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August 30, 2023

The Fear of Transformation

From “The Essence Book of Days“:

Sometimes I feel that my life is a series of trapeze swings. I’m either hanging on to a trapeze bar swinging along or, for a few moments in my life, I’m hurtling across space in between trapeze bars.

Most of the time, I spend my life hanging on for dear life to my trapeze-bar-of-the-moment. It carries me along a certain steady rate of swing and I have the feeling that I’m in control of my life. I know most of the right questions and even some of the right answers. But once in a while, as I’m merrily (or not so merrily) swinging along, I look ahead of me into the distance, and what do I see? I see another trapeze bar swinging toward me. It’s empty, and I know, in that place in me that knows, that this new trapeze bar has my name on it. It is my next step, my growth, my aliveness going to get me. In my heart-of-hearts I know that for me to grow, I must release my grip on the present, well known bar to move to the new one.

Each time it happens to me, I hope (no, I pray) that I won’t have to grab the new one. But in my knowing place I know that I must totally release my grasp on my old bar, and for some moment in time I must hurtle across space before I can grab onto the new bar. Each time I am filled with terror. It doesn’t matter that in all my previous hurtles across the void of unknowing I have always made it.

Each time I am afraid I will miss, that I will be crushed on unseen rocks in the bottomless chasm between the bars. But I do it anyway. Perhaps this is the essence of what the mystics call the faith experience. No guarantees, no net, no insurance policy, but you do it anyway because somehow, to keep hanging onto that old bar is no longer on the list of alternatives. And so for an eternity that can last a microsecond or a thousand lifetimes, I soar across the dark void of “the past is gone, the future is not yet here.”

It’s called transition. I have come to believe that it is the only place that real change occurs. I mean real change, not the pseudo-change that only lasts until the next time my old buttons get punched.

I have noticed that, in our culture, this transition zone is looked upon as a “no-thing”, a no-place between places. Sure the old trapeze-bar was real, and the new one coming towards me, I hope that’s real too; but the void in between? That’s just a scary, confusing, disorienting “nowhere” that must be gotten through as fast and as unconsciously as possible. What a waste!

I have a sneaking suspicion that the transition zone is the only real thing, and the bars are illusions we dream up to avoid the void, where the real change, the real growth occurs for us. Whether or not my hunch is true, it remains that the transition zones in our lives are incredibly rich places. They should be honored, even savored. Yes, with all the pain and fear and feelings of being out-of-control that can (but not necessarily) accompany transitions, they are still the most alive, most growth-filled, passionate, expansive moments in our lives.

And so, transformation of fear may have nothing to do with making fear go away, but rather with giving ourselves permission to “hang-out” in the transition between trapeze bars. Transforming our need to grab that new bar, any bar, is allowing ourselves to dwell in the only place where change really happens. It can be terrifying. It can also be enlightening, in the true sense of the word. Hurtling through the void, we just may learn how to fly.

July 17, 2023

“Watch Your Thoughts”

This quote by Lao Tzu is a mantra I often think about:

“Watch your thoughts, they become your words;
Watch your words, they become your actions;
Watch your actions, they become your habits;
Watch your habits, they become your character;
Watch your character, it becomes your destiny.”

June 25, 2023

Love and the Fear of Losing Love

You can tell that this podcast by Jonathan Foust is one of my favorites based on the copious notes I took – I will be referring back to this recap often as it helps me to remember that each of us is responsible for our own well-being:

– Examine our relationship to love – both carnal and spiritual love. Romance, sex and infatuation make us do things we look back in horror. We all have an impulse towards connection.

– The idea of romantic love didn’t start til 18th century France – courtly love.

– When you seek love and connection, what is the essence you are looking for? Set of intimacy, passion, commitment.

– Question is whether it’s rooted in a healthy desire for connection or are you seeking validation, security and someone to fulfill your unmet needs.
Near enemy of love is grasping and inability to let go. Can show up as Possessiveness, fear, jealousy

– Attachment is self-serving and echoes inward. Love goes outward. Shadow side is attachment. Balance independence with emotional availability and connection.

– Become disconnected to yourself when a drive for attachment isn’t met and you stifle a part of yourself. Devolves into a sense of separation. Feeling of not being seen and not being heard.

– There are four attachment styles – they overlap and there are gradations on a scale:

  1. Secure – confident and secure.
  2. Anxious around intimacy. Preoccupied and need excessive reassurance. Anxious around rejection and abandonment.
  3. Avoiding emotional closeness. Independence more important than emotional connection.
  4. Complex state where desire closeness while also fear of abandonment. Lot of conflicting behavior.

