By Henrietta Lang
These are challenging times - with disruption on both a world and personal scale and never more so as we all reel in the wave of the pandemic called Covid 19 . Nothing seems to make sense and many of us are stuck at home, our lives are on hold ,as we face deeply uncertain times.
My experience is the mystics can offer us a way of being and a way of seeing that makes sense even in the craziest of times.
Along time ago I started looking for personal and practical guidance on how to feel safe in a crazy world. After a long round about trek around the world’s religions, and many years in therapy, it turned out all the wisdom I needed was hiding in plain sight. The wise and kind teachings of the mystics taught me that access to this way of being is simple and possible once we understand ourselves...and we don't have to sit cross legged meditating forever to get there!
My aim is to distill and share the gems of mystical wisdom without the esoteric packaging - so anyone can benefit without having to sign up to any spiritual belief. To this end I'm making a podcast and uploading material here: it's time consuming, so work in progress... One day I'll finish the book it was meant to be! Nothing on here is an instruction, everything is an invitation.
Ancient wisdom on emotional health
If you have a chest full of clothing , and leave it for a long time, the clothing will rot inside it. It is the same with the thoughts in our heart. If we do not carry them out by physical action, after a while they will spoil and turn bad.
Abbot Pasteur. 400 AD
To pay attention to the inner world
'Out of evil, much good has come to me. By keeping quiet, repressing nothing, remaining attentive and by taking things as they were and not as I wanted them to be - by doing all this unusual knowledge has come to me, and unusual powers as well, such as I could never have imagined before.'
acknowledge accept allow
What am I feeling?
This can be hard to identify at first. Often we don't know what feeling we have until the feeling 'has us'.
The mystic way requires weaving a little or lot of stillness and slow into life in order to catch up with our own feeling world.
Even in the busiest of lives there are moments when nothing is happening; instead of checking the phone we can take a breath, stare at the window and ask 'how am I?'.
It's OK that I feel this
Whether we are aware of this or not most of us have an internal rule book about which feelings are acceptable and which ones are not. Men for example may push away feelings of vulnerability because of social stereotypes about masculinity. We might find jealousy unacceptable or envy or anger. We might even supress our own joy because we feel we shouldn't when others are unhappy.
To the mystic mind all feelings are helpful information about the world (both internal and external) that we are living in. So to refuse or deny a feeling is to bin valuable material.
A feeling accepted is a stepping stone to change. A feeling denied, is a potential delayed.
How can I express this feeling in a way that will be helpful to me?
Feelings may be 'messages from beyond' as the mystic Rumi said: information that needs to be expressed to be understood. In other words information our conscious mind doesn't have instant access to.
Physically we may experience feelings like waves of energy, they are also literally waves of biochemicals flowing through our bodies.
Healthily expressed they return us to balance. Suppressed they lead to dis-ease and anxiety. Anxiety can be seen an overload of unprocessed emotion.
Practical ways to explore and express feeling are described below. The trick is to do what feels good to you. Claiming sovereignty our unique nature and discarding 'rules' is a recurring theme among the mystics.
“The wound is the place where the Light enters you.” Rumi
Try capturing your mood, or a recent strong experience in colour or lines. The key is always, the three A's adopted by the mystics, acknowledge the experience, accept it's presence and allow it's expression. I keep a book of my shadow where I draw my dreams and experiences. This is picture of my frustration with the infinite 'to do' list.
It's an incredible feeling to express with your whole body what you are feeling. I had been feeling really stressed and fed up the day this photo was taken. But dancing in my bedroom or beating the bed with rage - especially if you can make a sound too is a fast and effective route to moving emotions that have got stuck.
'Silence is a source of great strength' Lao Tzu
Ways of stillness
We all know about meditation and we all feel we should be doing it. But I hear so often how people struggle with it, only compounding a sense of personal failure.
Stillness and silence can be accessed in many ways: the mystic way is to find the one that suits you
Imagination is more important than knowledge. Knowledge is limited. Imagination encircles the world.” Einstein
Imaginative journeys are a great way to access your deep feeling self and access the inner guidance the mystics talk about - and are deeply relaxing!
We are in the midst of pandemic: no-one alive now has ever navigated this situation before. So ‘we’re all in the soup’ as the famous mystic Carl Jung once said. In this podcast Henri Lang, former epidemiologist, now therapist and contemplative offers the best of mystics' wisdom: insights and practical guidance to thrive and survive in the craziest times.
Extracts from the book...
She is all labouring all alone, this beautiful woman with the shiny dark curls, in a blue gown with no back, her long legs bare, sitting on the edge of a bed in an empty white room in Solihull district hospital. There is only her, the bed and the baby inside her.
They have shaved her genitals, emptied her bowels and left her. Her mother is dying of cancer, her husband is on a course down country and her father, she would rather not have with her. She has no close friends in the area. She has only come home to nurse her mother and give birth.
She’s done it before, she says to herself, twice, so she can do it again. She knows when the baby’s heading out, so she calls the midwife who fetches the doctor. They make her lie down, put her feet in stirrups and pull me out.
inspired by an exhibition of the same name by Jeremy Deller
I time travelled to Margate today,
where I was served tea by a Mad Hatter,
dinner by a Sikh moustache,
and tiny tankers loitered in the bay.
Catching the metro to the Viking coast
an Orthodox Geordie told me there
of cathedral bells that sang for a synagogue
in Gateshead, Tyne and Wear
Skipping South and West I returned
to flat greens and cheeses of home.
And taking the dog out to Arthur’s soaking dome
we were pleased to spy,
a pair of wizards strolling by.
 In 1838, the first synagogue opened in the UK in Gateshead near Newcastle. The Cathedral bells rang to mark the occasion and the Newcastle Herald ran a headline in Hebrew.
'The story of a modern day Julien of Norwich.'