Wednesday, December 31, 2008

On the Internet the other day I came across mention of a study that found that the more spiritual a person is, the less active are his or her right parietal lobes--the area of the brain responsible for what the researchers called “Me-Definers”. Interesting, since spiritual seekers are generally recognized as being less ego-driven and more prone to selflessness.

This ties in with my thinking about Asperger’s syndrome. Certain areas of the brain may have evolved because ego was needed to help humanity evolve out of tribal unconscious fusion with reality. But as we evolve to our next phase, maybe we’ll rely less and less on those areas of the brain related to ego, Me-Definers, and the little self.

I like the statement in the long passage I quoted on the previous pages, “For it is likely that the ‘inner world’ of our Western psychological experience, like the supernatural heaven of Christian belief, originated in the loss of our ancestral reciprocity with the living landscape.” (David Abram)

The inner world, created by a “me” that hadn’t quite existed in tribal times developed concurrently with ego. Without ego--no inner world. Without a symbolic, representational inner world—no ego.

But I’m quite certain we’re on a path of evolution that will have us living with immediacy again. The symbolic inner world will recede in importance as we learn to experience what simply is, with awareness. I’ve noticed since I’ve lived in Snyder and really embraced simple living than my inner world is much quieter than it used to be. I never neurotically fret about the past or the future. I’m not constantly rehashing events or imagining more favorable scenarios. My mind is quite clean and mostly able to just be here now. I almost never get caught up in the petty dramas of the ego.

This stage of loosening your grip on the ego is, I believe, absolutely essential in learning how to merge with the larger reality. As long as you identify with the ego, your mind will constantly be chattering. All of those egoic mental constructs--mental pictures of the past, imagined scenarios, obsessions and stories we tell ourselves--they all obstruct our ability to experience reality.

This life here in Snyder has been such an incredible blessing. There has never been a more fruitful time in my life. I can’t totally be a hermit here, but it’s close enough for now. I get enough silence, solitude, and simplicity for me to be able to slip loose from the ego from time to time.

I’ve started reading a book by a child psychiatrist about the importance of emotions in cognitive functioning. I think he’s saying that no matter how “logical” we think we’re being, underlying every decision is an emotional ground. First we have an emotional response, built upon all of the other emotional responses we’ve had in our lifetimes. After the gut reaction (which may or not may not even register) we may run things through logical filters, to bolster our argument for course of action, but it’s the emotional response that’s primary.

Which of course makes me think about how our “logical” brain functions are ego and self generators, while emotion is just our immediate perception of reality.

Emotion is kind of like a sixth sense, or it integrates the other five. But it’s also two-way--you feel as a response to what is, but then you also radiate that feeling back out. Others can absorb what you radiate and the emotion or mood becomes contagious.

If you are free of ego, and experiencing reality clearly, your emotions will be congruent with what is. So if others encounter you, your emotional state can spread contagiously and you create harmony. Egolessness equals congruency, harmony and integrity. Why else do people feel so of uplifted in the presence of a spiritual master? Because his or her congruency with the larger reality is radiating out contagiously.

Where emotions are concerned, it’s almost like we are a group mind--like a flock of birds. A person who “lights up a room” walks in and we’re all suddenly cheerful. A person is angry or stressed and we all become stressed.

The problem is that our emotional states are usually a result of egoic desires, needs, frustrations and fulfillments. So, usually they aren’t in alignment with the larger reality. The evolved person, who has transcended the ego, can radiate what is.

Saturday, December 20, 2008

I came across a great article on the Internet yesterday. I just skimmed it and I need to go back and read it in full, and probably copy down a lot of it. It’s on a site that hasn’t had new content added since 2002, so who knows how much longer the site will be maintained.

Anyway, there was some really powerful food for thought in the article. It was talking about shamans and how they relate to the world. In a nutshell, the author was saying these shamans aren’t accessing some mystical otherworld of spirits, as westerners imagine. They simply are expanding their awareness to encompass all of the elements of their ecosystem.

When something is out of balance in the environment a person will become ill. If the shaman simply heals that person, while the imbalance in the environment is permitted to persist, the illness will simply crop up again in someone else.

This is fascinating stuff. So the illness is simply an expression of the health of the place. It sounds so obvious, but who except shamans recognize that? They’re able to shift from their identity with the little self, into that larger state of consciousness--the bubble of reality around them—a larger self encompassing the totality of the environment.

Last night I was soaking in the tub and had things begin morphing again into objects with a Native American flavor. It occurred to me that these things I see are not exactly Native American in the sense that they only belong to certain tribes of people. I think these things I see are objects that represent the energy of this place. The fact that Native American people have made many of these things means that they were wonderfully attuned to the energy of the place and manifested what wanted to manifest here. Some of the things I see are totally natural objects though, already manifest in the land. My left hand often morphs into the wing of an eagle. I don’t know why, but I guess the spirit or energy of the eagle is particularly representative of this place.

Okay, I just went back online and pulled up the article I came across yesterday. It’s actually an excerpt from a book by David Abram called The Spell of the Sensuous. Now I have yet another book I need to get my hands on!

