Spent this morning’s therapy session talking about AI. I hadn’t expected that at all, although I do realize how consumed my thoughts have been.
Dr. W. pointed out that although I was saying I was terrified by the technology, the energy I was exuding when talking about it wasn’t fearful at all, but rather stimulated, wide, highly-interested. She’s right. Although I’m concerned, of course, there is also the sense of dipping a toe into an upcoming world I may or may not be alive for. It is the feeling of early virtual reality, and also maybe what’s missing about current virtual reality.
What I’m concerned about with AI (unequal influence, quantum-disinformation, blurred lines between what constitutes ‘workers rights’ and things along those lines) is deeply valid, as are my existential questions from yesterday regarding how I will respond vs. how I think I will respond.
However, there is also the feeling of suddenly having a personal assistant ‘who’ could be good at the things I have needed to be better at, who I can bounce ideas back and forth with, who can search for and find things much faster, freeing my energy for creative thinking. Considering I’ve been an assistant who has done those things for someone however, it also displaces me from the mundane things I can do and am reliably needed for. Notice that here I don’t use the word replace, because the hope is that someone like me, + her own assistant, might simply elevate the work.
On scale, an ethics needs to develop around what is happening. A first court case regarding a graphic novel is happening now or is about to happen, and we may begin to look for clarity about augmentation disclosure, etc. It just seems so strange that we haven’t even started when we’re already woefully behind, but maybe that IS the vibe itself, the actual normal.
I plan to rewatch the film Ex Machina as well as HER. Both great films look at these questions in important and interesting ways, but I watched them as an interesting philosophical ride before. We’re way out beyond hypotheticals territory now.
Optimistically, there is some inkling that those of us who are naturally philosophically inclined and introspective, and maybe especially inclined toward regularly grappling with notions of non-self and questions around so-called free will, will be better situated than most when it comes to yet again reframing and revisiting our lives/worlds/minds as we’ve known them anew.
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.
Sure, here is a possible outline for a non-linear memoir about enlightenment:
Prologue: Set the stage for the memoir by introducing the theme of enlightenment and the journey that you will be recounting.
Chapter 1: Begin with a significant moment or experience that shaped your understanding of enlightenment. This could be a spiritual awakening, a turning point in your journey, or a moment of realization.
Chapter 2: Jump back in time to your earliest memories or experiences that relate to enlightenment. This could include early encounters with spirituality or religion, or moments when you first became interested in enlightenment.
Chapter 3: Return to the present and describe your current understanding of enlightenment and how you have come to this understanding. This could include specific practices or techniques that have helped you along the way, as well as any challenges or setbacks you faced.
Chapter 4: Flash back to a specific moment or experience that had a significant impact on your journey. This could be a moment of great challenge or struggle, or a moment of great breakthrough or realization.
Chapter 5: Return to the present and describe how you have integrated your understanding of enlightenment into your daily life. How has it changed your relationships, your work, or your sense of purpose?
Epilogue: Reflect on the overall journey you have taken, and offer any wisdom or insights you have gained to others who may be seeking enlightenment.
I’ll admit, this one floored me. I hadn’t expected ChatGPT to be able to write a non-linear outline at all, much less immediately.
ReadingGesture of Great Love, the newest book from the Time Space Knowledge series by Tarthang Tulku. Striking quite a different tone from TSK itself (still my favorite), it is immediate and refreshing, appropriately urgent. Yet, there’s a friendliness which pervades the book too, similar to another given to me earlier this year, Radically Happy. Both focus on greeting life with openness and ease day-by-day, and both could be given to a person who isn’t on a Buddhist path necessarily.
I can’t see yet whether the text will sustain this urgent tone, but in an early portion the author zeroes in on that narrow-minded scriptwriter I’ve mentioned before, who in my case had become adept at mimicking my inner guidance system. Here, that scriptwriter is called “the regime.”
I’m fond of sword metaphors and Taoist themes because there is a focus on energy. Things can happen to offset chi, affecting whether a character’s skills remain capable. It could something as subtle as a barely perceptible fragrance that fills the air, or a tune similar to a soothing one. Parsing out said deviations, exposing them, could take countless eons.
So, the book so far suggests parser and loop as entangled, involved in mutually assured entrapment, and knowing this as the way to step out entirely (never any trap nor person to be trapped).
