Monday, 1 December 2008


"My company has winnowed by my mere distance from town. I had withdrawn so far within the great ocean of solitude, into which the rivers of society empty, that for the most part, so far as my needs were concerned, only the finest sediment was deposited around me. Beside, there were wafted to me evidences of unexplored and uncultivated continents on the other side."
Thoreau, Walden

Someone looked at me funny in the checkout queue in the supermarket. I’m feeling pretty weird at the moment. I don’t mean weird like I feel like I’ve got the flu coming on, or like I’m lost in some drug-induced haze of fragmented perception. I mean weird like I am a weirdo.

This may be unsurprising to some.

The thing is, I inhabit various different realities, and wander between them. None of them seem real to me either. Double weird.

I live in a yurt in the middle of bloody nowhere. I brush my teeth outside as the frost crackles under my feet. I have to remember to bring water in at night because if I don’t it will be frozen solid in the morning. I’m in a country where I don’t really speak the language, and my nearest village is peopled with hippies, a couple of alcoholics, a million dogs (all running loose – and no one owns a poop-a-scoop), and a horse.

I recently got an email inviting me to record a session and an interview on radio 3. This will happen some time in the next couple of months. So I will come out of this environment and into Broadcasting House in London.

And when I need to use the internet I sit in the local town library (like right now), surrounded by everyday local people, leading everyday local lives. I become aware that my hair needs a wash, my clothes need a wash, and I am dressed in a Russian hat, orange stripy jeans and a long Swedish navy coat. It’s ok, he’s foreign.

This is just a snapshot of the now. If I get into a history of the peculiar realities I have inhabited we will be here all night. Like when I got back from India and the next day was sitting in a casting suite in Soho handing over ritual implements to my Buddhist teacher then trying out for a part in an advert for tea. As a Buddhist. I didn’t get the part. Neither did my teacher…

Culture shock is for wusses. I AM culture shock.

Groups are strange things. They all have their own conventions and their hierarchy always places them at the top. And here am I, living my way, straddling these various worlds.

Though I have some need for acceptance, I have found that generally, if you are ok with people, people are ok with you. I have yet to be locked up and am assuming therefore that all is well. People don’t really get me, but I think this is true of all of us. All people ever see are reflections of their own mind (a bit of yogacara philosophy for you there).

We are all alone, mysterious and un-gettable, though many of us pretend to be a caricature or stereotype, in order that people might at least get that. Like the characters in Breakfast Club, we limit ourselves to a role: a criminal, a weirdo, a sporto, a nerd. A simple hook for someone else’s mental projection to hang on, in the hope that maybe in this way we will have company for our soul. Or at least people will give us a break.

Not very satisfying but less scary than staring at the fullness of one’s immensity, in all our naked and multi-dimensional glory and asking ‘Who am I?’

Prince Charming, ridicule is nothing to be scared of. The individual is the enemy of the group, and thus is likely to cop some flak from that direction. But the group is the enemy of the individual, so bollocks to them, I say. Whoever they are. In the words of Bob Marley, ‘I don’t come to bow, I come to conquer’.

Since the 60s we have been breaking conventions, looking to express ourselves, worshipping individuality and relativism. Me perhaps more than most.

This cultural shift away from conforming to traditional values and lifestyles is cool as far as I am concerned and I wouldn’t swap it, though it means, in the short term, the destruction of cohesive society, and all the positive by-products of such a society (as well as all the negative ones).

Still, all in all, it seems to be a move in the right direction. But, as has been said many times before, with freedom comes responsibility. If we are to be individuals, we must be TRUE individuals. The big companies have been touting themselves as the brand of the individual, and we buy into it. En masse.

We choose the mobile phone casing that expresses who we are. (‘I’m really whacky, me. Just look at my phone. It’s got cartoon pigs on it.’). We choose our own font on Myspace. Send out regular status updates on Facebook proving how exciting we are ‘Is standing on his head while eating avocado’. Gee it’s fun to be friends.

Being a true individual means being honest with yourself about who you are. Listening closely to your heart and setting up the right conditions in your life for it to flower. You cannot yank the petals of a flower open. You can’t dress a daffodil up in a rose costume and pretend that everything’s ok. All a flower needs is sun, rain, earth and a bit of time. It is becoming itself right now. And all through the process of becoming, it is perfectly itself.

And being a true individual doesn’t mean withdrawing from others into our own little sub-culture of pseudo-individuals either, which is another trick we pull in a quest to appear like we have gone beyond the homogenous blob of ‘society’ that we believe exists. It means connecting with others authentically and with respect (which doesn’t necessarily mean politeness). Rebellion is not about destruction, it is about construction (or at least it should be). It is not about turning away, but turning towards. It is about evolution and positivity. It is about having the strength to be gentle.

Interacting and co-operating with others, and with the State, from the basis of true individuality, which invariably means with love, is a lifelong practice I think. It takes ages to work out who you are. Even to work out how to work out who you are. Then bringing that into your life takes more time. And by that time you’ve probably changed!

Jung called this process ‘individuation’. We are not individuals, we are in a process of becoming individuals. At least I hope we are. If not, we are in a process of hiding away from our own beauty, trying to stay huddled in the centre of the herd, like some poor cow that does not know it could smash that farmer to pieces in a minute and be free, if only it woke up.

Anyway, that’s what you get for going to the supermarket.

This morning I woke up and went straight out for a walk. Gazing at snow-capped mountains, strolling along a dirt track in my pyjamas.

It’s an Anthony Robbins thing I do sometimes. He calls it ‘Fifteen minutes to Fulfilment’. It’s for the American market.

You do a few minutes just walking and breathing, then a few reflecting on all the things in life that you’re grateful for, then on all the things in life that you will be grateful for when they manifest themselves (ie what kind of future do you want to have?) and then some repetition of positive, inspiring phrases. A great way to start the day when you can’t be arsed to meditate yet.

I have done this in so many different contexts, and I love to look around and see where I am now. By the sea, in the mountains, on a London pavement, in Sheffield on a treadmill, staring at a wall.

This morning I couldn’t even do it, I just walked along, brimming with bliss, saying ‘wow’ a lot. I love this place.

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