Cognition & Reality

Monday, 22 March 2010

The Silence

Filed under: Advaita — drtone @ 10:03 pm

This evening I’ve been reading about Nisargardatta and Ramana Maharshi, in both of whom I was interested for a while in the early 90s. One thing that comes across is that being in the presence of one of these masters ls the essence of the teaching. Although the silence of “I am” radiates everywhere, those in the vicinity of one who lives entirely within the silence might be distinctly aware of it.

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Sunday, 21 March 2010

Spaciousness & Clarity

Filed under: Uncategorized — drtone @ 3:55 pm

Sometimes amazing shit happens when we give it space.

Two or three months ago, a guy I’ll call Ken came to my door. I had hired  him a couple of times to do some carpentry around here. He told me that his wife had thrown him out and that he had nowhere to live, and asked me if he could stay downstairs here. I told him it wasn’t my call, but I put him on to my friends who own the house, gave him money to add minutes to his phone, etc. The understanding was that maybe Ken could do some work downstairs in exchange for a couple of weeks of shelter. After he missed an appointment with one of my friends, but told me that he had been here (because being asleep in his SUV across the street counts as being here), I thought that they probably wouldn’t take him in, but they did. Many more instances of passive-aggressive behavior ensued, little annoying things like not taking the garbage containers full of busted drywall generated by him out to the street, “doing” the dishes by leaving them in a sink full of greasy, disgusting water, letting me cool my heels waiting for him so that I could do him a favor. On and on. Understand that my housekeeping standards are very, very low, but he wasn’t meeting them. I grew to despise him as did my friends, and of course I felt bad for bringing him into our scene. His presence was annoying and inconvenient.

I had one of my quarterly last weekend. On that Wednesday, I finally got tired of Ken’s bullshit and pointed out a couple of lapses on his part. He brushed aside my remarks and I started to yell at him, to which he responded by saying, over and over, “I can’t believe you’re a psychologist…and you’re yelling at me like this. You’re so petty!” I was pretty disturbed by the whole thing. The next morning, shortly before I was to go on my retreat, I came down to cook breakfast and found cracked eggshells in my egg carton, obviously left there by Ken in a deliberate–and successful–attempt to drive me up a wall. I blew up at him. There was more I-can’t-believe-you’re-a-psychologist and physical posturing. I was very pissed off, it’s true, so pissed off that, in spite of his being much larger, stronger and younger than I am, I actually pushed him in the chest. He could have decked me, but instead brushed my hand away. I was very freaked out by my own behavior and returned upstairs. He took off in his vehicle and I proceeded to leave town.

When I left my retreat on Sunday, I was wide open and anxious, what we call “activated” in the lingo of these retreats. Returning home, I discovered that Ken,had parked in “my” space, the one closest to the house and from which it is much safer to “debark” the doggies, so to spaek. He was attempting to provoke me, and again succeeding. I sat around my place moping, doing the Eeyore bit. I was expecting to feel better after the weekend. Insteaad I felt worse, stuck exactly where I had been when I left Riverside on Thursday.

I went out for some soothing pho (Vietnamese noodle soup). Once I was out of the house, my mood changed. I stopped feeling as though Ken had won or that it was about winning. When I got back, his truck was gone and I parked in my space. I felt altogether different without comprehending why.

The next day, my friends were out in the driveway. Ken’s truck was gone, but I knew from explorations earlier in the day  that his girlfriend had slept downstairs with her little doggy. One of my friends informed me that Ken was in jail, having been arrested on an outstanding warrant and for giving a cop an ID belonging to someone else (because he knew he had an outstanding warrant). Demonstrating his obliviousness, Ken had called my friends to bail him out, which is how they knew what had happened. His being in jail on a felony charge obviated any further action on our part, such as calling the sheriff to have him ejected, and kept us from possibly getting into a nightmare legal wrangle with him. Problem solved: My friends whisked Ken’s girlfriend back to her place, and his stuff was put in storage the next day.

It has occurred to me that the minor miracle of Ken’s getting arrested happened at about the same time as I chose to renounce my attachment to his presence as a “problem.” When I noticed that his truck was gone, he was already on his way to the traffic stop that would lead to his arrest. Until I recognized that addressing it with my egoic mind could not yield anything, I thought about how I would apply my realization at the retreat that “the problem is the solution” to Ken’s continued presence. Well, his continued presence stopped continuing. Like magic, his truck and he with it had vanished, never to return.

So it’s about clarity and spaciousness. Once my thinking ego was out of the picture, there was space for things to happen. I do not doubt that the mind powers the whole show. Or it was just a coincidence? It was pretty amazing, whatever it was. The more I contemplate what happened, the more amazed I am. Poof! And Ken was gone-zo.

Saturday, 20 March 2010

The Scarlet Letter: A Doorway

Filed under: Uncategorized — drtone @ 3:51 pm

About a week ago I started to re-read The Scarlet Letter about fifteen years after first reading it.  I was  puzzled  as to why I was reading it, but the reason became clear once I finished it. I came to it through a series of accidents: picking up the book and putting it down: after my mother’s recent death and in tribute to her, reading a book about the Massachusetts Bay Colony she had given me and nagged me to read; and picking up The Scarlet Letter again, as a sequel, I thought, to reading about the Puritans. I did not know why I needed to read it, but now I do.

Although I discovered as I read that I remembered almost nothing about The Scarlet Letter, somewhere in my mind, from my previous reading of  it, was a “message” in the novel about the connection of pain and opportunity. A phrase of my devising, “the problem is the solution,” was  a theme that  dominated my response to a workshop I was attending while I read the book. Through a form of magic not unknown to me and about which I have much to say at another time, I had chosen to read in anticipation of something I was about to learn.

Although she was in great turmoil when forced to wear it, the scarlet letter led Hester Prynne into a new relationship with God. Over the years of wearing it, of accepting her humiliation and her isolation from others, she adopted a new set of religious principles that raised the individual over the religious hierarchy and included the equality of men and women. She achieved enlightenment. The prison the scarlet letter represented was freedom itself. I don’t know how much this aspect of the novel is emphasized in Hawthorne scholarship. At least in the popular imagination, The Scarlet Letter is a morality tale about the hypocrisy and cruelty of the Puritans, which Hawthorne certainly intended, but it is much more.

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