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Ephemerality

February 20th, 2010 1 comment

These clouds, this sky... no longer exist

One of the greatest illusions under which we labour is that there exists such a thing as permanence.

Permanence exists only in our minds, which like to make order out of chaos, to make sense out of non-sense, to attribute qualities and traits to our existence which are not truly there at all.

We cling to memories of things, events which have passed, expired, evaporated.

Perhaps without our memory of these things, we feel we have no foundation, no security, no basis for our lives.

And yet without them we also have utter freedom from pre-conception, conditioning, habit and expectation. And life becomes eternally novel, fascinating and pristine.

Are you willing to let go? To forget? To experience each moment anew?

To accept fully the fleetingness, the changeability, the ephemerality of existence… is to become truly liberated.

Categories: Life, Spirituality Tags:

Vipassana Meditation Test Drive – The Results

February 15th, 2010 9 comments

The Vipassana meditation course requires that you abstain from any and all alternative meditation or healing practices for the ten day duration. Amongst the reasons given is that mixing different types of meditation will not allow you to fairly assess what effect the Vipassana meditation has had on you. In other words you would not be giving it a fair, or scientific, trial.

I suspect that there are some, if not many, who would find it hard to reconcile science with meditation practices that are usually seen as being of mystical or religious origin. And yet there is no reason at all why someone of scientific bent cannot turn the focus of their scientific mind into the subjective realms just as easily as they do to the objective, concrete world. In fact, there are definite advantages to taking a scientific approach to such things. Self-development and self-discovery can be achieved more quickly and consistently via a scientific approach than via a purely mystical one. In my own estimation, meditation is actually much more of a science than it is a mystical art.

The only difference between the science of subjective versus objective matters is that when you investigate your own subjective experience, you cannot typically cross-check your results with anyone else, as there is never any guarantee that anyone else’s subjective experience will match your own in any given situation. But despite that, I have often been surprised to find definite similarities in the documented experiences of some others, which I have typically stumbled upon when reading around related subjects of interest, some time later. At the time of these experiences, I felt that it seemed a little odd and perhaps unique, and I could not even necessarily be sure that they were directly related to any meditation I have may been practicing. But when I later came across accounts of similar experiences by others, I was able to see that my own experience did indeed fit into a certain pattern or archetypal experience, and that it was in fact a definite “expected” result of the ongoing meditation practices I had been maintaining.

My own meditations generally seem rather uneventful and bland (for example I do not see any light or imagery, hear sounds or voices, or get catapulted into alternative realms of consciousness), but over the course of many years, I have accumulated a few experiences which have stood out to me as especially meaningful or noteworthy – some of which have left me with an enduring shift in attitude or perspective on life and my place in it. And as it happens, one of these noteworthy things happened during this very meditation retreat. And once again, it was only afterward, when I was reading the Wikipedia entry on Vipassana, that I saw recounted the experience of someone else who had been through a rather similar experience.

At the time of the experience I did realise that it was a significant event, and was fully aware that attending such an intense meditation retreat provided an environment in which such things probably happen more frequently than in the normal course of events. But it had seemed to be something that was fairly unique to me and my own stage of unfoldment – rather than something which, it is now apparent, is specifically what Vipassana meditation is intended to convey to the practicer ie. an insight into the human condition, our collective, mutually inter-dependent misery and suffering, and our need for liberation.

That one precious, deeply insightful and heartfelt experience was worth a thousand meditation retreats. But beyond that, I must also say that, despite some battles with the arising and processing of some previously subconscious issues, the aftermath has also been very positive.

During the drive home from the retreat, I felt a sense of inner peace and tranquility which was bordering on the blissful. Even when I encountered the stop/start snarled traffic of Newtown, along with the odd irate, horn-blowing, shouting driver, my sense of peace remained entirely undisturbed. I was merely an observer, remaining fully alert and aware as a driver, and yet totally unperturbed by it all, being totally indifferent to how long it may take to get through all the traffic, or even how many other irate drivers I might encounter.

