if it goes without saying, let it

All men’s miseries derive from not being able to sit in a quiet room alone.
– Blaise Pascal

silent beauty, cherry blossomsI went back to my yoga class today. I felt immense gratitude for the teacher so I asked if I could touch his feet. He’s American, but he spends months in India to learn from the Iyengars, so he knows what that gesture means. I only asked to do it because I felt a deep sense of gratitude flowing out from me, something I’ve not felt in my life for a long time, and I got carried away with that feeling. Never once did I stop to think if it might make him uncomfortable. The desire to express was so strong that the idea of not doing it did not even cross my mind. So in someways, I didn’t ask my teacher, I told him I was touching his feet. And he, being his generous self, blessed me back.

The question is – did he really give me his blessing? Did the gesture give a tangible truth to my gratitude? Did I really seek his blessing or was I merely trying to deposit an overwhelming feeling that I couldn’t deal with outside my self?
________________________________________________

When I look at it closely enough, even the mere act of saying something to someone smells of my ego trying to establish itself. To speak without being spoken to, is to try and make one’s presence felt. To seek validation from the outside when the inner voice is inaudible or perhaps, deficient?

I’m beginning to understand why people are called mirrors. The ones that agree are in alignment with a part of you that agrees – let’s call this part A. The ones that don’t agree, are in alignment with a part of you that questions what you’re saying – let’s call this B. Very often the mind knows which way it wants to sway – towards A or B (let’s assume B is a bad thing), so it focuses only on the mirrors that amplify this sentiment. When you’re happy and feel invincible, you ignore the Bs and count the As. When you’re depressed you amplify the Bs. It’s like collecting votes from a sample set of our own choosing (“like minded” people) and then counting among those only the votes we want to. When I see my actions this way, it feels like a convenient use of my environment and its inputs to persist my own delusions. Going as far as possible from the truth.

But then mirrors don’t make a person beautiful, and more voices don’t make your voice the truth. Maybe silence – one’s own and of the voices that one wants to listen to – is the only hope to de-clutter the table, blow away the chaff, and get a glimpse of the seed of reality.

Other questions that I tossed around while writing this:

  •  If I write to declutter my mindspace, is that an act of my ego?
  •  Is seeking to understand also an act of my ego?
  •  Isn’t understanding also subjective, and therefore, also the function of my ego?
  •  If egolessness is the goal, then would it require me to drop all pursuits, stop the seeking, be silent, and merely witness the now?
  •  And “who” made the egolessness a goal?

MLC Stage 2: Contemplation – Who, What, How

Essentially, I am conflicted, between
a. the ego trying to deposit monuments on life’s canvas
and
b. the fact that the ego can only drive you to chase senseless materialistic derivatives that are temporary emollients for the soul.

Ergo, to ego or not to ego?

Should I just be sitting on my veranda, smoking a pipe, and watching a sunset?

Ayurveda, one of the only deep paradigms I have recently had a brush with, says that the human body needs to eat, defecate, and have sex in the right amounts.
Similarly, the mind needs to meditate, learn, and think in the right amounts.
And we should be fine. Apparently.

Mid-Life Crisis: Stage 1 – Arrival

Life is like a full-time job. When you’re born and start showing signs of intelligence, is when you’re recruited. Intelligence – the only thing you’ll be interviewed on.  Age 4. You’re handed a schedule of job responsibilities right at the outset. Like a newbie at a job, you’re all excited. You set up your machine, your email, your bookmarks on your machine. And then you have to work toward the set of responsibilities you have an unspoken agreement about.  You go through your induction and initial training period – you get an education. Go to college and acquire communication + project management skills. Your first homework assignment is your first deliverable. Every expectation is already in place and you march on with the supreme confidence of going in the right direction. You get a graduate degree, like winning an award or recognition at work. And you keep delivering, performing, growing in supreme confidence, and then you move on to your Masters degree or next high paying job. So when you finally take on a job, you’re really being put to test about your capabilities. You’re proving you understood every little piece of instruction passed on to you in your alma mater. And you march on. Soon enough life gives you other forms of recognition – your car, your spouse, etc.

Eventually you reach a stage where every little piece of instruction you studied has been put to the test, you’ve passed, you’ve scored well most of the times and sometimes you haven’t. But overall you did well. At this stage is when you start settling down (at least you’re supposed to). And then you’re confronted with the dreadful “What next?”

Continue reading

Blameless

I’ve always been a night person. Never really thought about why. As I stood out on the patio tonight, looking up at the stars in a rare clear sky, I suddenly felt the space that they grant me allowing me to just be. When the day comes on and the sun goes up, suddenly there is an awareness of a need to be somewhere other. To do more. To become. To do better than the present.

