Rivers of anticipation

Photography: J. Lau, Shenzhen, Hong Kong

Photography: J. Lau, Shenzhen, Hong Kong

I check the post, make a few calls, and then, beneath a cerulean sky, I wander over to Patisserie Valerie on Old Compton Street, where Jamaican Blue Mountain and croissants await, just as they do each workday. It’s going to be a fine start to the week, the mood feels good, and even the West End’s down-and-outs seem chipper at their day’s prospects. As I sip my coffee, I look forward to the visit of a very dear old friend back at my office, and also to the evening, when the two of us are off to see Oscar Peterson at the club ‘round the corner on Frith Street. In between, there’ll be fascinating anecdotes about my friend’s recent tour of South America. My mood balloons with each sip, each bite, and each expectant thought; I just know this will be an unforgettable day.

These anticipatory rivers flowed within me on the morning of Monday 26th of October 1981. Yet as I exit the patisserie, I feel a palpable tension rushing the veins of Soho; police trot purposefully along Greek Street up towards Soho Square, staccato bursts of urgent voices, mixed with static, crackle through walkie-talkies, the stressed faces of the officers betray to all that trouble is in the air. Earlier that morning, just a stone’s throw away, two taciturn young Irishmen had discretely descended to the basement of the Wimpey burger restaurant on Oxford Street. And just 29 minutes before, the IRA had issued their customary warning to Scotland Yard. In a few seconds, an explosives officer’s career will end abruptly, along with his life, in what I will feel and hear as a single dull ‘thwomp’.

Our days pass peering into the future expectantly; tidal streams of anticipation ebb and flood the estuarine contours of the mind as we imaginatively envision how our life will be in the next minute, hour, day, or year. Some even project as to the quality of their putative afterlife; whereas others illogically dread their inevitable non-existence. The colouration imbued within these projections reflects our character; we may conjure a Panglossian narrative in which all will be well in this, as Leibniz would have it, the best of all possible worlds; or we sense only foreboding as the weeping prophet of selfhood cries upon the shoulder of the Jeremiah within. These are the extremes of our anticipatory tendencies, the majority of which lean more to moderation.

It can be instructive to examine this ubiquitous tendency to anticipate, as for many of us, this necessary faculty is overused to the point of abuse. One may ask what harm may be done in our habitual projecting; to be forewarned is to be forearmed is it not? And yet, if it is Doctor Pangloss diagnosing optimistically within the cranial ward, we absorb only into a quasi-magical wish fulfilment, which in truth protects us from nought and holds reality in abeyance. On the other hand, should our own homunculus take on the character of the biblical weeping prophet, we then are rendered transfixed in a similar stasis of inaction. A useful moderator is to mindfully observe these internal patterns; in this way, we gain balance between a helpful preparedness, caution and idealism.

Any seasoned meditators reading here will know all too well the flow of their own anticipations. ‘Just sit’ the Roshi and Rishi advise, as if it were the simplest of instructions. Yet even as discursive thinking is allayed, and the mind pacifies in spaciousness, there still may at times be felt a momentum as expectation navigates awareness from one moment to the next; a subtle grasping at the immediate future; an almost imperceptible bumping along the tracks of time. Whilst this is an extremely subtle state of affairs, there remains a certain time thievery which brooks no interruption and seeks only now-ness in a curious denial of its presence. There’s a misguided, neurotic neediness to anticipate awareness itself as the busying homunculus within rejects all offers of an early retirement.

As I have aged, I increasingly distrust the mind’s projections about the world and my place in it, having come, slowly, to recognise their unreliability. I acknowledge also just how much of the life gifted to me has been squandered as I dwelt in expectation of this or that occurrence. Events turn out differently; just as they did for both Officer Kenneth Howorth and myself 33 years ago to this very day. With my quarter of the West End in virtual lockdown, my dear friend feels unable to visit; Oscar remains holed-up at The Dorchester; and I return home in the afternoon only to discover cause for the ending of a relationship. A river of anticipation forms; I surely face only this inhospitable tundra of the emotions; my past with its imagined securities detonates – ‘thwomp’.

82 thoughts on “Rivers of anticipation

  1. This is wonderful, Hariod. I must agree with you; with age I have also developed a distinct distrust in the mind’s projections of the future. Our so called control over life is more illusion than real. I see this more clearly now than I ever have as I look back on my own history. I actually find it quite freeing. Again, thanks for such a wonderful post.

    • Many thanks for taking time to read this article and also for your most generous words of encouragement Don; I greatly appreciate both. The mind and its thought patterns are quite insistent aren’t they? Even when, as you say in your comment, there’s an understanding that the mind’s projections are often futile and nearly always inaccurate, yet still they persist, perhaps a little like the classroom fool who’s always drawing attention to him or herself with inane and valueless comments about how they want things to be, or think that they are. And yet it becomes acceptable, we internally raise a sardonic smile, so to speak, and the swiftly embarrassed fool pipes down soon enough. As you so adroitly say, the whole becomes quite freeing.

      With much gratitude and respect to you Don.


  2. Oh, and by the way, I just love the expressions of the little girl and boy standing on the left of the girl looking straight at the camera – so mischievous. 🙂

    • Thank you for adding this remark Don. I try hard to provide imagery that is pleasing and pertinent. The face of the little girl in the blue jacket seemed to visually epitomise our positive anticipations – they are indeed mischievous!

    • Thank you Gord; your continued interest in my writing is deeply appreciated, and I remain ever-respectful to you for working so persistently and diligently through the content of my book.

      With gratitude and deep respect.


    • Hello Amy, how nice of you to make an appearance here and how gracious of you to leave a generous comment too; both are much appreciated. I am pleased to say that I am now over what you call my ‘loss’, and even more pleased to say that it has not taken all of the 33 years since the event I allude to in the article! I do hope that you are able to continue with your painting amidst your plans for a move and all the attendant demands that must be making of you. Perhaps soon I will learn more about how things are progressing, and hopefully see more work too, at your own site. In the meantime, I wish you and your family all my very best wishes.


  3. Yes, the perils and stubbornness of anticipation. The ruiner of meditations. A screwer-upper of being present. All manner of bad things come from anticipation. Why is mind wired so badly? I hate my many negative anticipations, which come more each day as I get older. And I despise too the way I kill the present with positive anticipations, and sometimes ruin the future also. My mind is a bucking bronco that refuses to be tamed, but I will spend the rest of my life, if I have to, doing so.

    A great post and story, very dramatically and vividly told.

    Thank you, dear Hariod! xxxx Ellen.

    • As a seasoned meditator, then you will know all too well Ellen about what you so rightly call ‘the perils and stubbornness of anticipation’. I thought it would be worth dropping one paragraph into the article which referenced meditation and the impact our anticipatory tendencies have in that domain. Even as the grosser forms of projection ease out of our practice, still there may often remain a very subtle sense that expectation is navigating awareness from one moment to the next. It is more than the directing of attention, there is a loading within the mind, and which may run incessantly, about what comes next in time.

      People talk glibly about ‘being in the moment’; it’s become a new-age trope that’s regarded as some simple panacea to anxiety and stress. And yet to truly do that – meaning being without even the slightest projection in time – is exceedingly rare, even for seasoned meditators. I find that a useful counter to this incessant projecting is not to fight it, but rather to absorb into it mindfully which itself causes the projection to dissolve. If we think about it, we can never in actuality be ‘out of the moment’, and yet once we judge any projecting experience as being in some sense invalid, then we at the same time inculcate the false notion that we are, as if by magic, teleported outside of time.

