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meditation

Six Endearing Idiosyncrasies

Jennifer of Goodness Graciousness, a long time reader and worthy author in her own right, has tagged me in the Six Weird Things meme. Only six? Even just a short list, you know I could never refuse... Actually I prefer her word for weird things—idiosyncrasies. Nobody likes to be called a weirdo.
  1. Really bad car parking.Although relatively new to driving, I rant and rave through windscreen and windows closed at the rest of the world, which in my opinion appears filled with bad drivers. Drivers who drive too slow, drivers who cause you to miss the green light, drivers who change lanes without indicating, who can’t drive in a straight line, don’t know how to give way—I’m teaching them all how to drive, one by ignorant one. I’ve heard many people do this, but in my case evil, darkened glares, flashed headlights and occasional use of horn very much amuse my friends. I have a reputation for being polite and considerate.
  2. I’m not particularly good at saying no, although as my available time disappears in amounts inversely proportionate to my age, I’m fast learning. It’s taken a while to work out that few can read between the lines when I say yes, yet slowly and unenthusiastically. “That’s your cue to withdraw people!”
  3. I don’t appreciate people who can’t stick to a point or keep on topic in conversation, or even worse interrupt without consideration or pretense of listening. I’ve taken recently to interrupting such people, finishing their sentences for them. Life is just to short to wander without end or direction. And I really am a polite person. On a topic related, I used to once talk to telemarketers when they cold-called, politely answer their questions, take part in polls. Once. Now, although not as bad as a friend whose favourite line is “Mr. Smith no longer lives here. In fact he’s dead,” I seldom let them get to the end of their opening lines. Politely.
  4. I am bad with names. I have no idea why, but I can recall a face, a job, things spoken and actions before I recall the name. Perhaps I was dropped as a child? Apparently my mother gave up smoking after I was born.
  5. I’m not very good at ignoring barbs or insults. I probably take myself too seriously. I’m slowly getting better. Credit is certainly due to the positive benefits of meditation—inner strength and detachment included.
  6. As a child I would sometimes play chicken with adults on footpaths. Out of some stubborn, hard-headed irritation at people too unaware of others to give way, I would walk them all down, staring into their eye. I have to stop myself from doing this even now.
I’m sure I have many other idiosyncrasies, but strangely they are not coming to mind. Perhaps I am blind to them—a very common idiosyncrasy indeed. Anybody reading is more than welcome to post a list in response.

On the fringes exist soulful whispers

Earth Dance 2005Music has always been very important to me. The moments in my life when I have lacked inspiration have also been lacking in music; to each and every part of my life worth remembering, there is a soundtrack playing. I almost always wake in the mornings with a song playing in my head; the better I have slept, the clearer, more deeply the song plays, the longer it stays with me during the day. It is easy to see only the bad in the world, or ourselves, to take the uninspiring present, our small corner of it, and paint everything black, imagine that even though we can't always hear it there is a soundtrack playing—even to life’s least rehearsed, badly performed scenes. Anybody who thinks that the world isn't improving, that all is doom and gloom might gain in the listening to the lyrics of popular music for a while. Yes, it is mostly insipid romance, exaggerated bravado, aggression or even worse, and it mostly has always been, but out on the fringes, far beyond the television or radio blaring, barely heard but, in time, progenitor and creative influence for everything, are soulful whispers...
I am your truth, I am your destiny I am desire and despair I am your glow inside your beating heart I am the love that leads you there I am your soul, I am your soul
Can you imagine lyrics like these being sung fifty years ago? To an audience of millions? Of course the distance between the lyric and the final, sung product, the song writer’s intention and mass, unthinking consumption is still vast, but a distance growing closer I would guess. Likewise meditation. People who meditate aren't seen or heard—those who break the silence grab our attention far before those who seek it’s whispers in secluded corners—the squeaky wheel gets the grease as the adage runs—yet those who meditate exist in increasing numbers, and their gentle, correcting, affirming influence can be found in the most surprising places.
And if you only knew Just how much the sun needs you To help him light the sky You would be surprised Cerf, Mitiska & JarenLight The Skies
I like these lyrics in so many ways—not just for their Emily Dickinson like intuition of a two-way bridge between nature, man and something deeper, their magical imbuing of the ordinary and everyday with something extraordinary and beyond, but for the idea that somehow the happiness of the entire world, the light even of sun and stars is brighter when each of us are happy. And what else is the human soul but eternal happiness?
I am the darkness where you disappear I am the light that leads you safe I am the shepherd of your laughter and your tears I am your pleasure and your pain I am your soul, I am your soul I am the faith that leaves your spirit strong I am the sunlight in the rain I am the universe inside your mind I am your pleasure and your pain I am your soul, I am your soul I am your soul, I am your soul I am the courage that inspires you I am the knowledge that you gained I am the people you will choose to be I am your pleasure and your pain I am your soul, I am your soul. Markus Schulz vs. ChakraI am

