Vajra Blue

Mindfulness and Compassion. Understanding trauma in young people.


Guarding the Gates to our Senses: Critical Thinking Matters.

File:Bronze Marcus Aurelius Louvre Br45.jpg - Wikimedia Commons

If it is not right, don’t do it: if it is not true, don’t say it.

Marcus Aurelius.

Sometime in the winter of 179/180 CE, while on campaign in the Balkans, the Roman Emperor Marcus Aurelius – the last of the five good emperors (the white haired one in Gladiator) – wrote these words in his personal journal. He was reminding himself to take care about the things he thought, said and did. He believed that acting in a “right” way mattered, and that integrity mattered a great deal.

As Emperor what he said mattered. He was in a such a powerful position that his word, quite literally, was law and carried the power of life and death over the ordinary mortals over whom he ruled. Marcus did his best to live his philosophy and not to abuse his power. He lived in a time when philosophy was not some desiccated academic pursuit but a way of life. Something to be lived every day. He followed the teaching of the Stoic school and believed in the stoic virtues, the yardsticks against which he measured himself.

  • Justice – Treating others with decency and fairness. Not imposing our world view on others. Not giving in to hate speech or treating one part of society differently from the rest. Bearing your community in mind when you make decision about how to behave. Masks anyone. Vaccination?
  • Wisdom – Practical wisdom for day to day living. This is seen as the chief human good and remains so under all and any conditions. It allows us to make ethical decisions. Without the wisdom to live well how can we make any sensible decisions about the right way to behave? Perhaps a little practical wisdom might have prevented the unedifying spectacle of Capitol insurgents blaming Trump for their decision to attend the party.
  • Temperance – Moderation in all things. A middle way. that old fashioned virtue of self control. Being able to rein in our desires and actions so that we do not lose control or yield to excess or the masses. Thinking before we act.
  • Courage – Although this can have a physical element it is more about moral courage. To act according to what is right and to continue to do so even tin he most demanding of circumstances. To take responsibility for our actions and to face the consequences of our choices with equanimity.

Every day, despite all the demands on his time, Marcus took the time to write in his journal. A document that he titled “To Himself”, but is better known as “Meditations.” He wrote in his journal to review the day just past and as a way to prepare himself for the day ahead. He did this in order to hold himself to account for his past behaviour and to plan for whatever upsets might come his way in the future, thinking through the trials and tribulations that might he might face so that he could take them in his stride.

Marcus has been a beacon of upstanding behaviour ever since.

Give distinction and stand out as a fine example to the rest. Epictetus.

In light of the way various World Leaders have chosen to behave over the past few years it would seem unlikely that someone like Marcus would have managed to get elected to any meaningful position if he espoused views of this nature today.

We live at a time where these four cardinal virtues, or indeed any virtues, have been deliberately set aside by those who should be setting an example to the rest of us. Presidents and other world leaders choose to lie to the world. They incite hatred and insurgency. Feeding off those who feel dispossessed and with little real stake in their world to push their own personal agendas and to aggrandise themselves.

Worst of all their followers, fed on a diet of misinformation, take this as permission to stop thinking for themselves and to express the most horrific opinions and bizarre beliefs without challenging their veracity or impact.

It does seem strange that a wealthy american realtor should choose to fly by private jet to Washington, stand around advertising her services before then entering the Capitol complex and then, not just expects, but demand a pardon from the President when she has to face the consequences of her own conscious decision to act unlawfully.

Perhaps what the world needs at the moment is more of these stoic virtues. We should encourage people to think for themselves and make their own decisions instead of allowing them to abdicate their responsibility to the rest of the world and blaming others for the decisions they choose to make.

All rights come with accompanying responsibilities. The greatest of these is not to abuse them.


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Mindfulness: living in the moment

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When you correct your mind everything else will fall into place.
Lao Tzu.

A few years ago I went through a difficult period with stress and depression.  At this time my partner commissioned this brush painting for me. It shows a bamboo leaf falling, twisting in the air, full of life, while at the same time it is suspended in a single moment. A moment in which anything is possible, a moment that is full of possibility and in which nothing can be taken for granted.

It serves as a reminder that nothing lasts, that everything is transient, and that I need to do my best to stay in the present moment, open to new experiences and doing whatever I can to remain open to whatever opportunities and options come my way. It also reminds me that making predictions can be fraught with danger, after all a dragon might just fly down and eat the leaf.

This is also one of the reasons why I like rainbows, those fleeting, numinous phenomena that only exist in the eye of the beholder. A momentary experience of physics in action, something that is best when it is just experienced and enjoyed, not analysed.

This is what mindfulness is all about. Continue reading


FAMOUS for fifteen minutes: a mindful way to a happier life.

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When I grow up
I wanna be famous
I wanna be a star
I wanna be in movies

When I grow up
I wanna see the world
Drive nice cars
I wanna have groupies

PUSSYCAT DOLLS

Humankind is a very successful animal. Some two hundred thousand years ago, the entire human race consisted of a few thousand people living in Southern Africa.  In the ensuing years, we have made full use of our adaptability and survival skills, and have spread to every corner of the globe on the way becoming the world’s dominant species. Our current population is heading for eight billion. Much of this success is due to our ability to survive against the odds.

The systems developed by the process of evolution to detect, and then react to danger, have stood us in good stead. However, these systems, designed to pick up the early signs of danger, can be very unhelpful in the digital age.

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Do penguins have knees? Three ways to grow an irritable mind.

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Thinking is what a great many people think they are doing when they are merely rearranging their prejudices.

William James

Over the last twenty years, I have been forced to recognise that I spend far too much of the time when I attempt to meditate, sitting on my cushions lost in thought. This thinking is rarely helpful.

These thoughts, that insistently intrude upon my practice, and which come so regularly and without any formal invitation, fall into three main groups. There are variations on the themes that are involved, and in the content that they cover. The one thing that they have in common is to increase the irritability and reactivity of the mind.

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Mindfulness, willpower and achieving our goals

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I can resist everything but temptation.

Oscar Wilde

Most of the people I know believe that their lives would be better if they had greater willpower. We all find it far too easy to sit down and watch the telly when we know we should be going out to the gym, or undertaking some other improving activity. There are lots of things that we would like to do more, and others that we would like to do less. Yet somehow, despite our best intentions, we find ourselves unable to find the motivation to keep going when we set out to make some new changes in our lives.

Willpower is one of the things that makes it possible to bring about successful change much more easily. A lack of willpower is the main reason cited when we do not follow through on positive changes in our lives. The American Psychological Association’s annual “Stress in America” survey published in 2011, showed that 27% of respondents reported lack of willpower as being the most significant barrier to bringing about change in their lives. The majority of respondents also believed that willpower was something that they could increase and develop through practice. Continue reading


Mindfulness and the future

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Many of us live by other peoples’ rules. We are afraid to act in our own interests.  There is always someone else whose opinion carries more weight than our own. Someone to whom we have given the power to veto the decisions that we make about how we live our lives. These are often internalised figures from our past.

We wait for the right moment to act; when we have the right job, when we have enough money, when we meet Mr or Ms Right.  If we retrain for a different job it might be years before we are ready, so we choose not to. We decide to stay with the status quo and miss out on opportunities to have a richer life.

Where our future is are concerned we have to act, otherwise we will be at the mercy of everything else that is happening. As the Nike advertisement said “Just do it.”

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