• Mourning and Evening, a life in a day

    Good mourning,

    Yes, mourning. Let’s have a good time mourning the person we were yesterday who is now no longer. Let’s not take that person too seriously, otherwise we’ll be distracted from realizing our life’s purpose.

    The purpose of life is to have a wonderful time, realize our potential of divine consciousness and likewise help others.

    Good evening,

    It’s time to sleep, to transition from consciousness to sleep-death, as the life we lived today has now passed. It is time for the evening, as everyone is now made even; the smart, the stupid, the rich, the poor; all equal as we enter the inevitable sleep-death that awaits us.

    What remains unchanged is our soul. While our daily personal lives are finite, our souls are eternal. When we transition, our souls connects with all souls as one. The soul is ineffable, though some call it god.

    Today is not a day in a life; it is life in a day, birth to death from dawn to dusk. We have lived and died thousands of times as each day is a life onto itself. Each awakening is a reincarnation. Everyday is our birthday, not a commemoration but our actual birthday.

    So let’s have a good mourning and realize our purpose this day which is the entirety of our life. Let’s live today as our first day of life and experience everything as new and unique which is what it is whatever it is. Let’s live today as our last day of life and do whatever we would regret not having done if we are not reincarnated tomorrow. And let’s delay doing anything we don’t need do today and leave it for tomorrow as we would be wasting our time if we are not here tomorrow. Let’s not kill time until time kills us, waiting for evening when everyone is evened out.

  • Life is a Bubble

    Life is a glass of sparkling water.
    Each of us a bubble that seems to come out of nowhere,
    transitioning its way to the top of the glass
    and then seems to disappear.
    We don’t disappear.
    We become one with everything
    which is what we have been from the beginning.

  • The Purpose of Life

    The purpose of life is to have a happy go of it, realize our divine potential and help awaken others likewise.


    Happiness is a function of gratitude, optimism and freedom from the karmic prison of our past lives (the days of our life now passed).


    Gratitude is the realization that even the worst days could always be worse; for that we are grateful. When we are grateful we are “great-full,” full with feeling all is great.

    The etymology of  happy is “hap” which in Old Norse means luck. When we get lucky we immediately feel happy. When we realize how lucky we are relative to most who are here now or who once were and are no longer, we are grateful and happy.

    An antonym for gratitude is complaining. While complaining often feels good as an emotional bowel movement, complaining reflects and causes unhappiness. Moreover, complaining is selfish as in doing so we are oblivious of others who are truly suffering, those who would be very happy living our lives. When we view our lives from the perspective of those who are suffering, it’s clear we have much about which to be grateful.

    Nothing is perfect but the universe which the gods have created. As everything but the universe is imperfect, it is easy to find some aspect of everything about which to complain. Complaining is ugly as it makes this world less beautiful than it would be otherwise. Thus by complaining we risk that the gods hear us complaining and entertain themselves by putting us in harm’s way.

    Moreover, complaining makes it difficult to realize our potential as it engages our time and attention, distracting us from moving forward best we can. Complaining is akin to driving a car and paying much attention to what’s in the rear view mirror, increasing the chances of an accident which would give us something about which to truly complain.


    Optimism is based on the realization that the universe eternal; yet everything that comprises the universe is temporary, forever changing. As what is now will soon be no longer, difficult circumstances will change for better or worse and sooner or later for the better.


    Most of us are locked in a karmic prison. Karma is the intentions, actions and consequences in our prior lives that we’ve woven into generalizations, meanings and stories that affect our experience of the present. Our prior lives are days now passed as each day is a lifetime. Karma holds us in a prison of these preconceived notions and stories that keeps us from experiencing the ever-changing present as it is. To free ourselves from our karmic prisons, we need to realize that our past and all our stories are an illusion. Tangibly, this means that we forgive all who we perceive as having done us wrong in the past as they are now not the person they once were and we are not the person who was wronged. Likewise, we don’t have have feelings of entitlement, expecting those whom we’ve treated well in the past to treat us well now or in the future as we and they today are not the people we were in prior lifetimes; they owe us nothing.


    Humans are a transitional species, part animal and part divine consciousness. We are born as animals and are socialized as animals. As animals we view ourselves as apart and separate from that which is not ourselves. In that context, we effort to fulfill our needs for food, shelter, security, health and companionship with little regard for that which is not ourselves. However, we realize our animal potential when we fully develop and fulfill our responsibilities to others, like a seed that grows into a fruit-bearing tree whose fruit nourishes others.

    The ultimately human potential is the realization of divine consciousness; the realization that we and the universe are one. This is enlightenment. When we are enlightened, we are one with the light and one with everything as everything is light. As enlightened beings, we treat others as we treat ourselves (compassion) and our perspectives are infinite (wisdom), not solely the perspective from our finite selves. Enlightened, we find almost every situation funny, sooner or later, and know the nature of consciousness which keeps us from suffering in life and death.


    To awakening others, we need to rouse their curiosity; question them about who they are, why are they here in life, why the universe here. If they are sufficiently engaged by these questions, they will work looking for answers. The work is difficult and frustrating as we need to see beyond ourselves, yet are locked in our karmic prisons. We work hard by meditating, studying, performing rituals and reflecting as though our lives depend on realizing the light.(1)  We work to near exhaustion like a dog endlessly chasing its tail. Then, suddenly, we stop and fall down laughing at the absurdity of our chasing our tail, as we realize we were enlightened from the very beginning.

    (1) In fact our lives do depend on it as only those who are enlightened know eternal life. As the universe has been and will be here forever, the enlightened never die, just transition from one form to another.

  • Karma

    Every day is a life in a day, not a day in a life. Each night we die and are reincarnated in the morning.

    Each morning we choose to assume the identities of the person we were last lifetime (yesterday) and embrace the stories we’ve made up of who we were in past lifetimes (days passed). The identities, an amalgam of role-playing and habits, feel familiar and safe.  Others around us reinforce our self-perceptions. This is the foundation of karma.

    Karma is the intentions, actions and the consequences of our actions in our past lifetimes. Karma, living in the context of previous lives, has us living in a karmic prison. Karma frames our experiences in our reincarnated life. Our karmic prison precludes us from experiencing the present as it unfolds.

    As life is otherwise overwhelming, our mind (which is a mnemonic device) categorizes our passed experiences and creates memories and related stories. Thus, we do not experience the present as it unfolds, we experience the categories into which our mind places present experiences.  The categories, their meanings and the stories we ascribe to them are artificial and illusionary.  However, we believe our stories are true and as such we make them real by experiencing the present in the context of our stories. Only when we are freed from our karmic prisons, we can experience the present.

    Good karma, bad karma

    Bad karma is living in a karmic prison of preconceived notions. Bad karma doesn’t allow us to experience the present as it is, unadulterated by reference to the past. Good karma is learning from our past successes and failures which helps us navigate our way in the now and what’s next.

    Bad karma creates a road on which we travel forward. It feels safe, secure, comfortable. Good karma is a light that helps us see our way forward through an ever-changing landscape of undefined roads.

    Bad karma leads us to living habitually, oblivious of the world about us. Good karma helps us navigate in a world in which everything is unique, engaging and has us feeling alive.

    Bad karma has us feeling we understand what we’re doing. Good karma is knowing we know nothing.

    Bad karma is intelligence, the ability to analyze and make sense of the past in evermore complicated ways. Good karma is wisdom, knowing that everything can be viewed from different perspectives.

    Bad karma is why. Good karma is how.

    Bad karma is when the past overshadows the present. Good karma is the light that helps us negotiate the present as it emerges from nothingness.

    The popular view of bad karma is that when you treat others poorly you’ll get your just deserts sometime later. When that happens, people say: “karma sucks.” Likewise, good karma is the concept that when we do right by others good fortune will come our way. There is truth in these views.

    Karma is living in the context of the stories our mind has created.  These stories are like a storyline of a play. As the present unfolds, we view it in the context of the storyline and incorporate it into the storyline. There are several roles in the play. Our personal role is the central actor and to some extent the writer of the play. However, at times there are role-reversals and our role is that of other actors. When in our storyline we treat another actor abusively, we may find ourselves playing the role of the abused actor during role-reversal. This is retribution via bad karma. Likewise, good karma is when the storyline has us treating others well. Then, role-reversals work out well for us as, so to speak, “good things happen to good people.”

    We have great liberty in creating our stories. Our storylines can bend to tragedy or comedy. As a tragedy we risk finding ourselves in role-reversals that are not those for which we would wish ourselves. As a comedy we are likely to be happy regardless of the role in which we find ourselves in the play. That’s the enlightened view; to view the past in comic relief and come what may.

    Enlightenment is liberation from our karmic prison; liberation that reveals our karma was just an illusion.



    An acronym (IAWIA) pronounced: I Y

    A mantra: I Why! I Why?

    A mantra is a word or sound repeated to aid concentration in meditation. Mantras are used to focus the mind so random thoughts don’t distract us. When the mind is calm, like an undisturbed pond, we can clearly ponder images of the universe reflecting off its surface. The images, though seemingly real, are an illusion like the illusion we see when viewing ourselves in a mirror. The images are illusions in that they appear as discrete shapes and forms, yet the universe is one and the universe and nothingness is all there is. 

    A koan: I why (why am I)?

    A koan is riddle to demonstrate the inadequacy of logical reasoning and to awaken us to enlightenment. Who am I? I am who I am as I can’t describe myself more tangibly because in the middle of the sentence describing myself the person I’m describing has by then passed and the person I am now is unlike the person I started describing. This is impermanence. Realizing the temporary nature of the tangible universe is the foundation of wisdom. Wisdom is the realization that there is little point thinking about the past, beyond as a learning tool; that we are here now and there are endless possibilities as to what’s next. Amalgamating different perspectives on what’s next is the essence of wisdom.

    All things, including ourselves, are interdependent manifestations of energy. While the manifestations are seemingly independent, they are interdependent as is a circle with its seemingly mutually exclusive inside and outside mutually dependent as each side cannot exist without the other. This is the foundation of compassion: we realize we are connected to a common ancestor or source (energy) and our existence is dependent on the existence of everything; as such, we treat everything as we treat ourselves because we and everything are one.

    A biblical riddle: When Moses asks God (“HaShem,” the name) at Mount Sinai who he is, God says: “I am who I am.”

    In the Bible, God appears to Moses in the form of a burning bush with its flames not devouring its branches. This is the nature of the universe, ever-changing (flames) and eternal (branches). The flames represent impermanence. The branches are composed of interdependent but seemingly individual plant cells. While appearing as fire, the flames are light and don’t burn the branches. The burning bush is reminiscent of “the fiery ever-turning sword” that guards the way to the Tree of Life. The fiery sword and the Tree of Life are the burning bush, images of God. Moving passed the fiery sword (not difficult once we realize its flames are light not fire), we come before the Tree. It feels familiar and unlike anything we’ve experienced heretofore. We are awakened. We fill with tranquility as we are now no longer an independent piece of the universe but at peace with the universe.  We are present. We realize we are one of infinite, unique and interdependent cells of the Tree of Life and we are one with the Tree of Life. We are eternal.

    The Tao: I am who I am (I cannot be named)

    “The Way [Tao] is ever nameless. Though simple and subtle…As soon as rules were made, names were given. There are already many names. One must know when it is enough. Those who know when it is enough will not perish.” — Tao Te Ching, Chapter 32.

