on allowing

please excuse the inconsistent pronouns ~ this post
is essentially a dear-diary braindump,
which might have some insight for you if we can wade through I 🙂

How do we do psychological fitness when we’ve been woken up again at 5.30 am and: 

you’re volunteering in the afternoon before an evening Zen class that finishes at 8.30 pm and these are both in the city, an hour roundtrip commute that you can’t afford ~ at least they happen to be happening in the same venue;

the last two days have been chewed up by errands and counselling (Centrelink one day, and a very difficult but enlightening Somatic Experiencing session), and today was the one day remaining for me to work on Heartwards before GP appointments tomorrow and a busy Saturday of housework;

you’ve recently deferred a 9-month business-training opportunity because the mental-health needs of you and your family are reaching crisis point ~ have been at crisis point for maybe 18 months;

you’re one month out of a six-month situation where you and your family were living with a long-term friend / tenant whose narcissistic abuse left your family ravaged by trauma symptoms; 

and you found out at bedtime last night that your 14-year-old stoner son might be using needles now as well and his best mate is in hospital after attempting suicide.

I sat in meditation this morning, afraid I would not be able to contain this shit-storm in the puny teacup of my mindheart, and asked myself, “How do I do psychological fitness in these conditions?” What does psychological fitness look like during times of such ongoing crisis?

In the end I didn’t do anything ~ instead, I let go, but this didn’t feel like an active act of release, more like a spontaneous relinquishment, a kind of breaking, an allowing control to fall through the cracks. 

I allowed reality to be as it is. I feel like a broken record around this letting go thing lately, but it’s becoming the only way I know how to respond when a stack of things are happening around me that are out of my control and seemingly unpleasant, destructive, unhealthy, whatever … [insert discriminating dichotomous adjective here].

I remembered Viktor Frankl’s quote: 

When we can no longer change a situation, we are forced to change ourselves. 

It’s not quite you that lets go, but something else that lets go of the you that was grasping, clinging, attaching itself to desires about the way reality should be.

You stop worrying that you won’t be able to concentrate on mu after the 24 hours you’ve had, and you stop resenting that you’re going out of your way to volunteer for a job that you volunteered for.

You remind yourself that you need to work with what you’ve got and that means navigating the welfare system while you re-orient yourself toward making an independent living through the provision of meaningful and creative holistic health services. 

You remind yourself that providing such services begins with treating your own trauma and accomplishing the degre of psychological-fitness stability you need before you can help others.

You remember that you deferred the training opportunity precisely so you could be more available for family-health needs, 

and you remember a journal entry you made last night:

Zane is a teenage drug addict and a dropout. Nikki’s CPTSD has been triggered. And I’ve got my own mental and emotional anguish coming up left right and centre even when there aren’t any triggers. It makes me anxious that there will never be time for anything else ~ even though my enlightened self understands that there is nothing else: this is life as nature made it, and our expectations that we get to do what we want (run a business, feel positive and hopeful) are what cause suffering … the expectations and the sense I am entitled to do something great instead of be there for my family, like being there for my family is not the greatest thing …

which reminds me I forgot to add to that entry something my Zen teacher says: “It doesn’t get better than this.”

We believe there is some state we will reach in the future that is better (more calm, relaxed, exciting, whatever) than our current state, but this is not true ~ the only thing you know is true is that your quality of life depends entirely (and forever) on how you interpret the present,

and that psychological fitness is (among other things) the ability to skilfully interpret the present with positivity and optimism as often as possible. 

You remember and remind yourself that you learnt a lot about the neutralisation of negative karma by practising non-resistance/ahimsa when you realised you had no choice about you and your family having to live with a narcissistic abuser, and that now you live with two beautiful tenants because maybe that negative karma was burnt for good.

In remembering this, you start to remember that you can choose to feel gratitude for the good in your life, and that this cultivates a wholesome state of mind, instead of allowing the habitualised negativity bias to get the better of you … we are no longer on the savannah, but have become homo evolutis and can choose to pursue flourishing instead of remaining consumed by fear. 

And you remember that your opinions about whether Zane should be sober and attending school at 14 mean nothing to karma or reality or whatever you want to call the animating force that causes spooky action. You remember that you are nothing and everything ~ that your desires for how the days should unfold mean nothing to reality … that you are but one individuated moving part within a whole much greater than your puny mind could ever perceive in its entirety so you should just let go and allow the universe to move through you, allow yourself to become a servant of the greater good by getting out of the way and learning to allow.

imagination + trauma release

Working with a Somatic Experiencing therapist yesterday, I realised we have this incredible interface between the mind and the body and it’s called the imagination ~ shaman’s know this, and we too can learn the language of the body by tuning in to the imagery that comes up during emotional episodes.

