All posts by Duncan Toms

About Duncan Toms

Outsider, Yogi, Surfer, Photographer, Walker

Meditation Journal 14 April 2014 – The voice

A voice has spoken to me twice in my life, a voice more direct than someone standing right next to me, at once more powerful and real than any thinking or listening. Even more real than a voice, yet it used words. The first time was in the late 90s when I had started to lie down in a place of comfort and security and… I don’t know, just relaxing, in awareness, apparently going deeper and deeper… and then from nowhere it said: YOU TOOK YOUR TIME. In a friendly and slightly joking yet austere kind of way, very welcoming. And that was it. And it was true, it had taken me a very long time to learn to relax, I realised.

The second time was maybe 7 years later, at a friend’s in London and I was smoking a joint (something I gave up years ago now) and so for a time I was alone, sitting on a chair, others in the house occupied elsewhere. Suddenly I was very calm and centred and from nowhere it said: WHERE HAVE YOU BEEN TRYING TO GET TO? This time more austere than jokey, slightly reprimanding but not hard or punishing, just frank and true. And I realised I had been struggling for a long time to get away from myself, to escape, to get to some kind of peace… ‘over there’, looking, searching. I implicitly trusted the voice.

These two sentences were with me this morning as I sat, with some regret that I didn’t begin this regular practice earlier. I know that I couldn’t have, that I wasn’t ready and when I tried I soon stopped, I couldn’t force it, but the regret was still there despite the rationalisation. And it was very clear that I am still trying to get some place on some level. More and more I am seeing that any kind of striving in a direction is unnecessary and in fact leads nowhere. There’s nothing to run from either. Getting closer is the only way, if there is a way. More myself rather than less.

I did find myself asking the voice to speak to me again, but these two sentences of guidance are all I’ve received and are probably quite enough. For now.

Meditation Journal 13 April 2014 – Thought undoes itself from within

am 50 min

Woke having been dreaming I was in conversation with Noel Gallagher for a couple of hours. I asked how he spent his time these days. Oh, googling, was his reply.

A ‘no technique’ session. Noticed how decision is limited, divisive. Thought can undo itself. If there is a bringing back to the present when noticing thinking, then judgement, choice, preference is involved, and the chain reaction continues. When thought itself undoes itself, from within itself not from without, then there is something new. The chain reaction is broken in that moment. Thinking may not be the problem we think it is. Choosing may be. Head full of a light at times, a light that had nothing to do with the lamp or with the dawn light through the window.

It’s 7:20 and the motorbikes are out, screaming along the A272.

Meditation Journal 12 April 2014 – Modification by the mind is not accurate

am 1hr

Up at 6 as usual. Sat down in my corner by the window and radiator, only slightly on now that it’s spring proper. Sky light after a stunning red before dawn, seen out of the bathroom window. On the cushion of husks, on a padded mat, a wool blanket around my shoulders, which usually has fallen by the time it’s over. Not that it’s ever really over, but the hour goes, very soon compared to an hour say at work or reading. After letting thinking dominate for 20 minutes or so, trying to solve unfinished business, reminding me of outstanding issues in the office, things to do, emotions current and long past, I began a casual scan from the head to the feet. After a couple of rounds, the connection got deeper, the feeling of the body much closer, and the character of each part of the body and its sensations right now more apparent. I lingered where sensation was stronger, back of the neck and shoulders today, pelvic floor, genitals, bearing in mind the tendency to run with the nice feelings and shun the tense or painful. It is all what it is. And modification of that by the mind is not accurate, is a vain attempt to do something about it. This is a mistake. Not to condemn it, but it is false. Sensation is valid, genuine, real, and there it is, curious and calling out. Through much of it, the head shaking side to side and there’s no stopping it without great unnecessary effort, so I don’t.

pm 45 min

The high of TV watching gave way to the reality of me sat on a cushion, stiff neck, shoulders and my head involuntarily shaking. I suppose it’s my body’s attempt to release tension. A relief to sit quietly of an evening; so easy to occupy endlessly.

Meditation Journal 8 April 2014 – An undoing of doing

Wanted to lie down, as usual, then I asked: what’s the difference? Is it really safer, more comfortable? I’ll sit down again soon, maybe after the weekend. ‘Soon’ could be today, why not? And so I sat down, simple, no argument or debate or pressure. And when I sat I saw that any technique would be a desirous movement towards something or away from something. So I just sat. Of course, then there is ample time for thinking about various things at work or in my life. I didn’t do the classic: ‘and now return to the breath.’ Who was ‘I’ to do that? Why would I do it? No, it’s more natural. Anyway, once returned to the breath, what then? The cycle continues. No, it’s more natural, the attention simply moves nearer, a layer of activity drops away. It seemed to be ‘nearer’ rather than ‘deeper’, a coming closer to home rather than an exploration of the depths. No exploration, no seeking, no trying to work it out or find something, rather a coming home. Come home. Come home. Return. And yet not even a movement in that direction, more like an unfolding, an undoing of doing. And one doesn’t do this unfolding or undoing, it occurs. This all felt very restful, and anything that wasn’t restful or natural was exposed as the effort and subtle struggle it was. Everything is as it is, I don’t have to work it out. Waves of bliss, waves of strife, waves of pain, all come and go and preference towards or against any is unnecessary.

