Saturday, January 13, 2018


Meditation, at its most basic, is the simple art of taking time to contemplate.  Contemplation, in turn, is a kind of relaxed, controlled thinking, which lets the mind rest on its object of focus.  So, if you sometimes find yourself looking at a leaf or a tree, or even a person's face, and dwelling peacefully on its features and nature, then you meditate, whether you are aware of it or not.

One way of thinking about meditation, is to consider what would be its opposite.  Have you ever seen a person in the middle of road rage, spitting with anger at something another driver has done?  Have you ever been in the middle of an argument with someone close, and said a lot of things that you later regret?  These things are the opposite of meditation.  When you have road rage, or when you shout at someone else in anger, then you are showing three things:

  1. You are not in control of yourself.  Your mind and body seem to take on a life of their own, not listening to anyone or anything.  You, literally, 'lose it'... 'it' being the ability to master your actions.
  2. You are not aware of your surroundings.  You may notice, when in a rage, that the world reduces to the size of a pinhead.  Some people call it tunnel vision.  You are so incensed, that you have no resources left to observe, as if from a distance, what is happening.
  3. You are selfish.  That is to say your own needs in the particular situation outweigh everything and everyone.  That is why we do so much damage when we are in a temper - because we have become so afraid of what we might lose, that we cannot bend to the perspective of others.

Meditation is often associated with Buddhism, but contemplation has a long tradition in most religions.  Islam relates that the Prophet Mohammed often withdrew to a cave to meditate and pray.  In the Hindu tradition, meditation is a practice of self-awareness whereby a wise person comes to understand their relationship with others, and with reality.  In Judaism, an individual may set themselves apart to contemplate, either intellectually or intuitively, bringing greater insight.  The Christian tradition uses meditation as a time of reflective study and focus.  Buddhists meditate to develop mindfulness, concentration, peace and insight.  And so on.

Common to almost all types of meditation are a few basic steps, which can be the background to any meditation practice.

  1. Preparation - make sure you are settled in an environment which enables you to focus, and be sure that you yourself have established an intent to take time to contemplate.
  2. Bodily alignment - you can adopt a comfortable sitting position, or lie down, or kneel, or even stand or walk slowly; the important thing is that your body is aligned, or arranged, in a way that enables you to focus.
  3. Focus your attention on a single object of contemplation.  It may be your own breath; you could listen to it enter and exit your body.  It may be an external object, such as a sunset, or a candle, or a tree.  Or it could be a particular piece of wisdom or scripture that means something to you.
  4. When you sense your attention disappearing (perhaps your usual worries and distractions begin to reappear in your mind), then gently realign your focus onto the object of your meditation.
  5. Remain in that contemplative state for a period of time, returning your mind to the object of meditation whenever you sense it straying.

What is the power of meditation?  Remember the list above, of things that are the opposite of meditation.

  1. You are not in control
  2. You are not aware of what is going on around you
  3. You are obsessed by your own needs

You may notice that these three symptoms are characteristic of a lot of mental illnesses, and certainly of a lot of distress.  Meditation, on the contrary, seeks to establish three opposite things:

  1. Control - learning to focus in a peaceful state brings you the ability to control your thoughts, and ultimately your feelings.
  2. Awareness - learning to observe and contemplate, and to apply this to yourself and others, gives you greater awareness, as you are less distracted, and therefore make fewer mistakes of observation.  You see more clearly.
  3. Kindness - learning to set your own worries and internal chatter aside, makes you better able to listen and attend to others.  Because you are not attached to any one outcome, you can more easily flex your perspective and see life how others see it.  Therefore, you will be better able to match your actions to the wider context, and should experience greater flow in your movement and thinking.

There are many cognitive reasons why meditation works, but perhaps they can all be summed up in the above.  If you wanted to drive someone mad, you would make them lose their sense of control, blur their sense of focus, and make them fear for their own safety.  In contrast, then, if you want to bring yourself peace, then to practice mastery over your thoughts, to enhance your awareness, and to widen your perspective beyond your own attachments, seem entirely logical.

