Archive for the ‘energy’ Category

Impossible is nothing

May 28, 2008

I saw this on a poster recently and really really like it:

“Impossible is just a big word thrown around by small men who find it easier to live in a world they’ve been given than to explore the power they have to change it. Impossible is not a fact. It’s an opinion. Impossible is not a declaration. It’s a dare. Impossible is potential. Impossible is temporary. Impossible is nothing.”

Mohammed Ali


The end of some things and the beginning of more

March 30, 2008

I woke in the morning in a room of straw. Sunlight glanced through the wide window, and I rose, rested and glad of the day. The last day of my last Young Friends camp for the rest of my life.

I should feel sad but I just don’t. I don’t even feel quite the sense of completion I thought I might. I simply feel content, sure and happy with the experience having unfolded exactly in the way it did.

This path I began in 2004 has filled my life with love I had never envisaged or expected. The connection to these people has become not so much an experience, or something I posses, but just part of who I am, part of the fabric of this wonderful life.

To me this camp felt gentle, warm, calm as a slow moving river in the middle of summer. We sang, ate, worked and worshiped. I laughed with these beautiful people in the springtime of their lives.

Meeting the son of my first love and getting to know him as a friend was an unexpected pleasure. Seeing him instantly accepted by others as if he’d been coming for years filled my heart with a sense of joy I find it difficult to describe.

Even as some things come to an end new things begin.

Meeting Emily from Canberra and realizing we have a whole lifetime of Quaker events, conversations and sharing ahead of us made saying goodbye the start of something rather than the end. It seemed fitting that she was the last person I said farewell to at the airport.

I know now that ending my participation in YF business and YF camps doesn’t mean ending these friendships, or being in some way part of this community as it flows into the wider Quaker world.

When YF Camp finished four of us cycled to the train in Masterton. The day shone as we rode through the rolling hills, and I could think of no place I would rather be. Riding with friends in the sun, sharing our journey for a way, and knowing that in time we will share it again.


June 29, 2007

On Thursday night I was just leaving the back flat behind George Fox House. I’d been hanging out with Joe and Kate before my friend Tim, who I was staying with, picked me up. Tim called to say he was waiting out the front, so I got my suitcase, hugged Joe goodbye and went up the path.

As I passed the front door of George Fox House, John, one of the Resident Friends, was saying goodbye to a guest. “Hi” I said “I’m not staying this time”. “Are you getting a taxi?” John said. “No” I replied, “my friend’s giving me a ride”. “Where are you going?” said his guest. “Island Bay” I said. “Well, that’s exactly where I need to go” she replied. John then introduced us. “Oh” Marianne laughed. “We’ve just been emailing, I’m Louis and Pearl’s mum”.

We’d emailed just a few days before as her kids were coming to Junior Young Friends camp.  On the way to Island Bay we chatted about her kids, other JYFs and the upcoming camp. She asked me about my work, and it turned out she was going to Island Bay to stay with a school friend who just happened to be a client of mine, who I’d run a workshop with a couple of weeks before!

Sometimes random encounters like that make me think that it’s just too convenient to be coincidence.  I’m so resistant to the idea of fate, or an intentional God though, that I find this tricky. It’s easy just to say “it’s a small world”, and not think about it any more. I’ve had lots of seemingly ‘random’ encounters with other Quakers at GFH, which happen actually just because it’s a hub for traveling Friends.

Maybe it’s just one of the things about living in New Zealand, the degrees of separation are so low that those kind of ‘chance connections’ are fairly common. I can’t help feeling though, that sometimes synchronicity like that is a part of the wider beauty and harmony of the universe. I know that when I’m calm, focused, and in the flow, that sort of thing happens more often. Everything meshes and life becomes a smooth dance of joyous interaction with people and with the world.

To me this goes past fate vs determinism. It’s not a question of free will versus a supernatural being that has a plan for one’s life. It’s a deeper truth beyond that paradox, that when one is at peace, open, and present, the fact that everything is connected, that all is one, becomes more apparent. There is no intention, and no chance, only the flowing tides of a harmonious reality.

