Thursday, October 1, 2009

Hello, my name's Paul and it's been a month since my last breakdown.

Hello, all welcome back. If this is your first time reading my blog then you might get a bit confused as the very next thing I'm going to do is reference a previous entry. Namely the one from August 24th, "and it all came tumbling down" when I described a minor, possibly not so minor break down I was experiencing and how my life appeared to be crumbling around me.

I also mentioned that I was going to try and build my self back up from the inside out. Using a variety of tools, some old and familiar, some new and shiney, I've been doing that now for a little over a month and I just wanted to update the blog as to how I've been getting on.

To be honest it's going very well. In a painful, ego kicked in the teeth, unflattering self realisation kind of way.

First off what have I been getting up to in the wonderful world of self discovery. The old comfy techniques I've been rediscovering are Tai Chi, Chi Gung and meditation. I've always read voraciously, but over the past month my reading habits have changed away from the technical world of engineering and maths to the more esoteric landscape of philosophy, even some religious texts. No, I'm not converting. I don't believe in your god or gods, but I'm open enough to realise that there's some good advice hidden in the texts (sometimes very well hidden). I'll make the same deal I always do, If you don't pick on my beliefs I won't pick on yours. If you want an open friendly discussion of beliefs then get in touch, I'm more than happy. I digress. Sorry.

Of these old shoe techniques the common thread is moving meditation. I've always loved it. I've always benefited from it. I wish I'd never stopped. It used to be that the perfect form of meditation for me was the kata. While and practising Bassai-Dai in particular I was always at the most wonderful place. Centred. I'm still not ready for karate but I have found that with the right outlook running can become a wonderful way to meditate. I tested this theory to the limits recently with my first marathon and learnt a lot about my self. I've been resting since but I can't wait to start again.

New techniques have involved a number of self development "tricks" from a few different books and the interwebs from a few different gurus and enlightened types. These have each played parts in various degrees but the new tool that has helped the most has been Holosync, and it's Holosync that I'd like to talk about for a bit now from my beginners perspective.

Holosync worried me at first, before I'd tried it, because it uses some of the same terminology and phrases as cults. There's things like "levels" and an "inner circle" and it costs a lot of money. This all does not bode well with my cynical, sceptical side. However, I saw it working in someone. With remarkable results, in a very short timeframe. Then I talked to other people who'd used it and they all said much the same thing. "It kicks you in the teeth but mostly it works for the best.".

So I researched some more. I learned about the technology behind it. Holosync is a technology, pure and simple. In a basic sense it uses sounds to stress the brain so that it gradually becomes more capable of coping. There's more to it than that but I won't go into it here. But I recognised it for what it was. Holosync is a tool. Nothing more. Nothing less. Moreover it seemed to be a tool that worked in the vast majority of cases.

Then I tried it. There's a free introduction cd with a basic baby steps lite version of the sounds on there. It made me feel good, better than good. I felt euphoric. I wanted more. I ordered the first level. This costs. It's not cheap. However there is a money back guarantee for up to a year so I figured what the hell. Most accounts tell of a deep euphoria coming with this Prologue version as well when you start it. It really didn't work like that for me. I was in agony for the first two weeks. Splitting headaches were the least of it, but I persevered. And it got better. Over the month it was sometimes even pleasant. Mostly though I stuck with it because it was working. I've discovered some nasty things about myself in only a month. Holosync hasn't done this on it's own but it's certainly helped. I suppose fixing them comes next.

I think I'll leave sharing my newly found issues for another post though.

Tuesday, September 8, 2009

Those perfect, simple moments.

Last weekend I went sailing. It's a company trip I do once a year where a some of us get together, charter 3 or 4 yachts and take a bunch of novices out to give them a taster weekend and teach them the basics of sailing. Most people either decide it's not for them or they fall in love and come back year after year.

This was going to be a nice simple blog with a map of our route and lots of pretty pictures of the Scottish coastline and us looking dashing, windswept and interesting. Possible even some witty anecdotes from the trip. Maybe some wise old words of the sea.

No matter what I tried I couldn't write it. It wouldn't work. Something kept blocking me. So I went back and looked at my experience of the trip. I enjoyed it. Everyone on the boat enjoyed it. Everyone learned something. Nobody died. Job done. I was wrecked.

