Monday, January 24, 2011

Being Lucky

I was sitting and thinking to myself today: how lucky am I? And the answer is that I am very, very lucky. And just as I was thinking about this, a friend of mine rang up. Now, he lives in a much nicer home than I do, has a larger income than I do, and yet he is still envious of my luck. Why, I wonder?

Well, he wakes up depressed more mornings than he wakes up happy. Me, I see every day I'm alive as a gift, a blessing, so I tend to be thankful as soon as I open my eyes. Little things happen to me: A bill turns up that I'd have trouble paying, and suddenly some unexpected income turns up, too, usually about right to cover the bill. I miss a bus and have to catch the next one: next thing I know the bus I should have been on is on the side of the road broken down, passengers milling around waiting for a substitute bus which hadn't arrived yet and would have got me to my destination much later than the "late" bus. I turn up to the local Farmers Market in the rain, people are cursing and going away, and I find that unique item on a stall that's being packed up, not boxed yet, which will make a perfect birthday present for that difficult family member. 

How lucky am I! But back to my friend. As I suggested, he is materially better-off than I am, yet he considers me lucky. Why? Well, when he drives the two of us anywhere, he's constantly frustrated by other cars on the road. When I drive us anywhere, I'm humming under my breath with the pleasure of driving. His face is blank most of the time: when I'm doing blank-faced stuff like walking down the road or through a shopping centre, I usually have a smile all over my face. What can I say - I am lucky, the sun shines on me or the rain falls on me with equal blessing.

He reads this blog, and at the end of our phone call, he said I could write about being lucky some time. But how do you write about being lucky? I agree with the experts, that luck is not arbitrary, is not something that  "just happens". But while I accept without question that I am luckier than he is and I feel as if I know why, I'm not sure I will be able to describe it in a meaningful way. However, I'm just about to try!

Luck and happiness are sisters - they stroll arm-in-arm through the world, smiling at those around them. It is those who look them in the eye and smile back who are lucky, who are happy. Don't get me wrong: they aren't in a constant state of bliss night and day, they are not protected from every misfortune. It's about general trends, and about how people feel about their lives. Probably my friend has more actual good fortune, materially speaking, than I do - I just happen to be more appreciative of my life than he is of his.

I cannot turn anyone into a happy, lucky person with my words. How each person lives, and the feelings they have about their circumstances, is entirely down to themselves. But I do have a few hints you might try to use in your day-to-day lives, that will have an effect on your perception of your luck.

* When you feel unhappy, depressed or worried, take a moment to think about people worse-off than you are. There are people who are in jail. There are people who are paralysed. There are homeless people. There are people in a coma with little or no realistic chance of recovery. There are people with no limbs. There are people who belong in more than one of these groups. If you wake up in the morning and you are still breathing and thinking, you are ahead of the game compared to other people - start your day appreciating that, and smiling. It will make a big difference to the rest of your day, if you recognise and acknowledge that piece of luck. Luck chases luck.

* Live in the moment. Forget about that past bad luck you have had - it's gone, it no longer exists. And stop comparing the present to some golden era in your past when you felt luckier - that's gone, too.  And why worry about that future problem? Events may never play out the way you imagine. In fact, imagining how they will play out, you make yourself behave in a way more likely to let misfortune into your life. It's like the ex-criminals I saw interviewed once, who said they selected people that used the body-language of victims, and would never go near anyone walking tall and with no hesitation, even if they were tiny and it was night-time. Your attitude shapes your future to a great extent. All you have is the now, so live in it, don't whicker it away worrying about what is not the now.

* Allow the world to be a friendly place. People who think the world, and strangers in it, are out to get them, coincidentally have lives full of bad-luck stories. People who think the world will support them if they support it, and that every strange face is a potential friend, have lives peppered with frequent bits of good luck. Your environment is only full of danger if you expect it to be. So don't expect it to be! Ah, but what about all the grim stuff that happens in the news, I hear you ask. Well, let me tell you something about the news. For something to become newsworthy, it has to be vanishingly rare. If it happened commonly, it wouldn't be reported. In Australia, for example, you have one-thousandth the chance of being murdered than you have of dying of pancreatic cancer. They don't throw front-page items about pancreatic cancer deaths. Don't be afraid of night-time or empty streets: at night many of the bad guys are home, too, and in an empty street there is no one to harm you. Trust your environment and you will be lucky.

* Be awake, be aware. If you take a lively and a friendly interest in the people, places and things around you, you will be more likely to see opportunity. You cannot take an opportunity if you are blind to it, nor can you take it if you are fearful. So be engaged: be engaged in the moment, in the world around you, in your community, even in your family. Paying attention will bring benefits as various as noticing a business opportunity or a job that needs doing in your employer's company leading to financial advancement, to putting your foot on the brake a split-second earlier, avoiding that "unavoidable" accident at a corner or a traffic light. Lucky people are curious and open-eyed.

* Listen to your intuition, your gut-feeling. We have two sources of information in our lives: reason or intellect, which is informed by our five primary senses, and the intuition, which has no logical source and is linked into subliminal perceptions that cannot be measured but our current level of scientific technology. Over the decades there have been two really big, major business decisions I've had to make at times when my intellect was saying one thing, and my gut feeling was saying another. The first was in 1987 when I had been a hypnotherapist for a fairly short time: I had the opportunity to rent a room in an inner-city clinic. On paper, even the fine-print looked fine. My intuition was disturbed and uncomfortable, so I went over everything with a fine toothed comb, and still the paperwork looked okay. I went into the clinic against my gut-feeling, and I and two other practitioners there were driven out of business within six or seven months. In my case I was lucky - I was able to set up somewhere else. The second occasion was twenty years later, and involved the acceptance of an interstate job-offer. My life was at a standstill at the time, so I accepted, even though I had misgivings I couldn't account for. The offer of work turned out to be not real - the person had a track record of dragging people from all over Australia to her town just to make her feel important, to make her feel as if he wasn't totally powerless. Again I salvaged the situation: I found other work in the town, and ended up being very happy there. But the position I was "hired" for just didn't exist, and I would have avoided losing thousands of dollars worth of furniture and so forth if I followed my instinct and hadn't moved. Trust your intuition - it is on your side.

* Decide what you want, and go for it! Every millionaire I know, every person who is "lucky in love" and quite possibly every person who is generally lucky in other ways, works at it. Make up your mind what kind of industry you want to involve yourself in, or what qualities you expect in a life-partner, and go out and look for it. Once you have found it, work day and night, work hard and work long - and your luck will come to you. When my daughter reached the minimum legal age when children can have paid work in Australia, she went out looking for a job, I told her my philosophy of work. I told her that the employer she signed up with was not well-thought-of and wasn't paying her a huge hourly wage, but if she wanted to do well, she was well-advised to work harder than her workmates, far harder than she needed to work to avoid being fired, learn everything she could about the business and the industry, and be strictly honest. I said she wouldn't get paid a higher hourly rate than her peers, but as her employers recognised her abilities, they would give her more and more hours, and she would end up a lot richer than the other kids working there because of it. She put that philosophy into action enthusiastically, and both in that first job and the subsequent one she left to go to university recently, she was very highly valued indeed. In fact, her most recent employer told me that in thirty years of running businesses, she had had only one other employee as good as my daughter. Now, there's a young person who is always lucky at work and lucky in her bosses. She makes her own luck by working at it - so can you. If she can, anyone can.

As you can see from these points, there are definite techniques and approaches to the world which result in luck. I'd like to make one last point about luck. As an expectant parent, would you feel lucky if you gave birth to a happy, healthy baby boy? Okay, would you feel lucky if that baby boy, though healthy, had no arms or legs - would you feel lucky then? And what if you had been a baby just like him, born without arms or legs, if you were an adult now, and never had arms or legs? Couldn't walk, dress yourself, feed yourself? Would you feel lucky? Well, Nick Vujicic was born without arms or legs. And yet, he comes across as an emotionally healthy, life-affirming, happy and above-all appreciative person, who honours the luck he has in life. Watch this video of him talking to people with the normal number of arms and legs, and decide for yourself how unlucky you really are. If you are physically better-off than Nick, you really have no right to allow yourself to be unlucky. Watch the video, and do something about your own luck now!

