The Curmudgeon's Guide To Enlightenment

  • 20th
  • June
  • 2012

The true meaning of “The Lord’s Day”

The Bible got it wrong.

I know, hard to believe that there might be some misinterpretation with a document that’s been rewritten and translated by a wide range of authors with their own ax to grind. 

Ralph Spight has been kind enough to clarify what Sunday is for. If you’re not Christian (I’m not either) then you can supply any other of the six days and this concept will still work.

The reason for having one day of the week to rest is quite practical. Give your deity a chance to catch up with you. All those wonderful things that happen during the week? They’re a result divine intervention. It’s like God’s a short-order cook and there’s a week’s worth of cubby-holes with little orders in them that translate into one’s experiences for a week.

Take the day off, relax and let your loving higher power catch up with you and lay down the next week’s experiences. 

Posted at 12:44pm
  • 18th
  • December
  • 2010

From birth to death - it’s just like this

How fucked up is that?

I’ve avoided this truth much of my life.

Some people call this acceptance.

I used to call it crazy.

Or stupid.

Yes, from birth all the way till I die, life’s gonna be just like this.

A pain in the ass.

Nothing will ever get better. No amount of trying will ever change anything at all.

How did I get from nihilism to acceptance? It’s been a long, slow road - and maybe that’s for the best.

Because I’ve managed to develop the craft of living in the moment - most of the time.

Being present for this moment - and then moving on to the next moment when it arises, that is some cool shit.

My attempts at detached observation have resulted in being able to detach. Sitting (or moving like on a motorcycle) and observing my thoughts as they come up; then letting them go again and again, that is a practice that has allowed me to accrete the skill of being present for much of my day.

Living like this requires less mental effort as I don’t have the voices in my head. The committee is smaller and much less negative and judgmental.

Sometimes I am able to be useful to others without the preparatory effort.

Being willing and able to be of service to others, not being quite as attached to my needs or plans and designs is pretty nice.

And this statement: from birth to death - it’s just like this has become a fairly succinct representation of how I view things.

Thanks to Brad Warner at his blog Hardcore Zen for the phrase.

Posted at 10:56pm
  • 2nd
  • October
  • 2010

Why bother ?

Not much use in taking in a breath, detaching or even being in the moment. Once we’re dead, it’s all for naught.

Right?

It’s clear that taking the effort to know one’s self, becoming true to one’s self is a pain in the ass - and ultimately futile.

As in, it’s a waste of time to breathe in, breathe out and watch one’s breath with the goal of detaching from self. If I’m gonna know myself, how - and why? - should I detach from this self?

What’s the point of becoming enlightened anyway? All the gurus and masters say that there is no point.

There’s no such thing as enlightenment, either.

By chasing enlightenment, I’m entrapping myself in desire for a state of being that denies self.

My head hurts again.

So, Why Bother?

Because it is in the seeking that one finds and that process sets me free from all the bullshit I wrap myself up with. This process requires that I let go completely and have no expectations of any outcome.

The freedom gained is that I have no expectations of an outcome and no attachment to anything other than the way it is. Seen in this light, the self melts and “I” become part of the whole universe, freeing my mind of desire, worry, and all the other traps of self.

I’m gonna go breathe now.

Posted at 11:07pm
  • 25th
  • June
  • 2010

Life is a process … but not like processed food

One way to avoid being in the moment is to view life as a succession of events, waiting for this one to be done so that I can get on to the next.

Even if the current event was cool, I couldn’t stay in it long.

I had to move on.

My point on a line lifestyle kept me in anticipation because I saw life as a bunch of discrete moments.

Rather than a process.

Life is a process is an idea that appears to be simple and easy to grasp.

But understanding a concept is different from experiencing it.

Back to that breathing thing - and practicing meditation.

Whether sitting cross-legged and watching my breath or being engaged in an activity - like folding the laundry or creating a piece of art, they’re about the same thing from a meditation standpoint - my focus turned outward from self-absorption and I began to experience life as a process.

The result of which is living in the present moment.

Posted at 11:46pm
  • 15th
  • June
  • 2010

It’s now or neverland

One of the functions of meditation is to get me to be here instead of all over the place.

There’s really no way to know that I’m everywhere else until I engage in being rather than thinking.

And the forms of meditation that get me to be are quite varied. Craft and artwork are good for that. Taking a pen and making letters or designing something and executing the design has proven to be effective in stripping away all thought about anything else other than the movement of my arm, the stroke of the pen, and the mark left by the ink.

It’s sensual - I feel the pen as it moves across the surface of whatever I’m writing on - and I am connected to the surface, the pen, the ink - even the words I’m writing out.

Other forms of meditation are equally effective and I attempt to make my actions be the gateway to lead me away from my neverland of projection and thinking so that I can inhabit the now.

