Pivot 30: Be a fair (self-)employer

It’s ‘Pivot’, not ‘Private’.

Ha! Is it now? Well, there’s no better way to underline the art of pivoting than to change the whole project name half way through…

And two key words for today: acquiescent and self-employed

Ok. Good stuff. Shall we read?

Sure. ‘No problem.’


BOWING: After zazen we bow to the floor nine times. By bowing we are giving up ourselves. To give up ourselves means to give up our dualistic ideas. […] My teacher had a callous on his forehead from bowing. He knew he was an obstinate, stubborn fellow, and so he bowed and bowed and bowed. […] If it is our inmost desire to get rid of our self-centered ideas, we have to do it. When we make this effort, our inmost desire is appeased and Nirvana is there. Before you determine to do it, you have difficulty, but once you start to do it, you have none. Your effort appeases your inmost desire. There is no other way to attain calmness. Calmness of mind does not mean you should stop your activity. Real calmness should be found in activity itself. We say, “It is easy to have calmness in inactivity, it is hard to have calmness in activity, but calmness in activity is true calmness.”         Zen Mind p43-46


The topic of today: acquiescence and the self-employed. 

The question of the day: to whom does the self-employed person bow (or acquiesce)?

I guess your point is that the self-employed person must acquiesce first to herself, and then to the customer… in order to run an actual business.

Excellent. So, let’s imagine there are two facets of you. CEOyou (who designs strategy and looks after business development) and OPSyou (who does the OPerationS with clients). Firstly, let’s have a 1:1 between these two individuals. And let’s bear in mind the themes arising in your conference of yesterday, on embedding best practice in workplace mental health. Let’s run the scenario of their 1:1. 

CEOme: OPSme, welcome. Come on in. Really good to see you. It’s been a while. I guess you’ve been super busy, and out on the road quite a bit. I’ve been looking forward to the opportunity to catch up. How are you?

OPSme: Knackered, to be honest! At breaking point. It’s been non-stop, and I’ve got so many clients, making complex, demanding, arbitrary, confusing, exhausting or exacting demands of me. My body and brain are so tired. And I’m just ballooning up in weight, from stress, comfort-carb-eating and lack of sleep. But, I guess, we’re meeting targets, so that’s good.

CEOme: Targets? What targets?

OPSme: Income per month. That’s the only target I’m aware of. Right?

CEOme: Another target would be your wellbeing, wouldn’t it?

OPSme: Well, I suppose that’s a bit harder to measure. Anyway, I pencil in a schedule of wellbeing and self-care activities, but they often get swept aside by client work. Or, I get to the time for a scheduled self-care activity (eg qigong), and I’m just too tired to carry it out.

CEOme: So, we’re missing targets…

OPSme: If you want to put it like that! :/

CEOme: Your wellbeing is far more important to me than monthly income targets.

OPSme: Really?

CEOme: Of course! It’s not that the monthly income targets aren’t important. It’s that those income targets are 100% reliant on your wellbeing! Your wellbeing must come first! So, I can see we are going to need to pivot the way we run our operations, as a matter of urgency. Can we have a look at your job description together?

OPSme: Job description?! You never gave me one! Nor a contract. Nor a salary. Nor a pension. Nor an EAP. Nor a sickness policy. Nor working hours. Nor even fricking Annual Leave terms!

CEOme: Really?! For real? How did we overlook that?

OPSme: I know, right?!

CEOme: Did you not speak to your union about this?!

OPSme: I don’t have a union. It’s just me. And you.

CEOme: But… this is not legal employment practice!

OPSme: I know, right?!!

CEOme: Well, where should we start? Is it the Job Description, or the working conditions?

OPSme: Hang on for a minute… This is making me feel a bit teary… I never thought we would have this conversation! I thought I just had to put up with this way of life… Ok. I’m ok. Let’s carry on. Tbh, I think it’s the JD first. Like, am I in charge of BD and finance, or are you? Who the heck does that stuff, and when? And who protects those activities from client work? And who defines what the client work is, because at the moment, we seem to do TOO MANY COMPLEX JOBS, and it’s really tiring. We say YES to anything and everything. WHAT DO WE DO? Where are the boundaries of our business? ARE THERE ANY? It makes me crazy the way we’re constantly leaping about doing new stuff, which EXHAUSTS me. When is the time when we set out our stall and say, “This is it. This is what we do and nothing else. And this is how much it costs. And this is how you buy it.” Hm?! Because at the moment you are sending me out like a circus pony doing a million tricks…

CEOme: And you want to be a one trick pony.

OPSme: Believe me, I love variety! I do thrive on the challenge of ‘If you gotta problem, yo, I’ll solve it…’ and I worry about my tolerance of simplicity and whether I have the maturity to be able to tolerate the one trick pony lifestyle. But… my body seems to be demanding it.

