News

The following are announcements and commentary from the institute regarding issues in the news and new developments at the institute. The commentary represents the opinions of individuals in the institute and this is identified in the by line.

Seek – A Mindful Story

By Simon Bell

Most of the time we are looking for something. From a lost key to a new career. Seeking. I know I am often seeking. To seek: a verb meaning to attempt to find something.

Seek illustration

Here are some definitions. To start with an example of seeking: “they came to seek shelter from biting winter winds”. To seek includes the idea of looking to find. Or seeking might be articulated as an: attempt or desire to obtain or achieve something. For example: “the new regime sought his extradition”. We might go further, seeking means to ask for something from someone, e.g. “he sought help from the police”.

The seeking process implies two things. A seeker and the sought. Subject and object. But, there is more to it than that. Between the seeker and the sought, in the gap inbetween, is the seeking, the finding, the obtaining, the asking. The quality of the seeking.

Finding, obtaining and asking are the quality requirements for the seeker to find the sought.

Now, generally speaking, we do not think about all of this. When I am looking for something I do not consciously hold in my head: “I am the seeker wishing to find, obtain or ask for the sought”. I just go and seek. Maybe that is why I often don’t find what I am looking for? Maybe I could be more precise in my seeking? Maybe it would help?

Problems abound in any seeking process. Here are a few questions which regularly arise.

  • Who is the seeker? Is this clear?
  • What is being sought? Is there one thing or many?
  • Do all the seekers agree on what is being sought?
  • How is the process of finding, obtaining and asking being organised?
  • What is the process?

Here are two short examples which may help to make a case for some qualities of seeking.

Example 1. They had set out but had no idea of what the destination looked like. All of them were fearful of what they might find but they had not talked about their fears. There was an iron leader, and his direction of travel had emerged as a consequence of past failures.

Example 2. They had all agreed on the destination, means and route and how they would know when they arrived. The various tasks which the journey suggested had been allocated to members of the team and there had been debate over who was prepared to do what. 

Who found the South Pole?

When you have finished the story give the following questions a little thought:

  • How is the story meaningful to you?
  • How is this meaning relevant to your life?
  • What value does this relevance have in terms of how you may change?
  • What Insight follows from the sense of value to change?
  • How will you change?

Of course, it is good to think, how will you know if your change has worked?

Artwork © Rachel Furze

Point – A Mindful Story

By Simon Bell

Often there is a discrete moment or point when things change and future events tip over into a new circumstance. Sometimes we can see this coming and sometimes it is a surprise.

Here is a story.

Point illustration

There is a point to things. A point. Notice the focus on the singular.

The four children were making their way home from school in group-security.

“Never walk home alone”, Nathan’s mother had emphasised weeks ago. And continued to emphasise on a near daily basis. FFS, he was 14! Not a kid anymore. Not so small as to be easily swiped by some paedo.

Nevertheless, the four were four and were in a certain unspoken agreement that walking together was the way to go.

The school was in a leafy borough, post-war lime trees lined the streets, making the pavement sticky with resin at certain times of the year. The slight resistance of the sole of the shoe lifting from the paving slab was an early sign that unintended or wickedly planned stumbles would be rewarded with unsightly, gummy blemishes on hands, elbows and any other extremity which made contact with the ground. The walk had other perils, more usual than the vague challenges provided by trees. Traffic at times was crazy. Some kids seemed to have lifts who took the challenges of gaming to the streets, psychopathically trying to bury the noses of their pimped-up Peugeot’s into the passing throng of students tramping home. Road crossings could be crowded as the change in the lights was impatiently awaited. These were choke points. Convergence zones where masses were penned in ranks, waiting to be released on the green light, like a broken pack of pool balls, to the variable directions, speeds and clusters people adopt as they disperse. There was one particular such point.

Nathan did not like this point. It was on his mind each day on the journey in. “The point” he called it. The Point was what all his small gang called it. Parents referred to is as: ‘an accident waiting to happen’.

It had probably emerged by chance or accident. A desire on the part of the local council not to demolish a line of good, low-cost terraced housing in an area where house prices were beginning to make home ownership impossible for those of modest means.

In one section of Nathan’s commute was a hundred metres of steep descent. Shortly after a pizza and kebab outlet, the main road did an acute turn to the left, a snake curve, the road bending round the line of terraced houses. To allow pedestrians to avoid following the loop in the road, at the ‘elbow’ in the road was a crossing point with the pavement on the far side buffing up to a metal fence. The pavement was narrow, the fence marking the edge of the steep fall. The road curved around the line of houses to continue on its way ten metres below. The metal fence and row of housing was punctured by a narrow stairway which took the pedestrians directly down to the lower road as it swept back. The stairway was steep and descended to another narrow pavement. This was “The Point”. Steep descent, choke point crossing, narrow, steep stairway, narrow pavement, busy road.

Trudging home in the evening was never a problem. The line of children straggled out on the rising slope and the stairway and fence were wearily and slowly navigated. No, ‘The Point’ was at its worrying worst on the helter skelter morning tumble down the falling slope and the exuberant challenge of ‘getting down the stairs first’. This was when ‘The Point’ would prove to be singular indeed.

Let the story sink in. When you are ready, here are the questions for you to consider:

Question 1. What is the main meaning of the story?

What message or core or essential meaning does the story hold for you? There may be many meanings which occur to you but for now try to prioritise just one.

When you feel clear on this, hold it in your mind and read the next question:

Question 2. How is this meaning of relevance to you?

How does the story impact on your life and your challenges right now? Why is it important to you at this point in your life? What element emerges as being most relevant?

Again, give yourself time to think of your response and when you feel prepared try the next question:

Question 3. Think about what is the main value that you can draw from this relevance of the story. What does this value bring to the concern you identified earlier?

