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  • hardie karges 10:45 am on September 11, 2022 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: , compulsive, David Lynch, Elephant Man, , , Mississippi, obsessive, poison ivy, scratch, temptation   

    Buddhism and the Itchy-Scratchy Distractions of Meditation 

    One of the least heralded benefits of meditation is the realization that, besides any insight or ‘calm abiding’ that might occur, all those little itches and distractions will simply go away if left unanswered. And this might seem like a small side benefit, if it’s even a benefit at all, but for me, it’s huge! But let me first state that the most obvious benefit of meditation for me is the systematic effect of ‘reboot’ that I get immediately afterward, like that same effect when restarting your smartphone or laptop, and maybe just like a good night’s sleep, admittedly, but that’s something I rarely get.

    And that’s predictable and probably even measurable, but pales in comparison to this other effect that I’ve never seen discussed, or even alluded to, but quickly comes up with any Western meditators on how we can emulate the much more successful Asians, most monks and many laypeople, who can apparently sit (e)motionless like statues for hours at a time, while we all get the ‘itchie scratchies’ and it shows in our poor meditation habits ( I’ll avoid the word ‘performance’). The revelation is that those little distractions will simply go away if left alone, and that’s not by ignoring them, but just the opposite.

    But first a little backstory. By birth I am the most compulsive obsessive creature in God’s creation, if judging by my childhood behavior, such that I doubt that I’d still be alive today, if that could not be corrected. I would often eat myself sick, simply because I couldn’t stop, but that was hardly the worst of it. The worst of it was the summer season in the poison ivy country of the American Deep South and the added fact that my family lived surrounded by woods.

    So, at the worst, when I’d come in contact with the dreaded plant, not only would I scratch, I’d scratch until my eyes were all swollen shut, and any soft spot on my body would be deformed grotesquely, red and rash-like and ready to ooze its venom for any and all sightseers. The Elephant Man had nothing on me (remember him? From the David Lynch movie? David Lynch is now my weatherman on KCRW, btw). But I digress. This was a horrible situation, and my parents didn’t believe in medicine, so I was pretty much left to my own devices on how to deal with it.

    The answer is simple, of course. Do nothing. Literally, absolutely nothing. Especially, don’t scratch it! Ever. For any reason. So that’s what I learned to do. Yeah, but I must’ve missed those beautiful Mississippi woods, right? Wrong. I built a cabin in those same woods only a few years later, and guess what? That’s right. You guessed it. I never got poison ivy in five years, not even once. Call it what you want: will, self-control, or mindfulness, but the upshot is that my life was changed by the process, rather than consumed by it, and I’m a better person for having gone through it.

    And I didn’t do that by running away from it or pretending that the aggravation didn’t exist. I did it by staring it in the face and staring it down in the process. And that itch is a good metaphor for many of life’s obsessions and temptations, of course, such that the lesson therein can be applied across the board, or to the extent that you so desire. Ah, desire, but that’s another level of temptation, now, isn’t it? Bottom line: just because you have an itch doesn’t mean that you have to scratch. Maybe I should meditate now. Now what’s the Pali/Sanskrit word for ‘reboot?’ Right, re-buddha…

  • hardie karges 9:02 am on June 6, 2013 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: Chokwe Lumumba, , Harlem, Jackson, Mississippi   

    Welcome to America and the South: Harlem, Jackson and Chokwe Lumumba 


    Jackson’s New Mayor

    My grandmother was born in Harlem around turn-of-the-previous-century, and now Chokwe Lumumba is mayor of Jackson, Mississippi.  I can’t decide which is more significant, or a better lead-in to the theme of this write, but it’s obvious we’re not in Kansas anymore, Toto.  Such are the parameters of my accidental inheritance of Deep South heritage, something I’m still not totally reconciled with.

    Now my grandmother probably never considered Harlem home, but if she did, she never mentioned it.  How could she, what with all the changes it and she had been through?  She ended up in Texas and never looked back, not to New York anyway.  For even a second-generation immigrant, ‘home’ is likely to be the old country, in this case Germany, something I could never fully appreciate until I actually went there for the first time in 1996, and it all came back to me at the bed-and-breakfast table—the same white dishware, the same well-oiled furniture, the same well-oiled machinery and smiles. (More …)

  • hardie karges 11:11 am on January 30, 2013 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: , , , , Mississippi   



    I haven’t had a really good night’s sleep in thirty years, or thereabouts anyway, not since my last paid job as a carpenter, back in my seminal youth (accent on my little seamen, with their voyages of discovery), and defined by the sweet smells of patchouli, herbal essence, and decay, honeysuckle and slowly rotting newsprint, antique pickup trucks and low technology, the lower the better in fact, living in five-quarter-inch plank-wood cabin, rough-cut and left un-planed in makeshift sawmills, and toted by the truckload to the lower forty acres of uncut forest, lain fallow by then for at least two generations while the world went on without it, until I saw value where others saw only clear-cut profit, like my father before me, and so proceeded to put permanent erections in temporary top soils, me and quarter-sawed antique heartwood and wood-burning stoves and kerosene lamps and nature-lust and heartache, back when Coors was currency and non-conformity was criminal and planets were small and getting smaller every day.

      (More …)

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