Contagious thought…

My son is suffering from earworms. Not that I mean to imply that he is the victim of some aural parasite, simply that the most bizarre and unlikely of songs have been taking up residence in his consciousness this week and refusing to leave him in peace. The sheer randomness of the music he is playing in the jukebox of his mind is staggering and has been cause for much merriment.

For the past month or so, my son has had no bathroom. As he still has neither floor nor door, he is obliged to ablute chez moi. This state of affairs seems set to continue for a while, but the routine to-ing and fro-ing between his home and my bathroom is usually enlivened by conversation along some weird and wonderful lines. Driving him home the other day, he admitted to the latest earworm… a popular song from his childhood by the Spice Girls. As if that was not bad enough, he then informed me that he had changed the words…

If you wanna be my mother…” he sang. I knew the tune and, as earworms go, this was a bad one. It would also be contagious. I sighed. The damned thing was going to get stuck in my head now too. I missed the next line, but caught, “…making lunch forever…”

“Slavery never ends…” I chimed in. He laughed so much there was no getting any sense from him for a minute or two.

“How did you know?” he spluttered eventually. “Those are the exact words I chose…” I shrugged. This kind of thing is a daily occurrence.

“Be afraid…be very afraid…” we said in perfect unison.

“How do you do that?” My sons have never grown used to my apparent ability to read their minds, often at the most inconvenient moments. The plaintive note in his voice spoke volumes.

How do I do that? The same way as most mothers do… we know our children. Subtle signals, facial expressions, body language, experience and a shared history…and just being ‘on the same wavelength’… can give the impression of uncanny ability. There is no supernatural talent involved, just that ‘sixth sense’ that parents develop in self defence and for the preservation of their young.

That there are ways in which we can communicate wordlessly goes without saying. Look into a lover’s eyes and no words are needed. Emotions are writ large on the faces of the angry, happy or sad and we do not need to know the cause to be able to read the result. Add a little awareness and a dash of empathy and most of us can read a good deal simply by looking at another person.

We can feel atmospheres change too, when someone in the throes of strong emotion walks into a room. This can probably be explained simply through the extended use of our physical senses, particularly the unconscious ability to pick up and read subtle scents, such as pheromones or hear the difference in a person’s movement and breathing. Even a footstep sounds different depending upon the emotion that is in the forefront of consciousness.

We have constant access to subliminal clues and cues that we have, over the course of both human evolution and our own lifetimes, learned how to interpret and which may form part of the armoury of self-preservation. These are the talents and techniques that are used and elaborated upon by stage magicians, mentalists, scam artists and psychologists alike. A natural gift for picking up such signals can give a person the appearance of being able to read your mind.

But does that gift mean that there are no such things as telepathy, psychic ability and thought transference? Just because most things can be explained by physical phenomena that science can accept, measure and replicate, does not mean that there are not ‘more things in heaven and earth’ than we have yet understood. If such things do exist, then the laboratory is probably the worst place to test them. Many people have had experiences of knowing something they could not know, whether it is how to navigate around an unfamiliar city, the incontrovertible knowledge that someone has died or is in trouble, or something as simple as an ‘I was just thinking about you…’ when the phone rings.

A good many years ago, I took part in some experiments with a friend who was both a scientist and a confirmed sceptic. His students had been asking questions and he had no first-hand knowledge upon which to base his answers, so he decided to investigate and asked me to help. Oddly enough, I too am a sceptic by nature and will only accept what I can prove for myself. Scepticism is good… as long as it keeps an open mind and does not believe its own disbelief to be the defining factor of what is possible.  In the Silent Eye, we suggest that students retain a healthy scepticism, believing only what they can, in some manner, experience for themselves. Scientific and empiric proof are not always the same thing. When you are convinced of something by personal experience, you do not need the kind of proof you can put in a glass case on display and such confirmation is unique for each of us.

My friend and I conducted a number of controlled experiments with telepathy, choosing a quiet time when, miles apart, we could both turn our minds to the moment and write up any impressions.  We ‘sent’ images of random, unrelated objects and symbols of which the other had no prior knowledge  and the results were convincing. Although we only had one instance where we ‘received’ the exact image, we were both picking up the essence of the images and the meaning of the symbols and finding that they related very closely to the thoughts we had in those moments and the actions we took immediately afterwards.

Not as clear-cut as the Hollywood version of telepathy, perhaps, but it could well explain how people ‘pick up’ random thoughts or become aware of events from a distance, or how our thoughts might influence others for good or ill. We probably do it all the time, but only notice when we get a stark confirmation, such as news of a death, or when we deliberately ‘tune in’ to someone, as my friend and I had done.

The practical and personal application is pretty obvious: if we can affect others through the power of thought, then we can equally use it to effect change in ourselves, and perhaps that is one of the prime purposes of such a gift. The levels of our own being operate independently, yet ‘meet in the middle’ to allow us to be who we are, influenced by both our subconscious reactions and the qualities of our higher selves. The mind is the ‘telephone exchange’ where communication between the levels takes place, and what thoughts we allow to enter there will, of necessity, affect the whole.

It may, as the old tales suggest, once have been a more acknowledged ability, now set aside by proximity and drowned by interference. It could explain how global leaps in culture and technology were made across vast distances when traveling was done on foot, how a society bonds with a common spirit and character or how knowledge was shared before technology complicated matters. The old tales hold many clues to such possibilities.

The gifts which might once have had us burned at the stake may sometimes seem supernatural, but that only means that they are beyond our current scientific understanding… and science is a slow learner by choice, requiring proof for even the unquantifiable. Such gifts are, I believe, a natural part of our human birthright and inherent in all of us. But please, don’t tell my son and spoil the fun.

