Meditation as Weapon

I have a little story to share, a story I tend to share with close friends around campfires, in quiet social moments where the mood is settled and inhibitions are loosened up, or on a walking parlance. It is a story that I have shared on several occasions over the years – usually evocated as my contribution to a scar-story. So there may be some of you who have heard this story before, if so I do ask your patience and reconsideration to give it another *listen*,,, I feel that this time around my story may have a significantly different flavour to it; and I might even stray to say that it has a distinct sharp flavourless boldness to it – a keen to the first experience of tasting one’s own blood. In light and dark of the nature of this blog, the story I am about to share may not bear the initial impression of magick, contemplation, or other modes of deeper knowledge and wisdom, but I can assure you that it does have a pedagogical bearing, if ears are open to see it and skin is receptive to taste it. So be it.

***Disclaimer

I will keep this brief, this story may be upsetting to some. It will probably be graphic, so if you feel that your constitution is not ready for troublesome information, then, please discontinue your reading now. The picture I added is of myself and my father as we ONCE were, not as we are NOW. So I kindly ask that you note your judgment before reacting impulsively. This picture is as an autoethnographic record expressing a moment in my life, that also holds a relatable context for generations that have found themselves in similar circumstances. I will further make the statement that there are many who claim that they have respect and consideration for others but will be hard pressed when secretly confessing the closeness of their own deceptive and malicious experiences. You may always come back to this article if you feel more up to it. As a point, this article is not intended to cause dissonance, I rather set it as a means to provide insight and perspective. It is my own narrative born from a reflection on a subjective experience I had as a child, now, evocated as an aspiration to benefit others where I believe necessary and useful. May it be so.

The Context

About twenty-two years ago, I took holiday with my family at a game lodge situated near the banks of the Limpopo River, my memory around the actual destination is a bit vague, I guess the closest town may have been Musina (now part of Limpopo Province). Our family would spend every Spring vacation with another family (friends / family-friends) based at the lodge campsite. I generally have fond recollections of wandering around the bushveld equipped with my pocket knife and .224 hunting rifle (or pellet gun, depending on the occassion). The other family had a son (*have – I guess he is still around) who was around my age, the two of us spent our time adventuring as far as was allowed, marveling at magnificent Baobab trees, sucking on marula fruits, resting under the shade of knob-thorn trees and fashioning accessories from its thorns. We were naughty by conventional standards, we laid traps for sport, demolished ant and termite hills, taunted vervet monkeys with make shift slingshots, and killed more birds and tiny animals than one would care to hear about. We had no fear, and no judgment for the life of others, just naive bravado – the type of pretentious courage one has with a hunting rifle hanging off the shoulder as though it were a sash of self-imposed authority.

Boys, in the bush, with instruments of killing. We were so full of ‘it’ that we felt we could impose our wills on almost anything, all things living were but objects for our [dis]pleasure… of course, they had to be a fair bit smaller than us, bigger objects needed bigger guns, and these were usually the game of bigger boys who seemed to look more serious and stern but were equally as adolescent when stories were shared at the campfire after inhibitions were loosened with brandy – this I recall well enough.  So the other lad and I left ourselves mostly to the sport of killing small animals, we managed to trap a warthog and proceed to torture it by cutting its balls off and then cutting its throat. We made a fire and char-grilled the scrotum for consumption – it wasn’t at all pleasant, tough, chewy, and sometimes squishy. The warthog was but a passing memory… its life didn’t matter to us, it merely existed for us to exert our nightmarish imaginations on.

Shooting my first buck was a bit more staged and initiatory, it required prowess and stamina, long walks through the bush, tracking spoor, tacit investigation of fresh dung, and keeping close to shade as best we could as the sun would constantly remind us of our soft skin. My dad, the tracker, and I made our way up a hill and perched near a cliff edge. From here we scoured the bush for animal movement and found a herd of Impala. I was instructed to aim the crosshair of my .224 rifle scope near the neck or heart of the buck I settled on. Once I found my victim, I was instructed to pull the trigger on an exhalation. In that moment of concentration, I exhaled, and pulled the trigger, “PAH!”. The Impala were several hundred meters away, hardly visible with the naked eye (especially midst the camouflage of the bush), so I could not determine whether I had killed the buck or not. The tracker said I had, and proceeded to guide us down the hill to where my kill lay. The tracker walked ahead, my father behind him, and I trailed behind, making our way through thick thorny bush. The air was quiet, and then we came to a stand still, the tracker stood behind the now dead buck, it was a heart shot. I lend in on it, quivering as I lay my hand on its still warm body, eyes glossed over, tongue protruding… I do not recall smiling or feeling at all good, but I was praised for a job well done and had to follow the rite of passage in cutting the throat, drinking the blood, smearing it over my face, and lifting the buck into a Fireman’s Carry, carrying it as far as I could before buckling at the knees as I foolishly navigated the bush, with blood and shit running down my back. The tracker did the rest of the hard labor.  We made back to the campsite and proceeded to slaughter the buck in the abattoir – seeing its insides made ‘it all’ different – less “life-like”. Yeah… and that became the trend.

So, this is what we had done before and a few times after, my youth as a hunter, spent exploring the bush, which wasn’t always on a murderous trajectory – even though it has its prominent place – there was also plenty of curiosity and learning,,, fairly innocent I would risk adding. But something happened during this specific trip that changed the season entirely for me, something happened that would curb my trajectory not just away from the world of hunting, but into the nature of my mind. This is where my story takes a turn of impact.

The Meditation

One evening my father and his friend swept us (the children) up to join them for an evening of rabbit hunting – African Savanah hares to be specific – on the farmer’s tomato crop-lands.  The wives remained behind at the campsite to keep the fire kindled, my father and his friend equipped the open canopy Landrover, and the children got their jackets. My father seated in the passenger seat, his friend behind the steering wheel, my sister sat next to me (we sat in the passenger seats behind my father and his friend), and the other kids were perched at the back of the Landrover, holding onto the support bars.

