Build your beet basket! Build it high!

I’m going through a bit of a change.

No, not hot flushes (I’m always sweaty and flushed, so it will be hard to tell when they begin), nor am I coming out. Things are changing. I am undergoing change. change is upon me, etc, etc.

Like one of my chillis, this has been a bit of a slow burner. In fact, any change that I make is the result of many arduous hours of half-assed research, handwringing and procrastination interspersed with what I like to call the ‘settling process’, which involves many hours of oblivious television watching. Seriously, rocks form faster.

The most important part of any change-making I undergo is listening and subjecting myself to the stereotypes and pronouncements offered up by family, friends and media.

For example, I wore black trousers and a black polo neck consistently throughout my year at drama school. Urged on by my mother (who had never been to drama school), I was pretty much convinced that this was the uniform of all serious students of theatrical arts. I then went on to wear a mood ring during a vaguely hippy phase which culminated in me visiting a a pagan store twice in one week, feeling the relationship was becoming too intense and guilt buying a bookmark before leaving, never to return.

The black theme resurfaced when I moved to London, teamed now with Buffalo trainers and a droll expression, as my friend, who already lived in London and was therefore already always in black with drollface, assured me that this was ‘what Londoners are like’.

Well done, you noticed: my stereotypes are very image led – shallow me! And I think lots of them were formulated during childhood. Most of the time, they’re not bad prejudgements on a group of people or type of living; they mostly aim at being humorous (my family deal almost exclusively in jokes and jokes alone). Some of them are quite strange, specific and could only be deciphered if you belonged to my family (hence the title of this post).

I also feel that my keenness to adopt stereotypes and images when I was younger was because of a desperate need to afiliate (thanks Maslow). I would happily have joined any group that would have had me and if all I had to do to identify was wear a ring, bandana or shell suit, so be it. I was part of the gang – or so I thought. Sometimes the desire to fit in is stronger than the desire to be yourself, after all.

But things have started to change recently. Really change. After years of diddling about, I finally learnt how to practise Transcendental Meditation. My battles with my negative talking mind have been well documented and while my audio fast gave me some respite (as does writing), mindful meditation hasn’t suited me. After reading ‘Catching the Big Fish’ by David Lynch, I was inspired to finally give it a go. I will write more about it at length elsewhere,but suffice to say that I am enjoying the process and wonder whether my shift in perspective has led to other changes.

After one lost Saturday too many, I finally gave up alcohol. This has been miraculous – who knew being clear-headed could be this much fun? Please bear in mind, that I used to get the most God-awful hangovers, like the inside of my head and stomach lining were being peeled back simultaneously. I looked like I had been poisoned. I had been poisoned! Dumb ass that I am, it has taken me this long to realise that maybe alcohol and I didn’t get on too well.

From this point on, the floodgates have opened. I’ve stopped eating all dairy except for goats cheese and most meat as well. Naturally the stereotype dial has just shot past ten and up to eleven, but please, give me a moment of your time. I’m no fan of animals; pigeons are satan’s minions and I’ve no desire to pet a monkey. But recently, when I’ve eaten steak, I’ve heard screams. Not because I’m eating in bad neighbourhoods. I mean mental screams. And I’ve clunked down on far too many of those chewy veins that you get in chicken, the bits that make you gag then spit hurriedly into the nearest receptacle, then spend the rest of the meal wondering what sort of monster is lurking in there. So my reasons are really those of a fourteen year old girl, except I am also aware of the benefits of a plant based diet. If it’s good enough for Prince, it’s good enough for me.

It’s this final change that has led to the most stereotypes. Stereotypes extempore, as I’m about to demonstrate. When I told my mother about my swtich in diet, she responded ‘oh go and build your beet basket, then’.

Beet basket?

I’m not entirely sure what a beet basket is and neither is she, but I love her crystallization of what being a vegetarian teetotaler was. God, it doesn’t sound like a lot of fun. But is eating dead flesh and poisoning oneself?

