Saturday, October 9, 2010

Going Vertical

My mother repeats herself, a lot. Wouldn't you, if you could not remember things from one second to the next? In that sense, her behavior is totally normal. The problem lies in the way I receive her words. This morning, talking with her, and hearing her rave once more about "I have eaten very healthy my whole life, that's what matters. Do you hear me? You would do well, to do the same." I found boredom springing up in the heart. Of course, I knew what to respond. "Totally, maman, I have learned so much from you, and I am very careful, just like you. Not eating too much, and just the right thing . . ."

Inside, boredom beggs to be examined though. What is it in the mind that wants to be entertained, with a constantly changing menu of thoughts? After all, what's wrong with hearing the same words, or a slight variation of them, over and over? I remembered Joseph Goldstein's words:

To realize that boredom does not come from the object of our attention but rather from the quality of our attention is truly a transforming insight ~ 'Insight Meditation'

, and also Charlotte Selver's insistence that each moment be experienced as a new moment, always.

Once more, my mother challenges me to practice, even deeper, down to each second. This time, I am to abandon the self-made idea of horizontal time, joining in with Olivia Ames Hoblitzelle:

After that landmark morning at the diagnostic clinic, I also recognized that we were living with another dimension of time. Something in our midst felt different; we lived with a heightened awareness of what the Greeks called kairos, or vertical time, entirely different from chronos time, which is linear and familiar. In that verticality, there was a sense of timelessness, sad and sweet ~ 'The Majesty of Your Loving'

Of course, the awareness of horizontal time is essential to our day to day functioning. This is why my mother can no longer live alone, and needs to rely on others to organize her life. Vertical time is of a different order, and just as important. It represents the door to being fully alive to the present moment, with all our senses. 


  1. I have heard of Buddhist practice being described as "One foot in Samsara, one foot in Nirvana." Awareness/awakeness itself brings insight into our actions. Boredom, dislikes, frustration, self-pity, etc.... are all part of our world. I do not believe they will ever disappear. Walking the middle path means accepting the "bad" with the "good". Age/experience itself will bring refinement. Working on yourself too much is just another form of ego. It is forgetting to work on yourself that the "vertical" way can happen. :)

  2. Thank you! I agree, . . . and I disagree.

    It is my sense that boredom of the type described in this post, is a form of aversion and as such something that needs to be examined, and done away with as much as possible. This has nothing to do with the ego trying to assert itself even more, at least that I can see. Rather it is about purifying one's mind and heart to be more present to oneself and the other.

    My view of walking the middle path is of embracing all that is in the moment, including the hindrances, the aversions, the cravings, the joy, pure love, etc . . . and to have the wisdom to sort out what needs to be let go of, and what needs to be cultivated. It is both an in moment and a contemplative experience.

    With metta,


  3. It is a challenge, to be patient with the same conversations over and over. Some days I am better at it, some days not.

    Boredom here might be an aversion, but still just another thing to be aware of, to watch. I think trying too hard to "do away with" anything can backfire. At least for me it seems to. Not that I don't keep trying! :)

    I am interested in the concept of vertical time... I googled and I found this link, perhaps you've seen it:


  4. Thank you Jess! of course, boredom needs to be received in its fullness whenever it arises, and it needs to be examined, and dropped, just like any other hindrance, just like ill will (its very close cousin), just like anxiety, just like doubt, just like sensual craving, just like laziness . . . Cleaning house, over and over again.

    Great link by the way. I took a daylong with Lewis Richmond once. Interesting experience, that I relate in this post:

    (he is the first teacher, the other one is Jack Kornfield . . .)