Once upon a time, around 35 years ago, when I was wrestling the serpent that is alcohol in a life or death struggle, life put in my path an ageing Zen Buddhist. Pamela was 67, an aristocrat, had herself spent many years sliding down that particular snake.
An existence as the wife of a wealthy tea planter in India had been supplanted and stripped by a self-replenishing bottle that finally landed her in a one-bed council flat in Worcestershire.
She lived almost entirely in kimonos, shone with the light of Truth and was perhaps the happiest person I have ever met; and in the flame of her love I began to heal. We were an odd pair, both exiles of a sort, forty years apart and soul mates in the purest sense. …
‘What is Truth?” asked Pilate as he stood right at the edge of corruption.
Isn’t that where we all stand now? Having to decide how good we want to be, how courageous, how much risk we are prepared to take, how much comfort we can afford to give up? The air spins with questions, smells like fear. Then the spin itself, telling us up is down as we’re assaulted from all sides, and you see with alarm, it’s the people you never would expect.
And then you remember this isn’t about intelligence but consciousness and that light takes lifetimes to illuminate the sullied soul; that evil is banal; that ordinary men and women betray their neighbours as routine under the anvil weight of oppression; that it is so much easier to sell your soul. …
He was an old man even then,
a man with hands like birds
disrupting feathers from a nest,
their violence, a ferocious urging,
their floating, a breath bearing you home.
And you knew he had come to tell you something
you could not, should not live without.
A scarecrow in a technicolour dreamcoat,
Uranus distilled, shooting bolts of seismic thought,
which his twin birds reached up and gathered
from the heavens, returning to caress one ear
then slap another. He left you stunned,
felled by the koans he delivered like darts,
foxed by a mind that knew what you did not.
He entered Pluto’s death domain,
had the gall to reveal the thinness of thought,
exposed what likes to hide.
Beyond gentle gruffness, there sat an eagle,
surveying the plains — magician, elder, mystic
and he lulled you into your grief because you trusted him.
‘If you cannot bear grief go, shudder and this is not your house.’
He slipped into the west’s unconscious,
infiltrated it with the east, this farm boy with a mouth full of wheat.
He knew the primacy of being, the importance of grief.
‘I am proud of only those days I pass in undivided tenderness.’
And you knew he meant it.
Father and friend to so many, he built sheds
in the garden of thought, pinpointed and pulled out
what we needed yet never wanted to hear.
A new film celebrates his 90th year.
It marks the winter of an American firebrand. …
They say there’s a story in each of us — it’s not that story though — not the one with roots and bearded leaves, and lineaments up front
but the one you get to tell with a fat cigar much later, one you fell for in the dream, one you should have said no to.
These are the other ones, (there’s more than one of course) — the stories the mind conjures out of fear and longing and all the awkward corners of uncertainty to which we cleave.
It’s a betrayal you can’t undo, not now, the genocide of the Self eschewed. These are the stories that kill the solar glint in the hopeful eye, one day forcing you to your knees,
and finally you realize you chose a fate when you could have carved a hidden destiny, long since put to sleep.
Without an appreciation of the soul’s radical desires, psychotherapy can interfere with psychological and spiritual maturation and promote a non-imaginative normality that merely supports people to be better-adapted cogs in a toxic industrial culture’
There is a marvellous moment in Perfect Love, Imperfect Relationships by the pioneering Buddhist psychotherapist John Welwood when a client finally hits the ground of infinite possibility. The truth is, she says, that right now I am a completely fucked up human being and cannot be otherwise. This revelation was no doubt preceded — as it is for many of us — by years of therapy and workshops, potions and pills. …
‘I take the responsibility of sustenance for the one who follows the religion of their own true nature. For such a one all that is required is supplied automatically.’ Krishna
I took the night train up to Edinburgh but traded the hard metal berth — my bed for the night — for a seat in the bar, a dawn view and a packet of crisps.
By the time I reached Inverness, it was still early, a wind gripped me in its icy embrace, the buildings, once blond or reddish seemed glazed in a sooty smog that must have drifted north. …