Tuesday 26 October 2021

Randolph's Leap

I'm spending a few days in Scotland resting and hopefully recovering from the after effects of covid. I'm determined not to name this long covid or post viral syndrome etc. although I clearly have some kind of post viral fatigue. It feels like the exhaustion and light headedness of a hangover (but thankfully without the throbbing headache). I seem to have about half a day's worth of energy before I feel foggy and tired. I've worked right through the whole thing including the stresses of our recent house move but I've got to the stage where I know I have to slow right down and rest - my head gets too foggy to keep reading all the work emails, processing them and responding efficiently. I wasn't too badly affected by covid but this ongoing fatigue is starting to get to the stage where I'm not able to function properly. In truth it comes on top of a hugely stressful period and it's clear to me that my system has just decided to put the brakes on as it were.

So, today after a leisurely breakfast and gradually getting ready to go out I took a short drive over to Logie steading and somewhat half heartedly perused the second hand book shop and art gallery before getting some lunch. I then drove the short distance to Randolph's leap and ambled by the river and amongst the trees before returning (somewhat fatigued) to the car to head back here to my lodgings. I'm feeling a strange mix of tired, light headed, generally blah and as if I might pass out - although I'm fairly sure I wont! I'm definitely ready for this malaise to be gone! Here's some pictures which alas fail to capture the swirling waters of the Findhorn river:

About two thirds up the picture a white patch is actually two mounds of froth circling each other in an eddy

The froth is actually swirling


Even the roots of trees seem to swirl

The river heads towards the narrow gap of Randolph's leap

The movement of the river unlike the typical charging, constant roar of fast water in a gorge is a mix of smooth flowing flat water, rapid lively energetic cascade, foam and above all there is a swirling motion which seems to be in a constant state of flux as far as speed and patterns go. And somehow there is a (sort of visual) polyphony to all this. And as has happened to me before in this place I'm suddenly aware of something else. I look about and standing all around are the trees - still in meditation. I would not have been surprised to have seen something out of our everyday experience in the spaces between the trees, between the river and the trees, between the stillness and the motion... It has been said that this is a place where the 'vail between the worlds is thin'. Best not to go into such musings too much me thinks. And it's obvious why anyone might say such things here though. I had been studying the water for a while and looked up at the rocks and in some visual equivalent of sea legs the rock squirmed for some time and was not still in my vision. It settled and I looked again at the swirling waters then back at the rock, again this strange and slightly alarming visual illusion - the rock in motion. I turned my attention to the trees and their bright autumn colours. The sun was very weak but there was just enough golden light to bring vibrancy to the foliage. I spent a little time walking down to the confluence with the river Divie before heading back to the path to the road where I noticed the path continuing upstream. I walked a short way to see the cascading river Findhorn approaching the narrow gap of Randolph's leap. The river the other side of the gap is so full of flux and the thought came to me that from upstream the gap appeared like a birth canal into a new life for the waters of the river. Certainly there were many 'dramas' ahead as the water would pass through rapids, eddies, smooth powerful turns, calm pools and many more ways of being. There would be changes in hue, lustre and depth, dressings of foam and interplay with rock and air. And much more would be happening below the waters than I could know of even having seen the gentle boiling of currents from the depths coming to the surface. The river seemed an allegory for our own lives - we enter this world through the birth canal and the currents of our existence flow on - our life a complex of streams flowing, weaving, making us moment by moment. Yet the trees stood largely still with only the slightest of swaying to the minimal breeze. Stillness was present too. In this place these two aspects of our existence seem so present and clear to perceive. And there is something, something... whatever. And I thought - oh, is this just my habit to relate experience to form and emptiness? I could hear DC chiding me playfully. I walked back to the car feeling tired headed back for a cuppa and a rest.

Thursday 14 October 2021

What Do I Really Believe?

