Last night I went to visit the occupiers. The camp has changed again - the demographic is older and this time there was shouting and laughter and banter and people playing guitars and making up songs using the words out of the Occupied DomPost (issue 3 out now!)
Unfortunately, as part of the effort to maintain the grass in the area, the main gathering place is now back off the path, which makes it less welcoming for a random walking in, and places less people out the front where interaction with passersby is more likely to happen. However, I'm not (all that) shy so I wandered in and sat myself down and shortly, along came an English lady in her 50s who introduced herself as Cass (Kaz?) and asked if I'd like to participate in a mindfulness workshop.
"This way, 4 minutes."
So I found myself sitting in a tent with her and two young men, cross legged and being asked if I knew anything about mindfulness. Which I don't really - I had the impression it was some sort of cosmic waffle that involved awareness of one's surroundings. And in some respects it is, but if you strip that away I think it might be a useful tool for the kit, if you know what I mean.
So we sat with our eyes shut and focused on awareness of stuff - what can you hear, what thoughts are you having, just paying attention to stuff. Then we reported back. My neighbour had been thinking of pirates. I had been inventorying my body, wondering why that helicopter was circling, and contemplating sheep. Apparently there is a lot of stuff going on in my head!
So next we focused only on hearing. Again, my neighbour heard 'sounds'. I heard seagulls, four different voices talking, the helicopter finally leaving, an evacuation alarm that must have annoyed the people who had to evacuate just before 5pm, traffic on the quays, and a drummer.
This made our teacher do duck lips for a bit - clearly I was not just flowing in the cosmic wonder of the sounds, but instead was categorising and having thoughts about every input. So next we did a body mindfulness thing and this worked quite well for me. It involved sitting and placing one's awareness first in the toes, being aware of just them, then gradually moving the point of awareness through various parts of the body in sequence, feeling each in turn, and casually observing any thought that comes up and allowing it to pass on.
This is kind of different from the state of 'no-mind' that is the aim of transcendental meditation or aikido practice, more a controlled, detached awareness of what is going on in whatever you're choosing to be mindful of.
We finished by doing a 10-minute session of mindfulness in whatever way we chose. At the end, my neighbour said he felt very 'one-pointed' and the teacher said he looked it and I went "Uh.." because I have no idea what that means. But it was quite relaxing.
So what use is this? Well, the bit where you place your awareness where you want it to be and notice when it's straying into thought or another sense - I reckon with a bit of practice this could be really useful for when you want to focus on a particular task like study, or when you're wanting to actively listen to someone, or if like me you're a little bit deaf and are trying to hear someone over background noise. Being able to focus that intently and to notice when it drifts and gently bring it back, is definitely something I would find useful. And also the relaxing part, eh? ;-)
I wasn't very interactive with the teacher and I suspect she thinks I didn't get much out of it, but having put some thought into it I think I'll try to get better at it, and I'll try to find her this evening to thank her for it. I particularly appreciated the minimal amount of cosmic woo-woo that I was subjected to.
Yet again I learn something from the occupiers!
Last night I put a varnish coat on the DIY clothes hanger. On Tuesday I painted it green using some old student acrylic I had, and now it's being coated with a combination of mahogany stain and varnish to protect it from the elements. The green is showing through and I must say, it looks kind of nice. Next project, a cupboard for the patio in which I can put gardening stuff. Possibly also in green.
It's now been three weeks and I'm tired of waiting for my uni result. Why can't they mark it instantly? Meanwhile, revisiting the BZP interviews is proving interesting. I can code 2 or 3 a night and the analysis terms seem to be emerging as I read, which makes life easier because I was a bit at sea for a while there. Not really looking forward to analysing Anita's ones though. That is going to be a bit weird ;-/
Also, I finished Glasshouse. Stross redeemed himself in the last quarter by bringing the mindfuck. I'm going to say nobody does mindfuck quite like Stross* - and I think the reason it works so well is that his worlds are believable and the mindfuck is subtle, until the moment that it's not and then you go "Whoah ok so that's been happening since the start." So yes, I would recommend this book, but women - be prepared to be pissed off at the whinging. Being a woman is not that bad, Charlie, and I wish you wouldn't go on about it as if it is.
* I say this in the hopes that all the geeks will go "Actually, X does and you should read this this and this." Cunning, me.