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.
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.
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.
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.