Thursday, March 31, 2011

Simian Seas

This morning a small monkey climbed up my leg.

I did not react. I observed. I bore the monkey no ill will, nor he I. He was asking me for something, wanting a thing, trying desperately to see inside the cap I was carrying. There was nothing in the cap but pen and paper - no food, no sustenance... perhaps a thing of novelty value but nothing worth clinging to. A warden waved the monkey down and the bewildered monkey went off to harass a little japanese girl with a backpack and a NintendoDS.

Two monkeys - subject/object, object/subject. He and I, not much difference overall. Both monkey minds, both with base survival needs, both driven to explore, procreate, protect and survive. There in the forest was a microcosm of human society (though I not part of their troupe), me perhaps only in possession of a better understanding of fear, love and self. Welcome to the blessing and curse of consciousness; the ability to think about thinking, to symbolise, codify and to abstract, to transmit via language and stories over and above basic mimesis.

Post the simian encounter my mind focused on mind, mastery and flow. From whenceforth does ‘source reality’ and the perception thereof spring? What layers, means and methods can one either use, distill or dispense with to access it neutrally, fully, and in all its ‘oneness’. In either the act of commission or omission we utilise duality to come full circle and approach holism. When can there be a non-contradiction of opposites? And what is the state before and after meaning is made?

Later in the day a random girl tapped me on the shoulder as I explored Yoga Barn in Ubud and advised I go to a special Yoga workshop led by Mark Whitwell beginning in 30mins, so I did. He spoke of the most basic ‘practice’ with breath encompassing the whole body and mind, a practice that cultivates a loving intimacy with reality. He decried the conventional concept of guru as teacher but rather that of being a friend, “no more than a friend and no less than a friend” (Incidentally he is coming to Melbourne this week, a fact garnered after a serendipitious shared exit from Yoga Barn). We practiced overlooking rice paddies, the air rich in oxygen and love.

As I sat quietly after the workshop I thought about Zen practice and other similar disciplines. I thought about practices which investigate reality via direct experience and focus on shedding societal programming and pre-conceived ideas. These practices are test driven approaches that require discipline, effort and commitment from the participant. They ask to be rigourously challenged, doubted and debunked, and herein lies one of their strengths. It is interesting that in the same way I cannot explain the minutiae and autonomic process of walking, I can do it and experience the results e.g. locomotion. Some of these mind/body techniques and technologies to access reality more fully do indeed demonstrate results (in many cases science is only now catching up).

So I ask you, if snorkelling was ‘spiritual tourism’, open water scuba diving was a hierarchical ‘organised religion’, what would ice/night/cave/deep/rescue diving be?

In my opinion Zen would be free diving... would Yoga be swimming?

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