Cool Loneliness

January 2nd, 2008

I first discovered this article in May of 2003. I did a search on my posts for the word “present”, and this is the second post that came up. The first is this one on a trip to Disneyland. This seems to be around the time when I actually began to wake up from my deep depression.

Perhaps what it is really all about is simply learning to be present, to be here now, as they say. It seems trite, but once you’ve really learned that, everything else becomes so much easier. Just to be present with yourself, with how you really actually feel in the moment, seems to be what makes us most alive.

Shambhala Sun – Six Kinds of Loneliness

The experience of certain feelings can seem particularly pregnant with desire for resolution: loneliness, boredom, anxiety. Unless we can relax with these feelings, it’s very hard to stay in the middle when we experience them. We want victory or defeat, praise or blame. For example, if somebody abandons us, we don’t want to be with that raw discomfort. Instead, we conjure up a familiar identity of ourselves as a hapless victim. Or maybe we avoid the rawness by acting out and righteously telling the person how messed up he or she is. We automatically want to cover over the pain in one way or another, identifying with victory or victimhood.

Usually we regard loneliness as an enemy. Heartache is not something we choose to invite in. It’s restless and pregnant and hot with the desire to escape and find something or someone to keep us company. When we can rest in the middle, we begin to have a nonthreatening relationship with loneliness, a relaxing and cooling loneliness that completely turns our usual fearful patterns upside down.

There are six ways of describing this kind of cool loneliness. They are: less desire, contentment, avoiding unnecessary activity, complete discipline, not wandering in the world of desire, and not seeking security from one’s discursive thoughts.

Geek Meditation

December 9th, 2007

Via CharityFocus.

Which also gives us this valuable lesson for the day on giving time instead of money gifts:

More than the amount of time, the sincerity with which we spend our time is far more important. I remember a friend of mine giving me a gift of a story one time — driving up the freeway tollbooth, the driver behind him became very visibly upset thinking that he had cut him off. He could’ve yelled back, but when it was time to pay the toll, he instead paid toll for that car behind him! “That’s my contribution to peace,” he proudly remarked. Underneath that story was a subtle transformation of two lives, and that was much more valuable than a Macy’s gift card.

Giving time doesn’t necessarily take more “time”; rather it requires a shift in one’s mindset. The simplest thing everyone can give is the gift of a commitment to a value — practice meditation daily, work out three times a week, donate money to a charity every month, whatever it is.

The Myth of Success and My Creative Process

October 28th, 2007

It’s so cool when people get it…..

Be Alive Believe Be You : The Myth of Success and My Creative Process

no one has it figured out…we are all working on whatever it is we are working on. everyday. I think Dreams can be realized but never quite be completely fulfilled because the moment we are almost there we Dream a new Dream. That is the beauty of life! I think frustration and unhappiness is believing there is one true way and that eventually you figure it out, eventually you win the race, get the prize.

I believe happiness is reveling in the beauty of the truth that the journey really is the destination.

Satyagraha

October 7th, 2007

In his Statement to Disorders Inquiry Committee January 5, 1920 (The Collected Works of Mahatma Gandhi vol. 19, p. 206), Ghandi describes satyagraha this way:

Its root meaning is holding on to truth, hence truth-force. I have also called it love-force or soul-force. In the application of satyagraha, I discovered in the earliest stages that pursuit of truth did not admit of violence being inflicted on one’s opponent but that he must be weaned from error by patience and sympathy. For what appears to be truth to the one may appear to be error to the other. And patience means self-suffering. So the doctrine came to mean vindication of truth, not by infliction of suffering on the opponent, but on oneself.

The three characteristics of Satyagraha are:

1. Satyagraha is a weapon of the strong;
2. it admits of no violence under any circumstance whatever;
3. and it ever insists upon truth.

Kansas City Daily Photo:

Oct. 2, 2007, is the first International Day of Non-Violence, commemorating both the anniversary of Gandhi’s birthday, as well as satyagraha.*

I’m currently reading Gandhi’s autobiography, My Experiments with Truth. It really is an interesting look at the man behind the “image.” A friend of mine made the comment that it’s likely very hard being the little people who surround the genius. I think that’s right on, as Gandhi had very specific ways he wanted to accomplish things, and much of it was experimentation–and everyone who was a part of his life had to go along with it. I appreciate that he’s not painted as perfect, but as quite human and fallible.

