Wednesday 29 December 2021

Scottish Winter Landscape

This Christmas we are in Forres visiting friends and the landscape. It has been overcast and frosty but there have also been bright clear skies. Look closely at the frosty scene and notice the bulrushes - they stand straight and tall against the tangled fallen remains of summer vegetation and together with the winter light seemed to uplift the otherwise subdued marsh. The Findhorn bay is as ever just stunning in the low winter sun.

There isn't much to add to these pictures - they speak for themselves.

Monday 20 December 2021


I feel the past couple of years have shown me the limit of my ability to stay centred, present in the here and now, spacious and accepting. Things have been very tense and stressful for most of the time we've all been going through the pandemic. Certainly the lockdowns and restrictions contributed to the stress but I suspect my OCD may have flared up anyway. Sometimes there's no knowing why it will come out of what might be called remission and take a hold. Over about four and a half decades it has shifted shape, and waxed and waned. For most of the past two decades its focus has been around technical errors and the potential harm which could result. We grow and become more experienced and with this improved vision our past actions however well intentioned can seem foolish. OCD will find the chinks, amplify the uncertainty, pick away at the action, see only the worst possible outcome and thus derive the worst possible intention. It's very draining. And so it was for a lot of 2020. Then early this year we started the process of moving house and eventually moving in May. As ever there are unforeseen issues. These coupled with the stresses of the previous year and my patterns around major transitions have left me strung out and often knocked off centre. My OCD has waned to be replaced by the fear it has tried for most of my life to control. This fear is only partly articulated in my mind but viscerally it manifests with an intensity varying from a sickly unpleasantness to an overwhelming fire. At its worst my body and mind are consumed with pain and I cannot think straight. The rational mind has generally been my safe place - the problem arises, I analyse it, determine the necessary actions and regain 'control'. To have this function compromised is, for me a most uncomfortable position. And yet some part of me having spent so much time in control now feels exhausted and whereas in the past I would always want to be in or very close to the driving seat, now I find a child in me arises and just want to have it resolved by someone else. In truth there's so much exhaustion that it seems I can't access properly the dynamic, creative energies required to operate in those ways. And whilst I've always held that Zen Buddhist practice is a practice without set intention, without trying, without expectation, a salvation not to be seen as good for anything (take aim for no target without trying) and yet still full of engagement, I have found since the autumn that the intensity of the situation is too great to sit with. And so I have stopped formal meditation. I am looking at the limits of what practice / training / call it what you will has been able to move. And practice has moved those limits, I know. Not just moved, but changed. I shall be forever grateful to the dharma for illuminating depths I'd no idea were there, turning up the colour when I likely thought the world only existed in monochrome and providing a lens through which to see in such a way that the view, the lens and I were if not one then not separate either but more importantly that this need not be a frightening aspect of experience as I fancy it had been in childhood. Which is to say that the impermanence of things is rooted in an emptiness which is as least as full and creative as it is destructive. That the flow of life is sacred in ways which are inexplicable and yet at the same time tangible. For all this I am grateful. And the fact remains that like most people what brought me to the dharma was the wish to find a place where the pain would not ever be so great as to destroy me. And I knew the danger of this. I knew that what was needed was to become as they say 'like willow'. It is I think through practicing with the heart and the mind that this is done. And so I have I think it fair to say absorbed the dharma in to daily life - practice off the cushion is where it's at. And yet as I write I am not well. I am distressed and overwhelmed. The pot of my awareness boils over with the porridge of my experience and the years of practice are not able to expand that awareness so as to remain centred. Forgive the clumsy metaphors.

In all this I am blessed with DC. I love him and see him love me in a reciprocity which illuminates the sacred. It is a mystery to me that my fear in our current situation is so great that it incapacitates me despite the enormity of our love. And through this mystery I return to a wound I think. A wound which has festered in me and from time to time driven DC I am sure to distraction. His light and optimism perplexed by the fear which at times takes a steely grip of my being. He has over almost thirty years been the most wonderful partner. I find certain kinds of change seem to trigger me and fortunately DC seems able for the most part to hold that. I'm blessed. Briefly he and I touched on the Jungian idea that at some point our psyche reaches a stage when it looks to old wounds to heal and integrate them. Seeking out situations in life where this may play out. There's something in this I think. And I notice there is in it the notion of growth and direction which in their turn imply the idea of something to grow. At my best I can identify with a Self as an interconnected web of life. That we all live in each other and more. But this seems at present insufficient to dispel the awful fear of... of what? I could list practical, tangible issues and yes they are not insignificant but there's something else, something as I said above which is only partly articulated yet quite visceral. I'm prepared to see that what I'm describing here is trauma. Not necessarily some big trauma but perhaps the death of a thousand cuts which in someway(s) takes our vitality and freedom. What I'm struggling with right now is not being able to have the confidence that whatever comes along that I can find and rest in my true home - my own being - centred and capacious in as they say a playful samadhi.