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" One touch of nature

makes all the world kin "

William Shakespeare

Getting past the committee…

October 13th, 2007

Imagine a rugby pitch with a player dodging his way past the opposing team and touching the ball down behind the line. Well writing this blog is like that for me. I give myself ten minutes at the start of each day and my job is to get past these guys to post this message.

My opposing team is, however, a little unusual. There is a lawyer in his city suit, an aesthete with a bow tie and glasses (a cross between the camp art critic Brian Sewell and that man with a bowtie and glasses who used to be on television – Robin Day?) and a rare breed – a grammarian (a schoolmistressy type with a bun and glasses again). These are my ‘inner critics’ who screen everything I write usually. The lawyer says “Is this statement true? How do you know? Can you prove it?” The school ma’am says “You can’t write that – look at all those split infinitives!” and finally Brian Sewell-Day surveys the sentence and says “Oh for heaven’s sake how clumsy – where’s the art, the style, the beauty in this? Can’t you write something more uplifting, more beautiful?”

So when I write about Bishops and actresses it may seem trivial (which it is!) but it represents a triumph at another level. It got past the committee! So I’m experimenting with this medium as a way of stimulating spontaneity, encouraging flow and ease of expression.

Now here’s the twist: it might seem like these critics are just a nuisance and I should attempt to fire them – eliminate them with intense therapy or something, but instead I’ve realised that they’re really on my side. We’re work colleagues and we just need to learn how to work together well – and we’re playing this game for fun and to improve our working style.  I’m going into the shower room with them now!

Equanimity

October 12th, 2007

A spirituality or religion should offer us an anchor in a world of change. When it does it connects us to an awareness that however much the world outside us changes, there is the Changeless that stands at the centre of the wheel. This awareness fosters equanimity.

I remember when I was a teenager reading the I-Ching how struck I was by the idea of cyclicity – of how things in the world of appearances and Nature change cyclically. Then with studying Druidry the observance of the eightfold seasonal year brought this home even more.

Looking back I can see how this understanding has helped me weather the ups and downs of life, and as I watch the news with stories about the economy going into a downturn, I can remember a lifetime of news broadcasts, which can be summarised as ‘Things are looking up! Things are looking bleak! Things are looking up!’ and so on.

The sense of inner calm or equanimity that accepting the cyclical nature of reality brings is one of the gifts spirituality can give to the world. Why? Because without that sense of inner poise, connection, equilibrium, we are pulled this way and that by our feelings and anxieties. In a word we suffer. A spiritual way that fosters equanimity offers a means to overcome suffering.

It would be fruitful to contemplate the distinction between fostering detachment and fostering equanimity, but that’s enough for today!

No more Nakedness!

October 11th, 2007

As the trees start shedding their clothes here it’s time to put some on, and with this blog thing changing clothes takes about three seconds. One click and I’ve been able to slip this blog into this nice new autumn outfit!

I’m now experimenting with how I can make tag cloud entries bigger. How many times do I have to say the same word until it gets larger, as the bishop said to the actress?

Why bother?

October 10th, 2007

Why bother to write, compile, edit, publish material on the Way?

The best answer I’ve found:

“…give any information you have garnered to a fellow traveler along the Way. Why? Because the same information would have helped the person who compiled it if it had been given to him, and that is why he compiled it — and that is why it should be offered to others along the Way.”

An interpretation from the works of:
WEI WU WEI

Wei Wu Wei was in reality an interesting man named Terence Gray. More information about him here.


We all secretly want to be Hobbits

October 10th, 2007

Speak for yourself you might say! The camper amongst us might want to be elves, a few of us – on an off day – might feel like being an orc, and no-one wants hairy feet, but what I mean is that the Shire represents an idyllic pastoral setting which a lot of us would like to live in. Snuggled close to the earth, surrounded by trees and greenery and yet also in a village setting so that we can share our lives with others.

