Beware the Coward’s Kiss.

3 May

oscar wilde

“Yet each man kills the thing he loves, By each let this be heard, Some do it with a bitter look, Some with a flattering word, The coward does it with a kiss, The brave man with a sword!”     Oscar Wilde. The Ballad of Reading Gaol. 1897.

One hundred and twenty years ago, Oscar Wilde was languishing in Reading Gaol guilty of the crime of homosexuality. He had been sentenced to two years of hard labour. As he watched a fellow inmate walk to the gallows, he pondered on the blatant hypocrisy, and cruel ignorance of the day. Some say he was also feeling guilty about the fate of his wife and sons.

It was to take seventy  years before homosexuality between consenting adults was made legal in the UK. Homosexuality is still illegal in 36% of our world’s countries.

And so it appears the Western world is becoming more liberal – a shift away from discriminating against citizens on the basis of their sexual orientation, and of course their gender, colour, and creed. The focus instead -and rightly so – is to identify and eliminate society of those who commit paedophilia and rape, where one individual maliciously forces himself (or more rarely herself) on another without their consent. In recent years too, convictions have been handed down to HIV aids carriers, ‘recklessly causing Grievous Bodily Harm’ on sexual partners not made aware of their aggressor’s  immune state prior to unprotected intercourse.

There is a trend. Imposing one’s will by force is now deemed serious even though the act itself may not be perceived as being excessively violent. For example, in a landmark case in 1997 a UK man was convicted of ‘recklessly causing Grievous Bodily Harm’ by stalking a partner with silent telephone calls.

So as a society we are becoming more aware that dangerous bullying can take many forms – a silence, a bitter look, a flattering word or even a kiss – as Oscar Wilde was to observe at the end of the 19th century.

However, we  collectively still remain blind to perhaps even greater evils. Blatant warmongering,  deceitful leaders, psychopathic corporations to name but three. And of course these three are by no means mutually exclusive.

Many of the wicked culprits hide behind masks and medals of rank and respectability. Their lies are often hidden behind half truths.They may even try to seduce us with the occasional metaphorical kiss. Though sometimes it will be their silence and their absence that proves to be most deadly.

We now, above all and more than ever, need to be expert code-breakers. Forensic word, deed and intent analysts. We need to decipher their strange language, their spin, their deceit and their emptiness.

Then we need rip off their masks, boycott their products and vote them out of our lives.

This is next giant step for mankind. We need to make it soon.

 

 

The Rest Home and The Corporation – A Tale of Two Meetings.

25 Mar

restcorp

Tuesday March 15th 2016 proved to be an interesting day.

I attended two meetings in 4 hours. The first, at the super smart boardroom of a leading New Zealand building corporation. The second, at the dark somewhat dingy staffroom of a local rest home.

I’ll describe the second experience first.

A dear patient –I have known her for over 30 years – was causing concern. In her mid 50s, she has a complex and chronic medical condition which has seen her institutionalised in homes such as this for all her adult life.

The young and the middle aged, for all the wonderful help from the appallingly  paid staff of rest homes, are not well-catered for in our small country. This unfortunate group, often severely disabled, are not co-dependent by choice, and the balance between safety restrictions, staff responsibility and independence is a difficult one for all concerned. Tensions and conflicts can mount, and staff can feel they are in a no-win situation.  The middle aged resident can feel frustrated and controlled.

This was the background to the meeting – I was there to help ease tensions, and give insights into her condition.

As I entered the staff room,  this tension was palpable. About a dozen caregivers and therapists, many far from their countries of birth, were seated haphazardly on chairs and around the old functional table. Some aired their frustrations – I felt they expected me to be  so ‘pro-patient’ as to take her side exclusively. When this proved not to be the case  -I tried simply to take a solution based approach – all of us relaxed.

After the airing, there was the caring. Despite the problems and the obvious struggles, each voiced their concern for the woman in question. Their empathy shone through these very real difficulties. There were then some tears from softening eyes. Suspicious stares turned to knowing glances. Smiles emerged.  I felt warmed and privileged.

