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 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.

Day Forty Two: Walking

Daily Journal:

fortent

Pop-up tent I purchased for $7.00 at Wal-mart for the kids.

As noted yesterday, I am now several days behind on blog posts and I’m catching up this morning. On Thursday night, I purchased two Kids’ Pop-Up Fort Tents from Wal-mart for $7.00 each and the kids camped in the living overnight on Friday and Saturday night. I hadn’t been to camping stores or the outdoors department of a store in a while, and I’m amazed at some of the new products and innovations in camping in recent years, such as the Inflatable Solar Powered Camping and Emergency Lantern, which Joe Zarantonello from Loose Leaf Hollow has purchased in bulk to distribute to children and families in Haiti who do not have access to powered lighting. I saw several tutorials on these pop-tents, which actually pop up in about 3 seconds to become a fully set up tent for real camping. I may purchase a real adult version of this tent. There is a learning curve, as it takes a while to learn how to fold these tents back up so they fit inside the storage bag again. I spent about an hour figuring that out, but once you get it, it’s easy to do. I’ve been making some camping plans for this year. Looking to visit Brown County, Indiana and Red River Gorge in Stanton, Kentucky.

Deng Ming-Dao on Walking:

Today, Deng Ming-Dao says that although hiking may be a good metaphor for a spiritual life, hiking is also literally the best activity sometimes. Here’s an article where doctors explain how hiking actually changes our brains. As he says, hiking will strengthen our legs and stamina, and also remove us from the madness of society for a while. Hiking is something I regularly do, on Tuesday nights at Iroquois (which is more like a “long walk” because we are walking on pavement in a Frederick Law Olmsted-designed park. Other times, I hike at Jefferson Memorial Forest or Bernheim Forest. Last year, I hiked several times on the property at The Abbey of Gethsemani in Trappist, Kentucky. Hiking is an activity I do regularly and will continue to.

Daily Stoic: Hero or Nero?

Today, Ryan Holiday challenges the statement “Absolute power corrupts absolutely”. This may often be the case but not always, he argues, citing Marcus Aurelius as a wise philosopher king who was powerful, but not a tyrant. He says it “comes down to inner strength and self-awareness of individuals- what they value, what desires they keep in check, whether their understanding of fairness and justice can counteract the temptations of unlimited wealth and deference.”

Until tomorrow,
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.