Just because it’s believed, doesn’t mean it’s real.

I know it’s time for me to start preparing for the night, but I’ve actually had some interesting thoughts to share.  One of them, is how much easier it is to talk and define oneself when one isn’t aware of exactly how crazy one sounds.  🙂

I have a tendency — a strong one, on reduced medication (I’ve started to get off of Prozac, which historically has helped clarify my thoughts) — to be creative and define myself in creative manners.  However, what has become clear to me is just how many versions of myself I can have…and that none of them may be entirely accurate.

It’s actually really easy to define (or redefine) oneself (especially if one is delusional; meaning that no matter what evidence is presented to one that the belief is untrue, one will continue to hold the belief despite it).  And it’s easy to believe these definitions of oneself are true:  it’s the brain’s way, to believe itself.

The hard part is sticking to these definitions, because when you’re trying to be anything you can conceptualize, there will inevitably be holes (the true self may be beyond conceptualization).  And after a while you realize that all these outgrowths are symptomatic of a deeper reality, which is that your tendency is to create and that given no creative outlet, you rewrite and re-iterate yourself, as versus your art projects or your crafts or your writing or music…or apps… 😉

(Water has been a strong theme in my life.  It will seek out holes and burst dams.  The more I try to hold it back, the more catastrophic the floodwaters can be.)

As I’ve moved forward in life, as versus paused to ascertain whether and how to just hold steady and avoid despair, I’ve not had time to devote to things like energy work or spiritual topics which may only hold a side-benefit of (supposedly) better health.

When I was a youth, I was drawn to Buddhist philosophies, because having a philosophy which recognized the existence of duhkha (popularly translated as “suffering,” but this is an inexact translation), and was based around relieving it, gave me some comfort.  It meant I wasn’t alone in my pain.

By now, I have integrated parts of Buddhist philosophy which can help:  but I don’t really think it’s…true, anymore.  (Pretty much, nothing classified as, “metaphysics,” “spirituality,” or, “religion,” fall into the “undisputably true” category, with me.  Even the category of “philosophy” is questionable [if you start out with the wrong givens, in philosophy, you can’t hope to follow them to truth] — although I do realize that this post is in essence, philosophical.)

People are creative — is something I’m taking as a given — and many more things can be thought of, than are true.  Buddhism is a creation which has been co-created by many people over more than two millenia, which has likely helped sustain a large number of lives over the years it has been in existence…but its functionality (its usefulness) doesn’t relate to its truth value.

That is, something can be useful, and not be true.  I may have, on this point, come to the realization of what is meant by the Buddhist concept of upaya (usually translated as “skilled means”).  Although all explanations I’ve heard of this concept seem condescending — I’m kind of understanding, at this point, that this is both an admission that doctrine itself may not be founded on truth, and that it is still important to address duhkha in life.

Earlier tonight, I realized one thing:  that people in certain spiritual communities (myself having been included among these at multiple times) have felt relatively free to say things, precisely because they felt those things with such certainty.  However, my experience with mental illness has made at least one thing clear:  a subjective feeling of certainty is not a determinant of truth value.  What do I mean by that?

I mean that just because we think and feel and “know” something is true, that doesn’t mean it is.  It’s the brain’s nature to “believe in” what it tells itself.  Now it is possible to have subjective (or internal) dissonance, and that also needs to be attended to:  oftentimes, it has been feelings like these which have let me know that I didn’t have both feet in reality.  (There does seem to be a spectrum of, “More True”-to-“Less True,” when it comes to seeking out who one is.)

And once you’ve been around long enough, it becomes apparent when others are attempting to manipulate you for their own gain.  (It’s one thing for a person to choose what to believe; it’s another for someone else to try and choose what they believe for them, in a manner that benefits the one doing the choosing and not the disempowered subject.)  Just because I recognize that I cannot fully grasp reality in my mind, doesn’t mean that I think anyone else can, either.

This has been the largest reason I’ve stayed away from spiritual institutions.  Although I do admit that I am now curious about attending Buddhist services.

The priest at my family member’s funeral was from a Pure Land sect:  Jodo Shinshu, to be exact.  But he seemed to have his head on straight, and to know what efficiently and urgently needed to be addressed.

It’s apparent to me that we tell ourselves what we need to tell ourselves in order to simply function and stay alive.  In this sense, creativity in humans functions as a survival mechanism.  And is this why so many creative people deal with mental illness, as well (only the most creative, survived)?  I’m not sure.

