Category Archives: Meditations

THE LIST 2.0

DECEMBER 21ST, WEDNESDAY 2016

“The unexamined life is not worth living.”

Plato or Socrates?

“We should write because it is human nature to write. Writing claims our world. It makes it directly and specifically our own. We should write because humans are spiritual beings and writing is a powerful form of prayer and meditation, connecting us both to our own insights and to a higher and deeper level of inner guidance. We should write because writing brings clarity and passion to the act of living. Writing is sensual, experiential, grounding. We should write because writing is good for the soul. We should write because writing yields us a body of work, a felt path through the world we live in. We should write, above all, because we are writers, whether we call ourselves that or not.”

Julia Cameron, The Right to Write: An Invitation and Initiation into the Writing Life

Well I have been writing now consistently for 5 years. And that is to me a long time. This “writing” so to speak, every day, day in and day out, has been what Julia Cameron would call “Morning Pages” or “Stream of Consciousness.” I have probably not missed more than 20 to 30 days of writing in this 5 year period – or to put it another way that is about 1800 days of pen to paper so to speak. That just seems amazing to me. In this process I have come up with a lot of insights into my life and why I do certain things or react in certain ways. Just when I think that I have gotten to the bottom of an issue I find that there are more layers upon layers upon layers. My journal is one that I know will never be read by anyone but me. I find that I have to keep this in mind so that I don’t hold back. Nothing is sacred in the journal. All topics are explored – good and bad. You have to go all out so to speak if you want to get through the rock hard layers of the psyche.

One of the things that started to evolve over time with this exploration were small quotes, sayings, and ideas by different authors. These concepts had a tendency to come up again and again and again. Sometimes showing back up as insights when least expected. Over time they coalesced into what I like to call the LIST.

I wrote previously wrote about the list on this Blog site – about a year and a half ago. (May 22nd, 2015). As the exploration has continued since that time the list has changed and evolved, and will continue to do so. But as Plato or Socrates said: “The unexamined life is not worth living.”

THE LIST

**START EACH DAY BY TREATING AND THINKING ABOUT YOURSELF WITH THE UTMOST LOVING KINDNESS. AS IF YOU WERE A VERY TREASURED AND LOVED FRIEND THAT HAS BEEN GONE FOR A LONG, LONG TIME BUT HAS UNEXPECTEDLY JUST RETURNED** Stop fighting yourself,
there will be plenty of people in the world that will do that for you and to you.

1. YOU HAVE ALL THAT YOU NEED. Truly we have all that we need. It is when I cannot separate the “need” from what I “want” that gets me into trouble. Over time I noticed three questions that came up over and over again and again. Two of these (with the help of others) I developed on my own and the third one is from Henry David Thoreau. I am still not independently wealthy and more importantly we are all limited by time no matter how rich we are. I wish that I would have been able to voice these questions thirty years ago but as the old saying goes, better late than never.

    Question 1: “What do I care about so much that I would pay to do it?”

    Question 2: “What am I willing to give up so that I can live by working a lot less?”

    Question 3: “The price of anything is the amount of life you exchange for it.” Henry David Thoreau

I try to remind myself each morning these three questions. Before you make that purchase, take that job assignment, commitment to that engagement, etc.…. Ask yourself these three questions.


2. WHAT WOULD YOU ATTEMPT IF “FAILURE” WAS A GOOD FRIEND? If you knew that you could not fail what would you attempt? When you start to think about this the possibilities really become endless. If you make failure your friend and realize that the more you fail the closer you will move towards success. As much as I really don’t like the next President Elect – Mr. Trump, I have to give him credit for his failures. In business and in life. He seems to have been able to learn from his mistakes and move forward. We could all take a lesson from that. As far as his politics are concerned – well that is a different story. The idea here is truly to not be afraid to fail, invite failure in, serve it tea and cookies, and see it all as a learning opportunity. No telling how far you will go…


3.
THE THINGS THAT WE FEAR THE MOST ARE THE THINGS THAT WE MOST NEED TO DO. Not sure who coined this quote first? But really it is a universal truth. How many times do we not do something that we know would lead to our growth? Fear and Failure seem to tie in together, we fear failure and because of this we don’t do the things that we know in our hearts we need to do. We want to turn away from the fear, but in reality we need to turn into it. As Pema Chodron says “We need to lean on the sharp points of life.” Or the quote by Susan Jeffers: “Feel the fear and do it anyway.” Anytime you become fearful, take a moment, and realize that this is a learning opportunity. A moment for growth to occur.


