The final stage of the Wayfarer’s Walk, filmed in July 2019, from Portsdown Hill to Emsworth. The walk passes through Bedhampton before meeting the coast at Brockhampton, and along to Langstone and Warblington.
The final stage of the Wayfarer’s Walk, filmed in July 2019, from Portsdown Hill to Emsworth. The walk passes through Bedhampton before meeting the coast at Brockhampton, and along to Langstone and Warblington.
From the downland village of Hambledon, through Denmead and the eastern edge of the Forest of Bere, the path then slowly climbs the north side of Portsdown Hill near Widely.
Unfortunately my camera didn’t record the views from the hop overlooking Portsea Island, so I used a couple of pics found online to illustrate the hazy scene that day.
Awake in the night for a couple of hours. This has become normal for me now. Back to sleep around five, lapses into thought growing, reactions softening and body relaxing before oblivion returned.
Yet it wasn’t oblivion for long, dreams sparking up involving a festival I never quite made it to, now forgotten dramas along the way; my life but with the feel of a thousand films. So many films I’ve watched, in which the characters and me the viewer are sucked into a writer’s story, usually not fully resolved. So there they lie, these thousand stories, unresolved, unfinished business, to come out when there’s less for the brain to process day to day. But by now they’ve gotten twisted and a bit weird, mixed with the raw power of my own emotion and experience.
To bring light into this murky world of the dream. It’s never far away, ready to pull into a daydream, a thought fantasy, a random scenario unrelated to here and now.
AM 1 hour
And so a drifty dreamy hour’s sit, in my new corner the other side of the wall separating my new and old bedroom, facing a new direction: west. I don’t know how significant the way one faces is. I sat kneeling as my back didn’t like cross legged today. Although dreamy, there was a steady coming together of an initially scattered consciousness, bouncing around like tigger, with the fear of piglet. This boinging steadied about half way through.
Now I would like to sleep yet work starts in 30.
Spent much of the day writing out archives projects on our new list of todos for the charity as a whole. Steve and I talked a while about my unsettling experiences during the facilitating a couple of weeks ago. This was helpful. A respect is growing between us.
Lunch in the retreat centre with Steve, Roland who is back for a visit after five years, a hypnotherapist, and Louis who is back to guest help (volunteer). Roland and I had arranged to take a walk after work and we talked about his trauma therapy practice which is going very well and helping a lot of people, and also about our inner lives and explorations. This for an hour as the sun went down. At one point above West Meon the view suddenly opens up and we lingered as a soft mist formed in the valley.
After a quick supper I unpacked some more, finding a place for everything in the kitchen, then as I got more tired, my clothes, now all neatly in the closet. It was fun for a while to have an actual dressing room but at the same time it was unnecessary and an odd place to be each morning. Again, too many mirrors. I much prefer this place.
Then bath time yes indeed. A gentle self massage all over as muscles unwound, focussing on those curious muscle tingley tickley fizzes as I relaxed. Self massage is so good. I haven’t done it enough, and it’s such a caring thing to do for the body that works so hard for us.
Earlier as we walked through the darkening wood towards the end of the walk, Roland said our bodies come from the earth, the ground, and ‘we’, our consciousness, just inhabits them a while. Visitors.
One of the main reasons for moving flats was so that I could have a bath in the evening. And so I did and it was delicious. It’s a bit of an art to get the temperature just so and today it was slightly too hot. But it’s a good day when this is the only thing to complain about. Candlelight.
I spent the day moving from flat five to flat four. Fortuitously workmen put scaffolding up just before the weekend and on waking I suddenly realised I could use it to move my stuff from one window to the other, which are next door to each other on the first floor. This made it so easy. With help, my possessions were passed out of the window onto the scaffolding and then into the new bedroom window. This saved a lot of walking around the building with bag after bag or using the car. The only things to carry round was the mattress and the glass desk top.
I love my new flat! It feels so different to the hotel suite feeling I had next door for nine months. There is a light atmosphere and a very good, still energy to the place. There is more room in the bedroom for yoga instead of having to do it in the living room. The living room has lots of light and two curved wooden shelves made especially for the place. There is plenty of storage and a new kitchen table. The bathroom is smaller with only one mirror instead of the slightly ridiculous three, and of course it has a bath.