The night has no such expectations. The night has no eyes.

white noise

The white noise that forms the innocuous background to your everyday activities such as washing the dishes or folding clothes, if you start observing it, it seems almost like a film is playing in your own mind that you aren’t watching. Take the voices in your head, for instance. Entire monologues from some part of the brain that is dissatisfied is grumpily murmuring dissent, or one part of you that is over the top happy is humming a silent tune that you’re bobbing to while you walk.

image courtesy: web

it comes it goes

It’s like discovering a full new you merely by turning your attention inward when you aren’t forced to do it. Of course all of this is disturbed when you try to meditate, so it’s not the same. Like the mere act of observing the unobservable causes the activity to stop. But try not to observe it, and just eavesdrop, then they don’t shut up. Do this kind of observation long enough, and you’ll see patterns emerge.

I imagine artistic and overly dramatic alternate universes. That’s my background noise pattern. A big revelation this morning. Accidents are a prominent theme given how fattu I am. Sex, for example, is another fairly common context. And another theme is imagining the full life of a character I have no clue about and seeing their imaginary just-concocted life flash in front of my eyes.

This morning while walking to the cafeteria, in the wake of a conversation I was passively mulling over, looking at nothing in particular, I was crossing the street. A car came to a halt on my right to allow me to pass. Almost as if on cue, my brain spun off a disaster in an alternate universe. A series of images play in my mind where the van runs me over –  time-lapse photography in an art film style- the driver of this white mini van misjudged the braking. The van moved in slow motion. It knocked me over and went over my left leg and broke my tibia. Cut to an image of Mo taking a flight to my city as I was carted into an ambulance. People miming phone calling ensured I was insured. I sighed in relief at the thought that I was. End sequence. No perception of pain. Very crisp images. And very colorful. As if the whole purpose of the movie was not the sequence of events but the play of color on the screen. Exactly like cinema – where the response to the display is the ultimate goal of the capture and not the experience being captured itself. If you’ve seen Nostalgia by Tarkovsky, the scene with the woman walking across the dry water pool is the style I am referring to. Or the Run Lola Run style. Just to put this in perspective.

Every time I drive and some jerk pulls up too close in front of me in my lane and suddenly, I visualize the full chain of events resulting from me not braking on time. When Mo drives and does so in his usual flamboyantly flagrant style (read God speed), there are brief periods of time when I imagine each and every potential car crash we could have gotten into. Like a video game race track with cars flying into freeway boundary walls like flitted flies.

Another example: my workplace is full of characters that do not talk much. So these people become just moving images to me. And sometimes, when I am dazed, sleepy, or distracted, I catch a glimpse of this character from the corner of my eye and Voila! A full film plays in my head in like 2 seconds. Somewhere in the weeks of silent observation, my subconscious strings together vague hairline observations about this person, and suddenly in a dream state – out comes this flash about his/her life. What he eats, whether he has a sister, how shy is he, how many kids does he have, what’s his secret identity, how he will nearly die, how he will get a prosthetic and a heroin addiction that he will triumph and marry his cousin who would take care of him, and how I will save the day and his life (sometimes :P). I have to admit though it happens more often with males than with females – so there is a gender bias there. And the character must essentially have intrigued me to begin with.

Very often this movie in my head is a narrative – just like Fight Club. In fact, if I could have it my way, Tyler Durden (male) and Georgia Lass (female, Dead like me) would narrate each of my movie sequences all the bloody time. And Soo would provide all the backing dark humor visuals – always comic book characters.
On the days I do yoga – the ability to watch the full length of this self-subconsicous-directed feature film is enhanced. I can even do it while working, or when half asleep – sometimes even direct the film. But the film doesn’t stop playing. The smoke keeps swirling. With a lifetime of a matchbox to go yet. Or half.

Man of Knowledge, Man of War

I recently finished reading The Teachings of Don Juan and a Separate Reality. The first book left me awed and inspired. The second book reminded me that reading wasn’t the experience at all. I could never ever grasp what I read without living it out.

Yet some reading excerpts are of note. In particular, the part where he describes a Man of Knowledge. What his dharma is. His challenges, and obligations to himself. Interesting.

_______________________________________________________________________
A man goes to knowledge as he goes to war, wide awake, with fear, with respect, and with absolute assurance. Going to knowledge or going to war in any other manner is a mistake, and whoever makes it will live to regret his steps.
When a man has fulfilled those four requisites there are no mistakes for which he will have to account; under such conditions his acts lose the blundering quality of a fool’s acts. If such a man fails, or suffers a defeat, he will have lost only a battle, and there will be no pitiful regrets over that.


