Is it ‘One of those Days’ or Am I ‘One of Those People’?

Today is shaping up to be a fully-fledged, five-star, top of the range example of One of Those Days.  It started badly at 5 am when I woke and couldn’t get back to sleep: so eventually I sat up and tried to meditate.  But OH was fidgeting too much so I went downstairs, spread out my mat and began.  All was well for about five minutes, when OH decides it’s time to get up.  Footsteps clonking down the stairs.  The door opens.  The steps enter.

‘Are you OK?’

‘Meditating,’ I say.  The word, uttered through gritted teeth, just about makes it out of my mouth.

‘Oh, sorry.’

Well, honestly – I’m sitting cross-legged with my head and shoulders covered: what did you think I was doing?

OH then proceeds to open the curtains with a swish of fabric and a clacking of wooden curtain rings.  And when I complained, he had the nerve to lecture me about my levels of concentration!


So we have re-established the ground rule: if meditating, do not disturb.

After that my brain was all over the place.  I managed to drink tea, do crossword and yoga but then there was no bread for breakfast and when there was it was squashed, difficult to cut and impossible to make into soldiers.  I need soldiers with my egg!!!

At this point I decided that today was going to be one of those days.  But here’s the thing: vis-a-vis yesterday’s post, was it the things that happened or was it my reaction to them?  Was I predisposed to react irritably because I hadn’t slept well?  OK that in itself makes it one of those nights, upon the heels of which may well follow one of those days, but sleeping badly doesn’t always make me irritable.  Sometimes I’m depressed; more often than not I’m just tired.

After breakfast I went upstairs to start work.  Everything was going just fine when I got a text from the bank: I’ve gone over my limit again.  Yep, that just about sums it up.  I’ve gone over my limit again; and from having a small but just about adequate amount to see me through the next week or two, I now have no money at all.

I have to say, sometimes it’s very hard indeed to ‘love only what happens.’  But is it the things or is it me?  Or both?

It’s ironic that I should be feeling this on International Women’s Day, a day of celebration about how far we’ve come (when I was young the phrase was, ‘You’ve come a long way, baby’, which sounds incredibly patronising nowadays.)

But there it is.  That’s what’s happened.

You’ve gotta love it.


Kirk out


How and why does the time so fly?  It has been six days since my last post and I don’t know where they went.  The days whisk past like leaves blown off a calendar: I can hardly remember what I did during those six days apart from hosting a 60th birthday party – the rest is a bit of a blur.  Perhaps because of said birthday party…

But alas!  The same cannot be said of my nights.  The nights do not fly by.  The nights crawl on bloodied knees like penitents on pilgrimage; they slouch towards Bethlehem like Yeats’ rough beast; they ooze and creep like lava: in short, I have only to lie my weary bones down in a darkened room for the brain to get up and stand over me with a long to-do list and insist on checking off every item and discussing them in detail.  Then, having allowed me to doze fitfully until the small hours, it wakes me again with a completely black canvas labelled ‘The Future’.  There’s no arguing with this blackness: I know very well that at this hour the blood-sugar levels are lowest, conspiring with the lack of daylight to produce Unbalanced Visions, but still it refuses to go away.  And once I’ve spent an hour or two wrestling with it, the clock is creeping uncomfortably close to seven.


At such times, catching up with sleep becomes the main purpose of my day.  Normal life is gone and will resume at that point where sleep is sufficiently caught up with: but that point recedes like a desert horizon as I advance towards it.  It’s as if my mind is being managed by the most tyrannical of bosses.  Whatever I try, he’s got the answer.  Meditation? – all I need to do is hit you over the head enough times and you’ll soon stop.  Relaxation?  Fine, go ahead – you’ll never manage to relax me.  And so on.  I feel for insomniacs, I really do – because it takes over your life.  Sleep becomes your raison d’etre.  Sleep and only sleep.

And yet no-one really knows why we do it.  It’s not just in order to rest: if it were, we’d feel sufficiently replenished after an afternoon’s sun or an evening’s telly.  No; as a yoga teacher of mine used to say, the body needs rest, but the mind needs sleep.

Everyone knows that without sleep you eventually go mad.  It’s the easiest form of torture and nowadays sleep seems harder and harder to get: we are more stimulated, more subject to noise and stress than ever before, and our sleep suffers.

I’m not like this all the time.  I have periods where I sleep quite well: I know what it is to wake in the morning feeling refreshed.  And my techniques do work – at least some of the time.  But when that bastard brain gets it into his head to torment me – well, then I’ve had it.  But I’m not giving in.  I’ll beat the bastard yet.

