Wandering with my eyes and heart open, searching for pieces to add to my own personal big picture.

Tag: secular buddhism

Tony Robbins, Aimlessness, and Free Speech

Yes, I finished reading The Mayfair Bookshop by Eliza Knight this morning, I’m too mentally and physically exhausted to write about today, as I was once again out galivanting around Southern California yesterday. Instead, I shall leave you with a quick Podcast Roundup!

On Purpose with Jay Shetty: Tony Robbins on: Breaking Negative Thinking & Unlock the Unlimited Potential of Your Mind

I’m not a Tony Robbins fan, but I do commonly find that even people I’m not in love with have wisdom to share. This one, though…I’m not sure if it was because my back and shoulder were hurting so much on the drive (I somehow hurt myself (hoeing, lol) pulling weeds last weekend), but the whole conversation was exhausting. I guess I’m not that much of a “driven” kind of person. All I wanted to do was yell at them to take a freakin’ breather.

Yeah, I was grumpy. But I did get a few little gems out of it.

We humans tend not experience life directly and in all it’s glory. We experience what we focus on. And we usually look for what’s missing instead of what we already have.

Also, humans tend to unconsciously mirror each other. What everyone else if feeling and projecting, so shall we. Pay attention to your surroundings, the people you interact with, the books you read, the tv/news you watch.

He also mentioned some ideas from The 4th Turning by William Strauss, which I thought I’d read in the past, but it’s not on my shelf, so maybe I heard of it or read about it somewhere else. I think it may be a book recommended by Oliver DeMille and his Leadership Education model. I will be adding it back to my TBR list.

Secular Buddhism: Aimlessness

The old “You’re not lost if you have nowhere you are supposed to be” thing. Sounds crazy to our “go get ‘em” culture, but it resonates with me. Aimlessness is one of the Three Doors of Liberation. It means letting go of where you think you should be and embracing where you are.

Hmm…suddenly I realized that this is related to the previous podcast.

Conversations With Coleman: The History of Free Speech with Jacob Mchangama

Book: Free Speech: A History from Socrates to Social Media by Jacob Mchangama

I love the people that Coleman has on his show and this one really got me going, even on the long, later than I had expected, drive home from my adventures last night. Not only did I get to add another great book to my TBR list, I found another podcast to listen to. Clear and Present Danger is all about the principles of free speech as they apply today, where they came from, and how they evolved.

There was a lot of great stuff to think about in this episode, and when I read the book, you can bet I’ll be sharing THAT information with you here. Today just I’ll share my two favorite takeaways.

Censorship only brings more attention to words and ideas you don’t agree with. In most cases, the best thing you can do when you hear things you don’t agree with is simply scroll on by, don’t buy the book, watch the video, whatever. Saying “I’m certainly NOT going to listen to Joe Rogan on Spotify because he’s a bad man!” only makes me (and millions of other people) go find out who that is and what he said that upset people, and the subscribe to his channel because we’re curious what else he has to say. Buy banned books! Watch banned movies! Read, study, and decide for yourself what is right and wrong!

And some wise advice from the Stoics about social media. Detach a bit. Use it if you want to. It doesn’t matter what someone else says. That made me smile. I love sharing what I’m doing and finding in the world through social media, Facebook and Instagram, (that’s an invite to follow me) but negative feedback is hard on my insecure little heart. And reading other people’s negativity…well, remember what Tony Robbins said about humans unconsciously mirroring each other?

I’m doing what the Stoics teach; being me, loud and proud, and taking a step back from other people’s feedback. Like it or not, I’m here to stay.

And there you are! Only three podcasts and I found so much. Let me know in the comments if you decide to chase any of these links, or if you’ve read or heard any of the podcasts and authors. I’d love to hear your thoughts!

I Have Nothing To Say?

Me? With nothing to say? Yeah, I didn’t think so. Welcome to my train of thought!

