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

Tuesday 27 January 2015

heart medicine

Every living thing generates an electromagnetic field, which pulses in its own oscillation, its own frequency.

We could say that this oscillation is the song of that being; in fact if we can slow it down so that it is audible, we can hear its song. If it is then 'translated' into 3D, visually-beautiful patterns are formed, rather like mandalas; and each organism's 'pattern', from organ to human to tadpole to plant to whale, is unique. (This applies to planet earth, to water, to snowflakes too; not simply to what we culturally think of as organic and animate in the conventional sense.)

In a very real way, the earth has her own song and her own visual pattern. Her movement in the solar system also has a pattern; and some of the planets' orbits are remarkable for their grace and beauty (Venus, for instance, describes an elegant and beautiful five-fold rosette, or flower-like, orbit around our home planet, completing a cycle every eight years, and presumably giving out, like all the planets, 'the music of the spheres' at the same time).

When the organism is healthy, the pattern is ordered, regular, harmonious and beautiful, as of course the electromagnetic field – the 'song' – is as it should be.

There is so much to say about all this – and so many many books have already been written – that I'm almost immobilised with knowing where to start in excitement about it all. I just want to gesture, for now, at the idea that when we eat, say, a plant – let's say a healing herb – it is not only contributing to our physical wellbeing, but it is also contributing the benefits of the harmony and order of its electromagnetic field; and, should we be sensitive enough and practised enough (in eg shamanic ways), we could even hear its song. What's more, depending on the plant we've chosen, we can be healed on various levels by its gifts. However, if that plant has been treated with chemicals and grown in degraded soil, watered with polluted water, the picture for both plant and eater is different.

But all that is another story.

I wanted to write, as briefly as I can, about the healing power of music. This is not in any way a new idea and nor will what I'm about to say be innovative. There's plenty of material out there on all this. It's simply something from my own experience that I have been thinking about again the last day or two.

The poet Novalis said 'Every disease is a musical problem.' And we've known for a very long time that certain music, certain frequencies, can heal. Many people find, for instance, that J S Bach's music sets something right within them. I certainly do. Bach composed to certain numerical principles, principles of sacred geometry, often rooted in the golden ratio, or Fibonacci sequence, that were common in Renaissance thinking and current still for a while afterwards (and have faded rather in the last couple of hundred years, with our so-called Enlightenment mindset, so reductive in so many ways).

We could say that music employing techniques of harmonious intervals soothes and eases not simply the body but the subtler levels of being out of which bodily health (or ill-health) arises. It can be, literally, 'en-trancing'. (So I wonder, too, whether discordant music for some people is exciting and stimulating partly because it awakens them from a kind of dream-state? For me, with slight synaesthesia, such music sets up a rather distressing series of jagged visual accompaniments, rather like a migraine. I don't mean, by the way, eg loud rock music; I mean music that sets out to disrupt our expectations of certain harmonious intervals, such as was common in classical composition in the first half of the twentieth century, and in Modernist compositions, classical or otherwise, since.)

Anyway, I had a small heart problem erupt in October 2012. It was triggered by something specific but was an accident-in-waiting, after 30 years of working every minute I could scrape out of 24 hours in the arts for a pitiful income, being a single parent with no financial help from anyone, including my daughter's father, and on top of seven years of very serious family illness in three members of my immediate family, and in which I was usually the main carer (I'm not being a martyr, it was the way it worked out).

I'd lost my mum, to whom I was close, the year before. Simultaneously with that death, or rather immediately before, my dog, my best-beloved dog, went down with a life-threatening illness. And at the time when my heart issue erupted a year later, I was in an emotional situation – well, two, to be honest – where my feeling-heart was deeply conflicted.

I'd routinely ignored my physical health and bodily needs all my life. Rest was a completely foreign concept. No surprise, then, that it was my heart which told me it couldn't take it any more. But it struck right to the core of me, and was very frightening. I knew all the time, of course, about 'symptom as symbol', and have spent the intervening years unravelling many threads around emotional wellbeing.

And I have also addressed the symptom with herbs and plants; both on a physical level as medicine, and by spending time in the company of plants whose song I imagine I hear; or in other words with which I feel a resonance. (And yes, I take orthodox allopathic medicine too, in small doses, at the moment, and was fortunate enough as to be given acupuncture, and Jungian analysis sessions; and I monitor my stress levels.)

