Thursday, August 31, 2006

Blinded by the Light?

running out of time
Originally uploaded by stoneth.

My sister called awhile back to say she’d been reading the blog for 45 minutes and that she simply loved it. “Joy after joy.” That pleased me- kind words from my big sister the doctor!

But the thing is, it isn’t always Light.
It’s Yin and Yang.
In fact, the more brilliant the Light, the darker the Shadow cast.
Andrew Harvey cautions that we have to learn to deal with our Shadows, for ultimately, we all face the dark night of the soul.

He also adds that just when it appears you are furthest from God, “you are actually so close that you are blinded by His Glory and think it night."

So, take this as a warning for what I have to share today.

I had called Rebecca to set up our rendezvous, she on the corner, me in the car. But I got lost and turned around and by the time that I arrived, she didn’t see me. I had to honk and lean out the window calling her by name. She had to tear herself away from a man she was talking to.

Settled in the car, she said, “That homeless man was telling me that every thing you verbalize, see, and hear is a figment of your imagination.”

“He’s right!” was my immediate response.
“Yes. I believe that too.” She said.

And then, we sat there for a moment feeling how uncomfortable this thought made us.
I tried again.
“You know, there’s all this neurophysiology to perception…”

We just didn’t want to hear it from a homeless man.

I was drawn to today’s photo by this man’s eyes.
They seem so bright- so filled with consciousness.
Yet, he says, "Time is running out."

He is homeless in Atlanta.
For all I know, he could very well have been the man Rebecca was talking to.

You can read his story by clicking on the picture.
Be warned: It is hard to read.

Tuesday, August 29, 2006

Looking, Hearing, Feeling, is Disturbing.

Originally uploaded by premasagar.

Jeanette Winterson is a poet living in England. “As a Northern working class girl she was not encouraged to be clever,” or so says her website ( ). It’s here I found the poem The Galloping Cat. Today, in reading her column I found these words I really wanted to share.

Winterson writes:
“I used to think sunshine was a bit frivolous – now I know it is life.

Changing is good, letting in new sensations, feelings, new ideas, is necessary. I don’t want to slowly calcify, find myself like the inside of a dishwasher pipe – just enough room to let just enough water through. I want to keep the spaces open, and to find a way to make room for difficult beauty – is beauty ever easy? I have not found it so. I’m not even talking about a person, just openness to everything, and even the small daily things, like going out into the garden, or walking down to the river, are beautiful enough to disturb.

Disturb? Yes, I mean to disturb out of the habit of letting life pass in a blur. Looking, hearing, feeling, is disturbing. But better, I think than a muffled world.

I put up a poem this month that seems to me to be about the essential practicality of the poetic vision. You don’t need to be a poet to have a poetic vision. A poetic vision is prepared to be open, to let things in. The exactness of translation, vision into language, is the job of a poet, but the vision itself is probably the job of all of us.

We are grateful to poets because they put into words what we have felt/are feeling. I can’t say enough how important it is to go on feeling.

This month’s poem makes the poet and his poem a thing of practical application. I have never believed that poetry is disconnected from the real world, or is a pretty adjunct to it.

I believe that poetry is a user’s manual – a way of defining what things matter, and, as Coleridge put it, ‘keeping the heart alive to love and beauty.’

Poetry is there when we need it, and we need it regularly. Simply, it turns ordinary life into a meditation, and it reminds us that meditation – the ability to settle and focus and concentrate our energies, is a necessary part of ordinary life.”

If you click on the picture you will be able to read another poem, written by the homeless man whose hands are in the photo.

Looking, hearing, feeling are indeed disturbing.
Please make them part of your spiritual practice.

Friday, August 25, 2006

The Galloping Cat

Don't touch my mouse !!!
Originally uploaded by Cilest.

My stupidity and failings have been right in my face, if not spilled all over me this last week or so.

I guess this is as good for one as it is painful. It crops the old ego back to better size and teaches humility.

And I guess we all have days and weeks and maybe even life times like this.

So, there has to be some skill for handling such occasions. I’m guessing that it has to do with being kind and easy with yourself… as well as swallowing a dose of honesty. Perhaps too, it’s an opportunity to enjoy the fact that we all are something of the galloping cat.


Oh I am a cat that likes to
Gallop about doing good
One day when I was
Galloping about doing good, I saw
A figure in the path; I said
Get off! (Be-
I am a cat that likes to
Gallop about doing good)
But he did not move, instead
He raised his hand as if
To land me a cuff
So I made to dodge so as to
Prevent him bringing it orf,
Un-for-tune-ately I slid
On a banana skin
Some Ass had left instead
Of putting in the bin. So
His hand caught me on the cheek
I tried
To lay his arm open from wrist to elbow
With my sharp teeth
Because I am
A cat that likes to gallop about doing good.
Would you believe it?
He wasn’t there
My teeth met nothing but air,
But a Voice said: Poor Cat,
(Meaning me) and a soft stroke
Came on me head
Since when
I have been bald.
I regard myself as
A martyr to doing good
Also I heard a swoosh
As of wings, and saw
A halo shining at the height of
Mrs Gubbins’s backyard fence,
So I thought: What’s the good
Of galloping about doing good
When angels stand in the path
And do not do as they should
Such as having an arm to be bitten off
All the same I
Intend to go on being
A cat that likes to
Gallop about doing good
Now with my bald head I go,
Chopping the untidy flowers down, to
and fro,
An’ scooping up the grass to show
The cinder path of wrath
Ha ha ha ha, ho,
Angels aren’t the only ones who do
not know
What’s what and that
Galloping about doing good
Is a full time job
That needs
An experienced eye of earthly
Sharpness, worth I dare say
(if you’ll forgive a personal note)
A good deal more
Than all that skyey stuff
Of angels that make so bold as
To pity a cat like me that
Gallops about doing good.

