The Seeker of Peace


Cleaning House
June 10, 2009, 7:48 am
Filed under: World | Tags: , , , , ,

Yesterday, we replaced the carpet in much of our house. The preparation for this included emptying half of our rooms. I found this a deeply cathartic experience, in many ways a metaphor for clearing my mind.

It’s stunning to me how much detritus we’ve accumulated after living here only 14 years. Some of it was merely neglected – who can remember everything we stick in a drawer or closet? However, I discovered I was holding onto a ton of junk due to emotional attachments. A combination of Sedona Method-style releasing and physical disposal worked wonders to help resolve these attachments.

There were many books that I was holding onto “just in case.” Most of these were ridiculous. I had books on software engineering that were a decade out of date, just in case I should return to writing software. I had books from a executive training program I took at a large company; they consisted more of corporate propaganda than useful information, but I held on to the just in case I resumed a big-company management track career. The list goes on. As I went through them, I realized that I kept them out of pride in my past work; they were a physical manifestation of how stuck I was in the past.

There was a similar process with the various knickknacks left around. Whether a set of Baoding balls I picked up free at a trade show, or a finger painting project my daughter did 10 years ago, they were all things that had significance at the time. However, that time was long ago. Discarding them was like releasing my emotions: freeing up space to live in the moment.

My wife mentioned how wonderful she found the enforced spring cleaning too. Jews start the Hebrew year with the Ten Days of Repentance ending with Yom Kippur, clearing the guilt from their community. Many Asian cultures start the New Year with a traditional deep house cleaning. I think we miss something not having a set time to do an annual cleaning, whether emotional or physical. Perhaps we would be better at that if the Romans hadn’t changed the start of the year from March to January.

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Life’s Little Challenges
May 18, 2009, 8:37 am
Filed under: World | Tags: , , ,

I wrote a couple of weeks ago that I was considering become a math teacher. I mentioned then how I hoped I could tell if that urge was guidance by whether it was easy.

I received the word back from the university’s transcript evaluator. It turns out that, despite the program director’s initial optimism, I don’t have enough college-level math classes to qualify for the program. (Ironically, I could easily qualify to teach physics. It’s too bad that doesn’t hold very much interest for me.)

If I want to enroll for next year, I’ll need to go to a community college and retake a host of basic subjects I learned back in high school: algebra, geometry, etc. It doesn’t matter that I took many classes that had those as distant prerequisites; for this purpose, having classes about Fourier series and Legendre polynomials is no substitute for good old fashioned basic algebra!

Going back to school to take four or five basic math classes sounds anything but easy. While passing the class would be easy, since I’ve already learned all of the material, dealing with the excruciating boredom would be hard. I imagine that I could mitigate that by taking online courses and thus not having to sit through classes, but that’s still hardly an example of the universe clearing my path.

It’s situations like these where I struggle with the mindset promoted by the Sedona Method and A Course in Miracles. Both of those suggest that, when you approach the correct goals properly, things should be effortless. If I use that criterion, either teaching is the wrong goal or I’m approaching it incorrectly.

This viewpoint contrasts with decades of training for me. I’ve learned since an early age that obstacles are things to overcome, and that much of life’s satisfaction comes from overcoming barriers. Any number of self-help books and inspirational teachers say the same thing. However, fighting against the tide seems a perfect example of what the Sedona Method refers to as “wanting control.”

I still haven’t decided what to do. Since I have a few months before I would have to register for any of these math classes, I can take some time to think about it. However, given how fundamental the decision is, I’m not sure whether a lot of thought will actually help.



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?



The Consequence of Boredom
April 29, 2009, 10:20 am
Filed under: God, World | Tags: , , , ,

Do enlightened people get bored? Jed McKenna, who claims enlightenment, spends much of his time playing video games. Why would he do that if he weren’t bored?

I certainly don’t claim to be enlightened, yet I certainly share Jed’s sense of boredom. When I closed my business a few months ago, I was so sick that I had very little energy to do much of anything. Now that I’m feeling much better, I feel as if I don’t have enough outlets for my energy.

In this void of activity, I felt a sudden compulsion to become a schoolteacher. Before I started my investment advisory business, I laid down several criteria that were important to me in a job. I had down such things as a flexible schedule, low stress, not having to work in committees, etc. Teaching as a career fails on every count. Yet, it somehow feels right to me.

In what seems an eternity ago, I wrote the fifth post of my blog. In that post I described how I felt an urge to start blogging. I worried whether that urge was valid guidance, or something from my ego, and decided that I could tell the difference by how easy it was.

Now, I have a similar concern. Is my compulsion to teach a form of divine or intuitive guidance? Or, is it my mind casting around for things to do to fill my day? The latter would be a particularly insidious trap. By choosing a career that meets none of my “rational” criteria, my mind could usher me into a situation where I have far too much mental noise for any spiritual practice.

So, I’m going to fall back on my previous insight, and see how easy it is. So far, it appears that it might be almost frighteningly so. I may qualify for a program that would let me take education courses in summer school, and be in a classroom this autumn. When the idea occurred to me last week, I had no idea that I might actually be in front of students four months later.

Now, I’m waiting for the university’s transcript evaluator to decide whether I have enough qualifying college courses in the relevant subject areas to qualify. If the answer comes back yes, then that would be a major indicator that this path could be easy.



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.



Vacation from Spirituality
March 4, 2009, 12:25 pm
Filed under: spirituality, World | Tags: , , , , ,

Since the beginning of the year, I’ve struggled on and off with my spiritual work. Sometimes, I’ve felt okay with this. In general, though, it’s been a little frustrating, which I fully acknowledge is an ego response.

When I do Sedona Method-style releasing, the releases just haven’t felt as strong as they used to. The meditations for the A Course In Miracles workbook have been hard to sustain without even more distracting thoughts than usual. It’s as if I’ve developed resistance to the whole effort.

About a week ago, I decided to just indulge my ego. I took a hiatus for a few days from ACIM. I only released when it occurred to me, rather than trying to do it often. I spent a fair amount of time distracting my mind with reading and computer games. I even let myself get emotionally upset about the stock market, although that still produced much less angst than it would have just a couple of months ago.

(I did not, however, lose my recent health improvement. Even when backsliding, one has to draw the line somewhere!)

This break seems to have helped quite a lot. I resumed my ACIM lessons with a new vigor, and they were again easy. I’m still only releasing as it occurs to me, but I can again feel the relief from the thoughts. I feel much less resistant than I did.

Perhaps it’s all an ego trap to think that progress can come from backsliding. In this case, I’m very glad I took a few days back in the thick of the world and catering to my ego. Maybe I just needed a concrete reminder that what I’m giving up isn’t valuable.



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.