On Week 3's Essay

Andy's forthright description of his own practice is both inspiring and practical, and his narrative of the process and end result surely resonates with my own experience of (occasional and partial) mindfulness. I love the variety of sources in this essay—all people of whom I was aware, but most of them I've never actually studied. I have many years of interest in Asian Studies and several years of teaching (mostly anthropology and history), so the general frameworks are familiar, but I hadn't sought to apply any of that academic background to my own photography, and it's intensely interesting to re-think the juncture between heretofore separate aspects of my life.

I've never felt it difficult to find the "calm center in my own deepest self" where dwells "mindful receptivity", and entertaining "alternate perspectives on reality" has been both professional perspective (cultural relativism is baked into anthropology) and personal standard operating procedure, and the very root of my affection for whimsy.

Alice laughed: "There's no use trying," she said; "one can't believe impossible things."
"I daresay you haven't had much practice," said the Queen. "When I was younger, I always did it for half an hour a day.
Why, sometimes I've believed as many as six impossible things before breakfast."
(from Through the Looking-Glass)
That people see the same things very differently is beautifully exemplified in Akira Kurosawa's Rashomon (1950) (see some summary materials; the film is available in its entirety on YouTube if you haven't ever seen it).

Access to East Asian modes of thought presents difficulties for Westerners, and it seems that each person must work out an effective mapping of East/West. For some, a particular practice/sangha/community may serve best, or may assist at particular times along a path to a sense of personal ease with the Tao. The takeaway is that there are many paths. I tried to collect my own current take on the kaleidoscope of personally most important elements:

pure heart
the journey, not the arrival
the process, not the goal
recognize and shun self-aggrandizement
defeat the need to win
pride is a besetting sin, always lying in wait

and a maxim to live by: Simply do good work and then withdraw
(from Keith's link to Inspirations from the Tao Te Ching)

Other elements will surface and beg to be added to this list as I continue to think and read.

The pointer to Thomas Merton's version of Chuang Tzu was timely, and full of delights. One passage that seems especially apposite is When the Shoe Fits:

Ch'ui the draftsman
Could draw more perfect circles freehand
Than with a compass.

His fingers brought forth
Spontaneous forms from nowhere. His mind
Was meanwhile free and without concern
With what he was doing.

No application was needed
His mind was perfectly simple
And knew no obstacle.

So, when the shoe fits
The foot is forgotten,
When the belt fits
The belly is forgotten.
When the heart is right
"For" and "against" are forgotten.

No drives, no compulsions,
No needs, no attractions:
Then your affairs
Are under control.
You are a free man.

Easy is right. Begin right
And you are easy.
Continue easy and you are right.
The right way to go easy
Is to forget the right way
And forget that the going is easy.

[xix. 12.]

Two other sources that I've found especially interesting in relation to Andy's essay and have to do with Bodhidarma (who first brought Buddhism from India to China): DARUMA - Father of Zen Buddhism: From Buddhahood to Brothel, From Saint to Sinner: The Evolution of Daruma Artwork in Japan (a wonderful collection of iconography), and the absolutely beautiful Korean film Why Has Bodhi-Dharma Left for the East?: A Zen Fable (1989), available in full via YouTube and, I guarantee it, any photographer's dream of visual samadhi (see an enthusiastic New York Times review).