Margaret: A Vignette

brown upright piano

Photo by Juan Pablo Arenas

Margaret was fifteen years old when she broke the news to her parents that she no longer wanted piano lessons. Her parents were confused, but respected Margaret’s decision. “But you spend so much time at the piano,” her mother questioned, “you seem to love it?” Margaret did love music, and she loved the calm centeredness and feeling of connection with herself that happened when she sat down with the instrument. What she didn’t love, she told her mother, was “dreadful piano lessons”.

Breaking the news to her parents was the easy part. Next was telling her piano instructor; a rather intimidating, retired music teacher who had been the neighborhood pianist for forty years. Mrs. Regid was a great admirer of discipline, accuracy, and “proper” playing. Mrs. Regid prided herself in self-discipline and saw herself as a role model for cultivating that same self discipline in young people. Sitting next to the student, pencil keeping tempo against the wooden piano case, there was a sense of heaviness that entered the room with her. Students were not permitted into Mrs. Regid’s home, they were limited to a small muck-room which had been equipped with a spinet piano for beginner students of all ages. Only select, advanced students were invited into Mrs. Regid’s livingroom where they could play her Baldwin “baby” grand. For Mrs. Regid, playing the piano was something that brought feelings of dignity, self-respect, and glory to the “old masters” of the instrument.

Margaret suffered through her final lesson with Mrs. Regid. Repeating in her mind just how she was going to break the news, she found it nearly impossible to follow the beating pencil and made many errors in her reading. Finally the lesson came to an end and Mrs. Regid began writing a note on Margaret’s lesson book “needs more work!” Margaret inhaled deeply, moved nervously on the hard piano bench. She could feel the hard sit bones grind agains the harsh walnut seat. Margaret looked straight ahead at the note written on her lesson book. She heard herself say, “I have decided that I no longer want to play the piano.” Mrs. Regid looked at her with direct eyes and after a moment of silence she forced “you don’t love music” through tightened lips. Margaret bowed her head and waited for the moment to pass. Margaret then went home and began playing the piano.




On Being And Time

92307._UY400_SS400_Martin Heidegger presented to the West a fundamental truth of Eastern thought. That is the very simple fact that Being, that is to say existence in the sense of I am, is a verb rather than a noun. Existence is not a thing, but rather, a process. This concept, as presented in Being and Time, is central to Buddhist thought. The implications for shifting one’s sense of being from an object to a process, one radically transforms their experience of existence. This is a radical shift that can have a liberating effect in one’s life.

The first consideration is that of what Heidegger discusses as living towards death. When one experiences the loss of someone close to us, whether this is through actual death or symbolic death (the end of a love affair or a friendship) we experience a sort of deathlike loss. Sigmund Freud discusses the loss that occurs and how this mourning leaves us with a sense emptiness and despair. It is during this time of loss that Heidegger describes a certain clarity that enters into our lives. We typically live, he tells us, in a state of forgetfulness-of-Being, a sort of mundane, taken-for-granted experience in which life or our existence, our finite mortality is forgotten. Like the gold benchmark that gives meaning to a currency, our lives lose meaning when we forget the benchmark by which it has value: death. When someone close to us leaves, or dies, we are thrusted into a mindfulness-of-Being, a state in which we are fully aware of the temporality of our existence. This shift into one of clarity is typically accompanied by a sense of wisdom, insight, and perspective. Living within a state of mindfulness-of-Being cannot be sustained, and after some period of time, we drift back into a state of forgetfulness-of-Being.

When loss of love, loss of friendship, or death brings us great sorrow we can also find great clarity and an opportunity for wisdom. We must make use of this moment of insight, because it soon slips away with our return to the illusion of being as an object, rather than a Being of time. This sense of time is not chronological, “clock time”. Time as we know it on the clock is an objectification of time, an artificial transformation into time as quantity. The Greeks referred to this as Chronos time. Instead, Heidegger points us to God’s time, what the ancient Greeks called Kairos time. This is the right time, time as a process rather than as an object. Time flies when we are having fun, or rather, when we forget Chronos we experience Kairos. When the machinery breaks down, when death and loss visit our world, we are forced closer to our own existence through a breaking-down of Chronos and entering into Kairos. This brings us closer to what is important, meaningful, and ultimately the purpose-giving wellspring or our lives.

