Table of Contents


Junk food for the soul. The spiritual path is extraordinarily demanding. Leela demands I give all I have to give. I have to examine how I spend my time, looking for ways to make all my activities count toward making progress, or at the very least not count against it. Doing anything mindfully makes it count. But some things can't be done mindfully. I can't harm myself mindfully; mindfulness wouldn't let that happen. The same goes for activities of no value, things I do just to kill time, to be entertained. Thoreau famously said "As if you could kill time without injuring eternity." Any art I consume, live recorded or broadcast, that's just for the lulz, just for entertainment is worthless. I can't afford to waste my time slacking off if I want to make progress with love.

Not all bad. When Leela first spoke to me in 2006 I started taking stock of my life. My most pressing problem was my diet: I had adopted eating habits from my wife that didn't suit me. I had become overweight and it was beginning to affect my health. Next most pressing was my lousy use of free time: instead of doing work that might contribute to making progress with love I'd been using entertainment to kill time, to fill the void in my empty life. I'd been filling all my free time with reading, watching TV and browsing aimlessly online. So entertainment had to go, all of it. It felt wonderfully liberating to stop, TV in particular. Leela began sneaking it back into my life fifteen years later, after I got through my remedial work and moved into my new home. It would become a useful tool for making progress, but not one I could easily accept. I had become dead set against entertainment. That's the attitude I needed to root out my bad habits. So Leela was crafty about it, suggesting I renew my old love affair with classical music. In the summer of 2020, recently broken up with my girlfriend, cut off from dance by the pandemic, I found comfort in listening to the classics, digging much deeper than I ever had before. I started listening to chamber music and studying up on it, trying to be an educated listener. Up until then most of my classical favorites had been symphonies or piano pieces. Listening to classical music was a form of entertainment I could easily accept without my thinking interfering. Listening to the classics laid the groundwork for me to see entertainment as simply the enjoyment and appreciation of art, letting great art touch me deeply. Leela can use anything as a tool for making progress, and great art has always affected me profoundly. She sees through to the end, the outcome and always chooses the right thing at the right time no matter how unlikely it may seem, e.g. her use of drinking to make me stop drinking. That example also illustrates the key point: my thinking can't be in charge. Thinking can't guide me right for making progress. Thinking's role is due diligence: think things through as well as I possibly can, but then check with Leela.

Entertainment and wisdom. There's an old saying: if I take one step toward god, god takes a hundred toward me. I was always suspicious of that idea. It sounded too easy. Then I discovered what my one step was: everything I can possibly do. If I do everything in my power, Leela will do the rest. But I have to do my part, and that means no wasting time. I can't make progress if I'm slacking off, taking it easy. There's no room for that on the spiritual quest. So once Leela spoke one of my first steps was giving up all forms of entertainment. At the time that seemed monumental. I had long been addicted to reading for pleasure, for instance. After my adventures in reading as a child and adolescent I settled comfortably into literary fiction. Rushdie and Márquez were my top storytellers in the early years of this millennium. After I got married my wife helped me develop a TV addiction, watching one, then two, then three or more hours of prime time drama most nights. Leela led me, step by step, to give it all up. The books were the hardest. Getting rid of my books took me more than thirty years, starting in 1979 when I ditched all my theosophical books in preparation for my big move to Boulder, and ending sometime around 2012, when I got rid of the last holdouts, consigning the last books I made by hand to the recycle bin. After I surrendered my life to Leela entertainment has slowly found a place in my life again. She's been patiently teaching me to be a discerning consumer of cinematic art. She had me start watching streaming movies and miniseries to keep the psychological intensity of making progress from overwhelming me by giving me a breather when I needed one. Now that I'm well established in my new home, living a life where every detail is aimed at making progress, streaming dramas have taken a bigger role, teaching me specific life lessons. Immersing myself in fictional drama helps me learn about stress: how much of what kind is helpful, when and why does the stress become toxic, and what's the best way to neutralize the toxicity. Leela's choices are fine tuned to my capacity. She has me edging anxiety. I usually have two movies or dramatic series going. One that's relatively easy for me to handle. One that's right at the edge of what I can bear. It sometimes takes me three or four sessions to make it through a one hour episode. Real world drama is what gets me, mostly police procedurals done artfully. The movie Melancholia, for all its madness and apocalypse, was easy going for me compared to real life drama.

Experience. My experience consists of everything I can sense directly via my eyes, ears, taste, smell or touch. Stories are not part of my direct experience. Thanks to mass media and the web, we have access to a vast number of stories. Stories are not part of my life; they're mental projections. Especially the news: all the stories about what's going on somewhere else. News stories are not part of my life. They are unreliable. All of them. For any news event, I can find thousands of stories. I will pick a story that fits my preconceptions. Other people will pick other stories. All of the stories are equally unreliable for my uses because I wasn't there. The senses are notoriously unreliable, but I have to rely on them to survive. If an event is in my life, I get the information I need via my senses directly, not filtered through anyone else. Not filtered through any agenda, political or editorial. The real thing, up close and personal.

Music. Music is a special case, because of what it is: sound waves. Sound waves can come from a musician directly or via technology. Once you introduce amplification, the sound waves are no longer direct. Recording and now broadcasting technology have made it possible for me to experience music at home that's better than live music. Music doesn't have reliability issues because it's not trying to accomplish anything. It's simply a work of art. A work of art has no agenda. An agenda means it's propaganda, not art. Luddites will blather on about the superiority of live music. There will always be luddites dragging their knuckles I mean heels. Nobody but other luddites cares what they think, thank heaven.