Day Thirty Seven: Discord

Daily Journal

Good morning.

teddyroosevelt

Teddy Roosevelt tried to retake the White House, losing badly and nearly being assassinated in the process. He nearly died exploring the Amazon River, killed thousands of animals in African safaris, and begged Woodrow Wilson to allow him to enlist in WWI despite being 59 years old. (Source: Ryan Holiday, The Daily Stoic)

Today I’m working through Chapter 2 of Designing Your Life: How to Build a Well-Lived, Joyful Life by Bill Burnett and Dave Evans. Yesterday, I blogged about Workview and today is about Lifeview (or “matters of ultimate concern”). So far, I’m really enjoying this book. It’s a really easy read, and the exercises are simple and fun.

Just as a side note, I’m working on time management and blogging. I try to limit my time to one hour per post, but yesterday I spent three hours (mostly by going down the “research” rabbit hole). Keep in mind this is a journal that I’m sharing with everyone who wants to read it, so I’m not submitting persuasive essays that were perfected as much possible before hitting the Publish button. Actually, much of this writing is stream of consciousness and may contain some errors and flaws.

Interesting coincidence, by the way! I was doing some Google searches for “Designing Your Life” and found an unrelated MIT (Massachusetts Institute of Technology) course called “Designing Your Life”, taught by Gabriella Jordan and Lauren Zander. It’s available as OpenCourseWare. Unfortunately, there are no lecture recordings, but the lecture notes are very detailed, with all the original assignments. The tone of this material is much different from the Bill Burnett and Dave Evans book. More of an aggressive “tough love” approach to detailing with your vices and problems, eliminating excuses and so on. The course recommends Ayn Rand and Neville Goddard, so that should give you an idea of the philosophy going on behind the course. Interesting and worth a look.

Lifeview: Matters of Ultimate Concern

  • Why are we here?
  • What is the meaning or purpose of life?
  • What is the relationship between the individual and others?
  • Where do family, country, and the rest of the world fit in?
  • What is good, and what is evil?
  • Is there a higher power, God, or something transcendent, and if so, what impact does it have on your life?
  • What is the role of joy, sorrow, justice, injustice, love, peace, and strife in life?

Here we are, revisiting the existential dilemma again. In the past, I my lifeview was atheistic (bad experiences with fundamentalist southern churches as a kid) and when I learned about existentialism later on, particularly Jean-Paul Sartre, that really clicked with me. Existence is absurd. Everything is random. Life has no meaning, unless we create that meaning for ourselves. I’ve identified as an atheistic since I was a child. My father threatened to slap me at the dinner time when I was young because I said I didn’t believe in God. (In those days, that’s what happened if you noticed inconsistencies and big holes between what people preached and what they actually do, and questioned anything. You were intimidated and threatened with violence.)

About two years ago, I started to get a sense that things were not so random and there might be some order, and not all chaos, in the universe. I just began to notice that certain causes produced certain effects in a very predictable way, and there were cycles of destruction and rebirth going on. I really began to notice that when someone hurt me, they could not build their happiness on top of my misery, they were punished for what they had done to me, it seemed, and every time without fail. Could my own suffering be the result of causes that I also created? As Deng Ming-Dao spoke in yesterday’s entry, you can predict the future, if you have some awareness of how things work in the world, if you are looking at it from a vantage point. I was in a locked room, as the metaphor went, so I was unable to see storms coming, and the approaching of unexpected guests.

Why are we here?– I do not know. I no longer care to take on this issue with the logic brain anymore. David Livingston Smith, Ph.D. says life has no purpose. Here are some Psychology Today articles that attempt to tackle the Big Question. Aristotle theorized that happiness is the meaning and purpose of life. You can look to religions for other answers to the question. I really just don’t know why we are here, and I’m okay with that.

What is the meaning and purpose of life?- Buddhism says the purpose of life is to end suffering. Taoism says living itself, and the journey of life, is the meaning of life. In Christianity, the meaning of life is to glorify God (at least per several Christians on the Quora message boards). Here is a list of the numerous approaches to answering the question “What is the meaning of life”? I lean toward the Taoist idea: “Only introspection can then help us to find our innermost reasons for living … the simple answer is here within ourselves.”

