Stressed out? Exhausted? Running yourself ragged trying to be a good person, raise tolerant children, impress your boss, eat healthy, pay the bills, grow spiritually and monitor your carbon footprint? John C. Parkin has a suggestion for you: Just say “fuck it.”
Parkin, the son of Anglican preachers, spent twenty years studying eastern religion, meditating, chanting, breathing, doing yoga, detaching and attempting to heal his chronic allergies, without much success. Finally, he came to a conclusion: saying “fuck it” was the western version of what eastern religion preaches. Ironically, he arrived at this realization while setting up a retreat center to teach relaxation workshops, after leaving behind a top-paying job as a copywriter in London. Today, in addition to “yoga weeks”, he and his wife Gaia run “Fuck It Weeks” at The Hill That Breathes in southern Italy.
Despite how it may sound, “fuck it” does not mean abandoning all responsibility and lying by the pool all day eating bon-bons (although that might happen). Instead, Parkin explains it as learning how to deeply relax, releasing attachments, judgments and fears about what we “should” be doing that get in the way of living lives that are fully engaging. He should know; shortly after saying “fuck it” to the whole notion of needing to be perfectly healthy in order to be happy, Parkin actually began to get well for the first time in years, and has stayed that way ever since.
SuperConsciousness talked with Parkin about his spiritual journey and why saying “fuck it” is good for your health.
SC: How did your own struggles with health, both physically and mentally, lead you to the whole “fuck it” idea?
JP: We’d been on the beach in southern Italy one week, and a week later, we were driving into a very rainy, dirty, cloudy, dark London, moving into a very small flat with the prospect of having to work again, having not worked for a while. My health dropped; and I fell into a pretty deep depression. On the tube one Saturday morning, I was in a real state; I was crying, blubbing like a baby. The tube was busy, so there were a lot of people around. I remember thinking, “I’m really crying, with all these people around, and I’m not bothered by what people think about me. That’s interesting, because I’ve always been bothered by what people think about me. And my God, that feels very liberating!” It was a peculiar, paradoxical feeling of desperation and liberty at exactly the same time.
It was a beautiful irony that in setting up the relaxation center, I was probably the most stressed and yes, sick, than I’ve been for a long time.
As I came out of that period and back to normal, I retained this sense of “It doesn’t matter so much what people think of me. What people think of me is not going to stop me from doing some of the things I want to do.” That was a key seed for the later “fuck it” idea. In the end, “fuck it” is about a process of retuning in to what I want and what I would like to do.
I also had chronic health problems with allergies to various things and I was pretty ill as a child. I knew that it was exacerbated by stress. I went on a spiritual journey as well as an alternative health journey, into the art of relaxation in order to help alleviate and soften the symptoms of the allergies. Over fifteen years, I explored plenty of things: hypnotherapy, Qigong, tai chi, breath work, and a whole range of spiritual ideas – Buddhism, Taoism, the ideas of letting go and being less attached.
It was a beautiful irony that in setting up the relaxation center, I was probably the most stressed and yes, sick, than I’ve been for a long time. In the first six months we were working on finishing a house, looking after our small children, starting a business, doing the marketing, trying to attract guests during the day, and at night I was replying to emails and inquiries. So I was starting the office job at 11:00 at night and finishing around four in the morning, getting up at half past six to pick up vegetables. It was a nightmare! We realized that in the stress of setting up the place that we were saying “fuck it” to ourselves quite a lot. We started saying to our first guests, “You are leading lives that we’ve been leading, and what we’re finding helpful is saying ‘fuck it.’” It helps in the same way as some of these more complicated techniques, but you get there much quicker. We started saying “fuck it” to ourselves, saying it to our guests, and the guests started to say to us, “That’s really helping. The meditation was brilliant, the Qigong was brilliant, but I’m just saying ‘fuck it’ more, and things are improving really quickly.”
I’m really crying, with all these people around, and I’m not bothered by what people think about me. That’s interesting, because I’ve always been bothered by what people think about me. And my God, that feels very liberating!
SC: You say you “gave up on being well” at a certain point. Do you see that you actually gave up on your health, per se, or that you gave up on your judgments about your health?
JP: The latter more. There was a moment at the end of our first summer in 2004, when we’d come out here to Italy. I was pretty sick. I went into the bathroom of our tiny little flat and I thought, “I’m here in the sunshine, at a relaxation center, and God, I’m just as sick. All this time, I’ve been putting off happiness until I could achieve this moment, and therefore I would be better. Now here I am: I’m still sick. But my life isn’t that bad. I’ve got beautiful children, a beautiful wife, and it is wonderful here. I’ve got to start living now – accepting things as they are.” It was a big letting go of the idea that I would only be happy when thing things were sorted and I was completely well.
