Discontinuity

cropped-03c75847.jpgIt has been said that there is no such thing as an original idea. I wonder.

Douglas Adams pointed out that any question holds its answer in its DNA – in forming the question, the answer is predefined, by things we already know. The key to circumventing this is to not define a question – to go into deep thought with no question, no preconceptions in mind.

Tricky.

In any normal conscious state, we “know” a lot of things. If our eyes are open we see things around us through the filter of our visual interpretation, built up from instinct and experience. If our eyes are closed we hear sounds, experience sensations, know the position of our body, in similar, related ways.

Spinning out from there, we have beliefs about ourselves and our world that we simply know as “facts”. We each have a set of desires and counter-desires built up over a lifetime – let go in some cases, either through maturity or achievement, but most of us maintain a list of fairly static desires.

Even the words we think in, our language, is full of assumptions and structures we ascribe unthinkingly to our world.

How can we possibly think anything new with all this in place?

So I come back to that concept – to go into deep thought with no question, no preconceptions in mind. It’s an ideal to aim for, I think, rather than a reality to be attained. The traditional idea of meditation is close to it, the place where thoughts stop, where there is nothing.

For me I need to go a step further, and accept that in going into this process, everything I think I know is up for change. Who I think I am, how I think my world works – I need to let those go. My home, my relationships, my work, my calling, my cravings, my body – I need to be willing for any and all of these to alter or fall away entirely.

This is the condition of Discontinuity – the mechanism through which that new thing can come. It’s entirely new – not something designed to fit in with what was there before. If I have rules about what must stay and what can go there is no room for not knowing, for the unconditional acceptance which will be needed to welcome it in.

I have been walking a path – unconventional but approximately comprehensible – now I need to close my eyes before I take another step; I need to wait a beat, or two or three, and let something other guide me. I need to be totally, deliberately unprepared for what will happen next.

Jennifer Manson is the author of Truth, about finding, speaking and living our own personal truth, Easy – Stories from a effortlessly created life and six novels, also on the theme of living our truth. Available from Amazon and all major eBook sites.

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Posted in Discontinuity, Life

Delta Squared

butterfly_on_flowers_196978I know myself as an element of change – and further than that, of transformation, where the result is not comparable or measurable in terms of the starting point. The perspective is different. Even the eyes I see with have altered.

After my post in November, “Watching my life unravel”, life took a radical turn. I landed a full-time role in a creative company with the essential brief to be the element of change – to make people happier so they would get things done. Apart from that, I have a job title, but no-one has really given me a job description. I went in, looked around and did what was needed. The practical parts of my role I do more or less in my spare time.

When things change, things change

The thing is, when things change, things change. What needs doing today is not what needed doing yesterday. It’s disorienting, and requires a different vocabulary. There’s no need to describe what’s happening when it’s already changing – it’s way more useful to look at how the change feels, or how others are responding to it. Most of my time is spent keeping people calm, maintaining stability, steering a course towards a positive result, even if no-one quite knows what that result will be.

In each moment, the best action is clear.

And the individual response to the shifting environment is even clearer. Managing uncertainty is a challenge for everyone and people need different support, different handling. I’m learning as I go, and the first person I need to manage is myself. Step out and away from any emotional reaction of my own and look back with love at the actions of others. Have compassion. Don’t bite back. Trust people to be able to handle themselves, otherwise in trying to protect some I will become adversarial to others. Love them all, like children in a playpen, feel their frustration and help them express their emotions constructively. Stay calm, except when positive passion comes into play.

Feeling the motion

The next step is even more interesting. Once you learn to surf change, you begin to see how change itself is changing. You lean into the corners and feel the subtleties of new forces taking effect. You get further and further from the starting point until it is no longer in the frame. There’s no going back now, but you don’t want to anyway.

No hand holds. No safety net, and no need of one as the ground beneath you slips permanently away and you begin to fly.

Jennifer Manson is the author of Truth, about finding, speaking and living our own personal truth, Easy – Stories from a effortlessly created life and six novels, also on the theme of living our truth. Available from Amazon and all major eBook sites.

