Wednesday, June 23, 2010

Vignettes of Thought

The Book of Genesis: I am confused by the story of Adam and Eve. Seems to me that the opening of the eyes to their nakedness (Gen 3:6-7), the knowledge of good and evil is a metaphor for the dawning of consciousness. How does this become cause for being tossed by God from the Garden of Eden? Banishment from Eden is representative of our separation from God. Somehow our consciousness is the vehicle by which we lose touch with God. That the story has been framed in such a way that presents God as the heavy is interesting, it is however a story written by a human being. I keep that in mind.

There is a strong element of punishment and yet I read and re-read this story and wonder why? There’s that Tree of Life right smack-dab in the middle of the garden and Adam and Eve are told not to touch it. Why? So they will know good and evil and “become like one of us”? Seems to me that this is a little like putting candy in the middle of a young child’s playpen and telling them not to touch it. And when they do – and let’s face it the parent knows full well the child won’t be able to deny himself and his natural desires – the poor kid is punished for it.

And so Adam and Eve are thrown out of paradise because they are being punished by God for doing what comes natural and yet God spends the rest of the span of scripture trying to get them back. Well, why the hell did he throw them out in the first place?

Have we taken a story that represents an explanation of the progression of natural human development of consciousness in order that we can have an awareness of the experience of life and turned it into some kind of punishment by God? Are we that rigid and limited in our ability to live freely, to take responsibility for our own actions, to deny our own culpability in a life not lived that we have to blame God for these restrictions that we have, in reality placed on ourselves?


Trusting God: What exactly am I trusting God for… or with? Am I trusting that he will never allow me to be hurt? I’d say that ship has sailed for each and every one of us. The world is a place of pain and clearly part of our experience cannot help but be one of pain.

Really a question could be “is trust part of the equation at all”? And that might be key, rather not “the” question but “a” question, implying that life is an ever-changing, constantly moving flow where the questions keep coming and a lot of answers keep coming but answers oftentimes stop the questions don’t they? And one experience is not the last experience or the best experience or the worst experience. It is just one experience in a string of millions upon millions of experiences. They keep coming one right after the other, a never-ending flow of changing experience.

There is no “one answer”, there is no “one reason” why I am here, why any of us is here. There is no “one thing” for me to learn while I’m here. Life is an open-ended process, an open source of things to learn, stuff to experience. Every choice we make or don’t make resolves in yet another experience. Even doing nothing resolves to something. And the coolest thing of all – we so often forget this – the coolest thing of all is that in every respect we get to make some decision, we get to make some choice, we are empowered with some measure of control in the experience.

The only thing I can come up with is that “trusting God” means let life unfold. Live your life, exercise your personal choice, take your personal responsibility, accept that it is both joy and pain – nobody is immune to either – and trust that ultimately God stands with us, in us as part of us – a guide so subtle, too easy to miss.

Or maybe it means something else...


My book on Mindfulness: I read something funny in the book this morning. The discussion is of chronic back pain and the widely held belief that it is caused by degeneration in the discs of the spine:

… Our capacity for symbolic, anticipatory thought, while extraordinarily adaptive in allowing us to construct complex civilizations, is ill suited to coexist with our mammalian fight-or-flight system. Rather than our transition to walking upright, it appears that this evolutionary accident is responsible for the epidemic of chronic back pain.

Why do I think this is funny? Well, it’s the term “evolutionary accident” that gets me. Seems to me that if evolution, and I speak of the term evolution to mean the spontaneous accident that happened somewhere, at sometime, in some place that nobody can ever define, were actually THE explanation for why everything is here than everything that is here should be defined as an ‘evolutionary accident’ because the very concept of evolution - at least as far as I can tell generally and scientifically speaking refers to ‘without God’. Therefore if there is no thought and no intent behind the existence of everything that is then the entire thing is an evolutionary accident.

And I’m wondering why the PhD who wrote this book can’t see the joke in his statement.

Just for the record, and I’m sure it must be clear by my use of dripping sarcasm in that last statement that I do not for one minute believe that everything that is here is the result of ‘evolution’. Again, I refer you to my definition above. That the best and brightest of our scientists could think that something could come from nothing – well forgive me and I know I don’t have PhD’s up the wazoo but any fool in the street or on the hill knows you cannot get something from nothing. How is it that our best and brightest PhD’s somehow manage to look right past this little inconvenience to their theories? It reminds me of a passage in the Bible, Romans 1:22 Professing to be wise they became fools…

Some day I’m going to go up to one of those best and brightest, I’m going to hand him an empty hat, nothing in my hand, nothing up my sleeve, and I’m going to tell him to pull me a rabbit out of that empty hat. Or a lizard, or a rock or a newspaper or any old damn thing he wants.