It’s apparent to me as well, that religion is an outgrowth of creativity.

I’m not certain exactly what will happen if and when I succeed in entirely kicking Prozac.  What I do expect is that my creative faculties will become less muted.  In turn, I’ll probably become more eccentric than the way you’re used to seeing me behave.  I hate to say I can’t help it, but…it’s just the space I normally inhabit.

I just have to make sure I don’t box myself in too tightly with definitions and proclamations of “truth”…because words don’t matter where it comes to what’s real.

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Buddhism and anatman — a personal view

Last time I was sick (I’m better now), I realized how quickly ideas about functional immortality (reincarnation or other continuance of a phenomenal spirit past the cessation of bodily function) fade due to having an unexplained fever which will not break, and weight that is dropping at a rate of a pound a day.  The reader may recall that I’ve had an interest in Buddhism from my undergraduate years…accordingly, I’m aware that at least some (if not many or most or all) school(s) of Buddhist thought hold to rebirth, but not reincarnation.

The distinction is fine, but the implications are vast, either from a general paradigm-shift back towards materialism or from a lack of hope or worry about immortality.

In a Buddhist theory of rebirth, the effects of past actions (karma) go on to seed a new birth after the death of a sentient being; however, death for the person who has died is seen as final.  That is, the new life which arises after the death of the being who seeded it, is not the same being as the one who existed before, even though this new being may maintain a sense of continuity with the past being (or a plurality of past beings) through inherited karmic effects (and/or the problem of identification with that which made one).

In reincarnation, as I understand it, there may be a personal essence apart from the body which is transplanted and reborn into a different body.  However, keep in mind here two things:

One is that I have not studied advaita (non-dualist) schools of Hindu thought (like advaita vedanta) heavily, which seem monist from here (monist = the philosophy that everything is one); and I get my ideals of having a soul from various cultural points:  including Hinduism, as referenced by Buddhism.

That is, I get my ideas on the metaphysical validity or necessity of a “soul” (atman) concept through the lessons of people who do not believe in souls; and I believe the latter were referencing dvaita (dualist) Hindu thought, in which mind and matter coexist to create life.  I also know that it’s not uncommon to see distortions; at times, outright falsehoods; and torquing of what I as a Westerner percieve as ethics; promoted by Buddhist writers, in the name of pragmatism.

I also have not studied theories of reincarnation — in specific, reincarnation (not rebirth) — heavily, although any explanation of how I came to be which was not “reincarnation” was foreign to me when I was a child; and for much of my life the question of whether or not I have a soul (atman) has weighed on me.  This has particularly been the case after having been introduced to the Buddhist doctrines of anatman (no-self) and shunyata (emptiness).

The latter seems to fit well with a behaviorist and constructivist view of the self; the former is something that appears to be unique to Buddhism and philosophies which would likely fall under the heading of “atheism” — although “atheism” seems to be a misleading term, to me.

There are religions without deities (Buddhism, at times, being one of them), and religions with plural deities likely (in my experience) don’t grant those deities the same power and status as the big three monotheistic religions do.  That is:  the presence or absence of belief in a deity is irrelevant in determining whether someone holds religious ideals; or maintains a mode of thought closer to that of a religious person, than to someone who has divorced themselves from all religion wholeheartedly.

In any case…didn’t mean to get into that, but.

The following is based mostly upon unrecorded thought which I seem to intuitively understand but not be able to commit to words, easily.  I’ve come to the place where I’m getting to be okay with knowing that I don’t understand what happens after death, and in which I’m getting to be more okay with the concept that this is the only life I’ll have.

After all, if it’s so, being upset about it isn’t going to change it.

This has just been based on the threat of more war, on the peril to human civilization which is coming at us from at least two fronts, now.  I’ve been worrying myself in thinking about the metaphysical/energetic impact of 21st-century weapons (yes I know it’s silly), and about the future, should the belief in reincarnation be valid and we all are reborn as cockroaches on an irradiated planet, or one which is turning into a twin Venus.  Is that what we want our legacy to be?

In this point, I can actually understand the question as to how someone can lead a moral life if they don’t believe they will be judged for that life, later.  Because if you don’t believe that you will have to deal with repercussions for your actions, it’s hard to imagine some people — not all, but some, and they’re in the middle of exemplifying it — will take that as an excuse to behave in a way harms others, and harms themselves, and may cut off all of our futures.

