Moral Unity

A moral foundation allows people to coexist within communities. The Golden Rule, which exists in some form within all the major religions, reminds individuals of how it feels to be mistreated, and encourages them to act nobly. When we feel or witness the suffering we cause in others, we are much less likely to act in negative ways, but when there is a disconnect between the individual acting and the person harmed, sometimes we cheat.

I recently went to a state park with a $3 self pay station for entrance. I’ve been to these parks enough to know that there is no surveillance and that I won’t be caught, so I start justifying reasons not to pay. “I’m only going to be here for a short visit. I didn’t have singles last time so I overpaid. I shouldn’t need to pay to visit nature. I’m going to get an annual pass at the end of the month.” After leaving, I start feeling guilty for not paying. These parks depend on these funds and I should support them, but since I’m hurting a big agency instead of an individual, I don’t feel guilty enough to right my mistake.

Meditation has taught me that the personal consequences to stealing a visit to the park is not cost-effective. The mental turmoil from justifying, second guessing, and feeling guilty for several days is true suffering, and meditation has helped me identify it as such. A peaceful mind is loving and happy, and when I act immorally, I lose my happiness. I separate myself from my community instead of feeling good about utilizing the opportunity to give back. When I do the right thing, I feel happy.

Before I started meditating I got upset when I was following the rules and other people were cheating them. I felt like they were benefiting from their choices and they were taking advantage of me which made me mad. Now I see that they’re simply hurting themselves. All the major religions are trying to teach this lesson, but if the lessons are only intellectual they might not stick. When we learn to feel our own suffering, in addition to understanding it intellectually, we’re much more likely to act positively. Maybe there’s a way for religious organizations to use meditation to help teach their lessons. Society would benefit tremendously from more citizens striving to live moral lives. Time to meditate.

Living With Reality

How much time do I spend distracting myself from reality? The obvious distractors are television, movies, and internet, but I want to look a little bit deeper. When I see a model seductively posed in an advertisement, how many seconds does this distract me from the people and circumstances around me? After watching a nice car drive by, do I allow myself to imagine owning and driving a sports car? If I walk past an old man struggling to carry his groceries, am I able to ignore the situation and continue to prioritize my own desires?

After reflecting on these types of questions, I notice that I spend ample time creating and managing various fantasy worlds. These fantasies bring immediate agitation because my reality is inferior to my fantasies which makes being happy with my actual life impossible. For happiness to be sustained, or for it to exist in moments of silence, it must be rooted in reality.

Facing reality in crisis or sustained difficulty can be overwhelming. We all encounter situations we must compartmentalize or take space from, but I can practice acknowledging when I’m overwhelmed while temporarily moving to a less problematic environment? Can I avoid moving into a fantasy world when life gets hard?

By learning to spend increasing amounts of my day with reality, I’m finding a peaceful happiness in deeper parts of my consciousness. This makes my happiness more resilient to new challenges that enter my life. Practicing awareness and equanimity with my current reality through meditation is the strongest tool I’ve discovered for this purpose. As I go about my day, the more time I spend with my breath and sensations, the better I’m getting at accepting and appreciating my current reality. By simply accepting my life as it is allows subtle improvements to naturally appear. Completely eliminating fantasies from my consciousness is unrealistic, but making small improvements every day over a lifetime can make a huge difference. Time to meditate.

Our Work is Love

Our work is love. The classic statement is that to love your job is to mean you will never work a day in your life. This is not work, but play. To find love, on the one side, may sometimes feel like work, but if we love our work, it will be play. If our work is to find love, and we play with that, we can love our journey to love.

I beg you, to have patience with everything unresolved in your heart and to try to love the questions themselves as if they were locked rooms or books written in a very foreign language. Don’t search for the answers, which could not be given to you now, because you would not be able to live them. And the point is to live everything. To live the questions now. Perhaps then, someday far in the future, you will gradually, without even noticing, live your way into the answer.
– Rilke

I discovered that wonderful quote this morning on www.brainpickings.org.

We search for the answers, always. We do. We cannot stop this. It may be human nature, but it is also human that in consistent searching, we understand. This can take practice, and it does take play, and through the words of others and the understanding that we have, at this point in time, we can figure some stuff out, thankfully. In listening to great speakers of wisdom, their words can give us doors to walk through, but it is up to us to dive into them ourselves to really live the questions, and the answers.

