Wednesday, December 6, 2006
We usually feel meaning is attained through structure. That is to say, things happen and we put them into order of one kind or another until a structure emerges, and that becomes a meaning for us. This is how we justify: we discover meaning through structure, and that is what we think will create our validity.
It works, more or less, when we're organizing things or trying to discern patterns in nature. But the everyday events of life are so chaotic that they generally defy classification.
In doing so, they subvert structure- no matter how hard we try to impose it, something constantly comes along to upset it. In doing so, the meanings we construct gets lost, because we were expecting them to emerge from the structure- and it turns out the structure isn't fundamentally valid. No matter how hard we try to order things, something unexpected comes along to put a spoke in the wheels, and all of a sudden it seems we're starting from scratch again.
That seems unjustifed to us. It's not fair. We have worked like the very devil himself to create this structure of understanding and then >>blap!<< something comes along and upsets the whole applecart.
There's an alternative to this hamster wheel we're on: we can attempt to discover what inherent justification might mean.
What is inherent justification? Inherent justification arises from the fact that everything is just so. It doesn't need to be any different. Structure and lack of structure are immaterial to inherent justifcation.
Things begin as already justfied.
If the meaning we perceive and accept is inherent, discovered in the simple nature of the moment itself, rather than the organization we discover within the moment, well, that's already different, isn't it? Meaning of this kind becomes, in a sense, invulnerable, because it stems from the experience itself- and not the definition of it.
And wouldn't another word for "invulnerable meaning" perhaps be "Truth?"
Something as simple as attention to our breathing in our ordinary life can help feed the parts of us that are able to receive this impression. The breath is connected to parts that are not concerned with the elaborate structures our mind is forever working on. Breath is directly connected to a physical part that knows, all day long, every day:
Do this at once, or we will die. Not sooner or later: we will die NOW.
This understanding contains an urgency the mind is fundamentally unable to sense. They live side by side, but nonetheless we are not aware of that part. That part's understanding is so deep and so urgent that it functions even when we're asleep. It can't afford to take any time off.
A part like that can really help us care more about our practice.
It's worth investigating.
I had one of those days today where I'm just grateful. It was another very hectic day, but at the end of it, as I walked out of the office, I was glad that I have the job I have and work with the people I work with. I'm glad I have the problems I have. All of it helps me to learn something new about life.
This isn't a matter of psychology. When we're really glad about things there's no need to engage in tricks to help make ourselves think we're happy. Happiness is intrinsic. There's no way to think one's way into it.
Another way of looking at it is that it's organic. I know I keep coming back to that word almost obessisvely- are you sick of hearing about it? Sorry about that. But I keep using it for a reason.
The reason is that when it comes to satisfaction, we have to find what we are seeking within the organism first. Trying to find it in the mind is useless. The mind is a dog that endlessly chases its own tail.
We already know a little bit about that because we understand the satisfaction that comes from a good meal: some risotto with mushrooms, for example, or a nice bowl of soup. But we don't know enough about it.
All the impressions we take into ourselves during a day are food, too, and generally speaking they are excellent food, if we receive them correctly. Once we begin to straighten out the way we receive impressions, they feed the whole organism differently. Air tastes different. Colors look different. Yelling at our kids feels different. All of that stems from an active engagement with our inner being, and an active force that arises within the body. When the mind develops a deeper connection with the body life just feels better, that's all there is to it. It's an end in itself.
I was speaking to a person I work with yesterday and we were discussing an exercise, and I reminded him : Don't do it with the mind. The difficulty is that we try to do just about everything with the mind.
In the traditional stories, every Zen master repeatedly points towards this. We have to go beyond the mind to go anywhere real.
Going beyond mind involves finding not just the lotus, but the root of the lotus. In western culture, we believe that it's the flower of the mind that sustains our being, but actually it is the exact opposite.
The root of being, planted in the firm, warm mud and exquisite darkness of the body, is what nourishes and sustains the flower of the mind. As we cultivate our garden, it informs our lives and gives birth to leaves of attention.
These spread themselves in gratitude to receive the sunlight of our impressions. And we learn how to pray not just with words, but with our whole life.