centered in presence, grounded in body, in process in practice finding freedom to play in the moment find purity compassion imagination the trick is not more speed but releasing the brakes feeling this moment right here because why not? take your shoes off wiggle your toes tickle someone you love
you may have noticed there are not 5 bears anywhere on that fake graphic. I don’t know what happened to them, they were there a minute ago…
I haven’t written on xyz for ages, so here’s an experiment. I learned this from an old miner named Noom.
It begins so. Most of our negative states (worry, anxiety, depression) stem from hanging out unconsciously in the water element. Water is a narrow, internal focus. A thought, a feeling. Something we turn over and over inside our heads. (Usually about something not right with our world. ) We get stuck in this cramped space. From here let’s try a path, a trail of sorts out to a different place. We’re not going to try to replace what’s here with happier feelings or thoughts, or even resolve anything at this level, we’ll leave everything just as it is, instead we’re going to go on a walkabout with our attention.
Focus now on something external. The breath maybe, its feeling on our nostrils, or a specific point of focus in the external world: that coffee cup on your desk, or a single sound. This is fire. Narrow, external focus. We’ve shifted our attention from an internal thing to an external thing. It’s still a narrow focus but we’ve shifted it to something more material than a thought or emotion. And in doing so we’ve shifted attention from water to fire. Keep attention on an object in this external focus for a few minutes.
Next, become aware of the entire field of vision but not any one thing in particular; or of all the sounds without distinguishing individual sounds. This is earth. Broad, external focus. It probably brings naturally in its wake a wave of subtle relaxation. This comes sometimes from unfolding awareness into a larger space than the “point” consciousness of water and fire, a space where we can catch our breath. This broader field state of awareness has been called Hakalua by the shamans of Hawaii. It’s a nice state to be in while walking in a crowd of people, there is a whole flow thing happening. You’ll find you can glide through the crowded subways of Tokyo like a fish through dancing seaweed. Stay in this expanded, external awareness for a few minutes.
The final maneuver to this yoga of attention brings us to where a subtle bliss hangs out, and is antidote to all moods and fugue states which spawn from absorption in water. Become aware of the feeling inside the body, not any particular place, but like the expanded sight and sounds of earth, try to take in the sensations of the entire body at once. This vast and shimmering unified field of sensations that make up the totality of presence in the body. This is air. It is a broad internal focus.
Most people aren’t aware that attention has structure. A particular orientation, either external or internal and a particular scope: narrow or broad. And shifting through these modalities with the senses, in a certain sequence, unlocks specific effects. In this case, freeing our awareness from submergence in unpleasant thoughts or feelings. The sequence is important (but experiment with yourself if you’d like to see if that is so.)
Play with being aware of what structure of attention you habitually reside in. And the effects of opening your field of awareness with earth and air on the quality of your day. For most of us, it’s like shifting to an entirely different mode of being. And with it, comes new channels of information about our reality.
The element Air may first seem strange to assign the body. But when we explore the field of sensation it’s surprising that most of our internal body sensation is actually space rather than a density we might have assumed before investigating first hand.
And we cannot be aware of this field of our body without also being present in the now. In fact, there are entire Buddhist, Yogic and Somatic practices based totally on hanging out here in the body with the air element. With attention spread from head to toe. Students of Gurdjieff are told to keep at least 80 percent of their awareness constantly in the body to become more alive, present and less of an automaton in daily life.
So if you ever need a little taste of lightness of being, especially when swallowed in some fugue or mood or the world closing in around you. Give this little mental asana a whirl and discover how specifically directing attention, in a prescribed sequence, can fundamentally shift the quality of experience. It’s like an escape hatch. And with just this superficial, level one spell of the elements, one might become curious about what else is possible working with elements.
Mastery of our moods and capabilities begins with mastery of attention
So the next post will probably be about a cool trick with the water element that leverages its unique properties in ways even more magical.
I’ve been paying more attention to posture lately. Working on standing posture, really need to work on sitting posture. Meditation posture is a subject unto itself. There’s a certain lightness of being attained with alignment. A certain weariness with “crumpling.” It takes effort and awareness but I’m finding it pays dividends.
For a period of work my office faced the train tracks. One day my attention was riveted by a young woman walking down the rails. She didn’t move like a human. She was gracefully fluid in a way I can’t even articulate. It made a lasting impression. I’ve explored Alexander Technique, Feldenkrais and other movement modalities trying to understand what I had seen.
In September, I think I will explore the Gokhale Method with instruction. The quest continues.
In the meantime, the chinga system is working out. I’m refining it and coding the app. I think I’ve found a process that finally works as an ally in seizing the day.
I’ve always loved to learn, and I like the feelings of mastery and flow that comes with skill building. But I dislike specialization and digging too deep of a hole in a single domain. It gets boring and life-sapping. But I also dislike superficial understanding of a topic. Learning not sustained enough to get a workable model or stopping and starting so much that each time begins anew because so much is forgotten.
So I devised a system that works for me… “the curriculum.” It’s like Hogwarts… going to a school where you’re learning all this cool stuff you want to learn and explore, with different subjects and teachers daily, optional labs and extra credit and it continues for a virtual semester, a little each day so I’m not stuck in some Mariana trench of interminable grunge-work. There are several tricks that facilitate this.
