Hinton Ampner, together with Bramdean forms a parish midway between Winchester and Petersfield, close to and on the A272. For the purposes of this post, here I am only posting photographs of the listed buildings in Hinton Ampner, with Bramdean to follow at some point. Hinton Ampner is dominated by the Hinton Ampner House estate, now owned by the National Trust. The house and many of the nearby cottages and farmhouse are rented from the Trust. Along the main road towards Bramdean are four further listed buildings including an old school built in the 1700s due to a will of William Blake (not the William Blake, I don’t think) and the old toll building, Turnpike House. Hinton Ampner House was built in 1790, remodelled in 1875 and 1936, and much of what we see today was rebuilt after a fire in 1960. Next to the house is All Saints church and just down the hill, Hinton House, the imposing former rectory. Several thatched cottages were built on the hill up from the main road, and at the top are two large farmhouses, Godwins and Manor Farmhouse. Many of the cottages date back to the 1500s.
Deep dreams again, awareness seemingly going deep within these nights. And after a wash, the mind surprisingly clear. None of the initial struggles to settle and I could begin right away. From the start, sexual energy moving and before long it’s no longer sexual. Probably never really was, that’s just what I equate it to because that’s what I know and that’s the area it stems from. This is far beyond just sex: tingles and rushes moving higher up the body, feelings I’ve never felt, parts of the body that seemed to be sleeping waking up under this travelling, enlivening, enriching energy. Not to get swept up in the pleasure of it all, but continuing moving attention across the body. The less I interfere, the more this new energy can do its thing. Thought going off into fantasies and dreams and thought loops and the mundane, ‘Oh, I need to do that today’, and yet they are not judged as mundane and during this sitting, the notion of judging seemed quite alien. Pleasure was pleasure, pain was pain, and both seemed not so very different from each other. The more I could stay with pain, the more it merged into pleasure, and feeling the pleasure strongly moving, meeting more painful areas of the body and emotions. One trip down the body, back up in a smoother flow, lingering a minute or two or thirty seconds on ‘grosser’ areas, then back up to the head with a rush of energy filling the head, clearing the mind of everything in those moments until back up to the tingling top of the head. Then resting in a fizzy warmth covering the whole body, that was, in fact, the whole body itself. The body is way beyond what we were taught or what we thought.
Whole not holes. Can awareness be all inclusive rather than partial? A distinct feeling that thought patterns are holes or tunnels and also analysis of same is no different. Control too is another tunnel-digging device, direction, direction. To stay right here, without control and without more digging or at least no reinforcing those old tunnels. There is nothing to dig for, no treasure beneath, no deeper self to uncover. If there’s a deeper self its not where you think it is, nor is it accessible via the partial.
Angry on waking, and caught up in it on first sitting down. I remembered that it cannot be solved at the same level, mixed up in it, and I realised that any attempt to even approach things with a solution in mind is not the way to go. I was then able to observe it more neutrally and before long begin the vipassana practice of moving attention from head to feet and from feet to head with the understanding of annica. The not-new revelation that thought swims quickly away from any sensation, even from simple awareness of any given body part. This swimming away can be seen too, and as time goes on, the unecessaryness of it becomes obvious, without ‘doing’ anything about it. So the movements away lessen of their own accord and attention can remain on sensation without these modifications of the mind and avoidance techniques. These reactions of thought scatter and disperse the natural quiet of the mind. Mere sensation is enough for the mind to go into a tailspin and a mild flurry of ‘not this, not this’, running around like a headless chicken. Not to condemn this headless chicken but to see clearly that this behaviour is divisive, scattering and uses so much energy. So, it’s not about controlling thought but of seeing it; not seeing from a place of judgement but seeing of itself.
Fearful dreams, nothing new, but what was new was that I was not running but steadily watching what was unfolding in the dreams, almost as if meditation was occurring within the dream itself, or at least an observation. I was no longer at the mercy of fear as has been common in my dreams for years.
This still observation carried forward into the morning sit, the organising brain going over some unresolved work issues that need to be addressed. Again fear wrapped up with these but a sense of laying the issues out so that they are easily visible, the consequences of hiding things away very apparent and therefore such action would be worthless.
