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Science and Spirituality – Singing from the same Hymn sheet

What IF… you don’t have to choose between science and spirituality?

There has long been assumed to be a gap between spiritual and scientific thinking – and belief. It’s as though to hold one means you must exclusively deny the other, like a shitty relationship where you are made to choose between your other half and your best friend. Now why would anyone think this was healthy, loving or even reasonable? Unsurprisingly, such relationships are at the root of so much pain and anxiety. Quit now, give up the addiction to exclusive ideological subscription – it does not work.

The Gap is closing. The theoretical, ideological and social gap between science and spirituality is closing. It is closing because of the BIG questions. Namely, the age-old conundrum of consciousness, and out of this paradigmatic shift, comes a new blend of thinking.

The hidden or mystical side of religion and spirituality is no longer for the few ‘initiated’ or privileged devotees.  It is open to all. The modern approach for social inclusion (over privilege, gender, age, class and race) also make the inner mysteries accessible like never before. For example, no longer will a person’s perceived gender exclude them.

There is always a simultaneous trend both for and against for the status quo. If you want to be a rebel in 2020, go to church. The trend for Atheism is no longer the rebellion it was ten years ago with people tending to choose personal development over aggressive debate. With the rise in interest of philosophy and how to think, rather than what to think, those people drawn to such big questions are rewriting the gospels to be more inclusive. 

Science is also starting to converge toward the mystical – from neuroscience to cosmology (as above, so below*) and quantum mechanics, it’s all getting rather metaphysical with the quest for understanding human consciousness growing steadily in the laboratories of medicine, technology, psychology and disciplines that deal with quantum physics. The materialist paradigm is shifting to explore the ‘hard problem of consciousness’ and non-duality. Science is becoming ever more spiritually relevant and exciting with amazing new disciplines like ‘neurotheology’ at the forefront of modern thinking.

Spirituality is good for your mental health. Research is showing that during religious or spiritual activities like prayer and meditation certain areas are turned on and others shut down with changes in the balance of neurotransmitters. For example, during prayer, serotonin, dopamine and gabba all increase, while stress hormones such as cortisol and norepinephrine (adrenaline) decrease. The temporal lobes and limbic structures are shown to be involved in religious experience with the basal ganglia involved in states of euphoria. In those persons who have strong senses of religious faith, their brains look different to scientists from those who do not have such faith. This is throwing out many questions on the direction of cause and effect, e.g. is a person religious because their brain was predisposed to it? or has the brain developed because they of their faith?

*The Hermetic principle of correspondence “as above so below” relates to the microcosm and macrocosm of reality, just as both science and philosophy examine the same questions from neutron to nebula.  The inner and outer mysteries, from Pythagoras to Eckhart Tolle, and from hieroglyphs to emojis, it’s all the same age-old wisdom re-emerging under the shifting paradigms of cultural lenses. 

The social gaps and the method-of-enquiry gaps are closing, and we no longer must pick a proverbial side.

In the beginning there was the word, and the word was “Go…”

‘Creation’ is a much argued about and highly emotionally charged subject. In the West it is curiously based around whether we subscribe to one theory or another… e.g. the ‘big bang’ or the 7 days of biblical Genesis, but the problem here lies in assuming that creation itself was a singular event that happened, that it is somehow confined to one moment in the past – that it was a single completed event. 

No matter how far back in time we go to try and explain how something ‘began’, there is always something even earlier to explain. It is truly the biggest ‘whodunit’ mystery ever written.

For example, if god ‘did it’ just before having a Sunday rest, where did He/She/They get their supplies and slippers from? If the big bang is responsible, then how did it come about? In what state, place, or dimension were those chemical elements suspended on the run up to the noisy start of our Universe? Neither of these lines of historical enquiry are particularly helpful as they lead to more questions, anchored in the concept of historic time.

If we consider instead that creation is in the NOW that it is ongoing, that we ARE it happening back then, now and tomorrow, then these arguments become redundant (although they remain fascinating). 

We are constantly creating ourselves, literally. From general procreation and birth of our own species (directly from our own cells, our energy or life force and our mind-boggling DNA blueprints) to the day to day, minute to minute personal interactions we have with each other and the world we inhabit. We are constantly thinking and doing, acting and reacting. We are in a process of creation with each other and all that our universe holds, including the perceived empty space (which I think of as holding ‘potential’). 

From looking at the trees and hearing the birds sing and chatter, to smelling the salt in sea air and tasting our coffee in the morning as the sun glimmers upon the surface of our worldly surroundings and illuminates our senses. As we interact with each other we motivate, challenge (and even create blocks or difficulties as well as opportunities). In all of this we are in the act of creating.

As we breathe, we literally create, destroy, and create anew, in an eternal cycle. When we breathe in, we ‘in-spire’ (draw new) and when we then breathe out, we ‘ex-pire’ (transform). Just by waking and breathing each day, we are creating our own existence, together. Feeling inspired yet?

Where we begin to (or increasingly) apply our conscious self-awareness of this act of collaborative creation and all that follows, we can begin to appreciate the sheer magnitude of our minds’ capabilities (even in the smallest tasks), we also begin to see the ‘divine spark’ that is in each of us.

(As a side note, this is why I am always happy to see and accept a dishevelled and unpreened self, to not spend all of my time seeking physical acceptance or ‘perfection’. I will never be perfectly presented because I am not a finished product. I am still in the act of creation.)

So in summary, when creation begun, (assuming there was a beginning) and however you ‘storyboard’ the event that essentially brought ‘nothingness in to somethingness’ whether from unconscious cosmic disruption or from some intelligent source, the only thing that was needed was inertia – some kind of intention to create. I believe that this is where it all began – with the word ‘Go’. 

What is ‘go’? Well, put simply ‘go’ is what happens when intention meets action, giving rise to what we experience as Conscious Awareness.

Science and spirituality are singing from the same hymn sheet, albeit in different languages. If both are determined to uphold mystique with Latin phraseology, then they are singing the same song but to different backing tracks. Both religious and scientific outlooks are lenses, through which people choose to address the big questions. They are methods of perception. They are not mutually exclusive nor are they even contradictory. In fact, they inform one another to the extent that there are ‘trends’ in ‘what to assume’. These trends are generally known as paradigms. 

