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.

religiousposter

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.

B.G.

 

Day Twelve: Shaping

First, the bad news. I went home early from work today due to illness. At first, I thought I was just going through what every smoker probably goes through in the winter time: sinusitis. Then my energy level dropped yesterday and I went to bed just after 7PM and slept all night until 5:00AM. Within a few hours I was feeling feverish, took sick time to go home, and slept a few more hours. I’m also skipping group meditation tonight so I don’t get anyone else sick. 

Today’s screenshot of my HabitBull app.

The topic of today is habit tracking

I downloaded the HabitBull app on my Droid Turbo smartphone. I’m now on a consecutive 12 day streak of daily blogging. I give myself a little leeway with turning things in late and backdating blog posts, because life gets busy on days with kids and other activities. I’m on 5 days (not consecutive, broken up by vacation travel) of getting up at 5:00AM. 

On Wednesday, January 18th, I will start my day with a ten minute walk. Once I complete a consecutive 7 days of ten minute morning walks, I will add 10 minute meditation, and have the following morning routine:

  1. Wake up at 5:00AM. 
  2. 10 minute walk. 
  3. 10 minute meditation. 

I will also go through some serious housecleaning soon and establish a daily routine for that as well. Spare time in the morning should help with my usual problem of not having time to clean up after myself in bathroom because I’m in a mad rush.

I would be considered a “messy person” by the standards of most people, although maybe not so much by the standards of, say, punk rockers and their “band house”, and certainly not judged against the people on those “hoarders” TV shows. 
There are many causes of this personal issue: a combination of depression, poor time management, not picking up after myself, getting distracted by other activities, and avoiding housework in general. Rushing the morning bathroom routine due to sleeping too late causes bathroom mess. 

Next week, I will start the KonMari decluttering method, as written about in the book, “The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up” by Marie Kondo.

A Day Off in the Life

Yesterday:

5:00-5:10AM: Woke up. Put out food and water for the cat. 

5:10AM-5:30AM: Showered and dressed. 

5:30AM-6:00AM. Recorded a voice memo. Coffee & cigarette. Left a comment on Facebook with a book recommendation for a friend. 

6:00-6:20AM. Started blog. 

6:20-6:45AM: Got the kids ready for school. 

6:45-9:45AM: Took the kids to school. Not part of my ordinary Wednesday routine. Its a whopping 2 hour round trip! 

9:30-10:00AM: Listened to podcast interview of a Louisville band. 

10:00-10:30AM: Talking to my mother. 

10:30-12:40AM: Blogging and proofreading older blog posts. 

At that point, my energy level dropped and I didn’t log any other activities the rest of the day. Sidetracked by Facebook. Ugh. Did manage to clean my bedroom, wash dishes, and do laundry. Called my girlfriend. Lots of couch time with exhaustion. Went to bed at 7:30PM. 

Shaping the Situations in Our Lives

This is how we shape all the situations in our lives. We must give them rough shape and then throw them down into the center of our lives. We must stretch and compress, testing the nature of things. As we shape the situation, we must be aware of what form we want things to take. The closer something comes to completion, the harder and more definite it becomes. Our options become fewer, until the full impact of our creation is all that there is. Beauty or ugliness, utility or failure, comes from the process of shaping.
-Deng Ming-Dao

Deng Ming-Dao begins Chapter 12 with a metaphor of how a potter starts making a pot with a potter’s wheel, and compares it to how we shape the situations in our lives. 

I do not wish to destroy the old pot (metaphor), but rather create a new pot, with some of the same good qualities the old pot had.

The rough shape of this new pot is:

  • Health. Kick tobacco. Make better food choices. Regular exercise. Healing. 
  • Discipline. Well established daily rituals, with some room for spontaneity, but always falling back on good habits. 
  • Creativity. Choosing not to stagnate in a comfortable situation or let my job or circumstances leech all energy for creative pursuits, such as writing and music. 
  • Mindfulness. Not involved in drama, or becoming consumed by it. Able to enjoy every present moment as it is. 
  • Productivity. Goals and accomplishments. 

The Path to Serenity: 

Today’s entry in The Daily Stoic by Ryan Holiday really shows the influence of Stoic thought on 12 step programs. 

“Keep this thought at the ready at daybreak, and through the day and night—there is only one path to happiness, and that is in giving up all outside of your sphere of choice, regarding nothing else as your possession, surrendering all else to God and Fortune.” —EPICTETUS, DISCOURSES, 4.4.39

Step 3 of Alcoholics Anonymous:

“Made a decision to turn our will and our lives over to the care of God as we understood Him.”

I thought today was a particularly good entry in The Daily Stoic. 

Key points:

  1. Morning: Remind yourself what is in your control and what isn’t. 
  2. Before lunch: Remember all you really have is the ability to make choices. 
  3. Afternoon: Remember that fate is not entirely up to you. 
  4. Evening: Remind yourself again how much is outside of your control and where your choices begin and end.
  5. Night: As you lie in bed, remember that sleep is a form of surrender and trust and how easily it comes. And prepare to start the whole cycle over again tomorrow.

I went to the Calendar app and set these as daily Reminders with notifications. I’ll soon find out whether these reminders are helpful or annoying. 

Fate

Just as a side note, it must be noted that, in general, Americans no longer believe in fate. It is considered antiquated and backwards. We believe that we are in control of our destiny. Many other parts of the world still believe in fate. For the year 2017, I will choose to believe in fate. I believe that I can make choices and use self discipline to help deal with whatever fate brings to me, but I am not entirely in control. 

Tomorrow, I will look at making better food choices and decide on a smoking quit date. 

Cheers. 

B.G.