Tuesday, February 26, 2013

Making Up Stories

I'm working with someone who is going to Shikoku to make a documentary about the henro trail, or, more specifially, the life of a henro on the henro trail. My job is only logistics, nothing having to do with the making of the storyline or the movie itself. That requires people with brains and all i ever got when i made my apperance was a pair of boots, which i like to believe i've put to good use. :-)

But as the process is progressing, i find it fascinating to watch as the storyline is snapped together, scene by scene, like interconnecting squares that, when all snapped together, make one seamless floor in someone's garage or basement. Or, i suppose, to be more poetic, like brush stroke after brush stroke until the masterpiece is right there in front of your eyes and, in which, only experts see any brush strokes at all.

So what am i getting at? Someone standing outside the henro trail looking in, and then telling the story of what being a henro is like. In a way, defining, for everyone that watches the final product, exactly what a henro is and what the henro experience is all about.

I'm not criticizing or saying it's impossible, just noticing. And then pulling that back into my life, our lives. All but a relative minoriy of people in this world define themselves not by ideas or experiences they have had themselves, but by ideas and experiences that other people have had and told them they need to pay attention to.

The majority of people define themselves according to what they have been told by their parents, teachers, friends, co-workers, bosses, and many others. From the day we are born we are offered a carrot or a stick so that we learn to behave in one way or another, so that we learn to accept the 'story' about others that is accepted in our group, so that we learn what to feel is important, unimportant, valuable, worthless, correct, uncorrect. We are spoon fed these stories all our lives and most, without blinking an eye, simply accept them and believe we came up with them on our own.

Why then, do some brave people take those first tentative steps down the henro trail, whether on Shikoku or the generalized one in life? How do some get up the nerve the peek around the curtain and notice that life isn't really what we have been led to believe it is? I'm not offering answers here, just musing aloud. It's a fascinating question.

And an even more interesting questions for me personally is why do some who walk the henro trail on Shikoku actully rip the curtain down while others may peek around and then say, "OK, been there, done that," and then walk away from it?

I like to look at my days sometimes and notice, really, really notice that my day isn't one seamless continuum, that it's not this smooth continuous flow but one discrete experience after another, each in some way connected to the one before it and the one after it (cause and effect), yet each discrete and standing alone in it's own right.

And then i like to remind myself that there is a space, miniscule in size, between any two of those experiences. And that it is in those miniscule gaps where we make up our minds on what to do, what to say, how to react, how to respond each time. But this almost always takes place subconsciously, with no overt thought on what we think, how we feel, or the emotions that pop up. Why? Because we have been spoon fed that "story" all our lives and we have internalized it to such an extent that we no longer need to think about it.

Being on the henro trail is where i work on those gaps. While in everyday life they can be miniscule in size, in my boots or on my zafu, those gaps can, if i work at it, slowly expand, growing wider and wider, until they suddenly get wide enough for you to see what is actually taking place inside. And it will shock you when you see it.

Then, with just a little more work, the gaps expand until they cover the entire horizon, and maybe for the first time, you see reality as it is, from inside the gap, with those curtains pushed all the way to the side. Pick your favorite window at home; the one with the best view outside. Place a chair in front of the window and close the curtains. Then sit there looking at the curtain until you get calm and your mind quiets down. Then open the curtain and sit back down. Then pay attention and notice the difference in your body, your mind, your feelings, your emotions as the expanded view opens onto that scenery.

Now imagine how much more powerful it would be when that secenery is Life itself. Not your life, not my life, or anyone else's life. Life.

And you haven't bought boots for your trip to the henro trail yet?

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