When I allowed it, mine was a snake uncoiling from a clay-lump of anxiety to eat up the meat-confetti of shame that was underneath an immense well of sadness. The trauma release that followed was blessedly story-free.

The body really does know the score … and … because I love mincing metaphors … the music is light and sweet.

ego … it’s just like, your opinion, man

During a compassion meditation just now, something came up that I’m really proud of ~ and perhaps an insight I think will be helpful for anyone who has become aware they are acting out a conditioned response and weren’t able to stop. It hurts to let go of our conditioning while we are in the middle of such an emotional reaction, because when we try to let go, our ego thinks it is dying.

But it’s okay ~ compassion to the rescue!

It can hurt to renounce our egoic position because we conflate the ego with ourself and we feel like we’re letting ourselves down, but we’re not ~ we’re letting our ego get out of the way so our higher self can come through.

So I share this story for anyone who has experienced the exquisite pain of relinquishing egoic conditioning to allow a heartfulness to come through instead of the controll-y fear that a lot of us put up with inside us because of maladaptive coping mechanisms. I’ll see if I can be concise.

Today a decision was made in our family that I didn’t agree with*;

it was a decision that really, ultimately, has nothing to do with me, and getting in the way of it would have caused more conflict and tension than it was worth;

my ego/conditioning thought otherwise ~ that I should step in and dictate values, make ultimatums, control the situation and ‘fix’ the ‘problem’;

but I saw the egoic conditioning for what it was, sat myself down, selected a guided meditation that seemed appropriate (this one here) and submitted myself to a bit of ‘cultural re-education’.

I’m deeply grateful for that guided meditation, because it helped me find the space to remember I can let go of how I think reality should be, and allow reality to unfold as it sees fit, and wow, what a relief it was!

The suffering of resistance fell away, and something like a higher (compassionate) self kicked in.

I can be honest and say I wasn’t all that happy about it: there is something exquisitely uncomfortable and painful about the micro-ego-death it felt like I went through.

In my experience there is something really painful about relinquishing egoic control and recognising that my opinions about reality don’t mean shit to reality … in recognising that my conditioned ideas about how we should be raising our son are probably a bit shit.

But the pain is just my ego taking a hit, and that’s okay, necessary, especially as there is a compassion practice in my life to support that death and rebirth.

After some compassionate reflection, I feel lighter and liberated and refreshed and grateful because now there is more room in me for compassion to move in where egoic conditioning had once been “man-spreading”.

By renouncing my conditioned attachment to expectations and to values I borrowed from my parents and upbringing, I am able to move into alignment with compassionate values that tell me Zane’s mental health is more important than whether he’s going to school.

~ ~ ~

* The details are not super relevant, but sometimes they can help a person to relate to a story, so, what happened is: Zane was allowed to go out and see his mates after he bullshitted his way out of school for the second day in a row ~ after being out of school for six months. Whether this was a good or bad decision is not the point ~ he’s having a hard time lately, and forcing him to go to school would only make that worse, but I was worried that rewarding him for wagging would establish a problematic precedent. Any argument made on compassionate grounds is bound to trump what my ego thinks is best.

envisioning a culture of happiness instead of productivity

I’m taking a Mental Health Day today because I started to notice my window of tolerance was narrowing – I was becoming easily irritable, easily triggered and generally just unhappy and stressed. A lot of shit’s been going down lately, and we can’t seem to get a break lately, so I decided to take one. I’m starting a small business, and part of the reason for doing this was so I could keep my own hours – what’s the sense of starting that and then doing 40 hours weeks because my conditioning says so!?

I have a vision for our culture where taking such Mental Health Days is normal and encouraged, more important than the days we are being productive at work. What’s the point of being productive if we’re fucking hating ourselves for it!? This is something like GNH instead of GDP but I don’t want to unpack that now.

A lot of sadness was near the surface for me yesterday and I figured something must be going on or coming through and I want to stop and be present for that.

Also, I need to fill my cup.

