from BARDO

The stars are in our belly; the Milky Way our umbilicus.

Is it a consolation that the stuff of which we’re made

is star-stuff too?

– That wherever you go you can never fully disappear –

dispersal only: carbon, hydrogen, nitrogen, oxygen.

Tree, rain, coal, glow-worm, horse, gnat, rock.

Roselle Angwin

Saturday, 28 January 2012

tempus, fugiting

'In any weather, at any hour of the day or night, I have been anxious to... stand on the meeting of two eternities, the past and future, which is precisely the present moment...'
Thoreau, Walden


On the Richter scale of Significant Personal Events it didn't even register; wasn't even a flicker of an idea of an embryonic tremor. However, I'm mildly interested to notice that I spent an hour and half earlier today writing a blog on how I never have any time (yes, me, mindfulness practitioner and mealy-mouthed advocate of the Simple Life, and liver of a very complex one). I then accidentally wiped the whole post, and spent the best part of another hour looking for it or its remains, futilely (well, I found some truncated version, aborted about a sixth of the way in).

The irony didn't pass me by; nor did the fact that somewhere within Said Blog, which amounted to a couple of thousand words (because actually it was intended to be a rough outline of a typical writer's week – that is a typical week in this writer's life), I was also questioning how it was that I managed to squander enough time as to never actually have time to write (and hoping in the journaling involved to uncover the lack of strategies in order to, uh, strategise).

Actually, that one is easily answered: most of my working time is spent on the admin involved in the fact that most of my income, such as it is, is derived from facilitating others' creative writing. But I suspect – I know – that is not the whole truth. In here too is my addiction to too much doing of too many things all at the same time, especially if they involve in one way or another communication/information/knowledge.

So, smiling rather wryly, I remind myself that I live in an eternal present. I will not, therefore, lose myself in the past and Things Undone, nor the future and Things To Do. I will live with serenity in the only time I ever have right here, right now, in single-pointedness. I am after all a meditator. I do know about simply being with how things are. 

I came across this lovely tweet this morning: 'In the beginning you will fall into the gaps in between thoughts – after practising for years, you become the gap.' J. Kleykamp. (Am still working on becoming the gap; though sometimes it feels as if it's the join that's relevant, not the gap. But in Zen of course there is no join as there is no gap, either.)

Having agreed with myself that I will act as if I live truly in an eternal present with no rush or concept of rush and allow myself to sit down to eat a meal, simply to eat, and even take five afterwards just to read (that is before I take my pre-next-chunk-of-work-mini-break to wander round the orchard to notice the snowdrops and the song thrush; I haven't quite progressed to Doing Absolutely Nothing yet), I pick up today's Guardian. Out drops a little booklet on – TIME.

Well, of course I took twenty minutes to read it. Nothing I didn't know and much that I already implement; or, at least, know I should, and suggest my retreat participants might.

In James Long's timeslip novel Ferney the protagonist, anticipating the arrival of work-to-the-clock in late mediaeval England, says that this will be a bigger disaster than anyone can yet imagine. Up until the late Middle Ages working hours were determined by season and day length.

There was a time in my life when that too was the case. These hivernal and aestival (aren't those exquisite words??), diurnal and nocturnal rhythms are in our blood.

Time, if one lets it, especially others' demands in relation to our time, is as we know a tyrant. Our Western culture is organised around a dictated homogenised length of working day, regardless of our own preferences, needs, biorhythms (and I realise there are also some advantages to this); and, more, time is given a monetary value. Mostly we don't even question whether this is OK or not. But we could choose to reclaim time, at least a little of it, for ourselves.

How would it be to live like this? To take off our watches, switch off our phones, hide our clocks, just for a day each week? To be subversive; to spend the whole day lounging under a tree, watching a bud open, a snail move a few inches (or nowhere at all), the stars come out, the constellations wheeling past (or rather our wheeling through the heavens)?

Or as Vietnamese Zen teacher Thich Nhat Hanh says 'Don't just do something; sit there!'


  1. If it's any consolation, you have a huge gift for teaching/helping others to write.
    The only thing to remember about time, another of my teachers said, is that if you don't have enough it's because you're not doing what you want - but I think you know that.
    (And no need to reply!)

    1. Belinda, that's kind; thank you. And yes, that's an insightful comment.

      I love, and find rewarding and fulfilling, my work with others. But admin/promotion/organisation/preparation/enquiries & bookings/mailings/updating website etc is where most of my time and attention goes; and it is true that a lot of that is necessary but a drudge.

      So if I can crack this working with others plus time alone writing with minimal admin and advertising it'd be just about perfect!

      I love the monastic model of working the garden/home for half the day, then studying/reading/writing for the other half, interspersed with community involvement and personal inward time when one's mind is lifted free even of studying and writing...


  2. Phew! That sounds quite a lot. Personally I find it easier to do things by days - writing days, off alone day, house/garden/admin day etc. I can see however that the admin for your courses is something you have to keep on top of.
    My community involvement (and social life)I'm afraid has shrunk to nil, apart from seeing neighbours when out dogwalking. It does worry me sometimes!

  3. My feelings, Roselle, are that if we do as Thich Nhat Hanh advises and make everything we do a meditation - doing AND sitting - then we are no longer categorising and distinguishing one thing from another, but in the spirit of Dhamma, seeing things for what they really are. Thus the boundaries we have imagined separating administration from writing/organising from gardening/reading from walking evanesce........ and then we are finally doing and sitting.

    1. You're of course quite right, Karen, and thanks for acting as my mindfulness bell :-). I'm known for saying that 'meditation begins when we get up from our cushions', so of course I agree with you. I've found lately that the resentment of precious time spent on necessary but unrewarding tasks that exist to support something more essential, in its real sense, has taken me away from remembering 'and this, and this'. And of course, as you say, the boundaries are illusory. So thank you for reminding me here of the fall into dualistic thinking... x


Blog Archive