Day Thirty One: Orientation

Daily Journal

This morning, I recorded a 21-minute podcast as a review of the month of January 2017. Topics covered in the podcast:

  • The balance between “Going with the flow & letting life unfold” vs. “Goals”
  • The difficulty of avoiding time management in our society since our jobs swallow up most of our time.
  • Overcoming addictions that take away free time. (Smoking cigarettes, Facebook, cellphone addiction, drinking, snacking, etc.)
  • Successes & failures during January 2017.
  • Goals for February 2017 and beyond.

Deng Ming-Dao on Orientation

Planets orbit the sun.
Forms orbit the mind.

Most of us embody disparate aspects in our personalities; these are our forms, the way we take shape. If we aren’t careful, we can become confused by such complexity. We should not deny any part of ourselves. We should arrange them. All elements are valid — they must simply be placed in the right context.

Those who follow Tao understand that a diverse personality is problematic only if some aspects dominate to the exclusion of the others. This is unbalanced. If there is constant alteration between all aspects, then equilibrium is possible. Like the planets, feelings, instincts, and emotions must be kept in a constantly rotating order. Then all things have their place and the problems of excess are avoided.

Just as the sun is at the center of our solar system, so too must the mind of wisdom be the center of our diverse personalities. If our minds are strong, then the various parts of our lives will be held firmly to their proper courses, and there will be no chance of deviation.

I found this chapter more difficult to understand that other chapters of 365 Tao. I was able to get some insight from a quiltmaker’s blog, oddly enough. It almost sounded like he could be referring to the different roles we play in life. Sometimes I identify as a father, a worker, a writer, a musician, a lover, a reader, a music historian, etc. The trouble comes in when I’m wearing the wrong hat at the wrong time. Jack Kornfield covered this in Chapter 5: The Mysterious Illusion of the Self, in his book The Wise Heart.

I’m also reminded of Ecclesiastes 3 from the Bible (which Pete Seeger wrote into a song called “Turn! Turn! Turn!”, which The Byrds made into a hit song):

To every thing there is a season, and a time to every purpose under the heaven:

A time to be born, and a time to die; a time to plant, and a time to pluck up that which is planted;

A time to kill, and a time to heal; a time to break down, and a time to build up;

A time to weep, and a time to laugh; a time to mourn, and a time to dance;

A time to cast away stones, and a time to gather stones together; a time to embrace, and a time to refrain from embracing;

A time to get, and a time to lose; a time to keep, and a time to cast away;

A time to rend, and a time to sew; a time to keep silence, and a time to speak;

A time to love, and a time to hate; a time of war, and a time of peace.

The Daily Stoic: Philosophy as Medicine of the Soul

Today, Ryan Holiday reminds us that although we get busy with work and making money, being creative, and being stimulated, we can drift away from philosophy. When we forget about philosophy, we get stressed and this injures us. We need to have a regimen and practice of philosophy. For me, that’s what this blog is all about. I would recommend to anyone owning a book like 365 Tao, The Daily Stoic, Daily Devotions (for Christians), or some kind of daily app like “Daily Buddha Quotes”. Some kind of philosophy or spirituality  that works for you, to restore you every morning and get you through the day. It’s a good practice.

Tomorrow is February 1st. New challenges:

  • Writing first draft of a book.
  • Couch to 5K running program.
  • 66-Day Challenge to spend 15 minutes per day on employment and money making opportunities.

Peace.
B.G.

 

 

Day Thirty: Lovemaking

waverly

Hiking the Fresh Loop at Waverly Park.

I had my last cigarette on Friday night, and as can be expected, I’ve been eating like a pig. Many resources, including the Allen Carr book I just read, say that the nicotine withdrawal is very similar to food hunger, which causes you to eat more.

Yesterday, I decided to go for a long hike through Waverly Park in Louisville. I did the Clinic Loop and the Fresh Air Loop, for a combined 5.3 miles, according to the map here. I was originally planning to hike the paved road at Iroquois Park, and made a last minute decision to try Waverly after seeing the sign to Waverly on New Cut Road. I was hoping that maybe I would see the famous, haunted Waverly Hills Sanatorium. While it was nearby during part of my hike, I wasn’t able to see the place. What was surprising were the mansions and wealthy neighborhoods hidden in this area. Although not quite a ghetto, the nearby New Cut Road does have a blue collar vibe, with all the warehouse work nearby.

chairsinwoods

Two discarded auto seats on the Fresh Air Loop at Waverly Park.