As a qualified hypnotherapist, I can offer meditation/self hypnosis recordings, tailored to the specific issues and needs of individuals. These are much more effective and life-changing than the one-size-fits-all mass-produced recordings that you can buy on the market for a few dollars, designed for a non-existent "average" person. Contact me to discuss your individual needs, the areas of your life where your luck needs tuning up, and I will get back to you with a quote for your individual recording.

Sunday, January 23, 2011

Empty Nest Syndrome

Well, my family has spread its wings and left home, and I feel quite disloyal - I couldn't be happier. I get to claim another room in what is a very small and cramped house. However, Empty Nest Syndrome isn't just about feeling depressed and rejected by one's young, and I am noticing some of its other effects.

 (The Farewell)

For women in our society, it is common for the departure of the children to coincide with menopause, which is a time of emotional upheaval until a measure of adjustment to the new hormonal levels is reached. Men don't have this complicating factor, but men, too, find their lives change immensely when the kids leave, especially men who are not the primary breadwinner or men who work from home.

There are a number of things which make this transitional time in a parent's life harder. Having very close relationships with your children and regarding them as your best friends can become a problem, as they are no longer constantly there to chat to. Conversely, feeling inadequate as a parent, feeling as if you have let your children down, or been a bad parent in some way, makes things hard also, as you become aware that it is now past the time where you can mend your ways, and make amends, or at least explain your position. A child that lives somewhere else and visits occasionally for meals is harder to catch in those moments where intimate revelations are likely.

It takes two to tango - for one reason or another it may be hard to communicate your feelings fully to the child once they have gone - in my case it's because she has become an officer-cadet in the army, and has moved interstate. As soon as they move they put them through an intensive, and I know I will not see her for nearly three months. Really, all a parent can do to to alleviate their cocktail of highs and lows is to deal with themselves and their new childless life, not try to engage the child in a dialogue, or place expectations on the child of regular visits, calls etc.

What is crucially important at a time of change like this is to have something to look forward to, to have some form of work  that you feel is important and beneficial to be engaged on. If you have a hobby, or a calling, or a cause that you get involved with, not only to you have a reason to get out of bed every morning with anticipation and leave the house eagerly instead of lingering among the memories, but when you do talk to your absent child it will not be full of awkward silences, but you will have stories of your own to tell, instead of filling the silence with questions about what they are doing. 

This is important even if you work full-time: I couldn't imagine anything more horrible than going home to an empty house after a day's drudgery. And it is few enough of us who are lucky enough to work full-time for money in the area of our passion, which would be the other good alternative.

What have you always wanted to do? Have you always wanted to learn how to draw, so you can make your imaginings into wonderful paintings? Do it - take a class. Has your life been full of ups and downs, interesting people and interesting places? Write about it - craft it into something other people can enjoy and learn from. Painting and writing not of interest to you? Well, what does grab you with passion - what stirs you? Now is the time to take it up, or to get back to it if it was something from long ago.

If you can get a bit of a head-start, and take steps towards starting to do it before they leave, so much the better. And mark the time that they left - do something, some kind of ritual to end one stage of your life and start the next. It doesn't have to be a religious ritual: it could be a weekend away with your partner, or having sex in every room of the house on the same day, or planting a fruit tree, or completely rearranging the furniture. It could be a barbeque with friends, or a glass of wine in front of the fire, or something. Just as long as you commemorate moving from one stage of your life to the next. The human spirit loves ceremony, it thrives on it.

As a Tarot Reader, it's pretty inevitable that I recommend having (or doing) a reading at important transitional times like this, too: a reading by a good reader will give you insights into feelings you might not find easy to analyse, it will help you sort out what is important from what is not so important, it will help you learn who your new, child-free persona is. It will give you hints on just how to feel your way into this new stage of your life, and how to deal with what lies ahead so as to get the most out of your life. 

Tarot reading isn't as much about prediction as it is about self-knowledge and self-discovery. All major changes in our lives, including the departure of a child, change us as a person. Are we to stumble forward into our future blindly, or are we to take charge, get to know ourselves, and stride forth into our newly-independent lives with a measure of confidence?

Saturday, January 22, 2011

Energy Therapies: Magnetic Ear Studs for Acupressure

Today, I am once again wearing the magnetic studs I have, which are designed to put quite firm pressure on very specific areas of the outer ear by having quite a strong magnetic field and being quite tiny for precise placement. I remember receiving my first lot. I got them out of their wrapping whilst still in the post office and affixed two to my ears. They are very small and the magnetic force and pressure they exert seems to hold well but is very subtle. 

As a general rule when dealing with the energy-systems of the body, it takes time for energy to start to re-arrange itself, then the person will feel some sensation. With some forms of energy therapy I feel a tingling at this stage, with these studs I feel a sort of heat. Each individual person will interpret the flow or change of energy in their own way: some people might describe heat, others pressure, others a flashing feeling, others a cool breeze, and I have one client who swears that when she has any kind of energy-work done she experiences it as being like sped-up film of clouds moving through the skin! When the work has been done, whatever sensation the individual feels will come to an end. With the studs that doesn't mean they need removing - from then on they are still small, subtle, colourful pieces of jewellery with delightful Swarovski crystals  that are cheerfully coloured and catch the light.

I am a great believer of acupuncture - when I was younger and needed some help on physical issues I sought the help of a Sri-Lankan-trained Australian acupuncturist as well as a chiropractor who incorporated elements of energy-work or spiritual healing into his practice, and I was very happy with the changes that I was able to manifest in myself with their help. But although acupuncture needles are far finer than injection-needles and hurt a lot less, and are in fact so fine that they often slide in between nerve-endings depending on where they are used, a lot of people are still very afraid of them.

Even if you are just anxious, it is probably not a good idea to go into an energy-therapy situation while you are feeling any anxiety - you will not be able to reap the full benefits. This is where these studs come into their own. They are not invasive, they do not puncture the skin.

Sure, they cannot be inserted into very many of the points that an acupuncturist would choose to use: back at that time, I used to have needles inserted just below my third eye, on the tiny hollow at either side of the nose, and at particular parts of my wrists and elbows as the constantly-used points, and a variety of others from time to time depending on the acupuncturist's clinical judgement.

Have you ever scratched one part of your body and felt a slight echo of the sensation somewhere else? There are energy-connections all over the body, where physical nerve-pathways do not meet. The pathways between them, where your bio-energy flows - or gets blocked - which some people call nadis, travel all over your body. And all the nadis in the body pass through a number of places: the soles of the feet (making possible foot reflexology), the hands (making possible hand reflexology), the striations in the irises of the eyes (making possibly iridology) and the outer ear, making possible the increasingly popular practice of having the ears pierced in specific places for food addictions or nicotine addictions.

But then again, people might not want to have permanent piercings in strange parts of the ears, or even the pain associated with trying to sleep on a freshly-pierced ear if they sleep on their sides. What to do? This is where these magnetic studs come in. Tiny, colourful Swarovski crystals catch the eye and brighten the mood of you and those around you as they reflect their colours into your aura, without being huge bling that might not be appropriate when you are around some people or in some situations (for instance, a job interview). They are small enough to be acceptable almost everywhere, and small enough to put pressure on very specific parts of the ear's outer structure.

I really recommend buying a really good book on ear reflexology, one based on the Chinese system, or download one of the better ear maps available on the net. As you can see from the link, there are a huge number of active points on the ear. Now, there are two ways you can use the information on an ear map. You can go symptomatically, decide what you wish to treat with the acupressure studs, then choose the points accordingly. 

That's fine, but there are two difficulties. Firstly, everybody's ear is a completely different shape and it takes a great deal of professional knowledge and experience to identify the points accurately. And secondly, Choosing something that you think is a weakness to treat is fine, but what if your symptoms are masking something else, or you have another health issue that for the moment is much more important to treat quickly? How are you going to deal with those two difficulties?

This is why I don't recommend people choose their acupressure points in the ear symptomatically, by reading off an ear map then trying to identify that point or those points in their own ears. What I do recommend is the second method: treating the acupressure/acupuncture points that most need treating at the time. Ear maps are still valuable, but more in retrospect. Having identified the points you should treat in the way I'm about to describe, you can then go back to the ear map and work out what kinds of underlying problems or areas of the body needed treating most, uncovering a whole new layer of self-knowledge for you.

So how do you do it? In front of a mirror, using the hand on the same side of the body, take a part of the outer ear between index finger and thumb, and squeeze firmly, noticing the sensation. Then move your hand just a fraction, and repeat. Do this carefully, until you have squeezed every part of the visible structure of your ear. Obviously you will have to remove any jewellery first! 