Where do we go from here (part two)

April 22, 2007

In Meeting for Worship on the last day of YF Camp the above title of a song from the musical “Once More With Feeling” episode of Buffy the Vampire Slayer kept going through my head. I was thinking about everyone leaving from camp, how people were going south to Dunedin, north to Kaitaia, and to many places in between. How some were going to Australia, New Orleans, and even one on a train journey across China and Russia to the UK.

These people who I’d spent five very full days with, people who I love dearly and had gotten even closer to, were scattering to the four winds. Some I won’t see again in person for two years or more. It got me thinking about what separates us, and what connects us.

On a purely physical level spending 5 days together means that we’ve shared the very atoms of our bodies. Atoms of oxygen, carbon and hydrogen pass from one person to another through breathing, water vapor from sweat and the sloughing of dead skin. 98% of the atoms in our bodies are replaced each year. After 5 days we are, in some small way, made of parts of each other. Some of the atoms that were once in my body, Alex is now carrying across China.

When we leave each other, our relationships developed and enhanced over five days, what else has changed? We have a new set of memories of each other. We have shared experiences, stories, catch phrases and jokes that only make sense to those there. At the level of mind, what is a person, but their collected memories and experiences, the patterns that reality has imprinted on their brains? When we know other people what is it that we know? We have a complex picture in our mind of the ‘pattern’ of that person. Humans are uniquely able to hold a model of the way another person thinks. That’s what enables us to have empathy. We can figuratively try to see things through another person’s eyes. It’s by no means a perfect copy, but the better we know someone, the more we understand them, the more accurate that ‘pattern’ is. So if our minds are patterns of experiences, and we can hold an albeit imperfect model of another person’s mind within our own, then again, when we leave other people we, in some strange sense, have a part of their mind within ours.

At the level of spirit, what is it that connects us? What is enhanced by spending time together, in worship, in laughter and in the simple acts of love and friendship? To me, it’s very hard to describe. There’s a sense of abiding connection that feels like it goes deeper than just the memory of those people. I don’t have the esoteric theology to explain it in objective terms like I can the science of the physical world, or the knowing of the psychological world. I know that there are some friends of mine that I get a strong sense of them a few moments before the phone rings and it is they on the other end. A number of eastern spiritual thinkers talk about the ‘ground of being’, of spirit as a single source which we are all connected to, and that at the level of spirit we are not distinct, but are always together in unity.

Orson Scott Card, in the Ender’s Game series describes the fictional concept of ‘philotes‘, very basic indivisible building blocs of matter and energy. When philotes combine to make durable structures, protons, neutrons, atoms, molecules, organisms, planets, etc., they “twine up”. Each philote connects itself to the rest of the universe along a single ray, a one-dimensional line that connects it to all other philotes in its nearest immediate structure. As individual people develop in relationship with each other, their philotes ‘twine’ together across space and time. There is of course no scientific basis for this fictional theory, but it none the less appeals to me. That in some sense we perhaps become more spiritually entwined with each other.

The words of the song from Buffy go:

Where do we go from here?
Why is the path unclear?
When we know home is near
We’ll go hand in hand
But we’ll walk alone in fear
Tell me
Where do we go from here?

I think it’s wrong. We might sometimes feel that we walk alone in fear, but physically, mentally, and perhaps spiritually we have become part of each other. We are connected, and because of that we are never alone. Wherever we go from here, in some way, we go together.

Just breathe

April 1, 2007

Recently we had a dinner for Young Friends and Junior Young Friends in Auckland. There were about 20 there, and many didn’t know each other so we played a name game on the back lawn. It involved throwing apples (from a tree in the garden) to each other, and saying each other’s names as we did it.

After that we took hands for silent grace before the meal. Sue explained to those who were new what silent grace was all about. She said that during the silence people could give thanks, or if they didn’t know what else to do, they could just breathe.

