Archive for January, 2010

Small-Minded Me

Sunday, January 31st, 2010

I posted last summer about the forgiveness practice I engage in every morning, reciting the following lines:

I pardon, I pardon, I pardon
all those who may have hurt or harmed me,
knowingly or unknowingly,
intentionally or unintentionally,
through deed of body, speech, or action.

I seek pardon, I seek pardon, I seek pardon
from all those whom I may have hurt or harmed,
knowingly or unknowingly,
intentionally or unintentionally,
through deed of body, speech, or action.

Sometimes when I say these lines, I “feel” them. I feel forgiving and contrite.

Other times, though, I feel defiant or squirmy or unapologetic. Since the benefit of a practice such as this is to pay attention to what one is feeling, I thought I’d spend some time bringing the light of day to these less savory aspects of my personality.

Whereas asking for forgiveness doesn’t always elicit the nicer parts of my personality, I’ve noticed it seems rather easy to forgive. I don’t know if that is because I am actually generous in my own forgiveness or more blind to my shortcomings in that area.

When it comes to asking for forgiveness, my reactions are pretty much the same as the ones I had when I was a kid:

  1. It’s not my fault.
  2. It’s too hard.
  3. S/he started it.

When I am in a “not my fault” phase, I feel sullen and don’t actually mean the words as I say them. When I am in the “too hard” phase, I feel plaintive and put-upon, as if too much is being asked of me.

I am embarrassed to say how I realized that I engaged in a “s/he started it” mentality, but I shall anyway. I noticed that instead of saying “I seek pardon from all those whom I may have hurt or harmed…”, I sometimes caught myself saying, “I pardon those whom I may have hurt or harmed…”

In my head, it’s as if it were the other person’s fault that I was unkind to them. Essentially, I was blaming the victim. I felt abashed when I realized what I had been saying.

It has been useful for me to look at these thoughts more closely, because they are the same ones that come up in my everyday life when I feel guilty or ashamed of something.

Even though owning up to these negative emotions has been hard, the next part of the exercise is even more difficult, which is to “be” with them. My first inclination is to push these thoughts away. I’d rather think of myself as loving as kind, not as petty and small-minded. Of course, it never does any good to push thoughts like these “away” because there is no “away” in the psyche. It is always with you.

I have found instead that it is best for me to spend time with the aspects of myself that I don’t care for. The only way this is effective is if I don’t hold any expectations or hope to “get rid” of this part of myself. Rather, it is a question of acknowledging that these thoughts and attitudes are a part of me. And then… something happens.

I’m not trying to be mysterious, but it is hard to describe what happens. It’s as if the negative charge that these emotions have is diffused. The emotions become a part of me, but in a different way.

What an awkward explanation I am giving! All I can say is that when I go through this process, which can take quite a long time (weeks, months, or years in some cases), I am no longer ruled by my reactions. It is very freeing.

The irony is that when I do the process of spending time with the negative emotions I cannot have any anticipation of how I will feel when the negativity is resolved. Furthermore, I cannot have any judgment of myself because I have these negative feelings. If I am anticipating the future or judging myself, then I am taking myself out of the present moment, and it is only in the present moment that transformation can occur.

For this process to work, I must be completely in the present moment. I can’t be “waiting” for something to happen. It is very like meditation in the sense that some meditation requires one simply to observe what is happening, not to judge nor to ascribe values to the experience. Simply experience what is happening.

With this practice in addition to the forgiveness practice, perhaps I shall eventually be kinder.

Defying Gravity

Sunday, January 31st, 2010

What would it be like if gravity worked only intermittently?

Li Wei combines performance art and photography to explore that question. Using a combination of athleticism, gymnastics, cables, mirrors, and derring-do, Li Wei and his cohorts create impossible images. According to his website, the only use of Photoshop is to erase the cables, not to create the shot itself.

I like this one, perhaps because I’ve always wanted to fly.

What do you think?

The Finite and the Infinite

Sunday, January 24th, 2010

I was wondering the other day, what is finite and what is infinite?

I understand that everything around me is finite. After all, no one lives forever. Material things (except for Tupperware) decompose. The cycle of life dictates that we’re born, we grow, we die, we decay, etc.

On the flip side, though, there is the idea that energy is constant–it’s just its form that changes. When we look at an apple ripening on a tree, from green to red to overripe to rotten, we are seeing state changes of energy. According to some ways of understanding our physical world, the underlying energy remains constant.

According to this view, energy can take one material form (e.g., a leaf) and over time changes into another material form (e.g., humus). At the end of the day, the energy remains relatively constant.

If this is true, it means that each of us is as old as the hills. After all, if the same energy has been around since the beginning of the earth’s formation, shape-shifting through time, then we are part of this grand shape-shifting. We are comprised of matter that is energy that’s been around since the earth began. We’re all senior citizens… ;)

The Times, They Are A-changing

Monday, January 18th, 2010

It’s been quite a while since I’ve posted, and my apologies to those of you who’ve checked in now and again only to be told once more, “Happy New Year.” (No apologies for the new year’s wishes of course, just for the lack of updates! ;)

These last several weeks have been taxing, and the blog has suffered as a consequence.

For the foreseeable future, I believe I’ll need to reduce the number of posts to one per week. The day hasn’t been settled yet. Perhaps it will be Sundays for the nonce.

In any event, I hope your year is off to a great start, and I look forward to seeing you here again soon.

Happy New Year!

Friday, January 1st, 2010

May 2010 bring you delight, wonder, and ease.