HimalayasIt is said that the most common first sentence of a blog is“I haven’t posted anything in a while…” Seeing as I hate to be common, and have long given up avoiding the label“proud,” let me phrase a different introduction:

“It has been a couple of days…”

I should admit that keeping a diary was never one of my strong points. I tried several times as a child, and like every other sincerely made New Year’s resolution sincerely failed, running out of enthusiasm and inspiration within several pages, in all honesty lacking anything to say. Writing in a diary was no more cure for childhood boredom than the parental suggestion“Well you could tidy your room…”

Which makes this uncommon gap between posts better than it may read. Yes, I probably am my harshest critic, reality seldom intruding upon the setting of impossibly high standards, and by any other’s standards a five day gap between posts is really not so bad. I do have a life off-line—although friends may beg to differ—and building a website, delivering phone books (it’s a long story, but more than my fingers did the walking), instructing a webmaster friend on the finer points of DNS redirection and remote file synchronisation (at length, several times), working on a corporate video, and starting but not finishing several articles for publication takes no small amount of time, and perhaps more relevantly, not always unlimited creative energy.

And so, in something of a dry spell, I have done my best not to be alarmed, frustrated or anxious. Writers block is normal, even unavoidable for most and self, and not helped one single period by losing poise along with pen.

Going back to my roots, I meditated on occasion, a simple act whose positive benefits even a regular practitioner can overlook. It is human nature to seek greener grass; how often do I forget that the limitless fields of meditation are the greenest of all? Caught up at times in the energy, flow and excitement of writing, I am reminded again, and again, that silence is the most powerful source of words.

The miracle
is not to fly in the air,
or to walk on the water:
but to walk on the earth.

Chinese proverb

As a writer craves quality and brilliance, and always productivity, so people who practise meditation expect experiences, heights of bliss or vistas of consciousness, as in the satori or flashes of enlightenment of the Zen tradition. In meditation, as in writing, it can be easy to lose sight of the fact that, like climbing a mountain, there are countless steps, highs and lows on the way to the summit or the end of the page. Meditation teacher Sri Chinmoy once compared enlightenment, the ultimate goal of meditation, as akin to climbing Mt. Everest—only a thousand times over. The final sentence in meditation, or writing, is that the journey is high, hard and long.

What am I saying exactly? Like writing, meditation is sheer hard work and sweet reward, and the transformation of human nature from less perfect to more perfect may seem near impossible at first; conquering jealousy, insecurity, fear and anger as difficult as straightening the proverbial tail of a dog.

Yet peak experiences in meditation are the result of lowly hard work. There is no short-cut or substitute for such, and as in the Chinese proverb, walking on the earth as a conscious human being is the true miracle.

It is the same in writing it seems. Great works come from dry spells and inspiration, and weathering them, even learning from them is a part of writing as well. Between high and low, the middle path of ordinary and unremarkable must be weathered and walked, one’s work, and art, furthered here on earth, not in heaven or hell.

As author William S. Burroughs once confessed,

“As a child, I had given up on writing, perhaps unable to face what every writer must: all the bad writing he will have to do before he does any good writing.”

Bear with me as I try to do some good writing…


Sensitivitytothings.com hit the big time recently, or at least its author thinks so, his review of David Lynch’s Catching the Big Fish: Meditation, Consciousness and Creativity being published by blogcritics.org, and from there syndicated to outer space, or at least anywhere under roof, stars and internet connectivity.

David LynchI may be highly susceptible to faint praise, but am wearing proudly two comments posted by blogcritics editors G.L. Hauptfleisch and Natalie Bennett, who commended my first submission as “Nice review, well expressed” and “This article has been selected for syndication to Advance.net, which is affiliated with newspapers around the United States. Nice work!” respectively. Thanks for that—I do appreciate being appreciated.

You can of course still read the review here, but I’ll forgive you if you want to read it there:

Now that I mention it, it seems I have an excuse to post another clip from David Lynch’s alternatively sublime, alternately surreal Twin Peaks, a rare moment of beginning of the 90’s television lucidity so out of the ordinary it might not be entirely of this world…


Apologies to regular readers but I am going to return to a recurring theme come bottomless well of personal resonance, again. Coincidences, unsought parallels and junctures of meaning, events that hint at an unseen order and harmony to our universe and give life meaning—sometimes profoundly so; such things I take an avid, even obsessive interest in.