Being silent and just breathing is being physically still, yet not still. We are still moving subtly, continuously mingling ourselves with the universe. George Fox said:

“Be still and cool in your mind and spirit from your thoughts and you will feel the divine source of life in you.” 

Perhaps when we are still in our mind and spirit it is the same. Our spirit is still moving, subtly breathing with the tides of the universe. When we still our bodies we become more aware of the breath, the palpable flow of oxygen and carbon dioxide atoms in and out of our body. Perhaps the more still we can be in our minds, the more aware we can become of the flow of the living energy that connects us to all things.

The Green Silence

March 30, 2007

“He had run behind Ta-Kumsaw through the forests of this whole land, north and south, and in that running young Alvin learned him how the Red man ran, hearing the greensong of the living woodland, moving in perfect harmony to that sweet silent music” – Prentice Alvin by Orson Scott Card.

After two days of running workshops in Hamilton and Auckland I was ready to go home. I got a taxi through the motorways and spaghetti junctions of Auckland’s desperately congested and inadequate transport system, massive concrete ramps seething between high rise buildings and endless suburbs. The flight was delayed for two hours so I sat in the sterile, blandness of Auckland airport.

Once home I drove to the Quaker family camp at Journey’s end, near Loburn, about 40 mins north of Christchurch. Almost everyone had gone horse riding so when I pulled in to the camp it was quiet. The sun poured dappled through the birch and willow leaves onto the thick grass. Native birds sang in the trees and circadas chirped a rhythmic beat. The calm and peace of the place washed over me like a warm bath. I sunk into the quiet beauty and spirit of the site. Within minutes I felt restful and still. Just as Orson Scott Card described it, the silence was green, alive.

What is it that makes us surround ourselves with dead things, with steel and glass that separates us from the living land? How can I return more often to this connection with the source and the earthly manifestation of living energy?

The middle way

February 11, 2007

It was still dark and cool when I rose. 5:15 am in a house against the bush on the outskirts of Greymouth. Half an hour later my mother in law Trish, her sister in law Marie and I walked out into the misty air, got in the car, and drove to Westport. The sun rose part way along the journey, with the blue crashing sea on the left, and the dense green forest on the right.

We drove up the Buller Gorge, past the buses dropping off half marathon runners, to the start of the full marathon. There were not many people when we got there but the crowd increased quickly. Trish and Marie said goodbye and headed into Westport. I was alone, nervous and excited. A couple of hundred runners stood in groups or walked around stretching. The sandflies were terrible, but the people were positive and friendly. As I queued for the portaloo I got chatting with a guy in his early 50s for whom this was his 13th Buller Marathon. He was warmly encouraging and told me a bit more about the course.

With a few minutes to go we gathered at the start line, the air charged with energy and people grinning at each other excitedly. Then we were off. The runners stretched out quickly, with none of the jostling and pushing in bigger city races. I ran at what my legs new was the pace I’d planned, but it seemed so slow. My blood was pumping and I wanted to sprint off, and pass people. I felt unstoppable. I heard Dad’s voice in my head “at the start you’ll be jumpy, but just stick to your own pace, stick to the plan”. Each kilometre I checked the clock, it felt slow but it was 5 minute kilometres, exactly what I’d trained at. The adrenaline was coming under control but I was still a bit hyper.

We ran up the Gorge for 8k, then turned and started the 34.2k back to Westport. There was a man just up ahead of me who had been keeping the same pace for a while. I drew even with him and said gidday. We started to chat. His name was Kim, he had long curly grey hair, four kids, and this was his second marathon. We ran together for about 10k, he had a GPS watch and we were hitting bang on 5 minute ks. We talked about a whole range of things and he was such an enthusiastic, friendly guy I was really enjoying myself. He was over from Christchurch with a running club. Most of his mates were faster than him, but he was just happy to be there, running to finish and to enjoy the day. It was warming up, the sun coming over the hills, the cicadas chirping in the bush and the magnificent Buller river swelling and flowing to the right of us. I couldn’t imagine anything better in the world to be doing right then.

