• Preface

    It Is What It Is Whatever It Is

    Whoever shall come to know the questions these words ask and answer will not suffer death.

     

    The universe is a glass of sparkling water.

    Each of us a bubble that seems to come out of nowhere,

    takes a unique journey to the top of the glass

    and then seems to disappear.

    We don’t disappear.

    We become one with everything

    as we are before we appear as bubbles.

  • Happy Birthday

    Good Mourning

    Upon awakening, it’s good mourning; time to briefly enjoy mourning the passing away of the person we were yesterday and all the people we were in days now passed; people who are now no longer but for a memory. It’s a time to reflect on their lives in a funny (as in odd and humorous) light, learn from their experiences and not take their lives too seriously. Otherwise, we’ll be distracted from realizing our life’s purpose: to have a wonderful and happy experience, realize our divine potential and help others do likewise.

    Happy Birthday

    Upon awakening, we are reincarnated into a life seemingly familiar to our past lives, but unique. Each day is not another day in our life. It is life in a day, birth to death from awakening to sleep-death. As such, we have lived thousands of lives, each awakening a reincarnation. Everyday is our birthday, not the conventional annual commemoration but our actual birthday.

    So good mourning and good luck to us in realizing our life’s purpose today. Let’s live today as it’s our first day of life and experience everything as it truly is, new and unique. Let’s live as it’s our last day and do whatever we would regret not having done in this life if we are not reincarnated tomorrow. Moreover, let’s be grateful we are alive.

    Greeting everyone with “good mourning, happy birthday” may temporarily awaken and get a laugh, certainly making for a good mourning.

    Good Even-ing

    As we approach the time for our sleep-death, the life we have lived today is about to pass. It’s time to transition from consciousness to sleep-death. We greet each other with “good even-ing” as everyone is even, equal, in sleep-death; the smart, the stupid, the rich, the poor are all even; all one in sleep-death; in heaven, where all individual souls unite as the one soul they are always.

  • The Purpose of Life

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

    HAPPINESS

    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

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

    The etymology of  happy is “hap” which means luck. 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.

    In the absence of gratitude, complaining thrives. Complaining is selfish. While complaining feels good temporarily, it precludes happiness. Complaining is selfish as in doing so we are oblivious of others who are truly suffering, those who would be very happy in our circumstances. When we view our lives from the perspective of those who are suffering, we have much about which to be grateful. Thus, one of the most significant choices in life is selfishness or happiness.

    Nothing is perfect but the universe which God has created. As everything but the universe is imperfect, when we are oblivious to God’s perfect creation it is easy to find some aspect of “every thing” about which to complain. As God gives us bodily form to enjoy ourselves and have happy lives, by complaining we risk that God hears us complaining and self-entertains by putting us in harm’s way; giving us something about which to truly complain.

    Optimism

    A fundamental truth is that all things, including our circumstances, are temporary, ever-changing. As what is now will soon be no longer, when we are in difficult circumstances we can be calm and happy as we know that our circumstances will change for better or worse but sooner or later for the better.

    Freedom From Karmic Prisons

    Karma is the intentions, actions and consequences in our prior lives (days now passed as each day is a lifetime) that we weave into stories, generalizations and meanings which frame our experience of the present. Our stories imprison us, keeping us from experiencing the ever-changing and unique present as it is. Experiencing the present in the context of the past is living in the past.

    To free ourselves from our karmic prisons, we need to realize that our past and all our stories are an illusion that is made seemingly real by our mind. (The etymology of “mind” is “memory.”) This can be done through mindless meditation and otherwise not taking ourselves seriously.

    REALIZING OUR DIVINE POTENTIAL

    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. Simply, we are selfish.

    The ultimate human potential is the realization of divine consciousness; the realization that we and the universe are one. This is enlightenment, being one with the light and one with everything as everything is light. As enlightened beings, we treat others as we treat ourselves (compassion) and embrace multiple perspectives (wisdom), not solely the perspective from our finite selves. Enlightened, we live happily, finding most people funny as they take their singular perspectives seriously, thinking they know that of which they have only a limited understanding.

    The road to enlightenment is difficult, yet easy. It requires accepting our complete ignorance of everything, not taking ourselves seriously and mindless meditation.

    AWAKENING OTHERS

    To awaken others is like the process of awakening ourselves. We arouse their curiosity by questioning them as to who we are, why are we are here in life, why is he universe here. Answering these questions is difficult and frustrating work as the answers require us to see beyond ourselves. Yet the work is simple; reflecting on the nature of mind and the universe. The work can lead 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.

  • IAWIA

    I AM WHO I AM

    Acronym: I Y (IA-WIA)

    Why do I exit, why am I here? Because I am who I am, because that is the nature of who I am.

    Mantra: I why?

    A mantra is a word or sound repeated to aid concentration in meditation. Mantras calm our mind to free us of random distracting thoughts as well as stories, meanings, explanations and justifications that accompany much of what we do in daily life. When calm and free, we have only a child’s answer to “I why?” or “why am I doing what I’m doing?:” “Because that’s what I am doing.” In other words, it is what it is whatever it is.

    Koan: I why? Who am I?

    A koan is riddle whose answer awakens us from the illusory nature of conventional thinking to realize the nature of reality. Who am I? The answer is not my name or other identifying characteristics. The true answer is that I am who I am; I can’t describe myself otherwise because I’m not the same person now as I was when I started describing myself. This answer acknowledges the ever-changing nature of the everything. Thus, when we truly know something, we know that it ultimately can only be described as it is what it is whatever it is. All other descriptions are approximations or illusionary.

    Divine riddle: When Moses asks God who God is, God says: “I am who I am.” Why is God not more specific with a name or description?

    God has no name and cannot be described as doing so would mean that God is one thing and not another. God is everything, as everything is a manifestation of God.

    The Tao: I am who I am as “the 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 identities and descriptions of things. Names are necessary for us to communicate. However, by defining parts of the universe as discrete things, names disguise the nature of the universe. “Every thing” is not a discrete thing but is interdependent as the universe is one thing that is expressed as infinite ever-changing manifestations. When we come to know the nature of the universe, we know we are the universe; the universe is eternal and we will never die as death is just a name of something which is temporary.

    Self-realization: I am who I am. I am one of the gods.

    I am the roles I play in the play of life. My roles are many, various and temporary. When I am eventually scripted out of the play, I join the gods in the audience watching the play which is who I am before entering the play.

  • II-WII-WII

    IT IS WHAT IT IS WHATEVER IT IS

    II-WII-WII

    Acronym: I Y Y.

    Mantra: I why why! I why why?

    Koan: I why (who am I)?

