On going soft in the head

Jessica. By Thomas Hawk, San Francisco

Jessica. By Thomas Hawk, San Francisco — The homeless girl with love in her eyes.

It was during a balmy mid-afternoon in Central Oxford that I and my friend of some 20 years’ standing gingerly negotiated a crossing of the busy street that had first been lain a millennia ago during Saxon times — then a loosely set cobbled carriageway running northwards up from the ford of the oxen at Grandpont, some half mile or so distant along adjoining St. Aldates. The year was 1992 and a palpably self-satisfied, Thatcher-hewn metropolitan hum of affluence pervaded the air in equal measure to the oppressive diesel fumes belching from the buses and taxis that laboured and lurched their way along Cornmarket Street towards Carfax, twixt which our body’s wove, breathing in unnatural rhythms, yet mysteriously embracing the effluvium with bare arms and wide open hearts, unburdened neither by concerns nor the otherwise ubiquitously lugged, logo-laden bags of well-sated shoppers.

And then it hit me. Like Gabriel’s Sledgehammer, like Drury’s hypnotically corrective stick — ich liebe dich! I knew I was now in love, and that I loved my friend; I loved the woman who brushed past us so irritably; I loved, too, the arthritic elderly gentleman who froze with anxious eyes in deliberating the manner of his crossing, and I loved the carcinogenic particles pumping through my lungs out into the yielding air, the dumb dummies posing erect at shined panes with their cold, dead eyes and synthetic elegance, the chaos and indecipherable din of a gaggle of garrulous language students, of horns a-honking, of the lumbering bells of St. Michael’s tolling optimistically, and of ancient Oxenaforda’s silenced, illustrious past; yet I was not only in love, as love was now in me as I turned, looking at my friend, laconically offering, “I feel great”, at which, with pursed smile, he said, “You feel it too, do you?”

A religious may call it God’s Presence, though in these days of Rationalism I should deem it the cranial release of monoamines and oxytocin. I’m unsure what to call it, ‘Love’ seeming as polluted a term as was Cornmarket on that summer’s day 25 years ago. Most will know of this state by whatever name or none; Buddhists call it ‘Mettā’ (Pali) or ‘Maitrī’ (Sanskrit), ancient terms denoting ‘kindly, loving feelings of amity and benevolence’, the Aristotelian ‘Philia’ and Judaic ‘Chesed’ meaning the same. It’s a state of mind, my friend and I feeling it contemporaneously in empathic triggering of a brain region known as the Periaqueductal Gray; mirror neurons firing sympathetically, some might claim. It matters little; what counts is its vividly transcendent actuality, its negation of isolative self-consciousness. Most interesting, is it being a state susceptible to nurturing in Buddhist mental culture practices.

I’ve no interest in quasi-religious cosmologies or in ritualistically indulging spiritual performances of any hue; although I do enjoy evensong at nearby Wells Cathedral, imbibing both quietude and its glorious choral music as an uninitiated yet appreciative bystander. Still, there exist practices of mental culture advanced in ancient canonical texts that benefit us in contemporary life, easing burdens and providing solace; moreover, quieting our troubling, nascent neuroses and supplanting them with those feelings of Mettā — the amity and benevolence that so readily mirrors in encounters, be they with friend, stranger, or foe. Yes, foe too, as in the culture of Mettā we extend the feeling even to those to whom enmity is harboured, reorienting our former negative emotional predispositions. In our polarised, hate-drenched world, now moreso than ever I find this quiet mental skill an incomparable boon.

People are hurting; they are fearful in a world at its most perilous juncture since October 1962; greater still given AUMF and AGW. Our individual deep traumas arising from horrifyingly common sexual and physical abuses, and the acute stress disorders brought on by profound adversities or our innate neurological imbalances, must be addressed by professional clinical means. Mettā is not a cure-all or some nostrum for the naïvely credulous; rather it is an engaging of focused, potent feeling which conciliates an agitated mind, loosens nervously held tension, and eradicates discordant enmity. Buddhist psychology addresses the subtle absence of contentedness which pervades consciousness in varying degrees, ubiquitously so. We tolerate this just as we might static in radio reception, or the buzzing of our refrigerator. Mettā ameliorates this negative hum, softening our mind and social interactions.

Mickie his name was, the weaver betwixt buses, he of the mirror neurons, my fellow choker in the pack. After that day he began to develop the mental culture of Mettā so as to be able to auto-intuit that same sense of amity and connection whenever it was helpful. He dissolved his former self-centricity — an affliction common to us all — and others would quietly remark to him that something was different, he’d changed, in subtext asking what alchemy had caused this. Yet there was nothing in Mickie’s nature that isn’t present in others too; he’d simply learned to access the contentedness and amity lying dormant within humankind. I so admired him for cultivating his mind with Mettā, that faculty of intuiting a kindly benevolence which he gifted to others as much as to himself, they mirroring silently, unbidden. I think of it as him having gone soft in the head. If only I were wise enough, I would too.

Mettā very much: Marie Williams & Mickie Brough-T.

259 thoughts on “On going soft in the head

  1. I love how this starts, you set the scene so well that the reader is right there on that road in Oxford with you and Mickie; but moreso how it suddenly blooms into joy with a sudden awareness of love. Of metta.

    It’s a pleasure to read and I think this is my favourite of all the posts you have created Hariod; so well timed too, as minds bring love to the fore every year in early February, but more importantly because people all over the world are feeling such angst, pain, fear and misery right now, for reasons we are all aware of and that you mention, too. Finding even a moment of peace sometimes seems nigh on impossible, yet we can stop and give ourselves a gift in the midst of the tornadoes that tear us to and fro every day, we can become aware as you say . . .

    ‘And then it hit me. Like Gabriel’s Sledgehammer, like Drury’s hypnotically corrective stick — ich liebe dich! I knew I was now in love, and that I loved my friend; I loved the woman who brushed past us so irritably; I loved, too, the arthritic elderly gentleman who froze with anxious eyes in deliberating the manner of his crossing, and I loved the carcinogenic particles pumping through my lungs out into the yielding air, the dumb dummies posing erect at shined panes with their cold, dead eyes and synthetic elegance, the chaos and indecipherable din of a gaggle of garrulous language students, of horns a-honking, of the lumbering bells of St. Michael’s tolling optimistically, and of ancient Oxenaforda’s silenced, illustrious past; yet I was not only in love, as love was now in me as I turned, looking at my friend, laconically offering, “I feel great”, at which, with pursed smile, he said, “You feel it too, do you?”’ – I shall go as far as to say this is ‘awesome’ H! It’s made me smile, and I feel that love you speak of. Feel it, and radiate it out, it’s part of my kindness initiative, my belief in random acts of kindness. If you radiate it — you’ll spread it (that doesn’t sound too lovely, but it’s meant to, hahahaha). It’s a healing act, metta; it’s an attainable freedom that can only make the world a better place. [Old hippy esme may be, I hear you all cry, but also a correct one. – *nods*]

    Thank you Hariod, I love to read your words, elegant and beautiful as they are, from a soul that matches them. Metta to you too. *blows a kiss H’s way smiling*. ❤

    – esme loving one and all (barring Piers Morgan who is a mighty Berkshire) upon the Cloud. X

      • Thankyou very much, Mak, and I know what you mean, my friend — she’s a woman who conjures beautiful words at the drop of a hat, whereas for me even the attempt is always a struggle. Now Mak, I’m experimenting here with a ‘like’ button within the comments, so can you show your approval of Esme’s words with a swift ‘like’, dear man?

        • Hariod, you jest sometimes. If you struggle with words, you must mean something different from what I mean when I say I ‘struggle’. But you are right, she does say beautiful things.

          • Yes, her beautiful words reflect her true nature — now please press her ‘like’ button Mak! [I’m conducting a little survey here and trying to see whether others’ comments are read.] 🙂

    • Oh Esme, what a wonderfully encouraging response to receive for my effort here! I’m so very appreciative of your kind words of support. I had wondered if readers may have thought I was being an old hippy in writing something like this, but if we turn out to be the only two old hippies here below-the-line, I’ll be very happy that it was you and me. Yes, early February, and the sap is rising, today being Valentine’s Day, too, so it’s a good time to post about amity, I thought. Thankyou for picking out that particular passage from the piece. I set myself a little test with that, in trying to create a lengthy sentence which retained its rhythm and meaning without appearing strained. It’s 142 words long, although I do appreciate that it’s what you do with the words rather than their length that counts. I’ve been reading some Ian McEwan of late, and he’ll occasionally use these extended sentences when he wants a flood of uninterrupted feeling, and which I think he does exceptionally well. The art of it, I suppose, is that the reader should remain unaware that they’ve read what might otherwise seem an excessively long sentence, and rather that they’re swept up in the tone or mood, and not struggling with syntax and meaning. I can’t say I’ve succeeded to even 1/100th. the degree, but feel I can just about get away with this one; not least of all as a writer such as yourself gives approval to it. Thankyou so very much, Esme. With Mettā, Hariod. ❤

      A message for anyone reading — do yourselves a great favour and check out Esme's eclectic literary, poetic and artistic blogsite: https://sonmicloud.wordpress.com/

      • Sending people esme’s way. Eeek! Thank you. And as old hippies go, I think we’re in good company sat together on the Cloud drinking tea, or floating here with metta – *beams*. x

        I love extended sentences that work. The longer the better, ’tis an art without doubt. I have read On Chesil Beach by Ian, and enjoyed it immensely; plus I have two more of his on the way from another friend who thinks I should read him as well, so there’s something in the air there!

        Much love and abundant metta to you, dear H – esme hugging Hariod upon the Cloud. ❤

  2. Congratulations, dear Hariod, on having opened your heart — the very reason I tag after ‘Mooji’ and ‘Meditation’, but for only a minute amount of time compared to your pursuits. It seems love is in the air. I am seeking the opening of the heart and am desperately trying to find the best road there. No, Mooji did not get me there. I will listen more to him as he will be online from India in open Satsang for over a month starting tomorrow, but I have not much hope. You have achieved the only important thing in this life and it is appropriate that you have mastered that. I agree with the comment above that this is your best post. And appropriately enough, if I can say on a very mundane level, on Valentine’s Day.

    ❤ Ellen

    • I was always told I had a simple mind, but it took me a while to get the soft head to match — can’t say it’s skyward-bound, but I’m doing my best. Thanks for casting your acute and visionary mind over this offering, Chris. With Mettā and much gratitude, Hariod.

      • I remember the day my son and I were drinking beer together and I told him (quite pleased) that my mind was becoming more and more simple. He looked at me oddly . . . and then we both laughed.

        • You’ve got a savvy boy there alright, Chris. Many moons ago, my 7 year-old asked me if I could think of anything that hadn’t at some time been liquid — I still can’t answer it 25 years later. o_O

  3. ❤ I have been hanging out with more mature folks in sunny Arizona, Hariod — many retired people here due to beautiful, temperate climate, but no jobs, birding, circling the trails, sitting under pine trees, inviting us, strangers, for a visit to their porch where they scatter bird food for quails and give out candy to children — and I had noticed that as we grow older, most parts of our bodies soften and so does the head. Nothing nicer than the embrace of that softness.