I can’t guarantee that all these changes will stay (vegan cheese ain’t fooling anyone and tempeh tastes like the devil’s drainscrapings), but they do at least feel like changes from within rather than without. They’re not a mood ring for the soul. And in the meantime I shall continue building my beet baskets with pride.

Magic Eye Me

Please forgive me; I offer this post not because I think I am inherently more interesting than anyone else.  In fact, once I tell you how i discovered these things about myself, you will probably agree that I am inherently less interesting than you.  

That’s okay.  

I don’t wish to come across as someone who believes that they should be the focus of a column in a Celebrity magazine, called something like “20 questions!” “Get the lowdown!” “The skinny on …”  Good lord no.  I barely rate a mention in my workplace newsletter or all staff email list.

 

That too, is okay.  My brain contains dark workings, too febrile for the general public ……

 

Not really, it’s just that I’ve had a week off and I haven’t done much with it, which has been truly liberating.  I think back to the article in the Onion, headlined, “Area Man disappointed to find that he has failed to sort his life out in week off.” Or something like that, the point is that I work in a job that regularly grants me a week off (no I’m not a spy), so I’m all too aware of the “I will turn my life around” phenomenon that hits and I’m cautious of its effects.  Monday: get a new job. Tuesday: sort out will and revolutionise wardrobe and living space.  Wednesday: Get fit.  Thursday: See all absent friends and family.  Friday: Meditate the shit out of it. Saturday: Sort out finances. Sunday: Repeat Wednesday and Friday.  This is made more challenging if you have any add ons, like seeking a life partner, or the desire to learn to cook or horse ride, or master an instrument for example.

 

Allow me to take on the guise of a salty seadog, propped up at the end of a beer sodden bar, holding a few novices in the palm of my hand and pausing to suck on a cheroot before delivering my credo.  Beware the week off: it fulfills nothing but your well of disappointment and shame!  You will never sort your life out in a week off.  A more believable timetable runs like this: Monday: sleep in.  Feel bad about sleeping in.  Tuesday: Get up with good intentions. Wander into town at midday and feel bereft.  Wednesday: Try to do the things that you set out to do on Monday and Tuesday and realise that it will never happen.  Thursday: Netflix. Friday: Drown out impending doom feeling about work through any available vice.  Saturday: Look at what other people have done on their week off. Sunday: do laundry, cry, drink.

 

Sorry – that’s just how it is.  If you are a novice!  A better option is just to accept that not everything will be achieved and that this isn’t your one-shot at success, anyway.  This week, I’ve been to the gym, watched an entire series of House of Cards, done some writing, done some walking, failed to get Prince tickets.  That’s a good haul, all told.  Well done me.  Through hours of not doing very much I’ve also found out some previously incommunicable things about myself.

 

I am a Magic Eye.  The longer I stare, the weirder the fruit.  For example, through long bouts of not doing much, I now know that:

The default taste in my mouth is parmesan.

I can gauge how stressed I am by how many hair bands I can avail myself of.  The fewer I have, the more stressed I am,

Facially I do have a better side, but I can never remember which it is.

As child, I remember being so bored that I danced full out to the theme tune from Sons and Daughters.  In a room on my own.  Full out.

 

Don’t worry, I’m back at work next week

Inside Out

I’m playing fast and loose with the Daily Prompt today: although I’m only on day 7 of my blog-quest, perhaps a near week of work has led to the well of inspiration running dry.  But, just to be original I’m going to write about being on the inside, imagining the outside.

 

For a teacher, I’m an insubordinate old shrew.  I spend most of my day telling students what to do and expecting them to follow my orders.  A memorable dialogue from today went like this:

HIM: Miss, can I go to the toilet?

ME:  No.

HIM:  But I need to go!

ME:  Well, DON’T need to go!

Do I think I am King Canute, ordering back the tide?  No, I just know my students very well and the odds of this student felling nature call just as they are about to start an exam were highly unlikely.  And I’m bossy.