What is the relationship between the individual and others?- I was born and raised in the United States, where we are not instilled with a sense of collectivism and consequently, we seem to be left with a mental block where we sometimes cannot see things from another’s viewpoint. I had this problem for a long time, until I began to learn about spirituality, and the idea that we are all one, and ‘if I hurt you, I hurt myself’. In other words, we are all taught that Ego is good in America, an idea which comes into conflict and contradiction with the many other teachings we might receive. I believe that I cannot completely lose my ego, I need it, but I need to move away from this Individualism idea and get more with an idea like “We are all one”. I want to move away from being a selfish person who is in constant conflict with other selfish people, living a life dedicated with winning more of the advantages and resources through competition and so on.

Where do family, country, and the rest of the world fit in?- I am grateful to live in a free, first world country, and I love the United States for all its cultural myths and magic, like rock n roll and country-western music, cowboys, denim jeans, and so on. I also love the natural beauty found in the United States. But I don’t do nationalism or patriotism. If there is a God, and I suspect there might be something like God (it’s one of the next questions I will address) and if God is a personal, loving god who looks upon its creation without indifference, God doesn’t prefer Americans over everyone else in the world. God doesn’t prefer Christians or Muslims over atheists . We are human beings and we are united with other human beings by being human beings, and we are not separate. I want to have that viewpoint, and it is difficult to get there, and to commit to that view above all other possible views.

As Thomas Merton wrote:

In Louisville, at the corner of Fourth and Walnut, in the center of the shopping district, I was suddenly overwhelmed with the realization that I loved all those people, that they were mine and I theirs, that we could not be alien to one another even though we were total strangers. It was like waking from a dream of separateness, of spurious self-isolation in a special world, the world of renunciation and supposed holiness… This sense of liberation from an illusory difference was such a relief and such a joy to me that I almost laughed out loud… I have the immense joy of being man, a member of a race in which God Himself became incarnate. As if the sorrows and stupidities of the human condition could overwhelm me, now I realize what we all are. And if only everybody could realize this! But it cannot be explained. There is no way of telling people that they are all walking around shining like the sun.

What is good, and what is evil?- I belong to modern times, so I have a “broad definition” of good. Love, life, charity, happiness, justice, and so on. I pay them a lot of lip service though, because I’m sometimes hateful, not particularly charitable, often unhappy. I think I’m consistent with justice though. That’s probably my core of idea of good, in both philosophy and actual practice. The Republic by Plato is a good read on the subject of justice. There is evil, but there is also just plain bad, or not-so-good. I got this modern definition of evil from Wikipedia: “conscious and deliberate wrongdoing, discrimination designed to harm others, humiliation of people designed to diminish their psychological needs and dignity, destructiveness, and acts of unnecessary or indiscriminate violence.” Buddhism calls greed, hatred, and delusion the three poisons. I also think the 7 “Deadly” Sins are a pretty good list of what is bad. I have a pretty standard, modern sense of what is good, I do not act in ways that are evil (although I have a really strong, natural inclination toward ill will if I’m wronged), but I do a whole lot of “bad” things, as I imagine most of us do.

Is there a higher power, God, or something transcendent, and if so, what impact does it have on your life?- As I mentioned above, my previous beliefs were atheistic and existentialist (once I learned what existentialism was, I immediately realized I was an existentialist). This went on until I was about 38 years old. I would say that I am a “pantheist” which means I believe there is a God and I think God may be reality itself. I don’t know that there is a personal god, or that there are gods in human form. I do not believe that any religious texts are the literal truth, although I believe there are truths contained in many of them. I believe God is beyond any concepts that I can understand, but I am seeing what I believe are divine forces in the world. One I got closer to age 40, I had enough history to draw from, just from the experience of being alive longer and being a witness to life.

What is the role of joy, sorrow, justice, injustice, love, peace, and strife in life?- Most of those seem to be emotions, or related to emotions. All of these are universally experienced by human beings.

Deng Ming-Dao on Discord:

When things are in disagreement or out of tune. By the way, I looked this up. I wondered if dissonance and discord meant the same thing, in musical terms. Dissonance is a repulsion between notes that creates a sense of instability or restlessness. This sound of repulsion is not the same as an out-of-tune instrument. Discord is more like an out of tune guitar, not dissonant notes.

