The Seeker of Peace

Yearning for Kyoto
May 1, 2009, 8:38 am
Filed under: Non-duality, spirituality, Suffering, World | Tags: , , , ,

Even in Kyoto,
I yearn for Kyoto
– Matsuo Bashō (1644-1694)

I found this poem in the prelude of Mary Pipher’s recent book, “Seeking Peace: Chronicles of the Worst Buddhist in the World.” See uses it to illustrate the point that, “Embedded in the concept ‘seeker’ is the less flattering word ‘dissatisfied.'” Matsuo-san’s poem resonated with me deeply, and in a very literal sense. You see, even when I was in Kyoto, I did in fact yearn for Kyoto.

The year was 1997, and the trip to Kyoto was an arduous one. It involved a flight from the USA to Tokyo, a connecting flight to Osaka, and then a 45-minute cab ride to Kyoto. That last segment I shared with several coworkers, making the airplane parts of the ride seem roomy by comparison.

This was a period when my Crohn’s Disease was flaring up badly, and as a result, my immune system was not working well. Thus, it as no surprise that, by the time I arrived in Kyoto, I had picked up a nasty cold. This proved to be even more of a problem than I could have expected. I was chairing committee meetings throughout the trip. There was a large population of Europeans and Asians at this meeting, and they politely expected to be recognized by the chair before saying anything. This was true even if two of them were carrying on a debate among themselves. At least I had a microphone, allowing me to quietly croak, “Go ahead,” rather than having to raise my voice to be heard.

During that week, I yearned for the other Kyoto. I wanted to see the Imperial palace. I wanted to eat some Japanese food, rather than the greasy and awful Italian, Chinese, and American fare I received. I wanted to see the town, not be stuck in a windowless conference room.

Yet, mulling over Matsuo-san’s words, I can now see another side to the trip. I [u]was[/u] in Kyoto. I got to marvel at the sophisticated features of the Panasonic toilet seat in my hotel room. I could appreciate the beautiful courtyard garden of the hotel. I laughed at the fact that Japanese hotel rooms, unlike their American counterparts, include a complementary adult diaper should you need one.

Thinking back on it makes for a very valuable cautionary tale. How much more would I have enjoyed the trip had I allowed myself to be in Kyoto instead of yearning in Kyoto? And how often, even now, am I still not present, still yearning for something else?

Keeping Up with the Joneses
April 14, 2009, 1:12 pm
Filed under: Non-duality, spirituality | Tags: , , , ,

I recently did A Course in Miracles Lesson 149, which includes a review of the thought, “When I am healed I am not healed alone.” When I first covered this thought back in Lesson 137, it didn’t affect me much. This time, however, I found it much more profound.

I have always had a tendency to compare myself to others. In many ways, relative status was more important than absolute achievement. As you can imagine, this caused a lot of unhappiness: there are always people with more money, faster promotions, more authority, etc.

I realized this weekend that I’ve carried the same competitiveness into spiritual work. That may sound silly, but I now realize it as something very insidious. At a subconscious level, I would actually dismiss or denigrate the spiritual progress of others. That person is still too wrapped up in the world. This other person claims to be happy, but has some huge series of misfortunes. No one can prove that the Law of Attraction works. Etc., etc., etc.

Why should I expect to have abundance in my life if I wish something different for other people? Why should I expect to be healed if I’m doing it to be more advanced than others? It’s a concept that seems obvious when stated, but was strangely hard for me to realize.

I’ve been doing some work with the Sedona Method on allowing myself to enjoy the abundance of others. I can tell that I have some resistance to this idea, but it’s settling better with me after doing some releasing. Ultimately, others’ abundance is part of my experience, and thus mine too.

So, on that note, I sincerely wish for your success and happiness!