We raced through the croplands, my father spotlighting anything that moved, any indication of *red-eye* would be frozen on, and someone would take a turn shooting and killing it. I recollect the other lad indicating his readiness to shoot a hare that was spotlighted, the hare didn’t budge because the spotlight had blinded it, we were hardly 5 meters from it when the shot was taken, but even with this relative crosshair closeness, the shot wasn’t fatal, so the lad had to finish the job at gunpoint. This image is now cemented in my memory, the hare gasping for life after being wounded and now awaiting an outright execution.  There was a bit of hesitation from the other lad, and after some protestation, his father irked him on to finish what he started, so, at a moment’s breath, a shot was sound and the hare was gruesomely executed – its eyes popped out of its skull. Instead of dismaying the executioner he was left with a trigger happy blood lust, amped for the next victim, he hopped back onto the Landrover and scoured the croplands.

We bashed through the bundus a bit further, personally, I wasn’t interested in shooting anything, in fact, I was getting cold and ready to head back to the campsite, but the rest were keen for a few more headshots (so to speak). As we coursed up and down the ploughed fields, we came to a halt, and a sudden moment of quiet struck us. We paused the Landrover, ignition off, and sat motionless waiting for life to cross by. I sat still looking ahead of me, not expecting much. Serene evening quiet, covered by the cold of the night, and the strange murmurings of the Limpopo bushveld,,, and not disregarding a distinct smell of veld, I cannot describe it as other than a familiar “wild”.

In a slow moment, the side of my eye caught the movement of an elongated extension from my slight above-right. The other lad was leaning his rifle over the support bar. To my knowledge, it seemed as though he was only using the scope to look for hares, but I had not gathered that he was possessed by a deeper craving to pull the trigger – none of us did (except him). In the flash of an unwarned millisecond, I saw everything, deeply, clearly, intimately. He pulled the trigger of his .224 rifle, and a bullet sped through the barrel. The bullet coursed forward, and at the same time my father sitting in front of me raised his rifle onto his lap, perpendicular to his upper thigh, resting the stock on his leg. A sudden “PAH!”, the bullet burst against the barrel of my father’s rifle and ricocheted back into my head.

— — —

It was instant. There aren’t a great many things that I can remember about that holiday (and other moments in my youth), but this “accident” left a solid impression on me (a statement I allow as a make a literal claim – I still have particles of shrapnel lodged in my skull). But it is not the after-effect that I wish to discuss here, rather, I wish to tell you what I saw in the timeless moments of that sudden impact and how this changed my mind.

I cannot recollect how long everything took to transpire, but my recollection of that experience was perceived in hyper-real clarity (as though it purposefully slowed for viewing). The first part of the experience was not at all a tangible or even intangible experience, in fact, it was such a bright moment that I can hardly remember what it was like – brilliance comes to mind, other than that there are few words that can express it. I recollect a flash of brilliant light, then a quick sharp sound-spike, followed by a ringing buzz which tapered down to an absolute dead silence. It was as though that flash of light and the consequent sound was a consuming/encompassing explosion and implosion that had no point of direction and no point of origin. It eliminated all designation.

Following this was an extended suspension in pitch black darkness, a space of pure quiet, no thoughts were heard and no “Andries” to hear them (this was before I changed my name). There was no discomfort, and I was not unconscious; my awareness was merely resting in that space of darkness, it had no distinction, as though awareness was dissolved in suspension.

Then a feeling of nurturing warmth followed, the darkness gradually grew into a reddish hue, like staring at the sun with eyelids closed. The process seemed to be interrupted by the feeling of hands on my face, wiping something away, and a voice calling my name (it seemed as though the voice was calling me from a far off distance, “Andriesss! Andriesss…!”). I attempted to open my eyes, initially thinking that I was blind, but it was the blood from my head wounds that welled up in my eyes. The first visible figure I could discern was that of my father and then his friend next to him. They had a moon-like radiance around them. I was muted throughout this process, there few thoughts I had, and hardly anything to communicate at this moment. Not a word from me, but the first words I audited came from my father’s friend who addressed my father with a “______, I don’t think he will want to hunt again” (go figure!). Even though this was hardly a thought I entertained at that moment, the experience would be a silent catalyst in redirecting my life.

I sat up for a moment, not moving much, except my head as I looked around into the night, the stars were so bright, it seemed as though they were animated, swirling figures and flickering shapes, like a midsummer’s night dance display. I distinctly remember that it felt as though this dancing display came from the back of my eyes, not from in front of me, but also as though the stars themselves were meeting me like a celestial host. I wasn’t too sure what to make of it and only had murmurings and mumblings to express my status.

At this point, I was thoroughly dazed and confused, as though I had some type of jet lag after a long journey, everything seemed strange and different (or new-ish). I kept quiet while listening to everyone squabble about what they should do now, gods forbid, what would they tell the wives!? “They can’t know what just happened!” a voice urged. What transpired was an obvious act of cowardice and confusion. I was told to jump off the Landrover as though we had taken a sharp turn whilst driving and I logically fell into the bush; so I proceeded to get onto the ground and roll around in the thorny dirst to give a false impression that I took a tumble.

We drove back to the campsite, I sidetracked the fireside completely and walked straight to my room, washed my face clean of dirt and blood, and had a thorough look at myself. I looked older, dirtier… I had seen a different version of myself, more silent and tentatively contemplative. The wounds weren’t deep enough to be outwardly visible, they sealed up fairly quickly, so the ‘wives’ never discovered what had happened to me that night (and the roll around in the dirt was in vain). Naturally, my holiday was not the same after that experience… the rifle was left behind, and I ventured into the bush unarmed, just being in the bush. That said, in times to come I would still go on hunting expeditions, but gradually I moved away from any innate and exterior forms of violence. Eventually, I grew tired of hunting altogether and would look to means to rediscover that silent awareness I found that night.

