Attacked in Montego Bay – lucky they didn’t have a knife…

Cornwall beach, Montego Bay

At the end of November 2019, I returned to Jamaica from Toronto which had frozen my nether regions off. Soon, something happened that changed my life.

 It was a Monday evening, 9th December 2019. Maybe I thought criminals only came out on the weekends? I had been back for 10 days. I had signed my lease and moved into my cute little apartment. It wasn’t far to walk down to the hip strip tourist area and the beach. Coming back was much harder though, up a very steep hill.

I had been down at Cornwall beach near Sea Gardens hotel, chilling on the concrete wall overlooking the sea and hills that stretch towards Negril as the evening cooled. Cruise ships were still coming in, coast guard coming and going. The sea was dark and quiet.

It was now dark. I walked back with a friend to the bottom of the hill and then started up the hill alone.

It was one of those moments in life where I had always wondered what my reaction would be if it happened to me. Would I run? Would I fight? Would I scream? Would I freeze? What would my natural instinct be?

It’s funny how the memory works, or doesn’t work, in these situations. Parts of it are basically a blur.  For example, I don’t remember how I got to the side of the road I was now on. Did I cross near where it happened, or had I already crossed at the lights to avoid walking past the two men sitting on the brick wall on the other side?

I had passed through the first part of the hill where there was a railing next to the road and I was in front of the Mt Alvernia kindergarten when I was grabbed from behind, hands gripping my upper arms.

In the split second it happened, I thought it was someone I knew playing a trick on me. When I turned my head slightly to the left and saw a face I didn’t know, a shock went through my body literally like a bolt of lightning.

Instantly, I turned to face the attacker, grabbed my phone with both hands and bent, bracing for impact.

I heard myself say “No Fucking Way!”

I had no bag, no purse and no money with me except $200JMD (not much more than $1US) in my phone case.

“Take her phone,” I heard. One of the men was moving away.

The other hit me and threw me down. I got up still grasping my phone with two hands. He threw me down again, this time by the hair.

I threw my leg up on the way down, kicking him in the head in a move I will always be proud of.

I landed on the curb on the base of my spine and hip. Then I’m up again. He has his arms around my torso and upper arms and we’re struggling. I’m kicking and doing my best to break free. I’m not making this easy. Beginning to think after what must have been 30 seconds or so, I start to drag him into the roadway so if a car came, he would have to let me go. A few seconds later, they started to move off and I heard myself screaming. I screamed louder and louder until they were gone.

Scared they would return, I hurried up the hill as best I could, shaken like crazy, numb and starting to cry, I knew there was some type of police station halfway up the hill.

It was a ‘Lottery Scam Police Station’ (that’s a whole other story…) and only one guard seemed to be on duty, but I told him what happened and he made a phone call. Some other police came. I told them what happened. No report was made. I was driven the short distance to my home. Nothing was done. Nothing came of it. I never heard back from them again. I wasn’t stabbed or killed so ‘whatever’ as far as they were concerned. They said they would find who did it. Nothing happened and I didn’t go and report it to the other police station the next day. Nothing would have happened anyway. I couldn’t identify the men or give a good description.

But I think I knew at least one of them.

The one who moved away was a street hustler I had not given $500JMD when he asked – about $3US. This was his revenge – attack. The next time I saw him, his usually friendly face was not and I just looked at him with an ‘I know what you did’ stare.

My escapade made me a little bit famous among the few people who heard about it. (Well probably quite a lot of people heard about it but I didn’t know them.) A lady who I had met before the attack and then bumped into in a supermarket soon afterwards told me that that area was notorious for similar attacks (no one told me!) and that in the weeks leading up to Christmas the likelihood of that type of thing would be greater than usual.

Her teenage daughter was very impressed that I had fought them off but the lady said I was lucky they didn’t have a knife or the story would probably have been a lot different. She told me that soon after she had come to Jamaica many years before, she had been robbed while in a car and had run away scaling a wall while 8 months pregnant. Someone else I knew told me their brother had been robbed at knife-point less than 100 meters away a couple of days after I was attacked. They didn’t get my phone. They didn’t get anything. Nothing!