Although no tangible solutions were reached, we all agreed that after a coming-together such as this, all would feel supported, and we expected that this would be reflected in less frustration and more joyful, fruitful interactions with this ‘younger’ resident.

True human qualities were on display – hard work, empathy, caring, compassion, humility, honesty and vulnerability. A struggle to give and act perfectly within an imperfect poorly-funded system.  A perfect metaphor for humanity’s challenge to balance ethics and morality with practicality–and just maybe the very reason why we are all here in this form on this stunning planet.

As I left the meeting, I reflected on a very different experience at a meeting just a few hours earlier.

It has been well and frequently stated over the past decade and a half that if one was to ‘personality profile’ the modern corporation, more often than not the conclusion would be that the personality was psychopathic. Not that all corporate executives are psychopaths – far from it – but that collectively in corporate form they often ‘tick all the boxes’ for this predatory state of being.

This brief video clip from the 2004 award winning documentary ‘The Corporation’shows this very succinctly.

The company board room was smart and the atmosphere was cold. The positioning of the directors was planned for confrontation. The anger was insulting. There was little room for compromise. Facts were ignored. Fear abound and vulnerability was denied.  Real people skills – for example, warmth, consideration, listening, attention to personal boundaries –were absent. However, for at least two of the three executives, I knew from previous more relaxed informal meetings that this behaviour was no more than an act -either deliberate or hypnotically induced over years. I wasn’t sure exactly which.

As we rose to leave (and as with my earlier meeting, without a tangible solution) there were the prescribed handshakes. These were all as steely and as unforgiving as the look in their eyes. No understanding it seemed of the immense power of softness.

My only personal goal for both of these meetings was to be myself – imperfect, confident, vulnerable, but hopefully smart and solution focused. Trish, who was beside me for the first meeting, was all of these (though, as ever, perfect to my eyes.)

As we left the board room, we bid farewell to the smiling young  woman sitting behind the reception desk. Embedded in the desk’s panel were several large glistening golden medals vividly displaying to all-comers and goers the company’s proven excellence.

On close inspection,  they all appeared to have been self-awarded.

As I left the rest home three hours later, there were no gold medals on display in the dark corridor.

Just the tell-tale scent signalling bladders past their functional best – and a warm, warm glow in my heart.

Skullduggery, Thuggery, and Hanky-Panky

20 Mar

skull

It was all so much simpler in the bad old days. The days of rotters, thieves, and horrible bullies. When tattooed, eye patched, earring wearing pirates such as Long John Silver and Jack Sparrow got up to all sorts of nasty skullduggery, the brazen blaggards. Stealing treasure chests, burying them on deserted islands, whipping the bejeepers out of a straying minion pirate with  the dreaded cat o’ nine tails, while threatening permanent redundancy from pirateness at the end of a very wobbly plank.

All thankfully under the ominous banner of the skull and crossbones, the Jolly Roger – thankfully because this emblem was a not-so-subtle warning sign to anyone possessing a modicum of sense to keep well clear of the whole sorry scene. An environment that today would no doubt raise some considerable concern with the good folk at The Human Rights Commission, not to mention Health and Safety.

In the bad old days, a cat burglar, conveniently dressed in a mask and vividly striped 19th century onesie, would be chased by a truncheon wielding London bobby, blowing his whistle to summon fellow bobbies  (in the days well before CCTV and cell phones.) This dutiful fellow, one of the truly original whistle-blowers, would also be issuing a shrill warning to any passing honest and delicate ‘ladies and gentlemen’ that a dangerous criminal was in their midst, and their best option would be to “Clear orff, sharpish!”

And then there were thugs. A great word thug -almost onomatopoeic. A thick, slug like, monosyllabic moron, with a low centre of gravity, uttering stuff like: “Any fing you say, boss” and “shall we do ‘im in now, boss.” A man (always a man) easily identified, and at all times best given a wide berth.

