After colouring in a few of Millie Marlotta’s Animal Kingdom I felt like doing some of my own images from scratch. Here are the first four:
Sunday, 23 August 2015
Week 3 of the reboot.
Small reunion of old friends yesterday from a time when I wasn’t that well. Lots of bad hash all week and alcohol each weekend. I don’t know if it’s a coincidence but I woke up sweating a lot, and much earlier than usual. Two-something. Sitting was very awkward, squirming on my cushion. I wasn’t consciously reliving any of those times but my body seemed to be. Was able to stick it out for 35 mins.
Monday, 24 August 2015
The now familiar routine but always subtly different. In order:
Lips pouting, then mouth stretched open, then intense piercings in the very edge of the lips, sort of like pins and needles but much sharper.
Right hand clawed, then flexed, culminating in white hot piercings in the finger tips and around the nails.
Stomach drawn in, up, tight, some digestive pains, mild.
Head shaking fast side to side.
Thoughts and emotions based on rejection, isolation, dependence on others to feel fully okay and validated. Then going through events of the previous day and recent days.
Tuesday, 25 August 2015
Actually slept until 05:45! Not that long in total as I didn’t sleep until almost midnight. But longest for the last couple of weeks. Also sat for 43 minutes, about ten minutes more than the recent average.
Not easy. Pin point sharpness across tops of shoulders. Stiff aches in sides of neck. Grotty stabs in the lower digestive tubes. Tummy tightly pulled in. Some head shaking. Some arching forward while the belly was contracted for long periods.
Are these underlying sensations and tensions in the body what makes the mind so flighty? It is clear that I don’t want to go near them, to feel them more fully. Well, the curious meditative aspect does want to, but habitually I don’t want to. The trails lead in the other direction, well trodden and smoothed. It’s seemingly easier to flee. And maybe that is what I’m doing most of the time. Using lots of energy in: away away away! Staying gently in the vicinity is less energy consuming and leads to other possible destinations than the well trodden paths.
Wednesday, 26 August 2015
Signs that the body is settling down, two and a half weeks in. No great movements; the head was shaking rapidly side to side at times, but short lived; some arching forward. But mainly, and for a full 45 minutes, sitting still, erect, relatively at peace.
With the body more stable, attention turns to the mind. And it’s clear there’s not a lot of stillness there. That’s okay. I would touch upon an area of the body and thoughts zoom away. Subject to subject, idea to idea, fear to fear. But not obsessing, just doing what it’s been able to do these 44 years. It knows little else. Underneath or over the top, not sure which, and probably neither, there’s a sense of growing stability beyond the flighty thoughts. I am refusing to control thought and get into that game. Anyway, the me who wants to control would be a part of the same flighty thought pattern. No, meditation seems to be nothing to do with me as such. Or at least nothing for me to do.
During the day, glimpses returning of a core self, kind of saying ‘hello once again, I’m still here waiting, all is well.’
Thursday, 27 August 2015
Yes, definitely calming down. Body wise, it was token gestures today: a minor lip pout towards the end, a little head shaking and some initial belly tucking.
Mind wise, very active, which is totally fine. To push for a quiet mind is not meditation. Moments come when there really is nothing to think about, and the space and stillness that present themselves are unrelated to what’s gone before. Whereas the train of thought and feeling seems to be always related to that which was previous.
In stillness or relative stillness, an energy then can do what it needs to do, wants to do, or naturally does. This is most apparent in the spine. I can feel the energy meet resistances in the body and mind, and the impact of energy meeting stuckness causes the jumping shaking body movements of the last weeks. If there’s no resistances it rushes and embraces in entirely its own way, resulting in blisses and tingles and who knows what.
My nights are steadier too, sleeping through to around six today. Quite different to earlier week’s three or four. And less tired on finishing a session. More than ‘less tired’ – energised. Although it is nice to have a good lie down a while. Further integration.
Friday, 28 August 2015
More awkward again today. The wheat from yesterday’s lunch? The old mushrooms of yesterday’s supper? But was able to stay with the body, after some initial daydreaming at 4-something in the morning. First light of dawn now as I write.
