There was beautiful rain on the farm on Saturday night. It’s been very dry here, so the sound of rain on the tin roof as we huddled in front of Netflix was even more pleasant, even more comforting than it would usually be. Except of course that the tiny cottage we live in is located in a little patch of third world where, for some reason, the internet goes down every time there is the smallest drop of rain.
With no connectivity, activity in the cottage quickly gravitates to reading, playing chess or trying to teach our enormous great dane “Tank” to add “lie down” to his small repertoire of tricks. My grown son Litha, was slouched behind the Weekend Post. “Dad…What can we do to get it opened?” He asked, referring to the headlines talking about the “Disgrace” that the beautiful Red Location museum remains closed to the public for six years now. “It’s not that simple” I mutter vaguely as I try for the third time to reset the WIFI router. His question interests me though and we end up debating the issue well into the rainy night. The exchange got me thinking about the issue and wondering if this whole matter has been thought through properly.
Don’t get me wrong. I think that the buildings that make of the Red Location Museum precinct are the best collection of contemporary buildings in the province. The buildings were lovingly designed by Jo Noero, an architect deserving of the highest levels of respect. I suppose, though, the question still remains “Why does the museum remain closed?”
Perhaps there’s more to it this than the lawlessness of the local neighbourhood? Perhaps there is more to this than the fumbling incompetence of the three spheres of government that have power and sway here. I’m beginning to think that the real problem is that Red Location Museum was way ahead of its time. But not in a good way.
I have visited Berlin. There is a Holocaust museum there (as there are in many other parts of the world) While these museums are all different, they have one thing in common. They were built after the holocaust was over. Just like the Vietnam War memorial was built after the Americans lost the Vietnam war. Just like the little memorial I visited in Buenos Aires was built after the Falklands war. I suppose it’s a matter of timing.
Mayor Nceba Faku was the best Mayor PE has ever had, but perhaps he got this wrong. Perhaps he declared victory in the struggle for liberation against apartheid too soon. Perhaps the people struggling in desperate poverty to this day in Red Location and hundreds of other places like it, may say that it is even now, 25 years after 1994, still too soon to celebrate or to memorialise victory.
After all, our World War 2 hero, Winston Churchill did not declare victory on “D-Day” when the Allies stormed the beaches of Normandy. No. They pushed on, did the dirty work and cleared Europe of every last Nazi Pantzer, released every last Jew, Gypsy, Gay and Slav from the concentration camps and then, and only then, declared victory on Armistice day.
I guess that the city’s great thinkers, like the erudite and well-spoken Rory Riordan, who worked tireless to ensure the Red Location museum received funding, got built and became more than a mayor’s pipe dream, will argue that I am misguided. He will point to the projected economic impact and how the tourists could flock there, spend their Euros and Pounds and Zim Dollars and thereby stimulate the economy and create a better future for the poor and destitute of Blawa, Ndokwenza and Katanga. Well friends, I am afraid the jury is out on this one. In the thirteen years since the museum was opened in 2006, it could not even generate enough tourist spend to keep its own little museum restaurant running let alone stimulate the rest of the region’s tourist economy!
I am afraid colleagues this project is a failure. It is a failure despite the good work of Noero, Faku and Riordan. It is a failure by the ancient measure of that most famous of roman Architects, Vitruvius. Even before the time of Jesus, Vitruvius helped us understand that in order to for Architecture to be enduring and cared for, it must prove itself against the age-old tests of “Firmness, Commodity and Delight”. Yes, Red location Museum is “Firm” (It hasn’t fallen down). Yes, it is delightful. But no, it does not offer “Commodity”. It is not used. It has no function in this particular time, in this particular economy and under these particular social conditions. By the measure of the great Vitruvius therefor, The Red Location Museum is failed architecture.
Of course, we are concerned as tax payers that we have spent so much money on these buildings. We feel therefore that something productive must be forced upon them. This mistaken thinking, friends, is the “sunken cost fallacy” AKA “throwing good money after bad”. Even the Berlin Wall and the Sardinia Bay Life Savers Club were demolished when we reached consensus that building them was a mistake.
Perhaps then, if anyone ever resuscitates Mayor Faku’s great plan to demolish the freeways that devastated the once bustling and thriving Strand street, they may also be so wise as to add the Red Location Museum onto the list structures to be dynamited!
I hate it when my night Patrol duty falls on a Saturday night. That means I must leave Poppina in the cottage alone with Tank. And another thing – this was the third Saturday Patrol I’ve had been allocated this year. It doesn’t sound fair. In fact I had almost forgotten about the patrol and just remembered 30 minutes before I was due to report at 19:00.
The way it works here, it that the patrol vehicle is parked at the Service Station just up the road from me at Cow’s Corner. So I drove up, bought some snacks for the road and signed for the keys with the lady in the shop. My co-driver didn’t pitch. I contacted him, but his was pissed off because he didn’t receive the email roster that sets out the dates for all the night patrollers. I am perhaps more forgiving. I admire the volunteer energy that the people heading up “Farmcomm” put in, including the people that assemble and send out the night patrol roster.
Normally, not much happens on my night patrol shift, but last night was different. About an hour in to the three hour shift there was a call in the two way radio. Neil and his wife, from just over the road from us had been attacked. 4 men in balaclavas beat the two pensioners and took a shot gun, a 9 mm hand gun and cell phones. Very quickly the radio control guys stepped into place and coordinated the activities of the many “responders” who arrived at very short notice in their private vehicles. You see, each Farmcomm member has a two way radio. Many keep it on their person at all times. So if there is an emergency the response can be quite rapid. Some responders were directed to form cordons along certain roads, others were directed to launch the drone which is now fitted with a Fleur night vision camera of sorts. I was tasked to park at the corner of Kragga Kamma and Louisa roads, to direct police and other emergency personnel who were beginning to arrive on the scene. While this was going on the attackers were being pursued. The place where they cut the fence into Flanagan’s farm was found and as the police dog unit arrived they tried to find a spoor. The pursuit of these attackers went on until early hours of the morning. We come very close to apprehending the suspects as they took refuge in thick bush between Doorly and Destades road.
