Sunday, February 29
Yesterday morning, after toiletting, I returned to bed for an hour which included 2 full sweeps: from the head down, then from the toes up.
Today... it seems that all that's really necessary is to get the metta flowing toward everyone, unimpeded. Once the flow starts, the technique can be dropped and one can just bask in the warm heart glow. One abides pervading all four quarters with a heart imbued with loving-kindnesss.
In yesterday's mail, my registration for the BCBS Bhavana Program, The Noble Path of the Householder, was confirmed, and my bus ticket arrived recently. So we're good to go in just 2 weeks from today.
Recent contemplation of what I've been writing, the reconstruction & expansion of Acting Crazy to Stay Sane indicates that a theme needing to be brought out is that of ownership of kamma. Instead of presenting me/Nick as hapless and helpless victim, emphasize the way my choices and behaviors brought about certain results, pleasant and unpleasant.
Thursday, February 26
Not sure how long today's sitting lasted. Deep quiet & peace, all metta, very good samadhi, piti & sukha.
Wednesday, February 25
~1hr, mostly metta, some karuna. OK samadhi. Calio curled up on the quilt between my feet.
We adopted a cat yesterday! Gini's been wanting to get another cat for months. When our last kitty, Sammy, died a couple of years ago, it really tore me up, and I've been reluctant to enter into that kind of relationship again. But on Monday I said to Gini, you know, my birthday's on Friday, let's get a kitty for my birthday! So on Monday we made a little trip to the Saratoga Animal Shelter... and the experience really hurt my heart. I wanted to save them all. Undaunted, Gini went online that night, to a website called petfinder.com and started "shopping," looking at photos from local shelters. She found one who looked just like what she thought she wanted: a big orange neutered guy named Russ. So we went up to the Adirondack Save-A-Stray, and entered their room of 50-60 cats. Russ turned out to be bad-tempered, but we persisted in looking around with an open mind. My test was to sit in a chair and see how they were on my lap. We met a gorgeous 4 year-old calico named Calio... and took her home that evening. :-) We went to PetsMart to buy supplies, and New Parent Syndrome got the better of us: Calio's *very* well-provided for. She's a very calm, mellow kitty who purrs a lot and thrives on stroking, petting, love & affection. She's still getting acclimated to the new environment, but last night she spent a great deal of time in Gini's bedroom, getting lots of attention.
It's been amazing how good this was for Gini. As soon as I said, "Let's get a cat for my birthday," she came to life; she's had more energy and been more active. Amazing what love can do.
Monday, February 23
Really Good Metta
1+ hr. of really good metta, with good samadhi. Piti in waves, one very strong.
Sunday, February 22
Prunes & Misers
In A Room of One's Own, Virginia Woolf describes a dinner including this dizzying contemplation of prunes:
"There was no reason to complain of human nature's daily food, seeing that the supply was sufficient and coal-miners doubtless were sitting down to less. Prunes and custard followed. And if anyone complains that prunes, even when mitigated by custard, are an uncharitable vegetable (fruit they are not), stringy as a miser's heart and exuding a fluid such as might run in misers' veins who have denied themselves wine and warmth for eighty years and yet not given to the poor, he should reflect that there are people whose charity embraces even the prune."
Her prose teems with such delights as this!
Another Part of the Pain Body Is Heard From
Little or no meditation is occuring this morning, nor is any likely to occur, as traumatic memories well up and burst like bubbles in a toxic sludge pond. So I blog instead, with as much mindfulness as I can muster & maintain.
Bitter resentment about the period from age 17 to 22, or thereabouts. Sickening outrage at the repeated incorrect diagnoses and consequent inappropriate treatment. Trying to weakly counter this bilious cud-chewing with thoughts like, "Well, they were trying to help..." dispels it only a little.
[The worst of this stuff happened at the Institute of Living in Hartford, CT, but to a lesser degree in other hospitals as well.]
