I continue to be captivated by ChatGPT’s capabilities, admittedly with trepidation over the many existential questions it poses. As someone who loves books and reading, and who earnestly believes that to read someone’s writing is to get to know them as a person in an intimate way, will I be able to tell if there is a person behind something I engage with?
Right now, yes, I think I can tell for the most part. There is some kind of synchronistic complexity I experience myself as tapping into when engaging with someone, an opening of worlds between us. But am I kidding myself? How long will I be able to do that? To what extent do I want myself to become an enhanced person? SO much to ask.
Below is ChatGPT’s latest response to my giving just a few requests, as I continue to go down the list of ‘things I’ve meant to write about’. It becomes something different along the way, certainly, but that might not be a bad thing.
The young girl walked through the streets of Kyoto, mesmerized by the vibrant autumn leaves that carpeted the ground. As she wandered through the city, she stumbled upon a hidden path that led her to an ancient temple nestled in a moss garden. The garden was a sea of green, with verdant moss covering the ground and trees, giving the impression of an enchanted forest. The girl marveled at the sight, feeling as though she had stepped into a fairy tale. The temple itself was a work of art, with its ornately carved doors and shimmering golden roofs. The walls were adorned with intricate frescoes and murals, depicting scenes from ancient legends and mythologies. The girl tentatively stepped inside, feeling a sense of awe and reverence wash over her. The interior was equally breathtaking, with its polished stone floors and delicate paper lanterns. The air was filled with the sound of chanting and the soft glow of candlelight. The girl sat down on a cushion, closed her eyes, and let the peaceful atmosphere wash over her. As she left the temple, the girl couldn’t help but feel a sense of enlightenment and inner peace.
Wonderful practice session this morning, still ongoing really, since I come to write just after meditating. The rhythms and music and feeling of the practice were guiding, leading into a sense of reaching deeply into light… light in the sense of lightness rather than brightness. The subtlety and beauty of this place, indeed the place itself, almost imperceptible, yet very much ‘there’ too, seemed a place wherein friends and I could simply experience no-being-ness together. Blissful.
Considering refuge tree practice, I wonder whether visualizations may have arisen as devotees sat beneath trees, finding shade–refuging–from harsh sunshine. The heat is incredible here, Miami in August, so the way this makes sense is quite tangible, and helps me to really experience the trunk and branches of the practice, where the bodhisattvas and arhats may be situated, where “I” am. “Bodhi” dimension. Yesterday in therapy we talked about boundaries and tears, and the way that when readying for retreat, boundaries are thinner, dreaming more constant and vivid, tears more near at hand.
One day last week, I made a mistake in sharing too much about my background with a new manager, which may have happened because I was caught up into her energy, perhaps related to this ‘thinness’ phenomena. I can find myself almost drunk with an openness that seems like freedom at the time, but in retrospect I find embarrassing and may well be inappropriate. She and I do not know one another yet. I just knew she had experienced a lack of support in early life, emancipating from her parents at a young age, yet had managed to pursue her education. Impressive. I took this fact as immediate kinship, so flung open the gates.
I texted later and apologized for oversharing, asked her to keep what I’d blurted out between us. She said she would, so that’s where we are. If I’d done something like this years ago, I probably would have contrived a reason to leave my job, feeling too exposed, but perhaps due to therapy–having that place to hear and be heard–the stream kept flowing.
Various components of the absurd are discussed in the academic literature and different theorists frequently concentrate their definition and research on different components. On the practical level, the conflict underlying the absurd is characterized by the individual’s struggle to find meaning in a meaningless world. The theoretical component, on the other hand, emphasizes more the epistemic inability of reason to penetrate and understand reality. Traditionally, the conflict is characterized as a collision between an internal component, belonging to human nature, and an external component, belonging to the nature of the world. However, some later theorists have suggested that both components may be internal: the capacity to see through the arbitrariness of any ultimate purpose, on the one hand, and the incapacity to stop caring about such purposes, on the other hand. Certain accounts also involve a metacognitive component by holding that an awareness of the conflict is necessary for the absurd to arise. [Wikipedia]
Absurdist is the way I’ve been describing myself these days, because when pressed to give an answer for anything, especially anything that could be called a belief, that answer usually has a lot of space around it, and a dozen or more qualifiers. I’m way more full of possibilities for what could be wrong in what I’m saying or ways I might fail to be right–way more loopholes than formulas.