Of course, there were lighter moments in the old days. Beneath skullduggery and thuggery in the pecking order of dastardliness lay the altogether lighter, even humourous, hanky-panky. Hanky-panky is what the cast of Carry On Cabbie got up to. Tricks, practical jokes and of course all that fumbling hanky-panky  in the back seat. Nudge nudge, wink wink, say no more.

Ahh simpler days. All this crossed my mind this week as we faced an hour of unmitigated, full frontal modern day skullduggery and thuggery in a flash corporate boardroom. Too harsh? Not according to my body which has been conditioned over many generations to react to threatening behaviour in the time honoured way. A racing heart, a gurgly bowel, and a powerful instinct instilled over 500 million years, to either fight or, more sensibly, flee.

The modern day pirate captain wears a clean shirt and a smile. No wooden leg, no eye patch and no parrot (unless you count one of his executives).The plank-walking is now  handled discretely by the smartly dressed young lady from PR . The deceit and the stealing is no longer in your face, with the tip of a cutlass digging into your neck; it lies ominously hidden behind the fake smiles and between the fake words. Words crafted by marketing experts, and carefully refined by corporate lawyers.

Yes, on this day one of the board members did display the frightening signs of verbal thuggery. His actions had all the power of repeated broadside blasts from a very old cannon. We could smell the gunpowder, but the cannon balls missed their target. You see, we were like all good Girl Guides and Boy Scouts, fully prepared.

As we’d entered the corporate head office a few minutes earlier, we’d recognised the bright green advertising sign above the door. It said, and I paraphrase as blogs have ears, that ‘the customer always receives from us the most important possession of their lives to their full satisfaction and choice.’ Only it really contained just four mono-syllabic words.

For us, this banner is more pernicious by far than any skull and cross bones.

Meanwhile, we would strongly advise anyone to be wary of entering any establishment under this modern day Jolly Roger. And for those who care about our well-being ( we were told by one of the crew with a particular low centre of gravity that “no one gives a sh-t about you, y’know”) – then rest assured we are well protected.

Our coats are cannonball proof.  And we are still partial to a bit of hanky-panky.

 

 

The Emerging Conspiracy of Silence – A Fool’s Paradise.

27 Feb

violin                  croc

It is now all too common to hear:

“I’m not a conspiracy theorist, but….”  –  the new millennium’s  “I’m not a racist, but…”.

And I’d have to admit, my world weary view is that planned conspiracies are way beyond the intellectual and organising capabilities of the powerful-but-stupid.

More likely I feel there abounds deep within those who seek control, a silent ‘cognitive dissonance’, a convenient state of subconscious denial, ably abetted consciously or otherwise by the powerful organisations with which they seek association.

Were the BBC wilfully blind to the abysmal, life destroying psychopathic antics of the cringe-worthy Jimmy Savile and Stuart Hall, or in a state of denial borne out of their own and their privileged ancestors’ murky past?

Has the Catholic Church similarly turned a blind eye to generations of child abuse wilfully, or because the signature of these appalling acts has become so ingrained into the core of their priesthood and hierarchy that they have failed to come to terms with their own demons (while of course pouring judgement on us for committing supposed ‘sins’ that make absolutely no sense to a compassionate, educated and and free world)?

And along Britain’s dim corridors of power in Westminster, were there clandestine groups of stiff-upper-lippers (maybe a strange compensatory mechanism!) whispering to each other about their weird paedophilic colleagues? Or was denial so deep, and repression so great, that it was simply a silence that echoed the loudest?

I realise, that for many, the narrative behind these scenarios will simply sound like a pathetic excuse. Like the sadistic psychopathic murderer, and his legal advocate, who blame his evil actions on his troubled upbringing. And, yes a big part of me wants quick revenge for the sake of the innocent lives lost and ruined by these despicable creeps, and their devious accomplices hiding away on high.

Events in my own life over the past 5 years have forced me to look deeply into a yet undiscovered dark underworld that not only carries all the hallmarks of the horrors above, but also will, I predict, force our society to examine the very roots of our culture. I have been press-ganged from the safety of my home and practising life, into the battleground of corporate terror. A world of pathological narcissism devoid of ethics and morals, aided and abetted by a legal system that appears to be in shock as the sovereign rights of individuals seem to have been hijacked over the last two decades by inhuman, murky forces.

