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Comment of the Week

Larry Keiler of Mental Blog has just won my inaugural comment of the week competition. Apologies for the lack of warning but, seeing as this blog is dedicated to—and occasionally written in—the spirit of meditation, if you weren't on the same wave length, well... better luck next time. Larry’s prize? A mention—in fact a word-for-word quotation—and a link back to his well worth the read and I'm not just saying that because he was nice to me blog.
I think the main flaw of all of our youthful writings is that it tends towards the purple. The fact that it’s self-absorbed and angst-ridden is just the way it is and probably always will be. It takes a special sort of genius to be a young genius. But it also takes a special sort of genius to even attempt writing (anything) in one’s youth. I wrote similar stuff to yours when I was young. And now I think I’m blessed that I had the courage to do it, and the outlet it provided. (Because I was angst-ridden and hormone-hyped and drug-addled and generally confused…) Many of my friends did not have this. They became 100 yard hurdlers and racewalkers. We’re all writers, else we wouldn’t be blogging would we? But even now, most often I write ME. Even when I’m thinking through other characters, I’m still writing ME. And in a certain sense, I wouldn’t have it any other way. For a while I wrote Jack Kerouac. Or Kafka. Or any other writer whose name starts with K. Now I get to write Keiler, for better or worse. ...In my first year of university, I wrote a short story with a rather“Book of Revelations” ending involving snow. My professor said it reminded her of the themes raised in Margaret Atwood’s“Survival”, a particularly Canadian book. I’m not sure I still have a copy of that story, but looking back on it now, I remember it as being simply over-wrought.
Outstanding comment Larry. Which leads me on to, or more accurately, back to, my favourite topic of all. You guessed it—me. Funnily enough, as Larry relates, I also wrote Jack Kerouac for a while, and am grateful to ‘Ti Jean’ for his“first thought best thought” approach to writing. Experimenting with just pouring the words out upon the page, never looking back like Lot of The Book of Genesis—just write, write, write and don't worry what you write—all of this helped inestimably in the thousand-page journey to find my writer’s voice, and to my blessed relief, liberated me from the quagmire of over-analysis and hesitation. About the time I was writing purple-hued, post-adolescent poetry, I landed a weekly column in a university newspaper—a particularly daring move considering I had all of two completed articles to my name. With twenty-six, due by 12pm Monday at the latest ahead of me, I was soon writing come agonising over-wrought, over-thought think-pieces on topics as diverse as Walt Whitman, Martin Luther King and myself. I think you can guess which topic was the odd one out. The column—This Side of the (TV) Screen, collapsed after only twelve editions, crushed under weight of over-expectation and a nagging self-doubt. The task of six hundred worthy words a week seemed a mountain too high, and, despite knowing better, I couldn't help but compare myself—unfavourably—to a fellow columnist, who wrote the most eloquent, lyrical pieces I had then ever seen. Despite my self-perceived flaws, the editor—son of a famous New Zealand poet and an emerging playwright—was more than encouraging, and looking back now—beyond the tears of frustration and sense of failure—it was a good learning experience—a commendable first start. As an aside, I never met my columnist colleague that year—he was a secretive, mysterious scribe, and seldom ever seen. Several years later however I did, by which time I had graduated to Production Manager—he still a columnist. Would you believe it—despite his paper-eloquence and pen-in-hand wit he was in person nervous, neurotic and to the extreme meek, virtually apologising for his contributions before he even submitted them. Who would have thought...
No Failure No failure, no failure. Failure is the shadow Of success. No failure, no failure. Failure is the changing body Of success. No failure, no failure. Failure is the fast approaching train Of the greatest success. Sri Chinmoy, The Dance Of Life, Part 13, 1973
As someone once said, failure (upon failure) paves the road to success. And while I’m composing my victory speech, I should say that I couldn’t have done it without meditation.

Losing my mind (and other more important things)

It's official—I am losing my mind. Full-blown amnesia and premature dementia have been threatening to break out for a while now, and in their milder, meditation-relaxation induced forms, welcome even—refreshing change from fastidious, check the door is locked twice anxiety of long gone but not long forgotten younger, highly strung days. Sure I may never be able to remember people’s names this lifetime, an at times endearing like a mad professor—at least I like to imagine so—but probably professionally damaging habit-come-mental-block—not a selling point probably when one is trying to run a business; and I may never know why I can not for the life of me easily learn the words to songs—not completely true, for I find I can do most things when mind is applied and heart engaged, and perhaps music, for which my faculty is more implicit yet less pursued than other pursuits, deserves to be given a fairer hearing. But where was I? It seems to have happened again... With relative time but not pressure on my side when packing for a now embarked overseas trip, an exception to the norm of upending drawers into bags as the taxi draws up along side, I really had no excuse to leave my costs-$200-to-replace-and-I-have-urgent-work-to-do laptop power cord behind me, or to compound matters further, board the plane with recently purchased protective inner sleeve for very same computer in the airport lounge. On the plus side, I did remember to pack a notebook and pen—that’s notebook as in fits in my back pocket—and somewhat chastened, calluses not seen since university days forming on fingers so long has it been since a paragraph wrote by hand, calluses red and stinging like rebuke and reminder for carelessness blatant, I composed these words in-flight, unable to be re-charged laptop failing me finally. So my mind has failed me as well. Not for the first time to be sure...

