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  • Karl Thunemann

Karls Keyboard #21

My ‘Radical Change’ Has Ancient Roots

Just five weeks ago I turned to divination with a relatively minor question about how to organize a corner of my blog that seemed out of control. I pulled out the I Ching, or Chinese Book of Changes, which has been helping me sort out difficult issues for more than fifty years.

The oracle seemed loath to entertain my specific question but intent on engaging me. It offered a simple reading called “Radical Change.” As I pondered this reading, I felt certain that it addressed an issue far bigger than this blog. Surely, the entirety of my spiritual life was on the block.

When I started writing pieces for this blog—more than 2-1/2 years ago—my focus was on the many physical and psychological problems that beset me as I grew older. And my response was primarily aimed at addressing these matters in the hope of preserving the capacities and qualities I most valued in myself. So I devised a detailed plan for loving-kindness meditation that I hoped would arrest this internal slide. It was a platform with nine planks, and most planks had several sub-categories. Once I learned this meditation, I could work through all the components in 40 or 60 minutes. I felt better.

But still, how could I be certain that it was really working? My meditation addressed the components I believed to harbor various processes. For instance, for my brain I developed this aspiration: May the plasticity of my brain be maximized, and its growth of new white spots be minimized. The human brain is prized for its malleability, and white spots on the brain are betrayed by fading memory. (You cannot actually see them, except in a printout from an MRI.) I taught myself to stop telling people that my brain had turned to mush—and it did seem to start developing new habits. Laudable thoughts, these—and they seemed to have some effect. But how can I know whether my brain responds to such solicitations?

Even further out, what about my collective organs? In these meditations, I called on my organs to collaborate as a group in compensating for the absence of my gall bladder, gone these several years. But does it work? As a group, bodily organs seem less likely to respond to verbal appeal than the brain.

I have pretty much stopped practicing this meditation. Not loving-kindness, but the part that focused on my body and brain. It is not as riveting as when I was creating it, week by week. Oh, I still think about its components often, especially when I am out driving. But their place in my daily meditation has been stolen by mala beads. You are not supposed even to think when you meditate with the beads. (Please see my epistle, “How Mala Beads Girdled my Globe,” filed under Favorite Meditations.)

But in the meantime I have followed my interest in Lojong slogans, part of a Tibetan approach to meditation. It has been nipping at my heels for several years. Only in the last few weeks have I begun to understand that this millennium-old approach to meditation and the spiritual development aspires to be comprehensive. So comprehensive that it is called 7-point mind training. The two epistles featured in this Keyboard both mark my opening moves in the Lojong world. I will strive to be a diligent student, but not necessarily docile. I am still myself. My Taoist sensibilities sometimes bridle at Tibetan injunctions.

I do worry that some readers may lose interest and drift away, but I will take my chances. Would love to hear what you have to say!

Featured epistles in this Keyboard

Here I jump into the vast world of Lojong slogans, part of a vast system supporting the Tibetan traditional practice of mind training. The biggest question among my early readers was this, how the heck do you pronounce “panoply”? has it as [ pan-uh-plee ], emphasis on the second syllable.

The 59th is the last of the Lojong slogans and includes a word of caution for our blogger.

  • Gary lives in the same senior residential cooperative as the blogger. He is a man of many talents, including his writing. I have mostly seen his poetry, and I am happy to share it with you.

  • Robert Anderson, taking his cue from Mary Scriver, has something to say about religion. Ah, interplay among the contributors—I love it!

The Big Huzzah

OK, Valentine’s Day has passed, so why should we be touting dark chocolate? Because it has health benefits, year-round.

Til next time

Still a few days remaining in Black History Month, Lots of great movies and documentaries to be found on the tube!!


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