Monday, 31 December 2012


I was sitting in our Zen Room (what a room! A place where I sit and watch God’s living, moving painting outside the large windows, dramatic Southern California sunsets over the Pacific in particular ), wondering how I had, through all my journeys, landed up here, in the Zen Room, in Del Mar, California, with Payson, my partner and best friend, when I had a vision of the geometry of my life, loops and coils, large and small, with smaller ones within larger ones, and smaller ones within the smaller ones, ad infinitum, and all the major and minor loops connected by arcs. 

As the year ends, I want to leave you contemplating the possibility that there is a geometry of our lives, however chaotic they may seem at moments as we go about our days with blinkers on, being too much in the moment (yes, being in the Now has its down side, too!) and unable to see the overall and overarching patterns that we are. Yes, we are patterns, perhaps waves of patterns, moving, shifting, like clouds upon the constant sky, symmetrical for the most part, and even when asymmetrical and seemingly haphazard, stunningly beautiful.    

Sunday, 30 December 2012


has always worked for me. It takes away the stress of over achieving and makes my tasks joyful. But let me qualify what I mean by underachieving -- doing less rather than more. It doesn't mean not doing. I am a creature of words -- I eat and drink them and have to be in constant, if not daily, touch with them. i love my projects and have many of them going at once. In the past six years i have written 3 books. I could have written them in three years, of course, and killed myself in the process. But 3 in 6 is good enough for me. Great, in fact.  


The most important one, in my estimation. So, you've rested and are beginning to feel that itch, that knowing in your bones that any more rest would be laziness, and a waste of time; that if you rested any more you would turn into a blob. I mean, I could wait till the beginning of the year and rest some more, but I don't feel good about my blobby self anymore and must begin. But how? The inertia of the resting won't allow you to break out of it. Action is called for, but what sort of action?
The action of punching a button. Yes, the button of a timer. I have used one for years, and have them strewn around the house -- three, to be exact. One by the bed, one in the living room, and one on my desk.
Some backtracking: what intimidates us about action is the enormity of it, and wrongful thinking about it. We think that we should complete our tasks ALL AT ONCE. Stupid as this may sound, we do think stupidly. We do not factor in time to accomplish any task. The beginning of one of my books begins with five minutes of work. Whenever I return to work and labor, I tell myself I am going to work on it for only five minutes, no more. I open up a file, punch the START button of a time, and begin. Often all I do in those five minutes is just read what I have written before, or stare at the blank sheet. If this is all I do in five minutes, and if this is all I can do in five minute, I tell myself I have reached my daily goal. And often this is the case. I congratulate myself for beginning, don't give myself a hard time for not doing more, let it go at that and go about my day with zero feelings of guilt.

But  let me tell you, more often than not, the five minutes become ten, then twenty and before i know it, I am IN, IN-VOLVED, HOOKED. My attention has been engaged. The next step, and the step after that becomes easy as pie. The psyche, which is where all action happens, has been tricked and motivated if not impassioned, to carry on.

Oh, and what do the other timers do? The one by the bed is for 20 minutes of meditation daily. I swear my meditation. if you want to be convinced read a book called HOW GOD CHANGES YOUR BRAIN. I forget the names of the authors but it is available on Amazon.con. The one in the living room  is for a minimum of twenty minutes of yoga daily. I swear by it, too.

Sunday, 16 December 2012


I have been thrashing about without a vision for this blog. I thought I could write about my reading, but that has fizzled out, or, may yet be. I've been writing my new book about Guru Nanak and haven't particularly been focused on blogging, especially since nobody is reading it! But I thought I would share with you, in the weeks to go, how essential it is to set goals, tiny, even minuscule one to keep going, for going we must! Onward! Audience or not!


Yesterday, after a week of restless exhaustion, I fell into a deep state of rest. It was sudden, and unaccounted for. It had to be a gift from the universe. Perhaps it was triggered by a lie-down with my cat, just stroking him, and having him lie in the crook of my arm. However it happened, it is here. I want nothing more to do these days than sit with cups of tea, stare out of the window, or lie in bed, simply lie in that hypnagogic state between waking and dreaming. Even the unmade bed doesn’t matter, nor the few dirty dishes in the sink. I have had six hours of sleep, and six of just lying about.

It is hard to admit this. It is hard to still the critical voice that says, don’t write all this piddly stuff.  Nobody gives a shit about your resting habits. It is too personal and self-indulgent. But I am emboldened by my state of rest to defy these voices.

Inertia is a form of rest. When you have had more activity, mental or physical, than you can handle, the body and mind wrest the wages of their labor, their due of stillness. And why not? Stillness is the mother of all activity, the mother from which all comes, and into which all returns.

Artists and writers need more rest because subconsciously and unconsciously, they are always working. Their work is their life, their life is their work. Because of this most artists do nothing other than their art. It is hard for them to hold down jobs. “The true artist will let his wife starve, his children go barefoot, his mother drudge for his living at seventy, sooner than work at anything but his art,” GB Shaw said, in Man and Superman. Artists need a lot of leisure, wide, vast spaces to dream in, un-harnessed times where the imagination roams the fields of thought, grazing at what it will. Like rivers they need to flow unhampered by clocks and obligations.

