The understanding of the firing line

There was no actual declaration of war. It kind of just happened. It all began in skirmishes with disintegration. A slow motion, frame by frame shattering. If only I had known of impermanence then I would not have clung for dear life on the shards-scattered-splintered. I mentioned that the guns were trained on myself but that is not entirely true. Gunned down but gunning at the world. The raw red bone was in my head and in my soul. The numbness was not numbness but a strange out of touchness and a fragmentation and no place to contain the battleground. The shell shocked feelings rode out on a storm-flood. There is a possibility of explanation: the groundlessness, cratered by the total war heard in my head.

Write out loud


Writing is the good enough mother who answers to my yell for help from my crib and need a change, some kind words to soothe me from a strange dream, to pick me up and say the right words, to straighten out the crinkles of anxiety and to find a container for these feelings that have feelings but no words to name them.

Writing is the therapist that sits with me and seems to know a way to call me out from the dark side of the moon, where I have been these past countless years, a marooned space ship, the life support systems draining bit by bit, helping me to name, at longfuckinglast, some of those feelings.

Writing is my wife who lies next to me and whose breath at night is the sign of life that the morning will come on the sunlight or on the mist and that there is no need to fear the dark.

Writing is the Buddha who releases me from the fixed state, the large ego that is too fat to fit through the door, that no longer needs to be prodded and pushed, that makes me present – even when I forgot, which is often – that lightens the heavy lifting of being who I am: fuckedup-neurotic-and-emotional.

The firing line

There was no actual declaration of war. It kind of just happened. A slow motion climb down into the darkest of nights, when the lights went out. The guns were trained on myself – target practice but more than that, lugging stuff at me and the only escape was scuttling behind the lines. The wounds were not wounds but, instead, only, there was a slippage into a strange disintegration. The numbness was not numbness but a rifle range of emotions. Intolerable and not contained. Flooding outwards. It is impossible to explain really, except by saying that the firing line had collapsed into me as the target and the shooter.

I have heard the words

I have heard the words that you have died but there seems
an odd disconnect between those dreadful words and the so-called reality,
the truth that you had gone.
I do not believe that truth because it feels fake to me.
I feel that there is something wrong with me - that I am in a deep denial and, one day, I will wake up and see that the dreadful words are, in fact, true.
Is this normal? My grief feels numbed.
I see you on whatsapp and don't have the heart to remove the icon.
I think I fear that doing so will make it real and the awful reality
that I have lost another part of you.

Bless that child

I kind of get stuck in a memory that can’t be shifted.

It always has the same view and feeling. Darkness closes around it. It takes me by surprise and yet, in the countless going over of it, it is so familiar. I am reminded of my age. Six or seven.

I keep on telling myself it cannot be true. It never happened. Yet it is buried so deep no earth-moving equipment could ever reach it. Only I have an eye on it and I know something happened and it scarred me in an instant.

The way out of this, he said, is to bless that child who did nothing wrong …. and when I did for the first time yesterday, I cried, releasing deep within me, something that had kept me stuck.

Perhaps it can be shifted moment by moment, breaking away, remembering to bless that child.

Great Wisdom from Pema Chodron

If we were to make a list of people we don’t like –people we find obnoxious, threatening, or worthy of contempt –we would find out a lot about those aspects of ourselves that we can’t face. If we were to come up with one word about each of the troublemakers in our lives, we would find ourselves with a list of descriptions of our own rejected qualities, which we project onto the outside world. The people who repel us unwittingly show us the aspects of ourselves that we find unacceptable, which otherwise we can’t see. In traditional teachings on lojong it is put another way: other people trigger the karma that we haven’t worked out. They mirror us and give us the chance to befriend all of that ancient stuff that we carry around like a backpack full of granite boulders.

Start Where You Are: How to accept yourself and others

Advice Given

Excellent advice in Advice Not Given’ by Mark Epstein. From his excellent chapter ‘Right Action’, some ideas to help with troubling thoughts.

When we help people see their repetitive thoughts as mere thoughts rather than as true stories, there is a whiff of freedom. Our narratives need not be as sure of themselves as we have led ourselves to believe. The more we examine them in an open way, the less convinced we tend to be about them.

… But letting go does not mean releasing the thing that is bothering you. Trying to get rid of it only makes it stronger. Letting go has more to do with patience than it does with release.

… [In] Right Action … You settle into yourself rather than trying to make the troubling thing go away. If anything drops away, it does so by itself. You cannot make it happen directly.

Right Action is part of the Eight-fold Path from the Buddha’s fourth Noble Truth


Obsessive thoughts caught
in a rat trap grip
and the cheese was not even worth it.
I worry what people think.
The darkened train carries the faces of their
judgement on the window mist.
I think I am burned out.
I have no container to keep the embers - the hot coal ash
floats in on the wind.
I snatch them back - too hot to touch.


‘But in order to loosen their grip, we must first know what they are.’
Mark Epstein Advice Not Given: A Guide to getting Over Yourself

The other day

I had the sensation
Of wanting to harm myself.
It came as a hooded figure, dark and real,
Carried in on a night.
I sought sleep to escape it.
The hooded figure loiters on the corner in the alleyway.
Drop back into my body and lighten on the breath,
Carried in on the sun from the East.
Still, the figure stands in the shadow.

Trying not to have a thought only made it more pronounced and more threatening … We don’t need to make your symptoms go away; we just need to change the way you relate to them. With less aversion to your thoughts, their hold on you will lessen. You could be less preoccupied and more open to what you are seeing around you … Instead of focusing so much on unwanted thoughts, he started to look around.

Extract from Mark Epstein, ‘Advice not Given: A Guide to Getting Over yourself’