Wednesday 31 December 2008

National service

I have often thought how glad I am that national service was stopped way before my time. PE and games at school were bad enough! How would national service have gone? The passive resistance I had employed in those school PE and games 'lessons' would probably not have worked. Of course it may be that they would have spotted what a thoroughly hopeless case I was and sent me off to whatever it was they did with small sensitive repressed outsiders who showed no sporting or rough play interests and yet also lacked theatrical inclinations. Yes, they may have decided that I had better get theatrical! Or maybe I would have decided that. Alternatively of course they might have spotted the practical, capable engineer and the strong character. And here is the point; this fantasy of incompetence painted first needs to be offset against alternative views including the practicality noted here. There is much physiological baggage for me in all this and it seems to be spread about under various headings in my physiological database. I might throw some headings away then find the same stuff under other headings. Actually I have just been throwing out old files today (real paper ones) from degree courses, training courses and work. All (hopefully) redundant; they have served their purpose and like any raft once at the shore... But I digress, I want to run with this national service stuff for a bit. Upon reflection I doubt I would have been able / allowed to find some place of retreat.

I understand that the military like to get their men beyond their own ego's and working together as a team; all for one and one for all. I would have struggled! Which posses interesting questions about self and Self. And, the deliberately chosen their men points to interesting questions about constructions of masculinities and thus femininities; hegemony. I do not leave out their women although I can hear my feminist friends saying 'oh yes you do; you bring them in second and by association'. I try in these few lines to acknowledge the gender politics and by now the issues should be clear but for clarity I'll list them; construction of masculinity and its part in self, hegemony, subjugation of self by the state by employing group-think and the role of Self in 'seeing' this. This point about the state is slightly different from the hegemonic creation of self, I am thinking more of the inhumanities of war. I am going to shy away from construction femininity as it is just too off radar for me, but I acknowledge the yin principle.

Now, I opened this post with baggage and that's boring; the raft has sailed on, bits of it get reinvented etc. So, rather than pick away at the particulars I'll point just to this- one's historical self is tightly tied into one's environment and I am thankful not to have had to deal with the military.

Oh, and returning to throwing things out, I started up my old computer from 1995; It has been stored away awaiting disposal and we plan to try to freecycle it. It still works complete with Windows 3.11! DC joked as we set it up that it was like starting a time machine! Fortunately we had no flux capacitor!

Tuesday 30 December 2008


Humour is as they say the best medicine. And for me if it is the somewhat surreal variety as most excellently created by the thoroughly imaginative Vic Reeves and Bob Mortimer then all the better. I've just watched a review of the pair's Shooting stars; quite brilliant. I had forgotten this gem. Humour is often said to be based on some form of cruelty at bottom. Well the but of the joke in the case of Vic and Bob is our own pretentiousness. We can see this in the treatment given to any celebrity who takes part in the show; any egotism would be thrashed. There is nothing like the (probably typically British) surreal antics of this pair to bring me to earth, aliveness and a sense of the greatness of sharing time with fun people and to remember my own inner clown. Ah but with the passing of the years... We all slow down; the energy is just less vibrant or at least the pace of it slows. But the vibrancy can still remain; think of Humphrey Lyttelton or George Melley, they were both right in there living as full as they could until their deaths. The inner clown need not fade away and it need not be part of the closed armour of the adapted self, the circus clown complete with tears. No, the inner child is the playfulness here and the tears need only be of laughter.

Reminder to self- when the short, dark and cloudy days dampen the mood get some humour going David.

Sunday 28 December 2008

What am I doing

How much do/can we change? And when did we become the way we are? I am trying to be as much as I might be. Not as much as I can do, not tick off achievements. No, as open and aware of my position as I can be. And this is about freedom and aliveness. So I have to spot the habits that are not helpful and drop them. Except I can't just drop them; I need to move to more skillful alternatives. I have heard DC say on more than one occasion that we don't change we just get more the same. Umm. That might be the difference between a life with or without a spiritual practice; to take (goalless) aim at Self or just plough on with self. And there is the hard bit; I have my historic self, my karma and that is my starting point for any (aim to) move forward. I can only do what I can do. I think that to say I can only be what I am requires that I consider the (philosophical) question of being. I am trying to be as much as I might be so I consider the question. The way I put this to myself at the moment is 'what am I doing? Is this what needs to be done?' The need bit is where the question expands hugely into what I understand, believe want etc. It would start to get circular without some external input. Fortunately life comes along and makes demands and tai chi, reading Buddhist text and sitting zazen all provide new input.

I started this post yesterday but I couldn't get it to gel so I left it at the above paragraph. Then I came across one of DC's books on consciousness by Susan Blackmore. (DC has been looking at consciousness for sometime now and is pulling together various papers, books and conferences on the subject from a music perspective.) Blackmore lectured in psychology and has practiced meditation since the 1980's so I was interested to see the book. I read with interest the last two chapters; Meditation and mindfulness and Buddhism and consciousness. Ah, I thought; will she look at bridging the Eastern spiritual traditions and Western scientific method? Will Western psychology be compared and contrasted with Buddhism. Will the question of reality be investigated? Will she have a view on the significance of enlightenment experiences? I don't like voicing that last question, at least not as such; it seems so crude. Any way, yes, those questions are raised. There is of course no grand unifying theory pulling this little lot into the answer of course. No, we each have to do that for our selves I suppose. And here Blackmore gives a useful reminder- Zen requires 'great doubt'. Ah yes; get perplexed and keep asking, keep waking up. Now I've got the post to gel and yes I had the right title I just forgot the right expectation; I forgot that it's not about getting it all to gel.

Saturday 27 December 2008


I quite like a bit of a bop, I quite like some music, I find some music not at all to my taste. But music has never been on my radar the way I think it is for many people; I would go for days without thinking much to play any left to my own devices. My partner DC lives it! It is a major part of his life; he is Prof. of music at a university and it runs through most if not all parts of his life.

