1 Week at Zen Monastery

“While knowing is important it is often not enough; I must deeply understand and grasp deeper than having information. I must practice it”

Main and other insights gained

-(Main insight and what this writing is about) Be ok with what is happening right now. If it’s not “good” realize that its ok, its ok to feel uneasy, its ok to have weird thoughts, its ok… Notice them but don’t push them away and chase a “better” state or don’t mask it with activity.

The importance of a community of like minded people working together towards a common goal. In Buddhism the community is called a sangha.

-Be mindful of who and what we allow to reside in our minds. We don’t let everyone into our home but we allow such bad people, bad thoughts/situations to occupy and dwell in our minds which is far more precious. 

– We are what we consume from what we watch, to what we eat, to what we listen to. Basically what we allow in through any of our senses. These things leave imprints in us.

–  The importance of silence and space to allow things to grow. I don’t know what life was like 200 years ago but I bet they had far more space and silence in a day. We don’t know what a such world looks or feels like because we never lived it.

The Start

Just returned home Friday November 1st from Deer Park Monastery. It was founded by Thich Nhat Hanh. The website says this “Deer Park is a place to quite the mind, look deeply and enjoy the wonders of life within and around us though the practices of sitting meditation, walking meditation, mindful eating, and deep relaxation meditation and sharing Togetherness.” All I can say is that I fully agree with that.

Biggest insight gained: To fully embrace every state of being; Embrace every thought and every feeling and every mood and stop trying to make it feel good. There is a saying in Zen “This Is It” and I feel this best describes what I found. Before I entered the Monastery I could have spoke about this. It’s actually the basic purpose of mediation. To accept what is happening and to watch with equanimity as various thoughts and feelings arise but to practice not getting caught up in them. If you do, simply notice you’re caught and come back to the breath. I wasn’t taught this knowledge on the retreat. It’s information I learned from prior studies.

On the second night I awoke around 12:50 am with a very deep realization of what I mentioned above. I didn’t get any new information it was like I internalized it or understood it at a deeper level. I saw that despite knowing this information I realized I had still been grasping for the “good” states of being. At that moment and currently at this moment I am totally ok with feeling like crap or for having bad thoughts. I’m ok with things not working out, I’m ok with what comes even if its not “good”. Because it is actually all good because it’s life. I don’t need to reject what’s happening at this moment and look for a better state. I don’t need to listen to music to make myself feel good because I want to chase some uneasy feeling away. I didn’t realize that I was, though subtlety, always trying to cover up these uneasy feelings with something else.  What I saw was that it was and is ok and I no longer need to run. I don’t need to cover these up. I saw that covering them up prolongs the states I was trying to avoid in the first place; additionally, they would seem to manifest in other behaviors. If I learn how to properly deal with them by accepting WHAT IS I can actually loosen their grip on me, which for me is this ever uneasy feeling, this restlessness, this needing to prove to myself, this needing to prove to others who and what I am. The biggest thing I want to stress is that I could have said all this before and I have but I somehow grasped it much deeper in my being. While knowing is important it is often not enough; I must deeply understand and grasp deeper than having information. I must practice it. It was a blessing that I would have never bet on; an insight I never thought would have helped me. You see what I wanted was for the “bad” to go away but, unfortunately, it never does.

A brief description 
I have never been to a Zen Monastery so I was sure what to expect as far as how a day would unfold. Here is a sample schedule that reflects an average day while staying.

What I wanted to “get out” of staying there was a mind of gratitude and leave with good feelings, which I did but it didn’t happen the way I envisioned it would and the insights I did get were things I wouldn’t have put money on getting.

Arrival time is set for Friday between 2 and 4; I was there shortly after 2. The gentleman checking us in said there wasn’t anything on the schedule for us expect dinner so we had the afternoon free. I dropped of my items in my room and went on a little walk up this pathway to a hill that overlooks the park and you can see a portion of Escondido, Deer Park is tucked away on a hill side of some mountains.

When I reached the topped I found a place to sit. The first thing I noticed was that I wasn’t feeling happy, and honestly I should have know this but I guess wishful thinking. I actually felt exactly the same except for it being very quiet and I could hear all the sounds of nature. However, all my thoughts from before entering were there. I also was getting urges to check my phone but I vowed to myself to limit my access to the phone while I was there, plus I wasn’t sure of the rules.