    The Universe is the uni-verse (one verse): IT IS WHAT IT IS WHATEVER IT IS.

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

    Double Helix of the Universe: II-UU-II-UU-II. I am I, U are U, I and U are one.

    II-UU.

    The initial “I” is I as a finite and temporary being, finite in time (birth to death) and space (body); temporary, as I am not now who I was before now. The finite “I” is our self-identity; a duality, “I” and all that is not “I.” It is our finite consciousness as created by our senses and defined by descriptions and stories our mind creates. The second “I” is the infinite “I” that has no birth and no death; eternal, before the beginning of time. The “I” that is the Universe and its infinite unique and ever-changing manifestations of itself. I am who I am, both the finite and the infinite “I.” The “U” is “U” as in “Universe.” The initial “U” is the finite, temporary and that which is not “I.”  The second “U” is the Universe and its infinite unique and ever-changing manifestations. The finite “I” and finite “U” are discrete manifestations of the one infinite “I” which is also the infinite “U.” The finite and infinite are interdependent as one cannot exist without the other.

    The Universe is a timeless void and it’s manifestations ever-changing in time. Finite consciousness experiences time as a duality, the present and the past. However, what we experience as the present is an illusion; that which is happening now is actually the present-passed. The present-passed is not different from the past. The true-present is the pre-sent, the universe before it is sent out as expressions of itself that we experience as now. The true-present is nothingness, empty and timeless. It is the time before time begins. Presence is the Universe’s present to us: divine consciousness, the experience of the true-present. Presence is awakening to the realization that we are both finite and infinite; one with the Universe before the Universe expresses itself as finite manifestations of which we are one. It is a calm and peaceful space, like the empty space between when we exhale and inhale. It cannot be compared to anything or described, for IT IS WHAT IT IS WHATEVER IT IS.

  • Kotodama

    There are seemingly an infinite number of books, each providing insights into the human experience. The insights are thoughts whose foundation is words. We focus on the thoughts, while are often oblivious to the words themselves. However, sometimes a structure’s foundation reveals what the visible structure does not.

    There is one book that reveals the mystical aspect of the human experience that’s hidden in words: the dictionary. With definitions, etymologies, synonyms, antonyms and homonyms, the dictionary is the key to kotodama, the mystical power of words.

    For example, “good evening” and “good morning” are simple and superficial greetings. However, they reveal much about reincarnation and experiencing life as it is in the now. At night, when we go to our sleep-death, we say “good evening” because in sleep-death everyone is made “even;” the rich, the poor, the smart and the stupid; all are even or equal in sleep-death. Upon awakening from sleep-death, we say “good morning” as in “mourning;” that is, have a good time mourning the person you were yesterday who is now no longer. Upon awakening, we are reincarnated into familiar circumstances, but we are not the same person who went to their sleep-death the night before. In other words, every day is not a day in a life but a life in a day; days past are past lives. When we realize we are reincarnated, we experience everything as new because it is new to us; though familiar to the person we once were. Our presumptive “past,” the experiences of the person who is now no longer, has “passed.”

    Another example is happiness. The bedrock of happiness is gratitude. When we are grateful, regardless of the difficulties we face, we are “great-full;” full with feeling great, happy. We’re happy as we realize how lucky we are as our circumstance could always be worse. “Hap,” the root of happiness, means “luck.”

  • “Terrific”

    “Terrific.”

    The play of life in three Acts

    The word “terrific” in the 19th century meant terrible and has since transitioned into meaning wonderful. Likewise, the play “Terrific” begins as a tragedy and ends as a farce.

    Act 1

    Birth and Socialization

    Act 1 begins at birth; a happy time, a sad time. While the most joyous moment in a parent’s life, birth starts a tragedy for newborns as they enter the stage crying. Newborns feel the tragedy of it all; that before birth they were one with everything and upon their birth they they are finite in space; from oneness with everything to duality, the finite self and everything which is not the self. This is animal consciousness which is the basis for much of the conflict in the play of life.

    After birth, we learn the ways of human life on Earth. We are socialized to perceive, think and behave in the ways of the socialization circles (family, religion, nationality, education, special interests, etc.) in which we are members. Thus ends Act 1, the transition from otherworldly, the time before birth and after death, to the human experience.

    Act 2

    Human Experience

    In Act 2, each of us assumes various roles in the play. Roles include career, family, religion, personal relationships, social group identities, passtime interests, etc. Most of us take these roles seriously, take ourselves seriously and forget that these roles are simply roles in a play and not who we truly are. We are oblivious of who we are before birth and after death: one with the nameless infinite, God.

    As we make our way in the play, our mind creates memories and stories that are the foundation of our identities and roles. The stories frame our experiences. We don’t experience things as they are but as our mind has defined them. This is karma. Karma often leads to live unhappy lives and precludes us from realizing our potential, divine consciousness.

    While our lives are often difficult dramas, they are an entertaining farce to those in the audience viewing the play. The audience are the gods like those from Mount Olympus who Homer tells us in the “Odyssey” effuse the air with a deafening sound of laughter.

    Act 3

    The Transition

    In Act 3, each actor is written out of the play’s script with their bodily death. However, Act 3 is the transition of our essential self, God, to a seat among the gods in the audience where we can enjoy the farce, the play “Terrific.”

    The transition is the realization that life is a play; that we are not finite but one with everything; temporary, ever-changing and interdependent expressions of God. As we let go of our finite bodily form, we embody wisdom and compassion and realize life is terrific.

    Epilogue

    Most of us never come to realize during the play of life that we are just actors. We take ourselves and our roles seriously. We are oblivious as to whom we were before birth, one with everything, and that we will again be one with everything after bodily death. This makes our lives great dramas, but at the cost of much suffering.

    Those of us who are enlightened actors know that life is a play and that we are gods with temporary human roles. For these enlightened actors, regardless of their various roles, life is terrific as they have a good laugh making their way through the play of life.

  • 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 thoughts we associate with 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.

  • The Path To Liberation

    The Buddhist path to liberation refers to enlightenment. Liberation is liberation from the personal mind.

    There is only one mind, the universal mind, the mind of God. The universe is the manifestation of the universal mind in the now. Dwelling in our finite body (which seems apart and separate from the universe) is a personal mind that is connected to the universal mind. However, we identify with our personal mind and are mostly oblivious to the universal mind. The path of liberation is realising our connection to the universal mind.

    The personal mind buffers us from directly experiencing the now. In other words, we experience the now not as it truly is but as a function of our personal mind. The personal mind defines, describes and compares; transforming the now, which is a flow, into a static experience. The now we experience with our personal mind is illusionary, empty of reality. However, we embrace our personal mind for we fear losing our identities and in turn being alone, not knowing who we are and where we are.

