AUDIO FILE to listen while you read (with maybe one reading error):
So, it’s come to this?
I started a reading a piece based on a lecture based on book called, you got it: “Doing Nothing”
It had nothing to do with nothing. It was a ploy, a tease, a ruse, a lure to get me to read an article about the meanderings of a creative artist’s mind. I felt irritated – however the artist had some brilliant pieces of art she had photographed and a chuggingly slow river of tangential ideas, images and sensations. I suppose if one weren’t withdrawing from the intoxication of USA productivity and strung-out on random stuff it could seem like nothing relatively speaking. If it wasn’t titled “Doing Nothing” I might have liked it.
But I was anally attached to finding out how to do nothing, which, of course is an oxymoron. And I’m still attached aka stuck in the fucking past obsessing about not finding nothing. Go ahead – smile and feel embarrassed for me. And I’m being serious.
Let’s face it – no can do nothing at any time. But—
If we rule out autonomic functions such as blood pimping around in our arteries and veins or breathing then we have at least pretended we can make a space for maybe doing nothing.
Here’s the thing though – and I know I’m splitting hairs (very hard to do by the way) – as a nation of workers who eschew down-time and laziness the idea of doing nothing seems more Zen and cooler than acting lazy.
Maybe, the closest seemingly non-action state we can take is Za Zen Meditation. If it weren’t connected to the idea of mindfulness it would be an excellent cover for laziness. I mean sit and just “watch” all your thoughts and ideas et cetera coming and going. The one who watches is the mindfulness give-away so it’s not as close to doing nothing as I might imagine.
There’s lots of apps – one of which promotes “doing nothing” for a certain number of minutes – but in reality it’s listening to rain and sounds of nature as a mediation. Anyway, you get the idea.
The idea is that as workaholics who love to work, work, work – even if you love what you do and in your spare time you work and improve yourself – if you’re filling up all your time with stuff to do then you’re never celebrating laziness. Here’s what I think – Americans love to be busy, even when they’re in downtime. So, when some American says:
“I’ve been doing nothing,”
it really means they are doing something that seems like nothing in comparison to a super busy lifestyle. They need re-grooving in the cognitive think department – unless they are attempting to market “nothing”. Marketing “nothing” is got to be the perfect scam, because you can make up anything especially if its tangential, has no plan and seems like the positive side of laziness – though I don’t see how doing nothing is more positive than being lazy.
Ordinary waking consciousness emanates from ego and attachment. Ego – the “I” that is oneself is attached to everything. This is the way of the outer world. We forget about our “inner world” and come to believe that ego and attachment are all that is. In other words, ego, language and thought is caught up in attachment.
I’m sure you have heard or read that meditation is about quieting the mind. I can only write to the meditation that I know: Vipassanā Meditation or Insight Meditation. This kind of meditation works with the breath and helps to quiet the mind. It takes practice to quiet the mind as many who practice meditation already know.
The mind creates what is known as a stream of consciousness which includes all matter of attachments – thoughts, memories, ideas, fantasies and so on. Anyone who has daydreamed in a classroom, or in boring business meetings falls into the stream of consciousness. The stream is constantly flowing so that when we stop being present our attention falls into it and is taken away by the stream. The draw of the stream is one of attachment – a kind of addiction so common that it is not referred to as an addiction. We have accepted that attachment / addiction to thoughts, language, fantasies, identity, status and so on is all there is, so we never come to realize that all attachments are distractions that form a recycling whirlpool that eats itself. The distraction is one that leads away from peace and happiness. On a deeper level attachment is the distraction from oneness with all beings.
On my first Vipassanā Meditation retreat over 35 years ago the facilitator, Bhante aka the Venerable Dharmawara Mathahera, a 92-year-old Cambodian Buddhist monk sent us to meditate on our own. We had spent four days in group meditation.
It was a muggy and overcast day. I spread my blanket on the ground and sat. I began to notice my breath, in and out. Flies landed on my bare skin, tickling the hairs of my arms, and I laughed aloud. Mosquitoes landed on me and did not bite me. Deeper into the meditation, with my eyes closed, I felt presences near me. I opened my eyes a slit and saw a squirrel, a rabbit and a skunk sitting in a semicircle in front of me. My thought was, “this is normal.” I continued to meditate.
