The Quiet and the Dark, part 1

Yeah, authenticity, that’s what really gets the chicks. Once you can fake that, you’ve got it made.
–Anonymous Performer 

First things: you can, in fact, fake authenticity. It’s called, depending on your degree of skill, something between “lying” and “acting.” But it’s hard, and those who can do it really well get paid millions of dollars for pretending they are agonized about the thought of their wife’s (who you know isn’t) infidelity (which you know isn’t) after they lost their job (that was never theirs, you know this, because they’re in the movie you’re watching).

For most of us, thankfully, it’s pretty difficult to actually fool people into believing you’re authentic when you aren’t. It’s much easier to actually be authentic – but that doesn’t mean it’s easy. Not by a long shot. It’s much easier to go along with what people tell us should be authentic – to use role models not as inspiration but as imitation, to assume vocations rather than avocations, to fit in to the crowd (whatever crowd that might be) rather than listening to that annoying little voice inside screaming at you to go your own way.

It’s very easy to ignore that voice. In case you don’t want to, here’s a brief guide to how practice can help you find it.

First, the Quiet

The world is distracting. I’ll tell you about it as soon as I check my twitter feed, and oh, wait, there’s a comment that needs to be answered for last week’s post (thanks, Red!) and I need to finish packing the hard drive and man, my throat is sore and I really should be listening to the music I’m using for the performance tonight and…and…and…

One of the biggest complaints about practice – any practice – is that it’s boring. Especially practices that involve little activity (like zazen) or repetitive but seemingly pointless motion (like yoga). We invent arbitrary rules and goals to make it more interesting so that instead of running we’re actually training, and instead of a few hours journey it’s a MARATHON.

If you can resist the urge to add on things like that to your practice, then you begin to hear what a lot of zen teachers call “the monkey mind.” It’s that voice that spoke in the red print up above; the incessant yammering that disguises itself as productivity or even (laughably) awareness.

It’s the farthest thing from being aware, it’s job is to keep you unaware. Because when you quiet down that much, and you get the quiet, it gets scary.

Because then you might find the dark.

to be continued

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