Tuesday, 28 November 2006

Memories of the Countryside

Kei reading her poetry at James Allen's

Memories of the countryside

Awake, the sunlight splits the orchard and divides the fields,
At the edge of the grass alcove
(tucked away behind the courtyard and on the border of the corn)
Are the three graves – humble headstones low
Shaped slates of soil basking in the sun

Back by the woods he’s waiting for me
The scarecrow stands in his domicile - the golden desert,
Near to the sweet peas growing over the collapsed wall
But beyond I see my grandfather
We climb the ivy mountain together
Behind, I swear the world is catching up with us
And the nettles clutch at my dress.

Evening, and the violet solitude descends
We stand shoulder to shoulder
And on the crest of the hill a grand line of stags
Peer down at the two humans and disappear
Then the night quickens
The stones in the field slow my running
Towards the warmth of the fire my father has lit
Ahead in the distance like a calling.

Sunday, 19 November 2006

Japan - Imabari and the Kurushima Strait

Kurushima Strait

It's hard to know what to say about this magical place. The extreme scale of the views in all directions, the breathtaking engineering of the vast bridges - one of which - Kurushima- is the 14th longest in the world; the constantly changing light from the sea, the terrifying currents that keep even experienced masters on the bridge, the freshness of the air and of the local fish (made the more tasty by having to swim so hard), the sense of timelessness as the clouds and tides swirl as they have always done.

Thursday, 9 November 2006

The Power of Now

Eckhart Tolle's book, The Power of Now, is a great work; one of the most important philosophical books ever written, not because it elucidates a new idea, but because it reminds us of a fundamental truth with such clarity and insight.

The book begins with a beautiful description of how the German-born, English educated author came by the transformative experience that would guide his life and cause him to write not just The Power of Now but also A New Earth, a fascinating explanation of the workings of the ego.

'Until my thirtieth year I lived in a state of almost continuous anxiety interspersed with periods of suicidal depression. One night I woke up in the early hours with a feeling of absolute dread. The silence of the night, the vague outlines of the furniture in the dark room; the distant noise of a passing train - everything felt so alien, so hostile, so utterly meaningless that it created in me a deep loathing of the world. The most loathsome thing of all, however, was my own existence. What was the point in continuing to live with this burden of misery? I could feel that a deep longing for annihilation, for nonexistence, was becoming much stronger than the instinctive desire to continue to live. 

'I cannot live with myself any longer.' This was the thought that kept repeating itself in my mind. Then suddenly I became aware of what a peculiar thought it was. 'Am I one or two? If I cannot live with myself, there must be two of me: the 'I' and the 'self' that I cannot live with. 'Maybe,' I thought, 'only one of them is real.'

I was so stunned by this strange realization that my mind stopped. I was fully conscious, but there were no more thoughts. Then I felt drawn into what felt like a vortex of energy. It was a slow movement at first but then accelerated.  I was gripped by an intense fear and my body started to shake. I heard the words 'resist nothing' as if spoken inside my chest. I could feel myself sucked into a void. It felt as if the void was inside myself instead of outside. Suddenly, there was no more fear, and I let myself fall into that void. I have no recollection of what happened after that.

I was awaked by the chirping of a bird outside the window. I had never heard such a sound before. My eyes were still closed, and I saw the image of a precious diamond. Yes, if a diamond could make a sound, this is what it would be like. I opened my eyes. The first light of dawn was filtering through the curtains. Without any thought, I felt, I knew that there is infinitely ore to light than we realize. That soft luminosity filtering through the curtains was love itself.  Tears came into my eyes. I got up and walked around the room. I recognised the room, yet I knew that I had never truly seen it before. Everything was fresh and pristine, as if it had just come into existence. I picked up things, a pen, an empty bottle, marvelling at the beauty and aliveness of it all. That day I walked around the city in utter amazement at the miracle of life on earth, as if I had just been born into this world'.

Eckhart Tolle - The Power of Now

A wonderful description of a mystical experience of the kind described by William James in 'The Varieties of Religious Experience' and by Evelyn Underhill