Saturday, 7 June 2014

Healing Raj


Finding Raj was far easier than finding Marilyn. All over the collective perception, inside the physical, mental, subtle and formless realms, there were helpful signs to his whereabouts because common knowledge about him was no different to what he believed about himself. This was unlike Marilyn, whose real state of mind, and thus true being and character, remained hidden. All the signposts pointing to Marilyn led to nothing, and we should take note that there were millions more signposts for her than for Raj. In contrast, all the signposts pointing to Raj led to familiar illusions of his life in which he continued to play his role to the best of his ability, insisting he was joyful, fulfilled and enlightened, bigger than God.
Healing Raj was another story though, and would be far more difficult than healing Marilyn. As our work progressed, we saw that those with thinking weighted down with ‘worse than’ self-concepts were quicker to accept a new, loving story to live by, and so heal their lives. In many respects, the only way was up for those suffering severe inferiority complexes, and so whenever we arrived to help them understand what had happened in their most recent life as well as assist in unravelling the knots of lies that had caused them so much pain, they were more than happy to go along with us. They had nothing to lose.
In contrast, those with thinking weighted down with ‘better than’ self-concepts, like Raj, had to be first persuaded that there was something very wrong with their most recent life, because they refused to see it. This preliminary step of facing up to the obvious suffering they had endured and caused over a lifetime – that which we were able to skip with Marilyn and those like her – usually took some time.
We found him in the middle of an enormous orange marquee, sitting cross-legged on a raised dais surrounded by a throng of beautiful, young, blond girls who were tending to his every need. One was caressing his long, black, wavy hair. Another was giving his left foot a deep and sensuous massage. Others were throwing handfuls of rose petals over him, smiling to themselves, eyes closed. To the side, a band played frenetic dance music to which many thousands of devotees, all young, blond and dressed in orange robes, whirled about, their eyes popping out of their heads, their mouths twisting into grotesque grinning.
We approached, skirting around the imaginary dancers and stepping through the illusory mini-harem, to sit down in front of him, the scene continuing around us. Noah began.
“You know you are dead Raj? This life is over and has been for some time.”
The music stopped. The dancers swirled their last, fading into a grey mist. The beautiful young girls disintegrated back into the pure mind-space canvas, the marquee disappeared, and Raj shed the strong, vital, thirty-year-old body, replacing it with the grey, balding, and emaciated sixty-year-old body he had been wearing when he left his last unhealthy, drug-addicted, megalomaniac’s life. The three of us sat cross-legged, facing each other in the pure silence of unhooked mind space. Raj looked irritated.
“But this is Samadhi. You people know nothing! Foolish faithless! You have no idea who you are talking to, do you?” He started to draw up from deep inside his lungs the mucus that had been gathering there before turning his head and hawking it into the mind space emptiness.
“And, whatever you think, I’m having fun. Why should it be over? You people are so serious.”
“But Raj, are you really having so much fun? You have been here for centuries now. What are you doing exactly? Are you fulfilling your tasks?”
“But I am loved. They love me. Even now, downstairs, they love me.”
“Well, Raj. Does anyone even remember you downstairs anymore? It was such a long time ago and there were too many repeat performances. We started to learn from our mistakes, and the examples you provided for our learning were stark. It was so tiresome; vicious defence reactions at every attempt to solve severe and undeniable problems, and the continuous sexual abuse got beyond a joke. Your image downstairs was a lie anyway. You know that. That is why you refuse to move on. You are scared Raj. You are scared that you will have to accept many difficult things about yourself and that we will tear down your marvellous, bigger-than-god image.”
“Liars!” He stood up and stomped away. We would have to leave him be. That would be enough for now. He would sulk for a while, and get high. Communication would be impossible until he had processed our meeting. Maybe this time he would change his mind a little.
The next time the Boss put the Raj healing into our in-tray we found him in one of his fleet of golden Rolls Royce’s.
“Raj, hi,” we said, sliding down from above to sit either side of him.
“You two again,” he sighed.
It was my turn to address him. “Yes. Hey, Raj, you know that these cars are a joke downstairs. If you drove any of the hundred that you bought with your devotees’ money they would laugh at you, ridicule you and throw you into prison for a few months.”
“Why should I care? Look!” He pointed through the open window at a crowd of dirty-blond, white-skinned, sleek and suntanned youngsters who had lined up along the road, and were bowing and cheering as he inched by waving.
“They love me, see. See!?”
“Raj, it is an illusion. This is your mind’s projection. Why do you waste so much time on this?”
As before, the crowds disappeared into thin air, the antiquated vehicle dispersed into nothingness, Raj’s appearance changed for the worse, and we were sitting, the three of us, cross-legged facing each other, still and quiet in the untouched mind space once again. Noah spoke.
“Why are you blind to the trickery of the mind, you who were supposed to understand it so well? Why are you blind to the liar that controls the thinking of mind-space leaders like yourself with the fiercest grip of all? The liar in the mind goes into overdrive in anyone claiming to replace God, especially those with the power to make loving changes in our sick world. That is why gurus suffer spectacular failures. Can we show you a few things?”