The most remarkable element of his story, is his willingness to forgive. He sees that people hate, make laws that are unfair, and hurt each other because of a wrong understanding of some sort. He also determined when and where he would pick his battles, which to me, showed great humility and insight.

***********************************

*Satyagraha is the practice of non-violent resistance, which Gandhi used in his early days in South Africa and then later in India. The concept of satyagraha also greatly influenced Martin Luther King, Jr. in his efforts during the U.S. Civil Rights movement.

Gandhi made a clear distinction between passive resistance and satyagraha (which basically has no translation). Satyagraha is always based in truth, meaning that unjust methods can never be used … even to achieve justice, and the goal is not to “win” but to actually convert the opposition to recognize the just way.

This is more like it!

September 5th, 2007

Our high is forecast at 88 today – 20 degrees cooler than two days ago.

Ah. This is better….

Not a lot going on this week other than enjoying the boys being back in school after the long weekend and this much cooler weather! My great-nephew’s birthday is tomorrow and of course I’ve gotten nothing sent yet. Greg was so casual about his 18th birthday and Jonathan about his 21st that I think I’ve stopped realizing that birthdays are actually important to other people. My apologies, Evan and Courtney – I will get my act together eventually.

Sigh.

Hubby and I have started working out with a personal trainer, which is great fun but making me a bit sore today. The pilates and yoga has paid off, though – my abs are in much better shape than his! Hah.

My reading pile is growing again – currently reading “Bones Would Rain From the Sky” , a wonderful book on dog training that I keep wanting to quote from here but I can’t pick out just one part, it’s all so good! I also have Pema Chodron’s latest “No Time to Lose” on the stack and Kim Stanley Robinson’s “Sixty Days and Counting” to get to. And four more on the way from paperback swap….

And lots and lots of blogs I need to get to, of course!

And people wonder what I do all day.

Introduction to The Hedonistic Imperative

August 28th, 2007

Whoa. There are people out there who are crazier than I am!

Cool.

Introduction to The Hedonistic Imperative

A small minority of humans do in fact experience states of indefinitely prolonged euphoria. These states of involuntary well-being are usually pathologised as “manic”. Unlike unipolar depression, sustained unipolar mania is very rare. Other folk who just have high “hedonic set-points”, but who aren’t manic or bipolar, are sometimes described as “hyperthymic” instead. This isn’t a common mindset either. “Bipolar disorder”, on the other hand, is experienced in the course of a lifetime by perhaps one in a hundred people or more. Popularly known as manic-depression, bipolar disorder has several sub-types. Mood characteristically alternates between euphoria and abject despair. Cycles may vary in length. It is a complex genetic condition which runs in families. Typically, bipolarity is marked by a genetic variation in the serotonin transporter as compared to “euthymic” normals. Serotonin is a neurotransmitter involved in sleep, sociability, feeding, activity, impulse-control, mood, and a lot else besides. The serotonin transporter mops up “excess” serotonin released by nerve cells into the synapses. Very crudely, manic states are associated with enhanced dopamine and norepinephrine function; in mania, serotonin function is dysregulated or low.

Sadly, among today’s “bipolars” manic exuberance can spin out of control. Euphoria may be accompanied by hyperactivity, sleeplessness, chaotically racing ideas, pressure of speech and grandiose thought. Hyper-sexuality, financial excesses and religious delusions are common. So is rampant egomania. Sometimes dysphoria may occur. In dysphoric mania the manic “high” is actually unpleasant. The excited subject may be angry, agitated, panicky, paranoid, and destructive. When in the grip of classic euphoric mania, however, it’s hard to recognise that anyone might think anything is wrong. This is because everything feels utterly right. To suppose otherwise is like going to Heaven and then being invited to believe there has been a mistake. It’s not credible.