    The personal mind is grounded in memories. The memories are stories we create based on our intentions, actions and their consequences in previous lives. (Previous lives are previous days of our life.) These illusionary stories frame, define and describe the now. These stories are our karma.

    By not allowing us to experience the now directly, our karma essentially holds us in a karmic prison. Liberation is liberation from our karmic prison.

    Once liberated, we can experience the now as it is and in so doing we become one with the now, one with everything, eternal. There are no words to describe or compare this experience. All that can be said is that it is what it is whatever it is.

    The path to liberation is how we escape the karmic prison of our mind.

    Our escape is difficult, blocked by fears created by our personal mind. To escape, we need to quiet our mind until it falls asleep. Then, we can sneak passed it to liberation. Meditation puts our mind to sleep. When our mind is asleep via meditation, we transition from our personal mindlessness to universal mindfulness as our personal mind merges with the universal mind.

    Beyond meditation, we can renounce our personal mind. This is done by surrendering to the reality that we know nothing and that every-thing our personal mind tells us is not real, just illusions. Then, our curiosity is aroused; what am I, who am I, why am I? To answer these questions, we observe the universe with our eyes; not with our personal mind. We know we are experiencing the universe with our eyes when every-thing is unique, an experience like no other; nothing can be described, nothing can be compared. All we can say is WOW, as we feel connected to and love every-thing and everything. (Mouthing the word “wow” is like mouthing a kiss.) With our eyes open, we can see the light and come to know that we and the light are one. Now the path is clear. We are the path, the way of way (WOW).

    This is the path of the Buddha. A path guided by the light, not by a guru who at best can only reflect the light.

  • Short Path To Happiness

    There are two paths to happiness, the long and the short way.

    The long way is gratitude, optimism and freeing ourselves from our karmic prisons. Gratitude is being thankful for the circumstances in which we find ourselves, regardless of how dire, as we know that things could always be worse. However, it is often difficult to be grateful because our mind easily distracts us to selfishly focusing our attention on our plight and not the more overwhelming suffering of others. Optimism, especially during relatively difficult times, is a natural negative feedback loop as all things tend to regress to the mean; better times follow difficult times, sooner or later. Unfortunately, it is often difficult for us to be optimistic as many of us are prone to thinking in positive feedback loops, that difficult times will lead to even greater difficulties which makes us see the light at the end of the tunnel  as a train coming at us. Karma is thoughts we associate with the intentions, actions and the consequences of our actions in our past lifetimes. (Past lifetimes are the past days of our life as each day is a lifetime, not a day in a life.) Karma is seeing through the filter of our mind, not with our eyes. Thus, karma imprisons us from experiencing the present as it is. Fear of experiencing the present as it is, without the delusional comfort of collective and personal meanings karma assigns to things, makes escaping from our individual karmic prisons very difficult. Many years of meditation, a long process, can help us to happiness.

    The short way to happiness is simple: love all others as we love ourselves, the Golden Rule. When we truly love all others as ourselves, we in turn feel everyone loves us; we feel one with everything; a calm, peaceful, joyful state of mind. We are grateful happy.

    It might seem difficult to unconditionally love all others as at times some people treat us with loathe, not love. However, we still love them because we accept them, not judge them. Moreover, we are optimistic that if they don’t love us now, they’ll love us later. We feel badly for them because they simply don’t get it. They’re locked in their karmic prison. Or they might suffer from a mental disorder that precludes them from loving others. Or, simply, they are animals locked and have not yet realized their potential of divine consciousness. Hopefully, sooner or later, they will.

  • Mindlessness Meditation

    Meditation is a practice that puts us at twilight, the space between the states sleep and awake. It’s purpose is to bring us to a calm and restful place by disengaging us from the stimulation which our sensory organs and mind use to claim our attention. In this space we simply exist. Sometimes called “mindfulness meditation,” it is perhaps better termed “mindlessness meditation” as we are now free of identities and attachments of our mind’s construction.

    While there are countless meditation techniques, one approach is three short daily meditations. In these meditations we sit still in a quiet place with our eyes closed, uninterrupted by our senses. We focus on our breathing for maybe 20 breaths without our mind disrupting us with thoughts. If interrupted, we start again until we reach 20. Breathing-in is energizing. Breathing-out is relaxing. The space between exhaling and inhaling is completely dark and silent, a void that our mind would prefer we avoid. This is the present.

    The present is the “pre-sent,” the space before the universe expresses itself as manifestations that are sent out and received by our senses. In the present there is nothing and we are now one with nothing. Moreover, we realize that all our life experiences are not in the present but in the now. The now is when we initially experience the manifestations of an inherently nothingless universe. Hence, the now is not the present but the past as it is initially. As the past has no independent existence outside our mind, the past is an illusion. Hence, our life experiences as we know them are an illusion.

    While meditating, as we are calm and restful, we can easily drift off to sleep. But to complete the meditation we need open our eyes and awaken. We are now reborn. Everything is new to us, as we’ve never seen it before (which we hadn’t as everything is unique from one moment to the next). Now, everything is unadulterated by our mind’s meanings, categories and generalizations and fresh to our senses which heretofore had been numbed by memories of past stimulations. In our rebirth, we slowly and gently separate from being one with nothingness (which is ultimately one with everything) and assume our finite bodily being. Soon after we engage with the new yet familiar world in which we find ourselves until our next meditation which is like all others and unique.

    It is through mindlessness meditations we come to realize the universe has no beginning and no end; that it has infinite manifestations; that it is ever-changing, in constant transitions; that it cannot be described beyond that it is what it is whatever it is. Upon knowing this, we know we are the universe and as such we never die as death, like all else we experience, is an illusion.

  • The Way

    Once we know we don’t know anything

    we can get on our way.

    Our destination is the way of the Way

    where we come to know there is nothing to know

    as everything is nothing but one thing

    that is ever-changing and interdependent;

    it is what it is whatever it is.

  • Present-passed and True-present

    The past is the past and what we perceive as the present is also the past. We consciously experience the present as “present-passed,” not  the “true-present.” The true-present is the universe, waves of seemingly chaotic energy in an otherwise empty space. The true-present is the pre-sent, the universe before we consciously experience it. The conscious experience of the past (the past and present-passed) is our perception of the universe as reflections from our mind.

    The mind is a mnemonic device (etymology of mind: memory). Memories are illusions, stories we’ve created.

    The two constants in the universe are change and interdependence. Thus, the true-present cannot be described beyond saying that it is what it is whatever it is. Like God’s response when Moses asks who God is: “I am who I am.” Like the Tao, it is nameless.