Stevie Smith 1901-1971

Tuesday, August 22, 2006

The Cellist and a poem

The Cellist
Originally uploaded by bdmckeown.

Love means to learn to look at yourself
The way one looks at distant things
For you are only one thing among many.

And whoever sees that way heals his heart,
Without knowing it, from various ills—
A bird and a tree say to him: Friend.

Then he wants to use himself and things
So that they stand in the glow of ripeness.
It doesn’t matter whether he knows what he serves:
Who serves best doesn’t always understand.

Czeslaw Milosz

Please click on the picture and read the photographer's comments.

Monday, August 21, 2006

Just a Poem

Might Look Warm. .....
Originally uploaded by Finiky.
Keeping it simple today. A poem by Theodore Roethke... abbreviated here for those with short little spans of attention.

The site where I found this poem also offered this Roethke quote:

"What we need is more people who specialize in the impossible.”

The Far Field

I dream of journeys repeatedly:
Of flying like a bat deep into a narrowing tunnel
Of driving alone, without luggage, out a long peninsula,
The road lined with snow-laden second growth,
A fine dry snow ticking the windshield,
Alternate snow and sleet, no on-coming traffic,
And no lights behind, in the blurred side-mirror,
The road changing from glazed tarface to a rubble of stone,
Ending at last in a hopeless sand-rut,
Where the car stalls,
Churning in a snowdrift
Until the headlights darken.

-- Or to lie naked in sand,
In the silted shallows of a slow river,
Fingering a shell,
Once I was something like this, mindless,
Or perhaps with another mind, less peculiar;
Or to sink down to the hips in a mossy quagmire;
Or, with skinny knees, to sit astride a wet log,
I'll return again,
As a snake or a raucous bird,
Or, with luck, as a lion.

I learned not to fear infinity,
The far field, the windy cliffs of forever,
The dying of time in the white light of tomorrow,
The wheel turning away from itself,
The sprawl of the wave,
The on-coming water. …

A man faced with his own immensity
Wakes all the waves, all their loose wandering fire.
The murmur of the absolute, the why
Of being born falls on his naked ears.
His spirit moves like monumental wind
That gentles on a sunny blue plateau.
He is the end of things, the final man.

All finite things reveal infinitude:
The mountain with its singular bright shade
Like the blue shine on freshly frozen snow,
The after-light upon ice-burdened pines;
Odor of basswood on a mountain-slope,
A scent beloved of bees;
Silence of water above a sunken tree :
The pure serene of memory in one man, --
A ripple widening from a single stone
Winding around the waters of the world.

Sunday, August 20, 2006

Salt Marsh

Kiawah marsh
Originally uploaded by Seeking Tao.

For sometime I have been looking for a poem by James Dickey.
It begins with the line (as I recall): I sent you a bluebird by the name of Joe with Happiness tatooed on his left bicep and all you can say is you think the cat has got him...

I love that poem. If I had it, I'd share it here. But, I don't. Instead I found, Salt Marsh.

Marshes mean something to the Bralleys. The picture here is shot from my brother's deck. So, here is a poem for him and you, by James Dickey. And yes, that is a rainbow in the picture.

Once you have let the first blade
Spring back behind you
To the way it has always been,
You no longer know where you are.
All you can see are the tall
Stalks of sawgrass, not sawing,
But each of them holding its tip
Exactly at the level where your hair

Begins to grow from your forehead.
Wherever you come to is
The same as before,
With the same blades of oversized grass,
And wherever you stop, the one
Blade just in front of you leans,
That one only, and touches you
At the place where your hair begins

To grow; at that predestined touch
Your spine tingles crystally, like salt,
And the image of the crane occurs,
Each flap of its wings creating
Its feathers anew, this time whiter,
As the sun destroys all points
Of the compass, refusing to move
From its chosen noon.

Where is the place you have come from
With your buried steps full of new roots?
You cannot leap up to look out,
Yet you do not sink,
But seem to grow, and the sound,
The oldest of sounds, is your breath
Sighing like acres.
If you stand as you are for long,

Green panic may finally give
Way to another sensation,
For when the embodying wind
Rises, the grasses begin to weave
A little, then all together,
Not bending enough for you
To see your way clear of the swaying,
But moving just the same,

And nothing prevents your bending
with them, helping their wave
Upon wave upon wave upon wave
By not opposing,
By willing your supple inclusion
Among fields without promise of harvest,
In their marvelous, spiritual walking
Everywhere, anywhere.

Saturday, August 19, 2006

How We Practice

Originally uploaded by littlelakey.

These Buddhas want it all from you.
Oh, they start out simply enough,
a little rice, a few sticks of incense.
But in the end, they’ll have it all
and you’ll be left with Emptiness.
And never happier.

This is their compassion.


“I’m dying! and it’s killing me!” the thought explodes within me and I shake with sobs.