But even as I write this, the voice of my elders intrudes to make me wonder if I am making an excuse to lie in bed some more, rationalizing my laziness. This tug-of-war between the need for rest and the desire to do and achieve is endless. It is a daily, an hourly struggle.  I am often inclined to work when I should rest, and rest when I should work. I still do not listen to the mute messages of my body; I still haven’t learned to ride, like a hawk, the waves of energy and rest. I am torn between these contraries. To master this balance between the two is the work of a lifetime. Yet I have experienced moments, mainly when I am in such a deep state of rest, in which the body and mind, resting and working, being and doing, working and playing, are one; a time and a place where I am not judging my states, weighing and measuring who I am and what I want and what I need; when the doer and the doing become one.

Friday, 14 December 2012


I have finally, after wasting much precious energy on comparisons, been able to fully understand and live Emerson’s injunction that ‘envy is ignorance, imitation suicide.’ I know I cannot ride rough-shod over my body. The more decomposed my body is, the less I can create.

The reason why we do not let ourselves rest to the full extent of our need is because we do not trust rest. It reminds us of death. We think, there is lots of time to rest when we are dead. Our culture places so much emphasis on doing that we feel there is something dreadfully wrong with us, some illness, perhaps, if we want to rest more than the prescribed amount. Rest is associated with degeneration, depravity, debauchery, destitution. Resting and laziness and idleness are synonymous. We hear the voices of our elders, of sayings and saws in our head: Benjamin Franklin’s “Be always asham’d to catch yourself idle;” Herman Melville’s “Toil is man’s allotment; toil of brain, or toil of hands, or a grief that’s more than either, the grief and sin of idleness;”  “Idleness is the parent of poverty.”

Socially, too, there are a lot of taboos associated with rest. There is an assumption that without these injunctions against rest and idleness, without a moral goad towards activity, we will lapse into an inactivity that will erode the very foundations of society that is based upon an equation of time and money; that civilizations will vanish, our entire infrastructure will corrode. No, we do not trust rest, we fear it. We fear it will turn us into potatoes. We feel that potato-hood is our natural state, and that without the whip we will all be bums. Of course there is always the danger that if you have a proclivity towards potato-ness that you will become one.

There are topics that are taboo, and what one does when one rests is one of them. It is considered more obscene even than sex. One of the sex gurus, Henry Miller, should know: “More obscene than anything is inertia.” But taking my cue from him who pushed the envelope in writing about sex, I will write about inertia. NEXT


And yet, does not this, too, sound like regret? Perhaps I had to go through all that struggle, the flirtation with suicide before this book could be born. Perhaps without suffering we do not learn our lessons. Perhaps we need to suffer in order to get material for our writing. This is the old, the traditional way of thinking about art: “The more I become decomposed,” Van Gogh said, “the more sick and fragile I am, the more I become an artist.” This statement seems to imply an inverse relationship between health and creativity. Does one have to keep dipping one’s pen and brushes in the inkwell and pigment of suffering?  In order to create art does one have to burn, burn like a candle?
Something in me rebels against this as being the only truth. Something in me hopes that we can be wiser, happier, healthier, and still create.
The reason why we are not wiser, happier, healthier is because we follow models that we try to live up to without being aware of our own destiny, needs, limitations. We compare ourselves to others, how they live and are, instead of living in our own bodies, in our own health. Wisdom, as the Greeks knew, consists in knowing yourself. I myself have made myself miserable from a lack of knowledge about my own body, and by trying to imitate others. I have always envied people who need only six hours of sleep, who are capable of living a nine to five life. They never need to take a day off in the middle of the week, and just sleep in, or wake up some morning and want to return to bed right away. Their bodies are like well-trained, well-regulated machines.  

Because of these comparisons, I have forced myself to do more than I could, forced my head and my will to lead the way while my body lagged way behind. I have often dragged my body, kicking and screaming, as if it were an appendage, slowing me down, keeping me from my ideas of how I should live and act and be. I too have fallen victim to the hurry, hurry, do do dodo of our lives, the fascism of capitalism where time is measured only in tangibles: a product, money, achievement, fame; where we begin to think even of meditating, that marvelous non-activity that renews the body/mind, revitalizes it, and creates time, as time wasted; where we turn even the activities that we love so much, like writing or gardening, into burdensome chores. I have often got myself to the point of exhaustion where life seems like an endless, joyless grind; to the point where the body rebels, falls sick, or the mind begins to entertain ideas of death.



I have suffered greatly because of an assumption, stupid as it may sound when I write it down, that I should be somehow writing all the time. I have visualized other writers in their garrets, bachelors and spinsters who have sacrificed their lives to their art, writing day and night, producing reams and reams that make them famous, if not rich.  I have flagellated myself for not being more like them, for not being more disciplined, for wasting time, for spending any of it away from my desk. For years this tug of war made me an insomniac. I would not let myself rest or sleep in peace, I would not let myself be. Anything other than writing was a waste of time.  I felt the tug of the hook in my mouth any time I was away from the desk. All in all, I would have to admit that I have expended more time on regret than on writing. 

When I look back at the onset of my Big Block, I think I could have avoided it by resting. But I was too blind to see that the block was my body’s way of saying it needed rest, relaxation, simply being. The little grey cells were crying for respite as well. There are times in life, momentous times when the best thing to do is be still. This stillness works the way no amount of struggle does. It is fruitful and healing. If I had done this I may have bypassed The Block.