Thoughts from the Tao: An Introduction

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Read Time:3 Minute, 13 Second

Japanese Cherry Blossom Garden Wallpaper|http ...The Tao Te Ching was allegedly written by a Chinese writer, Lao-Tzu, some time around the 4th or 5th Century BCE. We know almost nothing about him – all that we have is this brief book of 81 verses. Lao-Tzu himself could even be a fiction – certainly we don’t even really have a good translation of his name. “The Old Master”, or even “The Old Boy” perhaps. So even the author is ephemeral, difficult to grasp, impossible to see. And it feels like that’s what Lao-Tzu himself would have wanted – to disappear so that the wisdom of The Way could be more clearly seen. Even the book’s title is cryptic “The Book of The Way”. It seems to almost beg to be treated as immaterial, ephemeral: Lao-Tzu writes with confidence and certainty about something that cannot be described, labelled, explained. And yet there is clarity and deep truth woven throughout these simple verses.

The Tao is full of paradox, riddles, contrasts. At times it seems that the meaning of the words is becoming clear – and then it slides off into an inscrutable mystery that hints at an answer, yet refuses to be pinned down. To me, there really is no one way to interpret the book. It demands to be read, and pondered, and reread. It demands us to consider its paradoxical thought, and perhaps then to be happy with unanswered questions – if it has caused us to think more deeply, then it has done its work. Even if it allows us to be comfortable with the idea that truth may not be absolute, that we have to live within the paradox, then it will have taught us well. Each of us will have our own insights into the book, our own interpretations – and that’s as it should be. For Lao-Tzu, truth is not rigid, or easily defined. It cannot be written down, it can only be discovered and experienced for each one of us personally – yet if we choose to hear, it will transform us.

One of the beauties of the Tao is that it doesn’t require a belief in any form of God or Supreme Being – yet equally its truth can equally be applied whether you are a theist, atheist or agnostic.

My journey with the Tao Te Ching began when I started studying with the Interfaith Foundation – one of our required reading books on the course was a translation by fantasy author Ursula K Le Guin – a translation that seemed both true to the original yet coloured by the author’s own search for meaning. I was also deeply inspired by spiritual author Wayne Dyer, who took a year out to meditate on the Tao verse by verse, a year of insight that became the book “Change Your Thoughts, Change Your Life” – and I followed in his footsteps by embarking on a journey into the Tao that took me deep into one verse every week. I’m restarting that journey with the intention of publishing my own personal thoughts on the Tao each week here on this web site.

I believe that studying the Tao Te Ching has opened me up to a new way of looking at the mystery of Life, at my own spiritual journey, at my beliefs, behaviours and truth as I see it. I do not for one minute claim to be a definitive scholar of the Tao, if such a thing exists. But I hope that my thoughts will maybe help inspire you to look more deeply, to see perhaps way beyond my own insights and come to your own conclusions.

Find out more at www.timhodgson.org

For those of you who are interested, I’ve used translations from Ursula K Le Guin, Stephen Mitchell, Jonathan Star, Jane English and Wayne Dyer’s own paraphrase version. I’d say Stephen Mitchell’s is the version I like the best.

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Tech Junkie to Digital Minimalist in 284 pages

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Read Time:6 Minute, 7 Second

Digital Minimalism: On Living Better with Less Technology ...I’ve worked with technology all my life – from my early attempts to write a computer programme on punch cards (I dropped the deck – attempt over) way back when the only materials on microprocessors were typewritten pages – the technology was moving so fast that no-one had got round to writing the books – through working on process and laboratory computer systems and surviving the early years of personal computers and networks. I’ve worked on global email services and corporate collaboration software, and helped design computer systems that supported tens of thousands of users world wide. I even worked on palmtop computers and tablet PCs before the iPhone and iPad were a glimmer in Steve Jobs’ eyes. Computer technology is woven in and around my life, so when I encountered Cal Newport’s book ‘Digital Minimalism’ I wasn’t sure whether this was something to welcome, or something to run from.

The book is subtitled ‘on living better with less technology’ and is a long hard look at the benefits – and the pitfalls – of our ‘always connected’ world. As Adlai Stevenson observed in 1955:

Technology, while adding daily to our physical ease, throws daily another loop of fine wire around our souls. It contributes hugely to our mobility, which we must not confuse with freedom.

In a similar vein, Max Frisch observed that technology is “the knack of so arranging the world that we don’t have to experience it”.

Newport argues that computer use, and particularly the combined impact of mobile computing and social media, is a dangerously powerful narcotic that draws us away from reality and into a dangerous shadow world. He cites examples like Facebook’s introduction of the ‘Like’ button which turned Facebook into a social slot machine – every post being a gamble as to whether anyone would like or comment on their post. Facebook, Instagram and Twitter all provide a  continual hum of distraction such that their users live continually fearful of missing out, while we try to apply rules of normal conversation to an audience that may comprise several hundred vaguely interested parties. We substitute a rushed online ‘Happy Birthday’ or comment ‘awww’ on a new baby snap for real interaction and conversation while drawing attention away from what really matters.

Rather than simply ditching technology and trying to live without it, Newport introduces what he refers to as a philosophy of Digital Minimalism which supports our values and our goals:

Digital Minimalism: A philosophy of technology use in which you focus your online time on a small number of carefully selected and optimized activities that strongly support things you value, and then happily miss out on everything else

He suggests that we work out what’s important to us, and then decide whether technology supports this for us – and forces us to ask not only ‘is this useful for me?’ but also ‘is this the best way to support me in this?’ Having worked out what’s really useful, and disregarding digital activities that add little real value, we can escape some of the bonds of our digital slavery and focus our lives on things that really matter.