Then, another inner voice, “Well of course you’re dying. You’re alive, aren’t you?”

“Ah, the old half empty, half full?” I stop crying for a moment, breath suspended.

“Yes.” (That voice, so calm and smug.)
“No! I’m dying! and it’s killing Me!” I am sobbing once again.

Did this start when I first saw her picture?
Wasn’t it just yesterday when asked if I had heard from her, I had replied, “No! She said she wouldn’t and she hasn’t. And... she’s killing me!”

Ah. Yes. But that was simply round one.

Tat Tvam Asi,” “I am That, Thou art That, All this is That” – one of the grand pronouncements of the Upanishads.
Now,This is That replayed one or two octaves higher.
Now, the Fat Lady’s singing.

This could be called “falling in love,” but more precisely I suspect it’s, “falling into Love.”
Forget that Hollywood version, this won’t be shown up on the big screen.

This is the Big Screen Itself, showing Itself.
The Self unfolds Itself, by Itself, to Itself- another one of those pronoucements.

This is what went on behind closed doors as Shams and Rumi locked themselves away for forty days. Shams was burning Rumi into Big Screen, Ocean, Absolute, God…
You name it.
I can’t be bothered.

“I’m dying! and it’s killing Me!”

… Silence is my only hope…

Instead, I must have played Johnny Cash a dozen times this morning.
“Love... is a burning thing... and it makes a firery ring.”

“I fell in to a burning ring of fire.
I went down, down, down and the flames went higher.
And it burns, burns, burns…”

Now, that was her doing!
And we're back to level one.

Falling in love is how we practice Falling into Love.

Falling in love is how we practice becoming Enlightened.

Those Buddhas want you to have it All.

Ru Ding

. Thought .
Originally uploaded by 3amfromkyoto.

Since my move, you may be disappointed to learn that I have had to discontinue my early morning radio broadcast from the bathtub. (15 minutes of caffeine induced insight that reached an audience of 4, if you include cat & dog. )

And it’s just as well. Apparently, there are other issues now. No “News of the World Report” to report, only the retort of my own personal issues with the Infinite.

Is this me coming up against what Taoist, B.K. Frantzis, calls “ru ding?Ru ding: the fear of the death of the ego that leaves one in shear terror? Frantzis describes his first encounter this way:

I was in Hong Kong, beginning to learn the old Yang style of Tai Chi Chaun when ru ding first struck me… It was late at night, at a still and quiet terrace on the Peak, where few people came after midnight…the park was quiet, and the moon and the sky felt as though they were descending downward, putting enormous pressure on every square inch of my skin, as I tried to life my arms with the expansive energy of tai chi…I felt as if Chi from the moonlight, stars, and sky penetrated my body against my will. My body and mind became immensely still, as though they had dropped into a bottomless abyss, even though I was doing the rhythmic slow motion movements…At the depth of the stillness, an overwhelming, formless fear began to develop in my belly…. Then it happened: an all-consuming, paralyzing fear seemed all at once to invade every cell in my body… I knew if I kept practicing there would be nothing left of me in a few seconds… I stopped practicing… and ran down the hill praying hard that this terror would leave me….

The ego, goes into a mortal fear when the false reality of being separate from the universal life force is threatened by your consciousness having reached an awareness of connection to everything in existence. The ego spews forth all sorts of terrifying psychological and physiological reactions in the body and mind to make meditators petrified of leaving the state of separation.

Frantzis says that ru ding is a stage each practitioner must go through. At a certain point, it is repeatedly encountered until you finally cease trying to avoid the pain, let go of all resistance, and let the ego disappear.

Though Frantzis is a Taoist, this annilation of the ego seems a Buddhist thing to me. Maharishi never taught of fear, pain, death. He spoke of the ego's expansion- the exact opposite. It was a step taken in the Light of celestial awareness. At a certain point, "Either I drop off or God drops off. Out of respect, we say, I drop off."

So experience, as always, seems determined by the path you take. Bernadette Roberts, coming from a Catholic tradition had a similar running, jumping in the car and fleeing that she recounts in her No Self writings.

The totally traditionless Eckhart Tolle, describes his experience when his ego finally let go in these words:

One night I woke up in the middle of the night, as I had many times before, in a state of even more intense dread and fear… It became so unbearable that suddenly the thought occurred to me, "I cannot live with myself any longer." That thought was the trigger for a transformation. The thought kept repeating itself many times in my head and then suddenly there was a stepping back from the thought and a looking at the thought. I asked, "Who is the 'I' and who is the self that I cannot live with?"

… it's almost as if a [Zen] koan spontaneously appeared in my mind. A koan's purpose is to destroy conceptual thinking because it has no answer on a conceptual level... At that moment the whole structure of the "unhappy me" and its pain collapsed because the withdrawal of identification was so complete. What was left was simply beingness or presence. There was still a moment of fear. It felt like being drawn into a hole within myself, a vast whirlpool, and a realization arose in my chest, "Resist nothing." That was the key. Then resistance was relinquished and I don't know what happened after that.

All I do know is that the next morning I woke up… I opened my eyes and everything was alive and new and fresh as if I had never seen it before. And I walked around and picked up things and looked at them. I was amazed at everything. There was no understanding of it. I was not even trying to understand anything. It was just so beautiful.

I have Held the Light at Bay

hang loose & let off some steam
Originally uploaded by hb19.

