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Posts Tagged ‘eureka’

Today, I wish to share a quote in simple celebration of “stupid questions”. When you don’t know what more experienced people have already established as “fact”, sometimes you can find out ways to get places they’d ignored as “impossible”.

In the context of deeply entrenched problems that many people have given up on, it helps to not have a traditional framework so you can ask the naïve questions. That can help you set goals that more experienced people wouldn’t think are feasible.

– Wendy Kopp

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I almost forgot to write down the thought I was having earlier today! It was about cause, effect, and our perceived relationship to them. I’ve been reading very different views on the idea of what can and can’t happen, of what is and is not probable, what people should and shouldn’t expect, and so on and so forth.

Personally, my current level of experience can be summed up this way:

Every single effect has at least one cause. Which causes bring about which effects, however, are where the surprises come in. We can do our best to observe effects and try to gauge the visible causes, but when it comes down to it, there’s far too much we will never accurately predict. No matter the topic, if we don’t retain enough anticipation for true surprises in life, we’re in for a real disappointing time of it.

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In trying to get everything caught up for the early weekend, I almost forgot to think! Then I came across a quote by Bertrand Russell, “To conquer fear is the beginning of wisdom.”

This weekend, let’s keep an eye out for the big and little fears that might hold us back from our wiser judgment, and from following up on wonderful opportunities for beauty, community, and joy.

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Today’s poem by Baisao on my calendar is just so lovely, it’s what I want to share today.

The iris pond has flowered
Before the old temple;
I sell tea this evening
By the water’s edge.
It is steeped in the cups
With the moon and stars;
Drink and wake forever
From your worldly sleep.

– Baisao

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The other day I was reading another Cary Tennis advice letter, to a guy who suddenly realized that despite a life of overachieving, he no longer really went after what he wanted.  He had realized he’d given up on goals before even starting, having him talked himself out of the feasibility of it all.  It’d been going on so long he wasn’t even sure what he really wanted first, or where to start.
 
So Cary told him how to start, just sitting with his desires and seeing how he felt about them.  Forget the feasibility test, just think about how he feels.  Start sketching them out, writing down everything he thinks he’d really want, and picture them — and stay aware of how he feels about them.  He said that in that process, a lot of surprising things might come out, but if he pays attention to his inner feedback, it’ll show him how to start.
 
Then he finished up with a quote I really liked, and saved.  I think it’s possibly the most important idea in self-improvement, leaping over the first hurdle…
 

“Oh, and this final thing: Would it help if I said that you do not have to reconcile the image you have had of yourself with the new image that has emerged? Let them be different. That is fine. That is what change is.”

 
We don’t have to be there already.  We don’t even have to know how we’re going to get there.  All we have to know is roughly where “there” is, and be willing to take the steps to reach it.  Then we’re on our way.

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Rubes surprised me again today with a pointer to something else that was on my mind, the whole question of of “what’s being enlightened like”:

Rubes 2/27/09

Rubes 2/27/09

This calls to mind our good friend Ikkyu, the iconoclastic Zen monk, who it’s said would go to brothels in black robes because he considered it a religious rite.  Yeah, he was a pretty wild guy.  But he also is considered to have been extremely in touch with what we call “enlightenment”.  So what’s the deal?

I think the deal is that “enlightenment” could be better phrased as “getting to see and understand the gears that make life tick”.  Rather than pursuing this understanding as something that will take you out of the world, many people see it as a way to better live in it.  The way I see it is best summed up in this Zen proverb:

This old rural monk is walking down the road to the stream, a big bundle of clothes slung over his back because it’s his turn to do the laundry.  A guy from the nearby village stops him to chat just a bit.  He’s mystified by the great spiritual work they do at the monastery, and asks him, “What is enlightenment like?”  The old monk slips the big bundle off his back and straightens up with a bit of a stretch and a deep, contented breath at the release of the burden.  The guy sighs too at the thought of it, and then excitedly asks, “Then how about after you’re enlightened? What’s life like then?”  The old monk just picks the laundry up, hoists it onto his back, and starts walking again toward the stream.

Hence the saying, “After enlightenment, the laundry.”

To me that is totally the point of “enlightenment”. It’s not this otherwordly sense of disembodiedness from the toils and trials of everyday life, more like an understanding of what it’s all about for you, so the toils and trials aren’t quite so miserable.  Shines a light on the ordinary so you can better see the miraculous in it, and illuminating the miraculous so you can recognize how very everyday it is.   There’s even another saying for that:

“When an ordinary man attains knowledge, he is a sage; when a sage attains understanding, he is an ordinary man.”

Hopefully that makes “enlightenment” sound more like something you can actually reach for, and actually use in your life.  Sometimes it’s a lot easier to figure stuff out if you can get into some kind of hermitage or retreat and disconnect from all the hangups and static noise of daily life.  You know, step back so you can see it all better.  But once you get that understanding, the real work of ‘enlightenment’ is then getting right back into the business of living.

That’s the hard part, going back into situations that were stressful while carrying with you the strong resonance of inner serenity.  Hard as it is though, the world needs it. The books and sages don’t need your light. We do. I think that’s the whole point.

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I don’t know about you, but I’ve spun my wheels a lot dwelling on stuff without finding a solution, and getting hung up on not knowing the answer.  The worry didn’t help.  I just burned energy going nowhere, because NOT burning energy made me feel like I wasn’t doing anything — even when there was nothing more I could have done.

I’ve read studies on inspiration and the “Eureka!” moments, and the current line of thought is that we don’t get those magic moments by pushing the problem through our head.  We get it when our subconscious has finished mulling it over, and we step back and give it enough space to give us the answer.  That’s why the “Aha!” tends to come not while we’re yelling at the computer, but while washing a glass.  Time spent worrying and struggling actually impeded that process.

I just saw the other day that Sri Aurobindo said, “True knowledge is not attained by thinking. It is what you are; it is what you become.”

I guess the trick is recognizing that point where THINKING about something is getting in the way of PROCESSING something.  Where the pursuit of knowledge actually gets in the way of us truly knowing something.

I think that’s why for a while I’ve been saying that the most important thing to learn is “how to learn”.  I’m still trying to get that right. 🙂

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