Mind at ease

I like the word, “ease”.  Like might not be strong enough?  I really, really like the word, “ease”.  The definition is the absence of difficulty or effort.  Wow.  How great is that?  I meditate with a Buddhist yoga instructor on Sunday mornings.  He’s from middle TN and very laid back.  Probably not at all what might have come to mind with the description, Buddhist yoga instructor.  Anyway, the first part of our meditation time is a guided meditation.  We say to ourselves, “may I be I happy, may I be healthy, may I live with ease”.  Doesn’t that sound wonderful?  Especially that last part… live with ease.

The drive to and from work can be hectic.  My job is very stressful and hectic.  The thought of living with ease sounds refreshing to me!  The cool thing about what I gain from meditation (and other things like this) is that my environment doesn’t have to change at all for me to be in a place of ease.  But it can be hard to get there!  It’s that whole, peace in the midst of the storm, kind of thing.

In the last day or two, I’ve gotten a bit uptight reading about a certain topic.  I was reading back and forth between two camps.  One believes in what most people would define as free will.  And the other does not think we have free will.  I finally texted a friend who I talk to about these things from time to time, just to get his input.  This is a portion of his response:

“Everyone wants to be right about the truth of one thing or the other.  I believe both are true, and at the same time, both are not true.  Our minds try to figure out the truth, but if it never did, then it wouldn’t have anything to live for.  Without our minds, we would just be…  I like Just being…”

It’s not so much the “truth” of the context of what he said, but for some reason, it just put my mind at ease.  It helped me breathe easier.  Everyone is different.  What puts my mind at ease might drive someone else crazy.  So I can’t tell you what that thing is that will put your mind at ease.  But I encourage you, whatever it is that puts your mind at ease, do more of that.  I think we are more used to what being stressed out feels like than what living life with ease feels like.  For me, I think if I can spend more time in a peaceful place, a place of ease, and get more used to that feeling, it would be a little easier to bring that into my everyday life.  I’ll try that and see how it goes.  🙂

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And no religion too

I’m not sure why, but sometime yesterday I had this thought; “I wonder how I would view life if I had grown up with no religion?”  I played a Christmas gig at a church over the weekend and I imagine that prompted me thinking in that direction.

I grew up in the Midwest and in the South, so Christianity has been all around me my whole life.  I would have labeled myself a Christian for about 33 of my 49 years of life.  Now I try to not have any labels and fluctuate between probably never being 100% that there is no God of some kind, and probably never being 100% sure that is there is some God of some kind.  LOL

So I did what any scholarly, deep and free thinking individual would do.  I Googled it.  I Googled “growing up without religion” just to see what kind of experiences others may have had.  I found a post on a blog called Scary Mommy that I thought was really good.  I’m not saying she is right and others are wrong, I’m just saying that I enjoyed reading it and thought she has a pretty healthy look on life.  And since I don’t think I can say what she said any better, here is the link:
http://www.scarymommy.com/i-was-raised-without-religion-and-im-glad/

I know this time of year can be fun for some people, stressful for some, and sad for others.  If I don’t post again in the next couple weeks, I hope you all have as peaceful and enjoyable a holiday as possible, and safe travels to those that are traveling to visit family and friends.

Health

I am 49 years old and have been very fortunate to have been very healthy for most of my life.  I have had things that most people have had; chicken pox as a child, started wearing glasses in my early 20’s, I’ve had the flu a handful of times, colds here and there, etc.  But, no major health issues at all.  Heck, I don’t think I had my first cavity until I was around 35 years old.  Well, now that I think of it, I had some serious back issues for a while due to a very slight scoliosis and lots of years of martial arts.  But good chiropractors, tai chi and yoga have done wonders in the last few years.  But overall, I am very grateful for years of good health.

Earlier this month, I was in the hospital as a patient for the first time in my life!  Long story short, it appeared that I was having a heart attack and went to the ER.  To the staff there, it also appeared that I was having a heart attack so I was admitted to the cardiac unit and hooked up to many machines and given all kinds of tests over the next 24 hours or so.  The staff there was wonderful.  But they took so much blood that I’m sure the hospital is run by vampires.  🙂  I was relieved to hear that they could not find anything obviously wrong with my heart or lungs.  So I was sent home.  Over the next few days, I slept about 15 hours a day.  I was off work for a week, and in retrospect, it probably should have been longer.  I’ve had some follow up visits and other tests done and still nothing concrete as to the cause of my symptoms.  The symptoms are not as intense as before, but are still hanging around.

