Thursday, August 30, 2018

The battle with the possible is to not trip up on hubris.

Korean pagoda with fans

Some spiritual cheerleading for myself, I hope it helps you.

The battle with the possible is to not trip up on hubris. While imagining that you can become enlightened, that you can significantly move towards enlightenment, you can slip into hubris. The overarching pride that leads to mistakes like Noah Levine's fall. He built an amazing movement, and it's still going in NYC with Dharma Bums, and Josh Korda, but it seems it's closing out west. Korda, I think got Dharma Punx so Noah started Against The Stream, which will be closing down.

To create a movement is amazing. Personally, I fell away from his teaching when I read he couldn't handle it in a monastery, and had to go to the beaches in Thailand. His father was a spiritual teacher, though his mother wasn't with him. I never really got the California punx over hippies thing.

But I've been on retreat with Josh Korda and also listened to his talks, and he's quite insightful. If I had more energy I'd be involved in his sangha.

Some joke that Sangharakshita had no charisma, so that his movement of the TBC can't be claimed to be built on his charisma. Since I've never met Noah Levine, I can't comment on his charisma. I have read 3 of his books.

As we watch men fall from grace as sexual exploitation becomes less allowed in our society, there is hope that we are building a more sane society in a time when things seem to have gotten out of wack. The rapid changes brought on by technology are straining humans ability to adapt and there are considerable growing pains.

The children's show Masha and the Bear, Masha says, "I didn't want to, I just did." I told my daughter she can't use that excuse.

"That wasn't me," is the refrain from a Brandi Carlisle song. "Did I go on a tangent?!"

I haven't read Man Against Himself by Menninger, of the famous Menninger Clinic, but the idea that we have many self defeating behaviors is a key one in my life. To act in one's own self interest is surprisingly difficult. We can lock it down and lose our inspiration and fluidity, dynamism. Or we can let loose and get messy. Life is messy. That sexual misconduct hurts people is terrible. Something that at it's best can transport one in a celebration of life and intimacy, can be twisted to harm someone. It's the age old problem--desire can lead us astray, and our irrational efforts to extend the unextendable, lead us astray. We forget to kiss the joys as they go by, and try to make out with them. There is another way. We need fans to feel comfortable, but chasing after comfort will ultimately founder on the fact that life is uncomfortable. We can train ourselves to not over chase comfort. Now I don't mean we don't work to be comfortable. I tend to try to go the extra yard to impress sometimes. Never forget the middle way between asceticism and hedonism.

(Levine's response in a video on FB can be seen here. He claims none of the people were students and he essentially told his board for directors, they investigated and found what he said was true. My therapist talked about people revealing their clay feet...)

Tuesday, August 14, 2018

Family life for me

Family (with small children) sangha is harder than community sangha for me, and friends who go away (their home). Family exposes all your impatiences, cuts through the grandiosity. Being the adult around a child, being honest about housework with your partner, I'm finding honesty a challenge, though I'm also working to ask for help and confessing my limitations and struggles. The prefect place to grow. In a way, that's why they have communities and monasteries. To challenge one all the time.

Sangharakshita thought that if you worked in a right livelihood business, attended the center and lived in a single sex community of Buddhists, then you would essentially be on retreat all the time, and make the progress you make on retreat, in your regular life. And you wouldn't need to be in a monastery.

In the west we don't give out free lunches to Buddhists, though to be sure religious organizations can raise funds in the west, look at the mega churches. I wonder how much of the retreat from religion is just not wanting to part with time and money for a hollow lifeless religion. Spirituality takes upturns after deadening periods, and the Buddhism in the west is very vigorous and mostly Mahayana. I'm not trying to downgrade the Theravadan, it's just the one monastery I know if within driving distance is supported by Thai Internationals and Immigrants. I'm sure there are others, but I think another monastery is supported by International and Immigrant Sri Lancan folk. They essentially import their culture onto American soil, which has room for many. While amazing and vibrant transplants, they are hybrids that it will take time to fully blossom.

