wetlands photo 3

Its about meditation, love and family… and waterfowl.
A usual spot I visit on walks with cheap camera has become a place to practice observation – some field work for a class I am taking. Home work for my Permaculture Design class demands that I work on passive observation. observation is a passive form of interaction and a type of experience.

This class encourage, in part, sitting an ecosystem (ie. a neighborhood, park, farm, pond) and letting go of presumptions and subvocalization (my word choice for thinking in spoken language) and sensing the close proximity world. If that sounds like meditation, yes its close. Zen, Phenomenology, and the permacultural observational practices of meld well. I will talk more of in upcoming posts.

One thing I have pleasantly seen around the local ponds and man made reservoirs these last couple of months is a growing number of Herons and a new season of young Canadian Geese.
So a couple pictures from yesterdays walk and sit with my camera:

Clicking the mosaic image above will reveal the slideshow.
Have a great weekend!

My Zen and Empiricism

Zen, originally Ch’an , is a practice within the frame work of Buddhism and ancient Chinese-Asian philosophies. Zen practice includes meditation, experiential learning and academically deconstructing language (if it is assumed that language is a vehicle of truth). Thus with Zen, the importance of doctrine and texts falls below the former in priority.

The Buddhist presence in Zen is found Zen’s strategy objectives:

  • to let go bad ideas and attachments;
  • to be with the true nature of things; events; happenings… or “Buddha-Nature” ;
  • to end or reduce angst and suffering.

Inferred from ancient Asian influences, of early Taoist philosophy: the best way for one to experience the nature of things, is to focus on the present moment at hand.– the here and now.

Kill the Buddha

Embrace nothing:
If you meet the Buddha, kill the Buddha.
If you meet your father, kill your father.
Only live your life as it is,
Not bound to anything

-attribute to Gautama Buddha.

The allegory’s rhetorical purpose is to encourage one not to rely on the teachings of others. If one conceptualizes “the Buddha” or Dharma in the teachings of one text, one teacher or one master, then one should destroy that picture. One practices to become , or to find his or her own “Buddha”. More accurately, One strives to be with his or her own true nature, or “Buddha-nature” with meditation and experience. Experience includes interpersonal activity (that may include listening or working with others), Zen as is largely a personal study and practice, first.

Depreciating dogma and grand teachings, Zen, or at least my Zen, takes on an agnostic nature.
Outside the social order of Buddhism as religion, many Zen Buddhist or Zennist practice a personal Zen that is often combined with other studies.

My Zen practice is secular in nature. my Zen is combined with Natural Science and Humanistic Psychology

Zen, Rogers and the Rest..

Humanistic psychologist and philanthropist Carl Rogers often cited early Taoism (*), the Ancient Chinese philosophy that influenced Ch’an. Fritz Perls co-founder of Gestalt Therapy studied Zen in Japan (although not entirely impressed with zen (*)) as much as he conversed in European coffee houses. . Writer/lecturer Allan Watts, shared his ideas from Zen Buddhism, Ancient Taoism and psychology, as they applied to contemporary living. Twentieth Century writers in the studies of both Eastern and Western philosophies and psychology drew from Zen Buddhism, Taoism, the works of Danish thinker Kierkegaard amongst others.

The experiential nature of Zen is an easy synthesis with the methods of Humanistic Psychology, where both clients and enthusiasts are encouraged to understand how they experience their environment. Zen and H.P agree on the concept of organism and field connectivity… I would say both are the study of being. To use big words of academic philosophy Zen practice and Humanistic Psychologies use methods of Ontological Empiricism or “phenomenology“. All this really means is that when one is practising or applying these awkwardly termed approaches , one seeks to understand his own nature, in real time as it happens. Zen is personal in method.

Zen and Scientific Investigations

Empirical-world.jpgI believe that as studies, Natural Science, in particular Physics, and Zen have similar aims. Both theorize that the way the universe happens has a structure… a constant and common underlying nature to everything and nothing. Natural Law, Tao, or Buddha Nature pick your words, Nature is illusive. Both Science and Zen aim to investigate the nature of the happening universe by Empirical means. Science uses rigorous testing while all the time remaining as objective as possible, zen is a more personal introspection. Humanistic psychology with its “phenomenological approach” also uses personal investigations, all the while “bracketing” or reducing bias and judgement that obscure ones own interpretation of Reality .’

