Wednesday, 14 January 2015

Can I Have My Attention Please!

I don't recall if I have begun a previous post in a similar fashion - if so, it matters not, as this still reflects present experience, awareness and pondering. As such, it likely will soon depart from anything previously expressed and traverse different territory.

So let me now say as a guy that lives alone - I am today, infinitely appreciating that I can bend over and tie up my own shoes! Various forms of dependence having been examined in my life and others not withstanding, this is not exclusively a celebration of independence as it is, a tribute to the human body (and while I'm at it - mine) what a marvel of connection, sensitivity, communication and healing. Conversely when out of "alignment" it can unleash a whole lotta hurt!

I suppose that is not any less true regardless of one's awareness of it - however I would say it certainly alters the ability to experience the myriad of miracles happening right under (or including) my nose. Ironic to consider the searching for or assumption that, if a miracle could be "believed" to be possible, it would happen only - out there somewhere. I will mention at this junction that I don't present these observations exclusively as though I am watching this from the vantage point of any sort of high ground - just as likely, I'm reflecting on something I've "awakened" to. So then my reflection can become the awakening for someone else. Just as that of another has given me the opportunity to allow myself to consider something else is possible. As such my journey can simultaneously be appreciated by me acknowledging my exceptional gifts and their use to allow me the knowing of being a link in the chain, none of which is any more or less important to the integrity of the chain, but what an extraordinary gift to become aware of this connection (both to self and to all that is) which is made that much sweeter, having experienced the "hell" of disconnection.

This particular article is not to be a treatise on theology, but suffice to say I don't believe in "hell" as an afterlife geographical destination rather it is a state of being involving varying degrees of disconnection from self and by extension life in general - a "mindset" frequently consisting of despair, desolation, hopelessness and isolation. I don't expect merely sharing my point of view to change that of another - but at least it gives some context to my continued discussion.

Today being Tuesday, I began this round of experience with my low back (left side) perhaps commencing subtly Saturday and becoming more acutely noticeable by Sunday afternoon and by Monday morning I was in considerable distress. Even at that I considered "waiting it out" as in some ranges of motion there was no problem, stretching did offer intermittent relief, but I began to realize unless I wanted to assume the stature of a "question mark" (somewhat of an exaggeration but essentially true) I actually couldn't extend (straighten up) without excruciating spasms that would take my breath away and occasionally lead to audible yelping. I suppose on the one hand this is potentially telling regarding my pain tolerance, on the other hand a more useful question to ask myself would be, where did I ever get the idea that there is any "virtue" in "pain tolerance?"

As I mentioned I was doing some stretching which could be interpreted as "self-care" even, self-deceptively so. First of all I will employ an oral hygiene metaphor. If one only flosses days before a "scheduled appointment" the hygienist  certainly won't be convinced of a regular flossing practice, the "truth" will be evident. So it is with stretching - the time to begin is not when the pain starts. I mean it might help to not lose further ground to the ravages of immobility, however it may just as readily further aggravate the situation.

Beyond this realization I wish to further expand on my experience of the principle of "listen to your body." Certainly the idea is not new to me - or likely to anyone reading this. I worked in "fitness" and have participated in a wide variety of exercise forms - so even though the words have come out of my own mouth innumerable times, I am relating to them and my body, newly as of right now.

I will begin by making the distinction there is a vast difference between "listening to my body" and ignoring it, driving it, over-riding it, vetoing it etc. and of course more extreme relating such as disassociating all together. This I have come to realize while lying flat on my back. I had taken to talking to my body (specifically those parts that were trying to get my attention) asking it what's up, praying with it, sending love to it, reassuring it).  Suffice to say all of this, though not entirely foreign to me in theory is only now, in varying degrees being integrated into my practice/consciousness. One communication received was "less is more" - again not a revolutionary statement - however consider at any given time, keeping in mind the very personal organic, intimate needs of any given individual the idea might not just be a "good idea" it could be the difference between continued "wellness" & injury. There is also for me the idea that it's my body and therefore mine to orchestrate and place demands on it. I do "occupy" it - but that sure doesn't mean I can't expand my awareness of what it is to treat it (me) with respect, love and tenderness.

Can you see the potential pitfalls in what I've just suggested - if I've been influenced by the "no pain no gain" dictum for example, my body could be trying in vain to get my attention and I could ignore the more subtle communication and continue to place excessive demands on it. If I surround myself with "like-minded" individuals then the attitude and behaviours are likely "normalized." The only thing anyone is "hearing" at that point is: "longer" "higher" "faster" - more.... more.......more!!

Further communication included ask of my body what it is "willing" to do. From this standpoint what is challenging enough to be considered exercise might look quite different one day to the next. Take for example one of the more popular activities these days: yoga. On the one hand there is value in maintaining and/or counteracting various muscle imbalances created through some of the modern day, frequently sedentary lifestyle practices - like "writing" for example, conversely to just thrust myself into a yoga class with the various aspects of rigidity and inflexibility that are the reality of my body and to try and force myself into some (many) of the poses is ill-advised. Not all classes or instructors etc. are created equal so there are some that give plenty of variations - I have also experienced during a full day yoga workshop the facilitator being rather persistent that I "try" what was for me a very extreme posture and while he might have thought he was being "encouraging" I would say, more like not listening to his participant. Of course at the end of the day it's me that has to recognize my limitations and agree or disagree with regard to the level of participation. The thing is - I am honouring my needs, which is from my understanding, "good yoga."(communion). If I had succumbed to his heavy-handed approach, my own perception of "peer pressure" the influence of a want to be "accepted in the group" which believe me, I have allowed to be a more or less influential energy in my life, I could have tried this move and really hurt myself. The instructor would be long gone - he was from out of town, beyond the fact I signed a "waiver form" I would have to recognize I played a part in my injury by not listening to my own "guidance" and the consequences would be pain, loss of function and compromised living for the length of time that was required to heal.

