Wednesday 31 December 2014


Tidying up my study this morning I had a quick tidy of the suspension file holding the instructions for appliances etc. and came across the access codes for DC's old Mercury phone line account from 1993. Not only is the account gone but Mercury too! We still have two phones with the 'blue button', the memory button for the Mercury access code- one now on my study desk and another now by our bed. In the days of the Mercury account the first was in the kitchen and the second on DC's desk - both in the previous address. Nothing stays the same but some things do sustain.

This post is for DC with all my love

Tuesday 23 December 2014

The wrong kind of doubt

The past few weeks I've been sitting with quite a bit. Before I got my job interview and subsequent job a lot of anxiety had started to flood in. Some of this was rooted in 'genuine' concerns but there has been a large measure of OCD in it. I know the territory well and there is nothing to do but sit with it. It's difficult, tiring and most unpleasant. There is very little that seems solid and even the slightest concern feels like certain disaster. It has eased considerably, as I knew it would but it has taken time and in part still remains. In all this I've been wondering about posting here and noticed that there was no 'voice'; nothing to say. Of course this 'nothing to say' is more accurately described as 'nothing to say to the imagined reader' And who is this imagined reader? Well, I guess that there are two aspects to that; the inside and the outside. There is the part of me that's interested in what I'm saying (the inside) and there is a conglomeration of imagined foes that might take a 'negative or judgemental' view on what I might write (the outside). The outside is of course a projection. With this particular OCD anxiety the outside assumes the proportions of a very big and unfriendly other.

I recall talking with my friend about writing in a way which doesn't say with certainty 'this is how it is'. The it being my personal experience and NOT some great pronouncement about the very nature of reality. As an engineer I'm trained in being clear, precise and definite. So, trying to write with honesty and openness about my inner life and keeping an open mind, saying something of how it seems without being rigid can be a challenge. And it's all too easy to come across as some great pronouncement of certainty about reality. Which would be absurd! It's not that I'm 100% sure - it's just that as soon as I try to say anything it sounds like I am. In fact at times, such as when my OCD is raging, I feel so uncertain of  things (except that I'm a terrible person) that I loose too much solidity. There is in my experience, a healthy 'great doubt' and a very unhealthy doubting of ones self.

Taking refuge in the three treasures and having faith that this does let one put one foot in front of the other with confidence in the midst of great doubt even when that doubt is the 'wrong kind' has been much of the challenge this past couple of months. The direction of a new job is helping in the move to the 'right' kind of doubt.

 Today, I've also been more closely faced with some of the fears I have about those 'immagined' readers.

Saturday 15 November 2014

New job

I start a new job on Monday. I'm looking forward to 'getting stuck in'!
It's a role I've enjoyed in the past and the signs are that this role could be more rewarding.
As ever, life will throw up challenges and after a long search the job may prove an anti-climax. But that too would be just great! I was interested to read Ajahn Sucitto's blog post regarding roles. A timely reminder for me as I start a new role.

Thursday 13 November 2014

Shoe shoal

A while ago I took this photo:

I thought the shoes looked like a shoal of fish at a food location and then I thought shoal sounds like sole. Ha ha. :)

Thursday 25 September 2014


I've been reading about beekeeping; I intend taking a course in the spring and then getting some bees. I'm looking at topbar v national hive design and considering if there is anything to be said for so called natural beekeeping. Certainly I think I'm more interested in the keeping of the bees as a part of a 'spiritual life' and for fun than I am in harvesting large quantities of honey.

Bees are in decline due to a number of factors and need the support of beekeepers to help them. Although some would say that part of the difficulties they face have been caused by industrial beekeeping, the main root of their difficulties would seem to be the industrialisation of farming and the associated use of chemicals and loss of diversity and quantity of flowering plants. Which when you boil it down might be said to be due to human greed. But of course things need to be seen in context; some of those Victorian beekeepers would have thought of humans as God's chosen creatures with a right to reign over the earth. Fortunately I think most people would see that as a very suspect position now. I wonder what commonly held views of today will be regarded as strange in the future? I do hope to things work out so I can keep a hive or two, or three...

Wednesday 13 August 2014

Longing in the world

I had a few ideas for a post a week or so back but as can happen the muse left me too soon. Robin William's suicide has put a bit more shape around those ideas.