When it was done I felt at peace with the world.
The Current World
The world of attachment is filled with divisiveness and antagonistic rivalries; as you may have noticed. This is to be expected in the cycle of history we find ourselves within.
According to the scholar – Bidhu Dev Misra we are near the end of the Ascending Kali Yuga. It’s ends in 2025 and is followed by a 300-year transition period before the Ascending Dwapara Yuga begins (seen End Notes for more information about the Yugas).
Kali is the goddess/god of destruction – a phoenix that destroys itself to rise from the ashes. Opposite the 6,000 years of the Descending and Ascending Kali Yugas are the 6,000 years of the Satya Yugas – an age of oneness where there is no ego, no religion, no money… only peace, harmony and oneness.
Characteristic of the age of destruction is both a fear of “the end” as characterized by rabid divisive thoughts and actions as a way to obliterate the end by hanging on to a short-term power, a short-term quarterly dividend – in short, the greed and lust for power. Ego, attachment and thinking are in a whirlpool of oppositional thinking that seeks its own destruction. This might be funny except for a denial and resistance to the existential threat of the climate crisis.
The Inner World
Through Vipassanā Meditation a quieting of the mind can begin to manifest. Ego is surrendered in the moment and attachment is sometimes released in the space between an inhalation of breath and its exhalation. A regular practice of meditation can allow the ego to float and attachment’s roots to be loosened.
A wondrous aspect of the inner world is revealed as ego and attachment are released. A profound peace and simple happiness become apparent. Thought clears, consciousness expands, and time ceases to exist.
This “world” beyond ego and attachment is the beginning of the continuum of enlightenment. It lasts all too briefly as the worlds of ego, linear time and attachment come into claim the vestiges of enlightenment scantily clad through memory.
The Current World as seen from the Inner World
By freeing ourselves from time and attachment, the world of the Kali Yuga – the current world becomes evident. All thought in this epoch arises from attachment and as a result is not original thought. Attached thoughts swirl from a stream (as in the stream of consciousness) into a whirlpool (or black hole) to obliterate thought for the increasing enslavement of humankind.
There is no “we”. All are separate, divided into smaller camps of “us” and “them” living in the houses of anger, rage, hatred, envy and greed as reflected in:
statistical studies measuring a nation divided as much as in the times of the US Civil War,
science and technology as in reducing to understand, and
predatory capitalism as in dividing goods and services into smaller amounts – conquering and destroying smaller businesses in favor of the most profit, the most money and the least or no taxes.
Thought and action is divided into the dyad of good versus evil, right versus wrong and so on with no middle ground of reconciliation, governance and/or compromise.
The action of the dyad is choking itself and headed towards self-destruction characteristic of the Kali Yuga time cycle.
If we are to survive climate crisis as a species then as individuals we could choose:
Beginning the day with a 30 to 50-minute mediation.
Using the meditation as an anchor throughout the day to remind us to choose kindness, compassion and right (no-acting out) anger to right wrongs for the good of all.
Political Actions whether that be donating / volunteering time, money as a protest against excluding people from equal participation in a democratic process
Due to the enormous amounts of money contributed by billionaires and corporations to co-op the government (US) we as a people must take back our government to save it from dictatorial types and re-establish a democracy.
This can be done from a compassion stance where neutral ground can be established – once again – to govern as opposed to rule.
Having extricated myself from the river of grief (and now on a boat floating on it)* I’ve also noticed its smudge is everywhere. Having done a small bit of work on my relationship to grief I see it now as slightly separate from me. There are few people who are completely free of grief’s smudge, though through denial we like to think that we are. It’s only those who are working on being present that may have overcome grief’s longer-term effects.
In the hierarchical epoch of the patriarchy everyone is in a state of grief or loss
Many become fully immersed in the river of grief and never fully release it, but think that we have done so. It’s more likely that we live it’s smudge without knowing its stuck or smeared on us and we carry it with us everywhere. We’ve resigned ourselves to it, accepted it and cognitively reframed grief as a fact of life to assist in our survival.