    Names are descriptions, generalizations and identities. They are essential to the network of social order. Names are shortcut references to aspects of reality. However, names mask reality. Describing and explaining too much can make us oblivious to reality. While reality cannot be described, it can be known. Those who know reality know that it is one, with no beginning and no end, that they and reality are one and as such they never die as death is also a name.

    Self-realization: I am who I am

    People are described in terms of personality characteristics, stories and circumstances in their acting roles in the play of life. These descriptions are not who I am. I am who I am, beyond description. I am god and so is everyone (and everything) else. The only difference between us is that some of us realize we are god and others don’t. It’s the difference between being one with everything and viewing ourselves as finite in space and time (birth to death) and otherwise describable. It’s the difference between realizing we are actors in an entertaining play and taking our roles seriously.




    An acronym (IIWIIWII) pronounced: I Y Y

    A mantra: I why why! I why why?

    A koan: I why why (why am I, why does the universe exist)?

    The universe is revealed by one (uni) verse: IT IS WHAT IT IS WHATEVER IT IS.

    “W” is “double U.” II-WII-WII is II-UU-II-UU-II.

    The first “I” is me in my finite form, finite in time (birth to death) and space (my physical being). I as I show up in the everyday world in finite consciousness. (The etymology of finite is that which is finished.) It is a world delineated by descriptions (e.g.,the sky is the sky, you are you, etc.) and categories of experiences and stories our mind creates to make sense of  our experience of life. The second “I” is the infinite (the not finished); the ever-changing, eternal I; the I that has no birth or death, just transitions; the I that is one with the universe.  I am the finite and the infinite. The first “U” is you in your finite form. The second “U” is you as a portal to the infinite universe.

    The finite is the face or tangible manifestation of the universe and the infinite the ever-changing, evolving universe. While seemingly dualities (the finite and infinite I, I and the universe, I and U), I and you and the universe are one.

    The universe is like a coin with obverse and reverse sides. The obverse side is what we observe. It represents the finite world wherein we live our everyday lives. It is a world of our head’s (mind’s) creation. It is a familiar, orderly world of memories, role-playing, identities, meanings, symbols, stories and interactions with others; a world of duality as we identify as apart and separate from that which is not us. This is a world of animal consciousness. This world is critical to navigating through the tangible world and engages much of our attention.

    The reverse side represents the infinite, the not finished, evolving universe. The infinite unfolds at speeds beyond our abilities to directly experience it, remember or describe it; doing so is like trying to drink from a fire hose.

    The obverse and reverse sides are mutually dependent as one cannot exist without the other.

    On the coin’s edge, sometimes called the third side, is a double helix with the letters II-UU-II-UU-II.

    When the coin is flipping in the air it rotates too rapidly for us to see its obverse, reverse or third side. But we can simply delight in its movement. There are no words to describe it,  just one verse: IT IS WHAT IT IS WHATEVER IT IS.

    We view the obverse side of the universe through mind. Mind is like a pond reflecting different images depending on where along the perimeter of the pond we are stationed and our state of mind (calm or agitated); thus, infinite images of the obverse side can be observed. For example, when clouds are moving above the pond they appear differently to each of us depending on where we are stationed and our state of our mind.  Moreover, the clouds appear differently from the perspective of the sun, sky, plants, animals and all else.  To view the clouds from infinite perspectives is the consciousness of the universe. When we merge our mind with the consciousness of the universe we are one with everything. Having infinite perspectives is the essence of wisdom. Being one with the universe is the essence of compassion, treating all and everything as we treat ourselves.

    The moment we awaken to the nature of the universe (the realization that we are both finite and infinite and one with the universe) we are present. In the present, everything is unique as at this moment nothing else exists or ever existed. As the presence is unique, it cannot be compared to anything else; it cannot be described; of it can only be said: “It IS WHAT IT IS WHATEVER IT IS.” This is as one would describe God and God’s personification in finite forms such as you and me.

    Thus, as said Lao Tzu: “He who speaks does not know, he who knows does not speak.”

  • Making Me Blue

    Is the sky blue?

    Is the sea blue?

    Maybe the blue in one reflects the blue from the other?

    Maybe as the blue sea water evaporates

    it makes the sky blue?

    Maybe the sky rains blue water

    making the sea blue?

    The sky is clear and so is the sea,

    everything is clear but me;

    befuddled by thoughts of from where comes the blue,

    making me blue.

  • “Terrific”

    Life is a play named “Terrific.”

    The play begins as a tragedy and ends as a farce. Terrific in the 19th century meant horrible/terrible and has since transitioned into meaning extraordinarily great/wonderful.

    The play begins with the birth of a child which, while perhaps the most joyous moment in a parent’s life, is a tragedy.  At birth, a newborn cries as it transitions from being one with everything in the womb to perceiving itself a finite being, apart and separate from that which is infinite. The transition gives rise to a sense of duality between it and the “other,” that which it is not. This duality causes much of the conflict and stress in our lives as we interact with others to realize basic needs of food, shelter, security, health and companionship.

    In “Terrific” each of us assumes various roles. Roles include career, family, religion, social group identities, etc. We tend to take these roles seriously, take ourselves seriously and forget that these roles are simply roles in a play. We are oblivious of who we are before we are born and who are after we die. Before and after life, we are one with the infinite.

    In taking our roles and ourselves seriously, we attribute meanings to our experiences (our reality) of events, actions and things. The meanings are based on the personal and collective stories of our past that our mind has simply created. We experience our reality not as it is what it is whatever it is but as our reactions to the meanings we attribute to our reality; thus, feeling sad, angry, elated, etc. This is karma. Karma often leads to tragedy (hurting ourselves or others) but is ultimately a farce for those in the audience viewing the play.

    For example, consensual and mutually pleasurable sexual relations between the presiding monk of a Zen monastery and one of the monastery’s  female students may be perceived by some members of the monastery as sexually coercive behavior. The female student is perceived as subordinate to presiding monk and the monk is perceived as taking advantage of his position to gain sexual favors. Some members of the monastery may feel angry or betrayed in that the sexual affair is inconsistent with how they expect a senior monk to behave. They then call for the monk to resign. They are angry because they cannot perceive that the mutually pleasurable sexual relationship is, simply, two people enjoying themselves. Seeing someone getting angry at others who are enjoying themselves is absurdly funny.

    That’s “Terrific.” The actors taking their roles seriously, making the play a tragedy; and to the gods who comprise the audience viewing it all, it’s a farce. We know the gods are watching as we’re told in Homer’s “Odyssey” of a deafening sound of laughter that comes from Mount Olympus, the home of the gods.

    Ultimately, the play goes on forever, though each actor’s role ends at some point when they are written out of the script and transition to death. Once done, each actor joins all the gods in the audience and enjoys the farce on stage. As such, at the end of our roles, it’s always terrific.

    Some enlightened actors realize that life is a play and that we are all gods with temporary roles. These actors, regardless of their various roles, have a good laugh as they make their way through life.

  • The Mystic

    In life there are always more variables than equations. Hence, there are forever unknowns and a rational approach to solve all of life’s mysteries is a fool’s errand. Only through the realm of the divine can we truly know the unknowable. This is the role of the mystic.

    The etymology of the word mystic is via Latin from Greek mustikos from mustēs ‘initiated person,’ from muein ‘close the eyes or lips.’

    An initiate is someone who has been, often via rituals, admitted into a secret or obscure society or group. Closing the eyes means dispensing with conventional views. Closing the lips means not telling others of your secret society membership as in so doing you might be perceived as mad; as only those who can imagine the mystical experience can see it.

    By definition, a mystic is one who by contemplation and self-surrender seeks to obtain unity with God or who believes in the spiritual understanding of truths that are otherwise beyond the rational.

    In the play of life the role of the mystic is unlikely to win an Academy Award as it’s generally a supporting role with few lines. However, otherwise it’s good to be cast as a mystic as it makes for a fascinating experience and much fun.   While I am who I am, professionally as an actor in the play of life I’m a mystic or at least I hope so as otherwise I must be mad. In any event, it’s much fun.

  • Duality

    Duality is the inherent state of sentient beings. At birth, we are separated from having been one with everything in the womb to being finite beings; finite in time (birth to death) and space (our physical form). Our reaction to this separation is crying as now we begin life in the context of duality; I am me and everything else is not me. This sets us up for adversarial relationships between the me and not me which reinforce duality. Duality is stressful and distracts from us realizing our purpose in life: to have a wonderful experience, to realize our potentials as animal and divine consciousness and to help others likewise.

    Enlightenment dispels duality. Enlightenment is the realization that we are one of infinite, unique manifestations of light and we and the light are one. As one with everything, there is no duality. As when the light comes on in a movie theater and the images on the big screen fade and soon disappear, enlightenment renders duality an illusion. Once duality disappears, we can devote our time and energies to realizing our purpose in life.

  • Animal and Divine Consciousness

    Humans are a transitional species, part animal and part divine consciousness.

    Animal consciousness is how we navigate through the finite world defined by our physical body and its time between birth and death. It is the world of us vs that which is other than us. It guides us through a Darwinian world of prey and predator, friend and foe. It’s essential nature is duality.

    Divine consciousness is the realization that we are one with a universe of endless and ever-changing emanations and manifestations, eternal with no beginning and no end.

    Using a cosmic metaphor, animal consciousness views the Earth as the center of the universe and divine consciousness views the sun, light, as the center.

    Golden Rules apply to both animal and divine consciousness. In animal consciousness, he with the gold rules. In divine consciousness, do onto others as you would have others do onto you.

    Animal consciousness is about living, divine consciousness is about loving. The difference between living and loving is the difference between “I” and “O.” “I” is hierarchical, each of us a point on a vertical line with others above and others below (the Great Chain of Being). It is inherently dualistic,  a competitive stress between points above and points below, as prey or predator.  “O” is continuous, with each of us a point coming together to form a circle. The points along the circle are interdependent and one with the circle.  This is love; connecting, creating and serving a greater whole. The circle is a shape that forms spaces within and without, mutually dependent as one cannot exist without the other; like a bubble in a glass of sparking water. But the spaces within and without the circle are an illusion as a circle is simply a circle, a continuous line with no beginning and no end.

    Animal consciousness is limited, finite and imperfect as nothing is perfect but the universe as a whole. Divine consciousness is the realization our our perfection.

    Humans are born as animals and socialized as animals. Yet, we have the potential to realize divine consciousness.  Often, this realization is as long-lasting as a spark; sometimes for long periods as a guiding light in our life. Ultimately, however, as long as we are in living form we are grounded in animal consciousness; animal consciousness is always in the mix of our consciousness, though not all ways. This is why it’s not shocking that there have been many sex scandals involving highly regarded presumably enlightened Zen masters. Those who are enlightened gaze at the sun, are one with its light and often oblivious to the shadows they cast on those nearby.



  • Enlightenment

    Enlightenment is simply being one with the light. As everything is light and its infinite manifestations (E=M*C*C), when we are one with the light we are one with everything. We treat others as we wish to be treated because we and they are one. Moreover, those who are enlightened have multiple perspectives on whatever because they can view whatever from the perspectives of others with whom they are one, not solely from the perspective of their own finite selves. The first proposition is compassion and the second wisdom.

    The enlightened  are free to experience the present as it unfolds. They dismiss the past as an illusion whose only purpose is to teach us from our mistakes and successes. Otherwise, stories about our past are stories, an illusion. Thus, the enlightened can experience the present unshackled by preconceived notions.