Raj sighed. He was approaching the sulk that he had used to avoid anything important in the past, but it had yet to overwhelm him. We may have a good opportunity. I went on.
“There is nothing unique about you Raj. You are the same as everyone else, everyone great and everyone common. You are the same as Noah and I. However, you believe you are a god, alone and special, to be worshipped like a deity. You believe this because the liar in your mind tells you it is so; but it is an illusion. How could it be true Raj, it is against your own teachings?” His eyes widened as I spoke.
“And your devotees, they believed the same falsehood. When the liar persuades us that specialness is real – that there is someone better than or worse than us – we may spend our entire lives inside its maximum security wing. This basic lie, taking unlimited forms in our thinking, influenced everyone, but the error had minimal effect in the world until large groups of people believed a particular form it took. Why do you think it all became so troublesome?”
“They loved me, they still love me,” he peeped in his high-pitched whine, inspecting his sandals at the same time. Noah, rising, motioned at him to stand up.
“How about we take a little tour of suffering gurus Raj? A small sample of people who have felt, like you, powerful and yet vulnerable at the same time. Human beings – like us all – who failed to recognise the fear arising from this ambivalence, and failed to find the perceptual tools required to undo it, and so instead threw this fear onto others in an attempt to escape it. This is your story too.”
“I have no idea what you are talking about. You obviously lack the mental capacity to understand the divine.”
Noah and I flanked Raj, each taking an arm. In an instant, we were flying through the pure mind space. We swooped up, climbing, and then turned and dipped, gliding forward, certain of our direction and our next stop. We came in low, hovering over the first scene.
A large crowd of people had gathered in an open-air structure. The expectant morning air was warm and sticky. Children were running around chattering and playing while a group of serious-looking men were walking around and among the people, stopping at each one to do something. As we looked closer, we saw that they were adding droplets of liquid from small glass bottles into the openings of soft drink cans that all the adults were holding in their hands. Each person took a swig from the can, while parents gave their children a few sips before taking some themselves. The men dropped the liquid straight into the mouths of babies with the help of their parents.
In seconds, people were falling to the ground, dead. The older children fell where they were standing, having taken the drink from their parents. Babies stopped breathing in the arms of their mothers. Children still alive started to scream and cry as dead bodies crashed to the floor in their hundreds. A handful of people ran away when they saw what was happening and came to their senses. The rest, around one thousand people, were dead in minutes.
“This is the power you had Raj. This! This is what the love of a guru may justify.”
“I am nothing like that crazy American,” he was shrieking.
“It was close though Raj. You were lucky no-one died. And there were the suicides.”
“You two make it up as you go along,” he said, flicking his hair with a sharp movement of his head.
We flew up again, taking his arms and standing in close to him. He could storm off again at any moment. We came down from the mind space into a small city apartment where a large, moustachioed, turbaned, dark-skinned man, naked apart from a pair of miniscule, red underpants, was sitting cross-legged on a clean and neatly made king-size bed. He was talking to three white-skinned, dirty-blond, suntanned young men who were sitting on chairs placed around the bed.
“We need new girls for the parties anyway. Lila was all used up already, no?” the guru giggled. “Are the two sisters who have been visiting ready for me yet?”
“Soon guruji. The older one knows that sleeping with you will help her karma. She is ready. The younger one, well, she’s young guruji, fourteen.”
“Bring her anyway. She delights me. My sex will shock her into Samadhi, no?” He laughed, victorious.
In quick response, the Californian hippie-chuckle reverberated around the room. “Yes, guruji. Yes.”
“But make sure we have the correct days for the parties. Ask the women to watch the girls please.” His voice hinted at impatience.
“Pregnancies hurt the image. Have you arranged the surgery for Lila yet?”
The scene disintegrated and we stopped still in the mind space and looked at Raj.
“Maybe that happened,” he whimpered. “Maybe there were some pregnancies that would have caused, some, well, difficulties. A few times, only a few times, but they all loved me, I assure you, they loved me.”
Three pairs of feet lifted a tiny way off the ground, hovered for a second, and then we were off again. This time we orbited the globe until we were over the ocean, close to Australia. Shooting northwards, we swooped down on a small tropical island. We circled a small village close to a beach scattered with tiny huts. At one end of the beach was a larger building. A crowd was heading inside. We followed them in.
The place was packed. The guru was parading up and down a line of devotees. They were new arrivals, fresh in that morning. They were all female, beautiful and in their twenties. The white-skinned, fat, bald, sixty-year-old guru wearing nothing but an orange loincloth examined their faces and bodies, touching, petting and cupping his hand on a breast if he felt inspired to do so.
“This one,” he had chosen. “Drink some more,” he ordered.
All the devotees reached for the whiskey in front of them, gulping it down. Helpers dragged the chosen devotee to her feet. She was quite drunk already. They led her up the stairs and towards the bed that had been set up in the middle of the raised stage where everyone could see it.
“No-one said anything about this. Please, no. I want to go home now,” she whispered to the helper who had her arm. “And I feel sick.” She burped.
“You have no choice,” he whispered. “And you are lucky to have been chosen,” he squeezed her arm hard enough to hurt. “If you decide against it, you will be in danger.”
