Friday, April 27, 2012

Motivation - now there’s a word to conjure with

Motivation - now there’s a word to conjure with

I think I have SAD. I’m just weary and I can’t put my finger upon it. I look out of my window and sunny Plymouth is officially grey. I don’t think I even have the energy to write another word, that’s how tired I am. I am so tired I don’t even think that a gram of amphetamine mainlined into my central nervous system would wake me up. I am so tired that I can’t even think about a gram of amphetamine let alone spend the energy actually trying to buy the foul stuff.

I am feeling numb from the top of my head to the aching soles of my feet. I feel so numb that if someone where to beat me around the head with a 5 kilo codfish I wouldn’t notice. I am so numb that when I'm asked why my head and clothing are encrusted with scales I would just shrug and look numbly back at them.

I am fatigued. My muscles feel like they have been overworked and underfed. My greatest wish, should I summon up the enthusiasm, would be to lie in bed somewhere being intravenously fed with vitamin enriched lucozade backed up with a glucose drip. My fatigue is so inherent that should Kyle wish to attend and perform the bed bath upon me my penis would lay there like a sleepy snake at midday, mid Sahara.

I am shattered. My energy lies in shards around me, but like an ill matched jigsaw I just don’t seem to be able to pick it up and put it together again. I am so shattered that if the building were to burn down right now, at least my room would be warm for a while and I’d be comfortable. They’d find my burned and charred husk sitting with my blackened stumps upon my desk enjoying the heat, remembering those hot summer days when we are all so full of energy.

I am drained, like a can of peas after lunch; I no longer have any juice. I can’t make my pods go pop with any vigour. I feel slightly greenish and slow and sort of mushy. My vital energy has drained right out of me just when I wasn’t looking, like a slow puncture in my tire, I have been let down. Now I am desiccated, dried and demoralised should someone stand next to me and sneeze I would explode into a thousand million molecules and float around for eternity getting up peoples noses and giving them allergies.

I’ve just had enough and am all-in. If I had the wherewithal I would vote for the one day week and the compulsory Lennonesque 6 day bed-in. I am totally bushed, and have the energy levels of an inmate at Guantanamo Bay who has just been kicked shitless by the guards but given a weekend pass. I’ll pass. MaƱana will do for me I couldn’t drag myself out on the town even if I was strapped to a herd of rogue elephants being teased by white mice.

I am just dead beat, like a deadbeat after a bottle of Thunderbird. A nice soft gutter would do me right now, an eiderdown of newspapers and a mattress of cardboard sounds like bliss. Take me to oblivion on a single ticket and shackle me to the railings. I’m sleepy, no hi ho’s will keep me awake, like drowsy, I’m six dwarves short of a snooze. My lids are drooping, and I’m drooling down my shirt like a bad Pavlovian experiment. I can’t write another word; my fingers droop over the keyboard, neither can I check the thesaurus for another, yet another, synonym – I am pooped. 

Thursday, April 26, 2012

Simple steps to meditation

Here's something I wrote 10 years ago (blimey!)

Simple Steps to Meditation.

Walking the 100 miles of the Two Moors Ways between Ivybridge and Lynmouth takes about seven days. In those seven days one travels through the ancient landscapes of Dartmoor and Exmoor. Burial mounds, standing stones, hut circles and ancient trails punctuate the walk with the constant reminder that these places have always been special for humans.

Carrying a 20 kilo pack containing tent, sleeping bag, food and equipment forces one to practise one of the main tenets of walking meditation – that of moving the feet. Buddhists are instructed to be mindful of four stages in each step: (i) lifting the foot; (ii) moving it forward; (iii) putting it down; and (iv) touching or pressing the foot on the ground.

And step by step, as I travelled these ways, I entered the meditative state of mind simply by putting one foot in front of the other, or as some practitioners suggest ‘stepping, stepping, stepping’.

Walking the moors, one has to be aware of these actions because to put a foot wrong means a turned ankle or worse. By increasing our awareness of our bodies actions we also become increasingly aware of things outside of ourselves, objects we might trip over, other people we might walk into, and these are many other things outside of ourselves that we will be more aware of than when we are sitting –especially if we sit inside. These include the wind, the sun and the rain, and the sounds of nature and of humans and machines.

But as one finds the natural rhythm (and using a pair of trekking poles forces you into such a rhythm) you find that each and every footstep forms part of a natural mantra. And as the length of the walk progresses, it becomes easier to enter into the detached but aware state that walking meditation facilitates.

While walking long distances there will always be feelings associated with our bodies, from the niggling pain of the blister to a pleasant feeling of relaxation. There will also be feelings associated with the things we see and hear, and with all of the other sensory modalities that we experience – including those that are imagined.

In paying attention to feelings, the important thing is simply to notice them without either clinging to them or pushing them away. When we are unaware, it is very common for our minds to start grasping after experiences associated with pleasant feelings.

Many people say to me when I start walking a long-distance path that I’ll “be able to have some thinking time – to sort things out”, but it always seems to me that when walking I actually have very little ‘thinking time’.  My mind becomes attuned to the mantra of walking, my eyes to the path ahead and my body to experiencing the sensations of physical activity.  By experiencing our sensations, rather than thinking about them, we help to cut down on unproductive thinking and bring about more calmness.

Walking the Two Moors way allows us to ‘be in the moment’.  That moment where we can fill out mind with the richness of the experience of walking, leaving less room for daydreaming and fantasy and becoming deeply aware of our present experience, which becomes far more fulfilling than any daydream.

This detached state then becomes an integral part of the ‘Art of Walking’. The Buddhist monk Thick Nhat Hanh tells us that ‘If we practise walking meditation, we walk just for walking, not to arrive. We have to be alive with each step, and if we are, each step brings real life back to us. The purpose is to be in the present moment and enjoy each step you make’.

Walking alone through the wilderness of Dartmoor and Exmoor is a pure exercise in walking meditation and each step becomes a prayer and each mile dharma. 

(published in Connect Magazine October/November 2002 - Issue 15)