ジョン

暑い。体が暑さを吸い込んでしまうほど。吸い込んだらまた体がはれてきて、全ての毛穴から噴き出す暑さだ。彼は自分の悪臭に浸かった。汗でソファとくっついたジョンは壁が大切な秘密を教えてくれるほど壁をじーっと見ていた。台所へ行ってまた食べようと思ったけど、息をするたび前より苦しくなって来た。何もやりたくなかった。左のお尻を持ち上げて息を吸って「うん」で力を入れた。目の後ろから鋭い痛みが刺った。目を開くと目の前に10センチぐらいのゴキブリがいた。そのままジョンを見ていた。触角は何かを探している状態だったけど、突然、後ろの2本で足に立った。「お前は人間的にもったいないんだよ。」ってゴキブリが言った。ジョンはショックで何も言えなかった。それでそのゴキブリはまた6本足に戻って、ジョンのお尻の下へ素早く走り去った。ジョンの足の間からゴキブリの頭が出た。触角を動かしながら、ジョンを見た。「お前は本当に嫌な人間だよ。どうやってそんなにデブになったか。どうして何もやる気がないのかい。。。」ずっとゴキブリは話したけど、ジョンは自分の世界に入っちゃった。子供の頃の最初の記憶からずっと自分のおそまつな人生を一瞬に観た。それで突然、全ては黒くなった。

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キッチン

テーブルの上にあの手紙が置いてあった。生きているかのように俺の方をジロジロ見ている感じだった。開かなくちゃいけないことは分かっていたけど、どうしても開く気分はなかった。冷蔵庫の鼻歌みたいな音がキッチンの重い空気を透過していた。耳をつんざくかのような沈黙だった。

コーヒーを作るため、立ち上がった。コーヒーを作るより、心の空間を感じないように何かやらないと。体を動かすと多分あの手紙の事を忘れちゃうと思っていた。まぁ、出来れば、違う事を考えるといいと思った。本当に生きている感じだった。水をポットに入れている間にも何かが欲しい子供のように後ろにあの手紙が待っているみたいだった。「手が濡れている。」と気がついて目をポットに向けたら水があふれていた。

「集中。」瞑想の状態で作らないと作れない。コーヒーフィルターを。コーヒー豆の入れ物をゆっくり開けるとコーヒーの匂いは鼻の方へ漂って来た。鼻をくすぐった。くしゃみが出ちゃいそう。その刺激で彼女の事を思い出した。「女性の性的絶頂感はくしゃみみたい。集中しないと出て来ない」彼女が言った。久々にちょっと笑顔が出て来た。彼女の事を考えるとあの手紙を思い出す。

また笑っちゃった。最後の散策に別れないといけないと言われた時はかなりびっくりだった。その時ガンと言ってくれなかった。最初からガンの話をすればいいと思うが。ガンで振られるのは辛いと思ったけど、今の辛さと比べたら。。。コーヒーが出来上がったら彼女の最後の言葉を読もう。

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あの家

あの家はどうしても普通じゃなかった。誰もいないのに足音が聞こえたり、ドアが勝手に閉まったりする。特にリビングでいつも誰かに見られている感じがする。正直言うと、風とか自分の想像とかと思われる位のことだから、嫌だった。指をさして幽霊だと言えるとよかったけど、どうしても、自分は変だと思っちゃう。寒くなったから家が音をしていると思うし。たまにテレビを見てる間に大きい人の足音が後ろの階段から聞こえる。振り向くと誰もいない。考えるだけで鳥肌がたつ。

一番びっくりしたのは弟の子の面倒を見ていた時だった。二人で積み木で遊んでいる間に、カイルくんが「あの女の子は何しているの?」と聞いた。僕はどんな女の子かと聞くとカイルは「上で三つ編みの毛を首に巻きつけている女の子」って言った。上を見ると天井の梁しか見えなかったから、身体中の毛は立った。カイルくんは結局、「あっ!首にロープだ」って言った。二人で焦って逃げて弟たちが戻ってくるまレストランで時間を過ごした。

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ヨガ

ヨガ。いいね。綺麗な女性がヨガパンツを履いて体を伸ばしたりしている。あまりやらないけど、ヨガは好き。実は、先日、ヨガのクラスに行った。お箸を曲げてみたことある?それが想像出来たら、私のヨガの姿も想像出来る。それ以上に酷いのは汗びっしょり私だ。ずっと角のスペースで硬い体に汗かいている男性は私だ。どんなスタジオへ行っても私みたいな男がいると思う。たまにうっかりした気合も出る。恥ずかしい。

今朝も、ヨガをやった。コア何とかヨガだった。先生は綺麗だ。隣で体を伸ばしている女性も綺麗だった。誰にも見られないように角にマットを引いた私はクラスの最初の部分は全てのポーズが出来た。出来なくても大丈夫だ。先生はほとんどこの汗臭くて硬い男に寄って来ない。

「後ろに足をキック」って先生が叫んだ。汗でマットは滑りやすくなった。隣のおばさんは平気でポーズを決めているけど、私、私は死んじゃいそうだった。手と足が震えて、休憩したかったけど、他の皆は上手く動いていたから、頑張るしかないと思った。

突然。お腹が動き始めた。オナラが出ちゃいそう。震えている手と足に集中するより震えている肛門に集中する状態になった。足も肛門の方から震え始めった。先生は珍しくよって来てポーズを直そうとしてくれた。「今はダメ、今はダメ」とずっと心の声が言ったけど、先生はもう足を引っ張り始めた。