“There are times when we feel out of harmony with our surroundings, matters do not go our way, and we feel confused and disoriented… When we feel like this, we are not integrated with the Tao, or as it is sometimes metaphorically said, Tao has flowed elsewhere.”

He says if we are patient, we can ride out these times. If there is an opportunity to take action, take it. Or you may need to wait. Both are actions and we should always try to bring a situation back into balance with Tao. He says once we know Tao, we will recognize these times and not lose faith.

Daily Stoic: Don’t Seek out Strife

Today, Ryan Holiday gives the example of Teddy Roosevelt’s “work and activity addiction that was seemingly without end.” He says many people are like Teddy, “afraid of being still, so we seek out strife and action as distraction”.  You have problem observed this is many people you know. They get a little bored, so they stir up drama and trouble, or look for risky ways to distract themselves. I admit to this being something of an affliction for me. Maybe I didn’t seek out strife, but I certainly haven’t always been good about ending the drama and strife, and often I have perpetuated it.

Day Eleven: Healing

I’m now on my fourth day of waking up at 5:00AM. I didn’t count my vacation days because I was in a different time zone and stayed up late Friday night to play with The Earps, but I didn’t sleep after 7 or 8AM on any of those days.

I am aiming for this morning ritual:

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Neil Peart, drummer of Rush, on his motorcycle trip he made to heal from the loss of his wife and daughter. 

  1. Wake up.
  2. Coffee, tea, or water.
  3. Shower and dress.
  4. Journaling or blogging.
  5. Short Reading.
  6. Meditation.
  7. Simple breakfast.
  8. Leave for work and arrive ten minutes early.

As I said in a previous post, mornings have mostly been pushing Snooze several times, waking up for a rushed bathroom  routine, and speeding off to work, for most of my adult life.

Right now, I just have to wake up at 5AM, and do whatever I want before I leave for work, for 7 consecutive days. Then, the following week, I’ll wake up at 5AM, and take a 10 minute walk every morning for 7 consecutive days. Things will be changed and added every week as I work through the Self Mastery book.

Why New Years Resolutions, and self improvement in general, are so difficult to pull off: 

I am basically a paid slave, which isn’t necessarily a bad thing, as I have cultivated some self discipline from showing up every day at a job for over 20 years. I’ve been in leaner times the last couple of years, losing jobs and my part-time music gigging income. I make $12 an hour loading trucks and packing boxes. After I pay daycare, phone, car insurance (mine is especially expensive after two minor wrecks in the last two years), medical bills, groceries, gas, there is little left for dining, entertainment, etc. and if I want to pay off my debt too, I need to work any overtime that is offered. So that’s 10 hours per day, at least 4-5 days per week. Weekends are spent with my kids.

Most of my time is sold to someone else.

I would say this is true for most other people.

My secret weapon will be my weekday off. Wednesdays.

Today, I will log how I spend my day and post the log tomorrow.

Chapter 11 of 365 Tao: Daily Meditations

Key points: 

  • No matter how extreme a situation is, it will change.
  • Fires will burn out, turbulent seas will become calm.
  • Nature balances itself by having its events seek its opposite. This is the process of healing.
  • This process takes time. Days, years, even lifetimes.
  • In an extreme situation, the wise are patient.
  • All life is destruction and healing, over and over again.

It might be irresponsible of me to criticize psychiatric medicine, but having tried that route before, the medicines administered to me did not bring healing. That said, I think the medication may have been useful during my freakouts. The problem is there was no plan of taking me off the medications, which caused unpleasant side effects. I stopped taking the medications on my own and chose not to adopt the label of “mentally ill person”. The doctor advised that I must keep taking Risperidal or I would end up back in the psych ward. There was an assumption made that I might no longer work and would draw disability.

There was no real diagnosis. They simply didn’t know what was wrong with me, with no prior history of serious mental health issues. I was marked as “Schizophrenia/Other”.  There were other opinions too. One hypothesis was that I suffered head trauma from my fall in November 2015. Add extreme rage and depression, sleep deprivation, stress factors such as job losses and changes.

