Tuesday, October 29, 2013

Try very hard not to forget how tremendous a gift it is that your body can move. that you may interact freely with the physical world. that your hands are at will to reach, and to hold, and to feel.

Try so hard not to forget that it is a privilege to move and to play and to sense with our bodies. It's dangerously easy to get caught up in the feeling that we have to exercise, we have to work.. How different things could be if we thought instead- I can exercise. I can work...

These are reminders I need daily.. On most days, I wage a quiet war against my body, internally bathing in dissatisfaction, criticism, comparison, and disappointment. I forget that this body that I occupy is the only thing granting me access to the world around me and without it, I cannot perceive, experience, or participate in life. So although it may not look or function as I'd prefer sometimes, at the very least I ought to appreciate what it can do, rather than fretting about what it can't.

Our relationships with our bodies have a profound impact on the way we engage the environments, people, and opportunities around us. I think J. Sarano said it most simply and beautifully:

It is in and through our bodies [that] we ultimately witness 
to that which we are and that which we want in our most profound verity. 
It is in and through my body that I bear witness. 
It is in and through the body that one sees the man.

Tuesday, October 15, 2013

With That Moon Language

Admit something:
Everyone you see, you say to them, "Love me."
Of course you do not do this out loud, otherwise someone would call the cops.
Still, though, think about this, this great pull in us to connect.
Why not become the one who lives with a full moon in each eye
that is always saying, with that sweet moon language,
what every other eye in this world is dying to hear?


Monday, August 19, 2013

A barista in a coffee shop watched me through a window on a phone call (which included tears) and a while later, quietly came over to ask if I was alright..

Me: Yes, thanks, tough call. 

Him: I saw that, I’m sorry, hope you’re ok. Can I get you a drink on the house? 

Me: No that’s ok, thanks though. 

Him: Chai latte it is. 

And then he brought me a latte which was the sweetest I’ve ever had, not because of sugar, but because of the care from a stranger. and I thought that was beautifully human of him.

Boredom, The Teacher

Would you like to learn some things about yourself? Experience boredom. Well first of all, just your aptitude to get bored can tell a lot in itself. Warhol said “only boring people get bored.” ..convicting, isn’t it?

I admit that I get bored from time to time, and although I don’t usually dwell in it very long, I do tend to fill it quickly with less-than-meaningful activity. It occurred to me that we can learn so much about ourselves from the ways in which we arrive at that drab place called boredom, and how we perceive it, face it, and respond to it (or perhaps even more so from how we don’t respond). 

If I may dig a little deeper, how do you respond to loneliness? Do you seek connection, or do you sink into the alone-ness, wishing things were different? Is your mind occupied by the insecurity of being lonely, or do you absorb that experience and appreciate the time to call your own?

Or how about the quiet? What do you do with the quiet nothingness that is hollow and heavy all at once? Must you make noise to combat the gnawing, desolate air? Or do you let the quiet seep into you, resetting your mind and spirit? Can you sit with quiet and let the unspoken teach you?

These empty spaces, though unfilled, can be some of the heaviest states of the human experience. They are tough, but they often speak some truth about your character, and it’s usually in a sobering, clear and convicting voice. Learn from these places. Exist in them, but move through them in a way you can be proud of. I believe the ways in which we respond to the difficult spaces not only reflect who we already are, but can also, in turn, refine and reshape us into who we are becoming.

Sunday, August 18, 2013

I do believe that you will forever feel lost, insecure, and ambiguous if you do not identify, reconcile, and commune with what you believe to be the source of your existence. 

Wednesday, August 7, 2013

Friday, June 28, 2013

侘寂, no. 1

I've been reading about wabi sabi (侘寂) recently, and I can't get enough. Funny name, incredible concept. I can't recall where I first heard about this, it was some time last year. Shortly after that, I was wandering aimlessly around Powell's books in Portland and came across a book called Wabi Sabi Simple. I was intrigued by the little I already knew, so I figured it was worth a read. This particular book isn't really anything spectacular, but it's a good introduction to the concept..

Most simply, wabi sabi is an ancient Japanese view (aesthetically as well as conceptually) that is based on three main understandings: that nothing is perfect, nothing is finished, and nothing is permanent. I gravitated toward these concepts because they acknowledge realities I so often wrestle with.

I've read different descriptions of the origin of the words, but according to this book, wabi was originally used to mean poverty, and was created in the 15/16th century to "tone down aristocratic tea parties." It was designed to simplify the ever-increasing grandiosity of these affairs in order to emphasize the true pleasure- human connection. "Wabi is a detachment from wealth, the recognition that money can't buy everything..."and in this way has a more positive connotation than more modern associations with poverty. According to the almighty wikipedia (my quick and dirty second opinion on the matter) wabi has now come to represent "rustic simplicity, freshness or quietness... or understated elegance," and in the process of creating man-made objects, can refer to "quirks and anomalies arising from the process of construction."

