Can’t we all just get along?

I wrote a post in June of 2017 called, “why am I so angry?” I talked about how I began to notice my anger towards religion, Christianity in particular.  I imagine it’s specifically projected towards Christianity because that is my background and here in the south, I’m surrounded by it at all times.  I’ve noticed that I’m not as angry any more.  I don’t really know if that’s better or worse or maybe just doesn’t matter?  But, that seems to be the case.  I didn’t say not angry at all, just not as much.  🙂

I still look at pages on social media like God on Facebook and Jesus on the Internet and stuff like that.  Many of the posts make me laugh.  But I’m sure that part of the reason I look is because I still have issues with religion.  It might always be that way to some degree.  Just stay away from the comment sections.  Wow!  I’m not sure why so many Christians comment on these sites?  I’m not sure if they are trying to change people’s minds about God or get them “saved” or what?  But very quickly, on both sides, they turn into arguments.  And those arguments quickly get personal.  It’s like sitting in a middle school cafeteria listening to students argue.  “I don’t agree with what you said”  “Oh yeah, well, you’re a jerk!”  “Your mom’s a jerk!”  And it just goes downhill from there.  At this point, it’s obvious that no one is open to the other’s point of view.  I’m not sure if atheists go to Christian sites and try to convert them, or troll them, or not?  Probably.

For myself, I try to keep in mind something that Timber Hawkeye (author of Buddhist Boot Camp) wrote that I mentioned in the angry post:
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.

I often have to remind myself that my beliefs are not right and everyone who believes differently is wrong.  Like Timber said, time, place, and circumstance.  If I were born in Turkey instead of the US, my beliefs would probably be drastically different than they are now.  If I was born 100 years ago anywhere in the world, my beliefs would probably be drastically different than they are now.  And if I’m still alive in 30 years, my beliefs will probably be at least slightly different than they are now.  And that’s ok.  🙂

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Still here

Hey all.  I just wanted to put a short post out there, letting anyone who might read my blog from time to time know that I’m still out here.

I’m working too much again.  And the work is really insane.  So any extra brain power that I might use for writing is being sucked into the abyss of US commerce.  And I am trying to find enough energy, at least a few days a week, for the exercise that I enjoy and desperately need.  Thus, no posts.

But, here are a couple of things I’ve been thinking about.

Fun.  I need to have more fun, and/or do more things that I really enjoy.  For example; I saw the Foo Fighters here in Memphis.  Wow!  It’s the second time I’ve seen them live in the last 3 years or so.  I’m not a big concert goer anymore, and not really a big Foo Fighters fan.  But damn.  They are so much fun to see live!  They just rock your face off for 3 hours or so.  I really enjoyed it.  I was pretty much laughing or smiling or both the whole time they played.  I know that life isn’t made up of hilarious fun all the time.  In fact, most of life is very mundane.  And finding enjoyment in the mundane is part of all this.  But having something like that, more than once a year, is probably a good thing.

Spiritual practice.  For me, it’s important.  Now, what do I mean by “spiritual practice”?  It could be meditating, yoga, spending time in nature, praying, going to church, going to see Foo Fighters, or any number of things.  One thing I believe right now (and this could change, thus, shifting beliefs) is something that several spiritual leaders have said in the past; you already are what you are trying to become.  I don’t think that a person’s spiritual practice makes them more spiritual.  But I do think it helps you to see that you already are spiritual.  I’ve referenced this quote before by Thich Nhat Hanh and I love reading it every time I see it:
“You are what you want to become. Why search anymore? You are a wonderful manifestation. The whole universe has come together to make your existence possible. There is nothing that is not you. The kingdom of God, the Pure Land, nirvana, happiness, and liberation are all you.”
I believe that my spiritual practice (which includes reading, meditation, mindfulness, yoga, and tai chi; which all kind of fit together) helps me to see this and hopefully live more fully in that reality.  It’s very obvious to me when I’m not practicing consistently.  The way I react/respond to the stress of everyday life is not preferable.  LOL
So, whatever it is that helps us remember that we already are what we are trying to become, maybe we can make time for more of that.  🙂

I am reading when I can.  I’m still reading Mark Nepo’s “The Exquisite Risk” and Phap Hai’s “Nothing to It”.  Also, I’ve started reading Stephen Bachelor’s “Confessions of a Buddhist Atheist”.  Very interesting so far.  No, I still can’t read just one book at a time.

