Day Thirty Four: Engagement

Daily Journal

Yesterday, I stumbled across a podcast I really liked, while just looking for a show discussing the topic of “mindfulness”. The podcast is called The Mystic Show and the host is Chris Curran, who seems to have had the privilege of much traveling abroad in his life, and has a background in the recording studio side of the music business. He mentions in one episode that he “overdosed on Tony Robbins a few years ago”, indicating that he is approaching the topic of spirituality after years of being immersed in self help and personal development. Not uncommon. I enjoyed the podcast and I plan to read through a book he covers extensively in the podcast called “Byways of Blessedness” by James Allen, which is public domain and available to read for free here.


The zendo at Loose Leaf Hollow in Bardstown, Kentucky.

I also went to my Thursday night meditation group at Loose Leaf Hollow in Bardstown. Since I’ve been waking up early in the morning (about two weeks now), I’ve had a lot of difficulty staying awake for meditation sessions there, which go from 7PM-9PM (including time spent socializing and having tea, and for Joe Zarantonello’s talks that go with the meditation). The sleepiness has been so bad the last two Thursdays, I really couldn’t even attempt to meditate. I almost felt like excusing myself from the group so I could go home and sleep. I would shut my eyes, nod off a little, and wake up when I started to fall over.

Lately, Joe has really been working with the Reggie Ray style of guided meditation and also chanting along with the San Antonio Vocal Arts Ensemble’s track called “Abwoon” (The Lord’s Prayer in Aramaic). Many different spiritual traditions are covered at Loose Leaf Hollow and chanting in Aramaic is new to me. Joe loaned me a copy of The Hidden Gospel: Decoding the Spiritual Message of the Aramaic Jesus by Neil Douglas-Klotz, but I haven’t begun reading it yet.

The track “Abwoon” from Ancient Echoes: Music from the Time of Jesus and Jerusalem’s Second Temple by San Antonio Vocal Arts Ensemble is available on YouTube. You can listen and chant along.

Deng Ming-Dao on Engagement:

Prey passes the tiger who
Sometimes merely looks,
Sometimes pounces without hesitation
But never fails to act.

Life, as Deng Ming-Dao says, “is a constant series of opportunities”. Whatever comes to us, we have to engage in it. We may let the opportunity go because the timing isn’t right. We can seize the opportunity. We must not let the opportunity pass because we were slow or unable to take the opportunity. This is what he calls engagement.

The Daily Stoic: The Source of your Anxiety

Epictetus defines the source of anxiety as wanting something outside our control. Ryan Holiday says “Staring at the clock, at the ticker, at the next checkout lane over, at the sky- it’s as if we all belong to a religious cult that believes the gods of fate will only give us what want if we sacrifice our peace of mind.”

Today, I find myself anxious, as I do most mornings. Can I squeeze everything I want to do in the hour or two before I leave for work? Time is always a source for anxiety for me, particularly as it relates to not being able to accomplish many things in the time I am given, getting in trouble for not doing what is expected of me, things that are often impossible considering time restraints.

As Ryan states, the anxiety doesn’t do me any good. As I finally figured out by trying to balance full time (plus overtime) work schedule with playing every weekend with bands and parenting a few years ago, my anxiety comes from not having more time. I was able to relieve this anxiety by giving up a responsibility: Playing in bands.

Another source of anxiety is not having control over the actions of other people, particularly the decisions they make that affect you in a negative way.

I don’t have control over congested traffic. Et cetera.

Tomorrow, I’ll discuss dieting. Particularly my food diet and Facebook Diet!


Day Four: Reflection

Moon above water. Sit in solitude. 

I started doing meditation for the first time on Monday nights with the Louisville Vipassana Community, led by Glenda Hodges-Cook, at the Clifton Universalist Unitarian Church

Glenda referred me to Joe Zarantonello at Loose Leaf Hollow in Bardstown to avoid the long drive to Louisville. 

“He’s a Catholic Buddhist. A Catholic priest who is also a Buddhist.” 


As I began attending and had a two hour or so 1 on 1 consultation with him, I learned that he has a Catholic background, but isn’t actually a priest at all. In fact, he’s a married, a teacher who retired from a local Catholic school in Bardstown and opened a retreat center at his home. The group meets on Thursday nights at 7pm. 

It took me a few months to figure out that you can’t really put labels on Joe, like Zen, Catholic, Buddhist, etc. 

I’ve only recently learned that there isn’t much need to categorize and label everything, a habit I picked up early on, noting in school that everyone assumes an identity to a group. 

Nerds. Jocks. Stoners. Rockers. Preppies. 

This habit was reinforced by the record stores, where everything is neatly categorized. 

Post-punk/New Wave. Psychedelia. Hard rock/metal. Ska/reggae. Jazz/fusion. 

Labels are useful to a point to find what you are looking for, but creating an identity with a certain label blocks you from experiencing other ideas and causes you to live in a bubble. 

So if I must apply labels and descriptions to Joe and Loose Leaf Hollow, it seems to be very influenced by Trappist monk writer Thomas Merton. Buddhism. Sufism. Zen. Irish poetry. Enneagram. Lapsed Catholicism. Contemplative writing. 

Meditation is just sitting. Or just walking. Or just writing. Or just washing dishes

You don’t have to be a Buddhist, a Taoist, a Zen practitioner, a monk, or a hippie to meditate. 

“If waters are placid, the moon will be mirrored perfectly. If we still ourselves, we can mirror the divine perfectly. But if we engage solely in the frenetic activities of our daily involvements, if we seek to impose our own schemes on the natural order, and if we allow ourselves to become absorbed in self-centered views, the surface of our waters becomes turbulent. Then we cannot be receptive to Tao.”
-Deng Ming-Dao

Today on the flight to Phoenix, I will use mind mapping to brainstorm book ideas.

 On December 6th, I received an email from Chandler Bolt announcing the launch of his latest book “Published. The Proven Path From Blank Page to Published Author” on Amazon. The new book is available on Kindle Unlimited, so I downloaded it, along with the free audio book version, available from a link on Page 3.  I decided to go ahead and use his system for writing a book this year. 

I have no idea what the book will be about at this time. 

“So many of us out there simply have stories to tell. Whether it’s a biographically-based tale of triumph, a step-by-step guide to solving a problem, or a fictional story crafted to entertain (yes, that includes children’s books)—they are all stories inside you waiting to get out. No matter what your story is, you can use it to make a difference in the lives of the people who read it. You have all these wonderful ideas running wild in your head. It’s not fair for you to keep something so great trapped inside. Why not share it? You never know what impact you are going to have.” 

– Chandler Bolt

The Tao Te Ching

I bought a copy of the Tao Te Ching, the Shambhala Pocket Classics edition,  translated by John C.H. Wu, for 7.99 plus tax in the gift shop at The Abbey of Gethesemani in New Haven, KY. 

Today, I read the first verse. 

Tao can be talked about, but not the Eternal Tao.
Names can be named, but not the Eternal Name.
As the origin of heaven-and-earth, it is nameless:
As “the Mother” of all things, it is nameable.
So, as ever hidden, we should look at its inner essence:
As always manifest, we should look at its outer aspects.
These two flow from the same source, though differently named;
And both are called mysteries.
The Mystery of mysteries is the Door of all essence.

Translated by John C.H. Wu (1939)

And today’s little piece of Stoic wisdom:

“Control your perceptions. Direct your actions properly. Willingly accept what’s outside your control. That’s all we need to do.”
-Ryan Holiday, The Big Three, from Daily Stoic