Interview with Takuin ~ Part 2 of ?

This is part two of an ongoing interview with Takuin. You can read part one here. This particular interview goes into creativity, art and artistry, and part of my struggles as a young human trying to be expressive. The questions in this particular post, were asked by Liz.

Liz: First, let me follow up with a question or two from where Jake left off.

As far as having the support of your friends or family in your writing, do you think your posts might have turned out differently had there been that support?

Takuin: Well, there is an art to expressive writing, no matter the subject. And having support, especially from specific people, can make a big difference in the life of an artist. That difference is not necessarily directly translated into 'good' work, but there is a charge, or energy, for lack of a better word, that is present during the creation of the thing that can give the overall end result a sense of some kind of otherness; a touch of something special, which is not quite explainable.

Having that support can make a huge difference in the relationship between the artist and the medium, but it is not something you can easily quantify in a finished piece of work. And it is not something you necessarily carry with you consciously.

"It is not as if you are saying during the act of creation, "So and so loves me and supports what I do, so this is going to be great!" It is not like that at all."

It is like a residual scent of the love given from without. It is like perfume that can lightly intermingle with the work while it is being completed.

Liz: This sounds waaaay beyond my own life and work, haha. Even a bit 'mystical'?

Takuin: Well, I don't know about 'mystical', because the influence of one loving human being upon another is not mystical at all. It is just that the results of that love, speaking in terms of the creation of some kind of art, cannot be predicted. We cannot say it produces a specific kind of result. That is all.

But even so, I am convinced that something can take place between the artist and the work which is the result of one's encounters with others.

L: Do you think that a hateful person can also have a similar effect on the work?

TM: Oh, absolutely. But in both cases, I think either influence can be wonderful for the work in the end, whether it is pain or pleasure.

It is not easy to explain, but even if it were easy to explain, I am not sure knowing it would be very helpful to an artist. Oh, but I never answered your question!

L: HEY! That is right!

TM: I did not really have direct, active support in any of my writing, so it is difficult to say. Would the work be different had the circumstances been changed? Who knows? There is the possibility, but I don't want to make this confusing, because what I am talking about has no direct effect on the work. It is not about sentence structure, choosing the better word, or ruthlessly editing and killing your darlings. It is none of that.

L: If it is an 'act of creation' kind of thing, then this influence must also be present in other forms of art, correct?

TM: It is something the artist, the human being, carries with him/her, so any creative endeavor could potentially carry that influence. So yes.

L: Was it at all discouraging to be without the kind of support we're talking about here?

TM: Currently? No. But as a child, absolutely. I can clearly see the decisions I made growing up - the various forks in the road - and how those decisions were influenced by that lack of support. It was not a lack of love or anything. But I think it is difficult for some people to understand the mind of a young artist, or expressive human being.

"It is far easier to beat that mind down so it will conform to the norm, as opposed to opening up and trying to really understand something truly different and potentially remarkable."

But that is so common in our world. Those that are different are beaten back in order to keep the status quo chugging right along. It takes great strength to resist that, especially when it comes from those you love. It is a hurdle many young people may never be able to clear.

L: And how did you resist that as a young man?

TM: I didn't, haha. I was beaten back sufficiently. But I always had secrets up my sleeve. I had my own underground railroad of escape routes, which I kept separate from my 'regular' life. Eventually I became the person hiding in those dank tunnels, and it became a part of my regular life, but I had to keep the truth of the thing from everyone, or at least, most people. I just didn't want to hear the bullshit about how I was wasting my time...

Even though I allowed creativity to surface, I only let it go so far; out of fear, I suppose. It was far easier to keep it all to myself. At least in that way, no one would ever give me any shit or tell me how odd my ideas or creations were. But unfortunately, timidity became my nature, and all because I could not feel the strength to say the hell with it and just do what I wanted to do.

L: And what is it you wanted to do? What were those interests or those creations?

TM: More than anything else, I was born a musician. The first time I sat behind a set of drums, I could play. The first time someone set a musical score in front of me, I could read. I have a nearly perfect memory for sounds I have heard a handful of times. It takes no effort for me, and it is really beyond my control.

"I still need to practice, and if I don't read for a long time the ability diminishes, just like with anyone else. But music has always been easy for me, and with those major difficulties out of the way, I could focus on deeper things."

L: Like what?

TM: Well, there are technical elements of music that any musician must master to some degree. What they play and how they play it determines exactly how deeply they need to go into those things, of course.

Kurt Cobain had a completely different set of technical considerations from say, Jaco Pastorius. But both of them were able to deeply explore beyond what came easy to them. Certain aspects were easy for Kurt, just as certain aspects were easy for Jaco, but the importance of what they created went beyond those things, as they were able to deeply explore the other side.

Speaking of myself, I could safely ignore certain aspects of music to some degree, because it took very little effort for me to get a handle on them. With those considerations out of the way, I could focus on trying to find interesting means of expression.

If you never have to study or practice ear training, or if you have to put very little time into learning scales and so on, it frees up a hell of a lot of time, haha. I still practice those things from time to time ... well, NEVER ear training ... I'd rather shoot myself in the ass. But luckily, ear training is something I have never had to worry about. ;-)

I tested out of those things when I first got to Berklee anyway ...

L: What was it like to attend Berklee?

TM: It wasn't an overwhelmingly positive experience for me. But I think that had more to do with the person I was in those days. The best part of going to Berklee was the exposure to musicians from all over the world. I learned far more from them than I ever did from the curriculum. Also, If I had not gone to Berklee, I probably would not be in Japan right now. So it all worked out just fine in the end, haha.

