I started school this week. I’ve also been running to job interviews, English Corners, and so on. As a result, I haven’t been all that great at budgeting my time, and I’ve found myself squeezing out one aspect or another of Learning to Think all week.
I meditated for the first few days in the room, wrapped in a blanket, with my hands covered with the heat pillow. Those were wonderful. For a few minutes each day, I felt the “beautiful stillness.” Then I started running around, and when I wasn’t running around, goofing off. So I took my stolen subway minutes and meditated there, or in the teacher’s lounge, or in the café after lunch, times when I had about twenty minutes and the wherewithal to do something productive with it.
That didn’t really work. I haven’t been able to really keep quiet or sit still in those places, mostly because they are so public and many of them involve necessary distractions (such as the stops being read off on the subway). I need to get back to sitting twenty minutes in my room alone, quietly, each day. Well, thirty, now.
Like last week, I missed a day of sitting with Kahne for an hour. However, I did manage to do some of the drills that day, so it wasn’t a total wash. As I mentioned, I wrote up several lists, and had them all memorized, and had great fun interlacing them and transposing them like we did with the alphabet last week.
But the real gains came in the drills. This wasn’t a terrible surprise to me, it was in the drills that I most felt “stiffness” and the brain-stretching sensation back in Yangshuo. On my last night, as it was clear I had achieved the level of mastery that Kahne demanded (despite my spotty attendance record), I did the drills to round out my hour. I felt stiffness and resistance throughout Drill B, that emerged into full-blown simulflow during Drill C. I again felt the sensation, pure and unmistakable, of my train of thought splitting onto two parallel tracks as I manipulated both sets of words.
I’ve discovered something with both simulflow and mnemonics: They must be taken on faith. I can’t set out or see the whole list or the whole of both words at the outset, I have to trust that I will find my way to the end. I can’t, yet, picture all the provinces I’ve memorized at once, but I can remember one or two and run from there. If I spell out t-i-k and write y-r-d, I can’t necessarily picture the “k” and the “d” when I’m writing “t” and “y,” but I have to trust that they’ll come to mind when I get there.
Have you felt this sensation? The sense that you’re running on parallel tracks, for however short a time?
I’ve taken to skimping on this one. And I’m sliding back, in terms of being able to see and notice the things around me. Bad form. I still get it one or two a day, clocking a few things or scanning the room, but it’s not enough. Petit perception is difficult, because it’s not something that I sit down and do, like mnemonics practice or Kahne’s course. It’s something that I need to carry with me, running in the back of my mind, all day. And I haven’t progressed enough in Kahne to pull that off yet.
I don’t feel quite ready, or confident, about adding the concentration exercises to my routine yet. But I’m going to press on, if only because I need to memorize some poetry for Kahne’s Double Concentration drill.
However, I want to make note of something. Last night, just after I turned out the lights, I noticed how remarkably quiet it was. The traffic was muted, there were no cries or shouts from the street, the city seemed hushed. I practiced layered listening, listening to the hum of the modem, the trickle of water through the pipes, the muted roar of the city, the honking of the streets below…until I realized, with amazement, that I could go no quieter. I heard the ringing in my ears.
It was a strange moment. I’m glad I was there for it.
This side of my practice has probably suffered worst this week. No sooner did Marissa and I agree to memorize the provinces of China than we set the list aside and promptly forgot about it. I made a go at remembering the first eight or so (Guangzhou, Guangdong; Fuzhou, Fujian; Hangzhou, Zhejiang; Shanghai, Shanghai; Nanjing, Jiangshu; Jinan, Shandong; Shijiazhuang, Hebei; Beijing, Beijing; Tianjin, Tianjin; Shenyang, Liaoning; Dalian, Jiling; Harbin, Helongjiang; Hohhot, Inner Mongolia) but then kind of dropped off.
I’m not very good, yet, at coming up with substitute words, and I’m not going to get any better without more practice. Therefore, I’m repeating Session C this week, in addition to doing Session D.
However, I got plenty of practice remembering long lists of things that don’t require substitute words (or at least, not very much) in the form of this week’s Kahne exercises, and I can look forward to more, in the form of next week’s.
This week, Session C (repeat) and Session D in mnemonics. That’s substitute words and people’s names and faces, for those of you playing the Home Game. We’re extending anapana to thirty minutes, and picking up some of the concentration exercises if you’re ready. Exercise III in Kahne, and keep up with the drills when you’ve got a spare moment.
We add Double Concentration this week. However, in this case, Kahne suffers from his age. I can barely remember my own address, much less anyone else’s, for the simple reason of I never need them. And email addresses are too short to cut it for this exercise. Any suggestions on what could replace the four-line physical address, something we’ve all got a small collection of in our heads to work from, that we could write down while reading out bits of poetry?