      Please forgive me if I am covering ground that you are already very familiar with Ellen; I do know that you are indeed a seasoned meditator, and one whom I greatly respect for reasons we need not explain here. Still, it is perhaps as well to open out the concerns you have, and which are shared widely amongst meditators of all skill levels, to the wider discussion here; and I thank you greatly for offering up your honest, candid appraisal on how these matters affect your own practice.

      Hariod. ❤

      • Oh, dear Hariod, you think too much of me. Nothing you could say would be covering ground I already know. I so admire your intellect, your heart and your appreciation of art; and I respect your posts so highly. Thank you for your generous reply. You are a teacher. A master. And I am afraid I am too sick to reply more than this. I have a lingering virus of some sort and my impatience with resting has made it worse, so I am only writing to those who have been dear to me. ♡.♡ Ellen.

  4. My heart is impressed with the story’s vividly, sensual expression of the past’s continuation to this day. Such a wonderful call to find solace in the present moment, however briefly (with or without coffee and croissants!), away from past and future’s movie playing on our small screens. 🙂

    • Thank you very much David, for your presence here, and for your gracious and generous comment. I too like the analogy you make concerning our infatuation with imagery and the likening of this to our absorption in a movie. It is as well to occasionally sip the Java, and quietly remind ourselves that Jack Nicholson is not in fact on the other side of the door wielding an axe. . . or is he? o_O

      Thanks once again David; I send you my best wishes.


  5. Dear Hariod,

    Your writing here is very poignant. In the blink of an eye, one’s entire snowglobe can be toppled over, broken, never to fixed.

    For myself, I thank aging for differentiating between an anticipatory thinking that helps me respond to mine and other’s needs, which doesn’t carry along with it an expectation of the outcome, and other kinds. No perfection here, but the increase in awareness of how thoughts come and go, do help me not to take them too seriously. No need to ‘look forward’ to the weekend, but take each moment as it comes and look for beauty and love with alert senses.

    The monks where I work are a good influence here too. They are very attuned to the moment and the simple joys of community, prayer and work. I am grateful for their presence, as I am also grateful to have this engagement here with others, like yourself, who enjoy writing and an exchange of ideas.



    • Dear Debra,

      Thank you so much for giving your time to consider this offering, and also for responding so generously; I do, as ever, both appreciate and respect your input greatly.

      That is a lovely analogy you provide – our life as we perceive it being akin to our habitation in a snow globe, unaware as to whomsoever’s hands may be holding the same, and quite whenever we may become shaken by them. It almost makes me want to believe in a beneficent God. Perhaps it is better to continue in my godless world though, clearing whatever flakes may block free passage in the transparent little orb of my life, yet doing so whilst causing no harm as I sweep. And if indeed there be a God, then at least she will see that I tread lightly in my glass-domed domain, and not cause me to fall from her hands. Her occasional sneezing I feel able to deal with in the meantime, the resultant snow shower of obstructions being cleared with the swishing of my trusty besom – senses alert nonetheless, as you say Debra.

      And yes, aging does of course have many benefits, even though it gets increasingly difficult to hear them coming! What a shame that whilst our ears lose efficacy as we age, and which with all the noise in the world is not always such a bad thing, yet still we are able to hear with perfect clarity our own internally chattering thoughts. As you say though, our time worn experience helps in not taking them too seriously – just more snowflakes that lose form and colour on contacting their absorbing ground.

      Lots of love, gratitude and respect to you dear Debra.

      Hariod. ❤

  6. This is a great post Hariod. 🙂

    Anticipation is quite decieving in its projection of future happenings. I always try to distract myself when I catch myself anticipating an event. We cannot completely stop our minds from anticipating, but as you said, the abusive amount of this mind condition leads to a lot of disappointments and unfulfilled expectations.

    Once again, a great post! I love the artwork and photograph too. 🙂

    • Hello there Faqeeha, how nice of you to make an appearance here and to offer a thought or two for our consideration; I much appreciate your engagement; truly I do. Thank you also for your gracious words of support and encouragement; they help me along as I try my best to provide interest and stimulus in my articles. I am also sure that the featured photographer and artist will appreciate your kind observations, and so thank you now on their behalf.

      And you are of course quite right, we cannot stop the mind from anticipating experience; it is, after all, an evolutionary imperative there for the purposes of survival. As ever, it’s a case of finding the middle way, or balance, between applying our anticipations so as to serve us well, yet not allowing them to run riot in our thought-streams. The only way to achieve this is to remain aware of the content of our mind of course, and this is our enduring protection from the impacts that you mention.

      Thank you once again dear Faqeeha.


  7. Hi Hariod,

    The mind’s projections are hubris if we don’t try to harness them; they are blissful if we use them for soaring audaciously, exploring innovative conduits of our imagination.

    The rivers never flow in the directions we anticipate, but still we realize this law of nature only after we have tested our powers of seeing beyond.

    It is a marvel how you can recollect the names and scenes which then [33 years ago] stimulated your mind to predict certain outcomes. Thank you for sharing. What I couldn’t follow was the role of ‘Oscar’?


    • Hi there Balroop,

      Many thanks for taking time to absorb this humble offering of mine, and for adding a much appreciated contribution. The mind’s projections may indeed be hubristic, as you say, though even when we’ve knocked the rough edges away from our egoical self-construct, there remains the great tendency to anticipate even the subtlest aspects of what we think may potentially arise in time. It is quite a pernicious trait, and very often goes unnoticed.

      Just to be clear, I of course make no objection in the least to any exercise of the imagination – the point you raise – and regard the same as something quite separate and of an altogether different order to any anticipatory projections. We might say that the one is creative as against the other being destructive, at least when the latter is exercised to the point of abuse, as it so frequently is.

      You raise the point about memory and my ability to recall the events of 33 years ago so vividly. However, ask me what I did last Tuesday and I really would not have a clue. I suppose it is all to do with the force of impression is it not? The day I describe above had a series of egregious features that were not easily forgotten. As to Oscar’s role, then he was just someone I knew at the time – he’s now deceased – and who I would always go and listen to when he played the piano at the club in Soho that I mention.

      With much gratitude and respect to you Balroop.


      • Hariod,

        I am in concurrence with you – certain days and events become unforgettable, probably this is one of them! One thought has been reverberating since I read this story: Do we consciously give up on negative anticipation, or is it the reward of a mellowing down, training our mental faculties to think positively or adapt to the circumstances? I would appreciate your insight about it.

        I express my deep gratitude for taking the time to answer each of the points I discussed. You take care of the minutest details. Thanks.


        • Dear Balroop,

          I can attempt to respond to your question, which I appreciate receiving, though should make clear that I can only speak to my own experience in so doing. We each have differing processes of maturation of course, and the paths we tread along the way may be consciously trodden, or perhaps intuitively and only subliminally so. For myself, I undertook a very rigorous meditative training for 20 or more years through my close affiliation to a Buddhist monastery. Following that, I continued my meditative path alone, and yet still with great intensity. This does not mean that I am privy to any greater insight than others who have not followed such a path, though I mention this so that you have some appreciation of the genesis of my response. And so, to your question:

          ‘Do we consciously give up on negative anticipation, or is it the reward of a mellowing down, training our mental faculties to think positively or adapt to the circumstances?’

