Sex Love & Laptops

 sexlovelaptops

‘Our fascination—or worse—our obsession with electronic technology has replaced our interest in sex or intimacy, more generally,’ said Dr. Paul R. Abramson, a professor of psychology at UCLA specializing in sex. ‘Technology is an instrument for accomplishing things. For other people, it is an end in and of itself. The latter are most vulnerable to having technology consume their lives. The tragedy of this consumption is not the power or evil of technology, but the psychological deficits.’

‘A study by the Specialist PlayStation3 site PS3pricecompare.co.uk of 1,130 British men found that one in three men would rather play video games than have sex with their partner. According to Genie James, M.Sc., Executive Director of the Natural Hormone Institute, hormonal imbalance and stress may be to blame for the study’s startling results. ‘It is very likely that these men are suffering from a hormone imbalance at a cellular level that causes them to lose interest in sex,’ says James. Lack of interest in sex is even starting to affect young men in their 20s. In the last several decades – young men living in industrialized nations have shown reduced sperm count and quantity of ejaculate.’

But it was as long ago as 2004 that scientists were researching the effects of laptop love on sperm count when ‘researchers from the State University of New York at Stony Brook undertook the first study into the effect of laptop heat on scrotal temperature. They found that using a laptop (on the lap) increased left scrotal temperature by a median 2.6°C and the right by a median 2.8°C. Several previous studies showed that increases in testicular or scrotal temperatures of between 1°C and 2.9°C are associated with a sustained and considerable negative effect on sperm count and fertility.

Lead researcher Dr Yefim Sheynkin, Associate Professor of Urology and Director, Male Infertility and Microsurgery at the University, said: ‘With the exception of an anecdotal report of genital burns, the effect of portable computers on scrotal temperature when they are used on the lap was not known. Laptops can reach internal operating temperatures of over 70°C. They are frequently positioned close to the scrotum, and as well as being capable of producing direct local heat, they require the user to sit with his thighs close together to balance the machine, which traps the scrotum between the thighs. We found that scrotal hyperthermia is produced by [this] special body posture and local heating effect of laptops.’ The median surface temperature of Pentium 4 computers used increased from nearly 31°C at the start of the experiment to nearly 40°C after one hour.’

A more recent study in the medical journal Fertility and Sterility also found ‘a link between laptop use and sperm count. The study took samples of human semen from 29 healthy men, and placed drops underneath a laptop that was using wireless fidelity to enable a download. When examined, a quarter of the sperm was no longer moving, compared to 14 per cent of the samples from a control group that was stored at the same temperature but not near a computer. Nine per cent of the laptop sperm showed DNA damage, which is three times as much as the control group. Fertility concluded that electromagnetic radiation produced by the laptop’s Wi-Fi was responsible for the lowered sperm count. A second test found that computers that were turned on but not connected wirelessly had little radiation.’

Of course it’s not just technology to blame: ‘Stress at work or home leads to high levels of adrenaline and the release of other hormones which can restrict blood flow to the testes and inhibit sperm production,’ explains a spokesperson at The Bridge Centre. ‘Stress can also lead to the release of chemical by-products, known as free radicals, which damage sperm.’

And Then There Was Porn!

‘Many men in their 20s who started watching porn at a young age (as early as 14) and currently consume porn daily have a low libido or even inability to get an erection, according to an Italian Society of Andrology and Sexual Medicine survey of 28,000 men.’

‘The American Society of Addiction Medicine’s definition of addiction states that all behaviors that are rewarding, not just substances, can become addicting including sexual activities. ‘That is what’s called a process addiction,’ says David Smith, M.D., past president of the American Society of Addiction Medicine and coauthor of Unchain Your Brain. ‘Evidence shows that you can become addicted to dopamine and because behaviors like porn, eating, and gambling release squirts of dopamine they can lead to addiction.’

The Internet allows for immediate access to porn, which wires the brain for that type of constant visual stimuli.  New or novel porn jacks up the release of dopamine but can eventually lead to an inability to masturbate without it, he says. So once they get in the bedroom with a real girl and the lights are off they can’t get the visual stimuli they need and can’t get it up.’

