................................................SEPT - 12
In the RUMPUS
Platitudes
MEDITATION
 

 

This photo was sent from Bad Ragaz in Liechtenstein (~80Km SW of Zurich):

 

"Heididorf evokes in us the longing for our homeland and for harmony. As a symbol of kindness, cheerfulness and our bond with nature, it joins a worldwide net of more than 500 significant and inspiring places that have been inaugurated as peace blossoms, including the Matterhorn, the Niagara Falls, the border between Norway and Russia, and Canberra, the capital of Australia.

The purpose of the Sri Chinmoy Peace Blossoms is to strengthen the awareness that there is more uniting the people of the world than separating them, and that real peace and harmony begins within each one of us. They carry the name of a man who has dedicated his life to world peace.

May the Heididorf be a place of inner reflection where our dream of oneness and our search for peace become a fruitful reality."

“How can we have peace?
Not by talking about peace,

But by walking along the road of peace.”

Sri Chinmoy


Such platitudes are frequently expounded at designated locations of natural beauty around the world. Sadly, they amount to mere naïve pap. None of it can even begin to work until capitalism and religion are brought to an end.

Outlaw those - which together comprise the one freedom that almost everyone is so determined to retain: the freedom to crap on your neighbour - and peace will prevail. If kids were weaned without these aberrations too, then perpetual peace would be inevitable. All other freedoms are innocuous in comparison. Only capitalism and religion are lethally toxic. I feel I have to qualify those words 'capitalism' and 'religion' because they can mean such different things, and are fine at micro level and where they are not taken too seriously, where they don't impinge significantly on those who wish to avoid them. I could be equally scathing of so called 'socialism' and the 'cold-scientific' approach, but these aren't leading the planet into hell. The fact is, people who crave then acquire power ALWAYS want more; they are insatiable and tread on anyone, recruit aspiring warriors, and stop at nothing to gain and increase their power. The result: exploitation, imposition, war! Simple problem, simple solution - except virtually no-one will buy it... nor will they abandon inane and absurd passed-down beliefs about inane absurd concepts like afterlife! Such is how the human brain has evolved: solid with paradox. The most pressing question: Will its more rational qualities predominate, or will it self-destruct?

A few of us know the answer to most of the world's problems. Which is nice for that psychological warmth which comes with understanding, but is of no practical use... alas.

The human brain evolved during tough primitive conditions that lasted several million years. Survival depended on protecting one's little tribe, often to the detriment of outsiders: ie, war and pillage. These days, we can override problematic 'reptilian' traits inherited from that period, such as an appetite for ritual and hierarchy, or a disposition for aggression aimed at satisfying greed... many people don't even notice these, except in others - until they land in a situation that evokes some disturbing thought of how they might cheat or dominate their neighbour. Others won't experience this under any circumstances - or if they do, reject it outright. They prefer the peaceful life, and often won't even bother to challenge their counterparts or oppressors: those 'neocortex challenged' go-getting/proselytizing psychopaths whose greed/infantile beliefs and squabbles are sending the planet towards oblivion.

Actual oblivion won't happen, of course, but at some point the world will resemble a scarred battlefield with a few warriors left from each side staggering away together to try and start again as one.... assuming, that is, atmospheric conditions remain conducive to life....

 

....appropriate to which: Here's the start of a scary item by George Monbiot from 'The Guardian' August 28 - 2012. For details visit Monbiot's blog

The day the world went mad

As record sea ice melt scarcely makes the news while the third runway grabs headlines, is there a form of reactive denial at work?

There are no comparisons to be made. This is not like war or plague or a stockmarket crash. We are ill-equipped, historically and psychologically, to understand it, which is one of the reasons why so many refuse to accept that it is happening.

What we are seeing, here and now, is the transformation of the atmospheric physics of this planet. Three weeks before the likely minimum, the melting of Arctic sea ice has already broken the record set in 2007. The daily rate of loss is now 50% higher than it was that year. The daily sense of loss – of the world we loved and knew – cannot be quantified so easily.

...this record represents a loss of about 30% of Arctic sea ice, against the long-term average. When that climbs to 50% or 70% or 90%, the impacts are likely to be worse.