Return to Spirituality
March 26, 2009, 12:21 pm
Filed under: Non-duality, spirituality, World | Tags: , , , , ,

In my last blog post, I mentioned that a week away form spiritual pursuits had given me a new vigor. That vigor was short-lived, as evidenced by the fact that it’s been three weeks since then without a post. I again strayed from doing the A Course in Miracles exercises, and mostly stopped doing the Sedona Method.

I’ve spent those weeks in a pattern of distraction and business. How far I had sunk hit home this week. I was reading an issue of Forbes, which had a list of the world’s billionaires. Apparently, the number of billionaires is down dramatically from last year, with most remaining billionaires still having lost huge amounts of money. I found myself feeling a perverse satisfaction that they were now closer to my net worth. How ego-driven can one get?

When I wrote my last post, I thought that the break from spiritual pursuits had helped. Now, I think that was just my ego indulging in self-justification. When I start enjoying the downfall of others, it’s a big warning sign that something is wrong.

This morning I resumed my ACIM exercises. I picked up where I last left off: Lesson #137, “When I am healed I am not healed alone.” Juxtaposed against the Forbes article, I saw a very clear choice: a path of spiritual pursuits and loving others, or a path of materialism and feeling satisfaction and envy.

I am very glad that I had previously made it far enough in my efforts that I was able to recognize the depth of my backsliding. Now, I pray I’ll have the discipline to overcome my ego and continue down the right path.

Valuation Analysis
February 15, 2009, 11:10 am
Filed under: Forgiveness, Non-duality | Tags: , , , ,

In my training as a financial analyst, a key component is valuation analysis. This is the discipline of figuring what a stock, bond, company, or other asset is worth. As you might imagine, there are many nuances, and different analysts will often come up with wildly divergent answers. The same thing seems true in other areas of garbage, as exemplified by the old saying, “One man’s garbage is another man’s treasure.”

This occurred to me when I was doing A Course In Miracles lesson #133, “I will not value what is valueless.” If people disagree over the value of something, its value can’t be eternal. That’s a good reminder not to become too caught up in the material world.

As the day progressed, I realized that I was valuing some of my memories as much as anything material. I’m not talking about cherished memories here: the awful boss I had in 1996, the high school P.E. class I took, and similar slights. I hadn’t realized before how much such memories pop unbidden into my mind, so I can relive the experience and feel superior, victimized, or angry.

What is the value of a bedwetting memory from when I was five? From the way I clutch at them, you would think it provided some bedrock to my character. It certainly provides grist for the ego, which is arguably a liability rather than an asset. Are these memories compatible with inner peace? If not, they are truly valueless.

This lesson was a big wake-up call. After a year and a half of doing the Sedona Method, I thought I had let go of much of my garbage. Now, I see how much I’m still holding on to garbage. I’m pretty sure that, in this case, my garbage is not another man’s treasure.

Taking Responsibility
February 6, 2009, 2:17 pm
Filed under: Non-duality, Suffering, World | Tags: , , , , , ,

Lester Levenson said that we were always “demonstrating” (his word for manifesting), and needed to take responsibility for what we were demonstrating.

One of the big shadows in my life has been Crohn’s Disease. It’s not only debilitating, but very painful (to the extent that drugs like Vicodin hardly touch it). I wrote after last Thanksgiving about how I almost deliberately ate poorly to make myself sick. The following week, I realized that, at some level, I wanted to be sick!

That realization brought home how much I used illness as an excuse to dodge responsibility. I faced things head-on, most notably by making the decision to wind down my business. (Being sick was a great excuse not to work.) I tried to remove any motivation for remaining sick. At the same time, I used Sedona Method releasing exercises to release on the goal of being healthy.

This week, I had a wonderful positive development with my health. I stumbled across a reference to a drug that was very safe, and had very few side effects. (Most treatments for Crohn’s have the potential to be as bad as the illness itself.) This drug isn’t even intended for Crohn’s; it’s actually to help people stop smoking. Since there are some reports of it helping others with Crohn’s, my doctor was willing to try it.

