Blue is the colour of distance. Blue is the colour that dissolves into the molecules of the atmosphere at the reaches of horizon. If I close my eyes and conjure blue, I am transported to a state in which I drift, at peace, through endlessness. Writer, traveller, luminary, Rebecca Solnit has written a meditation on the art of getting lost. A Field guide to Getting Lost is part memoir, part scientific discussion, part poetic flowering. It is an essential companion for an intrepid traveller, or day-dreamer, or misfit.
I’ve been sitting on the floor in my apartment, bathed in heavenly soft European sun, with paints in hand. I’m becoming familiar once again with old friends. I was struck afresh by the magnetism of Ultramarine blue. Its the first paint I picked up, and its the one I continuously return to. I have used this, or a slightly darker and more dramatic hue, Prussian Blue, in almost all paintings I’ve done. As my work has become more abstract over time, I’ve relied on the depth, the richness and, critically, the complex moods of ultramarine more. Yet, its not just the hue that draws me, its the history of the pigment too.
When deciding on how to best spend my time, I often ask myself to isolate what my purpose is, with the intention to then set out tasks that are in line with this. Seemingly such a clear and obvious path, and yet, this often leads me to want to spend more time writing, reading, training in line with copy writing and editing. But then also yoga! Everything to do with sharing yoga. And painting! And artistic expression in general. But, then I think, wait, I studied my ass off for years for a PhD in History, so shouldn’t I be working on post-doc fellowships and research proposals …
On a flight back to Amsterdam from a recent trip to Kenya, I stumbled upon a short story by JM Coetzee, titled The Dog. The story focuses on an unnamed female who makes a daily journey on foot to work. En route, she passes a private property guarded by a vicious dog. The story has no particular location, although the language spoken between the characters is French. Work and homeward bound, She is harassed by this dog. It is a terrifying and beastly hound, with sharp teeth, a stinking breath (no doubt) and a keen smell for female blood:
Some books appear in my life precisely when I’m meant to read them. Usually, these books shake me to the core. I discover them, or they discover me, in a moment when I’m avoiding a ‘serious work to-do list’ in a cafe-cum-workspace and I spend an unreasonably long time surveying their dogeared library collection. One book will jump out at me and say ‘hello’. Or, it may be when I’m travelling and a fellow voyager makes a recommendation - or drops a paperback (admittedly, I am one type of thief - a book thief) out of a handbag.
It is a constant challenge to find time to dedicate to a project that is abstracted from your ‘job’ commitments, relationships and civil responsibilities. A first novel is a scary and illusive thing to pursue. There is nothing to show for it whilst it is being created and no one (including you) really knows whether its total crap or not. Its just a document on my Macbook. A blip on the ether. And yet it represents hours and hours of iteration, reiteration, drafts and redrafts. It represents energy, emotion, tears and sweat.
In February 2016 I visited Sri Lanka for 4 weeks or so with my Mother. It was a high point in a period of roughly four months in which I travelled, read novels and soaked up the sun. I had little motivation for each day other than simply not thinking too hard. I handed in my PhD in late November 2015 and needed that chunk of time to drift and let my brain and body recuperate. I see it as an enormously fortunate occurrence that 2 of the 4 weeks we spent in Sri Lanka were anchored at Villa de Zoysa on the south-western coast. There are two layers to this providence
It is with happiness and gratitude that I announce my new partnership with Exotic Yoga Retreats! I was invited by owner and founder, Gayle Olson, be a EYR yoga teacher.
The first retreat on the cards for me is in April 2018. It will take place between Cape Town and a private game reserve in Botswana from 7 - 17 April, 2018.
The past two or so months has been a time of flux, new experiences and varied challenges. I moved continent and uprooted my comfortable cottage on scenic farmlands, swopping it for a dinky apartment in a frenzied European city. In many way ways I still yearn for the wildly flung blue skies of African wilderness, and something tells me I will never be rid of this yearning as long as I am absent from my homeland. In spite of this I have tried to immerse myself in the present, taking deep gulps of car-fumed-full air and elbowing my way through crowds of gawking American tourists with jolly gusto.