As I mentioned the other day, we are living with complex trauma and expecting ourselves to be “on” all the time is a bit silly – we need downtime, time to rejuvenate. By “we” I mean “Nikki and I” but also pretty much everyone in our whole culture, considering everyone is living complex trauma due to the nature of our society, which is pretty fucked up when you think about it, but that’s how it is and we need to see that in the face. 

I can’t remember what triggered the sadness orginally, but I know it had something to do with Zane. I had it affirmed by a Blue Knot counsellor that as parents we are often triggered easily during the time our children are the age we were when we were traumatised. 

I know it is this because of the emotions that came up when Zane came out while I was drafting this and said good morning, asked how my sleep was. I told him not good and he apologised, knowing that the sleeplessness was partly due to our concern around catching him smoking bongs in his room last night. I was doing the same thing at his age, and the subsequent heavy pot habit left me with a lot of unprocessed emotional pain. I told him (in not quite these words) I just want him to look after his brain, and it’s upsetting to watch him go down the path of self-harm but I have to trust that he’ll learn for himself.

He looked remorseful and/but said thank you, and it’s a weird thing because maybe his unexpected gratitude made me sad because trust is all I needed at his age (instead of the weird manipulative controlly things Mum used to say), or maybe it’s because she did say things like “I trust you” and going through this now as a parent is just too close to home. 

I want him to avoid the future pain I know is on the path of self-medication he’s on. 

But I’m not so naive that I believe I can actually prevent this for him – and when I really think about it, I wouldn’t want to deny him the opportunity to learn from his own karma. 

But that’s not even the guts of it. 

The guts of it is, I think, I’m sad because I don’t know which of the above I’m sad about, if any – I’m sad because I don’t remember those years of my life at all and that means I’ve lost something, a big part of myself and my history and that continuity of self we depend on for having a safe sense of being. 

Something like that. 

There’s a break in the narrative I use to understand and connect with my self.

Seems I repressed a lot of my adolescence – or I went somewhere else during that time because the pain was too much. 

I still do this, living in my head because being present in the body is too … unsatisfactory? Too much dukkha, not enough skill for coping with the suffering of samsara, much less the readily accessible capacity to transmute that suffering into joy.

That sort of alchemy is still a possibility though, which is nice to remember.

Yes, that’s why I’ve taken this Mental Health Day: to remember and spend some time with the “base metals” we transmute into “gold” through doing the work of accepting reality as it is.

That might not make a lot of sense off the bat – or it might … it might make perfect sense to you. Either way, here’s a button if you’re curious about it and would like to connect around this idea: 

Meanwhile yes, back to what the Blue Knot counsellor was saying: there is trauma in there and a shadow of course and the sadness is a healthy indication that this trauma is presenting itself to be seen, acknowledged, recognised, embraced, loved. 

One of the few things I am confident about is that by not resisting these things that come up from our wounds, the wounds express themselves (in the sense a wound expresses puss) and in doing so, the wound self-heals. 

Humans are self-correcting, like everything on Gaia. We just need to allow the process without interrupting it, without distracting ourselves, without self-medicating or working ourselves into the ground or whatever we do to avoid the pain.

If we resist what’s coming up, then we just push it back down into the unconscious where it continues to fester and it will inevitably come up again, only worse and more vague and difficult to understand because each time we push it down it becomes more and more muddled with that big amorphous painbody inside us, like a huge blob of secondhand bluetac we’ve accumulated from every house where we ever hung a poster. 

We can learn to be non-resistant by embracing what I am choosing to refer to as ahimsa, which is the classic Sanskrit word for “non-violence”.

Our resistance to reality (including … especially … the reality of the pain that wells up from our unconscious on the daily) is a form of violence. 

Metaphysical violence if you will. Psychological self-violence. Through the force of habituated will, we push away what we don’t like about reality. 

We can train ourselves to not do this, and if you’d like to learn this with me, get in touch for a 

Because that’s a huge part of what I’m doing at Heartwards as a trainer and coach in psychological fitness and integrative wellness: I am training myself in ahimsa, so that I suffer less and can help others to suffer less.

Thereby unleashing happy, healthy and empowered individuals who are resourced enough to do their good service in the world. Because resistance drains a lot of energy, and literally gets us nowhere. 

Suffering = Reality x resistance

Happiness = Reality x acceptance

And I envision a culture where we are all able to do this. Where it is respected to take Mental Health Days so we can check in with where our resistance is at because, for example, Gross National Happiness is more valued than Gross Domestic Product in this new culture.