L: Were you a good student?

TM: Hell no! I don't think I have ever been a good institutionalized learner.

I assumed, before I got there, that Berklee would solve all of my problems as a musician. I mean, hey, it IS Berklee after all. But unfortunately, I had to take ME with me, haha. If I could have gone, and left me at home, it would have been far better for everyone.

L: Why is that?

TM: Although I had a good exterior, I had no real confidence in myself. Regardless of my abilities.

"I think I always felt like a fraud, as if someone might suss me out at any moment, and point at me screaming like Donald Sutherland at the end of 'Invasion of the Body Snatchers'."

Somewhere in my mind, I never thought I was good enough to be at Berklee. I could not see it then, but I can see that clearly now. I was always good at hiding those feelings, though.

I was very weak when it came to believing in what I could accomplish. And that feeling stayed with me in so many areas of my life, for a very long time. I just couldn't seem to get away from it.

L: And that had to do with that lack of support we spoke of earlier ...

TM: Amongst other things, yes.

L: OK.

How then, did you become a writer?

TM: By accident. I think I was always interested in writing something, but I was never quite sure what I wanted that something to be.

For awhile I assumed if one wanted to express themselves with the written word, one would choose fiction. After that I thought non-fiction was the way to go. Then screenplays. Then poetry. I could never pin down what it was I wanted to write.

After the accident of December 2006, it all took care of itself, I suppose. I was compelled to write, with no real worries of literary merit, haha.

I don't know if I effectively expressed myself in words, or if I was even understood most of the time. But something did come of it, and my focus nowadays, as far as writing is concerned, is to express something different than before, while never discarding the tools I developed in writing at Takuin.com for the last six years.

L: I could always 'feel' something through your writing, and sometimes it WAS difficult to understand. But I think there was always a directness in your words, no matter how many of them you used. I am very interested in seeing what you come up with next!

TM: So am I, haha!

L: Let's change the subject.

The kind of work you've done at Takuin.com ... do you think that is something you can just easily walk away from?

TM: I don't look at it in that way. I don't think of it as 'walking away'.

As human beings, we evolve, take on new shapes, forge new paths and leap in new directions. And while it may be a definite change in direction as far as content is concerned, it is still an extension of what I am. It is just a turning of the cheek, or seeing the face for the first time in deep shadow as opposed to bright light.

During my skype calls, emails, or face to face meetings, I was always fond of saying something to the effect of, "If someone is a teacher, spiritual or otherwise, they should be more interested in LOSING followers as opposed to acquiring them."

"To keep followers, to acquire them, put them in the fridge and hope they don't expire too soon, is to live without evolution; just another form of security, both for the teacher and the student."

If a teacher cannot give you the tools to discover and explore on your own, within a year - perhaps two - then what the hell are they doing? I'll tell you ... wasting your time! And this is, of course, also the responsibility of the student.

For the teacher to remain there is to be stuck ... to wilt on the vine. And the same goes for the student. To hope for freedom from their favorite source, is to be stuck. To live without curiosity and care. Gentleness. Suppleness. Whatever you might want to say.

Had I kept writing in the same way as I always had, it would not have been right. I would have been just another jackass (and perhaps I am anyway), clutching desperately to what has become comfortable.

Just. Isn't. Right.

It is the nature of human beings to grow and evolve. And most of us spend our days fighting this natural impulse.

L: Would you do anything differently if you could go back and do it over again?

TM: No. No way.

That is an impossibility, really. In exploration, there is no going back. It is all encompassing. And while things may arise differently on a different day, the nature of exploration makes it silly to regret anything one has seen or not seen.

And besides, doing things differently implies also there is a 'good' result, or a finish line. And if a seeker, during some part of their journey, feels like they keep running their head into a wall, that is usually the reason.

L: You mean, because of a desired result?

TM: Yes.

L: Well, what can they do about it?

TM: Smell the flowers. Find someone they love, and spend time with them. Embrace a friend that truly needs them. Teach a child that the stupidity of the adults surrounding them is not their fault. Eat dessert while looking out into the ocean...

L: That won't sound very spiritual to a seeker, haha!

TM: And that is why they will fail.

***************

This interview series will continue in future posts.

November Project 2011 Finale

This post wraps up the November Project 2011. Now that there have been a few days of space, and as I sit here looking over the posts for November, I think the project went quite well.

I would like to thank everyone for all their wonderful questions. I could not use them all, but I am grateful for every one. And special thanks goes to everyone taking part in the comments. It is always good to see others give themselves over to the questions in order to look deeper into them.

Thanks very much!

For those of you new to the site, and to the veterans unable to read the earlier posts, the following list contains all of the writings for the November Project 2011, in order.

The November Project 2011

01: On Dropping Thought

02: The State of Non-Duality

03: Burning the Notebooks

04: Quick Thoughts on Living

05: Questions Answered - Again!

06: On Increased Awakenings

07: Quick Reply on Living

08: Life After Death

09: What Are You Reading?

10: Confused About Enlightenment

11: In Sickness

12: Belief

13: On Writing at Takuin.com

14: On Freedom

15: On Meditation

16: On Dreaming

17: On the Earthquake and Tsunami of March 11, 2011

18: On Finding Out for Yourself

19: Where Should I Sit?

20: On Siddhis and Super-Powers ;-)

21: Takuin on Film

22: On Conclusion

23: On Apophis, Natural Resources, and Love

24: On Haters and Troublemakers

25: On Enlightenment and Awakening

26: On Ending

27: Ask the Reader

28: On Questions

29: On Suffering

30: One Last Sentence

Thanks again, everyone! ;-)

And for those of you coming to these posts late, please keep this in mind: Quick Note on Comments

The Woods

One Last Sentence

November Project: Question #30 This last post for the November Project is a combination of two questions

First:

I know you'll be leaving soon, in a manner of speaking. Do you have any last words of advice for us seekers?

