So, I’ve been thinking, as I continue to pursue my meditation practices, that perhaps, in addition to mandalas as primary visual focus, haikus could be used sort of like mantras as additional mental foci:
Generally, a haiku might emphasize one’s meditative intent:
Clear, open, alert, focused,
Past is no longer
Future remains to be seen
Now is eternal
I must be conscious
Enveloped in thought, knowing
What it’s like to be
Sometimes, though, I get caught up in irritations that interfere with my goal of achieving some sort of enlightenment. Perhaps an appropriate haiku might ease or erase the problem:
To those you despise
Inhale deeply, breathe
Expose the fallacies of
Although, I’m not sure if this tact might not exacerbate the problem:
Mean words, hurt feelings
Empowers the weak
Well, you get the idea. I’ll try these out; see which ones help me get nearer my goals. Actually just writing these haikus is quite enlightening.
I’ve been thinking lately about some of the great thinkers of the not too distant past and how they seem nearly obsessed with ideas of suffering and death.
First, take Arthur Schopenhauer. He was pretty sure we are all slaves to our desires and that satisfying our desires was a pretty short-lived proposition; new desires quickly appear leading to a fairly constant state of dis-satisfaction. Then there was Soren Kierkegaard who maintained despair is the rule for all men, eating away at one’s spirit causing the sickness unto death. He thought the solution was to embrace the absurd and take the leap into faith which, I must admit, makes me wonder a bit.
Friedrich Nietzsche’s writings are peppered with ideas on the topic, in part, I suspect, due to his own fairly constant physical infirmities. Rainer Maria Rilke entertained the notion that everyone carries their own Death around with them. He said that when Death’s time comes it gets to express itself in it’s own unique way. I guess no two Deaths are the same just as all people are different. Having Death as a constant companion would probably get a nod of approval from the ancient Stoics.
The Norwegians Knut Hamsun and the painter Edvard Munch, similarly, offer dark visions of man’s predicament. Hamsun’s writings are filled with existential angst while Munch’s paintings may serve to illustrate the common neuroses of primal fears we all seem to share.
Well, I guess there is the inevitability that eventually suffering and death will occupy each and every one of us but there is the implication among some of these men that perhaps facing up to life’s travails isn’t such a bad thing. Friedrich N. famously declared: ‘That which does not kill us makes us stronger.’ I guess bearing suffering well does demand courage; you know, requires one to step up, see what one is made of and all that. It seems like most of the suffering I bear these days has to do with minor physical infirmities and fighting myself to avoid judging some of those in the political arena. The second of these is pretty painful.
All in all I really don’t think I need to suffer more. I’m really quite satisfied in my contemplation s within the warmth and security of my cozy room. And I feel pretty good about myself, exercising, as best I can, compassion for those around me. As far as getting friendly with my own death goes, I think I have enough social interaction right now without her. But, I suppose when the inevitable occurs I’ll try to face it with strength and decorum.
I was reading recently that the psychologist Karl Jung had his patients paint mandalas as a means of treating their various mental difficulties.
He arrived at this notion, I guess, through his identification of what he called the ‘collective unconscious’, which he thought everyone shared. The idea is that, through our evolutionary development, certain symbolic associations occur which are common to all humankind. And one of these symbols is the circle.
According to Dr. Jung, the circle or mandala form conveys a sense of wholeness or self that most everyone can relate to. By immersing themselves in constructing circular paintings, his patients’ psychic problems tended to be relieved. The formations they developed in their paintings created a sort of structure that translated into a greater personal mental stability.
I’m not sure one has to necessarily paint mandalas to benefit; eastern religions have been using circular structures as foci for meditative practices for a long time. And, I’m convinced meditation is a very beneficial endeavor. I am so sure of this I’m inspired to offer a haiku:
Within the circle of self,
Clear mind, present mind.
Well, it works for me and it certainly can’t be a bad way to spend some time.
