饾槫饾槱饾槩饾槺饾樀饾槮饾槼 饾樀饾槱饾槼饾槮饾槮: 饾棫饾椀饾棽 饾棭饾椂饾榾饾椂饾椉饾椈 饾棨饾槀饾棽饾榾饾榿

饾槫饾槱饾槩饾槺饾樀饾槮饾槼 饾樀饾槱饾槼饾槮饾槮: 饾棫饾椀饾棽 饾棭饾椂饾榾饾椂饾椉饾椈 饾棨饾槀饾棽饾榾饾榿
Contributors (1)
Feb 19, 2019

Om (4/7)

Lately, I鈥檝e been listening to audio of people chanting Om while I meditate. I feel listening to chants of Om increases my energy and offers a sound on which to focus.

OM Chanting @417 Hz | Removes All Negative Blocks

Extra Five Minutes (4/2)

Since February, I鈥檝e been pretty good at meditating everyday with a few exceptions due to traveling. I find a quiet place to sit down, set a 20 minute timer on a mobile app, and meditate until the gentle ring of the timer alerts me that 20 minutes has passed. Over the last two months, I meditated for exactly 20 minutes each time. Exactly may be the wrong word. After the timer rings, I spend between 10 seconds to a minute transitioning back to the non-meditative present. But, the timer is always set for 20 minutes. And I almost always know when the timer is about to go off.

On Thursday, I tried something new setting my timer to 25 minutes. And wow, I could feel those extra five minutes. I had a pretty good idea when the 20 minutes finished. Those extra five minutes felt intense. I felt like I wanted to jump up and down or go for a run. Maybe, I was just antsy. But, I felt like my focus on my breathing was even more clear then the first 20 minutes. In general, I think the first couple minutes of meditation are easy and minutes 17 and on have been easier but the middle fifteen minutes can be the hardest to get into a flow state.

On Photography (3/19 and 3/21)

In the 1970s, Susan Sontag wrote several essays on the nature and essence of photography. One essay, America, Seen Through Photographs, Darkly, begins describing Walt Whitman鈥檚 romantic embrace of America. Sontag writes that Whitman鈥檚 poems are 鈥渁 psychic technology for chanting the reader into a new state of being.鈥 She sees Whitman鈥檚 work as envisioning a populist transcendence where the differences between beauty and ugliness, importance and triviality become footnotes to the greater reality of a beloved community. From the perspective of the readings for Principles of Awareness, the Whitmanesque humanism resembles Martin Buber鈥檚 poetry on the I-Though relationship. That relationship is a state of being where 鈥渢he other鈥 is not separated by discrete bounds from 鈥渢he self.鈥 Both poets point humanity towards an embrace with the infinite. The unboundedness of poetry contrasts starkly with the finitude of photography.

Photography is a medium of reduction. Photographs capture a moment and transform that single moment into a prolonged mediated memory. Like a Markov Model, photographs create a false sense that future depends only on what we see in the photograph and not the events that culminated into that particular moment. Sontag explores what went missing in photography鈥檚 reduction by contrasting two famous exhibits: Edward Steichen鈥檚 鈥淔amily of Man鈥 exhibit in 1955 and Diane Arbus鈥 retrospective in 1972.

In 1955, Edward Steichen brought together 502 photographs for 273 photographers from 68 countries to 鈥減rove that humanity is 鈥榦ne鈥 and that human beings for all their flaws and villainies, are attractive creatures. The people in the photographs were of all races, ages, classes, physical types.鈥 And, the photographs and people in them looked beautiful.

On the other hand, Diane Arbus鈥 retrospective contained 112 photos all taken by Arbus where 鈥渆veryone in them looks (in some sense) the same鈥 most of them ugly; wearing grotesque or unflattering clothing; in dismal or barren surroundings鈥攚ho have paused to pose and, often, to gaze frankly, confidentially at the viewer.鈥 The definitive message in Arbus鈥 work (from Sontag鈥檚 perspective) is that 鈥渉umanity is not 鈥榦ne.鈥欌

At its core, photography misses the historical understanding of reality. Both exhibits had an intended message, but the message was lost in the medium. Songtag explains that 鈥減urporting to show that individuals are born, work, laugh, and die everywhere in the same way, 鈥楾he Family of Man鈥 denies the determining weight of history鈥攐f genuine and historically embedded differences, injustices, and conflicts. Arbus鈥 photographs undercut politics just as decisively, by suggesting a world in which everybody is an alien, hopelessly isolated, immobilized in mechanical, crippled identities, and relationships.鈥 The reduction of humanity to either joy or horror fails to encompass the complexities, connections, and compassion of the universe.