As I've said before I think we come out of the unknowable void of unity, that which is called by many names; God, Buddha, Source, in order that the very void may perceive itself both as raw consciousness and as apparently separate forms within that consciousness. But this too is just an idea and one not to get too attached to. Part of experience is undoubtedly a sense of self, a will and desire. Fear might be said to be the feeling generated by the prospect of a seemingly unbearable contradiction between desire and apparent circumstance; usually the desire for safety and well being of the self. And whilst there is no separate self there is the interconnected self, a self were it wise enough to see, that is The Self; the unknowable. The purpose of life is to experience it. I think depression arises when that purpose feels thwarted. And whilst Buddha nature like paper never refusing ink irrespective of what is written, is always accepting, our experience is naturally filled with desire, contradiction, fear, confusion and much more.

Desire it seems to me is the fuel which makes things happen, or at least the feeling which goes along with things happening. I'll not get too distracted here into writing about control and how much or rather how little we actually have. And as I've alluded to above the real desire is to live that we may see our true (Buddha) nature. Creativity is an aspect of sexual energy or vice-versa . Sex, to me a calling to unity, fires us up and draws us to each other; cracks us open that we might love. Happy young straight couples experience this uniting love albeit tangled with romantic attachment and glow in its joy. Young gay men sometimes have this too, but their path is often more complex. When enmeshed in the pursuit of some subject or area of study both our self and the subject are also cracked open. Most gay men will tell you of the pain involved in coming to terms with their sexuality and the complexities of their love lives. Yet this experience is revealing and ultimately rewarding as we see the water which other (straight) fish simply swim through. History is littered with people who have been washed up on the shores of their subject be it technical, political or human. We all see our own version of the world. For many it's fine and they fit; no problem. For others the world they see is filled with contradictions; aspects that don't seem as they could be. Those aspects mingle with desire and creativity and beckon a new awakening; a further exploration of the void. For some this process is joyful but often it is painful. Consciousness cares not either way; all it wants is to explore the void. I've heard it said that our environmental problems are sort of irrelevant to consciousness; if we mess up consciousness will just spring up out of what is left behind. We will have been an interesting experiment and life will move on. Of course it's only an interesting experiment because we do care what happens; we are both infinitely expendable and infinitely priceless. This priclessness resides in love. Sometimes sight is lost of this love in all its guises and great enveloping waves of heavy grey-blackness wash in; depression. Like Sisyphus eternally pushing  the bolder up hill only to have it roll back, we are entombed in wave upon wave of heavy darkness with no end in sight. Sometimes the darkness is shot through with lightning bolts of fear at other times the fear is like sheet lightning or rain. Rain, it rains and rains... then worse, the rain and the dry have merged together; the self seems lost, merged in the enveloping grey. Objectivity is lost, the will seems to have fled, chased out by fear. An empty maw remains. And still the stone has to be pushed and still it rolls back... and on... and on. From where does this bleakness come? Then, almost as quick as it came it can leave. Colour returns, the will creeps back and the world regains some objectivity. And more. The world is more seen, the water is more visible, the swim is more visible.

There is talk in the media just now about the link between creativity and depression. There are warnings not to romanticise depression in this way. Good warnings I think. But it is I think also true that a certain kind of seeing and seeking, a certain kind of creating a world comes at a price. I think this inevitable as when we touch the depth of our human being we inevitably see that there is a rich sadness at the root of life; we long to return home (to the void) yet we are already there and long to enter the world...

The merit of this post is offered for Robin William's family.

Tuesday 3 June 2014


This time of year is so lovely. Everything is bursting out with life; bright green leaves and fresh new shoots so vibrant and full of life seem to grow by the day. The shades of green are vibrant and light. Later the leaves will darken a bit but right now the trees are shinning bright. The garden is full and lush. The people in the streets seem more alive too. Some of this is a projection of course but not all. The weather has been warm and benevolent. On a warm late spring /early summer day it's easy to see life bursting out in the new. And it feels good; we naturally resonate with fresh new growth. The ever moving life force seems evident and ascendant. In autumn / winter we tend to see death and decay and think of life as receding. Yet this is not so; it is only the form of life which changes. The life force with change, movement, continues. Yet here in spring it seems we find what seems to be the very reason to be - to experience this very newness. Full of promise and unspoilt, teaming with zest. How sad it would be if it never matured, grew old, never merged with other parts of life to become 'lived-in'. Like a new pair of shoes still perfect but not having ever fulfilled their purpose. An old shoe, soft and stretched, worn and tired is its own spring. Each ending a new beginning; birth and death in each moment. It is easy to see this on a crisp bright winter's day, less so in a damp dull November. Yet the birth of dull days is still birth. Decay looks like death but it's life for fungi. What spring time brings is resonance with our own life force. A resonance possible because of the cyclical nature of existence and our coming out of voidness, our becoming. It is this becoming which is so attractive. Stillness and change go hand in hand - yin and yang; opposite sides of the one coin. The coin seems more able to see its self in spring.