And second:

If you had only one sentence you could say to the spiritual seeker, what would you say?

Well, I won't leave...just move on with life. I won't stop posting here and I won't shut down the site. And I am sure there will be many more interesting conversations with all of you, so in some respects it might seem the same, or at least similar to what came before. But my own explorations have taken me far from where I began, and to remain any longer would be insincere.

Last words of advice sounds morbid, or at least far too dramatic. And I don't care for unnecessary drama. So let's say, the entirety of this website (330 posts, counting this one) are my last words of advice. ;-)

And as far as one last sentence for the seeker...it is difficult. It is not the kind of thing you can create a set answer for. Well, people create set answers all the time, but that is like taking medium size pants and expecting the entire world to fit in them.

Certain things are immutable, but they are only relevant in relation to one's exploration. And that can take on forms difficult to imagine. So it is probably best to leave the 'answers' to the 'experts', and just get on with your life and your own explorations. An expert with an answer will never compare to the beauty that is you, anyway. ;-)

For my one last sentence, I will quote jazz/fusion guitar legend, Scott Henderson. He is speaking about technique, but this can relate to anything we experience in life. Some of you might not get it, but it means something to me.

"I would rather hear Albert King drop his guitar on the floor than hear some jazz guy play streams of eighth notes with no rhythms. It is boring."

That distills my thoughts on life quite nicely.

Walkway to Kotobukiya

On Questions

November Project: Question #28 This question comes from Brooks through email

Is there a question you've been surprised no one has asked?

Well...not really.

What surprises me is people rarely ask themselves the questions they pose to me. And I have always found that baffling. Sure, there is really no way for me to know if they have asked themselves the same questions, but after spending five years listening and speaking, I think I have a good sense for the amount of inquiry many might allow for themselves.

It is never deep enough, it seems.

It reminds me of a story about the writer Gabriel Garcia Marquez. When he read the first line of the Kafka story The Metamorphosis, it almost knocked him out of his bed. [The first line reads, 'As Gregor Samsa awoke that morning from uneasy dreams, he found himself transformed in his bed into a gigantic insect.' ~ TM]

Garcia Marquez said of the line,

"When I read the line I thought to myself that I didn't know that anyone was allowed to write things like that. If I had known, I would have started writing a long time ago."

What he says is so telling: 'I didn't know that anyone was allowed to write things like that.'

This kind of thinking follows people into their inquiry. It is almost as if they need a certain 'permission' in order to proceed, and I could never understand that. If someone is serious, then surely, they'll explore themselves thoroughly. It might not come to them all at once, and I can understand why. But you don't stop, if you are serious.

And I absolutely understand one might be limited to the questions and restrictions of their conditioning. So it very well may be out of their experience entirely to ask a different kind of question. But if they want to see a different 'answer', they'll need to ask a different question. And nothing is stopping them from doing so, at any time.

Delicious Plates

Recently on Twitter (it was actually about an hour ago) I had a little conversation over something I tweeted more than a year ago. The tweet itself reads,

#liesyoushouldntfallfor I am the right guru, and I can bring you true freedom.

The conversation on Twitter was just to clarify what I meant. I was asked,

Q1: How best 2 know it's a lie?; 2: what lies r ok?

And I answered with,

Is there a 'right' guru? Can anyone bring you true freedom? Does true freedom actually exist? No one seems to ask these questions.

It isn't that people have not asked me those questions. It IS rare, but they have asked. But they never seem to ask themselves the same questions. And those are good questions, damn it! Don't waste them on me! Explore them within yourselves! ;-)

A few years ago on a Skype call someone asked me a similar question to, Can someone else set me free? (Or Can freedom be given to me? Something like that.) My answer was, Have you asked yourself? I'll never forget his reply:

But I want you to tell me.

My reply was something like, No. I can't tell you. You have the question, and you seem to be curious about all of this. That is all you need to begin.

If there is any final message on this subject it is this: Any question you receive from Takuin is in no way better than any question you might receive from yourself. In fact, yours is better. You gave it a life and a mission of its own. Takuin didn't.

Thanks for the question, Brooks.

Ask the Reader

November Project: Question #27 I received this in my email inbox just a few minutes ago from James

I can't imagine the number of questions you must get all the time, nevermind this November project. But I wonder if you have a question for your readers? My question is, what one question would you like to ask your readers?

Hmm...interesting. I like this. :-)

My question for the readers is one that no one has ever asked me.

What concerns you in your daily lives?

Whether this concern blocks you off from what you consider daily life, or is an integrated part, however you might see it, what concerns you? Forget for the moment if you believe your concerns to be selfish or of no real importance, or even if you believe those concerns to be illusory...I don't care about that...

I would just like to know, as human beings running around living your lives, what is it that concerns you? To be good parents? To be enlightened? To get laid? To make a name for yourselves? Or something else entirely? What is it?

And I ask this question with love. It is in no way accusatory, nor asked to make you think you are not doing enough in the 'right' areas.

I am really looking forward to your replies, as simple or complicated as they might be.

On Ending...

November Project: Question #26 Another grouping of questions, all with similar answers. I'll put them together and see what comes up...

#1)

You've been writing here at takuin.com for almost five years. Do you think you'll continue to write on these subjects for another five years?

