Moving At The Speed of Self

I’ve talked about meditation in previous writings. On a simple level I do breath and simplified energy work mostly derived from Taoist sources. These are things that can be described in a sentence – or not described completely in a book. In the spirit of that paradox I’d like to share a deep slice of an insight I’ve had over the years – the role of speed and self.

More than a sentence, less than a book.

Most meditations I do involve a certain level of slowness – of breath, of feeling the bodies energies, etc. The slow even breath in my beloved Cleary translation of “The Secret of the Golden Flower” or slowing so one senses the bodies energies all involve some form of calming, focusing, and not running around in your brain. In these modern times it can almost be shocking to just slow down for a few minutes.

As you may know from your own works there’s a peculiar point in meditations where you slow down and suddenly you’re not you. In fact you might not be there at all.

All the chatter and sensations, dialogue and tensions just sort of goes away. I mean you’re there but you aren’t there. Somehow when we slow down, “we” goes away – which is quite disturbing sometimes as who’s doing all of this?

Thinking over these experiences – without trying to grasp them too hard – I’ve come to realize how much of ourselves, our identity, is a matter of speed.

Thoughts racing ahead in a relay race. Desires we grasp as soon as possible. Tensions that rage through the body as soon as triggered. There’s so much of our identity that relies on fast reactions and immediate thoughts that to slow it even a bit feels like we’re falling apart.

Perhaps that’s one reason relaxing can be hard for some people – even a moment of slacking and you’re falling apart in your head because so much of you is speed. Relaxation for a harried person might feel like an existential threat.

It’s an interesting insight. When you’re used to meditation, going to therapy, etc. it’s easy to see ourselves as complexes. We are thoughts and reactions and memory, crystalline memories on an erratic web, like rock candy on a string. It’s not hard to see yourself as bits and pieces when you do any form of self-exploration.

But the speed? I think that’s harder to see. You can see all the bits and bobs of your identity, but the connections and the rapidity of them? That’s a different thing to observe – moreso when it goes away in a slow breath or graceful meditative movement.

If you’re one thing because of speed – who are you in slowness?


A Practical Mystical View

I am a practical person – project manager, a writer who manages his own works, and a cook who has tested recipes up to eighteen times to get them right. I’m also a mystic who mixes magic, meditation, Taoism, and syncretic paganism. I find that a mystical viewpoint is very practical.

The fact I even feel I have to say that says something about the American culture I live in (as well as some of my own personality, but that’s for later). Our culture seems to be awash in religion and spirituality and an obsession with supposed-practicality – to judge by the various self-help books and seminars I see. In reality our culture seems to mostly be interested in making money not actual life – which in many ways is sort of impractical.

Making money is not the end-all-and-be-all of life. In fact that’s where I find a mystical viewpoint useful – dare I say, practical.

Let’s take a look at a sort of “generic” mystical viewpoint. The world is composed of powerful living forces like gods and spirits. There are connections and correspondences in the world, an interconnected reality beneath our supposedly mundane world. People can alter themselves with meditations and practices, interact with this world via ritual and activity.

It is a view of an organic, living world that a person can adjust themselves to and interact with.

Viewing the world as organic – complex and connected – is useful and accurate. From the way disease spreads to complex cultural changes, our world is not like a mechanism on any larger-scale level. An organic viewpoint helps you get the world – as if it is alive. In fact . . .

Viewing the world as alive, as filled with living (or life-like) forces, is also accurate. We can argue if spirits or gods are literal, but as I’ve said before, they’re at least a useful concept to grasp the world. Understanding the world as alive, respecting it, fearing it, understanding it’s as complicated as you lets you live within it better (and know it may crush you so get out of the way).

Viewing oneself as able to improve and evolve in this living world is vital to growth and participating in the world. Sure some stuff about aligning forces, energies, whatever is bullshit. But the idea of learning to rethink yourself as a changing being lets you, well, change – or resist change when needed. You just need to be careful of the bullshit, which is often prominent AND has neat diagrams.

Viewing the world as something we evolving beings can participate, is both empowering psychologically and for real. We evolvable beings, connected to this living world, can work within it and live our lives better. We think in terms of interaction, be it energy flows, correspondances, or whatever.

The mystical worldview is being engaged. Which is, as I note, rather practical.

The “dressing” for all of this – correspondence charts, pantheons of gods, etc. are just tools for doing this. They are ways to wrap up these living complexities in ways we can understand and share. They’re a mix of art, advice, maps, and metaphors to help us deal with the world.

You’ll notice none of this asks what’s “real” because in many ways that’s not the point. The question is does it work and help us deal with this world – a practical one. For many of us who engage in mystical practice, the answer is “yeah, it works.”

Of course it only works if we’re also engaged in thinking and rethinking our practice. But the whole thing is about being engaged, isn’t it? Most people I know who are inclined to magic and such spend their lives refining practice and their understanding. Many a witch or magician is more skpetical than supposed skeptics.

And thus we arrive back at my conclusion – the mystical viewpoint is practical and useful, a way to interact with our living, wide world. Indeed I wish we explored this in a more secular, systemic way so others can learn from it.

But then again, that’s for another time. Or perhaps something for you and I to discuss and see what we and our friends can learn together.

– Xenofact

I Am A Whirling Thing

My meditative practices mostly come from Taoist, Buddhist, and psychological works. My goal is to sit there with myself, watching in that focused-yet-relaxed state that is hard to describe. Note of course, I do not say I want to reach a checklist of mental states – doing comes first, and I could probably write a lot more on that.

My practice is also simple – sitting cross-legged, back straight, breathing in a slow constant cycle, mind resting on breath. This is advocated in my oft-mentioned The Secret of the Golden Flower, and like that lovely manual it’s simple, yet you could also discuss it at endless length. We humans love words, and we love to use them to describe the hard-to-describe.

You’ll notice despite my love of words, I’m often cagey about discussing these things. However, there is one insight I feel fine holding forth on as it is interesting and won’t put you, my reader, at risk, of trying to force yourself to experience meditative states.

Slow, regular, even breathing is a fascinating thing to watch because it’s a cycle. As I’ve practiced in my return to meditation, I’ve realized that everything is a cycle. Breath meditation isn’t that special, really, which is why it’s so important.

We live in an environment of cycles. The seasons go in their circles, water evaporates then precipitates, animal populations rise and fall. We depend on these great circles to live – and as we have seen, ignore or alter them at our peril.

Our societies and histories are cycles. There are times of taxes and of building, of growth and contraction. Civilizations come and go – often in depressing predictability in hindsight. Humanity’s “journey forward” even seems to be a spiral of repetition, though our ignorance of our environment suggests we’re heading for a nasty swing.

Human relations are cycles. We are born and grow, roles changing and expanding. Students become mentors to other students. Children become citizens. Someone at the height of their achievements will retire (well, if they’re smart).

We ourselves are cycles. Our daily waking and sleeping, eating and digestion, birth and death. Even when we end, other cycles begin – decomposition, and some would believe reincarnation.

I can see the cycles of my life and my behaviors when I pause. There are great circles and spirals of growth. There are predictable life patterns you can see in others. There’s even simple things like foods I like then leave then like again.

Then there’s meditation.

I am a cycle of cycles and part of cycles. I am a whirling thing.

– Xenofact