The Sword

There are many parts of a life,
That make up the whole,
And many components of a man
That forge his character.
Chill winds and winter snow,
Or sun and sea,
Each can test a man and temper his steel,
The mix of the iron the bough
That breaks or bends,
In the storm of his making
 

I am completely overwhelmed to have won the perfect poet award for week 48. More than anything it wonderful to be read and have so many great comments. Here’s to all you readers and writers out there, and all the inspiration you pass around, like torches burning in the depths of night.

 
I would like to nominate: Braga

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Evil, no-evil

Night swallows day,
Sight fails in the inky shroud of black,
Knowledge withers and logic stumbles,
Imagination is tunneled down negative spirals;
A cave full of shadows,
Nothing is real but everything is a threat,
Leaking out on a world turned grey,
The core is poisoned,
The well springs empty,
Coughing, spluttering the seeker is lost,
A deep marsh of melancholy
For boots over-brimming with bitterness,
Hands seek to clutch and fists to lash
At the cruelty of life,
Suffocation – no air to breathe,
No possibilities in a world shrunk to a point.
Then comes the lightning strike-
Instant illumination!
If all is lost then only growth remains,
A new horizon spreading wings by the second,
Through parting clouds the moon shines bright,
A mirror to the soul long lost but un-tattered,
Sails filling up with sudden hope,
Lungs that breathe again like billows to the wind,
Hands no longer grasping round their own throat,
The noose falls away,
Evil recedes,
Thought and emotion tip back the scales of balance,
Imagination is freed and fingers stroke through long grass,
The mountain air clears the fog of war,
Above the stars, oh so many stars,
The spiral path loops ever upwards,
Day is born.
 
 
 

Western thought divides night from day, beautiful from ugly and good from evil. Evil is assigned to the dark; to that which we reject in society and ourselves. We lock away in jail those we judge to be evil, and lock away in our unconscious those parts of ourselves we are ashamed of. But any process of growth must shine the light of awareness into every dark nook and cranny, every shadowed corner full of the pale shapes of our shame and inadequacy. Many people spend their life trying to cover this up, to strengthen the mask, but always their nemesis is there to undo with wrong all they do with right.

In the East of the past evil was more rationally looked at as faulty thinking. This compassionate view saw the criminal as someone whose path through life has not taught him the lessons he needed to be good. His role models were men who tried to survive in any way they could, and so such a man he also became. The desperate, the weak, the afraid will always lash out. In this way we are no different from the dog that has been mistreated and mistrained by its owner. Chained to a lonely corner without discipline, without exercise, without love, it barks and snaps at any and all who pass by.

This does not mean we should open the prisons, that we should allow the street thug to attack us with impunity. To apply what we have learned about evil on others would be like the man who cast the stone before first freeing himself of sin. We must look within to explore the dark depths of our own minds, to bring light to the evil, the faulty thinking in ourselves. This is the only path that leads to stability, to strength, to a way of life that takes from its follower any need to lash out to prove himself to others. To fix the world, we must fix ourselves.

Out Beyond the Wall

My thanks again to Jenny Matlock’s Saturday Centus, this prompt was way too good to resist…

This wall was built long ago…
Too much life for the straight and narrow way,
Great and crashing waves of existence,
Too strong for the emerging mind of man.
 
And so a wall was built deep and high
To keep out the night of unconsciousness,
To hold back the forgotten dread,
That sneaks  in through quiet times
To take us unawares,
Or breaks over ramparts,
And soak us in the icy brine of prehistoric life.
 
What am I, who am I and what does the wall hold back? we might ask,
It protects us from too much life,
It contains the other side we cannot abide,
But now like all good adventurers I must go out,
Out beyond the wall,
Into the camp of night , into winter’s shadowy grip,
And bring back that jewel of the hidden north,
Bring back myself: whole and full.
 
Pray that I return-
Pray that The Wall lets me pass,
Back to warmth and comforts of the mundane…
Or on moonlit nights look out for me;
A knot of night in the passing gloom,
Forever calling you…
Out beyond the wall.
 

