“The cup is already broken,” they say in Zen lore. Yes, we know: we get dogs knowing that we will most likely outlive them. We’ve learned to look at our fragile tech gizmos with that acquired acceptance of “it’s built-in obsolescence.” Impermanence is all around us: Heraclitus knew it, Buddha knew it. We all know it but we work hard to ignore it: we make assumptions of continuity and so we grieve post-factum – after the loss occurs.
What if we grieved in advance – the way Buddhists do – by accepting the impermanence as a fundamental condition of living? By recognizing the “ceasing” part of ceasing-and-arising? Living and dying, beginning and ending, arising and ceasing – are dichotomous word-pairs that describe one and the same seamless process.
What am I trying to say? Only this: “Meditation on impermanence is anticipatory grief work, a grief hygiene of sorts.”
Pavel Somov, Ph.D. is a licensed psychologist in private practice and the author of 7 mindfulness-based self-help books. His books have been translated into Chinese, Dutch & Portuguese. Somov is on the Advisory Board for the London Mindfulness Center (UK). Somov’s book website is www.pavelsomov.com and his practice website is www.drsomov.com
The friends who have gathered here pass the pipe around.
I know that there is no constancy in what is possible and what is not,
Yet I do not believe that fire and ash are only fragments of time.
—Wang Lu, a Japanese seventeenth-century “gentleman smoker” (quoted in Smoke: A Global History of Smoking)
Marla and I are big fans of Leonard Cohen. A weekend or so ago he turned 80 and decided to resume smoking: “too young to die, too old to worry,” summarized NYT Jason Karlawish. Cohen himself said the following: “It’s the right age to recommence [smoking].” Indeed, why not, if it gives you “the pleasure of the present”?
We are not being rhetorical. In our 2011 book Smoke-Free Smoke Break we have made a harm reduction case for mindful smoking as well as for the idea that we have more than one kind of health – the health of the body and the health of the mind. A risk-taking behavior (be it rock climbing or smoking) is an existential choice to pursue the wellbeing of the mind while consciously accepting possible costs to the body. So, with this in mind, we congratulate Leonard Cohen not only on reaching the age of wisdom but also on remaining the rascal sage that he’s been – and teaching us the existential calculus of controlled recklessness. Mindful smoking to you, Leonard!
What follows is an excerpt from our book – its least read chapter – the chapter on harm-reduced/mindful smoking. And to any stray moralizers that might have stumbled upon this piece of writing, a tip: listen to Cohen’s songs of existence – there is more to human decision-making than meets the statistically-dualistic eye.
If you decided to take the path of harm reduction, either as a short-term mindful-smoking sabbatical (as you gear up for the next attempt at quitting) or an open-ended, long-term harm-reduction commitment, you will have to learn how to get more out of less. To do so, you’ll have to shift from mindless smoking to mindful smoking. The …
Noosphere – a beautiful concept. You are a part of this human whole. A conscious or an unconscious part?
The noosphere is the sphere of human thought. The word derives from the Greek νοῦς (nous “mind”) and σφαῖρα (sphaira “sphere”), in lexical analogy to “atmosphere” and “biosphere”. It was introduced by Pierre Teilhard de Chardin in 1922 in his Cosmogenesis. Another possibility is the first use of the term by Édouard Le Roy (1870-1954), who together with Teilhard was listening to lectures of Russian philosopher Vladimir Vernadsky at the Sorbonne. (source: wiki).
Every life-form that passes in front you also passes in front of itself.
(I’m talking about every and any life-form – a neighbor, your kid, an ant on the sidewalk.)
Namaste to it all: to all that is inside and outside, to all that passes in front of you and in front of itself.
To all that passes, internally and externally, inter-objectively and intra-subjectively – namaste.
360 degrees of Namaste!
And to all that remains the same – in me, in you, in everything – to You too – namaste!
It’s curious, isn’t it, that not only do we pass (change) in front of each other but that we also pass (change) in front of ourselves.
The you that you were a moment ago has now changed. And if there had been someone to notice how you changed, the two of you would have been sharing a similar reference point of permanence.
The Buddhist psychology of impermanence of form is half the story. The Vedic psychology of permanence of essence is the rest of the story.
We are always changing and yet there is always something in us (something ineffable) that remains the same.
Notice what changes and notice what remains the same.
Mind is a living, evolving, self-correcting, self-editing, self-serving text of survival.
What you say to yourself matters. And what you don’t say to yourself matters too.
But, as important as this self-narrative is, we are not it: we are not this mind.
This mind, this narrative is but writing on the ever-changing water of consciousness.
Neti, neti – meaning: not this, not this.
