Friday, April 17, 2015

Relaxing In My Not Knowing

Two Zen monks are sitting side by side while meditating on the bank of a river  The older and wiser monk finally says to the younger monk, who has a look of dismay on his face, “Nothing else happens.  This is it.”
 
If you are like me, then you surely sometimes wonder to yourself, “Is this it?  Does nothing else happen”?  Much of my life’s journey I have been on a quest to find meaning in my life.  More often than not I do not feel successful.  Sometimes I wonder if I am searching for something that is simply not there.  Too often I feel like life is a treadmill and I’m getting nowhere.  Is it possible that this is it and nothing else happens?  Is my life nothing more than a revolving door with me doing nothing but coming to work, going home, falling asleep on my couch, waking up so I can go to bed, and then beginning the whole process over again the next morning?  This is what my life often feels like.  I want to believe I make a difference but do I?  Occasionally I feel passionate but more often than not I feel like I have lost my mojo and that I am turning into a grumpy old man.  The constant search for meaning can be exhausting.  After originally writing these thoughts I got home one day and waiting for me was an email from a friend containing an article that she said reminded her of some of my previous thoughts.  It was an article that talked about three major phases of life.  The first and longest is the time we devote to accumulating wealth and material well-being.  The second is the accumulation of spiritual things, i.e., gurus, seminars, retreats, and mystical experiences.  The third phase is called divestment.  You stop shopping for enlightenment and you make peace with not knowing.  You make peace with life and accept that life is not a question to be answered or a problem to be solved but a gift to be enjoyed.  I think I am now in this third phase.  I need to relax in my “not knowing” and simply enjoy life as it unfolds.      
 

Wednesday, April 15, 2015

Do What You Are Doing

Do what you are doing when you are doing it.
Prayer is attention, attention is prayer.
Do what you are doing when you are doing it.
When you sit, just sit.
When you eat, just eat.
When you drive, just drive.
When you shower, just shower.
When you talk to a friend, talk to your friend.
Do what you are doing when you are doing it.
God didn’t create light and check his email.
Do what you are doing when you are doing it
And you can pray all day in all ways.
Do what you are doing when you are doing it
And you’re practicing the presence of God.
-Joe Zarantenello
 
This excellent poem was written by a man I know who runs a retreat center.  It requires little commentary from me.  This poem perfectly describes mindfulness and Zen.  Be where you are and do what you are doing.  It’s that simple and it’s that difficult. Amen.

Tuesday, April 14, 2015

Differences Can Compliment One Another

Me and a book is a party.  Me and a book and a cup of coffee is an orgy.
-Robert Fripp
 
This is one of my favorite quotes.  Robert Fripp is surely an introvert although his career has been spent in the extroverted world of rock music.  I used this quote in some Myers-Briggs training I did about a year ago.  There is often disagreement and even conflict among us.  I hoped my training gave everyone a better idea of why we all think and act like we do.  My greater hope was that people saw how our differences can complement one another rather than be a source of conflict.  I am reminded of a time when I went to France and spent a week with people from twelve different countries and several different continents.  It was interesting to me how the people came from different cultures and backgrounds but at a deep human level they were all the same.  The vast majority of people in this world want the same things.  They want to live in peace and harmony.  They want to do honest work.  They want to take care of their families and get along with their neighbors.  They want to avoid suffering and they want to be happy.  We are all human beings and we come in a variety of shapes and colors.  Some of us are introverts, while others are extroverts.  Some prefer to make decisions based on facts and data while some prefer to go with their intuition.  Many keep our societies flowing by following our rules and laws.  Some support this by making their judgments based on personal values.  A whole lot of people keep us on track by ensuring things have a beginning and an end.  Others go with the flow and adapt as needed.  Our world cannot survive by thinking or doing things one way.  Variety is the spice of life and diversity in thought makes it all work.       