***

For further reading and the research studies quoted please see From Stress To Vitality NOW Secrets Of Love And Life Mastery For Men And Women

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The Farmer’s Boy and the Virgin

Rumor had her a virgin. He stepped over that threshold himself, a few months before on a warm night up-country in the tractor-driver’s hut. Mwala in an idle moment lasting half the day asked, ‘Done it yet?’ knowing full well he had not.

‘Not yet,’ said Harry, springing to attention in a dark place down there, bending forward hand-in-pocket to conceal in his khaki shorts a stalk of lust for a high-breasted coffee-colored coffee-picker in ragged homespun that hid nothing. Worn by Kate Moss it would be high fashion.

‘She likes you,’ said Mwala, lounging against a tractor wheel.

‘That one? Bikira?’ He whispered in awe as she went by, arrogant as a supermodel, sunlight glinting off the four-sided drum of plucked cherries on her head for which morning’s work she would receive one sumuni – half a shilling.

‘Ha-ha, ha-ha, ha-ha,’ Mwala jumped about in his blue overalls, slapping his thighs, head back and mouth wide in full-throated laughter. Had Harry made the best joke this side of Thika?

Mirth subsiding at his crestfallen reaction, Mwala shook his head. ‘No. Yes, she probably likes you, certainly likes you, perhaps even adores you, how could she not, ha-ha, ha-ha,’ forcing his face straight, ‘but she herself has not yet done it! And would be worth many cows fewer if it happens before she marries. No,’ he pointed with his chin, ‘Over there,’ at what could have been Bikira’s mother, a Kamba woman with leathery breasts, soon to be bouncing on top of Harry on a rickety African bed like a squeaky trampoline.

Mwala put his head round the drape before he finished.

‘Everything good, young man?’ Firelight reflected off his broad copper-skinned face.

Harry’s ancestors had their consummations witnessed, but that thought came later. Mwala’s pork-pie hat flung a shadow on the mud-and–wattle wall. Funny, what you notice when it’s not just your mind on other things.

‘Yes, for Gods sake,’ Harry cried, jerking his way to the first hot squirt inside something other than his fist. Well, not entirely true. Horny young beast, he took advantage of little orifices encountered on his wanderings in the African bush: holes in rocks, forks in branches…why, one steaming day he even whipped two green plastic cushions out of the Jeep, placed them side-by-side on the ground and aligned his throbbing teenage manhood between. Excited by the grip of hot plastic, he pumped to onanecstasy.

This was some decades before entering the world of tantra that elevates masturbation to meditation, a spiritual practice removed from the guilt-edged pleasures of boarding school where priests preached purity from the pulpit before sliding hands up altar-boys’ legs in the sacristy, settling in the confessional to hand out penance after eliciting the fullness of the sin.

‘And how many times? And did you take full pleasure? Every time? And did you do it together? And were you touching or just watching? And how many of you together? And did you climax together…Aaah!’ as with each question the words came faster and Father Confessor’s breathing heavier. They swore they could hear his cassock coming up and his hand going down.

‘Did you think he was really wanking?’ said Piers Minor, later expelled for submitting a drawing of an anchor on the letter W in the competition for a new school emblem. He ended up in finance, turning his hand to banking before being exposed, poetic justice.

‘Course he was.’

‘Father Feeley had a stiffy, I saw it.’

‘Yeah, Jones, bet you felt it.’

‘It’s only three Hail Mary’s if you do it alone.’

‘You don’t have to tell them.’

‘It’s supposed to be confession!’

‘Do priests confess?’

But back to the farm. Next day, morning roll call, in front of the whole coffee-picking gang, some eighty men, women and totos, she presents Harry with two live chickens, a brown and a white hanging by their legs. Everyone was laughing and he was burning. Burning for more but he remembered feeling something wasn’t there, down there up-country in the bush, but at least now he knew where to find it, an experienced sixteen-year old ready to give a girl a good time.

Soon he found one looking for just that. Drinking in the New Stanley, Harry, teenager in Palm Beach shirt, Elvis hair and sullen good looks, black jeans and motorbike boots not made for walking, tinkled the ice around his gin and tonic, feeling the stirring in his jeans, waiting for Mia…

Read more in the Erotic Romance collection of short stories Love to Die For

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PERFECT NORMALITY

It’s perfectly normal, isn’t it, to want a better life, achieve ambitions and fulfill desires, solve problems, let go some baggage, drop a few unnecessary habits – especially the more expensive ones! Lose a few fears or phobias. Funnily enough, once we’ve started on something it seems to spread into other areas, a kind of vicious cycle of well-being, satisfaction, and achievement, from the magnificent to the mundane.

