Transmuting Memory

If you can’t even be honest with yourself, you are fucked. Literally you are living a lie and one which will follow you wherever you go and in whatever you do. Caught up in this lie, your recall of events will be inaccurate, your interpretation of them faulty and this illusion will colour all of your interactions with the world. No doubt the events you perceive are always some other person’s faults,” it is really not fair mummy please can you stuff me back up your fanny.” There will be a tendency to wallow in the mud of self-pity or the rosy-tinted or sepia memories of days gone by. You will have no sobriety and shirk responsibility for your part in the events as life unfolds. Unless you are honest, at least unto yourself, your entire basis for interacting with life, is off, skewed and more than a little made-up. You will be a pretender, always pretending and very often fearful that you will be caught out in the lies you tell both to yourself and to others.

Until you recapitulate your life, honestly, right up until the moment you came into this planetary domain, you will not see your life for what it now is, nor what it has been. This recapitulation cannot be done overnight, because we have suppressed so much, and it lies hidden in a cobweb laden dusty corner of our minds. You can’t don some recapitulation trousers and hang in a tree and have it done in a month, nor can we hide in a cave or a box. It must be done assiduously, month after month, year after year. Always being mindful of the tendency to self-bullshit and to skip those areas which are embarrassing or painful. Something in life, perhaps a button pressed, will often open a new line of inquiry. Should it do so, that is the line you should follow, there and then. Gradually, slowly, the buttons will be eroded. And before long that which once got you so agitated is common or garden, with no drama attached. In time you will see the cyclic patterns of your life in which you repeat your folly, over and over. Now you are ready to move. Your battle plan starts to emerge.

“Not me, I am not going to do that shit again!”

Now the advertisers might cajole you into buying their products so that you can store memories in the larder, the pantry, upon which to dine in your dotage. If that is what you seek, then what are you doing here? The trouble is that memories can pickle and dry and go off. Any residual bitterness acidifies, and resentment burns like a hot iron plunged into the eyes. Unless you work at it, this kind of stuff, comes with you all the way to the box. If the past takes up such a high percentage of your CPU time, how can you process what is happening now, live and in the moment? You can’t! The land of “if only” is not such a great place. If all we have left is “if only”, we may sit all rheumy eyed in the care home playing bingo and quietly pissing ourselves. Warm it might be, real it is not.

Until you can at least be honest with yourself, you are fucked. You will repeat your folly, again and again.

“We can not solve our problems with the same level of thinking that created them.”

Albert Einstein

Ruthless self-honesty is one of the best ways, to change how we think about the world. It is a key which opens the door to transmutation. And by recapitulation we free up CPU time with which to interact in a more meaningful way with life and the world around us. Transmute your memory, acknowledge your responsibilities and you will see the tapestry of your karma unfolding. Point the finger and you will simply repeat ad infinitum. Better to live in the eternal now than in the wastelands of “if only”.

I can say from personal experience that to be free of the intrusive interposition of memory is a liberating thing. The only person who can do it for you, is you.


There is tendency if you are driving along a motorway and there has been a crash on the other side of the road, for people to slow down because they are somehow fascinated by what may have happened. They cannot resist the urge to rubber-neck, as the saying goes. Travelling thus one cannot help those in the accident, neither can people resist looking and talking about what they may or may not have seen. That conversation may go past the fellow occupants of the car and to others. People are basically nosey and as a rule find it very hard to mind their own business. They can become fascinated by the weird, the strange and the exotic. There is nothing quite like a “tragedy” to get the tongues wagging. Quite why this is, I do not know. People do like distractions, this much is true.

To suggest to people that snooping and stalking, coupled with gossiping, is not wise, is to talk to a brick wall. This is because many are so very accustomed to it, fascinated by it. They cannot see the damage that this does to the web of life, nor the nasty emanations it generates therein. It is like crack cocaine.

Things done with a salacious motive, rarely end well, even if the degree of salaciousness is small. It is a bad habit, somehow it is bit more exciting than the news from Davos or Brussels.

There are a number of people who are reading this blog like grown-ups. They have “followed” or “liked”. This lets me know they are there. This is safe and adult. They, are not hiding like pervs behind net curtains, spying on a neighbour getting undressed or having sex.

Whether you accept this or not, the warrior’s path is strange, and it needs approached with care and respect. Failure to do this can cause problems, beyond your ken. It can even send you crazy.

don Genaro

The third day, however, was different. The three of us worked together, and don Juan asked don Genaro to teach me how to select certain plants. We returned around noon and the two old men sat for hours in front of the house, in complete silence, as if they were in a state of trance. Yet they were not asleep. I walked around them a couple of times; don Juan followed my movements with his eyes, and so did don Genaro.

