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      Cover of The Enneagram   Picture of the cover of One Minute Mindfulness.   Cover of One Minute Meditation

Sacred space on tour

Posted by Simon Parke, 24 May 2017, 9.27pm

It’s day four of the Enneagram retreat.

And we started the day with a peaceful meditation.

It was about sitting on a sandy beach, made pristine by the withdrawing tide.

All of yesterday’s sandcastles and footmarks gone.


It was meant to be about freshness, newness, peace in this present moment.

But for one of the participants, Lisa, it was the exact opposite.

She enjoyed the beach initially, but when the tide started to come in, it reminded her of an old and frequent nightmare, in which a huge tidal wave approached.

She would always wake up just before it smashed down and engulfed her.

So this peaceful meditation didn’t do it for Lisa; indeed, nothing could have been more frightening.

Old terrors intervened.

Sometimes the officially peaceful places are the exact opposite for us.

They can stir up a whole range of emotions.

While peace, joy or delight often find us quite unannounced and in rather unofficial places.

This is allowed.

Sacred space has no fixed point, it’s always on tour.

Yesterday, I lead what I hoped would be a calming meditation.

For Lisa, it was a tidal wave of terror.

I’m glad she told me.

When it comes to finding peace and joy, it’s best to be honest with ourselves.

And delight will find her, in its own time and its own way.

As I say, sacred space has no fixed point, it’s always on tour.

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In search of the unborn

Posted by Simon Parke, 24 May 2017, 8.16am

It’s day three of our Enneagram retreat.

And perhaps it’s a strange place to start but let there be something of the unborn in us today, for there in that fragility is our essence, eternal and undying.

Trapped momentarily in time, we can lose touch with our essence, our first self, and become children of multiplicity and distraction.

We obsess over scraps of knowledge and worship broken images of truth.

Unborn, we were not so distracted, but simple and without boundaries.

So today we take into our born lives something of the unborn.

To our multiplicity, we bring simplicity.

And to a world of competitive knowing, we bring a poverty of knowing.

The deep unknowing of the unborn.


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This glorious human trait

Posted by Simon Parke, 23 May 2017, 8.58am

Day Two of the Enneagram retreat and we’re discovering the truth of these words in the Gospel of Thomas.

It is Jesus speaking, disturbingly:

‘Whoever searches must continue to search until they find.

When they find they will be disturbed;

and being disturbed they will marvel and reign over all.’

The capacity to be open to disturbance is a remarkable human trait, one of our great glories.

Not all possess it, of course, too bound to their defences.

(For now.)

But those who seek truth about themselves will need this capacity.

Because when we search we might well be disturbed by the people we’ve been, the people we are, the people we have become.

Truth is not always a comfortable discovery.

Though in time we will marvel…

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The Enneagram: Why?

Posted by Simon Parke, 22 May 2017, 3.31pm

Today, I start out on another Enneagram retreat.

Always quite an adventure.

I might use this image early on.

You own a house, but it’s some distance away.

You visit it occasionally to make sure it’s OK…no broken windows or leaking pipes, basic stuff.

And you have quite a good idea of its outline details, enough to draw a rough plan for an estate agent.

But you’ve never lived in it nor made it your home.

That would be quite a step.

The Enneagram is about taking that step, moving in…it’s about melting the distance.

It’s about coming home to ourselves and inhabiting ourselves more consciously, with more awareness and therefore, more kindness.

If the Enneagram isn’t that, it isn’t anything.

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Daily Mail review of 'The soldier, the gaoler, the spy and her lover.'

Posted by Simon Parke, 19 May 2017, 4.50pm

The following review, by Elizabeth Buchan, appeared in the Daily Mail recently.

It is uncut.

‘In February 1647, the Scots have sold Charles 1 to Oliver Cromwell, who has imprisoned him on the Isle of Wight.

His family is mostly in exile, the royalists are scattered, leaving Charles 1st virtually alone but for the redoubtable Jane Whorwood.

A spy and a fixer, she is also Charles’ mistress, a surprising revelation (deftly expunged by royalist historians) as the king was famously uxorious.

Simon Parke’s well-written and absorbing story of the king’s final years dramatizes the political chicanery, the shifting loyalties and an unexpected love story before his execution in 1649.

Charles was autocratic and, sometimes, a fool, but his death was courageous and left its imprint on Jane, his gaolers and, not least, Cromwell himself.’

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Posted by Simon Parke, 19 May 2017, 6.15am

I don’t want to lose it, I really don’t.

Lose this and all is dry and delight is quite gone.