The attack shook me deeply. It changed my perspective on everything. I was shocked to my core. Despite myself, I became paranoid and anxious. I tried not to let it get to me, determined to get over it. Of course, we all know that these things can happen to anyone at any time, but when it happens to you, it is a completely different thing. I changed everything. I became conscious of my habits and made sure I never did anything regularly, so if anyone was watching me, they could not predict when I would go shopping or walking or anything else. I got taxis home usually. I became super conscious of my surroundings in the street. I was home before sunset every day.

More than 2.5 years later, I am over it but my ways of doing things are changed forever.

How to Live Your Dreams – even if you don’t know what they are…?

Doctor's Cave Bathing Club, Montego Bay, Jamaica

We always here about people who are out there “living their dreams” and it’s what we all aspire to. Everyone would like to be able to do what they love, make a living out of it and follow their hearts desires be it traveling, making art, writing, building a school in some far off place or just living a simple life in the countryside with their family.

To live your dreams though, you usually need to know what those dreams are — although I would say it’s completely possible to accidentally happen across your ideal lifestyle and fulfill dreams you didn’t know you had. So, what if you don’t know what your dreams are?

For me, it’s not specific things I aspire to… Although, yes, I would like to have little cottages dotted around the world and be able to travel to whichever of them I feel like whenever I want. I want to be able to donate to charities and people that do good things in the world. And I do want to go dog-sledding in Lapland one day, with reindeer… But it’s not physical things I aspire to, but ways of living.

Put simply, I want to be able to do what I want, where I want, when I want, with whom I want and how I want. A simple request, surely? Now, I don’t mean this in a selfish or criminal way — I don’t need to break any laws or tread on other people — this is ultimately my aspiration to “Freedom”.

Many people need to find out what it is they want to do — what their dreams are. If this is you, firstly, I would say you need to follow your intuition — your inner guide. You need to do your internal work. If you find that you usually take the avoidant route by switching off and binge-watching TV and movies or PlayStation all the time, then maybe it’s time you need to take a break from that… Although I do love crime drama…

Consciously, purposefully, do something different!

Visit what I will call “Resource Treasuries” ie a library, art gallery, performing arts center, museum, community center. You can use the internet of course, but the distractions are greater and you’ll likely end up on social media or watching something you didn’t intend to be watching. YouTube is a great resource, but be aware of what you’re doing. Stay focused! It would be better to physically go out somewhere like the library to do it.

Search actively; whether randomly, just following breadcrumbs of information wherever they take you, or specifically. If you have the spark of an idea, follow that. If you can’t find what you’re looking for, ask other people. Other people can be the best and most surprising resources — you never know what stories and knowledge people have hidden away inside, just waiting for you to ask.

Another way to find your own way is to help other people. One of the best ways to feel good and purposeful is to help others. Make the effort to volunteer. There are innumerable ways and places to do so — hospitals, libraries, schools, homeless shelters, food banks, even in businesses you are interested in.

Get out there and get involved! Visit that place you thought of visiting for a long time, go out to the local farmers and craft markets on the weekends, etc. buy that ticket, take that weekend away and dedicate time to yourself, time to invest in self-research to find out what you really love, are interested in and want to do.

Treat your life like a video game or movie — you always want to get to the next level or find out what happens next. Don’t just push it off for later, avoid thinking about it or think that dreams are just for other people. Get out there and live!

Faith and the Challenge of the Golden Rule 

Yellow flower

Is treating other people well more important than whether we pray or not?

All religions, faiths, life paths or ‘spiritualities’ today have many, many branches and an even wider variety of different practices. They all, however, have two things in common:

1. reliance on a power greater than ourselves

2. to treat others as we would like to be treated ourselves

I had been wondering which topic to do next (even though I have a list) when the topic of a class I’ve been attending came up today as the ‘Golden Rule’, which also happened to be next on my list. So, let’s get into it!

WHAT IS THE GOLDEN RULE?