After awhile I went down and before I knew it the dinner bell was ringing. The first 20 minutes of dinner is eaten in silence which I knew meant to eat mindfully. I think it was the first time, since I can remember, eating in such a manner. What I noticed was all the different tastes of the food as well as the textures and that it took me a long time to eat. A good 30 minutes. Each bit was fully chew and then swallowed.

Shortly after dinner I retired to bed and woke up the next morning for morning meditation. The second day was filled with thoughts and feelings similar to the first day. But we had an orientation that went over what to expect and expectations of us while there. The Brother (monk) discussed the basic meditation process. I believe what he said had something to do with my new understanding though he didn’t tell me anything “new”. But life is vastly interdependent and usually when we look for a single cause we can’t find it. If there is a single cause we can look at that deeply and see so many other causes inside that moment.

After the orientation I asked myself a question “what is this feeling?” “Why do these thoughts keep coming back?” I felt the question go deep and I’m sure the all the space the monastery offered allowed the question to really work it’s way in. But who knows exactly how these things happen, they just seem to.

With Eyes Wide Open

I open my eyes and wonder where I am. How did I get here? Is any of this real or is all just a dream, a figment of my imagination.

I realize a great hunger but why am I so hungry? I thought I just ate! Is this hunger real? Hummm maybe I’ve been here way longer than I realized.

Let me just go and grab my things and I’ll be on my way.

I open my eyes and wonder where I am…..

The Dog, Yeah I’m and Idiot

Something just happened for which I feel exceptionally guilty about, so much so I wish I could just hide myself away and not have to face realty. I don’t write about things like this typically but I feel so guilty I’m not sure what else to do. So here it is…

I had a return item at home depot and I had my son and our dog with us. My son had his “magic wand” and was having me do various things like freezing my head so I was sort of rapped up in the moment with that. Then we parked at Home Depot and I was just thinking about going in and out and had a massive brain fart.

Maybe this is me making an excuse but I don’t think so. I’m trying to figure out why I did what I did. I accept full responsibility for my mistake and I’m not trying to go around it, just trying understand where the mind goes at times and how to be aware enough to overcome this human shortcoming.

I left my dog in the car and I didn’t even roll down the windows, and I don’t know why. I always take him in with us to the store. But some guy was there when I came out and blasted me for it, and to that I say good for him because I derived it. I’m glad he did this and I wish there were more people like him, standing up for what’s right. Maybe, for me, he went on a little too long but I got the point loud and clear: I am/was that guy. At this point I’m not sure what else to do. Maybe just sit here, continue to meditate on the issue and let it affect me.

Perhaps some slight irony but as I was driving home I starting thinking about the idea in my last blog, the one right before this one. I mentioned about doing a stupid act in a moment that’s typically out of character and then being judged in that moment by someone that doesn’t know you, in this case me.

I thought, “I wonder if the guy will go to facebook and talk about how the world is so fucked up and people like me are the problem with society”. First of all I know I am what’s wrong with the world and I might have even blogged about it, and if I didn’t it’s my title to my twitter profile. So then who are the “bad people”? Do they exist? By exist I mean the way in which the mind categorized “the enemy”, “the bad people”, or “the other”. To him I will likely be that face.

Here is the link to the blog I mentioned. It’s sort of a part two : Good and bad and morality is sadly in the eyes of the beholder

Good and bad and morality is sadly in the eyes of the beholder (Working idea

I was asked this question this morning and have been thinking about an answer. It similar to the Good vs Bad post and is very much related.

Good and bad and morality is sadly in the eyes of the beholder. What else could explain things people do to others who do not share their beliefs?

Yes it is in the eye of the beholder, to a degree. Please don’t think I’m attacking you because I’m not, just trying to make my point salient. Lets say for whatever reason you loose your temper with a person. Let say you lash out and actually attack this person, in a moment of bad judgment and reaction. Let’s say this is totally uncharacteristic of you. Are you now a bad person? Of course not, but if a person passing by saw this and it’s their only impression of you chances are you will be labeled as a ‘Bad person’. You could even, possibly, be lumped in as part of the evils of humanity in their mind.