Forced confinement. Locked unit. Trapped. Forced loss of privacy -- months of being on one-to-one, suicide precautions, even at times when I wasn't suicidal. Constant put-downs, derision, condescension; from doctors, staff, other patients. Being tied to a bed; "four-point restraints." Being forced to take medication that was not only not helpful -- because they were trying to treat the wrong disorder! -- but produced brutally painful side-effects, like the Parkinsonian tremors. So painful & exhausting, I couldn't sleep because of all the shaking and twitching, and Dr. Cox still wouldn't take me off the medication, for days... "You have the weirdest liver I've ever seen," she would comment later. It was there that I learned to really fear anger, because any display of anger could so easily escalate into being "gooned": a group of strong staff members grabbing you and forcing you to the floor, dragging you to the sideroom (padding on walls, sticky floor from where previous occupants have urninated), or zipping you into a "body bag." Cold & wet packs: towels soaked in ice water. Don't torturers use these kinds of techniques in interrogations? You're not allowed to express sexual feelings. You're not allowed to masturbate; well, you can if you insist, but staff will deride and embarrass you. True, it was probably uncomfortable for the person sitting one-to-one with me at night. It was dark, I was under the sheet, I tried to be as quiet and motionless as possible, but discretion is compromised by lack of privacy... You're bad. You're wrong. You need help. We're here to help you... Don't talk back. You're difficult. Don't argue. Do as you're told and you'll get along fine... No escape, because I have nowhere to go. Repeated suicide attempts fail. This is your life, and this is unacceptable. You have no choice. Trauma on top of trauma on top of trauma. Cruelty. Brutality. Abuse of trust. Trapped. Trapped.
It is entirely possible that watching a double feature last night of the films "Antwone Fisher" and "The Hours" contributed to touching off this procession of memories.
After a bit of research this morning, it turns out that my own diagnosis, that I've used on questionairres, turns out to be much more clinically accurate than the one Dr. Miller puts on official forms (which shames me to such a degree that I'll not invoke it here). What I say: depression, anxiety (panic) disorder, specific phobia. Many or all of these can be clearly traced back to childhood trauma. Ironic that for so many years I didn't even know I'd been abused, so I answered intake interview questions about abuse with a quick, innocent, "No, nothing like that." Is it any wonder they couldn't make an accurate diagnosis without that information?
This last rhetorical question conditioned a bit of relaxation, a bit of forgiveness. You can't blame people who are acting out of ignorance; that includes the professionals, and me at that time. None of us knew any better.
Maybe it's time for some karuna (compassion meditation) now that I've gotten some of this out of my system.
Saturday, February 21
Alison -- Portrait of the artist as a young troll, the bitter creep spitting out devastatingly clever put downs at the one he used to want.
Mystery Dance -- the futility of lust. I can't do it anymore and I'm not satisfied.
The Angels Wanna Wear My Red Shoes -- I used to be disgusted and now I try to be amused. More futility: she gets tired of the lust, but it's so hard to refuse.
Thursday, February 19
Virginia Woolf and Anatta
"I need not say that what I am about to describe has no existence; Oxbridge is an invention; so is Fernham; 'I' is only a convenient term for somebody who has no real being."
--from "A Room of One's Own" by Virginia Woolf
Wednesday, February 18
All signs pointing to a return to metta, so I went with it. Lovely, about 40? minutes. It's like coming home. It is my home, really; a sublime abiding, a divine dwelling... a really, really nice place to live.
Tuesday, February 17
Why DRM Schemes Are Destined To Fail
OK, so I decided to try downloading an ebook from amazon.com instead of having them ship a bound package of pulped dead trees. Sounds great, right? No need to further clutter the apartment with another object; immediate access; instant gratification -- count me in.
Not so fast there, bub. I placed the order and... nothing happened. All last night, the file remained unavailable. This morning, the Digital Locker was still saying "Open order -- being processed." So I wrote to complain, and sure enough, the email with the download link came through just after I sent complaint. Doesn't it just figure? So I followed the download link. But the Adobe Reader software squawks an error message, saying that it couldn't contact the Adobe DRM (Digital Rights Management) Server, so my document is unavailable. So, as of the time of this writing, I'm still blocked from accessing my content. I just wanted to read Virginia Woolf's "A Room of One's Own."