    The enlightened also realize the transitory nature of  life and as such don’t take much seriously. They get a great laugh when they see others taking themselves seriously. In other words, they are one with the light and take things lightly.

    The last characteristic of enlightened people is that the light they emanate unveils the true nature of the universe . This is the ultimate purpose of enlightenment, to not suffer in life or death.

  • Faces of Enlightenment

    Human beings are a transitional species, part animal and part divine consciousness. As animals, we are finite in space (our physical being) and time (birth to death). As divine, we are one with the light (some call this God) and its manifestations, the universe; infinite in space and time and eternal. This realization is enlightenment.

    We are born as animal consciousness and as we develop we can access divine consciousness; sometimes for short moments, sometimes for much of the time. However, we cannot be fully liberated from animal consciousness as it is the cost being in bodily form; so we all toggle back and forth. As such, even those who are enlightened much of the time are still animals some of the time. As animals, they may act in ways we don’t associate with enlightened beings. They may get intoxicated, lie, cheat or be abusive to others. Such behavior has resulted in the shaming and dismissal from leadership roles of many presumably spiritual/enlightened masters.

    That said, the faces or characteristics of enlightened beings are:

    Gratitude. They are grateful for their circumstances, however dire, as they know that their circumstances could always be worse.

    Optimism. They know that in time their circumstances will improve as the present will always be better than the past.

    Forgiveness. They forgive all who have not done right by them as what’s past is past. They don’t seek retribution. They may however feel that whoever has not done right by them might not do right by them again and avoid that person.

    Laughter. They find much of how others think and act as funny; funny as odd; funny as laughable.

    Childlike. They are childlike as they experience the present as unique, unlike anything they experienced that’s now past;

    Humility. They don’t perceive themselves as better than others regardless of their talents or whatever good fortune has brought their way.

    Non-judgmental. They accept others as they are, not grading them, holding them up to certain standards.

    Acceptance. They make the best of what comes their way without distractions of what could or should have been.

    Empirical. They learn through observing.

    Insightful. They have interesting insights into the nature of consciousness.

    Wisdom. As they identify with the infinite manifestations of the universe, they have many perspectives. The synthesis of perspectives is wisdom.

    Compassion. As they don’t differentiate between themselves and others, they treat others as they wish to be treated.

    Karmic liberation. Karma, the stories our mind has created about the past, frame our experience of the present. The enlightened experience the present free from the prison of the past.

    Calmness. As they meditate regularly, they are calm and clear and have little internal conflicts in making choices. Moreover, as they identify as one with everything, their lives tend to be less volatile as the universe is less volatile than any of its finite manifestations.

    Integrity. They do not have internal “self” conflicts where, for example, one self inside their mind tells them to have a cookie because they’ll enjoy it while another tells them not to because it’s not good for them.

    Confidence. Clear in making choices, come what may.

  • Enlightenment is Overrated

    Enlightenment is overrated except by those who are enlightened.

    That’s the essence of enlightenment: non-judgmental, acceptance, humility and joy.

    The enlightened are non-judgmental. To them, the world is flat, not vertical, as they don’t rate their enlightened state as higher than other states of mind.

    They accept each state of mind as it is what it is whatever it is, to be appreciated as it can be appreciated.

    They are humble and as such they don’t confirm the status bequeathed them by others who desire to be enlightened as they view everyone as enlightened, some more some less. Asked if they are enlightened, the enlightened would respond: I am who I am. That is, categories, descriptions and identities deny the uniqueness of everything; the enlightened know that everything is unique; hence, self-descriptions are not an enlightened view.

    The enlightened don’t overrate enlightenment as they know the joy that springs from wisdom and compassion can never be overrated.


  • Know Now No

    Know now no

    No know now

    Now know no

    There are three words that sound alike, are composed from 4 common letters but have different meanings: know, now, no. Taken together in different orders, these words are a mantra which opens the door to enlightenment.

    No know now. I don’t know the now, the present.

    Now know no. I now know nothingness.

    When we realize the present, reality as it’s commonly perceived, is not the true-present, then we can know nothingness. Knowing nothingness is the realization that everything we heretofore thought real is just an illusion. The  true-present is empty. The true-present is nothingness, the universe before it manifests itself. Nothingness is ironically all there is.

    Knowing nothingness is knowing that the universe is eternal, ever-changing and indescribable beyond that it is what it is whatever it is. The universe however manifests itself in infinite temporary forms, illusions; that is, the manifestations do not have an independent existence, their existence is sustained by our mind. As these illusions are commonly perceived as reality, the people who take them seriously are absurdly funny.

    When we realize our ignorance (no now know), we can see the illusions as illusions and come to know the nature of the universe and the nature of mind (now know no). This is enlightenment, the realization that all the unique and infinite manifestations of the universe are sourced from a common nothingness, that we are thus one with the universe and the illusion of ourselves that our mind sustains is simply nothing but an illusion.

    Know now no

    No know now

    Now know no

    Yes Yes Yes

  • Spirit and Soul

    Each of us is a unique spirit with a common soul.

    God is all there is. The universe is the manifestation of God.

    In the Bible, the Burning Bush is the image of God that appears to Moses at Mount Sinai. The flames are ever-changing and the bush is not devoured by the flames as they are light, not fire. The flames represent the spirit, the bush the soul.

    The words spirit and soul are often used interchangeably. However, spirit and soul are different. Spirit is the animated, vibrating life force. Soul is the sole essence of everything alive or not. All that’s alive has a unique ever-changing spirit and everything alive or not has the same soul.

    We show up in life as spirits; some with high energy, some low; some big flames, some hardly visible; some volatile, some steady; each unique. When we go to sleep, we go to our death(1), our spirit is extinguished and our soul joins all other souls in the well of souls. As soul is the essence of everything, we are then one with everything. When we awaken our spirits arise. Soul is then only visible to those who know it exists and our attention focuses on our spirit and the spirits of others.  When aware of our soul, we can celebrate our common essence instead of finding ourselves distracted by spirits.

    (1) Each night we die, each morning reborn some resemblance to the person we were yesterday who is now no longer.  Each day is not a day in a life but a life in a day.

  • Tree of Life

    In the Bible, in Genesis, God creates man in his own image. Soon after, God puts Adam to work in the Garden of Eden where God has provided him with plants and fruit trees for food.  However, God forbids Adam from eating the fruit of the Tree of Knowledge of Good and Evil. Adam and his mate, Eve, nonetheless eat the forbidden fruit and God declares that they are now “like one of us, [gods], knowing Good and Evil.” As punishment, God banishes them from the Garden of Eden for fear that they will eat the fruit of the Tree of Life which would grant them eternal life. The implication is that man, created in the image of God and having obtained the knowledge of Good and Evil, can become one of the gods and live forever if he eats the fruit of the Tree of Life.

    What is the Knowledge of Good and Evil? That Good precedes Evil suggests that we are initially Good yet become Evil. Before we are born we are in a natural state of Good as we are one with everything. When one with everything we treat everything as we treat ourselves. This is the Golden Rule. Kindness, compassion and generosity is Good.  At birth we become self-serving animals; Evil as we act selfishly, inconsiderate of what’s best for all or how our actions might be of detriment to others. Eating the fruit of the Tree of Knowledge of Good and Evil is having the knowledge of how to be one with everything. When one with everything, we are God.

    The Tree of Life represents all life that once was, is now and will be.  Eating the fruit of the Tree of Life awakens us to the realization that we are not solely one of billions of unique cells of the Tree, we are one with the Tree; like an individual cell in our body awakening to realize its collective identity is one with the whole body. As the Tree is eternal, being one with the Tree is the realization that we live forever. But as Adam and Eve and their progeny cannot access the Garden of Eden and the Tree of Life in its center, we need to work to create on Earth our own Garden of Eden with plants, fruit trees and other manifestations of the Tree of Life for the betterment of all; thereby realizing our potential in service to making Earth a better place than it would be otherwise. Then we can cease our work (as God did on the seventh day of creation), feast on the fruits of our garden and meditatively gaze in wonder upon our creation with which we are one.

    The fruit of  the Tree of Knowledge of Good and Evil gives us the knowledge of how to be one with everything. The fruit of the Tree of Life is the realization that we live forever.

    Ultimately, that God tosses Adam and Eve out of the Garden of Eden is a blessing, not a punishment, as it is a rite of passage. They were created as the only form of life with the potential to transition from animal to divine consciousness. This life is an opportunity for us to do so.

  • Awakening

    Most of our lives are spent in a dream-state; a dream of stories based on memories and imaginations that seem very real. Awakening is the realization that our memories, imaginations and past have little to do with us beyond finding ourselves in certain physical circumstances (our body and the immediate world about us) and with certain network connections (social roles with family, work, friends); that everything otherwise is new, always and all ways new; new from one moment to the next. The newness of everything is engaging, energizing and arouses our curiosity which further engages and energizes us. We then realize that everything is new as everything is temporary, ever-changing. We realize that we are not solely ourselves as defined by our physical circumstances and network connections but are one with everything and temporarily separate from everything.

    The dream is like a movie which our mind makes real, giving it three dimensions. When the theater lights turn on, the screen images fade and we recognize it was only an illusion.

    “Sooner or later we’ve all got to let go of our past.” (Dan Brown). Best to do so before the movie ends.

  • Why Buddha doesn’t need a guru

    The Buddha’s path to enlightenment is without a guide or guru. On the path he observes the world around him, questions his observations, realizes he knows nothing and that ultimately there is nothing to know. He knows that of the universe can only be said that it is what it is whatever it is. Any other descriptions are illusory. He realizes he is temporarily part and eternally one with the universe and whatever happens to him in this life is of little matter in the scheme of things. As he is one with everything he treats others as he would wish to be treated. This is compassion. As one with everything he can experience whatever happens to him from the infinite perspectives of others. This is wisdom. Wisdom mitigates the affect his personal perspectives have on him. In other words, when we are one with the universe we significantly hedge the idiosyncratic risks in our lives. (1) This has a calming effect and provides us a good laugh seeing others take their personal perspectives seriously. That is why in classic images of Buddha he is laughing. All other truths Buddha realizes stem from the foregoing.

    While gurus can be helpful as guides, they are no substitute for independent thinking. Few who follow gurus ever awaken to the truths of the Buddha. Most simply play the role of follower in the play of life. They will likely learn much but know little. That’s their life.

    (1) Idiosyncratic risks are those that are personal to an individual, like an accidental fire in our house. Experiencing the related losses is difficult but less so when we also experience it from the perspectives of our neighbors and others.

  • Micro and Macro Love

    Love is having peak experiences as we connect with others and/or the universe.

    Micro or personal love is connecting with specific individuals or experiences.  It is physically pleasurable; intense; dramatic; joyful; sometimes painful. When in micro love we take ourselves seriously as it feels very real as it energizes us. It is an experience of heart and loins. It is finite as it is specific to the individuals or experiences that engender it.

    Macro love is love of everything. It is a sense of being one with everything; a calm, joyous state. It is an experience of heart and mind. It is knowing eternal life.

    While micro and macro love are mutually exclusive, we can experience both. However, those who haven’t experienced macro love only know micro love. Those who have macro love experiences can also experience micro love. Those solely experiencing micro love view those experiencing macro love as having an experience of the head not the heart, as not having truly experienced love. Those who experience macro love pity those whose only experience is micro.