For much of the time from when the attack happened at 8ish until we received the order to stand down at 2:30, I was part of a vehicle cordon. Basically a row of cars parked along a road with lights shining so as to back it impossible for the attackers to pass. So I had a bit of time to think. At first my mind moved to how sad it is that we have this crime situation that requires all of us in this neighbourhood to lock ourselves in hour houses as soon as the sun goes down and to live behind high fences protected by viscous dogs, alarm systems and armed response companies. No it’s not nice. But I think what is good is that the community has organised itself and is taking responsibly for its own security. (Collaborating with the police of course.)
My mind also wandered to how futile it is to feel sad about this situation (or any other I suppose). The situation “just is” and I am faced with the option to deal with it or to move somewhere else where I may not have to deal with it. I have chosen to be here at Pebblespring farm. For better or worse, this is the decision I have taken. And with that mind-set, my only choice is to find joy in making every effort I can to protect my family and prepare myself as best I can to be able to deter and resist intruders. It feels better to have this mindset. It in fact feels better actively pursuing attackers at 2 in the morning. Just knowing that I am doing something perhaps. Not waiting for them to take the initiative and spoil my day.
I have a lot of work to do to be fully prepared. But that’s what I have decided to do.
By the way we never caught the guys, but we learned a lot and we are getting better with each of these “operations”
(This piece by Tim Hewitt-Coleman first appeared in The Herald on 24 October 2018)
Sardinia Bay on a Sunday morning is perhaps my favourite place in the world. Sometimes we walk “Tank”, our enormous Great Dane. Sometimes we go for a swim in the choppy surf. Other times we simply sit on the dunes taking in the panoramic view of Indian Ocean. There is something rugged and untamed about Sardinia Bay. Its massive sand dunes refuse to bow to the our feeble plans to build a road to the beach, perhaps rejecting the vulgar and boorish club house structures, maybe like a body would reject and vomit out that which is foreign and that does not belong. But, while the dunes may move steadily in their path and the ocean may look different every Sunday, what is unchanging in this landscape has been “Gunter’s Wurst Wagen”. Yes, that’s right, for as long as I can remember, this little german sausage “Food Truck” could be found in this remote little piece of Africa regardless of the weather or the time of year. A winter morning run would not be complete without huddling in the car park against fake tudor trailer from the blustery cold wind with a warm cup of Gunter’s hot chocolate (with those little marshmallows floating on the top.)
Seems cosy and perfect doesn’t it? Except, since 13 October, Gunter’s Wurst Wagen is nowhere to be seen. ”Did Gunter die?”, I asked, “No!” said the ubiquitous, lumo-vested car guard. “Did his trailer break down?” “No!” He said again……“His Permit Expried!”
As it turns out the “Wurst Wagen” was not at its usual Sunday spot, because there has been some delay at the Municipality in issuing the permit required to trade from this remote and dusty car park. The chatter among the Sardinia Bay car park regulars descends very quickly to baseless rumours of corruption, general winging about administrative inefficiency and about how we should see to it that more rules are put in place to stop municipal officials being slow to administer the rules that have already been put in place and still more rules should be put in place to ensure that people like Cheryl Zondi cannot be raped by people as evil as Pastor Timothy Omotose’s accusers say he is.
As I pretend to listen to all this, my thinking drifts, as it especially tends to do on a Sunday, to the Constitutional Court and the recent ruling of judge Zondo, legalizing the smoking of Dagga. My humble attempt to paraphrase that part of the ruling that interests me is that “…there is no science that has been presented that can show that dagga causes harm to the extent that South African individual’s privacy and freedom, as envisaged in the constitution, should be curtailed and limited.” So, though parliamentarians may have believed differently, they are in fact not free to dream up random legislation without having considered the science of the matter. What judge Zondo’s ruling says is even if 100% of parliamentarians believe that you and I should not smoke dagga, they are not permitted to pass legislation to prohibit us from doing so in the absence of scientific proof that harm will be caused by the activity that the legislation is attempting to outlaw.
But back to our friend Gunter. What worries me about this story is that so many of us are completely happy that a “permit” should indeed be issued, and that Gunter should just be patient. I, on the other hand, rather think we should be asking the question?: “ What harm would be caused if all the sellers of German Sausages, Ice cream cones and hot chocolate were free to decide for themselves whether they should try sell their stuff at Sardinia Bay. What if we allowed beach goers and tourists to decide for themselves who they would rather buy their Hot-dogs from??? My guess, it that there would be chaos for a few weekends with a dozen “Wurst Waggen” clones trying their best to offer their wares to a half a dozen windswept beach goers. But then, with time, the natural order of things would sort things out. The truth is we do not know how it would work out. We cannot see the future, but luckily in this case we are under no real pressure to be able to see the future. There is nothing of any real consequence at stake. There is no science anywhere than any person can quote that predicts that anyone while die at the Sardina Bay car park or that anyone will even be harmed if the municipality just backs off and lets people be as free as the constitution of the republic tells them they are.
So while the constitution is clear to me and to our esteemed friend, Judge Zondo, the sorry reality is that it is completely unlikely that our friend Gunter has saved up enough over the years from the sale of Sunday sausages from to be able to afford the fancy lawyers that will be able to take this case to the Constitutional Court. But while it is sad, it does not mean that those of us who value freedom are defeated. No. I take courage from something I heard an old farmer quote the other day: “Tend the garden that you can reach,” he said. Right now, through this piece of writing, I can reach you. Who knows, maybe tomorrow you can reach your mates around the braai. Who knows, maybe the next day Gunter and others like him will be arguing for their Freedom at the Constitutional Court.