What greater achievement than to change someone’s life for the better. To change our own! Understand our self, inspire your Self, start an avalanche in the mind. To under-stand the universe Einstein wanted to know ‘how God thinks.’ To understand a human being we must find out how we think – what motivates us; the feelings of your heart, the songs in your head, the thoughts in your mind. And to make the change?
Stanley, a musician, wanted to change an out-of-date way of thinking. He could lose himself in playing, but really found himself in conducting. ‘Ah, then, I am God!’ By visualizing, imagining himself as one of his orchestra, watching and following the instructions of the conductor, he succeeded in making his change, ‘by frequent rehearsal.’ Just a tweak, shifting from normal to another. In his world, his language, the language of the senses was the sense of hearing. Not surprising for a musician. It just needed adding the Visual, watching – and following – the conductor.

Are we not sensual beings, we humans? We love to watch movies, our favorite movie star, our football team, even our favorite soap, to see our favorite picture – would that be the one on the bathroom wall? To be seen in our favorite dress, our new heels or sneakers. Appearance is all – ask any hairdresser!
What were the pictures populating your mind as you read those words describing what we like to see? That’s your VIP: Visual Imagination Power, a Power-Tool for Transformation.
And do we not love to hear music, Mozart to Gaga, certain voices, sounds of na-ture, songs of the city? We love to taste, good food – good drink.
We love fragrances, scents, flowers, and perfumes. Britney and Madonna like to be associated with their own fragrance, and then bring out their own fashion lines, adding the power of appearance. And don’t singers love to act, crossing the edge from auditory to visual. Using new technology Abba made the first pop videos, motivated by the desire not to travel – Agnethe hated leaving her kids!
The power of the senses is easily understood when we look at the money invested in their gratification: selling and buying movies, TV, sports, music, perfumes, food … and the language of the senses is how we each express our own world. Understanding this helps us change – change what we want to change and keep what we want to keep. We need to know why, our motivation for change. Knowing this, we can learn the right technique.

And we love to learn! We learn to speak each other’s language, the language of the visu-al, if you see what I mean, or the language of the auditory if you hear what I’m saying, the language of the kinesthetic if you catch my drift, yes, smell the freedom – how does it taste? The sweet smell of success, the taste of achievement, the sound of letting go, the feeling of a weight off your chest, a load off your mind, seeing yourself, as you really want to be, the past in place – a place to learn from and move on.

Motivation is the key to changing lives, habits, our way of being. A friend, a woman, a vegetarian pacifist who would never harm a soul, but wanting to learn a martial art as a form of self-development – getting out of her box – baulked at the idea of violence. It took a single thought to redden her face and bare her strong white teeth as her blue eyes flashed fire, her hair stood on end and her hands seemed to grow claws of a tigress. And what was that thought? Well, you’ve maybe guessed it was about her children being threatened. Violence had a place in her brain she didn’t even know was there, but the limbic memory sprang into action. Now, for a mother, isn’t this perfectly normal?

Some of us had difficult childhood experiences. Now it’s obviously not possible to change the past, but what about changing our perception of the past? If past experiences color your perception of the world today, your world in the here and now, that’s Perfectly Normal. Are we not the sum of all that has ever happened? The good we have done, the bad we have done, the good done to us, and the bad done to us?
How might you have reacted to a situation in that childhood, with the resources of now: the knowledge, experience, the mental strength – even the physical strength? It is but a small step to imagine yourself in that same situation, but with your clear and present grown-up resources.
In this way we change our world, for what is our world but our perception of it? Make life a rich rewarding lesson. Someone told me I was lucky to have had the experi-ences I had, been to the places, met the people, done the things. Was I really lucky? Lucky I lost my father when I was a toddler? Lucky in the stepfather who raised me and my brother as his own – and abandoned us? My view of the world was perfectly normal for someone with those early experiences. When I took the conscious decision to change it, my new world became perfectly normal. It’s never too late and no dog learns new tricks so well as an old dog that simply adapts the old tricks.
And it’s not just scars from childhood, is it? That more recent past, not so far behind: wounds of betrayal or cruelty, deception and disappointment, heartbreak or humiliation, can we let these too distort our view of the world or can they too be placed in perspective, processed and dealt with. Some might call this a life of suffering but those same also say we cause that suffering for ourselves. Calling out from the depths of a vale of tears holds us in those depths, and we can leave them, and we can learn how. We have a choice, to dwell in the past, to long for the future: but meanwhile the present slips by.