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When you can’t make sense of how you feel

Beautiful young woman dreamingI have no real-world evidence for what I am about to say. Just what makes sense for me from a little bit of reading, a lot of observation and a few conversations with friends whose eyes have widened with recognition as I’ve described what I suspect may be going on.

If you are struggling with unexplained emotions, it’s just possible this might help. If you feel fine but someone you love is in trouble emotionally; if you want to help but don’t know how, pass this on.

So here it is. Not “fact”, just theory. Theory that may save a life.

The theory

Not everything we feel is ours. Some of the emotions that run through our bodies originate in someone else. That’s fine most of the time. We know when we pick up on someone’s excitement or grumpiness when they walk into the room. When it’s bigger than that, however, or less obvious than that – when we feel terrible and we don’t know the issue isn’t ours, that can take us to a much darker place.

Difficult emotions which don’t make sense can leave us feeling crazy and helpless. We think there’s something wrong with us. We try to work it out, but it continues to make no sense. If it goes on too long, we can slip into depression, and beyond.

I’m not saying all depression comes from this cause, but if you are feeling awful or dull or empty and there’s no obvious reason, try asking yourself these simple questions. At first the answers may come slowly, but listen to your gut, see if the responses you feel inside you make some sort of weird sense to you.

The questions:

  • Does this emotion I’m feeling belong to someone else?
  • Am I supposed to help them deal with it?
  • Is it possible that it could pass through me more easily or leave me altogether?

If it seems like it’s someone else’s and you don’t want to feel it, you can kindly send it back where it came from; or if you have a higher power you believe in, you can pass the emotion on up.

It sounds crazy. But no more crazy than feeling awful with no cause.

Once it started to dawn on me that this might be happening, I asked my unconscious mind to give me a signal when something I was feeling wasn’t mine. My left hand goes to my right and the thumb rubs the back of my hand. Friends have other signals: thumb and index finger coming together, for example. It doesn’t matter, just as long as it’s something obvious but not too obvious. Plan it and let it go, and just notice if it happens spontaneously at some later time. If and when it does, notice what you are feeling. My theory is that that emotion doesn’t belong to you.

There’s a lot more to say, a lot more detail and nuance I’ve worked out and observed, and strategies for getting through it.

For now, just knowing this can help. You’re not crazy, those “unexplained” emotions have a cause, it just doesn’t lie with you. You can let them go, or let them through, but you have a choice, and you don’t need to take them too seriously.

You can ask for help – from that higher power or a friend who gets it.

Or if you’re still struggling, you can come back to me.

Again, if someone you love is in trouble, pass this on. It could make more difference than you ever know.

With love,

Jennifer Manson, The Flow Writer

Jennifer Manson is the author of Truth, about finding, speaking and living our own personal truth, Easy – Stories from a effortlessly created life and six novels, also on the theme of living our truth. Available from Amazon and all major eBook sites.

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Posted in Depression, Life

Watching my life unravel

Jennifer 4 outside Santa Maria dei Miracoli, Venice (profile pic)This has been an interesting year for me. I’ve had a sense of something big coming, but have no idea what. In an accelerating rush, the last four months have continued the process that began on 4th September 2010, the deconstruction of my life.

I trust life. I trust my intuition. I know that things unfold as they are supposed to unfold. This sequence of events has taken my faith and stretched it beyond any recognition.

First was home. With the first of Christchurch’s major earthquakes came the physical embedding of what had previously only been intellectual knowledge: even the ground under our feet is uncertain. Through the months that followed I began to catch the edge of a sense of purpose. With the changes we face every day, in every country of the world, I was called to demonstrate living well with uncertainty.

Next was family, first leaving our 16 year old son behind in New Zealand when we moved to France in 2011; then ending our 26 year marriage soon after moving to England in 2014 – the divorce was final in September, just six weeks ago; next month, on the 1st of December 2015, I say goodbye to my 19 year old daughter as she, too, returns to New Zealand to live.