Having seen that deep quiet and spacious stillness I started looking at life differently. I am not saying that I had a radical turn in my person (not yet), but there was a deep surge within me that wasn’t always easy to communicate – a means of expression I continue to pursue to this day. Throughout my adolescence, teens, and twenties I would dance between the weirdness and wondersome-ness that I had now identified with by circumstance. Many times being unguided in that search for the quiet dark mind would play out in self-misguided interpretations and excessive expressions. This leads me to the following section, elucidating how I came to learn that my seeking and delving into the depths of the mind could be advantageous but also potentially dangerous.

The Weapon

One may argue that the title of this article could rather state something more inclined to “Mind as Weapon”, but this would be far too generic. The reason I highlight the position of “meditation” as being dangerous is in its misguided utility, i.e. Meditation without a sincere grounding is still a sharpening of the blade, and a sharp mind can be a tool for cutting, what is being cut may present a dilemma.

After my head wound, and seeing into a true peace of a genuinely still mind, one may be excused to think that young Andries/Andreas would consequently take a radical turn toward a life of peace and harmony. On the contrary, nowhere and hardly anyone along my teenage years provided me with that sense of quiet space that I was looking for, so I was left to my own devices. Long story short, I was eventually ousted from high school (or as it is stated, I left school out of my own accord), I rejected the church, I had found interest in my own paths of education, and other means to fuel my discontents and strange curiosities, these included pursuits in the occult – between Crowley, and Blood Magick, and then some,,, to paranormal activity – “astral travel” was all the rage during the 90’s and early 2000’s, death and black metal, self-harm (I had gathered a nifty little kit for cutting, piercing, and burning), vandalism, incendiarism, torment, depravity, dark art, and poetry.

**These topics are intended to have their own stand-alone articles – in line with the intention of offering insight and perspective through my recollected memory and current narrative.

As soon as I learned about using my mind to alter realities, I found means to shape and shift outcomes to suited ‘me’. This was long before I stumbled upon the guided instruction and purpose of meditation as espoused in the Buddhist tradition. Nah, the meditation I practiced as a youth was cut-and-paste from my personal interpretations of occult texts and self-induced trance-like meanderings – which in retrospect as an interesting reflection, there was hardly any internet back then, so concealed information was rather tough to find, and much of it was intuited, hear-say, and out of creative desperation to find something “other” than the bland and boring context offered by society at the time. Instead of joining others on regular booze and drug trips I would spend my developmental youth delving into my mind and recognizing weak-spots in the Other (from individual to social…). It took some time but I eventually realized that my solipsistic approach was gravely mistaken, my weapon began to turn on me – I had consequently manipulated myself into a corner. A favorite philosopher at the time so poignantly expressed in his Beyond Good and Evil:

He who fights with monsters should look to it that he himself does not become a monster. And if you gaze long into an abyss, the abyss also gazes into you.

Manipulating others and insanely disregarding the world around me had only caused me anxiety, confusion, and depression. Many reading this (who know me somewhat) may not necessarily think of me in that vein, but the extent of middle youth, teens, and early twenties were meanderings into the abyss, and I kept myself reserved and observant (brooding on bigger things). I will admit that I never quite left the abyss, but I have since found guidance through the abyss, and a means to recollect the unprovoked darkness, its luminosity, and brilliant light of the mind,,, sure, still a muchness of muchness to go, but there is much to say and respect to offer for the role of good guidance… a story for another time. The hermit-pedagogue that wanders in the vast hollows of my mind and heart, bears a torch of certainty. The weapon is now intended and betrothed to cutting through my ignorance, and further equipped to butter the toast of others.

The difference I have now found in retelling the story of my hunting accident is that I have since learned about the stages in which the mind goes during the dying process. I cannot say for certain that this is exactly the standard experience, but it sure as heck seems close enough! Besides that, since I have started engaging in ‘nature of mind’ meditations, I am finding that my memory of prior experiences is being reevaluated, and what they mean in the formation of the person that I am today; not only in understanding the mysteries of life and the mind, but in the simple appreciations of everyday life, and the precious lives of others. I have not touched on the subtleties of interactions with others, and how the little acts we perform have deepening effects on our subtle selves and the subtle fabrics of the world around us,,, so I will leave that for a different article.

Here I rather aim to point out that we often neglect to take into consideration how much impact we can have, on ourselves, on others, through ourselves, through others. If anything, it is an imperative to find sound counsel before delving into the darkest reaches of the mind,,, and it certainly does not help flashing a spotlight around if you do not know what you are looking for – in fact, you may find things quite unexpected that reveal themselves as potentially frightening, tempting, and exhilarating (ah but mostly illusions!). Misinterpreting and misguiding such experiences can be detrimental, costly at most; supposed life-altering events/experiences do not always present the expected turning points in our lives that we often desperately seek after or avoid – I often ask where the “wisdom” is in our seeking? This said, a good crisis potentially has a way of showing us what is important in our lives, our attachments, aversions, what we prioritize or neglect, and how we approach this rare moment of existence, the proverbial ME.  This is not a directive moral compass… rather an openness and willingness to see and hear this existential experience as it is (beyond the self-cherishing ‘me’). Relatively it may seem as though our world goes through major transitions or torturous blandness, but beyond all the conventional change nothing really happens – nothing that we can be deeply okay with. Ultimately life continues (regardless of ‘us’), and relatively we may remain the boring old drolls we always have been or suddenly decide to take up interpretive dance if that is the fancy for the moment – the only real difference may come about when we allow that innate awareness to fill our persons’ with presence, making this ‘person’ a natural meditation whatever he or she is going through.