There is a Natural Order to things; I see it when I look around me. Our dog “Tank”, a huge Great Dane, is friendly and sociable. He is a pack animal. It comes naturally to him. It’s also completely “natural” for him to chase the chickens, lick his genitals while we’re watching movies or bark at our assistant, Roy, when he comes to work in the morning. It would be completely “unnatural” for Tank to live in a fish tank or to eat a raw, low carb, vegan diet.
Of course, the idea of the existence of a “Natural Order” is not new at all. Lao Tsu spoke of it 4000 years ago already. The Idea of a “Natural Order” makes perfect sense when we apply the thinking to dogs or even to people like you and me. We can see that there is a natural way to be that just seems comfortable and right. My thinking though has (over the last 20 or so years as an Architect in private practice) meandered to the question of whether we can find a “Natural Order” that will guide the design of buildings, objects and spaces. Is there a way that a brick wants to behave; is there a way that a piece of timber or a roof sheet wants to behave?? Is there a natural way in which a landscape, a building site would like to express itself and most of all is it possible for an architect to facilitate the expression of this “Natural Order” through a conscious and mindful design approach? Is there a “Natural” way in which a team can come together to design and build beautiful things? And in any case what is “Natural” anyway? Perhaps a better word to use would be “comfortable”? I’m not sure. But I can easily spot when something is not natural, when it feels uncomfortable. When a building is “pretentious” and “overdesigned”, I can feel it. When a building is overly decorated or overly complicated or when it is just unresolved and clumsy, I can feel it. I can feel the absence of a “Natural Order’. It is this quality, this “Natural Order” I seek in our buildings and in the spaces we design. It is this quality we set out to achieve at the Bhisho Contact Centre and many of our other precious projects. The quest for a natural order informs its geometry, its relationship to the site, its use of materials and its play with light. The building seeks to answer the question, what was “meant to be” on this site. The building seeks to answer the question: “What would this space / surface / door / window / ceiling / component look like if it were to look like it were “meant to be” like that? This is what we have come to see as the “Natural Order” of design. I have come to see that this design approach is crucial if we are to play any part in creating a Natural Order Habitat.
To be clear, I am not speaking about a search for simplicity like our friend Mies van der Rohe. I respect that quest Sometimes the Natural Order of things is very simple but at other times it can deliver surprising complexity. Also, to be clear, my quest to find a Natural Order in design should not be confused with attempts at “Bio-mimicry”, where we learn lessons for the building of a staircase from the geometry of a sunflower or where our parquet tile floors are inspired by the patterns in the scales of an Armadillo. I love all that, but that’s not my quest right now.
We have been searching for this Natural Order for a long time. It permeates our attitude toward design and also, perhaps even more importantly, our attempt to find a comfortable and natural feel in the interpersonal collaboration that makes up the design and construction process. Some say it’s a silly quest, some say it’s a waste of time. I say though, that it’s a quest that I know may not reach a clear answer, a specific result or a particular destination. I know that this may in fact be true, but I also know along the way we will learn. Perhaps like the Alchemists that searched for a way to make gold from ordinary stuff, we may not find this elusive “Natural Order”, but we will learn many lessons along the way.
I used to have a book on my shelf titled “The Power of Focus”. It’s written by Jack Canfield and Mark Victor Hansen. I don’t see it there now. Perhaps I loaned it to someone.I feel though that I need to read it again. You see, I have taken a few steps to become more focused over the last year, but I can see that I still have a huge amount of work to do.
I don’t think its that I have the desire to do just one thing for the the rest of my life, its more that I want to get to the point were I am much closer to the objective of working on one project at a time. (I know this is a near impossible goal, but the idea is to move in that direction)
Even the things I write about on my blog are all over the show.
Just look at this list….!!!!!
So my decision is to focus on buildings for a while. “Buildings” for me includes design of buildings, buying buildings, looking after the buildings I own and of course writing about buildings.
Perhaps you can help me in this focus by taking a look at some of the posts I have made over the last while under the topic
I had a 20 minute meditation session the morning. I am experimenting with a daily routine that includes meditation as soon as I have but my bag down at the office.
The impact this morning has been great –
Number one – I got back to my desk after meditation and found that I needed to clear everything up and create order. I did this for perhaps 20 minutes.
Number 2 – when I got to my first task I was able to get right into it without distraction. Done and dusted. Ready to go. The task was a very routine invoice that I needed to send off – that I have been delaying for weeks.
Number 3 – I received two business calls – one from Darryl Pryce Lewis, who is trying to add more hours to a tender work plan than I would like and secondly from Mbulelo Notshulwana who was needing my assistance with accessing an aerial photo that was slightly more difficult to get than searching Google Earth. In both of these interactions I have the “limitless” feeling. I am not anxiously trying to get the conversation to end, so I can get on with whatever else it was that i was doing. In both instances I am able to see myself in the ring, as a boxer, seeing that this is a game and that there are certain objectives that I am trying to achieve here.
The space I chose to meditate is an outside room at the office – It used to be a Flatlet of sorts we are not using it for anything right now. I heard someone looking for me and peering into the room while I was meditating – they did not disturb me, I did not open my eyes or acknowledge their presence. My mind went to “Won’t they think I’m weird?”
“Won’t they think I should be working instead?” That, I suppose is what Eckhart Tolle would speak of as my “ego mind”. That part of my mind that confuses my identity with how people around me may perceive me.In any event, I am conscious of the fact that in fact people in my office will have a better view of me, knowing that I meditate. They will associate that with self -discipline, courage and determination. When I expose the script of my unconscious thoughts to the “clear light of day” I can see that they are meaningless and irrational fears. Perhaps meditation helps me to see this.