Of course, not all lawyers are simply ‘cognitively dissonant’ or unconscious to this unhealthy state of affairs. Wilful blindness, and even bold acceptance of this unhappy state of affairs, is now rife on legal and government benches alike. As so starkly illustrated in the excellent Oscar winning movie “Spotlight”, the Bostonian lawyers in the early 2000s had created a very lucrative ‘cottage industry’ on the back of the Catholic Church’s rampant sexual abuse of children. In our country of New Zealand, it is now apparent that there is a plethora of bureaucrats, lawyers, and government backed organisations, feeding greedily and knowingly, off the sickness of corporate power games; a plethora that together forms an industry that towers as a vast megalith over any metaphorically cosy ‘cottage.’

My own naive belief system hasbeen well and truly shattered, as it is clear that only a few politicians, lawyers, and dare I say judges, feel compelled to lobby for legal and societal changes in the light of such emerging evil.

As a health professional, I have felt compelled to understand this malignant condition that lies within the darkest recesses of human beings. So far, I have encountered the same doubts, scepticism and obstacles as those victims who have tried to speak out about sexual abuse – the patronising jibes that those who have fallen prey to such misfortune lack balanced insight and objectivity. That only trained psychiatrists, and possibly psychologists, can identify psychopaths, extreme narcissists, sociopaths or whatever the vague and confusing literature wants to call them at any given time. Quite simply, we are told, that as victims we have an agenda of personal revenge that clouds our rational judgement. Nor do we have the super-specialist skills required to diagnose these most dangerous of personality disorders.

But then do we leave it to others? Do we wait for the corporate-controlled press to engage teams of highly motivated journalists to expose the manipulative ploys they use in their own organisations? Sadly, it is no coincidence that corporate journalists are losing their jobs at the very time in history that whiffs of corporate fraud are beginning to be sniffed out.

No – we, you and I are now the media. We are the true social media (how did it get to the point when mainstream media is no longer ‘ social’ but presumably ‘anti-social’?) It is our job, together, to do the 2016 work of 2001’s Spotlight team; to be modern day versions of Watergate’s Carl Bernstein and Bob Woodward.

My own role now, as researcher and writer, is to unearth the truth about psychopathic behaviour hidden in our society. I could call my project – “An In-depth Investigation into the Spectrum of Human Behaviour from the Loving Empath to the Malignant Narcissist.”

But instead it is likely to be named ‘Healers and Psychopaths’ – because, despite being unashamedly dualistic, this is altogether more dramatic, and generally heaps sexier, on all levels. And after all, I have recently secured the website www.healersandpsychopaths.com

I will explore everything from empathy to loving kindness, people pleasing, healthy narcissism, deception, gas-lighting, Machiavellianism, pathological lying, false facades, Narcissitic Personality Disorders, megalomania,  sociopathy, psychopathy (Anti-Social Personality Disorder) and outright  sadism – and whatever lies beyond. I will also encompass The Dark Triad, The Dark Tetrad, and Cluster B personality disorders. I will see all this complex craziness from a rational Western, Vedic, Taoist and a biophysical perspective. From the physical to the metaphysical, and all that lies betwixt and between .

I will try my best to stand outside it, while at the same time, explain how I have been trapped like a helpless fly within its deadly sticky web.

But in truth, my overriding goal is to help rid our country from this shadow of mal-intent – to delete this trashy spam from the nation’s inbox, so others are never to be as conned as ruthlessly as we have been.

So please come along for the ride, as we together explore the world of healers and psychopaths – I need your stories and opinions, and your most of all your support.

Our own story is dramatic. So watch this space.

In the meantime though, please remember….

There is an underworld out there hiding beneath a veil of respectability. Some of the darkest players are conveniently and blissfully ignorant; others know it all only too well. All are dangerous.

I, like many, have been too busy playing my violin at the dining table of crocodiles. I now realise, to my cost, that some of these ravenous reptiles will courteously wait till our sonata is over before they devour us piece by piece.

