spring equinox

The 21st of March has rolled around again and My partner and I are back in the Pranayama saddle.

I have been struggling with an ethical decision after reading in several places that you should not share your spiritual experiences with others. The basic tennant is; if you tell about it, you loose it.

This throws this whole blog into question.

I think I will continue to write and discuss issues but may well stop communicating personal spiritual experiences.

Am looking forward to my third voyage into pranayama. Shall see how things develop.

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We all have our problems.

A wealthy merchant gained an audience with the Buddha hoping to find an answer to the some of his problems he claimed were keeping him from happiness.

My wife loves me, but not as much as she should, he said. My children respect me but not as much as I deserve. My granaries are filled to the overflowing, but it will cost too much to build another in these tough economic times. On and on he went until at last he had exhausted himself and the Buddha with all of his litany of woes.

The Buddah sat listening patiently.

I’m sorry, but I cannot help you, said the Buddha.

How can that be, said the man, you are supposed to be the wisest man on Earth. Surely, you can solve my simple problems.

Perhaps, said the Buddha, We all have our 88 problems, but you have 89.

Nay, good sir, you are mistaken, said the man, I have but a normal amount of  problems.

No, it is you who are mistaken, said the Buddha, you have 89 problems, and the 89th  is that you want to have no problems.

No one is wise enough to solve that problem.

Pancha Pakshi Shastra- 5 bird astrology

Pancha-Pakshi Shastra

Pancha-Pakshi Shastra is based on ancient literature in Tamil language. Pancha means five and Pakshi means Bird. The Pancha-Pakshi system has some resemblance to the Pancha-Bhuta (Five elements) system of Vedic Astrology. It is believed that the Five Elements represented by five birds, influence and control all the actions of human beings. These five birds take their turns in a special sequence and radiate their powers during day and night. The power that takes effect first on a day or night and the sequence that follows depends on the day of the week and the Paksha (waxing half or waning half cycles) of the Moon.

One of the five birds is assigned to every human being as the controlling power based on the Birth Star of the person and the Paksha of the Moon at the time of birth. The activity of this Main Bird at a given point of time and the activity of the Sub-Bird at that time and the relationship between them indicates whether the time will be beneficial and lucky for the person or not. Pacha-Pakshi Shasta is very popular in south India especially Tamil Nadu. It helps selection of auspicious time and also for answering queries (Prasna)

The five birds in the Pancha-Pakshi Shastra are:

* 1- Vulture
* 2- Owl
* 3- Crow
* 4- Cock
* 5- Peacock

These birds engage in any one of the following five activities at any given time:

* 1- Rule
* 2- Eat
* 3- Walk
* 4- Sleep
* 5- Die

The birds are considered most powerful when they rule and least powerful when they die.

To find out your Birth Pakshi (Nakshatra Pakshi) you have to know your birth star according to Vedic Astrology and the Paksha of the Moon at the time of your birth. The half of the Lunar Cycle when the Moon increases in size and reaches the Full Moon (Pournami) is called Sukla-Paksha and the other half of the cycle when the size decreases until the New Moon is called the Krishna-Paksha. Birth Stars are based on the longitude of Moon and are 27 in number from Aswini to Revati. Once you know the Birth Star (Nakshatra) and the Paksha you can find your Nakshatra Pakshi (Bird) from the following chart.

pancha pakshi method in astrology

The five birds rule certain days of the week and the days when your bird rules are considered good for you. Also, the days on which your bird is least powerful (death days) will be least useful for you. It is best not to undertake important tasks or take decisions on such days. The ruling days and death days also depend on the Paksha of the day you are considering for an activity. While death days of a bird are same for day as well as night, the ruling days are different for day and night.

The chart showing the ruling and death days are given below:

During Sukla-Paksa(between fullmoon day and newmoon day)

pancha pakshi chart in astrology

Each day of 12 hours is divided into five equal portions and given to different activities of the birds. Within each portion, the time is further allocated to other birds called apahara birds and their activities. The duty cycles follow complex and intricate logic of Pancha-Pakshi Shastra. One can select the best suitable time during a day or night using detailed charts based on Pancha-Paskshi Shastra

Day 82- I Ching hexagram 16 – Enthusiasm.