Monday, April 13, 2015

Pebbles Tossed Into A Pond

I am not trying to make a big splash with the things I write about.  My basic goal is to enlighten people and to expand their consciousness.  Rather than make a big splash, I hope that each day I am tossing pebbles into a pond and the ripples caused by my writing encourage other people to think for themselves.  I am often amazed at how little most people think.  It seems to me that most people are focused on the needs of the day and not on the quality of the day.  I don’t know why I am driven to seek enlightenment or to feel a need to enlighten others.  Lots of people who are smarter than me are not necessarily deep thinkers and people who are deep thinkers are not necessarily practical people.  In fact, many deep thinkers have their head in the clouds.  Only the best of them also have their feet on the ground.  I am a strong advocate of contemplation.  I encourage people to find some time in their life when they can ponder their own lives as well as the bigger picture beyond their own personal concerns.  Contemplation is part of spirituality.  Spirituality in simple terms is how you put the spirit into your reality.  Contemplation and spirituality can lift us above the sometimes petty concerns of our daily lives.  They can also expand the best parts of who we are.  Contemplative and spiritual people can show us how to be more loving, giving, and compassionate people as well as more connected with the deeper realities of life.    

Patience

Yesterday’s daily thought for my personality type said “your type has patience which is supported by a quiet strength and tremendous endurance.  You are able to hang in there through hardships and difficult experiences”.
 
I have found the idea of patience to be somewhat ironic in my life.  Some people think I am the most patience man they ever knew.  It is true that my feathers are seldom ruffled.  Occasionally I have a meltdown but it very rare.  I seem to be more patient and tolerant the older I get.  I am not sure if it is healthy or dysfunctional but my lifelong coping strategy has always been to wait out whatever is annoying me.  I guess this is how I “hang in there” through hardships and difficult experiences.  My wife calls this being stubborn and hard headed.  On the other end of the spectrum I have very little patience with ignorant people and any kind of BS.  Who has the time to argue with fools or listen to a bunch of baloney?  My patience is limited so I prefer to use it with people who need it.  My time is also valuable so why waste it on BS?  I seek the truth and I strive to always speak the truth.  As I once read, “always tell the truth and you won’t have to remember all your lies”.   In addition to truthfulness, we should strive to be patient, especially with other people, because sooner or later we will need to be on the receiving end of such patience.        

Saturday, April 11, 2015

Total Consciousness

A few nights ago I had dinner with my granddaughter.  However, these thoughts will not be a review of the poor service I received at Bob Evans restaurant.  They are about a conversation I had with my granddaughter.  At some point she said, “Paw Paw, I find it interesting that the older I get the more I feel like a person.”.  I thought this was a deep statement coming from a ten year old.  I guess even granddaughters don't fall too far from the tree.  She went on to say that babies don’t know they are persons or that they exist.  My first response to her was that I always thought she was a person from the moment she was born and at this stage of my life I cannot remember life before she existed.  I went on to explain in my best grandfatherly way that all of this was about self-awareness and consciousness.  Chloe is now very conscious that she exists as an independent and autonomous human being.  This was a wonderful conversation as we ate our dinner of scrambled eggs, biscuits, and gravy.  I love watching my granddaughter grow up.  She’s a wonderful young girl who has greatly enhanced my life and given me a lot of joy.  She also keeps me on my toes with her evolving consciousness, self-awareness, and intellectual curiosity.      

Thursday, April 09, 2015

The Eightfold Path To Enlightenment

  1. Right View
  2. Right Intention
  3. Right Speech
  4. Right Action
  5. Right Livelihood
  6. Right Effort
  7. Right Mindfulness
  8. Right Concentration
 
These are part of a Buddhist teaching called the Eightfold Path to Enlightenment.  In my mind they are applicable to any faith tradition.  The path teaches us to see things as they really are and to always have pure intentions without hidden agendas.  We can practice right speech by always telling the truth.  Our actions should be for the building up of others and not to break them down.  Right livelihood means to do work that is honorable.  Our actions and livelihood should be given proper and appropriate effort.  This means to do what is necessary and needed without over doing it.  Right mindfulness is being where we are and doing what we are doing and right concentration is giving our activity the thoughtfulness it deserves.  If we do all these things consistently we will be enlightened.