I never saw this coming, but I should have. I’ve been feeling overwhelmed lately without an external justification. Nothing is going on right now, but that’s the point.
I have been going to a “church” for about a decade. It is a Greek Orthodox congregation, but I consider it to be the Greek Country Club of Lansing, Michigan. I, along with many others, have been greatly hurt by the priest there and the status quo politics. As long as one ignores the fiscal shenanigans and has no expectation of fiduciary ethics, one is golden.
However, I have had “bigger fish to fry” for many years. I started school, Barry retired, Barry got cancer, Barry got over cancer, I worked during many parts of these years, I graduated, and I got Barry onto Disability. I needed church to be an area of my life that had as little drama as possible. I needed stability.
Now I have stability and time. I’m not working. I’m simply taking care of Barry. Now stuff is bubbling up to the surface. I believe I’m starting to have weird physical problems due to my continuation of church. I’ve noticed that, when I resolve some issue, a corresponding physical problem is magically resolved with it. I feel like I’m just looking for or waiting for an excuse to leave. I am not looking forward to “that call” when Fr. Mark gets nasty…again.
The more I simplify my life and eliminate distractions, the harder it is for me to ignore various issues. The issues feel random, but they are really all those things that have occurred during the past decade where I said, “I’m too overwhelmed to deal with this right now. I’ll have to deal with this later.” They got repressed. It is almost as if when I remove an object or clean something, whatever the object or dirt was covering up or symbolizing erupts.
Later has arrived. It always does. Developing my intuition is greatly threatening to the emotional status quo. Learning and growth are always threatening to the status quo. And I’m getting tired of pretending that I feel and think the same as I did a decade ago. How long will I continue to be willing to play this game?
I didn’t realize it until the past few days, but I now see that my becoming more Buddhist in my perspective is an attempt to access my right brain. I always knew that I was left-brain obsessive and that that was not helpful in any way, but I’m only putting the pieces together now.
I knew that I wanted to spend my time in school “digging deep” into myself. What exactly I expected to find, I have no idea. Business school has convinced me that the average worker is overwhelmed. School has taught me how to think in a business-like manner and speak management-ese, but so what?
What the business world needs is for employees to not be so overwhelmed and for management to function in a way that benefits everyone, not just stockholders or upper-level executives. This boils down to a couple key issues: simplification and ethics.
Everyone is inundated continually with information and demands for attention, so many that even responding to the majority of them is unrealistic. This is where intuition comes in. What should be responded to and what shouldn’t? Hierarchy demands that you respond to the big boss man first. Common sense demands that the customer’s demand take precedent because having no customers even puts the big boss man out of a job.
I am more convinced every day that everything is energy. The business implications are staggering. If a desk is messy, odds are good that its occupant is having trouble finding everything in a timely fashion, and the time spent looking for things is at company expense. With every object being imprinted with the energy of the user, even simple tasks can be overwhelming because one is surrounded with irrelevant and distracting energy. Simplification is for work ease and sanity. The 5S Japanese system of housekeeping is good business sense.
Of course, part of the reason lower-level employees are overwhelmed is because upper-level management does not have a sense of direction. The simplification and intuition development necessarily start at the top. When confronted with economic realities, HR issues, and competition, management is just as capable of being overwhelmed as anyone.
“Look at your own mind. The one who carries things thinks he’s got things, but the one who looks on only sees the heaviness. Throw away things, lose them, and find lightness….Remember you don’t meditate to “get” anything, but to get “rid” of things. We do it not with desire but with letting go. If you “want” anything, you won’t find it.” Ajahn Chah
I’ve been wondering if the reason I’ve been so annoyed with things, physical objects, in my space is because I am becoming more sensitive on some intuitive level. Perhaps I am only now noticing things that have always subliminally bothered me, but now I notice so much more.
For years, it seemed like my life was one drama or another. Something was always going on. I gradually developed distaste for unnecessary drama. I became convinced that life throws enough drama in a person’s life without seeking it out. To avoid drama, I started simplifying my life.
It worked. I had much less drama. I did not realize how addicted I was to distraction and stimulation of all kinds. Worse, now that I’m not in school for the first time in almost a decade, I am not getting the intellectual stimulation I’ve grown accustomed to. My left brain is getting bored stupid.
I’m not used to living in my right brain. “Living in my head” has always meant verbal and verbose obsession. I am determined to be more balanced in my approach to life. I believe we are leaving the Information Age and entering the Intuitive Age. We are constantly bombarded with information. How can we know what is meaningful or important? That’s where intuition comes in. That will be the subject of my next post.