  • Kanako Iiyama Awakens

    Recounting the train accident in Japan on April 25, 2005: “I had a sense something will happen…and went back to the train. I saw the tragedy of the train snapping in two and the people underneath it. The ambulance didn’t make it in time, so I dragged out the people around me who were breathing. Yes, it has changed the way I live my life a bit. I began to take a narrow, short path. It’s not like before. The scenery around me were all clear and the nature was near there, making for a very beautiful way.”

    A moment of awakening. There is a small gap between when something happens and when we realize it has happened. Before the accident became real, Kanako was in that gap and knew something was happening which called her to the train. When the accident became real she did what she could to help, stepped out of her role as a pedestrian and acted as an ambulance person in triage. (When we awaken we realize any role in the play of life is ours to assume.) At this moment of awakening she realized that right then right there was different than all that came before in her life (“It’s not like before.”).  Moreover, she knew that as life can end in an instant, best to awaken as soon as possible; best “to take the narrow, short path” to self-realization*. Then she awoke to the beauty of everything around her and her path forward as the accident and its ramifications were now long past.


    *The narrow and short path to self-realization is the meditation of death. It is setting our mind on the thought that we will die moments from now. Soon, the overwhelming energy of everything is revealed; that we and the energy are one. However, it is a narrow path and if we slip along the way we may very well not make it through. The wide and long path to self-realization is working with an enlightened master, formally receiving his teachings and engaging in meditative/contemplative practices. It is a long path as it involves many years of work until we get it. It is a wide forgiving path as it is walked with the support of the master and other students.

  • Stories We Tell Ourselves

    From earliest days in memory until early teens, my father who had a temper would often yell and hit me for things I thought were inconsequential. One time he even screamed “I wish you were never born.” I didn’t take this personally; thought that’s just the way he was, nervous and easily agitated. He died at 60 of the flu. My mother lived another 28 years. I would often ask her how daddy really felt about me. Her response was always the same: “He couldn’t stand you.” To which I just laughed. What was funny was that he was irritated by meaningless things he took seriously which made them real. For example, if I got home a couple of hours passed my curfew, he would go into a rage; seemed odd to me because at that point I was home.

    My mother loved me unconditionally. Always gave me preferential  treatment; she cleaned my room first, spared no expense in serving only me the best foodstuffs, even when we couldn’t afford much.  However, 20 years before she died she announced her entire estate would be bequeathed to my sister. While my sister was not indigent and likely to die with more money than she’d inherit from my mother, my mother felt that my sister needed it more than me. I shared mother’s news with my children, including my 5 year old son, who from then on would always greet her: “Hi grandma, how about 50/50?” However, she never changed her will. How did I feel? Just laughed. It was funny because others with whom I shared my story were taken aback, vicariously felt hurt. That seemed silly. There was nothing personal to me about this experience. My mother did what my mother did; seemed the right thing to do in her mind.  I was happy for her. (Of course, had she been worth say $10M or more, maybe I would have felt differently.) At her deathbed, I was with her and my sister. I asked her whom she loved more, me or my sister. She said she loved me more. That seemed like a good deal. I got the blessing and my sister got the goats.

    The point of my story is that many of us in situations like mine with my father and mother would have told themselves stories like mommy or daddy didn’t love me, I’m worthless, etc. They might feel wounded, traumatized perhaps. But that’s not really what happened in times past. That’s just a story they chose to tell themselves. Perhaps they might feel better if they change their stories.

  • What we see everywhere but rarely notice


    What we see everywhere is not objects but light reflecting off objects. The light is delineated in shapes and forms of objects with colors and shades.  We rarely notice the light except as glare off a reflecting surface, a car’s headlight or the sun.

    Light is energy as it travels through space.  As it slows, light transforms into physical forms*. Whether as light or as infinite unique physical manifestations, light is light. But the physical manifestations are an illusion, like images from a movie projector onto a screen. The images are made real as independent objects by our mind.  Likewise, our personal/individual identities are an illusion made real by the storyline in our self-created movie with others as actors playing their roles accordingly.

    *The relationship between the physical manifestations of the universe and its light/energy essence is implied by the equation E=M*C*C, Energy (E) is equal to Mass (M) multiplied by the Speed of Light (C) squared. When Mass is accelerated to the Speed of Light squared, it becomes Energy. Likewise, Mass is Energy slowed down (divided) by the Speed of Light squared. In other words, when Energy (light) slows down it transitions into Mass of infinite tangible manifestations. 

  • Sequential and Synchronous Time

    Now is a time, now is the time.

    Now is a time as a point in time, a way to differentiate between past and future. This is sequential time. Now is the time as the only time that exists is now; past, present and future are all woven into now. This is synchronous time.

    Those experiencing time sequentially have a logical perspective, a narrow focus, start one task after another is finished, are conscientious, organized, punctual, view activities as finite, value time and are careful in how it’s spent and view the past, present and future as distinctly different. They view the future as something that can be organized based on the present and recent past. They tend to often glance at their watch to tell time as time is telling them what’s next. They work at jobs. They fish with a rod and reel.

    Those whose experience of time is synchronous are flexible, multitask and move seamlessly between activities, focus on a project and not on the time it takes to complete it, are more concerned with quality than quantity, develop long-term working relationships, perceive the world as continuous and view the past, present and future as continuous, not segmented. They feel that everyone dead or alive today is present; feel connected to them all, wherever they may be, and have their perspectives. They have careers. They fish with a net.

    Experiencing time synchronously allows us a broad and deep  understanding of our circumstances and opens us up to the many possibilities as the future unfolds.   A sequential view of time frames our expectations within our most recent experiences.  For example, in Germany in the 1930’s Jews with a sequential view of time had no reason to suspect the holocaust was coming. In 1871 Germany adapted a constitution that granted Jews social and political freedoms equal to all German citizens.  However, those with a synchronous sense of time knew of Jews burned in masses in barns in Germany during the Black Plague 600 years back. As such, they could envision a similar outcome with the rise of the Nazis and plan an escape before none was to be had.

    Time is time, whatever that is. We can artificially divide it and use it as a measuring tool or we can accept its ever-presence like a body of water where a school of fish swim.

  • God’s Role

    In the play of life I am who I am. I am god and so is everyone else. The only difference between us is that some realize we are god and others are oblivious to who we are before birth and after death and all times in between. It’s the difference between being one with everything (eternally transitioning manifestations of God) and viewing oneself as finite in space and time (birth to death). It’s the difference between realizing we are actors in a play for our own entertainment and taking our roles in the play seriously. In cannabis speak, it’s the difference between being high and feeling stoned.

    Everything is a manifestation of God. As long as we perceive God as something different than ourselves, we can never be one with God, one with everything.

  • Integrity

    The etymology of “integrity” is wholeness. When we have integrity we are of one mind. We can hold disparate perspectives but those perspectives, while they may be diametrically opposite, are don’t give rise to internal conflicts. We are free to make clear choices without ambivalence.

    Many of us lack integrity. While we appear as one person, within us are many people arguing, each telling us what to do. For example, one person in our head tells us to have a cigarette, we’ll enjoy it. Another person says don’t smoke, it’s not good for us. Likewise, externally we may lie to others so that they view us in a way unlike who we truly are, giving rise to two different people, who we are and who we project ourselves to be; again, lacking integrity. That these various people within and without us exist begs the question: who are we?

    Each of us is like a ship with a captain, first mate, navigator and oarsmen. The shipmates often fight over control of the ship’s steering wheel, forcing the ship to change its course.  The captain can assert control through discipline, get each shipmate to perform their respective function and steer the ship’s course. But at some point the captain needs to sleep, the mates leave their stations, enter the captain’s cabin and again start fighting over the wheel to change the ship’s course. As such, discipline is often an ineffective way to develop integrity.

    Love and meditation are an effective way to making us whole, to promote integrity. Love is connecting with others harmoniously, accepting them and their perspectives. Love connects all the shipmates within us and accepts their views and needs. With love, the shipmates work together for the benefit of each other and the whole.

    Meditation is a process for calming the mind. The mind is like a pond. We view the world as reflections off the surface of the mind. When the surface of the mind is disturbed by our different selves fighting within us, the images reflected are distorted and we don’t see the world clearly. Through meditation we calm the mind and its reflections give us a clear view of our world, allowing us to make choices not skewed by conflict. We have courage, resolve and strength of character; grit, the root of integrity.

  • Mindlessness

    The mind is like a pond reflecting reality. We experience reality not as it is but as reflections. The reflections most accurately represent reality when the mind is calm, undisturbed by motion beneath the water and activity above. Motion beneath the pond is a function of us not having integrity and our reacting to stories of our past we’ve created.  Activity above the pond is a function of multitasking and distractions like desiring that which we don’t need.

    Mindlessness is the purpose of meditation. Meditation is a tool to calm the mind by focusing on, say, solely our breathing. This is mindfulness meditation. Beyond mindfulness, we can advance to mindlessness meditation wherein we focus on the space of nothingness between breaths; that is, the space between when we exhale and before we inhale again. In the space of nothingness we are free from distractions and are ready to experience reality (the present) before it becomes just a reflection from mind.

    In the space of nothingness we experience the present and the nature of mind is revealed. Once revealed, we realize the mind’s reflections are not reality but a derivative based on reality that’s distorted by a disturbed state of mind. This realization transforms our relationship with mind from the mind being our master to our servant. The is the foundation of enlightenment.

    So remember, breathe in, breathe out, breathe in, breathe out. If we forget this, enlightenment will be the least of our problems.

  • Keys to Health

    The basic keys to health are food, sleep, laughter, aerobic exercise and energy.


    Only eat things that look as you’re eating them as they did when they were alive. Fruits, vegetables, small fish and birds look the same. Large fish, land animals don’t. Neither does bread or pasta as they don’t grow on trees. In other words, avoid eating refined foods and foods high up on the food chain which tend to accumulate toxic waste. Your body is built to eat naturally occurring foods, not man-made refined foods.

    Moreover, be careful to not get into eating accidents. These accidents are caused by overeating and often make us overweight. These accidents happen when we’re not paying attention as we’re eating. For example, there is a 90% reduction in fatal collisions in roundabout traffic circles where stop signs or light signals were previously used for traffic control. That’s because when one approaches a stop sign or light signal one may be on their phone, talking or listening to the radio; but, when approaching a roundabout, one dispenses with multitasking distractions and concentrates on the road ahead. Focusing our attention lessens the chances of an accident. Likewise, when eating, best to focus on what we’re eating. Best not to watch TV, listen to music, talk with someone or read.  If you’re hungry, eat as much as you wish but you’ll notice your stomach is rarely hungry after a few bites. If the food is delicious, each as much as you wish but you’ll find the law of diminishing returns results in each bite less pleasing then the bite before. Moreover, when you’ve got food in your mouth, close your eyes and enjoy the intense and subtle pleasure of the food,  undistracted by your other senses. This is meditative eating.


    Sleep a couple of times a day, a long sleep of several hours at night and one or two short naps during the day. Sleep is akin to dying of old age and awakening after is rebirth. Sleep allows us to recover from simply being worn out.


    Laughing is the great elixir for pain and stress. As there is something funny about almost everything, one can find the funniness of a situation to relieve pain or stress. For example, I recently accidentally closed a car door on my finger; then immediately started laughing at how foolish I was not paying attention to closing the car door as I was talking at the moment to a friend. This otherwise painful experience was not painful.

    Aerobic exercise.

    That which is so to speak dead is inanimate, not moving. To be alive, move around vigorously as something that’s alive to the point of getting your heart rate up. No need to go anywhere or use any equipment as you can dance or (if constrained by time or space) engage in sex.