Being as I am committed to a regular practise of meditation, a student of meditation teacher Sri Chinmoy for the past eleven years, and a practitioner of meditation at least once a day for several more, it should come as no surprise that I make a habit of connecting dots, or to be precise, painting them in vivid colours not pencil-thin lines, more akin to the French pointillist Georges-Pierre Seurat than a statistician’s graph.

george_seurat.jpgLike the New Zealand poet James K. Baxter, who shrouded everyday events in a cloak of myth varying shades Jungian and Catholic, and whom believed people to be islands joined at a deeper level by the waters of the unconscious, I find that opening oneself to the deeper flow of life, which the act meditation does so profoundly, combined with a heightened awareness of life’s finer, smaller details—the meaning hidden between written lines—throws open a new, inner universe of meaning in almost everything that we do.

Which is why I was pleasantly surprised to discover recently that several of my favourite artists and musicians of yester-year practise meditation. Surprised, because my affinity for them wasn’t conscious in any sense—I liked them certainly, but had never given thought to the how and why.

Howard Jones, and yes I am going back, back, back in time to the 1980‘s, a British synth-pop star of the decade many would rather forget or regret, has been a Buddhist for almost twenty years now, and a re-examination of the lyrics from any of his chart-topping albums discover once overlooked references to the philosophy of India’s Vedas and China’s Tao Te Ching, in number more repetitive than a broken record. Perhaps not so surprising really—Jones from the beginning was a master of an uplifting message as well as a catchy tune—song titles like“Things can only get better” and“Everlasting love” should have been a clue that my then childhood self was wiser than I assumed.

Another in whom I once found an innate sense of meaning, at the time undefinable beyond a wordless affinity, was film director David Lynch. Of course I should admit that I studied film at university—it is the basis of my stuck somewhere at the bottom of a box Bachelor of Arts Degree—so it is not just an accident of fate that I am able to roll the titles of his filmography with ease and familiarity from my tongue, or write thousands of empty words about their symbolism or meaning.

In all of the odd, random and downright disturbing imagery of his work, there was a mystical, otherworldly symbolism which I unconsciously responded to—a depth of psyche so rare in contemporary film I forgave him 85 minutes of“difficulty” for a treasured single straw, wheat personally salvaged from field of chaff.

Such was my love for Lynch’s films, even if the meaning I found in them was mostly my own, it wasn’t really a surprise to discover that he has been practising meditation for over 30 years.“Of course he has!” I exclaimed at this after the fact vindication of my once upon a time obsession. It was almost predictable, such is the thick thread of synchronicity in the events that lead me to meditation.

I avidly followed Twin Peaks while in High School without quite knowing why. It was a breath of fresh air, certainly, something of a revelation in a time of personal spiritual and cultural aridness, and seemed to hint at something which, although I could not place a finger on it, I was so desperately seeking in all but name.

A quick re-viewing of just a fragment of the show reveals why: a not-so-hidden, mystical symbolism that had me laughing at the blatant synchronicity of it all—was there ever any doubt that meditation, the one thing that gives my present life a bedrock of meaning, would ever find me?

It seems if you take life to be a path towards something, a work in progress if you will, destination not always known, each forward step brings people and places into your life of like-hearted outlook. It’s that old but sagely saying,“birds of a feather flock together.”

Should it really be surprising that one who now views his life as a from beginning to end journey towards spirituality, which for me is a by-word to a life of profound inner meaning, as opposed to transplanted dogma or thin-lipped ideology, should have been unconsciously gravitating towards people on the very same journey he was about to begin?

In the journey of chance, attitude is all important, because it is in my opinion the positive or negative slant we put upon our experiences and the people we meet that determines what we gain from them, what meaning we take from them. And I didn’t just read that in a book—there are a number of years of my life that I would gladly live over again with a radical change of heart. From the always wiser perspective of hindsight, a life that once seemed barren and devoid of meaning was anything but—but the knowledge and experience that would give it meaning lay just around a corner.

Or even closer actually—already in my hands, playing on my walkman and on my TV.