The other difference that I noticed in this morning’s meditation compared other times I have meditated, it how different it feels to go into my ordinary working day after meditating. (Compared to how it feels to meditate perhaps on a Sunday morning where, after meditating I would perhaps lounge around and not really to any challenging mental tasks. That is perhaps why I have not noticed the profound impact on the noise inside my head. The noise inside my head is very critical of me, is very judgemental, is not at all kind to me. It continually tries its best to remind me of the things I have not done (it does not praise me for what I have done). The noise inside my head continually tries to remind me of what can go wrong. “I may not have money for salaries at the end of January, I may one day grow too old to be a good man to Poppina”, “Litha and Noah may not make it through varsity this year” “I may lose all I have worked for in the divorce’. Of course these are all very real possibilities, but the noise inside my head keeps on playing the same record over and over again. The noise inside my head is unreasonable. It does not get it, that I am aware of the risks and have planned for them. It just keeps on making its noise, disturbing me and distracting me, while I am working on the very plans, projects and tasks that will make the future a much better place for me and for those that depend on me for assistance.
Meditation quietens this voice. Or at least makes me conscious this voice. Meditation lets me see myself. Meditation helps me see that I am playing a game and it allows me to play the game at a much more effective level.
So my undertaking is to keep up with this experiment for the next two weeks. (After that time I will reassess) I will go back to my desk now and I will diarise my meditation sessions for the next two weeks,. I find putting something into my Outlook calendar is a statement of intent. I clearly communicate my intent to the universe. It is not a guarantee that it will happen as I have diarize it, but there is a much better chance of it happening than if I waited for a gap to open.
Let’s see how it goes. There is only everything at stake!
Day 2 – 12 January 2018 – 11:11 Seattle Coffee Shop
I got into the office at 7:55 this morning. I had my usual double short latte at the Seattle coffee station at the Caltex garage in Lorraine. Arriving at the office, I put my bags down, plugged my computer in, greeted everybody and went straight into the my meditation spot. Velile, says he saw me meditating yesterday. He has been meditating before and I can see that he is a little envious that I am building a meditation routine. Perhaps he will join me with time.
The meditation was good. I sat myself down on the chair in the disused outbuilding. I put my glasses down between my feet. I put my phone on “flight mode”. I set me phones timer for 20 minutes. This time the 20 minute crept up on me very quickly. My method of meditation has evolved from what I learned from a Transcendental Meditation course that I did way back in 1989. I do use a mantra sometimes, if i really struggle. In fact I still use the same mantra the TM people gave me back then, but I am able to now just sit quietly and concentrate on not thinking. (Without using a mantra) Because I am able to recognize the state of meditation that I am trying to get to, I focus on the silence, or the emptiness or the color I see behind my closed eyes. Invariably my mind tries to think, and I try to gently nudge the thoughts away and reflect on the emptiness. If I pereserved in driving the thoughts away as I did this morning and yesterday morning I eventually emerge from a “tube” where I am aware but not thinking, not feeling and where it is no longer a struggle to not think. I no longer have to work to fight off the thoughts, I am just in that space of nothingness. The vast emptiness. I will then slip back into the tube and have to work hard to not think until I again emerge into the emptiness. My objective is to be able to hold the position in the emptiness for as long as possible without slipping down the tube again. It’s very hard to articulate what goes on in meditation without sounding a little crazy. I suppose that’s a challenge that I am facing be writing about this in this blog.
After the meditation I was very clear at my desk. A lot less going on in my head. A lot more focused on what was in front of me. I suppose I am only becoming aware of the anxiety and noise in my head now that it is gone.Yesterday, after a good meditation, I pushed hard to get the DEA tender out. I was able to focus completely on that. Ron Forlee came to say Hello. He is working on some projects here in PE and would like to partner with me. John White popped in to the office, there is a big project in Central he is trying to put together. I was able to remain present to both of them even though I was pushing for the tender deadline. I did miss gym yesterday. But I was able to think clearly about it and make the decision that I needed to take. There was not enough time.
I was tired when I got home last night. Poppina had a “girls night” out and I was missing her. By 9 pm I was a asleep.
It was a good day.
Day 3 – Saturday – 13 January 2018
I could be making thinks a little complicated now with this 14 Day meditation experiment. You see I am also now in the middle of a 3 day fast. So I will have to be extra attentive and try to figure out what (if any) effect on my mood and mindset are caused by the fast and which are caused by meditation. A little more about the fast for those who are interested. The rules I set for myself are as follows: (these are hundreds of different methods and routines – choose one that works for you)
Rule 1 – I eat my last meal on Thursday night, then break the fast on Sunday night.
Rule 2 – I allow myself water and coffee (and a tablespoon of coconut oil if I like)
Rule 3 – I do this once a quarter
Really quite easy and with a lot of benefits to health and wellness.
But let me talk about my 20 minute meditation this morning. It being a Saturday, I did not go into the office. The sun came up early at the farm and I woke up to find Poppina writing in the living area. I drank my usual two glasses of water (with a tablespoon of apple cider vinegar and a pinch of Pink Himalayan rock salt) We then took a drive to get some coffee at the closest Seattle Coffee shop (which embarrassingly is a 10 minute drive from the farm)
Back at the farm, with a little caffeine in the system, I pottered around the Tilapia tanks for a while before sitting down with Poppina to meditate. We sat facing each other.
I filter the Tilapia water though and aquaponics system growing spinach, chard and Peppermint.
Me on my favorite fold up wooden chair and Poppina on the couch. I set the timer on my phone for 20 minutes. This meditation was a little different – a little harder to let go of the background anxiety. I think it is because I was not alone. Maybe just more thoughts about how is she doing? Is she comfortable? I am not sure. But I was able to get quite quickly into a meditative mind. I would snap out of the meditative zone, but there were not long chains of thoughts that I have had in the past. I became aware of the darkness, I could become aware of the self that was observing the darkness. I was aware this morning about how my mind tries to describe what I am experiencing. My mind would say something like ”I can observe myself observing myself” rather than what I could do for only shorter snippets of time, which was just to observe the darkness, to be in the nothingness.