And it can be lost, lost almost at birth, battered from our skulls by inadequate surrounds, drained from our hearts.

Or pushed slowly from our lives by jostling concerns, plans and ambitions can make one blind.

Or trampled by adult cynicism and left for dead as I banter and josh with some hilarious and clever council of fools.


I don’t want to lose it and without it there is nothing.

I do not speak of stupid innocence which says ‘yes’ to the monster because it gives them a sweet.

But the innocence which sees beyond the monster’s mad contortions, finds droplets of delight in the wet grass of dissonance, hears echoes of paradise in the air.

Innocence is now, fresh as the dew and the poppy.

Innocence is simply wise, knowing more in a moment than my life time of cleverness, knowing beyond it.

Echoes of paradise, this startling start-again truth.

I speak as one in recovery.

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Living with a seagull

Posted by Simon Parke, 16 May 2017, 9.57am

Peter, our house seagull, is increasing the pressure.

He’s outside my window, looking at me now.

He sits on the wood pile and stares at me until I move.

He attends to his whiter than white feathers with his curved yellow beak and allows a blue tit to mess around in the ivy nearby.

But mainly Peter stares.

When I do move, in search of coffee, he jumps off the wood pile and runs along outside the house as I pass through the living room through to the kitchen.

I see his parallel journey as I walk.

By the time I arrive in the kitchen, he’s there, standing on the step of the patio door, with the unspoken question in the air:

‘What took you so long?’

He likes carbs, dairy products, loves yogurt… but can’t be doing with baked beans or those Linda McCartney sausages.

Offer those and you get his ‘What the fuck?!’ eyes.

Once I’m in the kitchen, he expects action.

If I do not immediately attend to his needs, he knocks at the glass with his beak to remind me about the priorities here.

And seagulls can knock very loud. I often think it’s someone at the front door.

But then this isn’t a social call.

Peter has offspring up on our roof and they won’t feed themselves.

It’s the only time of year when he doesn’t think entirely of himself, when his own survival is sublimated for the survival of others.

He has the kids to think of, sure.

But he’s even kind to his wife, allowing her first dibs on the food.

Like that happens for the rest of the year!

He doesn’t drink, but he can still be a bully…

Peter and Mrs Peter have been together a number of years. Seagulls are like this.

They take a relationship break over the winter, of course they do. This spares them a difficult Christmas.

Peter’s behaviour becomes increasingly abusive through the summer, particularly in competition for food.

Mrs Peter probably needs to getaway, count to ten, lie on a beach, reassess.

But they’re back together early spring, all gilly-gully again.

And the thing is, he can be kind, he has it in him. It reminds her of when they first met.

And perhaps this is what brings her back every year, the hope that one day she’ll save him or change him, just another fool in love.

I look up from the computer.

Peter is still staring at me and the message is clear:

‘Whatever you’re writing, it’s crap. No, really. Everyone thinks its crap. Now get to the kitchen…please.’


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The engineering of consent

Posted by Simon Parke, 15 May 2017, 10.56am

It was Edward Bernays who coined the phrase, ‘The engineering of consent’.

He took the lessons he’d learned from producing wartime propaganda in 1914 – 1918 into advertising, into consumer selling.

Though today, one of the most efficient engineers sells political parties not soap powder.

Sir Lynton Crosby, nicknamed the ‘Wizard of Oz’ (he’s Australian) has been a successful campaign strategist for various right of centre parties around the world.

He was employed by David Cameron in the last election and has been re-employed by Theresa May.

He works hard. His first strategy meeting with his inner circle is at 5.45am, followed by a second at 6.30am to harden up strategy, followed by a third gathering at 7.30am.

This third one may well include the party leaders, getting their instructions.

And he does hold the leaders to account. If he doesn’t like something he, well, mentions it.

Cameron records frequent early morning ‘WTF?!’ emails.

But he’s mainly good at his job because he listens. He listens to people’s fears and then gives them back to them, a little simplified, in a catchy slogan.

In the last election, he discovered the deep fear people had of Labour linking up with the Scottish nationalists.

He left that dead cat on Labour’s doorstep. And they wasted a lot of time trying to remove it.

The secret is not to try and change anybody, but to harness what people already believe and put it to use.

So this is not the art of persuasion or in any way a crusade.

Rather, it’s the offer to people of what, on some level, they already feel and want; a political programme surfing on voter prejudice.

(‘Strong and stable’ must have scored very high in Crosby’s famed focus groups.)

It interests me how often in this election the Tories don’t bother to put anyone up to rebut a story or give their side.