    Enjoyed your writing.

    Much Love, Kristina.

    • Thankyou for reading Kristina, and also for those acute observations, which I certainly concur with. I wonder what it is that brings that about — that psychological softening, that greater malleability of accepting more, tolerating more, appreciating more? Is it perhaps the dawning realisation that life is more pleasant that way, or that experience has taught us the futility of hard resistance? I really don’t know. Much love to you too, and gratitude also, Hariod.

  4. Touched by your beautiful, blooming, well-read and experienced wisdom, dear Hariod! And to finish off with that heartbreaking George Harrison song that I’ve been singing since 1970, and moreso now. May you be well, David. 🙂

    • Thankyou so much for your kindly generous words, dear David. I thought of you when writing this one, knowing of your deep affinity with Buddhism and its meditation practices. And now I learn of your deep affinity also with George Harrison and his wonderful song. That one got the full Phil Spector treatment, and I know George came to eschew the use of reverb on his recordings during his later career; but like you, I’ve always loved that song, and it really speaks to me at quite a deep level. The version at his memorial concert with the beautiful Billy Preston singing, and with George’s son Dhani on acoustic guitar, is spell-binding — Billy really pours his heart out with it. May you be well and happy too, David. Thankyou. 🙂

      • I’m humbled to have played in the background of your inspired writing, Hariod. The tribute version is compellingly soulful, yes. The original, with all its production, is such a droned-chant, like something from an ancient aboriginal village, expressing repentance, while also offering redemption, if only the beauty that surrounds us were truly experienced . . .

  5. Well done Hariod. I echo the above praises. They are, well deserved.

    I too had felt this Maitrī when I first accepted Jesus as my savior. Then again a few years later, after I had backslid, and reaffirmed my faith in the Lord. The love was joyously overwhelming. Indescribably so. Oh yes, there was the time I had done a bit of Angel Dust. (Just once, mind.) That came close to the same experience, but it was artificial, Jesus’s was real.

    For the record, I never was a big drug user, and it’s been many years since then, and I’ve long realized faith-based concepts steeped in the dogma of the God of Abraham are an authoritarian hoax. But just between you and me, I had never felt Maitrī like that time I first accepted Christ. It would almost be worth it to start believing again.

    • Thank you so much, Peter, such kindly generous words are a tremendous encouragement to me in my occasional efforts here. I never quite know what sort of response I’m going to get, knowing that my own philosophical predispositions (if that isn’t too pretentious a phrase) are at odds with some others. Like yourself, I’m not interested in religious cosmologies, teleology, and ‘spiritual’ dimensions, simply because they’re not within the ambit of my experience, and I’m just not that way inclined, it seems. Still, I don’t doubt that some religious experiences are just as you say, and I once read William James’ magisterial work on that very subject, with great interest. These things can happen to lay people, to people of faith, to anyone, really, I firmly believe. I made mention in my piece of Judaism’s ‘Chesed’ and Aristotle’s ‘Philia’, but surely people across all times and cultures will have experienced this sense of all-pervading amity that we’re talking about. Some describe it simply as chemical imbalances. It doesn’t matter, does it? What does matter is that we make what movements we can towards actualising this state, and firstly acknowledging that it exists for the human animal — as perhaps it does for other animals? — so that it can be a lived experience, one far superior to any isolative self-consciousness. As to drugs, then I’ve been talking to Bela just below about my views on the psychotropic kind, so I’ll not reiterate them and bore you accordingly just now; save to say, then if you can re-garner that feeling of Maitrī through the drug of Jesus or whoever, then why not? I’m a pragmatist, and for me people can believe whatever they wish. Let’s just hope that America isn’t looking back in 8 years’ time saying, “Ah, remember those days back in 2016 when we could think what we wanted without the Christian Right telling us what we must believe?” I really don’t think that’s going to happen, but you’ve got to get rid of that President of yours, and I really don’t care how my friend — and for God’s sake make sure the loose Bannon goes with him. Oy-vey!

      Much gratitude and Maitrī to you, my good and noble man.

  6. This was such a pleasure to read, Hariod! I like how you set the scene with Mickie, and then take us on a different tack. The added humor always makes me smile. 😍
    Bravo on the timing for Valentine’s Day, and this chapter in the world’s history. Romantic love usually falls short after a while, but metta and contentment continue. May more and more people embrace the call to be kind and loving towards all beings. 🙏

    • Thank you so much for your kind words of encouragement and appreciation, Val! I’m only posting pieces here very infrequently these days, but to have such generous responses as yours and the others here so far is truly heart-warming. I was just wondering with Esme whether possibly there will be some reaction in the opposite direction to all the enmity and divisiveness that’s sweeping across the Western World currently. I’m picking up that people are sickening very quickly of what’s happening politically, and with the forces that shape the political landscape. If true at all, then I suspect such a movement may face resistance from a tide of those feeding off the divisiveness, but then perhaps we’re entering a point in modern history when once again we’re forced to take sides — do we choose amity, or enmity? As with the political scene, the centre ground seems to be falling away. With Mettā, Hariod. ❤

  7. It’s interesting how the recognition of universal love came about for you. It was similar to mine, in the way of not expecting for it to emerge as it did in the midst of the messiness of life. Some of the greatest, most profound realizations I have found are the simplest.

    What a perfect post for Valentines Day, I must say. I searched through volumes of my own writing to reflect on intimate love, and now think if I’d dug further, I’d have come up with something half as brilliant as this. Because in the end, this is what it’s all about. Love permeates all of life; exists in the most unsuspecting places. To wit, it is often during extraordinary states of being, often augmented by some mind-altering substance, be it pot or ecstacy or mushrooms (or …), that it’s easiest for many people to discover it under the burden of society and decorum, hiding just beyond the bitterness and chaos of a mind obsessed with fears of daily living, religious indoctrination, and remorse for a million things unsaid and unsung. Yet there it is, ever ready to be discovered. What solace there is in this!

    Loved the music as well, George is always good for such things. I perused many of his songs in my radio days to play at the half of an interview. Only the good die young … Much love, Hariod – and many thanks for your presence in my life, such as it is. ❤

    • You know, Bela, I when I started out with Buddhism, in the early years I felt sure that any deeper insights would only ever occur in moments of great concentration of mind — like in meditation practise, seated or walking, or perhaps in tranquil moments of mindfulness. I found that true only to a limited extent, and the more significant breakthroughs came in moments such as you describe as being within “the messiness of life”. That’s exactly how that busy street in Oxford was on the day I describe in my post, for example. And actually, the first time I ever experienced that overwhelming sense of amity and connectedness was in a shopping mall called The Dolphin Centre, in Slough — that’s right, Betjeman’s and David Brent’s Slough: “Come, friendly bombs, and fall on Slough! It isn’t fit for humans now.” The Dolphin Centre was a Brutalist concrete monstrosity of factory reject shops, and cold, grey stairways ascending to the car lot which stank of urine. And yet.

      Anyway, years later, and when I least expected it, as I was walking in a local park thinking of nothing in particular at all, least of non-duality, non-self, consciousness, or whatever, awareness turned itself inside out in a finger snap, and the subject/object dichotomy totally dissolved. I’d had glimpses before in meditation and when on silent retreats, but nothing as powerfully impacting as this. Actually, a mark of that experience was indeed its very ordinariness, though the ordinariness was carried (as consciousness and its perceptions) within an awareness that totally eclipsed it in becoming the (sort of) foreground. I think that’s all it is really, our silent (i.e. non-verbal, non-conceptual) and ever-present awareness is generally way over in the background, and yet for some reason it can suddenly spring into the foreground (as well as embracing the background), and consciousness becomes completely re-contextualised. In that re-contextualising, the subject/object dichotomy is abandoned, it just disappears in a flash. I’ll stop here, because it’s boring, and besides, you’ll have your own way of expressing these things. But yes, ‘never reject the ordinary’ is a good motto!

      Like you, I agree that drugs, psychotropic drugs anyway, can be a doorway to transcendent experiences of certain kinds. I suspect that a great majority of people who go on to explore things like Buddhism and Advaita Vedanta begin with mind-altering drugs. Once it’s seen that subjective time is a matter of perception, not ticking clocks, and that our vision is too, rather than being some facsimile of what’s out there, we may more readily accept that the mind creates the world and our existence within it, at least in terms of our conscious perception. That said, I’m not convinced that drug-induced experiences can work as powerfully as training the mind over the long run, and for most us that need such training, I would never suggest drugs as a shortcut. I’m quite sure neither would you. But as you say, drugs can act as The Doors of Perception, to quote Huxley.

      You know Bela, on the day before George Harrison got attacked and stabbed in his home, he’d hired a new member of staff who was to begin work at Friar Park (G.H.’s home) the next day. So anyway, as he was being carried away on a stretcher, covered in blood from the forty stab wounds, and with a punctured lung to boot, he asked the medics carrying him to stop beside this horrified looking young man who’d been awoken from his quarters by all the commotion and flashing lights. George looked up at him and said, “So, what do you think of your first day?”

      Aloha Bela! H

      • Oh, dearest Hariod, you are far from boring – never feel as though I would be bored by anything you offer. You possess an amazing grasp of concepts many can’t even articulate, much less pen into words. You and I simply have different means by which we access certain non-ordinary states of reality, or rather we go about it in different ways.

        [Okay – slight divergence: when I had my Medical Intuitive practice in full swing, an email came through from a psychic healer in India. I almost deleted it out of hand, but something told me to read it. She was offering to do a read on me, even pay me for said favor(!), if I would kindly give her feedback, as she was in training and had to know where she might be ‘off.’ Anyhow, we corresponded a couple of times and I found her to be bang-on. The terms she used were acronyms and not familiar to me — EQ, CQ, etc.; I have them somewhere, but had to look them up online and would need to again. One thing she did mention was that I had a very strong cosmic consciousness, and perhaps it is this that has allowed me to simply walk around open; it’s simply the way I’m wired. I’ve never thought I needed an intermediary between myself and ‘Source’, let’s call it – I simply ask questions and receive guidance. And I trust in its purity and infallibility as a course corrector. Thus, I definitely feel for those who try so hard to attain the no-mind that comes so naturally to me. When asked by many clients over the years to teach my ‘method,’ I simply said, “I don’t think I can teach what I didn’t learn.” There was no process I could convey that would work across the board. And I suspect all the best guru can do is to help others to navigate their own unique resistances to simply Being.]

        This being said, no, I don’t advocate drugs – you are correct there. All I’ve ever ‘needed’ was one hit of pot and I’d be high for 10 hours. But you know, I don’t even care about that anymore – it doesn’t necessarily enhance anything the way it did when I was 20. We are surrounded by so many miracles every moment we breathe, why search for more? I’ve so often found that trying too hard only resulted in me not getting what I craved. Whereas if I humbly ask, then simply take my hands well off and away, answers and blessings come in their own time – and often so unpredictably, as you and many others have discovered!