What Whitman wanted was to generalize beauty, to find beauty in each and every individual, thing, and moment. But the photograph naturally confers importance to an instant and an object. Technically speaking, we cannot photograph each and every moment. And even if we could, we couldn鈥檛 humanly process these photographs. Photography requires a selection and that selection requires omission.

To be clear, I鈥檓 not arguing that photography cannot be beautiful. On the contrary, photography can be wonderfully beautiful. The problem is that photography appears realistic and can be mistaken for reality without a critical understanding. The wonders of photography can reveal visions that we might never otherwise see. I might never see an Earth-rise in real life, but I鈥檝e seen the photographs and it certainly is brilliant. But photography鈥檚 revelations are always particular leaving the greater context of the universe concealed. If we鈥檙e seeking awareness, we鈥檒l have to go beyond photographs.

Below are three images from both exhibits.

Steichen鈥檚 Family of Man (1955)

Here are three photos curated by Edward Steichen for 鈥淭he Family of Man鈥 exhibit that opened in 1955 at the Museum of Modern Art.

<p>鈥淐oney Island, New York,鈥 by American photographer Garry Winogrand, circa 1952. (Photo by Garry Winogrand)</p>

鈥淐oney Island, New York,鈥 by American photographer Garry Winogrand, circa 1952. (Photo by Garry Winogrand)

<p>鈥淚nuit Mother Caresses Her Child in Igloo, Padleimut Tribe, N.W.T.,鈥 by Canadian photographer Richard Harrington, 1950. (Photo by Richard Harrington)</p>

鈥淚nuit Mother Caresses Her Child in Igloo, Padleimut Tribe, N.W.T.,鈥 by Canadian photographer Richard Harrington, 1950. (Photo by Richard Harrington)

<p>鈥淒ance Hall, New York,鈥 by American photographer Ed Feingersh, circa 1953. (Photo by Ed Feingersh)</p>

鈥淒ance Hall, New York,鈥 by American photographer Ed Feingersh, circa 1953. (Photo by Ed Feingersh)

Arbus鈥檚 Retrospective (1972)

Here are three photos taken by Diane Arbus over the course of her career.

<p>Woman in a mink stole and bow shoes, N.Y.C. 1956. (Photo by Diane Arbus)</p>

Woman in a mink stole and bow shoes, N.Y.C. 1956. (Photo by Diane Arbus)

<p>A young man in curlers at home on West 20th Street, N.Y.C., 1966. (Photo by Dianer Arbus)</p>

A young man in curlers at home on West 20th Street, N.Y.C., 1966. (Photo by Dianer Arbus)

<p>Child with a toy hand grenade in Central Park, N.Y.C., 1962. (Photo by Diane Arbus)</p>

Child with a toy hand grenade in Central Park, N.Y.C., 1962. (Photo by Diane Arbus)

Daily Rhythms (3/7)

The early bird gets the worm, and the late rising worm lives to see another day. Timing matters! I have been experimenting with when to practice silent meditation throughout the day. I imagined sometime in the morning would be ideal, but I wanted to approach timing from a beginner鈥檚 mindset. So, I鈥檝e tried meditating before eating breakfast, after taking a shower in the morning, in the early afternoon, in the early evening, and right before bed.

So far, I鈥檝e found the morning meditation rhythm is the easiest to incorporate into a daily ritual because there are fewer scheduling conflicts. But, there鈥檚 something pretty sweet about saving up the meditation window for a later moment in the day. I don鈥檛 have a schedule for meditation yet. I鈥檓 enjoying the intentionality required in choosing an unscheduled 20 minute meditation window every day.

The Waiting Place (2/25 and 3/3)

The Waiting Place is probably best summed up in two pages from Dr. Seuss鈥 Oh The Places You鈥檒l Go.

In life, sometimes, we get stuck. And, we鈥檙e waiting. And waiting. As I鈥檓 writing, I鈥檓 at a small airport in the Midwest waiting to get on a plane that I was supposed to board last night. If I could, I鈥檇 love to teleport home, drink some tea with honey, and rest to get over this cold that I developed over the last few days. But, teleportation isn鈥檛 in the cards today. So, I鈥檒l have to wait. Anyone who has ever read Dr. Seuss knows what happens on the very next page. We鈥檒l arrive at 鈥渂right places where the boom bands are playing.鈥 I am tempted to write, 鈥淚 can鈥檛 wait,鈥*** but I know better. Without a doubt, I鈥檒l do everything to minimize the wait and step up the boom. But, somethings are a matter of timing. Now, the question becomes what we do when we are waiting.

