NomadYogi: Let Your Self Go
for more dolano files & info visit
for more dolano files & info visit
I know that I told you I would describe my experience with Dolano, but something calming has happened over the past month. The urgency to express that crazy month has mellowed, as naturally happens with time. But this isn’t to say that I won’t get to it. I’m actually writing that blog entry now, taking my time to make sure it all makes sense… I mean, if that’s at all possible.
But, right now, as I start the New Year in Goa, India, and you start it where you are (SF Bay Area, LA, NJ, NYC, Seattle, Chicago, Berlin, Dublin Vienna, London, Singapore, Paris, En Hod, Had Tien,…and more than a few of you are nomads like me so, who knows where you are), I want to tell you something important.
I want to tell you about the joy of washing my clothes in a bucket.
I know. I know what you’re saying. “Yossi, you should just have your maid do it for you every day (as you do in Pune).” Obviously, this is what you’re saying. But, you don’t understand. Then I wouldn’t get to do it.
Let me explain: I put maybe 5 or 6 items in each load. This means I wash garments every 2 or 3 days. I fill up a bucket with water from the shower, estimate how much powder to drop out of the 40g bag of detergent, and soak my clothes for 20-25 minutes (longer, if I forget what I was doing, which happens, but more on that later). Every 10 minutes or so, I return to the bathroom to agitate the water and gently rub my pants against my shirts. Then, I rinse. And, since there’s no way to get my soap-usage-per-article-of-clothing-estimation perfect, the number of times I rinse depends on how the fabric feels. I have made the mistake, many times, of not rinsing enough, only to find out that, after my clothes are dry, they don’t feel, uh, quite right.
Speaking of drying, that’s my favorite part. That’s where I go up on the roof, or to a line of rope tied between palm trees, to squeeze out excess water and hang my clothes while listening to birds, the wind blowing through the leaves, the neighbors’ children playing, and traffic in the distance.
And this is where I my tone must become dramatic.
Dear Friends, you are missing out. Your technology has stolen your peace. Yes, the robots. But, I’m not talking about your computer devices and your connectivity to the World Wide Web. At least, not right now (just kidding Internet, I would never; I love you). No, right now, I’m referring to your sprinkler system, your dish washer, and your time-operated coffee maker. I blame your washing machines and clothes dryers, especially, for taking something sacred away from you: the mundane. Indeed, it is this sheer ordinariness that you have traded for much-lauded convenience and you have allowed the robots to take care of these things for you, so you could go off and do something else.
But you are missing out. You are stacking activities on top of activities in an endless search for efficiency, for fun, for fulfillment. And you are missing out.
Life is happening, right now. And you are off doing something. Of course, life is happening while you’re trying to get something “more important” done but, doing the mundane is sometimes the most important thing you can do. It is so easy, so effortless, so mindless, and so simple. So amazing.
What do you normally do laundry day? Do you play with your dog? Do you hang out with your child(ren)? Do you read the paper? Do you clean the kitchen? Do you do your homework? Do you get high and watch TV? How long does your washing machine take to clean your clothes, anyway?
You know, for me, the washing and hanging takes about 30 minutes, but like I said, sometimes I forget what I was doing because I go on to do something else. You know what that something else is?
You want to know what I do?
N O T H I N G .
I sit my ass down at the kitchen table, or sometimes right there on the floor outside of the bathroom, and I do nothing.
Sometimes I close my eyes, sometimes I don’t.
But mostly, I just sit the fuck down and try not to move.
I resist urges to get water and, knowing that this is a frequent distraction, I get a glass of water ready before the bucket-soaking commences. I resist urges to answer my phone and, knowing that this is a frequent possibility, I turn it off for 30 minutes. I resist, most of all, the urge to get up and do something. I force myself to do NOTHING, to simply wait — to wait 10 minutes before I get up again to swish clothes in a bucket.
