Sunday, 28 March 2010


"Do not be conformed to this age, but be transformed by the renewal of the mind"
Paul's letters to the Romans (12:2)

I am one-quarter of the way through my year of living with renewal and refreshment, both good companions so far. Not only am I seeking new adventures without, but I am also challenging those elements of myself that have sat idle for years. On such a journey, one usually thinks of needing momentous events to indicate any sign of progress. Not necessarily so. We need to be more generous to ourselves in that regard.

We hear that 60 is the new 50; 50 is the new 40; and so on. Well, get ready for this next outrageous statement. I am making a personal push from 70 to 40. Yes, that's right; I am reminding myself of all the best habits of my 40s that made me happy, kept me healthy and energetic: the vigorous, daily hour walk; stretching, lifting, dancing, moving to the music; walking naked at private interludes; eating mindfully, with portion control (before it became a buzz phrase); desserts reserved for special occasions; the anticipation of a lovely glass of wine on Friday nights (as opposed to nightly!); lunch with a girlfriend; a long, hot bath on a Sunday night; writing newsy letters to friends; enjoying the smell of freshly laundered towels and folding them with care; a stroll in the evening after dinner, instead of plopping in front of the TV; and all the lovely pleasures of the flesh..

The mind is its own place, said Milton, and in itself can determine whether time defeats us, or we determine our own state of mind, and the textures of our being. Nicely phrased, of course, but the point is that I am discovering that I do not have to succumb to the stampeding of time's winged chariot. I can slow the pace, even reverse the process, by simply willing myself to act, think, become that former energetic, vigorous, youthful self. Fortunately, I don't have an immediate side-by-side to undermine my delusions of reversing this aging process. All I need to do is think I can, and I can. The fountain of youth is in my own self-determinacy to ignore the arbitrary measurements of time, clocks, mirrors, weight scales, and to listen to and revel in the joy of a spring morning, and me, being a part of all that I have met. I will embrace this day with joy and wonder. For today, at least, I will be 40 again. Tomorrow and tomorrow are other matters.

The journey and the journal will continue.

Monday, 22 February 2010


"The nothing that is not there, and the nothing that is..." (Wallace Stevens)

Meditation is a personal thing. It can be formal, ritualistic, as well as collective with others. Mantras apparently assist the process to empty the mind of its confused, convoluted conversations with itself. Personally, I have never learned the techniques of formal meditation, whereby one can apparently go into a type of trance and come out of it ten minutes later feeling like they have just had a two hour nap or a mini-vacation.

What works for me is retreating to a zone of solitude within myself. According to my mother, I have been doing this since I was a child. Perhaps, in the early years, it was an involuntary, semi-autistic state. At one point my parents had my hearing tested because of the frequent occasions when I would not/could not respond to their voices. As an adult it is now primarily a voluntary state that I will myself into; although I am sure there are still times when my "disinterestedness" is autonomic.
"You're not listening to me", my daughter will say, when in fact I feel very interested and focussed on her words. But, clearly, something about the glaze of my eyes, the shift of the gaze suggests otherwise. It is like having multiple tabs open on the brain that are occupying my attention.

"Pay attention", said Linda Loman, in Arthur Miller's play, "Death of a Salesman". Everyone deserves his share of attention. It is all part of the social and human desire for respect, understanding, appreciation, and love. But all too often, I think, we don't pay enough attention to ourselves. We are too busy waiting for, sometimes longing for, the attention of others. That is the true narcissism of our society, this need for others to validate our worth.

So this tendency to retreat within myself is both a blessing and a curse. I sometimes revel in the nothingness, pride myself on my independent ability to live within myself without need for constant external stimulation or the approval of others. I will sometimes announce to my partner that I am having a Greta Garbo day. "I vant to be left alone." But I do need to remind myself that those I love around me, deserve my attention, without distractions. Otherwise when I do need their stimulation and love, there may be a "nothing that is." It is a challenge I continue to embrace.