I am currently trying to build my mindfulness practice, and today, for a change I tried a loving kindess meditation. There are various stages to go through, that end with you trying to hold yourself in the same loving kindness you have previously, in the same meditation, held someone else in. I used a person, and found it hard. I tried a pet, the cat to be precise and found it…
Well, I can’t really say. Meditation is not about words, so much, as noticing feelings. I noticed a very unexpected feeling, in the heart area, that stayed with me for a while. Meditation is also about accepting what is, without judgement, without attaching a story… that wouldn’t make much of a blog post however… suffice to say that the feeling was also painful. The meditation felt like it moved me from a closed heart state to a more open, but pained one. I am interested in this process, that’s why I’ve written it down. I will go there again, but not today. Will I go with more trepidation next time, based on today’s experience? Hopefully not.
It really is amazing what goes on with our bodies that our busy mind does not often allow us to notice. Yesterday, I decided to notice the soles of my feet as I walked round the corner with the youngest to the orthodontist (another post lies behind those doors). I decided to notice them, and appreciate them for all the hard work they do on my behalf for which I simply NEVER thank them. After only a few minutes of this walking whilst noticing what the sensations were, I can only say that the soles of my feet really appreciated the attention. Try it some time.
No-one need know.
Mind in its purest play is like some bat
That beats about in caverns all alone,
Contriving by a kind of senseless wit
Not to conclude against a wall of stone.
It has no need to falter or explore;
Darkly it knows what obstacles are there,
And so may weave and flitter, dip and soar
In perfect courses through the blackest air.
And has this simile a like perfection?
The mind is like a bat. Precisely. Save
That in the very happiest intellection
A graceful error may correct the cave.
I got up this morning wondering about Wittgenstein’s idea that if a lion could speak we couldn’t understand him. This makes sense because, sometimes, when humans speak my own language I can’t understand them either. It seems that Wittgenstein meant we could not begin to conceive of a lion’s experience of life and the older I get, the harder it is to conceive of another human’s experience of life, unless it is a sort of metaphysical understanding – something beyond words. I wonder if I could apply that to a lion, despite Wittgenstein.
Thus, you will see that Richard Wilbur’s poem gave me some small clarity for the day; although I did wonder if language, rather than the mind, was more like a bat. I do not believe all thought is language-based…which brings me to another of Wittgenstein’s ideas which was that language is the cage whose walls we keep climbing. Whichsoever, the cave is dark enough for silent contemplation.
What does you may wonder. It’s description of the mind – mine & yours.
from The Evolution of Consciousness: The Origins of the Way We Think by Robert Ornstein
Like the rest of biological evolution, the human mind is a collage of adaptations (the propensity to do the right thing) to different situations. Our thought is a pack of fixed routines—simpletons. We need them. It is vital to find the right food at the right time, to mate well, to generate children, to avoid marauders, to respond to emergency quickly….
The mind evolved great breadth, but it is shallow, for it performs quick and dirty sketches of the world. This rough-and-ready perception of reality enabled our ancestors to survive better. The mind did not evolve to know the world or to know ourselves. Simply speaking, there has never been, nor will there ever be, enough time to be truly rational. “
Personally, I find that notion somewhat depressing.
This is much more like it. A 3D brain scan published in National Geographic this summer showing the neural pathways in the brain. Truly, a thing of beauty.
Yesterday I felt all 1990s and posted a link to The Verve’s Bittersweet Symphony, which was on constantly in late ’97 and ’98 – a period in my life I feel a bit wistful over (for no particular reason other than it being the fun you have in your twenties).
Then I went off to work which required me to go to a consultation thing for MIND (our local branch). They kicked off with speeches from the chair, Sir Teddy Taylor (resplendent in House of Commons braces – he was the baby there a long time ago you know) and an address from the MIND Director of Network Services, Lee Smith.
The whole time Mr Smith was talking, I was wondering where I knew him from. Not many clues in the name. He talked for about 10 minutes and by the end I had narrowed it down to London, more than ten years ago, probably working in a mental health setting in the voluntary sector. But I was still a bit baffled. Knowing it would probably drive me nuts I decided to nobble him as he left the stage and ask the random and potentially humiliating question – do I know you?
I have form for this kind of thing and it is embarrassing. So this time I ran through a checklist first based on the following experiences. Once I asked a man at the OXO Tower (who was evidently out with a beautiful girl he wanted to impress) if I had done a course with him at the City Lit. He had not. In fact he was an actor. From the television. So I did a check – did I see Lee Smith on the television ever and had never actually met him in real life? Maybe talking about the Mental Health Act or something. On balance I thought not.
Then I did the – have I confused him with someone else entirely check. I did this recently. I had a conversation with a woman in the supermarket called Vicky who was with her daughter Isabel. When she mentioned her young baby I declared shock and surprise as I hadn’t known she was pregnant when I thought I had last seen her. Eventually, my clanger became clear. She wasn’t the Vicky I thought she was, she was another one, with a daughter called Isabel. And then in my complete confusion I had to ask if I even knew her at all. Thankfully I did, we had been on the same course (for 6 months!) a couple of years ago. So she knew me. She must now know I am very absent-minded too.
Lee Smith seemed to pass that check, so I just asked if I knew him (which is a stupid question as it should be – do you know me? – but that is a tad egocentric) and mooted working in Brent as an opening gambit. Thankfully, he was not an actor or a doppelganger and he did recognise me and filled in my missing gaps. Working for MIND is obviously good for you. We were colleagues at St Mungo’s (in London but nowhere near Brent) in the mid to late 90s, working at different projects but with our paths crossing from time to time. I still can’t exactly remember the paths or the crossing details but you can’t indefinitely quiz a director of a national charity, at a formal do, for the missing bits of your memory jigsaw. Actually, I seem to have lost the lid too, so if anyone has that it would be helpful to have it back…
We had a nice chat. It was nice to see him. But it was disconcerting to have a malfunctioning memory. It felt like being in a car when the battery is turning over, just. I think I am going to stop harking back for a while and live in the moment as the short term memory seems ok for now.
Now, my mother doesn’t like this sort of talk so don’t read it mum / don’t tell her if you read it yourself: I txted the other half and asked him to smother me with a pillow if I ever really lose my mind.