    We experience the true-present when we are in the gap between true-present and present-passed. This is the space of nothingness. It is like breathing. After we exhale we pause before inhaling. That pause is the space of nothingness. When in that space, we are set to experience the true-present as it unfolds.

    The true-present unfolds as waves of light and sound energy; visually, like a kaleidoscope. It is overwhelming, like trying to drink water coming off a fire-hose.

    The purpose of the mind is to organize the true-present so that it’s drinkable, not overwhelming.

    Experiencing the true-present is akin to hallucinating. The etymology of the word hallucinate is to wander in the mind. In our everyday life, we experience the world as reflections from a point along the perimeter of the pond-mind. As is our habit, every day we go to the same point on the perimeter which results in us having a consistent perspective of the world. However, the mind often is turbulent (a function of our lacking integrity and other distractions) and its reflections distorted. When we calm the mind (through practices like meditation), we can leave its perimeter and wade into the pond, wander in the mind. It is here we can experience the true-present.

    In experiencing the true-present, we realize that the reality we’ve heretofore experienced was not reality; just reflections, illusions. The true-present is curvilinear and rectilinear cosmic waves of images and sounds that overwhelming come upon us until we drown. Our drowning however results not in our personal demise; it’s the demise of the various identities we’ve created that define us, the various stories we’ve made up about who we are. It is here when we realize that the past was just an illusion; that we are truly one of the waves, one with everything; as we’ve always been from before our beginning.

    Then, we fall down laughing as we realize the play of life and our roles in it are based on illusions. The play starts as a tragedy and ends as a farce when the true-present is revealed.

  • Albert Einstein

    “A human being is a spatially and temporally limited piece of the whole, what we call the “Universe.” He experiences himself and his feelings as separate from the rest, an optical illusion of his consciousness. The quest for liberation [enlightenment] from this bondage [illusion] is the only object of true religion. Not nurturing the illusion but only overcoming it gives us the attainable measure of inner peace.”

    “It seems to me as though our ideas of ourselves, including “space and time” (known more modernly as a single entity space-time, which Einstein was a pioneer in discovering), are entirely psychological constructs, “limitations” of our common state of “consciousness,” and these thoughts and ideas in our common state of consciousness is what generally creates the “illusion” of “separateness.” We can only perceive separateness if there is a space in which there is something here and another thing there, in space.

    Our experience of being separate is an illusion of consciousness, just as much as space-time is an illusion of consciousness. But our consciousness itself is ultimately an inseparable “part of the whole” that we call the “Universe,” the One, the Absolute, Reality, Nature, or what many refer to as God. Our brains and bodies, and consequently our minds and consciousness, emerge from out of Nature, from the Universe, while still being absolutely a part of that Nature and Universe. We are not separate from Nature looking out onto Nature, but we are Nature looking at itself.

    Our minds construct the perception of reality such that we appear separate from all that is around us, independent, isolated, as siloed islands in the ocean of the world. We have an incredibly strong subject-object duality in the everyday nature of our perceptions, such that “I” am perceived as here, and everything “else” is out there separate from me. This often makes us feel alone, weak, fragile, broken, temporary, mortal, and thus in “bondage.” We are prisoners of our own perceptions, of these “illusions,” of our own typical state of consciousness which perceives the world in this way.

    Through “liberation,” which religions call by many different names, we free ourselves from this limited nature of our perceptions, of our consciousness, to see the greater whole directly. The inquisitive, thinking, intellectual, rational, thoughtful, conceptual, inner chatterbox, monkey mind, of our brains can become quiet in certain times of spiritual reflection, contemplation, meditation, walks in nature, extreme activities, near death experiences, etc. Our consciousness actually shifts to a different mode of perception, like in sleep or in dreams, where the “I” falls away, the ego is dislodged, the psychological self seems to dissolve, and we perceive reality much differently. It can seem like a kind of death (death of ego-self), but it is also a liberating realization that we are not fundamentally this ego construction, and all that goes along with it.

    It seems to be a much more direct, intimate, personal, immediate, primary perception, devoid of thoughts, concepts, ideas, and even images that typically pervade our conscious mind. It is a direct knowing of awareness itself, which has no center, no distinct sense of “I,” but rather sees the wholeness and interconnected nature of reality, and this essentially and fundamentally includes one’s own awareness and consciousness. We are freed from the bondage of our egoic thoughts, of our typical selfish nature or “natural man,” and we can perceive the One indivisible nature of reality more directly. We have “overcome” our ego-self, our ego mind, our “separate” perception.

    And we realize we are that One, we are a manifestation of This, an emanation of This, and we have never been separate from This, we only thought we were, in our mind. Our mind often makes it seem like we are separate from it (which is the illusion), but how could we be? We are fundamentally the One, but in order to perceive the One we must become separate from it, to divide ourselves from it, so that we can turn around and witness it. An eye cannot see itself, but must use a mirror. Similarly, the One cannot perceive its Self, except by dividing its Self, so that its parts can see the other parts. But the error comes in thinking that we are witnessing something separate, apart, and isolated. We are not, but we are witnessing our own Self, our own true Nature, the Source from which we’ve come, of which we are, and which we will always be. When we look out onto Nature, we are looking in a mirror. We are looking at our Self. We are looking at the One which we are.

    The “overcoming” of our typical state of consciousness to perceive the One Great Whole of the universe in this way is the objective of perennial ancient wisdom found at the core and origin of the world’s major religions, and it is that core that is “true religion.” It is what gives us “inner peace,” to know we are not separate, “limited,” apart from this Universe, but eternally at-One with it, in It, as It. This is “liberation,” enlightenment, salvation, redemption, transcendence, freedom, resurrection, rebirth, peace, and rest. Christians seeking salvation, seeking to end the separation of the Fall and reunite again with God, through realizing at-one-ment in Christ, even realizing Christ in themselves as at-one in the Father, are seeking the same thing as Buddhists in the awakening or enlightenment of their consciousness to their eternal Buddha-nature or true essence or original nature, or as Hindus in the moksha or liberation/freedom of knowing their soul or Atman is One and the same in Brahman, the Ultimate Reality of the universe.

    These are all just a diverse array of different symbols pointing at the same One Great Whole of Reality, and how we may experience This. Every religion and spiritual tradition on Earth has their own set of symbols, and this includes science. We can appreciate the wide diversity and beautiful uniqueness of each point of view, while also recognizing that underneath their apparent differences they are ultimately pointing at the same Ultimate Reality, Nature, the One, the Absolute, the Universe, the Transcendent, the Eternal, the Source, what theists call “God.” Just as we can love all the diverse and different and apparently separate and beautiful individuals, beings, life forms, and infinite array of creation all around us, while realizing that there is a much deeper and more fundamental unity, oneness, nonduality, and infinite indivisible eternal Love that keeps it all together, interconnected, interexchange, united, and as One, forever and always.

