The Myth of Permanence

The Myth of Permanence

"Contemplating impermanence can be a liberating experience, one that brings both sobriety and joy."

~ Sakyong Mipham

Be Openness

Excerpt from Instant Enlightenment: Fast, Deep, and Sexy by David Deida:

Go inside yourself as deep as you can. Feel inward, deeper and deeper. Is there an end to how deeply you can feel? If not, keep feeling inwardly until you are certain inward never ends.

All there is inside is a deeper and deeper openness.

Now, feel outwardly as far as you can. Listen to the most distant sounds you can hear, and then listen further, into the openness beyond the furthest sound. Notice the most distant light, and then gaze beyond it, into the endless openness...

Now, simultaneously, feel the openness that goes on and on, both inwardly and outwardly. Really do this, and you will discover that feeling never ends in any direction. The most basic sense of being, of existence, is the openness of feeling in all directions. Being is feeling wide open.

As soon as your feeling stops short of on-and-on, feel whatever you are feeling (a tree or a thought), and feel beyond it. You don't have to stop feeling anything (you can still feel the tree or the thought), but also feel the openness that goes beyond anything. Feel further than you've ever felt before, zillions of miles inwardly, and zillions of miles outwardly, on and on, wide open. 

This is who you are, this wide openness, feeling with no boundaries.

Be openness, feeling on and on, while having sex or during a conversation, and your lover and friends will begin to feel an unbound openness, too. 

Do you have a better way to live your life? The choice is yours. 

A State of Flux

View from the ISS at Night from Knate Myers on Vimeo.

Marcelo Gleiser, from "The Mystery We Are," On Being, November 9, 2012: 

The way we understand the world is very much based on what we can see of the world. Science is based on measurements and observations. And the notion that we can actually come up and have a theory that explains everything assumes that we can know everything — that we can go out and measure everything there is to measure about nature and come up with this beautiful Theory of Everything. And since we cannot measure all there is to measure, since our tools have limitations, we are definitely limited in how much we can know of the world.

So you can even build a theory that would explain everything that we know now. But then two weeks from now, someone else will come and find something new that does not fit in your theory. And that's not a Theory of Everything anymore because it doesn't include everything that can be included.

When you look out into nature, everything is in transformation at all times. And we see this at the very small and we see this at the very large [scale]. When we look at the whole universe, it is expanding, it's growing, it's changing in time. And so I look at things much more as a state of flux, of becoming, of transformation, as something that has some static truth behind it. So the notion that we as humans could come up with a final answer to the mystery of nature it's pushing things a little too far for our capabilities.

See also:

Flat, Round, or Wavy

"Take your finger and draw this line: summer, fall, winter, spring...noon, dusk, dark, dawn...

Have you ever seen those stratus clouds that go on parallel stripes across the sky? Did you know that's a continuous sheet of cloud that's dipping in and out of the condensation layer?

What if every seemingly isolated object was actually just where the continuous wave of that object poked through into our world? The Earth is neither flat nor round; it's wavy."

~ Reuben Margolin

More videos of Reuben Margolin's waves.

Balance in Nature

Shinzen Young, in reponse to a Brain Pickings post on seventeen historically significant mathematical equations:

Just for the record, here's my all-time favorite equation:

First, let me admit that the way I just wrote it involves some abuse of notation. Properly, it should be written this way:


But I think the former form is justified for the visual effect.

To the eye, it seems to equate two closed curves that have symmetry: A regular triangle, with 3-fold rotational symmetry (the minimum possible) and the circle with infinite rotational symmetry (the maximum possible).

But as a mathematical formula, it represents the "generalized Laplacian equation."

This equation is one of the broadest statements of balance in nature. Phenomena as different as three-dimensional thermodynamic equilibrium and four-dimensional relativistic motion can be described by this equation.

To me, it's a reminder that "mutually-canceling polarities" play a fundamental role both in the physical world as described abstractly by scientists and in the spiritual world as described concretely by mystics. 

See also:


There is Really No Such Thing as Thought, There is Only Thinking

Life moves, undulates, breathes in and out, contracting and expanding. This is its nature, the nature of what is. Whatever is, is on the move. Nothing remains the same for very long.

The mind wants everything to stop so that it can get its foothold, find its position, so it can figure out how to control life. Through the pursuit of material things, knowledge, ideas, beliefs, opinions, emotional states, spiritual states, and relationships, the mind seeks to find a secure position from which to operate.

~ Adyashanti

A Handful of Words

Excerpt from Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close by Jonathan Safran Foer:

"Want" was a word I lost early on, which is not to say I stopped wanting things—I wanted things more—I just stopped being able to express the want, so I said "desire," "I desire two rolls," I would tell the baker, but that wasn't quite right, the meaning of my thoughts started to float away from me, like leaves that fall from a tree into a river, I was the tree, the world was the river. I lost "come" one afternoon with the dogs in the park, I lost "fine" as the barber turned me toward the mirror, I lost "shame"—the verb and the noun at the same moment; it was a shame. I lost "carry," I lost the things I carried—"daybook," "pencil," "pocket change," "wallet"—I even lost "loss."

