Tag Archives: Questions

What am I not sharing?

I think it is worth being explicit about what I have not written about. Reading this blog, you may reasonably assume it is not my every thought, but you may also be unclear about to what degree I am censoring myself. I think this matters.

It matters to me because it helps me be more conscious about when I am censoring myself and the importance of what is not said in any exchange (written or verbal). It is also a way of exploring the boundaries and niches of online forums such as this, as satirised by Ben Elton [link]. It is also a response to books such as Paul Theroux’s where my curiousity about what he was NOT sharing actually started to draw me away from what he was.

So, some of the things I have not shared:

  • The frequency and nature of my rapturous, joyous, ecstatic, flooding experiences of bliss, or when I have had some deeper realisations of truth – whether during meditation, accompanied by music or a particular stimulus or otherwise. These experiences are hard to describe because so much happens in such a short amount of time, and more something I hope to share with every reader of this when I meet them face to face , with perhaps my presence reflecting how I have been affected by these experiences.

  • The significance of the quite limited number of thoughts that have often been crossing my mind. For long periods in the first half, and especially middle of my journey, there was really not a lot going on in my head. Which is nice. What did come into my head could then be considered, or let go of, from a place of restful silence.

  • My fleeting, but quite powerful at the time, thoughts and feelings about some of the beautiful women I have met along the way. e.g. the Pakistani housekeeper, the German tourist, the Californian student, the eyes of Iranian women peering over their Burkhas, the Chinese nightclub hostess(es), the many Balinese beauties, and the Hani women. I didn’t share this  with you, or them because…um….I didn’t want to embarrass anyone  (especially myself – ha ha ha). I also didn’t share them because I guess I fully enjoyed these experiences at the time, but I am actually quite closed to really exploring them further or in giving them real weight. The other common interpretation of these feelings was that they were actually just a specific expression of a more general feeling of love, rapture and desire to create and celebrate all types of beauty, magic and connection in the world and the woman standing in front of me just happened to be an object on to which I projected that feeling.

  • The decent amount of time I spent in the second half of the journey talking to (in my head) and thinking about my past, present and future (hopefully) intimate relationships.

  • How much I have been spending. Though I think about $26AUD a day is close to the average, not including major transport costs (flights, European, Australian and long-distance Asian trains).

  • All the times (not actually THAT many) that I got embarrassingly ripped off. I would have shared them, if they were really funny or extreme, but they weren’t.

  • My curiousity, nervousness and shifting perspectives about returning to Australia, being Australian, and everything that goes along with that.

  • How much work I have been doing along the way. Which is quite a bit, perhaps 8 to 10 8-hour-day-equivalents? I’ve enjoyed staying connected to work, and think I have been reasonably smart about what I have been doing.

  • Some goals I set myself along the way and whether I have forgotten them, achieved them, or failed. E.g. relating to frequency of meditation and exercise, finances, writing and other practices.

  • Lots of other little stuff which I don’t think of interest, or matters.

Dream of roaring silence

This morning, I awoke very confused, multiple conversations about many arrangements with friends which change and where talking only confused things more.

Then, sort of day-dreamed between 13:30 and 16:30.

Walking down a deserted beach. Far down the line a woman walks from the water and cartwheels towards her towel, back to me. I get closer, we look into each other’s eyes and all thoughts and expectations evaporate. We turn to the sea together, smiling at the setting sun…then we turn back to towards the land and walk together.

No words are spoken. All I can hear is the roar of reality as it is, directly experienced, as words, thoughts, feelings evaporate in the heat of surrender. And so it remains. We travel, arrive in Australia, our existence completely synchronised and wordless, never speaking. All engagements, requests, interactions with others are resolved through spontaneous realisation of ‘other’ about what they need to do: a strange situation where neither party is reading each other’s minds but just knows from Big Mind.

I then sat up, turned, and that very second my alarm rings….

What if I were to do this experiment? Commit to being silent for.. a year? Surrender all interactions and actions to fate and possibility? Placing myself in front of people and all they could do is guess what you want – a guess that is probably right, but a guess at an option they think someone in this state might want – a direct reflection of their own state and perceptions.

I just…might…do it.

Mangy dogs – on the inside?

Often in India it is not clear if animals or people are dead or alive. I was first struck by this in Amritsar, where someone (alive?) was lying dead straight under a fly-covered blanket in the middle of an overpass footbridge.

This made me wonder what the experience of these asleep/dead/unbelievably disformed/badly injured people and animals is like. Do they want to die? Are they tired of life and just need to sleep?