A Not So Perfect Synthesis

The true nature of things, even with bracketed personal experience, meditation and scientific evidence can be incredibly hard to pin at times. Even with all the evidence of this constancy it still requires a bit of Kierkegaardian Leap of Faith. What this means, for me is, I don’t treat all circumstances and all people the same. If this sounds contradictory, hear me out:
Its impossible to use a single strategy or approach for every circumstance, every interpersonal gestalt…. I suspect: too many variables and people are too different. So I am, at times, a pluralist, in the William James vein when I am problem-solving. For Example, Conversing between peers in mental health management We often say “What works for one person may not work for the next:. Its the best I can do. I’ll save my pragmatic and localized problem-solving approach for another post,

What happens, Now

So I usually describe myself accurately as an “agnostic”, for those who find labels important and for those who ask, but that never seems satisfying. Being Agnostic? that really applies to the limitation of knowledge, a knowledge that fundamentally rested upon what humans can experience. (We can’t even be sure if anything known can be described outside the bracket of human experience -IMO)

Tongue Firmly in cheek… I will now introduce l myself as an “Empiricist” when prompted.
and we’ll see what happens. :)

Symphony of Rain

So busy doing other things, some times I forget the beauty of the rain. Its not until I “sit” do I remember. I already was sitting — on the front porch playing chess against my android device on an otherwise “dark and stormy night”. Tired of that I just “sat” in the Zen definition:
Sitting, on the same porch on bench: posture square, straight… confident through the shoulders but relaxed; Legs straight with feet flat on the ground. I should point out that I was covered in bug repellent, so I felt safe from the army of mosquitoes of the damp night.

Soon the sound of the rain filled my awareness. The sound of droplets against asphalt roof and asphalt road with the grass, bushes and flower beds in between: quite a symphony.
Then I could fill the touch of the cool damp breeze. My thoughts meandered to other arbitrary ideas. When I caught myself thinking.. (I almost just wrote “When I caught my mind thinking” ) When i caught myself thinking about stuff: I let go of the subvocalizing process… I became aware of my breathing and posturing. And then the symphony of the rain, again

There is always a point, while meditating, where I want to get up and do something else. As if to say, “Well i am done. Yep I’m satisfied with the moment. Lets go do something else. Lets go be somewhere else. Lets go dancing!
I always have to catch myself, as if to say “hey! where do you got to be? Sit your ass back down and enjoy the moment.
The tricks that I play on myself (I almost wrote “the tricks that my mind plays upon me”) while meditating. Meditating is seldom peaceful for me. Neither is writing apparently, since I keep treating ‘my mind” as if where separate from the rest of me.

The bug repellent wore off, leaving me the anxiety of being eating alive by mosquito who have been seeking refuge from the night by porch lights. I love the rain, but I don’t like mosquito bites.

So I went inside and wrote about it.

Compassion

Compassion is the understanding of others, with the cultivated awareness of suffering.    Perhaps  more  accurately,    Compassion is empathy with the awareness of suffering.

The western concept of “empathy“, popular in the writings of twentieth century humanists, philosophers and psychologist has its own active verb tense. “to empathize” or “empathizing“. compassion does not have a verb tense in English… perhaps ” to sympathize“… but I will stick with Compassion, here.

To empathize is to imagine another’s experience,  compare that experience with his/hers and to be affected.   One empathizes with another person(s), organism(s) and their circumstance. It should be noted, that from a stand point of certain schools of thought,as in Zen Buddhism, Humanistic Psychology and existential- phenomenology, an organism is always considered with his circumstances. One is always interacting, affecting and being affected by his environment . This is “experience”, the participation of an organism in its world. “Phenomenology” is big ugly word for the study of experience(s), from subjective lenses.    “Empathizing”, is being affected by and imagining another(s) experience(s).

Another overlapping concept is “perspective-taking“. “Perspective taking” is imagining another’s experience and world-view.   Perspective-taking is objective and rational in method; and deliberate in avoiding any emotional affect and judgments.    To take another’s point-of-view and study while holding back any personal bias and presumption would be perspective taking. (see also Husserl’s bracketing or epoche`)
Is it at all possible to remove all bias?    Some psychologists argue that perspective taking is a primitive form of empathizing .