Of course, what you and I take as “harm” are likely to be different things, at least slightly, if not radically.  But it’s obvious that people who don’t care about climate change, or who are welcoming it as the end of the world (like the death of life as we know it is something to celebrate) don’t believe they’re going to have to live later on with the mess we are all making.  That’s in violation of a direct action-reaction principle, because we collectively don’t want to be told we’re doing something wrong and that we need to change.  Because change is scary, and people are creatures of habit.

And we don’t like to be told we’re behaving out of fear, either.

But I’m getting better with the idea that perhaps I don’t have to take all of this on.  I’m getting better with the idea that this is temporary; that whatever this life is, it only exists on this side of the veil.  And that at the end of this stint, I may not have to deal with this at all, again — or at least until such time as the motions of the universe or multiverse see fit to bring together again the conditions that allowed this me to come into being.  For however long that lasts.

I know I won’t be the same person, at least figuratively speaking, and in that I can see the idea of anatman showing up, fairly clearly.  (Consciousness may be regained; identity may not be.)  But that doesn’t mean this will be the end of it.  (I should investigate ancient ideas of atman more thoroughly, I think…)

Maybe, in this philosophical position, the best I can hope for is either having gained enough advancement so that I don’t have to remain stuck in lower levels of learning for too long, the next time; or to…I don’t know what…savor what time I have, because it’s finite.

Of course, this “time” thing…I can still be punctual, but I’ve never understood it…

Brainstorming this, because I need to work on it:

I’m really tired, but I don’t feel like going to bed or taking medication…and I have work tomorrow.  I have also been bouncing around an idea of a story about someone who believes they’re functionally immortal, but on a dying planet.  (or otherwise, a planet going through one of its near-death experiences/mass extinctions.)

This then calls in tension between the desire for unending life and the idea of not clinging to temporary things (as clinging causes suffering and rebirth — not seen as a good thing).  The former, I’ve read as Daoist; the latter is classically Buddhist.  The former brings conflict and life; the latter brings peace and a lack of life as we know it.

I am not sure I would be able to work this into my previous story:  if I did, the character in question would be about the fifth main character (I have traditionally had characters I can shorthand as psychic, lover, demented, parental, all interacting:  yes, I can make them more complex; at the time I first conceived them, though, I was a teen)…but I guess that keeps things…interesting?  I’d like to keep at least two of these characters female, meaning the one who feels immortal (in a mortal world) would likely be such, in addition to the main (though the latter is complicated…though now that I look at this, there are only two clearly male characters here).

Also, I keep having flashes of concern about worldwide famine, which ties into the story I’m thinking about, but which I don’t want to write about in a serious manner (talk about scary and depressing).  On top of this, I’m dealing with multiple generations…though what I mean by that is hard to explain.

What I have found is that I’ve entered the story about 2/3 of the way in, as I thought of it at the time.  But I don’t know how I’ll resolve it…in fact, I don’t know what the central conflict is, yet, to resolve (or maybe I knew at one time, and forgot).  Making peace with death?  Growing tough in order to survive?  Growing together in order to survive?  Dealing with mental illness?  Accepting non-quotidian brain functioning?  Maybe I should just write and see what shows up.

The famine kicks in at a very late (potential) point in the game, and at this point I don’t know if I’m dealing with echoes of past lives, or telepathic beings, or if any of the psychic phenomena are key to solving any of this (more than key to ending and surviving it).

They aren’t “ghosts;” at least in a Western sense, I know what ghosts are, and they aren’t the same things as spirits; rather, they’re interdimensional echoes caused by powerful trauma.  Thus, when you hear coughing at the ruins in Pompeii, it’s possible you’re actually hearing the psychic (traumatic) imprint of coughing reaching you from the past, in the moment in which it happened.  It just has to cross (I need a new word for this) the time barrier, not time and space.

If we’re looking at remnants of the workings of past lives in present entities, such as beings who appear to be outside spirits but are actually personifications of who “you” used to be (given that we don’t remain the same between lives), that’s different.  And if we’re dealing with beings who reside on Earth (apparently) but who only give evidence of their existence in the thoughts of those whose minds function in an abnormal manner, that’s something else.

I should really get to reading some of my material on Daoism, here — I’m sure it would help, though I know I can only learn so much from books.  At one time I was directed toward an elder teaching ba gua about 30 minutes’ drive away (a Chinese internal martial art); I have not met her yet, and to be honest, I’m kind of scared to.  I don’t even know if she’s still alive.

