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Small children are really confused about the link between birthdays and ageing

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Small Children Are Really Confused About The Link Between Birthdays And Ageing

Which follows which?

Imagine if all you had to do to avoid getting a year older was to not have a birthday party. Simple, right? It turns out that a good number of young kids think these parties are what makes us older.In a study of 99 kids aged 3, 4, and 5, nearly two in five of the youngsters thought that birthday parties were somehow linked to ageing. Don’t have a party, and maybe you can stay the same age.

While the older children seemed to have a better grasp of age and how we get older, the confusion over the link between parties and moving up a year was spread across all of the kids – which is understandable, as they suddenly find themselves one year older after blowing out candles on a cake and singing Happy Birthday.

Results indicate that young children understand certain important biological aspects of the ageing process but exhibit confusion regarding others, including the causal role of the annual birthday party,” write the researchers in their published paper.

Jacqueline D. Woolley from the University of Texas at Austin, and Amanda M. Rhoads from the Community of Hope in Washington DC, ran through three stories with their young volunteers to explore how they understood ageing.

The first story was about a kid who didn’t get a party, the second was about a kid who got two parties, and the third was a more general, control story about a child turning 3.Nearly 20 percent of the toddlers thought the lucky child who got two parties would be two years older; meanwhile, around a quarter of the kids thought the child in the no party story stayed the same age.

A repeat of the study with a different group also produced similar results.A previous study has shown this way of looking at parties as the causes for ageing can last until kids are 6 or 7 years old, though that earlier research wasn’t as specific in the questions it used – instead the children were polled on whether having multiple parties to try and get older was “a good idea”.

Of course, even though these results are fascinating, the relatively small sample size and the fact more than a quarter of the kids got the control question wrong, makes us cautious about drawing any major conclusions here.

But we can’t imagine a much cuter concept than staying the same age until the cards and presents are rolled out – and why wouldn’t young children think this way?The effects of ageing are largely imperceptible to little minds, and then in a flash and a flurry of jelly and ice cream they’re a year older.For the current study, the youngsters were also told a story about a woman who didn’t want to get older. More than 70 percent of the 3-year-olds thought adults could avoid ageing if they so wished, though this dropped sharply with the 4- and 5-year-olds.

And perhaps this shouldn’t come as a surprise either, as us grown-ups spend so much time talking about wanting to look and feel younger.The researchers behind the study say it’s an important look at both how we come to understand the passing of time, and how much significance our society gives to birthday party celebrations, especially when we’re little.”

Anyone who celebrates birthdays or who wonders about children’s minds should be interested,” Woolley told George Dvorsky at Gizmodo.”Our culture is obsessed with the concept of the birthday party. Parents should enjoy their children and their children’s questions, and discuss these issues with their children as they arise spontaneously.”

The research has been published in Imagination, Cognition and Personality.

Read the full story here: Small children are really confused about the link between birthdays and ageing

My Battle Cry For My Mother and the Future

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My mother, Anna Patricia Doyle had the joker card handed to her at birth. Rheumatic fever that kept her bound in bed for two years and left her with the legacy of a heart murmur, and prevented her from participating in anything physical in her childhood. This came back to haunt her later on in her life, she also had febrile convulsions.

In my mother’s late 40s, another isolated convulsion came out of the blue and at the age of 59, my mother was dealt the cruelest card in the pack. After two minor injuries to her head, my mother suffered a stroke. It was a major stroke, no actually, it was the mother of all strokes. This ‘stroke’ was not a stroke of good luck or even a stroke of misfortune, it was a stoke that would keep my mother in hospital for the next three months, first as a vacuous body in a coma and then as a person who had fundamentally changed. She might put on other people’s clothes, after mistaking their wardrobe for hers. Or she might wander phantom-like through the corridors of the Stroke ward at night, answering the ward phone whenever it rang (she was an ex nurse).

After three months, the hospital needed their bed back and so a meeting was held with the pre-decision made that it was in everyone’s best interests that my mother should be sectioned. My mother had won a one-way ticket to hell with no hidden extras, no upgrades or returns. My sister and I, who were both present at the meeting, knew that out mother would not survive this journey, we knew that she would end up marooned, a foreigner in a strange land. We knew that the waves of dementia inside her head would quickly drown out any remaining sparks of rationale.

And so, the decision was made that my mother would go home, the home that she had left three months earlier, the home where one night she went to bed a feisty, independent, attractive, vibrant workaholic at the age of 59 but who never awoke. That night, my mother, that is, my true mother died. A death before death. The Grim Reaper’s younger brother, Dementia had come a-knocking and now she was gone.
We attempted to carry on as normal, my mother after all was still a grandmother, a mother, a sister, an aunty and a friend. But it was not ‘normal’ nor would it ever be again. My daughters, who were 7 and 12 at the time, were on their own with her once. After a dramatic scene on a bus, this was never to be repeated. My sister lived in London, working full-time and I was a single parent, doing three jobs to make ends meet. My mother’s two sisters lived in London and had their own lives. My mother’s friends appeared to drop off the edge of the world’s surface, the last one made a hasty retreat when my mother, out with her one night, became ill in a restaurant.