Since then my level of peace has settled to a slightly more “normal” level, and was even disturbed by a couple of periods of mild anxiety as I faced the 300+ emails that had accumulated during my absence. But overall, in the eight days since my return, I have felt unusually calm, centred and strong, and able to deal with work-related issues more powerfully and efficiently than before.

I am so encouraged and by this change that I have decided to continue the Vipassana meditation technique for the foreseeable future, despite the recommendation that one spend two hours each day practicing it. In reality, the inconvenience of fitting this into the daily routine is minuscule when compared with the benefit. And of course it is a benefit not just for myself – but also for everyone else I come into contact with. Why inflict anxiety or discontent on others, when you can spread a calm and peaceful enjoyment of life instead?

Having read this, if you are still not persuaded to try meditation, or encouraged to increase the depth of your practice if you already do, then I can only have failed to express myself properly. Your liberation is at hand – all you have to do is dare!

Meditation and Tiredness

February 11th, 2010 2 comments

During the meditation retreat I was not entirely well for several days. In fact I lost my voice. Given that it was a silent retreat this hardly mattered of course! And I suspect that I had lost it for a couple of days before I even noticed. It was only when the meditation teacher asked for some brief feedback to ascertain whether the technique was being properly practiced that I suddenly found I was voiceless, and had to whisper instead to make myself understood. Its quite funny really.

But one of the symptoms of the illness, apart from loss of voice, was some fatigue and tiredness. I could tell that it was not quite the same tiredness that comes from lack of sleep, and despite the draconian course schedule, I never had any trouble waking up or getting up promptly at 4am each day.

The tiredness, when it did come, seemed to occur mainly late mornings and then again early to mid afternoons – and almost always during a meditation session. Hence I had plenty of opportunity to experience the transition between normal wakefulness and drowsiness/sleep whilst in meditation. And these are my observations on it.

My first observation was that the transition is quite rapid, and there are no obvious early warning signs. One minute I was mentally alert, then next I was on the verge of sleep, and could easily have nodded off there and then I had let myself, and had I also not been in an upright sitting position, of course. However, very quickly I saw a pattern to the process.

  • The first sign was that I would start to see vague imagery. This was a clear distinction from being in meditation because this particular technique does not involve any visualisation at all – instead it is all about sensation and bodily awareness. And although I can’t be sure (because my eyes were closed) I got the impression that the imagery always occurred in the right eye only.
  • The second sign was that I would get a flckering of that imagery on and off quite rapidly, between vague white and black/nothingness – multiple times per second.
  • There third sign was that I would suddenly realise that I had lost my place in the meditation, and could not immediately recall where I had been and where I was intending to go next. In fact I suspect that this may have indicated that I had already fallen into sleep, even if perhaps only a very, very brief (micro?) sleep.
  • A fourth sign, although it very rarely got to that stage, was the experience of a jolt in posture to effect a recovery from a slumping head.

Having recognised this process and these signs, I was able to be on the lookout for it, and as soon as I noticed any sign of imagery forming I would deliberately labour my breathing slightly. This would normally cause the imagery to disappear again within 3 or 4 breaths, although during the worst of my tired periods I would have to do this repeatedly over a period of 10 to 20 minutes before I naturally seemed to pass through that tiredness phase, and return to normal wakeful alertness again.

However, I must also admit, that on a few of the occasions that this happened when I was meditating alone in my room, I did succumb to the urge to just lie down and have a brief sleep. But that only after having made a conscious decision that it would be in my best interest to do, rather than just allowing myself to doze off by default.

So all this may seem utterly trivial to some. But for me, it is all about a fascination I have with consciousness, and the changes and transitions in it that we experience. What causes them? Can we control them? After all, this is what dictates the entirety of our experience of life!

In various spiritual/mystical texts there are references to a state referred to as “continuity of consciousness”. Supposedly, this state can be attained as a yogic skill, along with various others, by advanced practitioners of meditation. The defining characteristic of this state is to be able to maintain consciousness not only during normal waking hours, but also during sleep. Those who have this skill are able to observe, interpret and query their own dreams, and have perfect recall of the dream state and its content.