I have held the Light at bay for years. Avoided looking at the treetops, for that is where it resides waiting to descend. But, I didn't know that for some time. All I knew was that I could only glance up briefly. Such a cathedral, there in Nature, but lifting my eyes made me so dizzy, nauseated. I’d quickly look away.

Then one day, I decided to just see. What was this? Why couldn’t I just look? One day, I refused to look away.
What happened next had never crossed my mind as even possible.

Instantly a flood of Light streamed down from above into my head until I staggered back. I knew immediately the Light was, for lack of better appellage, “God.”

Jesus! And this is the park across from where I work? I’m on a noonday walk for God’s sake, not Saul on some road to Damascus or wherever.

For God’s sake...

...I will have to learn to breath more deeply. I will have to learn how to let that Light in and then right on out through the bottom of my feet.

But, that day I couldn’t pull it off.
Instead, I developed migraines.

Sometimes, I've felt like some human version of a ship’s mast buzzing with St. Elmo’s Fire. As if a bolt of Light had struck my head, and then just resonated there unable to drain off.
My cat took to sleeping on my head. At night I felt like Davie Crockett in his coonskin hat, but I hoped Eddie would suck some of the energy off.

This may be how ru ding began for me.
This may be the Yang (or Light) version of the black Yin abyss described by Frantzis and Tolle.

The abyss came later.
Exhausted from unconscious efforts, I still did not understand how much I held at bay. Then lying in bed one night I began wondering, “Why am I so tired? Day after day, I am so tired.”

Well, there it was.
Almost by accident I noticed a small dark gray circle. Right there in front of me, about eight inches from my face, four inches above my forehead.

"How strange... What is that?”

I could feel the energy, the constant effort I had been applying to that spot. It was almost like I had been straight-arming it day after day and never noticed. And, it was taking tremendous effort. So, I stopped.

And in that moment the Void leapt out and swallowed me.
Or, was it I who swallowed It? There was this inversion inwards. And I was falling, faster, faster. Rushing, I was letting go into Annihilation and I craved it.

"Take it!
"Take it all!
"It means nothing!"
And then I thought of her. And terror grabbed me. "If I die I lose her!" And I sat up in the bed, turned and clung to her.

Now, she’s long gone and I am in the bathtub coming to the obvious.
Life has led me to this point.
Along the way I have become both scientist and mystic.

A mystic: someone who's direct experience reveals a reality totally denied by science.

A molecular biologist: someone who naturally conceives of reality in terms of billiard ball cause and effect- the ultimate materialist.

It has taken years to be able to stand with one foot in each of these contradictory row boats and not get dumped into the water. Now, I am matured. Ready for the implications.

Then, suddenly there was that scream.
“I’m dying! and its killing Me!”
Every cell within me dying into nothingness.

Was it Rumi who said you can tell a mystic by the burn marks on their face?
Well, my face is reasonably intact, but my body’s taken quite a beating.
People say, “You’re losing weight!”
The migraines took off thirty pounds in three months. And the doctors still found nothing.

I shrug. What can I say? “No, I have not been on a diet.”

But, it is becoming clear.
There will be nothing left when I am done.
It will all be burnt away.

Not that it really matters.
Some days are solid, Immovable.
Some days there is such deep laughter; a secret laughter that doesn’t ever stir upon my face. That makes it all the more delicious: this deep, deep laughter that can only escape out through my eyes...

Or, by saying something like I have a radio broadcast that I do each morning from the bathtub. Silly... You’d get electrocuted!

No, not from the bathtub!

Originally uploaded by sheldonschwartz.
You'd get electrocuted.

Friday, August 18, 2006

Down upon the Sands

My father would have been 90 today.

For his 80th birthday (and 50th anniversary) we had a family reunion at the beach. Shortly after his arrival my brother and I stood before a picture window with him as he surveyed the new surroundings. Kiawah’s sands stretched before us.
“Oh! It’s beautiful,” he said. “I thought it’d be a crummy little thing.”

We all laughed and Andy slapped him on the back, “Pop, we wouldn’t do that to you!”
(I think Pop had misconstrued the literature I’d sent him that touted “outside showers on the beach,” when he really preferred indoor plumbing.)

At that moment, none of us suspected in the least that in less than 24 hrs Pop would be lying dead upon those sands. But, that’s how events unfolded.

Not that life was cruel. On the contrary, he and mom walked hand in hand at sunrise on the day he died. His entire family was gathered round him within minutes of his collapse. And since there were other doctors there, my sister could be simply a daughter and not responsible for resuscitation efforts. Most of all, we had a week to simply hole up together, as we seldom are, waiting for his ashes to be returned.

Still, what sticks in my mind most vividly are those words, “Oh, It’s beautiful. I thought it’d be a crummy little thing.”

I know that he was talking real estate, but I cannot shake the feeling that he was summing up his life. And I wonder how many of us are guilty of the same misapprehension - And how many of us will wake up to the beauty before we lie down upon the sands?

Thursday, August 17, 2006

Enligtenment's a Gamble

Lotus series P-4
Originally uploaded by Giovanni88Ant.
A poem by Adyashanti regarding enlightenment. But, it's just as true for Love, I do believe.

Time to cash in your chips
put your ideas and beliefs on the table.
See who has the bigger hand
you or the Mystery that pervades you.

