Right Mindfulness: Write Thought is where I write about writing and the crazy world of the mind. Find out about me or rummage in the archives using the menus above or the pics below:
“I traffic in fiction. I do not traffic in lies.”
Alan Moore reminds me of an Old English Sheepdog with a wry twinkle in his eye. You just know he’s got a juicy bone hidden somewhere. He’s best known for his comics, like Watchmen and V for Vendetta, and for the fact that he hates the movie versions with a passion. Hollywood, he says, “spoon-feeds us, which has the effect of watering down our collective cultural imagination.” Moore is an artist driven by the art rather than the market. A writer, storyteller, magician, rebel, iconoclast, and psychonaut who, like William Blake, believes the reality of imagination is paramount. Moore’s new novel, Jerusalem, is out later this year.
To be British is to be confused about who you are, or at least conflicted. But maybe that’s just me. I grew up listening to my Irish father bemoan the British, who were, as far as he was concerned, a bunch of troglodytes. I suspect he was only partially joking. As an immigrant, he grew up in an era of overt racism and discrimination. Job adverts declared “no Irish need apply”, and signs in boarding houses read “No Irish, No Blacks, No Dogs.”
Things have improved since the 50s; a bit. But the emotional fallout of the EU referendum has kicked up a lot of dust and opened old wounds. The ugly side of nationalism, the flag waving, get-off-my-island mentality, has triggered shame and soul searching in at least half the population. What will become of Britain when it leaves the EU? Where will we belong? What does it mean to be British anyway?
Continue reading “Brexit Identity Crisis: or How to Be British”
I wasn’t going to write about Brexit but my country is tearing itself apart and I can’t look away. We’ve strapped ourselves into a rollercoaster that’s coming off the rails. It probably won’t end well – at least, not for the poor. But then, it never ends well for the poor.
Over the last week or so I’ve been glued to the news, trying to understand what’s going on and where we might be heading. Before the referendum I didn’t pay much attention. I’ve never been particularly interested in listening to politicians lie. I knew which way I was going to vote. Since then I’ve realised the whole Brexit farce was one great confidence trick. It’s not just the Leave supporters who were conned; we all were.
I started self-publishing early and, as it turns out, I was writing fantasy and science fiction right from the start! My first books were small but ambitious, and lavishly illustrated. In Write Like a Beginner I shared one of these stories – Creepy Castle – which wasn’t really a book, more a couple of sheets loosely tied with pink thread. But the stories in this post are something else – they’ve got proper covers and everything. May I present: The Book of Giant Stories and Life on Mars.
A little while ago I went to a Writing for Wellbeing workshop and one of the exercises was called ‘Writing Like a Beginner’. The idea was to stop worrying about getting it right and just write any old stuff – like you did when you were a child. It frees you up and gets you out of your critical mindset. The instructions were to think back to childhood, to a specific moment when you were writing something, or you could make up a moment, then write imagining you are that child doing the writing. We were given crayons to get in the mood, but were told we could change back to using a pen if we wanted to.
When I was a kid I wrote stories that were like fairy tales, so I decided to recreate one I vaguely remembered that featured a ‘naughty rat’. We had 10 minutes, which wasn’t quite enough for me to finish my tale, so I continued later in the break and this is what I ended up with…
Mindfulness is everywhere these days. With the number of books and apps and courses available you would think we had become a nation of bodhisattvas overnight. The positive effects of mindfulness are widely known and aggressively advertised, but the practice doesn’t work the same way for everyone, and it can actually make you feel worse. However, you wouldn’t know this looking at the literature and studies that have been done. If you start to meditate thinking that only good things will happen, you might be in for a shock.
“Mindfulness of Breathing, monks, cultivated and regularly practiced, is of great fruit and great benefit. Mindfulness of Breathing, cultivated and regularly practiced, brings to Perfection the four Foundations of Mindfulness. The four Foundations of Mindfulness, cultivated and regularly practiced, bring the seven Factors of Enlightenment to perfection; the seven Factors of Enlightenment, cultivated and regularly practiced, bring wisdom and deliverance to perfection.” – Anapanasati Sutra
After my little rant about the latest mindfulness craze I thought it would be a good idea to restore some context to the subject. So I hit the books to find out more, and remind myself what I’m supposed to be doing when I sit and watch my breath.
“Mindfulness is the skill of thinking you are doing something when you are doing nothing. One of the good things about mindfulness is that you get to do a lot of sitting down. Sitting down is good for the mind because so much positive energy is stored in the lap.” – The Ladybird Book of Mindfulness
I recently attended a Writing for Wellbeing workshop which was designed to promote “mindfulness and calm.” We did various writing exercises and a little guided visualisation, and were told: “Whatever you write is right for you – when done mindfully.” Well, maybe I was having a bad day, but I didn’t feel calm or mindful.
This is actually a little bit disturbing…
On my walks around the local neighbourhood I often come across artworks and curious sculptures that make me want to learn more about the area. The Waymarkers were created by Lewis Robinson in 2002 to mark the main routes through the Ouseburn valley. They’re made from steel and glass, and each one celebrates a different aspect of the industrial past and culture of the area. The route itself is marked by blue-green bottles lined up on walls or propped against railings, like this one:
More Than This is a mind-blowing YA science fiction novel by Patrick Ness that’s so good it’s hard to believe. This is one of my all-time favourite books and just thinking about it makes me want to read it again.
“Whatever happened to you down there, whatever the world looks like now, that’s not how it always looks. That’s not how it’s always going to look. There’s more. There’s always more.”
I need to be a little less hospitable towards my thoughts… and this is such a beautiful, gentle way to do it