Mindfulness usually refers to a state of enhanced awareness, in which you observe and accept your own feelings.  A state of mindfulness contains all the things we have talked about above: self-mastery (so that you have not 'lost your mind' any more), awareness (so that you are not 'driven to distraction' any more), and kindness (so that you are not obsessed with your own needs any more).

Mindfulness, therefore, is pretty much the name we could give the meditative state.  In an argument, a mindful person would be one who showed their ability to keep control of themselves, to see the whole context clearly, and to act without self-obsession.

Setting aside time each day to meditate has a number of benefits.  In particular, do you notice how, in the course of a normal day, you are subject to aggravations, distractions, frustrations, difficulties?  A bit like a computer, you need time to get your house in order, and regain your focus.  You need to clear up loose ends, let go of what is bothering you, and return to 'place zero', a place of rest from which you can face the world again.

Using another analogy, imagine you are a Formula 1 driver.  Would you be a good driver if you spent all your time racing round a track at breakneck speed?  No.  You need rest, you need recuperation, you need focus.  Nature is full of rhythms to be wisely respected: there are day and night; there is activity and reflection; there is expenditure of energy and regathering of energy.  In the same way, part of your daily practice is to take time to regain your control, awareness, and perspective.  To refocus.  Otherwise you will be good for nothing, a bedraggled wreck.

There are wider benefits too.  We have focused on the individual.  But wider societies and ecologies can benefit from mutual self-mastery, awareness and selflessness.  An ability to take different perspectives, and not just act out of fearful self-defence, is sorely needed in the political and environmental world today.

Meditation is the practice of taking time out to focus peacefully.  It enhances self-control, awareness, and kindness.  Daily meditation sets an example to everyone that you are prepared to calm your own 'road rage', to see the other side, to take account of the whole picture, to take responsibility.  If you learn the art, then eventually it will become part of your normal behaviour.  You will find life easier, and others may find you more helpful and companionable.  Moreover, you may find your mental health improving, as you attend to the wonderful being that is you, and let it accept its wider place in the universe.

Wednesday, January 10, 2018


We live in a world that is forever trying to grab our attention.  That's what advertising is.  Literally.  Ad=to, vert=turn.  People and things are trying to turn your head.  The outside world, full of advertisers, is trying to get hold of your attention, and keep it.  It would be a mistake to think of advertising as a recent invention.  Watch nature.  Birds are the epitome of advertisers, always tweeting this and that, making sure that they are noticed.

But it's distressing to many, all this advertising.  It clouds our heads.  Advertisers give us shorter and shorter time spans, firing images at us every second.  We end up punch drunk, unable to take much in consciously, but with a constant stream of images feeding us from our eyes.  We lose control of our lives, and become information feeders, turning to Facebook or Instagram or YouTube, or some other screenbased distraction, to provide our eyes with images-without-thought. 

We don't notice our distress immediately.  We only notice that we are becoming less and less able to stand on our own two feet.  Silence without a screen becomes difficult, hard to bear.  Nothing happening threatens us with an unnameable fear.  We turn back to our screens for comfort - at least something is happening there; at least the screens want to talk to us.  But the screens are feeding us the same thing as millions of others are receiving: the information equivalent of sweets, designed to keep us hapy for a while, and then to crave more.

We are being trained to be distracted.  Advertising, after all, feeds on distraction: it is essentially the same thing.  If we could not be distracted, then we could not be successfully subjected to advertising.  Commercial forces have a vested interested in enhancing our ability to passively receive images from the world around us; and they also have an investment in making us fearful when those images are absent.

The result is the creation of a generation of humans that does little except watch screens passively.  When we are not doing that, we are worrying about the silence.  So we go back to the screens.  And so on.  We are deceived into thinking that we are doing something.  What did you do today?  Oh, this and that.  Actually, I watched some screens.  But I don't want to admit that.  So I will make up some things.  This and that, I will say.  But I wont say 'I did nothing but watch screens.'