Just because yoga is commonly perceived to represent universal and transcendent values of peace, non-violence and unity does not mean that it is above or can be consumed in isolation of politics
I woke up this morning feeling a sense of loss and nostalgia for myself. On the one hand this self was plainly lost to me - hence the melancholy - and yet, it was simultaneously palpably near. In fact it was the nearness I felt to this former self that gave rise to the particular and odd mourning; It was only through being aware of the the vivid details of this former me that I could fully comprehend the distance I had travelled from it. Perhaps this sounds like the start of a nauseatingly narcissistic ode, but please bear with me for these feelings give rise to some interesting questions about our experience of self in relation to time.
When the moment of stress takes hold, the mind is at flight. I have come to measure and understand my level of stress in relation to my ability to sustain conscious awareness. Stress, for me is defined by a sense that I have lost a measured observance of my thoughts and how time passes. I often find that bad habit patterns that I may have under control - for the most part anyway - resurface in times of stress. I act by impulse. I act out of fear and I act unknowingly. Here is a podcast for you to listen to in moments of stress. I hope its useful.
In the past few weeks I have poured my time and energy into launching a new business, YOGICOMM. This is a start-up venture I am funding and running entirely on my own. The business model is simple and limited, as are my technical capabilities, and this allows me to remain highly flexible and responsive whilst I observe and learn with acute interest how the service is used and enjoyed. It is thrilling, but it is also demanding and comes with weighted responsibility; every ounce of work is my own and if I don’t show up, nothing happens.
American writer and poet, Donald Hall, wrote a melancholic, self-reflective essay in The New Yorker late last year titled, “Between Solitude and Loneliness”. He writes about his solitary life on an isolated farm he has inherited from his late grandmother. He is in his late eighties at the time, a widower with little contact to the outside world other than through his craft, and a weekly visit from a housekeeper. He is perfectly content. He looks back on his life in this essay to unearth and then ponder over a succession of circumstances in which he has cherished and sought solitariness.
Pilgrimage may conventionally be considered a religious undertaking, yet it would seem as though in actuality we all - religious and not - make such journeys in a varied ways. Some ancient and formalised - such as the Hajj to Mecca, the mass bathing in the Ganges as part of the Kumbh Mela, and the trek of the Camino de Santiago - and some contemporary and personal - such as a visit to loved one’s grave, an annual retreat, or an endurance race. Some are years long, others may only take a few moments. All of them tend to encompass this dual directionality of moving closer to one’s inner self and leaving the structure of ones everyday world behind.
On average we are supposed to spend a third of our lives asleep, and yet, sleep and dream states remain insufficiently understood. Sleep is clouded in mystery and a source of rich ongoing research for scientists and philosophers. Most significantly, we can’t seem to bend it to our will. Any insomniac or light sleeper knows that ghastly and hollow feeling of desperation when trying to fall asleep. This desperation is made worse if your partner or a close family is snoring peacefully nearby. How is it that one person can flick off the switch and slide into a dreamworld, whilst another cannot? I am a periodic insomniac and I have asked myself this far too many times to count. Its a mercurial thing, sleep - perhaps like desire - the more you try to obtain it, the further it slips from your grasp.
A recent special issue of the National Geographic, titled Gender Revolution, makes a fascinating study of how youths around the world are increasingly pushing the boundaries of gender and sexuality to mould a sense of self that is more fluid and non-binary. This shift can only happen in the context of generalised growing social acceptance and awareness of the limits stained male/female, girl/boy binaries. A spin off is a progression towards gender equality. Of course, some societies are better at accepting these changes than others.
"You can be more mindful of how addicted you are, but unless you impose behaviors on yourself, it’s like heroin. It’s not like you can live without technology — I own an iPhone. But you can’t live with it unless you find some kind of way to not lose yourself in digital reality to the point where you forget that your body is analog."
Central to gagaku is the Japanese concept of ma, meaning “the space between”, or “powerful space”. To the late Takemitsu, ma was the “void that isn’t empty”, a space between things that is full of energy. This concept filters through other pillars of Japanese classical art and philosophy, such as feng shui and specifically garden landscaping. Indeed, Takemitsu, considered his music to be like walking through a garden, where your senses are lifted as you traverse towards greater peace and harmony - a tree rustles in the breeze, a bird takes flight, light falls in a dappled pattern across your path.