Today, euphoric (hypo-)mania is liable to be clinically subdued with drugs. ["Hypomania" denotes simply a milder mania.] Toxic “medication” can depress elevated mood to duller but “normal” levels. Such flatter and supposedly healthier levels of emotion enable otherwise euphoric people to function within contemporary society. Compliance with a medically-dictated treatment-regimen (lithium, sodium valproate, carbamazepine, etc.) will be enhanced if the victim can be persuaded that euphoric well-being is pathological. (S)he can then look for warning signs and symptoms. By the norms of our genetically-enriched posterity, however, it is the rest of us who are chronically unwell – if not more so. Contemporary standards of mental health are just pathologically low. Our super-well descendants, by contrast, will enjoy a glorious spectrum of new options for mental super-health. They may opt to combine emotional stability, resilience and “serotonergic” serenity, for instance, with the goal-oriented energy, optimism and initiative of a raw “dopaminergic” high. Post-humans will discover that euphoric peak experiences can be channelled, controlled and genetically diversified, not just medically suppressed.

For there is a cruel irony here. Clinically prescribed mood-darkeners would be laughably redundant for the great bulk of humanity. At present, life for billions of genetically “normal” people is often very grim indeed. No amount of piecemeal political and economic reform, nor even radical social engineering, can overcome this biological reality. Today’s billion-and-one routes to supposedly lasting happiness are pursued in the guise of innumerable intentional objects. [Intentionality in philosophy-speak is the 'aboutness' or 'object-directedness' of thought]. We convince ourselves that all manner of things would potentially make us happy. All these peripheral routes to personal fulfilment are not merely vastly circuitous and inefficient. In the main, they just don’t, and can’t, durably work. At best, they can serve as palliatives of the human predicament. If the mind/brain’s emotional thermostat, as it were, is not genetically and pharmacologically reset, then even the greatest triumphs and successes turn to ashes. Lottery winners, cup-final hat-trick scorers and blissful newly-weds are left time and again to discover this fate anew. Even those of us who tend to lead a relatively happy day-to-day existence will, in the course of a lifetime, undergo spells of wretched unhappiness and disappointment. If we opt to have children, our corrupt code ensures they will periodically suffer a similar fate.

the corner in which the ultimate mystery of things…

August 24th, 2007

As hard as Krista’s work is, I’m glad she is so devoted to it. We need more Kristas in this world….

Experiencing psychosis is a difficult thing, recovering from it even more so. But finding those people willing to stick by you during it, even those willing to walk into your life at that point – that’s just so special. Thanks, Krista, for all you do. I hope you can stay strong with all you are going through.

The Silent K » Blog Archive » the corner in which the ultimate mystery of things…

For those of you who aren’t familiar, psychosis is an experience that people have where they see and/or hear things that other people do not, and have unusual beliefs that other people don’t hold. Essentially it is a chasm between internal reality and shared commonly accepted reality.

There are times where it seems the families accessing our services are deepened and transformed by the experiences of distress and healing that are happening to themselves and their respective relatives. It is beautiful, moving, and humbling to see families on this road supporting someone, and learning and growing themselves in the process. This job blows my mind everyday. When I decided to take this job on I am not sure I recognized the major life shift it would cause in me, in my personhood, in my outlook on life.

I worked in mental health before too, but it was a different, lighter job in many ways. My heart didn’t hurt as much working there.

In this job, I feel infused with spirit, and deeply connected to the work with such intensity that it creates a very real vicarious ache. The work creates fertile ground for my spiritual practice, but as awe-inspiring it can be, lately it has left me feeling extremely emotionally spent.

There are times when the theoretical/philosophical aspect of the work enraptures me so completely. It feels like my mind is a magnetic sponge absorbing, retaining, and reverberating the vast knowledge and experiences of others who’ve spent their lives studying, writing about, and/or living these unexplainable experiences of the mind.

Stuck

August 15th, 2007

Via I can has cheezburger

isvara-pranidhana

August 8th, 2007

Who are we, not to shine? — Nelson Mandela

All of us have experienced moments of profound connectedness — the caress of a spring breeze on bare skin, the feeling in our chests when we look into another’s eyes with love, the holy awe of gazing at a star-strewn summer sky. There is a greatness right beneath the surface of everyday life, and every once in a while we catch a glimpse of it. Those are the sudden, lucid flashes when life beguiles us out of the prison of our minds and leads us right into the moment. On our mats and on our meditation cushions, we begin to experience this deep connection as an everyday occurrence. Isvara-pranidhana is about making the experience of greatness a priority.