Synchronicity, serendipity and coincidence happen all the time, but they require a receptiveness to the idea that life may not be quite as random as it seems…

In a another’s vein:

David Lynch’s first film, Eraserhead (1977), a dark, disturbing and deeply surreal exploration of the directors own subconscious, was initially pronounced as un-releasable upon completion, but in short time became a cult classic and critical success, launching Lynch to the forefront of avant-garde film-making and earning him the favour of Stanley Kubrick, who proclaimed Eraserhead one of his all-time favourite films.

lynch_catching_the_big_fish.jpgThirty years later David Lynch is still exploring the sub-conscious, and unusually for a notoriously private director who refuses to discuss the details of his plots or their meanings, has written a book about… himself. Not a traditional biography mind you, but a surreal, whimsical exploration of his own consciousness. His legion of fans would expect nothing less.

In Catching the Big Fish: Meditation, Consciousness, and Creativity, David Lynch puts aside his filmic quest to get inside the viewer’s head and lets them instead inside his, an invitation almost as rare as a ticket to fiction’s Wonka Chocolate Factory, and possibly just as out of this world.

“When I first heard about meditation I had zero interest in it, I wasn’t even curious. It sounded like a waste of time. What got me interested though was the phrase, ‘True happiness lies within.’ ”

So begins Catching the Big Fish, and from the very first page, as though entering a state of deep meditation, ordinary reality is left—along with one’s shoes—at the door. A practitioner of meditation for twenty minutes, two times a day, for over thirty years, Lynch invites the reader on a mind-altering journey, expounding upon his commitment to Transcendental Meditation and the powerful creative wellspring it has provided him in 85 alternatively light and lofty chapters, many in koan-like form. Citing his daily sessions of silence and inner happiness as essential to the creative process, one can only wonder what kind of films this director might have made otherwise—Academy Award nominated Blue Velvet (1986) among the most disturbing, unsettling films of all time.

Catching the Big Fish is a blend of thoughts and themes, sometimes random like a stream of consciousness, or the analogy he personally prefers for creativity, casting a hook into a bottomless sea, and melds biography, film analysis, philosophy and spirituality with a heart on sleeve sincerity, narrating the author’s passion for charting the world of dreams and ideas and rendering them unto action. Few probably realise that this famously reclusive director is putting his own money into establishing meditation centres around the world, or that he has founded the David Lynch Foundation for Consciousness-Based Education and Peace to further his meditative ideals.

A little like a rare sighting of the Loch Ness Monster, any public appearance of one of the greatest American directors of modern cinema is compulsory viewing, or reading in this case, and whether or not you are ready to tread the same waters, Catching the Big Fish is worth at least a dip.

Howard Zinn is one of the most prominent and respected historians in the world today, and among the pioneers of “People’s History”—the movement to document history from the perspective of the ordinary people who collectively make it—and lived it, rather than as broad, faceless trends.

Few historians or their work for that matter appear on prime time television or in blockbuster films, but Zinn has featured in both, cited in an argument about Columbus Day in The Sopranos, and mentioned in Good Will Hunting, Matt Damon’s character saying “If you want to read a real history book, read Howard Zinn’s A People’s History of the United States.” It is perhaps a little known fact that Howard and Roslyn Zinn were neighbours to the Damon family in West Newton, Massachusetts, and baby-sat the future Hollywood star and his brothers.

howard_zinn-historian.pngIn his seminal, award winning A People’s History of the United States, Zinn was one of the first historians to write a comprehensive history of colonisation from the perspective of the colonised, and in rewriting the role of Columbus it is safe to say that that icon of Italian-American machismo, Tony Soprano, is not a fan.

Since its original publication in 1980 A People’s History has sold over a million copies, and is required reading as a textbook in many high schools and colleges. It is considered to be one of the most widely known examples of critical pedagogy—the academic analogy to the age-old meditative discipline of discrimination, equally interested in arriving at truth:

Habits of thought, reading, writing, and speaking which go beneath surface meaning, first impressions, dominant myths, official pronouncements, traditional cliches, received wisdom, and mere opinions, to understand the deep meaning, root causes, social context, ideology, and personal consequences of any action, event, object, process, organization, experience, text, subject matter, policy, mass media, or discourse.
Ira Shor, Empowering Education

howard_zinn_bombardier_england_1945.jpgUnlike most academics, Zinn has actually made history as well as written about it, first as a part of “The Greatest Generation,” a bombardier who dropped bombs on Western Europe, including one of the tragic first uses of napalm near the war’s close; later as a tenured history professor in Atlanta, Georgia, who eventually lost his position due a very public involvement and fostering of the Civil Rights movement—Pulitzer Prize winning author Alice Walker (The Color Purple) and Marian Wright Edelman (founder Children’s Defense Fund) were among his students.

