Wednesday, March 31, 2010

Conscious Backgammon

Our good friend Eckhart Tolle, in A New Earth: Awakening to Your Life's Purpose,tells us:"A powerful spiritual practice is consciously to allow the diminishment of ego when it happens without attempting to restore it." (p.215)

This spiritual practice I force upon myself almost everyday (as if driving in Naples isn't enough to diminish my ego).

I start off every writing day playing backgammon against my computer. Computers are generally good at what they do and most games I take a drubbing, and that's painful to what's left of my ego.

Eckhart also tells us that enlightened doing is not attached to outcomes, and I would like to be in a position to tell you that I see each game through to the end, win or lose, and that I concede graciously when a point of inevitability is reached. But generally, the truth is, I shut down the game and start up a new one and keep doing this until I finally win. Hey, what can I tell you? That's my writing process.

But here's the thing, I'm pretty sure the computer cheats. Let's look at the facts.

Fact 1: almost invariably, when we make it through to the end of the game with neither of us having knocked the other's tokens back to the beginning, the computer comes out ahead.

Fact 2: Almost invariably, when I expose a token to a possible bump of this nature, the computer rolls the exact double required to send my token back to the beginning--not just the number, but a double of the number. This happens way too often to be coincidence.

Fact3: When I've bumped one of his tokens off the board, he almost invariably rolls exactly what he needs to get back on the board immediate, while I almost invariably do not.

Fact 4: The version I have is a demo version that I downloaded from the internet. As a dis-incentive to simply using the demo without buying the actual version, the program stops exactly 17% of all games before their completion. Almost invariably, I'm winning when the game is stopped.

(I know, I know, it's not very New-Earth-Economy of me not to have willingly purchased the actual version, but it's this cheating scandal that's keeping me from it.)

I could go on, but you get the point--I'm paranoid. And that's exactly how awareness functions to allow the negativity in us to bubble up to the surface and dissipate.

On the one hand, conscious suffering of any sort--graceful acceptance of a loss at a game, non-reactivity when someone cuts us off in traffic--melts our egos directly, like sunlight to ice on a summer day.

And what we don't accept gracefully, and what we don't manage to keep from reacting to, has the exact same result (though it may take a little longer) so long as we remain aware of what we're doing.

I can't, for example, realize that I'm paranoid and at the same time remain paranoid for very long. By definition, paranoia (and every other form of unconscious behavior) requires a lack of awareness for its survival.

I guess this means my days of graceless losing are numbered too.

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