Since everything is but an illusion, Perfect in being what it is, Having nothing to do with good or bad, Acceptance or rejection, One might as well burst out laughing! -Longchenpa
For instance it is often tricky to talk about my spirituality with anyone not so inclined, because well, I’m rather devout, while not having beliefs per se, while also totally and entirely buying in! Do I believe in deities? Well no, except yes absolutely, just not as separate beings; I don’t believe in beings at all for that matter, and am entirely committed to them. There’s just so much like this, and I’m so aware of what it must sound like and seem, which means there’s almost always an irreverent mischief beneath the surface.
W.H. Auden captured so much when he wrote “We are here on earth to help others; what on earth the others are here for, I don’t know.”
Checking in here after nearly a month, coming around to a more settled rhythm. My sense is that of rich undergrowth having spread more fully between insights and events, highlighted by sunbeams innocently playing their way through domes above. I finally stopped to look around, finally noticed, after happening upon a protective cool spot in the middle of a scorching day.
Inner, outer: who can tell? And who wants to?
It’s a wonderful thing to let oneself be a little lost, leaning into phenomena as though adventuring with a wise and rugged friend. Deep listening is available, loosened grip, easing the industriousness of the last few months, so as to accept an invitation to quite intentional appreciation. The richness of What Is.
The pull is close to that of aimless wandering practice, which I first engaged in at what used to be, and I guess still is, Windhorse Farm. Was that back in 2012 or so? It always strikes me as especially delightful when the practice finds and captures my attention, even here in the city, with the same persuasiveness once experienced in that lush old-growth forest.
Beautifully, that land has fairly recently been returned to the Mi’kmaq. The following letter is from the website linked to above:
Sadness for the hundreds of years of colonization of these bountiful and beautiful lands and people. Joyful that the Land is returning, through gift and sale, to the loving hands and hearts of tthe Mi’kmaq through Ulnooweg Education Centre, an Indigenous Charity.
The Wentzell and the Drescher Families have lived here for 180 years caring for and protecting this place, in reciprocity with all the other beings who live here. In effect, we have been mere placeholders waiting for this auspicious “land-back” event to occur.
We are in deep appreciation to all of you who have come to play, work, live, learn and heal here at Windhorse for 31 years during our “watch”. You and the Forest Families have offered warmth, moisture and nourishment to the legacy.
Now it will return to those who have been here for 15,000 years – to the loving care of the First People, as a place of healing, education and ceremony – to those who have known and respected the sacredness and healing medicine of the Land.
These First People are teaching us all the power of, and need for, living in reciprocity with all beings – the leadership necessary to carry us all through these uncertain times.
A cause for celebration and gratitude.
Looking forward for seven generations, may all beings, seen and unseen, benefit.
Love, The Drescher Family Located in Mi’kma’ki, the unceded and unsurrendered territory of the Mi’kmaq on Atuomkuk Wentzell’s Lake and Pijnuiskaq LaHave River
I’ve been rather (overly?) ‘thought’ful in my writing here of late. So much has been on my mind that I’m not sure whether or how to talk about, and until I am sure, I’ve decided to try to work it out in other ways.
Retail work has been the most surprising of those ways… getting on a train I don’t step off of for hours, setting aside worries and all other options/choices. Goodbye, scrolling Twitter until I think, “What time is it?”, Goodbye, “looking for something to watch on TV.” After having a flexible schedule for many years, this structure feels incredibly freeing to me, comforting in the way I imagine weighted blankets are comforting to people who liked to be tucked in at night as children (not me – I always needed a leg or at least foot outside of my blanket).
Choiceless, in a good way.
I’m fairly suited to the kind of work I’m doing, thankfully, at least in most ways, on most days. I can get the sort of ‘hit’ of feelings of youth that I imagine some people get from watching a sport they played in high school.