Concluding

You may notice that I have not discussed the issue of “hunting” or “delinquency/miscreancy” or the esoteric variants of the mind experience as I reflect on it. Rather, I am taking a position that points to the precious life available to us now, that is shared between each other, inter-influencing each other.  My statement, “meditation as weapon”, may be misinterpreted or misleading, but think rather of the many occasions that our guards are casually dropped for ignorant moments to slip by, and letting those self/other-deception floats into an occurrence or event (perspirations gathering into storm clouds). The idea of a weapon may create the impression of forceful influence, or malicious directedness, whether we know it or not, we are already meditating all the time, but we may not have the insight to know what exactly it is that we are cultivating in our existential meditation, example, if were to get up every morning and listen to a news reel that tends to fixate on negative feeds, and I soften my mind to the negativities of the world, I am inadvertently meditating on bad news – now, without a foundation in discriminating wisdom, I would probably cultivate myself into a bitter bad news type of dude; a counterexample may be seen in affirming the beauty of roses and sun light, which may be met with disappointment if crisis strikes,,, as is life. So, once again I ask, where is the ‘wisdom’? with the addition of, what and where is your balance? … (why do you think it is necessary? and how will you go about it?). 😉

Anyway…

I have since moved my meditation into a natural extension of myself, of the clarity that rests in a womb-like spacious darkness of the mind,,,  further noticing that from it *compassion* (as an organic interconnectedness and not merely as an affection) swells. I continue to aspire in this way, in a creative embodiment and release into wisdom, and wish that I may further share these experiences with you, for what it may count (or not, it doesn’t matter that much anyway).

—- —- —-

The bullet and I, met as a mirror meets the sky, a secret kiss, ‘pAH!’ what difference? 

 

I wish you all well, see you soon in the next article, take care of yourselves, and each other.

🙂

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“Do Not Invoke That Which You Cannot Banish”

Recently I was reminded of a classic maxim among magick practitioners, and wizards in general; a maxim reminiscent of the Solomonic (and most ceremonial) traditions, “do not invoke that which you cannot banish”. This has often been an expected warning label disclaiming the care one should take as a magick practitioner when working with intricacies of magickal practice, and more so the working with magickal entities that come with their own risk factors and influential implications. Such a warning is neither a mere annoyance to avert nosey ‘adolescents’ from dabbling in unknown territory, but rather heeds a call to responsibility (a classic scenario being that of the Sorcerer’s Apprentice – depicted in Disney’s Fantasia); i.e. for the magick practitioner to have a sound knowledge and practiced security in working with energy that is suited to his/her capacity.

To put it another way, such a warning statement is more of a pith instruction, a tap on the fingers, to take care not to take on more than you can chew. Personally, I believe there is space and conditions where the practitioner can take a leap into the unknown, but this leap can lead to madness if your bungee-cord is still packed away. Other radical leaps (without any safety nets or parachutes) touch on the extent of recognising one’s naked awareness, but I believe this itself cuts further through even the practice of magick (and consequently affects magick naturally as part of recognising the ultimate nature of mind.

My reflection on not invoking that which I cannot banish is rather set in a view of radical self-awareness and a sobering sense of self-capacity along with a sense of growth (along with an insight into what is needed to grow). This view is laced with an imperative skilful insight; namely that the practitioner should be well aware of the responsibility of introducing deeper levels of insight and energy into his / her practice before actually doing so.

I have many times believed that I was quite ready to take my practice further, and often done so boastfully within myself, quickly to have the rugs pulled from beneath me and experience the necessary bloody nose of inexperience. I have come to realise (and fortunately not through too much trial and error) that there is a perfectly good reason why foundation / preliminary practices are needed before taking on higher practices – the same can be said about progressing through certain degrees and stages. Okay, this said, I also  wish to point out that not all magickal, spiritual, religious paths need to be followed progressively – each to their own insight and capacity,,, it is just that many of us ‘ordinary schmucks’ do not yet have the recognised insight into our already spontaneous expansive minds, so we need steps and stages.

The most recent example I have of such a necessary blunder is a radical delving into Dakini admiration. An admiration that would translate into ‘appreciating’ the woman-feminine as a manifestation of said Dakini enlightened mind. I started acknowledging women in my life as dakini manifestations, but would also come face-to-face with the wrath of the dakini as a means to put me in my place.

Now this may seem fairly straightforward and a given, but what I have come to learn is that the Dakini, in her many forms and varying degrees of manifestation is not something you merely appreciate intellectually or even emotionally. In fact, on further investigation (and more so in practice) the practitioner will find that the Dakini has her exceptionally direct way of showing ‘you’ – the admiring practitioner – that which you need to see but are not always ready or willing to acknowledge, and further yet, may topple your ‘comfortable world’ at the flip of a switch. And probably of greater precedence is being thoroughly aware of the projections cast onto others. Recognising that I may project my ideals of the so-called dakini onto the women in my life, but these projections also have their tainted ego distortions (which is possibly why the karmic consequence may have either wrathful or peaceful manifestation – it is a whole bunch of mirroring that shows the truths behind the appearances; especially stark truths about what we believe and perceive to be true, about ourselves, others, and the world around us).

Note that there are many types of dakinis, some of which will eat you alive without hesitance and much reason (by the mere appeal of your tasty flesh); and some who appeal to wisdom who may take your flesh as a means to incite enlightenment. I am not necessarily relating the invoke/banish maxim to the dakini principle here as one would in the Western Esoteric tradition, but rather from an insight into the nature of mind and emptiness (i.e. not to get stuck on external manifestation, nor on intellectual understanding).

Anyway, here I simply wish to mention the importance of laying a careful foundation before taking on that which could potentially rock your world – especially if you are by no means ready for it (and do not pretend / fool yourself that you are – often a hard pill to swallow). The Middle-Hand Path aims to introduce a magick of presence that is not overly reliant on producing a fancy and external display (getting caught up in tricks and trades) and also not reliant on intellectual pomp (professing knowledge). Rather the MHP inclines to set an aesthetic balance between mind and phenomena, in distilling wisdom into the magick act as a , to reveal inseparability of compassion in all reality – not as a mere product or consequence, and to see that intent rests as a seed in one’s heart-mind giving a natural discriminating insight into the choices we make, the rules we break, and the risks at stake.