    Energy keeps us alive and protects us from malevolent forces like illness. Some people or situations are energizing and some are energy draining. Best to think about what brings us energy and what takes it away and embrace the energizing and avoid the draining.

  • Corona Virus

    The corona virus pandemic is a terrific individual and collective existential moment. (Terrific once meant horrible/terrible and now of course means wonderful.) Like everything else in life the virus can be viewed in multiple ways; however, not viewing it at least in part as terrific implies we take our personal views too seriously and as such have a limited understanding of it’s nature and ramifications.

    It is an existential moment as we are awakened by the immediacy of death as many we know or hear about die unexpectedly and as death rings everywhere with highly publicized daily death tallies. While we know that no one is getting out of here alive, the virus is a constant reminder of that reality. This reminder arouses us to consider our own death which leads us to question why we are here in life and how should we use the time remaining before we die. Is there any value to us continuing from now until our death the same life routines we’ve embraced for years or should we do something more meaningful or of greater value to others? Contemplating this can lead us to a life-changing state of mind and life changes. Helping us make a life change is the quarantine which prohibits us from continuing our habits of socializing, shopping and other routines that devour much of our time. Having a break from these habits makes them easier to break which in turn gives us time for other matters that might result in a life change. This change is likely to be terrific.

    Collectively, it is also terrific. As now in quarantine we consume only what we need. The quarantine shows us that much of our consumption has been of goods and services that we want but don’t need. This suggests that maybe it’s better to have a life based on less expensive experiences than chasing things we don’t need. Moreover, the common threat of the virus solidifies nations and people everywhere which leads to peaceful coexistence. Thus, the virus is terrific as it may re-shift collective priorities to the benefit of all.

    Most of us will receive a reprieve from the virus. This will be a watershed moment for us; a point of reference from which we will judge whether our time from now until the end was well-served or we just killed time until time killed us.

  • Regression to the mean

    The mean is the average as in our average day. When things are going poorly (below the mean), best to be calm as they are likely to get better and regress back to the mean. In calmness we’re less distracted by our mind and more likely to make the most of what comes next; that will bring us back to or above the mean. We calm down when we remember that however difficult our current circumstances, they could be worse; so we have much for which to be grateful.

    When our circumstances are much better than average, best to be anxious as the good times are unlikely to continue forever; at some point they’ll regress to the mean or lower. Low levels of anxiety allow us to imagine (and thereby see before they occur) negative events which often precipitate the regression; thus allowing us the chance to avoid or minimize the affect of those events.

  • Who are you?

    How do you show up in the first person, as ” I ” or ” i ” or ” eye “?

    ” I ”  like the number 1 suggests integrity but also separates the world into parts right and left (right and wrong) which implies duality. As a capital letter it represents self-importance and a symbol of the ego which is a construct that has us perceive ourselves as different from others.

    ” i ” suggests a separation between head and body; that we experience the world conceptually, not as a sensory experience. ” i ” also looks like a body and a sun or star above it, suggesting man is grounded on Earth and there is an independent spiritual realm above. As a lower case letter, ” i ” implies humility.

    The word ” eye ” as written looks like a nose with a pair of eyes, suggesting we show up as a face and connect with the world around us by breathing and observing.

    ” I ” is an animal. ” i ” is a spiritual being. ” eye ” is a unique being in harmony with the world.

  • Meditation of Death

    There are times we are overwhelmed by stress, pain, multitasking, internal strife (mixed feelings about choices we need to make), depression, anxiety, etc. Overwhelmed means drowning. Drowning leads to  death as without freedom from that which overwhelms us, we are living in hell. Fortunately, there is a life vest to save us from hell: the meditation of death.

    The meditation of death is setting our minds to imagine we will die in the next 5 minutes. With death imminent, everything transitions from like wallpaper that’s been up for years (flat and unnoticeable)  to three dimensional objects of intense beauty. Ugly, unfashionable Formica kitchen counters become beautiful abstract art. As we are energized by the beauty of everything, a calmness settles inside us and we are free from that which was overwhelming.

    As we continue with the meditation of death, we realize that death is a transition to becoming one with everything as we were before we were born. As one with everything, we view the universe from infinite perspectives (the essence of wisdom) and treat everything no differently than we treat ourselves (compassion). This is living in heaven, as before birth and after death.  From the perspective of heaven,  all that happens on Earth is absurdly funny. Thus, that which was once overwhelming now seems trivial, selfish and funny.

    To avail ourselves of the life vest, the meditation of death, we need never forget it is always near. But as we tend to be forgetful when we’re overwhelmed, best to keep us from oblivion are short periodic prayers (meditations) several times a day wherein we are thankful for our circumstances as we acknowledge that there are many in the world who would love to be in our shoes (especially if they have no shoes).

  • Things to Come

    Each of us has a somewhat different perception of reality, i.e. the nature of something. Arguments can erupt between people having different perceptions. Logic and pervasiveness are tools we use to convince others that our perception is more correct and another wrong but those who win these arguments don’t necessarily have them most accurate perception. A better way to judge individual perceptions of reality is by their accuracy in forecasting how reality will unfold, as understanding the nature of something likely allows us the best guess of how it will be over time. Studies of “super forecasters” (people who are much better than most at forecasting upcoming events) have identified the following characteristics these people share:

    Probabilistic thinking. Nothing is certain. There is no right answer, just likely outcomes. Ability to put mathematical weights to possible outcomes.

    No righteousness. What happens isn’t preordained, isn’t necessarily a logical or moral outcome.

    Metaphorical thinking. Able to see unrelated situations as shedding light on the subject at hand.

    Curious. Engaged by thinking about how something works and driven to understand it.

    Open-minded. Realizing that possible outcomes are only limited by one’s imagination.

    Economic. Good at productively allocating time and resources to information gathering.

    Detached/dispassionate. Able to view things from the outside in, without personal prejudices.

    Wise. Able to view things from many perspectives.

    Flexible. Openness to changing one’s point of view as conditions or one’s perception changes.

    Humble. Knowing that one will never really understand something. Accepting that other forecasts are likely more accurate.

    Integrity/confidence. Able to ultimately chose what one believes is the likely outcome.

    While few people exhibit all of the above characteristics, those lacking many of them should be cautious in taking their perceptions of reality too seriously.

  • From Pity to Compassion

    We connect with those we perceive as suffering via pity, sympathy, empathy and compassion. Pity is a detached (intellectual) feeling one has for others who are suffering as one imagines themselves suffering if in similar circumstances. Sympathy is when one is emotionally moved by the suffering of others. Empathy is feeling the suffering of another, comforting them and sharing their pain as a means of alleviating it. Compassion is helping someone who is suffering to recover and ultimately realize their potential. Pity and sympathy are self-serving (feeling good about ourselves having these feelings) and require nothing of us. Empathy can also be self-serving and is often potentially harmful to the empath in terms of emotional stress and costly in time and resources. Unlike pity and sympathy, empathy provides real relief to its beneficiary. Compassion is when one is one with everything and as such one treats others as they wish to be treated.

  • Eccentrics

    The etymology of “eccentric” is  a circle or orbit not having the Earth precisely at its center. Eccentric people are off center. As they don’t identify with any affinity groups, they are independent thinkers and view many consensus views as absurd. Moreover, many of their views of human nature are unique and insightful. Often they feel invisible as others rarely take their views seriously for fear they too would appear eccentric and thus shunned by their affinity group memberships. Eccentrics are like Cassandra in Greek mythology who was cursed with the ability to make true prophesies that no one believed.

    According to Dr. David Weeks who has studied eccentrics, the characteristics of eccentrics, most of which apply to me, are:

    Enduring non-conformity.



    An enduring and distinct feeling of being different from others.

    Idealism, unrealistically hoping to improve the lot of others by having others think like them.

    Happily obsessed with a number of long-lasting preoccupations.

    Intelligent, in the upper 15% of the population.

    Opinionated and outspoken.

    Non-competitive, not needing tangible recognition of success.

    Unusual eating habits and living arrangements.

    Not particularly interested in the opinions of others.

    Possessed of a mischievous sense of humor, charm, whimsy and wit.

    More frequently an eldest child.

    Having an eccentric family member.

    Focused on thoughts, not feelings.

    Feelings of invisibility as they feel others don’t take them seriously.

    Feeling that others can take them only in small doses.

    Dislike small talk or other inconsequential conversation.

    A degree of social awkwardness.

    More likely to be single, separated or divorced.

    A poor speller in relationship to their intellectual capacity.

  • Intelligence and Wisdom

    Intelligence is having strong cognitive abilities. Wisdom is good judgement.

    Those who are intelligent do well at analyzing complex data. Data by its nature is historical. The intelligent are good at explaining the past. The wise are good at assessing current situations and determining the likelihood of future outcomes.

    From early childhood our intelligence is measured by tests and school grades. This is a easy measurement as it’s ex-post. Those perceived as highly intelligent are put on fast tracks and given many opportunities to excel to the top of their classes or organizations. They excel at many technical skills like  math and verbal communication. Their minds can be microscopic and/or telescopic, able to view that about which people of average intelligence seem clueless.  They can make sense of an otherwise ambiguous past which gives them and their audience confidence in their ability to predict how things will transition in the future. However, there is little relationship between those who most convincingly understand the past and those who are best at predicting the future. As everything is forever transitioning and everything is unique, using the past as a basis to predict the future puts limits on one’s imagination. This is significant as we can’t see what we can’t imagine.

    The wise are best at assessing current situations and predicting how they will transition over time.  Their wisdom is generally more valuable than the perspectives of those considered intelligent. However, it is difficult to measure and identify those who are wise. To do so would require measuring ex-ante outcomes which would take time for forecasts to be realized (or not) and require many forecasts.  Moreover, excellent forecasters give different scenarios percentage probabilities which is not what an interested audience generally wants as percentages don’t give their audience as much confidence about going forward as do definitive forecasts. Thus, because of the difficulties of measurement and little demand by the general public, identifying those who are wise is not done systematically. However, those in the interested audience who are self-confident want forecasts from those who are wise, not those who are intelligent.

    The difference between the intelligent and the wise is clear as academics are intelligent and successful business people tend to be wise (and/or lucky). Academics are great at explaining the past and confidently predicting the future. But if the value of an individual’s contribution to society is simply measured by the amount of money they earn, academics aren’t highly valued as predictors. Successful business people are paid considerably more for their predictive abilities as they are able to profit from correctly predicting future markets and cost-effectively providing what those market want. They are wise.

    A good metaphor is the hedgehog and the fox. Hedgehogs are best at digging through a hedge. But that’s all they can do well, like an idiot savant who is narrowly intelligent. The fox doesn’t do anything particularly well but can consider many approaches to obtaining what he wants. Ultimately, always bet on the fox rather than the hedgehog to survive.

    Modern society (more so than primitive tribal societies where wise elders are often consulted) are lead by those considered intelligent. This often results in relatively poor choices.

    As our social system doesn’t measure and identify those who are wise, how do we personally identify them? The fox would say to not listen to those most intelligent and best at explaining the past as they are unlikely to be good predictors of the future; best to take advice from those who know the past as a multifaceted amalgam of not necessarily related events and can speak of the future in probabilistic terms.

  • Trust

    Trusting others may lead us at times to costly losses and disappointments that might have otherwise been avoided had we been more cautious and defensive. But the value of the tranquility that comes from trusting overwhelms the costs.