I did find another author who caught my attention the other day at work:  Kenzaburo Oe.

It has been an extremely long time since I have read any fiction (which makes it hard to translate this out into fiction), but one of this author’s books literally found its way into my hand recently…and I have wanted to read more material from Japanese authors, aside from Yukio Mishima (I believe I have read at least one or more of his works, but I can’t recall which — or if what I read was poetry or prose; it had to have been a lifetime ago), and Haruki Murakami (who I just don’t jive with).

Why Japanese?  It’s the East Asian culture I have most familiarity with; not a nationalistic thing.  I figure it’s as good a place as anywhere to gain some solid footing, and then from that place, branch out.  Although I’m fairly certain my main character is not Japanese.  It’s just been so long since I’ve read any good fiction, that I need to start with something I can grasp and which has some semblance of cultural relevance or utility for me on a larger scale.

And…I’m being told to get to bed…

(long) What to put my time into?

It’s…interesting.

Over the past few days, I’ve been having a dialogue with myself about where to put my energies.  For example, with my homework, and from there out, with my art, creative writing, reading, blogging…music…?

I have seen some people online develop in a given medium very quickly, due to daily practice.  The most obvious example of this I can think of (and I hope I’m thinking right) is Charlie at Doodlewash, but as best I can remember, there are others whose names I have neglected to pick out of the ever-coming tide that is the Internet.

I’ve started to think about my activities, not in terms of what I do well, not in terms of what I presently can do, but in terms of what I want to do.

This is assisted, no doubt, by the curricula I’m presently studying…though that might get a bit arcane here.  Basically, when someone realizes they need information, they likely start out with a very poorly-formed idea of what it is they’re searching for, because they don’t know what they don’t know — and asking them what information they need is asking someone to define the parameters of what they don’t know…which, they don’t know.

When I first started researching Buddhism, for example, it was along with studies of alternative spirituality (particularly Theosophy and Spiritualism; I don’t remember whether Pantheism was along with, or after, this) and the Western Occult Tradition.  Right now I know more about Buddhism than most people around me — I know more than what every beginner book I’ve seen recounts, as though it’s new — but I reached out of my sphere, in the first place, to try and escape people and their twisting of religion to support their bigotry.

What I have found, over about 15 years of studying Buddhism, is that Buddhists have their own problems to deal with, irritatingly enough.  Not only that, but it’s kind of impossible to find an authoritative voice on the matter.  Buddhism is 2500 years old, and orthopraxic (right action) instead of orthodoxic (right belief), or so my World Religions class would have told me.

Instead of asking and expecting a clear definition of nirvana or Buddha-nature, it’s more like, “does the interpretation you’re reading agree with you or not?” or, “where are the holes, and are they large enough to matter?” or, “is this logically coherent?  (Be honest.)  If so, what are the consequences?”

I may not be reading enough modern thought, in this field, though.  I’ve come to realize that the world now is different than the world 2500 years ago, though people’s problems are still largely the same.  The issue with me is the idea that everyone’s “awakening” will be qualitatively the same; that inherently, everyone is the same.  This may have been unquestioned 2500 years ago in India, but I cannot go without questioning this, now.  Living in a major metropolitan area will kind of do that to a person.

In addition to this, the entire idea of a “soul” or spirit is one of these things which …I have not read a full treatment of, from a Buddhist perspective.  What I gather is that a phenomenal self is recognized, but that this self is constructed, and not essential.  This differs from, pretty much, every other religion I’ve studied; but it also becomes entangled in current-day discourse about constructivism vs. essentialism as regards gender; a.k.a. whether all gender is “socially constructed” or “inborn.”

As a person whose gender expression (and historically, identity) inhabits a range rather than a locus, it’s hard for me to have an opinion on this.  The major point is that Second-Wave Feminism (I think this began in the 1970’s) has tried to argue that what one is “born as” is what one “is,” with the transgender movement historically fighting against this.  This axiom would state that, for example, a transgender woman was “really” a man and thus could be excluded from “women’s space,” without everyone in the group feeling bad about it.  In consequence, everyone which was included looked similar enough to be assumed to be qualitatively similar (as definitions of “man” or “woman” did not go beyond physicality; causing the [hypothetical] inclusion of trans* men within women’s space, instead of trans* women).

