Album by Austrian trip-hop (electronic) band Tosca in tribute to Japanese Zen master Shunryu Suzuki author of Zen Mind, Beginner’s Mind.
Choice chilled trip-hop band of 2016, ambient soulful with trippy vocal infusions man.
“There is no teacher who can teach anything new, he can just help us to remember the things we always knew” –
Michael Cretu: Engima – Odyssey of The Mind
My journey into the spiritual, the metaphysical, the awareness of Buddhism, of philosophy, and my interests in the ways of Zen, is a unique one. In a way these things have always been with me, but as my understanding grows I can now identify these things that have always been present in my life. By identifying them I mean I can now put names to the things that have always been with me, however I never really held much stock for the name of a thing.
My earliest and retrospectively my most fundamental discovery of meditation, of observing ones thoughts from a higher consciousness, started when I was five. Understand that it is difficult to describe this awareness without diminishing the essence of what I experienced. I have always felt selflessness. Even as a young boy I felt there was something inside of me that is bigger than me, connected to everything.
In a way I feel there have always been two parts of me, or perhaps to put it more succinctly, I have always believed there have been two of me. The outer me, that which bears my personality, and the inner me, that which is beyond perception. The inner me resembles a still empty space, not dormant but attentive, a passive watchfulness.
Like many people of today whose parents have divorced, I experienced unhappy times in my younger days, surrounded by confusion and grief. As a five year old I remember going to bed and simply crying for attention, I would stay awake for hours listening to the fighting downstairs. One particular night I became entirely exhausted through upset and sadness, and after a time I quieted. I withdrew completely into the darkness of my bed. Instead of seeking attention I decided to try and make myself disappear, to close myself off completely from everyone and everything. I remember fantasising about dying and that if I remain completely still and slowed my breathing I would eventually fade away. So I decided to focus all my attention, my vision, my thoughts, on a single point on my Care Bear wallpaper. Not looking at the wallpaper but looking into the wallpaper, not moving my gaze to any other point. Slowly and with practice I found that by staring at a single point for long enough everything would go dark, all sight was lost to darkness, this void was not that associated with sleep but that of a waking darkness, eyes open and alert.
Over time I explored this new sensation by focusing on different objects, a lamp, the ceiling, and found that each time I did so my feelings, whatever emotion I brought with me would be lost. I had found something amazing, a secret sanctuary known only to me, a space I could go to anytime I wanted. By focusing long enough I would enter a space where all conflict, unhappiness, people and life’s problems were no longer there, they existed outside this place, and as I grew older I realised they don’t exists at all. My five year old self believed I was floating in space, observing thoughts like distant stars.
I remember on several occasions this experience became too intense, all senses would become hypersensitive, every sound became amplified, time seemingly slowed down to the point where I could hear everything, my breathing would become a loud rhythmic beat and I could almost sense myself floating above me – a peripheral vision or feeling above my body. And as a five year old this experience was frightening, something I tried to explain to my mother but was unable to describe it.
“ The Zen Mind is the beginner’s mind,
which sees everything as if for the first time “
Daniel Levin – The Zen Book (2005: inlay)
Now being 31 I am able to recognise this story as one of meditation, of finding the present moment. I regard these early accounts as something truly profound because at the age of 5 I was unable to recognise these very acts as ones of meditation, of mindfulness, to me these things had no names, no actions or correct practices, they were totally natural. To my 5 year old self it was a secret I used to escape my emotions. At the time I certainly had read no books on the subject nor was I influenced by media or other people. And so I stumbled upon a practice that was pure without even being aware of such a thing – and to me this is something as adults we spend our lives trying to achieve. When we are older it is difficult to perceive without the interference of concept, we are constantly driven to name things, to think about things we see instead of simply seeing them, of simply being present.
That is how my journey started, but maybe it would be more accurate to say that at the age of 5 I re-joined my path to awareness, my path to knowing who I am. This practice is not something that can be learned, this practice is something we already know, it can only be experienced, and by doing so we remember that which we always knew, a bit like life really.
