Glorified Excuse — Yoga and Anorexia

Glorified Excuse has published a heartbreaking piece of writing about yoga and anorexia — all the more heartbreaking for how much hope there is in her words. How close she and others in her situation have come to giving up all hope, brings me to tears sometimes.

It’s not just eating disorders. Many illnesses, physical or mental (is there a difference?) can turn us away from our bodies, lead to segmenting our experience, compartmentalising it into parts that are “OK” and parts that are not. Parts we disown.

Get reading! It’s a gripping, unsettling but ultimately uplifting tale. A reminder that the hero’s journey exists in all corners of the world, every day.

One by one as they occur


As I worked my way through a ten year career as a software engineer, each trip to the office was accompanied more and more by a sense of regret for what I’d set aside to step into those high-powered cubicles.

The seeds of this regret were sown by my ignorance of life’s transience. I had taken the blessings in my life for granted and unwittingly traded them in. For the innocence I surrendered in order to “get ahead”, I was compensated only with mechanics and logistics.

It’s not just the dryness of programming tasks. It’s the detachment of busy-ness. Doing fifty, sixty hour weeks, again and again, we begin to acknowledge our joys only when they get in the way. We forget that one day they will be gone. We do things that encourage them to leave even faster.

I only saw my son when he needed feeding.

We scour them with our rushed decisions, life scours them and sours them for us. And when it does, we tell them out of hyperwhelm “not right now” and like troopers they soldier onwards and we want to say “wait, I was wrong, come back,” but we are too proud, unwilling to recognise how lost we truly are, and so we daren’t say it loud enough or soon enough to make a difference.

I could see the pattern forming before my itchy, tired eyes: necessarily they move on. Reluctantly, but with a growing confidence, and when they look back they see a path, straight as fate, paved with yellow bricks, and they think “I’m happy with who I am, I’m glad it happened like that, it all turned out for the best”; but we won’t help thinking “I wish I could’ve made that better for us all” once it’s too late.

Fuck that shit, I believe was my general thinking process, as I resigned my contracts and ceased trawling for new ones. I won’t abandon my joys, or my loved ones. Watch me abandon the departure every morning, the late arrival home instead. Abandon the grind that processes my life into monetized units.

It’s not been a materially successful decision. I wasn’t aiming for that. What I was aiming for, was a life lived in recognition of the moments, one by one as they occur. Fitting material needs around recognition of heartache. In holding a space for loving life so much, while knowing that one day I will be gone.

The doctors call it burn out, there’s talk of “recovery”. So that I can get back that 75k per year I’m missing out on.

Whatever. If I only live another thirty seconds, I will die knowing that I was doing what mattered most to me. And that knowledge is not, any longer, for sale.

All Things Are Connected

Plants communicate via a hidden network of fungal connections.

So it turns out that plants communicate via a hidden network of fungal connections [article thanks to the BBC].

Trees and other plant life are not, as scientists have naively thought until recently, sub-sentient lifeforms, separate from each other. In their natural habitat with full fungal symbiosis, forest flora collect, process and disseminate multi-dimensional information to one another within a network or “macro-organism” of massive scale.

Broad bean seedlings that were not themselves under attack by aphids, but were connected to those that were via fungal mycelia, activated their anti-aphid chemical defenses. Those without mycelia did not.

Here’s a YouTube video about this by a forester with a Ph.D. (for the sci cred):

In this video she states that the communication takes place even across different species of plants. And further in the first article, we are told:

“These fungal networks make communication between plants, including those of different species, faster, and more effective,” says [chemical ecologist at Xavier University, Ohio] Kathryn Morris. “We don’t think about it because we can usually only see what is above ground. But most of the plants you can see are connected below ground, not directly through their roots but via their mycelial connections.”

Imagine how much earthy wisdom was lost when the old forests of Europe were felled… Mindlessly… By the clever human; and how much ancient light is currently being lost, traded for soulless monocrops, perversions of natural ecosystems, using plants that do not have even the capacity to reproduce, in places like the Amazonian rainforest or the jungles of Indonesia.