Kirk out

Cosmic Ordering: Have You Been Mis-s0ld? Compensation May Be Available

This is a review of a book which came to us via a friend.  It’s called ‘Cosmic Ordering,’ author one Jonathan Cainer, and the blurb says: Turn the universe into your obedient servant.  Cosmic ordering works for millions – and it can easily work for you.  Whether you seek love, money, power, luck or success, you can have it.  Often almost instantly.

The natural reaction to this is to say, what utter balls!  But, mindful of the fact that authors are not usually responsible for the blurb on their jackets, let’s turn to the text itself.  Purportedly written by your (or my) guardian angel, it states: ‘you want to know how you can fill your life with more of what you want – and less of what you don’t want.  I’m here to tell you that this is gloriously possible.  And what’s more, it’s easy.’

And, on the next page: ‘I am the genie of the lamp, your wish-granting fairy, your lucky leprechaun.’

Now, I have an instinctive dislike of self-help books which portray the universe as no more than a kind of giant Argos store where you can just order up whatever you want.  And so far, that’s what this book seems to be.  A page or two further on, my angel reiterates,’my job is to get you what you want…’ and then clarifies, ‘I did say want.  I did not say need.  Whatever you want, I’m here to supply it.’

Remember that, because we’ll come back to it.  Want, not need.  Chapter one goes on to say that unlike the fairy stories, you can have an infinite number of wishes.  You can wish for whatever you want, at any time you want.

Ah, but then we find there’s a problem.  Really?  You astonish me.  Well, the first caveat is that you can’t ask for something – like the Koh-i-Noor – that belongs to someone else.  Because that would put your angel in conflict with that of another person and result in a stalemate.  OK; I can see that.  Besides, I don’t really want the Koh-i-Noor; I wouldn’t know what to do with it.  But if I want to win the lottery I can’t do that either because that would put me in conflict with thousands – possibly millions – of others wanting the same thing.  This is not a new concept; in this scene of Bruce Almighty shows what happens when the all-powerful Bruce says yes to everyone’s request:

OK I’ll have to upload that later as I’m in the library right now.  But basically it’s chaos: nobody’s happy.

Right, so I can have anything I want whenever I want but I can’t win the lottery or have something that belongs to someone else.  But anything else I just ask for and it’s mine, right?  I mean, you are the genie of the lamp: my wish is your command.  Right?

Well, not exactly: in subsequent chapters we learn that if we want something hard or far-fetched we have to put in a lot of work to make it happen (it’s no good wishing to be a famous author if I haven’t written anything yet); that if you’re in a hole the best way out may be to crawl through a tunnel; that if you are in a terrible situation, contentment may be a better solution than being removed from your circumstances; that the dead cannot be reanimated but that you can be helped to accept their passing; that an attitude of gratitude is helpful and a desperate longing can drive away the thing you desire, and so on.  It’s all beginning to sound terribly familiar – and when I get to the final description of ‘how to order what you want’ it’s practically indistinguishable from many kinds of prayer and meditation.  In short, these ideas are not new: they are prevalent in most major world religions and practised in many kinds of prayer and meditation.  And it’s not that I have a problem with any of it: it’s just not what the book purports to be about.  And when, towards the end, we are told that most people don’t really know what they want so they have to dig deep and ask for guidance I begin to ask, how is this want, as distinct from need?  That of course is not defined.  Very little is: it’s not that kind of book.

It wasn’t a complete waste of time: I did get one or two nuggets from it.  And it could be worse; it doesn’t try to extort money for courses or enroll you in any kind of cult.  But if this book was PPI, I’d be calling my solicitor right now.

Still, if you want to – ahem! – order the book, here it is:

Kirk out


Meteor Drip

Last night there was a meteor shower said to be clearly visible in the night sky in Gemini.  We didn’t really think we’d get to see anything, not living in the city, but around 10 pm we went out anyway and as luck would have it, the sky was very, very clear.  I haven’t seen that many stars in a long time.  Mind you, I’ll never forget being somewhere right out in the sticks and going out at night and feeling utterly overwhelmed by the number of lights I could see in the sky.  They seemed so close, it was almost as if they were in your face.  I saw clusters and constellations and far-off lights I had never even glimpsed before.  I had no idea what any of them were.

Last night as we went out we could see a number of familiar constellations.  ‘Look, there’s the Plough,’ I said.

‘That’s Orion,’ retorted Mark.

‘Oh.  Well, Mars is bright tonight,’ I observed.