– Knowing your attachment style is a huge first step. Attachment style touches every aspect of your relationship but you’re onto yourself.

– If you really want to change, you can if you’re aware of your attachment style. You’re aware of how you’re impacting others. There is a big distinction between your story and your actions.

– What is it you’re needing? What is it that the other person is needing? Take time to consider and how would the other person describe you. How do you show up in their life.

– Having strong boundaries can be valuable. Filling up your cup first. Mutual respect. Good fences make good neighbors. Not walls, but fences. Anxious people try to go over fence. Need self-awareness of your patterns.

– Therapy can be invaluable to bring out self-awareness of how attachment style grew as a way to protect yourself. It served you but now limits you.

– What is the core belief here? Take time to challenge that belief. What would it be like if not true. Who would you be? And how can you better express yourself? So much of our lives are driven by unmet needs. Be patient with small victories.

– Seek healthy and secure relationships. Find like-minded people. Probably the most important thing. Self-compassion and challenge your beliefs.

– ‘Do not seek love. Simply seek the barriers to love.’ – Rumi

– Remembrance of impermanence. ‘It was already broken.’

– What if this was the last time you see someone? What would you want to say?

– If you want to be happy, think about death five times a day. Love without limits. Break chain of patterns of anxiety and disassociation. Remember impermanence. Brings in non-attachment. You accept here and now.

May 29, 2023

How to Heal What’s Broken

Here are some random thoughts from this recent podcast by Jonathan Foust:

– It’s not the strongest or quickest who survive – it’s those that adjust quickest to change.

– Ask yourself questions as your mind will answer. ‘How can this be an opportunity for waking up? How can I grow from this?’

– “Rain” practice – recognize, allow, investigate and nurture.

– 70% of better healers have a positive attitude- taking responsibility, staying determined and having desire, connected socially and visualization of healing and expectation of full recovery.

Kintsugi is from 16th century Japan and uses tree sap with gold to celebrate breaks to make them art. Breaks are stronger.

– Psychic wounds could make us wiser and more compassionate than before. Bring our wounds to the fore.

– Three things to think of:

1. Bring relaxation for more flow and less tension. Chi and spirit.
2. Turn towards what’s there rather than turning away. Coming into intimate contact. Connecting the dots. Where the attention goes, the energy goes.
3. Explore wholeness. Bring empathy. Explore visualization. Bathe area with warm healing colors.

– What is “Reiki”? It’s about universal life force. Infinite possibilities. Orthodox and reformed schools of thought. Different levels for teachers. Quantum healing.

– How do you move beyond being a “doer” in life to be a recipient? Slow brain waves and relax. Breathe or visualization. And then use focus. Pay attention on purpose. Whatever fires together, wires together.

May 22, 2023

Four Ideals to Guide Your Practice

Here are some thoughts made in this podcast from Jonathan Foust about four suttas / sutras allegedly spoken by Buddha for those bodyistrahas whose goal is to wake up in life (heart and mind):

1. Cultivating aspiration for awakening for as long as you live (AFGO – opportunities to learn about reality) – whatever arises, use as an opportunity to awaken

2. Cultivating spiritual friends for as long as you live – company is stronger than willpower. They can be hard to find and may be the most important thing. Not a ‘nice to,’ it’s a ‘need to.’ Our culture is designed to have you look for happiness in all the wrong ways. Very difficult to practice on your own. You need sangha.

3. Practice patience, openness and kindness for as long as you live – stay present without demonizing the enemy as a way to create community. Points the way out of self-absorption. One of the best ways to break out of depression is to be of service to others. It’s really for yourself. Lubricating your system to wake up and being fully alive. Your cup will overflow. It’s hard as you may get compassion fatigue.

4. Spending some time dwelling in the wilderness – synonym for meditation. Wilderness of the mind. What is 40 days and nights in the desert for you? So you can regain balance by becoming fully present. The power of being in nature. The power of animals who live in an alpha state, which rubs off.

May 16, 2023

The Quickest Way to Happiness

Here are some thoughts made in this podcast from Jonathan Foust about becoming happier:

– Choose what you already have.

– What’s between you and being happy? Connecting to your true nature.

– Cultivating beginner’s mind. Infinite possibilities. Experience each moment fresh.

– Being caught in the state of wanting more. The hungry ghost where you’re never happy. We’re all afflicted with this to some degree.