The strong line in the fourth place, that of the leading official, meets with
response and obedience from all the other lines, which are all weak. The
attribute of the upper trigram, Chên, is movement; the attributes of K'un, the
lower, are obedience and devotion. This begins a movement that meets with
devotion and therefore inspires enthusiasm, carrying all with it. Of great
importance, furthermore, is the law of movement along the line of least
resistance, which in this hexagram is enunciated as the law for natural events
and for human life.

	THE JUDGMENT

	ENTHUSIASM. It furthers one to install helpers
	And to set armies marching.

The time of ENTHUSIASM derives from the fact that there is at hand an
eminent man who is in sympathy with the spirit of the people and acts in
accord with it. Hence he finds universal and willing obedience. To arouse
enthusiasm it is necessary for a man to adjust himself and his ordinances to
the character of those whom he has to lead. The inviolability of natural laws
rests on this principle of movement along the line of least resistance. Theses
laws are not forces external to things but represent the harmony of
movement immanent in them. That is why the celestial bodies do not
deviate from their orbits and why all events in nature occur with fixed
regularity. It is the same with human society: only such laws are rooted in
popular sentiment can be enforced, while laws violating this sentiment
merely arouse resentment.

  Again, it is enthusiasm that enables us to install helpers for the completion
of an undertaking without fear of secret opposition. It is enthusiasm too that
can unify mass movements, as in war, so that they achieve victory.

	THE IMAGE

	Thunder comes resounding out of the earth:
	The image of ENTHUSIASM.
	Thus the ancient kings made music
	In order to honor merit,
	And offered it with splendor
	To the Supreme Deity,
	Inviting their ancestors to be present.

When, at the beginning of summer, thunder—electrical energy—comes
rushing forth from the earth again, and the first thunderstorm refreshes
nature, a prolonged state of tension is resolved. Joy and relief make
themselves felt. So too, music has power to ease tension within the heart and
to loosen the grip of obscure emotions. The enthusiasm of the heart
expresses itself involuntarily in a burst of song, in dance and rhythmic
movement of the body. From immemorial times the inspiring effect of the
invisible sound that moves all hearts, and draws them together, has mystified
mankind.

  Rulers have made use of this natural taste for music; they elevated and
regulated it. Music was looked upon as something serious and holy, designed
to purify the feelings of men. It fell to music to glorify the virtues of heroes
and thus to construct a bridge to the world of the unseen. In the temple men
drew near to God with music and pantomimes (out of this later the theater
developed). Religious feeling for the Creator of the world was united with
the most sacred of human feelings, that of reverence for the ancestors. The
ancestors were invited to these divine services as guests of the Ruler of
Heaven and as representatives of humanity in the higher regions. This
uniting of the human past with the Divinity in solemn moments of
religious inspiration established the bond between God and man. The ruler
who revered the Divinity in revering his ancestors became thereby the Son of
Heaven, in whom the heavenly and the earthly world met in mystical
contact.

  These ideas are the final summation of Chinese culture. Confucius has said
of the great sacrifice at which these rites were performed: "He who could
wholly comprehend this sacrifice could rule the world as though it were
spinning on his hand."

Day 70 – Nick Cave Love song lectures

To be invited to come here and teach, to lecture, to impart what knowledge I have collected about poetry, about song writing has left me with a whole host of conflicting feelings. The strongest, most insistent of these concerns my late father who was an English Literature teacher at the high school I attended back in Australia. I have very clear memories of being about twelve years old and sitting, as you are now, in a classroom or school hall, watching my father, who would be standing, up here, where I am standing, and thinking to myself, gloomily and miserably, for, in the main, I was a gloomy and miserable child, “It doesn´t really matter what I do with my life as long as I don´t end up like my father”. At forty years old it would appear that there is virtually no action I can take that does not draw me closer to him, that does not make me more like him. At forty years old I have become my father, and here I am, teaching.

What I wanted to do here was to talk a bit about “the love song“, to speak about my own personal approach to this genre of songwriting which I believe has been at the very heart of my particular artistic quest. I want look at some other works, that, for whatever reason, I think are sublime achievements in this most noble of artistic pursuits: the creation of the great love song.