It is a simple process, to find motive, and then to associate it with a desire. Imagine now, or remember, a moment of total pleasure, or a peak of achievement. Think of a time when you felt wonderful, from a moment ago to years ago, a moment when everything was right, perfect, in that moment, for however long or short a time. In your mind’s eye, see what you saw in that moment, the picture, and see where it is, in front of you or all around, colorful or black-and-white, moving or still, framed or panoramic –yes, that’s right, see what you see – are you in the picture or looking at it? Hear what you heard in that moment, feel what you felt, and where did you feel it? Where in your being? Was there fragrance, a smell or a taste?
Re-live that moment with all your senses and now, double the size of the picture and turn up the volume, double the feeling, the smell or the taste, and double again and again and again until your whole being is filled with that moment; all your senses, be there, in it all around, capture that look, that feeling, all those sensations, savor them, let them linger in your being, your mind, your body … and now, just be aware of how far you went, how deep, how you lived that moment as if it were now! That moment was your moment, special to you: where you were, what you saw, how you felt, what you heard, smelt or tasted.
We take that peak moment and anchor it, so that it can be revived and relived, at will. Then, we associate that moment with something you want to do, to achieve, to change, and instill the motivation deep inside you. Imagine now, how effective this can be in making change, achieving what you want, or desperately need, freedom from nega-tive programs drummed in from childhood, freedom from unnecessary habits or out-of-date ways of thinking, freedom even from the past – the past is where it belongs, behind you, and, if you let it go, completely over and done with! Freedom to move on, to let go, to cut the chains of the free.

Stress itself is Perfectly Normal. It’s how we react to Stress that gives us a headache. We all have our problems, difficulties, hopes and dreams but at some deep level within us dwell the resources to make the change you need to make and it’s just a matter of learning how to help yourself make those changes. And who knows, by changing your mindset you may come to find that more success, fulfillment and happiness can be … perfectly normal.

But now a new and insidious normal is seeping in, a normal that thrives on Stress and threatens Vitality.

***

Look Inside: From Stress to Vitality NOW! Secrets of Love and Life Mastery for Men and Women

Next: Laptop Love

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Working Zen

It took me a little time to get my head round Zen as a spiritual yet non-religious practice. A Catholic childhood had given me insights into mysticism but generally put me off religion, which, until middle age, I equated with organised belief systems. What, I wondered, was the difference between the Zen approach and the religious approach, between the spiritual way of Zen, Zen Buddhism and devotional Buddhism? The Zen word is itself a Japanese pronunciation of the Chinese word ch’an, from the Sanskrit dhyan: meditation.
The Zen philosophy evolved, through assimilation of Taoist concepts, beyond the duality – cause and effect – of traditional religious Buddhism which, like Judaism and later Christianity and Islam, clung to the idea of struggle: Good vs. Evil, Right Way vs. Wrong Way, leading inevitably to division within their belief systems.

The imported belief systems we have adopted over the millennia spring from the environments which enabled them to take root, grow, flourish and spread. The harsh environment of the desert where each day is a struggle for life, where extremes of heat and cold exist under a huge sky, home of an angry god who lays down laws of behaviour. Compare with the climates and seasons of the temperate zone, Europe, North America and much of Asia, where what are now described as the ‘Old Ways’ evolved, nurtured by spring, warmed in summer, harvested in late summer, conserved in fall, rested in winter: human in harmony with nature.

The patriarchal and judgmental religions of the Middle East became the new ways of the Old World. They brought out the competitive acquisitive nature of man, the relish for conflict and combat reflected – too gentle a word – in modern society. And the white man’s thunder-god carried these divisive ways into societies unprepared.
‘Seek not the truth, nor cherish opinions.’ Zen, like Taoism, understanding that Right and Wrong depend on the view of the observer, embraces Harmony: Heaven and Earth instead of Heaven and Hell.

