Meditation I

War Memorial by Gilbert Bayes, Aldeburgh Church, Suffolk

Waking Up

Difficult night. Finally got to sleep around 0400hrs. Woke around 0800. Turned alarm off and went back to sleep. This is a pattern that happens from time to time.

It seems like once I am under good steam and my routines are in place for two weeks or more, then a setback like this is inevitable. For a long time, this would throw me into a funk. Often for days.

My sleep would suffer even more as I desperately tried to reassert the discipline and routine.

Those efforts only added stress, pressure, and discomfort to the implacable enemy insomnia. Leading to a loss of momentum, fatigue and a sense of futility in my efforts towards perfection.

Now, I’ve sobered up enough to shrug and say Que Sera. So it goes. If I wake up late, I wake up late. Perfection is not the aim here. Steady consistent return to the process is the goal. Being on the ship, come hell or high water. Not jumping overboard because there’s a storm. I follow through on my routine and disciplines to the best of my ability given the circumstances, be that 10% of what I normally do. Be it only making my bed. Or getting out of bed. C’est la vie. That’s life. I’ll be content to count such a small thing as a victory.

This approach of relaxing into the feeling of disaster has an almost immediate tonic effect. It bolsters me to be stoic. And after a while, once the coffee hits and I’m moving around, the storm doesn’t seem so bad. I can even, at times now, begin to enjoy it. Like I used to enjoy a particularly rotten hangover as an internal badge of honour.

I used to enjoy being functional after getting completely fucked up on MDMA or Ketamin. In my late teens I would sit down to write in the early hours of the morning, still humming with a concoction of drugs in my veins, to smoke a joint and write poetry in the eery blue light of a screen in the darkness. What I wrote in those hours may seem childish to me now, but at the time, at to my peers, it seemed like manna from beyond the constraints of our time.

Now I take pride in sitting here at the desk in the morning or by midday, and sitting down to type until my conscious mind shuts off and what comes out has the same freewheeling quality and seductive sense of mystique and clarity combined. Mundane as it can seem, there is madness and magic in the simple application of technique over and over again. Such a magic can be seen in our fascination with feudal (Sengoku Jidai) period of Japan.

Where skill and mastery through complete attention, self-control and masterful awareness of emotion were prized above all else. I’ve been reading a book that brings home to me the importance of this learning as we grow. Its title is Musashi and it tells the story of a young man who goes off to war in order to prove himself. Being the son of a famous samurai, he is both seeking validation and trying his best to make something useful of his life. But his misguided efforts almost cost him his life. The story opens with him lying amongst the thousands of corpses on the battlefield of Sekigahara.

The last great battle of the tumultuous Sengoku Jidai, a period of roughly one hundred years in which Japan was torn apart by civil war as Dainymo, Japans Feudal Lords, who sought to expand their power or unify Japan under their own dynasty. It can be seen as the violent birth pangs of a nation. No less than the hundred years war, or Norman invasion, led to the unification of France and England as distinct kingdoms and, eventually, nation-states.

On Art

It is a hard thing, as a poet, to appreciate one’s own work. At least, speaking for myself. There is a great deal of poetry which I have created that I would consider it an unspeakable horror, due to the boredom and narcissism it would inflict on others, to share with the world. I have always sought in poems and verse to express great emotions, moments of Being, those tides of meaning which threaten to wash away the self completely, stripping away thought and separation until only awe and violent wonder remain.

It is hard to express… And the intention with art, in my opinion, with any good art, is edification. Not in some pompous sense. I just feel that art is about transcendence. I feel life is about transcendence.

Why else are we here? To roll around in misery and muck? Maybe. Maybe. But maybe not. And I’d rather take a chance on that feeling of awe and wonder. No matter how terrifying it may seem, and no matter the long distances that pass between our meetings.

It is a feeling of connection so strong, that it has kept me alive through some of the darkest dungeons into which I had the madness to enter.
What is numinal comes when it comes. There seems to be no means I have for inducing it… Well, that’s not entirely true. Suffering and hardship can bring it about if I am strong enough to remain open to it. No easy feat. Often failed at.

Life As A Pilgrimage

The long and lone miles of my last pilgrimage between Canterbury and Totnes gave rise too many such moments. Having nothing to rely on but myself, a sleeping bag and the kindness of strangers.

The hard hills of the South and North Downs, the chalk cherts and rises. The rise and fall of the Golden Cap and all the Seven Sisters. Hours, often hours, sometimes days without food. Walking such terrain, carrying a pack weighed down with belongings I did not use. Books, a Mac laptop I vowed not to use. A handaxe and set of pencils I gave away. All manner of Dukkha, the Buddhist term for ‘suffering’ or burden. The struggle of carrying such a load and walking day after day, mile after mile, hill after hill brought up such pain and turmoil in my soul that it required all my focus and effort to continue to put one foot in front of the other.

Yet, which such challenge, came moments of peace and clarity which surpass all description. A feeling of utter rightness with the world. Awe at the simple beauty in the blade of grass, a wildflower. To sit and see the world from above Eastbourne watch, staring into the solstice sky on a summer day that seemed it would never end.

It is good to remember such things. It is good to go on such journeys. To discover ourselves in the hardiness of a broken path, the sharp twinge of a burden carried, and the freedom and awe we can find in seeing a flight of birds across the moor as we pass them by.

Life is a great mystery.
And I for one feel glad to be alive to witness it today.

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