          I am inclined not to select an answer from this array of alternatives Balroop. Whilst in my case, there may be some element of truth in each and all of the processes you describe, none quite fit the bill. Aside from any ‘mellowing down’, which undoubtedly is a factor that runs along with our aging, the other scenarios you describe are (as I understand them) each forms of mental action and response, they are each a reflexive or trained issuance of the mind which follows any negative anticipation. Such approaches may indeed work, but they are hard work in that they require constant vigilance if we are to avoid lapsing back into our old ways of projection.

          The question then becomes one of how we may come to stem the stream of our anticipatory tendencies without this rather tense and stilted vigilance. The only way that I know of is in the natural dis-identification with the totality of our verbal thought-streams. What does that mean? It means no longer assuming those verbal occurrences to be the issuances of any agent of selfhood. Now, whilst we can’t dispose of the self-entity with a mere snap of the fingers (unfortunately), we may, as a result of very mindfully and contemplatively attending to our thoughts, in time come to regard them as if they were, say, merely clouds passing through an undifferentiated and non-localised awareness. In other words, they are free-floating; they are not attached to or identified with the imagined ‘self’ which we all in some vague way believe comes mysteriously to constitute ‘me’ or ‘what I am’. Nor indeed are they even regarded as issuances of ‘my mind’, or any mind at all for that matter. If we regard the appearance of thoughts as themselves being essential to what we are as some enduringly instantiated entity of selfhood, as the products of ‘my localised mind’, then each of them becomes in some sense critical to our emotional well-being.

          If one then arrives at this point that I describe, it isn’t that anticipatory thoughts cease altogether of course Balroop. What happens is that the perpetuation of them that formerly arose now ceases to. It is the identification in selfhood with these thoughts that causes their perpetuation; there’s a recursive feedback loop that sustains their existence as the imagined self seeks to order its imagined life. The same can be said of emotional issuances generally; they can never be ended, and nor would one want them to end, yet their pernicious perpetuation may be curtailed in dis-identifying with them – not merely as an intellectual idea, but as a natural occurrence which results from understanding their true nature. So, negative anticipation, negative and unpleasant emotions, these will always occur in some degree, though it is entirely the case that their perpetuation may be curtailed. And of course, it is in just such perpetuations that the phenomenon we call ‘suffering’ arises.

          I do hope I have made myself reasonably clear here Balroop, and that I have answered your question at least to some degree of satisfaction. Thank you once again for your engagement and question.


  8. “A useful moderator is to mindfully observe these internal patterns; in this way, we gain balance between a helpful preparedness, caution and idealism.”

    Indeed, the more useful approach. Consideration of possibilities can help us prepare for the future, although all too often the future refuses to follow our scripts. General knowledge and practice would seem better armor.

    “If it be now, ’tis not to come. If it be not to come, it will be now. If it be not now, yet it will come — the readiness is all.”

    • What a marvellously fitting quote you have offered here Wyrd Smythe; thank you. As with the rest of what laughably passes for the sum of my knowledge, your own surpasses it by some great distance; you are a true polymath. The only Shakespeare I have ever been able to quote came more from watching ‘Withnail and I’ countless times rather than having gone to the source repeatedly. You know the part of the play that I mean:

      ‘I have of late – but wherefore I know not – lost all my mirth, forgone all custom of exercises; and indeed it goes so heavily with my disposition that this goodly frame, the earth, seems to me a sterile promontory, this most excellent canopy, the air, look you, this brave o’erhanging firmament, this majestical roof fretted with golden fire, why, it appears no other thing to me than a foul and pestilent congregation of vapours. What a piece of work is a man! How noble in reason! How infinite in faculty! In form and moving how express and admirable! In action how like an angel! In apprehension how like a god! The beauty of the world! The paragon of animals! And yet, to me, what is this quintessence of dust? Man delights not me: no, nor woman neither, though by your smiling you seem to say so.’

      What a miserable sod!

      • Jack of all trades, but master of none – my problem is that I find almost everything fascinating.

        I’m not familiar with Withnail and I, but I am quite familiar with that scene. (We staged Hamlet in high school, so I’ve always had a major fond spot for it – I was the ghost as well as the player-king.) “What a piece of work is man,” is a great bit! (Although Hamlet didn’t mean it ironically – he was serious. The contrast is between his recognition of our potential godhood and his inability to appreciate it.)

        For my money, the Kenneth Branagh version is the gold standard. At just over four hours, it’s word-for-word to the play and brilliantly done (better, I think, than the Olivier version, which was the previous gold standard). It’s so good it never seemed four hours long to me, even after seeing it several times. It’s just. . . tasty!

        The key to Shakespeare is actors who actually understand the lines (and none living is better than Branagh – all of his Bard movies are good). The 1996 Romeo & Juliet is a good counter-example: Actors mouthing the words without understanding them. Parts of it come off as incoherent noise. I mean, come on: Brian Dennehy (?!), John Leguizamo (??!), Paul Rudd (???!). Yikes.

        • I suspect that you would quite enjoy ‘Withnail and I’ Wyrd Smythe; it features the wonderful, though sadly late-departed, Richard Griffiths. One can hardly get the gist of it in a clip, and besides which, most of those available on YouTube are, in the eyes of some souls altogether more sensitive than I, risqué :

          As to Hamlet , then I thought that David Tennant made a good fist of it in an RSC production of just a few years ago:

  9. I greatly appreciate that you have shared this experience from 33 years ago with us Hariod. It is certainly a good reminder for us to live in the moment without expectations.

    I also much appreciate these words of yours: “A useful moderator is to mindfully observe these internal patterns; in this way, we gain balance between a helpful preparedness, caution and idealism.”


    • Thank you very much for taking time to read this article Karuna; and I also appreciate you leaving a reflection of your own too. I am always keen to hear which elements of a piece chime most with readers; and whilst this particular effort had very little in the way of practical suggestions, you have identified the key instance. As you will know full well yourself Karuna, this mindful observation to which I refer is in fact an injunction to live contemplatively, or meditatively, and is not merely some little trick that we occasionally pull from our sleeves.

      With much gratitude and respect.


  10. Great post, Hariod. Your writing is always so eloquently expressed, and yet I often find myself at a loss as to how and what to comment upon. 😉

    It’s such a good reminder to find our contentment in the here and now. I feel like I’m always telling my daughter and my mom to try not to always be thinking ‘I’ll be happy when . . . this or that’ because ‘this or that’ is never guaranteed, or as you said “events turn out differently.”

    How much better it is to just cherish and enjoy the moment, rather than always be waiting. Besides, often times when ‘this or that’ comes to you, you realize that the happiness you envisaged coming from it doesn’t last, and you’re onto waiting for the next thing.

    When you mentioned “imagined securities” I immediately resonated with that. After having my whole life basically blow-up in my face a few years ago – “thwomp” – I realized that security is indeed just an illusion, that everything can be taken away in an instant and you have no control over it. And whilst it was extremely devastating to me (and I’m still peeling away the layers from the onion of all that it entailed) I am more free than ever.

    • Hello Julie; how lovely to see you here! And the first thing to say is how much I appreciate you having read my article, and also of course, for commenting so fulsomely upon it – thank you! Please never feel uncertain about relaying here any thoughts that may spring to mind as a result of my utterances. I personally find that with many articles I read on others’ blogs, there is perhaps just one little nugget – it may be a single photograph, a line of verse, or a solitary thought – and it is just that which has made absorbing the whole worthwhile. The same goes for books too I think; I have read scores of non-fiction titles and in which perhaps I’ve waded through 300 pages just to discover the one thought that I needed to hear, and which chimes most with me at that particular time.