I have noticed that with quitting cigarettes, my productivity has jumped tremendously. The reason for that is you never get a cigarette break. You are also really engaged with doing the work, because you aren’t half-assing the work so you can have the next cigarette break. So this weekend, I got a lot accomplished. My home is clean, I caught up with three days worth of blogs, did some cooking for the week last night. Otherwise, my sleep is disrupted from quitting. I’m waking up in the middle of the night, waking up earlier than usual, getting tired throughout the day, and going to sleep earlier. I’m expecting this to even out in the next few weeks as nicotine leaves my body.

I’ve also fallen off the wagon with my diet. The only reason is convenience foods aren’t usually healthy foods, and being busy working overtime this past week hasn’t given me much time for cooking. I did some cooking last night and I have some healthy food for today at least. Last week, I was also waking up late every morning. This was mostly due to long hours with no days off, and evening activities and blogging to do. I stayed up late every night to do housework before bed. Another issue was caffeine after 7PM. I’m not beating myself up over this. I expect this week to be challenging as well, with overtime worked to get out of debt and hit some savings goals.

Deng Ming-Dao on Lovemaking

Today’s 365 Tao entry is on the topic of sex, and he has a different opinion about sex from the many Buddhist books and lectures I’ve been devouring the last two years.

“Too many other layers of meaning have been imposed upon sex. Religions straitjacket it, ascetics deny it, romantics glorify it, intellectuals theorize about it, obsessives pervert it.”

“Sex should not be used as leverage, manipulation, selfishness, or abuse. It should not be a ground for our personal compulsions and delusions”

-Deng Ming-Dao, 365 Tao

Following the end of my previous relationship (with the mother of my children), I found myself thinking about dating again and got into a rebound relationship a few months later. As had previously been the case in my relationships, I found sex to be misused as a tool for manipulation and power.

After that, I spent about a year being involved in the Men Going Their Own Way movement, which can best be described as the male equivalent of the “I don’t need no man” kind of feminism. I remember being inspired at the time by the Breitbart article, “The Sexodus, Part 1: The Men Giving Up on Women and Checking out of Society”. As the MGTOW.com website explains in their mission statement:

Men Going Their Own Way is a statement of self-ownership, where the modern man preserves and protects his own sovereignty above all else. It is the manifestation of one word: “No”. Ejecting silly preconceptions and cultural definitions of what a “man” is. Looking to no one else for social cues. Refusing to bow, serve and kneel for the opportunity to be treated like a disposable utility. And, living according to his own best interests in a world which would rather he didn’t.

I found inspiration from the monks at The Abbey of Gethsemani, a monastery here in Kentucky that I regularly visit for a hike on the property, sometimes attending a church service and visiting the gift shop. I noticed that I’ve been with a partner at all times for at least the last 15 years. For the most part, the relationships ended with each partner hating the other. Meanwhile, the monks haven’t had partners for most of their lives, and seem happier than I have ever been.

You sometimes hear the expression “Men Going Monk” instead of MGTOW. That’s the direction I went in. I decided to avoid romantic relationships in the present climate of perceived hostility toward men in society, but decided that I did not want to be as hateful toward women as MGTOW were. In other words, I would become a celibate who did not want to be in a relationship with a woman, but we can be friends.

I lifted my moratorium on dating women last summer and I am in a relationship with a woman now.

Prior to becoming involved with her, I did a lot of soul searching about sex and relationships. At the time it seemed that western sexual morals had failed me, and relationships did more harm than good anymore. What did the Buddhists say about sexuality? From what I was able to learn, Buddhists are not opposed to premarital sex, but are opposed to using sexuality to harm others (and yourself!) For me, that meant avoiding what they call “toxic relationships” (I can’t stand that tired expression anymore) or any relationship where there is manipulation or abuse. I also no longer become involved with people I don’t love or aren’t attracted to, and vice versa.

As Ming-Dao noted, most people probably have the wrong perspective on sex. He said, “Religions straitjacket it, ascetics deny it, romantics glorify it, intellectuals theorize about it, obsessives pervert it.”

Taoism, according to Ming-Dao anyway, seems to be a bit less casual, yet not quite puritanical, about sex in comparison to Buddhism”

“Sexuality an honest reflection of our innermost personalities, and we should ensure that its expression is healthy. Making love is something mysterious, sacred, and often the most profound interaction between people. Whether what is created is a relationship or a pregnancy, the legacy of both partners will be inherent in their creation. What we put into love determines what we get out of it.”

