Thursday, May 9, 2013

Don't Call Me Boring

In response to my post titled "The Middle Way," Ted commented:

"This is dead on. I remember the majority of the Henro to be dull and monotonous. Yet when I finished, I felt that when I looked back over my life, I'd always think of it as one of my bigger achievements."

I guess i need to be more careful about my use of the word 'boring.'

According to my dictionary the definition of 'boring' is: "So lacking in interest as to cause mental weariness." While that is the word i have used on many occasions, Ted is forcing me to look at what i really mean and decide if that's the best word to use. I have decided it is not.

Rather, the word i should be using might be 'dull,' which is defined as: "Lacking in liveliness or animation," or "Not keenly felt," or "Not having a sharp edge or point," among other things. I like that and it seems much closer to what i'm trying to say about the experience on the henro trail or on the zafu. While my gut isn't happy with 'dull,' intellectually i'm content for now.

I remember way, way back when, when i was in the military, i served on submarines. For the first several cruises, i can remember laying in bed from time to time trying to come to some understanding of what boredom is and why i felt it from time-to-time, but not all of the time and not all that often. I decided that for me boredom meant no more than not being where i wanted to be. When i wasn't able to simply accept that i was underwater, and would be for a great many days more, then i felt bored when i wasn't occupied. But, since most of the time i simply accepted it as my job, one that i had volunteered to do, i was perfectly content to be where i was and boredom wasn't part of the picture. The above definition was right on for me — when i felt bored, unaccepting, there was this feeling of mental weariness.

However, this is not the case for my time on the trail. There is never a time when i feel mental weariness. I feel more alert and more aware in my boots, on the trail, than i do at home. It's similar to my mindset in my running shoes on a good day or in my bike saddle on any day. While there may be nothing of interest going on, nothing that would be considered mentally stimulating, my awareness and alertness are very, very high.

I think i should be using the word "dull" to describe my walks around the henro trail. It is an experience that is the opposite of lively, the opposite of animated, the opposite of keenly felt. There is a certain daily rhythm that you fall into if you try, mentally and physically. You are alert and moving, aware of what is happening around you (maybe more so than normal), yet there is no urgency to life, no urgency to your actions. You just become one more piece of everything around you, one more piece of the environment.

As the process starts, there is still obviously a 'me' and 'that tree,' 'that car,' 'that person,' 'out there.' Then, as the process deepens, all of those individual 'things' out there, merge and slowly things settle into just 'me' and 'everything else,' with the later being one 'thing' (for the lack of a better word). All the external differentiation has melded into one.

Then as the process continues, slowly, every so slowly, the 'me' begins to dissolve into that 'everything' and i'm left with 'everything,' but with a twist. At this stage, there is still some piece of me sitting somewhere over my shoulder noticing all of this. There is still a little piece left that has noticed that the merger is taking place and that 'Dave' is no longer separate from everything else; that Dave and everything else are all one and the same, manifesting as this over there and that over here, etc.

Then at some point that piece doing the noticing disappears. That disappearance is always completely unnoticed by Dave until something happens to pull me back into Dave's boots and Dave's head. It might start raining. A car may honk it's horn, someone may greet me, etc. At that point Dave deals with the situation and the process starts over again.

None of this is to imply that i'm a spaced out zombie when walking. Far from it. Cars are still looked for as i cross the street, henro trail markers are still looked for and noticed (usually), people that i pass are still greeted. It's just that Dave is no longer doing this, it's just happening.

The point of this? Just that boring is completely the opposite of how i would describe the henro trail — even though that is the word i mistakenly used. Yes, the experience may be called dull, but it is in no way boring. Life, when you truly experience it is not boring. Life, when you see it in it's unconditioned, unfiltered state is beautiful. Life, when you are talking about that word with a capital L, Life, and not when you are talking about that personal life you have built up and come to believe is all there is, is breathtaking.

Sorry for using the wrong word. And thanks to Ted for forcing me to be more accurate.

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