Monday, 25 February 2013

Hand-hyped Post

Caught in traffic on the A40 into Gloucester this morning, I found the opportunity to read the signs by the side of the road. Of greatest interest to historians, is the eighteenth century milestone, which, one mile out, proclaims, 'Gloucester, 1 Mile' . For whose benefit this archaic piece of navigation equipment is, I know not, for Gloucester is clearly visible across the river, the astoundingly beautiful Cathedral dominating the middle distance.

However, I barely cast a glance in  the direction of the milestone, my eye being caught by the poster close by that reads, 'Farm Grown Veg'

We are driving past fields of onions, squash and greens, in season, in accordance with the crop rotation, and I am forced to ask myself, 'Where else would they be grown?'

In the course of the last month or so, I have:

Imbibed, 'hand- crafted beer'
Eaten 'sun-ripened tomatoes'
Placed a 'hand-picked olive' into a martini  and
Put 'line-caught tuna' on toast.

My mind is playing tricks with you again. Let's go to South America and buy

Sustainably harvested from the rainforest, hand- picked, by fair-trade peasants, tree-sown Brazil nuts, carried in hand- woven panniers,  on rain-drenched donkeys over foot-worn trails to windswept beaches ...

Oh, I can see I'm going to have fun with this...

Wednesday, 20 February 2013

A New Manner Of Thinking

A human being is part of the whole called the universe. 

We experience ourselves as something separate from the rest

An optical delusion of consciousness:

A prison, restricting to us our personal desires and affections for persons nearest to us. 

Our task must be to free ourselves by widening our compassion to embrace all living creatures and the whole of nature. 

The true value of a human being is determined by the measure in which they have obtained liberation from the self. 

We shall require a substantially new manner of thinking if humanity is to survive.

Albert Einstein wrote that. Having watched a biography, I think he mussed his private life up more than somewhat, but having a brain that can fill the cosmos and draw it down, must have it's drawbacks.

Read  the above as a spiritual exercise. It doesn't need commentary, just space. Time, and space... Oh! Wait! It's a sign....

Tuesday, 19 February 2013


I was a little jaded when I write the last post but one, and feel duty bound to give way to the right brain to redress the balance. I allude to this dated neuroscience metaphor, because all that remains true of it, is that my left brain really doesn't know what my right brain is doing...

It doesn't matter. First Tenet of Quodlibettan Spirituality, 'You can believe what you like and get away with it.'  I don't offer this profundity with any great conviction, but as a working hypothesis. I turned away two door-to-door peddlers of enlightenment this morning, and am more convinced than  I was yesterday, that I'm on to something.

I write only for amusement, mine if I'm lucky, yours if you are, but there are many good blogs out there that offer something far more interesting. I have used Fr Michael Hudson's 'OrdinaryMindfulness' before, as he pulls me ever closer to the Centre, and for this purpose I quote him today.

 God is sung best in a psalm without words

The quote below is from Eckart Tolle (with a mashup from one of the Desert Fathers, John the Solitary). This is what we used for our lectio this morning in the Monday group.

Tolle can sometimes seem bone dry--but 'bone dry' can also be the same thing as 'clear and to the point.'

One of the great ironies of mindful practices is that they can appear to be self-focused and self-absorbed. Yet the sweetest fruit of mindful practice is freedom from this very thing--the sticky gravity of our small selves.

Through mindfulness we see the many habits and patterns that keep us stuck. Over time, recognizing and recognizing and recognizing these habits and patterns, it becomes easier and easier and easier to let them go.

Tolle is very helpful describing how this works.

Since ancient times, spiritual masters of all traditions have pointed to the Now as the key to the spiritual dimension. Despite this, it seems to have remained a secret.

With the timeless dimension comes a different kind of knowing, one that does not “kill” the spirit that lives within every creature and every thing. A knowing that does not destroy the sacredness and mystery of life but contains a deep love and reverence for all that is. A knowing of which the mind knows nothing.

If you find it hard to enter the Now directly, start by observing the habitual tendency of your mind to want to escape from the Now. You will observe that the future is usually imagined as either better or worse than the present. If the imagined future is better, it gives you hope or pleasurable anticipation. If it is worse, it creates anxiety. Both are illusory. Through self-observation, more presence comes into your life automatically. The moment you realize you are not present, you are present. Whenever you are able to observe your mind, you are no longer trapped in it. Another factor has come in, something that is not of the mind: the witnessing presence.

Be present as the watcher of your mind — of your thoughts and emotions as well as your reactions in various situations. Be at least as interested in your reactions as in the situation or person that causes you to react. Notice also how often your attention is in the past or future. Don’t judge or analyze what you observe. Watch the thought, feel the emotion, observe the reaction. Don’t make a personal problem out of them. You will then feel something more powerful than any of those things that you observe: the still, observing presence itself behind the content of your mind, the silent watcher.

