Wisdom of Walden

Before you start reading this info-packed newsletter, mark down the 20th September (Tuesday) in your calendar if you haven’t already– it is the “Open Mind, Open House” at Grey Matter Network, Singapore. See the end of this message for more details. See you then!

I went into the woods because I wished to live deliberately, to front only the essential facts of life, and to see if I could learn what it had to teach, and not, when I came to die, discover that I had not lived.  ~Henry David Thoreau

This August I travelled to the United States and Canada – to visit my family, to attend the National Guild of Hypnotists Convention, and to become a Certified Instructor for training Hypnotherapists.

What a wonderful combination of work and play, meeting and getting to know different people in different ways – each one as unique and precious as the individual themselves.

The course and convention were located in Massachusetts, not far from a place called Walden Pond. This is where writer and philosopher Henry David Thoreau built and lived in a small “house” (what we might consider a shack) for two years, writing and living deliberately. His written work Walden, among others, are tomes that I feel are filled with great thoughts on balance, connectedness, inner truth and personal revelations. I have ‘deliberately’ used his quotes to highlight some reflections on my travels as well as how his views link to the workings of the mind.

1. So Thoreau was a Hypnotist…

“Go confidently in the direction of your dreams. Live the life you have imagined.”

This is the true nature of the subconscious mind. What we can imagine tends to be realised. Whatever it may be – good, bad or indifferent. Not only will our imagination help to lead us to where we need to go, but it is the confidence in which it is done which serves to affect our success in the outcome. Imagine for a moment a dream which you’d like to follow. Your subconscious mind is picking that goal up even as you do it, and finding the best ways to pursue it.

“Right,” you might be saying, “I’ve dreamed about all kinds of things that haven’t come to pass.” Well Thoreau had this to say about it.

 “If you have built castles in the air, your work need not be lost; that is where they should be. Now put the foundations under them.”

That just seems to imply and confirm that thought cannot ‘cause’ things to happen in and of itself. However, thought inspires, presents, and nurtures conditions around us that can either result in our action, or in our inaction. When we don’t act we are not building our dream’s foundation and those ‘castles’ will, most likely, be lost.

Yes, he was a hypnotist.

2. Friends and Family (new and old)…

“The language of friendship is not words but meanings.”

I am always in awe of the people I meet – and the fact that I meet so many wonderful people! During my time in North America I met a vast array of interesting characters. Obviously, because we (or I) tend to use words to communicate, I participated in conversations and discussions aplenty. But words count only for so much. I believe that someone, not Thoreau, once wrote of the beauty of music not necessarily being in the notes, but in the spaces between them. In the time without words, or in the underlying messages and meanings, or actions – that’s where memories are burned fast.

The subconscious mind take words literally, however the firm implant (the “bolding” of words and files within our mind) happens with meanings and feelings. The unconscious and subconscious are so powerful that their tentacles reach past language to collect all the sensory and meaningful aspects that are not necessarily carried in the words we speak –  but in our tone, our physical communication, and our underlying emotions. They cull all the spaces and implications between words and integrate them, not for the content alone but for how it feels.

My time away has left me with memories and meanings from new and old friendships that I will cherish. Like picture postcards, they flash in my mind and my heart remembers the feeling rather than recalling the words.

3. Cause or Effect of Joy?…

“If the day and night be such that you greet them with joy, and life emits a fragrance like flowers and sweet-scented herbs, is more elastic, more immortal – that is your success.  All nature is your congratulation, and you have cause momentarily to bless yourself.”

This quote reminds me of my teacher, and niece, Gillian. At four years old, she’s (re)teaching me the idea and practice of ‘greeting with joy’. A subway car, an empty snail shell, a Canada goose are all greeted with awe and openness. And the palpable joy that surrounds it affects everyone and everything it touches. It can change people and events simply by being joyful – as I mentioned before, what our mind focuses on expands (in ever increasing circles).

For example, some toughened teenagers were lounging on the monkey bars at the park where we were playing. They looked very disinterested in everything, and seemed too cool for words. When they came in the path of pure joy, of a child saying “whee” down a slide (for real), their expressions softened and they became animated and laughed. When the mind lives in the moment, greets life with the expectation of joy, worries of the future and regrets of the past disappear and the fragrance of life perfumes not only you, but those around you.

4. Not Always Sunny…

“If I wished to see a mountain or other scenery under the most favorable auspices, I would go to it in foul weather, so as to be there when it cleared up; we are then in the most suitable mood, and Nature is most fresh and inspiring.  There is no serenity so fair as that which is just established in a tearful eye.”

For those of us who have trouble holding onto the child-like nature of Gillian, there is hope. A wise man reminded me recently that life isn’t a goal to be reached, but a journey. Rain may ruin our new hairdo or a perfect day at the beach, but it happens so that life can exist. A grey and foggy morning at a northern lake gave me an environment where I could run tirelessly, and then appreciate the sun coming out.

The natural ups and downs of life are part of the package. Steel that is melted and reformed (I’m sure there is something more to it than that, but this is the simplified version), is said to be stronger than the original state of the metal. That process is called ‘tempering’, and so sometimes we are temper-ed ourselves, which strengthens us.

When we hold on to emotions, we use up a lot of energy keeping them close to us. When we release them, let them go, it is like the fresh, clear calm after the storm that invigorates and inspires us to see things anew.

5. Back at home…

“Things do not change, we change.”

Because the mind works by association, we often notice similar behaviour in similar situations. When the phone rings, we tend to pick it up. This also works for our interactions with people and places from the past. It is always interesting to see actions, reactions and behaviours when faced with old familiar situations.

Like going home. Similar to field-side commentators we often think or talk about how we feel our family or friends ‘should’ change, when whether or not they do or don’t is actually inconsequential. It is the change that happens inside “me” that affects all the relationships around. It is in the times when we are put back into a place from the past that we realize our true – and false – changes. My trip was revealing to me, whether or not anyone else noticed, and showed some of my successful shifts as well as revealed places where I still need to work. What might seem like an obstacle, we can change with our perception to become a challenge worth striving for.

Here’s to home, and the workings of great minds: Thoreau’s, yours and mine.

Happy September…


Want more information on Walden?: http://www.mass.gov/dcr/parks/northeast/wldn.htm





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