Let's think what we are creating.  We are becoming beings who cannot exist without something to grab our attention.  Our mobile computing devices are becoming our carers, effectively screening us out of the world around us, and into the world that they create.  Developers are constantly creating pathways which they believe we can easily travel down.  Places they can make us go in our minds.  Until, before we know it, we have given in to all the tunnels and roads that the internet leads us down, and forgotten the real world we live in.  Even better, we have compromised our idea of real, so that we see these offered screen-realities as just as real as our lives outside them.

To summarise the above, we are being trained by the modern comercial world to be easily distracted, and unthinking.  That's what advertisers are aiming for. Imagine a consumer whom it was impossible to distract, and hard to persuade.  That consumer would cost you a lot of money.  Instead, you want a population that has the attention span of a gnat, and few powers of steady rational thought.  The fact that we are easily distracted, is a result of our training.  By television, by a world of screens.

I was wondering what the opposite to all this distraction would be.  And I thought, maybe it is a mind that is so well-mastered that it is not amenable to being distracted.  And so I began to try the opposite of the distraction.  I imagined to myself that nothing in my environment could attract or engage my attention.  I used a lot of the techniques I had gained through years of meditation.  I noticed distractions fleetingly, and I let them go.  Noticed another one, and let it go.  Noticed another, and let it go.  Soon I could bypass the noticing and letting go.  The distractions started to become fewer, to lose interest in me.

I went for a walk.  Even though the basic distractions had disappeared, some old distractions came to take their place.  It is as though we have a working memory space where thoughts and sensations come to offer themselves.  Imagine a glade in your mind, in the middle of the forest of your self, where available thoughts, feelings and sensations come to gain your attention.  If you tend to them, they stay.  If you ignore them, they go.

I found that some old, rather magnetic thoughts entered my glade.  A few family problems, for instance.  I found myself tending to them, forgetting myself.  Then I noticed, remembered myself, and let them go.  More and more, deeper and deeper thoughts came and went, now not stopping in the glade to check for my attention, but simply wandering across and out of the other side.  I realised that, once normal distractions were removed, old problems came into the space made available and tried to gain traction, attention.  I didn't give them the time of day, and they went away.

After that, some really enormous problems came into the glade of my imagination.  Death, love, things like that.  World-defining issues that, they argued, really couldn't be ignored.  'Look at us,' they said.  'We are the really BIG problems of the world, able to speak to you now that you have dispensed with the smaller issues.  You absolutely HAVE to attend to us.'  But I didn't.  I ignored them, and let them go, and left myself alone.

Soon, I felt very cold.  Nothing was around me, just infinite space.  All the problems and issues that normally flooded my brain had left me.  It was just me, and an infinite expanse of what felt like darkness.  I wondered whether I could cope with this cold, this alone-ness.  Nothing seemed to flourish there.  It was like being trapped in a big underground cave with no escape.

But soon, a little warmth came back.  A sun shone onto my skin, and I felt it.  I realised I did not need to notice it for it to have its effect.  Then I saw some plants.  Then I knew again the space in the forest, the place where I had had all my thoughts in the past.  It was the same place, but it felt less fussed.  And nothing in there was trying to gain my attention.  Everything was flowing through me as though I wasn't there.  But I felt as though I were a part of everything.  I didn't really mind being absent.  Ironically, I was present, too.   The closest analogy I can think of is the air in a balloon.  I was the air in the balloon.  You couldn't see me.  But the balloon would not be the balloon without me.  I was the space in the middle of everything.

I guess what I am trying to say is, today I left behind all my worries and distractions for a while.  I found a way to just be, and let the world go on around me.  I didn't need to be needed.  I didn't need to grab hold of anything and make it my own.  Philosophically, I guess you could say I became space.  Like the air in the balloon.  Mystically, one could say I lost myself, and became one with everything.  Casually, one could say I dropped my selfishness and became a quiet watcher.