In the hierarchical epoch of the patriarchy everyone is in a state of grief or loss throughout the life span. Only those who have achieved a modicum of mastery or a state of transcendental enlightenment may have overcome the savagery of grief’s toll.
Symptoms from the smudge of grief:
Longing for / romanticizing the old days and angry about current life in juxtaposition to the old days. Anger becomes a way of life possibly oscillating between grief (sadness), fear and anger. Attachment to the old romanticized “past” to the point of putting the brakes on politically and a desire to return to the promise of simpler times.
Giving up or trading in on simple happiness in the present for a perfectionist idealized past or future.
Addicted to a substance outside ourselves (not drugs or alcohol per se) that we believe will make us happy and feel secure (more money, better job, etc.). Existential addiction is about filling a hole inside us that has grief as one of its contributing emotions.
Rationalizing and compartmentalization of grief experiences. We often unconsciously model our expressions of grief based on our parents’ behaviors, attitudes and beliefs. The greater the intellectualization / fearfulness of “weaker” emotion states such as vulnerable emotion states – crying when sad, or frustrated then the more shame and constriction may become part of the grief process often truncating the process.
We often have expectations that the stages of grief happen “in-order” one time and “we’re done” with this.
I’ve seen many people in mid-life 40s to 60s (possibly younger) where grief is interrupted – a person shuts down their grief process and gives up on their inner world collapsing into their parents’ belief systems partially or whole-heartedly. It is at this time that they begin to romanticize their past and adopt old-world belief systems to cope with change.
For the people that allow for grief or any emotion such as love or joy to come and go they have loosened their attachment to past and present experiences and can face the fear of change in a less rigid fashion. However due to our ego we are all subject to attachments that grief and/or loss creates to one degree or another.
Loss is an intrinsic part of our lives.
Grief is closely allied with attachment. The very nature of being human is an identification to an idea, a person, a relationship – in short to the “stuff” of life. Attachment is the foundation of identity and memory is its tool. Attachment is at the root of unnecessary suffering. The greater the attachment to a person, wife/husband/partner, a child/son/daughter, a family, a community; a job, to an idea, to a belief and so on the more grief surrounds the loss. As humans we are all programmed to avoid feelings of loss to one degree or another based on our identity and beliefs.
Humans cannot bear loss.
Loss is an intrinsic part of our lives. Some loss we choose, such as quitting a job or relocating, this doesn’t seem so bad because we feel in control of the nature of the loss. Nevertheless, we still feel it. Deciding to move out of a relationship and although this is a loss we control it can break our heart. Other losses go deeper. The loss of a loved one through death is one that immediately comes to mind. When we experience early childhood trauma such as mental, physical, spiritual and/or sexual abuse by a parent or relatives perhaps this is the most pernicious grief of all. A parent with whom we feel love perpetuates an act of sexual abuse or worse. There is the love and there’s the violation, the confusion and the grief. This is loss and grief based on intimate attachments.
Loss and grief have become systemic in an increasingly divisive world of the hierarchical system of the patriarchy. In this kind of world there are winners and losers. The winners appear to be the super-rich and the powerful who sometimes even without knowing it oppress those without money and/or power. Many are driven to become winners through achievement and there is nothing wrong with this. It becomes insular and selfish when “others” who may be termed as losers through attributes of laziness, stupidity and are therefore cast out of the privileges of the winner-loser competition. Those deemed to be unworthy of playing the winner loser game are the invisible people, the poor, the people in prison, the homeless, women, minorities, immigrants, the list goes on; under the heel of racism, sexism, ageism, leftism for example. The class system in the USA has always been apparent to those left out. The struggling middle-classes bear the brunt of the heel of oppression by the rich by accepting less wage parity, while clinging to the myth of “work hard and you’ll succeed”. The winners are also losers because of attachment to and /or the addiction in this situation because of the need for more power, more money, more fame. There is never enough. Slavery to “more” makes the so-called winners, losers on an endless wheel of acquiring “more”.
our birthright is happiness and enlightenment
Humans cannot bear loss. Addiction is a prime example of how loss is unbearable. When therapies focus on what’s in the way of a healthy lifestyle in order to assist with healing an addiction this leads to an inevitable confrontation with loss. Looking at loss in this way is emotionally overwhelming. Healing the addictive process through a focus on obstacles fails. We can’t bear loss. This spans the gambit between addictive substances and relationships. In order to confront loss and the grief we feel from loss, we must replace the loss with something positive. When we focus on the positive replacement of the loss in present time then loss can be slowly ameliorated.