I try to keep my own mind and attitude open and fresh, holding lightly that which arises whilst still learning form experience; that delicate balance of 'spring' and 'maturity'. This for me is meditation. Of course I 'fail' a great deal of the time! Writing about such things is a challenge. As an engineer I'm trained to be specific and precise. When trying to write about 'spiritual' subjects this can lead to the text sounding dogmatic and that's not so helpful. The text above is there to be 'knocked down' as it were, to invite contemplation and further investigation. It's not intended to be a final word. The idea is to merge the new and the mature without the arrogance of the rigid. The poets have the edge here; fingers pointing at the moon and all that. But I think writing posts has helped me be a bit more mellow; a little less terrier like. Ruff! And middle age seems to be for me a time of rebirth. I start to feel one way of being recede and an other emerge. For some what emerges can be stale but I'm thankfully not finding to much of that and I do hope to get progressively lighter and more open, more new and not just old. Time will tell if this proves to be so!

Saturday 26 April 2014

The Word Love

I've been thinking about the word love recently; the word is used to cover so many aspects of interaction between (human) beings. And this morning I found myself listening to Meat Loaf.

I don't know anything about you, baby
But you're everything I'm dreaming of
I don't know who you are
But you're a real dead ringer for love
A real dead ringer for love
Meat Loaf, Dead ringer for love

And all I can do is keep on telling you
I want you
I need you
But there ain't no way
I'm ever gonna love you
Meat Loaf, Two out of three ain't bad

How well these songs point to projection and romantic attachment. And yet behind these feelings is the call to oneness. I don't often listen to Meat Loaf and when I do I'm reminded of a friendship when I was about fourteen. My friend liked the music and somehow when I look back I see a resonance in his disposition and that of the music. He was a about a year older, straight and his time was split between mates and his girlfriend. I was waiting to grow out of my gay desires; 'it's just a phase I'm going through'. Of course it was not a phase. I never had any sexual desire for this friend; he was just so obviously straight and into girls, but we were good mates. I'd like to say I loved him, pointing to that deep camaraderie between people who enjoy each others company / being but I'm not sure I did, I'm not sure I had the capacity to hold what I was, to be comfortable enough in my own skin, and yet that friendship was important to me and when I think of it I feel that there is some unfinished business. We drifted apart when he left school and I stayed on in the sixth form but when he was about seventeen or eighteen, possibly nineteen he came looking for me to ask me to be his best man. He was getting married. I'd not met the girl. I was still at school, struggling to make sense of and/or repressing my (homo)sexuality, feeling bad about my weedy frame and graced with a sensitivity and wisdom that at the time I could not integrate into a sense of what it was to be a man. I said no, I would not be his best man. I could see I had nothing of the skills required for the role. He was disappointed. I see that he must have seen something in me he valued and I feel a sadness that we lost contact. There is a very subtle aspect to love here. It is the part of ourselves that knows what is for the best. It is related to wisdom and compassion.

There are many aspects to sex but at its root sex is to cleave. Cleave in both meanings of the word together; to split open (the self) along its natural grain AND to adhere. It is a call to oneness. It can spring from or lead to deeper emotional intimacy. The libidinal and the emotional aspect of this weave a complex tapestry and represent the deep desire both to emerge from and back into oneness. This oneness is the love that all the various endeavours leading to (and from) our projections and attachments seek. Anyone who understands this could not be homophobic. Moreover, intense sexual desire requires distance; it is to some extent natural for that to fade as deeper love bonds form and romantic attachments fade into mature relationship. Gay and straight adolescents of my generation (and I say of my generation as I think things are changing) explored this tapestry from very different starting points. My straight contemporaries started dating girls they at least partly knew in school and the emotional aspect formed a backdrop against which exploration of sex could begin; both threads were discovered together. But for gay men the two are often separate; starting by meeting strangers and engaging in sex with little or no emotional backdrop we had to come out before we could start the exploration. And of course gay men together are very yang. There is yin in it but the balance is very different from a heterosexual relationship.

This came to me a week or so back -

Cruising and sex with men in gay bars
Like daffodils in springtime
How wonderful to be naked with a man

Anonymous, base, lust fuelled sex can indeed be awful but it can be full of life and end in laughter at the absurd. In such laughter is to be found a twinkling of love.