CEOme: And what’s your One Trick?

OPSme: Resolution.

CEOme: Shall we cancel the training aspect of our work?

OPSme: Honestly, if we could for a bit, I think that would be good for my health. But I need you to do that. Please, step up for me, and be the business manager. Protect me as your Ops dude out there on the frontline. Please.  I can’t do this all on my own. I need to work 50:50 with you.

CEOme: You need me to work 50:50 with you?

OPSme: Yes. Or it’s just not viable! I don’t know… Do you need training, or coaching, or support, or something?? You seem to prefer to hang back in the shadows and let me run with things. But you need to step up and start leading this business, and managing me, and protecting me, so that I can do the stuff that makes the money.

CEOme: If I’m honest, I’ve been a bit unsure what to do. And that means I hang back. I prefer to put the focus on you.

OPSme: It’s not fair that way. You HAVE to have my back. … Hang on… Do you think the CEO work is… boring?

CEOme: I kind of see it as ‘admin’. Not important… Not glamorous. And it doesn’t play to my strengths… Sorry.

OPSme: I thought so! Ok, so. You need to study leadership and management then, my friend! Really. You can’t sit there and do nothing, and leave it all up to me. You are going to need to find your identity! And own it. And take pride in … setting strategy, protecting your workforce, making the business glow. You need to be the boss.

CEOme: I really want to do this. Thank you.

OPSme: We need to bow to each other. We need to acquiesce to each other’s needs, NOT the challenging demands of our valued customers who are simply trying to work out what we sell and what we do. You have to step up to the plate. And that will help me do the same, sustainably.

CEOme: I hear you. Thank you. I will take leadership coaching… or self-coaching. I will be a better leader of this organisation.

OPSme: Self-employment is You employing Me. Be a fair employer. And an intelligent one.

CEOme: There’s a lot for me to learn here.

Be a fair (self-)employer.


Private 29: There is no problem

NO DUALISM: There is no problem. One year of life is good. One hundred years of life are good. Zen Mind p43

There is no problem.

This is so deep.

It takes me back to A Course in Miracles.

This is equanimity.

I lost a bit of this equanimity in having a ready audience for my dramas in my kind new partner.

There is no problem.

What a relief… Right?

Think there’s a problem? Breathe that idea out…

Notice how you can only think there’s a problem?

Those pesky thoughts!

No problem! 

So for today? (I’m at a conference.)

Take ‘No problem!’ out in to the world with you. Sweep in to the world with the spirit of ‘No problem!’ and the relief of that knowing. Leave the hotel and go out on to the street with the will to let everyone know {with your eyes!} the Good News that there is no problem. Catch glimpses of what ProblemFace looks like in you, and in your dear brothers and sisters. Catch a glimpse of it, and let compassion well up in you! ‘It doesn’t have to be this way!’ The ProblemFace only arises from ProblemThoughts which arise from ProblemThinking. All of that can be gently stepped down. But… try telling people that, and you’ll get a new problem in your face! So, no need to preach the good news! Just bring this new consciousness out into the world with you today: there is no problem. And be a beacon of awareness of the greatest secret on Earth: there is no problem. 

Beautiful. Ty.

No problem. 


There is no problem. 


Private 28: Breathe it out

THE MARROW OF ZEN: ‘Actually the best way to relieve your mental suffering is to sit in zazen, even in such a confused state of mind and bad posture. If you have no experience of sitting in this kind of difficult situation you are not a Zen student. No other activity will appease your suffering. In other restless positions you have no power to accept your difficulties, but in the zazen posture which you have acquired by long, hard practice, your mind and body have great power to accept things as they are, whether they are agreeable or disagreeable.’ Zen Mind p40

I am getting a sense of how zazen practice builds our ability to accept the agreeable and the disagreeable with equanimity.

That is really good stuff.

Having become a little tired and stretched and stressed from overworking recently, I’ve lost some of my spring. My mind is slightly leaning into disagreeable ‘bias’ – seeing the negative or not appreciating the positive fully.

I wonder this: if I had one hundred days left, what would make them most agreeable to me. Can I picture, visualise, gift myself 100 happy days? Or is that not in the spirit of equanimity? I just feel it would be good to direct my attention to the upwards flow.

Lovely. Directing your attention to the upwards flow is perfect. Yes. We highly recommend this. You have the power of immense imagination and outmanifesting of all goodness and joy … right at hand. Your zazen practice, your meditation, is your key to the doorway of your joy and the release of resistance. 

Ah, resistance. Abraham talks about that a lot… Am I in a resistant state, when I’m wound up? How to unwind… on a definitive basis…?

Practice. Zazen. Qigong. Walking. Exhale – exhale – exhale… Let your days be fulllll of exhale. Minimise tautness – let it not intrude. Let your inhale be light, conscious, free, and brief… 

Yesterday, a day of training. It’s a big gulp of an inhale… Though sharing the training with another person sure helps…

What makes you go ‘aaahhhh’? 