I see by the calendar All Soul’s Day and with it The Day of the Dead is here. Death isn’t something most of us want to think about very much but at this time of the year, with nature racing toward dormancy, the topic tends to come to mind.
In medieval times death was on everyone’s mind daily. The Black Plague invited Death to be a regular visitor if not a live-in house guest. She became so well-known she starred in a regularly performed play called the Danse Macabre. In the play the black Angel would appear and, along with her spirit helpers the psychopomps, invite victims to accompany them beyond the grave; the beyond being, I guess, a promised land of paradise.
Throughout history (and even earlier than that I bet) people have sensed an existence beyond the grave: The ancient Egyptians conceived of a Ka or immaterial double that would live on after the demise of the physical body so the deceased would be able to keep doing the same fun things they had always done when alive.
The philosopher Arthur Schopenhauer was inclined to believe that, upon death, an individual’s will or essence of being would be reunited with its Cosmic origins from which it originated, which is a pretty cool idea of togetherness even though one wouldn’t really be aware of it because one’s memory and ego would cease to exist.
The Hindu people understand the universe to be eternal and that rebirth will continue to happen until enlightenment of the soul propels a leap into the infinite, which, I guess must be a bit like Arthur’s cosmic origins.
Contemporary Trans-humanists anticipate a situation in which one’s brain activity is downloaded to a computer and since the brain is where one’s being resides one can expect to live on forever provided someone is around to keep the batteries charged.
I’m sure I’m like everyone else in hoping the Black Angel stays away for a while but when it does come time for me to leave the realm of the physical, wherever I end up, I can always look forward to new experiences. Or, perhaps, oblivion.
Boy, it’s really hard to know what to believe these days. I read in a news magazine my hero, Mr. Rogers, was a former Navy Seal with twenty five confirmed sniper kills during the war in Viet Nam; truly mind-boggling. But, then I went on line looking for details and found out that the story wasn’t true, that it was just an urban legend.
I got to thinking that the safest thing to do is doubt everything, but my friend told me that it’s impossible: to be skeptical of everything is to be skeptical of being skeptical which is a logical contradiction. (I guess he didn’t know about Godel’s Incompleteness Theorem).
My friend said I should have faith that some things are true, that belief is truth to the believer. I guess people with a strong religious faith believe God is truth and that when they’re in doubt they can ask God to direct them, which means they have a way of communicating with a supernatural entity. I don’t doubt their sincerity but judging from the variety of interpretations different people have for the Biblical texts I wonder if they’re all talking to the same Being.
Well, maybe it’s just that wires get crossed sometimes.
I read the other day about a study done recently that found that a lot of people have a really hard time being alone with their thoughts.
Apparently, researchers had asked volunteers to sit alone in a room for fifteen minutes. The room contained nothing but a table and chair and a machine that would produce mild electrical shocks if one chose to use it. The study found that a fairly large number of the research subjects chose to administer shocks to themselves rather than be alone with their thoughts for even fifteen minutes.
Letting one’s mind wander to past occurrences or future possibilities seems to me pretty natural so I guess I don’t understand what the problem was. Focusing on the eternity of now, I must admit isn’t always easy but my mind is pretty good at wandering. In fact, I was just thinking about the movie, Altered States, in which the protagonist, William Hurt, submerses himself in a sensory deprivation chamber, which is essentially a tank of warm water in a totally darkened cubicle, for hours on end, day after day. His idea was that by doing this he could get in touch with his primal inner self. I guess he succeeded because he ends up developing simian characteristics.
So, I’m wondering if the reason most people are unable or unwilling to be alone with their thoughts is that they fear glimpsing their innate animal natures. If this is the case it sure explains our inclination to constantly be distracting ourselves.
I’ve been thinking about my Self lately; mostly about how to reconcile the beauty and freedom of selflessness with the necessity of maintaining a healthy self-image to deal with the pressures of everyday reality. Looking to both positions seems kind of contradictory. On the one hand, releasing attachment to the self opens awareness to full realization of the here and know in all its complexity. And, although not all one experiences is of a positive nature, un-attachment makes it possible to maintain perspective, to reach a reasonable understanding, without creating a “story line” in which “I” am the protagonist.
