Taste for ambiguity

I don’t like when I wake to news items about the death penalty. Even when it is Saddam Hussein that we’re talking about. The Cop does not agree with the death penalty for the most part, though he does have certain exceptions–child molesters being one of them, or criminals who commit egregiously violent crimes against a defenseless victim. I’m pretty sure Saddam’s death penalty is okay with him, though he did make note of the fact that Iraq uses hanging as a method, which he does not like.

All of this seems like splitting hairs to me, though. I just don’t see how a crime plus an execution can possibly add up to justice. It’s a disconnect, to my mind–a specious logic. Making more karma, even in the pursuit of “justice,” is still making more karma. It just doesn’t seem like a good idea.


I always do a little reading about zen in the morning, and now that I’m finished with Huang Po, I am on to “The Art of Just Sitting,” a compilation of essays about sitting practice. Dogen this morning. He addresses my ongoing question about how one transitions between practice and “real life”:

We should calmly give concentrated effort to the investigation of this question… Is there no path to be figured outside of seated meditation? Should there be no figuring at all? Or does it ask what kind of figuring occurs at the very time we are practicing seated meditation? We should make a concerted effort to understand this in detail. Rather than love the carved dragon, we should go on to love the real dragon. We should learn that both the carved and the real dragons have the ability to produce clouds and rain. Do not value what is far away, and do not despise it; become completely familiar with it. Do not despise what is near at hand, and do not value it; become completely familiar with it. Do not take the eyes lightly, and do not give them weight. Do not give weight to the ears, and do not take them lightly. Make your eyes and ears clear and sharp.

After I read this morning, I thought a little about how important ambiguity is to me. I love that space where you can just start to grasp at something, and yet it always seems elusive. As if the meaning doesn’t quite reside in the words, but in the spaces between them. Where there is no black and white and no clear form. I guess that explains my love for zen writing and poetry.

And speaking of just starting to grasp something: gomukhasana. Gomukhasana has always been one of those poses that seemed entirely out of the realm of possibility for me. I didn’t even think about imagining I could do it, given my shoulders of stone. Last week, though, I saw Returning Guy pulling off some beautiful urdhva dhanurasanas, and asked how he’d managed to get his shoulders so open.

“Bikram,” he said.
“That’s not the answer I want,” I told him. “What poses?”

Sigh. Okay, so I set that info aside and went back to my lying-over-the-Swiss-ball routine, patiently waiting for my shoulders to do something…anything… Last night, though, I had the bright idea to see if I could use one of the vacuum motor belts as a prop to do a lame gomukhasana. I started off with the bigger one, which is about 4 inches in diameter. Held it in my top hand and struggled mightily to find the lower hand. Sure enough, I finally got it! Managed to pull it off on the other side, too. So I upped the ante and tried it with the smaller belt. Yup! Managed to get both sides. Then it struck me–duh!–that I should use the mirror in the bathroom to actually see what I was doing. Okay, yes! I could see that my fingers were actually just a fraction of an inch apart. And with the aid of my reflection (yes, I felt like a chimp the researchers would be excited about: “Look, she finally figured out how to use the mirror!”) I touched my fingers together in gomukhasana. Then I went back to the livingroom to show The Cop, who was just waking up after a night shift, and who has to wonder, at least occasionally, how he’s found himself married to a woman who can be so entertained by something you’d expect from a 5 year old. Our sports team won the title? I got a huge raise? We won the lottery? World peace has been declared? Oh no– it’s all about Look! I can touch my fingers together behind my back!

Okay, so much happiness on the shoulder-opening front. Until this morning, when I woke up feeling REALLY sore. I guess this is a glimpse of my future. The pain, though, is outweighed by the pleasure of finally getting some progress. I’ve always been pretty easygoing, pretty comfortable with ambiguity–just basically a flexible character. Except for this little core of tightness and control, of constriction. I wonder if that will start to come undone as the immobility of my shoulders unravels.

Last topic: good books. I’m off to the library this afternoon and could use some suggestions. Great fiction suggestion, anyone? Only thing I really don’t care for is the American multi-generation family saga. Beyond that, I’m open.


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