Monday, August 6, 2007


For a number of years now, I have been practicing something which I call: Automatic Reading. Some years ago an organization I belong to asked it's members how they went about 'reading' in terms of how they selected what they read, how they read, etc. Was there methodology to their choices/interests. After having given it some thought, it occured to me that I did indeed have a method toward selecting what I read. Something would catch my eye, say a subject or person or place or topic, and I would start reading about it with no idea toward which it would lead me. Often I will scan the bibliography in the back of a non-fiction book and start reading cited titles that the author read. You can't imagine the places you end up - places seemingly unrelated to what you originally started off with.

As an example, someone gave me a copy of "Live from Golgotha" by Gore Vidal. It's a very small book with a delicious gimmick: A large corporation sometime in the near future has the ability to 'hologram' back in time. They contact Timothy, of New Testament fame, to be the anchor at the crucifixion of Jesus and to broadcast the event to the future so the corporation can televise it. Well, having blazed through that wonderful premise, I was left with the thought, "Where the hell did Vidal get the idea for this book?" There were some heretical ideas presented and, having been a theology major in college, I was led to investigate the herecies - something I hadn't done in school. Before I knew it I was reading everything I could get my hands on, mostly from St. Mary's Seminary in Baltimore. I ended up spending nearly 3 years following this thread which ultimately led to me being somewhat of a student of the whole Templar thing . . . . YEARS before Brown got a hold of it with his book, "The Da Vinci Code". Which leads me to:

Automatic Reading

This practice entails going across the parking lot to the adjacent library and following my nose to wherever it leads. I kind of get a feeling about a certain spot, could be the 700's, the 500's, I never know what aisle. But I feel it when I arrive there and I start to look over that range of books. One will catch my eye and, flipping through the pages, a particular page will stop me cold and the very thing I supposedly was intended to read appears before me.

As an example, this morning found me in front of the 290's (eastern religion/philosophy). I find myself in this spot often and know pretty much what is to be found there. But, today out popped a book that I hadn't seen before and I looked it over. The title is: "Cave in the Snow" by Vicki Mackenzie. It's about how a westerner, the daughter of a fishmonger from London's East End, has become a Buddhist legend and a champion of the right of women to attain spiritual enlightenment. It's a true story about Tenzin Palmo. She goes to live alone for twelve years in a cave seeking self-realization. I was hooked.

But ,in the midst of this Find, Automatic Reading took over and presented this paragraph to me and nearly blew me away. So simple. So direct. So beautiful.

Concerning her meditation techniques, she was asked about the difficulties of learning to concentrate during meditation:

"After all those hours of meditating, those twelve years of sitting in her meditation box looking inwards in her cave, did she improve?

'Like anything else, if you practice long enough it gets easier. For example, if you are learning to play the piano, in the beginning your fingers are very stiff and you hit many wrong notes, and it is very awkward. But if you continually practice it gets easier and easier. But even so, although a concert pianist is very skilled at playing, still his difficulties are there. They may be at a higher level and not apparent to other people but he sees his own problems,' she said, modest as always.

In the end had it all been worth it? After that protracted extraordinary effort, the hardships, the self-discipline, the renunciation, what had she gained? The answer came back quick as a flash.

'It's not what you gain but what you lose. It's like unpeeling the layers of an onion, that's what you have to do. My quest was to understand what perfection meant. Now, I realize that on one level we have never moved away from it. It is only our deluded perception which prevents our seeing what we already have. The more you realize, the more you realize there is nothing to realize. The idea that there's somewhere we have got to get to, and something we have to attain, is our basic delusion. Who is there to attain it anyway?'"

1 comment:

Joshua said...

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