Don’t rush your response. Take time to think about the value. The word ‘value’ is an interesting word. What do we value and what of value is here? When you are set try this:

Question 4. What insight does the identified value provide for you?

Finally:

Question 5. What action might you engage with as a consequence?

Don’t expect instant results from considering a mindful story. The whole point is that the story can act as a gateway to another level. Give yourself time to let the ideas which come from the story settle down. Each time you reconsider you may get to a deeper level of meaning and this could result in new ideas.

Artwork © Rachel Furze

Look – A Mindful Story

By Simon Bell

To look is one thing but to see is another. Do we always see what we are looking for or at?

Look illustration

She closed her eyes and looked.

In all her years of seeing she had never looked quite like this. This was seeing.

The ‘accident’ was now over ten years ago, and she was resigned if not reconciled with the state of affairs. The impairment to her vision had been absolute. The ophthalmologist had been kind and empathetic but quite definite in her assessment. 100% sight loss and not a chance of recovery. The diagnosis was certain. And so, began a new life.

With any kind of set-back there are stages. The psychologist had talked her through them and emphasised her need to see them coming, know when they arrive and realise that they are not for ever. That conversation had ended badly. How dare the mind-nanny presume to place her unique circumstance into a framework! A bloody ‘model’ which fits all kinds of horror. A model where some stupid sod of an expert could say in a condescending tone: “Ah yes, you are at stage 3 of the 7-fold model of grief”. Sod off!

But there had been a process and she did see the pattern emerge. The period of denial was acute and painful. If this, if that, if only for god’s sake the other. None of it mattered and denial felt like a physical impalement, excoriating her from the inside out. In time the anger set in. Fury, rage at the injustice of an uncaring universe set out to make her less and less and less. She would not accept it. She could not. Her rage left her exhausted and a trail of broken friendships. Then she had begun to try to negotiate. She was not stupid, and she was not poor. She had a good mind, money and a determined will to put this right. Surely there were things that could be done. She would see another ophthalmologist, she would see 20 if she had to. She would find the one who could help her. There had to be a deal which could be drawn from the system to allow her to begin to regain all that she had lost. All that had been so cruelly taken from her. Months passed; the answer was always the same. The damage done had been irreparable and no reconstructive surgery had any chance of making a difference. There was nothing to reconstruct too. There was not a plan B or C or D. There was only weary and depressing plan A. Live with it. Tears, misery and then, tipping on the gradient towards the darkness, which was her daily life, depression. Deep as the ocean, remorseless as the unlit world she now lived in, unendurable nothingness. Only her most resilient friends and family now remained. The hopelessness was almost complete, and suicide was too good for her. Too much of an effort. To wish oneself dead is to make an affirmation of a willed position. She was beyond that. All she wanted was not to want anything anymore. End.

Damn that bloody model. The day came when there was a twist, no not that defintite, maybe a twistet! A slight movement from the quiescent emptiness of depression. She had the radio on and listened half-heartedly (was there still a whole heart beating in there?) to a programme about consciousness. The great mystery of it. There were three evolutions. The evolution of the physical world, the evolution of life and the evolution of consciousness. The expert being interviewed said that science had a good grip on 1, a starting position on 2 but not a clue about 3. The void consciousness emerged from and filled. This intrigued her. The unknowability of its morphology and its ubiquity to all people. The only way we know is to be conscious. To be intrigued by anything was a foreign feeling for her. She had not felt a passing interest in anything in six months. It struck her. She was conscious. She was.

She began to make the journey back to life and her means was the search for and the understanding of consciousness. She read audio books about it, listened to pod casts and engaged in chat groups (one of her few remaining friends set up a speech app on her iPad). The more she studied the more she pulled away from the bottom and began to float upwards towards what? Light? How does that work?

But it did and her work on consciousness, from the inside out, began to give her more and more pleasure.

In this working she was not. Not in the sense of being herself. A self. She was a broad plain of receptance. An ocean of acceptance. A surface on which the waves of incoming data played and danced. Sure, for most people one of those data sources was sight, the visual field. But there was so much more to it. Sound, taste and touch. Feel, heat and odour. These all came to rest in her ocean of consciousness. And then there was the numinous. The inner world of emotion, thoughts and conceptions. The eternal sea of meanings and emergences. The brightly lit uplands of received ideas. Blending all that she was conscious of; past, present and vision of future; her world was full to brimming and this told outward as she gathered to her minds of similar inclination. She, the broken self was gone. She the emergent field of conscious intention was in place.

And so, one day following many weeks and months of study, she sat in her accustomed place, closed her eyes and looked.

Let the story sink in. When you are ready, here are the questions for you to consider:

Question 1. What is the main meaning of the story?

What message or core or essential meaning does the story hold for you? There may be many meanings which occur to you but for now try to prioritise just one.

When you feel clear on this, hold it in your mind and read the next question:

Question 2. How is this meaning of relevance to you?

How does the story impact on your life and your challenges right now? Why is it important to you at this point in your life? What element emerges as being most relevant?

Again, give yourself time to think of your response and when you feel prepared try the next question:

Question 3. Think about what is the main value that you can draw from this relevance of the story. What does this value bring to the concern you identified earlier?

Don’t rush your response. Take time to think about the value. The word ‘value’ is an interesting word. What do we value and what of value is here? When you are set try this:

Question 4. What insight does the identified value provide for you?

Finally:

Question 5. What action might you engage with as a consequence?

Don’t expect instant results from considering a mindful story. The whole point is that the story can act as a gateway to another level. Give yourself time to let the ideas which come from the story settle down. Each time you reconsider you may get to a deeper level of meaning and this could result in new ideas.

Artwork © Rachel Furze