One of the things that has been of major benefit is music. I realised I'd stopped playing it much (I mean as CDs, but also myself, playing an instrument). Well, finally, my very good sound system was installed upstairs at home last year (it had been in storage since I moved in with TM 6 years ago). To play music again has added such a rich and healing dimension to my life, as has my small foray into playing the harp the last year or two.

And there has been one particular contribution which I swear I can feel immediately reharmonising the whole of my system, physical, emotional, mental and spiritual; and if my heart goes into overdrive because I've been working too hard again (such a difficult habit to break when you love what you do! – and even harder when what you love and do is not an affluence-producing activity!) I light the fire, lie on the sofa and put the CD on. It's the only thing I know which can induce me to fall sleep in the daytime – new concept that that still is to me.

Those of you who are long-term readers of this blog will know of the annual retreat week I lead on the Isle of Iona. Last year, along with a stunning spiral-inscribed pewter bangle, the group gave me – quite deliberately on the part of the person/people who chose it – a CD called 'Heart Medicine', by Simon de Voil. It's very simple piano music; rather similar to Ludovico Einaudi, or a less experimental and less repetitive Philip Glass. It is improvised, and it's specifically made to accompany meditation and healing.

And boy, it really works (and I say this as someone who has listened to many dozens of 'New Age' 'healing-music' tapes over the years – and made one, 'Source', too – most of them I can't stand).

So if you haven't had a bath in music for a while – well, what are you waiting for?

Friday 23 January 2015

we are one another

Something relatively simple (in length, if not in scope) for you today: a short excerpt from a back copy of the New Statesman (July 2013); an article by poet and novelist John Burnside on Mark Cocker's book Birds and People.  (And yes, you're right that I'm [also] avoiding work on The Book.)

As Burnside says, it's impossible to write a book about birds without addressing the tragedy of species loss, habitat loss, deforestation and all the mindless ways in which we humans demonstrate how little we care for Other, especially the non-human other.

And of course it's always relevant, and poignant, to apply to our human-to-human relationships as well.

How would it be to live as if we really were what we really are: utterly interconnected each with each other? I bang that drum a lot, I know. Repeating the question keeps me enquiring into what it means to live a more sustainable life; which has to be better, I guess, than 'the unexamined life', even if it feels too little too late much of the time.

I came across this article in the muck-heap of papers on my desk of which I wrote yesterday. So here's the excerpt.

'"We are all responsible for everything and everyone in the face of everybody," says Dostoevsky... Taking that declaration as a starting point, Emmanuel Levinas created a philosophy in which each of us is confronted with what he calls "the face" of the other, which both implores and challenges us not to do it harm, but to respond to it from a position that goes beyond mere respect or even compassion – a position that, because it understands the necessity of the other to our own continued  being, approaches the deeply unfashionable condition of reverence. That we can see reverence for birds as old-fashioned or sentimental is merely another indicator of our own outmoded thinking with regard to human success, a solipsistic way of thinking that takes such absurd indicators as GDP or the Dow Jones as measures of prosperity.

'As Cocker points out, "To assume that we alone are all that matter and to contemplate with any kind of equanimity the loss of these other species, or a part of them, is to risk losing our very souls and silencing our own imaginations."'

Hear hear.

Wednesday 21 January 2015

from the ragbag

I've been neglecting you. I know – I've been neglecting my own writing too. I'm finding myself wanting to be silent a lot of the time; or, more, perhaps, I'm tired of all the yacking everywhere – and I think I'm suffering from a surfeit of opinions (not least my own). Maybe I've been too immersed in the media in general and social media in particular lately?

And there are two deeper threads underneath this: one is my grief in relation to my father's death, which has left me dumb. Although I'm still managing to put cursor to screen for the book of essays I'm working on, I've written nothing creative otherwise since late November or earlier, apart from one poem the day my father died, and one on the day of his funeral.

The second thread is that, like many of us I'm sure, I have no idea how to respond to all the violence and trouble erupting (again) in the world, along with all the ongoing environmental and humanitarian crises. I remember why I used to limit my reading of/hearing the news (I don't watch it on TV as it keeps me awake). So I've spent a lot of time recently on what little I feel I can do in terms of campaigns and causes. 