However, the current state of transgender politics seems to be coming to a newer resettlement where very young children are expressing identity with members of a sex which they do not physically align with…so now it seems that the argument is again back to “one is born as what one is,” just that the mistake (and it does seem to be a mistake) of assigning a person to a gender category based on their physiology…causes more harm than good.

In short, we are back to an essentialist argument, but with what is “essential” being something one cannot physically see (though there have been studies showing similarity of regions of the brain between trans* women and cis (non-trans*) women, and dissimilarity of those same regions between trans* women and cis men, at the least; last I checked, trans* men were not well-known enough to have any acceptable sample size.

But anyhow…I’m not sure if I should be a philosophy major or something, 🙂 but my own experience of myself brings me to the point of feeling that …I do or may have a “soul,” which is distinct from other “souls.”  I wouldn’t say it to be irreducible to something like any other living being would experience — that is, I’m not sure at all that what I recognize as myself is “essential” — but there does seem to be something that sets me apart in this life, that, when violated, brings me illness.  That is to say, I have a “nature.”  It’s a very changeable nature, but it’s still a nature.

And this, in turn, is separable from an ontological stance which states that no one has a soul.  The clearest representative of this to me is Scientific Materialism, though I am not a subject matter expert on this, having veered away from materialist philosophies, myself.  I did purchase a book on Sartre (Existentialism) recently as well, and it would be interesting to see what he says about it…but this is mainly for my own breadth/surveying the field.

The problem I’m having is being unsure that any organized religion is actually and honestly for the good of its members (excluding the priesthood).  In short, I’m not sure if any of it is true, and I know there are vulnerabilities commonly found in seekers which are being played upon (notably, in Buddhism, the experience of psychic pain and the drive to death [thanatos — it’s a Freudian idea]).

I’m not sure I’ve seen the latter actually explained outright anywhere in relation to the desire for nirvana and cessation of rebirth; but I know that for me it has been an issue.  Buddhism was one of the things which kept me alive when I was going through a fairly relevant depressive phase, to the point where I realized that if Shakyamuni had ever actually existed, he was probably a depressive who lived before we had a term for it.

And…I have wandered far away from what started this post.  The question is whether to continue with this line of study, or drop it and find something else.

I am thinking that if, every day, I practiced guitar for at least half an hour, I would become fairly good at it, after a while.  This is, as versus my art.  I have to do enough reading as it is, but I could get back into that (reading for pleasure), as well.

Art is one of those things which I know I was praised for, very early on.  I know it’s something I’m relatively talented at.  But without a clear subject, it’s tough for me to get into; this being why I was prolific in the Art program at my Community College, but which I have trailed away from without the outside support and prompting.  I’m fairly certain that if I did get back into Creative Writing, this would in fact give me things to draw.

Of course, that’s Illustration, there — which is actually the drive which caused me to come back and try the Art program again in the first place.  When I first came back, I didn’t even know if I liked drawing, to be honest.  Things had just gotten really dull for me, where it came to image-making.  I remembered that I had originally liked to do it (when I was making a story with pictures [could you call that a comic?], as a kid), and I remembered that drawing the same thing over and over again — as I did as an adult — wasn’t worth it.  I’d get bored.

I re-entered with the hope that instruction and refreshed subject matter would help me see if writing and illustrating my own Graphic Novel was even something I would enjoy; and if not, I could just trash the whole Graphic Novel idea and work on pure writing, instead.

What I can say is that Art is difficult.  There hasn’t been a time for me when it hasn’t been difficult, except when I was a kid and didn’t care at all whether things looked wonky to other people.

And then, Writing…writing, writ large, 😉 isn’t hard for me.  Fiction Writing, though…is just psychologically difficult.  I have a habit of not being able to clearly tell the story I’m writing, apart from reality.  But through the Art program, one of the things I realized is that Art is not a representation of reality.  Photography isn’t a representation of reality.  Fiction writing, is not a representation of reality.  Neither is television, nor movies.

Verisimilitude to reality is used to a greater or lesser extent to provide familiarity and context to a story or message…to be honest, I’m not entirely certain what I or we are trying to get across in a way of thinking about the Humanities in terms of content as versus form.  The one thing I am certain about is that when one is within a story, that story is constructed around you, to a certain extent for you (and to a certain extent, by you).  For what purpose?  …I’m not entirely sure.  If you have thoughts on this, I’d love to hear them in the comments.