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ジョー

日によって朝は辛かった。辛くない朝は人生が変わる希望になる。人生が意味になる希望だな。彼の周りの人たちは皆成功しているけど、ジョーは只のジョーだ。箱で働いているジョー。箱に住んでいるジョーだ。箱を見ているジョーだ。たまに面白くするために円筒を開けるジョーだ。プシュッ!この年齢は彼の人生の中の一番いい時期のはずなのに。たまにやめようかと思うジョーは自殺する勇気もない人間だ。昨日、弟から結婚報告の電話が来た。8年間付き合っている女性と。彼女は愛してるって。これを聞いてジョーは頑張って黙った。愛って何?ばかやろう。愛は感じたことないジョーは不適当ぐらいは感じた。不適切も感じた。いろいろな「不」がついている言葉を思い出したジョーはベッド考え込んだ。この話は誰も関心を持たない。ジョーのことも誰も関心を持たない。今まで41年間生きていたジョーは何もない。お金もない。友達もない。家族もない。あっ!借金あるけど。ツマラナイ仕事もあるけど。それ以外はない。最低。ジョーは最低だ。弟の電話がなければよかったなと思った。アイツは自慢するためにだけ。いい仕事もあるし。お母さんは彼の方を好きだし。ジョーは彼の隣にいると人間じゃない感じが出る。一回ジョーはモチベーショナルスピーカーを見に行った。それで幸せを見つけられると思った。ビールを飲むモチベーションにしかならなかった。やっぱり人生の硬いところを柔らかくしたくなるモチベーションだった。ジョーは最低だ。幸せになる可能性があっても、その幸せは短いことが分かるジョーはわざと離れる。楽しみや幸せも通ったらまた辛くなるからわざと幸せになりたくない。自分を守りながら惨めな生活をする。ジョーはベッドから出て、コーヒーを作って、箱から、箱へ、箱で移動して「不」の生活を続けに行った。

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Joe

Some mornings were tougher than others. It was the easier ones that offered some hope. Hope that something sometime might render his life relevant. It seemed everyone in his circles had done something extraordinary, but Joe…Joe was Joe. Plain old Joe. He worked in a box. Slept in a box. Drove to work in a box. Listened to a box. Watched a box. Sometimes to break up the monotony he’d crack open a cylinder. These were supposed to be his best years. He often thought that if this is as good as it gets, he might as well call it quits. His brother called to announce his marriage yesterday. His marriage to the woman he’d been with for almost eight years. He said he was in love. Joe had to fight back the urge to ask what the hell that even means. Love…smove. What the fuck. Two years his junior, his brother was in love. Joe had never experienced that. Inadequacy. Yup. Indifference. Yup. Probably a few other in-somethings in there. They don’t matter though, because Joe doesn’t matter. In his 41 years on the planet earth, all he had to show for it was a meager bank account, two maxed out credit cards, and dead-end job. Joe’s life sucked. He had no friends. He had no motivation. He had no one. The only reason his brother called him, he knew, was out of obligation. What obligation, who knows. Once, Joe got the nerve up to go see a motivational speaker. The only thing it motivated him to do was invest in more beer to soften the sharp edges of life that the speaker had made him so keenly aware of. Joe sucked. Even when there was an opportunity to be happy, Joe knew deep down in his soul that the let down wouldn’t be worth enjoying the fleeting happiness. So, he’d disengage. Never actually allowing himself to feel the happiness, protecting himself while making himself miserable. So, once again, Joe pulled himself out of bed. He made some coffee. He got into his box and continued down the path of indifference, inadequacy, and irrelevance.

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コンパス

船を操縦している船長はほとんど正しい針路からはずれている。全旅に針路からはずれたり、とったり、はずれたり、とったり、すると船の行き先に到着する。船長は針路について警戒しないと。。。

人生とは同じものなんだ。

人生について質問の多くは誰にも答えが分からない。自分で探すしかない。どんな人生がいいか自分で決めないとどうしても満たすことにはならないと思う。プランを作らないと他人のプランの中の小道具になってしまう。ならないように私は数年前から毎日、「DAILIES」をやり始めた。

「DAILIES」と言うのは一日の儀式みたいなものだ。毎朝起きてから最終的の目的を復習する。10年先の目的。5年先の目的。3年先の目的。今年。6ヶ月。今月。今週。今日。今日はその全てを考えながら活動するように毎朝起きて「Dailies」をする。

今日、何をするかだけではなく、人生の最終結果も考えながら一日のプランを立ている。毎日はこの全体的(人生行路)なプランにぴったり合わないと針路からはずれる。時間を大事にしないと最終目的は実現できない。楽しい時も楽しい目的さえあれば、楽しさは増える。

「Dailies」は私のコンパスだ。正直に自分の針路を評価をして仕事の内容を決める、家族の時間を作る、自分の時間で何をする。

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アザゼル

アザゼル。不思議な名前だ。
目の前にアザゼルが立っていた。彼の羽はスーツにぴったり合う模様だった。強そうな四角い顎。髪の毛も完璧だった。その冷たくて真っ黒な目が私に差し込んだ。深い声でそれぞれの音節をはっきり話すアザゼルに少しずつ魅了された。何か怖かったけど魅了された。子供が火に引かれる状態だった。

細長い指が伸びて来る間に「獲物をつかめる」しか考えられなかった。私の顔を指しながら、「何が欲しいのかい?」って彼が聞いた。

「何も。」私は答えた。

それでアザゼルは「では、何もない。」と子音を強調しながら言った。

突然、私は「幸せになりたい!」と叫んだ。

アザゼルは「幸せってぼんやりしてるよ。意味も分かるのかい?幸せって事はないよ。人間を造った時に私と同じように造った。幸せはないよ。追いかけるけど、つかめない。」

それで、彼は羽を大きく伸ばして目くばせをした。退出してもよろしいと言う事みたいに。

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愛しい人

夜、眠いけど、眠れない。

サラバーンの耳に心地よい音が部屋を満たした。若いサラバーンでも年を取ったサラバーンでも飽きない。なぜか、サラバーンを聴くと前の彼女のことが思い浮かぶ。彼女の笑顔や声や笑う時に左の肩が上がって来ちゃうことも。

最初会った時に、サラバーンの “A Lover’s Concerto” がジュークボックスから聞こえていたので、
その時から彼女の事を考えるとサラバーンの曲が心の中に流れる。逆にサラバーンを聞くと彼女の事が思い浮かぶ。

1997年だった。二人ともオレゴンにいた。二人とも仕事が忙しかったけど、週に1日、二人の空間を作った。その時間は多分人生の中でトップだった。休みを取って1日リゾートへ行った。世界の喧騒が続いてる間、私たちは時を止めていた。二人だけの世界を作った。周りのトレイルを散策したり、美味しいものを食べたり、部屋でゆっくり絡みあったり、また散策する。ずっと1日中一緒だった。

もう10何年も経ったのに、まだその感触は忘れられない。温もりはまだ残っている。肌の柔らかさも、光っている目も、絡んでいる時に彼女の触れ方も忘れられない。しばらく話してないから、今どんな生活をしているか、全く分からないけど、かなり彼女の事を考える。話したくないし、思い出のままにしたい。

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デブ

誰と話しても皆が良い痩せ方を知っている。色々なダイエットの話を聞いた事がある。毎日メールチェックする時にも必ずいくつかのダイエットのDeM広告が目の前にあるし。痩せようとした時にかなりこれで混乱させられた。Atkins, Vegetarian, Flexiterian, Body for Life, Hacker’s Diet, Weight Watchersなど信じたら、痩せるのは簡単だと思っちゃうけど、どう考えても簡単ではない。
40歳までは私はわりと細い人間だった。だんだん脂肪が付くにつれて、どうやって痩せようかってかなり迷った。正直に言うと自分がデブだとは思わなかった。勿論、少し痩せた方がいいとは思っていたけれど、まだ大丈夫だと思っていた。
先月、家族とハワイ州に旅行で行った時に走るのは苦しく、腰は痛く、正直上半身が裸なのが嫌だった。男なのに。まぁ、女性だったら、どうしても体が大きくなったと思っちゃうじゃない?男性はその逆の考え方だ。鏡の前に立ってポーズをする。頑張ってお腹を凹む。ダイエットはまだ大丈夫かなと思う。他の男に聞いても、皆はわりとそうだと思う。
危険と思った時は自分の写真を見た時だった。
「デブだ。」今は、思い出すだけで恥ずかしい。奥さんは色んな写真を撮って、酷かったのがビーチでの写真だ。太っているお父さんみたいな顔だった。でもその顔の下に付いていた体。。。あれ。「あれはクジラじゃないか?」と思い、ビーチで歩いている人々が私を間違えて海まで運んでしまうのではないかと思った。日本に戻って、ダイエットの研究をやり始めた。
ダイエット法をいくつかを調べたけれど、ライフスタイルに邪魔にならないダイエットじゃないと続けない。結局決めたダイエットの戦略はシンプルだった。
1。断食する期間と食事の期間 1:3
2。毎日30分から一時間運動する。
3。毎日6時間から8時間ほど寝る。
断食・食事
一日に八時間の間に食べる。それ意外の時はお茶やかコーヒー、カロリーがない飲み物、勿論水は飲んでも大丈夫だ。我慢が出来ないぐらいお腹が空いたら、私は炭酸水を飲んだ。炭酸水を飲むとお腹が膨らむので、断食の時間の食べる衝動を抑えられる。
あとは一日に一回バターとココナッツオイルをコーヒーに入れて飲んだ(これはミキサーで良く混ぜないと飲みにくい)。これは飲み物に対しては驚くほど美味しい。
このダイエットは体に辛くないから、運動も簡単に出来る。運動する時に必ずお水とBCAAを飲まないと脂肪だけが燃やされるでけはなくて筋肉も燃えてしまう。これは私には重要だった。ひょろっとした男だけにはなりたくない。
体脂肪について
普通の生活だとは必ず炭水化物を多く食べるため、人間の体はなかなか脂肪を燃やすのを忘れてしまう。もう一度体脂肪を燃やすのを指導しなければならない。私の場合はこれがちょっと辛かった。最初の二日間は結構お腹が空いていて、手を触れていて、ぼーっとしていたけれど、脂肪を燃やせるようになり始まったら、平気で長期断食が楽になった。長期って言っても二日間ほど、私。成功するために炭水化物を減らした。まだたまにパンとかご飯を食べるけど、量は半分程減らしたかも知れない。少なめで食べると結構食事を味わう状態になる。最初の断食を終えた後の食事はかなり早く食べたけど、今は、ゆっくり心地よく食べようとしている。
運動
出来れば一日30分-40分の無酸素運動が一番いいと読んだ。無酸素運動だったら、一日中カロリを燃やすから体脂肪は大分減るらしい。
睡眠
寝る間にも結構体がカロリーを燃やすから、8時間位寝るといいらしい。これは私にとって一番難しかった。あまり寝ないタイプだからうまくスケジュールを設定して、寝ようとした。
今は97キロまで落ちた。それは7キロダウンだ。後3キロ位痩せたら、多分ちょうどいいと思う。一ヶ月頑張って痩せようとした私は悟りが開いた感じになった。食べ方、寝方、運動も上手く一日に挟んだ。これからも新たな生活を向かいたいと思う。

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我々は人間だ。

我々は人間だ。複雑と不安な生活している人間だ。基本的に情け深く行動したいけど、誰でもは自分の動機があるので、結局回りの人に害を及ぼす。意図的にはしないけれど、どうしてもしちょう。

例えば昨日の夜、友達と一緒に飲んだ。彼はバンドをやっている。まあいい人だけど、女が好きだ。隣の女性の手を勝手に掴んだ。まあ、悪い事をやるつもりではなかったけれど、彼女はあんまり受け入れてくれなかった。

彼女の顔を見ると絶対嫌な感じだった。それで、私が言った、「彼女は手を繋ぎたくなさそうだよ。」彼は手を繋ぎながら、「どうしてかな?」って聞いた。

「彼女が外科医だったら、多分その手はかなり大事かも。」って私が言った。

「どうして誰もミュージシャンの手はそんなに大事にしないのか」って彼は叫んだ。

「まあ、マイルズデービスだったら、大事にするけど、月二回、What’s the Dickensでライブをやるぐらいだったら、誰も大事にしないと思う。」って言いながら、ヤバいと思った。

彼は怒った。まあ、手をはずしたけどね、怒った。

人間は面白い。彼は誰かと手を繋ぎたかった。。。だけではないけど、多分自己イメージを高めたかっただけだと思う。私はその女性の心地の悪さを直してあげたかった。全く紳士的な動機ではない。彼女は多分この変わってる外人と手を繋がず、彼女の友達とだけ話したかったと思う。私とこの二人で不思議な人間関係の網が出来た。それは三人だけ。社会、会社、学校、家族の中でも、繋いでしまうと、網はめちゃくちゃ複雑になる。

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りりちゃん

「何で人間はそんなに悲しいの?」ってりりちゃんは聞いた。おじいちゃんは上を見て、顎に手を乗せた。わざとらしく物思いに沈んだおじいちゃんになった。にっこりと笑いながら彼女に向かって「簡単だよ。」続けて話した。「過去から離れられない。皆、人生の目的は計画を忠実に実行するべきだと思っているけれど、その計画は普通、他の人が作ったものだ。いっぱい経験や思い出や他の人のアイデアや物などを集めながら生活する。それで自分の夢を忘れちゃう。理想と言うものが分からなくなる。成功するより生活する状態になる。」彼女の鼻を摘んでいたおじいちゃんは笑って「悲しみはそのものだ。自分の計画がないと必ず他の人の計画の一部になるよ。じゃ,これからどうする?」おじいちゃんが聞いた。
「アイスクリームを食べる」

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デッカスーツ

うん。あのスーツはでっかかった。私の子供らしくほそっちい体の周りに浮かぶ感じだった。たまに布がたなの隅とかにひっかかってしまった。一回は破れた。元々お父さんのスーツだった。お父さんの匂いもした。何年間も入っていたお父さんの押し入れの匂いもした。巨大なウエストだったスーツだからベルトを堅く締めたズボンは前の方に本物のタックがあって、後ろにベルトのおかげで出来たタックがあって、ジャッケットのショルダーパッドは私のやせている骨格に掛かっていた。

一週間前に女性の靴売場の貯蔵庫で働いていた。毎日、靴の箱をサイズ毎に積み重ねた。新しい靴が入るように空間を作ろうとした。朝から夜まで箱を配置転換してパズルみたいだった。

ある日、ジョーが寄って来た。ジョーとデニス二人とも寄ってきた。ジョーはバイヤーだった。デニスは彼のアシスタントだった。ジョーはちびでぽっちゃりのおじさんでいつもわざとらしくにっこり笑っていった。かなり不思議な事を言っていた、彼。例えば、「おしっこしている時に指に当たらないように!」仕事関係のメタファーだった。彼の頑張れの言い方だった。デニスはどしてももジョーの言う事の最後の言葉を重ねずにはいられなかった。「指に当たらないように!。へへへ」

あっ。そうだ。箱を配置転換してた時にジョーとデニスが来たね。私の周りに箱の町があった。箱のビルは床から私の腰まで伸びた。ゴジラの気持ちだった。箱を積み重ねた私はいつも通りジーパンをはいていた。ジョーとデニスが来ていつも通りデニスはCKの香水の匂いをさせた。

「ジャック!来週、セールが始まる!!これから靴のセールズをやってほしい。」

やっと!この仕事は初めてからセールズをしたかった。靴を売ると売上高の1割の手数料をもらうことが出来るから嬉しかった。その夜、帰る途中に両親の家を訪ねてお父さんの古いスーツを借りた。

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Your Personal Path with a Heart

ID-100198786The growth of our practice depends on the energy we bring with us when we sit. Nothing new here. I have days that I settle right into my spiritual sweet spot and hover in a state of wonder, but I’ve also had plenty of days where every aspect of my practice seems awkward and clumsy. While these more difficult times tend to remind me of crossing that metaphorical gateway into modern manhood, they offer excellent opportunities to examine our practice. I think one great way to mix it up is to experiment with other disciplines. Mix it up. Make sure we are on a “path with a heart.”

No author on spirituality speaks to me more loudly and strongly than Carlos Castaneda. His stories and characters are informative and full of fruitful nuggets that fuel growth. On top of all that, unlike other authors in the genre, they are really fun to read. He is tricked into his path by his teacher, Don Juan Matus, who later tells Castaneda that he devised the plan to attract him through his interest in Anthropology and that he took the bait hook line and sinker. Don Juan’s trickery and mirth come through in Castaneda’s accounts, and I always chuckle a bit when I read his books.

My experience is that the people who like the Castaneda books really enjoy them, and those who don’t, just don’t. There are very few people I’ve met who have a tepid opinion about CC. This seems to be true with “Spiritual Culture” in general. But, one of the funniest things I’ve come across is peoples attachment to the form of spirituality that’s serving their variety of Kool-Aid.

While looking at different meditation products on Amazon one day I came across a series of CDs that guaranteed enlightenment in six months (can’t remember the exact time frame but six months sounds about right). My initial response was a resounding sarcastic “yeah right.” But, my curiosity was sparked so I read on. Gotta love advertising copy. What interested me the most were the reviews of the product. Everybody had really good things to say except one reviewer.

The one reviewer admitted to not owning the CDs yet went on about how they were a fraud and if someone wants to learn how to meditate they should pick up a Jack Kornfield book and do it the proper way. I too am a Jack Kornfield fan, but I guarantee anyone who meditates every day for six months will experience profound results in their practice whether it’s a JK book or “New Age” CDs. And what is enlightenment anyway. As I understand it there are various levels of enlightenment and probably infinite levels within those levels depending on ones definition of enlightenment.

It’s really easy to say that things should be done a certain way but until we open our minds and hearts and allow others to do things the way they need to to affect their world and produce the results that inspire, and direct them we are still in a dark place. Governments sell wars with similar taglines about groups not doing things the “right way.” Any way one meditates will be a vehicle for growth, and we shouldn’t vandalize other people’s vehicles.

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ID-100229800

I’m clearly a man, so I have no idea what the female orgasm is like. Howeveer, I’ve often thought it was something like a sneeze. I’ve been on the verge of a kier sneeze. I know it’s going to be awesome and something distracts me leaving me feeling unfulfilled and a little disappointed in the person who distracted me from my small moment of pleasure. I was so close and…nothing. I hate it when that happens. The times I sneeze are awesome, and there are even those times I have multiple sneezes. If that’s anything like a female orgasm, sign me up.

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Sometimes advertising in Japan is a little wonky. Great example of a concept without a concept. Here we have a comedy team. Blue dinasaur bone bodies and a hamburger for a pepsi zero ad. The headline is “Healthy with Pepsi”. I have no idea what it’s supposed to mean. You’d think the visual cues would act as a form of shorthand to something deeper…they don’t.

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IMG_0396Well now that I have your attention, LSD, the Long Slow Distance run has always been my favorite run during the week, not because of the health benefits, and there are many–including cardio, thermoregulatory, mitochondrial energy production, increasing oxidative capacity of the skeletal system, and of course the holy grail: teaching our bodies to use fat for fuel, but I love LSD more because it’s a meditation. To run two or more hours we have to be dedicated and concentrated. We have to face fatigue, pain, anger, fear, joy, elation, sorrow, and a myriad of emotions and physical sensations that become more and more intense the further we go. Anyone who has spent any time at all staring at a wall knows how powerful these emotions can be when they arise, but they also know that when we separate ourselves from the vicissitudes of these powerful emotions and watch from a place of equanimity, however fleeting it may be, we open the window to our true selves.

My biggest breakthrough was because of my biggest weakness, a bad hip. I was born with a femur and hip socket that don’t match and by the time I turned thirty I was in chronic pain, to the degree that I was unable to sleep at night. I’d sleep for two or three hours at a time but then would wake up in pain. I continued running but it was excruciating; After Aikido I would limp home. Then, I discovered Chi Running.

Chi Running changed the way I ran, I still have some hip pain but it’s nothing like it used to be, and I can run distances that before I never could have considered a couple of years ago. Chi Running is the running technique spawned by Danny Dreyer, an ultra-marathoning, Tai Chi-ing rockstar of running efficiency.

The principles of Chi Running are actually very simple–focusing on efficiency and learning how relax into natural movement. It boils down to form over conditioning and form over speed, being mindful. If you know me at all, you know that I’m all about mindfulness. By using core muscles to run and controlling speed with our body lean rather than foot-speed we can change the way we move forward. If you feel so inclined I highly recommend picking up the book or the DVD. http://www.chirunning.com/shop/home.php

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Birthday Girl

My daughter sits on our sofa a Disney catalogue splayed over her little knees. She has a huge smile on her face and her eyes are lit like only children’s eyes can be. I remember doing that as a kid, thumbing through a catalogue and the possibilities for life were endless. How do we recapture that?

Every day we have an opportunity to look through those eyes at a world that is limitless or we can see a jagged version of the world through jaded goggles. It’s our decision.

I’m borrowing my daughter’s perspective for today.

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You get what you give

I’ve heard it a million times you’ve heard it a million times and there’s a reason for it. It’s true. It’s so much easier to give a hundred and twenty when we like what we’re doing. So why do so many of us do stuff we don’t like and expect to find satisfaction? “Don’t ask me go ask your dad.” Dr. Suess delivered the package with this one.

Usually when I find I’m not satisfied with results it’s because I’m doing something that’s expected of me. Not that something that’s expected of us can’t be satisfying, it’s the reason that makes the difference. I do x because I like it and subsequently it makes Y happy. My mind jumps for joy. I do x because it’s what Y wants. My mind shrivels flaccid and wrinkled.

We get more when we give more. We give more when we like what we’re doing.

What’ll you give today?

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You get what you give

I’ve heard it a million times you’ve heard it a million times and there’s a reason for it. It’s true. It’s so much easier to give a hundred and twenty when we like what we’re doing. So why do so many of us do stuff we don’t like and expect to find satisfaction? “Don’t ask me go ask your dad.” Dr. Suess delivered the package with this one.

Usually when I find I’m not satisfied with results it’s because I’m doing something that’s expected of me. Not that something that’s expected of us can’t be satisfying, it’s the reason that makes the difference. I do x because I like it and subsequently it makes Y happy. My mind jumps for joy. I do x because it’s what Y wants. My mind shrivels flaccid and wrinkled.

We get more when we give more. We give more when we like what we’re doing.

What’ll you give today?

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TED How to live to be 100

TED Three Points I found interesting

Exercise: They don’t exercise they take part in activities they enjoy.
After reading the book Born to Run by Chris McDougall, I had an epiphany. Originally, I started running because of the social aspect and realized that I really loved it but the past 3-4 years I’ve been running to make my ass smaller, which takes all of the fun out of it. The book reminded me why I run–to be part of something special. Club membership includes chafed nipples, lost toenails, and a variety of consequences of pushing your body to the max. If we don’t enjoy the activity, chances are the resistance to it is doing more damage than good. This requires a shift in perspective more than anything else.

At the time that I was running to lose weight I remember fighting through 7-8 kilometers wondering when it would end so I could move on with my day. Then one morning, while running, something happened–I thought to myself ‘I use to love this feeling’. As I was pulling my feet out of the imaginary muck I’d made for myself, I went through the list. Why was it fun? I was in mountain trails, the scenery was great. I felt like I was part of a special club. The group I ran with were all marathoners (I was the slowest), but I was pushing myself to be better–eustress.

Eustress was the answer. Even Aikido provids eustress. ‘So, how do I find flow again?’ I thought to myself, and it hit me–small achievable goals with consistent feedback. I chose time. I decided on the amount of time I’d run for each day and base my pace internally on that rather than trying to maintain a consistent speed with my chrono. At my age I won’t be running in the Olympics so I’ll just have to have a good time with it and now I do. Am I fast? Not like my upstairs neighbor/coach (www.princepari.com) who runs marathons as an elite class runner, but I have fun. And he still supports my training and offers constant, and appreciated, advice.

Time out: Meditation, prayer, or silent time
If you read the FOol at all you know this is what I’m about. The days that I skip this time I really feel it. Ask my family, I’m probably more grumpy and a lot less fun to be around. I don’t think it matters what you do as long as it’s something that brings peace. I use to feel that in order to progress one had to sit lotus and stare at a wall. Then I had children. Music, or river, stream, ocean noises make sitting so much easier to do when there is a cacophony of singing screaming and toys bouncing off the walls in the next room (I don’t think I’ve ever heard toys bounce off the walls in the other room, but I do imagine it when the noise level is cranked up to 11).

Some recommendations for meditation music–Kelley Howell http://www.brainsync.com/ She has a voice like butter. I also own a nice selection of water noises and the Monroe Institute http://www.monroeinstitute.org/ also has some good stuff. Water works like white noise and helps block out noise. The master meditator would say that if I was really good I wouldn’t need the crutches and would use the external noise as part of my path to enlightenment. Well, I’m not that good yet. But when I am I’ll be the first to be dancing around like a crazed monkey. Or not.

Eating 80% of Fill
Consciously eating and eating only 80% of my fill is tough when my wife does that amazing culinary thing she does. Her Midas hands touch food and it immediately melts in my mouth. Luckily she’s seen what happens when I start to put on weight and she doesn’t like the Fat FOol so she makes less in the way of portions and in the Japanese tradition serves food just like the man said–individual plates. Awareness while eating, walking, and washing dishes can be a great vehicle toward better concentration. Try it sometime, chew each bite at least fifty times, breath, and give your food the attention it deserves.

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Losing the Holiday Weight–Update

85.2 Kilograms

I realized that when I weigh myself daily there’s none of the American Idol suspense and hoopla as I step up to the scale. So this blog will have to start off a little flaccid. I’ve watched those unwanted grams magically disappear this week thanks to the steps I mentioned on the 11th of this month. This morning I weighed in at 85.2 k that’s 0.3k below my target outcome and almost 2k in a week. A solid diet of no more that 1,900 calories and daily running payed off. I expected it to take a couple of weeks but it seems to have dropped faster. I wouldn’t recommend trying to lose two kilos in a week, but if it just happens it just happens.

Born to Run

This month I lucked out with my Audible credit (audible.com); I opted to pick up the book “Born to Run” http://bit.ly/4vKD5w . An account of a reporter who helped a running legend set up a race with a Native American tribe and some Ultramarathon Heavyweights in the Copper Canyon of Mexico. An amazing listen. If you have a commute to work/school you could do worse, runner or not. This book reminded me why I run in the first place. It’s fun.

Sitting FOol

No, I’m not just a running and dieting FOol. There’s still a lot of sitting going on. I realized last year, however, that there’s only so much one can say about sitting without sounding like a transcendental pedant. So, from now on I’ll be writing about more than just sitting. Perched atop an apple crate one night with a gin in my hand, I was having a conversation with my Yoga Buddy–our local watering hole has only apple crates on which to sit, but we’re spared the flaming garbage can for warmth; the place is fully stocked with a modern day heating system. YB mentioned that there’s a lot to be said about meditation but restricting the blog to that could make it a little stale. I think he was right, and I’m no Joseph Goldstein or Jack Kornfield, so here we are with a little bit different content on the FOol. Any comments or suggestions are welcome.

Peace Always,

The FOol

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Losing the Holiday Weight

By December 31st I was back down to my svelte fighting weight of 85 kilograms. I made it a point to weigh myself before the tipple perfused my liver like Enver Pasha’s men by the Bashkir cavalry. Curry and beer were on the menu with satellite dishes of nachos and meat wrapped in meat (one of my favorites) as well as enough chocolate to get an entire third grade class arrested. And I consumed it all, and it was good. After the gustatory fornication I crawled to my room, lumbering through my living room, the Cetacean King, I rolled onto my bed and tallied my health debt.

Over the course of two days I managed to add 2.5 kilograms (that’s five and a half pounds for the SI challenged) of FOol to my once healthy frame. The snowball was gaining mass and momentum. Could I run it off in the first week of the year? Unfortunately, the more I run the more I eat, unless I’m careful. So here I am two weeks into the year and boasting a robust 87.2 kay-geez.

What does this have to do with sitting? Well, not much other than my ass is getting bigger. So I’m going to share my weight loss secret. Every time I have to lose weight I follow the same ritual. And it always works.

The FOol’s Plan:

Step 1. Prepare

If you haven’t already, go to Livestrong.com and set up an account. If you have an Iphone or an ipod this is even better.

Take the scale out and put it somewhere where it glares at you every morning.

Stock up on brown rice and whole wheat bread.

Find a 1 liter bottle

Tell your spouse or S.O. to not nag for the next week ‘cause your gonna be in a bad mood. (the bad mood is optional it’s really your choice).

Bust out your running shoes.

Step 2: Do

Use Livestrong’s site to set your targets. Eat only the number of calories that you allot for the day. Keep it simple. I try to use common sense rather than figuring what my fat, carb, protein ratio is. I’ve got better things to do with my time. My friends who are professional/serious athletes do this a lot, but I’d rather use the psychic energy and time to do things like read or spend time with my family. When you’re actually over weight breaking your diet down to scientific equations is like giving mouth-to-mouth to resuscitate a disembodied head. Calculate that stuff when your going from great shape to awesome shape. The only exception is if doing everything scientifically is what excites you, then it becomes motivation.

Livestrong does all the work for you. Don’t get hung up on specifics. A general idea of your caloric intake will do. Chances are you’ll be off 50-100 calories. Don’t try to be too perfect.

Record EVERYTHING that passes through your lips. This is an awesome exercise in awareness. You’ll be amazed at how often we just shove things in our mouth without thinking. If you snack record it. If you don’t have an ipod or iphone carry a notebook and leave food on the plate if you eat out. People may be starving somewhere in the world but your not, and eating all of your food won’t solve the world hunger problem.

SLOW BURN CARBS-If it’s white, don’t eat it. Simple. Eat the stuff that your body has to work a little to break down. This will keep you from being hungry and provide your body with a little bit better nutrition. I always eat brown sugar rather than white too.

