“Truth is an empty cup.”
Frank Herbert

Chapter House Dune

The Wild Edge of Sorrow

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Some months ago Charles Eisenstein published this conversation with Francis Weller and I got around to listening to it a couple of days ago. I resonated deeply with some of the things Francis said. It was also, of the podcasts Charles has done that I have heard, the most vibrant and clear conversation as it touched and moves Charles too.

Francis talks about grief and sorrow as doorways into a rich experience of being. He talks about different kinds of grief: personal loss – intimate attachments that are withdrawn from our life (family, friends, etc.); ecological loss – dealing with the dark ecological outlook that is in the ar; ancestral loss – that are culturally inherited (in my case I would probably give the Holocaust as an example); loss that comes from a gap between the world we feel was promised us (a world of rich social life) and the world we live in. He talks about loss and grief being an integral part of life and that rituals to experience and express grief and loss need to be a regular part of life that is best served in a communal setting.

This is a subject near to me. I feel there are more aspects of grief – the death of ideas being a prominent one in my life – it is a subtle form of loss that can go unnoticed. Kind of like the difference between soldiers who have suffered amputated limbs (a clear artifact of war) and soldiers who suffer PTSD which has no visible markings but manifests in so many subtle ways in day-to-day life.

I have not yet experienced a kind of social-supported form of grief having lived much of my life either on my own or in very intimate settings … and I do wonder abotu the effect that has had on me. I do feel in touch with experiences and emotions of touch and grief …. I wonder how much they have informed and shaped me … and how Francis’ ideas would meet me in my life.

I look forward to reading his book The Wild Edge of Sorrow.

This short video touches on some of the ideas but most were better expressed in the podcast:

Francis Weller’s website is WisdomBridge.net

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Christopher Alexander on Deep Feeling and Emotional Substance

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“… The Word “feeling” has been contaminated. It is confused with emotions – with feelings (in the plural) sch as wonder, sadness, anger – which confuse rather than help because they make us ask ourselves, which kind of feeling should I follow? The feeling I am talking about is unitary. It is feeling in the singular, which comes from the whole …

What I call feeling is the mode of perception and awareness which arises when a person pays attention to the whole … It is an intelligent and practical way forward.

… In any living process, or any process of design or making, the way forward, the next step which is most structure-enhancing, is that step which most intensifies the feeling of the emerging whole.

… During the early part of the 20th century there was a school of thought where a great deal was said about artists expressing their feelings, as if this was supposed somehow to be the purpose and pathway of art. Artists sometimes tried to do this by placing paint to record their emotions, throwing paint at the wall, pouring their emotions into the work. In each case the artist tried to send his feeling into the work, in the name of: “I am expressing my feelings.” In all these cases the idea was that the feeling goes from the artist into the work while the work is being made.

Producing a building which has feeling is something different … What matters is that the building – the room, the canyon, the painting, the ornament, the garden – as they are created, send profound feeling back towards us … The feeling comes from the object back to me after it is made, does not go from me to the object while I am making it.

… before we take an action, we can grasp the latent structure as the emotional substance … a dimly held feeling which describe where we are going, but is not yet concrete, in physical and geometrical terms. This means we can sense, ahead of time, the quality of the completed whole – even when we cannot yet visualize it. We then keep this quality alive in our minds and use it as the basic guiding light, which steers us towards our target. The final target, then, has the feeling which we anticipated much earlier, but often has an unexpected unfamiliar geometry.

The feeling … is not … arbitrarily invented. It is … emotional substance … It is … reasonably accurate, reliable, and stable. We can get it, and then keep coming back to it. It evolves, as the project does, and as our concrete understanding evolves. Thus, as the geometry develops, the feeling is kept intact, but becomes more and more solid

Using our own feeling as a way of grasping the whole, we can put ourselves in a receptive mode in which we grasp, and respond to the existing wholeness – together with its latent structure. This is not an emotional move away from precision. It is, rather, a move towards precision.

Christopher Alexander – The Nature of Order – Book 2: The Process of Creating Life

 

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Yoga on the Mat Practice – Winter 2015: Rediscovering Maha Mudra

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As a result of a consultation (November 12th) with my teacher, my asana and pranayama practices were updated.

Asana

asana-nov-2015

The practice offers me two paths to explore. I’ve tasted the inverted path twice … but have gravitated more towards the, similar to my established practice, maha mudra sequence. Some slight life-instability has expressed as a slight agitation in my right-lower-back and the inverted practice aggrevated it. I am taking more time for life-settling and am looking forward to continuing the inverted-path exploration.