Others will eat well before the entertainment is over.

So there really is no time to lose.

It’s Really Not Complicated.

8 Jul

complicated_9_L

My doctor friends bemoan that medicine, like life, has become way too complicated. I join them in their venerable grumpiness as I confront, on my exhaustive days in ‘formal general practice’, throngs of individuals with multiple google-invoked problems, complex ever-changing bureaucratic forms from third parties who, despite profiting from them, basically are annoyed with folk that get sick, conditions with acronyms I have never heard of (CBDZ disease etc), demands for pills advertised on TV – ” ask (ie tell) your doctor if (ie that) this is right for you” – drugs that change their name every five minutes, and the common “I’ve just got five problems for you today” – all to be sorted in their entirety in fifteen minutes. Apologies, change that to six minutes, the quality time that has been deemed to really occur within that quarter of an hour.

Yes, the primary care medical system is sick. Those with a modicum of education are outgrowing it. Those who are dependent and uninformed are dependent on it. Pharmaceuticals – still the principal tools of primary care – are being shown to have only limited benefits in many conditions, with more and more dangers from their indiscriminate use coming to the public’s awareness. Antibiotics, anti-inflammatories, paracetamol, cholesterol lowers, antidepressants – all now receiving firm cautionary notices in the mainstream press.

In 2007, the international accounting firm PWC  guided Big Pharma towards 2020 with a set of initiatives we see unfolding today. The move away from pills to vaccinations, direct to consumer advertising, and lobbying for laws to lengthen patents on drugs. The first two directives are already obvious, with the third brought to light within the wiki-leaked TPPA documents. And at the risk of stating (to quote Monty Python) the “bleeding obvious” – these initiatives are aimed primarily at the survival and profits of the drug companies, rather than at the survival of you and me. So called health plans directed from the boardrooms of corporations, their accountants and their lawyers.

Over the years, I have tried to simplify my practice of medicine. Sure I do the necessary tests, and still prescribe medicines I feel appropriate usually in the lowest dose possible. But most problems are sorted out by making the person seeing me become aware of what changes are necessary to improve their quality of life.

We need to examine the body physically of course – I am primarily a diagnostician. But having a diagnosis is only any use if it becomes the basic guide to our future wellbeing. So ultimately I am a prognostician -using the knowing of the day to predict the future. Or with a nod to the ancient Greek roots of these words – firstly to ‘distinguish’ then to ‘foreknow.’

It is becoming clear to me that underlying so many modern ills is a deep loneliness – a feeling of separation at the level of soul. If we can simply provide a friendly ear, we are doing much to right this situation. If we can encourage others to lend true compassionate and practical support, we are doing even more. If we can help the person find that place deep within where there is comfort and compassion for their-self, then we are doing still more. So often this is found in a state of stillness – and it is why I may be able to help with the meditative exercises and acupuncture I have used for over 30 years.

Although it risks becoming a 21st century cliche, we are all truly connected to ourselves, nature and our world. All our body parts are intimately connected – something that we are at risk of overlooking as doctors are attracted more and more into sub-specialties, where they seek to know more and more about less and less. This knowledge is often complicated – not only separating the status of the doctor from the patient, but also threatening the emerging inner-knowing within all of us, so important for our healing.

So maybe we should join Meryl and Alec by looking each other in the eye, and pledging (over a glass if we choose) to keep it really simple.

All together. Now.

I’m Nearly Free – Keeping Mindful in Challenging Times

19 Oct

Prison Bars with Candle

About 17 years ago, I wrote a song about being imprisoned for a crime I had not committed. I based it on David Bain’s case – although I had no proof of his innocence. A patient visiting me, however, had a strong conviction that he was not guilty of murdering his family, and communicated with him regularly by post, visiting him on several occasions in prison. In 2000, in a corner of the now dearly missed Borders Bookshop here in Auckland,  I remember watching Joe Karam, the trusted  champion of David Bain’s innocence, promote his second book on this gripping case. I followed with a presentation and reading of my own from the newly released ‘Healing Ways.’

