Archive for the ‘The Buddha Walks Into a Bar’ tag
Taken just a few days ago, this is one of the various varieties of cactus plants that burst out into blossom. The flowers are large and delicate in comparison with the cactus plant itself which is tough and painfully thorny should one make the mistake of stepping on one of them, something that I have been known to do on a number of occasions. Of course, if I was truly present when walking in the semi-arid hills, I would see the cacti and avoid unnecessary pain.
One of the things that I am finding difficult is to find presence, as I have been bouncing back and forth between places so much that no place becomes the centre. All the bouncing between leads me to relocate even more into an inner space making outer space even more like a foreign country. All of the routines that I used to mark my days have stopped being routines. Of course, there is something good to be said for having routines fall away:
“Most of us have a set routine that gets us through our day. Somewhere along the line, we solidified that routine into a way of life. The question then becomes, “Is it working?” Day by day, we may find ourselves getting restless with the same classes or job, the same relationship, the same hangouts or hang-ups, and we long for some radical change.
However, it is not our world that is necessarily problematic; it’s our point of view.” (Rinzler, The Buddha Walks Into a Bar,p. 4)
Restless! Yes, that is a good word to use here. It is a word that helps explain some of what is churning inside. What is missing is the point of view that would help clarify life lived fully present rather than through routines. My routines are dissolving, but there is no clarity emerging. Rather than continue to follow a Buddhist train of thought, I find myself turning to an alchemical way of looking in hopes of understanding what is happening.
The first of the four major stages is called nigredo. Here is what Wikipedia has to say about nigredo from a Jungian standpoint:
’the nigredo of the process of individuation on the other hand is a subjectively experienced process brought about by the subject’s painful, growing awareness of his shadow aspects’. It could be described as a moment of maximum despair, that is a prerequisite to personal development. As individuation unfolds, so ‘confrontation with the shadow produces at first a dead balance, a standstill that hampers moral decisions and makes convictions ineffective or even impossible…nigredo, tenebrositas, chaos, melancholia’. Here is ‘the darkest time, the time of despair, disillusionment, envious attacks; the time when Eros and Superego are at daggers drawn, and there seems no way forward…nigredo, the blackening’.
In this stage one has entered into the Dark Night of the Soul. It is hard to be present when the inner realm is breaking down all the routines, the convictions, the assumed truths and the convenient lies that have allowed us to ignore the dark shadows that lurk within the psyche.
I took this photo in Thailand where life seemed to move at a different pace for a lot of people such as for this man who definitely had time to relax while the young pig was being roasted. I know that I get less done in spite of the fact that I haven’t slowed down the pace of my own life. I manage to keep busy without actually accomplishing anything worth talking about.
As I write this I am in a local library in Calgary, a place I often find myself visiting after an analytic session. I came into the library with full intentions of slowing down and focusing on a journal project that would look at authenticity and following one’s feelings and dreams. That was more than a half hour ago. I began this session with opening a MS Word document, writing two sentences and then . . . Yes, I got busy. I changed my computer settings to start with so as to have my battery last longer regardless of the fact that I will be long gone from the library before my battery gives out. Then the laptop automatically found the wifi in the library which required a click to activate. Since I was taken to the login page as part of the activation process, I decided I might as well check my e-mail. Of course that only led me to check out Facebook as well to see how my children and friends are doing since the last time I checked four hours ago. I did take time to click “like” a number of times and to write one comment.
At that moment I had an inspiration, ‘why not write up today’s blog post since I am already online?’ Naturally, I had to search through my photo archives to find an appropriate photo even though I wasn’t quite sure what I would write about. Next came time to do some cropping and some slight adjustments with exposure and saturation with the photo while thinking about what would the content of the blog speak of. Just to get this far kept me busy for three-quarters of an hour.
Now, this doesn’t invalidate the value of this work of creating this blog post, but it does speak to the photo and coincidentally to what I have been reading in Lodro Rinzler’s book, The Buddha Walks Into a Bar.
“For many of us, life does feel like a battle. Our first instinct in the morning is one of self-protection, wanting to burrow back under the covers instead of facing the day. this is because we often view our daily routine as just a way to get by in life – pay the bills, find a romantic relationship, maintain our friendships, nurture our family life – at the end of the day, we are exhausted by our struggle to keep it all together.” (page 3)
Keep busy, don’t think too much – maybe we will get to sleep with some hope of real rest. It doesn’t matter how we look at it, whether we want to hide under our covers or flee them, we flee into being busy with life.
“We spend so much energy constantly trying to keep up with voice mail, e-mail, junk mail, bill mail, females, or males. Instead of engaging these various aspects of our life with an open mind, we schlep our way through them and cling to our escapes: we chew our nails, drink beer, have sex, shop online, or go to the gym. Some of us might even be able to multitask and do all of the above at once. Although we try our hardest, we know at the end of the day there is always another thing we should do, and yet we have taken so little time to take care of ourselves.” (page 3)
I don’t have any of the usual excuses for avoiding taking the time. I am retired, I have taken time out from the normal patterns and routines that filled my life at home to focus on wellness . Yet, in spite of this, I find my days, hours and minutes filling themselves to the point that I manage to avoid my self. I am aware of what has happened and how I sabotage my own well-being. Recognizing that, I accept the reality of what has happened and make the conscious decision to again slow down and be with myself long enough to listen and learn.
My life is messy, I have to admit it. I have these visions of being the perfect husband, father, psychotherapist, friend, world citizen – but, I wake up and find myself, warts and all. I get lazy in so many things, I sometimes forget to shave for a few days and end up looking like some grizzled old geezer. I procrastinate and then forget what I was putting off. Left on my own I am a bit of a mess. My children know the truth of this and accept this as okay. In a way, perhaps it makes it easier for them as it would be hell to try and live up to model of someone who somehow managed to not be messy.
This afternoon, I found another book in the library that almost jumped of the shelf as I walked by in order to catch my attention. The book is called, The Buddha Walks Into a Bar, and is written by Lodro Rinzler. Now this, is a book that sounds promising, so I picked it up off the self and began to read it. The first words in the book confirmed what I suspected, that this book will get some of my time. Listen to Rinzler from this opening paragraph in the book:
“This isn’t your grandmother’s book on meditation. It’s for you. That is, assuming you like to have a beer once in a while, enjoy sex, have figured out that your parents are crazy, or get frustrated at work. It’s a book that doesn’t put Buddhism on some pedestal so that you have to look up to it. It’s about looking at all the nooks and crannies of your life and applying the Buddhist teachings to them, no matter how messy that may be.” (Rinzler, The Buddha Walks Into a Bar, 2011, p. xi)
Now this is what I thought I was going to find when I adopted Buddhism as part of my way of being and living. For some reason I got caught up in the words of Buddhist teachers whose words have been recorded over the past two thousand and five hundred years. I have to admit that those words often felt “distant” to me, words that talked of a life and culture that are far removed from my experience of life. A few voices along the way such as Chogyam Trungpa’s provided a context that was more relevant to the world I live in, but even Trungpa understandably brings his Tibetan way of being and knowing into his presentations. I would have to say that it was my Sangha teacher who is much closer to my own experience of the world, a modern western world, that showed me that Buddhism was for “us” as well. Discovering this American Buddhist’s book promises to be a book that will find its way here in posts to come.