Lineage is an Obstacle

Lineage is valuable only so far as a person who has produced true results in their spiritual practice can pass on their direct experience to close students.  Within the first generation of disciples, these teachings become codified and are then passed down as dogma. Meanwhile, the unconscious social requirements among the group of students becomes primary, and a religious institution forms.

The process of deep spiritual practice requires one to deconstruct habitual patterns of thought, paramount of which is unconscious social conformity.  Yet religious institutions place social conformity at a higher value than the teachings themselves, as evidenced by practitioners – past and present – who have been ostracized from their spiritual communities for acting in alignment with high spiritual principles that threaten the cohesion of the social group.

The original teachings – lacking the power of subtle transmission – are preserved in writings, recordings, and the minds of conformist students, which can be useful to a true deep practitioner only inasmuch as it provides access to the academic presentation of the original teacher’s experiences.

Each morning I awake thirsty, dry, parched

The potential for meaningful life evaporates with dreams,
Consciousness faced only with the drudgery of embodiment.
What can nourish this dead flesh alive?

There is no meaning, although fancy acolytes in unusual garb preaching exotic philosophy give away the secrets to total happiness and immortality. The purpose of life is to erect structures of meaning from the abysmal void of existential aloneness. To use meaninglessness to create meaning. To care about something other than one’s self, to take the mind away from the only truth: total bleak emptiness.

A more apt term than any I self apply – herbalist, technician, educator, meditator, homesteader, hipster – is seeker. My only real interest in the world is to find deep meaning, the rich nutritive substance of life and existence. I have sought it largely from spiritual teachings, which through subtlety and precision strive to describe the heart of our life.  I studied Taoist healing and meditation, Buddhist philosophy on causality, yogic techniques for dissolution of the self, and while I am certainly no expert, I have strived to get to the heart of the teachings and apply them in my life.  Other people who are close to me might say they see an improvement in my attitude, but my internal experience does not corroborate.  Perhaps I have become more skilled at presenting a kind face to the people I interact with.  Karma teaches that we should treat others the way we want to be treated or better, and that will ripen (someday) as all my dreams coming true.  It’s a very fantastical and magical presentation, and very inspiring when one swallows it part and parcel.

Same answer for everything: no point. Just making up value and meaning as we go along.  Stuck in my body, stuck in my mind, stuck in life.  Then just meaningless actions to fill the total void.  No value in relationships unless they keep me entertained and distracted.  But I’ve become very bored with other people’s ideas, mostly half-formed or less, and aimed at being smarter or cuter than others.  No value in work except it brings in the money to keep a miserable life moderately comfortable.  Home, travel, entertainment – all serve only the same small function, to supplant the meaninglessness with some distraction.

Quick solutions don’t work – if only you exercised more and ate right! Long term solutions don’t work – meditate on emptiness for thirty years and maybe you too can have a direct perception of ultimate reality! Everyone’s got a sales pitch to buy their product – which is actually a world view, and the cost is my attention, and the product is my validating someone else’s half-assed theory.  Nothing works.  There is no working for something else to do. Suicide is so tragic to the survivors because they beat themselves up about it, as if they could have done things differently, which of course is true, no one ever really gives enough attention to the people they love. But suicide is motivated by something much deeper – all the love in the world adds up to a teaspoonful in the face of total meaninglessness of existence. Would I prefer to blip out, lose consciousness forever, forgo this exciting opportunity for life in exchange for non-existence?  Do I not care to see the next 50 or 60 years? Nothing of value exists, and so there is nothing to pursue?  If these spiritual teachings actually did something would it have produced some result? But it seems the only function is to provide a magical worldview to distract from the totally meaningless reality of cosmic indifference.

Time to get out of bed, go to work. Lots of important stuff to do today.

Are You Teachable?

The predominant trend, in my culture at least, appears to be a mindless consumerism in which two thirds of energy used is simply wasted. “More stuff” is how people define their value, which just digs a deeper hole for us all to get out of.

I live rurally for a few, very simple reasons: clean air and water, the space for my extended family, peace and quiet  for meditation and study, and low cost of living. I don’t recommend it for everyone, nor do I recommend city-dwelling.

