A better way to roll

rolled yoga matI’m no yogi, though i’ve attended more than a few yoga classes over the years. But i am an engineer (well, a former engineer), with a practical turn of mind and an eye for detail. I like to see things (especially small things) done in the most efficient way. Call it an occupational OCD.

So i’ve always been a little bemused at the way most people roll up their yoga mats after a class: starting at one end with a tight radius and rolling (often down on their knees on the floor) all the way to the other end, in more or less laborious fashion.  Continue reading

Sat Chit Ananda

Well. The more i mess about in this new-age consciousness business, the more i think that everybody is saying exactly the same things. It can’t be described directly, of course — that’s the catch-22 of the whole game — so it must be illustrated obliquely, through yogic posture or Buddhist ritual or, most often, linguistic metaphor.

I’m convinced that two-thirds of the struggle (once one gets to the point of beginning to struggle, which is a whole epic in itself) is simply to find the metaphors that resonate most strongly with you. Some people — “seekers” — go through their whole lives from guru to guru, method to method. A lot of this is egoic procrastination — the threatened self not truly wanting to find the simple secret that will mean its dissolution — but much of it, i’m convinced, is metaphor search. 

For me, the rational, scientific argument works best. For me, yoga is just good exercise; meditation is simply ritual; far-flung foreign monasteries are but theme travel. Yet give me a good, hard-nosed, evidence-based logical argument for the empty mind and the universal self and i’ll eat it up every time. 

That’s how 1950s-60s British-American scholar and “religious entertainer” (his description) Alan Watts first kick-started me down this path, lo, those three (four? six?) long years ago. I listened, i was entertained, there were no cross-cultural references that i didn’t get … it just straight-up made sense. Eckhart Tolle was another one, speaking and writing from right here in B.C. I didn’t get through The Power of Now, but his follow-up world-wide hit A New Earth just laid it all out like … well, for me, the meta-metaphor is mathematics: a chain of small logical (or at least sensible) steps that leads like a path of stepping-stones to a conclusion that feels right on every level.

Did i say “laid it all out”? I overstated. I’ve always had questions, gaps, holes and unbridgeable interregnums in my understanding of even the relatively simple logical argument. Besides, all these myriad approaches, every one of them, is just a recipe; none of them is a cake. No matter how good, how thorough, how compelling the recipes are, until you’ve made cake, you don’t get cake. So no, it hasn’t yet been all laid out, not for me. But it feels like i’m getting there.

In pursuit of which i’ve been browsing about like mad on this marvellous Internet, here in Victoria with lots of free time, and yesterday i happily stumbled on what might be the clearest, most concise wrap-up of the whole plate o’ spaghetti that i’ve yet run across (for me, as always). It was this The Evolution of Consciousness page, and in the space of maybe 3000 words it runs neatly down a long, long evolutionary timeline. The headings: 

  • Are All Creatures Conscious?
  • Consciousness and Biological Evolution
  • Language and Consciousness
  • Self-Consciousness
  • Transcending Language
  • Sat Chit Ananda
  • Our Evolutionary Imperative

The page is on Peter Russell’s website. I don’t know anything about the guy, but i plan to look into his sizeable site over the coming days.

Surfmonkery

surfmonkery

I finished (finally) the above book, which according to the blurb on the Long Beach Golf Course links page is “an e-novella by Mathew Stryanka that takes readers into the angst-ridden life of Roy Merck as he surfs across Canada, looking for a place to call home.” 

It’s always interesting to read a piece set in a place one knows — something that must be a common occurrence in celebrated places like New Yawk City or Paris, France, but is a rarity for WestCoast small towns. 

Mat’s book is not a Great Work of Art by any means, but i found it an interesting look into the struggles of, well, Mat himself to make sense of this senseless existence, and also the ins and outs of the WestCoast surfing life. Lots of checking out waves, metaphysical wonderings, paddling out to mysterious breaks, and intense philosophical conversations. 

Here’s my fave quote in the book is where Roy, sitting in a hot tub with his physicist friend discussing free will and the structure of the universe, says: Oneness isn’t separateness holding hands. It’s Oneness.

I downloaded the book last spring sometime from Mat’s surfmonkery.com website, which doesn’t seem to be active anymore. He offered the book as a free download, by donation. (Yes, i donated.) 

 

The format was new to me: a kind of on-screen booklet provided as a Windows .exe file by DesktopAuthor.com. I’m not a fan of lengthy on-screen reading, but this made it fairly palatable with very short pages and a nifty page-turning feature. Less appealing was the lack of page numbers, which prevented me from knowing how long the book was or where i was in it. That made reading it a pretty much one-shot deal, which is one reason why it took me so long to get around to it. 

I’ve still got the file, which technically i paid for, so i suppose by analogy to a paperback i should be able to pass it on to anyone else who wants to read the book. First request gets it (you’ll need a Windows PC).

On a similar note, i ran across the $300 Sony Reader (at right) during my Stressmas shopping spree (one hour long, on Boxing Day). Seems like e-book readers are slowly getting to the point where i’d want to own one.

Zennish thoughts

Some straight shooting from Huston Smith, The World’s Religions (p. 132):

Zen is not interested in theories about enlightenment, it wants the real thing. So it shouts, and buffets, and reprimands, without ill-will entering in the slightest. All it wants to do is force the student to crash the word-barrier. Minds must be sprung from their verbal bonds into a new mode of apprehending.

And this one from Te Shan, the Zen master notorious for burning all his Zen books following his awakening:

Those who have not attained awakening should penetrate into the meaning of reality, while those who have already attained should practice giving verbal expression to that reality.

Both these thoughts, discovered more or less at random on the Internet, give me pause. Ever since i began delving into Buddhism and Zen some three years ago, my writing life has waned in the face of those “verbal bonds.” I not only saw no way out of the conundrum of words artificially dividing the one world, i lost all interest in pursuing the verbal/written path.

The glaring paradox, of course, is the stacks of books written by Buddhist and Zen adepts — books full of words, natch — setting forth the principles and ideas of this supposedly wordless “mode of apprehending.” What’s a confused mendicant to do, stumbling around unguided in the dark?

The second quote offers up some light. Words, if not the only means for us to get into each others’ heads, are certainly the most common and arguably the most precise — and are therefore tools worthy of consideration, so long as one maintains the distinction between the signposts and the territory.

I still have little serious interest in writing, be it poetry, fiction or non-; it seems a secondary, derivative mode of being, as opposed to the immediacy of sense impressions and just plain living, moment to moment. But a person’s gotta do something with his days, and few of those potential somethings have any enduring import in the real world, and so storytelling is not (quite) out of the running. Yet.

The irony of this wordy post does not escape me.

LATER THAT DAY …

Hah! The hidden engines of serendipity are firing. Stumbled upon (or was i invisibly guided to?)  this 28-second ejaculation from Terence McKenna:

What he says: Art’s task is to save the soul of mankind, and that anything less is a dithering while Rome burns. Because if the artists, who are self-selected for being able to journey into the other, if the artists cannot find the way then the way cannot be found.

Destroy people’s beliefs

[In the face of repeated questions, Buddha] maintains what is called Noble Silence, sometimes later called the Thunderous Silence, because this silence, this metaphysical silence, is not a void; it is very powerful. This silence is the open window through which you can see not concepts, not ideas, not beliefs, but the very goods.

But if you say what it is that you see, you erect an image and an idol, and you misdirect people.

It’s better to destroy people’s beliefs than to give them beliefs. I know it hurts, but it is the Way. That is what cracks the eggshell and lets out the chick.

–Alan Watts, lecture series Out of Your Mind (from the section A Finger Pointirg at the Moon)