I hope you all are well and hopefully I’ll have more to write about soon.

Perspective revisited

I’ve said this before, but it’s interesting to go back and read old posts.  I catch myself thinking, oh yeah, I remember that.  And being able to put little practices and mindsets back into my life that I let slip over the weeks and months.  I guess that’s why many folks keeps journals and diaries and such.  Hmmmm… Maybe I should keep a journal?  LOL

I had an interesting experience several days ago that I’ve been considering writing about.  Experiences are personal, and subjective, and from a point of relative truth to that person.  But they can also be helpful to others.  I went back through my posts to see if I had written anything similar and came across the one titled, Perspective.  There is a quote from Alan Watts that is referenced that fits nicely with the experience that I had.  ”Every individual is an expression of the whole realm of nature, a unique action of the total universe.”  Just sitting and pondering that for a while is pretty mind blowing.

It’s difficult to put the whole experience into words, but I’ll do my best.  I had gotten into the shower on a Monday morning a couple weeks ago.  I’m not a morning person, so I really wasn’t thinking about anything except showering.  But at some point, a thought came into my head, something like, imagine what happens when you die.  So, I did.  In my mind, it’s like I fell asleep.  It seems like I woke again pretty quickly and was aware of everything around me.  Then that awareness quickly spread, like zooming out with a camera.  I became aware of every person, blade of grass, bug, rock, even the space between all the “solid” objects.  Aware like I was those things.  Then the awareness spread quickly again to include the galaxy.  Then, what I imagine was the universe.  I was aware, and was, every star, planet, comet, being of any kind, etc.  Then the thought came to me, God is playing all the parts.  And when I say “God”, I don’t mean the image of the old guy on the throne.  I’m not sure what I mean by “God” other than a very intimate awareness of everything.  Everything seen by us, and not seen by us.  Then the thought came again, God is playing all the parts.  God is the trees and the wind; the cat and the dog; the music and the listener; the husband and the wife; the perpetrator and the victim.  Etc.  God is playing all the parts.  And he/she/it is such a good actor, even the characters believe that they are real and separate from all the other characters.  And even when the character does remember that they are just that, a character in a giant, cosmic play, the fun of being an actor is the acting!  So they go on acting out the part of their character, with a slightly different perspective than many others have.  It’s not a better or worse perspective, it’s just different.

And no, I had not done any drugs before this experience that played out in my head.  LOL

Something I’ve read and heard from many wise individuals is that experiences are just that.  An experience.  I’m not going to build a dogmatic doctrine around it.  I think experiences, whether enjoyable or not, are like puzzle pieces that we fit together throughout the course of our lives.  And hopefully, the picture will become clearer as we go along.  How do I fit an experience (even if it was just in my mind) like that into everyday life?  I’m working on that.  For now, I’ll think about it from time to time and I think it will probably works its way into my day to day living without me even noticing it.  For me, things just seem to work out that way.  I do like the way Alan Watts said it, so I’ll leave you with that quote again, with a little more of what he said preceding what I had written above.  I hope you and yours are well.

“This feeling of being lonely and very temporary visitors in the universe is in flat contradiction to everything known about man (and all other living organisms) in the sciences. We do not “come into” this world; we come out of it, as leaves from a tree. As the ocean “waves,” the universe “peoples.” Every individual is an expression of the whole realm of nature, a unique action of the total universe.”
– Alan Watts

Enlightenment

I had not given the subject of enlightenment much thought before.  Even though I’ve been studying eastern philosophies for a little while now, the thought of enlightenment really hasn’t piqued my interest.  As far as Buddhist philosophy goes, I’ve mainly been focused on being aware of the present moment and not judging situations as good or bad.  These two things have helped me very much in dealing with life.

