glow poi

Poi has been one of those on-and-off hobbies that I’ve had since first getting into the festival scene in England in 2007. There are some really talented fire spinners in the south of Thailand, and they’ve inspired me.

These are shots from an intense session in my apartment recently. (Click to zoom in.)

by Kit on . 

be free from your reasons

We act the way we do because of our genes and our environment. These are our reasons. If someone treats me with cruelty, I don’t need to get angry at them, because they have many good reasons for acting the way they do. But if I get angry, that also is okay, because I have my own reasons.

Breathe. There is no Great Bookkeeper of sins. We are free.

transformation

Healing is about become free of our reasons. If you have reasons for living a life of resentment, then fine. Live like that and be resentful. But if you see a way out of that, snatch it with both hands. Find a way to get free, and find a way to live a life as though the reasons were never there.

In the second level of Reiki, students are given a way to send healing back to their childhood self. This seems ridiculous, but there is power in it. It is the reasons of the past that obstruct our full living in the present. You can understand the healing in a mystical or a psychological way (or both, if you’re like me), but what is important is that you are unlocking the chains.

You have every reason to stay unhappy, to stay in that abusive relationship, to keep eating crap food. You will not be held accountable for these things, because you have your reasons. But within you is the power to change; you are free to find a way, any way, to break free from your reasons and start a new way of life.

by Kit on . 

petals falling in the river

At sunset the Jialing River flows east
and thousands of pear petals chase the river wind.
What twists my stomach as I watch the river flowers?
Half have fallen in the river, half drift on the air.

Petals Falling in the River, Yuan Zhen (779-831 AD)

Photo by skippytpe

Photo by skippytpe

by Kit on . 

pimply cold alcoholic turkeys

I love a good drink. If I make the effort to cook-up some good Italian food, I usually open a bottle of wine. To be honest with you, I hope I will always be able to enjoy alcohol like this. This is healthy drinking.

The unhealthy side is when I use alcohol to ease inner tension. It’s very easy to spot when I am doing this, but I often do not want to see the truth: some time about mid-afternoon, I get a bit tired (after spending too long in front of a computer) a bit tense, a bit on edge. It’s just the way my daily cycle goes at the moment. For a long time, this feeling was a cue for me to drink, or at least to look forward to drinking when the working day was done. I would ride an edginess that promised a future resolution: the fresh taste of a nice cool beer. Ahhh, relaxtion, the good life, letting-go.

But this sucks. It’s alcohol dependency. It was every day.

Now that I’ve consciously clocked these processes, and decided to make a positive change, things are getting interesting. When I feel uptight and in need of a drink, I tell myself that I’m not going to get one. Chug-stutter-groan- Can you feel the gears shifting in my internal universe? Can you feel metal grate on metal?

I’m left without my comfort blanket and am out in the cold. But I get to ask some interesting questions. Why did I let myself get uptight? Why didn’t I take breaks from my computer, from thinking? Why didn’t I do some stretches, and breathe some beautiful air?

This is all basic stuff. If you put bad food into a human, you get bad humanity coming out. If you force your brain into over-activity for extended periods of time, you get stress. You put a sedative in and the stress goes. Or you stop the stress building-up in the first place.

But now that I’m sitting out in the cold, I’m quite enjoying it. Blanketless, the chill night air touches my skin, and I feel. Consciously. Aliveness beckons and says to my groaning being that more freedom is possible.

I know someone who alternately drinks way too much, and then goes for a year without any alcohol. I think he is right when he says that it’s easier to drink nothing than to drink just a little. But I will try and walk this space in between: to drink only for joy, not for comfort or tension relief. To drink as a celebration of good life, good food, and good company.

by Kit on . 

giving and not giving

part one: letting go

Was Gandhi aware that the currents of micro change he worked for would become macro currents that would reverberate for decades after his death?

Was Jesus?

A teacher once spoke to me: ‘There’s only one person you can change in this world: yourself.’ So that’s what I did. And although it’s opened me to criticisms of selfishness, I’ve let go of all my grand causes, checked that the world still continued after I stopped trying to prop it up, and then opened my eyes to the demons that stopped me being the person I wanted to be.

During the five years since then, I’ve almost completely stopped following the news, which tells us as it does how panicked we should be about the state of our neighbourhoods, local and global.

When I tell people that, they look at me funny.

part two: beggars

Call me hard-hearted, but the one-armed beggar that drags himself, face-down, around Pratunam, Bangkok, doesn’t really affect me. It’s too staged. The only reason this guy decides to move back and forth over the bridge all day—instead of sitting cross-legged like all the other beggars—is to evoke pity. He wants to emphasise his one-armed-ness. ‘If only I had two arms, dragging myself face-down along the streets would be really easy!’ Fair enough, he has a business to run, and this is what he does to maximise profits. But I don’t like being manipulated.