With this one decision (and the company’s decision to hire me), I solved at least three big puzzles that were fast becoming problems prior: weight gain (I’ve lost 8 lbs. so far and hit my 10,000 steps mark almost every day); eye-to-eye starvation (Most of my daily conversations had become typed or mitigated by social media, which is way too comfortable a zone for me, not being especially verbal); and, putting my ethics into practice.
That last one is hugely important, so let me elaborate…
In the Taoist ox-herding tale, there is seeking and striving up the mountain, and a time of retreat that can look like one has finally arrived. My spiritual life–alongside, but sometimes consuming, the rest–has been a mix of those modes: lots of (almost constant) study, retreat, giving up whatever seemed in the way of devotion–‘working’ to trust the flow and truth of insight and intuition. To that end, unimaginally wonderful friends and teachers have appeared all over the mountain as I’ve wandered … people deeper and happier than any I’d before encountered, sharing similar longings and a language of play-beyond-words… celebrating the enoughness of ‘what is’.
Finding these places, these people, has often felt like validation of my deepest needs and calling, and of course, one would want to stay… would want to do whatever it took to stay, including bring others along. On the mountain I learned of a million bright and open eyes, countless ways of seeing and being seen, and how to find thin places where distance, manipulations and lies, have no meaning at all, present no barrier (“How can a mantis block the road?”).
Yes, like visiting Heaven, or, more comfortable imagery for me: a land of Buddha fields.
As I traveled though, I always suspected there might come a time when my go-to’s would no longer work… when I wouldn’t be able to retreat and study myself into a blissful mind palace state of grace over and over again. Truth be told, as much as I have loved and desired that, I have also wanted to be drawn from… to serve… to pour myself out completely so that I could really rest, “one day.”
And lately, I simply show up to meet the moment. I don’t control where I am or who I encounter, for hours of most days, and often can’t fully classify a good day from a bad. I am ‘snapped out’ of my story-telling and ruminating, over and over again until that movement works its way into my body, giving my mind to whatever the apparent situation may draw out. It isn’t exactly that I’ve come down from the mountain nor left the quest behind, but that all those books and sutras and sessions and endless audios have become a kind of inward architecture… more perhaps, Rumi’s Guest House.
“Be grateful for whoever comes, because each has been sent as a guide from beyond.”
(Coleman Barks translation)
There may be a shift here, from reading to being read, which I like to think may be a true culmination of practice, moving into living lucidly, spontaneously as true default… inhabiting a certain quality of mind. I’m still a little concerned I’ve managed to find just a new way of avoidance, but it seems to be where/how the aliveness has moved, sweeping me into a new phase of exploration.
I even feel some of that here, coming back to my fingers. Dare I hope?
And dare I hope that just situating myself where Life seems to want me, might also matter to ‘the world’ – a ‘coming back’ gesture of belief in Basic Goodness… a better collaboration?
So, I’ve been doing shadow work–contemplative work which includes intentionally going into the emotional places I’d rather (and usually do) avoid, and searching around in there to see, “What still hurts?”
Basically, it’s a check up.
In the same way, I have a shoulder issue which bothers me occasionally, but only when and if I’m doing certain things. I can go a long time without thinking about it, but when I see my doctor, we move the shoulder this way and that to find out whether improvement has taken place.
It simply isn’t useful to check it all the time, because part of healing includes not aggravating the injury. Obsessing would in fact be a sign that it is in need of something further in the way of intervention.
Same with the emotional body. If you neglect these appointments, you can have flare ups of what some have deemed “the pain body”, who will emerge from a blind spot and wreak havoc in your life!
The feedback I’ve received during the tests and prodding included in this emotional check-up has been mixed. On the one hand, general inflammation is nowhere near as debilitating as it has been at various points in life, and specific discomfort areas have proven manageable enough to ‘get on with the show’ so to speak.
Yet, there is still deep pain in some areas, things that need addressing, people who present as enemies or obstacles to happiness in one way or another. There are memories that still hold the patterns and frequencies of fear.