Because what’s the point of being productive all the time if we’re hating ourselves while we’re at it!?

living with complex trauma

*TRIGGER WARNING* This post discusses childhood abuse, neglect and abandonment. If you feel distressed at anytime, try reaching out to one of the support lines listed here.

I rang Blue Knot yesterday because I found them when I searched online to find a hotline for people whose loved ones live with CPTSD. Nikki’s not been doing so well lately and it’s beginning to take its toll on me. This is something that is hard for me to say and has been hard for me to accept: it’s taking its toll on me; my wife is living with complex trauma, and mostly we manage but sometimes I run out of the capacity to cope with the challenges that come with loving and living with someone who has experienced complex trauma. Our son Zane is also living with complex trauma from being in the womb when Nikki was being abused by his biological father.

On top of that, as I was reminded by the counsellor at Blue Knot, I have my own complex trauma to live with. 

I called them to get support as someone whose loved ones have complex trauma in their background, and was reminded that I need support for the complex trauma in my own background. 

There is a new-paradigm understanding of trauma emerging – thanks to the likes of Peter Levine and Gabor Mate – and in this view we understand that developmental and relational trauma can result from early-life experiences that were normalised in the suburban 80s when I was being raised:

abandonment, emotional neglect and/or emotional incest, being abused and belittled by your siblings, bullied at school, bashed by thugs as a teenager … these are all experiences in my background, and this list doesn’t even account for the birth trauma itself and the trauma of industrial postnatal care for babies. 

Blue Knot reminded me that all of this is real. The symptoms I described on the call were confirmed as trauma related, and I recall ticking many items on the symptoms checklist when I read Levine’s Waking the Tiger. It was affirmed on the call that as parents, we are often triggered when our children go through the age we were when we were traumatised, which is definitely happening as Zane goes into the early teenage years.

It surprises me that I know I live with complex trauma myself, yet it took me feeling my wits’ end in supporting someone else through trauma recovery to remember or have the fact of my own trauma validated. (I think there might be a spectrum distinction between “complex trauma” and CPTSD and I certainly don’t feel like my lived experience of trauma amounts to a disorder, but I certainly exhibit many of the traits.) 

That’s how it goes I guess. The call with Blue Knot reminded me that the trauma I’m living with is very innocuous and hard to detect because the causal events are so normalised in our culture. On top of that, there are no physical scars I can show to prove my trauma is real, and no single causal event that resulted in traumatisation … that’s one of the things about complex trauma: there’s no single event we can pin down as the cause. I wasn’t abused in the sense that is typically understood to result in trauma – a lot of us weren’t, but still we are traumatised. Says something about our culture.

For these reasons, this kind of trauma often flies under the radar, causing a low hum of very subtle misery that is difficult to detect. The lack of self-love and -worth that results from such trauma has also been normalised, like it’s the only way of being we’ve ever really known anyway. 

A similar phenomenon is operating when we compare workaholism to heroin addiction: the latter is very obviously a harmful maladaptive coping mechanism that warrants treatment and is probably a symptom of trauma; the former is a harmful maladaptive coping mechanism that warrants treatment and is probably a symptom of trauma, but fails to be recognised as such because work addiction is normalised, even celebrated, yet it can rob someone of their life the same as heroin addiction can. 

So a thing that I pledge as a central purpose of Heartwards is to help shed light on this emerging new-paradigm view of trauma, and to help individuals recognise and treat the symptoms of complex trauma they notice in themselves. 

If we keep just fumbling along with our pain buried in the unconscious like hands into pockets in the depths of winter, we are going to just continue running ourselves and the planet into the ground as we seek to numb the pain or fill the void by sucking the world dry in our pleasure-seeking avoidance. 

The counsellor on the Blue Knot call said something about the unconscious: how we repress our pain and shame and try to hide from it. 

We cannot run from it forever. I believe that if we do not embrace and heal it in this lifetime, we will just come back for another round, again and again until we learn. 

Even in this lifetime, if we retain the trauma in our body because we don’t learn how to release it, we can think we are successfully avoiding it until it recurs again through a phenomenon described by Levine as “re-enactment”.

I don’t properly understand what re-enactment is or how it works, but I’m going to ask when I call Blue Knot back. 

They are a team-based counselling hotline, which means I won’t get the same counsellor each time but apparently they keep good case notes to make up for this, and it means I’ll get diverse perspectives. Their catchphrase is “empowering recovery from complex trauma”.

