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Beginner's Mind

Published onFeb 18, 2019
Beginner's Mind


Identifying motivations is useful, but then there are some days where I experience a pervasive ambivalence. Wrestling with the idea of wanting to strive for more but for what. That more is often ill-defined which could be the issue, but the labor in figuring that leads to thoughts of who cares. This feeling has a pessimistic flavor and is no doubt compounded by the sense of helplessness or belief that one person cannot make much difference. I have not actively thought much about climate change before this semester but has become a grave concern in my daily thoughts. Racial inequality, gun violence in houses of worship and schools, in the world generates a sense of disempowerment. What can I do? Maybe it’s a guilty feeling that I am not doing enough. To counter this negative vibe, I do see progress. My congressperson, Alexandria-Ortega-Cortez, is very inspiring. Voting for her made my vote feel so valuable as she won by a small margin to unseat a useless political who never came by the neighborhood or did much in the last few terms. And then see the conversation about prison abolition get some mainstream shine is also amazing. But believing in something that is perceived to be so radical means always having talking points to justify that position. Don’t ask me about sex trafficking. So are the positive and the negative forces canceling each other out? I am trying in my daily practice to carve out space to strengthen my awareness. This feels so prescriptive and sounds like the daily practice and just has a practical function is designed for personal gain. But I do think “success” at the daily practice can aid in shifting this feeling.

Social media scrubbing

I maintain the various bubbles I am interested or connected via social media. It keeps a safe distance from them since I don’t really post or interact that much. I am just watching/listening. The power of social media if there any is to maintain these desperate universes. If I stop looking will all the connections be lost. Will it require a labored effort to reconnect? What space if any will open without these distractions? Will this help build a better sense of awareness and presence? Rhetorical thinking aside, I don’t think I could have done this before now because I was so depending on these noises to avoid be present. I am now I think more comfortable will being still and space in the day.


Self-discipline is a challenge. I am thinking again about my motivators/drivers. Of the class requirements the daily practice is in some ways most difficult. Though I have managed a somewhat steady fitness practice (something I thought was impossible), the daily practice is much more of a challenge. I actually forget to do it sometimes. But then do I really forget? Is there some unpleasant about it? Is the self-discipline aspect? Is the procrastination and my ADD winning? When I produced club nights there was always a guest list. And no matter how diligent I was with it, invariable someone would be left off. Sometimes it was someone, I didn’t actually want on the list. I felt that some people felt entitled to be on it. I thought if they supported me, they should just pay and not hassle me. But then there were those that I was more than happy to host and for them to avoid any delay or trouble in getting in. I used to think if I forgot someone it was that they weren’t important enough to be remembered. But then I would also forget people I didn’t want to forget. There was an imperfect system to account for this (the doorperson find me- which was not always successful) This is sounding very harsh to me now. And it is really flawed logic. The list requires some minor labor and attention, awareness even. Forgetting people by accident, on purpose often has bad consequences.


“You can choose to be happy.” –Elliot MC for Daybreaker(early am sober dance party)

The quote above is typical of the modern fitness industry parlance. I do believe, Elliot believes that. It could be true for him. But it sounds very neoliberal to me. Suggesting happiness is purely a choice. And if you are not it’s kind of your fault. The rhetoric in spin classes I take often in the early morning in addition to providing a healthy dose of righteousness also espouses similar platitudes. What does get me there in the morning? I would say the quality of the instruction and the fanciness of the gym. It’s expensive but really nice. There is also a very punitive booking system which was just upgraded to be more strict- so last minute cancellation carries a penalty. I have struggled with my genetics- slow gaining of weight after 25 and a step toward diabetes. Or is just my lifestyle. It is my choice? What motivates me to go I think is the high and the righteousness and the cost (it’s my big splurge). The endorphins work. I feel the difference in my body when I go regularly, but I want to live a healthy life- my partner does too.

My parents never really exercised, I see my father resistant to it. His immigrant hustle gave him a lot of movement up till the age of 50, but not much after as he switched to a sedentary lifestyle. My mother has beseeched with chronic back pain her daily movement is resistance to her body.

Aside from drivers to get to spin class, what are my drivers in other spheres. My values are one of integrity, loyalty, community, selective family- biological and chosen. These values are often at odds with the world. The integrity piece is constantly being challenged. A former boss who I admired introduced me to the idea of situational ethics. Capitalism makes integrity a real struggle. All ethical dilemmas feel situationally justifiable.