Music changes one's mood and can move one through the chakras. I wonder weather part of the slight 'off radar' thing I have with music is that I was self conscious as a kid; the mind always watching and thus a not fully connecting. I am not suggesting that the self consciousness was the cause exactly, more that the roots of the two are close. If I just listen to music I can get a bit bored; it isn't enough. If I am doing something then I quite like the quiet so as to concentrate or enjoy the peace. The some music in the background idea kind of works for me but it is not a habit. I suppose I am a bit better with speech radio. Then there is being affected by music; it moving one through the chakras to match the rhythm, melody etc. I like that in dance but if I am not moving then I find the mind comes in and I sort of ask 'what am I up to?' Although I often have the radio on whilst driving.

I think I am pointing to the question of attention and identification. I suspect some people identify more with the music. I get this identification too but I don't think so much to reconnect with it (by choosing to play it) later on. I wonder if this is something to do with activity and passivity hence the dance connection; in the past I'v done some Biodanza and I really like that.

What I think is interesting here is the relationship between mind, body and an external stimulus and what this says about spirit, weather the music be more lower (eg Bob Marley's Jamming) or upper (Vaughan Williams' The lark ascending) chakra centred. Actually some clarification is needed here; Bob Marley's Jamming gets me moving (ie dance, creative chakra) but it also moves in the heart chakra and that points to aliveness. I guess there is some pointing to aliveness in Vaughan Williams' The lark ascending but to me this is more about the still part of being and the (un)reachable realms we can detect. I've said in the past that people might want to consider playing this at my funeral. Not that I think it a deathly piece it's just it seems to me to point onwards.

Friday 26 December 2008


A few things come to mind:

Yesterday (Christmas day) Jesus did not feature in my thoughts other than after I'd posted my blog;
DC bought me an MP3 multi media player for Christmas; amazing technology. Youths I dare say have all that stuff with them all the time and share it all with each other in a being part of it way. Or some do. I recall my somewhat disconnected youth;
Depression & the body - we are creatures of the light. I felt better today when the sun came out. Which points to that question about mind and materialism (or physicalism). Big one that!;
I have a cold, ughh.

Pulling this together I might say that one's position that is to say the basis from/of which one's reality is woven is a complex of many unknowns. But then I accepted that ages ago. So, what is there to say about it? Well, I guess it's that materialism question. Yes, there is no archimedian point, but that only seems to show the unanswerable nature of the problem. Do I doubt Buddha nature? Naa, it's just what it might (not) mean.

Thursday 25 December 2008

A bit down

I am a bit down. Reasons? Well, the dark days don't help although I am not overtly bothered by that, being upset with DC and feeling that I don't have sufficient time to study Buddhist philosophy are in there for sure. But practice is not study. Formal zazen and trying to follow the precepts are probably of more use to me. I've probably got the theory. Piling up concepts etc... So, what is feeling down about? And what is feeling down? Thoughts, physical feelings and... Umm...? Not easy this rooting out attachments. I guess that's what it boils down to. Is it that my self feels it's not having enough fun and neither is it progressing towards Self (how ridiculous is that) and so is thwarted in it's efforts to get what it thinks it wants? And who is it that is positing this idea? And am I a convinced Buddhist? Am I still looking to escape pain by taking control?

Hold up, rewind, UPSET WITH DC. Yes, that's the biggest part of it. We have been together for going on seventeen years, we love each other. I got angry and I can't quite work out fully why and I don't like that I felt that way. And this clearly isn't about anything he has done. Is this about how I feel about me? Have I got stuck in some me-ness? I don't quite know?

Oh, it will pass. All is well.

Wednesday 24 December 2008


Talk this evening with friends came around to the subject of extended periods of traveling the world alone. This never appealed to me as it does to some people and I am impressed by the resilience of those young people who do this as soon as they leave school in search of adventure. But then they probably didn't spend years battling with OCD; they probably see the world as exiting and full of wonderful opportunity. Whereas I have had to develop a more optimistic approach.

Following a web link I came across some stuff on sensitive people and in particular sensitive children. Whilst tacitly recognised for years this is now apparently an accepted taxonomy. All taxonomies of course need to be viewed with care but I feel I do fit the bill. Society tends to take a dim view of the sensitive so one grows armour which then needs to be stripped away or redeployed in a move towards accepting that one is basically alright. And so it is understandable that the prospect of heading off into the unknown in search of adventure, indeed the very word adventure, is likely to give rise in my mind to negative feelings. I am much more relaxed in this respect these days but my basic instinct is to view the unknown and in particular the uncontrolled with caution.

So, the sensitivity and the introspection may well help in the study and following of the Way but of course the fear and the control which it prompts can be obstacles. Stripping away the armour seems to help but I can see how this could turn into more control. This I think is the coal face of practice for me. I guess this is in my mind a bit now and I've been writing about it one way or an other in other posts.

Tuesday 23 December 2008

Festive season

't is the start of the festive season. May you all find peace and light enough to counteract the feelings of 'bah humbug' that the festival of consumer spending can generate. I love Dickens' A Christmas carol. Jacob Marley may have forged a heavy chain but he had the wisdom open his heart and save Scrooge. May we have the wisdom to keep our karma light whatever our religious convictions and the good fortune to share time with others. I am going to try to make a special effort to remember that if and when I get tetchy.

Happy festival of midwinter light.

Monday 22 December 2008

Warm and cozy

What is the limit of non-attachment for me? How much of what I want or feel I need is ego and how much is determined by my ability to survive? How much 'I' can be dissolved? And since it is a precious human life I must make the most of it. And what does that mean, ie what should I be doing, how should I be adjusting (is that the right word) my outlook, my feelings? In other words what are the bounds of form for my life. I suppose the question is to meet trouble half way. When I see an issue raised before me I need only try to find the answer using the precepts. What I guess I am doing is seeing a bit of egocentric thinking, extrapolating and trying to find some limits. And that is about control. It is I think one of the hardest habits to loosen. Easy to see why; it gets results, helps keep us safe. I am in human form and the basic instinct is to survive (, followed by the instinct to reproduce though this is some what differently adjusted in my case as a gay man); Maslow's hierarchy of needs.

As ever, I am probably taking a few concerns and projecting them out into all sorts of far reaching possibilities when all I need do is enjoy my good karma and look forward to spending the next couple of weeks in the warm cozy surroundings of home, friends and family. But I no sooner think that than I hear the fear of it all running out being voiced. And what are those concerns? Well, they are complex but basically they relate to my understanding of the Way.