The person I spoke to was really great, and I recommend getting in touch if you’re living with complex trauma or someone who is. Even if you’re not sure but you have a vague suspicion that something was a bit off in your early development or upbringing, I reckon it’s worth a call. You might find explanations for symptoms that have been bothering you for ages but were just kind of resigned to living with. The number I called was 1300 657 380.

The main thing I got from the call today was that we can’t support our loved ones through recovery from complex trauma when we do not have enough internal resources left in our reserves. The analogy the counsellor used was from a teacup: we cannot share tea from an empty cup. This backs up my oxygen-mask analogy: we can’t help others if we’re dead.

I have only recently been able to start refilling my teacup after a very challenging 18 months or so, especially in the last 6 months while we were living with the abuser who triggered Nikki’s trauma, which I wrote about in other posts. We resolved that we would not leave anyone alone with the perpetrator, in case she caught someone alone and took the opportunity to manipulate or concoct a story while there were no witnesses around. 

The main advice from the call today was that the best way for me to support Nikki is by first taking care of myself.

This is not indulgent or selfish, anymore than putting on the oxygen mask is selfish before we start helping others in a plane crash.

We cannot help others when we’re dead – or when our own nervous system is so frazzled that every minor tension creates a flee response. 

As I continue doing the work of healing my child self, I will become more able to be available for Nikki and others when needed. 

If I neglect the work of healing my own trauma, I will continue fucking out when others need me most, 

and worse – I will continue attracting myself to situations where the original trauma response is seeking to exhaust itself. (I think that’s the gist of re-enactment.)

Not “fucking out” … that’s the wrong language, when falling to my knees in despair is really what’s happening each time my own and others’ trauma feels overwhelming. 

If I neglect the work of healing my own trauma, I will stagnate among the low hum of misery that expresses itself like puss from the unconscious, and my purpose to help others flourish will languish unrealised. 

Yours too maybe. 

If any of this resonates with you, get in touch or have a look around at Kokoro 心 Heart, where I’m working to promote a healthy world arising out of healthy minds. 

This page of resources might also interest you meanwhile. 

the difference between pain and suffering

With Heartwards I am developing courses and training programs in psychological fitness,

because it has come to my attention (in the last 15 years or so) that there are root causes for both happiness and suffering, and I believe those causes are psychological.

I can stop mincing about and worrying that people are going to think that what I’m doing here is quote/unquote woo-woo, because everyone brings their thing to the table, and this is the thing I bring.

We all would like to see a happier and healthier world, and my contribution to bring this about is the offering of psychological-fitness training.

I like the motto “a healthy world arises out of healthy minds”.

And I believe in the idea that a happy and healthy world arises when we learn to see the world (and ourselves) as happy and healthy.

The trick is we have to learn how to choose our conceptions, our cognitions, our thoughts and feelings about what happens in the world: how we perceive and interpret the world makes all the difference.

And the difference is between happiness and suffering.

I just saw on Instagram, an idea I aspire to embody: pain is inevitable, suffering is optional.

For example, it might be painful to feel we have failed at something that was important to us, but we transmute this and avoid suffering by choosing to see it as an opportunity to learn.

🤯 That’s called a growth mindset.

Now. It’s no great secret that the dichotomy of terms “happiness and suffering” comes from Buddhism, at least in my experience. And the idea that these result from “root causes” is also something I picked up from Buddhism (where the root causes of suffering are called the Three Poisons: desire, aversion and ignorance).

Turn this around and it means the root causes of happiness are things like gratitude, acceptance and wisdom – these are heart qualities we can use psychological-fitness training to cultivate internally, so that happiness is a more-spontaneous and more-frequent response to the world, no matter what state or events are happening around us.

We don’t need to suffer if we have the appropriate psychological skills at our disposal.

The Buddhist conception of suffering has rubbed a lot of people up the wrong way, I think.

Another translation of the term dukkha is ‘dissatisfaction’, and dukkha or suffering in this context refers to the dissatisfaction and the vague sense of unease we feel in life when we pursue happiness primarily in the domain of pleasure, motivated by desire and perpetuated by ignorance of the reality that sense gratification can only ever be fleeting, temporary, bound to keep us very much preoccupied with our trip on the hamster wheel of material success.

And it is a trip, in the sense that our preoccupation with the material world is based on delusion or hallucination.