And that was it. The trip was just one more thing that had given me experience and drained my reserves beyond my capacity to replenish them and I couldn't bring myself to commemorate it. Then, in a moment of epiphany, I was swept away to one of those perfect simple moments that I try to experience and enjoy at least once every time I go sailing. To lie on the bow as the yacht tacks and look up at the Genoa as it passes over.

This to me is such a natural place to be. Lying on the bow of a boat under sail. Such a natural experience. Something that just feels right. Something that has become such an intrinsic memory that I have trouble picturing reality without it. Yet it's so rare. How many people will ever have shared this experience? Perhaps hundreds of thousands. Probably less. I know countless sailors with much more experience than me have never done it, wouldn't even consider to try it. How many more times will I get to experience it in my lifetime. I can't even consider other than to say I'd love it to be more, don't think it will be many and I'm one of a very privileged few to have seen it even once.

Everyone has these experiences. Most of us everyday. Most of us fritter away precious moments that we'll never experience again because it all seems so mundane. I know I do. Then something like this comes along that is unusual. It is so far beyond the mundane that it strikes you in the face and screams LOOK AT ME! If we are lucky we get the opportunity to seek it out again and revel in the glory a few more times. If we are extremely fortunate we notice the secret behind that moment. That every moment is special and must be enjoyed to it's absolute fullest.

So please try and remember to look for special little moment and enjoy them. It may be your child smiling at you unexpectedly, It may be waking up early and looking out of the window at the first rays of sunrise or it may be being in the wrong place at the wrong time, having to drop to the deck and watch a sail fly across your vision as you look up at the sky. Enjoying these things helps to make all the other crap fade and can recharge your lust for life when nothing else will.

This has all been described by others far better than me so if I may I'll leave you with a couple of quotes.

“I’ve seen things you people wouldn’t believe. Attack ships on fire off the shoulder of Orion. I watched C-beams glitter in the dark near the Tannhauser gate. All those moments will be lost in time, like tears in rain. Time to die.”

Roy Batty, Blade Runner

"Because we do not know when we will die,we get to think of life as an inexhaustible well,and yet everything happens only a certain number of times....
How many more times will you remember a certain afternoon of your childhood that is so deeply a part of your being,you can't even conceive of your life without it? Perhaps four or five times more? Perhaps not even that. How many more times will you watch the full moon rise? Perhaps twenty. And yet it all seems limitless".

Brandon Lee

Sorry if that was preachy or out there but it needed to get out of me.

Tuesday, August 25, 2009

And it all came tumbling down.

Hello again. Sorry to those of you who have been waiting for a blog with baited breath. I've not had anything to say and I dislike talking for talkings sake. I'd much prefer a conversation somewhere. Now however I do have things to say. For those with just a passing interest I might as well put in the disclaimer here that this blog will likely fall into the TLDR category, best not to bother. It's long and introspective. Come back next time. Who knows there may be monkeys then. For anyone who is interested in what's been going on with me recently and what I plan to do next, please continue. I hope I don't bore you.

First off, an apology to those who have been following me recently and especially to friends that I've worried, or angered, with my melodramatic outbursts on Twitter. Yes I've had a tough time, no I did not need to pour it all over the Twitterverse. I was having a personal crisis I couldn't cope with and I didn't cope, I certainly failed to keep it personal. Sorry if I upset you.

The culmination of several uncomfortable experiences all at once was what has, in a painful and roundabout way, led to this blog and more importantly the subject behind it. I don't want to rake over everything again here. Suffice to say in the middle of it all I was forced to take a long hard look inside myself and wasn't overly pleased with what I found.

I had considered myself to be at a reasonably good place in my life. I was happy. I had a good job, a nice place to live, great friends and a wonderful family. There were gaps in my life but they didn't worry me because things were going well. I felt happy. I felt good. Then that life I was living was threatened and I realised just how fragile my happiness was.

If you'll forgive me slipping into metaphor, I was standing on a still but delicately balanced platform that felt like joy above a great turmoil below. A turmoil I couldn't even see from my home on the platform. The platform even seemed strong to me from my place atop it. It would stand up to the occasional breeze that came across my world. It would rock when they came but it was comfortable and I loved it. Then the breezes gathered and became a wind and my safe platform shook. I became frightened. Then a final gust smashed against the platform and the illusion that it was shattered and it all came tumbling down and I was dropped into a turmoil. All that from a a few light breezes all coming at the same time. Sorry if that sounds like I'm slipping into melodrama again but metaphor has a want to do that.