You will notice as you do this, that most likely one, two or even more places will be much more sensitive than the rest of the ear when you use the same amount of pressure. Choose the one or two most sensitive out of all of them, and relocate them by using the same method. Now you need to decide how many points to treat. If you have just one pair of studs you will only be able to treat two points: it is your choice whether you use them both on one ear, then in a few hours move them over to the other ear, or whether you use them one on each ear. I like to have a few pairs in the house - I wear pierced earrings two holes in each of my lobes and prefer not to remove them, but I find I often need to treat acupressure points high up in the ear or sometimes in the inner folds of the outer ear, and I can wear anything from zero to three pairs of the magnetic studs at a time in addition to my usual daily jewellery.

Once you have decided how many points you are going to treat, re-check the points you have identified and squeeze firmly again, identifying the one or ones that give you the strongest response. I personally find it helpful to do this in front of a mirror, and immediately mark the exact spot with an eyeliner or eyebrow pencil. Then in the hand on the opposite side of the body, hold the jewelled stud that you want to be visible to the world over that mark, jewel away from skin. With the hand on the same side of the body, hold the backing-magnet behind the ear, bring it close, and release it before it touches the skin. If you have positioned the stud correctly, it will lock it into place. If the marking you have made on the ear is still visible, pick the backing magnet off while holding the stud, reposition it, and do it again.

That's the first ear done. You may want to match up studs on the second ear exactly, so that they are symmetrical. That's fine for appearances, but it may not be the best option for health-related or emotion-related reasons. What if the studs are treating an energy-problem that occurs in - say - one hip or one kidney, and not in the other side? It would be a waste. So go through the whole process again: squeeze all the different parts of your second ear firmly, identify the most sensitive points, mark them, and place the stud or studs exactly over the most sensitive points. Often you will find that they match or almost match the positioning on the other ear. But often, too, you will require different placements on the different ears.

If you are interested in treating - say - only your kidney-points if your doctor is treating a kidney problem, or only points connected with depression, then that is fine, and the studs will bring you a real benefit with regular use. But take it from me, you will get a better effect overall, in your health and your happiness levels, if you treat the points that need it most on a given day that day, and be consistent in that practice. As your body starts to feel better and as your mind starts to relax, you'll find that a lot of problems, physical and psychological, will give you far less trouble than they had previously.

However, and this is important! Never discontinue using any prescribed medications without your doctor's knowledge! Energy-therapies are no substitute for life-saving medicines, and different forms of therapy work better in conjunction with each other, not instead of each other.

I have decided to supply these studs, and I'm careful about the ones I supply. There are quite a few manufacturers around, and the quality and price varies greatly. Some have such strong magnetic fields that they are quite painful to wear. Others have a very much weaker magnetic field, and will fall off earlobes easily. The ones I have grip on firmly without causing pain. There are also ones that are rather large, creating pressure in less precise areas, and perhaps not being universally acceptable in their appearance. There are even some which seem okay - but their crystals look cloudy and fall out of the settings after a short time. The ones I carry are not the most expensive on the market - I have seen wholesalers and pharmacies charging more than twice what I do - nor are they the cheapest around. But they do the job very well, look attractive, and seem to be well-made.

I have supplies of these colours: reflective-clear, diamond-clear, topaz-blue, ruby-red, sapphire-blue, lipstick-red, amethyst and peridot-green. Allowing a little profit for me, they cost $40 per pair Australian, including postage, far cheaper than the rates I've seen good quality ones selling for, and likely to last a lot longer than some of the cheaper ones around. Why not email me and let me know how many you would like and what colours? In my reply to you, I will send a Paypal button for ease of paying and security of your details. The appealing little studs might must be the boost you need to make those changes you've been wanting in your life!

Thursday, January 20, 2011

The Joys of Customer Service

Qqqqqqqqing <expletive deleted> telemarketers from Dododododo^ <ISP name cleverly concealed>.

I have been with them three years.

The contract I agreed to was between ME and the company, a two-party contract, not between me, the address I was then living in and the company, which would have been a three-party contract and would have required the express permission of the address itself as well as of Dodododo^^^<ISP name cleverly concealed> and me.

Nonetheless, when unavoidable family-stuff dragged me back across the continent, even though I was insistent that I keep my feed with them, they said that because I moved WITHIN their service area I still had to be penalised by either paying $<incredible-dollars>.00 to cut the service off, or sign up for another 36 months (which have not expired) to escape without financial penalty. That was because, apparently, the address itself was also a party to the contract, and I was letting down both the company and the address by moving house within their service area and maintaining my service and regular payments without alteration.

This means that in that 36 months, I cannot move house again, even just across the road, and keeping a service with them, without being penalised those hundreds and hundreds of dollars plus the monthly rental of continuing my service, which I enjoy, because you can only waive the fees by signing for extra time just the once.

I resigned myself to that when it came about, ages ago. No moving house for me.

What I haven't resigned myself to are the telemarketing calls, which since the move have come in every three and a half weeks on the noggin. I believe they don't do it on the same day every month, or every four weeks on the same day of the week, because they think we're stupid, and that we write it in our calendar and only check rounded-months or rounded-weeks.

Every three and a half weeks, including just now, I get a call. It's dialled automatically, and there are never free operators at their end to make the call, so I hear a long silence, then a synthetic voice with an Australian accent saying "goodbye". Having an automated machine making freaky anonymous calls is not *quite* the height of rudeness: I'll explain why in a minute.

Some time later, anywhere from five minutes to five hours, I'll get a call. It always has a -er- subcontinental accent, and is either a man called Wendy (with very bad English), or a woman called Damien (with very bad English, but not quite as bad as Wendy's). Every month, Damien's voice sounds different to previous Damiens, and Wendy's voice sounds different to previous Wendys. There has never been a male Damien or a female Wendy. What kind of an idiot do they take me for?

Firstly, they identify themselves by first names only, and they are so ashamed of their employer that you have to whip out the verbal thumbscrews to get them to admit that they work for Dodododo^<ISP name cleverly concealed>. Remember that height of rudeness that an automated computerised heavy-breather isn't? Well, here it comes: something even ruder than that. The very next thing they all say, the female Damiens and male Wendys, is this: "In order to verify that I am talking to the right person, I will need you to answer four simple questions to check that you are the account-holder."

Er ... no.

Did I want the call?

Did I call them either genuinely or to mess with a friend/enemy's account?

I think not, they patently dialled me.

So I say no. They start spluttering, and start raising their voices slightly. I point out that I did not ring them, I did not invite their call, I did not want their call, I'm psychic enough to tell what they are going to be saying next and before they even start I'm going to say no, and since they have disturbed me they are welcome to provide proof of their identity, but I'm certainly not going to provide proof of my identity when I didn't make the call, didn't ask for the call and don't want the call. I tell them I think they are being breathtakingly rude.

At that point they usually stop insisting on my identifying myself, and instead tell me several hundred times at high speed that I am being recorded. As if I hadn't ever had a call from them before and didn't know the routine.

So then they start on the meat of the call, once the unpleasantries are over. "Nisaba, we are calling to offer only our most valued customers, and you are one of our most valued customers - " (my account usually gets paid a few days late because my bank account is usually empty when they hit it - is that the kind of customer they value?) "... to offer you a special deal that we are only offering specially selected customers. . For only $X per month extra if-you-sign-a-new-contract-for-another-24-months, we will allow you an extra 1 gig download per month."

"No thanks - I never run out on my current limits, whatever they are. And no thanks, I've already been signed up for extra time by your shonky people due to having the temerity to want to move house within your service area and maintain my service with you and my payments to you without any disruption. And you want me to commit myself for another couple of years without any loopholes to wriggle out of, for extra download capacity that I think I have amply demonstrated I am never going to use? Why certainly! Yes, I am feeling like an idiot today! I was just looking for some sort of useless scam to throw my money away on - I think this is just what I was looking for - thank you!"

"So there is nothing I can help you with?"

"No, there is nothing you can help me with."

"Are you satisfied with the outcome of this call?"

"No, I am not satisfied with the outcome of this call."

"For training purposes, what about this call are you not satisfied with?"

"That the call happened at all. Month after month, you and <other name offered> ring me, and we have exactly the same conversation. Month after month, you make me the same offer, and month after month I say no, I tell you I am *never* going to change my mind, and you never listen, because month after month, you will ring me again."