    For all those apparent separate things out there are not separate from you at all, but they are You! Coming to this profound realization directly, in our own consciousness, is a very much “attainable” Peace and Rest in our lives.” — Bryce Haymond

     

    While Einstein is considered genius incarnate for his discoveries related to the theory of relativity and quantum mechanics, much of his later work on the unified field theory or the Theory of Everything was never successfully proven. However, Einstein transitioned from physics to metaphysics; realizing the nature of consciousness and enlightenment, matters that cannot be subject to proof as they are an experience.

  • Ten Commandments

    First Commandment

    “I am the Lord your God, who brought you out of Egypt, out of the land of slavery. You shall have no other gods before me.”

    The First Commandment tells us that we were once slaves who were freed through the workings of God. Knowing God is our savior, we are well-commanded not to follow the ways of other gods who presumably cannot provide us the way to freedom.

    Before birth, we are one with everything and at peace. Upon birth, we perceive ourselves as apart and separate from everything that is not us, an overwhelming and often hostile world. Our mind serves us by protecting us from this world; making sense of it and integrating us into it. However, as we become dependent on our mind’s protection, our mind is no longer our servant but our master. Fear of the world is supplanted by fear of experiencing the world without our mind’s framework. It is then that we are prisoners of our mind. God, however, can free us from the prison of our mind.

    Our mind is an mnemonic device. It organizes the world through memories of our intentions, actions and consequences of previous lives and through our socialization. (Our previous lives are not lives before the time of our birth but the days of our life before now, as each day is not a day in a life but a life in a day. That is, our lives end when we go to sleep and begin anew when we awaken.) This is called karma, the categorizations, meanings and stories our mind creates based on our past experiences that frame how we experience the world now. Karma is effectively a karmic prison as it limits and defines our experience, not allowing us to experience the world as it is.

    Unlike the other Commandments, the First Commandment refers to the past, the time when we were slaves. Slavery represents our karma prison. When we unite with God, we can be freed from our karmic prison.

    God is everything before it is what it is whatever it is. God is revealed as infinite and ever-changing manifestations. This realization unites us as one with God. As such, we realize that our mind through the illusionary karmic prison it created is what separated us from God. In union with God, we are free of the fear that kept us in our karmic prison. Upon our liberation, we experience the universe as it is; one thing, the present. The present is what it is whatever it is, beyond words and descriptions. The past is now passed and our mind has no past through which it can imprison us. Now we are free, at peace as we were before we were born.

    Unlike God which is essentially everything and through whom we can be free, one with everything, other gods cannot free us from our karmic prison. Other gods are gods of things like the sun, water, earth, etc. They are illusionary gods as they are the gods of temporary manifestations of God.

    Second Commandment

    “You shall not make for yourself an image in the form of anything in heaven above or on the earth beneath or in the waters below. You shall not bow down to them or worship them;…”

    The Second Commandment prohibits the making of artwork that is also worshiped; that is, idols.

    Idol worship is holding sacred a tangible object and worshipping it as an incarnation of God. This is the antithesis of worshiping God as it negates the sacredness of all else. As everything is a manifestation of God, everything is sacred.

    Idols are not solely objects worshiped as deities. Idols are things we hold sacred like prized possessions and celebrities who are “idolized.” More generally, idols are things we perceive as having an independent existence. For example, getting angry with a car that’s stalled is akin to idol worship as it presumes the car has an independent existence. Thus, idols give rise to an artificial duality, that which is an idol and all else that is not. As such, dualities repudiate God since God is one, everything. Hence, idol worship precludes us from being one with God.

    Moreover, idols are a personal and/or collective designation. Thus, idols are a reflection of ourselves; that is, an idol is an I-doll. Ultimately, the prohibition against idol worship is a prohibition against taking ourselves too seriously.

    Third Commandment

    “You shall not misuse the name of the Lord your God,…”

    When Moses met God in the desert, Moses asked God what is God’s name. God responded: “I am who I am.” God effectively self-describes as one who cannot be described. Any name or description of God would be a misuse as God is everything, not one finite thing that is unlike other things. God is what it is whatever it is.

    Fourth Commandment

    “Remember the Sabbath day by keeping it holy. Six days you shall labor and do all your work, but the seventh day is a sabbath to the Lord your God. On it you shall not do any work, neither you, nor your son or daughter, nor your male or female servant, nor your animals, nor any foreigner residing in your towns. For in six days the Lord made the heavens and the earth, the sea, and all that is in them, but he rested on the seventh day. Therefore, the Lord blessed the Sabbath day and made it holy.”

    After creating the universe in six days, God rested on the seventh day. Undistracted by work, God sat and observed the beauty and wonder of creation as it unfolds in the play of life. God commands us to do likewise. In so doing, we and God are one.

    Work is essentially what we do that we would otherwise not do but for the rewards we receive. Thus, work is a means to an ends. When we are at rest, the means and the ends are one. At rest, we are at peace, present and having no desire to be elsewhere or to do otherwise.

    Disengaging ourselves from our everyday work is akin to meditation. In meditation, we commune with God in the present and realize the universe is what it is whatever it is, not as we’ve created it in our mind. This leads us to realize that we and the universe, the manifestation of God, are one.

    Fifth Commandment

    “Honor your father and your mother, so that you may live long in the land the Lord your God is giving you.”

    Like Commandments Sixth through Ninth, the Fifth Commandment can be generalized as the Golden Rule, treat others as we wish to be treated. The Golden Rule is a common concept in all the major religions.

    However, unlike Commandments Sixth through Ninth, the Fifth Commandment is less of a Commandment and more of a contract God offers us: honor your parents and you will be rewarded with a long life. The reward is generally assured as it’s founded on behavior modification. We honor our parents by respectively including them in our lives and providing for them in their time of need, as they age or can no longer work. Our care allows them to live longer than they would otherwise. Seeing how we treat our parents, our children are “imprinted” to treat us likewise which increases the likelihood we will live longer than otherwise.

    Sixth, Seventh, Eighth and Ninth Commandments

    Sixth Commandment: “You shall not murder.”

    Seventh Commandment: “You shall not commit adultery.”

    Eighth Commandment: “You shall not steal.”

    Ninth Commandment: “You shall not give false testimony against your neighbor.”

    The Sixth – Ninth Commandments are straightforward: we are commanded not to murder, engage sexually with someone who is married, steal or lie. These Commandments can be generally described as the Golden Rule: treat others as we wish to be treated.

