2008.06.27 -1:00 - The Power of Narrative

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    That night, at 1 am SLT, my watch started off as quietly and peacefully as it had been during the last three nights, a long string of solitary visits. But then, a quarter of an hour after the start of the session, I was happy to see Bertrum stopping by. He started out asking me about my interest in Virtual Reality.

    Bertrum Quan: hi Pema
    Pema Pera: Hi Bertrum!
    Pema Pera: Good seeing you here.
    Pema Pera: This is a rather quiet time of day, as you can see :)
    Bertrum Quan: I always appreciate the chance to attend.
    Bertrum Quan: May I ask you a question about your VR research?
    Pema Pera: of course!!
    Bertrum Quan: I’ve been quite interested in the logs…the various conversations (and side conversations as well). Also, they are incorporating the SL images, etc. I wondered what kinds of conclusions you are coming to regarding the use of VR?
    Pema Pera: One conclusion is that VR can combine two forms of contemplative practice, for the first time in history, that always have been separate
    Pema Pera: That is monastery practice and lay practice
    Pema Pera: We can each have our own work, family, life and yet we can gather here several times a day, like in a monastery
    Pema Pera: That has been impossible so far, in the first million years of humankind :-)
    Pema Pera: This by itself may explode any and all ideas we have about religious / spiritual / meditative practice
    Pema Pera: and may help to finally connect science and spirituality as well
    Bertrum Quan: How do you feel the avatars work in this context… they have their own “fictional” personnas…
    Pema Pera: according to the traditions I value, from Buddhism to Hinduism to Sufi to many others, including some forms of medieval Christian mysticism, our real-life personas are also fictional . . .
    Pema Pera: . . . and when we “wake up” to see what is real
    Pema Pera: we can then appreciate what we really are
    Pema Pera: In this respect SL can help us to practice waking up, so to speak
    Pema Pera: each time we enter and leave SL, we practice moving between realms of identification
    Pema Pera: and we learn little by little not to identify too strongly with any one in particular
    Pema Pera: This would be a second answer to your original question
    Pema Pera: VR as a way to learn to “wake up” from ordinary reality

    In addition to my two answers, monastery-lay practice combination and waking up practice, Bertrum added a third and fourth, world-wide community formation, and the power of narratives such as they are appearing on this blog.

    Bertrum Quan: Yes, I understand what you are saying. I am fascinated by the many possibilities.
    Bertrum Quan: There is also a very strong aspect of creation and creativity in what you are doing. It’s wonderful.
    Bertrum Quan: I find myself more engaged than I imagined possible…
    Pema Pera: I’m deeply touched to hear that, Bertrum.
    Pema Pera: And really, I’m just opening a door to a new room
    Pema Pera: it’s all the wonderful people that enter the room with us that makes the room worth entering
    Bertrum Quan: yes. from my limited observation, it is working.
    Bertrum Quan: The other amazing aspect of the VR/SL is the potential to create a world-wide community in this endeavor…
    Bertrum Quan: I see the power of the narratives–singly and collectively– to really propel the practice. Do you agree?
    Pema Pera: Oh, absolutely, yes!
    Pema Pera: It is the combination of these different media, VR and web, that makes everything so powerful
    Pema Pera: We will soon start a wiki
    Pema Pera: that will give a whole new dimension of creativity, as a new outlet
    Pema Pera: If you would like to join the group of 21 guardians we have now, I would be delighted — there are no obligations, only opportunities. You’ll be part of an email group, and if someone needs a replacement as the main greeter here for a session, and if you happen to have time, you can take over from that person. Other than that, we have a weekly meeting to discuss how to continue to improve the way we conduct these sessions. In addition, you can get a plot of land to use in our ofrect area, if you’d like to build a retreat hut there, among those of the others.

    Like in classical Japanese Noh plays, where there are comic interludes called Kyogen. Our Play as Being session went into a brief Kyogen intermission, during which Bertrum kindly agreed to join us as a guardian.