And yes, often my mind will scatter from one thought to the next. Often, I will hear a song in my head (today it’s Stan Getz’ “Girl from Ipanema” and a couple days ago it was Chris Issac’s “Baby Did a Bad Bad Thing,” which is weird because most of the music I listen to was made on a computer, has no lyrics, and sounds like “untz, untz,” so who knows when the last time was I actually heard those songs but, I digress). Often, I will be reminded of a movie scene I saw recently. Often, I will remember something painful that happened to me. Often, I will feel a little anxious about something I have to do later. Often, I am bothered by all this.
But then, often, I’m not. I sit quietly with random, non-sequitor thoughts, passively flashing in the background of my mind. Arising. Falling away. Arising. Falling away. Disappearing. I don’t do anything. There’s nothing to do I just sit there, waiting for India’s dirt to release its grip on my fabrics. I just sit there, learning to patiently wait, learning to not jump up and do the next thing that pops into my mind. Learning to find ecstasy in ordinariness.
Could you do this? I wonder if you could do this. I wonder if any of you will reply to this email, 7 days from now, and tell me that you sat, in front of your laundry machine, or at your kitchen table, without a magazine, without your iPhone, without the television, without music, for 30 minutes, while the machine did its job in the other room. Would you do this?
Would you stop for 30 minutes (even 15 minutes?) and deal with your mind screaming about how boring it is to just sit there. I mean, fucking hell, it is Saturday, after all, and you really should wash the car/get the groceries/call so-and-so and make plans for tonight while you have some time to do so.
No. Don’t call so-and-so. You won’t have time just yet. You can get the groceries after you put the clothes in the dryer. That’s usually a longer cycle time, anyway. No, with your clothes in the washer, you are going to sit down, place your hands in your lap, relax your back against the chair, and…
…just take break from the endless activity. Just take some time to rest from everything. Sit down for a while and just let it all happen. Do nothing. Take a little vacation from having to do something.
Just see what happens.
Have you ever wondered why it’s so hard to sit still? Animals of lesser conscious authority enjoy stillness all the time. Dogs lay down in the sun. Cats spend most of their lives just, laying around, staring out windows. Birds perch on telephone lines, sometimes in groups, just sitting there, taking a break. But for some of you, this will feel like torture.
Listen, don’t worry. Restraining yourself from activity won’t do any damage. Nothing will happen. And that is the point. In fact, nothing is happening right now. It is the most amazing thing. Do nothing and see that your heart is beating, your blood circulating, your food digesting, your lungs breathing, eyes blinking, hormones secreting, without you even trying to do any of it. It’s all just happening for you. For your benefit.
And on your next laundry day, your machines will wash your clothes for you, giving you time to do nothing. To enjoy the fact that, for 30 precious minutes of your busy, busy life, there is nowhere to go, nothing to solve, and nothing to do.
This is the New Year’s gift I’m giving you: nothing.
Don’t bother thanking me It didn’t cost much.
For the start of 2011, I am wishing you nothing, and nothing else,
Surprisingly, shockingly, actually, I am happy to be back in India. I know, I know, for all the nasty things I’ve said about how difficult life is here, it’s amazing that I keep coming back or actually, gasp, enjoy it. But it’s not that any of my past criticisms have dulled, and it’s certainly not to say that I won’t get irritated by the next shop keeper who looks me in the face while contradicting himself to very simple questions about, say, whether or not he has tested the (fill in the blank) to see if it even functions before I purchase it. (e.g. “did you test it?” “yessir.” “and does it work?” “nosir.” “but you still want me to pay for it?” “yessir. you pay now.”) I am not kidding.
From my apartment on the sixth floor overlooking the river, I can see birds perched on water buffalo. I can see hawks coasting on wind currents above the trees, rarely flapping their wings for many minutes. I see goats and chickens roaming the small group of tin-shack dwellings inhabited by families who live in a kind of poverty that is unfathomable to someone like me. I hear piercing calls from hawks, the labored moo-ing from the water buffalo as they are herded off the street, and the ever-present grinding of two stroke engines emitted by the auto rickshaws down below. I see 30-year-old bicycles ridden by boys that are half their age, size, weight. I see dogs eating trash. I see men and women urinating on the side of the road. I see trees that line the other side of the river extending up to the burn platform where, at least once a week, a funeral procession will end, and a ceremony will begin.