    Unless experience or knowledge informs us otherwise, we naturally trust others when we feel connected with them.  As such, we try to do well by them and assume they will try to do well by us. This sense of connection is very powerful. It is identifying with the whole of the universe, not solely with our finite selves. As the universe has been and will be here forever, identifying with the whole infuses us with a sense of confidence and optimism that everything will ultimately work out well and there’s nothing to worry about as our personal lives need not be taken too seriously. This instills tranquility, a stressless state of mind.

    Those who don’t feel so connected have stressful lives as they are on the watch for others who might do them wrong. While in their over-cautious approach to life they might avoid some undesirable situations, the ongoing stress in their role as a watchdog may be more harmful to them than would have been the situations they were lucky to avoid. In fact, prison guards have significantly shorter lifespans than prisoners.

    Trust however need not be open-ended. Best to trust others while limiting potential risks if things unfold with negative consequences. In other words, if we lend someone $100 and they don’t pay us back, the situation is manageable; less so if we lend them our credit cards.

  • The Experience

    When I was 16, living in Brooklyn with my parents, one summer night I drove to Sheepshead Bay and sat on the rocks along the beach. Reflections from the moon danced on the water, the ocean breathed in the surf and breathed out a roar as it crashed on the shore. The sounds, the motion, the light and darkness felt eerie, a bit frightening as I was infinitesimal before the infinite . I wondered why the ocean, expressing itself and affecting me more than most people I knew, was not considered as alive as are plants and animals. What did it mean to be alive? The “alive” classification made little sense. Other classifications and definitions also seemed senseless. What defined me and not me.

    Now, many years later, most classifications, descriptions and thoughts seem like empty boxes; helpful for organizing and communicating, but empty of the experiences they try to contain.

  • The Sun God

    The sun is a sacred circle from which everything flows.

    The sun is all that is.

    Matter and energy are one and the same;

    indescribable and nameless,

    it is what it is whatever it is.

    The past and present are finite, finished;

    their only remnants are illusions in our mind.

    The future is infinite, a work in progress.

    The future, the sun’s transitions into infinite forms,

    is visible but for our fear of going blind.

    So we turn our backs to the sun,

    forget its presence beyond as a marker for day and night

    and only see the overshadowed past and present

    as the way the world is.

    That’s an illusion our mind creates

    of a world that is no longer and really never was.

  • Be Careful What You Wish

    All our wishes come true but not in the forms we imagine.

    In 1973 I graduated from college and planned to start working, have a family and take a year at a Zen monastery when I reached 40, like Philip Kapleau who wrote The Three Pillars of Zen. At 40, my family and business partners would not have been encouraging had I taken a year-long sabbatical. However, at 43 my family and 140 friends threw a farewell party for me at the Harvard Club before I left for a 13 month stay at a Federal prison.

    What landed me in prison was my involvement in an “insider trading” case. I personally profited $50K. Legal fees cost me roughly $2M and fines and penalties another $1.8M. Moreover, I was no longer allowed to manage other people’s money, though all of my investors stayed with me until I was prohibited from working. As a result of my not being allow to work, my net worth today is not even a tiny fraction of what it would have been otherwise.

    I didn’t think that my trading was criminal. But others obviously did. In any event, the cost of going to trial, fines, penalties and the sanctions placed upon me undoubtedly were punitive to an extreme.  How do I feel? Pretty good as I play squash 4 – 5 times a week and I play with the prosecutor in my case. Why? Because I was born with the gene of happiness and the prosecutor is a wonderful guy, good squash player.

    I did learn something from this ordeal: best be careful what we wish for as every wish will come true but not in the form we imagine. While I didn’t go to a traditional Zen monastery, monasteries are wherever we are as long as we open our eyes.

    Ultimately, in terms of my experience, “life is 10% of what happens to us and 90% of how we react to it.” (Charles Swindoff)


  • Across the Universe

    Words are flowing out
    Like endless rain into a paper cup
    They slither while they pass
    They slip away across the universe
    Pools of sorrow, waves of joy
    Are drifting through my opened mind
    Possessing and caressing me

    Jai Guru Deva, Om
    Nothing’s gonna change my world
    Nothing’s gonna change my world
    Nothing’s gonna change my world
    Nothing’s gonna change my world

    Images of broken light
    Which dance before me like a million eyes
    They call me on and on across the universe
    Thoughts meander like a restless wind inside a letter box
    They tumble blindly as they make their way across the universe

    Jai Guru Deva, Om
    Nothing’s gonna change my world
    Nothing’s gonna change my world
    Nothing’s gonna change my world
    Nothing’s gonna change my world

    Sounds of laughter, shades of life
    Are ringing through my open ears
    Inciting and inviting me
    Limitless, undying love
    Which shines around me like a million suns
    It calls me on and on across the universe

    Jai Guru Deva, Om
    Nothing’s gonna change my world
    Nothing’s gonna change my world
    Nothing’s gonna change my world
    Nothing’s gonna change my world

    Jai Guru Deva
    Jai Guru Deva
    Jai Guru Deva
    Jai Guru Deva
    Jai Guru Deva
    Jai Guru Deva

    The Beatles, 1968

    “Jai Guru Deva, Om” is a mantra-like refrain which in Sanskrit literally means “glory to the shining remover of darkness.”

    However, the lyrics seem more reflective of a psychedelic journey than a meditation. Interesting is the refrain “Nothing’s gonna change my world.” Does that mean that my world will never change or that from nothing will come the light that will change my world (the shining remover of darkness)? The ambiguity of the refrain suggests that one’s person experience (“my world”) is as it is (eternal) and yet bizarrely changing with revelations when traveling across the universe.

  • Is marble colder than wood?

    In a room, marble and wood have the same temperature, room temperature. However, unlike wood, marble is cold to the touch. This is an anomaly as it doesn’t comport with our expectations. (Marble feels colder because it’s a relatively good conductor of heat and as such it drains heat from our skin, making our skin feel cold.)

    What makes the foregoing interesting is that while it’s common knowledge that marble feels colder than wood, very few of us are curious enough to find out why; probably because our curiosity is not aroused by anomalies, though maybe it should be.

    Anomalies are funny. Funny as in odd as they don’t conform to expectations, preconceived notions.  Preconceived notions are categories in our mind that organize past experiences. These categories have descriptions and associations. We experience not our experiences as they happen but the descriptions and associations we have with the experiences. Thus, also funny, as in laughingly funny, is when we realize we mistakenly placed an experience into a category into which it doesn’t belong. We laugh at our stupidity. If not, then we are truly stupid.

    Anomalies nudge us to awaken from having mechanical/category based experiences.  While everything is unique, not like or unlike anything else, we fail to experience its uniqueness when we mechanically classify our experiences. When our curiosity is aroused by the uniqueness of an anomaly, we seek to understand the anomaly and in doing so we start on a journey that makes us realize everything is unique; unless we ignore the anomalies.

  • Rock-Paper-Scissors

    Are you a rock, paper or scissors?

    Rock-paper-scissors is a game dating to antiquity. It is also a metaphor for the evolution of the universe. The initial forms of the universe were rocks, like eggs of various sizes from a pebble to a planet. Over time, life arose. Paper, which is organic, represents life. Humans, the most evolved life form, eventually created technology, like scissors, to serve their economic needs and empower their aggressive efforts to dominate one another.

    In the game, one’s fist represents rock, an open hand represents paper and the index and middle fingers spread open represents scissors. A fist is a symbol of oneness, the essential nature of the universe. An open hand (like a welcoming handshake) represents openness and cooperation which is an essential element for the development of civilization. The two fingers separated look like a fork, a beneficial and potentially aggressive tool.

    In the game, paper trumps rock, scissors trumps paper and rock trumps scissors. Likewise, civilization trumps nature, technology trumps civilization and nature trumps technology. Civilization from its beginnings in agrarian societies has to its self benefit overcome nature. Technology (while necessary and beneficial in the development of complex civilization) is often a force used in the mass destruction of civilization. Nature, in the form of an asteroid or sun storm flares (see Carrington Event of 1859) hitting the Earth, will destroy technology (electric grid, GPS systems, etc.) and in turn much of civilization that depends on technology.

    So what do you identify with, rock, paper or scissors; nature, civilization or technology?

  • God Plays Hide and Seek

    Alan Watts in The Book On the Taboo Against Knowing Who You Are:

    “God also likes to play hide-and-seek, but because there is nothing outside God, he has no one but himself to play with. But he gets over this difficulty by pretending that he is not himself. This is his way of hiding from himself. He pretends that he is you and I and all the people in the world, all the animals, all the plants, all the rocks, and all the stars. In this way he has strange and wonderful adventures, some of which are terrible and frightening. But these are just like bad dreams, for when he wakes up they will disappear.

    Now when God plays hide and pretends that he is you and I, he does it so well that it takes him a long time to remember where and how he hid himself. But that’s the whole fun of it—just what he wanted to do.

    He doesn’t want to find himself too quickly, for that would spoil the game. That is why it is so difficult for you and me to find out that we are God in disguise, pretending not to be himself. But when the game has gone on long enough, all of us will wake up, stop pretending, and remember that we are all one single Self—the God who is all that there is and who lives for ever and ever.

    Of course, you must remember that God isn’t shaped like a person. People have skins and there is always something outside our skins. If there weren’t, we wouldn’t know the difference between what is inside and outside our bodies. But God has no skin and no shape because there isn’t any outside to him.

    The inside and the outside of God are the same. And though I have been talking about God as ‘he’ and not ‘she,’ God isn’t a man or a woman. I didn’t say ‘it’ because we usually say ‘it’ for things that aren’t alive. “God is the Self of the world, but you can’t see God for the same reason that, without a mirror, you can’t see your own eyes, and you certainly can’t bite your own teeth or look inside your head. Your self is that cleverly hidden because it is God hiding.

    You may ask why God sometimes hides in the form of horrible people, or pretends to be people who suffer great disease and pain. Remember, first, that he isn’t really doing this to anyone but himself. Remember, too, that in almost all the stories you enjoy there have to be bad people as well as good people, for the thrill of the tale is to find out how the good people will get the better of the bad. It’s the same as when we play cards. At the beginning of the game we shuffle them all into a mess, which is like the bad things in the world, but the point of the game is to put the mess into good order, and the one who does it best is the winner. Then we shuffle the cards once more and play again, and so it goes with the world.”

    Everything is a manifestation of God. When we perceive God as something different than ourselves, we can never be one with God.

  • Koan: How old is Buddha?

    Part of Zen meditation practice is concentrating on a koan, a question asked of a meditating student by a Zen master to help the student free himself from the frameworks created by mind.

    In a complex world where we can be easily overwhelmed by experiences, the frameworks (categories, generalizations and descriptions) organize experiences. As such, our experiences are not of it is what it is whatever it is, they are an experience of the meanings, descriptions and stories of the frameworks are mind has created.

    I was once asked by an acquaintance, Craig who has been doing Zen meditation for some years, the koan: “How old is Buddha?”

    To which I replied: Buddha is as old as Buddha is. Buddha is old, young and everything in between. Buddha is as old as you want him to be. Buddha is timeless as Buddha is a concept. Which Buddha; as some Buddhas have come and gone, some are being born and some are dying? What is Buddha? Buddha is one day older than he was yesterday. As the only constant in the universe is change, the age of Buddha cannot be determined as his age is forever changing. I can’t say how old is Buddha as I don’t know him in terms of age, do you?

    My responses to the question of how old is Buddha seemed absurd to Craig. His response:  “That’s not it, more zazen [meditation].”

