27 April 2020

COVID-19 - understanding fear; accessing solutions

Franklin D Roosevelt is famously quoted as saying The only thing we have to fear is fear itself. Well, seems fear is a predominate emotion for many beset by the pandemic and surely all of us will have experienced it to some degree.

So this week what can we understand about this very potent emotion called fear?  Can it be a force for good, or is it always destructive? And what to do about it? With one radical solution, but first

   Thought for the day

         In horror of death, I took to the mountains. 
        Again and again I meditated 
        On the uncertainty of the hour of death. 
        Capturing the fortress 
        Of the deathless unending nature of mind,
        Now all fear of death is over and done.


So clearly fear does generate a good deal of energy. Raw energy. Then, what we do with that energy determines whether it becomes a force for good, or a destructive force.

Fear as an agent of transformation
With just a little reflection, we can appreciate that many good things are inspired and followed through driven by the energy of fear. Hitler was repulsed, social changes accomplished, environmental laws enacted, personal relationships sorted; all manner of things improve when the energy of fear is provoked and sustaines positive change.

What to do
Righteous fear is a tricky one.

While good has been achieved often, much that is evil has been conducted in the name of dealing with an external source of fear. One needs a good deal of inner stability and clarity to be confident one is using fear wisely.

Perhaps this is no more difficult than practicing “Right Action” at any time. Responding appropriately to any given circumstance is a major life challenge and may well be one of the best hallmarks of a “good person”. In my experience, the one thing we can do that will most likely help us with this challenge is regular meditation.

Fear as an agent for collapse
For some, the energy of fear is simply over-whelming. Big dog, little dog. The little dog rolls over and plays dead. The big dog loses interest, goes away and life goes on…

However, fear finds some people stuck long-term in the roll over position. A feeling it is all too hard. A feeling of powerlessness; hopelessness, apathy, paralysis. Sadly, domestic violence plunges some into this tough state. Maybe the collective inaction on real and necessary climate change action is a product of too many people being of the persuasion that it is all too fearful, too hard, to unattainable.

What to do?
Sadly, often it takes the situation worsening into an extreme to provoke action.

Maybe more simply, having the courage to start a dialogue makes a difference.

This may well be where someone close can be effective; creating a safe place to express the fear, to enable the person involved to feel it somewhat and to gather a glimmer of hope for a way forward.

Fear as an agent for destruction
This is the one we all fear. Where fear of fear comes from. The fear that fear will lead to our own undoing – or that of others we love and care for. We probably all know it too well - fear does commonly lead to polarisation, blame, aggression, deception, panic, injustice; all manner of destructive feelings and actions.

What to do?

i) When fear leads to projection
By projection we mean that the fear is directed outwardly. Common projection strategies are to find someone to blame, to be aggressive towards something or someone; to not accept any role or responsibility in the situation.

Many leaders use this strategy – President Trump is a leading example. We could call it deflecting, passing the buck or simply say “it was not my fault”. Of course, this strategy has a lot going for it. Usually it is not too hard to find someone to blame; often it is easy to feel well justified in asserting it was their doing not mine.

But none of this leads to satisfying, long-term solutions.

What to do
This can be tough. As they say, we need to own our part in it, feel the fear, avoid projection and do what we can to work constructively with whatever the issue is. There is probably enough for a book in this last sentence, but maybe it points the way a little . Very satisfying if we can turn this around. Might take good support to pull it off.

ii) When fear leads to guilt

“I must have done something terrible to deserve this.”

Often fear does lead to this sort of thinking while the feeling that goes with it can lead to the acceptance of all manner of tough circumstances.

What to do
In dealing with guilt, often a reality check is a good place to start. And talking your reality through with a good, level-headed friend or skilled professional.

Commonly we all have done our best.

Commonly we all make mistakes, we all have short-comings.

But then, commonly we all have redeeming features.

Taking blame upon ourselves in a neurotic way is neither helpful to us, nor to others.

So maybe contemplation of our own qualities might be helpful. An inner reality check. Maybe then a sense of proportion.

iii) When fear leads to panic
Pole vaulting trained me well.

