Saturday, May 26, 2007

Feed Your Head

Techgnosis a website of incredible article after incredible article written by Eric Davis, author of The Visionary State: A Journey Through California's Spiritual Landscape and Techgnosis: Myth, Magic and Mysicism in the Age of Information. Thanks to Martin at Aarvarchaeology for highlighting this website. Techgnosis is really sexy looking. I went for the skin but stayed for the content.

Ultimately, the kind of mindfulness practice that Nisker teaches can lead folks to personally realize one of the core insights of Buddhism: that the self we think we are, the self we coddle and trumpet and worry about, doesn't essentially exist. On this point, the vast majority of neuroscientists would agree, arguing that the solitary "I" is really a society of mind, or an emergent property, or an illusion fostered by some narrator module lodged in the left hemisphere. Nisker even jokingly suggests that neuroscientists set up little brain-imaging booths that would allow people to personally see the pictures of their own noodles at work. "Then we could believe it. There's nobody home."From Davis's "This Is Your Brain On Buddha".

DAVIS: Did you have to flee Chile?

VARELA: I was an active militant socialist. I wasn't a big-time politician so I wasn't on their top list, but I was expelled. I didn't have a job and there were harassments, the police came a few times looking for me. It was bad. I had to leave.

DAVIS: What was it about Trungpa that struck you?

VARELA: Two things. I asked him, "My whole life is in shambles here, what should I do?" And the answer he gave me was such an intelligent answer. "If you don't know what to do, don't. Learn non-doing. Let your ignorance speak to you." Nobody had ever said that to me. And when I asked how do I do that, he said he'd teach me. So he gave me meditation instruction in basic shamatha sitting practice on the spot.

And the second thing one cannot convey except by experience, which is that the man had this enormous presence. He was humorous and alive and tremendously present and stable at the same time. It made me feel inside, I want that. And eventually I asked him that, How do I get to be like that, like an awake mountain? And he said Practice. It's up to you. It's not my particularly gift of genius, it's practice. So do it.

That kind of intelligence, of non-bullshit, of cutting through all of the trappings of cultural stuff and ideology and going to the heart of the experience, was so illuminating. It's still one of the most intelligent things that ever happened in my life.

DAVIS: Reading The Embodied Mind and Gentle Bridges, you discuss a number of analytic ways to approach the dialogue or synthesis between science and Buddhism. But Trungpa was hardly the most systematic or analytic Buddhist teacher.

VARELA: You're absolutely right. I didn't get interested in the philosophical and pragmatic tradition of Buddhism until four or five years later. What I fell in love with was practice, this radical non-doing. Learning how to just be there, and all the enormous complexity of that, and realizing that I'd never really known what it is to inhabit my own body and my own experience. So for many years, it wasn't an intellectual thing. My science was just a way of making a living. I had no interest in making it spiritual. And then of course then you start to see these two sides of your life talk to each other.
From Mind Waves, and interview with Francisco Varela.

1 comment:

Gardenia said...

Being a person who runs around leaving their poor exhausted body to cope - I really like that Varella fella and what he has to say -