One odd thing is that I don’t seem to be terribly concerned about what some would consider alarming symptoms.  Odd, but good, I think.  I’m pretty sure that things like being mindful and living in the moment and other Buddhist type principles I’ve been reading about and practicing have helped to diminish the amount of worry that I’m doing.  I am still working on that being the case in every other area of my life!  LOL  Not judging situations as “good” or “bad” also helped me a little with all this.  And I do mean, a little!  But a little is better than none.  Again, applying this to other areas as well can be tricky, depending on how we normally label the situation.  It’s about training your mind to think differently.  And it’s not like once it’s done, it’s done.  It always makes me think of the Buddhist monk at the monastery down the road from where I work saying, “we have to practice, practice, practice”.  He’s right.  But then there is also that element of just going with the flow of life, and being OK with it.  It’s an interesting balance.

I’m noticeably better today for the first time since all this went down.  I don’t think I’ve ever taken my health for granted, but I think this will help me be more grateful for good health than ever before.  Feeling like shit really sucks.  Being in the hospital really sucks.  This experience leaves me with a greater respect and compassion for people who have had to endure chronic illnesses, long hospital stays, ongoing treatments and blood work, etc.  If you fall into this category, you are a rock star!

I wish you all the best possible health for where you are in your life.

Ah, life…

Hello all.  I’m working on a couple of posts that I just can’t seem to get my thoughts together on.  Maybe I’m reading too many books at once?  Too busy?  I’m not sure?  One topic that I’m hoping to write about soon is whether or not we have a soul.  By “soul” I mean an eternal version of ourselves.  Tolle talks a lot about watching the thinker.  I take that to mean that the watcher is the soul part of us and the thinker is what many call the ego.  Other authors write in a similar fashion about living from the “real you” or your essence or spirit, etc.  Then there is the idea that what you see is what you get.  You are just you.  There is no separate you from your body/thoughts/feelings/experiences.  Often, on many topics, I find myself leaning towards the teachings of Thich Nhat Hanh.  At the bottom of the page, I will put a link to a Facebook post that I found that I like.  The topic is reincarnation, but it covers the “soul” question while discussing it.  I have been kind of flip flopping back and forth on this for a while.  And that’s ok!  It’s the whole, shifting beliefs thing.  I’m not sure that there is a way to be completely sure of which view is more accurate.  It’s quite possible that I’ll never completely land on one side or the other.

I am also recovering for a bit of a health scare.  I spent a day in the hospital for the first time in my life!  The staff was wonderful, but I really don’t ever want to do that again.  LOL  And the kicker is, we still aren’t 100% sure what the issue is.  More tests next week.  My doctor did say that it all could be stress related.  I didn’t realize how long I had been putting in 60+ hours a week until my wife reminded me.  3 years!  Yikes.  So now tell myself that I can get a whole lot more work done in 40 hours than I can if I’m dead!  🙂

Back to the too many books at once.  I’m currently reading “The Exquisite Risk” by Mark Nepo, the 3rd Harry Potter book, “Nothing to It” by Phap Hai, and “The Wooden Bowl” by Clark Strand.  I think this weekend will be mostly The Wooden Bowl and Harry Potter.  Nothing too deep.

The Wooden Bowl is a simple take on meditation.  I really like how the author approaches it.  He says meditation should be a hobby, not a career.  He said that he likes it best when people say that they meditate just because they enjoy doing it, rather than trying to change themselves some way.  I’ve had a couple very enjoyable sittings in the last few days while approaching meditation with this kind of mind set.

My family and I will be traveling over this Thanksgiving weekend to see my parents and sister.  It should be a good time to be had by all.  If you are celebrating Thanksgiving with family, I hope that you have a safe, drama free holiday.

 

If you are interested in reading the TNH post I mentioned, here it is.

That tug, and what to do with it?

If you were to ask me what I want to be when I grow up (I just turned 49), I would have to say that I still don’t know.  I can’t really say that I have liked any job I’ve had enough to say, yep, I want to do that.  It’s really always been about making money to live.  I have a strong work ethic and can push ahead in even the worst job situation.  Sometimes that is a good thing, sometimes not.