Note to all content providers and distributors: your customers don't want DRM. The customer is always right. And the customer doesn't enjoy being treated like a criminal. Just give us the data we paid for and stop trying to control how we use it. Focus on ameliorative measures for infringers, rather than preventative schemes. We're not all potential pirates. If you want to do business with us, you've got to chill out.
Now ask me if I plan to buy any more ebooks from amazon.com any time soon? Methinks there's a wealth of still-unread, public domain, classics over at Project Gutenberg.
That's all I wanted to say.
Monday, February 16
from Jacob's Room
I had a Stendhal Syndrome moment when reading this passage from the first chapter of Virginia Woolf's Jacob's Room. She dizzies my head the same way Joyce did.
"Such were Betty Flanders’s letters to Captain Barfoot—many–paged, tear–stained. Scarborough is seven hundred miles from Cornwall: Captain Barfoot is in Scarborough: Seabrook is dead. Tears made all the dahlias in her garden undulate in red waves and flashed the glass house in her eyes, and spangled the kitchen with bright knives, and made Mrs. Jarvis, the rector’s wife, think at church, while the hymn–tune played and Mrs. Flanders bent low over her little boys’ heads, that marriage is a fortress and widows stray solitary in the open fields, picking up stones, gleaning a few golden straws, lonely, unprotected, poor creatures. Mrs. Flanders had been a widow for these two years."
Can you believe it's more expensive to download the Adobe Acrobat version of William Gibson's "Pattern Recognition" from amazon.com than it is to buy the dead-tree book???
The download of Woolf's "A Room of One's Own" is quite sensibly priced a bit less than the physical book.
*Sigh* Sometimes currency just doesn't pay.
I don't want more objects cluttering up my living space! I just want the data!
I guess modernism is more inherently sensible than post-. Certainly it's cheaper.
Of course, I could cut though both of these Gordian knots if I would only drag myself to the library. [laugh]
Referring to the post below, "Musing on the Musings," I recall something Ajahn Passano expressed in the booklet, "Broad View, Boundless Heart," in the essay "Sublime Abiding Places for the Heart"
on p.22, after discussing the sequence of gladness at the absence of the hindrances ---> unification of mind:
"We see that happiness brings about samadhi, whereas usually we approach it the other way round. We often think, 'If only I could get my meditation together, then I would be happy," whereas it should be: 'How do I gain true happiness so my heart can be at ease?' It is a very important truth that the Buddha points to in this sequence of shades of happiness culminating in samadhi."
So: how do I make myself happy?
[Note: I'm really hammering on this theme because I'm trying to impress it on myself through repetition]
Recalling 2 weeks ago, Monday night, when the citta converged: I was happy. After watching a movie I enjoyed, being very relaxed, free from my usual worries, feeling delighted, then turning the mind to things as they are...
Musing on the Musings
A bit from the Samaññaphala Sutta
"In the same way, when these five hindrances are not abandoned in himself, the monk regards it as a debt, a sickness, a prison, slavery, a road through desolate country. But when these five hindrances are abandoned in himself, he regards it as unindebtedness, good health, release from prison, freedom, a place of security.
Seeing that they have been abandoned within him, he becomes glad.
Glad, he becomes enraptured.
Enraptured, his body grows tranquil.
His body tranquil, he is sensitive to pleasure.
Feeling pleasure, his mind becomes concentrated [unified].
So the necessary first step is to reflect on the absence of the hindrances and become glad on that account.
1. No hindrances
4. Tranquil body
6. Mind becomes unified
then on to the jhanas.
This is how pleasure can be used skillfully. The mind won't become unified in the presence of pain & aversion; it'll do anything it can to get away. But by using the tendency of the mind to go for pleasure & stick with it, one begins the jhanic process, there there is progressively more and more letting go: first letting go of vitakka & vicara in 2J, then letting go of piti in 3J, then of sukha in 4J, where there is purity of mindfulness and equanimity.
Sunday, February 15
Pause the DVD of our relationship sometime in the midst of chapter 11 and select chapter 1 one from the "Scene Selections" menu.
