Monday, November 3, 2008

Everything is connected

If you've heard Erich Schiffmann speak recently, you know about the Internet of the Mind analogy. If not, you can listen to him here. (Erich is awesome!) To summarize, Erich talks about the idea of our mind as being like a personal computer, with limited capacity. However by "getting online" we can open to what he calls the "Internet of Infinite Mind".

I find this is easiest to do through asana practice (physical poses). Asana was originally developed to prepare the mind for meditation, and however it works - it does work! Walking home from class tonight after a particularly good asana class where we focused on the concept of "rooting to rise", I was suddenly aware of everything and totally dialed in to whatever it is that connects us... I suddenly remembered the first time I came to San Diego, over 5 years ago, with my boyfriend at the time; we drove down the 805 freeway and came off the off-ramp right next to the apartment where I now live. I probably looked right out the passenger window at the building I now call home - my first real glimpse of a San Diego neighborhood. At the time, of course, I had no idea that I would ever live in that apartment by myself - but here I am. I am who I am and where I am because that moment happened, and all the moments in between happened. And standing outside my building in the dark like an idiot, I felt the concrete reality of this moment and that moment both occurring. Back then, I had no idea I would stand here now... but the moments are connected, inevitably, and somehow I can feel the Infinite holds both these experiences, and more, simultaneous and equal. And somehow I can feel how powerful the flow of life is, and in this moment, surrender. Every moment exists, and doesn't exist, like a drop of water merging into a lake. Every moment is a chance to connect and begin again. Just like on the mat, I root to rise. (I think this concept needs a whole separate post. It was an amazing class and I'm still processing it.)

The question is how to hold this sense of connection after stepping off the mat. I think the answer is: practice. If I can train myself more often during my day to breathe deep and open my mind, it will get easier to operate from this place of connection. And in International Education, where we operate often from different cultures, different sets of communicative norms and expectations, we need this. We need to dial in to the Infinite that connects all of us so that it is harder for us to create the Other - and harder for us to obsess about the Self.

Last time I heard him speak, Erich suggested that if you connect to the Infinite, you will discover for yourself all the teachings of yoga. For him, the main practice should be this connection. The other precepts, the ethical behavior and the guides to practice will rise from it. As my teacher Nikole humorously put it, there's more than one way to skin a cat in yoga. :-) I like thinking about yoga philosophy. But I also think it's true that the Universe is its own guide.

This week at work, my practice will be connection. Making decisions from that place where the Infinite runs through me. Especially, speaking and reacting from that place. These days, I'm so busy that I forget to really connect with the people who sit at my desk or talk to me on the phone. This week, I will try to Google the Internet of Mind as much as I Google the Internet. I am amused to realize that part of my mind wants to reject Erich's talks when I hear him - oh, I've heard this before, say something new. But then I realize I haven't been doing it.

Thank you, Infinite Internet of Mind, for letting Erich know I need to hear it again. Thank you Erich, for listening. :-)


elle said...

I apologize in advance for making this an inappropriately long comment. Thank you for two more beautiful and provocative posts - I thought about them all the way into the office this morning. (It leaves one to wonder: can I only locate your website in the Internet of the Mind?) Bad jokes aside, I am stuck on your comment that we 'need to dial in to the Infinite that connects all of us so that it is harder for us to create the Other - and harder for us to obsess about the Self.'
As someone who makes my living (so to speak) from studying historical negotiations of Self and Other - and the frequently devastating impacts that such constructions have - I have spent a great deal of time pondering the value and possibilities of finding a new route, one that moves away from the world of boundary-making and into one of unity-making (or perhaps your Infinite?). However, I want to ask your response (a collective 'your') to the following, seeing as how you probably have thought and considered much more about the yogic philosophy behind this than I have. (Postmodern historical theory has little to offer in terms of the Infinite, I have to admit! As such, I may well be coming from a 'missed the point' boat.)

If we move away from the construction of Self and Other - and thereby move away from an obsession with identity-creation - do we also obscure a recognition of the value and possibilities of difference, of the different paths we take to the Infinite, of our different understandings of what that means, etc? And most importantly, do we lose sight of the ways in which difference itself - Self/Other - might function as a part of positive as well as negative connections between human beings (and between humans and the world around them). I think here of Edward Said's goals for his seminal text, Orientalism: 'My aim was not so much to dissipate difference itself - for who can deny the constitutive role of national as well as cultural differences in the relations between human beings - but to challenge the notion that difference implies hostility, a frozen reified set of opposed essences, and a whole adversarial knowledge built out of those things.' If we move away from the idea that creating Self and Other necessarily implies hostility and a negative kind of difference, could this too be a path to recognizing and living new connections in the world?

B said...

Geez Rachel, you really suck at writing ;)

dragonfly said...

It's really, really nice to be writing again. I don't know why I stopped!
I will come back to the first comment...

Paida said...

I didn't know you were "dragonfly"! I thought I knew who dragonfly was - but I was wrong!

Very interesting post. I'm gonna google my mind today too.

ami(e) said...

This is going to ramble I bit I am afraid, and possibily not really address the question, but so far here is what has come up in response to your comments. I believe that we humans have the potential to operate on two different levels. Of course we are all separate beings....human and other beings alike.....with our own unique DNA and experiences which interact to make each one of us unique. That level of being can be considered to be Self and in that context we look at all other beings as Other. On another level there is a communality that connects us all....the part of us which is soul or infintite or god or whatever you chose to call it....and which is common to all beings. If we can truly understand that commonality, then the diffences between us become enriching rather than divisive.....simply different manifestations of the same thing. I believe that is the "goal" or purpose of yoga practice and bring us to the place where we can really KNOW this to be true.
I am currently reading Swami Satchidananda's interpretations of the Yoga Sutras. In his commentary on Sutra I2 he talks about how the external world is dependent on one's thoughts and attitudes.....things are how we chose to see them. If that is true, then we can chose to see Other as separate and not separate at the same time.....can chose to see differences as enriching because at the same time we understand our communality.

dragonfly said...

Well said! I haven't been able to find the time to consider this deeply, but since that was such a comprehensive response, let me just say that in my experience, the infinite is a multi-splendored thing. Connecting to it is an experience of embracing all possibilities, not narrowing it down to one. This article talks about the fact that "our egos don’t disappear so much as they become large enough to hold more than just our small sense of self—the boundary of self widens to contain people and beings other than just 'me'."
If you are a visual learner, check out Alex Grey's art at ~ if you can deal with the fact that he is quite possibly insane and certainly drug-obsessed, he captures beautifully the splendor that exists beyond our narrow Western view of self. (The colors are even more beautiful up close - check it out if you're in NYC.)