A paradigm is where there is a kind of unofficial collective agreement that certain underpinning fundamentals are ‘true’, and these paradigms shift across time and space. Examples of paradigm shifts are when collectively, the thinkers, teachers and investigators of a particular culture agree (or perhaps unconsciously collude) and go from one set of underpinning principles to another. E.g. where the Earth went from being the stoic centre of the cosmos to its rightful place chugging its way around the Sun. Similarly, despite the ancient Greeks already figuring it out, for eons it was held that the Earth was flat until observations of ships ‘sinking’ into the horizon suggested a rather more spherical countenance. On the religious side of life, in the West we have shifted from dark concepts of inherent sin, hell and damnation to rather brighter outlooks of spirituality, love and acceptance. Not because there has been a shift from any particular religion being wrong to right per se, but because so many have taken off old ill-fitting, broken specs held together with a finger-plaster and instead tried on a healthier new prescription of multi-perspective vary-focal, reaction lenses that also include scientific ideas as well as spiritual ones. 

“A new scientific truth does not triumph by convincing its opponents and making them see the light, but rather because its opponents eventually die, and a new generation grows up that is familiar with it.”

 Max Planck

In more modern science, there is also a gradual shift away from the Newtonian ‘materialist’ model (a universe of ‘us people who experience the world and the stuff out there in the world’) to one of non-duality (we are all ‘one’) or, the medical model of human experience where for example it was assumed that ‘consciousness is an accidental by-product of the biological brain’ but now the evidence for an untethered consciousness is persuading change of heart (and mind, boom-boom).

What all this means is that freethinking relies on learning HOW to think and not WHAT to think.

Sceptics are secret believers and true believers are sceptical

Two ends of the same spectrum. The irony of “skepticism” and “atheism” as generally fashionably purported… is that they are both erroneously used to make belief statements.

To be atheist is to say, ‘no belief in god’ – NOT ‘there is no god’. A nuanced but important difference. The latter is a statement of belief, while the former is undecided and open to being convinced.

The sceptic who says there is ‘no such thing as UFOS/ghosts/extended consciousness etc.’ is making a belief statement which is actually the opposite of being sceptical. Similarly, as above, it means ‘no belief in UFOs/Ghost/extended consciousness etc.’. 

There may not be evidence to sway some to believe in a thing – e.g. the existence of a god or the efficacy of crystal healing – but this is not the same saying that God and Crystal Healing do not exist.

Serious scientists without the bias of their cultural paradigm tend toward mystical or spiritual outlooks – because ideas of nonduality become needed and arguments about semantics and ‘rightness’ become redundant.

Beware of the Dog(ma)

From my own encounters of anomalous or ‘paranormal’ phenomena, what I or anyone else might have experienced is relative, personal and entirely subjective. So, who in the hell is anyone whose brain was not processing the experience to declare it irrelevant, mistaken or even fictitious? On what authority? Surely, not one of an assumed personal correctness of certainty? That would sound suspiciously un-sceptical. It would sound a lot like assumption, belief and closed-mindedness.

Besides, people report phenomena as it is – their own personal experience in real time influenced by all sorts of infinite things and relayed in our limited language. They are not stating newly decreed existential facts about the nature of universe. 

“I saw a ghost!” 

…is likely to be equivalent to 

“I’ve just had an experience that can be best described in the words ‘I saw a ghost!’ but I’m shocked as I don’t know what to think about the nature of reality now and I need to express this conundrum as my brain might explode)”

….and there is always someone who says “well, as a sceptic…. You are clearly mistaken/ill/lying” feeling the need to defend the position despite not being involved nor asked. In claiming not only to have a superior and correct opinion about the existence (or non-existence) of ghosts they also appear to ironically assume they have magical psychic insight in to what was really going on in someone else’s brain, mind and body despite not being involved.

What often happens in fact is that when someone is keen to dismiss and discard something which they were not involved in as being untrue or even impossible, they mistake their emotional position for intellectual rigour. The ego can help us do that when we feel challenged. When someone claims scepticism from a fast-held belief position, we call this dogma, and it is rife in academia, research and scientific media.  Ironic, considering the millennia of persecution, frustration and sabotage experienced by scientists at the hands of the church.  Fools are innocent in their ignorance, fool-hardy and open, paving the way for a journey of learning but dogmatists are ironic fools that won’t budge, they can’t learn – because they are closed, blindly stuck in their awkward positions always wondering why other people’s experiences upset them so. 

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Lenses and the Cultural influences on Anxiety.

We all experience Anxiety idiosyncratically. It’s personal.

Although we share common thoughts, feelings, symptoms and behaviours, the personal manifestation of the anxious experience is born out of our many cultural biases – those ‘lenses’ through which we have viewed and continue to view Life, The Universe and Everything. 

Thinking of our life journeys as little seeds planted in the soil then seeking nourishment and light to grow and bloom, let’s explore the greenhouse effect of intense lens wearing. 

So many lenses are granted at birth as either predispositions of our DNA and the womb environment in which we form. We then consider the circumstances that we are born in to.  Then we look at those influences over time that we grow .

Granted by Nature at Birth
For example, at birth we generally find ourselves granted a set of lenses according to the following: gender (an iffy subject in itself), ethnicity, our genetically determined traits and quirks. We may be born differently abled or transgender, neurologically diverse or so many other interesting things but it’s very likely that such diversity goes unrecognised… until we start to struggle in a world designed for typicality and/or perhaps we dare to stand out as a spokesperson for change in a “normal” society.

Granted by Circumstance at Birth
Then we consider what we are born in to and the lenses we are immediately given: the era of birth, geography, social status and wealth of your family and community, popular trends at the time. These are great examples of factors that determine wildly varying social norms (can you imagine how different life would be if you were born in the 1700s?).

Acquired on our Journeys
Thirdly, there are those biases acquired as we grow and learn how to interact with (and how to react to) the world: health, education, social circles, romance, careers, politics, chance events, finances and media course the many multi-faceted layers of parental influence and their inherited experiential legacies. 