Through the Google Glass

hepi-ichikoIt is a constant joy, near form of poetry to read the search engine phrases that, month after month, click after click deliver readers to this site. Like absolute strangers on a train, mundane queries like“sensitivitytothings.com” and“really good writing that I will bookmark and read every day” sit alongside absolute gems—pennies from internet heaven too precious to ignore: “canada state electronic flash churches,” “delusions electricity sensitivity” and “i afraid of three things.” Admittedly one of those phrases might be made up... My site statistics tell me the most visited post on this site is the deliberately surreal, first exploration of search engine serendipity, Follow the Rainbow, a post inspired by one vistor’s mind-blowing, reality confounding search phrase,“Seeing a rainbow in your living room means what?,” which to consider the irrational rational, abandon serendipity for cause and effect was one assumes ipso facto attracted to these pages by Sri Chinmoy’s intriguing explanation of the spiritual significance of rainbows. The cause, rather than destination of this seeker’s query however is a matter for speculation—but I hesitate to ask for a serving of what they are having. I can’t say with certainty why other people enjoyed Follow the Rainbow, but for its author it was most enjoyable to write. An exercise in chance, serendipity and the random, it was written during something of a dry spell—inspiration, ability for anything structured or thought through lacking. So often the portrait of an artist as a procrastinator, I have literally dozens of pieces on the table at any one time, awaiting inspiration or moment of clarity for completion, sometimes comprehension; yet find it usually the unplanned, unstructured I enjoy most—probably the reason why so many remain unfinished. Like a fickle child, I am all too easily entranced by the latest shiny, flashing toy. Now hopelessly distracted, viewing and reviewing my search engine phrases once more, shall we follow the rainbow again? “john gillespie” john gillespie mageeTopping the list of Google queries, admittedly by margin smaller than people you can fit into an average car, is“John Gillespie.” Hmm, that name does sound familiar... Long in search of the true John Gillespie, I hope dear Google user you also found what you were looking for; but should you have been searching for the University of California biologist, failed Republican Congressional candidate from the year 2000, a London based actor, the Canadian hair transplant surgeon or artist from the nineteenth century, I’m little worried—it seems aside from the politician, my namesakes are all worthy of the seeking. Especially so John Gillespie Magee, Jr, whose all too brief 19 years crash-landed in a 1941 spitfire accident over Roxholm, England, yet lives on in a poem said to be a favourite amongst astronauts and aviators, quoted by a US President following the Challenger Shuttle disaster:
High Flight Oh! I have slipped the surly bonds of Earth And danced the skies on laughter-silvered wings; Sunward I’ve climbed, and joined the tumbling mirth of sun-split clouds, —and done a hundred things You have not dreamed of—wheeled and soared and swung High in the sunlit silence. Hov’ring there, I’ve chased the shouting wind along, and flung My eager craft through footless halls of air.... Up, up the long, delirious, burning blue I’ve topped the wind-swept heights with easy grace Where never lark nor even eagle flew— And, while with silent lifting mind I’ve trod The high untrespassed sanctity of space, Put out my hand, and touched the face of God.
This John Gillespie would almost bargain a fiery, cockpit leaping death to have written that...