“You must talk to the plants before you pick them,” don Juan said. He dropped his words casually and repeated his statement three times, as if to catch my attention. Nobody had said a word until he spoke.

“In order to see the plants you must talk to them personally,” he went on. “You must get to know them individually; then the plants can tell you anything you care to know about them.”

It was late in the afternoon. Don Juan was sitting on a flat rock facing the western mountains; don Genaro was sitting by him on a straw mat with his face toward the north. Don Juan had told me, the first day we were there, that those were their “positions” and that I had to sit on the ground at any place opposite to both of them. He added that while we sat in those positions I had to keep my face toward the southeast and look at them only in brief glances.

“Yes, that’s the way it is with plants, isn’t it?” don Juan said and turned to don Genaro, who agreed with an affirmative gesture.

I told him that the reason I had not followed his instructions was because I felt a little stupid talking to plants.

“You fail to understand that a sorcerer is not joking,” he said severely. “When a sorcerer attempts to see, he attempts to gain power.”

Don Genaro was staring at me. I was taking notes and that seemed to baffle him. He smiled at me, shook his head, and said something to don Juan. Don Juan shrugged his shoulders. To see me writing must have been quite odd for don Genaro. Don Juan was, I suppose, habituated to my taking notes, and the fact that I wrote while he spoke was no longer odd to him; he could carry on talking without appearing to notice my acts. Don Genaro, however, kept on laughing, and I had to stop writing in order not to disrupt the mood of the conversation.

Don Juan affirmed again that a sorcerer’s acts were not to be taken as jokes because a sorcerer played with death at every turn of the way. Then he proceeded to relate to don Genaro the story of how one night I had looked at the lights of death following me during one of our trips. The story proved to be utterly funny; don Genaro rolled on the ground laughing.

Don Juan apologized to me and said that his friend was given to explosions of laughter. I glanced at don Genaro, who I thought was still rolling on the ground, and saw him performing a most unusual act. He was standing on his head without the aid of his arms or hands, and his legs were crossed as if he were sitting.

The sight was so incongruous that it made me jump. When I realized he was doing something almost impossible, from the point of view of body mechanics, he had gone back again to a normal sitting position. Don Juan, however, seemed to be cognizant of what was involved and celebrated don Genaro’s performance with roaring laughter.

Don Genaro seemed to have noticed my confusion; he clapped his hands a couple of times and rolled on the ground again; apparently he wanted me to watch him. What had at first appeared to be rolling on the ground was actually leaning over in a sitting position, and touching the ground with his head.

He seemingly attained his illogical posture by gaining momentum, leaning over several times, until the inertia carried his body to a vertical stand, so that for an instant he “sat on his head.”

When their laughter subsided don Juan continued talking; his tone was very severe. I shifted the position of my body in order to be at ease and give him all my attention. He did not smile at all, as he usually does, especially when I try to pay deliberate attention to what he is saying.

Don Genaro kept looking at me as if he were expecting me to start writing again, but I did not take notes any more. Don Juan’s words were a reprimand for not talking to the plants I had collected, as he had always told me to do. He said the plants I had killed could also have killed me; he said he was sure they would, sooner or later, make me get ill. He added that if I became ill as a result of hurting plants, I would, however, slough it off and believe I had only a touch of the flu.

The two of them had another moment of mirth, then don Juan became serious again and said that if I did not think of my death, my entire life would be only a personal chaos. He looked very stern.

“What else can a man have, except his life and his death?” he said to me.

At that point I felt it was indispensable to take notes and I began writing again. Don Genaro stared at me and smiled. Then he tilted his head back a little and opened his nostrils. He apparently had remarkable control over the muscles operating his nostrils, because they opened up to perhaps twice their normal size.

What was most comical about his clowning was not so much his gestures as his own reactions to them. After he enlarged his nostrils he tumbled down, laughing, and worked his body again into the same, strange, sitting-on-his-head, upside-down posture.

Don Juan laughed until tears rolled down his cheeks. I felt a bit embarrassed and laughed nervously.

“Genaro doesn’t like writing,” don Juan said as an explanation.

I put my notes away, but don Genaro assured me that it was all right to write, because he did not really mind it. I gathered my notes again and began writing. He repeated the same hilarious motions and both of them had the same reactions again.