The inevitable happened but there was nothing interesting in hanging around to watch lower evolutionary beings copulate in the deepest fearfulness; sex with the added epic tale of avenging warrior claiming divine entitlement of a body to justify his better-than-ness. We’d had enough of that when we were lower evolutionary beings ourselves.
Now that we could see the lies in everything, human sexual activity predating the undoing efforts made us wince. It was even more gruesome when the lost humans believed there was something divine about it. Whenever we witnessed the sex confusion generated by the liar in the mind, we were nauseated. Our instructions were clear, never dwell on lies. It was good advice.
We let Raj watch, but we focussed his perception onto the heart of the devotee and the fear and confusion she was feeling, steering his awareness away from the gluttony and glee of the proven powerful guru. He would already be familiar with those feelings, and liable to defend them with bizarre references to the divine; references which only made sense to those desperate to rationalise criminal acts of madness. The scene drifted into grey meaninglessness.
“Well, Raj. Recognise anything there?” I asked.
“So he’s a bit like me.”
“He was a sick man Raj. Many of his devotees committed suicide.” Raj’s face twitched. “It will be a long time before anyone can help him. The delusion he suffers is so strong, he is blind to us, just as you were when you first arrived upstairs. Raj, do you recognise your world in these scenes? These gurus preached the same words of love as you, and they all promised that peace and happiness could be found through sex.”
“Everyone says those things in India. It is no big deal. Stupid Americans with their heads up their asses. It blew their minds. It really did. What was I supposed to do? They were quite mad. How could I stay sane surrounded by those fools?”
We were getting somewhere. There was no movement through space. Instead, the grey surround morphed into images and form once more and we found ourselves sitting around a spacious dinner table in an outdoor restaurant. There were around ten people dining. Raj, Noah and I took spots between the diners. We seemed to be in a tropical zone as it was early evening, but dark already, and humid. Crickets were singing and a tall, thin woman with dirty-blond, unkempt hair was speaking.
“And the boss of Europe was coming to our little ashram in Denmark and they told all the pretty girls that we had to have sex with him; and maybe we had to have sex with some of his assistants too. The thought of it made me sick, but they told me I was being difficult. They told me I could forget enlightenment if I refused to have sex with the men. I knew that if I refused, the entire ashram would stop talking to me, that they would make my life impossible. I saw it happen to others. So I did it.”
“Wow, that’s horrible Marta,” said the woman beside her.
“Yes, it is. It is one thing I remember right now, but there was much, much more. I managed to escape the ashram about a year later. I was nineteen. I was lucky. I had a friend who let me stay with her for a while. She saved my life, literally. I tried to kill myself three times.”
“O my goodness!”
“Yeh,” she paused. “That was thirty years ago.”
Raj was examining the stubby, bloody, bitten shreds of his fingernails.
“I had an experience at the ashram in India, about ten years ago,” said a middle-aged man sitting opposite. “It was grisly. It really upset me.”
“What happened?”
“Well, I wanted help for, you know, emotional, relationship things. Anyway, I signed up for a workshop. It was expensive but one of the cool guys recommended it, you know, all the dudes were doing it. Well. There were around twenty of us. They told us to bring lubrication and condoms. Then the women arrived, but they were young some of them, like children, sixteen and so, maybe younger. The workshop was where we were gonna have sex with these young girls, but uninhibited, you know, we could do what we liked. The instructions were to be daring. They said this is how we would heal our psycho-emotional problems with parents, with authority. It would unblock us.
“Well, I felt sick. I could see the girls were unhappy and wished they were somewhere else. I know the look of a prostitute. I’ve been with enough of them…I’m sorry, it’s true. I knew it was all lies, made up to justify fucking children and paying through the nose for the pleasure. We were somehow going to be closer to divine through acts of paedophilia. They actually believed that crap. It was vile. I left. I left the ashram. I left India soon after. It was sickening. I think the guru had died by then, but all this was going on, maybe even now it is. I heard it was worse when he was alive.”
Raj had shut his eyes and his head drooped.
“We have one more visit to make Raj. Ready?” I asked him. He nodded.
We whooshed up again, swooping, swirling, whizzing high, plunging low, and then we were floating on the ceiling of a swish Manhattan apartment with an incredible view over the city through enormous windows. Two men were sitting on the modern, angular, spotless white sofa. They were both approaching their sixties, with hair the colour of a grey that had probably once been dirty-blond. They were looking at figures on a laptop in front of them on the minimalist glass coffee table.
“You see how rich we are man?” The first man roared with laughter. “We are so incredibly rich dude! Can you imagine if the old fool knew what we were doing? It was so easy to manipulate him those last years when he was bat crazy.”
“Dude, it’s hilarious! What makes me laugh is how they go for this bullshit more now than we ever did when he was around. It’s insane.”
“Totally dude.” The Californian hippie-chuckle made a couple more laps of the chapter before the men and the apartment disintegrated into the mind-space purity from which they had emerged, leaving the witnessing process.
“You played the liar’s game very well Raj. You understood the rules and followed them impeccably. You were so diligent and methodical, that you won the liar’s game. You were a true winner at the liar’s game. And, as it is with all such winners, the moment you won, you lost everything.”