So perhaps my observations on my own wake/sleep are my first baby steps towards discovering just how to prevent the loss of consciousness that we normally experience when we fall into sleep. At least I would like to think so. 🙂

A Steady Gaze

February 9th, 2010 No comments

During meditation, ideally your mind will become settled – or at least more settled than it was.

In fact the nature of the mind is such that there will almost always be thoughts arising, and every meditator knows that the mind never settles completely – except perhaps in the highest exalted states of meditation that are talked about in certain spiritual texts, and always described as being difficult to attain. The general point, though, is to minimise the level of extraneous thought, by maintaining focus and attention on the subject/object of meditation.

In my own experience, after starting meditation, it may take a little while for the mind to settle, and some days are better or worse than others – depending on just how distracting the day’s events have been. On a “bad” day I might well feel a little frustrated that I never managed to get properly into the meditation, because my mind kept latching onto some thing or things that it wanted to process and re-process. On a “good” day however, I might go quickly into a focused meditative state, and feel the benefits of a calmer mind for some time afterward too.

On the Vipassana course, due to an almost utter lack of distractions, over the first few days my mind found less and less things to latch on to, and it became possible to go very quickly into a focused meditation. In fact the mental focus and stillness never completely left after each meditation, and the mind became much stiller and calmer on an ongoing basis.

I noticed the effects of this most around the 7th, 8th and 9th days of the course. And one of the ways in which it was most noticeable was in my gaze. My eyes would simply “lock” onto whatever I was looking at, with absolutely nothing to distract them, no motivation to move them away, and I would just observe and absorb whatever was there. In fact during one of the evening discourses, while watching a video of the course founder (S.N.Goenka) giving instruction and background, I noticed that my gaze seemed to be perfectly still for minutes at a time as he talked – maybe even for 10 minutes or more, but I can’t be sure because I was hardly glancing at a clock to find out!.

But it wasn’t until the course had just finished that I got a real taste of what a difference it had made. It happened when I turned on my iPhone for the first time in 10 days, to look up the weather forecast for the trip home. At first I thought there was something wrong with the iPhone – it seemed to be working very slowly. Irrationally, I even wondered if the battery was too low, but instantly dismissed the idea as impossible – obviously it was I who had changed, not the iPhone! Then I opened the weather app and started to scroll between the different screens. And amazingly the scrolling didn’t seem to work normally. Rather than seeing a smooth continuous scroll motion, as I had seen so many times before, what I was seeing was a series of sequential fixed frames – very clearly and distinctly, the same screen image was disappearing, then reappearing in a slightly different position over and over until the “scroll” finished.

I mentioned this to another course graduate who was nearby, and they exclaimed that they saw exactly the same thing. So clearly, what had happened here was that the intensive meditation had steadied our gaze so much that our eyes were no longer being fooled by what was clearly now just a simulation of scrolling.

Of course, having read this, if you watch your own iPhone carefully you might also be able to detect this stepping to some extent – but I suggest to you that it takes some careful observation to pick it up. To all intents and purposes, the eye normally sees it as smooth motion. And now, even just 2 days after the end of the course, my eye no longer picks it up. The scrolling once again appears to be almost completely smooth.

So what to make of this? To me this highlights just how refined our powers of observation could be, if we were only able to still our minds enough to make them more receptive and attentive. The example I’ve used may seem trivial, but the key thing it exposes how easily we can miss something, and can be fooled, even by our own eyes. I, for one, want to have greater powers of observations. I want to see things as they really are. Don’t you?

Meditation: 1 / Monkey mind: 0

Categories: Life, Spirituality Tags:

Vipassana Retreat

February 8th, 2010 2 comments

Yesterday I arrived back home from a 10 day Vipassana meditation course.

This is not a course for the faint-hearted or the merely curious. It is a serious and highly concentrated retreat during which participants refrain from almost all worldly pursuits (apart from the essentials like eating, sleeping and showering) in the pursuit of an initiation into the age-old art of meditation as a spiritual practice.