    The purpose of the Golden Rule Commandments is to foster peaceful interpersonal and community relationships. Moreover, living by the Golden Rule is a testament to our realization of divine consciousness.

    Divine consciousness is the realization that every thing is not a thing unto itself but one of infinite temporary manifestations of God; ever-changing, interdependent (hence, essentially one thing); with no beginning or end. As we are not solely our personal finite self but part and one with one thing, God, we treat every thing as we wish to be treated as every thing is us.

    The Ninth Commandment, the prohibition of lying, also reveals a certain truth: we cannot be one with God if we are not one with ourselves; that is, if we have no integrity. Lying precludes integrity as when we lie we are two people, one who lies and another who knows the truth.

    Tenth Commandment

    “You shall not covet your neighbor’s house. You shall not covet your neighbor’s wife, or his male or female servant, his ox or donkey, or anything that belongs to your neighbor.”

    The Tenth Commandment is that we not desire what we don’t have.

    Generally, our needs (food, shelter, security and health) can be simply satisfied but our desires not; as the more we feed our desires the hungrier they get. When we’re distracted by our desires, we are not grateful for what we have. However, when we are grateful we are great-full; that is, we are full of the great feeling that God has blessed us. Gratitude is integral to realizing our purpose in life: to have a wonderful and happy life, realize our potential and help others likewise. When we are grateful for all God has provided us, our gratitude is an acknowledgement of God who is appreciative and treats us accordingly.

    Epilogue 

    The First Commandment is that through our union with God we can be free from the prison of our mind.

    The Second Commandment is that we don’t take material things or ourselves too seriously.

    The Third Commandment is that we realize everything, including us, is God; that God is unknowable and beyond description.

    The Fourth Commandment is that we enjoy the beauty and wonder of creation as God.

    The Fifth, Sixth, Seventh, Eighth and Ninth Commandments are that we treat others as we treat ourselves because we and others are one.

    The Tenth Commandment is that we are grateful to God for the wonderful life we’ve been given.

    The Ten Commandments were given by God to the “chosen people.” The “chosen” are those who journey through life on the way of the light. They are lighthearted, have interesting insights into the nature of mind and ultimately are one with the light: enlightened.

  • Reconstructing Our Stories

    We create stories from our selective memories. Some of our stories are sad, painful, traumatic or otherwise disturbing. However, we have much latitude in the stories we create. Even the most tragic stories we can reconstruct to be funny. If not funny from our perspective, then from the perspective of others. We can deploy the perspective of others once we detach ourselves from the person we identify as ourselves in the past. While doing so may be difficult, illesim can help the process.

    Illesim is referring to ourselves in the third person. By doing so, we recognize that who we are now is not the same person we once were.

    For example, I recall that “when I was a child my father would often scream and at times hit me for irritating him. In fact, one time he said he wished I was never born.” That’s a brutal recollection. Alternatively, I can recall the same story as “when Victor was a child his father would often scream and at times hit him because Victor irritated him. In fact, one time his father said he wished Victor was never born.” Recounting this story in the third person detaches me from it; makes me feel like I’m in the audience watching it as a play. From that perspective, it’s funny. Funny because Victor seemed to enjoy irritating his father even at the cost of his father going berserk and being abusive. Clearly the scene was not a problem for Victor. That Victor’s father wished Victor had never been born was his father’s problem.

    In the audience sit the Gods.

  • 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. While I am who I am, professionally as an actor in the play of life I’m an eccentric mystic or at least I hope so as otherwise I must be mad. In any event, it’s much fun.

  • Animal and Divine Consciousness

    Humans are a transitional species. We are born and socialized with animal consciousness and with the potential of realizing divine consciousness.

    Animal consciousness is viewing ourselves as finite in time (birth to death) and space (bodily form). It is essentially dualistic as we perceive ourselves as apart and separate from all that is not ourselves. Implicitly, it is Darwinian, stressful, as each of us competes within our environment for our survival.

    Divine consciousness is the realization that everything is one of infinite temporary manifestations of the universe; ever-changing, interdependent (hence, essentially one thing) and with no beginning or end. Divine consciousness is the realization of our harmonious connection to all there is.

    Animal consciousness perceives life as imperfect with relative flaws in one thing or another. Divine consciousness realizes the universe is perfect and as we are one with the universe we realize our perfection and having nothing about which to complain. This is an essential element of happiness.

    The Golden Rule applies to both animal and divine consciousness. In animal consciousness, those with the gold rule. In divine consciousness, we do unto others as we would have others do unto us.

    In animal consciousness we experience our world with descriptions and stories, making “every thing” seem different from every other thing. The experience of divine consciousness is beyond words; it is what it is whatever it is.

    With animal consciousness we view ourselves as the center of the universe. With divine consciousness light is the center which in effect means the center is everywhere. Divine consciousness is enlightenment.

    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 the self. The letter’s form implies hierarchy. With each of us a point on a vertical line, we perceive others as above or below us (the Great Chain of Being). It implies duality and competition. “O” is continuous, each of us a point connected together to form a circle. This is love, the connecting of independent points creating a whole; a circle with no beginning and no end. Though the circle may appear as a duality with spaces within and without, the duality is an illusion as the spaces are not in conflict; they are mutually dependent, one cannot exist without the other. That is, love is the realization that what seems like a duality is just an illusion.

    Beyond happiness, realizing our individual divine consciousness is the penultimate, second to last,  purpose of life. Life’s ultimate purpose is the collective realization of divine consciousness.

  • External Duality

    External duality is the inherent state of sentient beings. At birth, we are separated from having been one with everything in the womb and before 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 stressful/painful context of duality, I am me and everything else is not me. Duality is the foundation of adversarial relationships between the me and not me which in turn reinforce duality. Duality is stressful and the path that takes us away from our purpose in life: to have a wonderful experience, to realize our potential, 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. Once the illusion of duality disappears, we begin the realization of our purpose in life.

  • Enlightenment

    Enlightenment is simply being one with light. Light, the visual form of energy, is the essence of everything. Enlightenment is being one with everything. To the enlightened, this realization is  manifested in the many faces of enlightenment.

    As E=M*C*C (energy equals mass times the speed of light squared) is M=E/C*C (mass (all that there is) is energy divided (slowed down) dramatically by the speed of light squared), all things are essentially infinite manifestations of light.

    As energy is all there is, all things (however seemingly real and independent of energy) are just an illusion disguising energy. As energy is all there is, the Big Bang is all there is. The Big Bang happens at one time. Hence, there is no such thing as time. The appearance of things sequentially is an illusion that creates the illusion of time as well.