Everyone ought to have the freedom to pursue their creative individual goals. I wish their goals included health and mindfulness. Indeed, the goals of unlimited material wealth and possessions and meat at every meal are misguided and abusive – in fact are mindlessly creating the cultural nightmare that will almost certainly exhaust the earth’s resources preventing humanity’s descendants from having any comfortable standard of living. If only a brighter future could be a social priority.

My personal goals are to be a model for mindful living, an educator of health and meditation. I hope that others will be willing to listen to the ideas I present and look at my way of life, before assumptively pegging my position and attacking.

Hey, steakhouses are great! I love grass fed beef properly cooked – but anyone can cook a steak, and passing corn-fed beef as gourmet is a cop-out. I’ve encountered very few chefs who can make a vegetarian meal as satisfying and nourishing as a steak dinner – it’s possible, but requires real skill and artistry.

I don’t think of rural living as liberal and tolerant – most of my neighbors think of a shotgun as the great problem-solver. I’ve come face to face (or seed or flower or root) with the things that have to die for me to survive, and I’ve found that we have to get clear on how precious water is as a commodity – it doesn’t just come from a tap.

Is anyone who educates people – teachers, writers, journalists – merely forcing an agenda on unsuspecting heathens? The error here is obvious, I hope: what other way to learn to write or operate a car or any of the millions of nuanced skills you utilize each day other than from someone taking the time to patiently educate others?  To cite personal experience, my students have told me that my classes are enjoyable and meaningful – on subjects from critical thinking, to creative writing, to fermenting foods, to the Eight Principles of Chinese medical theory, to T’ai Chi, to Shiatsu acupressure, and more – these students typically felt that I shared views and skills and let them decide how to use them.

In the case of living lighter and more simply on the earth as a personal path to wellness and resource conservation, I’ve found that when people are educated on the harm that their lifestyle causes, or a path to superior wellness, they typically embrace it.  There is plenty of evidence that western consumer capitalist culture is a dangerous blight to the continued homeostasis of the entire planet, not to mention keep countless humans and animals in slavery just to feed a wasteful habit – and I can point you to some sources if this information comes as news to you.

As one of my teachers, who has most certainly helped many people find more meaning in their lives, has told me: some people are just uneducable.  Presented with truthful information, they reject it or simply argue, typically from a place of ignorance and/or egocentricity.  Certainly I’ve had a couple of these students as well, though I show them as much patience as they have willingness to learn.
I am certain that we are more alike than different – all beings have relatively identical needs, wants, hopes, and fears – but fascinatingly different ways of addressing them.  Humans, it seems, will suck and accumulate resources far beyond need or even comfort, and given the opportunity, will out-compete all other life-forms on earth, and so we find ourselves at the beginning again of this dialogue.

Tragic Stories vs. Happy Endings

I recall watching the blissful film Amelie: I was so overjoyed by the film that I stepped outside and the weight of the ‘real’ world was crushing – I had been so deeply disillusioned by the film that I was unable to cope with even the minor irritations of daily life for a time.

Horrific stories for entertainment create the opposite problem: we hyper focus on others’ suffering to blunt or numb our own pain, or to shock ourselves from our own malaise – it’s exciting, but sadistic.  Be well aware, this includes daily news television programs and newspapers.

There’s a tendency in New Age circles to seek the bliss we are assured in Heaven, and it leads to a manic imbalance.  Of course we want happy stories to distract from our painful experience, but the more we seek the haze of fantasy, the less able we truly are to face inevitable pain and persevere.

It is in the fire that we are forged, our souls tempered to face the fear of abyss and annihilation that just precedes a full dissolution of ego/self leading to ultimate freedom.

What kind of stories do I like? Stories that reveal depth of consciousness, awareness of reality, aspiration to a greater ideal, compassion over villainy, heroes who forgive rather than destroy.  These stories are usually not clearly tragic or redeeming, but rather reveal with tenderness the bittersweet victories against our own weakness.

Ever see the film ‘Fight Club’? Most people can’t get past the apparent violence of the film, when in fact it’s a story about how we beat ourselves up, but in fact can use that momentous energy to transform ourselves and our world.

