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PRESS PAUSE AND GO FOR CLARITY

PRESS PAUSE AND GO FOR CLARITY

For more than 20 years now, I’ve beaten my head against the concept of wu-wei, an esoteric bit of a mind-boggle that underlies a lot of the Taoist way of walking.

What to say about wu-wei?  Even trying to describe it makes the people doing the explaining dizzy.

Here’s a You-Tube video featuring British philosopher Alan Watts talking about wu-wei.  It’s one of my favorites.

It was published by AMP3083 in 2017.  The original recording this is taken from is called “Ecological Awareness.”

The guys who run on logic and straightforward thought patterns just dismiss the whole thing as an airy-fairy bit of nonsense.  Martial artists love the stuff and get all mystical-magical about it.

The simplest description tells us that wu-wei is the way of “doing nothing and everything gets done.”

Huh?

(Yeah, I know.  Weird, right?)

FIGHT OR FLIGHT…AND THEN THERE’S FREEZE

After all these years, I’ve finally figured out something.

Mostly we know about the “Fight or Flight” body-reactions we get when something happens to us unexpectedly.

BOOM!  Something happens, and you either put up your fists and snarl, ready to duke it out, or else you run like hell, screaming your head off.

boom
“Boom!” by Thomas Hawk via Flickr [CC BY-NC 2.0]
You can get lots of information and opinions and so on about those Fight or Flight body-reactions. Lots of studies have been done on those reactions and we are the beneficiaries of them all.

There is a third body-reaction that isn’t talked about so much except by guys who are into studying anxiety:  Like deer in the headlights or bunny rabbits or prairie fowl shivering in the grass as a hawk cruises overhead, we freeze in total panic-attack mode at the threat of danger.

nothing-escapes-this-hawk
“Those eyes are so intense nothing escapes this hawk” by Steve Baker via Flickr [CC BY-ND 2.0]
All kinds of studies have been done by the guys in white lab coats about the Freeze as well, but they aren’t as widely known.

Wu-wei, I think, is a lot about that third body-reaction.  It’s part of an ancient theory about the patterns and movements of the flow of energy in the world and how that all works.

After mapping out these patterns and movements and using the I Ching as a repository for their knowledge, Taoist wise guys developed strategies and game plans about how people could work with these patterns of flow to create the world they wanted to live in.

The origins of the theories of wu-wei are lost in the mists of time.

And, it seems to me, the disciplines and practices that developed around it are all about how we can use the Freeze to help us survive whatever has scared us so badly that we cannot think or move or do anything except experience that panic.

We humans do naturally freeze.  The wise guys tell us we can use the Freeze once the panic dies down (and if we’re not dead or maimed severely) to suss out what the heck is going on so we can go do something about it.

Since the wise guys who studied the paradoxes involved in wu-wei and worked on developing the (still-evolving) disciplines were all way gone into the Mystic, they tended to go hog-wild with the poetry of it all and leave us regular folks sitting on the side of the road, confused as all get-out about it all.

(They can’t help that, those wise guys.  When stars get in your eyes, I think, you just naturally lose the ordinary language that regular people use or something like that.)

SO, HERE’S THE DEAL….

Humans are naturally hardwired to handle crisis.

Often we act too quickly as a way of avoiding the crisis or else we distract ourselves from it.  Either way we mostly get smashed.

what-would-dorothy-do
“What Would Dorothy Do?” by Rich via Flickr [CC BY-NC-ND 2.0]
The alternative, according to the wise guys, is to stop and do nothing until we achieve clarity.  Once the panic dies down, we can think clearly enough to figure out what to do next (if we haven’t gotten killed off by whatever caused us to freeze.)

Rabbi David Wolpe, author of MAKING LOSS MATTER:  Creating Meaning in Difficult Times, points out, “The gift in pausing is to allow the wave of shock to pass before you are forced to react to the world….The pause allows you to recover yourself enough to figure out the process of integrating whatever the result of the shock is in your life.

all-i-wanted-to-be
“All I wanted to be when I grew up was yours,” by Jessica Kennedy via Flickr [CC BY-NC-ND 2.0]
Humans love action.  We are probably addicted to it.