    Then it dawned on me. How old is Buddha? It is what it is whatever it is.

    Likewise, the answer to the often cited koan, what is the sound of one hand clapping? The sound of one hand clapping is the sound of one hand clapping. It is what it is whatever it is.

    An alternative response to how old is Buddha and what is the sound of one hand clapping?  Why do five baby ducks walk behind a red rooster? This answer is another koan.

    The purpose of Zen meditation is Zen meditation. The purpose of a koan is to focus the mind on one thing and let everything else fall away until the koan too falls away as a meaningless, empty construct. One then remains with the meditation alone, in the void between when the unseen becomes the seen. At that point one becomes one with everything.

  • My Mother’s Transition

    In 2014 my mother collapsed in her apartment in Brooklyn. Simply, her legs gave out. An ambulance took her to Maimonides Hospital to diagnose the problem. Initially she was diagnosed with having had mini-strokes. As she had been to hospital over the years for one problem or another, I wasn’t concerned but felt best to visit her; overruling her objections to do so.

    At hospital I was told she was in Room 520. I went to Room 522 where there was an old man in a wheelchair sitting outside the room. I approached him and said: ” Mother, how you doing?” He looked a bit confused, so I said: “Mother, it’s me, Victor. You ok? Don’t you recognize me?” Then quickly, “This is room 522? You’re not my mom. Have a good day.” He laughed.

    I then went next door to Room 520. My mother was there, in bed, alert and smiling. As well, her doctor and a nurse were there. After greeting my mother, I turned to the doctor and asked how my mother was doing, whether I needed to make funeral arrangements. Everyone was a bit shocked but for my mother who knew me too well. But I then added: “No, I understand, this is a serious matter. But before we get into it, I want to be sure I understand the relationships here. You are the doctor, she is my mother and I am her son. You’re not the patient, she’s not my son and I’m not my mother?” From there we got onto business. The doctor said that he initially thought my mother suffered from mini-strokes but as her neurological motor system was deteriorating further, she might actually have Guillain-Barre Syndrome.

    Guillain-Barre is an autoimmune disease wherein the body’s immune system attacks the peripheral nerves and damages their myelin insulation, rendering the patient paralyzed to a greater or lesser extent. Within a year, 90-100% recovery is possible.

    After extensive and painful testing, including a spinal tap, the doctor determined she in fact had Guillain-Barre. In the ensuing days, as her condition worsened, she was put into hospital’s Intensive Care Unit. I hired additional nurses to be by her bedside 24/7. In the ICU she was put on a ventilator and a feeding tube was inserted into her stomach which made her two favorite activities, eating and talking, not possible.

    A couple of days later I visited my mother. I asked her nurse how my mother was doing. The nurse said I need to ask the doctor making rounds. I went out the room looking for the doctor. I approached a man in uniform and asked him how my mother was doing. Another nurse volunteered that the man I was talking with was not a doctor but an HVAC man. That didn’t matter as for me every opinion counts. I took the HVAC man to my mother. I told my mother that he was from Harvard Medical School and a specialist in Guillain-Barre. Then I said: “Doctor, what do you think?” Well, he was a religious guy from Jamaica and said best we consult scripture. My mother laughed.

    Some days later, as her condition stabilized, my mother was moved out of the ICU into a less intensive care patient’s room. By then my mother had been on the ventilator for 10 days. Medical protocol called for her to be taken off the ventilator and to be intubated as continuing with the ventilator increases the risk of infection. Alternatively, she could be taken off the ventilator and effort to breathe unaided. If she was unsuccessful breathing, she would suffocate and die.

    I told my mother that the next step was intubation and that over time she might get better and lead a normal life. However, as she was 86, she might never recover and be with feeding tube and intubation until the end of her days. I asked her what she wanted to do, try to breathe on her own now at the risk of dying or go with the intubation. She couldn’t speak but pointed to me. I asked her if she wanted me to make this decision. she shook her head indicating “yes.” I then said: “OK, this is what are going to do. You’re going to hold my hand as tight as you can, close your eyes, concentrate on breathing and the nurse will take out the ventilator. If you can’t breathe, you will transition. So before we get started, I want to tell you I love you, it’s been a wonderful trip, thank you for everything and God bless you.” The ventilator came out and my mother lived.

    My mother never fully recovered and was wheelchair bound until she passed a couple of years later from congestive heart failure.

    My mother didn’t have a lot of marbles but whatever marbles she had she retained until she passed. In my mother’s last days she said she had but one wish. She wanted to pass in the daytime, not at night. I asked her why the daytime and she said she would likely be sleeping at night and not during the day and she wanted to see what it was like to die. She died a couple of days later, after the sun turn from up high, in the early afternoon. I guess she then knew its journey from there.

    That was my mother. No wonder I am who I am.

  • Defusing Anxiety

    In the winter of 2017 I awoke one morning with pain in my right thigh. The pain felt like a serious bruise; maybe a torn muscle as my range of motion was limited; but there was no related black and blue skin marks to corroborate that diagnosis.  Moreover, I didn’t recall banging my thigh to cause injury. Yet the pain and the limited range of motion made me think that it would take a couple of weeks before I could get back to playing squash. Sort of a long time as I had had a meniscus and a couple of hernia operations in the past and was able to get to the squash courts in a week’s time.

    Ten days later with the symptoms unabated, I went to my personal doctor for a diagnosis. She had me take an MRI. The next day, a Friday, she informed me that it looked like I had a tumor which most likely was cancerous. She set me up for Monday and Tuesday consultations at Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center and at Yale University Hospital.

    She also sent me the MRI report which I immediately emailed everyone on my contact list with a note: “Just got notice from my doctor that it looks like I have a cancerous tumor in my leg; further examinations to follow. Wish me luck it’s not the big “C. Will keep you posted.”

    I received many responses to the email, wishing me well. Some friends were shocked as I’m generally perceived as very healthy. Some doctor friends opined that in fact the MRI indicated a cancerous tumor more than anything else. Others offered encouraging words.

    In the ensuing days, my wife was a wreck as we discussed the real possibility of having a leg amputated. I was good with the situation, figuring come what may. I also shared the particulars of my circumstances with everyone; from my doormen to strangers I’d meet on the grocery checkout line.

    Monday I went with my dutiful son, Alex, to Sloan Kettering. Alex joined me so that we would have a clear understanding of the diagnosis, prognosis and treatment protocol. At Sloan I met with Dr. Patrick Boland, a “top doctor” specializing in orthopedic cancers. As I understood his examination would involve a surgical biopsy, before he started I told him that “I know there is a small but real chance the best way to proceed is to amputate the leg. If you think during the biopsy operation that’s the way to go, I’m good with that. However, if that’s what you think, don’t do anything. Just leave the leg as it is. Let me enjoy it for another couple of weeks and I’ll come back to have it removed.” Dr. Boland laughed, more than a bit surprised by my marching orders.

    Dr. Boland and his assistant first examined my leg, pushing and tugging it forcefully. After not saying much beyond sounds like “hmm” and “ahah,” Dr. Boland said he had seen many tumor and cancer patients but I was different, “none look like you.” I thought my upbeat attitude was not what he commonly encounters. Dr. Boland then recommended more tests, an X-Ray and a sonogram. Hours later, with test results in hand, I met with Dr. Boland again. The good doctor advised me that the apparent cancerous tumor was just old dried blood from a long ago bruise that had leached spider-like to appear as a cancerous tumor on the MRI; that unbeknownst to me I must have banged my leg recently to cause my thigh muscle strain.

    As I had an appointment the next day at Yale and the weather looked good for a drive up north from the city, I went to the meet the doctors at Yale. They confirmed Dr. Boland’s diagnosis.

    Driving back to the city, I noticed that the pain in my thigh was no longer. Two hours later, I was playing squash.

    Upon arriving home, I wrote to my email list that the cancer scare was a cancer scare, nothing more; that in fact I was back on the squash courts. Lots of congratulatory emails came back, though some a bit cynical. On Wall Street friend called my experience “the tumor rumor.” Another friend, a Catholic, said mine was a divine recovery; the Friday email sounded like I was in hospice and five days later a miraculous complete recovery; from hospice to squash court; Jesus must have played a role.

    How did I feel about this rollercoaster ride? Terrific, from beginning to end. Terrific I had an early diagnosis, terrific that I could avail myself of modern medicine, terrific that I was not ill, terrific that I was able to play squash, terrific to have had an entertaining experience; or that’s how I chose to remember it.

    Before the good news that there was nothing wrong, I wasn’t particularly stressed out by the dire possibilities. That might be a function of my general attitude and sharing my diagnosis with anyone who would listen. The sharing in effect had many others share my burden of an ominous ordeal which made moving forward, whichever the direction, relatively easy. When we have a problem and tell everyone about it, we ameliorate our anxiety and are better able to enjoy the moment.

  • The woman from Tibet

    In the cold of winter, February 1992, I drove with a guide from Lhasa Tibet to Kathmandu. During the four day trip we picked up a couple of hitchhikers. One was a 40 year old woman who looked deep into her 60s. Her skin was very dark for a Tibetan but that was apparently dirt from not having recently bathed. She was friendly and open about her life. She said she rarely bathed since her village home had no running water; had last bathed in a river in the summer; never in her life had a shower.

    Every morning as I shower I think about that woman, imagine how she would feel in the shower with its temperature controls, great water volume and soothing soap melting accumulated dirt, yak candle smoke and caked perspiration. Feeling it’s the first shower of my life, my awareness of everything is heightened, I glow with gratitude; an unforgettable experience.

    When involved in the mundane, it’s easy to fall into automatic pilot mode and oblivion. Imagining ourselves as someone who has never experienced these activities allows us to experience them as for first time which in fact it is as each time is never as any time before.

  • Two Monks and a Girl

    There is a classic Zen story of two monks and a girl:

    An old monk and a young monk were walking together to their monastery and came to a river with a strong current. As the monks started to cross the river, a young and beautiful girl called out to them asking for help to cross the river as she feared its current. While the monks had taken vows never to look or touch a woman, the older monk picked the girl up on his shoulders and carried her across. Then the girl went her way and the monks continued their walk to the monastery.

    The young monk was shocked by what had just happened but spoke not a word. After a couple of hours the young monk could not contain himself and said: “As monks we have vowed not to look or touch a woman, how could you carry that girl on your shoulders?” The older monk looked at the younger monk and replied: “Brother, I set her down on the river bank a couple of hours ago, why are you still carrying her?”

    This is a story about living in the present, not living preoccupied by events now passed. The purpose of meditation and vows is to unshackle oneself from the prison of the past which the old monk has but the young monk hasn’t. The story is about the role of vows, meditations, diets and other disciplinary tools deployed by those on the path to enlightenment. These tools are tools. However, often these tools are held sacred as the means and the end of righteous practice, which explains the reaction of the young monk. The older monk is enlightened. He hears a voice crying for help and does what he can to help. The vows are artificial constructs which ultimately mean nothing to him. The girl is an artificial construct, not a girl but only a voice crying for help.

    Another, more graphic version of this story describes two monks who were making their way from one monastery to another. They had been practicing meditation together for many years and were very good friends. In fact, not only were they close friends, but there was also a teacher-student relationship in place – one of the monks was much older and had been a monk since long before the other monk was born. Their journey involved many days traveling on foot. As the two monks walked through the forests and countryside, they spent a great deal of time discussing various aspects of the Buddhism.