Then, as now, such synchronicities had meaning, helping me to keep on track during turbulent times.

The song – “I’m Nearly Free” – is a personal favourite although sadly doesn’t attract many ‘Likes’ in social media. Every song has its own personality, and I have learned to accept not all appeal to the masses. “I’m Nearly Free” maybe only ever really talked to me!

“It’s the crash of thunder in the dead of night                                                                            It’s the mystic wonder in a candle light …….                                                                                In the dead of night, in the candle light, I’m nearly free.”

 

In challenging and uncertain times, when faced with an unknown future at the hands of those in whom we have little trust, the solution is to stay present ‘in the moment.’

I have found that focusing my gaze on the tip of a a single candle flame does the trick every time. I allow all in my peripheral visual fields to go blurred – easy for me anyway as without my specs I am very shortsighted! Then a focus on my breath, and I am there – free from an imprisonment of fear and doubt. The mind slows and stops playing its wicked game of blame and shame, of anger and self-pity.  A simple sure-fire (oops) step towards in-the-moment mindfulness – or maybe more accurately mind-free-ness.

I was reminded of all this when, with great anticipation, I tore open the Book Depository bubble-wrap last week to reveal the single-lit candle on the cover of Matthew Fox’s new book ‘Meister Eckhart – A Mystic-Warrior for Our Times.’ Eckhart was the 13th century Christian mystic, who found God and the Holy Spirit throughout the cosmos, within the creative process and within all things and beings, including ourselves. He was of course – like Matthew Fox himself – ex-communicated for expressing such radical and thoroughly deviant opinions!

meister

In his new book, Fox imagines Eckhart meeting and sharing his philosophies with modern spiritual and religious free-thinkers such as Teilhard de Chardin, Thich Nhat Hanh, Carl Jung, Black Elk, Rumi, and Adrienne Rich. So far, I am discovering there is much agreement about how grace enters our lives when we listen deeply to what is present in our lives, to the presence of another being and to the natural world that surrounds us. When we stop trying too hard, when we let go of solutions, and when we are still. In this state we co-create – as we simply allow creativity to flow through us from the cosmos.

Watching the tip of the candle flame somehow helps me to achieve this state by blurring out unnecessary distractions, and by focusing on the profound simplicity of the here and now. It allows me to escape from the dungeon of dark and fearful thoughts, and to indeed feel ‘nearly free.’

There is a Hopi proverb: “Thoughts are like arrows: once released, they strike their mark. Guard them well or one day you may be your own victim.”

We may not be able to control the dastardly acts of others, or the ill-will that prevails in our lives from dark sources, but we can protect ourselves from the venom we concoct for our own ingestion.

And when my own attempts to escape from such imprisoning thoughts result only in temporary tastes of freedom, I have found it pays to be on good terms with the prison guard.

Strangely enough, I have also found he looks a lot like me.

Heaven and Hell

6 Oct

 Dante

Some weeks ago, I set myself a challenge. A long time admirer of Clive James, I was impressed and intrigued by his commitment to complete a contemporary  translation of the epic poem the Divine Comedy written by Dante Alighieri early in the 14th century. Clive James has a terminal illness, and this feat fulfilled a lifelong wish – honouring both his skill as a poet of note, and his ex wife’s status as an eminent Dante scholar. He expresses that he carries some guilt about his role in the eventual breakdown of their marriage.

So the least I could do for Clive, his ex wife (and Dante himself) was to embark on a long overdue attempt at making some sense of the 500+ page poetic masterpiece recording Dante’s imagined journey down through Hell, then up through Purgatory towards a blissful Heaven.

Domenico di Michelino’s fresco of Dante shown above adorns a wall of Florence Cathedral. It depicts the poet holding his most famous work, standing next to the entrance to Hell, the seven terraces of Mount Purgatory and the city of Florence, with the spheres of Heaven above. At present, I am traveling with Dante and his guide Virgil through ‘middle Hell’. I have to say, James’ translation fairly ‘raps’ along – I find myself tapping my foot to the rhythm of the verse, even though Dante’s references to obscure medieval Italian ne’er-do-wells have stretched me somewhat.