I particularly like the above. On reflection over my past attempts at acquiring what I thought was knowledge, I never experienced any of these.
______________________________________________
(contd..)
A man of knowledge is one who has followed truthfully the hardships of learning, a man who has, without rushing or without faltering, gone as far as he can in unraveling the secrets of power and knowledge. To become a man of knowledge one must challenge and defeat his four natural enemies.
When a man starts to learn, he is never clear about his objectives. His purpose is faulty; his intent is vague. He hopes for rewards that will never materialize for he knows nothing of the hardships of learning.
He slowly begins to learn–bit by bit at first, then in big chunks. And his thoughts soon clash. What he learns is never what he pictured, or imagined, and so he begins to be afraid. Learning is never what one expects. Every step of learning is a new task, and the fear the man is experiencing begins to mount mercilessly, unyieldingly. His purpose becomes a battlefield.
And thus he has stumbled upon the first of his natural enemies: fear! A terrible enemy–treacherous, and difficult to overcome. It remains concealed at every turn of the way, prowling, waiting. And if the man, terrified in its presence, runs away, his enemy will have put an end to his quest and he will never learn. He will never become a man of knowledge. He will perhaps be a bully, or a harmless, scared man; at any rate, he will be a defeated man. His first enemy will have put an end to his cravings.

It is not possible for a man to abandon himself to fear for years, then finally conquer it. If he gives in to fear he will never conquer it, because he will shy away from learning and never try again. But if he tries to learn for years in the midst of his fear, he will eventually conquer it because he will never have really abandoned himself to it.
Therefore he must not run away. He must defy his fear, and in spite of it he must take the next step in learning, and the next, and the next. He must be fully afraid, and yet he must not stop. That is the rule! And a moment will come when his first enemy retreats. The man begins to feel sure of himself. His intent becomes stronger. Learning is no longer a terrifying task.
When this joyful moment comes, the man can say without hesitation that he has defeated his first natural enemy. It happens little by little, and yet the fear is vanquished suddenly and fast. Once a man has vanquished fear, he is free from it for the rest of his life because, instead of fear, he has acquired clarity–a clarity of mind which erases fear. By then a man knows his desires; he knows how to satisfy those desires. He can anticipate the new steps of learning and a sharp clarity surrounds everything. The man feels that nothing is concealed.
And thus he has encountered his second enemy: Clarity! That clarity of mind, which is so hard to obtain, dispels fear, but also blinds. It forces the man never to doubt himself. It gives him the assurance he can do anything he pleases, for he sees clearly into everything. And he is courageous because he is clear, and he stops at nothing because he is clear. But all that is a mistake; it is like something incomplete. If the man yields to this make-believe power, he has succumbed to his second enemy and will be patient when he should rush. And he will fumble with learning until he winds up incapable of learning anything more. His second enemy has just stopped him cold from trying to become a man of knowledge. Instead, the man may turn into a buoyant warrior, or a clown. Yet the clarity for which he has paid so dearly will never change to darkness and fear again. He will be clear as long as he lives, but he will no longer learn, or yearn for, anything.
He must do what he did with fear: he must defy his clarity and use it only to see, and wait patiently and measure carefully before taking new steps; he must think, above all, that his clarity is almost a mistake. And a moment will come when he will understand that his clarity was only a point before his eyes. And thus he will have overcome his second enemy, and will arrive at a position where nothing can harm him anymore. This will not be a mistake. It will not be only a point before his eyes. It will be true power.
He will know at this point that the power he has been pursuing for so long is finally his. He can do with it whatever he pleases. His ally is at his command. His wish is the rule. He sees all that is around him. But he has also come across his third enemy: Power!
Power is the strongest of all enemies. And naturally the easiest thing to do is to give in; after all, the man is truly invincible. He commands; he begins by taking calculated risks, and ends in making rules, because he is a master.
A man at this stage hardly notices his third enemy closing in on him. And suddenly, without knowing, he will certainly have lost the battle. His enemy will have turned him into a cruel, capricious man, but he will never lose his clarity or his power.
A man who is defeated by power dies without really knowing how to handle it. Power is only a burden upon his fate. Such a man has no command over himself, and cannot tell when or how to use his power.
Once one of these enemies overpowers a man there is nothing he can do. It is not possible, for instance, that a man who is defeated by power may see his error and mend his ways. Once a man gives in he is through. If, however, he is temporarily blinded by power, and then refuses it, his battle is still on. That means he is still trying to become a man of knowledge. A man is defeated only when he no longer tries, and abandons himself.
He has to come to realize that the power he has seemingly conquered is in reality never his. He must keep himself in line at all times, handling carefully and faithfully all that he has learned. If he can see that clarity and power, without his control over himself, are worse than mistakes, he will reach a point where everything is held in check. He will know then when and how to use his power. And thus he will have defeated his third enemy.
The man will be, by then, at the end of his journey of learning, and almost without warning he will come upon the last of his enemies: Old age! This enemy is the cruelest of all, the one he won’t be able to defeat completely, but only fight away.
This is the time when a man has no more fears, no more impatient clarity of mind–a time when all his power is in check, but also the time when he has an unyielding desire to rest. If he gives in totally to his desire to lie down and forget, if he soothes himself in tiredness, he will have lost his last round, and his enemy will cut him down into a feeble old creature. His desire to retreat will overrule all his clarity, his power, and his knowledge.
But if the man sloughs off his tiredness, and lives his fate though, he can then be called a man of knowledge, if only for the brief moment when he succeeds in fighting off his last, invincible enemy. That moment of clarity, power, and knowledge is enough.