8 July, in the year of our Lord 2020
Up, to a gloomy sky and heavy rain which did continue for severalle houres all the morning and set in for further downpoures till the evening and furthermore into the night with no cessation, all this by the Forecast; and my legs aching from the exercise I did these two days, in which I did find great pleasure but am unpractised for so much walking so that my thighes did pain me all the day yesterday for the doing of it, which was ten miles up and down. The morning to my chamber and to my accounts and corespondence, which I did finish and contented of it, but all the while my mind harbouring an unease for a resurgence of the plague, the taverns open and many abroad, and of the fact I have as yet no Mask that I should wear, and of desultorie affect for the weather it being so poor for the time of year. After dinner called upon by Mr. M. Jones, and in my kitchen did discourse with him, he taken by my new Book of Recipes so as to thumb thro’ it, and I for my turn by the slim book I was persuaded to buy by the urchin.
‘I feel I must conquer my foreboding for the plague lest it gain the upper hand,’ say I, passing to him An Introduction to the Practice of Mindfullnesse. ‘I have a mind to essay the lessons in this volume to see if they may help. Could I trouble you to read the instructions if I do so?’
‘By all means,’ says he, setting both books upon his lap, mine upon the one he was perusing and opening its pages to Lesson The First. He clears his throat and starts to read. ‘First take a piece of Chalke and draw upon the floor a circle and a pentagram within it — ’
‘Ah! That is the reason for the chalke,’ say I, which I find and did draw with it upon the floor.
‘It needs to be bigger,’ says he, ‘since it then says — ’ (and he quotes) ‘ — now position within that chalke representation a Chair, the purpose being to sit upon the chair with the feet on the ground and the back upright.’ I rub out what I have drawn and repeat it larger, by which I mean the design, for I am the same size, and place my chair within it, and there sit awaiting my next instruction.
‘Now, with the eyes open and a nice soft focus, taking some deep breaths, in through the nose, out through the mouth.’
I try but after a few seconds, ‘In through the mouth and out through the nose or in through the nose and out through the mouth?’
‘…in through the nose, out through the mouth.’
‘I will do it in through the mouth and out through the nose, for my nose is often blocked on the in-breath. It is the reason my sleep is disturbed when I lie on my left, as I am wont to.’
‘I think perhaps the words are to be spoke in a more gentle fashion,’ say I, ‘and more slow.’
He grunts and I take it to be in acknowledgemente for he proceeds at a pace at once more measured and of a calmer disposition, ‘ …out through the mouth and then — The pages are stuck together. Was it raining when you bought this book? — and then, allowing the eyes to close. Feeling the weight of the body — ’
‘Which is 4 lb. heavier,’ say I, keeping my eyes closed as I am instructed to do.
‘ — feeling the weight of the body, the contact of the feet on the floor — ’
There is knock at the door.
‘That will be postman,’ say I, opening my eyes, ‘and I should answer for I am anticipating the deliverie of a new Bollockwort that I have ordered of an expert source in Bathshire where there was onlie one left. I would tell him to leave it in my Safe Place onlie everyone knows where it is. Excuse me one second.’ I return excited: ‘Well, that is excellent, for it is the very thing I hoped for! Where were we?’ I resume my seat and close my eyes again.
‘Erm — weight of the body, feet on the floor…’ recapitulates Mr. Jones quickly before picking up his thread and intoning, ‘…settling into the space around you. What does that mean? Just noticing sensations — ’
‘That is an apposite point about sensations, for I have noticed this chair is on the hard side. I shall just swap it.’ Which I do. I settle back into my pentagram. ‘Carry on.’
‘ — settling-into-space-noticing-sensations — ’ mumbles Mr. Jones in catch-up mode. ‘Here we are: Becoming aware of the rhythm of the breath, whether it be long or short, or shallow or — ’
‘What the — ?! Banjo!’ I cry, for there is a saucer smashed on the floor, the cat frozen by the sink in surprise of its own action and anticipation of mine. I leave both for later, for we should not interrupt the flowe.
‘ — rhythm, long, short…shallow — ’ recaps Mr. Jones. ‘Noticing when the mind wanders and bringing the attention gently back to the breath. I am beginning to be seduced by this,’ says he, mellowly.
There is another knock at the door. It is the man who cleans the windows. ‘It is about to pour again!’ say I to him, but he is of an unplacable Opinion that he must do the job for he has not worked these Lock Up weeks and money comes very hardly and he will not be gainsayed so I allow it.
I return to the kitchen and treading over the broken saucer find Mr. Jones snoring, the books about to fall from his lap, and perforce I have to shake him awake. ‘It is me who is supposed to be mindfulling! Wake up and let us continue.’ I resume my position and close my eyes to become aware of sounds ‘in the room, outside the room’ — perticularly in the room as Mr. Jones ruffles through the pages to find his place.
‘ — noticingwhenthemindwanders…dahdedahdedah…gentlybacktothe-breath — ’ says he, catching up and absently turning a page, ‘ — remove the fried onions and almonds from the heat, mix with one tablespoon of oil and set aside in a large bowl — ’
‘You have turned one page too many,’ I am about to tell him, when interrupted by the loud squeaking of chamois leather rubbed vigourouslie on windowglass. I open my eyes and Mr. Jones and I look to one another.
‘I am uncertain as to whether this book is achieving its Purpose,’ say I, ‘and feel I have had sufficiente enough for one day. If you would like to stay for supper I can make from that Book of Recipes on your lap a dish of ottolenghi.’
‘I would sooner a dish of spaghetti,’ says he.
So to a simple supper of pasta string and discoursing to our great content, and after Mr. Jones had took his leave I to sit with Banjo, he curled up beside me, my affectation better than at dawn, for though the rain continued and it is as black as soot outside, I have a new bollockwort and clean window glass and have had merrie discourse, and all have eased my forebodings of the plague and lighten’d me of the heavynesse of them; and I find my new book to be better than I did give credit for it being, for my mind could not be fuller of the events of the day. And so to bed.