How to Stop Being a Digital Stimulus Junky

night television tv video

Photo by Tookapic on

One of the best books that I have read in recent years is Quiet by Susan Cain. A lawyer by training, Ms. Cain uses her incredible research skills and piercing intellect to present a view of the experience of introverted people, living in an extroverted world. If you tend to prefer peace and simplicity over loud and chaotic, and you have not read this book, do so!

I had never viewed myself as an introvert, and some people who know me superficially are surprised to hear me refer to myself as an introvert. It took me some years to realize my introversion, as well as to embrace it. Once I discovered this about myself, other struggles dissolved away like magic! Reading Susan Cain’s book was a big part of that awareness. Continue reading

How the Self & Reality Develop: What Buddhist Psychology Teaches us About Reality

Traditional_bhavachakra_wall_mural_of_Yama_holding_the_wheel_of_life,_Buddha_pointing_the_way_out.jpgIn Buddhist psychology, we have many concepts that are presented in many ways, in a variety of different languages. The teachings are simply a way of life. They need not be religious, spiritual, or otherwise. The teachings are simply an approach that has proven to be useful in living life.

Of these ideas, the Twelve Nirdanas are part of the first teachings that most students of Buddhism encounter. The word nirdanas can be translated as links. These twelve links describe how we come to perceive the world. Much like a cognitive psychology of sensation and perception, the twelve links show how our worldview come to be through a series of linked ideas, each idea leading towards the next, from ignorance to death. We can think of the Twelve Nirdanas as a stage process of human development of personality. We can understand how the self (called the ego in Latin) develops from conception through death.

Let’s take a look at the Twelve Nirdanas and see what they have to teach us. I will be reading and interpreting the nirdanas as they are presented in Dwight Goddard’s classic text, A Buddhist Bible. Continue reading

Ways-of-Experiencing the World: How Your Worldview Shapes Your World

liberat.jpgThe German thinker Immanuel Kant is regarded by many to be the greatest thinker of modern philosophy. There are numerous introductions to Kant and his thinking available, a few of which I will list at the end of these thoughts. One of Kant’s many areas of thinking was on thinking itself. Kant introduced a concept into philosophy which he called transcendental idealism. This term is often intimidating to newcomers to philosophy, but the basic idea is not complicated. However, the implications of the idea are radical to our common experience of reality. Continue reading

On the Merits of Walking in the Opposite Direction of Your Destination


By the time many Americans and other foreigners made the voyage to Switzerland to meet with the world renowned Dr. Carl Gustav Jung, his name had become synonymous with living a creative, artistic life. It is no wonder that many creative individuals flocked to Lake Zürich to ask Dr. Young to be their guide into their individual and collective unconscious.

In his middle years, Jung was often Conducting analysis from his sailboat. Along with using the I Ching, Jung used his sailboat and Lake Zürich as a teaching apparatus. He would direct the patient to the helm and ask them to navigate the course to the opposite shore. Continue reading

You-ism, Me-ism, & Real-ism

“Today humanity, as never before, is split into two apparently irreconcilable halves. The psychological rule says that when an inner situation is not made conscious, it happens outside, as fate. That is to say, when the individual remains undivided and does not become conscious of his inner contradictions, the world must perforce act out the conflict and be torn into opposite halves.” -C.G. Jung, 1959

MattGiobbiThe sentiment that our lived world is a manifestation of our psychic lives is deeply rooted in our human history. Contemporary interpretations of the idea are very popular and very controversial, and it seems to me that much of the ridicule that the idea receives is more of a statement about the motivation for such ideas, rather than the idea itself. The mind as an active participant in creating our experience of our lived world is not contested by most neuroscientists, philosophers, and psychologists. The active mind is the central point of what we call cognitive psychology. Yet, talk about manifesting what we want in life by focusing on it mentally receives skeptical reactions and even ridicule. It seems to me that the ridicule is mostly aroused by the motivation, not by the concept itself. Continue reading