In any case, thinking back on it…it does seem, now that I think of it, that I’ve found expression through writing and art, and now am re-trying music.  Music is interesting, though I’m so new to it that I’m not entirely sure I can say why.  Certainly there’s a rhythmic component, and the emotional states elicited by certain tones being played next to each other and harmonizing (or not).  Then, of course, being a time-related thing, it is also — like writing — linear in format.

Tonight I was just having fun with arpeggiating guitar chords — particularly, starting with the F-major that’s closest to the top of the neck.  I think I could, eventually, make a habit of writing my own music; the question arises of if it is what I want to do, though.  Do I want to write?  Draw?  Paint?  Play music?  Make beaded jewelry?  It’s fairly obvious that writing is part of my lifeblood — I don’t feel right when I don’t do it.

I miss my beads.  I stopped my practice and working on new designs when I realized that this was not something that I could rely on to pay any bills (except maybe a blog bill for a nice layout here, if I started on Etsy); but it is what got me into Painting (which enables much more subtle custom color adjustments).  There is a lot of work which goes into designing and constructing beaded jewelry which has to do with light and color…it may be playing with my tendency to engineer from prefabricated parts, as well.

(Two of my most favorite toys from when I was a kid were my Erector set, and a circuit board D got me for Christmas, one year…)

And, hey…I just realized the linear component to that, as well…it’s just that with what I do, there is the mode of interweaving that can be realized, as well as anchoring and knotting.

Interesting…but I think I should get some sleep, right now!  Heh!  If anyone has anything to say about the content we try to get across in the Arts & Humanities, I’m more than listening…

Buddhism, anatman, and spirit

I actually need to get organized.  There has been progress on some fronts — I called my old Vocational program and set up a time to initiate the process of having my case re-opened.  I have also cleared off some work space on the craft table, and set aside some books to be returned to the library.

Yesterday, I took back some fiction which I wasn’t really highly interested in (though I was trying to be interested), and some other stuff, the topics of which, I can’t recall.  Ah, right:  it was the mandala and Buddhist stuff.  I’d realized that I had at a prior time read entirely through the mandala book (I think it was Coloring Mandalas 1), and the Buddhist stuff…there was some Thich Nhat Hanh and Pema Chodron stuff in there, which I totally didn’t even look at once I got it home.

Speaking generally…the Buddhist works I’ve read which are intended for a general audience, seem to try to gently inform one that things are not right.  Somehow, I did break into reading books intended for a more specialized audience (Essentials of Buddhism by Mizuno Kogen being one [Mizuno is their surname]), and that kind of context is less…like sweets and hugs to calm a crying child.  It’s more along the lines of, “this is how we got to this point,” which implies that nothing is really immutable about the Dharma; or rather, it changes to suit times and cultures.

I’m not totally sure what my opinion or stance is as regards Buddhism, at this point.  On one hand, it does make sense to the part of my mind which is pessimistic and depressive; it also assists in dealing with everyday dissatisfactions and illusions.  The drawback is that, while the goal of Buddhist practice may be to attain nirvana (or satori as the case may be in Zen), nirvana has never been clearly defined to me.  This is likely because it would take more than one lifetime to examine Buddhism from a generalist standpoint, and not all schools agree with one another…obviously, or there would not be different schools.

Generally speaking, the ideas of spirits, demons, and gods are…not necessary to the practice of Buddhism.  Neither is the idea of a personal soul; and actually, Buddhist thought in some (many? most?) streams has argued against the idea of a personal soul (this is the doctrine of anatta or anatman), stating that the being which we experience ourselves to be is constructed and not essential.

Theoretically, I don’t have a problem with that, but there is also the fact that my state in this life seems to be of either a translucent (if it were clear, I would know what was going on), or generative nature…and arguing against the concept of spirit is something that doesn’t make sense to me.  I kind of flow in Spirit (though granted I do not primarily believe in “individual” spirits); so a philosophy that states that what I experience firsthand is illusion would not be…conducive to living my life as wholly myself.

There’s also the fact that Buddhism as I’ve read it does not address the particular problems that I face in this life where it comes to having or building some kind of framework to explain the paranormal.  Buddha never addressed this.  While it does give the practitioner free reign to do what they please as regards their belief or lack of belief in something beyond materialism (though materialism is a recent and perhaps foreign introduction — though there was at least one materialist school in India around the time of Buddhism’s inception), it just generally does not help when you’re dealing with things that I’m dealing with.