Yesterday night, over a dinner with my older brother’s family, a topic of happiness came up. My wife, Marla, a fellow psychologist, was sharing about Csikszentmihalyi’s concept of “flow.” Marla explained that according to the research on flow, people are happiest when they are absorbed (engaged) in a task that is just challenging (effortful) enough for them to experience a sense of unfolding mastery and agency. I am paraphrasing here.
A few moments later my brother, Yuri, offered the following proposition: “The first and only, necessary and sufficient precondition for happiness is to stop associating happiness with pleasure. The two – happiness and pleasure – have nothing to do with each other.” Yuri’s wife, Natasha, looked at me across the table and asked: “What do you think?” And I said: “I think this is an intriguing point. Simple yet profound.”
This morning, with my cup of coffee, I rummaged through a stack of books on my bedside table and – at the bottom – found Bertrand Russell’s musings on happiness, a book I started reading but didn’t finish. In it, I find the following thought:
“The human animal, like others, is adapted to a certain amount of struggle for life, and when [...] his whims [are satisfied] without effort, the mere absence of effort from his life removes an essential ingredient of happiness.”
The conversation (last part of it playing out in my head and in this bit of writing) came full circle: people are happiest when they are in a state of flow (Csikszentmihalyi’s language)… which is the effortful absorption in a moment (I plucked the word “effort” here from Russell)… which has nothing to do with pleasure (my brother’s point).
Indeed, as Yuri insisted: happiness-as-pleasure is a myth; the association between happiness and pleasure is nothing but a semantic/linguistic habit; psychologically, the two – happiness and pleasure – are arguably as different as refrigerators and stiletto shoes; and letting go of this association between pleasure and happiness might, in fact, be a powerfully liberating first step in the pursuit of happiness. I’ll call it “Yuri’s Axiom.”
As I look back at that exchange – between Marla, Yuri, Natasha, Czikszentmihalyi …
[thoughts of pattern interruption; what's the point of pattern interruption? to arrest the mind, to take you off the autopilot]
I wait on myself, self-servingly.
But I don’t tip.
Bringing two black and white walls of duality into a corner
I stand boxed into a pseudo-truth.
Science will invert you inside out
and show you your nothing.
Hardy more than a lowly extremophile plankton,
I – a modern-day ape – waive goodbyes to all these evolutionarily ascending bottom-feeders of enlightenment,
while staying where I am at.
Plenty of contentment in any given “here” if you let go of expectations.
Life evaporates with each moment
And condenses not: no sediment of the past in this here-and-now.
feed emptiness to itself
Veteran lungs look at themselves exhausted.
Did I breathe all these oceans of air without knowing it?
Nonduality is self-help kitsch!
while it’s on sale.
Here’s your change:
Losing someone you love is awful.
Finding someone new to love is awe.
Cure for grief is new love.
Cultivate the capacity to lose and gain.
Life is attachment and detachment and attachment and detachment.
Add infinity to this equation and you get the infinitely regressing point of oneness of living and suffering.
We all (on autopilot) know our interfaces.
But do we know ourselves?
I leave it up to you to answer:
Love all that is.
Even stone is awareness.
Living consciousness awareness.
It (stone) is a slow kind of awareness, too slow for the quick, liquid mind that we – modern-day apes – are.
But all (you and all this other nameless stuff of the Universe) autopoietic entities know their metabolic boundaries, right?
Metabolism is where physics becomes chemistry becomes psychology…
Where all is one, where labels of difference fade into sameness,
and where one is All.
But, get this, autopoeitiec/metabolic boundaries aren’t really separateness.
They (the boundaries, the skin) are Connection (to All That Is) itself.
That which keeps us separate also keeps us unified.
Paradox only if you think in duality.
Otherwise, makes perfect sense.
I am just musing
(on the bewildering complexity of all that is)
I hope you are too.
(musing on the bewildering complexity of all that is).
“Love all that is, even stone.” is all I came here to say now.
I said it.
Time to interpret and/or internalize is never now:
Form is always phase-behind Essence.
Live with, not against.
The rest is repetition (of war and peace).
That’s right, just another another long-winded English-speaking Russian-thinking mind…
East and West meet again
Who is? Who is?
Mind is a living text.
Edited in progress.
Looking through a telescope (as some of us do some of the time), we might not know the exact outlines of our local cosmos but we can always and any time know the outlines of our Now.
Oneness is all the same anywhere.
Now & Here are but two words for the same nameless oneness – the spacetime of being.
That (probably) holds true at any coordinate of Reality (i.e. Universe).
Oneness is the best diplomacy.
Most of us look at this spacetime through an intra-scope, i.e. through meditation.
The inner is the outer.
Tat tvam asi.