I came online late this morning with every intention of posting that I wouldn’t be posting today, intentionally. It’s not that I forgot or ran out of time. I simply don’t have anything to say.

nothing to say

I’ve been reading, journaling, and thinking all morning. “In my head” as the saying goes. I have a lot to work on in there. I wish I had an excellent therapist that lived nearby, that I could call and say, “Do you have a couple hours to walk with me and hear me out? I need some feedback on this.”

Oh, and the money to pay for such professional “help.”

Yeah, I know. “Get a friend!” But friends need to be kept, relationships maintained. Some of the things I think, consider, and want to get off my chest, would make a “friend” run away. Too much of a chance laying that on a poor friend.

So here I am…not posting because I don’t have ANYTHING to say.

Yep. Welcome to my mind.

Once I opened my laptop and started typing the words, all the others started knocking on my door to come out and play.

Here’s the first. A quote from Andre Gide’s So Be it: or The Chips Are Down (1952)

“Believe those who are seeking the truth;
doubt those who find it;
doubt everything,
but don’t doubt yourself.”

I heard it quoted on the Secular Buddhism podcast yesterday and it rang so hard in my head, I scribbled it down to look up later, and then I DID! That’s how you know it resonated with me, I remembered it.

I don’t think we need to say much about it. Do we? I mean, it sounds like brilliant advice, advice I’ve been following all my life. Except the “don’t’ doubt yourself” part. I’m still trying to uninstall that software.

Here’s another. It’s from Wherever You Go There You Are by Jon Kabat-Zinn. I read it last month and posted about, extensively. I’m still re-reading it before my morning meditation, digging up the gems and storing them for future use.

“The next time you feel a sense of dissatisfaction, of something being missing or not quite right, turn inward just as an experiment.
…make a place for yourself…
Just sit. Reside at the center of the world. Let things be just the way they are.”

Sounds like torture. And it is. It’s kind of where I am this morning. My MO is to turn to something to “fix” that feeling, quick before it gets worse. It never works. I make it worse by reacting to a feeling that may or may not be indicative of reality. So, I’m trying it.

I’m sitting here. I’ve read, journaled, thought, read again, jotted down a note, taken a few breaths. I think it’s almost time to set it down and get on with my day. I have things to do. I’ll come back to these feelings later, now that I have them down on paper, and see if they mean anything. I’ll keep you posted!

Last one. This is from The Anxious Hearts Guide by Rikki Cloos, which I’m (unfortunately) reading my Kindle. I really have to stop falling for that. I want the book NOW and see it’s on Kindle, when I know I’m not the best at reading on my phone. I can’t make notes the way I want. I need to see and feel paper, all spread out in front of me!

“A deep-seated feeling that you’re not worthy of love is the culprit here. Insecure attachers tend to have the unfortunate trait of holding a deep, unsettling belief that they are inherently unlovable.

Contrary to what your brain is telling you, you don’t have to be perfect to be loved. You are actually lovable right now, as is, without any improvement at all. But without the self-awareness, self-work, and efforts to curb your problematic and toxic relationship behaviors, we’re going to end up pushing away anyone who is trying to love us in spite of our flaws.”

Before you rush to comment that I am loved, and YOU do like me, the problem here isn’t between you and me. It’s between me and me. I’m not my biggest fan and I’m slowly starting to see that that really needs to change. I’m working on it. This blog is part of that.

I wish I had found books like these thirty years ago. Where would I be right now?

How’s that for having nothing to say?

My post about deliberately not posting today so that I can continue my train of thought has now concluded. Thanks for being here. Comments are (as always) highly appreciated.

Thoughts from the Epiphany Machine: The Shower

I heard the story of Zen Master Hakuin on the podcast Secular Buddhism a few days ago on my drive into the city. I made a note about it and moved on, not thinking much about it until around 24 hours later when “Is that so?” came to mind while I was taking a shower, you know, the epiphany machine!

Later that day, I looked up the story online so I could read it through. I found a great version on Kannon Do. I highly recommend reading it. The idea I kept going back to is accepting the curve balls that are thrown at us. It’s something I have always struggled with.

