With age, a certain rigidity often creeps upon us. A crossroads we meet somewhere in midlife —sometimes much earlier. We start either shutting down ways of seeing and doing things or we start relaxing into new experience and potential. We end up becoming everything figured out/we’ve paid our dues/get-off-our-lawn types or we begin lightening our accumulated baggage to reach something beyond our limited and conditioned selves. And let go of our self-inflicted suffering.
The Bamboo That Bends Is Stronger Than the Oak That Resists.
Regardless of our personal histories, whether flogged with hardship or kissed with fortune, some brace against the world like an oak in a windstorm, defending the turf of their hard-won self, and others flow like bamboo, bending in the wind, retaining only an essence of unshakable being.
If one would be the bamboo, rather then the oak, the two most important life skills to cultivate are:
- The ability to fully experience negative and uncomfortable feelings without avoiding, denying or resisting their presence. Without feeling they need to be managed, contained or that they reflect anything in particular about self-worth or capacities. They come and they go.
- The ability to keep a separation between identity and beliefs and ideas. What we believe or think is not who we are and doesn’t need to be defended when questioned, slighted or attacked.
Conversely, if we want to be an Oak, fighting for our turf and self-importance, then simply reverse the formula:
- Suppress, ignore and avoid any unpleasant feelings with whatever works: alcohol, food, addictions, escape, faith, rationalizing, etc. Keep a lid on them. Deny even having them because admitting, much less experiencing them, is weakness/sin/disaster. Comfort is the highest good. Or revel in them, vent them on others and allow them to define us. Hang on to them and don’t let them go, use them to justify and martyr ourselves. Use them as a barometer of our value as a person and the worth of others.
- Take anything anyone says about our beliefs or ideas personally, become offended if they believe differently. Be assured that those not sharing our perspectives on life the universe and everything (i.e. 42) are what’s wrong with the world today and make it our personal mission to fix ALL the things. Or at least, complain about the sheeple that don’t share our illumination and post memes on social media about their ignorance and lack of common sense.
The Guest House
This being human is a guest house.
Every morning a new arrival.
A joy, a depression, a meanness,
some momentary awareness comes
as an unexpected visitor.
Welcome and entertain them all!
Even if they are a crowd of sorrows,
who violently sweep your house
empty of its furniture,
still, treat each guest honorably.
He may be clearing you out
for some new delight.
The dark thought, the shame, the malice.
meet them at the door laughing and invite them in.
Be grateful for whatever comes.
because each has been sent
as a guide from beyond.
— Jellaludin Rumi
Friends and family are busy pursuing careers, preparing for careers, recovering from careers. Some battle vicissitudes of mind and body. Some caught up in travels, causes, or raising families. And some, all the above. I find myself in a singular position among my compadres it seems. A brief hiatus. Or waystation perhaps.
It’s like I’ve joined an academy or monastery on a distant continent. Where the tapestry of my day consists of meditation, exercise, fasts; an immersive study of artificial intelligence, the physics and aesthetics of sound and design of neoteric instruments. The study of foreign language, chess tactics, writing, magic, and art. And the pursuit of 100 designs (#7 currently) —trinkets and wares made to sell, or give away, from the back of a nomadic gypsy junk tacking in the winds and waves of digital seas.
This curriculum is punctuated, during the day, with walks down ancient streets of colonial architecture, laid upon indigenous pathways and cobblestone trails along sacred rivers. Casual lunches and sidewalk cafes. Night time breaks with wine and Netflix, reading on the couch or romantic dinners out.
When I was young, I used to dream of entering such eclectic schools of magic and science (long before Hogwarts.) Be careful what you wish for, you just might end up there.
I would like to make contact with my inner witch
how can I free myself from this trance of normalcy?
talk to me
I get stuck
because you think you’re the only one in here
so, just remember?
sometimes. how can I be more awake to magic?
do you have all the answers?