I don't know exactly why I latched on so immediately and so tightly to this word and it's many implications, but I suspect one reason is that I've forever felt that many of my imperfections are not simply quirks or anomalies, but that they are errors, shortcomings, unfortunate less-than-beautifuls. And although my beliefs and ideals suggest I should feel otherwise, 99.999% of the time, I just don't. But what I love about the wabi sabi way of perceiving and responding to life is that it is not limited to people of one faith, social class, race, or intellect. This is a perspective that underlies the essential and universal experience of being alive, and can be adopted by truly anyone. Sometimes, opening ourselves to new concepts from cultures other than our own (although this one happens to be from my own) can serve to support and illuminate the beliefs we already subscribe to. In this case, I already know and agree that authentic beauty mustn't be limited to perfection, that simplicity trumps excess, and that worth lies much deeper than what we see. But reading about wabi sabi has helped reinforce all this in a new light. Anyway, enough of that tangent..

Sabi was first used to describe 12/13th century Japanese literature by its "muted and subtle beauty." It may be a beauty that comes as a result of use or age, shown through its wear and imperfection. The book describes sabi as having a "melancholic ache," which of course, resonated with and intrigued me most of all.

The two terms were brought together to describe a sort of humble grace. What I think is so lovely and fascinating is that these words were derived from different domains- one to describe literature, one to describe a concept meant to influence people and their decisions about what to prioritize (togetherness and connection over wealth). I love that they were brought together to represent a concept that is now applicable to not only aesthetic properties in art and literature, but also to our everyday lives, and how we view the people and world around us. The author continues to explain that wabi sabi is meant to describe simplicity, not one marked by a lack of imagination, but rather by the recognition that mass volume and immediacy do not create authenticity. It knows that modesty is rich, and that not everything can be grasped by the intellect, but sometimes can only be felt and understood silently. It is "a lack of clutter and an abundance of meaning," and the ability to "allow the world to unfold as it does without having to control it." It is meant to help you discern what you need from what you want, and the random desires in between, in order to escape excess...

Yikes, food for thought much?

I could go on to essentially summarize the whole book, because I think every angle and application of wabi sabi is intriguing, relevant, and meaningful. But instead, I'll just leave this introduction as broad as this, and as I continue to learn about the wabi sabi way of living, I'll continue to write about it :)

Wednesday, June 26, 2013

The good separation

I’ve focused a lot of my studies this past year on the connection between the mind and body, the relation between our perceptions and our physical as well as non-physical experiences. There is so much to be said for unifying these two components of ourselves, but I also see benefit in viewing them as somewhat separate. The interaction between these two distinct domains of existence is so delicate, but all the more worthy of our attention..

In light of this, I’ve been trying out a new manner of conceptualizing myself. I’ve begun to think of the mental, emotional, and spiritual parts of me as being in complex relationship with my physical body, rather than being one fused self. While unity is great, I think a perspective of oneness can inhibit us from viewing our bodies as something distinct, something to engage with, listen to and learn from. Regarding our bodies as “other” doesn’t necessarily imply separation, but rather can afford our mind the opportunity to approach our bodies with otherly respect.

I think many of us are hard-pressed to treat ourselves with nearly as much respect as we would other people. Respect and care are perhaps more easily understood in the context of others, but when it comes to our own selves it can often be more complex. We frequently tell ourselves things that we’d never dare tell a friend, but if we viewed our existence as a variety of relationships (external- with others and our environment, and internal- with ourselves), we might then be able to approach the task of caring for ourselves with more respect, discipline, patience, acceptance, and courage.

I’m not advocating a disconnected understanding of the self, but I do think there is much to be gained from allowing our different facets to interact with one another as civilized and compassionate counterparts rather than as a single unsettled unit. When we feel inner tension, it can feel wrong, like we’re messed up with issues that need resolution. But if we were able to understand that tension instead as a very natural relationship by-product, might we respond with a little more grace?

I think the body (as I’ve briefly written about before) is such a raw and sophisticated creature. I think it has a lot to say, with the rare ability to speak without pretense or forethought. But if we lump ourselves all together as just some mass of humanity, we run the risk of overlooking the important differences between our bodies, minds, and hearts, and in so doing, perhaps missing the signs that teach us how to best care for and express ourselves. I believe it is in the dialogue between the various parts of ourselves that we find out what we’re really made of, what we are capable of becoming, and how we might begin to get there.

Monday, April 22, 2013

Barn's burnt down--
I can see the moon.

-Masahide, 17th century Japanese poet & samurai

Wednesday, April 17, 2013

A uniquely revealing social experiment on perception of beauty..

Tuesday, April 9, 2013

One Hundred Bowls

A vase may be constructed to hold a tremendous amount of water, but if the opening is the diameter of a pea, how much do you think will really enter? A few drops may trickle in but the vase will remain largely empty, so much of it’s capacity remaining unfilled. 

But what if you broke it? Shattered everything about it? Each jagged piece, a portion of the original rounded form, falls to the floor and frantically flounders, wobbling and shaking from the shock of the breaking. But finally, finally, each piece settles, finding stillness. 