That said, I can accept that Mindfulness does help mental (and probably physical) health.  But the point of Mindfulness meditation is to show that there is nothing permanent about any internal states, thus there isn’t anything permanent about the self; therefore the concept of the self is illusory; therefore we can release the concept of the self and if there is no “I” to suffer, there is the possibility of breaking the chain of suffering and freeing the adherent into the possibility of nirvana, which I have only heard described as “bliss.”  It’s possibly also (depending on the school) the only chance at immortality where it comes to this particular life…though perhaps my lack of knowing Chinese and Pali or Buddhist Hybrid Sanskrit is showing, here.

I’m thinking maybe I know too much about this?  Or not enough.  Maybe both.

Beyond that, Mindfulness seems to be a recent “discovery” by Western psychiatry; as such, I’m not sure they know how it works (they don’t even really exactly know how the mind itself works, on that point; psychiatry is a young science), and because of that, psychiatry has a tendency to take everything whole-cloth and promote Mindfulness as a healing practice.  The down side of this is that there is probably a lot that is unnecessary to the practice which is being promoted as part and parcel of it (although it may be more religiously oriented — metta [lovingkindness] meditations being an example).

If I wanted to be Buddhist, I would be Buddhist (and as things go, I still may be Buddhist and unaware of it, given that Bodhisattva vows seem to carry on from life to life).  What I want is to be healthy, not to be converted.  I have concepts which I have developed on my own which have value to me in this lifetime, which are missing in the greater scheme of things.

I am hoping there is some way to mesh the idea of the lack of a personal self (or the idea of a personal self constructed over eons) with the idea of a spirit of life.  (After all, I’ve heard it argued that all gender is socially constructed, but that this doesn’t mean that gender isn’t real…something one learns in Gender Studies — or in transgender and feminist community interactions.)  I think there is a way to reconcile these two ideas, but I haven’t been able to formulate it, yet.  Probably, noting down the problem is the first step to working on it.

Apologies for the rant :P

I think I may have again run up against the reason I’ve stopped writing “things-which-aren’t-verifiably-true.”  It has come up in regard to posting on a forum I used to frequent, and it came up again in my last poetry attempt.

I have been aware of it, at least, since the time I started my Creative Process class (now completed):  It is more difficult for others to read what I’m saying when I work in visual art, and I was effectively blocked as regarded Writing.

This hasn’t really been broached…largely since I graduated with my Writing degree, now over a decade ago.  I stopped writing because I didn’t want to show people how messed-up I was; and at the time I was very, very ill.  In specific, all the parts of my identity which I want to hide, show up in my Creative Writing.

If you want to know how deep that goes, I can say that when I was at University, I pretty much let go of hoping for acceptance because — as I put it then — “if people don’t like me for one reason, they won’t like me for another.”  With strikes against me for my race, gender, sexual orientation, religion (or lack of one), spirituality, mental status, culture, politics, etc…the goal of acceptance was looking pretty hopeless.

Since that time, I have been somewhat in the adult world, where petty disputes over identity don’t occur as often as they do in high school, junior college, or University; though when they do occur, they seem to be much more damaging, especially when layered upon a prior history of trauma.

What I’m thinking is that if I’m going to write, I’m going to have to pull off these layers of gauze and actually look at myself and my identities — and stop pretending that I’m a normal person.  I think the reason I stopped writing was because of anxiety over self-presentation.  This, and concerns over not being able to be employed anywhere because I took the risk of expressing an unpopular (minority) opinion from an unpopular (minority) vantage point, at one time.  This, or people would read what I wrote, and not understand it, but judge me for it anyway.

I’m fairly certain that these motivations are applicable to this blog.  I’ve been much less prolific recently, and when I look at reasons why, it is not because I don’t have things to write about, but rather that I don’t want to deal with repercussions of existing as a multiply-impacted minority online.

The only way to avoid that, though, is to stay silent, and if I stay silent, intolerance and hate wins.

I do have a part of myself which has evolved specifically to counteract this, though switching into his mental space is a bit of a double-edged sword; particularly where it comes to gender identity and dysphoria.  (He’s male; this body is not.  He’s also a bit aggressive, which isn’t good when you have an aggressive mother who never backs down from a fight.)

I should note that when I speak about, “parts of myself,” the question is still up in the air as to whether these are external or internal to me, and whether the distinction is even possible, or if it matters at all.