As this questions hung in mind, I looked at one more mangy dog – all it’s fur gone from it’s back half – and was struck again about how my superficiality was probably letting me down.

Just looking at outward appearances can be a good guide to health and happiness of the possessor of the carcass, but I also wonder how many well-dressed, seemingly awake professional people in London or Sydney are actually dead inside, or mangy, disgusting flea-bitten, bleeding, roaming around wounded and wanting to die inside?

Ritual – mindful or mindless?

After traveling through Iran, Pakistan and India, I have seen and been part of my fair share of rituals. These include such things as namaz (Muslim daily prayers), offerings to Hindu gods, morning cups of tea, the precise process of washing hands, morning yoga and sun worship etc.

It is interesting to keep expanding the concept of what a ritual is, what purpose or intent it serves, what the experience of performing it is, and what impact it has. This may mean you include your daily commute as ritual. If reframed as such, would this make you do anything differently, or would your experience of your daily commute to work be any different?

In terms of religious, spiritual or cultural rituals, I am all for them really. As long as they are done mindfully. While I am always knocked into a sense reverence whenever I hear the call to prayer in Muslim countries, that may wear thin after a few months or years. The ritual would then become empty, perhaps a meaningless gesture. For myself, my morning meditation and exercise has not been performed as unbendingly regularly as the Islamic daily prayer. But, when I do it regularly I really enjoy it, and it makes a significant different to my experience of the day, and hopefully my behaviour in so far as it is observable by others. AND, I know that there have been periods of days or weeks when I have treated meditation as a  mindless ritual, and not really been committed to ‘letting go of everything’ when I sit down.

The point I am arriving at, and what I am advocating for, is that ritual can be great, but it is what is not observable that really matters. That one person could be bowing and prostrating in an act of complete surrender, another person could be bowing and prostrating in an act that was primarily about keeping up appearances and doing what is expected. You would hope that, doing something daily but mechanically and with no clear intent, you would have to be struck on certain occasions by the hypocrisy in your actions and jolted into remembering what the hell you were doing it for. But, if our daily commute, our days at work in front of computers, your regular watching of a TV programme, or regular evening meal of meat and potatoes, how conscious do you think you are of the implications of those actions, their reverence and significance in the wider scheme of things? If you are not, does it matter?

Perhaps what I am wondering is, why would ritual be a path to enlightenment, to expanded consciousness, to better behaviour? Perhaps it is part of it, but only if performed with clear intent. Otherwise, it may be a  culturally interesting, but otherwise non-transformative process.

Sacred cows…should be everywhere?

I really like the sacred cows in India. Because they wander wherever they want, the docile look in their eyes starts to look more like wisdom. The also bring a lovely sense of chaos and the presence of nature into the cities – like a reminder that nature is always there and can not be ignored.

So it got me wondering, what if all nature was treated like sacred cows?

What would our cities look like if all animals and living things were left to do as they wish, and we drove/walked/worked around them all. What if, in Australia, the cultural expectation was that you were cursed if you hit and killed a bird or kangaroo….I wonder how would this change things, and should it be that way?

Perhaps this reverence for life will return once we start to realise how much our biodiversity is actually worth?

Time’s a changin’

Time is a far from constant thing. One of the surprises of completing the training in the Leadership Development Framework was taking time to consider how different people at different stages in life have completely different conceptions of time. From the very young who have no concept of the future, to mature professionals who lead their organisations based on 5 years plans, to the more enlightened souls who primarily reside in place beyond time (forever NOW) and see the relevance and effect of their work on a more epochal time scale. The ideal perhaps, is to be able to choose the appropriate way of considering time based on the circumstances in which you are in.

One of the distinctions that EnlightenNext makes compared to Eastern spiritual traditions is to introduce a linearity in time. This linearity in time is important because that is the context in which the universe, earth, life, biosphere, mammals and ourselves have come into being I.e. Evolution. In an enlightenment context, this is important to convince some people to engage in the world, to convince them that their conscious participation in evolution is more important than stepping out of the cycle of lie.

Personally, I have been more and more conscious of my own time horizon expanding out to the decadal scale. This has been one of the drivers behind my move back to Australia: I don’t want to do short-term projects anymore, I want to work on initiatives that I can contribute to for ten, and twenty years and for me that can only happen in Australia.

Yet, as I have travelled this journey, I have become more and more aware of other timescales, for example:

  • Many of the countries have different calendars to those that I am used to, either with different ‘year zeros’ or even different numbers of months.

