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Posted on 18 November 2011, 18:26

Here’s a second extract from my book Solitude – recovering the power of alone. We listen in to a conversation about therapy:

We all need therapy and have all experienced therapy.

Not me.

I’m talking about all sorts - paid or unpaid, formal or informal.

Well, obviously I’ve been helped by chatting to someone occasionally.

We’re all therapists to someone and the word comes from the Greek word therapeia, meaning ‘attendance’; someone attending on another.

I didn’t know that.

This developed into meaning the treatment which the one in attendance administered. Friends are sometimes our best therapists and some swear by their hairdressers. At other times, a professional feels like a better option.

So the question is: who helps you? Have you had good experiences or bad experiences of ‘attendance’?

It might be interesting to have some real life stories from therapy.

I could do that.

It would help de-mystify it.

Fair enough, let’s try that. But the two stories I tell I choose not because they’re startling but because they’re entirely normal.

Just so long as they’re true.

OK but we’ll change the names and one or two particulars to ensure confidentiality. So meet Christopher who is reading me some very aggressive texts from his partner.

You’re describing the session?

I am, yes. And in these texts, she calls him all the negative names under the sun.

Things are not well?

Christopher then tells me that such abuse is quite normal; that she puts him down all the time and tells him that their relationship can only continue if he improves.

What was she doing?

The message seemed to be this: ‘You are sick, Christopher and I am trying to save you. Be grateful.’

How did Christopher feel about this?

You might be surprised to hear that he was very grateful and in awe of her wonderful kindness.

Was that your understanding?

No, from where I sat, the relationship was killing him. His partner was no saviour; indeed she was probably sicker than he was. He had an issue with pornography but salvation for Christopher lay in himself rather than in infantile dependency on a brittle and controlling partner.

He remained sure that he was not worthy of her. But before leaving, he added one thing: ‘She’s always demanding I say sorry. But she has never said sorry. Never.’

How do you react to that story?

I suppose it made her feel good to be saving someone. It seems she had to feel superior to him. Doesn’t sound like a very healthy connection either way.

Solitude by Simon Parke is published by White Crow Books and Available from Amazon and all good online books stores.




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Learning solitude

Posted on 09 November 2011, 23:22

My new book, Solitude – recovering the power of alone was published last week. And whether you love solitude or struggle with it, my hope is that it will be a doorway to better things for you. I believe we’re always learning – because we’re always forgetting.

It’s written in the form of a conversation with my alter-ego and here’s a brief extract from one of the chapters to give you a feel of things. It’s a passage concerned with the learning of solitude. I hope you enjoy it:

For many of us, solitude will have to be learned because we didn’t learn it as children. We learned many things when young but not how to be happily still.

I remember being told to ‘Shut up!’ all the time but I suppose that’s different.

Certainly we didn’t experience the education described here by the Indian Chief Standing Bear:

‘Training began with children, who were taught to sit still and enjoy it. They were taught to use their organs of smell, to look where there was apparently nothing to see and to listen intently when all seemingly was quiet.’

No, that wasn’t my home.

And he concludes with this line: ‘A child who cannot sit still is a half-developed child.’

So presumably an adult who cannot sit still is a half-developed adult?


Maybe if I’d learned it as a child, it would all be simple. As it is, solitude feels rather complicated.

There’s nothing complicated about solitude. Just think of it as two steps.

And they are?

First there is the physical withdrawal from the world. This can pose problems, but may prove the easy part. Here we remove ourselves from the outer distractions of life – people, mobiles, screens, interruption, clocks.

OK. I’d put that under the ‘Simple but Demanding’ heading.

Second, we remove ourselves from our inner distractions, lived out in our racing and unruly mind.

And how on earth do we do that?

The best way to start is with a growing awareness of our breathing.

What does that achieve?

It stills and simplifies our lives. As we focus on our breathing, thoughts come and then go. We notice them but we do not follow them. They want us to play chase but we refuse; instead, we return to our breathing.

What’s in our breathing?

The present, untouched by our mind. In fact, why not do this now for two minutes, wherever you are? It’s a revolution of the spirit, every time it’s attempted.

What, just listen to my breathing?

Solitude is more about saying ‘no’ than saying ‘yes’.

How do you mean?

Perhaps you’re waiting to see the doctor. You could pick up one of the magazines available. But if you said ‘no’ to the magazine, you could listen instead to your breathing, gather yourself and become aware of the moment.

I suppose so.

Or perhaps you’re waiting at the bus stop. You could text someone. But if you said ‘no’ to the text, you could focus instead on some aspect of the scenery around you – a tree, a window, an old door – and allow it to become a meditation. You look at your chosen object, note it well and allow creation to speak.

Because creation is my friend.

Well remembered.

I do my best.

Or perhaps you’re waiting in a supermarket queue. You could spend your time getting frustrated, expressed in a tense body and hateful thoughts towards those ahead of you and the cashier. But if you said ‘no’ to all that, and accepted your circumstances, you could become conscious for the first time in the day. You may have been living on automatic up until that moment. Then a simple ‘no’ opens the door of awareness.

In each of these instances, you chose an active walk into inner silence.

I wasn’t expecting solitude in the supermarket.

They may only be brief experiences but sometimes solitude is brief. It’s the habit that matters not the length of each stay. Different days offer different possibilities.

We start off by carving solitude out of our day, until in time, we find ourselves carving our day out of our solitude.

Solitude by Simon Parke is published by White Crow Books and Available from Amazon and all good online books stores.




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“Life After Death – The Communicator” by Paul Beard – If the telephone rings, naturally the caller is expected to identify himself. In post-mortem communication, necessitating something far more complex than a telephone, it is not enough to seek the speakers identity. One needs to estimate also as far as is possible his present status and stature. This involves a number of factors, overlapping and hard to keep separate, each bringing its own kind of difficulty. Four such factors can readily be named. Read here
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