Mostly us humans think when we are doing something – even if it is random, unfocused and uninspired doing – we are being “productive.”

Often we are doing a lot, but nothing much gets done.  We run around like chickens without heads, bumping into things and flopping down futilely.  Not good.

detail-oriented-busywork
“we gals are detail oriented in our busywork” by bptakoma via Flickr [CC BY 2.0]
Soren Gordhamer who wrote WISDOM 2.0:  Ancient Secrets for the Creative and Constantly Connected, says, “Until we can be at peace with nothing happening, in a strange way nothing really can happen since our actions will be an avoidance of non-doing.

Um, yeah.  Even the smartypants guys get poetic around wu-wei.

In other words, rather than splashing around in giant, boggy mud puddles, stirring up the muck all around us, we just have to not-move and not-do, it says here.

We have to forego setting off even more silty muddiness and adding to all the gunk that’s swirling around in the chaotic confusion of it all.

We just have to stop and let the mud settle down so we can see what the heck is going on under our feet.

hana-red-mud-green-trees
“Hana red mud green trees” by Brandy Saturley via Flickr [CC BY-ND 2.0]
Once we can see that there is not some big old hole right in front of us that we are going to fall down into or some big beast waiting to chomp us, we can figure out where to put our feet and maybe get out of that stupid mud puddle.

What we are trying to do, really, is “create conditions that invite opportunities for nothing to occur.”

The problem is, as Gordhamer points out, “The more out of touch and uncomfortable we are with our inner life, the more difficult stopping becomes.

He resurrects that old 1970s hippie bumper sticker, “Don’t just do something, sit there.

By just sitting there — waiting, watching and listening to whatever urgent possible catastrophe is unfolding all around – you make room for not-doing and you stop yourself from just mindlessly doing, doing, doing and getting more and more tangled up.

Maybe you’ll find some fellow “soul-mates” to whom you can talk.

birds-a-tragedy
“Birds: A Tragedy” by Shannon Kokoska via Flickr [CC BY-NC-ND 2.0]
Memories of remarkable people who’ve wandered through your life, echoes of old lessons learned from them and all that other stuff in your mind can help you wait for the panic attack to subside.

By sitting still and not doing anything hasty, you also give yourself enough time to figure out the right responses and allow the best answers to show themselves.

Once you’ve got those answers in your grasp, then you can move to go do something that gives you the chance to get outa there!

And, mostly, whatever you do will work better than if you just dive in head-first without checking whether the swimming pool has water in it.

STOPPING 101

There are all kinds of ways to stop yourself from over- or under-reacting to the assorted situations that come up in your life unexpectedly.

Here’s one that was developed by Elisha Goldstein, a licensed psychologist who has written a number of books and who teaches clinically proven mindfulness-based programs on his own and through InsightLA.

Goldstein introduced it in his book, THE NOW EFFECT:  How A Mindful Moment Can Change the Rest of Your Life.

stop-sign
“Stop Sign” by thecrazyfilmgirl via Flickr [CC BY 2.0]
  • S = Stop what you are doing.

  • T = Take a breath. Make it slow and purposeful.

  • O = Observe what is happening around you and acknowledge how you feel right now.

  • P = Proceed after asking yourself, “What’s the most important thing right now that I need to pay attention to?”

Once you’ve answered that P question, you’ll at least have a direction you can go.

FINAL THOUGHTS

Goldstein’s S.T.O.P. strategy is a lot like what the wise guys tell you to do.  The wise guys have more poetic verbiage and way more interesting practices to try, but basically it’s the same stuff.

Here’s what I tell myself to do about it all so that it kind of makes sense for me:

What you have to do is gather in all the nebulous clouds of panicky thoughts about the possibly catastrophic future as well as the feelings you’ve generated about what has happened in the past – both about the most recent incident and about similar incidents that you’ve already worked your way through (or not).

You can reel in all the thoughts and feelings back into yourself and put yourself back into your own body in this present moment right now.

