Existential Experience

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A gap of two months or so since my last post, whoa, time flies! It’s been a busy time with three weeks away sailing, editing my first book, working on the cover, getting close to finishing the first draft of my next book, planning another cover, learning more about self published marketing, producing a five-year plan for my writing, creating the plot for my next book (actually a series of five books, OMG what task have I set myself!), plus holding down my day job, and more. Something had to give and it was this blog.

But back to the title and the photo –

The picture was taken at one of my favourite places, Loch Tarbert, Isle of Jura in the Scottish Highlands. The rainbow was stunning and stayed as it is in the photo, about half a mile away, for about thirty minutes.

Now, the opinion I want to express, and the theme of this post –

The photo is attractive, though it would have been taken better by a professional photographer with superior equipment (rather than a point and shoot iphone). But that is beside the point. No matter how good the photo it cannot replace the experience of being there. The colours will not render as true to nature, however ‘HD’ they are. There is no record of the smells, the touch of wind on my face, the sound of birdsong, the taste of the salt air, the immaculate peace of the moment, experiencing all those things right there, whilst witnessing the scene.

This is one reason I don’t take photographs very often. I see a beautiful sight in my daily life, or visit places on sailing adventures where the scenery is spectacular over a field of view of 360 degrees. You can’t photograph that, images yes, the experience, no. If I experience a profoundly beautiful moment, perhaps with wildlife or a fantastic view then show a photo of such, and this has happened, the response is usually something like  ‘oh, that’s nice’. No! It wasn’t ‘nice’, it was fucking amazing! But you have to have been there. You can’t experience someone elses experiences.

What about using photos to assist memory? The only photographs I would wish to re-view are those of scenes that are so ingrained in my memory that the moment lasts a lifetime, so the photos would be redundant anyway. A danger is that by reaching for a camera, focusing and composing, we lose the moment, not for the image but for ourselves, especially a fleeting moment.

I recall a moment many years ago while sailing in the Western Approaches, somewhere between Ireland and Lands End. It was dawn, a warm sunrise, a placid sea and blue skies, no land in sight, perfect peace and tranquility after the previous day of harsh weather. But then it became sublime; a school of a dozen or so dolphins broke the surface, and played with the boat.

 As they surged at the bow, shot under the keel, and entertained themselves I called my then wife who was asleep. She didn’t hear. I considered searching for my camera, or going below to shake her, but resisted. I didn’t know how long the moment would last, ten minutes or a few seconds. So instead I ignored the desire to record the event on film and ‘recorded’ that beautiful moment in my mind. 20-plus years later the memory and the feelings are still with me, as clear as the moment in which they happened. I had learnt a valuable lesson.

It is not possible to experience life through tv, social media, video, glossy magazines, etc, nor with the distraction of being permanenly connected to a smartphone as if you have no life without one. These are entertainment and tools for modern living, not life itself, but they have become the bulk of what many people experience as ‘life’, living through other people’s experiences, force-fed beliefs and opinions, losing their own; plugged into the Matrix of media.

As an exception I would argue (with some bias!) that a good novelist can transport you to new realms of experience, though you are still living his/her experience or creation not your own.

I love a fascinating insight by Stephen King in his book ‘On Writing’, he says that a book is telepathy. Really, it is. A book you may be reading is implanting facts or a story in your mind from the mind of the author many years and miles distant. From his mind to yours across time and space – telepathy truly! A beautiful thought.

The only way to experience life is through your own actions and state of mind. To be present in the moment, alive to your surroundings through every sense. To go out and live new sights, to search out new experiences, and create your own world. For creating our world is what we actually do, we create our own reality – the subject of forthcoming posts.

Existential experience of life, not existence by proxy.

To finish, a couple of loosely related images. How not to live in the moment. Both humorous and a sad indictment of the current state of much of ‘civilised’ society 🙂the_zombie_apocalypse_has_begun_big

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Heart Music

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When the beloved calls

The song in the heart

Is he Song of Songs

The ancient vibration

Of cosmic love

The sound of eternity

 

When the beloved calls

A vibration so fine

Dissolves all matter

To its true reality

Which is the non-existent

Ephemeral product of mind

 

When the beloved calls

Only the frequency

That binds energy

To itself in structure

Appears as solid form

Tremors in the matrix

 

When the beloved calls

The pull in the heart

Is the knowing of life

Immortal, never formed

Never ending, bound

In one unifying awareness

 

When the beloved calls

The union is seen

Vibrations in harmony

Nothing more is present

The meeting of souls

With the music of the spheres

Elementals #3

flames

Fire/salamander

The spark of life
Impetuous joy
Lighting the world
Carefree and light
Bringing warmth,
wild, bold and bright.

The spirit of dance
Passionate, burning
With brash intensity
Blazing a trail
The torch bearer
Conquering darkness

You are the beacon
Yet you live to consume
Transforming all matter
To finer existence
Purifying with love
Bonding and fusing.

