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Posts Tagged ‘zen’

great wave croppedI lost an evening writing because my laptop, which runs on Windows 10, decided to update itself. I’ve tried various ways of stopping it from doing this, but it’s smarter than me and it will have its updates when it wants them, whether I like it or not, even at the cost of periodically throttling my machine and rendering it useless. Then I have to spend another evening undoing the update.

I don’t suppose it matters – not in the great scheme of things, anyway. I mean it’s not like I’m up against any publisher’s deadlines or anything. I feel it more as an intrusion by an alien intelligence, adding another non-productive task to the list of other non-productive tasks of which my life largely consists these days.

No, in the great scheme of things it doesn’t matter if I write, or what I write, or how I write, because there’s this aphorism that says something to the effect that in spite of how we feel, virtually all the time, things can never be more perfect than they are right now, that attaining this glorious state of being is simply matter of removing the scales from our eyes, of seeing and feeling the world differently. From that perspective, blogging’s just a big box I dump my spleen into now and then and my novels, what I once thought of as my reason for being – struggles for plausibility, for meaning, authentically channelling the muse, desperately seeking the right ending and all that – I mean,… really, who cares? It’s just some stuff I made up.

As you can tell, I’m feeling very Zen at the moment. Either that or depressed. The difference between Zen and depression? Depression is to be oppressed by emptiness. Zen is to embrace it. It’s to do with the same existential conundrum, I think, just opposite ends of the scale.

The writing life is one of negotiating distraction. You hold the intention to write at the back of your mind while being diverted by all these other activities – making a meal, washing it up, You-tube, Instagram, mowing the grass, cleaning your shoes, scraping the squished remains of that chocolate bar from your car seat,…

Such tasks are not unavoidable. You could simply ignore them, flagellate yourself, force yourself to sit down and write, but sometimes if you’re too disciplined, you find the words won’t come anyway because the muse is slighted, or out to lunch or something. So you fiddle about, you meander your way around your distractions, all the while building pressure to get something out, to sit down when you find a bit of space and peace, usually late in the day when you’ve already promised yourself an early night, and you’re too tired to do anything about it anyway. And then you find Windows 10 is in the process of updating itself.

Damn!

So what is it with this technology anyway? Does a writer really need it to such an extent? I mean, computers seem to be assuming a sense of self importance way beyond their utility. I suppose I could go back to longhand, like when I was a schoolboy, pre-computer days, or for £20 I could go back to Bygone Times and pick up that old Silver Reed clatter bucket and eat trees with it again – do they still sell Tippex? Neither of these options appeal though, being far too retrograde. No, sadly, a writer needs a computer now, especially a writer like me who relies upon it as a portal to the online market – “market” being perhaps not the best choice of the word, implying as it does a place to sell goods when I don’t actually sell anything. What do you call a market where you give your stuff away? Answers on an e-postcard please. But really, it doesn’t matter, because remember: nothing could ever be more perfect than it is right now.

Except,… everything is weird. Have you noticed? America’s gone mad, and we Brits, finally wetting our pants with xenophobia, have sawn off the branch we’ve been sitting on for forty years, gone crashing down into the unknown. And if this is the best we can come up with after all our theorising and thinking, and our damned Windows 10 with its constant updates, it’s time we wiped the slate clean and started afresh with our ABC’s, and a better heart and a clearer head.

I don’t know,… if I actually I knew anything about Zen, it would be a good time to retreat into monkish seclusion, compose impenetrable Haiku, scratch the lines on pebbles with a rusty nail and toss them into the sea. We’ve had ten thousand years of the wisdom of sages and the world’s getting dumber by the day. How does that happen?

Not to be discouraged, I bought a copy of Windows XP for a fiver off Ebay. It’s as obsolete as you can get these days while remaining useful. Indeed, it’s still probably controlling all the world’s nuclear power stations – except for those still relying on DOS – so I should manage okay with it. I have it on an old laptop, permanently isolated from the Internet, so the bad guys can’t hack it, and it can’t update itself. It responds like greased lightning. Okay, I know I still need Windows 10 to actually publish stuff, but at least I have a machine I can rely on for the basics of just writing now.

