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.

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The principle of slanted productivity

I don’t know if this applies only to me, but I find that I do things better when I am doing other things. Things that should be done, go by faster if you’re doing things that are enjoyable.

I present my argument with the following scenarios:

a.Working the diet

Of late I have gone on this new calorie shifting diet that, when customized for vegetarians, leaves room for exactly the following things: eggs, beans, and nuts. The occasional fruit and veggies are thrown in for color, but really, for the past 8 days I have consumed a small 3rd world country’s annual supply of beans: garbanzo, pinto, baked, mung, green, black, kidney, you name it. What I also have to do is squeeze in 45 mins to an hour of walking. Now this workout does nothing for me. I live in a very crowded urban area and there is nothing to see except residential apartments and their dust pan sized front yards. So the walk is boring, besides walking doesn’t get my heart rate up anymore, at least not for the first 30 mins. And I loathed this activity. Then on one day when I was particularly tired of my music on my iPod, I discovered Audiobooks. That did it.

I promptly modified my diet to: beans, eggs, nuts, and 1 hour of audiobook listening. And while I listen to the audiobook I walk. The past 10 days have been the most productive walking wise. In that I have finished not only my daily requirement of walking, but also nearly two whole audiobooks: Deepak Chopra’s Magical Body, Magical Mind (Ayurveda, another subject I am simmering a sort of active interest in), and now Anne Lamott’s Word by Word, which is an audiobook rendition of Bird by Bird.

b. Mixing business and pleasure:

When I am at work and have an upcoming weekend activity coming up that I need to plan, my work goes by very fast. And not just my work day, I also work very fast. Like I once spent 3 hours at work researching a Tahoe hiking and camping trip, and then went on to solve a documentation build issue that was plaguing me and evading my understanding. In fact, the frustration with the build issue was what caused me to give up and go looking at Tahoe camping sites to begin with.

Also, if I may mention, this trip turned out to be the most awesome trip ever, spurring a consistent interest in camping for the coming 1.5 years.

c. Doing the dishes

I find that if you gave me a sinkful of dishes to wash (yes, I wash my own dishes and try not to use the dishwasher often), I do it faster and better when I am cooking something else as well as thinking about an RSAnimate presentation I just saw. Or when I am making my morning coffee, I may be half asleep but I finish off my dishes, without a thought – rather than at a designated time assigned for the dishwashing activity.

I realize that this is nothing but mind-trickery and personal mental makeup engineering. The things I don’t enjoy, I don’t do well. But if I don’t have to think about what I am doing, I can do it with no pains at all.

At least on two occasions, and maybe more, I have come back home to a bewildered better half when I said “That was a f^&*ing short walk man.” (or it’s equivalent). I also sometimes surprise myself when I think “Maybe I should have walked a longer circuit.” With this simple trickery, I have solved my problem of desiring instant gratification. I don’t have to wait for the endorphins to rain down on me.

I guess this could be viewed in some universes as not so efficient – in that it offsets the timing on things by a bit – as in the case of dishes. Or that it is a form of escapism. But as long as it works, man! I am cool with it.

Je ne regrette rien

No, nothing at all
No, I will not regret anything at all
Neither the kindnesses received
Nor sorrows grieved
I have forgotten the past

No, no regrets
No, I will have no regrets
Love was king, for a day
Swept away, gone astray
To hell with the past!

And the memories I had
I no longer desire,
Both the good and the bad
I have flung in the fire.
Swept away past loves,
With the heartaches I have withstood,
Swept away for good,
Like starting from the unknown!

No, nothing at all!
No, I will have no regrets!
Neither the kindness received
Nor sorrows grieved
I’ve forgotten the past

For my life
And my joys
Today
It begins again with you.

En Francaise:
Non, rien de rien
Non, je ne regrette rien
Ni le bien qu’on m’a fait
Ni le mal, tout ça m’est bien égal
Non, rien de rien
Non, je ne regrette rien
C’est payé, balayé, oublié
Je me fous du passé

Avec mes souvenirs, j’ai allumé le feu
Mes chagrins, mes plaisirs, je n’ai plus besoin d’eux
Balayées les amours, avec leurs trémolos
Balayées pour toujours, je repars à zéro

Non, rien de rien
Non, je ne regrette rien
Ni le bien qu’on m’a fait
Ni le mal, tout ça m’est bien égal
Non, rien de rien
Non, je ne regrette rien
Car ma vie car mes joies
Aujourd’hui, ça commence avec toi

______________________________________

Sometimes I don’t  know who to thank. And what for.

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.