That’s why the Lammas Project is so appealing – it’s a projected eco-village in Pembrokeshire that will look rather like Hobbiton. They’ve got a  good website with a great deal of detail in it – including downloadable pdfs of their plans and so on. If you root around you’ll find you can watch movies about it too. Yesterday they found out that their planning application had been refused, despite all the work they’d done. But they’re applying again. May their dream be realised! Have a look at the dream here!

The Dalai Lama and Monica Lewinsky

October 9th, 2007

I’m a bit slow about things, and it’s taken me this long to realise that a blog can also be a ‘Commonplace Book’. I was concerned that dropping in interesting stuff I find along the way was ‘cheating’ – avoiding the serious task of ‘deep articulation’ (sounds ghastly doesn’t it? Like some sort of dentistry…) But this morning walking the dog on the Downs I had a flash-back to a previous life as a Victorian. There was Aunt Matilda playing the piano, which had doylies on its legs so that we wouldn’t be embarrassed by seeing its ankles. And there I was on the settee sharing my Commonplace Book with my sister…

Yesterday I was researching the Potala Palace for a book I am writing on sacred places, and I found this story which I’m sticking into my book with this pot of glue:

The day I interviewed the Dalai Lama happened to be the day after President Clinton admitted to having an improper relationship with Monica Lewinsky. This was before the U.S. had split down the middle, before the partisanship, the hatred, the petty slandering and questioning and distrust. We knew only that the news had reached even the mountaintop in Dharamsala and that we felt betrayed and disappointed and hurt by our president. In my second question, I’d begun with Clinton, intending to ask about his visit to China. Before I could finish, the Dalai Lama drew his head back in surprise and looked at me incredulously. “You mean with Lewinsky?” he shouted. Read more

Can streaking ever become a chore?

October 8th, 2007

Spiritual teachers talk about the way regular practice reaps its rewards, and that you have to persevere through periods where the meditation, or whatever the practice is, seems to be just a chore with no obvious benefit.

Julia Cameron in The Writer’s Way and Gail Sher in One Continuous Mistake suggest that a discipline of regular writing – a little every day – is the spiritual practice for writers and that the same law applies. Keep at it!

If blogging offers a similar sense of freedom combined with the risks of exhibitionism and vulnerability that naturism offers, then keeping up a blog seems a little like being told you have to do a little streak every day.

Is that all it is? Was Thoreau and company on to something with their idea of using and sharing journals for spiritual cultivation or does this just cater to our egos? The spiritual discipline with this it seems to me is the challenge to go beyond our innate human desire to display, to seduce, to persuade and to make that shift so that we are responding to what I hope are our deeper urges – to give, to share, to entertain!

I used to be snooty about the concept of entertainment until I read the Buddhist Alan Watts talking about his mission to entertain, and the week later at an OBOD Druid camp Prof. Ronald Hutton stated that he was there to entertain us. (Which he did hugely – you can hear him on the Druid podcast – episode 4 – link top right).

How different would our world have been if spiritual leaders had told us, from the dawn of time, that they had come to entertain us. If you’re laughing it’s very hard to pull a trigger.

That’s very 2005

October 7th, 2007

There’s something very salutary about having a family. Other people might flatter you about your books or your writing but your family can be guaranteed to bring you down to earth. Read more

Opera and the Religious Experience

October 6th, 2007

Last night I saw Verdi’s Macbeth at Glyndebourne. Fabulous music, fabulous singing, horrendous set (a white polystyrene castle with tourquoise mortar!). The set – even though dreadful – was however painted superbly!

I almost had a religious experience but for the little aesthete who lives beside my left ear (wearing a bow tie and big glasses) who kept talking to me about the proper use of tourquoise. Read more

The Secret

October 4th, 2007

Discrimination used to be taught as one of the fundamental qualities of mind needed on the spiritual path. Popular versions of spirituality seem to have dropped this inconvenient idea – witness the awful The Secret – a DVD and book that is selling in the millions. Read more