Thursday, November 25, 2010

Music And Words

My favorite part of Thanksgiving is probably the 'thankful circle', where we each share what we are thankful for while sitting... in a circle. Not only is this meaningful and thought provoking it is unbelievably adorable to find out the creative, insightful and off-the-wall things that my children are thankful for.

This year Shem asked if, rather than listing only a few things we were thankful for, we could take our time listing all the many things we felt we wanted to voice our gratitude for. This seemed like an inspired idea so we all agreed, little did we know how many things children are grateful for! As our Thanksgiving dinner slowly grew cold Shem, Emma, Ella and Owen spent well over an hour listing their often silly but always heartfelt gratitude for the world around them. Here are just a tiny selection of some of my favorites.

Shem: All nine planets (attempting several times to list them all but somehow always missing Mercury) but most especially Earth and Pluto, water (which was repeated at least four times), our many pets, rivers, streams and oceans, metal, books but not paper (because it meant trees were being harvested) but yet still paper, kind of, because he really likes to draw, and his compound family.

Emma: Her Godparents Ash and Derek, all her pets (including three horses a distant uncle told her she could share with him five years ago), all the mythical creatures (each was named one at a time, from centaurs to dragons and chimeras to wraiths), both the Greek and Egyptian pantheon of gods (also listed one at a time, including what they are gods of and some myths as well), music and Pluto (who kept popping up and whose planet-hood was vehemently defended, because as Emma says "A planet's a planet, no matter how small").

Ella: Animals (which each deserved their own individual mention), nature, hippies and peace, Pluto (naturally), words and numbers. Much of Ella's time was also spent espousing the many things she was not grateful for which include: pollution, mean people, people that hurt animals, and especially God whom she claims stole Emma's boca burger.

Owen: Was first and foremost grateful for himself "me", followed by "you", the heart on Mommy's shirt, his family (repeated even more often than Shem's water), aliens and monsters, haunted houses and ghosts, Frankenstein, the tooth fairy, Christmas, the guitar, leafs, his family, Pluto (because it just wouldn't make sense if he hadn't), dinosaurs and animals, himself... oh yeah, and his family.

Sunday, November 21, 2010

Here Is Now

Hakuna matata is a Swahili phrase that is literally translated as "There are no worries", in the words of the lovable meerkat Timon this means "Put your past behind you". Simple enough words for a task that most of humanity never really accomplishes in their entire lifetime. Who among us does not carry with us the baggage that our parents heaped upon us by raising us in inherently flawed manners, though who can really blame them when they themselves spent their lives coping with the issues handed down to them by their own parents? What small percentage of people have walked away from ex-husbands and wives, even ex-boyfriends and girlfriends, without an entire repertoire of battle-scars on their souls? Sibling rivalries, bullying received during our school years, a plethora of injustices met out in the 'real world', each and every one of us are bound with iron chains to the weight of decades worth of baggage.

Yet, what is the past, really? Beyond a hodgepodge of selective memories strung together to form a loose, hopelessly inaccurate and ultimately delusional narrative - one formed under the thinly veiled notion of an excuse for our behaviors in the present moment. And how much of our personal history, when it really comes down to it, do we hold even a modicum of influence over at any given moment?

On the flip side of the same coin we have the illusion of a history yet to be written. Would Timon's words be any less wise if we turned them around to say "Keep your future out ahead of you" or in other words "Cross that bridge when you come to it"? We all walk through life with our head stuck in the clouds, gazing out at a mirage that we perceive to be the horizon. To countless among us thoughts such as 'After a few more paychecks...', 'Starting next week...', 'Once begins/ends...' and 'Next time...' form the script of our lives at any given moment. We spend our entire lives focusing singlemindedly on the road ahead of us; yet, like a stray baseball to a window, this way of life can be shattered with two profound, simple statements: '90% of what you worry about will never come to pass' and 'life is what happens while we are making other plans'. We base our every decision on a subjective illusion of a future we intend to generate, conveniently forgetting that there are no guarantees that we will be around to see our next birthday, next month, or even the next day.

On a less dramatic scale we can see this same problem when two people are deep in conversation. With rare exceptions the person who is listening at any given moment is concentrating not on the words they hear, nor on their meaning to the speaker, not even on the speaker them-self; instead their attention is focused on formulating their next reply. Although our present actions may well influence the shape the future will take, what power do we really have over something which does not yet exist? Little more than a dream, we hold more power over the flight path of a butterfly in Tibet.

The only sphere of existence any one of us are able to have a direct impact upon is the present moment. Right now. Engaging in the moment is truly the only activity worth commiting oneself to.To live our lives focusing our attention on any moment beyond this one, is to throw away life in favor of an illusion. Likewise, to cling to the fleeting thoughts and demands of our mind is to fall willingly back to the deadly sleep of ignorance and commence sleepwalking our way through the remainder of our, now-pointless, existence.

