Monday 22 November 2010


I am back from two weeks in Western Zambia with many memories. Strongest is the sculptured groups of black mat skin. The women with silent wide eyed children; the large group of girls, some carrying younger children and small boys. There were a few young men, usually near the edge of the group. Most of the men were in the fields. It was as if they were posed for a photo of beauty, dignity, with an air of welcome; unperturbed by the differences which bothered me so much.  We arrived in a gleaming white Toyota with plastic chrome; four white middle aged or elderly men and a couple of local people.  They had very little in some villages; no cattle or goats or chickens,  just huts and a diet of maize and cassava. They found some chairs and we sat in the shade of the tree on the poor sandy soil. Nearby was the hand pump; the subject of our visit.

I notice how in the West poverty is shameful and differences awkward. They seemed at ease with this and peaceful, open, welcoming; shaking hands at every opportunity. No one could envy their suffering, their very basic existence and there is certainly nothing ennobling in poverty. But they can more easily attain a natural relaxed state in a world of few distractions and little pressure beyond the daily tasks of survival.  No mobile phone signals reach here yet; no satellite dishes, no internet; (but not for long I fear).

We came to see how they were managing with the new well made after they had accepted out demand that they construct and use pit latrines and wash their hands. A small imposition on them which can save the lives and the sight of their children, nearly half of whom will otherwise be struck by simple illnesses.

I hope there is some way that their lives can be improved without being spoilt. That the usual development doesn't lead to an exodus of the young from rural life to live in the sprawling cities where  half the world's population now live. I don't know what would make that possible but at least basic sanitation and water make health a real prospect.

Saturday 18 September 2010


So many songs are written about love. Here in the West we have a religious tradition of Christianity - a religion  based on love (though some pretty unloving things have been done in its name!); and in tantra we often see the heart chakra as the centre of the body and the transformer and gateway from the three lower - but not lesser chakras to the three higher ones. The heart is the centre of love. So it seems a bit strange that little attention is given to how and where love flows in our lives. Who do you love? How do you love? What are the limits of love?

 I am not going to answer these questions but Dr. Deborah Taj Anapol, after training as a clinical psychologist has spent most of the last thirty years, trying to understand this in her own and others lives. Her first book Love without Limits was published nearly twenty years ago. She has written about the Seven Laws of Love and has now just published Polyamory in the 2st Century. Summarising this and giving many examples of the lives of those, who from choice or necessity have lived in a different way. Her website  has some excellent articles on it. She has been staying at my house and is a lovely person who runs great workshops
Imagine a world where our hurt and pain about love wasn't running us and where we didn't operate as if love was in short supply!

Monday 16 August 2010

Tantra and Yoga are Sciences

New Age Chakras
New Age Map

The New Age is full of versions of "anything goes" or "whatever you believe is true" or " you create your own reality", all of which are the opposite of a science, where things have to be tested and verified and considered in relation to previous truths. Here is a small example.The chakras are centres in the body which connect physical and energy bodies together. They are important in tantra as part of the map by which we can move energy and consciousness through the body. The chakras are actually rooted inside the body near the spine but I will only talk of where they "surface" at the front.  If you look in most modern western books the Third Chakra, traditionally called Manipura (City of Jewels) is located at the solar plexus; just below the ribcage and the second chakra is at the level of the navel. The third chakra is usually called the Solar Plexus Chakra.  Above are typical New Age pictures of the chakras.

Traditional Chakra Map

However, traditionally in all the ancient texts Manipura is known as the Solar chakra and not connected with the solar plexus. It is also sometimes called the Navel Chakra, Nabhi Padma and its location is at the navel or, some yogis even suggest one finger width below the navel. This is where the New Age puts the second chakra! Traditionally the second chakra is two finger widths above the pubic bone. Basically everything has shifted by one chakra and been moved up about four inches!  Here is a typical picture of this version. Notice the positions of the second and third chakras.