Now work. I began a new career in 2012, writing books with experts, drawing out brilliant content in interviews and forming that content into inspiring books. I loved it. I was good at it. I still am. But for whatever reason, what had been a continuous stream of projects has dried up. It’s time to move on. Again, this feels right. There are lots of things I could do to generate more of this work, but something has changed. There are some people I would love to work with, to whom I am powerfully drawn, but at the moment that’s not happening, and looking around for something to fill the gap just isn’t me. When something is right it is obvious. When it comes I will know.

NowSpringlock Cottage home again. With no new work for four months, money is running low. I haven’t paid my rent since September, and although I’m in frequent conversation with my landlords, that situation is unsustainable. If something doesn’t change by the end of this month, I will have to give notice and move out. Kind friends have been feeding me. My daughter puts fuel in my car so I can drive her to work. It’s amazing how little I can live on, and how little I actually need to do.

So that’s it. Things seem to be spiralling down to a crunch point on December 1st. Alex will go. I will come home to an empty house which may or may not continue to be mine. I have no work to do, no partner, no local friends who rely on me. Life has collapsed to a nothing point, a point of creation where anything is possible.

Watching this happen has been an awe-inspiring experience. I’ve spent much of this year in deep meditation, looking life in the face, avoiding nothing; deeply, powerfully feeling the impact of all of it. I know a deep new philosophy is forming as I follow a profound, compelling train of thought.

For the practicalities, I keep tuning in with my instinct. Is there anything I need to do? Anything I should do? Anything I can do? The answer is no. Let it unfold. All is well, have faith.

I am healthy, full of energy. I have a beautiful network of friends spread across the globe. I look and feel as good as I ever have in my life. My spiritual and emotional awareness is highly and precisely tuned. I’ve written a book this year, and that is beginning to show promise of being something special. And behind that, something new is brewing.

I was born with an outrageous sense of destiny and a strong drive to achievement. With the level I aim at, I have the sense of having achieved nothing at all in my existence so far. Now I sense Life is about to call me, show me what my purpose is, guide me to it. With nothing now holding me, I am ready, willing, open, to move into swift action when the call comes.

Jennifer Manson is the author of Truth, about finding, speaking and living our own personal truth, Easy – Stories from a effortlessly created life and six novels, also on the theme of living our truth. Available from Amazon and all major eBook sites.

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To Paul, on the point of separation, thank you

WeddingOctober 26th, 2014. Paul is leaving today, moving back to New Zealand. It is the final point of separation, and time for me to write a tribute to the man I have loved and lived with over the last twenty-seven years.

A lot has happened over the two years of struggle we have lived through to get to this point. It is impossible to unravel that now – although we try. He asks the questions, I try to explain. But I can’t. I don’t really know. Stuff has happened through the confusion. He has conflicting facts from a hundred contradicting conversations. Much of what I have said looks like lies. Much of what I have done looks like pointless, heartless cruelty. I know it wasn’t that. Or it wasn’t intentional. I’ve said this before. It’s probably not going to ring any truer in saying it again.

My decision doesn’t make sense in any logic-based system. I still love him. He is kind, intelligent, handsome, charismatic; he is successful, a brilliant chef, creative, supportive, even-tempered to balance my scattiness, self-sufficient to balance my volubility; he has wide interests and wider knowledge – a grasp of world affairs, historic significance, themes and patterns and trends, and of the world’s potential future, which leaves me wide-eyed, in awe; he is decisive, gets things done; passionate; a talented and generous lover.

This decision doesn’t make sense at all.

So let’s leave that aside, and look back to see the good of twenty-seven years. There has been so much good. Our beginning was a fairytale of wild, clashing passion brewing from a slow, smouldering start. We knew each other slightly; then I was hit with a crashing sense of destiny, of attraction, of love. It was ten months later we got together, on a beach just outside Christchurch, ten months of me trying to continue to function as I studied and worked and socialised, knowing that only one thing, only one person absorbed me; doing what I could to further that friendship, make a relationship possible; compartmentalising my thoughts of him, because us getting together was so unlikely, and I needed to keep a grip on my real and likely future.

