The sun was peeking a little cautiously over Montana Roja this morning as I took the beach path to El Medano. She was in dispute with the clouds over whose turn it is to rule the day. I think she’ll likely win the argument but perhaps not for a few hours yet. On my left Teide gazes down a little disdainfully on the lava-child she dumped on the shoreline during her last-but-one eruption, incredulous that anyone could consider this little remnant of her temper-tantrum to be a mountain at all.
I’m on Tenerife to complete Flashes of Insight, my eleventh creative book. I tend to omit from the tally the two business books I wrote in the last century. They lead to questions of age and when the kids start asking what you did in the Second World War you know it’s time to start keeping your seniority to yourself.
I passed a few dogs with walkers on the way here, some more obedient than others. The dogs work hard but training your human is a lifetime’s work.
I muse much on how the book is going. I’m still planning to release it in March but I’m wondering why it doesn’t feel quite ready yet. I’m approaching the end of my third week here now, with just ten days left before I head home, so I guess it’s fitting that I’m on the third draft. The cover is underway, courtesy of Jessica Bell, the very talented cover designer I have engaged for the second time. Fellow author Debbie Young recommended her and she was not wrong. I’m in your debt, Debbie. I await your drafts with great excitement, Jessica.
Progress is quite fast on this route, perhaps too fast. I am slowed only in the places where firm ground gives way to sand. As I trudge through it, I take the time to look about me. Dotted here and there between the sand dunes and on the beach are several young meditators. All sit cross-legged and have their hands pressed together in the Namaskara Mudra prayer gesture – hands at the level of heart chakra, thumbs gently touching sternum. There’s something a little special about facing the sun and the waves when you meditate, as if you’re inviting the energy to take hold of you. I refrain from engaging with them - I know what it’s like to entertain unwanted visitors when you want solitude. A couple of hours ago my own morning meditation was shared with a fly. He (or was it she?) had me laughing at my own irritation at being distracted by the tickle on my right hand. It doesn’t matter, Michael. It’s only monkey mind - I’m getting used to working with it.
My meditation guide this morning was Henry Shukman, a slightly reserved Englishman who runs the Mountain Cloud Zen Centre in New Mexico. Henry is gentle, giving you time to find that space you’re seeking at your own pace. But he is also clear about how it’s done. Like all the best teachers he’s been doing this for decades. You might try his book, One Blade of Grass, about why he doesn’t write books anymore.
It’s early and cool yet, particularly with the cloud cover. Being half Welsh, my Celtic skin is prone to burning. Factor 50’s fine for the fair but sun cream is not supportive when you’re finger-typing on electronic devices. I’m glad to have an opportunity to walk without it in the cool of the day when I don’t need skin protection. As I arrive at my favourite cafe in El Medano, I see it’s not yet open- I made faster progress getting here than I expected. Fast can be good but sometimes it makes you arrive before your time. I sit on the boardwalk with the sun on my back finger-typing, absorbing the light, reflecting.
Flashes of Insight is due out in March. It’s is a collection of 50 or so five-minute reads. Each can act as a gateway to mindful awareness, if you let it. Each was initiated without planning and written without stopping- a method I have learned from my current writing teacher, Natalie Goldberg, author of the remarkable Writing Down The Bones, who herself has drawn on the technique of unmatchable Shunryo Suzuki. If you’ve read some of my most recent blog posts you’ll get the idea of what’s in the book. (A writing teacher? Wot, after 12 books? Yup. I espouse many teachers and hope to be learning at least until the day I leave this body. And that departure itself will likely be the biggest lesson in letting go that I will learn in this lifetime). Natalie has pointed out to me how I’ve always written: from the heart, without the intervention of rational, critical mind. You have to learn the rules of writing, of course. But to write from the depth of your soul, you then have to let go of those rules - if you want to arrive at insight, that is. Rigidity is the executioner of creativity.
I’ve read almost all of Natalie’s 14 books over the last 18 months or so. But the current volume, Thunder and Lightening, has stopped me in my tracks yet again, opening my eyes to where my work engages and where it can do better. Natalie has given me a jolt of lightning, a flash of insight. There’s nothing for it but to head back into the text and consider each piece, improving what is yet to blossom fully.
Here on the boardwalk at El Med, the sun has won the argument with the cloud and the is sparkling on the water yet again. Who needs to visit the Crown Jewels when you can see this? It’s time for the fair-skinned to slap on the factor 50. It’s time to re engage with my teachers - Henry, Natalie, Jessica, Debbie, the fly, Roja Montana (and you Teidi – I’ve not forgotten you); all are my teachers in this lifetime’s journey if I am open to the learning.
Draft 4 awaits.