Then the theme of ‘where am I going with this meditation thing?’ clear that any notion of where it ends or where it leads is false, and in fact a positively bonkers fantasy. The projected fantasy of some state or way of life in the future, and also a debilitating fear of where I might be going. Both equally false.
Awareness steady as I moved over the body, less of the flitting about from place to place that has been happening. Strong energies unfolding from the base of the torso, rippling through the rest of the body, so overwhelming that in moments I just don’t know what is happening or where I am. Brand new in flowering energetic movements. Sit through it, sit through it, easy now. And the sciatic pains in the right leg and buttock. Sit through it, sit through it, easy now. And back up through the torso, a hoop of awareness almost complete, gliding upwards until what would be tight shoulders, upper back and neck but could not be felt, like they were nothing. Surprises all the way that things are not what I think there are, sensations are new now, not of the past. Alive.
Quite content to just sit and do nothing and could have whiled away an hour like that. After a while I remembered the notion of right effort and began the noticing of sensation. This was a rather dreamy process, only making it as far as the pelvis in the hour, and even then maybe not having done the front body. It’s difficult when coming from listening to a lot of Krishnamurti, who strips these maters free of any effort and technique, to apply something to ‘do’. But my issue may not really be this but a contented laziness. Like thinking doesn’t bother me anymore, it’s fine, natural, and I’m not really looking for any experience so why bother with the technique? I guess the answer can be found in knowing what I’m like and these tendencies will not change in the slightest by doing nothing at all. The crisis existing in how things are must be the impetus to do this, otherwise contentment, comfort and indifference will win out. But not to force anything. It’s a fine balance and this has to be my exploration at the moment. It is unlikely, however, that I will be sitting in the evenings, preferring to do some yoga at this time instead.
A mid morning sit, having slept for an exceptional 10 hours until 0830 and then having breakfast and then answering emails. Wading through hot fudge, sticky and not unpleasant, I wondered who I am to attempt to control thought. It’s a futile preoccupation. And to prefer some thoughts over others is favouritism and unnecessary effort. It is in fact boring. So I gave up in directing, and gave up being frustrated if I could sense an area for only a second before going into another daydream. Slowly this not unpleasant fudge-wading ceased and I was able to move with relative ease through the body, and dreams slowly abated. As little effort as possible, seems to be the way to proceed in this.
The mind scattered by a dizzy sensation in the head, making awareness need to double-check each small movement across the surface of the body. This effect lessened as the hour went on. Noticed a related fear and nervousness nearby. The blank areas are interesting, parts of the body where I can’t feel anything very much. When scanning over the skin, they sometimes feel like a bump, a small hill the attention passes over, a few cm or inches away from the body, then back down the other side to make contact again. What secrets lie under the hills no doubt time will tell. The slight crick in my mid back from last evening’s yoga, apparent when moving could not be felt during the sitting, or now lying down writing this. It’s curious how pains come and go, appear and disappear. Perhaps according to the type of response we give to it. This is truly an investigation into the psycho-somatic bridge.
pm 20 mins anapana
At 5am, with the mind distracted by the thousand things of yesterday, the job related issues, the yoga class, the media I’d chosen to consume, the conversations. It’s a lot to process, at least relatively, compared to the monk’s life of the preceding ten days.
I understand better what the intense swearing is that I experienced during the course. It’s the critical mind. With so much right action taking place, doing the best I can for the most part, there is nothing or very little for it to latch onto and it is, or was, resorting to rather ridiculous outbursts in the most obscene language, at any opinion I might think, with always that hint, or much more than a hint, of criticism.
The energy that used to make me shake sparked up again and now it is possible to halt the physical reaction without force, or just a little control or a pause, and let it occur in a new way rather than the body’s habitual seemingly-free reaction. Habitual because it had become a pattern of response and then would take over the sitting, albeit with the accompanying probably healthy releasing. So I stay still and so I do not know what will happen. Rushes of bliss from the base. Light through the head so that nothing is seen on the mind screen and nothing can be thought for those moments. Pleasure so pleasurable it’s as squirming as pain. And yet I don’t squirm, or just a little, and again the energy can move in a new way, forging new pathways in the body and connections in the brain. I am learning a new level in the importance of staying still. At this stage a lot of people would probably get into ‘freedom of expression through movement’ or something, as it seems a natural response. Maybe it has its place but I’m here to sit through. To sit through it all, no matter what.
