Tag Archives: meditation



Thanks to an award from the Society of Authors worth six months of gardening, I am donating most of my present moments to writing about the shed and other shed-related issues; ecological obliteration, the housing crisis, stars.

I’ve been animal sitting among snow-covered mountains on a remote hillock topped with a few dozen tall and bendy Scots pines. The pines shield me from the worst of the weather and harbor owls and kites. There’s a windmill and a hammock and horses to ride.

I was sitting by the stove, feeling the ache of time passing and cuddling the kitten, when this poem arrived:


Screen shot 2015-01-26 at 11.35.17


Next up on my monkish writing trail is another house, and after that a wooden gazebo in the woods, but on both sides of the house and the gazebo is a stint at the meditation centre.

A few people have mentioned recently that they think meditation is self-indulgent. I have wondered if they were right. But last night I watched the startlingly good BBC film Bitter Lake and I knew they were wrong. As Schumacher wrote, way back before most of the things in the film had even happened:

‘Where can one find the strength to go on working against such obviously appalling odds? What’s more: where can one find the strength to overcome the violence of greed, hate and lust within oneself?’

Some other people have said that they think meditation is boring. I get that. I have also been conditioned by Twitter to have the attention span of a goldfish. All the more reason to meditate. Sit down. Shut up. Stop buying stuff. Reverse the awfulness of Bitter Lake.

Plus, I increasingly consider boredom a failure of my own mind. As Geoff Dyer puts it:

‘Often when you’re bored, it’s that friction between you and time.’

The older I get, the more I want to learn to live in time. The more we run away from time the more time runs away from us, but moments fully embraced seem to stretch time. As Nadine Stair wrote in another poem, when she was 85:

Oh, I have had my moments
  And if I had it to do over again, I'd have more of them.
        In fact, I'd try to have nothing else. 
	   Just moments,one after another.
      Instead of living so many years ahead each day.

Poems, like kittens, only appear when we’re sitting quietly doing nothing. Violence, on the other hand, requires blind and furious action.

Men and Bits of Paper


I’m gearing up for an adventure in consciousness.

For the second time I am about to surrender all my distractions and commit to ten days of silent meditation on a farm in Hereford. The technique is called Vipassana, which means insight. I feel like I am preparing to climb a difficult mountain – again. Hard enough the first time, but infinitely harder the second, knowing what’s coming.

It’s not the silence. I can go days in my shed without talking to a soul. It’s not being woken at 4am by an old-fashioned hand bell. I like getting up early and the bell sounds like it belongs in a Tibetan monastery. It’s not the food, which is simple and vegetarian. It’s not the living quarters, which are spartan but include the rare treat of a hot shower. It’s not the purpose-built, high-ceilinged, wood and glass meditation hall with its piles of cushions and blankets and several hundred other truth-seekers, from both genders, all ages, all walks of life. It’s not even the fierce physical pain of sitting cross-legged on the floor for eleven hours a day.

It’s the knowledge that when the storms hit, the psychological storms of memory and feeling and love and loss and hope and despair and longing, I will have nowhere to go, nowhere to run to, nowhere to hide. No guitar, no pens and paper, no books, no films or wine or joints or cake.

So why do it?

Because on the other side of the storms is mental silence. Nothing more, nothing less, nothing rarer. A break from the incessant noise and clatter and chatter inside my head. A chance to see the world as it really is, without my desperate ego-specs.

There was a patch of woodland next to the meditation hall. It was extraordinarily beautiful, or at least I thought so at the time. The ground was a thick carpet of fallen leaves in a million colours. Hoar frosts pinned naked trees to frozen skies. Moonlit dawns and lonely stars.

With the help of the trees and the moon and the stars I went through a tunnel of darkness and came out of it. By the eighth day I was high as a kite.

In an effort to record my journey, I collected objects from the woods and laid them out on paper towels in my room. As soon as the vow of silence ended, on the tenth day, I made scribbled notes about what the objects represented. Here’s what I wrote. Unabridged.


Gong, berry tree, birds etc

Men, men, men, passion, crazy mind, crazy mushroom

Running towards death with my fingers in my ears, screaming.



Butterflies in stomach, shiver of fear, stab of envy

Sticky ego.


PAIN, prickly pain, just pain, nothing but pain

A voice, ‘I can help you, the pain is not pain’

Dead things, some beauty.


Apple trees, FOOD, craving

One pine tree among the multitudes of oak and beech

Acceptance of things AS THEY ARE.


Everyone looks wild and dishevelled

Glance in the mirror by accident and react to thoughts about myself



MOON, HIGH, like I’ve never seen the world before

The hedge, so beautiful

Coming down.


And the silver birch is a mind over matter thing

Not using willpower anymore, smiling HELPS, want to pick up some beautiful frost and…

Won’t last, nothing will last.


Cold November and all the trees in bud

Equanimity, change, ARISING AND PASSING AWAY

Such a cold and frozen morning.


These plants and flowers

Then warmth and sunshine, tea and talking

After Metta, and after crying.



William Hart – The Art of Living

T.S.Eliot – Burnt Norton)