  • The ritual daily worhsip, and annual or regular pilgrimages performed in Iran, India and elsewhere alerted me to those sorts of cycles

  • Working at Navdanya reconnected me with the daily, monthly and seasonal cycles that are the most critical to anyone earning a living from working directly with the land

  • And I am sure many more strange cycles and non-linear perceptions of time are to come…tides, ages of landscapes, monsoons etc.

And, one for me to keep an ear out for in conversations, teamwork and cultural contexts: when we talk about the future, a project, or a desired outcome, are we talking about the same timescales?

Culture and context

A consistent thread of thinking through my experience of engaging with local people on my travels is the realisation of both sameness and enormous differences. People are fundamentally the same, but context, opportunities, wealth, values etc. are often entirely different. The questions that arose for me from these experiences is ‘how different I be, my life, and my behaviour be if I had been born, raised and lived in a different cultural context and physical location?’

My conclusion from thinking about this is that almost everything would be completely different. If I were to assume that there was some soul I have that remained the same, I think there would still be some essence of Andrew that shone through. But, the way that essence expressed itself in the world may be completely different. Below I’ve described three contexts I have seen that may have resulted in different outcomes:

  1. Iranian in Tehran,
  2. Pakistani villager born into poverty in Balochistan, and
  3. Indian from some mountain village in Uttaranchal

1. In Iran I could have grown up in a polluted city, after a revolution that turned a relatively liberal nation into one that was more closed and living with international sanctions and the threat of war from the US. Women around me would wear the hajib, and there would be restrictions on internet and media content. What would I do, who would I be? A worker in the city after very fortunate education at a university, at best (?) a activist against injustice (either Iranian, or foreign)…?

2. If I was a Baloch, I likely would have grown up very poor,  wandering across borders, perhaps also with different concepts of sanitation, leading to different health issues and perhaps shorter life. Perhaps most of my ‘work’ most work is done outside the law: marginal farming land, few rains, and no other industry to speak of may mean I was running drugs across the border. And, in my spare time, fighting against the Pakistani government for the rights of the region and our fair share of the oil income earned from our natural resources….?

3. If born in the lush, green pars of northern India complete with some serious poverty but also pervasive spirituality what would I be doing? Who would I be? What would I know? What would be on my mind all day? It seems that relative to the previous two options, there would have been some more opportunities for education, engagement with foreigners and other cultures and languages. There would also be the strong attraction of the cities and the growing opportunities for wealth. But would I end up there repairing bikes, sewing clothes, or getting a decent education and ending up in an office or univeristy…?

Although the descriptions of these three scenarios are shallow, this has been a good experiment in imagining what assumptions and beliefs I hold now that could be questioned, and that when engaging with other people may need to be suspended in the interests of really connecting with them. This is a useful perspective to be able to take to hold and my beliefs more lightly.

In some ways it is also challenging the concept of free will, and my identity as some rational individual responsible for everything that happens to me, and the impact made by me in the world.. In all these contexts both the range of options and the mindset I had when considering  (even the same) life choices would all have been vastly different – the choices and the chooser would be completely different. Imagine how differently life would unfold for me, how different ‘I’ would be in these contexts.

I wonder, if I was Andrew the Baloch, looking at Andrew the traveling Australian, what it would be like to see myself? Would we would connect, be repulsed, or not even lift our heads in acknowledgement as we passed each other on the street?

If all that would remain common amongst the different ‘Andrews’ is that I would be human, then it is yet another thinking-route for me to develop empathy with everyone and anyone I meet – ‘that could be me’ or ‘that IS me, just born into slightly different circumstances’. That final point is perhaps the one I should always ask anyway – how would I like to be treated and engaged with if I were the person on the other side of the conversation? What can I do to create the circumstances such that wherever I am, and EVERYWHERE the context and culture is supportive of people developing their full potential?

The other thread of thinking that emerges from this is the degree to which my context has supported the changes in my life. That is, if context and culture shape everything, then what contexts and cultures should I deliberately expose myself in order to develop into the type of person I would like to be? I guess it is only now in my life that I have become consciously aware of this, in this way. And so now have the opportunity to choose, consciously, to shift to a different cultural or geographical context in order to support the next steps I want to take. e.g. In my life, how would I know to meditate, go on long bike rides, go to Sweden,

So?

And, even as I get close to come conclusion in this writing, I realise that this is the age-old nature-nurture debate experienced more personally. If I think about great people in history, I wonder, if their circumstances were different would it have still worked out the same? Would Gandhi have been Gandhi, Buddha attained enlightenment, Hitler amassed so much power, George W Bush become so influential?

[Footnote – this above post implies a question that is almost perfectly answered by Malcolm Gladwell in his new book. See later post here.]