Tag Archives: Zen

… old thinking, new thinking …

We mostly think through conventional forms and givens, for practical reasons, while another way of thinking embraces invisible and unknown dynamics via intuition – like the seeming particle/wave paradox in quantum mechanics, where a local particle also exists as a non-local wave. The two perceptions can potentially mingle creatively, but, notably in times of social uncertainty, they clash, and fewer people maintain the ability to tolerate negative capability.

The way autocratic opinions over divisive issues are sensationalised by some tabloids, sends my thoughts flitting through the mutable and nuanced zones of shadow lands. I write the glut of absurdities off my chest, only to delete the drafts, not having the talent or guts for the iconoclastic fun Marina Hyde pours into her articles for the Guardian.

The tit for tat race of opposing interest groups that blame, attack and counter attack each other eludes any balanced comprehension of events. Opportunists, generously funded, like to whip up the chaos for their own benefit. Fertile ground for tyrants. This will go on until the churning oceans calm and offer deeper reflections.

My early education was unremarkable, but I fondly recall a few teachers who made space for ambivalence, encouraging us to question everything and value respectful, if inconclusive, debates. Glib opinions and self-righteousness were mocked and laughed at.

In the early seventies, doing a short apprenticeship with a small Dutch advertising firm in London, we had weekly meetings, where ideas, no matter how crazy, were explored. Every person working in the building was asked to the table, including caterers and cleaners. This inspirational seedbed sparked successful projects and maintained a motivated team.

Decades later, during a part time stretch at Social Services, policy makers introduced a new computer programme for tick-box client assessments, a software developed without involving the people who were meant to use it – us. Sparing you the specifics of this nonsensical scheme, the nightmare in its wake resulted in multiple nervous breakdowns by employees. Since I had a private psychotherapy practice I escaped the hell and resigned.

A relentless trend towards greater efficiency continued despite loud social backlash. Over and over I listened to the stories of my stressed clients suffering from the overbearing changes in public institutions and private companies. The forced procedures insulted the intelligence of workers, who felt the stupidity and pain of it all in their guts, as did I. The harmful effect on mental health, family life, education, small traders and community venues … is ongoing.

Recently I re-read a 1970s lecture by my Sufi teacher, Fazal Inayat Khan – Old Thinking, New Thinking – also used as title of a small collection of his controversial talks, published in 1979 by Harper & Row. Some of Fazal’s students insisted on this publication. He reluctantly agreed. I’ll share here a few notions that struck me form the lecture, Old Thinking, New Thinking:

The end of real is false, while the greatest false is real.

The real is about form, the false (non-evidenced) is about essence. Fazal addressed two qualitative different ways of thinking, both beneficial if used in the right time and context. Those supporting form and tradition set out to protect stability, whereas those who seek essence knock over the stable towards the freedom of the unknown. Imaginative people, including scientists and artists, tend to overshoot crumbling realities.

The sad logic of power driven politicians is to manipulate social anxieties by promising simple fixes to allay feelings of uncertainty. In such times people tends to grope towards old thinking, to what can be predicted and depended upon, thus moving away from the immeasurable independence of anything beyond facts.

Old thinking relies on valid knowledge; however, to apply this knowledge intelligently requires new thinking, so essence can find expression once more.

Old thinking will bring achievement, notwithstanding that without new thinking it will have achieved nothing. Traditions wedded to established forms exemplify old thinking. Yet for a tradition to remain sincere and dynamic new thinking is required.

In other words, only what changes stays functional. Much as we dislike it, life could not continue if it were not for the transient growth and death phases of nature. The same applies to cycles that call for the expansion of consciousness.

How is one to value both form and essence in complex times and stay sane? No way around it, we must suffer the anguish of holding the tension between static knowledge and intuition in our hearts. Not easy. Perhaps because I experienced the 1960s new thinking surge, any leaps of goodwill from young people still brings tears to my eyes. I’m interested in everything. I’m interested in bridging divides. I even occasionally delight being in the spirit zone, with the effortless flow of things. (A Zen concept)

Deep, maybe very deep down, every one of us knows the bliss of being in the zone.