Vigorously clothed
In radiant colours
Rainbow hues entice
and lure, but not too close
for your bite is acid and
zealous in its ambition.

The next part will be posted in two days, be sure to check back. Comments are always welcome and please share on your social networks,

Elementals #1

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Earth/Gnome

Solidarity with mother earth
Protecting her nurturing instinct
At one with her heavenly movement
You stand sure-footed on her soil

In her forests you meditate
Upon the foundations of order
Watching her children grow
Possessing the gift of healing.

You are grounded, existing deep
In tune with her vibration
The guardian of all that fly, crawl,
walk and swim within her realm

The earth is life and belonging
In circles of vast complexity
She does not belong to us
We belong to her, the great mother.

The next part will be posted in two days, be sure to check back. Comments are always welcome and please share on your social networks.

Meditation made simple

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Introduction – The act of meditation is simple, yet at the same time it is a complex subject. In different forms it has been a part of all belief systems down the ages, though in many it has been the reserve of the mystics or shamans and not the general populace. But common prayer is also a form of meditation if the mind is engaged correctly.

Here I take a brief look at simple meditative practice, its purpose and an attempt to resolve perceived problems. As such it is aimed primarily at beginners or those in the early stages of practice but without a teacher and who are having difficulties.

 

What is Meditation? – First, let’s demystify it. Forget about gurus, cross-legged yogis, new-agers, tree huggers or ay other preconceived images you have of the practice. Meditation is actually an innate ability that most of us have lost as we have been consumed over the centuries by the egoic mind of thought, analysis, self aggrandisement and protection. Added to that our lives have grown ever more complex, the central cause of which is our desire for material gain. In a similar way people believe they must search for God. We have never lost God. God lives within us as has always been the case, but we have become desensitised to the presence, and so it is with meditation.

The rational thinking mind was a tool for us to use, but has grown into a monster by which we identify ourselves. It is not who we really are. Meditation brings us into contact with our true selves and the present moment, a place of stillness and silence, but it is not static. Within that still place dwells all energy, all creation and all knowledge. Every moment is the seed of life.

The aim of meditation is to bring to awareness the consciousness of who we really are. To ignore the incessant chatter of the mind, to step back from it and dwell for a period in the timeless realm of our inner being. The sense of peace and understanding this brings, the connection to all of life, the entire cosmos, is beyond compare and simple meditation can be used to enhance our daily lives and the lives of those about us. The more we meditate, the more we retain the knowledge from our meditations that the lives we lead are often a very shallow representation of reality and so our actions and reactions, and our interpretations of the world, become ever finer, our judgement clearer and our negative impact upon ourselves, others and the planet is reduced. We begin to become attuned to life. Meditational practices can move on to more complex manifestations, yet the simple practice of stillness and mindfulness of the present moment can lead to full enlightenment It is simply a question of time and practice.

 

Simple practice. – let me reiterate, meditation is an innate ability and doesn’t require technique or method. There are methods per se, but don’t confuse methods, which are merely a pathway, with the state of meditation itself.

Sit in a comfortable, straight-backed chair, adjust the chin position to achieve a straight back and settle into a stance of poise where the spine supports itself, not the back of the chair. It is possible to simply lie down. We need to achieve relaxation of the physical body and this can be done by working our way down from the head, through the arms, down through the torso and finally our legs and feet using our mind. Focus on each part of the body and relax it. One useful technique is to first tense and then relax the muscles.

In time this conscious practice is not necessary, the act of commencing a meditation and stilling the mind will automatically calm the body.

Now comes the part many have difficulty with, stilling the mind. Beginners often complain they can’t stop their thoughts. You can’t stop your thoughts; you can only control your response to them. Most are the idle chatter of the physical mind or the protestations of the ego. They won’t go away, but in time, with regular practice the chatter will reduce, one of the long-term benefits of mediation.

I’ll digress for a moment to use two analogies. A typical mind is like the effect of throwing a handful of small stones into a pond. The resulting ripples are random and confused, as is the mind. If you could get the mind quietened, similar to throwing one stone in the pond, one thought, how much do you think you could achieve by increased focus?

The second analogy is useful in seeing the relationship between focus and interrupting thoughts. You are watching and concentrating on a TV program, this represents the focus of the higher self. Your pet dog wanders in and starts vying for attention, he represents the egoic mind and he will try to disturb you away from something he doesn’t understand. You can engage with the pet, in which case your focus is destroyed or you can ignore it in which case it will eventually go away.

So this is how we deal with thoughts, we step back and simply observe them, they will come and go but we must try not attach to them, this comes with practice. If we step back and watch our thoughts, who is the watcher? That is your higher self, your true self.

The way we meditate then is simply to let our thoughts come and go while ignoring their content. Ways to assist are to focus on the breath, a candle or a spiral pattern; this provides an anchor for the mind/ego to keep it entertained while freeing our higher selves to experience the stillness within the present moment. To use breathing, become aware of each breath, the in and the out, and the pauses between. Let the breath be natural, don’t force it, just be aware, observe it. We then allow our true consciousness to dwell in the present moment, resisting any thoughts to ponder the past or future. Aim for 20 minutes but any duration is beneficial to begin.

