A Barbie girl in a Barbie world...#valleyfabulous

Blog

Up all night again…

Up all night again…

Damn it, I’ve been up all night again. I shudder to think what Moodscope will make of it.   I feel like shit. I’ve not taken 30mg of Mertazipine and not slept before. The time has flown by cos I’ve been spaced out and giddy. […]

VIDEO: Guy Fawkes Night @ Swansea Grand Theatre Comedy Club

VIDEO: Guy Fawkes Night @ Swansea Grand Theatre Comedy Club

I always enjoy myself in Swansea and this was a lovely gig – compered by the always brilliant Noel James. I’ve removed all the video from YouTube and I’ll be uploading shorter, more internet-friendly clips in future cos apparently if I don’t spoon-feed people this […]

Thursday Thoughts, Meditation, and Mindfulness…

Thursday Thoughts, Meditation, and Mindfulness…

The Little Lay Buddhist Who Could…

I’ve been meditating, on and off, for about eighteen years now. I’ve been practicing mindfulness since I was a child – I just didn’t know I was doing it. I’d lie on the grass in Gelli Park (soon to feature, along side little ol’ me in an upcoming edition of BBC Wales Live!), close my eyes, and watch the veins in my eyelids, feel the warm summer breeze on my skin and listen to the sounds of the wind in the trees, the birds in the sky, the children playing…and some cunt with a disk-cutter.

I don’t know what it is with Valleys Folk ™ but unless they can hear a disk-cutter, tile-cutter, or some other kind of saw in the background then it ain’t summer. Fuck you and your swallows.

That was me meditating when I was a kid, that was. I discovered The Dharma Bums, Alan Watts, and all that shit in my late teens, as you do, but I was also a software nerd and so fell in love with Hackers by Stephen Levy and the whole culture that formed back in those days around Berkeley, MIT, the Homebrew Computer Club etc.

I happily rolled along with completely the wrong idea of what Buddhism is for a couple of years and then one day, coming back from a training course in Bristol and quite by chance, I picked up a copy of The Tibetan Book of Living and Dying by Sogyal Rinpoche. After sitting in the summer sun in the front garden of our then-home in Maesycwmmer, I was reduced to Paltrow-level blubbing by the sheer force of kindness, compassion, and empathy in the book. Rinpoche, embodying the Bodhisattva spirit, I guess, had produced a work of gentle strength and raging compassion. I decided to dive deeper.

I checked out a few introductory texts, The Elements of Buddhism by John Snelling is one that I particularly enjoyed. It contains a sound introduction to most schools of Buddhism and is a short, easily digested reference, perfect for the interested layperson.

I’m a perfectionist, in the pejorative sense. Unless everything is in it’s place and all the ducks are standing to attention, to self-indulgently mix a few metaphors for a while, I can’t start shit. This is one of the major end-of-level baddies I’m gonna have to smack the shit out of in order to progress. Writers’ Block like you would not believe.

This perfectionism insinuated itself into my search for further guidance, reading, and like-minded folk. (Those among you of a Buddhist persuasion will have already noticed that I was – unknowingly, at the time – searching for what some of us call The Three Jewels: The Buddha, as personified by a ** teacher; The Dharma as encompassed by the teachings of The Buddha; and The Sangha, the community of lay and monastic Buddhist practitioners). My perfectionism hindered my acquisition of knowledge: during one sincerely silly five minutes I found myself hesitating while deliberating over two schools of Buddhism because one wore brown robes and the other, the cooler, more Zen-like black.

Madness, but I was a young man.

Once I’d gotten over my childish Western desire to pick something that would bolster my own view of myself and my ego instead of challenging it, I met with a group of Ch’an (Chinese Zen) practitioners in Cardiff. I practiced on and off with them for some time, with long periods of absence, my perfectionism and frustration thwarting my attempts at any kind of long-term, committed practice. I wasn’t ready. I’m still not ready. I practice nonetheless.

In one episode of Porridge, after The Miracle of The Missing Echo, Bunny Warren tells Fletch,

“I was brought up a Catholic. Not a very good one but something like this, well…makes you think, don’t it?”

That’s how I feel about Buddhism. I tell myself that I do my best, but…

Meditation, that’s what you need!

I’ve read a lot of Buddhist literature over the years but it’s all just words, really. I found that when my anxiety was too great to meditate I could calm my mind a little by doing something repetitive. Eric S. Raymond once said the same thing about programmers who often will do mindless, repetitive work just to clear out their internal desktop. My mindfulness tool is and always will be music. Sometimes it’s rudiments on the practice pad and sometimes it’s scales on the bass. Some people lift weights or sand wood or hit golf balls. Anything that gets you ‘into the zone/groove/moment/flow/whatever you like to call it’.

Once my mind has calmed a little and the internal fire alarm has died down to a distant dinging, I try again to meditate. Sometimes it works (although ‘works’ isn’t the right word – maybe ‘happens’ is better) and sometimes it doesn’t.

There’s a quote attributed to His Holiness The Dalai Lama that goes something like:

“You should try to meditate for an hour each; unless you’re really busy, in which case you should meditate for two hours.”

