Feeds:
Posts
Comments

Posts Tagged ‘emotions’

standing stoneThe Ryoan-ji is an ancient rock garden in Japan, in the Zen tradition. It’s a so called dry garden, consisting of groups of large stones place upon a bed of smooth-worn and finely raked pebbles. I’ve studied Zen as an amateur student for years, but it’s an enigmatic subject, difficult to gain purchase and try as I might I still know virtually nothing about it. In a similar way I’m no doubt entirely ignorant of the deeper meaning of this garden. One of its intriguing and more talked about features however is that no matter what angle we view it from we can only ever count fourteen stones.

There are actually fifteen stones, but one of them is always hidden from view by the others, so we can never know for sure that there are fifteen, presumably without flying over the garden and viewing it from an elevated perspective. So, how many stones are there? Answer, obviously fifteen, but how many in our experience? How many from our every day perspective?

I’m not sure if this is an important Zen teaching, or if I’m creating a tangential one of my own, but it’s a useful concept none the less, that reality is always subjective and cannot help  but conceal both it’s true nature and, by inference, our own.

On a not unrelated subject, about twelve hours ago, I ate breakfast in the garden of a cottage overlooking the North Sea, a little to the north of Scarborough. I sipped coffee as I contemplated the changing shades of blue, and I tried to hold on to the scene, to imprint it in memory, both visually and emotionally, because I knew I would shortly be taking my leave of it and it would be a long time before I came this way again, indeed if ever.

Like that fifteenth stone the view is now hidden. I know it exists from some other perspective, but what I’m left with now, as I tap this out are the fourteen stones of a more mundane reality.

The ability to hold on to an awareness of the fifteenth stone is helped by having seen it in the first place. No amount of being told of its existence can substitute for the experience of seeing it. Merely being told it’s there requires faith and trust, when you cannot see it yourself.

Of course what I was looking at this morning was a reflection of my own self in a reality that was closer to the truth of who felt I am, of who we all are when not pummelled into a different shape by the repetitive and habitual lives that normally contain us. For a short time though, on holiday, we escape, we gain a different perspective, we view a different emotional landscape, we see and feel ourselves differently and wish upon wish we could be like that all the time. It is this transcendent essence that is contained for me in the symbolic meaning of the fifteenth stone.

But the truth is we have all seen it from time to time, and even though the evidence of our own eyes mostly denies its existence, we have only to shift our perspective slightly, do something, go somewhere a little out of the ordinary, to reveal its presence and realise it’s been there all along.

Advertisements

Read Full Post »

8pb2I’m not fond of hospitals. The only times I’ve been in one was either for the births of my children or the seeing out of elderly relatives – all of them traumatic experiences, though in different ways of course. This was why I felt nervous sitting in the waiting room yesterday with a complaint of my own, the prospect of surgery hanging over me, and the knowledge that the last few times I’d seen a hospital doctor they’d told me there was nothing more they could do and someone was going to die. Doctors, I assured myself, were useless. All of this was irrational of course, but analysing it into stillness passed the time.

It was my nose.

Years of Anosmia (no sense of smell) had finally led me to the Ear Nose and Throat department of my local hospital. My GP – not the most reassuring of characters – had referred me there somewhat half heartedly and with the caveat there probably wasn’t much anyone could do. It was partly his negative outlook that had led me to explore all the complementary therapies first, including acupuncture. The acupuncture had worked, but only briefly – a three week window of scented delights, late last year, but which had then closed, and in spite of the continuing administrations of my TCM practitioner, had refused to open again.

So, there I was, waiting to see the doctor – not your ordinary doctor this time – not like my GP who was merely a “Dr”. This guy was a “Dr Mr”. A surgeon. A proper sawbones!

My GP had  told me off for wasting time and money on acupuncture. Complementary stuff definitely doesn’t compute with him. On previous occasions when he’d asked me if I exercised, and I’d replied I do Tai Chi and Qigong, he’d looked blank. When he’d asked if I was taking any medication he was unaware of and I’d replied: “Does Ginseng count?” again he’d looked blank.

He wasn’t entirely to blame, poor guy; it was as much my own insecurity, perceiving his credentials as materialist and stereotypically 8pb1unsympathetic to the traditional eastern world view, while I feared my own approach still lacked the proper grounding in verifiable fact. So, I was guarded when the Dr. Mr. Sawbones asked me these same questions and I muttered the words Tai Chi, Qigong and Ginseng in an almost apologetic tone.

He was a young man – late twenties I guessed, studious, smart, clean looking coupled with an easy smile and an effortless sense of humour. His manner, his energy, was a world away from that of my GP – which always left me feeling slightly depressed. I’d gone to the hospital that day jumping at shadows, ready to run if anyone came near me with a scalpel,  but I decided at once this guy could stick a scalpel in me any time he liked. I trusted him.

He then astonished me by saying he thought Qigong was a remarkably effective mind-body technique, that he practiced it himself, and highly recommended it. I said I was surprised, given his background in western medicine and its traditional antipathy towards the non-materialist world view. He replied that things were slowly changing, then went on to discuss the Chinese meridian system – this while he slid a camera up my nose.

I wondered if he was having me on. Don’t tell me you support that as well, I said – though it’s not easy to talk with a camera up your nose. He replied that given the amount of compelling research data, western medicine really had no choice now but to find a way of assimilating at least certain aspects of traditional energy medicine into modern practice, though he admitted ruefully it would probably take another hundred years. His own view was that emotion played a large part in determining both the nature, and the incidence of a body’s malfunction, that he equated “emotion” with the term “energy”. The meridian system, talk of chi or whatever, was a tangible way of getting a handle on the emotions, thereby curing ills that were unresponsive to medicine alone, or for simply preventing illness in the first place. It was all related to the so called Relaxation Response, which we need to be able to balance out the other side of the mind-body equation – the Fight or Flight response.

Healthy mind equals healthy body.

As for my own ills, he announced I had a load of polyps up my nose – little non-malignant growths that stop the air from getting to the smelling apparatus, and there was a good chance he could get rid of them without surgery. He said I looked fairly fit off my Tai Chi and Qigong, and I should keep it up, otherwise the sackload of medication he was about to prescribe would be laying me pretty low.

I’ve been thinking long and hard about my encounter with this guy – almost forgetting I’d been to see him over my nose. But as well as identifying a concrete reason for my Anosmia, and a frankly positive assessment of the likelihood of curing it, my ten minutes with this highly educated western surgeon, working at the sharp end of the British National Health System had unexpectedly deepened my understanding and appreciation of  eastern energy yogas as well.

Any form of exercise is good for you. It doesn’t matter what it is – if it moves the body, it’ll improve the circulation of the blood and the lymph, and the body cannot help but respond in positive ways. But if, as well as moving the body, you can move the mind,… now there you have a powerful technique  – and not just as a health system, but also as a means of taking a human being to the very edge of what is possible.

I do hope this bag of pharmaceuticals helps me smell the world again, and they don’t make me too ill in the process. But I’ll also be taking my Tai Chi and Qigong practice far less self consciously in future.

Doctor’s orders.

Read Full Post »