Life from that point, appeared to be a continuum of endless telephone calls – from the police who had found my mother in a strange place; or from members of the public, reporting her as a drunk because she was behaving in a weird way; or from nurses at the local hospital saying that my mother had been found ‘fitting’ in public (the stroke brought with it mass epileptic episodes) and that she was now in the emergency department. These calls would come at all hours, whilst I was at work, (called out of classrooms); while on dates with sympathetic suitors and I would jump into my car and race off to the hospital to find my mother with her clothes cut off, tubes feeding life-fuelling medicine into her veins, her face and body covered in blood and bruises from where she had fallen. For a period of time, this happened so regularly that I stopped rushing to the hospital, I realised that I would be of more use to her when she awoke. Eventually, medical professionals managed to make my mother’s medication stable. The falls and blackouts decreased, my mother was able to stay in her home for another nine years.
When my mother was 60, she moved into a warden-controlled flat. There was a warden on duty five mornings a week and emergency pull cords. In addition to this, after one particularly severe relapse, (which resulted in an extended stay in hospital and a period of respite in a nursing home), social Services organised a carer to come in twice a day to aid my mother with her medication. And she is still in this flat.

What you have just read is a very brief history of my mother’s illness. Some information has been erased from my mind during the past 18 years, other information has been omitted to prevent it becoming an article that would rival War and Peace. And yet, my job here is not yet done.

You see, there is a job that needs doing, a mission if you like, and it is a serious kick-ass mission, not suitable for the meek or for the mild. It is a mission to make people listen, to rip off the invisibility cloak from the unheard old and sometimes young. It is a voice, in this case, it is my voice yet the words that I speak do not belong to me, they belong to others, they belong to my mother and the 750,000 people in the UK suffering with Dementia (Alzheimer’s Society) and these words need to be heard.
My battle cry, for I do not wish to whisper, starting forming 18 years ago, when my mother lay in a coma, (my sister remembers it being a weekend), in a hospital bed, lips cracked from thirst. We asked the nurse on duty if my mother could have a drink as she was obviously very thirsty, but she was not allowed one because there was no medical professional on duty to check my mother’s swallow reflex.

It continued during the months spent in the Stroke Unit, when I would visit her during my lunch breaks and again after school in order to bathe her and to ensure that she was wearing her own clothes.
It crossed the ten long years spent in her own home with no care or interventions set in place, just an ambulance collection service, a streamlined service where they would pick my mother up from some local gutter, patch her up and send her off on her merry way.

Then finally it arrives at her warden-controlled flat. A warden, whose job description I am led to believe is: ‘You are obliged to socialise with the hale and with the hearty’. A compassionate warden who, when my mother has problems with her electricity or plumbing is informed by her that she must phone her daughter.

Then there are the carers, organised by Social Services. Carers, who left my mother in the dark after a power cut for two hours. Carers who left my mother (who had accidently caused herself serious burns on one of her hands) with terrible blisters where the skin was ripped away for two days before informing me that my mother had a single blister on one of her fingers. One carer who helped my mother to dress for the day in a bright pink fluffy night top, some stained jumper and trousers with yesterday’s tights still caught up in one of the legs. Carers, who whilst I was away helping my sister to scatter her husband’s ashes, did not venture out of their way to assist my mother with washing or bathing – I was informed ten days later on my return that this was due to my mother not having any hot water (my mother has an electric shower). The list goes on.

My mother now has new carers, again organised by Social Services, and again a catalogue of errors is already building. I can no longer communicate with them and have handed over the reins to my sister, for I have forgotten how to speak and now can only shout.

My mother has a case worker, who believes that my mother is independent and more than able to stay in her own home. Medication is locked away in a safe, spare keys securely hidden outside, newspapers delivered, white boards emblazoned with the days of the week and the months and seasons of the year. My sister talks to my mother every night; I visit a few times a week, clean and look after her money and she survives.
Teenage-like now – knickers, tights and dirty clothes adorn the floors, evidence of fish and chip dinners lay around the flat and fag-filled ash trays wait expectantly on the smeared coffee table. But unlike the average teenager, who chooses solitude as an expression of self or as a vacation from a super fuelled life, solitude has chosen my mother. There are no friends who choose to visit, no clubs to be assimilated into, no books to get lost in. She is alone. She is lonely.

