Sunday, July 12, 2009

rules for the road

I know I can be deceived by patterns. I can feel that what I'm seeing is true and what I'm doing is fair and just, and still be completely wrong. Perception is always limited, by conditioning, by patterns, by circumstances. I cannot know what is beyond and yet, often, I have to act.

Consequently, I've evolved a few principles to help me in such situations. I won't claim that they are exhaustive or comprehensive, but they seem to work pretty well most of the time.

It's never about fairness or justice.
As I said in a previous post, I've consistently found that any clinging to notions of fairness or justice is a way of avoiding some aspect of the situation I don't want to acknowledge. I now take such clinging as an indication that I haven't penetrated my own confusion and projection. Eventually, I come across a pain or a hurt that tells me why a person acted as he or she did, or why a person can't go to a place that I think he or she should.

Equanimity does not mean fairness.
To practice equanimity is to understand that everything everybody ever does — I repeat, everything everybody ever does — is because at that moment, he or she feels that their action will improve their world. In other words he or she is just trying to be happy. The actions may be, and often are, tragically, catastrophically self-defeating, but that is the motivation at the moment of action. Equanimity, then, is a profound acceptance of each person's humanity. Fairness may be the result of equanimity, but it's not the practice of equanimity.

Whatever is there is there, calmly licking its chops.
When I encounter a powerful, overwhelming, painful or massively unpleasant (or pleasant) feeling, it's there and there is nothing I can do about it except experience it. I sit in it using bare attention, do taking and sending with it to form a relation with it, or mix the feeling with awareness — whatever I'm capable of. In all these, the aim is not sitting with the feeling, but sitting in the feeling. There's a difference.

Penetrating so many secrets, we cease to believe in the unknowable. But there it sits nevertheless, calmly licking its chops.
— H. L. Mencken

Go to the body.
When there are feelings of injustice or lack of fairness, stories abound. When there are feelings of being misunderstood or unappreciated, stories abound. The stories are almost always projections, and are, by and large, unreliable. Engagement is fruitless: one inevitably gets lost in them. I go to the body, and sit in whatever physical sensations are there, including the sensation of no sensation.

Not feeling anything is a sensation.
This may seem like a paradox, but not being able to feel your body is a sensation, and often quite a vivid one at that. It usually indicates that one is in some kind of shock. I sit in that experience, too.

Let the sun shine.
A simile I've found helpful is that the feeling at the core of a pattern is like a flower bud and one's attention is like the sun. Let the sun warm the bud, and the flower will open in time. You can't hurry the process. To force the bud to open damages things beyond repair. When an issue is up, I work with it regularly and consistently, but I don't try to work through it in one session or in a limited period of time. In fact, I don't even try to work through it at all. If it's there, that's where I sit. If it's not, then I don't go looking for it.

(If decisions have to be made, I make them, cognizant that they may not be the right ones, and cognizant, too, that I will have to receive the results, whatever they are.)

When you feel resolved, look to the stars.
In astronomy, any observation or theory that places the earth in a privileged position indicates a mistake in the data, the method of observation, or the interpretation of the data. Any resolution of the issue that leaves you in a privileged position (the usual ones are hero or victim) is suspect. These are identities, and are pretty reliable indications that the "resolution" is serving some unacknowledged agenda.

It ain't over 'til the fat lady sings.
The origin of this phrase isn't clear. I remember it from one Salinger's novels, but Wikipedia suggests it came from a sports writer in the '70s. The singer here is an internal admission or allowing of a weakness, a hurt, a prejudice, or an ignoring, that you haven't acknowledged before. It comes with its own set of body sensations, emotions, and stories. In other words, you are back in the mess, or another mess, and all the previous principles apply. How many arias or choruses will she sing? No one knows. That's part of the mystery.




13 comments:

Ellen Fishman said...

Thanks Ken, for adding on to the previous post.
So many parts of this musing are juicy, food for reflection.
This one is a revelation.
"(If decisions have to be made, I make them, cognizant that they may not be the right ones, and cognizant, too, that I will have to receive the results, whatever they are.)"

Patterns are strong, they run so much of what I
do, that to be cognizant of results- hmm,
major shift to even recognize that this is possible.

So I really like the cautionary "
When you feel resolved, look to the stars."
Made me laugh, because I do that all the time.

Acceptance of my own humanity is part of the
awakening, no?

Ellen

Greg said...

Dear Ken
Thanks for this one. A mix (as per the usual) of pragmatics that crack me up, shut me up, and send that chill up the spine.
Best,
Greg

givot2u said...

Needed to read this today. Thank you. I'll do better next time!
Lisa

Anonymous said...

This was helpful in so far as I could see and feel your compassion.
That's good because so far I had only seen your intellect. I'm glad to see more.

Greg said...

It ain't over til the fat lady sings is attributed generally to Yogi Berra but picked up by the sports announcer for the Chicago Cubs [having a senior moment on his name], not that it matters.

The meaning in baseball was that until the last out of the ninth, the home team still had a shot at winning. Evidence for the eternal optimism of Cub fans.

My rules for the road:

All things pass.
Outcome is dependent
Take responsiblity for experience
Love is the seed of happiness
Equanimity is flawless

note: I guess there are two Gregs

Greg said...

Oh I meant to add
Great post Ken, I too enjoyed the first person story.

All the best Greg

claudia said...

"It ain't over till the fat lady sings"

My dad used to say this to me. I have found it useful in practice for two points. The first you spoke to in your comments. When a pattern I have been working with releases and I seem to feel it might be "done", only to later be confronted with some new layer.

The second is when my practice moves into a desert. Not the kind with wild flowers in the spring and hidden pools of water with rare fish, but the Mojave kind - vast and empty.

Now that I have watched my father take his last breath, I am very clear when "the fat lady sings"

Thanks for the useful comments.

Claudia

Anonymous said...

So it is equally misguided for me to cast myself as the villain when my actions have clearly resulted in others’ suffering. And no matter how difficult it is to practice equanimity in this situation, still I would be well-advised to look to the stars and accept my role in the tragedy instead of imagining Dike presiding over my fate. I'll imagine a fat lady singing my sadness instead.

eribel said...

Totally inspiring....

Ellen Fishman said...

"I sit in it using bare attention, do taking and sending with it to form a relation with it, or mix the feeling with awareness — whatever I'm capable of."

Could you explain this= "do taking and sending with it to form a relation with it", a bit more ?


Thanks in advance,
E llen

ici said...

Thank you, Ken for sharing these musings with the rest of us. Inspiring, provocative, sometimes a bit shocking since you serve it up like plain food - no garnish.

jwb said...

Great stuff. I love the HL Mencken quote especially. No one has popped more balloons that HLM...but there is the unknown, nonetheless, licking its chops. There are many people who I want to show this to, esp. the part about equanimity unequal to fairness. Wonderful. JWB

sharonyogart said...

< Anonymous said...
So it is equally misguided for me to cast myself as the villain when my actions have clearly resulted in others’ suffering. And no matter how difficult it is to practice equanimity in this situation, still I would be well-advised to look to the stars and accept my role in the tragedy instead of imagining Dike presiding over my fate. I'll imagine a fat lady singing my sadness instead.

thanks Anonymous. I royally messed something up recently & had been busy kicking myself around the block. Thank you for reminding me that it is misguided for me to cast myself as the Villain here too.

It seems though as if the Fat Lady just keeps on singing . . .>