Old thinking is a sorting process – new thinking is a melting process

Old thinking is a claim – new thinking is an aim …               Fazal Inayat Khan

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… cats …

I had various pets I cared for as a child, among them talking parakeets, hedgehogs, crows, snakes, mice, and dogs – but never cats. Actually I wanted a horse, but it never happened.

Cat, Yesh &SuzukiThen came Somerset, and I thought my young son would enjoy a cat. He did.

We called her Suzuki. I must have been into Zen … ‘Enjoy your problems’ – that kind of thing.

Cat, Suzuki with Buddha, bliss - Copy

As you can see, Suzuki had leanings to our stone ‘Budai,’ drawn to its lucky charm and its loving nature, easing her through tough moments … as you can also see.

Cat, Yeshen, Suzuki's lot

To catch mice in the ancient cottage we lived in was beneath her. She gifted us with other creatures. One summer, after returning from a trip, during which time our kind neighbour fed Suzuki, the wool fleece rug in our bedroom looked at first pristine and welcoming, but the moment my bare feet stepped on it my legs were jumped upon by armies of tiny, shiny armoured flees. Par chance I spotted a pack of post-it-notes on a Chester drawer and an ‘aha’ moment occured. I peeled off the pests amass from my skin with the sticky stripes, stomping about for a while, so none should be left out. I recommend sticky stuff for emergencies; it works, among other tricks I soon learned about.

Then came a time when we moved from home to home while in transit towards Surrey. In one such charmed place Suzuki distinguished herself as baby rabbit catcher. Never a killer, she plonked the fluffy bundles on the living room floor, where they sat, stunned and motionless … there you are, a present … We freed the bunny back into the neglected orchard of the property, but it soon returned, carried gently at the scruff of its neck by Suzuki. This happened innumerable times, likely with the same bunny, over and over. I wondered whether it was born into the wrong body, and was truly a cat – or our spayed cat was truly a rabbit in want of babies. We’ll never know. Unsure where we would end up, we left beautiful Suzuki with a woman who adored her. My son was upset, and only partly reconciled by a teddy friend.

Teddy 5

Cat, Amber136Entering a more settled phase in Surrey, we adopted a ginger rescue cat, Caspar, who appeared dour and joyless, most likely due to distressing experiences. My attempts to create rapport were unsuccessful. One day he simply disappeared, and I blame myself to this day. In due time, I searched and found Amber, a gorgeous tabby kitten. Slow in having her spayed, she produced offspring, giving birth in the living room, an unexpected and magical event, while I had friends over. The three in the litter were very different, in looks and temperament. The first and last born kittens found homes. Cat, Jetty and Tulips - lowerMy son thought it best to let the children, accompanied by their parents, choose, so we ended up with the middle born, sleek, black, and with a lovely tranquil nature. We named her Jetty. I linked with her in grief when Amber was sadly run over in the street a few years on.

Jetty lived to be 16. She died on my birthday a few years back. When Katia, a writer friend, posted her experiences with cats  –  it saddened me to hear the story of the sudden demise of her companion. Genie reminded me of Jetty, which sparked this post, in honour of her friendship.

Cat, crop - smaller - CopyHow to describe the deep bond we can form with an animal? Is it our need for acceptance, totally reciprocated from a creature that has all its needs for shelter, food and attention met? I think that’s a flatlander’s view. All meaningful connections happen beyond rational thought, in other spheres. Animals are sensitive to vibrations beyond our clock time awareness, often knowing of events before they happen, which is why they can warn and protect us. And because their senses are wide open to fine energies, as well as vulnerable to harmful ones, we, too, are moved to protect them.

We humans are urged to be clever and become quickly absorbed in the ongoing evolution of the rational mind. Animals can teach us to stay closer to nature, the most powerful text of life. And they maintain a strong link to dimensions we frequently lose, where all experiences mingle in the ever expanding pool of universal consciousness. With all our specialness, nature is indispensable to us. An animal friend whose intelligence detects moods and intentions, cats are particlularly good at this, can show us any moment, as in a mirror, our true state of being.

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“That’s the great secret of creativity. You treat ideas like cats: you make them follow you.” – Ray Bradbury – Zen in the Art of Writing

“I love cats because I enjoy my home; and little by little, they become its visible soul.” – Jean Cocteau

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