The population of the UK is ageing. The proportion of people aged over 65 rose from 15% to 17% from 1985 to 2010, an increase of 17 million people; this is projected to reach 23% by 2035. Elderly people account for most of the adult social care service users and of public spending on adult care. In the UK, the cost per year of residential care is on average around £29,270 rising to over £39,300 a year if nursing care is available. These figures point a crooked finger towards why the majority of the focus of health and social care services for elderly and vulnerable people is based on the promotion of independence.
Yet, this independence comes at a cost, not a monetary cost but a cost, which holds much more value. If we place someone who has scaled the entire dizzy heights of Maslow’s ‘Hierarchy of Needs’ as rich, my mother is poor, overdrawn, bankrupt, just scraping at Maslow’s heels, her basic needs of food, water, warmth and rest barely being met. This surely illuminates that this promotion and ‘gift’ of independence, has grave implications when it comes to vulnerable people living on their own.

According to statistics, we will be slinking around as silver foxes for longer than our ancestors (80 is the new 50 and all that). Yet, don’t dust off your disco pants just yet as skulking in the shadows is Grimm’s younger brother and he is rather excited by this news. You see, the risk of dementia increases with age (he is now clapping his hands in glee) with The Alzheimer’s Society’s figures showing that 98% of the estimated 750,000 people in the UK with dementia are aged 65 or over.

And so we need a call to arms, we need to make a noise, we need to shout, we need to peer over care-givers’ shoulders and question those in authority. My mother’s story and history of care (or more accurately lack of care) is not isolated. We have all read the horror stories.

We, as a society, need to fight, we need to fight for the provision of tailor-made care, tailor-made for all individuals, not just the privileged (as we all know that one size does not fit all especially if like me you are a curvy sized 16). We, as a society need to ensure that care, as we get older, provides the relevant footholds to enable all individuals to pat Maslow on the head with all basic, psychological and self-fulfillment being met. We, as a society need to ensure that those who manage the care of the vulnerable and older are held accountable and that they keep a close check on its relevance, quality and the manner of delivery.

We are the voices of the future, we are the voices of our mothers, fathers, loved ones, and we need to make ourselves heard, we need to stop talking in whispers and instead daub ourselves in battle paint and practice our roars. It will be us next.

My Personal Route to No More Bullshit – The Path of Love

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I should have known that something like this would happen. I know that my life operates in seven-year cycles and it was true that I had been wondering what was going to happen on the next stage of my journey as I hit 49. I just hadn’t seen this one coming.

I got fired from the job that I loved. I was bereft. So much of my identity had been wrapped up in this role that I had enjoyed. I threw myself into other activities and rebalanced my working life to take advantage of new opportunities, but I was rattled inside and my body was acting up. Problems with my teeth and gums erupted, a sure sign that all was not well in my inner world.

In the midst of this an old friend from Australia came to stay with me. ‘You need to do The Path of Love,’ she said. ‘What is it? I asked not unreasonably. ‘You don’t need to know…I’ll sign you up.’ – came the response.

Six weeks later, I found myself outside a country house retreat centre in Somerset and somewhat nervously registering for the course and handing over the course fee. I didn’t know (didn’t want to know) much about the process, but of course that part of me that resists change and totally prefers the comfort of the known was tugging at me and imploring me to drive back home to London.

As I stepped into the seven-day residential retreat, I felt a familiar mix of terror and excitement. Even though I do this work for a living – I am a psychotherapist – the prospect of stepping out from behind that convenient mask and showing up with all my fears, feelings and failings was daunting.

I was right to be daunted because what transpired as the process unfolded – was that I had somehow been guided to what must be the most challenging, terrifyingly beautiful and transformative pieces of group work in the world today. There was nowhere to hide. My customary bullshit wasn’t any use to me.

My fear is that if I show people who I really am and what truly happens inside me then I will be judged, rejected and even scorned. But what actually happened was the more I and the members of my group revealed the truth about ourselves to each other (and especially the dark bits) the more trust developed between us. The more that trust developed, the more able I felt to go deeper. To be able to stand in the truth of who I am and to be received with no judgment and with love and compassion was extraordinary.

Then there was my body. Like a lot of men, I have a somewhat distant relationship with the seven eighths of me that resides below my neck. Like a lot of men, I was brought up and educated to believe that my brain would be the organ of my salvation – the doorway to life satisfaction, wealth and learning. I was mistaken.

Over the seven days of the Path of Love, I learned that my body has wisdom of its own and of course had been my constant companion for the last 49 years. A lifetime of repressing emotions – a survival strategy learned at boarding school at eight years old – meant that a lot had been stored in my body. Powerful meditations involving intuitive movement and inspiring music allowed me to start releasing some of these feelings – I cried, I ranted, I prayed, I rejoiced.

Finally, I reached an ineffable place of such deep stillness and calm that I honestly felt ready to die. I remember thinking about my wife and children and how they would miss me, and I them…but the pain associated with that thought was so slight that it felt like I had been given a glimpse of a liminal space between life and death. It was a profound gift that has stayed with me to this day.

