Saturday, 1 November 2008

HERE; OR, LIFE IN THE MOUNTAINS - EPISODE 2



This week, as well as showing my general day-to-day life, I talk a bit about the right to privacy. For those who are interested in this issue, you may wish to find out more here:


I also mention Inter-Ference, the totally excellent Brighton-based performance poet:



WORK: A FOUR LETTER WORD?

It was a pleasant hillside where I worked, covered with pine woods, through which I looked out on the pond, and a small open field in the woods where pines and hickories were springing up … So I went on for some days cutting and hewing timber, and also studs and rafters, all with my narrow axe, not having many communicable or scholar-like thoughts, singing to myself
Thoreau, Walden


One key thing about this yurt life, especially at the setting-up stage, is that there is a truck load of work involved. Before I first came to the mountain, I had to make the yurt. The wood for the frame came from a wood in Derbyshire. It was still fresh when I got it and our flat smelt like a forest. We had to strip all the bark off each pole, then treat each pole with linseed oil, then drill holes, tie the pieces together, make the crown, get hold of tarps (bought secondhand from a marquee hire place near Wales), then get the whole lot down to Spain, with all our other stuff, then put it up, then build a kitchen, and make a toilet, and furnish everything, and live. Then we took it all down again. And now we are moving onto a new piece of land so we have to get it there, then put it all up again, and make lots of new things too. There will be a proper floor and a proper door to the yurt this time. Last time we were directly on the ground and it was COLD. And the door was just the bag that one of the tarps came in and it was COLD. One of my friends here (who was living in a ruined building at the time, and who previously lived in a tiny cabin which she made from reclaimed wood) when she saw a picture of our set-up, said, “You spend the ween-ter like thees?! You crazier than me!”

So this time, more comfort, which means more work.

Now work, in general, does not agree with my constitution. So why have I opted, again and again, to spend time out in the mountains in this manner? Could I not simply rent an apartment in the local town, or even in Barcelona, and continue the easy life of the householder? In fact, why bother coming over here in the first place? Why must I re-orientate my life so completely on such a regular basis? Why not just stay where I was? Well, an easy life in terms of the amount of physical work involved does not mean that life is easy. But alas, I am already meandering away from the subject of this blog. Back to work!

Ok, work. Here’s what I think. I think life is fundamentally weird. The idea, for instance, that we are born so that we can go to school, then go to work, then retire, then die, is just bizarre. Surely there must be more to it???

I have come to the conclusion, after a great deal of experimentation with different lifestyles, close observation of peers and elders, and sustained periods of meditation, that the answer to this important question is ‘sort of’.

On the one hand, yes of course there is more to life. The functional, materially based aspects of life are not what life is about. Life must contain these to some extent, but these act as a foundation for finer things. Life is about enriching the soul, refining the character, being with friends, communing with the gods, and from the Buddhist perspective, keeping going with this until a fundamental shift occurs, and you find yourself no longer on the hamster wheel of life.

THE World is too much with us; late and soon,
Getting and spending, we lay waste our powers:
Little we see in Nature that is ours;
We have given our hearts away, a sordid boon!
This Sea that bares her bosom to the moon,
The winds that will be howling at all hours
And are up-gather'd now like sleeping flowers,
For this, for everything, we are out of tune;
Wordsworth

To live this way is to live a truly impoverished existence – no matter how much ‘stuff’ you accrue, and no matter how big the shack in which you store it.

But here’s the Zen twist. Actually, this is all there is. Get up, get washed, put clothes on, breathe in, breathe out, do stuff, rest, do more stuff, eat, sleep, and on and on. This is life. Nothing more. Nothing special. Samsara is Nirvana (to use some Buddhist schpiel from the Mahayana tradition). The trick is to be completely alive in each flowing moment of this miraculous existence. That’s all there is to Buddhahood. Nothing more. Nothing special. Easy, right? With each in-breath we are born anew. And the universe too. Within it, life moves and grows. Each out-breath is unique. It’s texture, it’s length, it’s effect on our body, and on our mind. When it’s gone, it’s gone, never to return. Which one will be your last? Right this moment, your life is passing, this is for sure. This very moment is your wealth, filled to the brim with the entire universe. Did you notice?

On this level, there is no benefit to me being in the mountains, living this way. Working as a banker in the City would be just as ‘spiritual’. But I have found that certain conditions support the expansion of one’s consciousness and the cultivation of states of wellbeing, and certain conditions hinder this. These conditions are different for everyone, but for me, I like to spend time in the mountains. I like to live outside, and to be close to nature. I like noticing how many different kinds of weather happen in a day, and how the view changes all day everyday and is never the same twice. I like knowing when the bees will come up from the valley in search of pollen. I like experiencing the parts of me that are wild and ancient – the consciousness that is buried deep in the cells, that has been passed down since the birth of humanity. I like to have the time to stop and experience the reality of being here, with this body, the way that it feels, the weight of it supported by the ground. And the work that I undertake in this environment, and the work that allows me to be in this environment, it doesn’t feel like work at all.

2 comments:

sorby said...

Hi Padma! We've not 'chatted' since I found you on myspace a while ago and just spotted your myspace bulletin so thougt I'd find out what you're up to. Am really excited about your new adventure - thanks for opening my eyes/ears to Walden and Inter-Ference. Really enjoyed your take on The Secret (a friend introduced me to it a year ago) - your perspective on it is illuminating & helpful.
I'm looking forward to following your exploits!
Cheers,
Rob, Shrewsbury, Shropshire, UK

Padma said...

Hi Rob - thanks for your comment. Yes Walden is well worth a read, though it takes a bit of concentration! They knew how to write dead proper in them days.

Ference - yes, a real find. He performed on the same stage as me at the Buddhafield festival and I was inspired and humbled by his poetry. There are still great artists out there with big hearts! Beauty is still to be found in humanity - I saw so much quality stuff at the festivals this year. Most of it was tucked away on small stages in cafes.

Glad you are enjoying my story and my contributions to the Great Debate!

Take care

Padma