Do I believe that the idea of evolution is possible? Most certainly. In a world where God exists I absolutely believe that man could evolve. Evolution is absolutely possible. We all evolve mentally, emotionally, physically and spiritually throughout the course of our lives. Evolution is a fact of life. It is the ‘scientific’ definition of evolution that is lacking… or should I say laughable.

Sunday, June 6, 2010

Mindfully Aware of Impatience

This whole mindfulness thing intrigues me, I feel strongly that there is something very significant to it. Well of course there’s something significant to it – it brings us in touch with ourselves, and there is a hell of a lot going on in ourselves. Mostly we go through our days not paying the least bit of attention to ourselves. All day long we respond to the external world. Sights, sounds, commands mostly, come to us from without and we spend our days reacting to all of those things that come to us from without and we rarely give a moment’s notice, ten seconds of consideration to that which is coming to us from within. What comes from within requires just as much attention, if not more than that which comes from without.

My, myself and I have ignored everything – for the entire span of my life – that comes from within. Actively ignored I should say. I have spent my whole life responding only to that which has come to me externally. Any time a thought or a feeling arose from within, especially a thought or a feeling that was in confrontation to that from without the internal lost out to the external. Each and every time. I have never stopped during the course of my day for five minute to ask myself “what is it that I want?”, “how is it that I feel?”.

I’ve been thinking this morning about the practice of meditation. For the past few days I have forgotten to set aside those fifteen minutes each day to spend in mindfulness practice. Of course I remember the next day and I resolve to remember in the coming day to set aside that time and then life happens and I remember the next day that I forgot the previous day.

Not only that but in those few days that I did manage to set aside the time the feeling that prevails as I sit with myself in quiet is impatience. To think that the idea and practice of setting aside fifteen minutes out of a twenty-four hour day in mindfulness meditation, fifteen minutes to turn our focus to ourselves causes impatience is very sad. It’s sad because that time spent in meditation is an opportunity to focus on myself, focusing on my inner world, my thoughts and my feelings and why is that not something that I would welcome in my day? Why would I not be intrigued by me? Why would I not really look forward each and every day to find out what’s going on with me?

I spend all day, every day responding the needs of others. My family, my job and now my dog. I watch TV, I listen to the radio, I read the newspaper, I read a book… I am responding to the external stimuli in my environment and I don’t give it a second thought. These things don’t make me impatient. Well… ok sometimes but I do them… generally without a second thought. Somebody needs something? Do it. Go to the store, clean up a mess, take the dog for a walk, answer the phone and solve the problem, make dinner, turn on the TV, do this, do that and the other thing. Reacting and responding all day long to everything that comes at me from without. And all I can do when I manage to even REMEMBER to give myself fifteen minutes of quiet, reflective time all I can do is be impatient. This is un-natural. THAT is natural, that responding to the external. THIS is un-natural, reflecting on the internal.

How did I ever come to this?

This cannot be and now that I know it I will do my best that it will not be so. What I think and feel is most important to me and I want to spend time each day to investigate me, find out what’s going on with me. What do I want? I want to know me, that’s what I want.

Thursday, June 3, 2010

Mindfulness Happens

Yesterday I took my new puppy for a hike at a park in an adjoining town. This park is about 250 acres of dedicated public open space that offers a small beach on a lake, hiking trails and a little fenced in doggie park that borders the lake on one side.

We start out by hiking about two miles of trails up and down hills, around the lake and through the woods and we always end up (by her choice) in the dog park where she is allowed off her leash. Freedom to roam and chase blowing leaves untethered. In that little span of park she experiences the only freedom that a six-month old puppy gets in the course of a day… and she makes the most of it.

I sit on a bench in the shade. Funny thing about a hot, still day in New England, no matter how hot or humid or still the air the breeze still blows off the lake. There can be absolutely no movement of air in the other 249 acres of space but at that lake the breeze is always blowing.

