.

Peter Volkofsky

author, life coach, spoken word poet, blogger

Byrock, Australia

The fact is, the child in me is the oldest part of me and won’t be leaving anytime soon. And a child, we are told, ‘knows more than he can say and feels not only atmospheres but fine shades…’ Hence, ‘The ache of the artist to find some sense and some story in the beautiful things he sees; his hunger for secrets and his anger at any tower or tree escaping with its tale untold.’* I was supposed to have left all this sort of thing behind, along with my childhood.

* GK Chesterton, The Everlasting Man, (Kalpaz Publications, C-30 Satyawati Nagar, Delhi —110052 Kalpaz@hotmail.com) 2017) p. 80

website: petervolkofsky.com.au

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Opening The Black Box: Part 7

Feb 19, 2023 7 months ago

‘I won't take you fully into hypnosis,' he says. ‘Just a low level of consciousness.' ‘Okay,' I say, leaning back in a chair. ‘And I'll be following emotion, not imagination.' ‘Alright.' I'm already back at the hostel and losing it. He asks questions about what's happening, like he's walking close to me in a heavy fog and can't quite see. But the questions are so on the mark: not leading and not pushy: gentle and specific, appropriate, as if he's reading me. Meanwhile I'm answering the questions and getting deeper into the labyrinth of hostel. The yard, the kitchen, the dorm: everywhere except that late at night bathroom. Finally, a wall seems to come down. I'm terrified. He's asking more questions. ‘Where are you now?' ‘In a bathroom.' ‘What's happening?' ‘I have to wait here.' ‘What else?' ‘There's a door.' As I speak, the boy in me sees the door starting to open. ‘Who's coming through the door?' ‘An old man.' Fear is all I can feel; and the face of an angry stranger, radiating hate. Can't speak. ‘Look him in the eye!' I try but I'm paralysed with fear. ‘You have to look him in the eye, now!' Terrified, I look into the eye of the monster who always has his way. Something hits me: like a wave. The old man and the room vanish. A kind of sweet breeze seems to be everywhere. I'm back with the healer now, shattered but somehow floating in a joy that ripples out and out and out; and still ripples today in this other room; this writer's space of fifteen years later; of fifty nine years after the hostel. A great thorn has been pulled out. And me so grateful. We talk. ‘The boy in me has some questions,' I say. He answers my questions and offers me some advice. ‘We had a lot of help today,' he says. ‘So, I guess…' ‘It normally takes up to seven sessions to get where we got to,' he says. We talk some more. I'm feeling embarrassed. How come I get this gold card when so many others just don't? ‘I got some help today, too,' he says. I still don't know what to say. ‘I won't be charging you for this,' he says. ‘And you won't be needing to come back.' I find that hard to believe. We will have to wait and see. It all seems too good to be true. No medication. No repeat visits. No locked up. A year later I conclude that he was right. No medication. No repeat visits. No locked up. And I realise something else: my chest pains are gone. A fact that jogs my memory of another thread in this healing journey. For years I had been plagued with increasingly sharp chest pains, which have been going on for probably ten years. And me always putting them down to stress. ‘Just stress'. Finally, the doctor-avoiding-me, had gone the cardio route. Wired up. Monitored. Nothing. All good. Just stress. More chest pains. More wiring up. Monitored. Nothing. All good. So, about six months before the premonitions I had given in and followed the advice in the letter of James in the New Testament… ‘Is anyone sick? He should call for the elders of the church and they should pray over him and pour a little oil upon him, calling on the Lord to heal him.' (James 5:14) And there I was, the preacher getting past his own busyness and pride. I call my mates. ‘Would you guys be able to come over and do that praying and anointing?' ‘Sure Pete, glad to.' Two of them come. I sit on a chair in my lounge room. The normal, sensible questions are asked and answered. The oil is brought from the kitchen. I'm anointed. They lay hands on me and pray. Time passes. The pains come and go, come and go as usual. And I forget about the fact that they prayed for me. Tonight I'm thinking about that silly human pride thing where we say to the universe or to God or to the doctor… ‘Heal me with style or forget it!' The answer seems to come back as a question… ‘But what if your healing is going to involve a lot of common sense; like finding the right healers, like finding stepping stones across a swamp of uncertainty?' And tonight, I'm thinking again of the Syrian army general whose skin was also crawling, whose healer also refused to take any payment and who never had to see the healer again. And I'm thinking of the fight and the fun it was to get out of bed and to swim in the liquid blackness and the liquid gold of a God who pervades all things, visible and invisible. I'm so bloody grateful! And I love the way William Blake puts it when he says, ‘Good glows with the lineaments of gratified desire.' 4 4 CS Lewis (with Alistair Fowler) Spenser's Images of Life (Cambridge University Press, 1967, 2013 University Printing House, Cambridge CB2, UK) p. 95