#2)

What did you mean by this comment? "I think I have said all I want to say on this subject. It is almost time to walk out into the sun…" [On the previous post On Enlightenment and Awakening ~ TM] Did you mean you were finished with your answer for that particular post, or are you quitting the site? I didn't quite understand it.

There have also been more than a few comments during this November Project amounting to this:

#3)

How can I get what you have attained?

I'll answer all three quickly, then give a bit more detail.

For #1: "Do you think you'll continue to write on these subjects for another five years?"

I definitely will not. In fact, I am thinking five years is quite enough.

For #2: "Did you mean you were finished with your answer for that particular post, or are you quitting the site?"

I am not quitting the site, no. But I am finished answering those kind of questions.

And for #3: "How can I get what you have attained?"

See #2. :-)

I will write more on this in a later post after the November Project is finished. But I will say a few things now...

I don't know that 'answering questions' is what I have done on this site. I like to think of it more as exploration. After all, I began Takuin.com for the purposes of learning how to speak...umm...so to speak. ;-) It has been hit or miss, and some days have been better than others, but I think I have done what I set out to do.

When we get down to it, I think I am finished talking about freedom, as I would much rather express it. And we all know, deep down, talking about something is not the same as expression. 'Talking about' is prevarication, or at least postponement or procrastination in a way. Expression, while it may be dependent upon words or some other physical medium, is not dependent upon description. And THAT is what currently interests me.

I know this will come as a shock to a great many of you. And I am not leaving the site, and I will keep writing. But it will not be the same as before. It is just time to move on...

But for now, we still have a few more posts before the end of this year's November Project, so let's make them good ones!! I am still accepting questions you know. Chop chop! Let's go! :-)

Inside Yoyogi Koen

On Haters and Troublemakers

November Project: Question #24 This question was asked by TJ during a recent Skype call

In my own 'spiritual' writing I've had some problems dealing with haters and troublemakers, and I can't really handle it well. It totally gets under my skin and it makes me want to block comments or start over. What do you do to get over that kind of stuff, and why do you think they do it in the first place?

Thanks for the question, TJ.

I hope I'm not being forgetful, but I honestly don't remember having much of a problem with that on the website. There certainly have been incidents, but it has not been terribly mean-spirited.

Those problems mainly arise because of the interpretation of the reader. The writer is certainly involved in there, too, so one can't remove oneself completely. The writer always has some degree of responsibility.

There are certain subjects that invite intense reaction. If you talk about belief, reincarnation, life after death, god, or religion, and you say something contrary to popular belief, prepare yourself, haha. People will come out of the woodwork to tell you why you're wrong. And sometimes you might actually be wrong, so you can't just instantly dismiss anything they say.

As a writer of that kind of material, you should always be questioning yourself anyway. So if you take those comments as new lines of investigation, and you can invite the commenter to share in further exploration, it will only be better for everyone involved.

But sometimes, a troll is a troll is a troll. And our blogs allow us to block anyone we wish. Feel free to exercise that right. :-)

Always remember to be open, but in the end it is your house. If you don't want someone there, feel free to throw them out. Just don't be an asshole about it.

As far as why they do what they do...they're simply asserting their beliefs. They believe something different from what you say. For whatever reason, your words become a threat to who they believe themselves to be. After all, if you point out something within them that destroys a particular belief, you are in effect destroying the person.

When we look out into the world, it is easy to see how this plays out in terrible ways...

Thanks for your question, TJ.

Breakers and the Water

On Apophis, Natural Resources, and Love

November Project: Question #23 Today let's do something different. Multiple questions, multiple answers. These particular questions I did not plan to answer. But I thought, What the hell? Why not?

This might not interest you, but I thought i'd ask anyway. First, what do you think of the possibility of apophis striking the earth in 2036? [She's referring to 99942 Apophis ~ TM] And second, if an impact seems imminent what do you think humanity will do?

Well, the chances of Apophis striking the earth are 1 in 250,000, so we're probably safe. BUT, I don't like those odds, haha. Usually when scientists give us the odds, the numbers are so high we can't really understand them in any significant way. But 250,000 is a number very easy to get our heads around. I don't like that I understand it as well as I do. ;-)

But even if Apophis strikes the earth, it is not an Extinction Event sized asteroid. It is a 10 - 20 million death sized asteroid, in all probability. But that is really dependent upon where it strikes, if it does.

What will humans do if the strike is imminent? Probably wait till the last moment, work frantically to try and stop it, then when millions die lament, "We did the best we could!" But that is just based on human behavior in general. ;-)

I've heard we're coming up to our last reserves of oil for the entire planet. Do you think its too late to avoid the horrible things that will happen when the oil runs dry?

Depending on what source you trust, the earth's supply of oil will be completely tapped within 30 to 70 years. I tend to think it will run dry sooner rather than later, for one main reason...

Humans will not stop screwing.

The more humans born, the more resources needed. And since the number of humans brought into the world will only increase, the amount of resources needed to support them will also increase.

The general theme for resources has been, when you run out, or do not have what you think you need, you take it from someone else.

For example - and purely hypothetical, of course - if a particular nation has certain resources the rest of the world depends on in certain amounts, and if they put a strangle hold on said resources, another more powerful nation(s) might invade and take the resources, through force, for their own use. Now normally, people all over the world might stand up against such oppression. But if they can be convinced the invasion is for the right reasons, they'll keep their mouths shut.

But thankfully, we're only speaking hypothetically.

As I mentioned in the Apophis question above, historically, humans tend to wait until the last minute to act. And at that point, the only method for change is violence. This is mostly due to the stupidity running through thought that says, "It is not so bad. I'm sure someone will take care of it." And maybe that was fine years ago, but we can no longer afford to be lazy in this way.

