The Myth of Permanence

The Myth of Permanence

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

~ Sakyong Mipham

Back in My Place

"All visuals captured in camera by back projecting the animated story into the breaths of the band. In the same way that you can see your breath on a cold day, we filmed at -1ºC (30ºF) to make the animations appear."

~ Wriggles & Robins

by Travis, from Where You Stand

Another day,
I feel the weight
of the atmosphere’s pressure
and I can’t escape

I try to run, I try to find my feet,
my soul is stickin' to the street;

I gotta move,
I gotta get myself
to clean my shoes
and take the scenic route

However far, I’m following a star
Home is anywhere you are

And everything is falling into place
And then we move again
So take the curve and move along
Until we’re gone, we’re moving on (and on and on and on...)

I feel alive, I am aware
of the colors in the sky where the birds don’t fly
And if the night is coming pretty soon
I’m walking through the dark with you

I’ve got to play
I’ve got to listen
to my toy today
on the motorway

And I could feel the ground
beneath my wheels,
putting me back in my place

Another day, another place
where I can find my way
take the Avenue A

And I know exactly where to go
Home is anywhere you stay

See also: "Animated Music Video Filmed Through a Band’s Breath in Freezing Temperatures by Wriggles & Robins," Colossal, July 2, 2013

About To Disappear

Hardy Hibiscus, July 20, 2013

Excerpt from Readers' Circle Essay, “Self Knowledge,” by David Whyte:

Self-knowledge is not fully possible for human beings. We do not reside in a body, a mind or a world where it is achievable or from the point of being interesting, even desirable. Half of what lies in the heart and mind is potentiality, resides in the darkness of the unspoken and unarticulated and has not yet come into being: this hidden unspoken half will supplant and subvert any present understandings we have about ourselves. Human beings are a frontier between what is known and what is not known. The act of turning any part of the unknown into the known is simply an invitation for an equal measure of the unknown to flow in and reestablish that frontier: to reassert both the exterior and interior horizon of an individual life; to make us what we arethat isa moving edge between what we know about ourselves and what we are about to become. What we are actually about to become or are afraid of becoming always trumps and rules over what we think we are already. 

The hope that a human being can achieve complete honesty and self-knowledge with regard to themselves is a fiction and a chimera, the jargon and goals of a corporate educational system brought to bear on the depths of an identity where the writ of organizing language cannot run. Self-knowledge includes the understanding that the self we want to know is about to disappear. 

What we can understand is the way we occupy this frontier between the known and the unknown, the way we hold the conversation of life, the sense of the way our body occupies that edge, but a detailed audit of the self is not possible and diminishes us in the attempt to establish it; we are made on a grander scale, half afraid of ourselves, half in love with the dance of immensities beyond any name we can give…

See also: Why Not Start Apprenticing Yourself Now? 

Listening is Much More Effective

Derailing My Train of Thought, Thomas Wightman

Papañca, the Thinking Mind Run Amok
by Ajahn Amaro, from "Thinking"

First, it isn’t the case that the mind is inherently thinking all the time. Rather, thinking is a highly conditioned activity. In the teachings, the process is described in this way: We come into contact with things—objects in the world or our own thoughts. Each moment of such contact is accompanied by feeling which is pleasant, painful, or neither. Whatever is being cognized is then named. The Pali word for this is sañña. Most often, it is translated as perception but the English word “sign” comes from the same root as sañña. Sañña is a kind of designation. There is a raw sensing of a stimulus and then our memory moves in and names it. “That is the sound of a dog barking.”

Conceptual thought begins to cluster around that naming. That is, that which we name, we then think about. This is called vitakka. We may think, “I wonder who owns that dog.” “Is that the same dog I saw yesterday?” Then vitakka takes off. It blossoms into what is known as papañca. This is conceptual proliferation. It is the mass of thoughts and conceptions, which burden the heart and mind.

In this process there is a simple raw feeling, sensation or thought. There is no particular feeling of self or other with that. But as the process takes off, as the naming takes place, we begin to get a sense of me in here experiencing the sound of that dog out there. As the thinking (vitakka) kicks in, the sense of self and other becomes more concrete and the sense of me not only experiencing this but also being burdened by it becomes more and more solid.

As meditators I am sure you have seen this pattern. With practice, we start to recognize this pattern. We see how it works.

