune in to a deeper reality

Always well received, these sessions helped to get the idea across that being able to do well in a work environment isn’t just about knowing one’s subject: it’s also about having a deeper awareness of others (which we might call Emotional Intelligence) for example. All too often the emphasis is on knowledge: facts and theories but, as I’d found in my electronics days, often these are not enough. To make that vital breakthrough, to get through a day effectively and efficiently one also needs to be wise. And what better path to wisdom that Reiki!

But how?
That’s fine in theory, you may be thinking, but how do we do Reiki in an office or other workplace? Remembering that Reiki is something that can be done anytime, anyplace, anywhere, the simple answer is to just do it. You’ll probably find that colleagues are so tied up in their own dramas that they won’t even notice. And, if they do, what better opportunity to tell them about the wonders of Reiki?

Here’s a few suggestions:

  • Whenever you’re not actually doing anything, for example whilst commuting, whilst on the phone, or even in a meeting, give yourself some Reiki. No one is going to notice you with your chin in your hand, or hand on your shoulder, on stomach, or clasped around the back of the head. There are so many comforting places that we, naturally rest our hands: all that is then required is to allow ourselves to go into Reiki mode as we do so.

    (One tricky part might be to do this Reiki with eyes open, or others may think we’re sleeping! But it is perfectly possible to give ourselves Reiki whilst keeping an awareness of what’s going on around us. Reiki, after all, connects us into the here and now.)
  • Remember the Reiki Principles, in particular: Just for today I will do my work honestly. What is you real work? I found that, even in a busy office, the most important work for me to do was often my own inner work. Or perhaps your real work in your workplace is to be present, to heal that place of work?
  • Use the symbols to heal whatever situation you feel needs healing. Reflect on the situation and superimpose the symbols onto that mental picture . . . and see what comes to you.

You may need a few minutes quiet time to yourself to do some of this, but there’s always the comfort break or the walk to get a drink. And don’t forget that Health & Safety at Work requires you to have regular rests from computer screens: take them! And use the time to have a stretch . . . and use those Reiki symbols.

Sunday, October 9, 2016

Crossing the Cultural Chasm

In a number of different scenarios the idea of a gulf or chasm between two different ways of thinking is very much in evidence. In the West, for example, the Arts: Science divide is often considered insurmountable. But the list of chasms is a long one: young: old, rural: city and religious beliefs for example. Or even the timeless man: women. Few would deny some fairly fundamental differences in how these respective pairings of mind-sets operate!

In global, cultural terms we might offer East and West as two banks on either side of a chasm: the West with its Cartesian, rational, science-based cultural and ways of thinking, the East, the Chinese in our case, more Taoist: practical, flowing; more akin, perhaps to the Arts bank: concerned with sensing, feeling and first-hand experiences.

But how can these, and other similar differing world-views, be reconciled? They are, by their nature, different ways of thinking, alternative ways in which the individuals concerned engage with others and with life itself: they are often deeply embedded cultural phenomenon.

As the world becomes one global home the need to bridge such cultural chasms becomes ever greater: how else can we live sustainably, in harmony? But is it possible?

Let us take the Arts/Experiential and Rational/Scientific gulf as an example. To some individuals and groups, there is no question that bringing together experience and rational explanation is not just possible but an essential step in securing a future for our individual selves and our species. Although currently small in number, relative to the global population, a few people are, it seems, able to exist in both camps, feel comfortable on both banks of the Arts/Experiential and Science/Rational chasm. 

How to they do so? In my PhD thesis I called it a process of transcendence: the term immediately highlighting a key feature: that the resulting way of thinking, is at a different level of consciousness. It embraces the previous two modes whilst going beyond both. It might also be considered an integration process: the sum of the two being very different to either of the parts. The process can be applied to many of the cultural chasms listed above and may be simply illustrated using that same chasm analogy.

The Transcendence Process

1. Before:
Individuals on either bank who think this way cannot even see the other bank; they cannot even imagine that a different way of thinking even exists. They only know their own type of consciousness and that no other form is possible. Ne’ r the twain shall meet.