Well, this is it.
I don’t quite know what I am doing here. Something inside me has known that I didn’t fully complete the last Satsang the first time. I really fought with Dolano when I was here in March. I didn’t trust her. I challenged her logic, actively looking for contradiction, for ways to invalidate what she was teaching me. It’s something I’m very good at. I can argue very well, or, at least, I think I can. (I’ve never actually taken a debate class and I don’t know how well I would actually do if I was pitted against your average high school debate team leader.) Nevertheless, it’s something I enjoy doing and, often, it’s something I do automatically - a sort of default way of listening and talking that’s been a habit since, well, as long as I can remember, really.
This habit has proven effective in so many areas of my life. It is how I examine business ventures and the character qualities of the people managing those opportunities. Likewise, it’s how I have made friends and kept relationships. It is how I developed my own unique, defensible, reasonable approach to life and philosophy…
And it has gotten me this far…. and, well, so far, so good.
But I won’t get any further with this approach. And that is why I’ve returned to Pune. If I want to progress further down this path of maturation and evolution, I’ll have to go beyond this skill. I may even have to let it go, as much as it defines me, and perhaps BECAUSE it defines me. Or because I think it does…
Without talking to myself.
Without giving subtitles to everything.
Without my critical analysis.
Cogito ergo sum is a LIE.
To be in this moment.
This. Just this.
To be or not to be?
I choose not to be.
Being means something must be done, some effort made.
What is, is without me. Without me doing anything.
Reality is just happening, unfolding, in this moment.
This is life, itself.
Because this is as good as it gets. If you can imagine a more/better/different experience than what really is, then you degrade what is here now. And then, you suffer…
But if you let all your thoughts drop away, then what is left is self-evident. It is, it is, it is. It goes without saying. And it is perfect as it is.
I have been so trapped by my mind. I follow my desires, chasing pleasure, avoiding pain. It’s too uncomfortable to keep the story of my identity going, and it costs too much. This body-life stream is too short not to be appreciated as the miracle it is.
So, I’ve returned to Pune to sit with my Zen master.
I may not write another entry while I’m here. It takes effort to write all this and I’d rather focus all my energy on what’s happening. Besides, talking about what I’m doing here is not only impossible, it forces me to put into words what is truly unimaginable - what cannot be spoken. If this sounds weird to you, if you think I’ve jumped off the deep end, you are right. But I will tell you this: I do not fucking care.
I would give up everything to know what it’s all about.
I am so desperate to answer the question, “who am I?”
I would give up everything to see through the veil of my irrelevant and meaningless daydreams and judgments, to see reality as it really is, unobstructed by thoughts, emotions, and the trappings of my identity.
This is why I’m here.
I spent the month of March in Pune, India, two weeks after a bomb exploded in a popular cafe. Soldiers and police were stationed every few streets and several roadblocks were set up to stop traffic. Ostensibly, this increase in security personnel was meant to provide more, um, security. In truth, however, it was an incredibly disorganized system (like everything in India) that enabled police to focus on their specialty: the extortion of passing motorists. Police harassment is the norm here and will continue to be until the government pays its police force a living wage.
And while I could go on and on again about how rough India is, I’d rather talk about something else. But, the thing I want to talk to you about is going to be difficult for me because, really, there are some things in life that are not even worth trying to describe. Their very nature defies description, like staring at photos of deep space or narrowly escaping your own demise. They are mind-blowing.
And, like describing outer space, it’s hard to find a reference point. Do you remember the first time you saw a picture of the Milky Way galaxy? Do you remember the way if felt when you realized that our little planet was in there, somewhere?