The method I showed Poppina this morning was the method of using a mantra. I gave her a simple three syllable meaningless phrase to repeat again and again and again under her breath. This method is useful because it displaces thoughts that would come into your mind by filling the mind with the “almost zero content” mantra. So the mantra is a great way to block thoughts from entering your head, but it is not completely zero content. I prefer, if I am able, to stop thoughts by concentrating on the darkness that is really zero content, but harder for me to hold than the mantra. The 20 minutes passed quickly. I could hear the woodpecker outside in the Blue Gum tree, I could hear the rooster crowing in the chicken coop, I could hear the door creaking in the breeze, but these sounds did not cause me to generate thoughts about them. When the timer sounded I was in a deep space, but came out quickly. Poppina had fallen asleep. Her meditation was not as successful as mine. Perhaps she will try a five minute session tomorrow, then try to build from there.
So to the question: “What is the impact of my fast on my meditation?”
To be honest I don’t feel any impact. The meditation does not seem deeper or shallower or different in any real way.
But the rest of the day seems different when I fast (especially after I have day 1 behind me) It feels generally more calm and calculated. It feels generally more meditative. It feel generally less anxious. Interesting….
Day 4 – Sunday 14 January 2018 – 13:33 Pebblespring Farm
Well, I suppose if you are reading day 4 of the story of my 14 day meditation experiment, then it must hold some interest for you. I’m glad. Even if only two people read this and decide to try out meditation as their own experiment then I would be happy that by recording this I would have done my bit to make the work a better place. The more you look’ the more you will come to see that so many people who are doing great work have a regular meditation practice. Often it would not be something that they advertise to the world, but with a little bit of in depth questioning many thought leaders and visionaries will reveal to you details of their regular meditation practice. How do I know this? Do I hang around with a lot of thought leaders and visionaries?
My favorite wooden chair
One or two I suppose. So then what is my secret to finding out the strategies, routines and inside tricks of exceptional people. Well, I read books about their life stories. And more especially I listen to a very good Podcast called the “Tim Ferriss Show”. Tim does a fantastic job of interviewing a whole lot of really cool people on his weekly Podcast. About 80% of whom we find out have a regular meditation routine. Coincidence perhaps?? I think not!!
But back to my experiment. I got around to meditating only at about noon today. It being Sunday I’m flexible with my routine. So today included another (embarrassingly long) drive to get a cup of fine coffee. A double short Latte to be precise. It’s just so nice! Then I go to pottering around the cottage – I checked the Tilapia. They are breeding out now so I scooped one or two of the fry from the tank to the bucket that I put out for this purpose. Then I got going inside with the tool shelf I’m busy building in the tool room. I told you yesterday that Im busy with a three day fast and I find it easier to fast if I’m distracting myself with physical activity. Not too much physicality like digging a hole or cutting a tree, but some light carpentry works just fine. Then into the shower before wrapping a towel around my waist and sitting down to meditate on my favourite wooden fold up chair. I set the phone’s timer for 20 minutes and sat opposite Poppina as she sat on the couch. She was fidgety and grumpy from not eating since Thursday so she took a while to settle down. She shuffled and applied moisturiser,making little noises that I would prefer not to have when I am trying to meditate but that I was quite good at allowing not to disrupt my meditation. I was struggling a little with a busy mind. I tried my mantra, but still a struggled. As much as I tried to empty my mind, I was faced with a flood of involuntary thoughts:
I would think of how I was going to get Drake the rooster back in the coop this afternoon?
I would think of a cool idea I have for a meditation “gazebo” in the garden at the office.
I would think of the grid of screws I would set up on my tool shelf in the workshop.
I would think of writing this report in the “My 14 day meditation experiment”
I would think of how it was that the idea of writing a report actually impacts negatively on meditation, because I am trying all the time not to forget what the experience was like, thereby disrupting the meditation…………….AAAAAARGHHH!!
It must have been 10 minutes, by which time Poppina’s fideling an fidgeting had stopped. I was beginning to have longer and longer patches of “meditative mind”. Just being in the nothingness and observing the depth of it. But then I felt Poppina’s hand on my leg. Her meditation was clearly not as deep as mine or as much of a pressing priority. She had another form of adult entertainment in mind! I think what I am trying to say is that in my records, I will show that today was a 10 minute meditation and not a 20 minute meditation : )
Some of you reading this may judge me for being weak and ill- disciplined and for not sticking to my 20 minute meditation; “come what may”. To those people I say. “Get a life!!” Seriously, the reason I work so hard in the office, the reason I watch my eating, the reason I work out and the reason I meditate is so that I can experience more fully and with more gratitude this incredible life that I have the opportunity to live. And if the “magic” happens and the time is now to express my love to the most amazing woman in the world, then no office meeting, no meal plan, no gym routine and certainly no meditation slot will stand in my way. Meditation is not a bitter pill to swallow; “like it or not”. No, meditation is a beautiful time. Not asleep and not awake. Completely conscious, but not feeling. Aware but not thinking. It is a beautiful thing and we do it because it pleases us. I do it because it pleases me.
Day 5 – Monday 15 January 2018
I’m feeling quite a bit of tension as I sit down to write this. I feel in in my shoulders. I feel it in the shallowness of me breathing. I suppose though, more importantly, is that I feel it and I am conscious of the fact that I feel it. If I can feel it that means that I don’t accept it as normal. If I notice the tension it means I can at least begin to see it as something separate from me. I can see that a state of tension and anxiety is not something that I should be tolerating for my life. I should not be tolerating a life that consists of a sequence of tasks and events that I must endure in order for them to pass. I insist that my life must be one that I enjoy – A life that involves me laughing. That involves me loving what I am doing and looking forward to doing more of it. I don’t like to use the word “deserve”. As if somebody owes me this kind of life. I prefer to say that:
this is the life that I want,
this is the life that I choose.
this is the life that I desire.