Traditional Chakra Map

How did this happen? It probably stems from a misunderstanding by Theosophists in the late nineteenth century where the solar chakra got mixed up with the solar plexus. C.W. Leadbeater's book  The Chakras in 1927 certainly has this and influenced the New Age view of the chakras.  They are generally based on using the chakras for healing; whereas in tantra, meditating on the chakras is a means of  dissolving unconscious imprints and obstacles to union with the Divine source.

So if the third chakra is at the navel, put you hand there. This is your centre of power, will and playfulness it is also the hara or tan tien in Japanese and Chinese and a place for the accumulation of energy. It is connected with the element of fire; the fire of the jewel shining like the sun at this centre.

Tuesday 13 July 2010

How we Hide

The most fundamental aspect of being alive is the pulsation of breath and energy through our bodies. This can be the obvious pulsation of the chest lungs and diaphragm in breathing; the rhythm of the heart muscles and the surge of blood; or the subtle rhythm of the fluid around the brain. Finer pulsations of life are the streamings of energy in the body like a small bubbling stream, or what the Kashmir Shavite tradition of tantra calls spanda usually translated as trembling.

In the bodies of untraumatised young children it is easy to see this quality of pulsation.  By the time most get to adulthood this is lost. The body has become hardened  against pulsation or disorganised so it is chaotic or uninhabited so that it is too loose and unenergised. Traditionally in body psychotherapy the various ways we loose our fluid pulslation and flow are called character structures. They then imprison us for many years and we come to identify with them. We think this is who I am and remain trapped deep inside.  Both body psychotheapy and tantra aim to re-establish this pulsation and flow. For some this means working with the pulsation through breath, sound, movement and perhaps touch in massage. For other people is is more about bringing awareness back to the energy. Tantra is about this dance of energy or aliveness and awareness. Energy being considered as Shakti kundalini and awareness as Shiva consciousness.  From this dance of Shakti and Shiva all life and aliveness comes. 

Raoul Moat who shot himself at the weekend was described as a man-mountain and from the photo I saw had the typical build (which I associate with bouncers) of a very short thick neck and dense body which looked as if compressed as though they had been shouldering a heavy weight for many years.This is a typical maoschistic character structure and caries within it a huge amount of rage for the suppression they experienced when very young.  In a society which valued movement, pulsation, aliveness, expression and emotion there would be many less with such a structure and such rage which can burst out fatally.  The alternative to celebrating and supporting the dance of Shakti and Shiva is death.

Monday 12 July 2010

I have no dad and nobody cares about me

Just over a month after the last blog about Derrick Bird, here is another on the same theme of men's pain and isolation in Raoul Moat's final lament before he shot himself at the weekend.  He wasn't psychotic or even inarticulate - he wrote a 49 page letter. He was just deeply deeply troubled and unhappy without a good enough foundation in life. It is probably the usual story of insufficient quality mothering and lack of a father and then a life with inadequate internal resources, where too much had gone wrong. He was, like Derrick Bird, faced with a lack of real intimacy and no apparent means of getting any.

When will people realise that good therapy can help? The usual cliché that women see therapists and men see probation officers and alcohol counsellors probably applies. More support for parents, widely available support for couples, good skilled psychotherapy and above all building a culture in which men can be real and intimate and feel valued as men would stop most of the killing and much of the pain.  By good skilled psychotherapy I don't mean a few sessions of counselling with volunteers or a session with the prison chaplain but the sort of individual and group therapy which can get to the roots of psychological pain and make a fundamental difference.  Therapy has been around for well over a hundred years but in Britain it is still marginalised, misunderstood and laughed at.  I have spent some of each week for the last 20 years training therapists and counsellors.  With the new cuts in public expenditure you can be pretty sure that the military, and the pharmaceutical industry will suffer less than the tiny amount of real therapy in the NHS. As for going privately, many men spend more on drink  in a week than the weekly cost of  therapy.

