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when suddenly a light goes on …

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… and, for a couple of seconds, clarity reigns. And so it was during last night’s meditation. As I told fellow-sitters afterwards, my blogging days are coming to an end. If not an end, then to a drastic slow-down. In a couple of weeks it’ll be the 1,500th posts since I began — almost one per day for four years.

The time has come for me to walk more quietly. “He who knows does not speak”, it says in the Tao te Ching, and “he who speaks does not know.” There’s a fair amount of ego involved in keeping a blog: thinking that what I have to say is of interest and even benefit to others.

What brought this on? The mind likes to figure things out, label it, put a neat bow on it. In reality, as with an avalanche, many tiny events contributed to the shift. For one, the question of what matters bubbled up on my 68th birthday. So did Steve’s decision to toss his TV and disconnect from the Internet. Also the facts that, in my family at least, the previous generation has died out … and that an offer to father a child has come too late. My days are numbered (statistically) and I notice the hours spent at the keyboard.

All these are just thoughts, of course.

Looking back on life we see
that nothing remained the same.
things came
and went
without permission or control.
The future will unfold in the same manner.
What is there to do
but sit in mindful appreciation
and watch it come
and go.

source: Martin, W. (2010). The sage’s Tao te Ching: ancient advice for the second half of life. New York: The Experiment, p. 114. image: geekalerts.com

any body there?

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There’s a line in one of James Joyce’s Dubliners short stories about Mr. Duffy who “lived a short distance from his body.” That’s how I feel this morning. Bought a router for the computer and spent “chatting” with a succession of tech support people (Suchita, badge 71460 and Kaustav 71122, to name but two) trying to get it installed. Each asked the same initial questions, then poked this way and that, and suddenly wrote, “I understand you no longer need my assistance.” No, don’t go! Reconnecting meant a new technician and starting from scratch, “Could you please let me know what is the main issue, so that I can assist you further?” Arrghh, not again! Finally, after 4 hours and 28 minutes, Prasad (#71591), my fifth contact, advised to “get router back to store and get it replaced.”

How did I manage to waste all that time and come away with nothing to show for it? Following a night of restless sleep, I feel like Mr. Duffy: disconnected from my body. Makes me wonder how much time is spent, every hour, every minute, as we chat and text and blog away — communicating into the void.

grief revisited

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Four years ago I suffered a devastating loss. Following a brief and intense experience which held the promise of family, home-coming, travel, art, Zen, and matters sensual, she elected to go her own way. There had, of course, been previous losses — my mom’s death when I was a toddler and my dad’s years later, an ill-fated marriage, a child I’ve never known, and various existential cessation — but none that rattled me so fundamentally.

That’s when this blog was born. I recall the myriad ways with which I stayed afloat amid much hopelessness. I joined a running group and completed a 10K race; I signed up for art classes and sat weeping over the drawing pad; I discovered The West Wing on DVD and sobbed my way through its 154 episodes

Why bring this up today, four years later? Someone at the video store mentioned that he was re-viewing that TV series and on a whim I took home the first season — I’ve been sobbing ever since. I’m amazed how the mere sound of the opening score and sights of familiar character bring back such strong memories. And not just visual memories, but felt sensations deep in my body. Considering the amount of grief work I’ve done over time, for myself and with others, I’m surprised by the intensity of this recurring agony.

A review of the literature shows that widely held assumptions about grieving are not supported by empirical evidence. They include: ♥ grief follows a relatively distinct pattern; ♥ grief is short-term and finite; ♥ grief is a linear process characterized by stages, phases, or tasks of shock, yearning, and recovery; ♥ the grief process needs to be “worked through”; and ♥ the continuation of grief is abnormal, even pathological. Breen, L.J., & O’Connor, M. (2007). The fundamental paradox in the grief literature: a critical reflection. Omega, 55 (3), 199-218. 

time out

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In one week, on July 27, this blog will be three years old. I’ve written a post on each of 1082 days for an estimated 320,00 words (yikes!). A total of 1535 comments and 113,218 visits from 95 countries indicate that they haven’t gone unnoticed. And yet, it’s time to give it a rest.

In Hamlet’s Blackberry author William Powers quotes a 15th-century Italian scholar who, in reference to the invention of Gutenberg’s printing press, complained that —

Because now that everyone is free to print whatever they wish, they often disregard that which is best and instead write merely for the sake of entertainment. … And even when they write something worthwhile they twist it and corrupt it to the point where it would be better to do without such [writings].

Mindful of this blog’s contribution to the “obsessive connectivity” (Winer) that pervades our world, I hope to make a tiny dent in the noise by not posting for at least a week. I’ve thought about doing this before but always resisted for fear that regular readers would abandon the blog and never return. Fortunately I turned to the ancient Lao-tzu for guidance: “Practice not-doing / and everything will fall into place.”

I invite you to Comment and say something about the ways in which you connect with your heart and the silence that resides within.

sources: Powers, W. (2010). Hamlet’s Blackberry: a practical philosophy for building a good life in the digital age. New York: HarperCollins. Mitchell, S. (1988) (trans). Tao te Ching by Lao-tzu. New York: HarperPerennial, no. 3. Winer, L. (2010). “Born to check mail.” The New York Times Book Review, July 18, p. 9.

100,004 bows

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At some time today the 100,004th visitor clicked on this weblog. Thank you for supporting my efforts during the past three years. Whether you come just once and never again, lurk (as they say) in the background to read and never comment, or send the occasional comments or, as some of you do, respond regularly: I’m deeply grateful for the encouragement.

My intention in writing a personal journal in this public manner is to show how one person makes meaning of the ordinary events in his life by sifting emotions, thoughts, and sensations through a screen of ancient wisdom teachings. In doing so, I aim to point towards the myriad gates of insight on y/our path to happiness.

Would I write if no-one visited the blog? Do the 170-or-so daily visits represent deliberate readers or accidental drop-ins? Who knows and Does it matter? When I prepare the meditation room for scheduled sittings, brush the cushions, sweep the walkway, light a candle, and set out the tea-tray, I do it without knowing whether anyone will come through the door that day. I simply do it for the benefit of all beings.

Deep bows,
Peter 大心

image: a frequent apparition on the sidewalks in Bangkok.