Whatever earworm was playing at No 1 in the charts may have a lot to answer for, but more seriously, trends on public health, politics, education, domestic cleaning, diets, fashion, medical and psychological theories are all HUGE influences – even where you might never have directly interact with them because they are the cultural weather outside. They are the basic ‘stock’ that all your nourishment is cooked in.

Lenses may in some cases enhance our viewing like a telescope, a microscope, a pair of spectacles for our myopia, a magnifying glass to go with our deerstalkers when there is a mystery afoot or of course, who doesn’t  enjoy a lovely monacle for inspecting vintage Sherry bottles in the 1920s, what what. But these are lenses we purposefully acquire because of an identified need. Where lenses generate difficulty is in the very obvious challenge of sharing perspective or outlook with others. Furthermore that we don’t tend to notice that we are even wearing them.

Consider: How easy is it for two people from the same neighbourhood see eye to eye, compared with two people with very different sets of lenses see eye to eye? What about a mixed group of 20 children in a classroom? How about 50,000 people in a city? How about the population of the world?

On a personal level, the inability to see anything clearly leads to two main problems:

1 – lack pf personal clarity about what we see and believe.

2 – assumptions about what others see and believe.

This two-factor combination often leads to discord, argument, suspicion, mistrust, prejudice. Between individuals, communities, countries and cultures.

Closer to home and the heart, romance and relationships are also subject to this issue. Often in a topsy turvy way. Have you ever lusted after some absolute god or goddess of a human being only to be heartbroken when they were not as kind or as smart or as loving as you expected? We are often attracted to our biased ideals of others – not the reality. Expectations are the root cause of disappointment and it’s not just ‘beer goggles’ at play, it’s a heady cocktail of desire, need, fantasy and self-esteem goggles.

Where couples row, there is often a similar ‘lens bias’ issue. Sometimes one partner cannot see where a certain ‘line’ is over a sensitive topic (you ever had that other-half who just didn’t know when to stop making jokes and you just can’t see what’s so damn funny?). Sometimes it’s a gender-role clash of expectations of duty and no-one can see that boundaries need to be established – or worse, one party refuses to see them or smashes right through them.

Personal boundaries and fantasy viewing are also absolutely key in other relationship dynamics – including friendships, relationships with parents or siblings, colleagues and your boss. This why so many of us animal companions! Animal companions don’t bother with any of that lens stuff, they don’t judge. And that’s what this is all about – JUDGEMENT. Despite their frequent facial expressions of minor incredulity cat’s don’t actually criticise, budgies don’t judge us despite their cages and dogs don’t damn anyone (except maybe the postman).

So what do we all do about these chuffin lenses?

Well the IFFY approach is to say “hey, I see you (but I don’t). You see me too (but you actually don’t)”.

Where those tell-tale emotions start to occur (yep, those anxiety feelings of racing heart, sick stomach, anger, tension and so on) you can be alerted to that inner guru telling you to stop and think. Drop the vision you are holding because it’s total BS.

Instead, to achieve a practical moment of peaceful communication over pointless contest, we need to simply accept the biases of others as OK and also your own biases as OK but something you can at least to some degree, DROP. This is not a point of weakness or submission to the view of another, it’s a position of power and clarity because you are no longer being controlled by ego or motivated by the bloody fight or flight response. You are dropping lenses that narrow and obscure thus creating a greater perceptual field for you to stand string in. You are also creating and holding space for the other person to grow too.

Instead of battle lines, it results in the opportunity for negotiation of common ground.

Humanity holds so many lenses of judgement that it’s amazing we haven’t caught fire. On the other hand, if we were to lose the judginess and become aware of their influence – that is – what it looks like to have and not have them, to hold BOTH versions in our understanding, then instead of fire we could create eternal rainbows in an infinity of prisms. 

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How Others See You is None of Your Business

Launching soon…

This article as an extract from the forthcoming title ‘IF: Ironic Fundamentalism’.

IF is an upbeat, alternative perspective on how anxiety can lead to personal enlightenment and be the force that pushes you forwards – rather than a great weight or chain that binds you.

Worrying about how others see you? There isn’t anything wrong with that feeling, it’s perfectly normal to wonder what other people might think of us.  But you should not actually spend a lot of time on these thoughts – it really isn’t any of your business. Honestly, this is not a telling off statement, but instead is one that should free you from feeling any kind of responsibility to finding out. 

Understand, first, the reason why other people’s thoughts or opinions of you are none of your concern. It’s important to remember that just as you have your own personal outlook and experience, so does each other person you meet. Next time you are tempted to eavesdrop, just don’t. You will not learn anything except that you are overly concerned about judging others for possibly judging you, in a situation where you don’t have all the pieces of the jigsaw and it’s guesswork at best. Many famous literary stories including Shakespeare’s Othello warn us of eavesdropping because half-hard, half-understood comments can lead to fully realised tragedy. 

Furthermore, what they think of you is not you anyway – it’s that individual’s impression of you. Their impression is comprised of their own unique biases – formed from their own circumstance, their direct experience with you, and their previous experience with other comparative people. And those people are also just a bunch of biases pulled together to paint an impressionist’s portrait. It’s all rather 2 dimensional!


“O wad some Power the giftie gie us
To see oursels as ithers see us! ”

Robert Burns, To A Louse

My favourite line from my homeland’s national bard. It is part of Scottish schooling to learn and recite Burns from a very young age, where we would win certificates (and the teary-eyed pride of tartan grandparents). In particular, this line struck me like no other, nor any ever since. For as long as I can remember, it has inspired me to think about the concept of ‘self’ and all those other ‘selves’ that engage in a collaborative perceptual illusion of perceiving one another. The notion that there is any ‘self’ to perceive is a seriously iffy concept, as there is really very little consistency to go on beyond memories that link our experiences together across time. But this is a huge topic, so here I’m focussing in on the idea of how we think of ourselves, according to reflections around us – what we see and what we think others see.


Self as a reference

When we look in a mirror or other reflective surface, we see a reverse of that which is arguably ‘real’ and what others see when looking straight at us. Our left becomes our right and vice versa, so right away, we have this entire concept of self – through the filter of our looks – literally quite backwards .