As he descends down the circles of Hell, the worldly sins of its inhabitants become more and more dire, culminating in ‘the pits’ as violence, fraud and treachery. They encounter all sorts of horrible predicaments – torture, rivers of boiling blood, slimy snakes and creepy-crawlies aplenty. I can barely wait for the relative promise and relief of Purgatory, portrayed behind Dante in Michelino’s painting as a pyramidal tower whose seven steps rise, Kundilini-like, towards the eternal peace of Heaven.

When I was a hospice doctor in the 90’s, I read both Sogyal Rinpoche’s ‘Tibetan Book of Living and Dying’, and the classic ‘Egyptian Book of the Dead’. I tried to reconcile these visions of an afterlife with the scientific hardline dished out over the past 300-odd years of the ‘Age of Reason’ ie. when we die, everything about us goes away. Our consciousness goes as our brain dies. We have no soul.

This conventional stance would appear paradoxically to be more dogmatic than reasonable. It even conflicts with one of the stated fundamentals of science – the 1st Law of Thermodynamics which states that energy is our universe is never destroyed, rather it is perpetually recycled. At the risk of sounding dogmatic myself, surely the only ‘reasonable’ conclusion that modern scientists should come to is that they have absolutely no clue as to what happens to us when we die.

The emerging science surrounding Near Death Experiences is perhaps one step towards a deeper secular Western understanding of death and dying. There is growing evidence that consciousness persists, even when human brains are inactive. In his 2013  bestseller ‘Proof of Heaven’ the Harvard neurosurgeon Eben Alexander describes his experiences of a sublimely beautiful heaven while much of his brain had turned to mush by E.coli encephalitis. Consciousness, he concludes, cannot reside solely within the living human brain.

My own understanding is influenced as much from the feelings I experience from being in the presence of the dying, as from any of these texts (which admittedly I devour with relish.) Presently my views closely echo the lyrics of one of my favourite singer-songwriters, the Canadian Ron Sexsmith, in his song  ‘God Loves Everyone’:

“There are no gates in heaven, everyone gets in
Queer or straight, souls of every faith
Hell is in our minds, Hell is in this life
But when it’s done, God takes everyone.”

Over the past four years, our family has been suffering from the effects of the very same toxic behaviour as exhibited, in their lifetimes, by many of the unwilling residents trapped in Dante’s Hell. Of course, being subjected to threats and lies by a major corporation that affect our family’s future lifestyle and financial security is but a minor inconvenience compared with the hellish terror inflicted on those poor souls facing execution, and on their desperate families, by terror groups such as ISIS. However, it is largely through our personal recent experiences that I can now truly empathise with Ron’s words: “Hell is in this life.”

But the upside of all this unpleasantness is a growing awareness of how much we have to be grateful for – so many blessings to count.

One of these blessings is the privilege I feel when a family invites me to play a role in the care of a loved one who is facing death. Over the past month, I have been treated to such an invitation from a family who have shared their love and deep respect for their dear wife and mother who passed peacefully a week ago. In her graceful presence, I too was allowed to further transform as I released my need to rescue by being simply present.

This was my glimpse of heaven – a space of acceptance and love.

Glimpses that also come – perhaps more inconspicuously – when I am walking on the beach with Trish and our cavoodle Lily, or when I am attending my children’s and grand-children’s birthday parties, or when I write and sing a song, or even as I write this blog.

These are glimpses of reality and truth – more real and truer by far than our first-worldly battles with large corporations and the legal system, and with those individuals who are so trapped within these illusionary man-made prisons, these modern day cults, that they must struggle to experience that which is really important.

Some of these folk will go on to discover these truths through the trials and tribulations of their own unique lives; some as they themselves catch a glimpse of heaven between their dying breaths; and some maybe within the moment they leave behind their so-transient material existence and wealth for pastures anew.

I don’t envy them, but I do wish them well.

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