Family life is big on ethics, trying to develop positive habits and routines, civilize and culture the youth into good citizens who will be successful, and take responsibility for their lives. I always feel like I can communicate better, be more generous, have more equanimity, problem solve better. Not too many people are confident in these modern times. It's hard to imagine Trump not having insight into his own bluster, but the sad thing is that he's dragging us all along with his self deception.

The demands of modern life are many. Run to your car so you don't get a ticket. Try not to soak through your shirt on the subway before work. Take your son to soccer practice 3 times a week. The way utilities and electronics break down is a kind of lesson on impermanence. I remember seeing a light bulb in California that has been on since 1901. You can't even work a 9-5 job any more, those jobs are gone. I knew a guy who worked all night and his wife worked all day and they somehow raised their children in-between work and sleep. Was it only a fantasy of the 50's that women could be house wives? Everyone would like just a little more, one more notch up the class ladder.

Eating with moderation is difficult. I finish off the things my two year old doesn't eat. Meditation is difficult, but if I prioritize it, it's not difficult. Lack of sleep is a technique used in some zen monasteries, to challenge our attachment to comfort.

Zen Bunnies

The little books of quotes can be good for changing one's mindset without getting bogged down in a whole line of discourse. Welcome into the fold of collections is Zen Bunnies, which includes cute pictures of bunnies with the pithy saying.

Monday, August 13, 2018

Anamist, pagan, Taoist, humanist, Buddhist

I'm an animist, pagan, Taoist, humanist, Buddhist with American Christian and Jewish cultural roots, a Northern European mutt from my ancestors. I'm a straight edge vegan in spirit and an omnivore historically with serious periods of vegetarianism. I'm so curious about the ancient ones and keep up with the new.

My partner said the exact same thing I'm always saying to her (in her personality), "there are too many unknowns to plan."

She is a mastermind, plans, plans, plans compulsively, plans successfully. She rules where ever she is, or spins in frustration because she doesn't. She doesn't plot to take over, she doesn't want that stress. She wants a more simple life despite her urge to take over and do things right with foresight.

Then I thought her personality is not ideologically committed if she can say that.

Then I wondered if I was ideological about my personality. My first thought was Taoism, which really tries to put words to my feelings that come out in Murphy's Law and other ways, about the nature of things.

We're all connected by systems and the small things we do matter. In the cosmological sense, we are pretty insignificant. And yet we are connected, and that makes being vegan meaningful.

My first ex-wife said that the way way I liked jazz was unusual. I like the idea of it, improvisation, the African-American history, the musicianship. Every performer creates a unique composition every time. I guess she wanted me to love an artist, or a kind of jazz. I sometimes find jazz hard to listen to and even unpleasant. I think of Fred Armisen's comedy for drummers where he plays jazz and raises his hand when he's bored, pretty quickly. Sometimes the solos can be difficult to follow. Sonny Rollins' solos can go on for a long time when you tune out a little.

As I age, I see the impermanence to the grand schemes of myself and others, I see the unsatisfactoriness of pleasure seeking, how desperate we are for certain kinds of pleasures, at times, how sort of desperate and manic the endeavor is. I see how people change with different circumstances, and while self esteem is important, self development and integrity, that ultimately we're all beholden to circumstances. There are other systems, like genetics, or personality, that seem to hold sway in the personal experience.

I like celebrating equinox, full moons and the cycles of earth. I imagine trees have personalities and rich back stories. I imagine sprites, and naiads in the water, a rich unseen life. Not because I don't fully understand science and conventional wisdom, but because it feels more rich and alive. I like the old rituals and old cultures that spring up to cope with the world before technology took over. Father sun is the most natural phrase, even though I don't have the direct teachings of the Anasazi.

I love pictures of wild pagan festivals. I love Where The Wild Things Are.

I love the idea of hozho.

I like Kintsugi.

I can go on and on and I will in this blog.