Perhaps this why so many of us find it uncomfortable looking at photos of ourselves – we are the ‘wrong’ way around. Of course, looking in the mirror is always subject to light and how shadows are cast, making dramatic differences in our bone structure and fullness of face – try it yourself, taking a torch and experimenting with different angles in the mirror.

Paranormal enthusiasts often engage in psychomanteum (‘mirror gazing’) where they simply gaze at their reflection to watch their own features morph seemingly in to the faces of departed others, looking back at us through the mirror from some other dimension. Psychology speculates that the perception of our faces morphing is perhaps less to do with ghosts or spirits and instead is due to the Troxler Effect (where our attention starts to fade or blur information surrounding our point of focus) coupled with our evolved sense of facial detection – an innate, unconscious threat finding ability – where possible faces and especially unfamiliar ones, can be seen hiding in any surface.  Better to mistakenly see the face of a lion hiding in a bush and run, than to simply see a quirky arrangement of leaves and get eaten. Mirror Gazing is quite a remarkable phenomenon, and whether you believe in ghosts or not, the morphing will still likely work for you. I have engaged in it and also guided ‘ghost hunters’ in this with interesting results. Give it a go and ‘see’ who you become, and try to determine the exact point at which you are no longer ‘you’…that is the ‘you’ you recognise and assume is correct.

So, who we are is not a constant, and is as changing as the sky upon the surface of water. As Narcissus would testify, gazing too closely and too long can be fatal, yet perhaps the deeper wisdom is that self-reflection ultimately leads to the complete dissolution or ‘death’ of self. Rather than being a cautionary tale or Vanity issue, the story of Narcissus is one of enlightenment – there is no ‘you’. Afterall,  we are all ‘you’ to someone else and there is a point in time and space where any part of you starts to become something else – for example, when we absorb medication or when stroking a cat, which spaces between the atoms and which are the cat? What is giving rise to the shared experience? 


Others as a reference

Our relationships also act as mirrors and when our relationships change for whatever reason, we can feel hurt or compromised. We were seeing ourselves based on how those others treated us – Not how they actually saw or regarded us. This way, self-image is built on assumptions about the behaviour of others and their motivations toward us. Therefore, when people leave you, you hurt and feel you must have done something ‘wrong’ to bring about the change – perhaps you are no longer attractive/ useful to them. When they seem not to care, it’s really about them – not you. The chances are it is their reflection of themselves that has inspired the change, not you.

This can be extremely challenging as our sense of self according to others is what often provides our self-confidence. Like two mirrors eternally reflecting each other, trying to establish any truth to reality, is an impossible task. So often as reflections of ourselves change we and to focus on questioning who we are – and often overlook the changes occurring in the perspective holder. Change is reflected, and so we may in fact have an altered perspective of them as well. 

If friends or lovers or relations should ever leave us, it is time for multi-source ‘reflection’. We can reflect on who we are and build a more positive image than ever before by looking at and examining several reflective sources from the past, present, and even our intended future:

  • history of projects/ career (what was the motivation/result)
  • History of friendships (how the begun/ended)
  • What/who is important to us now? (What/who do we think of first In the morning and last at night)
  • What do we aspire to? (Not ambition as this relies on reflection on /and comparison with others… see blog on aspiration V ambition here) and what holds us back or pushes us forward? 

It all leads me to think again that there is little point in worrying about what others think of us – and that anything other than self-acceptance is a reflection of egoic concern and pulling in the opposite direction of growth.


Average is a Mean Illusion! (stats joke!!)

Every body and every mind is beautiful. Fact.

Beauty norms are an illusion. Mental or physical. Every cell that makes up every single body is a unique expression of the universe, creating itself. Regardless of height, weight and other measurable things, immeasurable beauty lives in the whole-ness and joy of every living being. Love your body and know that it is astonishingly exquisite – as this is exactly how it has been made.

What does an average mind or body look like? Where would we find one?

All our notions of ‘normal’ and ideal are illusions – in many cases these are illusions on which we all collaborate! Averages are concepts that only exist because of human VARIETY – how ironic!

Statistics are a great tool for understanding populations or groups – but they do not define any one person in any way! This is where we often get ourselves all wound up. Thinking we should tend toward any ‘average’ or ‘mean’ leads us in fear and to think unkindly about ourselves (and sometimes others too). The ‘mean’ or ‘average’ of any set is more like a numerically derived guesstimate of what’s there – and actually is less likely to apply to anyone involved!

When we ‘deviate’ or differ in some way from the average, we are simply demonstrating that we are all individuals that cannot be accurately charted. So, celebrate being a deviant! It’s natural and ideal!


Sexual Attraction… 

There is a LOT of shame surrounding being sexy and sexual that has led us to live with a cultural mindset of judgement. Sexiness is often considered to be somehow ‘desperate’, deviant or indicating disease or damage.

It’s really odd that celebrities such as pop stars and actors are perceived as being positively sexy – in a kind of permitted sexuality (we might call them ‘professionally sexy’). Yet non-famous people identifying with sexuality are often considered to be unwell or socially unsuitable, even dangerous, and this is especially true for women. Ironic considering that all our mums had enough sex that we can all be here and be ashamed. Women’s sexuality has been denied, suppressed and vilified through the ages leading to persecution and execution.

But here’s the rub, ahem.

Men aren’t perverts and women aren’t shallow. Evolutionary psychology of physical attractiveness shows us that it’s ok and actually totally correct that men should be spellbound by cleavage and thoroughly enchanted by jiggly bottoms.  They also are drawn to youthful faces, long hair and manicured nails. They aren’t ‘perverts’ or shallow or ‘driven by their knobs’ – they are instead driven by an unconscious evolutionary drive to seek women who display certain fertility characteristics that are a physical display of oestrogen.

Similarly, it is totally expected that women would be impressed by a fancy car, nice suit and big bank balance over any other measurement. This is because in our evolution, women relied on attracting a mate who would be able to feed, defend and care for her when pregnant and once their child was born. Put simply, it’s peacock over the other kind of cock… it’s the man with the money that is attractive because he is displaying characteristics of social dominance. Ever wondered why the ‘unattractive’ but funny guys get dates? They have an ability to influence a room – their comedy provides them with social dominance. 