Only you can take care of this problem. And by YOU, I mean EVERYONE.

If we keep to what we've always done, when we run out of resources we'll see horrors that would frighten Hitler and Mengele. And they'll be committed in the name of some noble pursuit.

Tokyo Daibutsu Dark

Do you think you love more, or have more love, after your awakening?

What is love to you? Is it dependent upon the past? Dependent upon a history you have with a particular person? I bring it up because that is how a great many people see it. And many say that is love. But it is familiarity.

We might ask, is love dependent upon familiarity? Can you not love a person you are not familiar with? Or is it simply a matter of what you prefer?

Can there be more or less love? Or is it more or less familiarity?

Thanks for the questions, everyone!

Takuin on Film

November Project: Question #21 This question comes from Thom through email

I remember some time ago you mentioned being in an upcoming film. [In this post ~ TM] Whatever happened with that?

Thanks for the question, Thom.

I quit. :-)

Now that I think of it, I never really explained what happened there. I'll give a quick answer to this, as I don't really need to get into the details of what transpired.

I became very uncomfortable with the whole thing. I got an idea of where the film was going, and I did not like it at all. It seemed like it was heading in a new-agey direction, which is fine for them, but that is not what I do.

Not only that, I couldn't seem to give them the material they wanted. It was, "That was great Takuin, but could you talk about that again, and THIS time say something about blah blah blah?"

No. I can't. ;-)

I really do like the idea of film or video or whatever, and I have nothing against other potential projects in the future. Just dont tell me what to do, haha.

Where Should I Sit?

November Project: Question #19 This question comes from 'The Jake' through email

I don't want to ask about a 'best place' but do you think it's more beneficial to sit in certain places more than others? Does any kind of environment provide a setting more conducive to sitting?

Thanks for the question, The Jake.

Again, I don't want you to think of it as something you do, separate from your daily life. Sitting IS your daily life, whatever that might be. If you find yourself outside, at a supermarket, in bed, at a hospital, or wherever, there really is no difference.

You might say if you are at a hospital you would certainly feel differently than if you were at the supermarket, and I can understand what you mean. But it makes no difference. As a part of sitting, all of those feelings will become apparent to you, and one is not necessarily better than another.

However, if you feel uncomfortable at hospitals, and if you want to explore that feeling, maybe you should go to a hospital and face it directly. If you try to face it while sitting at home, you'll have to imagine, attempting to dredge up the feeling while sitting on your comfy sofa. And that will never compare to the real thing, if you know what I mean.

(In that example, perhaps it is better to go to a specific place, but that is not really what you are asking.)

As far as an ideal environment, it doesn't exist. Sitting is the complete movement of life, and not a cut and paste of what you prefer. After all, it's the bit of dirt that makes a pearl, not the preference of the oyster. ;-)

Buddha Feet and Little Guys

On Finding Out for Yourself

November Project: Question #18 This question comes from an old friend through Skype

I understand the importance of finding out for myself. And I hope to find the truth of my functioning, but I don't know how to do it. Where should I begin?

You begin with yourself. If you want to "Find the truth of my functioning," as you've said, that is what you must do.

Everything you say, think, believe, and feel all points back to something. Find out what that something is.

I hope you can do this, I really do. But I am not sure you will. You say you understand the importance of finding out for yourself, and yet your first instinct is to ask someone else how it's done...

Good luck, my friend.

On the Earthquake and Tsunami of March 11, 2011

November Project: Question #17 Today's question actually came from several people, asked in many different ways. I'll try to condense it as best I can:

Were you in the earthquake of 3/11?

On March 11th, I was home writing. We had many pre-shocks leading up to it, and when it happened I thought it was nothing more than another small earthquake. But it kept growing in strength and did not stop.

I walked out to the front door of the apartment and stood looking at the building next to mine (I live on the 4th floor). The shaking was so violent, I was sure the two buildings would collide at any moment. They swayed toward each other with only inches of space between them.

This seemed to go on for some time.

When the shaking stopped, I went back into the apartment to find everything in disarray. Some of our appliances were destroyed, water spilled everywhere, and any items stored up high were on the floor. I checked the other rooms and found similar conditions.

I knew there would be a big aftershock coming, which is usually the case with large earthquakes, so I went out into the streets. And an aftershock did come. It was so strong that I had to brace myself while standing.

Some time passed, I'm not sure how much, and I saw a news report on a large screen television at a cell phone store. It was then I learned of the tsunami, and I watched as it happened (it was a live broadcast).

There was no cell phone service, including text messages. The internet did work, however. (I remember going to an electronics store a few days after, and there must have been close to 1000 people there trying to buy smart phones for that very reason.)

All the trains stopped. Akiko had to walk about 4 hours to get home. She and I could not contact each other at all, but we already had a plan in place in case this sort of thing ever happened and I knew how she would get home.

I didn't know this at the time, but Akiko and her co-workers had no idea of the severity of the tsunami. They knew it had happened, but had no other details until I met them that night. It wasn't a nice task having to tell them.

Has life in Japan returned to normal?

For most of us, yes. Most businesses are still conserving energy however they can. On the train today, for example, all the lights were off until we actually reached the final station (that particular train runs outdoors, so we weren't stumbling about in the dark or anything ;-) ).  And many stores have kept their outside signage turned off since the earthquake. In fact, one convenience store chain has actually replaced all of the flourescent lights in their stores with LEDs to save energy.

The city can look strange at night and somewhat deserted in certain places, what with the outer lights turned off. But I imagine, if everyone suddenly turned all the lights back on, it would shock the senses, haha.