After being referred to Communicare, I decided they were pill pushers and the counseling wasn’t helpful and I couldn’t understand how a 20 year old female psychiatry student as a counselor could relate to the issues of a 40 year old man who went through the meat grinder of divorce with kids and the loss of just about every thing he loved in a swift blow of the midlife destruction hammer. How could she relate?

I simply stopped going there.

Instead, I started hiking on a regular basis, going to group meditation, studying Buddhism, reading Thomas Merton and self help books.

If money were no object, I could take some time off, and I had no dependents who rely on me, I would have taken the Camino De Santiago pilgrimage or hiked the Appalachian Trail. Instead I take my pilgrimage, 6 miles at a time, every Tuesday night after work.

Joe at Loose Leaf Hollow told me, “Grief is not in your head. You can’t think your way through it, because it’s in your body. There is something about movement.”

This seems to be true. The drummer from Rush, Neil Peart, took a very long motorcycle trip following the death of his wife and daughter in a short time period. Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance, by Robert Pirsig, Wild by Cheryl Strayed. And so on.

The Buddha said that all life is suffering and the third noble truth says there is an end to suffering (which I wanted) if you follow the Eightfold Path.

I don’t want to take pills. I’m putting all my faith in ancient wisdom, and that is why I’m here and what this blog is about.

Meanwhile, the Stoics say something different. 

“Epictetus is reminding you that serenity and stability are results of your choices and judgment, not your environment. If you seek to avoid all disruptions to tranquility—other people, external events, stress—you will never be successful. Your problems will follow you wherever you run and hide. But if you seek to avoid the harmful and disruptive judgments that cause those problems, then you will be stable and steady wherever you happen to be.”
-Ryan Holiday, If You Want to Be Unsteady, The Daily Stoic


Thomas Merton said something similar:

“If you go into the desert merely to get away from people you dislike, you will find neither peace nor solitude; you will only isolate yourself with a tribe of devils.”

Photo I took at Thomas Merton’s grave on September 8, 2016.

Same place, tomorrow. 

B.G.

Day Eight: Work

On Thursday, Jessica was informed that she lost her job at a company that manufactures and sells dog toys to pet stores, retailers, and distributors all over the country. Over the last seven years of her employment there, the business has changed quite a bit and the owner made a decision to let all in-house sales reps go, and outsource some outside salespeople instead. Her boss was generous, giving each employee a $4,000 severance package, and offering to provide letters of recommendation to them.

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Photo from today’s hike at North Mountain Preserve in Phoenix

On Saturday, we watched “Choice Point: Align Your Purpose” on the Gaia channel, which was all about the cycles of changes in a person’s life after a crisis, which they call a “choice point”, an opportunity for personal growth and a chance to transform yourself into something in alignment with your Higher Self, or authentic self.

We are both roughly 40 years old, have chased our rock n roll dreams in bands, touring around in old vans and putting out DIY and indie label albums, while holding down day jobs.

What now?
She’s presently unemployed. I joined the ranks of Kentucky’s working poor a few years ago after leaving the land of opportunity in Phoenix 7 years ago to be closer to family after 15 years of being disconnected from them.

What’s it going to be now? Which path do you take from here? Which factory or warehouse will you make $12 an hour at? Can you escape somehow?

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Jessica and her blue heeler, Spike, on the trail at North Mountain Preserve in Phoenix.

 

 

I suggested to her that she should take a silent retreat at the Santa Rita Abbey, The Monastic Community of the Trappistine Branch of Cistercian Nuns, in southeastern Arizona. At least 5 days.

I have been wanting to take a 10 day Vipassana or Trappist retreat (or hell, even a cross country hike or bicycle trip!) for a while, but you really have to be at that place in life, between jobs with time off and no short term desperate need for income, and no one dependent on you, such as children.

 

Why a Catholic retreat???

The reasons for this:

  • They cost significantly less than other places that offer retreats, sometimes even for free. Santa Rita Abbey charges $40 per day. Private rooms, food and amenities included.
  • The Trappists are interfaith, mostly quiet, and do not proselytize.
  • Their communities are refuge from media, frenetic activities and stresses of urban life, advertising, electronic gadgets, and the temptation to distract yourself.
  • The Trappists will inspire you to appreciate solitude, as The Trappists at The Abbey of Gethsemani have taught me to be okay with being alone.
  • You get lots of quiet time to reflect, journal, and think about your life’s purpose, and so on.
  • Their singing and rituals are quite pleasant to experience.

