A Straight Shot of Politics

A blog from a gentleman of the Liberal political persuasion dedicated to right reason, clear thinking, cogent argument, and the public good.

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Location: Columbus, Ohio, United States

I have returned from darkness and quiet. I used to style myself as "Joe Claus", Santa Claus’ younger brother because that is what I still look like. I wrote my heart out about liberal politics until June of 2006, when all that could be said had been said. I wrote until I could write no more and I wrote what I best liked to read when I was young and hopeful: the short familiar essays in Engish and American periodicals of 50 to 100 years ago. The archetype of them were those of G.K. Chesterton, written in newspapers and gathered into numerous small books. I am ready to write them again. I am ready to write about life as seen by the impoverished, by the mentally ill, by the thirty years and more of American Buddhist converts, and by the sharp eyed people [so few now in number] with the watcher's disease, the people who watch and watch and watch. I am all of these.

Thursday, February 17, 2005

When Pleasures Slip Into Larger Spaces Than The Mind

I commonly find that I have to work to completely enjoy something. This is not a matter of inhibition or self-censorship, but, rather, a by-product of years of Buddhist meditative practice. Without what Buddhists call "mindfulness", complete enjoyment of anything is impossible.

The mind is a peculiar thing, hopping around most of the time like an agitated monkey and never wholly at rest. And with our pleasures, this obsessive monkey-mind constantly tries to fit itself around experiences which are larger than anyone's mind. The very agitation of flitting from one part of pleasure to another, trying to possess the next while losing grip on the last, is like trying to grab the reflection of the moon in water with your hand. The moment your hand penetrates the water, the reflection vanishes.

So we tame and train the mind, teaching it to settle and stay put somewhere (anywhere will do, really, but we start out with the breath going through the nostrils). When you do this regularly, you find that conscious experience is far larger than the part of it which has been jumping around so much. Our body is not really breathing; it is, in some sense, being breathed.

When a source of pleasure has definite boundaries, like the tiny cup of impossibly rich drinking chocolate that Starbuck's sells under the name Chantico, the encounter with the monkey-mind, and with the consciousness that is larger than the monkey-mind, is a bright strong light shining on how large our experience is, how ever so much larger it could be, and how no definite limit or boundary to it can be found anywhere.

The monkey-mind will gulp the entire cup of Chantico before one even has a chance to halt the process, if you let it, spasaming orgasmicly and frantically, like two teenagers having illicit mutual sex for the first time in their lives. There is not enough liquid to outlast the monkey-mind, as there is say, with the largest of the coffee drinks. The chocolate flows through the monkey-mind smoothly, like a one-note samba of bliss, or a piano piece with a single melody for one hand only.

But if you are mindful, sip slowly, and roll each sip around your mouth before swallowing, the pleasure of the chocolate resonates back and forth through all the spaces in you not occupied by your mind. The final swallowing comes in half surprise as the pleasure continues to swirl around like water in a tide pool, turbulated by the undertow, after the main wave has passed.

There is no exact location or boundary to such pleasure. If you don't believe me, try to find one, try to identify where your consciousness ends and the pleasure begins, and try to ascertain the exact moment when you cease to taste the chocolate.

Try, and you will be well on your way to genuine understanding.


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