My daily emotional state these days is one of stress- but I can’t trust that isn’t always/often the case. There is an obvious deadline looming (master’s thesis), but isn’t that always the case? My unstill mind tends towards places of worry caused by stress, but then I think there are happy, or rather moments of deep gratitude. The gratitude of the privilege I have. Mostly able-bodied, financially steadier than anytime I can remember (though mostly I think because of structure, not income), an amazing partner, and my community. I have a certain comfort in where I am in this journey of life. My ambition is not as raging as it once was. The space it took up and the disappointments it faced have brought me to this place one of stressed out bliss.


Last night I was at the home of a newish friend who summoned a mehfil(a musical jam). In the company of older known comrades and musicians and hearing them rock out was just sublime. These folks have become my Cambridge family as I fight homesickness in my final stretch of time at MIT. The instruments were many- guitar, a newly acquired Rooba, an oud with a back story, one table drum some hand percussion. It was a vibe. Also in the mix was some quality Japanese whiskey. My initial refusal did not last and the consequence of that choice was felt by today’s sluggishness. Drifting in and out napping, and reading the Stamped from the Beginning I heard young voices chanting slogans to save the planet. It was somewhat hopeful I want to believe. These musings were all pre-empted by the news of the mosque violence in New Zealand. I looked at my phone before leaving the mehfil. It felt like a punch in the stomach. I have been to New Zealand. Just a week after the earthquake in Christchurch. I was there exactly a week after at the airport where a moment of silence was being observed. I could never imagine pin drop silence at an airport. The whole week I was thinking, mentally writing and rewriting my reflections on compassion. I imagined what compassion could I have for people I don’t like, agree with, or have cause me harm. But as I come to write this now, my capacity to contemplate my feelings for compassion are overshadowed by the realities of white power terrorism. In New York, I live in a dense street, with at least two mosques in close proximity. Mid-afternoons on Fridays the time of Jummah prayers the street crowds with brown men partaking in the ritual. Tonight in the plaza(yes it’s like a small town in the big city) there will be a gathering of solidarity like there was after the Nepal Earthquake, and the 2016 election and the Orlando shootings and so many other moments of devastation. I don’t know where compassion fits in this.


“The only truth of unconditional is the love of a mother”- Dalai Lama. Where does I wonder guilt fit in that equation? I am fortunate that I do think my mother’s love is unconditional, but in our relationship she has expectations and when not met result in dolling out guilt. Is it my own feeling of indebtedness? Would she do things differently if there were no return for her? I don’t think so. So then maybe it can be true.

I find a great joy in feeding people and helping people. Not all people- lol. But then are those just acts of exerting power? Is the good feeling a payment. Is it a performance? When a friend calls out of the blue just to say hi and say positive things as happened to me last week, it was a great feeling, but I have been asking him over the years to send me music (for my work), which he hasn’t done are we in a deficit of expectation. Is that not without transaction?


My friend, Om Malik, asked me what my information diet was. He is starting a new blog and is asking his friends what they are reading, listening, watching, following. It was great to hear from him, and I was kind of honored(not exactly the right word) he asked. I have known him for over 25 years. There was a time when we talked every day and saw each other several times a week. But then life happened. There have been many years of gaps in communication, but then one of us will reach out. Often for a purpose but I don’t think we mind. At least I don’t. Keeping in touch with people is becoming more challenging as I get older. There are folks I cherish, yet life happens. It is so easy to be connected in theory, but the litter of connectivity can be smothering. As a friend once said you just collect people over time. The volume adds up. I used to be said about some of these relationships fading. Or are they taking their natural course? I think I have become more at peace with their temporality. But it is still nice to hear from some you once shared some youth with. Even if it is for their blog.


The other day, the NYT crossword had a clue, goal of meditation. The 10 letter answer was inner peace. It made me wonder what is inner peace? Is it stillness or some form of it. Crosswords solutions are one possible answer but does meditation even need a goal. I started doing crosswords rather late in life only a few years ago. They give me immense pleasure. They always seemed hard but I love trivia, pop culture and words so my avoidance was an irrational fear. Since we are the class, as its been stated then what is the goal of awareness? I suspect there are many answers.


I am entering this endeavor with beginner’s mind, if not a previously resistant one. My apprehension to engaging in anything associated with self-awareness was the discomfort of seeing the cooptation and commodification of eastern practices by western cultures. To think of stillness as a spectrum and not a binary is very useful as well as appreciating the effort and methods need to attempt it. The practice of noticing one new thing a day has already proven to me to be very powerful. I feel as though I am already walking in the world with heightened senses in search of what to capture. I have personally struggled with routine and structure so figuring out how to carve out the space and mind to engage in a daily practice will be a challenge I am hoping to conquer.

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