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"The primary focus of this path of choosing wisely is learning to stay present. Pausing very briefly, frequently throughout the day, is an almost effortless way to do this. For just a few seconds we can be right here. Meditation is another way to train in learning to stay or learning to come back, to return to the present over and over again."
~ Pema Chödrön, from Taking the Leap  
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Wednesday
Apr162014

Changing the Plane of Focus 

Sam Harris in conversation with Dan Harris, "Taming the Mind" (April 12, 2014): 

Everyone has had the experience of looking through a window and suddenly catching sight of his own reflection staring back at him from the glass. At that point, he can use the glass as a window, to see the world outside, or as a mirror, but he can’t do both at the same time.

Sometimes your reflection in the glass is pretty subtle, and you could easily stand there for ten minutes, looking outside while staring right through the image of your own face without seeing it.

For the purposes of this analogy, imagine that the goal of meditation is to see your own reflection clearly in each moment. Most spiritual traditions don’t realize that this can be done directly, and they articulate their paths of practice in ways that suggest that if you only paid more attention to everything beyond the glass—trees, sky, traffic—eventually your face would come into view. Looking out the window is arguably better than closing your eyes or leaving the room entirely—at least you are facing in the right direction—but the practice is based on a fundamental misunderstanding. You don’t realize that you are looking through the very thing you are trying to find in every moment. Given better information, you could just walk up to the window and see your face in the first instant.

The same is true for the illusoriness of the self. Consciousness is already free of the feeling that we call “I.” However, a person must change his plane of focus to realize this. Some practices can facilitate this shift in awareness, but there is no truly gradual path that leads there. Many longtime meditators seem completely unaware that these two planes of focus exist, and they spend their lives looking out the window, as it were.


See also: 

Harris, D. (2014). 10% happier: How I tamed the voice in my head, reduced stress without losing my edge, and found self-help that actually works--a true story. New York: It Books. [library

Harris, S. (2014). Waking up: A guide to spirituality without religion. S.l.: Simon & Schuster. [library]

Sunday
Apr132014

Running in Circles

Mad World
by Gary Jules 

All around me are familiar faces
Worn out places, worn out faces
Bright and early for the daily races
Going nowhere, going nowhere

Their tears are filling up their glasses
No expression, no expression
Hide my head I wanna drown my sorrow
No tomorrow, no tomorrow

I find it kind of funny
I find it kind of sad
The dreams in which I'm dying are the best I've ever had
I find it hard to tell you,
I find it hard to take
When people run in circles it's a very, very
Mad world, mad world

Children waiting for the day they feel good
Happy birthday, happy birthday
Made to feel the way that every child should
Sit and listen, sit and listen

Went to school and I was very nervous
No one knew me, no one knew me
Hello teacher tell me, what's my lesson?
Look right through me, look right through me

And I find it kind of funny
I find it kind of sad
The dreams in which I'm dying are the best I've ever had
I find it hard to tell you,
I find it hard to take
When people run in circles it's a very, very
Mad world, mad world, mad world, mad world


See also:

Sunday
Apr132014

See Flow

Suspended from Andrew Telling on Vimeo.

"Suspended is a collaborative film between artist Chloe Early and filmmaker Andrew Telling. The film is a meditative response exploring the characters, colour and motion in the work Chloe Early has created for her new show Suspended."

Stream the soundtrack.

Sunday
Apr132014

There is This

Matt, April 13, 2014

You Can't Have It All
by Barbara Ras, from Bite Every Sorrow

But you can have the fig tree and its fat leaves like clown hands 
gloved with green. You can have the touch of a single eleven-year-old finger 
on your cheek, waking you at one a.m. to say the hamster is back. 
You can have the purr of the cat and the soulful look 
of the black dog, the look that says, If I could I would bite 
every sorrow until it fled, and when it is August, 
you can have it August and abundantly so. You can have love, 
though often it will be mysterious, like the white foam 
that bubbles up at the top of the bean pot over the red kidneys 
until you realize foam's twin is blood. 
You can have the skin at the center between a man's legs, 
so solid, so doll-like. You can have the life of the mind, 
glowing occasionally in priestly vestments, never admitting pettiness, 
never stooping to bribe the sullen guard who'll tell you 
all roads narrow at the border. 
You can speak a foreign language, sometimes, 
and it can mean something. You can visit the marker on the grave 
where your father wept openly. You can't bring back the dead, 
but you can have the words forgive and forget hold hands 
as if they meant to spend a lifetime together. And you can be grateful 
for makeup, the way it kisses your face, half spice, half amnesia, grateful 
for Mozart, his many notes racing one another towards joy, for towels 
sucking up the drops on your clean skin, and for deeper thirsts, 
for passion fruit, for saliva. You can have the dream, 
the dream of Egypt, the horses of Egypt and you riding in the hot sand. 
You can have your grandfather sitting on the side of your bed, 
at least for a while, you can have clouds and letters, the leaping 
of distances, and Indian food with yellow sauce like sunrise. 
You can't count on grace to pick you out of a crowd 
but here is your friend to teach you how to high jump, 
how to throw yourself over the bar, backwards, 
until you learn about love, about sweet surrender, 
and here are periwinkles, buses that kneel, farms in the mind 
as real as Africa. And when adulthood fails you, 
you can still summon the memory of the black swan on the pond 
of your childhood, the rye bread with peanut butter and bananas 
your grandmother gave you while the rest of the family slept. 
There is the voice you can still summon at will, like your mother's, 
it will always whisper, you can't have it all, 
but there is this.

Saturday
Apr122014

Welded Together So Tightly in Your Mind

Elizabeth Hellmuth Margulis speaking with Anne Strainchamps about "Music and Memory," from To the Best of Our Knowledge, March 30, 2014:

"Music is not really like a language. It's one of those metaphors that's really out there.

As I was growing up, I went to Interloken Arts Camp. Over the big stage there, they have it emblazoned in large letters: MUSIC IS THE UNIVERSAL LANGUAGE!

But maybe there are some things going on in music that aren't really the same as what's going on in language. 

I'll give you some examples. 

When we think back to what happened in a story somebody told us, we tend to remember the gist of what happened not the specific words they used to tell the story to us. But if we try to remember back to a song we listened to or a piece we really enjoyed, there's something about the actual, specific, sequence of notes that is still very present and verbatim in our memory. And in fact, really gripping.

There's a great example that Mark DeBellis uses in a book he wrote, where he asks—If you think about The Star Spangled Banner, and you think about the word Oh and the word you. Where those sung on the same pitch?

To answer that question, what you have to do is go back in and sing through the tune. You can't just duck in and get one little snippet. They're all welded together so tightly in your mind that one note seems to kind of inevitably spill out of the preceding one. 

That tight connection from note to note is really an effect that is created through repitition." 

~ Elizabeth Hellmuth Margulis, from "Music and Memory," To the Best of Our Knowledge, March 30, 2014. 


See also:

Atomic Components of Narrative Elements

Attentional Fitness Strategies for Hearing Out

Margulis, E. H. (2014). On repeat: How music plays the mind. New York: Oxford University Press. http://www.worldcat.org/oclc/851068495