With its clear and simple approach uncluttered by shibboleth, ritual or religious cant, Zen offered a refuge from the institutionalization and sectarian divisions of Buddhism and the tendency of many Buddhists to treat the Buddha as a kind of deity – He who said there is no God – and from the frustratingly unworkable concept of duality which condemns every Buddhist to ‘innate dissatisfaction with this life’ (The Dalai Lama’s Book of Wisdom, HH the Dalai Lama).

The simplicity of the Zen approach, a doctrine of No-Mind: ‘a way of seeing with a clarity free of preconception, of letting go duality’ (The Zen Doctrine of No-Mind, D T Suzuki) allows for profound spiritual practice to inform and enhance our actions in this world, whether shiatsu, meditation, martial arts, or just plain living.

In the library at Dharamsala I had witnessed the debates, monks with mallas wrapped around biceps, robes round shoulders, arms free to gesticulate, arguing philosophical disciplines and such matters as the relative karmic consequences of killing a real person or of killing an imaginary person. I drifted off into thoughts of the origins, the words of Shakyamuni Buddha committed to writing four centuries after being spoken. So many words: fifty years of teachings compressed into eighty volumes of scripture.

‘Enough,’ I imagined the rebel, Bodhidarma, declaring. ‘How can we gain merit picking to pieces such unlikely situations?’
‘Then how are we supposed to understand the scriptures?’ said the Rinpoche, the one aware of his previous incarnations.
‘Dhyan. Meditate. Just do it,’ replied Bodhidarma, gathering his robe about him, crossing his legs into lotus and gazing at the foot of the wall.
Later he rose and walked through the snowy Himalaya passes into Tibet, to find the ideas of the Buddha enlivened there with demons and deities, dakhinis and bodhisattvas, sustained by hierarchical monasticism, entrenched in illusion, with form, ritual and ceremony.
‘For illusion to exist it must be observed, therefore the observer exists,’ he mused, ‘who must be just as real as the illusion.’
Wandering east along mossy trails, he felt thoughts and words clouding the moment of clarity. ‘It is only my own experience that is real to me, as is our own to each of us, as was his own to Shakyamuni. He tried to communicate this, but had to use words. Can we do without words, empty the mind of all experience?’
‘Or let go searching,’ remarked Lao Tse, asleep by the wayside.
Bodhidarma stopped. ‘How do you know I seek?’
‘You move, therefore you seek. Whatever it is, is already there. You know it, even if you cannot define or describe it. Do you dance?’
‘Of course,’ replied Bodhidarma, ‘what spiritual teacher doesn’t?’
The Patriarch and the Celestial Master circled in stately rhythm, singing to the rocky hills.
Sang Lao Tse: ‘Being in the ordinary way, strolling through life, supremely at leisure.’
Responded Bodhidarma: ‘Living each day intensely, as if your hair were on fire!’
‘Tis simple to understand but not to explain,’ trilled the Sage.
Bodhidarma slowed, a slight frown creasing the fearsome brow.
‘The idea of seeing your face before you were born is actually quite hard to understand and cannot be explained at all.’
‘No understanding, no explanation,’ sang Lao Tse, ‘no thought, no talk,
just mystic quietism,
dancing or working,
healing or fighting,
loving or losing,
singing a song or sewing a seam,
coming or going, yet always at home.’
‘Ah,’ Bodhidarma beamed, ‘mystic quietism – sitting in meditation, contemplating koans.’
Lao Tse grinned as he hopped around a stone. ‘Just sitting, just living, it’s all meditation. Beyond definition, beyond description, beyond using words to promote the idea of no-words. Ch’an. Just do it.’
‘Long speech,’ said the Patriarch.
‘You’re getting the idea,’ said the Sage, mounting an ox, ‘you only need words to heal, to comfort and to teach.’ He sat still on its back as the ox plodded away, calling over his shoulder, ‘Let good fortune jump on you.’
Bodhidarma strolled into the rising sun, contemplating the moment of not thinking, of connection with reality. When you start to think, he thought, you’re back in mind and the moment has become of the past. Our lives are spent heading for the future, away from the past, while the present slips by unnoticed. Our lives are spent. We spend our lives. We spend. And yet to stop the mind thinking is like asking the heart to stop beating. Is no-mind a philosophy? Is not-thinking a discipline? There must be more to it than that!
He met the Yellow Emperor by way of the Dragon Gate and asked him ‘Why are we here?’
‘Are we here? and if we are, why not? Do we need a reason? What reason could there be? To sit in meditation until arms and legs wither? To pray to a god? To renounce society or to live in society? To live right? What is right?’
With a mental shrug Bodhidarma gave up, and watched the dawn of subtle clear light and heard at last the silent thunder: ‘Neither seek the truth nor cherish opinions. Zen. Just get on with it.’

