Beclouded

I lick my finger and hold it up
Ahhh, there you are wind!
Today you blow north
Tomorrow you blow south
If on the third day you blow west are you still the wind?

This is who I am
This is who I’m not
Which is me and which is not?

Boarders, barriers encompass the mind
this is real and this is not

Thought and not though
are both not equally invested?

I used to know
Now no longer not

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.

Freewill?

We have freewill do we? Who is the one thinking our thoughts? Is freewill a continued state of giving unintentional attention to the thoughts that arise and then getting lost in them? Is freewill impulsively acting out however we feel? Wait, did I choose to feel this way at this moment and think this thought? Is freewill blaming others for making us feel this way? How can they make me feel this way if I am free?

Today is the day of change I declare! I act on my own accord and with complete autonomy. Wait, why did I just do that, again?

Poverty Mindset

A couple days ago I read this nice little article by Reynolds Made called the Power of Silence in which  she speaks about the importance of silence in her life and then gives some very piratical ways incorporate some silence in your life.

My post today is regarding a comment that I read that really struck a cord with me and it’s been on my mind since.  It went something like this, “I would like to have some silence in my life but I have two little kids.” I felt a great amount of compassion and understanding because this type of mindset is something we all find ourselves in, albeit to varying degrees.

To me, whenever we are here or in this state we are in a poverty mindset, in that it is disempowering and lacks creativity. What we want is outside our control or, first, in order for us to achieve (anything) our external circumstances must change before we can. If only I had this… then I could be happy; If only I could do this… then I could finally do what I always wanted; if only things were different.. then I could… if only, if only.

In David Deutsch’s book The Beginning of Infinity he say’s problems are inevitable and all problems are soluble given proper knowledge. For me there are several ways to achieve knowledge but it almost always starts with a question, and the way we framed and/or reframe the question becomes very important.

There is one question that I like to ponder when I find myself in a poverty mindset: Well, what can I do? Sometimes the solution is a quick one and other times the solution takes several years to achieve. It all depends on the complexity of the problem, and then I do what is within my control and leave the rest.

Thank you!

The wedding 

This post is not rich in philosophical content or ideas. I believe it is a pretty typical thought process and nothing too noteworthy. However, I believe that it is important to continually define and redefine basic ideas and concepts that I hold. I see things in my life as continually changing and what I struggled with about these questions a few years ago is totally different than what I struggle with today.
As I drive home from Wisconsin to Florida after a fun (my definition of fun below) filled weekend. I reflect upon it and the importance of it in my life. Where and how should I place it?

A very light definition of how I am to finding fun and enjoy ability in context of this post.

What do I mean by fun? Are fun and enjoyable the same? For me when something is fun it falls into a goofing around category in which the cares of life I relinquish. Something the  enjoyable doesn’t quite peak the arousal scale quite as high as something that is fun but it’s a more steady state.

What does it mean to be happy? Is happiness a life lived of virtues? A life lived by principles that supersedes more primitive desires? Is it having fun and doing everything that I please? It almost seems like doing something fun would bring lasting happiness because one is always having fun. But for me this is not been the case. I am prone to panic attacks and because of this I am slightly more sensitive to my inner mental states. Usually after having too much fun I become upset with my behavior. On the other hand, the act of devoting to virtues, letting go of attachments, and living a more principle centered life leaves me more content inside. Life is less fun but more enjoyable. The downside to sacrifice is that I get bored. It’s almost paradoxical because I work on letting go of my attachments but I get bored. What am I still grasping at? What do still have attachment to?

How much balance should I have in my life? How much fun should I allow myself to have? Know thy self. It is a struggle for me because I know the importance of living a virtuous life on an individual, family, community and societal levels and the downfall of societies because of lack of virtues. I most certainly have noticed a huge shift in my behavior, my actions and my thought process which has shifted my perspective, or paradigm, about having fun and the enjoyability of life.

Where do I go from here? I guess nowhere really. I will continue on the path or the Journey of life. Hoping new insights and answers are revealed as I work and play with life.