    At a certain point in their journey, the monks heard the screams of a woman coming from a nearby river. They rushed to see what was happening and in the middle of the river they saw a naked woman who was drowning. The older monk swiftly threw off his robes, dove into the water and rescued the woman. He then brought her to the riverbank and proceeded to cover her with his spare robes. After assuring himself that she was safe and well, the two monks continued on their journey.

    The rest of their journey was quite different. The river incident had quite an affect on the younger monk who for the rest of the journey had surly comportment and refused to even speak to the older monk.

    A few days later, the monks arrived at their destination – a monastery they were going to be staying at for the next few months. At this point, the young monk started to ostracize the older monk and refused to even acknowledge his presence. The older monk was rather dismayed and worried about the comportment of his friend and so one day he confronted the younger monk saying: “Please, young sir, why have you changed? What have I done to warrant being treated in this manner? If I have said or done something that has hurt you then I am truly sorry and I must have done it mindlessly and certainly without intention”. The young monk replied: “You are not a true monk – you have broken the vows we’ve taken and as such, I may no longer be associated with you”. The older monk was rather shocked to hear this and asked what rules had been broken. The younger monk replied: “Not only did you touch a woman but you touched a naked woman and gave her the robes of a monk”. “How very true” replied the elder, “I saved the woman and carried her to the banks of the river, I made sure that she was warm and well and then I left her on the banks of the river. However, it would appear that you are still carrying her around on your shoulders! In all these years of so-called practice of the Buddhist path, you have learned absolutely nothing. You cannot live without your rules and regulations – what a small and wasted life!”

    The graphic version of the story provides further insights into Zen. (1) One purpose of life is to make this world a bit better than it would be otherwise; take every opportunity to do so, which is what the older monk did in helping the girl from drowning. (2) Treat others as you wish to be treated which is why the older monk provided the girl his comfortable robes and made sure she was safe and well. (3) Don’t take your view of a situation too seriously as by doing so you will fail to learn from the situation (as the young monk failed), make a fool of yourself or cause the demise of your relationships with others. (4) Don’t be judgmental of others as by doing so you may cause yourself to be indicted. (5) An enlightened monk is one with everything, not conflicted by duality. As such, even though both the monk and the girl were naked, the monk was not sexually attracted or repulsed by her.

  • Ten men and the elephant

    The ten men and the elephant is a parable in many variations from the Indian subcontinent, dating back more than 2,500 years.

    In a small village in India there were ten men who had heard of but had never seen the greatest animal in the jungle, the elephant. Determined to see an elephant, the ten men hired a guide to find one. After several days of trekking in the jungle, the guide saw an elephant and called forth the ten men. The men approached the elephant and in their excitement each touched a different part of the it.  The man who touched its tail said the elephant was like a snake. The man who touched the elephant’s leg said the elephant was like a tree trunk. The man who touched the elephant’s tusk said it was like a sea shell. Each of the ten men described the elephant very differently. Soon the ten men, each insisting that their view of the elephant was right, started to argue and eventually came to blows.

    Clearly, the ten men were blind and didn’t know they were. 

    The moral of this parable is that anyone who is certain of the infallibility of their perceptions is blind and doesn’t know it. Don’t take your view of something too seriously as in so doing you will likely make a fool of yourself and at times wind up hurting others or yourself.

    If you can’t view something in at least ten different ways (with at least one way which is funny), you don’t know what you are looking at. In the parable, each man’s view is funny (as in odd) to those of us who’ve seen an elephant; funny (as in laughable) as the men are fools, not knowing they are blind.

    As in Shakespeare’s As You Like It,  “The fool doth think he is wise, but the wise man knows himself to be a fool.”  And Daniel Kahneman: “We can be blind to the obvious, and we are also blind to our blindness.”

    Finally, as to what does an elephant look like, we need to conclude that it is what it is whatever it is and that whatever that is, it is big. The elephant is the universe.

  • Hassidic perspective of our good fortune

    A man once visited the holy Rebbe Dov Ber ben Avraham of Mezeritch and said he had great difficulties applying the Talmudic saying that “A person is supposed to bless God for the bad just as he blesses Him for the good”. The Maggid told him to find the Maggid’s disciple Reb Zusha of Hanipoli and ask him. The man went and found Rabbi Zusha, who received him friendly and invited him to his home. When the guest came in, he saw how poor the family was, there was almost nothing to eat, they were beset with afflictions and illnesses. Nevertheless, Rabbi Zusha was always happy and cheerful. The guest was astonished at this picture. He said: “I went to the Holy Maggid to ask him how is it possible to bless God for the bad He sends us the same way as we bless Him for the good, and The Maggid told me only you can help me in this matter.” Rabbi Zusha said: “This is indeed a very interesting question. But why did our holy Rebbe send you to me? How would I know? He should have sent you to someone who has experienced suffering.”

    The essence of happiness is gratitude, the realization that however dour our circumstances they could always be worse. We are truly blessed when we recognize and serve God, the ever-changing and eternal whole, as we in turn become one with God; thereby realizing our self-perceived relative good or bad fortune is perception, not reality.

  • The Wise Cells

    We are all cells in one human body; some of us nerve cells, heart cells, fat cells, skin cells, blood cells, etc. Virtually all (other than those on the border) of each specific type of cell lives in a world surrounded by similar cells. These clusters of cells are all essentially identical in their function and behavior. As well, they think alike.

    The most unusual cells are the blood cells. Red blood cells don’t have a nucleus, they are essentially ego-less. Unlike all other cells, the blood cells travel the body and visit all the other cell clusters. Unlike other types of cells, the red blood cells have the most direct interaction with other cells as they bring them oxygen for sustenance and remove carbon dioxide which would otherwise kill them. Other cell clusters recognize the red blood cells as cells of the body but as unlike themselves; they view the red blood cells as eccentric because they think and behave differently. While each cell cluster depends on the red blood cells for survival, the commercial relationship they have with the red blood cells is not like the familial relationship they have with cells similar to themselves.  Each unique cell cluster thinks differently, but likewise as regards red blood cells.

    The red blood cells, unlike other cells, recognize that there are many different types of cells in the body whose experience of being alive and perception of the world is very different. The red blood cells identify with all other cells as they know that all cells do not have an independent existence, they are manifestations of the body. By identifying with all cells, the red blood cells have many perspectives of the world. While the nerve cells might be the smartest, the white blood cells the toughest, the stomach cells the most caustic, the bone cells the most rigid, etc.; clearly the red blood cells are the wisest.

    As their perspectives are many and as they devote their lives to serve others, the red blood cells embody the essence of enlightenment: wisdom and compassion.

  • The Little Girl and the Atheist

    From Reddit:

    “An atheist was seated next to a little girl on an airplane and he turned to her and said, “Do you want to talk? Flights go quicker if you strike up a conversation with your fellow passenger.”

    The little girl, who had just started to read her book, replied to the total stranger, “What would you want to talk about?”

    “Oh, I don’t know,” said the atheist. “How about why there is no God, or no Heaven or Hell, or no life after death?” as he smiled smugly.

    “Okay,” she said. “Those could be interesting topics but let me ask you a question first. A horse, a cow, and a deer all eat the same stuff – grass. Yet a deer excretes little pellets, while a cow turns out a flat patty, but a horse produces clumps. Why do you suppose that is?”

    The atheist, visibly surprised by the little girl’s intelligence, thinks about it and says, “Hmm, I have no idea.” To which the little girl replies, “Do you really feel qualified to discuss God, Heaven and Hell, or life after death, when you don’t know shit?”

    And then she went back to reading her book.”


    What makes this story funny is that it reveals certain truths and there’s nothing more funny than the truth.

    The little girl is curious as she observes an odd transition in life (as that of the grass). She is reading a book as she has an interest in learning. She values her time and doesn’t simply want to kill it as the atheist suggests they do. As a little girl she may not know much but does know that as the atheist doesn’t know much about what human nature finds repulsive (he doesn’t know shit), he unlikely knows much about spiritual matters. As well, as he thinks he’s intelligent (as he deems himself a good judge of her intelligence) and is adamant about his views, he is not open to other possibilities, lacks wisdom and not worth talking with.

  • A Rosy Marriage

    Some years back I attended a wedding in the English countryside. The bride was pretty and ebullient. I congratulated her and wished her the best of luck; adding that she was wise going with an arranged marriage as those tend to be more successful than “love marriages.”  She was a bit taken aback, claiming her marriage was a love marriage, not arranged; her parents had nothing to do with her choice of groom.

    I explained that in times past children married at a young age and didn’t know much about choosing a mate. Moreover, as marriages were a merger of families, parents arranged the marriages of their children. Today, however, children are no longer young and living with their parents when they marry; post marriage family get-togethers are mostly on ceremonial occasions; and there are often great socioeconomic differences between parents and children; thus, children arrange their own marriages and pay lip service to their families’ input.

    The bride and groom were both good-looking, graduates of a top university, Jewish, bourgeoisie, in professional jobs at highly acclaimed organizations and had common life goals. That seemed like an arranged marriage on good footing. Had the bride chosen to marry an ugly uneducated elderly drunken bum with no means of support, that would have been a “love marriage.” When we make choices based on emotional feelings without practical considerations, it must be out of love. However, emotional states of mind are like the weather, they can change unpredictably. Likewise, emotional love relationships often don’t sustain themselves and have a higher failure rate than arranged marriages.

    My view was that the bride was in love with the particulars of the marriage she had arranged, not with the groom. However, I was proven wrong. It was a love marriage. The marriage lasted less than two years and ended with great acrimony.

  • The Clay Pot

    A friend, Bill Wisher, related a Zen story he read somewhere, he can’t recall, more than 30 years ago:

    A Zen master with a clay pot on a table before him asked several students: “What is this?” Some said it was a clay pot; others said that it was a man-made artifact; others said it was a table supporting a pot. A lively debate ensued. The Zen master shook his head and laughed.  Then a student approached the table and threw the pot to the ground where it cracked into many pieces. An audible silence enveloped the room until the student asked: “What is it now?”

    [To this story I added:]

    The silence returned as some students were shocked, others embarrassed by the aggressive arrogance of the student. The Zen master and the student then broke the silence with laughter, for they knew that it is what it is whatever it is.

  • Beginner’s Luck to Bad Luck

    Beginner’s luck is an often heard lament by seasoned players in some game or business explaining the success of a novice. Beginner’s luck can partly be explained by the beginner performing better than the low expectations seasoned players have of his performance. Another explanation is that the beginner is less aware than seasoned players of the subtle risks he is assuming, hence he is more aggressive and can reap higher rewards from taking greater risks. Similarly, the beginner is more focused on one or two key variables that most of the time affect outcomes while seasoned players’ attention is more widely focused, distracted. As well, the imagination of beginners is not limited by their past experiences, as is seasoned players, in their views of possible outcomes; hence they can envision as likely, what seasoned players perceive as highly unlikely, extremely positive outcomes from the choices they make and position themselves accordingly. Finally, in a competitive game, the beginners (who are typically a minority of the number of players) have the advantage of low costs for the choices they make as there are few players competing for those choices.

    At some point beginner’s luck runs out as the beginner is no longer a beginner and becomes a seasoned player. However, before that happens, beginner’s luck can easily turn into bad luck as the beginner becomes overconfident and makes unwise choices.

    Ultimately, seasoned players and beginners might both have greater luck if they made choices not solely  based on their individual perspective but the perspective of the other as well.

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    Victor A. Teicher


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