Don Juan looked at me, still laughing, and said that his friend was portraying me; that my tendency was to open my nostrils whenever I wrote; and that don Genaro thought that trying to become a sorcerer by taking notes was as absurd as sitting on one’s head and thus he had made up the ludicrous posture of resting the weight of his sitting body on his head.

“Perhaps you don’t think it’s funny,” don Juan said, “but only Genaro can work his way up to sitting on his head, and only you can think of learning to be a sorcerer by writing your way up.”

They both had another explosion of laughter and don Genaro repeated his incredible movement.

I liked him. There was so much grace and directness in his acts.

“My apologies, don Genaro,” I said, pointing to the writing pad.

“It’s all right,” he said and chuckled again.

I could not write any more. They went on talking for a very long time about how plants could actually kill and how sorcerers used plants in that capacity. Both of them kept staring at me while they talked, as if they expected me to write.

“Carlos is like a horse that doesn’t like to be saddled,” don Juan said. “You have to be very slow with him. You scared him and now he won’t write.”

Don Genaro expanded his nostrils and said in a mocking plea, frowning and puckering his mouth.

“Come on, Carlitos, write! Write until your thumb falls off.”

Don Juan stood up, stretching his arms and arching his back. In spite of his advanced age his body seemed to be powerful and limber. He went to the bushes at the side of the house and I was left alone with don Genaro. He looked at me and I moved my eyes away because he made me feel embarrassed.

“Don’t tell me you’re not even going to look at me?” he said with a most hilarious intonation.

He opened his nostrils and made them quiver; then he stood up and repeated don Juan’s movements, arching his back and stretching his arms but with his body contorted into a most ludicrous position; it was truly an indescribable gesture that combined an exquisite sense of pantomime and a sense of the ridiculous. It enthralled me. It was a masterful caricature of don Juan.

Don Juan came back at that moment and caught the gesture and obviously the meaning also. He sat down chuckling.

“Which direction is the wind?” don Genaro asked casually.

Don Juan pointed to the west with a movement of his head.

“I’d better go where the wind blows,” don Genaro said with a serious expression.

He then turned and shook his finger at me.

“And don’t you pay any attention if you hear strange noises,” he said. “When Genaro shits the mountains tremble.”

He leaped into the bushes and a moment later I heard a very strange noise, a deep, unearthly rumble. I did not know what to make of it. I looked at don Juan for a clue but he was doubled over with laughter.



“A Separate Reality: Further Conversations with don Juan” – Carlos Castaneda

Heightened Awareness

At the moment humanity is developing a Pavlov’s ear for the sound of an incoming message on the ‘phone or its vibration in the pocket. We are becoming attuned to this and it diverts our attention, we may even salivate {joke} when we get incoming. No sooner do we sense this than our attention is drawn. This means that a percentage of our capacity is devoted to listening for that Great God ‘Phone, all hail its magnificence. Our streets are populated with ‘phone zombies walking along in divine rapport and engaged in holy conversation. This means that we are not 100% present, not at all. Our situational awareness is lowered because we await the angelic harp which announces even heralds, the incoming. Humanity is, by and large, distracted.

Maybe I am a grumpy old fart, taking the piss. You make your own mind up.

The human being is capable of way more than average man might imagine. There are numerous TV programmes about special forces training, martial arts and superheroes. The latter is perhaps a step too far, but if you were interacting with a special forces trained person they would have developed capabilities you are unaware of. This is because they have trained a heightened awareness. They have a way of looking at things which differs, and it is ingrained into them. They may get older and physically less able, but the way of observation never goes away. Similarly, if you are trained in martial arts, even to a low level like me, you look at people differently. One learns to see where the balance is, and one develops peripheral vision. I have spent quite a bit of time catching pennies bounced off a mat in a fairly dark room with brown walls. This means that I have better reactions and awareness than I otherwise might. I am no ninja, but because of this kind of training, I am more aware now than before I did it.

I think it fair to say that most people do not include the idea that someone else has heightened awareness into their thoughts when interacting. Because it is beyond their scope or experience, it never occurs. You and I might be having a conversation and my martial awareness will be looking where your feet are in case I need to sweep them. I will notice if you step inside my sphere, unless you are trained, you may not.

I am not singing my own praises, rather illustrating. If you assess someone “martially” it gives off a mood of sorts and one knows when one is being assessed. A while back in Bond Street, I had a nice non-verbal joke with a security guard. There are a lot there, because of the expensive jewellery shops. I felt him assessing me and turned, to catch his eye. We both noticed and shared a twinkle of eye, in that moment. He was pretty bored, and it was fun, he was doing his job and playing at the same time.

