Purpose Statement

Exploration -> Experience -> Feeling -> Transformation -> Understanding

Saturday, March 21, 2009

I'itoi's Gift


Making a hot breakfast on Baboquivari.

So I climbed Baboquivari last weekend with Special Ed and Climber Grrl Laura. We made it to the summit, took in the spectacular view, recounted the Tohono O’odham mythology of Babo and I'itoi, left an offering to I'itoi, ate lunch, laid in the sun, ... When it was time to leave, I felt an urgency to pray to I'itoi.
Hold on. This deserves a side-bar explanation.
So we think with words. Ideas and thoughts are constructed in our heads with words. Words are the material the conscious mind uses to know. But there is another level of understanding that does not involve the conscious mind. The mystics differentiate it from knowing by calling it gnosis, like gnowing or gnowledge. So this urgent feeling I had on top of Babo was not so much a thought made of words in my conscious mind, but more like a feeling or a memory, an experience that preceeds the words of the conscious mind. I did not have the thought "This is my last chance to pray to I'itoi." I felt an urgency that my conscious mind had not yet named, but I gnew what it was.
So first came the feeling of urgency. And still without my conscious mind naming the experience with words, I remembered or felt my prayer, my petition, which I am so familiar with, it did not have to be named or thought-verbalized. Again, a pre-verbal gnowing.
And what was so remarkable about the experience, was the immediate reply I received from I'itoi. Again, it was not that I heard words. This whole experience was preverbal. My conscious mind was just sitting on the side observing. That's a good metaphor. Imagine my conscious mind sitting in Zazen meditation, passively observing my - heart, soul, touchy feely thingy - experiencing and gnowing something like a feeling or a memory.
Recounting, it went:

1. This is my last chance to pray to I'itoi.

2. Here is my prayer/petition.

3. Immediately, I gnew the answer.
Receiving the answer was so remarkable, my meditating conscious mind sprang into action and thought, "Wow! That was remarkable! What was that?" And with that thought, words immediately began to stream. So my consious mind began trying to know what I had just gnown, and what was remarkable was the many different varieties of word constuctions that immediately came to me that express the gnowledge. Ghandi said, "Be the change you want to see in the world." Geshe Michael says, "Whatever you dislike in the other, fix it in yourself." Even the Michael Jackson song "I'm starting with the man in the mirror" streamed in my consciousness.
And this mystical experience has given me a great relief. Imagine having a task before you that is so enormous and overwhelming, you cannot begin. Then you have an experience that transforms the task at hand from something enormous and external to something internal and quite managable. That was I'itoi's gift to me.

60' or 70' up, soloing a 5.4 pitch. Easy climbing, but the exposure was nerve wracking. A metaphor for my life?

Sunday, March 01, 2009

The Impermanence of All Things

Today is the 11th anniversary of Arjan’s death. Yesterday I hiked to the place where he died. Today I ate Tofu Normandy at The Garland Restaurant, a special meal in a special restaurant with many memories of shared experiences with Arjan. Tonight I will visit Red and open a special bottle of wine.

My college roommate David Duimich died today.

I am conflicted. I feel the tremendous urgency of the Buddha’s final words:

All things must pass away. Strive for your own salvation with diligence.

and the Jiki’s reminder:

Let me remind you
Life and Death are of supreme importance.
Time passes swiftly by and opportunity is lost.
Each of us should strive
to awaken
awaken.
Take Heed. Do not squander your life.

And yet, simultaneously, I feel the detachment of the Prajna Paramita:

... all things are essentially empty –
not born, not destroyed

... there is nothing to attain

And as I contemplate the impermanence of all things, Bindi and April scratch at my legs to remind me that it is time for dinner. They are hungry.