I’ve been trying to figure out what I want to do regarding the work part of my life since I was a teenager.  During my time in church I was told that God has a plan for my life and I simply need to ask Him what that plan is, listen, and do what I believe He is telling me to do.  That sounds great, doesn’t it?  Except that, as far as I can tell, He never told me.  I spent many frustrating years praying and listening.  I no longer believe that there is some specific, divine plan regarding the type of work that I do.  I think we are free to choose how we spend our time.  Yet, from time to time, there is a tug (for lack of a better description) towards something different.  It goes beyond the surface annoyance of day to day life.  Lately, it’s been very pronounced.  Especially when I come into work.  There is a strong dissatisfaction with the way that I’m spending my time.  And, a sense of, it’s time to move on.  Move on from what to what, I’m still not sure.  This tug, this dissatisfaction is different than just, I’m tired of my job.  It’s almost like a knowing that it’s time to change.  Time to do something different with my life.

So, I’m taking more time to be quiet and just listen.  I’m not putting an expectation on what I might “hear” or how, I’m just going to get quiet, on purpose, a little more often and see what happens.  Of course, the question arises that if I don’t believe in some kind of divine will, what exactly is that tug and who or what am I listening to/for?  Hmmmm….

Going back to my Agnostic Taoism post, I like what someone said regarding this:
“That means I have no idea about the afterlife or our souls or even the nature of God, but I find the world has paths and flow to it and you can surf those waves and follow those paths if you simply stop resisting so much.  There are behaviors that increase suffering and there are behaviors that decrease suffering. There are thoughts and beliefs and ways of being that can ease our personal and the world’s way through the day.  I try and do those thoughts and behaviors. It makes it easier on everyone.”

But this makes me ask, who or what is behind these paths and flow of life?  I really do have so many more questions than answers at this point in my life.  Which makes me laugh because 20 years ago, I thought I knew the answers to most of the questions!  LOL  Silly human.  🙂

And, the tug could just be a psychological thing, all made up in my head.  I don’t like my job or the long hours that I work, so I invent this thing that makes it seem like God/the Universe/flow, whatever, is tugging me in a different direction.  Heck, up until not too long ago, most of the world didn’t have the freedom to just quit their livelihood and do something else.  A large percentage of the world still doesn’t have that freedom.  So maybe it’s all about perspective and gratitude?  Like the sub title to a book I recently bought says; having the life you want by being present to the life you have.

Nonetheless, I’ll keep reading the things that seem to grab my attention and being quiet more often and listening on purpose.  It certainly won’t hurt.  Maybe some answers are in this quote, credited to Mooji;
Throw everything away, forget about it all.  You are learning too much, remembering too much, trying too hard.  Relax a little bit, give life a chance to flow its own way, unassisted by your mind and effort.  Stop directing the river’s flow.

More soon…

I will be writing more soon.  I’ve just been so busy, like most everyone else I know.  I’ve been working on writing about “the tug”.  I’ve probably mentioned this before, but I still don’t know what I want to do when I grow up (I’m 49).  LOL  But there is a tug on my heart that I’m not sure what to do with?  There is the responsible adult with kids part of me that needs to work a “good job” and pay the bills and all that.  Then there is that damn tug…  It doesn’t seem to fit into the responsible adult part, not that I can see at this moment, anyway.  But it just won’t seem to go away.  So I guess I should pay attention to that, huh?
I hope you all are doing well in this seemingly crazy world.
I encourage you to be mindful and present in this moment.  There are some amazing things going on that we won’t notice unless we pay attention.  It might just be the creepy spider building a web off of the back porch, or the cat stretching, or the slight temperature change when the breeze blows at 10 at night, or noticing how cool the new floor feels on your bare feet… You get the idea.  🙂
Peace.