2. A step up
Here an individual on their side of the bank has climbed a hill or built a tower and looked around. They become aware of a far bank, of some land separated from their own, though may have little understanding as to what it is.

In consciousness terms this might equate to the scientist attending a concert and finding they enjoy it; or an artist needing to do their annual account and finding that it’s not as hard as they had feared.

Fuelled by this experience, and blessed with an open and enquiring mind, such individuals will explore further, they climb higher mountain, begin building bridges or boats and exploring beyond their mental comfort zones. 

3. Taking Flight
One day the intrepid explorer will take to a hot air balloon and see the bigger picture: two banks with a chasm between them. Maybe, they’ll let the wind take them over the gulf, land the other side and dare to set foot in uncharted territory.

For that is what free-form artistic creation might seem like to a life-long paper-writing scientist: or how a page of numbers and calculations might appear to an artist. Different world views. And there is no alternative to experiencing them to attain any form of appreciation of them.

In consciousness terms, this hot-air balloon experience might be a guided meditation (or visualisation of a hot-air balloon perhaps!) which is particularly moving. The individual has an experience that doesn’t fit into their existing world view, in places them in a different mental place or space. Such experiences can occur to anyone at any time, probably when that individual is ready to explore further. In my case it came when I, as an engineer, found I could dowse.

And it’s those moments when, in a strange land, after the initial confusion and frustration on arriving tired and confused, after a good rest, when relaxing you suddenly ‘get it’. For example, the Spanish have word: Mañana. Which I’d never really understood: it certainly didn’t seem to mean the literal “tomorrow”! Then, during one holiday, in the beautiful Andalusia, I was sat, totally relaxed, drinking a freshly squeezed local orange juice at a bar/café in a small town. Watching the world go by and observing the locals going about their business I just knew what mañana was all about: allowing the day and tasks to take their naturally, unhurried course.

4. Out of this World

The balloonist's vantage point is more than being able to set foot in both camps. Transcendent consciousness embraces both, can switch between the two at will and even be outside of both.

To really appreciate the chasm, it’s valley, surrounding landscape and place on the globe, our intrepid explorer has to go into space. From up here the chasm has disappeared, the differences between the two world-views are as irrelevant as that between red and green for a colour-blind person.

A transcendent state of consciousness is probably not describable in words, but typical attempts to describe it might say it is one in which everything and everyone are ‘as one’, where a deep sense of peace and connection are obtained. Yes, it probably is similar to or comparable with that enlightened, nirvana, state reported by mystics, yogis and gurus. But it’s a state, a mode of consciousness that is natural and available to anyone. In this mental state, we know that every human-being is unique and special . . . and we all have the same basis need: to love and be loved.

Please don’t think this is a definitive road-map towards a blissful, higher level of consciousness: if only it were that easy! This article is meant only to set the scene, to provide an impression of a typical journey. It probably helps not at all to imagine there are specifically 2 or 3 steps, stages or levels. The process, from my own experience and in observing countless others, is an on-going one: we may go from satellite to tower, from balloon to base-line and back again many times before a transcended state is anything like our normal, waking, consciousness. It seems to take many experiences of others levels of heightened consciousness/awareness before a mind conditioned to being on one bank or others of some chasm or another can truly go with the flow in the river between the two and in the air that flows over both.

An engineer’s perspective

So many different factors can affect how easy or difficult it might be to engage with and make progress with this transcendence process. In hindsight I was lucky to find my way into engineering. With applied science I was always exposed to the creative process and to human factors. A good engineer understands aesthetics as full as scientific principles, can work with natural flow as well as abstract formulae: Thomas Telford’s Menai Suspension Bridge being an excellent local example.

Engineers often know a few things about spanning gorges: physical and metaphysical. But then, so too can a mathematician appreciate the beauty of numbers, or a musicians understand both the mathematical and inner significance of what they are playing. Transcendence is more an approach to life, a willingness to throw ourselves into a chosen field and allow the nuances of all that entails to enthral and support us. The process of bridging a cultural chasm is an adventure through which we evolve from, often frustrated, humans doing this or that to a whole human-being: at peace with ourselves and our place in the world.