…which of course is easier said than done. Didn’t want to know this evening… headache and tired, but I did sit for 20 minutes and briefly scanned down and up. Felt much better very quickly, with delightful tingles across my scalp, still there as I write. The desire not to sit won out, and despite setting the timer for 30 minutes, I quit 10 minutes early. That’s okay – I sat.
Foggy at first, mind swimming from thought to thought, deep in muddy waters. Slowly, slowly I was able to bring awareness to the top of the head and begin properly, probably 10 minutes into the session. The hand waving and head shaking seems to have left, perhaps for good, and didn’t occur at all during the 10-day Goenka Vipassana retreat that finished yesterday. Scanning slowly, it took the best part of the remaining session to scan all the way down to the feet. The feet are the only part that move now, tightening and releasing as awareness travels through them. Back up through the right leg and the fire had started in the back of the thigh, a sciatica-like pain. Curiously, this pain is mixed with intense pleasure coming from the base of the pelvis, the two sensations meeting each other and blending. Encouraged by Tim Park’s experience of sitting through pain from one minute into his first sits, I stayed for the whole hour, more than I did for most ‘optional’ sittings at Dhamma Dipa. The sexual energy, appetite now fulfilled on returning home, was less wrapped in thought fantasy, and was cleaner and more natural, less manipulated.
I am happy to have found this authentic practice. As last time in the time after the retreat, I am eager to sit for tow hours a day, no matter what. We’ll see…
Sort of intended to sit after yoga class but it’s too late in the evening once I’m home and ready.
There’s little pocket of Georgian and Victorian buildings hiding a few meters from the end of the motorway as you arrive in Portsmouth. 393 Old Commercial Road (the south end of Mile End Terrace) was the birthplace of Charles Dickens. Also nearby is All Saints Church next to the very busy roundabout and the former Market Tavern, remodelled as accommodation for the ferry port just to the west.
#42 Guns ‘n’ Roses – Appetite For Destruction
Before: Big hair, big noise, big hits
Like being forced to take too much coke and then licked and then drooled on with Coca-Cola and then having cheap bourbon poured in your ears and up your nose and being left out to dry in some west coast hell. Sung by Cartman from South Park. A few moments of relief in some of the intros before the insane zipping up and unzipping continues. I suspect the best thing is the drumming. The rest is – what? – empty energy.
After: 80s horrorshow
Counting down the Top 50 over at Best Ever Albums. They’ve taken 6,600 greatest album charts and compiled them into an overall chart.
Heavily bombed in the Second World War (and by a Zeppelin in the First) not so many Victorian or older buildings remain in this area of southern Landport. The photos below cover the University Quarter, Guildhall Walk and Square, Commercial Road (South) and West towards HMS Nelson. Mainly Victorian, the listed buildings are pubs, a former cinema, a theatre, assurance offices, banks, military and religious. Seemingly politics (Guildhall), finance (Prudential and Pearl), religion (the RC Cathedral and St Agathas), education (Park Building) and the military (Wardroom) compete for dominance of scale here. (Note that Park Building, behind the Guildhall, was covered in scaffolding today, so I used pictures I’d taken previously.)
It can be so damn awkward having a body. Aches, pains, tightness, nausea. To sense each and every without judgement seems to be the key. They are just as they are but the brain modifies. To practice when not looking after oneself must be so much of a nightmare – once the intelligence of the body takes over its going to get things right out of you there and then. Headaches are going to rage and… Well luckily all that is in my past and my system is pretty clean. I learnt that in my 20s, to make it easier. I can make it easier still, I know. Make the moves today, now, that make the next moves easier.
I wondered when the grief would come, locked down tight as it is. And when it did it was not over someone dead but over people still living, grateful, so grateful for their role in my life and sad that they mightn’t be around so much longer. Before: massive ache in the eye sockets almost up under the eyebrows. Nausea. Neck and shoulder tension. Lips. Jaws. And a following of the breath so closely as never before. I think it’s the very is-ness of the breath that allows for the is-ness of grief.