Cal suggests a thirty day ‘digital declutter’ to take a break from optional technologies (recognising that for many of us technology use is part of our work lives) to decide what’s useful – and what isn’t). At the end of the month, you’re free to reintroduce technologies – provided that you have a clear purpose for it to support something you value.

Cal’s principles can be summed up:

Principle #1: Clutter is costly. Cluttering our time and attention with too many devices and apps that demand huge amounts of interaction costs us our productivity, real-life connections, creativity and the pursuit of a well-developed leisure life.

Principle #2: Optimization is important. We need to figure out how to use technology to best support the things that we value.

Principle #3: Intentionality is satisfying. “Digital minimalists derive significant satisfaction from their general commitment to being more intentional about how they engage with new technologies.”

In place of this he suggests that we dedicate more time to disconnected leisure, to the practice of solitude, to walks and to time for reflection and deep thought, as practiced by Lincoln, Thoreau and Nietzsche, who observed that ‘only thoughts obtained by walking have value’. He suggests we spend more time on deepening personal social connection rather than the surface froth of ‘social’ media. He also advocates picking up a creative craft, whether that be woodworking, the guitar or gardening – and if possible to find a way to do that in a social setting.

When I did my own version of his declutter I found that ‘always on’ computing tended to be a distraction. I started using a program called ‘Freedom’ which blocked access to distracting web sites like Facebook or YouTube for substantial parts of the day. I started turning my internet router off at night – and leaving it off for most of the day. (I have a suspicion that removing one more source of radiation from my home has improved my sleep). I bought a real clock rather than relying on my phone for wakeup alarms and relegated it to charging downstairs. I even separated my study desk from my work desk, making it harder to just check something on my laptop. I regularly have ‘unplug days’ where technology simply doesn’t happen.

I stripped a lot of applications from my phone, making it harder to just check Facebook or Twitter, and went in hard to drop subscriptions, newsletters and Facebook groups that add little real value. I use the Social Fixer app to filter my Facebook feed and remove stuff that’s irrelevant, and rarely check it on my phone. I now resist ‘liking’ products and services, and try and avoid clicking ‘like’ or commenting as it just brings another flow of less than relevant commentary into my feed. Early on in my use of email – and now carried on into WhatsApp and Messenger – I started to disable notifications and alerts so that my phone isn’t a source of continual interruption. As you might expect, technology is a useful tool for me, but I’m determined to keep it in its place. That’s not always easy – but it’s certainly a goal.

And I am continually refining. Deciding what matters and what doesn’t. Finding ways to use technology to support my values and goals and dreams, to underpin the things that matter. Technology is in my blood.. but I am determined that it supports me rather than dominating my life.

I happen to think that ‘Digital Minimalism’ is well worth reading. There’s plenty of science in there to back it up along with real world stories of people who’ve explored the idea. If you take one or two ideas on board it’ll make a huge difference. Go for a full digital declutter and ask yourself the hard questions, and it might just change your life.

Find out more at www.timhodgson.org

(Watch this space for a review of Cal Newport’s book ‘Deep Work’ soon. He also has a new book ‘A World Without Email (reimagining work in an age of communication overload)’ which I hope to get round to reading soon – but for those of you who buried under a deluge of corporate email, you might want to check that out!)

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A Thirst for Simple Light

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Read Time:59 Second

I love this poem from the fabulous Mark Nepo: for anyone who has had their dreams dashed to the ground, and has emerged into the light on the other side living kinder, deeper and simpler . . . and for anyone who is still trying to pick up the pieces . . .

At first it’s about achieving.

Creating something that might last.

Then having the thing so carefully

carried break before our eyes. And

building it again. Only to have our

foundation crack. If we have the strength,

we might keep building.

But sooner or later,

we turn to help others carry simple things

or find what’s been lost. And one day

purpose is a fugitive who’s forgotten

why he’s on the run. And as the body

is worn to only what matters, we are

worn to care, not build. To Care.

About anything. About whatever is

before us. Singing. Packing groceries.

Learning the names of all the leaves

on Earth. Collecting movies that have

life in the title and giving them away.

Anything that keeps us tumbling like

bottles of light destined to break

for those thirsty enough to

drop their need of cups.

(Mark Nepo: Drinking From the River of Light)

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Snow dreaming . .

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Read Time:4 Minute, 47 Second

IMG_2421Today it snowed. A few soft flakes started to drift to the ground in the late morning, and I expected to see a light dusting that disappeared almost as soon as it had settled. But the snow continued to fall, lazy clumps of snowflakes, spiralling and drifting gently to the ground. And so I walked. No matter that I had already been for a walk that morning – I have so missed the snow. Down to the town, seeing the old buildings transformed while the town centre was covid-quiet. I walked on and down to the local park and around the lake, my thoughts disturbed only by the occasional walker and the park ranger on his tractor. The snow covered a multitude of sins – what had been a muddy, squelchy walk only days before was now pristine, matt white spread deep on the ground while the trees bent under the weight of snow that clung thickly to the branches. And I walked on, lost in thought and reverie, as I allowed the snow to heal my heart.

IMG_2431I met a friend in another park, and we talked skiing and snowboarding while her two black Labradors jumped and played, leaping for snowballs, and her son made snowmen and fished sheets of ice out of the floodwater.