    Caspian Inglewood: hey you two
    Pema Pera: Hi Caspian!
    Caspian Inglewood: how are you?
    Pema Pera: quiet :)
    Caspian Inglewood: Ryusho is working on an outfit for me
    Bertrum Quan: yes. I would be pleased to do so. (my schedule may be an issue but I still would like to be included). Thanks.
    Pema Pera: good for you!
    Pema Pera: Caspian, good for you :)
    Pema Pera: Bertrum, great, good for us!
    Pema Pera: :>)
    Caspian Inglewood: yes, i am very excited
    Caspian Inglewood: they seem to make quality clothing
    Caspian Inglewood: it will be the garb of the Kwan Um school
    Caspian Inglewood: I might be the only person in second life with it
    Caspian Inglewood: hey
    Caspian Inglewood: do you know where they sell something similar to a zen stick?
    Pema Pera: no idea, Casp
    Caspian Inglewood: darn
    Caspian Inglewood: I’d prefer that to this begging bowl

    Exit Caspian, back to Noh.

    Pema Pera: btw, I sent an invitation also for the SL group “playasbeinghere” — that will give you the right to rez things on our land
    Bertrum Quan: yes, I think so. I’m not sure rezzing on land means… but great.
    Pema Pera: oh, it means that you can put objects here, like cushions or even whole buildings :>)
    Pema Pera: have you done any building in SL yet?
    Bertrum Quan: I’m not very advanced in the technical side of SL. But I find the ideas you bring to the table to be compelling…
    Bertrum Quan: No, I’ve not done any building.
    Pema Pera: no need to delve into the technicalities of SL, many people don’t
    Pema Pera: but if you get interested at some point
    Pema Pera: there are many of us who are happy to teach and help
    Pema Pera: both with building and scripting
    Bertrum Quan: okay, that sounds like potential for the future. Right now it’s the ideas…
    Pema Pera: fine!
    Pema Pera: For me that is central too
    Pema Pera: At the same time, I’m delighted to see some of us working on building the forest and sculpting the land here.
    Pema Pera: Gives us an environment in which to immerse and meet

    At this time we heard a loud splashing sound. The moat did what it was supposed to do, from times immemorial: signal the inhabitants that someone is approaching :-). It was Libby, a new visitor.

    Pema Pera: Hi Libby!
    Pema Pera: Come join us!
    Libby Sohl: hello
    Bertrum Quan: yes.
    Bertrum Quan: hello Libby.
    Pema Pera: Did you enjoy the water?
    Pema Pera: :)
    Libby Sohl: lol im sure i will get better at walking one day
    Pema Pera: we all have trouble when SL is slooooow as it often is these days
    Libby Sohl: yes it does seem to be getting worse
    Pema Pera: have you been here before?
    Libby Sohl: no i havent
    Pema Pera: we meet here a few times each day
    Pema Pera: to chat
    Pema Pera: typically there are ten or so of us
    Pema Pera: but this is a slow time, with people in the States sleeping
    Libby Sohl: thats great
    Pema Pera: we form a very informal group
    Pema Pera: the main topic is the nature of reality
    Libby Sohl: yes im in the UK so generally at opposite times to everyone else
    Pema Pera: but we talk about that in very playful ways
    Pema Pera: and I’m in Japan right now
    Pema Pera: Bertrum, you’re in the US right?
    Bertrum Quan: and I’m in the US…
    Bertrum Quan: late here

    Libby got to the central point without any further ado!

    Libby Sohl: i guess the nature of reality is in interesting topic when you consider second life itself
    Pema Pera: Bertrum just talked about how you can so easily meet people from other countries here — and look, three people from three continents :)
    Pema Pera: yes, exactly, Libby
    Pema Pera: that’s what we just discussed
    Bertrum Quan: it’s amazing to me…
    Pema Pera: moving from SL to RL and back again is a great exercise is seeing through the limitations of each realm
    Pema Pera: we tend to identify too much with our own country, gender, job, what have you
    Pema Pera: this is a great way to learn to taste freedom from identification
    Pema Pera: to “wake up”
    Pema Pera: from what you thought you were
    Libby Sohl: i think its dangerous trying to belong to too many things
    Pema Pera: to see that that’s all stuff that you have, identifications, not what you really are
    Pema Pera: yes, belonging has to be worn lightly
    Pema Pera: like clothes, not like skin
    Pema Pera: nice to belong though :-)
    Pema Pera: gently . . . .
    Libby Sohl: of course it is but you cant define yourself by what you belong to
    Pema Pera: exactly.
    Pema Pera: that would be very limiting
    Pema Pera: btw, we have a blog, http://playasbeing.wordpress.com/
    Pema Pera: it has background information, times at which we meet
    Libby Sohl: but for some people that is comforting
    Pema Pera: Do you mind if I include some of our conversations on that blog as well?
    Libby Sohl: no that is fine
    Pema Pera: thanks!