Usually we are caught up in the activity of mental proliferation—half way through our great novel or fully through the saga of how our first marriage could have been “if only…”—before we wake up and remember that we’re actually still in the meditation hall, and that it all started with the sound of the dog barking. “That sound reminded me of Binker, our dog. We got the dog when we first got married. Maybe if we hadn’t had the dog, the marriage would have worked out.” Then we track it back and see where it began.

As meditators we see how this pattern occurs over and over again. The mind’s propensity is to think habitually. It takes almost nothing to trigger it. For example, I spent most of my youth listening to rock music at every opportunity. So when I entered the monastery in Thailand, I spent the first few years singing inside my head. My mind was so used to listening to music that for the first few years everything that happened at the monastery was a cue for a song. It could be a leaf falling off a tree or a car going by. It could be the clanking of a kerosene tin or comments that people made. It could even be just the random thoughts in my mind. Any one event, word or thought could translate into a lyric. It was like a Bing Crosby and Bob Hope movie: “That sounds like a cue for a song...” Before you know it you are playing the entire soundtrack. I was staggered by the amount that the mind remembered and conjured up!

That is the mind’s habitual mode. It picks things up, chews on them and keeps creating—all from a moment’s stimulation...

So for myself, I have learned that the best way to deal with excessive thinking is to just listen to it, to listen to the mind. Listening is much more effective than trying to stop thought or cut it off. When we listen there is a different mode employed in the heart. Instead of trying to cut it off, we receive thought without making anything out of it.

Plagued by Doubt, Thomas Wightman

See also:

Amaro, A. (July 20, 2010). Thinking: I. Understanding and relating to thought. Mindfulness1, 3, 189-192. Retrieved from Springer Link

The Medium is the Message by Thomas Wightman

Passion is the Woods

Hurricane Mountain, Adirondacks, August 7, 2011

Excerpt from Half Asleep in Frog Pajamas by Tom Robbins:‎

Would you complain because a beautiful sunset doesn’t have a future or a shooting star a payoff? And why should romance "lead anywhere"? Passion isn’t a path through the woods. Passion is the woods. It’s the deepest wildest part of the forest; the grove where the fairies still dance and obscene old vipers snooze in the boughs. Everybody but the most dried up and dysfunctional is drawn to the grove and enchanted by its mysteries, but then they just can’t wait to call in the chain saws and bulldozers and replace it with a family-style restaurant or a new S and L. That’s the payoff, I guess. Safety. Security. Certainty. Yes, indeed. Well, remember this: we’re not involved in a ‘relationship’, you and I, we’re involved in a collision. Collisions don’t much lend themselves to secure futures, but the act of colliding is hard to beat for interest.

For the Last Time

by Dennis O'Driscoll (1954-2012), from The Wake Forest Series of Irish Poetry

someone is dressing up for death today, a change of skirt or tie
eating a final feast of buttered sliced pan, tea
scarcely having noticed the erection that was his last
shaving his face to marble for the icy laying out
spraying with deodorant her coarse armpit grass
someone today is leaving home on business
saluting, terminally, the neighbours who will join in the cortege
someone is paring his nails for the last time, a precious moment
someone’s waist will not be marked with elastic in the future
someone is putting out milkbottles for a day that will not come
someone’s fresh breath is about to be taken clean away
someone is writing a cheque that will be rejected as ‘drawer deceased’
someone is circling posthumous dates on a calendar
someone is listening to an irrelevant weather forecast
someone is making rash promises to friends
someone’s coffin is being sanded, laminated, shined
who feels this morning quite as well as ever
someone if asked would find nothing remarkable in today’s date
perfume and goodbyes her final will and testament
someone today is seeing the world for the last time
as innocently as he had seen it first

Die Every Day

Jesuit Retreat Center, Parma, Ohio, October 14, 2012

Excerpt from This Light in Oneself by Jiddu Krishnamurti:

You have lived in thought. You have given tremendous importance to thinking, but thinking is old, thinking is never new, thinking is the continuation of memory. If you have lived there, obviously there is some kind of continuity. And it is a continuity that is dead, over, finished. It is something old, but only that which ends can have something new. So dying is very important to understand. To die to everything that one knows. Have you ever tried it? To be free from the known, to be free from your memory, even for a few days; to be free from your pleasure, without any argument, without any fear; to die to your family, to your house, to your name; to be completely anonymous. It is only the person who is completely anonymous who is in a state of non-violence, who has no violence. So die every day, not as an idea, but actually. Do it sometime.