There is even more good news for the ladies here! As well as being perfectly entitled to admire a man’s bank balance, your figure figures far more than you realise. You see, it’s not the magnitude of your boobs or bum that matters (nor is being thin remotely relevant) – the trick here is in mother nature’s ample wisdom. It’s the geometry of your body that counts as sexy – it’s the ratio of bust, waist and hips that determined attractiveness and that this ‘fat distribution’ across those assets, is most desirable as it tends toward Greek number ‘phi’ aka ‘the golden ratio’ – a ratio that appears to be nature blueprint for creation – we see it clearly in spiral sea-shells, the centres of flowers, the distribution of a galaxy.


Perfectionism

Why do we all worry about perfection and presentation? Because we think everyone else is achieving it? Or that despite not being perfect themselves, they will judge imperfection?

Well… if they do, let them. If they are seeking perfection in you… it’s because they lack so much more in themselves.

Focus on being REAL. On being exactly who you really ARE. This is TRUTH. Being your own authentic self does not require competition or validation! I for one am excited to be a continual work in progress and would shudder at being considered ‘finished’ – and up for consumption like a Barbie doll! Real women aren’t immaculately presented in boxes, tied in place by the shackles of consumer demand and waiting on the shelf for false liberation.


Seeking Love

In love, never seek someone to be your ‘better half’ or to ‘complete’ you – be the whole person you already are. YOU are ‘The One’. Only when two whole people come together can lives be truly shared. You both need to have an existing life to share in – not be out to share in someone else’s out of personal lack.

We tend to seek out others romantically with notions of their ‘completing us’ or being the ‘better half…. wholeness/individuality… Ironically, we think we love them but actually it’s how they influence how we feel about ourselves that counts. Finding someone with whom we appreciate ourselves better is the aim – not someone with whom we will always feel inadequacy or anxiety. Or be in search of the ‘one’ based on criteria that can never be fulfilled.

In order to share a life with another we first need to have one to offer – not assume we will share in theirs and become ‘fulfilled’. Two halves don’t make a whole. They remain two individual halves forever bargaining and compromising for their own half to be ‘completed’. Instead, be the whole person you already are, and accept that only a complete other is going to be suitable. Otherwise, what is there to share? How can you ever grow?


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Mind: The Resident Physician?

The Placebo Effect and how we might heal ourselves.

First written as an under-graduate psychology student on 12/02/2003. Blogged here without correction or updates.

Abstract: The nature of the Placebo effect and its plausible explanations are examined – specifically the classical conditioning and endorphin based theories. The methods and administration of placebos is considered along with the contexts in which placebo effects occur. The roles of the patient and doctors are assessed with particular reference to the influence of expectancy. The implications of an internal mind-based healing system and its potential applications are discussed.

Continue reading Mind: The Resident Physician?
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Religion 4.0

 

Anyone who has known me for any length of time knows I have a knack for prediction. I am a trend spotter and occasionally even a trend starter – a sort of unintentional social influencer, before the days of Facebook and Instagram.

For example:

  • Paranormal Investigation as leisure activities 
  • Burlesque as mainstream entertainment – and wellbeing classes
  • Fetish wear as pop fashion 
  • The personal coaching boom
  • Arts and craft renaissance

I generally spot things 5-10 years before they become established. How did I spot these? Because they all have the following traits in common:

  • Personal development, mental health and well-being (there is an increasing need and awareness of need)
  • Previously exclusive,  unfashionable or taboo (it can’t emerge as a trend if it is already trendy!)
  • Communities and personal journeys (they grow in trend because people share their stories and involvement).

So what is the next BIG trend?

Religion but not as we currently know it. All three criteria are met – (dogma free) religion or spirituality are proven boosts to wellbeing. If you want to be a social rebel, go to church – being an internet atheist is so 2010. Religion is inherently community focussed on shared values and offers limitless personal development.

Religion is essentially organised spirituality where there are defined parameters of shared belief, typically with certain officially recognised texts and practices. Out of which unfortunately, dogma has often emerged and ‘shared’ and ‘accepted’ morphed into dictated and exclusive. Here is where ‘traditional’ religions have often failed and lost their flock. But God is about to get a digital rebrand.

Just as Industry and Education have a 4.0, I believe there is a Religion (or Spirituality) 4.0 on the current horizon.

But firstly… what is this ‘4.0’ stuff all about?

4.0 is an emerging parlance that comes from the term ‘industry 4.0 which refers to the perceived series of industrial revolutions. 

Industry 1.0 was when we went from hand tooling to using machines powered from water and steam.  2.0 was the next phase that saw growing use of mechanisation, electricity, the beginning of electronic communication and railways. 3.0 was the ‘digital revolution’ of the 20th century where the rapid advancement of computer systems and communications technology became  4.0 is the current streamlining of automation. Note, the pace at which these changes have occurred is astonishing. Like a snow ball becoming an avalanche.

Key features of industry 4.0 tend to demonstrate the following:

  1. optimal interconnectedness of technologies (device to device) and, people and technology,
  2. the flow and transparency of information and data exchange, 
  3. technical support for the human element,
  4. decentralised decision making where the systems themselves can make decisions tot maintain the optimum of 1,  and 3.

For example, the interconnectedness of things is easily shown in the ‘internet of things’ in a factory where robots not only do the heavy lifting but also monitor and measure stock levels, productivity and wellbeing of the human workforce. The flow of the data will lead to an automated decision to order supplies to support the staff.

There is also now ‘education 4.0’ that sits alongside it and is academically integrated to not only utilise tech for learning but also to cope content-wise with the pace of technological change. So it’s not only ‘how’ they teach but ‘what’ they teach. Similarly in education the application of technology leads a rapidly changing learning environment and the pace of technological change ensure a rolling landscape for innovation.

So where 4.0 kinda means that there is an underpinning by technological and digital interconnectedness, I perceive the necessary emergence of Religion 4.0.  for two reasons:

1 – because the way we as a social species rely on interconnectedness is evolving – with social media as the most obvious aspect of cohesion and community.