"Would you like me to put you on the DNC - Do Not Call register?"

"Sweetheart, in the last six months, you have put me on the DNC register four times, and Damien/Wendy (depending on whom I'm talking to) has also put me on the DNC register four times. What makes this time any different?"

"Is there anything about the service itself that I can improve for you?"

"Not without charging me money, no. The service itself is fine - it is essentially a bit of wire coming into my house with my router plugged into it. That side of things is fine. I would like the calls to stop. I would also like this call we are having right now to come to an end."

"Okay, Miss Merriweather, I will put you on the DNC register. Are you satisfied with the outcome of this call?"

"I thought we were just talking about that?"

"But I am trained to make sure a customer never hangs up without being satisfied with the outcome of the call."

"Well, your trainer is an idiot, isn't he."

They never hang up on me - I always get in first. Today, those words were the last words I said before I hung up without hearing her reply to them. Yes, it was the sweet-voiced Damien, but there are some gorgeous women in the world that I just don't want to hear from.

Oh, and experience tells me that hanging up on them doesn't work, either - they just keep calling. And calling and calling and calling. Up to fourteen times in the one evening, once.

Positive Feedback

I received some positive feedback today, from a client of mine from several months ago, who asked for my help in the quest to become a non-smoker. Client confidentiality being what it is I'm not going to discuss specifics, But when I asked if I could write about some of the stuff we talked about, I was given permission as long as I don't identify him.

So we're talking a middle-aged Australian male, urban and well-educated, living a secular, white-collar, well-paid lifestyle. He smoked cigarettes, his wife smoked cigars. One of them developed mouth cancer, both of them agreed to stop smoking. The wife seemed to have little trouble stopping cold, but the husband struggled. He had all the usual issues with addictive cravings, but I know they end. Years ago I used to smoke heavily myself, and for me the hardest things were patterns of behaviour: lighting up during TV commercials, lighting up when waiting for buses to arrive, having a smoke before leaving work, having a smoke after getting home. That took a lot longer than the physical cravings, and even than the belief I'd developed that when I was under stress a cigarette would relieve that stress.

We established he started smoking as a teenager, early in the period of time when he was a bit off the rails, stealing cars to joyride up and down the eastern seaboard, getting into fights, doing a bit of vandalism. Turned out that although as a young boy he'd been quite proud of his bad-boy reputation, there'd been something he'd been terribly ashamed of doing - he told me what it was but I am not going to share it publicly - that filled him even back then with utter shame. Smoking made him cool, and if he was cool he couldn't have been the same person who did that thing. Also, when he remembered that event he would be hugely stressed suddenly, and smoking would give him that calming nicotine hit that enabled him to cope with the wobblies.

The first session I spent with him was about two hours long, which was unusual. The first fifteen minutes or so were about taking a history, signing the disclaimer, then simply encouraging him to talk around all the issues that, in his mind, surrounded smoking now and in the past, how it made him feel, how not smoking made him feel, and just encouraging him to open up to me. During that session I came to feel very privileged: he willingly peeled back layer after layer of his personality and his past, with my doing not a hell of a lot more than listening very closely and accepting everything he said and everything he had done in the past. At the end of it despite the fact that I'd heard about a lot of things I really didn't want to know that he'd done, I understood a lot more about him than I understand about many of the people I have known for years.

Our second appointment was six days later. I asked how his week had been - turned out that he had felt really relieved after just talking a lot of things through with me that he hadn't even been able to talk through with his partner, and in fact he had smoked marginally less during the days since without any conscious effort on his part to cut down. Apparently his whole family had noticed he was more relaxed, even his dogs. We discussed what we would do, then I dropped him into a light trance, deepened him a bit into a working trance, and gave him some post-hypnotic suggestions about dealing with the habitual aspects and the cravings associated with smoking. that would give him tools to use in his bid to become a non-smoker.

Then we got to the real work. I deepened his trance, and got him to visualise an empty office chair, filling up with cigarette smoke which thickened and thickened, until it became the spirit of his addiction sitting there. He indicated when this entity was real and strong to him, and then became a dialogue. I got him to question the addiction itself. What did it want? What were its motives? What benefit did it get out of him being addicted that it didn't get out of him not being addicted? What benefit did it think he got out of being addicted? At that point the dialogue paused, and I asked him if he really benefited from this benefit the addiction through it was giving him.

Then we changed tack, my client and I working together. All the way through I would provide gentle direction and he would comply, negotiating with his addiction himself, and reporting its replies back to me. Now that we knew where the spirit of the addiction was coming from and what it was getting out of it, it was time to bargain. We pointed out other ways it might get its needs met without my client ever having to light a cigarette. We offered it a symbol in the client's house - a potted plant in the same family as tobacco, actually, which my client promised to tend himself and keep healthy as long as the spirit of addiction kept away. And eventually my client and I agreed that we had reached a point where not only was the spirit of addiction satisfied, but he was, too.

So I got him to allow the being to break up into smoke and float away, and to leave the place with the chair, and I reinforced the post-hypnotic suggestions of calmness, self-forgiveness for his distant past, lack of desire for a cigarette, and replacement activities for smoking, then brought him back into normal consciousness. He was really happy with the session. I said he was very welcome to ring me and make an appointment if he needed to bolster up the work we had done together and he thanked me, and I didn't hear a thing until today. I asked him if he wanted to set up another session, he said no, he was still at peace with himself and still a non-smoker. He was just ringing up to let me know he was doing well, and that he had saved thousands of dollars in the cost of cigarettes. And it was good to hear that the person in that household who had had a tumour removed was still doing well and had not relapsed.

It was very good of him to ring, actually. Theoretically, every client who sees me, seems happy at the end, and doesn't get back to me is a satisfied customer - but are they? Or could some of them be people who just lost faith and didn't want to waste time on me again? I would never know without feedback. So I was delighted when he rang, and we talked for quite a while. Now that I have better-quality audio equipment, I offered to make him a free meditation CD tailored to his own internal imagery and preferences as a thank-you gift for the detailed feedback, but he serenely refused even that.

He said in passing that I crafted the inside of his head with as much care and skill as he'd craft the inside of a building. I was flattered. Let's just say that if any of my friends or contacts are in need of an architect, I know whose business card I will be handing out.

If you would like to discuss making an appointment to transform into a non-smoker,  contact me and we will discuss your particular needs privately.

Wednesday, January 19, 2011

Alice in Wonderland, Fairy Stories, and the Creepiness of Childhood

A conversation has just re-awoken in me my interest in fairy stories and somewhat creepy children's literature like some of Roald Dahl's children's writing (in my opinion, he's much better when he writes for adults!) and Lewis Carroll's classic "Alice in Wonderland". This book in particular follows the classic pattern of fairytales the world around: person is in :normal" reality, something they don't control happens to catapult them into an abnormal, uncontrollable reality, they struggle with their powerlessness in the situation, a helper (either magical or commonplace) comes along to aid them, then they are restored to normalcy or even rewarded and promoted.

 Bruno Bettelheim in his book "The Uses of Enchantment" which is by no means the only book on this theme that I have come across but definitely one of the more masterly ones, postulates that these books, with their simple dichotomies between "good" and "evil" and always identifying the protagonist with good, give the developing child's mind standards and boundaries. Situations where angelically good mothers die and widowed fathers marry evil stepmothers such as you find in Hansel and Gretel, Snow White, Cinderella and many such stories, give children a way of dealing with their own mothers when they turn, under the pressure of exhaustion or even the child's own behaviour, from a nurturing mothe to a punishing mother: the child can identify the changed nature of their own mother with the "evil stepmother", leaving their basic relationship with the good side of their mother's personality untarnished, so that when things get to normal, the "evil stepmother" is simply gone and the child can enjoy the relationship again without fear.

I think it goes even deeper than that. The the essence of stories like that is that the reader/viewer gets a sense of their own anxieties mirrored back to them, probably amplified - then some kind of resolution presented, even if it is a supposedly negative resolution (like the death of the little match girl, and the story stresses what a relief her death was). It gives people the sense that hope exists, that nothing bad lasts forever without changing, that life will move on and the situation they are in will end, no matter how bad it is.

