Dr. Valerie Mason-John
Valerie Mason-John (Vimalasara) is a contemporary Black British author, performer and conflict resolution trainer born in Cambridge, 1962. Mason-John spent her childhood ‘in care,’ i.e. in foster homes and childcare facilities, including the Barnardo’s Orphanages in Britain with the exception of a short time spent living with her mother in her early teens. She dropped out before receiving her undergraduate degree in the eighties, but has continued to pursue post-graduate education and training into the present. Since the early nineties, Vimalasara has worked as a writer, performing artist and lecturer. More recently, Mason-John received a teaching certificate, and currently conducts seminars in anger management and conflict resolution.
How can we stop bullying in the world? Over 60 % of kids say they’ve been bullied at school, and for every one ‘successful’ suicide there’s over 100 attempted suicides. A survivor of bullying, Vimalasara Mason-John uses her expertise as a bully doctor and personal experience, to suggest that bullying does not have to be part of every day life. In this gritty, moving and powerful talk Mason-John gives a clear message, that our ‘stinking thinking’ can be the cause of bullying. And when we bully ourselves we will bully everyone around us. She outlines a course of action we can take to work with this global epidemic.
Award-winning author Dr Valerie Mason-John works as a Bully Doctor for several School Boards in Canada. Her books include Detox Your Heart, working with anger, fear and hatred. Valerie co-edited the first national anthology of African Canadian Poetry, The Great Black North, published in 2013. Demeter Press has published her most recent novel, the North American edition of her award winning novel Borrowed Body, 2013. Her new book is Eight Step Recovery — Using the Buddha’s Teachings to Overcome Addiction. She lives in British Columbia.
Here is Vimalasara’s TEDx talk:
Vimalasara is currently in Halifax, Nova Scotia, and is stopping by tomorrow, Sunday, to meet and talk. If we record our conversation, I’ll share it here.
by Colin Drake
‘Gratitude is heaven itself’ – William Blake
One of the outcomes of Awakening can be an overwhelming gratitude for life, friends, partners, the world … in fact just about everything. Which at first may seem somewhat surprising as when one is identified with, and as, Pure Awareness (the source, ground and dissolution of all manifestation) then who is there to be grateful to whom, for there is no separation … However, for me gratitude arises spontaneously at times, even producing tears, and is the source of great joy … ‘heaven itself’.
This is not surprising when one realizes that gratitude, grateful, and gratify (thus gratification) all come from the same Latin root ‘gratus’ which means ‘pleasing or thankful’ (OED). Thankful being defined as ‘pleased and relieved’ with a second definition as ‘being grateful’. So gratitude can naturally stem from the pleasure and relief that occurs on Awakening, when one discovers that truly no separate self exists and all of the imaginary psychological burdens, accumulated by who we thought we were, are seen to be of no weight.
That is not to say that they cease to exist in the mind, but that they cease to trouble us as they are seen to apply to a non existent object. In fact as soon as they seem to assume any weight, causing unnecessary mental suffering, this should be a wake-up call to the fact that we have ‘nodded off’ again and have re-identified as a separate object. This is simply overcome by re-investigation revealing that we are the Pure Awareness in which they appear …
John Wren Lewis, in his celebrated interview with Caroline Jones (on ‘The search for meaning’) rates gratitude very highly and even suggests that fostering the feeling of gratitude can lead to Awakening. This may be possible by investigating it and its causes (as given above) but I find investigation of one’s moment-to-moment experience (see appendix) to be the easiest way to (re)Awaken. Put simply, in this context, just to see that there is awareness of the gratitude arising and that, at the deepest level, one is that Awareness.
Thus gratitude is an outcome of Awakening and a very important one at that for it gives a feeling of joy and can foster the realization that one is not separate from the Totality of Being … Consciousness, Awareness when at rest and Cosmic Energy when in motion. This method of realization and the ‘knowing’ that it produces is classically called the path of Jnana Yoga … that of knowledge.
There is another way to experience gratitude as being grateful to this Totality (God, The Absolute, call it what you will) whilst maintaining (an appearance of) separation. This allows one to enjoy the grace, and love, of This as the Beloved, which is the path of Bhakti Yoga … devotion. The ultimate aim of this path is total self-surrender, leading to the same outcome as Jnana Yoga, but is juicier (although slower) in the enjoyment of God as a person with whom we can have a relationship and thus enjoy the communion one can have with ‘another’.
One may adopt many different approaches, or attitudes, towards God. Sri Ramakrishna explained five of these as:
Santa,the serene attitude… It is like the devotion of a wife to her husband.
Dasya, the attitude of a servant towards his master. Hanuman had this attitude towards Rama.
Sakhya, the attitude of friendship.
Vatsalya, the attitude of a mother towards her child. This was Yasoda’s attitude towards Krishna.
Madhur, the attitude of a woman towards her paramour. Radha had this towards Krishna. The wife also feels it for her husband. This attitude includes the other four.
The bhakta, the devotee, prefers to remain separate so as to experience the bliss of the Personal God. The ultimate realization sought for on this path is known as savikalpa Samadhi…
the first stage of transcendental consciousness, in which the distinction between subject and object persists. In this state the spiritual aspirant may have a vision of the Personal God, with or without form.
Thus as a devotee one can experience gratitude in the meaning of ‘feeling grateful towards’ God – The Beloved.
Interestingly there is a method through which the Jnani, the nondualist, can also experience gratitude to, and love for, the Beloved. This is a method, given earlier, which I call ‘Love Loving Itself’ whichis a practice for ‘sensing’ the Absolute, through which the lover – Pure Awareness, consciousness at rest – and the beloved – the manifest universe, Cosmic Energy, consciousness in motion – can ‘know’ and love each other. Thus the Absolute, consciousness in both modes, can know and love Itself. The starting point for this is the realization that that the body/mind is an instrument through which Awareness can sense, contemplate, experience, engage with, act in, enjoy and love the manifest world … see the appendix. This process is the lover beholding and loving the beloved. From this can stem gratitude (in the sense of being grateful) for the beauty of, and joy in experiencing, the beloved.
In the same way, by using the mind (a facet of manifestation, the beloved) to investigate Awareness (the lover) the beloved can ‘know’, feel grateful for, and love, the lover. This completes the cycle of The Absolute (Consciousness) ‘knowing’ and loving Itself in both modes at rest and in motion. Thus in this practice gratitude can occur in both modes identified with Pure Awareness, the lover, and with the mind, a facet of the beloved.
This identification with the mind is to be only temporary, seeing it as an instrument of the beloved, rather than what we are at the deepest level. For the beloved, Cosmic Energy, is ever changing and ephemeral, whereas Pure Awareness in which all movements arise, abide and subside, is changeless and eternal. Also, it can be readily seen that the flow of thoughts, mental images and sensations (mind/body) come and go in, and are ‘seen’ by, That.