What has all this got to do with my my meditation routine?….I’m not sure if it has anything to do with it. Or perhaps it has everything to do with it. You see in this morning’s meditation I felt a strong sense of love (or at least that’s the closest word I can think of that points to that feeling) As I was able to peel away the thoughts, perhaps like layers of an onion, I would go deeper and deeper in to a “centre” of sorts. The closer I came to the centre or the core, I could feel it as love.
A very beautiful thing. At my core, at my centre, when I don’t think, when I don’t stress, beyond tension, beyond anxiety is a calm and beautiful place filled with love. So perhaps my way of seeing the day and my life in the office is not about me believing that I deserve something better than what I have, but rather that meditation reveals to me the state that already exists in me as a default, before the layers of thought and feeling are wrapped over me to create the distortion that I confuse as reality
Day 6 – Tuesday 16 January 2018
I meditated just after seven am. My day was very busy and I found it hard to find the theme to write about my session. My meditation was characterised by a strong “sexual energy”. I am sure if I was part of an eastern traditions I would have a name for this kind of energy. It’s not a desire to have sex as much as a urge to get things done and a feeling power almost throbbing in the body.
I want to speak about coincidence and luck. Is it my imagination or are things beginning to happen that i have been hoping for for a long time? John White walks in to my office this morning out of the blue. He wants to partner with me in expanding his portfolio of properties. This is a very exciting prospect, There is no guarantee of course that anything will come of this, but the fact is that I am attracting into my my life the kind of opportunities I desire. I know I will build a great rental property portfolio. Does meditation open me up to allow this to happen? Does it make things happen? I don’t know?
What I do know is that mediation is teaching me, (or perhaps more accurately reminding me) to do one thing at a time. In meditation I have to put aside my thoughts and say “Hey! I’ll get to you guys later…right now I am focusing on one thing and that one thing is meditation” This attitude bleeds over into my day, where, when I am meeting with John I am in a meeting with John, when I am talking to Ken, I am talking to Ken. Is sounds really obvious, but this ensures that I am giving my best by focusing on what it is that I am in a unique position to offer and then giving that.
Day 7 – Wednesday 17 January 2018
I got in to the office at 8:05 this morning
I had to send a quick email before i could start my meditation. Peter Kennedy wants to meet this morning and wanted to confirm a time. So I mailed him to ask for a 4:30 time slot:
A – I prefer not to let other people’s sense of urgency drive my agenda
B – I prefer to keep my mornings free of meetings – slotting those in the afternoon rather.
I sat down in the meditation room. It was not easy to go into meditation. I was a little upset with Myself. I had wanted to greet mandisa at school with a cup of coffee on her first day. I got going too late. The queue at the coffee place was too long, and the traffic was terrible. I was whipping myself. Giving myself a hard time. I was though conscious enough to see that i am being hard on myself. Maybe my meditation routine is helping me to be aware of my inner dialogue including that part of the dialogue where I beat up on myself.
The meditation though was crowded with inner thoughts and a kind of heaviness that made it hard for me to get into the zone I wanted to be in. Toward the end of the session I was however able to get snippets of time in the nothingness. Right at the end i got a powerful sensation that i was being blasted with “light energy’ it was coming into my face from the front. I could feel the energy, but while this was happening the alarm sounded and the 20 minutes was over. I got back to my desk and had a few minutes to spare before the 9 am teleconference with Eldred and the Sisanda people.
Day 8 Thursday 18 January 2018
I did manage to meditate, but I didn’t get a chance to write about it : (
Day 9 – Friday 19 January 2018
Wow. What a week. As i write this it is 18:15 i am sitting at the gym (I did not workout- but just needed a place to site and write)
My two weeks with Mandisa starts today – she is meeting friends down at the “food truck Friday” event. I’ll go down there as soon as I have written down my thoughts. Firstly – I’m very happy that I am not into my second week of 20 minutes meditation a day. It’s been a rough week, an exciting week, a creative week.
There’s a whole lot of things going on at the same time. Let me try and list a few:
I have Musa on site at 48 sixth avenue – converting the loft into a flatlet
Mandisa had her first day of the school year on Wednesday
I had the kickoff meeting for the coega dairy project yesterday
I received a counter plea to the divorce summons (which attempts to take mandisa away from me)
XXXXXX at work, told me she has cancer
I met with Kas, to ask for advice on how to formalize my relationship with Poppina
We have placed adverts for the sale of the prado and the polo
XXXXXX’s best friend found out she was pregnant
I prepared the concept design for the ports St. John’s Oneness university campus
I presented the concept to Punji – she’s “all systems go”
I’ve been invited to take a 50% stake in the Easy accommodation
I managed to overcome another one of XXXXX’s attempts to halt the sale of our shares in Sisanda
I got quotes for the insurance claim at 71 upper hill
I entered into an agreement with Steve for the letting of part of 71 upper hill
I took delivery of 5 new hens at the farm,
What I am trying to illustrate, is that there has been a lot going on, but I have not missed my meditation times. I missed Gym a few times, I missed meals a few times but not the meditation times. I have felt strong. I have felt that I have the energy. I felt that I have been able to face the confrontation. And in all of this I have felt that I have been able to be creative. I have had the discipline to sit at the drawing board, (something I love to do), and something that I have been doing so seldom, first last week for the master plan for 48 sixth avenue and then this week for the Masterplan for the Oneness university. I am getting that Limitless feeling. A feeling of indestructibility and feeling of the inevitability of my success. Coincidence?? Does it matter??? I will continue and complete the 14 day experiment. At this stage it seems foolish to even consider not pushing this to become permanent!!
Day 10 – Saturday 20 January 2018
I didn’t get around to it. Sorry!!! But I suppose that’s also OK.
