distilled words

Distill – (verb)

to subject to a process of vaporization and subsequent condensation, as for purification or concentration

to distill out impurities …  to extract the essential elements of

Let’s go back now & finish what almost got started in wipe out

I’ve tried to write this article without the following story, but it just wouldn’t work – so if you wish to bear with me, I think there is much treasure contained here, often via the wisdom of others.

~  ~  ~

For me, 2011 has been a gruelling year that began way back in last year.

At the beginning of 2010 I was made redundant after ten years in one company.  It was shocking, unsurprising, meanly done & a blessing.

I was absented from the force-of-work for a time-rich six months.

Later in the year I began a new job & presumed all would be as well as could be reasonably expected.

Oh did I get that wrong.

It began with panic attacks & bouts of severe drowsiness. My emotions went haywire. Eventually I found myself inside a sickness that encompassed all of my self.

A  ridiculous number of childhood memories were stirred.

It was only when I’d been well & truly gutted that release came.  Sitting at my desk one morning trying to force myself to work

… up bubbled the knowledge that I would be handing in my notice that day. I was amazed at the clarity & finality of that thought.  It only took 10 minutes to create it in reality.

Financially it meant ruin.

Then out of ‘nowhere’ came $1100 – an under-payment made visible by my resignation.

It seemed to me that I now had a little window of opportunity in which to face & heal my stirred-up past.

I set out to re-walk every route I could find. I felt every feeling I could feel. My sister & I re- connected & remembered with new levels of depth & clarity. She even paid for me to see a therapist whose work I was interested in.

I got clearer.  But nothing seemed to shift.

I also got poorer. Very scarily poor.

One night I went to bed in utter despair, feeling that it had all come to nothing & I had failed. I’d done everything I could think of & feel, to undo the killing bonds & binds of the past, but still they remained securely fastened.

There was no more money, our fridge was almost bare, I was failing my son. I had thought I would have some kind of healing experience that would allow me to move again, live again. Everything that had happened seemed so geared towards me facing & healing times past & times present.

In an attempt to shift the despair that night, I turned to a book I’d been reading on & off – Creating by Robert Fritz.

That was how something small & colossal happened.

It was just one new thought.

How was it I had never noticed …

…  how upside down I’d been attempting to live?

Almost every visitor who came in, felt dizzy and nauseous because of the building Upside Down

The tale I read that night in Creating, was of a woman who had tried to sell her house & had been tricked by a broker.  She went on to blame herself severely for ‘her failure’.

She was attempting to manipulate herself into successful actions because of what her real opinion of herself was.  As it turned out, her opinion was that she was a bad person who needed to be continually monitored to keep herself from failing.  The opinion was not obvious to her until we explored her thinking.

The author continued this tale by suggesting something that I have never heard anyone suggest before’

What is wrong with having an opinion that your are bad, or unworthy, or insignificant?

In the tale of the failing woman, he suggested that she express her true opinion of herself. Several times & in front of a group, she repeated;

I am bad

and then …

I feel different

“Can you describe the difference?”

Yes, I feel strange, a little numb, very energized, very open; for the first time in my life I feel free.”

“Now that you have seen your opinion, do you think you will change it?”

I don’t know, but it doesn’t matter.  I may think that I am bad, yet I want to do good things – but not so I will change my opinion.

My life changed course once I entertained the idea that my opinion of myself should never have been connected with my life & my ability to create.

What perhaps touches me the most deeply though, is that my desire to heal created an almost bizarre result.  You see I’d received enough ‘training‘ from movies & books to know that healing works by having something shift within …

… & then some kind of freeing-emotional-epiphany ensues that allows the person to feel good about & accept themselves.

But maybe that’s a bunch of mind-programmed bollocks.

My intention ‘to heal’ most certainly did not lead me to any emotional-cathartic-healing-release, instead it picked me up & threw me boldly & bodily into creating.

