Mirror of Zen Blog

Dharma Combat from New York

I get this photo in a WhatsApp message a few days ago from my old buddy DS Sunim. Where did he come up with making this? I guess he’s responding to these machine-learning sites that modify photos in ways that only skills in PhotoShop Pro could enable before.

And he left a BAM! message along with this:
If I post this somewhere on social media, ”You will up your following by 1,000,000,000 LOL”.

DS is a canary in a coal mine. This lockdown-inspired public-facing YouTube presence every day live, together, might be leading my life as a practitioner-guide, for better and for worse, into some public notoriety which is distracting. Fame itself, renown, recognition, however great or small, can be among the most toxic polluting experiences, for the stability of mind.

It might be time to retire. I actually think about that — stop the activity that inspires the entanglements and the busyness, which only increase with increased renown. We do not know when the gaff will boat us out of this short time we have had to strive meaningfully for, and dwell in, simple awakeness, growing into awakeness, and growing back in.

If that is the case, if DS’s words and image of tussled blond hair and Lady Gaga-of-Zen look are riffing on that vibe, then this head must be shaven so fucking clean every fucking day. Every single stubble of it.

I notice the thought quite often flitting by: “Don’t generate that ‘fame’ experience again. So traumatic for a meditator, so toxifying.” But DS’s point looms already inside during the length of doing twice-daily livestream: having some public presence, leading this meditation. I worry about the attention coming in, and I notice the irony of using this tech and also being genuinely concerned that this does not run out of control into some other public volume. That is all. Zen Master Bassui: “My true desire is to relieve others of their pain, though I myself may fall into hell.”

So, clearly, I am hesitant about recognition, and also feeding it by doing this livestream, by sending out teaching-videos, by helping in my dumb way the Google/YouTube algorithm to spread out these teaching-videos to new viewers. But I have genuine worry that this could saddle with new obligations.

This dilemma of solitude versus the tug-and-pull of busyness which comes from any sort of retreat or organization, gives me pause with the forthcoming meditation app (due in May or June). It’s just a tool we’re tossing out there for the benefit of others. For free to access, or maybe just 1, max 2 EUR to cover all of this professional programming and the design needs. I’m not doing it to make some profit. I’m making it so that there is a skeleton, a minimalist architecture for individuals here and there to build out a consistent, daily practice in this hectic world. Online or not. The intention is (and I am certainly biased in this) one of simply wishing to give back. I’ve given strict instructions that any image of my face or person be kept to the absolutest of minimum, that this app not be built around some “identity” or figure. If there is some photo of me anywhere in the app — and there might be one fleck, for a human “connection”, it will be the back of my fucking head. Just a depiction of the meditating Everywoman, or Everyman. Not clear if male or female. Cutting off outside concerns. Only don’t knowwww… If there is a need for some image, it would only be that shaven bald back of a head hanging in inky space.

But will this new app bring in waves of interest that whip up all sorts of needless busyness and pulling again from people to travel here or there to “teach”? This is my sole trepidation with this. It’s so unnecessary. And yet, when you see the apps out there, so commercialised and focusing on just relaxation or stress-relief — you see that maybe such an app as this might be necessary, however much I hate to admit it. But its intent will be only to give a clear and totally portable frame-architecture of the daily practices themselves — Morning and Evening Practice. There will be timed sitting periods, unguided (default) and guided (for first-timers). There will be the option to receive randomly-timed “nudges” — soft-spoken admonitions to come back from the wandering thought-stream to the breath and Question. There will be the option also not to receive these nudges, and just sit left alone in your boundless vast space of this infinite right-Now.

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