***

from Finding Spirit in Zen Shiatsu

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Death and Birth

My own story nearly ended there, on that beach, under those palms.  Too many mushrooms, not enough water, too much dancing, from midnight until the sun was high.  Some still danced, in the pools of their shadows.  At breakfast a man I did not know filled a chillum and asked if I had enjoyed my flight.  I went to Leela Beach, the sacred grove of the goddess, and lay on the sand and swam in the sea.  Then it hit me and I crashed and burned in the noonday sun, a mad dogged Englishman who didn’t know when to stop.

Heavy sticky eyes opened to a vision of an angel beside me, rolling a spliff.  Had we danced?  My mind shot back to another life, the Haymarket Theatre, Andre de Shields dancing and singing, ‘I dreamed about a reefer that was five miles long,’ and drew in a deep breath of hot harsh smoke into a black red dark suddenly crowded with friends, lovers, business associates, family, everyone I had ever known.  I saw my son in the future, ranging across the world, my daughter recovered from addiction, rosy-cheeked and chubby in blue gingham, playing with two chubby children.

The images gave way to a tunnel of light.  This, I found myself thinking at some level far removed from whatever reality I was in now, is not a good time.  Or was it?  I had no ties any more, no responsibilities to anyone, really.

‘Are you ready?’

Why not?  It has to happen sometime and here was ideal.  I was experiencing a new feeling, quite extraordinary.  There was no fear, no regret, no sadness, no anger, no pain, no sorrow, no apprehension.  Everything felt perfectly right, at true peace.  It was, I felt, unconditional happiness and to it there was no end.  I was coming into a community of love and peace.  I have no need to search, no need to wander, I was at home, eternal rest and peace in the love of the universe, my family and humankind.  I thought of the happiness I had been given on earth, and the happiness I had given.  Everything was beautiful.

‘I am ready.’

My body was closing down.  The back of my throat, my tongue, the roof of my mouth and inner cheeks had dried out.  My heart had slowed and dried.  I could not feel or hear any beat.  My lungs were collapsed and still.  The light faded.  I had accepted death.  My soul readied itself to shuffle off.  Below, the body lay empty.

‘Do you want to go?’

I was ready but not willing because, on earth, I was in this paradise.  ‘I want to make love again.  I want to fall in love.  I want to be in love.’

My eyes flickered. I saw the sun and the palm tree, breathed in sunlight between my eyebrows and knew she would always be there, shining and smiling, giving light and life.  With my mind’s eye I looked inward and upward to a point at the top of my head, between my skull and my scalp.  My crown opened to the sky, the stars and planets, the galaxies and constellations of the visible universe.  I saw myself, standing in space, feet on the earth, head in the stars, sun in my navel, moon in my kidneys.  The North Star opened to the universe beyond the visible, white mountain reflected in a crystal lake, an ancient healing forest, the sun in the ocean, fire blazing under water.

I looked downwards and inwards to my internal universe, my inner space, and there saw chaos as planets clashed.  My spirit was like a man caught halfway out of his pajamas.  I left it to come back in its own way.  I lay inside my skull, behind my nose.  It was like being in an infrared bath.  I looked at the inside of the bone, inside the cavity of my skull.  I saw my teeth from behind and felt my tongue.  I opened my eyes to feel the atmosphere of earth.  The sun shone between clouds and warmed my face.  From my place inside my head I could see out.  The girl lay beside me, looking away.  I went down to my fingers.  They could move but were uncoordinated.  I went to my legs.  No longer empty: I could move them.