But did I ever tell you I don’t like writing about writing? Well, here I am doing it again aren’t I? But have you noticed, if you search WordPress for “writers”, or “writing”, that’s what tends to pop up, all of us writers writing about writing, when what I really want to read is their actual stuff, what they think about – you know, things, what the world looks like from their part of, well, the world, and through their eyes and their idiosyncrasies, and all that, which is what I thought writers were supposed to do. Or maybe that’s it these days and, like Windows 10 we’ve been updated beyond the point to which we make sense any more, become instead a massive circular reference in the spreadsheet of life, destined soon to disappear up our own posteriors.

Okay, we’ve tripped the thousand word warning now, when five hundred is considered a long piece these days – just enough to sound quirky and cool, while saying nothing at all.

Brevity, Michael! No one likes a smart-arse,… especially a long winded one.

Graeme out.

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standing stoneThe Ryoan-ji is an ancient rock garden in Japan, in the Zen tradition. It’s a so called dry garden, consisting of groups of large stones place upon a bed of smooth-worn and finely raked pebbles. I’ve studied Zen as an amateur student for years, but it’s an enigmatic subject, difficult to gain purchase and try as I might I still know virtually nothing about it. In a similar way I’m no doubt entirely ignorant of the deeper meaning of this garden. One of its intriguing and more talked about features however is that no matter what angle we view it from we can only ever count fourteen stones.

There are actually fifteen stones, but one of them is always hidden from view by the others, so we can never know for sure that there are fifteen, presumably without flying over the garden and viewing it from an elevated perspective. So, how many stones are there? Answer, obviously fifteen, but how many in our experience? How many from our every day perspective?

I’m not sure if this is an important Zen teaching, or if I’m creating a tangential one of my own, but it’s a useful concept none the less, that reality is always subjective and cannot help  but conceal both it’s true nature and, by inference, our own.

On a not unrelated subject, about twelve hours ago, I ate breakfast in the garden of a cottage overlooking the North Sea, a little to the north of Scarborough. I sipped coffee as I contemplated the changing shades of blue, and I tried to hold on to the scene, to imprint it in memory, both visually and emotionally, because I knew I would shortly be taking my leave of it and it would be a long time before I came this way again, indeed if ever.

Like that fifteenth stone the view is now hidden. I know it exists from some other perspective, but what I’m left with now, as I tap this out are the fourteen stones of a more mundane reality.

The ability to hold on to an awareness of the fifteenth stone is helped by having seen it in the first place. No amount of being told of its existence can substitute for the experience of seeing it. Merely being told it’s there requires faith and trust, when you cannot see it yourself.

Of course what I was looking at this morning was a reflection of my own self in a reality that was closer to the truth of who felt I am, of who we all are when not pummelled into a different shape by the repetitive and habitual lives that normally contain us. For a short time though, on holiday, we escape, we gain a different perspective, we view a different emotional landscape, we see and feel ourselves differently and wish upon wish we could be like that all the time. It is this transcendent essence that is contained for me in the symbolic meaning of the fifteenth stone.

But the truth is we have all seen it from time to time, and even though the evidence of our own eyes mostly denies its existence, we have only to shift our perspective slightly, do something, go somewhere a little out of the ordinary, to reveal its presence and realise it’s been there all along.

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persephoneSo, I see this tall girl in the coffee shop. Actually, she’s the waitress, about to  pour my coffee.  She wears  a short black  skirt, black waitressy blouse, nipped at the waist. She has dark hair, shiny, only partly contained by a voluminous Edwardianesque bun. And suddenly I am held spellbound. I dispute biology as an explanation for this moment. This is spiritual.

She is the most striking of beauties, this young Lancashire girl. No make-up, yet  easily the better of any movie star. She has dark brows, thick, expressive in their tilt, green-blue eyes, a wide mouth, full Pre Raphaelite lips held tight for now as she pours. She will be quick to smile, I suspect, but for now restrained. She is the hired help, new I think, a minimum wage slaver, old enough to kill for Queen and country, but not old enough to earn a so called living wage.

It is no longer the most salubrious of establishments, this cafe. The table next to mine is awash with spilled tea and the sloppings of careless diners, now flown. The puddled tea drips onto the floor, onto the chairs pushed carelessly back as if in an emergency. This same beauty of a girl approaches resignedly with mop, dishcloth, squirt bottle of disinfectant, pulls back her hair, secures it, goes to work.

Her hands are beautiful. She has long fingers, lightly tanned, delicate. They should be adorned with gold, silver, diamonds – perhaps one day, but for now no man has claimed her.