After a very relaxing and balancing siesta, I worked on the outside landing, removing an old IKEA shoe cabinet and vacuuming the stairs and entrance. It’s also nice to be next door to my good friend.
I hope there’s enough room for my meditation cushion once the bed arrives. The final item will be a sofa arriving sometime in November. Meanwhile I have a futon mattress in the living room. I’ve been thinking of getting an iMac for writing, and watching films on from the sofa.
So quite a domestic day, getting this new home in order. It feels so clean and fresh and I can relax here and study and meditate and stretch. The alarm is set for 620 and I aim to sit for one hour each morning then kind of meditate or at least unwind in the bath at the end of the day.
In my life it feels as if everything is fitting together and is in order. This is new to me and something I’ve craved for such a long time.
I’m kind of falling in love with the county, particularly Pubeck. There’s something delightful in the way the hills roll, and of course the coast is stunning. I could definitely live here.
Spent a good five hours at Kimmeridge in the bright sun. Two swims. So good to be in the water again or else relaxing on the flat stone beach and exploring rock pools. Found a cool group of fossils set in a metallic piece of slate. Another to our surprise in a prised apart lump.
The cliffs are eroding visibly and audibly. Every few minutes some more scree fell and occasionally bigger rocks. I had to warn two people who decided to sit right under the cliffs. Mid beach there had recently been a proper mudslide. The beach filled up as the tide went out.
Otherwise spending time at the now full campsite, reading and listening to Under the Skin, Russel Brand’s more serious podcast, and meditation in the morning’s filtered sun.
Sleep 95% which reflects a feeling that I’ve caught up, settled down and can rest more deeply. Also I’m in holiday mode, not getting up till gone 8.
AM 20 minutes
The horrible feeling of ricocheting around my own head, the pinballing of reaction and avoidance, has ceased and the movement of thought has lost its compulsion, strong drives and somewhat desperate avoidance. A deep pain powering that has dissipated.
A shorter sit due to resting longer and it being only a half day at work. Headed for Dorset this afternoon.
Woke around five and listened to the Swedish yoga nidra by Swami Janakananda. Actually not sure if he’s Swedish but he has an ashram there. It’s a good 45 minute recording that includes chakras and always drops me into deep relaxation and undoing of themes just below the surface.
Snoozed a little after and got up at 0650 to sit.
Again the contrast between the morning and evening sit. Fresh and rested there’s a natural ease in the mornings, an openness and readiness for the new. A new dawn a new day…
There’s also lingering sleep and daydreams await to take me back into an upright sleep on the cushion. Yet that’s happening all day, little thought-dream loops we take as normal. By sitting so long I am learning their nature, particularly the stickier more obsessive thoughts usually involving the women in my life. I realised towards the end those thoughts are coming from the heart where small ‘fissures’ could be felt almost physically and I realised how I skirt around these sensations. Staying nearer in curiosity there was a sudden release of thinking and just being with the heart and how it felt. Profound little stories told as sensations lessened, emotions released.
In this close proximity there is healing and renewal, as long as nothing is pushed. Effort strengthens what is already stuck. Instead, allowing the physical sensation to unattach the psychological hooks. This takes place deeply in strange symbolic form.
Worked from home today as the network guys moved to my office. Lunch outside with Michael and some new mature students, everyone here now for the new term with students arriving next week.
Talking with a Dorset friend much of the evening, about changes of lifestyle, a time of reflection for her, my course and where we are at. Proper open talking.
So only a 20 minute sit tonight. Sometimes my old mantra pops into my head and immediately there’s a deepening as thought quietens. I rarely repeat it these days but I don’t fight it when it comes. Very occasionally I choose to use it a minute or so.
A bit more than a week in to a sort of retreat. It’s not really a retreat, I’m working and doing everything I want as usual but it is a retreat in the sense I’m sitting consistently for an hour in the morning and an hour in the evening. It’s taken this long, a week, for a restlessness to settle, for some agonies to dissipate. The restlessness seemed to be powered by discomfort in the body, the discomfort seemed to stem from locked in tension.