I visited my organs, thinking to practice the meditation of the Inner Smile to help me return.  It was like a battlefield in there.  Heart was charred, lungs a forest of blackened twigs.  Liver and gallbladder were screaming with anger.  Stomach, spleen and pancreas were wiped out, kidneys exhausted.  Intestines lay inert in heaps like sausage skins and bladder, flaccid.  Sex was neutral, nothing, empty.

‘I’m sorry,’ I said.

They spoke to me.  ‘Will you look after us now?’

‘Yes.’

‘Will you do this again?’

I wanted to reassure them but they waited for the truth.

‘I don’t know.’

I asked them if they would stop functioning and kill me if I did it again.  They said, ‘We don’t know.  What happens, happens.’

In the long dark silence a tremor touched my heart and a whisper woke my lungs.  From a deep well of healing power moisture seeped back into the leathery tongue and numb lips.

I gave up the mushrooms.  I had put the money aside to buy them, calculating how far my budget would extend to cover two-parties-a-week’s worth.  I was going through all the processes one of my rehab-clinic patients described, of thinking about going to the dealer, the high of anticipation, entering the dealer’s house and sitting among the waiting customers, all the conversation around the drugs, of being invited into the private room, the VIP treatment of a habitual user, a regular customer, of going home thinking about what was in her handbag, taking the hit, looking forward to the effect, imagining it, waiting and, then, surrender.  All over so soon but not so soon over as the blind goddess resumed her domination of every waking moment.

All I had to do in Haad Rin was walk into the cafe and order a glass of ‘special’ tea or a ‘special’ pancake, affordable, available and if not quite legal nobody cared on an island of traditional sanctuary …

The Spirit of Love struck in the spring …

from Finding Spirit in Zen Shiatsu

Next time: Working Zen

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Gratitude Revisited

Listening to Psychic Sahar’s interview with me, there began a trickle that became a waterfall of memories: this time last year I had lost the sight in my right eye and my left was getting dimmer.  I could no longer see in depth.  On holiday in Mexico, stumbling down stone steps to a sandy beach, I could not tell and so I fell, a few times, enough to really worry me, and my beloved.  I had lost, or was about to lose, the apartment where I had lived for twenty-two years, and found nothing anywhere near suitable to move to.  I had lost my Shiatsu School, destroyed by two who believed they could stop watering a garden and still get flowers.

Were these reasons for Gratitude?  Had I not taught the Taoist ‘Contract with the Universe,’ demanding Gratitude for everything that happens to us?  Had I not preached the virtues of treating Triumph and Disaster just the same?  Yet everyday I woke up with the knot in my gut.  Yet every day I looked at the light from the window, at my beloved by my side, and was grateful to be alive, to be in love, every day.

Back from holiday, I went to the doctor.  Six weeks later I walked out of the operation with tears in my eyes and joy in my whole being, crying ‘I can see, I can see!’  After another six weeks they took the cataract from the other eye.  I can read without glasses, except the small print; I can drive without glasses; I can see ever more clearly the lovely features on the beautiful face of my beloved.  I thanked all the Gods and Goddesses and Mother Nature and above all our wonderful, fantastic, amazing NHS. And I felt gratitude.

And then, in the Spring when things begin, we found a place.  A little two-bedroom house, with its own front door, and a garden.  We moved in June. We love it here.  We are grateful and glad, and thank our lovely housing association for finding it for us, and everyone who made it possible for us to move and live here, with both our names on the lease.  I feel gratitude.

Last week, a judge struck out the case that had been brought against me over the closure of the School.  I am grateful to the RSA insurance company who paid for my defence, for the justice of English law, and for the support I had from the former teachers and other students who were willing to bear witness for me.  I feel gratitude.

These twelve months have passed now, and I’ve been updating some of my e-books.  In one, Finding Spirit in Zen Shiatsu, I saw I had quoted a man I met on the steps of the Jade Buddha temple in Chiang Mai.  He said, ‘The universe, she always smiles when you trust her.’  And then I remembered the boy in the Best Exotic Marigold Hotel saying ‘Everything’s all right in the end, isn’t it, and if it’s not, it just means it’s not yet the end.’