2 – because the human experience tends toward personal development 

So… What is Religion 4.0?  

It will be both ancient and brand new. It is mysticism and wisdom, no longer hermetically sealed for the few.  (There is a big mystical pun in here for the well read!). It is good for your wellbeing and offers interconnectedness like never before.

It will be religion that is not based on literalism or even standardise liturgy. Instead it will be interpreted poetically, metaphorically and so on using apocryphal texts such as Dead Sea scrolls, gnostic gospels and other hitherto ‘forbidden’ or discredited materials. As the world evolves with technology, our interconnectedness with all things – people, information, ideas, our planet and ourselves – is more inclusive than ever with the once arcane or hidden ?mysteries? of old increasingly available and accessible across devices, platforms and bio-feedback. Psycho-spiritual feedback and data sharing will form the basis of personal development and social sharing.

The way in which we interact with scriptures and rituals such as prayer or meditation has changed from holy book to handy app and from sermon to podcast.   Essentially, Religion 4.0 is spirituality on the go and at the very individual level and the pace of it is also snowballing humanity toward enormous cultural, psychological and spiritual change. Because it is in many senses ?virtual?, it can also echo the intangible nature of god figures, mythologies and historical lines of saints and inspiration figures. 

The Gap is closing

The hidden or mystical side is no longer for the few ‘initiated’ or privileged devotees.  It is open to all. The modern approach for social inclusion (over privilege, gender, age, class  and race) also make the inner mysteries accessible like never before. For example, no longer will a persons perceived gender exclude them from a 4.0 priest(ess)hood.

There is always a simultaneous trend for the status quo and for rebellion against it. The trend for Atheism is no longer the rebellion it was ten years ago with people tending to choose personal development over aggressive debate. Wth the rise in interest of philosophy and how to think, rather than what to think, those people drawn to such big questions are rewriting the gospels to include, not exclude.

Science is also starting to converge toward the mystical – from neuroscience to cosmology (as above, so below*) and quantum mechanics, it’s all getting rather metaphysical with the quest for understanding human consciousness growing steadily in the laboratories of medicine, technology, psychology and disciplines that deal with quantum physics. The materialist paradigm is shifting to explore the ?hard problem of consciousness? and non-duality. Science is becoming ever more spiritually relevant and exciting with amazing new disciplines like ‘neurotheology’ at the forefront of modern thinking.

Religion is good for your health

Research is showing that during religious or spiritual activities like prayer and meditation certain areas are turned on and others shut down with changes in the balance of neurotransmitters. For example, during prayer, serotonin, dopamine and gabba all increase and the stress hormones such as cortisol and norepinephrine (adrenaline) decrease. The temporal lobes and limbic structures are shown to be involved in religious experience with the basal ganglia involved in states of euphoria. In those persons who have strong senses of religious faith, their brains look different to scientists from those who do not have such faith. This is throwing out many questions on the direction of cause and effect, e.g. is a person religious because their brain was predisposed to it? or has the brain developed because they of their faith?

*The Hermetic principle of correspondence “as above so below” relates to the microcosm and macrocosm of reality, just as both science and philosophy examine the same questions from neutron to nebula.  Furthermore, ‘science’ was originally known as ‘natural phuisophy’ until a Victorian rebrand. The inner and outer mysterious, from Pythagoras to Eckhart Tolle and from heiroglyphs to emojis, it’s all the same age old wisdom re-emerging under the shifting paradigms of cultural lenses. 

The social gaps and the method-of-enquiry gaps are closing and we no longer have to pick a proverbial side.

The Devil in Disguise

Where there is need their is greed. The disingenuous monetisation and branding of wisdom and the emergence of so many online ‘gurus’ is a concerning aspect that runs parallel to the trend. See my blog on the problem of the  personal coaching industry.

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Do Not Search for Love…


In love, never seek someone to be your ‘better half’ or to ‘complete’ you – be the whole person you already are. YOU are The One.

Only when two whole people come together can lives be truly shared. You both need to have an existing life to share in – not be out to share in someone else’s out of personal lack.

We tend to seek out others romantically with notions of wholeness yet also individuality at the same time.

Ironically, we think we love them but actually it’s how they influence how we feel about ourselves that counts. Finding someone with whom we appreciate ourselves better is the aim – not someone with whom we will always feel inadequacy or anxiety. Or be in search of the ‘one’ based on criteria that can never be fulfilled.

In order to share a life with another we first need to have one to offer – not assume we will share in theirs and become fulfilled. Two halves don’t make a whole. They remain two individual halves forever bargaining and compromising for their own empty half to be filled and ‘completed’. Instead, be the whole you are and accept that only a whole other is suitable. Otherwise, what is there to share? How can you ever grow?

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Rationalism and Honesty…


Whether we are thinking through a lunch menu or pondering the big questions, if we are honest within ourselves, reflecting on how we feel as we reason in the moment, then we can be confident in our thinking… I think.

Here is where head and hearts can align or, we can notice that they are askew or even in conflict. It is in this perception of self-awareness that we grow and refine our thinking. Our feelings are the compass that gives direction to our thoughts. However, its is important to understand that our feelings are not necessarily ‘truth’ indicators or any ‘correct’ direction, rather they are honest reflections of ourselves (our composite life experiences and impressions of the world) and through this head-heart process of self-reflection, we can examine our feelings, our emotional reactions to thoughts, concepts and ideas – and gradually come to understand what makes us tick and what makes us ticked off….

There is no ultimate ‘right’ way to think or feel, rather this is an ongoing process of self-examination, reflection and adjustment. Whether we notice something we dislike (thought or feeling), we can thus experiment with alternative ways to look at things and adjust our experience of both thoughts and feelings. Only when our heads and hearts align, do we feel content.  Otherwise we experience a sense of dissonance and unease. In this we have a perfect example of the power of perception and the magic it contains – perception is  the lens we choose.to see through and thus creates our experience of the world.  This is the true essence. of. what many refer to as ‘manifesting’.

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Average is a Mean Illusion


What does an average mind or body look like? Where would we find one?

All our notions of ‘normal’ and ideal are illusions – in many cases ones we all collaborate in! Averages are concepts that only exist because of human VARIETY – how ironic!