The point was, my happiness was rooted in my lifestyle, my current situation. Everything I was happy about was external to me and worse I had convinced myself was an integral part of my self. I had convinced myself that situation was stable. That I could remain there safe and happy. It was not. It was a house of cards, fragile and impermanent and when it was threatened I realised the fear and emptiness it had been hiding. As the minor crises hit me one after the other the security was stripped away and I became afraid. I panicked. I could not cope.

Panic is exhausting. It simply can't be maintained. It requires too much energy and has to come to an end at some point. For me it did with an anti-climatic, simple realisation. One of the crises I was facing was potential redundancy. Not unusual in these uncertain times but more worrying to me than the financial problems that would inevitably come with unemployment in a recession was the emotional problems I hadn't even considered before. I love my job very much. I love working for the company I work for and the opportunities it offers me to do fascinating and varied work. This job had become one of the pillars my platform was stood atop and without me realising I had made it an integral part of my personality. More even than calling myself an engineer, I was this job and couldn't even conceive of being anything else. It was more than just a job at stake. It was a part of what defined me. I did not want to lose one of the core parts of what made me, me. As the date of the announcement came closer I became more of a wreck. I was unable to deal with this part of me being ripped away, not to mention the risky and uncertain future being jobless at the moment would entail.

Then something both strange and wonderful happened. A sense of acceptance. I remember it clearly. It was a Thursday afternoon. I looked at the clock and knew that the management teams consultation meeting was over. I knew at that point the decision had been made. The letters would be posted on the Friday. Those made redundant and those who would keep their jobs would find out on the Saturday and there was not a single thing I could do any more to affect that outcome one way or the other. This sense of acceptance brought with it a great calm. The winds were still blowing all around me but I was able to stop in the middle of them and catch my breath. The panic left me and I was able to see things a bit more clearly. I saw that the way I was acting was not helping. I also saw clearly how unhappy I had become and how little about what I was calling me was me.

I knew I hadn't always felt like this. I did not consider myself by my nature an emotional wreck unable to deal with the world. This illusion and false sense of security had slowly built itself around me and I had become dependant upon it. I started to look within myself.

Someone who I have come to trust a great deal, and who has been going through her own self discovery for the past few years, suggested I read “The Power of Now”, and was even kind enough to lend me her copy. I'm reading it for the second time now and really should return it. I loved the simplicity of the book. The lack of any flowery prose or convoluted text that so often accompanies religious works or self help books. As I read certain parts it occurred to me that, “I already know all of this”. This led to the question, “Then why aren't you doing any of it?”

If I hadn't always been this fragile, when was I not. At what point in my life had I been best able to cope. When had I been truly happy and what had I been doing differently then that I was not doing now.

At first this was a difficult process. I had got out of the habit of self reflection. In fact I had learned not to look too closely at myself at all, prefering to believe the simple illusion of happiness my mind had been telling me was real. As I became able to examine my life more closely though I realised that I was most at peace in my early twenties. At a time when I was not well off, had debts, was working myself ragged with two jobs and a degree and yet I was also finding time for other things. I was practising Karate every day, teaching most days (technically a third job but I never saw it like that). I was meditating daily and studying a wide range of philosophy, centring on eastern philosophy such as Buddhism and Taoism but also reading western philosophers and seeing more correlation than contradiction. I practised Tai-Chi and other martial arts. I was focused and still. So why had I stopped?

A few years ago an injury forced me to bow out of Karate, for a while at least and I had honestly not even considered the entirety of what I was giving up. Unable to do the core of what I loved I walked away from the whole lifestyle. I know longer studied any martial art, never mind teach one. I stopped meditating. I still read the occasional book of philosophy but it had become an intellectual exercise, nothing more.

So now the crises that started all this have for the most part resolved themselves, for better or worse, with little intervention from me one way or the other and I'm left with some frightening self realisations. I have decided to look at this as a glass half full situation and build something better from the experience, namely me. I've decided to see what I can do with myself to make me happier, more joyful, more content and more at peace with me rather than some illusion of me made up of external things like my job. I can't go back to Karate just yet. I'm not ready and wouldn't feel right doing a different martial art either. I don't know why and I can't explain it yet. I am going to go back to studying teachings of people who have already achieved such inner peace. I'm also going to try something completely new to me called Holosync. I learned about this from my friend, the one who's book I still have. I feel the need to stress she did not recommend Holosync. What she did was explain it and describe her experience with it, good and bad and I'm excited to give it a try.

