My Chanukah With Ramana

THE TECHNIQUE IS SIMPLE: JUST lay on your back, breathing, and take a complete and negative bodily inventory: “I am not my legs; I am not my feet; I am not my arms;” “I am not my mind;” et al.

Now: What’s left after everything else is taken away?

This admittedly (and deceptively) simple teaching / exercise comes from Ramana Maharshi, an inadvertent Indian teacher of “Self-realization” whose method I am still just beginning to understand. But it resulted in one of the great spiritual experiences of my life.

5 Thoughts: Long-Term Partnerships

1. TO QUOTE A CHARACTER FROM the most excellent film A Mighty Wind: “It’s almost as like we have one brain that we share between us.” The simultaneous realizations, the one-word sentences, the shared expressions … It can all be quite aback-taking.

2. As we lengthen with age, memory gets a bit hazy, and the conversation occasionally includes the question, “Did that happen to you or me? I get us confused sometimes…”

3. There is nothing like the feeling of being intensely, intimately and completely known.

OKAY MOSES,” SAID GOD. “HERE’S another commandment: Don’t boil a kid in its mother’s milk.”
“You mean, don’t eat meat and milk together?”
“No. Don’t boil a kid in its mother’s milk.”
“You mean we should have separate dishes for meat and dairy?”
“No. Don’t boil a kid in its mother’s milk.”
“You mean we should wait a few hours after eating meat before we eat dairy?”
“Moses,” said God,”do whatever the hell you want.”

Why I Love: Restaurants

IT’S THE ATMOSPHERE. IT’S THE background music of cutlery-clinked plates and conversation. It’s the initial pleasure of sitting down at “your” table. It’s having a skilled and knowledgeable waitron. It’s eating what I wouldn’t (or couldn’t) cook for myself. It’s the free iced-tea and water refills. It’s being exposed to unfamiliar food. (It’s also the first bite of said food.) It’s expanding my culinary horizons. It’s seeing and guessing what other people are eating. It’s the perfect match of expectation and fulfillment. It’s the way the aromas of the place excite your senses before (or after) you walk through the door.

Our Own Little “Zone”

IF YOU WERE CONSIDERED A teenage weirdo in the late 1970s/early 1980s in Northern California’s suburban Diablo Valley, you could always find a place on Friday nights at an independent cinema-house in Walnut Creek, gathering with others of your tribe to enact the mythic and terrible rites associated with “The Rocky Horror Picture Show.”

Aside from the ritualized viewing experience itself, this weekly event included standing in line hobnobbing with dozens of fellow viewers outside the El Rey Cinema for an hour or two before the film started at midnight.

Words To Bring Back: “Cubit”

– Definition: n. A unit of measurement; the distance between one’s elbow and middle-fingertip (approximately 18 inches)

– Used in a sentence: My cat is almost exactly two cubits long, including his tail.

– Why: Sure, we could always double the distance and call it “a yard” — but cubit is more organic, deriving as it does from our bodies. And I think measuring the Universe using our bodies is both a good metaphor and a fine aspiration.

First Graf: Ulysses

THERE’S NOT MUCH ELSE TO say about James Joyce’s magnum opus (although some would apply that descriptor to Finnegans Wake) that hasn’t been said, and by greater and more erudite scholars than this reporter: takes place over 24 hours in 1904 Dublin? Check. Semi-autobiographical? Check. Jewish protagonist? Check. A map of Odysseus’ voyage home from Troy to Ithaca? Check. Source of the annual Bloomsday celebration? Check. Bedeviler of censors and Mrs. Grundys the world over? Oh, most definitely check.