Time to scrape the mind's shit
off your shoes
undo the laces
that hold your prison together
and dangle your toes into emptiness.

Once you've put everything
on the table
once all of your currency is gone
and your pockets are full of air
all you've got left to gamble with
is yourself.

Go ahead, climb up onto the velvet top
of the highest stakes table.
Place yourself as the bet.
Look God in the eyes
and finally
for once in your life

Sunday, August 13, 2006

Stranded on the Tarmac

An unusual couple: she and he
Originally uploaded by mistca.
Recently, I received an email filled with marvelous questions. I thought I’d share the discussion here. Rebecca began with a great juxtaposition:

I'm stranded on a tarmac at the Atlanta airport waiting on a flight to Louisville (and it's hard to concentrate as the men behind me are talking loudly about deer hunting) but I was interested in your description of bacteria getting to the top of one evolutionary mountain. The bacteria are living the good life - only to find themselves in the valley at some later point.
(see August 9th: Evolution is a walk across a rugged landscape)

I was applying that to some sales training I've recently become involved in. I work in human resources for a furniture store - and retail sales people are really cut throat. They can be top of the heap one month - but if they don't continuously change their tactics - and evolve to the customer's ever changing demands, they soon find themselves in the valley of low sales and low commissions, making them unhappy - which makes them start to feed on one another- which is where I, as a human resources person, come into the picture.

All of this was really interesting to me - but then your statement at the end regarding how important meditation is as a way for evolving our consciousness really caught me off guard!

I've never thought about the possibility of evolving one's consciousness! I suppose I've been of the belief that consciousness is something you are born with that remains a constant underlying hum. One's personality and likes/dislikes change all of the time - but consciousness to me seems like the basic foundation of one's person. That sort of consciousness seems like a grand, eternal - and people either have it or they don't.

PB: Yes, it is a constant and we all have it. It’s been called Pure Consciousness, since it is consciousness itself without an object of perception. It is the screen upon which the movie of life flickers.

What can evolve with time is the ability to see the screen more and more clearly. This is a direct experience and profoundly different from an intellectual understanding. It’s as if Consciousness is suddenly a succulent mango popped into your mouth, where before you’d only read about them.

As a consequence, how you express consciousness in your life changes. You’ve upgraded the movie screen to an IMAX, and the movie going experience jumps to another level.
For example, you are an incredible poet…now. But just a few years ago you didn’t write. (see Rebecca’s Website for her poems)

Evolve or Die?

Deep thoughts ... {}
Originally uploaded by

RF: Do you think the statement "evolve your consciousness or die" would also apply?

PB: Yes, I think that this is very true- on several levels. I think that as a species it applies most crucially. And changing the consciousness of the species depends upon changing the individuals of that species.

RF: Maybe "dying" in that context would be more of a metaphor (a lost opportunity - the death of the ability to take full advantage of one's precious human birth). Or maybe it’s a kind of zombie death where the person doesn't realize they are in fact fading away more and more every day, until consciousness becomes completely about how familiar they are with the latest celebrity breakup!

PB: Yes! That is another level also. Compare a poet to a couch potato. Is one more alive or conscious than the other? I think so.

RF: Do you think meditation is the only way to evolve one's consciousness?

PB: No. We are growing, learning all the time. Children needn’t meditate. As their nervous systems mature they acquire language, self reflection, empathy and many more abilities.
There are different forms of yoga to directly experience Pure Consciousness, each tailored to the different nature of people. For example, there is karma yoga (involving action), gyana yoga (for those given intellectual analysis), bhakti yoga (for cultivation of the heart and devotion), raja yoga (or Royal yoga involves meditation).

The important point, to me, in this regard is that meditation represents the quickest, most efficient way to evolve consciousness.

What I didn’t get to the other day was how life continues to evolve its ability to evolve.

Bacteria need to change their genes to evolve. Most simply, this involves a mutation at a single point. But, each of biology’s so called “major evolutionary transitions” has involved inventing a new way to evolve. The multi-cellular organism is one such invention. These organisms have new talents, in addition to the old. For example, Indian corn gets its many colored kernels because plants have evolved so called “jumping genes.” These genes can jump (all by themselves) to new places in the chromosome. Sex, another great invention, allows mixing of entire chromosomes. Language, another major transition, represents a huge jump for consciousness.

I think meditation fits nicely into this grand view of evolution. It is simply the latest opportunity to evolve our ability to evolve. I’m not using analogy or metaphor here.

On the level of species these changes are called evolution. On the level of the individual changes are called development. So, the time frame is changing and the mechanisms of evolution are changing. Today, to “evolve” or “develop” from fertile egg to adult requires one thing: turning genes on and off in an orchestrated manner. I often think of development as some great musician sitting at this huge pipe organ in some cathedral, pulling stops in and out and pumping all the petals. That’s what our cells do each day of our lives as we develop from embryo, to child, to adult, to withered elder.

And at this point, we don’t need mutations creating new genes. We’ve got the full genetic complement to become enlightened. That anyone ever got enlightened is "proof of principle." What we need to do now is pull the stops out correctly for playing the new music. Some genes need to be turned off, or down, others need to be turned on, or turned up in a new combination from what we usually see. That’s what meditation is for. That's what meditation does more effectively than any technique that I know.

Friday, August 11, 2006

Something is a Foot!

Shock and Awwwwwww
Originally uploaded by McNeney.

