Journals

Velveeta brain from Seattle without my books

Rain is making on a pattern on the windows in Seattle. Its 9pm in New York City and the days here are feeling long. I meditated at around 3 pm today and it felt like Velveeta brain. Slippery and manufactured. Yesterday I went to a dharma talk and sit that is held by Seattle IMS. Rodney Smith was teaching and I was excited.

Before sitting Rodney mentioned that he saw a lot of new faces in the group, that the class was an ongoing series and we shouldn’t come back unless we were studying the technique and enrolled in a class. Later, with some amount of distaste in his voice, he said that he doesn’t do drop-ins. This lead into his talk on the third foundation of mindfulness and the need to not cling on to anything in our practice. He discussed the third foundation as when we look at the mind and start to notice how our thoughts and emotions are merely reactions to what is actually happening. He spoke in a way that calls on inspiration and not intellect, which sometimes leaves me not knowing what the person said.

He went on to discuss how the mind plays the tricks and decides to “save some for later”, warning against engaging merely the ideas in Buddhism. I wish I could quote some of his book, Stepping Out of Self Deception, which I have been reading in tiny doses since September, but my copy is currently in a box somewhere between New York City and Seattle.

He describes the mind in way that I found helpful back in September. Here is how  hear Rodney’s message from my brief encounter and scant reading: He says DON’T HOLD ONTO ANYTHING. He says if you do all the practice, but you ignore selflessness, than you miss the point. Last night he was saying, don’t just drop in, study, practice and learn.

In my practice, I often feel like I am holding on. What does this feel like? Like, lack of discipline, like extreme vanity, like refusing to follow the instructions, like a sticky wandering, occasionally unwholesome mind, this sort of malaise that just doesn’t want to be. I think Mark Epstein talks about this desire for self annihilation in Thoughts Without a Thinker, but he is in the box with Stepping Out of Self Deception.

I am sure that my meditation is a bit more wholesome than Velveeta, but I struggle with the feeling that I had when I left the class yesterday evening, that I should just keep walking forever, stop holding on and embark. Clearly this is a complete idealization of the wandering aesthetic, whose life I couldn’t endure for more than a few hours. I just wonder sometimes how to be in this world and to also not hold on.

The rain is coming down steadily now, but to the West over a small section of  the Puget Sound and The Olympic Peninsula sunlight is rushing out of the clouds. I think Seattle just entered my heart a bit, as I was lucky enough to enjoy this from inside a sixth floor apartment.

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