Friday 4 June 2010

Desperation and Destruction

The horrific rampage of Derrick Bird in Cumbria is thankfully very rare. It does tell us something about life, intimacy and men.  He was not mentally ill, or schizophrenic or hearing voices commanding him to do this. Something which had been inhibiting him snapped and he put in to motion a sort of plan he had been developing over a long time; to kill himself.  This was a suicide, but on the way he wanted to get his revenge and show his anger and desperation. The largest groups for actual suicide (not suicide attempts) is men in their 50's. Although he was not described as a loner, ( like many of the others who have done similar outrages), it is obvious from the newspaper reports that his relationships had gone wrong; with women, the mother of his second child had left 15 years ago, problems in Thailand in attempts at intimacy and connection with women, possible problems resulting in his leaving work at Sellafield and finally, what was probably the last straw, falling out with some of  his fellow cab-drivers. The issue here is friendships, intimacy and a satisfying sexual and emotional life. This supports men who do not have self-esteem from work achievement. He was described as friendly but I doubt if that is a sign of real closeness. Although this is important for everyone; when men reach their 50's and don't have this for whatever reason, then they often decline into low-level depression or into alcoholism. Several times in China in the last few years men have gone beserk with knives in similar attacks and I expect the general picture was the same.  They often have a feeling of being left out or left behind by life and by progress and with no real intimacy. This is why I work professionally and personally at intimacy and the barriers we create against it.

Tuesday 1 June 2010


Alice Miller died a couple of weeks ago in her 80's. As a psychoanalyst and then as a writer she is best known for her fierce championing of the rights of children and her brilliant books. In her book entitled Breaking Down the Wall of Silence, she looks at the childhood of Hitler, Stalin, and other tyrants and finds there the roots of their later tyranny. To a large extent, the oppression we receive in childhood, is first repressed as a memory and acted out in adult life in the personal and in the social and political realms. Today the actions of Israel in intercepting the convoy for Gaza are in the headlines. All these actions and the decisions around them and all of Israel's policies towards Gaza are done by the children and grandchildren of the Holocaust. It is no wonder, from the perspective of Alice Miller and her lifelong work; that they created in Gaza a giant concentration camp. What we cannot heal; we enact. It is the tragedy of human history. I often feel that the work we do in individual healing is so small compared to the collective trauma, however healing creates a different resonance in the field. I hope the ripples can spread.

Thursday 22 April 2010

Where are they coming from - The politics of chakras

Here in Britain we are being subject to the five yearly barrage by politicians called a General Election campaign. It isn't difficult to be cynical about it all. When people are cynical it is often associated with recent events like the scandals over MP's expenses. It is much deeper than that.

How we live together on one small island is a deeply moral question and the only truly moral system of political thought we ever had was called socialism. This disappeared a generation ago under the combined weight of the arrival of what was called "New Labour" helped by Mrs Thatcher's destruction of the Trade Unions. Since then all moral discourse in politics stopped and we have been offered  options to elect economic managers not politicians. We have been asked who best to manage a system whose only morality is "The Market" and a system which is devastating the entire planet. The fall of the Iron Curtain meant that there was no counter, however inadequate to the rapacious greed of global capitalism. All that followed was so predictable; the scandals of companies like Enron trading non existent goods, rogue traders like Nik Leeson, the banking collapse and bailout, junk bonds and roulette banking and now the emergence of China as an aggressive capitalist country ever - at least on the world stage. It now owns half of the American government in financial bonds!

So what are we to do? Cynicism and apathy play in to their hands. The election of President Obama gave many at least a glimmer of hope. Ask politicians moral questions about real values. We don't want managers of a flawed system; but real change. See in terms of their energy where they are coming from. Which chakra dominates? Is it the first three chakras about greed, ego, image and material goods? Look at their body language rather than listening to their words. Use your intuition and instincts. What level of consciousness are they coming from? Beware of anyone who seems to be trying to bribe you with promises of how much more money you are about to get. Talk to them about about "defence", nuclear weapons, third world aid, the culture of targets which is destroying education, health and welfare services, talk about global justice and above all talk about the well-being of the whole planet and its delicate ecosystem. Don't believe the lie that a hung Parliament would be a bad thing in Britain. It just might force politicians to talk to each other and work together not just score points off each other like overgrown schoolboys.