    At that time, my brief PaB summary was marked off by the sound of the PaB bell, resonating and lingering for its programmed nine seconds.

    Pema Pera: The bell you just heard is connected to what we are doing here
    Libby Sohl: thats very useful thank you
    Pema Pera: every 15 minutes we drop what we’re doing for 9 seconds
    Pema Pera: as a kind of 1% time tax
    Pema Pera: micro meditations
    Libby Sohl: i actually had my sound turned off
    Pema Pera: to unglue from identifications
    Pema Pera: :)
    Pema Pera: so in RL we try to stop briefly four times an hour
    Pema Pera: and then four times a day we can get together here in SL
    Pema Pera: 1 am 7 am 1 pm 7 pm
    Pema Pera: very short — yet very intense in frequency, rather than duration
    Pema Pera: a new approach :)
    Libby Sohl: which suits modern lifestyles
    Pema Pera: yup
    Pema Pera: that’s the idea
    Pema Pera: we started three months ago
    Pema Pera: and I’ve been surprised, shocked almost, to see how well it seems to work
    Pema Pera: and how rapidly
    Libby Sohl: im just pleased to find people with similar thoughts
    Libby Sohl: there arent many people you can bounce ideas around with in the same way where i am rl
    Pema Pera: that’s true for many of us, Libby
    Pema Pera: SL gives many opportunities, and this is one here.
    Libby Sohl: yes it is

    It was such a pleasure having the three of us in this conversation, from three completely different spots on Earth, all having met only very recently, and yet being engaged in the kind of discussions we rarely find opportunities for in RL, as Libby had just mentioned . . . .

    Bertrum Quan: i have found the experience very engaging–even though I can only attend a fraction of the sessions…
    Bertrum Quan: it expands one’s thinking…
    Libby Sohl: well i am a student and its my summer holidays so i have a change of attending regularly at the moment
    Bertrum Quan: and experience…
    Pema Pera: please do join us any time you like, Libby
    Libby Sohl: i am going to have to go soon though ive injured my neck and i need to meditate
    Pema Pera: I’ll have to go now, time for dinner here in Kyoto . . . but we’ll be back here in five hours.
    Pema Pera: I hope nothing serious?
    Libby Sohl: i dont know
    Libby Sohl: ill give in and goto the doctors soon if it doesnt ease
    Pema Pera: Better be careful, while meditating
    Pema Pera: knees are easy to damage and hard to heal . . . .
    Pema Pera: and meditating can be done on chairs or standing or lying down . . .
    Libby Sohl: of course
    Pema Pera: Nice to meet you, Libby!
    Libby Sohl: thank you both I’m sure I will see you soon
    Bertrum Quan: it was good to meet you, libby
    Pema Pera: And thanks for joining our “guardian” guild, Bertrum :)
    Bertrum Quan: thank you for the opportunity
    Pema Pera: Libby, we make sure that there is always at least one person here
    Pema Pera: at each meeting
    Pema Pera: so we have a group of a couple dozen of us
    Pema Pera: one of whom volunteers for each slot
    Pema Pera: so that no one comes here to an empty pavilion
    Pema Pera: each greeter “guards” the time slot — hence guardian
    Libby Sohl: well that is nice to know :-)
    Pema Pera: you can see Bertrum’s new title above his avatar :>)
    Pema Pera: See you both!
    Libby Sohl: Goodbye
    Bertrum Quan: take care…
    Libby Sohl: thanks Bertrum I’m sure i will see you again goodbye both

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