We were sitting cross-legged once again, calm and silent in the colourless, brilliant, pure perceptual space. A large tear rolled down Raj’s cheek and splattered onto his thigh, drawing a dark circle in his orange gown.
“Your young girlfriend, Raj, did you know she was depressed enough to take her own life?”
We left him with his thoughts. We would return when he was ready for his undoing speech.
While Noah and I were in training, the Boss had taught us that when we refuse to acknowledge madness in anyone (whether by insisting madness is evil, a sin, or by insisting it is sanity, reasonable) we refuse to acknowledge the insanity in our own mind at the same time. We saw that humans refused to acknowledge the madness of gurus because we feared the sacrifice of something important, something essential to our happiness. We had confused the most insane behaviour with finding our way back to our Good God, while at each crazy application of our insanity Good God slipped further from reach. However, the liar told us we were doing well, that we had found God, and He was with us, and we believed the liar instead of the obvious facts.
We saw that under the mental dictatorship of the liar, what we thought would bring us happiness did the opposite, without exception. Everyone suffered this delusion, but its effects were starker within the madness of insidious cults. Love remained mysterious in those times. We had it confused with destructive activities. Sex without ethics, power over others, fear, paranoia, financial corruption, criminal activity, murder and suicide was justified, and defended by further violence.
War masked as peace seduced the fearful. They believed that destructive activities ensured the power, specialness, and uniqueness of religions, cults, and gurus. Cult membership made them better than everyone else, and bigger than God Himself. Any threat to a cult’s specialness could justify murder, and the guru was the most special of the special. It was logical, explainable, and utterly insane.
When we realised how the insanity functioned, how the liar in the mind had built a nightmare world and made it appear reasonable and sane, all the horrors had an explanation. Even the madness of devotees murdering their own children had a sad, heavy, explanation. What else could they do when the only thing that gave their lives any meaning was threatened? They must follow their leader in his specialness, and to death.
We saw that all human group mentalities reflected the madness of religious cults at varying levels of intensity. But, as we undid the lies wherever we found them, the unification of human perception revealed itself. Undoing specialness brought equality, connection and love, the things that the liar in the mind feared the most. In the early days of reconnecting, the liar’s loudest cheer was for a representative that, it told us, replaced God, knew everything and could help us. We surrendered everything to this faulty human being, the guru. When the guru idol turned out to be just another despot, and destructive activity became commonplace, we resisted admitting our mistake as we feared we would lose our only hope of freedom.
Noah and I saw that the undoing had taken hold long before anyone had any clear notion about what the undoing was. We saw that the energy of love had taken up residence in our minds long before we formally noticed. Guru madness reflected our first tentative steps towards a peaceful, fair and equal collective perception. Humans took to the arrival of Love with great enthusiasm, and the frenzied escapes from fixed ideas we witnessed in those early years were proof of it. It was the first time we had known real hope for the future; hope based upon something other than the liar’s promises. However, we channelled the energy of change in the wrong direction at first. This had been inevitable.
The Boss summoned us after the witnessing. We made the sign of the cross before Her. In the name of the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit, Amen.
“Would you please go to Raj,” she bid. “He needs something more.”
He was waiting.
“But what will happen? I’m scared, it’s true. I was bad to people. I know that. And I am sorry. But if I admit it and ask for forgiveness, what will happen? I will go to hell, no?”
“Raj, dear Raj,” Noah said with a kind laugh. “You have been in hell since the beginning. Nothing you have ever experienced on earth has been anything but.”
“Then, it will be worse, much worse.” We both laughed.
“You have a choice. You can take a continuum of difficult lives so that you may learn what you did to yourself. This may take time, much time, because you could slip back into delusion at any moment. The other option is fast-tracking. This is one or two uncomfortable lives where you get all the lessons you require over a shorter period. The Boss organises the lessons and you have to accept them when they come. There is one other option, but you have yet to qualify for that.”
“Let me think about it.” He walked off. He had created a garden from the mind space canvas where he had been wandering since the witnessing. There were no more sulks, and no more young blonds, or crazy orange-clad devotees, or hippie-chuckles, or rose petals; just a simple garden where he could walk, look at the flowers and think things over.
“A powerful guru that sees nothing of his past lives!” I said.
“You’re right. He has no memory of any of it.”
“And to think, he raised our child and was an excellent father.”
Noah and I looked at each other and began to laugh. The human world was so ridiculous.
“Thing is, he always had that yearning for megalomania,” Noah said. “I guess his wish came true and he forgot everything else.”
Whenever we refuse to accept the obvious, in any situation, our psychosis deepens, our confusion multiplies, and truth and peace remain out of reach. And so it was with Raj. And still he wanders, and thinks, in his delicate garden created from the mind space. He wanders and wonders, should he go for the long series of lives where he may well forget his task, or should he fast-track it and suffer in ways that would supply the understanding that would help him heal.