I was so impressed with the work and the people who delivered it that I applied to join their team and was accepted and trained. Over the last five years, I have facilitated and then led the Path of Love process. It challenges, excites and delights me, and I find it a privilege to accompany other people through their journeys of transformation…each person different…each path unique. There is still no room to hide, as the course leaders and everyone who works with us are constantly working on ourselves and showing up in truth and authenticity. How can we ask others to do this if we are not prepared to do it ourselves?

What I have discovered, and what I take away each time I lead this process, is that human beings are wired for connection and cooperation. We need each other. We need to share our inner fears, wounds and darkness with each other, and it brings us closer together. It creates bonds of trust, compassion and love. We need these things. Separation makes us sick, and sickness is all around us.

The first Path of Love to be run in London is March 1 – 8th 2018. More info
Simon Matthews is a psychotherapist and Path of Love Leader.

The ManKind Project: How programmes, politics and pop culture are addressing toxic masculinity | The Independent

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As I stood next to a man roaring with rage and wet with tears, in a community hall in deep west London, I thought – well, this is awkward. I don’t even like man-hugs, particularly those three-pat buddy jobs they do in Hollywood. Yet here was a real live male in distress, perilously close. Should I hug him, against the advice of my inner Brit?

Read the full story here: The ManKind Project: How programmes, politics and pop culture are addressing toxic masculinity | The Independent

The Healing Power of Being Able to Say Yes or No

6 Minute Read

When I was offered the chance to go Jan Day’s ‘Living Tantra’ one-day workshop in October, I snapped it up. The last time I’d been to one of Jan’s workshops was back in 2008, when we were filming it for a side project to the One Giant Leap movie documentaries. I’d had a great time, but as creative consultant on the project, I couldn’t fully immerse myself in the weekend. This time, I would be on my own and free to explore.

I arrived feeling relaxed and with no particular goal in mind, other than to enjoy myself and be open to whatever came up. As we waited outside the large sunlit room at the Study Centre in West London, I eyed my fellow participants with interest. It always fascinates me to see who’s attending any workshop I go to: is there a ‘type’, or even an archetypal workshop attendee? Broadly speaking, not really. There were people from all walks of life and ethnicity, ranging from their mid 20s to their late 60s. I suppose you could say that a unifying factor was that everyone seemed to be a bit nervous.

Now I don’t know if you agree, but I think one of the hardest things we encounter in life – apart from our relationship with ourselves – seems to be our relationship with other people. Yet the absolute fundamentals of relationship, especially intimate relationships – not just being able to say clearly and freely yes or no, but also being able to hear and receive a yes or a no – are skills that aren’t taught to us at school, or at any level afterwards. I say this because it seems most of us are so wounded that the devastating experience of hearing a no is something we avoid at any cost. It plugs us into our deepest fears of rejection, of not getting our needs met, of not getting what we want. It’s primal. I believe our society desperately needs the basic tools to be able to handle this and start healing these wounds.

In Jan’s workshop we explored these fundamentals, first through movement and then, in the afternoon, through touch. The first exercise was deceptively simple. After a warm-up, we formed two lines, women facing men, and the person directly opposite became our partner. We took it in turns to be a mover or a receiver. The receiver held their hands either open in a welcoming yes, or palms facing up and forward in a clear no. The mover then moved towards or away from the receiver, depending on what was going on for them. Throughout, we were instructed to remain conscious and focused on our feelings, what was going on inside us, and not to bother (if possible) about what was going on for the partner.

I could see on my female partners’ faces how intense this was for them. But I was thinking – hey, this is easy; I’ve got no problem with saying yes or no. It wasn’t until my third partner who did not move towards me once during the entire exercise that I started to feel my own wound opening up. It wasn’t easy to keep my arms open in a yes, when all the time I felt I was getting a no, or at best a circumspect maybe from my partner; but in doing so, it allowed me to feel my heart wound opening up inside me. The wound of rejection, of feeling unwanted, of not getting my needs met. I kept breathing and allowed the feelings to flow through me, without judging them. Afterwards we sat down and shared our experiences. My exercise partner said she could see me struggling with her not moving towards me, and how hard it was for her not to simply acquiesce in order to make me feel better. I felt so grateful to her for this, and to be reminded that everything starts with the pure power of an authentic yes or no.

I was so excited by this that I called my partner during the lunch break to ask her, in reference to a recent discussion we’d had, whether she could appreciate that when I said no, it was not a rejection. She said that she could.

