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16840Re: The Art of Defying Death

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  • Papajeff
    Oct 19, 2009
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      Thanks, Bob. This story is
      as provocative as it is

      Reports of pure awareness
      and Samadhi are typically
      the result, as least in part,
      of entering a silence, a
      stilling of internal chatter
      an absolute surrender of
      linear thought, and an open
      embrace of whatever will come.

      At first digestion, this
      account of an attack and how
      it was handled doesn't seem
      to fit - when the author tries
      to compare her experience to
      yogic attainment of awakening
      to pure awareness or, but...

      after reading it a second
      time, a recollection of a
      conversation with my wife
      (at the time) came to mind.

      A close if not precise quote
      from her went like this:

      "If someone were to swing
      a baseball bat at you, it
      would stop in mid-air...
      because the idea that anyone
      would do that to you is
      something you would not allow
      into your consciousness."

      When that came to mind, the
      parallel popped up. The author
      of the story stopped the
      attacker in mid-air by refusing
      to allow another blow to be
      struck (in the same way she
      stopped the elevator in her
      dream) by slipping into a pure
      awareness of her own construct.

      She completely surrendered the
      linear rational world to a
      mystical one in which her
      siddhis (mystical powers) came
      to the fore.

      Chill. Very cool, even.


      --- In meditationsocietyofamerica@yahoogroups.com, medit8ionsociety <no_reply@...> wrote:
      > The Art of Defying Death
      > By Elizabeth Kadetsky
      > From theNew York Times 10/18/09
      > On a misty spring night in 2005, I approached my
      > apartment, on a tony block on the Upper West
      > Side facing the Hudson. I felt relaxed and calm.
      > Earlier that day I had attended a yoga workshop
      > with a guru from India, then completed a writing
      > assignment for a health and spirituality magazine
      > about, as it happened, instinct — or antar-jñana,
      > inner knowledge. I opened the outer door to my
      > vestibule, then crossed through its inner door
      > and into my lobby, leaving my back to the entrance.
      > I got a prickly feeling, I don't know why. I turned.
      > There I saw, pushing open the inner door, an
      > ink-black, gloved hand, exaggeratedly large,
      > controlled and deliberate. It charged toward me.
      > It was trailed by a body, the picture of death.
      > It is difficult for me to render the horror of
      > the image of that man entering my building lobby
      > that night, so great is the disparity between
      > its emotional charge for me now and the stereotypical,
      > almost comical picture he presented. He was a
      > figment from a nightmare. I guessed his height
      > and weight at 6'3" and 230 pounds, with the
      > physicality of a boxer. The cops later told me
      > that was right. His clothes were dark and
      > innocuous — clean black jeans, black sneakers,
      > a midnight-blue hoodie — as if chosen to leave no
      > impression whatsoever. In contrast, on his face
      > was a neoprene thermal ski mask, the type that
      > tents in front to create a ridge and thus evokes
      > to most anyone who's heard of him Darth Vader.
      > I later discovered while searching on Google that
      > this type of mask is favored by shoppers also
      > enamored of vigilante-style military clothing
      > and toy AK-47s — in other words it is meant to
      > provoke a reaction. Of the figure's actual face
      > I saw only slit-shaped, yellowed eyes and a
      > broad, acned, coal-black forehead.
      > This image seared in my mind, and somehow,
      > thinking without thinking, I reminded myself
      > to keep hold of it. Yoga's mental training,
      > it is said, enables the yogi to "act at once…
      > not stopping to think." I felt superhuman,
      > unburdened by the back-and-forth of everyday
      > deliberation, in possession of ekagra —
      > single-pointed — concentration.
      > In a half-second, I seemed to recall everything
      > important I had learned in 20 years of practicing
      > yoga. I remembered the feeling of command — of
      > flexibility and control. I remembered the words
      > of a writer on instinct I'd cited in the article
      > I'd just written, Malcolm Gladwell: "Take charge
      > of the first two seconds." And I remembered a
      > women's self-defense course I took in college
      > 20 years before, and practice we'd done screaming
      > with every bit of might in our bodies. This was a physical scream, performed with the same degree of exertion that, as it happened, we held our yoga poses.
      > But in truth, unfortunately, I was not so
      > formidable as I'd have liked. The man's weight
      > was more than twice mine. My heightened awareness,
      > my attuned and trained amanaskata — intellectual
      > clarity — was sufficiently developed to give me
      > merely the certainty that this man could, and would,
      > kill me. Alas, I had not yet acquired those other
      > metaphysical powers supposedly at ready call to
      > the ancient yogi, or siddhis — to make myself minute
      > as an atom, or bulky as an elephant, or isatva:
      > supreme over all. I knew only, with crystalline
      > sureness, that I had to marshal every bit of force
      > in my body and spirit if I wished to survive.
      > Then, that palm became a fist, and met my face.
      > I heard a loud crack. I was unconscious.
      > I came to consciousness on the ground. The man was
      > lunging toward me with fists. None of my knowledge
      > left me. He intended to kill me. I remembered a
      > dream I'd had once in which I'd been in an elevator
      > that was plunging to the ground, its cable severed.
      > In the dream, I held my breath and clenched
      > everywhere, and then stared, hard, at the ceiling.
      > I willed the elevator to stop plummeting, and it
      > did. The dream felt mystical, more like a vision —
      > a premonition, perhaps. Now, I created the same
      > sensation in my body as when I stopped the elevator.
      > And I executed the scream.
      > What happened to me next in that lobby seemed no