With "Alice in Wonderland" in particular and its sequel, you see a child running along in normal reality, teleported into abnormal reality by the catalyst of the fall through the rabbit-hole. From that point on, events and characters around her behave in utterly crazy ways, analogous to the quick, unconsidered decision-making or parents and teachers that might change a child's life forever, and over which the child has no control. The craziness of such decision-making is mirrored in the craziness of the characters that Alice gets to meet in Wonderland, some of whom are comforting and some of whom are terrifying, but all of whom are completely incomprehensible to her.

This a fair analogue of the adults generally in a standard child's life after the Industrial Revolution: the younger you are, the more arbitrary and peculiar a parent or teacher's choices and decisions might seem. Industrialisation has given up huge benefits, and so did the growth and development of larger societal structures centuries before that, and I for one would be greatly grieved if I had to return to an earlier lifestyle based on a small village unit where everyone knew everyone else, and everyone worked equally to ensure the survival of the whole, and gathered together at night to hear the old tales around a fire, and to sing and to dance.

Nonetheless, some remnant societies still maintain community structures like this, notably in the Pacific Islands, New Guinea, and actually on every continent except Europe (as far as I am aware - I could be wrong about that). Such places often have a very rough justice - but in a subsistence culture, it doesn't take too many people refusing to work with the overall community to jeopardise the livelihoods of everyone. When antropological studies are done, little if any evidence of depression exists in such communities as long as the environment that supports them has not been badly damaged, and conflict is managed internally with great efficiency in most cases.

Children grow up, nourished by the stories as well as by kinship, to see that there is good and bad, fear and pain - but there is always some way to manage it, even if that is only to wait it out. In the west, we are rarely so lucky these days: the wolf doesn't want to eat the piglets but just play chasings, and the story immediately is not gripping to the child any more. Once they've heard it two or three times it bores them. The nanny-goat and the seven kids don't get eaten by the wolf any more, they marely hide behind a tree, and the woodcutter doesn't cut them out of the wolf's tummy and put a big, salty stone in instead. And worst of all, neither of those wolves come to a nasty end! The child cannot crow in triumph over the defeat of the obviously evil enemy.

We need to be able to believe that one day our enemies will be defeated. If we cannot believe that, and have it modelled to us in our childhood stories, what hope will there ever be for us? Who are we to sanitise stories that used to raise generations upon generations of psychologically healthy people? In fact, its since we've been sanitising them over the last three generations that mental illness in general and depression in particular has taken such a hold on our communities, probably in part because people are no longer programmed so see that bad things do happen, and do get resolved one way or another, by the stories they hear around the hearth. Not that industrialisation, good for the economy, wasn't terrible for the population's mental and physical health.

If you look at tribal cultures still living pretty much their tribal lifestyles today in different parts of the world, those of them that live in traditional housing and eat traditional foods and keep traditional cultural practices as opposed to eating maccas and watching TV tend to have a near-zero mental health rate. There've been all sorts of documentaries on it, sociological and medial, in the last couple of years, done by scientists from all over. It's not my thoughts - it's theirs. I am merely a cypher.

A contact of mine is currently living with his woman in her highland New Guinea tribal village, and while he finds the local tribal "justice" a bit rough and rugged, he is happier and healthier than he's ever been in sixty years of life, and doesn't plan on ever leaving. And up until he moved there and adopted her traditional lifestyle, he had a lifetime history of depression.

He thinks, with some justification, that an urban lifestyle caused his chronic depression: I'm sure if you went searching for him and found him, then suggested that he no longer feels depressed because there isn't a white doctor to diagnose depression within hundreds of kilometres, he's laugh in your face, and suggest that you might feel a bit better after weeding the food-gardens for an hour or two.

 Yes, fairytales are bloodthirsty and violent. And yes, Alice in Wonderland is quite creepy. But perhaps it is human nature that we need that in our stories as we develop our minds and our places in society, so that when bad things do happen in the real world, we don't fall apart from utter shock and disbelief, but have some internal resources, some way of coping without going into psychosis or depression, even if it's just the trust that things will not stay the same forever, so waiting it out is a valid strategy.And especially as a child where you make few if any of the major decisions determining your quality of life: a parent may choose a lover or a house or a school or a town and never realise how that choice might impact a child. 

I'd rather have some hope than none at all.

A Random Memory

I was talking on another forum, and a friend of mine showed me a picture of the drill-rig next to her house, which she thought was impressive because it was twenty-seven tonnes and taller (but a lot thinner) than a two-storey house. 

It brought to mind this memory: 

When I was driving across the continent once, one of the two trips I did alone, I had to pull completely off the highway and park gingerly in the saltbush to allow passage of an oncoming vehicle carrying something that not only covered the entire highway from gutter to gutter, but overhung the saltbush on either side by several metres. I think we were in South Australia close to the New South Wales border (By "close", I obviously mean within half a day's hard drive, give or take). We were already on the eastern end of the Nullarbor Plain, which at a good speed and doing 12-14 hour days, takes a little less than a day and a half to cross.

I happened to have the CB radio on at the time, and I'd been chatting with the guy driving the pilot-car before they came over the horizon so I knew to look for suitable spots to pull over. I spent the time rehydrating, getting out and stretching my legs, then getting back in again. Well, you have to, really. And as it chugged past I looked up with awe at their mechanical cargo and said: "What do you call that thing that you're carrying?" (To my eyes it was an enormous and completely incomprehensible machine, the size of four or five houses).

Another voice, obviously the driver of the rig itself, drawled laconically: "It's the biggest Tonka-toy in the world, love. Wanna play?"

I love the bush, I really do. Why the hell did I ever let anyone persuade me to come back to suburbia? Where am I ever going to have random conversations like that around here?

About twenty minutes later, the next oncoming vehicle came along, a guy in a three-part road train probably about thirty-five to forty-five metres long and with each component probably eighty tonnes. Those road trains have serious engines, and while the guy with the Tonka-toy and his paid escort (I love calling them that!) were crawling along at around 40 kilometres per hour, this truck was barrelling along at the speed limit, which would have been 100 kilometres per hour in that part of the country.

I gave him a call, too - well, it would have been rude not to. I told him about the mother-of-all-wide-loads ahead of him crawling along at a snail's pace, and suggested that he might want to pull over and have one of his compulsory rest-stops to give the rig a chance to pass the town (well, more accurately, the fuel-stop) of Nullarbor, after which I knew and he would have known that the land got a bit flatter and the saltbush got a bit lower, and he would have been able to pull his truck off the road and get around the rig with a degree of safety in some places.

He was really quite grateful to have the information, and you could hear the pleasure in his voice that I told him (my car looked like a city car, and city people don't think to keep people informed), and you could hear him already rescheduling his time in his mind as he spoke to me. As he went screaming past me in the opposite direction (I was doing about 140 and he was doing about 100, our approaching-speed was notably fast) he said goodbye and thanked me again. I said to him: "Remember me to the guys: tell them that the tonka-toy woman said hello". I enjoyed his laughter - he thought my comment was about the size of my car.

Now, their CB radios were a ways stronger in transmitting-power than mine, and I had an excellent aerial for reception, and a while later, in amongst a heap of static, I heard him calling the pilot-vehicle. The pilot-vehicle was too far away for me to pick up his half of the conversation, but the truckie said something like "Remember the tonka-toy woman? She said hello." Then silence and static, followed by a  warm, friendly laugh.

City-slickers really underestimate the humanity and overestimate the oafishness of bushies and road-train drivers. I really like them - far better than most suburban people. They have a sense of the reality of the world. You can't help but drop into trance and learn about different levels of reality when you drive dead-straight roads for hours at a time into mirages; you can't help but be decent.

Saturday, January 15, 2011

The Struggle for Existence

 Today I took two forays into the world. The first one was with a friend of mine, Kylie, who was breaking in (so to speak) a new Irish Wolfhound, a quite loveable dog who wasn't entirely at peace with other dogs. We had a nice breakfast at a local cafe, then wandered around the fortnightly Farmers' Market, and just as we started to enjoy ourselves and contemplate buying things, the clouds quite inconsiderately decided to empty themselves on our heads, so we eventually gave up and went home. At least it was just heavy rain, and not flooding, although the weather-system was the tail-end of one involved in widespread flooding.

Later, when the sky was a bit firmer and less likely to collapse on my head, I went for a bit of a walk. I was in a ruminative mood, and inclined to notice the little things. One of the little things I noticed was a massive, archetypal struggle between the forces of Good and Evil, the desperate struggle for life.