 

Monday, 21 April 2014

Lourdes - an outsider's inside view

Lourdes is a place I had never intended to visit, although I had misty notions about miracles, visions and the goddess residing there. I have learned that my intentions rarely combine with what actually happens – indeed, never – and it was to be that I was somewhat forced there sometime in the summer of 2006.

I was on my way home at the time, driving through Spain towards France, then on towards dear old England. I had intended to make a stop at San Sebastian and did not foresee any trouble in finding a room. But it was a weekend Depeche Mode played a gig in Bilbao and, due to this, there were no rooms available in any hotel in the region, as I was told repeatedly at each one I stopped at.

It was getting late and dark, and I was getting tired and fed up. I had just about reached the French border and I made a decision. I will check one more hotel then I will park up and hunker down for the night in the back of the car with my sleeping bag. The last hotel to check was a Mercure in Irun, the last Spanish town before France. I followed the signs to a deserted industrial estate. There must be room here, surely.

At reception, I got the familiar 80s legend story and an apology.

“But”, said the receptionist unexpectedly, “We do have availability at Lourdes.”

At which point, all those vague recollections of Lourdes popped straight into focussed awareness as if they had been waiting patiently for hours for permission to do so, years maybe! Yes, I would go to Lourdes which was totally off my route, and not a short way off either (I decided to believe the receptionist when she told me the journey would take an hour, even though I knew she was probably lying, and she was).

It was very late when I arrived, past eleven. I was sort of high and excited, not desperate to relax and get to bed. OK, I had been driving all day so I was rather wired. The receptionist at the Mercure in Lourdes said,

“Why not visit the grotto now. It is open 24 hours and it is only five minutes away.”

He explained how to get to the cave where a poor, illiterate, sixteen-year-old, Bernadette Soubirous, had seen Holy Mary over the course of eighteen visions in 1858 – not so long ago in the great scheme of things. Excited, I wandered past the busy bars and restaurants and through the gate of the sanctuaries, then down, past the enormous chapel which I made a mental to note to have a look at properly the next day. Then on past the taps where a handful of pilgrims were filling their bottles with the water from the spring that Bernadette had uncovered by digging with her bare hands on instruction from Mary during one of the visions. I reached the grotto. The soft hush of the river Gave and the soft light of thousands of burning candles marked my way in the dark night. Inexplicable tears came to my eyes, and still do any time I tell this story.

Since then, I have done my best to visit Lourdes every year and, each time, I’ve bathed in the holy spring water. Mary told Bernadette to tell the people to come to the waters of the spring she had sourced to drink and bathe and heal. After accepting the visionary lady as the true Virgin Mary, the Catholic Church got organised and eventually built the church that Mary had politely demanded, as well as the bath buildings where pilgrims in their millions come each year to be cleansed and healed by the holy water of Lourdes.

Each time I visited was better than the last. One time I received a whole book idea, all of a sudden, in my head, title and chapter outline, the whole thing. It felt like holy instructions so I went ahead and wrote it and published it. The thing had been in my head for years in any case, I believe I was just given a little nudge and some guidelines. And what else are you gonna do with holy instructions? That book was The Liar. Each time I came for a dunking in the holy water by the women at the baths, I felt like I’d been touched by the divine. It seemed impossible that the next dunking could get any better, but each time it did. I cannot explain how, less why.

The last three times I have been at Lourdes, the notion of volunteering at the baths arose. Now, I’m technically not Catholic, although the first time I arrived at Lourdes my rather pagan spiritual practice was full of Catholic references so I had no problem with it nor was I unfamiliar with it. Technically, I was christened into Church of England which, although breaking all ties with Rome all those centuries ago, did not alter the communion mass any or demote the Saints or do anything close to the Protestant full scale rewrite that was to come. Still, obviously a lot had been cut and I didn’t know the words to the prayers or the songs recited continuously. I always felt somewhat undercover, an interloper, and afraid to be found out. And here I was getting the sign to volunteer, from Upstairs of course, which after three years of deliberating became too loud to put off any longer, particularly when I found myself asked to read a passage on John the Baptist to hundreds of queuing pilgrims.

The call was so intense now that even the requirement of a letter from a priest didn’t put me off. Instead, along with my form, I enclosed a long letter explaining my situation honestly and a criminal record check from the UK police which I’d needed to do voluntary work in London. At least they’d be sure I wasn’t criminally insane.

I’m amazed at how much I doubt, still, after all the miracles I’ve been gifted. But still, I doubt, and I really thought they’d never let me join the gang but after only a few weeks I received a letter saying I had been accepted to work at the Saint John the Baptist service at the sanctuaries of Our Lady of Lourdes. Wow!

When I first went for a dip in 2006 I had been struck by the strange, perhaps antiquated, bathing ceremony. I’m sensitive to any negative connotations concerning the female body – of course, I have one – and the bathing experience I found to be patronising and, perhaps even insulting. Firstly, you are ushered into a bathing cubicle I know now to be called cabins. A lady kindly covers you with a blue gown which smells of bodies and tells you to take everything off. When you are ready you are told to keep your bra in your right hand and you are muscled into a particular crossed-arms position and told to wait. When it’s your turn you are brought into the bathing area. A woman takes your bra from you and tells you to make your intention in your heart to Our Lady and, when you are ready, to make the sign of the cross. You are then wrapped in an extremely cold sheet to keep you modest, the blue gown is whisked away, and you are walked down into the bath and through the water towards a statue of Our Lady. At the statue, you are helped to sit back in the water and then raised up again. Then you are then turned and led out of the bath whilst prayers are recited.