So as I’ve been sat these eight days I was bouncing off very many sensations, pinballing about in a state of agitation. It’s been a great relief for this to ease day by day, sit by sit until finally this morning I am back to a relative cruise through the hour. Now the tensions are clearer, isolated in definite spots like right thigh, tops of shoulder, back of the neck, and attention is steadier as I linger in those areas. Same in the mind, sticky episodes and locked loops can be felt and in awareness allowed to unravel and fall away, lose their structure and nerve-bound integrity.
With the regular lengthy sitting my choices are clearer and I can go through the day less muddled about what I want and what needs doing and what’s unnecessary. There’s a steadiness and grounding readily available, accessible in a pause rather than yearning for it and waiting for a calmness at the end of the workday. I find myself in brief moments realising I am free and there is nothing to fear. A taste of possibility.
All of which is exactly what I wanted in this downtime between college and university. I have my place on the level five course, just waiting for the level three certificate from Winchester.
Lunch, appropriately in the retreat centre, which will soon become regular with one or two slots per week, to have more staff mixing with guests.
Editing work today, which really suits me. I can get stuck in and it’s enjoyable. Although today was noisey with the offices being fitted with upgraded ethernet, with fibre connecting with the school and beyond.
Proper yoga this evening, an hour. Mum rang and we chatted half an hour, updating on her visit next month and how Gran and Grandpa are. They’re still not wanting assistance and grandpa is refusing a walking frame despite his hip, and still doing all the cleaning.
This evening’s sit was harder, as usual for the evening with so much to undo itself, even with these mellow retreat-like days. But I’m doing it, showing up no matter how I’m feeling and staying with it. This is what matters.
Late to sleep after the evening out and slept until gone 8. A troubled night due to eating late, lots of wheat and the thought that I’ve upset someone. I find that hard, knowing my decisions have an impact on others’ lives. I am finally getting used to having a positive impact but when the impact is upsetting I fear anger and retribution. Also a concern for S who called during supper sounding not themselves.
AM 20 minutes
Same themes, sticking with deep breathing letting out little mournful sounds on long exhales. Suddenly the caring image of my first tutor came to mind and I was touched by her goodness and faith in me. Short session, getting late for work.
After work hanging out with S who is going through a hard time, hardly eating or sleeping for days now. We talked for a long time and I encouraged him to have a green smoothie. He left in better shape.
PM 20 minutes
A good reset at the end of the day. Towards the end noticing the ever shifting nature of the mind and began just to let it happen, no fight. In doing so a stillness developed behind or beyond all of the movement.
They’re doing a lovely job on the dining room floor at the school:
Woke at five and after some time in the early silence, I listened to the long yoga nidra by Maalika Shay Devi Dasi. It’s an hour and twenty minutes lying completely still. I remember when I first listened to it a couple of years ago only hearing bits of it, often lapsing into unconsciousness or sleep. Slowly, slowly it pieced together and now I pretty much hear the whole thing, although trails of thought lead off here and there.
AM 45 minutes
After a little rest, some listening to De La Soul and a little browsing, I sat. 0730, feeling alert if a little tired around the eyes. I probably need to stop wearing contacts all day. A fizzy unsettledness dashing here and there like in nidra, a spark of discomfort setting off thought reaction. Is involuntary thought simply reaction to something, aversion? A general feeling pervades of coming back to myself and letting go of the unnecessary whilst embracing the good within. Jaw realeasing as the head was tilted right back for a short while. Maybe meditation is the brain releasing. My body seems to recognise the opportunity to unwind, and with consistency it feels the brain is also.
Pretty much straight out after work to meet with A & J, two ex Brockwood friends. We ate somewhat dry pizza at Pi Woodfired and talked of working with trauma and those with addictions, changes at Brockwood since they left and our new directions. Interestingly we are all returning to studies, all of us in our 40s. One week has gone, so I will hear back from Chichester within two weeks.
Back late and so I only sat for ten minutes. No matter how late or what’s going on I want to keep up this minimum.
Sleep quality 77%
Sleepy after yesterday’s bodywork and waking in the slump of a sleep cycle.