Day 11 Sunday, 21 January 2018
I had a great start to my Sunday morning – Poppina and Mandisa and myself took a drive down to Hobbie beach. The weather was windy, but warm. The sea was like a washing machine. But what a glorious swim. If there is a perfect temperature for sea water, then Sunday morning was it. Diving under the waves, flowing head first back into the white water. Such an energizing time, why don’t I do it every day, or at least every weekend? It’s just so great. I’ve been hearing people talk about electrical currents of the earth and how we need to “ground” ourselves by walking barefoot. I suppose there is a real possibility that the conductivity on the wet beach sand is really at this best. But is it important to know the science behind what makes me feel great? Is it important for me to know and understand the science behind what aspect of meditation makes me more creative and more productive? No, Not at all. What is more important to me in my own life, is to conduct the experiment and observe the effects. And that’s what this little writing experiment is about. I am recording this 14 day experiment, not for the purposes of “science” I have no intention to get my results published in a scientific journal. I am recording my experiment purely for my own benefit. So I can look back at this for it’s and take a decision regarding whether to make this a full time feature of my daily routine or not.
So Sunday, after coming back from the beach, I spent my time ordering my tool room. In itself quite a meditative exercise. I must of spent maybe three hours doing this. It was terribly windy outside, so inside work was a much better idea.
I meditated for 20 minutes at about 15:00. I sat in my bedroom on my favorite fold up wooden chair. The 20 minutes was good. With some deep patches toward the end.
Day 12 – Monday 22 January 2018
The traffic was quite bad this morning. We left the farm at 6:20, but I only got to my desk at 8:00 admittedly we stopped for our usual morning coffee, but it normally does not take that long.
My meditation is normally a battle with my thoughts. This morning was a battle with feelings. Trying to set aside feelings that were dominating my mind. I had a fight with Poppina on Sunday evening. My feelings were of sadness, of fear, of jealousy. But using the same method of meditation I was able to put these elation’s aside. As they entered my mind, I was able to gently move them away, until my mind became clear, It’s almost as if though the wind stops blowing and suddenly I can see the pond in all its beauty, I can see below the surface through the crystal clear water.
The meditation went through patches of intensity. I developed a clear vision of an eye with three eyelids, the three eyelids revealing a rounded triangular shape. I will make a sketch to explain.
I also had a clear sensation of flying with big black wings.
I noticed again though my day yesterday, how in fact my whole day becomes a “Meditation” what do I mean by that? I mean in the same way As I am able to sit down for twenty minutes resisting the impulse to think and do, so too am I able to apply a similar mind to the day today situations I find myself in without getting distracted. We have been interviewing people to take on a position as general assistant. These are the types of tasks that generally tend to make me fidgety. They generally tend to make want to move on to the next task. They make me want to check my phone or doodle in my sketch book. But tin this instance I was present to the process. I was focussed. I was mindful of what I was thinking. I was listening to what Jessica had to say. I was listed it to what Velile had to say. One of my many flaws is that I would become impatient with people that irritate me, especiatial it they come across at slow or lacking in understanding. Yet I was able to remain polite and caring and not become my usual sarcastic and hurtful self. I am also drawn to getting tasks done. Not allowing things to hang and drag out. My work drive has been quite impressive.
I had a good work out in the gym doing arms. I came within millimeters of achieving 14 pull-ups (which is my all time personal record. I also put in good effort with the bench press and the crucifix exercises.’
When I got to the farm I found that the pressure pump was not working. I was able to notice my calmness at I sat doing doing my best to troubleshoot and get it going again. I was not angry at the world I was not “Wo is me” I simply did what I could. And when I realized that it had to be taken in for repairs, I simply disconnected it an loaded it on the back of the bakie, making peace with the fact that I would boil water on the gas stove to wash in.
I went to sleep and 9:30 and set the alarm for 5:15
I slept well!
Day 13 Tuesday 23 January 2018
This morning was a bit better as regards traffic. I got into the office at 7:30 having left the farm at about 6:15.
The meditation was good but interrupted with many thoughts with huge positive energy and an urge to get off my seat and start getting things done. When I slipped into meditation there was a sensation of throbbing or pulsing…a powerful energy. The colour I could see behind my eyes was a bright white. (not the usual blackness with s centre of luminous yellow and a circle around the black of luminous yellow and luminous purple)
The day was very productive. I got immediately into “getting stuff done”, dropping the pump off for repairs,then into the last interview for the general assistant post. Then meeting with Musa the builder – finishing the reconciliation for the flat – I could see myself being calm and collected. I could see myself not getting flustered or upset. I was patient but firm.
A text came through from Steph my neighbor. I tree fell down last night on her fence. She wants to know how I’m going to deal with it. I was not angry I was not frustrated. I was not tempted the weak “why me” I was pleasant – said I would have a look in the evening. I did. And I got back to her. No issue (I’m waiting for the quote to repair it now – but let’s see)
I picked mandisa up from school, then went together with her to Gym, that was nice, I’m gonna try to schedule more of my gym sessions with Mandisa in the weeks when I am with her. We worked Abbss – she is really good and physical. I am very proud of her. I am conscious of the fact that I am proud of her and I am conscious of the fact that I love her. I wonder if having less anxiety and being more conscious radiates out and effects the people around me, Mandisa, Poppina, Litha Noah and the people that work for me? I am absolutely convinced that it has a huge impact.
Day 14 – Wednesday 24 January 2018
So it came to pass that I reached the last day of my 14 day meditation experiment.
The meditation this morning was a little hard to get into. The problem being that I was bursting with a creative energy. My mind would not slow down, it was flashing me with things that I would love to do and get done. Not the anxious flashing of thoughts that says “you haven’t done this and you haven’t done that” but more like”wow, I’d love to get that done right now. “ or “would not it be nice to get this done quickly” But I did persevere and I did get into a beautiful throbbing meditation. I was able to visualize the colours behind my eyes “throbbing” or “pulsing” just watching them change became the focus of my meditation. At one stage I felt a dropping sensation. Like a dip on a rollercoaster. I feel this every now and again and my attempt is to just let go and keep moving with the roller coaster. But it only lasts a few seconds then my mind tries to hold onto something. I am sure its just a case of practicing this a little more.
