Wednesday, January 25, 2012

"I" Need a New Word

New words are constantly coming into our language -- "bromance," robocall," "sexting," etc. --  so I'd like to order one if I may: a new term for "I."

Why do we need a new word for "I"?  Well... a budding meditation practice is teaching me that meditation is not about forcing the chattering mind to sit still... it's about identifying with an awareness beyond the incessant mental talk: a different "I."

A simple analogy borrowed from Richard Moss' The Mandala of Being may be helpful here. Think of thoughts as kites. They rise, soar, flutter, dive... We fly these kites, but they are not our selves.  Try picturing some thought of your own as a kite. Then try to follow the string from the kite slowly down into your self. You may find that you arrive at a kind of quiet presence.  The goal in this type of meditation is not to reject or judge thoughts (kites) but to identify oneself with that sense of presence. But in English we have only one word for the first person: when we say "I," it's not necessarily clear if we're speaking from a deep awareness... or from a swooping kite.

Terms for transcendent consciousness abound. Soul. Higher Self. Spirit. Universal Mind. Cosmic Consciousness. Etc.  But all of these, grammatically speaking, are objects; we stand outside them when we name them. Where is the subject? The "I" that can act and assert its living presence? The alternative to the "I" of chatter and kites? English has no such term.

Our language retains a vestigial familiar second person ("thou"). It was once used in situations of intimacy and informality. Its presence in translations of the Bible adds a solemn aura -- hinting at an intimate relationship with the divine. Wouldn't it be wonderful if we had an intimate form of the first person, an "I" that affirms our potential to live more peacefully? An "I" that resonated so sweetly that it had to be sung?

If I can hang up on a robocall because I'm watching a bromance on TV and sexting someone during the commercials, why can't I say "I" and mean something much, much more?

Monday, January 9, 2012

Inaugural Blog: Renaissance Evolution

Being a "Renaissance woman" presents challenges... there have been many times when my multiple pursuits have seemed to compete with one another: why start a stained glass project or even think about my novel when I have a dissertation to write -- shouldn't I channel all the creative energy into one project? Why expend all this energy running long distances and pushing my limits when my children need me -- shouldn't I just run for fitness and forget about marathoning so I can spend an extra hour or two a day with Ian and Lilah?

I've found myself wondering if there isn't some sacrifice I should make in one area in order to accomplish something meaningful in another. It would make sense, wouldn't it? Life would be linear and logical, right? 

But here's where the composition teacher in me picks up her red pen and says: Yo! "Accomplish something meaningful?" Really?! Let's try on a different verb... how about "experience something meaningful"...? 

Linearity and logic are fine for math and argumentation, but not for living... not for feeling the fullness of being in a given moment. Isn't that what happiness is? Not something to be pursued (sorry, founding fathers!) but something to be grown?

I restarted a long-neglected meditation practice recently. The awareness I'm cultivating hints that all of these various activities in which I've been engaging are actually part of a coherent something-or-other. As I learn to be more fully present, these seemingly separate strands of experience prove to be intricately connected.....