Day Seventy-Three: Affirmation

Daily Journal:

17192422_10210852092475547_1472518273994887542_o.jpgI am now almost two weeks behind on updating my blog, due to overtime at work, errands, and other activities. I will get back on this week, and work backwards through the last couple of weeks if time permits.

I guess the biggest news during the last week is that I did my first ever hike of the Millennium Trail at Bernheim Forest, an approximately 14-mile loop trail. Clocking in at just under six hours, this is presently my longest ever hike. I’m planning an overnight trip to O’Bannon Woods in Indiana later in the year, and next month I will check out the 5-mile Elm Lick Trail at Bernheim, which will mean I have hiked every trail at Bernheim once completed.

Aside from that, I’ve been working 6 days per week, 10 hour days, and spending time with my children on weekends. This past Saturday night I took my son bowling and took my daughter roller skating on Sunday. Sunday is Free Parents day at Whispering Wheels Roller Rink in Bardstown.  That means an adult and child get in for $5.00, skate rental included, and almost 4 hours of skating. That’s the best deal around. We’ve been going every Sunday. It’s a great way to sneak in a few hours of cardio on the cheap and spent quality time with a child.

Deng Ming-Dao on Affirmation:

Stand at the precipice,
That existential darkness,
And call into the void:
It will surely answer. 

Deng Ming-Dao says “the precipice represents our dilemma as human beings, the sense that this existence is all too random, all too absurd.” Is there order? It was hard to not think of Sartre and Camus when reading this entry today. Ming-Dao says, as he has said in other places, we cannot rely on scripture for an important issue like this, but rather we must explore it on our own. He compares the void to a valley, saying that if you cry out into the void, there will be an echo. That echo affirms our existence.

The Daily Stoic:

Today, Holiday talks about self-deception (and delusions of grandeur). He quotes Epictetus here: “It is impossible for a person to learn what he thinks he already knows”. This is Ego, and Holiday reminds us that ego is the enemy to our ability to learn and grow. We delude ourselves into believing we already possess the things we wish to possess. He says we must meet ego with the same kind of “hostility and contempt” that it employs against us to keep it away.

Tomorrow is more work. Expect the entries to be shorter this week, as I am working overtime all week and other limitations as I make some changes around the home in the next week or two.

Thanks for checking back in.
B.G.

 

 

 

Day Fifty Nine: Source

Daily Journal:

A lot on my mind these days. Feeling really distracted much of the time, and haven’t kept up with meditation, especially since Joe went off to Haiti and Thursday night meditation group has been postponed. Should resume tomorrow. Another eye appointment today. Something has happened to my right eye, where the Wal-Mart vision center has been unable find the proper reading for my right eye. I’m inventing stories about it right now. Like”Oh my god, I have EYE CANCER!!” I also burned all my eyelashes off my right eye over two years ago while camp cooking near Ft. Gratiot, Michigan. The lashes never completely grew back, leaving me with a cockeyed look. Possible eye damage from that incident? Also my fall last November may have resulted in head trauma/brain damage that can sometimes have an effect on vision, or so I have read. Today, I get closer to some answers anyway.

I booked a room in Taos, New Mexico for the journey home. I’m looking forward to being in Taos, however briefly, mostly because Natalie Goldberg wrote so much about Taos in her “Writing Down the Bones” book.

Most of the business related to the trip next month has been done now.

Deng Ming-Dao on Source:

His first statement is “the source of all power is within yourself”. Immediately, this entry reminded me of the Bible quote (Luke 17:21): “The kingdom of God is within you”. Deng Ming-Dao says the source is latent within everyone, but we can learn to tap it. We are not looking for something external to bring us power. He says it is not enough to tap this power, but we must learn to direct it, which requires wisdom, experience, and education. He says “Finding the source of spiritual power is a great joy; deciding how to direct it is the greatest of responsibilities”, as he indicates the same attainment can be used for good or evil.

Daily Stoic:

Note: Daily Stoic includes February 29th. This is not a leap year but I will cover both February 28th and March 1st of the Daily Stoic.

Using an Epictetus quote, Ryan Holiday reminds us that we cannot have everything we want. This is contrary to the message you receive in society that we can have everything we want. Don’t set your heart on too many things, Epictetus says. We have to focus. Prioritize. Ask ourselves with everything if we really need it, can we live without it, and what will happen if we don’t have it.

March is here. Day One. The theme for March is Awareness.

“An important place to begin in philosophy is this: a clear perception of one’s own ruling principle.”
-Epictetus

He is saying use reason to find self awareness, examining your emotions and beliefs that guide you.