Bodywork: It was wonderful and excruciating and rare to be touched so deeply. I was encouraged to allow any sounds to be expressed on each exhale. Most often this was deep moans but sometimes it turned into growls, sobs and even swearing. Somewhere at the base of the thumbs, I let out a “Jesus!” And she said, yes that’s why we call this one the Jesus point. I didn’t know what to do with the pain. Good pain. How can we be carrying this with us?
The session was a combination of deep massage and pressure on what I suppose are acupressure points and even working on the bones. After the intense work it got gentler and when she worked in the heart area I felt great love, for her that moment and for everything. I wept a little more then.
She said it may take some time to return to balance as the body was still be working on healing itself, triggered by the contact with those deep points, and this is no doubt why I feel sleepy and a bit too relaxed to get going this morning.
AM 45 minutes
Sitting and scanning the body often feels to me like a massage, but instead of physical touch it’s a inner feeling of sensations, all and any sensation on all parts of the body. I love this holistic aspect of meditating this way.
I felt great during the day, and found myself instinctive taking breaks as needed instead of ploughing on through getting fizzier as the hours pass. Little resets.
Lunch under the tree with a man from Lincolnshire, a county I know nothing about. He worked London busses in the 70s and spoke of how you could pause around the corner letting the bus in front take most of the passengers and hence work. Also A&H were there with their new baby along with a visiting girl from Barcelona. On walking I found a natural smile had spread across my face for no particular reason. I then enjoyed beating back the brambles in the cricket pitch wood.
Yoga after work, 15 mins on neck and shoulders with an online video. Not sure if I’ve posted this before but it’s great for getting in there:
She’s pretty good, apart from the tuts.
PM 45 minutes
A brief resistance to stopping chatting at 21:00 but mostly I wanted to return to the cushion. Deep breathing getting more fluid and smooth during the first 20 mins, then inhabiting the body deeply and closely feeling sensation without struggle to focus.
Workers are sanding the floor at the school in the dining room and sitting room:
Six months after the west section, here is the video for the eastern part of the Oxdrove Way
I started back in Old Alresford and proceeded in a 22km loop around Abbotstone Down, Bradley, Lower and Upper Wield and back over classic downland. The walk follows ancient green lanes and ox droves and is often contained within tree tunnels.
In January, on a cold, clear day, I walked the western part of the Oxdrove Way. For one reason or another, I only just round to editing it. The eastern section follows soon.
The Oxdrove Way is a 25-mile looped long distance path in mid-Hampshire. I started in Old Alresford and headed west, above the Itchen Valley to Itchen Wood and the M3, then back over downland via Abbotstone. Much of the walk follows old cattle droves or green lanes.
Sleep 93%. I was asleep before 2200 and the nightly wake up was, surprisingly and unusually, at around midnight. I slept with my eye mask on and so there was no dawn waking. I felt pretty much fully awake to get up at 0630.
AM 1 hour
I may criticise myself for lapsing into fantasy or thought:
‘I should be present’
I may then criticise myself for criticising myself:
‘I should return to the present easily, naturally’
I may then criticise for being critical at all:
‘I should be kind to myself’
All are equal in their quality of ‘should’ and none is simple enough. The fact is that there was fantasy or thought. There is nothing wrong. The fantasy itself has its own quality, its suchness. The waking from this and the sharp or subtle criticism has its own quality. And all reach for the future rather than acknowledging themselves as happening.
And then a quick burst of ‘no, one should be gentle on returning to the present’ based on some instruction given in the past or what’s worked before, forgetting that the very critical element is the reality in that moment.
Then the reverie that criticism isn’t necessary, and that too is the reality the actual going on.
To include it all and seeing that none has higher value. This neutralises the entire goings on to a mere ticking of a mechanism, the mind going round and along, perhaps pretending or under the illusion that it’s getting somewhere.
Include it all.
And then from nowhere, or from the very realisation of all this, another state springs forth, a spacious peace, clarity and openness, coupled with sublime bliss and tingles that can’t be conjured.
Sleep 88%. Awoke at the end of the Sleep Cycle wake up phase, still in deep dreams, having slept again after a 5am iRest Meditation. I need a morning soon where I can sleep on and on, to catch up on something.