So, this morning I was sitting on my back deck having my morning eggs and refried beans and trying to figure out just what the heck is going on in my life!

I have no idea. But, something is a foot! Of this I am sure. And it is BIG. And it is quite a ride.

That’s when I realized…
“Something is a foot when it is the Hand (of God) .”

Well, I got a kick out of that and thought I’d pass it along.
Get it? It’s a foot… it’s a hand…!?

That’s funny!! (I think.)

Ok. I can see you’re not getting it.
So, here. Try this…

So this horse...

the shake
Originally uploaded by Åkeblom.

So this horse walks into a bar. Goes up to the bartender, the bartender takes one look at him and says, “Oh my, why the long face?”

Now, do you get it?
That’s funny! A horse… a long face?

That's just silly, you say? Well, Yes!
But, how often do we try to make a problem out of what’s simply the nature of things?

Now, that’s silly.

Enlightenment involves a lot of lightening up.
And next time something is a foot… count your blessings.

(I had a great long faced horse picture in mind for this spot, but at the last moment, turned out I couldn't blog it. SO, the horse had to be a dog. Well, now, maybe that's just perfect!)

So, What's Going on Here?

Originally uploaded by -Angela.
It's about being held.
About love
About the sacred

Thursday, August 10, 2006

Kiki Booba, Geographical Conditions and Sacred Language

Chimera 2
Originally uploaded by javajive.
I’ve been thinking about the Shenandoah Valley. The first time I drove through it I was struck by such a sense of coming home. The Bralley’s are multigenerations there, but I had never been. And even as a budding scientists, I knew that memory cannot be inherited. Still, I was amazed by how I felt. My eyes loved the lines and soft contours. Such a softness. It invited me to stop even as the song, “Country Roads” started in my head and wouldn’t stop.

This is not the “Colorado Rocky Mountain High” of which John Denver also sang. It is the antipode. One is crystal electricity, the other a warm cellular salinity.

Geography gets into our bodies and from there into our souls, and from there onto our tongues. Maharishi first pointed this out to me. He said that geographical conditions affect consciousness to the extent that people have to speak a bit differently in different regions so that the message can get through.

New Orleans, will lull you right to sleep as it sucks the tension out of every tendon. And they have this draw and roll there and they can spin a story out slowly, easily so that you almost don’t have to really pay attention. It’s more like lying there as Eudora Welty takes a finger and slowly twists the hair upon your head into long, loose, draping curls.

But in the Birtish Isles, it’s all, “I say!” “Bravo!” “Hip, Hip!” I suppose it's all that air sweeping down from the North Sea. Things have a crispness and an edge.

Which brings me to Kiki BooBa and sacred language.

Language is sacred by virtue of the correlation maintained between name and form. And in the sacredness lies the power of mantra and poetry. (see Sacred Language, June 21, 2006 ) By contrast, we speak in ordinary tongues of Natural language which are understood by definition to be “arbitrary” – i.e. lacking any relationship between name and form.

Well, Kiki Booba is a bit of evidence that even Natural languages have just a hint of name and form. (And maybe elsewhere I will argue that it’s evidence for sacred language actually existing.) Kiki Booba goes like this……

A remote tribe calls one of the shapes I’ve shown above Booba and the other Kiki. Decide which is which and then read on.

This is a test to demonstrate that people may not attach sounds to shapes arbitrarily. In a psychological experiment first designed by Wolfgang Köhler 95% to 98% of people choose Kiki for the orange angular shape and Booba for the purple rounded shape.

It now appears that during language development the naming of objects is not completely arbitrary. “The rounded shape may most commonly be named Booba because the mouth makes a more rounded shape to produce that sound. Similarly a more taut, angular mouth shape is needed to make the sound Kiki. The sounds of a 'K' are harder and more forceful than those of a 'B', as well. Note also that, in the Roman alphabet, the angular shape mimics the angular letters K and I, while the rounded shape mimics the rounded letters B and O." (Wikipedia)

Now, this was interesting to me and I’ll get back to it one day in detail. For, I think it can be tied into what happens during meditation and during speaking in tongues. Consciousness expands and we regress to the semi-sacred correlation of name and form found in glossolalia (speaking in tongues).

But that’s enough for now. I find, I’d rather just enjoy a bit of Kiki Booba. I find together there’s a dance, a celebration going on.

Kiki Booba, isn’t he the leader of a Carribean band?

Or should I be content with French Chanson’s effect even sans translation?

Oh My Gosh!

Oh My Gosh!
Originally uploaded by wmphoto.

KiKi Booba, Indeed. I don't always understand this woman.

But, tickle my chin and I babble French too. And it makes you want to hug me, doesn't it.

Wednesday, August 09, 2006

Today's Thoughts...

Cebus capucinus
Originally uploaded by wmphoto.
Don't worry.
Just get on with it.

Jiffy Lube and Life

the blades of Mandalay
Originally uploaded by Farl.

When my partner of twenty years and I split up, I had this image in my head that my future lay across a series of mountain ranges. It was so clear to me, like one of those pictures shot from the summit and published in The National Geographic magazine. Hill after hill, range upon range and I knew that when I reached the other side, we would meet again. The only thing was, I would be so changed by my journey as to be physically unrecognizable. So would she. Was it a lifetime or life times that would pass? I did not know the answer, only that we would meet again and our souls would recognize and rejoice in “the familiar.”