DOUBT

What a blow it is,
To have all you think you are –
Taken in an instant,
Those nurtured gifts,
That guarded weakness,
Cherished place in future’s isle
Snatched away by the hand of doubt,
No quick path’s to be found,
Only the sound of clumping boots in the mud
Slowly, carefully picking cockles of future worth,
Before the rising of the tide.
 
 
 
 
 
 
If a moment ago I was good,
Then now I stand on the shoulders of a giant,
That he never existed is irrelevant,
So long as I can leap to surer ground,
If his memory’s besmirched by mud and doubt
So be it,
The next standing stone rises up,
Even if I cannot see it,
Intuitions breath fills my sails,
Yet now I know not to worship her,
The wind is just the wind,
Of no more use alone than the planks of wood beneath my toes,
The creaking ropes or sweating arms of sailors,
Transporting this fool to a land,
Where he will no longer be a fool,
But see a hole in the mirror,
Through which the whole world makes sense,
And his own place in it
Is irrelevant, no – not irrelevant,
Just a ship at sea,
Much smaller is the ship but no less part
Of the sea.
 

On another matter completely…To those of you who read and enjoyed my post Rebirth, which was written for Elli’s competition, please follow the link below:

http://elliwrites.wordpress.com/2011/04/10/rebirth-april-contest-entry/

And vote by clicking on the number of stars you think it deserves. Many Thanks!

Haiku #29

 

Girl who got away,

just a projection of self

yearning completion

The Mirror

The Mirror always polished,
The glass ever fresh,
Reflections may confuse you,
Dazzle or upset,
Look always to the mirror,
Calm as a deep lake.

Techniques for getting ‘the mind’ on your side

image credit shoebuyblog.com

Life is chaotic and almost by definition will be full of strife. This is because as human beings we have an in-built need to find meaning in life. This is the great strength and great failing of mankind. If we find a great cause our life will be enriched. If we find something larger than ourselves, we can live and die fulfilled and maybe even make a real difference. But the downside of giving life this structure, of using our minds to build an edifice of dreams and expectations, is that we will inevitably feel let down at some point when things do not go as we want. The other aspect of this is that our minds have been trained both by evolution and since childhood to look for problems to solve.

For example if we are lying in bed and are uncomfortable we will alter our position to feel better. But after a short while we will often take for granted that we are now lying comfortably and find something else we need to ‘fix’. Perhaps our toes are poking out of the blanket and are cold. This process can continue indefinitely. This leads to a seeking negativity mind-set, a mental feedback loop that is constantly trying to correct what we see as wrong with the world.

To a certain extent this can be improved by understanding that we are a small individual in a large and changeable world, and will rarely have everything exactly as we would wish. The control freak in us must learn to let go. But there are also more direct techniques that will help:

1.   Never lose the gift of humour. No longer having a sense of humour is the first sign that you have lost your mental balance. In this condition important decisions should not be made.

2.   Another useful technique is to reverse the normal tendency to look for problems. Instead look for things you have missed but which make your life better. For example I am currently enjoying the incredible power and utility of the Internet to communicate with people across the globe! This should not be taken for granted. This is the gift of perspective.

3.    The last is to concentrate absolutely with what you are doing at the present moment. The effort required to do this is hard to sustain, but improves with practice and when achieved leads to a state where the passing of time is not noticed, for you are too absorbed in what you are doing to think about anything else. This is the gift of focus.

These ideas are not a prescription for enlightenment. They are not the one and only path to happiness. They are ideas that may help some people. They certainly helped me, and continue to do so, on a daily basis. When I feel down, or for some reason find myself in a negative mood I try to cultivate the mental discipline to apply the three techniques above in whatever order is most appropriate. Often for me it is – find something funny with the situation, look for something to be grateful about, and finally refocus on what needs to be done and do it with 100% concentration. Anything else is beyond your control.

With Darker Pen

Bees of doom
Do gather round,
A man beset by worries beyond his ken,
The future told through eyes of fear,
History rewritten with darker pen,
In times like this it pays to stop,
And heed teachings of the wiser man
You were yesterday:
Take a breath and think of all those
Far worse off than yourself,
It’s all a thought, it’s all just you
The day still shines or clouds as it will,
There is no reason for your pain,
It simply is,
And in that acceptance, that disdain
Release-

Self-help?