When you are free of the water, the biggest load of nonsense begins. You are helped into your bra. The woman at the front who has been looking after your bra puts your arms through it, and the women at your sides fasten it at the back. Now, if this isn’t patronizing, please tell me what is. I got my bra on quite happily in the morning but now I need help to do it. If I can’t be trusted to get my bra on OK, how they can trust me with my knickers, I don’t know. Well, this business always perplexed me, concerned me and made me feel like a group of unseen, powerful people were still ‘looking down on’ me as a woman because I couldn’t possibly handle all this spirituality myself if I needed three people to help me put my bra on. The bathing instructions were not divinely given to Bernadette – although you might think they had been at times. Moreover, they were probably decided around the same time women were still being sent into slavery by and for the Catholic Church for being too beautiful, amongst other sins!

Yes, this could be insulting. And, imagine you are off to commune directly with God. You have an opportunity to literally spend a moment with God Herself, and you have travelled maybe many miles and spent much money. Perhaps you are sick. Perhaps someone you care very deeply about is suffering. You wait for hours in the line. You have your short moments with God. It is blissful, divine, you feel connected and healed, floating with the angels, you certainly did the right thing coming here…yes…and then BAM you are reminded of your feminine frailty and weakness, worseness – which is always defined by your bodily differences – in the ensuing kafuffle whilst three, yes three, women struggle to get you back into your all-important bra. Yes, that’s insulting.

But anyway, I got over it, and never let the peculiarities of the dressing ritual stop me coming back for more, because whatever I was getting from my one minute with God was way above all of this darned stupidness and I could stomach it, for God’s sake. For God, I’ll do anything. And clearly, God wanted me to come here, again and again, and to eventually volunteer to bath pilgrims, which I did, which I am now doing!

I have just spent one beautiful week with the angels of the Hospitalité de Lourdes on induction and training to learn about the sanctuaries and the job of bathing pilgrims. People do a lot of different types of volunteer service here. There is a hospital with over 900 beds where the sick pilgrims are cared for by health professionals. There is another building, Marie St Frai, where sick pilgrims not needing around-the-clock care may stay and the volunteers there spend the days washing dishes, doing laundry and making up rooms. You might be picking people up from the station or helping the sick around the sanctuaries. The baths is actually a tiny part of what goes on at Lourdes but an important one.

So, I worked in the baths, morning and night, fastened bras, learned the word for bra in a number of languages, did what I was told and was very happy. Blissed out, in fact. I was asked on a number of occasions by women what the whole bra thing was about and explained that it was the most complicated part of the clothing so we help them with that. Yeh, OK. But, BUT, if I can make their experience a little less frightening, a little less intimidating, then a little white lie is not off the menu, cause these faces were frightened, intimidated and a bit annoyed, just like mine used to be.

Non-verbal communication is what I’m up to at the baths because I rarely speak any English there, but I know that words are pretty irrelevant when it comes to Great Spirit and it’s quite clear when someone actually has a problem that needs sorting or is just babbling away like people do. I smile alot and say

“No problem. It’s OK. Don’t worry.”

I feel these words, and the tone they are said in, are universal.

Anyway, let’s see. So yesterday was JC’s debrief day (for all those non-Christian’s, the Saturday before Easter Sunday is a sort of no-man’s-land for the risen Son of God where we’re not sure what he was up to, but I suspect it was great fun). Often, this day is considered the saddest in the Christian calendar as it is when everyone was very tearful and hopeless. Well, it seemed to be the saddest day in the town too.

When I got to work yesterday afternoon, there was a crowd of people waiting to be bathed that went out of the baths and alongside the river until it reached the Grotto. I have never seen anything like it and I was delighted to be part of the fun. There must have been three thousand people lining up, probably more, and we weren’t due to open for half-an-hour. I noticed that the vast majority of these pilgrims were Indian. We got to work and I had a pretty bad day at the office, man (I had to say man there, the day required it). But I’ll tell you about that in a minute.

I had expected to be working for 5/6 hours straight (unlike the usual 2.5) but at around 4 o’clock I noticed the pilgrims coming in were getting sparser and there only seemed to be families with children. I went to the toilet and took a peek out the curtain.

The benches were empty. O my goodness, there’s no-one waiting. Did we do thousands of pilgrims in just a few short hours? Could it be possible? Has a miracle occurred, of the loaves and fishes variety perhaps, i.e. abundance of time in this case? I found out that no, there had been no miracle. Instead, there had been a riot. What? Yes, a riot!! A riot in the queue and a rush at the barriers. A big fight! Well, goodness me no! Not at the baths. It couldn’t be. But then I remembered my Indian pilgrimage experiences and what I know of them and, on balance, a riot seemed less unlikely.

Indians on pilgrimages can get terrifically overexcited. This is a fact and I’ve seen it for myself. There are now organisations in India who attempt to reunite parents with the children they lost in pilgrimages due to the chaos and crushes. These small children are usually too young to remember the name of where they live and end up on the streets. Amazing, but true, because that is what Indians are like when it comes to God. They’re Serious about Him; so serious they become hysterical at times.

Well, I imagine there’ll have been a great deal of negative tut-tutting about those Indians who were just exercising a cultural disposition. I can hear an emphasis in the talk on how we are much better than them, would never behave in such a way, us calm Europeans. And perhaps that’s true, but, but…this talk is hypocrisy coming from self-declared better-thans which no-one could be.