Looking back at these twenty years a certain clarity prevails. Midst the madness and the mayhem, it would seem I have been banging on one particular drum. I see that my artistic life has centered around an attempt to articulate the nature of an almost palpable sense of loss that has laid claim to my life. A great gaping hole was blasted out of my world by the unexpected death of my father when I was nineteen years old. The way I learned to fill this hole, this void, was to write. My father taught me this as if to prepare me for his own passing. To write allowed me direct access to my imagination, to inspiration and ultimately to God. I found through the use of language, that I wrote god into existence. Language became the blanket that I threw over the invisible man, that gave him shape and form. Actualising of God through the medium of the love song remains my prime motivation as an artist. The love song is perhaps the truest and most distinctive human gift for recognising God and a gift that God himself needs. God gave us this gift in order that we speak and sing Him alive because God lives within communication. If the world was to suddenly fall silent God would deconstruct and die. Jesus Christ himself said, in one of His most beautiful quotes, “Where ever two or more are gathered together, I am in your midst.” He said this because where ever two or more are gathered together there is language. I found that language became a poultice to the wounds incurred by the death of my father. Language became a salve to longing.

Though the love song comes in many guises – songs of exultation and praise, songs of rage and of despair, erotic songs, songs of abandonment and loss – they all address God, for it is the haunted premises of longing that the true love song inhabits. It is a howl in the void, for Love and for comfort and it lives on the lips of the child crying for his mother. It is the song of the lover in need of her loved one, the raving of the lunatic supplicant petitioning his God. It is the cry of one chained to the earth, to the ordinary and to the mundane, craving flight; a flight into inspiration and imagination and divinity. The love song is the sound of our endeavours to become God-like, to rise up and above the earthbound and the mediocre.

The loss of my father, I found, created in my life a vacuum, a space in which my words began to float and collect and find their purpose. The great W.H. Auden said “The so-called traumatic experience is not an accident, but the opportunity for which the child has been patiently waiting – had it not occurred, it would have found another- in order that its life come a serious matter.” The death of my father was the “traumatic experience” Auden talks about that left the hole for God to fill. How beautiful the notion that we create our own personal catastrophes and that it is the creative forces within us that are instrumental in doing this. We each have a need to create and sorrow is a creative act. The love song is a sad song, it is the sound of sorrow itself. We all experience within us what the Portugese call Suadade, which translates as an inexplicable sense of longing, an unnamed and enigmatic yearning of the soul and it is this feeling that lives in the realms of imagination and inspiration and is the breeding ground for the sad song, for the Love song is the light of God, deep down, blasting through our wounds.

In his brilliant lecture entitled “The Theory and Function of Duende” Frederico Garcia Lorca attempts to shed some light on the eerie and inexplicable sadness that lives in the heart of certain works of art. “All that has dark sound has duende”, he says, “that mysterious power that everyone feels but no philosopher can explain.” In contemporary rock music, the area in which I operate, music seems less inclined to have its soul, restless and quivering, the sadness that Lorca talks about. Excitement, often; anger, sometimes: but true sadness, rarely, Bob Dylan has always had it. Leonard Cohen deals specifically in it. It pursues Van Morrison like a black dog and though he tries to he cannot escape it. Tom Waits and Neil Young can summon it. It haunts Polly Harvey. My friend and Dirty 3 have it by the bucket load. The band Spiritualised are excited by it. Tindersticks desperately want it, but all in all it would appear that duende is too fragile to survive the brutality of technology and the ever increasing acceleration of the music industry. Perhaps there is just no money in sadness, no dollars in duende. Sadness or duende needs space to breathe. Melancholy hates haste and floats in silence. It must be handled with care.

All love songs must contain duende. For the love song is never truly happy. It must first embrace the potential for pain. Those songs that speak of love without having within in their lines an ache or a sigh are not love songs at all but rather Hate Songs disguised as love songs, and are not to be trusted. These songs deny us our humanness and our God-given right to be sad and the air-waves are littered with them. The love song must resonate with the susurration of sorrow, the tintinnabulation of grief. The writer who refuses to explore the darker regions of the heart will never be able to write convincingly about the wonder, the magic and the joy of love for just as goodness cannot be trusted unless it has breathed the same air as evil – the enduring metaphor of Christ crucified between two criminals comes to mind here – so within the fabric of the love song, within its melody, its lyric, one must sense an acknowledgement of its capacity for suffering.

