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.

Judge Them First

I imagine having everything I ever said and thought recorded. I imagine it’s there for all the world to see and to scrutinize.

How deeply am I a bungling  hypocrite? How logically consistent am I really? How honest am I really? Am I really the good person I like to think that I am? Am I really the hero?

Unfortunately I am the hypocrite and the  liar and not the good hero. I blush at thinking about how much work I need.

Why Shouldn’t I Be Judged?

This popped into my mind, “I don’t want to be a positive roll model for my sister.” Whether I want to or not I’m some kind of roll model, not in a self  congratulatory way.

My actions are always judged and perceived by someone. Usually the closer the relationship with someone the more my actions are seen. I judge in such a manner automatically.  Though with practice I’m far more aware of these charter infractions; meaning, I can  circumvent this genetic impulse but it must be done via something like mindfulness, observation, attention and/or awareness.

So why shouldn’t I be judged? Well I think I should be.

 

The Easy Way

Simplicity isn’t easy because our nature tells us we need more. Collecting and living in abundance is actually the easy way. However, the best and easiest way to live a purposeful life is through simplicity.

Discipline and habit (suffering) are our friends. Don’t fear suffering, embrace it!

A Man (or woman) livith

Having an orderly soul is the main key to life.

white, black, rich, poor, fat, thin, ugly, beautiful, sick, healthy, old, young right, left matters not. The inverse of one’s position should matter not nor should it agitate one’s heart and mind. It’s through the inverse that life exists, not it’s  eradication of the inverse.

we can all meet in the field of our humanity and disparities.

may I seek to bring my soul in order and see life for what it is, no more need for hatred or division.

 

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).