      I think the situation you describe with your daughter and mum (English spelling from me!) will be recognised by any, such as yourself, who have the wisdom and experience to know the truth of the matter when faced with others’ speculative projections about when life will be okay, or better for them. I know full well that you are a lover of nature Julie, and have the patience and presence of mind to be able to fully appreciate the wonderful environment you are so fortunate to live amidst – your own spectacularly profuse and productive garden, as well as the public parks and countryside nearby too – and that presence of mind I know will have attenuated any projective tendencies within you. It will surely only be a matter of time before your daughter fully inherits her mother’s gifts here; and in the meantime, her youthful exuberance can be forgiven for getting a little over-excited about the future!

      I am sorry to hear of your “thwomp” moment Julie; though it is heartening to learn that you have emerged from the detonation feeling all the more liberated. As they say, bad news always comes bearing a gift; it’s just so very hard to unwrap that gift when we are stood in the midst of rubble and ruin. At last, though, the smoke clears from the air, kind people we meet help us to sweep aside the rubble, and in the clearing up process we almost always rid ourselves of many unwanted and unhelpful possessions – those of the emotions and mind in general. We then are able to reconstruct our landscape more so in our own image, and taking account of our own needs and inclinations; and in this way begin to uncover a sense of liberation from the past.

      Thank you once again Julie.

      Hariod. ❤

  11. I’ve only had one experience with meditating and the ‘just sit’ bit seemed impossible for me. I knew I wasn’t going to be able to stop my thinking, so I didn’t even try. I was so anxious to get out of there! Indeed, my thoughts were on overdrive: “Why are these people bowing before a picture of a normal woman as if she were a God? This is crazy! Tina, you don’t belong here. Get the hell out!”

    Nevertheless, as I sat there feeling awkward with a bunch of other people just sitting, I started to relax and even enjoy being there with others without having to talk to them. Something about that was peaceful, even though I could never come close to stopping thought. And if I had tried to do the same at home by myself, it wouldn’t work. I needed to be forced to sit by sitting with others. Strange indeed. The rest of the day I felt relaxed, as if I had just woken up and hadn’t had time yet to realize the worries I needed to continue from yesterday.

    A woman in my writing group who meditates all the time wrote a poem about just this topic of anticipation. I wish I could give it to you, but I’m afraid it wouldn’t be right for me to do it without asking. In any case, it’s only a few lines about a leaf skittering across her ‘monkey brain’. I loved the poem because she takes nature imagery — which most of us consider peaceful — and turns it on its head and makes it disruptive and noisy. The leaf represents change in time, and movement.

    • Tina, you are an absolute star and a treasure; your first paragraph had me in stitches I must say. It may not be too obvious why, though it has to do with my past long association with a Buddhist monastery, and having insights into the various shenanigans that went on there during periods of silent retreat. You wouldn’t believe the tricks that get played in people’s minds when they are asked to just sit still on a chair with their eyes closed. For certain types, it can be some equivalent to water-boarding, or getting stretched on the medieval rack. For others, it can be as if they had been forced to ingest peyote or some other potent hallucinogen.

      I knew of one woman, for example, who repeatedly became convinced that blood was dripping from one of her ears once about 50 minutes of the allotted hour of meditation had elapsed. She could feel the trickle of red stuff pooling in her ear and then descending down to the lobe, then sense the release as a drop formed and fell to the floor, then hear the sound of the drop of blood hitting the now sodden carpet. This was a ferociously intelligent, very gritty and determined woman who occupied a high-level position as a psychiatric consultant. She knew on one level that her repeated hallucinations were just that, and yet when it came to being trapped in that shrine room to meditate for each of the eight hourly meditations in a day, the mind games played themselves out with a disturbing regularity.

      She still goes on silent retreats to this day, and is now thankfully over her ‘bleeding ear’ syndrome; and of course there is a good reason why she persisted through her past troubles. Just like you, she found a certain pleasure in spending time alone in silence – mental chatter notwithstanding – and just like you, she appreciated and benefitted from experiencing a level of tranquillity that was only possible to replicate under such conditions. Many people think that silent meditation retreats are a piece of cake, that it’s all sweetness and light, and after all, what could possibly go wrong just sitting quietly on a chair or cushion? Once we give it a try though, we come to see that the mind abhors a vacuum, and that to watch the breath in a perfectly stilled silence for as little as 10 seconds, is not just tricky, it is in fact almost impossible for most neophyte meditators to do.

      Great to hear from you Tina, and many thanks for stopping by.


      • Eight meditations per day! I would die!

        I’m good at being quiet externally, but internally, oh hell no; it’s a cacophony in there. The closest I get to meditation is when I’m hiking down a certain mountain; it’s not the mountain per se that causes it, but the amount of exertion required to get up. On the way down I’m usually so exhausted that my mind starts slowing down too. But this isn’t really meditation because I usually get insights for my writing as I slog down, even when I’m not thinking about it. They come from out of the blue. The weird clarity I get might have something to do with the fact that I can’t look around at my beautiful surroundings – I have to watch my feet to make sure I don’t slip on the rocks. It’s boring and repetitive, and hiking is the only time I can tolerate ‘boring and repetitive’.

        I read your response to my husband, who’s the one who does (or I should say ‘did’) silent meditation. He told me that the story of your bleeding-ear friend is pretty typical. He once saw a guy hopping around like a frog. I think I’d have to get up and leave if I ever saw that; it would remind me too much of the evangelical weirdness I grew up with in Oklahoma.

        Fun story: My husband lived on an ashram in India back in the day and has the pillow to prove it. Apparently the second-in-command to Gurumayi Chidvilasananda said something unsavory to someone, and my husband overheard it and was upset by it. My husband threatened to leave and Gurumayi caught wind of this and invited him to talk with the 2nd in command standing right there. My husband came to learn humility, so you can imagine he thought it was all over at this point. Nevertheless, my husband explained to the guy’s face why he was upset and Gurumayi gave him this beautiful pillow for his honesty and asked him not to leave.

        Loved the story, Hariod!


        • Ah, wonderful stuff Tina; thanks for recounting both your own hiking meditations and your husband’s experience in India. I think you’re on the money with your assessment of how when the senses close down – your example of giving attention to your feet alone – then the mind is freed to be more creative. And I can relate to what happened with your husband in this instance; the hierarchy within monasteries and ashrams can sometimes feel a little stifling or intimidating even, and yet when we are courageous enough to overcome these inhibitions, then as long as we retain the necessary respect, we usually discover there’s some pay-off for what is, after all, merely an honest expression of integrity. As your husband will be familiar with the dynamics of the guru and student relationship, and as doubtless he shares your great sense of humour, then he may well quite enjoy this video if he’s not seen it before. It’s a bit of a slow burner, so stick with it if you and he have 10 minutes to spare:

  12. Dear Hariod,

    You have offered a touching memory here, recounted with clarity and immediacy. The prose as always is delicious, but I know from experience here that an even greater gem lies within the well-constructed façade. In the past month I have been turned loose on a plateau of anxiety, then found my way back to an abiding serenity camping along its borders, observing the presence of the cliff and the stars alike, and it is helpful to reflect upon the role anticipation has played both in the unleashing of inner turbulence and the recovery of a grace-filled translucence within the rolling waves.