 I got to watch a St Andrews Spider (after the position of its legs at rest) trying to bundle up and poison a "Christmas Beetle" Its Latin name is unknown to me, an Australian bug we used to see a lot when I was a kid around Christmas, but now, unfortunately, obviously near or over the brink of extinction, since the one I'm talking about was the first I'd seen in years. 

The spider was bustling around, wrapping silk from its abdomen, and every few seconds viciously biting the beetle's carapace or its head or something. Every time it bit, the beetle would convulse, struggle violently, then give up. As the spider wrapped it some more, it would start struggling again, and the spider would bite again. Every so often the spider would invest a quantity of silk only to have the beetle tear it partially away. After nearly half an hour of silent, intense, savage and personally vindictive battle, the beetle managed to break enough silk to fall out of the web, which was unfortunate, because its wings were too well-wrapped to fly, and it was two floors down from the balcony where the conflict took place to the concrete garden path below.

I watched the whole thing, mesmerised, knowing I should either free the beetle for its sake, or kill it for the spider's sake, and doing nothing. The beetle deserved to live given its total lack of surrender, and its willingness to struggle no matter the odds against it but given its inability to fly and its fall, I feel bad that it ended up probably dying a slow and miserable death anyway.

But the whole incident, as I watched, crystallised in my mind into something that was bigger than the spider's struggle for survival and its next meal, against the beetle's struggle for survival and freedom. Both animals were utterly desperate. Both animals needed to win to ensure survival. And both of them were exerting themselves as hard, or harder, than most of us ever have in our lives.

This was drama on a grand scale, as big for them as any war scene or any struggle to survive a natural disaster. There is nothing about being one kind of creature that makes it inherently superior to any other kind of creature: as someone said recently, a fly is as beautiful and as complicated in its engineering as a lion. Animals can only eat what they are designed to eat: a spider does not know there is anything wrong with eating beetles, because that is what spiders are supposed to do. And the pain that the beetle felt was as great as the pain any of us our our children may have felt.

Both creatures were utterly engaged in the struggle, and to them, I was less than nothing. Both of them had far more important things going on, than anything that might have been happening in my life: I was merely passing time, while they were completely thrust into a life and death combat.

How often are we blind to what is going on for others around us? I remember once, when my daughter was about six, I was bringing her home after a weekend at her former step-father's in Lane Cove, and he had said something to her that completely broke her heart: that he wasn't ever going to see her again in her life - because I forgot to bring something with me when I brought her down, which I had said I'd give him. He in his anger was looking to punish me, and he knew being utterly callous to her and hurting her would punish me.

And that's as far as he thought, apparently. The fact that she would be hurting, and would end up hurting for many years even after he re-entered her life and started even tutoring her for her school exams, wasn't as important to him as hurting me through making me witness her ongoing distress. He thought as little about his effect on her, as the spider thought about its effect on the beetle, or the beetle thought about whatever concerns I might have had as I watched them struggle. Buddhism, a philosophy of non-attachment to people, places, situations and things, enabled to reconcile himself with the effects of his choices. She wasn't so lucky - she didn't have a position of moral superiority to resort to, as he did.

The train trip was a little under an hour and a half, and she sat on my lap and sobbed quietly the whole time. She never once screamed - she was too heartbroken to have the energy to do so. There were other people in the same carriage, and while I was aware that each and every one of them had their own lives and their own problems, only one of them was my child, so I really only cared about her. I was just thankful that she wasn't crying very noisily - some people in the carriage were managing to sleep through her moans.

But not all, apparently. As we were walking through the carriage to leave the train after it pulled into our station, one woman who had been still and silent for the whole trip suddenly swore savagely at her as we walked past, telling her not to be a "snivelling little sh*t". She had no idea of the huge loss and betrayal the child had suffered that day, and how it would impact her life for over a decade so far, and possible for life. She had her own concerns and her own stresses, so I didn't take her to task. I had no way of knowing what stress she was under that day - I was in no position to judge.

None of us behave ideally. At all times, someone will be hurting someone else. On balance, I would rather have been the spider, causing physical agony and probably death to the beetle directly, than to have been my ex, using words to wound her heart knowingly, and somehow justifying it to himself as a suitable punishment for me, who had done something wrong.

Ideally, in life you can only take the best possible course of action. And I try. Which is why I believe that it is hypocritical to eat meat and then claim you do not kill a living thing: to me, killing your food directly and honestly has more moral fibre to it than paying someone else to kill it so that you do not have to admit to yourself that it happens.

What are your thoughts on the importance of being aware of the feelings of others, or the consequences of your actions? Can you illustrate that with examples from your own life?

Thursday, January 13, 2011

"Of Droughts and Flooding Rains"

Twenty-four hours ago, I was making immediate preparations to head north, drive as far as I could, then simply stop, find the nearest place where it made sense to pitch in and help out in any way possible. I was prepared to do whatever I could do that would be helpful to someone for about a week, then come back and do some necessary things that will be happening here, then later, when I will be absolved of some local responsibilities, head straight back north.

Circumstances got in the way, and it wasn't to be. Instead of heading north and doing whatever I can for strangers trusting that other people will be helping in the communities where I have people I love, I'm sitting here in my community, worrying-the-hell out of myself whenever I don't hear from one or another northerly friend for a few hours. I've already sent away money that I would normally squander in the course of the fortnight (my "me money"), plus money that others have offered me, divided between the official flood appeal and a direct bank transfer to a friend whose husband and children were away on school holidays when it all got out of control, and who is trying desperately to leave town to join them, one of the people I haven't heard from for a while. 

They have a horse stud and a few acres under crops: the water has already destroyed this next year's income for them. If I can find the money she needs for the vehicle to move a few of her more valuable animals before she leaves, then that is at least something saved for them to use when the clean-up is over and they have to start all over again, but the bulk of it is going to the relief fund where it will be distributed between total strangers on the basis of need: I may be aware of the suffering of some people, but by no means all, and I trust humans to display basic humanity in times of crisis and be evenhanded and fair with aid.

Earlier this afternoon I was talking to an elderly Jewish Romanian woman who fled the pogroms of forties and fifties. Even her children are old now, one of them in a local aged-care facility. I think she is fairly lonely now, and while she has never done anything so formal as to visit me, she certainly makes it her business to pop out of doors at about the time of morning I'm likely to be out the front watering my raised vegetable patch (or recycled box-trailer), and have a chat to me. This morning it was pretty difficult to avoid talking about the floods. She is a good Jewish woman, and I know a friend picks her up on the Sabbath and takes her to the prayer meeting of her choice - the nearest synagogue apparently is too far away.

This morning she was shaking her head from side to side. I had just told her that I had been trying to go north to help out, but hadn't succeeded, and was reduced to doing whatever I could do from a distance. I had not mentioned religion at all - hers or mine - when she turned to me, looked me hard in the eye and said something like: "You talk about God. God? Hah! How can you expect me to believe in God after this? When I was just a girl I had to leave my country because God would not stop the brutes, and I thought God was testing my faith. But now God does this? After taking my husband? I have always been careful. I have always prayed. I have always followed the Laws. And God does this? It is all too much. God is not testing our faith. No, this is proof that God doesn't exist at all! How can I believe, hmm? If there was a God, He would stop  all this."

This struck me as being terribly, terribly sad. Her love of the Torah and her faith in God had nourished her through a lifetime, probably a longer lifetime than I'll ever have. It had sustained her through years of  unthinkable brutality, through having to start up in a new country where she knew no one and nothing, not a person, not the language, not even the food. It helped her raise children in exile, and sustained her when they grew up and left her, one by one. It helped her when her life-partner grew old, grew ill, and died. Her faith survived all of that, burning steadily like a well-stoked furnace, not flickering feebly like a candle near an open window.

But suddenly, with the floods, she crumbled. I asked, and no, she had no relatives or close friends involved. She herself was as bewildered as I was that after a lifetime of being strong, she suddenly crumbled. I suppose it was just one last tragedy in a long line of tragedies, one last straw on that overloaded camel of parable and cliche. She stood there near my vegetable patch, straight and proud, until I impulsively reached out a hand and touched her shoulder. That was just too much - she collapsed into tears on me. I held her until she got a hold of herself, walked her home, made sure she went inside, and extracted a promise that she would ring her daughter and ask her to come over. Then I walked away. I felt bad, but I had things to do, and her daughter would understand her better than I ever could.