I’m fortunate to be able to schedule this work… to have learned how to mostly do that, and now, I need to map out and schedule the follow-up treatments, which include spending direct time with those people and memories. Most can be addressed out of my home first-aid kit, with technologies like EFT Tapping, what I’m calling prayer, lots of walking, and nature bathing… tangibly moving through.
At a deeper level, all can be addressed by tapping into a sense of timelessness. Meditation is the only way I know of there, or some ‘flash moments’ of writing and/or painting.
But the timelessness I mean is different than one might suppose – timelessness that would allow one to relinquish their need for validation or justice or understanding, or even improvement at all. Rather, the timelessness I’m turning to is active, fulfilling, not invalidating any need, including for justice, as less important than ‘cosmic viewpoint’ or some such.
This timelessness is compassion, is the nectar of Bodhicitta, the promise of transforming experience of life in ways beyond even cosmic fathoming.
I feel I’ve been prescribed a deep-dive exploration, and surprisingly, it isn’t one that requires getting rid of so-called baggage to undertake.
Why Citipati, above? I’m not sure. Somehow I have the sense that these graveyard dwelling wrathful deities can impart some key. They seem to be the guardians of this first leg of the journey…
I watched the documentary Mr. Gaga today. At first, I watched with the sound off and subtitles on, while listening to a podcast. This is an objectively terrible habit I’ve gotten into, of taking multitasking to absurd and undermining ends, but I thought the film might be atmospheric and give an experimental air to the room.
Wonderfully, however, it was the sort of documentary which won’t stand for that treatment, which makes one want to engage with what is happening on screen, inside of the other lives, as though one’s own. And I did!
Eventually I stood up and shook my body convulsively, turned my limbs in odd directions this way and that. It felt great, though I stopped short of practicing the fascinating falls (you’ll have to see the documentary)!
I didn’t know much about Gaga as a dance style, or as a language, as the film suggests. Until taken by friends to see the last Pina Bausch choreographed show Vollmond, I’m embarrassed to say that I knew little of the modern dance world beyond outside of parodies, which always gave the impression of a frivolous world of privilege far far away from my own.
Like many little girls, I had desperately wanted to be a ballerina when young, but it was because I was drawn to the beauty of the sets and movements, the hypnotizing and grand lyricism of it all. In fact, when I was about 13, I followed behind a girl at my church, learning to walk and hold my posture just like hers, pretending that I was also a dancer… a form which stuck and I still haven’t quite broken. I even learned to swing my ponytail like hers, while appearing to hold my head perfectly still.
So I remember feeling confused and overwhelmed after the Pina show, as though my mind had been curled and pushed backwards and all my linear lines of thought thwarted so much that they just wouldn’t work anymore.
Walking out, my sophisticated friends long immersed in the Art World asked what I thought, and I remember trying to compose a sentence or two that might give the impression I understood “the story” at all. I couldn’t. Looking for the story was the story, which was a koan to me.
And because it was a koan to me, for months afterward I felt and dreamed the splashing waters and the whooshing in everything, feeling the force Pina was trying to show, of destruction and resilience, embodying rather than ‘thinking’ about it directly.
This is my sense of things right now… an urgency that has me trying everything under the sun to get out of my head and onto the page, the stage, the whatever-it-takes. I feel like I’m trying to break into my own life, defying convention and my own accepted wisdom to do so.
The Play-as-Being book group is finishing up its reading of 21 Lessons for the 21st Century today. It’s been an interesting ride, but as I write this, I have the feeling that the book is already outdated. Which is scary, because I don’t think enough people are thinking yet about the range of questions he brings to the fore. The only thing I feel sure of (inasmuch as I feel sure of anything), is that he ends the book in the right place, with what individuals can do.
I’m a big big fan of the ‘free will or no free will’ question and discussions that come up around that question within both science and contemplative circles. Free Will belongs to a self that doesn’t exist in the ways our systems tend to program toward, so Harari’s angle is a technological one, drawing attention to the role algorithms have in our lives already, then imagining the directions they are heading in. Importantly noting that they are not heading in these directions on their own, but at the direction of ever more consolidated powers.
