Saturday, July 2, 2011

Hazards of the Familiar

I sit and write again – this time writing straight, without much planning for ideas now in a watery mental diffusion. I have to set myself up this way for I’ve identified the weight that accompanies these preparations: the time-intensive yes, but more weighty, the sometimes agonizing gearing-into anticipatory struggles for word and form, an attempt inward, grasping at random bolts of insight until there establishes a cohesive and steady reliable output, an encompassing circle in which my material fills in and completes a naturally-evolved resolution in closing.

A mere introductory musing that may help better define the resistance in the phenomenology of lapse (see entry @) while also providing a handy explanation to my absence! Perhaps all of this phenomenological detail amounts to the fact that I have been lazy in confronting the work of writing. Yes, that sounds like it rings an internal bell. In addition I note the other forms of resistance examined in entry X operating: yes, my cycling once again robbed me of my writing, and also all of this cooking and baking now that I am resorting to bulk ingredients trying to reduce waste...just got done with 60 minutes of chocolate chip banana bread…wow, is it good). Oops, I did it again.

We get caught up in this way, living our everyday, mired in the flare-up concerns of isolated moments in time. I seek the larger projects such as this, the activities that are placed well in my continuum of self: I write today, I have written before, I will write again. These projects oft lie at the fringes as we largely go through the motions of our days. If laziness be the culprit, it follows that attending to the puny island of attention required for most everyday matters permits me off-the-hook for attending to, ahem, my life, that larger edifice that I would never locate in dishes or tidying, or even birthday parties, networking, or emailing. Whole lives can be lived this way. Too much of mine has been sequestered into the narrowness of the daily.

Wake-up calls, though often not very pleasant, allow for this benumbing daily to be ruptured. And so they come as beautiful and worthy messages, something making a little unpleasantry more easily tolerated. Afterward you have to put your daily back in order, and this grants the needed space to not automatically slip into the unmemorable daily, unworthy as appraised by your very own mental faculties to be retained.

I had one recently. It was quite embarrassing in the moment, disorienting me in the near aftermath as to how I could have wound up as I did. Just before the embarrassment, I was in a round of involved and complicated mental hashing of upcoming events and meetings and people I needed to respond to. Oh, these urgencies that consume. So seriously attached I was to my figurings and plan-makings around the minutia of myself, so committed was I to living in a constricted being in the moment, constricted to cognitions, cognitions about such smallness, that I ran my bike at 10mph into a parked car and catapulted over the handlebars, unable to register the impact in time to at least swerve or ricochet. And I was on my block. Someone in hearing the story said in condolence, perhaps that car was parked in a place it normally isn’t? In the days after, I checked out my strong suspicion that indeed this white car chronically parks in the spot I met up with it so intimately. It does. Chronically.

There is a tension in this, the everyday. My first account of the accident (by the way, I am fine – had very minor flesh scrapes and a swollen knee for 2-3 days) was that I was ironically not practicing mindfulness whatsoever. Ironic because I happen to be a mindfulness teacher in my community. The embarrassment of the moment compounded with the embarrassment of hypocrisy. Not being mindful, I concluded, can be dangerous. And I do continue to agree. But there is something more nuanced here than initial considerations and others’ initial feedback suggests.

I critique activity confined in the daily, activity that renders us inept and walled-off in time and from our larger selves. The critique is of attaching too closely to this moment, these concerns, these pressing items of the fleeting and narrow Now. Yet mindfulness-based practice seems to push us into the folds of the present more deeply. Mindfulness, as a fad technique, can leave us not merely isolated in time, but stranded. Appreciating what appears, letting it in, yes, but appreciating in an empty and emptying manner, the annoyingly redundant remarks of sunset-watchers who can only say: “It was amazing.” Perhaps what I label the daily shouldn’t be confused with the opportunities of the day. After all, it is within days that we live; we must live in the houses of days. Paying attention, surely a process I was lacking when I ran myself and my bike asunder, grants a window, a window out of the daily, in opening the daily up from its very own interiors. To pay attention, to “look closer”, perhaps we can free ourselves of the frivolity and wanderings of an overactive mind. Overacting on the daily. To merge a being-orientation of paying attention (allowing the day to unfold before me while on my bike) with my larger temporal self (in the context of my life project(s), I am mindful, I am free.