Our governments do nothing. Having abandoned any pretence of responding to the environmental crisis during the Earth Sumit in June, now they stare stupidly as the ice on which we stand dissolves. Their one unequivocal response to the melting has been to facilitate the capture of the oil and fish it exposes. The companies that caused this disaster are scrambling to profit from it....

 

AND from Reuters (Sep-26 - 2012):

 
   
 

 

In The Idling/Writing Rumpus

me (O the objective): Cheer up! What could be better than a life of idling, you lucky sod?

me (I the idler): I'm fine. Don't trust appearances. In the brilliant 'Pirandello' episode of the mid 1980s Channel-4 series 'Ten Great Writers', writer/director Pirandello is shown sat before the mirror in a dressing room trying on various masks when the stagehand puts his head round the door and calls, 'Mr Pirandello?'. Pirandello turns and replies: 'But which Pirandello?' Which indeed, I (and doubtless everyone else watching) thought, and of so many?

O: OK, but for a photo most people will at least don their cheerful mask.

I: Isn't the mask for the photographer and others who happen to be present? Here, there's only me, holding the camera in my left hand. Why don a mask for oneself?

O: Maybe YOU don't create masks for yourself, but people do.

I: You mean subconsciously?

O: Often, but not necessarily.

I: So they lie to themselves?

O: Sometimes, I reckon. Most people, it seems to me, pretend to be cheerful when they're not - it's what they think's expected of them, and they don't want to enter into some convoluted philosophical discussion about their condition or into explaining what might be behind it, or to suffer some kind of intrusive probing into the minutiae of their life - though they might well be entirely conscious of the truth of it. But occasionally they're not conscious of it... or rather, they refuse to accept the truth: - that beneath the flexible, controllable surface lies a deep inflexible gloom that resembles in scale the submerged part of an iceberg.

I: Or in my case, perhaps, a bland or cheerless expression hides a deep inflexible contentment.

O: What mortal can ever be truly contented inside?

I: That's probably why people take to religion so readily. Back in those dark primitive days several millennia past when people were intellectually barren and unable to think objectively, a few astute power-hungry upstarts invented god(s) to ostensibly do their thinking for them, and the masses lapped-up the hogwash like so much elixir.

O: It saved them from the pain of acknowledging their mortality.

I: Precisely. And turned many into willing slaves. But that kind of humbug is only any good to a numbskull. For people with more-than half-a-brain something very different is required: either to acknowledge stark reality for what it is (now that we have the ability to accept it equably), or to adopt the simple, objective and rational outlook of, for instance, Zen. One can accept reality, bleak as it is, and at the same time take an occasional dip into the calmingly objective pool of Zen perspective.

O: Unfortunately, like for lateral thinking, to solve some problem one only ever seems to resort to Zen after all other options have been exhausted, when ideally it should reside permanently at the forefront... as if these approaches present an effort. It's only the change of approach that makes it seem like an effort, because inner dialogue like this either ceases (or almost ceases) or else is delicately choreographed: and one adopts the poise of a perfect machine (with perfect receptors for every nuance), which doesn't require conscious thought to perform (or to refrain from) certain actions, but a pure automatonic response - that's to say, the YOU steps aside so the real SELF can enable the most appropriate outcome.

I: That's the theory. But I like the dialogue.

O: I guess both can enhance the pleasures of idling.

I: Probably true, but do you really know what you're talking about?

O: No.

I: I thought not....................catch ya later...

 

 
   
 
Meditation
 
 

 

First, I should clarify that I’ve neither studied meditation in depth nor practiced it in more than a superficial way. But I have dipped into several fine books on the subject, by respected authors, and have experienced marginally some of the benefits of meditating.

So far as I can tell, all the many kinds of meditation are simply different ways of achieving inner tranquillity and contentment. Their aim is always to still the mind, which is usually preoccupied with worldly activities like reflecting on past events or projecting on future ones. Hence the old adage for peacefulness: ‘Living in the NOW’

The assumption is that NOW you are sitting comfortably at home in a quiet room, on a bench-seat in a park with birds singing and distant traffic sounds, or on a remote beach with the waves lapping or even crashing and gulls crying… or perhaps you’re not sitting, but are in a busy street with all the sounds and bustle one associates with such places…. crucially you’re in the NOW... fully conscious of the present.