Here is what I did: I felt the breeze and heard the leaves rustle. I watched the ripples in the water. I listened to the voices of the swimmers across the lake at the beach. I listened to the footsteps and chatter of people walking by on the trails. I watched the dog sit in wait for just the right moment to pounce on the next blowing leaf that had the misfortune of crossing her path. I heard birds, I heard dogs, I saw fish jumping out of the water and some sort of water animal (otter?) cutting a path through the lake. I chatted with people who walked by – my dog is a real conversation piece. I don’t mean to brag but she’s a real looker.

Here is what I did not do: Think about anything that happened the day before or even that morning. Think about anything that I had to do the next day or even that evening. I didn’t think about the mortgage or what I needed to stop by the grocery store to buy. I didn’t think about work or any other responsibility that falls to me during the normal course of any given day.

And I only realized later that for that ninety minutes that I spent in that park this was my experience. Mindfulness… being aware of where you are and what is going on in the moment. If you’re fortunate enough to get as much pleasure in the experience as I did yesterday so much the better. That ladies and gentleman is mindfulness.

And it happens… sometimes without even trying.

Wednesday, June 2, 2010

The Fear of Being Alone

Connection by detachment. We live under the delusion (albeit a delusion that we come by naturally and honestly) that physical proximity defines ‘not being alone’. But physical proximity does not necessarily cure loneliness. Psychological proximity, emotional proximity is that which ultimately connects us with others. It is the internal - call it mental, emotional, spiritual – aspects of our humanness that provide us with basic human sustenance, the food that produces growth.

It is a sad paradox in life that our fear of being alone is ultimately the catalyst that leads us into isolation and loneliness.

Tuesday, June 1, 2010


I have been reading a book about a little thing called mindfulness meditation. I must segue into the rest of this post by saying that I have over the past almost two years of therapy frequently been blown away by the dawning realization of how little the average person knows about what it is that makes them tick. Most of us are so out of touch with our own inner world that we don’t have the first clue about what motivates us to do the things we do, like the things we like, fear the things we fear. It is equal parts amazing and scary and tragic because the ramifications of this ignorance for each and every single life is so profound. We close ourselves off to who and what we really are all in the interests of maintaining connection with the important people in our lives and we have absolutely no idea that we’re doing it.

Insert end of segue here.

Mindfulness meditation – the concept is laughably simple. Everything that comes into your awareness for the length of time that you are meditating is noted (i.e. you become consciously aware of it) and you accept it without judgment. For example I have taken to spending fifteen minutes each day in mindfulness meditation. I find a quiet place, I close my eyes, I turn my attention to my breathing. As each thought comes into my mind I am to become aware of it and then gently turn my attention back to my breathing.

Did I say the concept was laughably simple? I believe I did. And it is… laughably simple IF… you are the type of person who thinks your thoughts are acceptable. Which is to say not me. If you are me you spent your formative years learning and then fearing that every thought you had, every opinion, every idea was subject to somebody else’s idea of what was wrong with your thought, opinion, idea. So you learn a few things. You learn that your own ideas are subject to criticism, stinging criticism, you learn to dismiss your thoughts as invalid, you learn that your ideas aren’t worth anything, creativity flies out the window and from there you pretty much learn to keep your real thoughts to yourself. Oh you’ll discuss the weather, sports and maybe even politics but real honest to goodness deep conversations? No way. Feelings? Forget it. Creativity? You lose it.

There is an interesting bent to this kind of learning. It isn’t like intellectual learning, you know the kind that says two plus two makes four and Columbus sailed the ocean blue in fourteen hundred and ninety two. Those are facts. This is burned into your soul learning, not unlike being branded much as cattle are branded. You don’t just scrape that brand off, it is burned in there.

Laughably simple and very difficult for me. Funny thing though, you start to realize after doing this a few times that even the thought that your thought is bad or wrong or somehow unacceptable, even that is ok. Everything is ok.

Right now I have no concept of what it would be like to live a life that accepts what I think without judgment. I suppose it comes as no surprise that I am my own harshest critic. Funny how that happens, one day you start to believe the hype and turn against yourself. I have no concept that my ideas might be worth pursuing, that my thoughts, my feelings do matter to someone, they matter to me and they are what make up my subjective world which is what makes up my experience which is what makes up my life. Acceptance of my own thoughts no matter what they are.

There is of course still much to be undone. The discovery of that brand on my behind has only just happened but where else does one start no? The world of possibilities that have just opened up before me, I see no end in sight.