Farts in a Bathtub

Farts in a Bathtub, meditation in theory and practice.

Maybe 28 years ago, a mentor at the time exposed me to true Zen Buddhism meditation. Little, tough pillow, a wood stand like a doll’s table, super-esoteric texts, and sitting zazen for several hours a day.

I was exposed. Material crossed my consciousness. I moved on.

Stardust Motel

Stardust Motel

In Austin, all those years, I developed a “walking meditation” practice. From the old place in east Austin, it was maybe four miles around the eastern loop of the hike and bike trail, and that was the first iteration. Gave me many experiences that have long been incorporated into horoscopes. There’s also a sense that I was answering a need for meditation with a walking version. Turns out that walking meditation is a formal process.

As I negotiated a spot in a trailer park in 78704, that too, furthered my walking practice of meditation, as my mileage increased. Ostensibly, I would have a destination, BBQ or TexMex, and a dip in the holy waters of Barton Springs, kind of a cleansing, ritual dunk in the soft, cold, spring-fed waters. There were days when a dip in the creek and a splash of patchouli worked for bathing, yes, the good, old days.

Two Meat Tuesday:
A walking miscellany.

Mileage varied, and trailer parks have been replaced by high-rise buildings or similar developments. With the advent of my first, an iPod “Mini” then an Apple “Shuffle,” I started to lose track of the old ways of my walking mediation. Think the portable music player just about killed it off, totally, at least, for me.

As a disembodied notation, only tangentially related, the walking meditation has proven as a very effective method of getting answers when nothing else works. To this day, rare occasions, I’ll unplug and tune in by tuning out. Still works. Decades of Austin’s trails pays off by walking meditation, and the cities don’t care, that is, it is a method that is location independent.

That first mentor, I recall sitting in his apartment, gradually going over what meditation is, how the thoughts are like bubbles, those thoughts come up, in meditation, we look at it, acknowledge it, but then, the thought drifts off. In that first instruction, it was implied to be like soap bubbles, and the thoughts would drift ever-heavenwards.

Enter my current concept of Farts in a Bathtub.

Couple of years ago, girlfriend asks, suggests, “I want to take a meditation class, would you go with me?”

Sure. So I was formally introduced to “Transcendental Meditation,” the perfect marriage of East and West. 20 minutes a day, twice a day. Timer on the iPhone is set for it. Been doing this for years. First thing in the morning, then around supper time.

Years later, girlfriend asks if I know anything about Zen. While this entry is dated from two years ago, I know I’ve been carrying around some version of that text for more than a dozen years, possibly longer. One copy is dog-eared and battered, barely recognizable in its original form —

Reached up, and I pulled three texts off the shelf, including Zen Mind, Beginner’s Mind, and I handed her the texts. One is relatively rare, and I’ve circulated it some, citing it on occasion.

Would I be interested in a meeting at the San Antonio Zen Center? Quick, affirmative answer on that. Walk in, shed the shoes at the door, well, kick off sandals, with a Buddha and candle, couple of sparse flowers, sit on a pillow and fold my hands.

“We sit for twenty minutes, first.”

I’m in.

“Meditation: because there really are some questions Google can’t answer.”

Meditation go boom

Part of its lecture series at Nature’s Treasures, I was filling in for another reader, and I was tasked with a short presentation on meditation.

Over the years, again and again, I’ve explained that meditation takes many forms. As I lead a more sedentary lifestyle now, I can sit in an approximate lotus, maybe with the help of a pillow, and I can be still for a spell.

Quiet the mind. Listen to what bubbles up. For many years, meditation, for me, was on Austin’s Hike & Bike trail — it was Town Lake at the time. Fishing pole was optional, but often in hand.

The last time I was in a zen center, in meditation, all I kept getting was an image of Samuel Jackson, in character, saying, “Namaste, muthafucka,” with the appropriate juice and inflection.

“Meditation: because there really are some questions Google can’t answer.”

Yes, and maybe these are sometimes questions best left unasked?

Meditation go boom

“Buddhism teaches union with the Void, while Taoism teaches union with the Tao. At first they seem opposite directions. But the synthesis of these doctrines appeared in Zen, which taught that the oneness of the Void, wherein all reality is subsumed, could be understood as an encompassing whole or continuum, as in the Tao. Both are merely expressions of the Absolute. The Buddhists unite with the Void; the Taoists yearn to merge with the Tao. In Zen the two ideas reconcile.”

Excerpt From: Hoover, Thomas. “The Zen Experience.”

The Zen Experience – Thomas Hoover

In a reading with a client, I was recanting my recent experiences with a zen center. The client’s version, the zen center had an abbot who would come along and poke the folks who fidget. “I kept getting hit with the stick.”

    “No pain, no gain
    Bring your own whips and chains.” (Gemini)

Poke me with a stick? I’m not going back, eliciting the Gemini comment.

”What Is the Present Estate of My Understanding? for Herein Lieth all indeed. As for all other things, they are without the compass of mine own will: and if without the compass of my will, then are they as dead things unto me, and as it were mere smoke.”

Excerpt From: Emperor of Rome Marcus Aurelius. “Meditations.” Book12, XXVI

What meditation can be? Again, an early reference to East Austin before it was hip and trendy, think, there was a shooting outside my door, late one night. Normal, back when it was rough neighborhood, at least, after dark.

I was stretched out on the couch, reading an early primer about Runes. The author, Bloom, I thought, had an introductory note about the nature of meditation. I can’t seem to lay my hands on either the notes or the original book, so this is from faded, unreliable brain memory, “Lying on the couch, underlining a passage in book can be meditation.”

Amusing to me, the real rune people told me what a bad book that was. I still have a bag with runes, but that’s not my chosen form of divination —

I’m always curious about the divisive nature among so-called enlightened New Age healers and such. My take-away from that text was twofold: runes have no curved lines (with no direct translation), and, more important, meditation can be as simple as stretching out on the couch and underlining a passage in a text.

There was a class offered through the various zen centers, and an advanced one was coming up, for “wall staring.” I had a cat that was an adept; she could stare at the wall for hours.

I’ve willfully demonstrated my ignorance, but also charted a progression from supine notation as mediation to walking meditation, to a more zen-like state of suspended mental discourse. “Farts in a Bathtub” encapsulates the ideas, and what I’ve learned thus far. The patterns emerge as bubbles of thought. I arrived at my understanding, it started with that mentor, some 28 years ago.

Weird. One cycle of Saturn.