Category Archives: Inspiration

Alan Watts on how nothing contains everything

I was talking with a friend yesterday about my theory on how we cope with trauma by separating from our bodies and putting space between the observing us and the embodied us experiencing the trauma over there.  And how, if this is not shaken out at the time, this frightening experience, this frightening thing over there, gets forgotten, get’s negated.  It gets contained within a no-thing … a black hole within ourselves.  A black hole that we are afraid of.  A black hole that we distract ourselves from or fill up with anxieties and addictions.  A black hole that contains a part of us … stuck in time.

My friend asked me if I had ever heard of Alan Watts and suggested I check him out on YouTube.  I have just done so and I’m very impressed with what I found:

Ju-Jitsu with your inner child

I have recently started taking a few Brazilian Ju-Jitsu classes.  It’s all very new and, to be honest, a bit intimidating.  So far I’ve been one of the most unfit and least knowledgeable students in the class.  The techniques are a knot of arms and legs and I’m having trouble seeing how it all fits together.  To cap it all in my first few classes I’ve even looked the odd one out: I was one of the only ones not in a ‘Gi’.

Why is this experience so stressful for me?  Is it the environment?  No, so far the people at the club have been friendly and helpful.  It is me.  Or rather the experiences that I bring with me.  At some level I’m afraid of conflict.  I’m afraid of standing up for myself.  I’m afraid of my own power.  The answer is not to run away from the fear and the power but to engage with it.  To find a safe way to channel it and to realise that, when I do, the world does not come to an end.

In my work I relate the engaging with this inner power with the level of engagement we have with our parents …. especially our father.  Ideally, when we were young, we were able to safely express our anger and independence and have it contained by our parents.  They were not overwhelmed by us.  They were not controlled by us.  They could handle us.  We felt safe.

When these ideal conditions are not met then we become afraid of the consequences of our anger.  Perhaps they use physical violence to stop us upsetting them or blame us for the upset they were feeling to make us feel guilty for hurting them.  To avoid these consequences we bottle up our anger and withdraw from our parents to a safe distance.  Our relationship becomes, at best, polite; at worst, non-existant.  But as we withdraw from our parents we also withdraw from the part of us who is devoted to them.  We split ourselves off from this ‘inner child’ and s/he’s pissed off with us for leaving them.  Just as we are pissed off with our parents for not being able to handle our anger.

Coming back into contact with your inner child means facing their anger.  Handling it.  Containing it.  Imagine an angry kid telling you to back off and leave him/her alone.  What do you do?  If you want contact you stay with them.  If they lash out at you when you approach then you get in close and hold them.  How long for?  As long as it takes for them to begin to trust that you are not going to just leave them again.  Until they begin submit to your love and allow themselves to let go of the burden of responsibility that they have been carrying.

This is what Brazilian Ju-Jitsu is like.  It is about getting in close and using technique to gain submission.  So I’m going to stick at it and do my best to keep ‘beginner mind’.  My new white Gi arrived today.  I’m going to go to the classes I can and study at home too.

While studying clips on YouTube I found the following video.  It brought tears to my eyes and so I’d like to share it with you now.

Much love,



Zero effort meditation … sounds too good to be true?

If someone told you that it was possible to reduce stress and pain, improve physical health, promote inner well-being and even psychic abilities with no personal effort and an almost insignificant financial investment what would you think?  Sounds too good to be true?

Meditation, ooh meditation; meditation, that’s what you need

The benefits I have sited above are all associated with the practice of meditation.  But wait!  I also said no personal effort.  Chances are that if you’ve tried meditation that just won’t fit with your experience!  Keeping the mind focussed on a single thing can be very challenging indeed!  So can practices like developing loving kindness for your worst enemy.  It all takes serious amounts of concentration.  Add to that a particular way of sitting – probably cross legged with no back support – and you’ve got a particularly difficult experience all round.  Consequently, many people expecting meditation to be a relaxing way to zone out for a bit give up the practice before they have experienced any of the benefits.

Before we get onto the ‘no effort’ bit let’s understand a bit more about what meditation does and why it it beneficial.