Being a decathlon athlete in my 2 legged youth, I was of necessity a part-time pole vaulter.

There are a lot of things that can go wrong; and they often did.

So on the way down from a considerable height from yet another unsuccessful vault is not a time to panic.

Better to stay cool and attempt to land without too much damage.

Now faced with danger, threat or fear, I am happily programmed to become calmer, clearer and take time to assess the situation and decide upon a course of action.

Then for me, meditation has helped develop this early skill to a heightened degree.

What to do
So maybe you have missed the window of opportunity to take up pole vaulting. What I have observed others doing with good effect, however, is to make a choice about how to respond and reinforce it often. Like an affirmation. Develop a conditioned response out of your own choice.

Fear of death – and the radical solution

In horror of death…” This latest Thought for the day from Milarepa speaks to the primordial fear. Fear of death. Even worse, fear of personal annihilation – that when we die we lose all sense of self.

What to do

I took to the mountains…

These days meditation is where you find it.

Milarepa, however, emphasises meditating on the horror of death – over and over.

So rather than responding to the fear of death with manic activity, apathy or projection, we face it.

Feel the fear, stay with it, contemplate it and break through. Break through the layer of fear our mind constructs around our deeper essence. Break through using meditation to a direct experience of our true inner self, and realise its true nature that amongst other things, is beyond death.

Be prepared for death, be able to live well.

Happy meditating…

Oh, and perhaps to finish… Roosevelt’s complete quote – taken from his inauguration speech in 1933:

So, first of all, let me assert my firm belief that the only thing we have to fear is...fear itself — nameless, unreasoning, unjustified terror which paralyzes needed efforts to convert retreat into advance. In every dark hour of our national life a leadership of frankness and of vigor has met with that understanding and support of the people themselves which is essential to victory. And I am convinced that you will again give that support to leadership in these critical days.

And let us pray for inspired leadership free of fear, free of projection in these very needy times.

What is behind the panic around COVID-19? and what to do 

Love is Letting Go of Fear - Jerry Jampolski

13 April 2020

Is being over 70 a COVID-19 death sentence? By a 70 year old - with 7 reliable steps to reverse ageing and boost immunity…

Consider this. I have one leg, one lung, probably one functional kidney and am over 70. Bloody miracle I am even alive, let alone COVID-19 free! And yes, I am taking isolation seriously (and loving it, especially as I get to share it with Ruth), but no, I am not fearful - or cocky.

Why? Because there is a difference between chronological age and physiological age, and while the former is a given, the latter we can all influence very directly and immediately. I may be 70 years old in chronological years, but physiologically - more like in young to middle age!

So this week, how to maintain good anti-viral health and immunity by reducing our physiological age - and enjoying it, but first

     Thought for the day  

  At the core of all forms of addiction
  There is a psycho-spiritual emptiness,
  An alienation from meaning, connection and   belonging.

                       Dr Gabor Mate

It is a sad fact that the majority of those dying with COVID-19, and yes, not all, but most, seem to be those with pre- existing health issues - mostly chronic degenerative disease, and mostly brought on by physiological ageing.

So here is the thing : there is chronological age - how many years have passed since your birth - and there is physiological age - how much your body has actually aged through wear and tear. The 2 are often confused.

This is like 2 new cars of the same make when one is purchased and driven by the proverbial little old lady (do not give me a hard time for political incorrectness, you know what I mean); the other by a young hoon.

After 5 years, one remains in as new condition, the other is just about ready for the scrap heap.

When all too many teenagers develop atherosclerosis and yet some 80 year olds can run marathons, the difference in people is easy to see. Problem is, the human body being the wonderful instrument that it is, most can get away with treating it indifferently up until around 50. From there, two groups begin to emerge - those heading for chronic degenerative disease, and those not.

Lifestyle choices really begin to show by 60 with the health and vitality of those looking after themselves standing in contrast with the multiple ailments of those not.

Consider this damning statistic : 50 per cent of those aged over 65 years are on five or more medications.

By 70 the contrast is becoming even more stark, by 80, extreme.

