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.




Day Forty Nine: Death

Daily Journal:


This week, I’ve been listening to many old recorded lectures by Alan Watts, available everywhere as podcasts, YouTube videos, MP3s, etc.

Really busy week here. Mandatory overtime has been called for Sunday, I’m signed up to work today (Saturday) so whatever time I have this weekend will be traded to my employer for more money. I expect the day at work to be pretty chill, so I’m probably going to listen to the audiobook version of The Book: On the Taboo Against Knowing Who You Are by Alan Watts while I’m working, which is available to hear on YouTube.

One of the things I love about my job, if not the only thing, is that I’m able to listen to podcasts, music, lectures on MP3, audiobooks, etc. while I’m working. So I dabble in everything while I’m working. Yesterday, I listened to Ryan Adams on Marc Maron’s WTF podcast. The last band I was in, Gravel & Spiders, covered his song “Note to Self, Don’t Die”. I knew an old punk rock scenester named Brew Kerr when I lived in Phoenix  who loved Whiskeytown, who were going at the time. (Brew was in the Texas band The Hormones in the 90s with Tim Stegall, who was writing for Guitar World and other zines back then) I knew very little about Ryan Adams, aside from the fact that people either didn’t know who he was, confused him with Bryan Adams, or were rabid and fanatical about everything he’s done, most of which I’ve never heard. It was a pretty good interview. Ryan Adams and I have many things in common, being roughly the same age, from the south, with a similar music background, and so on. He failed at selling me on the Grateful Dead, but click here if you want to hear his cover of “Wharf Rat”.

Another podcast I listen to quite often is Aeon Byte Gnostic Radio with Miguel Conner. It’s roughly based on Gnosticism, which may require a definition:

a prominent heretical movement of the 2nd-century Christian Church, partly of pre-Christian origin. Gnostic doctrine taught that the world was created and ruled by a lesser divinity, the demiurge, and that Christ was an emissary of the remote supreme divine being, esoteric knowledge (gnosis) of whom enabled the redemption of the human spirit.

I actually enjoy his goofy/spooky spoken word intros, with cheesy/creepy background music, with surprisingly funny references and jokes here and there. The guests are hit and miss. I listened in to one of his episodes about The Gospel of Thomas yesterday.

Deng Ming-Dao on Death:

Today’s entry reminds me of the talk I heard with Eckhart Tolle and Oprah Winfrey in their 10 week New Earth webcast in 2008. (The entire series is available on YouTube, and it’s a companion for Tolle’s book, A New Earth: Awakening to Your Life’s Purpose) You can often hear a quote about the law of thermodynamics: Energy cannot be created or destroyed, it can only be transformed into something else. We really do not know what happens after we die. We can speculate about it, be we cannot really know. The first of the Four Seals in Buddhism states that “All compounded things are impermanent”. Humans are compounded things, containing water, chemicals, other matter, etc. Those parts are not “blasted from all existence”, as Ming-Dao says. He says, what dies is is the identity of the person, our “story about ourselves”. Most of the spiritual books I’ve read have this idea as a common theme: The story about yourself comes from the Ego, or False Self, which is not your True Self. I’ve read about this in books by Eckhart Tolle, Thomas Merton, and many books on the subject of Buddhism. Basically, the ego dies. Ming-Dao and many others suggest there is someone else there in a person that is not just ego. That someone else, they say, will not die.

As of today, I still fear death. I did not fear death in my teens to late 20s, because I somehow walked around with a sense that death wouldn’t happen to me. It only happened to other people. Do you fear death?

Daily Stoic:

Today’s entry was short and simple, and quoted Epictetus. Called “Prepare for the Storm”, it’s an idea we’ve heard from our parents and grandparents, but maybe we never followed their advice. I’m reminded of how much destruction and loss of money was created by the mother of my children suddenly leaving me one day, followed by loss of employment and two different income sources, and then by medical leave. I did not have money saved to get me through the storm. I found myself at the mercy of my parents and government assistance to help me. It was a good lesson. I cannot stop “storms” from occurring. They inevitably will occur. For the most part, in the United States, storms involve loss of money, a problem that can only be fixed by money, so I need to save, which I am doing now. Having lost both my physical and mental health (at the same time!) before, I know those two things are very important to me and I need to figure out ways to protect them the best I can.

