9 days of Salt Cedar slaying later…Phew!!! Just returned from a trip up into the Texas Panhandle. My crew was at a little place called Lake Meredith; north of Amarillo (generally considered the last bastion of "civilization" in Texas) and just south of North Bumfuck, USA. 9 hour drive from Austin, which is still three and a half hours from Houston and the coast, or 4-5 to Corpus Christi and Mexico. Holy hell, Texas is too friggin big!
So we drove up there and I spent 9 days clearcutting Salt Cedar, or Tamarisk, an invasive tree species brought over from Europe during the Dust Bowl to help combat erosion…Only problem is, Salt Cedar drinks huge amounts of water (~ 300 gallons/day for a mature tree) AND it gets it’s name from the fact that it will secrete salts it picks up from the earth onto its leaves and then drop them. So that the salt levels in the surrounding soil get so high that only other salt cedar can survive growing there, creating huge monocultures. The idea was decent…Research and implementation…Not so much. Typical invasive species story.
I COULD expound on the joys of chainsawing through acres of the stuff, the frustration of having chains skip and cedar saplings whipping my arms and face, inhaling a cocktail of herbicides, gasoline, and vaporized bar oil, and adding full chaps and 90 plus temperatures during the day and tornado warnings nightly…But I won’t. Because what’s really important is that I left my MP3 player at home.
Which was intentional, because I wanted to try something I’ve been meaning to do for awhile, but hadn’t the guts to do for fear of sheer boredom: make a meditation retreat out of a work SPIKE trip. Normally, I like to plug into my headphones, a book, or whatever else to avoid interacting with human beings or my own mind when I’m not working…But after thinking a lot about it; having just gained a new book from my roommate Kyle (The Book of Secrets, by Osho), and seeing the opportunity before me…And remembering that my resolution for 2010 is that this is to be a year of change…I decided to forgo my usual distractions and bring Osho, "Learning Chinese for Dummies," and my Uke as my sole companions for 9 days.
It was truly difficult, to try and be fully aware for 9 days and simply just be, watching whatever the mind put in front of me and dissecting thought patterns as much as I could. Difficult, sometimes painful, and a little depressing at times, because often I didn’t like what I found and wanted to reject, to change them, rather than accepting myself for who I was. The most common frustration I found was the amount of time I spend thinking about social interactions. I’m a bit of a sociophobe to begin with, but I’m reasonably confident when I say that the majority of people spend a ton of energy thinking about social interactions…What other people are thinking, how we’re perceived, what we said, what others said, our social standing, social gaffes, etc…We’re just a social species, and it makes sense. However, what I wanted to do was see that ultimately, mind is not infallible, and attempting to model other people is an exercise in stress and futility. Eckhart Tolle put it best when he says:
"What you end up with is a mental perception of yourself interacting with your mental perception of the other person, and vice versa. Rather than two people in the here and now interacting, four mental simulations are going back and forth…"
Which isn’t an exact quote, but rather the gist of the idea from "A New Earth." So while it’s easy to take a thought apart and see that my assumptions (ex: he/she is actually being passive agressive, rather than joking, because I said X back there and embarassed he/she) and subsequent reactions are ultimately based on guesswork, and to put energy into them is to feed loops of mental planning, stress, and a waste of time…It’s far more difficult to transform that into intuitive knowledge, to truly KNOW this and automatically shut down a thought process before it begins. I’m better at it than I used to be, for sure. I used to spend HOURS a day reliving events in my head when I thought I made a huge social error, mortified and feeling the stress hormones build but not knowing how to deal with it. I still do sometimes; but I’m getting a little better everyday in just being confident.
This trip, my major headache was the perception of being too formal…Reserved…Stiff, for lack of a better word. I’m often called "fatherly," "cute" (especially by women), or just laughed at when I say stuff, and that really, REALLY bothered me this trip. Logically, I know full well that there’s no malicious intent whatsoever, and frankly I should be used to it considering how long I’ve heard it. But I still bristle a little inside and feel frustration well up because I equate it to being seen as childish and innocent because I tend to treat people with exaggerated levels of respect rather than as equals.
I almost said "I USED to" here, but that would be a lie. I STILL want to be the relaxed, carefree individual I front, but when I get close to people, they see the frailty beneath the veneer and my ego chafes when it gets poked too hard. Ultimately, trying to become, rather than just being, is the source of my frustration. I see this logically, but fail to grasp it intuitively, and so I stress. But it’s a start, I suppose.
This post is getting overlong…If you’re not still with me, no worries; this is more useful for me than for you. Osho’s writings are really intriguing; it’s based on the Tantric school of Indian thought, which is closely associated with Hinduism, though Tantrism has peeled away a bit as Hinduism has absorbed aspects of Buddhist, Christian, and Muslim thought, all of which shun the sensual, carnal nature of Tantrism. Incidentally, Tantrism is not all about sex, drugs, and rock and roll. It gets that rap because it’s embracing of sex as a natural and vital aspect of human nature gets it a bad rep from the other schools of thought, but its main focus is on meditation and mental refinement. It has a far more mystic nature than the Theravadan Buddhism I’m familiar with however. I’m barely on page 100 of 1140, and I just finished a treatise on levitation, tapping into Prana, the cosmic energy of life and vitality, and awakening the Third Eye. Well I haven’t floated a centimeter yet, and I’ve yet to see into my own past lives…But I did find a great breakdown on the study of the breath that my monastery experience only started me on…Some interesting mental tricks to maintain awareness over time beyond sitting meditation, and some quasi-scientific explainations of mystic phenomena that seemed to fit my own experiences. I may even have manufactured a dream using a Third Eye concentration technique detailed in the book (though dreams being dreams, who can really say?)
Osho explains the Third Eye, Shivanetra, as being the pineal gland. Wikipedia can sum up his ideas fairly well (en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Pineal_gland#Metaphysics_and_philosophy) so I won’t go too far into it. But what fit my own study was that during deep concentration, as Osho verified, the eyes roll up and look towards the third eye, which as he states "is hungry for attention, thus making it the easiest places to concentrate upon." I’d often wondered about the Third Eye, as I found a personal pressure point there awhile ago. When I’m stressed or tired, tension manifests there, right between the eyes. When I close my eyes, concentrate upon the breath and apply gentle pressure with two fingers, the tension will lift and the sensation eases. Generally. So seeing this finding confirmed in the Vigyan Bhairav Tantra was an interesting surprise!
So tomorrow, I’ll teleport to the corner store and back. Baby steps…Don’t want to go too far, after all.
Ah, and before I forget! Being the year of change…I’ve an interesting experience planned for tomorrow; the tearing down of further barriers and opening myself to a newly sensual experience, the likes of which will forever change my human nature! Well, that might be expecting a bit too much…But it should be fun! Going out tomorrow and updating when I return…I don’t want to talk too much about it, but its something I’ve been both excitedly and fearfully counting down the days till for nearly 4 months…Wish me luck, dear reader!