I want to end with a brief reflection on Walt Disney’s Fantasia and the theme of recklessly playing with magick or (flipping it) dancing freely with magick. The thing is, as I see it, as soon as you become involved in any sincere, deep, Ego-challenging practice, you will naturally be faced with the Ego; and sometimes this Ego will manifest in ways that are very scary and sometimes threatening – as though the so-called Ego (and note the dualistic referencing here) does not want you to see through the illusion matrix and catch it out, as though it wants you to keep comfortable in illusion. Philosophically, I believe the practice of magick goes beyond just working with entities, i.e. manipulating them to build your temple, but it is very much a misinterpreted means to “know thyself”, to challenge yourself, to free yourself, but also to go beyond yourself. Little Micky had the compassionate playfulness needed to invoke the dance of magick, but once that magick is in the world/cosmos it rides on intention, and the young apprentice seemed to have lacked a mature fortified demeanour to secure that intention; consequently losing control. Indeed, there is a beautiful polarity to be found here, between the innocence of childlikeness, and composition of the elder’s insight. If anything, you find yourself in a sticky situation, ask someone with more experience to help you out; even better, seek a teacher to guide you and mentor you in your development as a wizard, a warrior, a wanderer.

Be Blessed

As you are.

  • If you are interested in the Dakini, I highly recommend Judith-Simmer Brown’s “Dakini’s Warm Breath: The Feminine Principle on Tibetan Buddhism”.
  • Also, look out for my upcoming response post to the above, tentatively titled: “Invoke Crazy Wisdom, Banish Madness”

“My Moral-Compass has no Needle, its the Simplicity of Cool as the Blue-Note of Mindfulness”

The key to finding a happy balance in modern lives is simplicity.

Sogyal Rinpoche [The Tibetan Book of Living & Dying]

This statement by Sogyal Rinpoche, in Chapter 2, Impermanence, of Part 1: Living in The Tibetan Book of Living & Dying, may seem pretty straight forward off the cuff (bordering on the feel-good motivational cliché), but it actually bears profound weight – meaning, besides its hermeneutic context, it has contemplative actuality when its existential truth is sincerely empathised with.

In this article I discuss how such a happily simple statement can have a superior influence on one’s life and deeply inspire a proactive sense of direction. I also discuss (through a gentle deconstruction) how the contextual hermeneutic of my current autoethnography taps & tunes in to the theme of *simplicity* bearing a notable mark in its axiological presence. Further, I discuss the pivotal importance of oscillating between the axiological elements of disciplined ethic and contemplative aesthetic as markers of a diligent-focused yet contemplative-tranquil life.

Okay, so before I possibly get into any semantic details or philosophical ramblings, I heed an intuitive voice (a voice I have been working on paying more attention to) that keeps reminding me to try start with my own narrative first. [Note: This contemplative listening to my narrative process acts as a means to cut through an often cryptic language that I have perpetuated for as long as I can remember – the contemplative narrative is a tool here, aiding me away from potentially confusing myself and the reader].

It seems as though certain themes and topics have been accumulating over time, surfacing and submerging as life proceeds in its dancing flux. I have been drawn to elements in life that often bear a mark of impermanence and simplicity – from a fascination with Death (and its frightening realness), to Japanese Wabi-Sabi aesthetic, to certain Jazz scores (that I attribute to design, music, and art), and my long love with varieties of spirituality (especially the contemplative life of monasticism as well as the radical – often unconventional – approaches of the yogi/wanderer/hermit/wizard etc.). I guess, my intrigue with these things have been reminders to me that I should let-go sometimes, appreciate this human life for its relative shortness, deeply think about things other than my social profile or planning the next 10 years of my life.

This intrigue also seems to be a necessary counteractive to my inclination to over-complicate often menial matters, or getting caught up in the soap of political-economical hypes. In fact, a good reminder of appreciating the simple-life is a good dose of meditating on the reality of Death’s presence in this life; and if we think it to be far from us currently we are sadly mistaken – Death is present in every aspect of life – from the moment a child is born it is born into its gift of death, those prize roses you planted last season may perish in the coming winter, the person you see and project in the mirror is certainly not the same appearance you had 10 years ago, not to mention 5 minutes ago, and we will lose our beloved-ones (especially your beloved-self). This may sound macabre but, and borrowing a note from Sogyal Rinpoche and so many good teachers alike, the presence of Death does not mean that life is not precious and worth pursuing, if anything, Death should inspire one to live (and not casually wait for dreams to come true until we are already one foot in the grave).

Back to the axiology of simplicity. Axiology is a broad philosophical branch that mainly consists of two subsets, namely 1) Ethics, and 2) Aesthetics. Beside being a broad study of value systems and how they are approached and presented, my intention here is to return the attention of axiology to a ‘way’ life is lived. Hint_ Hint_ *The Middle-Hand Path*… Yet, what I wish to point out is that I am not placing a golden stamp of certification on an ethical guideline with a marketable aesthetic package – although I do sense that in some social perceptions this may come about whether I like it or not. Rather, what I am pointing toward is a middle-point philosophy between an ethic and aesthetic; as well as between a transcendant and existential (with certain pragmatic clauses), in other words, in the so-called way of simplicity there is ground for ethic and aesthetic guidance. Rough example, We can approach simplicity in Design of our technology to simplicity in Being Mature and Being Intercommunicative, simplicity in our Business models, to simplicity in our lifestyles.

Okay, so simplicity can mean many things, and there is probably a general consensus around what simplicity is. In the axiology of the Middle-Hand Path, I draw on seven Japanese principles of aesthetic and an overall sense of Wabi-Sabi. These aesthetic principles tend to be directed toward the peripheries of lifestyle but do have origins in Zen Buddhism and the wisdoms of impermanence, contemplativity, and nature/naturalness. The seven principles are:

  1. Kanso – Simplicity (also an elimination of clutter),
  2. Shizen – Naturalness,
  3. Fukinsei – Asymmetry / Irregularity,
  4. Seijaku – Quietude / Stillness / Tranquility,
  5. Yugen – Subtlety,
  6. Datsuzoku – At Ease (a break from routine),
  7. Shibui / Shibumi – Austerity.