‘That’s Betelgeuse,’ he informed me.  So much for my astronomical knowledge.  Clearly I haven’t inherited my Mum’s ability to discern heavenly bodies: she was really into astronomy; she worshipped Patrick Moore and always watched The Sky at Night before watching the sky at night.

I can’t think of a better meditation than looking at the stars; and after just a few minutes, having located Castor and Pollux we saw a meteor streak across the sky, and then another.  Mark saw several, but I only glimpsed a couple – more a meteor drip than a meteor shower, but still an awesome sight.

Kirk out


I’ve been thinking, as you do, about concentration.  Now, what comes to mind when you hear the word ‘concentrate’.  I mean, as an injunction not as a noun relating to some beverage or other?  Well, I’m willing to bet it’s something like this:

Isn’t it?  When we think of concentration, we think of a ‘screwing-up’ of the will; a compelling of the attention, a forcing of the mind: an attempt to jolly-well make the brain focus on one thing.  This is of course impossible.  No amount of tension and compulsion can make the mind focus: all it does is set up an equal and opposite reaction in the other direction.  What happens as soon as you say ‘concentrate!’ to yourself in that way?  The mind refuses.  No thanks, it says, I think I’ll just go for a wander – and like some aboriginal Australian gone walkabout, off it goes and there’s no bringing it back.

Incidentally, here’s a good joke in a film I once saw (can’t remember which one):

American tourist wants to take photo of Aboriginal Australian bloke on a beach.  He holds up his hand.  ‘You can’t take my photo like that!’ he says.

‘Oh, sorry!’ she says, stricken with guilt.  ‘You believe it’ll take away your soul!’

‘No, man!’ he says.  ‘You got the lens cap on!’


The mind is like Pooh in the story where Owl is telling a long, long tale of his relatives and his mind just wanders, listening to the sounds of the forest until Pooh finally falls asleep.  ‘Concentrate!’ you keep telling it, but it keeps wandering off.

In yoga we have an expression for it.  We call it ‘the monkey-mind’ because it dashes here and there, gathering and snatching at whatever it can see.  And just like a monkey – or a small child – the mind needs to be trained.  It needs to be trained with patience, and with love.  So that whenever you become aware that the mind has wandered off, instead of yanking it back again and yelling ‘concentrate!’ you just gently bring it back to where it was and carry on.  Sometime you have to do this over and over; but with time the mind becomes able to focus for longer and longer periods.

And that brings me to the yoga theory of concentration.  In yoga concentration is not a compulsion or a screwing-up of the attention.  In yoga, concentration is defined as an unbroken flow of attention from the mind to the object of concentration, like a beam of light, if you will.  When the beam is broken it can be ‘switched on’ again.  No compulsion, no punishment, just an unbroken flow.  There’s an ease and grace to it which Rodin’s Thinker entirely lacks.  He’s unhappy; he’s tense: he’s concentrating!

So in yoga we have this unbroken flow of attention which we call concentration and it leads quite seamlessly to a state wherein you are absorbed in the object of attention; in a certain sense you become one with it.  And this state is known as meditation.

Is it easy?  No.  It takes practice and dedication to develop concentration and enter a state of meditation.  But there’s a kind of ease to it; a kind of grace which we call ‘effortless effort.’  So give it a try some time: sit and focus on your breath, or just look at a magnolia tree – they are wonderful right now.  It’s about being present in the moment.  This is your life, so live it!

Kirk out



What Do You Need?

I was listening to the radio this morning where they were talking about the Centre for Alternative Technology in Wales:

It’s in a place I can’t spell pronounced ‘Ma-hunth-leth’, where an eccentric Earl and an academic joined with other like minds to establish a place for alternatives to the gas-guzzling, power-devouring, wasteful, land-filling norms of our society to be explored and practised.  One of them had lived among the Masai and came back thinking that once you have the basics in life, anything else is superfluous.  And that set me thinking.  It always puts me in mind of King Lear when people say that: I hear his plaintive voice across the centuries, pleading:

‘O reason not the need!  Our basest beggars/are in some smallest thing superfluous./  Allow not nature more than nature needs/ man’s life is cheap as beast’s.’

