The eagle’s eye

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Looking at the clouds from my balcony in the region of the black forest – Germany, I spotted an eagle flying over some nearby mountains. It was a real pleasure to look at because the serenity of its movement upon an Yves klein-blue sky silenced my thoughts.

Movements dictated by the wind seem extremely subtile and minimal. It seemed like a simple game orchestrated and formed by life itself. Fully learned to flying between clouds, mountains and trees, this big bird was completely at ease with its purpose to circling around. Finding mice or other little mammals to keep up with nature’s pace means everything up there. Assisted by the best eyes ever conceived by evolution, the evening sunlight and a fellow eagle crossing his path. He was more ready then ever for his next strike down.

Beholding this creature intensely almost made me become the eagle itself. It is an act of meditation in its purest sense. For this reason alone, I find gazing at clouds very usefull. I do it a lot because it enables me to focus visually on the temporary nature of all things.

It is crazy when one is aware of his own thoughts. It is like, paraphrasing Eckhart Tolle, you sense two identities within yourself. Even when this crazy state is only perceived for a slight moment, it can bring you back to your real self. The one identity that isn’t thinking, is constituted in the here and now. The other one is constantly making up thoughts about that real self fed by surroundings, other people, feelings and what not. It is hard not to be a slave of the thinking self in a way it drowns the freedom of the real self. Moments like these can help not only to be open minded or wondered, but also to stop the continuous flow of thoughts. Any meditative act is good enough. Breathing, looking at the sky, creating any art form and so on gives space to non-thinking states of being.

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Let’s have a closer look at those thought fluxes now. Self perception is mainly formed by your own actions (e.g. things you do and say) and responses of others to these actions. Generally speaking and in combination with your actions, also your environment (social contexts such as work, family, friends and society) and the stimuli you perceive during the day have a big influence on your own identity. What one may forget easily are your thoughts that are spinning a web around your mind in a chronic manner. It is more than a habit, it is culturally inhibited and founded in Western society itself.

That said, it isn’t strange that we think a lot without even realizing it. We’re born in a cultural determined society for that matter. If we take this back to my experience with the eagle, it can be stated that many facts en scientific things can be said about the behavior, anatomy, hunting skills etc. of eagles in the black forest, Germany. There’s loads of research, no doubt, about those magnificent creatures. All those things are available in libraries, physical or virtual. Nevertheless, this ’thinking about’ eagles in a rational and scientific sense may originate from genuine amazingness, the categorizing and rationalizing act to some extend takes away a part of the sacred and magical angle of thoughtless gazing.

Gazing at clouds and skies now and than, give space to our real selves. The act of doing this isn’t only aesthetic, it also causes momentum for the internal recharging of our genuine identities as human beings. That’s why I like to dive into the mystery of the thoughtless unknown once in a while. It shows that there are many dimensions outside the thinking dogma which create peace and stillness.

Sources:

(1) Tolle Eckhart, The power of now, 2001.

(2) The enlightenment at the end of the 18th century was the ultimate movement towards rationality. The French philosopher R. Descartes’ famous quote ”Je pens, donc je suis” didn’t leave much room for imagination. Although, a few centuries later great scientists such as Einstein and Bohr claimed that imagination is everything, reasoning has to serve this imagination.

 

Bill Evans on visual art, music and the need for a framework

In the spring of 1959 “Kind of Blue” was released. The now legendary jazz-album was greatly influences by the piano parts of Bill Evans. Evans himself was a spiritual musician who was into eastern philosophy. On the back cover of the record, there’s a text written by Bill Evans. You can read it below my comment.
Further explanation is unnecessary as the words speak for themselves.

The song ‘Blue in green’ was actually written by Bill Evans, despite the fact that it is mostly claimed as written by master Miles Davis himself.

Enjoy listening! The full album is more than a recommended suggestion. This record is truly one of the best examples of improvisation in its most simple form.

“There is a Japanese visual art in which the artist is forced to be spontaneous. He must paint on a thin stretched parchment with a special brush and black water paint in such a way that an unnatural or interrupted stroke will destroy the line or break through the parchment. Erasures or changes are impossible. These artists must practice a particular discipline, that of allowing the idea to express itself in communication with their hands in such a direct way that deliberation cannot interfere.

The resulting pictures lack the complex composition and textures of ordinary painting, but it is said that those who see well find something captured that escapes explanation.

This conviction that direct deed is the most meaningful reflections, I believe, has prompted the evolution of the extremely severe and unique disciplines of the jazz or improvising musician.

Group improvisation is a further challenge. Aside from the weighty technical problem of collective coherent thinking, there is the very human, even social need for sympathy from all members to bend for the common result. This most difficult problem, I think, is beautifully met and solved on this recording.

As the painter needs his framework of parchment, the improvising musical group needs its framework in time,. Miles Davis presents here frameworks which are exquisite in their simplicity and yet contain all that is necessary to stimulate performance with sure reference to the primary conception.