During the course you are taught a simple, pure and powerful meditation technique, and the opportunity to practice it repeatedly and extensively, with absolutely minimal distraction.

Assuming you have the will and determination to carry it through in its entirety, and without “cheating” by perhaps sleeping during meditation time in your own room, then over the course of the 10 days, you would be meditating for more than 100 hours. So, assuming that you might otherwise typically meditate for 30 minutes daily, this course effectively compresses more than half a year’s worth of meditation into a single retreat.

But in reality it is actually worth even more than that. The continuity of practice and absence of distractions during the retreat means that it is all high quality meditation time. With a daily practice you could easily spend to first 10 to 15 minutes letting your mind wind down enough to really go deeply into meditation, and in many cases your mind might not even settle at all, if the days events have been especially troubling, exciting or otherwise stimulating. So taking that into account, I would suggest that this single retreat is worth at least a whole year of “ordinary” mediation practice. Now that is concentrated!

One of the aspects of the course that most people seem to pick up on is that it is a silent retreat. All forms of communication with co-participants is barred, and there is also strict segregation of the sexes. So you certainly wouldn’t take this course in the interest of meeting people, even if it is only to have contact with like-minded or spiritually inclined people. This is a deeply introspective environment. And that is what most people seem to find most disturbing about it. “Ten days without talking?! Wow! I’m not sure I could do that!” And yet, having completed the course I must say that the silence was actually one of the most trivial issues involved. I hardly even noticed it. But then maybe that’s just me! 😉

The other big issue for most is the rather extreme hours that are observed. Awaken at 4am, start meditating at 4:30 followed by a series of short breaks interleaving longer meditation periods. By the 11am lunch break, you will already have meditated for 5 hours. The only non-meditation period is about an hour’s discourse during which various aspects of the technique and its background are presented to, by now, very receptive and attentive minds.

But the issues that are perhaps a bit less obvious at first glance are firstly the meals – really only 2 meals a day plus fruit and tea in the evening, resulting in a plethora of hunger pangs, and secondly (for me especially, given a couple of joint injuries) the sitting cross-legged, resulting in quite a bit of hobbling, not to mention some fairly searing pain towards the end of the special “endurance” meditation sessions, during which you are asked to do your best not to move at all for one full hour.

So by now you’ve probably gathered that this course is not just about meditation. Its also about enhancing the depth of your personal will-power and determination, and the desire to better yourself, whatever the obstacles, pain and discomfort that may confront you. Of course I’m not suggesting that this is a sadistic or masochistic exercise by any means. Each person that attends will no doubt have a different set of issues that they find most challenging, and things that one finds difficult another will not, and vice-versa. But the simple fact is that each and every inconvenience your do manage to overcome or surmount through sheer will-power and persistence is a deeply rewarding personal victory that will empower you in all aspects of your life. In fact I think this course could quite properly be called a spiritual boot-camp.

I have always enjoyed a personal challenge. Perhaps that is not the case for everyone, but no doubt because of this I found the entire experience deeply valuable and transformational on various levels.

I will write more about various other aspects of the experience in further articles to follow. I feel I could write quite a few! This may seem odd to some, considering that most of time was spent seemingly just sitting in silence – but in fact the inner, subjective side of life is every bit as rich, complex and fascinating as the outer.

Categories: Life, Spirituality Tags:

Run 4 Fun

November 8th, 2009 No comments

I didn’t back out. I’ve done it. The Run4Fun.

My target time was 46m00s. My result:

Run4FunResults2009

I also tracked the route with the RunKeeper iPhone app. It shows pretty much what I felt during the race ie. that I ran at a consistent pace up until about the 8th kilometer, when I started feeling tired and slowed down significantly. Hence there is probably still room for improvement, by running at a pace that I can maintain for the full distance.

Actually I’m pretty tired now. Off for a lie down!