In Lou Reed´s remarkable song “Perfect Day” he writes in near diary form the events that combine to make a “Perfect Day”. It is a day that resonates with the hold beauty of love, where he and his lover sit in the park and drink Sangria, feed animals in the zoo, go to a movie show etc., but it is the lines that darkly in the third verse, “I thought I was someone else, someone good” that transforms this otherwise sentimental song into the masterpiece of melancholia that it is. Not only do these lines ache with failure and shame, but they remind us in more general terms of the transient nature of love itself – that he will have his day “in the park” but, like Cinderella, who must return at midnight to the soot and ash of her disenchanted world, so must he return to his old self, his bad self. It is out of the void that this songs springs, clothed in loss and longing.

Around the age of twenty, I stared reading the Bible and I found in the brutal prose of the Old Testament, in the feel of its words and its imagery, an endless source of inspiration. The Song of Solomon, perhaps the greatest love song ever written, had a massive impact upon me. Its openly erotic nature, the metaphoric journey taken around the lovers bodies – breasts compared to bunches of grapes and young deer, hair and teeth compared to flocks of goats and sheep, legs like pillars of marble, the navel- a round goblet, the belly- a heap of wheat – its staggering imagery rockets us into the world of pure imagination. Although the two lovers are physically separate – Solomon is excluded from the garden where his beloved sings – it is the wild, obsessive projections of one lover onto another that dissolve them into a single being, constructed from a series of rapturous love-metaphors.

The Song of Solomon is an extraordinary love song but it was the remarkable series of love song/poems known as the Psalms that truly held me. I found the Psalms, which deal directly with relationship between man and God, teeming with all the clamorous desperation, longing, exultation, erotic violence and brutality that I could hope for. The Psalms are soaked in suadade, drenched in duende and bathed in bloody-minded violence. In many ways these songs became the blue-print for much of my more sadistic love songs. Psalm 137, a particular favourite of mine and which was turned into a chart hit by the fab little band Boney M. is a perfect example of all I have been talking about.

The love song must be born into the realm of the irrational, absurd, the distracted, the melancholic, the obsessive, the insane for the love song is the noise of love itself and love is, of course, a form of madness. Whether it be the love of God, or romantic, erotic love – these are manifestations of our need to be torn away from the rational, to take leave of our senses, so to speak. Love songs come in many guises and are seemingly written for many reasons – as declarations or to wound – I have written songs for all of these reasons – but ultimately the love songs exist to fill, with language, the silence between ourselves and God, to decrease the distance between the temporal and the divine.

In Psalm 137 the poet finds himself captive in “a strange land” and is forced to sing a song of Zion. He swears his love to his homeland and dreams of revenge. The Psalm is ghastly in its violent sentiments, as he sings for love of his homeland and his God and that he may be made happy by murdering the children of his enemies. What I found, time and time again, in the Bible, especially the Old Testament, was that verses of rapture, of ecstasy and love could hold within them apparently opposite sentiments – hate, revenge, bloody mindedness etc. that they were not mutually exclusive. This idea has left an enduring impression on my songwriting.

Within the world of modern pop music, a world that deals ostensibly with the Love Song, but in actuality does little more that hurl dollops of warm, custard-coloured baby-vomit down the air waves, true sorrow is not welcome. But occasionally a song comes along that hides behind its disposable, plastic beat a love lyric of truly devastating proportions. “Better The Devil You Know” written by hitmakers Stock, Altkin and Waterman and sung by the Australian pop sensation Kylie Minogue is such a song. The disguising of the terror of Love in a piece of mindless, innocuous pop music is an intriguing concept. “Better The Devil You Know” is one of pop music’s most violent and distressing love lyrics.