My typical M.O. is to stress and freak out about whatever unexpected scenario comes my way. My initial response is usually, “Oh my! No! This is bad. What are we going to do?” And then, if no one mirrors my panic and runs with it, I usually back down from Defcon 2 to Defcon 5 fairly quickly. My next step is to pretend like I’ve always been completely at peace with the current situation but harbor a low-level state of fear just below the surface for a while just in case the sky does fall.

I’m fun. Trust me.

For the longest time, I believed this was a brilliant coping mechanism. Sure, my reactions can be a bit jarring for those that don’t know they’re coming (my poor husband), but equilibrium, forgiveness, and peace are quick to return. No harm, no foul. Right?

Yeah…not always.

Buddhist parables and stories sometimes cause me to doubt my practices. Maybe I’m doing this wrong? I try a few different tactics, fail, try again, get a little better, realize what I’m doing, accept the journey and keep going.

Two of the notes I had in my journal from that podcast I mentioned early were, “No doubt = No awakening” and “Unlearn.” I read those words, flipped through the pages in exasperation, “Seriously? That’s it? What does that even mean?” There was nothing about “Is that so?”

I went back to the podcast and skipped through it on fast forward.

“Ooooh! It’s all starting to come together!”

When the Zen Master was faced with unexpected situations, he simply said, “Is that so?” and “embraced the situation without judgement.”

When I experience an unexpected situation, I jump to conclusions about what should or will happen next. This shouldn’t have happened. It’s not what I want to happen. It’s going to end terribly for everyone. Everything is ruined. I have no doubt about it. I know.

No doubt = no awakening. My eyes and heart are closed to the world around me. I know what’s going to happen. I’m at level 49 here! I’ve learned a lot over the years!

What if, instead, I did doubt what I had learned over the years. What if I decided to let go of what I think I know, unlearn, and take a step back? Would things be harder or easier?

That’s what the Zen Master did in the story. He doubted he could know what would happen, accommodated the situation, and took care of the things and people around him. What happened, happened.

I can hear the old me in the background, “But…what about being prepared? Making things better? Fighting for what’s right?!”

The new me answers, “Has crying, yelling, and stressing about what is happening, who’s fault it is, and what we’re going to do, ever made anything better? Or did it only make it harder for you and those around you to adapt?”

Shower thoughts are so profound. The story of “Is that so?” isn’t what I made notes about. It wasn’t foremost in my mind, but it was in there. The night before, I had been stressing about some news and what my future would look like. This whole “empty nest” thing has me running in circles. We really need to change that visual, but that’s a post for another day.

My mind was blank, the morning habits had taken over, and then it came into my head, “Is that so?” A puzzle piece fell into place. What can I do when the unexpected happens? I can take a breath and relax, be kind, love on, and watch to see what happens. Stop trying to control everything.

That doesn’t mean I’ll be happy with the results. I may not get what I thought I wanted. I may be worse off than I was. But only that negative thing will be happening. I won’t be adding to it, making it worse for myself and those around me by panicking throughout the whole process.

I’ll just ask, “Hmm…interesting. What happens next?”

Peace, War, and Education: Podcast Roundup

Today is Podcast Roundup Day! (insert fanfare music here) This week we dive into a little peace, some war news, and liberal education. Two hours of listening and five pages of notes. When I come in the door, sit down on the couch next to my husband, and open my notebook, he knows he’s in for some discussion and gets another beer.

Sidenote: I’m still devouring Attached by Levine and Heller and…holy moly… I feel like heart escaped and wrote a letter to my brain. This book is now required reading. You have an assignment and I expect an essay. More about THAT tomorrow…possibly. I may just need some time daydreaming about it, ruminating on how to use the information.

Another sidenote: I ordered Yung Pueblo’s new book Clarity & Connection the day before yesterday, and it was in my mailbox when I got home last night. You guys…get it. It’s freaking beautiful. It’s not going to be logged in my reading log. I’m just picking it up and reading a page when I have a second and soaking it in.