A note on the opening paragraph:
In the opening paragraph I described my experience as a journey into the spiritual and philosophical realm, I mentioned my belief in Buddhism and Zen, but to now end this discussion I would say this. These established arts, these beliefs and interests are useless, they are irrelevant. Simply put they are all based on memory, they are learned but not in the true sense. One can study Zen, one can be learned in the many teachings of Buddha, but these are static, they are memorised and recalled at will, but learning is always in motion, and my approach is to experience these things, spirituality, Zen, and then forget them, to look at them without knowing, to experience them from a fresh naive perspective always. Jiddu Krishnamurti discusses this most succinctly in his opening to The Limitations In Our Mind.
Profound Related Links / Posts:
I have long been gripped by a particular piece of audio used in the opening few minutes of Trance-Formation by Max Igan and for a long while I was unaware to whom it belonged to, however after digging deep I discovered they are the words of Jiddu Krishnamurti – a philosopher, a spiritual speaker, and a reluctant messiah. The following entry is an interpretation of Krishnamurti’s words and an earlier piece of writing on the same subject, the two pieces are wonderfully complimentary of Society as a System, and The System as an analogy of Society.
We have created this society…
An immoral destructive civilised society to which we are responsible.
We have surrendered our fundamental selves to the building of a system that ultimately recognises a society not of individuals but of personalities, of ranks and status.
We are trapped by this society, this system of apathy and suffering. We are conditioned (which is to say that we have inherited a conditioning) to which we no longer think outside of ourselves, our needs and wants, we cannot see beyond society and its influences.
Some have fought against this conditioning.
People have tried to cause change. Groups, sects, cells, whatever they have identified themselves as, they have formed together to cause change.
Change in politics, change in government, change in territory or in wealth and power.
To change society…
But society is the relationship between people. And that is the problem, that is the crisis…
It is not a political crisis, or economic crisis, or a crisis of war…the crisis is with ourselves, it is an internal crisis.
The great struggle is not between nations but between individuals and themselves, their perceived selves, their I. We cannot change society but we can change our conditioned minds, each of us.
The only way to change the System / Society is simply by becoming fundamentally aware of ourselves, by understanding ourselves, by weakening our conciousness beyond the thinking mind – and this follows nicely onto a previous post: I Am Nothing, which describes the journey of this awakening, and was inspired by another spiritual speaker, author and teacher Eckhart Tolle.
The following is the opening words to one of Krishnamurti’s lessons, of which are the inspiration to the above writings and mentioned content.
There is no beating it.
It will continue to be long after we are gone.
But we can stand outside it.
We can choose to see it, and by seeing it we can withdraw from it, learn not to be influenced by it, and with help we can separate ourselves from it.
But time’s hidden hand comes into play when we least expect it, this vision becomes weakened as life gets in the way, and slowly we become integrated into the thing we have long protested.
To many this process is transparent, and to many it appears as something positive, something to aspire to.
Often it is wrapped in false progression, a promotion at work or the promise of more money, more responsibility, and in time we become an advocate of the system.
Some are so hopelessly blinded by it that they actually believe they are doing good, but in the same breath manipulate and recruit others into forgetting their own values.
Status becomes the poisoned apple of choice – and they soon become entirely lost.
However there are those who remain resilient, often rejected poorly paid and with personality disorders, they may be among the homeless, the depressed, or the drug dependants, but they have withstood the system.
You see none of us are born into the system.
We are not imprisoned by the system, we walk into it with smiles and open doors, we build our own bars and gladly throw away the keys.
It is becoming apparent that my journey into Beyond The Thinking Mind, Zen, and many of my spiritual wanderings and philosophical questions are all connected, and indeed at the heart of all is human nature, the mind and I. And so many of these posts will start to form a connected web featuring references from and links to other existing posts.