4. YOU MUST RENEW THE CLIMB OF THE MOUNTAIN EACH AND EVERY DAY! I think that I first heard this quote from a TV show called the “Life Styles of the Rich and Famous.” Some South American billionaire was being interviewed by one of the show’s host/producers, Robin Leach, and was asked why he was so successful and the answer was this idea: That you must go out and climb the mountain each and every day. It does not matter what you did last week, or yesterday, or even tomorrow, but right now. You must go and climb the mountain again and again and again. You might not get to the top today but that is OK. Some days are going to be harder than others. The trick is to just start. You never know how far you will get until you try.


5. LET GO AND WALK ON!! This is from Alan Watts. Sometimes I think that you just have to let go and walk on. It is the idea that life is in a constant state of change, there is nothing that is permanent, everything changes. It helps to remind me to be in the moment. Not to hold on to things too tightly. When we grip life by the horns so to speak we can miss the life that is flowing by us each and every day. All of life is in a state of change. And because of fear we feel that we need some kind of control. That false feeling of control is created by anything that we hold on to. And this “Holding On” means anything: material possessions, cherished beliefs, old friends and acquaintances, certain attitudes, religions, rituals, fears, truths, jobs, who we think we are, etc.… All of this gives us the false feeling of control. The reality is – there is no control. We think we have control but in reality we have no control at all. This can create a lot of fear. The trick is to just open your hand and let go – let the fear go – and walk on. Free up that energy. Let the anxiety go. You don’t need to be on the defensive all the time. The elaborate forms of defense and control that we create by “holding on” do not work.

“Life is an act of faith, an adventure into the unknown.” – Alan Watts


6. LINGER IN THE MOMENT. This one comes from Pema Chodron. It is a way to help remind myself to stay in the moment. Just to linger – good and bad moments. There are times we are so tempted to “rush” through life. But all of life happens in the present moment. The past is past, the future has not happened yet. All of life is right now, right here, right in this very moment while you are reading these words.


7. EMBRACE LIFE. Just embrace life – there are times life is not fair, terrible things happen, good people and loved ones die. And most of the time there is nothing you can do about it. But it is still life, the only choice to make is whether you embrace it or reject it. I like to think that I have made the conscious effort to embrace it. To make a positive difference where ever I can. A quote that I came up with:

“Life is good, bad, beautiful and ugly – but it is all experience, so drink it up, and guzzle it down my friend, for it is all that we are given.” EdB


8. SLIP OFF THE CLOAK AND SHACKLES OF SHAME. LET VULNERABILITY REIN!! Ah – SHAME – the hidden emotion. Thank you again Brene Brown for her research into “Shame”. I like to think of shame as the hidden emotion. I think we wear shame like we wear anger – it is a cloak and it becomes so much a part of us, we have been wearing it for so long, we forget that we have it on until someone or a situation points it out. If you had asked me a few years ago if I had experienced “shame” or if it had ever influenced a decision I made, I would have thought you crazy. But after listening to and reading Brene’s book, “Daring Greatly,” I realize that this emotion has played a large role at times. A quote from her sums it up:

“Shame is the most powerful, master emotion. It’s the fear that we’re not good enough.”


9. YOU ARE OK JUST AS YOU ARE – YOU ARE ENOUGH!! This also come from Brene Brown and a few others. It is again the fear that you are just not good enough. Society has the tendency to give you what I call the “Never” quips: You are never good enough, never smart enough, never big enough, never beautiful enough, never rich enough, never skinny enough, never fast enough, etc.…. But the reality is that “YOU ARE ENOUGH, YOU ARE OK JUST AS YOU ARE.


10. ALL OF LIFE IS DISTRACTION. When you finally realize it, life is nothing more than one distraction after another distraction. Some are very good and some are self-destructive and therefore bad. The question comes down to a choice: How do we want to be distracted and the realization that not all distractions are bad and not all are good – society works for the group as a whole but not always for the individual. A question to ask yourself with any distraction, good or bad, “What am I turning away from?” Or another way to put it – “What am I running away from?” And this will usually lead to more questions and further examination of your life, which leads to possible changes, and further examination, etc.….