Essentially every religion, spirituality or conscious life path has a version of this ‘rule’:

Baha’ì: “Blessed is he who prefers his brother to himself” (Bahà’u’llàh tablets — 19th century).
 Buddhism: “Whatever is disagreeable to yourself, do not do unto others” (The Buddha, Udana-Varga 5.18–6th century BC).
 Confucianism: “Do not do to others what you do not want them to do to you” (Confucius, Analects 15.23–5th century BC).
 Christianity: “You shall love your neighbour as yourself. [ On these two commandments depend all the Law and the Prophets.” (Gospel of Matthew 22, 36–40–1st century CE).
 Gandhi: “To see the universal and all-pervading Spirit of Truth face to face, one must be able to love the meanest of all creation as oneself” (translated from: Il mio credo, il mio pensiero, Newton Compton, Rome 1992, page 70–20th century).
 Jainism: “In happiness and sorrow, in joy and in pain, we should consider every creature as we consider ourselves” (Mahavira, 24th Tirthankara — 6th century BC). 
 Judaism: “What is hateful to you, do not do to your fellow-man. This is the entire Law, all the rest is commentary” (Talmud, Shabbat 3id — 16th century BC).
 Hinduism: “This is the sum of duty. Do not unto others that which would cause you pain if done to you” (Mahabharata 5, 1517–15th century BC).
 Islam: “None of you will believe until you love for your brother what you love for yourself” (Hadith 13, The Forty Hadith of Imam Nawawi — 7th century).
 Native Americans: “Respect for every form of life is the foundation”(The Big Law of Peace– 16th century).
 Plato: “I can do to others what I’d like them to do to me” (5th century BC).
 Yoruba wise saying (West Africa): “If somebody stings a bird with a sharp stick, should be first try it on himself and realize how badly it hurts”.
 Seneca Stoic Philosopher: “Treat your inferiors as you would be treated by your betters” (Letter 47 11–1st century).
 Shintoism: “Be charitable to all beings, love is the representation of God” (approximately 500 CE: Ko-ji-ki Hachiman Kasuga — 8th century BC)
 Sikhism: “I am a stranger to no one, and no one is a stranger to me. Indeed, I am a friend to all” (Guru Granth Sahib, religious scripture of Sikhism, p. 1299–15th century).
 Voltaire: “Put yourself in the other person’s shoes” (Letters on the English, n.42).
 Wicca: “An it harm none, do what ye wilt.” “Love shall be the whole of the law, love under will.” Zoroastrianism: “Do not do to others what is harmful for yourself” (Shayast-na-Shayast 13, 29 — between 18 and 15 century BC).

The most well-known version of this ‘Golden Rule’ in English is:

“Do unto others as you would have them do unto you” or essentially, ‘treat other people as you want them to treat you’.

The converse, sometimes known as the ‘Silver Rule’ is:

“Don’t do things to other people, that you would not want them to do to you.”

These can also be seen as the positive and negative ways of expressing the same thing — ‘do’, and ‘don’t do’.

Interestingly, although found in all religions, this precept does not mention God. So it is not obviously a direct concept of faith but it can be seen as the expression of faith in the world.

By fulfilling this precept, both positive and negative, we can consider that we are fulfilling our relationship with God (or the Universe or however you choose to believe or think) in that treating our fellow human beings as ourselves is the expression in the world of that private personal relationship.

In the world, there is a problem these days with some people believing themselves to be and wishing to be seen as ‘religious’ ie displaying the outer signs of religiousness according to the various faiths but in fact, treating other people badly — not following the Golden or Silver rules — and in many cases behaving badly in society, even to the extent of criminality.

This is obviously a terrible thing for the individual behaving this way but also has ongoing ramifications in society itself whereby others see these ‘religious’ people and their actions and judge not only them but all of their ‘type’ or members of that faith in the same way and so believe ‘they are all like that’.

It even puts off people of the same faith from wishing to express outer identification with their faith or to even become ‘observant’ of the ‘rules and regulations’ of that faith due to not wanting to associate themselves with ‘those people’ whose behavior is so unpleasant.

Question:

Could it be that this precept — the Golden and or Silver Rules — or treating others as you would have them treat you — is ‘more important’ than the direct relationship between oneself and God?

If someone does not have a specific faith in God as such and does not ascribe his or herself to any religion and indeed is not sure what ‘God’ is or wants from human beings — if that person behaves well in all dealings with other people, would that be enough???

In the class I mentioned that I attended which discussed the ‘Golden Rule’, the concept of steadfastness ie commitment — an ongoing commitment to worship etc came up in the context of ‘how to maintain’ ongoing day in, day out acts of worship etc adherence to the rules and regulations.

Perhaps the Golden Rule is one perspective on this.

Every day we are humans going about our business, interacting with others and with the institutions of our society. Every day we are affected by and affect other people. Our interactions can be pleasant or unpleasant. We are always reminded of our relationship with others and the results of the condition of these relationships, whether they are harmonious and conducive to good, or otherwise.

