Sunday, November 17, 2013

Reflections: Radiance and my own version of the Moro Reflex

Someone crossed my boundaries in a big way today. I'm still reeling in the reaction of none other than my very own conditioned version of the 'Moro' reflex. I've been doing a fair amount of pacing trying to organize my thoughts and not being very successful. (And yes I've also tried some not very successful sitting.)

My version of the 'Moro reflex' was conditioned by witnessing and indirectly suffering the effects of infidelity in my family, in more than one Christian community in my teens, and later in my academic career. As a result I've stood on the conservative side of social behaviors ranging from flirtation to sexual misconduct even while making an effort to be non-judgmental.

In what ways has my own version of the 'Moro' reflex distorted the 'lens' through which I see things and affected my actions in negative ways? For one, early in my on-line presence it caused me to generate an alternate persona with which I sought to determine someone's intentions. In another case, I may have been caused to be prematurely judgmental. And finally, it caused a prolonged state of shock and denial when life went awry. I've been unable to determine the motivations behind the behaviors of various individuals ever since.

Over the last year or so, as I've begun to suspect that my trust in various on-line friendships has been misplaced, I've made an agreement with myself to allow myself to be a virtual guinea pig or lab rat because it seems that my entire life prior to this was lived to play this role. I can't say that my altruistic attitude is unbiased, however, because I still care about those people very much. Moreover, I care about the on-line Sangha. I hate to admit that, to the extent that I've dared and been able, following the on-line discussions has eroded my internal defenses rather than helped build them up and I've gradually become increasingly sensitive, reactive, repressed and isolated. I often don't know whether my actions are being commented on or those of others.

One of the reasons I felt I could afford to be a virtual lab rat is because I'm not a teacher, I have no product to sell, no business to advertise and no artificial facade to wear, so the thoughts, feelings and conclusions I've been self-reporting are real to the extent I've dared report them. I know of others who can't afford to be so flexible. I've watched other people get hurt in similar ways although usually on a more minor scale because they've other support systems in place, whereas my supports have been knocked out from under one-by-one with time as I've tried to respond with integrity and dignity to the situation as I saw it. It's affected my enjoyment of various things I've invested my energy in, like writing and sharing poetry and my Shobogenzo posts. These events also motivated my divorce, threatened and prematurely terminated a very good friendship and caused resentment towards the various ways my family has both historically and in a more immediate sense affected my reactions. (Another prescription of tonglen whenever my sitting improves I guess.) Personally speaking a lot has been a stake.

What is emptiness? What is spirituality? What is that radiance that is the source of our individual compassion and generosity? Whatever the source of that energy is, I have to say that I never imagined that that energy could be as seriously compromised as I'm personally feeling it has been over the last few months. I also know that's not only true for myself, but also true for the on-line community as it attempts to reorganize, learn from and recover from the various traumas of this last year.

I've never read anything written by Bankei, but I recently heard a story about how Bankei kept letting a thief steal from the Sangha and the Sangha's incredulity. His response was something along the lines of allowing the thief so that the thief would eventually learn better. Whether it's food out of the Sangha's kitchen or our own individual radiance it's difficult for each of us to know where to draw the line, especially when the line is violated by people that are close to us and that we care about, people who we admire or people in positions of authority.

Personally I can say I've lost another day to the thralls of being caught in reaction when I should be finishing things at work in preparation for retirement -- a deadline which is looming ever closer.

Friday, November 1, 2013

Reflections: Have App, Will Travel... Or that Moment when Life Passed By

In a little over a month I'll be retiring with very little idea of what I'll be doing next. Right now it doesn't feel like freedom, but rather life with a different set of rules, a life that will demand an increase in flexibility and ingenuity.

It feels strange and scary not having a direction, a plan, a purpose, much of an idea about what to do or much of an answer as to why bother. On the other hand, my life for the last few years hasn't provided answers to those questions either. Given my isolation and the fact that I only have this one life, staying in my position just to keep myself in lattes and the latest iPhones seems like a copout and lazy even though it might be the easiest solution to security.

In spite of the trepidation I've been comparing my decision to retire (at least temporairly) to sitting or a longer retreat in which at the beginning there's a little trepidation. From sitting I know the best response is to relax and trust awareness.

Although I've said I have very little idea what I'll be doing next I mean in the longer term. My immediate plans are to spend the Christmas holiday with a girlfriend, visit relatives I haven't seen since I was thirteen and then spend some time traveling to let my mind unwind. I'll investigate my options and probably send in applications to some volunteer programs. But the vacation is a vacation I can use and it's a vacation I should have taken when I graduated from undergrad but cancelled in order to do research before going on to grad school. My companion is going to be an iPhone-iPad watercolor app called Auryn Ink (I have a few other apps as well if I get tired of that one). It's been since the 80's that I've spent any time on watercolors and I've had no training as an artist, but I feel like it will be a fun way to keep track in addition to taking pictures and any poetry or haiku I might be tempted to write.

In spite of the fact that it's always accessible and has unlimited paper and paint, Auryn Ink has some limitations. For example, it's limited to a uniform bleed-width for each line and doesn't allow the swirl and blending of color that, along with their translucency, often give watercolors their mysterious appearance. In spite of those frustrations, I've kept at it and am starting to learn to work within those limits. I'm pretty convinced what happens next in my life will be similar.


Four years ago I ripped my life apart at the seams on the basis of what I saw on the Internet. However foolish (or wise, based on the conditions of my life at the time) that decision might have been, since then my life has increasingly become a vacuum because, for a number of reasons including very real ones, I haven't created anything of sufficient substance to hold my attention. The fact that anything I glean from the empty fields of sitting has only been applied to the shadow-boxing and reflection-casting arena of this internet environment is a kind of non-existence. It's not a surprise that I've been increasingly buffeted by your various energies as I've increasingly become a psychic sponge for those energies -- however wonderful, helpful, seductive and/or frightening those energies are. That won't change until I start creating and living something with greater substance in reality -- even though what I create or whatever happens as a result of what I create will undoubtedly be impermanent. That's how all things are.

The only death in life any of us has a chance of avoiding is the death associated with the fear of impermanence, i.e. avoiding life because of a fear of loss. It's only because of a lot of losses in my life that a unique gap in my life exists. A few of you might even be envious of the opportunity I've got. It's time I took advantage of it. That's how I can help you all the most.

Don't worry, I'll keep you all updated on my adventures. Thank you for your friendship.