Helping people with CR. Not training.


Arising: “Stop holding your breath”

Both: ‘literally’ (gripping, not giving myself the full relaxing exhale) but also in terms of ‘waiting’ (as in ‘I wouldn’t hold your breath). What are you waiting for? This is it. This is you at the top of your powers. 

Breathe out and flow upwards. Let it go. Breathe it out. This is it. It is now. Breathe it all out, the agreeable and the disagreeable, with full acceptance, with full equanimity. Breathe it out. 

Breathe it out. 

Private 27: Note: Inhale. Note: Exhale.

NGL… Yesterday, the aforementioned colleague and I nearly fell out. We were working at very different paces, and I could handle it for the first 4 hours (without a break or getting up from my chair…) and I felt some of the camaraderie and flow of above, but as we floated on past the time I’d said I would have to leave without our having finished at all, and it was then assumed I could just give up my Sunday for the project too (because she was taking much longer than we had planned to finish her elements), I started to unravel and my frustration started popping out through the seams. Eventually, I said bleakly, “I think I should go. I’m clearly too tired to do this properly.” and I gathered my stuff and hustled frostily out. :-///

The thing is we have different working styles: my style is to work out what time I have, and then work like a ruddy turbo-charged bunny to get the thing done in the time available. (And I very rarely cancel on social activities or volunteer work ‘because of work’ because I take care to manage my workflow so that largely it stays within work hours, even if that means I have to push.) My colleague takes time to ponder and relish and mull over. It means that to meet our project deadline, I’ve therefore done most of the work. On turbo-charge. Which is not good for my health.

And your learning is?

Collaboration can be exhausting. For me.

And the MindWeed at hand is…?

The MindWeed is: My notion that ‘I can’t do it alone. I need a collaborator to work with to get stuff done, and to navigate the sales and the clients…’

BUT, I don’t with the Self-Coaching guru (which I now have as a spreadsheet).

I’ve been thinking about how I work in two quite intense, and polar opposite modes -which I can call INHALE and EXHALE.

This writing happens in EXHALE mode… Super open, free-ranging.

My comms and work to deadline happens in INHALE mode…. requiring tightening of focus. I need to get into INHALE mode to finish everything today.

Remember to embark on your day after zazen practice…


Arising……. This in/out focus is the antidote to some of the MindWeeds around procrastination, or lack of self-direction….

NOTE: Inhale

NOTE: Exhale

NOTE: Inhale – sensations of gathering, growing, strengthening, uplifting, focusing, directing, ‘golden anchor’

NOTE: Exhale – sensations of grounding, settling, unwinding, opening, listening, forgiving, ‘dropping anchor’

NOTE: Inhale mode – prefrontal cortex engaged, momentum building,  accelerating round bends, executive functioning, mental director sets the stage, boundaries clear, target set, active, no multitasking  thank you (Activities include: work, comms, working to deadline, navigating tasks)

NOTE: Exhale mode – completing the stress response cycle, replenishing, applying the breaks, cruising in neutral, resting, recouping, processing, parasympathetic state, passive, receiving, multitasking in Harry Potter mode is fine… (Activities include: QT, time with G, eating, resting, relaxing, reading, daydreaming) 

This is so helpful in terms of my immense challenges (and opportunities) with task switching. And a good potential antidote to:

  • excess inhale (turbo-charging, efforting, pushpushpush, scanscanscan)
  • excess exhale (swimming in imagination, not grounded, avoiding tasks, letting QT or social media eat up my time)

NOTE: Inhale

NOTE: Exhale

Ok. Will do that today. Ty. And I’ll seek balance of both. No excess. Maybe Noting Exhale will make engaging with and stopping Noting Inhale easier. This is about safe and sensible executive functioning.

Letting your Self-Coach be your guide as to when to switch from Inhale to Exhale Mode.

It is getting ‘stuck’ in either Inhale Mode or Exhale Mode that leads to exhaustion, overwhelm, adrenal fatigue, frustration and panic. Your system will trust you better, and be more willing to switch task, when you demonstrate that you can and will and do keep your Inhale Mode and Exhale Mode in equilibrium – like lungs expanding and reducing, like the waves ebbing and flowing, like the sun rising and setting, like the swinging door opening and closely. Movement eternal. 

Infinity symbol
Infinity symbol

Note: Inhale. Note: Exhale. 



Private 26: Spot mindweeds

MINDWEEDS: ‘You should rather be grateful for the weeds, because eventually they will enrich your practice. … Once you understand our innate power to purify ourselves and our surroundings, you can act properly, and you will learn from those around you, and you will become friendly with others. This is the merit of Zen practice. But the way of practice is just to be concentrated on your breathing with the right posture and with great, pure effort. This is how we practice Zen.’ Zen Mind p36/7.