Five months into our realised love story, he left, as was planned, to study in Cambridge. I remained in New Zealand, to put myself back together and stumble through my final exams, not knowing if I would see him again.

Our letters from that time were completely expressive, held nothing back. From here I look young, naïve – not in my love, which was mature and courageous, but in my world-view, my ability to contribute, to find my place and my purpose. Paul carried me through that over the next three decades. He has supported me as I grew and developed and failed and picked myself up again, while he was on his elegantly true trajectory, steady, awe-inspiring, making his huge difference with very little fanfare.

We have lived a full life: varied careers, travel, two beautiful children and many, many friends. We have moved countries six times, lived in New Zealand and the UK and France. France was a realised dream, something we talked about through our years of holidays, renting farmhouses, wandering the streets of Paris, running the language through our minds and across our tongues, thriving in the restaurants and cafes. It felt like home, somewhere to live forever…

I write this and I dissolve into tears. All those years of memories, of beauty, of love and support. Our children are amazing, and Paul has been a wonderful father. They are independent now, each thriving at university in studies and lives that reflect them perfectly individually. This was supposed to be our time – our time to get to know each other, to enjoy each other again. To travel, to explore, to define ourselves in this new phase of life. To make love without looking at the clock. To stare into each other’s eyes over the dinner table and relive our early passion day by day by day.

I step back and see all this as possible still. So near I can taste it. I can’t remember the point I was making. I can’t think of a single human reason for the path I am taking. That sense of destiny has risen in me once more, and guides me forward. I have no sense of direction, of what is immediately in front of me; I just have the strong drumbeat of my relentless heart.

The only thing I can offer now is appreciation. Thank you for every gourmet meal you put in front of me when I would only have found myself a sandwich. Thank you for every cup of coffee you brought me while I was writing, or gazing out the window lost in complex thought. Thank you for your strength when I was crumbling. Thank you for staying with me through my moments of sadness, confusion, displacement – depression. Thank you for bringing me into beautiful environments, beautiful homes. Thank you for taking me around the world and telling me what I was seeing. Thank you for years of brilliant conversation. Thank you for flowing your love to me and through me even when I couldn’t properly see it and didn’t fully understand. Thank you for making space for all the things I tried to do. Thank you for holding me up through my failures, and for not making me feel a failure. Thank you for listening to my dreams and my plans, for trying to understand this hazy vision I hold, which, full of words as I am, I have wholly failed to articulate.

I am sorry. I don’t know why I can’t take you with me, why I have to continue alone. It’s not fair, and it doesn’t honour all you have been to me, all you have given me, all you are.

I will always love you. I want for you all the happiness, all the success, all the beauty, all the love you are suited for, and so richly deserve.

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Posted in Relationships

Loss of love

 

MP910216384Do you know this feeling? Bone-cracking sobs waiting inside your body for their outlet, ribs creaking with pain and fatigue whether you let those sobs out or not; the stone that fills your heart so the blood has to squeeze around the edges; the finely focused headache that sits right between your eyes, inside the bone, as your attention turns blindingly inwards.

There’s no way you can see the world outside you in these moments, you are crushed by the weight of something – you don’t know what – that presses down on your shoulders, holds your neck tight, causes your back to pop in multiple places when you finally remember to shift your body, find a new posture. You really don’t care. You hardly know you have a body at all, except when you ache for the touch you are missing, put a finger to your cheek to recall a past caress.

I’m at the stage where the sobs won’t come. They are jammed at the exit, too much to release at once. I try to work, but work won’t come, either, and then I realise, for now, this is my work, to feel this feeling, to live this experience, the flip-side of perfect love.

Of course, this feeling is why precious, massive love is so rare in our experience. We all know we love – families, children, friends and lovers – and yet the vivid presence of experienced love is relatively uncommon. Often when we sit with loved ones, our thoughts are on something else. Sometimes we forget to greet our partner with delight, put down what we are doing, throw our arms around them, or throw them on the bed to appease the physical longing for them that has haunted us through our day. Is that how your evenings go? Moving on to dinner and a movie after love and lust are satisfied?