Alfie Cohen, Author of “Brighter Side of Human Nature“…… poses another  phenomenological approach to empathy that he calls “feeling-into“. To “feel-into” another’s circumstance, personal happenings, gestalt or being-in-this-world. Feeling-into is an full cognitive investigation of another’s subjective experience.

Back to Compassion

I do believe that there are people who can empathize or feel-into another’s situation without compassion.
A study of the psychopathology of some dangerous criminals might support my claim.   For example: there are a few who feel powerful or aroused when they imagine themselves as the victims of their violent attacks. in this case there is empathy and perspective taking, for pathological pleasure, but no compassion.

To act with compassion is to act and empathize, while recognizing and considering suffering. To act with compassion is to act and be affected by the suffering of others.

Understanding suffering is at the core of any study, religion, or way-of-being that is called Buddhism.  Thus compassion is a much talked about subject-matter . Understanding the nature of suffering is fundamental to Buddhist practice.
Note below a translation of the four Noble Truths of Buddhism

Four Nobel Truths of Buddhism .

  • Suffering Exists in Life
  • The Source of Suffering is attachment
  • The Emancipation of Suffering is attainable
  • The Path or the “Eightfold Path” (wisdom, conduct, development)

 
In Christianity, (at least from my non-religious outsider’s stand appointment), A great deal of importance is placed on the suffering of Jesus at the end of his days. In interpretations,   God seeks to empathize with man in the Life and times of Jesus. Followers seek to understand God in part by empathizing with the life and Crucifixion of Jesus. The very important Christian theme of Redemption is tied to suffering and compassion just as it is the teachings of Jesus, in the “Sermon on the Mount“.

Compassion is care for others. What can, at times, be overshadowed is the care for ones own well-being.   IMHO: It is important to act in the same compassionate manner for his or herself, as he does for others.   Just as important as anything written here:    The care and wellbeing of one’s self and others includes happiness, pleasure, curiosity and a spectrum of experiences…. not just suffering.

Compassion maybe a cornerstone of ethics along with self- esteem and reciprocity. If we truly love and esteem ourselves (that is, our being) ;    If we treat each other in the manner we wish to be treated, then we may presume that no one likes pain and suffering.   We’d care for ourselves and others, and act accordingly— rich in understanding perspectives beyond our own.
It would be unethical to deliberatively harm another (or one’s own being) that we have compassion and care for.

New Years Day. Death, Living and Changing

It is the new year: The beginning of a new calendar cycle – a graduated period of time that measures Change. I am experiencing a great amount of change recently. The most meaningful event of the previous year was the death of the man who was both my best friend and Father. The most noticeable change upcoming is supporting my mother as she gains (at huge cost) more independence and responsibility.

Death

Death, it seems final. It is, after all, the end of a life.  Life, a graduated period of living. However each life is an integral part of larger impermanent event. Yet, I am not transcendental in my attitude. I’m instead I remain empirical  and existential in attitude. Death, living and changing are existential themes.

  • What-exists is integral part of All,
  • What-exists has it’s own nature —All while changing . Willfully or with beat of the Cosmos.

What exists as a person, may cease existing as a person – We often say is ” the end of a life” or a Death. What existed as a person may be soon exist as a tree, be the Earth below it,   dew forming on its leaves,   the atmosphere around it.

A figure of an ever-changing work of art… eventually  fades into the ground.   A wave disperses to back to the tumultuous sea.
Figure and ground.   wave and sea.   ones-own-nature and Nature.     being and not-being.   –phenomenologically speaking .

Living

As I postulated: one’s existence is part of All. The willful part of existing, seem to be “ doing”.

Doing something is expressing our own nature. We do not exist for the sake of something else. We exist for the sake of ourselves.