Also some will see “distractions” as getting away from the “purpose or meaning of life” but that question in and of itself is a waste of time. As the great Joseph Campbell said:

“Life has no meaning. Each of us has meaning and we bring it to life. It is a waste to be asking the question when you are the answer.”

11. WE DO NOT SEE LIFE AS IT REALLY IS, WE SEE LIFE AS WE ARE. This famous quote comes from Anais Nin. She was a remarkable woman who was an author and is famous for keeping a journal for 40 years. When you stop to think about it we really do see the world as we are. I know that when I am feeling really good both mentally and physically I have a tendency to be much more forgiving of others peccadillos. But if I am feeling bad or had a recent bad experience at work, home, etc.… then I might not treat or think of others as gently/forgiving as I normally would. I think that Anais wanted us to see the world as it actually is – to get past our immediate biases. We all get caught up in our day to day issues – the trick is to see how this influences how we see.

12. DON’T USE ANGER AS A SHIELD. DON’T HIDE BEHIND IT – STEP OUT IN FRONT OF IT. This comes from many different authors but several that stand out for me are Jon Kabat-Zinn, Brene Brown and Thich Nhat Nanh. I have come to see anger as a reaction to fear. To protect ourselves from the “fear” we create a shield so to speak. This metaphorical shield is made out of anger. The idea here is to step past the shield of anger. To get out in front of it. This requires us to see our own fears honestly, understand them and take responsibility for them. By taking responsibility, means not letting fear completely dictate our vision and view. This responsibility does not let us run away – it requires mindfulness and turning into the proverbial sharp points of life. For me, I wore anger like a cloak for a very long time. Anytime something came up that I feared I pulled on my cloak of anger. I got so use to wearing the cloak I forgot that I had it on. It adversely affected all of my life. The best TV example of this is from an episode of Star Trek the Next Generation – called The Wounded. Captain Picard makes a statement about another Starfleet Captain that blew up a perceived enemy ship without provocation. The other Captain had a grudge from the death of his wife and child at the hands of this former enemy.

“When one has been angry for a very long time, one gets used to it. And it becomes comfortable, like….like old leather. And finally….becomes so familiar that one can’t ever remember feeling any other way.” – Cap. Picard

This truly was me about 3 years ago. It does not matter what the catalyst was for the initial start of the anger. What does matter is that you own it, understand it, and become mindful of it, otherwise the anger will sour everything you do in life.

13. THIS IS GOOD ENOUGH, OR JUST “GOOD ENOUGH.” This quote comes from Ajahn Brahm. He gives the analogy of how we get into the “perfection” of things and need to step back in order to see the big picture. He talks about building a long brick wall at the monastery and he was upset because a couple of bricks were a little out of alinement. He says this was causing him a great deal of stress until a couple visiting the monastery started talking about the magnificence of the brick wall, how beautiful it was, they never saw the few bricks that were out of alinement. He says that this is a reminder that sometimes things are “GOOD ENOUGH” as they are – we don’t need to worry ourselves needlessly over the “perfection” idea.

14. THERE WILL BE A “LAST TIME” FOR EVERYTHING – ALL THINGS END!! This one just reminds me that no matter what is going on good or bad. All things end – just that simple. This is another way of saying that all things change. It helps me to be grateful for the time I have. That nothing is written in stone. It might all end tomorrow or tonight or the very next moment. Just this one statement can help to slow you down. To truly savor the moment. Even the dull ones. It can bring joy to the most menial tasks.

“When you finally realize that nothing is permanent in this life, you will become more tolerant, more forgiving and less judgmental.” Mufti Ismail Menk

Well this is the second time that I have written out this LIST and posted it to my Blog site. It has been about a year and a half since the last one. Will it change again? I sure do hope so. Life is not static, it is movement and flow. A continuing learning opportunity. Again my hope is that you have found something helpful, useful or interesting for further exploration and inspiration.

Winter has finally set in for Colorado and the snow is falling in the mountains. Time to go and do a little bit of skiing. I hope you enjoy the drawings. I did them over the last year. They are on 5.5 x 8.5 inch paper, 90 lb. weight, with Staedtler, Copic and Sharpie Markers. I call them doodles, each one different in its own way but with the recurring theme of circles. The last one was done from inspiration after watching the Game of Thornes – it is of a Crow but I knew if I did it all in black the details would be hard to bring out. So I decided to add some color – so think of it as a metaphorical crow. The emotions of color beneath the black. Take care and see you OUT THERE!!