Lips pressing forward, upper jaw a bit tight. Right palm tense. A general instability throughout.
Saturday, 29 August 2015
Three weeks into the reboot and today I touched upon mediation. Or rather, mediation occurred. It’s at once foreign and familiar. Not something that can be remembered in the unusual way, and when it’s going on it’s both brand new and very ancient.
Breath was naturally deep and fluid, with some slight purposeful lengthening for the first minutes. I then began to move over the body, at first swiftly and haphazardly as was the state of my mind; despite just resting in sleep it was scattered and diverted.
After a few trips downs and ups from head to feet and back again and back again, more connection was felt to sensation and, again naturally, attention lingered and moved more slowly. As this happened the scatteredness of thought started to decline, the web of thought tightening like a net being gathered in. I don’t know if there was a gatherer; it just happened as the disparity became obvious.
More connection with body more attention of mind. I lingered on obvious sensation in shoulders, right hand. Head shaking came out of the blue and was intense and sudden and freer, and stopped as suddenly as it started.
Some tingles and bliss and, at last, rest.
Sunday, 16 August 2015
So, I’ve been a fair weather meditator. Or a fair month meditator. Doing it for a while until things got too much in my life or inwardly, then taking the option of meditating lying down, or doing yoga nidra instead. Both are better than nothing and allowed some continuity. But it’s not the same. And now here I am feeling frustrated outwardly and the temptation is to skip it, to stay in bed. But one week in, I am continuing come what may, even if for only half an hour like this morning.
Remembering the guidance of awareness AND equanimity. I’ve been under the other guidance of doing nothing to what is and so exploring some kind of pure awareness. Trouble is my ‘pure awareness’ isn’t pure but riddled with pushes and wants and dislikes subtle and not so subtle. So I’m learning there is something to bring, and this really calmed things down when feeling the neck for example, and I was able to go deeper quicker and more steadily and with much less flitting about of the mind.
Monday, 17 August 2015
Mind racing and stimulated after conversations last night until midnight. This racing of the mind didn’t stop the body continuing whatever it is it’s doing. Head shaking rapidly. Right arm stiffened. Right hand flexed seemingly more than I can flex it myself. Tummy in and up tight back towards the spine. Not all these things at once and this is probably the order they occurred. Again the early morning waking, even when sleeping late. I certainly need less sleep these days.
Tuesday, 18 August 2015
All the sensations of the last week turned up to 11. But each for a shorter duration. And the addition of a new one, in the chest. Much of the 45 minutes I was bent forward, tummy pulled in, chest compressed, tight. Then coughing. As I’ve said many times, it’s not me doing these things in the usual volitional way but the body itself. All I’m doing is bringing attention to that place, somewhat systematically, as evenly as possible. And even if not bringing attention to that place, it’s happening. Ended the session in the right lower jaw where teeth meet bone and gum. This arose as I travelled back up across the face.
05:44 now, so a little later today, and also sleeping at 10-something not like the previous night’s gone midnight. Now I have some time for rest until needing to get up around 08:30.
Wednesday, 19 August 2015
I hurt a friend by not telling them something as I didn’t want to face the consequences of possible anger and violence if I told them. Of course they now know anyway and so now there’s the anger along with the disappointment and mistrust stemming from my keeping it quiet.
The difference is that when something major was going on I would quit the sitting and the yoga until it had calmed down . This time I am continuing whatever. This is really new territory for me.
Thursday, 20 August 2015
It’s hard to know I’ve disappointed someone; someone who already seems to have a mistrust in most of mankind. I’ve probably confirmed this and now join the 95% of people he hates. And because of a cowardly non-action. This was my mind as I sat quietly with the lightening sky. The first bird song was around 05:45. Neck quite tenses, and shoulders. Right leg unhooked itself from cross legged. So, I’m learning to forgive myself and learning that not everybody has to like me. I have led a pretty quiet life this last decade and so it hasn’t been hard not to upset anyone. I guess issues like this is why mediation is so unappealing to many. The notion of sitting quietly with one’s own self in all its forms can be horrifying. It might be possible to neutralise this horror, or feel it fully.