Looking at the this 14 day exercise I can see that it has helped my come to see a number of benefits to my life.
I sleep better
I am more productive
I am more creative
I am more loving
I have improved Libido
I have reduced anxiety
I have become conscious of my thoughts
I will not attempt in anyway to quantify these as in “I was rating my anxiety at 8 out of 10 and now I rate it at 2 out of 10” Why will I not attempt this? I’ll tell you. It’s because I am not trying to prove anything to you. So much of our thinking revolves around the concept that some one else, some scientist in a white coat and thick black glasses, must prove something in order for it to be true. I support this way of thinking for almost all questions that require answers. Where I don’t support it is where the answers can be gained through self experimentation. And yes, I also agree that some things are just too risky to try personal experimentation. I think for example that the risk of experimenting with eating mushrooms I find on the farm to discover which are deadly poisonous and which simply induce mild hallucinations is just too risky. With mushrooms I rely on the nerds in the long white coats and thick black rimmed glasses.
But if the question is:
What song helps you get in a party mood?
How many glasses of wine cause a hangover the next morning?
Do beans make me fart?
Is my life better with a 20 minute morning meditation routine?
Then I suggest that self experimentation is by far, I mean by at least a mile, the best way to find out. Why is this truth so obvious, but yet so seldom practiced? I’m not sure, but what i do know is that I cannot lie to myself. When I put my hand into a bucket of ice water, the pain I feel is not a lie. When I fall in love, the love that I feel is not a lie it is real. I suppose it’s about trusting this feedback from a deep personal space in a world where we are thought to be cynical and distrustful.
This experiment has taught me two things:
1 – regular meditation is good for me on a whole lot of levels
2 – I will seek out other experiments to help me find other ways in which my life can be improved.
(This piece first appeared in the Weekend Post on 24 March 2018)
On our way to swim in the ocean on Wednesday morning, we were chatting in the the car about Human Rights day. As we drove, I gave a little lecture explaining how on the 21st of March 1960, 69 unarmed protesters were gunned down outside a police station in Sharpville. “Why were they protesting?” asks Mandisa. “They were protesting about the “pass laws”. They burned the papers that they were required to carry as evidence that they had permission to leave the “homelands” in order to seek work in the city”. Mandisa silently nodded her head in the backseat as she continued to flip through Instagram, but Poppina said: ”You know, come to think of it, not much has really changed since 1960! If you walk down any Hillbrow street today, you run the risk of being thrown in the back of a police van if you don’t have the correct, ID papers, Refugee papers or Asylum papers”
I thought about this statement as I bobbed in the ocean that morning. Mandisa and I swam to the end of the pier. Poppina strolled on the beach. “What has changed since 1960?” I asked myself. Yes, things are much better for a whole lot of people that happen to have the right papers, but really, we have fallen into exactly the same thinking of the apartheid government. Then, the state said: “If your ancestors come from the wrong side of the Kei river, you go back there and do whatever your ancestors did there” All that has actually happened since 1960, is that the state has now just changed the rivers that they choose to use as reference points for their cruelty and brutality. “You dare not set your foot on “our” side of the Limpopo River. Go back to where you came from! Go do there whatever it is that your ancestors did there!”
We feel good about ourselves and justify our cruelty by referring to concepts such as “The Constitution” or “The Sovereign State”. My friends, I am writing to you today to remind you that these, and many such like fabrications, are merely “concepts”. They are just ideas formed in the minds of people. They are neither real nor tangible. What is real and what is tangible is the tremendous suffering of many millions of people across the globe and especially in africa that are unable to flee drought, famine, war, rape and slavery because of the notional concept of a “sovereign state”, with borders that cannot be freely crossed without risking death and imprisonment. People are dying (and worse) for the sake of these concepts. The “lucky” few that make it out of whatever desperate situation that has driven them to give up their ancestral home and their families, find themselves in a situation in a country like South Africa perhaps, where they are, at best, treated as second class citizens. They struggle to get a bank account, they struggle to own land, they struggle to get the same wages as those who have the “correct papers”, they struggle to access education. They are harassed by the police, they are exploited by the criminal underworld.
As we speak, right now, somewhere north of the Limpopo, young girls are being captured by rebels and sold into slavery. As we speak, right now, children are embarking on foot on a thousand mile journey in the hope of escaping the hell that has driven them to find the courage to flee. As we speak, in this town of ours, young girls from Somalia or Zimbabwe, or the DRC or Sudan, with no papers, no means of support and no hope, are trapped in a living hell of drug induced sex slavery. Tell me my friends, why, why, why do we think of this unspeakable injustice in different terms to the way we have come to think about the crime of apartheid?
We are deluding ourselves to think that this is in any way OK!
It must stop right now!
I am not a prophet and I do not pretend to be one, but I can tell you with absolute certainty that we will look back at this time and we will judge ourselves for tolerating this situation. We will be embarrassed that we committed our energy to attempts to rid the oceans of plastic bottles, arguing against backyard dog breeders and whether our leaders should be permitted to smash each other’s heads with water jugs. We will judge ourselves for dedicating our time to this relative pettiness while this tragedy of human suffering continues as the result of our silence in condoning the rubbish idea of “Sovereign” borders.
The reality is that our species is a wandering species. From the time when we first emerged from the Cradle of Humankind near Krugersdorp, we have wandered. We have moved our families on to new lands when the conditions we were facing became unpleasant. This movement over thousands and thousands of years was a gradual process, but a fundamental ingredient to our continued success as a species.
Impermeable national boundaries are unnatural! They cause untold suffering and must abolished without delay. We are a species gifted with profound intelligence. We split the atom. We send our representatives to the moon. We have credible plans to colonize Mars. Trust me, we can figure out how to overcome the challenges that emerge out of the removal of national boundaries. What do you think?
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