        Yet I do realize that seeking is part of the path, for some, “. . . to arrive where we started and know the place for the first time . . .” (T.S. Eliot) Some paths seem circuitous, though perhaps all are, in the end. Who can say? Who can judge? How many times I find myself humming the lyrics, “I am he as you are he as you are me and we are all together!” What a piece of work is man! Aren’t we lucky we have literature and so many signposts along the way? And now it’s my turn to shut the heck up and merge back into the flow. 🙂

        Had not heard the G.H. story, but so like what I felt true about the man. A lifelong school chum of mine knew him well and sang with him on occasion. A life to be celebrated, though not without tragedy.

        May the new and endless day find you with a clear head, warm heart and wonder-filled eyes, my friend! With love! ❤

        • That’s mightily intriguing stuff indeed, Bela, and also great to learn a little more of your past, and of past inspirations, too — thank you. There was recently a complete reading of Four Quartets on BBC Radio, which was a meditation in itself, and a rich pleasure also. I think it was the Brit actor Jeremy Irons (I’m not so up on these things), but a superb reading in any case, especially for someone Buddhistically inclined, such as me. I think Eliot was a bit of a Buddhist too, as quite a few Christians are, it seems. The lines blur as maturity is garnered, don’t you find? Anyway, for now I shall disappear beneath “this brave o’er hanging firmament, this majestical roof, fretted with golden fire”, that is none other than your sublime offering, and on into “this quintessence of dust”. In other words, I’m off to put the kettle on. 😉 H ❤

      • Haired, are you quite certain that you and your friend hadn’t just shared a joint? 😉 I have to admit, that was my first thought after I read your post. 😉

  8. Hariod, you had me the first paragraph: sheer unadulterated poetry! I haven’t read further yet because I was compelled to comment immediately, so have done so. Now I can read on in a leisurely fashion, savouring every delightful morsel of this excellent piece of writing. Having an impatient bent, I scrolled to the end to see how long it would be, and lo and behold, I see a delightful and surprising ‘dessert’: my name mentioned! Thank you so much. I will, once I’ve finished, comment further.

    • Well, that’s an excellent start — ‘poetry’, no less! And yes, you led me in this direction with your kind suggestion as to what to write about, and I’ve come up with the best I can in response, albeit a little tangentially. We’ll see what your conclusions are in your further comment. Many thanks Marie. With Mettā, Hariod.

      • Hariod, I’m so pleased I could inspire you in this way and that you have paid me the compliment of tangentially taking on board my suggestion. You are most welcome, dear friend. With Metta, Marie.

  9. Love it, Hariod. When I first experienced Metta I was walking along a suburban street, and it happened as I looked at the bricks in an old wall I was passing. Although I had been a (very bad) Buddhist for some time, it still took me by surprise. Trouble is, I find it very difficult to recapture, although I do manage it now and again. The other strand to it, of course, is contentment.

    And thank you for including the best track from the best George album.

    And looking forward to hearing Jackie’s thoughts.

    • That’s really kind of you Mick, and to have such words of approval from a writer such as yourself is tremendously encouraging — thankyou. You seem to have had a similar experience overtake you, and in like circumstance. That’s fantastic that it happened when simply staring at some old bricks, and I really get that. It happens amidst all the ordinariness and (as Bela says, above) the ‘messiness’ of life. It’s funny, people take themselves off to the Himalayas, or to the jungles of Northern Thailand and Burma, often half-expecting transcendent experiences, and nothing happens. Then they come home, wander back to the car park of the local Co-Op, and bang! It’s true, it really is like this it seems. The seeker has to get out of the way to see what was being sought. Thanks for showing your appreciation for the music choice; G.H. was influential in me getting involved in Buddhism, so I wanted to include him here in this piece. Yes, let’s see what Jackie’s got to say — I’m hiding behind the sofa. 😉

      • That is absolutely right, Hariod. The seeker goes off looking for enlightenment and spends all their time having experiences rather than simply learning how to become properly open to those experiences — watching a play rather than being a player, being a player rather than part of the audience, being part of the audience rather than the actual play – or is that a load of nonsense? And it never happens when we are looking for it, because we are too busy ‘striving’ for it. It comes when we are relaxed and, I suppose, distracted.

        Just listened to the G.H. again – still an all-time favourite. And, like you, it was instrumental in pushing me towards Buddhism – via a sort of mystic Christianity, which is what I came across at the time, and via Hermann Hesse!

        And . . . I may join you behind that sofa.

        • That tune’s been haunting me solidly for a week, day and night, because I had to sift through about 20 or 30 versions on YouTube to find the right one to use, and G.H. does different versions of it too. Your experiences with mystic Christianity would be great to read about some time, Mick — any posts/links on that?

          • Probably not, Hariod. It was longer ago than I care to remember, and it amounted to little more than trying to understand writers such as St. John of the Cross, and Meister Eckhart – and Hermann Hesse. And because I was dissatisfied with everything I’d read, I then started absorbing anything I could on Hinduism, Islam, Taoism, and all points East, until I got my head around Buddhism, which made sense to me as soon as I began to understand it.

    • He put Friar Park up as collateral to finance The Life of Brian, Jeff, and you can see the humour of that film right there in that moment of him lying on the stretcher covered in blood, can’t you? Thanks for your interest here Jeff. With Mettā, Hariod.

  10. Having now read this in its entirety (I know you like that word), I find this post quite thrilling. I love it not least because of the prose poetry quality about it, which is lovely, rolling all those words around in one’s mind paying particular attention to the assonance, alliteration and rhyme:

    “. . . its vividly transcendent actuality, its negation of isolative self-consciousness . . .” And, “. . .buses and taxis that laboured and lurched their way along Cornmarket Street towards Carfax, twixt which our body’s wove, breathing in unnatural rhythms, yet mysteriously embracing the effluvium with bare arms and wide open hearts, unburdened neither by concerns nor the otherwise ubiquitously lugged, logo-laden bags of well-sated shoppers . . .” 🙂 Magical!

    This was a joy to read Hariod, and I hope this does not sound patronising, but you should be justly proud of yourself for delivering this ‘baby’ with all its fingers and toes.*

    *I allude to an earlier comment which you may have forgotten, about midwifery, delivery rooms, etc. 🙂

    • Such a fantastically encouraging and supportive response to this piece, dear Marie; thank you. I had wondered if I’d gotten a bit carried away with some of the descriptive text, but am happy that you approve. It’s like a little puzzle game trying to fit things like that together — well, it is for me. I was saying to Esme (above) that one of the sentences is 142 words long, and I was having a stab at trying to include one such as that to see if I could still keep some sort of flow and coherence as I did so. There’s obviously no intrinsic merit in lengthy sentences, but I think now and again they can be a good device for imparting feeling and rhythm into prose, just so long as they don’t come across as contrived or precious, which is the danger, I suppose? Another thing I did with this, and which again was like a mini-puzzle for me, was to produce a piece with six paragraphs of identical length. Again, there’s absolutely no merit in that, but it added to the challenge. Although they may appear slightly differing lengths on whatever device you’re viewing this from, the original word processing file shows them to be identical in length, give or take a handful of characters. Seriously, I’m not OCD! 🙂

      • I believe there is a little bit of the OCD about you, Hariod – but I wouldn’t change that for the world. It is quite charming! 🙂

        Hariod, dearest, not to nit pick, but is there a word missing in the third paragraph of your delightful piece? Or is that acceptable use of the English language? The word is ‘people’ or ‘person’ after the word ‘religious’, I think. But as you are so meticulous, perhaps it is I who needs to be corrected and not you.

        Thank you for sharing with me the devices you used in achieving your goal: a masterpiece. Would you mind awfully if I were to (at some point) re-blog it? It really is very good and unlike some of your other work does not need to be read several times to fully understand it. Of course that is my problem and not yours. 🙂

        • Well, alright, I am OCD when it comes to my writing. And I am when it comes to comments here too, which I meticulously proof for typos — hence the comment moderation — and which practice I think people appreciate, in fact. There’s nothing worse than leaving a comment only to spot some awful error and have to post another comment to correct it. My thinking on all this is that we’re inviting people to read our words, and if they’re kind enough to oblige, then the least we ought do is present them as best we can. I think most people disagree with me on that, but there we go. Now, on your apparent concern as regards the same, to wit, typos, and which I appreciate, then ‘religious’ can also be used as a noun, itself meaning ‘religious person’, so my usage of it is in fact correct, even though it appears not to be so at first glance. As regards a re-blog, then yes, of course, I’d be delighted! It’s really a fantastic compliment and endorsement, so I’m very grateful to you, Marie. Please go ahead and do so just as soon as you wish. Thankyou very much indeed!

          • Thank you Hariod. And thank you also for being kind enough to explain about the seemingly missing word so graciously. I have never seen the word ‘religious’ used that way, and so I not only stand corrected but have also learned something new today. My vanity prevents me from re-blogging immediately as I would like ‘Love is like the Sea’ to be appreciated for a few more days before I follow it with something else. I hope you understand and agree the position in which I find myself. 🙂

            • It is rare to see the word ‘religious’ used in that sense, although I often slip little things like that in, or perhaps add some obscure words within my writing — all in some futile bid to keep the English language (mine at least) safe from the hegemonic Americanisation. [Esme was having fun with that in teasing me with ‘awesome’ in her comment.] And of course you must give your poem more time to be appreciated, which is why I said ‘just as soon as you wish’. Between you and me, I think most bloggers publish far too frequently. Most of us have dozens or scores of blogs we subscribe to, and it’s impossible to absorb daily, or even bi-weekly posts, from all of them. I find comments still come in on my posts a month after they’re published. There is an initial flurry, but then there’s a steady trickle of sincere readers who clearly aren’t arriving just to make up the numbers, but are genuinely interested in my words, and I in their responses. Anyway, do please feel entirely free to re-blog as and when a suitable window opens for you. 🙂

              • I am so happy that I picked up on that Hariod, rather than assume that it was a mistake. I’m also grateful to you for taking the trouble to explain it. I rather like the way you excite the reader by introducing these (may I call it) ‘Hariodisms’? Not futile at all – those of us of a curious nature will always learn something from your writing. The benefits are twofold really – you indulge yourself and us as well. A win-win situation if ever there was one.

                Fine writing is like fine wine – it needs time to be appreciated – gulping it down is pleasurable, but sipping slowly and mindfully is good for the soul. I am not sure who I am trying to convince here, but I like that you appreciate my wanting to keep my own poem on the palette for a while longer.

                Turning to the question of frequent publishing, I am inclined to agree with you. But I also think that those who publish frequently are doing themselves and others no harm. After all, they must feel what they have to say is useful and we as readers have a choice – we are not obligated to read anything we don’t want to. The fact that you publish infrequently means that your fans have to wait that little bit longer, and are rewarded for their patience. But if you published once a week, I dare say those of us who follow you would be just as delighted.