On the night we first "hooked up" -- actually in the morning after being up all night -- I massaged her feet, kissed her toes. It was my way of making my move: start at the bottom and work your way up. I love doing this.
Freeze that frame. Linger on it until the details are retained. Press the "menu" button again.
Now resuming eleven years later, I rub lotion into her feet and broken legs as she lies in the hospital bed in our apartment. With the diabetes, it's important to move the circulation in the extremities. And it's nice, too, because her skin otherwise gets so dry and flaky. I love doing this for her.
Cinema and Pinball As Overworked But Accurate Metaphors
Just as when still frames run together in succession create the illusion of movement, so do mind moments arising in succession create the illusion of compactness, the delusive notion of a solid separate entity apart from those mind moments.
In my inquiry with DaeJa on Friday, she suggested the idea of pinball as a way of practice, though she didn't use that word. She conveyed the notion of playing, and allowing (as opposed to the tightening urge to control). Attention is the ball, and the bumpers the sense doors? Actually, it isn't exactly pinball she was describing, but one of those games I had when I was little, where the ball came to rest sometimes in these little plastic semi-circles. Much better. Not the frenetic bouncing around of pinball, but the more contemplative coming-to-rest, temporarily.
"The L-Word" and the R-Word
Last night while we watched Showtime's marathon of the first few episodes of their original series, "The L-Word," one of the characters referred to his girlfriend as, "a bit of a recluse." The word "recluse" banged a resonant gong. The character's tone & the context conveyed that a recluse, to his (and probably most people's) way of thinking, was Not A Good Thing To Be. Mental proliferation followed: that I've always had this tendency towards the reclusive, in childhood, and more markedly in adolescence; solitude is natural and comfortable for me. Then I think of the Samaññaphala Sutta, and how the title of Venerable Bhikkhu Bodhi's book translates it as "Discourse on the Fruits of Recluseship." An altogether different meaning & context. Being reclusive is a helpful quality for practicing the path; although it is said that kalyanamitta relationships are the entirety of the holy life, one must needs also get really comfortable with silence and solitude, and not delight in socializing for its own sake. On the other hand, if one's predilection for solitude comes from fear & aversion, then there needs to be another kind of relaxing for there to be balance. Contentment, rather than avoidance...
While sitting today, relaxing (always relaxing, relaxing, each time the tightening up happens, relaxing, re-smiling, returning), there was a jolt with the realization that healing and the Path are not 2 separate things. Not separate. Not 2 tracks running parallel, nor 2 modes, first one, then the other.
Will continue meditating while abluting, dressing, getting the menu, returning, sitting. Meditation is not separate from these things.
Wednesday, February 11
My Belated Xmas Presents
Mom took me to Barnes and Noble today, to have a go at spending my gift certificate. Due to timing problems, my hypoglycemia kicked in just when it was time for me to decide what to get of the things I'd looked at. Really painful. Couldn't think, couldn't decide, was strongly feeling the pressure to pick something.
What I ended up with:
A CD of Elvis Costello, "My Aim Is True," the one with "Alison"
A DVD of "American Splendor," the movie about Harvey Pekar
The Criterion Collection DVD of "I Am Curious (Yellow)" and "I Am Curious (Blue)" which I watched this afternoon - evening. Not at all what I was expecting. Alternately interesting / boring mixture of sexuality and politics. Tidbit I never knew: The titles refer to the colors of the Swedish flag.
I was looking at a book in the art section about Surrealism, and I lingered over William Gibson's "Pattern Recognition," but ended up not getting them.
Approximately 1h30m, mindfulness accompanied by karuna.
Tuesday, February 10
Today's Shower Song
Indigo Girls - "Closer to Fine"
Sakula sent an email this morning! Very fortuitous that I was available; normally I would have had the computer off and have been in sitting meditation. Good luck! We met in the UpasikaTalk chatroom. Magnificent, really, to chat with someone in INDIA. She and Alistair are up in the Himalaya, about 7000 ft, at Dharamsala, where His Holiness the Dalai Lama has his monastery. She had great stories to tell. I was able to save the entirety of the chat by taking a series of screenshots, so Gini will be able to read it.
