Lost For Words

The next time you are lost for words, remember this
The tree needs no words to tell it how to grow
Your body needs no instructions on how to heal
The clouds have never read a thesis on meterology
The planets continue in their orbits without reference
To equations chalked on a blackboard
They are not lost

When you experience a sunset what need is there for words?
Do not search for them
They are not coming to rescue you from this mystery
This inner stillness, this halted moment
Be speechless, dumbfounded, awestruck, blown away

Imagine yourself sky-diving

You throw yourself from an aeroplane
A delirious imitation of suicide
Wheeling, twisting and tumbling
Through an avalanche of upward air
Before being snatched back to safety by a rip cord’s cruel neccessity
You land like a newborn being
Helpless, helmeted, tethered to silken afterbirth
Grasping, fumbling for language to convey
What never could be captured or ever contained
The mind gives up, the self gives way
And you laugh
You laugh
You have lost something that was never needed
Let it go

Words are our foot soldiers, our worker ants, our couriers,
They carry the message, they are not the message
Words are our rubies, our jade, lapis lazuli, mother of pearl,
They are the messengers of magic but not the magic
And when you find it they will disappear

Next time you have a beautiful surprise
An unexpected moment that stops your tongue with gratitude
Remember you are not lost for…anything
You have arrived and the moment is full, immaculate
Be silenced, stilled, stunned, gobsmacked
You have found something that words could only point to

Walking the Fog

fog park nightI walked through the park at night in the fog, past the faint white ghosts floating on the lake – the sleeping swans. As I walked I brought my attention to every sense. I have realised the word ‘attention’ works much better for me than ‘mindfulness’, which sounds like a conundrum from the off. We all know what attention is, and we can direct it where it’s needed.

The trees were dripping their foggy wetness on my face, the river was rushing in the distance. The dark grey of night fog was impenetrable. I brought my attention to its void without fear, accepting its blankness like a mirror of no-mind.

Every so often, voices in the distance would push through the fog, or footsteps would emerge behind me – people still need to empty their dogs no matter what the weather. But I resented the presence of humanity encroaching on my dark wet solitude.

As I walked toward the long straight path out of the park I breathed consciously while reciting a version of Thich Nhat Hanh’s breathing mantra: “Breathing in, I am the body…breathing out, I am the body”. I have realised that centring in the body is the most reliable way of finding presence, for me. Presence – one of Eckhart Tolle’s favourite words. I haven’t visited his teaching much over the last year, having spent time exploring some its sources, such as the many Buddhist doctrines, which are insightful but don’t massage my heart in the way Eckhart can.

Walking up the path, centred in my body, I felt that my ‘mental and emotional complex’ – a phrase that spontaneously occurred to me, maybe derived from the ‘military/industrial complex’ in the USA! – was hanging in front of me like a hardened shield or something attached to the front of me or hanging around my neck. I could see that it wasn’t me; and every ratty little bit of frustration or anxiety that was still buzzing around was happening inside of IT, not me. Since my time away from Eckhart, I could see that I had slipped back into identification with it.

I sat down on the wall outside the park, and fully stayed with where I was, not in my shield, with all the battles it wants to fight and all the enemies it sees. I wasn’t concerned with the cars driving past me, not imagining their drivers’ opinion of me: thief, wierdo, alcoholic – how I normally worry that I appear when I let myself wander and drift. I was content to watch it all like a child – the headlights swishing through the fog as the leaves floated down from the majestic trees. I was thoroughly in the moment. That elusive NOW that we never actually leave.

Fresh Feet in the Forest

Today I went to a place that is rather special for me: Freshfields forest near Formby beach. I’ve been feeling a deep need to reconnect with wildness. Inspired by a friend I did it without shoes.


As I enter the forest I spontaneously greet the trees with a call that echoes across the undulating landscape – this forest is on a gently descending hillside created by sand dunes that have become covered by pines. The trees are quite widely spaced, letting dappled sunlight in to the forest floor. Moss coats the ground, and brambles and ferns grow thickly in the hollows.

I find a high point to look down on the hillocks of dunes. There is a stillness here. Only the occasional bird calI can be heard. I sit down with my coat for a blanket. It’s late September but this forest is still looking lush – sunlight twinkles off a million leaves and butterflies flirt here and there.

I lie down and take my shoes and socks off. These feet are amazed at the shock of fresh air.

I sit for a long time. Nothing is needed in this immersive re-connection. I am bathed in warm and green. For my ears, there is only the faint rustle of the pines in the merest breath of breeze, the occasional bird call, and the acceptable intrusion of a small propeller aeroplane overhead. And there is something else – the silence behind it all. Just being there is my meditation. Occasionally the distant ghost of something like a thought seeps in to my consciousness, but finds no purchase and melts away.

Lying at ground level, I find I am becoming part of the landscape for invertebrates. All around me tiny spiders and ants are making their way through the micro-forest of moss and shoots and continuing their journeys over my hands and feet, up my back and into my hair.

I set off across the moss-covered dunes, savouring the cool natural carpet underfoot. My feet bend and flex according the contours of the ground as they were designed to; gripping the slopes as I walk rather than just landing on them. It’s like my feet are remembering something that they hardly ever had a chance to learn in the first place. Walking barefoot is a natural sensory experience that we deprive ourselves of since – who knows, a thousand years of footwear? Until very recently in much of the world, shoes were a rarity and a luxury. The connection with the earth taken for granted by millennia of human beings has within a few generations been obstructed by these “coffins for the feet”.

Of course, walking across the landscape is easy if you have the leathery soles developed from everyday  walking. Mine are lily-white, baby soft feet. Locked up and sweaty inside shoes for forty-odd years they have barely aged. But my enthusiasm knows no bounds. Scrambling across the dunes I reconnect with abandon, grinning as I wince at the sharp sticks and brambles. A bloody scratch appears between my toes. I wonder how soon my soles will remember their true calling and toughen up into primal leather.

I stop on a gentle slope covered with pristine moss. The pines end here the sun floods in. I take out sesame seeds and carrot sticks and look out on the dense scrub that slopes down to the beach. I start to hear tiny impacts on the ground around me. Something is dropping from the tree above, small chips of vegetation. I reach for one; it looks like a fragment of nut casing. I look up and see a tail twitching far above – dark red against the sky. Soon after, the squirrel discards the core of a pine cone, then another.

After lying, then meditating I experience a strong breakthrough into the profound present moment. Everything is suddenly more sharp and real.

I curl myself around the trunk of a pine and don’t move for ten minutes. Hugging a tree one is aware of a uniquely still energy. I have heard that if you put your ear close to a tree you can sometimes hear it growing. The sap actually makes a noise as it travels up the truck. I can’t hear anything but the blood flowing through my ears. These life forms are living on a very different timescale to us. They can teach us, but not in a way we can understand.

I have no idea what time it is but the sun is getting low in the sky and the breeze becoming fresher. Small birds start to appear in the trees around me, chatting to each other as they find their roosting spots.

Freshfields, I hope you don’t mind that I took some pine cones and sampled your blackberries. I’ll be back soon.