The Daily Stoic:

Ryan Holiday’s chapter title for January 30th is “You Don’t Have to Stay on Top of Everything”. By that he means that the media coverage runs 24/7 and we feel that we are expected to stay current on everything, and be able to articulate an informed opinion about all current events, or keep up with popular TV shows. He’s saying it’s okay to say “I don’t care.” I’ve noticed this on Facebook a lot. A certain scandal or controversy is going on this week: Gay marriage one week, the Confederate flag the next, Hillary Clinton and deleted emails, gun control, and so on. We can try to research the issues and have an informed opinion, if only we could figure out which news source is unbiased and reliable. The end result is a lot of time and thought spent composing debate comments. Everyone fights, tempers are lost, people are unfriended. Next week, it’s another issue and the old issue is forgotten. I consciously decided, as a 2017 goal, that I do not want to participate in Facebook trolling and debating anymore. I don’t need to stay on top of everything in the news. I’d be better served spending time on bettering myself and improving my life than wasting it on frivolous arguments and information overload.

Tomorrow is the last day of January, meaning that I have completed one month of daily blog posts, as I plan to do every day of the year 2017. I will record a podcast tomorrow where I will discuss the experience of blogging for one month, and how things are going with all  the goals, and what has been learned. I will also update my goals for February.

See you tomorrow.
B.G.

Day Twenty Nine: Scars

Daily Journal

Yesterday was very productive. The kids completed the tasks on their To Do list by 11:00

businessforbohemians

The latest book by Tom Hodgkinson, one of my favorite Gen X writers.

AM, and then went to the movies to see A Dog’s Purpose with my mother and sister. I took a couple of hours to catch up on three days worth of blogs I was behind on, and restored the kitchen back to a clean condition. I went through all my bills, using a bill organizer notebook I purchased for $2 at Dollar General. Remarkably, I noticed I had paid off $350 to a collection agency for debt owed to my doctor’s office for almost one year, and paid off half of what little defaulted credit card debt remained with this week’s paycheck. I ran my annual free credit report, finding 3 open accounts I still need to pay off. Surprisingly, I’m almost debt free. The problem seemed much worse than it actually was, but I’ve been so poor for the last two years that even paying off $1500 in debt seemed impossible. I finished filing my taxes yesterday too.

 

I downloaded two new books to my Kindle, and added to my Goodreads reading list:

I’ve been a fan of Tom Hodkinson since I first bought his book The Freedom Manifesto: How to Free Yourself from Anxiety, Fear, Mortgages, Money, Guilt, Debt, Government, Boredom, Supermarkets, Bills, Melancholy, Pain, Depression, Work, and Waste at the Borders bookstore on Mill Avenue in Tempe, AZ sometime during the year 2007. I generally purchase every book he writes and Business for Bohemians is the latest one I didn’t have.

Write It Down
My advice now is to go for a long walk and think about your life. Then come home, sit down with a notebook and write down what you want to do and how you want to live. What brings you pleasure, and what brings you satisfaction? What would your ideal day look like? That is the first step.
-Chapter One: How Do You Want to Live?, Business for Bohemians by Tom Hodgkinson

My ambitions are return to a regular writing habit, keeping a blog, and writing ebooks which I put up for sale. I’d like to have some kind of part time job I don’t have, and a band that produces income and keeps my legacy and name out there. My ideal day will go like this: Wake up early in the morning. Shower. Meditation. Exercise. Breakfast. Writing or journaling. Maybe podcasting. In the afternoon, I have some kind of job I do that I don’t mind doing. In the evening, I have dinner, spend time with my family, maybe have a beer or a coffee, and read a good book. On weekends, I hike, play a gig somewhere, go on a road trip. 

This sounds like fantasy, but everything I’ve done started with goals. In 2007, it might have looked like this:

I plan to release several more albums with different acts, go on tour every winter, eventually getting a spot in a band with a bigger name, going professional. Quit my job. Maybe live part time in Kentucky, and do winters in Phoenix or Los Angeles. Write a book. My ideal day: I wake up whenever I want, work on my book in the backyard with a laptop, coffee, and pack of cigarettes. I practice on my bass or a guitar for an hour or so. I don’t have a job, and luckily I don’t need one because I make more from music than a job would pay me. In the evening, I socialize in a bar, drink as much beer as I want, and stagger home to bed. 

The reality went like this:

Three of four albums I played on came out. That would be The Earps debut and follow up called Get a Room. Back to Monkey City with Jeff Dahl. The Moonshine Millionaires EP. The idea that any of those works sold well enough to not have to work is beyond merely laughable. I moved back to Kentucky. I stopped writing blogs and failed at several attempts to write a novel. I did manage to earn $12,000 per year by playing every weekend in a country cover band, but that only lasted four years. The rest of the time I worked 40-50 hours per week at $10-$12 per hour dead end jobs. I was asked to join one of my favorite bands, Nine Pound Hammer, to the shock and awe of my old bandmates, particularly The Earps guys. I played two gigs with them, the summer Europe tour never happened and I was disappointed about that, and then the former bass player asked to rejoin the band and I was out. I did drink a lot, smoke a lot, and spend a lot of time in bars. After I turned 40, I started to think more seriously about my health. Everything fell apart when the ex ran off with a coworker, and I bottomed out completely.

