This book is a Get Out of Jail Free card and a passport back into the playground.

The aim of this book is to set you free. But free from what? Free from neurosis. Free from the feeling that you have to obey authority. Free from emotional intimidation. Free from addiction. Free from inhibition.

The key to happiness, mental health and being the most that we can be is absolute and unconditional self-acceptance. The paradox is that many of our problems are caused by trying to improve ourselves, censor our thinking, make up for past misdeeds and struggling with our negative feelings whether of depression or aggression.

But if we consider ourselves in our entirety in this very moment, we know these things :

1. Anything we have done is in the past and cannot be changed, thus it is pointless to do anything else but accept it. No regrets or guilt.

2. While our actions can harm others, our thoughts and emotions, in and of themselves, never can. So we should accept them and allow them to be and go where they will. While emotions sometimes drive actions, those who completely accept their emotions and allow themselves to feel them fully, have more choice over how they act in the light of them.

Self-criticism never made anyone a better person. Anyone who does a “good deed” under pressure from their conscience or to gain the approval of others takes out the frustration involved in some other way. The basis for loving behaviour towards others is the ability to love ourselves. And loving ourselves unconditionally, means loving ourselves exactly as we are at this moment.

This might seem to be complacency, but in fact the natural activity of the individual is healthy growth, and what holds us back from it is fighting with those things we can’t change and the free thought and emotional experience which is the very substance of that growth.

How to Be Free is available as a free ebook from Smashwords, iBooks in some countries, Kobo and Barnes & Noble

It is also available in paperback from Lulu or Amazon for $10 US, plus postage.

The ebook version currently has received 576 ***** out of ***** ratings on U.S. iBooks.

Monday, 21 May 2012

"It Will Come Through Your Hands"

Sometimes when I'm feeling frustrated or impatient and in need of inspiration I listen to a song by roots rock singer-songwriter John Hiatt. Through Your Hands comes from his 1990 album Stolen Moments.

You were dreaming on a park bench
'Bout a broad highway somewhere
When the music from the carillon
Seemed to hurl your heart out there
Past the scientific darkness
Past the fireflies that float
To an angel bending down
To wrap you in her warmest coat

And you ask, "What am I not doing?"
She says "Your voice cannot command.
In time, you will move mountains,
And it will come through your hands."

Still you argue for an option
Still you angle for your case
Like you wouldn't know a burning bush
If it blew up in your face
Yeah, we scheme about the future
And we dream about the past
When just a simple reaching out
Might build a bridge that lasts


So whatever your hands find to do
You must do with all your heart
There are thoughts enough
To blow men's minds and tear great worlds apart

There's a healing touch to find you
On that broad highway somewhere
To lift you high
As music flying
Through the angel's hair.

Don't ask what you are not doing
Because your voice cannot command
In time we will move mountains
And it will come through your hands

Thanks to Lyric Time.

There are times when we are tempted to try to tell people how they should behave. When we do they probably don't listen to us. When people do something which is counter-productive for themselves or others it is generally not because no-one ever tried to point out the error of their ways. As the angel in Hiatt's song says, " [our] voice cannot command." And when we address our own behaviour the same applies. It does no good to load ourselves down with "musts" and "shoulds". Any sustainable change is not brought about by an act of will that runs counter to our desires. So here as well "[our] voice cannot command."

But the world is full of people like ourselves with needs and desires. We may not like to be told what to do but we do like to be given what we need and what we want. And to the extent that human society falls short of its potential for health, happiness and productivity, it is largely a distribution problem. Knowledge, food, wealth, attention, appreciation, acceptance, healing... There are many of us who are short of some of these things and others who have much to give.

I'm not talking here about charity, at least in the conventional sense. Sometimes when someone has a charity drive they say : "Give until it hurts." Well, pain is there to tell us something. If you are doing something and it hurts then that's a warning that it may not be healthy for you. Of course there are times when this seems necessary and is a short term thing. But people talk of "compassion fatigue" and this happens because it isn't natural to keep doing something which deep down you really don't want to do. And beyond that the concept of charity is often dishonestly exploited when a false and often sentimental image is used to hide cynical commercial or ideological objectives whether that be to push religion or sell hamburgers.

