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21 May 2010 @ 01:12 pm
Synergy in reading  
Right now, I'm working with four books:

The Untethered Soul by Michael A. Singer
The Mandala of Being by Richard Moss
Saved By a Poem by Kim Rosen
Luminous Mind by Joel and Michelle Levy

I didn't plan to work with these books together; I just happened to notice when I recently finished The Untethered Soul that many of the ideas that Singer discusses are also discussed in Moss's book.
For both authors, the key concept is the witnessing Self and our capacity to develop that part of the mind. Every moment of life offers the opportunity to engage more fully with that aspect of the mind that observes thoughts, feelings, and actions. The more we are able to observe, the more capable we become of making conscious decisions in everything we do, from the most mundane to the momentous. If I understand correctly, each author proposes the idea that so-called enlightenment (which is almost better to disregard as it follows naturally from learning to inhabit the witness) is an on-going decision. Now, Now, Now, Now and everything that entails -- broken heart - stay with it -- indescribable humiliation - stay with it -- loneliness such as you've never known - stay with it -- boredom such as you've never known - stay with it.  I'm naming unpleasant experiences, but I think I tend to run (in the sense of withdrawing my full presence) from intensely pleasurable experiences as well. Awareness is fragile, or at least that is what I tell myself.

Why stay with it? Because running from these moment to moment experiences results in fossilizing the energy they hold in different areas of the body which in turn leads to tension, distraction, discomfort, and ultimately to disease. The idea is to keep things flowing. Apparently, we are conditioned to cling/push away/cling/push away over and over, and that pattern of relating leads to sadness, fatigue, and distraction.

Saved by a Poem addresses, among other things, a useful approach to channeling the mind's energy through a discipline of language that involves working with poems. As a person who loves language, this approach suits my personality. I also believe that the practice of working with poems is something I can share with my students at the U, as a way of helping them to be taken in by English, to be held and accepted by it, to know it better.

Wherever you are is called Here
And you must treat it as a powerful stranger,
Must ask permission to know it and be known.

Language can be a place called Here.  A second, third, or umpteenth language can certainly be felt as a powerful stranger to the one who is learning to navigate in the world by listening to it and speaking it. We often hear that the goal of language learning is to  'master' the foreign language, but maybe it's more difficult to remember that we must also allow the language to master us. One cannot muscle his way into a foreign language. It rings true to me that one must indeed ask permission to know it and to be known by it. I have a solid grasp of French grammar, vocabulary, and phonology, but in the years that I have had a relationship with this language, I have failed miserably to recognize it as a stranger before whom I must ask permission to know it and be known by it. I can talk about this, but I have failed to experience it. I'd do better now, I think, but I'd probably feel foolish left and right, relinquishing that completely non-existent control that I have tried to exert over it all these years. As a teacher of English, I'd like to spare my students from entering into the same false relationship with English that I have maintained for years with French.

The Leveys' book, Luminous Mind, is just a treasure for anyone interested in learning more about the way they think. This relates, of course, to the witnessing self. The Leveys offer a neat compendium of approaches to meditation, reflection, focus, and concentration from a wide and international variety of wisdom traditions. The book is short on theory (though it provides enough to be interesting and coherent) and long on practical exercises for working with the mind. (For a nice overview of what the book offers, click on the link above and check out the Table of Contents).  I'm spot reading this book (diving here and there into interesting nuggets) along with Rosen's book, and turning over in my mind the relationships between Mandala and Soul. It's a good way to enter the summer.
 
 
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