True or not, I like it. It pushes back against the damaging belief that the harder you work, the more you’re worth as a human being. That’s all kinds of bullshit. You don’t really have to meditate for two hours a day, though (when would you shit?) Any meditation teacher worth their salt will tell you that even five minutes a day is better than nothing.

Give it a try. It won’t hurt you.

I used to work for a mindfulness charity and was once privileged enough to speak to a group of mostly middle-aged men who were all struggling in their own way. Naturally, being working-class lads from the valleys, they were dubious about all this ‘tree-hugging, hippy stuff’ but they listened to what I had to say and I’m happy to report that they all said they’d like to know more and sign up for a course. Sometimes you just get the best days, y’know?

It isn’t for everyone, there’s nothing to be afraid of, there are incredibly benificial side-effects in most cases and no-one need know you spent five minutes sat bolt-upright staring at a wall.

63% What???

I’m up to 63% Happy on MoodScope now. Some of the advice they gave was:

…take a little time to try and pin down precisely what’s been going right, so the good times keep on coming.

Here goes…

  • I’m working hard and almost have the spine of the show sorted.
  • I have reached out to professionals (counsellor, GP etc)
  • I have reached out to family and friends, come clean, and explained
    what’s going on and how they can help.
  • I’ve allowed them to help.
  • I take my medication, I meditate.
  • I read and I write more than I ever have before.

I need to add better diet, supplements, and training to this list and I think I’ll be on my way.

I started this post this afternoon but then HippyTaff turned up. I kind of lost the thread of what I was talking about but I hope this is of use to someone and maybe I’ll pick up the threads in future posts.

Wes x

p.s. You may have noticed the Amazon links. I’m not trying to hawk you anything, I promise. Everything I recommend (and there will not be much) is because I honestly think they might help. Feel free to beg, borrow, or steal them but if you would like to help me eat then Amazon send shit very well packaged, so I’ve heard. Possibly too well, but that’s for another rant blog.

63% Happy!!! Duw, duw, duw…

63% Happy!!! Duw, duw, duw…

63%??? Surely not? According to tonight’s MoodScope score, I am currently 63% Happy. I’ve worked hard and learned lessons today. Dropped a clanger with the blog earlier so some of you got mailed an incomplete blog post. Sorry ’bout that. If this one doesn’t turn […]

What a day…

What a day…

“It’s been a funny day,” as Arkwright would say… I take depression day by day. It’s the only way I can stay on top of it. Some days are better than others, I’m sure you can relate, and some days just seem to stick around […]

Depression Busting Fail…

Depression Busting Fail…

I failed to bust my depression. Oh well. I was supposed to attend the session at Too Good To Waste in Ynyshir this morning but couldn’t get out of bed. I decided to go to The Pop Factory this afternoon, felt ok with that, and hapilly got some work done.

At twelve-thirty, I left for Porth. It’s hot in the valley today. Tempers are fraying. I couldn’t find anywhere to park, drove around Porth a few times, had an anger attack which turned into a panic attack which resulted in me almost running someone over, I was in such a mess.

Fuck it, said I, and now I’m having a coffee in Dom’s in Treorchy. Everyone is ok but maybe 52% was optimistic.

I’m happy enough, though. I used to come to Dom’s on my lunch break as a schoolboy. The place hasn’t changed a bit.

This life shit is harder than it looks, some days. Look after you and yours.

Wes x

52% Happy? Depression Busting?

52% Happy? Depression Busting?

It’s terrifying, how quickly the time passes. The last Moodscope test I did was forty-two days ago but feels like a week. I’m tired today. I’m waking up every day without the strength to clench a fist, my legs shake, feel weak, like they can’t […]

The state of my head…

The state of my head…

During the first public performance of 40% Happy last Thursday, I mentioned to the audience that the show was gonna be a bit ropey. They understood, some even told me after the show that they found it interesting, watching someone working through material and ideas […]

Updates to newsletters, subscriptions, and stuff…

Updates to newsletters, subscriptions, and stuff…

I’ve added some proper subscription stuff so y’all now have a cool way of subscribing to this blog and/or its comments, you can log-in to post comments with social networking sites and wordpress.com and shit like that.

Some of you have already signed up for the newsletter which I’m hoping you can give me some feedback on – what you’d like to see in it – but if you want to keep up-to-date with blog posts and (if you want) discussions happening on the site then now’s your chance.

 

Subscribe to Blog via Email

Enter your email address to subscribe to this blog and receive notifications of new posts by email.

 

I know, I’m too damned nice.

Had a spot of rain in the valley earlier, sneezed and shat my jeans cos of meds and too much coffee, one of my neighbours got burgled by some smackrat with a knife at eleven o’clock this morning but it’s brightened up, I’ve had shower and some toast, and put a wash in; I’ve worked on the show, worked on the website , worked on Workshy (more to follow soon), worked on booking some gigs, and caught up with some friends.

Valley Fabulous.

Wes x

Doing my best…

Doing my best…

I did the gig. I almost cancelled it last Friday, I almost cancelled it on Thursday morning, and I almost turned around on the way there; thanks to my partner and to Mind UK, I managed to stave off a panic attack on arrival. It […]