Sunday, November 28, 2010

Ecstacy and the Mediocrity Principle

There is a principle in science that says that no place in the universe is any different than any other place.  This "Mediocrity Principle" has had powerful implications through the centuries.  Its weightiest application is that Earth is not special in giving rise to and sustaining life; that because the Earth isn't special life can exist elsewhere.

Furthermore this principle can be extended to the "Temporal Mediocrity Principle," stating that no time is any different than any other.  For those of us trying to live in the moment, this should be somewhat comforting; science backing up our beliefs.

Where this can get tricky is that the implication of each space or moment being no different is no more or less special than any other.  Any sort of special experiences such as enlightenment, satori, kensho, or even ecstasy exist in a moment and that moment, no matter how mind blowing it is, is still just a moment. So when something "special" happens we may get hung up on the circumstances of its causes or effects.

Since these experiences, being special, are not all the time happenings,what good does this serve us?  Why does it matter that every moment is the same as every other moment, and is it really even true?  Mediocrity isn't even all that cool.  It's mediocre.

Obviously we experience moments to be different, otherwise this would just be common sense.  So what makes this so, what's the variable?  We are what makes each moment different than others.  Each moment arrives waiting for us to assign values to it.  Not every moment is a blank canvas, sometimes life throws us some pretty tricky situations, but we still determine what it means to us.

Usually this process is unconscious.  Situations arise and our experiences tell us what to think about them.  Zen training helps us take control of that though.

We develop our minds to take charge over the unconscious mind.  We tame the unconscious so that it can no longer drag us and our emotions and thoughts all over.  Using the five skandhas as windows to examine the emptiness of each moment, we can use our conscious thoughts to fill them up with whatever emotions we want.  Left to its own devices, the unconscious will play the game according to the ego's rules.  Because the ego's deluded, this usually leads to suffering.  By taking control, we change the rules and the outcome.

A lot of times, people, especially spiritual gurus, harp on this.  The problem is that it has become buzz words that are left unexplained unless you pay whatever sum they ask to find out how.  But it's nothing special.  Buddhists have been spreading this idea for more than 2500 years.  The book I've been reading, Just Use This Mind, is built upon it with "change your mind, change your life" as its slogan.

As I prepare for Rohatsu Sesshin, I have an exciting and unbelievably boring adventure ahead of me.  I know it will be challenging, but in surrendering my freedom, I'm freeing myself to experience something special.  If I sit with escape on my mind, I'll miss out on what I can experience each moment.

There will be boredom, there may be powerful experiences.  I don't know, and won't know until each moment arrives.  All I have to do is keep these principles at hand.

No comments:

Post a Comment