A matter of perception

The gradual vs. sudden debate.

Is it about effort or effortlessness?

Can delusion and wisdom coexist?

Do I have to be aware, as in pay attention, or is it a matter of remembering…I’m already aware?

Who is being aware? What is awaring? When is awareness possibly not there? What’s the difference, how does it feel–aware, unaware?

I’ve been in a bit of a funk. A slow moving, subtle funk that all the sudden sort of starts to be unreasonable. These periods seem to happen with a fair amount of frequency. Whether it’s my particular chemistry that tends toward depression or whether it’s a consequence of the ongoing uncertain conditions of my life–relatively speaking–I’m not sure. Whatever it is, it’s pretty familiar even if it still catches me off guard. Often, I realize I haven’t been practicing in a formal way as much. Or at all really.

This winter I spent two and a half months on my own, in the woods here. After six weeks on retreat. The mind was sharp, clear, peaceful much of the time. It’s different now. Always surrounded by proliferating tendencies. My mother. My father. House guests. This damn machine.

But then I sit, and much to my surprise there’s clarity. There’s no anxiety or restlessness, no boredom, no avoidance. There’s just awake awareness, right there.

So why the funk?

I perceive (interestingly meaning first and foremost, sense, intuit, become aware of–but here I mean interpret) that I should be this or that. I compare. Well to be fair, the mind or the thinking mind, or whatever it is, does that. I don’t do that. And yes, certain conditions make for this to be a far less frequent occurrence, and others not so much. But if freedom is right there, in reach, what is the difference really?

Committing. Sitting. Welcoming. Living this life.

Leave a comment


  1. Is it that dissonance between what this time in your life is, and what was expected, or perhaps desired? Completely understandable; the grass always does have a verdant sheen… anywhere but here and now, sometimes.

    Wondering if that’s why the time sitting chases that spectre away so easily, that it roots you for a time in the beauty of now, unobscured by casting your mind to the Jones’s perfect yard. It’s the ongoing sense of that appreciation that can be so ephemeral.

    • It’s funny Ted because I’m not sure I ever had that particular dream or expectation (of a family, a yard, whatever). It’s more the “should be doing something more productive than this” running commentary and the thinking, well, if I only I were to ordain then it would all be settled–no productivity in the conventional sense of the term needed (ha!). It’s a function of being human. I don’t begrudge it–well, only when I’m blaming society for putting those shoulds in there ;) but your comment is astute. I particularly appreciate the sensitivity of your words in describing the practice of pure presence. And yes, sustaining the momentum of gratitude and awe and wonder at it all is a challenge. Sometimes it’s just dreary, day after day. And then in a moment, there’s that wow again. Thank you.

  2. I’ve been trying to think up a suitable, encouraging comment. But the Black Eyed Peas song, “Smells Like Funk,” wouldn’t leave my mind. So I’ve copied in a bit of the song below. Sorta gross, but that’s just how life is most of the time . . . I hope this doesn’t offend!
    If it smells like Funk it must be us
    The Funk funk full foul stinky it’s stanky stuff
    . . .
    If it smells like Funk it must be us
    Cause nobody’s Funky as us, Cause we keep it Stinky (Stinky)
    . . .
    The Funk phenomenon, we Funk you on n’ on
    There’s no need to hold your nose,
    Cause this funk stink like a rose

    Big booty Funk, Toe jam Funk,
    Underarm Funk, like you headlocking a Skunk’
    Reekin’ like diseased athlete’s feet,
    The stench didn’t come till after this beat
    Smellin’ like droors no weezin no pause
    Put your hand up on the speakers get smelly ass paws
    You know we was coming before we entered the door
    Cause you could smell the rhyme when we was walking down the hall
    We bring the Funk worse then a wet dog
    . . .

    We all got that smelly, funky stuff going on. But it stinks like a rose, if we don’t hold our nose. Maybe. I guess.

    • Thanks Barry. If I’d chosen the word blue, I wonder what song would have come into your head ;-)

  3. You contrast your behaviors during the winter and the summer. In my own experience, qualitative seasonal differences affect my behaviors (and my moods), with the winter being naturally conducive to sustained introspection. Summer feels like a season of doing, to me, and there’s nothing wrong with being in tune with that. (Alternatively, I also find that high heat and humidity sometimes translate into lethargy.)

    • Kurt, my bedrock friend…undoubtedly, the seasons, as with various other conditions, relate to our states of mind. But where is the causation? It’s all the mind, no? Expand, contract, up, down, doing, contemplating, again, nothing excluded.

  4. You are such an inspiration, I love and always admire your utter humanness.

    I wonder, what good is illumination without the funk? Would we know how blessed we truly are if we didn’t also feel the heavy gray blanket of ugh?

    • Dear heart. How blessed I am with your support and presence (no pun intended). Yep, as far as I can tell samsara really is nibbana, it’s all of it. Nothing is excluded. It’s just a turning of the lens.

  5. Katherine, your ability to keep “Committing. Sitting. Welcoming. Living this life.” during the ups and downs of life and practice is exemplary and encouraging.
    With gratitude and metta, Terry

  6. Been noticing how my funk is often followed by my incessant need for “an answer”.

    Thus, I’m looking at that need … the feeling that “there has to be answer” … a way around this, through this, over this, blah, blah, blah instead of just … with it.

    Me no likey funky feelings. :)

  7. Katherine, I came across this earlier from Charlotte Joko Beck to share with you and others as it may be helpful:

    “Student: When I feel depressed, I like to get into a creative visualisation of feeling good.

    Joko: That’s a loop. We think that the way we are isn’t interesting – that there’s something wrong with feeling the way we do. So we substitute something “better” that we invent. If we can can instead simply investigate feeling down or depressed and be interested in it, we’ll discover certain bodily sensations and certain thoughts that feed into that state. When we do that, the depression tends to disappear, and we feel no need for visualisation or fantasy or any other state”

    (“Nothing Special”, p.198)

    This could equally go with your other interesting and latest post on inquiry/investigation.

    With metta, Terry

    • Rodney Smith made a similar point in a recent dharma talk on boredom. Boredom and interest can’t co-exist. If we are bored and we take interest in exploring that boredom, we soon find that the boredom dissolves.


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