Reflect. Meditate. We can double down on the waiting and tune into the here and now. Rather than simply let time expire as we鈥檙e waiting, we can remind ourselves of ancient wisdom: life isn鈥檛 about the destination but the journey. The tricky thing with wisdom is it sounds so good when we say it, hear it, write it, and read it, but it doesn鈥檛 work unless we remind ourselves of it. When we wait, we don鈥檛 simply wait. We wait for something like my plane! The nature of waiting is the nature of a single object overwhelming our perception. When we can turn waiting into simply being, we open perception to the infinite dimensionality of the universe.

As I鈥檓 waiting for my plane, seeking the here and now, writing this post, I鈥檓 also in the middle of reading a book on waiting. It鈥檚 called Delayed Response, The Art of Waiting from the Ancient to the Instant World by Jason Farman.

I鈥檒l paraphrase one story to share a flavor of the book and insight into the human tendency towards waiting. The story begins with people complaining about waiting for elevators in post-WWII high-rises in New York City. After a series of complaints, the manager of one building brought in engineers to fix the issue. After assessing the elevators, they determined there was nothing to fix. Then, a tenant from the building who happened to be a psychologist offered advice that the issue underlying the complaints is not about the elevator but the boredom of waiting for the elevator. He suggested installing mirrors in the lobby and within weeks the tenants were applauding the building staff for speeding up the elevator service. Now, this story appears apocryphal and the mirror solution seems more narcissistic than enlightening, but the message is clear: it鈥檚 about our mindset.

As a media theorist, Farman approaches waiting as a medium. He describes it as a medium that draws attention to itself. And, of course as Marshall McLuhan was apt to say, the medium is the message. Often, we cannot ignore the waiting because we are trying to accomplish our goals and the waiting gets in the way. Waiting pulls us into the present. We have the choice to fight against it as an obstacle or an opportunity to tune in.

The boom band might just be playing at the waiting place!

***The phrase 鈥淚 can鈥檛 wait鈥 is an English idiom that means I鈥檓 looking forward or I鈥檓 excited. It鈥檚 interesting that we linguistically (and culturally) associate future excitement with the inability to wait. A few years ago when I was living in Egypt, I didn鈥檛 realize 鈥渃an鈥檛 wait鈥 was an idiom until I tried to literally translate the idiom into Arabic and my Egyptian friends laughed at an obvious non-native mistake. In Egyptian Arabic, they say nifsee (賳賮爻賷) when we might say 鈥淚 can鈥檛 wait.鈥

Deep and Shallow (2/19)

In Hinduism, there鈥檚 this concept advaita that the true self (Atman) is one and the same as the higher power of the universe (Brahman). I have always felt drawn to this concept. The full understanding that Atman is Brahman brings about moksha, the liberation in the here and now from life鈥檚 suffering. Who wouldn鈥檛 want that? I certainly would love some moksha. And, I mention this desire to caveat what comes next.

I felt a hint of advaita realization. Maybe, I just felt this because I wanted to feel it. Maybe, I鈥檓 tricking myself because this appears to be such an awesome end to aspire to. But, I can only know what I felt, which was a seemingly contradictory connection. I was both alone and with everyone all at once. I felt like I momentarily stepped onto a well-worn path that had neither a beginning nor an end.

I can see how awesome meditation can be. But here鈥檚 the funny thing, it doesn鈥檛 mean that I desire to meditate all day. It doesn鈥檛 even mean that it鈥檚 easy to find the 20 minutes to practice every day! (Though I force myself to do it).

The Beginner鈥檚 Mindset (2/17)

The ancients have done it all before. And, they have shared their wisdom. Thousands of years ago, the Greeks inscribed 鈥淜now thyself鈥 in stone at Delphi. William Shakespeare, one of humanity鈥檚 all-time greatest circumnavigators of the soul, wrote 鈥淭his above all: to thine own self be true.鈥 But that doesn鈥檛 mean the moderns have figured it all out.

What does it fully mean to be true to myself? What makes me, me? This isn鈥檛 the first time that I鈥檓 asking these questions, and it won鈥檛 be the last. Here鈥檚 an opportunity to check in on my own principles, examine my authenticity, and seek self-knowledge.

Last week, Tenzin asked us to consider moments of stillness and whether we intentionally seek that stillness or whether it comes by accident. Occasionally, I take walks and sit on park benches and let my mind wander. More often than not, I am doing something intensely. Maybe it鈥檚 work. Or some kind of sport. Sometimes it鈥檚 a new hobby or reading a book. And other times, it鈥檚 visiting friends. And I rarely 鈥渢urn off.鈥 There鈥檚 so much to learn and do, and I want to Thoreau-style 鈥渟uck out all the marrow of life.鈥 It鈥檚 not a fear-of-missing-out kind of thing, but it鈥檚 a what are you going to do with your one wild and precious life kind of thing. I鈥檓 in search of beauty, magnificence, stillness, and wonder. So, when Tenzin asked that question, I thought in my head, I intentionally seek environments with a high probability of serendipitous stillness. And little did I know, I was being clever and fooling myself. I鈥檝e intentionally sought out the awe-inspiring activities, experiences, and ideas in the world many times over, but I haven鈥檛 sought stillness itself. I know I鈥檝e wanted to discover what the Boddhisatvas discovered, but I haven鈥檛 put in the effort to make it happen.