People that seem to have different ideas of good and bad only seem, from the outside, to be evil or good when viewed with limited information. Good and Bad only seem relative when viewed narrowly; however, if we could actual piece the entirety of the persons being together we would see that their process of formulating ideas isn’t any different than ours. If we would ask them, they have their story as to how and why they do what they do. **Please note that I’m not saying there aren’t bad people with bad intentions but things aren’t always as straightforward as we sometime categorize them in our minds.**

I understand that their ideas could be totally inverted of what is general thought of as Good or Bad compared to our view; but, we need to also know this is only one person, or one culture, or one religion. To get a grasp on what good or bad is to us as humans it’s about many examples, coupled with time, that we see Good and Bad emerge amongst various cultures and various religions that has a general direction; it points to what is Good and points to what is Bad. A lot of times its hard to see one for one equivalents of Good and Bad amongst individuals and cultures. Its upon stepping back we see patterns across cultures, history, we know that there is something akin to Good and Bad but it’s not as clear as we’d like it to be.

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About not sharing beliefs it’s hard to share a set of beliefs without accepting some brute suppositions but these suppositions are usually an amalgamation of all prior knowledge, individually and culturally. However, there are easier and hard things to simply accept as good or bad. The harder it is to accept the more likely life, genetics, societies, social pressures will influence what we are willing to accept as good or bad. Again, this at face value seems relative until we step back. As we step back the clarity of relativity becomes blurry because we see similar patters of behavior that transcend culture.

What else can explain why we attack or hurt other with different belief systems? Keep the above and the other blog in mind and let’s back step to the example of you losing your temper and attacking someone. Unless this person thinks holistically and knows and understands human nature you will be forever a bad person in their mind. It is far easier to say, do, attack physically or verbally someone that we deem as a bad person. If we are trapped in our own world view, individually and culturally, and trapped by viewing things too narrowly it becomes easier to attack someone. We loose our humanity because we can’t see them as people. We can’t see them as people like us and instead of seeing the world in ‘squares’ as I do, or as we do, that person, or those people, see the world as circles. Viewed to narrowly we literally see ourselves as totally different people with totally different ideas and this from our minds perspective justifies an attack.

Good and Bad (Working Idea

There is sort of a part 2 to this post click here to read: Good and Bad Morality is Sadly In The Eyes Of The Beholder. It was a question I was asked in relationship to this post.

For the one person that might actually read this. The whole thing below is a mess and I’m continuing to work on it. I read and updated and then come back later and read again, and not always to completion so sometimes it’ll be open. Right now the idea doesn’t feel coherent or at very least not in the way I actually see things or feel about it.

My basic premise is to describe some basic human tendencies to think, reason and draw conclusions about a particular object, person/people, group, or idea/set of ideas. My point isn’t to argue about any particular moral system it’s to simply show how the mind computates moral actions. I realize it might sound like moral relativism but sounds like and are are two different issues. It’s very clear that not all issues and consequences carry the same weight. To slap or kill someone out of the slightest provocation are clearly not the same. For the time being I’m not going to address the moral relativism at length, because as I stated at the beginning it’s to show how minds work. My goal is that by trying to explain some basic human thought processes and how it blurs this line of those we see and feel as our enemy, and the other, and can give us some insight into how and why they see the world the way they do.

This idea struck me in almost an ah ha moment as I was listening to various political commentators regarding the Illhan Omar’s statement that some people did something. I don’t recall fully but I believe I heard her making a comment and it was slightly sympathetic towards ISIS fighters or those that joined ISIS. I’m not sure at what moment but I felt like I was close to something. If not Ilhan Omar there are people of the left that view the US with distain. They view all our actions and see most of our history as some sort of repressive system. However, they can more easily dismiss the faults and flaws of others for what they feel is ‘Good’. As in Ilhans case, it’s easier for her to dismiss the actions of ISIS members because it’s closer to her in many ways.

There are people on the right, American patriots, and those with a positive view of American that view ISIS with distain and are symptomatic towards American actions. They can more easily dismiss our faults and flaws for what they feel is our ‘Good’.

I should note that I’ve always been inclined to, when reflecting, to see things from others peoples perspective and/or at least try to understand them. My genetic makeup seems to lean me more conservative but have learned and grown to the point that I’m basically a centrist (hated by all) with a conservative nature.

Good vs Bad from the Religious perspective.
What is good and what is bad? From a religious standpoint the good and bad are things that we know of because ‘our book tells us so’. It’s more like adding something into us. For example, it’s wrong to kill people; we take this idea in and park it in our mind as a bad.