While I will say I find it intriguing what some are able to do with their bodies, again yoga practitioners or dancers - that doesn't mean I should look at a picture or attend a class, where someone is demonstrating "give yourself a colon exam-asana" and then try and do it.

For fifty-five years I have inhabited this body - nothing short of a miracle that it didn't serve me an eviction notice. I have not always been kind, respectful or compassionate with this, my earth-bound dwelling. Stored within the fibers and cells of my anatomy are traumas self-inflicted and otherwise - surely a program of wellness would then highlight a loving request to befriend my body rather than inflict any more pain. I could drop the need to "compete" asking rather that I only need meet myself where I'm at. Maybe the sign of a true warrior is he that can peacefully assume the "child's pose" while the "lulu-clad" threaten to render themselves limb from limb. I would suggest something/s entirely different is being developed in these moments.

Perhaps another time I will wax upon the holographic emotion/spiritual story just waiting for an attentive "ear" - lending more credence to the maxim "all the answers are within."

It's not just gas!

Saturday, 10 January 2015

What's in a Name?

What if you got up New Year's morning and after some short contemplative observances and nectar of the God's (coffee should that be in doubt) you came to "realize" that rather than the "family" moniker that you have been "identified" by, which in my case has been "Mason"no longer held water.

Though I have known since primary school - that being adopted, this name was rather arbitrary where I was concerned. Incidentally this was the environment where, while "learning" to write (my?) name, they were adamant that I could not use both hands alternatively - I "should" only use one. So as I lacked the where with all to conceive an alternative - I wrote "Rob Mason" countless times with those oversized pencils that as I recall weren't stamped "right or left hand only."  and given the above reflection on my grade school experiences is it any wonder when I was perusing some old report cards of mine - found when clearing out my parents house last year, and I read a comment from my grade one teacher:"Robbie" would likely be "more successful" if he participated, it was as though the sky's parted and I then proclaimed out loud - I might have had little sense of who I was - but I most certainly wasn't interested in "participating" in who you were trying to condition me to be!

So then, what if during this morning coffee ritual - you were told in fact you are of the O'Neill dynasty? Would it matter? Would it make any difference? Allow me to answer that - at least from my perspective, Hell ya it makes a difference!!!!!!!!

Now don't get me wrong the "Masons" were a well-meaning bunch, they provided me with a stable home (if stable is said to mean - the same house ongoing and the same two people stood in the roles of parents - without any cast changes). However, despite their best efforts there was nothing they could do to ease my angst with respect to my origins. I frequently wondered - how the hell did I get here? And why here & not over there? So it's "Mason" is it? Could have just as easily been "Alias, Smith or Jones." It was a mystery to me the fuss people made about their ethnicity - I couldn't for the life of me find it in myself to "get" what they meant. Of course the lack of this knowing would haunt me for years to come. I didn't have to wonder if I was different - I knew it! Didn't belong, didn't fit in! "Uncle who? ...... what do you mean "my cousins?" They actually aren't my cousins!

This was further exacerbated when I considered the city I lived in and the country it was part of. I was baffled when people would compliment me on "my beautiful town" - "the streets are so clean!" (I felt like saying - why yes thank you, I made them from scratch!) As if I can take any credit for this town or that town - someone brought me home from the hospital, tagged me with their name, told me I live here now - what part of any of that can I take credit for?

What I do believe is,  I know what it is to lose your "identity" and be assimilated by another group. I know the heart/psyche pain that this causes I have empathy that runs through ever fiber of my being for those that have been (and continue to be) subject to colonialism/imperialism. Did I undergo all the same circumstances? No - not in exactly. Just the same they were thrust upon me without my prior consent and at the dictates of powers outside myself that presumed to know, what was best for me. I know the anguish this has caused meNo concern for ancestry, roots, cultural ways, spirituality - all appeared lost to me, until they weren't.

Upon making application to some government ministry's I have obtained documentation that gave brief biographical information on both my biological parents - as dictated by my mother to a social worker. Some years after that I was reunited with most of my family on her side, which was pretty amazing though at times surreal experience. My mother's side of the family is of British ancestry - my father's is Irish - though I have no idea of his identity. Many things have occurred over the last 3 or 4 years (some subtle, some anything but) that are bringing the ancestry on my father's side to the fore. It's as though that side of the "family" is asserting itself in an effort to have me know "who I am." Why now - after all these years? I have to conclude that time is right. All that has gone on - all the  personal work I have done has, been in preparation for this. I have been to Ireland once - back in 2011 it was the most amazing 2 weeks of my life (which only expanded has I continued to travel another two and a half months in other parts of Europe).

I had read the historical info on the website of the organization that did my dna testing - my gene type is highly concentrated in the North of Ireland and males with this gene subset are said to be direct ancestors of a 4th century king Niall of the Nine Hostages who formed the Ui Neill dynasty. I have read that many times - fascinated by the possibilities. It wasn't until I was reading on New Year's morning an article about Brian Boru and the article went on to say that he became the high king after defeating the Ui Neill (or O'Neill) dynasty. I quipped to myself "the bastard" and then immediately wondered why I would think such a thing. Then the penny dropped - Ui Neill (O'Neill) my heart swelled and tears rolled down my cheeks O'Neill - that's my ancestors - there was no doubt in my heart - plenty in my head!

Without question I will be returning to Ireland - sooner than later! I must continue this personal exploration of the nuture/nature riddle and unfolding mystery.

Perhaps I'll tread lightly should I encounter any O'Brien's maybe though won't embrace the discovery of my ancestry with the same enthusiasm.