He touches on but doesn’t fully address (how could anyone?!) the role of the unexpected in all this. Would any of us have imagined the scenarios we’re in right now, a decade ago? At any second, massive changes can and will occur.
So what CAN individuals do?Harari says, “Get to know yourself as well as ‘they’ do.”
You can tell by my posts perhaps, that this is what I’m working on: meditating more, leaning on and relearning what ‘intuition’ is in light of changes in complexity as a person, but also as a person within a family and friend network, as a member of larger society in my country, and within the world/cosmos.
I don’t have the capacity to mentally encompass all that! Indeed any of those categories when combined with any of the others can shut down my feeling of ‘free will’ about anything and be quite paralyzing! “No wonder that Hindus and Buddhists have focused much of their effort on trying to get out of or off of this wheel (entirely)” says Harari, of fathoming the myriad posited schemes of meaning.
My question is then, how to take it all lightly and keep perspective, while not distracting nor entertaining myself away from the questions or buying into one scheme or another. The PaB group I mentioned above is the closest thing to a community that can embrace so many contradictions that I’ve ever come near, yet Life seems to be kicking me out of that nest too.
It began to dawn on me late last year, that I had changed ‘spiritually’ again – that in the way one’s palate develops with age, I had begun to crave new flavors of life, or more sophisticated blends of the flavors I’d been drawn to before.
As with food, this often means working with contradictory ingredients to discover the new. An intuitive chef begins to know how ingredients are brought forth or subdued by context, and is able to flow with that knowledge to great effect!
That’s the upside. The downside is that it can be super confusing too, and one can make ruinous mistakes. When holding tightly to what one has already learned about what the ingredients mean and are supposed to do, it is hard to be experimental without feeling wasteful.
—– Once, someone threw a surprise party for me. They brought together people from my family, my hometown, then church and work place, to celebrate my, if I remember right, 24th year of life. It is hard to remember right, because I spent the entire evening in a haze, completely overwhelmed by disharmony reflected back at me, suddenly aware of the many selves I’d constructed and the many walled off lives I’d been leading.
Each person seemed to see a different me, and I wanted not to disappoint any of them! Afterward, I actually felt angry at the person who had gone to all the trouble. COULDN’T THEY SEE it would be a disaster? DIDN’T THEY KNOW me at all? Ever since then, I’ve been working on integration.
The truth is, it probably wasn’t a disaster. That sense of things was probably me amplifying every small confusion, which made it seem so. I just didn’t know how to facilitate the connections, or work with the chemistry of the situation to draw out the complimentary and complex flavors. Not in them, and certainly not in myself.
And, far too aware since childhood of undercurrents, I gave the many questions I sensed others asking, too great a spotlight, feeling responsible to answer each one fully in some way.
No wonder I burnt out.
There is a lot to see here, my experience as microcosm, about the dramatic change and sometimes really ugly process that our fragmented society is going through now. Social media (for one) has thrown everything in a big pile for us to sort out, revealing more than we ever wanted to know.
Now our personas beg to be opened up into more dimensions.
The hardest part so far? For me it has been accepting that my idols are imperfect (some are even sex offending monsters(!), and that emperors are not always duped. Some are actually proud of having no clothes, and delighted to have so much power they can make humiliated others join their farce.
Some idolize a more compartmentalized time when much more was hidden and controlled, but we can’t go backwards. There are also LOTS of reasons we should not want to.
In some ways I have to recognize fragments of myself out there, reflections of my own valuing and idolizing without question, and not wanting to know more. And I have to wish for their personas to be shattered to themselves as well, so the patterns don’t perpetuate indefinitely. [“me too”]
I think we have to find some way to recognize the expressions brought forth, without disconnecting from the reality that humanity is hecka-flawed. We have to appreciate what “sparks joy”, and keep a place for it, while exposing the rest. The time between exposure and letting go will be longer than sorting our sock drawers. It is a grief process.
Perhaps there is a next level to things where both the dark and light are held openly with ruthless compassion, rather than pretend forgiveness based on hierarchies (who has the power). If so, I wonder how long it will take us to get there.