Concerning Mindfulness

Prompted by a friend who’s been taking me to Sangha, I’ve started practicing Buddhist mindfulness in the Plum Village tradition and reading some of Thích Nhất Hạnh’s books. Namely his books on Fear, Anger and the Full Awareness of Breathing. They’ve really helped me with my anxiety. I averted an anxiety attack the other day just by the use of mindfulness of breathing alone, which is a huge step in the right direction.

If only he had a book on the existential horror creeping in from all sides but I suppose that’s where the works of our first guest on the podcast portion comes in. Stay tuned as we delve deep into Philip K. Dick’s Gnosis, Valis and living in a Gnostic world.

We’ve Forgotten How to Die

I recently visited a haunted school and had a lot of run ins with spirits. The thing is, it wasn’t anything like people think of with all the horror media. They weren’t out to get me, they seemed scared and lost and confused. I was hugged by a little ghost girl in a room full of dolls and I could tell she was trembling, poor thing. She was scared. I didn’t feel any fear, I felt only compassion and love. I wanted to hug her back and tell her everything was going to be ok, but then my group started heading on and she went away.

I was presented with a very different reality to the spirit world than the one you generally hear of. Spirits who are taking to death with the same confusion and fear so many take to life. It was so sad. I wanted to hug each of them and tell them it was going to be ok and that I would show them the way to the afterlife. I wanted to be their psychopomp.

I realized something, they were in death just as lost as in life. I realized just how deeply wounded and unhealthy our society is. Not only have we forgotten how to show each other compassion and who we are and where we come from, but we’ve forgotten even how to die.

We’ve got everything exactly wrong and made a life where we’ll still be recovering from the scars it leaves even after we die.

How sad. How heart wrenching. What can we have of hope in such a world? I realized the only hope we can have in such a broken world comes from complete and utter detachment from this society and a return to the old ways, before the empire, such that after we die we won’t be trapped by it like they were, poor things.

I realized the deeper meaning of Inanna’s descent into the underworld. She knew she was going to die when she set out, that’s why she asked Ninshubur to plead her case to the Anunna. She went into the great below to die. It was never really hubris though that was the charge. It was the ultimate act of humility, the ultimate act of zen and detachment, for a goddess to abandon her position and go to die for enlightenment. Siddhārtha would be proud. She entered the world of the dead to become as one among them. She passed through each gate and was stripped of every item that was her identity in life. She faced Ereshkigal without attachment to anything she had so identified with in life and then made to attack her knowing the sentence would be death and so she died. The goddess who had judged so many in life was finally the judged and sentenced the ultimate fate.

Of course that wasn’t the end. She emerged victorious over death with the assistance of others and came out the other side with the knowledge of the underworld and an understanding of death. She discovered her husband wasn’t who she thought he was, he did not mourn her passing. He was in his throne tending court same as ever. She realized that this relationship that she had so defined herself with was ultimately not what she thought it was and so she divorced him and sent him to the underworld in her place.

The lesson is in detachment, but not detachment from the world by living apart from it. Inanna is passion, she’s the fullness of emotion, she’s not detached from experience. Rather it’s detachment from defining oneself with the articles of this life such that when you reach the ultimate moment, you’re ready to move on and don’t end up trapped here confused and scared doing the same things as you did in life in a slowly decaying building because you don’t know how to be and do anything else.