The sashimi of mindfulness
Do you ever think about how you think? I mean, do you watch yourself do it? (…get your mind out of the gutter… the topic is thinking, not doing it…)
It seems to me that there are levels of thought,
or helpful ways and non-helpful ways.
Let me tell you a couple of brief stories that illustrate what I mean.
Darbella and I are in Peterborough, visiting Dar’s mom. We’re also going to hang out with our favourite niece, who soon turns 22. Back when Lisa was 16 we took her on a short road trip to the U S of A. On the way home, we stopped at Niagara Falls. She’d never seen the Falls, despite never living more than 2 hours away. Anyway, we walked a bit and ended up having lunch in a Japanese restaurant. Lisa would not even look at the sushi that Dar and I were having, let alone try a piece. She swore up and down that raw fish would never cross her lips.
Tomorrow, we’re taking Lisa and her boyfriend out for dinner. At a sushi restaurant in Toronto. Her choice. Figures it will be easier to introduce her boyfriend to us and to sushi at the same time. She quite likes sushi (and sake, if truth be told.)
Here’s the first point. At 16, Lisa did not like sushi. At 21, she does. Lisa’s stories about sushi (“I’ll NEVER eat sushi!”) are obviously meaningless. She didn’t, until she did.
Which is pretty much the way it actually goes, for everything. Think bike riding, driving a care, sex…
We were watching TV last night, and
1) Ontario just set a record for precipitation in July. In other words, it’s been raining. Buckets. We had to crawl into Peterborough last night, so much rain was falling, and
2) they showed a picture of a lightning strike. Seems the bolt hit a chimney, exploded it (debris circle was 10 feet or so) and then the electricity travelled to the ground, found a pipe, slid along the pipe to the third house down, exited the basement wall, blowing a hole in it, exploding the control on the washer, and setting the clothes in the laundry room on fire.
Now I have to admit that was a new one for me.
I commented, “Holy crap! Amazing!”
But what “struck me” was the reaction of the people involved. The guy with the laundry room was bemused and smirking. The wife with the blown chimney was “shaken and disturbed.” Her husband was giving tours of his back yard, taking obvious delight in the attention and revelling in the odd places he was finding bricks.
Here’s the question: what was the “correct” response?
I’m reading Zen Mind, Beginner’s Mind, by Shunryu Suzuki, and he writes,
“A wonderful painting is the result of the feeling in your fingers. If you have the feeling of the thickness of the ink in your brush, the painting is already there before you paint. When you dip your brush into the ink you already know the result of your drawing, or you cannot paint. So, before you do something, “being” is there, the result is there.”
I don’t know if I mentioned it before, but I started painting when I was 14 or so. I’m an OK artist; used to get A’s in College Painting Classes, did some shows, but I like photography better. Every now and again I get the “bug” to paint.
I decided to paint Kuan-yin, who is the bhodisattva of compassion. I decided to use a photo I took a couple of decades ago as the model. Then, I read about Green Tara, another bhodisattva, and thought, “Hmm.”
So I re visualized the painting and started. I tend to work in spurts, and framed out the whole thing in an evening.
Dar walked by, stopped dead, and said, “Geez! She’s green! And her eyes are scary!” I hadn’t painted them yet, and realized that, when I painted in the blocky start to the painting, I was seeing it finished, and therefore hadn’t noticed the missing eyes.
So, who was seeing which painting, and how?
No, it’s not done yet, by the way. I decided that I wanted the highlights to be yellow and orange, and am changing the image in my head. So I can paint it.
One artist I know never finishes a painting, because she over-thinks and under paints. I do finish mine.
My point with these three stories is that our minds are trained to label and judge, when our focus might better be put on doing. “I do not eat sushi NOW” is so. “I eat sushi NOW” is also so. “I will never eat sushi” is a waste of energy, and in this case, not so.
The lightning strike is a lightning strike. Now I know one can set laundry on fire, in the basement three door away. Is this good, bad, terrifying, interesting, delightful? No, it’s a lightning strike. The rest is just our minds, blowing things out of proportion.
My painting existed in my head until my hands did their thing. The painting is as it is, and was as it was, missing eyes, then included eyes. It’s a green woman or green, orange and yellow. I can say nothing of how it will be, as it is not other than it is, right now. You may like it, hate it, or be indifferent. That is about you, not about the painting.
This week, watch your mind, as it takes stuff in, creates stuff, directs your hands. Notice how often, as I said to a client this week, you talk about doing something, and do not do something. Notice how quickly your mind goes to judgement—good, bad, indifferent. Notice how the labels are all about you, and have nothing whatsoever to do with the thing you are judging.
Think, design, and do. Think, design, and do. Drop the pretense, the delays, and the judgements, again and again. Things are as they are, not as you judge them to be. Better to have the experience than to spend your life playing with your judgements.