    For myself, I think I am discovering that both excessively positive and negative forms of anticipation reflect the belief that what happens next could either increase or decrease my security, my sense of well-being, or my sense of accomplishment. The anticipation of loss brings anxiety. The anticipation of gain brings satisfaction or ease (a reduction in anxiety). Learning to live in the middle brings a freedom to treat the process of life as a streaming river of discovery, rather than a constant barometer of progress, or a litmus test of worthiness. What is discovered is not how well or poorly we are doing, but the depth or richness contained in who we are. We can’t miss.

    But I have to be able to unplug from the long-held mindset, both in myself and in our world, that the events and happenings of our lives are an indicator of how we are doing – how well we have focused, how well we have trained, how well we have efforted, how worthy we are, how deserved we are, etc. Sometimes, the moments like the one you described here shake us free of our need to interpret and assess. We finally ask: what is that constant, nagging practice of interpretation and anticipation actually yielding us?

    Much Love.


      • You are quite correct Amy, our friend Michael is certainly a master of words – a poet in fact – and his comments here often contain a quality and vision that make them worthy of publishing as articles in their own right. Many thanks for your further observation Amy; it is most gracious of you, and I am certain that Michael will appreciate your kindness too. Hariod.

    • Dear Michael,

      I almost incline to foregoing the inevitable sullying of your exquisite response by adding some predictably arid response of my own just here. However, that would at least appear a discourteous gesture, and in any case, I can hardly resist mouthing off at the first opportunity as I am apt to, and as by now I think you know too well! How forgiving my readers here are; and exactly what I have done to deserve the attentions of those such as yourself is quite beyond me – I must have performed a little good in some former incarnation, if not in this. A sagacious though rather wicked nun once told me I used to be an erotic table-top dancer in a former life; though I felt it didn’t quite ring true somehow.

      You flatter me too much with your kind words – don’t stop dear boy! – though the day in question was quite an egregious one and accordingly left an abiding impression. I thought also it would somehow be rather nice to quietly pay a little tribute to Officer Kenneth Howorth on the 33rd. anniversary of his passing. No one will notice, or could care less, and yet as I think back to those days when I worked in London’s West End, and bomb warnings by the IRA were both frequent and very real in their threat, then I am thankful still for the many like him who kept myself and thousands of other Londoners safe as a result of their immense courage and skill. How apparently lacking in dignity to have one’s life end violently in the basement toilet of a burger restaurant, and yet few will ever meet their last seconds in such selfless service of others.

      I am of course conscious through various intimations on your own site that life has been less than serene for you of late Michael. And for you to have made the same faintly suggestible to me through your poetry is I suspect a mark of how greatly I understate the case; I know you well enough to stake everything on your not being one prone to self-pity. I do hope that these troublesome events, whatever be their nature, soon resolve and allow you to breathe more fully once again. In any case, it rather sounds that you have responded to the whole with an admirable degree of equanimity, whilst at the same time allowing whatever must run through you to do just that – control, resistance and distraction being the inferior coping methods by far, as well you know.

      With love to you dear friend.


  13. I remember well those dark days of the IRA. Now we have swapped the terrorists logos as other projections of fear have manifested on our streets. I do so know that you understand totally the consequences of our collective thoughts; and yet for the most part many cannot see how they contribute to the state of fear they still live in as they project their thoughts from their ‘now’ to create the ‘reality’ of their tomorrows.

    An excellent post Hariod. Many thanks for sharing your experience with us.

    Blessings. Sue.

    • Yes indeed dear Sue, it was troubling times for us here on the mainland when the IRA were active in our cities. I have twice in the distant past been within very close proximity of two of their bombs as they detonated, and on further occasions had working life disrupted through areas being locked down in Central London as a result either of coded warnings, or the paranoia that built up in the seventies and early eighties over so-called ‘suspect packages’.

      And yes, whilst these days we certainly do have further challenges – those that may come at us now without warning – as you so correctly observe, a culture of fear should be distinguished from actual threat. One needs to maintain a sense of how and from where these perceptions of threat come, and it is as well to remain observant of the interests and agendas of both our political leaders and the mainstream media. Fear, as we know, can be used as a form of control; and in parallel with this, people are perversely drawn to it as a product of the media.

      Thank you so much for taking a little time to read my article and for contributing some thoughts of your own Sue; I greatly appreciate it. You are a generous and wise soul, and so would like to thank you once again for your presence here.

      Hariod. ❤

  14. Dear Hariod, this is an idea that has been on my mind lately. I look back at the way I not only tried to project the future, but I also, in my humble silliness, tried to control it! I thought I could survive in my world if I anticipated every single thing that could happen. I spent countless amounts of time having imaginary fights preparing for events that never came to pass. It makes me realize, now, as I am aging and hopefully becoming more enlightened, that I can plan and try to create my future, but I can not actually know it. Thank you for posting such thought provoking prose! ❤

    • Thank you so much dear Lorrie, for giving a little of your time to consider what I have offered here. And thank you also for making such an honest and at the same time insightful response to my words; I greatly appreciate this too. And yes, I think we all have tried the control route as an overlay and backstop to our projections; and whilst I obviously cannot speak to your own character traits, many of us have adopted these psychological manoeuvrings out of a fear that life will unfold in ways we disapprove of. In time, and just as you yourself have done, we find our way to a more measured approach to life; we loosen the reins of our controlling and projective tendencies in an acceptance of their ultimate futility.

      With my very best wishes and gratitude to you Lorrie.

      Hariod. ❤

      • Yes, Hariod: “in an acceptance of their ultimate futility!” Thanks again for visiting me, even though my site is misbehaving. I have not had any other responses to it. I have been thinking of changing my theme and if I have time this week I will – hopefully that will fix the issue! 🙂

    • Thank you so much Jarle, for taking an interest in my humble offerings here, and also for your very kind words; both are greatly appreciated by me, truly. I understand the point you are making about Taleb’s book: the randomness and uncertainty of events. How timely the publication of his title was, just months before the world’s financial system collapsed. One senses that it’s only a matter of time before the next ‘Black Swan’ event comes upon us; and it is alarming to me how devoid of ideas our political leaders are as regards constraining the wilder excesses of the financial system and capitalism more generally. We seem to be reliant upon flogging the same old dead horse in the hope that it might miraculously gallop towards some imagined utopian finishing line; all of which brings me nicely to a favourite quip of our mutual friend Woody Allen: “I’d call him a sadistic, hippophilic necrophile, but that would be beating a dead horse.” XD

      • I just love Woody Allen and his quirky humor. Many of his films are about ‘black swans’ that turn tables and change peoples lives in the most fascinating ways. I hope the next big, black swan in our world will be a positive one, and not a negative one. But I guess the stakes are high now, and it can go both ways with all the challenges we face. Which reminds me of another quote from Woody Allen:
        “More than any time in history mankind faces a crossroads. One path leads to despair and utter hopelessness, the other to total extinction. Let us pray that we have the wisdom to choose correctly.” 🙂

        • We see things similarly Jarle; and in fact, I used that very same quote in my book – it wrong foots the reader magnificently. Woody has so many profound philosophical and metaphysical insights, like this one:

          “As the poet said, ‘Only God can make a tree,’ probably because it’s so hard to figure out how to get the bark on.”