Meditation Journal 6 April 2014 – Spooked by my own body

Scattered at the start, moving rapidly around the body, as if in some stress and that something’s wrong. Calmed down as I continued moving, sensing, seeing how I dart away from certain areas, linger in others. Listening, listening, feeling, feeling, the reality of the body and mind. I wonder if there is anything to be anxious about. Do I do it to myself? Like spook myself? The future based on the past. Things happened in the past and so they are going to happen again, so… watch out! Be on guard. Be nervous. It’s coming. The worse thing is coming. All sorts of anxiety based on – what? – sensations. Spooked by my own body and it seems perfectly possible not to be. 

Meditation Journal 29 March 2014

The default state of fear is so familiar. Waking up from a deep night’s sleep after fearful dreams. Washing and brushing teeth, there’s something coming up to be afraid of. Sitting in the corner of the bedroom, fear is around the corner. Fear of the past, fear of the future. Sitting still, birds singing outside, body strong and comfortable on the cushion, what’s to be afraid of? I don’t know. But it’s there, seemingly. Without going in any direction I held the fear close, noticing its flavour and substance, and how it felt in the mind and the body. So familiar. There for as long as I can remember. There’s something to be afraid of, there’s something to be afraid of. At least right now, I think, there’s nothing. No one to interact with, nothing I have to do. So fear is a residue or imagination and those can be met in stillness, now, while I’m sitting here. It soon becomes clear that I am intwined with the fear, it’s not something other than me. Just feeling it, allowing it near, suddenly there is no fear different from me. My very attitude seems to be the fear itself. There’s not a thing made of fear, it seems to have no substance of itself but only in relation to me. I can’t say that it ended or dissipated or dissolved entirely but there’s now a handle on it, the way it works and the way I work. And the key to this tricksy lock seems to be in nothing but awareness. Not a doing of awareness but simpler than that.

Meditation Journal 28 March 2014

Awoke around four, like at Dharma Dipa, and after realising I was wide awake and would be for some time, I began to sit at around four thirty. Excruciating. No defences left and noticing that residence makes it worse. Strong pain behind the forehead. Breathing, breathing, and then even this stopped for long moments. Another time I kept breathing out, out, out; was it even possible to breathe out this far? Abdomen sucked right in. The organism has the seat, there’s very little I can do about anything. And that’s something of a relief despite the agony. And if there isn’t resistance, is it really agony at all? Right in the heart of it, it seems to be something else entirely. If nothing else, this sitting every day is deeply satisfying, like scratching an itch I have felt for years but haven’t been able to reach. Vipassanna reaching deep, deep inside.

Meditation Journal 27 March 2014

This is as total as it’s been, awareness throughout the whole body, an exquisite tension throughout, hot spots calling out louder: back of right thigh, shoulders, neck. My face in a kind of silent scream, pulses of energy moving throughout, using the spine as a main channel. Before this, a dropping away of various doings, sometimes reluctantly, but understanding that I hide in all partial actions, like ‘watching’ or ‘moving through the body’ or resisting. Not to force not do these things but in the doing of them the very doing is obvious and can drop. Also the avoider. Even avoiding the sensations I think I like. Too much ecstasy? Go somewhere else! Feel something different! Think something, get lost in a little daydream or thought. Too much pain? Likewise. Down to very subtle feelings: avoid, avoid. The avoiding and avoider can also be understood in this exposure and cessation or retirement has a chance, instead of the usual do do do. Not that cessation is a reaction to doing. Sitting way past the hour chime, impossible to end then, but there comes a time when the energy has settled and it’s back to a more regular sitting still, thinking a bit, and then it can end, itching for another dose of actuality later on but likely to be tomorrow.

Meditation Journal 22 March 2014

I’m at the edge of something. This is as far as I’ve dared go before. Or been able to.  Or been allowed to. Limitations are dropping away and so is my ability to control. I see my puny little desires squirting in this direction or that, all the while something growing, building, gaining strength and power, something way beyond me. Yet in a way it is not beyond me, it is the ‘total me’ in sense, or the total organism of which ‘me’, the chooser, seems now to be a very tiny part. Overwhelming energy. A force field around my whole body, the physical enclosed and protected by it, yet not a closed system, but open to everything, the cosmos. The direct way in (and out?) seems to be through the top of the head, the very top part of the crown, from which the practice starts. Not that it’s anything much to do with the practice itself. Perhaps the practice prepares the organism for this something beyond. There’s a connection not imagined but more real than anything I’ve known.