Our love would last, but for now our paths were parting. And on her way out the door, oblivious to metaphor, she said, “Be sure to get your oil changed.”

She had been worrying on that for days and hadn’t had the time to attend to it. “Don’t worry. I’ll get it changed,” I assured her, though my intentions were to walk, walk that is across those mountains which were my more immediate concern.

Well, I am in a new house now, moved to a new neighborhood. And yesterday in the mail there was this card from Jiffy Lube, “We haven’t seen you in awhile.”

In fact, it had been 6 months or 6000 miles. It felt to me more like the latter, six thousand miles across the mountains. And again I saw that image, the progress made, the distant horizon still unmet- but my feet weren’t even bleeding.

I smiled. Six thousand miles!

Now, I bring all this up because there is a lesson here. While you might say that, yes, it’s a nice metaphor regarding the struggles in life and how life’s one grand adventure… yah dah, yah dah - it goes deeper than just that. It is, I believe, a deeply intuitive take into the laws of nature, or more specifically, the nature of evolution.

Evolution is a walk across a rugged landscape.

Evolution is a walk across a rugged landscape,” that’s what theoretical biologists (the guys who crunch the numbers) would say.

Well, what the hell have I been doing? Heck, you can still be in a relationship and feel the muscle burn from climbing up and down.

Evolution is nature's way of solving problems.” That’s another thing theoretical biologists argue. Of course, they’re not aiming at domestic tranquility with this point. For Biology, the main problem for a bacterium (or anybody else) is how to survive long enough to reproduce. This is the arena of survival of the fittest and natural selection, where genetically distinct individuals compete for limited resources. Those that do best produce more offspring.

Again, you say there's no connection here to working out a long term relationship… But wait there is. Because, as perfectly fit individuals do well, and are fat and happy in their little ecological niche, things change.

AH yes, “We were doing so well and then things changed.” It happens to even the most fit organism. For no environment is stable. Sooner or later everything will change. And then what happens? How does evolution cope with a moving target?

The rule is, “Evolve or Die.” And if you haven’t read the headlines on the emergence of antibiotic resistance, let me tell you, bugs are great at doing this. They manage to evolve quickly, and find new genetic solutions.

Faced with a changing environment (and who isn't), bacteria explore a vast range of alternative genetic solutions. Theoretical biologists have created a model to map out this behavior. They call it an "adaptive landscape," or better yet a "rugged landscape." It's a metaphoric tool to describe this genetic prospecting; an abstract mathematical space with an undulating surface of hills and valleys.

The height of any point on this landscape corresponds to the genetic fitness of an organism to its environment. The highest peaks represent those genetic combinations which produce the highest fitness. Movement on the landscape corresponds to changes in the organism's genetic constitution- changes made as it evolves and seeks to survive and reproduce.

Fuelled by mutation and driven by natural selection, organisms will tend to march uphill toward fitness peaks and once there hunker down to enjoy the good life... until conditions change. Suddenly, they’re no longer fit. They are thrown into a deep valley and have to begin again that evolutionary walk. If they don’t, they die.

They die right there in the pits. Now, tell me, is this not a great metaphor for relationships? Is it not more than a romantic image? There is mathematics here. (In fact, given that a bacterium has about 4000 genes, a true adaptive landscape is a space of 4000 dimensions… Don’t try to go there, it will not help.)

The take home message here is simple. What’s true for a bacterium surviving in the gut, is not that different from two people trying to survive in a relationship. Or for that matter, economists have applied this knowledge to innovation in business. And, I think it also applies to our surviving on the planet.

If you what to survive long enough to blossom, if you want to live a life truly suited to your surroundings- you must evolve or die.

And despite the impression one may receive from the media, meditation is not simply a means to reduce stress. Meditation is about one thing ultimately- it is a means, perhaps the best we have, to evolve our consciousness.

Sunday, August 06, 2006

They weren't sure...

Which leads me to my next consideration...

Missing the Boat

Originally uploaded by jrmannn.
Either all the world religions are wrong, and saints through-out history were merely hallucinating, or we are really missing the boat.

What I’m trying to do here is argue for the latter.

Thursday, August 03, 2006

Déjà vu

Deja Vu
Originally uploaded by saturnism.
In the last week I have been peppered with a number of episodes of déjà vu. I can go months without such an experience and now, here comes a cluster. These experiences seem like strange little wake-up calls. “What’s going on?” or “Whoa! … Déjà vu!” You know immediately, it is not possible, and yet something feels so real. Just beyond your grasp lies familiarity… I did this before… Yet, something does not compute: It seems like it was in the past… And that simply is impossible.

So what is going on here? Personally, it always makes me wonder about time and parallel universes and whether sometimes you “tune in” to the other time or place by remembering. But, these are just my own personal feelings. Surely, this can’t be. Though, time and parallel worlds leave room perhaps for that interpretation. Let’s be more hard headed here.

Science offers a variety of explanations which include: two cognitive processes momentarily out of synchrony, temporal lobe epilepsy disrupting neuronal transmission, problems in attention, and memory malfunction.

In these hypotheses the neuroscientists are arguing that specific zips of energy around and through the brain are not working quite as they normally do. And so, we feel and think a bit differently than usual.