Statistics are a great tool to understand populations or groups – but they do not define any one person in any way! This is where we often get ourselves all wound up.

Thinking we should tend toward any ‘average’ or ‘mean’ leads us in fear and to think unkindly about ourselves (and sometimes others too). The mean or average of any set is more like a numerically derived guesstimate of what’s there – and actually is less likely to apply to anyone involved!

When we ‘deviate’ in some way from the typical, or average… we are simply demonstrating that we are all individuals that can not be accurately charted.

So celebrate being a deviant! It’s natural and ideal!  

Every Body, Mind, Beautiful.

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Beauty is not a matter of size…


Beauty norms are an illusion. Every cell that makes up every body is a unique expression of the universe, creating – and seeing – itself.

Regardless of height, weight and other measurable things, immeasurable beauty lives in the whole-ness and joy of every living being. Love your body and know that it is astonishingly exquisite – as this is exactly how it has been made.

Every body, Every mind… beautiful.

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Not Lost in Translation… insight from transgender and non-binary voices

If we want to pursue individual happiness and a fair society, we all need to be allies to those whose voices are diminished beneath the roar of controversy. When I took part in a panel discussion on trans for the Church of England last year, I decided to interview as many transpeeps as I could – so as to represent their voices and not just my own. These were read out and a video shown of UK gender-non binary artist Mark Anthony, in addition to my address, which I have blogged over here.

In order to share perspective and gain insight from those who feel they go unheard, here are my contributors, in their own words.

1. What does it mean to be trans?

DH: Being trans, is just who I am, it basically means that I dont have to pretend to be something I am not any more, forcing myself to hide away. 

JP: To be trans means to me that I can just be who/what I want to be. I don’t feel like a different person just in my eyes, an enhanced version of myself. 

JM: Being a criminal, hiding, lying, being not what you are, having to be two characters not one. Separated from society, shunned.

MA: In its most basic sense being trans means to not identify as the gender you were assigned at birth based on your body. Ie, how you feel about your gender doesn’t match with the way others see you and try to teach you to be and act. 

RR: To be trans is to not identify with the gender you are assigned at birth. This includes people who medically transition (male to female or female to male), but medical intervention is not essential. People who are non-binary, and don’t identify as either gender, also fall under the trans umbrella.

RJ: In simple terms it’s knowing that the gender people thought you were isn’t right for you, but in practice being trans is being brave and choosing to remake yourself to match what you really are, rather than what you are presumed to be.

  1. How would you define differences (if any) between transgender and transsexual? Is this a useful distinction? 

DH: I dont, I’m not hung up on labels but the difference is due to generations more than anything. Most Trans people are just themselves and not sum of their labels. 

JP: Transgender is the umbrella term, I do sort of disagree with the wording because in my eyes a crossdresser isn’t the same thing , although for many it does lead to becoming a transsexual. I just feel that it’s unfair to group us when they just dress for example for sex or …. sex while people like me go through daily life how we are. Job interviews, busses , Morrison’s, where they might only have the happy time. Transsexual is the final destination I guess.

JM: Transsexuals are disphoric, they require surgery to make them what they think they are, think limb disphoria here. Trans have a choice and choose to feminise or be masculine.

MA: As far as I know transsexual is just an outdated term for transgender, and it carries the weight of trans people being seen as freakish or mentally ill. In my experience most trans people find the word very insulting. Apart from the associations, it’s just an incorrect way of describing trans people – it’s about gender not sex. Sex is body parts, gender is the way you feel and the way you are socialised to behave. 

RR: Transsexual describes someone who has had gender reassignment surgery, although not all people who have had the procedure may identify as transsexual. Many people find this term outdated, but it is important to note that many, notably a lot of the older generation of trans people, identify as transsexual, making it as valid as any other term. Transgender is more of an open ended term, describing people who fall anywhere within the trans umbrella.

RJ: Transsexual implies a person who is trans and who has undergone surgery to change their physical sex. Transgender encompasses trans people who haven’t, can’t, or don’t want to surgically transition, and is more inclusive for non-binary and gender fluid identities for that reason.

  1. If any, what misconceptions annoy/upset you the most?

DH: That we are all perverts, abominations or some how an affront to humanity. 

JP: That we are these sexual beings just gagging always and wanting to dress like tarts . I always cringe when I see trans in media that are overtly sexual. I don’t mind sexy but I like decorum and cheeky rather then full on. I’d love to be known and to show different.

JM: Pre-judging, thinking it’s just sexual.

MA: That trans people are somehow just trying to get special treatment, like the bathroom ‘debates’. This mainly applies to trans women but the media uses a very small number of cases of sexual violence to create a climate of fear and associations of deviancy around trans people, when the absolute vast majority of us just want to pee! 

It also upsets me that as a result of the high levels of very negative attention given to trans women, the existence of trans men is often ignored completely. In some ways it’s better to be ignored, however we’re very underrepresented and therefore things that we need specifically are often overlooked. For example, healthcare such as hormone treatments and surgeries is much more advanced, varied and well-tested for trans women.

That being trans is easy/people do it on a whim. I’ve been waiting for two years, with possibly another one to go, to even get a first appointment at a Gender Identity Clinic. That’s before any hormone treatments or surgeries which have both lengthy waiting times and long recoveries. So if I wanted to transition fully it would take me in total the best part of seven years. When you’re on hormones or other treatments there’s little to no support – you can have appointments max once every three months and even phone calls are limited because the clinics are so overwhelmed. GPs are not trained in trans healthcare so a lot of it is trial and error, and they have been known to refuse to treat trans people based on their own prejudices.

RR: Perhaps not a misconception, but the fetishisation of trans people is still a huge problem, as we are still seen as a taboo and some sort of sex object to so many.

RJ: I hate that people think trans people are confused or mentally ill for not fitting neatly into the socially constructed box that is gender. I also get very upset when someone suggests that trans people, particularly nonbinary people, are doing it for attention.

4. When you were growing up did you feel that you wanted to be a different gender or did you always know you were the gender you are now?

DH: Since i was able to articulate this. Which was about the age of 4. DH

JP: I always knew I was different just didn’t know how or what it was full about 4 years ago and then it all just clicked.

