Advice Given

Excellent advice in Advice Not Given’ by Mark Epstein. From his excellent chapter ‘Right Action’, some ideas to help with troubling thoughts.

When we help people see their repetitive thoughts as mere thoughts rather than as true stories, there is a whiff of freedom. Our narratives need not be as sure of themselves as we have led ourselves to believe. The more we examine them in an open way, the less convinced we tend to be about them.

… But letting go does not mean releasing the thing that is bothering you. Trying to get rid of it only makes it stronger. Letting go has more to do with patience than it does with release.

… [In] Right Action … You settle into yourself rather than trying to make the troubling thing go away. If anything drops away, it does so by itself. You cannot make it happen directly.

Right Action is part of the Eight-fold Path from the Buddha’s fourth Noble Truth



Obsessive thoughts caught

in a rat trap grip

and the cheese was not even worth it.

I worry what people think.

The darkened train carries the faces of their

judgement on the window mist.

I think I am burned out.

I have no container to keep the embers – the hot coal ash

floats in on the wind.

I snatch them back – too hot to touch.

‘But in order to loosen their grip, we must first know what they are.’
Mark Epstein Advice Not Given: A Guide to getting Over Yourself

The other day

I had the sensation

Of wanting to harm myself.

It came as a hooded figure, dark and real,

Carried in on a night.

I sought sleep to escape it.

The hooded figure loiters on the corner in the alleyway.

Drop back into my body and lighten on the breath,

Carried in on the sun from the East.

Still, the figure stands in the shadow.

Trying not to have a thought only made it more pronounced and more threatening … We don’t need to make your symptoms go away; we just need to change the way you relate to them. With less aversion to your thoughts, their hold on you will lessen. You could be less preoccupied and more open to what you are seeing around you … Instead of focusing so much on unwanted thoughts, he started to look around.

Extract from Mark Epstein, ‘Advice not Given: A Guide to Getting Over yourself’

Seeking clarity


The biggest cause of suffering is not being able to have clarity.

When I read about this it landed on me in the way in which an insight can suddenly awaken me to the possibilities of something new and different.

The problem is that too often I hear or read a thing like this clarity thing – say, wow man, look at me, I have this new insight – and then come crash landing when confronted with another blockage and a lack of insight. Trips me up every fucking time. This is hubris in a way.

Just when you thought it was safe to say that you have have an insight into how suffering is caused by a lack of clarity, another blockage comes along and I kind of go back to square one on the clarity thing.

Just hearing about how the lack of clarity brings suffering is a daily awareness of how just because I have seen it once, does not mean that the rest of me now is – through some kind of weird inheritance – hyper-clear. It’s a minute by minute, hour by hour and day by day working with clarity and self awareness.

You’ve gotta work harder on yourself than anything else.

I met my shaman


Yes, I know, I know. It sounds weird.

You ask how could I tell?

There was nothing extraordinary – the encounter was easy simply because of the long preparation before the moment.

There was nothing trapped and hidden and instead it felt like a release. I was able talk quite openly as if I had known my shaman forever.

I am being saved differently and going into the dark fungus and inhabiting its eco system, letting go all the time

in the lines out loud where my shaman watches over me

Being curious

I love this from Pema Chodron …

Our wisdom is all mixed up with what we call our neurosis. Our brilliance, our juiciness, our spiciness, is all mixed up with our craziness and our confusion, and therefore it doesn’t do any good to try to get rid of our so-called negative aspects, because in that process we also get rid of our basic wonderfulness. We can lead our life so as to become more awake to who we are and what we’re doing rather than trying to improve or change or get rid of who we are or what we’re doing. The key is to wake up, to become more alert, more inquisitive and curious about ourselves.

Wisdom of No Escape


It takes courage to grow up and become who you really are. ee cummings

In the long descent into the dark fungus I forgot who I really was. I thought that courage was all about burying the stuff. Locking it up. Not going there. Shutting down. In that place the fungus took over and spread, sapping the energy of courage and who I was. Slow strangulation.

Funny how the act of burial meant I was addicted to self, preoccupied. The opposite was not true.

Not sure where I found the courage to go to the burial ground of my emotions and dig them up. But I became the archaeologist of my own soul. It’s not always been nice and I am not all grown up yet and who I really am is being worked on. There are bits of the dark stuff hanging around but that’s ok.