Sometimes, I like to draw without a plan of what I’ll be drawing, without any master plan. For me, it’s a more non-linear form of spontaneous writing, which is all about taking pen to page (yes, pen, not keyboard!) and writing for 10 to 15 minutes straight with no topic in mind, and without pausing to think. It’s amazing to see what can be revealed as we cut through the rational mind and cut to those deeper places.
I did run this drawing through a program to make it fuzzier (and bluer), but this is the essence of what I came up with. I started it just before the new year, and finished it today. Interpretations welcome!
Plain and simple: our thoughts are never entirely new.
Imagine if every time you had a thought, a little fact-checking creature inside of you rang a gong and shouted, “Unoriginal thought! The thought you just experienced already occurred at place X, by person Y, in the year Z.”
To be constantly reminded that there is nothing original issuing from this mind I bounded into the world with would be terrifying in a Matrix-y, déjà vu, time-warpy, Stepford Wives-ish kind of way— if that makes sense, which it probably doesn’t.
Buddhist teachings, and eventually common sense, tell us this is more or less the case; minus the little creature inside incessantly yammering away with that clanging gong.
Not just in that annoying way when we think of the perfect title for our book or blog until Google tells us it already exists. Or even in that horrifying way when we mount an entire project, like a thesis, on a series of premises that not only exists somewhere on dusty pages throughout the globe, but that have been thoroughly refuted by a gang of experts.
Every time we have that thought it is not only dependent on a whole variety of external factors, but is also hot off the presses of an assembly line made up of our past thoughts, feelings and experiences.
It took me awhile to wrap my head around this. I’d like to think I have the slightest potential to be a free-thinking being, that I can burst forth and issue shiny original thoughts from a pure place where magical brilliance resides.
We are free, though; or at least we have the potential to be, if we can let go of our attachment to the very need to be original, and to our perceived sanctity of self and ego that go along with the territory–if we can accept that who we are is always being shaped out of that huge cosmos of our past selves.
I will always be influenced by the society I live in, for example, and how I was raised. I have the power, however, of critical thinking, and can observe and test the limits of my thoughts and the thoughts of others, and there is a freedom in that.
On a deeper level, though, we need to be okay with not being independent islands of thought.
If we want to connect with others, we need to really recognize how connected we already are to everything and everyone else. We also cannot escape the pervasive need to “know thyself”, which sages have been reminding us of all along. To this end, we can try to absorb:
- We are our own worst enemies.
- We are the masters of our own lives and future selves.
- How are we our own worst enemies?
Well, no one can cage us in more subversively than ourselves. It’s a lot easier to spot the manipulations and deceits of others, for example, than of our own deep mind. If someone tells me candy is health food and fruit is poison, I’ll dismiss this information out of hand (despite my fervent wish that Reese’s Pieces were a food group).
When I believe with all my heart that strawberries are heinous intrusions into our universe—and this feels totally true to me, can I refute myself with facts when my whole being shudders in revulsion when I lay my eyes on them?
What if it turns out that when I was little, I saw a TV news show talking about carcinogens and death and disease to images of strawberry fields, and this association of strawberries and death became infused into the fabric of my being for a very long time?
True story. Thankfully, I’m over it now.
This might be an obvious example, but on very subtle levels, everything we do in this world is governed by prior happenings, which generated feelings and emotional responses that have ultimately created our very own, personalized realities.
Unraveling how and why we think the way we do can help free us from negative habit patterns and open us to all kinds of new adventures. A fringe benefit is we learn to dissociate from our own egos by realizing how dependent we are on all things and beings for the how and why of our existence.
We can learn there are perspectives we’ve never considered before, which have a beautiful place in this world. We can learn to be more compassionate, tolerant and accepting, because we’ve been humbled into realizing our thoughts are not Truth.
From Truth—essence, universe, a place of ultimate freedom—we arise, sometimes fledgling and sometimes breaking a little, and it’s up to us to do the work of unpeeling the onion of beliefs we have packed onto our lives over the years.
