What’s Important?

One day Joe was walking down the street and he noticed a nice little dinner. He wondered why he’d never noticed this quaint little place before. The dinner was crowed with a splendid vibe but not overly crowded. He noticed they had many of his favorite meals on the menu, including ice cream!

Joe grabbed the cold silver door handle and tugged the door open. The dinner was teaming with people and the fragrance of coffee and bacon peppered the air. The clamoring of dishes could be heard coming from the kitchen and many conversation filled the air. The kitch design made the place feel hip and all the energy made it feel alive. “This must be the place”, Joe speculated.

He stopped at the host stand and briefly flirted with the cute hostess before she promptly found him a seat. As he sat pondering over the menu he heard the cacophony of all those around him. As he sat there, trying to look over the menu, he began to realize he couldn’t hear what anyone was saying. All he heard was noise, that couldn’t be made clear. For a moment he wondered if a different language was being spoken but as he intently listened he knew that wasn’t it.

As he lifted his gaze from the menu to those in the place he quickly realized he couldn’t see well either. “What in the hell? Well, maybe my blood sugar level is low and I just need something to eat”, he thought. Somehow he flagged down his waiter and ordered. His order arrived and he ate, and the food was absolutely amazing. It was the tastiest food he had ever eaten. As a matter of fact, it would have probably been the best meal he ever had if it weren’t for his hearing and vision problems.

The following day Joe went to see the doctor and explained his problem. The doctor did the whole doctor exam thing that doctors do. However, he didn’t find anything wrong and sent him on his way with a clean bill of health.

Out of curiosity, Joe returned to the restaurant following the exam but the same thing occurred! His vision was blurred and he couldn’t hear anything! He thought: Seriously, what the heck is going on with me?”

Totally frustrated Joe sought alternative help. Years came and went and to no avail; nobody was able to fix his problem. He continued to yearn to see and hear the people of the dinner.

One evening while at the dinner Joe finally had it. He ripped the hearing aids from his ears and tore off his glasses and smashed them. Bewildered and in despair he sat there with his face in his hands. Almost like magic Joe realized he could hear the people around him. Ever so slowly he lifted his face from his hands. He could see too! He flagged his waiter down with great exuberance and ordered his meal.

As he ate all the noise and people of the restaurant quickly faded away and he enjoyed his meal.

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.

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.

fullsizeoutput_ff8

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.

Left and right lateral limit

Something that I’ve been thinking about it for sometime is an idea I call the left and right lateral limit. The left limit is a persons subjective idea of what horrible pain is and the right is pleasure (or happiness).

The pain threshold is subjective and as we, the human species, have evolved and conquered the external world our idea of what pain is changes; we experience less physical pain than a life several hundred and even thousand years ago.

As this occurs the entire spectrum of this left and right lateral limit shifts. Yesterday’s scrape become today’s ER visit. Yesterday’s bigot joke is today’s outrage.

Why wouldn’t wouldn’t we expect this as we pad the external world. In some regard these are consequences of an ever more civilized society.

Some might argue this isn’t civilizing. I say these new virtues are more extreme examples of past virtues . A major difference is in the past we had an extremely unforbidding environment to counter the virtues and to teach us.

With that environment gone we must self regulate this left and right lateral limit otherwise it spins out of control. However, since this isn’t natural human behavior so evolved behavior wins out (it’s easier to go with human behavior than regulate it). Thus we see today it playing out in a very vocal minority (growing).

Thinking: Habits

It seems like:

The depth of the habit or problem we are trying to fix/change will be met with the direct inverse in suffering (pain). When did we become so delusional that it would be all sunshine and rainbows for becoming anew? I’m not sure to what extent we realize our life is pretty close to pure habit.

If it wasn’t why is it so hard to keep our promises to ourselves? Ok, I’ll never eat sugar again, or tomorrow I’ll start (x) but we don’t and then suffering for not doing the set out task and our inner voice is slightly weaker (This is a slow process so we don’t see the change). Even as we succeed suffering takes place because the old way is there beckoning for us, for its return so we fight but we get tired because the pain is to much: Its to hard.

My son is 6 years old and his teacher uses this app called class dojo and basically its a up to the minute report of positive and negative things that happen during the day. We encourage Alex to get 100%. Each day he leaves wanting 100% but then enviably he ends up falling short by not following directions, or other little infractions.

I asked him why doesn’t he just follow directions or not yell out in class? It seriously melted my heart when he said, “Pap, I try but it’s so hard.” I deeply understood what he meant. I laughed and rubbed his back and said, “Yeah, I know.”

For us adults what does this mean? What is hard? This, in my estimation, begs the questions if we truly are in control of ourselves why would it be hard? This is a delusion of the mind. We are not in control our habits are we can use our awareness to help direct our actions and behaviors. Then I ask myself what is the lessor or better form of suffering? I feel it is the suffering from achieving rather than failure so this shows me how important it is for me to show my son in action, discipline and encouragement to build these in his life so he can be a functional, productive, purpose driven, happen human being. This same thing applies to me but I must be the role model…. Enough for now as it is time for practice.