The entire shamanic angle is another facet to this, though I don’t consider myself a shaman at this time, as I was never trained by a living person (other than my mother) in any kind of tradition.  I did go through a rather prolonged “Seeker” phase in which I explored…a lot.  Though what my spirituality is, now, doesn’t fit precisely into any specific religion.

I’ve read that a tendency to mental illness often rides along with psychic ability.  The psychic tendencies are what have caused me to look outside of institutionalized religion for answers.  Later, the politics and framework of the Western Occult Tradition caused me to look outside of the occult sphere for answers (I didn’t realize how alien it was to me, until I started looking into Demonology — and realized how heavily that was based in the doctrines and prejudices of a religious system which wasn’t mine).

The best I can do right now, is to depend on myself and try to recognize when I’m mistaken (which is not easy when you have a tendency to disconnect from physical reality, in general).  I do tend to keep coming back to Buddhism, especially when I hit depressive lows, but I don’t accept what I read, uncritically.

In specific, I have an interest in Huayan Buddhism (I have at least one book on this, which I still haven’t read:  I hit “sentient beings” and get triggered), and the period in time at which Daoism and Buddhism were stealing each other’s doctrines and followers in China — making them both sound similar in the present day (see:  Buddhism & Taoism:  Face to Face by Christine Mollier).

I think I’ve gotten really turned off of Buddhism because of some of the lay beliefs, like, “if something bad happens to you, you must deserve it (because of something you did in a past life which you can conveniently no longer remember),” and, “you only experience unpleasant things because you label them unpleasant (so if you label your toothache as ‘joyous’ you would experience ‘joy’ at your toothache),” or the belief that thinking is worthless (so don’t question the teacher), or the belief that all females are karmically inferior to all males (so we don’t have to fund that nunnery you girls want).

Beliefs like these are really irritating, but I’ve got to remember that they’re not actually anything that helps.  And Buddhism is at its core about pragmatically helping, so beliefs like these should be easily tossed aside — unless, say, you’re a heterosexual monk and having a hard time keeping to your abstinence vow (which is not anything Buddha ever even set in place — his followers did), and programming yourself to hold disgust toward women has become preferable to experiencing life as a being whose constitution includes libido directed at same.

But yeah.  Maybe I’ve just made it into the ranks of the non-beginner Buddhists…

I should probably sign off before I say more stupid things…

Working this out, #1

It was never really clear.

I had gotten an inkling of what might have been going on behind the scenes, but the great problem with consciousness is that, it seems, one can only explore it from within it.  While the concept had come up in a former project — of mind without memory or awareness — it had not been developed as far as Maya had wished.

The great sense that one had, from this mind, at least, was that there was a lot going on as regarded Mind.  The prospect of the Universe being Mind-only was taking it a bit too far, as had been touched on — there was one spirit in particular I knew who related strongly to Mind, but he was no longer dominant.  His medicine worked when our own mind had been ill and in pain.  But sometimes, even though one may wish escape from the pain, it is not the solution to attempt to escape from life.

In my past years, if I had thought it possible to escape pain by escaping life, I would have considered it more thoroughly.  However, the only solution to the problem of existence Maya could find which made any kind of sense (at the time) was reincarnation.  Being reborn would not ensure a life free of pain; in fact, it would almost guarantee the opposite.

For years, instead of focusing on the problem of wishing not to exist, I — and/or we — focused on how to stop the cycle of rebirth.  At least it saved my life, at the time, even if its end goal was, somehow, to escape the realm of life (and with life, pain).

It has been some time since this happened.  I’ve since stumbled on to the realm of what may happen should one embrace the fullness of life — pain, joy, and all.  It’s come to my attention that what we have here is a temporary situation.  I’ve dubbed myself a Creator, for now.  For me, this means that my life post — more than what I do to stay alive — is to make things which would not exist if it were not for my own life.

It is…somewhat freeing, but also somewhat, it … it somehow gives me pause.  Diversity is the stuff of life; sameness is the stuff of extinction.  There is a factor of illness in here, still:  so that I do not know if, in ten years’ time, I will still wish (or need) to call myself a Creator.  But for now, it is my life purpose.  (I did read that bit of Nietzsche, yes.)

This is the reason I do what I do.  By chance, fate, luck, or descent (I hope to explain that bit, eventually), I have been somewhat gifted where it comes to creativity.  My pain has developed my spiritual resources.  I don’t know if everything I put out will be worth creating, but at the least, I have a vision.  That vision is the strength of embracing life, now and in the future, however many lifetimes that will turn out to be.