If we treat each other respectfully and well, things go well and we are happy or at least content with it. If people are rude, late, disrespectful, inappropriate or even steal from us or harm us in some way — things go downhill very quickly.

We could take this as a reminder that our relationship with God (the Universe or whichever way one believes) is just as important and requires the same kind of attention in order to keep things running smoothly.

Something which always comes up for me when I think about these things — which is a lot — is the question of how people can treat others so badly — cheating, stealing, lying, abusing others in so many different ways. Obviously, we hate it when people do this to us. Everyone does. So how can we do it to others?

Some possibilities are: disconnection, lack of empathy, lack of care, lack of trust, pure self-interest and selfishness. I guess for many people, hurting others — well, they don’t feel the physical pain. Stealing from others — they have the money or goods now and can spend it or do with it whatever they want so who cares what that other person eats for dinner or whether they can pay their rent?

They ascribe themselves to the ‘Law of the Jungle’ — only the strongest survive, might is right, kill or be killed, dog eat dog etc.

But which society would you prefer to live in with your family, friends and everyone you care about?

That ruled by the Law of the Jungle, where it’s every man for himself?

Or that governed by the Golden Rule, where people treat each other as they wish to be treated?

Whenever I think about these things and question myself about how people can do the things that they do, it always comes down to the fact that humans are designed this way, ie faulty and prone to extremes of selfishness, whereby we can cheat, lie, steal and even murder others to get what we want for ourselves,presumably in order to overcome this inbuilt possibility of ‘evil’.

Another, and perhaps better way of expressing this idea came in discussion after the class I mentioned, which is the suggestion that:

“You can’t BE good unless you can CHOOSE to be good — and you can’t CHOOSE to be GOOD without being also able to CHOOSE being BAD.”

So, we are to take it as a challenge. It is our choice. It’s up to us.

The Middle Way: Self-Improvement vs Self-Sabotage

Teddy-bear decoration on Coffee

How to move into self-confidence and free yourself from feelings of superiority or inferiority to others.

Today’s message is about moving from feelings of superiority or inferiority over others – which are both forms of self-sabotage – and freeing yourself from bondage to negativity and moving into a healthy self-acceptance and self-confidence.

Attachment to feelings and emotions of arrogance, vanity, pride or conceit, superiority, over confidence, self-entitlement and boastfulness even though these seem to be promoted as good and beneficial to us in today’s world of Instagram selfies etc are just as harmful to you and may actually mask feelings of shame, inferiority, discomfort, dysmorphia, negative self-image and low self-esteem that we might have.

These two sets of emotions or ideas are both problems, two sides to the same coin. Both are a maladjusted way of looking at the world and our place in it. Both make us unhappy and unfulfilled.

One involves putting others down in comparison to yourself in order to feel good about yourself. The other involves placing others above yourself and finding fault with oneself unnecessarily and in a way that’s detrimental to your own well-being.

Interestingly, from a psychological point of view, feelings of superiority can actually be a mask placed over our true feelings of unworthiness and are the result of our attempt to feel better about ourselves by putting others down.

These feelings of unworthiness and low self-image can have their origins in negative statements from parents, siblings, teachers, other negative experiences or trauma or bullying of all types.

One way to overcome these feelings is to remind yourself that

“My self worth does not depend on other people.”

…………………………………………………………………………………

It is nice to hear good things about yourself sometimes… to get good feedback. But you don’t need to rely on it for your feelings of self-worth.

But, you know what? Give it. Give the good feedback to others that you find lacking in your own experience. No need to fake it – we’re not looking to flatter or falsely inflate others’ egos – be genuine. Tell others of the good that you truly appreciate in them.

Be an example of the change you want to see in the world.

But wait you ask? Isn’t that a paradox?*

You just said that we don’t depend on others for our self-worth and now you’re saying we should say nice things to other people to give them a boost and make them feel good about themselves? Yes!

Yes, it’s a kind of a paradox but that’s because in the world we live in today, we are more likely to be criticized and put down than helped, and we need to change that.

We all have faults which we should be working on to fix but we all have goodness and blessings in us which we should be thankful and happy for too! So, remind people, your friends, family, even people you only interact with briefly of their goodness.

Tell people when you appreciate their thoughtfulness, helpfulness, genuine niceness and good manners etc.

Be that change!