And now I’ll tell you about my bad day. During the induction week at the baths I only met angels working there. Pyrenean mountain women; a rough sort of solid, large lady, living in the area and working at the baths on a regular basis, maybe one shift at the weekend, or only in the winter time. I fell instantaneously in love with them all. They were amazing. There was one woman who looked exactly like an American Indian with the mannerisms you might expect of one. I’m not kidding. Whenever I was not working with her, I could hear her deep, heartfelt chuckling coming from another cabin and I could do nothing but smile. I figured this lady had been an American Indian in a very recent past life, died at war perhaps, fighting for freedom. I imagined at the moment of her/his death, he/she prayed to Great Spirit to take her to wherever she/he could serve Him best. And she ended up at Lourdes. I spend a lot of time dreaming up these sorts of tales about people. He/she’ll have to go in a book somewhere.

My induction group was just as divine, although I saw clearly the tendency for the unexamined female mind to feel comforted when bitching. I understand this and used to do it myself, a lot. It goes along with the low self-esteem territory women live in, not to say men don’t do stuff to make themselves feel less scared too, it just takes a different form. Anyway, after a few short days of getting to know each other, being polite, loving and friendly, I was not all that surprised to hear some of my female classmates start to laugh and jeer and tell mean stories about the pilgrims they had bathed. Not cool guys, not cool at all.

Anyway. That was then. This is yesterday.

There had been a lot of gossip about difficult women working at the baths. I’d heard it during induction week but it had not been my experience: until yesterday. I arrived at work and we said hello, prayers and got ready for the heaving masses outside. There were two completely new, very young American girls on the team who had never done this before (it’s not rocket science btw). We got going and I was asked to explain the left-side bathing technique to one of the girls. I was quietly explaining what to do whilst we bathed the first pilgrim, as was my counterpart on the right.

As I was explaining the intricacies of relieving the pilgrim of the cold, wet sheet whilst being sure to maintain her dignity, the woman on the right started to rage at me.

“If you don’t do it this way…rant…rage…she will fall over…rant rage…”

“Excuse me, I’m explaining what we’re doing. No-one has fallen over. I know what I’m doing.”

“So DO IT!”

WOW. A place of peace, Spirit and miracles had all of a sudden become a trading pit. Holy Spirit, what to do? OK, so I understand that panic can be a reaction to the trillions of pilgrims we have to bathe this afternoon and we have three newbies, two who have never done it before, so this lady is just frightened and crazy and doesn’t know what she does.

OK. So I carry on with my explanations but, in the meantime, I’ve become the pariah. Everything I do now, which is no different from anything I have been doing for a week already without complaint, is wrong. I move my hand, the crazy lady huffs and puffs. I move my eye, the crazy lady huffs and puffs. And she’s saying,

“But this is the way we do it.”

“I’m sorry, I wasn’t taught this way. Please forgive me. PLEASE FORGIVE ME.”

She didn't. (I checked the manual when I got home and her nit-picking was not laid out in there either.) Well, it was painful indeed. The first tranche of pilgrims in our cabin had to contend with this air of rage and frustration. The two new Americans were absolutely terrified and spent the rest of the session red-face and tearful. I was reeling, off balance from the attacks. What to do. Holy Spirit, what to do?

Unfortunately, the boss of the cabin that day was another panic merchant. She had a face you might grind angle with; one of those that laughs and smiles so rarely that whenever it does we're not sure if we're seeing grimace or mirth. She was terrifying everyone as well. Never mind, I’ll do what I do best here in the cabins, even when I’ve no clue what’s going on. I’ll the make nervous pilgrims feel safe. So I smiled and said there was no problem and helped the women undress and dress again and sent love to all my colleagues from my heart and for some reason the very crazy lady disappeared and we managed to calm down a bit and all was not lost. WOW.

So, how to understand this with love?

Crazy-lady is a member of a very special group of people. She feels superior to any newbies to the group, which in terms of knowledge and know-how of course she is. BUT. There is a way to speak to people when someone is making a mistake, or when you think someone is making a mistake. You can become angry or you can say smilingly, joyfully, look, this is a mistake, as had the women from the week before. The angry version of these approaches is the road to murder and comes from prior irrational judgments and a locked-down mind, unable to see solutions to problems.

Christianity has a lot to answer for is a statement we all hear from time to time, and rightly so. The murder that has been committed under the banner of Christ is more than a little disappointing. But all of this came from the belief in better-than-ness, the belief in being right when compared to anyone who was not part of the special group. Or anyone, too, that may have spoken up against the special group from within it. As if right might justify murder. As if anything might justify murder.

Wasn’t this why we murdered Christ?

Anything that is not love is murder, as JC says in A Course In Miracles; from the distorted sigh and roll of the eyes as the fool gets it wrong again, to actual body destruction. But anything that is not love is murder. So any angry, frustrated thought that makes our blood boil and want to punch someone is murder too. And these thoughts can be very subtle and hidden behind a veneer of acceptability at times. Self-destructive thinking is murder; all of it. And how much of our thinking isn’t self-destructive? (We’ll talk about romantic love being murder too at some point, but we’re way off topic here.)