I have some catching up to do on chores around the house. Feeling scatterbrained, rushed, and distracted lately. As Deng Ming-Dao says, I’m looking at diet, mind, and environment and getting those in order and harmony the best I can.

See you tomorrow.
B.G.

 

 

Day Fifty Five: Division

Daily Journal:

docmartens

Dr. Martens 1460 Eight-Eye Aztec boots I bought this week.

I’ve spent the week shopping for new clothes, something I haven’t done that has been long overdue, especially following butt blowout on three pairs of old jeans in the last month. Lifestyle changes usually seem to result in changes to the wardrobe in my closet. For example, I spent about 10 years in cubicles in offices and call centers and have been working in warehouses for the last six years. I donated all “business casual” attire. Every last pair of Dockers-style slacks and every golf shirt. I’ve switched over to jeans (shorts in the summer) and t-shirt with comfortable shoes and backwards baseball cap for my present warehouse job. The other half of my clothes are “rock star clothes”, consisting of super tight stretching jeans, denims, cowboy boots, etc. (I basically mix rock fashion with western wear, a little 70s, a little 80s…) After getting out of the music scene, I’m finding that I no longer wear the rock star clothes.

I found some good simple men’s fashion advice from Models: Attract Women Through Honesty by Mark Manson, which I read probably two years ago. He says to buy a “black set” and a “brown set”: Brown jacket, brown shoes, brown belt. Black jacket, black shoes, black belt. From there, buy several pairs of jeans, ranging from light to black and different shades. About a dozen or so shirts. I went a step further, adding brown and black hats. I wear a lot of hats because (a) my hair is not easy to manage and look presentable and (b) I look great in hats.

As he says, start with jeans and t-shirt you want to wear. Then match with either brown or black. I thought it was simple and brilliant advice.

I bought a pair of brown Dr. Martens 8 eye boots, black Levi’s engineer boots, 4 pairs of jeans from American Eagle Outfitters, a brown leather motorcycle jacket, brown Justin cowboy hat, several baseball caps, $3.99 each, from Rural King farm store.

This week, I will declutter the closet, removing clothing that doesn’t fit, I never wear, I don’t like, etc. and donating it.

Deng Ming-Dao on Division:

Today is another simple entry in 365 Tao, it begins with a poem:

Problems cannot be
Resolved at once.
Slowly until knots
Divide to conquer.

You may have heard the old expression “Eat the elephant one bite at a time”. That’s what Deng Ming-Dao is basically saying today.

First, he breaks down into three types of problems:

  1. Puzzle- needs to be analyzed carefully, requiring patience.
  2. Obstacle- must be overcome. Use force or move around it.
  3. Entanglement- requires us to extricate ourselves from a “maze of limitations”

This is an area of my life that has improved a lot. Typically, I’m overwhelmed with problems I feel that I can’t handle sometimes. In the past, I would ignore them until they could no longer be ignored anymore. Over the last two years, I’ve gotten better at breaking down problems into smaller goals, especially in terms of getting out of debt, removing bad habits like drinking and smoking, improvements with cleaning the house, and so on. I loved Deng Ming-Dao’s phrase “maze of limitations”. More than ever, I have more limitations. Having children, you can’t just move anywhere you want, take any work schedule, or work too far from their schools, etc. Aging brings its own limitations as well.

As he says, fracture bigger problems down to their basic elements, which you slowly reduce until they are untangled.

Daily Stoic:

Today’s entry is another area where cognitive behavioral therapy owes a debt to Stoicism. Excellent quote from Epictetus:

“Keep in mind that it isn’t the one who has it in for you and takes a swipe that harms you, but rather the harm comes from your own belief about the abuse.”

His point is that if someone makes you angry, it’s your opinion of the deed that is fueling the anger, not the deed itself. Obviously, Stoic advice doesn’t apply to situation of extreme harm such as assault or murder, but is very useful for navigating around ordinary, daily drama.

Tomorrow, I will visit the Abbey of Gethsemani in Trappist, Kentucky to purchase some p and probably another Thomas Merton book.

Peace.
B.G.

Day Fifty Four: Adversity

Daily Journal:

masterchoakoksui

The late Choa Kok Sui, businessman from The Phillipines and founder of Pranic Healing. He died from severe pneumonia in 2007.