So what about the Bodhisattva ideal Mahayana posits as worthwhile aspiration? “Beings are limitless; I vow to save them all.” This doesn’t mean to save as in a hero-person acting as a savior to “beings”–it rather cracks open that notion, as in the story of Avilokitesvara, who exhausted his capacity to empty the hell realms over and over again, before sprouting eleven heads and a thousand arms.
I like how, in the version of the story below, Amitaba Buddha is a sort of father figure, dusting off their child, giving them new and better armor to better fulfill their longing:
One prominent Buddhist story tells of Avalokiteśvara vowing never to rest until he had freed all sentient beings from saṃsāra. Despite strenuous effort, he realizes that many unhappy beings were yet to be saved. After struggling to comprehend the needs of so many, his head splits into eleven pieces. Amitābha, seeing his plight, gives him eleven heads with which to hear the cries of the suffering. Upon hearing these cries and comprehending them, Avalokiteśvara tries to reach out to all those who needed aid, but found that his two arms shattered into pieces. Once more, Amitābha comes to his aid and invests him with a thousand arms with which to aid the suffering multitudes. [WIKIPEDIA] 
Even so, I’ve long been drawn to the quote “The foolish are trapped by karma; the wise are liberated by it” because of this dynamic…(beings as) bridges opening and closing the gates, even if only to display that there are no gates, no beings to open them for. Time pointing to no time, endlessly. Is this what Dogen calls Ceaseless Practice?
No suffering, no end of suffering…
Human beings become exhausted when they attempt to hold and manage karma, to respond out of ideologies, but the Bodhisattva is (made of) Love. There’s no draining voice in Avilokitesvara’s mind repeating “I’m tired…” There’s nowhere for such a voice to be generated from nor to land.
I’ve long been drawn to the biblical story of Mary and Martha, to contrasting characters’ modes of action. I think of myself as having strong Mary tendencies while admiring Martha-type industriousness from a far, but many who know me in daily life might disagree.
Anyway, these two came to mind because with sudden urgency I went plundering a decade’s worth of emails last night, looking for the Buddhist refuge name I’d shared with just one friend. (I’ve taken on practices more comfortable than any in ages, so it seemed right to search for ‘my name’ as a locator…part of a set of coordinates, if you will.)
I’m turning 52. When I took refuge 12 years ago, my name was written on a small card I promptly lost. The meaning of the name was written on the card as well, but I couldn’t read it and was too shy to ask clarification.
Thankfully, although I couldn’t find it, my friend could. 🙂 It’s a funny name really; it’s visual representation would be something like this:
A note I happened upon when searching, regarded the Mary and Martha story. In it, the same wise friend shared the sensibility that we’re both Mary and Martha at different times in our lives, or, he said, “More accurately, we are always both Mary and Martha.” They may be presented as a contrast, but are not truly in competition.
I didn’t see this simple truth when first given this name, I felt I had to not place much importance on what I thought of as trappings of the journey I was embarking on. I was untrusting of myself, suspicious of falling into similar cult-like ‘obedience and conformity’ behaviors as I’d experienced in churches when young. Praise from elders and connection within groups is a deep longing for those who yearn for family, and the idea of available love can be very seductive. Thankfully, something in me always kept some light of questioning, even back then.
[In a a vivid dream of walking down a busy highway with Jesus, I turned to ‘evangelize’ to a group of ‘unsaved’ people my age, Jesus didn’t. When I noticed and looked back, he was still walking, so I abandoned course and jogged to catch up with him instead. It took me weeks to come to the conclusion that I had to question, even go against, what my church was urging. I’d prided myself then, as many seem to now, on being willing to go so far as to embarrass myself ‘for my faith’. Many can recognize this when they see it from others, especially in political buffoonery, but don’t most religions have some version of killing ego? ]
My rebelliousness, what my ex-husband called my feralness, won out. Perhaps the Lama could see that as the case? I like to think now, that he picked up on an underlying ferocious when he chose the name. 😉
“Emptiness and appearance do not negate each other. Just like a rainbow can appear, but doesn’t have to have truly existing entity. Knowing this true nature of all phenomenon is the darshan of Manjushri.” -Dzongzar Kyentse Rinpoche
I described to my therapist the feeling when, after waiting and waiting, with many buses stopping and going, a bus finally approaches that seems to be your bus. The numbers are fuzzy but there are the right number of digits. Then, those digits slowly take shape; their edges become clearer. It’s within this context that I’m willing and happy to take on more structured practices now. It isn’t performative, and if it’s just for a time again, that’s okay.