Listen With Prejudice – #41 Arcade Fire – The Suburbs – Album Review

#41 Arcade Fire – The Suburbs
Before: Perhaps overworthy mild angsters
This is really something. Starts off sounding like Badly Drawn Boy then sounds like no one else, but instantly familiar. Some 70s, some 80s, 90s, 00s and right now. All of it. We go back to childhood, we see relationships now, growing up, adolencence, going back again. We have prisons of the mind and the environment. An environment of sprawl, where potential is stifled. Often the music sounds purposefully held back, like the neighbourhood itself, as if it is recorded right there in a garage, next door neighbour’s curtains twitching. Perhaps overlong at one hour but the tempo changes, the lead vocalist changes, the guitar based sound turns to electronica with keeping somehow a sustained overall feel. A concept album that never sounds forced but natural, life’s moments set within a perhaps unatural setting for human life. Their most accessible album and their best yet.
After: Rich, genuine; modern life sealed within an album or suburb

 

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.

Meditation Journal 21 March 2014

How can that have been an hour? Seemed like about twenty minutes. Woke this morning with strong jealousy, a partner receiving a really cool letter from a really cool guy. This jealous and inferior feeling ate at me during the sitting, an overly sweet, nauseous sensation in the chest to the right of the heart. It eased after some time, seemingly melting away. Back to where it came from or away away, I don’t know. Then hatred towards a person who could make me feel like this. Not the letter-writer but the girl. And not really any one girl but a blend.

Moving through the body, a painful ache in the right shoulder. Later my right hand went into an impossibly tight fist. Head shaking. Spine bent forward at times. And in the middle of this intensity, the hour was up, surprising me. I felt it was important to finish, not drag myself out and up just because the hour was over, instead waiting until I was back to the top of the head, spine straight, shaking ceased, yet a nagging that I want to touch more, something being left unturned, unfelt, calling. Sat still with eyes open a while and felt very much myself in the early morning.

Meditation Journal 20 March 2014

Goodness gracious me! This for sure with no hesitation is the thing to be doing. Sitting down, shutting, up and learning what doing is necessary and what can cease. And as it eases, naturally, of its own accord, what joy! Then waves of ecstasy, bliss and overwhelming wellbeing. Strong connection between the top of the head and the base of the spine. A magic conduit. Everything joins up, mind and body and all through the organism, connected as if the divisions never were real. It’s not easy. By any means it’s not easy. There is a kind of hard-fought ease and once it comes I wonder what the struggle and effort was about. Unnecessary. So many unnecessary activities out in the world and internally. Powerful surges up through the spine and head shaking faster than I thought possible, shoulders unwinding and energy moving up through the head and out to who knows where. And the hour is over, it’s duration some kind of crazy time, not a normal hour at all.

Meditation Journal 19 March 2014

One has to get physical. It’s easier to sit and wander around one’s head, thinking, worrying, remembering, imaging and planning, but it’s when you get out of your head and enter into the body thing that shit gets real. Very solid feeling today, very grounded, achy, less flightingly sexy and more earthy. It seemed so deep, the muscle aches, the holding on, like right down to the inner muscles I have little idea of anatomically. There’s excruciation and inside that pain there is a validity, a depth of gratefulness that this fact of my body has been touched, listened to, held in awareness. Hello body! I’m sorry to have ignored you for so long, or only partially used you and probably more than partially abused you. I’m here and we’re in this together. Thank you. I’m stronger physically now and it seems that this allows a deeper, less fearful adventure in attention.

Meditation Journal 18 March 2014

Back to sitting to meditate, rather than the lying down I’ve been doing for months. I’m feeling physically strong after regular work outs, some yoga each morning and last week’s surf trip. Strong energy too, sexual and otherwise. I maintain that it’s not sexual energy or any other kind of categorisation, but just energy itself. Life perhaps. Life force, they call it. It moves in different, secret, strange and regular ways. Body movements: head shaking, mouth loose, feet flexing, particularly the arches, the right arm a bit, shoulders, and penis in various states of erection or not. Such bliss! An overwhelming feeling, not knowing if I’ll come, faint, scream, laugh, and then it’s none of these things but a total washing, nothing else but this feeling, no ‘me and it’ for those seconds, moments, time lost. One awareness slide down through the body, back up, and down again in one hour.

 

 

Hampshire Architecture – Portsmouth: Milton, Fratton, Hilsea (Listed Buildings)

The merest hints of the former villages of Milton, Fratton and Hilsea before they were swallowed by the rapid Victorian expansion of Portsmouth east and north, with a few old houses (including the TE Owen former vicarage opposite the impressive St Mary’s church, Gatcombe and Great Saltern houses). Otherwise, the listed buildings among the dense terraced houses are institutional: the former workhouse of St Mary’s House north of the hospital, cemetery chapels, C20 churches, the prison, Carnegie Library, and St James Hospital. Here I present the listed buildings in these areas. All photos taken in Feb 2014 by myself.

 

 

Hampshire Architecture – Portsmouth: Stamshaw (Listed Buildings)

A 19th Century dairy depot, a converted 20th Century church,  a couple of pubs, a smart row of townhouses reminiscent of Southsea, and that’s pretty much it for listed buildings in this area. The rest of west Portsmouth near the Motorway is row upon row of victorian terraces and post-war developments, among which these old and distinctive buildings can be found.

Hampshire Architecture – Hinton Ampner (Listed Buildings)

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.

Meditation Journal 12 & 13 November 2013

12

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. 

13

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.