So great to talk, to connect. Our friendship is so genuine. I have no fears about her, that she might be just taking pity on me. We really are kin. A great and surprising happiness to re-connect.
Monday, February 9
"Only Thinking Makes It So"
Sitting on the bench outside,
Reading my book,
Waiting for my ride to come.
The old woman, hurrying to her car:
"Aren't you freezing out here?"
"Compared to how it's been, this isn't so bad!"
Shaking her head as she passes:
"What a fool!" she must be thinking.
Foolish, maybe, but at least not cold.
A Nice Reminder from Alanis on a Mellow Afternoon
I recommend biting off more than you can chew to anyone
I certainly do
I recommend sticking your foot in your mouth at any time
Throw it down (the caution blocks you from the wind)
Hold it up (to the rays)
You wait and see when the smoke clears
I love how the call-and-response structure mirrors a typical question-and-answer session, one of the most familiar ways in which we learn...
Icky Feeling Explained!
While trying to locate that exact Shinzen Young quote, I found an article he wrote about that hard-to-describe icky, awful, can't-stand-it feeling that sometimes arises in therapy, when painful stuff is recalled, during periods of depression, and sometimes in connection with meditation. Mr. Young explains it thoroughly, and his explanation resonates with verisimilitude. In brief: it's the quality of resistance itself, a samskara that's being released from the depths of the unconscious. It can happen when people are engaged in spiritual work, or any kind of growth process. And it's actually a really good sign.
"The Icky-Sticky Creepy-Crawly It-Doesn't-Really-Hurt-But-I-Can't-Stand-It Feeling" by Shinzen Young
An Aphorism To Remember
If I'm remembering correctly, a Dharma teacher named Shinzen Young said something like, "Insight without tranquility is just...tripping." So always remember to proceed from relaxed tranquility.
The Resumption of Housecleaning
Well, it seems that stuff is starting to surface again for purification, but we've moved on to a more recent period: the hospitalizations. During my sits, that's what's coming up. Part of me sighs: oh, great, more of this rubbish. I graduated last Monday from the childhood stuff, had a brief grace period, and now... But I'm also encouraged: there's an increased confidence that this work can be accomplished, that I'm up for the task.
One of the things I learned from dealing with the early childhood stuff is to go more gently. Relax. Don't try to hurry. Don't try to take on too much at once. Especially, relax those flexed, tensed, knotted up, fight-or-flight muscles. A continual process: not just relaxing once, but again & again & again. & Releasing. Not getting drawn into the story of this or that, just seeing, relaxing, releasing, returning to the present. Over & over, world without end. Habitual body scanning is really helpful. There's strength in repetition, and in substituting healthier responses for harmful ones.
I'm actually looking forward to seeing Chris now. I want the chance to talk about the stuff from that era. ["I want..." Ooh, craving. Really strong, with some heft behind it.]
The dream from last week, of those three nearly empty rooms, can be interpreted any number of ways. That there was just a little bit of junk in the first of the rooms left over from the previous occupant, just waiting to be cleaned out, can be taken in a very encouraging way.
...Jeepers. There were just some people in the hall walking by outside our door. All I could hear was
First man: "....blah blah blah...Four Winds."
Second man: "... blah blah Four Winds?"
First man: "...blah blah blah blah..."
receding down the hallway.
Irony? Sychronicity? Not a hallucination, I'm pretty sure of that, at least. Maybe just the universe's way of underscoring the pointing in that direction of inquiry?
Ah, well. Life has a funny way sometimes.
Speaking of inquiry, DaeJa has responded to my email, and I need to get back to her to set up a time for a "Dharma dialogue" by phone.
Saturday, February 7
I laughed a lot while viewing this -- the terrible familiarity of it.
My Mother Is Insane
"The Seven Stages of Purification and the Insight Knowledges"
Last night, I began to re-read this book again, although it feels like the first time. Put together by the students of the Sri Lankan meditation master, Venerable Matara Sri ~Nanarama Mahathera. A slim volume, but a heavy book. Made the determination to re-read it following Monday's interesting time. (In retrospect, I think I got distracted by the so-called "corruptions of insight," and see now what pitfalls to avoid, as they are not the path.)
cf. also "The Seven Contemplations of Insight" by the same author.
