The Wind


I hope the storm that blew through our nation’s capital Friday night is a once in a lifetime experience. Watching from the rear window of our treetop level apartment, the woods behind our building undulated like a giant bed of sea anemone being whipped about by the roiling crosscurrents of an angry ocean. Thinking that the stiff wind would cool our stifling bedroom, I opened the window a crack and then took an anxious step back, feeling as if I’d just admitted a furious phantasm that was eager to smash anything it could reach.

I woke my computer up to see what the weather service had to say about the atmospheric insanity that was making the trees look so drunk and disorderly, but it was too late: my internet connection had already been knocked out. In the morning it was easy to see why: huge branches of enormous old trees embodying a lifetime of majestic arboreal expansion that had once offered themselves as a canopy over the street in front of our building had broken off and fallen to the tarmac, taking a web of power lines down with them. It was a sad sight to behold.

Just up the block, a snapped power cable was lying on the ground, the length of its thick serpentine form surrounded by a halo of blackened pavement and a gully of scorched earth – testimony to the lethal voltage that coursed through its veins and poured out of its skin. We were fortunate to have electricity in our building but, judging by the state of just this one street, those without power would probably remain without it for some time to come.

Glancing for the umpteenth time at my cable modem, hoping against hope and any semblance of reason that my Internet connection has been restored, I have become painfully aware of how attached I am to being connected to the outside world, of how absorbed I have become in the pursuit of instant information, of bouncing between useful facts and data as diversion. While preparing my play lists for my upcoming classes, I reflexively apple/tab to my browser to see if I’ve received any new e-mail, check for interesting Facebook posts, and read the front page of The New York Times (again!). Over and over I feel the impulse to Internet multitask like a Pavlovian rat expecting a reward for conditioned behavior, evidence that the habit of indulging my mind’s recurring requests for trivial distractions has become too deeply ingrained.

“There is no stronger obstruction to one’s self-interest than thinking other subject matters to be more pleasing than one’s self-realization.”Srimad Bhagavatam 4.22.32

It wasn’t always like this: I spent years living in yoga ashrams without ever seeing a newspaper, listening to the radio, or watching television. I had no idea what was going on outside because I was absorbed in the process of looking inside. The world didn’t need my attention and I didn’t need the world’s distractions. It was great! And it was necessary: pratyahara, the withdrawal of the senses from the sense objects is an essential element on the path of yoga. Want to clear your mind? Then put some distance between your mind and the media.

There came a point in my journey when a return to the world was required, when news of the world became a means to understand the message of transcendence and participation in the world became a means to apply transcendental knowledge. But the danger of engagement with the world is the risk that engagement for its own sake will become the end rather than the means to a higher purpose. When our single-pointed focus on self-realization becomes diffused by the inebriating effect of media hypertrophy then it’s time to develop some detachment from the source of one’s distraction.

The storm and its aftermath have made it clear to me that I’ve gone over the edge: I need to step back and re-focus, get some of the media overload out of my head, regain my inner focus, and purify my consciousness.

“Of purifiers I am the wind.” – Bhagavad Gita 10.31

7 Comments

  1. Posted July 3, 2012 at 1:27 AM | Permalink | Reply

    You said it, bro.

  2. Posted July 3, 2012 at 4:10 PM | Permalink | Reply

    This was such a great post. I am going to share it on fb! I could definitely relate to the almost desperate urge to connect with the world once one feels like that connection has been severed. A hurricane, or at least the remnants of one in the form of a tropical storm, swept through our state earlier this year and we lost power for 9 days! I blogged a lot more often back then and would engage in a lot of online forums and surf the net quite a bit. I felt so disconnected! It was then that I also realized that I had an attachment, most likely an unhealthy one, towards the internet. Yes, it can be an effective tool to engage oneself with the world but it can also serve as a distraction to one’s spiritual progress.

    I have limited my amount of time online accordingly and have committed myself to studying more books related to spirituality. Right now I’m reading for the first time through the Bhagavad Gita As It is and really enjoying it. I think being in the world, yet not of it, is an important theme to have in the back of one’s mind.

    I’m glad that you were safe during the storm!

    • Posted July 5, 2012 at 8:35 AM | Permalink | Reply

      Thanks for your comment, Jessica. Actually, I still don’t have an Internet connection at home and, as much as I appreciate the realization it’s given me about my predilection for distraction, I’m also becoming painfully aware of how much I need it to function in the world, at least in the manner that my current life demands. So much so, in fact, that I’ve spent the morning at a cafe that has wifi just to get caught up – ugh. Anyway, I’m glad to hear that you’re enjoying reading Prabhupada’s Gita. I’ll send some thoughts about transmigration of the soul (a little different from re-incarnation) your way soon: I noticed you inspired a lively (!!) conversation on FB about this topic.

  3. Posted July 5, 2012 at 9:43 AM | Permalink | Reply

    I hope you get your internet connection back soon! It’s one thing to choose to refrain and distance oneself as much as is applicable from something that could potentially serve as an attachment and another to have no choice and be limited…it sure can become an impediment. I’ve been there before.

    I’d love to hear your thoughts on transmigration of the soul…I thought it was the same as reincarnation. I was a Christian for 13 years until this past year when, after a lot of spiritual exploration, I just realized that I no longer fit within that category..but that’s mostly what I’m used to so when it comes to ideas like reincarnation, etc. , it’s all pretty new to me, but I do find it all intriguing.

    Yeah..that was quite a conversation on fb! I have a lot of friends with a diverse view of beliefs.

  4. Posted July 10, 2012 at 4:46 PM | Permalink | Reply

    I like this but I’m not sure how to post or become a member….

    • Posted July 12, 2012 at 9:29 AM | Permalink | Reply

      Hi Maretta: Well, you posted this so whatever you did worked. If you want to subscribe to my blog there’s a field in the upper left portion of the page where you can click on the ‘sign me up’ button’ in order to get e-mail notifications of new posts. Thanks for your interest – Hkd

One Trackback

  1. [...] Let’s take a look at my arch nemesis, distraction. Because, as it turns out, I’m not the only out there struggling with a wandering “eye.” [...]

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