In the afternoon, accompanied by the muted sounds of tube trains from beyond the large windows, we explored the yes and the no through touch. In groups of four we took it in turns to be the person in the middle who could control how, and where, we were touched by the others. This took the experience to an even deeper level; it was about being able to express truthfully not just a no – don’t touch me there, stop, pause, leave me alone – but perhaps even more profoundly, the yes: yes, I like that, yes, do it more, yes please. In the two minute warm up, I felt a bit uncomfortable being touched by these complete strangers and I could feel my body tensing up, but allowing myself the simple permission of being able to say stop, slow down, just one person, or no was a huge relief (afterwards, my partners in this process shared that it was a great relief for them too). The second time, which lasted about ten minutes, I relaxed into the process until I began to luxuriate in it. To be able to say truly – yes, I love this, all of you, please, do it more! – was liberating. I walked out of Jan’s workshop feeling like a million dollars.

It is only when we can trust someone implicitly that our relationships can truly flourish. And the foundation of this is authenticity. This means having the courage to say no, even when we feel we should be saying yes. It also means having the courage to receive a no, to really hear it. Because, as Jan explained, an authentic no is the greatest gift we can give the other; it brings clarity, truth and therefore healing. It is only from this point of complete honesty that we can build successful relationships. And this corresponds on every level – from our sexuality to our day-to-day communication.

In my life, it has taken me a long time to be able to say no, when my all my conditioning has been telling me to say yes. It’s often one of the hardest things to do. We are programmed to please the other, to seek reassurance and love from the other. We are so terrified of losing the approval of the other that we will often, if not always, say yes when we mean no. And this confusion fans out across society, meaning that abuse can flourish when the individual feels incapable of expressing their truth. All the recent revelations about the abuse that so many women have experienced (and men too,of course) highlighted by the #MeToo campaign are founded on this terrible fear: the fear of saying no, of hearing no and the terrible lack of clarity around the no. Boys and girls, men and women, all need to learn to hear and experience the no with confidence, with empathy and with understanding. If we can truly embrace this simple yet fundamental concept, we can finally blossom as a society. We can be confident in our relationships on every level, knowing that not only are we asking for what we actually want, but also expressing clearly what we don’t want. What could be simpler than that?

Tales of the Heart, literally

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I am 74. I have always considered myself to be fit and healthy, even though I have been living with the consequences of a serious rock climbing injury for the last 20 years. I have followed a healthy diet and lifestyle: largely vegetarian, low alcohol consumption, not overweight, no drugs for the last 40 years, and high level of physical activity.

So, one day in July this year, I was shocked when swimming in the sea near my house in N Wales – to discover I could hardly catch my breath. And then the following day when I started to go up the stairs at home, I found myself struggling to get to the top without stopping. At that point, I chose to tell myself that age has finally caught up with me, whatever that was supposed to mean. Any crap rationalisation rather than consider myself to be less than a perfect specimen of humanity!

The next morning, when I struggled to get out of bed because I was so breathless, I took my pulse and fear shot through me as I registered how fast it was beating. Then, after an emergency visit to my GP, I am being whisked off to my local district hospital in an ambulance with flashing lights, feeling somewhat detached from it all.

When told I have heart failure with the left side of my heart working at less than 25% of its expected capacity, I refuse to take it in and incongruously argue that I am healthy. Part of my reluctance at this point is because two days later I am due to fly to Corfu to take part in a week-long group process: Tantra Mantra with my beloved. At this point, I desperately hold onto the belief that I am still going to make it.

All in all, after a week in hospital I am discharged feeling weak, with two pieces of metal scaffolding (stents) in one of my coronary arteries, which had become completely blocked up with fatty deposits. My heart lifted, and I felt like cheering towards the end of the stenting procedure when the artery reappeared on the monitor screen as it finally became filled again with blood, signalling that the operation, during which time I had been fully awake, had been a success. It took all of ninety minutes – the blockage had been a long one and it required clearing a little bit at a time to avoid any mishap. And my breathing was easier.

For the first four weeks, I had to take things very easily, and was not allowed to drive. Since then I have been making a steady recovery back to normal day to day life: looking after the large house and smallholding where I live, taking my dog for walks, even logging a large fallen oak tree using a chainsaw. This morning I went for a rather cold, even in full wetsuit gear, but enjoyable swim in the sea. It was the end of October.

Although I feel a lot better, I am taking a lot of medication to control cholesterol, thin my blood and slow down the heart and more. This is to prevent more blockages and clotting around the stents as well protecting my heart muscle while it heals. I am even following a more strict, self-imposed diet: cutting out almost all dairy, less sugar and taking specific heart associated supplements.

Until I get the results of the MRI scan, scheduled to happen end November, I am still being treated for heart failure. I am hoping then for confirmation of the improvement I feel. Of course, as Ischaemic Heart Disease is the number one killer in the Western world, it is not surprising that I have some definite anxiety around the outcome.

Whatever the outcome I have been prompted to take stock of my life: accepting my ultimate mortality and not knowing when that will be. And there have been positive developments: in my close relationships. My beloved tells me I am sweeter now than before all this happened, and my daughter says she likes spending time with me and appreciates me. She and I have a chequered relationship which has been very tense at times gone by. It is a great relief that it is so much better now.