I think it’s good to make a plan, and maybe follow up on it in six months, tweak it a little. I’m not sure everyone ever achieves their ideal fantasy life, but it does at least give you some direction. That’s all planning is really good for. It is remarkable how much of what you planned can be accomplished, even if those things are subject to disappointing results or Careful What You Wish For syndrome. Then there are some unplanned events and disasters. Note: Not all unplanned things are negative, but many of them can be.

Either way, we are really lucky to live in the first world, where we can pursue our dreams instead of merely pursuing our next meal and trying to avoid our own death today.

Deng Ming-Dao on Scars

Today’s entry is like Part II of yesterday’s discussion, focusing on the scars and abuse we were subjected to in the past. He says that “scars that have happened through no fault of our own may bar us from spiritual success. Unfortunately, it is often easier to give up a bad habit than to recover from these injuries, the scars mar us forever.” He goes on to say that doctors and priests can only do so much. Personally, I’ve dealt with many issues from childhood that have carried over into my adult life and helped set me up for failure, creating a lack of confidence and self worth, which I medicated with booze for about 15 years. Bullying, whippings, humiliation, and intimidation are really the only events I remember with any clarity from my childhood. At this point, not being able to change the past (yes, I can reframe the past, perhaps), I look more toward not scarring my own children and “try to acquire as few new problems as possible”. I’ve gone through psychiatry and counseling. As the author says, it only did so much. I was unsatisfied with psychiatry insistence on treating everything with drugs, and at best the results were mixed good and bad. I think Deng Ming-Dao gives good advice here that we must heal ourselves through self cultivation. Use many methods. “Travel widely”. Overcome our phobias. Do not continue living with your own toxic patterns and perpetuating more problems. If we cannot overcome each scar, they will “bar us from communion with Tao”.

The Daily Stoic: Keep it simple.

Good advice today. Don’t overthink things. Focus on what’s right in front of us. “We don’t need to get lost in a thousand other distractions or in other people’s business.”

On February 1st, I will celebrate an entire month of blog posts. I will record a podcast where I reflect on the experience of January 2017. February 1st begins a new challenge: I will spend at least 15 minutes per day doing some kind of work toward the goal of increasing my income. That can be looking around for a better job, looking for extra money gigs, updating resume, anything that might help improve my earnings for 2017.

Cheers,
B.G.

Day Twenty Eight: Accountability

Daily Journal

Last night I picked up the kids. I gave my daughter her allowance money and she purchased a throw blanket and plush pillow she liked at Dollar General. The kids have a Friday night ritual of writing down a To Do list of the things they will get done on Saturday morning. Failure to complete the tasks results in reduced time with their tablets and games. Success earns allowance money. They are no longer allowed to ask me to buy things for them while we are out shopping.

total_money_makeoverThe bigger picture is I’m working on my personal finances, using the Dave Ramsey plan. I have accomplished several debt goals in the last two weeks. I finished paying off about $350, the total of three unpaid bills for doctor’s office visits. The collection agency who was handling my defaulted Capital One credit card account, was willing to settle on a lower amount. I paid off about half of that, and will pay the remainder on February 20th. I will be running my free credit report today and getting the whole list of everything I didn’t pay when my life mostly imploded in 2014.

Aside from that, I had to reset the password for the Vanguard account management website, and jacked up my contribution from 4% to 8%. Per Dave Ramsey’s instructions, I will discontinue the practice of claiming “Zero” on my W-4, and getting the huge $6,000 plus federal tax return every spring. Instead, I will claim myself and my daughter (my ex claims my son), shooting for no tax return or a smaller tax return, but not owing money either.

I’m aware that today’s post isn’t the most exciting topic, but on the list of my very bad habits and personal shortcomings, money management is one of my worst areas, so I’m documenting my year of progress with cleaning up the mess.

Deng Ming-Dao on Accountability

A father without a father
Has difficulty balancing.
A master without a master
Is dangerous. 