After a time, I had only a handful of words left, if someone did something nice for me, I would tell him, "The thing that comes before 'you're welcome,'" if I was hungry, I'd point at my stomach and say, "I am the opposite of full," I'd lost "yes," but I still had "no," so if someone asked me, "Are you Thomas?" I would answer, "Not no," but then I lost "no," I went to a tattoo parlor and had YES written onto the palm of my left hand, and NO onto my right palm, what can I say, it hasn’t made my life wonderful, it's made life possible, when I rub my hands against each other in the middle of winter I am warming myself with the friction of YES and NO, when I clap my hands I am showing my appreciation through the uniting and parting of YES and NO, I signify “book” by peeling open my hands, every book, for me, is the balance of YES and NO, even this one, my last one, especially this one. Does it break my heart, of course, every moment of every day, into more pieces than my heart was made of, I never thought of myself as qui et, much less silent, I never thought about things at all, everything changed, the distance that wedged itself between me and my happiness wasn’t the world, it wasn’t the bombs and burning buildings, it was me, my thinking, the cancer of never letting go, is ignorance bliss, I don’t know, but it’s so painful to think, and tell me, what did thinking ever do for me, to what great place did thinking ever bring me? I think and think and think, I’ve thought myself out of happiness one million times, but never once into it.

Trickier and Trickier as You Go Along

Excerpt from "Authentic Voice: An Interview with Meredith Monk," from Mountain Record, Summer 2004:

Emptiness is what allows for something to actually evolve in a natural way. I’ve had to learn that over the years — because one of the traps of being an artist is to always want to be creating, always wanting to produce.

I remember once I had a long period when I thought; “I’ll never have another idea again! I’ve explored everything.” Ojo Caliente, New Mexico, August 13, 2011You’ve got this backpack of your history that you’re carrying around — how do you throw that off and really start from beginner’s mind? That gets trickier and trickier as you go along, to not fall into your habitual patterns in the way that you create, in the work itself, or anything.

Well, during that long period when I was feeling really down I read about the Taos pueblo in a book by Mabel Dodge Luhan. She was a society woman in the early twentieth century, and she ended up going to Taos and marrying a Native American from the pueblo. During the winter she wondered why everyone tiptoed around wearing soft moccasins and there was a keeping of so much silence in the pueblo. She asked about it and they said, “We have to make sure that Mother Nature gets her rest. She needs her rest so that everything will bloom in the spring.” I was so touched by that and I realized that that’s the nurturing of those periods that you think are fallow but are actually rich with possibility. You’re alive then and part of the ebb and flow of creation.

The Origin of Change

Deer Haven. May 14, 2011

Notes Toward a Supreme Fiction
by Wallace Stevens


Two things of opposite natures seem to depend
On one another, as a man depends
On a woman, day on night, the imagined

On the real. This is the origin of change.
Winter and spring, cold copulars, embrace
And forth the particulars of rapture come.

Music falls on the science like a sense,
A passion that we feel, not understand.
Morning and afternoon are clasped together

And North and South are an intrinsic couple
And sun and rain a plural, like two lovers
That walk away as one in the greenest body.

In solitude the trumpets of solitude
Are not of another solitude resounding;
A little string speaks for a crowd of voices.

The partaker partakes of that which changes him.
The child that touches takes character from the thing,
The body, it touches. The captain and his men

Are one and the sailor and the sea are one.
Follow after, O my companion, my fellow, my self,
Sister and solace, brother and delight.

Breaking Apart

One, One, Eleven
by Daron Larson

Midnight is inherently unstable,
so it breaks apart into a new year.
Fireworks explode and set the trees ablaze
with the echoing choir of peafowl wails.
The lights of the grid pulse
like ancient campfire embers in the breeze.

On the first day,
a man squats in prayer
by the side of the road,
his car idles beside him,
music spilling out through an open door.
Eyes closed, he directs his pleas
or his grief or his gratitude
toward the ocean, the source of all life.

In the beginning there was nothing,
as you may have heard,
but it keeps breaking apart and coming back together,
grinding down every skeleton and exoskeleton
into smooth sand
for future generations to walk upon
as they gaze outward and inward with wonder.

My skin is ice.
My heart is molten.
My body rings with the joy of all joys
and aches with the ache of all aches.

Every tear has the taste of all tears.
Every smile has the taste of all smiles.
There is no escape, nor any need to keep trying.

May we all give up the fight against
the coils and recoils
along our journey back home.

Del Cerro Park, December 31, 2010

Opening and Closing

“We’re invited into this arena, which is a very dangerous arena, where the possibilities of humiliation and failure are ample. So there’s no fixed lesson that one can learn about the thing because the heart is always opening and closing, it’s always softening and hardening. We’re always experiencing joy or sadness.”

~ Leonard Cohen


[Thanks, Jonathan Carroll!]

A Verb of Time

Echology 1
by Sergey Mikhaylov, from Between the Jaws of Time

Echo knows a border, but only one—
The one, which divides sound and silence.
Echo is free to dwell in the both.
Like a bird of passage, that has lost its way,
It flies over the border—from summer to winter— 
And dies away.