You can then give yourself a state-of-the-body report:

“Okay.  So this happened and this is how my body is feeling right now.  My neck is stiff.  I’ve got a dull pain in my lower back.  My stomach’s upset and I feel like throwing up.  Fine.”

“Okay.  These are my emotions:  I am feeling sad/mad/bad/scared…or whatever.  Fine.”

“Am I dead?  No.  Am I maimed?  No.  Fine.”

(You do this to make yourself solid again and concentrate the you-ness of you back into your body.)

Then you can give yourself a state-of-your-immediate-world report:

“Are the bad guys at the door right this minute?  No.  Has the someday-maybe catastrophe actually happened?  No.  Fine.”

“Are most of the good things in my life still there?  Yes.  Will the sun come up tomorrow?  Yes, probably.  Fine.”

After that, you can start to look at the situation at hand and begin to assess what you can do as damage control or how you can move towards resolving whatever the difficulty is.

You have made yourself ready to go into deep-thinking and maybe if you play around in there for a while you will be able to come to some insights about what your next move will be.

From there you might decide to fight or run or just get on with your day, ignoring the glitch that will probably self-correct without help from you.

And that’s it.

way-of-peace-and-solitude
“Way of Peace and Solitude” by Hartwig HKD via Flickr [CC BY-ND 2.0]
Here’s a poem:


PANIC ATTACK

Okay…here I am again,

Trying to suss out why

This latest scheme of mine

Just sits there like a lump

No matter HOW much energy

I am putting into it.

 

It feels like there’s quicksand

All around me,

Waiting to suck me down, down, down…

Glub, glub, glub.

ARGH!

 

I’m supposed to let go now.

I’m supposed to stop struggling.

I’m supposed to just stop.

Okay.

I can do that.

Sure I can.

 

So, why doesn’t THAT feel like

A really good thing to do?

Here I am on this stupid tuft

of supposedly solid ground.

There’s mist blowing all around.

I cannot see ANYTHING!

 

I could use a rescue here, guys.

Is anybody out there?

EEEP! 

Are those EYES staring at me,

All red and glowing?

Oh, wow!  Oh, gee!  Oh, my!  Oh, me!

 

Ummm….

Wait a minute.

 

I just remembered something.

I am a Dragon.

Dragons have wings.

 

What am I doing standing here

Having a panic attack?

 

Get ON with it, Dumbo!

You can FLY, remember?

created by Netta Kanoho

Header Photo Credit: “portal” by Alice Popkorn via Flickr [CC BY-NC-ND 2.0]

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RESIGNING AS GM

RESIGNING AS GM

One day I stood up bravely and told a bunch of my friends that I was resigning as General Manager of the Universe.  They laughed so hard they were crying.  (Sigh!)

Nobody believed me.  I didn’t believe me.

CONTROL-FREAKING

My way through the world seems to attract a lot of control freaks of one sort or another, as well as people who seem to want  to be told what to do, so it seems that maybe there are lessons there that are mine after all.

Maybe it’s ’cause I do have “issues” about Authority-with-a-capital-A.

It seems to me that the need for control arises out of the fear that what you want is never going to happen unless you, personally, ride herd on the thing and keep it going towards your own personal vision.

It turns your whole road into a battleground, full of other people stepping on your toes, getting in the way and not doing what they’re supposed to.   And you go into battle mode because your fears keep telling you yours ain’t gonna happen.

You waste a whole lot of energy on that one, expending it on trying to get all these people out of your way!

The other part of that, of course, is that all the other guys are also trying to get to their desires and trying to do their vision, and you are in their way.  It makes this big, old roiling ball of crisscrossing strings that is an incredible tangle.

ALEXANDER THE GREAT’S SOLUTION

I suppose you could do Alexander’s Gordian Knot move where you whack the thing with a big old sword and bully your way on through.

The problem with that solution is you leave behind broken strings all over the ground and those strings are, every one of them, aka threads — the connections between everything in the Universe with everything else in the Universe.