Heading into the New Year, what better time to begin this kind of excavation?
I like to think of it as observing and befriending our thoughts so that their origins aren’t mysterious anymore, and cannot hold power over us. This may be a lifetime’s work, but we can begin to examine and say goodbye to what no longer serves us, because we now see our thoughts, and the older thoughts they come from, are not us.
We might be lugging around the sum of all we have been, but we also have an amazing gift: the power to self-contemplate, and to create spaces for change and transformation.
Ever inquisitive, go off in search of more hidden beliefs and perceptions possibly hindering our growth, and open up even one tiny crack leading to a new way of being.
May our thoughts, original or not, be ones that free us, which pour compassion into the world and serve others to the benefit of all.
- This was originally published on The Tattooed Buddha.
We’re 15 years into the millennium!
Wondrous. Wonder. Awe. Reminders of LIFE.
I rarely leave the house without my camera, even if I’m in a cranky mood, or just walking to the supermarket or taking stuff out for recycling (a fairly complicated process in Japan that requires a fair bit of walking – well worth it!)
You never know how the sky is going to turn, or whom will be suddenly be doing what, or how the sun might lighting a flower to look like a fairytale, or what visual feast might appear before you.
Life is full of momentous occasions, the kind you expect and prepare for, and also the kind you can’t possibly anticipate — and we’re doing ourselves a great service when we can make a point of being present for every last second of it.
This doesn’t mean having a camera strapped to us at all times, of course. Image-making just happens to be one form of expression that gives me a great deal of joy. I’m always infinitely happier, it should be said, when I manage to carve some time to sit and observe my breath, when the only universe I have access to exists behind closed eyes. There’s nothing “only” about this, in my modest experience!
But most of life is lived with open eyes, and this is no small opportunity to have them open with full attention to the moment at hand, so we can see that behind/underneath our desires for how the world should look/be/appear/treat us, there is a humming, thriving, perfect world just as it is.
And just as we are.
It exists whether we have the thickest cloud or happiest rainbow filtering our view on any given day, and it’s our privilege to be able to find it.
I took the photo above on a crisp, sunny winter day. I walked by, at first absorbed in one interior drama or another, and something about the scene caught my eye. I turned and saw this man sitting on a bench at the park closest to where I live. From my view, he was caught in the “frame” of this ancient, strange play structure, and instinctively, before I reached for my camera, I took a few steps backward to frame the man in the center ring.
I couldn’t help but think: how happy we would remain if we seized every opportunity to make any of the infinite, small adjustments that are fully in our power to make, to manifest moments of always-beautiful and always-changing perfection. It could be as simple as remembering to take a long, deep breath; or opening our eyes just a little wider with a heart that is just a little more expansive; or expressing gratitude for the air that gives us life, and the people who give us the great honour of practicing love.
Happy New Year, dear everyone, and may 2015 bring you a world full of joy and passion, peace and magic.
We’re living in a quote-heavy culture, where memes have at times replaced long, meaningful reads and the kind of delicious, deeply memorable conversations that cocoon us in a shared space of meaning and connection.
But it’s also true that we can find genuine slices of greatness in quotes or fragments of the writing and thought processes of others. These can puncture like an arrow and illuminate ideas in a powerfully stark way.
Before the Internet, before computers were widespread, I remember starting a quote-diary, filled with lines I’d pull from books and song lyrics. It was a prized possession that made me feel comforted and in communion with the world, like I had a secret key to an expansive universe that I could use and build on any time.
Many great minds have found incredibly potent ways of reaching the hearts and souls of the world with the brevity of a few words and we are lucky to be able to glean from their experiences.
Even better, these words can serve as guideposts. They have the potential to act as an introduction, so that we know where to go when we have time for longer stretches of reading.
In any case, no matter how we go about it, there is a lot of value in respecting the people, thoughts, ideas and heart-words of those who have come before us (or live right alongside us), in the name of honouring tradition as we carve our own path for change and growth.