And why not? We can live in the light with the same ease with which we live in our darkness. We are surrounded by mentors, by men and women who have chosen to live life on a higher plane, for a higher purpose. The music we listen to, the movies we watch, the books we read — all abound with references to the sweetness of “amazing grace”. This final moment in the eight limbs of yoga is about allowing grace to happen. Not hoping for it to happen, not trying hard to let it happen, not believing that one day it will happen — this final moment is about letting it happen. It is about shining, and who are we not to shine? — Rolf Gates, Meditations from the Mat

Isvara-pranidhana – This niyama doesn’t require that you believe in a god or follow any religion but comes from an understanding of the mind. Our neural networks wire according to the paths most frequently fired in our brains. That means the more you think something, the easier it is for your mind to follow the neural pathway of thinking that way. If you don’t think in new ways, learn new things or have different experiences, your brain will not form new neural pathways. You quite literally become ‘narrow-minded’. Living like this is unconsciously habitual, what yoga calls living with samskara (mental ‘sludge’ or buildup from repetition). Isvara-pranidhana encourages you to always “open your mind” to the opportunity of something bigger, different, or new. It’s an acceptance of the fact that your own desires, will to power and actions are not the only thing going on in reality. It encourages you to stay open to working with forces out of your control instead of fearing, resisting, or battling them, clinging to a desire to predict reality through habit. — Asia Nelson

Relax!

August 7th, 2007

As we remember, relaxation is very important!

Dhyana

July 9th, 2007

A steady continuous flow of attention directed towards the same point or region is meditation. — yoga sutras

Meditation is to religion what the laboratory is to science.”
–Paramahansa Yogananda

The seventh aspect of yoga’s path is meditation, or dhyana. Once we have learned to practice dharana, to quiet the mind through focused effort, something else begins to happen.We can already bring our mind to one point and keep it there; we have an awareness of the mind and the object of concentration, the seer and the seen. Now dharana leads to dhyana, attention becomes effortless, there is no longer a seer, only the seen. We experience this kind of effortless absorption in love when our love for a child or partner transcends all thoughts of our personal safety or comfort. Because it is an intrinsic aspect of our nature, we also experience dhyana in our everyday activities. As a waiter, I would count the tables I was assigned at the beginning of the evening. “I have two tables”, then “I have four tables”. After long months of practice, I came to understand that I was not really working until I no longer knew or cared how many tables I had. At that point, I was simply in the flow. There was only the moment, and the next task to perform. Counting tables was dharana, and dharana became dhyana when the tables disappeared and there was only the task. — Rolf Gates, Meditations from the Mat.

Dhyana is the seventh limb of Ashtanga Yoga. Dhyana means worship, or profound and abstract religious meditation. It is perfect contemplation. It involves concentration upon a point of focus with the intention of knowing the truth about it. During Dhyana, the consciousness is further unified by combining clear insights into distinctions between objects and between the subtle layers of veils that surround intuition. We learn to differentiate between the mind of the perceiver, the means of perception, and the objects perceived, between words, their meanings, and ideas, and between all the levels of evolution of the nature. We realize that these are all fused in an undifferentiated continuum. One must apprehend both subject and object clearly in order to perceive their similarities, for a clear grasp of real identity of two apparently different things requires a clear grasp of their seeming difference. Thus Dhyana is apprehension of real identity among ostensible differences.

Dharana

June 27th, 2007

Dharana: Concentration is the process of holding or fixing the attention of mind onto one object or place. — yoga sutras

Concentration is sometimes identified with “one-pointedness” (ekagrata), but this is not quite correct, for the latter simply represents the arrest of the mental flow, while concentration implies a fixation of the mind in order to gain understanding; as such, dharana is a creative act.” — Georg Feuerstein.

Dharana means ‘to bind, to focus, to hold the mind at one point’. It comes from the word dhri, which means ‘foundation’ or ‘basis’. The foundation of the mind must be stable. Right now none of us has that stable base. Just as the earth shakes during an earthquake, in the same way we are also shaking like that much of the time. The practice of dharana comes when we have become steady, stable and unshakeable. We are unshakeable because we understand ourselves. We understand our mind, our emotions and our thoughts. We have come to terms with them so we are unshakeable. Whatever faces us and whatever situation arises we can manage it without being affected. Dharana is a higher stage, not just in meditation but in life. –Swami Satyadharma Saraswati

I was a bit annoyed at many of the definitions of dharana as focusing on one thing — that just didn’t feel right to me. I like this definition of being able to focus the mind at a stable point – it seems to fit better what I feel and observe when I am in my yoga practice.