I guess this points to practice and the fear of the 'under toad' (see OCD post). But it is also about attachment and enjoyment. I have a big pile of interesting and worthwhile reading I am hoping to get well stuck into over the next week or so and I am looking forward to being at home in the warmth all cozy etc. I guess that's fine as long as I remember the good fortune of it.

I am mixing up a few ideas in this post, but that seems to be how they are sitting with me, or me with them.

Sunday 21 December 2008


DC arrived safely home yesterday. I wanted to be pleased and exited to see him and when I picked him up from the airport he was clearly exited to see me. But I have been angry with him and I couldn't find an open position. And I hated feeling that way. It all came out and spoiled his home coming and we both ended up feeling bad. I am still sad. No temper was lost; the emotion just oozed out.

I am sad because I was not overwhelmingly pleased to see him. Why have I been so angry with him for going away. Clearly we can't live in each others pockets. I guess it is because I feel a bit used and that is why I could not just pick up the feelings of joy to be together. How much have I missed him? Not sure. I try to just accept whatever comes along so I have not allowed my self to get all down about his being away and there is always plenty to do. So why used? What is this ego trip about? And if I try to empty out ego where possible where is the truth in enjoying the nice things? Clearly I have not emptied out the egotism in this; I was angry.

The whole business points to attachment; how, where, to what, when, blah blah, I don't know. And unpicking it, accepting it and opening to my own good fortune is at present but an aspiration. He's back and he is lovely but I feel just awful and he will not be as happy as if I had been able to get in an open frame of mind yesterday.

I really struggle sometimes (not often) with finding the right place to be; I'll see the unpleasant emotion, try to be more open but can't find what seems right.

I started writing this at the start of the day. It's evening now and things are softening. We've been to town and then for a meal with friends. I am surrounded by much warmth as I knew yesterday. Strange how knowing does not always immediately blow away the irrational.

Saturday 20 December 2008


Continuing on from my last post. Perhaps precious is misleading; if I am lost it's a map which is precious, stuck in the middle of nowhere with a puncture it's the spare wheel etc. But I was thinking more of those fine objects; polished marquetry, precision gears, objects which need careful handling. Today, consumer capitalism loves to mass produce supposedly special objects. Flash egotistic architecture leers at us in almost every street. Polished shiny, crass vulgarity, desperate to be be the real thing. What is the real thing. Integrity? Integrity, which I once defined as; the synthesis of the available dimensions of being in the moment. Precious indeed. Is it that certain objects, certain works point at this?

I suppose that the theistic religions would construct this in terms of man acting out the greatest good, made as they consider him to be in the image of Him. This I think has a ring of egotism. But I've little knowledge of those theologies so maybe they would say no, it is in the emptying of self that the work is made.

I return to my picture of the unknowable unity of reality folded and thus giving rise to forms of which we are composed and thus constructing (not the best word) a view. And it might be that certain types of objects, of forms point at this unity due to their hinting at perfection. A perfection which is ever present but not so much to our liking as when hinted at in those rare objects.

The scratch we perceive in the polished table top perfectly matches the object that made it, but we prefer the perception of the unscratched.

Precious objects

I was thinking earlier about precious objects. It's got late soon and I am too tried to expand now but the gist of it is this; a fine work displays the splendid nature of human possibility. Beautiful hand made objects, precision engineering, works as art or for practical function. I'll leave to one side more abstract works such as music or writing, these too demonstrate the principle but it was more the direct, (still, not dynamic) representation of the principle which came to mind. The relationship with notions of perfection. All the clutter and complexity of everyday objects is somehow parted or set aside and an often delicate, deceptive simplicity is... Is what, revealed is the tempting word but this would not be correct. Is manifest. Common objects can also take on something of this quality when they wear through use, again the perfection in the adaption is manifest. 'Timeless' good design, craft, art, function illustrating some sustaining 'truth'.

There are depths of reality and we move through those depths in the course of our life.

Thursday 18 December 2008

Projecting energy

I feel very much the need to be at home protected from the world, resting and recharging. It takes energy being in public space.I like it, I am not the shy type,but I do need my own space.

This brings to my mind the question of ego. We are all different, each with our own skills and problems, needs and desires; some things are not so much ego as intrinsic needs. I find I have an image (barley visible to me) that I need to deliver to depending where I am. I think most of us feel a need to do this; we adapt a bit to suit the surroundings. We are quite chameleon like. It's part of our defense mechanism I think. And it's ego. To be true to one's incarnated form, to become a less adapted self, takes much learning. I draw a distinction here between a less adapted self and Self. Is there a continuum? I think so.

I can't write what I feel. I can only write what I think. If I convert the feelings in to words I am thinking. I can try to place the feelings in the spaces made by the words, to put the message in between the lines (and this will happen even if I try not to do so) but I can't do it directly; I need to think it a bit. I am not a poet.

Wednesday 17 December 2008


It has been said of me that I am a 'head guy'; thinker not so much feeler. Umm. False dichotomy me thinks. We have thoughts about our feelings and vice versa. And what is a thought if not some kind of feeling? Oh yes, I know, it's the extent of the symbolism involved, particularly where language enters in to our mind. Our mind? Umm, it's getting deep already. There is I think (see I am teasing you already) a good approach to this in the east; the chakra system. And one can place one's attention at the various chakras. Let's consider the heart chakra.

Companies (by which I mean businesses) are not exempt from the laws of interdependence; they don't exist. They are the relationships of individuals. Yet somehow they develop a life of their own and the people in them start believing in notions of job specifications and person specifications. Well, this all might be a useful set of tools but all too easily people can shift their attention to the head and forget the heart. My experience is that things start going pear shaped at that point since the head can then also close down. People take their jobs personally. However hard we might try to be professional cogs in the machine we can't escape that we are people. And that's as it should be. So generally thoughts and feelings run hand in hand at work as elsewhere. Open minds and hearts work well together but it's hard to keep them that way. We can compartment off aspects of being and so end up with ideas of thoughts and feelings. This fragmenting can take hold and our thoughts and feelings can get out of kilter with feelings being hurt.

Behind all this there is of course the ego. And there is nowhere quite like work to see egos in action. What would the current financial problems look like if every company had a heart chakra Key Performance Indicator? And not a token one, an honest one.