Aversion to Violence

I do not wish to imply that I am something I am not. I am not a saint—far from it in fact. But I have never tell the truth ever been in a fight. As in fisticuffs, hurled insults, arms in a flay. Which is not to suggest that I am of perfect, even temper, or to turn the other cheek, altogether foreign to confrontation and a coward. As most I have my shameful, deeply regretted not forgotten moments, moments I would prefer to remember as exceptions rather than rule in any final summary of self. The Karate KidLike the time, so long ago it seems almost a dream, all of eight years old and bloated with pride beyond caution from karate lessons, I boastfully challenged a playmate to mock combat and was judo thrown to the ground—pride painfully dented, lesson learned. A storm in a teacup from this distant, adult vantage, childhood ego bruised only slightly on grassy school field, but these are the pride deflating moments that haunt me still. Or to see them more clearly, teach me still. It is with thanks that what uncontrolled, ill-disciplined acts I do own are buried in the not quite oblivion of a younger, less wise self, and the fact remains that I have never come to outright blows. Which alone may make me a pacifist via count-back decision, but ironic white feather aside I can admit to a few memorable tales of boys-own heroism and physical valour—certainly in my own mind if nowhere else. At a school holiday football coaching clinic with a friend, both aged about nine, I quietly but not altogether stoically endued two days of taunts, insults and humiliations from a spoiled, obnoxious child one year my senior, several clothing sizes my physical superior. Far more outwardly composed than inwardly, I was equal parts rage and humiliation beneath very thin skin—a violent brooding which found expression on the final moment of the final day. Crossing a field to parents waiting, I walked up beside tormentor and friends and punched him as hard as able in the stomach, hitting and then running to conveniently parked parental get-away car. Despite several peripheral to character moments like this one, usually spurred to action by strong sense of injustice but at times less, and often standing up for friends rather than myself, I grew up with a deeply held aversion to violence. I have always been a disgusted bystander to fights, sometimes a peacemaker as well. I notice keenly how foolish those who lose their temper appear, how invariably pride is wounded as badly as from any blow, feel almost as strongly as my own a loser’s humiliation and shame—sure price to be paid when temper and self-control are swung wildly to one side. I have never been much of a gambler either. One methodical and deliberated in his actions—at least usually—physical violence has always seemed a far too risky, high stakes kind of wager; caution and common sense more often stays my fist rather than saintliness I would in confession say. Still, despite many lessons yet to master, I am thankful to be well-studied, even graduated in one pre-requisite course of my humanity degree—an absolute aversion to physical violence.

Johnny Depp in a Coma

I might have once wanted, a long time ago, and just for a brief moment when I didn’t know any better, didn’t know myself any better, to be Johnny Depp. Not really though—not enough to watch all of his movies, learn the guitar or grow my hair long. At least not any more. I wouldn’t be the first that once did though. A former workmate, one of the most selfish, narcissistic people I have yet had the“pleasure” of working with—yet extremely funny and strangely charismatic—admitted to me that he was secretly in love with Johnny Depp. In an innocent way I am sure, or certainly hope. While I have yet to buy the 21 Jump Street box set, there is something about this former wanna-be rock star, effortlessly-is movie star that is eminently likable—he exudes charm, and of course untouchable“cool.” Still, news that he will play the lead in the adaptation of Shantaram, a physically intimidating Aussie hard man with a heart of gold and mastery of Marathi as well as Ocker raises my eyebrows at least. For all that Johnny Depp is a character, I'm not so sure he is the best character actor, or at least a master of accents, although admittedly late 20th Century Australian is hardly the definition of elocution—electrocution maybe? The following video clip from Reuters is a case in point. It is truly one of the oddest things I have ever seen. Is he in character? Out of character? Temporarily out of his head? Just why is he speaking with one of the strangest accents—at times Irish, at times American, most of the time garish, very much hard to believe? [kml_flashembed movie="http://www.reuters.com/resources/flash/includevideo.swf?edition=US&videoId=51881" width="344" height="320"/] I may be mistaken about Depp’s accent. I often and happily am mistaken—joyful surprises can't always be guessed or assumed. Perhaps Depp is similar to a former Prime Minister of New Zealand, who, in one of the funniest, most irreverent TV news clips I have to this day seen, part of a series that almost had the TV channel in question censored by an outraged Government, was shown, or mercilessly mocked really, speaking in a different accent to every foreign dignitary he met, seemingly at some subconscious level picking up on and then mirroring the inflection and delivery of the people he was talking to—outrageously funny with the German foreign minister and the American ambassador, but completely surreal with the Dalai Lama. A cross-talking, muddle-mouthed habit ripe for the ribbing it is true, but just maybe evidence of a very adaptable, flexible personality—in a spiritual sense oneness even?