I tell this story because I want to talk about how we might deal with distraction.  I tell it as a story because, in many ways, it is a circular journey.  You drop your usual worries; you drop the bigger worries that then invade; you drop the biggest worries you can think of, like death and relationship.  Then you just sit.  And the world comes back.  Everything that you had before comes back.  But your relationship with it is different.  Now, you are not distracted by any one part of it all.  You are identified with the all, and so the parts cannot affect you.

Thing of being a parent at a children's party.  The party is full of little stories, of little Jill being mean to little Jack, of little Jimmy losing his presents, of little Jane losing her friends.  But you are outside all of that.  You care, but it is not a caring that is obsessive, or controlled by events.  It is a caring that sees the whole picture, and therefore finds it hard to be discombobulated by any one part of it.

I have an idea for you, a little project.  Set aside a day, not so long in the future, just for you.  On that day, pretend you are a new kind of human being, one that cannot be distracted by internet, by screen, by person, by situation, by drama, by problem.  You are just you.  Imagine in your mind a forest glade, which is your space.  Watch the thoughts come and go in that space.  Eventually, lose your connection to them, so that the whole forest dissolves into itself, and runs without you.  Now you have your own dispensability, your own redundancy.  Your redundancy is your greatest weapon.  

Now sit with it, with your redundancy, your absence, and enjoy it.  It will feel cold and lonely for a while, but in the end you may feel warmth returning.  You may be able to re-engage with the world in a different way, still seeing everything, but not controlled by it.  You will have become a quiet watcher.  That is meditation.  That is pretty much it.  You'll be able to smile.  In fact, you'll want to smile; because you now know that nothing matters, so everything matters; that nothing needs your attention, so everything can have your attention; that nothing is, so everything is.  It's quite relaxing.

We live in a world where everything is striving to grab our attention.  It is exhausting.  It makes screen addicts of us all.  So find some time, perhaps a day, for yourself.  Go for a walk, or sit, or do something else relaxing.  Learn to detach from any problems that arise in your mind.  First the little problems.  Then the bigger ones that take their place.  Finally, let yourself sit in complete, empty space.  You will find you slowly become a part of the world, but in a different way.  You will not be attached to any one thing, but you will be all-present.  It will be very relaxing.  You will have arrived.

Or, if this all means nothing to you, you have just read something you disagree with.  But that's fine.

Saturday, January 6, 2018


Many people are suspicious of the talking therapies.  Some mock the standard therapist's phrase 'And how does that make you feel?'  Counsellors are sometimes derided for offering their services to healthy people in difficult situations; some say that people should just be strong and get on with life, that we are all going soft.  

They have a point.  It can be quite annoying to sit with a counsellor or therapist who adopts an over-precious voice, a patronising tone, and an automatic manner.  Some therapists do seem to think that counselling can be done by numbers; that, as long as they enforce clear boundaries, do nothing unexpected, and say 'I'm afraid that's all we've got time for this week', their job is done.  That stereotype is alive and well, and often thoroughly respected.  It is sometimes born of the need to make an artificial profession out of  something humans have been doing for thousands of years: talking with, and being with, each other in a healthy way.

Even so, there are great benefits in having a profession dedicated to talking (counselling and psychotherapy are often, rightly or wrongly, nicknamed the talking therapies).  Some people have deep secrets that they need to disclose, and that requires trust.  An easy way to create basic trust is to create a profession with rules of confidentiality.  A therapist is likely to keep your secrets, where a friend may not be.  A therapist will generally not be part of your usual social groups, and so is less likely to disrupt your position and comfort in the community with what they know.

Many therapies limit initial intervention to six sessions, often through resource limitations.  It's debatable whether this is long enough to get to know a person in depth, and one limitation of talking therapies is that it is pot luck whether you get a therapist who is caring and understanding enough to get to know you within a shortish space of time.  Also, backgrounds differ, and if your character or environment has differed greatly from the therapist's, you may find yourself battling to be heard through their prejudices.  A good therapist should have some kind of supervision, which is designed to make them self-reflexive and keep them unprejudiced... but there are no guarantees.  Sometimes therapist and supervisor will together create a myth about you which you can't shake, because you're not privy to their conversations.  So while talking may help, it is worth investing in a therapeutic relationship over time, so that you can get to know each other.  After all, friendships work that way: good relationships often need time, ups and downs, and hard work, to be fruitful in the long term.

