Category Archives: Spirituality

A Day In The Life Of Spiritual Jess

Update for posterity on Jess’ life in 2021.

On 4th January I moved to a hostel with cheap bedrooms and shared facilities. I wanted to do my own thing as independently of others as possible. This means leaving my friends from London, and I did.

I switched out my first room which was kinda small to a bigger one with a private bathroom and a door to access the fire escape. By far my favourite feature of the room.

At first, in January, I was reading some buddhist books that are recommended in another book that I have (https://www.mctb.org/) The book says to start with Metta, so with Metta I started. I was simply saying “May I be peaceful and at ease” and the other three phrases in a vaguely undisciplined way during quiet times. I would also get stoned and observe my closed-eye visions, and my energy body. Something I still do now. Most of that month though I was easing in to the rhythms of the house, the kitchen and trying to stay warm.

In February, in the new room, I eventually decided to move on to Insight meditation practice (also known as mindfulness). I’ve gone from occasional 30 minute sits to 2×45 minutes every day. I also did an online weekend retreat of Mahasi noting, which I crashed out of it when it got hard several times.

This leads us to a “day in the life of”

I get up between 10am-12noon, just in time for the sun to reach my stairs.

I eat breakfast in the sun, and sometimes take my rug out to read down there. I am always reading one book on Buddhism/meditation of some kind or other, and cycle through them.

Usually, pre-lunch, I do a 45 minute mindfulness meditation sit on the rug just inside my room.

I eat lunch, trying to avoid other people as I make it. At some point in daylight hours, after lunch, I do a second 45 minute sit. Sometimes I do a guided video instead, occasionally later than dusk, to switch it up.

Sometimes, at some point before curfew at 8pm, I go out and get food, do laundry or other chores. In the park on the way to the supermarket I take photos of the wildlife.

If I don’t have chores but do need a little walk, I go and hug trees on the main street of Lisbon.

Once it gets to dusk I do a variation on having a nap, having a “special” cigarette on my stairs, and having a dance. Mostly all three. All of these involve imaginal experiences, paying attention to behind-the-eyes visions, my energy body, my physical aches and pains, and dreaming.

Afternoon nap time

At dinner I sometimes see my friends at the hostel, and I’m not always avoiding them, which seems good, even though I want to devote more and more hours to spiritual stuff.

Almost every day I consider writing, but after the first mindful sit I feel very different. I don’t know what to write, or have any sense of feeling like writing. One day in every 10-20 or so days, like today, I write first and meditate later.

The desire to write is sometimes for its own sake, and sometimes because I would like to switch to that as a career, and I’m concerned with gradually building up enough words to one day make money with it.

During Jan and Feb I did in fact work most days on an ebook of my pre-existing blog posts (find it here: http://ssica3003.com/book.html) which was more mechanical than writing new things, and easier to do for short chunks per day.

At night I eat dinner and watch a film. Typically I have a late-night call with my partner, then fall into bed to sleep around 2-4am. I’m normally disturbed by early morning hostel noises between 7am-9am, then I dream weird dreams for an hour or three before it all begins again.

My world context is of Portugal in a strict lockdown (curfews, no movement, nothing open except for food, no delivery of goods that are not food) but I don’t think I’d live my life much differently if I could move around more. I’m starting to miss English friends though, would have flown home for a visit soon, and my birthday will be a corona-birthday once again.

There’s nothing to do except get awakened, which was true before I left London, so here I am, doing that, and sometimes it’s sunny 🙂

All Seats Are The One Seat

I recently, with encouragement from a deity, admitted to myself that I am a spiritual person, and on a spiritual path. I am finding it extremely hard to talk about.

We’ve already seen that my contemplative practice can be unusual, and I find it hard to say that something is explicitly a spirirtual practice, when patently all of life is.

To me, meditation is a sort of brute force method that should work for almost everyone, given enough time, and that’s why it is so strongly encouraged. It’s the “5 fruits and vegetables a day” of spiritual practice. However, I have none the less started doing what looks like “meditation” from the outside, and is absolutely a spiritual practice from the inside. The more spiritual contemplation I do, the more I crave what a monastery can provide: plain food, easily aquired. A narrow bed for a little sleep. And a safe place with plenty of time to reflect.

In his book A Path With Heart, Jack Kornfield recounts a saying from his teacher, Achaan Chah: “Take the one seat in the center of the room… and see who comes to visit”. Jack reminds us in this chapter to commit to a practice, and to actually do it. “Take the one seat”. He tells us that the inner and outer aspects of the one seat unite on the meditation cushion.

Good advice, but I don’t use a cushion,. For my first month in Lisbon, I’ve been sitting on a concrete block, and I thought I’d share it with you.

A local square with construction works

The concrete block is in a local, tucked away square that seems to have been under construction/repair for some time. The trees seem dead and the fountain at the back is shuttered and dry. I like to put my back against that fence on the left hand side. The afternoon sun shines down from right.

A concrete block next to a fence

Here’s my one seat. It’s just high enough to cross my legs slightly lower than my hips, opening the pelvis just a little. Sometimes I lean on the fence, sometimes I don’t. One day the fence was moving back and forth strongly in the wind.

I sit here in the sun and meditate. As the earth moves, the shade from the building opposite travels slowly towards me, from the left in this picture, towards the block. (The shadow on the right here is a morning shadow that receeds as I meditate – this was taken before the start of my meditation).

When the shadow of the building touches my face, the meditation can end.

The conrete seat after the shadow has arrived

I chose this place because I can be warm and comfortable enough to sit for extended periods. The street is a quiet one, but it links two major roads, and noticing my social unease as people walk by is a part of sitting cross-legged here with my eyes closed. I like using the sun as a marker, which removes having undue awareness of my phone. I still sometimes peek at the shadow, noticing what part of me it is that wants me to get up and stop. And it illustrates for me that the one seat can be any seat, since this place is somewhat distant from even the comforts of an austere monastery.

This is just one seat. Every seat is The Seat. The bus seat. The lounge couch. The smoking balcony seat especially. You don’t even have to sit to be in the seat. Any delay in daily life of a few seconds or more is the seat. The bus queue, the supermarket queue, the gap between the receptionist welcoming you and your 10 o’clock collecting you from the lobby.

Recently, sitting on my bed, collecting myself before a phone call, I reflected that even 20 seconds in the presence of Buddha is a refreshing swim down the river. Just sit back, lift your legs off the bottom, and float.

All seats are the one seat, especially concrete blocks on broken down building sites.