Born Off-Topic

A recent posting on time management (13 Tips for Increasing Productivity on the Internet) got me thinking, or self-justifying really—am I really so bad at managing my time? Something of a“creative type,” I’ve always been famously off-topic. It is said that only women and dual-core computer processors can multi-task—not true! As a teenager I was famous for simultaneously having the television on, using the computer, listening to music and reading a book, and those formative habits continue today fully blown: dual monitors, a television—albeit now in an almost permanent off state, music, and instead of books or magazines, I kid you not up to fifty browser tabs open at a time. Information overload or fingers in too many pies, I’m aware that, like your average recycling program or a bank, I take in rather more than I put out, and thus have been trying in recent years to rectify the situation, although certainly not as systematically, not mention whole-heartedly as the 13 tips above. Recent refinements to my working method have included:
  • Turning my instant messaging (IM) status to busy most of the time, when not turning it off altogether. For a while IM was a novelty, and conversations with friends a welcome respite; now as I try to increase my productivity they seem more and more like a distraction. Unfortunately I don’t live alone or else I would take the phone off the hook as well.
  • Eating less, which is good for both weight control and control of tiredness—am I alone in wanting to disappear under the desk after a large lunch?
  • Giving up coffee. At first coffee seemed a necessary evil, fast an enjoyable pleasure when working two jobs and countless hours, but without its dark embrace I am seldom a gibbering, moaning wreck of tiredness in the early evening. Furthermore, that caffeinated, buzzing feeling of semi-excitement has some benefit in getting you working, but not always in working focussed. You can call me a girl, but six shots a day was probably a little too much;
  • Running more. While exercising may tire you out in the short-term, in the long-term it increases your energy levels, which in turn dramatically improves clarity, concentration and focus. It’s not for nothing that meditation teacher Sri Chinmoy calls running meditation for the physical body;
  • Meditation. Yes, I already do this, but it’s no secret I could do more. Meditation adds a whole lot of ticks to the positive column and not a single cross, improving concentration, mental strength, calmness and happiness—it’s perhaps little recognised that we work faster and smarter when in a positive frame of mind—not to mention improving the quality of your sleep and decreasing the amount you need. Particularly if in a profession that requires inspiration or creativity—essentially the same thing in my book—meditation is like an instant recharge of the creative juices, even five minutes replacing that empty, eviscerated feeling that comes when you are near the end of your tether, close to tendering your end.
My approach to increasing productivity had previously been, somewhat like an amateur athlete, to work harder rather than smarter, but I'm beginning to think that this donkey can not be whipped any harder—not to mention that I’m tired of being a donkey. The aforementioned tips have been useful in upping my work-rate, not to mention raising the rating of my work—its overall quality, and even more importantly, its joy to produce. Which may all seem rather obvious, but in truth most solutions are. Related reading: Experience Mocha: a coffee-addled impression of a Chinese coffee shop.

Worriers of Athens

Rafael Benitez meditatesAll is done now, the final ball kicked and the whistle long blown. What can I say? Fairy tales are rare enough in life—what chance the fantastic and outright miraculous repeating itself in the Champions League? In a reverse of the“Miracle of Istanbul” of 2005—a come from behind football victory so preposterous it could only have been scripted in heaven—and this scribe certainly wrote it so (Formality Warped into an Epic), Liverpool made all of the running against AC Milan in Athens today, had all of the chances and most of the possession. They played with heart and with passion, and fully deserved to have won. But sadly, it wasn’t to be so. The resolute but barely deserving Italians, in a fashion similar to last year’s World Cup, made the best of only a handful of chances, scoring twice against the run of play. Whatever the scorecard might say, money, corruption and negativity were at the final whistle, winners on the day. While admittedly Milan scored one worthy goal—the other a hand ball if not offside as far as this red-hearted, red-eyed fan is concerned, it is controversial that the champions elect were even in the title race. Convicted of match fixing and corruption last season, they were initially barred from participation, a punishment only overturned on appeal. Money and power so often talk louder than justice it does seem; miracles were always against the run of this particular play. Coach Rafael Benitez of Liverpool, all dignity in the face of near conspiratorial adversity, questioned the questionable long and loud; his final substitution delayed for more than four minutes, extra time cut mysteriously short, almost every close decision going against him and his players when the going got tight. When all is said, protested and done, he can be proud of his team, however unpalatable the final result, as can the legion of red fans. Liverpool played with a stature far above their individual ability, and just for a moment, a goal in the 86th minute drawing the score back to 1-2, it seemed a glimmer of the miraculous might shine forth again. Perhaps the problem was that Benitez, so poised in the face of a semi-final penalty shoot-out two weeks before that he appeared to be meditating—literally, like a yogi, seated in semi-lotus position as his team slotted home the winning goals—put his faith in protestations of injustice, official incompetence at best in the dying minutes, instead of concentrating on the beneficence of some hidden, inner power.
Concentration gives us victory, But we need meditation To maintain our victory-joy When fear and doubt Threaten to take it away. —Sri Chinmoy Excerpt from Twenty-Seven Thousand Aspiration-Plants, Part 19.