MARIAN LANSKY

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Month: October 2019

The Taste of Real Milk

Up in my neck of the woods, there used to be a TV commercial for a small, family-owned dairy that bottled whole milk in glass bottles. Their slogan was “You’ve forgotten what real milk tastes like.”

It came to mind this morning when I was standing and looking out the window. It’s a cold October day. Leaves have turned and largely fallen. There’s frost in the mornings. I have been on an internet cleanse for five days now. Today is day six, mostly unplugged. I am emailing and taking care of necessary business things, but that’s all. Get in, get out, don’t look around.

And this morning I am beginning to remember what a real mind feels like! 

It seemed to me that I remembered, years ago before the internet—social media, online news, google, youtube, and the whole deal, having an entirely different kind of ordinary, daily mental experience.

I used to feel connected to my life in a simpler way. I’d wake up in the morning feeling clear and focused. I’d read something, some kind of spiritual book or uplifting book, while eating breakfast. Maybe I’d meditate. I’d get my child off to school. At work I’d tackle my jobs in silence, one after the other without distraction, maybe stopping to have lunch or go for a walk, or go to the gym. At the end of the day I felt good about what I’d accomplished and my mind felt clear.

Life felt rich, even when it was difficult and challenging and downright painful. It felt thick with experience, somehow.

Over the last 25 years, living with the internet has created a different kind of mind. One which, (it seems to me) like the taste of plastic-packed skim milk full of chemical additives, bears almost no relationship to the real thing.

To me it feels as though having constant access to the internet through social media, especially, has thinned down my experience of the world and removed quite a lot of its savor. 

That quality of my individual relationship with the “real” world has been replaced by a kind of constant, superficial multiplicity of stimulation that is addicting but not really nourishing. Like junk food, which has some food-like items in it, but isn’t actually food.

I had also begun to feel that my ability to remain in a state of trust and faith was being eroded. When you expose yourself to news on the internet, it doesn’t matter which side you’re on, or what your beliefs may be, there is a pervasive aura of “we-must-defend-ourselves-against-wrongdoers” that is so insidious and ubiquitous that it was coloring everything in my mind with a tint of anxiety.

Even the so-called good news, the cute news, the heartwarming wholesome memes, the inspirational quotes, are floating in a river of fearful proclamations. Just scroll down, just swipe right. Just tap mistakenly and bingo.

I read something a while back… I think it’s from Seth, but not sure, that the human body responds in the same way to our fearful thoughts whether the danger is imagined or real, whether it is close by or so far away that there’s nothing we can do about it.

The internet brings the fear of the entire world into our laps and exposes us to it in a way that the human body is powerless to do anything about. And yet the fear-response happens anyway! It puts us into a continual state of nervous fatigue. Some of us, anyway. Me.

I’ve talked about this before, and I suppose I’ll bring it up again. I am a person who can have one drink and leave half of it on the table. I don’t have any problems with alcohol or drugs. I quit smoking over 30 years ago. My food addictions are well in hand. 

But my internet addiction was becoming a problem for me AGAIN. So, I’m cutting it out, AGAIN, for the time being. No more social media, no more “research.” No more reading the news or McSweeney’s, or following one or another spiritual teacher. No more idle shopping, funny memes, cute babies or profound blogs (except my own, of course). Right now, I can’t afford it. Right now, I want to be in a state of trust, and I can’t if my mind is tapped into the hive-mind. 

Many people can. Maybe you can! I can’t. 

Savasana

If you’ve ever taken a challenging yoga class, you know that savasana, the final corpse pose, can feel like a reward at the end of all the effort. Some people don’t like it, but for many, it’s a moment of delicious letting go. I don’t take strenuous yoga classes these days, but when I used to, f’d often be in a light sleep within a minute or two of beginning savasana. Sleep is not the point, but think of yourself falling asleep in the most vulnerable possible position in a room full of relative strangers and you might get how powerful the sense of abandon can be.

Savasana, or corpse pose, is meant to be a preparation for death, for the final relinquishment of the body. You lie on the floor with arms and legs spread to at least a 45 degree angle, palms up, and simply stop. All the doing is done. Now is just being.

Ajahn Brahm, a Theraveda Buddhist monk and a great meditation teacher, says that success in meditation is aided by cultivating a mind that inclines to abandoning. Savasana is where you abandon all notions of doing. You surrender.

In western culture we have a hard time with the idea of abandoning—abandoning our responsibilities, our goals, our duties and obligations. We like to think of ourselves as doers, not be-ers. Quitters never win and winners never quit. Do or die. Sink or swim. And so on. She persisted!

What’s inadequate about this philosophy of accomplishment is that it doesn’t enlist the assistance of any of the energies available to us outside of the egoic view of ourselves as bodies, as characters in this dream of human life. It assumes that everything necessary can be made to happen through the body-mind, by the dream character.

We hear a lot of talk about allowing—that we don’t have to accomplish anything, we just have to allow it. But what exactly is the actual act of allowing? It is stopping doing. And what is our main occupation, our main doing? It’s thinking.

It’s like we want assistance with this game of human life, but we don’t know how to let it in. We yell “Jesus Take the Wheel” only to discover that we’ve somehow superglued our hands to it and can’t stop madly steering.

How to let it in. 

A Course in Miracles call this the little willingness:

“You merely ask the question. The answer is given. Seek not to answer but merely to receive the answer as it is given. In preparing for the holy instant, do not attempt to make yourself holy to be ready to receive it.

The little willingness is when you stop doing. You stop trying to improve yourself. You give up. The mind stops, or rather, you cease identifying with the incessant stream of thought telling you that you have to become worthy.

You are good enough exactly as you are. You do not have to become a better person. You do not have to be “spiritual.” It’s a come-as-you-are kind of party. In fact, when we try to be better humans, try to improve ourselves in order to make ourselves worthy, we may be blocking any possibility of inspired assistance.

The problem for many of us is that we don’t really understand the difference between what we’re in charge of doing and what we can rightfully expect to be assisted with. It’s like we’re running an ultra marathon and we assume that we have to carry all of our food and water with us right from the beginning, not understanding that, of course, there are aide stations along the way. 

The point I am clumsily trying to make is that when we surrender, when we give up, we automatically manifest an aide station, because at that moment, we cease controlling the manifestation and allow it to be done through us and for us, rather than by us.

When we enter a mental space of savasana, of giving up, giving in, abandoning, trusting, not-knowing, inner silence, we become conduits for the greater energy that is our birth right.

You might want to try this, if it appeals to you. Sometimes before I go to sleep at night I lie in savasana, on my back, palms up and totally relaxed, and I say to myself, “I give up.” I imagine myself abandoning all of my apparent responsibilities… leaving them behind one by one and just giving up. I put down all my burdens.  I might say to myself, “I place my life in the hands of God. I’m done.” Nothing to do, nowhere to go, no one to be. 

It’s an interesting experiment. Sometimes it leads right into peaceful sleep. Other times it evokes anxiety of one sort or another, and the mind may try to find ways to restart the engine of thought—of fear and preoccupation. But because it’s bedtime, the socially appropriate time to put down one’s burdens, you might find a deeper state of relaxation and a night of helpful dreams. It’s a way to let the aide stations manifest for you.

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