#43 Miles Davis – Kind of Blue
This is like life itself.
Counting down the Top 50 over at Best Ever Albums. They’ve taken 6,600 greatest album charts and compiled them into an overall chart.
Awkward to begin with after uncomfortable dreams and a sickness in the body. By allowing the feelings near they released with a big squirm and tight ripple. Some time later, access to the idea that something is wrong and that I must keep moving in my mind. Proximity to this idea brought the realisation that this movement is entirely unnecessary and can cease of its own accord. Some time later, the curious shift whereby I am very very tiny and the body and even the head is so very vast. So much space and yet sort of a wall just in front. It’s happened a few times in my life, sometimes when listening to music. Some time later, no more awkwardness, sickness, concern, just the morning bird call and then the church bells ringing out at six.
One month until another ten day retreat, which will be the second. My aim is to sit twice a day. I’ve been meditating each day for one hour in the morning, usually lying down, which is a much more casual affair than sitting.
Head shaking strongly, releasing the neck. Crazy expressions of the mouth and a yawn that felt like my jaw was going to snap. Body knows better than fear. Eyes scrunched up, reaching into the tight small muscles. And me diving into all of this gently, gently, whilst the most intense sensations occur. And that delicious feeling when it happens: there is no where else I could be, nothing else I could be doing. This is the most valid thing. This is now. And then when the sensations are over I’m naturally, effortlessly meeting each thought anew, each feeling met gently and kindly. My eyes are moist and there’s a subtle smile on my lips. Hey man, now you’re really living.
pm Yoga Class
Still the sitting is helping the stretching. Some tight holding releasing week by week. Yoga class is a great gauge of this.
The final stage of the King’s Way, along the Itchen Valley to Winchester, via Avington, Martyr Worthy, Kings Worthy, and Abbots Barton. The Itchen Valley always makes for a beautiful walk. Today’s was enhanced by meeting a couple of pigs. Many churches along the way, and I rested in some of them. I entered the Winchester from the north, via Hyde Gate and Parchment Street, the residential area seamlessly meeting the city centre. It’s always interesting arriving at a town or city on foot. The King’s Way ends at the Cathedral, after 45 miles in total.
Eastney is at the south east corner of Portsea Island, meeting Southsea to the west and Milton to the north. Mainly residential with its late Victorian and early C20 terraces, the area near the coast is dominated by the large barracks built in the 1860s. These impressive military buildings are now apartments and the Royal Marines Museum. They were Designed by William Scamp of the Admiralty Works Department and include a water/clock tower, and the longest barrack block after Woolwich. DW Lloyd says:
The carefully laid-out site beside the seashore reflects its use by Marines; it is also probably the last large defensible barracks built in the country. Part of the best and most complete barracks of the post-Crimean War period.
Immediately to the east and west are the Eastney forts. Just to the north is the Portsmouth Pumping Station with its Beam Engine House and associated boiler room and other listed buildings on the site. Also included here, although really in Southsea, are the Eastfield Hotel (by pub architect AE Cogswell) and St Patrick’s church (a most unusual and appealing church by GE Smith). Being so different to the municipal and military architecture, these are shown first and then all of the listed buildings of Eastney (apart from Fort Cumberland.)
Get out of the way. You can’t do anything as you are the very one holding the status quo. Even when watching there can be an ever subtler pushing in a direction, towards pain, away from pain, a wanting that is hidden in the looking. Get out of the way and the scenario changes. How to get out of the way? It’s a step in a completely different direction to the directions you are used to going in. It might not even be a direction or a step at all; more like a negation into oneself. ‘Yourself’ turns inside out, back in on itself. A complete flip in another dimension altogether. Then the natural awareness is motive- and direction-free. Careless yet full of attentiveness. The ‘me’, the ‘you’ is so very overrated. The ‘me’ we think is helping is not helping very much at all. Going beyond is not to where we think it is. The beyond is so very close by, but you can’t see it or go there in your current form. Wrong vessel, wrong map. Abandon ship.