My spiritual 'position' is I suppose basically that of the perennial philosophy. I think that if there's any 'truth' to be found in a religion then it will likely be a 'truth' shared by other religions with only the way of pointing to that which cannot ever be fully described being different between religions. Beyond that I suspect it's myth making. Myth has a place, what place is another discussion. That everything is connected and that we cannot know the ground of being is, I think so clear as not to warrant further discussion. Zen Buddhism has been for me, the most clear and encompassing religion (if it is right to call it that) upon which to ground my 'spiritual' understanding. In practice I have found that some western psychology and a bit of what might arguably be termed 'new age' practices such as ecstatic dance, heart circles, conscious touch etc. have given me much and (for me) brought Zen to life. The Buddha taught the four noble truths and I think there is obvious wisdom there. One question might be just how to view desire... most of us are not going to expunge desire, we might tame it a bit and if we're wise we might even get to the stage where we see that without it life would loose meaning, but at some stage life is going to throw us a curved ball and we'll find our self wanting maybe even needing something which life isn't providing. It is this which can provide an insight to our edge and to our limits I think. I refer to an axis from mild craving through the impulse to thrive and express our creativity, our joy, our living life and to our deepest needs for physical, mental and emotional security. I don't believe in a 'sky god pulling the strings'. To me God is The Source, The Unborn, the ground of all being which is each and every-thing and is no-thing. Form is Emptiness, Emptiness is Form. I'm given to seeing this pessimistically and focusing on impermanence and how that threatens aspects of life which are precious and I couldn't easily let go of but of course it is also the very source of all life - pregnant with possibility and giving birth to each and every moment. The question is I think, how do we see this ground? Is it divine, is it consciousness, are there 'layers' of reality spanning the world we experience; the forms and the formless? In that realm (where surely the universe is so much more than each of us can ever directly experience, our experience only being a part of the whole) is there intrinsic meaning, do 'laws of karma' form and shape, is there a deeper reality of our nature beyond the rational material world of the every day? I note that it's not even easy to frame the question. Faith? A tricky word, it seems to imply a belief in 'something', something unprovable. My own experience of the reality of being isn't really like that. Sometimes people relate all this to the question of what comes after death. When the person dissolves - the body returning to the earth and not restoring itself in the living process, the flow of the life of the biosphere making other use of the material, when the mind - ah, yes - the mind... what of the mind? I suppose personality dissolves, we clearly live on in some sense in others and in the ongoing effects of our actions in life, but our human personality dissolves. Actually I think of it that personality, like the body is a flux in life and then the flux dissipates. But what of the mind? What is mind? The word 'mind' is used to describe different aspects of our interior - thoughts and feelings are perceived in our mind, we think (or sometimes just ruminate) in our mind, we talk of 'awareness' and 'consciousness' - in a way these are ideas in our mind, the idea of 'mind' is arguably in our mind, etc. To me there's no fully grasping with rational thought and explanation the relationship between the ground of being and our mind- we can't ever know as we only have our (limited) experience. Experience, in a way by definition, is limited - formed, changing and not eternal. Ah - eternity - what are we to make of that?! Is this not another idea? And so we find ourselves - here! Wherever that is. Who is it who is where? We are conditioned beings - we emerge out of conditions, are conditions, experience conditions and spend quite a bit of our time attempting to control conditions. Does any of this help us understand the ground of our being? Perhaps not. As a glass is not wet by the water it holds, that which experiences is not 'wet' by the experience. Any notion or experience of that which experiences is an experience and yet somehow I do have this sense of these two aspects of life- a formless ground which is somehow holding and at the same time is everything and (experience of) forms. Together these two aspects which are not separate are everything (including myself) in my purview. And there is (if not obviously at least somehow known) a sense that I am an aspect of something much larger than this personal self. Well, sometimes it is that way. Mostly life feels full of separate things and people. And sometimes there is just loving DC and feeling his love for me.

DC and I have been together for almost 30 years. He is the best thing that ever happened to me. We talked on the beach at the weekend in various ways about the subject raised in the paragraph above and what I noticed was that although the words struggled to capture what we were both trying express and in some way feel into our own position with, we were nonetheless understanding and on the same page. Seeing, being seen, caring and being cared about (and for) - heart connection. And there is this with friends too. It is as much the ground as anything else I think. It is difficult when in distress to keep our centre. In such times connection with those who love us is invaluable. In this holding each other there is a stillness and a peace. And whilst my rational mind can question the 'reality' of this I've experienced it at times so as to see the ground of our being as an unconditional love. Other times this sense isn't so clear.

I suppose the intention in writing this post was to explore what seems true to me now about the ground of our being. Writing I'm finding that I'm not clearly feeling into this. I'm recovering from Covid and there have been other stresses. I've deliberately stopped formal meditation (zazen) - I'm sure I'll return to it but for now looking inward doesn't seem helpful and meditation off the cushion with rest and being gentle with myself are more appropriate. I'm hoping to get a couple of weeks retreat at the end of this month. Time to decompress and perhaps reconsider - am I holding on to something I call 'spiritual' out of fear? Am I adding ideas to what is?