They don’t feel they gain much from an interview, which may ask unscripted questions; the fear-fuelled slogans and policies are out there, doing their work.

Debate is about persuasion; but Crosby is not about persuasion, there’s no need. Even a dead dog can swim with the tide.

Dumbed-down and simplified mantras are hardly the sole property of the right, of course.

In 1917, the liberal establishment in Russia, understanding people’s fears, tarred Lenin as a ‘closet German’.

He wasn’t.

Neither is it the sole preserve of politics.

Religious history is littered with inanities like ‘Jesus saves’, designed to convert the frightened, to bring consent…rather than change them.

This is the thing about the engineering of consent. It isn’t about changing people; it’s about gaining power over them through use of emotional narratives that chime with their fears.

And it’s part of the disinformation ecosystem we wake up to every morning – a system which relies on a lazy brain looking for short cuts to truth.

So whether right or left, believing or atheist, remainer or brexiteer, let us indeed wake up to it every morning.

The awake are less stupid.

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Some life scribbles

Posted by Simon Parke, 15 May 2017, 5.40am

Here are some scribbles from Chuang Tzu’s notebook.

Some of his suggestions are:

Enjoy your work and the changing seasons.

Avoid grand plans; just respond to things as they arise.

Push your own self to one side, as far as you are able, so you can see other people more clearly.

And instead of seeking fulfilment, seek only to be empty.

This will create space for true understanding.

Do not value power but do value peace.

It’s OK to swing between joy and sadness, glory and failure…there’s no great difference between them.

Breathe slowly and listen for the order in the universe.

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The intensifier test

Posted by Simon Parke, 11 May 2017, 3.50pm

There is a (probably mythical) story concerning the script for a political speech.

Written in red biro on page two, alongside the third paragraph, is:

‘Argument weak here, speak louder.’

It’s all about intensifiers, things which appear to strengthen what we say.

So shouting or raising my voice is one option.

If I want to tell my wife I don’t care what she thinks, I could simply speak it, normal volume.

But if I shout it, seriously bellow it - ‘I don’t care what you think!!’, it might have extra shock value, more intensity.

But it’s not just about volume.

Another option is to add a word as an intensifier.

(Like I did two lines up with ‘seriously’.)

So I could say ‘I really don’t care what you think!’ or if I want to up the ante, employ a stronger one, ‘I fucking don’t care what you think!’

There’s a wide range of intensifiers to choose from.

Instead of being grateful, for instance, which might not seem enough, we might feel the need to be ‘tremendously grateful’.

Or if we’re feeling insecure in an argument, instead of saying ‘I feel sure about this’ we might say ‘I feel very sure about this’ or ‘I feel one hundred per cent certain.’

(As if sureness or certainty are on a continuum. I mean, you either are sure or you’re not and it’s the same with certainty. There aren’t fifty shades. The intensifiers here are meaningless.)

And intensifiers don’t mean anything, they don’t make anything more true.

To say ‘I’m fantastically happy’ – big intensifier in play - is not saying anything more than ‘I’m happy’.

It’s like putting a gold coat on a pig.

It may get the pig noticed…but it’s still a pig.

And there’s a law of diminishing returns.

If you always put a gold coat on the pig, if it becomes the standard practice in the pig pen, it won’t even serve to get you noticed.

Just like if everything is ‘totally awesome!’.

‘Awesome’ used to be a word describing God, a figure who engendered awe. Now it can describe a fairly decent night out at the cinema.

This is a sign of an intensifier getting tired and diminishing in value. It will soon need to be replaced.

(How about ‘Monstrous’? That was a popular intensifier in the 17th century.)

Bill boards outside West End shows are a further case in point. Every show/actor is ‘Brilliant!’ ‘Must see!’ ‘Remarkable!’ ‘Kill for a ticket!’ ‘Best show in town!’

They have all the impact of old wall paper…intensifiers eat themselves in the end.

In my experience, experience of myself that is, they are usually a sign of an insecure ego, a sign of fear.

They appear to strengthen what I say:

‘This is absolutely unacceptable!’

But in the cold light of day they’re ridiculous.

Isn’t something being unacceptable enough of a judgement?

Intensifiers are used by sales people, whether they’re selling toothpaste, religion, the latest novel or Brexit.

So my basic principle, (trying to avoid sales teams) is a phrase coined by Jesus: Let your ‘yes’ be ‘yes’ and your ‘no’ be ‘no.’’

Intensifiers, like the red biro by paragraph three, make nothing more truthful.

And may make it less so.

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