Say you wont leave me no more
I`ll take you back again
No more excuses, no no
Cause I´ve heard them all before
A hundred times or more
I´ll forgive and forget

If you say you´ll never go
Cause it’s true what they say
Better the devil you know
I know, I think I know the score
You say you love me, O boy
I can´t ask for more
I´ll come if you should call

When Kylie Minogue sings these words there is an innocence to her voice that makes the horror of this chilling lyric all the more compelling. The idea presented within this song, dark and sinister and sad – that all love relationships are by nature abusive and that his abuse, be it physical or psychological, is welcomed and encouraged, shows how even the most innocuous of love songs has the potential to hide terrible human truths. Like Prometheus chained to his rock, so that the eagle can eat his liver each night, Kylie becomes love’s sacrificial lamb bleating an earnest invitation to the drooling, ravenous wolf that he may devour her time and time again, all to a groovy techno beat. “I´ll take you back. I´ll take you back again”. Indeed. Here the Love Songs becomes a vehicle for a harrowing portrait of humanity not dissimilar to that of the Old Testament Psalms. Both are messages to God that cry out into the yawning void, in anguish and self-loathing, for deliverance.

As I said earlier, my artistic life has centered around desire or more accurately, the need, to articulate the various feelings of loss and longing that have whistled through my bones and hummed in my blood, throughout my life. In the process I have written about two hundred songs, the bulk of which I would say, were love songs. Love songs, and therefore, by my definition, sad songs. Out of this considerable mass of material, a handful of them rise above the others as true examples of all I have talked about. Sad Waters, Black Hair, I Let Love In, Deanna, From her to Eternity, Nobody’s Baby Now, Into my Arms, Lime Tree Arbour, Lucy, Straight to You; I am proud of these songs. They are my gloomy, violent, dark-eyed children. They sit grimly on their own and do not play with the other songs. Mostly they were offspring of complicated pregnancies and difficult and painful births. Most of them are rooted in direct personal experience and were conceived for a variety of reasons but this rag-tag group of love songs are, at the death, all the same thing – life lines thrown into the galaxies of the divine by a drowning man.

The reasons why I feel compelled to sit down and write love songs are legion. Some of these came clearer to me when I sat down with a friend of mine, who for the sake of his anonymity I will refer to as J.J. and I admitted to each other that we both suffered from psychological disorder that the medical profession call erotographomania. Erotographomania is the obsessive desire to write love letters. My friend shared that he had written and sent, over the last five years, more than seven thousand love letters to his wife. My friend looked exhausted and his shame was almost palpable. I suffer from the same disease but happily have yet to reach such an advanced stage as my poor friend J. We discussed the power of the love letter and found that it was, not surprisingly, very similar to the love song. Both served as extended meditations on ones beloved. Both served to shorten the distance between the writer and the recipient. Both held within them a permanence and power that the spoken word did not. Both were erotic exercises, in themselves. Both had the potential to reinvent, through words, like Pygmalion with his self-created lover of stone, one’s beloved. Alas, the most endearing form of correspondence, the love letter, like the love song has suffered at the hands of the cold speed of technology, at the carelessness and soullessness of our age. I would like to look, finally, at one of my own songs that I recorded for The Boatman’s Call album. This song, I feel, exemplifies much of what I´ve been talking about today. The song is called Far From Me.

For your dear, I was born
For you I was raised up
For you I´ve lived and for you I will die
For you I am dying now
You were my mad little lover
In a world where everybody fucks everybody else over
You are so far from me
Far from me
Way across some cold neurotic sea
Far from me

I would talk to you of all matter of things
With a smile you would reply
Then the sun would leave your pretty face
And you´d retreat from the front of your eye
I keep hearing that you´re doing best
I hope your heart beats happy in your infant breast
You who are so far from me
Far from me
Far from me

There is no knowledge but I know it
There´s nothing to learn from that vacant voice
That sails to me across the line
From the ridiculous to the sublime
It´s good to hear you´re doing so well
But really can´t you find somebody else that you can ring and tell
Did you ever care for me?
Were you ever there for me?
So far from me

You told me you´d stick by me
Those were your very words
My fair-weather friend
You were my brave-hearted lover
At the first taste of trouble went running back to mother
So far from me
Far from me
Suspended in your bleak and fishless sea
Far from me
Far from me

Far From Me took four months to write, which was the duration of the relationship it describes. The first verse was written in the first week of the affair and is full of all the heroic drama of new love as it describes the totality of feeling whilst acknowledging the potential for pain – for you I’m dying now. It sets the two lovers it describes against an uncaring world – a world that fucks everybody over – and brings in the notion of the physical distance suggested in the title. Strangely, though, the song, as if awaiting the “traumatic experience” that I spoke of earlier to happen, would not allow itself to be completed until the catastrophe had occurred. Some songs are tricky like that and it is wise to keep your wits about you when dealing with them. I find quite often that the songs I write seem to know more about what is going on in my life than I do. I have pages and pages of fourth verses for this song written while the relationship was still sailing happily along. One such verse went:

The Camellia, The Magnolia
Have such a pretty flower
And the bells of St. Mary’s
Inform us of the hour

Pretty words, Innocent words, unaware that any day the bottom would drop out of the whole thing. Love songs that attach themselves to actual experience, that are a poeticising of real events have a peculiar beauty unto themselves. They stay alive in the same way that memories do and being alive, they grow up and undergo changes and develop. A love song such as Far From Me has found a personality beyond the one that I originally gave it with the power to influence my own feelings around the actual event itself. This is an extraordinary thing and one of the truly wondrous benefits of song writing. The songs that I have written that deal with past relationships have become the relationships themselves. Through these songs I have been able to mythologize the ordinary events of my life, lifting them from the temporal plane and hurling them way into the stars. The relationship described in Far From Me has been and gone but the song itself lives on, keeping a pulse running through my past. Such is the singular beauty of song-writing.

Twenty years of song-writing has now past and still the void gapes wide. Still that inexplicable sadness, the duende, the saudade, the divine discontent persists and perhaps it will continue until I see the face of god himself. But when Moses desired to see the face of God, Exodus 33, 188, he was answered that he may not endure it, no man could see his face and live. Well, me, I don´t mind. I `m happy to be sad. For the residue, cast off in this search, the songs themselves, my crooked brood of sad eyed children, rally round and in their way, protect me, comfort me and keep me alive. They are the companions of the soul that lead it into exile, that safe the overpowering yearning for that which is not of this world. The imagination desires an alternate and through the writing of the love song, one sits and dines with loss and longing, madness and melancholy ecstasy, magic, joy and love with equal measures of respect and gratitude. The spiritual quest has many faces – religion, art, drugs, work, money, sex – but rarely does the search serve god so directly and rarely are the rewards so great in doing.

Day 65 – I-Ching

I became interested in the I-Ching about six years ago when a friend introduced me to it. I decided the best way to learn about it was to use it as a divinatory aid. I quickly learned how to ask questions receive answers using 3 chinese coins. I went through a whole year where I consulted the I-ching every day. This method taught me well about each hexagram and their subtle meanings. More so than simply reading the book could have achieved.

If you don’t know the basics about this 5000 year old book, google it. I highly recommend getting to know this work. It will always be there to help guide you for the rest of your life. You will not regret this decision.

I have tried many different versions of the text, but generally use Richard Wilhelms.

Terence Mckenna used the I-ching to create  a time wave theory. His work is most inspiring.

“It’s clearly a crisis of two things: of consciousness and conditioning. These are the two things that the psychedelics attack. We have the technological power, the engineering skills to save our planet, to cure disease, to feed the hungry, to end war; But we lack the intellectual vision, the ability to change our minds. We must decondition ourselves from 10,000 years of bad behavior. And, it’s not easy.” — Terence McKenna, This World…and Its Double

Day 63 – New start

Since I had a heavy fall from my mountain bike I had to stop my regular exercise routine. Mainly because I was in too much pain. Very nearly broke my leg. Was on crutches for a month. Have finally healed. This whole blog was  a result of that injury, as I got deeply into yoga, mainly pranayama, concentration, meditation and contemplation.

I have found pranayama to be very strengthening, internally, but because I have not been exercising my muscular system and cardio I felt I got to a point of saturation with it. Now I feel it’s time to start working on the muscular and cardiovascular.

The new revised plan is to intersperse running (cardiovascular) with resistance training and specific abs workouts.

So my new routine will run like this:

day 1: Resistance training

day2: Yoga postures

day3: Abs

day 4: Yoga postures

day 5: Running

day 6: Yoga

day 7: Rest

I have decided to chill with the pranayama until I get my general fitness back up to par.

2 months recovering has left me out of shape, just a little.

As soon as I feel my fitness returned I shall restart the prananyama.

Posted this blog to my facebook today. A big welcome to new readers.