2002-07-28

I spent last weekend at a Zen retreat. From Friday evening until Sunday afternoon, almost the entire time was spent in one or other form of meditation. Most of it was plain old sitting meditation, but there was also walking meditation, work meditation, chanting and bowing. Even meals were a meditation. The entire time was also spent in complete silence.

It was not an easy thing to do. Sometimes I felt like I couldn't sit still for another minute. Sometimes my knees and hips hurt from sitting cross-legged for what felt like aeons. Last weekend was also the coldest two days yet this winter. I spent the entire time wrapped in at least four layers of clothing. Waking up at five in the morning was scarily difficult. All I wanted in the mornings was to go home and spend 15 minutes or so under a hot shower that twelve other people were not waiting to use.

It wasn't easy, but it was one of the best weekends ever. I loved the silence. Silence is an amazing way to direct your focus inwards, to see exactly what you are thinking, without being distracted by what other people are saying or being sidetracked by having to come up with gems of wit and wisdom all the time. I loved spending that much time meditating. The purpose of meditation (at least one of them) is to develop awareness or "mindfulness". To become aware of your thoughts and emotions and actions. To be awake in the present moment. The different forms of meditations were wonderful, because it became easy to see that everything you do in your life can be just the same. Every action can be a meditation. And every non-action too. It's an amazing way to be.

I like that idea because I often see that people confine meditation to the fraction of their day that they set aside for it. There's no point if the only time you are focused and aware is when you're sitting doing nothing. There's no point if you meditate religiously every morning and then go to work and say ignorant and hurtful things. Or if you spend your whole day thinking about the job you'd like to have someday. Or lash out in anger when someone expresses an opinion that's different from yours. Or deny somebody's humanity if they have a different skin colour or religion or ethnic group or accent or whatever.

I'm a long, long way from complete awareness, but to me it's something worth striving to attain. I've tried to pay attention this past week and discovered, to my horror, that I'm shockingly bad at it. Ah well, we all have to start somewhere.

BTW, it seems like my template is back. It needed some repair, but it all looks OK now. I've been thinking that this entire template could use a revamp, but that will have to wait for another day.

2002-07-16

No, I haven't become completely aesthetically challenged: Blogger's lost part of my template. Damn and blast. I do hope my links and archives show up again sometime soon.

Maybe they've been confiscated by the US government. Some blogger participating in Operation TIPS found something they didn't like, perhaps? Or was that RATS. Hey all you sensible Americans, wake up. I know you're out there. This is serious. The US is starting more and more to resemble somewhere in Eastern Europe a few decades ago. Corrupt business and police informers. Do something now, or it will all end in tears.

2002-07-15

Dammit Alka. Every time I try to leave a comment on your blog, enetation decides that it shouldn't let me. Anyway, what I was going to say is that I'll see you at tomorrow's Johannesburg breakfast blogmeet.

I discovered that Mike has found another South African blogger, one Farrago. Damned South Africans are popping up like weeds all over the Net. I'll be watching this one with interest. I couldn't help wondering though, as it became clear that Farrago is also a resident of Cape Town, if Farrago is yet another of Mike's interminable series of alter egos. It would be quite an odd one this time, but I quite like it.

As for me, I am still in the throes of being in love with Greg. This has to be the most wonderful, bizarre way to be. I don't know what exactly happened, but it's like someone flipped a switch inside me. I don't know what I'm doing half the time. And it really doesn't matter. I'm probably badly neglecting everyone else in my life at the moment, but I'm hoping they will forgive me. Eventually.

Sometimes I get terribly paranoid about this relationship. This is also bizarre, because I'm usually the most unparanoid person around. But every now and again I find myself thinking: This is too easy. Something must be wrong. Stupid, yes. But it is there. Every time I feel that way I know that it is completely idiotic, but there's little I can do but wait for it to go away. Scary stuff. On some detached level, I can see myself setting myself up to cope with the almost unthinkable idea of things falling apart. I don't like to think that I might do such a thing, but I can't deny that I am.

On the other hand, I am very, very happy. Still dancing through the dahlias, prancing through the pansies or whatever. I woke up in the middle of the night a few days ago. It must have been around three in the morning. I don't know why exactly and it was only for a minute or two. I was lying in bed, Greg curled around me, fast asleep. I could feel his breath gentle on my neck, his body warm and close and I realised right then that I had never felt happier than at that moment. An odd moment to choose, perhaps, but I've been called odd before.

2002-07-07

Good grief! All this talk about anger is enough to piss a guy right off. (That's a joke, please step away from the flamethrowers.) But it is a great topic. And such an amazing range of opinions. I love it. Thanks to Burningbird for setting it all in motion.

It's an interesting thing to think about. I find that I both agree and disagree with almost everyone who's posted about anger. In one sense, I don't understand what all the fuss is about. For me anger is just another emotion. It's not a Bad Thing, nor is it a Good Thing. It just is.

The discussion that Shelley's post has generated demonstrates quite nicely that anger has become largely socially unacceptable. Anger gets a bad name because people so often allow their anger to take over entirely. People often express anger in terrible destructive ways. But that doesn't mean that anger itself is bad.

Many people seem to think that anger is a Very Bad Thing and must be avoided at all cost. But you can't get way with denying anger. Denial and supression of anger is dangerous. The trouble is that it tends to accumulate and fester and it will show up later, usually in destructive ways. Recognise it as it happens and deal with it immediately. It's a way that works for me most of the time. There is the slight danger of runaway escalation, but that will happen only if you're not paying attention. If you are, you can stop it as fast as you started.

Anger is an amazing way to become motivated. It provides a huge energy boost. The trick is to use it in a way that is constructive rather than destructive. You can get angry at a something and try to destroy it. Or you can step back for a moment and find some other way to change the situation. Beautiful things are possible through anger. South Africa's transition to democracy was motivated largely by the anger of millions of people. Of course, the opposite is also true. The hideous killing of many people by necklacing during the struggle was also the product of anger. Anger itself is not the issue, it's whether people allow themselves to become mindless or not.

I don't believe anger is necessarily the product of fear. Anger can arise from many causes. The oppression of others can inspire a deeply compassionate anger, for instance. The result of your anger can be working to make their lives better, or trying to make their oppressors suffer in return. The choice, as always is yours.

2002-07-03

An amazing thing happened a couple of days ago. Alka posted one of her poems. And it was good. As I read it, I could feel the emotion rising. By the time I was done, I was in tears. I was thinking, "My God! She knows. She knows. She has felt it too." Somehow, Alka had managed to articulate a rare and astonishing experience.

I love to dance. I love to give up all control and give myself over to the rhythm. I lose myself in the music and the dance. Sometimes so thoroughly that I don't even hear the music any more. Nothing exists but me and the dance. Me at rest and the universe dancing around me. The dance of the galaxies, the dance of the stars and the planets. The dance of of the seasons and the dance of life. The dance of Shiva Nataraja dancing the cosmos into existence. And I am there. Observing and yet part of it. I am a star some of the time. Or a planet. Or sometimes a tree. Sometimes a flickering flame, sometimes the sound of the drum. I am at the still point while everything happens around me. Beautiful things and terrible things. Strange rhythms, spirals within spirals. And everything underpinned by the deep tone of the first sound, the sound of creation.

An experience like no other. Strange? Yes. Bizarre, even. Maybe I have taken too many mind-altering substances in my life. But it is beautiful beyond description. And powerful. I am left humbled by the magnificence and majesty of the universe, overflowing with joy and wonder. And in some subtle way Alka has managed to capture that experience in a few lines of poetry. I am left humbled.