You may notice that these aesthetic principles are reflective of a lifestyle philosophy, embodying much more than *simplicity* as a superficial notion; rather *simplicity* as a gateway into a phronesis of Being in existence, as being radically and naturally in tune with oneself and the world, and owning-up to and embracing one’s impermanence, irregularity, imperfection and being settled into the ‘cool-cognitive-air’ of a simple life (uncomplicated yet full),,, I call this simplicity of cool the Blue-Note of Mindfulness.

It is this very Blue-Note of Mindfulness – as a tune of presence in uncertainty of life and certainty of death, as well as having a settled awareness that is both regal and playful – that acts as a presence directing needless-compass; not pointing out any designation and rather a intuitive trust in being here and now,,, listening to the opportunities of wisdom integrated with compassion constantly arising from within and out. Many religious moral-compasses tend to lead toward constructed ideologies that do not raise the necessary questions of life enough – such as moving away from the phenomenology of death toward an honest and sincere communication with death, that asks you “What am I doing with my life?” to “Am I living out the true passion of my life?” to “Am I ready for Death?”. The last question may be approached with replies of “We can never be ready for death” or “I have been investing in life insurance for the last two decades”. Both answers have their worth, so, in turn, I want to ask the rhetoric, 1) If so, why do you live as though death will not happen to you?, and 2) If you plan for your passing day in such preparation, why are you not living your life freely? Sure, these questions may not appeal to everyone, but they may give incentive to reconsider how we prioritise our lives, and how we appreciate this life, and consequently (arousing the bigger picture) the lives of others and the Other.

Taking a step back, I have seen how certain topics arise consistently in my life – through my own doing, but also through the resounding influences of others. I guess, and to avoid the common cliché here, is that the Laws of Attraction have their place. So I have taken considerable interest in the idea of developing, intercommunicating, and establishing a secular-monastic community that appeals to the founding of a modular communal environment seated in wisdom, and active in contemplative productivity and discipline (from art to innovation to permaculture to community work to,,, living a simple life). In another post (that may follow) I will discuss this secular monastic initiative in more detail, for now, I give a few glimpses into the research I have been doing – mostly within the axiology of a secular monastic environment and its productivity, as well as a contemporary curriculum and guideline for such an initiative (much of which originates with established monastic settlements of antiquity (from Christian to Buddhist… inspiration), as well as explorations into New Monasticism, Adhocracy, Metamodernism, and the inspiring work of ThePhilosopherMonk, TheArtMonasteryProject,  TheAbbeyOfTheArts, and maybe this UrbanMonk (of the many now coming out of the worx,,, I expect there will be more,,, and we will network).

I raise the above points and relate them to the concept of simplicity, because I see a need for a life that has more contemplative principles but also being able to meet the demands of contemporary productivity. I think a balance can be struck, as long as it is founded in an insight into a more comprehensive sense of reality (from the confines of intellectual property to open-platform wisdom); and this trend in mindfulness can re-appropriate its flesh in wisdom tradition into the wide varieties of contemporary lives and changing socio-philosophical paradigms.

Interesting things can happen when like-minded folk come together with a cool determination and an uncomplicated means; more so when we set a common intention driven by wisdom-seeking and wisdom-seed planting. When we invest spiritually we move closer to each other, and work better with each other, sure, lots of crap has to be filtered through first, or shifted aside, but it opens a common denominator that extends through happiness toward a purposeful being – not necessarily a being toward a something, but much more toward what already is and arises from ‘this’ (this being, this life, this purpose, this moment). The theme of simplicity can become a quotient in our interactivity with existence par excellence… as a mindfulness of the layers we project and unnecessarily attach. Simplicity (along with the other aesthetic principles) have their ethical play in our openness in listening, learning, contemplating, and interacting.

I am inspired by those who share such visions, and hope we can work together on promoting deeper senses of self beyond the self and between each other. Please feel free to comment or provide voice of opinion / support / insight.

Be Blessed As You Are.

“Meditation is the Mediating Majik of the Middle-Hand Path”

Again, as with my previous post, I simply hop into a stream of thought, this time a clarity arose during a formal and focused meditation that specifically aimed to cut through distractions and reveal a natural quietude of mind. A very specific idea arose (which may also be considered a distraction, but, only if it draws my attention away from a focus on truth / truthfulness / salience / Dharma), that in my dealings with the academic field, the professional field, and the religious, spiritual, occult & magickal fields, if a contemplative practice is lacking, there tends to be a greater perpetuation toward distraction and consequently a toiling disconnected distantiation (vis a vis in excess of estrangement and/or ignorance). I am not positing a dire negative, the phenomenon elucidated here is simply the experiential disposition of confusion (and distortion), a confusion of miscommunication with the Other (i.e. that which is presented outside one’s Self – which may be other people, foreign notions, and even tangible objects; which may be either an overwhelming identification with everything, or an underwhelming identification with nothing).

Earlier, in seated meditation, I bore witness to the stream of my distractions that I have been building up throughout the day, and spilling over from the last few months. Having practiced meditation for about 13 years now, I found it fairly easy to rest into a meditative cool, meaning that the mind-of-awareness could discriminate through the surface chatter and passing thoughts, watching and delving into an open horizon of awareness. A deep warm sensation arose from my hara (where my hands were resting in the dhyana/meditation mudra/gesture) and gradually ascended up into my  heart-area (anahata chakra). As I sit listening to the focussed space in and around me, an echoing reassurance seemingly called from the chambers of my heart, saying “sit strong in your majik, this is it”. [Note, I am deliberately using figurative language to express a narrative, not detract the reader’s attention into a mystical ineffability – it is merely a means, not a frolicking folly].

I let the feeling marinade and simmer for a bit, unexcited, undeterred, still holding to the seated meditation. Upon completion I thanked and dedicated the meditation to the wellbeing of all and took to this idea; as it became apparent as a key feature of my kinetic pending PhD research project. The echo gestated (as it has been coming a while) into this statement, that “meditation is the mediating majik of the middle-hand path”. I ask forgiveness that I have not yet discussed majik nor the middle-hand path, but again, begging your patience, it will all add up eventually, so entertain me your fizzy ears for a moment please.