On with the roundup!

Secular Buddhism: #166 Welcoming the Unwanted

I chose an episode of Secular Buddhism to listen to first because I needed a reminder of peace, you know, while I got gas in my truck $$$$. I couldn’t have picked a better way to start the day.

Takeaways: There are pleasant, unpleasant, and neutral emotions. We tend to label them good and bad and treat them differently which causes problems. Instead, try welcoming them all in without putting a green or red sticker on them as they come in the room.

Feeling angry? I tend to get angrier at myself for having a feeling at all. That’s not helpful. I had the chance later in the day to sit with unpleasant emotions a while and attempt to see what they were trying to tell me. It got ugly and then better. Progress.

I’ll probably listen to that one again soon and hope it sticks in my brain better.

The Intelligence: Defog of War: Your Questions Answered

and

The Quillette Podcast: Russia’s Surprising Military Blunders in Ukraine

These two podcasts were chosen so that I might better understand how a close friend is responding to the current battle between Russia and Ukraine. They were short, enlightening, and gave me a better picture of what’s going on.

What they did not help me with is why it’s happening. I’d like to know more about what led up to the escalation, more history. But that’s probably way above my head and more details than I really need right now.

I’d highly recommend listening to these two episodes, especially the first. They are an hour combined and give a good overview.

I’ve added the following podcast to my listening because it was suggested during the Quillette podcast. I haven’t heard an episode yet, so I can’t say if it’s good or not, but it does look promising.

New Podcast: The Lost Debate

              “To use today’s jargon, we’re a “multi-platform media company.” We believe the most important conversations in society happen in the dark corners of the Internet—on platforms dominated by political arsonists, nihilists, and extremists. Our mission is to infuse more empathy, nuance, and objectivity into those conversations.”

Cato Daily Podcast: Let’s Be Reasonable: A Conservative Case for Liberal Education

I believe we have lost the concept of what a liberal arts education really is, and the differences between a university, college, and trade school education are expected to accomplish. I loved hearing Jonathan Marks’ positive outlook on higher education and Generation Z or iGen (a new term for those born after 1995 and raised with smartphones).

Yep…another book added to the TBR list. Will it ever end?! I hope not. I think once you stop learning, you die…like immediately.

Book: Let’s Be Reasonable by Jonathan Marks

“More than just a campus battlefield guide, Let’s Be Reasonable recovers what is truly liberal about liberal education―the ability to reason for oneself and with others―and shows why the liberally educated person considers reason to be more than just a tool for scoring political points.”

There it is, another Podcast Roundup. I’m excited because I added another show to my list. I’ve been looking for new input lately. I’m always open to ideas, so comment with your favorite podcasts if you have them!

You don’t listen to podcasts? Why? I honestly want to hear this. I’ve always been a talk show fan more than a music fan while I drive, so podcasts…they do it for me.

Using Buddhism as a Practice

“No-Nonsense Buddhism for Beginners” is definitely a beginner’s book. Short and sweet, right to the point, and I loved it. It’s a wonderful start at using Buddhism as a practice. In the hopes of remembering more of it…insert eye-roll because I can’t believe I have such a hard time with this…I’m putting it on top of my current book from awhile and reading one page of it first thing and then moving on to the rest of my day.

using buddhism

That’s what’s awesome about this book. Each question or concept is covered in one or two pages, making it easy to take in, one step at a time. No, you’re not going to get the in-depth and detailed nuances and rich history of Buddhism, but you will get the big picture and be able to start using the ideas immediately. It’s the edge pieces of the puzzle I was talking about looking for in my last post on The Protestant Ethic.

I’ve read a few books on Buddhism; Returning to Silence, The Art of Happiness, and The Story of Buddhism. All of them were wonderful, but this one has been the most useful. It’s more practical, less spiritual, of course, since Noah Rasheta does an amazing podcast called Secular Buddhism, where I found the book.

