in the first person

Andy Beer C8N79429BT

The spiritual journey is about deepening into one’s essence and expanding into a consciousness which is greater than that of the individual.  However, after enlightenment, the personal aspect continues to exist, albeit with less emphasis.  In this blog, I (Andy) am exploring the human side of life from this personal perspective.

Photo by Adelina.

after shock

Here in Arillas, Corfu, there is a nudist beach which I have been frequenting during summertime for many years.  Yesterday I was whiling away the afternoon there, as I have so often done.  Unbeknown to me, something different was about to happen.  Wading into the beautiful, clear water to cool off, suddenly I felt my left foot receiving strong electric shocks – three of four zaps within a second.

My sun-induced languor was immediately dispelled.  I shrieked and splashed my way through the water for a metre or two.  Then I saw the source of my anguish: I had stepped on a marbled electric ray.  It had been lightly buried in the sand and had now lifted off from its bed and was swimming leisurely away.

After this shocking treatment, I noticed that I was much more awake and alert.  And this reminds me of the value of shock tactics on a spiritual path – the sudden whack of a zen stick, or ‘stop!’ shouted during a moving meditation.  Such methods can cause our habitual mind to stall.  Suddenly we are fully present, instead of being lost in thought or running on auto-pilot.

For me, the spiritual journey is about being present more and more of the time.  I just hope that I don’t need too many electric shocks for that to happen!

after the wedding

A wedding happened here at the normally tranquil Horizon guest house.  For twenty-four hours the ceremony and celebrations disturbed the serenity of this place.  And with that, my own serenity was disturbed.  Whatever is in the field around me, I feel as if it were internal to me.  Non-separation is not necessarily always a good thing, but it is a fact of life!

After a leisurely breakfast this morning, the wedding party departed and the guest house owner and his wife set about cleaning the space.  With that cleansing, calmness returned and my being gave a sigh of relief.

This afternoon, walking on one of the nearby mountain paths, I noticed that my mind was unusually quiet.  The natural beauty of these goat herders’ paths always puts me in a meditative frame of mind.  Today though, the effect was even more marked.  It seemed to me that a pendulum had swung from the bubbly chatter of the party to the profound silence of deep meditation.

So maybe disturbances are not so bad after all, if existence maintains the balance with an extra dose of stillness to compensate.

twenty-five years of reiki

I recently passed the 25th anniversary of having been attuned to reiki.

I am no evangelist.  I find it rather off-putting when someone is too enthusiastic about something, so I try to avoid making that mistake myself.  However, I have to say, reiki is absolutely amazing.  It sounds like a cliché but it’s true to say: reiki changed my life.  It changed the whole course of my life.

For a quarter of a century, I have been blessed with this gentle, harmonizing, healthful energy.  It’s been with me like the most trusty friend, through thick and thin, always available when I was in need.  And in some mysterious way, it has been steering me on my spiritual path.  To this day, it remains at the core of my practice.

Spiritual practices, like most things in modern society, tend to follow fashions.  Reiki is no longer the in thing.  It’s a pity.  What a different world we would be living in if everyone were attuned to reiki.

return of the orange chai stall

There is a chai stall, painted orange, at the centre of the chaos which is Pahar Ganj, Delhi.

Standing, sipping a chai there this morning, I felt like I was in the eye of a storm.  All around was the typical, noisy bustle of an Indian city going about its business in the cooler morning hours.  The horns of cars, motorbikes and rickshaws contended with loudspeakers blaring absurdly distorted music.  Street food vendors worked with an impressive efficiency, feeding the throngs which shared the road space with the honking vehicles, unfazed street dogs, perambulating fruit stalls and the odd holy cow.

The chai wallah at the orange stall happens to make the best street chai in Delhi.

A beautiful thing happened whilst I was sipping the chai.  The more the caffeine and sugar and ginger penetrated into me, the more I began to feel at peace in the chaos.  And with that peacefulness came appreciation.  The world around me was still chaotic but I could also sense a flow, a dance, in the chaos.  Somehow the fragmented components of the scene began to be felt as elements of a mysterious, organic whole.

Last time I was here, the orange chai stall was absent.

Sometimes one doesn’t really appreciate something fully until it disappears – paradise lost.  If one has the rare good fortune for it to return, then one lives with both the pleasure and that full appreciation.  It is thus with our awareness of our spiritual essence.

And so it is with the return of the orange chai stall – paradise regained!

from the sublime to the ridiculous

I have come from the sublime beauty of the ancient forest to the ridiculous circus of Queenstown, the birthplace of the bungie jump.  This week’s winner of the absurd activity award goes to the flyboard.  This contraption is a board which is strapped to one’s feet.  It has two water jets, pointing downwards.  It also has a large umbilical cord connecting it to the engine of a jet ski.  All of this is in the water.  When an accomplice on the jet ski revs the engine, the jet ski doesn’t move much but the object of ridicule rises up out of the water and hovers a metre or two above the surface, for as long as the person can manage to balance on the jets of water.

Watching someone on the flyboard reminded me of an article I read a while back.  It was commenting on the fact that young people, in the UK at least, are having less sex these days.  The author conjectured that this was because nowadays there is so much entertainment.  In the age of internet and smartphone, nobody is bored anymore.  The implication was that in the less entertaining days of yore, much sex was happening simply out of boredom.  And now we can add the flyboard to the ever-growing list of entertainments.

If I’m going to be distracted from sharing the joy of sex with someone, I choose the sublime forest any day.

in the Garden of Eden

I have just finished walking one of the many beautiful, multi-day tracks, here in New Zealand.  At one point on this particular walk, my stride was interrupted by the incredible stillness of the moment.  There was not a breath of wind and all was silent, save for the occasional call of a bird.  I had to stop and let the stillness touch me more deeply.

I was deep in a forest.  Strong patches of sunlight percolated through the foliage, alighting on mosses and ferns and all things green.  And as I looked around, it seemed to me that this was a primordial forest: it might have been unchanged for millennia.  Then the realization came – more as a feeling than a thought – that I was in the Garden of Eden.

We humans have made such an ugly mess of so much of the planet, with our buildings and our cities and our roads, with our noisy, smelly vehicles and other machinery.  The list is endless.  It’s all ugly.  Little wonder that, by and large, we go through our days without this feeling of being in the Garden of Eden.  We are no longer surrounded by natural beauty.  In the name of comfort and security, we have besmirched the garden.

The challenge, as I see it, is partly to return to a more natural way of being, more in tune with nature, as uncomfortable and insecure as that may be.  However, the challenge is also to see the Garden of Eden even where we have created ugliness.  I, for one, still have a long way to go with that!

a thousand episodes

Today I published the thousandth audio episode at abeing.org – 108 hours worth in total!  It brings a smile to my face, thinking about all that talk, because in day-to-day life I am a man of very few words.

Looking back, though, I realize that this material has been slowly accumulating over a seven year period or more, so I guess that I have still been quite frugal with my chatter.

It does show how a relatively modest amount of activity, if sustained over a long period, can create something substantial.  It reminds me of the lovely little story The man who planted trees.  If you haven’t read it, I urge you to do so, especially if (like me) you love trees.  The story is of a single shepherd who, by planting a few nuts each day, eventually creates a forest.

I hope you are enjoying wandering through the forest of abeing audio!

an outlier

A friend recently introduced me as ‘an outlier’.  I rather like the designation.

My friend’s work involves organising and analysing large sets of data.  In that arena, the term ‘outlier’ is used to refer to a datum that sits far from the main cluster of data – perhaps a point that doesn’t fit within an expected distribution.  Often times, such outliers are merely disregarded, excluded from the analysis.  When time permits, though, a curious soul will always want to know what is going on; what makes this outlier different to the rest?

It strikes me that this is one of the obstacles to spiritual liberation:  One must be prepared to be an outlier.  Most people, most of the time, are conforming.  So much of our behaviour is dictated by societal norms, by what we believe others expect of us.  To be free is to be oneself, whatever that might be in the moment, without any need to conform.  However, this takes a tremendous courage, the courage to be alone, the courage to be an outlier.

And if one does manage to be oneself, we shouldn’t expect that others will be happy about it.  Most will shun us, out of fear and suspicion, much as that lone datum is so often excluded from the analysis.  Only a few curious souls will be drawn to us.  Only a few will ask: what makes this outlier different to the rest?

But perhaps my friend called me an outlier merely because I so often sleep outside!

turning off the satnav

‘Turn around when possible!’ came the instruction from the satnav.  I switched it off.

I’m making a road trip in New Zealand.  I’ve bought a van which I can sleep in.  And I’m on the road.

Satellite navigation is an amazing technology.  I have a device which can tell me where I am anywhere on the surface of the planet, with an accuracy of a few metres.  It also has road maps for most countries of the world loaded into it.  It’s very difficult to get lost with this satnav to hand.

However, there are times when I want to get lost.  This morning, for example, I find myself lured onto a scenic, peaceful, back road.  I don’t know where it will take me.  It doesn’t matter.  Birds are singing – some familiar to me, others exotic.  The sun is shining on rolling hills, meadows and woods.  In this moment, there is nothing amiss.  Not a single iota is out of place.

And I am not out of place either.  I don’t know what place I am at, nor where I am headed.  This much I know though: I am not out of place.

So, satnav, I won’t be turning around when possible.

mortality

I am sitting in a café by the sea.  I know this place well and returning here calls forth memories of days gone by.

In particular, I remember a day, six years ago, when I was sitting in this café having breakfast.  A woman walking down the street caught my attention and I invited her to join me for a coffee.  Although we had little language in common, there was an immediate rapport between us.  A day of closeness, of intimacy, followed on the beach.  And a few more days of melting after that.

There was a reason this woman was so open to connection: she had breast cancer, which had already spread to her skin and elsewhere, despite her having had one breast removed.  She was trying to maintain hope of recovery but, deep down, she knew that her time was limited.

I saw her once more, a couple of months later, when she invited me to visit her in her home town in Spain.  It was clear to me that the cancer had spread.  And knowing that death was coming, all she really wanted was to feel the intimacy of being with someone, of being touched by someone, of making love with someone.

She died four months later, at the age of forty-two.

Since that beautiful encounter, I have often wondered about the tendency most of us have to isolate ourselves; so many of us are quick to judge others, usually in a negative light.

I wonder how we would feel towards each other if we had some awareness of our mortality.  Surely we would be more accepting of one another, more forgiving, more appreciative, more loving.

We would do well to remember, every day that we are lucky enough to be here, that one day in the not-too-distant future, we no longer shall be.