                On the point of receiving comments long after publication, I have a new follower who has in the last two weeks read my entire blog – both flattering and humbling, I might add.

                Isn’t the term ‘a window opening’ an Americanism? 🙂

      • Such a lovely romp here, Hariod. I’m responding in medias res, presently peering at the sliding bar to the right, seeking a “you are here” indicator — my agoraphobic nature prompts me to panic at the overwhelming expanse of responses to “Ask Hariod a question or leave a comment” that affords me opportunity to join company with youse guys while I reckon the thread length remaining in the warm and gentle company of many marvelous fellow travelers (some hitchhikers) from diverse geographies, climes and persuasions: arriving, departing and transferring stations in the present-moment stopover of the greater Hariodan Galaxy, a gathering of stars near the Constellation Esme — only to become most hopelessly lost between em dashes, losing orientation, all the while dreading eye-contact with a cloaked loose bannon tosser who detects my momentary panic, alerting him to twitch signals for goebbelsian henchmen to corral me into a rendition most extraordinarily fell.

        Just wanted to note that I am a friend of the long sentence, particularly the German ones that toss entire adverbial clauses and nesting prepositional phrases up against each participating noun. German languagers capitalize each three-gendered person, place or thing — for ready identification purposes — with a cache of 16 possible ‘strong’ endings and a lower value (think knight over plodding pawn) cadre of 12 ‘weak’ ending lackeys that lack the strength to utter an “eh” or an “en”.

        So hello to all and each joining me in medias res — a utopian alternative world where bannons, trumping rumps and putins de merde do not find asylum in an offal orifice, overseen by putin de merde: his onliness. Imagine an alternate reality where trumping rumps and rasputin tongues negotiate the swamps of baser lands blessedly distant from flowing elysian fields. Neither an eloi nor a morlock be!

        Rasp Putin and enter.

        Speak friend and enter.

        I’ll have the latter, bitte.

          • Esme, I told Bill his comment was being sent up to higher powers for analysis, and then like magic you appear, the self same analyser, descended from The Cloud. What verdict have you arrived at — would it warrant the giant sticky bun treatment from you?

              • Holy wowsers, sticky buns with metta filling and namaste icing. So well do the sticky buns lift his spirit from the debris beneath rolling ellipses that a McLeod (quite unintended but satisfying McCloud rhyme soothes Bill’s ear — were the properly pronounciated (sic) loud not actually a lee-odd) that Esme inspires William to write a post on the theme of a longing for the analog world that preceded digitalization of every thing, including the internet of things.

          • Unable to suppress a blush, Bill mumbles around a few marbles, fumbles all well chosen words of gratitude and stumbles upon the fumbled words at his feet . . . even slipping on a misplaced ellipsis. 🙂

  11. Wow, I did not realize you had a blog; what a treasure of fine writing, dear Hariod! Our mutual friend Miriam linked this lovely post at Facebook, so I was happy with anticipation when I came over, and was more than rewarded with your gracious offering(s)! Thanks so much for your compassionate efforts! ❤

    • Hi there Bob! What an honour to have you visit here — a true sage in our midst, no less. And many thanks for your kindly encouraging words; they mean a great deal to me, coming as they do from yourself. I had no idea Miriam had linked me in on Facebook; that’s tremendously kind of her. I don’t use Facebook or Twitter, and am generally ignorant about Social Media other than for occasional blogging efforts here — I only post once every couple of months so as not to bore people overly with my oft oblique abstractions. Again, marvellous to see you Bob, as you appear to have been quiet yourself over at your place. With deep gratitude and Mettā, Hariod.

  12. Hariod, first a general comment: While I appreciate efforts to keep some amount of English un-Americanized, we might consider both equally valid. One as an important tradition and the other as a living language, as it is in England, equally. My question is this; what are ‘Buddhist Mental Culture Practices?’ 🙂

    • I quite agree, Robert, both are of course equally valid; it is our European (mis)appropriation of American culture, including its language forms, that somehow hollows out what I regard as important historical and cultural distinctions. It is perhaps entirely our own fault that we should do so, and hence strengthen further still the American cultural hegemony, if you accept such a crude and clumsy analysis? Sometimes it works well and to mutual benefit, and one thinks of The Beatles (since one of them is here with us) as a good example of just that, they having reworked a borrowed cultural form such as to then add and give birth to something almost entirely new. On the whole though, I feel we Europeans are altogether too passive in our ready assimilation of American culture, to the point of it becoming within ourselves a stifling compulsion, embarrassingly contrived even, and as I suggested, hollows out what might otherwise be there — a rich enough cultural tradition from which to develop new forms, surely? It really is a side-effect of global trade, a pernicious one, as so many are. The difference is that unlike with cultural forms then regulations in trade relationships (if applied) can ameliorate those same pernicious effects — the French are quite good at this, it seems.

      By ‘Buddhist mental practices’, I was specifically thinking of Bhāvanā, which is the volitional cultivation of wholesome mental states, such as Mettā : https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Bhavana

  13. Very lovely indeed, Hariod. I particularly enjoy the notion that this feeling arises spontaneously, when one is most immersed in life’s messy rambunctiousness. I think often the hours spent in practice lay a subtle groundwork for the world–and our own hearts–to open up in this way, so the time delay that seems to accrue between the practice and the unexpected moment of realized experience does not necessarily mean that dedication is unrelated to these outcomes; though of course, it is natural to be loving, and with or without practice, what is most natural may assail us at any time!

    I’m also of the opinion that these are not just moments of passing pleasure, like a sudden break in the clouds, but insights applicable to moments of difficulty, to business relationships, to any relationship really. I think it is very common to compartmentalize our lives so that we have our spiritual practice on the one hand, and then these other selves on these other hands where we feel the world requires them. I like that metta arrives in any moment to shake up this convention and dissolve them into a unifying field of experience. I think in this slice of time we’re in there’s this sensation of needing to take a stand and fight, to anchor against the sliding sands beneath us so to speak, and I fear that if we do not stand on the awareness that metta affords, we risk further fracturing.

    A very timely post, my friend. And a joy to read.

    Peace and Love.

    Michael

    • Many thanks for casting your eyes over this offering, Michael, and for your kind words of approval and encouragement. Yes, I’m very much with you on how formal practices can lay the groundwork, as you call it, for unbidden occurrences of these exalted mental states. This is the very reason why Mettā is practised as such, and as a concentration meditation, a very powerful one, at that. When I first began retreating on silent weeks of meditation, part of the schedule was that one of the eight daily hours’ practise be devoted exclusively to Mettā. What I found after the retreats, and when out and about in subsequent days, was that even strangers contacted only casually and briefly, say in shops at the checkout till, or wherever, very often acknowledged my mental state in subtle ways, like silently staring into my eyes longer than they otherwise would have, or extending themselves far more of a friendly feeling than would normally be so. It does seem to radiate, which is the point I was making in the piece above when saying how Mickie mysteriously felt the very same thing as myself, and yet without any prior clues or signals, and in the midst of the most unlikeliest of circumstances. I can be certain it wasn’t some clue given off by my physiognomy, as he wasn’t looking at me as we wove between the buses, and it wouldn’t have been a pheromonal thing, because he can’t possibly have picked up on that in the cloud of diesel fumes we were then inhabiting. Somehow the feeling of Mettā (as I call it here) manages to pervade others’ mental space, and I’m quite convinced on this, though have no idea as to the mechanics, or if indeed there are any. It makes me wonder if some forms of prayer have efficacy, those in which a strong feeling of amity is garnered and extended to others. What I’ve noticed is that in practising Mettā remotely towards someone, and then meeting up with them at another date and time, the feeling reappears, but not only within myself, but also in them as a kind of mirroring. Do you have any experience of this kind of thing yourself, Michael, may I ask? I’d be very interested to know.

      Many thanks for your interest and engagement, my dear friend. With Mettā, always, Hariod.

      • Hello Hariod,

        I’m not sure I’ve had the specific experience you describe concerning a period of Mettā practice and then a subsequent meeting with the individual(s) involved in the practice, but certainly have felt the radiant nature of loving kindness generally. As one who finds it difficult at times, often in fact, to move truly beyond the thinking mind, I’ve found it best not to wonder about specific cause-effect experiences such as you describe. They can be pitfalls for me if, in a particular instant, my mind is at the helm making its evaluations.

        So I find it best to let my own assessments fall away. But certainly when the warmth of being I associate with loving kindness is kindled within me, it is never in me alone, but is naturally inclusive of all that occurs within my field of experience, and it is tangible when gathered with others who likewise seek to occupy a clear field, if you will. There is a wordless awareness of this unity on occasion; other times, the car horns are blaring all around. The feeling I have of this is quite at home in both.

        Peace

        Michael

        • Aha, I think you’ve hit on it there, with this ‘clear field’ business, and I’m pretty sure that was what Mickie and I were in together when that Mettā overwhelmed us both. It was like we stepped into it together and contemporaneously — a portal in the chaos; a sort of Mettā sink hole (maybe not!). It seems easy to think of Mettā as if it were some sort of transmission of the mind, like a lovely and radiant telex being ported into the other’s brain for decoding. The formal practice, as prescribed in Orthodox Buddhism, does initially involve a systematised and personalised verbalisation, some loosely formulaic incantation, but the Mettā itself is the garnered feeling that comes along in the mind and body prepared by such incantations — they merely clearing the field, as you phrase it, in readiness for the pervasive feeling.

          Still, it does seem that the most fulsome and powerful expressions of Mettā come unbidden, and not as the immediate resultants of formalised practise. It’s one thing to be sat in a monastery or meditation centre or yoga studio, eyes closed, feeling Mettā very strongly, and that’s an incredibly valuable practice of mental culture, setting dispositions in the mind for future occasions; but to have the free exchange of that feeling out in the hubbub and chaos of life does seem to bring another level of appreciation to it, I think. It’s then that we become the feeling of amity, rather than it being a narrowly relational conduit between oneself and other selves. Yes, I like that ‘clear field’ business, it feels more like it. Thanks Michael!

  14. Love this post, Hariod! You set the scene, then and now, so effectively, and then go on to explaining Mettā. Beautiful. In today’s world, when we find the center ground falling away, this kind of practice is needed more than ever before. I am not very soft in the head, yet, but definitely in the softening process. 🙂 Much love. ❤ Helen

    • That’s great to know Helen, and hugely encouraging — I really appreciate your interest and kindly approving words; thank you so much. It’s a coincidence that you too make mention of “the center ground falling away”, as I’ve been feeling that very same thing myself of late. Perhaps it’s a temporary effect in some degree, brought on by the political turmoil of late, not least of all? I’ve a feeling Trump isn’t going to last long at all, and hope that’s right, as I’m sure you do too. I gave him eight months initially, but it could be even less the way things are going. I suspect that once he’s gone there’ll be a huge collective sigh of relief, and a lot of the anxiety will drop away. But in the meantime, we can all spread a little Mettā and know that will out in the end. I’ll send some to Lady Caw-Caw tonight, and to you straight away. H ❤

      • Thank you for the Mettā, Hariod. On this side of the pond we need it in daily doses for the reasons you describe (and I hope you are right). Today I saw 4(!) ‘other’ Ospreys fly above the nest and thought of Lady CawCaw. I didn’t have my camera so I cannot be sure she was one of them, but I know we’ll see her again. You already have Mettā, but I am sending you more. ❤

  15. I completely and wholeheartedly echo every sentiment and word that the Impeccable Esme upon Cloudiness stated in her rosy comment! I also ‘liked’ several comments — until I got down to the 74th., when my eyes were badly crossed looking in opposite 3D directions! It’s a miracle that I even completed this comment, I tell ya! o_O

  16. I loved this, Hariod. Right from the start you drew me in, and I felt like I was swept back in time, in that moment right with you. What a gift you have with words.