But somewhere in the last couple weeks, enlightenment caught my attention.  So, I started doing some reading and thinking about this idea.  From what I can tell, the more common meaning of the word is what most people would think of.  It’s supposed to be a state of awareness that most people are not enjoying.  It can be said that it’s a greater awareness of God, or your oneness with God or with all things.  A state in which you are free of the ego and live out of your essence or spirit.  You are living out of your “God-self”.  That kind of thing.  And there is no shortage of material you can find on the internet and in books talking about the steps you need to take that will lead you to enlightenment.  So it’s a spiritual state of being or experience that can be attained by hard work and focus.  There aren’t many humans who have attained this state, using this definition of the idea.

I will say this before I continue.  I could be wrong.  I’ve learned not to be dogmatic about anything.  I could always be wrong.  Or just not completely right.  Or have all the facts.  You get the idea.  That’s part of why I call this blog, shifting beliefs.  Relative truth is what a person views as true, right now.  As time passes and experiences happen, that relative truth usually adjusts a little as well.

Ok, so with that being said, I tend to think that enlightenment is not as spiritual and evasive as many think that it is.  I think it’s a more natural thing that we can walk in on a regular basis.  I found a great article on the subject on this site:  http://upliftconnect.com/cosmic-joke/.  This part of it really resonates with me:
The great cosmic joke is that you are what you are seeking. All the religious and spiritual seeking on this planet and you end up back where you started. If that’s not a fantastic joke worth a good belly laugh I don’t know what is. We all look for happiness, peace and fulfillment in the things of the world, yet all along these things are our very nature – our very own center of being. Meditation masters and mystics throughout history have seen the joke of it as Zen master Thich Nhat Hanh explains:
I laugh when I think how I once sought paradise as a realm outside of the world of birth. It is right in the world of birth and death that the miraculous truth is revealed. But this is not the laughter of someone who suddenly acquires a great fortune; neither is it the laughter of one who has won a victory. It is, rather, the laughter of one who; after having painfully searched for something for a long time, finds it one morning in the pocket of his coat.

Wow.  Isn’t that great?  I remember reading something else by Thich Nhat Hahn that basically said, being mindful of the present moment is enlightenment.  If you are washing the dishes, and are as aware as you know how to be of the experience you are having of washing the dishes, you are enlightened.  Along this same line of thought, he also said, “The miracle is not to walk on water. The miracle is to walk on the green earth, dwelling deeply in the present moment and feeling truly alive.”

There is a Zen proverb that is fairly well known that I like.  It says; Before enlightenment, chop wood, carry water.  After enlightenment, chop wood, carry water.  🙂  For me, it kind of takes a lot of the spooky-ness out of enlightenment.  Also, these days I kind of lean towards the fact that we are not two parts (or three parts, depending on how you break it up), soul and mind/body.  I think what you see is what you get.  I think we are our body, our mind, and the combination of our experiences and our interpretation of those experiences.  So instead of somehow putting my mind and body through some strenuous series of exercises so that my spirit/soul can rule in an attempt to live from my “higher self”, it’s just about being aware.  When I walk through my neighborhood and I’m aware of the ground under my feet, the wind on my face, my body breathing in and out on its own, am I not enlightened?  This is an excerpt from and Alan Watts talk that he gave:
When you really look into yourself – There is nothing you can do. We here mutually realize there is nothing we can do to be anything else other than what we are or feel what we feel in this moment, and to be this quaking mess.  However this isn’t as much as a blind alley as you think, it tells you something. Water puts out fingers and some stop because they hit blind alleys and the water doesn’t pursue that course, it never uses effort, only weight, it takes the line of least resistance. There is no way of transforming yourself to become this fearless divine being apart from the quaking mess.
The “you” that thinks itself capable of changing the quaking mess, does not exist, the “I” separate from this, cannot control it, because it is not there. As soon as you understand that, things will be vastly improved.
You can’t do anything to change yourself, to become better, happier, more serene. You don’t need to. You are all as extraordinary as trees, the shape of fire, and the arrangement of the stars.
You needn’t feel guilty – you do anyway – but don’t worry about it.
You don’t know what you’re supposed to do, so you just watch.  Just watch it all.

A friend of mine, when he gets overwhelmed with life and all this stuff, likes to remind himself to just be.  Just be.  I think in that moment of just being, when you are aware of your just being, is another moment of enlightenment.

So, yeah.  That’s where I am right now with this enlightenment thing.

I hope you all are doing well.  🙂

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.  🙂

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.