For example: I chose to breath cleaner air when I weaned my way off of smoking cigarettes. The clutching, grabbing neediness in me began to fade. It’s been 37 years since I chose to breathe cleaner air instead of inhaling smoke from cigarettes. That was easy compared to the heartbreaking work of releasing grief from the wounds of incest.
Underneath loss and grief is love. Love holds all other emotions. I also remember the words of Malidoma Somē – grief is the most common human emotion.
Attachment can only be released for a very short time.
Grief is the most common emotion because our lives appear to be about loss. As children of Western Civilization, we a trained to look outside ourselves for happiness. Even in the US The Declaration of Independence we are encouraged to push for life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness. We don’t necessarily see that our birthright is happiness and enlightenment and that we are peeling away the illusion that prevent us from feeling it. We assume that feelings of fulfillment, peace and enlightenment are “over there” to pursue.
Corporal life is temporary, life of spirit transcends death. There is small love and big love, neither of which can be compared with the other. Small love may feel big when we have a partner with whom we are bonded and they pass away, cheat, or betray us and/or themselves. Big love will always hold a connection with one that has passed that seemingly impenetrable boundary of death. The longing may be excruciating and unbearable, staying present and reaching out to friends and professionals for help is one step in staying present. It’s not the only path.
Emotional maturity (EM) can be characterized as being able to hold contradictory emotions in awareness without a strong attachment to either emotional state and feel okay or neutral about our self. Cultivating a witness self leads to emotional maturity through suspending judgement and observing ourselves and our behaviors.
Attachment can only be released for a very short time. When we think or say “I” ego returns to claim an experience that the witness has observed. That is not a bad thing it is only the way of attachment. The witness may observe our being feeling grief and joy simultaneously. This is a paradox to be sure.
Anger serves a purpose as a defense against immediate threats in present time. The emotion is often produced in conjunction with fear. Fear is experienced and is often followed directly by an acting-out anger response. Boys and men are more accustomed to this way of behaving because it is condoned and often encouraged by the fabric of society – namely patriarchal norms.
The way many children were raised in the 1950s and early sixties by fathers’ who had returned from WWII with undiagnosed PTSD was through a reign of terror often accompanied by addictive problems to alcohol, drugs and anger/rage. The children of those parents were subjected to constant anger and as adults have often adopted maladaptive patterns of chronic anger.
When terror is unleashed on a woman or on children repeatedly over long periods of time – fear, anger and depression may be the result. In addition to an emotional stance in the world many of these women and children many somaticize some or all of these emotions. The emotions become tensions in the musculature and skeletal structure of the body and are sequestered from the conscious mind.
The nature of most humans is to avoid discomfort whether it manifests as physical, emotional, mental and/or spiritual pain. In so-called developing and developed nations an immediate response to pain is to take a pill for it. “Make it go away.” “Fix me.” “Stop this now!” “I can’t stand this any longer” are some of the responses to physical and emotional pain or discomfort. Pill popping, alcohol consumption, marijuana smoking, crack/cocaine use, and any kind of addictive process is an effort to escape the effects of immediate pain. I am not advocating the non-use of responsible herbal or pharmacological methods of reducing or managing extremes of pain I am only pointing out a pattern to behavior regarding pain.
Some cultures especially indigenous peoples treat pain in a different manner than in the “Western Post-Modern” cultures. Explorations into pain can sometimes produce a release of it that can be freeing as well as act as a release from immediate pain.
I followed the role-model of my father’s rageful behavior while being terrorized by it simultaneously. I vented rage at my sisters’ cats by chasing them under the couch and hissing at them; I felt so angry. It was the only safe place I could vent the rage I felt. For many years I clenched my jaw because “I felt determined” as other people were to reach their goals. I incorrectly assumed that because other people had their mouths closed that they were clenching their jaws too, and were also determined. It wasn’t until the mid 1980s that I realized that these were incorrect assumptions and that I felt extremely angry all the time.
