Fifthly, we all get things wrong, we all do things badly, we all say stupid things. We are not gods.
Mind you, for many cultures, gods also got it wrong too. Who knows when it all went the other way and people decided that gods never made mistakes and that we were, in effect, gods on this planet)? Who knows too when we began holding each other (and, often ourselves) to the rather untenable standards of divinity? Anyway, this fifth and final truth is there to remind me that even when I am on top of the world, I’m bound to bugger everything up – and that’s not a cause for despair or surrender…it’s just part and parcel of the human condition. Read more…
Fourthly, pain is real; reactions are natural; mistakes are inevitable. But suffering is a choice; responses are a choice; putting things right is a choice.
It’s apt that when I come back to write about this truth, I have just spent the sickest month in my existence…where sickest does not have the positive connotations with which my son would imbue it (you’re the sickest dad). Over the last week and a half, I have been engaged in a battle with viral invaders. Against my wishes (I would have just sat down and talked them to death), my body opted to boil them to death. Slowly. Over a week. It is almost inevitable that some of my friendly bacteria (as I believe the advertising industry calls them) fell in the battle. It is to the memory of these little guys that this blogpost is dedicated. May their rebirth be glorious.
Thirdly, the self that we think we know is an illusion. Its memories, its opinions, its needs and wants are nothing more than products of the mind. They are not real; they are not reliable; they are not me.
The bedrock of suffering and frustration is the idea that there is a me to which all of this suffering and pain happens. It follows that if we actually remove the me from the equation, the bedrock disappears and the whole edifice of struggle falls apart. So, that’s easy… Read more…
I would really like to read a blog post about what you were like before you saw the chimp coloured light. Were you always the cool clam customer you are now or did you actually change? Also, if you did change, what caused you to change? – Russ Mayne
Everything is changing and nothing ever stays the same: truth #1, Russ! What was I like before? The past is a fiction: truth #2. The self that we think we know is an illusion. Its memories, its opinions, its needs and wants are nothing more than products of the mind. They are not real; they are not reliable; they are not me: truth #3.
Your questions are hard to answer, young Skywalker. But I will try…
My second truth: The past is a fiction; the future does not exist. All that I have right here and right now is all that there is. Nothing else matters.
It occurs to me as I sit down to write this that I should at least make some concessions to the target audience…English teachers and the manager of English teachers…I will try harder to exemplify this truth by relating it to our common practice. I get a bit carried away at times…
As with most of these truths, on first sight, it might seem a bit twee. “Turtles on a Bike,” you might be exclaiming, taking care not to offend anyone’s religious sensibilities, “Can this guy not write anything that doesn’t have an aura of new age claptrap?” Unfortunately, I’m not sure if I know how to answer your question so I am going to assume that it is rhetorical.
That said, I am reminded of the words of Steve Peters who says something like the following [adopts Middlesbrough accent]: “This is only one mind model of many. Many of the others work for many people. I’m not saying that this one is the best or that the others are wrong. This is just one I’ve put together and it works for some people. If it works for you, goody! If it doesn’t, no problem. Good luck with whatever does work for you.” Seriously, the man is like a twenty-first century buddha.
MY FIRST TRUTH: everything in life is changing and nothing ever stays the same. Good and bad come and go. The greatest joy will never last for ever and the worst suffering will end one day.
Intellectually, this is an easy one to get to grips with. Sure, we think, everything is changing! Yah! I geddit! It’s kinda cute. Very eastern, man. Far out.
NO, SUCKA! EVERYTHING is changing. NOTHING stays the same. EVER! This isn’t as simple as the glib wisdom of Persian kings with their rings inscribed with Ancient Hallmark messages of This too shall pass. This, mes lecteurs, is frigging massive.
I spoke at IATEFL Manchester. I was surprised that my proposal was accepted, given that I was really just saying to people, Let me tell you about a great book that I’ve read. That great book was, of course, The Chimp Paradox by the eminent Dr Steve Peters. Anyway, whoever accepted the proposal also needs to accept my deepest and sincerest thanks. It has been a long time since I have felt so…energised?…ecstatic?…wired?….looking back over my formative years, I can’t think of any time when I felt that way without having broken some of the local laws regarding controlled substances. If you’ve never done an IATEFL presentation, I couldn’t recommend it more. Thanks too to Andy Hockley and the LAMSIG crew for allowing me to form part of their SIG programme. Another big honour. And I’m not just saying that.
I was even more surprised to see how many people came to the talk, attracted, I suspect, by the promise of a stress-free life. At the risk of sounding overly happy-clappy, this is a real possibility. A key component of the Chimp Paradox model is what Dr Peters calls the Stone of Life. To be clear: if you want to live a stress-free life, it is necessary to work daily on reviewing and repeating the turths by which you live your life, the values which influence your life and the reason that you have for living. These three components, truths, values and the force behind your life, are written down on what SP calls your Stone of Life.
My stone of life took some putting together. I just couldn’t get my head around how to draft it. In fact, it took some years to gather together. Steve Peters explains how the Stone is at the centre of the Chimp Paradox model. The best way to avoid the chimp ruining your life is to make sure that it doesn’t kick off that often. How do you do this? You put time in to making sure that it feels safe and secure. A happy chimp rarely loses its rag. The best way to do this is to have your stone of life firmly in place and to revisit it daily.
Dr Peters recommends reciting the stone of life out loud every day. The theory behind so-doing is that as the brain hears the words, it is forced into processing them for meaning; if you quietly recite it in your mind, the mentalese doesn’t require processing. Anyway, it’s what I now do every day once I’ve finished walking the dog in the morning. My current stone of life can be found here. The next few blog posts e will provide some more detail of what these words mean to me.