So yes, thankfully chronological age is not the same as physiological age and happily while one is irreversible the other is not. We can do nought to change our chronological age - except lie. However, while physiological age is ideally conserved from a young age, it is never too late to address it.

It is claimed that regular meditation can drop physiological age by an average of 15 years. This makes some sense of the extensive literature demonstrating meditation to be a powerful preventative for all chronic degenerative diseases. How meditation has this positive effect is two-fold.

First there is the direct physiological effect. Most people these days have a pretty good inkling of the multiple ways meditation changes bio-chemistry and fosters good health in this direct way.

However, what meditation also does is to improve our mental state bringing more clarity and confidence. Therefore, one of its greatest benefits is it does lead to positive behavioural change. I have long contended, one of main reasons meditation has so many proven health benefits is due to its flow on effects.

By this I mean that when we have more clarity and confidence, we see things better; we become more aware and we make better decisions.

We start to notice what foods make us feel better, what worse; and because we are in a better state of mind, rather than eating junk to fill some emotional hole or neurotic need, we are content to eat what does agree with us and feels good.

Same with exercise.

We go for a walk, feel the benefit and go again.

Personal discipline, which for those with confused and troubled minds can be so hard, suddenly with the clarity and confidence meditation brings, becomes much easier.

And as we gravitate almost effortlessly to a healthier lifestyle, we reverse our chronological age; our health and vitality steadily builds.

In this time of a global pandemic, it is never too late to start. Good for you if you have been doing this for years. Nice to know you can influence your own health so powerfully and positively. But if this is new to you, what to do?

Seven simple steps to build good immune function and good general health.
Seven steps to avoid chronic degenerative disease.
Seven steps to significantly reduce physiological ageing…

1. Meditate daily for 20 minutes. If you cannot manage this, then do it twice daily - your need is clearly greater!

2. Eat well - a plant-based, whole food vegetarian or even better vegan diet.

3. Exercise for 30 - 60 minutes daily. If you miss a day or two per week, that will be OK, but aim for daily.

4. Get regular, sensible sunlight exposure. Vit D is crucial for good immune function.

5. Maintain a good social network. Start with a good relationship with your self. You are the most important relationship you have. Be kind to yourself. Generous. Then pay it forward to others.

6. Be creative. Creativity is highly under-valued but is a powerful force for good health.

7. Finally, practice gratitude. This single emotion has multiple and profound benefits. Start easy… wake up and be grateful you did not die in the night! Then at the end of the day, think of what you can be grateful for - from the simple to the profound.

Do all this and enjoy chronic good health!

1. Meditation - my new book Blue Sky Mind, and downloads of all the exercises therein guided by Ruth and myself - available by Clicking Here 

2. Dietary guidelines - best go direct to a recipe book compiled by the Gawler Foundation catering team : Eat Well, Be Well 

3. Exercise - just do it!

4. Sunlight exposure - check this excellent guide from my friends at Overcoming MS - Click here

5. Healthy relationships - lots of great books to consider, but here are 2 that are old but very good : Getting the Love you Want by Harville Hendrix and Love is Letting go of Fear by Jerry Jampolski.

6. Creativity - try this… Go into an art store - or look on-line - and pick up and feel blank drawing books. Personally, I like A4 size, but you may find a small one speaks to you, or maybe a bigger one. Take home the one you like the feel of. Same with pencils or crayons, pens or watercolours. Feel around and select what asks to accompany you.

Then try this; each day create an image on the right hand side of your book. Maybe something abstract, maybe something literal. Do your best to let go of thinking and allow the image to develop as spontaneously as possible. When it feels complete. Stand back a little, reflect for a moment, and without labouring things, write a title or very short piece on the left hand page. Add the date - and smile. Do this daily and enjoy…

7. Practice gratitude. Simple really - just do it whenever you think of it. Make it a habit and enjoy the warm feeling it steadily builds within. And a tip - as you become more grateful for the easy things - those things you find it easy to be grateful for, start to be grateful for the tough stuff too. Then the benefits will start to really flow…