That’s the tyranny, in my mind, of a lot of the ideas around holistic health and spiritual health. It’s all about being whole and being well. Of course we can talk about the wonderful ways to heal and the very powerful ways to heal, including the way we use our minds and using visualization techniques. But the flip side of it is that it creates pressure and expectation. It puts off the idea of it being okay now. That can defeat the actual object. It’s a peculiar, paradoxical process that we can give people in the teaching of healing. In the end I think health, in every single way is about deep relaxation. I don’t think there’s anything you can’t heal with total and utter deep relaxation.
The main thing to do is get out of the way. If you can get yourself out of the way, in whatever way you can, the healing will actually work much better than if you’re there going, “Okay: breathe in, breathe out. I will now spread beautiful golden energy around my body. Okay, I’m getting better. I saw the symptoms yesterday as improved by five percent.” Get out of the way! Just go to bed. If you could inject yourself with something that would disengage the mind for three months and you just slept and wandered around without all the thought process, we would probably heal.
If we don’t realize and recognize that we should try to be more relaxed, then in one form or another, stress and tension and difficulty and resistance will tend to create illness.
SC: In your book you talk about an experiment you’d like to do with food, giving one person healthy food and another person junk food, but presuggesting to them the effect the food would have on their bodies and then watching what happens biologically. How do you see that in relationship to health?
JP: The junk food I mention is a chocolate éclair. I had this friend who was a great breath worker. I was really stuck in the idea that I had to eat really well and exercise and do Qigong every day in order to get better. He told me, and he was actually smoking a cigarette as he said this, “Okay: if I don’t have any thoughts around the harm that the cigarette can do to me, I know that this cigarette will do me less harm.” He may have even said no harm at all. This intrigued me – the power of the mind over the body and the effects of certain things that we’re putting into our body. What we do with cigarettes in the U.K. is, the cigarette packets are now simply instructions about how these things are going to kill you. So the truth is, if you are going to smoke a cigarette, it’s probably best to think this is not going to kill me, rather than this is going to kill me. The combined effect of the nicotine and the thought that it’s going to kill you is more likely to kill you.
The idea is, of course, a meal of brown rice and vegetables is better than a hamburger. However, the thoughts around those things are very important, because not all of us eat well all the time. If while we eat dodgy things, we have all of these negative thoughts, we’re likely to be increasing the negative effects of those things. I will eat a hamburger occasionally, and I won’t have judgment around it.
SC: What have you realized about how disease is created?
JP: My sense is that tension in some way is creating those problems. If we don’t realize and recognize that we should try to be more relaxed, then in one form or another, stress and tension and difficulty and resistance will tend to create illness. It’s harder when you get to kids. Small children tend to be soft and relaxed and open beings, and yet they get ill as well. What’s happening there? I think as kids we’re so open that we will absorb tension of other people around us and may take on illnesses that really should be other people’s.
Get out of the way! Just go to bed. If you could inject yourself with something that would disengage the mind for three months and you just slept and wandered around without all the thought process, we would probably heal.
I think what happened in my case was that there was some unfelt grief that was being blocked around when I was a child and I was trying to be helpful by taking that on. Who knows? I’m blaming nobody. I’m guessing that grief was at the core of what was going on with me. In Chinese medicine, grief is related to lung stuff, and it was that which I started out with.
SC: What do you hope will be the impact of the work you’re doing?
JP: I’ve learned not to have any intention around it, just to do our stuff and talk about it and share it. Yet what I’ve seen after six years of this, especially with the book and with wider teachings, is that huge numbers of people get a lot of benefit. It’s a lovely thing to hear, but I don’t attach to anything when I’m teaching. I didn’t write the book with the intention of helping hundreds of thousands of people; I wrote the book because I couldn’t do anything else. I had these perceptions that I wanted to put on paper.
I really enjoy teaching this stuff, and it works for me every day. In the tensions I come up against and the stressful situations I come up against, this stuff really helps me. It’s never an “I have to get there” in terms of the relaxed state and the whole, healed body that I’m trying to reach and then it stops. It’s always a process. The verbs are more important than the nouns to me. That’s what it’s about.
For more information about John C. Parkin, visit http://www.thefuckitway.com/