Home » Blog » Fiona Robertson

Tag: Fiona Robertson

On The Range Of Our Inner Experience

By Fiona Robertson.  

I listened to a podcast recently about people who have no mind’s eye (a condition called aphantasia) and so do not see any visual imagery, including memories. Some of the people featured also have no mind’s ear and cannot imagine sensory experiences that aren’t happening. As someone who has always had abundant visual imagery – sometimes to the point of overload, especially when the imagery has been disturbing – I found it fascinating to hear more about aphantasia and I’m still wondering if it makes life quieter or somehow more straightforward, or if it feels like a loss.

One of the things we become more aware of as we inquire is the multi-layered nature of experiencing. There’s the immediate, environmental sensory content – what we are seeing, smelling, hearing, touching, feeling (what we might call outer experiencing), and the internal sensory content, (which we could call inner experiencing) – what we are thinking, seeing and hearing in our mind’s eye or ear, and what we are feeling emotionally. It’s easy – and common – to imagine that, with all this going on, not only is some of the content of our experience wrong (I shouldn’t be feeling this feeling or thinking this thought) but that the way we are experiencing is wrong (I don’t feel things strongly enough, or I feel things too intensely, or I’m supposed to see images but I don’t, and so on). Reading books and articles and watching videos about inquiry can be helpful, but can sometimes heighten the idea that there’s a right way to “do” inquiry, and if we fall outside those parameters, we’re getting it wrong.

Yet having spent nearly ten years both inquiring myself and facilitating others, I can attest that there is no right way to process. We all experience our experiencing differently. For some people, sensations are fleeting, coming and going rapidly. For others, they can last for days (I’m sometimes in the latter camp). Likewise, some people have abundant, vivid imagery while others have none. We all experience thinking in subtly different ways, too. Some people say very little during sessions, others talk more or less continually as they process. Most people are somewhere in between, or vary from session to session (again, I’m in the latter camp). It’s natural that we would conclude – when our own experience doesn’t match up to someone else’s description – that we are somehow lacking or defective, but that’s simply not the case. The more we inquire, the less we compare ourselves to some idea of how we think we are supposed to process, and the more we come to recognise, honour and value our own unique way of processing.

(For more information on aphantasia, https://aphantasia.com/)

To read more about Fiona Robertson, click here.

Strange times

By Fiona Robertson.  

These are such strange times, and it feels like they’re getting stranger every day (especially for those of us who have never lived through any other major disruptions or pandemics).

I’ve been feeling my fair share of anxiety and worry for those most at risk, along with a kind of fascination about where this is all going. Inquiry has been my navigation, as always. I thought that what came up in my looking today might resonate with some of you, so here goes:

As I settled into my body, I could feel a deep sense of exhaustion, and the need for time off. There was a falling into that, that felt so gentle, so tender and exquisite, along with plenty of tears.

‘Exhausted’ kept resonating, so I looked it up in the dictionary, and the full description resonated: ‘to exhaust is to draw off, to empty by drawing out the contents, to use up the whole of, to consume, to wear out by exhaustion, to drain of resources, strength or essential properties.’

Then it hit me: I’m exhausted. We’re exhausted. The earth is exhausted. We’re exhausted by the world (as it currently is).

And much as I’m concerned about what’s happening, I can feel the relief in shutting up shop and staying home for a while. As I lie here, I can feel the relief in my nervous system (which is often challenged to be out in the world) of everything closing, being cancelled, being shut. It’s been one thing after another, and I’m exhausted. There’s a deep relief in naming that and allowing the exhaustion to be.

To read more about Fiona Robertson, click here.

When We Can’t Say No

By Fiona Robertson.  

In my experience, ongoing inquiry is bringing about a much clearer sense of my own boundaries.

I was looking this morning, and the words came, ‘I want nothing to do with this’, accompanied by crying. I saw an image of one boyfriend, who on our first date had an empty wallet. (When the relationship ended four years later, he owed me several thousand pounds).

More images came of the many, many times over the years that I have ignored my body’s instinctive gut reactions – disgust, dislike, or some other “no” – in favour of pleasing, being ‘reasonable’, excusing the other’s bad behaviour. Many are the ways I have dismissed or undercut my natural, immediate responses to the erosion or violation of my boundaries, having never experienced (until recent years) what it is to be healthily boundaried.

As I stayed with the images and feelings, I also saw how my inability to say ‘I want nothing to do with this’ in all those situations made true intimacy impossible. In a way that I still can’t fully articulate, I felt the deep sense of being compromised that comes when we can’t say no, and the lack of intimacy with ourselves and others that results. Finally allowing the truth of this “no” is liberating and enlivening, even if a little scary.

To read more about Fiona Robertson, click here.

The Sceptical Art of Inquiry

By Fiona Robertson.  

I read today that the ancient Greek word for ‘inquiry’ is skepsis, hence the word sceptical. Sceptical philosophers, from around the world in both ancient and modern times, have doubted our ability to know, either partially or completely. Their view is some variant of the idea that we can’t know anything for certain, and we can’t even know that we can’t know anything for certain.

We inevitably come to inquiry with a knowing or belief that feels certain. In fact, we don’t usually call it a belief. We don’t generally say, “I believe that I’m not good enough”, but rather state it as a fact: “I’m not good enough”. There often comes a point in a session when a slight crack appears in the certainty, and we begin to entertain the possibility that what we thought we knew for certain may not, after all, be the case. Even though the belief in question has been painful, there’s a kind of security in the certainty, so it can be disorientating to open up to the possibility that maybe we don’t know what we thought we knew. There’s often a sense of fear – if I’m not this, then what? Or the realisation that we may have spent many years trying to solve an issue only to discover that it’s not the issue we thought it was. Inevitably, we end up feeling emotions or sensations that the belief or knowing has somehow shielded us from.