Friday, 21 August 2015
There really is no stopping it. My body is alive and has movement and action independent of me. But of course! After all I don’t know how to covert glucose to whatever the body converts glucose into. But I mean the parts I normally have the say over, like when to move my arm and how. But no, the right arm hangs free with its partner, the less kinetic left, and within moments it is off on its shaking gripping twisting adventure. The lips too and all around the mouth, grinning grimacing pouting, generally contorting left right and centre. Tummy too, pulling right back at the naval and up under the ribs. I don’t try to stop it. I know I could if I HAD to, like in an emergency, but whilst sitting quietly there is no need to get involved. And today playing with how little I can be involved and the less I am, i.e. the more the mind was still, the freer the body was to do its thing. I do wonder when it will stop; this is nearly two weeks into my sitting reboot, so that’s at least 8 hours worth. I suspect, hope, it’s not just undoing stuff from the previous 24 hours but is releasing older and older holdings and knots. That’s what it feels like.
The relationship issues of the last couple of days have faded.
Awoke with the last call of the owl as the dawn came; somewhere around six I heard the first bird song.
Saturday, 22 August 2015
The end of week two. My sense of progress would like things to be changing, to be able to sit without all the body stuff going on. It will change and for sure it is changing, just in ways the impatient sensor of progress can’t feel, and it’s changing in its own tune, not mine.
Systematically I went from head to feet and each part had its own tale to tell, and even while that part told it, other parts clamoured for attention: neck, lips, belly.
Awoke around five, slept around eleven. Yesterday I practised some yin yoga for the first time. It really suited me. It was mainly about the hips and hamstrings this sequence, so not as total as the Sivananda but certainly less next next next. I don’t have to do the practice the way it’s done in the recording, I could do it at a slower pace. But good to mix it up and the yin yoga seems great for when I’m caught up in a kind of post-work hyper mode.
As we move into late August sunrise is now after six.
A proper South Downs Walk. Continuing along the long distance path from the downs south of Kilmeston, along a bit of the South Downs Way before cutting south past Lomer, Preshaw, the legendary Betty Mundy’s Bottom and Corhampton Down, noisy that day with the shooting. The path then heads in a more easterly direction past Corhampton golf course and onto Fir Down above Droxford. After the village we cross the River Meon and follow the water meadows to the small village of Soberton. Outside the White Lion pub I met a white cat, who I was told is deaf and blind.
Back to the mat after a long period (a few months?) of yoga nidra instead of vipassana body scan meditation. Here’s some of something like what happened:
Sunday, 9 August 2015
One at a time:
Head shaking immediately on sitting.
Hands flexed, tingly tightness all over.
Head wanting to look right.
Mind reeling through yesterday’s party, a lower upper class, upper middle class BBQ at the cricket pitch; neighbour’s birthday.
Lasted for 42 minutes of the 45 set. The sitting that is; the party two hours, which was too long into the awkward arrival stage and too short before people really started to enjoy. Also very hot. Feel a bit of a satellite circling around society but not central to anything. And now I’ve even moved from the community at BP. Where actually I was also a satellite. I guess a lot of people like me have a more outgoing partner and that kind of balances out, but C is also a satellite which can make us even more aloof detached socially outcast happy in our own space. Actually did have another offer yesterday, a sea paddle in Dorset with an old friend. That would have been far preferable but I thought I should do the proper thing and c wouldn’t have liked to have gone alone. Ah, the unsatisfactory compromises!
It’s now gone 0530 having woken at 0430. Maybe sleep till 0800…
Monday, 10 August 2015
It’s easy to get wrapped up in the idea of progress and lack of it, assessing how one is doing in mind and body. Why does that still ache, why am I still thinking about this, I thought I was over that by now, I’m more peaceful than I was, stronger, wiser. And so it goes, the game of comparison. And not just in oneself, but with those around.
It’s not a competition, there’s nothing to win. There is a movement away and towards but it doesn’t need to be assessed.