What has never stopped affecting me, however, is the rubbish people. Now there are two types of rubbish people in Bangkok. First, there are those that ride the great stinking green lorries, stained brown and grey as they spew out thick black exhaust into the grey dawn. I’m not talking about these salaried collectors, who have protective hand gear.

I mean the second type, the ones that sort the bins before those professionals get there. The ones who are so desperately poor that they pick through my garbage, hoping to find something to wear, or to sell to the recycling centres.

I’ve wanted to help these people, who instead of crawling around with a begging bowl are doing something constructive for the city. Many times I’ve wanted to run over to them, weeping, and empty my wallet into their filthy hands. But something about that never quite felt right.

Enter Khun Manakham. When I sat down outside Hua Lamphong train station for part of my four-hour wait for a train to Laos, I saw him bin rummaging. When he didn’t find anything, he sat down opposite me, and rolled a cigarette. Our eyes met, and held each other for longer than the time allotted us by convention. Our smiles met each other too.

For the next five minutes, I wrestled with how I could give him money. With whether I should give him money. But at last, it came: he would be my model, and I would pay him.

The results are technically poor and not even very well composed, and I certainly wasn’t brave enough to start messing around with a new off-camera flash that I’ve bought. But this stands as the first in what I hope becomes a series of portraits of the kind of Thai people you don’t see in Siam Paragon.

khun_manakham

(Click to zoom in.)

I gave him a hundred baht, an amount that approaches a day’s wages for a labourer. Or approaching the price of a small beer in Siam Paragon. And his eyes lit-up: ‘I can eat!’

by Kit on . 

religionless religion

bonhoeffer

Sometimes I feel like a moth drawn dumbly to a tungsten bulb. I hit myself against it, get burned, but unfailingly come back for more. Why do I do this?

The ever-alluring light source is religion. Why do I seek illumination there when it is possible to live a radiant life outside religion? You know, a life lived deeply, authentically, swimming through the currents of the universe with a thinking mind, an open heart, a joy that is kindled in the midst of pain, and a belly that laughs, rumbling full of contentedness? You can live like that without religion.

But for better and for worse, I always go back. After quitting a religion (Christianity) six years ago, finding a new one (the New Age) a year later, and then slowly slipping out of that one, I find myself unable to stop reading holy books, meditating, and even sneaking a listen to the podcast from Mars Hill church.

We already know that religion is a tool of violence, a way for those in power to further their domination over all others by mixing money, weapons, and theology. We know this from the crusades and we know this from the Middle-East today. This is why we leave.

But religions are more than that; to our amazement they are the carriers of centuries of wisdom, and experience of a great un-nameable love that grows within us. Have you ever met religious people who have been transformed by something undeniably good? People who draw you like a warm fire on a cold night. A fire that gives shelter, glow, not a light bulb that mockingly burns.

Religion, though not strictly necessary, many times is the carrier for this kind of transformation. And the transformation is not a given; it is a gift.

Dietrich Bonhoeffer was imprisoned and executed during World War II for his involvement in the resistance to the Nazis. The letters and papers he wrote from prison sketch what he calls religionless Christianity. The church he envisioned:

…will once more be called so to utter the word of God that the world will be changed and renewed by it. It will be a new language, perhaps quite non-religious, but liberating and redeeming—as was Jesus’ language; it will shock people…proclaiming God’s peace with men and the coming of his kingdom…Until then the Christian cause will be a silent and hidden affair…

I have been silent for a long time, but it is now time to start talking.

by Kit on . 

a path to here

I recommended someone read Eastern Body, Western Mind because he was interested in the theory behind my Reiki practice. He liked the down-to-earth, non fuzzy-wuzzy language that he found in the book. Too often discussions of ki, prajna, chakras etc. break down because the initiated (the people who are used to these strange words and therefore ‘understand’ them) have no way of explaining alien concepts with everyday words. This book fills a hole.

EXCEPT ‘RAINBOW BRIDGE’.

What the hell is a rainbow bridge? I can only guess. Maybe…the path (or bridge) to wholeness, which in the author’s experience comes through freeing and integrating the energy of each chakra. (The colours of the chakras when put together would look like a rainbow, I guess.)

This got me thinking. The path to wholeness. That means that where I am now is not whole (probably true), but that to become whole I have to go somewhere else. The people reading this have probably already clocked that it’s not through owning things that we will find this wholeness, so what other places do we look for it? Where are you looking?

christmas_walk

Somewhere else. We can take external trips somewhere else (buy or get rid of some things, travel, change your job, start or end a relationship) or internal trips to somewhere else (get saved, get enlightened, get your chakras healed). But what does this change?

Suggestion:
As long as you are trying to be whole by going somewhere else, you will never find wholeness where you actually are.

I’m roughly the same person I was five years ago, only I don’t hate myself for it now. That’s the only important thing that’s changed. Yes it’s true that my mental and emotional bodies are a little clearer thanks to a couple of things you might call spiritual practices, but that’s not the significant difference. What matters is that I can live with myself in my imperfection-riddled state of being, buy myself a beer, and say to myself that where I am right now, that’s okay.