Today I was on my way home.  I was by the college and there were lots of people walking about. I thought that at some point I should come by and draw people here. Then, it came to me to stop and do it then and there. So I got off my bike, locked it up and went into the college lounge area where there was a coffee shop and many students sitting around, doing student stuff.

I sat down in a good people watching spot and took out my sketch book and writing notebook. I began to draw, but also to focus on maintaining a complete act of attention while I drew. More and more, I begin just to sit and see. I really looked and stayed alert. I drew some things and wrote a bit, but I came to dive into my awareness as a subject much more than my art. I thought about education, and what is the point of it if we don’t have love? I could be an artist. I’ve been told that I’m a talented artist by many, but what is the point of drawing if it’s not an act of complete attention? An act of actual understanding, which naturally is an act of compassion. I just can’t do anything out of reaction anymore. Even if it’s good art in the end, if I’m not completely with it while it’s occurring, there’s no point. I wouldn’t actually be learning.

So I sat there and observed. The writing and drawing at that moment turned out to be my context to get myself into presence. So I wrote a bit, then sat there, reflecting on it and applying my reflecting into the moment, digging deeper. It took some work, but over time it became play. With the truth of it, seeing that I am this conditioned being, a bundle of memory, it was fun. Over the course of my time sitting in the college, I did my work.

My work wasn’t art. It wasn’t writing. It was being attentive and aware. It was love. It was my consistent staying with my awareness and observing. Step by step, diving into my actual presence rather than the activity I was trying to do, I saw the entered the door of awareness. Although I had an objective to go draw or write, I didn’t insist on that being done and my focus was on being attentive and learning about my conditioning, my fear, my self. It was looking at fear as this foreign language, like it was an extraordinary jewel. I held it like that with my whole being. In understanding this misery, this conditioning, compassion was with me, for myself and all others. I sent metta to everyone, because my work was done. My work was love, and I left the college content.

The Non-Profit Paradigm

The Non-Profit businesses that I’ve worked or volunteered for depend on a paradigm which prevents a long term solution. It separates our population into Takers, Givers, and Normals. Takers are at the bottom of the totem pole, and are considered helpless and needy. Givers are willing to sacrifice the opportunity to live normal independent lives to take care of the takers and often get burned out. Normals have a for-profit job, take care of themselves, create a bubble to live in, and become agitated when something outside their bubble impacts their life. Givers don’t have the resources to “fix” the Takers, the Takers are helpless to improve their own situation, and Normals have a fulltime responsibility staying isolated from others problems.

This paradigm implies that Normals know the proper way to live, which creates the blueprint of what Givers are helping Takers to achieve. The problem is, Normals are creating artificial bubble or reality for themselves, and the problems they push out of their bubble need to go somewhere. The true reality is that people from all three groups are interconnected with everyone’s decisions impacting everyone else. The result is that For-Profits dump the problems they create on Non-Profits to solve.

I think we need a new paradigm that challenges all companies and people to be stewards of the world. Instead of creating bubbles and forcing created problems outside of it, we all need to work to understand the consequences of our desires. Instead of just acting for immediate gratification, we need to work, as individuals and companies, to understand what’s best for the population as a whole. We need to look beyond money to see the true impact our decisions have on people’s lives. We need to believe we can do better as individuals and communities and create the time to figure it out.

There are many people already working on these problems. Global warming, organic farming, and sweatshops are some of the challenges we’re working to overcome together. I’m writing about this here because Vipassana has created a belief in me that everyone has a peaceful loving person inside of them, which gives me confidence that we can learn to care for and believe in each other so we can work together. I don’t know how we get from here to there. Do you have any ideas? Time to meditate.

I’ve Established My Practice, Now What?

I’ve been sitting 2 hours a day for 4 years, and my life has changed for the better, but there is still a major disconnect between my practice and the world around me. I’ve strived to contribute to the world throughout my adult life, and this meditation practice is the most powerful tool for personal positive change that I’ve discovered, but I don’t understand how this practice is supposed to contribute to the world. I’ve seen how this practice impacts certain individuals who have the time, resources, and strength to pursue an intense and consuming personal journey, but these individuals are rare. The belief that, “If everyone meditated the world would be a better place” is simply disrespectful to the complexity of the lives people live. In order to fully immerse in this practice I needed to temporarily disconnect from the world and most people simply can’t do that. Yet I’m a better person now than I’ve ever been because of Vipassana, and I wish there were ways to share these lessons with the people in my life.