Miles conceived these settings only hours before the recording dates and arrived with sketches which indicated to the group what was to be played. Therefore, you will hear something close to pure spontaneity in these performances. The group had never played these pieces prior to the recordings and I think without exception the first complete performance of each was a “take.”

— Bill Evans

(c) http://www.billevanswebpages.com

Andy Puddicombe – When was the last time you did absolutely nothing?

Inspiring talk by someone who puts down in a very clear manner how being in the present moment can help you focus again and gain happiness. Due to our busy and demanding daily lives, we tend to forget to get in touch with our inner selfs.

What seems to be a very easy thing to do, is actually pretty hard. Finding and especially keeping a balanced and empty mind just doesn’t come easy. It requires (daily) practice to sit or lay down and focus on breathing our bodily sensations. The consequences however are quiet radical as my experiences and those of others learn. You become more compassionate as you learn to deal with experiences in a positive manner.

You don’t have to become a celibate monk however to learn to observe your thoughts. The most important thing is practice and patience. Being able to ‘watch’ thoughts fly by without judging them is actually a relief. You learn a lot about yourself and how you interrelate to others. It reveals opportunities to initiate better actions towards others and before you know, it opens up people around you. It’s contagious indeed.

I believe that meditation can help a lot of people who are suffering from stress caused by living at a fast pace. The impact of the mind and thoughts on our well-being is in my opinion massive.

Go figure when you’re having a bad day. People around you have to deal with this and are influenced by your rather negative state of mind and being. It’s very often at those moments that a feeling of unhappiness is prevailing. It bounces back and leads to nothing more than agitation and more unhappiness.

On the other hand, every day is an new opportunity to turn things around again. For me, that also is a very motivating trigger to do the right thing and return to my breathing for 20 minutes each day.

Peace and nowness to all people out there!

Meditation in prison may be the way to freedom – a constructive way to successful rehabilitation

In this inspiring video, which was suggested to me by a good friend, a valuable solution for successful rehabilitation of prisoners in society and reattaining their freedom within prison is revealed.

Ex-offender Fleet Maull, who was in prison himself for 14 years, experienced at first hand how meditation can create a tremendous mind shift, even in prison. When he became a prison monk he regretted his life path up till than. He started meditating “like his hair was on fire” and so over time inspired other inmates within other prisons by spreading articles and talking about meditation. He noticed that especially problem solving and communication skills are lacking within a detention context.

This video acknowledges the idea of a movement as initiated some time ago by David Lynch and his Foundation (www.davidlynchfoundation.org). For many inmates, freedom is just a word until they get arrested and locked up. For many of them without a release date, meditation creates an opportunity to deal with prison life by just being in the now. It can also generate some kind of freedom within the web of their regrets. Like one of the interviewees states: “It gives me a tool to look into myself”. Prisoners are vulnarable for committing violent behavior and solving problems the hard way. If you can reach what the strengths en goodness are within human beings, you can create an environment of healing and let goodness and compassion ripple back up. Meditation helps creating a base again within each person, also prisoners.

The principal of the prison states it quiet right as she says: “People don’t understand the value of what they call the soft stuff and I sometimes tend to think that without the soft stuff, how many hard stuff you have, you’re bound to fail.

Mihaly Czikszentmihalyi on “flow”

During a TED-talk in 2004, Mihaly Czikszentmihalyi talked about “flow”, a moment where all connection to daily life dissapears. Musicians, writers, climbers, everyone with a passionate hobby will recognize this mental state.

Brought to you in an easy to grasp fashion, Czikszentmihalyi brings up a way straight to feeling more happy. As said before, the present moment and especially experiencing it in an intensive way, makes you forget anything else (hunger, sleep et cetera). Before you know, hours have passed by.

This state of consciousness, this flow, is one of the major mental highways to happiness. What you do, doesn’t really matter. As long as you do it with a lot of passion, you’ll become one with it. You become the activity and nothing else matters. Some call it mystical, others call it flow.

A nice story of a wise man who has been amazed for a long time. Enjoy watching!

Insight meditation timer

As a guidance for my meditation practice, I use “Insight Timer” for several years now. It keeps track of all your sessions, total time meditated and let’s you know when you reach a milestone (10 consecutive days and so on).

It also offers different sounds to start and end a session. You can make friends within the globally created sanga (group of people meditating at the same time) without being an over advertised social medium and you can make notes after each session.

It is free and available for iPhone, iPad and other Android devices. I recommend it because it is easy to use, motivating and it helps you to remember all your sessions in different ways.

I must admit, a regular clock also does the trick and their is no incense involved, but it takes away practical stuff in favor of your focus.

Watch a tutorial of the author of the app.

Richard Feynman – The beauty of a flower (animated)

In this animated video, Richard Feyman describes in a subtile way how within science one can also be very amazed by the beauty of a flower.

Nothing much must be said more about this video. Just watch and listen to the lucidity of it. It raises interesting questions about the nature of aesthetics and its relationship to science.

Richard Feyman was a theoretical physicist whose main domain was quantum mechanics besides other specialties in that region of knowledge.