Tuesday 16 December 2008

When tired thoughts go wonky

I am tired. Not exhausted like some around me but too tired. Listening to my body it is saying withdraw, consider and rest. But practicalities don't allow for that. And so the question arises 'what is right effort?' or 'what does the universe (not my ego) want ?' I think maybe it is letting me see just what I need in the longer run. And it is probably going to mean tackling a fair sized issue.

I have the feeling I am getting just what I need somehow. Funny business life. And I see that in just a few thoughts it rides a line - Samsara/Nirvana...

Monday 15 December 2008

Herculean efforts

Over recent weeks and in particular over the weekend I have seen those working around me making herculean efforts and to great effect. Long hours, often cold, wet, heavy work. For others long hours much responsibility and much need for skill in managing people. And today I heard someone with back and hand pain say 'pain is all in the mind'. The same man remains calm under stress and is hard working, reliable, thorough, capable and trust worthy. And the thought crossed my mind 'he may well have a more zen like approach than I'. Of course it's only a snap shot; who really can tell where they yet alone others stand. Best to avoid unnecessary judgements. But I take my hat off to those around me.

Sunday 14 December 2008

Bubbling along

It has been an interesting day. Bubbling along. How hard to push / effort and attitude, closed hearts v open hearts, fools v the wise, that sort of thing. Also information which gives rise to an interesting reflection on past events. I become more and more convinced that we need to take care just what we consider to be true. One's self view, one's view of other's views including what one thinks they think of one, etc., etc. all often off the mark.

Karma is complex, cause and effect not simple. Keeping a light touch takes a lot of skill. To act as required and not to shrink away yet not to plough in all takes skill.

I guess I am pointing to the effort required to follow Master Dogen's instructions for Zen cook. (I hope I've understood something of Dogen's instructions as explained by Kosho Uchiyama Roshi in 'How to cook your life' and use the references with great respect.)

Saturday 13 December 2008


In The Perennial Philosophy, Aldous Huxley discusses temperament and makes reference to William Sheldon's work on somatotypes. Much of Sheldon's work is now discredited. However, we should remember that whilst all knowledge is subject to the frames we use to make our forms (taxonomy always carries the risk of making the items fit the allotted holes) we do need to make some sense of the world in which we find ourselves. So it might be worth considering if there is any thing of interest in what Huxley was saying. I think so. Today muscular religion is of particular concern, the somatotonic revolution of which Huxley wrote in 1944 seems all too evident and developing toughness generally is seen as a good thing. Whilst self reliance is clearly of great value we might be well advised to consider unpacking some of this.

Would it be possible to move to a position in which we all learned to try softer? I was pleasantly surprised today to hear on the radio that we might consider the economic down turn as opportunity to tackle environmental problems. But I fear this will not be a path taken; politics is too muscular.

And what has all this to do with my day? Well, I just can't seem to work out how to get on with it. And I don't know if it's wisdom or ego. Softness or laziness.

Friday 12 December 2008


It really will happen! To me! To you!
It will!
I sense we don't believe it.

Thursday 11 December 2008

Still trying

There is a section in Zen mind beginner's mind by Shunryu Suzuki titled 'No dualism'. I think this a very elegant talk and it is in my thoughts just now; I feel far from being able to say 'Sun-faced Buddha and moon-faced Buddha' and know it to be true of how I feel. I think it an aspiration for me to be guided by. And in that guidance to also see the need to be compassionate with myself as I fall short. Not easy for me to work out what is required and what my ego wants.

At least I seem to be spacious enough to see the gap.

Wednesday 10 December 2008


Do we really understand intimacy? We are both separate and part of each other, all of us. Intimacy is the extent to which we open to others but it is not a single dimension. Information, thoughts and emotions can all be exchanged both with and without physical contact. Energy might be exchanged from the head, heart and lower chakras. We communicate with and without words. With and without physical contact. How intimate are we with our self? How well do we understand our motives. Do we know what and how we are trying to communicate? How much of our intention is to take and how much to give? Intimacy between individuals can involve various levels of selfishness. There is giving and taking both passive and active in each case, the two aspects inseparable. Is it that in intimacy both (or all) participants have a similar view and the ego is lessened in a way? If the view is not largely shared then the participants are having separate experiences and little intimacy. Ego and intimacy are an interesting relation I think. To what extent, in which ways and in what context do we open? We need to balance our relationships with people in our community; if in opening to some we fail to consider others then we are being selfish. Eros can be a cause of this. Eros I think, requires separation; the goal to some extent needs to be just out of reach, and yet there is a sort of reaching it. But is that intimacy? It's a question of the extent to which the view can be shared. But I don't want the reader to think this post is mainly about Eros, that is but a part of what needs to be considered. It is the stripping away of defences, the honesty of the communication, the reality of being to which I refer.

Tuesday 9 December 2008

Right effort

I find that it is not always easy to see right effort when in the midst of a busy day. I guess I just don't have the karma (yet?). I try to remember and practice more or less as indicated by the following lines:

Mindful, humble, compassionate;
Open heart, open mind;
To express like and dislike is to tear heaven and earth apart;
What is it that the universe is asking to be done (not what does my ego want);
Am I following the precepts?
Watch those bodily cues - is that anger coming on?;
Where is my attention?

There is no enlightenment outside of daily life so I juggle and try to balance, work, home, Buddhist study, seated meditation, Tai Chi, keeping fit, friends, having fun, etc. It's all practice.

Juggling masculinities is part of all that; small gay guy always a bit different, practicing Buddhism working in a traditionally macho industry. (Actually, am I practicing Buddhism?) Of course it's probably not nearly as macho as I fear. I think I probably carry too much armour; most people I've worked with over the years are fine and we get on well. There is a lesson there. Dropping the armour needs wisdom, non-attachment, right effort.

All is well.

Monday 8 December 2008


Yesterday I managed to aggravate the lower back pain that has been troubling me for a while. I was struggling first thing today to get it moving. This together with the cold virus thing, DC being only midway through his trip and the prospect of Christmas is making me want to retreat. It's interesting to watch how it all makes me feel and how it affects day to day choices.