Sivananda yoga session every other evening and now I’m back to the mat in the mornings, 45 mins is the set time. The last two mornings it’s been very early, pre dawn and then going back to bed with earplugs and face mask, which I’m about to do as c will be getting up at six.
In touch with a good old friend first time since the 90s, who was there when I was making the big changes from married with a flat to hedonism to a more spiritual life. Woke up to a whole string of messages from him. Seems he’s taking the opportunity to reflect, as I shall do. Without the assessment, or too much of it.
Palms still tight, stretching out. Lips super pouting in yoga yesterday. Shoulders undoing. Neck too. I hear the first call of a bird, at 5:05.
Tuesday, 11 August 2015
The body knows what to do once I get out of the way or put it in a position or place where it has space. Within minutes the lips in a mega pout. Then the neck arching forward. The right hand shaking. Then below the jaws, and back along the right lower jaw to the wisdom teeth, deep aches. Touching upon them and staying with it until the body moves on, and when no apparent sensations, scanning through from head to feet and feet to head. Then the palms and fingers, extended fully and opening out to their max. Then the abdomen pulling in tight. Then the shoulders. Lower back. Legs passive but feet tight too. Ended in an arm stretch, up up; didn’t choose it, just happened. I can readily see why they say the yoga postures came from those sitting in meditation. The body really does know what to do. At some point in the sitting the edginess of the mind could undo too.
Wednesday, 12 August 2015
It’s getting quite specific where the body wants to tense up then release, today including the webbing between each finger, one at a time. Right hand of course. Another time the entire hand spasticated. Points in the neck. Shaking. Once again, first to go were the lips, immediately on sitting, like the body just knows. All of which means this week there has been very little inquiry into mind thought emotion and the psychology of meditation and of self. But my organism at 44 is well as it has ever been. I can feel it in my day, in my walk, in my presence. And in going about the day, the mind is less troubled, caught, frightened.
Thursday, 13 August 2015
Five days of this now, the tensing up and sheer awkwardness in much of the body. The result of not sitting for a month or months?
Woke from twisted dreams of very sick people on chat shows, a couple even eating on camera, as their problems were thrashed out, pale fatty skin dripping off them, hardly able to storm off stage as their bodies didn’t do ‘storm’. Again, four-something when I awoke. It feels like I need some days off for complete rest. Perhaps alone.
Friday, 14 August 2015
The further I went from the head, down towards the feet, the less my mind fretted and demanded and fantasised. Woke with frustrations, envies, stickiness, desires. As I moved consciously from part to part – no vague scanning today – all on its own the brain calmed down, desires dropping away. There may be nothing to do but sense. The doing of the mind or thought seems to be of the very same nature as what it is trying to fix.
Such agonies and awkwardness riddled in the muscles, skin, nerves, even the very bones. But I sit and I sense and there it is, how I am right now, the reality of the situation. The modifications of the mind seem to be an attempt at a response to this body and its sensations. An inadequate response. By sitting quietly and sensing, an adequate response is emerging.
Saturday, 15 August 2015
Best to stick to every day. I’ve gotten confused with notions of a day off before. One day off and then it’s very easy to say ‘how about another?’ So I think that’s a week completed now. It’s getting less arduous in terms of the body. Right hand is still flexing, extending, then becoming a fist. Neck is still tight, along with shoulders. Head shaking for a while every session. Also, stick with the sitting instead of lying down. Which is easier, but is just not the same. And a day or two of lying down instead can easily turn into weeks, months.
Into the South Downs National Park after heading south from the market town of New Alresford (my new home town). The Wayfarers Walk then passes through Tichborne, across the small at this stage River Itchen, Cheriton, Hinton Ampner, Kilmeston and then up onto Kilmeston Down for a spot of sheep herding, and Mill Barrow Down.
Hampshire in the spring. A walk I took in April continuing the long distance path through the low downs of central Hampshire, nine miles or so from the Candover Valley to Alresford. The walk crosses the same stream many times, and passes by the villages of Totford, Northington and Abbotstone. The stream enters the very short river Arle which we see at the end of the walk with its ducks, swans (building a nest), geese and trout. Apologies for the wind noise.