- Shunryu Suzuki

To say that I exist, that “I am!” (while remembering that, at the same time I’m an integral part of All) is to say that I am expressing my nature. I breathe, I feel, I move, I ponder… All the while I participate, I express my- nature  I am part of Nature — therefore I am.
(the two fold connectivity of “my nature”, and “Nature”. –Suzuki’s Oneness of two ; Kierkegaard’s authenticity, Te and Tao … I’ll save some future post/)

Changing

[...] the natural state of man is as a single, whole being not fragmented into two or more opposing parts. In the natural state, there is constant change based on the dynamic transaction between the self and the environment…

–Arnold Beisser, from: The Paradoxical Theory of Change (Gestalt Therapy Now) 1970

One exists by expressing his own nature and harmonizing with Nature  . IMHO, this is participation,  an organism separating, connecting and integrating with his environment –this is living,   When one is  living in the present, while letting go of what is no longer part of he/she —this is change.
I am presently remembering my Dad and his life still affects mine. At the same time I let go of  what-is-not-me today.

change occurs when one becomes what he is, not when he tries to become what he is not…

–Arnold Beisser, from: The Paradoxical Theory of Change (Gestalt Therapy Now) 1970

Its been a tough year, but i have a good life, with reason to optimistic towards the future.  I  am saving a Robert Frost poem,  that I read at my Fathers service, until my next post.  until then—
Happy New Year!

Wu Wei and “moving with the flow” –reposted

Reposted
Wu Wei and “moving with the flow” was origionally posted on 3-24-2011

 
There are  a couple distinctions in  Taoist philosophy::

The Subjective: The way people interpret and describe the way things happen.

The Tao: the way things, or Nature, truly happen, which transcends human description.

A person’s reaction to “the way things happen” influences how he/she internalizes the way things happen.

great discrepancy between:

  • the way nature happens(or Tao), and
  • how a person internalizes the way things happens,

…can lead to stresses, and chaos.

According to Taoism , no person can fully know the Tao, The universe, nature’s forces  and  ways of change… because the Tao transcend human senses, full rational dissection, and full description. (thus the “Tao is Nameless” other than “Tao”)

However. Taoism’s practice is interpreting, behaving(or not behaving), interacting, or patterning more and more with the way nature happens as it becomes more apparent to the person.

That is:  Move , work with, or flow with Nature, Act in Harmony with Tao and one will experience less stress and chaos and one will experience more happiness.

Wu Wei

Wu Wei is the principle of “No Action”. More Accurately, its defined as abstaining from excessive effort and excessive action beyond the way a situation naturally happens..

If person canoing upon a river is paddling against, or across the current, he must exert a lot of energy. If the person turns his boat and point to move with the river’s current, he may need no action. He moves along effortlessly with the current., as the river “happens”.
Think  of the river current as a metaphor of how nature changes or flows. In Practicing Wu Wei one uses his experientially refined ability to recognize the way nature flows, and moves with it
Go with the Flow. Action in Harmony with the Tao and no action beyond that.
This is Wu Wei

Wu Wei in our modern world:

  • If a person worryies too often  about things that are not important to  his present moment; or is  multitasking;or he is uses more effort and then situation needs, the resulting effect may be stress and fatigue.
  • A production worker may find he is more productive and happier outside of work, If he uses body in more natural positions of lifting, ergonomics, and works with ways that require less noneffective effort.
  • Permaculture designers create ecological garden and agriculture designs, that pattern nature and use of Wu Wei, resulting in relatively self  or long sustaining  systems of produce.

A person may increase ones capacity of authenticity, harmony or integrity of his internal way with the natural Way or Tao, by meditating: the witnessing the two-as-one, briefly . Others studies, are  Yoga, Tai -chi, or just taking walks.

From there they may be inclined  apply Wu Wei in what ever action or non-action they do.

As for the distinction of the “subjective” and the “Tao”, they may move together harmoniously.

Te

In the ancient philosophy of Taoism,

 

Te flower.jpg
Te (Teh) is Virtue:  or  the personal truth and strength that one cultivates. It describes the way one cultivates himself and harmonizes with Tao.

Tao is defined as constancy and way all flows. I like to think of the word “Tao” as a default word to describe the totality of all the principles that govern physics, except that Tao, by definition… is mystical and lies beyond man’s  scope of knowledge.
Taoism is holistic. So Te is more than just intellectualizing ethics or a list of values. Te is acting (or idling) with character, being with ethics, being with authenticity, and being in manners that harmonize with Tao. Te applies to the person or organism as it lives in connection and integration with Nature or “the world”. Te is a quality.

If there is really a difference between wisdom, integrity and Te, I really don’t know.  Maybe it is cultivated and refined by the Authentic Experience that  Søren Kierkegaard    spoke of centuries after Lao Tzu, in other parts of the world.
perhaps its a universal concept and concern..

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