I call my strategy Chinga, for “fuck it.” And it’s based on the principle of go small or go home. Tiny little impulse steps that require minimal will to push over. Done daily. Doesn’t require massive motivation or will. And leverages some interesting neural hacks. Working on a little software app that embodies it. Debugging and refining my approach as I go. Worst case, I’ll have a system that’s workable and valuable for my progress. Best case, it may help a few other lazy saps with grand ambitions but distractible minds like myself.
Our inner geography is territory we hang out in each and every day. No matter what is happening outside of our head, our awareness resides somewhere within an interior sensorium. Some areas are tropical beaches, relaxed and easy going, happy with the world while other sections are swamps of low energy, foul moods and depression. There are borders that are sometimes crossed, new territory occasionally annexed when we encounter novel experiences either within or without. Experiences that don’t fit anywhere within our existing constructs. This tends to happen less frequently as we age and we find ourselves both confined and comfortable within a few acres and well beaten paths between familiar destinations. We inhabit predictable territories and we travel between a few accustomed villages of mental/emotional/energetic states.
How we get to these places is usually outside of our control. We’re typically pushed into them by oblique collisions with the outside world, external stimuli and our interpretations of what these collisions mean. These tell us where to report to on our map. Spilt coffee on our laps, an idiotic driver on the freeway and we’re usually slung into some low-life tavern across the tracks from our more compassionate climes and free spirited villas.
But there is also an ecology to this inner landscape. A way energy is used, stored and transferred, that controls our mobility to move from one area to another. Most us can’t bootstrap ourselves out of a foul, moody swamp back onto the hilltop overlooking the valley and shiny threads of river reveries that are part of a more easy going and light hearted landscape. We have to be taken there by something outside of ourselves.
But we can learn to wander independently in these geographies of our own mind. To manage energy more skillfully for mobility and exploration; enough energy to expand the boundaries of what our habitual experiences contain. Beyond territory already mapped. Enough awareness to shift our center to places with greater resources for meeting demands of the outside world. And while we are still trapped within our own minds, we are not confined to the rooms of our acculturation. Or the narrow corridors of our conditioning. And trapped is perhaps a relative word, when we realize the infinity of this domain.
So we’re saying your state will determine what you experience, the meaning you place on it, the capacity you have to respond to it, and your general quality of life. That’s a lot! The good news is that it is you who has primary control of your state, should you wish to claim it.
-The Hero’s Journey by Stephen Gilligan and Robert Dilt
Re-claim it, perhaps
We’re not usually aware of this energy and how it is squandered. We seldom monitor when it is stolen, or perceive how it is harvested or re-purposed through external means. Basically, we’re energy blind. And perhaps more insidious, we are not the top of the energy food chain, the way we are in the material plane. And this has consequences that steal our freedom and ability to choose. An old Gnostic idea of higher planes, in a multidimensional universe, where we are less like special snowflakes and more like domesticated cattle. A topic of the next post. Probably.
“It is extremely difficult to stay alert and attentive, instead of getting hypnotized by the constant monologue inside your own head (may be happening right now). Twenty years after my own graduation, I have come gradually to understand that the liberal arts cliché about teaching you how to think is actually shorthand for a much deeper, more serious idea: learning how to think really means learning how to exercise some control over how and what you think. It means being conscious and aware enough to choose what you pay attention to and to choose how you construct meaning from experience. Because if you cannot exercise this kind of choice in adult life, you will be totally hosed. Think of the old cliché about ‘the mind being an excellent servant but a terrible master.’
This, like many clichés, so lame and unexciting on the surface, actually expresses a great and terrible truth. It is not the least bit coincidental that adults who commit suicide with firearms almost always shoot themselves in: the head. They shoot the terrible master. And the truth is that most of these suicides are actually dead long before they pull the trigger.
And I submit that this is what the real, no-bullshit value of your liberal arts education is supposed to be about: how to keep from going through your comfortable, prosperous, respectable adult life dead, unconscious, a slave to your head…”
I am snoozing at the rest stop and when the tires leave the road when the dust fills the sky and the yees of the horned toad are fied in the distance ignoring the boots tramping around it and its home then it’s time to sing the song that sond that we keep in teh back of our minds whose melody made no sense but till we stshed it for the day, this day, when it will carry on the wind into the blue mountains and teh gray sky and not eaven the pearly luminescence of the smothers ed moon wil reaveal even a single note because the frequence=y is so different, like lighg and sound, until ess youve gone digital, abandoned the analog and then you acan meld synethesiass like a pro and perhapds this melding, with all ths colors and sounds and motion and when it brings in the tactile we can have a new cup for a little while, a cup that cn hold new forms of things of thoughts sand make new things but this cup might be for the young for the new for the dispalced, whose cups are alesast half empty so they may benefit from the openiness of receiving… and when we die and when we’re dold and hoepfully on haveppens the correct sequences a=maybe then too our cups will be empties and in that dusty old chiped receptabcle with the faded paint and the lad coatin fro some us we may contain someething we cannot even yet coneive and this is the essence od death