Original Love

The following is an excerpt from the first online 'Original Love ' programme led by Henry Shukman  (http://mountaincloud.org)

'...that deep love is already here and we can most definitely get tastes of it long before we have any awakening ... practice all the way through should be, can be, about getting those tastes - we don't have to be struck by lightening ... we can get real tastes, in all manner of ways, of the belovedness of existing .. right now, you don't have to be some enlightened master, whatever that might be, I certainly don't know, but you don't have to be that, in order to taste this love, and when we taste love, we're good, it's almost as simple as that.. we humans .. we go through an awful lot of suffering, some more, some less ..but basically, everyone's going to get some of it, and we're all going to lose everything in the end anyway, and we all know that, so we're in a precarious situation. But we're also in an incredibly beautiful situation because we've got this precious, precious awareness, and we've got these precious hearts, and when our hearts are touched by love, or open to love, even the tiniest little bit, somehow our life, in some way, is okay, even when we're facing very difficult losses, very grievous situations - if we can find, just open a crack to love - it makes all the difference. And this is what practice ie really about, I believe, is opening up to little tastes of love, and a little taste is all you need. It's like water, there's the great ocean, and there's the little muddy puddle in a parking lot, and a little muddy puddle is the same water. So whether you get vast love of awakening, or a little drop of dew from a smile from a child, it's the same love, and that's all we really need, I've come to believe .. ' (July 2021)

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What you practice grows stronger

From Tara Brach’s ‘ Trusting the Gold’: -

‘If you practice obsessive worry or blame, these pathways in your body and mind become deeply grooved and familiar. They imprison you in a small, tight, and endangered sense of self.
If you practice thoughts of gratitude, curiosity, and care, the ego-self becomes porous and your goodness easily shines through.                                                                            You can choose what you practice. Why not choose to cultivate the goodness and let the gold shine through?’ (p.49)

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CALM Practice

Here's a C A L M practice - courtesy of one of our group. It's useful to have an acronym to help remind us of a practical, on-the-spot practice such as this:


 1. CONNECT your mind and body with a mindful check-in: feeling any sensations, any tightness in the body as well as feeling into your mood, feeling into your emotions, and just acknowledging whatever you are feeling &  letting these thoughts, sensations, feelings – just be.

2. ANCHOR your ATTENTION in your feet on the floor or hands on your lap or the rhythm of your breathing.

Allow your Awareness to rest and breathe steadily

Appreciate this special time that we share together

3. LET GO of any thoughts or memories of the day or concerns about tomorrow, even if the letting go is temporary. Offer yourself some Loving Kindness in this moment : may I be as safe, happy & healthy as possible through the next couple of months; may my life and lived experiences be in harmony with my surroundings and other people; may my life be balanced, in equilibrium. Offer other people similar loving kindness : may YOU be as safe, happy & healthy as possible through the next couple of months; may Your lives and lived experiences be in harmony with YOUR surroundings and other people around you; may YOUR life be balanced, in equilibrium.

4. MAKE a commitment to be MINDFUL over the summer. Come to this place of CALM on a regular basis while we have a break from meeting together. MOVE your body steadily and gently to stretch your fingers etc , shrug shoulders, glide neck from side to side / up & down & come back to stillness; breathing steadily & open your eyes.



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What it Means to Be a Human Being

Two extracts from the Henning Mankell's 'Quicksand - What It Means to Be a Human Being', published in 2014, just a year before his death.

The first forms part of the Dedication:

'This book is also dedicated to the baker Terentius Neo and his wife, whose name we don't know. Their faces can  be seen in a fresco painting at their house in Pompeii.

Two people in the prime of life. Their expressions are solemn, but they also appear to have a spiritual dimension. She is very beautiful, but looks unsure of herself. He gives the impression of modesty.

They seem to be two people who take their lives extremely seriously.

When the volcano erupted in AD 79, they can't have had much time to grasp what was happening. They died there, in the middle of their lives, buried underneath the ash and the glowing lava.' 