Zinn’s wartime experiences saw him become a lifelong advocate of non-violence and an unequivocal opponent of war. He was one of the most outspoken critics of the Vietnam War in the 1960s, securing the release of American POWs from North Vietnam and assisting in the release of the Petagon Papers, an act which contributed to turning the tide of popular opinion against the war.

Noam Chomsky, pioneering linguist, social conscience and perhaps pre-eminent intellect of our time states of his personal friend, that he “changed the consciousness of a generation.”

In the following essay, The Optimism of Uncertainty, Howard Zinn makes a powerful case for continued optimism even in the worst of times, and like the poet, artist and meditation teacher Sri Chinmoy, sees the history of the world as one of slow but irresistible progress and improvement.

william_burroughs.jpgWilliam S. Burroughs, like Yukio Mishima, is a difficult writer. Like Mishima, I am not sure if I will ever get around to reading his books in full, but I can not help but admire, even secretly envy this author’s insight and perception—even if at times it is shaded by a cruel, cynical undertone which, although an understandable response to the madness of this world for some, I personally cannot stomach.

Of all the beat writers, Burroughs was the only one not to be strongly influenced by Buddhist thought—a strong interest of my own from years gone by, and thus a reason for my semi-disdain. Still, he has a razor-sharp humour, a straight to the point, spade is a spade clarity, and an obvious talent with words—although it took the insistent encouragement and personal assistance of friends Kerouac and Ginsberg before he finally recognised the fact, first beginning to write aged well into his thirties.

Nagual Art by William Burroughs

In the Carlos Castaneda books, Don Juan makes a distinction between the tonal universe and the nagual. The tonal universe is the everyday cause-and-effect universe, which is predictable because it is pre-recorded. The nagual is the unknown, the unpredictable, the uncontrollable. For the nagual to gain access, the door of chance must be open. There must be a random factor: drips of paint down the canvas, setting the paint on fire, squirting the paint. Perhaps the most basic random factor is the shotgun blast, producing an explosion of paint into unpredictable, uncontrollable patterns and forms. Without this random factor, the painter can only copy the tonal universe, and his painting is as predictable as the universe he copies.

Klee said: ‘An Artist does not render Nature. He renders visible’.

That is, he glimpses the nagual universe—the unseen—and, by seeing, makes it visible to the viewer on canvas. If the door to the random is closed, the painting is as predictable as the universe—it can only copy, and for many years painters were content to copy Nature. What I am attempting then, can be called Nagual Art.

The shotgung blast that exploded a can of spray paint, or a tube or other container, is one way of contacting the nagual. There are, of course, many others. The arbitrary order of randomly chosen silhouettes, marbling, blotting . . .

He who would invoke the unpredictable must cultivate accidents and randomness . . . the toss of a coin, or a brush, the blast of a shotgun, the blotting of color and form to produce new forms and new color combinations.

He can carry the process further by arbitrarily inserted silhouettes, the outline of a man, a house, a tree, can be as random as an explode paint can, leaves dropped at random on the surface, grids, masks, circles, pieces of broken glass on picture puzzles, and word. I have used a phrase like ‘Rub out the word to wind’ then translated this phrase into Egytian glyphs. The word is being used, not for its meaning, but as image.

Since the nagual is unpredictable, there is no formula by which the nagual can be reliably invoked. Of course, magic is replete with spells and rites, but these are only adjuncts, of varying effectiveness. A spell that works today may be as flat as yesterdays beer tomorrow.

The painter is tied down to the given formulae of form and color applied to a surface. The writer is more rigidly confined, to words on a page. The nagual must be continually created and re-created. The bottom line is the creator. Norman Mailer kindly said of me that I may be ‘possessed of genius’. Not that I am a genius, or that I possess genius, but that I may be, at times, ‘possessed by genius’. I define ‘genius’ as the nagual, the unpredictable, spontaneous, capricious and arbitrary. An artist is possessed by genius sometimes, when he is so lucky.

January 1989

rainbowman.jpgI’m having a great time at the moment following the site stats for A Sensitivity to Things. Which is not to say that I am statistically inclined, not particularly any way, not like one of my webmaster friends, who writes articles on economics in his part and full time; rather, I am enjoying discovering the where and how in the world people are beating a path to my door.