You are NOW free to feel the ground against your feet, the air on your face, the clothes on your skin – feel the input from all your senses... and relax muscle tensions: feet, legs, body, shoulders, neck. If you're sitting, you can close your eyes and let the sounds around you float where they are and listen over them for more distant sounds, then past those too until you’re focused on the great backdrop of silence beyond. Any thought that enters your mind, regardless of subject or cause, you immediately steer your focus around so as to avoid, letting it fade unfed by any kind of attention. NOW you are beginning to MEDITATE.

Even if you’re walking, looking at things as they pass by, being in the NOW is riding on a crest of no-time, resting the mind. This is a kind of shallow meditation that is almost as restful as the deeper meditation of sitting quietly with eyes closed.

When I’ve meditated in a quite room the tiniest sound could be as intrusive as a dumper-truck would be if I was meditating on a bench-seat near a busy building site, but by listening BEYOND the sounds I can meditate virtually anywhere.

In spite of trying to meditate and still the mind, most of the time I fail to achieve that stillness, yet even a few seconds of calm can make it all worthwhile and in fact become a great achievement, with significant benefits. If you have negative thoughts that you believe you need several hours to elapse in order to leave behind, then a few minutes of meditation can have the same effect – separating you in time – so you feel distanced and refreshed. It’s like the psychological equivalent of a couple of minutes standing on one of those vibrator machines you see at big exhibitions that rejuvenate one physically as if you’ve just got there, when in fact you’ve already spent a few hours wandering around. All the aches and pains that were wearing you down – ie, all the worries and stresses that were dragging you into despair – are in just a few minutes distanced, reduced or even eliminated altogether.

I make this process sound more like some kind of therapy or palliative. Personally, I've only ever used it to enhance a sense of well-being, rather than to escape from feeling glum. The truth is, I rarely bother to meditate, as if to do so involves effort and that to remain fully aware of myself and my surroundings is the priority. By saying I rarely meditate, though, is not entirely correct, because what I mean is: I rarely do it deliberately. Rather, it's incidental as I wander through woodland, across fields and hills, into glens and lose myself among a maze of little paths... instead of ruminating I focus on the NOW: where I am, how it feels. This is easy when alone. But one can be anywhere, doing anything...

For a novice all this might seem astonishing – you only have to try it to see that it works. Watch that you don't build negative thoughts again if you focus on them after you’ve stopped meditating – by avoiding them you can remain refreshed. But why stop meditating, when you can change to a less deep version while you get on with other activities – making sure to steer around reflections/anticipations that are not relevant to what you’re doing. 

I think we all spend our lives constantly moving through levels of meditation. It’s as if there’s a line at one end of which is Zero where the most disturbed/frenzied reflective/ruminating planning/anticipating brain activity is going on – ie, the lowest possible meditative condition - while at the other end is the deepest most tranquil meditation possible, such as perhaps Krishnamurti practiced.

All the time we are somewhere on that line between a mind in turmoil and a mind at peace. Most of us, I guess, move around near the centre. But if we give ourselves a few minutes near the peaceful end, we’ll stick there a bit after we stop before slowly sliding back to almost where we were. If we do it often, every time the slide back will be slower and less. So we become more composed, more contented and more responsive. Our worries fade, maybe not altogether, but fade is a start. Our health improves, and our outlook. NOW our brains can work on what they’re most useful for – whatever we intend – instead of wasting emotional energy churning over all kinds of pointless babble to no avail, babble that could be causing stress and unhappiness, like a niggling demon constantly pestering and stopping us operating effectively and contentedly.

So try it – but don't try too hard - as with life in general, these things are best approached lightheartedly. There’s loads of techniques: focusssing on objects, mantras or real sounds. For me, none are especially useful. I merely sit, relax, rest attention on my senses – one after another – then listen through the sounds around me until I’m merging with that great peaceful void beyond everything. Once a few seconds of stillness has been achieved, I can return to normal, open my eyes refreshed, and get on with whatever I'm doing – or not doing – feeling more composed, more contented and at one with myself and the world as it is (warts an' all, as they say).

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See ALSO: Thoughts of a Sage -- The Master Game -- Henry Miller