I am a snow hound, I know that – happier on a mountain in snowboard boots and a beanie than on a beach that slows me down with its intimidating and oppressive heat. I miss the cold, the icy clutches of snowdrift and frost. I miss the crunch of snow underneath my boots as I walk. I miss the frosted sparkle of ice particles in the pale wintry sun. I have missed the annual trips to ski run and back bowl, board tracing lazy arcs across the hillside as the cold wakes me up and brings fresh clarity.

And in the late evening, I walked again, the snow still blanketing the quiet streets, covering cars that lay unused in lockdown inactivity, sat softly on fences and hedges, disguising the outlines of post boxes and street signs, softening the harshness of hard edges and sharp angles. Ice white street lights bringing sharp definition to the thick canvas stretching out in front of me while clouds drifted gently across the sky to reveal a scattering of stars, and a haloed ice moon.

IMG_2450It felt as if I could walk for ever – to carry on as my feet bit into the snow, crunching with every footfall, to walk ’til sunrise found me. I didn’t want to waste a moment – snow is so ephemeral in this country, arriving one day to be washed away in drizzly grey rain or winter sunshine the next. And memories washed back – of years before walking by the river trying to solve the seemingly intractable mess I had got myself into. I’ve made my share of bad decisions in the past, discarding something good for the sake of a dream of freedom. I have foolishly thrown away opportunities, through moments of confusion, or unworthiness, or madness. There have been times when faith and hope have seemed so far far away when in truth they have been my constant partners. Walking has always helped me through to clarity, the cold and the snow acting to further focus me. It would have been a shame to waste these frost-bound moments of clear headed thinking.

IMG_2446And the next day I was up before the sun had even begun to think about putting in an appearance, lacing on boots, pulling on hat, scarf and gloves, taking every opportunity to enjoy this brief moment before sun, rain and gritting salt washed it away, before it stopped being beautiful, dramatic, pristine white and faded into slushy melancholy grey. I walked by the river, enthralled by the unique soft crunch under my boots, watching rosy sunlight wash through the trees and light the landscape in shades of pink. Sheep looked back at me, dotted around fields and sheltering under trees. The river, swollen with recent rains, cast a slight mist on the water and cascaded through lock gates opened to allow its flow. And all around, setting each tree and bush, each trail of footprints, each gatepost, fence and house in a jewelled frame that draped the outlines with a frosty  white anonymity that forced me to look closer to identify each piece.
And again the calm tranquil quiet allowed me to reach a new level of peace with my own thoughts.

IMG_2456Snow here is fleeting, shortlived, occasional, lasting only a brief time before it is gone again. Our moments are like that too, dealing opportunities which must be taken up before they vanish, lost forever in time’s shadows. And mysterious Life itself is like that, to be enjoyed, and lived, and experienced deeply, and fully in each vibrant second of Now. These moments do not come again, and each one is precious.
Our days are not meant to be wasted, or saved, but spent lavishly and with exuberance, immersing ourselves in the excitement of what it means to be Alive.

And so, last night, walking in the icy night air, the streets silent and close around me, it seemed for me that I have been spinning my wheels for too long, lost in repeated uncertainty, pondering the imponderable, doomed to inaction as I second guess my own intentions. The morning sunrise brought illumination, a new determination, a decision to start to weave a new story, to begin again to declare something new with a confident and bold hand. So perhaps now is a good time to write again, to use these moments of icy clarity as a springboard to something new.

Find out more at www.timhodgson.org

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Back in white pyjamas

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Read Time:3 Minute, 19 Second

IMG_2414So there I was, nervous and uncomfortable, barefoot in a Peterborough gymnasium, and clad only in a pair of white pyjamas. The floor cold and hard, adrenaline spiking in my veins. The only source of comfort and security was the belt wrapped round my waist – my name and my old club embroidered on it – that and the months of extra training I’d put in during lockdown, pacing up and down my living room as I practiced. Somewhere in that practice I had tapped into muscle memory, and what I knew slowly started to flow back. They say that what you learn never truly leaves you. They say that any art practiced for ten thousand hours makes you a master. I’m no master – maybe I’d not spent ten thousand hours in practice, but four or five hours a week in class (at least) plus everyday practice for over ten years had made me solidly proficient.

Flashback: When my eldest son was younger, we rocked up to a traditional Shotokan karate class at a nearby school having seen an advert in the local paper. Some very tough years of training followed, with one or two injuries, and struggles with co-ordination, flexibility, speed and my innate lack of timing.. but eventually both he and I made it to our coveted black belt. And a couple of years later, I graduated again as a second dan black belt. But when I set up my own business, something had to give and, sadly, at that time karate was the thing I ended up giving up. But it felt as if a part of me had gone missing.

They say that black belts are masters. They say black belts are the ultimate fighting machines. Black belts know they are not. They know they are just at the beginning of the journey – that the only thing they had achieved after years of training was simply the right to be on that journey – and I had taken time out from that path to focus on other things.. important things, for sure, but now it was time to get back into the dojo, to put the gi back on and to train hard again. This was a new club, new instructor, new syllabus, and a new beginning.

IMG_2403And in the end, I was better than I feared, and probably even better than I had hoped. I could hold my own – not particularly because I had the skills, but because I had the determination to make it happen, and because that which you’ve learned never does really leave you. I had done my preparation work – reviewing what I had learned before, practicing over and over again in my cramped training space. I’d re-read my old books, watched the videos and went through my old applications and bunkai. But in the end it came down to turning up one day, leaving my pride, my ego and my fears outside the dojo doors, and starting again.

I’m nowhere near as good as I used to be – but it’s coming back, piece by piece, as I install new memories of old favourite katas and of fearsome sparring drills. My flexibility and speed need some attention, and there are katas to refamiliarise myself with, but there is progress, simply because I had chosen to turn up and try.