Love is what creating is about … Love is often thought of as a passive response to something or other – something we “fall into” … a response and not a cause …

When you are creating it is the other way round.  The love comes first … In the creative process, love is generative rather than simply responsive …  a creator is able to love something that does not yet exist – even in the imagination – and bring it into existence. From nothing something is formed.

The reason I create is simple: I want the creation to exist.  In fact, I love the creation enough that I will take whatever actions are necessary to bring the creation into the world. That is how it is for all creators, although we have been taught not to admit it, for when we talk like that, we can be accused of being elitists, mystics, or fools.

from Creating by Robert Fritz

Instead of curing the past, I entered the present.

In my previous article wipe out I mentioned a god-like-seven-day commitment to creating – this was an exercise suggested in Creating. Within one week I painted, sculpted, baked, sewed & glued a range of never-before-seen-items into existence.

It was not easy.

When time was running out on my Sabbath, I thought of writing a poem.

A nice short poem.

I seemed to recall that haiku were nice, short poems.

I seemed to remember wrong;

a major form of Japanese verse, written in 17 syllables divided into 3 lines of 5, 7, and 5 syllables, and employing highly evocative allusions and comparisons, often on the subject of nature or one of the seasons

Haiku it seemed, were not going to be on the menu that day.

And yet,

.. and yet …

Had I not just spent six days rekindling my ability to create?

So it was that I (respectfully) committed haiku treason & in doing so discovered treasure.

tattered years,
frozen metal mother with grip of death
father looks on, awaiting his leave-taking

That was what I wrote.

In the space of a few minutes one non-haiku allowed me to put into words what a life-time of explanation-struggling had not.

My childhood.

I’ve written other’s since then;

desire emaciated
fire grows cold
dampness gathers stones

~  ~  ~

was that prison or home?
those uglied walls
and cold, cold hearth

~  ~  ~

dismissed in sight
erebus within

~  ~  ~

Years upon years upon years of struggle to translate experience into words & therefore understanding, were soothed.

What had happened?

How could a tiny poem achieve what an entire arsenal of language, could not?

Distill – (verb)

“to subject to a process of vaporization and subsequent condensation, as for purification or concentration”

“to distill out impurities …  to extract the essential elements of

A culture with unusual perception created the tiniest of poems, haiku. 

Their vision also allowed them to see & allow something we could not …

ma …
‘the nothing that is so richly, something’

when something unknown or unplanned can emerge and be felt

the thing that takes place in the imagination of the human who experiences these elements

In the West, we took a different quite a different view …

… we chose blindness & declared the right to alternately shun the invisiblerape & pillage it into visibility & measurability.

So what happened with my non-haiku?

I think that by distilling my words & ignoring the rules of grammar, ma was able to speak.

Just for today, let’s suggest that emotions are ma‘s language or the closest thing she has to language;

“Emotions are in two realms.  They’re in the realm of the physical, the molecular, the material, and they’re also in the realm of the spiritual.  It’s almost like [they are] the transition element …. that’s why they’re so critically important.

Candace Pert

our emotions and feelings function not only in the physical realm, but also in a realm that often eludes rational understanding.

Juts for today, let’s suggest that ma is the formless, the void, the invisible – that from which creation springs.

In the beginning there was no earth to live on, but up above, in the Great Blue, there was a woman who dreamed dreams

What would happen if we stuffed a wordy, grammatically-charged language upon a race of people & trained them to see only the visible & the measurable?

Might they become obsessed with mortality & death?

Where would they find life when they can only worship form?

Walls with windows and doors form the house,
but the empty space within it
is the essence of the house

Ma means empty or distance or blank … blankness.  Even in daily conversation with Japanese there are lots of ma.  I always sense the difference between that kind of sense of time in conversation with American people – you need to keep talking … I think the people are a little afraid of having ma … but somehow my people have a sense to enjoy that kind of blankness

So let’s return & play with the possibility that the formless is able to speak through the language of emotion.

Let’s also suggest that memory speaks through the language of emotion – or perhaps let’s suggest that memory IS emotion.

A storied recollection for you.

