Have you been enjoying a bit of fasting, self-denial and religious thought over the last six weeks in preparation for some chocolate today? Probably not. But I can’t help but think it may not be a bad thing to do in this day and age to at least try a bit of social media fasting, some News fasting, some internet fasting. My dips back into Twitter and Facebook have proven my minimal engagement there to be worthwhile: Facebook has become a dated, sad looking affair, and Twitter seems to have driven everyone slightly mad. Leaving the hyperreal worlds they represent has been liberating to say the least. This is the last I shall mention of this for a while. “Mi sono sfogato” as the Italians say.
As we enter Easter, life seems more chaotic than ever over here and the demands on my time just keep increasing. Italy is in yet another lock down and I am personally finding it difficult to respect the rules after a year of confinement: It’s as if every home has become a sort of pressure cooker, and having my in-laws living in the apartment downstairs means the pressure is coming from more than one location. I have been secretly exploring all of the hidden angles and urban walks my adopted home has to offer and there are so many of them; providing opportunities for meditative walks, contemplative meanders through hidden woods, and shamanic ceremony that connects to themes in the first episode.
I have also been spending more of my formal practice on concentration as a way to manage the level of challenge life keeps throwing up with long days spent in lock down with family, neighbours, online work, home schooling, in-laws and too much time staring at screens. Even our two cats seem stressed by this third wave of the pandemic. This change in practice focus connects to the second episode.
Two episodes; Two very different themes.
My desire to get Jane Affleck onto the podcast was inspired by a piece she wrote for The Side View. It had a title that caught my attention, Meditative Awareness and the Symbiotic Real. The basic idea was that meditation and meditative relationships with the environment can behave as an antidote to anthropocentrism; an extension, if you will, of our over-focus on the selfing process that Buddhism is so concerned with. If ideology is collective selfing, anthropocentrism is species level selfing; this theme is set to be a central one in practice as this century unfolds so expect more guests on here to discuss it. With Jane, we talk about the intimate relationship with the environment that can be fostered and the way that relationship can challenge experiences of selfhood and many of the traps that accompany a self focussed approach to the practising life. We explore how art and the process of creation are integral to this process too.
P.S. I chatted with the Side View’s founder a while back and had a rather unusual conversation with him you might like to revisit after this one. Follow the link down the rabbit hole if you dare.
Tina Rassmussen is one of our first meditation teachers on in a long while. Well, being a practice based series, this was inevitable. Tina was co-author of a book on jhana states and concentration that I have had on my shelf for a long time. Concentration is not the topic of our conversation, however. Here are some of the themes we explored;
- Compatibility issues between neo-Advaita and Buddhism
- Generational conceptions of practice; from Boomers to Millennials
- The need to evolve our understanding and ways of thinking about and describing awakening/enlightenment
- The phases and stages of a practising life
- Roadblocks, hurdles, maturation; limitations
- Critiquing the language we use to talk about self, ego, awakening
- The way belief shapes practice, perception, expectations and the contours of subjectivity
Enjoy the spring everyone and let’s all wish a swift end to this pandemic.
Jane Affleck https://www.jane-affleck.com/
Adam Robbert, Side View founder https://soundcloud.com/imperfect-buddha-podcast/64-ibp-adam-robbert-on-philosophy-as-a-way-of-life
Tina Rassmussen https://luminousmindsangha.com/who-we-are/