Sunday, May 30, 2010

FEATURE 54 - The Divine David - No 1

The Divine David can be simultaneously camp and amusing, whilst also being perceptive and astute. Sometimes he's savagely right on the button, and at other times there's a disturbing edge ( and its not just the bizarre makeup ) you don't quite know where he's taking you, but you do know it makes for uncomfortable viewing. These sudden shifts can be quite unnerving, as in this case when he manically cackles at the end of this.

That said, The Divine David remains undoubtedly a unique voice, This one is called - The World is Burning Let's Masturbate.

DREAM - Losing One's Daughter

I'm in Cambridge still, wandering around with my young daughter. I guess she's about six or seven. I'm very protective of her, showing her a lot of love and affection. At a point in the dream, I'm distracted by something, and she wanders off. Afraid she's in danger, I search quite frenetically to find her. I do eventually find her, and everything is restored to how it was. My daughters name is Atula.

DIARY 125 - Waking Up To Wesak

Its been a demanding few weeks, preparing for the Windhorse Wesak celebrations on Friday 28th May has consumed every psychic inch of my energy. I have felt strained, but tried to focus on the end I'm wishing to accomplish. If I was a tight-arsed perfectionist it really would have brought me to my knees. I imagine these rituals, and I just want to bring them into life. As a creative process its a bit different to painting or writing ideas, in that, in the end, they are entirely dependent upon others whether they work or not. At some point you have to give up your ability to control the result. Due to having a background in performance, I am more able to go along with whatever happens. In a way that's what makes rituals exciting to engage with. As long as you stay confident and calm, so will everyone else. If you panic, so will they, the audience will not be absorbed, but anxious or nervous, for you.

The warehouse was low on manpower, so I couldn't have much help with getting the Stupa and shrines set up. Devising rituals is easy, getting things prepared is the backbreaking bit. In future I'd like an assistant to help with preparing props and logistics. The rest of the Wesak Organising Team ( Arthasiddhi & Nagavira ) helped with planning everything else, and this was indeed a huge relief. I find holding a lot of organisational detail is what produces a lot of tension. This time I made a list of what I needed to do, and when, which helped keep my planning anxiety in perspective. Each day I'd cross off what I'd done, and moving elements as yet unresolved, on to the next day. Sixty plus points later the day before Wesak, I ran out of things to do, and I felt this great weight drop from my shoulders. That evening I was so excited I hardly slept. So I approached the celebration surfing on a wave of adrenalin and caffeine.

The mornings celebratory ritual, went very well, and for the first time I actually was able to enjoy leading the ritual, which was immensely satisfying. Though I've received expressions of appreciation from folk, I'm not sure exactly what effect it had on people. All I can say I experienced a buoyant lightness and excited air to folk afterwards. Not everything went according to plan. One ritual element turned out a bit chaotic. The idea was for everyone in a circle to pass around a ball of rope, and whilst being unwound, simultaneously it would be winding itself around the base of the Stupa. Whilst this was happening I'd be leading chanting of the Prattiya Samutpada formula.

If rituals don't work out how you expect, it may be due to a combination of three things; the set up wasn't explained clearly enough; why they're doing the ritual isn't self-evident enough; or there were elements in the ritual that hadn't been checked or worked out in sufficient detail. In this case it was mainly the latter, but the other two had a role to play. The slightly shambolic result did not bother me in the least. It seemed to demonstrate conditioned co-production all the same, just not how I envisaged. Trying to wind yourself up the Spiral Path whilst simultaneously trying to unwind yourself from the Wheel of Life, is apt to produce a chaotic clash of energies, pulling in different directions, which we certainly got.

That said, everything else went more or less as planned, so I feel a good deal of elevated satisfaction, thats put all that happened beforehand in a less strained perspective. That said, I still feel the need to step back from devising/organising rituals over the Summer, just to focus on a different sort of energy and engagement for a while. The energy I was using over the last few weeks was a very masculine one, overriding emotional resistances, and focusing solely on the end result. The dream I had mid-week very clearly demonstrated I was in danger of losing touch with the more sensitive, poetic and feminine aspects of myself, evoked by my recent retreat. I'd had to drop this sensibility in order to be able to crack on with Wesak preparations. Now that its all over, I want to give myself plenty of open, unstructured space for this aspect to re-emerge into.