Posted at 11:44pm
  • 6th
  • June
  • 2010

Create drama - avoid life

Livin’ the train wreck life is great for having good stories to tell.

I’ve gotten good at telling the stories but I’ve realized that the drama I fabricate is a good smoke-screen for dodging the challenge of living life and becoming usefully whole.

Ego, arrogance, fear, selfishness.

I may have missed a few, but these ingredients were essential in my toolkit for walking headlong into the fan blades. Until I began to recognize that I’m the unifying factor in these events, I was unable to review their mechanics.

Like a macro view of watching my breath - separating myself enough to review my assumptions and actions - I could begin to see what I was doing to cause the drama.

The first thing I saw was that I tried to control everything.

Then I realized that if I changed my attitude, I wouldn’t attract other train wreck players with as much conviction.

Lowering expectations to ground level meant I wouldn’t trip over them.

And choosing a goal, setting my mind to service rather than killing or becoming a victim changed the outcome.

Assuming that everything was going to hell in a handbasket meant that I’d chosen a goal - disaster, difficulty, drama - without thinking about it. On the surface, I enter most encounters with a child-like enthusiasm, but the background assumption’s still on defeat.

Teasing this matrix apart has taken a couple of decades.

I’m beginning to see how I do this.

Creating drama wasn’t really effective in living life, but it did a good job of keeping me so busy that I didn’t do much to realize my dreams. I would put effort in on them, but the sabotage took me away from self actualization.

Observing and reviewing has aided in my awareness. The pain I feel has created a good motivator for working towards self-actualization.

When I face my fears, I am more engaged in life than the old way. While it’s hard, the rewards of doing the work are that I’m more content, engaged in life and happy.

Having a goal of challenging myself rather than abdicating to fate has built my self-esteem and made my failures easier to accept. I take responsibility for them, and acknowledge that this is part of life.

Posted at 8:17am
  • 1st
  • June
  • 2010

The Friction of Fear

What is it about fear that causes so much friction?

Fear multiplies exponentially as I give it more of my time and effort.

And most of my fears are unfounded.

But I nurture and cultivate fear because it makes me feel important. Like I’m in control. And I’m doing something about my life by worrying about something. Or I’m protecting myself by fearing a person or a situation.

This self-indulgent and self-important stance is attractive because I don’t have to be present and address things as they are.

Were I to accept things as they are, I wouldn’t fear shit quite as much because I wouldn’t be fighting what is.

My head hurts just talking about this.

When I face my fears, walk through them and do the best I can, they turn out to be paper tigers. And have absolutely no power to harm me. The harm comes from the friction generated and rigidity of my stance.

Losing the ability to take things as they come makes me brittle and that’s where the pain comes in. I have lost the fluidity of detachment and calm observance of the unfolding of the moment.

Posted at 10:05pm
  • 27th
  • May
  • 2010

Practice this…

Being is a state.

So is California.

Neither of them are easy to get settled into.

I’ll leave out the problems of living in California, that’s a blog in itself.

Being in the moment can happen in other places like Oklahoma - even New Jersey.

Now this state of being and becoming - as opposed to doing and having been - is kinda like a spiritual crab walk. Approached directly, it’s a pain in the ass to attain.

The way I’ve managed to steal my way into the moment is to focus on something other than achieving a goal of being present.

Detachment is the process of not controlling, not knowing and not expecting or anticipating. That’s why focusing on my breath is a good trick. I give my brain something to do that allows me the distance to become an observer.

Observing my breath, my thoughts, my body inputs of discomfort, pleasure and pain without reacting creates that space or detachment to slip the bonds of self.

Then I’m able to experience being present in the moment.

Knowing what that’s like, I can then see when it happens organically. When I’m riding a motorcycle, making art or being engaged with someone in a conversation - that’s being in the moment.

By rejecting the concept that my judging mind is arbiter and judge takes the friction out of the moment.

Friction of self is like driving around with the emergency brake on - high resistance equals low movement.

Being and becoming are more like the flow of a river - no resistance, just liquid progression.

Posted at 5:53pm
  • 16th
  • May
  • 2010

Continued detachment

Often I am freed from the bondage of self.

Whatever I’m engaged in, I’m immersed in it and have no real friction caused by thinking about my plans and designs.

I can’t just snap my mental fingers and get to that state, but I am able to move towards awareness of the moment I’m in.

But what good does this detachment from my mind give me - other than being present?

Being present in and of itself isn’t a very useful achievement. It’s better than being all over the place, but making it a goal doesn’t really do much for me.

Being in the moment is the admission price to becoming usefully whole. By getting out of myself, I can become useful to others.

And that renders in me a sense of wholeness that is lacking when I’m caught up in self.

There I go, soundin’ like a flake-assed guru. I’d better start breathing again.