  • Faces of Enlightenment

    Enlightenment is being one with the light. Light/energy is the essence of everything (E=M*C*C). When we realize we are one with the light, we are one with everything. As one with everything, there is no duality, no friction; just peace beyond our understanding.

    The word “enlightenment” is the Western translation of the Buddhist term “bodhi.”  The verbal root budh- means “to awaken,” and its literal meaning is closer to awakening. Presumably, prior to awakening, we are asleep. Asleep, we see the world through our mind, not our eyes. Our mind shows us a world based on the memories and stories our mind creates. Our eyes reveal the universe as it is.

    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 and its manifestations, the universe; infinite in space and time; 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. What’s funny is others taking their illusionary selves seriously.

    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. The enlightened are enlightening. Those who are highly enlightened have the greatest insights.

    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.

    Divine. As one with the light, the enlightened are one with God. They realize the true nature of the universe: the universe is one, a manifestation of God; it is what it is whatever it is; no beginning, no end; eternal. This is the ultimate purpose of enlightenment, to not suffer in life or death as everything is one forever.

  • 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.

  • The Way Of Water

    “A man of wisdom delights at water.” Confucius

    While attributed to Confucius, this saying is more Tao-inspired as wisdom reveals the nature of the universe. Alternatively, like a Zen koan, it seems funny, as in odd, that a man of wisdom would be more delighted by water than other men; unless the wise man sees in the nature of water the nature of the universe.

    Wisdom is amalgamating many different perspectives which allows us to know the nature of things. Moreover, wisdom is knowing that all things are ever-changing and interconnected; not a piece of the whole universe but at peace with the eternal whole; in effect, a temporary expression of the whole. As such, nothing can be described as whatever we describe changes from the time we start describing it to the time our describing it ends. Hence, the Taoist saying: “He who speaks does not know, he who knows does not speak.”

    A man of wisdom delights in water as water reveals the nature of the universe:

    Water is practical, flowing to the place of least resistance.

    Descriptions of water are conflicting as water is at times solid, liquid or vapor.

    Water is odorless and tasteless, yet present in everything that smells and tastes.

    Water is clear and colorless, yet bluish in thick layers.

    Water in the form of a river or pond makes difficult going from one place to another, yet with a boat water is the easiest way to travel between two places.

    Still waters are dead-silent, yet moving waters in rivers and oceans are alive and teeming with sounds.

    Still waters are clear, yet turbulent waters are opaque.

    In the water of a reflecting pond we don’t see water, we see ourselves and all that surrounds us.

    While tangible, we cannot grab water to drink; we need cup our hands for water to come to us.

    While seemingly weak relative to fire, water easily destroys fire.

    Water is necessary for life, yet too much water can cause death.

    Water represents the cycle of life. Water is born as rain; then, experiences Earth in infinite ways; and ultimately disappears as vapor, forming clouds to be reborn again as rain.

    Water is delightful as how we see it is a reflection of our perspective, like the the parable of the ten men and the elephant.

  • Kotodama 27

    No know now

    Now know no

    Know now no

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

    Now know no. I now know nothing. As I don’t know the present and the present is all there is, what I know is nothing.

    Know now no. I know the now, the pre-sent, is nothing. As the now is nothing before and after it is what it is whatever it is, the now is a temporary manifestation of nothing.

     

    The way to enlightenment has three steps. First is the realization that we don’t know the ever-changing eternal now which by its nature is unknowable. Second is the realization that as the now is all there is, we know nothing. This realization vanquishes our mind which has heretofore convinced us that we know many things. Third is the realization that the now is essentially nothing expressing itself temporarily as something and as such our perceiving it as real is just an illusion.

    In meditation, we focus the mind on the three phases of breathing; the inhale, the exhale and the pause until the next inhale. We recite “no know now” on each inhale and are silent during the exhale and the pause. After many rounds, we recite “now know no” on each exhale and are silent during the inhale and the pause. Then again after many rounds, we recite “know now no” during the pause between inhale and exhale and are otherwise silent. This cycle is repeated and repeated and repeated until we and the sound of the mantra become one.

    It is then that we know we are nothing and rejoice in being something, whatever it is. Gratitude is a key to happiness.

     

    No know now

    Now know no

    Know now no

    Yes Yes Yes

  • Exit-Essentialism

    Exit-essentialism is a philosophy or attitude to life and death that focuses on exit strategies.

    The universe has two constants. It is forever-changing and forever. Exit-essentialism in life is a micro/personal approach to the forever-changing. Exit-essentialism in death is a macro/philosophical view of our individual transition from bodily form to forever.

    The difference between exit-essentialism in life and death is like the difference between micro and macro economics. Our lives are micro. Our death is macro. As in microeconomics, micro exit-essentialism in life is an approach to individual choices and changes that come our way. As in macroeconomics, macro exit-essentialism is a big picture approach, a top-down philosophy, that is the guiding light on our way through life. While seemingly different, the micro and macro are interdependent and complimentary.

    In life, as Heraclitus informed us 2500 years ago, everything is forever-changing. Most changes we find imperceptible but some changes are significant; beneficial or detrimental. Awareness of the ever-changing nature of life allows us to experience the newness of everything. It is energizing.

    As we make our way in life, micro exit-essentialism is the awareness that our choices and unexpected detrimental changes that put us in harm’s way. Exit-essentialism is imagining detrimental changes to our situations and ways to most safely exit these situations. As detrimental changes generally happen slowly and then seemingly suddenly, by imagining detrimental changes we can see them before they fully realize and make choices that keep us from the full brunt of harm’s way. As such, best to avoid situations where we cannot envision detrimental changes and exits to limit our losses.

    Macro exit-essentialism is knowing our exit out of this bodily life. The exit is to the place from where we, our soul, came before we were born. A place about which no one has ever complained. The place where everything that is and will ever be is, the true-present. It is God, divine consciousness. It cannot be described other than by saying it is what it is whatever it is. When we go there, we are one with everything. Moreover, in knowing where we go when we no longer in bodily form, we know we are a temporary expression of everything as is everything else. We are always (before, during and after life) in this place but are distracted when we assume a seemingly independent bodily form and have animal consciousness.

    Having the knowledge of macro exit-essentialism provides us a certain perspective on life. We are less distracted by everyday situations and experiences, taking them less seriously. We accept changes as they are a constant in the universe. We experience the newness of everything. We are energized. We find it hilarious that other people don’t know exit-essentialism and make fools of themselves when they take themselves too seriously. Our experience in life is less stressful and more wonderful. Macro exit-essentialism makes for a terrific life.

    When we know and embrace micro and macro exit-essentialism, our lives are wonderful and we are comfortable taking risks that reward us in life.