 

A Daily Meditation on Work

Key points from today’s chapter of 365 Tao: Daily Meditations by Deng Ming Dao:

  • You must work to survive.
  • You labor in harmony with the seasons. (In his example, a woodcutter must work hard prior to the first cold to have the luxury of working less during the snowy winter.
  • You must work smarter not harder. (Let the blade of the ax do the work. You don’t have to swing hard if you strike the wood with the grain, not against the grain.)
  • “True labor is half initiative  and half knowing how to let things proceed on their own.”

I grew up in a workaholic culture. I had a conversation with my father where he remarked that in conversations, there really isn’t much to talk about except what you do for a living or talk about your family or kids.

“What????”

There is philosophy. Art. Music. Books. Ideas. Travel stories. Trivia.

I later learned from a conversation this week with my grandmother (his mother) that work is a family value, her father (my great grandfather) also put an emphasis on work and lamented that being unable to work as much as an elderly person bothered him much later in his life. This is true of most of my aunts, uncles, and cousins on his side of the family.

I was involved in a lot of lazy activities growing up. Reading books. Writing. Playing guitar in bands. Listening to records. This created some conflict in my family when I was younger. I was a lazy person.

Even now, as I type this, I’m writing a blog on a vacation day off from work. Is writing “work”? Is this a good use of my time or is this lazy? Should I be loading trucks or remodeling a house instead?
I did notice in the last few years, my playing in bands was somewhat more respectable to my father when I was playing in a busy cover band, as it hadn’t been when I was playing punk bands that didn’t make so much money. The cover band wa loading and unloading trailers, which he could relate to. Putting in the hours and making money by providing a service that had a real market demand.

Today, I earn less money from working at an order fulfillment warehouse in Kentucky than I did 17 years ago in a call center in Tempe.

I actually enjoy the physical labor of loading trucks and shipping orders of shoes and apparel. Some of the work is repetitive and I can become bored during a 1o hour work day, but I am also blessed to be able to listen to headphones while I work, and I utilize my work day to learn from listening to audio books, lectures, and good podcasts while I am working.

I have a Thomas Merton quote handwritten in my pocket notebook that I refer to often:

“And so, for a contemplative, there is supreme value in the ordinary routine of work and poverty and hardship and monotony that characterize the lives of all the poor and uninteresting and forgotten people in the world.” 

-from New Seeds of Contemplation.

My lesson from Deng Ming-Dao today is that I should utilize the winter months to work overtime to pay off my debts and save money so that I may work less during the summer months so I can spend time in nature, enjoying the better weather with my children.

Day 8 of Daily Stoic: SEEING OUR ADDICTIONS

My addictions that I need to work on this year:

  1. Cigarettes.
  2. Caffeine, particularly expensive
    energy drinks” such as Rock Star, Red Bull, etc.
  3. Facebook addictiction.
  4. Complaining.
  5. Arguing.
  6. Shopping.

All I can think of, for now.

See you tomorrow.
B.G.

Aint’ got no cards, don’t pay no tax
For a score in me hand I’ll be breaking me back
I been working
And I been working all day for me mate
Call me a crook, call me bent
But I need more than food and rent
I been working
And I been working all day for me mate

Cocksparrer, “Working”, from the Shock Troops album

Day Seven: Forbearance

Last night, I arrived at “Chateau Fairmonte”, which is a nickname for the home of Kevin “Hotwheels” McGregor, given to the place by his wife.

While I was there I recorded an interview with him.

 

 

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The Earps pre-show rehearsal on January 6, 2017.

During the interview, McGregor mentioned that he had read the blog. He said that while he agreed with most of the content, he disagreed that there were every any competition between him and Aaron “Ump” McCollum for power in the band, and I may have misinterpreted the dynamic of their relationship.

As writer Harry Crews once said in an interview, “The only world I know is the one I see.”

