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bear by san

March 2017

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rengeek fucking silence

Before enlightenment, chop wood, carry water. After enlightenment, chop wood, carry water.

Book Report #21: Eugen Herrigel, Zen in the Art of Archery

The grandaddy of the Zen in books. A little uncomfortable in its Orientalism, but still fascinating nonetheless.

I cannot help, myself, to equate Zen philosophy with modern Western understandings of the mind. I am a synthesist: it's what I do. What follows is my own natterings and theory, sort of, of the mind, and as such is presented without warranty.

Except to say that it works for me.

And it seems to me that Zen is a series of techniques for detaching the conscious mind, the ego or I, and allowing the much more powerful, nonverbal subconscious mind to perform its magic. I think it's a flaw in our societal philosophy to privilege the conscious as much as we do.

The idea of a paired system of consciousness is older than the Appolonian/Dionysian divide, and its manifestations are as varied as humanity, and our temptation seems always to be to pick a side to root for. Which seems to me a little self-limiting, because consciousness is useful for a bunch of things (like breaking behavioral conditioning, for one thing), but to rely on that tip of the iceberg is a loss as well, because the "It" that shoots is as genuine a thing as the "I" that must get out of the way to let it shoot.

And the "It" is powerful. And healing.

It's probably weird to hear that from somebody who intellectualizes as relentlessly as I do, isn't it? But it's true. The "It" is much better at many things than the "I" is. It's one of the reasons I find exercise so inspirational--because the focus on the animal body, for me, helps get the I out of the way so the It can do its black magic.

One of the things I'm working on now, after years of "I" intellectualizing work on my art (and writing is a Practice, of sorts) is now learning to let the It carry much of that work. The I can explain it to the It, and the It can do it without actually needing to involve the I in the process at all.

We talk about the writing koans and how they unpack, and we talk--half-joking--about how to be an effective writer you must have suck and not suck at the same time. So yes, I can relentlessly intellectualize what I do. (Any number of people, including stwish, like to tell me how much I overthink things.)

But I also feel the shape of it in my head. I can sense its weight and curve and specific gravity, and when I spin it, I can feel how it wobbles or if it purrs around in a circle.

And in saying this, it sounds like the two sets are completely separate, and of course that's not true at all, because the It and the I are in constant communication. The It knows and can do amazing things. But it can't manipulate linear symbols, which is what the I is good at. The society I was raised in tends to train the I at the expense of the It--in fact, in some cases to train to I to ignore the It- (except in those cases where we glorify the It over the I ("go with your gut")) which limits us in unexpected ways. We perceive things in terms of categories rather than continuums:

Head/heart. Eye/hand. Left/right. Ego/id. I/it.

But in practice, what's effective is not either/or. It's and.

I had gotten to a point where I was doing everything consciousnessly, and now I am working on learning to do it all mindfully, which is different. And much more peaceful. And more likely to bring success. Because mindfullness is the synthesis, the meditation where the It and the I are working in harmony, rather than fighting.

The rider does not control the horse. The rider and the horse between them negotiate the world, and make each other stronger/braver/smarter/more nimble/more perceptive/less spooky in the process.


For added fun, I recommend reading this book in conjunction with Blindsight.

Comments

Weird. What you're learning to do, I do instinctively. Learning to intellectualize and explain the process is my struggle...

Is bear mirror-meerkat, or is meerkat mirror-bear?

Or are we both aardvarks and just don't know it?
Actually, that's not quite what I said.

Well, I used to write instinctively. And I got to a point where I wasn't improving at all. So I started conscious study. And having gotten as far as seems currently tenable with that, I'm working on internalizing. It's a hand back and forth thing, for me.

And I'm the one with the goatee, so I must be the evil one.
my point, I guess, was that I have the lizard brain writing instinctively, and then the mammal brain comes along with the thinking and the plotting and the planning, but they're working together at the same time without actually communicating, except when it hits the page and the meat-puppet goes "excellent!"

Ithe only way I can learn anything. Analyzing something, or trying to learn it on a purely intellectual basis fails miserably. I have driven teachers to tears with this fact.

*g* half the battle is learning to respect your learning style.

Er.

It's all in your mind

Great summary of Buddhism. Ever give meditation a whirl?

Re: It's all in your mind

I have my practices. *g*

Re: It's all in your mind

I'll bet you do :)
I am a great believer in concerned indifference.
Hee.

It is so.
We will point out that Paul Simon has two different versions of "Maybe I Think Too Much" on one album..
about zen
I really have nothing
to say
So, I think of Yin/Yang. When you talk about this, it reminds me of the essence of quantum mechanics, boiled down. Opposites become the same; ultimately, matter and energy can only be defined together, as one. Though each are different, one side often needs to be defined by describing its opposite.

So, I figure, how do we understand a teller of stories without understanding the concept of story? And on an elemental level, can we really understand the rider's greater picture if we have not the idea of a horse? And can we truly understand all of the horse's possibilities if we do not consider the rider? That sort of thing...

I didn't really say anything, just agreeing with you. It does, however, make me wonder about the true definition of peace.
Well, if you get down to it, the teller is the story.
(maybe that's not what you were saying at all; it's merely what came into my head when I read it) ;-)
Good God! Reading this and Blindsigh in conjunction one would need a big bowl of crack on one side and the unabridged OED and maybe four laptops open to several different Wikipedia pages all at once.

Mindfulness is something I am trying to cultivate as well. I do my best to let myself go in my yoga practice and allow it to unfold, focusing only on breath. In my writing, only once have I felt myself get out of the way and let the words flow.

I'd so like to feel that once more before I die.
For added fun, I recommend reading this book in conjunction with Blindsight.

Hello, I am the reader's blown mind.
more light gets in that way!
It occurred to me a number of years ago that my society was telling on one hand, that there was strength in unity and on the other that mind and body were separate things and one is to be glorified at the expense of the other. It seems intuitively obvious, to me anyhow, that mind and body working together is much better/stronger/more versatile than separating them and that Western culture is Stupid in this matter. I may have to look into this Zen thing.

MKK
The term 'subconscious' confuses me. It's the right-brain, web-thinking/feeling/, animal synesthesia stuff that I'm conscious of. Left-brain stuff is fun but ... not what I'd call real, or conscious.
And it seems to me that Zen is a series of techniques for detaching the conscious mind, the ego or I, and allowing the much more powerful, nonverbal subconscious mind to perform its magic.

Hm, no, this is not what Zen is for, but if it does that for you as a writer, in writing that can indeed be handy!

The subconscious is just a sneakier form of the self/ego, and decidedly not the void.
*g* Read more modern neurology, man.

There's a zombie in your head. One that doesn't doesn't talk to the I at all.
I overthink (read: overanalyse) things too, and your thoughts here have helped me understand a little bit more as to why. And, as I'm having issues with my horse riding at present, your comments on riders and horses has expecially been helpful. Thank you. *hugs*
Woot! Ponies!

So much of life is getting out of your own way, isn't it?
Hell yea. And my headspace is really beginning to annoy me with the way it keeps darting in there, obstructing me from just getting on and doing things... Meh!