I notice how she holds herself at a distance from the slop, little fingers aloft, some part of her resisting the plunge into this squalid  defecation. She is ‘S’ shaped in her stance, tummy out, chest drawn in  to a boyish flatness, her full height reeled back as if self conscious of her  commanding stature. She was born to better things than this. I know I am romanticising, but there is something in this moment that touches me.

I am just a tired old salary-man, and a writer, of sorts. My gaze I hope is discrete, analytical and searching for traces of Zen in the person of this girl. There is nothing prurient about it. I am admiring, yes,  a little awe-struck, too, but am entirely without expectation of that certain sort. Girls of this age long ago became my daughters, no longer imagined lovers. I’m not sure when this transition took place, but I am grateful for the clarity it adds to one’s vision.

She catches my eye, smiles that full mouthed smile as she spreads a dishcloth over the mess. She is without artifice, graceful as a princess.

The afternoon is hot, blue skied, sunshiny. It is a Friday, after the long ache of a miserable working week. I feel the relief of it washing through me with each sip of the coffee she has poured. Her brief smile, aimed at me, tops it all, and I am honoured to return it, this quiet moment of intimacy. It’s as well she cannot intuit the depth of my compassion, or she would think me strange. Strange too the sense of my appreciation for her presence at this moment. It is as if I have invented her.

I shall write of her, I think – indeed am already sketching out an opening draft in my head. I must tap it into my Droid quickly or it will go. Then I’ll smooth it out on the blog tonight. And when I read back on this in years to come I will wonder if life has faded her, for life teaches us such perfection as this  is ephemeral, like the cherry blossom, sudden come and breathtaking  awhile, only to be lost in the first storms of life.

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the alchymist = jospeh wright 1795

In Paulo Coelho’s best-selling story, the Alchemist – as near as I can remember it – a humble shepherd boy falls asleep under a tree on a Spanish hillside and dreams of a pot of gold buried in Egypt. (Spoiler alert) The dream has such a numinous feel to it, the boy is compelled to set out on a life-changing quest to find the gold. The story recounts the boy’s adventures, describes the characters he meets and what each encounter teaches him. After many hardships, he reaches his goal and starts to dig, but finds nothing. In despair he relates his story to a stranger. The stranger laughs at the boy’s foolishness and tells of a dream he had about a similar treasure lying buried under a tree on a Spanish hillside, and compliments himself on not being stupid enough to waste his entire life in setting out to look for it. Enlightened, the boy returns home.

You can take many things from this story – and for such a short book, as with all of Coelho’s work there’s a lot in it. But for me the gold is not the point – or rather recognising the gold for what it truly is – that is the point. The story tells of our compulsion to make a quest out of life. We are seeking something – satisfaction, happiness, self-justification – but seeking it always in material terms. In our consumer society this materiality all too often boils down to money – a literal gold – in the belief that the more material goods we can buy, the happier we will be. We all know this is wrong, yet altering our misguided perceptions is very difficult, since we seem preprogrammed into accepting the former view as the more sensible one. No matter how hard our higher will struggles to elevate us from the mud of the material mire, there is a default condition in which we prefer to wallow in it.

In the material world, having no money is a cause of great deprivation, unnecessary suffering and unhappiness, but having a fortune is no guarantee of happiness either. Money (gold) might buy us a more comfortable life, one free from hunger and curable disease, but it cannot make us a better human being. In the mediaeval alchemists’ quest, the esoteric texts relate the seemingly foolish attempt to transform worthless base metals into gold. But the Master Alchemist, Hermes the Thrice Great, source of all Hermetic wisdom, warns that this is a dangerous path, one that leads only to madness, because it’s not that kind of gold we should be thinking of. I look at the world today and imagine Hermes shaking his head in dismay.

The quest for gold leads us on, always looking for the next thing, imagining our treasure to be out there somewhere, hidden from view yet ultimately discoverable if we can only apply ourselves in the right way. But in fact, as in Coelho’s story of the shepherd boy , we already possess the thing we’re seeking, though it can take us a long time on the dusty trail of life before we wise up. In alchemy, the process is one of sublimation. We take the base metal and we apply heat, we melt the base, loosen its impurities and let them rise. We tend the fire for years and years, and we watch as the base metal undergoes a cyclical process of purification and transformation. But the substance glowing in the alchemists alembic, has to be seen as a metaphor. What the alchemists were talking about was in fact the human spirit. We are the base metal. What we are seeking is the transformation of ourselves. Alchemy was, and still, is a spiritual quest.