Arising: We can all be ‘cherry pickers’ to each other. The deal is, we have to agree to get on each others’ machines, and trust the drivers to elevate us safely.

Doctors, therapists, teachers, mentors, collaborators: all cherry pickers.

This is about interdependence. right?

What Cherry Pickers does FutureYou need?

JLG 120 SX Self Propelled Boom

I don’t know. I guess PresentMe needs to effort less, and let the due process take its course..

She can also use a self-propelled cherry picker.

She made a self-coaching spreadsheet. How can she work with it best?

Find the driving panel of the self-propelled cherry picker?

The little steering knob…


Executive function.

‘Once you understand our innate power to purify ourselves and our surroundings, you can act properly, and you will learn from those around you, and you will become friendly with others.’

What is this innate power to purify myself, and how do I apply it today?

By plucking out MindWeeds. 

I did that a bit in my zazen practice. What do you mean for today?

By plucking out MindWeeds. 

Oh, like dirty li’l habits of thought and action?

Yes! Playfully so!! 

Like, procrastination… solipsism… task-dodging… cloying… recoiling…

Lo que sea. Whatever MindWeed you can SPOT (and ‘splat’) is perfect! That’s the playful game for today! 

Spot mindweeds today…! Ok.

Write em up

Spot mindweeds




Reminded by this Abraham podcast about Segment Intending. A great way to get ahead of MindWeeds – which I’ve noted are largely around ‘being too wound up/fraught/exhausted to unwind’. Basically masses of Suzuki’s Limited Mind (bcs my aspiring brain is scanscanscanning incessantly) and not quite enough internal Big Mind. Ok:

Segment Intending for this afternoon (a Sat afternoon working with a colleague..):

(Oh wow!! The colleague literally just texted to postpone for 30mins later… I was due to leave for her house in 5 mins, so now I have 35 mins for this exercise. Awesome timings.)

  • I love it when we get stuff done together.
  • I love it when we have the feeling of teamwork.
  • I love it when we complete stuff.
  • I love it when we work out everything’s probably more sorted than we’d thought.
  • I love it when souls connect and flow.
  • I love it when there’s a shared sense of purpose.
  • I love it when there’s time for everything.
  • I love it when I get some lunch in ahead of the meeting.
  • I love it when I make time for buying a little gift and that goes down well.
  • I love it when we create magic together.
  • I love it when I feel on top of my game.
  • I love it when I feel a sense of It Is Done, in advance.
  • I love it when I can look down on the timeline of past, present and future and see what amazingly good work I was participating in.
  • I love it when I can see how PresentMe is calibrating with evolved FutureMe.



Private 25: Set your own agenda

MIND WAVES: ‘Many sensations come, many thoughts or images arise, but they are just waves of your own mind. Nothing comes from outside your mind. … You yourself make the waves in your mind. If you leave your mind as it is, it will become calm. This mind is called big mind. If your mind is related to something outside itself, that mind is a small mind, a limited mind. … Because we enjoy all aspects of life as an unfolding of big mind, we do not care for any excessive joy. So we have imperturbable composure, and it is with this imperturbable composure of big mind that we practice zazen. ‘  Zen Mind p34-6


I had this clear impression of small/limited mind (‘your mind is related to something outside itself’) as being choppy waters (full of mind waves)…

Joe Salter Juggling Triathlete
Joe Salter Juggling Triathlete

And big mind (‘you leave your mind as it is’) as being those calm, waveless waters:

Floating in the sea (via whereandwander.com)
Floating in the sea (via whereandwander.com)

I returned to the impression of a floating ‘me’ whenever I noticed that I was juggling ideas about the world ‘outside’… I did feel the expansiveness of big mind, after about 10 minutes.

What is the learning for me here today?

Welcome. It’s good to see you. 

I love the big mind feeling. I could stay there forever.

It can also be said that swimming in the big mind sea regularly makes a person much more detached and able and clear-minded in dealing with the outer world – and thereafter you no longer have the desire to hide in the big mind. 

Ok. I’m willing to believe that.

I want to talk about my autistic mind. Your thoughts, with regards to Big Mind and Mind Waves?

Perhaps you sense that your Mind Waves are bigger or more frequent than NT folks? 

And occasionally, they are Mind Tsunamis (aka meltdowns). But in general, the constant lap, lap, lapping of the waves, and the rolling about of my mind-boat, is just TIRING. Sometimes, it’s great – and I love the stimulation – and I ride about the ocean of my mind as if on a jetski… But, when there is Stuff to Do, it can be boring, or impractical. Herding cats.

Thus, the beautiful autistic mind is invited to…? 

To….. get nun like. Simple life; simple routine; big mind at its max potential.