It’s hard to believe I’ve made 60 walking videos! This one is a little different from the usual countryside walks:
A walk from Camden to Hackney Wick along the towpath of the Regents and Hertford Union Canals. The walk goes through or near Kentish Town, Islington, Hoxton, Haggerston, Bethnal Green, Tower Hamlets, before branching off to the north east and Hackney Wick, towards the Olympic Park. A quieter alternative to walking in London by road, this took about three hours.
More London walking videos to follow later this year I expect.
The fifth stage of my Wayfarers Walk route, from the village of Dummer near Basingstoke, to Brown Candover in the heart of Hampshire. The walk goes over Becket’s Down, giving fine views over southern Hampshire.
27 May 2015
Energy coursing upwards once the thoughts get out of the way. I kind of wake up with the sensation I which was aware of through layers of thought, and now it’s a direct connection. Then the energy is freer and as it moves it meets the actuality of the organism, resulting in awareness of bliss, tingles, tensions, constrictions, and great pleasurable feelings from the pelvic floor spreading upwards.
28 May 2015
New cushion much more supportive. Firm yet not hard. This is the one I bought, highly recommended.
To be able to use the manic ‘browse internet for hours’ energy that’s scattered into one hundred things, to be able to use that energy to observe the body, and feel the very same energy in the body. Left to its own (conditioned) devices it is shooting up into the head and creating so very many thoughts. With the moving of attention from part to part with a neutral attitude towards sensation and thought, somehow the energy transforms, each part felt as near to its actuality as is possible. And in each area it is seen that the attention is one or more steps removed and in this seeing this removedness can naturally undo. And then there is connection, immediacy, actuality, without modification by the mind, and the sensation felt in the area undergoes a change, no longer what I thought it was but more like what it is. So within the hour spent attending to the body, the manic energy transforms to a more total, directed energy, without any control as such and certainly without any force. Really interesting and valid ‘work’, this.
Goenka Vipassana Meditation is a reset, perhaps even more than a night’s sleep in terms of letting the brain rest. Quite clever really, there’s no mention of thought in this technique of awareness of sensation. Naturally thought realises its place, that it isn’t really needed at the moment. Naturally thought goes through it’s loops, even small dreams. Come out the other side of these and thought is naturally spent. No effort to control thought needed. No criticism of thought (by thought) needed. Just a small effort to actually do it, to sit or lie down and move attention over the body. I like minimal.
An almost-loop at the very western edge of the South Downs National Park. From Magdalen Hill east of Winchester, up towards Cheesefoot Head and then across the downs to Morestead. Then down into Chilcombe through the firing range and finally across the M3 into Winchester via The Soke.
Parts of the body tensing and contorting, either alone or within awareness of that area. Hand – the right hand, go figure – neck sides and front, up under the lower jaw, jowls even involved in this morning’s sit. Sciatic nervy pain down behind the hips. Right foot at the bottom of it all, flexed at times. Despite the strong sensations and eye scrunching, an appreciation of the realness of it all, the genuine feeling of the body exactly as it is, and that the body is being allowed true expression and release, the mind only minimally involved for once in the day. This sit deep in the night, three something to four something, and time for some deep rest now.
Slept until naturally woke around eight. Always such a restful sleep after meditation, because meditation is actual work (without doing anything – yes!) Yoga this evening, lots of leg stretched and hip openers. I’ve been listening to a new yoga nidra recording, one hour twenty minutes long, working on deep restoration of all the sheaths of the organism (physical body, subtle body, psycho-emotional body, wisdom body and the soul body.) I don’t know anything about Maalika Shay Devi Dasi but she has a great voice for this, and the work is at deeper levels than any other yoga nidra or relaxation recording I’ve found. Highly recommended!
Looking into right discipline, right effort, right concentration. It’s easy to fritter away an hour in loose thinking, rather like the dreamy night beforehand. Meditation needs to be something different, with focus but not with any forcing. This is a fine balance.