 

So I’m all for subversion outside of the classroom: a stickler for rules if I’m setting them, but following them?  Me, not so much.  For instance, I find the suggestion of someone telling me to relax utterly ridiculous.  How am I supposed to relax?  The mere implication that you need to tell me to do so infers that I am not relaxed, and probably with good reason!  Likewise, I find the process of meditating incredibly difficult: as soon as the voice intones that famous phrase ‘ connect with your breath, feel it’s natural rise and fall’, I find myself going through an artificial construct of breathing, forcing the air in and out of my lungs like a hand operated bellow, or, worse still, trying so hard to make my breathing natural that I ……eventually …stop ……breathing …altogether.  By this point, any thoughts of connectnig with breath, a genuinely natural occurence when I’m not thinking about it, are out of the window, and I sit up, scratch my head and open a book instead.

So, relaxation on command is not for me.  Particularly arduous are trips to the masseuse; as soon as I hear ambient music in a candle-lit chamber I know that it is an exercise in futility.  I spend the next 30 minutes urging myself to enjoy this indulgence but inevitably spend it worrying if I left the hob on or if the masseuse actually fancies me, because that last stroke was a little too friendly.  I often come out with more tension than I went in with, and have to feign gratitude at the end, barely making eye contact.

 

What a horrible person.  But how can I relax when you tell me to?

 

Fortunately I have found the antidote, and that is to seek out he opposite of relaxation for any therapeutic treatments.  I have had acupuncture on and off for years, with varying degrees of success.  Needless to say, the mesmeric, ‘ you will relax you will relax you will relax’ style does nothing for me, but my current practicioners is a minor miracle.  The sessions take place in an open fronted shop in Manchester’s Arndale Centre, which is a huge shopping mall, if you’ve never been there.  The Acupuncturists is between the sliding doors onto the High Street and a Milk Shake Bar.  Sessions take place in small cubicles with no noise insulation and everyone who works there is always shouting.  Always.  The noise of the traffic of gobby Mancunian shoppers (ususally kids screaming, laughter, someone having an argument on the phone) competes with the Techno music from next door and the shouting of the acupuncturists.  Did I mention that?  Because the cubicles aren’t insulated, you can hear the outline of everyone else’s ailments in consultation (one patient was requesting treatment to recover from a skipping injury, I kid you not).  The final harmony line is the clinic’s own choice of music, pumped in through a stereo; they tend to favour Mandarin versions of popular tunes, such as ‘Baby’ by Justin Beiber or ‘Poker Face’ by Lady Gaga. To complete the full sensory experience, I lay under what may or may not be someone’s beach towel for half an hour with pins stuck in my head.

 

This, dear reader, produces the most relaxing half hour of my week – more often than not I fall into a blissful half sleep, and wake, dry mouthed and groggy only when my doctor is applying the cups.  I walk out as if on air.  I dance home.  Then I lie down again and fall to slumber.  The only time I relax is when the odds are against me; when fate and geography and other people and beachtowels conspire against what normal people would want in a fulfilling de-stress. But I think in order to relax, I need to feel close to life; in my cubicle I am protected yet so near to a lot of competing activity, and it’s here that I find the most satisfying repose.

 

But that’s just a theory.  Like I said, I’m an insubordinate old shrew.

 

Of broad oaks and little leaves

I know I’m not alone.

 

Last night, at approximately 6.37, it kicked in: the gut wrenching pangs of realising that the sweet taste of freedom has almost completely slid down the gullet towards the sour stomach pit of realisation.

 

I had work tomorrow.  I had to get up.  I had to interact with adults and children on a neverending pedastal of stress, each step made up of deadlines and demands.  And emails, emails, emails.  Like I said, I know I’m not alone in this feeling!  But in the spirit of things, I decided to replace my otherwise Beckettian monologue of repeating ‘Do I have to go in tomorrow?’, and do some research on the dreaded sunday feeling, and how to resolve it.

