DIY and Not-So-Private Minds • 11 May 2009

Somehow between Cross-fit and the apocalypse, I’ve got this idea that I need skills. I admire people with skills. You know… CPR, vegetable gardening, computer hacking, lock picking, multiple languages, fire-building, kombucha homebrewing. You never know when you’re going to be lost in the forest or trapped in a burning building or get a flat tire in downtown Detroit.

A first batch of kombucha is burping away under cheesecloth in the kitchen. I’m taking care of the little guy while his owner is away for the summer. No other way to refer to the soft rusty half-shell kombucha blob with its light eau de vinegar: it’s…he’s… very much alive, and happy to culture some tea for you as he goes about his business of cell division and just sitting around. Nice of him. He’s already beginning to split off a little twin, a little mini-blob that will be equally happy to render the human-addictive substance as a by-product of his unassuming kitchen-shelf existence..

I love domestic chemistry, playing with fermentation. It’s disgusting! The blob is just slippery, ugly raw information that has to be tended and fed and allowed to reproduce itself if it’s going to live. I massage him under a warm faucet before sliding him back into his brine, talk to him, let him split and send the new little guys on to another and another.

What’s this little guy’s kombuchu parampara? Does his lineage go all the way back to the grow-yr-own fermenters of the 60s, or was he brought to life just recently for the Californians with their panoply of celebrity fountain-of-youth practices? Can he trace his progenitors all the way back to that very first kombucha sage-gods? I do hope I’m drinking the original, immortal nectar of the ancients here.

Mmmm. I am also, ridiculously, switching to Mac. Why did this not happen a decade ago? The machine is one sleek piece of aluminum, tricked out with extra RAM and already a better extension of my self than the long-suffering Inspiron ever was. And god so beautiful on the inside, too. Yes, I don’t just love her for her looks. I’ve been waiting for this little machine a long time, asking the universe for just the right file structure, aiming to manifest the perfect processor. And thank god, it all feels so right now, nevermind the chunk of first-home-savings I'm down. But… what if I get stranded somewhere without wifi…?

…Speaking of DIY, or not so Y… when we get together I can see your thoughts. So can anyone. Not to unnerve you or anything. But the line a thought makes across the body as it travels, tiny tensing like a snake under the sand, the way the neck flexes, the drop in the breath.

If your attention is on a sound or motion beside you, this is the way the body registers it. If a new emotion shows up, it moves through the head, neck, shoulders, low back. An emotion is by definition a bodily event, but very often thoughts are too. A thought is not just content–the thing that is thought–but also a wave in motion.

I say this because of the aspect of practice that is about isolating myself from the thoughts of others. Some teachers, (even if they’re not getting the petty clairvoyance that pranayama seems to bring up) experience a mysore room kind of like air traffic control. The trick seems to be to kill the volume. Allow and trust the planes to fly themselves, don’t take the controls of every one who radios in for help.

But for students who claim nobody can know their motivations or thoughts, that it's a private matter whether they’re actually focused, ummm. The mind is really not that private.

Especially not in the company of body-workers or anyone who is very intelligent below the belt (or even below the neck, for that matter). In the case of teachers, yes, some are not perceptive. But chances are they've just gotten good at pretending not to see others' thoughts, both out of respect for and to protect themselves from all the static.