“There is a part of each of us that would like to miss the point — a part of each of us that wants to believe that there will be no magic, no mystery, that our own life is not blessed and sacred, that our days are not a miracle, and that we are not connected to all living beings as a leaf is to a tree. In response to this predicament, we have created yoga.” — Rolf Gates, Meditations from the Mat

Eight random things

June 25th, 2007

Eight random things about myself

Whig tagged me.

1. All right, here are the rules. 2. We have to post these rules before we give you the facts. 3. Players start with eight random facts/habits about themselves. 4. People who are tagged need to write their own blog about their eight things and post these rules. 5. At the end of your blog, you need to choose eight people to get tagged and list their names. Don’t forget to leave them a comment telling them they’re tagged, and to read your blog.

1.) I absolutely adore golden retrievers currently have three of them, Roxie, Darwin, and Chance, and want to have a golden retriever ranch one day to raise and train service dogs.

2.) Like Jane Pauley, I have bipolar disorder.

3.) I spent a couple of years studying and blogging about Taoist philosophy. A search for “Tao” on my blog will turn up hundreds of posts. It is the defining philosophy I try to live my life by these days.

4.) My current philosophical and physical passion is yoga. I’m studying yoga this year mainly to get in better physical shape, but also to enjoy the mental and spiritual benefits of this ancient practice.

5.) My other main physical practice is pilates, which is wonderful for the core strength it gives me. It is an excellent complement to my yoga practice. I also need to do a lot more of both, since I’m not very good about practicing regularly.

6.) I got politically active over the last few years in frustration at how screwed up our country has become. When I started, I couldn’t see how people could be so fooled by this administration. I’ve found great comfort and gained tremendous knowledge from all the political bloggers I read, and am grateful that so many devote such energy to informing us all about what is happening. It saddens me deeply that so many people in this country really don’t even seem to care, or don’t feel that they can create change. One of my main hopes is to present my own examples for change in my blogging, and encourage others in making changes in their own lives, and in our country’s path.

7.) I love to garden and watch things growing. There are lots of posts here about my garden, as sometimes it has been one of the few things that has kept me going when I was very depressed. My own garden has taken a lot of effort since i only have like a foot of soil in my yard to garden in. The house is on a cut on a granite hill, and literally has about a foot of top soil in some places. It is a difficult terrain that I’ve worked hard to make both beautiful and practical for this area. I have another blog called Native Growers that I don’t post at often enough, trying to encourage people to learn about and grow the plants native to their area. It is so important for us ecologically to become more aware of our environment and live more in harmony with it.

8.) I love poetry and used to write a lot of it as a way of sorting out my thoughts, but haven’t felt the need to write much lately. I still enjoy reading poetry, though.

Tagging:

Whoever would like to blog on this meme. I think it’s gone through most of my blogging community already! Please comment with a link if you take up the challenge! BTW, tracing back through the tags takes me to PZ’s place. His stories are pretty good there.

Pratyahara

June 25th, 2007

Returning to the Self: the practice of pratyahara

For years I interpreted the teachings I heard about pratyahara to mean that I must physically and literally withdraw from the world in order to be a true disciple of yoga. I would react with dismay at this teaching; I was an engaged person, busy studying physical therapy in school to improve my yoga teaching, additionally I was married and contemplating having several children. I sometimes worried that unless I learned to separate myself from the world I was a lesser or inferior yoga student.

Today I feel differently, I realized life is about interaction and that many of those interactions are about conflict: conflict with those I love and conflict with those I do not. In fact, I do not even need another person to be in conflict. I can be, and occasionally am, in conflict within myself. How am I to withdraw when I am so completely enmeshed in relationships, in life, in the world as a whole?