One of the many secret teachings of the film is that if we can’t face the horrible – either in ourselves [in identification with the characters] or our world [in the audiences’ relationship to the film] – we will never be able to truly find beauty and liberation – by loving the messed-up characters, or seeing the deeper messages of the film. A nearly perfect movie that addresses these questions quite directly.

Activism vs. Capitalism as Vehicle for Social Transformation

Capitalism needn’t be destructive – when balanced with responsibility rather than greed, creativity can flourish, especially in affluent societies.  A responsible capitalism aligns closely with the ideals of Democracy: all people are offered the same opportunities to succeed, all people have an equal voice in government.

In practice, however, even a cursory look into the actions of government and big business reveals ethical indiscretions.

In the United States of America, we can see a fairly steady transition from free enterprise to oligarchy: as individuals and then corporations accumulate wealth over time, they naturally are able to have a greater influence on economics – and thus government.  A pattern emerges in which the people at the higher levels of government have extensive connections with those in power at large corporations.  Greed and simplicity has overshadowed a moral obligation to due process and the citizenry, and thus lobbyists and handshake deals more thoroughly influence our political climate than does public opinion or national elections.  These indiscretions go so far as to lead to violent conflict both at home and abroad, such as street crime, alleged terrorist attacks, and endless wars both public and secret, including economic warfare.

It is at this point that popular opinion in the country of origin begins to swing in opposition of the dominant government in protest of social inequality, and when the voices of people are not responded to, they become aggressive.

A new culture of civil disobedience has grown in North America, starting, it seems, with the Seattle Washington WTO meetings in November 1999.  These demonstrations can easily be thousands or tens of thousands of attendants; the experience is frightening, as the herd is emotionally enflamed, feel left out of significant conversation.  The expectation of the police is not to serve and protect – but apparently to defend the corporate and political privacy, and use force if necessary to do it.

Thus there is a strong negative charge at massive demonstrations and the fear is what is picked up on and reported by popular media.  A militant sense of defiance backed by righteousness  is what is expressed by these gatherings, but the egalitarian principles that underly the indignance are little extolled.  Demonstrators, seeking to express themselves and educate the populace are instead perceived as chaotic and frightening – which serves to alienate moderate people from the cause and having ultimately negative results.

The principles of liberty and freedom that the U.S.A. was founded on do still exist, but we cannot count on our temporary [Right-Wing Fundamentalist Christian] government to encourage or protect them.  Our freedoms are available to us, but we must take responsibility to ensure their sovereignty.

In my day to day life, I want to contribute to other’s happiness rather than make anyone’s life any harder.  I like to leave the spaces I use nicer than I found them.  I prefer not to contribute to hostility by vehemently arguing in opposition to my government’s decisions or speaking with an impolite tone when addressing those who have political opinions different from my own.  I envision a positive future, and live my life each day as though success is guaranteed.  I vote with my dollars by seeking out small business and local merchants and farmers.  I believe that each person I treat with kindness is a victory.

As I mature from a young person into an adult, I am reevaluating my ideas of success.  In the past I have tended to shun a higher salary in exchange for a preferable quality of life, but now I begin to consider how I can raise healthy children and offer them educational opportunities as my parents did for me, or how to offer my parents resources as they age.

Perhaps, if I’m using it to help others, pursuing money as part of a business sharing Dharma isn’t necessarily evil.

In my studies of energetic medicine and the patterns of consciousness that underly all of existence, I tend to prescribe to a model in which intention is the precursor to action and indeed predetermines action and outcome.  Consciousness itself has intrinsic value more important than any commodity.  As people grow and advance, accelerating learning and broadening perspective through world travel and advanced communications systems, they are more and more attracted to activities that help them develop their consciousness – an obvious example is the growth in Yoga teaching as an industry.

I posit then, that I can utilize the tools of intention and manifestation, clarity of vision and insight, to create a center of consciousness development via clean lifestyle choices – what is popularly called a “business”: we utilize the tools of commerce and money to create something truly accessible and available to people so that they can get an enjoyable experience learning about – for lack of a more accurate word – Dharma.

In the meantime, I can generate capital – something done with expert recklessness in the Silicon Valley – for myself and family, as well as employees and teachers.  Since we will use manifestation to ensure our business is successful, we can diversify, opening franchises ad facilitating social projects, generating revenue that we can use to reinvest in our community.  All the while living in comfort and luxury to support deep personal meditation practice.