In The world according to Garp, John Irving introduces the under toad. I think most of his books are about the under toad; the feeling or fear that things might be about to go wrong. The universe of course is perfect; it is all tied together and works. It moves when out of balance to correct. The movement filling the gap between any imperfections. I can't move that fast though, I can't keep up. I have my attachments, so I risk suffering. But I don't think I fear the under toad quite as much as in the past. It's not gone though. It's part of the OCD I just have to keep managing. Though I think that even people without this condition have some sense of the under toad. We all sense possibly threatening change to some extent. It's part of our inheritance I think. Because I am not seriously debilitated by OCD I sort of think I got over it in childhood. But really I just learned to get it under control. I did this more or less on my own with a bit of help from my dad in the days when no one had heard of it. We didn't know it had a name. Taxonomy of course can be problematic, remember those frames?

I hadn't planned to write about OCD, I picked the title after I started writing and I've touched on other stuff too, so I am going to leave it there.

Sunday 7 December 2008

Eggs or soup

I want to continue with the ideas in yesterday's post. Moment by moment I face choice; eggs or soup (for lunch), read, listen to the radio, join the conversation or not, express a view or not, etc., etc. What about hold a view or not? What are my views? What are my values? What do I hold important? What do I desire? My view and my desires affect the choices I make. I am talking about the map I hold to guide me through, no, make my life. I hold up my frames through which I make meaning, compare what I see with the yardstick of my views and choose. My views, values and desires are in relationship. And I am not always aware of the complex precess which is driving all this. I have my compass; I might watch my emotions, look out for attachments as best I can but I can't see all the map and bits of it keep getting redrawn. Not to get stuck with a fixed view, to avoid dogma is a very challenging goal. And of course, it's the goal bit that needs to be dropped, or at least the attachment to it, if one is to avoid getting stuck. To really be awake to every option and to be awake to choosing and the reasons for that choice, not to sleepwalk through it, that is to expand ones life

I think this a very different position from someone who accepts a dogma and is devastated when life crashes through it showing the limitations of the frames, the emptiness of the forms. But such a person is unlikely to be aware of their frames and will probably view forms as absolute. Views and values which are based on belief in forms as absolute will always run up against conflicting values because we don't all have the same frames. We each must make our own meaning. What's this, solipsism? No! We make our meaning in relation to others, we exist in relation to others. Which brings focus around to the ego, the extent to which our relations are selfish. And it can take a lot to know when we are selfish, because our values can get in the way. Dogma? And as if this were not enough, we need remember that life is much bigger than us; it makes us moment after moment and we need to remember not to get stuck.

I need to remember not to get stuck and not to get too idealistic.

Saturday 6 December 2008

Eggs are the new celery

I spoke with DC today by phone and later we e-mailed each other. Lovely exchange and great to speak with each other. Then off I went to the shops for food. One has to adjust to buying for one not two. I bought eggs only to get back and find a load in the fridge. Years ago it was always celery I seemed to end up with too much of. DC coined the expression '---is/are the new celery' for my buying food I had failed to remember we had.

So lunch settled; boiled eggs. I've added a photo of the egg cup, a classic; 1960's, stainless steel. Beautiful. To use DC's words I am just an old fashioned modernist. Form follows function. Except of course that the reverse also holds. And here is my segue, it's form I want to write about.
We have two of these egg cups and I think they are DC's, but they could be mine. I recall that we had such at home when I was a kid and so a bit like the sweets you have at that age, they seem like they always were and any new type that one remembers being introduced, well, they are some newfangled thing. Readers of a certain age will recall Marathon chocolate bars. But I digress. Or do I? We live in the realm of form. Form shapes us and we shape the forms we see. I think that there is a complex symbiosis at work here. Consider the eggcup, it has had a useful input to my day. This gives it meaning to me. Now I could spend time writing about interconnectedness; everything that needed to come together to make the eggcup, that I create the image I perceive with my senses, etc. but that would be an exploration of the emptiness of form. That's not quite where I am going with this. I am thinking about the slightly more subtle aspects of form; our approach to our being.
By now you will have a bit of picture of my day. STOP. Recall your day. What shaped it? Did it need to be that way. What way could any day be for you, for me? Here we are faced with choice. What has meaning for us? What state (of mind) do we feel comfortable with? What is feeling? What is thought? What is what? Is what thought? I think so. to ask 'what?' is a thought. And we think in forms. And that let's us cross the road, go shopping and boil eggs. Oh, and develop huge bodies of technical, scientific and cultural knowledge. Amazing. But not the whole of reality. No? No. So we need consider our beliefs because our beliefs affect how we live; the form of our lives. All forms are empty but I do not think that takes away our choice, our responsibilities, our joys. It is probably what generates them. Which is a nice way to start to consider the difficult question of free will but that's an other post. What I am driving at here is the extent to which our lives are the forms and choices we make. Eggs or soup?

Friday 5 December 2008


I try to make each post reflect what seems to be important to me at the time.
Here's what I am with just now:

I work with some great people - let's hope we make it through the tough times and stay charitable.

I am troubled by an old problem which has a lot of attachments around it. Too personal to share whilst not face to face. I know it well but that's not enough to just drop it.

I am still not over this winter virus thing.

It's ok but quiet without DC here. Two more weeks until he is due back.

Friends are the best investment.

My brother and his family are visiting our parents this weekend. Let's hope it goes well.

I feel a bit de-centred. I don't like giving in to being off colour. Umm.

All is well, I am ok just tired.

Thursday 4 December 2008


I have been feeling a few contradictions lately. I am a bit tired and under the weather. I want to stay at home in the warm and nurse my self a bit. Except I wouldn't , I would push myself to make the most of the time and that would place a limit on the nursing bit. Any way I am not that unwell and need to be at work; we have a major deadline coming up and this is not the time to slack. Other contradictions are present too, they probably always are; it's not easy to just do the right thing. Ego and lack of wisdom pop up.

I was in two minds about going to Tai Chi this evening as I was so tired but I decided to go, I never miss the class if at all possible. A brief exchange between myself, a classmate and our teacher (Dominic) at the end of class about the Horizon program earlier in the week prompted us to agree that Western thought could do with looking towards the East to gain an understanding of connectedness. (See yesterday's post.) From this we moved to contradiction and Dominic offered this; 'in Chinese medicine they say if you want to be well accept contradiction'. Yes I though, I am a bit contradicted just now. It's right just to sit with it watching it gently. Thanks Dominic.

Wednesday 3 December 2008


Last night I watched Horizon on TV. Brian Cox who is without doubt very charismatic, was talking about time. 'What time is it?' he asked. I found the first half of the program slow and to be honest a bit irritating and I missed having DC here to bounce comments off. The second half got in to it a bit more; Einstein and space time and where this model runs into problems with particle physics which is Cox's area. There was a bit about membranes or branes. What I found didn't come over was the relation between time and objects.

Cox must understand this relationship but I guess if he hasn't thought about interdependence then it might not seem to be a valuable element in a program made for a TV audience. At this point I could digress to talk about the whole media machine which must be behind the program, Cox's appeal and how the mass media hugely affects the way people live their lives. Point made I'll return.

Time, what is our relationship to it. Ah, to it. Time is not an it, time is relation. We perceive things only because of change. No object exist in its own right and without objects what would we understand of time? Miles per hour, gallons per hour, unit per time interval, unit defined in relation to other units and objects per unit defined in relation to other units and objects. I recall school physics resolving formulas down to fundamental units of mass, length and time. All these units have standard definitions which of course involve objects. But the thing easily overlooked is that none of these objects exist in their own right; they are interdependent. They only exist in relation to other objects. We are bounded by our condition; our provisional knowledge, our technology, our bodies, our culture, our needs arising from our being. What we know of objects is a function of our being. There is no Archimedean point. Yet we need to know. It is in our nature. We went to the moon that's how strong it is. Desire. And we never get there, there is always more. Why? Is it because investigating reality from the limits imposed by the separation essentially part of the realm of form is like trying to work out what it is that's trying to work out what it is that is? Bits of the totality trying to see the whole whilst remaining separate.

I sometimes think of totality like a sort of blanket rumpled up. The rumples look out onto the landscape formed by the rumples. So it seems to rumples that they are separate but they are just blanket. The view that a rumple gets of the blanket is always limited to a relatively short distance and the view never seems stationary; it seems to keeps moving. But is it the view that moves or the blanket? I need to think more about the meaning of view and blanket here and the relation between stillness and movement; Yin and Yang.

There were moments in the program when a hint of the spiritual come over. Why? Because thoughts of time make us face our mortality? Because we somehow feel that it is about being? Because such investigations always seem to involve space and looking at the 'heavens'? The big questions make us reflect upon what we are. Maybe it's the nature of what that needs to be thought about. What is what?

Tuesday 2 December 2008


Nice e-mails from the two people I sent apologies to after yesterday's meeting. They didn't feel there was too much need to apologise. That's good; to keep playing together not against.

I've sort of realised that I am a bit tired and fed up. Nothing major and it will pass of course. Maybe I am a bit low, no that's too strong, a bit under par, as I detect the wind of uncharitable change in the times. It comes around and then blows off and I shouldn't meet it half way. Sorry about the mixed metaphors but hey, I am under par!

I would like to write about dualism, change, constancy, interdependence, cause and effect, our relation to knowledge our needs and desires and ways of being. Evolutionary biology, physics, cultural theory and philosophy seen through the eyes formed by my karma. A kind of engineer's approach to Huxley's The Perennial Philosophy. No that's not quite right, it's more like a multi-view of what appears. Playing with the frames and seeing what pictures they make. I'll have to condense it down a bit and theme it for blogging. But it holds some interest for me and I feel I am not giving it enough time. Still, I might be better served by spending the time sitting zazen. I think one needs to take care how and what energy one puts out. Reading this paragraph it sounds a bit too trite and that's not what I mean. Umm. I am going to leave this; it's saying enough.

Monday 1 December 2008


Some old trigger caused me to be a bit stroppy at a local residents meeting this evening. Nothing major but not good. I find that it can take a lot of work to remember to keep an open mind and an open heart. (If only I had sat in meditation before the meeting, that may well have given me a more spacious mind but time was too tight.) I've said sorry and will need to remember the lesson. It's easy to be cool at a distance, it's when things have to be shoehorned in to the time available and it doesn't seem too important anyway that I can fall into old ways. Umm.

Sunday 30 November 2008


Well, I feel it's time for something light and fun. But what to do? How to post?
Then an e-mail from an old friend pointed me to John Shuttleworth on YouTube - 'Two margarines' and also 'Can't go back to savory now'. Brilliant. Then I noticed Jilted John is there too! What a blast from the past. Such fun. Try them on YouTube.

Saturday 29 November 2008


We can grieve for the little deaths; the loss of what might have been. I think we often carry a lot of that sort of grief around with us without realizing to what it is we are or were attached. We don't always see clearly what we feel we have lost. Hold up! No, rewrite that; take out the we and replace with I. Yes that sounds true. How mad is that? To be attached in the present to wanting a different past! We encapsulate our past and to want it to be different is to want to change the way we are. That's a wish to extinguish who we are, a wish to die. This is shocking and we only consider it because we see it in terms of wanting to change to some perceived improved condition; the idea of a 'me' that could have better this, that or the other. But that's an other person, a person that doesn't exist. Ultimately that road will lead to the ego's ultimate cutting off its nose to spite its face. But extending the line from 'oh I wish...' to such a terrible act is not clear in our minds at the time of wishing this or that.

Today I pointed to this view to help a friend who is recovering from a lot of suffering. At first it didn't go down well. But as we explored it and shared our pain it seemed to help. Like gnarled trees blown by the wind of many winters we stand in the shape formed by the wind, the light, the conditions. Quite beautiful really.

Life just gets on with it. It is so much larger than our desires. But of course it's our desires that it employs. The tree grows to the light, the fruit it would seem is designed by selection to be eaten so as to spread the seed. The birds display their fine feathers to catch a mate. Life makes us moment after moment; birth and death. Yet we can seem to be behind it; stuck with desires which it has out grown. That's grief and what can we do but sit with it until we can accept the loss and move on. And it's a joy to accept the gnarled bough and let go.

Friday 28 November 2008


I believe Thich Nhat Hanh said that a westerner practicing Buddhism as it is practiced in the East will always feel like oil in water. By this I understand that we must express practice through our lives in a way which is relevant to our lives; the forms must be towards the Way not just idolatry.

But it is not just in the practice of a religion that the question of feeling like oil in water arises. How many of us feel at home in all the aspects of our lives. Fish as they say don't see the water. When we fit, when we feel at home we often times don't notice. Sometimes we need to be a bit amphibious; then we see the fish and the water. The trouble is that the fish just see the fishy part of the amphibian and also some weired stuff; they don't get the land bit. Sometimes the amphibian bit feels like the land bit isn't shared with anyone else, that's aloneness. And we're all like this in different respects I think.

We tend to think of our physical body as having a definite boundary to it; the surface of the skin. But of course it's a lot more permeable than this; we take in and pass out; air, water, food, information and all sorts of things. Except they are not things either, they too are much more permeable. Things might be seen as bounded by interconnected semipermeable membranes. I like the idea of frames which are convenient ways of bits of totality making sense of its self. I've used the word this way before. So I think of the universe looking back on bits of its self. It's the restricted area of view that gives the separation. And the separation is the reality of a life as well as the connectivity.

I think different people spend different amounts of life moving between the water and the land and different amounts of life feeling like oil in water.

A non-Buddhist view might see the interconnectedness but still consider a human life to be one life with a start, a duration and an end; separate and together but with an ego that needs to get out of life what it can because this is it. That view may still end up with a value system driving a life much like that of someone with a Buddhist view. Of course the Buddhist view is that all views are just 'fingers pointing at the moon' and not the moon. I like the expression 'the Tao that can be spoken of is not the Tao'.

Is it the oil drop of ego passing through the water of samsara or is it something or no-thing else. I think there can be no answer, the answer is there is no answer. We might want to see it all as 'fingers pointing at the moon' but we are still left with the reality of our life; we still need to be form interacting with form. And at times we will feel square pegs in round holes.

To make it all the more complex we reinvent our past too. So we keep making our peggyness and trying to work out the shape of the hole and the peg. But that's for an other post, or perhaps not.

Thursday 27 November 2008


I have a list of salient items from the past 24hrs:

Cold/upset stomach/virus thing starting at work late afternoon;

Note interesting movie to be shown only that night at amateur cinema - (Drama from Argentina about a 15 year old hermaphrodite Alex);

Came home felt ill, considered what to do (DC traveling to India);

Wrote blog and decided to have light dinner and go to movie;

Saw movie - deeply moving with a mix of joy and pain - most rewarding viewing;

Came home - message on phone - flood at one of the building sites;

Go to site and get back home 23.20hrs (left a bit sooner than some of the other guys and felt a bit like I should have done a bit more but still felt a bit ill);

Close front door and phone rings -have I heard the news about Mumbai? No, oh, well he'll be on the plane;

Small hours text from DC he is at hotel in Delhi, I text back re Mumbai;

This AM DC phoned - he's going to keep a watch out for the news (marvelous things mobiles);

Travel about to various sites and get home - feel rough physically and head full of stuff but still cool.

I have all sorts of thoughts and feelings about each item. I was deeply moved by the movie and felt it spoke volumes for our human life. I am concerned for DC but not meeting trouble half way.
I am sad for the loss of life in Mumbai including the terrorists- they are no doubt victims too.
I am too tired to expand, tie together, question and suggest answer for the various thoughts and feelings which have arisen and fallen away over the past day. Do any of us really know what samsara means? Will we get to nirvana? (Change the names to suit your world view if it helps.) What forms should we work with?

Wednesday 26 November 2008


DC (my partner) is traveling to India. We both have a strange mix of emotions. The biggest in my case is worry that he will be ok.

What is it in a long term relationship that sustains over the years? What is the relation of a close, committed, long term relationship to Buddhist practice? I think it was DT Suzuki who when asked about the loss of his wife said that of course it was painful, but that there was no root to the pain.

I think my attachments may be too great to reach such understanding. In any event all I can do is to watch my emotions and try to be authentic, alive and compassionate. I think I'll often miss the mark but practice is in the gap as they say.

I recall this which is favorite both both DC and mine (although I am not familiar with the original text):

‘Grayness could not fill us with despair if our minds did not harbor the concept of different colors, scattered traces of which are not absent from the negative whole.’
(Adorno, Negative Dialectics, 377–8.)

‘Peace is the state of distinctness without domination, with the distinct participating in each other.’
(Adorno, ‘Subject and object’, in The Essential Frankfurt School Reader, ed. Andrew Arato and Eike Gebhardt (Oxford: Blackwell, 1978), 497–511 (p. 500).)

I could use other words for the tile and tag of this post which may or may not alter the readers interpretation. Maybe you can play around with your own frames.

Tuesday 25 November 2008

Trying too hard

It is said that there is no enlightenment outside of daily life. Today I may have seen one of my work colleagues trying too hard. Trying for almost all the right reasons. The slight flaw I think being pride. It's not easy to work in demanding environments. I've stepped away from the climb up the career ladder to some extent so my challenges are a ever so slightly different from the challenges of those I saw suffering today. But not very much. I hope I am putting in the right effort.

Monday 24 November 2008


I've come down from my 2nd floor study to our 1st floor lounge dinning area to write this. I am sitting at the dinning table and DC (my partner) is sitting nearby writing Christmas cards. He's doing this now not because we're the well in advance type but because he is going to India for three and a half weeks on Wednesday. An Elvis Costello CD is playing, it's warm and cozy but the room is quite large and airy.

This will be his second visit to India. The first was two years ago and that was also for three and a half weeks. At that time it was the longest we had been apart since we got together in 1992; normally any separate trips we make are only about a week or so long. DC and I live shared and separate lives; ever changing areas of Being in overlap and interdependence. This is true I think for all Beings.

I checked a definition of intimacy on Wiktionary - 'feeling or atmosphere of closeness and openness toward someone else, not necessarily involving sexuality'

Ink and paper are intimate on the page, they don't refuse each other they are closely affecting each other, their forms mutually engaged. But they don't know it. As I see them I know them but not with great intimacy. This all points to some stuff I find interesting about 'reality' etc and ways of being in the world but just now I would rather stick with more important aspects of intimacy; people.