To…. minimise relating ‘to something outside itself’.

To set its own agenda. 

Oh. Really. Just that. Sounds ominously like ‘Writing a List of Things to Do’… What do you mean?

To set your own agenda means to set the driving principles for the use of your time, energy and creativity. 

Have I been giving that agency away?

But isn’t that what a freelancer does? Give up their time, energy and creativity for money. Isn’t that how we survive?

Are you a freelancer? 

Or a ‘solo entrepreneur’?! I read that phrase this morning and it did stand out. The difference being…

Agency. Who sets the final agenda. 

As in: a freelancer can set their agenda – ‘I want to work in X field’. But within X field, it’s the client who then sets the freelancer’s final agenda on each project.

Whereas the solo entrepreneur…

Is captain of their own ship, setting it’s course, destination, crew and schedule.

I see. That’s quite a step change, really.

It would certainly give me more Big Mind creative floating space and less Small/Limited Mind splashing about juggling (clients’) balls in the water.

A freelancer sells herself and her skills. An entrepreneur sells a product or a service. A social entrepreneur sells a product or service that benefits people. What’s your product or service? 

CR service.

Are you setting your own agenda? Are you captaining your own ship across the oceans? 

Could do better.

This would give you more ‘time, energy and creativity’. 

Thank you for being my business self-coaching guru.

A coach helps you hold yourself to account, so: What next steps will you take to define and set your own agenda as a solo social entrepreneur?

What?? This is new. Ehem… Well. Let me get up, go for a walk and think about it….

***Walk…and 24 hours of thinking***

Next steps:

  1. Shift practice online
  2. Consolidate training to one offer
  3. Pitch writing

Excellent. How does that feel? 

I’ve been writing a long list of pros and cons… But the pros are more numerous. I need to make the shift online, and reduce my training for the good of my physical and mental health. It’s as simple as that. My concern is that I’ll miss being with people… but, I am reminding myself that digital nomads get to travel about, and hang out with loved ones, and have MUCH more energy for social times. My other concern is whether it’ll all actually take off and sustain me (as the freelance/mercenary work does), but I have to remember that in simplifying the work, I’ll have more energy for marketing and BD.

This was really, really good work you did here. 

It arose out of settling into Big Mind. So much clarity arose out of that.

Ok, so as your self-coach, the next question is: what are the next steps towards your next steps?

Well I know it always seems to come to this, and either I never do it or I do it do a dull thud… but I think it’s about producing 3 documents, with the 3 offers.

And doing what with them? 

Translating them to my website and sending them out passim?

What’s the block here..?

Too scattergun? Too word heavy? Who reads documents? Shouldn’t a picture tell a thousand words?

Ok, so..?

Do a picture instead? Put it into nice visual slides? Yes. This. “A deck” per strand which I can present, and send…?

And then? 

Present and send them… passim.

How are you feeling?

Pretty broken, tbh. Exhausted.

Can you imagine this work would set you up for the next five years?

Would I want to do such work for the next five years??

There’s your next question. Excellent. 


Arising: Truth of the matter. Feelings of hate, rage, wrath… All emotions requiring BOUNDARIES. Feeling ‘put upon’ by those I have given my power to.

Do I want that for the next 5 years. NO. Let me return to the idea of being a One Trick Pony: CR.

Practical steps?

Redacted text

You are using your depression well. You are listening to its messaging and acting accordingly. Well done. 

‘Use your depression. It’s trying to show (and grow) you something.’ There’s a book title…

A sudden sense of ‘I can do anything if I put my Big Mind to it’ – and use the Self-Coaching business guru…

You are building momentum for FutureYou. 

I am. There is a great deal that PresentMe can do to surprise, delight and tickle FutureMe. Awesome.

Set your own agenda



Private 24: Remain unmoved

CONTROL: To give your sheep or cow a large, spacious meadow is the way to control him. So it is with people: first let them do what they want, and watch them. This is the best policy. To ignore them is not good; that is the worst policy. The second worst is trying to control them. The best one is to watch them, just to watch them, without trying to control them. The same way works for you yourself as well. If you want to obtain perfect calmness in your zazen, you should not be bothered by the various images you find in your mind. Let them come, and let them go. Then they will be under control. But this policy is not so easy. It sounds easy, but it requires some special effort. How to make this kind of effort is the secret of practice.        Zen Mind, p32

‘Let them come, and let them go.’ People and thoughts…

Remain unmoved.

***Zazen – 15min on the timer***

‘Remain unmoved’ was the perfect anchor for ‘let them come and let them go’.

My practice felt like an extended version of one of those laughing games, where you have to sit very still with a straight face while someone tries to crack you up with their ever sillier facial expressions. My thoughts were the clown – and some thoughts were laugh-inducing, while others were shock-inducing… Overall, the thoughts were trying to get me to react.

Reaction = E-motion = Movement. 

Yes. It’s all about that ‘jumping out of one’s seat’ feeling – whether attracted by good or bad thoughts.

Iron filings on a magnetI felt like a pile of iron filings with magnets dancing around me. The magnets represented horrors, delights, urgencies, impatiences, fears, ‘brilliant ideas’ and reminders. My job was to ‘remain unmoved’ and not leap up and stick to one of the magnets; not to get ‘carried away’!

This is where the sense of spaciousness is so vital. If you feel spaciousness, and if you rescind control, then actually the field of play for all the magnets becomes vast – and the attraction to reaction weakens as the magnets dance upon the vast, spacious meadow of your consciousness. 

Yes. And it’s not about sitting there impassive and deadened. It seems there can be an awareness of the leaping magnets, and even a fondness for them.

Indeed! However, do you notice how your fondness must extend to allllll the magnets? If it is not a blanket fondness, what do you get? 


And what does judgment bring? 

A leaping out of one’s seat. Getting carried away by the magnet. An urge to control. Reaction.

So this means fondness towards the horrors and the delights in equal measure…


‘Whatever we see is changing, losing its balance. The reason everything looks beautiful is because it is out of balance, but its background is always in perfect harmony.’ Zen Mind p31/2

This is the key to mental freedom, isn’t it? Accepting that reality is as stable as a pat of butter at the top of a metal slide on a sunny day…

Truly, if we can accept that instability, change, contrast, slipping, sliding and imbalance is, at the very least, simply ‘ok’, then we are liberated from our compulsion to try to control what is uncontrollable. And in time, we come to see the exquisite beauty in the dynamic impermanence of reality. 

If we can let go our grip on the imaginary reins. If we can learn to rest as iron filings and not leap up to be carried away by the magnets.

If we can but learn to trust that it is safe for us to be aware of the contrasts of our conditions (the horrors and the delights) and yet remain unmoved, then suddenly, oh what wonders, we have access to a whole new immense well of energy with which to play and create. 

I’m up for this. I’m up for rescinding control, expanding my sense of spaciousness, and learning to remain unmoved.

Remain unmoved


Private 23: What we call “I” is just a swinging door

BREATHING: ‘What we call “I” is just a swinging door which moves when we inhale and when we exhale. It just moves; that is all. When your mind is pure and calm enough to follow this movement, there is nothing: no “I, ” no world, no mind nor body; just a swinging door.’    Zen Mind p29

‘So when you practice zazen, your mind should be concentrated on your breathing.’  Zen Mind p31


My zazen (meditation) was brief – maybe 8 minutes. I watched my breath moving like a swinging door, and of course, without the foreground noise of busy-thought, some difficult feelings arose from the shadowy background.

What sort of feelings, dear soul? 

Um… ‘furious‘. :-/

Want to work with that? 



Ok. So here’s what happened. I turned to the brilliant book, The Language of Emotions by Karla McLaren:

And I looked up ‘Fury’:

 “When the powerful intensities of your rage and fury can be channeled into fierce boundary definition and the focused annihilation of overwhelming and destructive contracts, they will heal and strengthen you in amazing ways. … Furies and rage arise when the intensity in anger isn’t quite enough to deal with the situation.” McLaren p183

“Rage and fury are your guardians and your sentries. Learn to attend to them in honourable ways, and they’ll protect you, heal your traumas and save your life.” McLaren p188

Excellent. McLaren’s advice to me on honouring anger to form boundaries has been amazingly good for me in the past. However, McLaren is also clear about getting professional help when things persist:

‘Please contact a doctor or therapist if your rage and fury persist unchanged after you’ve channeled them a few times. Repetitive cycles of rage and fury can exhaust every part of you – so take good care of yourself and reach out for help if you’re having trouble. You may need to fortify your body and brain chemistry before you can work with your intense angers in this way. If you’re a trauma survivor, please read on, but also, please reach out for proper medical and psychological support.’ McLaren p185

Yesterday was not a good day. I was close to a psychotic episode. I am drained and my adrenal fatigue is just relentless. My work is currently an ‘overwhelming and destructive contract’ because I don’t have safe boundaries around it. And a few days ago, I had a medical intervention which triggered all sorts of old and clearly unresolved trauma. 

So, just now, I bit the bullet and wrote to a psychotherapist I’d been researching a few weeks ago, asking for an initial appointment. This is what I wrote:

Dear [Psychotherapist],

I would be interested in booking an initial appointment with you please, with a view to undertaking a short-medium term period of psychotherapy and EMDR. 
I have done some really good ‘work’ over my life, and have had a very good period of balance over the last couple of years, but I seem to have old things arising for working through more thoroughly, combined with increasingly stress-full work (in the field of xxx). 
I had treatment for PTSD xxx years ago following a sizeable mental health breakdown, and have received support for depression and anxiety since I was a teenager (I’m xx yo now.) 8 years ago, I was diagnosed as autistic, which was incredibly helpful in understanding my neural wiring. Generally, I manage my mental health really well at the moment – but I can recognise all is not quite right at the moment. 
I really appreciate the particular approach of your practice. Many aspects you mention have been and remain helpful to me: Mindfulness/MBCT, Paul Gilbert, Focusing, spiritual awareness. I’m keen to try EMDR too as there are bits of past trauma I would like to reach and dislodge. 
Also, I would be keen to work with you to consolidate my daily mindfulness practice as I know it’s probably my best source of wellbeing.
With all best wishes…
Amen. Is that ok?
This is really excellent. Like, excellent. Zen work is deep work. What’s so powerful about it is that, in doing nothing, you soon become aware of the cranky programmes running in your mind on auto-pilot, and you are then moved to ‘de-programme’ them, so you can successfully get on with Doing Nothing. 
Capital D, capital N… Yes. That makes sense.
And you’re only on Day 2 of studying Suzuki’s writing.
Thank you, Suzuki-roshi.
Your work for today is done. Play with the idea of the swinging door today. Let your mind just watch the door swing as you breathe. 
Thank you.
What we call “I ” is just a swinging door

Private 22: You are the “boss”

Zazen posture from Zenlightenment.net
Zazen posture from Zenlightenment.net


POSTURE: ‘When we have our body and mind in order, everything else will exist in the right place, in the right way. But usually, without being aware of it, we try to change something other than ourselves, we try to order things outside us. But it is impossible to organize things if you yourself are not in order. When you do things in the right way, at the right time, everything else will be organized. You are the “boss.” When the boss is sleeping, everyone is sleeping. When the boss does something right, everyone will do everything right, and at the right time. That is the secret of Buddhism.’ Zen Mind p27/8


I read the chapter (Posture), picked my favourite quote (above) and then meditated, for how long I don’t know as it didn’t feel necessary to use a clock. I guess 15 mins?

In the back of my mind, I set the intention to be imbued by the words ‘You are the “boss.”‘ And in so doing, I was able to note in myself some renewed uprightness, togetherness, poise. Just glimpses, but enough to remind myself of the feeling – and my heavens, isn’t that feeling of internal orderliness and organisation just the direct opposite of feeling hounded by the outside world’s demands?!

Our body and mind should not be wobbling or wandering about. p28

So, what is the term you would use for the opposite of the ‘wobbling or wandering’ body-mind? 

‘Centred’ and ‘Grounded’ comes to mind.

And the body is representative of the mind? 

It feels like if we embody the mental state we seek, we are half way there. The embodiment signals clearly to the mind and the mind responds.

And today you would embody..?

“The boss” I guess! I’ve got a huge amount to do today…

Like the boss…

And feeling ‘Centred’ and ‘Grounded’ – no embodying ‘Centred’ and ‘Grounded’ – seems a good route to giving the nod to the body-mind to ‘self-organise’. 

Like the boss… ‘When the boss does something right, everyone will do everything right, and at the right time.’ 

I’m reminded how, when you are the mother of small children, you are the boss… in their eyes. Now it’s time to be one’s own boss, in one’s own eyes.

You are the “boss”


Later in the day:

Ngl. Today (just like ‘light touch approach’) yesterday, have been extremely difficult. Today, I felt as bad as I’ve felt in a good year. 🙁 Quite unwell, tbh.

Is it because I’m inviting these lofty concepts into my headspace? Is it the dissonance between the imperative instruction and my actual sense of self?

Anyway, self-soothing eventually reared its kindly head as a way forward to destabilising myself. And so I’m here.

Like the boss you are. 


We didn’t suggest you waltz around like a boss character from Dynasty. We suggested you become ‘centred’ and ‘grounded’. Looks like that is exactly what you are doing. Excellent work. 

This is me (on the long way round way to) becoming centred and grounded:


Sifting and sorting. Seeking contrast. But also learning to guide the Drive emotional system, so that it reins itself back in a bit.

TMI… for today.

Centred and Grounded = Excellent self-soothing. You’re doing beautifully. Keep ordering things internally: 

‘usually, without being aware of it, we try to change something other than ourselves, we try to order things outside us.’

All is well. 






Private 21: Keep a light touch approach

Welcome to the first day of studying Zen. <3

Last session was helpful I am working on transitioning from taking the ‘hard’ way to taking the ‘easy’ way. I am lightly touching on cultivating ease. Here’s the picture I did again..

Take the Easy Chair


Before we begin our book, Zen Mind, Beginner’s Mind, is there anything you think I should bear in mind. (Wait… there’s a mouse in the live trap! Let me go and take it to the woods. Right back.)