Ah, activism:

  • By emphasizing the positive rather than the negative, your movement can recruit and educate people rather than frighten and alienate them.
  • When you focus on the brilliance of loving kindness, compassion, can feel love and forgiveness to your “enemies” rather than hatefulness and malaise.
  • Rather than continuing to re-articulate the obvious problems in our society in endless social dialog, emphasize cultivating a quality of consciousness that allows you to see through the problem to discern the specific techniques you can employ in your life to have an impact.
  • Help people orient towards a model of health that involves independence and quality discernment to inform their health choices – in this way, people can see beneficial results in the ways that they want to without having to prescribe to anothers’ dogmatic ideas on health.
  • Vote with your dollars!  These speak louder than ballots in todays one-world-political-industrial complex.

Rootless Cosmopolitan

On various forms exists a field for “occupation”.  This field tends to give me pause – does it refer to how I keep myself occupied, or perhaps my vocation – how I earn money?  Both of these have extensive answers – which not incidentally are dissimilar.

I’ve never been consistent with earning money, as it’s not something I prize highly and it’s not usually worth the dirty work it takes to get some.  My career has veered from working at a radio station as a production engineer, to lecturing as a visiting faculty at a university in Transilvania; I’ve worked for a major bank as a network administrator to some degree, and I’ve been a webmaster for years.  I passed through Reno with a nutrition consultation practice with some taiji teaching, and until very recently, I lived and worked at a rural residential bodywork and nutrition institute.

How I occupy my time is in organizing, packing, traveling, and unpacking again.  I find ways to live cheaply – both in California and on foreign soil – so that I can avoid earning money for months at a time.  I’ve owned and disowned various vehicles, apartments, houses, and tents.  My dearest friends scatter the globe.  I’ve spent many hours crossing miles and time zones incased in car or plane.

My occupation, then, is that of a Rootless Cosmopolitan.  My concept of home includes many places and possibilities, continually expanding, none particularly more appealing than the others.  I can survive anywhere I can find some fresh vegetables and a camp stove.  Often I have found myself in a lover’s home while in transition.

My relationship with this lifestyle has shifted in recent years as I’ve connected with a different pace of life than one measured in time-clock minutes and traffic lights.  Fleeing from a fixation on the urban, I drove off pavement to feel Earth under me.

I discovered intentional community, people rediscovering their sense of place, committing to healing work and just… not driving.  I trained in the healing arts at a secular temple miles from civilization, while my parents decided – along with my agrarian brother and I – to leave the suburbs and invest their retirement from academia into starting an ecologically-based family farm.

Today, as electricity is activated at the farm and roofing goes onto our first building, I have completed my first academic year as an educator at my beloved healing arts institute.  I travel between these frequently, though I am much more conscious of fossil fuel use (as the perils of this addiction become more clear), so my circle isn’t much larger than this for now – though it does include San Francisco and beyond.  I have a budding career with Heart and an ambitious family venture blossoming in front of me, and my desire to do the work is larger than my desire to move on.

Still, my home is wide and varied, and my heart beats faster at the thought of open road.  It’s likely that my career will expand to include joint venture urban entrepreneurship in addition to teaching and consulting.  My occupation has evolved along with my sense of place: I am a Rooted Nomad, cultivating a sense of place wherever I stand.

Choices Based on Love or Based on Fear…

As I walk, I contemplate identity and evaluate life choices based on love versus choices based on fear.  I sit quietly and deconstruct the ego/identity complex and analyze love versus fear.  I wonder: could there be a third option?  Perhaps it would feel like ambivalence, making choices based on the most appropriate action.

Nonetheless, I examine my life choices.  I intend to pursue the martial arts as a life path. I choose this because I believe that practicing and teaching martial arts is a direct way to help people empower themselves and develop a mind/body relationship.  The martial path is inherently about warriorship and individuals taking personal responsibility.  Thus, through mudra and combat exercises, practitioners are led to discover a spiritual path and deeply grow as beings.  Or perhaps I choose this because I fear for my physical safety and want to be competent at beating people.  The latter doesn’t seem likely.