There is a silence of the tongue,
and a silence of the body;
a silence of soul
and a silence of mind.
There is silence of spirit, too—
and, of course,
the vast silence of God.

Within this silence
we sing God best
in psalms without words.

--John the Solitary
Posted by Michael Hudson at 6:23 AM
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Monday, 18 February 2013

Going By Bus

I have a Bus Pass, which I capitalise out of respect, for it has changed my life.

I am out of my little lavender-blue box and and meeting people, many of whom also have Bus Passes, and finding out what's really going on.

We're standing waiting for the 30 or 31 or, in my case, the 132.  (Much light-hearted banter from my focus group when I get on the wrong one by mistake.  And get off again.) We have ten minutes, at the most, to get to know one another: to learn all that is salient about health and families, before moving on to politics.

I have largely given up on politics, although, being a good citizen, I will go and waste my vote on Tweedledum or Tweedledee come the next election. If I were to be judged by which radio station I tune into, my ostrich feathers become very apparent.  I live in the south of England, and listen to KUOW Seattle. Give it a go. This is filler, back to the coven at the bus-stop.

Things are not looking good. My group travel by bus because they have no choice, they, all female, by the way, eke out a living on the State Pension, and their opinions must count.

And what opinions! These are kindly women made angry by Sunspeak (or Mailrant) and see themselves as being impoverished by a multitude of spongers, of different ancestry, with huge families, living high on the hog, in houses taken from their own grandchildren.

Don't yell at me! I know it happens. There are people in this world who will see an opportunity for a free ride, and take it. I'm one of them, hence the Bus Pass.  But the fact that my fellow-travellers should be made so hateful saddens me.

So I thought about it all the way home on the bus, and wondered at my cowardice at not challenging the vox pop... .

In the end, I sighed at my own ineptitude, and gave thanks for the fact that I only have Tweedledum and Tweedledee to vote for at the next election.

Think: 'All living is meeting.' Martin Belper

Saturday, 16 February 2013

Rummaging Through The Mystics

Being rather unwell, having cancelled all I was supposed to do, I spent the afternoon surfing the gurunet searching for enlightenment. Richard Rohr, a Catholic priest whom I much admire,  teaches that you cannot give away your own enlightenment. A truer word was never spoken, I have discovered that you have to flog it.

Now everyone has to make a living, and this is not a knockblog, so I am not going to pour scorn on the varied and marvellous offerings that I sampled today, I am just going to offer the seekers of this world the complete enlightenment package for FREE.

There are seven stepping stones across the River of Life to The Gardens of Eternity and here they are:

1. Put yourself in touch with your soul. (Tip: This is the part of you that gets you crying at weddings, if you are female, and at football matches if you're a man. )You could try hours and hours of meditative practices, or you could have a couple of beers. Both work, though not necessarily to the same extent.

2. Have a good look at the stories you tell about yourself, and rewrite them. I'm not suggesting that you tell porkies, just that you start a whole new narrative that begins, 'Today is going to be a good day. ' Believe me, you might as well.

3. Shut up. Now a true mystic would call this, 'entering the great silence' but personally, I find buttoning my lip just as effective. It's amazing how enlightened people think you are if you don't open your mouth.

4. Smile a lot. Faked benevolence is the next best thing to true benevolence, and you never know...

5. Learn to play a musical instrument that rings, vibrates or bangs. One that bangs is my choice for beginners.

6. Wear floaty clothes, learn to attach your heels to your thighs and ( when not observing #3) chant. 'Om' will do if you lack imagination.

7. Skip steps 1-6 and love your neighbour as you love yourself.

Now comes the sales pitch. It is obvious that palms must be crossed with silver for the PIE (Programme for Instant Enlightenment) to work, so keep enough change in your pocket to buy a large latte ,and give it away to the first beggar you come across.

Sunday, 10 February 2013

Bring On The Dancing Girls

Budget setting is a very boring proposition, and I wonder why I am even thinking about it, let alone writing on it. It is an inexact science, and doesn't do to be taken too  seriously. I learned this lesson the first time I had to set a budget for the effective running of a very small school that had a minuscule allocation. When I had employed the teachers and paid the utility bills, I had £400 left for books and equipment.

(I had failed, by an excusable, I think, oversight, to put sufficient money into the maintenance pot, and spent a whole year cleaning the staff toilet. This taught me all I needed to know about ' budget responsibility'. I digress.)

£400 doesn't go far, so I hunted around for an alternative source of funds, and I found The European Union.

I think, being a True Brit, that I had been rather against The European Union in an offhand, polite sort of way. Now I am a new creature. I have seen the light.