I have recently purchased two books: Leading from the Emerging Future by Otto Scharmer and Katrin Kaufer and Leap of Perception by Penney Peirce. They go beautifully together although I cannot imagine two authors with less in common. Peirce is an intuitive expert, emphasizing the internal integration of the individual within their various spheres and arenas. Scharmer is a German MIT nerd/European intellectual. His emphasis is on systems and making them work for the benefit of all. Both authors are system-oriented and both show the way forward to the individual’s and various systems’ next necessary phase. Both reference Jon Kabat-Zinn.
I want to be part of humanity’s next phase. Perhaps I will be, by default. However, I want to do it consciously and deliberately. With my MBA in Strategic Management, I believe I could help at least one organization to move forward. Humanity needs what I can offer.
But I feel like I’ve been underwater for the past few years. When I started school again, I wanted to spend my time digging deeply into myself and transforming myself into someone more confident. Barry got cancer. I continued school. School ended this past December. The cancer is gone, as far as we know. The Huntington’s is still progressing. And I am still submerged. It’s been difficult to not work, after spending so much time and money developing various skills, but I’m doing it for Barry. Part of me wants to shout, “Can I come up for air now?”
And so I try to integrate my knowledge into all parts of my life, live in the present, and become the embodiment of my values. To me, transformation is about being different, not just cosmetic changes. I’m tearing down and rebuilding myself altogether, not just painting the front door. I want to be part of the solution, not the problem.
The Key to Liberation by Venerable Ajahn Chah
“Thus the Buddha taught to abide as ‘that which knows’  and simply bear witness to that which arises. Once you have trained your awareness to abide as ‘that which knows’, and have investigated the mind and developed insight into the truth about the mind and mental factors, you’ll see the mind as anatta (not-self).”
This dovetails perfectly with what I’ve been reading in Leap of Perception by Penney Peirce. She talks about learning to not live so much in your left brain. She talks about knowing on different levels and by different parts of our brains. The left brain is logical, rational, and linear. There is nothing wrong with using your left brain, but overdependence on it will skew your judgment and stop your intuition dead in its tracks.
To notice what is going on in your body and environment is to switch to your right brain. I believe our left brain is part of our self, but not the only part or even the most important part. Over-identifying with it is part of what is destroying society: non-holistic, opinion-as-truth, unfeeling, and disbelief in the unmeasurable are characteristics of this single-faceted mind-set.
As I mentioned in my last post, my computer died and I was off the internet for a few days. While at Staples, they asked me if I wanted any data saved on my hard drive. I said no. When I got my computer back, the wallpaper looked strange with the only icon being the recycle bin. I feel like I got a new lease on the internet.
A year ago, while still taking classes, I had no choice. They would have had to save it all, regardless of expense. Ahhhhh…… The advantage of being out of school.
This feels so good I want to expand it to other areas of my life.
It’s easy to talk about being Zen, but accepting the moment takes on new dimensions when addictive distractions are removed. I went through some adrenaline withdrawal in just the couple days. The only real option is acceptance. Throwing a fit is pointless. Drama is not helpful.
Sorry I haven’t posted for a couple days. My computer would not start. I took it to Staples and they fixed the problem. They were excellent.
It’s easy to talk about “going with the flow” but harder to do when missing a key resource. I just made the best decisions I could about my actions and emotions. I want to create good results (karma).
I have a lot of catching up to do.
Never Lose Yourself ~ Thich Nhat Hanh
“Live your daily life in a way that you never lose yourself. When you are carried away with your worries, fears, cravings, anger, and desire, you run away from yourself and you lose yourself. The practice is always to go back to oneself.”
This quote echoes a theme that seems to reverberating throughout my life right now: coming home to myself. Being rooted or grounded has nothing to do with geography. It has to do with that mysterious quality of “presence.” The opposite of presence is abandoning oneself, living in one’s head, disembodiment, living in the past or future, you get the idea. The beginning of sanity is always coming back to the here and now. Stability is about emotional steadiness, not how long you’ve lived in a given location. Plenty of mentally unstable people never live outside of their hometown.
I’ve always lived in Michigan. That is the past and the present. However, my values have shifted dramatically and I now prize portability. I want to be where I can do the most good. I will likely start out in Virginia, but am open to moving around for a few years.