Another way to discuss this without triggering aversion to the terminology of Buddhist psychology is through the dichotomy of hedonia (the pursuit of happiness through primarily external sense gratification) and eudaemonia (the experience of happiness from within).

Whichever way we want to peel the onion, in the end we come to the same conclusion:

  • happiness comes from within;
  • pursuing happiness in external sources of pleasure leads inexorably to suffering.

We all were told this at some point, that happiness comes from within. But how many of us were told how to find or experience this alleged internal wellspring of happiness?

That’s where psychological fitness comes in: we can train ourselves to embrace reality as it is, and this embrace results naturally in happiness,

which is not always pleasant.

Happiness is another word that’s heavily loaded, and we’d do well to use terms like contentment and equanimity instead, which I’d love to unpack another time.

The point for now is that Heartwards is a spiritual service

in the sense that ‘psychology’ was originally the study of the soul, not just of the mind or of the neuroses of human behaviour.

And all of the great so-called spiritual traditions are, at their heart, modalities of psychotherapy.

So that’s the update for today.

My desire for a sleep-in was frustrated by the cats this morning, and I felt sure my Sunday was ruined: anxiety started, rumination kicked in, and before I knew it I was kicking myself inside the head with all sorts of cognitive distortions.

Then I turned it around because I remembered that happiness is a choice we can make if we are in possession of the right psychological skills.

If that sounds like woo-woo, then carry on, nothing to see here.

If it sounds like something you’d like to learn more about and start applying in your life, get in touch.

such are the vicissitudes

Today I had the scent of the buddhas in my nostrils, after a brief and powerful breathwork practice with Keagan Bizzell and the Samford Valley Brotherhood.

Yesterday I experienced the hell of my own anger, but narrowly avoided the vortex of shame and self-loathing that often follow such destructive emotional episodes. I did so by catching myself in time and remembering to practice self-compassion, knowing anger is often a conditioned substitute for sadness. I wrote myself a love letter. It worked. It’s a technique I highly recommend.

The point is, I posted here a while ago about doing really well lately, and since then I have had some really shitty times because I wasn’t able to catch myself in time. By “shitty times” I mean “very difficult internal reactions to triggering external events”, and I don’t at all want to paint a half-truth on the socials.

I’ve been doing well lately, but there’s also been a lot of struggle. And sometimes I experience flow. Mostly I struggle, but the flow state is happening more frequently.

Such are the vicissitudes of life … uphill, down dale, etc. Happiness is rolling with the goods and the bads.

Today is good, but anything could happen. Anything could happen, and today will still be good if I can see the space where interpretation is made, and if I can find choice between happiness and suffering before reaction kicks in.

We can do this, and choose happiness. That’s what I’m learning, and that’s what I want to impart through Heartwards, which I wrote about recently here. And I started a Facebook group / page.

Today I had the scent of the buddhas in my nostrils, yesterday I experienced the hell of my own anger, and such are the vicissitudes of life …

alternative-currency systems

I’ve done a few trades through LETS recently … LETS stands for Local Energy Trading System, and is a kind-of alternative-currency thing.

Which I dig. But it’s brought up a few ideas, and I’m seeking recommendations for alternatives to this alternative system, for reasons mentioned below.

As an aspect of the financial Pillar of Wellness, not being complicit in an exploitative capitalist system is important to me and my sense of well-being. It’s a question of ethics, of values and beliefs, and of living with integrity in alignment with those values and beliefs.

We cannot have wellness (especially psychological wellness) when our actions are frequently out of alignment with our values – we tend to fret and agonise, even at a sub-aware level, that we are not being the best human we can be, when we are behaving in ways that do not align with our values.

Think of supermarket- and eco-anxiety. Anyone who is a conscientious consumer will know what I’m talking about. Not having a choice but to buy things wrapped in plastic impacts our wellness, regardless of how minor that may seem at a superficial level.

At a less-superficial level, continuing to participate in an economic ideology that is inherently unsustainable and exploitative is a source of constant consternation for many of us.

And so we start to seek out alternatives, such as LETS.

Unfortunately, LETS has been clunky this time round, and these alternatives need to be as user-friendly as possible if they are going to win people over from the convenience of waving their phone around to buy shit.

The person I traded with (a veteran of LETS) was very helpful in helping me troubleshoot. Nikki and I did some gardening for a LETS exchange a while back, and that went smooth as a … whistle? And in the end I got the Units I was trading for this time, so it worked out in the end.