On self-reflection, I have realised I can be kinder to myself and that means being kinder to other people around me. I live at a slower pace and rest most afternoons. I expect less of myself and of others. What’s the point of driving myself to an early grave while there is still so much to live for. I don’t know about being sweeter, but I do know I can choose to be harmonious in the way I interact with those close to me rather than being over-reactive. And this makes for a happier life in many ways. And with so much experience of living it is time to choose the easy option!

I now look forward to sharing simple pleasures with my beloved, leading to a deeper, soft connection, without needing the excitement that is so often associated with friction. I think it amounts to being in the heart rather than the head. I have been on this journey for the last four years since finding a new lover. Together we have been through several positive, life-changing experiences. This is just the latest.

Beyond Religion

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‘Those tender words we said to one another are stored in the secret heart of heaven. One day, like the rain, they will fall and spread, and their mystery will grow green over the world.’Rumi

The mystery that lies within the hidden heart of the human being, and is also the secret heart of heaven, takes us right to the core of creation and the dark wholeness that births what indigenous cultures call the ten thousand things.

‘In the whole of the universe there are only two, the lover and the Beloved.’ And for some, for the mystics of the world, the divine is not father nor mother, but the sweetest, most ecstatic lover that seizes our heart in the most passionate affair of our life.

When the heart is on fire a blaze is created that burns away everything in its path so all that is left is Love. This evisceration, this burning, is the necessary but cruel cleansing that returns us to our self.

‘I burnt and I burnt and I burnt’, says Rumi: ‘I lost my world, my fame, my mind. The Sun appeared and all the shadows ran. I ran after them but vanished as I ran. Light ran after me and hunted me down.’

Al-Hallaj, who was executed for revealing the divine secrets put it this way: ‘When Truth has taken hold of a heart, She empties if of all but Herself. When God attaches himself to a man, He kills in him all else but Himself.’

There is just so much that has to burn in us, so much that has to die, but the destruction of the false self – that scaffold we erected to stave off the wounds of childhood and other incarnations – is consoled.

And it is consoled by the arising of the divine light within, from a small spark to a steady and fierce longing that somehow makes all the pain worthwhile. Just as the pain of childbirth subsides in the memory of the mother as joy takes over, so too are we soothed by sheer wonderment and joy.

But the ego does not go easily. What has to die are all the psychological patterns and attachments that keep us wedded to the world.

Irina Tweedie, who spent several years with her Sufi master in India, said the pain was so bad she thought she was going to die…and the rewards do not come from the world but from the divine. As Rumi says, he lost his world, his fame, his mind.

Everything is given but everything has to be given up. But as Andrew Harvey says, when you no longer want the world, when it no longer matters, it is returned to you on a silver salver. That is the cosmic joke, or one of them.

An emperor had a slave whom he loved immensely and he wanted to know if the slave really loved him. So, into a room heaped with vast treasures, he summoned all the slaves saying they were free to take what they wished. They were over joyed and ran here and there taking what they most wanted. But the slave whom the emperor loved just stood in the corner of the room. When the room was empty, the slave walked quietly over to the emperor and stood by him, his eyes full of love. The emperor said to him, ‘What do you want?’ And the slave said, ‘I want you, just you.’ And the Emperor said to the slave, ‘Because all you want is me, all I possess is yours.’

As Harvey says, in his marvellous book The Way of Passion, it is trust, absolute trust that is the key. And for the Sufi, life itself is the greatest teacher and everything and everyone that crosses our path has the exact lessons we need to learn.

It is what I call having an eye for initiation. The Sufi teacher counsels us to look for the hint in the heart and the wayfarer lives not by the rules and regulations of society nor the covert co-dependent agreements of our culture, but learns to listen only to the still, small voice within.

To hear, and learn to obey that voice, so much rubbish has to be removed. So much that we thought important heads for the shredder! And it is seen that none of it was important after all.

What is revealed is that each of us is unique, that each hair on our head really is known, and that we, as this particular manifestation, will never pass this way again. We are important, vital even, and are here to play our part, large or small, it doesn’t matter.

But this way is not for the sensible, rational man or woman; this way is not for those intent on safety; it is only for those willing to give themselves to an affair of the heart, responding to the call of the moment.

A Persian poem offers this warning: ‘Do not come near to the Lane of Love! It is not a thoroughfare! You cannot sleep, you cannot eat; you don’t enjoy the world anymore.’

As Llewellyn Vaughan-Lee points out, a human love affair can pierce the heart, how much more potent an affair with the divine lover who lives inside your own self.

From Him, from Her, there is no escape, no hiding place. But as Rumi says, if we don’t make this journey within in truth we have done nothing with our life:

‘Desperation, let me always know how to welcome you, and put in your hands the torch to burn down the house.’