Categories: Running Tags: ,

City to Bay

October 2nd, 2009 No comments

I’m pleased to be able to report that I did indeed visit Adelaide, and ran the 12km City to Bay race. Actually the main reason for going to Adelaide was to catch up with some special friends, but it just seemed too convenient that I could also shoehorn in this little jaunt, even if some of my friends were convinced that they were nothing more than an afterthought. Hmph! As if! 😉

The day of the race was an excellent running day, cool but sunny, with little wind, and there was a record turnout – just under 30,000. So it was another great opportunity to enjoy being one of the crowd of like-minded, like-motivated and life-affirming participants, pushing themselves to achieve a certain degree more mastery over their physical selves, using willpower and mindpower to overcome whatever complaints their bodies might throw up during the course of the event.

I had high expectations of beating my time from 3 years ago (58m34s) for a couple of reasons. One was that I had been unwell in the week leading up to that last race, and had only decided on the morning of the race that I would definitely run it, but out of caution not push myself too hard. The other reason was that I had been doing so much running recently, and over longer distances than I had before, which should have given me the extra reserves to run that but faster. So I set my target at 57m.

I didn’t get an accurate time on the day, due to staggered starts and the difficulty in getting my watch timer started, which didn’t activate until I was well over the start line. But the official results were finally published online today. Here is my runkeeper race record, and following is my official result.

City2BayResults2009

The time of 55m24s corresponds to a pace of 4m37 per km, so is slightly faster than the 4m43s I managed during the Sydney City to Surf. But given that the Sydney race has a big hill in it and Adelaide is a very flat course, these paces are probably pretty much on a par.

So having underestimated my capability twice in a row now (ie. set myself too “easy” a target), I have no choice but to set a much faster paced target for my next race. The next likely candidate is the Run4Fun 10km event at Sydney’s Olympic Park. Given that this is a flat course, I will set my target to be tad faster than my Adelaide performance ie. 4m36 per km / 46m0s total.

Can I stand the extra extra pressure I’m putting on myself? Will my ego be diminished or inflated by my next race result? Now that I’ve made it public I can’t back down without loss of face. So surely, now, my ego will force me to train even harder… Or will I manage to forget my ego enough just to run and enjoy it without all this silly, needless pressure?

Ah yes – this is a seemingly trivial matter, but in fact reflects most precisely the causes of the entirety of problems of the human world. I will write more about the ego in another post.

Categories: Running Tags: , , ,

Placebo Magic

September 25th, 2009 No comments

Question: What is the most universally potent, scientifically tested and proven healing agent?

Answer: The placebo.

Placebo

I mentioned the placebo effect in an earlier posting, but recently found a great article in Cosmos magazine by Ben Goldacre.

Here are a few interesting, if not downright amazing, things that have been discovered in scientifically run Placebo trials.

  • Two placebo pills are more effective than one
  • The color of placebo pills affects the outcome – eg. pink pills are more effective at maintaining concentration than blue ones.
  • The form of the placebo has an effect on outcome – eg. capsules are more effective than pills as placebo sedatives
  • The way the placebo is taken has an effect on outcome – eg. injections are more effective than pills
  • The way the placebo is administered has an effect on outcome – eg. more elaborate acupuncture-like treatment is more effective at pain relief than taking pills
  • Brand name placebos are more effective than placebos in plain or generic packaging
  • More expensive placebos are more effective than cheaper ones
  • Placebo operations (sham surgery) for knee pain and for angina are both effective treatments
  • Having a pacemaker installed, but not switched on, improves heart function
  • Being told that your current lifestyle is beneficial for your health actually improves your health and reduces your weight
  • The doctor’s verbal affirmation about a treatment improves the outcome of that treatment on a patient
  • The doctor’s own belief in a treatment improves the outcome of that treatment on a patient
  • The doctor providing a diagnosis of a health problem improves the outcome for the patient even without any treatment being proscribed for it
  • The suggestion that a treatment will help can result in a positive outcome, even when that treatment would normally be expected to seriously aggravate the symptoms
  • Even when patients are informed that they are only receiving a placebo treatment, but it is supplied with words of cheer, their outcomes are improved
  • Intelligence, skepticism or other character traits do not lessen the effects of placebos – everyone responds to placebos

The underlying thread of all this is a demonstration of just  how profoundly mental attitude affects our health and the healing process – both the attitude of the doctor and that of the patient.