Drink a liter of water before you eat. I like to mix it with wheat grass or lemon, both help raise the body’s alkalinity.

Step 3: Follow your progress.

Every single morning weigh yourself. If the scale is greeting you every morning you won’t forget. Chances are it will be scary, if you feel the fear, give yourself another option–stand naked in front of the mirror. When I’m over weight the thought alone makes me pucker.

When dropping pounds I like to run anaerobically–run for 30 seconds at 90% and then a minute at 30%, do this at least six times with 3-5 k warm-down and within no time I’m back in the realm of 85 kg’s.

There you are. It’s pretty simple. Everyone is different and different things work for them. This has never failed me. Once I drop the weight I can run longer distances and take a little bit more liberty with food.

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Happy New Year Resolutions

As 2009 winds down I’ve taken the opportunity to do what I do every year and set the trajectory for both my business and my personal life. The economy affected so many people’s business’ and I wasn’t immune. I was, however, lucky. My business is still going fairly well, but there were a couple of months there where my wife and I were a little worried. The good news is that this offered me an opportunity to ponder. For when business is good we tend to party, but when it’s bad we ponder. And ponder I did.

I didn’t write much for the FOol during these last few months because, as luck would have it, I was busy. But I also wanted to look at my business and see how I could improve it, so that the next time the economy flies south for the winter, I would be prepared. The question on some people’s minds I’m sure is, “Did I sit?” Yes, I did. Regularly and probably more intently than I have in the past few years.

Pondering my business forced me to ask myself the question of fulfillment and how it relates to my business. How I focus on my business, my life, and my family as well as where the focal points should be, and when. These were the points that stood out.

Getting stuff done has less to do with discipline and more to do with our motivation.
What’s the difference between motivation and discipline? Motivation moves us; from the Latin motivus–to move. And discipline comes from, Latin as well, disciplina–instruction or knowledge. It’s the difference between a get to and a got to.

Even during the times that I’m working out a lot, making more money, and sitting a couple of times a day, I always think of those activities as get to’s. There is strong motivation behind them in terms of the outcome, but the activities take precedence because I love them and they become part of my life’s purpose. I’m able to find ways to make them about what and who I am. Running becomes more than just running it’s that time to enjoy the morning and concentrate on breathing, move my body. I don’t think I could get myself to run if it was just to loose a few pounds, it’s not nearly as much fun.

Define Your Roles-act them out as part of your purpose
Before my daughter started preschool I would schedule two hours in with her in the morning (scheduling the time in ensures that we’ll do it). Many of the park moms thought I was a stay at home dad and that my wife worked, which is almost unheard of in Japan. This time with my daughter was the high point of my day and it was my Dad Role. I had the opportunity to influence her and we would go to the park with absolutely no agenda. Then I would go to my office from noon and use the energy I had just built from a get to on another get to. I’d put my copywriter hat on and write, and the cycle goes on.

Failing to have a plan will inevitably put you in someone else’s.
It’s happened to all of us we go along with something because we’re not sure what we want and wham the next thing we know we’re in a situation we don’t know how we got into or how to get out of. Knowing our outcome desired outcome is something that people have been driving into me since I was a teenager. We have to get emotional about the plan. I laugh when I hear of companies hiring an outside consultant to devise a corporate strategy. Chances of employees feeling invested in a corporate strategy that they had nothing to do with are probably pretty slim. Whether it’s losing weight or increasing income or sitting daily we have to be invested. It has to fit into our purpose. If we’re not emotional about it we are likely to find ourselves following the crowd only to wonder how things got so fucked up.

Throw away your task list.
Yes, many gurus of GTD would be calling me a blasphemer. If you have a task list look at the reasons you have those tasks. I was watching a “motivational video” where this man was talking about all the stuff he had to do and how stressed he was about it and the moderator started helping him group items together to make it easier to digest. The things he was stressing over made me laugh a little. This man obviously didn’t have children. He had to finish is business plan, make his vision board, enroll in some Power of Wow class, and on it went. If your stressed about making your vision board, JUST DON’T F’n MAKE IT. Stressed about taxes, or the upcoming deadline, I’ll give you. Stressed about getting your morning run in or making a vision board. If that’s not fun either find away to make it a get to or drop it.

I actually schedule a couple hours a day in with my daughter a day. People think it’s kind of weird that I write it into my schedule. But I do it so that I know that the purpose is to spend time with my daughter. If she wants to go to the park we go to the park if she wants to watch a DVD we watch a DVD. It’s time well spent and I know not to schedule meetings in during the time slot.

Find your purpose and enjoy your roles.
I challenge you to find your purpose this next year and make your life a get to!

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FOcus and Concentration

It’s happened to just about everyone, during sports, while washing dishes, playing music, or in a time of crisis; time slows down to a veritable still, our actions are conscious, and we are completely present. When people ask me about meditation this is the best way to describe it. It’s happened to all of us and will probably happen again, but how do we move into this state on our own and moor our boat safely to the dock?

I sometimes golf with my father-in-law and I’ll never forget the first time I hit the ball right. It was smooth almost silent and my focus was so intense, almost icy cold. As we move forward on the path these moments become more and more frequent. In my early years of training in Aikido, one of my “sempai,” or a student who had a lot more experience under his belt, which was a faded black, almost grey from years of intense training, told me that in the beginning Aikido would be something I do in life but after a few years, life would be something I do in Aikido. I didn’t really understand him at the time but in a few years time I realized that I carry my Aikido into daily life in how I interact with people and my approach to objective reality.

Focus and presence

Developing focus and presence takes practice. Some use a sitting practice, some dance, some do yoga, martial arts, the list is endless but it all amounts to the same thing: we are developing concentration and focus. It’s been said that there are three types of spirituality: intellectual, emotional, and concentration. Every major faith and most minor ones have examples of this in any variety of combinations. The intellectual is pretty simple, it’s the root of fundamentalism, but it allows us to study and talk and compare to enhance spirituality. Emotional is the aspect of feeling feelings of love, but it can even be sorrow, or anger at those who don’t hold the same or similar views that impacts our spiritual lives. Maybe not the most divine example of spirituality but these feelings can become a pillar of our spiritual practice.