  15. Hariod,

    Thank you once again for inviting me into your world. Its beauty, poetry and realism captivate me, and I can count on your words to guide me to pause and look at my own life differently, too. This piece in particular offered a few different energies and I was moved by all.

    In gratitude,

    Lauren. ❤

    • Lauren,

      You are the most welcome of guests; and as to inviting you into my world, then the privilege is all mine, and that world all the richer for your acceptance. So, thank you once again for considering my offerings here, and also for your treasured words of encouragement; truly.

      By the way, I was exploring your YouTube channel just the other evening, and it was a great delight to see you in action professionally; I was very moved by the piece you did about Dennis McGinnis’ and the charity he founded – what a wonderful achievement!

      With gratitude and respect as ever to you dear Lauren.

      Hariod. ❤

      • Hariod,

        That is so very giving of you and your time, to have gone through my channel and viewed my work. I’ll never cease to be amazed and moved my the deep relationships you form with all here – as well as off the page, I’ve no doubt – and by the amount of care, wisdom and love you put into each and every interaction.

        Thank you! I’m honored to be a part of your wealth.

        Lauren. ❤

  16. What can I add here that has not been discussed? The post spoke to my soul. Very few posts do that. Thank you so much – again. By the way, Hariod, due to the troubled waters of my life right now, I have not been able to keep up with blogs except those that really speak to me. Can you please, in your own time, share your list of blogs that you enjoy. I would appreciate it. Thanks again. Eve.

    • Thank you so much for your very kind and touching words Eve; I can hardly imagine receiving a nicer compliment. I never know what to expect when I publish an article, and sometimes wonder whether what I have said will in any way chime with those who are kind enough to read. I’m sure it’s the same with yourself, but I write for the pleasure it provides to me, and only use content that has real meaning to me personally. Perhaps many bloggers take that approach, and maybe also it is so that garnering any readers at all is very much secondary to those aims. I can’t say the latter is true for myself; and I would give up on running this site were it not for kind people such as yourself who come and engage, providing feedback and support in the way that you unstintingly do. It’s actually quite humbling for me, as to be frank I feel rather undeserving of compliments such as those you make here today.

      As to the matter of what blogs I enjoy, then it’s certainly so that the commenters you come across here, such as your good self of course, all run blogs that are of interest to me in differing ways. I am keen on dialogue, and tend to engage reciprocally with those who are similarly inclined. I do subscribe to certain blogs that don’t offer so much scope for interchange, though these are by far in the minority; and I tend to view blogging as an interactive activity whereby we authors engage each the other, and also with the readers of each the other’s articles. You are a seasoned blogger whereas I am new to all this Eve, and yet I think my take on this probably holds true to most in the blogosphere. I find myself inclining to writing less and engaging even more of late, and I think in future will limit myself to a maximum of two posts each month. That, I think, will be the right balance for me.

      With lots of love to you dear Eve.

      Hariod. ❤

  17. Hi Hariod!

    As usual, many thoughts came to mind as my eyes ran across your words. One was the memory of a trip to Costa Rica in December 2001, three months after September 11. I was going to do some volunteer work and part of the experience was to fundraise money, meaning that I spoke with many people as part of the preparation process. Interestingly though, many people questioned the safety of travelling at this time, asking me whether I was okay to get on a plane and if I thought ‘something’ might happen.

    I wondered reading your piece if it wasn’t ‘others illogically dread[ing] their inevitable non-existence’ that caused them to ask these questions. My position at the time was that I’d rather die doing something I’m passionate about than hiding in my home anticipating death. This was also my position a month ago as people questioned my trip to Spain after it was revealed that there were cases of Ebola in Madrid.

    You then wrote that ‘should our own homunculus take on the character of the biblical weeping prophet, we then are rendered transfixed in a similar stasis of inaction’, making me think that this is what was being projected onto me – other people’s fear to move because of their anticipation of worst case scenarios. What are your thoughts?

    • Hi Michael!

      Many thanks for considering my words so carefully and reflectively, and also for sharing some observations of your own, which I think are most apposite.

      Your two travel experiences both contain the projection, by your acquaintances or colleagues, of strong elements of fear. And so we see one of the two causes of suffering – as enumerated in Buddhist psychology – being projected outwardly toward you, namely aversion, which may arise in its grosser forms as fear; the other being desire, which extends to craving and becoming. In either of these two roots of mental anguish, anticipation plays a significant role.

      We can only fear or crave those things that may, so we believe, potentially come to pass in our own experience. Regardless of whether they in time do, then so it is that we straight away generate a degree of dissatisfaction, or mental anguish, within ourselves. We either do not have what we want and yet anticipate (desire), or have what we do not want and anticipate not having (aversion). This is a universal experience within humankind; and because of their own anguish, some may seek to project the same outwardly upon others in irrational justifications of their own uncomfortable feelings. This seems to be what was happening to you of course Michael, and you well understand this I’m sure.

      So, we have the very human capacity to create fear through the anticipation of what we do not want. And we have the attempted amelioration of these fears by their outward projection upon others, and what we think of as the rationalisation of those same fears in seeing them applying everywhere and to everyone. This strong conditioning is understood in the marketing industry, and in the media too. It is used to sell us both protections against it, and endorsements of it – insurance policies, anti-bacterial kitchen sprays, news programs, crime fiction, right wing xenophobic ideologies, New Age nostrums, the list is endless. All these are sold to us on the back of our fears, and all of which issue out of anticipatory projections – it really could happen to me, or to you, so the line goes.

      Thank you once again for your interest and engagement Michael.


      • Thanks for your response to my questions Hariod. I really do appreciate your time and thought, which came in handy as I prepared to drive 4,500km from the south to the north of Australia. As I told people what I was doing, there were questions like: ‘In a car without air-conditioning?’, ‘In that heat?’, ‘All that way on your own?’, ‘What will you do with all that time?’, ‘Aren’t you worried that something might happen to you out there?’

        Many years ago I would have taken these comments on and internalised the fear in the form of anguish and doubt. And although this has become less over the years, your comments helped me this time to just notice what was happening and get on with what I was doing in a content and confident manner.

        Many thanks Hariod. And the road is treating me very well! Michael 🙂

  18. Dear Hariod,

    Now that Carolyn and I are settled here in Nerja for a couple of weeks, I have found the time to give your thoughts the careful attention they deserve. It is such a delight to invite your stimulating insights into the living room of my mind, and also to enjoy the intelligence and sensitivity of your many interlocutors. Your post and the comments are even more delicious than the coffee and croissants you mention.

    Yes, those of us who are of a certain age have experienced the unanticipated surprises that life offers. Some, like the death of loved ones, are jolting, while others are magnificent gifts of beauty that are beyond anticipation. For myself, I find anticipations a fact of life, and they are often enjoyable if held lightly and with wisdom. But as you say, if held tightly with attachment, they can rob life of its serendipitous graces.

    I am also thinking of the difference between anticipation and wonder – in the sense of paddling down a river and anticipating what is around the next bend, or wondering what is there. I think these are very different psychological movements, and while ‘anticipation’ brings a child-like, ‘Christmas morning’ sort of feeling, ‘wonder’ is the invigoration of an open mind and a questing heart. I wonder if the two, wonder and anticipation, can actually exist together. Are they complementary or contradictory? Hmmm – I am wondering about this, but I don’t anticipate an answer any time soon.