And suddenly, in that moment in the dojo, there was a deep knowing, and a deep sense of calm settled on me – something felt fundamentally right – as if I was putting a shard of who I am back in its right place. So it is that every time I pull the heavyweight white cotton fast around my shoulders, every time I tie the simple ties securely at my side, and especially when I knot that precious black belt firmly round my waist, I know I have come home, and that a piece of my life – a piece of who I am – is back where it belongs.

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The Oneness Declaration

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Read Time:6 Minute, 6 Second

the world

People tell me that it’s impossible for us to live like this. And I want to know ‘why?’. They say it can’t be done. And I ask ‘why not?’ They say there are more important things to think about. And I say that these are the important things. Get these right, and the rest of Life will simply fall into place.

Here’s some thought provoking stuff from Hungarian philosopher Ervin Laszlo.

THE ONENESS DECLARATION

Sixteen Hallmarks of the New Consciousness

by Ervin Laszlo

1.    I am part of the world. The world is not outside of me, and I am not outside of the world. The world is in me, and I am in the world.

2.    I am part of nature, and nature is part of me. I am what I am in my communication and communion with all living things. I am an irreducible and coherent whole with the web of life on the planet.

3.    I am part of society, and society is part of me. I am what I am in my communication and communion with my fellow humans. I am an irreducible and coherent whole with the community of humans on the planet.

4.    I am more than a skin-and-bone material organism: my body, and its cells and organs are manifestations of what is truly me: a self-sustaining, self-evolving dynamic system arising, persisting and evolving in interaction with everything around me.

5.    I am one of the highest, most evolved manifestations of the drive toward coherence and wholeness in the universe. All systems drive toward coherence and wholeness in interaction with all other systems, and my essence is this cosmic drive. It is the same essence, the same spirit that is inherent in all the things that arise and evolve in nature, whether on this planet or elsewhere in the infinite reaches of space and time.

6.    There are no absolute boundaries and divisions in this world, only transition points where one set of relations yields prevalence to another. In me, in this self-maintaining and self-evolving coherence- and wholeness-oriented system, the relations that integrate the cells and organs of my body are prevalent.  Beyond my body other relations gain prevalence: those that drive toward coherence and wholeness in society and in nature.

7.    The separate identity I attach to other humans and other things is but a convenient convention that facilitates my interaction with them. My family and my community are just as much “me” as the organs of my body. My body and mind, my family and my community, are interacting and interpenetrating, variously prevalent elements in the network of relations that encompasses all things in nature and the human world.

8.    The whole gamut of concepts and ideas that separates my identity, or the identity of any person or community, from the identity of other persons and communities are manifestations of this convenient but arbitrary convention. There are only gradients distinguishing individuals from each other and from their environment and no real divisions and boundaries. There are no “others” in the world: we are all living systems and we are all part of each other.

9.    Attempting to maintain the system I know as “me” through ruthless competition with the system I know as “you” is a grave mistake: it could damage the integrity of the embracing whole that frames both your life and mine. I cannot preserve my own life and wholeness by damaging that whole, even if damaging a part of it seems to bring me short-term advantage. When I harm you, or anyone else around me, I harm myself.

10.    Collaboration, not competition, is the royal road to the wholeness that hallmarks healthy systems in the world. Collaboration calls for empathy and solidarity, and ultimately for love. I do not and cannot love myself if I do not love you and others around me: we are part of the same whole and so are part of each other.

11.    The idea of “self-defense” even of “national defense,” needs to be rethought. Patriotism if it aims to eliminate adversaries by force, and heroism even in the well-meaning execution of that aim, are mistaken aspirations. A patriot and a hero who brandishes a sword or a gun is an enemy also to himself. Every weapon intended to hurt or kill is a danger to all. Comprehension, conciliation and forgiveness are not signs of weakness; they are signs of courage.

12.    “The good” for me and for every person in the world is not the possession and accumulation of personal wealth. Wealth, in money or in any material resource, is but a means for maintaining myself in my environment. As exclusively mine, it commandeers part of the resources that all things need to share if they are to live and to thrive. Exclusive wealth is a threat to all people in the human community. And because I am a part of this community, in the final count it is a threat also to me, and to all who hold it.

13.    Beyond the sacred whole we recognize as the world in its totality, only life and its development have what philosophers call intrinsic value; all other things have merely instrumental value: value insofar as they add to or enhance intrinsic value. Material things in the world, and the energies and substances they harbor or generate, have value only if and insofar they contribute to life and wellbeing in the web of life on this Earth.

14.    Every healthy person has pleasure in giving: it is a higher pleasure than having. I am healthy and whole when I value giving over having. The true measure of my accomplishment and excellence is my readiness to give. Not the amount of what I give is the measure of my accomplishment and excellence, but the relation between what I give, and what my family and I need to live and to thrive.

15.    A community that values giving over having is a community of healthy people, oriented toward thriving through empathy, solidarity, and love among its members. Sharing enhances the community of life, while possessing and accumulating creates demarcation, invites competition, and fuels envy. The share-society is the norm for all the communities of life on the planet; the have-society is typical only of modern-day humanity, and it is an aberration.

16.    I acknowledge my role and responsibility in evolving a planetary consciousness in me, and by example in others around me. I have been part of the aberration of human consciousness in the modern age, and now wish to become part of the evolution that overcomes the aberration and heals the wounds inflicted by it. This is my right as well as my duty, as a conscious member of a conscious species on a precious and now critically endangered planet.