Near the very end of the visitor origin stats, and right at the bottom of the list of search key-phrases, were a handful of surfers who visited by following a rainbow, more literally than figuratively, their Google searches for the meaning of rainbows leading them to a recent posting of Sri Chinmoy’s beautiful explanation of their spiritual significance. I certainly hope they found their pot of gold.

One search key-phrase however stood out from the rest, like a multi-hued rainbow across a sky of dull grey if you will:

“Seeing a rainbow in your living room means what?”

Er, what?! I think a rainbow just appeared in my mind…

I told you I was having a great time—a seemingly simple phrase, a possible statistical anomaly and among all the visitors recorded a one in a thousand rarity had me more than intrigued. Rainbows are special, certainly, but a rainbow in your living room? Now that is something I would like to see!

And find too. Long since through the rabbit hole, I am compelled to follow this rainbow further…

A quick search of Google (0.22 seconds for the statistically minded) revealed 1,190,000 potential answers. Curious to see where an in-the-spirit-of-serendipity search would lead me, and mildly interested to know how high my only-several-weeks-old website was ranking, I followed a rainbow to the following sites, listed in rough order of search ranking and ability to catch my fickle eye:

Harmonic Concordance
“Creation began with a tone, and so it shall end as all is about harmonics.”

Forgetting for a moment my just created philosophy of colour-dazed search, I stopped for a moment to read, reminded of a conversation overheard in childhood about how you could destroy the entire world with the right harmonic frequency (!), although ‘wrong frequency’ it seems to me would be a more apt description. Several paragraphs in though I draw back the reins of my eyes—it is time to press on and follow the hand of serendipity rather than the heels of distraction.

Moving down the list and then to the next page, my eye is caught by the name of the following site, and upon further investigation, its writers’ disturbingly positive outlook:

A mommy going crazy
“I see the rainbow! This afternoon I am feeling much better, I still have my wrist in a splint, but that is my only obstacle I am faced with today, YEAH!”

I have often wondered how to live with psychic gifts. The next site tells you how:

Living with your Psychic Gifts
“As for your psychic abilities, it seems to me you are both a healer and an empath. Different abilities can combine like this, it isn’t uncommon. The heat you feel is the movement of the healing force through you. Let it happen! Set an intention that you will heal them, see positive white or rainbow energy flowing from you into them. Read Hands of Light and other healing books. The world needs more healers!”

rainbow_storm.jpgHmm, I read that book once. Kind of made me feel bad for not being able to enter into other dimensions as easily as described by its author. Luckily I discovered in time, and not without bruising my forehead somewhat from repeated trying, that there is more than enough in the right here and now to fascinate and amaze, let alone any other plane of existence. It just requires a certain attention to detail, an open heart, and the ability to see the world as a child once again.

But what about rainbows? Aren’t we supposed to be following a rainbow? Back to the search…

Living the dream—A Rainbow Start
“Saw this rainbow while I was preparing to bathe, really happy to see it on a New Year’s Day (: Not being auspcious or superstitous here but it just bores well for a New Year.”

A rainbow on New Year’s Day? A fellow fan of syncronicity it seems. Glad to have made their acquaintance.

I suppose I’d better stop ignoring all of the ‘New Age’ search results. Yes, nobody has a monopoly on wisdom and insight (especially not myself), so I really shouldn’t be so dismissive of crystal gazing, well-meaning wearers of rainbow coloured sweat-pants…

the meditation room, your window to the world of life after death
“The Fifth Chakra: This is the throat chakra and deals with communication, expression and judgment. It has the color of blue, the crystal stone is blue lace agate and it has the musical note of “G”. The blue lace agate crystal stone will help with expressing how you feel. In other words to help clear and clarify the way you wish to communicate. This chakra controls the vocal chords, the thyroid gland and the bronchial system. This chakra can sometimes be the most important of all the chakras. Because it controls the thyroid gland, and it is this particular gland that has complete jurisdiction over the entire body. If the gland is not operating properly then it can create all sorts of very bad sickness. When in an activating mode, this particular chakra, through your meditations, will then be dealing with the frustration’s within your communications that you will have to resolve. It is with this chakra that you will question the wisdom of your self expression when it is concerned with your judgment of others. When you meditate on this chakra, your throat chakra, you will find that your voice will become a lot clearer and more fuller in depth, with the sincerity of life itself..”

Interesting stuff. And there is more. Much, much more…