Good vs Bad from the experimental perspective.
I think the experimental perspective is best captured by this illustration. Let’s say you are at a party and there is music playing. It’s a vibrant atmosphere with lots of socializing, general busyness taking place. Someone decides that it would be funny to turn up the music but only by the tiniest of decibels. Every time they turn up the music it’s basically unnoticeable to the ear of the party goer. However, there comes a point when you realize that the music is blaring, or at very least much louder than it was a short time ago.

From this perspective noticing the music is not a 1+1=2 as with accepting religious ideas. It has more of a feeling to it but there are most certainly elements of concert facts. So a feeling is just that, a feeling. Once we formulate the feeling it becomes an idea that can be expressed with words. Some of these words are what we see in religion text labeled as good or bad. It starts with a feeling becomes concrete and then can blur back into a feeling, that might later need to be expressed again.

For example, is it bad to kill? A dogmatic religious person would say yes; but, what happens if you are attacked by someone and you then kill them? The idea of bad becomes slightly blurred. It’s no longer as solid of a statement that it once was.

It seems natural to have ready made labels in our mind of things good or bad. Sometimes is by accepting other times by personal experience. Life offers tons of flavors of nuance and there are tons gray areas but that’s not the point

We can examine our own life and question where it all came from and to what degree my parents, my culture and my genes have a role in playing to whom I give a pass and what I hold in contempt. What will being to emerge is that I see might see the world as a bunch of triangles and someone else might see the world as a bunch of circles. We can argue over theses views, no big deal unless we make it a big deal. It’s the thinking and seeing the other person or people as a solid ‘good’ or a solid ‘bad’.

What we can do to bridge the gap between us is know that the person I’m arguing with has formed their view exactly EXACTLY as I did but for the widest of variety of reasons they have concluded differently. For the social media warriors we see the words as a person that might not be expressing themselves properly. Or that person might be caught up in only see words on a screen rather.

It’s when we can’t see this we lose our humanity. Seeing this in others isn’t just a oh I see it, like a 1+1=2. It’s more analogues to a spectrum where black is absolute and white is to not see at all. The closer we can get to seeing how closely related we are to those we disagree with the more hormones we can act and be in the world.

One Thought, Right Thought

Someone might have these thoughts: Who am I and why do I matter? I’m only one person what difference do I make? What difference does anything I do make?

He then bends down and picks up a stick.

There are 7 billion people on this planet and each and everyday it moves and it all happens.

If one action doesn’t doesn’t matter how does it all happen? One thought ate a time, in a moment; one step at a time, in a moment.

Maybe there was once a single atom that asked such a question but here we are and here the universe is.

——

I think we do not know and understand the importance of one thought in one moment. Thus we conflate lack of understanding with it doesn’t matter.

These moments string together with the collision of time. Bang, bang, bang the moments go. Each nothing but each is absolutely everything.

If we actually think thoughts like that in the first lines we should reflect to see how life works. This shows how powerful right thoughts are.

The Race

Part 2 of 2 (Part 1 here) Results Here #620

Back in October of 2018 I saw this video (David Goggins). After I saw the video I did some searches on Ultra Marathons and singed up for Old Pueblo 50 (3/2/2019) – On race day I hadn’t run as many training miles as I should have and there is a back story but it’s just easier skipping over it as it doesn’t change the main premise. I should mention I’ve always stayed in shape but a long run was anything more than 12 miles.

As I mentioned I was able to practice being in the pain and see that pain is pain. So pain is just something that gets our attention. Now if I wasn’t running and felt such a pain then there might be a problem that warrants my/our attention! Because of this I can learn to just drop the story and experience the pain as I experience any other thing. It’s just a feeling!

I know that I’m not in extreme danger but my body doesn’t. Essentially my body is giving me the story which will hopefully get me to stop. Yes sometime I do NEED to listen to this message.

I hope this story illustrates my main point as well as the second point of needing to listen:

Up until mile 41 I was doing great! My personal goal was to have the first 25 miles completed around 4:30:00. Around mile 20 the leader had passed me in the opposite direction (First lap one direction second is back the way you came). My legs felt great at that point, sore but plenty of strength. I felt very mentally comfortable as I spent a majority of the first lap running with a group (awesome group of guys). So mile 20 I picked the pace up slightly just to see if I could do something impossible, catch first. My wife and son were at the halfway aid station (the start line) and helped me get in and out, they did an awesome job. I was in 7th, about an hour behind the leader, 30 minutes behind second, and 10 minutes behind 6th. I arrived at the half way point right on schedule: 4hrs 30mins. Keeping my time goal and running my own race.