(For more from Ervin go HERE)

Perhaps we just need to think a bit more clearly about who we are….

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Crooked Trails

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Read Time:1 Minute, 18 Second

canyon bridge

A friend of mine sent me this quote many years back, and I have always loved it – and tried to live my life by it. Until recently, I had not realised it was part of a larger quote, which really sent fingers of excitement running up and down my spine when I read it. And I thought you might enjoy it too!

“May your trails be crooked, winding, lonesome, dangerous, leading to the most amazing view. May your mountains rise into and above the clouds. May your rivers flow without end, meandering through pastoral valleys tinkling with bells, past temples and castles and poets towers into a dark primeval forest where tigers belch and monkeys howl, through miasmal and mysterious swamps and down into a desert of red rock, blue mesas, domes and pinnacles and grottos of endless stone, and down again into a deep vast ancient unknown chasm where bars of sunlight blaze on profiled cliffs, where deer walk across the white sand beaches, where storms come and go as lightning clangs upon the high crags, where something strange and more beautiful and more full of wonder than your deepest dreams waits for you — beyond that next turning of the canyon walls.”

(Edward Abbey)

Now that’s a huge and fabulous dream….

Find out more at www.timhodgson.org

PS I’m helping a friend out with some renovation work at the moment, so much as I would like to post, it’s proving a bit tricky! Normal service (whatever that is) will be resumed as soon as possible!

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Where do I find faith?

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Read Time:14 Minute, 40 Second

real truth - th

“Do all roads lead to God or must you believe in a specific faith to have your prayers answered and your dreams come true?”

A friend asked me this a while back, and I thought I would share the answer I gave her.

“I’ve found myself in this very dichotomy for a while now – partly because I came from a Christian background – it’s where my spiritual path started, many years ago, and so it ends up being my heritage. I probably relate to the Christian traditions more than to any other, even if my path is different now… but there are some key things that Christians believe that do not sit well with me. I have come to a place of peace in my personal faith, which is continually evolving and changing – but I am convinced that the only real teacher is the one inside, and the only place of truth is that which emerges from within. And so I don’t ask you to believe any of what I say – but simply to trust your own heart. Our heart is a wiser source of truth than we credit it with. And in the end, the big question – perhaps the only question – is ‘does this belief serve me?’ Does it produce the effects that I want in my life? If so, it is of value. If not, then I will choose to hold that truth more loosely and find another that does.

I have no way of verifying what I believe. All I know is that when I believe what I believe, then my life is better, of more value, and more meaningful – I am happier, more peaceful, more alive. 

And I also know that I am not being judged on whether I get these beliefs right or wrong – or even whether there is a right or wrong. There is just ‘what works’ and what doesn’t. A bit of me even suspects that ‘truth’ is a far more flexible thing than we can guess at – that seemingly different and contradictory truths may both be real.

So… where to start?

I believe that Christians are hugely correct with what they believe – and hugely wrong at the same time. For me, God is. There is nothing else. You, me, everything around us is that which we call God – or I prefer, somehow, Oneness, or Love, Infinite Intelligence, or the Universe. For me, in my head, somewhere in all of this ‘God’ has become this patriarchal entity in a robe and a beard.. and so it doesn’t help me particularly to use that word. Unless it does.

So when Christians refer to Jesus as the Son of God, I identify with that too… as a Son of God myself. I think that Jesus got further than most of us (maybe all of us) in terms of understanding the reality of that, and that’s why he could say ‘no-one comes to the Father (the source) but by me’ – by becoming as he was, by recognising the same within ourselves as he recognised within himself.. that ‘I and the Father are one’. (Now, to break my own rules (because I can) I think it’s clearer for context for me to carry on using the word ‘God’ here – but replace it if you will with anything that works better for you.) Because Jesus could see who he was, then he had the power to change reality.. but this is something that’s possible for each of us too.

Does that mean that God is strictly impersonal? No, although I think that there are principles of Life/God/Goddess that are pretty much as iron clad as gravity. So for me God is at the same time principle and personal. The more I explore this, the more I find myself stepping into a dichotomy… and I have learned to hold those dichotomies loosely, exploring what works and what doesn’t. Sometimes I envy the absolute and inherently simple faith of the atheist… and yet that doesn’t work for me. Because although atheists would say that the burden of proof lies with the believer, I think that’s just a case of perspective.. because I need something to explain what I feel in my heart – and to explain some of the strange things that seem to be true.

Now, I’ve always been frustrated by the fact that we were supposed to live lives that were as good as Jesus’ – but he had that one single advantage of being divine- of being the Son of God. No fair! But if we are all divine creatures.. if we are all One with a Universal power – then for sure, we can do more than Jesus did – as he promised we would. The clues are all there in the Bible: ‘I have said, you are Gods’…’all creation waits for the Sons of God to come into their own’… but it seems that the Church has diluted this truth, doubting what was placed in our hands, and giving it back to some super power outside ourselves. 

This may have been to exert control over the masses, and turn faith into some sort of frequent flyer programme – do enough good works, live a life that’s good, believe the right things…. and you’ll get to heaven. But it seems to me that heaven is already here, when we look…

For me, we don’t need ‘saving’ from some sort of ‘sin’. They surely can’t mean that I am cursed by the behaviour of two people who lived many many thousands of years ago? They surely can’t be implying that anyone who doesn’t believe the Christian way is cursed to a life of eternal separation from God? I cannot see this as the behaviour of an infinitely loving God. For sure, Christians will talk of how this is the only thing God can do, given mankind’s free will, but I don’t buy it. It all sounds like a control system to me… you can’t be happy now, but in a future life, if you behave yourself…? So I don’t see the need for ‘salvation’ to get me to heaven.. I do see there are ways that I have ‘missed the mark’ (the original meaning of the word ‘sin’) and failed to achieve what I set out to… but what I do see is that no matter what has happened or where we have failed, there is the opportunity to put that behind us and start again.