Yet the present itself is a fleeting notion, it is something that can only be discussed in the abstract for the moment we begin to discuss it the moment has already slipped beyond the cusp of the present and into the past. Like a rock in a riverbed we must allow time to flow over and around us, making no attempt at grasping and holding to anything that happens. In the words of Sylvia Boorstein, "
Mindfulness is the aware, balanced acceptance of the present experience. It isn't more complicated that that. It is opening to or receiving the present moment, pleasant or unpleasant, just as it is, without either clinging to it or rejecting it." Only when we learn to persist in the now do we truly become powerful, do we truly come to life.

Thursday, November 18, 2010

I Am...

Buddhism teaches that the origin of all suffering is attachment. Craving and clinging are natural reactions to life; we cling to our possessions and our wealth, we crave attention and affection, we attach ourselves to our loved ones and to our lives. Yet the objects of our attachment are transient, their loss is inevitable, thus suffering will necessarily follow. You pine for the love of someone, if your love is unrequited you naturally become sad or frustrated. Suppose, instead, you come to find that certain someone loves you too. The moment you share your love for one another, the moment that by all rights and reasons should be unmitigated joy, some part of you shifts to a fearful, defensive posture. What if they should stop loving you, move away or even die? In that instant that we attain that which we have been craving we begin to cling to it for dear life.

Arguably the most difficult things for us to learn to sever our detachments from are not our cars and houses, not our bank accounts, not even our loved ones... that which we grasp onto most tightly is our paradigms. The image we carry of ourselves, the lens through which we see the world, the guide by which we interpret our lives are often so ingrained, so intrinsically a part of who we are that we shrink in terror from the loss of them. We allow our beliefs, opinions and conceptions to shape our lives at such a fundamental level that many of us actually identify with them. Strip away our politics, our religion, our day-to-day world views and many of us don't even have a concept of what 'self' would be leftover.

The source of these deeply enmeshed attachments stem from an attachment to our thoughts. We suffer from the belief that whatever pops into our mind is part of who and what we are, thus we cling to the random wanderings of our brain under the delusion that our thoughts are as much a part of us as our own skin. I am learning to see my thoughts and emotions like clouds, there to be observed and considered but lacking any personal attachment, drifting across the sky of my mind leaving no trace of their passing. By identifying ourselves with our own attachments we tie our mental and emotional well-being to a vulnerable, false 'self'. This is why people become so defensive of their paradigms, what we feel as an attack on our core beliefs is seen as an attack on our very selves. To question someone's political stance or religion, for example, is perceived on par with coming at them with a knife, an attempt to cut away a part of themselves.

This simple, terrible truth is at the heart of the conflict between conservatives and liberals, Christians and Muslims, Capitalists and Socialists, husbands and wives, parents and children, friends and neighbors. It plays a core role in humanity's destruction of the environment, the exploitation and enslavement of one person by another and virtually every war ever waged in human history. These attachments are, quite literally, the fountain from which all suffering springs, thus it is only by finding these intrinsic attachments within ourselves and confronting them head on that we, both individually and collectively, will ever escape the vicious cycle of misery that binds humanity in a prison of our self-deluded creation.

A Rewriting Of History

The past is a pliable myth and the future is merely an illusion, the present moment is all that exists.

That the future is an illusion has always seemed logical enough, no matter what expectations I have or plans I make today I have no inkling of what tomorrow will bring, or the next moment for that matter. There are no guarantees that I will even live to see the sun set on this day. Likewise, it seems natural to say that the only moment truly in existence is the here and now, it is this moment alone that I can have a direct influence over, the only moment that truly matters is the present one. Just as it makes perfect sense that the future has not yet been called into existence one can come to accept that the past has slipped irrevocably beyond our reach, but I admit that I have always struggled with the conception of a malleable past.

A zen master once said "We must reverse our thinking and see that the past always flows back from the present, That now is the creative point of life." This flies in the face of the Western linear view of time in which the present moment is the direct and literal culmination of every moment that preceded it. And while it is one thing to recognize the limitations imposed by this conception, it is something else entirely to shift our paradigms altogether. How can the present moment possibly effect the past when it is a myth, even less accessible to us than Jupiter's 63rd moon?

Yet this is precisely what happens when we speak to one another, you wait until later to find out the meaning of a sentence. Suppose we cross paths, I speak first and the first words that reaches your ears are 'I love'... At this point you have no way of knowing whether I am going to confess my undying love for you or simply share the fact that I enjoy running into you this way. It is only later, when I finish my sentence, that these words are retroactively imbued with meaning. Similarly, when we listen to the flow of music the expression of the melody early in the song is changed by the notes that come after. To take this concept a step further, this same phenomenon is precisely what takes place when you forgive someone who has wronged you. With no more effort than thinking, by merely making a decision, you have radically altered the meaning of the past, entire years worth of history are changed the moment your heart is.

Saturday, November 13, 2010

Drowning Beautiful

Monday, November 8, 2010

24 Hours Of Silence

If you get with yourself and you find out that you are all of yourself a very strange thing happens. You find out that your body knows that you are one with the universe, in other words that the so called involuntary circulation of your blood is one continuous process with the stars shining. If you find out that it's you who circulates your blood you at the same moment find out that you are shining the sun.

