Intermezzo 14: Coming into the present – with emotions – a dialogue
Mike: One of the problems with this idea of being present is that you don’t actually know what you are going to say until you are actually saying it; it is what is there in the moment, and it comes from all other moments. In that sense it’s quite magical, because suddenly out of your mouth comes the end result of everything that has ever happened to you.
Petra: I have always made this effort to study and to get a lot of knowledge and somehow I have left aside the love of my heart. All of this has come from my infancy, these agreements that I made with myself as a child; to survive; to belong. This is something that I have been thinking a lot about recently, and I would to find the moment to be able to talk about this. [long silence]
Mike: Let me ask a technical question. How is your heart as a functioning organ in the medical sense?
Petra: Right now? Just now I have a small problem with the upper chambers of my heart. My blood is mixed but everything works OK.
Mike: Is the problem that parts of you wants to be ordinary like everybody else and not to be special?
Petra: It is connected to something that happened to me as a child, and now it has to do with acknowledging and accepting myself as I am. Not to give so much importance to the intellect and to be able to go more to my heart felt sensations.
Mike: I feel that what you are saying is very important. I don’t think I have quite got hold of it yet, so I am going to ask you to persevere. I understand the history of what happened, and what I am asking you to persevere with is trying to explain to me what you have right now?
Petra: What I am left with from yesterday is this talk about intelligence and intellect. I came to realise that I had it here but I couldn’t see it.
Mike: That is in the past tense. Have you now seen something?
Petra: Yes, I recognised something yesterday and now the acknowledgement of being here is starting to integrate in my body.
Mike: OK, good. That ties in with what I was talking about coming into the present, instead of being, as I have described it before, a reactive victim of the past. Is that right?
Mike: And that is a a very big and important moment. It sometimes takes us a very long time – a lifetime or several lifetimes – before we realise that we are not victims but actually responsible for how things are. Taking responsibility for ourselves is massive. I mean some of you are old enough to have teenage children and it seems that they are never going to take responsibility for themselves sometimes, and sometimes they are 45 and they still haven’t, and sometimes they are 80 and they still haven’t! [laughter]
It also ties in with what I said yesterday about love or perhaps compassion; sometimes it has to be quite ruthless and cut through the crap so that we can actually see the truth, then we can be compassionate for this person which is fantastic.
It’s about seeing clearly. Sometimes most of us in our life have this experience that just for a little moment we see very clearly. It might be when we are by ourselves having a walk; it might be when we are listening to music; it might be lying in the bath. A moment of clarity comes in with no judgement and you just see what is, and then the reactive clouds come back again.
I am glad you persevered because now I understand what you are saying. So thank you.
Pedro: I would like for you to clarify this idea that we are not victims but that we are responsible. I do understand the part of not being a victim, but what I am not clear about is the part of being responsible.
Mike: Well let’s play with it for a minute. Let’s take an example: ‘I feel angry.’ Just now I was saying I was the bad-tempered guru because everybody was fidgeting and nobody had settled down yet. Is it actually because of that that I am bad-tempered? Is what you are doing making me bad-tempered? Or is it me that is getting bad-tempered because things are not the way I want them to be? Is it possible to make somebody else angry? I would say not. Anybody want to argue with that? I would say we get angry because we do not have the capacity at that moment to receive what the other person is saying about themselves.
‘Darling, what would you like for breakfast?’ ‘Thank you, I will have some toast.’ My wife puts the toast under the grill and then she goes and tidies up the bedroom, so I have burnt toast everyday! I had to search quite hard to find that example, life in my house is not all that bad.
Whether you get angry about it and start making rude remarks or not, or whether you just notice it is not actually caused by the action, it is caused by your undigested life experience declaring itself in its inflexibility.
Pedro: I understand that you have to be responsible for your part.
Mike: Yes, you are not responsible for the other person’s actions.
Pedro: I don’t have in mind so much an attitude, but for instance, a sickness. What is our measure of responsibility in a sickness that we may suffer from. Let’s say we suffer from some disease, how responsible are we for that disease? That is what I had in my mind in asking the question.
Mike: The answer has to be so cosmic that it is not really worth talking about. People do tend to get involved in questions like that; that because a butterfly is flapping its wings in Yokohama there is a tsunami in California. It may be true that one action leads to another and every single action that takes place in the whole universe is a result of something else and so on. There is no end to that by its very nature, however, we have a relative existence. We are all relative to other actions.
I am not just talking about in the family or gene connection but we are all, this group in this room, are in relationship to each other. What comes out in the room will depend on the trust that people are putting into the space. Whether this person is able to ask the question they have been wanting to ask all their life, will depend on how this room is in its joint practice, whether it feels safe for them. The measure of what is safe doesn’t just depend on the personalities of the 19 or 20 people in this room, it depends on the life story that each person brings with them, including the person asking the question; it’s about relationship.
So if we take sickness, if we take a disease like chicken pox or measles, I suppose the virus for these two illnesses is everywhere but some people get it and some people don’t. Some people have had it and they now have an immunity to it. On the one hand I am quite confident to say that immunity may also come in some strange way from their life experience, but to speculate at what point in your life this immunity came in is impossible.
Pedro: My personal view is not such a cosmic view. It is somehow fashionable just now to think that you write the script of your life, and what I want to say is that I feel like I am becoming less and less powerful at this level.
Mike: I agree with you. I don’t think me, Mike Boxhall’s ego, is causing these things, so when you talk about the idea of us creating our own destiny that could be just a very big ego trip. I don’t think of it in that way. I think of it in the way that all the relationships of everything, everywhere are what are causing these things to happen.
Also, it is true that certain psychological conditions and certain diseases are quite fashionable. The Dalai Lama burst into tears when he discovered from a group of western scientists that he meets with every year told him that western people have a poor sense of self-esteem. It is not heard of in his culture.
The way that Buddhists answer most of these questions is by talking about conditionality: when conditions are this that happens, when conditions are that this happens, and conditions are never stationary. It’s not quite the same as saying it is all down to fate. As the human frontal brain expands, as knowledge expands, conditions change. So what is possible in these conditions may not have been possible, and may not have happened, two thousand years ago. History is a very interesting subject for many people, but you can’t extrapolate from one situation or time to another, purely because the conditions never can be the same as they were at any other time.
Let’s bring this down to earth and talk about our practice. The one thing that gets slightly up my nose is when people write down after one session with a client what they are going to do on the next session. I don’t think it happens so much in cranial work but it does happen for example in acupuncture. You don’t even know who your client is going to be in a week’s time, they are going to change. What they are suffering from will have changed even if they don’t acknowledge it; the external conditions will have changed and what a difference that can make, but most importantly the practitioner may have changed. Do you follow my reasoning?
I am going around in a circle now. We need to try as best as we can to be present for what is there now, what is expressing itself, and just receive it. When the client is being received it is the same thing as them being heard, and they may be being more fully heard than they have ever been in their lives. So instead of people adopting an artificial behaviour around them because they have something funny with their heart, you can be completely genuine with the person right now and right here. Receive them for how they actually are, not how some label says they are supposed to be.