After that, I knew I had to renew my efforts: I made more phone calls, this time to friends and acquaintances who were two (or more) car families, seeking to borrow a larger vehicle. But no, I seemed destined to stay here. I did some banking, had an extreme luxury - an iced coffee - with my own daughter, and did other things I needed to do. 

On my way home, walking through the summer heat weighed down with some fruit, I passed the corner of her street, and started thinking of her loss of faith again. And again my heart went out to her, but I also started thinking that she wasn't giving Deity much credit. After all, imagine being a Supreme Being. There might be some non-physical beings who take a kindly interest in the fates of humans, but they are likely to be local energies. A Supreme Being, responsible for it all, is bigger than that. They set it all in motion by triggering a Big Bang, and allowing the Laws of Physics, the formation of galactic chains and within the chains individual galacxies, stars and planetrary systems. They made it possible through the laws of physics for evolution to happen and thus for us to develop; but with so many hundreds of billions of stars in each galaxy which are potentially habitable, and so many hundreds of billions of galaxies around, why would they focus on us? We'd be like the individual atoms found in a single flake in a snow-dome on a window-sill.

Then again, consider Deity-as-Pet-Owner. Assume that Deity is conscious of us as a species, possibly even conscious of us as individuals. I used to have a very large tropical aquarium in my living-room in my old house. I had set up the environment, supplying stones, gravel and river-sand. Supplying plants of different species, filtration and on occasion when necessary, pH balancing. I stocked it with a known number of fish, of several different species. They showed every sign of being aware of my presence when I approached the tank, but continued on their ordinary business when I was in the room but didn't approach. May I not have appeared like a looming, unknowable God to any of them who might have thought?

I fed them regularly, providing flakes every day and supplementing them regularly with mosquito larvae - they loved hunting down living food. Every so often to keep the environment healthy, I'd drain off about two-thirds of the contents of the tank, and replace it. It was a large tank so I used a thick hose, and this created turbulence. At such times, I'd also move the stones around, checking the plants for damage and rot, and removing dead or unhealthy bits. This would create more turbulence. Would not any fish in the tank have regarded this as we might regard an earthquake, a storm or - yes, a flood, as an "act of god", causing panic and discomfort, and possibly even death if I wasn't very careful or the fish chose to swim in the wrong direction for my movements?

I created their whole world. I provided everything they needed in their environment for them to stay alive. Every so often, I'd create enormous and probably terrifying turbulence, in an effort to remove contaminants from their environment. And later, there would come a time when I gave the last of them away, and dismantled their environment for ever. That sounds pretty god-like to me - could it not be happening to us on a grander scale? Like me and my fishes, events that from a local eye seem devastating, might have a long-term effect of cleaning up the bigger-picture situation. We talk about annual seasonal cycles - why don't we think about longer seasonal cycles, calculated in decades of multiples of decades? They might also be about planetary cleansing, regarding us as either a species whose complaints should be ignored for the greater good, or worse, the actual contaminating organisms that are being cleaned away.

Perhaps, from a Gods Eye View, we are either the source of a lot of problems, or just an irrelevant species that is too numerous for the size of the "aquarium", anyway. God may have a greater responsibility, to look after the whole of the planet, the whole of the solar system, the whole of the galaxy. All of us agree that mankind has out-bred our resources: that's why the "average" Australian lifestyle would require seven Earth-sized planets to maintain if we managed to give everyone alive the same standard of living. Why would God have to be seen by religious people to nurture a species that is out of control? Why wouldn't God prune them slightly, tie them back as a tender gardener ties back pruned wines, keeping the garden more organised and more fruitful that way?

Wednesday, January 12, 2011

Hanging Around

Well, it looks as though I'm not heading North. I couldn't manifest the vehicle, so I'll be staying here. Any Australians who weant to contribute financially may like to go directly to the flood appeal; anyone overseas, I'm still happy to receive and pass on.

I'm really disappointed, now.

Queensland Floods

You know, I am outraged with myself for being as shallow, superficial and self-interested as everyone else. Two days ago I found out that the Queensland Floods were covering an area of the state as large as France and Germany combined, and the affected area has only grown since then. Today a few hours ago after coming home from doing whatever I was doing during the day, I received a call from friends of mine who moved to Nanango in Queensland back in 1982. We are good friends, and although I haven't been up there since 1999 (for a family wedding) and only saw them briefly then, I'm fond of them and stay in touch.

A day or two ago they were okay, and I was watching the whole Queensland thing, along with satellite pictures of cloud cover, with some concern. And honestly, if I hadn't been home for that phone call, that's all I would ever have done. Now things are very different, though. As we spoke on the phone a short while ago, though, I switched on the ABC to find unscheduled flood coverage had replaced "normal programming". Some parts of Nanango are lower than others. Jack and Michelle, both ex-military, retired up there when they moved, with some capital, and set up a hobby-farm on a smallish patch of land outside town. Last I heard, they had a house-cow supplying their milk and yoghurt needs, rather a lot of dogs, a veggie patch and an extensive orchard.

Seems they sent their teenage daughters to relatives for the holidays, so they really had to worry only about the animals. Jack was talking about evacuating, saying he didn't really know what he could do with his animals. He was saying that if the situation got much worse, even the final solution wouldn't be a solution - the fewer dead animal carcasses were around, the better.

They have two vans. Michelle has hers packed with an evacuation kit: clothes, valuables and heirlooms, HDDs for the computers (the rest of the systems can be replaced, it's really the data and software that is valuable), sleeping bags and thew like. Jack has already headed to Brisbane with his van full of blankets donated by his neighbours and food donated by neighbouring businesses, to help out at the evacuation centres.

If he can do this when his place is in danger, how can I sit around living life normally when my place is nice and dry?

Answer: I can't. Or, I can, but it would be wrong. My financial resources to be able to help - just to get myself there to help - are meagre, but what the hell, I haven't spent the last hour or two being idle. I've made a number of phone calls. A friend of mine works for a well-known car and truck hire place: first thing tomorrow morning I'll find out of she's managed to get her boss to donate a vehicle for a week to enable me to go up there and pitch in. Friends of a friend of mine, who operate a roadside fruit and veggie stall, have said that if I can organise transport, they'll donate some boxes of slow-to-spoil foods, like potatoes, pumpkins, citrus. Even my normally quite insular neighbours across the road have said they'll water my veggie patch and throw food at the cat once a day.

I barely have enough money for fuel right now (in a day or two that will ease up), and I'm certainly no Mrs Musclewoman who can repair damaged infrastructure at a single bound, but what I can do is this: I can bulk-cook. I can serve out food to people in evacuation centres. I can play with children whose parents are freaking out. I can provide a shoulder for the parents (or non-parents) who are freaking out. And because it's not my environment and not my community, I wouldn't have the temptation, that I would have if it was happening here, to keep checking on my place and my neighbours, so I'll be reasonably calm and unruffled, something that will be needed. And best of all, I can fall asleep at will and even sitting bolt-upright, allowing me to "stock up" on sleep in advance of needs, so I'll be able to work ludicrous hours, sleeping when its convenient rather than being kept awake because my body is not used to sleeping then (something that has always surprised me in other people).

So yes, tomorrow morning I find out if the idea - and I - have wheels. If it does and I do, I'll be out of here an hour or two after finding out. I'm going to put a Paypal donation button on the bottom of this post. Please, if you can spare something, do so. Donations received after I return will go straight to the Flood Relief fund that's been set up - I believe wireless internet has been set up in a couple of centres for relief workers, so I may well be able to access it fairly immediately. Any friends of mine or locals around here might want to get in touch with me tonight if they feel like contributing: Paypal chew significant percentages of received payments when you transfer it into "real" currency.

If I don't receive a van or a car to use, I won't be able to make the offers of vegetables or my own labour happen. But then again, I will be able to donate what I would have spent in fuel to the relief fund, plus anything I receive from Paypal donations, so please, anything you can, now or in the future. There are going to be plenty of people who will be needing help for at least two seasons after this.

Oh, and wish me luck. Even if everything goes exactly as planned, it's going to be a hell of a drive.

Monday, January 10, 2011

Dealing with the Demons

We all have our demons. Quite apart from the broiling, roiling storms of our subconscious, we are plagued by the broiling, roiling storms created by attachments to unhealthy, so-called friends and   non-physical entities, and our subconscious battles to free ourselves from our past.

Compulsive behaviours (of which any kind of addiction is really the most visible sign) are one of the more common outer signs of this struggle. To a greater or lesser extent we all struggle in this way at some stage in our lives, for greater or lesser periods of time.