Ultimately, I want to be unconcerned for the fate of my body or identity.  Regardless of opinions about any supposed afterlife I may have, I prefer to not fixate on the attachment to being alive, and sharpen my ability to appreciate life as it is.  This seems pragmatic to me: death is deeply unknown, which is frightening – however, it is universally unknown to all mortals, ultimate, unfathomable, so, let it be.  Not particularly fearful, but neither driven by love.

My approach to nutrition follows these lines.  My choice is to eat all food as fresh and whole as possible, and in accordance with nature’s food-chain.  Industrial food systems are very recent additions to civilization, and have become wide-spread very quickly, as reductionst models of science describe all phenomenae as components of a machine rather than elements of an integrated whole.  These recent models are untested, and already appear to be causing harm at multiple levels of nature and culture.  I frankly want to be involved as little as possible with systems that inhibit life or sequester creativity and freedom.

I want to participate in the flourishing and proliferation of life.  At the thought of this, I feel a powerful emotional swell in my chest.  Perhaps this sensation may be described as ‘love’.  The decision that triggers it, however, is one of merely ‘appropriate action’.  Life proliferates; I want to contribute my actions to that proliferation.  Including my family; parents, siblings, and someday, children; all humans on their quest to embody their highest-selves; animals, both wild and domesticated, with habitat and food supply; plants, cultivated herbs and vegetables, grasses, pasture, trees, shrubs, ferns, mosses; fungi, of course – all proliferating with my assistance and, yes: Love.

Moving Towards Balance, Charting Territory

I have positioned my lifestyle to have its primary emphasis be on natural health: I eat primarily an organic whole foods diet, engage in energetic movement practices such as taiji and yoga, and maintain a daily awareness practice, all within the context of my living and working environment: a residential school of Asian medicine and bodywork. Our program emphasizes the “School of the Center”, the Sattvic path. I attempt to put these principles into practice in my daily life, with a goal of moving continually towards balance.

However, I fluctuate in my practices, at times abandoning organic foods for the immediate gratification of the service and richness of the restaurant experience, or forgoing movement practices in order to focus on employment or entertainment goals. Even now, my practices are not infallible, and I still experience extreme moods and attraction to intoxicants now and again. But more so now than ever before, I am able to witness and moderate these fluctuations, and herein lies my faith in my movement towards balance: in the past, I felt a victim to happenstance, unable to control or buffer my shifts in mood or desire. Yet with a continued commitment to a spirit-based lifestyle of service and practice, I continually feel more at home in my bodymind, able to sit in silence and meditate.

I keep my mind engaged, eager to seek out new experiences to learn from, and am not particularly plagued by foggy thinking or profound laziness. I have a fit and healthy body, though it occasionally experiences Cold and Damp and Yin Deficiency. I am able to maintain healthy relationship with others, and when I find myself being insensitive or selfish, I am usually able to take responsibility for my feelings and communicate my desire to find mutual contentment. My commitment is to a path of service based in the concept that all beings and things are interconnected, and the one true purpose is Universal harmony.

I believe that the most effective course of action for me to bring myself closer to total balance is to continue to apply the principles I already have: deepen my commitment to a diet of fresh and local organic whole foods as the foundation for a practice of mindful living, seek out teachers of medicine and the Tao who I can respect and learn from, and perpetuate relationship as a practice of service, supporting the people in my family and community.

Apple may Think Different, but wants users to all Think Alike

I recall a few years back, when computer experts experimenting with the original xBox discovered a method by which they could replace a piece of hardware within the unit and transform it from mere gaming machine to a full-featured computer. Folks began to manufacture and distribute the replacement chip, and laypeople could modify their xBoxes to create a powerful computer for a fraction of the cost of building such a machine from component parts. Microsoft’s strategy included taking a hit in profit on the hardware of the console, betting that they would more than recover the loss in the form of licensing software games, and they were not pleased about the popularity of this modification. Microsoft got litigious, claiming that the modifications were illegal manipulation of their intellectual property (i.e. the insides of that xBox); defendants claimed that since they had paid to acquire the unit, the hardware was completely their property to modify however they pleased. It was awkward for a while, as Microsoft sought to protect their empire while alienating their supporters.