    About meditation: I was meditating on the beach this morning, and settling into some lovely quiet, when a fly landed on my nose. It really tickled, but I told myself to love what is, and to let it be. As my mind, however, was singing “la-de-da”, my hand smashed my nose as hard as it could. Wham! The fly escaped, but I wonder who was wiser: my mind or my hand?

    Finally, you play with Candide in your post. What a perfect ending to that story: rather than trying to change the world and always to be anticipating the best, just cultivate your own garden. Perhaps if we all did that with love and attention, the world would unfold in ways that are “not dreamt of in our philosophies.”

    Thank you, as always, Hariod, for your inspiration.

    • Dear John,

      Thank you so much for taking some respite from the Nerja sunshine to kindly consider my words, and to add another of your ever-wise and subtly humorous comments. You have a wonderful way of adding texture and layer to the discussion, and always do so with great humility too. I know these are so much more than professional skills, though what a wonderfully enduring gift you will have given to your many thousands of students down through the teaching years as a result of this capacity of yours. This gift continues, I know, through your wonderful blog site ‘Songs of Wisdom’, which I would always encourage readers here to visit and subscribe to. [ http://love-of-wisdom.com/ ]

      You rhetorically raised the interesting question John, of whether wonder and anticipation can actually exist together, and whether they are complementary or contradictory. Perhaps there are a variety of perspectives to be viewed here, though for myself, I think I align with you in so far as ‘wonder’ is more speculative, tentative, inquisitive; whereas ‘anticipation’ is more of a fixed projection containing an element of imagined certainty. With that schema in mind, then to continue with my watery analogy, perhaps ‘wonder’ can be seen as the network of tributaries that flow into the rivers of anticipation? As you say, they are different psychological movements – or flows – and so coming back to your question, one would have to say that they cannot ‘exist together’ temporally, in the sense of their simultaneous arising, though will often form a causal linkage with ‘wonder’ preceding the ‘anticipation’.

      And now to the really difficult question: which was wiser, your (noble) mind or your (wicked) hand? This invites us to ask whether mind precedes and is the forerunner of all things, whether volitional thought is necessarily verbal, whether the body/mind system can hold contradictory intentions and if so, which outs and why so, whether there is a false dichotomy in the assumption of any body/mind system itself, whether wickedness can present alongside a pure heart, and of course, whether flies are the greatest exemplars of the ability to tease – have you noticed how they dance when you try to swat them? There, I have successfully avoided having to answer any of these awkward questions, and we can now both relax and enjoy a glass of Sherry as we listen to Sketches of Spain.

      With warm and woozy regards to yourself and Carolyn.


  19. Hi Hariod,

    Passing by, I found the post intriguing.

    I love the aspect of training the mind to distrust the creation of a future. The way I see it is that left to itself, which is what happens most of the time, the mind merely takes out our ‘past’ from the ‘past drawer’ and puts it into the drawer marked ‘future’. So our future is but a mere extension of our past, complete with all its fears, perceptions and judgments.

    The question then remains, ‘How do we take out that past from our future drawer and ensure we live into a future which was not going to happen anyways?’


    • Hi Shakti,

      Thank you very much for taking the time to consider my words and for adding a comment of your own; I greatly appreciate both.

      You are enquiring about the nature of thought of course Shakti, and specifically how it addresses memory. When you write of “training the mind to distrust the creation of a future”, the whole of what this symbolises is in the terrain of construction in thought. So, just to put a different spin on your words, might I suggest that it’s not so much a case of a training in distrust, but more a case of coming to see the true nature of thought? This means coming to see thought as the lexicon of the mind alone, and not identifying thought with any entity of selfhood. In other words, coming to see that thought is not a reliable correspondent to actuality; it is not an accurate correlate of your being and the world.

      Once significant progress has been made in this area – such as through contemplative, introspective practises – then the distrust of projections follows in its wake, and is a natural by-product of this dis-identification. We arrive at a point where the mind continues to project – this serves a survival purpose of course – and yet awareness ‘sees’ what is going on at a higher level of understanding. Moreover, it ‘sees’ the creation of false concepts of selfhood which become projected in time.

      I entirely agree with you that thought always issues from the content of the past; and also that past conditioning – such as the fears, perceptions and judgments that you mention – become taken as givens and run alongside any new issuances of thought. However, I am sure you will agree Shakti, that it should be borne in mind that the totality of experience as presented to awareness only ever occurs in real-time. So to say that “our future is but a mere extension of our past” is true in one sense, yet not in another, not in an ultimate sense. We cannot, in actuality, ‘transplant’ awareness, so to speak, into some place outside of real-time, nor bring it into real-time from any other time. The conditioning obtains, yet all experience, all awareness, occurs in real-time. Our world is created in the present, and only its influences are of the past.

      This leaves your question: “How do we take out that past from our future drawer and ensure we live into a future which was not going to happen anyways?” I think possibly, Shakti, you may mean “was going to happen anyways” so will respond as if that were so:

      Conditioning will always remain in the mind as part of its functionality; though this conditioning can be re-mapped volitionally. We do not need to carry forward our habituations, and as with discovering the nature of thought, we can also reveal to ourselves our conditioning, then volitionally bring about the re-mapping. All thought arises in a dependent origination; this may not always be apparent, yet it is the case. The more that our conditioning carries a verisimilitude and correspondence with actuality, the less power it holds to cause suffering.

      So, as regards our apprehending of experience, and given that our minds will always be subject to this law of nature, so it is that to that extent, the past influences the future. This does not mean that the mind’s projections of narrative need influence the future; and once we dis-identify with these projections, then they are no longer a causal influence with efficacy. The past is a narrative; the future is a narrative; both of these narrative constructs occur in awareness in real-time. If we think “the past happened to me”, and so identify the narrative with an imagined self, we are inhabiting a sort of make-believe, though again this happens only in real-time. The same applies as regards the future, which can never be replicated in any facsimile of projection. The future “was going to happen anyways”, and can only be influenced in awareness by the conditioning of the mind that perceives and responds to it.

      Thank you so much, once again, for your interest and for your probing question Shakti.


    • Thank you very much Bert, for taking a little time to read my offerings in this article and for your kind words of approval; I greatly appreciate both as they encourage me in my endeavours here.

      With all best wishes.


  20. Dear Hariod,

    I found you here this winter-storm morning in Michigan – amazing synchronicity from comment to comment on other blogs (Michael’s). As I have aged too, dear friend, I have experienced this: when I hear, really hear, my heart whisper to my mind, the perceptions blossom, “the coloration imbued” is golden, and when I can meditate while walking barefoot on the majesty of our world I see “diamonds and tulips” together, just like that beautiful poem of Michael’s.

    Much love Hariod. xxx Meg

    • Dear Meg,

      Thank you as always for your interest, and above all for your wonderfully poetic ways. I feel rather inadequate in comparison to such creative talents as yourself and Michael, though always find reward in reading the words of you both. I have never told you before, but I find the imagery you use to accompany those words of yours always to be perfect, adding richness and mystery to your dream-like narratives. I do so hope you did not object to the reference I made recently regarding David Lynch; it was simply something that triggered internally within me, no more. He, of course, has nothing like your romantic sensibility, and which permeates your work so naturally and fittingly.

      Much love to you too dear Meg. ❤

      • Aww Hariod, I love reading your posts; they always challenge me in the most influential ways. And as for the David Lynch comparison I am humbled, as to me, he is a master. You, Michael, and some others have helped me in ways that only loving encouragement can, and I am so very grateful. I love you. xxx Meg

  21. The mind is a wily and masterful storyteller. I wonder if it takes less energy/fewer calories to go with the flow of our anxieties and anticipations, than to sit in meditation?

