The stars were out and twinkling last evening as we walked back from meditation. It was if seeing the array for the first time with all the questions a child would ask when first discovering the vastness of space. Discovering anew, thank goodness that is possible. If the sense of wonder goes out of life and living things may well have taken a downward turn.
I could see the lights in the windows of all the other houses on our hill and hear the music rising from them up the long, steady falling night. I turned the gas down, I got into bed. I said some words to the close and holy darkness, and then I slept.
Back in 2005 I quoted the last line of this famous poem in a post.The dark last night was a ‘close and holy darkness’. For some people looking up into the night sky is a spiritual experience, a touching of the infinite and I can relate to that. Last night I could anyway. So if you are out and about this evening waiting for the year to turn into another one take a look, look up and appreciate the cosmos. In spiritual terms, that which is without edges. Us Earthlings are but a spec are we not.
Attached to that 2005 post is a comment left by the now late Iain Robinson. I’ve copied it below for interest and for remembrance of him. Three year gone come this July.
Iain on December 26, 2005 at 6:02 pm said:
A long time ago I used to have a lot to do with Swansea and would regularly pass Dylan Thomas’ parent’s home in the Uplands. That was the house he was remembering in “A Child’s Christmas in Wales”
I knew a lady in the town who at seventeen had been very actively ‘courted’ by Dylan. She worked in the local depot of W.H. Smith Wholesale and he used to hang out at Ralph’s bookshop across the road. Her dad warned her “Don’t ever let me catch you talking to that bad boy!” Another path not chosen there …
One of Dylan Thomas’ lines from the introduction to ‘Under Milk Wood is the quotation I’m using on the title page of my thesis
Where do we go when we close our eyes with the intention to sleep? What’s actually happening when we dream? What ARE dreams? Good questions and no doubt there are very many answers floating about. But what about sleep? I’m aware that there are many people who for one reason or another do not get enough sleep and/or the right kind of sleep to sustain them. And indeed racking up a sleep deficit over time can be a major source of stress and eventually weakened health. Fortunately I’m one who can generally pass from being wake to sleeping with relative ease.
Early on I was told that meditation continues while we are asleep. To aid this the instruction is to put ones mind into the mind of meditation. In other words to quieten down, remain present in body and mind and bring the wondering/wandering mind back to just being there. Time and time again. Trouble is the day is more often than not filled with events which come flooding back if there was something unsettling that happened. Perhaps something with an emotional charge sending echos back into ones past. In no time the mind can become very much awake and sleep a very long time coming as a consequence.
Here is an extract from a book about sleep and dreaming titled The Twenty Four Hour Mind by Rosalind Cartwright. The author talks about the function of dreams which is of particular interest in terms of meditation – which is as has been said already, a 24 hour business.
I (the author) propose that when some disturbing waking experience is reactivated in sleep and carried forward into REM, where it is matched by similarity in feeling to earlier memories, a network of older associations is stimulated and is displayed as a sequence of compound images that we experience as dreams. This melding of new and old memory fragments modifies the network of emotional self-defining memories, and thus updates the organizational picture we hold of ‘who I am and what is good for me and what is not.’ In this way, dreaming diffuses the emotional charge of the event and so prepares the sleeper to wake ready to see things in a more positive light, to make a fresh start. This does not always happen over a single night; sometimes a big reorganization of the emotional perspective of our self-concept must be made — from wife to widow or married to single, say, and this may take many nights. Taken from a review of the above book titled: The Science of Sleep: Dreaming, Depression, and How REM Sleep Regulates Negative Emotions found on Brain Pickings.
In the spirit of intending to continue meditation through the night I’ve made it a habit to deliberately visualize my day from that moment backwards until waking. Some days are easier to go back through than others and that’s very much conditioned by my relationship to what’s happened. Some times my mind repeatedly drifts off and at other times I can travel back with relative ease. I just see chunks of the day as they come to me rather than try to see everything in detail. Intending to accept and let go of the days events during this pre-sleep review transforms sleep into a spiritual practice. That’s the intent anyway.
Today the sharp crisp air of late December gave way to windswept soggy blasts. The weather is an ever-present changing phenomenon here on the moors. Commented on, pondered on, prepared for, and the anticipated effects of weather defended against. Water gathering up high on the moors eventually reaches critical mass and comes gushing down in foaming, gushing, bubbling waterfalls. It comes so fast the drainage system struggles to do its job effectively. And I’m now thinking of those in Britain who have lost their homes and livelihoods to the weather this winter.
Now is the time to stay indoors, settle down and be less physical active. But that’s not possible for everybody and nobody can stay in for ever. There’s shopping and driving and visiting to be done. Relatives and friends to see and people to visit who are stuck indoors. The elderly and infirm, the sick and those recovering surgery in hospital. I feel myself fortunate that all I have to do is walk from one building to another. That too will change.
What ever the weather and where ever one is be it indoors, stuck indoors, being blown about by wind (inside or outside!) always there is the choice to return within. Constantly.
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What a jolly bunch this morning as we pitched ourselves up the hill and onto the moors above Throssel. The wind behind us, the sunshine above and blue sky all around. The Trigpoint is a favoured destination for a more serious walk, boots and windproof clothing essential.
For me it has been a rare treat of a day in every way with companionable times aplenty. I hope that’s been the case for you. Yes, Buddhist can enjoy Christmas Day too. It’s the time of year anybody of any faith, or non, to light up the darkness.
Drawing on the collective memory of the monks it is generally agreed there has never NEVER been so much water gushing down the hillside here at Throssel Hole Buddhist Abbey. But why? Why so much water all of a sudden since there hasn’t been that much rain. What ever the reason there has been much activity during the day to channel the water using sandbags. There is a line of them going directly across the sparsely lit lane we walk down early in the morning for meditation. A helpful note stuck to an outside door reminds us to, Be careful not to trip over the sandbags in the lane!
So on a wet and very windy night-time moorland in Northumberland, where we are taking care not to trip, here’s wishing equanimity and peace of mind be your constant companions into the New Year ahead.
within the dimly lit
interior of our