    A few weeks ago, at the end of a yoga class I attended, the teacher told us we were doing a Metta for our new president. I fully expected half the class of approximately 50 or more people to get up and leave. Part of me wanted to. But everyone stayed and sent out to — oh, I can hardly say the name, Trump! – “May you be happy. May you be well . . .” I had mixed feelings all the while, but soon realized it wasn’t even about him, it was about us trying to bring some ease to ourselves and the world.

    Coincidentally, Sharon Salzberg will be at that yoga studio in April. She does workshops there once or twice a year and I’ve always wanted to go, but never made it. You have inspired me! I am signing up.

    Thank you, Hariod, for this beautiful post.

    • So very kind of you, Kim, and I’m really most appreciative of your generously supportive words, truly I am. I post here only very infrequently, although when I do it’s lovely to receive a little feedback, and even moreso when my efforts meet with some approval — thank you!

      What a lovely coincidence that you’ve recently been participating in some formal practice of Mettā — or perhaps it’s a regular part of your classes? It’s a challenge to jump straight in with those we have difficulties with, I know very well, and in case others are reading this, then I feel I ought mention that it’s not recommended until the feeling of Mettā is running strongly towards oneself and also those to whom we feel neutrally about. Once that’s achieved then it can be wonderfully cleansing (psychologically) to go on to extending those feelings to those we have difficulties with. The danger is that the feeling might readily switch into one of enmity, and that’s a dangerous thing when allied to a highly concentrated mind; just as Mettā, when allied to the same, is a very powerfully benevolent force within and without.

      I daresay you’re skilled in all of this Kim, so that caveat will doubtless be appreciated by you already, and your observation that extending Mettā towards ‘tricky’ subjects is largely about enhancing our own peace of mind, confirms your understanding. Your president appears to have a pathology — an atypical neural trait — that renders him highly disagreeable, not to say, dangerous, but it almost certainly is indeed a pathology, one perpetuated and sustained by his social conditioning, but at its root, being physically causal. It really is giving rise to so much concern across the world that he is in power, and seemingly being guided by Bannon, and I can quite understand your own antipathy towards the man. You did tremendously well to extend amity towards him, and I suspect, a little compassion too?

      Gosh, you’re fortunate to have Sharon Salzberg in your neighbourhood, and to be able to attend a workshop of hers. I must say, I do like her manner; she doesn’t come across as at all preacherly, and has vast experience in Mettā and meditation more generally, being hugely respected over the years, as I’m sure you’re aware. I hope it goes well for you, and feel certain it will.

      With gratitude and Mettā, Hariod.

      • Hi Hariod, I’m not skilled in Metta at all, and it’s not typically a regular part of this yoga class. I really did struggle with the loving kindness toward him, and it’s probably for the reasons you cite here – I wasn’t ready for it. I’m not even kind and loving toward myself half the time, in terms of my thoughts. I think taking Salzberg’s workshop will be a good start. Thanks again!

  17. I also loved this post Hariod. I think that being near Amma is when my mind is most likely to slow enough to get a taste of that experience. In my early years with her it happened with the music. I believe that the Tai Chi I am learning will also guide me there.

    I had not heard of Metta until a week before you published this post. At that time, a friend sent me an MP3 file of Chant of Metta by Imee Ooi. Now I am listening to her albums a lot. They help me relax and get centered when I get so agitated by what is happening in our country right now. I think the other place that takes me closer to Metta is when I’m doing the forest restoration work in the Greenbelt lot behind my house, or looking at nature through the lens of a microscope, or maybe that is more like ecstasy.

    I like your “Going Soft in the Head” way describing it.

    • Thank you very much for your encouraging words of appreciation, Karuna. I suppose we’re all a little different in our dispositions, and as to when perhaps we’re likely to be in states most conducive to Mettā. I’m not sure that for myself it’s necessarily about slowing down, as you put it, and I’ve mentioned to another reader here that it began to happen for me at first in another very busy situation — a rather rundown shopping centre in a miserable place called Slough, just outside West London. But yes, many of us have experienced this state in its most powerfully affective form; that’s to say, when it becomes as if a transcendent experience, something very much beyond our normal range of positive mental states. It’s good to hear that music can act akin to a powerful affector muscle for such states, and I can quite understand that Karuna; it is, perhaps, the most sensorily evocative of all the arts. Still, I’ve mentioned to Bun, just below, that aside from its cultivation in formal practices, then I think Mettā is largely something that visits us unbidden, and isn’t called up in its fullest expression by volition or circumstance — though perhaps there are exceptions. With gratitude and Mettā, Hariod.

      • I wasn’t really thinking of it as something that is related to busyness, but meant I didn’t think it would be likely to happen when my mind is agitated and running amuck. I agree, experiences like that can’t be called up. I’m writing as if I know what I’m talking about — I don’t! Just reflecting on an interesting topic. Thanks Hariod.

        • I really don’t know Karuna, as I’m nearly always surprised at the circumstances under which transcendent experiences occur for people — it’s very often in the unlikeliest of places, and when they’re least anticipating it. When I started meditating decades ago, I used to think that insights and esoteric experiences would only be likely to occur in meditation. They do happen there, in concentrated states, but they also happen when we’re least expecting it, as I’m sure you know very well, and just as you allude to with your mention of the forest restoration work you do. One never knows, but cultivating positive mental states in monasteries, ashrams, or wherever, can be a great preparation for such things, wherever and whenever they occur. With Mettā, Hariod.

  18. I enjoyed your beautiful description of that day in Oxford, Hariod. I was also interested to read what Mick (Canning) had to say about a rather similar occasion in his life. I don’t think I’ve ever experienced anything quite like that before, which is a pity. Presumably, it’s not something that can be forced, though.

    • That’s generally true, Bun, although it certainly is a state that can be cultivated, brought to maturity, in formal practices. It seems that training the mind in such a manner develops within it the faculty of Mettā as a latent disposition, even a predisposition, if sufficiently trained — I can’t say that I am, in the latter case. It then arrives unbidden, not as a result of thought or effort, or even of external matters such as environment or what one might think of as being conducive personal circumstances. That said, then it also arrives for many who’ve had no training in its development; so I think it’s innate, really, but for the very greater part occluded by thought and the manifold projections the mind makes — it’s generally preoccupied with the next thing, past things, or with the current thing, but in an overly focused manner, or perhaps just with weariness. There’s an opening that’s not generally made available, but it isn’t a volitionally created portal, or rather what lies beyond the portal isn’t volitionally created. That’s what happened on that day in Oxford amidst the unlikeliest of circumstances. With gratitude and Mettā, Hariod.

        • Yes, as I mentioned, “there’s an opening that’s not generally made available, but it isn’t a volitionally created portal, or rather what lies beyond the portal isn’t volitionally created.” So, preparing the mind is a matter of inclining it to stand at that portal, to create a disposition that’s sympathetic in relation to what lies beyond the portal. But when one suddenly and unexpectedly finds oneself, as it were, slipping through that portal, it’s very obvious that what’s experienced isn’t itself a mind creation — although obviously the perceptual stream occurring within it is. I find it a stretch to imagine it’s all an electro-chemical phenomenon, though don’t doubt certain brain regions will be flooded with endorphins, or whatever, as it occurs. I think it’s more of an enactive phenomenon, in other words a way of the brain and nervous system engaging with the world that is neither one nor the other, but a relational state between the two. I tend to think of consciousness in that way too, rather than taking a purely cranialist position.

          • I assume there will be people (Buddhists and others) who spend a great deal of time training their mind into a suitable state in which such an experience is more likely to occur. No doubt some will be successful relatively quickly, and for others, it may never occur at all.

            I am suddenly reminded of standing at a bus stop. I wonder if anybody ever waits many long years for a Mettā experience, only to have three arrive at once.

            • An amusing point, Bun, though from my limited experience I would think it unlikely. What seems to happen is that the conceptual mind regains the ascendency and we become trapped (as it were) once again within our slightly neurotically obsessed filtering and pattern-forming mode — the various interpretations of sense data, the projecting forwards and backwards in time, the incessant but subtle movement towards what is desirable and away from what is deemed undesirable. In a finger snap almost, all that activity becomes the dominant occupier of mental space once again, and we regard what had just passed as wonderful and far preferable, but somehow anomalous to how we think we should be apprehending the world. That’s in fact entirely incorrect, because there’s no impediment to functioning when the mind is filled with Mettā, but so attuned are our minds to seeing the world in a less dynamic and empathic way, that the old paradigm gains ascendency once again. It’s perhaps analogous to the prisoner who prefers the security of being jailed than to the outside world.

  19. Well, a blessed Sunday to you, dear Hariod (spelt correctly this time, despite several suggestions and red lines from Spellchecker!)

    Firstly, I have to apologise for not responding earlier, and although I appear to be following you, I did not get an alert until the lovely Marie (your muse, no doubt!) told me of the party going on at yours, and to which, it would appear, I did not get an invite. 😦

    Anyway, it’s a lovely story and I really enjoyed the read, but I do admit to dancing out of step. This ‘Metta’, of which you speak — is it with the help of opiates and mushrooms, or does it just happen upon you? I admit to having times in my day/week/life when I think all is well with the world and a warm glow comes over me, but I don’t think it has been in the magnitude of which you write.

    So naturally, I am missing something.

    Are you experiencing what I am, but on a greater scale? Also if Mick has experienced it, why is this? Mick is a very solid gentleman (in mind, not stature) and so not given, I would imagine, to flights of fancy, and yet here he is, having embraced the same as your good self and agreeing with it all.

    First question: What am I missing out on?

    Second question: Wasn’t there a YouTube video on here last night when I first read it?

    So, I thought I would log on and listen to what the old dame had to say (awful moniker, by the way) and she had scarpered. Disappeared. Gone. Or was I on so higher a plane that I imagined it, and she was never really there?

    Really, all I have to say is that it’s a great read and one of your easier ones, if I may make so bold, but I don’t know how you reach the state of Metta unless admiring the sea, smelling good coffee, and having a lie in — almost as good?

    Yours in utmost confusion, but always awe, Jackie.