On the other hand, I am led to believe that without a healthy, confident self I probably won’t fare too well out in the world, socially speaking. The meek may inherit the earth, so it’s said, but in the meantime one should expect some serious bullying. I suppose, maybe, like much else, the problem may just be a matter of degree. Perhaps the self is nothing more than the subject of the perceptions, emotions and thoughts we experience rather than the independently existent entity that leads to narcissism and tunnel vision.
As nice as it would be, intellectually (and emotionally, too), to be absolutely sure one direction is better than the other, I guess I must be content with attempting to balance the ideas. It just goes to show, I suppose, living an examined life takes some work.
I’ve been engaged for the last eight minutes or so maintaining awareness of the reality before me; not focusing on anything in particular, just contemplating the here and now. Thoughts occasionally enter, generally from the left, and pretty much pass right through and out to the right. Sometimes a thought gets stuck on its passage through so I have to give it a nudge so as to bring myself back to the here and now.
Traveling, as I am, down the road right now, the here and now is changing by the second; probably not an ideal situation for meditation; kind of distracting, really. And, having traveled this road numerous times before familiar objects come suddenly into view that bring thoughts to mine; thoughts that need to be ushered out stage right, lest I be drawn into thoughts of past circumstances and lose the here and now. Even as I concentrate on the here and now ‘veneers’ of association supervene adding layers of meaning that I gently, lightly erase without disturbing the here and now.
I’m up to about ten minutes now and my concentration is kind of fading in and out. With effort I know I can bring it back, aware, as I am, of the enormous benefits of mindfulness.
I’ve been reading about dreams lately. Not about Freudian interpretations like what it might mean to dream about being naked in public but, rather, about the nature of consciousness. Rather about, if, in deep dreamless sleep, one is still conscious and how in terms of consciousness one experiences dreaming.
Most of my dreams, the ones I remember, I recall upon awakening as experiences in which I’m present as a participant. Lucid dreams, on the other hand, are ones in which, in the dream, I might find myself standing outside the action viewing myself participating in whatever adventure my sleeping imagination might decide to conjure; which, I guess, is like out of body experiences.
OBE’s have been recorded over time immemorial by all sorts of people and have sometimes been interpreted as an actual second or astral body separating from the physical one to go onto adventures of it’s own. A terrific thought, I must admit, but neuro-scientists are dubious.
Apparently one can acquire, overtime, the ability to dream lucidly and I’m thinking about trying to obtain such a skill. I think it might make my dreams of nakedness less distressful, you know, being a member of the audience.
I’ve been reading lately about the technological singularity. As I understand it, the TS is that point in time when artificial intelligence becomes self-generating, independent of human manipulation and progresses to an understanding of the nature of reality beyond anything now imaginable.
The idea is, as far as I can tell, that AI, in the not too distant future, will evolve to the point of being capable of superseding the limitations of human intelligence to such a degree that it will provide nearly limitless knowledge. Many of the presently undecipherable mysteries of our lives and universe will be understood.
One might even think of this super-intelligence from a religious perspective: a lifting upwards out of the abysmal darkness of ignorance into the shining light of revealed truth. Sort of a scientific Rapture, I guess.
Assuming humankind will be integrated into this new super-knowledge, I wonder how people will react? Those of a religious nature, I imagine, will be busy re-interpreting their doctrinal sources and those of a more scientistic bent will probably be in rapturous awe. The dilemmas and anxieties humankind faces these days will be eliminated, easily solved, or reduced to triviality. Before long Newoman with her god-like immortality will be hard pressed to remember what the hubbub and to-do was all about.
Still, one has to wonder what new and unimaginable dilemmas will replace current concerns. Knowing the nature of humankind, it’s hard to believe there won’t be something significant to worry about.