They lie there writhing like a whole bunch of dying worms.  Not a pretty picture.

alexander-the-great-mosaic
Battle of Issus Mosaic (from Pompeii) [PD-old-100]
Alexander, called The Great, left a mountain of skulls wherever he went.  He died early, having attained his vision, and failing to come up with some other one to take its place.

He brought great changes to his world and people learned new ways of walking as a result, and the world kept on going, growing, developing.

CATALYTIC CONVERSIONS

Alexander was also a catalyst that shook things up good, and maybe that was the gift he carried into the World.  The aka threads that Alexander cut reconnected, grew together in other ways and kept on keeping on.

Alexander, of course, was still dead but he got written up in all kinds of history books and like that and his life story gets inflicted on every wannabe billionaire who lives today.

I’m still working on it.  So’s the rest of the world…..

Here’s a YouTube video featuring the thoughts of philosopher Alan Watts, “Let Go Of Controlling Everything.”  It was published by HDvids101.

And here’s a poem:


TITA RISING

He says he’s ready to quit:

He’s tired of the b.s. heaped on his head,

Tired of your issues and your wah-wah-wahs,

Tired of chaos and confusion.

 

He wants off this job that drags on and on,

An interminable rondel that goes ’round and ’round,

Apparently without end.

 

He’s tried, he says, tried and tried,

But it feels like he’s herding lemmings,

Trying to keep the little guys

From throwing themselves off some high plateau

Onto the rocks edging the shining sea below.

 

Every time he gets one cluster of lemmings headed right,

The other guys make a break for it…

Aiming for that seductive edge of nihilistic angst.

 

Oh, yeah.

It’s come to a head all right…

(Or some more earthy organ that’s

unmentionable in polite company.)

So, he comes to me…

‘Cause I’m Da Boss, right?

I am in charge – Big Mama to the forefront…

Little “g,” in control…uh-huh.

 

The job’s three-quarters done and he’s feeling done-in.

And me…I’m standing here flat-footed,

Looking at this thing that’s becoming

A cut-rate model for some stupid government contract –

Complete with asinine road blocks,

Replete with meaningless detour signs and side-trips into the absurd.

 

I am NOT dancin’ now.

I am standing here scratching my head.

I’ve gotta wonder:

Do I LOOK like a branch of Head-Trip International?

Am I the Bureau of Eat-Shit or something?

WHAT?!?

This is NOT the How!

 

Me, all I want is Done.

And it is on you, my braddah…

I backed you, and it looks like you are playin’ games!

You do not have my back

And that wind blowin’ up it is getting COLD.

 

So I’m just sayin’…and I’m saying this LOUD:

WHASSUP?

Tita is risin’…and it ain’t lookin’ good!

by Netta Kanoho

Header Picture Credit:  Defying the Gordian Knot by GollyGForce – Living My Worst Nightmare via Flickr [CC BY-2.0]

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IN THE DARK TIMES – Another IPS (Inner Peace Symptom)

IN THE DARK TIMES – Another IPS (Inner Peace Symptom)

Another IPS (Inner Peace Symptom):  an understanding that you are born with the courage to live.  [Otherwise you’d never have gotten here.  You’d just be the loser sperm that didn’t make it in the championship race to the egg….]

It’s a hard lesson to learn,  that going through personal darkness is part of the process of developing a stronger light within yourself.  All the wise guys say it’s true.  They say it’s a necessary thing.

Dissolution — the dying of everything Ego thinks it is, it wants, it needs — is the prelude to realizing that, for real, what you are is just what you are, and understanding that it is enough.  Right.  Got it.

Here’s a YouTube video, “Nothing is the Ultimate Reality — Alan Watts” published by TJOP (The Journal of Purpose).  It lays down the reasoning behind the need to get to (and through) dissolution.

Alan Watts, whose thoughts are presented in this video, was a British philosopher, writer and lecturer who interpreted and popularized Eastern philosophy in the Western world.  The bulk of his work happened after he joined the faculty of the American Academy of Asian Studies in California in 1950.