Yesterday, I briefly entertained some remorse for posting about my assessment of our inter-band family dysfunction, but one must remember: Without tension, conflict, drama, and chaos, you don’t really have a story to tell. I have no desire to gloss over the issues, or forget that they ever happened.

“No man can walk out on his own story.”
-The Spirit of the West, in the movie Rango.


Vacation Diary:

  • Went hiking with Frank & Sharon Labor, the husband and wife bandmates in Labor Party and Battered Suitcases, at the Dreamy Draw Park hiking trail. 1.25 miles.
  • Brunch at Aunt Chilada’s in Phoenix. Mexican Eggs Benedict with Spicy Bloody Mary. It was okay. Not great.
  • Visit to Mike Bolenbach at Fullwell Studio near the Arizona State Fairgrounds. Mike was the recording studio engineer for all albums made by The Earps, and also mastered the EP released by my Kentucky country/rock band Moonshine Millionaires. His most famous client: Alice Cooper. Approximately 45 minutes of catching up on his newest equipment, took a guided tour of his living room, with its antique analog tape machines, and met his two assistant engineers.

Artic breath coils the mountain,
Rattling the forest’s bones.
Raindrops cling to branches:
Jewelled adornment flung to Earth.
-Deng Ming-Dao

A key message in Taoism is that one must live in harmony with nature, instead of fighting to have power over nature, which is an American thing. Today, Deng Ming-Dao discusses how trees lose their leaves in the winter, enduring storms, but standing through the winter to become adorned with the beauty that spring brings to them. Like the trees, we should stay true to our inner nature. As he says, “It is with this power that they withstand both the vicissitudes and adornment of life, for neither bad fortune nor good fortune will alter what they are.”

As a veteran of several consecutive volatile relationships with bad endings and one who has suffered losses in career and finances, like just about everyone else, the message I took away from the book today is that winter ends, things get good again, then winter comes back, and so on. Whether good things, or bad things are happening doesn’t change your inner nature.

“A tree gives glory to God by being a tree. For in being what God means it to be it is obeying God. It ‘consents,’ so to speak, to God’s creative love. It is expressing an idea which is in God and which is not distinct from the essence of God, and therefore a tree imitates God by being a tree.”
-Thomas Merton, New Seeds of Contemplation

 
Some Exercises in Stoic Thinking:

Yesterday, I ended the blog post with a Ryan Holiday quote consisting of questions to ask yourself for the sake of self knowledge.

Have you taken the time to get clarity about who you are and what you stand for? Or are you too busy chasing unimportant things, mimicking the wrong influences, and following disappointing or unfulfilling or nonexistent paths?


Unimportant things I have chased:

  • The pursuit of pointless entertainment to escape from boredom.
  • Watching too much television.
  • Engaging in political debates on social media.

Mimicking the wrong influences:

  • Living the hard drinking lifestyle associated with rock n roll.
  • Getting involved in endeavors that are not a good fit for me just to get approval from someone else.
  • Taking and using bad advice.

Disappointing paths:

  • A few bands I’ve been really excited about being involved in have failed.
  • Most of my day jobs have been disappointing paths. Dead end. Low pay. Hostile work environments.

Unfulfilling paths:

  • Taking band gigs where I didn’t like the material, the band wasn’t good, or staying in bands long after it was pointless to continue and I should have started something new instead.
  • Call center jobs.

Nonexistent paths:

  • Didn’t pursue my writing aspirations like I feel I should have.
  • Should have kept journals and I didn’t.
  • Didn’t develop career skills and education.

Tomorrow, I fly home from Phoenix.

Today, I realized that while I live an isolated existence in rural Kentucky with few neighbors or friends, I was, or am, somebody in Phoenix. This is neither bad or good. You can choose your perspective of any situation. You can choose to call it “loneliness” or “solitude”.

I choose to call it solitude.

See ya tomorrow.
B.G.

Theirs is the forbearance of being true to their inner natures. It is with this power that they withstand both the vicissitudes and adornment of life, for neither bad fortune nor good fortune will alter what they are. We should be the same way . We may have great fortune or bad, but we should patiently bear both. No matter what , we must always be true to our inner selves.
-Deng Ming-Dao

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.” 

Confusion. 

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