In a session, I once had an image of seeing the outline of an island through a telescope from on board a boat. I saw that I was seeing the hint of the possibility that maybe what I thought was the case wasn’t. And even in reducing the certainty to 95% (rather than the full 100%), there was some relief in my system. Even in asking the questions – including questions like, “how do I know that?” or “what’s telling me that?” we open up to the possibility of uncertainty, that maybe we don’t know for sure. 

For the ancient sceptics, the idea was that having an experience of not knowing led to the possibility of calm, which feels deeply familiar from our perspective. It’s good to know people have been inquiring in this way for thousands of years.

To read more about Fiona Robertson, click here.

Both Individual and Collective: Meeting Rapaciousness

By Fiona Robertson.  

When we engage consistently and deeply in inquiry, our experience of it changes over time. Embodied inquiry develops and evolves, the process itself deepening as we individually and collectively deepen. True to its name, this inquiry is indeed living.

I’ve been inquiring for over seven years now. While self-focused beliefs took up much of my looking in the early years, what comes up now is often collective as well as personal. There’s a sense that what I’m looking at isn’t just mine; sometimes it’s obviously from my family system or ancestry, and sometimes it feels like an aspect of the archetypal human pattern.

Last week, for example, I was aware of some strong energy that felt like a residue from the old beliefs about myself. I sensed that it belonged to my creature-self. (When I’m inquiring, I often find words and descriptions arise that I wouldn’t ordinarily use, and which I may not understand intellectually). As I stayed with this residual creature-self energy, little spurts of emotion or thought sprang up, then quickly faded into almost-nothing.

After a while, the word ‘rapaciousness’ came and fitted the energy perfectly. Not entirely sure of its exact meaning, I looked up the dictionary definition:

Rapacious: from the Latin rapare, to seize. Grasping, extortionate, given to plundering or seizing by force, predatory.

Yes. This was the energy of never-ending rapaciousness, of covert, manipulative wanting, of taking what you are not entitled to, the energy of predation. As I felt it through my body, I sensed how I had cut off from it, how consciously I abhorred it, yet here it was within me, as it is in so many of us. As I felt it, I began to see memories of times when I’d taken more than my fair share, times when I’d lied to get what I wanted or to conceal my greed. I had to acknowledge this rapaciousness had manifested in me over the years in all kinds of ways. Taking that extra doughnut while no-one was looking. Lying to myself that the brief dalliance with a married man was justifiable because we hadn’t had sexual relations according the Clintonian definition. Staying in relationships that I knew weren’t right because having something felt better than the nothing I assumed would result if I left. Minor crimes by comparison to the more extreme expressions of this energy, but expressions of it nonetheless.

After a while, it became apparent that the rapaciousness tries to magnetise things and people, pulling them towards itself. It wants to take things without having to make any effort to earn them. Recognising this rapaciousness as the energy of abusers, predators, conquerors and takers – the energy that fuels capitalism, putting profit above all else – I began to sense that monks, nuns and their ilk withdrew from the world in an effort to control this energy, attempting to rein it back by taking vows of chastity, poverty and simplicity. As we know from the history of the church, both ancient and modern, this strategy didn’t work too well. We cannot simply lock out or deny the rapaciousness, because it gets through in whatever ways it can, and will not be naysaid.

More insights came as I continued to feel the energy of rapaciousness. Envious of others, it is underhand and conniving, finding loopholes, justifications and get-out clauses, sneakily framing events or situations in ways that allow it to believe its actions are okay, or even noble. It has no idea what or where ‘enough’ is. It is very different to desire; desire feels simple, natural, gentle. Rather, this energy is greed and avarice, unchecked appetite which knows no limits. I saw that some people who are bad at controlling their rapaciousness end up imprisoned or vilified, while others, equally bad at controlling it but afforded privilege by dint of their class, race, gender or background, end up in powerful positions, feted around the world. A question came with a wave of emotion: How did it come to this, that we are run by our rapaciousness?

Suddenly, I noticed: the rapacious energy is utterly desperate for attention. Its mantra is like me, like me, like me, with the emphasis on me. But however much attention it gets, it remains insatiable; in fact, giving it unquestioning attention seems to make it even more pronounced. I sat with the energy for a long while, unsure how the session would unfold. Even though it was deeply uncomfortable to feel, I began to feel grateful to have identified it, to have seen it for what it is. Gradually, another part of me emerged, a part that can’t bear the pain the rapaciousness causes. My sense is that more and more of us are connecting with this part within us that cannot countenance what the rapaciousness gives rise to, both within ourselves and the world.

Over the next few days, the rapacious energy itself began to change. An insight into its origins came; when I was young, my creature-self needed support to be itself but no support was forthcoming, so it became rapacious as a way to support itself. The rapaciousness developed as a way to deal with the pain of not having my dependency needs met. It is a distorted outgrowth of that original, natural need for support. Only by becoming more fully conscious of it, and meeting it as it is – neither denying it nor feeding it – can we hope to integrate it and so end its excesses, however great or small those excesses may be.

Fiona Robertson is the author of The Dark Night of the Soul: A Journey from Absence to Presence and a Living Inquiries Senior Facilitator/Trainer.

To read more about Fiona Robertson, click here.