I like to believe that Patanjali means something different from a simple
withdrawal from life. Today the practice of pratyahara means to me that while I participate in the task at hand, I remain separate from my reactions. In other words, no matter how much meditation and postures and breathing I practice, I still continue react to the people and situations around me. This reaction in and of itself is not the problem; my attachment to the reaction is. Where the practice of pratyahara is manifested is the space between the stimulus that comes into my nervous system via the sense organs and my reaction to that stimulus.

Practice gives me the choice about my reaction. I can choose to dance with that stimulus or I can choose to step back and not add my conscious participation with the stimulus. In other words, the variable is me and how I choose to use my energy. If I physically retreat to a cave in the mountains I can still agitate my nervous system; I can still generate thoughts and re-live past reactions which are stimulating. To me the practice of pratyahara is not about running away from stimulation which is basically impossible anyway, but rather practicing pratyahara is about remaining in the middle of a stimulating environment and consciously not-reacting to it.

Pratya comes from the word pratyaya. Pratyaya are the internal seeds, the basic tendencies in our nature which are there from birth to death. They are the basis of our personality. The word ahara means food or nutrition. Normally in our day-to-day lives, we are concentrated and extroverted in the outside world, so the mind, the senses and the pratyaya, these internal tendencies and seeds of consciousness, are receiving nutrition from outside, from objects, events, situations and interactions in the external world. So, pratyahara means a practice which internalizes the senses and the mind so that the mind begins to receive its nutrition from within. The pratyaya begin to receive nutrition from within. This is said to be the first stage in mental training, when we can learn to internalize the senses and the mind at will. –Swami Satyadharma Saraswati

Knowing

June 23rd, 2007

It is not speech which we should want to know:
we should know the speaker.

It is not things seen which we should want to know:
we should know the seer.

It is not sounds which we should want to know:
we should know the hearer.

It is not mind which we should want to know:
we should know the thinker.

Kaushitaki Upanishad 3:8

Peace

June 19th, 2007

Peace is impossible to those who look on war. Peace is inevitable to those who offer peace. How easily, then, is your judgment of the world escaped! It is not the world that makes peace seem impossible. It is the world you see that is impossible. — A Course in Miracles

One of the fundamental teachings of yoga is that if you encounter a person who is established in nonviolence, you will give up violence in that person’s presence. We each have within us the ability to bring an end to violence. Which is to say that the violence in our midst is our responsibility.

Nation after nation does violence to another, and peace seems ever more elusive. We meet violence with more violence, and then our leaders profess shock and outrage when others do not give up their violence toward us.

Our yoga practice is a nonviolent one. Each aspect of this path teaches us ahimsa, or nonharming, in our dealings with ourselves and others. Pranayama is a profound step in this transformation.

We are intentionally bringing peace to the waters of our minds. This peace, like a ripple moving across the waters of a pond, travels through us and out into the family of all beings. — Rolf Gates, Meditations from the Mat

Pranayama

June 11th, 2007

“Pranayama has three movements: prolonged and fine inhalation, exhalation, and retention; all regulated with precision according to duration and place.” — Yoga Sutras

“What is required is not a new artificial way of breathing that lasts as long as our stunningly brief attention span, but to return to a way of breathing that can be calm and regular, flexible and spontaneous”. — Donna Farhi

One of the wonderful things that happens in yoga is you learn pranayama, or breath control. I suppose some people might think it’s silly to learn how to breathe, but there is a lot of strength to be gained from learning proper breath control. For me it comes pretty naturally since I trained as a singer, and learning to breathe deeply into your stomach and back is a big part of that. In fact, when I took some voice lessons recently, my teacher was quite pleased that I actually knew how to “back breathe” – she spent a lot of her time teaching singers to breathe properly.

When you think about it, your breath is really your life – you can go a few days without water and even longer without food, but not more than a few minutes without breathing. And when we become stressed or anxious, the breath is the first thing that goes – as our heart rate goes up, we also start breathing more shallowly, or we stop breathing, stressing us out even more. People often mention how calm I am and how relaxed I seem to be most of the time. A lot of that is simply because I breathe properly and pretty much automatically. Even when I am not “watching” myself breathe, I tend to do it correctly.

If you are feeling overwhelmed or stressed out, pranayama techniques can be very helpful to calm the mind and eliminate stress. It’s well worth learning from a good yoga teacher.