I believe that a therapeutic relationship is a human relationship like any other, and need not be put in a separate box.  However, it usually has a particular character, borne of the fact that the understanding is that counsellor A is there to help person B, not the other way round.  In other words, therapeutic relationships are deliberately one-sided, so that a person in need of help can receive it from a person prepared to offer it.

That said, different therapists have different approaches to.. well... approachability.  I have known some who believe that the therapist is there not to be a friend, but to perform a different kind of interaction: some think it's a bit like surgery, a clinical operation; some think that to be too friendly gets in the way of some types of relationship that it may be necessary for the client to work through... there are almost as many types of therapist as there are types of relationship.

However, I personally don't see why a counselling relationship shouldn't have many of the attributes of a friendship.  After all, the social skills and techniques that we use as collaborative  humans have evolved over a long time, and there is a lot of wisdom in them.  And friendships contain periodic problems and even enmity... so the whole range of human interaction could be available in a counselling relationship.  Obviously, a wise counsellor will flex their approach to the needs and limitations of the client.  But this, I think, is sometimes overplayed.  Many times, a client will find themselves flexing to apparent limitations in the counsellor... and unless the counsellor is prepared to invest in the relationship, with humility and openness, the client can spend their time effectively carrying the therapist through narrowly-focused sessions, because the counsellor is not showing themselves able to invest in a rich variety of interaction.

I'd use the analogy of a walk through a wood.  A narrow-band therapist will treat it like a guided tour, stick to the paths, and keep the relationship rather formal and inhibited.  A wide-band therapist will be able, if warranted, to allow the walk to become an exploration that includes bushes and undergrowth, and even climbing trees.

So, if you are going for counselling, take an interest in the counsellor's own unique approach to the relationship, and don't be afraid to ask them how they see counselling relationships.  They may be prepared to tell you a bit about their approach.  Though a warning here: I have met several therapists who are weirdly secretive with clients about their methods.  This, too, has its reasons: it may be that their method involves not telling the client their method!  but, in general, don't be afraid to quiz the therapist.  And if you feel uncomfortable, tell them, or change to another counsellor.

Whether a friend or a counsellor, why does talking help?  A few reasons:

1. You can disclose things that have been bottling up.  This provides release.  For many clients, this is the main benefit: being able to give your 'shit', as it were, to someone who can take it!
2. You get a different perspective.  Many mental illnesses are exacerbated by loneliness and solitude.  Solitude often magnifies suffering, because all you have is your own mind to work with.  Talking enable you to borrow aspects of someone else's perspective for a while, and release yourself from the oppression of yours.  Or, more importantly, to gently explore your own perspective, but with some reflective help, in supportive company.
3. You have a foil to work things through.  Counselling relationships are often dyadic - in other words, one-to-one.  This is restrictive, but has some benefits.  For instance, the counsellor can hold a thought for you while you step up to another thought; or hold a feeling with you while you get used to it; a bit like using a ladder to climb.  A counsellor can remind you of things you have said that seem inconsistent, or unusual, or interesting.  Two heads are sometimes better than one.
4. You are in company.  If you are lonely or alone in some way, being in company can in itself be a benefit, and bring health.
5. You have a routine of sorts.  Usually, counselling has a routine and a rhythm to it.  If you meet weekly, it can help make your week bearable, because you know you are visiting a trusted person one every seven days.  It can become a little landmark in your schedule, and give you comfort.
6. You can escape your own network for a while.  If you are oppressed or abused in your domestic or work environment, then you have a chance to escape that, and be with someone different.  Many clients find this a distinct advantage, enabling them to get respite.

So there you go, a few reasons to try counselling if you want to.  Talking is something we've all been doing for thousands if not millions of years.  A healthy talking relationship can be a way of creating health in difficult circumstances.