AM 1 hour
So it was a dreamy sit, the first half not so much different to being in bed just before. Perhaps I need to splash more water on my face, get awake. But still, it becomes interesting, the sleepy awareness and the fluid daydreamy thinking and fantasies.
The second half I was a bit more awake, aware of myself as a slightly fizzy vibration, subtly reacting to an agitation hidden just below. This agitation fuelling movement within, like the source of all aversion. And then deep pleasures emanating from the lower body and so the attraction towards them. And sometimes a tremendous presence of just being and immediate release of energy purging through the head and body bringing an overwhelming bliss.
Ended with loving kindness meditation for five minutes: myself, someone loved, someone not liked, someone neutral, the community, the country, the continent, the world, myself.
A new yoga class this evening. Not sure I’ll go back as it wasn’t anything I can’t do at home. Still, there’s the social side of it and there was an accomplished balance to the class. I’ll weigh this against the location, very near a main road with traffic noise.
Lunch with Dax, one of my favourite singers who is visiting awhile from London . I haven’t seen him in a couple of years and it was good to catch up. After this he’s cycling to north Devon via Glastonbury in just three days. He will do Glastonbury in one!
Early night needed and achievable.
AM 1 hour
The course being over and the international committee meetings finished, a sense of space opened up during yesterday, a feeling of wanting to go within, to return to myself, to let scattered fragments find a place and everything settle down. This was the want, the yearning and it was clear that time in quiet was needed. So I sat for an hour instead of the 20 minutes I’d become used to lately. 20 minutes is enough for a quick reset but not for real integration and to touch upon deeper aches, thoughts and themes.
Within the open space of an hour, the drive of compulsive doing, and wanting to do, has to have an answer, has to quieten or understand itself, since it clearly has no place in doing nothing, sitting quietly in a corner. It can take some time to settle and that can be bumpy. It’s certainly a ride worth riding out, maybe like a bucking bronco. And the rider can’t be stern or controlling as every attempt makes it worse, prolonging the agitation. You have to go with it, lightly.
The bitter taste of some recent events sweetened during the hour. The sadness of leaving my college peers was touched upon again, a feeling that even though I cried at the time, it hadn’t fully released given the activities of the weekend and evening avoidance. Why is emotion scary? What is the resistance to feeling fully? Entering the unknown. I like to be in control and yet that’s an exhausting illusion that I ever can be in control where emotion is concerned. My sadness or fear is no worse than anyone else’s and may even be exactly the same.
A very enjoyable lunch with two old friends here for the work party. Relaxed talk as we caught up and shared where we were at with a few things – study, love life, work. Then after eating, messing around with Jenga bricks, stacking them high in vertical stonehenges. Then siesta as the rain fell beyond the window.
I had my final free session with the crystal healer this evening and like lunch it was very relaxed but in a very different way. An inward unwinding and releasing of past events, feelings of great joy and wellbeing coursing through me. I lingered between awake and asleep and got so relaxed I didn’t realise how long I lay. She finally ‘brought me back’ after over an hour (usual sessions are 40 minutes) saying she was quite happy to let me lie there peacefully while she did paperwork for her professional development. I felt blissful.
Later I started on my assignments for Chichester University entry, allowing me to skip level 4 study. I have two weeks. Meanwhile Portsmouth are looking for the accreditation of my degree year I got when thinking of studying modularly in 1994, which negates the need for the assignments.
PM 20 minutes
Erect spine with no effort, its natural lift allowing the body to sink down and relax, everything in balance. Waves of bliss again on cessation of thought, revisiting the feeling during the healing (which I sense will return on retiring for the night after some online chats and posting this). A clearing of the mind of the day whilst clarity arose about necessary things to do in the coming days and social life.
A quote from an article I read this morning about the ongoing 6th Mass Extinction Event:
“Humanity will eventually pay a very high price for the decimation of the only assemblage of life that we know of in the universe.”
As a friend said, that’s quite a line.
Woke with the birds and dozed until 0530
Yoga nidra, the long one that goes through the different layers of being, from physical to blissful.
A tangible sense of calming down throughout, accelerated by touching upon true feeling.
Interesting how after a night of rest I can wake stressed, scattered. Sleep is not enough to allow change. I get the sense I’m much the same in sleep as awake. So moments of stillness and connection in awareness become all the more necessary.