But if we face our love this fearlessly, we have to face loss of love with equal courage, pull the experience to us and live it, with mirrored vividness, and it hurts – more than we think we can bear. Those racking sobs, once experienced, are what haunt us, and the next time we fall in love, we might hold it a little further away from us, allow ourselves to fall into the easy distractions of life – housework, dinner, TV – so that our experience is that bit less vivid, so that the pain, when it comes, might be that bit less intense.

We make that choice: more love followed by a greater sense of loss when it ends – however it ends – or less of each.

Of course, when love goes in this way, it is not actually love that goes. We have not lost love – if love were gone it would be easy, we’d simply say goodbye, as we would to a casual acquaintance.

We haven’t lost love – the experience of love remains – it’s the joy of the presence of the loved one we lose. Holding love in that space of absence is painful – but that’s our job, to hold love and live it; so that when love comes again, in the same form or another, into our physical presence, we can feel it, even more than we did before.

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Irresistible driving compulsion

ImageImagine this: you’re lying on a carpet, looking around with joy at the world you can see, the world that comes to you.

You have an instinct to flex a certain group of muscles in your leg, to move it a certain way. That drive becomes a compulsion and you do it over and over and over again, twisting your body at the same time until the world suddenly flips, your face is in the carpet and you have to lift your head to look around. You have rolled over. That’s pretty cool.

Then another compulsion takes over: the same leg, or the other one, flexes forward so the knee is in a different spot. Your hand reaches out in front of you, palm down. You do this, too, over and over and over again, lifting, flexing, with your eyes fixed, for no reason that you understand, but with aching, desperate desire, on an object in front of you, out of reach. More flexing of muscles. Hours of frantic frustration. A few days later, you are mobile, crawling, and your world will never be the same again.

You are full of joy, delight, at what becomes possible. You set yourself goals, targets and achieve them all. Fulfillment of desire becomes less dependent on the will of others. This is brilliant! What could be better? But this is not a resting place, it is a way point, and soon you are onto the next compulsion.

Getting vertical. You crawl to an upright object, more arm work, followed by practicing balance, falling, getting up again, falling, getting up…

You stand, you edge along the sofa. A couple of weeks later, you don’t know why, you launch out into open floor, walking. There might be an adult to share the joy with, but you’d do it anyway. You have no choice.

This is what my life feels like, moment to moment, day to day. I follow instinct, compulsion, to take action, to try something different, a very specific something, like flexing a specific group of muscles, or moving a limb in a certain direction, with no idea how that fits into the bigger plan.

In a world that asks for logic behind movement, I have a bit of a hard time with this. People around me want me to explain. “That’s not how we do things,” they say, “what are you thinking?”

“I don’t know. I just have to.” It’s like I am a different species, with different developmental phases, like a caterpillar amongst rabbits, or a kangaroo on a sheep farm: I don’t work the same. It doesn’t make sense, but I have to do it. I’m developing something, a new skill set, perhaps, but I have no idea what or how or why.

Just like the baby doesn’t know; but when they find themselves crawling or standing or walking they are filled with outrageous joy, and it is worth it, logical or not.

As I follow those promptings – to read a certain book or talk to a certain person, to go to a certain place, to see a certain movie, or, more likely, watch one I have already seen, again, flexing the muscle again, developing an idea, thinking something a little further through – I know, I just know, I am on the right track.

This is what it feels like, when we are learning and growing. We don’t know why but we are driven to do it. We can’t resist it or deny it or delay it or do something else. It is deep within us, deeper than we can see. The drive is enough. Logic falls away.

I take those actions, one after another after another, with blind faith; and occasionally I have moments when uncontainable joy pours through me. The phase I am in is over; the thing I had been trying to learn and to master has been gained. Like the baby shrieking with delight as they fall from their first two-legged moment, it is obvious. I just know. This is it, and it was worth it.

Jennifer Manson is the author of Easy – Stories from an effortlessly created life and six novels, all about people discovering and living their dreams.

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