Just make sure, though, that you use judgement in choosing a therapist who is right for you.  Go with your gut feel.  Sometimes it's worth persisting, but if you really feel you don't trust your therapist, don't be afraid to change to a different one.  That's what you'd do with friendships; therapeutic relationships can be similar.

Talking therapies can be useful, especially if you need to disclose or work through something which it's harder to talk about with your usual social circle.  But make sure you feel the therapist is taking the trouble to get to know you, and that the relationship has enough 'bandwidth' for you to feel that it is rich, supportive and helpful.  Dig a bit to get to know your therapist's method.  Counselling is worth a try... but don't be afraid to change your counsellor if you feel that they have not earned your trust.


A lot of people are unhappy with their jobs.  A lot.  Many articles are written about how to make a life you love, one that goes beyond the apparent slavery of our commercial world.  But why is it so difficult to make that escape?

The main trend, over the centuries, has been a move from the self-reliant community to the interactive market.  In a self-reliant community, you are born into a family, and that family is aware of its position in the local tribe.  As long as you play a role that is expected of you, in terms of food gathering or other maintenance, then you are rewarded with a sense of stability and food on your plate.  In contrast, in an interactive market, you are born into a family, but you are expected to leave that family and make your own way in a bigger society.  That society is composed of millions of individuals, and you are expected to find a role for yourself using your own initiative and creativity.

Essentially, the old way simply involved copying.  You did what you were born into, and you learned your habits from your immediate family.  You can see this behaviour in animal communities.  Habits and rituals are enforced by default.  There is very little reason to misbehave, as quiet compliance rewards you with your meals and a support system.  The new way is more difficult.  To live, you have to be proactive.  And there are so many choices.  Instead of just being a person, you have to try to define yourself as a lawyer, an accountant, a secretary, a teacher, a driver... society will not let you settle until you have told it your function.

The trouble is that these functions we all have to name are specialised.  And performing each function involves sacrificing or suppressing all the natural activity that is not contained within that function.  Thus, for example, a politician is generally required to be secretive and evasive, suppressing their natural desire to communicate freely.  Part of the attraction of Donald Trump, America's outspoken president, to his support base, is his unwillingness to perform in accordance with these expectations.  Doctors are required to suppress expressions of discontent; they have to be friendly to every patient.  Models are often required to suppress their desire to eat normally.  And so on.  Sportsmen, coal miners, taxi drivers, therapists... all have to suppress their whole selves, and only express a part.

Much mental illness is borne of attempts to fit oneself into these stereotypes of specialists.  A politician may become depressed when forced to remain secretive about the government's ethical misdemeanours.  A sports person may break down when required to ignore their home and domestic life.  Think of the jobs you have had... you will, I'm sure, be able to point to ways in which each job forced you to suppress your natural responses.

Stress, as well as depression, happens when we force ourselves into wrong-shaped holes.  Stress, in a way, is the short-term response to pressure in reaction to the environment... depression can evolve when our bodies get fed up with constantly mounting the short-term stress response, and slump away from confrontation.

I guess you could say that modern jobs cause illness.  They tend to be specialised, and those specialisms force us to narrow ourselves and our personalties into prescribed behaviours, and away from proscribed behaviours.  Some are lucky enough to find jobs that somehow suit them, that don't affront their nature.  But many find themselves playing the dangerous game of square-peg-in-round-hole.

In a world where economies are pushing us into narrow, specialised roles and behaviours, what's the answer?  How can we regain our mental equilibrium?  Here are a few suggestions:

1. If you are an employer, ask yourself: 'Am I creating an environment in which my employees can be themselves?'  Are your employees forced to hide their true feelings in order to toe the line?  Are they forced to compromise their eating and sleeping patterns to ensure their work is done?

2. If you are an employee, ask yourself: 'Where and when do I feel my most natural self?  How can I best recreate that during a typical week?'  You may be able to create small wins, such as getting the right to eat when and how you want; creating forums at work where colleagues can be themselves for a while; giving yourself balancing activities to blow off steam.  If not, you may be able to move to a job where you feel less stressed, and more your natural self.