There are still thousands upon thousands of homeless people living in shelters close to the effected areas. And there are so many orphaned children. In many cases, they are the sole remaining members of their families.

But the Japanese have used whatever resources they could find to help life return to some form of normalcy. They have taken dilapidated buildings and used them for schools for the children or as temporary hospitals. And people from all over the country go there regularly to help in whatever way they can. Sometimes musicians go to hold concerts for free. Or others might donate a few karaoke machines for the weekend so the people in the shelters might be able to have some fun.

Many things have been done, and still far more needs to be done. But the people have a good outlook on how things are unfolding, and it seems to be getting better, albeit slowly.

What sort of efforts are being done to help?

There are many things, of course. Some are obvious, and some might never cross your mind.

For example, today I went to Akihabara with Akiko to help clean up photographs found in one of the worst effected areas of the tsunami.

Apparently, during the process of clearing debris after the tsunami, rescue workers kept finding photo albums, small and large. They amassed thousands of photos in the ensuing weeks and months and eventually those photos were sent to be cleaned.

In a very small number of cases, the photos will be sent back to relatives after they have been cleaned and restored. But in most cases, the people in the photos are simply gone and have not been identified. Hopefully someone, somewhere, will be able to put a name to the faces.

It was a strange feeling. The photos I worked on came from a place hit hardest by the tsunami. There were infants, children, parents, vacations, weddings, parties, and so much more. I am fairly certain, all the faces I saw today are no more. Their stories are finished. But I hoped, in my own way, I could preserve a small part of their stories through the photos. It was a great victory when a clear image was saved.

I hope someone will be able to recognize them all, someday.

Thanks for the question, everyone...

On Dreaming

November Project: Question #16 This question comes from Brooks through email

How do you experience sleep and dreaming post-December 2006 accident?  Have you noticed a difference in dreams over the last five years?

Thanks for the question, Brooks.

I suppose in the past I was a fairly regular dreamer. I never really placed much significance in it, but I think I enjoyed it for the most part. I can remember having horrifying dreams and waking up thinking, "How awesome was that??" But in the last five years or so, I can scarcely remember having any dreams. It just doesn't seem to happen for me anymore.

I know people will cry foul and tell me Everyone dreams every night!!, or You do dream, you just don't remember!!, but I really don't think so. I won't say I have had no dreams in the past five years, but I could seriously count the amount of times on one hand. Probably. :-)

There are many theories of dreaming and dreams. I think the main line of thinking is our dreams are there as a subconscious playground where we can work out all the unresolved issues of the previous day or days. If that is true, what if there is nothing to resolve? If dreams are dependent upon us having to deal with our self-perpetuated nonsense later, then the question of dreaming is a simple one to answer.

And others say dreams are messages from elsewhere, or from the subconscious, giving us advice and whatnot. Still others think they are symbolic representations of past lives or even representations of answers to our deepest questions. Some of it might be true, none of it might be true...I don't really know.

But I do know when I lie down to sleep at night, I am always alone. It can be a deafening silence, and sometimes sleep does not come so easily. At times I like to fill the room with sound just to have something there. Solo piano music is good. I like the percussive nature of the instrument. But having music, or any sound for that matter, is not a necessity for me to sleep.

I don't know if that answers your question, Brooks, but thanks for asking.

Train

On Meditation

November Project: Question #15 This question arrived today from Nishanth through the Contact form

Most fully awake people that I have heard  of - like Adyashanti, Buddha, Sri Nisargadatta, became realized after a lot of meditation. Only very few people like Sri Ramana Maharshi, Eckhart, and probably yourself, had spontaneos awakenings (without any effort) which led to permanent realization.

So I was wondering how much importance do you give for meditation? For most of us the ego and conflict runs deep, so do you think that meditation and discipline is important for awakening to happen? Will the mind get attached to meditation and if so how to avoid this?

(I understand that awakening always happens by Grace and not by our-doing, and the process of meditation is to keep the mind silent so as to increase the probability of awakening to happen. Of course on rare occasions it can happen in chaotic minds too.)

Thanks for the question, Nishanth. I'll take bits of what you've asked, and try to answer the best I can.

I am sure my answer will differ from those people with backgrounds of spiritual study, spiritual searching, and spiritual seriousness.

...how much importance do you give for meditation?

For me, meditation had no significance (assuming we are talking about meditation in the way most people use the word). I was curious about life and living things, and I think I would search for what I call temporary truths, which are quantifiable, measurable, physical phenomena. Things that can be known. I imagine it was similar to how Sherlock Holmes solved his cases, although it was never quite as interesting or romantic as that, haha.

Temporary Truths can reveal wonderful things about the physical world. And that might have been a large part of my fascination, because I have always loved the Earth and the physical things it has provided. It was such a thrill for me to learn how something worked, or to solve a problem effectively using only the simplest information. But my fascination only went so far, as whenever I would figure something out, I quickly tossed it aside to move on to the next thing.

In many ways, how I lived is no different from someone on the so-called spiritual path. Or a person on any path, for that matter. I always wanted the next thing, and the next, and the next. But the main difference, I think, between how I lived and the spiritual seeker was I never once thought there was an end goal. I never thought, "If I keep doing this, I will be rewarded in the end." I just did it because it interested me.

Even now, meditation has no real importance in my life. But I don't want to confuse anyone, because I often talk about what I have called, sitting. When I use that word, I don't necessarily mean actually sitting. And I don't mean meditation, as in sitting on the cushion. I use the word sitting to mean a kind of seeing or observation, although observation is not quite the right word.