Food

Another interesting thing about having this Buddhist author come and stay with me (see previous post) is that he is vegan and gluten free.  He insisted that my family not change our eating habits just because he was staying with us.  But he also said that if we wanted to try some vegan dishes, he would be happy to cook.  So, we took him up on it.  Except for a couple meals at a vegan restaurant, he bought all the groceries and did all the cooking.  And it was wonderful!  He was a really good cook.
One thing that struck me after just a couple of days of eating this way was how good I felt.  It wasn’t a super drastic change, but overall, I felt good.  I never felt heavy after a meal, but was full.  It was kind of nice.  So, just as an experiment, I’ve continued to eat this way (mostly).  Finding vegan and gluten free food that tastes good, or that you can season properly, has been a little bit of a challenge.  And I’ll tell you, the cheat meals that I have eaten have tasted fantastic!  LOL  But on the flip side, even though the meals tasted good while eating them, I usually feel like crap later on.  It’s been interesting.  I had some Udon vegan/gluten free soup today.  Kind of a ramen noodle thing.  Eh.  I probably won’t buy that again.  But the white rice, black beans, mushrooms, and red onion concoction I had earlier was really good.  So, sometimes the meal turns out good, sometimes not so much.  But I’m learning what I like, so that’s cool.
My son jokes with me about the change in eating habits.  With a cheesy, over the top southern California voice, he will say something like, “Vegan isn’t a diet… It’s really more of a lifestyle.”  Or he will ask if I talk to everyone I meet about being a vegan.  I heard someone say, “How do you know someone is a vegan?  They will tell you.”  LOL  Hopefully that doesn’t offend any vegans out there.  But it’s often true!  🙂
Now, if I can just not drink on the weekends, I’ll bet that I will feel even better!  That will be the next phase of my food/drink experiment.  I’m certain it will make a positive difference.  It’s just about doing it.  Heck, so far, I’ve lost a decent amount of weight and I’m sleeping better.  Just that much is really great!
If anyone reading this has any vegan/gluten free food suggestions or recipes or anything like that, I will gladly accept them.  🙂
Oh, and I found out that Ben and Jerry’s makes gluten free ice cream.  And it’s really good!  Cherry Garcia.  Oh yeah.
Until next time, I hope you and yours are doing well.

Narnia

This past weekend, I was extremely fortunate to host a Buddhist author that I have been following for a few years.  He came to town and did a couple talks that were well attended by a great group of people who were excited to have him here.  And since he stayed with me, I got to talk to him quite a bit.  It was amazing!  He brought a very peaceful vibe with him and I felt better just being around him.  I was inspired and challenged, to say the least.  Coming back to work on Monday was quite a shock for both me and my wife.  We discussed it at length and finally decided that the best description we could think of at this time was that this man took us through the wardrobe to Narnia for 3 days.  And then we had to come back through to the “normal world”.  And now we are trying to function in the normal world after having an amazing experience in Narnia, so to speak.  Yeah. The last few of days have been a challenge.

As wonderful as the whole experience was, experiences come and go.  It’s what we practice on a consistent basis that makes up who we are and where our life is headed.  That’s what I’m telling myself when I think, “I miss Narnia!” LOL  I had a pretty intense mental and emotional struggle Monday morning.  Shortly after getting out of bed, I noticed that my thoughts were all pretty negative.  After feeling heavy and sad for a while, I remembered something that was said this weekend.  You can’t life a positive life with a negative attitude.  This is not always easy to do, people.  As someone who has struggled with severe depression in the past, I know that.  But, on the flip side, since I did go through a few years of depression, I can spot its tactics pretty quickly.  So, at some point during that morning, I physically shook myself and told myself that I’ve got to stop this right now.  So I just started thinking of things to say to myself.  Instead of being bummed that the author had to go back to his home, I started being thankful that he came in the first place.  Instead of allowing the thoughts of, “I don’t know what to do with this stirring inside me?”, I started just saying that I do know what to do with it.  Even if it’s not clear right now, why not say that I know, anyway?  And anything else I could think of to be thankful for.  Pretty soon, that heaviness started to lift off.  I can’t say that I came into work doing cartwheels, but it was with a much better mindset than I had early this morning.

Just a few things that I came away with from this weekend.

Gratitude.  Man.  That’s a huge one.  Even on our worst days, being able to think of something that we are grateful for can make a huge difference.