I found today’s entry of 365 Tao particularly healing, as it put some of my childhood trauma in perspective. As he says, we look up to parents, teachers, and leaders with trust and expectation, without realizing when we are young that their potential for abuse and mistakes is very great. I will not go into much detail out of respect for my family, but if you carry some bad programming, confusion, psychological problems, etc. from mistakes made by your leaders, this is a great chapter to refer to. As he says, understand that every master should have a master. If you suffered at the hands of a poor leader or teacher, ask yourself who their leader is, and you will find some enlightenment there. I could really journal on this subject for days, and perhaps I will.

The Daily Stoic:

What a coincidence. Again. Are there any coincidences?

Watching the Wise.

A few days ago, I talked about having a mentor, or someone to serve as a role model. It could be a family member or a writer. Or Jesus or Socrates. Pick someone. See what they do and don’t do, and do your best to do the same.

I’m going to pick the British writer Tom Hodgkinson because I just purchased his latest book, Business for Bohemians: Live Well, Make Money.

More about that later, as I work through that book.

By the way, if you didn’t know this, I’ve heard it over and over recently, and it’s been driving the point home for me.

The most successful people- think of self made millionaires, etc.- READ A LOT.

I would strongly recommend developing a reading habit. Sit down and make a book list. Set a goal to read a couple books every month.

Just a reminder.

Thanks for reading.
B.G.

 

 

Day Twenty Seven: Feasting

Daily Journal

Today, I purchased and listened to the audiobook version of Allen Carr’s Easy Way to Stop Smoking. I was aware of the book and I may have even checked the book out at the library years ago and perhaps even returned it unread. I know the actor Ashton Kutcher had been a heavy smoker and quit using the book. I have quit smoking several times over the past few years. My most successful quit was for about a year ancigarettesd a half, 2011-2012, using the nicotine patch. I recall always feeling that I had made a sacrifice and wanting a cigarette every day of that year. I knew my days as a non-smoker were numbered when I joined the band Moonshine Millionaires and two of the guys were smokers. It was so difficult to go without cigarettes during those breaks between sets.

I had planned a quit date of February 1st, but after listening to the Allen Carr audiobook at work in only one day, I decided I didn’t want to smoke anymore and just quit immediately. No reason to smoke three more packs and wait to quit. Hard to explain how the book works but I believe it’s the best method for quitting I’ve tried so far. The author is not a health professional. He’s just a former three pack a day chain smoker who figured out how to quit and made it his life’s mission to help others quit the habit.

I would recommend the book to anyone who really wants to quit smoking. I know this will be my last quitting attempt and I will remain a non-smoker for the rest of my life.

It works like this: You have to really want to quit. If you read the book and still don’t want to quit, read it again. You have to read the entire book. You can smoke while you are reading the book too!

So far this is the easiest way to quit smoking that I have ever tried, because it address the bigger psychological problem (“brainwashing” as he calls it).

Deng Ming-Dao on Feasting:

Feasting is the flame in mid-winter
That kindles the fire of friendship
And strengthens the community.

This reminds me of trying to keep bands together- or preserving the unity of the group. It could apply to anything. Your family, your circle of friends, your Thursday night poker group, whatever. I wish I could remember the name of the documentary I saw many years ago with a quote about keeping a band together. I suspect it was the jazz fusion band Yellowjackets. Whoever made the quote, I paraphrase from memory, said that they kept the band together by getting together once a week for dinner, or maybe watching a movie, no matter how busy they were playing music. It kept them like a family. I think this is what Deng Ming-Dao is referring to, basically.

He says “like any other human endeavor, the feast is vulnerable to manipulation and politics, the selfish maneuvering of cynical individuals”- which I’m sure many people can relate to, regarding Thanksgiving dinner and family dysfunction.

He assures us that this is difficult to avoid completely. He recommends:

  • Keep intentions strictly on its purpose. (As a rule for me, in reaction to family problems when I was a kid, I do not allow arguing over problems, bad grades, getting in trouble, etc. while having dinner with my family. I grew up with anger and rage at the dinner time, with dinner plates being thrown and shattered. Family problems are to be discussed at a more appropriate place and time, with more patience. Family dinner is to create unity, not for engaging in conflict, in my opinion.)
  • Select leaders wisely.
  • The leaders need to be as enlightened as possible.

The Daily Stoic:

Today Ryan Holiday writes about the three areas of training, this time quoting Epictetus.

  • Consider what we should desire and be averse to. We need to want what is good and avoid what is bad. (Once again, a coincidence! I am learning to be averse to cigarettes and not desire them because they are not good).
  • Examine our motivations. Doing things for the right reasons? Acting without thinking first? Acting because we believe we have to do something and not for a real reason?
  • Judgment. See things clearly using reason.

Tomorrow, I will be working on my finances a little. It’s also my mother’s birthday tomorrow. Happy Birthday, Mom!

B.G.