Sunday, May 23, 2010

FEATURE 53 - Charles Bukowski - Bluebird

Paramanada recites poetry from memory before meditations, this one by Bukowski, strongly moved me. It poignantly portrays that sense of holding oneself in and turning oneself into a prisoner. It may lack a certain atmosphere not hearing it recited by a gruff voiced Londoner. But here's the author reciting it.


there's a bluebird in my heart that
wants to get out
but I'm too tough for him,
I say, stay in there, I'm not going
to let anybody see

there's a bluebird in my heart that
wants to get out
but I pur whiskey on him and inhale
cigarette smoke
and the whores and the bartenders
and the grocery clerks
never know that
in there.

there's a bluebird in my heart that
wants to get out
but I'm too tough for him,
I say,
stay down, do you want to mess
me up?
you want to screw up the
you want to blow my book sales in

there's a bluebird in my heart that
wants to get out
but I'm too clever, I only let him out
at night sometimes
when everybody's asleep.
I say, I know that you're there,
so don't be
then I put him back,
but he's singing a little
in there, I haven't quite let him
and we sleep together like
with our
secret pact
and it's nice enough to
make a man
weep, but I don't
weep, do

Sunday, May 16, 2010

DIARY 124 - Harmonic Imperfections

I've recently returned from a weeks retreat at Rivendell Retreat Centre in the Surrey countryside. The retreat was called The Heart of Meditation, and was co-led by Atula and Paramananda. I'd read an article by Paramananda about the body's role in embodying our practice, and instinctively knew this was what I needed. An image came to mind to describe the current state of my practice - it was a very familiar room, though filled with beautiful objects it bored me as soon as I entered, whilst outside sunshine chased across lawns and trees, but never entered the room.

I'd done a couple of weekend groups at Windhorse with Atula, maybe six years or so ago. They were important, first, in the depth to which myself and others communicated ourselves, second, in the way he was able to highlight patterns in my behaviour in groups. My tendency towards being silent, getting 'locked out', and consequent frustration at being unable to make myself be heard. Returning to this form of process based group work, was hence a reunion and a return to test where I currently am at with all this.

Both Atula and Paramananda talk about 'soul', not in the sense of an eternal part of human existence that survives death, but as an archetypal grounding element in the human psyche. This element needing to be in a co-existing and balanced relationship with the rarified purity of the 'spirit' element. These ideas are derived from the pioneering work of James Hillman, who single-handed created Archetypal Psychology by amplifying and adding to aspects of Jung's work.

The group was large, an even mix of men and women, all members of the Triratna Buddhist Order. We eased into the group work via dreams. we were encouraged to put our dreams into a box. Then during one session each day we'd all gather in a room where the box would be in the centre surrounded by five chairs, four of us would be asked to volunteer to sit in this inner circle, pick out and speak about a dream from the box. People could leave or join this circle whenever they felt they had something to say,or had finished. The anonymous dreams would tap into some sort of collective psyche and expose intimately personal, yet universal themes. Within a few days we were into more informal process orientated groups where there was no theme other than whatever we spoke of or brought to it. This was often a challenging and frequently bumpy ride.

As the week went on, my initial reticence in bringing myself forward broke. I could sense my strong tendency to adopt a listening empathic role in groups setting in, and consequently not to bring myself fully into the group. This began increasingly to chafe, but it wasn't accompanied by self-recriminations or punishment, which used to be there ten years ago. So there has been progress. I know, understand and am much kinder to myself these days. So much stuff came up that I'm still processing and reflecting on things. It wasn't only my stuff, but also the stuff of others which stirred up things within me. I saw how strongly I use the 'social mirror' to reflect back to me, what my own feelings, ideas and thoughts are. They don't seem to arise easily or spontaneously from me without this external prompt.

Meditation wise, Paramananda, has some poetic and potent ideas about where we go wrong with our practice. Instead of observing the body breathing, in the 'mindfulness of breathing' practice, there's a tendency to objectify and act from an 'idea' about the practice, not a lived experience of it. No wonder it becomes dull, lifeless and an unrewarding effort. So I'm focusing more and more in my practice on abiding with my body breathing, observing how my centre of energy shifts upwards when I start straining to direct, or over analysing what I'm experiencing. I need to work on grounding my awareness in my body, probably for quite some time. I've habitually skipped over preparation to get on with the form of the practice. I can see how this leads me into not fully experiencing myself, and maybe that's the real reason, to avoid discomfort.

I came away from the retreat very conscious how I can hide myself from myself, and from other peoples scrutiny, whilst simultaneously feeling I'm never being fully myself, or actively being present in the world outside. The two, obviously, are connected. Though I am currently working on becoming more visible through my work with ritual, I'm all too conscious how uncomfortable that visibility makes me. It's all too easy to bare all via this blog. Real communication is personal, and requires presence, the virtual world takes place at a safe distance - you can filter and censor how you present yourself to the world, in some respects you might just as well be anonymous. Real communication, like I experienced on this retreat, is very rare. when it happens you feel simultaneously an extraordinarily naked exposure and relief as something never said before is released to fly from bondage.