A women in her early 40s with short blond dreadlocks joined in with Kim and I and we all got talking. They had both run the Kepler track before and decided I should do it next year (it’s 67k, over a mountain…). Not long after Kim decided to drop back, so the woman and I agreed to run together for a while. Her mother had just died and she was running the marathon for her. We talked about death, and grief, and faith as we ran in the sun, the lush West Coast bush on the hills around us.

At about 24k we parted company. I was sticking to my pace and she wanted to go just a little slower. Alone again I let my thoughts and feelings drift, seeing where they’d go. I bounced between feeling unstoppable, and being terrified I wouldn’t finish. I was right on the pace I’d set, but the course was hilly, and I’d trained on the flat. At about 30k my calves were starting to feel sore. We came out of the Gorge and into more open country. At 32k I was in uncharted territory. I’d never run further than this before. The water in my backpack ran out. My toes started hurting and it felt like a blister was forming on my right foot.

I stopped and put a plaster over the sore spot. As I started back up another hill I got a strong sense Dad was thinking about me. He’d trained me, told me how to run the race, and now he was encouraging me. It felt like his body was overlapping mine, his strength and experience flowing through me. I kept at it.

Earlier on I thought that once I got to 5 or 6k to go, if I was feeling good I’d pick up the pace a bit. Out in the open fields, the sun beating down and the road still hilly I passed the 8k mark. I was still at 5 minute ks but I knew there was no way I was going to go any faster. My thighs were hurting now and my thoughts were getting fuzzier. By 6k to go I couldn’t do the sums in my head to see if I was on pace anymore. I was worried my legs would give out and I wouldn’t be able to finish. I stopped caring about what time I ran the race in. Everything else feel away but one question I kept asking myself “what am I looking forward to?”. The picture I got back was getting back to Greymouth and seeing Bridget and the kids. Then even that fell away, and there was just the running, just the pain, just the fear I wouldn’t make it, and the belief that I was going to do it. In the last two kilometres coming into Westport there were groups of supporters clapping and giving words of encouragement. It really helped. Then suddenly we went round a corner, through a big gate, into a park, and there was the finish line.

I’d run the marathon in 3 hours, 32 minutes and 31 seconds. Bang on 5 minute kilometres. Some of the way I’d shared the journey, some of the way I’d run alone. I’d trod the middle way, between exuberance and dispair. When I’d needed it people had been there, handing out water, cheering me on, running with me, or holding me in the light. And when I’d needed it I’d been there for myself, afraid but steady, excited but patient, taking it one step at a time.

The centre of the storm

February 9, 2007

There’s something about this week. Hannah got back from Antarctica, Dad and Margaret are leaving to go to Antarctica, Pete is climbing Mt Kilamanjaro, my kids (with both excitement and trepidation) started a new school year and I’m running a marathon tomorrow.

I recently said why I think people do these things, and the role that faith plays in them, but I haven’t said much about just what I’m doing and why. I’m going to a part of the country (Buller) I’ve never been before, where there will be hundreds of runners and thousands of supporters all trying to be doing the right thing at the right time. I’ll have to get up about 5 in the morning, drive 1.5 hours to Westport, and then find where I’m supposed to be. I think I’m less confident about getting to the start of the race than I am to the end!

Then I’m going to try to run 42 kilometres without getting injured or exhausted, without falling over or stopping. My body feels ready for it, through the training it’s gotten used to running long distances. But the training hasn’t prepared me for running with hundreds of other people in a place I’m totally unfamiliar with. There’ll be lots to distract me, the excitement of the runners and spectators, the new scenery, a different climate. Despite this I can’t afford to get caught up. I have to run my own race, at the pace that I’ve chosen. I have to put everything else aside, and just stick to the plan, amidst all the chaos.