Body wracked with tension as if held in the very cells and bones. Nausea. Dizziness. Meeting each sensation as an equal, and despite the intensity, seeing if it is possible not to hate or fight it, even the worse things. Seemingly entering into the heart of things, via the body. The mind reacting to the body, choosing action based on feeling. Is it possible to uncover and meet everything head on and so learn?
The way to peace is through the trouble. When there’s no avoiding it any longer, it becomes you, and then the trouble changes into something else entirely, is understood without an understander and is over. And one finds oneself in a new state, on ground beyond where one stood minutes before. Yet minutes have lost their meaning and so has standing. All is new and peaceful and waves of joy wash residues away. And then from a direction unseen and unknown, another energy comes, further transforming and establishing an order unplanned. None of this involves will or effort. Resting in peace is not for the dead.
Up 05:50-0600. Wash.
Work by 09:00
This worked really nicely for me today. The main change in the above is switching yoga from morning to evening. After my neck injury last week, I realised that it is safer to stretch later in the day. And I enjoyed the walk before work, energising me for the morning after lying down for one song. Total time to myself, without any spiritual discipline, just me and the world waking up, with the rhythm of walking.
Learning to back off and observe more cleanly. Notice the steering and controlling and naturally step away, yet still entirely aware of what’s happening. As learning takes place, a different quality washes over the brain, one of space, freedom and often blissful energy. But not fantasy – this is very real, as real as all the gritty struggles and torments one is used to.
Unsteady foundations, like the floor of Bath Abbey built on thousands of graves. In sitting still, there can’t help but be an exposure of this wobbliness, and in the awareness of it, it dissipates. On going back to the breath each time, an intermediate stage was discovered. One of rejection or criticism. ‘I don’t want to think about that,’ therefore: back to the breath. This isn’t right practice. Yet right practice exposes this wrong practice. Then, once things are smoother and steadier, move to the body. This took ages to move very far. As soon as attention moved to sensations around the head, more unstableness was apparent. Then a thought loop, then back to the sensation, instability gone, until on a new area. By moving slowly, eventually I got to the injury recovered neck. So tight! Before the time was over, I’d skimmed down the arms but by this time I was wondering about the US Open and Federer’s form. Could sleep and sleep after but going for a walk.
Only on the way back I started to notice them. Slugs. Every one or two meters a couple more, most of them were the little white ones. The road was damp after the night’s rain so probably they would be able to get across without dehydrating. I rescued one or two of them with small sticks and put them in the grass. And yet there were too many of them to save them all. It was very warm in the direct sunshine, at 8 a.m., a quiet Sunday morning except for the main road, cars firing along, Red Bull cans along the verges. I picked a couple of them up that had been left in the lane. The walk today, down past the old farm shop, past the cottage with the Aston Martin along Riversdown Road (a lane), then across the A272 towards Woodlands. In the half hour out I almost got as far as the old school. A kind of steamy air, and slightly misty along the straight road at Brockwood Bottom, the sun rays coming through the trees and the mist. Glad to be out, and be able to be out, before work. Stepping on acorns and hazelnuts, crunching satisfactorily underfoot, kicking fallen sticks off of the road, dead wood fallen during quite a stormy night, the wind up. This morning, much stiller and the summer drawing to an end.
Worked on organising Spanish translated books all day. The architect of the Krishnamurti Centre, Keith Critchlow, gave a tour of the building to guests and visitors. I joined the group for a while. He said that Krishnamurti said that if he were a visitor, he would sit in the quiet library and listen to the sounds of the fountain in the courtyard. Thanks to donations, the fountain will soon be restored after years of not working.
Evening yoga, the first since the injury. Was able to do a short headstand without a problem, and otherwise going steady and gently. Pauses between poses, rushes of energy making me yawn and sometimes scrunch my face up. At one point my arm shook like in meditation.
A clear, aware, grounded day, once the foundations had been set early on.
Today we walked for an hour, maybe an hour and a half in the area of Gilbert Street, just north of the South Downs National Park. Gilbert Street sounds like a street. It isn’t, just part of the loosely connected settlements in the Ropley/Monkwood/North Street area, southwest of Alton.
From Ropely we crossed a vast hayfield to towards Lyewood House:
A good walk with many changes of countryside within quite a small area.