 

Difficulties – Many complain of restlessness or interrupting thoughts. The ego doesn’t like meditation, it has no control and will try to convince you of its futility, it is scared. Persevere, it will get easier and the ego will grow weaker. The benefits to health and well-being are immeasurable.

Meditation is simple. It is not difficult but it does require daily practice, some will find it easier than others. You may feel a lack of progress, but don’t give up. A 5 minute session where you believe you didn’t relax and focus is still progression, you tried and the practice counts.

My description of technique here is brief, first because it really is actually very simple, and second because the purpose of this post was to provide an insight into meditation and potential difficulties encountered. I will be writing more about meditation in future posts.

For more help and guided meditations Allison Conway, a wonderful on-line friend, has spent much time and effort on her blog in providing some excellent meditation podcasts;

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meditation class for beginners

Spiritual Awakening and Meditation

Spiritual awakening can be a fast or slow process. For some, an extraordinary event, or tragedy, can trigger the start; in others, it takes an accumulation of years and experiences in life. It often begins with curiosity or a feeling that something isn’t right. The view of the world foisted upon us is false, there is more, so much more. We may become discontent in the early stages, a sense of being out-of-place.

One is drawn to certain books perhaps, or starts the search for truth in some other way. Many become attracted to various ‘New Age’ philosophies or learn about different belief systems. They search out esoteric literature trying to find the solution in words and symbols.

For me it all began at an early age. My mother became a spiritualist, a long story which I won’t go into here. I was brought up with knowledge of life beyond this earthly one, and evidence to back it up. For many years I quested further, reading book after book, immersing myself in ‘knowledge’ and, so I believed, wisdom and understanding. I read about the magical, mystical aspects of Christianity, hidden and lost teachings, the Celtic tradition, Egyptian and Jewish mysticism, and many others. I read about the power of the mind and its possibilities. Then something changed, a realisation that it is direct experience which counts, not knowledge.

What do I mean by ‘direct experience’? That which is gained through dedicated prayer or meditation. Let me make an analogy here with chocolate. Knowledge is the scientific understanding of its chemical composition; the reaction of the taste buds, what compounds induce those sensations, the source of the cocoa, the plant, its varieties and growing areas, the manufacturing process of a chocolate bar and so on. All of which pale into insignificance once one actually eats the chocolate, delighting in its smooth, sensual texture and exquisite taste. Once one has that experience, no amount of knowledge about its manufacture is needed. Knowledge without experience is purely academic and empty. Knowledge is interesting perhaps, but secondary to experience.

Knowledge of other realms and dimensions, the connectedness of everything that is, the creative spirit which pervades the entire universe is as nothing compared to actually experiencing it, and if experienced, then the knowledge is not required. Meditation was the road I took to search for intimate experience, the way used throughout the ages and through all clutures. Once again I searched, flitting from one method to another like a butterfly going from one flower to the next, never spending long enough in one ‘system’ to gain anything much of value. In time another realisation occurred through inspired understanding; the method is not important, nor, actually, is a method necessary.

A few years ago I came across the teachings of Eckart Tolle and searched in vain for a ‘method’ in his works. There was only one, very brief, description of meditation. Eventually I got it. The experience of ‘the Now’ is meditation itself, there is no method! To live in the now is to live in meditation.

Another resource I came across through an interest in Buddhism can be found through this link The basic method of meditation In its explanation of the various stages it gave me the clearest understanding of the basics of mediation which I have ever come across and once again pointed to the fact there is no method as such;

1. Sustained Attention on the present moment
2. Silent attention on the present moment
3. Full sustained attention on the beautiful breath

To take the first glimpse, for a few moments, of that ‘sustained attention on the present moment’, to surrender to the moment with no attachment of thought to past or future, is a revelation and reletively easy to achieve. Finally it all fell into place; the understanding of meditation as a practice towards spiritual enlightenment, the ‘power of now’ and that there is no method per se !

Many people ask ‘how do you meditate’, they want a method or system. Sure, there are techniques for relaxation, which is a prerequisite for any meditation. But after that one only needs a basic idea of what meditation is; the disassociation with random thoughts enabling the higher consciousness to realise itself and the universe. Many complain that they can’t stop their minds from thinking about things. We cannot stop our minds from thinking, from working, what we have to control is our tendency to latch onto thoughts; we must let them pass without attaching to them. Eckart Tolle gave a great analogy in a talk; you are the host at a large dinner party and your job is to greet the guests as they come in. The guests are your thoughts. You greet each guest then let them pass and move on to the next, you cannot afford to engage in conversation with each guest.

There are higher levels of meditation beyond the basics, for which some guidance is necessary, but everything can be achieved with the dedicated practice of the basic methods.

Theses are some of my thoughts on meditation based on experience and practice, your views are always welcome in the comments. Thanks for reading.