Thursday, September 15
patanjali and britpop
(as she put in her comments below: "according to some teachers i've been listening to, the way to see impermanence is dedicated attention. to the present!")
yoga is maybe even better instance of this kind of thing. joe showed me this also:
"born of this luminous wisdom is a subliminal impression that prevents other impressions from arising."
which i like, or at least i liked at the time. it may be time for me to start some yoga reading, though patanjali is probably not the best entry point. i suppose light on yoga -- but, i have to say i'm apprehensive about iyengar. i'm going to see him in a couple of weeks, in boston, but i'm prepared for it to be underwhelming - apparently the program will consist of a bunch of people talking about him, and film clips or something, culminating with "a conversation" between iyengar and this big-name american yoga instructor. so he's not even speaking, just having a conversation. well, fine.
here's what i want to write/think about, although my mind is a little scattered at the moment for me to get at it right, i think: how do i want to position myself with respect to eastern spirituality/religion/philosophy? shall i try to find a way around my inherent discomfort and skepticism in this area? what is spirituality for me?
there's something that wants to happen, in my life these days. yoga, which i have sought out as a specifically physical endeavor, a way to explore my physicality, brings with it the spiritual and intellectual baggage at least of its culture and community, and also probably of a more intrinsic mode, being a practice of awareness - an emotional attentiveness to the physical which reverberates backwards and forwards.
but there's plenty enough physical work to be done that grappling with other aspects really can fit comfortably beside the point. that's only part of it. there are some other ways that my life direction is being mildly informed by things eastern.
" as an aside, there's a note about compassion and tolerance. these are two things that are pretty strongly associated with religion, perhaps certain religious traditions in particular. they're also pretty central to my personal value and belief system (such as it is), and are topics that have come up in conversation lately - with dave jonas, who says that i'm known as an exceptionally tolerant person, and with gabe, who perceives some forms of what i might think of as "tolerance" as forms of weakness, which is something worth considering. perhaps sometime i'll write about, as i said it to rebecca, the difficulty in finding a balance of "humility, assertiveness, and conviviality." end of aside. *
more concretely, as far as eastern-tinged spiritual influence, i should mention two of the central figures in my cosmology at present. one being, among other things, the spiritual figurehead at the studio where i practice four of seven days, with whom i've so far been little more than fumbling towards a coherent exchange of ideas. the other is maybe the closest thing i have to a personal spiritual guide, and this sort of thing is her milieu.
it's not mine. i'm definitely hesitant about all of this stuff. not that i'm skeptical about it in general, but with respect to myself, i guess i am. partly, i think, there's something incongruous about the cultural connotations of exploring eastern spirituality in america, and specifically for someone with my cultural background. more importantly, i don't know what i'm talking about, because there's just this large body of knowledge, that i haven't studied at all, and yet i can sort of pretend i understand some of the fundamental ideas. so on the one hand i just feel like an impostor or a dilletante to think that "oh, maybe i should check this stuff out"; on the other hand the stuff itself, all these venerable traditions, come to seem somehow tainted and cliché, and meaninglessly modish, as well as vague and therefore impenetrable.
so that's a lot of psychological rubble. at the same time, i'm thinking about the ways i've always been skeptical and uninterested in pretty much any kind of spirituality, particularly with any whiff of organization to it. i guess any kind of absolutist organization of knowledge is tough for me to countenance, but especially spiritual knowledge, which seems like it should be inherently uncataloguable.
maybe i would call something like that "dictated spirituality." i understand the appeal of seeking out different forms of spirituality, how you might not feel right about your church or whatever and so you go and learn about different approaches people have taken. that makes a lot of sense. perhaps i bristle at the idea of adopting for myself a version of spirituality that somebody else came up with. i feel like i need to just figure it out for myself.
not by myself necessary - with the ideas of other people too - but isn't it better for those people to be actual people; the members of your community? that's what sort of makes sense to me - find spirituality in your relationships, with people and the world; explore your faiths and doubts and ideas with your friends.
it's the same thing with philosophy. i'm conflictedly interested in my own ideas and not so much in other peoples' - of course, i should probably read philosophy, to find out what people have thought before and decide whether i agree with them. but even if i do agree with something, is it better to read it than to work it out in writing and conversation? i don't know. it sort of seems better to be able to compare your thought to some existing reference point. what if you have an idea and it turns out somebody already had it. that makes you a member of their school of thought?
sort of a preposterous notion. that we should all just make up our own philosophy and religion. and maybe that's the way it should be with art and music and other things too, just as it's more evidently how it should be with food and some other things - locally-oriented, community-based, etc. this is too much to talk about right now.
i realize there hasn't been anything in this post about brit-pop. when i wrote it the first time it was different and i was listening to stone roses and sort of getting it. and i want to talk about music being a spiritual outlet for me, in reference to alyssa's list of "transcendental" phenomena in the comments a while back (which i still want to respond to). and whether that's bogus or not. surely it fulfills some of the functions that religion fulfulls for other people. that's for another post. but i think the next one is going to be about academia. also related.
i've been making plans for the future
become an unconscious man
all for the good
"i feel like i need to just figure it out for myself."
And to think that you scoffed at "Yoga and the Quest for the True Self."
james, what does that comment mean? i'm still scoffing at it. better, this post is about figuring out whether or not to scoff at it. but i never said i didn't want to read it.
you coming to philly sometime?
lol, well, i found it funny b/c scoffing/deciding whether or not to scoff is essentially what the book is about . . .
yeah, last weekend of october I'll be in town . . .