Watts’ first book, THE WAY OF ZEN, was published in 1957.  It was one of the first best-selling books about an ancient way of thought.  He went on to write more than 25 books and numerous articles exploring Eastern philosophy.   After his death in 1973 his son Mark kept the legacy alive.  Many of the philosopher’s  recorded talks and lectures are available on the Internet.

SO, IT STARTS WITH DISSOLUTION

When the wise guys talk about it, the process of dissolving Ego sometimes sounds like wiping off the thick grimy dust that’s accumulated on a lightbulb that hasn’t been wiped down in a long, long time.   (Pfui!  You can hear those wiseacres sniggering and snorting as you work that elbow, getting all the stuck-on gunk off that stupid bulb.)

They do warn you that this kind of dying is not an easy thing.  That old lightbulb’s encrusted, man.

What they don’t tell you is that very likely, while you’re doing all this stuff, you’re not even all that sure that somebody remembered to turn on the electricity.  Maybe you’ll get the dust off and then find out the bulb’s gone bad.  (SHEESH!)

ONE BIG OUCH….

It HURTS when you lose all the illusions and delusions, the protections and mind-constructs you’ve built up so carefully for so long.  It really hurts when you have to let go of the security blanket that defined the you as presented to the world-as-you-know-it by Ego.  The Valley of Shadows strips away all that stuff.  The process is ruthless and if you’re particularly delusional, well…it rips you apart.

And you know what?  You whine and winge an awful lot about really picayune things that make you cringe when you actually listen to yourself.

If you’re actually serious about doing this kind of peeling off the Ego-stuff (rather than embracing it and embedding yourself deeper into the thing) you get to worrying that maybe you’re so riddled with wormholes and rotten spots that you’re going to end up looking like Swiss cheese at the end of the process.

KEEPING ON THAT KEEPING ON

So anyhow, there you are diligently cultivating your “Higher Self” or whatever.  You tell yourself that all you have to do is just keep on moving forward relentlessly until you get all the way through the thing.

You can use all the tools and techniques devised by all the wise guys through all the ages.  You can do all the prescribed meditations and affirmations until they come out of your ears.  You can sing the chants and songs and do the rituals, assume the postures and don the proper attitudes, do whatever you like or need to do to keep on taking one more step and then one more step and then one more step, on and on and on.

But the deal is, you have to keep taking that one more step in the direction you want to go.  They say it’s the only way to get to a life that has meaning and mana for you.

As Brene Brown tells us in her book, RISING STRONG:  The Reckoning, the Rumble, the Revolution, “The truth is that falling hurts.  The dare is to keep being brave and feeling your way back up.”

feet-walking
Feet Walking by shinazy shinazy via Flickr [CC BY 2.0]

FINAL THOUGHTS

I guess that what you really need to get through the dark parts is what the English call “bottom” — courage and balance, sheer stubborn and absolute faith that you ARE going to get there, despite all the “no” and “not and “not even.”  All you have to do is keep taking one step.  That’s all.  Just one more step.

This YouTube clip, “Brave” is a spoken word poem written and performed by Kristal Serrano.

And here’s another poem:


BLESSINGS

Hanging ten on the edge of dissolution,

Staring into the maw of the Creative Dark, pō panopano.

Sitting here almost brain-dead and drained,

I got to thinking how the other people in my life

Have shaped me, helped me shape my world.

 

It is a good thought,

Makes me want to throw my fist up in the air,

A warrior’s salute and celebration.

Makes me want to dance on the edge again.

Gives me heart.

 

I bless them all, those people….

 

I bless the loving people in my life

The ones who helped smooth my way,

The warm and generous ones,

The ones who were kind.

 

I bless the strong people in my life,

The ones who kept their promises,

The ones who let me lean on their strength,

The self-sufficient ones, the peaceable ones.

 

I bless the good people in my life,

Most wondrous of all the gifts

From this old Universe.

On the edge of the void,

They make me smile.

By Netta Kanoho

Picture credit:  The Nuclear Lightbulb by Sjoerd Los via Flickr [CC BY-NC-ND 2.0]

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