Maha Mudra is back (after years of absence) in my practice sequence. I am again taken by the richness of engagement this posture has to offer. Here are some of the things I encounter as the posture and I get reacquainted.

  1. It starts in my  arms, shoulders adn shoulder-blades as they are activated coming into the posture. I look for length, full activation and spaciousness.
  2. As I bend forward into the posture my attention travels down my spine and arrives in my lower back with engaged lengthening and hips with surrendered opening.
  3. I then focus on my hands and their contact with me leg (unlike in the picture, my hands are placed further back on my leg). I try to create a good engaged hold … not too soft not too strong.
  4. That projects up my arms where my shoulders and shoulder-bladed join the effort.
  5. I am learning to discern between my shoulders and shoulder blades.
  6. I try to allow my shoulder blades to be active while relaxing my shoulders, allowing them to move back and down without sagging forward.
  7. When I try to relax my shoulders my hands sometimes also relax and so my attention travels back to my hands (and then back up to my shoulders – in numerous cycles) to re-engage the grip while trying to relax my shoulders.
  8. That exploration brings me to my upper back. I sense a vector that starts in my hands, travels up the length of my active arms, passed through my open shoulders and active again in my shoulder blades which invites my chest to open which in turn actvates my upper back.
  9. That causes my neck to arch a bit and my head to move back … which I then adjust by re-lenghtening my neck and tucking in my chin.
  10. Though the breath is there all the time throughout this journey, after this physical settling I am able to settle into my breath, refine it within the physical setting and allowing it to inform and refine the physicality.
  11. The first thing to settle in my breath is my attention to it and its length (equal inhale and exhale, currently ~8 seconds each).
  12. Next comes a steadying of abdominal engagement, gradually (in each practice sequence and between practice sessions) finding more stability in the abdomen and gravitating towards an uddiyana sthana form.
  13. As the breath takes shape it projects first into my spine. Inhales engaging the hands-arms-shoulders-shoulder blades -chest-upper back vector – leading to a sense of expansion and intensification. Exhales engaging the abdomen (steadily holding and strengthening) and lower back (opening/lengthening) to create a foundation for the inhale-expansion.
  14. When that settles I find myself back in my hips … more softness and surrendering.
  15. The hips then project me, through my legs, into my feet. The foot on the folded leg relaxing. The foot on the straight leg flexing and engaging.
  16. If all this happens in time (before my 6 breaths are up) I get a taste of a present wholeness.

So much dyanmic exploration in what appears externally like stillness. It has taken almost a month of practice for me to feel an opening up in this intriguing mudra.

Pranayama

My Pranayama practice starts with resuming the last practice sequence (one I had skipped because of memry error) in my previous prescribed path:

8.0.8.0 x4br pratiloma ujjayi
10.0.10.0 x4br pratiloma ujjayi
12.0.12.0 x12br pratiloma ujjayi
8.0.8.0 x4br pratiloma ujjayi
4.0.4.0 x4br ujjayi

It continues with these practice sequences:

  1. 8.0.8.0 x4br pratiloma ujjayi
    12.0.12.0 x8br pratiloma ujjayi
    8.0.8.0 x8br pratiloma ujjayi
    4.0.4.0 x4br ujjayi
  2. 8.0.8.0 x4br pratiloma ujjayi
    8.4.8.4 x8br pratiloma ujjayi
    8.0.8.0 x8br pratiloma ujjayi
    4.0.4.0 x4br ujjayi
  3. 8.0.12.0 x6br anuloma ujjayi
    8.4.12.0 x6br anuloma ujjayi
    8.4.12.4 x6br anuloma ujjayi
    4.0.8.0 x6br anuloma ujjayi
    4.0.4.0 x4br ujjayi

A bhavana my teacher offered in resuming the last step from the previous set was the 1.0.1.0 ratio throughout the sequence. It was an interesting experience. The most notable difference I could best describe using a metaphor for climbing steps. The 1.0.1.0 ratio felt like more demanding (higher) steps to take compared to a more gradual process that comes from assymetrical steps (wher the exhale is lengthened before the inhale). Then the 1st practice sequence in the new set continued that theme by increasing the step size – removing the 10 second breath and going directly from 8 seconds to 12 seconds – making the steps even higher. The most notabel development for me in taking these steps has been in attention. They are all well within my breathing capacity, yet my ability to traverse them is very much effected by the quality of my presence and attention.