Nothing to Attain

June 7th, 2007

You realize that from the beginningless beginning you have been complete and whole as you are. And this supreme truth is the most difficult for us to swallow. There is nothing to be attained. — Zen master Dennis Genpo Merzel

In shavasana we encounter nondoing. We embrace being. We oppose the goal-driven striving of the Western world with deep stillness. This is a difficult pose for most of us. What does it mean that we have nothing to attain? — Rolf Gates, Meditations from the Mat

The follower of knowledge learns as much as he can every day;
The follower of the Way forgets as much as he can every day.

By attrition he reaches a state of inaction
Wherein he does nothing, but nothing remains undone.

To conquer the world, accomplish nothing;
If you must accomplish something,
The world remains beyond conquest.

– Lao Tzu, Tao Te Ching

Dialogue (Repost)

May 30th, 2007


Calling the Allies, Susan Seddon Boulet

I still talk in my sleep.
I still dream.
How can there be perfect stillness
When my brain’s so noisy?

We carry on a constant dialogue within ourselves. This is the origin of our problems.

The very word dialogue means talking between two sides. We could not have an inner dialogue unless there was a split in our minds. We all have two sides; as long as they are not united, we cannot attain the wholeness that spirituality requires.

Even with years of self-cultivation, it is not easy to tame the wild mind. One might appear to have attained perfect control in all waking situations, only to find endless turbulence during meditation and sleep. This is a sign of incomplete attainment. Perfection must be total.

The process of perfection is long and must be methodical. Although our efforts must be to the utmost, we must never risk repressing ourselves. Indeed, rather than shutting away the unpleasant or unruly aspects of ourselves, we must take them all out and examine them. Daily introspection brings harmony to all our facets. Those aspects that are bad can be dissolved. Those that are of advantage can be cultivated. This effort will take many years, but in this gradual way, we resolve ourselves with our subconscious mind and free ourselves from struggle and conflict.

Deng Ming Tao, 365 Tao

To pray you open your whole self
To sky, to earth, to sun, to moon
To one whole voice that is you.
And know there is more
That you can’t see, can’t hear.
Can’t know except in moments
Steadly growing, and in languages
That aren’t always sound but other
Circles of motion.
Like eagle that Sunday morning
Over Salt River. Circled in blue sky
In wind, swept our hearts clean
With sacred wings.
We see you, see ourselves and know
That we must take the utmost care
And kindness in all things.
Breathe in, knowing we are made of
All this, and breathe out, knowing
We are truly blessed because we
Were born, and die soon within a
True circle of motion,
Like eagle rounding out the morning
Inside us.
We pray that it will be done
In beauty.
In beauty.

“Eagle Poem”, Joy Harjo (Muskogee)

We create our own reality by keeping a dialogue going with ourselves about our world and what we perceive or imagine is happening. This is not necessarily a bad thing because it helps keep us grounded and able to relate to other people and the world in general (the ‘tonal’). The problem is when we get caught up with this inner dialogue and forget there is anything else. If we learn to turn off the inner dialogue we can reach a place of silence in which we contact our real inner power and purpose. We reach the world behind images, thoughts, fantasies, feelings, sensations and so on (the ‘naugal’).

There are many ways of doing this, and it appears as the central theme in most practical teachings. For a shaman, there is no more important goal than turning off the inner dialogue. Indeed Don Juan tells Carlos Castaneda that this is the most important goal in sorcery, for when it is achieved everything else becomes possible. In the Western Mystery Tradition, the same aim is described as one-pointedness. It is claimed that any thought which is held in this state of silence becomes a definite command since there are no other thoughts to compete with it.

In yoga, there are various practices which lead to the same goal. Firstly there is asana, controlling the body through various postures, then yama and niyama for controlling emotional reactions, then dharana for controlling the mind. These techniques have the single aim of achieving dhyana – which is turning off the inner dialogue, reaching a still, silent place within. Dhyana is the original root of the word zen, and the main aim of zen meditation is the same – to stop the rational mind and reach states beyond the incessant questioning, thinking and reasoning which holds us back from our inner peace and true identity. In Taoism the aim is again the same: in the Tao Teh Ching we are told that the tao resembles the emptiness of space; to employ it we must avoid creating an inner dialogue, which we can do through `making our sharpness blunt’.