I've learned better by now than to promise regular updates on my blog but I will try to keep you informed as to my progress. There's even things in this blog I'd like to go into in more detail but I think it's long enough, perhaps in the future. In the meantime please feel free to get in touch and ask me about any of this. I'm only too happy to talk things through.

Monday, February 9, 2009

Thing a week 13 - 13

What other subject could I discuss in thing a week 13 other than 13. I can think of few other examples in the modern western culture where rationality and superstition collide on such a monumentally ingrained level. Society has attached such a stigma to this innocent and innocuous number as to hardly be believed. Developers will build streets without a house number thirteen because they know it wont sell. Hotels often don’t have a room thirteen for the same reason and it’s not uncommon for high rise buildings to skip the thirteenth floor. There’s even a recognised phobia of the number. No, honestly there is. It’s called triskaidekaphobia. Try slipping that one into conversation.

But why? It’s only an arbitrary number. If you start at one and count upwards you’ll eventually get there as surely as you’ll reach nine, forty two or six hundred and sixty six (all of which are also numbers with a perceived psychological significance). Don’t get me wrong. Thirteen is quite special in its own right. It is a prime, one of those special numbers that Pythagorus (the triangle guy from maths at school) and his insane followers worshipped so much. It’s the first year of teenage life and as such a major step to adulthood. It’s the number of the original colonies forming the United States. There’s any number (no pun) of good things about thirteen so why is it demonised.

As usual with traditions they follow the Christians like to take credit and claim they started it. In this case it’s down to the rumour that Judas was the thirteenth to take his seat at the last supper or that thirteen is one more than the number of disciples Jesus chose and as usual they ignore things they don’t like, such as evidence that thirteen had significance in mythology long before them, or contradictions like the fact that in Italy, which most people would agree is quite a Christian country what with the Pope and all that, thirteen is widely considered a lucky number.

Maybe it’s because there’s not quite thirteen months in a year. There are a little under twelve and a half lunar months in a year. Many ancient societies were built around a lunar calendar and the discordance of twelve months and an extra bit could have been irksome I suppose.

In short I don’t know why it gets picked on and nothing’s been resolved in this little blog. Which is as it should be. I’d rather start a discussion than end one any week of the year, especially the thirteenth.

Monday, January 26, 2009

Thing a week 12 - All in an inch

Just a short one this time. In fact probably not even an inch (or about 2.56 cm). Basically I’m rushed off my feet and don’t have time to write blogs at the moment. However that’s no excuse to shirk bloggy responsibilities, or to miss an opportunity to pat myself on the back.

Everyone remember how I took December off exercising to get fat while I had a couple of little injuries Well at christmas I got an absolutely adorable belt. The best thing being that I could adjust it myself so it actually fitted. I cut it deliberately as short as i could get away with. It was straining on the last hole. As of this weekend I could move it up not one but two notches. That’s right, I’m getting skinnier. Hell yeah.

Whoda thunk it. Healthy eating and regular exercise actually works.

Sunday, January 18, 2009

Thing a week 11 - I’ve been ill and I don’t like it.

On Wednesday I woke up and couldn’t hear properly with my right ear. This was an irritation at worst, inconvenient at best, but I thought nothing of it. I’d probably been sleeping funny, and since I’ve been sleeping unusually well lately I decided to take the rough with the smooth and got on with my day. I figured at some point I would get that strange pop sensation as in a plane or when climbing a mountain and my hearing of the right hand side of the universe would be returned to me.

By lunch time I had a dull pain spreading through the right side of my head and it felt like that side of my head was swelled up and I had a constant dull thud, thud, thud pulsating through my senses. It went beyond my hearing. Thud, I could feel the pulse in the back of my jaw, almost taste it. Thud, I could see see the pulse as a flash behind my eye, of the kind that used to come just before an insomnia nightmare migraine. Thud, vertigo, a strange sensation that I don’t think I’ve ever felt before, I certainly don’t remember it. My balance left me and I stumbled. I had to catch my self, support myself arm outstretched to the wall and stand still, eyes closed, until it passed. Thud. Thud. Thud. I took some paracetamol and the sensation passed and I was left with only the dulling of all noise to the right, a slight clumsiness and the self-knowledge that no matter what the mirror was trying to tell me my head had swelled to at least twice its normal size and still undulated to a now lazy but constant thud.

