Wake up to find myself without any further assaults on my delicate skin by the Corfu Mossie. One side of my coupon is like the Elephant man as it was the only piece of me exposed on my first night. I was wrapped like a mummy in a white sheet, and depression, fear, and sheer hopelessness enveloped me like an outer and inner shroud. It was then, today, with a slight buzz of optimism that I head to the beach for my early morning meditation and swim. Well, when I say swim, I mean bobbing about with my feet in the air. In the discussions around meditation we are advised that acceptance and nothingness, doing nothing, are all part of how the mind obtains complete rest. It was during this time that I realised that mosquito’s must live also. They too are creatures of this earth and have every right to be here as much as I do. One of the other principles of Art of Living is ‘Shiva’ of giving. So, if I gave a wee piece of myself so that life might live then I guess that’s OK. After all, it’s only an itch, a blemish on the skin, not permanent and returns to nothing after a period of time.
A bit like the process of depression and hopelessness. The waves of depression have not subsided as the years go by. When I was on the lash and the coke before I went to prison I could blame all sorts of things and did in great abundance. When I was in prison I blamed everyone who crossed me or upset me; there was an abundance of that also. I sit here now in sobriety and clarity having conquered a weekend of hopelessness and pain without resorting to previous blaming of others. Of course there are reasons, Dad surviving intensive care on an hourly basis and my own fears of the present and the future. But it is when I see the people around me get on with their lives, play with their children and splash about in a beautiful calm water do I realise that there is only now. At this moment in time I am not depressed, I am not sad and I am certainly not hopeless.
During my first Art of Living course i came across two statements “Don’t be a football for other people’s opinions” and “The present moment is inevitable.” Well folks at this present moment in time, I’m listening to Rodrigo of Spanish classical guitarist fame, watching a wee two year old boy try to escape up the beach away from his shouting parents, gaze across the pond of stillness between Corfu and Albania whilst sipping an extremely large Latte. So, what is it? What is this meaning of life? One can’t actually say that sentence without thinking of Monty Python and Eric Idle hanging from the cross. “Life ‘is’ a piece of shit when you think of it.” A lot of psychologists suggest that depression and boredom are inextricably linked yet if one digs deep enough or takes enough time to work give the mind a rest via meditation the answers are pretty simple. How the hell can you be bored with yourself? How on earth can you be fed up with the most remarkable person on the planet. How can you be annoyed or sad with your true being and or state of mind that got you where you are today. Some of what I say is only repeating what Sri Sri Ravi Shanker tells us but when one combines these utterances with the phenomenology of me at this time this place it is pretty clear that there is absolutely nothing one can do but live. I’ve lived the life, lived the dream and died the death of a thousand camels that come with this. Once I had it all and yet I had nothing. Now, today I have virtually nothing but my marbles in semi tact, and the love of family and friends who have stuck by me through all of my life’s ups and downs. They have never gone away, it is and was only me who pushed them away, ran away from all the people and all the things I thought, at the time, were doing me harm. They too will be gone one day, will I be alone, will i be gone before them, will I ever settle, will I ever find the meaning of life.
In all honesty, I think I’m half way there as Rodrigo delivers an amazing set of riffs. The last time I listened to Rodrigo in this frame of mind was in HMP Highdown 2008 (Poem at End). I think of that night and how at that particular moment in time I was the happiest most content guy on the planet. Yet, I was surrounded by violence, anger, hatred, murder and mayhem. A sea of tranquillity during that snowstorm. So, what’s the difference between how I felt then and how I feel now? Six years. That’s the answer. Time. Time and place and how we mange it is how we survive how we live; how we cope. I just had lovely chat with a young (early twenties) Greek waitress about studying and life in the bus lane. Was told I was lucky I came now and not in August. Bedlam, Bedlam, Bedlam. This then gets me thinking of all the minor irritations of existing amid other people who don’t know about my life or my problems and I come to the conclusion that life is just fine thank you. Sad things are happening but they are all to do with the natural order of being. I love my Dad and will miss him terribly when he decides to stop fighting. What I want for him has nothing to do with how things actually are in the grander scheme of things. I wish him well wherever he ends up. Next week will be this time, this place this moment to deal with only until that happens will I know how I will be dealing with it. Today it’s not simply about saying “to hell with it and be damned.” I like to think it’s more about giving one’s head time to breathe. Not searching for answer that are not there or here now at this present moment. Just let it be and let it go. Go with the flow Joe, but just hold on to the fact that there is only one you and you need to look after your ‘self’ in mind and spirit. ‘Self’ is the meaning of you so look after it. Maybe I’ll write a wee poem about Rodrigo and a tranquil beach in Greece, maybe I’ll forgive my ‘self’ and maybe just maybe let a few more Corfu mosquito’s live a little too.
by Michael Irwin 2008
Last night snow fell. Inside it’s warm; outside it’s cold.
Fresh snow that’s new – not old.
‘Classic FM’ on headphones start.
Formless violins conducting snowflakes in your heart.
Above my window floodlights fall – a yellow glow
in the exercise yard but only stretching as far as birch
and sycamore on the freedom side of the wall.
Bare trees, completely stripped; mid-winter on the block.
Darkness beyond the wall forming an endless, black backdrop.
Snow flakes in a spot-lit sky; individual flakes drifting aimlessly
Through Chopin’s notes – dissolving, going on their way.
Snowfall builds; music conducts the storm;
Rodrigo plucks a snowflake: Outside it’s cold; inside it’s warm.
Fury, flurry, fast roll of kettle drums keeping time with each gust.
Snow thermals of violin, clarinet, flute – and needs must
Pierce the darkness where sinister white lines slowly appear
– as snow lies on the trees – there and there and here – here
Where I watch snow fall on the yellow yard in No-Man’s Land,
On the freedom side of the wall.