Coloring Therapy

“When a warrior learns to stop the internal dialogue, everything becomes possible; the most far-fetched schemes become attainable.” — Carlos Castaneda

“The internal dialogue is what grounds people in the daily world. The world is such and such or so and so, only because we talk to ourselves about its being such and such and so and so. The passageway into the world of shamans opens up after the warrior has learned to shut off his internal dialogue.” — Carlos Castaneda

“If you want to reach a state of bliss, then go beyond your ego and the internal dialogue. Make a decision to relinquish the need to control, the need to be approved, and the need to judge. Those are the three things the ego is doing all the time. It’s very important to be aware of them every time they come up.”
– Deepak Chopra

Yield and overcome;
Bend and be straight;
Empty and be full;
Wear out and be new;
Have little and gain;
Have much and be confused.

Therefore wise men embrace the one
And set an example to all.
Not putting on a display,
They shine forth.
Not justifying themselves,
They are distinguished.
Not boasting,
They never falter.
They do not quarrel,
So no one quarrels with them.

Therefore the ancients ay,
“Yield and overcome”.
Is that an empty saying?
Be really whole,
And all things will come to you.

– Tao Te Ching, 22

So what is the Tao, or any spiritual training, really all about? It is about becoming one – with yourself. Knowing your self, understanding yourself, and being able to calm and quiet yourself. And that is the beginning. Then you can connect with others – without judging, without blaming, without controlling, without the need for their approval. You become truly whole – truly able to deal with anything that comes your way, because you don’t have to worry about how you will react to it. You are the one in control of your own body, emotions and reactions. You learn to anticipate what will happen in a particular circumstance, you can plan for things. You learn how things work, how things naturally happen, and you give up trying to control them, because you know you can’t control the natural consequences of action and reaction. You stop blaming and judging others for the circumstances of their lives, their thinking, their illnesses and weaknesses.

You stop needing anyone else or even yourself to approve of what you do – but you do the right things in your life because you fully understand the consequences of doing the wrong things. Life becomes a natural process of growth, reproduction, gradual declines, and death, because that, underneath all the crap and bullshit and material things we build and try to comfort ourselves with, is what life is. You stop needing things, you stop needing approval, you stop needing to be right, you stop needing to control. You let go of all of these things, a little at a time, until you are left with you. And then, you begin.

Break the Chains

May 17th, 2007


Katie Sandwina, billed as the world’s strongest woman, preparing to break a chain over her thigh, c. 1895.

And how shall you rise above your days and nights unless you break the chains which you have fastened around your noon hour? In truth, that which you call freedom is the strongest of these chains, though its links glitter in the sun and dazzle your eyes — Kahlil Gibran

“Man is born free and everywhere he is in chains.” — Jean-Jacques Rousseau

“We are strange beings, we seem to go free, but we go in chains – chains of training, custom, convention, association, environment – in a word, Circumstance – and against these bonds the strongest of us struggle in vain” — Mark Twain

“Banks and riches are chains of gold, but still chains” — Edmund Ruffin

The first niyama is sauca, or purity. Sauca on the mat is the work we do to prepare our bodies and our minds to realize the opportunity of asana. For me, it primarily concerns diet, rest, meditation, and avoidance of overwork and overtraining. The result of purity on the mat is a pliant, strong, sensitive, balanced body, a focused mind, and a carefee spirit. We achieve these things through the voluntary surrender of certain freedoms.

If I am unwilling to give up… potato chips and cream cheese brownies, for example, or.. the money I can earn by overworking, or my freedom to stay up until three to finish a good book… then I will not realize my full potential on the mat. It’s that simple. Fortunately, the asanas detoxify us, so that our desire for many of the things we must give up lessens …over time.

Each of us must determine for ourselves what sauca on the mat means to us. The asana gives us excellent feedback. When I am eating the wrong foods, my practice is directly affected; it feels as if someone has pured san in my gas tank. I lose strength, focus, and sensitivty. Slogging through a practice when I am weakened by poor nutrition, I am forced to reconsider my definition of freedom. Sauca, the first niyama, reminds us to apply the yamas on the mat. — Rolf Gates, Meditations from the Mat