Monday, December 22, 2008

The Power of Music and Meditation #1

Lately I've been on something of a Robert Fripp and Peter Gabriel. I think it started when the TV show "http://abc.go.com/primetime/lifeonmars/index?pn=index" TARGET="meditation">Life on Mars, based on the British Life on Mars, of course, turned me onto the David Bowie song, "Life on Mars."

Going on over to Youtube, I would play "Life on Mars." From there, I moved onto playing a whole bunch of other stuff that I used to really like listening to, from Pink Floyd's Dark Side of the Moon to Robert Fripp's frippertronic masterpieces, team ups like Robert Fripp's and David Sylvian to the combo of Robert Fripp's "Water Music I" and "Water Music II" with one of Peter Gabriel's minimalistic yet passionate renditions of "Here Comes the Flood." I remember listening to a lot of the above during the summer of 2000 when I live in Cambridge, MA.

I even went so far as to purchase Peter Gabriel's album, Passion, and Robert Fripp's album, Exposure, which had "Water Music"(s) and Gabriel's "Here Comes the Flood."

The other day after listening to all this stuff for weeks on end, fairly mellow, ambient, passionate stuff, someone at work asked if I had made some kind of turning point. She had been having some hard times at work, so I e-mailed her two prayers: The Serenity Prayer and The Prayer of St. Francis of Assisi. After receiving the latter prayer, she asked me what had changed about me. I basically told her that I had found myself missing a part of me that had been left at the wayside, and I was working to acquaint myself with that old self of mine again.

Along with listening to more ambient music and Fripp-centered music, I've been yearning to engage once again in yoga and meditation. I have yet to take a yoga class since making this commitment to follow this more soulful, spiritual search for contentment and one day engaging in service, but meditation hasn't proved so hard to try doing again. After all, it's something that you can do sitting in a chair or lying down in bed.

I meditated a lot back as an adolescent, in the hopes of gaining strange super powers like lucid dreaming or astral projection. After trying many techniques of meditation (from counting my breaths, counting from 1 to 10, clenching and relaxing my muscles, visual meditations, trying to feel every nerve in my body, trying to focus my attention on individual nerves in my body, guided meditations. . .you name it, I probably tried it), I had minimal accomplishment in getting super powers.

The most I can verify is gaining momentary lucidity in a dream. Apparently, a couple friends and I apparently shared a dream, but I also don't know if they were yanking my chain. I had some weird friends then and remain friends with some of them still.

During my college years, I did some independent research into Buddhism and the arts of meditation. One of the books I read went on about people meditating and following Buddhist practices because they wanted to get those super powers, but that was the wrong reason for meditating and following Buddhist practices. I forget the exact wording of the right goal, but I think it had to do with finding contentment, reducing suffering in the world and following the Right Path, the "http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Middle_path" TARGET="meditation">Middle Way. This idea really stuck with me.

So, anyway. . .

I decided to meditate a little last night. I focused on my breathing, not counting it or anything, just focused on the act of breathing and trying to deep breathing as a yoga teacher once taught me. Breath through the nose, with the air going down the back of my throat, deep down into my lungs, so that it fills up the bottom of my abdomen to the top of my chest, just under my rib cage.

In the meanwhile, I observed my thoughts and acknowledged them. The same yoga teacher who taught me the breathing technique also instructed a different class on on observing the thoughts and letting them go. Before that class, I thought the goal was to try focusing on nothing. That is unfortunately one of the most frustrating things in the world to do, because in focusing on nothing, you end up focusing on the idea of nothing and start trying to examining the idea of nothing. . .then the mind goes on some other tangent or another thought pops into the brain. The money mind doesn't shut up.

A good way around the frustrations of the mind, though, is to just go with the natural flow. Think of something, observe it, settle on it for a little bit, acknowledge it then somehow it just goes away. A new thought will replace it, either through a natural tangent or just something random. Just acknowledge these thoughts and let them naturally fall away. After following this practice, the thoughts will peel away like an onion.

Maybe you'll even find yourself having nothing going on in your mind after a bit of this acknowledging and letting go. Really, nothing, and that can be a good and contented thing. Sure, of course, you'll have to deal with the small sensations around the body, from itches on your nose or your cheek or the desire to move your arm or leg, whether to stretch a muscle or just because its an urge. You can also work at acknowledging and letting go of these sensations without following through on the urges.

This type of meditation can also do a great job of working on self control. You can acknowledge your desire but you don't necessarily have to cave into it. Didn't really think of that point until just now.

Last night, though, I made some good progress meditating this way. I stripped away a lot of layers of money mind and had reached a good level of contentment. I even turned off my need to associate with the outside world, even though I would acknowledge the things around me.

My limbs however felt the need to move, so just letting go of that urge proved difficult. I probably could have handled that well enough if I had continued at the meditating.

Something weird happened, though. The money mind had all become silent when I suddenly felt this great anxiety and fright. It didn't fixate on anything. I just triggered my sympathetic system, my breathing quickened, my heart probably could've started beating faster, the muscles in my head and on my face clenched, my fight or flight system had turned on. It just felt extremely uncomfortable.

I stopped meditating at that point, turned to my side and just let my mind fall into sleep.

I don't know what that anxiety and fright was about. It came from some irrational part of me. I could probably examine my life and find plenty of things to get frightened and anxious about, but nothing articulate came to mind at that point. It certainly made for an interesting experience, and I'm still unsure what to think about it.

