Archive for July, 2009

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Shed the Husk

July 18, 2009

In Buddhist philosophy, the tree and its seed are one in the same.  The entire tree in all its glory exists in the minutia of the seed, and though it takes time for the tree to arrive at its full expression visibly, it already fully exists.

However, in my mind, inversely, the tree does not contain the entire seed.  In most plants, at some point in the growing process there is a tiny part which falls off the pod and degrades into the earth – the husk of the seed is shed.

Of course, it could be argued that the nutrient from the husk is used by the tree, blah, blah, but for my purposes just assume that in the direct growth experience of the tree, the husk leaves the party.

I think husk shedding is my main order of business these days.  Yesterday, I had what’s called Marma Therapy – an ancient Indian accu-pressure practice.  Be warned: to call Marma a “massage” is like calling surgery a light scratch.  You know when you get normal body work and they hit a sensitive spot, and then sort of move over it and you go, “oo! aaaaah…”?  Marma goes to that spot and stays. And presses. Hard. Like, real hard.  Like burning, deeply painful hard, and then you go “AAAAAAAAAAAHHHHHH FUCKIN A…. JESUS CHRIST WHAT THE OH GOD….” and then, if you’re me, you sob uncontrollably.

The sobbing, at least partially, was not from pain.  The sobbing was from 28 years of husk being shed; and apparently I hold my husk in my hamstrings.

My husk is in the shape of a little girl who knew she was “overweight” from the time she was four or five, and had tits – big tits – not long thereafter.  My husk also has this chicken-and-egg thing going on between hating her body and being afraid of her sexuality (thanks, Catholicism). So the fear of sexuality kept the weight coming, and the weight kept the sexuality away, and the fear of the sexuality kept the weight coming…

And coming.  Until at 19 she was 5’1″ and just shy of 200 pounds.  And DEFINITELY not getting any, unless you count making out with gay men.  And I don’t.

But the damage was done so long before then.

The damage happened when she was put in gymnastics class in a leotard and was afraid of going upside down so she got stuck on the uneven bars with all the other thin little girls watching and giggling.

The damage was done when the doctor showed her the “percentile” chart every year and noted how high up she was.

The damage was done when she had to wear undershirts in the dead of August or else the other kids would make fun of her chest.

The damage was done when year after year after year all the boys thought she was such a great friend and no one wanted to kiss her.

I know I’m not that little girl anymore, but the tree is still the same.  Obama, in Dreams From My Father refers to, “That constant, honest portion of myself, a bridge between my future and my past.”  That’s the tree.  All that damage that LittleMe experienced is the husk.  And that husk has built and built and built until my legs can’t stand to be touched, and my neck spasms regularly.

I think I understand why so many people love butterflies, no  matter how trite the old metamorphosis-chrysalis metaphor might be: we work so hard to restructure this plant, to release our husks from our bodies, it’d be so awesome to just pop into a little den, wait a couple days and re-emerge fully expressed.

I love that little girl.  I’ve developed a lot of compassion for her suffering.  But she’s gotta take a hike. Or at least take a nap. I got growing to do.

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The Wordless Word Space

July 7, 2009

Ever since I was a little kid, I was aware that my thoughts worked in layers.  I knew there was a part of me that would actively use words to think – where if I had opened my mouth my thoughts might come spilling out – another part that saw pictures, another part that remembered sounds, and then ever back and back and back from there seemed quieter and quieter voices, that sort of used words, but very far away, and in a different way.

It’s only in the last month or so of my meditation practice, that I’ve realized these ever quieter places are precisely where I’m trying to draw myself.  I owe this realization to the forms of practice I learned in my yoga school, of which frankly I was never a big fan.

The Tantric system uses a great deal of seed-syllable mantra in its meditation practice; for example, each chakra has its own syllable such as “yam” for the heart center, “ram” for the solar plexus, etc.  Practice can include focus on the internal, silent recitation of these syllables, the concentration for which will theoretically leads you to Samadhi (a goal with which I have big fundamental problems – subject of another post…).   As a Buddhist, I found a lot of these techniques clunky and scrambling to my Vipassana practice which requires nothing but simple, elegant, bare attention to the breath or sensation.

Though I still prefer the latter technique, it occurred to me recently that when I “say” these syllables in that front, loud part of the brain, they’re more accurately said first – but not said at all just sort of felt – in that much quieter part of the brain.  Acknowledging and accessing that far away part seems to be my key to discovering a more peaceful, still place inside, and creating the space necessary to gain vantage on a cluttered, monkey mind.

That non-saying place is what I’ve deemed my Wordless Word Space, and the recitation of that phrase has, in turn, become my mantra.  I’ve found I can access this place much quicker these days – probably due to the increased activity in my yoga practice – but I’m not able to stay for long.  The problem is once you start thinking about the fact that you’re there, you’re not there anymore.  Unattached concentration in this place is my next big goal.

It’s funny to me that I always knew this structure of my brain, but it never occurred to me beforehand to try to utilize it.  It relates directly to what Buddhists call “Identifying with the Observer.”  Whenever we feel something, or think something, there is an “I” that knows that is happening. If we realize we know it’s happening, then there is an “I” which knows we know.

It’s a spinning mirror constantly looking in upon itself, never coming to one solid, singular self.