Weekend musings…

For the M-F folks, it’s finally the weekend!  If you work weekends, I hope you enjoyed whatever days off that you do get.

I have lots of different ideas swimming around in my head about many different topics.  I’ve written and re-written a post about doing all the things I’m reading about.  Walking the talk, so to speak.  It’s still a work in progress.  Part of the swimming going on in my head is because I read several books at a time.  LOL  Yeah.  In fact, I’ve started reading “Way of the Peaceful Warrior” for about the 6th time.  I really enjoy that book!  It stirs me.  I’m not sure exactly how it stirs me or what to do with that, if anything?  If you will bear with me, I’ll share a small section that I read today that made me go, yep!

Socrates (the teacher) talking to Dan (the student) – “You fear death and crave survival.  You want Forever, you desire Eternity.  In your deluded belief that you are this ‘mind’ or ‘spirit’ or ‘soul’, you find the escape clause in your contract with mortality.  Perhaps as ‘mind’ you can wing free of the body when it dies, hmm?…  Consciousness is not in the body;  the body is in Consciousness.  And you are that Consciousness – not the phantom mind that troubles you so.  You are the body, but you are everything else, too. Only the mind resists change.  When you relax mindless into the body, you are happy and content and free, sensing no separation.  Immortality is already yours, but not in the way you imagine or hope for.  You have been immortal since before you were born and will be long after the body dissolves.  The body is Consciousness; never born; never dies; only changes.  The mind – your ego, personal beliefs, history, and identity – is all that ends at death.  And who needs it?”

I think I agree with that…  At least today I do.  🙂

Have a good weekend.

Agnostic Taoism?

I’m not sure what it is about human nature (or maybe just my nature) to wants to label things?  In the “about” section of a site like this, or any site where you are asked to tell about yourself, what do you say?  People say things like; I’m a dad, I’m a husband, I’m this and that.  So, labels.  Well, with my shifting beliefs, it’s difficult to put a label on myself.  I get that, and yet, it seems that an underlying urge is still there to find an appropriate label to put on my “spiritual beliefs”.

I had an interesting conversation with my brother in law lately about this.  I asked him if he had any kind of a belief system anymore.  He said no, he did not, nor did he want one.  I like that!  I think it’s easier to flow and shift through life and the various stages and changes that way.  That’s just my opinion, of course.  It doesn’t mean that it’s absolutely true.  In a recent search for a possible label for myself, I came across a website or blog (I don’t remember exactly where I found it) that talked about agnostic Taoism.  Then he went on to write a short explanation that I will post here:

Agnostic Taoism:

When asked about my religion, I say “Well, it’s not really a religion, but I consider myself an Agnostic Taoist.” Which, of course, makes the socially religious pause and do the RCA dog head tilt. When I stop giggling inside, I typically follow up with “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.”
Which, of course, gets me the question “Do you believe in God?”  Which, of course, makes me sigh and know they did not hear a word I just said.

I like that.  So maybe I’m an agnostic Taoist, with some Buddhist tendencies?  LOL  This might, and probably will, change over time.  And that’s ok.  I don’t think there is just one right way for everyone.  How great would it be if we could share what’s working for us at this moment with others (assuming they are interested in hearing about it) without trying to convince them that they should be doing it our way?  I enjoy asking people about their beliefs and how those beliefs help them get through life.  It’s fun to see people get excited about sharing with someone who is interested in what they think and believe.  I encourage you to try it, if the situation presents itself.  I think you will have fun, too.

Practice, practice, practice.

For a couple years, I spent Friday nights meditating with Buddhist practitioners at a local monastery.  There was also teaching that went on during the sessions.  When the head monk would teach, throughout his talk he would say, “practice, practice, practice”.  Whether he was talking about being mindful or compassionate or forgiving… practice, practice, practice.  And you know what?  He was right!  If you want to train the body to do certain things, and to keep doing those things at a high level of proficiency, you have to practice.  The mind is the same way.  Buddhism is about training the mind to think differently, to think in ways that reduce suffering in our lives.  What do I mean by that?  Well, like being grateful for what I have instead of complaining about what I don’t have.  Or being “here”, but my mind is “there”.  Or wants to be there.  Or taking things personally.  All these things cause a certain amount of suffering in my life that is unnecessary.  After a while, that suffering adds up and can turn into depression or anger or resentment, etc.

