On Being – this week’s listening and inspiring about Nature, Joy & Philosophy

Tara Spice Creative introduced me to On Being podcast.

One of my top 20 everyyear experiences is to take a road trip toute seule accompanied by a podcast (a wee oxymoron for you).

Apart from adoring Krista Tippett’s gentle and almost Jodi Foster-esque lyrical, intriguing and calming voice AND adoring the manner in which she tenderly and bravely ask informed questions, I also appreciate that interviews are transcribed also, so I can refer to those golden-quotes with ease, and apply them when I please.

You may enjoy listening to these 3 podcasts i experienced this week.

I’m also going to randomly cut out quotes that resonated, mostly for my own archival purposes.

* Pico Iyer — The Urgency of Slowing Down
Pico Iyer is one of our most eloquent explorers of what he calls the “inner world” — in himself and in the 21st century world at large. The journalist and novelist travels the globe from Ethiopia to North Korea and lives in Japan. But he also experiences a remote Benedictine hermitage as his second home, retreating there many times each year. In this intimate conversation, we explore the discoveries he’s making and his practice of “the art of stillness.”

* Ross Gay – Tending Joy and Practicing Delight
There is a question floating around the world right now: “How can we be joyful in a moment like this?” To which writer Ross Gay responds: “How can we not be joyful, especially in a moment like this?” He says joy has nothing to do with ease and “everything to do with the fact that we’re all going to die.” The ephemeral nature of our being allows him to find delight in all sorts of places (especially his community garden). To be with Ross Gay is to train your gaze to see the wonderful alongside the terrible, to attend to and meditate on what you love, even in the work of justice.

* Michael McCarthy – Nature, Joy, and Human Becoming
“The sudden passionate happiness which the natural world can occasionally trigger in us,” Michael McCarthy writes, “may well be the most serious business of all.” He is a naturalist and journalist, and this is his delightful and galvanizing call — that we can stop relying on the immobilizing language of statistics and take up our joy in the natural world as our civilizational defense of it. With a perspective equally infused by science, reportage, and poetry, he reminds us that the natural world is where we evolved, where we found our metaphors and similes, and it is the resting place for our psyches.

My take-away bits:

Pico Iyer — The Urgency of Slowing Down
“I’ve got to confess to you, I think of intellectual — my prejudice is almost to think of it as a bad word or a dirty word. I think that everything important in my life has not come through my mind but through my spirit or my being or my heart. Everything I trust, whether it’s the people I love or the values I cherish or the places that have moved me have come at some much deeper level than the mind. I sometimes think the mind makes lots of complications over what is a much more beautiful and transparent encounter with the world. So I suppose I’ve tried to run away from everything I associate with the intellect.”

“At some point, I thought, well, I’ve been really lucky to see many, many places. Now, the great adventure is the inner world, that I’ve spent a lot of time gathering emotions, impressions, and experiences. Now, I just want to sit still for years on end, really charting that inner landscape because I think anybody who travels knows that you’re not really doing so in order to move around. You’re traveling in order to be moved. Really what you’re seeing is not just the Grand Canyon or the Great Wall but some moods or intimations or places inside yourself that you never ordinarily see when you’re sleepwalking through your daily life.”

“Just while I think of it, when you asked me, as so many of my friends do, why I don’t meditate — if my wife were here, she would fall around laughing and say, “Krista, all this guy ever does is meditate.” Just because I’m a writer. She sees me — I wake up, I have breakfast, I make a five-foot commute to my desk, and then I just sit there for at least five hours trying to sift through my distortions and illusions and projections and find what is real behind the many things I’m tempted to say. And I think a writer is in the blessed position because, in some ways, our job is to sit still and to meditate for a living. So although I don’t have a formal spiritual meditation practice, I do spend much of my life in the middle of nowhere, stationary. I’m really grateful for that.”

“I got out of my car at this monastery, and the air was pulsing. It was very silent, but really the silence wasn’t the absence of noise. It was almost the presence of these transparent walls that I think the monks had worked very, very hard to make available to us in the world. I stepped into the little room where I was going to stay, and it was simple. There was a bed and a long desk, and above the desk a long picture window, and outside it a walled garden with a chair, and beyond that just this great blue expanse of the Pacific Ocean. Somehow, almost immediately, it was as if a huge heaviness fell away from me, and the lens cap came off my eyes. Suddenly, I was seeing everything with great immediacy, and it was almost as if little Pico had disappeared, and the whole world had come in to me instead. I remember a blue jay suddenly alighted on the fence outside my window, and I watched it, rapt, as if it was the most miraculous thing that had happened. Then bells began ringing above, and it felt like they were ringing inside me. Then when darkness fell, I just walked along the monastery road under the stars, watching the taillights of cars disappear around the headlands to the south. And really, almost instantaneously, I felt I’ve stepped into a richer, deeper life, a real life that I had half-forgotten had existed.

One thing I noticed was, when I was driving up, like many of us, I was conducting all kinds of conversations or arguments in my head. I was feeling guilty about leaving my mother behind, and I was worried that my bosses wouldn’t be able to find me for three days. As soon as I arrived in that place, I realized that none of that mattered and that, really, by being here, I would have so much more to offer my mother and my friends and my bosses.”

