Sunday, August 27, 2006

A sermon while shaving my head

I was shaving my head today and it reminded me of the spiritual path. When I started shaving my head, I had the tools (the scissors and the clippers), and I though I could just quickly cut all the hair off. Simple enough. But as I actually engaged in the hair cut, I quickly learned that it takes time, and I can only cut the hair off little by little. This made me a little frustrated since I didn’t have much time, but ultimately I had to surrender to the law of nature and cut the hair off little by little. Same thing with meditation or with spiritual practice. At first, I thought, “well, I have the tools (my mind and the dharma, the eight-fold path) and I know what to do, so it will be a cinch.” But, after a few weeks of practice, I learned that you could only transform little by little. The Zen Abbot in Lawrence Kansas spent 20 years or so just focusing on her breathing. There is something to say for that. Just think if you had that type of concentration, or that type of control over your mind (it makes me ask the question “Who is in control of my mind. Am I using my mind, or is my mind using me?” And meditating on the breath makes it very clear how little control I have over my mind! It wonders away from the breath so quickly. But little by little, “Sukoshi zutsu” in Japanese, i can learn to keep my mind where i place it.

Another interesting thing I thought of while cutting my hair. One reason why consciousness should not be reduced to physiological processes is because that erases all value judgments. For example, different brainwave patterns can be observed using an EEG machine, but the machine cannot say if one pattern is BETTER than another. Hatred and compassion will both register as patterns on the EEG machine, but the machine cannot say if one is better, or more valuable, than another.

SO, let me ask you: which is better or more valuable: Hatred or Compassion? Now I can hear some of my friends saying “You can’t say one is BETTER than another because they are both important and necessary." Or some might say that they are both manifestations of Spirit, they are both equally empty and thus equally luminous. But that nonjudgmental position is maintaining itself as a better or more evolved position than the judgmental one. Or, even better, the scientific position is better than the spiritual one. That itself is a value judgment that is impossible to make if you wish to reduce consciousness to brain processes (or if you wish to commit scientific reductionism, which I, and many of my friends, most honorably wish to do.) Interesting. We are condemned to Spirituality. Consciousness or subjectivity is not found solely in the brain. (And, just look at the Ken Wilber video to the right and notice that he is totally awake and aware even though there is next to no brain activity. In fact, many meditators (myslef included) claim that one is more aware of what is real and going on when there is less brain activity masking or limiting perception. Again, very interesting I think.


~Kelley~ said...

wow. that's a great post.

~Kelley~ said...

i didn't know you shaved your head!!

May all beings be Free and in Love.

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