It’s only been a few days, but it’s been days with barely any pain or discomfort. This has made it much easier to meditate, do exercised from A Course In Miracles, and otherwise do spiritual exercises. For that matter, it’s made everything easier; it’s much easier to cook dinner when not doubled over from pain!

My guess is that if I were less stuck in a science-based mindset, I could have had this huge improvement without the medication. However, I’m still at the point where I’d be skeptical of improvement with no physical cause. I think that’s why I needed the pills to effect the change. Still, I have to think that the fact I found the pills is due to my preparing myself not to be so sick anymore.

This is my strongest personal experience so far showing that Lester was correct. I really do need to take responsibility for everything in my life, and not use the bad things as an excuse.

Why Do Anything?
January 28, 2009, 1:13 pm
Filed under: Non-duality, World | Tags: , , , , ,

For a while now, I’ve struggled with the motivation to do anything. It’s not that my ego doesn’t find worldly distractions to keep me busy. Rather, it’s been hard to see anything as too important. As I wrote three months ago about working in a world of illusion, non-dualistic traditions teach that the world is illusory. So, why put a lot of effort into work, retirement planning, home maintenance, etc.?

There are people who are enlightened (or at least claim to be) and live with very little material wealth, doing very little in the material world. Would that be easier and a less encumbered path? While that didn’t feel right to me, I thought it might be my ego attachment to worldly success.

Fortunately, I had a realization today that gave me new clarity. Yes, the world is illusory and meaningless. However, what I perceive is a reflection of what I do. If I do something that is an expression of joy and love, then my (illusory) world will contain more joy and love.

The enlightened people who seem to tread lightly on the material world are probably doing more than I realize to express their love. Certainly, being apathetic is not an expression of love at all. This speaks strongly towards the importance of doing something that brings more love and joy into my world.

I spend a lot of time doing things that are counterproductive in this sense. Reading the news, which is usually bad news, hardly brings more love and joy. Whereas writing that story that’s been bouncing around in my head, if done with the right attitude, could be an expression of love.

Perhaps this is the explanation of the old Zen saying, “Before enlightenment, chop wood, carry water. After enlightenment, chop wood, carry water.” I had thought that the saying meant that you still have to do your worldly chores after awakening, but now I think it goes deeper. Maybe it means that after awakening, you can do the same tasks as manifestations of your love.

For an unawakened person such as myself, making tasks a manifestation of my love might be a good place to start. As an approach, it’s certainly a way to snap out of apathy.

Deserving Happiness
January 15, 2009, 11:56 am
Filed under: Forgiveness, Non-duality, spirituality | Tags: , , , ,

When I use the Sedona Method to work on a goal, I invariably have the thought “I don’t deserve it.” Why not? The answer goes back to the guilt and shame I feel over my past – as if punishing myself for past deeds will somehow help.

I had some new insight into this, thanks to A Course in Miracles. I wrote a few weeks ago about the lesson, “To give and to receive are one in truth.” I realized that giving peace and joy to others created it in me. I found it much easier than just trying to create self-love out of nowhere, something I still find very hard.

Today I’m on ACIM lesson 119, which reviews that same topic, “To give and to receive are one in truth.” As I meditated on it, it occurred to me that the same applies to being deserving.

I’ve long felt that most people don’t deserve happiness. I’ve been very judgmental – everyone is too dumb, greedy, lazy, or (ironically) too worldly and not focused enough on spirituality. If we’re all one, what does that make me?

This has been a major unexplored flaw in my thinking. I try to love people, and see their perfection. However, I judge myself against them. I used to make comparisons on worldly possessions and needs; now, I’m more “spiritual” in that I make comparisons based on happiness. (“Sure, she’s rich, but she’s obviously miserable…”)

It’s time for me to acknowledge that everyone deserves happiness. Even if I don’t get it myself, everyone else should still have it. The more I think about others deserving it, the more I feel that I do too.