I am now transitioning to the 2nd sequence in the new set.

 

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Christopher Alexander on Uniqueness

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“Almost the most distinctive mark of living process lies in one aspect of the geometry of the results. Simply put, Every part of the world that has life, and every part of every part, becomes UNIQUE. It becomes unique because each part is adapted to its context and because, in the large, no two contexts are ever the same.

… uniqueness … is a necessary aspect of living structure … possibly the most fundamental …

Indirectly, then, the love that we can feel for a place … is made possible by living process … It is the uniqueness of each mountain, building, person, spot that makes it possible to love it, or him, or her … By creating uniqueness everywhere, the living process touches, directly, the issue of whether the world will be a world we love, or not.”

Christopher Alexander – The Nature of Order – Book 2: The Process of Creating Life

… so it isn’t just a quality of snowflakes 🙂

 

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Dan Carlin on Mind Control

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In Dan Carlin’s recent Common Sense episode The War on Bad Thoughts he, once again, explores the subject of terrorism and the dilemma of a (prevalent) short term view that leads to narrow-minded responses vs. a long term view in which the root of this problem (and potentially many other problems) is “bad thoughts” … and he starts to delve into a potentially interesting domain of changing minds. However this creative opening led to what was in my mind, a narrow and limited exploration … of “weapons of thought control”.

What follows are some reflections in the spirit of the challenging direction that the show touched on … nothing nearly as coherent as the show itself!

A general “scientific” assumption behind “mind control” seems to be that the mind itself is a kind of storage device for thoughts which implies that if we could somehow get into it, remove some thoughts, add some new ones, etc … we would have a technology with great potential. Well … what if that core assumption “the mind as a storage device” is unfounded. Rupert Sheldrake may have something to say on that.

Changing minds and hearts” is also a phrase that came up … and I wonder if it too opens a door to an interesting path of exploration. Why are we so focused on changing minds …. what if our hearts turn out to be more responsive to change … what would changing our hearts look like? How quickly can a man with anger in his heart from, say, work  transform into a soft, loving father when he comes home and embraces his little girl?

I am a practitioner of Yoga. Though its popular image is that of a physical practice, I was taught and trained in a tradition that views Yoga as a science of the mind. It therefore has A LOT to say about how mind works and how to go about changing it … though much of what this view has to offer would likely be rejected in a modern / mechanistic / supposedly scientific conversation.

Dan also talked about what happens when we come together as a herd … how we tend to revert to more basic, animalistic, responses. What if there too is a potential exploration … what if we could come together and instead of reverting to somethign primitive we could become something more advanced … a intellectual / social construct that would not only harness our potential in a better way but also nourish us in such a way that our minds would change in some that we could not as individuals?

I would say that there are plenty of ongoing experiments of mind-control that we may not appreciate for their mind-control aspects:

  • An obvious one would be mainstream media and how its continuous flow has altered now just what we think, but how we think.
  • Another obvious example would be social media and how it has had effects on both what and how we think.
  • A less obvious example though may be viewed as belonging to the “chemical weapons” realm. I believe that the typical American diet has effected the way American’s can and do think. I believe it has both short term and long term accumulating effects … a form of self-inflicted chemical warfare the USA has been waging with itself. Michael Pollan’s In Defense of Food may be a good start on that subject.
  • An even more subtle example would be capitalism itself – not judging it, just pointing out its effects on thoughts and thinking. Consider for example: the “herd dynamic” Dan speaks of, how is that phenomenon shaped by capitalist (individuals seeking personal gain in a zero sum game = at the expense of one another) thought. Are we just naturally fearful or have our social-technologies given rise to almost rational fears? What do we fear more, our hunters or our other herd members?

If I were to continue this list it would seem that many of our typical day-to-day technologies are in fact altering how we think and what we think about. What if what we need is not a radical”weaponized” change but a subtle change in underlying attitudes and intentions. Could it be that because of their obviousness we overlook them and are tempted by the drama of “weapons of thought control”?

Finally … what if the underlying attitude of war and weaponry limits our view on this subject? What if mind-control is a process that is too variable for control and direction? Maybe the fact that it failed in the 60’s or 70’s wasn’t because of immature technolgies (that have now, 40 years later, matured) … but an immature understanding of the mind and thought itself (which is still immature in mainstream society, though there are many more small pockets on the fringes of society with developed insights)? What if mind-control is a natural organic process that we can tap into and partake in better than we have been doing so far?

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