How was the mouse? 

A bit startled; happy to be let out. Now, off on an adventure. (Also: Separated from its family, and now glaringly visible to predators. :-/ )

Ah. And which of your thoughts about the mouse do you feel more strongly? 

The thought of worry, remorse, concern.


Negativity bias.

Right, a natural  but unruly aspect of the human brain’s survival system. Zen is about cultivating equanimity of thought, so that we feel equally balanced whatever type of thought might be gusting through us. In this way, we are better able to be present to life. We are less pushed to the left or right of our course by passing thoughts. We are equally settled, grounded, content, whatever the circumstances and conditions. 


Enjoy your new book

Zen Mind, Beginner’s Mind: Shunryu Suzuki, 1973

I looked up Shunryu Suzuki on Wikipedia:

Shunryu Suzuki (鈴木 俊隆 Suzuki Shunryū, dharma name Shōgaku Shunryū 祥岳俊隆, often called Suzuki Roshi; May 18, 1904 – December 4, 1971) was a Sōtō Zen monk and teacher who helped popularize Zen Buddhism in the United States, and is renowned for founding the first Buddhist monastery outside Asia (Tassajara Zen Mountain Center). Suzuki founded San Francisco Zen Center which, along with its affiliate temples, comprises one of the most influential Zen organizations in the United States. A book of his teachings, Zen Mind, Beginner’s Mind, is one of the most popular books on Zen and Buddhism in the West.[1][2][3]

And the Soto Zen tradition:

Sōtō Zen or the Sōtō school (曹洞宗Sōtō-shū) is the largest of the three traditional sects of Zen in Japanese Buddhism (the others being Rinzai and Ōbaku). It is the Japanese line of the Chinese Cáodòng school, which was founded during the Tang dynasty by Dòngshān Liánjiè. It emphasizes Shikantaza, meditation with no objects, anchors, or content. The meditator strives to be aware of the stream of thoughts, allowing them to arise and pass away without interference.


Picture of Shunryu Suzuki
Shunryu Suzuki


Let’s read. <3

From the Introduction (by Richard Baker, the successor of Shunryu Suzuki or ‘Suzuki-roshi), the words of fellow disciple Trudy Dixon who gathered and transcribed the talks for this book before she died aged 30, in describing the qualities of a (her) roshi:

buoyancy, vigor, straightforwardness, simplicity, humility, serenity, joyousness, uncanny perspicacity and unfathomable compassion.’ p13

What beautiful qualities for us to work and play with .

Some key terms from the introduction and prologue:

  • Roshi – ‘old master’; spiritual leader of a Zen community
  • Zazen – Zen meditation, usually in the lotus postition; ‘Zazen is considered the heart of Japanese Sōtō Zen Buddhist practice. The aim of zazen is just sitting, that is, suspending all judgmental thinking and letting words, ideas, images and thoughts pass by without getting involved in them.’
  • Shoshin – beginner’s mind; ‘Shoshin (初心) is a word from Zen Buddhism meaning “beginner’s mind.” It refers to having an attitude of openness, eagerness, and lack of preconceptions when studying a subject, even when studying at an advanced level, just as a beginner would.’
  • Original mind – ‘Our “original mind” includes everything within itself. It is always rich and sufficient within itself. ‘(SSp21) Also:  ‘It’s often said that humans’ Original Mind, that Mind we have at birth, is like a clear mirror, pure and uncluttered, without shape, form, or color, with nothing in it whatsoever. If something comes before it, the mirror reflects it exactly, but the mirror itself gives birth to nothing. ‘ (Ref)

Ok! I’m ready next time for Part 1.1: Posture.

What’s my takeaway?

What struck you in your studies this morning? 

Really? More than anything – the human fallibility of us all. Studying individuals in the movement formed by SS, and becoming aware of huge ‘falls from grace’ – just as I found a few years ago in falling in love with the Shambhala buddhism movement too. The brilliant are often also wildly imperfect IRL. Particularly poignant today, the day after the tragic suicide of a beautiful, young TV presenter who experienced a much-publicised ‘fall from grace’ incident only a few weeks ago.

It’s a reminder to me that all this practice is about learning to handle our complex humanity just a little bit more skilfully. Nothing more. We’re all in the same boat, laden with shadows, hopes, dreams, talents and deficits. None of us ‘arrive’ and make it. And if people do arrive and make it, the general defining characteristic of such a person, is that they keep that fact on the old DL. Nonetheless, raging imperfection shouldn’t stop individuals teaching or sharing what they know. I think, sometimes, the most flawed people make the most gifted teachers.

So, your intention…?

My intention is to keep a light touch approach to this study and practice; not to identify with it. Not to seek to call myself anything but an interested student.

A light touch. You found your phrase.  

Aha. Thank you. I shall keep a light touch…

Keep a light touch approach