The EU paid me a generous amount of money to promote understanding between member nations, and as I wrote the programme ( conforming fully to the National Curriculum 1.2, naturally) I saw only the good. The second, and by far the most satisfying part of the programme, were the project visits.

France, Spain, Romania, Austria, Norway, Estonia...

I marched in the National Day parade in Norway, was attacked by an elderly nun in Romania, visited the scene of a riot in Estonia, got stranded overnight in an airport with eight pupils in France and watched palm sculptures being made in Spain...

Above all, I saw Don Giovanni in Austria... Oh bliss! My first and last visit to an opera.


Somewhere up in the gods in the opera house in Klagenfurt, I allowed Mozart's heavenly music to  flow over me and through, me,: it was ecstasy. For about an hour.

Then my mind began to wander, and my eyelids began to droop. I don't blame Mozart, I blame my daughter. When she was nursing, she kept me awake most of the night, and I got into the habit of nodding off whenever I could, and I can't get out of it - especially when the lights go down...

Part of the problem was the language barrier. I laughed out loud, only quietly, when somewhere after the second act I realised that the overhead electronic text was not in the same language as the one singing out from the stage.

Our hero was, just before I finally succumbed to forty winks, lamenting over a grave stone, dressed as a teddy boy. (It was one of THOSE productions). I am uncertain as to the whys and wherefores, and paid scant attention

I awoke with a start when the naked dancing girls appeared.

Afterwards, Barbara, our charming Austrian host, asked Turid, Tuii, Cecilia, and myself, what we thought of the production. Language completely broke down at this point, we all replied, in turn, with the same word...


Monday, 4 February 2013

Tapping Away

Being at a loose end this morning, and wide awake somewhat earlier than I chose to be, I opened the ghost of my kindle and started to read the bargain of the day of a week ago, which is called, 'The Hundred Year Old Man Who Climbed Out of The Window And Disappeared,'

I hazarded twenty pence on this book in honour of its title, and I have read three pages and was so inspired that I reached  for this blog and began tapping.

I am going to live to be 106.

Some years ago, I was suckered by Gordon Brown, the then Chancellor of  the Exchequer into buying  into a scheme that was almost guaranteed to enhance my pension. It doesn't. It went down with the stock market and delivers into MY exchequer the sum of twenty pounds a month. I have to live to be one hundred and six to get my money back. And I will.

Hence my interest in stories about centenarians. I am going to be one of them, and I want pointers on how to do it in style.

In the course of the three pages that I have read, the hero has climbed out of a window in his carpet slippers and headed for the bus station. He is uncrashing his 100th Birthday Party, thus avoiding the mayor, his retinue,  and a surfeit of iced cake. I am cheering him on as he stops to rest his knees in a graveyard.

I am liking this man more and more. I have knees, and a fascination with graveyards. I love where this is going....

Friday, 1 February 2013

Phoney Baloney

I have often mused out loud that I am amazed at how, considering the mind-blowing complexity of the human brain, how ANYONE manages to give the impression of being sane. Note: I had to use, 'give the impression of', because I doubt the existence of such as thing as 'sanity' except in the abstract.

I have already lost my train of thought, so I might just recommend the website italicised above, and let you get on with it  - BUT that wouldn't be my way. Besides, apart from a good place to begin this ramble across the playing fields of my consciousness, it wasn't a terribly good read.

I long ago gave up the drive for (or to) authenticity. I have a problem knowing how real I am to myself, so am not much concerned with how real other people think I am. I try, I really do. I mean, I don't set out to be 'Other than Who  I Truly Am' so, on the whole, what you see is what you get. But but but... Who is, 'Who I Truly Am'. Damned if I know.

Vanessa hears voices. She is a friend of mine, who has a bloody tough life, and hears voices because she used to take drugs and has chemically blown her brains out. I am fascinated by Vanessa's voices, and don't waste any time telling her they're not real. She clearly distinguishes between herself and the others, so I advised her to be kind to herself and tell the others to sod off. And - for the record - keep taking the tablets.

I hear voices too. Except that 'hear' and 'voices' are short-cuts for impulses that I can't describe. There seems to be some sort of  inner dialogue going on, that has always been present, that is me talking to me, or God, or somebody. So that's alright then.

I am becoming aware that I'm probably not entirely consistent in my approach to a personality, and this is the beginning of a more authentic selfhood. Please don't  mistake me, I am still prepared to take full responsibility for what 'I am' is doing, but I may first have to decide which, 'I am' I AM.

There's the staid and sometimes serene sexagenarian grandmother at one end of the spectrum, and the...well,  you know ... the opposite, at the other,  and lots of shades of opinion in between.

Now I have completely lost my thread, and the writer is about to bow out to the sloven and curl up on the sofa and watch tv...

And that's perfectly OK with me. Whoever SHE is.

Oh! I want to add, that if whoever you are is getting you down, get real and try being someone else for the day!