“This comes with the warning that my mind feels fairly badly inspissated at the moment, but that may be because I’ve not been getting all five sufficiently regularly.”
- Meditation, or bathing a baby. Best to get the most embarrassing out of the way first. I’ve tried different types of meditation, guided either by tapes of Alan Watts or by the Meditation Trust. However, there are other methods if you don’t want to come on like a new age hippy. In his Autobiographical Statement, John Cage wrote of his practice of zen buddhism, “I have never practiced sitting cross-legged nor do I meditate. My work is what I do and always involves writing materials, chairs, and tables. Before I get to it, I do some exercises for my back and I water the plants, of which I have around two hundred.” A film shown at the John Cage Uncaged weekend documents this enormous array of plants above 6th Avenue, and the intricate instructions for watering them — you wouldn’t have wanted to apartment-sit for him. Since I became a dad, finding time to meditate has been harder, but in its place I have the evening bath, feed and bedtime of my four-month-old son: the arrangements of bath water and thermometer, sleep suit and dummy, hot water bottle and towel, feeding bottle and LP cued up on turntable, not to mention the actual washing routine, are almost on a par with Cage’s plants.
- Daily rituals. Every day, I take a picture — the same picture — of our garden. You can see 503 (and counting) of them on Flickr. I know others do a similar thing with photos of themselves, but this intended to be an antidote to worrying about my self-image; to help me lose myself in my environment. Another ritual, though this may be more of a mind cigarette (alternately thrilling and sickening) than a mind apple, is listening to a different item in my music collection and writing something about it. Mark McGuinness has written insightfully about rituals (and avoiding the mundane) recently.
- Trying to absorb something from someone who seems to have a more alert mind than me. Mark McGuinness is a good example of this, too, as I discovered his blogs at Lateral Action and Wishful Thinking a couple of months, and pick up lots of ideas and tips there. I rotate my current favourites every now and then — though I have a few perennials such as Tom Phillips, whose work teeters on the brink of tipping over from inspiring into intimidating.
- Being prepared to zone out. Which might sound the same as #1, but in this case it’s not planned; it’s accepting the opportunity to take a little cognitive time out when it presents itself. Yesterday afternoon, for example, I ate a rather dense, home-baked muffin, and initially regretted it as I felt the blood drain from my brain to my stomach to work on my digestion. Next I had to catch a train into central London, where the combination of my light-headedness, a sunset in the south west shedding light on dark rainclouds overhead, and the swoonsome first album by The Clientele on my headphones, swept me away. I didn’t do the reading I meant to do, but I arrived refreshed and alert to new possibilities.
- Exercise. I’ll end with a no-brainer (whoops, sorry). “Exercise promotes new cell growth in old brains by increasing their blood volume, and cell growth improves memory,” says a recent book on memory research. This most obvious mindapple is the one I fall down on most often, since I now live in a part of London where the only way to get anywhere interesting is by train.
Thanks David – I love your photo a day….. Many of David’s images above.