3. If you are not traditionally employed, you may be able to create a daily structure which matches what your body wants to do.  If you feel unnaturally lonely, then you may want to join support or activity groups; if you feel dominated by customers, or by the benefits office, then you may want to create 'safe havens' for yourself away from those pressures.

Let me ask you something.  I'm going to offer you two extreme scenarios, and I'd like you to imagine them:

Scenario 1: A life with no minutes at all in it, but with plenty of money.
Scenario 2: A life with no money at all in it, but with plenty of time.

Which would you choose?  Scenario 1, you may have noticed, is non-viable.  Quite literally.  You can't exist at all unless you are around for a period of time.  If you choose that option, you are like an Egyptian Pharaoh in a pyramid, dead already!  Scenario 2, you were built for.  In case you didn't know it, for millions of years, animals like you have been living lives with no money.  It's actually your naural state!  All this money stuff is a recent invention, a creator and a product of the economic age.

So try treating time as your currency.  What are you going to do today?  What wealth of experience are you going to discover in this waking time?  Never mind what you earn.  Just for a while, treat your time as the most important thing you have, and spend it in a way that feels natural to you, and that does kindness, not harm, to your body.

In order to live more freely, you may have to say goodbye to promotions, pay rises, awards, that kind of thing.  But remember, these are the things your society has invented to trap you in the circle of wealth.  I am encouraging you to break the rules, and see what happens.  You will find that many of the rules are things you've absorbed and never questioned.  Here are a few rules I'd like you to think about breaking:

Rule 1: You have to start and finish your work at specific times.
Rule 2: You have to aim for advancement and promotion.
Rule 3: You have to use traditional job names to describe what you do in life.
Rule 4: You have to wait for orders in order to do your next thing.
Rule 5: You have to subordinate your natural self to the weird demands of your regulated environment.

Put the other way round, and phrased positively, I am encouraging you to:

Invitation 1: Pay more attention to your natural rhythms, and take care of your body and mind.
Invitation 2: Pay more attention to your priorities, and let others own theirs.
Invitation 3: Be a whole person, rather than a narrow job description.
Invitation 4: Do some things because you feel moved to - follow your inner promptings rather than others' orders or requirements.
Invitation 5: Respect your natural self.  Nature's spent millions of years evolving you.  Use that inner wisdom.  See what it says.

You will sometimes feel guilty.  That's how modern society works - it is designed to make you feel guilty if you depart from the behavioural norms it has created.  As soon as you drop a quest for status, you will be flooded with feature films in which the hero says 'never give up'.  That's partly because Hollywood and other film communities are encouraged to be thought-leaders: they are sometimes funded to produce stories which make you behave.  At other times they produce escapist stories to give you a second life on screen; so that you don't live that second life in reality.  But try abandoning the need to look to films for messages.  Try just listening to what your own body and mind are saying.  You may be surprised at how coherent, helpful and inspiring your own self is.  You just have to let yourself have enough space, so that your oppressive environment can't drown you out any more.  Nothing annoys supporters of social norms more than people who refuse to behave.  But I am asking you to give it a go.  So let the loud voice fall away.  And let your own quiet voice grow.
In paying attention to your own rhythms and priorities, it is often a mistake to ignore other people.  Many of your natural rhythms and behaviours are social ones, so experiment with what works for you.  Try to find communities which feel comfortable for you.  That kind of external regulation is a great comfort.  So when you find an environment in which you are happy to follow wise instructions, healthy timetables, good routines... then great.  This article is an encouragement to question whether your existing environment is right for you.  I'm not inviting you to leave all regulation; but I am encouraging you to look again at any blind obedience of regulations that are not in harmony with your natural self.


I use the word natural quite loosely in this article.  Just to clarify a bit: I am offering encouragement to pay respect to our own being, and to the millions of years of past experiences which have gone into the formation of that evolved being.  If you feel an urge to do something different, then I wouldn't stand in your way.  But sooner or later, I suggest, your long-term, evolved being will have something wise to say; and when it speaks, maybe we can be polite enough to listen, to comprehend, to take it into account!