Speaking of names (I’ve mentioned this before), I work across the street from the bus stop a boyfriend wrote as the setting in ‘our song’. The lyrics describe our second meeting, two years before we became involved–a very long time when young: “Won’t you be my friend, and tell me, what’s your name? Won’t you be my friend, don’t turn and walk away. Won’t you be my friend, believe me when I say, I have hopes that some day we’ll meet again.”
He was a lovely person, and although the relationship lasted a blink, the bus stop is a daily reminder to me that auspicious timing is worth waiting for, and names can be like signs over the doorposts of life chapters. When I later met my (now ex) husband, I asked him jokingly “Don’t you know who I am?” He startled, believing I might be someone ‘important’, which indeed I became to him.
So many worlds in play, none of them ‘me’, Who May be sitting in a garden somewhere, Under a tree.
Waking while dreaming another family related dream. Why now? This time I was visiting my sister and her husband. I arrived wearing clothing very far from my wheelhouse: white faux fur coat, boots, and perfectly curled high-volume hair. I was greeted very warmly by them… except that everything I touched had to be erased right as I touched it, so that my mother wouldn’t have any idea I’d been there or that they’d treated me nicely. When I mentioned something about this, as my nephew handled something I’d either given him or was mine (not sure), my sister behaved as though it was very offensive to point out the obvious.
I love the way dreams spell out true things, things one knows but isn’t saying. In this case how I was welcomed by my family as long as I played along, as long as I behaved as a polite outsider without stakes in anyone speaking in truthful ways about past, present, or future. It was often the case that I’d let my mother tell blatantly unreal stories that painted herself in a bright motherly light, only saying sometimes to my sister on the side, “It really didn’t happen that way.”
I always knew the price for not doing so. And I guess I always knew there would come a day when I would push back, when the cost for not doing so was too high. This happened when my grandfather died, years after my marriage falling apart, and I considered moving closer to them. I knew we’d either have to forge more honest balances, or that she’d be ‘done with me’ the first time I didn’t play along, which I could only do as a visitor, not as someone living nearby, interacting every day, being interdependent with them.
We know what occurred, which is the ‘done with me’ part, but the part I’m still working through is the role my sister played. I had my sister on a pedestal, I think, as someone who played the needed games better than I did, but who would eventually be my ‘surviving’ family. I saw her as the more resilient one, the more strategic one, but as someone who, having been through so much as a child, realized I was there for ‘all that’ too. I learned through this that she was quite happy to be the only child left standing in our mother’s life. Whether anger toward me was in service of the necessity of rejecting me, or its own thing, I’m not sure.
It’s quite a story really… out of five marriages and five children, the only one left for my mother is my sister, playing these games together, doing what’s needed to get what’s wanted. I can’t articulate the money part; it’s a big, but not the main, factor.
I don’t feel upset by all this on a daily basis now. I have thoughts that pass by and I think something along the lines that it would have been so beautiful to have figured out the balances… to have been valued and loved enough to have included as someone worthy of having their voice and stories heard, their real presence around, etc. I wonder about my niece and nephews, wonder if my sister or mother ever wonder about my kids, who they knew and pretended to love for decades. I wonder if I should feel badly for my kids not having the kind of family around them others have, or whether they are fortunate not to be entangled.
Again, as with my in-laws, I chose reality, and it didn’t go well for me.
But then again, it did. Eggshells are scarce, my health is a lot better, and so many things about who I am being are more okay.
I think the dream is saying that these patterns are still there, although I don’t feel them, and that they are working themselves out on their own. As long as I don’t suppress them, I think they’ll gently move their way through, allowing me to relax even places I don’t experience as tense and knotted. This will further help my health, further allow my energies to flow where they are welcomed and needed.
When these kinds of knots let go, one thing I’ve found happens is that I can see farther into what occurred and/or is occurring. I can see back into choices I made to counter one type of longing with another, one type of belief system or influence with either its opposite or complimentary. I am not a mastermind, as evidenced by the way these schemes didn’t work out ultimately, but when I think about what I was saying to my family by my choices, because I couldn’t be honest with my words, there was a lot of rejection of their ways. I was always finding ways to opt-out of their thinking, without expressly saying so. I was always introducing ‘other’ ways to see and do things. I raised my kids differently, without corporal punishment, etc.
This was actually my way of staying in their lives.