– Desire and happiness are diametrically opposed.  If we let go of desire, you become happy.

– When you begin to cultivate non-judging awareness, you become more aware of what’s between you and being happy.

– Using these five elements from Martin Seligman’s book about psychology (perma) to determine where you might level up to break a cycle and become happier:

  1. Positive emotional – feeling good
  2. Engagement – how much do you feel absorbed in activities
  3. Relationships – authentically connected with people around you
  4. Meaning – purposeful existence
  5. Achievement – sense of accomplishment

March 6, 2023

Cold Water Therapy. Yummy…

I’ve been dabbling with cold water therapy the past few months, culminating in a 10-minute immersion in an ice bath. You can see me emerging from a silo that contained 15 bags of ice. I wasn’t cold during the immersion or afterwards.

During this time, I’ve discovered that the aversion to cold water is widespread. I hazard to guess it might be the thing that unites all of us. So you would be surprised to learn that it takes only about two days of taking cold showers to get used to the cold (if you simply take some deep breaths and ensure you’re not tense as you stand in it). The health benefits of cold water therapy are many – I’ve learned a lot from Wim Hof and watching his introductory videos on breathing will get you started nicely. And once you start taking cold showers, you actually begin to crave them…

February 14, 2023

Ram Dass on Dying and Unconditional Love

Here are two excerpts from this NY Times magazine interview with Ram Dass from a few years back – a piece in which Ram Dass described himself as being ready to die (which he did do a few months after the interview):

You’ve said that you’re ready to die. When did you know? 

When I arrived at my soul. Soul doesn’t have fear of dying. Ego has very pronounced fear of dying. The ego, this incarnation, is life and dying. The soul is infinite.

O.K., here’s something I’m struggling with: You teach that we’re supposed to be free from desires. I can imagine myself being free from the desire for prestige or money or some unattainable person’s attention. It’s much harder to imagine being free from the desire, for example, that my loved ones not come to any harm. Are we even supposed to let go of desires like that?

Yep! Desire is desire. Attachment is attachment. When I came back to the U.S. from India, I came back bringing the message of Maharaji. I had never experienced the love that he showered on me. It was unconditional love. Everything in my life had been conditional love. When I was a good boy, then they loved me. When I was a good student, they loved me. When I was a good lover, they loved me. I thought that I could come back and show unconditional love. The core message is that kind of love.

February 2, 2023

Ethics Matters Per Warren Buffett

This article about Warren Buffett’s advice for young people smacks of mindfulness. The three credos shared from Warren include:

1. Define success by your “inner scorecard”
2. Surround yourself with mentors
3. Protect your reputation at all cost

I love this quote in particular: “It takes 20 years to build a reputation and five minutes to ruin it. If you think about that, you’ll do things differently.” As someone who has blogged daily for 20 years, I know all about the risk of saying something inappropriately just a single time to bring you down to size. Luckily, I haven’t done that yet…

December 18, 2022

1st Annual Old Glebe Pickleball Tourney

1. Location & Time: Old Glebe Park on a Saturday afternoon. Both tennis courts get reserved for 90 minutes.

2. Player Pool: 16 players in the tourney (with two alternates in case some folks drop). First come when the announcement is made, first into the pool. Regular players can be given a heads up as to when the announcement will be made on the What’s App so they can be ready to join if they see fit.

Announcement asking people if they want to enter the tourney will be made on the Monday or Tuesday before the Saturday we play – if we make teams too far in advance, too many people drop in the interim and it’s tough to keep adding in new players.

3. Team Selection: Your teammate will be assigned randomly, drawn from a hat. So the teams will be uneven. Life is unfair.

4. Tourney Rules:

– Each team will play each other nearly once (you’ll play 5 of the 7 other teams – which teams you’ll play will be drawn randomly in advance from a hat), with the two most winning teams playing each other at the end in the Championship Final (if there is a tie for 2nd most winning team, the 2nd team will be determined by coin flip).
– Games will be “straight 9” or 12 minutes long, whichever happens first.
– Three minute breaks between each game.
– This will allow for 6 games to be played – the 5 games of group play and the one Championship Final game where those that didn’t make the Championship Final will be free to cheer for their favorites. Wagering permitted.

5. Entry Fee: $2 per player to defray court reservation fees (unless a corporate sponsor is obtained to cover all costs). Each player on the winning team in the Championship Final will receive a dollar bill, suitable for framing.