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Well, we’re into Month 5 now, and with the exception of a mild observation here or there, I have managed so far to keep my New Year’s resolution not to argue about politics. It’s been a small challenge, but it’s also been a relief. I never realized how much I disliked those discussions. I much prefer the corollary NYR I made–to embrace peace in my life. That one’s been a little bit harder, because it involves so many more aspects of existence, but overall I’ve succeeded. And I’m much better off for it.

I made good choices. yay me


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Between the Notes


Last night I attended the first of what will be an ongoing series of Adyashanti Gatherings. Adyashanti is an American spiritual teacher from the Zen tradition. Two things struck me about the meeting: firstly, that even though we were watching a DVD, the man’s aura of peace was palpable. It almost visibly radiated from him. And it affected me, as I left the house with a renewed sense of my own peace, and a stronger desire to pursue it. 

The second thing that drew me was a part of his teaching. He was discussing the death of the self/ego, an effort I have pursued for some years with little success. He likened this death to the spaces between the notes of a great symphony. Without the silences between the notes, all we would have is a constant humming, with no meaning and no power to move our emotions. But when we let the note fall away, we have a tremendous work of art. In the same way, when we let our ego — what he called the “psychological self” — fall away, we are empowered to live life in a fuller and richer way. And we don’t have to force this; we simply have to let go of it

It is a common saying among spiritual groups that when the student is ready, the teacher appears. I find it remarkable that I would encounter this teacher at just this moment in my life, and that the very first teaching of his that I would be exposed to would speak so closely to what I myself am currently seeking. That I would have made a New Year’s Resolution to embrace peace in my life, and a teacher whose name translates to “Primordial Peace” appears within weeks of such a resolution. Is he the teacher I’ve been seeking? I don’t know for sure yet. But I’m going to continue to attend the gatherings, and see what else he has to say to me.

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ImageLast night I fell into a small depression. This happens on occasion, despite the medications I’m on, and I’m kind of used to it. As with all my depressive periods, this one led to a series of about half a dozen nightmares, in which I lost my job, my family and my friends, one by one, as I desperately tried to keep hold of them. I awoke at last late in the morning, frightened, agitated and disturbed. 

It was difficult to drag myself out of the grogs of slumber, but at last I managed; it took me a bit longer to shake off the dreams. I had to focus on my inward being and remind myself that, while dreams are signs of events taking place, I am not my dreams. I am not trapped by them, any more than I am trapped by myself. 

Dreams show me the areas I still need to work on. They reveal the deep things that are working themselves out within me. And they show me the way out. 

So I don’t mind the disturbing dreams so much, even if they leave me shaking in my bed. I pay attention to them and study them, so I can see into myself that much more deeply. I listen to what they have to say. And then I focus on those areas they are pointing to that need to be worked on. 

This is my spiritual path.

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Common Ground


I was rereading my last post, wondering what I should write about next, when a line caught my eye. I wrote back then: “So maybe I’m not quite ready to confront my opponents.” And I realized immediately the enormity of the task that lies in front of me. Confront my opponents? That sounds angry and aggressive. And it sounds it, because it is. 

First off, why would I have opponents? What am I allowing to fester in my heart and mind that would lead me to consider anyone as such? Because the problem obviously does not lie with them; it lies with me. 

My emotions — and what I attach them to — are my responsibility. It is my decision as to what I become angry at, what I am annoyed by, what I am put off by. My feelings don’t rule me — unless I let them. And I very much don’t have to do that. 

So once again I find myself taking back my words. I am not going to confront anyone. Rather, I will seek to meet with them, to have reasonable discourse with them, to find common ground with them. Because there is always common ground. 




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Practicing Peace

001I wrote that I was looking forward to practicing peace with those with whom I strongly disagree, yet I haven’t had a single discussion with any of them yet. I’m still avoiding it. I’m avoiding it because I know my emotions get involved very quickly, and I don’t have real control over my emotions at the moment. So I need to change that last line in the post (“I’m looking forward to putting this into practice”) to read: I wonder if I can put this into practice.

I’ve been able to pursue peace in other areas. For one, my driving has improved. I no longer get upset at how other drivers cut me off, tailgate, drive below the speed limit, etc. etc. I just take deep breaths, accept what has happened, and, if an opportunity arises to mitigate the matter, I take it. If not, I remain in the situation. This is a big deal for me. I’m very happy for my growth in this area.

My photo is of the Go! game I’m playing blind. I close my eyes when I choose the disc and place it on the board. I want the Universe to determine the outcome of the game. In this way I’m learning to accept how the Universe operates. This refers back to my previous statement regarding driving: the Universe moves the cars just as it moves the black and white discs. Learning to accept this brings about practical peace.

So maybe I’m not quite ready to confront my opponents. But I’m building readiness. And when I attain it, maybe I’ll help them achieve some peace as well.

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Multnomah Falls

I’m what used to be called manic-depressive. In my manic phases, I’m incredibly productive and creative. I’ve painted pictures in six hours, written thousands of words, stayed up until 2 in the morning without realizing it. It’s an unbelievable energy, unlike anything else I know.

But the backside is the depression. It drags me into a lethargy in which I don’t want to do anything. And in its darkness there is no motivation for doing anything whatsoever. Why bother when you’re only going to die anyway?

So I’m on medication to alleviate the darkness. Cymbalta. It works wonders. But it also removes the mania. So now I have to push myself to find my creativity. It no longer arises on its own. The words come more slowly, the images fail to inspire. I wonder whether this is really the way I want to live.

Various religions speak of the “middle path”, of seeking balance in all things. Having experienced such balance through the drugs, I’m not so sure it’s what I want. I miss the creativity.

So maybe I should ignore the hundreds of dollars’ worth of pills in my cabinet. Maybe I should face that 1000-foot drop, and take the plunge again. At least once. Just to feel what it’s like once more.

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And this also is a sore evil, that in all points as he came, so shall he go: and what profit hath he that hath laboured for the wind?      –Ecclesiastes 5:16

This is something that has troubled me my entire life. What is the point of doing or learning anything, if it is all going to be lost in 70 years anyway? Such a situation makes this life utterly absurd.

So what would motivate a person in an absurd life? Some postulate a heaven and a hell, which they hope to attain and avoid, respectively, by means of their actions here on Earth. But when I observe these people, by and large their actions don’t seem to reflect this hope. Instead they are trapped in the absurdity, rather than freed by the possibility.

Others are motivated by their own sense of right and wrong, a positing of morality. But by what standard is this morality to be judged? Again they are trapped in the absurdity, not having an outside source to compare against their own internal compass, and thus no way of calibrating that compass.

Still others prefer to do nothing at all. Accepting the absurdity of life, they choose not to act from belief or internal conscription. Instead, they allow the occasion to arise of its own accord, and respond to it as it presents itself to them. They act absurdly.

I place myself in this last category. I don’t do things because they are right or wrong, or because I hope to achieve a reward after this life. Rather, I do things as the impulse arises within me to do them. In this way, I follow Jesus’ teaching to “let not the right hand know what the left hand doeth”. This is the only appropriate response to an absurd world.

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