There was a movie I watched when young that haunted my memory for years.  I sought it occasionally without success.

I remembered that it was called “Swimming All the Way Home.”

I remembered it was about a man who undertook a long journey home & planned to swim through every swimming pool along the way.

I remembered the despairing ending when he gets home to find his home in ruins & all his family gone.  I especially remembered that last bit – that was what haunted me.

I remembered that when he reached his home, it was in a field & looked

… quite like this.

I finally found that movie a couple of months ago & re-watched.

It was called “The swimmer” – & not – Swimming All the Way Home

The journey was undertaken in one afternoon in his neighbourhood & not over a long time & area as I remembered.

His home was not a rundown cottage in a field, but a palatial affair with tennis courts, large grounds &

fancy gates.

Was my memory flawed?

Yes, according to Western measurable facts.

But No, according to the language of emotion.

The rundown shack of my memory had far more significance to me of heartbreaking abandonment, than any flashy house with token broken window.

If memory replays through emotion, what language could we use to translate emotion into words?

It sure ain’t English as we know it.

How often have you tried to express your emotions in English & succeeded?

How often have you tried to express your emotions in English & failed?

So what if our meeting with ma requires the lightest touch, the gentlest gaze, the fewest words?

What happens when we di-still the chatter & do away with grammar & language rules.

Who needs three wishes then,

… when three lines of poetry can carry you back to your self & your ma?

Try it.

July 17, 2011. Uncategorized.


  1. Fitzy replied:

    An incandescent YES,
    Exhales a galaxy of spiralling galaxies,
    Love precedes creation.

    Thanks for your medicinal words Good Sister, you just provided me with a missing piece of a puzzle, in a year of jigsaw tornadoes.

  2. Michael Skaggs replied:

    Wow Alex, I felt a release and a soothing calm after when I reached the end of this. I “feel” I went through a journey here with you. Thank you for your guiding hand along the way. Really felt your words, and the Ma here.

    Perhaps those Holy Wood symbols really penetrate our subconscious so deeply they stay with us for longer than wanted periods of time. I am sure there was much more in The Swimmer than you knew.

    Also wanted to add that your selections of symbols/photos/pictures really do compliment your works well. I know someone else added that comment awhile back, but I wanted to emphasize it. :)

    Cheers my friend!
    Who says we need to heal? Enjoy your creations!

  3. Shane replied:

    The first time I admitted that I was bad, I felt freed, too. Spent most of my life trying to be a good person by running away from my fallacies- as well as covering up those surrounding me- with good deeds. The truth is, I’ve been a bastard since my very inception. Plain and simple. That fact isn’t going to change, no matter how many prayers I make, charities I support, or chants I recite. I have been able to draw a beautiful conclusion, though: I don’t ever need to religiously think “What would a bastard do?” before comparing my own actions to that, because whatever I do is what one does. Through that realization and acceptance, the power of that word is somehow minimalized- there’s no expectations for me to live up to. Who says labels can’t be freeing? :)

    I’m glad to be along on this journey with you. Hope you’re well.

  4. Ross replied:

    That’s beautiful Alex. Here we all are, wallowing in the mire with muck poured down on us every day so that we cannot even see the hand in front of our face. But up there in the stars/imagination infinite possibility stretches all ways with sparkling crystal clarity. An incalculable number of points, any of which can connect to any other, every possible possibility is possible. Expression is a vast ocean that allows us to sail wherever our fancy takes us, for as long as our fancy takes us. The universe out there is the universe in here, it is all, it is everything, it is absolute. It is not toothpaste to be grudgingly squeezed through a singular arbitrary constrictive mono-directional plastic nozzle.
    We feel with emotion, wordlessly, but we think with words.Control the words, control thinking. Manipulate the words, manipulate thinking. This is how we are kept, or perhaps keep ourselves, in the mire. There are plenty of clues, we should use them to untangle the tangle, to unpick the chains.
    One clue in particular lays it out clear to see, the triple homonym ‘spell’. As a noun it is a magical incantation or process; as a noun again it is a period of time, and as a verb it is the order in which we arrange letters to create a word. The words we use to think. Oh look! Magic! Or rather, magick! This is the spell we are under, but we can use this spell that binds and turn it into a spell which liberates. After all, each one of us is a magician, if but we knew it.