Posted at 10:01pm
  • 14th
  • May
  • 2010

Watch your breath

If I watch my breath, do I get a prize?

Stupid idea - watch my breath. I can’t see air, so how the fuck am I going to observe this breath?

Ok, I’ll do it. Supposed to help me detach from myself. Become free of the entrapment of self.

The odd thing about watching my breath - besides it being quite difficult to continue to stay focused on it - is that my heart rate calms right down. And I am able to observe my thoughts and see them as just that - a river of concepts, but I am not that river.

"I" no longer am - "I" am not.

No more I or me, just the observance of breath, but no attachment to it.

Yet, it still bugs me when I write about it like this - so I’m not always detached.



The experience of becoming present and releasing myself from the shackles of conceptualization is freeing.

Calming.

And I don’t have to “do” anything with this when I come out of meditation. Sometimes it stays with “me” once I’ve stopped the formal exercise.

One Spring I rode from California to Miami and then up to NYC, across upper New York State and drifted back across through the midwest and Colorado. Took a couple of weeks.

And the whole ride was a meditation on loving kindness - and the net result was a calmness and comfort that I’ve rarely ever experienced as an adult. In spite of my day-to-day worry and fussiness, the ride itself was spent in pleasant hours of being present and filled with love.

Hmmm, I think I need another riding meditation.

Posted at 11:30pm
  • 11th
  • May
  • 2010

Cerebral ain’t spiritual

Act your way into right thinking

I’ve mentioned this before. Seems ass-backwards to me. I have to think of everything - analyze and project all negative outcomes before I begin an action. This either resulted in inaction - or a fated result because I had convinced myself that it wouldn’t work.

The only other way I took action was to react rather than respond and the results were often just as dismal as my over-thought actions.

When I became willing (a nice way to describe desperation) to consider that there might be some greater force(s) out there, I was invited to try something different. It sounds so simple - just take a positive action rather than a destructive one.

How am I going to do that - now that I’ve been convinced that I’m filled with self-destructive thoughts?

I’m to believe in a loving higher power and to put my faith in it. By doing that, I can then go out in the world and begin to build self-esteem by doing estimable acts.

My head hurt. It really did. I needed something to see, smell or touch. And if I couldn’t have that, I wanted to know that I wasn’t going to make any mistakes by taking this new pathway of right action.

I took this concept of a spiritual life and analyzed it from all angles. But I couldn’t get it with my head, so I did the old trick of looking at something else and letting it seep in sideways.

Taking a positive action could be as simple as not yelling at someone when I was pissed off. And taking the time to find out what the emotion really was (usually fear). It could be as lame as smiling at someone and asking - and meaning: “How’s it going for you today?” 

Simple shit like that was like starter dough for my pinched and broken soul.

And slowly - I’ve come to have a spiritual life that isn’t bludgeoned by my brain.

Because the mind isn’t where the spirit resides.

Posted at 7:54am
  • 4th
  • May
  • 2010

Fear of faith

A woman once told me:

Honey if you have doubt, take your doubt with you and do it anyway.

Now that sounded like another fresh heaping load of crap by those whacks that kept telling me that I could face my fears more easily by having faith in a force or power that was bigger than me.

Muddle-headed magpies talkin’ all kinds of shit like:

Fake it till ya make it.

Uh, why don’t you fuck it till you suck it?

Maybe I wasn’t all that open minded????

Plagued by fear, my world shrank to a pinpoint of despair and hopelessness. I couldn’t go out after a while because I didn’t know what would happen. I couldn’t talk to people that I had difficulties with because I knew nothing good would come of it. The list goes on longer than a Grateful Dead jam.

I have learned that generating worry and fear is an effective way to keep from living. It’s effective in making my world so small that I was ready to die to get away from myself and all that I feared.

I am only as sick as my secrets. And this is one of the greatest:

I fear having faith.

To trust that a loving power that has my best interests in mind seems ludicrous. And my brain insists that it can’t be the case.

Why would a loving power greater than me give me a break? After what I’ve done?

My base-line belief has been negative for most of my life and I revert to that in any difficult situation. If I come to rely on this thing I can’t see or hear, won’t I be setting myself up for the greatest con job ever?

And because I just know that I’m being set up, once I do have faith, that’s the moment the higher power con artist will disappear and laugh at me.

No, I’ll just have conditional faith and hedge my bets in the realm of the spirit.

At least I won’t lose everything. Yeah, right my pride has done me such good service in the past, I’ll cling to that Doubting Thomas facade for safety.

Wears me right the fuck out.

And when I’m weak and broken - that’s the moment that I can accept this strange loving force.

Posted at 11:50pm
  • 27th
  • April
  • 2010

Evacuate your bowels and invite God in

I had a problem getting past my embarrassment, shame and resistance to praying. I thought it a true sign of weakness and gullibility and my refusal to give it a try was keeping me from getting any relief from my spiritual maladay. I agreed to try anything and to go to any length for this quest, consequently I gave this new suggestion a try. Since it didn’t matter anyway, I could at least have something to occupy my mind.