Check out the video text description for more writings by Suzanne Simard about the role of fungal networks in forest macro-organisms.

Vedana — Nothing is Neutral, or is it?

The Buddha placed the notion of “feeling tones” pretty high up in his teachings. Known in Sanskrit as vedana, these feeling-tones refer to the way sensations and thoughts get sorted by our minds into pleasant, unpleasant or neither.

When hearing this, my first thought was always “what about feelings that are both pleasant and unpleasant, like nostalgia?” But I’ve since come to think of a single hit of nostalgia as actually a constellation of many different sensations and vedana.

These vedana have been coming to the fore in my sitting meditation practice lately, usually with some kind of reminiscence woven in, and it got me thinking …


The pleasant / unpleasant feels often get the most attention from our conscious mind. You could say that a main function of having an attention span is to limit our exposure to the details by tuning out the neutral vedana as “inconsequential”. There is good reason for this: take a scene like sitting beside a stream in a forested glade with bird and insect life all around, the smells, the feeling of the sun’s warmth. There is simply too much sensory input to process through our focused attention span without overwhelming ourselves. Instead, most of it fades into the background, our peripheral awareness. Or else never even enters our field of experience at all. There are whole brain circuits in charge of keeping input out of our mind.

This is one reason why in meditation often we close our eyes. We tend to favour quieter locations. Because during meditation we are making a deliberate attempt to be as aware as possible. This has powerful effects on those input-dampening brain circuits. It requires, at least initially, that we create an environment with less input, so that we can focus more intently on noticing every sensation that is present.

I’ve found that even after meditation (so, off the cushion as it were) there is a lot to be gained from being a little more mindful of the full spectrum of feeling including the neutral. For one thing, the neutral tones are far more numerous than the rest, and so by becoming more aware of them we are coming closer to a complete experience of life. Also, there is something to be said for coming to see the world less as a source of entertainment and conflict.

A more comprehensive awareness of the plainness of reality promotes a kind of sensory moderation that in itself is liberating from the push and pull of striving and attainment. Think of how a flower grows on time-lapse through day and night, wind and sun and rain, with a total lack of vainglory and a simple impression of selfless expression. Total surrender to its own being with no regard for right or wrong, sun or rain, pleasant or unpleasant.

Thirdly, there is an important amount of insight in the very arbitrariness of these “neutral” experiences — the sound of the refrigerator kicking in. Bzzzzzzz… reality. Mundane reality. Not a psychodrama of wonder, delight and horror. Just … refrigerator turning on. Chains of cause and effect. Neighbour loads a trailer. A smell of smoke.

And then you have the Tantric viewpoint, which takes neutral beyond the mundane, with realizations that bring deep insight even from the neutral vedana. If we take the object of these neutral feeling tones into deeper awareness they have the same capacity to reveal the nature of mind as any other experience. Tantrikas place great weight on the insight that all phenomena are “intrinsically luminous” — even the mundane. Even the agonisingly painful. All can be taken skilfully as objects for deepening consciousness.

In Buddha’s original teachings, in fact there are no true categories of feeling, not to the Enlightened Ones. All is simply taken as “such”. This is the essence of equanimity — full comprehension of the entire input stream, without preference for any of the vedana. All simply are in possession of suchness — tathātā. That page is a highly worthwhile read. And another name for the Buddha? Tathāgāta: “one who goes such”.

A human. Transmuted, through the effortless effort to let things be just as they are, into a frictionless passage for cause and effect, in each moment synchronised with and manifesting of the beginningless and endless suchness of reality.

Let this be the goal and the actual attainment of all beings.

People usually consider walking on water or in thin air a miracle. But I think the real miracle is not to walk either on water or in thin air, but to walk on earth. Every day we are engaged in a miracle which we don’t even recognize: a blue sky, white clouds, green leaves, the black, curious eyes of a child — our own two eyes. All is a miracle. — Thích Nhất Hạnh