 

Not for me the first few sites that I tuned into, who seemed to accept that work was something to be managed like a taciturn orca.  I didn’t want to read about ‘Time management’ and Éffective strategies’.  I wanted to be inspired.  And somewhere, lodged on page three of my google endeavours, I came across some quotations from a man called Khalil Gibran, who wrote a book called The Prophet.

 

Granted, I haven’t read the book and I will misquote him, but the gist of his writing shed a new light on the Sunday feeling.  He believes that work is essential and a joyful act at that.  This is what he writes (with my commentary in italics):

Älways you have been told that work is a curse and labour a misfortune  (true that!).  But I say to you that when you work you fulfil earth’s furthest dream, assigned to you when that dream was born (huh?). And in keeping yourself with labour, you are in truth loving life.  And to love life through labour is to be intimate with life’s inmost secret (hmmm….okay…..).”

 

Granted,  I don’t know what life’s inmost secret is – hands up if you do, because I want a detailed powerpoint presentation on what that is.  And I’m also not sure on how to achieve this state of bliss while trying to drill the three sentence types into my year 9’s heads on a wet and dreary afternoon, but it was a helpful perspective today.  Instead of finding ways of managing work, to strap it down and hold it in place and hate the whole darn thing, to actually take a moment to appreciate the act of work, of all the myriad decisions that we make while working, of the processes that we adapt to and in so doing show an understanding of life.  It made a difference today: I actually enjoyed a discussion with students about two poems that we were studying, rather than marshalling them towards the right answer.  Instead of despising my commute, I enjoyed the chance to be still and see a new world emerging from the darkness.  I felt prepared and ready.

 

The other point that he made resonated, and that was regarding work envy.  At school, I didn’t really care what I wanted to be, I just wanted to be renowned for it.  Since leaving school I’ve tried my hand at a variety of jobs, but they’ve always had the potential for fame nd glamour: I was an actor and then I worked in television and all the time I was focussed on how to become known in these circles.  Looking back, I realise that my focus was wrong and maybe I should have enjoyed the work more rather than looking  to be the next thing.  (Or maybe stopped and realised how little I was enjoying my work and rung a few changes…).  And now I’m a teacher and I sometimes think of the phrase ‘Those who can, do, those who can’t teach’.  For a long time it has seemed like a failing in me, that I’ve ended up as a teacher, unlikely most days to even get a thank you from my students.  This feels particularly galling when I turn on my television set and see any of my peers acting their little socks off in a primetime dramas, maybe even making a move on Hollywood, the big time.  Would you like some salt with your wound, Madame?

What Khalil Gibran advises us to stay away from thinking about is of the status of particular jobs in relation to each other, but not to denounce them.  When I see a compadre doing well in their chosen field, I should stop musing bitterly on their shelf life and how it will all end badly for them as a way of gaining temporary and illusory satisfaction, I should think on the joy inherent in my own work.  The quote that I have been musing on today was something like this:

“Both the broad oak and the blade of grass feel the same sunshine’.  This is not to suggest that my job as a teacher is any less signficant than being an actor (some would argue the opposite in fact), but that relative values don’t matter.  If you are gaining joy and satisfaction from your job, it is the same feeling regardless of external recognition.

Unless your occupation is a serial killer.  Or you are Rupert Murdoch.

I’m not normally one for spirtuality, but this struck me as sound advice, certainly more practical than other guides with their talk of ‘maximising business opportunities’ and ‘learning to succeed’.  It’s certainly something that I will hold in my head until I finally learn to feel 100% grateful for what I have.

An elegant ‘now’ monkey

Noises Off Experiment:  Completed!

This week has been pushing back the cuticle of noise and distraction to reveal some lovely healthy brand spanking new thoughts and sources of creativity underneath.  Like pushing back a cuticle, it has involved some commitment; not because I have particularly missed noise and distraction, but because, if you have read the rest of my blog posts, you will know that I have been preoccupied with my thoughts to the detriment of thinking about my body and ‘the moment’.