Here, do it now. Have you ever glanced at the timeline of evolution or the history of Earth and came to know your insignificance? Or, have you ever been confronted with your own mortality? It’s difficult to emote the experiential quality of facing your own death; it is so visceral, so personal.
And yet, here I am, attempting to do so. Or not, actually. I’m just explaining why I can’t.
I went to Pune to deepen my meditation practice and, one could say, take a few more steps down the spiritual path. I attended a course, of sorts, led by a Zen master named Dolano, who has been holding Satsang 6 times a year for the past 15 years. It is very underground and very, very radical as her methods are sometimes questionable and her approach is mercilessly direct. It is certainly not something that I would recommend for everyone.
Throughout the month, we covered a range of subjects that touched on the question of free will, the theory of Mind, and, essentially, the nature of consciousness. It challenged a few of my epiphanies; It upset most of my thoughts about life and death; It devastated all of my beliefs about my Self. If it all sounds really serious and deep, it’s because it is. And yet, at the same time, or perhaps, as a result of it, my understanding of these subjects has become very un-serious. The theory of Mind is a waste of time, free will doesn’t really exist (more on that in a future entry), and the nature of consciousness, ultimately, well, anything that can be said about it is no longer it. So while it is certainly interesting to wax poetic, opine philosophic, and otherwise create stacks (and circles) of thought in an attempt to figure out the why and how of everything, it’s much more rewarding to sit quietly, directly experiencing life, itself. This, you will note, is a marked departure from my previous philosophical inquires.
The foundation for the course, upon which everything else builds, is answering the question, “who am I?” For many seekers, this is where the search ends. For Dolano, this is where it begins. Dolano’s strategy is essentially this: spiritual seekers walk the path until they arrive at a cliff… and, well, she pushes people off of that cliff. No, I take that back. Shethrows them. And yet, it was the greatest and most difficult birthday present of my life. Still, I could not describe what I learned last month, even if I wanted to. It is not something that can be spoken. It’s a bit difficult and, uh, paradoxical: I have attempted to know that which cannot be understood. Do you know what I mean? Probably not.
I mean, I have tried. I’ve tried to answer my friends’ questions about what I did there but, most of the time, I find that my explanations leave them with blank faces, confusion, and disinterest. Maybe you’re even getting bored reading this.
So, rather than try to tell you about it, I decided to splice audio from a few of Dolano’s public satsang recordings in Pune, India into my latest 90-minute mix (for those of you who’ve been waiting for my new CD). I think it’s better for you to hear clips of her message directly from her, rather than my interpretation of it. Besides, it’s some pretty slamming tech-house.
So, take 90 minutes and listen to this mix in your headphones (most of the sound effects are imperceptible in your car or home stereo system). So, do that first. After, you can listen to it wherever you want, as you desire.
***This is a pre-release, due to slow upload speeds in Thailand. I am still working on mastering the volume levels throughout the mix. The real version, which will have more Dolano audio, will be uploaded when I get to LA in June.****
The set list is given below. All tracks are available on BeatPort.com
1.Aundy - Claude Von Stroke
2.Do what you want - Innocent Lovers
3.Sister Supreme - David Panda feat Cecilia Stalin
4.Balans - Darko Esser
5.Whatever I do - Andre Lodeman
6.Conscious movement - Harado
7.Desperately in love - Andre Lodemann
8.Ease your mind - Inland Knights
9.On my way - Nick Curly
10.A chico a rhytmico - Loco Dice
11.Immortal feat. Pirica - Kiki
12.Adelante - Alex Kenji
13.Ride with me - Roberto Rodriguez
14.Friend feat. Justin Taylor - Beatsstyles
15.Deviate - Manuel Tur, DPlay
16.Vertigo - Booka Shade
I’m now back home in Thailand, where the jungle meets the ocean. There is tremendous civil unrest in Bangkok, but I’m nowhere near it. Everything is fine where I am.