A quick calculation and it seemed there were a lot of people running faster than last years finishing times reflected. Perhaps, we start fast, out of optimism, and then reality punches us in the face. Then again what the hell do I know this is my first ultra and trained alone.

After the half way point I really began to punch it and I believe I was going at a pace to complete the second half in about 3hr30mins to 4hr00mins. The second half of the race I switched to caffeinated gels. My overall nutrition plan was after the first hour I’d start taking gels every 20mins and drink 1.5L electrolyte water, and use lyteshow electrolytes in my water.

On the second half my stomach began feeling slightly upset. I limited my water intake because I didn’t want to run out but I started feeling really thirsty. I was practicing pretty deeply my running meditation, especially at this point. Now, roughly mile 35, I had passed 2nd place. I took off the hard on the second loop because I believed that I could push it through 25 no matter how bad of a condition I was in. Maybe, maybe, I could have kept the pace had I been able to stay hydrated. Around mile 37 I tried choking down a gel but I was on the verge of vomiting and was feeling pretty horrible. By mile 41 (aid station) I basically blew up. My ears were popping pretty bad and needed a little assistance walking. They assisted me and made me stay at the aid station for a bit until I recovered slightly. Just as I was leaving 3rd place had arrived at the aid station. Linda Vann walked me a little ways from the aid station and told me walking was good enough. This advice helped me more than she’ll know! However, I knew what walking meant: there was no way for me to get 2nd place or be on the podium, as I knew 3rd was shortly behind 2nd. Honestly, I felt like dropping when I hit that aid station. I felt like I was maxed out.

However, I did walk and for a few moments felt sorry for myself but I made myself walk anyway. I just kept walking. As third place (now second) passed me he said, “maybe you’ll get a second wind”. I thought there wasn’t a way in hell I’d recover. There was about an hour window in which I had lost my meditative mind. It was negative and telling me so many reasons why I should and could dropout. But as I said, I just kept walking. I tried and then slowly started to get my mind back.

As I was walking I started to recover and had around 5 or 6 miles to finish. I started to jog. I would jog and then walk for a bit, jog and walk and repeated this process to the finish. I had run out of water around mile 45 so I gulped down a 100 mg caffeine gel to power me home. I got to the state of feeling horrible again but just pushed through to the finish. I heard stories of people being a mile or two from the finish and not finishing but as long as I was alive I wasn’t going to let that happen though my body begged.

First Ultra (50 miles) And How It Improved My Meditation Practice

Part 1 of 2 (Part 2 Click Here) Race results here #620

Nothing like pain brings one into the present moment

I don’t see myself different than anyone so what applies to me applies to all humanity.

My first ultra was mostly mental work for me and I used my meditation practice to help. I practiced seeing it, practiced being absorbed in it, and practiced feeling it deeply. For example, “What would it feel like to win? What would it feel like at mile 40? I then, in a way, sowed these feelings into me.

I’m not a monk like meditator but I’ve been working at it for a couple years. I used a lot of the principles I’ve learn and applied them to running, especially while I was pounding the pavement. A big insight was during my training runs I was able to go further and see how deep our story of “pain” is and that most of the pain we feel is just a made up story. Because of this I can more easily and thoroughly apply it to my ‘everyday’ life.

Perhaps to better illustrate what I mean; while out running the Bear Canyon Loop I saw myself say something like “I’m so tired”, and I was tired at that point. But this statement of “I’m so tired” lead my mind to all different ideas/justifications. So I started practicing seeing this story even while I wasn’t running. I noticed that my mind is always giving a story in all aspects of life. However, it’s with running it becomes so much more clear because of the actually physical pain. Not extreme pain but enough to know that it’s there (I’m not a sadist). I see great value in story but also I see that I don’t need to be so caught up “in it”. This insight wasn’t new but I was able to internalize it at a deeper level than before. There is something about using some pain in a productive way, rather than running from it.

As we are in our everyday thinking, moment and living it’s hard to see that it’s a story, so I don’t blame those reading this telling me that I’m off my freaken rocker! My story (part 2 Click Here): Finished 5th overall with a time of 9hr:48min:(and some seconds).