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Opening The Black Box: Part 6

Feb 16, 2023 7 months ago

In my writer's reflective mood here tonight, I'm thinking again of the Faery Queene and Lewis' observation: ‘Evil is portrayed as lawless, upsurging energy in Shakespeare, Milton and Marlowe—where it's all about the momentary choice. But the Faery Queene gives a lifelong portrayal rather than focussing on the momentary choice... The result being that the Faery Queene invokes a different emotional response to the shape of reality...' 2 That *lifelong* is what gives the lie to the devil as far as I'm concerned. Further on, Lewis continues, ‘Evil says, “Let go, lie down, sleep (the false rest of evil)”, whereas Good says, “All aboard, kill the dragon, marry the girl; blow the pipes and beat the drum—let the dance begin!”' 3 Finally, the day of my appointment in another city, arrives. But even as I drive there, my mood is remains sceptical. Best case scenario will be medicated for the rest of my life; next best, have to go see the therapist every month for the rest of my life. Third best: locked up. I knock on the door of the healer's home. He opens the door and it's good: he's so normal and harmless looking, like an accountant: definitely not creepy. Passed test number one. Inside his office I ask my question. ‘Do you mind if I pray and sanctify this time and this place in the name of Jesus?' ‘No problem.' ‘Dear God in Heaven,' I pray. ‘I sanctify this time and this place in the name of Jesus and of his blood shed at Calvary. Amen.' The healer has passed test number two and we talk—not much at all about me—mostly about what hypnotherapy is and is not. He fully gets my concern about the quacks, the shows in RSL clubs and the dangers. It emerges that although we both believe there's a Higher Power, we don't have the same worldview. I kind of like that. I feel reminded that God is bigger than theology. I'm already starting to slide. Think I'm in good hands. We will see. 2 CS Lewis (with Alistair Fowler) Spenser's Images of Life (Cambridge University Press, 1967, 2013 University Printing House, Cambridge CB2, UK) p. 66 3 CS Lewis (with Alistair Fowler) Spenser's Images of Life (Cambridge University Press, 1967, 2013 University Printing House, Cambridge CB2, UK) p. 95

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Opening The Black Box: Part 5

Feb 15, 2023 7 months ago

The days and weeks pass. Chest pains that I've had for years are as bad as ever. It will be some time before I get to see the healer or maybe faker. Hypnotherapists have been known to indulge in confabulation: the creation of false memories. In the meantime, a full on brawl or a good run through a plate glass window would be nice. Back in the powdery old office that's more like a shed, I make a call to my counsellor friend. She has some better ideas than plate glass and brawls. ‘It will be a while,' I say to her, ‘before I get to see this guy.' ‘Feel free to call me any time if you need to talk.' ‘Okay.' ‘And by the way,' she says, ‘Pain is not your enemy. It's your friend.' Another day of adult premonitions passes—and time for dinner. Our teenage children and younger ones gather at the table. The aroma of a spicy Laksa soup has my mouth watering. We say thanks to the High King and talk about the day: an embarrassing story about an embarrassing teacher at school topping the list. Meanwhile, my woman and lover, without even trying, has dished up something else I don't even know the name of, which tastes amazing. It's her way; never before tasted recipes and never before heard songs from her inexhaustible treasures. But in my preoccupied state, these treasures are taken for granted or barely noticed. At my writer's table—in the future called now—I reflect on Spenser's Faery Queene and the fact that this beloved (partially read) poem of my premonition days had become a favourite; a sweet diversion. In there, as CS Lewis observes, ‘Images of good appear with a veiled, mysterious, even hidden character. But at first we don't see them at all, we just see images of evil.'1 I think I really get what Spenser is doing in his Faery Queene. It's as if the bones of real goodness can only ever be truly felt whilst embedded in the flesh of another human being or of everyday life. All attempts to explain, to spell out, to ‘bone out' such goodness from its natural body of flesh ending in a butchered failure: a so-called goodness that looks stupid, naïve and contrived. Hence, the beautiful Princess Una of the Faery Queene wears a black cloak and is always veiled as she travels with the Red Cross Knight on his adventures—patiently being there *with him* whilst he wields that sword and clashes steel against steel, gets lost, finds her and finds the way again. He doesn't know it but he needs her more than she needs him. And she doesn't seem to know it either. And so, in my premonition world, I'm quieter than ever: soaking in the normal routines of family and of her: my archetypal Princess Una. So glad to have this one who keeps me sane without even realising it. And this home, this little meal table: friends visiting, jokes and laughter. Now it's another day and more unfolding. Being used by a girl at the hostel. I've had enough. ‘I'll tell everyone,' I say to her. ‘They'll laugh at you,' she says. Hadn't thought of that. The terror of being laughed at will silence any little boy. The adult me is feeling stupid and ignorant. There I was wondering why the hell—at the time—I'd never spoken a word of this #%*! to anyone. This sensible adult is a million miles away from this boy, the oldest part of me, who knows so much about me and has so much to tell me. Another day and I'm back amongst my dust-coated books looking at a portrait of Mum and Dad. I can't take my eyes off it: angry eyes. Fists clenched. I want to smash it. They left me in that place. ‘I forgive you; I forgive you,' I say, whilst holding back from the smashing. ‘No,' a thought comes to mind. ‘You don't need to forgive them.' They're not to blame! They had no idea. They trusted someone. She was dying. They were on a journey of their own to find a healer. Desperate. On a ship to the other side of the world for God's sake! It wasn't their fault. The night passes, long and slow. Waking up early, I think of that river out there, waiting for me to come and swim. But I just don't want to get up, I want to sleep away the darkness. Alarm bells ring inside my head. I know this feeling. It's a sinister voice from the hostel: an immobilising, crippling presence of something that hates all that is beautiful and good in this world, in me. It's time to fight. I walk down to an inky black river, which has a wobble of silver. Diving in, I swim and swim until the sun comes and turns everything gold: liquid God as far as I'm concerned, a God who pervades all things, visible and invisible. Who loves me. So, F#%*! the evil presence! I'm swimming in God. A good way to start the day. 1 CS Lewis (with Alistair Fowler) Spenser's Images of Life (Cambridge University Press, 1967, 2013 University Printing House, Cambridge CB2, UK) p.79-80