When I first started this piece, I wrote a piece called Exile and Longing, which grew out of my own experience of exile from family and society, and the choice to live by my own light come what may.

Often, those of us with mystical awareness, have to live outside the consciousness of the culture which we were raised in, beyond its limitations and judgments, patterns and demands.

As a boy, I was baffled as to why I did not want what others wanted, why achievements, even success, were not important to me, did not satisfy me. What I held to was a small light burning softly inside me, which I finally began to nurture.

Irina Tweedie wrote of her small life, living alone in North London, looking down from her hilltop at the comings and goings of those engaging in the world, and knew that although she had given up everything the world sees as important, she had gained the one thing that matters.

‘Those who belong to the Beloved, carry His curse, which is the memory of His embrace. Nothing in the world will fulfil them,’ writes Vaughan-Lee.

So it is, and if your heart is longing and burning, if you are calling God secretly in the night, if only Love will do, at some point you will be answered. Spiritual processes always begin within before manifesting without.  You don’t find a teacher, the teacher finds you.

‘Light upon light, Allah calls to Him whom He wills.’

When the divine spark is lit within and the Beloved turns towards you the journey of lover and beloved begins. One light calls to the other, the other calls in return. Finally, the ‘I’ that stands in the way is no more and the two merge in an ecstatic union.

If you are seeking, seek Us with joy for we live in the kingdom of joy. Do not give your heart to anything else, but to the love of those who are clear joy. Do not stray into the neighbourhood of despair; for there are hopes: they are real, they exist. Do not go in the direction of darkness – I tell you, suns exist.

Rumi said this because he knew. His meeting with the ferocious wandering Dervish Shams completely remade him. He went from erudite, spiritual scholar to Love’ supreme poet, today the world’s most popular poet. The price he paid was a terrible grief.

The ecstatic union that he enjoyed with Shams came after Shams struck a deal with God, the price of which was his life. The old sage, despised and feared by many, knew that he must pass on what he knew to someone worthy of it and capable of transmitting it to many.

He found Rumi in Konya and their great spiritual love affair began, a union so intense that it roused jealousy and anger among Rumi’s family. Shams disappeared once sending Rumi into paroxysms of grief and longing.

He was found and returned and they were reunited in joy, but Shams disappeared for a second time, finally murdered, probably by Rumi’s younger son.

It was this final pain that Rumi transformed, as he united on the inner planes with his beloved master, spending the last 30 years of his life working to bring the divine light into the world.

There are many different Sufi groups with differing practises, but the work on the path is similar: meditation, chanting the names of God, working with dreams, facing the shadow – all those qualities we have buried and not loved , facing the contra-sexual aspects within, what Jung called the anima and animus, and working with archetypal energies.

And what is right for one aspirant is not right for another. Each of us is unique, yet the practises of the path keep us on track in single-pointed focus on our heart’s devotion.

This is polishing the mirror and when the heart is free of blemishes, the divine sun can be reflected in it. Here the mind is drowned in the heart and as we return to the unmanifest world from when we came we sacrifice ourselves on the altar of love.

Finally, the heart is made as soft and as warm as wool, and the alchemy that was started within you way back when is over……for now.

Last words.

A lover does not figure the odds. He figures he came clean from God as a gift without reason, so he gives without cause or calculation or limit. A conventionally religious person behaves a certain way to achieve salvation. A lover gambles everything, the self, the circle around the zero! He or she cuts and throws it all away.

This is beyond any religion.

11 Ways to Find Passion in Work and Career

7 Minute Read

“Work is that which you dislike doing but perform for the sake of external rewards. At school, this takes the form of grades. In society, it means money, status, privilege.” Abraham Maslow (1909 – 1970) His “…interest in human potential, seeking peak experiences and improving mental health by seeking personal growth had a lasting influence on psychology.”[1] [2]

“Every great dream begins with a dreamer. Always remember, you have within you the strength, the patience, and the passion to reach for the stars to change the world.” Harriet Tubman (1820 – 1913) escaped slavery to become a leading abolitionist. She led hundreds of enslaved people to freedom along the route of the Underground Railroad.[3] [4]

Work versus Passion, can I have Both?

 Maslow and Tubman are from very different backgrounds. Both respected, they each knew lots about work, passion and a continually changing world based on clashing cultures and the times in which they lived.

Both are right as they were each dedicated to a cause and reached for the stars. However, in the 35+ years working in the corporate world, no matter what the background or circumstances, the common complaint is typically, “I hate my job and want a new one that fits my values and passion. How do I do that?”

Coaching hundreds of employees, peers and friends over the years, I came to the conclusion that I too had the same basic question. As a short-term fix I jumped from one job to another (and a big raise and new title), but no matter how exciting at first, the honeymoon ended somewhere at the two to four year mark. The cycle would continue.