Yesterday, I had the day off. Caught up on sleep, waking up around 7:00AM instead of the usual 4:30AM-ish time. Spent most of the day doing chores around the home, with a vague plan of going hiking somewhere. I went to Meetup.com, to sign up for the Wednesday hike at Jefferson Memorial Forest. Noticing the usual Wednesday hiking group is either disbanded or on haitus for winter, I decided to look for a Wednesday evening meditation group instead, considering that my Thursday night group at Loose Leaf Hollow was cancelled while Joe is in Haiti. So I found one called Pranic Meditation & Healing and decided to go. Being somewhat on a whim, I didn’t do much research on “Pranic meditation” and I was open to a new experience anyway. I decided I would drive to Louisville, hike a trail nearby somewhere, then go to the meditation group. I found a park nearby called Brown Park. Being a smaller park with all trails running less than 1 mile long, I had to do laps around the park, which I did for about an hour.

The Pranic Meditation & Healing meeting happened in Sherrin Square, some office condos in St. Matthews. The door for Suite 150 had a sign saying “InnerMost Solution”, and I was greeted by an enthusiast, friendly woman named Martha, who offered bottled water and chocolate candy,  showing me to a room with many office chairs and an altar with all the deities from the major world religions, a salt crystal lamp, some mala beads, and portrait of Choa Kok Sui. (I would later find out that she was Martha Paulin, a “certified colon hydrotherapist” who does business there as InnerMost Solution) I would describe the overall vibe of the place as more “New Agey” than Buddhist or interfaith, and giving off some hints of being a guru business, but it was hard to tell for sure. They were not aggressively selling anything, but did let us know that we could pay to attend classes if we wanted to and there were some brochures in the lobby.

beargrass-creek

Photo of Beargrass Creek taken during walk at Brown Park in St. Matthews.

Before the meditation began, we were guided through some exercises that were similar to QiGong, but not exactly. A small iPod played a recording of Om chanting and then we were guided through a visualization type of meditation, visualizing Earth as a small ball in our hands that we were healing of all its troubles and problems. We were also instructed how to release grudges and resentments, with gestures of “cutting cords”. Short periods of silence here and there. More QiGong-like exercises, then a healing demonstration. Having recently quit smoking, I have the usual quitter’s issue of coughing up some mucus. That was the only health complaint I really had, so the young man in the group, a thin guy with a beard and longish hair tied back, was instructed to “work on the throat chakra”. He was waving his hands around, spraying mist from a bottle, which had a really strong lavender smell. Reminded me of the Mrs. Meyer’s lavender scented cleaner I used to buy at Sprouts when I lived in Arizona.

I don’t know what to make of “Pranic Healing”. I did find the meditation was very relaxing and I felt an overall sense of wellness. I did have a day off after working 9 days straight, actually got some quality rest, the weather was perfect, and I was outside getting exercise. The meditation seemed to help that, but I felt unusually good and healthy yesterday. Was it the healing? I don’t know. Bullshit Detector was going off a bit, picking up on some possible pseudo-scientific nonsense, but showing no obvious signs of outright fraud. Interesting, they read aloud The Lord’s Prayer from the Bible. After I went to sleep for the night, I dreamt about the Lord’s Prayer (in Aramaic, not English) being read to me, which I have heard before on CD recordings.

Final verdict: Not sure. Maybe. The founder died of pneumonia, which takes away the credibility of “healing”, doesn’t it? I couldn’t quite shake a multilevel marketing faith healer vibe in the room either. Certainly nothing like Vipassana meditation I had done, guided “somatic” meditation with Reggie Ray, or anything associated with western Buddhism or interfaith I was familiar with.  Reminded me of New Age stores in someplace like Sedona, Arizona or something. Worth a try. Free, not super aggressive timeshare sales techniques, and the people were really nice.

Deng Ming-Dao on Adversity:

Nothing new here. The old idea of “what doesn’t kill you makes you stronger” about how difficult experiences build moral character. He says we must rely on determination, and not be overcome by fear. He says “times of adversity can be crucial to the development of one’s inner personality”.

On a side note, I purchased an audiobook version of Deng Ming-Dao’s other book Scholar Warrior: An Introduction to the Tao in Everyday Life  yesterday. Great book so far. Many of the ideas are familiar from 365 Tao, but a really good practical book for self-cultivation in Tao it seems. I’m about 1/3 through the audiobook, which I listen to at work.

Daily Stoic:

Circumstances Have No Care for Our Feelings. Today’s entry is more of the same. Don’t get worked up about things outside your control, etc. Holiday reminds us that circumstances are not sentient beings, so they are not capable of caring about our feelings. Thus, it is futile to get emotional or angry about circumstances since they are not able to care.

Overall, today both Tao and Stoic ideas were simple and familiar. Tomorrow, I may discuss diet, challenges with healthy eating, and so on. By the way, I will continue working through “Designing Your Life” exercises. I’ve been held back by all the overtime I’m putting in, but I haven’t forgotten.

See you tomorrow.
B.G.