If I talk to myself, who is talking to who. I have split my mind into two me’s. But wait, look it this saying again “I have split my mind into two me’s” – well this creates three entities – the two me’s and the I that split them. It is this I that we can never “know”, it is this I that we truly are. This I is not something, some object or version of me, it is nothing, – or better put it is no thing. It is not my name, nor my personality, these are simply more splits, more externalisations – more interpretations of the true I.
I am not a name, I am not my person, as my person changes, it grows old, its cells are ever changing and it, the body, is not permanent. Yesterday, tomorrow, later, as I type this, these moments have passed or are yet to come, but they not a part of who I am, they do not belong to my now, to I.
The events, jobs, possessions, do not make up who I am. My nationality, age, parents, are not part of who I am, they are what I perceive them to be, what I see them as in my mind. I see my couch, but it does not belong to me, my lounge is littered with furniture and shelves and these occupy my living space but they are not in my inner space, they share no connection.
I watch my thoughts pass by but I do not belong to them, I stand back away from them in a stillness, I let them go by without following them, they are not I…. Understand that I do not need to let them go, because I was never holding onto them.
The above interpretation was inspired by a teaching from Eckhart Tolle, click here. Eckhart Tolle is a learned spiritual teacher of Beyond The Thinking Mind and many other Zen and wider spiritual teachings, he is also a gifted public speaker and offers many talks, lessons and guided meditations – his online site can be found here.
Of course we can read the many self-help books, the many excellent literary works on Zen, spirituality, the many Buddhist teachers, journals on Thought, guided meditation texts, however at a primary level these have already lost their essence through their inevitable transformation into text (the core data, the true lesson, has been converted into information – a book). Books adhere to a format – chapters, titles, structure, language and vocabulary – in my experience it is best to first listen to a teaching, cast away all preconceived notions of structure and simply have dialog with a teacher. There is nothing wrong with reading but the written word lacks the organic spontaneity of speech, the immediate awareness of dialog, the connection.
Having been introduced to a new (or very old) way of thinking, a way of finding that attentive stillness, stepping into that spatial calmness, what then would happen if we apply this knowledge to the scenario mentioned previously in On Speaking and Listening? If as children we were guided down this path, would we then have the ability to truly listen, to speak truly? How would this affect our Western culture, our ingrained way of life?
The concept of I, oneness, is something fundamental to Zen Buddhism, here we have had an introduction, a window into finding that inner space, but I am to explore further – and exploring is exactly how we [ I ] perceive these lessons, its an exploration of the spaces behind thought, behind the busy mind, beyond the this and that. I look forward to publishing more soon.
” Tune down man, find your neutral space “
20 Years away from the grid: Don’t get me wrong, I was a massive Tron fan in my younger 90s days but somewhere in the 20 year gap I forgot about The Grid. Then in late 2009 comic-con released a teaser trailer for a sequel – and suddenly I was revisiting the digital domain of Tron – one aged and much darker than before.
The Creator – Flynn
I was fascinated by Kevin Flynn’s return, the idea of an older, much wiser Flynn and one that is perceived as a deity on The Grid. And so I followed every development and every rumour (much thanks to ign.com) of the film up to its release. I have always believed in the spirit, discovered the art of meditation quite naturally as a very young child, but after seeing this film I have become passionate about Zazen and following my way of Zen.
People have criticised this film on its slow build-up and story line, personally I believe its slow build-up is necessary – there is 20 years of retrospection to be covered, however when the true-action begins things really start to move. But this review is not about the action, visa vie its inaction what matters, the importance of waiting, being still, moving past wants and needs. Visually Legacy complements its 1982 predecessor perfectly while still maintaining a contemporary visual. The Grid has changed, its much larger, infinitely more possible, and much darker. I will not go into specifics regarding plot, there are plenty of well-read reviews for this already, suffice it to say Kevin Flynn became locked within the world of Tron and (as covered in Tron Uprising) there has been a rebellion by the Programs against its Creator. Tron who was once the architect’s assistant has been corrupted and reprogrammed by Clu who has now gained power over The Grid and forced Kevin Flynn into hiding. When the Son of Flynn enters The Grid the time of meditation is over – the resurrection is begun.