One has collected so much, not only in books, houses, the bank account, but inwardly; the memories of insults, the memories of flattery, the memories of your own particular experiences, neurotic achievements which give you a position. To die to all that without argument, without discussion, without any fear, just give it up; do it sometime and you will see. To do it psychologically—not giving up your wife, your clothes, your husband, your children or your house, but inwardly—is not to be attached to anything. In that there is great beauty. After all, that is love, isn't it? Love is not attachment. When there is attachment there is fear. And fear eventually becomes authoritarian, possessive, oppressive, dominating. . .

You must die to everything that you know psychologically, so that your mind is clear, not tortured, so that it sees things as they are, both outwardly and inwardly.

[Thanks, Amita!]

See also: Why Not Start Apprenticing Yourself Now?

Let Them Become Invisible

February 19, 2012

Letting Go of What Cannot be Held Back
by Bill Holm, from Playing the Black Piano


Let go of the dead now.
The rope in the water,
the cleat on the cliff,
do them no good anymore.
Let them fall, sink, go away,
become invisible as they tried
so hard to do in their own dying.
We needed to bother them
with what we called help.
We were the needy ones.
The dying do their own work with
tidiness, just the right speed,
sometimes even a little
satisfaction. So quiet down.
Let them go. Practice
your own song. Now.

[Thanks, Kit!]

See also: Why Not Start Apprenticing Yourself Now? 

Feeling Slightly Out of It Most of the Time

Feeling Slightly Out of It Most of the Time

"actually, it may be that just being yourself as a human being means feeling slightly out of it most of the time. And that a form of enlightenment is to understand that you'll never feel quite at home in the world and you're not meant to, because your sense of compassion for the rest of creation and for others depends on your understanding of exile — how far a creature, especially a human creature, can feel from true parentage, from their true inheritance, from their true home."

~ David Whyte

Why Not Start Apprenticing Yourself Now?

Excerpt from What to Remember When Waking by David Whyte:

Maister Eckhart was asked, Where do we go to when we die? Where does a human being go to when they die? And Eckhart answered, Nowhere, nowhere. As if to say that actually there's nowhere to go because death has been alongside you all the way along in the necessities of your giving away. In the necessities that keep a conversation or a stream of affection or a loving relationship alive. You've actually had to give yourself away, time after time, in order to get to know yourself again in order to escape the imprisoning names you've been uttering that have kept you away from the frontier between you and your own beautiful disappearance. 

It's interesting to think there hasn't been a single human being since the beginning of time who has escaped this transition and this disappearance. And in that inevitability, the great question would be, If we have to give everything away at the end -- everything, absolutely, totally, including our bodies, including our felt physical presence on this earth -- then why not start apprenticing yourself now?

 That when the actual transition at the end of your life comes, if you've spent no time in preparation, the whole thing will be just too frightening. The whole way you enter that world necessitates a different language that you have to learn, and that takes years to learn, in a way, to apprentice ourselves to our own disappearance. But in that apprenticeship, not to find ourselves caught in a morbid, self-indulgent circling in of ourselves, but to have it, in a sense, as a companion. And a fierce companion who allows us to feel the intensity and vulnerability of everyday life -- and every moment of that life.   

Selige Sehnsucht
Johann Wolfgang von Goethe

Holy Longing
Translated by Shinzen Young

Sagt es niemand, nur den Weisen,
Weil die Menge gleich verhöhnet:
Das Lebendge will ich preisen,
Das nach Flammentod sich sehnet.

Tell it to no one but the wise
For most will mock it right away
The truly living do I prize
Those who long in flame to die.

In der Liebesnächte Kühlung,
Die dich zeugte, wo du zeugtest,
Überfällt dich fremde Fühlung,
Wenn die stille Kerze leuchtet.

In the coolness of loves evenings
Where you beget and were begotten,
You're overcome by strange new feeling
As the silent candle brightens.

Nicht mehr bleibest du umfangen
In der Finsternis Beschattung,
Und dich reißet neu Verlangen
Auf zu höherer Begattung.

No longer are you trapped and mired
In the darkened shadowings
But swept away by new desire
To a higher lovemaking.

Keine Ferne macht dich schwierig,
Kommst geflogen und gebannt,
Und zuletzt, des Lichts begierig,
Bist du, Schmetterling, verbrannt.

Distance does not pall your flight
Spellbound through the air you're borne
Til at last mad for the light
You are a butterfly, then…gone.

Und solang du das nicht hast,
Dieses: Stirb und werde!
Bist du nur ein trüber Gast
Auf der dunklen Erde.

And until you know of this:
How to grow through death
You're just another troubled guestOn the gloomy earth.