May we all be pointed in the direction of creativity and inspiration, peace and goodwill as 2014 draws to a close and may the wisdom below be of benefit!
“The end is beginning of all things,
Suppressed and hidden,
Awaiting to be released through the rhythm
Of pain and pleasure.” ~ Jiddu Krishnamurti
“When a country is defeated, there remain only mountains and rivers, and on a ruined castle in spring only grasses thrive. I sat down on my hat and wept bitterly till I almost forgot time.
A thicket of summer grass
Is all that remains
Of the dreams and ambitions
Of ancient warriors.” ~ Matsuo Basho
“My day is done, and I am like a boat drawn on the beach, listening to the dance-music of the tide in the evening.” ~ Rabindranath Tagore
“And in fact the only way I can deal with this eerie situation at all is to make a conscious decision that I have already lived and finished the life I planned to live—and everything from now on will be A New Life, a different thing, a gig that ends tonight and starts tomorrow morning.” ~ Hunter S. Thompson
“Some stories don’t have a clear beginning, middle and end. Life is about not knowing, having to change, taking the moment and making the best of it, without knowing what’s going to happen next. Delicious ambiguity.” ~ Gilda Radner
“Every day, think as you wake up, today I am fortunate to be alive, I have a precious human life, I am not going to waste it. I am going to use all my energies to develop myself, to expand my heart out to others; to achieve enlightenment for the benefit of all beings. I am going to have kind thoughts towards others, I am not going to get angry or think badly about others. I am going to benefit others as much as I can.”
~ His Holiness the Dalai Lama
Parable, by Osho
The Chinese Mystic’s Last Surprise
Laughter is eternal, life is eternal, celebration continues. Actors change but the drama continues. Waves change but the ocean continues. You laugh, you change—and somebody else laughs—but laughter continues. You celebrate, somebody else celebrates, but celebration continues.
Existence is continuous, it is a continuum. There is not a single moment’s gap in it. No death is death, because every death opens a new door—it is a beginning. There is no end to life, there is always a new beginning, a resurrection.
If you change your sadness to celebration, then you will also be capable of changing your death into resurrection. So learn the art while there is still time.
I have heard about three Chinese mystics. Nobody knows their names now, and nobody ever knew their names. They were known only as the “Three Laughing Saints” because they never did anything else; they simply laughed.
These three people were really beautiful–laughing, and their bellies shaking. And then it would become an infection and others would start laughing. The whole marketplace would laugh. When just a few moments before, it was an ugly place where people were thinking only of money, suddenly these three mad people came and changed the quality of the whole marketplace. Now they had forgotten that they had come to purchase and sell. Nobody bothered about greed. For a few seconds a new world opened.
They moved all over China, from place to place, from village to village, just helping people to laugh. Sad people, angry people, greedy people, jealous people–they all started laughing with them. And many felt the key–you can be transformed.
Then, in one village it happened that one of the three died. Village people gathered and they said, “Now there will be trouble. Now we have to see how they laugh. Their friend has died; they must weep.”
But when they came, the two were dancing, laughing and celebrating the death. The village people said, “Now this is too much. When a man is dead it is profane to laugh and dance.”
They said, “The whole life we laughed with him. How can we give him the last send-off with anything else?—we have to laugh, we have to enjoy, we have to celebrate. This is the only farewell that is possible for a man who has laughed his whole life. We don’t see that he is dead. How can laughter die, how can life die?”
Then the body was to be burned, and the village people said, “We will give him a bath as the ritual prescribes.” But those two friends said, “No, our friend has said, ‘Don’t perform any ritual and don’t change my clothes and don’t give me a bath. You just put me as I am on the burning pyre.’ So we have to follow his instructions.”
And then, suddenly, there was a great happening. When the body was put on the fire, that old man had played the last trick. He had hidden many fireworks under his clothes, and suddenly there was a festival! Then the whole village started laughing. These two mad friends were dancing, then the whole village started dancing.
It was not a death, it was a new life.