FRIDAY 22ND, MAY 2015

 

I have been writing a personal journal consistently for almost 4 years now. And what I mean by consistently is “every day.” If I miss a day I do not feel right. Some days it is only a half of a page, on other days it is more than three pages. I used to think that I would run out of stuff to write about, but that has not been the case. If anything the list of things to write about has gotten longer. My journal is one that I know will never be read except by me so all topics are fair game. Nothing is held sacred. Nothing is held back. It is a writing that is mainly exploration of the “self.” Good things as well as the bad things. I have learned more about myself in the last four years than I ever knew was possible. Somethings were really difficult to write about. And other topics that I thought I had covered in great detail still had more layers to them. I do not see a day that I ever stop journaling. Socrates was right: “The unexamined life is not worth living.”

Over time one of the things that has evolved out of the journaling is a list that I review every day and I mean every day. They are just small saying and quotes but they help me to live life as best I can. As the exploration continues so will the personal and spiritual growth therefore the list is not written in stone. It will change and that’s as it should be. I would like to share this list with you. My hope is that you will find something helpful in your life as I did.

THE LIST

 

1. You have all that you need. When you get right down to it most of us have all that we need. Really we have all that we need. Especially in the USA. I remind myself of this while watching TV and I get that feeling of “wanting” something new. The question becomes is this a need or is it a want? And what do I feel comfortable giving up for a want. I am not finically independent and for me it means how much time do I want to spend at work in order to afford the “new want.” Just thinking about spending more time at work usually kills it right there.

 

2. What would you attempt if you knew that you could not fail? This is a good one. What would we attempt if you really knew that you could not fail? The possibilities are endless when you starting thinking about it. Or I like this one even better. If we knew “failure” was Ok what worthwhile goal would you set for yourself? This is the trick to this one. The idea that failure is not usually final. Matter a fact it is part of the process and without it we would not have much success at all.

 

3. The things that we fear the most are the things that we most need to do. I like this. How many times do we not try something because we fear it? Obviously you may fear jumping off a cliff, but that does not mean you need to jump off the cliff. It just means you need to think it through a little more. Maybe with the right equipment like a parachute. Or ropes so that you can repel down, etc… Just think of all the things that would be possible if fear was not an issue. I like the quote by Susan Jeffers: “Feel the fear and do it anyway.”

 

4. You must renew the climb of the mountain each and every day! I like to think that this one I invented, but the truth of the matter is that I have heard a lot of people say this. Each day is new and we have to go out and start the metaphorical climb of the mountain each day. The idea here is to realize that you may not get to the top of the mountain everyday but that is OK. Sometimes the climb is harder today than it was yesterday or tomorrow. It just means that you have to start. That is the trick – just start, just show up, just be present.

 

5. LET GO AND WALK ON! I really like this phrase – I think that it another way to sum up Buddhism. The phrase is from Alan Watts. It is the idea that life is in a constant state of change, there is nothing that is permanent, everything changes. If you try to hold on to something, whatever it is, we miss the rest of life flowing by us. So “Let Go! AND Walk On!”

6. Linger in the moment. This one is from Pema Chodron. It is a way to help remind myself to stay in the moment. All of life happens in the present moment. The past is past, the future has not happened yet. All of life is right now, right here, right in this very moment while you are reading these words.

 

7. Embrace life. This is just a quote that I like. It reminds me that life is not fair, terrible things happen, good people and loved ones die. And most of the time there is nothing that you can do about it. This is life but you have a choice of whether to embrace it or reject it. I like to think that I have chosen to embrace it. To make a positive difference where ever I can.

 

8. Slip off the cloak and shackles of shame. Let vulnerability rein! Ah – SHAME – the hidden emotion! We wear shame like a cloak and it becomes so much a part of us that we do not realize we have it on. Like a well-worn leather jacket. It becomes very comfortable and colors all of our actions and decisions without us even knowing. A big THANK YOU to Brene Brown and her book called “Daring Greatly.” If you would have asked me last year if I had “shame” or if “shame” had ever influenced a decision I made, I would have thought you were crazy. But I now know that for the last 50 years of my life I have worn this cloak and it has colored everything in my life. And not in a good way.