Self help: what is it exactly? On the face of it, it appears to be the ability to  address the problems that plague you and your life without outside help. However, it also suggests the existence of an inner strength or power you are presumably unable to tap at present or are unaware of (and that is why you need to read the book, go to the talk or have the life-changing experience).

This has often been called ‘finding yourself’.

So it could be said that you are in fact seeking help from outside yourself, your current self that is. You are looking for a new self, which somehow you already are, but are told that to realise its potential you need to set out on a path of self-growth: from ‘here’ to the longed for ‘there’.

On this path you are not seeking to add anything but rather take away the illusions and misconceptions you label yourself with, and with new eyes discover what you really are. One way this has happened is by hitting rock  bottom – a state of depression where nothing new or interesting is seen, and nothing can ever suprise you. A very dark place indeed. But one day a light will crack open the darkness and introduce you to a new world, one far bigger than the old one, with a fascination that is constantly renewed – enough to hold your interest for a lifetime. This release is what happens when the tiny self or ego that we take to be us is discovered to be only a subset of a wider and real you. This is the Self with a capital ‘S’.

So self-help, at a deeper level, is all about starting off as the little self and ending up as the big Self. It is about discovering who you really are and realising there was nothing wrong in the first place. It is about love. Along the way many skills will be learned and at times this may seem to be what self-help is all about. But actually every new skill mastered is only a easier way of seeing or reminding us that everything is perfectly fine.

That is not to say that we should underestimate the growth of the little self, and the value of all it can learn from the big Self. This is the real meaning of Self-help. It is the big Self helping the little self (you or I) and the little self learning to express or be a conduit for the big Self, which otherwise would be frustrated.

In the coming months I will aim to write about some of these skills and life tools that can help us along this challenging but deeply rewarding way.

Happiness

Life today is full of choices, but few of them ever seem to lead to happiness. In this confusing maze, where each road taken is little more than arbitrary, it becomes too easy to follow the crowd and take no road at all.

According to the materialism of the 20th and early 21st centuries there is little room for anything but profit and ownership. We are encouraged to think of happy people as successful people, and with particular reference to Celebrity culture, desire nothing more than to be like them.

And yet for the most part, their lives are disasters. Over-inflated egos always hungry for possessions: more sex, money, cars and houses never seem to satiate them. Yet still unaware of the gnawing emptiness that greets everyone who has everything they could ever reasonably want, we are encouraged to follow every trend, every fashion in a contradictory and ever-thwarted quest for individual identity. In short, cut off from our roots we are in danger of becoming adrift and empty, a vessel longing to be filled by whatever rubbish is being sold by the media and society at large.Is it any wonder that as a Nation we are sicker than ever in body and mind?

A starting point to address these symptoms is to reassess our ideas and our definition of happiness. Does what we do to be happy feed our passion for life, inspire our spirit and help us to grow as individuals? Or is it mere momentary satisfaction that leaves us no better off?

I am certainly not championing a life of abstinence. What I am suggesting is that a night with old friends is very different to getting pissed ever weekend, and a blossoming relationship can offer more than a one-night stand. Egos that need constant inflation just to survive, self-esteem so low it needs emergency feeding; this is the cause of our addiction to what we might call  ‘surface’ happiness.

Does a man shouting ‘wanker’ at a passer by in the hope of starting a fight strike you as happy? Is the woman who has maxed out her credit cards any different apart from the new clothes she is proudly wearing? Is the womaniser who wakes up for the second night in a row with a girl whose name he can’t remember better off?

I am not saying do not do any of these things, they can be a lot of fun! What I am saying is do not expect any lasting happiness to grow from them.

The brilliant film ‘Groundhog Day’ says this better than I ever could. Once Phil has accepted that there is no escape from the day he is in, he passes the time eating, drinking, stealing and sleeping with any woman he can. But in his thwarted attempts to woo the girl he really wants, he suddenly sees the kind of man he wants to be. The next day he begins to learn to play the piano. This is the start of the self-growth that culminates in him realising the wonderful person he is capable of being, not in some distant future, but today.

(C) Copyright Mark B Williams 2014
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