In sitting, there are the senses. But they are devoid of interpretation. No one is saying good or bad, right or wrong, hot or cold, or any of that. If one sits and there is no interference, it is like 'melding', if that is the right way to put it. There are no longer 'separate' senses; no sight apart from hearing, no hearing apart from touch, etc. There is only ONE sense, and that is life. Life is the purest sensation.

Some might call that a kind of meditation, and that is fine. I can see that. But sitting as I have described it, is not something you DO. You don't begin at a certain time, or end at a certain time. One has no choice in the matter. It never begins and it never ends.

And I hope my descriptions of sitting have been clear in the past, because I never wanted anyone to think of it as something one can attain through practice or effort. It is not that kind of thing. Sitting is merely life living through Takuin, and it is nothing more than a word used to describe that life.

Face

For most of us the ego and conflict runs deep, so do you think that meditation and discipline is important for awakening to happen?

I can't really say. Many people say meditation is important for awakening, but those people also meditate and hope to be awakened, so what else should we expect them to say? ;-)

I think many people do meditate for the reasons you've said above; to be awakened, and so on. In those cases, they hope to have a better state in the future through meditation, and they are at odds with whatever their current circumstances happen to be and want to change them...otherwise why do it at all unless they can get something from it? In those situations, the need to meditate, and perhaps the meditation itself, is born of conflict. In other words, if not for the conflict in the first place, those people might have never meditated.

But, that is not the only reason people meditate. Some do it for others, and not for themselves. Most likely, the number of people doing that is smaller than the I WANT-type of meditators and meditations. But even so, we can't just throw it all out and assume it is nonsense.

And there are beneficial physical effects from certain kinds of meditations, for relaxation and other purposes. I know of some athletes that have used meditation to help in their recovery from training, and some of them swear by it. So it is not necessarily all hocus pocus.

But if someone is selling you meditation, and it all sounds too good to be true, use your head...otherwise you get what you deserve. A con is a con, and it doesn't matter how long the beard or how white the smile. :-)

Will the mind get attached to meditation and if so how to avoid this?

If the mind hopes to avoid attachment to meditation, is that not attachment?

Thanks very much for your question, Nishanth.

On Freedom

November Project: Question #14 This question comes from Liz through the Contact form

Do you think humanity will ever, truly, be free?

Thanks for the question, Liz!

Humanity has always been free.

I know it is sometimes difficult to see, with all the needless destruction that goes on in the name of this or that. But freedom can never really be lost...

...it can be covered over, but never lost.

Thanks for your question!

On Writing at Takuin.com

November Project: Question #13 This question comes from Matt through email

Do you find it difficult to write on the subject of enlightenment or liberation?

Thanks for the question, Matt.

As far as 'writing on the subject of enlightenment or liberation', I am not sure that is what I do. I know I usually hover in that area, and many people think that is what I do, but I don't quite see it in that way.

Much of what is written about enlightenment, online and in blogs or what have you, comes from that subject matter directly. In other words, there is a body of literature most people work from. It is in this or that tradition, or it sprouted from this or that teacher or lineage. That is all well and good, and I have nothing bad to say about it.

(I can't speak for everyone, of course, and I am probably the worst person to comment because I don't really read those blogs anyway, haha. I am working from the info given by all the people I have met with over the years.)

In my own case, I have no 'training' at all. I don't come from a teaching, teacher, lineage, religion or anything else. I am just some jackass that had this accident occur on December 1st, 2006. So, I'm the last person you should trust for information on the subject of enlightenment and liberation! ;-)

In the beginning, all I wanted to do was just try to find a way to talk about this thing that had happened to me. In those early days before this site, I didn't seem to have words for anything, and that in itself fascinated me. I would be in, what I thought was, an intense conversation with someone and I would never say a word. Other people thought it was strange, but it seemed so right to me. Those kind of experiences led me to write so I could learn how to speak, if that is the right way to put it.

All I have ever tried to do is see things as they happen within. So if someone asks me about the origin of thought, for example, I don't grab a book about Thought, look for the pertinent information, then re-word it and present it as the answer. I just look within. There is thought here, and I don't have to go somewhere else to find out how it works.

Faces

So, thinking of it in that way, I don't really write on the subject of enlightenment and liberation. I write based on whatever arises within. And many people are not interested in that, and it is fine. I get it. But that is all I can do, for better or worse. ;-)

As far as difficulty in execution, it is not really so bad. I imagine it was far worse in the beginning. But using the November Project as an example, I take a question and start writing. I just go until I think I have said all I need to say. Then I go back and remove a lot of nonsense (never enough, haha). At that point, it is good to go.

It is really an easy thing to do if you are willing to let go of the outcome.

There is one thing that I do find annoying...well, maybe more interesting than annoying. I don't know if it is the subject matter, the way I write, the words I use, or something else, but every once in awhile I get emails from some kind of Enlightenment Grammar Police. I get guys (it is always men) who will, quite literally, take each sentence word for word and explain why it is wrong, why I am wrong, and why they are right.

I just don't get why it is so important to them. I mean, these are LONG, VERY DETAILED emails. Had they used the energy it took to craft such a thing and directed it toward cancer research, we'd probably have more healthy people in the world. ;-)

Hope that answers your question, Matt! Thanks...

Belief

November Project: Question #12 This question comes from Steven through email

I have read all the posts in this project and I find it interesting so far. But my question comes more from the comments. My questions is, if you don't believe in an afterlife, don't believe an enlightened age is coming, don't believe in spiritual stages or whatever, what do you believe in?

Thanks for your question, Steven.

First, lets consider the phrase Don't Believe. Don't Believe is not the thing at all. There is a great deal of activity in Don't Believe, and it is really not so very different from believing.