I’ve been thinking about this recently as I write, and wondering as I do from time to time, why I write and for whom, and what it is I’m seeking from doing it. Sometimes I forget, you see, that I’m not actually doing it for anybody, or for anything, that I’m just doing it. I know the treasure lies inside myself, yet there are times – such as now – when I refuse to see it and wind up stretched out, face down in the mud. I’ve read books on Zen, studied Daoism and Buddhism, also the various alchemical traditions as well as European Romanticism. I’ve felt the glow of an inner peace, courtesy of the practice of meditation, Qigong and Tai Chi. And such things have each at times opened the door on a very special and self contained room, within myself, and what I’ve glimpsed in there I’ve tried to describe in my writings. But like the alchemists’ quest, it’s a circular path, not a linear one; there’s a rhythm to the openings and closings of that door. When it closes on me, the practice has already fallen into disarray. The fire has gone out. I become twitchy, irritable, plagued by aches and pains, jumping at shadows, doubting everything I thought I once knew and held to be true.

It takes a while to pull myself together, rekindle the flames, strip myself bare of all the false trappings of the material world, clothe myself once more in the homespun cloth of that purer sense of being. But without that first spark of an autonomous inner will, all else is useless. Attempts at firming up a routine of meditation, qigong, or even high minded reading, fall apart at the first hurdle. The fire splutters and is extinguished by the most trivial of occurrences – a blocked drain, the washing machine making a funny noise, a toilet cistern that won’t stop filling up, a car that fails its MOT. At such times life’s little snags take on the proportions of epic disasters, disruptive of our lives and insulting to the very core of our being. Indeed, once we enter this frame of mind, this mentality of siege, the universe obliges by providing one assault after the other.

It surfaces in my writing too, especially the blogging, when I find myself checking the stats, counting the likes and the visits after each entry, to see what effect I’m having on the world. But this is pointless. The effect I have, or rather the lack of it, is irrelevant. I took the decision, long ago, that I wrote simply because I write, and that to self-publish online is merely the completion of a contract with the inner daemon who would have me write in the first place. I have also told myself that whoever reads my writings thereafter, simply reads them and takes from them what they will. I write then, primarily, for myself, to stir and sift my way through the soup of what it is I think I think. Beyond that there is no purpose, no goal, and to find the place where I can take pleasure in that alone, is finally to come home to myself.

In material terms, we are none of us anybody, and we are none of us going anywhere. That the universe appears infinite can only be accommodated by the assumption that it is also nothing, that the reason it seems to occupy so much space, is that it occupies no space whatsoever. As human beings I think we begin from that position of nothingness, but we are born with an innate fear of it, not realising that only through its acceptance do we finally sublimate the spiritual gold of the alchemist in our hearts, through which our true, infinite worth might be glimpsed, at least in so far as any mortal being is capable, locked in the illusion of time and space, as we all are.

In the quest to find our own alchemical gold, we should each start out with the insight that, like Paulo’s shepherd boy, we’re probably already sitting on it. Whether we recognise it or not is down purely to the way we view the world, and sometimes it takes a long journey to alter our focus sufficiently to realise the power within us, and to return home. Nobody else can do this for us. It is the supreme paradox, that we are each of us nothing, but also everything at the same time.

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Twitter Blog Birds

I’ve been tweeting again. I thought I’d given up on this years ago. I’d noticed my tweets had started looking like glimpses of a darker world than I really believed in. Reading them, there was a sense of falling off the edge, a lot of bleating on about the price of petrol, road tax and the unreliability of my car, which I’d Christened “old grumpy”.

Old grumpy had become a proxy for my perceived trials and tribulations in a world that was forever breaking down. In my tweets I read the story of a man caught between a rock and a hard place, facing the obliteration of his future economic security to say nothing of the ruin of his dreams, and whether any of that was true or not, in the end I just I didn’t like the sound of my own voice any more, so I shut up.

A few of my tweets however, seemed to capture something else, something more enduring and more faithful to the kind of vision I once saw reflected in the world, a vision that had become clouded by the darker stuff, and my path lost. They might not have meant anything to anyone else, but they managed to puncture the hard shell of my day to day, and let bleed out a flavour of something much sweeter, something I could still taste. So I let them be, and deleted all the rest.

Of course there’s something of the Haiku about the Tweet – this is the ancient short-form Japanese poetic style, associated with Zen. Its matsuo basholimit on the means of creative expression forces you to say more with less, and right now, for me, I think that’s important:

Above the moor, not attached to anything, a skylark singing.