But explication of neuro-circuits is just going for the answer to what’s been called the “Easy Question” regarding consciousness. For even if we knew the exact circuits, cells and anatomy involved in déjà vu, we would not have answered the “Hard Question”- how do these solid objects: electricity, molecules and cells create the immaterial memory. Déjà vu is a subjective experience, a totally personal and private feeling which no outsider can ever really access and thus, by definition this experience and every other act of consciousness cannot be an object. That’s the Hard Question. How does the material ever give rise to the immaterial?

Estimates for settling the easy question have been given at 100 years. As for the Hard Question, no one has even ventured a guess. Too many mysteries lie unsolved. Still, answering the Easy Question may provide insight into the Hard.

To me, invoking the function of specific neural circuits for specific experiences of consciousness (e.g. Déjà vu) is the equivalent of identifying the optics necessary for perception of the world around us. There are an array of devices out there to help us see more than we might. We need sun glasses in the sun, reading glasses for the written, telescopes to discern the rings of Saturn, and microscopes to see bacteria. Otherwise, we see nothing due to glare, blurred vision, distance, or small scale.

Devices are necessary to attune our eyes to the correct wavelength. Once outfitted correctly, whole new worlds can then be seen. Similarly, we need different neuro-circuits to perceive different realities of consciousness. It’s a good working hypothesis. Not mine, but that of cognitive science as a whole. And it is part of answering the Easy Question.

What I wonder is how far can we stretch this? How many circuits and new combinations there of are we allowed. How many realities do we get to see? Or in the case of déjà vu, remember.

Déjà vu , Memory and Meditation

Debating Reality
Originally uploaded by PhotoShop Guru.

“I did this before.”
“This already happened.”

These are statements of memory. And a neural circuit explanation of déjà vu runs like this: a hyper-activation of the parahippocampal gyrus (now, don’t worry about what that exactly is, just enjoy the poetry)… a hyper-activation of the parahippocampus… gives rise to feelings of familiarity, a type of memory. Then, a normally functioning prefrontal cortex and hippocampus kick in to report “no content” in episodic memory. Thus, arises déjà vu. “Nothing there” in memory means it cannot be. But, it still seems very familiar. It’s a simple malfunction as two different types of memory are out of sync.

But, I’d like to drop the neurological and stick with just the warm and fuzzy world of memory per se. For, it seems to me that meditation itself can be approached almost entirely through the lens of memory. So, I’ve been thinking about memory for some time.

Meditation seems to bring up all kinds of memories. Novices sit to meditate and think about what happened in the day. More advanced practitioners often stir up traumatic memories from childhood. And of course, meditators are big believers in reincarnation. They’ll tell you all kinds of stories of what they’ve recollected. Do we really have memory back that far? And finally, Enlightenment itself is sometimes couched in terms of a wonderful sense of finally “coming home.” Is this just another version of familiarity, a memory writ large by hyper-activation of the parahippocampal gyrus?

Can many, if not most, experiences of meditation be ascribed to dysfunction in memory? I think it’s worth consideration.

First, it’s good to realize that there are many kinds of memory. Classification schemes abound. Based upon duration, there are three distinct types of memory: sensory, short-term, and long-term memory. Working memory, a type of the short-term, is defined not by duration but rather purpose.

Long-term memory encompasses both declarative (explicit) and procedural (implicit) memory. Declarative memory requires conscious recall and can be further sub-divided into semantic memory (which concerns facts independent of context) and episodic memory (which concerns information specific to context.) This includes personal memories, sensations, and emotions. Brain regions such as the hippocampus, the amygdala, and the mammillary bodies are involved in these different types of memory.

On the other hand, procedural memory (or implicit memory) doesn’t depend on conscious recall, but rather on implicit learning. It is used primarily in learning motor skills and is revealed by improved performance of a task after repetition. "Practice makes perfect" as we unconsciously learn by previous experience. Procedural memory depends upon the cerebellum and basal ganglia.

In the lab, each of these types of memory are separate functional units. One can be manipulated without affecting the function of the other. And too, notice that this whole scheme still leaves out at least two types of memory: familiarity and prospective memory (i.e. remembering to remember). So, even this complicated a scheme isn’t the whole story of memory, but it gets me to my point:

What this suggests to me is that memory, like reading glasses, telescopes and microscopes, comes in many forms suited to different functions. And while I think that déjà vu may actually be simply a memory malfunction, certain experiences in meditation may not. Neither dysfunctions or hallucinations, the memories uncovered during meditation may actually be hints that there is more to Reality than what the general consensus believes. Perhaps we have yet to uncover the full power and scope of human memory capacity.

What’s needed is veridical evidence. I'll suggest some things another day. For now, I would simply like to encourage the young scientists out there stay open to possibilities. And start looking not “out,” but “back and in.” It may well help us address the long denied Hard Question.

Wednesday, August 02, 2006

Is that a Smile?

Is that a Smile?
Originally uploaded by RupertG.
I don't have any thoughts to put down here today. So, I thought I'd pass along a little "wide mouth frog." It's a photo by a fellow I know only as RupertG. He has recommended to me the book, "Two Views of the Mind." It's a Zen and science thing he thought I'd like. Looks good. Haven't read it. Frogs don't have much gray matter, i.e. no neo-cortex.

And some days, I am a frog.

I just wish that we could bottle this and send some to the Middle East.

You might also enjoy other photos by RupertG. Just click on froggie's face.