Brainwave states

When we meditate we learn to move ourselves into different states of consciousness and we become aware of different things.  These changes in state have associated brainwave states that can be monitored by measuring the tiny electrical impulses in the brain.

I found the following explanation on a site that sells meditation machines:

Beta waves (15-30 oscillations (or waves) per second (Hz)). This is the brain rhythm in the normal wakeful state associated with thinking, conscious problem solving and active attention directed towards the outer world. You are most likely in the “beta state” while you are reading this.

Alpha waves (9-14 Hz). When you are truly relaxed, your brain activity slows from the rapid patterns of beta into the more gentle waves of alpha. Fresh creative energy begins to flow, fears vanish and you experience a liberating sense of peace and well-being. The “alpha state” is where meditation starts and you begin to access the wealth of creativity that lies just below our conscious awareness. It is the gateway that leads into deeper states of consciousness.

Theta waves (4-8 Hz). Going deeper into relaxation and meditation, you enter the “theta state” where brain activity slows almost to the point of sleep. Theta brings forward heightened receptivity, flashes of dreamlike imagery, inspiration, and,sometimes, your long-forgotten memories. It can also give you a sensation of “floating”.

Theta is one of the more elusive and extraordinary realms we can explore. It is also known as the twilight state which we normally only experience fleetingly as we rise up out of the depths of delta upon waking, or drifting off to sleep. In theta, we are in a waking dream, and we are receptive to information beyond our normal conscious awareness. Some people believe that theta meditation awakens intuition and other extrasensory perception skills.

Delta waves (1-3 Hz). This slowest of brainwave activity is found during deep, dreamless sleep. It is also sometimes found in very experienced meditators.

So, meditation is the skill of choosing to go into different brainwave states.  But how does that lead to the permanent benefits that we cited earlier?

How to get a state benefit (without being a dole bludger)

When in these deeper states thoughts and feelings come into awareness that were, previously, buried.  As these thoughts and feelings come to mind they move through and out of the body … you, quite literally, work things out.  This working out process can be somewhat turbulent … it can result in periods of intense emotional experience.  It can feel like falling apart … or even dying.  To the extent that you resist the change, then it is difficult; to the extent that you surrender to it and have faith that it will work out for the best then it is easier.  This process is sometimes called catharsis.  This separation from what is bad inside is the natural process that I facilitate when I am working with clients.

When you work those things out that do not belong inside you get a greater sense of who you are, a greater ability to know what you want, and a greater ability to act in order to get it.

Choosing states … the easy way

If you want to go on a long journey would you prefer to drive or to take the train?  Driving can be fun and developing driving skills can be rewarding but all too often you find yourself spending hours stuck in traffic and long journeys can be exhausting.  So long as there is no industrial action, no wrong type of snow, no leaves on the line, and the line actually goes where you want to go – then the train is a great alternative.  Simply get on, sit back, and relax.

Brainwave entrainment technology is the train of the meditation world.  It utilises an external stimulus to resonate the brain into progressively deeper states of meditation.  All you need to do is to put on your headphones – get into the carriage – and listen to the sound of the track.  (Ahh, the pun of it!)

The track is in stereo with neutral sounds such as rain water or ambient gong sounds.  Ahh, nice and relaxing.  But listen closer and you will notice a seemingly constant tone in the background; this is the really important bit.  The tone is the carrier of the resonant brainwave frequency that we are seeking to create.  When the frequency changes – the rails change direction – and the brain follows.  (Can you see what I did there?)

How do the tones carry the brainwave frequency?

The tones going into each ear are at a slightly different frequency.  When you have 2 waves at slightly differing frequencies sometimes they are in phase and add to each other; at other times they are out of phase and cancel each other out … the result is a beat at a frequency equal to the difference of the 2 input frequencies.  I found the following diagram on the web that shows it well (thank you Mr Epstein’s Grade 11 Physics Class):

The really cool thing is that when each ear is getting a different frequency it is the brain that is doing the reconciliation … the brain is creating the resultant beat that it is then falling into sync with.  This phenomenon is often called ‘brainwave entrainment’ and the interaction of the tones are called ‘binaural beats’.