  5. Darren B replied:

    Wonderful post Alex.
    One thing I love about this blog is that it is an ongoing work of esoteric art.It is quite literally poetry in motion.I would love to have a copy of this blog in book form,because it deserves to be placed on the shelves,next to other classic thinkers of the ages.I was trying to think what it was that makes this blog tick and this post threw out a very large clue…and I think that it is the right brained emotion of the heart,shaded with a touch of left brain logic,that gives this blog the emotional depth that leaves the other blogs splashing about in the shallows.
    It is a unique and very additive blog that makes my right brain crave for more,while my left brain is left chewing on it.
    To quote Oliver Twist “More,Please.”

  6. Darren B replied:

    Oh and just to point out a few synchs I had with this post and my recent experiences.
    You mention the quote “In the beginning there was no earth to live on, but up above, in the Great Blue, there was a woman who dreamed dreams“
    Then you mention the Burt Lancaster movie “The Swimmer” (which I have never heard of by the way…but am now very curious to see).

    *Since I just finished watching a monday (Moonday) night Rugby League game between my team,the Cronulla Sharks and the St.George Dragons,where one of the Sharks key play makers is named Wade Graham (“Moonlight” Graham+The Swimmer {Shark} = Burt Lancaster.-)

    The thing that stuck me here was that I had just recently watched the extra features on the DVD “Field of Dreams”,starring Kevin Costner and Burt Lancaster (who plays Dr. Archibald “Moonlight” Graham,in the last film role of his life).
    It turns out Dr. Archibald “Moonlight” Graham was a real living person,who gave up baseball to become a doctor who helped the poor and underprivileged.
    Moonlight is considered to be feminine refection,I would think,and the “woman who dreamed dreams” would be dreaming them in a “field of dreams” maybe?
    So maybe,synchronicity is telling you that maybe it would be worth your while to give “Field of Dreams” a viewing,because maybe there is something in this film of importance to you.
    I have to tell you that the idea of watching “Field of Dreams” sent shivers of boredom to my brain when the idea of watching this movie was floated to me.
    For one,I don’t like Baseball,it bores me to death.Two; the concepts in this movie I thought would be ridiculous.And three;I’m sick and tied of hearing about third base…so I was sure that I would be out of there,as soon as I hit play.
    But…I really liked it…because it comes right out of left field and hits me in right brain.It is a very poetic movie,that talks to the emotions.
    A few other personal synchs that I found out while watching the extra features was that they commenced filming on June 20th,with Kevin Costner playing the main character.My son Kevin was born on the 20th June 20 years ago.
    The James Earls Jones character Terence Mann was meant to be J.D.Salinger,but Salinger threatened to sue them if they used his name in the movie,although he let them use his name in the novel that the film was based on “Shoeless Joe” (W. P. Kinsella plays with both myth and fantasy in his lyrical novel, which was adapted into the enormously popular movie, Field of Dreams. It begins with the magic of a godlike voice in a cornfield, and ends with the magic of a son playing catch with the ghost of his father. In Kinsella’s hands, it’s all about as simple, and complex, as the object of baseball itself: coming home.)
    I wrote about my weird sync with J.D.Salinger here on my blog ;
    It truly is a magical film in more ways than one,and if watch the extra features you will see some very strange synchronicities the filmmakers themselves had in getting this movie to the screen.
    ” Who needs three wishes then,
    … when three lines of poetry can carry you back to your self & your ma?”
    …or three bases.-)

  7. Michael Skaggs replied:

    Plus Alex, Kevin Kostner’s character has no idea how to be a “farmer” but has this nice, relaxing, huge beautiful farmhouse in the middle of nowhere. *sigh of jealousy* Its a very slow easy to watch film.