I have no answers. does a map have answers? or merely directions?
can I put this on my blog?
why don’t you put it on a post-it on the back of your forehead
funny. ok this will be my art project for the day
[Exploring Jung’s active imagination tool to facilitate communication between different parts of the psyche … and who knows what else?]
Tracking the course of a casual internet afternoon at home for posterity —after the fact— to investigate where time was spent and where the path led. Nothing really exciting here, but I’m often curious about how people spend their time. Which might be kinda creepy if I didn’t share sometimes too. So a “stream of time” journal post instead of stream of consciousness.
Sat down with a cup of coffee and began.
Watched the documentary: The Sacred Science. Was a little surprised they were using Toé (datura) to treat the Parkinson’s patient, so did a little research which led me to research more on Mucuna pruriens mentioned in the article for its effects on dopamine and which I’m using for some dream experiments.
I didn’t like the flute segments in the documentary and I wondered how it would sound if I captured some of my own flute playing on my Zoom H2n as a microphone source on the PC. Which I’ve been meaning to try for some time. So I did.
Read neuroscience article on Reconditioning the Brain to Overcome Fear whose byline claimed was using artificial intelligence and brain scans to unconsciously remove fear from the brain. So for an experiment, first they “installed” fear in volunteers by pairing an image with an electrical shock. Then they used brain scan data and AI to recognize the pattern which fired in the brains presented with the shocking image. They found the fear pattern often recurred in resting patients without the memory arising to conscious (a type of subconscious rehearsal) and when AI detected the pattern, they immediately gave subject some money (positive reward.) After a few of these “why the heck are you giving me money?” episodes, they retested with the actual image and found the fear response was significantly mitigated.
Curios if dreams might work the same way, dealing with the patterns metaphorically in simulations?
Read an article about a Harvard psychologist’s technique in her book “Presence” for dealing with anxiety. Another pitch for techniques that deal with the unconscious to alleviate problems. The technique: write down some core value in life and a time in one’s past when one felt this way. Meh. Fluff. Seems like a way to reinforce ego strength which is a two edge sword and is often the culprit in anxiety rather than the savior.
Read review on Perfecting the Past in Spanish and bought the book for the kindle. It’s exactly what I’m wrestling with now in my journey into Spanish.
Read article about using the tools and methodologies we use to understand the brain to understand the game Donkey Kong and how it failed. There was a project in 2014 called BRAIN, imaginatively enough, which thought mapping all the connections between the neurons in the brain in real time would give us an absolute understanding of the mind. This week they figured out that this approach might have some basic flaws. They couldn’t even tackle how the rudimentary processor used in the Commodore 64, which they could map completely, didn’t provide a foothold for predictive understanding of the software running on the processor (I.e. Donkey Kong.)
This reminds me of some insights by Gregory Bateson in his mind-bending book “Steps to an Ecology of Mind” and his discussion of logical levels, warning people that a chair is different from the set of all chairs. One, for example, you can sit on.
Investigated the Deep Learning nanodegree program on Udemy. A 17 week course is being taught by Siraj Raval who is very, very good at planting new material in your brain where it takes over the front lawn with crazy alien offshoots. The course is $400 and I have to decide before January 20th. So tempting…
Read a review of a McKee seminar and his book, Story, Substance, Structure, Style, and the Principles of Screenwriting… and its application to psychology and life. Still processing this one.
Listened to some frogs singing in Borneo.
Now time for a break from the classroom. Hope you’re having or had a good weekend!
My thoughts today are at Standing Rock. In a dream last night, I smeared my face with a mixture of earth, water and some fragrant herb. Ok, yeah, mud. I showed another gringo how to do this. Yeah, I’m part gringo too, though I’m also in the tribal rolls. I showed him how to clap, hands above head, to each direction. A young Native American approached, we hugged, he said “well met brother”, and ran up the mountain, turning somersaults in grassy openings. I thought it looked like fun, and before the final part of the ritual, washing my face in the river, I slid down a steep grassy slope on my belly that felt like fur (the slope, not my belly) to the bottom of a vale. And I awoke thinking about Standing Rock and the Ghost Dance of the Pauites and Wounded Knee.
