How to create a Japanese Garden; or "Why Voices?"
Into this life we are born or thrown. Some believe that a supreme gardener created the garden that we live in and co-create and we can talk to him/her as to what we should be doing in this garden. We experience existential anxiety when we don’t know what to do. Experts tell us the Japanese (or Zen) garden should start in a certain way and that various ingredients should be placed in certain ways so as to create a garden on which we can contemplate and understand the mysteries of life. Other gardens grow by themselves randomly without thought or guidance.
We have been prone to religious life for thousands of years. We want to believe that particular behaviours/activities will ensure the desired outcomes we want for ourselves and those around us. While others say we should surrender to our own deep personal spiritual guidance. I once heard someone talking about starting a Zen garden by throwing a rock blind into the space for the garden and stating there where it landed. Whichever way you look at it we land or are born into a garden.
This garden has already at least two people (our parents) and maybe some siblings and a community of relatives and friends with which we interact almost immediately we are born. We learn to speak and think within the culture we are born into. We have no choice about that culture but gradually we develop our own ways of dealing with the world/culture around us. We learn by trial and experiment what works and what doesn’t. We also learn by reaction to things that disturb/worry us ways of being that are pro survival but sometimes not the best ways, sometimes in the long term they lead to dysfunction. As children we sometimes have to please or accommodate an adult who is our prime or secondary carer for example.
Our nervous systems are excited by the challenges of life and we enjoy this excitement. Sometimes though our nervous systems are over excited and break down through exhaustion. This occurs for instance when we are traumatised or overly stressed for a long period of time. Nervous exhaustion leads to poor judgment and adoption of coping strategies which although as I have said appear to be pro survival they actually cause us harm. Addiction to drugs, food and sex are but a sample of these behaviours.
This nervous exhaustion is unpleasant and often the associated stimuli are not dealt with rationally. We are prone to make mistakes of interpretation. These mistakes are highly individual and unpredictable, to the frustration of psychologists, and the real source of bother is relegated to our memory banks in confused and distorted array. This bother is still active in our minds and is restimulated by any similar associated stimuli. This causes further discomfort and more misinterpretations until the original source material is so heavily disguised, we hardly recognise it. But it is in our nature to want to understand why and how things have happened in our lives. We can do this by understanding the suppressed distorted memories which are released into the everyday consciousness as obsessive thoughts and in some cases ‘voices’.
This is one way of answering the question "Why Voices?" You may have other ways of answering that question. Whichever way it is generally recognised by contemporary thinkers that they are messengers. They are telling us something. They have meaning. We need to find that meaning if we are to reduce the distress that hearing voices can cause.
I presented this text and other ideas in a presentation to the World Hearing Voices Conference in Melbourne in November 2013
Here below is a link to a a video on you tube of a song I wrote as I walked back to my hotel after the last session of the Congress.