Half an hour browsing, reading an extract from Creatures of a Day by Irvin Yalom as recommended by Derren Brown. Facebook can be all right.
Sitting. Head shaking rapidly, jaw realeasing, then when everything is still, that buzz of fear in the lower chest. Why have I spent so much time avoiding this, repelled by it? Where might feeling it fully take me? It is a powerful force but it’s not supreme.
After work, walked along the lane under the copper beeches now liquorice. Turned into the ancient woodland and onto my favourite local path, a singletrack that winds through the trees where it gets too muddy, taking those routes even when dry. Out into the head height ferns, chopping the path clear with a whipping stick. They are still unfurling.
Over the style that’s got no plank into the horse meadow, crows cawing overhead. Why? Then I see. A young ‘un in the long grass, unable to fly. It hops away as best it can. I catch up with it to see if there’s something I could free it from. Twine? Plastic? But there’s nothing so I leave it be. I briefly think of the bird man who once lived over the road and who would rescue needy birds. He had a huge snowy owl that the local owls would come to talk to in the night. The crows still circled, warning me off. I continued towards the Meon lane. A friendly spaniel and a smiling but apologetic wealthy lady. People always apologise for their dogs. Then along the bridleway and following the track downhill, where it becomes hobbity, sunken below complex roots and earth banks.
Suddenly a view. East towards Meon Hut.
A glorious morning for walking, the sun bright and the wind gently buffeting. After a restful night and packing a smoothie breakfast I set out for a couple of hours hiking. Around West Meon, much of it was on grass and so I walked barefoot, grounding being a current theme. On taking a break overlooking the Meon Valley, I met a woman with a pug, panting and sniffling. It was out for a longer walk to lose weight ahead of the vets in a few days. Previously it had passed out in the excitement of its owner arriving home. She also told me about her three cats which compete to bring her rats, often live. Country living.
Grounding… A crystal healer yesterday told me I was ungrounded and worked to balance this. I don’t know if it’s ‘real’ but I definitely noticed an effect between lying still and lying still with just one stone. With several on and around me I felt safe, balanced, protected. These are free sessions; I wouldn’t go otherwise, or at least it wouldn’t be my first choice of therapy. I went years ago and a protective shield was put around me, again very noticeable. If it’s all in the mind it’s a very powerful way to tap into that. Today I felt very good out for the walk and positive about the presentation ahead. Being back at college also helped along with good advice from a friend.
It’s all about awareness
I suspect it’s a default state
It certainly isn’t something to do
It is when doing is not
The rain fell and my head ached
Finished watching the film Paterson, which I highly recommend. Observational, balanced, subtle. Poetic, touching, with sadness and humour.
Woke at 0500. Yoga nidra with Julie Rader, her of the dolphins and meeting a teacher in a cave near the beach. She brings in elements of visualisation and guided meditation. Slept a little afterwards until 0630.
AM 45 minutes
Breathing in for four, out for eight, a clearing, resetting and grounding breath. As yesterday, groans and moans on the exhalations. Tightness in lower jaw and shoulders. Moving through the body, realising how scattered the mind is, subject to subject, fear nearby. On noticing this I calmed down and could feel that the jumbled thoughts were responses to the fear, moving moving. Again, what does it really feel like, fear? It’s been so common in my life but it’s still a stranger to me; I know it from afar. Inviting it closer, easing nearer. Nausea. Fizziness at the solar plexus. Intense awkwardness and lots of energy seeming to be swirling like a whirlpool or vortex. Reactions easing as the sensations were felt. No sense of anything changing but maybe the intensity was fading. I could only handle so much of this directness, it seemed and attention was drawn elsewhere: legs tight and a slight headache. Sleepy. The feeling I need to rest and rest.
Aiming for steady days, with so much happening this month: two essays to finish (tidy), presentation about myself for 15-20 minutes, portfolio to put together, skills assessment, interview for next course. Step by step, acknowledging achievements.
My sleep is improving, averaging 83% over the month, up from 70% or so the month before.
Evening sit a bit dreamy and full of pleasant sensation, like drifting off into sleep…
Tree I sat next to at lunchtime, chatting with a friend, beautiful even in death: