I’m thinking about blogging again…. it’s been a while.
I’m thinking about blogging again…. it’s been a while.
Moving out tomorrow – this is move number 11 since we got married – one day we’ll grow up and settle down. Expect to hear from me again next week.
Breivik testified that he used a combination of prayer and Bushido (Zen/Samurai) meditation to numb his mind to the fear of death, and presumably also the horror of taking life too.
His is a peculiar case, but by no means unique.
Breivik’s mistakes were manifold and terrible, but one of them was to convince himself that what was needed was action, and then to carry it out. Obviously his decision had terrible consequences.
On a smaller scale, activism always has problems. Activists are convinced that action must be taken, and then busily take it. This translates into all spheres of life, work, family, spirituality etc etc. And sometimes of course its right, the action is vital. The man who calmly watches his toddler stumble off a cliff can hardly be commended for his contemplative attitude.
But at the same time, we modern westerners have become somewhat over reliant on activism as a way of life – it is what gives us status and meaning in our culture.
We need to remember what the writer Henri Nouwen described as ‘the only necessary thing’ an attitude of spiritual contemplation. Nouwen takes his inspiration from the almost too good to be totally true story of Mary and Martha, the one sister, Mary, sits at the feet of her teacher, while the other, Martha, bustles around preparing food and washing the dishes. When Martha complains that her sister is not helping her, the guru explains that Mary has chosen to do the ‘one thing [that] is needed.’
Similarly the betrayal of Jesus is precipitated by a man whose name suggests that he might once have been a member of a knife wielding bunch of Jewish rebels, determined to drive the Romans from their land. When he felt Jesus wasn’t getting the job done, Judas Iscariot decided to tip his hand, with devastating results.
And there are many other examples of those who have chosen an activist path, over a contemplative one, to their detriment. They, we, fail to recall that the ‘only necessary thing’ is not to try and tip the hand of the divine, but to be in his presence.
As Julian of Norwich noted, ‘all shall be well, and all shall be well, and all manner of things shall be well.’
“The principle method of centring prayer, is to sit down. Now that isn’t too hard for most of us.“
So when that happens, how do you boost your creativity? Here are nine sure fire ways to do it.
1) Do something you’ve never done before.
If you’re a writer, paint something. If you’re a painter, sing something. If you’re a singer, stitch something. If you’re a stitcher… you get the idea. By doing something out of your usual routine, you open up new neural pathways, and literally expand your mind.
2) Go skateboarding.
I’m not a good skater, but I found that when I had a creative block, getting on a skateboard, or a bike come to that, and just tearing around for a few minutes, was really helpful in clearing my mind. If you’re not a natural skater – or can’t ride a bike, try getting out in the garden and enthusiastically digging for a bit, or do some press ups – anything which will absorb your mind on a physical challenge type task.
3) Take in some high quality creative nourishment.
Go and see an exhibition, go to a gig, read a really good book, watch a film, play a game, let yourself be inspired by other people’s good work, and learn from them. Steal ideas, change them, play with them, make them become your own.
4) Be really poor.
A sure fire way to become creative is to need it, badly. The more you have to be creative, the more you will make yourself become so. Witness the way people make musical instruments from junk because they can’t afford to buy them, the way writers pour out prose because they will starve if they don’t. Look at how people in very poor countries can recycle and reuse almost anything.
5) Be really rich.
The flip side to being poor, is that you are preoccupied with the stuff of life, how to make ends meet, how to feed the kids. In some ways, artistic creativity is the preserve of the idle rich, who can afford to faff about with paints and pencils because they already know food will be on the table tonight.
6) Sit down and shut up.
Taking time out helps the mind replenish its creative juices, and the act of not thinking about a problem or a project can let new inspiration and new solutions flow to the surface.
7) Go out and have a chat.
Bounce ideas off others, listen to their thoughts, explain your problems, and hear how they deal with theirs. Few ideas get worse through being exposed to the thoughts of other creative people, and sometimes they get an awful lot better.
8) Practice, practice, practice.
If you want to be good at anything, you need to keep doing it. The more you do it, the better you will be – so just keep practicing. The same is true of creative thinking, as it is of playing the piano – you need to exercise the creative muscles in your brain, build them up, and to do that you need to ‘be being’ (present continuous) creative.
9) Drink green tea.
No particular reason – but it seems to work for me.
Coming around a bend, they met a lovely girl in a silk kimono and sash, unable to cross the intersection.
‘Come on, girl,’ said Tanzan at once. Lifting her in his arms, he carried her over the mud.
Ekido did not speak again until that night when they reached a lodging temple. Then he no longer could restrain himself. ‘We monks don’t go near females,’ he told Tanzan, ‘especially not young and lovely ones. It is dangerous. Why did you do that?’
‘I left the girl there,’ said Tanzan. ‘Are you still carrying her?’
Writings from the Zen Masters. Penguin, 2009, p 81.
For a while I’ve been talking about writing a book about Christian meditation, in fact I’ve already written some of it, and sent stuff off for publishers to have a look at.
But although lots of you have been interested in the idea of the book, which really comes out of some of the meditation workshops I’ve been doing over the last couple of years, and stuff prior to that too I suppose, I haven’t managed to convince any publishers to take a punt on it. I guess it is a bit of a niche publication.
So, given that I still want to produce the book, I’d like to enlist your help.
I have two potential routes to follow – 1) Publish it as an ebook – or series of mini ebooks. 2) Self publish as a ‘real book’ through crowd sourced funding.
Question 1) Would you prefer to buy an ebook, or an ‘actual’ book?
Question 2) If you would prefer an ‘actual’ book, would you be willing to buy your copy(ies) in advance?
Oh – you want to know more about the book? Ok – here’s a basic synopsis:
Deeper Still (working title) provides a much needed guide to a range of meditation practises found within the Christian traditions, and explains how to use different meditation techniques.
The book unpacks some of the background philosophy to these ‘types’ of meditation, and provides scripts and ideas for guided meditations, and inspiration for those who prefer something less formal.
It is a great companion for anyone interested in exploring Christian meditation, or deepening their current practise. It is based upon the idea that one size doesn’t fit all, but one size fits you.
So, if your still interested, and your answer to question 2 is ‘yes’ I think I’d be up for attempting to get crowd funding for a publication. It would work thus: I work out the cost of producing the book, and when enough people have committed to advance purchase or donation towards the project, we get it printed up.
Either way, whether we go for a ‘real book’ or an ebook, the fun thing about this project for me, is that I can see potential for others to have input into the creation of it – in terms of helping shape the content a bit (tell me what you want chapters on, etc etc), helping with the editing process, creating/choosing the cover image, choosing the title and so on.
The crowd sourced funding thing has worked well for numerous well known musicians, who have released albums by raising the funds in the same way. There are lots of crowd funding sites which allow you to do this with relevant security in place.
So, please let others know if you think they’d be interested, and hit me up with comments, FB comments, tweets, DM’s, email, or whatever suits you – to let me know your opinion.
Important: You must absolutely not take a day off. To take time off is wrong, surely that’s self evident. But in case it isnt, here are three reasons which will settle your mind for sure.
1) If you take a day off, other people might notice. And if they do, they will think you are lazy, weak, and unproductive. It’s very important that other people don’t think that about you, much more important than you having rest. Any fool knows that what others think matters much more than your mental, physical, emotional and/or spiritual health – so don’t give them room to doubt you.
2) If you take a day off, you might start to realise that it’s helpful to have rest as well as work, and once you start doing that, you may end up having other time off – or pacing yourself more effectively through the working week.
3) If you take a day off, you may realise that the world does not stop turning, just because you didn’t do any work today. In fact, the world may seem that bit more beautiful, given that your seeing it with eyes which aren’t totally preoccupied with work matters.
Productivity matters people, being productive is much more important than being healthy and happy. Remember that.
NOTE: This particularly relates to people who work from home, who are obviously skivers anyway.
I’ve a bit of a stressful day ahead of me, so trying to meditate this morning was difficult – thoughts kept coming to my mind. This is not an uncommon experience for anyone who tries to meditate, at least, not if they are like me.
That’s why its important to learn the three R’s of stillness meditation.
Resist no thought
Retain no thought
Resent no thought
To resist a thought, is to engage in a new layer of thought, rather what you need to do is return to your word or phrase – if you are using a word or phrase, or else just gently choose to ignore it. Allow yourself to flow round the thought, rather than try to wrestle it to the ground.
Equally important, is not retaining a thought. When you meditate, all kinds of marvelous ideas come to mind, ways of solving problems, spiritual insights, etc etc. Often these turn out to be not so marvelous as you first thought, but in any case, the good ones will come back to you. The important thing while meditating is not to hold on to these kind of thoughts, no matter how good they may seem.
And finally resent no thought – I know how easy it is to get fed up with ones own inability to meditate with clarity, but to build up resentment towards the fleet of thoughts which come sailing in is to cause yourself further difficulty. Choose to accept your weakness, rather than resent it, then choose not to hold on to any of the feelings which arise – after all, what they are is another form of thought.
“To inspire people, even just for one second, is worth something.” Paul Simonon
The best dressed man in Punk rock, and sometime undercover chef on a Greenpeace ship, Paul Simonon is a true artist.
A painter prior to becoming a musician, and now a man of many achievements, and an impeccable collection of fedoras, Simonon, along with Strummer, Jones and Headon, was a key inspiration to a whole generation.
But he recognises that really four guys with guitars, drums and microphones were unlikely to change the world. The utopia they hoped for never came to pass, and now of course, their standard bearer and combat coat wearer Joe, is dead.
Nevertheless, they did inspire, and they continue to. And that, as Paul says, is worth something. People who were inspired by their vision of the world have made, and continue to make, small changes to their world. I am one of those people.
We all have that opportunity – don’t let it go to waste.