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?



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.



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.



Asking Too Little
December 8, 2008, 10:25 am
Filed under: God, Non-duality, World | Tags: , , , , , , ,

I wrote recently about my attempts to use free writing to get answers from God, first on my job, then on accelerating my spiritual progress. In both cases, the answers were clear, but did not give me specific guidance on what to do in the world. That is, the answers essentially told me to focus on Truth, rather than giving guidance about what to do in the illusory world.

I mentioned last month my desire to have the divine guidance cited by some followers of A Course In Miracles. Helen Schucman and Bill Thetford would even ask for guidance on where to hail a cab or what to order for dinner.

I recently read Kenneth Wapnick’s book Absence from Felicity: The Story of Helen Schucman and Her Scribing of A Course In Miracles. He makes the point that since God deals in reality, not illusion, any guidance we get is necessarily filtered through our separate mind (ego). While the content of the message is always the same, our ego must apply the form that allows it to apply to illusion.

Wapnick even goes so far as to say that students should be “suspicious of any specific guidance they receive.” Apparently, Schucman had a whole collection of scribed predictions, ostensibly from Jesus, of (mostly positive) events that would occur. None of them happened as predicted, clearly demonstrating that she played a active, if unknowing role, in creating them.

This also helps me better understand a conversation I had with a friend a couple of weeks ago. We were discussing spirituality, and I mentioned my desire for divine guidance. He cautioned me, telling me that he knew several people who regularly received guidance, and “their lives are a mess.” I wondered why that would be, unless they were mistaking their own ego’s thoughts for divine guidance. Now it makes sense: the ego’s thoughts have to be involved in any guidance regarding the world, or else the guidance wouldn’t be comprehensible. And that ego involvement can distort the form of the message.

Perhaps I should be glad that my ego hasn’t intruded enough on the purity of my answers to give worldly guidance. Not only might it not be good advice, but after reading Wapnick’s book I would likely be doubting it anyway.

I think the key point here is that I’ve been looking for guidance on petty things. I’ve been wanting guidance on how to deal with a multitude of illusions, whereas there’s only one real answer: embrace reality. While I still need to make decisions regarding these illusions, maybe it just doesn’t matter whether I get divine guidance. Certainly, the more I embrace love and peace, the better I can cope with whatever the world dishes up.

So, I’m going to take my answers so far as a loving reminder that I’ve been asking for too little. I should be asking for the ultimate prize, the only one that really matters, to see the light of reality.



Trying Too Hard
December 5, 2008, 1:29 pm
Filed under: God, Non-duality, spirituality | Tags: , , , , ,

It’s been two weeks since I tried free writing to get a message from God about my job. Since that attempt was so intriguing, you might think I’d have tried again before today. However, I’ve felt tremendous resistance to doing more free writing. I guess my ego doesn’t like my having a competing source of instructions.

I finally tried again today. I wrote the question “What could I do to best accelerate my spiritual progress?” at the top of the page, and cleared my mind. Here’s what came out:

You need do nothing. Your desire for action is the root of your problems. You want action so that you can feel that you are taking control of the situation. Yet the “situation” is itself illusory, and thus any action is counterproductive.

Remember that your ego wants to seek but not find. Your actions reflect this. Allow yourself peace, and I will take care of action for you. Do not let your ego tempt you into activity. Look around you, and see how much of your life stems from darkness, not light.

Relax and embrace the light. Once you stop your ego’s fruitless quest, you will see the light is already there.

That certainly doesn’t sound like something my ego would say. On the contrary, it sounds as if I’m still too prone to falling for ego tricks.

I can’t help but wonder: who is the “I” in this message? My inner self? God? Jesus? (I’ve never believed in the Biblical Jesus, but perhaps reading A Course In Miracles has let me to a Jesus archetype.) This is probably exactly the type of question where I should use the Sedona Method to let go of wanting to figure it out.

Regardless, the message reinforces what I realized several weeks ago when I was feeling stuck: It’s far too easy for me to want to do something to make progress. This message makes clear that I should relax, and try easier.



Making Myself Sick
December 3, 2008, 9:35 am
Filed under: Non-duality, Suffering | Tags: , ,

Every year, we spend Thanksgiving with my in-laws. It’s always a difficult time for me because of my Crohn’s disease. Most holiday foods are just not good for me, and holiday activities are more physically demanding. The result is usually that I wind up quite ill.

I realized this year that much of this is simply a defense mechanism devised by my ego. Being ill provides a modicum of control, something in short supply when in a large group. It’s ultimately destructive and counterproductive, but then so are all of the ego’s efforts.

There’s no reason I have to eat the foods that make me sick. Yet I do it year after year. Why? My ego wants me to be sick. Beyond the control, it gets me sympathy, and makes me feel special.

I wish I had thought this through better before Thanksgiving. At least, I can now see another strong attachment I have towards my illness. Deliberately making it worse can further my ego’s goals.

There’s a lot of talk in the self-help literature about self-defeating behaviors. I think that should really be Self-defeating behaviors. These behaviors actually help the ego, while hurting the non-dualistic Self.

I would like to think I’d moved past this kind of destructive behavior. However, I guess the unusual stresses and situations of the holidays provide new opportunities for the ego to reassert itself. It’s an important reminder to me to keep paying attention to my motivations.



Feeling Special
October 31, 2008, 7:05 am
Filed under: Non-duality, Suffering | Tags: , ,

I’ve been suffering another flare-up of my Crohn’s Disease. As I lay in bed this morning, unable to sleep, I suddenly had a powerful insight.

In the non-dualistic view, we all share the same underlying perfection. It’s our egos that create the illusion of separation. That means that none of us is special – any feeling along that line is just the ego’s hubris. This seems like something that should have been obvious to me long ago, but I never thought of it in that way.

My illness is something my ego clings to because it makes me special. It gets me sympathy, gives me an excuse not to do many things, and provides a distinctive part of my identity. Don’t get me wrong: if I could make it go away, I would. However, there’s a major part of ego wrapped up in having it.

I’ve been focusing on the positive things that make me feel special, such as my skills, possessions, and accomplishments. I hadn’t thought through how negative things make me feel special in exactly the same way. Again, it seems obvious now.

Anything that makes me feel special is an ego-reinforcing mechanism. I may not be able to do anything about my illness, but I can let go of judging it. It’s no more important than any other illusion, and is just more fodder for ego self-reinforcement.

I plan to create a list of all the things that make me feel special, whether positive or negative. That would then tell me where I’m still making strong judgments about myself.