Interesting. Had a better session when focusing on mindfully remaining present -- during walking and first part of sitting. My plan was to do metta, then karuna, but the more I tried to force myself to do metta, the more I got lost in thickets of proliferation.
An interesting lesson just now: I had to sign into blogger again, and couldn't remember my password at first. It wasn't in with the usual storehouse of shareware & other registrations. But I got it right on the second guess. So I made a text file to remember, & saved it with the shareware & other registrations. For redundancy, I tried to save it to the Documents folder as well, but was informed that that file already existed. When I checked, sure enough, back on November 3rd, when I opened this account, I saved the info there. What got me was: then and now, I used the exact same file name, and put the information in the exact same format. It was really striking. The mind is such a creature of habit. So conditioned.
Friday, February 6
For extra credit: compare and contrast the Joni Mitchell song "All I Want" with the Alanis Morissette song "All I Really Want".
Karuna for < 1:00. Part of me likes it, part is uncomfortable, wondering if maybe the kind of meditation that involves less doing and more "just watching the arising and vanishing dhammas" would be more beneficial. That period of khanika samadhi on Monday was very beneficial...
About to have another sitting.
Thursday, February 5
Today's Shower Songs
Sarah McLachlan - Building A Mystery
Nina Gordon - Tonight and the Rest of My Life
Eric Clapton - Change the World
Sheryl Crow - Safe and Sound
Home again, after a visit to my mother's house. Very interesting time. Monday remains one of the more interesting nights in a long time. Much of it is unbloggable, but it involved a long period (several hours) of khanika samadhi -- momentary concentration -- and a succesion of insights.
Film Strip, Cont'd
"Once Upon A Time In Mexico"
"Confessions of a Dangerous Mind"
Interesting how the order of watching is also the descending order of quality. "Once Upon A Time In Mexico" was a delight, constantly surprising, a work of particular kind of genius. The DVD extras showed how brilliant Robert Rodriguez is: a virtuoso stylist with perfect understanding of his tools. Nothing to do with the Don Delillo novel of the same name, "Underworld" was a much better movie than one would expect. It looked like, "Oh, a fighting babe in black PVC, how novel; gosh, do you think they've seen 'The Matrix'?" But it turned out to be a richly imagined action film, a dark fantasy with its own mythology for the vampires & werewolves. Yes, there is a brain under all that pretty CGI, and a darn clever one! "Confessions of a Dangerous Mind," George Clooney's unfortunate directorial debut. Try, try again, George. If they'll let you. "Bulletproof Monk," I couldn't even make it all the way thorugh it. Sorry, Chow-Yun.
Sunday, February 1
Today's Shower Songs
Pre- and post-, most of side A of Joni Mitchell's "For The Roses," (see photo below), excluding only the title song. Gosh, remember when records & tapes had two sides? I've looked at life from both sides now, actually.
Cold Blue Steel and Sweet Fire
Lesson In Survival
Let The Wind Carry Me
Karuna, from ~8:30 to ~9:30. Body sense distorted and expanded, become larger. Some very intense energy moving through the body in waves. At times, felt so full I might burst. Great compassion. Everyone is equally subject to suffering; everyone is equally deserving of compassion.
Pre-med surfing (from MetaFilter) led to A Visual Sourcebook of Chinese Civilization, including a section on Buddhism in China, which led to images of, and references to, our old friend, Kwan Yin. Powerful wave of the tinglies during the meditation when I thought of her, and wanted to emulate her.
Now noting a wish to find and read Shantideva's Guide to the Bodhisattva Way of Life.
It is, I think, not an insignificant recent event, that my primary meditation object has changed, from metta to karuna. [First noted and blogged on Sunday, January 25th.] Not that it's really any big deal, I wish to emphasize, in truth it's nothing special, but... It's a marker. It is significant, it does signify something... What, exactly? [laugh] Well, that's the game, isnt it? Let's find out.