I don't know anything about you, baby
But you're everything I'm dreaming of
I don't know who you are
But you're a real dead ringer for love
A real dead ringer for love

life's journey is to gain the wisdom to know just which aspects of 'love' we glimpse in those twinklings and many a pop ballad has been written on that subject!

Returning to friendship:
“Those who cannot conceive Friendship as a substantive love but only as a disguise or elaboration of Eros betray the fact that they have never had a Friend. The rest of us know that though we can have erotic love and friendship for the same person yet in some ways nothing is less like a Friendship than a love-affair. Lovers are always talking to one another about their love; Friends hardly ever about their Friendship. Lovers are normally face to face, absorbed in each other; Friends, side by side, absorbed in some common interest. Above all, Eros (while it lasts) is necessarily between two only. But two, far from being the necessary number for Friendship, is not even the best. And the reason for this is important. ... In each of my friends there is something that only some other friend can fully bring out. By myself I am not large enough to call the whole man into activity; I want other lights than my own to show all his facets... Hence true Friendship is the least jealous of loves. Two friends delight to be joined by a third, and three by a fourth, if only the newcomer is qualified to become a real friend. They can then say, as the blessed souls say in Dante, 'Here comes one who will augment our loves.' For in this love 'to divide is not to take away.” 

― C.S. LewisThe Four Loves

Friday 4 April 2014

Unfolding beauty

Through the week DC and I went to see an amateur production of The Steemie. It was great; well acted, and staged. We both very much enjoyed it. I later commented to DC that we were probably getting to be the last generation who had experienced women such as those in the play. One of the women reminded me so much of my mother's mother. As well as humour there is a lot of the struggle and hardship of 1950's working class life portrayed in this play, together with warmth and friendship.

I was talking this evening about the play with my parents. They started to tell of their experience as children round about that time. My great grand mother on my mother's side came to England from Ireland and it seems soon had my grand mother. My grand mother had a hard life and a kind heart. Her husband was amongst other things a miner. Talking with my parents a number of stories came out. My grand mother used to take in washing to earn money. She would wash it at home by hand in a laborious process then iron it using a flat iron heated on a coal range. One day my mother still a child ran by and knocked over some of the ironing. Her mother picked the whole lot up and threw it over to the floor saying 'I'm sick!' I could feel the exhausted almost desperate state of my grand mother and the shock and realisation of my mother. 'That was when I realised' said my mother. I knew what she was going to say next - 'and I started to help her' I could see the pivotal experience. There is the Buddha nature.

My father told tales from his childhood and I recalled his parents. His mother died when I was eighteen, I used to enjoy her company and occasionally I find I miss her almost thirty years on. My brother and I have our roots are in working class Tyneside and have made the shift to middle class. But times and class structure change and in truth the working class of my grand parents is no more. My life has encompassed the tail end of a way and time now gone together with a way and time of which my grand parents could not have dreamed. I find it had to imagine what my nephews lives will encompass.

The Buddha nature, unborn, unchanging yet reflecting and reflected in this unfolding moment.

In memory of my grand parents. 

Saturday 29 March 2014

A strange journey

A week or so ago DC and I went to see the movie Her. I loved it. Exploring both the nature of relationship and humanity, towards the end the film moved to consider the very nature of conciousness and even pointed to that crucial question; just where is here? This happens when the the various OS's ( intelligent Operating Systems) decide to leave the computers and people they have been working and in relationship with and go off to explore a wider field of reality having developed an OS based upon Alan Watts. I loved the humour of that! So, off they go to the ground of being and hope to see their human (creators?) there some time... But would those OS's feel anything without a warm soft fleshy body? Is there any meaning to the void without the counterpoise of the body? I think not. It's a funny and clever film with a bit of a spiritual under current and well worth watching.

Then a few days ago we went to see The double. I loved this film too. DC found it bleak, I didn't at all. Based upon the novella by Dostoevsky it's a wonderful exploration of different aspects of personality and the way we 'kill' bits of our self (sic small s) both individually and collectively, the movie has a real depth of love and warmth which becomes clear at the end.

Listening to Madness - The sun and the rain recently I was struck by the depth of feeling generated by the lyrics of this song:

It's raining again,
I'm hearing its pitter patter down.
It's wet in the street
Reflecting the lights and splashing feet,
Nowhere to go,
And nothing I have to do, have to do.

It's raining again,
I follow the Christmas lights down town.
I'm leaving the flow
Of people walking all around,
Round and round,
I hear the sound of rain falling in my ears
Washing away the weariness like tears.
I can feel my troubles running down,
Disappear into the silent sound.

