Conscious and self-conscious

Modigliani, Juan GrisI was blogging even as it happened, turning phrases over in my mind. This great gift of being able to communicate clearly is also a curse. My attention shifted between Vaughan Williams, sung by Richard Walshe, and myself and my reactions.

I had doubted it, but it seems true. One cannot be conscious and self-conscious; when I was self-monitoring, I was not listening, so in the moment I asked “Am I paying attention?” I made the answer No. I sit as I would in worship, to listen, to bathe in the music, and then notice how I am sitting for that purpose.

At least I am conscious of the self-monitoring. It is not as panicky as it once was, or as constant. Seeking stillness and presence, I achieve it more and more. There are moments when my attention is forced outwards: dancing is best for this, but sometimes conversation works. I pay full attention to the other person. Yet my concern is my own speech. I cleanse my mind for aftersight and foresight, and in the process dilute my perception of what is, now.

It was beautiful. I am hungry for such experiences of beauty. I forgot myself long enough to be moved to tears, and then noticed that and was pleased, and drew my attention to the music again. Perhaps I am hungry for the state of presence, sensing where I am in the moment, and hope that Beauty, outside myself, will take me to that state.

It was interesting to hear music I did not know from a composer whom I so love. In “Songs of Travel”, words by RLS, I was familiar enough with the conventions to supply the word “Hope” after “farewell to…” How strange that a man so young, only 32, should Jeanne HĂ©buterne, Modiglianiwrite so movingly of love and loss, I blogged. “A star had come down to me.” That is complete and perfect loss: no lover, no safety, no property: it seems peculiarly Scots to me, finding the strength to carry on without hope. Either Vaughan-Williams did not set all the verse, or Walshe did not sing the whole cycle. For my post, I read the verses page by page.

Where the old plain men have rosy faces,
And the young fair maidens
	Quiet eyes;

I have heard that before. My father used to quote it, I think. Now I am just blogging.

I got this quote from John Welwood on One Spirit, and shared it on Facebook: Forget about enlightenment. Sit down wherever you are and listen to the wind that is singing in your veins. Feel the love, the longing, and the fear in your bones. Open your heart to who you are, right now, not who you would like to be. Not the saint you’re striving to become. But the being right here before you, inside you, around you. All of you is holy. You’re already more and less than whatever you can know. Breathe out, look in, let go.

H commented Or stop ‘trying’ and allow it to happen by itself. (Like the breath does). When I allow, sometimes I am in the beauty, conscious only of it; and sometimes I am self-monitoring.

5 thoughts on “Conscious and self-conscious

  1. Is it so unusual that someone in their 30’s writes of love and loss? I had loved and lost before I was 21. And at that point none of us believe there’s ever going to be any more to life, hence the desperation.


  2. I loved for years, from the age of 18, and when I lost … I was lost. Years later now, and I still love him, but he has a poster boy family with two children. I really don’t like the “love and lost” poetic tradition. I would prefer the “love and still loving!”


    • Loved and still loving, the “single song of two”. This is my favourite love poem:

      Why should your face so please me
      That if one little line should stray
      Bewilderment would seize me
      And drag me down the tortuous way
      Out of the noon into the night?
      But so, into this tranquil light
      You raise me.
      How could our minds so marry
      That, separate, blunder to and fro,
      Make for a point, miscarry,
      And blind as headstrong horses go?
      Though now they in their promised land
      At pleasure travel hand in hand
      Or tarry.
      This concord is an answer
      To questions far beyond our mind
      Whose image is a dancer.
      All effort is to ease refined
      Here, weight is light; this is the dove
      Of love and peace, not heartless love
      The lancer.
      And yet I still must wonder
      That such an armistice can be
      And life roll by in thunder
      To leave this calm with you and me.
      This tranquil voice of silence, yes,
      This single song of two, this is
      A wonder.


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