The vase has lost its shape, in fact it is no longer a vase. But take heart, it is now a hundred bowls, all upward-facing and cupped to the sky, ready to be filled by the rain.

You may be breaking, but all this- to allow the life-giving rain to saturate more of you, that you may be filled as never before. You may have lost your original form, the thing that you were will never be again. But. What seemed as loss, is really gain. You are now a hundred open bowls..

       Be filled. 

~A new thing I thought I’d share in tandem with my scribblings- a select clip of the music playing as I wrote this (which probably influences or at least complements the content): Down in the Valley by The Head And The Heart, specifically from minutes 1:30-4:30

I’ve been in New York and spent my fair share of time on the subway. Standing in such close proximity to a zillion New Yorkers and foreigners and other sorts of nomads, you are constantly overhearing and being overheard, and something about this feels like connectedness. Not necessarily connection, but connectedness. For some reason this reminds me of when Ken mused, “Where does my breath end and yours begin? I think we’re in this together.”

Monday, February 25, 2013

Body Language

On Mondays I sit in on a class taught by the epic human being that is Ken. He's a gushing geyser of raw, weighty bits of wisdom, and today one such bit was this: "Tension is our body asking for attention. Listen.. the body doesn't lie."

I started thinking about our bodies as ever-honest entities. When we hurt, it's our body talking. I wish I was fluent in its language, but unfortunately I don't speak aches and pains. The vocabulary of the body is skin condition, headaches, muscle tension, energy levels, digestion.....

Don't revolt. Listen, and respond. Don't ignore or minimize or rationalize your body's voice, it's one of the most powerful voices you can be attuned to. For the record, I am speaking to myself when I say this, but perhaps you can resonate while listening in?

Of course there are tons of physical conditions that we cannot control, like genetic diseases or allergies or cancers... but often, the physiological burdens we frequently tolerate are the body's way of saying we're not being very good caretakers.

I'm imagining if the body never spoke to us.. though I'd love never to have pain or fatigue or any of the other symptoms I frequently experience, silence of the body would foster insidious harm. If I was never notified that things weren't ok, I'd never learn how to take care of myself..

So as much as I hate it when my body seems to be screaming at me in the most uncomfortable way, I'm thankful that it vocalizes needs, that it tells me what it can and cannot handle, and that it speaks the [sometimes brutal] truth.

A piece of me found home again. A piece of me came back to life. It’s just a piece, but it’s an important one. 

I played soccer for the first time in a year- let me repeat that... A YEAR. and I was terrified. It’s strange to think that I was so afraid of something I love so much and that held such paramount importance in my life, but injury and fear can do that to you. Fear of re-injury, fear of having lost any ability I ever had, obscured my love of the game. And though I never thought it’d be possible to stay away as long as I did, I let fear dictate my decision to stay away.

One thing I was afraid of was stepping on the field and realizing I’d never be able to play like I used to... that maybe I’d realize in an instant that soccer would never be the same for me. But I was so wrong it almost brought me to tears.

The field smelled the same, the immediate comfort with a bunch of scrappy guys that I had never met before felt the same, the sweat dripped the same, the ball felt the same.. and within minutes I felt like a part of me finally woke up after hitting the snooze button a few dozen too many times..

This is not to say that I was anywhere near as fit as I used to be, or that I wasn’t rusty, or full of aches and pains.. but just to have gotten back out there felt illuminating. Being injured for awhile makes you realize what a privilege it is to be able to simply move, and play out all the angst and tension held inside. No matter what level you’re at, the luxury of playing is some sacred gift that I’m exponentially more grateful for now than ever before. 

I woke up yesterday morning in a bizarre state, part flustered and part calm. I immediately recalled the dream I had just come out of (this is exactly the dream as I remember it); I was lost in a maze of foliage.. running in every direction, I kept hitting high walls of dense green growth, and no matter how quickly I ran, or how many turns I took, I couldn’t find a clear path. I remember looking straight up at the sky every time I hit a dead end. I must have been waiting for someone to peek their head over the hedge to tell me where to go.. but that head never appeared, and all I was left with was more uncertainty and a neck ache from looking up for answers.

In utter frustration, realizing that my running around yielded nothing but confusion, I sat down where I was. I remember sitting indian style, like a stubborn kid in need of a new plan. I figured if I was this lost, then to hell with the aimless wandering, and all I could do was sit down right there and water the grass around me. If I had nowhere to go, then I could, at the very least, make sure the small surrounding patch of grass was nourished.

..and while recalling this part of the dream it dawned on me, in my groggy, half-awake-ness:

Water while you wait.. 

because sometimes gardens begin in smallest patches.
"In these times I don't, in a manner of speaking, know what I want. 
Perhaps I don't want what I know, and want what I don't know..."
-Marsilio Ficino

This current season of life feels simultaneously busy and aimless. It's a strange pursuit, the search for desire. We often see people searching for opportunities to obtain what they want.. a job, a significant other, recognition etc.. but what do we make of the search for something to desire in the first place? Where do we begin looking? How do we direct our energy when our energy doesn't know where to go?