If the true meaning of these facts were to be fully apprehended by the population at large, and acted on, our lives would surely all be deeply transformed for the better. But even if the true import remains elusive to most, you can still transform your own life in all manner of ways, simply by adopting the intention of taking a positive mental attitude to life in general.

Good luck! I know you can do it!

I will write more about this  in a future post.

Categories: Life Tags: ,

Principles to Live By – Freeing Yourself from Preconceptions

August 30th, 2009 No comments

"Relativity" by M.C.Esher

"Relativity" by M.C.Esher

The biggest limitation to your enjoyment of life, your personal fulfilment and your peace of mind is nothing other than your very own set of preconceptions about life and your situation in it.

The reality of life is that there is nothing that can make us unhappy other than our own thoughts about, and resistance to, what we experience around us.

If you are unhappy, irritated, sad, angry, jealous, agitated, it is because you are holding on to a mental conception of how you think things ought to be, and dwelling in that unrealistic state rather than connecting with the truth, simplicity and immediacy of what is, right now.

Here is a challenge for you. Next time you notice yourself making a negative mental comment about yourself or your circumstances, stop and ask yourself whether or not that mental comment or perception is necessarily actually true. Look deeply, try to find the root of it – what may have generated that perception in you in the past, why it might have become a pattern of thought for you, whether you have challenged that attitude in yourself before.

Some examples?

  • I’m no good at this.
  • Life has been very hard on me.
  • If only I could afford a nice place to live, I would be happy.

And some possible corresponding truths?

  • I’ve always believed I was not good at this and have therefore never really tried, or given up without giving it a proper chance. In any case, what does “no good” mean – do I mean absolutely no good, or just relative to some other people, or am I just talking about other people’s opinions that I have adopted? Even by those standards, there may be others have have done it better, but no doubt also many others who have done it worse. Relative to at least one other person, I’m probably better. Maybe they could even learn something from me. Etc…
  • No person ever has a totally hard or easy life. Many people whom I imagine have had an easy life in reality may have experienced many hardships that I just don’t know about. How can I say for sure that my life is harder than anyone else’s? Even if I know a lot about their life, and think that their circumstances make it easy, is it not possible that they have their own private inner torment, and that they in fact experience life as even harder than I have done? Etc…
  • If I look back, I can remember thinking that I would be happy if only lots of different things had happened, and by now in fact some of them have happened. And yet I am probably no more or less happy than I was then. Actually I am sometimes happy now anyway, at least if I’m not thinking about wanting a nicer place to live. And who’s to say that even if I bought an expensive house, I would soon get used to it and then start noticing lots of little things that weren’t as good as I had imagined. Etc…

So even if you still think or feel that something is probably true, just the recognition that there is at least a small possibility that it may not be true is enough to begin the process of freeing yourself, and allowing yourself to experience the current moment a little more fully, with greater presence, greater joy.

And from that point on, it is simply a matter of rinsing and repeating, rinsing and repeating. Each time you notice and challenge your own preconceptions, their grip upon you becomes diminished. Even though some patterns of thought may be deeply embedded and ingrained, a continuing process of self-observation will eventually wash them away, and leave you freer, lighter, and more alive.

Is This Typical? Telstra Convolutions

August 30th, 2009 1 comment
1. I purchased prepaid Telstra mobile SIM (pre-assigned number 0419470322)
2. I activated this SIM by phone and requested transfer of my existing number 0417010666 (from Optus)
3. A few hours later transferred number was working successfully with this SIM in my mobile
4. Tried to register for online services to deal with prepaid account top-ups etc, but unable to do so – got error messages saying mobile number wasn’t valid
5. Spoke to Telstra by phone, was given an account number to use to register with (instead of mobile number) – then completed online registration process
6. However, online registration showed that I apparently have no prepaid mobile account
7. Spoke to Telstra by phone – was told I had account but was NOT pre-paid. Operator offered to switch account to prepaid, and said they had now done so.
8. However, online registration STILL showed that I apparently have no prepaid mobile account (even after waiting another 24hrs)
9. Came to conclusion that Telstra account number I was given (see item 5) must have been for an old Telstra account plan I had terminated about 2 years ago.
10. Therefore tried to re-register for online services using my existing number 0417010666 (instead of the account number given by Telstra)
11. This number was now apparently recognised as valid (ie. no error message), but was then prompted for a PIN, which supposedly had been sent to my handset, although I had not actually received one. I did have a PIN that was provided to me verbally by Telstra (in item 5), but this was a 4 digit PIN and was rejected by the online process.
12. I therefore tried calling Telstra again (1258880) and was TWICE cut off before was able to speak to anyone
13. HELP!