(Matsuo Basho 1644-1694)

Ten words, descriptive of a moment, and a profound insight.

We can’t all be Matsuo Basho, but if we choose our words carefully, we can achieve a resonance of sorts, allowing the universe to take over and tell its own story, one that swells from the seed we provide. It’s hard of course, getting those words right, setting up that initial resonance, but well worth meditating upon and of course very satisfying when you pull it off. Our bell may not ring as loud and clear as Basho’s, but we still know it when we hear it.

In the sad old pre-internet days of chasing magazine publication, I was always up against a word limit. Back then Ireland’s Own, a  traditional Irish family magazine, was kind enough to take some of my stuff on a fairly regular basis, so I found myself coming up with all sorts of story ideas and having to tell them in about 2000 words. That’s not easy. It teaches you efficiency with words and style, but also ways of saying things, not just with words but also with the words you leave out – like Ernest Hemingway’s famously ingenious six word short story: For Sale. Baby shoes. Never worn.

When you begin writing, your worry is being able to write enough to meet the target. The problem goes back to our schooldays and having to come up with two thousand word essays on topics that don’t inspire us much. But once you find your muse and she’s set you alight, you realise the danger then is in writing too much, while paradoxically saying too little of what you, or your muse, really mean. You wonder how you can ever twist and chop and trim your tale into so measly an allowance of column inches as the commercial magazine allows.

dovetails imageMy story “Dovetails” is indicative of the kind of thing I was writing for Ireland’s Own, though by the time I’d finished it, I’d been seduced by sci fi and fantasy magazines like Interzone and The Third Alternative. They allowed me to bend my world into more speculative realms, and explore them within a limit of up to 6500 words. But is more any better?

None of those 6500 word stories were ever published, and you’ll find them all on Feedbooks now for free. Likewise, the self published novels – which allow me a theoretically unlimited number of words to tell my tales. Lately though, I’ve begun to wonder about the novel. Is there a danger in writing 100,000 words yet paradoxically saying nothing at all?

Can we say, or see, or feel much more, with less?

For now, I’m back to tweeting, back to feeling the moments in time, and attempting to express them in 140 characters. This is not to say I’ll be wasting characters bleating on about the price of petrol again, or the annual shock of road tax for old grumpy, because these are not momentary glimpses of satori. They’re more the dull bludgeon of the unreal world that can so easily waylay us. They are the chatter in our monkey-minds when we are trying to meditate.

So.

Evil grey-green dawn. Cold rain falls in stair-rods, snow-spits inbetween. An old car at blurry lights. Prefers this kind of weather.

Slightly sinister, but that was how I saw it “in the moment” this morning.

And, on a cosier note:

Light leaks early now to winter’s night. Psyche turns inward as Luna passes full. Home, a haven of soft light, old books, and bed.

 

Goodnight all.

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July. High summer. Already the solstice is a memory and the year is rushing headlong, glossing over details I really wanted to linger on for fear of missing something important. The garden’s looking shaggy after weeks of wet, and I really need to mow except I can’t seem to find a period when it’s dry enough and I’ve stopped working for long enough to get around to it. As for other matters, Old Grumpy needs new tyres, but I can’t seem to find the time to get to the garage, and I’ve just had the renewal notice on the motor insurance – gone up 50% this year, so I’m going to have to shop around again, because the differences in premiums are huge at the moment. Everyone wants a piece of you and they’re hoping you’re just too overwhelmed with the nagging details of your life, or that you’ve been pummelled into such a state of fatalistic apathy you won’t bother to challenge them and you’ll just pay up because you’ve been conditioned into accepting that things can’t be anything other than really, really bad right now. Right? Wrong,…  It’s a pain of course, and it’s with a sort of reluctant determination I add this item to my list of things to do.

We’re all the same of course, trying to keep pace with that endless list of chores, a list that occasionally gains on us so fast we feel in danger of finally having to accept our total inadequacy, our complete unfitness to live in the modern world, that what the world need us to be is a kind of machine in order to match its own machine-like demands.

But we are not automatons, s0 when you start to feel overwhelmed this way you should take it as a signal that you need to hold things at bay for a while. Take a breath. Push that list of chores into the periphery because its self- important triviality is beginning to hide the deeper truth of who and what you are. This truth is a vision of the world that needs time to cultivate and an inner eye to see.  And the eye sees nothing in the wearing of old Grumpy’s tyres, nor in the saving of a hundred pounds on your car insurance. These are material things, and as such a form of madness, as much as they are maddening to have to deal with. They are the faintly disgusting froth caught in the eddying currents of  a silty brown river, a river rendered thick and sluggish for want of the clarifying charm of any sense of a higher purpose – a charm visible only to the human part of you, because its nature is divine and you were made to know it when you saw it.