Like any addict the rage would go underground until it erupted into a tantrum usually against a significant love relationship with whoever I was with at the time. I began to work with these feelings and worked to let them go as they arose. As I worked traumas from my childhood were revealed to me. I worked through these too as best I could until I reached a plateau.
Recently I have come to see that triggered anger/rage that arises both from awareness of injustices and from chronic anger has served to keep me isolated from others. As a child I was extremely isolated. And now I have been isolated (and stuck) in part by choice. However I have started to work with the chronic anger anchored in my body in order to uncover and release the profound grief of past traumas.
I have been preparing for this voyage into the release where I have kept myself separate from others and as a result have been stuck in a place of miserable safety.
Part of the preparation for this deep grief release work was a letting go of a reflexive need to comment on every post where my friends were venting their anger and frustrations on our so-called “president”. I didn’t want to participate in my addictive anger /rage venting that felt fruitless to make any real changes. The eliciting of the anger/frustration/rage and grief due to the actions of the president felt like I was allowing myself to be:
Pulled down to his level of nastiness
Giving him attention on an emotional level that feels like time not well spent (even though he is not witness to my outrage).
Feeding my addictive behaviors including a need to be right at the expense of making others wrong
Isolating myself from those that – mildly disagree with me to the extreme of people who vehemently disagree and maybe even hate me.
Isolating myself from feelings that bridge a gap between peoples
Stuck in a familiar cycle of known misery.
Choosing not to participate in “president” bashing is one way to look for more effect means of protest and there are many ways in the nuts and bolts world of emails to representatives, supporting candidate campaigns and so on… I try to funnel my outrage into useful means of action, and I am human I sometimes succumb to bashing and raging.
On Saturday evening November 16, 2019 while working on releasing anger and grief something happened. I welcomed the memory of a physically healthy emotionally fractured seven-year-old me back into my body where I could protect him and he could help me heal metaphorically. There was much tenderness love and connectedness in the healing metaphor. I felt my body open spontaneously and released compassion towards a friend on social media and then go beyond towards others in pain and suffering. Love was breathed in and out.
I didn’t know whether my friend received the compassion but to release it felt good to me and hopefully good for him. And hope it was good for all the others it may have reached. The connection was strong and solid. The act of connecting on many levels was wondrous and highly recommended.
From our present moral perspective Columbus Day seems like a day of shame mainly because we committed genocide on indigenous peoples of the New World / Americas. Some cities and states Alaska and Maine have renamed Columbus Day to Indigenous Peoples Day.
Decree and sign into law:
Columbus Day as a Federal Holiday unless Indigenous Peoples Days is included as a Federal Holiday as well. Think of Columbus Day as a transitional holiday – a day or mourning and shame to remind us that the stain of genocide is with us every time we attack or undermine a foreign power. Of course, Italian-Americans and Italians world-wide can still celebrate Columbus as an explorer of the new world who also took slaves.
By taking Columbus Day off the Federal registry of holidays and making Indigenous Peoples Day the holiday instead we honor the people we killed and enslaved even to this day. The shame of Columbus Day can be honored instead by the indigenous peoples of the United States of America. By allowing states to keep Columbus Day and making Indigenous Peoples Day as a Federal holiday we begin to acknowledge our shame and mourn the losses of the genocide we committed as a nation against indigenous peoples and acknowledge and honor their heritage and traditions.
Continuing to honor Columbus Day which is a symbol of conquest and war over the native population and honors a heritage of continuous wars that the United States has been engaged in since.
Notable wars have been The American Revolutionary War, The 1812 War, and the Mexican- American War. Many people can name the wars we have been involved in in the 20th and 21st centuries: WWI, WWII, The Korean War, The Vietnam War, The Bay of Pigs Invasion, The Vietnam War, The Gulf War, The Bosnian War, Iraq War, and War in Afghanistan. Yet the United States of America has been continuously at war since 1775 except for a period of 4 years when we had an isolationist president (see Wikipedia link –List_of_wars_involving_the_United_States).