Your average Christian will respond to the question ‘how do you know these things are true’ with ‘because they are in the Bible’. There seems to be an awful lot of stuff in the Bible that they choose not to believe too, or that is in direct contradiction with other stuff…and so for me the only true frame of reference is what works for me. I think that’s the journey that everyone is on, by the way…

We don’t get to be ‘more spiritual’ by a relationship with Jesus. We are already spiritual. It is our nature. We are without the need to be ‘saved’ or to ‘see the light’ – we are powerful creative, spiritual creatures by our very nature, by virtue of being human. While a particular spiritual path may help in terms of a context for living, it’s not required. Each one of us has everything we need. 

So, I am not sure how I see the difference between the need for ‘a relationship with Jesus and worshipping God’ to get what you want.. or the concept of a fairy god mother. Is it that different? I think it was Cinderella’s relationship to the fairy godmother that allowed her to go to the ball (and, honestly, there’s an awful lot of spiritual truth in stories like Cinderella too).

I guess it’s easier, isn’t it, to say “God always answers prayer: he says ‘yes’, ‘no’, or ‘not yet'”… that’s so much more palatable than to have to try and work out why a seemingly impersonal law like the Law of Attraction isn’t working?! Sometimes this Christianity stuff seems a lot easier than working things out for ourselves.  

I guess if you contrast Christianity with The Secret, the Law of Attraction, or a whole raft of New Age beliefs… then those ‘New Age’ beliefs seem to put our power outside of ourselves, reliant on ‘The Universe’ or some impersonal ‘Law of Attraction’ to get the results we want. And I think there is some truth to those principles too… and yet by putting the power outside ourselves, we miss the point. Again. I think it’s true that what we think of tends to be drawn into our lives… although I do think that what we think we’re thinking may not be as clear cut as we think it might be. If we think about being rich, or being in a relationship, then what is at the heart of that thought is often the absence of that thing. Even when we use affirmations like ‘I am enjoying the relationship of my dreams’ there is a huge part of our being that says ‘ahem. No you’re not.’

And we put our power outside ourselves in practical terms too. We look at the statistics that say things like ‘99% of the world’s wealth is owned by 1% of the population’ (or whatever the latest statistic is). So, surely that 1% should divide their wealth more fairly? Hold on…I can’t find accurate statistics, but some research I did suggests that I am actually richer than 97% of the rest of the world. So maybe I need to work harder at making things fairer. We look at the hatred and violence in the world, but fail to recognise the same in ourselves when we get angry with those that have ‘done us wrong’. The power to change the world on those simple terms lies inside me – and the same power rests with 7 billion others.

I don’t think that God wants our worship (and I don’t see why that ‘worship’ has to be of a particular form either). I don’t actually think God wants or needs anything. There is a wonderful book by Neale Donald Walsch called ‘What God Wants’. He promises that Chapter 13 will go into detail on the subject of ‘What God Wants’ – and on reaching it, the chapter is blank.

I have a lot of time for Neale and certainly the first Conversations With God book, which blew away many of the cobwebs around our perceptions of God (as God himself says in that book ‘You got me all wrong’). As you might expect, I find some of his other thought at variance with what I feel.. but CWG book one and What God Wants are very helpful, as is Neale’s take on ‘The Secret’ called ‘Happier Than God’. And yet at the other end of the spectrum I have a huge amount of time for a pastor from Houston, Joel Osteen, who is very much a traditional bible believing ‘come to Jesus and be saved’ kind of guy – because, once I take that concept out of his language, much of what he says still makes sense, and fills me full of faith and hope.

Two men, from different ends of the spiritual spectrum – and yet both of them can speak to my heart and to the depths of my being. Both of them make sense to me (and yes, sometimes both of them contradict each other).

I see attempts to explain God in terms of quantum physics, and to show that perhaps quantum entanglement explains psychic phenomena, or the quantum observer effect explains how we affect our reality, or ‘everything is energy’ explains how we can attract what we want… and I think to myself that there’s actually more value in accepting that something much bigger than our science can perceive is actually running the show… that somehow what we perceive in terms of ‘energy’ is just the tip of an iceberg that we don’t have a frame of reference for.

I do think that one of the laws of life is the law of karma – perhaps not the Buddhist belief that we have to work off our karma over many lifetimes before we reach nirvana – but the concept that we get what we give. So yes, I do believe that if we devote our lives to giving to others, then we will find that we get more of that. Some of the happiest people I know are those who are giving to others selflessly. And that includes Christians and atheists alike. And that’s one reason why Christianity produces happy content people.. because it produces people who are giving. (It can also produce people who are hugely guilty, too, as they fail to meet what they perceive as God’s standard. And that really is one thing I hate about it – this concept of ‘the sorry sinner’)

I think what Christianity and other faiths have done is to create a framework that allows peace and happiness – to find a place where someone can ‘fit’ and explore a set of beliefs that give an opportunity for them to grow and become at peace with themselves. But if that framework doesn’t fit for you… if it doesn’t match what you hear yourself, and your own truth – then I think you are free to find something that does work. Take what serves you, let go of what doesn’t.