So, what do we need?  Beyond the basics – food, water, shelter, clothing – what do we need?  Well, I would argue that we need certain rights: the right to reproduce is crucial; and beyond that, the right to a voice – both as a people and as an individual – in fact I think we need Maslow here.  Maslow’s hierarchy of needs is the ‘go-to’ structure when you are thinking along these lines:

One thing we have here in abundance this morning is: sun!  It blazes into the living-room and creeps across the floor minute by minute: when it reaches the back door I shall go and sit in it.  We definitely need the sun – and not only to live; we need it in order to be cheerful.  So, having spent the whole of March complaining about the cold and dull weather, I am determined to enjoy it.  My meditation this morning was on contentment, something I find hard to practice.   Of course you can’t – and shouldn’t – be content when you genuinely lack things you need: and far worse than that is to tell others who don’t have these things to be content.  But what is does help with is worrying about the future and fretting about things you don’t have.  I am currently fretting about not having a decent kitchen and wanting a composting toilet and a greywater recycling facility, not to mention a wood-burning stove and and and and

Yes, a bike with a trailer.  I sometimes want a car; but not often.  When I see the state of the roads and observe the frankly horrible way in which people behave on them, I’m usually grateful to be out of it.  Not to mention the expense…

So what do we need?  In order to sustain life, we don’t need a mobile phone or the internet.  However, it is increasingly hard to function and interact without these things.  But! we have swapped instant communication for real society: we have exchanged instant messaging for proper conversation.  I had a row with Mark last night because I was fed up of being in the same room as him but not interacting, having to shout in order to say something because he is always on the BLOODY COMPUTER and wearing headphones!!!  It’s not only his fault: I’m the same sometimes, but we need to do something about it: we need to make sure we share experiences, otherwise a marriage just becomes a pair of parallel lives.

And we don’t need that.

Kirk out

PS  One of the things I wanted to share with Mark last night was the excellent new series ‘The Politician’s Husband’.  We shall make a point of watching the next episode together:

In Praise of Blind Optimism


I never would have achieved any of the things I’ve done in my life without blind optimism.  God knows, I’m no fan of Thatcher but it war her refusal to recognise obstacles which allowed her to steamroller the entrenched opposition.  As I write this post I’m looking at my carved wooden elephant * which someone gave me a few years ago.  In Indian thought, the elephant is a symbol of  the ability to remove obstacles, as elephants are used in any ground-work where things need to be cleared out of the way.  Ganesh, the elephant-god (see above) is always invoked first in any mediation or chanting sessions for the same reason, ie to remove obstacles in the mind.

And with good reason.  Often when starting – or even thinking about starting – a new project, we see the obstacles and sometimes only the obstacles, in our way.  And often it’s the blind optimists, the pains-in-the-arse, the idiots; who can’t or won’t see what’s in their way and go on to achieve great things.

Of course, you do have to use your loaf at the same time: a refusal to recognise, say, the law of gravity, is likely to have unfortunate consequences.  But how often do you hear people say, ‘I want to do such-and-such but I can’t because…’?  I hear it all the time.  These people have perfectly reasonable grounds for why they can’t do whatever it is – like a mortgage to pay or for some other reason – usually a persistent and ingrained need to eat and drink.  And so they can’t give up the day-job.  So they give it up – for now, at least, and carry on in their unhappiness.

OK.  So we can’t all throw everything up and live on fresh air – but we can all do something right here and right now, to pursue whatever dream we have.  There’s a guy on Facebook who has invented something called Social Net Fixer, which is so useful that millions of people avail themselves of it for free.


And now he is asking for donations so that he can give up the day-job and pursue his dream.  But here’s the thing – he’s already doing it!  He didn’t wait until he had enough money to leave work before he could even begin, he started it right where he was.  So that’s the point – if you want to act, join a theatre or do mime in the street; if you want to sing, go to open-mic nights, and if you want to write, like me, what could possibly stand in your way?  All you need is a pad and pen or a laptop and pen-drive – what more could you need?  I have never let anything stand in the way of writing – even when I was the main bread-winner for a family with two home-educated children (FFS!) I still managed to write something, even if it was only half an hour a week.  Then I got some money and bought a chalet in the woods where I could write.  Eventually my work dried up and now I write full-time, which is something I’ve wanted to do all my life.  Yes, it’s still hard – but I never gave up, and I’m not giving up now.

So there you are.  What can you do, right here and right now, to realise your dream?  Think about that – and once you’ve answered the question, go and do it.

Now!  Or at least, when you’ve finished reading this post.


Is There No Such Thing as a Free Breakfast?

Oh, yes there is!  Come along to Tomatoes where I shall be launching my Tomatoes Poetry Pamphlet.

Tomatoes poem logo thing (2)

And here’s the link for the Social Net Fixer guy:

Kirk out

*that explains any typos.  LOL