I’ve heard of meditation as a coming home to oneself. I’ve also found an article that refers to the hara (a spot about two inches below the navel also known as the tan tien) as a person’s home. It reminds me of a saying: wherever you go, there you are. There is no real running away from oneself, no matter how hard one tries.
I’ve always been fabulous at running away from myself (living in my head). It is really sad how I have spent so many days obsessing about something, just to avoid boredom or homework. Obsession is ugly, but there have been times when I’ve relied on obsession’s energy to get things accomplished.
The problem is that if you spend enough time running away from yourself, you may never find yourself again or, at the very least, you no longer recognize yourself. On the one hand, you can never truly run away from yourself because you follow yourself everywhere. On the other hand, you can distance yourself from your real reactions to the point where you feel fake and have no idea what you truly think or feel anymore. I’ve been at that point where I wondered if there even was a “real” me because I felt like I responded so differently to various people. I now see myself as a shifting entity, always changing. The reason it’s important to stay with the moment is to keep track of the moving parts of myself. If I don’t pay attention, I can change fairly drastically without even being aware of it, and I only notice when my reaction is so obviously different than what it would’ve been in the past.
The idea isn’t to never change; it is to be up-to-date on who you are and want to be right now.
Tending the Flame, Dharma Discourse by Geoffrey Shugen Arnold Sensei, Book of Serenity, Case 53, Huangbo’s “Dreg Slurpers”, Featured in Mountain Record 29.1, Fall 2010
“When we see into our own nature, we realize there are no teachers; we encounter the teacherless teacher. We encounter wisdom. But it takes effort. It takes deep, deep trust. We might think of that as a kind of passive thing. In the inventory of needed supplies for a Zen practitioner, we put perseverance on top; we know that’s required. Doubt—that’s good for fuel. Put that up there on the top as well. Faith? Oh very well, I suppose I should bring that along, just in case I need it. We don’t understand that the only reason we’re here is because of deep, abiding faith, trust. But what is the faith in? What are we trusting?”
Sometimes, I wish I was more trusting. I stink at trusting. I’ve learned the hard way that other people are more than willing to take responsibility for me and my life, at the expense of my right to think for myself. I have put my trust into all the wrong people: authority figures demanding my trust and respect instead of earning them. There is a part of me that desperately wants to be a “good girl.” Wisdom knows whom to trust and not trust. Patience is being willing to wait to see the fruit of people’s lives and character.
It’s interesting to me how everyone seems to have an idea of what they “should” be doing. This might be the “teacherless teacher.” I know the ideas come from their conditioning, but some are just common sense, like doing the dishes. You don’t need a guru or roshi to tell you, “The dishes really need to be done, and, by the way, pay your electric bill on time.” If we all simply did what we already knew we needed to do, the world might be transformed.
Nibbana is Cool
Nibbana for Everyone
A Truth Message from Suan Mokkh
By Buddhadasa Bhikkhu
(adapted and translated by Santikaro Bhikkhu)
“The word “nibbana” means “cool.” Back when it was just an ordinary word which people used in their homes it also meant “cool.” When it is used as Dhamma language, in a religious context, it still means “cool,” but refers to cool from the fires of defilement (kilesa), while in the common people’s usage it means cool from physical fires.”
Nibbana is nirvana. In Buddhism, you get the same words slightly differently in Pali and Sanskrit.
That said, I am excited to know that nirvana is about coolness. That just strikes me as perfect. We all need to “cool off” sometimes. It is currently July as I write this. Cooling off is immediately urgent. People are dying because they can’t.
We all know what it’s like to have our minds stuck in an endless, obsessive, defiling loop. At such times, nothing appeals as much as getting off the emotional roller coaster and cooling off.
As the earth continues to warm, we may see more and more Buddhism and other tropical-origin religions. We will be able to relate to that better, as opposed to, say, Northwestern European Reformed Christianity. The attractiveness of the warmth of a hearth will gradually be replaced by metaphors such as, maybe, a cool glass of iced tea with friends. “Keeping the home fires burning” may be replaced by the idea of swimming together in a cool autumn lake. Even now, the expression sounds more like a marital hell than bliss. The warmth of the sun may lose its appeal to the cool reflection of the moon on a pond.
These subtle shifts of language are huge in implications in terms of evangelizing. Rule #1 in communication is “Know your audience.” These shifts are imperceptible at first. Give it a generation and ask yourself the last time you remember hearing about “keeping the home fires burning.” Even now, when was the last time you heard someone referred to as a “good family man”? Whoever defines the terms of the debate has already won.