Last summer I upped the Buddhist ante a notch, joining an actual meditation group ( a Sangha). Tomorrow at the sangha we are doing what’s called “checking in”, which means we should make a little report of our at-home meditation progress. By doing this we hope to learn from each other and support each other’s continuing efforts.
I will confesss to the group my non-orthodox ways. Good thing that Buddhism is (mostly) non-dogmatic. They’re all like “If your non-orthodox technique addresses the 4 noble truths, go for it.” My main rebellious act is that I blow off a lot of the counting breaths method. I’m often going free form, just letting go of all thoughts which arise (harder than it sounds), yet being aware of how I feel, being alert to the surroundings, yet having absolutely no idea, opinion, or emotion arise from this alertness. To separate the “me” from the brain that the “me” sits in, I imagine a giant robot with a tiny man sitting in his chest. The robot is my mind and the little man is me. Just this week I even started thinking of my brain as a little pet, often a squeaking guinea pig, amiable and inquisitive. Visualizing it as a pet, I can firmly locate myself at a distance from the mind/pet. Every time distracting thoughts arise I realize I have slipped back inside of the guinea pig / giant robot suit and I visualize myself climbing out again.
I first took up meditation in 1993 as a tool to help me study Organic Chemistry faster. Back in those days my chemistry textbook info wasn’t cramming into my head as efficiently as I wanted it to so I bought a book that helped me quiet my mind and study better, called “Dancing With Your Books” .
Sorry: I'm having a hard time staying away from the archives of Bag News Notes. This photo from last year's Hurricane Katrina seems to show a President arriving at the debacle a day late and a dollar short.
Bag News blog, as usual, ponders the nonverbal information conveyed by the Bush-in-a-plane image:
I guess it would be too easy to say it's literally a guy in the dark. What is unique about this shot is that it's the only one that manages to depict Bush and New Orleans at the same time. Because we can see that he sees it, this photo (more than the others) serves as a visual indictment of Bush's absence from a situation he is clearly responsible for...
The Prez has his paramilitary Geo. Bush bomber jacket on. Bag News notes:
As a man of gesture -- in lieu of the real thing -- the jacket is meant to remind that he's somehow in charge. Unfortunately...nobody notices the jacket -- which suggests that the only person assuaged by the attire is probably Bush himself
Three years I lived there in Asia and it takes a friend here in New York to explain to me that the Taiwan delicacy known as chicken-butt is not actually a skewer full of bird anuses but, rather, the fatty flesh at the base of the chicken's vestigial tail. "In Hungary we call it the King's Custard. It's delicious."
I think I am pretty early in spotting this youth fashion trend: boys putting pushpins in the heel of their sneakers. Shown here, a boy on the 5 Train in the Bronx wearing one pushpin blue and one white. I wonder if they glue them in.
Deconstructing the image of a very J.Crew-looking Administration over at Bag News Notes: "Condi plays the spoiled 'it girl,' and George gets turned on by it. (Has) Condi arrived to give George a break from Rummy?"
The mere act of standing in line at the post office had a very calming effect on me this morning. For most of my life the post office was just a bland trial of patience but things are different in my life this year so today, I luxuriated in the mundaneity of the USPO queue. I marveled at its rationality as compared to, say, my love life.
In love I get completely unexpected outcomes I didn’t ask for. Things either turn out really, really well or really, really sucky. Either way the intensity of the surprise is shocking. Just imagine, if the post office were like my love life, the clerk would respond to my request for commemorative stamps by instead handing over a stack of 100 dollar bills. Or keys to a new car. Or, again, thinking of how love works, the clerk, instead of offering some stamps could instead throw a bucket of cold water and fish heads in my face. Or just laugh at me.
I mean, think how totally awesome it is that you don’t stand in line for a stamp and then learn you are instead getting a free car with A/c. Nor do you stand in line for a stamp but then get taken to a back room where you are beaten with bags of nickels and left shivering in ankle deep water.
A trip to the post office gave me a much-appreciated reminder about how regular life works. Ninety percent of the time in regular life, when you ask for something you receive something approximating that thing you asked for. Nothing weird happens when it’s your turn. The Post Office is comforting because it is reliable, mundane, and safe. There’s a place for that in life.
If you go to the Amazon customer reviews of Aqualung by Jethro Tull, there's a great description of a back in the day classic rock concert: I had the great good fortune of seeing Jethro Tull live when they were
doing the original Aqualung tour - they were hardly known at the time -
and as great as the album is, their performance was even more
electrifying. It was at Madison Square Garden and I was up front, a few
feet from the performers. As the show started the house lights went
down and the stage went black. Silence. Long pause. Then, hobbling out
of the blackness a single spotlight caught Anderson dressed
extravagantly like the old man on the album cover, bent over and
leaning on his flute, which he used as a cane. Leering maliciously,
slowly creeping up front, he finally stopped, silently grinning out at
the house as the audience howled with delight. Then he threw his flute
straight up, high, and the spotlight went up with the flute, shining
and sparkling as it twisted its way up and then down, the only thing
visible in the darkness. When the flute came back down it was met by
Anderson's upraised hand, and at the instant he clutched it all the
stage lights came up and the band struck the thunderous opening notes
of the album. And it got better and better and better as the show went
on, Anderson leaping and snarling and playing flute at the same time, a
truly athletic performance.