<At this point the spontaneous flow of my words is interrupted by my laptop suddenly switching itself off. So I reboot, and contemplate in disbelief the blank Wordpad page, wondering if what I had to say was that important anyway – or at least important enough to warrant the effort of reconstructing it piece by piece from a memory rendered sluggish by too many late nights. We decide it is, and continue>

Where were we? Higher purpose?

What I’m building up to is that I saw it briefly yesterday, in an unsuspecting corner of my garden – one I neglect because it seems to be able to take care of itself – and I’m not aiming for a manicured look or anything. It’s impossible to describe this thing, but it comes as a glimpse of something “inner”, a thing hinted at by the way the light falls upon it and in the mysterious pattern of things. It contains a warmth and a certainty of purpose one cannot put into words. It is a quality, the ghost of something divine drifting through and you only know it by the way it feels. It is a moment of pure Zen.

And all right, on a certain level is was only my gardening gloves and my clippers, but foolishly, I ran inside for my camera, thinking I would take a picture of it – this miraculous thing. The batteries were flat. I found fresh ones. There was no memory card in the camera – it was in my other camera, whose batteries were also flat. So I recovered the card, slotted it in place and returned to that little unkempt corner of my garden. Miraculously, the light was the same, the pattern of things the same, so I took my picture, but of course the quality had gone and it was after all of that just a picture of my gardening gloves and my clippers. I would have been better lingering a while longer in its company than rushing off, thinking I could capture it for all time – when I know such things are transient, fleeting, unpredictable,… and invisible to anything but the inner eye.

Never mind. At least it seems I’m still capable of seeing things in a human way – possibly also slightly mad. Never mind. Let’s have a coffee.  We’ll sort that car insurance out tomorrow.

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So,… I’m currently reading Eckhart Tolle’s “The Power of Now”.  Books are mysterious things. You seem to come upon them randomly but, like the hexagrams of the I Ching, I’ve found they can also be meaningful, and timely. Although not elusively a guide to Buddhist thought, there’s much in here that reconnects me with the paths I trod years ago through Buddhism and Taoism, but only half understood them – and essentially this idea of living in the present moment. On the one hand it ought to be a very simple thing, but just try it and the mind screams out to be released from it and wander about once more in the past or anticipation of the future.

It’s often puzzled me, the idea of a present moment, and at one time I came to the conclusion that there was no such thing, or rather that the present moment was a period of infinitely short duration so as to be practically unobtainable. Indeed our conscious awareness seems mainly caught up in the contemplation of things either in the future, or in the past, and this is interesting because neither the future nor the past can actually be said to exist in any tangible way at all. We spend our lives in contemplation of something we think of as reality, but which is in fact is not. We live in a kind of fantasy. The past is gone, and we distort our memories of it, we make the bad things that happened there worse and the good things rosier than in fact they were. And the future? Well, that’s where our happiness lies – at some point in the future when we have done this or that, for then we will finally be content – it’s also where our deadlines are, either actual or imagined, and it’s also where we die. But the future has a funny way of never quite materializing as we expected it to, and with it our happiness. Indeed I’m sure there are people who wait their whole lives for their lives to begin, so caught up are they in this idea of chasing an imaginary goal, a point in the future when everything is finally going to be in its place and they can relax and begin doing what they always wanted to do.

I’m generally a decade behind with these things. I have a dozen books on Zen, all of them with pretty pictures of Zen gardens and Bamboo, but fairly light on explanation. Tolle’s book was published in 1999 and has been on the reading list of every new-age flake since, but it was only a few days ago I saw it on a colleague’s desk, after he’d picked it up from a charity shop and, noting my interest, he passed it on to me. I’m about half way through, and wishing I’d read the book years ago. It’s not a program, or a trite self help guide, but a very simple thing that Tolle is offering us, something he hammers home time and again, as if in the hope that eventually we’ll be able to escape from our programming and achieve this one simple thing that is the key to everything.

What is it?

It’s that infinitesimally, impossibly small point between past and future we call the present, that thing I’ve struggled so long to grasp and to understand the significance of. You have to find it. And to find it, I suggest you read “The Power of Now”.

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