But our needs and our desires are not just to receive but also to give. There are many whose disadvantage is not to have too little of something but to not have enough of an opportunity as they would like to give of themselves.

I find it useful to think of us all as conduits. Things and qualities flow through us - information, money, ideas, emotions, sensations. All day long, in one way or another we are giving and receiving, and how freely these interactions take place and how powerful their impact on others and ourselves tends to determine how rich and vital our lives are. Think of the blood flow through the body. Where there is poor circulation feelings are numbed and health is compromised, but when we are excited and there is healthy circulation the blood flows strongly and we feel very much alive. The same is true in our lives, it is the flow of giving and receiving which makes life vital and exciting.

What we most want to give and what we most want or need to receive differs for each of us. And this is a good thing. Hope for a better experience of life lies in the fact that, while we may be short of one thing, someone else has a surplus. A rich philanthropist may have more money than he could possibly spend on himself, so to channel it to worthy causes, far from being something that requires self-sacrifice on his part, is something which gives him satisfaction and a perhaps a sense of power. A lonely person who has no job may be in need of money but he does have time and the desire for company which makes spending time visiting other lonely people something which is no act of charity. We are often in the habit of discounting the value of something which someone has to contribute because there is no self-sacrifice involved or because the individual gets a clear personal benefit. And yet the result of something which maybe took almost no effort can have big consequences. Think of Betty Grable posing for a pin up during World War II. Being a sex symbol actress was the dream of many a young woman then as it still is now and posing for a photo is no big thing. But that photo hung on scores of barrack room walls bringing to many soldiers a sense that life was not all horror and death. The littlest of things can have a big effect. Chaos theory shows that even a minimal change in a system over time can lead to a complete change of its structure. So if we want to look at positive change and healing in society heroic efforts and self-sacrifice are a distraction. The effort required is important to the individual but may not have anything to do with the results.

And so, if healing happens in the world, it will happen, not because we try to force it to happen - to "command" it - but it will "come through our hands" - we will be conduits for it.

There are different qualities to the things of which we can be conduits. At the source end there are those things which are gone when we give them, those which stay the same the more we give and those which may increase with the giving. If I give away a dollar it is gone. If I share a funny cartoon in my email, I still have it and can send it to as many other people as I like. If I sing songs then my skill at doing so may increase with each performance, and thus the more I give the more I have. At the receiving end also some things can only be used once, something things can be used again and again and some things, like seeds, can increase exponentially. Plant a seed and it can grow into a plant which produces fifty seeds. Each of those fifty seeds produces another plant each of which produces another fifty seeds and so on. Information is often like this. Teach someone how to read or to use a computer and the impact on their life and the lives of others can be enormous.

For myself, I love to write. I love to be a conduit of ideas, information, dreams and fantasies. On the other hand, I don't like to be the centre of attention amongst large groups of people. Some people love that. You could call it ego, but it doesn't matter. What matters is that the world needs people to do that, to present ideas to large groups or to bring comfort and enriching experiences to large groups of people through music or other forms of performance. So that is what they have to give.

And there is no need to allow lingering puritanism to exclude the sexual from the concept of the conduit  of healing. How many of us who are lonely and sexually frustrated have received some healing pleasure and comfort from those, on the internet, who find excitement or financial rewards from exhibitionism. And we often fail to acknowledge the role played by sex workers. The socially awkward, the physically or intellectually challenged, etc., may find their only experience of erotic physical affection coming from those who make it their profession. And there are those who find themselves fixated on acts which most of us would find repellant but who, no doubt, find some approximation of a healing acceptance of this part of themselves from men or women who make a profession of catering for such needs.

Do any or all of the ideas I present in How to Be Free have the power to bring about healing change? If they have helped to bring about positive change in our lives then we have an opportunity to be a conduit for something tremendously exciting. There are things I have - the talent to write and some knowledge of ebook production and the internet. There are other things I don't have - money, knowledge of hard-copy publishing, confidence in speaking to audiences, and knowledge and contacts in many areas. Whatever you have which you may want to use as a way of being a conduit for these ideas is your own unique opportunity to make your life and the lives of others happier and more exciting.

And perhaps, as it says in the song : 
"In time we will move mountains and it will come through your hands."

You can also find this post on the How to Be Free forum here. You may find further discussion of it there.

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