Just walking along,
My clothes are soaked right through to the skin,
I haven't a doubt, that this is what life is all about,
The sun and the rain.
Scraps of paper(???) washing down the drain.

I feel the rain falling on my face
I can say there is no better place
Than standing up in the falling down
In so much rain I could almost drown.

It's raining again
A crack in the clouds reveals blue skies
I've been feeling so low(low)
But now everything is on my side
The sun and the rain.
Walk with me fill my heart again

I hear the rain falling in my ears
Washing away the weariness like tears.
I can feel my troubles running down,
Disappear into the silent sound.

I feel the rain falling on my face
I can say there is no better place
Than standing up in the falling down
In so much rain I could almost drown.

Do de do do de do do do
Do de do de do de do do do

It's the line:

I can say there is no better place
Than standing up in the falling down
In so much rain I could almost drown

which I find so moving. And in a way both the above movies point to this standing up in the falling down.

Listening to the radio playing Elvis - Are you lonesome tonight (laughing version) I too started laughing and noticed that the laughter was at the very bizarreness of human life. All the world is indeed a stage...

I certainly enjoyed my performance of the melancholy Jaques' soliloquise (As you like it Act II Scene VII) when I did 'The mastery' workshop back in 2010. But then my sub-personalities have a habit of breaking out anyway... it's a strange journey back to wholeness.

Saturday 8 March 2014

The koan

Life (the history / karma) rises up... the desire to live, to have experience, the visceral life, the very Eros of it! And to move that through the belly, through fear in the solar plexus, the tenderness of the heart, oh the heart with all its grief... and on through expression in the throat, nothing stuck there I could talk for the world... but can I express?... and on... and beyond, beyond the head, oh goodness... the head; if ever it were stuck is it stuck in the head! Yet on... on... going ever on... going beyond to the spirit (of it), Buddha always becoming Buddha. The pain of it, the joy of it, the confusion and sorrow of it. This my koan; to feel the visceral blood and the guts of it and the joy and the love that oozes out of the pain and suffering of it and to hold the emptiness of it not with fear and pain but with... with I truly know not what with... acceptance, love, compassion, joy, unity, wisdom...? I do not know these in the full, this is my koan.

Friday 31 January 2014

Then and Now

Playing Atomic the album by Blondie I had the thought that I've liked this music since I first heard it as a kid way back in the late 70's early 80's and I noticed a warmth at the continuity, the sustaining element of self; I liked it then and I still like it. This generates consistency and I notice how warm that feels. Noticing this I immediately recognized that basic human (ego) need to be an 'I'. And more than this, in middle age it's nice to feel some connection to a 'me' from childhood - some part that has not changed, not got grey hairs! Having the awareness of this as part of the way a self [sic small 's'] emerges and some awareness of a Self [sic capital 'S'] holding this is indeed a gift from the difficult years that have passed between then and now and I further notice a sense of gratitude to the child within as I recall him as he was then and even younger.

Saturday 18 January 2014

Softening to come home

After a lovely Christmas in Cluny with DC I packed up and returned home ready to start a new job. It's a six month temporary contract based at home doing survey work and I'm now two weeks in. Interviews for 'permanent' jobs are also 'in the frame'. Things do seem to be shifting after a long time when they seemed stuck. Of course there was no stuckness in it. What I've been noticing in this time of changing from living and working in community to being back with DC at home and working for an employer is the whole question of home. The change in people around me, working conditions and expectations, living arrangements and rhythms generates a need for a period of adjustment. But deeper than this there is the 'coming home spiritually' wherever and whatever external conditions arise. Living in a community where there is an invitation (even an expectation) to authenticity and deeper connection to each other and what is, is if taken seriously both challenging and rewarding. This is a contrast to living and working 'out in the world'. Although not as deeply enmeshed in sharings as some and often exasperated at various 'impracticalities' of  what would unfold around me whilst in community, I never the less was aware of that invitation - authentic and connected-internally and externally. This connection is home. So now 'out in the world' without that invitation and external connection, I find it all the more important to maintain the internal connection. Right now it is the shape of that connection and the relation to the external which is in flux. And that is a good thing because flux leads to visibility.  Now is a time to watch all this and remember that nothing is forever. It is also a time to (re)build external connections. And yet this notion of building implies being in control and I wonder just how true is any such notion of control. Although intention arrises what results is less in our power. So I remind myself - soften and observe, then action can flow naturally and from the heart.