Thursday, February 01, 2007


It's the season, if that still helps, for being sick, at least where I live. A couple of weeks of unaccustomed cold weather and a couple of nights of lying mostly (more-or-less) awake listening to my gizzards and wondering when will they let me relax, followed by last night's sore throat (in perfect sync with Anne this time) providing at last an explanation why a moderate amount of perfectly good (even yummy) food was doing this to me.

It keeps the old immune system in practice, on the level of physical causation. I guess this game of physical causation serves some spiritual purpose; I mean that the discomfortable details of it and the scarcity of sexually oblivious whee seem to require more explanation than the nice blissful bits; and while the notion of God at eternal play has its appealing side, it also carries a nasty hint of "Oh shit! Eternity again! What can I do now?"--which I hope is merely my own emotionally-jaundiced take rather than the actual Divine Condition...

A new way to play Prayer... if there is such a thing--anyway, newish to me. (By the way, I'm also finding out that tempera, meaning playing with egg in my paints, is utterly wonderful (as well as frustrating when big chunks of lovely luminous color peel off and leave yucky chaos; I'll let you know how it works when I get a little more experience myself))!!

Should one play Prayer? My experience has been, what I play at I do again, and get better at. We'll see.

There's all this "counting the breath" stuff, which helps some people get there. Sometimes it gets even me more there. Then there's counting heartbeats--which has the virtue of letting one's breath alone so it isn't so much at the mercy of my expectations of How It Should Be Done. Traditional zen practice was to count breaths 1-10, then start over at 1. But modern computer practice goes 1-9, then a-f, then 10 (stands for "16" in the usual number system), 11, 12... 1a-1f, 20, whee! (Mathematicians are weird; get used to it!)

But really we've got the whole alphabet available. Which takes us up to "base 36," meaning that when you count "z" and prepare to say 10, you have actually counted what we normally call 35 breaths and are about to count the 36th. More symbols than that would be too complicated, but we have that old verse for remembering how alphabetical order goes... We can count up to a fairly big number this way, without many digits. Rather than being pedantic about exactly how many breaths we're actually counting (which doesn't in itself matter) we can say 10 as 1,0 followed by 1,1 and 1,2 on up to 1,z and 2,0 and beyond to z,z & on past 1,0,0 if we're really obsessive about this.

Anyway. However large or small the number you choose to count up to (and you might vary that, why not?) there is a tendency to drift off into just normal inattentive thinking, the sort you were trying to avoid being looped-into in the first place.

You can just address some remarks to God, in your mind. One word per heartbeat.

You probably, so far as you're like me, wonder what to say. Okay, blather something quick & banal and then take a break--by counting awhile. When you reach your intended goal, say more. Repeat as needed.

All right, you don't tell God anything this way he doesn't already know.

But you now have something to do while wondering "What can I possibly find to say next?" And then you get the pressure of having to "say" something at THIS moment, followed by a more contemplative counting break.

I find myself saying utterly childish things. It's all right; God is used to me. It is not what God needs to hear but what I need to address to God, what comes out when I'm trying at short notice to say whatever I actually mean... I get to hear what I really mean, and that seems a good thing.

Maybe these blurts should all be pious. I don't think so. I mean, yes, love and gratitude and praise are good, appropriate things to feel but sometimes I don't, and it may be better just to say "My-throat-hurts-and-I-don't-know-what-I-should-be-say-ing-but-I-guess-I'm-glad-I'm-here-Thanks-for-Anne" and so on. With every beat of my silly heart. It gets me though the Long Dark Night of the Tummy. And some day, who knows, it might just make me better.

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