    • Blessings upon the day to you too, Jackie, and a thousand thanks for your interest in this offering. You appear not to be alone in experiencing these failures of notifications from WordPress, and I do often wonder how frequently that happens — not only to subscribers here, but with my own subscriptions too, of which I know for sure of intermittent occurrences. This has been going on for the almost three years I’ve been with WordPress, although on balance, it still seems the best platform from what I hear. I do wish they would sort that issue out though, as it undermines the whole principle of building communities of bloggers and sustaining links between them.

      Now, to respond to your point about where and how this state of Mettā is arrived at. My own method of developing it was through formalised meditation practices, Buddhist ones. There, it’s a volitional extending of goodwill and amity towards others. But it isn’t quite like prayer or incantation because the words initially incanted are really not the objective — what one is aiming for is cultivating the very feeling of amity and benevolence, and that’s what Mettā is: a feeling. I think you understand that well, but just wanted to be clear that we’re dealing with a felt sense, not ‘being nice’. So, the practising of Mettā isn’t an intellectual exercise of any kind, other than that it’s volitionally willed into being. I suppose it possible that some drugs might induce similar feelings, but with all drugs, whatever benefits they bring, they arrive along with equal doses of confusion, and one never see things quite as they are. Mettā isn’t about being nice, as I said, and it isn’t about feeling nice, either. Drugs are largely about feeling nice, or obscuring unpleasant feelings. I know you were joking, but I’m stating all this for general consumption.

      I obviously have no idea if you’re missing this feeling, Jackie, but it probably would be so that if you’d felt it in its full measure you’d have said you’d experienced something which sounded similar. Little spells of time, such as I described in the piece above, are transcendent feeling in nature; they feel so starkly beyond the range of our everyday emotional moods that they stand out and are remembered for their significance. The fact that our mutual friend Mick Canning talks about it occurring when staring at a brick wall tells me immediately that it was a genuine experience of Mettā/Philia/Chesed, and not some contrivance or quasi-religious confabulation. It happens, in its fullest expression, in the most ordinary of circumstances.

      I can only answer your first question by means of pointers in words, and I’ve made a stab at that in the piece. As with any feeling, they’re all but impossible to describe — what does a rose smell like? — but with a transcendent feeling, the task becomes even more difficult. As to your second question, then there were indeed two videos here last night, and there still are: one of George Harrison up in the post, and the other of Sharon Salzberg down here in the comments. I assume by ‘old dame’ you mean the latter, and you’ll see her here just above if you look again. It’s only a three minute clip, and isn’t meant to be instructive, just a pointer to reader Ellen who lives in New York, where Sharon Salzberg does too.

      So, thank you once again for your very kind words of support, Jackie; it’s really lovely to have such encouragement in my occasional efforts here, and I hope the above is of some help in clarifying what this is all about. As ever, do feel free to engage further or take issue with anything you think dubious.

      With very best wishes, Hariod.

      • Lovely reply, thank you. I shall report back after reading more and watching Ms Salzberg. In the meantime I shall keep trying, until I reach a higher ground.

        • Always loved that tune Jackie, and it brings back so many memories. It’s a long story, but when Stevie came to London once, I ended up having his Clavinet D7 in my flat over the weekend and being able to play it. Somehow, I don’t think I was quite as funky though. 😳

  20. I do not know why your post only came into my email today — the 19th. — when you published this last week, Hariod. I am experiencing difficulties at the moment using WordPress, as comments are not coming back into my notifications, and I am once again sent to spam in others — sigh. I should perhaps practice sending more love into WP and her Happiness Engineers. 🙂

    I loved your intro into the post, Hariod. You painted for me a visualisation of you and your friend, right there on the street. And the world could really do with some love being injected into its peoples’ lives right now. I do think that the state of our political arenas across the globe, and which is being beamed into our homes, is making people sick and tired of being treated like they were stupid. And it’s high time we tuned into another vibration Hariod.

    Love and hugs, my friend. Sue xxx

    • Hello there dear Sue, it’s lovely to see you here once again, as it always is. Now, I’m going to begin by doing something I’ve never done before here in the comments, which is to cut and paste a part of my reply to someone else, but only in respect to the WordPress problem you mention, and which they did too. Please forgive me, but here goes:

      You appear not to be alone in experiencing these failures of notifications from WordPress, and I do often wonder how frequently that happens — not only to subscribers here, but with my own subscriptions too, of which I know for sure of intermittent occurrences. This has been going on for the almost three years I’ve been with WordPress, although on balance, it still seems the best platform from what I hear. I do wish they would sort that issue out though, as it undermines the whole principle of building communities of bloggers and sustaining links between them.

      Back to the personal response, Sue, and thank you so much for the lovely words of encouragement, which are such a boon to receive. I wanted to somehow bring this one alive with some anecdotal description, and hope to have partially succeeded in that. I’m well aware that the last post on ‘nothing happening’ was pretty obscure, and felt I’d best not frighten everyone off by doing another of that kind — besides, I’d promised you I wouldn’t! Then Marie came along with a suggestion about what terrain I might cover in this month’s post, and that triggered some thoughts about Mettā.

      As you say, and as I mention within the post, there’s a lot of anxiety afield currently as regards the political scenarios playing out across The West. People are getting hard-headed in their retrenched views, so a little bit of going soft in the head seems the order of the day. Still, I think I’m playing to an audience right here who are on my side on this anyhow, or better put, I am on theirs; but at least we can take solace in that communality, and in knowing that human nature is at its heart decent, or at least has the potential to be so.

      With gratitude and Mettā, Hariod. ❤

      • Thank you Hariod, especially for the cut and paste info about WP. I am appreciative, and yes, I guess as more and more join WP the technical issues are bound to expand also. And Marie is lovely, isn’t she? 🙂 Many thanks again Hariod, your post prompted me in a way to share my most recent poem. For it seems many of us are feeling that same energy and vibration. Many thanks for your wonderful reply and I hope this finds its way safely back to you. ❤ xxx

        • Sue! Dearest! I have only today seen this comment and the lovely compliment. Thank you so much! And you know the feeling is mutual – don’t you?! 🙂 I must pop over to see your poem – I know I will be blown away! xxx

          • Bless you Marie, and sorry it’s taken a while getting back to you. I have switched off for a couple of days to spend time within my garden, and also for some painting. I’ve only managed to get a morning in my garden due to the weather, but have spent lots of time painting and chilling, and I do feel brighter and more energized for it. 🙂 Hugs your way.

  21. Oh, Hariod! Yes, going soft in the head! Now this kind of ‘sith’ is something I can get behind. ❤

    I wonder what happened to your friend, and I imagine that he touched many lives in a very real, very good way?

    I have felt this, I think. It is not a state that I live in every moment, but the moments that I have lived there are quite memorable. And it is like a drug, once you feel it you want more, and more. Oh, to be able to conjure this state at will!

    I would like to say that I really enjoyed this post, Hariod. I felt the words were precise and that they floated, one into the other, with a melodious harmony.

    It is good to see you. I hope you are well. ❤

    • Thankyou very much, Lorrie; it’s great to hear that this chimed with you and your own experiences of the same. But you’re right, we can’t bring it about by will as it isn’t a purely mind-created state (I feel sure), although we can prepare the mind to stand in readiness for it, and I’ve just been talking to Bun (above) about that. Reader Mick Canning had an interesting occurrence of it when simply becoming interested in the patterns and textures of an old brick wall! I don’t think there’s much about brick walls that will have caused it, any more than there was about that fume-filled street in Oxford that I describe. That said, it may well be that for some, being out in nature and relaxing the mind of stresses works as a conducive state, and it’s certainly occurred for me — with me? — when alone in the countryside. I think it can happen pretty much anywhere, to be honest, and as I said to another reader, the first time it ever happened to me (long before the Oxford episode) was within the confines of a grimly Brutalist and very rundown shopping centre — the sort of place I’d least expect it. I certainly found that practising Mettā as a formal meditation increased the frequency of these occurrences, but as I mentioned in the piece, other traditions will have their methods too, and which I’m sure are equally as effective in preparing the mind. Anyway, many thanks for your lovely words of encouragement dear Lorrie; they and your interest are very much appreciated. H ❤

      • I really just love the way you described it, Hariod! My sensory system is very heightened right now and I think that your writing matched the energy of that day, so much so that there was a bit of magic in the whole thing for me! — not magic, sleight of hand, but a beautiful time was captured in your words and truth was the outcome. I am working on preparing my mind to be able to receive this loving energy!

        Much love to you, Hariod.

  22. Reblogged this on ComeFlywithme and commented:
    Esme Upon the Cloud said this:
    “I love how this starts, you set the scene so well that the reader is right there on that road in Oxford with you and Mickie; but moreso how it suddenly blooms into joy with a sudden awareness of love. Of metta.”

    And because I couldn’t have put it any better, Hariod, I have used her words to introduce your excellent post on ‘metta’. I am so pleased that in some small way I was able to inspire you to write this – thank you. Metta.

  23. Lovely, Hariod. I am savouring these words, the images and sensations they offer. The uniqueness of each one, carefully chosen with the presence of Maitri, and how you brought them together to create vivd images and vignettes that flow together. Such richness of sensations as in “…a palpably self-satisfied, Thatcher-hewn metropolitan hum of affluence pervaded the air in equal measure to the oppressive diesel fumes belching from the buses and taxis that laboured and lurched…” — weaving back and forth between poetry and prose until I am left content, inspired by this ode to oneness.

    • Thank you very much indeed, Arati, for your fulsome words of encouragement, and also for your kind interest. I worked a bit at creating something that I hoped might be a little easier to read than my previous offering, back in November, which itself was admittedly rather prosaic and oblique. And thank you also for picking out the slice of prose which chimed most with your own poetic sensibilities — I think it was the inclusion of “lurched” in that sentence that somehow vivified it. Anyway, once again, I’m very thankful for your interest and generous response.

      With gratitude and Mettā, Hariod.

  24. OMG Hariod! Sorry about the Americanism, but I have just had a ‘Loving Kindness Moment’. It’s sunny (on and off), it’s not balmy or even barmy, and I’m definitely not in central Oxford, but it just crept up on me. It’s pretty amazing isn’t it? I just had to tell you!

      • Well yes Hariod! I was blogging at the time, and as a matter of fact I was commenting on ‘Trulyunplugged’s blog, and not even thinking about Loving Kindness at all, when suddenly an image of a person came into my mind (very, very clear) and then I felt this lovely feeling enter my consciousness and I felt a degree of warmth, love and compassion which I recognised as metta. And I smiled as the feeling dawned on me and flooded my whole being and I thought ‘this is what Hariod was talking about’.

        • How splendid Marie — it just bubbled up from within, a spontaneous manifestation! That’s exactly what happens a lot when we train the mind in Mettā — the formal practice is volitionally, that is to say consciously, derived, but it habituates further spontaneous occurrences. And it’s a thing of immanence, meaning it arises from within and floods outwardly to other beings, human and non-human alike. Anyone who practices Mettā towards another — even someone to whom animosity has been harboured — will notice that when next they meet, the feeling of Loving Kindness you mention arises. What’s interesting is that the other will often recognise and feel it too straight away, just as my friend Mickie did in the incident I describe in my piece above. It’s an incredibly powerful and beneficial way to train the mind. Thank you so much for telling me about this, dear Marie.

