A meal is an event. Eating is the process behind it. Mindless eating, without any awareness of the process itself, turns a meal-event into a belly-aching non-event. A potential of an event, wiped out by mindlessness, is both an existential loss (a loss of an eating moment is a loss of a moment of living) and a loss of meditative opportunity.
Imagine you are in the business of teaching people to meditate, literally. Indeed, imagine yourself as a medieval Zen master charged with managing a Buddhist monastery. Day in, day out you got a bunch of bums banging on your door seeking admission, refuge, protection, i.e. room and board. Unable to read minds and screen out dharma bums from sincerely-motivated seekers, you come up with a brilliant scheme. You decide to turn the dining hall into a meditation hall. You come up with “oryoki” – a highly codified eating protocol that emphasizes a precise order of movements, stopping when you are full, cleaning up for yourself, and liturgical chanting.
Reality-check yourself with the following questions:
Check reality before you live it. Certainly, before you judge it (yourself, included).
Enjoy all that is. If “all that is” isn’t enough for you, what would be?
Choice Awareness Training exercises (continued)
Choice Awareness Training is designed to leverage a greater sense of freedom-to-change, to awaken the living zombie, to facilitate change-process (see a more detailed description of Choice Awareness Training in Make a Choice When It Doesn’t Matter or below).
Choice Awareness Exercise: Open Your Hand to Open Your Mind
Clench your fist, open it.
Clench it again, open it again.
Clench it one more time, open it one more time.
See the mindlessness and sameness of the pattern?
Reading “The Red Book” by C.G. Jung, I come across the following fragment:
“Willing creates blindness…”
Indeed, it does. Willing creates attentional focus. Focus obscures the field. Once set, the goal turns the mind into a Gestalt-hunting hound, with its attentional nose to the ground, oblivious to the rest of what is.
It’s figure-ground dynamics: you either see the foreground of the red vase or the background of the two blue faces. When you focus on the vase, the faces fade out into the conceptually neutral background, and what was no longer is.
Willing is an attentional force, a kind of acceleration of the mind towards the object of one’s interest. This attentional acceleration of willing blurs vision. Attentional blindness ensues: all you care to see is what you are pursuing, the rest – subjectively – ceases to exist. And this “tunnel vision” is the onset of existential blindness.
Goal-oriented mind is blind to context.
“Whereas willing creates blindness, letting restores vision…” echoes my mind.
Li Ho, a 9th century Chinese poet observed:
Hsi-shih dreams at dawn, in the cool of silk curtains:
A tress has slipped from the scented knot over the fading rouge,
The pulley creaks at the well, winds up with a jade tinkle
And startles awake the lotus which has just slept its fill.
Two birds on the flaps disclose the mirror, an autumn sunlit pool.
She loosens the knots and looks down in the mirror […]
Her toilet done, the dressed hair slants and does not sag.
She […] turns away, still without speaking. What has caught her eye?
She goes down the steps and picks up the cherry flowers.
So, what’s the story here: a girl, named Hsi-shih, is asleep, the sound of the water-well outside awakens her and, it so happens, also startles a couple of birds off the surface of the pond; once awake, the girl fixes her hair that she didn’t mind while she was asleep and notices cherry flowers. Sounds like your typical privileged morning in the 9th century China. Why write a poem about it? I don’t know. I am not Li Ho.
But here’s why I am writing about this poem. Here’s what it means to me. Let’s take it a stanza at a time.
In the next several posts I’d like to share with you a few Choice Awareness Training exercises that I’ve been using with my clients since 1999. Choice Awareness training is designed to leverage a greater sense of freedom-to-change, to awaken the living zombie, to facilitate change-process.
Choice Awareness Training
Freedom manifests through the awareness of a choice. But what is a choice? We say we “have a choice” when we are aware of options to select from. Thus, the notion of “choice” refers to:
a) the awareness of the options available, and
b) the act of selection of one of the options.
Becoming aware of the options restores our sense of freedom, takes us off the auto-pilot, off the zombie mode, and gives us an opportunity to change our patterns, habits, rituals, routines.