      > less numinous an experience than the single pointed
      > mind-state described by the adepts as Samadhi.
      > This is sometimes characterized as "pure awareness."
      > The thrill of it is said to be a manifestation
      > of spiritual, mental and physical harmony — which
      > may be why the medievals called yoga "the art of
      > defying death." Tennyson described Samadhi as
      > "the clearest of the clearest, the surest of the
      > surest, the weirdest of the weirdest, utterly beyond
      > words." I was in possession of no less miraculous
      > a power than what stopped the elevator in that dream.
      > The man paused, mid-punch. As if in reverse motion,
      > he then coiled backwards, slowly, his center of
      > gravity solid and low. Assured, with graceful
      > footsteps, he loped back out that door, and then
      > disappeared into the black night.
      > I was bloodied, my cheekbone was broken, and
      > I was in a state of shock. Eventually the cops,
      > and a friend, came, and I learned that an attacker
      > by this same description had sent another woman
      > for an extended hospital stay, with multiple
      > broken ribs and other injuries. She'd taken longer
      > before she screamed, they said. The cops
      > not-so-helpfully also explained that the man was
      > "an animal," his motive violence. He'd been
      > stalking women of a certain physical type.
      > They never caught him. I moved out from that
      > apartment, and moved on, but suffered significant
      > emotional trauma and post-traumatic stress disorder.
      > I do believe that yoga, and other things, gave me
      > the mental clarity that saved my life in that moment.
      > And I also believe that my training helped me survive
      > in other ways, in the aftermath.
      > That night, I finally got to bed around 5 a.m.,
      > my friend bunkered on my sofa. I survived, I thought,
      > over and over, lying in bed. But when I closed
      > my eyes, I saw three things in succession that
      > drove home to me how nearly I hadn't: the ink-black
      > hand on the door, the neoprene ski mask, and my
      > face in the mirror bruised, cut and bloodied. I opened
      > my eyes and watched the sky turn rosy pink. I closed
      > them, and saw the same three images.
      > This pattern continued, with lessening frequency,
      > for month upon month. They were a natural, limbic
      > response, I learned later: flashbacks. Flashbacks,
      > like the Samadhi described by Tennyson, exist
      > outside the realm of language and cognition. This,
      > say trauma therapists, explains why survivors
      > often manifest unresolved memories of trauma in
      > non-verbal ways — for instance as inexplicable
      > pains in the body or through a dissociative escape
      > reflex. Samadhi is mimicked in "moments of spiritual
      > or material emergency," wrote Geraldine Coster,
      > an influential British yogi and psychotherapist,
      > in 1944. Contemporary therapists have noted a tendency
      > for survivors to enter that state of "pure awareness"
      > so celebrated by the yogis during, and then
      > repeatedly after, a trauma. This, they say, can
      > become a bad habit. I learned this when, eventually,
      > I did go in for counseling for P.T.S.D.
      > This paradox has been acknowledged elsewhere.
      > A "survivor who used dissociation to cope with
      > terror" may eventually learn to use a "trance
      > capability" towards otherwise enriching ends, allows
      > Judith Herman, a pioneer psychologist in the study
      > of trauma, in her seminal book "Trauma and Recovery."
      > Before I sought the wisdom of the professionals,
      > though, I did jury-rig my own program for managing
      > those flashbacks, using techniques of "mental mastery,"
      > as it were, that I'd learned in yoga. For instance,
      > I tried to recast the images playing in my head,
      > sometimes imagining they were moving around physically
      > to different parts of my brain. I also inserted into
      > the sequence of flashbacks the image of the man's
      > miraculous turning and fleeing, and my mystical
      > feeling of omnipotence in that moment.
      > My therapist later gave these methods a stamp
      > of approval. Being able to re-conceive the meaning
      > of an assault to one of empowerment versus
      > self-blame proves a deciding factor in overcoming
      > trauma. "You didn't almost get yourself killed,"
      > she said to me. "You saved your life." Recreating
      > a narrative also helps a survivor overcome a
      > fragmenting of memory that is typical in trauma.
      > "It is difficult to see more than a few fragments
      > of the picture at one time," writes Herman, "to
      > retain all the pieces and to fit them together."
      > The sufferer struggles to reconnect disjointed
      > visceral and rational memories of the trauma.
      > Healing, writes Herman, "involves the active exercise
      > of imagination and fantasy." The psychologist Mary
      > Harvey includes in her seven-point checklist for the
      > resolution of trauma simply to gain "authority"
      > over the memories.
      > Perhaps every survivor overcomes trauma differently,
      > and at a different speed. My flashbacks continued.
      > Nightmares catapulting me directly back to that
      > horrific episode lasted for years. The dreams
      > were often a feeling, of prickly dread, or they
      > were more literal, about being trailed on a dark
      > street or ambushed in an enclosed space.
      > I charted my recovery through the evolution of
      > those dreams. Eventually that feeling of palpable
      > terror subsided. Once, around the time it did,
      > the black figure appeared as a comical-looking,
      > blob-like character in a black body-costume; he
      > was like one of those actors dressed as a piece
      > of licorice in a movie trailer. I told him he
      > could remain in my dream as long as he stayed in
      > the background and didn't hurt me. He agreed.
      > In a dream several months later, the man with
      > the mask was sitting in my hallway waiting for
      > me to come home, holding the mask in his hand.
      > At first when I saw him, I was scared, but when
      > I saw his face I also saw that he was human. He
      > told me he was struggling with guilt over having
      > hurt someone. I tried to imagine if I could
      > forgive him.
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