Tuesday, March 20, 2012

Second Cup Tzu-Jan

      Today has started out just like any other day, with a couple of lattes, a perfunctory glance through my email, Facebook, BlogCatalog, and NPR, and the thought, "What will I write about today?" The topics I choose for my blog are rarely, if ever, thought out in advance. They usually concern whatever I am thinking about at the moment, and some of them take an entire day to compose and edit. The further I get in this process, I notice the effects that my mood and disposition have on the manner in which I write. Because I'm not working and earning money right now, I sometimes feel a little tinge of guilt about sitting here, day after day, completely absorbed in something I love doing, something that gives me a great deal of pleasure, but doesn't generate any income. I suppose I could be cleaning the toilet or finding some other type of busy work, but staying busy has never been much of a priority for me. I am rarely ever bored. I'm one of those people who abhors vacationing with a set itinerary, and my approach to life is much the same: I am enjoying it right now, for what it is, not for what it will be a few minutes or a few years from now.
     At some point today, I will exercise and take Simon and Lilly out for a good walk. I will call the water company to find out what our share of the water bill is, since the owner of this place didn't pay last month's bill. I may even attempt to start on our taxes, but that's a stretch. Right now, I'm just trying to relax my mind, to find a way to remain humanely concerned, but detached, from all that is going on around me. On the surface, the world seems like a disorderly, chaotic place, inhabited by parade of lunatics, replete with a never-ending supply of disaster. Looking at it this way, it's easy to see why I sometimes become so easily overwhelmed and frustrated. Attempting to make sense out of the world around me is like trying to sneeze with my eyes open: futile, impossible, a waste of time. This need to assign order, to determine causes and effects, to control, arises from my own self-consciousness, my ego, the way in which I perceive myself as being separate from my surroundings, instead of being of them. In doing so, I render myself unable to see the forest for the trees.
     My heart is beating, my neurons are firing, and I am breathing, without having to be told to do so. If I get up from my chair to fetch another cup of coffee, the nerves supplying the muscles in my feet, legs, hips, back, abdomen, and arms will help coordinate the effort, my heart will beat a little more rapidly to accommodate the change in position, and my breathing will become a little deeper and faster to accept and oxygenate the extra blood that's being pumped into my lungs. My body knows how to do all of this; I don't have to think about controlling it at all. This is also the way of the world. It follows a natural flow, a rhythm which is indescribable and non-sensical, yet at the same time, intuitive.
     The less I think, the more I know. Eliminating the filter of understanding seems almost heretical, but in reality, what do any of us really understand about anything? For instance, I know what beauty is, but in trying to describe beauty, it loses its meaning. Intuitive concepts are quickly lost in translation, yet we devote an inordinate amount of time to categorizing and compartmentalizing them into acceptably neat and tidy packages, mistaking this effort for wisdom. What we end up with is perception, nuggets of illusion which permit us to see ourselves, other people, and things the way we want to see them, how we think we or they could or should be, instead of appreciating that we all simply are, that indeed, it is what it is.
     Is life a problem to be solved, or a reality to be experienced?* If every problem contains its own solution, why do we continually expend so much energy trying to influence the process? Is getting to where we want to be more important than any of the steps we take along the way? In seeking out answers to all of our questions, what are we missing out on? Is it possible to just be? As infants, we were all the centers of our universe, lacking in self-consciousness, existing in perfect synchrony with the immediacy of each moment in the world around us. We had not yet separated ourselves from our environment: we were everything, and everything was us. We were reality, only we weren't aware of it. A newborn baby is soft, yet resilient, empty, yet receptive, detached and impartial, yet primally connected: she doesn't have a care in the world. Anywhere she is, she is already at home. As she grows, she inevitably begins to worry about things like pleasing her parents, her developing ego displacing her innate connection with the here and now. Is it possible to regain our childish sense of openness and detachment, while still being shaped by our experiences? Can we recover what we once knew without "knowing" it, namely that "me" is "we"? I don't know for sure, but I'm certainly trying. In coming to know and accept myself, I'm beginning to let go of my ego, and with it, a lot of the illusions I've had regarding life. My body has no agenda, it just does what it needs to do. Given proper nutrients, rest, and exercise, it seems to be doing quite well. Can this automaticity or "self-so"*** be adapted for the soul? With intuition and mystery as my source, spontaneity as my muse, and the constant realization that what is beyond, is that which is also here**, I see no reason why my mind and spirit would do anything but flourish.
The Wu-Wei of Grilled Cheese (a related post)

*Adapted from Gerardus van der Leeuw's original quote: "Is the mystery of life a problem to be solved, or a reality to be experienced?"
**Hindu proverb
***Tzu-Jan= automaticity, or the concept of "by itself so" or "self-so"

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