          • Funny you should say that Hariod, but I’m not sure I am going to see the person who engendered this feeling in me yesterday (and you were spot on about the animosity bit), so I will never be able to answer that question of how it impacted them. But I am eternally grateful to you for introducing me to Metta. Metaphorically speaking, you have opened up a whole new world for me — thank you, dear Hariod.

    • Thank you very much for your kind interest, Da Al; I appreciate it very much. I’m sure you’re more than capable of having Mettā (call it what we will) arise from within. Over three decades of talking to meditators I’ve yet to meet anyone (neurotypical) for whom it wasn’t possible. And as I suggest in my piece, it’s something that arises purely spontaneously and unexpectedly when the conditions are right. I daresay you’ve experienced it countless times, not least in the company of those two beautiful dogs of yours; is that not so?

        • I don’t really know, Da AL, but certainly there’s no chance of it happening when we’re self-centrically possessed or when there’s subtle enmity running in the background. Rather, I suspect it’s a quite natural disposition once we ‘get out of the way’ with our neurotically inclined thinking and projections — not so easy!

  25. I am a late entrant here, Hariod, to the engrossing tale of Maitri recalled in all its endearing detail after a quarter century. The thing about being transported back in time is the element of nostalgia that kicks in as one relates the scenario to similar events from one’s own past. While the month of February may just be behind us, the March-April cusp is full of the festive spirit in many parts of Asia, since it ushers in the new year ornamented by the colours of Spring. So here is well wishes of the season to you too.

    • Whether arriving late or early, you are always a most welcome visitor, dear Raj, and in any case, I am only posting once every 10 weeks as I have realised that is a reasonable cycle for myself — I also suspect it is about the frequency subscribers here want from me. From discussions I have had with many fellow bloggers, a common issue is feeling over-committed in one’s subscriptions, such that the endeavor of sustaining a community of readers almost becomes a burdensome obligation rather than the pleasure we initially intended it should be. You possibly arrived at a similar conclusion yourself, as we appear to mirror each other’s post cycles, more or less. Thank you for your interest, my learned friend, and may I return your kind best wishes in full measure.

      • You have made a valid point, Hariod, as if by telepathic understanding, as it exactly syncs with my perspective on the matter of blogging frequency. While there may be a lot to write about, there is even more to read and to catch up with — in addition to a little bit of gardening and pedagogical pursuits. How I wish for the luxury of twenty sense perceptions and forty hours per day! 🤗

        • Your own articles are always exemplars of what to me is the ideal in this medium, Raj: carefully written and free of typographical error (a particular bugbear of mine), well-researched, and elegantly constructed — far rather this, infrequently, than a greater volume of its antithesis. And yet the idea seems to persist in some quarters that blogging is primarily about frequency, that perhaps being a hangover from the days when it was envisaged more as a calendric journal rather than a writers’ medium. Well my friend, I should end my minor-key rant, not least as I see I have a whole new clutch of email notifications from WordPress to attend to!

    • How lovely! Thank you very much, dear Sue. Yes, Spring has most definitely arrived down here in Somerset too; it’s glorious actually, and the blossom in the apple orchard out back is unfolding optimistically. Lots of love and gratitude. H ❤

  26. This was a wonderful read, Hariod! It may be a new favourite — spelling that the Canadian way, lol! Perhaps one day such an experience will come my way. Cheers!

    • Thank you very much for casting your eyes over this offering, Graham; I do appreciate you doing so, along with feeling grateful for your very kind words of encouragement. As for it being a favourite, or rather the spelling of the same noun, then that’s the English way — you guys stole it from us! Did you ever reinstate your own blog, by the way?

      • “. . .you guys stole it from us!” — sparked a synapse that illuminated a fawlty memory:

        Basil: Listen, don’t mention the war! I mentioned it once, but I think I got away with it all right. [Returns to the Germans] So! It’s all forgotten now, and let’s hear no more about it. So, that’s two egg mayonnaise, a prawn Goebbels, a Hermann Goering, and four Colditz salads.
        Basil: Is there something wrong?
        Elder Herr: Will you stop talking about the war?
        Basil: Me! You started it!
        Elder Herr: We did not start it!
        Basil: Yes you did — you invaded Poland.

  27. I just came here to check on you, Hariod. I hope you don’t mind. But I know all is well with you by doing some detective work. I understand you are busy writing and won’t surface until at least the end of the year. 🙂 I am missing you though …

    • What a sweet message, thank you so much, dear Marie. It’s always a pleasure to hear from you, rest assured. Yes, I am currently doing some more long-form writing and need to focus on that for a good while really; it’s so easy to get pulled this way and that in the blogosphere, fun though it is. How are you keeping, well, I trust?

      • Don’t mention it dear H. 🙂 It’s funny how people say these things when they mean the exact opposite. 🙂 I am of course very pleased that you still check on your blog even though you are otherwise engaged with other more pressing things such as your writing. I hope it’s going very well. I am keeping well thank you, and I think I may have glimpsed you at Glastonbury on Sunday night while watching TV. Were you that young man, standing on the shoulders of a group of other youngsters, swaying his arms to the beat of Ed Sheeran’s ‘Thinking Out Loud’? 🙂 ❤

        • I do miss the sense of community in being away from the blogosphere, or rather, being a bit less engaged with it. I’ve made some really lovely contacts, such as yourself and Carmen here, and really feel a friendship proper exists in them. That’s the difficult bit about withdrawing to do other writing (I’m also editing a book for someone), although I did strongly feel that I wanted to write in longer form than blogging permits. It takes a lot of energy and concentration to put together 70, 80, 90k words within a cohesive whole, as perhaps you know, or can certainly appreciate. And when you’re a doddery old fool of 93 it gets harder, let me tell you. Ed Sheeran? No, I was listening to Rag ‘n’ Bone Man and Chic. I thought Radiohead were okay, and have had their opening tune Daydreaming on my mind a lot since they played it. I can hear the Pyramid Stage from my bedroom window at night, see the lasers and all that nonsense. What took your fancy there Marie? H ❤

          • Let me first say that for a man of 93 years standing, you are doing incredibly well to manage all your interests in such an impressive way to the onlooker. I struggle at age 39 to accomplish half the things you do: it took me a whole month to write that last post and even then I wasn’t fully satisfied with it. In the end, I just gave up tweaking and decided to publish. I’m not sure I could write a whole book, so I have tremendous admiration for people who do.

            Turning to Glastonbury, then I was impressed with Barry Gibb performing at his great age, as I think it must take tremendous stamina to be on stage for that length of time and especially without his brothers. I also liked Chic and Niles Rogers (all the 70s soul stuff). It reminded me of being 20 again and all-night parties. I missed the Rag ‘n’ Bone Man – in fact I don’t think I’m familiar with them.

            Did you ever go to Glastonbury for the concerts when you were a little younger than you are now, H? ❤ 🙂

            • Yes, Barry Gibb was great, and wearing the gold lamé jacket from the audience too! You know Niles Rogers was down there at Grenfell Tower the day after the fire, helping out and offering support? As for concert going and all that, then as I used to work in the music business I attended lots of concerts, mainly in London, where my offices were. A little later I more or less lived in the 606 Club down in Lots Road, Chelsea. That’s a jazz hangout, open ’til 4am for regulars and musos, or it was back then. You’re south of the river, aren’t you?

              • We must have been watching at the same time, because ‘yes’ and ‘yes’ to Barry and Niles. Now, I wonder if you are going to change that sentence grammatically? I had noticed ‘then’ appearing in my last comment and I’m almost certain I didn’t put it there, Hariod. 🙂

                I used to be south of the river for many years. Now I live in North London and have done so for about 7 years. Between living in South London and North London, I spent 7 years in the East Midlands, moving back to London to be nearer my daughter. If anyone had told me that I would be living here I would never have believed them. Whilst living in South London, the very thought of living north of the river was surreal to me. I’m only telling you all of this because it shows just how unpredictable life can be.

                Thank you for the link, which I was unable to open because I needed some application or other and which I’m not familiar with – so I googled R’n’B, and he has a lovely soulful voice. Were you a singer/songwriter H? Not sure how much longer you want to engage in this conversation, so I won’t hold it against you if you don’t reply. Have a lovely day and it was great chatting. 🙂

    • Thank you very much, dear Sue, for your kind visit and best wishes, both of which I appreciate greatly. I have been rather busy of late doing some more long-form writing, but am still finding a little time for taking in my good blogging friends’ offerings, such as those by your very good self. 🙂 With my sincere best wishes and love, Hariod. ❤

  28. Hallo Hariod! Also stopping by to catch the latest on events in Glastonbury and London. Here to wish you all the finest in words, fairs and followers. Lisa has viewed every frame of every Brothers Gibb concert, interview and the scantest mentions. She was in the first row when they came to Cincinnati in 1978; they used festival-seating, something that was banned after The Who concert disaster, also in Cincinnati, and just a few years after that BG appearance. I am now to ask if the Glastonbury concert is available on YouTube, but to wait until you are done with the book. 🙂

    Very pleased to read that you are well along on that long-form tome — I suppose that all tomes are long-form, aren’t they? Glad to know that you were in the music trade. I purchased Sgt. Pepper on reel-to-reel tape, played it on my Wollensak, I did. Unfortunately, both are lost in the mist. Speaking of Greater London, I visited my roommate from university days at his place in Pinner, ’twas 1972. Later learned that Pinner is Elton John’s birth town.

    Thank you most genuinely for your visits to my blog. They are most appreciated. No need to respond to this gathering of words until your book is done.

    Wishing you well. Have a wonderful and prolific week. 🙂

    • It turns out that Lisa knows all about the Glastonbury Fair, informing me, “Of course it’s all recorded.” And, of course, she found it straight away and is binge watching it all at this very moment (10:15 EDT). Outstandingly cool. 🙂

    • Hello/Hallo Bill! Thank you so much for your kindly generous words and your visit, which are much appreciated. I am rather disconnected from humankind currently, what with the other writing, and miss the back an’ forth in the blogosphere with good people such as yourself. The other writing is quite demanding, in terms of concentration particularly, but also of one’s time. I shall probably be taken up with it well into the coming year. The challenge is good for me, though it also brings its satisfactions if, on occasion, I manage to craft a decent paragraph. I am also editing a book for a friend, so that is taking up time, too, but again, it has its rewards, and is a privilege also.

