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?

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.

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.

Why is Self-Love So Hard?
January 6, 2009, 10:40 am
Filed under: Forgiveness, God, spirituality, World | Tags: , , , , ,

A few months ago I wrote a post about self-love. I had realized that forgiving myself was easier than loving myself.

I had an insight yesterday into why loving myself is so difficult. I was doing A Course In Miracles lesson 110, “I am as God created me.” The core of this lesson, that there’s a core of divine perfection within, is something that the Workbook has covered many times – I guess it just took a lot of repetition to get through to me.

Loving myself, in the sense of true, unconditional love, effectively requires me to let go of my ego and separateness, revealing the divine inside. My existence in the (illusory) world has been full of problems, guilt, blame, and judgment. How could I possibly love myself in that context? My actions in this world don’t merit love.

Therefore, to love myself, I have to put aside what I’ve done in the world (and what the world has done to me). Loving myself, in effect, requires dropping my whole story, my sense of separation, my being special and unique. Isn’t that the end goal of the path to enlightenment? It’s a difficult place to start.

Maybe some people have an easy time jumping into self-love. As I wrote earlier, though, it’s easy to instead fall into the trap of searching for worldly deeds to pat ourselves on the back about, thus reinforcing the ego.

As I let go of my story, I have more moments of love towards myself and others. For me, it seems to be a consequence, not a catalyst, of letting go.