Idling

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Brain function is low, speed dropped, the acceleration has gone. Lying idly next to my son, with the breeze flapping the blind – in my record third week of holidays – I notice indolence and a mind declined.

Still the body is stronger, the face browner and the belly slimmer so I’ve got some things right. And good times, happy smiles and big hugs from the family are a very significant compensation.

But maintaining an agile mind is like running a high performance engine – it needs quality fuel, high revs and plenty of throttle to go through the gears.

Country lanes and coastal roads are all very well, but I’m about ready for a return to the rigours of the urban cycle. Work is as important as play.

Buddhify

20120114-181217.jpgI’ve been up for a bit of meditation for a while. But I didn’t fancy too much mumbo jumbo so I’ve dithered. I mentioned it to someone who’s origins are in the East and he smiled sagely and commended it. “Everyone should learn to control their mind.” he said. I said I’d try it when I have time. He smiled knowingly and offered “make the time”.

A friend put me onto ‘mindfulness’ before Christmas and suggested a CD. But that left me thinking where can I play a CD in peace in our house? Pondering this – as so often in modern life – I found a solution waiting for me in the Apple App Store: Buddhify.

Buddhify is a nicely designed no-nonsense ‘snack-sized’ introduction to ‘urban meditation’ which certainly works for me. On a train, yesterday, I did a short module designed for travel on ‘clarity’.

The idea, gently and melodiously articulated, was to step back from noises and lights and people and rattles and clunks and view them as a mental ‘firework display’. And one, which with training, you can observe with a certain amount of abstraction.

As the voice-over says, it’s interesting how our consciousness is ‘tugged’ from one thing to another: staccato sunlight shining low through trees, the heater blasting out under my feet, an itch behind my knee, my breathing, a person tapping on a table, the clatter of wheels on rails.

There are lot of mental fireworks going off all the time when you stop to’observe’ them – even when you’re not consciously thinking or doing anything. Little wonder it’s sometimes hard to relax.

But, in a matter of minutes, whether by breathing, watching the fireworks or noting that I live in a body, and noticing which bits of me are tense and which relaxed (I noticed bizarrely that my front teeth were my most relaxed bit once) these little Buddhify routines clear the head and calm the body and mind.

The tricky bit is finding a place and a time where it’s ok to close my eyes! Announcing you’re ‘off to meditate’ sounds a bit yogic. But slipping some iPhone earphones in is neutral enough. Well done Buddhify – a miniature, minor, modern marvel built on centuries old wisdom. Well worth a mindful if you have a smartphone.

Caterpillar

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The throbbing caterpillar in my vein
Concertinas toward my brain
Which tells me that I must be calm
Not much time for repose
Life all over me like a rash
Oh for some time to ponder,
To dream or meander, as I dash
But instead I keep on marching
Doing, fixing things
But snatched words with good comrades
Some solace brings.

When I’m busy and under pressure at work, the ‘caterpillar’ – which is a prominent artery on my forehead – sometimes comes out. It’s a bit of a standing joke, as I suggest it’s marching like a thrombosis towards my brain, shortly to bring blessed relief in an aneurism. But it’s also a warning sign. When the ‘caterpillar’ comes out I’m working myself too hard. Time for a brief pause. Friends are an important part of keeping the caterpillar at bay. Three of them, in three good humoured, thought-provoking and rich conversations, this week, helped keep me sane. I salute you Comrades.