I am laying in a hammock, with my eyes closed.
I am swinging gently. I cannot tell if I am feeling weightless, or if I’m feeling the absence of the weight that I normally feel.
I accept this feeling, or the absence thereof. I accept the curiosity which wants to know the difference.
I feel a desire for the curiosity to stop, for me to just accept this whole thing as it is without trying to change it, just for a moment, to feel the peace for which I sometimes feel desperate. I accept the desire, and smile a little. A lawn mower drones its agreement. The desire is still there, the dissatisfaction still there, the tension around my eyes and the mild headache and the lightness in my heart hoping for relief – these are all still there. I tell myself I accept them, and the accompanying doubt as well. I feel uncertain as to whether I am really accepting these things, and I tell myself I accept that uncertainty as well.
Chirps and chirrups and warbles and whistles and tweets, somewhere in between symphony and cacophony. I accept these sounds, and smile. The word “bird” covers the sounds in a blanket, muffles them.
My head hurts a bit, my throat is sore, the lymph node on the right side of my neck is swollen. I accept the pain. I accept the feeling of a toothpick on the back of my throat. I accept my desire for the pain to go away. I accept that I wish I could stop desiring and just accept all this. I accept that I am trying, at some level, to conjure a sustained feeling of peace. I accept the thought that his may be futile, and try to let this thought pass without reacting to it or acknowledging it.
There is a rapidly shuffling staccato, louder than most sounds, there is a flight path, the word “bird”, and with it, a sense of distance and angle, an arrow pointing away from “me”, a reminder that I exist.
I hear a voice, “look for the one who is looking.” The voice arises from memory, in similar situations. There is that old familiar irritation at being told to do a thing which I very much want to do but I cannot seem to do it, to escape the chatter of my own mind and just be at peace. I tell myself I accept this frustration and smile a bit.
The sound of a finger snap. “Just for a moment,” I open my eyes and see many different blue shapes. A fuzzy array of polygons, shredded by colorless lines, for a second there is only this absurd show playing on a screen, before the tree resolves itself into view, covering up sight with labeled perception. The tree is magnificent, a pattern of air extracted recursively by tiny machines evolves over eons, I smile at this sappy old fellow. It is seemingly only diminished by my calling it a tree. That is, until my beliefs about cause and effect layer on top of that perception, and show me a guess of its history, its beauty, its knowledge of this place and time, its loyalty to the sky and soil and even its amusement at the continuous ostinatto drone of the lawn mowers. Is this the way? To add more layers of appreciation, rather than hope for them to fall away on their own?
A leaf falls, passing centimeters from my left eye.
I get up, fuzzy headed, find the pillow on the ground, and go in to turn off the TV so my daughter won’t spend all afternoon watching it. She wants to play a game, I suggest a puzzle, and debate whether to go out and get a COVID test or just go back to the hammock.
I find myself in this space which i have frequented many times – the deliberative space in which a choice is made. Should I go in and get that covid test? Or just lounge on the hammock?
I’m so tired, I relax so rarely, and at some level i think it would be wonderful for me to seize this opportunity and spend more time in the hammock. But isn’t that irresponsible? Wouldn’t I feel better if I had the negative result I expect to get? Given that I am already vaccinated, and that Paul was sick earlier, and he tested negative the odds are incredibly high that I got whatever he had.
Fear clearly says to get the covid test. But who is in that other coalition which says no? The argument plays itself out in full: I’ll probably go in there, wait and hour, and get a result that confirms what I already think is highly likely the case. I don’t relax enough: here’s a real chance! And then another voice remembers that unpleasant woozy and disorientating feeling I got upon arising. “You wouldn’t really be relaxed,” it says, “you’d be feeling guilty about not getting a covid test.”
I move, again, in yet another attempt to minimize discomfort, a sense of fear and duty and guilt winning out, the other coalition offered only the idea of relaxation, a voice said that due to my headache and sore throat, it’s as different from real relaxation as the sound of a bird is from what it is that I actually heard out there, so I might as well get the test. The probability of resolution now seemed obviously in favor of the “get the test” collation. I, a tired observer, watched as a primate put on its sandals and started thinking about itself again.
I’m in the office now, waiting for the result.
I thought I should be taking this “deconstructive” approach, relaxing my brain so that it’s attempts to label and model and compute everything would finally cease and the experience of samadhi could finally arise and I could finally get this sense of, it’s ok. It’s fine. But it doesn’t seem to work. I can’t stop trying.
At that point, the doctor came to give me the results. I’m negative. No, I don’t want to be seen. I thank her.
Distracted momentarily from the search for peace, a thought arises: it’s the seeking which you’re trying to get out of. The act of having a goal is what takes you away from peace. I laugh. I sigh. It’s more believable than the story I was telling previously.
The ego seems to be a story my body tells itself. The story the ego tells primarily concerns the ego. The act of seeking seems to be what produces the feeling of unease. Even going back to re-read what I wrote here caused me unease. The act of telling a story about wanting something to happen seems to cause the longing and desiring. I went back to the hammock upon getting home, and kept asking myself “what is my goal”, and as words bubbled up, I responded “NOPE.” After this repeated a few times, it wasn’t “me” doing it anymore – it was just something happening on its own.
I’ve noticed this before: If I repeat a phrase in my head, after a while, “I” stop doing it, but the phrase keeps repeating. I keep hearing the phrase internally, but I don’t feel like i’m the one saying the phrase. It feels like any other thought which bubbles up, unbidden. This experience suggests a possible template for what ego loss must feel like. What’s the difference between consciously, intentionally, subvocalizing, and having those words just arise on their own? The only difference I can think of is the implicit interpretation that in the first case, “i am the one speaking.” This is just another story. I’m a more optimistic that with continued practice, I can stop telling that one so often.