Thursday in Santa Fe

I spent most of Thursday transcribing Stephen Batchelor’s talk from Monday. When Roshi mentioned that Upaya was looking for somebody to transcribe the talk I immediately offered to do it, thinking that I might learn something, certainly regarding the content, but also regarding the English language since Batchelor is a very good speaker. So I sat here and typed away for five or six hours. I am not a fast typist and had to listen to a sentence, stop the recording, type a few words, listen to more… you get the picture.

In the evening I responded to a comment and rather liked what I wrote. So here it is:

Well, not getting stuck would hopefully be a side-effect. I was thinking about the fact that our experience is not a smooth, continuous flow. Instead it is a series of stages. Movies come to mind. We experience a movie as a continuous flow, but a movie is really just a series of snapshots, projected at a rate of 24 images per second. The film appears to move naturally. To a being with “faster” eyes, our movies would appear to stutter.

(((I wonder whether young people who grew up with MTV and computer ganes and movies with fast jump-cuts can notice a single frame being out of place in a movie. Can they see “faster” than their grandparents, and is that an advantage at all, is it a useful ability aside from movies and games? Would they see the bus earlier?)))

Our practice, whether it is a Buddhist practice or a musician’s practice, or any other practice, is like that movie. We take baby-steps forward, towards the goal. Maybe we practice a few bars of music at a time. Then the next few bars, and the next. Eventually we can, albeit haltingly, play the whole piece… now we work on giving the music a natural flow – and that takes years longer.

Buddhism, like music, is a practice, an endless practice. Stephen talked about the stream, the flow. My thoughts were that, maybe due to the evolution of our brain, nothing is a total flow – more like a series of snapshots. Making goals is natural, is human. Make a goal, attain it, make a new goal. Don’t stop, keep moving. Ok, do stop, make a little dance, celebrate with a drink… and then do move on and set the next goal. Endless. Endless. Endless.

It’s all endless, but our brain likes to cut everything into bite-sized pieces. Nothing wrong with that. We just need to be aware of it.

Also reminds me of Dogen, who said that life was one mistake after another. Mistake – correction. Mistake – correction. etc.

It is great to be inside a wave, inside the flow, the stream of whatever one is doing, making music or shooting pool, cooking a meal or transcribing a lecture. But that wave will end, and we want to build tools to transition between these experiences of flow. I mean one can experience flow in the middle of a concert (((you can substitute any other activity))) and then suddenly one gets shot with one of those red laser beams that focus an audient’s camera. One falls out of the flow, but needs to re-enter rather than bumbling along. Recovery. Very important. For everything really, not just performers. How long does it take us to get up again. We are in a good mood when somebody cuts us off in traffic, pushes into the line at the grocer, yells at their cellphone… can we recover right away or do we let that ruin our day? I think practice can make us more flexible and thus give us a quicker recovery.

Working on a couple of new songs. I am not sure that I like them, but decided to pursue them and decide later. Letting them grow a little before I give them the ax.

Wednesday at Upaya

Wasn’t sure how slippery Upaya’s driveway might become today, so I put on the boots (and the hat) I wore in Kham, and walked. I got there a little early and took a few photos:

So unusual, to see nearly green leaves on trees that are covered with snow. These leaves seemed to glow:

The gate is open:

Stephen Batchelor mentioned Situational Ethics, a Christian ethical theory. His explanation of that theory reminded me of Wilber’s Yes-No-Yes human developmental stages. We start out without ethics: my way or the highway – yes. Then we move to following the rules, the law, the bible, koran, the word of the priest etc. – no. Finally we arrive at a more fluid and situational response – yes. Ken also called these stages Egocentric, Ethnocentric and Worldcentric.

Watch Upaya’s Dharma Podcast or subscribe to it via iTunes for Stephen’s talks at Upaya this week. His dharma talk from last week is already up. I missed Monday’s talk, but everybody raved about it and Roshi asked me to transcribe it. I should get the mp3 this week. I have never transcribed a talk, but Stephen speaks so clearly and precisely that it should be a great opportunity for me to learn something.

After today’s talk I gave Stephen Batchelor a CD with uncompressed .tiff files of some of the photos I took of him the day before. (((I used the Gorman B&W conversion, if you want to know…))) He said he was 99% sure that he will use one of them for his new book.

Here are some of my thoughts, gathered during my walk home, in response to some of the things that were mentioned today.

Having practiced daily as a musician for nearly 40 years, I find that, while fluidity, process, stream is the ideal, the human mind seems to naturally want to create waypoints, goals, aims. I don’t think these goals or aims are a problem as long as one is aware of them as temporary goalposts that need to be moved as soon as they can be attained. The trick then, is not so much not having goals, but to create goals with the awareness that they are to be attained and moved. Or, to smoothly switch from one goalpost to the next one ahead. The image of throwing a rock as far as one can, comes to mind, only to find it, attain it, and throw it forward again.