      The Bee Gees! I used to live just a quarter of a mile from Barry Gibb’s place; a place called a Place, in fact: Wilton Place. My mother’s ashes are scattered just beyond its bijou Bee Gee grounds. A musician friend of mine has worked with him there at his place/Place, where of course, there are buried (and scattered) within its whereabouts all manner of vacuum tube devices and mixing consoles to console the many solo channels of minstrels gathering there at the squeaky one’s place/Place, such as my friend. And speaking of minstrels, of a condiment kind, as you were, not so far away at a place which is not a Place, but rather a park with is a Park — Friar Park — I was a fairly regular visitor to G. Harrison’s tube an’ console room. A place (small P) wherein and to which the Wilbury’s would travel with their respective channels of muses.

      Coincidence: you mention both Barry Gibb and Pinner in your message, the same two appearing within my current writing effort. As of yet, there are no Wollensaks, no 3Ms or Studers, but I shall try to sneak one of the former in if I can keep its reels real.

      With very best wishes to your good self and to Lisa, Bill. Thank you so much for your visit, once again.

  29. Hillo/Hullo Hariod,

    Holy gads, we’re in the dogged days of an august August now and I’m only now responding to your most kind comment; however I’ve always a facile, feeble and fumbling excuse at the ready, it’s right over there in the bedeviled details. Right.

    Well now that that’s been Righted I am piqued by that set of coincidences. The proximity of musicians is always worth the mention and the while, particularly when vacuum tubes were/are on the premises and in the company of fine musical talent. Some years before the internet I heard about a G. Frideric Handel/Jimi Hendrix shared wall in London — now a short Google search away. And so the B. Gibbs and G. Harrison P(p)lace piqued me mightily with that tie-in to those Traveling Wilburys — also a short Google search away. Way beyond intriguing memories, my friend.

    I can still recall the smell of peeling ferric oxide from cheap acetate tape and repair work with very analog splicing tools. My particular Wollensak produced a far more than annoying hum caused by sympathetic vibration, otherwise the fidelity was quite fine.

    Lisa thanks you kindly and much for the inside information on Gibbs et al. 🙂

    May everything come together splendidly on that tome.

    Speaking of tomes, here is another coincidence, one that involves a tome-ette and myself as editor. 🙂

    • Thank you kindly Prufrock!

      Another coincidence of mentions: I listened to Alcina in its entirety only yesterday. 🙂

      “I can still recall the smell of peeling ferric oxide from cheap acetate tape . . .” — Ah, those were the daze! Actually, that sounds like a tremendous opening line to a literary work of your own, Bill, or perhaps something autobiographical?

      Editing is bloody hard work isn’t it? Much harder than writing.

  30. I heart the heck out of coïncidences extraordinaires — no matter their bases. Might I call them overlapping fractals? Yes, I just might. 🙂

    While on the topic coincidences curious, The Handel and Hendrix Museum appear to have handled expectations hendily.

    An opening line is a crucial line, and the hardest to fashion well. Thank you muchily for the kind encouragement, I hereby acknowledge you for that suggestion, kind sir!

    Editing is hard work, even when it’s not bloody. Writing is indeed the easy part, IMO too.

    Closing now with an opening line, a favorite cartoon that suggests the importance of good editing:

    https://vignette3.wikia.nocookie.net/peanuts/images/9/90/Pe931024.jpg/revision/latest?cb=20161108140046

    • Can’t quite make out the text on that tiny cartoon Bill, even when magnified, but n’er mind. See you ere long around your place, no doubt, my friend. Nice of you to stay in touch!

  31. Have been scrolling down and down to find some empty space just to say hi and to thank you from the bottom of my heart for leaving your greatly jolly comment on my urgent stop over.

    Stunned by the tattooed face with the symbolic and symmetrical blue lines, but feel so embarrassed as I cannot currently go through the writing part, although I know that you’ll captivate me when I do.

    Always thankful for your kindness & for not forgetting me, dear Hariod! Sending love & summer broad smiles your way. 🙂

    Doda ❤

    • Thank you, dear Doda, for your lovely words and best wishes, and I’m pleased that you appreciate the photograph of the homeless girl. It’s lovely of you to stay in touch, as I myself have been somewhat out of the blogging loop these past four months or so, and have missed the company. I’m just busy doing some more long-from writing and find that I need nearly all my creative energies for that, especially as I’m moving into the area of fiction with the current project. Hoping life is good for you and yours currently, Doda, and may our paths cross again before too long. H ❤

      • Can’t thank you enough for everything and for the information about the girl, dear Hariod! Homeless? Can’t believe it, she looks so happy and contended! Oftentimes, we have everything but we find nothing amongst it. I’m so glad to hear about your new fiction project; I bet your work will be absolutely gripping. Enjoy your summer, your creative days, my very special friend. Best, Doda. ❤

  32. A lovely kind of soft in the head. Maybe we could go soft in the eyes, too? Best wishes on your fiction project. May we all join hands literal and virtual, and find solace, be it Mettā, or evensong.

    • Hi Julie, nice to see you around once again, and thanks for taking a peek and leaving such a lovely comment. You seemed to have gone to ground a bit yourself of late, so I hope all is well with you and your daughter way over there in . . . the middle of the sea . . . Vanua Vatu, was it? With Mettā, Hariod.

      • Thanks Hariod. Daughter signed on for year three in Vanuwhatever, and is doing fine.

        Gone to ground to write fiction, but found that with more time, became even less efficient. Then Donald was elected, and rather than succumb to the temptation to write screeds, stayed low.

        Happy writing! Mettā II

        • Game’s up for Trump, don’t you think? Comey had him, and now Mueller has. Only a matter of time; no escape. My money’s on Manafort to squeal first. Or maybe Ryan will turn on him and then it’s game over anyway. Have I got it all wrong?

          • Maybe he will resign. His former business partner Felix Sater is reportedly tattling to the Justice Department, and — not totally reliable sources claim — he says he and the president will end up in jail. Yes, I’m reduced to not totally reliable sources. But the Republicans have to muster the will to impeach, and — who knows? One can hope.

            • Got a feeling a resignation would be his least preferred option, Julie, only because I can’t see how he’d sell it to his base, other than through something wild like Roger Stone’s Alzheimer’s trick. 25th. Amendment, perhaps? Like you say, who knows? But yes, jail sounds more than likely once the Russia deal’s outed (via Mueller/Manafort/Sater). At the inauguration I gave him until November, and haven’t changed my mind.

  33. We should all be as soft in the head as possible. Delightful post – and I have missed you in the last few months. Relieved to see the reason is a positive one.

    • Hello Catherine, how lovely to hear from you. Yes, I’m posting here only sporadically whilst I do some more long-form writing, and have been rather absent from the blogosphere for a while. That said, I’ve seen nothing at all from you in my WP Reader for goodness knows how long — at least a year? The same is true of a number of other subscriptions of mine, and I’m rather distrustful of the thing as so many besides myself seem to have this same complaint. Are you in the country, or still abroad? All best wishes, and many thanks, Hariod.

      • Yes, I don’t know why WordPress picks and chooses which ones to send as emails, too. I’ve also been rather sporadic, but have probably averaged once a month so I should be in your WP Reader now and then. Am now in Switzerland, probably for good.

    • Nice of you to have thought of me in connection with this, Julia — thank you. I noticed Aeon republished Anil Seth’s piece just recently, it first having come out around a year ago. I subscribe to Aeon, so read it then. Mike Smith, who reads and comments here, has instigated discussion on Seth’s superb article, and like many others, considers it to be among the most cogent and helpful of Aeon essays on the nature of consciousness. [See: https://selfawarepatterns.com/category/mind-and-ai/%5D Seth’s work does appear to come from a presupposition that biological mechanisms not only account for the creation of the so-called ‘mental objects’ known as consciousness (and surely that is so), but that consciousness is none other than those same objects. The problem, as I currently see it, and as I’ve thrashed out with Mike, is that no account is made of thoughtless awareness, or pure lucidity by itself. Mike insists that this is another mental object (i.e. a thought, a representation), and hence brain produced, and yet that state simply has no object present during its occurrence. To convince someone who has not experienced (wrong term, it isn’t an ‘experience’) that state is all but impossible, though many know of its existence. [See: http://journal.frontiersin.org/article/10.3389/fpsyg.2014.00099/full%5D Seth touches on neurophenomenology in his piece, and a chap called Francisco Varela has written interestingly on that, along with the concept of Enactivism, which I find convincing. [See: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Enactivism%5D My sense of all this, fwiw, is that we’re rather stuck on the notion of the material vs. immaterial, or mind vs. matter, just as much as we are caught within the dichotomous paradigm of subject and object, or self vs. other. For me, there is an appeal, endorsed by experience, in Nondualism, which is not to say Monism (for clearly there are a multiplicity of phenomena) but Not-two-ism — hence, Nondualism — which is the rejection of the subject/object paradigm. Buddhism, in its doctrine of non-self (i.e. Anatta), is a form of Nondualism, of course. But very largely, we’re stuck with a brain evolved to think and to perceive exclusively within the dichotomous paradigm. The difficulty is that we cannot think or intellectualise our way out of this paradigm, and so all our conceptions are predicated upon it, including the science we utilise in attempts to understand consciousness, and to ascertain whether or not it exists. Apologies for the prate!

  34. Honored to receive a prate! I probably read Seth’s article a year ago, too, and forgot. Agree dualist thinking limits our understanding. Made a superficial pass through enactivism, and don’t see why it would conflict with the idea that our selves are a product of our own predictions. No doubt reflects what happens to those who read superficially. Cheers —

    • Thank you Julia, and my apologies for the tardiness of my response. The physical version of my book is only available in Britain, and regrettably I have to rely on the eBook version for overseas sales — that was because I wasn’t keen on the quality of so-called print-on-demand physical books. Then again, I really don’t like eBooks either! I have a policy of sending gratis copies of my physical book to blog subscribers here if they buy the eBook version — I think it’s USD4.99. That in part subsidises the cost of postage for me. I’ll go broke if too many take me up on the offer, but so far so good. Thank you once again for your interest, it’s greatly appreciated. 🙂

  35. Your writing is lovely. Somehow it brings a peace, though old George doesn’t hurt playing in the background. ‘Tis late, but you have strangely come and gone in my mind whilst I wondered if I’d ever return to this dimension. Something about it, I do not appreciate. In fact, I hate so many aspects of these infernal gadgets and a new and “Oh, so much better form of communication” — oops, well. I hope you are well enough anyway, and wander into this netherworld sooner rather than later, for me and many others who’ve gone silent. Goodnight to you, you are probably having some tea; for me, it is much later than I wish it was. xx

    • How lovely to see you again, L’Adelaide, and may I thank you for your kind and generous words of encouragement. Thank you also for showing your appreciation for George and his song — he remains a deeply missed figure, one who I had the honour of meeting on several occasions. Yes, blogging is one of those activities that people seem to drift in and out of, just as I currently am doing. I am in the middle of some long form writing once again, and feel I had best not get too distracted by frequent trips into this sphere. That said, I do want to keep a presence within the community of bloggers I’ve happily connected with over the past three years, and shall at some point next year reconnect more fully. I do hope you are well there in Sonoma County. Your final words seemed a little loaded and enigmatic; or perhaps I simply have read them all wrong. With gratitude and love, Hariod.

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