This isn’t so much a discursive blog post as it is a convenient place to leave a public record of my dealings with Telstra while trying to transfer from an Optus mobile plan to a Telstra pre-paid mobile account (in Australia).

1. I purchased prepaid Telstra mobile SIM (pre-assigned number XXXXXXXXXX).

2. 11th Aug 2009 – I activated this SIM by phone and requested transfer of my existing number YYYYYYYYYY (from Optus).

3. A few hours later the transferred number was working successfully with this SIM in my mobile.

4. Tried to register for online services to deal with prepaid account top-ups etc, but unable to do so – got error messages saying my mobile number wasn’t a valid Telstra pre-paid number. I tried both my existing number (YYY…), which got an error message saying the number was invalid, and the pre-assigned number (XXX…), which got an error message saying the system was experiencing problems and unable to process. Repeated process after weekend – same result.

5. 17th Aug 2009 – Spoke to Telstra by phone, was given an account number to use to register with (instead of mobile number) – then I completed online registration process.

6. However, online registration showed that I apparently have no prepaid mobile account.

7. 18th Aug 2009 – Spoke to Telstra by phone – was told I had account but was NOT a pre-paid account. Operator offered to switch account to prepaid, and said they had now done so.

8. However, online registration STILL showed that I apparently have no prepaid mobile account (even after waiting another 24hrs).

9. Came to conclusion that Telstra account number I was given (see item 5) must have been for an old Telstra account plan I had terminated about 2 years ago.

10. 20th Aug 2009 – Therefore tried to re-register for online services using my existing number YYYYYYYYYY (instead of the account number given by Telstra).

11. This number was now apparently recognised as valid (ie. no error message), but was then prompted for a PIN, which supposedly had been sent to my handset, although I had not actually received one. I did have a PIN that was provided to me verbally by Telstra (in item 5), but this was a 4 digit PIN and was rejected by the online process.

12. I therefore tried calling Telstra again (1258880) and was TWICE cut off before was able to speak to anyone. NB – Even though this is a number for dealing with customer problems, it is a paid number.

13. Having tweeted about this, was replied to by @bigpondteam, who offered to help by providing an online form to submit the problem. I submitted items 1 through 12 above.

14.  Mon 24th – no change, no further response from anyone, still not receiving a PIN when I try to register my number, so called Telstra again. Telstra rep suggested I try again several times, clear browser cache etc, then finally tried it herself at here end using my details, without success. Final answer from Telstra – wait 24 to 48 hrs and try again.

15. Thu 27th – no change, no further response from anyone, still not receiving a PIN when I try to register my number, so contacted Telstra by via online customer support form submission, re-iterating the above.

16. Sun 30th – on the off chance, tried to register for online services again. This time I got a message telling me I was already registered. Hurrah! I was then able to login, view my account details, recharge etc. PROBLEM FINALLY SOLVED.

I suspect that the crux of the problem here was the complexity of Telstra’s internal systems, and the likelihood of “knots” developing from any small kinks that might appear from slightly unusual circumstances. It was quite frustrating – especially due to the fact that they never contacted me back. Apart from the brief flirtation with @bigpondteam via twitter, it was all one way. I had to keep retrying and keep recontacting them, or else just give up, and I have no idea whether @bigpondteam’s intervention made any difference at all. But I was of course pleased that they at least apparently made an attempt.

Categories: Life Tags: ,