Throughout all those tribulations my beloved Anamarta has been the foundation of love and support that has sustained me.  Because whatever I preach to others, like any Tai Chi teacher, I am trying to correct my own failings.  And to my NLP colleagues, yes, I used the word ‘trying’ with all its implications, deliberately.

It’s not the end, yet.  It’s the continuation of Life, complete with challenge, Triumph and Disaster: those two imposters ain’t goin’ nowhere.  So I look at the light coming in the window, I look forward to my beloved returning from dancing with the gypsies in the deserts of Rajastan; to the boundless opportunities filling the future, and for being alive and well and happy and in love right here and now in this present moment: I feel Gratitude!

 

 

 

 

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Travelling Light

Sitting quietly in the Tao Garden some months later I noticed a young man giving me the keen interested glances of someone seeing someone he thought might be a highly evolved spiritual being. I was cultivating the long hair and dreamy countenance of one with his mind on higher things and accordingly bedecked with bracelets and bangles, ear-ring and beads, clothed in ethnic trousers, sandals and one of those guru-shirts that lend an aura of peace and serenity.  I’d recently attended a Vipassana retreat too, so must have looked pretty holy, perhaps even halogenically enlightened.

kris_guru

His bow, almost a walking prostration, as the young man approached showed the immense measure of respect with which he had decided to endow the presentation of me that I was offering the world at the time. His first words, uttered as if in a cathedral or the presence of a cathedral spirit, caressed my ego.

‘May I speak with you?’ he said, sounding American. Graciously I inclined my head.  He continued, ‘I feel I can learn many things from you.’

‘How can I help you?’ I said in a conversational tone and my normal English accent.  His eyes, lowered until he heard my voice, looked up startled, ‘Where are you from?’ he asked.

‘London, England,’ I replied.  His face fell as fast as he stood upright. ‘London? England?’  I tried the gracious nod again but it bounced off the wall of indignation forming around him as he stared angrily at my clothes, my hair, bracelets, beads and sandals, and took a step back.

‘I thought you might have been a…from…. I thought I might have learned something from you,’ he said like a child to a broken promise.  I was curious. ‘Learned something like what?’

‘Something, oh I don’t know, wise stuff. Yeah, some wisdom.’

‘Maybe you have,’ I said after him, as he walked away under his disappointed cloud, seeking a distant truth.

You know what they say: nowadays the westerners wear the robes, the gurus drive the Mercedes.  I got my hair cut, chucked the ornamentation. I bought cool gear in Waikiki boutiques, signed up for NLP with Richard Bandler.  Nobody mistakes me for a medicine-man any more.

As I see it, there’s no Buddha, no living beings, no long ago, no now. If you want to get it, you’ve already got it–it’s not something that requires time.  There’s no religious practice, no enlightenment, no getting anything, no missing out on anything.  At no time is there any other Dharma than this.  If anyone claims there is a Dharma superior to this, I say it must be a dream, a phantom.  The Zen Teachings of Master Lin Chi, tr Burton Watson.

I had lived about half of the hundred years to which we are all entitled when I found myself sitting in that circle around an open fire in the mountains of Colorado, wondering how to live in a spirit of love, in this life, amid the slings and arrows of outrageous fortune.

The Rainbow Family’s answer was simple: each day do Three Good Things: Something for yourself, Something for another person, Something for your community.

I added my own Daily Reality Check:  Am I doing what I want to do? Am I being where I want to be? Am I with who I want to be with?

Giving Shiatsu, expressing through my hands the unconditional love in my heart, was doing something for another person. By connecting with the universal love of Spirit, I was doing something for myself.  By teaching Zen Shiatsu I was doing something for my community.

For me, that was a Yes, and I want to share that Yes with You. If an early seeker, you may find aspects of my practice of use.  As a seasoned traveller you may have a little fun at my expense, thinking how much better your own practice or how superior your teacher.  You will learn something, if only that you have nothing to learn.  It doesn’t matter really: we dance the same spiral with different steps as we follow the trail that leads to Spirit, by temple, church or beach.  Mine was beach.  I had designed a life to travel in the light, a life that included a lot of beach, but a life I nearly lost, on a beach.

* * *

Travelling Light, from Finding Spirit in Zen Shiatsu

Next time: Death and Birth

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