First, what I have noticed, is that meditation is often lacking as a core integrative mediation between knowledge and experience, between holding a view and applying that view, between theory and practice. Initially  I am astounded that most forms of educational processes do not include a contemplative practice & platform as part of a curriculum, be this pedagogical (practice of teaching and learning), androgogical (teaching and learning mostly adult centred), pedandrogogical (combination of pedagogy and androgogy), heautogogical (self-determined learning), and so forth. I am not including the shedras, ashrams, madrasas, monasteries etc. in this reasoning, but rather in reflection on our academic and vocational institutions, as well as in the hidden curriculums inside and outside the institute, and generally from the microsystems to macrosystems of our bio-ecology.

Secondly, meditation offers a unprovoked means to transmute knowledge into wisdom, just as vocational practice transmutes knowledge into experience; the difference here is that the transmutation integrates depth, weight, and insightful girth into one’s existential experience. I offer an example here: through the use of meditation I learned to adopt, among other virtues, a sense of patience, equanimity, and patience; these helped me adapt to fluctuations of frustration, hype, confusion, and anxiety. Further simplifying this example into more practical terms: I know that if I get into a conversation about recent politics I may respond without insight and only perpetuate more confused thinking, or I avoid to make the bed in the morning, skip a face-wash, and ignore the toothbrush because it is already 8am and the day is moving along only to find that I have become a slob with a messy room, bad breath (and possible tooth decay), and a dishevelled face; much later to learn that I have become lazy, uninspired, and trackless. Haha, this sounds dark,,, again, only an example, and even if things get dark, these things are also meditative reminders that beside all the dramas of up-and-down, there is still space to smile. Anyway, to the point, meditation reminds you of the little things (like brushing your teeth is a healthy habit but not the end-all) and the big thing (that you are already awake to the awe of existence).

This leads me to a third point I wish to make, touching on the notion of majik, majik is meditation, but not necessarily as we think of it, majik is an intuitive sense of meditation in our current presence that influences and affects the world at play. [Note: I will discuss the actual use of the word majik, and why I am moving away from the word magic and magick, in an up coming post].

To explain and discuss this point, I return myself to an early narrative of my involvement with the Grey School of Wizardry and the general magickal community. Back in 2011, I had just discovered that the role and place of the wizard resonated with me, it gave me a sense of completion I could not entirely find in any other avenue of exploration I tried before (essentially and ironically as it encompassed all avenues that appealed to me); but one thing struck me about the magickal community in general, there was plenty of emphasis on ideas, practices, and even certain ethics, but the wisdom of wizardry was often lost to tales of lore, and impressions of magickal laws, and meditation as a magickal practice was kind of lacking in insightful depth. I saw the same thing in the academic field, plenty of theory, ideologies, how-tos, but very little in terms of developing engaged insight and depth in the learned experience. Majik, here, is an intuitive creativity, and spontaneous insight, that is tapped into through unprovoked, easing and effortless meditation.

I have been and am still involved in Religious Studies, and as you have glimpsed in my previous post on stepping away from brandishing a Theological Biblical Worldview, and calling forth the wizard or religiosophologist, I truly believe there is plenty of space and scope to develop and evolve the conventional tradition of Religious Studies as either having a descriptive phenomenological standard or a paradigmatic agenda (be it queer, political, feminist, postmodern, etc.); I ask, where are the experiential narratives of those who pose as Religious scholars? Is there wisdom in the practices that you preach?  and do you have a contemplative practice to integrate not only wisdom, but to critically discriminate and creatively assess whether there is wisdom at all to be had, and whether you hypothetically have it? I read many articles that analyse case studies of meditation, or speak of religious-spiritual-magickal phenomenologies; but I do not hear the authors themselves,,, not enough that is (bearing that some narratives and auto-ethnographies are taking shape).

This is said (not in any belittling way) as a beacon for growth, that the so-called majik to be experienced, is an ability for the ‘practitioner’ to either step back from too much theory or too much practice into the middle of contemplative integration. A dance between extremes, a play between spoken and unspoken communications, a freedom of creativity and regality of discipline. To meditate is to formally acknowledge and actively engage in one’s presence as interconnected exponential presence beyond oneself through one’s Self as Other… 😉 I reckoning I am going all cryptogenetic on your swelling memetics! (i.e. blowing your minds) 😀 I have been accused of worst.

I will picture this in an example to conclude my thinking: in a world where there is pressure to succeed, pressure to conform, pressure to preform, there is a confined impression that space for freedom to express, to be as you are, to step out of the box, is not readily available,,, well this does not have to be so. Religious Scholars can be Shamans-Priests-Yogis-Monks-Wizards – they do not have to confine themselves to the designation of scholar alone (unless that is good enough for them). People can be magickal, if they are willing to listen and take time to quieten-down so that they can hear,,, who knows, maybe they receive a calling to wizardry (albeit becoming a moustache twirling barista, a psycho-shamanic program developer, a happening-witchy translator/interpreter, an empathic funeral director, a tantric-warrior sex/relationship coach, a polymathic mystic teacher,,, and and and). Tap into a bit of meditation (which does not have to be complex and intricate) to see what majik you already contain. 😉

Okay, that is enough for now… what dreams may come.

Be blessed, as you already are.

“FYI, I am a religiosophologist, not a Theologian, thanks…”

Even though I have been saving my first “middle-hand path” post for something a bit more seminal and descriptive; an intuitive inclination lead me to a comment on a common social-narrative I have had to deal with since my starting-days in the academic field of Religious Studies; namely to rectify a confusion of referring to me as a Theologian due to my involvement in Religious Studies.

Contextually I would not say that this is necessarily a problem all Religious Studies scholars experience, and I hint that this is more the case in countries with lesser developed academic cultures or slow-progressive world-views. Okay, I guess I am peeved that after about 10 years, the ignorance generally still runs high in South Africa… and to make matters even more curious, the assumptions of my so-called Theological nature, come from Theologians, students of Theology, and people who don’t know that Religious Studies is a stand-alone (Human Sciences) field of research and practice – more a keen to Philosophy, Sociology, Anthropology, yada yada, with its own rich modern history.

