Tuesday, January 29, 2013

Fascinating Articles on Self-Control







With this breath, I accept the truth.
With this breath, I let go of that which will go.
With this breath, I take hold of that which will be held.


Sunday, January 27, 2013

A Bell Rings Through the Forest

As I watch the world change,
Clouds are born and dissipate,
Mountains grow and crumble away,
A bell rings,
Its reverberations cut through moments like a sharpened blade.
The clear forest air fills with solidity.

Monday, January 21, 2013


I went with some friends to a Buddhist temple the other day.  They just came to look around, but I went with the intention of meditating.  It's a pretty magnificent temple, and I find that it's a little easier to clear my mind there.  While I was meditating, my friends continued to walk around, and I wondered, briefly, what they thought about my interest in meditation.  At that moment it struck me, although not for the first time, that meditation has deeply changed my life, and that there is as much to explore in the "world" of meditation as there is in the physical world that we traverse with our feet.

Lately I can tell that my mental world (mindscape?) is somewhat pocked by adverse thoughts.  In a sense, I feel that a new creature has come to life inside of me, or rather that some primitive, previously dormant creature has awakened.  Of course, the feelings themselves are not completely new, but I haven't felt that they were so strong or influential in a long time.  It is bizarre because I can sense that these thoughts are somehow able to manipulate other thoughts into supporting them.  It's as if I can view reality through my "normal" lens or this relatively new, reawakened one...and sometimes the reawakened lens can move itself into a position of primacy.

The challenge arises when I consider the question of what should be.  Should I resist these thoughts?  Should I embrace them?

Shunryu Suzuki:

"So whether or not you attain enlightenment, just to sit in zazen is enough.  When you try to attain enlightenment, then you have a big burden on your mind.  Your mind will not be clear enough to see thing as they are.  If you truly see things as they are, then you will see things as they should be.  On the one hand, we should attain enlightenment—that is how things should be.  But on the other hand, as long as we are physical beings, in reality it is pretty hard to attain enlightenment—that is how things actually are in this moment.  But if we start to sit, both sides of our nature will be brought up, and we will see things both as they are and as they should be.  In the emptiness of our original mind they are one, and there we find our perfect composure."

Part of me is tempted to say that these adverse thoughts don't really matter.  My external behavior will remain mostly the same no matter what.  But I think it is delusion if I tell myself that they don't matter.  While they may in truth be beyond wrong or right, my thoughts are what matter most in my life, and it is extremely important that I watch them and understand them.

Monday, January 14, 2013

_ / | \ _

sameness and difference are the same
difference and sameness are different

Sunday, January 13, 2013


One of the most interesting changes in my personality over the last couple years is that I have a greater ability/tendency to restrain myself, mentally and interpersonally.  Probably this is due in part (or entirely) simply to age...I've read that frontal cortex development has a lot to do with impulse control and restraint, and that this development continues well into our 20s (a decade which I'm currently in).

I wonder how much of this change is also due to my life experience, or to my recent increase in meditation.  Lately, I often feel some emotional urge to do or say something, but it's like there is an animal in my mind which is trying to become "me."  Whereas before I had no ability to distinguish between my "self" and this component thereof, I now realize that these emotional urges are just one form of my being.

Of course, I'm not always able to resist.  Many things still cause me to lose my self-awareness.  Working, joking, socializing often obscure my ability to distinguish between canvas and painting, and when that happens my emotions have easy access to my behavior.


Wednesday, January 9, 2013

Hello Again

Dear Universe,

Long time no write.  I'm in an unusual state of mind...although at the moment it feels like this is actually my normal state of mind and I've just returned from an extended vacation.  I'm somewhat torn between writing down my thoughts and making a video journal entry.  Although I don't share those, I feel like the act of writing and the act of speaking offer introspective journeys that differ a bit in terms of which corners of one's psyche are explored....but it's been a long time since I've written my own thoughts down, and I think there's some innate part of me that feels compelled to transmit itself directly from brain to text.

Rereading my own words just now, I was, at first, momentarily perplexed...how could it be that it's been "so long" since I've written "my own thoughts"?  Is it not the case that I am constantly writing my thoughts through emails, texts, facebook messages, etc?  In a sense yes and in a sense no, of course.  Context is everything.  The "me" that writes here is not the "me" of the text message, or the "me" email.  This is some separate existence.

As I walked home, my mind churning through thought after pointless, trivial thought, I suddenly had a moment of clarity...(aaaaaand this is where I start to battle my own urge to over-think, and second-guess...when you start considering multiple angles, you realize that sometimes there is both truth and falsity to many of the things we say, and that the only way you can avoid saying something contrary is to avoid saying [or writing, in this case] anything at all.  I have to resist that urge;  just go and refine later)...so, as I was saying: walking home.  Moment of clarity.

