Wednesday, March 31, 2010
Siddhartha sat under the tree. For a long time.
"Why are we even here?" he asked himself. "What good is it?"
"Everybody suffers. Everything suffers. And then, after a life of suffering, everyone and everything alive gets old, gets sick, and dies. Not only is all of life suffering, but it always ends badly. Life's a bitch and then you die."
He thought about this for a while and decided his body was at fault. If he could free his mind from his body, he reasoned, he would experience enlightenment. So he deliberately abused his body. He didn't eat but a double handful of cooked beans or lentils a day. His ribs stood out like exposed slats, and the skin of his belly pressed so tightly against his backbone that he could rub his fingers on his vertebrae from in front. But enlightenment didn't come.
He had hoped to realize the self his teachers had told him of, that self which is the intelligence that created the universe. The first without a second. That which never changes. But when he looked for the self, all he encountered at the core of his being was a heap of undifferentiated characteristics -- instincts, impulses, animalistic inclinations, half-remembered infantile memories, dreams, and so forth.
He decided punishing the body was not the way to enlightenment, for the body, and the mind, and the breath are all present in the self, and the human self, far from being eternal, is a thing that arises, then passes away; here today, gone tomorrow.
He sat under the tree and ate again. He sometimes arose and went to wash himself and exercise. He ate rice and vegetables and beans, and enjoyed the taste of sweet fruits. He took in the odor of flowers and felt the sunshine on his face. He sat under the tree and breathed, feeling his upper spine grow longer when he inhaled; pressing the belly toward the spine when he exhaled. He focused his attention intently upon his breath. Peace began to settle over his mind.
He meditated on the chakras, the energy centers of the spine, that central column which holds up the physical structure of the self. He concentrated on their individual and unique attributes, and kept his attention on the bija mantra, or syllable associated with each chakra as his mind dwelt along his backbone, and his breath came and went strongly, evenly, tranquilly.
After a time, he became enlightened. He found himself sitting under a tree, taking in prana from air, water, and food. He knew why. Then he got up from the tree, and went out on the road to teach people what he had learned.
Saturday, March 27, 2010
It's reached the point where I have to face it. I never go anywhere or do anything, and sometimes I don't even cook for myself. Internet addiction is real, and no fun.
Usually I manage to set aside an hour in the morning for yoga and another in the afternoon to go to the store. That's about it most days.
It wasn't always a bad thing, this surfing-and-posting habit. It got me through a wicked divorce and nasty drug withdrawals, a Desert Hot Springs summer and a Seattle winter. It proved to be the best way for me to self-impose the discipline it takes to spend an hour or two working at writing something every day. It's a relatively benign alternative to wasting hours watching toxicvision. And even though it keeps me in contact with people, it's no substitute for face-to-face interaction.
There are so many good things about spending significant time on the net that I'm not even thinking about giving it up. But I'm now determined to learn how to exert some kind of control over what's become a nervous, reflexive habit. And for someone with an addiction-prone personality, that's difficult-to-impossible, like trying to learn how to "control and enjoy our drinking."
Maybe the thing to do is not have a high-speed connection at home, which would force me to get up and go down to Greenwod if I wanted to get on line. I'd probably drink too much coffee and spend too much time sitting on ergonomically incorrect chairs, but it would be preferable to spending 10 or 12 hours a day hunched over my little writing desk waiting for something new to appear, or checking my bank balance 20 times a day.
I did manage to spend a couple hours soaking up the beautiful language of my 1611-edition King James Bible today (the O.T. Book of Judges), and it was wonderful. So right now I'm going to wrap this up, but some pinto beans and spinach and rice on to cook, and go back to those old Israelites, and how they smote the Canaanites and destroyed their "charets of yron."
Thursday, March 25, 2010
Today's was a short but excellent yoga hour, and it included all three elements -- four if you count savasana (deep rest). Asanas were kind of breezy; pranayama deep, meditation brief but effective.
It was a new start for me (again), three days after that tough fall I took on Monday morning. I have to say, falling down on the sidewalk like that rocked my world. I didn't think it did at the time, and the fact is it could have been a lot, lot worse. No broken bones, injured joints, sprains, etc. Just lost skin and bruises.
It was dark and I tripped. Splat! Down on the sidewalk face first.
There's some indication I'm starting to have some balance issues.
So today I turned over a new leaf and got a new start. I've done this so many times now I've lost count, but the important thing is to just keep on doing it. If you fall, there's nothing to do but get up and get back on the right road.
I always recognize the "right road" when I see it. I don't know where it's going, but maybe we shouldn't think about that.
Just look at those pink little shoats. They always know the right road to be on. I'll bet they're lucky little pigs who live in a pig parlor. Sad to think they'll probably end up as bacon on somebody's plate.
Friday, March 12, 2010
I love to eat my rice and beans in the evening.
Boiled pinto beans, cooked with red or golden bell pepper. Steamed white rice.
I top it with a half handful of grated cheddar cheese, so it's vegetarian but not vegan. Also El Pato salsa de chile fresco (Mexican hot tomato sauce), four teaspoons stirred in at the end.
Some people like lots of garlic in this dish.
Eating like this is a way of telling your body you love and value it. And it will love you back.
Thursday, March 11, 2010
It's a cold, rainy, blustery day here in Seattle, and much more typical of this time of year than what we've been having. You won't catch too many people complaining, however, since we've experienced something of a precipitation shortage during this unusually mild winter, and the combined rainfall and snowpack won't permit City Light's usual sales of excess electricity to California this summer. We really need the rain for a change.
Yoga was home practice again today, from 10 till 11:00. It felt good as it always does, although I found my mind wandering aimlessly during the 40 or so minutes of asana, then managed to establish a disciplined concentration during the period of controlled breathing, only drifting off a couple of times for a few seconds.
Today is the second day of no nicotine; the final seven-milligram patch came off early yesterday morning, and I've been wrestling with my naked nervous system. I'm finding that a combination of first pranayama, followed by a little cannabis settles that down.
The world seems a quiet and muted place during periods of winter weather here. The indoors are very inviting, and once the traveler is nested in a warm spot and armed with hot tea and cookies, it's hard to leave and venture outside.
I ran across an article on AOL about the number of divorces that occur after the man retires and is home all the time, trying to figure out what to do with himself and driving his mate crazy. My life has very little purpose or meaning at the moment, but a new raison d'etre is now beginning to take shape. It involves work, of course, and my advice for anyone contemplating retiring from a job you've grown to hate is to retire from the job, but don't quit working. The "daily grind" is one of the things life is all about, and much as we might tell ourselves a life of idleness is what we want, the actual result of achieving it surprises a lot of people.
Oil painting, "The World's Mine Oyster," by Anna Wakitsch, Santa Fe, NM.