There is so much in this book to act on, that I can’t simply pull out a couple quotes to sum it up. That’s why I’m going to re-read it, much as I used to re-read and study my bible, one page at time, in the hopes of soaking up the information, digesting it and turn it into actions that make my life (and the lives of the people around me) just that much more peaceful.

There is one quote that I felt I needed to put down here:

“Buddhism can be practiced somewhat like yoga: as something you do, not something you are.”

This really got me. Years ago, I finally succumbed to pressure and started a meditation practice. At the beginning, I would go out to put the laundry in the washer and then sit beside it and practice for five minutes. That five minutes changed my life. Sounds crazy, but it is true. Nothing about my life changed though, it was only my awareness of my surroundings that changed, and my awareness that I could take a breath, pause, and then act. Something that had never occurred to me before.

That same year, I added yoga to my morning routine as an active meditation. And, wow, things really started to move around in my head. The process of learning to move and stretch my body as I breathe, putting all else aside for thirty minutes brought me peace that I took into the rest of my day.

Slowly but surely, I’m still learning more and more every day. I wish the process would speed up, or that I could go back in time and start earlier. Maybe I’d have made some better decisions in my life, or at least drove fewer people crazy with my reactionary habits. But that’s life. We live and learn. And because I started to learn these teachings as my sons entered their teens, I’ve been able to pass the ideas on to them early and it does look like they are using them. Another example of how we become immortal, passing a bit of ourselves into the future.

My practice today isn’t long and involved, but it is more consistent, and that means progress. A practice is something you do every day in the hopes of getting better and better. You never finish. You never arrive. You only practice until you die. Life is crazy like that.

So, yes, I enjoyed this book and I highly recommend it if you’re curious about the basics of Buddhism. Every page is useful. Every chapter is helpful.

Letting Go of Expectations and Results

Letting go of expectations means there doesn’t need to be a destination picked out to have a great life filled the happiness and peace. We can simply pick a direction and see what happens.

Listening to Secular Buddhism on the way to have breakfast with a friend yesterday, I learned about The Three Doors of Liberation. He used these three quotes to describe the three doors:

“This is because that is.”
No self. Or emptiness.

“The symbol of the thing is not the same as the thing itself.”
Signlessness.

“Having no destination, I am never lost.”
Aimlessness.

My favorite was the last. “Having no destination, I am never lost.” I smiled as drove down the highway. It’s a sense of a lack of attachment to the result of anything I do, and it feels like freedom. I’m not letting go of the wheel and letting life take me anywhere, I’m heading in a direction and experiencing whatever happens along the way.

Letting go of expectations is something you can apply to any aspect of your life.

From a project to a career, even a relationship, we can release the expectations and simply experience what is happening in the moment. That doesn’t mean that we don’t direct our lives. Letting go means we make choices, take risks, see where things go and then make adjustments. Where we end up exactly doesn’t matter as much as the journey.

I have lived most of my life the same way my husband and I have traveled. We decide to do something and then see what happens. There are no hard and fast plans, there are no reservations, no tickets bought. There is only a full tank of gas and a direction. We usually have the first destination picked out. We want to drive so many miles that day and get to this area before dark, but other than that, things just play out the way they do. And we’ve had some amazing adventures.

How can letting go of expectations relate to relationships?

By not setting expectations for people. And by “relationship” I mean any kind: friendships, familial, romantic. I should not expect anyone to act, behave, or respond in a specific way. I simply relate to them and see what happens. That doesn’t mean that I let go of being respected or treated fairly. It means I put my effort in and see what they do. If I am enjoying that response, I continue. If I am not, I communicate with that person and/or try something else.

Letting go of the destination, means wherever I am, I’m not lost. I am simply where I am. That lets me experience the place more fully. I’m sitting in my car looking the map, feeling like a failure. I’m looking out the window, stopping the car, and going for a walk in the place I find myself. If it turns out that it’s not to my liking, I move on. No judgement. No failure. No destination. Just peace and experience.