There are states of heightened awareness other than Pavlov’s ear.

If you have lived, even relatively briefly, on the edge of life and death, this changes you. Those who live there a long time are very different from those who have only sat on their arse in front of a computer screen. It may be that you have little or no idea of the capacities of those around you. You might deem yourself intelligent and cunning, but that little old man, that granny, might be ex-SAS. Although I have never been in the forces, it is not uncommon for people to assume I am ex-forces, especially round here where there are a lot of army.

My basic tenet is not to assume anything, rather observe and assess, ongoing.

Yesterday I talked about combing the shadows and this is a part of heightened awareness. In various books, there is the technique of gazing. In this one gazes at say the leaf of a tree without focus, before long one sees things pertaining to the leaf and around it which one does not in normal awareness. One can gaze at all sorts of things and the attention changes into, what is sometimes termed the second attention. After a while and at will, one can shift into this second attention. Most only glimpse this at moments of crisis. It is however there all of the time. The second attention is much less “rational” and way more instantaneous.

When you have this capacity for heightened awareness you can sense it in others. Not long ago I was at a grading and the advanced practitioners, whilst watching the outer movement were also using their qi or ki, to interact at another level, they were doing this to see if you noticed. Even if you are untrained there is a part which notices, but because this is not understood it can evoke fear. I have observed people perceiving threat from me when there was none, and it has elicited some strange reactions, usually from men not women. Somehow it causes the hackles to rise in the inexperienced.

There are many ways to access this heightened awareness, one is danger, the other is by way of training. Elite sportsmen have this. The second attention spans and it reaches much further than one might at first imagine. If you are only operating in the first attention, then a part of your awareness is unused and underdeveloped. Some people, once they have entered the second attention, never come back. It is not much use for getting things done, like the accounts etc. In the second attention you can see things which people are not yet conscious of.

There is never nothing going on.

bu – 武

I take the entire universe as my teacher, all created things as the product of bu. The practice of bu summons forth bu from within your own being. You must open your own path.

Morihei Ueshiba – The Secret Teachings of Aikido

budo – bodhi

Ueshiba goes to great length to enumerate what bu means, he says that this “energy”, this “force”, is in fact love. There is to it a sense of love-in-action even unconditional love in action. In the sense of bu-dō  it is the way of the warrior, which must perforce at its pinnacle be loving. It is not about wanton destruction and victory over others, the victory is always over self. For there is something about the fierce which engenders the very gentle, something about the martial which brings healing. They are two sides of the same sword.

This warrior tradition spans many cultures and there is marked similarity of essence. The warrior’s journey must be first to the core of the Labyrinth of Self. This is the Grail legend where only the pure of heart can touch the Grail, the chalice. Without the misogi, the purification, it is not safe to touch.

Purification is the act of balancing and bringing together and under control, via discipline. It is not the mortification of the ascetic yet it has ardour and application to it, albeit less extreme. That application is of necessity persistent. To know self is to understand and thereby enable discernment in thought and in deed. Moreover it must be joined-up, a living, walking, breathing, expression of one’s own budō ; as it is expressed and manifested by a unique authentic essence, a single spark of the One Life, a human being.

He says that one ought stand on the floating rainbow bridge between Heaven and Earth and thereby be a conduit of union, living forever in the eternal now.

The warrior’s journey is not for the faint of heart or the feckless, yet many who start may indeed find the spirit to go on, a spirit hitherto hidden from them, yet ever nascent. To become a vehicle for the spirit is to walk the path of budō.  When the word and the way have become as one, then one is on the way. Where each path goes cannot be known beforehand, that would be too boring….too predictable


I have been wondering how this year is going to wind up. Often there is a flourish of activity to bring the year to a close. Today my INFJ antennae have been picking up the possibility of more than one incoming Nigels. These are of varying complexity. There is a particular mind-set that likes to get all its ducks in a row before doing anything. They forget usually to include one duck in their machinations. Some like to present a fait accompli. Nigels can take a myriad of different forms. If the year is going to close like that, then I had better be prepared.

The fourth aspect of the stalker’s rule goes like this:

Once he has entered into battle, a warrior abandons himself to his actions by allowing his spirit to flow free and clear. Only then do the powers of destiny guide us by paving the way.

When things have gotten to the fourth aspect we are a long way from the comfort zone of most. It is one of my favourites.