I entered a void, I left my body, I was above everything, a wormhole, a spiral, a light, I was consciousness, I was wisdom. I was myself, looking at myself. A wave and a particle. I am the universe and the universe is me.

I don't know who I am unless I know who you are, and you don't know who you are unless you know who I am. A wise rabbi once said "If I am I because you are you and you are you because I am I, then I am not I and you are not you." In other words we are not separate, we define each other, we are all backs and fronts to each other.

There was a young man who said "Though
it seems I know that I know, what I would like to see is the eye that knows me when I know that I know that I know."

We are symptomatic of the scheme of things, as the apple is symptomatic of the apple tree and the rose is symptomatic of the rose bush. The earth is not a big rock infested with living organisms anymore than your skeleton is bones infested with cells. The earth is geological, yes, but this geological entity grows people and our existence on the earth is a symptom of the solar system and its balances, as much as the solar system in turn is a symptom of our galaxy.

The drop merges into the ocean, and the ocean merges into the drop.
I am everything and nothing, I don't end at my skin.
Recursive, holographic, isomorphic.

Your body is a miracle of harmony. Even the corpuscles and creatures that are fighting each other in the bloodstream and eating each other up, if they weren't doing that you wouldn't be healthy. What is discord at one level of your being is harmony at a higher level, similarly the discords of your life and the discords of people's lives which are a fight at one level at a higher level of the universe are healthy and harmonious. And you suddenly realize that everything that you are and do is, at that level, as magnificent and as free of any blemish as the patterns in waves, the markings in marble, the way a cat moves and that this world is really okay.

The rounded world is fair to see,
Nine time folded in mystery:
Though baffled seers cannot impart

The secret of its laboring heart,
Throb thine with Nature’s throbbing breast,

And all is clear from east to west,
Spirit that lurks each form within

Beckons to spirit of its kin;

Self-kindled every atom glows,
And hints the future which it owes.

You may become the Buddha as soon as you know that you have always been the Buddha.

Illumination Of Heart


blah blah blah WHATEVER.

you don't exist (sorry) you are dismissed (sorry) I excuse you from the premises of my mind (thank you) regardless of the scars you've forged (slowly) I will soar above your walls (of control) I dare you to shuffle your deck (tricks) I reject your premise and despise your conclusion (bane and banal) and am moving on as soon as your pious purity is purged from the canyons of my insecurities (fuck you).

I welcome only soulfulness (please) embrace ecstatic life reaffirming experiences (each moment) forget the inconsequential, live now. now. now (forever) pause to wonder and stand rapt in awe (alive) express being (flux) struggle with, not against (grow) maintain balance (keep moving) and focus on pieces at a time (neverwhelmed) but always open soaking up whatever this is that we call life and pursuing existential passion be it bliss or despair there is no separation merely two sides of the same coin there is too much wisdom piled against the collapse of mystery and magic it will endure it lives right here and everywhere within you and without you let it be known that this is my position you're a quack not a physician.

that may be unfair and I may be wrong but when my soul writes a song I will sing along and let the rest come later. layer up on fucking layer. I'm not in a very good place to put this out in to space in fact I'll likely rescind my reaction but let it be known I'll never print a retraction only build upon the action. the rhythms of my brain and the wiring of my heart. this is where we start.

~Brittany Pendleton

Soul receives from soul that knowledge,
therefore not by book nor from tongue.

If knowledge of mysteries come after
emptiness of mind, that is illumination of heart.

Sunday, November 7, 2010

To Watch

To love. To be loved. To never forget your own insignificance. To never get used to the unspeakable violence and the vulgar disparity of life around you. To seek joy in the saddest places. To pursue beauty to its lair. To never simplify what is complicated or complicate what is simple. To respect strength, never power. Above all, to watch. To try and understand. To never look away. And never, never, to forget. - Arundhati Roy

Tuesday, November 2, 2010

Feeling Loudly

Earlier times may not have understood it any better than we do, but they weren't as embarrassed to name it: the life force or spark thought close to divine. It is not. Instead, it's something that makes those who have it fully human, and those who don't look like sleep walkers... It isn't enough to make someone heroic, but without it any hero will be forgotten. Rousseau called it force of soul; Arendt called it love of the world. It's the foundation of Eros; you may call it charisma.

Is it a gift of the gods, or something that has to be earned? Watching such people, you will sense it's both: given like perfect pitch, or grace, that no one can deserve or strive for, and captured like the greatest of prizes it is. Having it makes people think more, see more, feel more. More intensely, more keenly, more loudly if you like; but not more in the way of the gods. On the contrary, next to heroes like Odysseus and Penelope, the gods seem oddly flat. They are bigger, of course, and they live forever, but their presence seems diminished...The gods of The Odyssey aren't alive, just immortal; and with immortality most of the qualities we cherish become pointless. Withing nothing to risk, the gods need no courage.