  8. Mick replied:

    Thank you.

  9. Darren B replied:

    Alex,I was over at a blog called “22C+” last night and this morning,reading this post (a book review of Whitley Strieber’s “The Key”) ;
    I read this part of Marcus’ book review;
    ” The lesson of darkness
    The Master says that humanity is in chains, but it is the chains which can teach us freedom:
    Love your enemy, for he is your best friend. Without the darkness, you would never know the glory of the firmament… You should bless your jailors, because without them you could never find your freedom. When you, as a species, remember why you have been imprisoned, and you face what you did, you will be free. (no page no.: 50% of the way through Kindle edition)

    There’s a lot of truth to this. As I have previously written, the idea of being in chains is an archetypal human motif. In a sense we are all slaves to the limited amount of our innate intelligence that we express and the dark consciousness fields that so many of us are trapped in (despite the fact that most are unaware of their intelligence potential, nor aware of the consciousness fields in which they are entangled).

    Learning to love our fear, including the fear of pain and darkness is a key to freedom. To love darkness does not mean to wallow in it or worship it, but merely to accept it for what it is; to hold it close such that we do not need to run and hide from it. It is when we shine the light of awareness upon the darkness that it loses its power over us. Then darkness becomes light. When we try to run and escape from darkness, it overwhelms us. ”

    …and it reminded me of this post;
    I put up on my blog on ANZAC Day this year.Which reminded me of your latest post “distilled words” and how similar the themes of redundancy and holding your creativity a prisoner were.Oddly enough I posted this post on ANZAC Day,and it’s your posts about the hidden rituals of that day,which drew me to your blog in the first place.
    I’m in a similar situation to you (career wise) ,the Sword of Damocles
    (or Redundancy,I should say.-) is well and truly hanging by a last thread,and if I don’t leap soon…then I’ll be pushed…and at 46,I still don’t know what I want to be when I grow up .-) / .-(
    Anyway,I thought that you might find something of interest in these posts,that might be of some benefit to your life’s direction.

    Cheers / Darren

  10. alex robinson replied:

    Many thanks for all the great comments.
    Due to a tragedy in my son’s family I’m not up to answering right now – but all comments were much appreciated.

  11. Darren B replied:

    Sorry to hear the bad news,Alex.My thoughts are with you and your family in this dark time and I hope you find strength in each other’s company in this time of sorrow.
    Stay strong,but take time to grieve.
    Words are meaningless in times like this,but you will find it’s the bonds of love between family members and friends,that make all the difference,when a tragedy like this happens.

  12. the living tiki replied:

    A very beautiful and touching post, thank you.

    Healing thoughts go out to you in these dark days.

    Believe it or not, you inspired/prompted my first ever Haiku:

    Alex or Charlotte
    Precious silk from her center
    The ma reads “Some Pig”

  13. Joanne replied:

    Lovely work, Alex. It’s nice to see you break some poetic rules – after all, aren’t rules meant to be broken? Or at least bent? Especially rules of the English language? :]

    I really like how Ma has affected your work. That minimalism you’ve figured out in your writing really raises the bar among those of us who read your work, and write ourselves (write ourselves, that’s appropriate). I’m sure minimalism is some Western version of the word Ma, though…

    I wouldn’t worry so much if I were you – creatively speaking. You really do have an advantage – when a person has that in them, they can’t hide it. And they never completely lose it, it just gets foggy. I hate to see you struggle with words when you’re so good with them :] Thanks for giving me more things to ponder as always, and take good care

  14. alex robinson replied:

    With thanks to Fitzy, Michael, Shane, Ross, Darren, Mick, living tiki & Joanne,
    I hope you will forgive me if I don’t answer the comments you left here. Each was much appreciated – it’s been a trying week & I need to move forward. What I’m doing instead is working on a new article – one that I’d planned earlier, but with recent events seems more important & potent. Please consider the article to follow, a response.

    Warmest of wishes to you all, always

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