Not everyone is convinced that binaural beats lead to meditation benefits … for a well written overview and counterpoint I recommend this article.

The subject is also written about by open source binaural beat audio generator Gnaural:

‘Many consider the idea of binaural beats influencing brainwave activity “controversial”, but only the claims of what the influence means are controversial. That rhythmic stimuli can induce FFR (frequency following response) is well established across many species, comprising a subject known as “driving”, with binaural beats falling under the category “auditory driving”, but not having a monopoly on it. Even the isochronal beating of a drum can induce FFR. But binaural beats appear to have advantages over other auditory approaches by being more efficient, both as a true low-frequency sinusoidal stimulus and by engaging more neural circuits than conventional hearing. BBs are also less invasive than some of the non-auditory approaches such as photic or electromagnetic, which are effective but induce seizures in a percentage of the population. In my experience, binaural beats have been as harmless as anything else I listen to through headphones.

‘I also embrace the fact that binaural beats require a conscious effort to get their effect, since i am not interested in replacing meditation but in facilitating it, particularly when anxiety or stress have made it hard to start meditating in the conventional way.

‘As for “snake-oil” claims by profiteers as to what binaural beats can do (ranging from targetting specific drug states to curing disease), my experience is that low frequency brainwave entrainment works as a blanket effect to create a focused mental state similar to hypnosis, in which heightended suggestibility causes expecations to strongly influence experience. But rather than take a dim view of this, I see it for its positives: as a means of implementing suggestion and of facilitating the exploration of mental states. And in regard to the idea that suggestibility is mere gulibility, it should be noted that even the AMA now acknowledges that placebo, despite having no scientifically understood mechanism, gives a statistically reliable effect that can positively imact a percentage of people for whom their either is no conventional treatment available or it has failed.’

Where can I get hold of this binaural beat technology?

I first heard about this technology under the brand name Holosync.  The founder of the company promoting the product is Bill Harris and his CDs do a great job of explaining the technology, the catharsis, and generally motivating you to stick with it.  I think that the Holosync products are great value when you consider the benefits that they provide, however, the first level still costs a chunky $179 and, if you like it, there are 11 more levels to purchase after that.

If you are a bit technical and like the idea of experimenting with yourself then check out the open source projects Gnaural and SBaGen.  I haven’t used either of these myself yet.

The product that I have been using for a few years now is called The Meditation Solution.  So far as I can tell Meditation is at least as good as Holosync and costs a fraction of the price: $29 per level (as a download) or just $280 for the whole course of 12 levels.

I have no commercial links with the promoters of The Meditation Solution.  I think it is such a good product, and so complementary to the deep therapeutic work that I do that I recommend it as a practice to all of my clients.

Listen to free trial meditation track here

For an investment of less than £20 and an hour or so a day of lying back and relaxing why wouldn’t you give it a go?  Just like you – I believe that it is good … and that’s the truth.

The New Macho – by Boysen Hodgson, The Mankind Project

He cleans up after himself.

He cleans up the planet.

He is a role model for young men.

He is rigorously honest and fiercely optimistic.

He holds himself accountable.

He knows what he feels.

He knows how to cry and he lets it go.

He knows how to rage without hurting others.

He knows how to fear and how to keep moving.

He seeks self-mastery.

He’s let go of childish shame.

He feels guilty when he’s done something wrong.

He is kind to men, kind to women, kind to children.

He teaches others how to be kind.

He says he’s sorry.

He stopped blaming women or his parents or men for his pain years ago.

He stopped letting his defenses ruin his relationships.

He stopped letting his penis run his life.

He has enough self respect to tell the truth.

He creates intimacy and trust with his actions.

He has men that he trusts and that he turns to for support.

He knows how to roll with it.

He knows how to make it happen.

He is disciplined when he needs to be.

He is flexible when he needs to be.

He knows how to listen from the core of his being.

He’s not afraid to get dirty.