This post is firstly a complaint (simply as a means to vent), and secondly to arouse some insight into difference, and thirdly to announce what I prefer to associate with (namely the Religiosophologist – which I will explain shortly).

First, my complaint. It is not once nor twice, that a person (be she/he – mostly ‘she’s’) delightfully considered me to a Theologian just because I responded to the “what do you study?” with a “Religious Studies” on which the reply often is “fantastic, you should join our mission… who is your missionary leader or with which cell group are you?”. If I were a blatant a-religionist I would not respond kindly to such assumptions (not to mention the blatant expectation that I will start brandishing Jerusalem-Cruiser sandals, a tucked plead shirt, and arms akimbo – with the ever present phantom Bible waiting to slip into the folds of my arms – naturally, I merely kid about these stereotypes). If anything, mostly from my supposed ‘Buddhist’ comportment, I listen to the person conversing over me, and respond with critical kindness. I think my role here is mostly to inject a sense of question behind the abject blind and often righteous purpose that drives most Theological attitudes (specifically pointing to Missionary science and Abrahamic-centred socio-cognitive paradigms). I do smile with sincerity when Theology scholars approach me with the honorific “Man of God” or “Child of Jesus” and some such lifted-titles. I do not take entire offence to such honors,,, after all, these are merely incited insights albeit ignorant of the person who I am and my own religious and secular history; I rather see such assumptions as a bit of divine-pride that lacks critical thinking and a broadening perception of the world lived in (really asking, where is the essence of your contemplative life at?)

Others who I come into conversation with, be it at a party, or inter-disciplinarily, also often have the assumption that I am a Theologian when asking me the cliché “what do you do?” and I respond with, “I am a Religious Studies scholar”. This has consequently lead me to suffix a few conditioned responses, like the negative particle “but I am not a theologian” or a more positive particle “I specialise in Contemplative Practices,,, Buddhism,,, Mysticism,,, the Occult,,,). At this point I reckon it needed to clarify that the science of Theology is not bound to Christianity (it has its Islamic and Judaic contingency) and does investigate phenomena of religious experience par excellence – but it is often and mostly done so from a Christo-centric worldview. Where Religious Studies or Religion Studies leans more toward the Humanities Qualitative/Quantitative approaches to the study of religion (be it from a philosophical, psychological, sociological,,, perspective) and it is by no means bound to Christianity or any Theological worldview.

So a response I have been playing around with more recently is something closer to a vocation I can resonate with. A technical neologism I have recently adapted is the word Religiosophologist, roughly constructed of ‘religio-‘ (as a recollective return to,,, or a bringing back over – which I associate with the practice/ritual of repetition), and -sophology (being the study of wisdom); together this word roughly translates as the study of religious wisdom – which may also indicate a favour to the practices that generate gnostic / mystic insight. Yet, from a Buddhist standpoint, my intention is not to get lost in flowery poetics, but to be elucidate the essence beneath the romantic appeal of the mystical and gnostic, later to be naturally born in the flowery poetics (simply as a means to communicate wisdom). I could have gone with Religiosopher or Religiosophist, but both these titles create too much of a fixed elevated identity, I feel that religiosophologist calls on a vocation, it is a process, and I am merely in communion with this process. Okay this said, when people hear me refer to myself in such an otherwise abstract amalgamation of words, I am often faced with looks of confusion or laissez faire. Naturally this can spin off into a bit more explanation – a responsibility I am willing to accept – one that comes with an intention to dispel ignorance – the responsibility of an educator – not to convince, but to guide towards an enlightenment and illumination. And, it becomes fairly straight forward to explain away the assumption of being accused of Theology, when you recognise your own “calling” into a meta-sphere of vast and differing (often seemingly contradictory) realities, that I basically chose to learn, contemplate, and integrate the wisdom found in religion – which is by no means designated to a Religious Birthday Suit – the birthday suit is fantastically naked, fresh, and salient without the often confusing additional layers of religiosity.

Taking on a beacon of difference (contra Theologian – and even that of the astute traditional Religious Studies scholar), the religiosophologist is also a pseudonym for the fantasy-fiction benched “wizard” (wise one, adviser). I have used this reference several times before, and it sits quite nicely in my being, but does not often taste of seriousness in the mouths of others,,, although they quickly notice that my own absurd-seriousness of the matter seems either like madness or a concerted presence of insight into a very different reality of reality. Here I take the stand that I acknowledge the limits of the philosophical world-views we hold to or use to picture our reality,,, it is simply not enough, and creates merely another layer of ignorance – which consequently clouds the means in which we communicate (directly) with each other and our lifeworlds. The insult of being called a Theologian is contextually bound to an ignorant assumption that I limit myself to a religious belief, but its compliment comes from a co-mutual acknowledgment that I do not bind myself to a life of mundanity or superficial things alone (but respect depth and the contemplative) – this is the challenge of opening perceptions along with one’s own and not believing that one’s answer is alone the answer… I guess, this is the foundation of a good spiritual-philosophical practice, to try and test even the perceptions we feel good with, and those we feel averted to.

Maybe this post becomes a call to reconsider what a Theologian supposedly is, the underlying constructs of the vocations we identify with, and simply to question / learn / listen a bit more widely before jumping to conclusions. In fact, what is a Theological practice (and any practice for that matter – be it political, economical, or even casual lifeworld interaction) if it does not bear a sincere contemplative practice – to churn on the choices we make around who we think we are, the thought-constructs that paint our perceptions, and impressive cloaks we bear to differentiate ourselves or associate ourselves. I do not necessarily have to use any vocational title to express my mode of being, but I have come to realise that as a means to communicate insight, a superficial linguistic offers a means to filter insight forming conditions in the world around us.

Anyway,,,

That’s it… please comment if you have some cents and sense to share.

Be blessed as you already are.