The best part about all of it is that anyone can start right where they are. Put the map down, look around you, and immerse yourself in the experience.

Tetris: Can my Zen Master Level be Applied to Life?

I heard something fantastic on the Secular Buddhism podcast yesterday. He said, “Life is more like a game of Tetris than Chess.” Imagine Linus when Lucy explains the meaning of “pantaphobia” and you’ll know my reaction to that analogy as I drove into the city.

PS I remember this as being in the Charlie Brown Christmas Special with Charlie Brown being the one receiving enlightenment, but I guess it’s elsewhere as well. Thanks, internet search!

Tetris and my Game Boy
Vintage! Can you still see my name written on it?!

I am the undisputed master of Tetris. In 1990, I was 18 when I got a Nintendo Game Boy for Christmas, and the first games I got were Tetris and Centipede. Tetris was by far my favorite pastime. I brought it everywhere I went; at school, at home, waiting for my car to be repaired. At work on Space Mountain at Disneyland, you would find me in the breakroom playing it, eyes glued to the screen, fingers tensely poised waiting for the next block.

When it got too easy to beat all ten levels, I made it harder by turning off the preview block, and then starting at the higher speed so that blocks didn’t ramp up coming down faster, they just started throwing themselves down. Undisputed I tell you! Twenty years later, when my sons were pre-teens, I wowed them with my skills when I brought out that bad boy and showed them what’s what.

So when Noah Rasheta said Tetris, my ears perked up immediately and it all came into focus. He went on with the analogy and I added some to it in my mind.

Have you played Tetris? It’s an simple game, not like these crazy ones they make today. Different shapes of blocks come sliding down the screen and you turn and pile them up to complete lines across the bottom so that they disappear. The lines pile up if you don’t complete them and then you lose. The key is to wait to see the piece, turn it to fit below in the best way possible, and return to the top. The pieces don’t stop falling and will speed up as you complete levels.

It’s fun. Trust me.

You run into trouble if you panic. Maybe you planned on getting a long piece to complete a Tetris (four lines complete at the same time), but you got a square and that’s not going to help. Maybe you accidently slammed the cross piece down in the wrong place and now you have a bunch of empty spots you can’t fill. Lines pile up. Heart rate increases. You freak out and turn it off.

That’s life. We can’t plan life out ten pieces into the future. If we’re lucky we can plan for the one we have and then next, but that’s it. The best way we can deal with it is to wait to see what happens, take a deep breath, and find a way to best fit that piece into our life. The alternative is messy and not fun.

Life throws us a square when we needed a straight piece, a left L shape when we wanted an X. It’s not what we get that makes us nuts, it’s panicking and making a bigger mess that throws us.

One of my biggest issues is that I am always trying to anticipate what the next ten pieces will be in my life and then forgetting to deal with the current piece that’s coming down the screen. Instead of doing the dishes, folding the laundry, and enjoying watching cartoons with my babies today, I’m worrying what we’ll do about the bad neighborhood we live in, whether my husband will be able to keep working, or if we’ll be able to afford going on a grand vacation next year. That’s a great way to miss life completely.

The other issue I thought of while I was contemplating the Tetris analogy, was that my already completed lines at the bottom might move out of place or not want a new piece to fit in with them at all. That doesn’t happen in the game! If I were operating alone in this world, levels would be simple to complete, but I’m not. I have a husband, children, extended family, and close friends to consider. But, then again, I am the Zen master of Tetris and those are the challenges that make the game more fun.

Hearing that analogy yesterday eased my troubled heart. There’s just so much up in the air, so much that could change. It’s hard to make plans for the future. But I can live right now as things are. Sure, I can take a glance out the corner of my eye at what might be coming in that small preview space, but my focus should be on the piece I have.

Life changes in the blink of an eye. I can’t let what might have been, what could be, or what everyone else is doing, distract me from what I have right here in front of me. I am the Zen master of Tetris. Bring it!

It turns out I’ve at the Tetris thought before! Check out Managing Distraction: A Repost to see some progress.

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