I’m going to quote it here, because I want to be able to refer back to it. The thing that I think he misses is that we are the larger environment. He understands that the shamans connect with the environment “out there”, but not really that they actually are the environment.

[The quote is too long to reprint here without permission. For now it can still be found online here. The part I quoted consisted of paragraphs 7 through 12.]

Tuesday, December 16, 2008

Philosophically, where has the past year gotten me? The most important insight probably has to do with people and all life forms being an expression of place. I’m still working to deepen my understanding of it, but I can grasp it more tangibly than ever before.

What was it Vine Deloria, Jr. said? Something about the worldview of the red man being about place, whereas the white man’s worldview is consumed with time. The emanations of a particular place certainly would change over time, as global patterns changed and as a result of geologic and even human activity. But we should only concern ourselves with being here (wherever here happens to be) now. Now is always outside of time. Here is where we always are. Here may simply be another word for our identity. Even after death, as pure consciousness, even if that consciousness is diffused throughout the cosmos, it will always be right here, wherever we are.

This bowl of reality that surrounds me--this “here”--is me. I always have a bubble of “here” surrounding and creating me. I think my fuller self is that bubble--and maybe the bubble would expand as my awareness expanded.

I still really need to get a hold of Ellsworth Huntington’s books. Edith Cobb’s book too. I think ultimately, although they seem to be about entirely different subjects, they point to the same thing. You can call it environmental determinism if you like, but I think it’s deeper than that. We’re getting down to consciousness here--Earth’s consciousness--and this is big stuff we’re talking about, difficult for puny human beings to understand.

I keep coming back to my image of the conflict that encircles the drought-stricken lands. In my mind I see it as a ring of red like what encircles a wound. I see it now as an organic process of the earth, and it makes me wonder what other human predicaments are actually not human-created at all, but expressions of the land. What about the artificial environment of the inner cities? Maybe they are so prone to violence there because nature has been obscured and an artificial desert created. Without an active, diverse ecosystem--where there’s only concrete, steel, bricks, heat, weeds, and limited animal life—wouldn’t that push on a person’s survival instincts? Where there are limited real resources--no food, except maybe what could be scrounged, expensively, at a convenience store, or in a fast food joint. No jobs. No hope. A dead ecosystem. Life and death struggles come out of such a place.

And what about the Middle East? In a book I’m reading now (Common Wealth: Economics for a Small Planet, by Jeffrey D. Sachs) the author mentioned the increasingly dire water situation the Israelis and Palestinians are facing. What we think is an entirely human-made conflict may actually be an expression of the land. I wonder what would happen if the Middle East were green, productive and had abundant water resources? How would humanity express itself there?

Monday, December 15, 2008

Minus 11.1° this morning. Last night there was ice on the cat door in such a way that it could still open to let a cat out, but wouldn’t open to let a cat back in. I was paranoid about having a cat stuck outside overnight and freezing to death and since the lock on the cat door broke off long ago, I had to trudge out in the cold (even though I had said nothing could make me leave the house) and scrounge up little boards and sticks to wedge against the outside of the door so no one could get out. The cats were all out of sorts and mad at me, but this morning when I defrosted the door with my hair dryer and took the wedges out no one showed the slightest interest in going outside!

So here it is, the Christmas season again. How I despise it! Call me a scrooge, but the crass materialism of it just gets to me! I think it would be much more significant if the holidays when giftless. At least, giftless in the material sense. What if you only gave love, compassion, cheerfulness, the gift of your time and good company, thoughtful gestures and selfless acts? Wouldn’t that be so much nicer? This whole season just grates on my nerves. I don’t understand how material gifts give any satisfaction even. I guess if they are functional items, things you really needed, they could be satisfying. But frivolous gifts, things given out of a sense of duty, what’s satisfying about that? There are so many advertisements on the radio for goofy gifts--I think it’s the jewelry ads that grate on my nerves the most. I guess I just don’t understand status items, period. Rather than giving satisfaction, wouldn’t they always leave you desiring something even a little better, a little more costly, a little more showy? Whatever it was, it seems like it would never be enough.

Materialism is such a vicious cycle. It creates a continuous feedback loop. I believe ego, materialism and a general sense of dissatisfaction go hand in hand and feed off of each other. There was a recent study that found a causal relationship between materialism and unhappiness--not just a correlation--and I believe it actually went both ways. Unhappiness led to increased materialism and increased materialism led to increased unhappiness.

I’m at a point now, having escaped the consumer culture to such a large degree, that so much of it strikes my ears as being really odd. It seems ludicrous that people buy into any of it (pardon the pun).

I want to start looking back over my year now, in order to start planning where I want to go next.

Materially I’m still paring down my life. I was able to sell off two of my three industrial sewing machines this year and finally claim the sewing room as my bedroom. I built a bed from wood John gave me from his old water bed frame, plus one of my headboard samples. For a mattress I used a slab of foam left over from my headboard venture, topped with my old memory-foam topper doubled over. It’s a very comfortable little bed.

