Friday, November 29, 2013

Don't Mention the J Word


It’s the dreaded J word you can never escape here. There are whole sections of bookshops devoted to the personal growth Journey, and everyone’s on one. Or had one. Or is looking for one. Or is on one but wants a different one.
I’ve tried to get myself a Journey, I really have; but it’s more of a stop and go affair. While others extol the virtues of yoga, meditation and self-help books, I just don’t seem to be able to clock up the spiritual Air Miles in the endlessly optimistic, upbeat world that is Hollywood. I like the shallowness.
A friend recommended that I read Eckhart Tolle, whose books come highly recommended by Oprah Winfrey. Under normal circumstances, I wouldn’t have gone near him; his beard lies in a half-crescent at the bottom of his face, as if he was caught mid-shaving when the doorbell rang and forgot to return to the bathroom mirror.
His basic premise is that we spend too much time dwelling on the past and the future and miss the joy of the present. Quite why it takes him 236 pages to say that is anybody’s guess, and nothing contained therein gives any indication as to the difficulties of implementing the philosophy.
I thought that with my dwindling finances, the chapter headed “Mind Strategies for Avoiding the Now” might prove particularly useful.
 “Tomorrow’s bills are not the problem,” states Mr Tolle. If I make them so, I am apparently holding on to a “core delusion” and turning a “mere situation, event or emotion” into a personal problem, which is the real cause of the suffering.
I tried it out with my bank manager, who is curious to know when my overdraft might be paid back.
Right, the thing is, I explained: what we have here is not a problem, it is a mere situation, and if you were to free yourself from yours, and the bank’s imprisonment in psychological time, you would start to see my debt in a different way. In fact, you would begin to see it as something in which to be joyous, because it is of the moment, the now; in losing the Now, you are losing your essential loss of Being, which is a common problem the egoic mind faces when it takes over from presence being your dominant state. Okay?
He said I still have to pay back my overdraft.
I hoped that “Ganeesha speaks” online would give me a kick start, as he/she/it promised to tell me how a solar eclipse was going to change my life forever.
The sun, it explained, was about to become overpowered by the moon; “this rare event”, it told me, was going to “increase your problems manifold”. And they weren’t just going to be problems; they were going to be “problems of astronomical proportions.” It got better. “You, in particular, will be grossly out of luck.”
Gee, thanks. You have a good day, too.
On La Brea in West Hollywood, almost every other shop is a psychic. Everyone tells me that I cannot possibly live here without one and they are stunned that I do. So I walked up to a doorway offering a $10 reading.
I was greeted by a disinterested girl of about 18. “What d’you want?”
“Well, what is there?”
“Tarot, palm, crystal ball, eye.”
“Okay, I’ll have the eye.”
“You want me to read your eyeball? That’s $45.”
“But your sign says that you’re doing a $10 deal.”
“Yeah, that’s a palm reading.”
 “Okay, I’ll have one of those.”
“To be honest, it’s not very accurate.”
As trips go, I feel this is going to be a long one, but I’m going to persevere. I may be on the hard shoulder at the moment, but I can sense a service station coming up. There always is. 

And not knowing exactly when is all part of the J word.

This blog first appeared in the Expat column of The Oldie 300th issue

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