Saturday 26 February 2011

Zen and the Art of Tightrope Walking

Every so often (actually quite a lot) I get sick of the sound of my own voice. I bet you do too (mine, that is, not yours). So I shut up and let someone else do the talking.  Hence this is one in a very occasional series of My Favourite Blogs. Every so often I come across a blog which I love so much I have to force it on other people.  

Not that long ago, I *met* Vivienne Tufnell on Twitter. If I recall, she mentioned Susan Howatch (a favourite author) and I followed a link to her blog, Zen and the Art of Tightrope Walking. I read the post – about the wonderful Starbridge novels (c’mon TV people, now there’s a series just crying out to be made) and then poked around a bit more and emerged several hours later with ideas buzzing all over my head.

You only have to look at the sidebar of the blog to see why it drew me in: dreams and dreaming; magic and mystery; parable and poetry; depression and anxiety. What’s not to like?

How does she describe herself? “I’m a writer and poet and a longterm sufferer of depressive illness. I try to keep smiling but sometimes I fail.” Ah, this I get.

“I write about life, I write about what is important to me. I write fiction and poetry and I ought to warn you that some of what is billed as fiction is true and what is billed as….non-fiction may actually be something else entirely.” Ah, any journalist would attest to this. And our ‘fiction’ always finds us out. ;)

Her blog is one of those places I go when I’m feeling out of sorts with the world; when I want to be taken out of my head and into someone else’s. I love the breadth of her posts and the humanity and the sheer poetry of them.

Above all I love her aromatic meditations/visualisations. She has written a whole series, taking a specific scent as their starting place. Scent is powerful – it hits the limbic brain (the oldest, most primal part). It can stir up forgotten emotions, lead you down curious pathways. It bypasses the conscious mind and the ego.

Her subjects range from everyday scents (orange, bread, chocolate, vanilla) to the seasonal (snowdrop, pumpkin, bonfire) to the exotic (sandalwood, amber, myrrh). I’d love to see these gathered together in a book (any smart editors or publishers reading?). I’m also badgering Vivienne to put them out on YouTube. You can find a selection on her blog – click on meditations on the sidebar titled Things to Read and See.

Explore, enjoy...what catches your eye might be quite different from what catches mine. But I will leave you with this, as a taster – one of my favourite posts.

The texture of silence

Silence has texture.

You don’t realise how different those textures are until you stop to listen.

There’s the broken glass, bleeding edge texture of the awkward silence that falls in the ringing aftermath of a fight. You can feel the sharp fractured edges as the shattered peace falls to the ground like glass bird-scarers in an old fashioned kitchen garden.

Then there’s the hungry salivating silence of expectation, that bated breath hush, like the dying tones of the dinner gong where only vibrations and eagerness remain.

And finally there’s the silence you find in holy places, where worlds meet and touch and even overlap. You walk in and are struck by the depth of the quiet, self conscious suddenly of the creak of a door or arthritic knees, yet any sound you make rapidly vanishes, absorbed into the deep silence as a stone dropped into an underground lake. The ripples spread out to infinity and are lost, and the silence returns. It has the texture of the finest velvet, rich and soft as forest moss. When you let yourself be still, you can hear the silence over the roar of traffic or the bustle of a busy kitchen, like a kind of celestial white noise.

When you find a place where this sort of silence prevails, cherish it. Hold it in your heart, explore that texture in your mind till you understand that beyond all the sounds of the world, from the discordant roar of aircraft, the inanity of human chatter to the melody of springtime birds and the wind in the wheat, this silence is the song of the spirit that plays on whether we choose to hear it or not.


Nic's Notebook said...

Sounds fab, heading over right now for a look!

Tiger Princess said...

Wow... I understood every word of that and somehow felt an instant connection with her.

I shall mosey on over and follow her too, methinks!

Viv said...

*scurries away overwhelmed*

Exmoorjane said...

Yay!! I love it when this kinda thing happens... :)

Vivienne: stop blushing. Step into the spotlight and bow, damnit!

Zoë said...

Shall pop over directly - I get this so much, hence wanting to go in the Cathedral yesterday and getting so annoyed when they wanted to charge me for the privilege! I was denied the silent space I craved.

Ive Just read 'Eat, Pray, Love' and many of the themes explored in there, in terms of exploring depression, healing, self love etc, are very much akin to the ideas I read here. Would recommend reading it.

Viv said...

("Never curtsey. Witches bow," Granny Weatherwax)
@Zoe, as a paid up member of the Church of England, I march past pay desks and demand the chapel for private prayer. I also resent being asked to pay when they had 15 years of my life!!
@Jane, not so good at the spotlight. It reminds me too much of the searchlight, and snipers, from another life.

Posie said...

what a lovely tribute to Vivienne's blog,I will be heading over for a read. Love your descriptions of silence Jane, when you find it deep within, you reap the rewards....

Tattieweasle said...

Heading over need space for brain or is it thoughts that overcrowd them?

Exmoorjane said...

Must point out, Posie, that it's Vivienne's description, not mine (sadly).

Alison Cross said...

Loved this, must nip over and take a look :-)

Ali x

vegemitevix said...

Absolutely relate, to her post to her bio (I too suffer from depression)Thanks for sharing Vivienne with us.

Sessha Batto said...

I have no clue how I missed this last year - but I'm VERY glad you reminded me ;) Viv is one of the few bloggers I read religiously (along with you, of course, and Remittance Girl). She always has something worthwhile to say, and alwaya makes me think. Excellent choice