Thursday, December 15, 2005

Flashes in the pan

A friend and visitor to my blog, Mike Cross, had a great reply to my last post about flashes of insight.
The gist of his reply, if I'm understanding him correctly, is that such flashes invariably prove to be flashes in the pan rather than lightning bolts of clarity, at least in his experience.
I understand. And I also understand the dangers of clinging to supposed insights (though that doesn't stop me from doing so anyway).
Almost every time I feel that I've finally "gotten it," time proves that I actually got nothing. The jury is still out, so to speak, on some of my other "a-ha!" moments.
Often, I let my enthusiasm get the better of me. (But I'm reminded of something a good friend once told me: "He who builds no castles in the air, builds no castles anywhere.")
Through my blog, I have chosen to make a private journey public. Some visitors read my posts and agree, more or less, with my observations and can chart my progress (or its opposite) in a linear way. Others read those same posts and see a train wreck they believe is impending.
Whatever the case, I'm really thankful for all the comments and feedback I have received, and I hope it continues.
I have no idea where I'm headed, but I thank you for sharing in my "travelogue."


Mike Cross said...

Yes, my friend, you are understanding me correctly. It is always "not that," always not what I expected.

For several years I have been going to a very experienced Alexander teacher. I always used to arrive at her door with my tail wagging, full of my latest bit of insight, and an hour later I would slink out, ego completely deflated, with my tail between my legs.

Recently this happens less grossly, but it still always happens. In writing to you now, I am probably coming across as who one who knows. Without me realizing it, my desire to be the one who knows gets the better of me. A moment of truly not knowing, of true openness, is an elusive thing. But if there is anything better, anything more worth searching for, please let me know!

Beth said...

maybe there is no "it" to get. i like to think that wherever i am in my practice and personal journey is exactly where i should be. then wherever i am next week or year, will be exactly where i should be. not necessarily "better," but maybe different. or maybe not even different.
in the case of your stance, or something more concrete, i can see how there is an "it" to get. but in spiritual matters, and in personal growth matters, i'm not so sure.
those moments we have where we feel that we are truly knowing something, i have no doubt they are real. but i try not hang too much on them and think that they carry so much more weight than the other poor-slob moments that comprise my day.

Michael said...

Kim wrote:

"Maybe there is no "it" to get. ... In the case of your stance, or something more concrete, i can see how there is an "it" to get. but in spiritual matters, and in personal growth matters, i'm not so sure."

Kim, I agree completely. I should have made clear that most of the insights I have had have been into things that are tangible and even graspable (uh-oh, maybe this isn't such a good word to use).
In terms of spiritual matters, I'm still a clueless wanderer. Sometimes I feel I may be onto something and may be "picking up the scent," so to speak -- but of what, I have no idea.

LBseahag said...

Awesome...a travelogue..

I loved the one about the air castles...

g said...

I would think the kind of "insights" one gets in martial arts postures and in sports are felt experiences, and don't really involve the restless mind.

But then, as the spirit rejoices, the mind tries to butt in, perhaps taking credit and making lists and organizing congratulations,

and all that, of course, is useless.

Michael said...

Hi g,

Indeed, the candle flame of insight snuffed out by the gust of reality.
I'm gonna invest in a flashlight.

LBseahag said...

I love coming here...i learn a lot of new ways of and your fellow bloggers are helping me grow...thank you...

Phats said...

Well, I am in for the long haul, and will continue to read your blog. I will continue to remember you in thoughts and what not, as I feel I can relate to you pretty well. My condition was nowhere near what you're going thru but it was scary the nonetheless. Good Luck bud, you gotta new fan club here with Phats ;)

Chris said...

I find that the thread this is taking is very interesting. It is quite true that we have these "insights" that make us feel as if we're "on to" something, yet they must be left behind- discarded as if nothing more than the thought of "boy, I really need a haircut". They are both just passing thoughts.

It is very hard to let go of the ones that make you feel so good, though. I remember early in my practice that a thought popped into my head during zazen something like- "Everything is exactly where it is supposed to be". I immediately felt a sort of satisfaction. This thought popped out of nowhere and it really "meant" something! Oh Boy!

I knew though that I musn't cling to this from what I had read already but I found it very difficult to let it go. I thought about for days and during zazen I hoped for more super- insights.

But if anything it hindered my practice. I was attached to it. Yet the overall experience of clinging, realizing and finally letting go was probably a positive one for my practice.

So though these insights are fleeting, they do have their place- like learning experiences. The hard part is leaving them behind and getting back to this moment.

Michael said...


And thank YOU. The blogosphere would be pretty dull without you and Jinx!


Thanks, my friend. I'm grateful, and I'm humbled. I'm very glad I've met so many nice people through this blog!

Chris H,

Yes, I think insights can get in the way, especially if they turn out to be false insights.
Up to this point in my life, the vast majority of my insights -- and they have been few in number -- have been into things that are quantifiable -- that can be measured, say, against a physical standard. So, either they're insights, or they're not insights at all, but rather lessons in how imprecise and inadequate language truly is.
I must confess that despite how illusory they are said to be, I'd love to gain spiritual insights. But so far, no such luck.

Ali said...

I'm glad to have found your blog... I look forward to sneaking a peek into your journey.

Of course, now I'll be worried about my grammar but will pretend I am Emily Dickinson or something :O)

Michael said...

Hi Ali,

Welcome aboard, and thanks for the kind words! Don't worry: The grammarian in me surfaces only at work. :)

LBseahag said...

Hi, Ali-

Mikel still lets me tipe himm komments eeven tho i kant spelll reel gewd.

Whoah...that felt like Flowers for Algernon....

reallynotimportant said...

I think that you are correct. Words cannot really describe things in this area. Some things have to be 'felt' in the body and the mind. If there is an emotional attachment to any such 'felt' insight then I usually class it is a 'flash' that has little or no value. If there is just an 'ISness' about it with no emotional attachment then I tend to treat it as a more serious insight.

Aside: I have found it fascinating to follow threads to read other people's blogs. Some seem to have nothing original to say. Some seem to be driven only by what happens in other blogs and some seem to follow their own path. I much prefer the latter.

[Now I am going back into The Real World (TRW).

Michael said...

Hmmm, RNI, I wonder where on that continuum my blog would fall? In any event, I'm just hanging on for the ride.