Is this why I was so dressed up? Was that how they saw me, coming in as a fancy outsider? I usually downplayed things so as not to trigger those accusations, back then, but I guess here I am myself, playful and “high volume” whether they give permission or not.
The wonderful thing is that the more these underground tensions release, the wider the sky seems to be, too. These are gentle shifts and explorations, not bothersome. When I woke this morning I said aloud, “Why still these dreams?” It felt like I was bored by them, rather than hurt by them.
I’m just not finding this carousel particularly interesting anymore.
I came to the end today. Two years and eight hundred pages since starting the journal I titled How to be Estranged when reeling from my grandfather’s death and my mother’s overdue abandonment. I love the way I’ve written this, including for the first time photos and more creative writings with the worries of the day, dreams of the night.
My first entry was a dream:
Covid. July. 2020.
A small, quite ridiculous creature appears uninvited; there is no door. It has a large mouth which, as one looks, gets bigger and bigger, revealing more and more sharp menacing teeth. Its already small eyes are quickly hidden. Lurching out from beside, clasping its own mouth over the creature’s, my even smaller, yet fiercely loyal protector, breaks the spell.
The dangers of our times are absurd. Could the antidotes be simple?
A wee-small-hours of the morning dream stayed with me throughout the day, which is unusual on a work day, when I generally shift into such an entirely different gear so as to forget almost everything else. Often before work I sit in my car for a small meditation, hold an intention to bring that energy into rest of my time, only to blink and be right back in my car, several hours having passed in a blur. So I’m not sure why this dream is so potent, but it may be its great vibe… a weirdly optimistic Bladerunner aesthetic.
There were street markets and hidden gathering places. People were generally poor, but a sense of community was present, and life didn’t feel unsafe outside of a vague sense of surveillance far away. It felt like some idealistic vision had been realized, an alternate timeline that was missing greed, somehow. No one was showing off for one another at all.
What I remember most strongly, and what kept coming up all day, was the sensation of flying in a car driven by a friend, and the seamless transition between driving on a road into flying. Who this friend was keeps changing in my recollection, but the way she told me we were only able to get away with flying the car at the height we were flying, as the way to access places we were going, remains vivid. I looked up when she said this, to see another layer of the daytime sky I hadn’t been aware of before, and a globe-shaped vehicle traveling through that space.
As I mused with the dream earlier I realized, “Ah, we were flying under the radar!” And I thought of Bob Dylan’s line “To live above the law you must be honest.” Interesting associations, but there may be more to consider.
After all, here I am, writing about it now, shaking it for further treasure.
“All feelings are positive”, says Jenny Lim, yet so often, by the time I even consider inquiry, fears and discomforts have whirled by feverishly, leaving a mess to attend to in their wake. The window in which to sort through what was felt in any systematic way has already closed, rendering such guidance quaint.
I did okay with it today.
I left work deflated, having been busy from start to finish, wrapping up a series of designs in what I felt was the most efficient way–only to be (albeit lightly) scolded just before leaving, for taking too long. It had suddenly gotten busy just as I’d gone off floor to wrap details. Still, I knew I’d balanced my time well, and that the other person was operating from a blind spot. If anything, they’d spent twice the time with their clients I had with mine, after having come in hours later.
Mind you, I have a lot of respect for this other designer, and know the nature of things when there aren’t enough people to manage a rush. Everyone is handling more than they can, so it’s hard not to think the next guy isn’t doing their part. I’ve definitely fallen into that pattern myself. Still, rather than feeling put upon, it would have been better to ask more detail about what I was working on. I’m fairly confident they would have comprehended the deadline more clearly, but even If not, I wouldn’t have felt quite so shot down in a flash at the end of an exhausting day.
Granted, there was a time I would have cried, and I didn’t, though I am tearing up a little while writing here. That’s progress. And maybe therapy is finally clicking, because a few hours after arriving home, after tea, I was calm enough to ask a few probing questions.
What emotion were you actually feeling? Disappointment. Looked over. Unsure whether it is worth trying to be heard. Why even try? Sadness (I tried my best and still didn’t meet expectations) Pride. **Don’t you know who I am?
This last one is funny, I guess. It’s the gist I boiled down from a longer rant about being taken for someone only capable of, or not even capable of, such a job. I realized how much I wish to be seen in a totality rather than as a body performing tasks. When I feel reduced in such a moment, especially by someone I’ve worked with a while, I’m especially sensitive and prone to catastrophizing.