    An arresting memory you’ve described, and a fine vase to hold your observations.

    • Thank you very much for your kind words and for your interest too; I appreciate both greatly. I laughed at your question, which hopefully was its intent. It is amusing how our Western conditioning to over-exert spills out into something so ostensibly passive as seated meditation. Neophyte practitioners may become drenched in perspiration, their muscles taut as knots, all in a futile bid to impose stillness and tranquillity upon their minds. I have seen this first-hand having spent many years attending a monastery as a lay meditator, discussing practice with retreatants and recluses alike, and can well imagine that the calorific burn runs at a high rate amidst all this effort to do nothing. I think beginners should take chocolate breaks every ten minutes: Om-nom-nom-nom-Om-nom-nom-nom.

      With all best wishes,


  22. I’ve read before that we spend surprisingly little of our mental life in the present, but instead dwell in past regrets or future expectations. I doubt many people can point to so dramatic a real-life illustration of how untrustworthy those expectations can be than the one you mentioned in your post.

    Incidentally, I was also interested in the discussion partway down your comment thread about David Tennant. I know from your earlier reply that you never saw him in Doctor Who. My children were quite young at that time, so I often had the opportunity to watch him run at speed down corridors. There were episodes, however, where Tennant was actually called on to do a bit more than this. On such occasions, I was surprised to discover what a very fine actor he is.

    • Thankyou very much, Bun, for your interest and engagement here with this offering of mine, and also for taking a further moment to cast your eyes over the comments thereupon. Yes, David Tennant was something of a revelation in Hamlet; though only really because I knew nothing of his oeuvre prior to seeing this production, having heard of him previously only as an incarnate Doctor Who. I was very impressed by his performance in the former role, though saying so at first felt just a bit like reluctantly admitting to others, during the eighties, that I thought Abba produced many seminal works. So, I am glad you agree that the man is a fine talent, and that my artistic radar is perhaps not too poorly tracking, after all.

      On the other matter, then it can be tricky talking about this rather hackneyed ‘living in the present’ business; I think, not least of all because there is no alternative but to do so! Further, our minds function as systems of representation, including a faculty which reorders events temporally [i.e. time-shifts, Dr. Who-style] and so what we take to be ‘the world’, including ourselves within it, is always – in an illusory sense – out of sync with Real Time. But of course, the illusion which represents us in an out of sync manner, itself occurs in Real Time, as all phenomena must. I gather there is a group of physicists currently working on why we can’t apprehend the future ‘now’, because all time is already existent according to the laws of physics. Enter the Tardis, eh?

      • I’d guess your artistic radar is in rather better condition than the rather wonky piece of apparatus I make do with, Hariod. Having said that, I certainly understand your initial reaction to David Tennant. Doctor Who is a show better known for eye-rolling and hamming it up than fine acting, so Mr Tennant’s ability came as something of a shock to me too.

        Incidentally, I also had a certain fondness for Abba. Unfortunately, they were popular at a time when punk rock was all the rage, so school children my age had to say they hated the Swedish group if they wanted to avoid being beaten to a pulp.

        As for your comments about time, I suppose there is no real alternative to all experience than for it to be filtered through the now. I’m fascinated by the idea of physicists trying to work out why we can’t remember the future. Physics is such an amazing subject. Sometimes the ideas are as baffling to me as anything in theology, although they seem to be arrived at in a more rigorous fashion.

        • May I ask a personal question, Bun? Would you describe yourself as Atheistic, or perhaps Agnostic, given your apparent disdain (which, if true, I share) for religiosity?

          • Thanks for your question, Hariod. I used to be very religious as a child, but as I learned more about science, I found religion harder and harder to continue believing in. I was once told by a very religious boss of mine that I couldn’t criticize the bible until I’d read it from cover to cover, so I did.

            It took me a year to finish because I kept falling asleep during the lists of ‘so and so begetting such and such’ and all those mind-numbing descriptions of temple dimensions. Even the bits I managed to stay awake through were fairly horrific, and I was quite relived when I read a bit more about the history of the time and discovered that all those genocidal campaigns of Joshua were almost certainly works of fiction.

            I went through a phase of calling myself an atheist, but now I tend to call myself a no-leaning agnostic. I haven’t seen anything to incline me to the belief that there’s a God, and although it’s the first thing every child asks about religion, I’ve yet to hear a very compelling explanation of where God came from.

            I’m not sure I’d call my feelings towards religion disdainful. I’d characterize them as closer to sadness. I admire the history and beauty of religion, and I have sympathy for the motivations underlying much religious faith. I can understand people wanting to feel there is some greater purpose to life or that they will be able to see their loved ones again someday. It’s just that I don’t believe such things become true merely by wishing them to be so.

            • Thankyou for indulging my inquisitiveness, Bun; I think our respective positions are pretty close. I am disdainful of religiosity, meaning the adorning of what often transpire to be hypocritical cloaks of holier-than-thou-ness, although I fully appreciate and respect sincere spiritual enquiry when conducted with humility and earnestness. I quite often attend evensong at nearby Wells Cathedral, despite never having had any Christian or theistic leanings of any hue, and yet still enjoy the experience of being amongst those who have. That said, I definitely could not abide doing so in any evangelical, proselytising setting, and there we come back to what I am most certainly disdainful of. Thanks once again for engaging, Bun, and it’s good to know a little more about you. All best wishes, Hariod.

              • We do seem to be in a similar place when it comes to religion, Hariod. Sorry about my typos, by the way. In order to refresh my memory, I had a quick look back through what I’d written. That’s always a mistake unless it’s on my own site and I can edit!

                Bun 🙂

                • Hi Bun,

                  I scan all comments to sort out typos that commenters themselves would correct if they had the possibility to do so, and also to add or amend punctuation so as to improve readability. Your comments are remarkably clean, exceptionally so, and the only thing I can recall is changing ‘disdain’ to ‘disdainful’; but was there anything else, Bun?

                  One of my neurotic little bugbears is this trend for blog commenters to completely abuse the ellipsis, and which seems to be getting out of hand. As I see it, then the stream-of-consciousness effect should remain a private burden, and whilst we all suffer from it – all our heads are filled with silent verbal flotsam and jetsam – I don’t feel we ought burden others with the whole sorry state of affairs.

                  Do please tell me what I amended of yours and which you spotted, Bun, and let me know whether you would like it changed – I would be more than happy to oblige.

                  All best wishes,

                  Hariod. 🙂

                  • That’s very kind of you, Hariod. I’ve almost never been able to reread something I’ve written without wanting to change it. I thought there were two things I spotted the other day, but the only one I can see now is that when I wrote “the Bible” I should have used a capital letter. I hope I can sleep tonight. I may lie awake staring at the ceiling thinking, “What was the second one? What was the second one?”

                    Bun 🙂

                    • Yes, strictly speaking, ‘The Bible’ is a proper noun when referring to the religious text, and the ‘the’ should be capitalised too, of course. I daresay the Christians will forgive you. 😉 Actually, I’m not sure that Catholics are so fussy about capitalising religious names. Hariod 🙂

                    • Some people say I tend to get far too worried about making little mistakes when I write, but of course I don’t. [Secretly wonders if there’s any way to search the entire Internet for every time he’s ever written “the Bible” and “the bible.”] 🙂

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