Saturday, February 16, 2013

Progress (Of A Sorts)

The strained hamstring is slowly improving, and the bird's egg-sized cyst on my chest is shrinking, but it's slow progress. I'm now off all the pills (painkillers and antibiotics) — they were beginning to upset my stomach. I've been forced to slow down over the past couple of weeks, which is probably no bad thing. Usually I'm rushing about here and there far too much and doing stuff far too quickly. At first I had the strange illusion I was actually living in slow motion. Pretty soon, however, I grew to relish the enforced stillness and slowness. Many books have been read (from Lawrence through Thomas Merton to Chuang Tzu and Lao Tzu), much music listened to, many radio programmes heard. Now I just want to get on the move again.

The diet goes well. I'm taking in around 1500 calories per day or less, and a typical day's meal consists of muesli or a boiled egg with a slice of toast and Marmite for breakfast; salad or a low-calorie soup for lunch; and a fish (sometimes white, sometimes oily) / meat (often chicken, sometimes red meat) / vegetarian dish in rotation for dinner, with plenty of veggies, followed by something like three fruits with either yoghurt, sorbet or ice cream for pudding. Three meals, no snacks, no alcohol. If I'm hungry in-between meals, and I rarely seem to be, I'll eat some fruit or a crispbread with low-fat Philadelphia cheese or marmite.

The weight. Started out at 14 st 13 lb on 28 January. Am now 14 st 5 lb. Target weight: 13 st.

The exercise. Practically non-existent because of the leg. Though I have been doing some routines involving non-upper thigh body parts from a supine position (ooh, err!)

The meditation. Nothing specific, but many contemplative moments throughout the day.

The computer. Hopeless. I'm on it all the time!

I'll end with my poem Slowing Down, which seems appropriate.

I slowed right down today,
Just slowed right down.
How little we see most of the time!
So I slowed right down.

And saw a fork-tailed kite circle then drift
On a blue highway, until it was no more.
I cracked a sunflower shell between my teeth
And curled the seed out with my tongue,
The taste intense and bitter-sweet.
It hit my palate like a burst of sun.

Today I listened to a stream
Trickle then rush from Extremadura
Into Castilla y León.
I heard the hollow clunk of cow bells
Jangle like Tibetan wind chimes.

I smelled a cistus bush today.
It reeked of incense. And I sniffed
The fragrant, bitter scent of thyme,
The aromatic tang of eucalyptus.

Today I felt a mat
Of soft, green moss under my hand,
And, underfoot, crunched oak leaves, crisp and brown,
And spiky chestnut husks, like tiny hedgehogs.
I fingered the jagged edge of stones,
Felt the smooth roundedness of rock.

I slowed right down today.
I slowed right down.
How blind we are to what is happening!
How quickly we walk on!

But, for today,
I slowed, I slowed right down.
I slowed.
I slowed.
I slowed time down.

I slowed myself




  1. Oh the world. The world available to us when we slow right down. I love these crisp and ready details, well observed, intensely felt. A terrific poem!

    1. Thanks for reading, Ruth, and I'm glad you liked the poem.

  2. I love this Robert.The concept of slwoing down, the way you have used all five senses, they are so vivid. I could almost taste the sunflower shell. The ending is brilliant - slowing us all down. Pam Moyle

  3. Love this poem, Robert! So much wisdom in your words. I'm also delighted that your new health regime is now providing dividends. Slowing down and listening to the counsel of Drs. Merton and Lao-tzu is a surefire cure to almost anything.

    As for the damn computer, let's just confess that it's an addiction for many of us. All things considered, however, it's a rather benign addiction, at least to the extent it is used to connect with friends or to discover beauty and wisdom. I'm thinking of getting a very lightweight laptop — the Macbook Air — so that I can do more of my blogging and commenting in venues other than home — coffee houses, parks, riverbanks, wherever I want to be at a given moment.

    1. Hi, George. Getting a Macbook Air sounds like a really good idea. I couldn't go back to ordinary PCs after buying a Mac for the first time a year or two ago.

  4. I love this poem Robert, perhaps it is when we slow right down it is then we can see, hear and taste things that are all around us all the time.

    I hope you feel well very soon again.

    All my best wishes,
    Maureen Weldon

    1. Feeling a whole lot better, Maureen, thanks.

  5. It's a great poem, solitary walker, it takes us right into and describes, each experience, separating out each strand of perception which, even when we 'have the time'! we don't always fully surrender to. I once had a similar experience, when I was forced to slow down and was amazed at how much richer all sensory experience was. So I can't resist copying this extract on what I wrote then..

    "When only one hand is fully operational, you become much more conscious of what’s involved in certain movements, that require two hands, that could normally perform while thinking of other things. Peeling figs, steadying it with the fingers of the left hand, and using the knife with my right, I realise how many muscles in both arms are normally used in such a simple operation. How dependant one hand and arm is, on the other. But, if I do it slowly, it works.

    Slowly. I become aware of every movement my right hand and arm makes, every movement my left hand and arm want to make, but cannot, because my lower arm is encased in plaster. It slows you down, it makes you very aware. And I realise - peeling figs is a way of knowing God. "

  6. Hi, dritanje, and welcome back! I liked your extract. Deprivation leads to appreciation, doesn't it?