Due to the current non-strategy of foreign policy as directed by the Trump administration and his xenophobia we are becoming a third world power (China Trade Wars). Trump is an example of the most wildly capricious patriarchy that has become chaos and is dangerous. Perhaps it’s time to end the constant resource wars and engage in diplomacy instead. Adding Indigenous Peoples Day as a Federal holiday while retaining Columbus Day as a day of shame, mourning and grief is more accurate with regard to the many resource (oil) wars the US has been engaged with in the late 20th century and currently.
I had wanted to find out what it would be like to live in a good future because living in America with Climate Deniers in power is terrifying and that’s just a start of a long list of what’s wrong. I’m done with the wrong list. I want to feel okay again. But it’s not so simple as that or is it?
Why does it always have to be the last mass extinction event?
I had read about people that had traveled to a future where things were very different and seemed better. I wanted something like that – a place I could wrap around myself to know that we, as humans, had survived the last mass extinction event.
Why does it always have to be the last mass extinction event? I think there is something violently suicidal and apocalyptic built into our evolutionary genetic structure associated with the ending of the corporeal life of our entire human species:
We don’t know how to change so
“to hell with it. Yeah there’s the cliff. Me and my horse are galloping towards it. I know I will die, let’s ride faster.”
The horse will stop at the last moment hurtling the rider to the death over the cliff.
a car running on the refined remains of dinosaurs
There was a recent poll from The Washington Post about Climate Change. Only 37% said they thought we would have to make major sacrifices to prevent climate change from destroying the human species. And yet major sacrifices may not be enough given the rapidity of the changes so far.
Back to the future
In a previous piece, “Is the future in the past and the past in the future?” this process of what could be next, began. I received a blessing of “stepping” into a future only to experience the future and the past in the present without content or context. After all we made up the concept of past and future so to travel to one of many possible futures is an illusion. In fact we use past memories to extrapolate a future we wish to create. True?
Living in a harmonious future where we are honoring our home on earth rather than defiling her as we do now is a desire. Desire is the tool of attachment. When I began my desire to escape this current reality of power-possessors who are also climate change deniers through consciousness time travel I protected my attachment to what I imagined as a better possible future. The experience of creating an arc / circle to experience future and past merging with me in the present created in me a great blessing. I was not aware of the blessing at first.
Due to a recent heat wave, joint and muscular pains in the night I had been having difficulty getting a good nights sleep. Waking up for a bathroom break for five contiguous nights helped set the stage for difficulty falling back to sleep. Over the weekend my mind was jumping about preventing “drift-off” into sleep. Then came frustrations… My mind was producing too much activity that when coupled with flashes of joint and muscular pain as well as skin itch from psoriasis so that sleep seemed impossible. Left side, right side switching further complicated matters even though I was following my own advice of watching my breath without trying to change it. I went to sleep at 11 pm approximately and woke at 4 am for the bathroom break. Speedy mind and jumping thoughts crashed into my consciousness after I slipped back into bed. Just about to drop off – PAIN, dealt with it. Then muscular pain. This went on for an hour. I was drifting again, about to drop off when itchy skin surfaced. My inner voice let me know not to scratch the itch. I saw myself surfing the waves of thoughts.
In the morning I figured I had 4 hours of straight sleep with 2 hours of restless wakefulness followed by 3 hours of solid sleep.
Letting go attachment was the trick; choosing to let go is an opportunity in every moment.
Same As It Ever Was?
The momentum of post-modern life proceeds without thought, yes I am asleep at the wheel most of the time, as are most folks. We fit in well with having to make money- to eek out a living to drive a car, make payments, buy stuff – make payments, pay bills try to live day to day.
I petition my representatives, sometimes repeatedly, to promote the right thing to do – in my opinion. Fortunately, as a California resident all my representatives are Democrats, nevertheless I petition them to do the right thing. I plan on voting for a progressive Presidential nominee and I hope there will be one elected as president.
Besides working to let go of my attachments in the moment to experience freedom and an expanded present moment I have not yet made fundamental changes to my lifestyle in the face of Climate Change. Oh sure, I don’t drive my car as much – now only 2 to 3 days a week, I recycle, I eat a mostly vegan diet, but I don’t consider these fundamental changes in my lifestyle. I still have a car with an exclusive internal combustion engine running on the refined remains of dinosaurs.