He’s ready to confront his own limitations.

He has high expectations for himself and for those he connects with.

He looks for ways to serve others.

He knows he is an individual.

He knows that we are all one.

He knows he is an animal and a part of nature.

He knows his spirit and his connection to something greater.

He knows that the future generations are watching his actions.

He builds communities where people are respected and valued.

He takes responsibility for himself and is also willing to be his brother’s keeper.

He knows his higher purpose.

He loves with fierceness.

He laughs with abandon, because he gets the joke.

via Welcome to the ManKind Project | Changing the world, one man at a time. | Men’s Issues | Men’s Support | Men’s Community.

Hearts and Minds (1974) – I can not recommend this film highly enough a rare 10/10

I love war films. I grew up on WW2 classics and Vietnam related films such as First Blood, Platoon, Apocalypse Now and Full Metal Jacket. I get a thrill from watching them … my girlfriend calls it war porn. I think she is right. There is a certain objectification going on that allows me to vicariously play out conflicts I carry with me by projecting that energy into the Grunts and Gooks on the screen. And always the question in my mind: how would I have acted in that situation?

This film is a documentary with no commentary … just archive film. The big theme for me was ‘duty’. Doing your duty is about doing what you believe to be right … even though there is a personal risk. Some of the men in this film are ex-servicemen from Vietnam. They talk of their very thought through and honourable reasons for fighting and taking this risk; the excitement and satisfaction of combat … and the consequences of their injuries (physical and mental). Some of the most honest accounts I’ve ever heard.

The documentary juxtaposes the war in Vietnam with a ‘big game’ American football match. The coach gives an inspirational speech about how the act of competing makes men. And how important it is to god (or, put another way, the future of the world) that men are made. Is this not the value of war? The ability for men to find their deepest selves by facing death? Of course the cost is immense.

I did not watch this as porn. This is real people doing their best – politicians, businessmen and soldiers. Some of their motives are pure, some shallow, many polluted by the cultural fears of the day. It really helped me to connect with their courage: to fight for what you believe and, equally, to face the consequences of deserting from the Army on conscientious grounds.

The arc of the documentary has a few interviews where people talk of how their perspectives have changed. Gung-Ho soldiers reflect on the impacts of their actions and repent for them deeply and honestly. Politicians admit that, on reflection, they were wrong. They do this with feeling and understanding rather than self-blame. To me this makes them very good men.

Sanford Meisner – The Yoda of the Acting World … as good a Cesar the dog whisperer!

There’s that famous, but likely apocryphal, story about Laurence Olivier and Dustin Hoffman when they were working together on Marathon Man. To prepare for a scene, Hoffman had gone for a few days without sleep and looked pretty rough. Olivier asked him why he was putting himself through such an ordeal and Hoffman replied that he was trying to be convincing in the role. Olivier replied, “Try acting dear boy”.

Olivier seems to be in the ‘outside-in’ school compared to Hoffman’s ‘inside-out’. Hoffman is one of the most famous actors to study ‘The Method’ at the Actors’ Studio. As I understand it The Method makes much use of emotional recall in order to fuel the authenticity of an actors’ work. The one course I did in The Method was somewhat disastrous … the man teaching it was one of the least emotionally developed people I’ve ever met. He seemed to use his role of teacher as an excuse to abuse his students while using the bind: I am the teacher and if you resist this it’s because you are afraid of your emotions and you will never be a successful actor. In this case, and in my opinion it was this man who was covering up his own lack of acting success with his teacher role. I’m not saying all Method teachers are like this. I am saying that this one was a bit of a cock.

Compare this with Sanford Meisner. I’ve never met this teacher and he is now dead but there is a fantastic video of him available on YouTube. He teaches students to find ‘the truthfulness of you in an imaginary circumstance’ that is to say that he defines acting as the ability to find truth NOT the ability to pretend.

There are lessons in this for all of us who are interested in finding our own truth … to stop playing roles and to be authentic. From what I can see this guy is the real deal: well worth an hour of viewing. A Meisner course is high up on my ‘to-do’ list.