And this has been mighty frustrating at times …

Overall, I think I’ve made some headway. I’m proud to say that I don’t crave an episode of Mad Men or even John Humphreys in the morning and although  I’m a long way from ‘cured’ (which is completely the wrong phrase to use) I feel  more fulfilled and  excited by the prospect of living a quieter life.

So what have I found out from this week?

I can be more productive if I take the time to switch off external noise as far as possible and engage a little.  And my choice of words is deliberate – there is a big difference between swtiching off and blocking out, which would have required some effort on my part and would have meant that I was still having to account and repair for outside distraction.  Nope, best to cut it off at the source, which means no telly, radio or music.  Rip off the plaster!

My mind, as it turns out is not a lonely wanderer, but an amateur rockclimber.  It has all the kit, but by golly is it nervy! It clings to precipices of dark thoughts, refusing to budge for hours, dangling on the same phrase, riffing on the idea of ‘you can’t do this you can’t do this you can’t do this’, rather than loosely swinging from moment to moment like an elegant ‘now’ monkey.  How I long to be an elegant ‘now’ monkey!

But who knows? Awareness is half the battle and being forced to listen to my thoughts incessantly has made me take them less seriously than before. I feel that if I keep turning off that which I am not consciously listening to, I may be able to live more easily in the present.  A week is a starting point, and I will maintain an audio fast as a practice, maybe two days of the seven to begin with…. and take it from there.

But if you are interested in living mindfully I strongly recommend taking a break from outside noise  to foster your creativity and mental balance. One day we all might And move from the cliff-face of distraction to the treetops of fulfillment!

Stef

Enjoy the Silence

Noises Off Experiment:  Day 5

Hello!  If you’ve just found me, you may need to read the last couple of posts to work out what I’m doing.  If you like intrigue and are short of time, let’s just say I’m audio-fasting (thanks Rhi x)

Living in the Northern Quarter of Manchester, I have been blessed with an incredible view of the surrounding hills. The sky high rent affords me a sky high view of the brink of the shoulder of the Pennines, as it mooches off towards Scotland.  The weather at the moment is hormonal, swinging from sunny spells to fierce rain and the sky is a real Rorschach most of the time.  I like to think that the clouds are not the source of the problem, but its victim, pinioned to the sky, forced to obey whatever the weather throws at them (charming naivety or idiocy: you decide).  Whatever, I’m a cloud champion and today they have been majestic.  Great merchant ships of grey, looming into my window vision like the Deathstar, unencumbered by the literal sturm und drang which surrounds them.  They were immense and well ….cloud, in myriad forms right the way  to the horizon.  I tried some mental word association to see what would happen.  It went like this:

Kansas

Dorothy

Ruby Slippers

New Shoes

Aldo

I evidently need some mind opening alongside my audio fasting!  Still, taking in the clouds made me think about the term luxury and how misleading my perception of it is.  I think of luxury as a sky high apartment and a flatscreen, for example.  But at least the apartment gives me the opportunity to take in this spectacular view.  Granted, I could take in the clouds from somewhere less indulgent, but can I walk before I run?  The view is the thing, not the rest of what living here affords.

In fact, I have re-evaluated what I consider pleasurable and luxurious this week and have realised pretty quickly that a night in front of the box hasn’t made the shortlist. Television hasn’t  entered the mind-debate much for me this week, as it hasn’t been something that I have consciously missed and this is surprising.  Once through the door, the TV would habitually be on, for company, for edification (no, that isn’t true), for entertainment, for whatever reason, but rarely was it genuinely watched.  It was soundscape; all other reasons are pure subterfuge.  If I do sit down to watch something, I’m shuffling within minutes, checking my phone or my laptop or a magazine.  So my angst about losing the background sound was pre-emptive; there is no sense of deprivation, no withdrawal, just a happy change.  I realise now that silence is not an absence, a challenge, a trial; its a bona fide luxury, a true one, along with a few others, such as a chair, a window and clouds …