This particular moment of clarity was especially interesting because it was about itself.  It was not a thought, at first, it was simply a shift in my perception of reality.  And shift seems to be a particularly perfect word to collocate with perception:  for one thing, for me, one of the most difficult (and perhaps ironic) aspects of meditation or my own watchfulness of this existence is that, on some level, I know I should not be trying to attain some idea.  Unfortunately, although I have constant encouragement, it is too easy to trick myself....(and....self-battle moment...a glimpse of a potentially negative thought spiral:  how do I know that I'm not still tricking myself right now?  "Oh this is delusion."  )  It is too easy to tell yourself that you're not trying to attain something, but sometimes the self that you're telling isn't really listening (of course, it is still good to try.  Sometimes I can let go and it is great.  Maybe not "great" per se, but it is something).  But when you actually stop trying to attain something, you remember that there is nothing to attain.  We are complete objects, but our states can be different.  A shift in perception is a change of state, not the attainment of an idea.  We may sometimes attain ideas that lead to a change of state, but seeking for the idea that leads to a change is often counterproductive to the change that one is seeking itself.  To give up seeking is often a better way.  I say "give up," but those words don't exactly fit right.  "Give up" rings of defeat.  While defeat can be insightful, there is no feeling of defeat in the relinquishment that I am referring to.  "Take off" might be a better way, as in how a bird, a plane, or a car takes off.  

Imagine (or remember, as it may be) driving a stick-shift for the first time.  You don't really do it smoothly, do you?  You try to switch gears at the wrong time.  Or maybe you shift at the right time, but you hit the clutch at the wrong time.  Maybe, if you're really clueless (as I have been on many occasions), you even put the wrong kind of oil or gas in your car.  This is almost analogous to our bodies.  We may be eating or drinking the wrong things, causing ourselves to be clunky and sputtery.  We may be thinking in ungainly ways, akin to driving in the 3rd gear on the freeway, when we should be in 5th (or whatever your highest gear may be [endless maybes await...maybe the maybes may be avoided]).  And, likewise, maybe you get lucky, while you're still new to the whole thing, and accidentally  do everything perfectly.  Suddenly you sense that your car is running properly.  The engine sounds smoother, the car isn't vibrating so hard.  With a sigh of relief you appreciate that you're finally as you should be.  But like I said, this is only almost analogous.  You can drive your car properly, but you can't live your life properly.  Why?  Because our bodies and lives are not vehicles in which we are drivers.  Cars do not drive themselves (well, except for that one that Google built).  Our lives, however, do live themselves.  Vehicle and driver/passenger are one.  So when you shift gears, you do not say "Hey, my body feels better now."  You say, "I feel better now," or "I am better now."  The world is better.  Life is better.  So the difference is that when you have a shift of perception, it is not that the outside world is different, or that you have some new thought.  Both the world and your self, which are the same, have a different state.  It is not even "your" shift in perception.  It is just that reality has shifted.

 It struck me, as I continued to think with a relatively clear head, that sometimes I get absorbed my reflection in the bathroom mirror.  I go to shave, brush my teeth, wash my face or whatever, and then I look into my own eyes, or examine my face very closely.  Lately I often think, "Is this me?" or "Wow, I can't believe I look like this," or something along those lines.  But this may also be delusion.  When you are looking at yourself in the mirror, do you see some person?  Do you see yourself?  There is no person there, that is not you.  That is just light bouncing off a shiny surface.  That you are there is an illusion.  So sometimes you do look in the mirror and you see a person, and sometimes you do not.  Sometimes, and I think this may be a "higher gear" of perception, you just see that you are in a bathroom and there is a shiny thing on the wall.  Instead of seeing in the mirror, you simply see a shiny space that helps you guide your razor, and outside of that you see your own body below your eyes, the walls and the door.

I recently finished typing a book that I have been very passionate about lately.  This particular book has been so eye-opening and amazing to me that I've probably read it more than 20 times in the last 4 months.  I've just kept it with me at all times and flipped through a chapter here or there when I had an extra moment.  I'm not 100% sure why I decided I wanted to retype it.  Part of it is obsession, I guess.  Maybe I felt that somehow I could live the words myself by letting them flow through my own hands.  It is kind of amazing that I finished it, I'm sort of unused to completing big projects like that.  Of course it was easy because the book was already written, and it was easy to divide the work into small units (I would type a chapter at a time).  Contrastingly, I have tons of books and stories of my own devising that remain shelved somewhere in the recesses of my hard drive, gathering dust like so many lost relics.  It feels great to finish something, although perhaps there is no such thing as a true ending.  My next step, I think, is to go through the book and make it my own; I'd like to add my own commentary, change some words, remove some sections.  I think it will be interesting to take a book as a world and explore it in this way.

I've also been insanely busy with other things lately (hence the length of time that has elapsed since I last wrote here).  Work is all-consuming.  I've been making some progress in terms of my long-term goals, but it's way too slow.  I could go on and on about this right now, but it's late and I should sleep.  I had to "sacrifice" a lot more time to do this writing than I initially imagined (time that could have been spent working, meditating, exercising, cleaning, etc.)...but I suppose I kind of owe it to myself.  It is important to write regularly, for more than one reason, and I shouldn't feel guilty about allocating a few hours here or there to the effort, especially when I've refrained for so long.

Best wishes for the new year.