And in many ways I am drawn to a concept of magic… and I use that word because I can’t find a better one… that resides in each one of us because of our Divine nature, because we are each of us God incarnate. And I find that the less I have ‘wants’ then the more magical I become – it has taken me a long time to come to terms with the fact that my financial problems have given me the freedom to be happier than I could have been chasing the dollar – that I have a huge freedom to do what I want, to explore some of this stuff. I am drawn to a concept of simply choosing to be at peace – not because I am meeting someone’s criteria for good behaviour, but simply because I am choosing peace. And that is magical.

I can choose to be happy once I place my criteria for happiness inside myself and not outside. As a friend of mine once said, ‘in Miami, the perfect summer’s day is when there isn’t a cloud in the sky.. when the breeze is just enough to cool the skin yet not to make you cold.. when the sun is just that perfect warmth – in London, the perfect summer’s day is when it’s not raining.’ Or, in other words, choose to have easy to meet criteria for happiness… not necessarily that I don’t have goals to be wealthy, healthy, to have adventures, to travel, whatever… but that not having those things does not affect my happiness. In this, I simply choose to be grateful for what is, knowing that everything is working out perfectly, that the path I am on is, even in its seeming imperfection, absolutely perfect..

All of those things I think is the long way of saying that I’m closer to a simpler understanding of spirituality then I am to the Christian dogmatic approach… even Christians find themselves struggling to explain a God who seems to have changed his character from Old to New Testaments – from a God of brimstone and retribution to a God of love and forgiveness. I do think we have to look below the stories to decide for ourselves what is true for us. If we’re happy with a ready made off the peg belief system, then awesome. Start living it. And some of us will be looking for something that fits our understanding better – that answers the tough questions each of us have.

Does that mean that I am picking and choosing the bits of the Bible that I believe? The answer is a resounding ‘yes’. And for my precedent I cite the Church fathers at the council of Carthage who decided that the gospels of Mark, Matthew Luke and John were in, but the gospels of Thomas and Judas were out. I have tried to take my experience, my history, what I have read and heard and experienced, and create a synthesis that I can personally trust – something that has its own personal integrity – not taking the shortcut of a ready made faith handed down by someone else who has gone before – but by working hard at understanding what I personally believe to be true. 

So I live in a dichotomy – a space where I believe in a relationship with a personal God, a world of miracles and magic, of the impossible and the unexpected, and where I also believe that there are clear rules that run the Universe, principles which if we use them produce effective consistent results that are not at the behest of a capricious deity. I personally don’t feel the need to be ‘Christian’ or to comply with a set of beliefs and behaviours to be happy.. although I do know that when I make decisions and follow behaviours that seem to come from my heart and from a place of love inside myself, then I feel happier, more at peace, more fulfilled, more powerful, more magical, more alive, more ‘me’ somehow….”

 

Find out more at www.timhodgson.org

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Ripley says… Happy New Year!

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Read Time:1 Minute, 39 Second

34415288_10160429581515147_7707758441229451264_nHello. My name is Ripley an’ I am a broken haired lurcher. I’m only two but I have learned one or two things about life an’ I wanted to share them with you. My friend Timmy runs this blog an’ he let me borrow it for a bit.

Have a great year! heart-paw


Ripley’s life lessons . . .


Photo 2019-12-16 14.08.16Live your own style.






Photo 2019-12-02 14.02.33Take time to enjoy the scenery.





Photo 2019-11-24 11.20.45  Life will sometimes bring you strange bedfellows. Embrace them.






Photo 2019-08-04 15.24.32


Enjoy seeing new places.






Photo 2019-11-24 10.47.19  Ignore your critics.





Photo 2019-11-04 13.57.50Always check your friends want to play before bouncin’ all over them.






Follow your own patPhoto 2019-10-25 13.06.27h. It confuses people.





Photo 2019-10-16 14.18.53Always live hopeful.






Photo 2019-10-16 14.16.44 Make sure you get enough chill time.





Photo 2019-10-16 13.39.16Be ready to drop everything to go on a ‘venture with a friend.






Photo 2019-10-11 14.26.34  Be polite.






Photo 2019-10-16 13.28.12Explore everything.






Photo 2019-09-20 20.08.13  Share a laugh with people you love.






Photo 2019-09-10 14.11.41 Have fun.





Photo 2019-11-30 16.59.45 Maintain your boundaries.






Get plenty of exercise . . . Photo 2018-10-22 13.53.25





Photo 2018-10-09 18.33.28 …but know when to stop.





farm 10Always have that one special friend you can be yourself with.






farm 8  Talk to animals. ‘specially dogs.





Photo 2018-09-09 16.47.50


Did I mention getting’ enough chill time?






Muddy Doggy It’s OK to get a little muddy sometimes. It’ll wash off and you may end up smellin’ of raspberries.





Photo 2019-09-20 21.23.04Don’t worry what others think about you.






tuckered Make sure you have somewhere you can feel safe, secure an’ comf’table.




Photo 2019-02-26 19.49.34Learn to listen to good advice


Photo 2019-02-14 13.19.07 If you’re not sure what to do next, have a sit down and listen to what your heart is tellin’ you.


Photo 2018-09-05 14.31.15Sometimes, you just need coffee.






67978066_499483167536949_8660797966086307840_n If it makes you feel good, do it. Even if other folks don’t understand.


Photo 2019-06-20 14.20.59Always be ready to go for a walk in the countryside.


j n r Make lots of time for relaxin’ with a friend.

44072998_10160953544210147_6055400646041927680_n


Eat good food.


Photo 2018-09-05 08.22.30  Devour good books.





Photo 2018-09-04 16.38.34Take an active int’rest in other people’s work.



