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Let me tell you a story about strong renunciation. At one time there was a drought in a certain part of the country. The farmers began to cut long channels to bring water to their fields. One farmer was stubbornly determined. He took a vow that he would not stop digging until the channel connected his field with the river. He set to work.
The time came for his bath, and his wife sent their daughter to him with oil. 'Father,' said the girl, 'it is already late. Rub your body with oil and take your bath.' 'Go away!' thundered the farmer. 'I have too much to do now.' It was past midday, and the farmer was still at work in his field. He didn't even think of his bath. Then his wife came and said: 'Why haven't you taken your bath? The food is getting cold.
You overdo everything. You can finish the rest tomorrow or even today after dinner.' The farmer scolded her furiously and ran at her, spade in hand, crying: 'What? Have you no sense? There's no rain. The crops are dying. What will the children eat? You'll all starve to death. I have taken a vow not to think of bath and food today before I bring water to my field.'
The wife saw his state of mind and ran away in fear. Through a whole day's back-breaking labour the farmer managed by evening to connect his field with the river. Then he sat down and watched the water flowing into his field with a murmuring sound. His mind was filled with peace and joy. He went home, called his wife, and said to her, 'Now give me some oil and prepare me a smoke.'
With serene mind he finished his bath and meal, and retired to bed, where he snored to his heart's content. The determination he showed is an example of strong renunciation. "Now, there was another farmer who was also digging a channel to bring water to his field. His wife, too, came to the field and said to him: 'It's very late. Come home.
It isn't necessary to overdo things.' The farmer didn't protest much, but put aside his spade and said to his wife, 'Well, I'll go home since you ask me to.' (All laugh) That man never succeeded in irrigating his field. This is a case of mild renunciation. "As without strong determination the farmer cannot bring water to his field, so also without intense yearning a man cannot realize God."
From the Gospel of Sri Ramakrishna
A couple of days ago, my first day back in the gym after having been physically sick for a few days. Had that resurgence of health that comes with recovery. The feeling of the vital forces coming back into full power after having fought off the sickness. I knew that I was going to have a long workout. I wanted to completely exhaust my body, wrench out the last vestiges of the disease.
After having spent almost 18 hours a day, four days straight, in my head, I felt clumsy in my flesh. The first few moments of riding the bike, consciousness settling back into the body, a hand into a glove. Then body memory took over, the programmed robot consciousness, and I was free to think as I biked down to the gym. Part of me felt as if I might just relax, not think about anything in particular, merely daydream as I rode along. It was a beautiful blue sky day so there was plenty to look at. And I wasn't trying to focus my intentions upon anything in particular.
At first I summarized and reevaluated what I had been working on during the day so far, idly speculating on what I was going to do later. Musing over how often a seemingly unrelated item of mild interest will suddenly reveal a hidden depth that connects back to some of your deepest concerns.
For example, I was researching a shaving mug that humorously depicted a "scantily dressed" woman as a barber, holding a razor, leaning over a distressed man in the barber's chair. The subject matter was stated to have originated with an image from a stereocard, the kind that you would place in a viewer and be able to view in "three dimensions." For shaving mug collectors, this was an unusual theme - a sort of goofy novelty. But I believed there was something more to it. I compiled a collection of similar images. In one, an engraving in the style of Rowlandson, I noted on the back wall behind the female barber a painting of Samson and Delilah. And there it was: the seed of myth that I sensed inside the novelty image on the shaving mug. I noted this for my research without comment and moved on to other work. But as I was riding along on the bike, the connection of the Samson and Delilah myth to the modern male discomfort/humor concerning female barbers kept nagging at me, like a small child that pulls at your sleeve: C'mon, you've really got to see this. Turning my full attention to the issue, I was suddenly presented with a scene of profound meaning. Connecting the grammar embodied in a man's vow to God, as with Samson, to the act of having one's hair cut by a woman that leads to the breaking of that vow and severed the relationship with God. The keystone to the larger mythic significance is Edenic: Adam, alone with God, the Divine Command to not eat from the Tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil, the creation of Eve, the Serpent, the apple, the expulsion from Eden. All of this resonate and deeply sublimated in the act of a man getting his hair cut by a woman - humor being one of the sure signs that there is a sublimated tension surround an issue.
And this is just a summary of my thinking as I was riding to the gym.
I reflected over the nature of these sudden insights, these well known Archimedean eureka moments. My consciousness, having been up in my skull for days, having been intensely occupied with self-reconstruction, was let out of its room. Like a dog let out of a cage, with an immediate sense of joy, a celebration of greater freedom, running all around like crazy, and an eventual return to the familiar yard, digging up the old bones to gnaw on for a while.
My illness, confining me to the house, confined my consciousness to my skull, so to speak. And this threw me out of harmony. Most importantly, the body was neglected. And it is only through the harmony of mind, body and spirit that the fullest potential of any human being is realized.