Creativity, good wishes and epiphanies

Noises Off: Experiment Day 4

Hello!  If you’ve just found me, you may need to read the last couple of posts to work out what I’m doing.  If you like intrigue and are short of time, let’s just say I’m audio-fasting (thanks Rhi x)

The power of the written word!  Something about contextualising my frustrations in print yesterday must have done me good, for I spent the rest of the evening with the attitude of a meditative android, calmly going about the business of making aubergine parmigiana and doing the  washing in an audio-free bubble, judiciously and easily avoiding eye contact with my mind (if that’s possible) for the duration.  No explanation as to why it was so easy to switch off after writing, but stranger things have happened.

However, day 4 arrives and i’m frustrated at not having attained a plateau of peace.  This morning, my internal radio accompanied me with a Doors medley and ‘Sometimes it Snows in April’ by Prince, both of which swelled in my brain and burst through my mouth in intermittent melody blurts, forcing me to randomly sing half lines here and there, unconnected to anything else that was going on.  How odd!  On the way to the train I pre-empted several conversations that I may or may not have today (update:  I didn’t have any of them) and mentally tried out a few lines from each one.  This may of course make me insane, but this morning I preferred to see my current state as akin to the island infested by rats that Agent Silva reminisces about in Skyfall.  Mentally, I’m letting my thoughts over-run me (and sometimes it does feel like a swarm of movement and unstoppable tessellations).  I’m observing this, waiting for the poison to be ministered and the hubbub to subdue.  All weaker thoughts will die out till we’re down to just two giant mega thoughts who must fight to the death.

But this is a pretty nasty metaphor and inaccurate.  I don’t wish to kill my brain-chatter, just find a way of disengaging.  Thoughts bring creativity, good wishes, epiphanies.  Frankly, thoughts are what I’m writing to you right now.  And, more practically, it’s impossible to kill them off.  Like creativity, good wishes and epiphanies, they are endless and spontaneous.  Just not always relevant or helpful.  So I’ll turn my attention to the present again.  These critters have had free rein for long enough.

Outside the sky is a block of grey white, and the trees all shades of green and in between.  It’s about to rain …

3 days to go.

 

 

Loving Kindness

Noises Off Experiment:  Day 3

Ah.

Like Jon Snow, I’ve hit a bit of a wall (as has that probably now-overused metaphor).  Audio fast day two did not end well, and in the most surprising way.  I went to meditation class at the local Buddhist Centre, a wonderful and benevolent resource in the middle of Manchester, a class that I often attend and in the normal run of things, something that provides an oasis in the week.  But my current detox seems to have turned everything on its head.

“Tonight we’re going to go through the Loving Kindness, or Metta Bhavana meditation” said Kevin (admittedly not a superficially Buddhist-y title, but I’m sure he has another one that he’s too modest to use  during seminars).  I’ve done this meditation before and it’s lovely; you focus on a different person for each of the five stages and wish them happiness and health.  The challenge is that the penultimate stage you must send out good wishes to someone you find difficult.  Well, it was a barfight in my mind!  The silence and concentration around me magnified  my thoughts, turning them into a polyphony of sounds stretching back to the start of the day to the chiropractors appointment that I had cancelled and forwards all the way to weighing up potential problems with my summer holiday.  The more I turned attention to my breathing, the harder my mind distracted me, the mental equivalent of this:

 

I know a song that can get on your nerves

Get on your nerves,

Get on your nerves,

Get on your nerves,

I know a song that can get on your nerves

And this is how it goes:

I know a song etc etc till you fall down screaming.

 

Loving Kindness turned into Ire and Spite:  I failed to think a singularly nice thought about anyone and although Kevin has said that this happens and it’s okay, just observe the thoughts and let them go, I couldn’t!   Which was the aim of this week.  Ay me.

 

Subsequently, my ears are now craving a ditty, a jingle, a tune to give me respite from my thoughts and allow me to vacate the old headspace.  Meditation class last night showed me how frustrating and fraught living in my head is and how difficult simple can be.