So I wouldn’t call it the path to wholeness anymore. I haven’t gone anywhere but further inside. It’s the path of wholeness.

It brings me back to the leathery old AJ Muste quote:

There’s no way to peace. Peace is the way.

by Kit on . 

I cannot forgive you, for you are accepted.

Has someone close to you ever given you a random request like this?

“I’m really sorry for so and so fifteen years ago. Please forgive me.”

After racking your brains for a few seconds, you admit that you have no memory of the alleged incident. Forget about it, you don’t need forgiving.

I don’t know if that happens to other people, or if it’s just an evangelical thing. I’ve got it a few times recently, as my family are making redoubled efforts to clear themselves of demonic spiritual inheritances, sins of the forefathers, and sins of our own lives which they feel are putting a heavy black blot of ink over the pages of their books of spiritual accounting.

And I replied in that way. How can I forgive you if I’m not holding it against you? Sorry to disappoint, but you won’t find forgiveness here.

After a long and healthy break away from Christianity, I haven’t come across the word forgiveness too many times. What you find in Buddhism and Taoism is acceptance. It’s different.

When people look for forgiveness, they are looking for some kind of justification. They want their ink blotches erased, removed, vanished completely, leaving only pure white. The gospel of sin management is really all about this.

Acceptance, I suppose, works more like this: I know you did something hurtful, and I accept it; I accept you, without needing any accounting for that action. And certainly I wouldn’t make you changing a condition of this acceptance. What kind of acceptance asks for change? Incomplete acceptance.

Acceptance is maybe less satisfying, because the hurtful actions still exist in the metaphysical ether-they haven’t been washed away. But there is a hidden power to it. If a friend can accept and love me even with my tendency to be an arrogant and proud, I don’t have to worry about being like that in the future. If I’m arrogant again tomorrow it doesn’t matter; my friend accepts me. I don’t need to be forgiven all over again. My good friend has eaten the whole apple, even the bruised bit, and said “that’s OK. Apples are like that sometimes.”

Forgiveness tries to separate sin from sinner and says: “You are okay! Your sin is gone.”

Acceptance swallows the whole lot. “My arms are open to every part of you. Those ugly bits are you, at least for now, and you are my friend.”

These are thoughts-on-the-run; nothing is set in stone. Please let me know if they connect to you or if you have something to add by commenting.

by Kit on . 

how to be a genuine spiritual fake

Somewhere during the course of yesterday, which was full of frustrated efforts to program the blog, and last night, which was complete with bizarre dreams of old school friends and having to copy out Old English from a textbook, I realised that I am not as happy as I thought I was.

a shack in Op Khan Canyon, Thailand

a shack in Op Khan Canyon, Thailand

The way I see it is that this realisation is good, because it means greater honesty, and less trying to create something that is unreal.

One of my defining personality characteristics is that I am happy. I smile a lot, am cheerful, and enjoy making other people happy. How much effort do I waste trying to ensure this happiness never dries-up?

spiritual veneer

It’s like veneer. We use veneer to cover-up cheap wood and make it look better. We don’t want people to see what’s underneath. We think the wood inside is not worth looking at and so try to keep it hidden. Happiness is the veneer of spiritual fakes.

Spiritual practices like prayer, meditation or worship work to polish the veneer. What we really need is to crack it off first, peel it away, and let the real wood inside breathe for a while. It will not look healthy, because it has been trapped inside a tight jacket of external constraints for so long. It will probably look pale and weak because it has never known the enlivening power of the air it needed to breathe.

While you are polishing your veneer, you just get more and more shiny, and the only way to get at what is real is to stop lying and stop your spiritual trying. Quit this kind of religion today.

After we have become honest with who we really are, unimpressive, moody, the oil of a quiet spiritual practice will slowly stain the wood of our real inner selves. As the real wood feeds on the oil and fresh air, it grows strong.

How do we make this happen? I would be the first to put my hands up and admit to being completely incapable of such a thing. Grace is needed.

But one thing is clear: the deeper I go in the journey to undivided living, the more I can rest in my own unhappiness–the more I am comfortable without my veneer.

by Kit on . 

thai national park

Rolling through the backcountry of North-West Thailand, my friend and I found this National Park just outside Mae Horng Sorn. We arrived just in time. All was quiet, except for the rain which came so quickly, and threatened to swamp the tent.

As shower became deluge, we tightened-up guy ropes, closed all zips, and settled-down for a very early night. In the sticky confines of a tent not designed for the intense heat and humidity of the Thai rainy season, sleep was fitful.

But like so many camping adventures, it all felt worthwhile come morning:

maehorngsorn_park-hdr

I captured an impression of the magic of this morning with a single raw file, which I treated to the HDR powers of QTPFSGUI’s Mantiuk algorithm.

(Be sure to click on the image to get a full-screen rendering.)

by Kit on .