The Oxford dictionary word of the year for 2016 is “post-truth.” An adjective “relating to or denoting circumstances in which objective facts are less influential in shaping public opinion than appeals to emotion and personal belief.” This is about all we see in the news these days.
Investigating Standing Rock a little more deeply, it’s not so black and white as post-truth media suggests. On the one hand, The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers green-lighted the project with an apparently cursory review and environmental assessment and approved it under a “fast-track” option. Native Americans protested, reacting against environmental issues in addition to the dispossession of their lands.
Technically the pipeline doesn’t cross Native American lands, except there is an old treaty, before the reservations were parsed out, which was never formally nullified. Nor are there any ancient burial grounds or sacred archaeological artifacts. The pipeline does cross under the Missouri river a half mile from the reservation and a spill could have major impact on a critical water supply. Normally this would have required review as mandated in the Clean Water Act but somehow($?) it got an exemption.
Camps were setup by Indigenous leaders which have been the focal point of the spiritual and environmental resistance, attracting many protesters, especially on the weekends. One camp that was forcefully evacuated was directly in the path of the pipeline. There are the skirmishes with private security companies and militarized police using dogs, concussion grenades, rubber bullets and water cannons in freezing weather. Along with claims of protesters ignoring private property lines and harassing security guards with knifes and poking them with fence posts.
The company claims it is losing millions daily in delays caused by the protest. The protesters point out that recent pipeline spills, one in Kalamazoo river in Michigan and another crude oil spill in the Yellowstone River in Montana has cost over a billion to date to clean up and are still contaminated.
Unless one is in firmly in one or another of the post-truth camps, this is not a clearcut issue over right and wrong. On the one side is water and earth. From the dream, to me this speaks of things that endure, epochs of time rather than moments. And clarity. Clean water is both clear and reflective.
On the other hand is fire and air. Supply and demand. There is a great and immediate demand for oil and thus great profit in providing it. There are better solutions long term, and on the horizon, but we have tremendous sunken costs. Jobs, conveniences, stability in the status quo. The elders at Standing Rock don’t deny this reality. But many of the protesters are against fossil fuel companies as a matter of principle.
The company could have taken another route, at the cost of an additional 11 miles and endangering a different water supply. One in an area predominately white. I’m not sure race made as big a difference as the accounting on 11 less miles of pipeline.
Many indigenous are tired of being pushed out of the way time and time again for economic interests of companies, shielded by state or government authority for hire, and see this as an opportunity to come together to take a stand. There are 3 kinds of power in this world (thanks Starhawk.) Power-over is the power of force. Power-with is the power of a collective wisdom and power-within is our own personal and spiritual integrity.
In our times it seems the power of force and law is often at odds with the sensible or the just. And opposing this in return with the power of force leads to wars, terrorism and revolutions in a never ending cycle. What’s emerging, at Standing Rock and beyond, is an awakening of these twin powers of with and within as a strength to be reckoned.
First within, with clarity and reflection on what is important to a quality of life that’s based on more than fear or greed. A letting go of appearances and things to experience the essence of what and who we are and want to be. Many are disillusioned with self-worth based on what we consume, or what we own or where we happen to be born in the world.
Then comes the “with” as we learn we are all part of the same journey. That this planet is alive and that everything is connected. That we have eyes in our hands all over the world that turn into streams of images of things that can’t stay hidden. Not only are the voices of the surveilled accessible to those in power but voices of those in power, spoken in secret, can be heard by the people.
What can integrity and connection do against force? What can awareness and communication accomplish? I think we’re going to see more examples like Standing Rock, becoming more and more effective at swaying the attention of the world back to things that matter to all of us, not just a few of us.
And maybe we need to touch bases once and while with mother earth and get a little mud on our faces and honor the quarters and turn a few somersaults or roll down a hill confident that we are part of something much bigger than ourselves.
Maybe the word of the year 2021 will be “post-force.”