On the middle path between the scared seriousness of childhood (Ho Hum) and the extreme imitation of my father in adulthood (Ho Ho), lies a more enlightened approach as I move into the sunset of my life.
The transition really began with Molly. The year was 2004 and I was settling in to a new relationship with my soon to be wife, Molly. Molly had been heavily involved with a personal development organisation in Sydney, now defunct, and was prompting me to undertake their entry level course, appropriately titled as it eventuated, “The Turning Point”. The course was held over one week with meetings on the Tuesday and Friday evening, followed by all day and evening sessions on Saturday and finishing up late Sunday afternoon. The sessions were a mixture of classes and participation exercises led by a group of teachers and supported by a crew of volunteers known as the “service team”. We started with learning how to meditate and meditation became a staple component of this course and in all the courses that the organisation ran. It is difficult to recall and explain much about the course content other than they used a variety of psychological tools designed to trigger the changes we ourselves wanted to make to our patterns of living.
I do still remember however the specific mental image that finally triggered my personal turning point. The teacher was leading us in a guided meditation on the Sunday morning where it started with walking as a child with a parent and the child reaching up to hold the parents hand. Something cracked open in me at the image this provoked and I burst into uncontrollable crying, rocking back and forth. One of the service team women came over quietly and sat beside me and just put one hand gently flat on my back between my shoulders. That action increased the breaking feeling I had but something about it gave me permission of some sort to cry even harder and deeper. As the meditation drew to a close I started to get some control back and the service team lady withdrew as quietly as she had arrived. I was then gently swamped by a number of the other course participants enveloping me in a giant hug. I started to become a different person from that point on.
I followed up this course with another course spread over three months called “Mastery and Service” which further consolidated the changes in my outlook and personality based on awareness gained into these aspects. It was during this period that I began to meditate daily and also, outside of the course, started to read about Buddhism in its many forms and then the “Tao Te Ching” which in turn led me into the principles of yin yang and stoicism. I also learnt qi gong and through that discovered a natural healing ability through my hands but the story of that process probably needs to be the subject of a separate post. The learning continues.
Many people expect a single act or a single product will cure all manner of ills. My turning point was just that, a turning point, not the cure. I have had a number of breakthroughs since then. I am on a transformational path still but being on the path is not the answer, the journey is.
And what is the change? I often think of it as saying my new favourite colour is purple which is like my old favourite colour, red, but with most of the anger removed. I am calmer consistently now and no longer feel the need to be boisterous, loud, and funny all the time. The Ho Ho Man does peek out at times but I soon banish him back to my past. I have also finally shaken off the “Irish disease” of my heritage and have gone from a bottle of red wine every night to perhaps having a glass every month or so.
I am still without a deity to worship or believe in. I describe myself as a respectful agnostic which I picked up from the inimitable Fiona Boyes when I interviewed her on my series of blues muso podcasts. I no longer fear death and in a strange way I suppose I almost look forward to it as a means of solving one of the great mysteries of life (see “Beyond”).
I even lead a class in meditation every Saturday morning in our retirement village. Who would have envisaged the possibility of my teaching meditation back in 2004?