Maybe now is the time for me to learn how to teach and lead. I’m not talking about teaching people how to meditate. I’m interested in living in the right way, with the right virtues, in order to inspire people to do good things with their lives. I want to learn how to motivate and strengthen individuals so they can make positive life choices in a world full of distractions. Instead of Vipassana being a reason to retreat further within myself, I want it to be a tool that helps me dive deep into the complex issues of our world so I can search for answer.

For two years, I shared my unfiltered thoughts on this blog, primarily so I could process and bring together the scattered truths Vipassana brought into my life, and secondarily to share my process as an inspiration for others on a similar journey. Now I want to write to help me explore the nuances between the subtle personal truths I’ve learned through Vipassana and my role as a contributor to my family, friends, community, and society. Maybe reading this process will helpful to you too.

Breaks

Continuity of practice is the secret of success. Another word for that is consistency. Consistent practice brings success. I’ve read a lot, and seen in my own experience, of artists, especially writers, who say that their success comes from showing up at the desk every day to write. It is the showing up that counts. They make sure they’re there for the activity. This means showing up at the meditation cushion being ready to meditate, if that’s what you want to have as your consistent practice.

In the month of September, I made it my goal to write every day. At least a little. I did, and my writing voice is that much stronger because of it. It was my consistency that brought the inspiration to write more and developed through practice, the strength in the practice. Now, I am still writing for this blog, but I’m not promising myself that I’ll do it every day. Instead, I’m making sure I don’t do it every day, while I focus on other things. The consistency in breaks is just as crucial as the consistency of practice.

Breaks allow us to re-focus and reflect. As Alan Watts puts it nicely, “We need those pauses.” If in music you didn’t have any pauses, you wouldn’t have the music. The space is what makes it. Otherwise you’d have an on-going sound that would either get annoying after a while or you’d become insensitive to it. In doing anything for a while, you may develop habits. In reviewing my writings, I noticed some similar things that I stuck to. Ways of writing as well as topics that I kept going back to. Attachments. We rely on them. We’re addicted to them. Our breaks give us the space to notice them, to reflect upon them. Being aware, we can move on.

The binge theory, which I’m more and more a fan of, is to do something efficiently and consistently for a time, and then drop it. Take up something else, and take a sufficient break from the previous activity you were doing. If I had chosen to keep my occasional writing practice going instead of focusing intensely on it for a month, I wouldn’t be that much better. It’s just like how you have to do a ten day course in Vipassana. Three days wouldn’t be enough to get any proper work done. You have to binge it.

So whatever habits you may be aware of at this moment, do something to change them. If you want to get better at something, but have only dabbled in it on a rare occasion, make it a goal to do it consistently. Do at least a little bit every day for a month. If your meditation is stagnant, change it up. Drop it for a day or two, or choose a week and make sure you do them no matter what. Do three a day for one week, like you would when serving a course. Keep your focus steady on something for a while and then let it go for a good amount of time. When you come back to it it’ll be stronger than ever. It’ll be muscle memory. A sankhara of a good habit. You’ll notice the difference.