JM: Wanting to be a different gender.

MA: I always knew something wasn’t right, and that I felt extremely uncomfortable in my body, but I wasn’t able to fully understand or accept what that meant until I was in University. 

RR: Since coming out, my mother told me that as a young child I had told her I felt like a girl inside. Growing up, although I felt different and certainly more feminine than my male peers, growing up in the North East of England, these feelings were somewhat pushed down, perhaps for my safety.   

RJ: I have always been in a grey area and been enamoured with the idea of androgyny. I didn’t necessarily want to be a boy, but I really didn’t like being a girl either. If I had known about gender fluidity, nonbinary identities when I was younger I think it would have saved a lot of confusion.

5. What do you want see change or improve in your local community?

DH: More acceptance and tolerance of everyone no matter what religious or trans or race or whatever.

JP:  Especially alot of trans seem to be focussed on just trans, I like to mix with all people , if we get along we get along and we can work together, but there’s so much hate and jealously, jealousy is such an ugly colour of lipstick.

JM: Freedom to be myself, dress however, be able to express who I am, not pre judged all the time. Acceptance. Eg in hospital, be who I am not catagorised.

MA: I would like to see changes to assumptions of who or what people are. More asking of pronouns, more respecting of pronouns, more standard use of gender-neutral titles and pronouns. Also more inclusive services that recognise the differing needs of trans people. 

RR: Living in Brighton, my community is pretty great and I feel very happy and safe here.    

RJ: Gender neutral toilets as standard, a general move towards gender neutral language (e.g. not using ladies and gentlemen etc)

6. What do you want to see change or improve in the wider world?

DH: End of Homelessness, Peace and tolerance, rather than hate.

JP: Understanding and kindness.

JM: Better education. Be able to integrate, we are capable people, just let us be useful as we are. The way we dress – and behave, should be an individuals decision not imposed! Don’t bring genders up separately and throw them back together later in life. Grow up together whoever you are. Less lonely and more productive.

MA: Much the same as the previous question, but also to end the media scapegoating of trans people, the general persecution and oppression of trans people in many places (see the changes happening in the USA where Trump is trying to write trans people out of existence). 

RR: The media as a whole needs to change its damaging attitude to trans people. The last few months have been pretty horrific in response to the reformation of the GRA 2004, with even publications like The Guardian posting transphobic nonsense. I would like to see us normalised, just another member of society. So many see us as a threat, which is quite frankly ridiculous.   

RJ: Same as in my community, as well as removing gender divisions in clothing and accessories, generally shaking off the misconceptions we have about what defines woman, man, masculine and feminine, and also better education about gender neutral identities and language.

7. Can you share any insightful or funny stories or anecdotes about your experiences?

DH: Being a stand out means that you become a beacon for advice. Not all trans people are as confident or self assured  about the way they are and who they want to be. This leads to  people to seek those who do stand out for a myriad of reasons but doesn’t always mean that they are the greatest of all people to be ‘leaders’.

RR: I’m not sure this is exactly what you mean, but this film really helped me come to terms with my gender identity.
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=CNmEqgK-eCs

RJ: As I am not the only member of my family that has come out as trans, my mum has had to learn a lot about pronouns and language in a short amount of time. I’ve started making the family fortunes “not an answer” buzzer noise (“errrk”) whenever she misgenders someone. My boyfriend has picked up on this so now we use it regularly, and out of habit sometimes buzz other people when they misgender someone, even if they have no clue about any of this. It definitely makes people careful not to misgender.

  1. Can you supply images and/or video that expresses how you think and feel about being transgender? How easy/difficult is it to express? 

DH: Pretty sums everything up around transition.
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=i6HaVYg6kB4

JM: It should be easier with the technology, use it, you can have all of mine! ?

RR: My message is to stay strong, positive and putting good energy into the world. To those who are not in the trans community, know that we exist, that we are valid, we are not a threat, and we have always been here.

RJ: https://youtu.be/JacrjnVP7gI   This is an act I perform under my drag king alter ego, Roddy Jodphurs. It summarizes how I feel as a gender fluid person and how harmful and limiting the socially enforced binary can be, but also how unique and liberating it is to be happily, proudly trans. It can be difficult to explain how it feels to be trans, especially non-binary, to cisgender people because it’s like trying to describe a flavour to someone who’s never tasted it.

  1. Tell me about your message to the trans community and also to those who are’t involved? Is it the same message or different? How?

DH: Be you,  dont hide, and dont believe all you read and hear. Your life, your rules and not everyone elses expectations. 

JM:  Be who you are, we don’t live forever, and that’s everyone, do it now, don’t hold off for later.

MA: To the trans community I have a message of solidarity and respect. We’ve all struggled to make it this far (a quick look at the statistics on suicide in young trans people shows quite how much of an achievement it is) and things happening in the world are making it seem like things are going backwards, and what we’ve fought for might actually be taken away. 

To cis people my message is a plea to educate themselves and to be allies. Trans people aren’t rare but we are a minority, and unfortunately our voices aren’t enough – we need cis people to speak up and fight for us. All of our systems and institutions are based on the assumption that everyone is cis and straight and in order for that to change, the people in charge of the systems and who benefit from them need to choose to let other people in.  

RJ: My message to everyone is that we see everything as a set of opposites because it helps us make sense of the world. On and off, night and day, men and women. Sometimes people are on one side but they should really be on the other – they are the moon you see in the daytime, the standby light. But this idea of everything being one or the other is something we made up, at the cost of ignoring the beautiful figures who don’t fit in those boxes. Some of us are dawn and dusk. If we really want to make the world a better place, we have to stop blinkering ourselves and others and see what is outside those boxes.

10. Anything you would like to add?

JM:  Only that it is stereotypical, and people’s behaviour is predictable depending on how you present yourself, don’t assume. It’s all forgivable given the ‘brain washing’ we receive from birth.

I would like to think everyone who got involved for their time and input. Please do share this and encourage more to take part and add to the bank of answers or suggest more questions too! Let’s ensure that nothing is ever lost in translation! It is all our responsibility, regardless of gender, politics or gender-politics…