A long time ago the great economist, John Maynard Keynes wrote in Economic Possibilities for Our Grandchildren; "There will also be great changes in our morals. I see us free to return to some of the most sure and certain principles of religion and traditional virtue - that avarice is a vice, that usury is a misdemeanor, and the love of money is detestable. We shall honour those who can teach us how to pluck the hour and the day virtuously and well, the delightful people who are capable of taking direct enjoyment in things." . We are still waiting!

Friday 5 March 2010

Holy Smoke (1999)

This is an interesting and complex film by Jane Campion which explores spirituality and sexuality. It stars Kate Winslet as Ruth a young beautiful woman from a pretty dysfunctional Australian outback family who goes to India and meets a guru in an ashram and falls in love with that spiritual, peaceful life. Her family trick her in to coming home and then hire an elderly American to de-programme her from the cult (as they see it). Most of the action on the film takes places over three days with the two of them in an isolated house in the Australian desert. It is intense, emotional, erotic and very charged.

The turning point comes when he awakens to the flames of her burning her white sari. This is also symbolically the fire of kundalini awakening in her. He goes out and she is completely naked in the desert. She pees standing, showing she is letting go (water also symbolises the Svadisthana, the second chakra) and then she seduces him. He is not able to meet her powerful awakening sexuality. She realises that she can't get close to people and he shows her something about the need for simple kindness. It gets more complex still when she puts lipstick on him and dresses him as a woman not just to defeat his machismo but to open him to deeper sexuality than conquering. She initiates him into deeper spiritual sexuality and he sees her as a goddesss. It ends a year later with her back in India with a more grounded spirituality which includes sexuality.

Wednesday 17 February 2010

Tiruvanamali - what dies?

In January and February in Tiruvanamali, it is the satsang season. Some great teachers come, including the lovely Mooji ( and the very skilful teacher, Miranda McPherson ( It draws many hundreds of Westerners to the sacred mountain of Arunachala with the ashram of Ramana Maharshi at its foot. Indians don't seem to be that interested in these satsangs. The Westerners range from some accomplished practitioners of meditation and self-enquiry (Ramana's method), via many earnest seekers after Truth; to the seriously lost and confused. Some have come mainly to party, avoid their life and drift around India for as long as possible.

I met a beautiful, intelligent young French woman who had been living for several months in a cave high on the mountain. She came to Arunachala to die and seemed a little disappointed that she hadn't died. I believe that as a teenager she attempted suicide a few times and that wouldn't be surprised if that didn't include the slow suicide of anorexia. I suggested to her that La petite mort est mieux que la grand mort (orgasm is better than death) in the hope that she would wake up to the difference between physical death with its wish to separate from the body; and the letting go of the small controlling ego which knows only fear. Surrender into the body, into life and into love is what is appropriate for women in their 20's not trying to kill themselves. Ego death and physical death are very different and the confusion is behind some suicide attempts; whether the exotic spiritual ones, or the more usual attempts. Tantra is clear on all this - practice letting go into the life of the body, the sexual life of pleasure and bliss. Do this with great with great awareness. Tantra is as old as Advaita and not opposed to it. So much of the spiritual teaching of India, including Advaita Vedanta and yoga teachers are only interested in the top three chakras of the body; heart, throat and third eye!

Arunachala is very connected to Ramana Maharshi's life giving Advaita teaching and his powerful method of self enquiry (Who Am I?). The problem with this is that it is only one method and doesn't suit all. It tends to the ascetic and non-relational. If I am consciousness without any limits then there can be nothing outside to relate to. Ramana's main relationships (apart form his mother whom he tried to get away from but she came along anyway) were with Arunachala, the mountain itself and with a cow! The 20' and 30' something people; particularly the women, need to connect to their bodies, their senses, their sensuality and their sexuality and celebrate life. Most will be in relationship and have children. The only method their are being taught - self enquiry, doesn't acknowledge or relate in any way to that and by omission gives a life of asceticism and internal enquiry. They also don't realise that in India many of these spiritual practices were for men over 50 who had already had a career and brought up a family. Tantra teaches methods which embrace life, relationships and the world as part of a spiritual practice. See ( Perhaps we should run some tantra taster workshops near Arunachala next satsang season!