The 50s – I’m not going anywhere Career or Workwise

As I hit my early 50s, I felt that something was missing from my life. It wasn’t money, relationships, friends, traveling, or my industry being ripped apart; it was my lack of passion. My BA in psychology and MBA in Marketing were virtually useless after 2000.

In 2001 I was working in Silicon Valley for a new, hot start-up and then lived through the crash of the economy and poor business models (2008). I was the last person standing in our Partner Marketing department. Hundreds of people were let go.

I knew in my heart that changing jobs again would not bring me any more satisfaction, but landed a great looking job in Washington DC at another startup; it was sold.

I needed a major lifestyle change.

I got divorced and moved to my New York childhood home with my mom. What I thought would be 6 months turned into 8 years, becoming her caretaker and holding her hand as she died. At the time that I sold her house, I was 62 with no job or home.

I moved in with my boyfriend. I had no choice but to look at my life and decide how satisfying it was. I took a few years off to read, attend retreats and meditated; it was clear my life needed a good dusting.

The 60s – Too many Deaths of Friends

Let’s face it, I would never be a Maslow in psychology or a Tubman helping free folks from slavery and getting them to safer pastures.

So I took stock of my passion. It had been growing through the years, but I always put it behind the important stuff, “my work.” As I started to take a look at my life, panic set in. Would I have enough money, was I too old to be hired, could I handle the 60-hour workweek and the speed at which everything was changing?

I looked at my skill set and tried to figure out what really turned me on (my passion – what was that again?). What activities could take me to another place where time wouldn’t matter? I discovered there was a world of activities to explore.

Finding your Passion and New Lifestyle

  1. Resources and budgets

A budget is a plan that allows you to compare the amount of money you have with your expenses. Budgets can be developed for any time period, but a monthly review is a good idea to see if you are on track. Budgets are flexible and can be changed based on circumstances.   With budgets you remain “in the know” of your resources so there are no surprises.

  1. Downsizing

In 1977, I was one of the first women to graduate with a Master’s in Business Administration. I got my first job with Ford Motor Company and the sky was the limit. Six years later poor profits and sales got me thinking the grass must be greener somewhere else. Having worked for over 10 firms, I realized that much of the grass was already browned.

We aren’t talking about downsizing; we learned it had another inside name, “dealt by 1000 cuts.” The reality was that the world was changing and the skill sets were very different than when we were trained.

  1. Living Situation

There are many different “family” units and living situations; multiple marriages, divorce, combined families, sexual orientation, homelessness, and adults living in their parents’ home or parents living in their child’s home. What will you do?

  1. Unresolved relationships

We see many of these around us. Our nuclear family, extended family, friends, marriage, living together, affairs, moving away, changing interests, illness, grief, excitement, all exist in our changing world.

My living situations changed over the years. I went from family home, dorm, apartments, leasing million dollar homes, brownstone, back to family home, living with boyfriend and now, finally, taking the step to move into my own apartment.

  1. Making Money to Survive or Thrive

Depending on your chosen (or not) lifestyle, this will impact how you live. Decide what you want and what you can afford or what can fit into your life. There are endless choices. But you must do your research first.

  1. Choice to Retire

Why retire? Perhaps you have hit a certain age, have become sick of your job, or new needs arise. The world is your oyster, if you can afford it.

  1. No Choice to Retire

Money, money, money, obligations, ego, status and power, all contribute to your choices. You need to look deep into your heart, mind and bank account before making a change.

You won’t find many volunteers who hate their jobs. There may be problems and you may choose to leave, but it is a personal choice and thus offers complete freedom to do what you want.

  1. New Life Style

As you explore your life, where it is now, and where you want it to go, this may push you to adapt to a new life style, which matches your passion. It is up to you and no one else. Then you try to make it work with others. There are big decisions to be made here.

  1. Planning

Planning is key. You need to be your own project manager and keep on task, regardless of what is happening in the world (fires, floods, tsunami, hurricane, governments take overs)…you can continue to plan and re-plan until the day you die.

  1. Baby Steps

One of the best pieces of advice I have gotten was “take baby steps.” It takes out the panic and frustration as you begin this process. Even if you could do a project in three steps, turn them into 9.

  1. Action

You must decide for yourself what type of action you will take to create changing beliefs, different mind frames and your Plan.

Once action is taken, a periodic review of how you are feeling and the results you have achieved is imperative. As we go through this change process, both beliefs and affirmations allow us to shift positions, both philosophically and physically, knowing that we can always shift it again at a later date.

Passion from the Masters

I have studied, read, and met many wise people.

“Humans create their own boundaries, their own limitations. We say what is humanly possible, and what is not possible. Then just because we believe it, it becomes truth for us.”[5]


This process can take a while. It took me two years. It can be fun and very frustrating. At the end of the process you may not be able to put all changes in place, but do what you can. The rest will find you.






[5] Don Miguel Ruiz, The Mastery of Love (2011)

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