The fundamental human addiction we all have in common is the addiction to being comforted. All other addictions, from alcoholism to cigarettes, narcotics to sex, painkillers to routines, all everything in between, are all just chasing the addiction to being comforted: we all subconsciously long for completion and comfort, and believe that our current addiction of choice will offer it in at least the short-term.

Many unfriendly entities also offer us comfort. Some of us are comforted by the illusion of personal power, especially if we have a history of personal powerlessness in the past, in our relationships, childhoods or work. Some entities offer us a sensation of power, which we don’t realise is not being worked by us but by them through us, with a temporary euphoria being our own payoff that keeps us going back for more, feeding the entity’s needs for a link into this world.

Some of us are comforted by the illusion of ease, of floating through life without too much effort, and quite a lot of moderately unfriendly entities present us with that option as our payoff, letting us take the lazy way out in our lives and get away with it, with a greater or lesser sense of dissatisfaction being masked by a pleasure at how little effort we actually have to use to get away with living.

Some entities even use the mental image of white feathers, white robes and even Biblical names to convince humans to “feed” them who would normally keep well away from parasitic entities in the name of advancing their spirituality, for spirituality itself can offer comfort to us.

We are all personally responsible for everything we do, and every choice we make, even if it is to further our own addictions and compulsions. That being said, is there is something or someone else working against us, it is much easier to backslide back in to old comfort-zones, old rewards – and old addictions. All of these things must be dealt with.

In 1987, I achieved my Diploma in Applied Hypnotherapy. As well as hypnotic techniques such as replacement behaviours and changed perceptions, we also looked at psychology and psychological therapies such as neuro-linguistic programming and Gestalt therapy. There were others – but despite the fact that they are less popular now, I find these two techniques in particular work very, very well not only in de-programming a person’s “bad habits” and the anxieties and need for comfort that may lie behind them, but also for actually addressing any part of addictive behaviour that is down to parasitic non-physical entities.

Dealing with them, I might do something akin to a Gestalt therapy technique of getting the subject to visualise their problem as an independent entity sitting in front of them, but while this is happening in conventional psychological models, I will drop myself into a trance an old teacher of mine used to call “shamanising”, find the energy-strings I need to find to pull the actual independent entity behind the subject’s behaviour (if there is in fact an independent spirit there), and bring it into the dialogue, finding out if there is room for compromise or bargaining (a lot of these very negative entities will be surprisingly honourable if you can find a middle road where their own needs are met), or indeed battling it and evicting it completely from the person if it is not disposed to bargaining – something known by various churches as “exorcising”, but when it is done by shamanising it involves  few of the techniques of physical and emotional violence that many Christian-based and other cults use to effect their ends.

The whole idea is to help somebody heal and be strong enough to take responsibility for their own self, not to harm them further and make them even weaker and more likely to be spiritually parasitised!

I have a programme set up specifically for dealing with smoking addiction, given that with the new taxes the addiction is becoming even  more harmful to families as their income is diverted towards maintaining the supply of a poison to the victim of the addiction. You can spend $20 on cigarettes these days, depending on the brand you prefer, and if you’re like I used to be at the height of my addiction when I was smoking over fifty a day, that represents something like $120 a week taken out of the budget to maintain an addiction that was slowly killing me.

I gave up smoking in 2005, saving myself tens of thousands of dollars over the time since then, enabling me to have more fun than I would otherwise have had if I were still addicted. For $350 and about two hours of fairly intensive time on your part (I really recommend not returning to work or to any demanding personal tasks for 24 hours afterwards), I can help you do the necessary work you need to do, to become an ex-addict who will never need to budget for their addiction again. It won't be easy and it certainly won't be pleasant, but it will work if you take it on board and do your bit.

Contact me for an appointment, further details or to ask any questions.

Acupressure and Magnetic Therapy Ear Studs

Just a refresher from the previous blog, that I can still supply magnetic ear studs suitable for magnetic therapy, acupressure therapy or just plain pierced-look jewellery for people who don't really want to commit to another piercing or want to be able to move the studs around themselves. The magnets are strong enough to grasp any part of the ear, plus the lip-area, although not strong enough to grasp the cheek-area. That is fair: if they were that strong and you used them on the ears, they would pinch so hard that they would be downright painful.

Acupressure works on the same theory as acupuncture: that there are energy-lines or nadis through the body connecting different organs and energy-structures, and that dis-ease is often a function of blocked energy-flow as much as it might be of infection or nutritional imbalance. Along those energy-lines are a sequence of points, and blockages can be cleared, symptoms can be reduced or removed, and even anaesthesia can be induced by giving a sharp stimulus to the appropriate acupuncture points, either in the traditional way by the insertion of a very fine needle, or in the form of acupressure, where a fingertip or a magnetic stud is used on the point to create a very firm, steady pressure.

That it works, I know for sure. When I lived in a large capital city I had had permanently blocked sinuses for my entire life, progressing from over-the-counter inhalers to prescription medications to ever-increasing dosages, and I still consumed two large boxes of tissues a week with the constant dripping. Somewhere in my middle twenties, I started seeing a Sri Lanka-trained acupuncturist and received twice-weekly treatments in my lunch break - he was close to my work at the time - with astounding success. Firstly I cut down, then stopped my excessive use of tissues, then I weaned myself off all sinus medications. And my nose was almost clear, despite the fact that I was still living and working in the same clouds of pollution that had induced the problem in the first place! I was delighted.

That it has anaesthetic properties I can also attest: one day, without telling me his reasoning, he chose to stimulate two extra points (he later said that people need a change from time to time), and my entire upper jaw went numb, just as if a dentist had injected both sides with novocaine. Well, it just so happens that I'm not too keen on either undue medications or physical pain, so I rang around dentists frantically, to find one who would be prepared to do the dental archaeology I happened to need before the effect wore off. And yes, I managed to get an appointment on the second or third call, and yes, the brand-new filling was in place and the dentist paid before feeling started creeping back into my upper jaw.

Not only had the acupuncture done its intended job, but it gave me a great deal of jaw-numbing analgesia that enabled me to have serious work done as pain-free as if I'd been injected, without the influx of chemicals into the system. That's a win-win, as far as I'm concerned. Before then I liked acupuncture: after that, I was an enthusiast, and handed out that practitioner's business card to everyone.

Today, every time I select one of my gorgeous pairs of magnetic studs to wear for the day, I hark back to that moment when I finally realised how powerful acupuncture and acupressure were - no mere placebo was ever going to cancel out the agony of a drill-tip going into a live nerve! Something real must be happening.

When I have sold or given away the studs, I haven't tended to supply maps of the acupuncture points in the ears or face with the studs. Something else that acupuncturist - who was a very wise man - told me was this: you can spend decades memorising where the points are, or you can apply firm pressure to a lot of different sites in the ear, and one or more of them will have a stronger sensation to the pressure than the others. When you feel that tenderness (or sting or tickle, depending on the individual), that is the point that needs stimulation. Some of them may relate to sinuses, some to kidneys or sciatica or high blood pressure, but the layman doesn't really need to know. The points that you need to treat at the time will be the ones that give you the extra sensation on being squeezed or pressed firmly. Another day, you may need to treat another point.

These studs are routinely sold in pharmacies for self-treatment of nicotine addiction and anxiety, with ear-maps. You are much better off finding out by using pressure and feeling the difference in sensation, than by following a printed map: all ears are slightly different shapes for a start, and you may need one set of points treated one day, a different set the next. So, take control of your own health, be pro-active, and make your own health decisions for your own health circumstances!

The studs I supply are hypo-allergenic and tipped with tiny but exquisite Swarovski crystals. I have seen the identical studs that I supply in a local pharmacy for $85 Australian, and I am pretty sure they buy them from the same manufacturer I do: I can supply them for $40 and make an ethical profit on that, throwing in mailing costs within Australia for free. The colours I have on hand and can supply immediately, are ruby-pink, pearl-clear, scarlet, amethyst and pure pink. I can post these within one working day of receiving your order. Other colours will have a fortnight extra lead-in time, as I  need to restock, and include: sky blue, sapphire, black and peridot-green.

Why not do something really nice for yourself today? Just be sure to send an email to me at to let me know your full name and postal address, so that your order can be processed. If you like these studs half as much as I like mine, you'll be delighted with them.

Name and jewel colour