  • 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.

  • The Trees of Knowledge of Good and Evil and Life

    In the Bible, God creates man in his own image and hosts him in the Garden of Eden with plants and fruit trees for his sustenance. Among the fruit trees are the Tree of Knowledge of Good and Evil and the Tree of Life. However, God forbids man to eat the fruit of these trees.

    Man nonetheless eats the fruit from the Tree of Knowledge of Good and Evil. Upon realizing man has eaten the forbidden fruit, God declares that man is now “like one of us [gods], knowing Good and Evil.” God then banishes man from the Garden for fear man will eat the fruit of the Tree of Life which would grant man eternal life; thus, truly becoming one of the gods.

    The Tree of Knowledge of Good and Evil represents wisdom, the ability to see not solely from our individual perspective but through infinite perspectives as do the gods. We, the decedents of God’s  creation, man, are born with the potential of unlimited wisdom.

    As man was banished from the Garden of Eden before having eaten the fruit from the Tree of Life, man is not born to eternal life. However, there is a way to the Garden of Eden where man can find the Tree of Life, eat its fruit and live forever. It is the righteous way, the way of God: compassion. Compassion is treating others as we treat ourselves. We can only truly have compassion when we realize that we and all others are one. This realization allows us into the Garden of Eden which is everywhere. Here we can now enjoy the fruit of the Tree of Life and be one with the universe which is eternal. Now, created in the image of God and with wisdom and compassion, we are forever; one of the gods and one with God.

    This is the purpose of life.

  • 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 the soul feeling the soul in everything. It is experiencing the eternal, God.

    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.

  • 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, don’t give rise to internal conflicts. We are free to make clear choices without ambivalence.

    However, 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.

    Ultimately, when the various people inside our mind compete and integrity prevails; it can be said that integrity, one, won.

  • 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 key to health is reminding young. Most diseases are a function of old age. Smoking, drinking and cardiovascular problems are not much of a disease when we are young.

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

    Food.

    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.

    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.

    Laughter.

    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

    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.

  • 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 which helps alleviate their pain. Compassion is helping others as we would want others to help us make the best of our circumstances and move forward to ultimately realize our 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 time consumption. However, unlike pity and sympathy, empathy provides real relief to those suffering. Compassion is relatively easy but requires the willingness of the sufferer to move forward.

    Acute suffering is an immediate reaction to unfortunate circumstances that may come our way. Chronic suffering is selfish in that the chronic sufferer is oblivious to all for which they have to be grateful and their otherwise good fortune relative to others who are far less fortunate they are.

    Empathy is what selfish sufferers want. Empaths are ultimately selfish as well. Compassion is an expression of happiness and the wisdom and love of God.

  • 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.

    Creativity.

    Curiosity.

    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.

  • Be Careful For 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

    Rock-paper-scissors is a game dating to antiquity. It is also a metaphor for the dynamic interrelationship between nature, civilization and technology.

    In the game, each of two players declares themselves as either rock, paper or scissors by a show of a fist (rock), an open hand (paper) or the index and middle fingers apart (scissors). Paper wins vs rock (as paper can envelop rock); scissors wins vs paper (as scissors can cut paper); and rock wins vs scissors (as rock can destroy scissors).

    Rocks are nature in rudimentary form. Paper, as it’s organic and manmade, represents civilization. Scissors are a simple form of technology.

    A fist is a symbol of oneness, the fundamental nature of the universe. An open hand, like a handshake, represents openness and cooperation; essential in development of civilization. Fingers apart are fork-like, a useful tool that is also potentially a weapon.

    Civilization, as in the advent of farming, dominates nature. Technology is often a force used in the destruction of civilization. Nature, as an asteroid or sun storm flare hitting Earth (see Carrington Event of 1859), can destroy technology (electric grid, GPS systems, etc.).

    In an informal survey, I’ve found that those who pick rock, paper or scissors identify themselves as a knife, spoon and fork (see knife-fork-spoon) respectively.

  • 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 1

    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 too 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 effect on the younger monk who for the rest of the journey was surly 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 stay 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, so he confronted the younger monk: “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 no longer wish to 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. 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 seashell. 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 it. As to the elephant, it is what it is whatever it is; but whatever it is, it is big.

    The moral of this parable is that the universe (the elephant) is beyond our limited perception. When we are certain of the infallibility of our perceptions, we are blind and don’t know it. Taking our perceptions too seriously, we can make fools out of ourselves and at times hurt others or ourselves. Even holding ten funny, as in odd, views may not allow us to know what we are looking at; but it’s funny, as in laughable, when we think we do.

     

     

  • 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 Enlightened Cells

    We are all individual cells in one human body; nerve cells, heart cells, fat cells, skin cells, blood cells, etc. Each type of cell lives in a cluster of identical cells that function, behave and think alike.

    The most unusual cells are the blood cells. Red blood cells don’t have a nucleus, can’t reproduce and have the flexibility to easily change their shape. Without a nucleus or mind, they are essentially selfless and embody compassion; their sole purpose is to serve other cells. They travel through the body, visiting all types of cells, bringing cells oxygen for sustenance and removing carbon dioxide which would otherwise kill them.

    Through their travels, red blood cells recognize that there are many different types of cells, each having a different perspective of the body. While the nerve cells might be the smartest, the white blood cells the most combative, the stomach cells the toughest, the bone cells the hardest, etc.; the red blood cells, having the perspectives of other cells, are the wisest.

    With wisdom and compassion, red blood cells are the enlightened cells. Maybe that’s what makes them the most colorful.

  • 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 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?” Then silence again returned to the room as some students were shocked and others embarrassed by the aggressive arrogance of the student who shattered the clay pot. But just as quickly the Zen master and the student broke the silence with laughter.

    This story is essentially a Zen koan: “What is it now?”

    The Zen master and student laughed because they recognized the other students as the blind men in the “Ten Men and the Elephant” parable. The pot is a pot temporarily. The pot did not have an independent existence as it was just a temporary expression of the universe. The pot could variously be described but it is what it is whatever it is.

     

    *A story as heard by Bill Wisher 30 years ago from an unnamed source.

  • The Pope and the Zen Master

    The Pope asked the Zen master: “Since you are one with everything, how many angels can dance on the head of a pin?” The Zen master laughed: “What’s a pin?”

    “How many angels can dance on the head of a pin” is an expression from medieval times referring to the philosophical clergy debating pointless topics. Zen doesn’t suffer abstrations (angels) gladly but for a good laugh. Zen questions the very basic assumptions we make about the identity of things everyone agrees is reality (a pin) as everything is forever-changing and interdependent.

  • 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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