 

9. YOU ARE OK JUST AS YOU ARE. YOU ARE ENOUGH. This is part of the above Quote. It goes with the idea of shame. The ideas that society tells you: you are never enough, never smart enough, never big enough, never good enough, never beautiful enough, never rich enough, never skinny enough, etc…. But YOU ARE ENOUGH. YOU ARE OK JUST AS YOU ARE.

 

10. All of life is distraction. This is just to remind me that life is made up of distractions. There is no rhyme or reason to it. We would like to say that we can control it but in reality we have no control except how we react to it. Good things happen, bad things happen, but there is no overseeing god or omnipresent being that controls it. Life just is and what you make of it, good or bad.

 

11. We do not see life as it really is, we see life as we are. This famous quote come from the writer Anais Nin. She was a remarkable woman who kept a journal for over 40 years. This quote is so true. I have to remind myself of this every day. Yes I will admit that sometimes I have a very “jaded” view of the world and that my jaded view is not how the world really is. When I am angry or sad or happy my view of the world changes and this is how it should be. But the trick is the realization that your view changes with your current state of mind.

Well this is the list that has evolved over 4 years of writing a journal. I know that it will continue to evolve as I write, but this is OK. Life is not static, it is movement and flow. Always in a state of change. My hope is that you found something helpful or interesting for further exploration.

It has again been a rainy week this past 7 days. And I have been working a lot at my day job. So I do not have many pictures to share with you this week of running. Instead I would like to share a few pictures of what I call my “Yard Art Faces.” The top one, the large sun face (about 5 to 6 feet in diameter) is the oldest being about 16 years old. I have had to repaint it twice in that time. But it still looks pretty good for its age and exposure to the elements. The middle one was my first step into making what I call functional art. The nose of the face is used as outdoor lighting. I had planned to paint in more details but after finishing the lips and teeth, it just felt that doing any more to it would take away from the shapes. The bottom one was made using plywood and old bicycle parts. This one is in a protected location but still outdoors and has held up pretty well.

Well that is it for me this week. I am hoping for sunnier and drier Colorado weather next week. Until then take care and see you out there!!

 

 

 

 

THURSDAY 19th, FEBRUARY 2015

 

Ashland, Wisconsin image image

I am writing from Ashland, Wisconsin this evening. Trying to get my mind in gear to do the 42 Annual American Birkebeiner this coming Saturday! I am hoping for a little warmer temperatures and no wind. Today’s high in Hayward was about 6 degrees fahrenheit, but there was no wind and it was not too bad. So if race day conditions are about the same, things should be good. Right? But what if it is windy or snowing? What then? Do I still race? Or go home?

Of course we all have the tendency to want to control things. Especially things that are not in our control – like the weather. This perceived lack of control takes us out of our comfort zone. Then what happens? We start to put restrictions, limits, provisos on what we can and cannot do. I think about how many times I have used the weather as a reason for not going or doing something because it took me out of my comfort zone.

I was remind of this today from a Zen Quote of the Week called:

NO EDGES, NO BOUNDARIES
We are free, every one of us. We are born free, and the bondage, restrictions, and limits that we find in our life are self-created. The edges we perceive have been placed there by the way we use our minds. There are fundamentally no edges, no boundaries. But this practice has nothing to do with believing. We don’t have Zen believers. It also has nothing to do with understanding. Understanding implies a separation between the knower and the thing that the knower knows.
It has to do with direct and intimate experience itself. Your experience. Not Shakyamuni Buddha’s, not mine – yours. Only you can make yourself free. No one can do it for you. The only one with the power to do it is you yourself. “Only a Buddha can realize a Buddha” – and it is nowhere to be found other than on top of the seat that you’re sitting on. This was excerpted from “Mountain Record of Zen Talks” by John Daido Loori – page 78.

I believe that this quote is right on target. We put the boundaries on ourselves – we create our own restrictions – how many times have we suffered horrible catastrophes – almost all of which have not come true. If you build that wall in your mind – it is just as real as the wall built in the physical world.

Well that is enough for this week – if you are interested in more Zen quotes check out: Zen Quotes @ Shambhala publications.