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English: A Chinese wall mural painting from a ...

English: A Chinese wall mural painting from a Daoist temple (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

I come from a long line of hoarders. Not as bad as the guys from “Buried Alive” – I mean, that’s reality TV – but definitely somewhat like Nikolai Gogol’s infamous obsessive collector Plyushkin from “Dead Souls”. My gradmother hardly ever threw away anythin, but she was OCD tidy too, so all those kitchy souvenirs – Venetian boats in red and black carrying plastic little couples across the shrine in her living room, the ballerinas performing pirouettes in their music boxes and what not –  polished and arranged neatly, did look rather nice. My father’s late sister had managed to cram into her tiny one room apartment what normal people couldn’t squeeze into a family house; couple of years ago we needed to get something from that black hole of her closet ; some note she “clearly remembered “ she had tucked into one of her handbags – black one. She had 14 almost identical envelope handbags in black and all were packed with various notes and papers, among them – a guarantee for a boiler expiring 1986 (!), valid at the territory of “autonomous region of Kosovo”… The boiler itself went down with her old house when the motorway was laid where she used to live; Kosovo had become an independent country meanwhile and the situation I am describing is happening somewhere in 2006… I wish you could see the utter shock all over her face when I suggested we could “dispose” the guarantee since, you know… NO WAY! She might need it! You never know! Sure, if we come into possession of a time-machine, she maybe would, indeed you never know!
So you get an idea about what runs in my family. In addition to that, both my parents are manic shoppers. I believe i am one of the very few people who actually sees the good side of the global economic crises – at least their residence at this time is pervious and not narrowed down to few hardly visible lanes leading among the clutter from the kitchen to the bathroom and further to the bedrooms.
My father, among else, keeps his fancy tennis gear and clothes which he was proudly showing off in various diplomatic clubs while working on his backhand… in mid seventies.
My mother only recently parted with a huge collection of fashion magazines from 80ies with advices ranging from maintenance of really big hair to how to knit your own pair of leg warmers and attach shoulder pads properly.
Both are avid travelers too – when they travelled to China ( i swear it’s not an exaggeration) dozen of boxes were sent to the customs and it took a track to deliver the ‘souvenirs’ they acquired.
Both are highly manipulative too – so when you discretely suggest that some of it eventually could be let go – they’d yell out (both in tears) WE CHERISHED IT ALL FOR YOU!!! Certainly, such caring attitude is quite endearing – but what exactly I am supposed to do with the inherited 14 pairs of worn out male shoes size 42?
Bad, bad Feng Shui!
That being said – as of recently I feel renewed urge to meddle with Chinese Philosophy. For the record I absolutely don’t intend to take it to an academic level. I am quite obsessive by default and I do need to set limits from the start. I did a year of postgrad Chinese studies at Beijing’s ‘Language and Culture University’, i was thought some I Ching by only two people I met who could make some sense of it, i am studying back and forth a dvd course ‘Great Minds of the Eastern Intellectual Tradition’ taught by a guy with Ph.D from Yale and i’ve been reading avidly last couple of decades – i absolutely have no intention of taking it any further than that.
I know Daosim meawhile became an organized religion, but I am not going there for the life of me, I really had enough of anything institutionalized and formalized. And, kill me, but especially when it comes to Dao, to me it does feel wrong.
On the other side, I do know that only 1/10th is in the books while the rest you get from a teacher. How do I go about that, given that there aren’t any Daoist masters where I am and given that I am long ago over globe-trotting in search of an enlightened Guru?
The answer is one word: Google. So, it turns out Daoist practice is something called Zazen, whatever that is. Before I commence another round of googling, I pray it doesn’t turn out to be anything like Tai Ji Chuan. Don’t get me wrong – I love Tai Ji and I could discipline myself back in China to get up at 6am to practice with a respectable teacher beside a fairytalish traditional Chinese pond. I am too lazy for that now and also, you guessed rightly, no ponds and no credible Tai Ji teachers around.
To my utter relieve it turns out Zazen is a Chinese version of Vipassana – presumably historical Buddha’s own technique for enlightment.
Now if you happen to be a PhD in Chinese Philosophy or an ordained Daoist priest or something – and the above sentence sends chills down your spine as blasphemous or overly simplified – it’s your problem; this is my personal discourse and I am sticking to it.
Back to Sitting in Oblivion – that’s how charmingly the practice is called in English.
Vipassana I had learned long ago, from teachers with impressive lineage in a respectable Buddhist tradition – that of Burmese Ji Goenka – during ten days long retreat under vow of silence and strict adherence to the Eightfold Path. Good it is so because I doubt I’d undertake anything like that nowadays – that was back in the day when I was still trotting the globe in search of a guru.
So, i added that to my usual morning religious practice– upon waking up i first devotedly drink a cup of coffee, sip by sip, and then i sit (in oblivion) for some half an hour.
I must tell you it does wonders.