I entered the gym hungry, my consciousness burning inside my flesh. I was craving resistance, intensity, exhaustion. I wanted to feel the will of my mind push my body, my muscles, into complete fatigue, loading up the resistance, increasing the repetitions of an exercise until the muscle could not perform anymore.
I started my warm-up on the recumbent bike, starting a re-read of Campbell's The Hero With A Thousand Faces. I felt my consciousness as a white hot instrument, penetrated into the meaning of the text with little effort. Each word of each sentence orbited like blue transparent planets in an immense solar system of mythic meaning. The preface example from Frued's The Future of an Illusion immediately started ringing within me. The bones of underlying argument, of the distortions made to religious truths by religious doctrines being the same as those made to children about biological events, the stork brings babies, by over concerned parents, clothed and re-clothed itself wherever my mind turned. Primal experience of the Sacred being distorted my secondary interpretation, critique, translation. Oral and auditory cultures with vast capacities for memory being distorted by the movement to writing and book based cultures with little capacity for memory. What is lost when we no longer know stories, poems, plays "by heart?" Again, I surprised myself like a kid finally learning to ride a bike with no hands.
Clearly, something has happened to me, a fundamental restructuring of my consciousness. I don't mean to imply that I am going through a kind of Flowers For Algernon shift, my mind has always been active and able, usually with some work, to get to the heart of matters. But not like this. It was as if I have been lifting weights for a long time, not paying attention, increasing the weight gradually, always struggling in the same desultory manner, like a sleepwalker, convincing myself that I was weak and kind of pathetic. Then one day I wake up, shake off the apathy and hopelessness, and seeing the world for the first time. Everything with sharp edges, burning with being, bright with meaning. I go to lift what I thought was enough weight to give me a good workout, and am suddenly amazed at how effortless it all is. Extending my range of motion with ease, it seems I could dance with weights that formerly pinned me down to robot-like limited movements of extension and contraction.
The key here is resistance. There must be something out there to engage the intentionality of consciousness, to trigger it into high intensity.
So there I was pedaling away on the recumbent bike, reading Campbell, and exploding with new connections of meaning and truth. Then another interesting thing happened. About 15 minutes in, I sensed that I needed to "check" on my body. My heart rate was averaging around 135 bpm. I was perspiring slightly. Everything good. The flesh was warming up. The gym at the Y is on the second floor and looks out over downtown Bellingham. As I said, it was a beautiful day. I looked out the window for a moment. And here is the thing: music started going on in my head. Pachebel's Canon in D minor. Now I know that this is not unusual. Everyone gets catchy tunes/melodies stuck in their heads. What struck me this time was how indicative it was to me of another state of consciousness. I felt like I was on the direct phone line to God and all of sudden he says, hang on a second, and there is this "holding" music. It was very nice. I could easily sit there on the bike, looking out the window, listening to Pachebel for a long time. But I didn't want to stay on hold, to sit there spaced out, letting the robot consciousness take care of living, thinking and being for me. So I took myself off of hold. And there was the connection as it had been. God starting the story right were he had left off.
Brain wave research [research bank] has established that there is a dynamic relationship between electrical wave oscillations produced by the brain and states of consciousness. Similar to light, there is fluid spectum/range of wave/states moving from deep sleep to intense mental activities.
State Frequency range State of mind
Delta 0.5Hz - 4Hz Deep sleep
Theta 4Hz - 8Hz Drowsiness
Alpha 8Hz - 14Hz Relaxed but alert
Beta 14Hz - 30Hz Highly alert and focused
Gamma 40 Hz Higher mental activity
As I was exercising, I kept moving back and forth between the focused concentration and the trance like music of the "on hold" state - most likely, from beta to alpha. Like refocusing your vision from your hand in front of your face to an object in the distance. I took note that they alpha-"on hold" state had an almost narcotic allure, I could feel a "magnetic pull," a "gravity" within it that took extra effort to get out of.
I want to be quick to add that these are common experiences and insights that occur to people every day. Sitting at the stop light, you "space out," car honks behind you, you tell yourself to "snap out of it." The difference that I am trying to indicate here is of a presiding consciousness over the both of them, a transcendental state. The research has shown two frequency patterns are often combined. I suspect that I was in an alpha-theta state charcterized by alert meditation.
The point is that I had control of my mind. I was training it. Naturally, the mind is trained by reading books, writing, drawing, playing music. I had always just presented these activities to the mind - much in the manner that you would feed a dog.
This is no longer satisfactory to me.
Physical analogies are apt: I want to exercise my mind as I would my body. A program of exercises for each aspect of the mind. Several exercises for each. Each exercise consisting of several sets. Each set divided into a number of repetitions (frequency) and levels of resistance (amplitude). Increasing one or the other of these variables increases intensity. This is what I want: to strengthen my mind through increased intensity.
There is much more to say about this. But this is enough for now.