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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The Healer

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We knew not from where he came

perhaps out of the air itself

To those who had the sight

his hands, old and wizened

glowed with an aura of azure blue

as did his shoeless feet while

golden light adorned his head

and within eyes dark and fathomless

shone the light of a thousand stars

 

For many days he dwelt among us

He partook not of water nor wine

neither consumed our food

but lived by unseen energy

He taught us to feel the power

through our heads and feet and hands

that one day we may be like him

Free in body and mind, sustained by air.

 

He tended our sickness with care

and made us whole once more

He gave to us his wisdom

To eat not of animal, fowl or fish

those creatures you should love

But be content to consume

those that have no eyes to see

the vegetation, seed and fruit

 

For these beings are your friends too

but created from the beginning

to work with you in harmony

sustaining your body matter

even the smallest atoms of your being

of those parts you have yet no knowledge

To nurture, protect and fortify

against all malevolence and disease.

 

But be sure, he said, with stern eye

that you follow the Mother’s way

Then she will care for you always

Her wellbeing is yours also

Only by human hand and love

should your food be grown

not touched by machine or denaturised

nor adulterated with unnatural substance

 

We grew strong in vibrancy and health

Of those remaining with dis-ease

he laid upon them his hands

telling them to know the source

That he was a mere catalyst

the power to heal came forth

from themselves, from within

And they understood and were cured

 

We were saddened at the parting time

But he told that we had been together

since the beginning of time, grieve not.

There is no separation, we are one

together with the earth and cosmos

Then his body began to fade

leaving only his light which soon

dissolved back from whence it came

 

I write this, millennia later, remembering,

and bearing witness in dismay to the follies

as we have lost our way and turned

away from the Mother in greed

Endemic sickness abounds where Instead

we should be free from the distraction

of frail bodies and their maladies

To raise our souls to our higher purpose

 

And so the beacon shines once again

calling the true healers to come forth

to rebuild the garden of life

to purge the darkness from this world

to make well the ills we have caused

for we have made them ourselves

Cleanse the Mother and her children will follow

ageless, strong in spirit, body and mind.

Rotation of Life

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Spring brings forth life

overflowing in the sun

the bounty of earth

and sea and sky

life surges ahead

 

Baby becomes child

exploring the world

discovering herself

yearning for what may be

limitless in potential

 

Into summertime

life grows strong

in warmth and light

joy and love spur

the blossoming

 

Child becomes man

separating from mother

venturing on in hope

searching for love

and joy to come

 

Autumn, the slowing

taking stock, the shadow

of a future so near

nature fortifies herself

as days darken

 

The woman settles

becomes entrenched

in life not quite

what was her intent

but so little time left

 

Winters onslaught cleanses

in wind, rain and ice

laying bare the land

stripping the dream

of summer gone

 

The man ages fast

his time all spent

as limbs fade and

body weakens until his

return to mother earth

 

As winter’s chill ends

and new life beckons

the cycle renews

in eternal rotation

of beginning and end

 

The child is born again

spring brings forth life

 

 

 

 

 

Shown The Narrow Way

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Follow me
leave the wide straight road
find the narrow winding path
with unknown end
the course of mystics
saints, artists and poets
through age upon age
on the ultimate quest

Come with me
as I guide you through trails
long trod by brave souls
past dark caverns
and bottomless pits
darkness that tempts
along the way
but do not fear

Hold my hand
until we reach the treasure
the unfolding of beauty
fields of light we now walk
in warm sun amongst
soft grass and flowers
of every hue and colour
bright and joyful in life

Follow me now
to the eternal forest
though no sight of sky
there is light, see
from the trees themselves
stop and listen awhile
to the wisdom
of their ancient language

They tell of a time
before time was, before the fall
they have seen all that is
and all that will be
know this when you sit with them
they will give you solace
in grief or pain
these quiet watchers of eternity

Come let me show
all creatures in peace
the bird plays with cat
the chicken with the fox
and deer with lion
free from fear of man
no death nor killing here
true nature returns

Follow me now
to the clearing and sit awhile
speak of what you have seen
recall you left no footprint
remember how all are equal
free from the blinding shroud
of man’s technology
and machines

Now friend you know
I am glad you followed
but this place is not for us
no, you must return
to write, compose or paint
tell, all who will listen, what awaits
when they turn away from folly
to the truth of spirit.

In ages past
we lived free from burden
pain and fear of death
we walked and left no mark
we lived by the energy in the air
in love with the earth and all living things
to this glory we will return
I give you this promise

Go now friend, and show the way

PEACE and LOVE

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

Thanksgiving and Gratitude

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Thanksgiving has recently been celebrated in America, an almost unique stance for a nation to take, a national day to take stock of, and be thankful for, what we have been given.

But how many passed this time in true reflection and grace, sharing a joyous time with family, and how many used it as an excuse for greed and gluttony in a similar way to which many celebrate Christmas time, succumbing to commercialism, bargain hunts and the rush for Black Friday deals and bargains.I won’t dwell on that, my intent is to focus on the broader concept of Gratitude as a daily approach to life.

Each and every one of us has reason to express gratitude on a daily basis, no matter what our station in life. At the fundamental level we can be grateful just for the simple act of breathing, we have life and therefore potential. Many will complain that their lives are in a bad place, yet there is always a blessing; nobody can descend so low that they cannot see a situation worse than their own in some way, perhaps in a different way, but nevertheless less fortunate.

It is well to meditate upon the following proverb “I used to complain about having no shoes until I met a man with no feet.” The depth of meaning goes far beyond the example given by the words.

Indeed, we would need to be in a very dark state to have nothing to be grateful for.

So what can you gain and share from being grateful and how can you embrace it?

To be grateful on a regular basis is a life enhancing experience, it will change you. Gradually all negativity fades, you become energised, limitless and at peace with yourself. The reality is that you are surrounded by abundance, whether or not you recognise it. If you can recognise it with the benefit of gratitude your life will begin to unfold, in every aspect. Thus opportunity opens up; to excel, to create, to be truly happy, to give and to love. To dwell in the miracle of life, right now.

How can you practice and achieve this state of gratitude? Here is one way; everyday for the next week, set aside a few moments at the same time each day. Whether it is before sleep (the best time), when you awake or at midday, just make it consistent. In those few moments write down three things you are grateful for over the past day. The act of writing down helps make the statements real and meaningful to the mind, far better than just thinking about them.

Highlight different aspects of your life each day, the smallest of things have as much power as the larger. For example, gaining a new job would obviously rank high, but so does opening the curtains in the morning and feeling the warmth of the sun; take joy from every moment. Write it down and realise that you have so many things to be grateful for!

And that is it, by taking these few minutes each day I guarantee you will notice a change before the end of the week. Once you feel that, you have taken another step on the road to fulfilment which will change your life.

A few minutes a day, take the challenge!