There are lots of other reasons I’m running this race, but I think this is the main one. Because to do it successfully it’ll require me to be completely present in the moment. Because I’ll have to be aware of everything going on, but not distracted by it. Because it might just take me to that still point, where everything is clear.

Wish me luck.

From beneath you it empowers

November 18, 2006

From which direction does the spirit come? Does the living force of the universe fill us from above, or does it come up from underneath us?

I’ve been discussing healing energies with a friend recently. Reiki, chakra healing, and a number of others are all healing methods from different traditions that involve the practitioner holding their hands just above a person’s skin. The practitioner intentionally channels energy through their hands into the person’s body. They often ‘feel’ where the healing is needed by getting a sense of hotter zones from the patient’s body. The patient often feels a deep heat radiating from the practioner’s hands. I’ve had this done to me several times and the feeling is amazing, a  kind of resonant, buzzy heat that feels very very good.

In yoga there are several techniques which involve scooping energy from the ground, and pouring it into your head (or crown chakra). In aikido your energy comes from your ‘hara’ your centre of gravity, about four centimetres below your tummy button, but it requires that you are ‘grounded’, that your centre is closer to the earth than it would be when standing normally. 

The name Reiki derives from ‘rei’ (meaning ‘soul’ or ‘spirit’) and ki (meaning breath or ‘life force energy’). Some schools teach that Reiki energy enters the practitioner through the crown chakra, some that Reiki energy enters through the root chakra at the base of the spine, before becoming centered in the heart chakra, and flowing out through the practitioner’s hands. Regardless of which direction it comes from this living energy “knows what to do” and goes “where it is needed the most.”

In the 7th season of Buffy the Vampire Slayer the ‘big bad’ they have to deal with is the ‘First Evil’, the most primal and original essence of evil. The Buffyverse is deliberately theistically vague and doesn’t say much about god or the devil. The First though is very very bad. It starts appearing in dreams in the forms of deceased people delivering the message “from beneath you it devours”, or to two of the characters who are in Mexico and so have to translate the message “it eats you starting with your bottom”.

In conventional Christianity we have this notion of bad things coming from underneath (hell) and good things coming from up above (heaven). The eastern traditions seem to place more emphasis on energy from the earth, on being grounded and connected to that underfoot. It makes some sense, it’s where all our food comes from, and therefore our life energy. Of course the energy that makes our food comes from the sun. So maybe we need to reach and connect both up and down.

I don’t know the answer to my question, but I do think it’s worth exploring. I do like the notion of the ‘living force’, something that surrounds us and flows through us. That we are projections of this living energy that chooses to collect and arrange some atoms in such a way that we can move and act in the world. That we can be conduits for good.

Welling up

October 30, 2006

During JYF camp we went to Waikoropupu springs. In this place a whole river wells up out of the ground, apparently from nowhere. The water is the clearest, most pure I have ever seen. We had a walking Meeting for Worship, following each other in the silence through the bush on the path to the springs. Standing at the viewing platform as a whole group, silently and in reverence of this incredible natural beauty it was easy to see why Maori held this place as sacred. Nowadays it is protected by the Department of Conservation.

In Meeting this week someone spoke about a documentary he had seen on the establishment of a Thai Buddhist monastery in Christchurch. He had been curious about how the monks did not cook for themselves, and that this was done by the Thai community, who contributed much to keeping the monastry going, both time and money. The monks were given the space to meditate, and to teach on matters of the spirit and of healing.  He drew a comparison with the incredible plethora of committees, conversations and work that goes on simply so we can have an hour of silence on a Sunday morning in Friends.

Other ministry that morning was about truly listening to people when they talk, taking the time to really hear what they were saying. All these things spoke to me about the upwelling of the spirit. When we create the space for silence, when we wait before responding when listening to someone, we allow the spirit to well forth. We get out of the way, and let the pure clean energy of the universe flow through us.