Don't Believe also needs a contrary position, as in, "I don't believe because of this or that." You might also say Don't Believe needs the "I", but what is the "I" other than a contrary position?

Not that any of this is good or bad...we're just exploring the words a bit. It might seem like mere semantics, and you may not have meant to use Don't Believe in that way, so, sorry if this is a bit off the subject.

Your real question is, What do you believe?

In the Clouds

What do you mean with the word Believe? Is it a bit of knowledge or something imagined? A little of both? Or are you using it the same as when someone talks about belief in god, and that sort of thing? Is it accepting something to be true? Is it from opinion? Faith? What do you mean when using that word?

In the way people normally use that word, belief has something behind it, yes? The belief needs you in some way, to expend your energy. If you have a belief, you carry it with you. You need to keep it close to you. Otherwise, it will come and go like any other thought.

Belief in this way, is different from a fact. You can say that a guitar neck is made of wood, and that is a fact, but you don't have to believe it. The guitar neck doesn't need you for it to go on, and if you stop believing in the thing, it is not going to turn into some other substance. It is what it is, with or without you.

We can go on and on with the words, but it is not so necessary. You asked, What do you believe? A better question might be, Where is belief? Where is it, and how am I to find it?

There is no sense of belief in this body. But I dont want to assume there is nothing here, because I do take this seriously. But all I am left with is the question, Where is belief?

In Sickness

November Project: Question #11 This question comes from Jay through email

I read in one of your comments on a previous post that you've been sick [On the post Life After Death ~ TM]. Hope you get better soon! My question is, how does one handle sickness in an enlightened state? Do you find it easier to deal with than it was before?

Thanks for the question, Jay. And thanks for the get well wishes!

First, let's do away with the enlightened state nonsense. ;-)

Second, I don't handle it. If there is sickness for whatever reason, it has nothing to do with me (At least not in the way we usually think of sickness). The body will handle it, or the body will perish. Most likely, at my age, the body will handle it. :-)

Now don't get me wrong. It could totally be my fault. Maybe I ran around in the rain too much, ate too poorly, or neglected rest for too long. It could absolutely by my actions, or lack of actions, that has made this body throw everything out, causing a short, forced recovery period. But beyond that possibility, it really has nothing to do with 'me'.

In sickness, there is nothing really to deal with, apart from the inconvenience of the thing. We can't do what we might like to do during an illness, but that is not so bad. We can catch up on reading, or Rocky and Bullwinkle episodes (A sneak peek into the life of Takuin? Haha).

You might say it has everything to do with you when you're sick, or that it affects every aspect of yourself when you fall ill. That is all well and good, but I am just telling you how it appears here. I have no feeling about it, apart from physical feelings and sensations, but those are not 'mine' anyway.

Thanks for your question, Jay.

Confused About Enlightenment

November Project: Question #10 This question comes from Brooks through email

After about five years of communication with people in person and over your website, what would you say is the number one confusion that people seem to have about what awakening and enlightenment is and/or about your accident?

Thanks for the question, Brooks.

I suppose there are a number of things. But probably, the number one confusion comes from what they already know about enlightenment. In other words, the knowledge they hold regarding enlightenment is what gets in the way. It is not always the case, but as I sit here thinking about all of the stories I've heard over the years, that is one of the most common occurances.

That is, of course, only through my eyes. If others were present during those conversations, they might see it differently.

Most of the people I have talked to seem to hold enlightenment at arm's reach in order to inspect and compare it to an idea they already have of what it should be. It is used as a point of reference, like a checklist to see if they have the right 'symptoms' indicating they are headed in the right direction.

If I were to tell them to let it all go, I imagine 'let it all go' would be added to the checklist, haha. "Am I letting it go? I think I am. That is good!" UGH...

As far as confusion regarding my 'accident', it really is not brought up very much. Certainly people have asked about it, and that is fine. My tendency is to steer them away from those subjects, though. I'd rather they save their energies for understanding themselves, and not waste it on trying to figure out what may or may not have happened to me. ;-)

Thanks for your question, Brooks.

Bridge

What Are You Reading?

November Project: Question #9 This question comes from Dave through email

I've read in other posts you say you don't read spiritual books. But I assume you do read books of some kind. Given the subject matter on this website, I am just curious about what you do read.

Thanks for the question, Dave.

I seem to run hot or cold when it comes to reading books. Now I am cold. This wasn't always the case, though, and seems to be rather recent. Before, if I were on the train or waiting in a long line or whatever, I would always have something to read on me. But now, I rarely pull out a book in those situations.

These days I prefer to just sit and watch people. I have always taken time to do that, but that is how I spend nearly all of my potential reading time now.

Besides, for whatever reason, I am averse to distracting myself anyway. I don't feel like having my brain laden with things to do just so I can fill up space, so to speak. I just don't want to dilute the energy used in observation, if that is the right way to say it.

But I still read at home from time to time, and I imagine before too long I may be running hot again. ;-)

I have mostly been reading reference books on music theory as it is applied to various musical traditions. I have been re-acquainting myself with that world, and it is good to be a student again.

I've also really been drawn to books on photography. Not so much the theory or techniques, but books of photos. It is very easy for me to be drawn into the world of each photo, and it teaches me something of what it means to be that kind of artist. As most of you probably know, all of the photos on this site were taken by me (with just a handful of exceptions), and it is something I quite like to do. I really enjoy experimenting with photos and it is probably something I will continue doing for a very long time.

I don't know if that answers your question, but there you have it! ;-) Thanks, Dave.

Between the Trees