Speaking of the latter, perhaps you know the latest on Raif Badawi, the 31-year-old father and blogger in Saudi who is in gaol and supposed to be receiving 50 lashes each Friday for 20 weeks, for blogging in criticism of his country's clerics? Freedom of speech is such a privilege, and so few people, relatively, have it. Anyway, last week he was spared from the coming Friday's next 50 as he was deemed unfit to receive another 50 since, grotesquely and unsurprisingly, the last lot hadn't healed. Public opinion via eg petitions from Amnesty may yet save him; who knows. Meantime, 18 Nobel Laureates have written an open letter for his reprieve.


I've also been thinking about listening: really listening, with one's whole attention, without either prejudging, formulating your own response instead of paying attention to what's being said (or sung, or whatever), or hearing what you expect to hear and tuning out the rest. How rare that this is. I realise that although I consider myself to be a good listener there's still an awful lot of me me me and my opinion being thrust in there, wherever 'there' is. So – OK – that's a resolution: holding back on the talking and doing more of the listening. Perhaps. If I can.


In the light of all this, a blog with its opinions seems such a trivial occupation unless it's dealing with Big Stuff (and even then, since it's more opinions – and don't we have enough of those divisive creatures since the Charlie Hebdo day?).

And then I think: well, better to light the tiny candles than to curse the darkness. Remembering a little gratitude to add to the world's store of such things is worth doing to offset the misery, isn't it?


So here's last Friday's sunset across Dartmoor towards Cornwall and Plymouth Sound on a chilly bright day, with the waters off the coast just visible as a smeary gold thumbprint.

I couldn't resist getting out of the car here at megalithic Merrivale, subject of one of my essays and very much a favoured spot of mine.

Somewhere like this time seems to dissolve; it's partly the ancientness of such a site, and partly the lack of urbanisation (unless you count the Bronze Age hut circles). 

I am the breath of this moment's moment.


Sunday. Another beautiful sunny day; frosty and chill though the daybreak was. And we did our now-annual trip to South Milton sands (top two photos, and here below) to collect kelp, washed up in the recent deepsea storms, for our veg garden. THE best fertiliser, along with horseshit and compost; and what a joy to collect it in sunshine, after a breakfast at the Beach-house Café, and with the old dog spelling out uncontainable circles of delight in the sand at a wild speed. 37 bags to go on the potato and brassica beds (Guy Watson of Riverford says that seaweed is unrivalled for adding taste to the early potato crop).

The beach near the rocks was kneedeep in kelp. Kelp is a bit of a wonder plant: not just good for the garden, I take it too to help strengthen my post-menopausal slightly underactive thyroid, and it's great for hair and skin as well. It's supposedly anti-ageing, and sops up free radicals, and look at this list of nutrients: vitamins A, B1, B2, C, D and E; minerals including zinc, iodine, magnesium, iron, potassium, copper and calcium (10 times more calcium than milk). (However, if it's collected from polluted waters there is the issue of potentially toxic heavy metals.)

Dog has a little, along with other powdered herbs, in her food ; and interestingly, although she won't eat it fresh, once we've spread the kelp on the garden and it's begun to dry out a little she goes and seeks it out to chew.

As always, it's so satisfying to forage, knowing that our new vegetables will thrive on this free harvest.


I have – what a shock! – tidied my desk today, mucking out over a year's worth of scraps of paper, with the dozens of first-draft poems that so often go nowhere other than the bin. Looking through, I see there may be about a dozen or even more salvageable pieces in there. When I'm not writing poems I fear that I never will again, and this small discovery at least gives me something to work on in the absence of a 'flow'.

This scrap must have been written on Iona, either this year or last; it 'happened' on two halves of torn-up envelope.

For what is true

The island
lies behind the island
though there are moments 
when you might glimpse at least the veil 
become thin as a Communion wafer

just as the man
lies behind the man
though the truth of a human being
is harder still to glimpse

© Roselle Angwin 2015

Thursday 15 January 2015

getting out of your own light, for writers

I'm well immersed in a creative project at the moment, but of course I don't want to neglect you all. So here is a reblog of one of my blogs that was in itself a reposting of one of the MsLexia columns I used to write, because – well, in writing as in life, it doesn't hurt to remember how we can help ourselves by not hindering ourselves, does it?