I’ve been a martial artist for most of my life.  I’m not getting any younger, so there are many things that I can’t do now that I could do in my 20’s.  But, when I’m training on a regular basis, my mind is more alert, my reflexes are noticeably quicker, my body is more relaxed, and my overall attitude is better.  It doesn’t take many days of not training for things to start to slip.  I’ve found that it’s the same with my mind.  If I’m not practicing mindfulness and gratitude and compassion, etc, I start to slip.  There are signs of slipping.  Oh yes!  There are signs.  LOL  Crankiness, complaining, sighing, negative attitudes, and such.  I’m not saying that you won’t have challenges if you are practicing training your mind on a daily basis.  I’m not saying you won’t have cranky moments and sad moments and such.  But it should keep you from days of suffering at a time.  Yesterday was a day where it all came together and crashed.  Looking back, yesterday’s crash had been coming for a few days.  I handled a difficult morning fairly well, considering how the day started.  But by the end of the day, I was miserable.  I was dreading waking up today and facing what I thought I would be facing.  I’m still not in a great place, but I’m better.  Another thing I notice when I’m not practicing is that it takes me longer to get out of these funks.  Sometimes it takes several days.  And that’s no fun.

I do want to add that I don’t think there is anything wrong with any particular emotion.  If I’m feeling sad or anxious or some other feeling that is not preferable, I normally just let myself feel it.  I stay with that feeling, paying attention to it and allowing it to be.  But that in itself is a practice in a type of mindfulness.  And normally, the feeling passes without me actively trying to change it or get rid of it.  If it doesn’t pass, that’s fine, too.  But then I’m normally mindful about whatever else is going on and I find that the feelings and emotions always change.  The last few days have been different than that.  I’m finding that I’ve been swept away by the emotions and feelings and imaginings of my mind.  None of which have been positive!  And I’m reacting to the emotions that have swept me away.  And those reactions have not helped me at all.

So, what do I do at this point?  For me, I’ll start with the most basic thing.  Paying attention to my breath.  Even if just for a few inhales and exhales.  I’ll first notice that I’m breathing.  Then notice what it feels like on the inhale, and what it feels like on the exhale.  Just typing and doing this has already helped me feel more calm and peaceful.  After a while, I’ll practice something else.  I’m not sure what that will be yet, but from a point of more calmness, I’ll know what I need to focus on next.

Whatever it is that you do to keep yourself in a good place, I encourage you to practice, practice, practice.  🙂

 

What happens next?

One of the big questions that comes up within my shifting beliefs is, “what happens when we die?”  In the Christian tradition, if you believe that Jesus is the son of God, that he died for your sins, and was raised to life again, you get to go to heaven.  Some Christian traditions believe that Jesus “saved” everyone, so all with go to heaven whether they believe in Jesus or not.  In this view of heaven, you basically are who you are on earth, just perfect.  Whatever perfect means?  I have lots of questions and issues about this view, now.  But maybe I’ll get into all those later.

There are some traditions where you are reincarnated.  Some where you start out in a lower version of heaven and are moved up over time through various methods.  And I know there are a myriad of beliefs about the afterlife similar to these, and some quite different.  And who is to say that any of them is wrong?  We don’t know.  I’ve yet to get a letter from a friend or loved one who has died.  In fact, I haven’t gotten any communication at all from folks that have died.  So again, I’m not saying that any belief is wrong.  We just won’t know for sure until we get there ourselves.

There are many that believe we simply cease to exist.  It’s like going to sleep.  We don’t know when we are sleeping, nor do we fret about being asleep.  This view used to freak me out because I didn’t want to not exist anymore!  Now, not so much.  If this is the way it is, we won’t know that we are not existing.  I now see the desire to keep existing as “myself” is more from the ego than anything.

Another view is that everything is an expression of “God”.  Whatever God means to you.  So all that can be seen and not seen is God, and it is me.  So when my heart stops beating and my brain stops sending signals, my experience will change, but I’ll still be an expression of God, just a different kind of expression.  This is similar to some things that Alan Watts talks about.  I had a previous post, Watts Quotes, that goes into more detail.  But here is a short excerpt that I like; “Every individual is an expression of the whole realm of nature, a unique action of the total universe.”  Taoism has a similar view.  I’m fairly new to the study of Taoism, but I’m enjoying what I’m learning so far.  These excerpts are taken from a website called Personal Tao:
Death illustrated from the Chuang-Tzu:
“Since life and death are each other’s companions, why worry about them? All beings are one.”
From a friend of the writer of Personal Tao:
“The Tao is simply logical. There’s no mysticism or need for invisible sky gods or some weird belief that you’re important enough to be reincarnated – you simply return to the Tao when you die. And you’re already there anyway, so what’s the big deal?”

I like that.  You are already there anyway, so what’s the big deal?  And like the title of my blog suggests, my beliefs subtly shift between some of these from time to time.  I don’t believe that death is something that should be feared.  I think that whatever it looks like after this phase of our existence, we won’t be disappointed.

 

Ps – if you want to read more of what I found on the Personal Tao website, here is the link:
http://personaltao.com/teachings/taoism/the-afterlife/