However all is not what it seems as these actions are all the design of Clu, who’s agenda threatens both the digital domain and the physical world. The chemistry between Creator and Creation, between Flynn and The Grid, is a perfect analogy for the Christianity faith – as is succinctly explained in The Likeness of the Creator by James F. McGrath:
” The creator, Flynn, does not simply condemn and punish his creation, Clu, made in his own image and likeness. He recognizes that the shortcomings of Clu are a reflection of himself as creator. In fact, Clu’s vision of “perfection” mirrored Flynn’s own at the time he created Clu. But what he came to realize later is that such ideals of perfection in fact pale in comparison with the reality of human life, with all its flaws and failures.”
Naturally Tron Legacy lends itself effortlessly to blu-ray and a good clear HD screen, the visuals are stunning and the digital realm is rendered in flawless detail. Indeed this was one of my best blu-ray purchases and truly made me appreciate just how good my screen is. Contrasts are well defined and edges pin-sharp, and pleasingly these are achieved without losing texture definition.
At the heart of all this is a truly great music score by Daft Punk, the digital realm is brought to life with an amazing soundtrack – digital beats and contemplative ambience. It has been quite some time since I last purposely purchased an OST, but the Tron Legacy OST is a must have and I have been listening to it ever since its release. The remixed score – Reconfigured is an amazing compilation presenting Daft Punk’s electronic masterpiece in another totally awesome light.
Tron Legacy and the days up to its release have sparked many revelations and followers, the Flynn Lives following (elaborated during the bonus footage potentially showing the origins of a further film Tron 3 – see Tron Legacy blu-ray bonus content), Flynn Frontier, some fascinating fan-made pages and projects including Life Beyond the Digital Frontier by MAXIMILIAN MAJEWSKI, and the previously mentioned The Likeness of the Creator by James F. McGrath.
Tron Legacy is one of three favourite films, and one that is always viewed with the lights dimmed, the surround-sound enabled, and the screen freshly cleaned. Its definitely a thinker’s film, deep and spiritual, a great sci-fi who fans of a digital existence like The Matrix will love.
This is spirituality 101, life death and rebirth are told here in deep, evocative shades across three interwoven timelines that dance around the spirit. The film’s score (by Clint Mansell) is one of the finest pieces of music I have come across, its haunting meditative flavours are truly penetrating. I have often chosen the score prior to my meditation sessions, it massages the soul and quietens the mind.
This is one of three favourite spiritual films (see also Tron Legacy, The Big Lebowsky and Winter Spring Summer Spring)
The use of match-cuts and recurring visual motifs (merging separate scene time lines to tell the same story) is truly mesmerising. This film is intelligent and certainly needs (and deserves) several viewings. The way life, death, life and living, are told through the use of metaphor, metaphysics, meditation, and spirituality is truly humbling.
The visuals and colours are rich and a treat when viewed in a darkened room with some candles, indeed many of the scenes are bathed in deep warm candle light. Like deep calm waters, the flow of this film is slow and offers no appeal for those seeking action – indeed what’s fundamental to this film is inaction – stopping and looking within, finding stillness and evoking deep contemplation.
The acting in this is sublime, Hugh Jackman’s performance (as Dr Tom Creo) is the best I have seen – the emotions, despair, guilt, love and loss and ultimately enlightenment are real. The writing is beautifully told and delivered. It would be inappropriate to talk about character development because the very concept of this is what the film is about.
As for what format makes best viewing I believe DVD gives the best experience, the Blu-Ray version seems overworked, the dynamic colour range is somewhat compressed to compensate for higher contract (the darks are too extreme), also the films score is dampened on Blu-Ray (in my opinion).
My thinking-mans deep spiritual collection of films is now becoming quite extensive but this remains in my top three, and for the price of DvDs these days this is simply a bargain and something I believe everybody better for seeing sometime in their lives.
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