Non-judgement.  For example.  A red light is just a red light.  It’s not good or bad, it just is.  When I can see situations just as they are, without labeling or judging them one way or another, it really cuts down on frustration and similar feelings. And it can also mean seeing things from another person’s perspective.  Other people’s perspective on reality is just as valid as my own.  Or this could be said as, the opposite of what I know is also true to someone else.  He used this example; right now, in your city, someone is rescuing a dog.  But somewhere else in the world, a person just had a dog for lunch.  And we need to learn to be ok with that.  J  Our opinions and beliefs tend to change depending on time, place, and circumstance. And since we all experience life differently, there are multiple theories on what’s best, what’s moral, what’s right, and what’s wrong.  This doesn’t mean we tolerate what is harmful, but often with this mindset, we can see more clearly how we should respond.

Humor.  If I can laugh at myself a little more, I think that’s a good thing.  Like when I get mad at someone in traffic.  I could laugh and say to myself, “Look at you, all mad and everything.  LOL  Maybe that person just has to pee?” 🙂

A positive attitude.  As self-help cheesy as it may sound, it really does help to be positive rather than negative.  For example, if I have a goal to stop drinking, it certainly won’t help me to think or say, “I’ll never be able to stop drinking!”  Even after another failed attempt to not drink.  “I can do this.  I can stop drinking.  I control me, not alcohol.  I chose a healthier way to live.”  Those kinds of things add up and can make a big difference.

There was so much more, but I’ll leave it at that.  Shorter is often better.

As for the overall experience, I’m still processing much of it.  Today, this is how I’m looking at it.  Using the example of Narnia, I can take what I learned there, and apply it here in the normal world.  I believe that will help me to be a person who can bring that same peaceful vibe into other people’s lives and help them have a taste of Narnia as well.  It’s not that we try to escape life by having experiences, but when we do have an experience like I had this weekend, it’s about bringing that peace and joy and compassion into our everyday lives.

dont-use-buddhism-quote

 

 

More on the way…

Hi all.  I have lots of things going on in my head as far as things to write about.  I’ve started writing about business, wealth and our attitude towards it, the concepts of good and bad, and contentment.  It’s interesting to me how many ideas, concepts, and practices are connected to so many other things.  For example.  The idea of going with the flow.  Generally speaking, I could apply going with the flow to all the ideas I have listed above.

On a different note (or maybe not?), I’m traveling with my 20 year old daughter for the next couple of days.  It’s just a short trip to an event that we both enjoy every year.  I’m looking forward to it for a couple reasons.  One, even though she still lives at home, it seems like I never see her!  So it will be good to have some hours in the car to talk and catch up.  My kids grew up in church.  Well, sort of.  When we quit going to church, my daughter was 9 and my son was 5.  And we were still kind of churchy for a few years.  But when my beliefs started shifting, I really didn’t talk to my kids much about it.  Not in a way that would seem like I’m trying to make them believe differently.  If they asked me something, I answered them.  Now, I feel a little more free to share things that I believe will help them in life, regardless of religious or spiritual beliefs.  And I think that is one of the things that will be good regarding this trip.

I’ll leave you with a quick story/parable regarding good vs bad from the Taoist tradition.  I’m sure some have heard it before, but it always makes me go, hmmmm….

It’s a story of a farmer and his horse.
One day his horse runs away. And his neighbor comes over and says, to commiserate, “I’m so sorry about your horse.” And the farmer says “Who Knows What’s Good or Bad?” The neighbor is confused because this is clearly terrible. The horse is the most valuable thing he owns.
But the horse comes back the next day and he brings with him 12 feral horses. The neighbor comes back over to celebrate, “Congratulations on your great fortune!” And the farmer replies again: “Who Knows What’s Good or Bad?”
And the next day the farmer’s son is taming one of the wild horses and he’s thrown and breaks his leg. The neighbor comes back over, “I’m so sorry about your son.” The farmer repeats: “Who Knows What’s Good or Bad?”
Sure enough, the next day the army comes through their village and is conscripting able-bodied young men to go and fight in war, but the son is spared because of his broken leg.
And this story can go on and on like that. Good. Bad. Who knows?

How does this apply to the really “bad” stuff like Hitler, or losing a child, or something like that?  I don’t know. We’ll talk more about this in the near future.

I hope you are well.  I look forward to writing more soon.

 

Why am I so angry?