This week, I meditated a few times. The hardest part about meditating for the first time was making the time to do it. Part of the spirit of the Principles of Awareness class is to 鈥減ractice鈥 twenty minutes a day. I realized that no matter what I鈥檓 going to spend the next twenty minutes meditating and not doing anything else. The fixed amount of time was freeing. There is no way to make the 20 minutes happen faster, so I figured the best strategy was to slow down time as much as possible. The slower time goes during those 20 minutes, the more I can dig into my awareness. I certainly felt my mind wander, and I kept reminding myself to think about the here and now and focus on my breathing. At the end of each meditation session, I felt tons of positive energy throughout my entire body. After my first meditation, Etta James鈥 Somethings Got a Hold on Me popped into my head, and I did a little victory dance.

Sitting down and meditating on my own for the first time reminded me of a poem about the journey to self discovery by the late Mary Oliver. Here it is below.

The Journey by Mary Oliver

One day you finally knew

what you had to do, and began,

though the voices around you

kept shouting

their bad advice --

though the whole house

began to tremble

and you felt the old tug

at your ankles.

"Mend my life!"

each voice cried.

But you didn't stop.

You knew what you had to do,

though the wind pried

with its stiff fingers

at the very foundations,

though their melancholy

was terrible.

It was already late

enough, and a wild night,

and the road full of fallen

branches and stones.

But little by little,

as you left their voice behind,

the stars began to burn

through the sheets of clouds,

and there was a new voice

which you slowly

recognized as your own,

that kept you company

as you strode deeper and deeper

into the world,

determined to do

the only thing you could do --

determined to save

the only life that you could save.

Salah Assana: That is exactly what makes that meditation so relaxing. Since it is a weekly requirement we never skip it and we are forced to make the most out of that time.
Tara Sowrirajan: I totally feel the same way when I increase the amount of time I meditate鈥 or try to :)
Ziv Epstein: It seems contemporary culture has optimized to remove waiting all together. And in the moments where waiting is inevitable, out the smartphones come and we flick though the gram and twitter. In this way, is waiting a lost art? A vestige of a time past? Or will the hipsters of yonderyear return to trendy bus stops touting the passage of time, aestheticized like the crackle of vinyl?
Matt Groh: GREAT QUESTION! So, the thing is. Waiting is not a lost art. Humans have always struggled with waiting. It鈥檚 just we鈥檝e scaled communication to near real-time, so we see it so much more. In the book, Jason talks about letters sent back in the 19th century during the Civil War. All letters start with something like 鈥淢y dearest Abigail, I am writing to you on the 14th of November鈥 to explicitly show the date of writing such that the sender and recipients can gauge the wait times. So鈥 you鈥檙e not expecting a text reply immediately, but you are expecting a letter reply about 12-15 days after you send yours. And if you don鈥檛 get it you get anxious (or at least the Civil War folks did). There鈥檚 also great stuff on pneumatic tubes in NYC and how access to speedier communication helped the NYC finance scene and folks were excited to have reality on tap 100 years ago (and their reality on tap was nothing like the personal broadcasting of twitter).
Ziv Epstein: the perhaps second creepiest place in the whole book! maybe after the lurch?
Matt Groh: ;)
Karthik Dinakar: Would love to talk more about this if you鈥檙e interested. :)
Matt Groh: Yes, for sure! I鈥檒l send you a message offline.
Ziv Epstein: this is paradox. you don鈥檛 *know* you feel, but rather, you *feel* that you feel. Otherwise isn鈥檛 your sensation yet another ephemeral mental formation?
Matt Groh: Agreed, it鈥檚 a paradox. But, I don鈥檛 think that makes it wrong. Have you ever felt like you know something? For example, I feel like I know the the morale behind this story but I鈥檓 not confident. Likewise, haven鈥檛 you ever knew that you felt something? You can know when you ate ice cream last night you felt happy. But more importantly and more complex, I think you can know when you have intuitions. Do you believe in intuitions?
Oc茅ane Boulais: Isn鈥檛 the suffering what makes the other things a positive experience? Do you think you can continue to the choose to 鈥減lay the game鈥, yet still find liberation?
Ziv Epstein: Enlightenment is right in front of us. Yet we co-construct a subjective reality strategically circumscribe to this axiom. In other words, we see through absence.
+ 3 more...
Ziv Epstein: Can stillness be the true marrow of life?
Matt Groh: Possibly!