Monday, December 15, 2008

Fragments of Pensees

Someone criticized some e-mails I sent them. They essentially said that I wrote to them with too many run on sentences. I have yet to tell them, but those run on sentences come from incomplete thoughts. Maybe not just plain incomplete ones, though. Incomplete with hanging chads that associate and glom onto other ideas that ooze out and come onto the page. I, unfortunately, am one of those people that sometimes needs to follow these incomplete thoughts around different blocks in the city of my mind to reach my goal.

In the summer of 2007, I went to the beach with a bunch of friends. We used to spend a lot of time with each other that summer, but I don't stay in good contact with them much these days.

I didn't wear sunscreen that day and ended up with a horrible sun burn. The aloe that someone put on my back later that night felt so cool and refreshing. Thank you to whoever put that on my back.

That very same person made a mountain out of sand at the beach. Maybe I made the mountain, or it could've been totally someone else in the group. The person who put aloe on my back later that night, though, wanted to illustrate my way of reaching the goal, the top of the mountain, compared to other peoples' tactics.

Other people would drive straight up the mountain to the tip top.

Me, I would wend and weave all around the mountain to reach the goal at the top.

Last night, I dreamt that I had Dr. House as my mentor, but he was nice and spoke in a British accent much like Hugh Laurie, who plays Dr. House. Does anyone know what conflating the actor and the character they play into one imaginary person signifies? Have a mentor like the nice Dr. House helped to generate in me a feeling of psychological integration, or a feeling of utopia.

Dreams can sometimes provide me with a feeling of ecstasy.

My days only allow so much to occur in them. I have my eyes on the castles in the sky and the flying chimera. Today, I read four pages of a workshopper's chapter for the first time that I need to say things about in a week, read a couple chapters in a book on Google Books about Romanticism and the German School and as much as I can of Daniel J. Siegel's The Developing Mind: Toward a Neurobiology of Interpersonal Experience. I wrote with my hand a page in my novel. On the side, at some point, I need to get back to reading Emile Durkheim's The Division of Labor in Society. It all helps to paint a coherent picture of my thoughts on utopia and dystopia.

I also spent nearly 8 hours in front of a computer at work, flipping between doing actual work and trying to find some sort of engaging socialization on the 'nets. Rarely do I have such an opportunity but unfortunately, I really didn't find much to occupy my mind.

When I've wrapped my fragments into some coherent and whole, I will hope to write a novel and/or a book. Until then, though, most of the people around me will see fragments and frustration with some joy mixed in.

A part of me fears to see the neural network formed in my brain. Dare to look?

Saturday, December 13, 2008

Specializing

Specializing in a topic sucks. It gets in the way of having interesting conversations with people, since they yawn after the first couple minutes of me describing my topic. Coming up with varied topics to write about on the blog without giving away material that I hope to sell later becomes difficult. Overall, specialization gets in the way of enjoying socialization except for people in your field or in some adjacent field.

I miss having time to read newspapers for the news, entertainment and to learn what there is to do around town. To accomplish the things that I want to do in good time, I've had to give up reading the newspaper and knowing what's up. I get most of my news through friends, acquaintances, AOL and MSN while at work and from NPR. Yeah, I can pretty much stay up to date on the major political topics, the weather and sometimes even sports. I don't really have much to breach the topics of the day or my specialization, which really doesn't interest people for too long.

Balance is needed in my life but right now proves difficult to find that balance.

Monday, December 08, 2008

My Moral Upbringing

Along with my parents, friends, my church and my primary and secondary school systems, I'd like to thank the following for my moral development:

Sally Struthers

Early Transformers cartoons

Early GI Joe cartoons

M.A.S.K.

Early Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles cartoons

and other cartoons that had morals at the end and daytime infomercials that informed us children of the evils and misfortunes in the world. Does the TV of today provide the moral backbone to our children the way that '80s did?

I'd also like to thank the Boston (and worldwide) hardcore and straightedge scenes for some conservative yet libertarian and socialist tinges. Boston 'zines, like The Pit Report and Lollipop, also deserve some credit, too.

Thanks to the techno and rave scenes for PLUR, which includes hyperreal.org, Usenet newsgroups and the Northeast and Boston rave e-mailing lists.

I also have George Orwell, Henry David Thoreau, Isaac Asimov, Ray Bradbury and Terence McKenna. Unfortunately, Robert Heinlein doesn't enter the picture until later in my high school years.

Douglas Adams probably helped a little, too, but I think he's more responsible for teaching me not to take things too seriously.

And how could I forget Doctor Who?

This post doesn't come out of nowhere. It just has an obscure connection to my bachelors project and a lot of discussions that I've had lately about "this generation. . .," people talking about their self-made immigrant ancestors, reading Emile Durkheim's The Division of Labor in Society and trying to get a better understanding of the between the Transcendentalists with their Unitarian predecessors, German Romanticism and pietism.

This is part of the reason that I've become something of a hermit. . ..

Saturday, December 06, 2008

I am a Hermit

2:30 AM, Saturday morning. It still feels like Friday night for me. Haven't gone to sleep yet.

Just finished washing up, laptop, sitting atop the basket bench behind me, playing Hank Mobley and Sonny Rollins off of Live365.com.

The wife slumbers away in bed, waiting for me while unconscious. The cats nibble on their kibble and patrol the apartment.

I've been something of a hermit lately. I've gone to work and spent time with the wife (lots of time). I went to the library a couple times this week; went to Dave & Buster's after the library one night for the Chicago Speculative Fiction Group social.

My mind has been something of a hermit, though, trying to understand social understanding and solidarity. Something of a paradox, I think.

I need to riff on this whole hermit thing.