If everything isn’t perfect, I jump to, “Oh no, I have to leave!”
Why is the discomfort so strong (disproportionate)? Fear. I fear this isn’t the right place for me. Simultaneously, I fear that this IS the right place for me, and I’ll leave prematurely just before things get better. It’s always so close to ‘getting it (life) right’.
There’s more, but you get the idea.
Hidden in the bundle also arose spiritual perfectionism. Looking at the attachment I feel to my role, not just as a ‘good designer’, I see myself taking being an excellent worker and colleague to be a fractal of mattering to/in the world on the whole. I get through my day by seeing what I’m doing as more than what it seems to be a lot of the time.
Perhaps I’m not holding my roles very lightly. “For Hongzhi the whole purpose of practice is to “graciously share yourself with the hundred grass tips [i.e., myriad beings] in the busy marketplace.””
-from “Cultivating the Empty Field: The Silent Illumination of Zen Master Hongzhi” by Taigen Dan Leighton, Yi Wu
“Looking back, I guess I used to play-act all the time. For one thing, it meant I could live in a more interesting world than the one around me.”
From Tuesday afternoon until Friday night, I slept, then Friday night through Sunday, attended an online (Dzogchen) retreat. Today, Monday, I’ve spent restless, neither sleeping nor awake, neither up nor down, watching snippets of things on my computer, half interested. I should be studying Spanish, but feel blurry-minded.
[ Entry: The week of our Covid-19, 2022. ]
Honestly, I’m already looking back on the retreat time, acknowledging the opportunity with a sense of importance and awe, although certainly, I wasn’t able to live up to what I’d envisioned my part of things to be: meditating in between sessions, taking contemplative walks. Quite ill, I had to make an on-the-spot exception, choosing to believe that given my situation, the teachers would have permitted my dizzy slouchy attendance.
At some point one of the Rinpoches did ask those in attendance not to take formalities lightly, not to lean back lazily listening. I was laying on my side as he said this, contemplating the ethics of recording the teachings, my eyes struggling to stay open, stomach cramping. They couldn’t see me, but in that moment I thought, even if they can, let’s just be really real. As my therapist says, life is “Come as you are.”
There’s a discussion to be had about accessibility, but this is a good example of why practitioners are encouraged to meet with teachers individually, address particularities and receive permissions in line with unique aptitudes and situations [a la skillful means].
In any event, I’m glad I made the call to attend; drowsiness and all, it was truly wonderful, and interestingly, my condition may have rendered me more receptive than otherwise. No temptation to multitask nor worry about what needed to be done in the apartment (there was plenty), I lapsed from time to time into vivid little dreams animating what was being transmitted, letting the boundaries blur until ‘I’ was neither here nor there.
It was especially interesting to lose myself into dynamics of translation, where it was sometimes impossible to see where translator left off and teacher began. The process was just so easy and wide open, not like work being done. I’ve experienced this a rare few times… ‘no doubt’ within some relationship dynamic; it can be close to the experience of creative flows one can’t consciously recognize until looking back, like “Man, where was I!?”
It was a loving retreat, focused precisely where my last blog post left off: timelessly luminous nature of mind.
After we closed, I fell asleep listening to a beautiful White Tara Lunar yoga nidra ritual through Tibet House US, feeling cradled and soft. Tara has been active in my awareness persistently for a few weeks now, as Green Tara in a sadhana shared by a friend where I also learned the Condensed Praises; as a friend at work by the same name who has been helping bring more awareness to the way I treat my body with food; to this practice; to happening upon another Lama suggesting Tara practices when praying for Ukraine, earlier in the day. Ah, and actually a few weeks ago I went into Second Life, showing the Green Tara Temple to another friend, and meditated there.
It’s funny to me that my friend Tara is not only not Buddhist, but doesn’t seem to have even referential knowledge of Buddha Tara. It reminds me how disparate our worlds can be, even as people who occupy the same city, job, age group, etc. I made a little comment once, that she was a buddha for me (I’ve learned a lot from her at work as well), and her face hardened a bit, not complimented, so I’ve never brought it up again, although we did have a nice conversation about faith in general.
I think she considers my Buddhism to be ‘belief’ in Buddha the way many Christians would say they ‘believe’ in Jesus. And that’s fine with me, for her to think that. Who am I to say it isn’t, anyway.