Alone in silent darkness.
Alone: sat still,
alone without authority,
alone all one.
Silence: but for the night sounds of the building,
the storage heater buzzing as it charges,
the creak groan grind of the freezer,
wind buffeting the window,
an occasional turning of a human in a bed in a nearby room.
Darkness: it being deep in the night
when the early hours become the early morning,
still winter despite our hopes.
I like the winter,
it’s moods and its inwardness.
Darkness: but the lights of the internet,
a glow of a charger.
Only somewhat alone,
only somewhat silent,
only somewhat dark.
I can easily fix two with a mask and earplugs.
The alone part is where it gets really interesting.
Who is watching?
Who is doing?
Who is meditating?
Who is sensing?
Does he think he is different from the thing sensed?
Is he under any influence and so not truly alone?
Is he a he?
Is who a who?
Alone in silent darkness.
It’s clear that the brain can’t do ‘future’ very well. It can do past; it’s riddled with it; but the future is guess work, projections fuelled by pleasure and fear, attraction and aversion. An upcoming event in the mind seems made of a remembrance of a venue or setting, plus old feelings from last time, or many times, stored in the same ‘me in that kind of situation’ box. This is how it does future, and sat still in the quiet morning, its level of validity and potency fades.
am 1 hr
Excruciating. And yet when directly in contact with the sensation it is different, a pain is no longer a pain but a strange communication, a beacon: ‘over here, something is up’. Mind scattered through the first half, gradually coming together.
Going back to bed a while; it’s now 06:20 at supposedly the most depressing time if the year. I feel like I want to rest for a week, doing next to nothing.
After a resetting relaxation after yoga, a smoother meditation session, a definite unfolding inward, without choosing to go that way, an unfolding through an inner tension of the brain itself, as if awareness is getting closer and closer to the heart of the matter, and almost, seemingly, the centre of consciousness. There, if it is a place, it is black and thought has a great rest. More than black and more than a rest. Deeper, yet not comparable. And it’s a rest yet it is intense. Probably the slight duality remaining, a slight friction. But homely in its unrecognisable cosy intensity.
Every day, sitting up not lying down. Every morning, and a bit in the eve. Otherwise something builds up that needs to undo. Of course, ideally there wouldn’t be any doing up to undo and rules such as ‘every day’ wouldn’t be needed. But there’s London, there’s badminton, there’s Portsmouth, there’s work and there’s obligations, and they all create a winding up and that can and needs to be released.
It’s 04:16 and I just sat for an hour. Layers releasing from holds in the body and at the same time layers of stuff wrapped around the me as the watcher, the doer of scanning, the wanter, sliding away seen and releasing. Release. That’s a good word and even better when it’s actual. Back to bed but wide awake. I need more rest which will come in an hour or so.
Every session different. After yesterday’s gentle lingering on the most prominent sensations, I expected much the same today. But the mind skipped, twisted, danced, skirted, flew and didn’t want to linger anywhere. Awareness of sections of the body, the head, the neck and shoulders, the arms, the chest and upper back, the lower torso, the pelvis, the upper legs and knees, the lower legs and feet. Which all sounds organised and orderly. It wasn’t. Once those general areas were felt, down the body and back up, it was impossible to feel a particular part without skipping about all over it, flitting this way and that. There was no sense of struggle to control this but a strong sense of ‘this is me, this is how the mind is today’. So the emphasis shifted from the body parts to the ‘me’ who was doing the awareness. A strong notion of not stepping over anything to reach something else, some peace, some stillness, but to stay with the fleeting-ness, the skipping, as that’s the actuality, not the beyond. Appreciation of this connectedness, the listening to all sensation AND the bouncing self; appreciation of inclusiveness and inclusion. It can’t be a stepping toward the pleasure over that which is not wanted, but a gentle unflinching embrace of what’s there. This isn’t a doing from the outside; there no longer being a doer, but the me, the sensation, unfolding from itself. In awareness things naturally reveal themselves, including the one being aware, and therein lies the magic.