We should become more resilient – be willing to boost others’ even when we feel that no one does the same for us.

You will find that when you say or do something for someone else, you will enjoy the feeling that it generates in your own self.

So, how to move from negative mindsets into a healthy self-confidence?

When you feel either arrogant or superior to other people or ashamed of what you think is your unworthiness – remind yourself that we all have problems to grapple with and we all have gifts and talents inside us.

Remind and affirm to yourself:

  • I am a unique and wonderful person.
  • I do not need to feel better or worse than others.
  • I have struggles that I am working to learn from and overcome.
  • And I have wonderful gifts and characteristics which make me special, valuable
  • And loved by myself and others.

Whichever way we choose to look at it: these things are True!

So we remind ourselves of these things whenever we feel our emotional pendulum swaying one way – into pride and arrogance – or the other – into inferiority and imposter complex.

The middle way is the cure and the way forward into healthy self-confidence.

Turning it around

The time for asking God for miracles and signs has passed

It’s time to take the miracles He has already shown me and put them to use

To serve Him and His creation

Time to turn around and show Him my gratitude and humility before His magnificence

Bow low and offer my efforts before Him

sunset clouds over trees
Clouds of creative portent

The Traveler – The Wayfarer

We live on the surface.

We travel the surface of this earth, this being (ourselves), this consciousness, this…

We visit all the things people do which we term as culture.

We live in the religions.

We journey in relationships with others.

We are the waves of the ocean.

Creation arises and subsides and we are mistaken…

Sat Chit Ananda – Being Consciousness Bliss

Sabr Shukr Dhikr – Patience Thankfulness Remembrance

Abidance. The ‘I’ arises in ‘it’, ‘it’ does not arise in ‘me’.

We are expressions of the creative power of the substratum.

On the path, we need self-awareness and self-compassion.

Again a paradox.

Pastel waters and sky.

The Paradox of Gratitude

Dear God,

Thankyou.

You drove me from society’s meanness and hypocrisy so that I can recover and arise anew far away from prying eyes.

Thankyou.

You took me out of all I had been, sent me to the ends of the earth, crushing all my practices, making me consider all I have done and been through, questioning dogma and ritual.

Thankyou.

You made me suffer in my body so that I appreciate the important things.

Thankyou.

You have left me with nothing so that I may be ready for anything.

Thankyou.

You have shunned and ignored me so that my ego may know humiliation and disappear.

Thankyou.

You have whittled me down to nothing so that I may know the expansiveness of my true self.

Thankyou.

You have shown me abuse, trauma, destitution, pain, destruction, betrayal, corruption, rape and murder so that I may know love, care, abundance, peace, creative bountifulness, bliss, fullness and the true life of the inner self.

Thankyou.

I submit to the great teacher of experience who opens my eyes to its hollowness.

Thankyou.

Post sunset pastel water and sky.

Attempting Emptiness

Meditation practices often ask us to empty our minds of thought. Even ritual prayer is said to be optimal when extraneous thought is absent and we are absorbed in the experience of the prayer.

When we enter a place leaving every thought about ourselves, our lives, the world, the past and the future at the entrance, what are we left with in that place?

When we look inside, into the emptiness, find that there is something there. We sense something. There is a presence, an essence, a hum…

When we attempt emptiness, we find a luminousness.

More than twenty years ago, I used a word – ‘isness’ – which I came across again today. This luminousness – isness.

And when we realize ourselves in this, which we can also call love – universal compassion naturally arises.

Sun over Ocean with Masjid

Speaking Truth With Spirit

Why is the truth so important?

Why is an open heart and an open mind so important?

Because the truth is unknown between us.

Dragonfly
Dragonfly

The truth of one person’s experience is bound to their own – not only immediate experience but all of their experiences as well as their responses to those experiences.

If we have learnt the truth of our past experiences, we are much better placed to understand the truth of our present experiences in their multitudinous layers.

Our own and others’ personalities, idiosyncracies, shortcomings, motivations and intentions all play a role in our daily interactions.

Above all, so much miscommunication, antagonism and aggression could be avoided if we just gave each other the benefit of the doubt and showed compassion both to ourselves and others.

Be Gentle

Many believe today’s world is won by cunning and might alone, and dominance by ruthlessness is the best course of action.

In truth, nothing is won this way.

And what is lost may amount to the whole of the self.