The morning sky is streaked with thin clouds that look like human lips smiling from on high, in approval of another sunny day. I was out in some of yesterday’s sunlight and saw a set of raccoon eyes on my face in the mirror last night. My sunglasses had been parked for a couple of hours on the bridge of my nose as I took in some of that warmth, while continuing to read my book on sensory awareness. The writer says that the roots of eastern medicine are in studying the flow and energy of living persons, while that of western medicine is in the dissection of cadavers and study of individual body parts.
Maybe east and west have come together in this modern age and put together a more rounded picture of how we operate, but individuals continue to have their differences. My interest in reading this book, New World Mindfulness, by McCown and Micozzi, has been to understand myself a little better. As I age I feel like whatever stray course I have been living on has brought me to a point even further from normal than I might ever have anticipated. At some younger age, perhaps all the generalizations western medicine makes about an individual would have been true. Now I have acquired enough complexity in mind-body and relation to the world that the only one who might best understand me is myself.
And yet the tools for me to understand this mind-body-world complex that I call myself are not so readily available or user friendly. The internet gives me a lot more knowledge than anybody had 20 years ago, but there is such a glut of ideas and opinions that I could spend life times sorting through them, being entertained by them, and still not be much closer to understanding myself. I began keeping a journal several years, which turned into a blog, just so I could provide an account to myself of who I am and what I think and feel. With some of my own writing to study and reflect upon, some way of defining my own life experience and isolating it from the experiences of others, I thought I might come to some new light.
Time and the motion controlling the stars has also had its effect on me. When I sit still long enough to look at myself I see me primarily in terms of the result of years of aging, of wear and tear, both inside and outside. I feel weaknesses in the bones and muscles, and a slowness in my responses that seems to correlate with gaps in my memory banks. The external changes going on in the world about me all seem to be working against me to make me feel alienated from life. When I look at the dynamics of this living process, I tend to want to forecast what the future will look like for me. It’s more difficult for me to see myself in the present moment and have any sort of unbiased opinion about my own health and well-being. I have become nothing but a bundle of biases and opinions, unable to see myself with any sort of objectivity, susceptible to self-pity and doubt, as the quiet voices that I allow to talk in my head try to convince me that my life is all a quick and plunging down-hill ride from here on out. My brief studies in mindfulness have taught me to pay attention to the moment, rather than attempt to escape into the past or the future.
If I am to see myself from the oriental view of life, the one that sees individuals in terms of flow and energy, rather than from the western one that sees me in terms of an animated pile of slowly deteriorating organs, I find within me a sense of life that feels more fulfilling, and certainly more hopeful and interesting than a biological trash container. I find an ongoing curiosity about how my life is going, rather than a quiet and stoic resignation. Underneath the daily thought patterns derived from labor and habit is another quiet and simple life that has been with me, unchanging and charging forth since the beginning. All of me, not just specific anatomical or psychological categories of me, is thriving with much vigor in this mysterious and fluid-like complex.
McCown and Micozzi run me through exercises in awareness, so that I can get a better read on how I am and how life is for me in the moments of each day. My mind and body interacting with the world that surrounds me–an ability I once had when young that slowly left me. When fresh and present in the moment, as a very young boy, everything I saw and did and felt was a pure delight. I see those qualities at work in young children. After a long day of playing hard and feeling the full pulsing of life throughout my body, I would then lie down and instantly drop into an enormously rich land of sleep and dreams. How did all that zest for living disappear from me and come to be replaced with a trend pointing toward tired and agonizing weariness? But more to the point of this moment, how do I get back what I have lost?
The difference between lost and forgotten comes to the front of my mind as I participate in some of these exercises in sensory awareness. I never really lost the senses that my body and mind produce and experience. I just stopped paying attention to them somewhere along the line. Gradually I learned to look elsewhere for a life, purposefully intending to grow into something new or something more mature, while willingly ignoring innate qualities and abilities that have always contributed to my identity as an individual. I slowly forgot some huge aspect of myself without ever knowing that it had disappeared from my range of sensing and feeling. It is now an experiment and challenge to find it and bring it back to a state of conscious living. Maybe I am actually more alive than I thought.