My New Way of Being in the World

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It has been a while since I have provided any updates on here. I have been posting regularly on the Hope Blog, but there just hasn’t been much of an urge to continue sharing my thoughts publicly – even though there have been some major changes in my life during the last year.

Here is a video update of what I’ve been up to recently. I’ve undergone a profound shift in the way I experience reality. It is not something I find easy to explain, but here is an attempt to describe what’s happened.

Increased Clarity

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Things have been a bit slow around here lately, but I plan on being more communicative in 2016. In this video, I talk about what I’ve been up to in recent months, and why I have taken a break from blogging.

Bearing Witness to a 5 Year Old Being Tortured By His Father

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There is a disturbing video of a 5 year old being basically tortured by his father doing the rounds here in Thailand – at one point the parent is shaking the kid by his neck. It is absolutely horrifying to watch. Apparently, the mother posted the video to Facebook (as a cry for help?), and it stirred up sufficient social media outrage to get the father arrested and charged. It has been reported in the Thai news that the little boy is physically okay and he is now receiving counseling.

In the past, my way of dealing with such disturbing examples of suffering in the world would have been to try my best to ignore it. A video like this would just have been far too upsetting for me to watch. I once believed such sensitivity around other people’s suffering was proof that I’m a basically a ‘nice person’, but I now see it as proof that I’ve been overly self-centered and lacking in compassion.

The word ‘compassion’ means to ‘be with suffering’ – it can refer to our own suffering or the suffering of other people. We choose to be with it because otherwise nothing gets resolved. In fact, the things we do to avoid this suffering (e.g. trying to numb ourselves with alcohol or drugs) only makes things worse for us in the long run.

I watched the video of the little boy being beaten by his dad yesterday, and it has been playing on my mind ever since. My initial reaction was to want to hurt the father – it is so much easier to feel anger at the aggressor than it is to think about how horrible it must have been for the victim. What I really wanted was for the child to be okay – I wanted him to have a dad who loved him (it felt unbearably unfair that my son has this, yet this poor chap doesn’t).

It is easy to feel compassion for the 5 year old boy but what about the father? Is he just human garbage who needs to be recycled? I remember one time when my son was a baby, and he wouldn’t stop crying. I felt so stressed and hopeless, and I started getting angry with him. I wanted to give him a good shake just to get him to stop crying. I feel ashamed of this memory, I love my son more than anything in the world, and I would obviously never do anything to hurt him, but maybe the same anger that made that dad behave like he did is inside me too – the only difference is I’m able to control it.

There is so much bad stuff happening in the world that we can just become numb to it. What else can we do? It’s not like making ourselves feel bad about this endless stream of horrors helps anyone. Aren’t we better off just focusing on our own happiness and trying to avoid hurting those closest to us? The problem with this way of thinking is it means turning our back on other people’s suffering, and I believe we pay a heavy emotional cost when we choose to do this because it involves closing our hearts.

“The idea that some lives matter less is the root of all that is wrong with the world”
Paul Farmer

The cynic might claim spending time thinking about the suffering of a stranger is morbid and unhealthy. I don’t agree with this. This compassion triggers an urge in me to be kind – this then leads to the willingness to help other people. This work is vital because if too many of us turn away, there will be nobody there to help 5 year old kids who have abusive dads.

What if the Solution to Addiction is Focusing Less on Ourselves ?

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Chat Trakan Waterfall

The more my attention is directed outward, away from the stories in my head, the more at ease I feel in the world. All I get from incessantly thinking (or talking) about my problems, my opinions, my hurts, or my past is increased suffering, but when I can just let go of all that stuff, and focus on what is right in front of me, I’m immediately at peace.

The suggestion that love is the answer may sound like hippy-dippy nonsense, but does this mean it is not true? What if the Beatles were right when they sang ‘all you need is love’, and it’s just our superficial understanding of love that is the problem? What if love just means being so fascinated with something beyond our internal stories that we are able to give this thing our full-attention?

One of my clients recently told me about her unconditional love for kittens. Even on her bad days, she can easily become engrossed in the antics of a small cat –and when she does this, her attention is away from the internal stories that were making her miserable. I suggested that expanding this loving attention to other things would lead to great improvements in her life.

I remember as a young child being fascinated by everything – the world was like one huge adventure park and even simple things like a slug on the road could completely capture my attention. As I got older, I began to become less fascinated by external things (I developed a ‘been there, done that’ attitude) and instead became more focused on the chatter in my head. I don’t think it is any coincidence that the more I did this, the more miserable I became.

All of the improvements in my life have been as a direct result of switching my focus away from thoughts of ‘me, me, me’. Practicing loving-kindness meditation has made it possible for me to once again experience the world through the eyes of a child. It is such a wonderful gift – it is like waking up in paradise.

“Let me keep my distance, always, from those who think they have the answers. Let me keep company always with those who say “Look!” and laugh in astonishment, and bow their heads. ”
Mary Oliver

The worst thing about life is not that we get ill, become depressed, get old, and die but that we can be so indifferent to this amazing experience. Perhaps the real reason we fall into addiction is we have lost the ability to look beyond ourselves and say ‘wow’.

Develop Self-Compassion for Real Recovery from Addiction

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“…self-compassion is all about transforming myself into a ‘low-maintenance’ human. Those of us who fall into addiction are ‘high-maintenance’ people because just staying afloat in life requires so much of our inner-resources.”


I’m putting together an eBook for people interested in using mindfulness to overcome addiction problems. I’ll share the chapters on here as I write them. Here is part ten in the series – you will find links to earlier posts at the end of this one.

It is our tendency to run away from discomfort rather than towards it that is the real driving force behind addiction. It is the thought ‘I can’t deal with this’ that makes alcohol and drugs such an attractive proposition. The Vietnamese monk, Thich Nhat Hanh, once described our discomforts as being like little infants in need of our attention – the problem is that most of us habitually fail to offer soothing to our pain and instead try to ignore it or avoid it.

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