I confess, the first few times I assumed the prayerful position all I could do was laugh. What kinda weird-assed world was I living in? It was one where I could invent my own idea of a deity that loved me and invite that higher power to occupy the space recently vacated by my fecal matter.

After I laughed, I got used to it, and started to pray in a stilted, self-conscious way. I don’t mean the Serenity Prayer or any of those scripted word-sets. No, I talked to this thing I didn’t understand:

"Hey fucker! Listen, I’m in pain. I’m pretty sure it’s all gonna come crashing down on my head. And you’re out to fuck me. So, I’m askin’ ya not to fuck me. If you can just lighten the fuck up a little, I’ll give ya as much selfless shit as I can muster. OK?!

"Fuckin’ stupid shit, why the fuck am I even doing this? It’s stupid and senseless and I’m a fuckin’ boob for even trying, but what the hell, I got nothing to lose.

"And I feel better, lighter and ready for the day.

"As soon as I wipe my ass and say adios motherfucker to my loving higher power."

Fuck if it didn’t work. After a while I found that I was praying more often - not just on the shitter. I wasn’t embarrassed by it either. Sometimes I did say formal prayers and that wasn’t so weird after a while.

I still firmly disbelieved in the efficacy of prayer, but I was willing to go along with it.

Yeah, I started to feel better and stress out less.

But that was probably because I was getting laid and eating better, right?

Posted at 10:34pm
  • 24th
  • April
  • 2010

Feelings aren’t facts ?

One of the many contradictions encountered was the concept of detachment. Having invested in my thinking I presumed that my feelings and thoughts were facts. When it was suggested that I didn’t have to believe everything I thought my reaction was one of fear, shock and resistance. I was having difficulty seeing that maybe the world wasn’t just as I commanded it. And that just because I thought something about the world (they’re all out to get me) didn’t make it so.

Having surrendered to win - an odd concept, to say the least - I was now on a path that could lead to some detachment. Or a lot. It was up to me how much I could get out of letting go.

And letting go of my old ideas started to be attractive. My fear about jettisoning those old ways of seeing the world was that I would have to have a sliver of trust that I was going to have a safe passage in the world without using all my old defenses and mechanisms.

Fortunately I had a group of people that were practicing this design for living. Simply put, if I started to take responsibility for my past actions; began trusting that the world wasn’t hostile; and helping others, I might just be able to live life more fully. These people told me what they did - they didn’t tell me what to do.

I learned to respond to stimuli in my world rather than react by counting to ten before telling some numbnut just what I thought of them. Maybe not take everything that happened in the world personally. I started to toy with the idea that I wasn’t a piece of shit at the center of the universe.

And I kept working hard at being in the moment. There’s a dichotomy right there. Catching up to the present meant that I had to let go of the past, and forget about the future.

Uh, right.

But I kept cleaning up the past and as I did so, I started to live more in the present. My fear that the other shoe was ready to drop - right on my head - lessened.

The first time I was present, it scared me because it was such a singular deal. I called somebody because I thought something was terribly wrong and I was about to implode. I was told that I’d just let go of everything, had detached from my thinking and my expectations for a little while.

Now I get lost in the moment for seconds at a time. And it’s no longer an accident.

Posted at 8:09am
  • 17th
  • April
  • 2010

Whole not hole

Much of my life I felt like I didn’t fit. Not in any group - even my family.

I didn’t fit in my skin even, I was ill-suited for life.

Reading books about self-actualization, meditation, and doing things like Tai Chi helped.

A little.

But not enough.

My baseline was discomfort, agitation, loneliness and brokenness.

I figured that no matter what I tried, it wasn’t going to work and I’d have to correct the flaw of my creation one day.

But I wanted to believe that meditation would take me out of myself and help to make me whole - because I had a hole in me where my self-esteem leaked out. Meditation would help for a while. Tai Chi worked to some extent.

Having surrendered to the fact that I had lost the ability to control my drinking and then asking for help put me on the repair path. That hole started to close up. As I stuck around, meditated, became useful to others and thought of myself less often, I stopped thinking less of myself.

To build self esteem, do estimable acts

First time I did that, I felt like shit. Way too foreign to my way of doing things. It almost felt wrong as in bad, dangerous and fucked up. I had to check with a friend to find out that doing esteem building acts was unnatural for me so it made sense that I was uncomfortable. He suggested I do nothing to sabotage it and soon I’d feel better about myself.

And I did. With this little seedling of self-esteem I was able to sit still and let my brain quiet down for seconds at a time.

My skin started to fit just a little better.

I started to feel the beginnings of wholeness.

Posted at 10:40pm