I thought of this story not in relationship to any current weirdness with Microsoft, but rather with my currently uneasy relationship with Apple Inc. You see, I want an iPhone, but I frankly don’t give a damn about the phone function itself. While I am willing to pay the hefty price tag for what is allegedly the world’s greatest iPod/mobile internet/email/PDA device (with functionality over WiFi), I am not willing to pay a dime to AT&T for service (let alone the $59 x 24 months = $1,416 for the most meager minute allotments).
Continue reading “Apple may Think Different, but wants users to all Think Alike”

Dear Reno,

I know my sudden departure may come as a shock to you, but in truth, it has been a long time coming.

Since I arrived, in fact.

I ought to have told you earlier in our relationship, but I’m not the type to settle down, and no sooner do I arrive than I am already looking at the exit door. It’s a pattern I need to work on, I know. Because we started some things together. Things that when we started, I thought I was ready to commit to. A real career, a real community. I took on a lot of responsibility for our growth together, and I saw early on that I got in too deep too quickly. That happens sometimes when we meet again after a long time apart, and the new traits make even the old familiar ones exciting again.

An adage I use often: the more things change, the more they stay the same.

I’m not sure exactly what that means, but I suppose figures of speech become so because they speak to us on many levels, sometimes eluding us with simple complexity…

Anyway…

I got in too deep too quickly, and I tried to correct for that. I noticed you notice me withdrawing, and even as I did so, I was really intending to come back with fervor, stoke the coals and grow back stronger, but, well, that just didn’t happen. And I left you hanging.

I’d like to say, Reno, that “It’s not you. It’s me.” But it is you. You left me hanging, too. I thought you’d pick up the slack in our relationship, see that the distance I was creating was for my own protection, realize that you could keep us both safe by stepping up to the challenge of taking care of your old friend. But that didn’t happen. You stayed needy, quietly, and I just couldn’t keep feeding you all I had.

Reno, you’re a Gateway place, some intersection of laylines gives you purpose. The last place between lush free Pacific and desolate, barren dystopic desert – just look at all the “Burners”, those transhuman souls desperate to re-create the excitement of cosmic life who pass through you in droves on their annual pilgrimage to the psychotic other-land of their imagination, forced by the tight white collar of this doomed culture to flip out in the opposite direction, Reno is their gateway to that land. Also between the hot south Vegas Angeles and the cool north Portland Seattle, while not a pit-stop for most, Reno, you are the fulcrum.

Even more, Reno, you are a portal between above and below, the reality of the living and the realm of the discorporeal. I meet as many disembodied beings as embodied ones, searching for the warmth of connection with another soul, able to envelop and protect them from their own limitless hunger.

Take a look at yourself, Reno: you exist as transition fixed, progress frozen at each step. You amaze me with your progressive stationaryness. A lot of people, well, they need to spend time on the threshold – from here one can look forward and backward through time, peer at the notion of the soul, obsess over sureality – until they become ready to tip the balance of their own destiny in the controlled repetitive falling of walking forward.

Reno, I’m sorry to leave you. It makes me sad.  It does. I’ll watch you from afar, and check in, but I’ll miss all the games we started that we didn’t quite finish. Or really, even quite begin.

But it isn’t you, it is me.

I am thrilled for the future! One can only stand on the precipice of destiny for so long before being drawn in. Not that I believe in destiny, necessarily, or karma, but with observation the patterns of life are undeniable. Not sitting still says something about me: I am not complacent. I am not waiting for something better to come along, I am beckoning it. And consequently, my life continually improves, quality of life gets richer, growth and learning accelerate.

When I reunited with you, Reno, it was meant to be only a short time. That short time extended, and extended some more until I didn’t know for sure when we would separate. (I hope you didn’t get too comfortable during that time – I didn’t.) So the last half a year has been borrowed time… I hope you can understand.

I’m leaving you to be with Heartwood Institute again. Heartwood is a village, a school, devoted to healing arts. My students are here and there, but my teachers are waiting for me there. Accelerated growth, deepening of practice is the hallmark of that kind of life. For all of our amazing projects, I feel stagnant where I am.

It’s time for me to move on.

It’s both of us.

Let’s try not to have a drawn out farewell. I ain’t one for no emotional goodbye…