So, to explain violence in religion, just look closely at the behaviour of people who believe they are more powerful than others. There is a total lack of peace because the effort required in supporting an impossible better-than-ness against equals is excessive. There is anger and frustration, which spreads like a virus, particularly when some – apparently – external event causes fear and panic. Take this to extremes and we have someone who, due to this correctable state of mind and in the right circumstances, would be able to justify murder in its truest sense. Hence, violence in religion, and none of us is immune to or above it.

So, statistically speaking (as if these ever had any effect on miracles) I won’t work with another lunatic for a few shifts yet, but I’m grateful that she reiterated something for me. Undoing the liar is an on-going daily affair and, because we are all in the asylum at all times, currently, we may bump into its excesses in the most unlikely of places. And for that lesson, I’m grateful. And if you wanted a full-on, intense, one-to-one, present moment, practical class on undoing the liar in the mind, a few shifts with one of these birds would suffice…but even that’s not the point. There’s more…much more…

I see that I have been just as angry, just as fearful, just as despotic, time and time again. The thing is, our disgraceful behaviour is quickly covered over by the liar in the mind protecting itself, so we forget it as quickly as we notice it in someone else. But the sad truth is, we are just as bad as that which we prefer to see in others, always. There is no separation or differences, outside of relative effects due to particular circumstances. My giant meditation at Lourdes is teaching me that I am exactly the same as everyone else, warts an' all. The memories of past unpleasantness can be quite difficult to accept, at first. But it is important that we do, and remember that those we have hurt will forgive us, eventually. That's been promised.

The truth underneath all these lies is that, no matter how insane we are, or how many warts we have, we are loved equally. And this Love that loves us, is more powerful than any problem we have; in every situation and in any sense. Wherever we are, in whatever turmoil and pain and suffering, and however insane we have become, Love overrides it all, quietly and softly, and we cannot keep ourselves from It. This is more than comforting. And I shall carry on feeling blessed as I go to bath pilgrims, wondering if this day I will find myself in an environment of peace and love (with a sense of this is how we should always be with each other) or fear and loathing (and learn the important lessons of what we have left to do before we truly get there).


 
 
#Lourdes #miracles #forgivingTheUnforgivable #holyWater #healingTheSick #France #pilgrim #pilgrimage #Mary #JesusChrist #Easter #lifeWithoutTheLiar #ACourseInMiracles #love #peace #unity #LovePeaceUnity

Monday, 31 March 2014

Forgiving The Unforgivable - OUT NOW in paperback

http://www.amazon.com/gp/product/1497308216
 
  
It is one thing struggling to forgive our nearest and dearest those foolish squabbles that leave us bitter and upset. But what about the big stuff; that which we cannot comprehend?
While we fail to understand why humans behave so atrociously, we must cherish the belief in 'evil' and harbour condemnation in our hearts for our fellows. And while there is any justification for condemnation, we will not know peace.
What if we were sure that every regrettable act any human being has ever committed was utterly unavoidable? What if we knew we would all do exactly the same given the same set of circumstances? What if we could finally see that the cause of all our woes is a simple error in thinking that everyone shares in equal measure?
The liar in the human mind is our one and only problem. When it is clear that 'evil' cannot be real and that every 'unforgivable' act is caused by a mistaken belief in falsity, our eternal innocence will be impossible to deny.

If God were real, we ask, how could He let these terrible things happen to the innocent? Let's find out why God has nothing to do with any of it, regardless of whether He exists or not.
Together, we will discard everything obstructing our awareness of love. Together, we will forgive the unforgivable.
Are you ready for the next perfect step?


 
 
 
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Sunday, 2 March 2014

Forgiving The Unforgivable - OUT NOW on Amazon Kindle

http://www.amazon.com/Forgiving-Unforgivable-Removing-Obstacles-Love-ebook/dp/B00IQAFJPM
 

It is one thing struggling to forgive our nearest and dearest those foolish squabbles that leave us bitter and upset. But what about the big stuff; that which we cannot comprehend?
While we fail to understand why humans behave so atrociously, we must cherish the belief in 'evil' and harbour condemnation in our hearts for our fellows. And while there is any justification for condemnation, we will not know peace.
What if we were sure that every regrettable act any human being has ever committed was utterly unavoidable? What if we knew we would all do exactly the same given the same set of circumstances? What if we could finally see that the cause of all our woes is a simple error in thinking that everyone shares in equal measure?
The liar in the human mind is our one and only problem. When it is clear that 'evil' cannot be real and that every 'unforgivable' act is caused by a mistaken belief in falsity, our eternal innocence will be impossible to deny.
If God were real, we ask, how could He let these terrible things happen to the innocent? Let's find out why God has nothing to do with any of it, regardless of whether He exists or not.
Together, we will discard everything obstructing our awareness of love. Together, we will forgive the unforgivable.
Are you ready for the next perfect step?
  
Forgiving The Unforgivable, out now on Amazon Kindle

The Liar in paperback on Amazon
 
 
#forgivingTheUnforgivable #lifeWithoutTheLiar #theLiar #niramisa #savingTheWorld #forgiveness #acim #undoingTheEgo #kindle #amazon #uk #usa #mexico #Australia #japan #Germany #Canada #india #france #brazil #spain #Italy #ebook #heaven #loveThyEnemy