On the Passage of Pleasures


(PAST Pleasures) Nothing ever tastes as good as it does in memory. (Photo taken by Ria Tirazona.)

(PAST Pleasures) Nothing ever tastes as good as it does in memory. (Photo courtesy of Ria Tirazona.)

So, to celebrate the largely successful completion of our thirty-day detoxification program, Abbey and I went out for a pizza and pasta lunch yesterday with fellow yoga teacher Ria in tow.

Since it was one of our usual haunts, we knew exactly what we wanted to get. (Well, at least Abbey and I did. Ria gracefully conceded to everything we both wanted.) As always, we inhaled everything in slightly under fifteen minutesincluding the time spent waiting for the food. (Yes, two pizzas and a bowl of pasta plus two giant brownies and a cookie butter shake later on were no match for three ravenous yoginis.)

On our way back to the studio after Ria had dropped us off, I turned to Abbey a tad ruefully and said: It didn’t taste quite as good as it used to.

Abbey replied: No, it didn’t.

After I pause, I said: In a way, I’m glad. It makes it all much easier to give up.

To which Abbey said: Yes, it does.

Like I said, this is going to be my grand year of letting things go.

So far, it’s been easy.

I hope (against all expectations) that it stays that way.

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On the Ubiquity of Vibrations


(COSMIC Vibrations) Very often, it's the sound of multiple appliances humming. (Cartoon sourced from tricycle.com.)

(COSMIC Vibrations) Very often, it’s the sound of multiple appliances humming. (Cartoon sourced from tricycle.com.)

I often focus on sounds in my meditation practice, simply because it’s the one object (besides the breath) that I can direct my awareness towards for any decent amount of time.

Of course, this is a practice that’s much sexier in nature (i.e., sounds of waves crashing, gulls screaming, leaves rustling, and so on and so forth). In the privacy of my home, or the studio, very often what I hear are:

Doors banging.

Horns honking.

Cars whizzing.

Sirens wailing.

Fans whirring.

Feet slapping.

People chatting.

Children screaming.

Radios blaring.

And, yes, the refrigerator humming.

Well, we’ve got to work with what we have.

Sigh.

On the Necessity of Disillusionment


(ENLIGHTENMENT Milestones) It's supposed to be funny—and it is—but it's also really true. (Cartoon sourced from board.buddhist.ru.)

(ENLIGHTENMENT Milestones) It’s supposed to be funny—and it is—but it’s also really true. (Cartoon sourced from board.buddhist.ru.)

Once you get to that place of disillusionment, you can take the words of Pema Chödrön to heart:

“Rather than letting our negativity get the better of us, we could acknowledge that right now we feel like a piece of s–t and not be squeamish about taking a good look.”

The act of taking a good look is the second step.

And the third.

And the fourth.

And the fifth…

It never quite ends, actually.

What matters is to begin.

As the Buddha said:

“There are only two mistakes one can make along the road to truth: not going all the way, and not starting.”

Here’s to starting. Here’s to going all the way.

On Walking on Wires


(TIGHTROPE Walking) It's also called funambulism—though I wouldn't call it fun and I wouldn't call it ambling. (Original image sourced from stellanova.it.)

(TIGHTROPE Walking) It’s also called funambulism—though I wouldn’t call it fun and I wouldn’t call it ambling. (Original image sourced from stellanova.it.)

And just like that, January’s almost gone.

It’s been a good month (mostly)—good in a quiet, placid and plodding way (mostly). Against all expectations, the daily practices and rituals have held: the reading, the sitting, the swimming, the writing, the cooking, the washing, the cleaning and the stretching. On some days, the practices and rituals have had to assume abbreviated and modified forms (in earlier days, these abbreviated and modified forms would have been impermissible), especially when the teaching began hitting frequencies of four to five classes per day. Then life became a tightrope from sunrise to sunset, one foot ever so carefully and deliberately placed before the other, eyes cast down on the vicinity of the toes with only the quickest, occasional peeks towards the horizon.

It’s been a month of tightrope days (mostly).

This carefully cultivated chronal myopia—my rendering of the Buddhist practice of abiding in the present—has paid off (at least whenever the practice succeeds, which isn’t all that often). There’s room to admire the view on either side of the tightrope, without the customary agitation, rush and vertigo. Instead of feeling the instants recede into a distressingly irretrievable past (eating away into an increasingly finite future), there’s just this sense of inhabiting an eternal moment. There’s just now, and now, and now, and now…

Again, I’m still not used to this practice, and I’m far from being adept. Which is why looking at my overpopulated February calendar manages to trigger the occasional twinge of anxiety. But I really get (from two years of teetering on the rope) that one way or another I’ve managed to stay on this most tenuous of paths, often with neither pole nor net. If I can continue to look earnestly at the no-ground beneath my feet (rather than what lies behind or what lies ahead), it’s because I now trust my ability to walk the rope indefinitely—and my capacity to heal should I actually fall.

Here’s to living life one literal step at a time.

On the Nearness of the Near


(DOORLESS Door) Carrying on in the venerable tradition of the Gateless Gate. (Image sourced from zenflash.wordpress.com.)

(DOORLESS Door) Carrying on in the venerable tradition of the Gateless Gate. (Image sourced from zenflash.wordpress.com.)

If you’ve never encountered the eyebrow- (and brain-wrinkling) phenomenon known as the Zen koan, here’s an example from the classic 13th century compilation called The Gateless Gate or Mumonkan:

Buddha & the Non-Buddhist

A Non-Buddhist said to the Buddha, “I do not ask for words; I do not ask for silence.”

Buddha just sat quietly.

The Non-Buddhist said admiringly, “The compassion of the World-Honored One has opened the clouds of my illusion, and has enabled me to enter on the Way.” Making his salutations, he departed.

Ananda then asked Buddha, “What was it this Non-Buddhist realised, that he so praised you?”

The World-Honored One replied, “A high-class horse moves at even the shadow of the whip.”

You can find more of these Zen koans at Mark T. Morse’s zanily illustrated website thegatelessgate.com.

Happy and bewildering reading! 😀