I’m not sure how long this has been going on?  Maybe a year?  But I’m angry and annoyed with Christians and the Christian church.  Not any particular Christians or churches, just kind of as a whole.  I recently drove by a new church in the city I live in and I thought to myself, “Oh great.  That’s what we need here is another church!”  I live in the south/mid-south and there are an abundance of churches, to say the least.  Probably more churches per capita than any other city in the US.  Are my feelings and reactions just delayed?  Most people are angry when they first leave church/Christianity.  Mine seems to have surfaced, years later.

Ok, let’s back up a little bit.  I quit attending church on a regular basis in 2006.  I wasn’t angry with the church or hurt or anything like that.  At that time, I had begun to see how ineffective the institution of church is at communicating God’s love to people and helping them to discover who they are in that love.  That was my opinion at that time.  And I just thought there must be a more relationship oriented way of doing this.  Some call it an organic way of sharing God with people, outside the walls of the institution of church.  Then my views on things changed more and more until now, I really wouldn’t consider myself a Christian anymore.  Again, this was not out of hurt or anger or spite or anything like that.  I thoroughly enjoyed my time in the Christian church.  I just started seeing things and asking questions.  And voila! Here I am.

I’m wondering if the meditation and mindfulness and other practices are bringing out repressed feelings that I didn’t know were under the surface?  Hmmm… could be?  Most of the Christians that I know are kind and genuine and loving people.  I’ve encountered hypocrites who claim to be Christians, but I think most people are hypocrites to some degree.  Everyone is fighting battles and has issues.  I’ve known that for a long time so I don’t think it’s anything like, I’m mad at hypocrites.  When I drive down the road and see Bible verses on billboards, I get annoyed.  My wife is still a practicing Christian and when she tells me about the church service, I get annoyed.  I don’t let her see it.  Or try to not let her see it. I know it helps her and I just try to be happy that she is excited about what she just experienced.  And often when I pass a church, I just feel angry.  I’ve caught myself a few times taking sides with other people who are angry at church and Christians and God.  I don’t want to take sides.  People will always have differing opinions.  Especially with religion and politics!  But I want to be able to disagree without it becoming personal.  This is an excerpt from Timber Hawkeye’s book, Buddhist Bootcamp that sums up where I want to be regarding these thoughts:

You don’t have to agree with, only learn to peacefully live with, other people’s freedom of choice. This includes (but is not limited to) political views, religious beliefs, dietary restrictions, matters of the heart, career paths, and mental afflictions.
Our opinions and beliefs tend to change depending on time, place, and circumstance. And since we all experience life differently, there are multiple theories on what’s best, what’s moral, what’s right, and what’s wrong.
It is important to remember that other people’s perspective on reality is as valid as your own. This is why the first principle of Buddhist Boot Camp is that the opposite of what you know is also true.
No matter how certain we are of our version of the truth, we must humbly accept the possibility that someone who believes the exact opposite could also be right (according to their time, place, and circumstance). This is the key to forgiveness, patience, and understanding.

Well said.  I especially like, the opposite of what you know is also true.  Yep.  Something that I’ve learned over the last few years that is very different from the way I used to think, is how to deal with something about me that I want to be different.  It used to be that I would fight the anger and annoyance and find scriptures to read that I thought would help change the way I look at things.  One thing that I’ve learned from tai chi is that when you fight or resist something, you give it more power to be able to defeat you.  In many Chinese martial arts there is a saying, yield to overcome.  I first heard of taking a different mindset when reading Eckhart Tolle, and then other authors.  Simply notice the thoughts or feelings or behavior.  Notice, in my case, the anger toward Christianity, without judgement.  And be curious about it.  What triggers it?  What thoughts arise?  What feelings does it produce in my body and where?  Things like that.  This noticing and curiosity often will simply dissolve these “negative” feelings without any combative effort on my end.  So why is the annoyance and anger in me still hanging around?  I don’t know?  I have to admit that I haven’t been consistent in my noticing and curiosity.  So maybe by writing this out, it will help me to be more mindful about that.  I do want to say that I don’t believe that you shouldn’t resist saying or doing things that are hurtful.  For example, I might have the urge to slap the stew out of someone for some reason, but it is best if I restrain myself from acting on that urge.  LOL  And it’s probably also good to go back and read things like what Timber talked about, similar to when I used to read Bible verses in the past.   I’m sure it wouldn’t hurt me to do so.  🙂

Peace.