- - -

The border between sound and silence
Is composed of black crosses of larks— 
Lost, they have died on their homeward way.

- - -

Echo itself is a dyke and a trotyl.
For every sound breaches the dyke,
Leaving the speaker drowned in silence.


Echology 2

Silence gives birth to echo too. But as the echo,
Born by sound, differs from sound by rising
Levels of silence, so the echo of silence
Differs from silence, that gave birth to it,
By swelling sound, that afterward
Reaches that value, which makes it be able
To give birth to echo, that afterward
Drowns by itself...............................
Thus, the one, who has answered "forever",
Is overtaken by silence that shouts "never".

Alexandre Cabanel's picture of Echo

Echology 3

Two silences are given to man:
The one surrounds him,
The other fills.
Man becomes the third one,
Listening as his words echo in those two.

Two words are given to man:
Yes and no.
He becomes the third one—a verb of time,
Flowing between the one and the other.

Two times are given to man:
Before him and after.
He is in between and follows the both.

Two lives are given to man.
He is the difference.

[Thanks Jonathan Carroll!]

Hating and Loving Death

Die Schrecken des Krieges: Frauenraub (Antonio Bellucci) "Life, of course, never gets anyone’s entire attention. Death always remains interesting, pulls us, draws us. As sleep is necessary to our physiology, so depression seems necessary to our psychic economy. In some secret way, Thanatos nourishes Eros as well as opposes it. The two principles work in covert concert: though in most of us Eros dominates, in none of us is Thanatos completely subdued. However—and this is the paradox of suicide—to take one’s life is to behave in a more active, assertive, “erotic” way than to helplessly watch as one’s life is taken away from one by inevitable mortality. Suicide thus engages both the death-hating and the death-loving parts of us: on some level, perhaps we may envy the suicide even as we pity him."

~ Janet Malcolm, in The Silent Woman: Sylvia Plath & Ted Hughes

Only Rising and Falling

Orion on Film, Matthew Spinelli

The World as It is
by Carolyn Miller

No ladders, no descending angels, no voice
out of the whirlwind, no rending
of the veil, or chariot in the sky—only
water rising and falling in breathing springs
and seeping up through limestone, aquifers filling
and flowing over, russet stands of prairie grass
and dark pupils of black-eyed Susans. Only
the fixed and wandering stars: Orion rising sideways,
Jupiter traversing the southwest like a great firefly,
Venus trembling and faceted in the west—and the moon,
appearing suddenly over your shoulder, brimming
and ovoid, ripe with light, lifting slowly, deliberately,
wobbling slightly, while far below, the faithful sea
rises up and follows.

From American Life in Poetry: Column 269

Finding Words

Mai's Quiet Zone, 2004

Dr. Alan Dienstag from “Alzhiemer’s, Memory, and Meaning,” in conversation with Krista Tippett on Speaking of Faith, March 26, 2009:

I was working with a woman who actually first brought her sister to see me. Her name was Ann, and she wanted, her sister to join one of the writing groups [for people in the early stages of Alzheimer’s], but her sister wasn't right for it. About two years later, she came back, and she [herself] had been diagnosed with Alzheimer's. And so I started to work with her, and she joined one of my support groups.

She was in the group for a long time, and then it just became impossible for her to participate. The conversation was moving too fast. She just didn't have the language. She couldn't string together more than a sentence or two, and it just wasn't working. And so she had to leave the group.

Her husband, who was just extraordinarily devoted to her, really wanted her to maintain her connection with me. It was very helpful that I had known her before. And she would bring photo albums in. She would do a little tchotchke tour of my office. You know, when it wasn't really possible to talk about things, she would kind of walk around and we would look at objects. She was very taken by the birds outside the window. I mean, that was the kind of time that we spent together.

And then even that became difficult. She was one of those people who started to kind of retreat into almost a mask-like blankness. It was harder and harder to access her. And so we were reaching the end of that time, and I was talking to her husband, telling him that I just didn't think that it was a really fruitful way for her to spend her time and so on.

So it was around that time, and I was going on vacation, and she loved the beach and I loved the beach and this was something that we used to connect about.

As I was leaving I said, "Ann, I'm going to the beach. I'm going to be away for a while." And she smiled and her face kind of lit up.

I said, "What do you love about the beach?"

She kind of drifted away, as she did, and she got very quiet. And again I waited and I thought, well, you know, she can't really answer that question.

And she turned to me and she said, "There's some kind of music that lives there."

Killing Time

by Rae Armantrout, from Versed

for Aaron Korkegian

Rae Armantrout has won the 2010 Pulitzer Prize for poetry for “Versed,” her 10th collection. Complex systems can arise
from simple rules.
It's not
that we want to survive,
it's that we've been drugged
and made to act
as if we do
while all the while
the sea breaks
and rolls, painlessly, under.
If we're not copying it,
we're lonely.
Is this the knowledge
that demands to be
passed down?
Time is made from swatches
of heaven and hell.
If we're not killing it,
we're hungry.