I’m just wondering if you’re familiar with such alternative currencies and whether you have any recommendations. For recommendations, I’m less interested in things like crypto than I am in barter-based currency systems, if that makes sense … systems that facilitate community barter, not necessarily direct-to-individual barter.

the cultural taboos of urination

Do you think it’s weird that there is a cultural taboo around men sitting down to pee? Unless I’m at a public “prison” toilet (those with no seat and just a cold steel bowl), I find it far more relaxing. If you identify as a man and find it weird to sit down and pee, let us know in the comments.

Let’s start the new year with a very important conversation around the cultural taboos of urination!

Because if we can’t talk about taboos, we can’t talk about the #cultural Pillar of Wellness, and who doesn’t love wellness!?

A toilet was invented that would divert urine into a separate compartment, where it would be collected and turned into nitrogen-rich fertiliser. Half the world’s population won’t use it because it would require them to sit down and pee… 🙄

the wisdom of insanity

During my first experience of what I now understand was mystical psychosis, a friend at the time would like to say something like, “It’s called ‘insanity’ because you go in-to-sanity,” and I appreciated that because it was a kind of anchor, an affirmation that the experience I was having might be positive.

Since then I have had two similar experiences, each of increasing intensity and both tipping from what Stan Grof calls “spiritual emergence” into “spiritual emergency”. I wrote about the second episode in a post called “Psychosis or Spiritual Awakening”, and I have since learnt that I am far from the only one who believes in the potentially positive transformation that can occur if a person is appropriately supported through the expansion of consciousness that psychosis can sometimes be.

Enter the documentary Crazy Wise, whose short blurb (trailer below) reads: 

Crazy … or wise? The traditional wisdom of indigenous cultures often contradicts modern views about a mental health crisis. Is it a ‘calling’ to grow or just a ‘broken brain’? The documentary Crazy Wise explores what can be learned from people around the world who have turned their psychological crisis into a positive transformative experience.

As a survivor of our lagging mental-health system who has experienced profound insight through episodic psychosis, I very much value the message of this documentary. One distinction I like to make is that if, in modern Western psychology, psychosis is ‘a break from reality’ and, in ancient Eastern psychology, reality is an illusion, then psychosis is a break from illusion. Apart from that, I will let the filmmakers do the rest of the talking:

During a quarter-century documenting indigenous cultures, human-rights photographer and filmmaker Phil Borges often saw these cultures identify “psychotic” symptoms as an indicator of shamanic potential. He was intrigued by how differently psychosis is defined and treated in the West.

Through interviews with renowned mental health professionals including Gabor Mate, MD, Robert Whitaker, and Roshi Joan Halifax, PhD, Phil explores the growing severity of the mental health crisis in America dominated by biomedical psychiatry. He discovers a growing movement of professionals and psychiatric survivors who demand alternative treatments that focus on recovery, nurturing social connections, and finding meaning.

Crazy Wise follows two young Americans diagnosed with “mental illness.” Adam, 27, suffers devastating side effects from medications before embracing meditation in hopes of recovery. Ekhaya, 32, survives childhood molestation and several suicide attempts before spiritual training to become a traditional South African healer gives her suffering meaning and brings a deeper purpose to her life.

Crazy Wise doesn’t aim to over-romanticize indigenous wisdom, or completely condemn Western treatment. Not every indigenous person who has a crisis becomes a shaman. And many individuals benefit from Western medications.

However, indigenous peoples’ acceptance of non-ordinary states of consciousness, along with rituals and metaphors that form deep connections to nature, to each other, and to ancestors, is something we can learn from.

Crazy Wise adds a voice to the growing conversation that believes a psychological crisis can be an opportunity for growth and potentially transformational, not a disease with no cure.

It really is a fantastic film, very moving and inspirational. There is a new paradigm of integrative psychological awareness emerging, and these documentaries are helping to spread the word.

If you experience or have experienced acute psychological distress, have a look at this documentary and please know there is an alternative to what the medical-system narrative might believe is the only truth about your “symptoms”.

Reach out to me if you need support, or check out the Spiritual Emergence Network (SEN) of Australia, who have peer-support workers operating in Brisbane at least, and other parts of Australia. There is also a US-based SEN, and hopefully these links will get you started if you’re investigating this for yourself or someone you know from other parts of the globe.