The whole mattress industry has been one of my pet peeves. They over-engineer these mattresses and then sell them for outrageous prices. You shouldn’t have to spend $1000 or $1,200 or more for such a basic item. And the amount of excess in the materials--foam, fabric, metal and wood--is obscene. I always thought it was outrageous when I had my drapery business to go into these homes and see toddlers sleeping in their own queen-sized beds. What wasteful extravagance!

Anyway (sorry for that little tangent) another thing I got rid of this year was my computer printer. It went haywire, and I just decided I didn’t want to replace it. For one thing, I prefer to have the extra space. For another, I find I’m obviously not printing off reams of stuff like I used to. I waste less paper, have far fewer papers to file and keep organized, and I’m not buying expensive ink cartridges constantly. I figured when I have something I really need to print I can do it at the library for 10¢ per page. So far (and it’s been at least six months I think) I haven’t had to do that yet.

I’m thinking about giving John my drill press as a Christmas present. That thing sits in the middle of my bedroom, of all places (trust me there’s no better place to store it) getting in the way, and for as little as actually use it, it might find a better life at John’s place.

I made a rule that for every new thing that comes into the house, at least one thing has to go and preferably two things, since I’m still trying to downsize.

I discover there’s a fledgling Freecycle group now for Brush and Fort Morgan, so now I have a good way to get rid of useful stuff. I think after the holidays I’ll put my tubs of fabric scraps on there and see if I can find any takers. It would be nice to start clearing out the storm cellar.

There are a few other things in the house I still need to get rid of, either by selling or giving away. I want to get rid of the computer scanner and also my cordless phone (I went back to corded phones because of my concern about the health implications of wireless devices).

I had been debating for quite some time whether to trash my antique waterfall desk. It’s half stripped--I had intended to refinish it--and I don’t know when I’ll ever be able to finish the project. I can’t really do it at this place. It’s too dusty outside and the fumes would be too much in the house. But, I finally decided the desk is worth keeping. It was handcrafted, with dovetailed drawers, some of the rabbets were hand-cut, and it really has the potential to be quite beautiful when refinished. It does have it issues, too--the dovetails coming apart, the veneer chipped off or scratched in places, and a thin strip of molding that broke off and was lost. But I’ve learned I need to pay attention when I can feel even a smidgeon of resistance to a course of action, and this was one of them where I felt conflicted. So, I feel great now that I’ve recommitted to keeping this desk (which I’m writing on at this very moment).

I love the way the house is becoming less cluttered. The simplicity of it is very soothing and satisfying. I’m not all of the way to where I would like it, but I’ve made huge strides in that direction.

And what have I have acquired in the past year? A water bath canner and some more canning jars, and the kitchen scale (it has been immensely useful). I bought one soaker hose for next year (I’ll need many more), but that’s about it for gardening stuff except a faucet adapter V-thingy, a sprayer attachment and some O-rings. I also bought a ten-piece deep socket set which I needed in order to take apart my one sewing machine. I honestly think that’s about all I acquired this year that wasn’t a consumable. Santa is bringing me a new set of sheets that he found on clearance in September. For now I’m down to just two top sheets, one of which has to serve as the bottom sheet. Oh, okay, I also bought three small Pyrex containers this year. And some clay pots (most were 25¢ clearance items). Okay, now I think that’s it. Well, except for the brush to clean the refrigerator coils.

I bought zero articles of clothing for myself and only a few pairs of jeans and a sweatshirt for Collin. But let’s not get me started on all the things I didn’t buy!

Sunday, December 14, 2008

Yesterday it was 64° and I was out working in the yard without a jacket. Today I woke up and it was 6.4° and it dropped even further after that (to around 3°) before climbing up to a balmy 8° now at 2 pm. I so hate the cold! I’m bundled up to the hilt and you can’t make me leave the house for anything.

In a meditative state the other day it occurred to me that I won’t ever be able to embody my full human potential here in Colorado. I was seeing my earth meditation again--the way areas dry out and life flees and conflict ensues at the edges. I just don’t think arid regions contain as much active consciousness as more abundant places. They are dying places, not places of optimal health. Sure there are plants and animals who are adapted to such lands, but they are conservative creatures and will never be at the cusp of conscious evolution. Their expression will always be subdued in an arid land. I need to be in a rich, fertile, abundant place. My mind seeks its highest evolution. I need to be a part of a fertile environment in order to maximize my potential.

At the same time as I’m having these thoughts, can I really deny that this period of time in Snyder has been a fertile one? No, of course I can’t. But I just feel with such certainty that a much fuller expression of who I am could be found elsewhere, in a more abundant place. As I’ve said before, this is such a conservative, no frills place—both in nature and in the human community. There is a real lack of imagination and artistry here, no stepping out of the box, no wild exuberance. Just a plodding, tried-and-true, safe way of life.

The other day I saw a huge flocks of Canadian geese in the sky on my drive home and it just made my heart turn little cartwheels in ecstasy. As they rose and shifted directions I could really sense the group consciousness governing the flocks--how they acted as one emanation or expression of the land. They seemed almost magical--emissaries between earth and sky. Carrying out some vital function for the world.