I guess we all know the blank page syndrome. It seems to me that one of the biggest problems for a writer is feeling that every word has to count; that sullying the blank page with less-than-perfect expression means you’ve ‘failed’.
This is not helpful. I open every new workshop with a reminder that you ‘can’t get it wrong’; and also I like to quote that ‘you’re not a failure because – this time – you didn’t “succeed”; you’re a success because you tried’ line. 
Zen writer Gail Sher* has Four Noble Truths for writers: Writers write; writing is a process; you don’t know what your writing will be until the end of the process; if writing is your practice, the only way to fail is to not write. As she and Natalie Goldberg both emphasise, what counts is the intention: you commit to showing up, and you show up. (That’s not to undermine the need sometimes for serious content; it’s simply to not have the guillotine of the production of perfect work endlessly poised above your head.)
What’s more helpful is the idea of letting oneself play; improvisation (which we do every time we open our mouths), letting words tumble out onto the page unsupervised and uncensored. In other words, allowing yourself to write rubbish in the faith that something less-than-rubbish will also emerge. It helps to approach the blank page each time as if it’s the first time, with no expectations other than the enjoyment of placing words on paper. The ideal state is one of relaxed alertness, a receptive surrender that will allow the unconscious to do the work.
Play is an important part of the creative process. As we age, unless we make time for it or work in creative fields, it is easy to forget to think associatively, instead channelling our thoughts along more linear highways. Play allows us to bring disparate elements together, to make surprising discoveries, to make exciting juxtapositions. It’s another way of making room for the imaginative and associative aspects of the subconscious to feed in to the process; remember C G Jung’s sandplay box in which both children and adults allowed to emerge what they couldn’t easily otherwise articulate.
Two suggestions this time:
  • 1, show up daily – make time to sit with the blank page with no agenda. 
  • 2, practise associative thinking throughout the day: get into the habit of jotting down similes and metaphors as they occur to you. What are the things and situations you perceive like? What might they be? I asked a sculptor friend of mine what bunches of ash keys might be, creatively speaking. ‘Tadpoles feeding; clusters of notes from Beethoven’s unfinished symphony; all the punctuation left out of a James Joyce novel’ were some of our joint suggestions.
            Be concrete, be abstract: as one primary school boy said, the exploding dead heads of cow parsley were fireworks; and they were also like anger.
Simply get out of your own light and listen to the pen. Just write, and see what happens.

* Gail Sher: One Continuous Mistake: Four Noble Truths for Writers

Tuesday 13 January 2015

the small gifts of now


  • seven different species of bird at the feeders including a nuthatch and a spotted woodpecker, and a nice little ecosystem going on with the shy high-stepping pheasant, the ground-feeding small birds, the wood pigeon and two squirrels cleaning up the mess underneath, deliberately thrown out of the feeder by the fussy ones
  • the showers, cold though they are – they bring such lightshifts behind them
  • a bank of white periwinkles just outside the French door behind me
  • the first snowdrop
  • red flowers on the japonica
  • a few dozen bulbs coming through – all the more wonderful because I'd forgotten I'd planted them
  • the laughter of a green woodpecker – 'yaffingale' – somewhere off in the woods
  • feeling good in my body (though also on more subtle levels) because of starting the week yesterday with a morning of dance
  • and because of having spent a couple of lovely hours lightly pruning the apple trees with TM on Sunday (must be getting old – that was so satisfying, and a decade or two ago I'd have thought it the height of bourgeois-ness)
  • the privilege of looking after apple trees
  • the smell of one of our huge orange squashes roasting (gardeners: the big orange ones are rouge vif d'etampes, grown from seed I saved the previous year; tasty, good keepers; email me if you'd like me to save you a few seeds from the next one!)
  • the lingering feelgoodness of the poetry day with 'my' group on Saturday
  • the lingering smugness of meditating again :-)
  • the quiet, with the restless westerly outside
  • a whole day to write, and a fire to write by 
  • I'm alive, with enough to eat, a lovely place to live, shelter, dear friends and family, and not in a warzone...

Sunday 11 January 2015

Paris? – call me by my true names

I, along with, I imagine, most of Western Europe, have been deeply preoccupied with the events in Paris of last week, and with finding a true 'right response'. I've been very engaged in discussions on facebook and elsewhere, and have started, but abandoned, two or three blogposts. 

I keep coming back to Voltaire's words: ' I cannot agree with what you say, but I defend to the death your right to say it.' And there's something I'm reaching for beyond that, too.

What happened was shocking, appalling beyond words. Hate crimes always are. Islamic extremism is a global, and massive, threat. It seems obvious that the killers' actions cannot in any way be condoned.

The people at Charlie Hebdo had a rare courage, as well as intelligence and creativity.
And laughter and satire are important aspects of being human, and of making sense of things. (We should perhaps especially be able to laugh at ourselves, and how seriously we take ourselves.)

But the issue isn't entirely black and white, it seems to me, and raises more questions than it offers certainties about 'good' and 'evil'.

oking fun at,
taunting and goading, others in a way that is, to them, blasphemous, certainly derogatory, and insulting to deeply-held beliefs is, quite apart from ethical questions, going to draw a reaction, especially from a people currently bound on extremist 'terror' action. I personally found the cartoons, those that I've seen, unpleasant, unnecessary, and seriously inflammatory, especially at the current time.

Perhaps we need to choose our targets and our timing? While we might be within our 'rights', and while freedom of speech is precious and perhaps inviolable, such poking fun is hardly going to go any distance towards creating world peace.
Every time we think, say or do something that we know will hurt or offend another we too are guilty of creating divisiveness.

I am not in any way defending the shocking and destructive actions of such extreme people, clearly. However, it's important too to look at causes, and ways in which we in general in the West, supposed innocents and victims, are complicit in atrocities.

Arab peoples have had to suffer US- and UK-led military invasions and interventions with apparent scarce regard for civilian casualties, blanket bombings, the use of land mines, cluster bombs and drones, an agenda that is too often about, or at least includes, oil, atrocities (often denied by the West) like extraordinary rendition and torture at our hands, and inhuman and inhumane treatment for prisoners in Abu Ghraib and Guantanamo; and in comparison with the affluent West poverty and injustice is widespread. In Europe and the States, ghettoising of and prejudice in relation to Arab and black people is also rife. We throw our military weight around and demand that they accept our value-system (again, this is not to condone theirs). Do we not expect recriminations when we goad them again?

And of course it is true that we cannot, should not, be cowed by fear.
But there are questions, too, around our democratic freedom of speech – a right that everyone should have but far too few have, in practice, globally; and what our responsibilities are if we do have that right-become-privilege – what responsibilities it might bring to be respectful of others' beliefs, even when we think they're off the wall, and to speak and act wisely, especially in potentially inflammatory situations.

So that's as far as I got, and I wasn't sure about posting it. Just now, an acquaintance of mine from the erstwhile Network of Engaged Buddhists emailed this, from the wonderful (and ill) Thich Nhat Hanh, ex-pat Vietnamese monk and founder of the Community of Interbeing. It says it so very beautifully.

In the 70s
Thich Nhat Hanh led efforts to help rescue so-called boat people from Vietnam in the Gulf of Siam. Like the Dalai Lama, despite all the persecution of his people, he has spoken only with equanimity and kindness. 

The piece and poem below speak so poignantly of the need to move beyond the tit-for-tat, eye-for-an-eye philosophy (you might rememember Gandhi's saying 'An eye for an eye is a terrible way to blind the world').

«La haine attire la haine» : hatred breeds hatred

Where race, or creed, or hate divides we must stand with arms outstretched to heal & bless

Please Call Me by My True Names
by Thich Nhat Hanh

I have a poem for you. This poem is about three of us.
The first is a twelve-year-old girl, one of the boat people crossing the Gulf of Siam. She was raped by a sea pirate, and after that she threw herself into the sea. 

The second person is the sea pirate, who was born in a remote village in Thailand. 
The third person is me. I was very angry, of course

But I could not take sides against the sea pirate. If I could have, it would have been easier, but I couldn’t. I realized that if I had been born in his village and had lived a similar life – economic, educational, and so on – it is likely that I would now be that sea pirate.

So it is not easy to take sides. Out of suffering, I wrote this poem. It is called

Please Call Me by My True Names

because I have many names, and when you call me by any of them, I have to say, 'Yes'.
Don’t say that I will depart tomorrow – even today I am still arriving.

Look deeply: every second I am arriving to be a bud on a Spring branch, to be a tiny bird, with still-fragile wings, learning to sing in my new nest, to be a caterpillar in the heart of a flower, to be a jewel hiding itself in a stone.

I still arrive, in order to laugh and to cry, to fear and to hope. The rhythm of my heart is the birth and death of all that is alive.

I am the mayfly metamorphosing on the surface of the river. And I am the bird that swoops down to swallow the mayfly.

I am the frog swimming happily in the clear water of a pond. And I am the grass-snake that silently feeds itself on the frog.

I am the child in Uganda, all skin and bones, my legs as thin as Bamboo sticks. And I am the arms merchant, selling deadly weapons to Uganda.

I am the twelve-year-old girl, refugee on a small boat, who throws herself into the ocean after being raped by a sea pirate. And I am the pirate, my heart not yet capable of seeing and loving.

I am a member of the politburo, with plenty of power in my hands. And I am the man who has to pay his 'debt of blood' to my people dying slowly in a forced-labor camp.

My joy is like Spring, so warm it makes flowers bloom all over the Earth. My pain is like a river of tears, so vast it fills the four oceans.

Please call me by my true names, so I can hear all my cries and my laughter at once, so I can see that my joy and pain are one.

Please call me by my true names, so I can wake up, and so the door of my heart can be left open, the door of compassion...


Thursday 8 January 2015

practice 11

Interesting that the Tricycle Buddhist post that arrives daily in my inbox today mirrors what I've been saying in the last two posts, though the Ven Bhikku Bodhi puts it so much more eloquently and succinctly than I did.  (His is the quote I use in the footer of this blog.) (Later: ooops! No, not same man. Sorry.)

I think the word 'faith' is tricky and rather freighted with problems, and I'm not very keen on 'should', but the essence of what he's saying is spot-on. IMHO.

'People of faith should root transformative action in the spiritual disciplines of prayer, meditation, and contemplation. While traditionally such practices served as stepping stones to the realization of a transcendent goal, today we need a wider spiritual vision that can encompass the divine and the mundane, the transcendent and the immanent, in an integral whole.'

~ Ven. Bhikkhu Bodhi, 'Foster Peace, Inside and Out'

Wednesday 7 January 2015

so why then do I meditate?

You'd be forgiven for asking that question, since I said yesterday that my meditation practice is not about trying to 'achieve or attain or escape or transcend'.

Well, maybe I should qualify that by saying that sometimes transcendence does happen. Hopefully, I'll be more practised at accessing that experience where ego is put on one side and I remember the greater forces that sustain us there.

Meantime, in no particular order but rather as they occur to me, here are some reasons for meditating; some personal, like 'it makes me feel good'; some with an awareness that what I do for myself might also be in a tiny way a contribution to collective consciousness – if only by virtue of creating less harm, perhaps.

It opens up a sense of spaciousness and calm that informs my day
It aligns me with something greater than the ego, both in myself and in the cosmos
It allows me to be more present in each moment than I might otherwise be
It helps me to bring more presence to my interactions with others, and more presence to my thoughts, words, deeds
It gives me more choice: eg it reminds me that stress, emotional reactions etc are at least to some extent a matter of choice, not inevitability
It helps me regroup the scattered fragments of myself
It helps me choose more skilful paths in how I live
It allows me to remember that I'm 'part of, not apart'

It allows me to remember that I don't have to immerse myself in personal (ie egoic) gratification of desires, cravings, or even fears and aversions as if they were the centre around which my life whole revolves (once again opening up more choices)
It reminds me of interconnectedness
It also lets me know, via recurring issues that crop up in that space, what patterns and projections still run me, and how much more there always is to learn...
It's about knowing myself, and therefore deepening how I engage with others (in a Delphic Oracle kind of way, not a navel-gazing one – of course!)

That's for starters.

Tuesday 6 January 2015


Yesterday morning, I pulled out my meditation stool and sat on it for 15 minutes. And? – Well, my confession is that, for the first time in decades, I managed to avoid sitting in formal meditation for almost the whole of 2014.

I happen to believe that deep meditation and mindfulness begin after the sitting, rather than only during the sitting. Much harder to maintain an inner stillness in the hustle and bustle of our modern lives. In some ways, then, the whole of my waking life is dedicated to – well, waking up.

And what a convenient excuse that is to avoid sitting in meditation. And truly the times when I most avoid it are usually the times when I most need it. Of course.

But I've had eight rather grim years in terms of the sheer quantity of serious family illness, at the end of which my own burnout took quite a toll. So last year, in addition to seeing my father over his own threshold, I gave myself 'time out' from all the 'shoulds'. And yes, it is true that meditation practice is still a 'should' for me, 40 years after I first began it.

But here's the thing. As soon as I sat on my stool with the intention of watching my mind and bringing it to some kind of stillness, there was an immediate sense of some kind of utterly essential connectedness being restored, even after that year.

My meditation practice is rooted in Zen. So in a very real way, when I am sitting, I am just sitting; not trying to achieve or attain or escape or transcend. I watch the mind, the games it plays and its attachments and aversions; its distraction and avoidances and cravings; the way it flies out like a cloud of gnats to colonise any imagined or remembered landscape it finds mildly interesting. Gently, I'll harness it to bring it back home. I'll breathe. I'll focus – with effort but without a battle.

Gradually, and just occasionally (important to mention that it's only now and then), something else happens. I notice that certain egoic boundaries dissolve, and maybe a sense of oneness takes over. No me, no you. No inside, no outside.

Somehow, a kind of verticality and a kind of horizontality bring themselves together. Does that make any sense?

It didn't happen this morning for me. I stayed firmly scattered in the questing sniffing host of gnats that were my mental wanderings (can't grace them with the word 'thoughts'). What do you do? You just sit, and notice.

But it did happen yesterday morning; just as it happened again later when I walked, late, alone with Dog, on a long beach where the last time I walked I was still married; my daughter was only a few months old; my then husband and I alternated his going surfing in the early morning in the ocean we could see from the window of our tatty little rented flat with my exercising someone else's enormous ex-racehorse on two miles of golden sand.

At dusk, yesterday, the waves curled and laced themselves around my boots, and I didn't know what was ocean, what me, what gathering night.

'Staring into the heart of light, the silence.'

Friday 2 January 2015

finally agreeing to enter the 21st century...

... on a beautiful sunny day after a wild and elemental New Year's Day dusk walk on the coast with Daughter and dogs, I've felt energised enough as to bribe my wonderful nephew into helping me catch up technologically.

Two small bits of news, therefore: one is that by clicking on the River Suite image in the sidebar on this blog, or indeed on the home page of my Fire in the Head website, you can hear the original recording, sans music, of my long Dartmoor poem, commissioned way back in the last century. It's always slightly cringe-making to hear one's own voice, and the current version of the poem is not identical. But there it is. (And as an addendum I've added my Creative Novel Writing to the list of books that you can buy from this blog via Paypal. This was based on my Storymaking course - featured in the Guardian in 1998 – and I have the very last few copies of this out-of-print edition.)

The second thing is that I've now put a Paypal button beneath the details of my next one-day workshop (soon I'll offer this with other courses). 'Thresholds' is a day retreat that I've been leading since – oooh, I don't know; way back in the last century too! – and individuals often repeat this day with me as a way of mapping their years. If you live close enough to South Devon to join us, there are places available still, and it's a good day. This is the blurb:

this wild and precious life
Saturday 31st January 2015, Fletcherscombe Barns, Nr Totnes, Devon
10am – 5pm £50

Tea, coffee, herbal teas will be provided. Please bring veggie lunch to share
As part of The Inward Flame weekend, once again I’m offering the Saturday as an open non-residential day workshop. Thresholds is an annual course in which we take time to reflect on our last year and on what we would like to invite in to the forthcoming year; to notice the gap between how we would
like to live and how we actually live, and to consider how we might address this. Here’s the blurb:

Change your life with this day retreat course…
Using writing as a tool, it’s a chance to look at where you are: your essential values, your visions, dreams and goals, your work/life balance, your loves, achievements and losses over the past year, your creative life, and what you’d like to create for yourself in this new year – all in the safe support of a friendly group.
 TO BOOK: contact me through the website or at roselle.l.angwin[at]gmail[dot]com
 I’ve been leading this course now for more years than I can remember, and recommend early booking – some people repeat it year after year!
NB this is a self-contained day workshop for non-residents, but also forms part of this year’s ‘Imbolc – the Inward Flame‘ residential weekend.

Have a creative new year. 


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