The second is from the Epilogue:

'Endless numbers of people surround you as you travel through life. Some you notice briefly, then forget. With others you make eye contact, which leads to a kind of emotional connection. And sometimes you have a conversation with some of these people.

And then you have your family, your friends, your workmates. All those who are close to you. Some move away, or your relationship cools, or they let you down in some way, and friends sometimes become enemies..

But most are simply folk who happen to live at the same time as you do. Miillions of people who pay a short visit to the earth, whose stay overlaps your own.

Since being diagnosed with cancer I often dream about walking along streets where lots of people are jostling their way past others. It can be quite difficult to make progress. My dream sometimes places me briefly in a theatre, or a cafe, or in an aeroplane: I am searching for someone. Someone who knows me, someone who is also searching for me.

Then the dream ends and I nearly always wake up with a feeling of great relief. There is nothing frightening about all these people who accompany me or have accompanied me as I journey through life. It is more a feeling of curiosity about who they actually were - I would have liked to get to know so many of them better.

Such as the woman in the Stephansdom cathedral, the tango dancers in Buenos Aires, or the girl in the camp in Mozambique who was reunited with her parents.

And the lumberjack and the businessman he killed in northern Sweden sixty years ago.

All these unknown people exist alongside me. For a short time they have been part of my life. I share it with all of them.

Our real family is endless, even if we don't know who some of them were when we met them for an extremely brief moment.'  (p 302 -303)


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14) The Science of Connection


The Science of Connection


In her audiobook, 'Befriending the nervous system', Deb Dana writes:-

‘It’s our biology that shapes our experiences of safety and connection. Where we think our brains are running the show, really the way we navigate the world begins in our body with our Autonomic Nervous System’ 

'Polyvagal theory is the science of connection. It’s what I call the science of feeling safe enough to fall in love with life and take the risks of living‘ (chapter 3).


Until just a couple of decades ago it was commonly thought the model of stress v relaxation was based on the idea there were two circuits running the neural show of the Autonomic nervous system (ANS) - with the sympathetic nervous system (SNS) activating the typical 'stress response' to threat and danger ('fight or flight') and the parasympathetic nervous system (PNS) expressing itself in the relaxation response ('rest and digest'). 



In the past 25 years, Polyvagal theory (Stephen Porges, 1994) has identified that the ANS has in fact three neural circuits which, in evolutionary history, developed separately in different animal lifeforms over millions of years, and we are the inheritors of all three. First came the dorsal branch of the vagus nerve – which, when not concerned with survival, aids digestion, but when responding to threat, is responsible for shutdown and collapse, disconnection and dissociation (as in a trauma response and in deep depressive states): next came the sympathetic spinal chain which allowed animals to move to ‘fight or flee’ the threat, and last of all, around 200 million years ago, in mammals, came the ventral branch of the vagus nerve - promoting positive states of relaxation and social connection and engagement. Taken together, these circuits regulate our bodily functions and help us maintain homeostasis or equilibrium.

Through understanding the delicate interplay between the different ANS pathways we can begin to appreciate the interdependence of the brain/body/mind connection. We begin with neuroception – beneath conscious awareness – but through understanding, perception, and behavioural adjustment we can learn to better regulate our nervous systems through our bodies - in the interest of greater mind/body equilibrium – and the role of the vagus nerve becomes ever more important in shaping our health and well-being.


As Stanley Rosenberg says in his book 'Accessing the healing power of the vagus nerve' -


‘Today there are many systems, including Pilates, yoga, martial arts, and mindfulness meditation , that help restore people to their sense of their body…


Sensing our own bodies and staying grounded helps us to remain in a ventral vagal state. Awareness of our body can help us to avoid getting carried away by emotions that can lead to faulty neuroception.’(p 63) 




To help us better regulate our inner states and therefore our ways of being, of acting and of interacting in the world, we can develop greater bodily awareness. Here’s a practice to bring awareness into our ‘interior bodies’ through sensing and grounding from within:



 Felt-Sense Embodiment Practice




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