Then night fell and discomfort rose. Sleep, so often for me a distant prospect at best, was not even a blip on the horizon. Constant pain. Constant Thud. Faster Thuds as the pain grows, intensifies and becomes more acute. There have been times in my life when such a constant and immediate reassurance that my heart was still beating loud and strong and constant to the point when I could experience it with all my senses and it was overloading my perceptions to the point of exquisite agony would have been a welcome blessing. But not now. Not here. More pain killers. I plead with my body for some peace, a brief respite for sleep. It hurts to lay down my head and the room spins as my head moves. The pain relief overtakes the thudding and I feel the unpleasantness of being drunk. As I eventually fall asleep I apologise to all the glasses of water that helped me through the day.

Thursday started as Wednesday ended and painkillers became a part of breakfast. They were a regular companion for the next few days to be honest. The whole world became more distant. Dulled and somehow further away. No longer just the right hand side. The painkillers had taken all of me away to a place that was so similar to that wonderful terrible state that an insomniac knows so well. I can’t adequately describe it other than a dullness, a detachment from the world. A second hand experience from your own eyes. It’s a state of mind normally reserved for the insomniac and the new parent. Stay awake for a few days and keep functioning. You’ll find it. I realised this on Saturday. That’s when I decided to put the painkillers to one side and deal with the pain otherwise. I’d allow the pills to help me sleep, if I needed them, but I’d not walk willingly back to that distant world.

Now it’s Sunday evening and the pain has largely gone. I’m left with a slight ache behind my right ear and I still can’t hear properly on that side. I can hear the sea, as if I had water in my ear from a swim and the ocean refuses to leave, but I think my body has the ear infection mostly on the ropes. I feel on the mend.

Now after all that self indulgent whining I'll end this dirge of a blog before I go full emo. We all know you should never go full emo.

Wednesday, January 7, 2009

Dull, dull, dull

Hello again, welcome back. Sorry about the delay. I was talking a break from the internet over the holidays. Speaking of which how were yours, good I hope.

Now, however, the holidays are over and it’s back to work. This is the reason for the rather downbeat title of the first blog of the new year I’m afraid. Work. Not my job per se. I want to emphasise that. I actually enjoy my job for the most part. The problem is work, or rather the lack of it.

I work for a consultancy, this means the work generally comes in peaks and troughs. We’re either rushed off our feet or scrabbling round for work, but there’s always something to be getting on with. This first week back though I’ve been experiencing something new. Nothing to do. Not constant, I’ve been able to scrape together the odd hours work here and there, but there have been stretches, such as the whole of yesterday afternoon, where I’ve had literally no work to do. It is dull.

I did all the things I was supposed to do in this unlikely event. When there was no lovely profit making project work to do, I did admin and business management. When this ran out, I asked my bosses for work, I rang round the company, other departments, other offices, asking for work, I rang customers to try and rustle up some work. Nothing.

I then moved on to personal development. I gave my self some training, learned a few new tricks to deal with flood water. I spent some time training some minions (I like to call the juniors that because it gives me a happy face, it’s a good thing really, imagine if I used my powers for evil and got real minions, scary). Then nothing.

Because I look after our teams resource plan now (remember, I told you back in week 3) I know I’m not alone, because I rang round the company and outside, I know it’s a simple case of there’s not much work out there at the moment, but there’s several promises on the horizon.

I read the paper. This is where I start to deviate from the staff handbook approach on how to deal with a lack of work. I played monopoly on excel. It’s a great little spreadsheet I found years ago. If you want it, send me your email address, I’ll forward it to you. It helped pass the time.

In the end though there’s no denying that the new work year has started dull and is putting a severe dint in my shinny new optimistic approach to 2009. Hopefully it will change for the better soon. In the meantime I’ve decided to use any wasted time on other things. Hopefully I’ll put out a couple of extra blogs over the next few days and catch up so that at the end of the year there are 52 things a week. That would be nice.