I wonder if there’s a placebo effect on meditation retreats that helps the mind gather and calm. Equally, if you approach a silent retreat thinking, “Argh, I can’t talk or have fun for days” maybe you’ll have a bumpier start. To be clear, I think the placebo effect is something real that we should take advantage of. I don’t use that word to mean “sham” or “ineffectual.” I think the influential meditation teacher Rob Burbea would probably talk of the placebo effect as an example of how we fabricate experience. Our beliefs and expectations shape what we get. My point is that, if part of our ability to access greater collectedness and mindfulness on retreat is simply due to a placebo-like belief that “I’m on retreat so this is possible now” then we can cultivate the belief this is also possible in daily life and experience the same benefits.… Continue reading...
Full use was made of the firelighters. Not so much the rest of it. Matthieu Ricard’s book would have given me much happiness in the form of blessed heat but it didn’t come to that.
The burner was one of those US Boxwood stoves. They look quite iconic and can fit a lot of wood inside. You leave the tray and flue open to get the fire going and then close the tray and twist the flue handle towards closed (horizontal) to keep the heat in the chamber and warm up the iron. It seems analogous to meditation somehow.
My latest poetry pamphlet is now available as a free PDF. In The Chalk Path, Joe, Hugh, and myself turn our attention landward from the coast. The poems are drawn from walks over chalk downs, train rides beside white horses etched into hillsides and, in contrast, the bright red sandstone of my Mercian homelands.
Read it online
You can read The Chalk Path here. Please share it with your friends if you enjoy it.
Here’s one of mine from the collection:
PILGRIMAGE OVER CLENT
Red soil. Brown grass. White sky.
A glimpse of Harry-Ca-Nab,
the devil’s hunting man. Keep running.
Through mudbeds of slipping-danger.
Through the place of martyrs, St. Kenelm’s.
Here’s one known to me. I bow my head before
climbing into the cradle of these hills.… Continue reading...
This morning I belatedly saw a connection between two ideas I’m interested in: the hero’s journey and attachment theory.
The hero’s journey is a fundamental narrative that’s claimed to be at the root of all stories. It was proposed by the mythologist Joseph Campbell in books such as The Hero With a Thousand Faces. The theory goes that in every quest the hero progresses, or fails to progress, through a series of common stages: the call to adventure, initiation, mentoring, journeying beyond the bounds of their world, trials and tests, ordeals, defeats and victories, and a final return to the world with a boon. Campbell and others have proposed various heroic archetypes who undertake this journey. Campbell noted that these heroes are frequently orphans or those whose parents are conspicuously absent.… Continue reading...
There was a great piece in Tricycle recently, A Gleeful Foreboding, excerpted from Clark Strand’s book Waking Up To the Dark: Ancient Wisdom for a Sleepless Age. Strand describes what happened when his town near the Catskill mountains was bumped off the grid by a hurricane.
“That the larger storms sometimes turn deadly does little to chasten our feelings of anticipation. Part of it is the knowledge, gleaned from a century of experience, that things will soon go back to normal. Another is the paradox of media reports, which transform terrible events into a form of nightly entertainment while pretending to inform. In the meantime, provided no one we know has suffered harm, there’s some comfort in having nature force our hands.… Continue reading...