Tonight, I will hopefully catch up with yesterday’s blog post. Lesson I’m learning is that it really sucks to fall behind just a couple of days. I hope I can make a daily post for the remainder of the year, and I believe I can, but I find it doubtful that I will not fall behind once in a while and have to catch up.


Day Twenty: Happiness

Today is a great chapter from 365 Tao, that is very pertinent to the times we live in right now, as it also was in the past. Deng Ming-Dao begins with a poem:

Let us not follow vulgar leaders
Who exploit the fear of death
And promise the bliss of salvation.
If we are truly happy,
They will have nothing to offer.


A meme my friends on Facebook have been passing around and laughing at. This group is exploiting fear of death (and what might happen to you after death). No promise of salvation and bliss here, just instructing the reader to beg for mercy.

The entry today brought so much to my mind. The memes on Facebook that spread fear. The candidate you like will bring destruction and suffering to our country, but there’s still a chance to save ourselves, if only you vote for the candidate I support. I would not characterize all religious people as “vulgar leaders” but can you not see some of this fear and promise of salvation in certain churches and cults. Meng-Dao says that some leaders use fear to force good behavior from people or to herd them like cattle. If you are unhappy, they can woo you with big promises. If you feel inadequate, they can offer success. (Aren’t many motivation books sold in this way?) If you are lonely, they offer acceptance. (You can join their group and make friends.)


He says if we do not fear death and we are happy, they have nothing to offer us.

“Spirituality is an organic part of daily life, not something dispensed by a professional.”- Deng Ming-Dao

If we are free from the fear of death, live in a healthy way, and seek a path of understanding, we will be happy and we do not need false leaders.

Conquering Resistance

This week, I went back to my audio book of “The War of Art” by Steven Pressfield. I first purchased the book right after it came out in the early 2000s. It may a slight impression on me at the time, but not quite the impression it made on me this week as I revisited it again. What Steven Pressfield calls “Resistance” is what Carl Jung might have referred to as “the ego’s death wish”. I read a Stress Counselling website today that discusses why “depressed people are prone to self sabotage, negativity, and self destructive behavior” that I thought reminded me of Pressfield’s Resistance. One interesting comment is that Carl Jung found that in indigenous cultures, this death wish is treated with public “grounding” and group ritualization treatment. As a big sufferer of this death wish in the past, I found it interesting that group meditation and spiritual practice has been key to my returning to a more grounded state. The website says this death wish “demon” comes from suffering, trauma, guilt, shame, toxic relationships, and painful loss. We must find and confront these unresolved past experiences that “launched and exacerbated the death wish.” As Pressfield asserts his book, this demon is Resistance, it is evil, and it is real. This demon is responsible for our creative blocks and not doing the work we are meant to be doing.

I’ll be working through the Steven Pressfield book this week, even using his Foolscap Method for outlining all of my projects this year, including the year itself!

Stoic Morning Ritual

As I’ve mentioned before, my morning ritual has generally been pushing the Snooze button several times, saying “Oh shit!”, and rushing off, to hopefully arrive on time for a day at work I’m often not properly prepared for.

I’m changing that up, waking up earlier, and showering. I’ve added a ten minute Qi Gong routine, and some planning and journaling. Today, Ryan Holiday quoted some Marcus Aurelius.

The Marcus Aurelius morning ritual is to ask the following questions:

  • What am I lacking in attaining freedom from passion?
  • What for tranquility?
  • What am I? A mere body, state, or reputation? None of these things.
  • What then? A rational being.
  • What then is demanded of me? Meditate on your actions.
  • How did I steer away from serenity?
  • What did I do that was unfriendly, unsocial, or uncaring?
  • What did I fail to do on all these things?

As I’ve learned over the last year or so, rituals are important. I’m working very hard to establish better rituals for morning, evening, and bedtime. That said, there are only so many things that fit into my time in the morning. I don’t know that I can wake up, shower, eat breakfast, do Qi Gong, run a couple miles, journal and set goals, reflect, meditate, and read the Bible in just the little over an hour I’ve got. That said, I think it’s a good list. I may find a way by incorporating into my first break at work.

Tomorrow is another great Deng Ming-Dao entry on the subject of “Skill”. I can’t wait to write that blog post.