A Perfect Destination

 This writing is taken from my previous blog, which I haven’t written in since I started writing for this site.  Most of these ideas stem from Alan Watts’ talk entitled, “The Veil of Thoughts.”
           It’s been advertised to you. Wake up. The reason someone is asleep, in the terms of awareness and union with the divine is because they are trying to open their eyes. Just like the reason there is still poverty in the world. It is not because there is not enough. It’s because people keep asking, “Where would the money come from?” They don’t realize that the money doesn’t come from anywhere, just like our eyes don’t have to look to see. The sight is already there. The sense works perfectly. It is nature. It is the divine, and our entire existence works in this way. We don’t have to control it. We don’t have to try. As a matter of fact we can’t. We can’t force ourselves to do anything. And the more we try, the less we succeed. It’s a struggle in quicksand, when we might have just dug there to find treasure at another time. Let the dream play itself out, because you can’t pin it down.
            The moth spends its existence like all other moths. It’s repetitive, but they don’t get bored or frustrated. The moth doesn’t go around worrying if it mistakes a mating call for a flame. They are never in a state of trouble, and yet they have managed to survive for thousands of years, seemingly left out of history, like the ants and the bees. Are the wild animals wiser than we are, who trouble ourselves day in and day out, preoccupied with endless things that we can do nothing about? They never predict so they are never anxious and they forget about the past as quickly as it comes so they are never in such confusion. They live in the present, even if it means running into a hot lamp. People look before and after and are always concerned if this generation will turn out better or worse then the last. On the look out for what may be a potential disaster, our consciousness is entirely preoccupied with what was then and what will be. Tormented with this tremendous preoccupation of time, we never see just how beautiful we are. But how do we stop all this commotion? The answer is that we can’t. We just have to wait and see, because even with all our anxiety, we can’t change anything. And you might find that impractical, but it’s practical to not be anxious of tomorrow, because that is something we have no say in. Those people who do not live for tomorrow have some reason to make plans for it, but those who live for tomorrow have no reason to make plans for anything because they never catch up with it, because they don’t live in the present. They live for a future which never arrives, and as soon as they let go of trying to be on top of it, they will be. That’s the paradox, because letting go of it gives you the energy you need to be there for it, fully, without contradiction.
            When you play music and the song ends, there is nothing left. That’s why music is one of the most divine practices and art forms in the world, because it is transient. The best musicians in the world aren’t the best because they finished the song the fastest. It wasn’t a victory making it to the end. It was a dance the whole way through, and it was only a dance with what the musician gave to the music. The relationship between the two. Everything in life is induced with meaning. That is to say that it is induced with the meaning that we evoke into it. And you only evoke the world in accordance to what kind of you you are. A piano will only make noise when you hit the key. The relationship between your hand and the instrument makes this possible. This is the meaning, the relationship that every organism has with each and every other. These relationships are constantly happening whether we pay them any attention or not. The marvellous interactions that our organs have within our bodies are usually ignored, however most of the time are in fantastic, harmonious relationships. However if you were to pay attention to them you would find yourself in exactly that; a fantastic, harmonious symphony of music. A mystical experience. Awareness of the dance that you are by default a part of. And this amazes you. This sense of bliss that lays dormant most of the time, underneath the chaotic world that we usually are one tracked minded in. It’s unexpected, but what else would be going on? How else would it be going on? Wouldn’t it be much simpler not to exist? There would be no problems. Everyone would have committed suicide long ago if life was fundamentally a disappointment, but life goes on.
             The most sensible people begin in life with two fundamental principles. You are not going to improve yourself and you are not going to improve the world. In many philosophies they say to know yourself. This means you, just as you are, without attempting to change anything. The effort in that is meaningless, because the part of you which is supposed to improve is exactly the same part of you which needs improving. You can try and nothing will happen except that you will exhaust yourself. At the same time, any logical assessment would be to realize that nothing is going to work out. The world is likely to destroy itself and everything will go to hell. That is a practical thought, but there is nowhere to place that bet. We have to do our best and pray that we will somehow make it out of the mess we’ve created from excessive technology and pollution. We tell ourselves to do something about it, but the same people who incessantly put down their foots making an effort to change and help the world are the ones likely to destroy it. Someone who is increasingly nervous about it will probably push the button on an atomic bomb to get rid of the other people who would do it first. In this way, all around the world people are attempting to keep things in order by preventing this and that from possible horrendous damage, but even with their good intentions they are only developing the mess further. The only way that the world won’t go to hell is if we don’t attempt to prevent it from doing so. So what do we do? Do we let the world destroy itself rapidly in this interesting way? It is interesting, how we kill ourselves, and if you are anxious about this, then you’re liable to push start on the atomic bomb. You say, “let’s get over with it,” and that makes it all the worse. The sensible ones say, “let’s see how long this lasts.” Observe it.  Play it out.
            Perhaps stars are really planets that have exploded, after eons of war and pollution. The rocks from these explosions spread through space and expanded once again into planets, one being Earth. We might be much happier to think in this way, then to think that the rock we are on is a permanent stay. Like a diamond, we see it as a dense mineral, but the reason the diamond is represented in spirituality is because it is see through. It is completely transparent, like life. It’s made of bubbles. Emotions. Flames. Eternal stimulus that can’t be touched. Life is like an eraser. A magnet. There is no explanation. No reason. It just happened that way. There are no thoughts that can state what reality is. In other words, what position are the stars in? There are no absolute positions, because it all depends on the angle you’re looking at them from. It’s based on how we describe it. Life is not a science, but an art. A formless, wiggly world that is mostly, completely irrational. So if the case is that we are all meant to rapidly kill each other, then so be it. In the meantime, live in a settled existence in the present. It’s alright if it passes by you, but it really is a great deal to go with the dance and realize that’s what you’re doing.