A Weekend with David Lynch

Lynch Weekend Bente Loevhaug, Project Manager for the upcoming David Lynch Weekend got in touch to let me know that, and the title is kind of a give-away here, David Lynch—as in the famous film-maker and perhaps not so famous meditator—is hosting a special weekend next month, subtitled“Exploring the frontiers of consciousness, creativity and the brain.” Personally I’m not terribly interested in the frontier of the brain, but very much so uncharted vistas of consciousness and creativity—probably why I went to the trouble of writing a review of Lynch’s excellent Catching the Big Fish: Meditation, Consciousness and Creativity in the first place. Iowa is a little off the beaten trail for me personally to attend, so in leiu of listening to David Lynch talk in person I’m going to settle for repeating a few choice words of his on meditation and creativity, topics dear to my own heart.
“I meditate in the morning and in the evening, for half an hour each time. I don't know what my life would be without meditation and I never have missed one session anywhere. I've meditated every day for the past 23 years. It cleans the nervous system, which is the instrument of consciousness. Little by little, a person becomes a hair more aware of what's going on. The bad things that happen don't hit you so hard, and you're not overpowered by success. Success can be even more dangerous than failure.” “Well, you know, I'm a meditator, and the idea of that is to expand consciousness by clearing the machines of consciousness, which is the nervous system, and the greater the consciousness, you know... I think in the analogy of fishing, the deeper your hook can go to catch the bigger ideas. And its very important to get down in there. Sitting comfortably, in a chair, drifting off, not trying to manipulate what's in front of you, sometimes you can drop into a beautiful area or bounce up to higher whichever way you want to see it into a beautiful area and catch ideas.”

Moved to relate

Desiree of Let’s Change the World was moved to relate after reading of my Writing lows:
Writing has always been my great passion and like any great passion there have been times where I passionately hated it! I can’t tell you how many diaries I started and never finished as a child myself. So many things I started and never finished. I couldn’t even count the unfinished novels that I’ve written or perhaps I should say haven’t written. I love to write so I’m not really sure why I’ve had such a difficult time keeping it up in my life but blogging has really been the answer for me. I’ve been blogging now for 3 or 4 years and I guess there is just something about having an instant readership that appeals to my motivation. I don’t know…I’m babbling aren’t I? Well I really just wanted to say I can relate.
Hey thanks Desiree—you've certainly hit the nail on the head with the appeal of an instant audience when blogging—I still drop everything whenever I see a comment appear in my email in-box, and sometimes a single comment is enough to start me on a new, wonderful tangent. Or turn the corner to productivity. Babbling is good I say. I think, although ‘feel’ would better suit though less easily coined, that I enjoy writing more as a stream of consciousness than process of patchwork honing and refining, though the latter does have its place also—and since when can I ever leave a story once written alone? Running is better than walking usually, but you see the scenery a little more clearly at a slower pace... I should admit that I may have been, as is my tendency and writers prerogative, a little melodramatic in my description of recent writerly trials—four or five days between the last couple of posts, and a number of started but ne’er finished pieces when in the middle of an insanely busy couple of weeks is not really so bad, and with the exception of the prolific blogger and frequent commentator here Camille (thanks for that), I suspect I am more at ease—and productive—in my writing than most, and aware that such requires not a post-graduate qualification but a degree of gratitude, never expectation nor demand. I am half-way through a post on this theme, and for anyone who may find writing harder than I, take heart from the fact that I really haven't been stringing letters together for very long, and credit most of my ability, and more importantly my inspiration, to the practise of meditation—more so than anything I may have brought with me into this world. It is worth reminding self, again and again, of the power of meditation, and also the distinct lack of power—for power autonomy and authority may equally be inserted, in relation to writing and otherwise—of my little ‘s’ self. And in the case of meditation, like writing, there are certainly better authorities than I...
Sri Chinmoy on the benefits of meditation “We make tremendous improvement through meditation. This is the only way of improving any part of life; there is no other way to make abiding progress. But we don't ignore anything. The negative aspects of life are also part and parcel of Mother Earth. If we ignore them, what will happen? They will come again and attack our near ones and dear ones. So what we do is try to change them, transform them. In the beginning we do not pay attention to them precisely because we want to be strong. If you are weak, how are you going to protect others? But if you become strong, then you will be in a position to help and protect others. And it is meditation that makes you strong and powerful. “So first we become strong. Then we will be in a position to help others. But we do not ignore anything; only in the beginning, we pay attention to Beauty, Light and Delight. When we get Light and Delight, through this Light and Delight we can be transformed. We try to pay all attention to the positive aspects of life so that we muster courage, strength, will-power in infinite measure. Then, when the negative aspects turn up, we try to change the fate of those who are in the world of darkness and indulgence.” From My Heart's Salutation To Australia

Writing lows

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...

Writing Peaks 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, 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, 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...

Synchronicity walk with me 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: