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...