 

4 to go ….

In the Co-Op with Bobby Womack

Noises Off: Day 2 of living without extraneous sound (or audio-fast as a wise and brilliant friend described it)

The morning silence is the best bit, I find.  It gives me the space to let out all the random fragments of song that have collected over the night (this morning: Native New Yorker) without weaving them in with all the other thoughts that have accumulated over the course of the day, the Breakfast news, alarm sounds and 6 Music.  To be honest, it’s rather like singing flat out in a sparsely populated concert hall and therefore quite awkward.  I hear the song, I try to offer it lodging, but ultimately it just peters out of its own accord.

Subsequently, all songs sound strange and ridiculous to me. In the Co-Op, Bobby Womack and Damon Albarn seem a mightily dramatic accompaniment to buying vinegar and tampons.  If I genuinely stop and listen, it is absurd.

 

Likewise, the man opposite me on the train plugged in and closed his eyes, as if dozing off at the start of a long flight.  Which in a way he is. If we’re unhappy with our predicament, music is a means of escape or at least a distancing and if we’re feeling good, it simply highlights our mood.  But for me, music is a conduit – how much do I really hear on the way to the mindset  where I want to be?  Not much, it would appear, as I’m beginning to appreciate the other soundtrack a lot more; the whine of the train engine, the clink the wheels make over parts of the track which seem less secure, this reminds me where I am.  Which is not too bad a place, in fact, certainly no worse than in the Co-Op with Bobby Womack.  

The Big Silence

Noises Off: Day 1

And so it begins.

 

As I wrote yesterday, I am taking a week-long leave of absence from extraneous sound (TV, radio, music) to see what happens to my brain and ears.  This has been on my mind for a while; I regularly wince at adverts and yell ‘turn it off’ at my husband or the remote control; I feel the glum coming on if I’m forced to deal with two different noise sources at once (i.e unexpected pop up advert from a ‘work from home’ housewife and the CSI theme tune).  And then, when you add the chatter from my own mind ….sheesh, wadda you godda do to get some peace around here?

 

So I’m on an audio detox and much like any other fasting/cleansing/purging programme, I started out this morning feeling great, only for this to subside and quickly replaced by a gnawing sense of abandonement and regret by mid-afternoon.  Seriously, the morning was great, without breakfast television or radio I felt almost serene and was up and ready in record time.

 

But it would appear that nature truly truly abhors a vacuum because by the time I was out of the house and on the way to work, my mind had decided to cover the break in transmission with some of its top drawer chatter.  I had to remind myself to observe the babble and let it drift out of its own accord – easier said than done.

The biggest challenge so far has been dealing with other people’s music.  No tune sounds good when you’re on the wrong end of the earphone and the train was replete with several mini sound stages, competing for the title of ‘tinniest musical experience that you are not invited to but must endure from across the carriage’. Of course, previously I would have recourse to my i-pod, but today, alas, no.  For the duration I sat with my hands pressed to my ears, not even trying to cover my minor meltdown with an act of public pretending, just blocking. Out. That. Sound.  Ye Gods!  The most unlikely people listen to the most unlikely things and at the most unlikely volume at the most unlikely hours (feel free to substitute the word ‘unlikely’ with the word ‘horrific’.)

 

Still, the positives are that living in a state of relative silence, one feels a real sense of preparedness, a constructive tension as if ready to ‘go on’, like a boxer before a fight or an actor in the wings.  If you can tune out from the random thoughts that your brain relays, you feel genuinely sharp and sort of …..excited?  I can’t think of a better word for it, but the feeling is akin to genuinely listening, waiting for something, feeling the potential of a moment.  I can’t really describe it any better than this, but underneath the withdrawal pangs, there is something lovely about the silence.  Let’s see how it goes.

 

“The life of sensation is the life of greed: it requires more and more.  The life of the spirit requires less and less'”

(Annie Dillard)