Happy Shivaratri and Chinese New Year

Mahashivaratri is one of the four biggest festivals in India. It is the night of the new moon when Shiva and Parvarti got married and a celebration of Shiva and consciousness. In Arunachala, the sacred mountain of Shiva in Tamil Nadu near the huge Shiva Temple at Tiruvanamali, many people practised giriparadakshina, the 14 km walk around the mountain. Around midnight we came to the 28 storey tower at the main entrance to the temple. It was not as crowded as we had expected. There we learnt that earlier that afternoon, some pandits or priests had announced that Mahashivaratri was postponed and would now be celebrated a (lunar) month later! It could only happen in India, which gives such wonderful opportunities to let go of expectations and of control and to surrender to the glorious chaos of it all. Happy Chinese New Year - the year of the Tiger. At least they didn't cancel that.

Monday 8 February 2010


Right now in Haridwar in Northern India the Maha Kumbh is on, sometimes called the Kumbh Mela. It happens every three years and is a huge religious fetival of bathing in the sacred Ganges river to remove suffering and karma. It is huge - think a hundred times the size of the Glastonbury Festival. I am fortunately a long way away in South India.

A Kumbh is a pot which in Hindu mythology contains the nectar of immortality. It was in the depths of the ocean and when they stirred the ocean to try and retrieve it, the waters started to release many treasures as well as evil elements. Some poison escaped which threatened to contaminate the entire universe. At that crucial moment Shiva stepped in and swallowed the poison with one large gulp. He held it in his throat and as a result his whole body turned to a deep shade of blue. The waters of immortality from the Kumbh in the Ganges cleanse the soul and body on the ten ritual bathing days of the festival when many millions immerse themselves in the Ganges.

So why write this? Kumbh is a pot or container which holds the netar of immortality. Also in India there is a fire ritual done in a Havan Kund a fire pit where the sacred fire is honoured through mantras and offerings. The word we have from Medieval english which comes from these two words? Cunt! In tantra we often use the word yoni which in Sanskrit means sacred place or altar but we could well be reminded that the Old English (I think it is found in Chaucer) conncects directly with the ancient traditions and myths being honoured now in Haridwar. There are tantric texts which say that a man can become enlightened just by meditating on the yoni. You could start by meditating on it for one lunar cycle - 28 days. Now you didn't get homework like that when you were at school! Namaste from Tiruvanamali.

Monday 18 January 2010

Whats Really Real

December 25th is not a particularly significant day for me since my children grew up. Christmas, at last the shopping is over and for most shop workers they can have a day off before the next shopfest of the sales. It is a rather arbitrary day other than that an a hugely elaborated Christmas story. The Winter Solstice a few days earlier is significant for me; the longest night and then the slow ascent of the sun as warmth, light and consciousness. In our tantric temple, at the exact time of the Solstice, I got out the homa, the inverted copper pyramid, and did the agni hotra ritual of chanting and offerings to the fire and the sun for its return and its gifts.

Its the same with New Years eve. Its just the calendar changing; arbitrary numbers - a totally human construction. Except this New Year's eve was different; it was a full moon and a partial lunar eclipse. I went to a ritual where we meditated to music for the ten Wisdom Goddesses.

About a week ago the date was 10/01/10 which some found significant. I don't. Its just numbers! And in a couple of years we have 2012 when so many seem to think a great change will come as the Mayans or someone said the world would end. My prophecy for 2012 is that it will be followed by 2013. Since calendars were invented people have been fascinated by the end of time. It blinds them to the present moment. Time unfolds, there is only the present, everything is important and nothing is really significant. Be here now.