‘Here’s something beautiful you wrote: “The point of gathering stillness is not to enrich the sanctuary or the mountaintop, but to bring that calm into the motion, the commotion of the world.”’

“We haven’t used the word “spirituality” yet. You make the same connection when you write explicitly about spirituality, that it arises out of the disjunction between us and the transcendent. Spirituality is in some kind of tension with stillness, right? That, in fact, this is the place where we meet our demons as well. I feel like that’s there in your writing.

Beautiful. I absolutely agree with that. Sometimes “mystery” is a word I use as an equivalent to spirituality. You’re right. I think our relation with the Divine is a love affair. It’s a passionate love affair. It’s also as tumultuous as any affair that we have in the world with somebody we care about a lot. So it’s not all sweetness and light and probably shouldn’t be because the sufferings and the demons are often what instructs us much more than the calm, radiant moments.”

Ms. Tippett: You also write about the idea of Nowhere. Nowhere with a capital “N.” [laughs] Where is that, that Nowhere with a capital “N,” and what does it mean?

Mr. Iyer:It’s probably the wilderness, and the wilderness is probably the place where one finds illumination. But the reason I came up with that funny formulation is that I noticed when I began traveling a lot 30 years ago, I would talk about going to Cuba or going to Tibet, and people’s eyes would light up with excitement. Nowadays, I notice that people’s eyes light up most in excitement when I talk about going nowhere or going offline. I think a lot of us have this sense that we’re living at the speed of light, at a pace determined by machines, and we’ve lost the ability to live at the speed of life.

Ms. Tippett:Right. That’s good. Well, we are analog creatures. Here’s a way you said it in The Guardian: “We have more information and less space to make sense of it.” It’s not just the pace, but the room to make meaning as well as just be processing or getting through our to-do lists.

Mr. Iyer:Exactly. Whoever you are, whether you’re a mother raising kids or somebody going to the office, you know that, really, as you said, you’re extracting the meaning only when you’re away from it. I sometimes think we’re living so close to our lives, we can’t make sense of them. That’s why people like me go on retreat, or other people meditate or do yoga, or other people go for runs. Each person, I think, now has to take a conscious measure to separate herself from experience just to be able to do justice to experience and to process, as you said, and understand what is going on in her life and direct herself.”

Ms Tippett: You’ve talked about that we are rediscovering — I really love this phrase — the “urgency of slowing down.” That’s wonderful.

Mr. Iyer:Thank you. Well, I think we’re all feeling dizzy. We got onto this accelerating roller coaster that we never quite asked to get on, and we don’t know how to get off. My keenest sense is that our devices are not going to go away, nor would we want them to. They’ve made our lives so much brighter and healthier and longer. But it’s a safe bet that they’re only going to accelerate and proliferate. We’re really going to have to take emergency measures just to keep ourselves in proportion and in balance. I sometimes think that travel is how I get my excitement and stimulation, but stillness is how I keep myself sane. Pascal, wonderfully, in the 17th century, said, our problem is distraction. But we try to distract ourselves from distractions, so we get even worse in this vicious cycle.

So the only cure for distraction is attention. I go to my monastery and I go to Japan because they are cathedrals of attention. They’re places where people are very attentive and where people like me can try to learn attention.”

“It’s hard to hear in the clamor of the contemporary, and I notice people more and more talk about cutting through the noise. That’s what we really need to do. I suppose mysticism is a way of cutting through the cacophony of the moment and reminding us of what is real and then reminding us of how to respond to the real and to do justice to it.

Maybe that speaks to the other part of your question, which is the beauty of mysticism is it’s the place where distinctions dissolve and where there’s no you and me, there’s no east and west, there’s no old or new. We’re in the place beyond dualisms and beyond the tricks of the mind, really, to go back to your point about being an intellectual. We are in that space where we’re not outside the world making judgments and distinctions. We are in some truth, which we don’t even have to name, but it’s the place where all those great traditions converge. So if Rumi and John of the Cross and Meister Eckhart and Dōgen, the great Zen teacher, were to talk together, each might talk in the language and in the framework of his particular tradition, but what they’d be talking about is something each of them would recognize as his most intimate reality.”

Mr Iyer: I think to be human really means to be connected. I’m a rather solitary soul, and I’ve talked a lot about stillness and silence, but I think that they are just way stations. They are refueling places. It’s funny, when we go to an airport nowadays, there’s so many recharging stations for devices and very few for our soul.

Ms. Tippett:Right. [laughs] All of a sudden there are all these recharging stations.

Mr. Iyer:All of a sudden. And we quickly realize it’s only when we recharge our soul, we can make better use of our devices. Part of my concern about the digital age is that the beauty of it is we can make contact with people on the far corners of the earth. The challenge is we sometimes lose contact with ourselves, especially our deeper selves. And then we’re tempted more to define ourselves in terms of what doesn’t matter and what is not going to last very long, whether it’s our looks, our finances, or our resume. And I don’t think anyone gets the richer if he or she defines herself in those terms. So I think to be human is to try to find the best part of yourself that is, in fact, beyond yourself, much wiser than you are, and have that to share with everyone you care for.

What podcasts are your go-to-s?

I love reading your comments, kia ora for taking the time to share your thoughts

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