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Opening The Black Box: Part 4

Jan 29, 2023 8 months ago

Fortunately for the proud soldier, his servants catch up with him and beg him to re-think it. ‘Father,' they say, ‘if the prophet had asked you to do something hard and heroic, wouldn't you have done it? So why not this simple wash and be clean?' So he does. He immerses himself in the Jordan seven times and his skin becomes like that of a newborn baby: as good as new. He goes back to the Holy Man and says, ‘I now know beyond a shadow of a doubt that there's no God anywhere on earth other than the God of Israel. Let me give you a gift.' ‘As GOD lives,' Elisha says, ‘the God whom I serve; I'll take nothing from you.'*** Here in my dusty office I'm cornered, especially my pride. I do the thinking and praying and make a bargain with God. If, when I meet this hypnotherapy healer, he feels creepy, I'll simply walk away. When I get into his office, I'll ask if I can pray to sanctify the place in the name and the blood of Jesus. If he says no, it's deal over. Perhaps I'm being too fussy. But I don't think so. I've done the bit about ‘trusting… and not trying to work it out on my own.' I've kept that condition, so the High King of Heaven has to keep his ‘making my paths straight' part of the deal. Weeks pass. Chest pains that I've had for years are as bad as ever. It will be some time before I get to see the healer or maybe faker. Hypnotherapists have been known to indulge in confabulation: the creation of false memories. In the meantime, a full on brawl or a run through a plate glass window would be nice. Back in the powdery old office, I make a call to my counsellor friend. She has some better ideas than plate glass and brawls. ‘It will be a while,' I say to her, ‘before I get to see this guy.' ‘Feel free to call me any time if you need to talk.' ‘Okay.' ‘And by the way,' she says, ‘Pain is not your enemy. It's your friend.' Another day of premonitions passes—and time for dinner. Our teenage children and younger ones gather at the table. The aroma of a spicy Laksa soup has my mouth watering. We say thanks to the High King and talk about the day: an embarrassing story about an embarrassing teacher at school topping the list. Meanwhile, my lover, without even trying, has dished up something else I don't even know the name of, which tastes amazing. It's her way; never before tasted recipes and never before heard songs from her inexhaustible treasures. But in my preoccupied state, these treasures are barely noticed. At my writer's table—in the future called now—I reflect on Spenser's Faery Queene and the fact that this beloved (partially read) poem of my premonition days had become a favourite; a sweet diversion. In there, as CS Lewis observes, ‘Images of good appear with a veiled, mysterious, even hidden character. But at first we don't see them at all, we just see images of evil.'1 I think I really get what Spenser is doing in his Faery Queene. It's as if the bones of real goodness can only ever be truly felt whilst embedded in the flesh of another human being or of everyday life. All attempts to explain, to spell out, to ‘bone out' such goodness from its natural body of flesh ending in a butchered failure: a so-called goodness that looks stupid, naïve and contrived. Hence, the beautiful Princess Una of the Faery Queene wears a black cloak and is always veiled as she travels with the Red Cross Knight on his adventures—patiently being there *with him* whilst he wields that sword and clashes steel against steel, gets lost, finds her and finds the way again. He doesn't know it but he needs her more than she needs him. And she doesn't seem to know it either. 1 CS Lewis (with Alistair Fowler) Spenser's Images of Life (Cambridge University Press, 1967, 2013 University Printing House, Cambridge CB2, UK) p.79-80

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Opening The Black Box: Part 3

Jan 24, 2023 8 months ago

Fourteen years on from opening the monster's box—I look out on a quiet day: birds singing and the air fresh and clean. It doesn't go with the world of Part Three. ‘The heavens frighten us, they are too calm,' an old poem says, ‘In all the universe we have no place ... Our wounds are hurting us: where is the balm?… We must have you O Jesus of the Scars.'* In this third unfolding—wandering around the house, walking to the river—we've hit a barrier. Surely, we must have dug deep enough into this hell hole. No need to keep prodding. But we're not prodding. It just keeps coming. But we did flick the latch on that freaking cage. And you still get that filthy skin feeling when you crawl into bed at night. And still catch yourself hiding your hands from people, like they're dirty: like you are defiled. And yes, you've learned now to keep your mouth shut. Talking is like lifting heavy furniture. It's hard to think. Wandering into the dusty cobweb office, we stand there, staring. It's like I'm looking for distractions: waiting for something, which I am I suppose. And so tired, so heavy. Just need to sleep. A thought, a piece of wisdom would be good. An old proverb comes to mind. ‘Trust in the Lord with all your heart. Don't try to work it out on your own. In all your ways remember him and he will make your paths straight.'** On your own is not good. No, but it saves embarrassment, fuss and bother. And your pride? Time to stop putting it off. I just stand here now and pray to see if a name comes to mind. A name does come. The name of a good friend. It makes perfect sense. Why didn't I think of her before? I'll email her hubby—now. I walk to the computer and place my fingers on the keys. But the fingers won't do the job, they're shaking violently like I've touched a live voltage wire. I force my hands and fingers into it. I type the message and lie down to sleep. Thank goodness that part's over and done with. Days later a message returns from her husband with her phone number. I make the call. We talk: her mostly listening and asking questions. ‘I can't help you,' she says. ‘Oh.' She keeps talking—explaining and offering options—but I'm not listening. *Can't help* is all I hear. I want to hang up. ‘I think I can find someone who can help,' she says. ‘No worries.' I put the phone down. Yep. Another dead end. There you go, God. Why did I even bother? Weeks pass and there's no call. Meanwhile the paralysed-on-the-floor episodes and flashbacks keep coming and I'm learning more about what's happened to me. The phone rings. It's the counsellor. ‘I've found someone who can help you.' ‘Okay.' ‘What do you think about hypnotherapy?' ‘Um—not sure. I've mostly heard bad.' Another blow! Heart sinking. This just gets worse. ‘This man is very good. Anyway, no pressure, Pete. Have a think about it.' This is insane. So many terrible hypnosis quack stories: weird stories. It's all too complicated and yes, dramatic. The whole world will hear of this and laugh. No way! While my mind is ticking over, a favourite story comes to mind: a three thousand year old story about a slave girl, her master and a prophet. During a military raid on Israel, a Syrian army general, Naaman, captures a young Israelite girl who becomes a maid to his wife. The girl hears that Naaman has leprosy. ‘I know of a man of God in my country,' she says to Naaman's wife, ‘who could heal him.' When the general hears of it, he asks his king if he can go. The king agrees. ‘And here's a letter of introduction,' the king says. ‘Give this to the king of Israel.' Naaman sets off, taking bags of gold and silver and delivers the letter to the king. ‘I've sent my servant Naaman,' the King reads the words aloud, ‘to you to be healed.' The king loses it, ripping his robe to pieces. ‘Am I a god,' he asks, ‘with the power to bring death or life that I get orders to heal this man from his disease? What's going on? The Syrian king's trying to pick a fight, that's what!' Elisha, the man of God, hears what's happened and sends word to the king. ‘Send him to me,' he says, ‘he might learn something from a prophet of Israel.' When Naaman, his horses and chariots arrive, Elisha's servant meets him and says, ‘Go to the Jordan River and immerse yourself seven times. Your skin will be healed and you'll be as good as new.' But Naaman has a brain snap. ‘He didn't even come out to see me,' he yells as he rides away. ‘I've got beautiful blue rivers at home. I can bathe in them. No way I'm getting into that muddy creek!'*** *Jesus of The Scars (Edward Shillito) **Proverbs 3:5,6 ***2 Kings 5:1-27

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