Riding the rollercoaster

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The day did not start well, either for me or the little fish I had to remove from the tank. It was no surprise that it was dead this morning… it had been looking a little off-colour the night before, though nothing too serious, until one of the larger fish took advantage of its incapacitated state and started using it like a water basketball, swimming around with it in its mouth, chased by its friends. I had put a stop to that ‘game’ and would have removed the ailing minnow to a makeshift hospital tank, had it not hidden itself in the roots of a plant.

I couldn’t blame the fish… they were just following their instincts. Even though such a ‘game’ looked cruel from my perspective, small fish can easily be frightened to death and Nature’s often brutal euthanasia may have been a better option than a long, drawn-out illness. I will never know.

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The day got a lot better at my son’s though, when he sent me out into the garden. Trooper, one of the two ‘miracle-fish’ currently residing in my son’s pond, is still with us. He and another golden orfe had both fallen ill with dreadful ulcers some time ago…we had no hope of their survival when we saw them floating, belly-up, side by side. One of the fish, though, made a dramatic recovery and is back to swimming happily with his shoal. Trooper has not been so lucky, but each time we think he must be at his last gasp, he rallies and proves he can still swim with the best of them, albeit a little lopsided… so the daily checking on Trooper is always a bit of a rollercoaster, as we worry not only about his recovery, but about whether he can escape any local predators… like the heron and the cats.

The heron flies over most days, but the cats…the ones who moved in en masse to my son’s home over the winter… seem to have disappeared. The food in the automatic feeder still disappears daily too, but I haven’t seen any of them in weeks now. Their fickleness is a little sad, but then…that’s why I prefer dogs.

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On a nicer note, mother magpie brought her babies into the garden today. We had worried about them too when the crows had mobbed the nest at the top of the tree. We’ve been worrying about the birds for a while, as the neighbours chose to cut down an awful lot of the trees that they called home, and for a while, the garden fell silent. The little birds were soon back, though, and it was good to watch the young magpies establishing their familial pecking order over the bird bath, while the wren sang on the fence and the tits and finches raided the bird table.

Apart from checking on Trooper, though, my mission had been to photograph the bees on the globe thistle…and that was a definite delight, apart from the sadness of the bee caught in the spider’s web. It was still and lifeless, too late for any help… there was nothing I could have done… and after the fish, I would have hesitated to interfere with the natural process.

Life is constantly being recycled, from the decay of fallen fruit and leaves that feeds the earth, to the recycling we, with our emotional view on life and death, find distressing or distasteful. There is a great dance of energy in motion, flowing through first one lifeform then another as each completes its allotted span and purpose, returning the components of its life to the greater life of earth.

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Even so, it was sad to see the little lifeless creature, paralysed and caught in the web below the flower that is drawing more bees than any other at the moment. I love their soft, furry bodies of the bumblebees, covered in pollen that seems to refract a rainbow of colour and I spent a pleasant half hour watching them.

The next plunge of the rollercoaster came after I had brought my son over for him to use my bathroom… his being out of commission for the next month or so. Much to the dog’s delight, he is coming over every day for a shower and she is loving the extra captive ball-thrower. Sadly, though, as Nick is a bit unsteadier than usual today, he had a fall as we were going back out through the front door this afternoon. He was fine… he fell on me… and rather than doing the decent thing and checking to see if we were both okay, the dog did her best Houdini impression, bounded over our tangled legs and ran.

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I live in a quiet cul de sac… but the roads through the village are dangerous, the cars drive fast…and there are cows, horses and sheep to contend with if Ani takes to the fields. I was convinced she would go that way, as that is where we walk, so headed off in pursuit on foot, while Nick manned the doorstep in case she wandered home. There was no sign of her. I scoured the fields, checked the farm, fishing lake and stables, ran down to the allotments, all the way through the village to the shop across the main road… I walked miles without a sight of her and, as rush hour approached, grew more and more afraid.

It was only as I passed the village veterinary practice that I thought to check with them, to see if they had heard of a stray dog. The receptionist smiled… Ani is microchipped and while I searched, they had emailed me to let me know she had just been brought in. Fear gave way to relief as they brought her out to me… wagging her tail furiously and obviously expecting me to be proud of her adventures… We had words about that on the way home. But she still got chicken for dinner.

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I ended the day on a good note too, with a copy of a Derbyshire village magazine in my inbox and a hard copy in the post. They had seen my article of their little church… the one that smiled…and asked if they could reproduce it. I was glad to agree, pleased that the editors approved of how I had described their church.

But the day really had been an emotional rollercoaster, and in between the various domestic dramas,  and just for good measure, Nick had asked about the time he spent in the coma. So I revisited and relived some of the emotions I had experienced while he was unconscious and, we were told, about to die. We talked about the various levels of consciousness, from blind reaction to the dispassionate observer within, that watches without judgement or attachment as you move through the moment, good, bad or just the space between.

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Nick quoted the Buddha’s reference to the Self as witness to inner truth, while we discussed whether or not your reactions are really ‘you’… or whether they are a consequence of who you really are…and it had been a day of reactions for both of us. It occurred to me that we are very like the bees I had been watching… scurrying through life, collecting grains of experience like pollen that cling to us, like it or not, from every moment of our lives. These grains of experience are the raw materials of reaction, forming the basis of how we both protect and propel ourselves through our days. Some of what we collect is bitter, some sweet as honey… but all of it adds to our store of knowledge. We can wall ourselves in behind what we learn, allow ourselves to be ruled and perhaps paralysed by fear…or we can let it open us to life and lead us, eventually, towards wisdom.

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