from BARDO

The stars are in our belly; the Milky Way our umbilicus.

Is it a consolation that the stuff of which we’re made

is star-stuff too?

– That wherever you go you can never fully disappear –

dispersal only: carbon, hydrogen, nitrogen, oxygen.

Tree, rain, coal, glow-worm, horse, gnat, rock.

Roselle Angwin

Tuesday, 5 February 2013

overwhelm, wakefulness & non-doing

I guess you will know the illustrative 'boiled frog syndrome'? Grim though it is, this is such a graphic representation of how we live our twenty-first-century lives in the Western world. The idea is that if you drop a frog into boiling water, it will immediately attempt to leap out. It probably won't survive, whether or not it escapes. If, however, you place it into a pan of cold water which you then slowly bring to the boil, the frog doesn't even notice that it's boiling to death until it's too late, if ever. (Not to be tried at home, children.)

We live like that. We think it's 'normal' to experience the levels of stress, busyness, tension, exhaustion, adrenalin and full-on-ness that most of us inhabit most of the time in this accelerating world, further rushed into over-stimulation all the time through the range of e-communications to which many of us, myself included, are addicted, and with which we increasingly feel we need to keep up, almost as if to prove we are alive and connected. We cope because we have to; and, maybe, by dissociating ourselves from our deeper needs. I've lived like that.

Then one day we hit burnout – something in us gives out. It may start with something minor: perhaps it's one of our children kicking off at school; perhaps it's our partner asking that we spend more time together and less time in front of our individual or joint cyber-lives and the relevant screens; perhaps we're jolted by a moment of road rage, our own or another's.

Perhaps we take days instead of hours to recover from a tricky phone call, weeks instead of days to recover from a cold, or a work-related stressful incident. That depletes us, a little, more than we expect, perhaps, but of course we knuckle under and carry on.

The stress isn't dealt with, just left behind. We get used to living on adrenalin.

It may become a bigger issue the more we ignore it until, maybe, it becomes serious – our marriage falling apart, an accident, a serious health concern.

That latter is how it was for me after ten years, more perhaps, of ignoring the serious signs of burnout.

And so, with any luck, we wake up. That's the hidden blessing in something more serious, more tragic, or simply more inconveniencing. We start to cherish the day, the little things in our lives (a slow walk, a snowdrop, the first spring thrush-song), the time we have with loved ones – if we take notice.

We simply can't live at optimal wellbeing without addressing this being dragged by busyness into overwhelm, nor without stepping back from our continual bombardment with information, and with, too, environmental 'toxins', whether they're the level of global bad news that seeps daily into our lives, our own negative beliefs and habits of thought, or the pollutants we eat and drink and breathe.

Then there are the assaults from human-made and natural radiation, greatly increased by radio and mobile phone masts, mobile phones themselves, and computer rays on our nervous systems and the subtle body of our individual etheric field, the electromagnetic shield that protects and modulates our wellbeing on both subtle and dense planes.

No wonder we feel so overwhelmed. And we keep going because we have to and we have to and we have to; we learn how to over-ride our instincts to stop and rest; we become used to inhabiting overdrive. Then we hit our own personal wall, as some of you know happened to me last year, and I haven't quite climbed up off the floor just yet. The circuitry's in for repair, the system has crashed, the motherboard's wrecked. (I use those images quite deliberately.)

Do I ever allow myself to not have an agenda? Do you?

There is no alternative to time out. Here is the wonderful Jon Kabat-Zinn, in an excerpt from Coming To Our Senses:

'To maintain our sanity in such an era, we may have to become intimate with stillness, every one of us. Stillness and quietude may no longer be luxuries, if ever they seemed to be, nor experiences only suited to monks and nuns who have renounced the worldly life, or to adventurers in wilderness, or vacationers in national parks. I am not talking about leisure time. I am talking about non-doing. About spending deep time resting in pure wakefulness, outside of time, with the mind spacious and open. If it is healing for us when faced with life-threatening and chronic diseases, how can it not be healing for us in the face of the dis-ease of feeling totally and chronically overwhelmed and bereft, that our lives are somehow unfolding faster than the human nervous system and psyche are able to manage well.'


  1. Absolutely with you and John K-Z on this Roselle.

    I find one approach to making the non-doing happen - if that's not a contradiction in terms! - is to ruthlessly carve out regular slots each day or week. Whether that is for meditation, or being in nature, or just sitting doing nothing, I make it the absolute priority with no exceptions barring an unexpected catastrophe or emergency (and I'm not talking about a work deadline here!).

    I feel that this approach is the only way I can maintain some sort of balance between the demands of work, cyberspace etc. and the need to maintain some sort of holistic equilibrium. Sometimes, despite these efforts, the equilibrium is lost and I find that it is crucial to notice when this is beginning to happen and to take 'radical' steps to regain the equilibrium, e.g. by going to bed at 9pm, or by cancelling non-essential appointments, or just stopping all work and going out for a walk (not as a leisure event, but as a way of reconnecting with nature and my true nature).

    I know that one danger to beware of is the cyber addiction you speak of. I sometimes find that I have been sucked into that at the expense of, for example, reading books, listening to music and having telephone conversations with friends. And it makes me feel depleted as a result. And there is the issue of excessive exposure to electro-magnetic radiation that you mention. A dear friend and highly respected teacher, whose capacity to see into the nature of energy and matter is beyond imagination, has recently been warning of the health effects of mobiles, wi-fi etc., to the extent that he recommends a return to ethernet cables and certainly switching off routers at night. I have been doing the latter and it seems to have a beneficial effect upon sleeping patterns.

    Okay, this is getting rather rambly so I'll stop and see if that provokes any discussion.

    Thanks again.

  2. How is it that you always write just what I'm thinking?!

  3. Peter, thank you so much for this long and thoughtful response.

    Am completely with you. I'm good at making notional time for myself, and am terrible at actually taking that space! Sometimes it's laziness, sometimes it's that darting butterfly thing of another flower looking attractive at the time, sometimes it's my over-responsibility kicking in and making meeting another's needs always more important than my own. One thing I manage every day without fail, though, as you say, is being outdoors in the country - a dog is good for that!

    As for e-m radiation, I completely agree with your friend. I don't use wifi either on my computer or on my smartphone, and switch off everything electronic when I'm not using it, or at night.

    I also rarely use my mobile for phone calls, only texts - I get an instant headache. I worked for Kindred Spirit mag in the early 90s, and we ran a series of articles by scientists on the dangers of mobiles – am particularly concerned about people (mostly men) carrying them switched on in their jeans' pockets - the genital area is very sensitive, and researchers were picking up possible clusters of damaged cells in the groin area back then.

    For myself, I like to sleep in a bedroom as free from extra e-m radiation as possible, and my partner's digital clock-radio is the cause of a small amount of tension here! But as an eco-builder, he says that if I knew how domestic wiring circuits ringed everything in a modern home I'd see that it was a lost cause (and he should know: he built this house, and of course knows about its wiring).

    Oh for that candlelit hut with a small woodburner in that forest glade, by a stream...! ;-)

    As others have said, if we could 'see' radiation - if it were coloured - we'd be much less cavalier about adding to it...

    And Peter one of these days I'll sign up to Dartmoor Wayfarer and contribute. x

    Belinda: thank you! Must be my x-ray vision :-) x


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