People can be intimate in various ways; intellectually(/professionally), emotionally, physically, erotically. I think most of the combinations and permutations are possible and to degrees we commonly fail to appreciate. Think of affection; again it has various varieties and these are coloured by intimacy involving the various elements above. We might at this stage consider love. I think romantic love to be a fiction, a mix of various factors including infatuation, co-dependency and Eros. There is the four fold model of love - Storge, Philia, Eros and Agape, I like this model and see it in the context of levels of intimacy in the various aspects of being; intellect, emotion and (proximity of) physical body. Again all these forms are mutually interdependent.

Eros is a strange mix of ideas and emotions and needs to be considered in the light of aesthetics (as opposed to ascetics). Just what is it that makes an object (any object not just those considered of Eros) attractive? Purity of form / adherence to an ideal - some deeply ingrained view ( held in genetics / the collective unconscious / some other model) of something true? A manifestation of the universe's need to be, to separate (yet always remaining whole) reflecting in a sense of worth? And in the separation the unattainable ideal existing, attractive just because it is always just out of reach? Probably something like that but karma and attachments are too complex to unpick through the eyes of various models in a blog.

Agape sheds light and generally brings things round to Philia. We had friends around for dinner last night, at this table in this room. All warmth and good cheer and a bit of good hearted teasing for fun.

Sunday 23 November 2008


Yesterday I needed to buy new shoes. The old ones are literally down at heal but the deciding moment came midweek with the discovery of the hole (just visible in the photo) in the right sole.

I don't look forward to buying shoes for work. As much if not more than any other item of apparel they display the wearers character. They are so ego related. The shoe also affects how one walks which affects mood and that then feeds into your whole day. I am not exaggerating, it's statement buying a pair of shoes. And then they need to be comfortable (well, they do for me). For work to be worn with collar and tie (though often now ties are out) I generally stick with the ever neither in nor out of fashion brogue. I hesitated for a while over some more stylish alternatives and I do ware a pair with a bit more edge but in the end got a pair much like the old ones. For non work times I am generally in trainers of a style appropriate to my age. Alas my friends seem to frown at my old Dr Martins.

Town was less busy than I expected given the Christmas shopping thing and I guess that's connected to the current financial climate. People are going to suffer as a result of the world banking problems and that's not good. However, I can't help but feel we are looking at this from the wrong end of the telescope. People doing less consuming less and thus affording the opportunity to cause less environmental harm could offer a more sustainable future. If we cut our cloth a bit, got a bit less dragged about by the advertising industry, took care of those affected by the transition from one set of values (unfettered capitalism) to an alternative set (multiple spheres of community where the balance of things is not just weighed in money) then we might just start to see this as opportunity. There is always change, the Tao is in our activities but much of the world economic system seems arranged around change for the sake of it or rather for the sake of making people desire more. This can't be sustainable. And besides, I could just go and get the same shoe I had last time, no need for a fashion driven market to have restyled them! Oh I see the danger, it could all end up looking like the old Eastern block. Umm, but you get the point.

My partner (DC) and I went to the theatre in the evening and in the cafe/bar area was a photography exhibition. Some good stuff. What is it that makes a good photo? DC asked. He is a university prof. working in musicology and cultural theory and so it's not just a vague sort of question. We played about with it for a minute or two; capturing a moment, telling a tale, the camera always lying (sic) as the accomplished photographer decides what to include and exclude to get the shot or the inept photographer missing something that would make the shot. The camera like our own senses never gets the whole picture. But there is the picture that in excluding makes manifest a general truth not necessarily obvious at the scene. Those are the pictures we remember.

I took the above picture with my phone (and to use DC's joke I then squirted it into my type writer or laptop. Funny business post modernism). If I had been up to it I could have composed the shot and used a better camera and created a shot full of pathos. Poor down a heal chap, the hard toil, etc, etc. All of which would be a fiction. But I didn't, I just took a snap and pasted it in. I don't know what you will see in it. We frame out to make sense of the world and in doing so we make the world. Maybe we should take more care making our frames. I know I should.

Saturday 22 November 2008


This time of year much easier for me when I am busy, when doing. It's a very yin time and good for reflection. Indeed some retreat within is essential at the start of autumn. The trouble is that it can all get a bit too self absorbed and rather than moving with the Tao I get stuck.

Doing v Being. Umm. Where to place enthusiasm, excitement? There is the question of self and Self; ego and original face. Attachment and delusion are going to be with my ego self and that's not being filed away as exhausted this time around I suspect. So balance is required. Balance between the aliveness of Being and the aliveness of ego Doing. It's a huge area; we separate from totality to be. But it's illusion, we never see the whole, we exist in the gap between one moment and the next, always falling from one unstable state to the next. Always moving. Except there is no gap and no moment. We make our life and it's important not to be sleep waking through it.

So I was thinking about the tone, the style of writing and the subjects posted. What about the sensibilities of potential readers? Should it be kept to the upper chakras; classic spiritual or should the lower chakras be included? No question really, it needs to be authentic. All must be accepted, without clinging but without denial; without attachment.

I've got much better with yin over recent years. I've probably been one of those gay men who are a bit too yang; if women weren't a bit feisty they just fell of my radar. Which is a bit of a shame because I've always been a big softy really. Which brings me to the inner dogs. I've got (at least) two; a daft Labrador and a Terrier. Like all creatures they are getting on a bit now and mellowing with age. So they are getting more alike. There's still life in them though.

Sun faced Buddha moon faced Buddha.

Friday 21 November 2008

To Start

I have doubts about the wisdom of starting a blog and I recall a joke about a dog who gave up his blog to go back to mindless barking. However, I find have a few thoughts I'd quite like to share these days so I am going to give blogging a try.

Doubts brought me to practice. Practice? What practice? Zen Buddhism. Oh it was not straight to Zen Buddhism. Oh no. Decades of unrecognised existential angst, OCD, juggling masculinities, eventual work related burn out / depression, and much other karma lead me to the Findhorn Foundation before I sat down and faced what was before me. How was I to go on, what was I to do, what map? what compass? Findhorn had pointed to meditation to the heart, to compassion. But what was this meditation all about? I soon come to Zen and the koan. I was exhausted; ready for emptiness. I became attached to emptiness, I would practice hard I would get to where no pain could be too much. Fortunately I saw the danger straight from the start. Thankfully I am much more playful with it all now; practice gave me my life back. Back in the game, living the koan; the red bearded barbarian is falling through the tree day after day and sometimes he even remembers he is!

Is that all too much? Doubts...