Photo 2019-02-26 14.21.02 Sometimes, the only thing to do is to just tune out and let the world go by.


Photo 2018-09-06 20.58.59 Remember . . .You be you.


And remember to enjoy the journey . . .

Photo 2018-09-13 18.13.05

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Finding my Way

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Read Time:6 Minute, 23 Second

good idea - ogg

I’ve been a bit absent from sharing deeper thought over the last few months – much has happened and I have been struggling to make sense of it, and to work out where I go next. Slowly things become clearer on my journey into the future.. I realise that in many ways I have been hiding out, undecided as to what I want to do, yet conscious that there is a lot that I have wanted to say – and yet unsure as to whether any of that held real value to anyone, whether it was worth sharing. I have found myself of one mind with Rumi when he said “Everyone has been called for some particular work, and the desire for that work has been put into their heart“, and yet I was afraid that I had missed something important – or that I was in some way disqualified.

It has been an uncomfortable and uncertain time for me in many many ways, some of which I have written about before – but I find myself in the same situation as Anaïs Nin: “Then the day came when the risk to remain tight in a bud was more painful than the risk to blossom.”

I have wanted for a while to give some focus to my blogging and writing, to share what I believe – to go deeper into my own spiritual and life journey and unlock some of the secrets of the keys to Life.. to be an agent for Peace, to tread a path of Freedom, of Love, and of Kindness, to be in some way a wayfinder. I don’t claim to have any answers, just reflections on what I feel to be true, and the reason I share them is because those messages are actually intended first for me. And if others find them helpful, then that’s great.

And so much of what I write is intended for me, as I try and make sense of what I believe. I have moved some way from the simplistic Judeo-Christian beliefs of my youth as I find myself embracing New Thought, Buddhism, Taoism and more in my own personal world view.. and so much of what I write is bringing together what I feel. I hope I share it with humility, with wisdom, and with kindness.

As I say on my new blog “I cannot tell you the shape of your faith. I can only tell you the shape of mine, and help you catch the echoes in your own soul.”

I feel very much like Jack Kerouac when he said ” I had nothing to offer anybody except my own confusion” – in many ways I am simply trying for myself to make sense of what I see – surrounded by my own confusions and conflicts, fears, doubts and weaknesses. This may yet be the most personal part of my journey so far, but as I was out walking today, asking where I could learn more, and where I could find someone to teach me, a still small voice inside asked “and at what point in your life are you going to start to share what you have already learned?” I hope that in some way I shall be a wayfinder – to seek to discover a path that rings true out of all that I find faces us.

For me, it’s time to write and blog again, without any expectation of what this might become, but merely as a vehicle for me to share what’s on my heart: so here’s what’s happening to my on line stuff, as far as I know: and it all starts with a question . . .

Who are you?

I’m conscious that my Facebook friends fall into several groups – those who are part of the dance world, those who have been part of my coaching and personal development journey, those I have worked with or studied with, and those I have encountered as we have shared moments of our own personal spiritual quests. And then there are friends and family and other folk that have gathered round me as the great tumbleweed spins through life. Some of my friends pop up all over the place, disappearing from one part of my life only to resurface, unexpectedly, elsewhere…

Because of the wide range of people on my pages, I’ve often found myself being limited as to what I post on my wall – in trying to be all things to all men and avoid controversy and criticism, I have found myself not expressing myself as clearly, as lucidly or as radically as I want to.

So I’m not going to be publishing everything everywhere – but I know that many of you will want to stay in touch with what I am writing.

Here’s what I am hoping will happen…

My main web page at timhodgson.org will remain as the main ‘go to’ place for my work, including my books and more. Expect to see that grow in coming months.

Remember…You are Amazing will continue to be a place for me to post little reminders of just how incredible, gifted, talented and wonderful each one of us is. I’ll probably carry on posting those on my personal Facebook page as well as on the Facebook page Just to Remind You – You’re Amazing. Because I can. Although I might not.

Importantly, I’m going to be stepping up a gear on my other blogs:

Shape of my Soul will be a very personal blog exploring my own personal take on spirituality and on faith. I am still (and always will be) on a journey to discover what I believe and understand – a draughty journey without the traditional pillars of faith and belief that continues to take me into new territory and causes me to explore new world views and assemble my own statement of faith.

In particular I plan on starting a series specifically exploring my adventures in studying the Tao Te Ching, which has come to life for me in a very real way of late.

I will try and bring that together with more stuff on my main “Tim Hodgson” blog – thoughts and observations on how the world works, and how we can explore our own personal power and step into a new freedom to truly live our lives.

I will be posting updates to my Tim Hodgson – Exploring the Power of You Facebook page so take a trip over there and ‘Like’ that page if you want to stay up to date on Facebook. Those posts are very unlikely to make it onto my personal Facebook page. And I will be wrapping it all up into one little package for newsletter subscribers at timhodgson.org.

That should help me be clearer about who I am writing for, and allow me to go deeper where it matters. These are exciting times, and I’m glad to be getting back into sharing what’s on my heart again. There’s a lot of amazing stuff starting to bubble up as the future becomes clearer and my purpose and mission starts to unfold.

So, Facebook friends.. if you’re happy just to stay friends on Facebook… that’s great. No action needed.

If you want to make sure you get some reminders and inspiration that will make you think.. then hop over to Just to Remind You – You’re Amazing and like the page there.

And if you want to engage with me on some of the other deeper stuff then take a trip to Tim Hodgson – Exploring the Power of You and like that page.

Looking forward to chatting some more . . .

 

 

Find out more at www.timhodgson.org

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