The Subtle Art of Giving a Fuck

by dr j

C.E.C. Newsletter #140  

“I’m not telling you to make the world better, because I don’t think that progress is necessarily part of the package. I’m just telling you to live in it. Not just to endure it, not just to suffer it, not just to pass through it, but to live in it. To look at it. To try to get the picture. To live recklessly. To take chances. To make your own work and take pride in it. To seize the moment. And if you ask me why you should bother to do that, I could tell you that the grave’s a fine and private place, but none I think do there embrace. Nor do they sing there, or write, or argue, or see the tidal bore on the Amazon, or touch their children. And that’s what there is to do and get it while you can and good luck at it.”  – Joan Didion


He lays in a hospital bed, blue gown pulled down from one shoulder by a tangle of cardiac leads.  On the monitor behind him, the electricity in his heart flutters, then spills into a dozen different directions.   Alarms hoot.  A nurse runs into the room, then another, then me.

“Do you notice that? In your chest?” I ask, feeling for a pulse in his wrist.

“No,” he says, glancing behind him.  “What?”

The advice given to writers is to start in the middle.  It’s a good instruction, because it maps onto a reader’s experience of living.  At rare times, it seems like a perfect grace, our place as witness at the centre of it all.  Most of the time, it doesn’t feel that way, at least not to me. I’m often puzzling over how I ended up where I am, untangling events that led me there, feelings about them that colour the present. If not that, then I’m asking questions.  What should I do now?  Does it even matter? Is it worth giving even one fuck?

It is.  Maybe even all the fucks.  Every small act is tied to the other, and can create conditions for our continued freedom, or stand in its way.  In that way, nothing matters more, so we’re big on action at the CEC.  You know that, though.  It forms one of the pillars that girds us.  Meditate.  Get clear. Celebrate.  Find love.  Activate.  Let it move us where we most need to go.

Sounds easy.  It’s not.  It takes practice to give a fuck.  It needs strong, healthy relationships with others, so we get the feedback we need to be sure our aim is true.  It takes courage, requires that we deepen in both humility and trust of ourselves, so we can receive those messages without feeling we did something wrong.  It takes effort, because we must bring our full attention, our true mindfulness, to bear again and again, so the wisdom of our lived experience can find its way into the world through skillful means and do the work it most wants to do: repair the tender, hurting parts first in ourselves, then in others.

As Shunryu Suzuki said, “there is no such thing as enlightenment, only enlightened activity”. The insights we’ve gleaned on the cushion, or in play and exploration, find traction as they latch onto all parts of our day.  This month, we are going to work through our Mondays with the intention of applying what we know in larger and larger circles.  We’ll start first with ourselves, heaping on radical acts of kindness and self-compassion that make up the forever-work of getting out of our own way.  We’ll move slowly outward, to see how we can use our practice to show up in relationship, with another person, to our community.  We’ll explore how these connections not only sustain us and shape us, give us the feedback we need to grow, but move smoothly into larger themes of activism and humanitarianism, as a natural extension of the love we have for what holds us together.  Last, we are going to touch the cosmic, the dance that we are a part of, witting or not, willing or not, each cell a glimmering reminder of the Big Activity that is unfolding through you and your beautiful beating electric hearts, again and again and again.

Monday Night Explorations for October 2017

Start time 7:25pm; address is 967 College, just past Dovercourt at Octopus Garden Yoga.
Cost: $10-20 Sliding Scale


DATE: Oct 2
TEACHER: James Maskalyk
THEME: Explorer, know thyself.
MEDITATION:  It’s not where you’re from…
INTERACTIVE:  …it’s where you’re at.

James: This week, to start off this wild, widening adventure, we are going to cast the lens towards ourselves in fine detail, to see what we are carrying into the room and onto the cushion, so we can better understand the ground from which we act.  In the interactive, we are going to dust off a few CEC favorite  practices in action, so we can tune our awareness to a body and mind in motion.  Then we are going to use these as turning points for a discussion on the difference between action, and reaction.


DATE: October 9
TEACHER: Kevin Lacroix
THEME: Gratitude – special Thanksgiving edition!
MEDITATION: Nurture Positive
INTERACTIVE: When Life Gives You Lemons, Say Thank You.

Kevin: “Thanksgiving” in French is “Action De Grâce” (Look at that! Action – October’s theme – is built right in! This stuff practically writes itself). Literally translated back to English, Action de Grâce means “Action of Grace”. Tonight we explore the possibility of becoming skillful and mighty action figures of Thanks-giving as we meditate on gratitude, and invite the many meanings and expressions of grace (divine assistance; kindness; ease) to the proverbial Thanksgiving dinner table.


DATE: October 16
TEACHER: Jeff Warren
THEME: Being There for Others
MEDITATION: This is Me with Good Boundaries
INTERACTIVE: This is Me Swamped and Bleeding Sideways Into Your Eyeball

Jeff: I know what being there for others means: it means secretly imagining I am personally responsible for the happiness of each person I meet and making sure to get helplessly entangled in their psychic dramas so I can get overwhelmed and leave them confused and worse off than they were before. Or at least, that’s how I used to do it, when I wasn’t drunk. Then I learned about b-o-u-n-d-a-r-i-e-s. Apparently they have these in some countries. This Monday, we practice healthy action in relationship – ie, how to NOT merge into a flabby sea of oneness.


DATE: October 23
THEME: The Great Unknown
MEDITATION: Don’t Know Mind
INTERACTIVE: Making a Difference

Erin:  From the nightmare of colonialism to condescending “development” projects to every bad relationship you’ve ever had, so much damage in this world has been wrought by the mentality of “I know better, I can fix you.”. Cultivating the “don’t know mind” helps us listen more carefully and open to possibilities hanging out beyond the rigid assumptions of how we think things should be. Tonight we’ll meditate on all that we don’t know, try to ease into a warm bath (or cold shower!) of uncertainty. Then we’ll explore what it feels like to make a difference, and have a difference be made to us.


DATE: October 30
TEACHER: Jeff Warren
THEME: Why Are We Here, Anyway?
MEDITATION: Cosmic Lovefest
INTERACTIVE: Bombshell Bodisattvas

Jeff: Wow, lots of caveats around action this month, I guess we are a tender bunch – learning about self-care, about boundaries, about humility. But let’s not let our humanist realism trump our contemplative hearts, because, as everybody knows, love and service are still the only real games in town. Is there a place for this kind of idealism in our mangled modern world? What might it look like, and how can we help each other come to it in our own ways? The night before Halloween, we spook the hipsters with the only thing they truly fear: earnestness. Bring on the loving kindness!