When we talk of concentration we are talking about a rare few, a few who have maybe believed in the words and felt the emotions, but it’s not a prerequisite. They’ve taken it upon themselves to explore the subjective world to find peace and affect the objective world with it. The path of concentration is, in a way, the loneliest practice of the lot, but it offers the greatest reward. Meditation is an example of this and it’s not limited to Buddhism. Every great religion has a highly concentrated forms of meditation: Sufi Dance, Kabala, Silent Prayer, and the list goes on.

The fundamental aspect of this state is non-resistance or equanimity. They are the people who can focus and concentrate even while surrounded by chaos or pain. The people who are calm regardless of conditions. I’m often reminded of this when my four year old screams at me–remain calm regardless of conditions. To develop this takes time and patience and one can use a moving or a still meditation to reach this state, the end result is the same. The true test is how we deal with distractions, are we scattered or concentrated.

The beauty of these states is not only the mental clarity and relaxed physical body but the stream of consciousness. In our daily states we may watch birds fly by and there is an obvious distinction between us and the birds. But, in a heightened state of awareness we move with the birds and feel part of them. This can last for a brief moment or hours depending on how skilled we are, but when it happens there is a profound sense of peace and one-ness with everything–for me it’s often interrupted by some silly thought and everything snaps back to somnambulations of a life that’s not in the moment. It’s in this meditative state that we are not interfering with ourselves.

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Honesty

He described things not in or near his heart, but toward his extremities and superficies. – Henry David Thoreau

Be true to yourself. It was said by Socrates as “Know Thyself” and Shakespeare as “To thine own self be true.” as well as hundreds of others; but how well do we know ourselves? One of the pinnacle stages in my life as a “human animal” was learning that thoughts are just thoughts and have very little to do with who I am. We can count on thoughts running amuck and won’t ever really control them because the brain was designed to link experiences with ideas so we can process the world. It’s a great function but it’s not who we are, it’s a function of the machine. We can, however, learn to ignore them, like a well meaning buddy telling us how to live our lives.

Being happy and being at peace are choices we make. They don’t just happen thanks to happy thoughts or a promotion or a nice vacation. Peace and happiness can be found in even the worst situations by grounding ourselves. Stressful times often offer me the most opportunity for finding peace and happiness. But, we can’t ignore the reality that’s positioned itself before us. To do so would be a waste, a waste of experience.

Learning to disassociate from the mental phenomenon.

Let’s say I’ve lost my job, my wife is leaving me, and the world seems to be a veritable Sani-Hut. Can I find peace in the of the scree of this disaster? Yes, but it will take some work, and no more work than it really takes to wallow in misery. I don’t think it will happen by telling myself that it’ll all get better unless I actually believe it.

Being honest.

Honesty with oneself is difficult. It’s disheartening at times and always disillusioning. The latter is always good, for when we’ve brought the illusion down in a tumbling cloud of dust and bricks, we can rebuild, but only after we’ve accepted our reality. A reality that most of us have chosen. Acceptance is more that just acknowledging, it’s owning up to the reality as ours. No blame just acceptance.

Sitting is an excellent vehicle for acceptance. When everything is racing through the mind sometimes separating, pulling ourselves away, is easier than focusing on how many similarities the situation has with a Hoover. When we focus on separating feeling from thought from reaction from emotion the cloud of dust begins to settle. Clarity. Equanimity. I don’t think one has to be a Power Sitter to experience this either.

I’m not a big fan of Self Talk, telling ourselves that our world is perfect even though we don’t believe it; a world where Bambi, the hunter, and the Big Brown Bear live together sharing the same food dish. Are we being honest? The world is perfect but we have to find the perfection in it. Everybody has methods to maintain their equilibrium from NLP, to sitting, to good old fashion alcohol. These are tools, your tool is your choice. But do we ever step back from the tree and look at the forest to see if the tool is really functioning on the mental function.

Sitting has always worked for me. Is it perfect? No. But it’s as close as I’ve gotten. The beauty of sitting for me is that it’s the stricture from which creativity is birthed. I find this true with Aikido as well. I’m able to narrow my focus to a point of freedom. This doesn’t seem make much sense but I’m pretty sure those who share this experience with me know exactly what I’m talking about. We all have aspects of our lives perceived or seemingly very real that cause angst. What tools do we use to cope? To we have the kahuna’s to experiment?

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The Halo of Superiority

I hear the hum of the air conditioners on the roof of the neighboring building, but we have yet to use ours, at least during the day. It’s warm, there’s no doubt, but it’s not the heavy inhumane heat of a Tokyo August, and why should it be, it’s still early July. As I sit writing the occasional waft carries with it relief as it passes through the room reminding me why I don’t have the air conditioning on yet. It’s that small breeze, a feeling of free air, not the stale constricted air that comes with air conditioning but an uninhibited open air that passes through the room bringing life with it.

The phone rings, I pick it up; it’s one of my clients, he’s breathing fast, talking fast, simply at the end of his tether. I hold on to the gentle breeze the best I can while he delivers a myriad of reminders of why I don’t work for a major corporation and asks me to meet with the client. They’re not happy. Really clients are almost never happy it’s the eternal dance of the advertising world. We, the agency folk, deliver and the client rejects until we run out of time, then we go back to some of the original ideas; they decide on one and we seal it forgetting about the power two-step to do it all again with the next client.

He confirms I don’t know how many times; “Can you really be here on this day?” “Will you really give us this day?” “Make sure you show up on this day.” By now I’m fighting the urge to serenade him with The Anglo Saxon Mill Worker’s Greatest Hits but somehow manage to choke it back with last night’s beer and ramen. The sting in the back of my throat is rivaling the pressure I feel behind my eyes. I hang up the phone and breathe for a bit. Deep breaths into my diaphragm, expanding and contracting.

Everybody has a halo of superiority around them. I do. My colleagues do; my friends do. It’s a natural psychological development and defense mechanism. Some people’s halos have developed to a point where they are perfectly comfortable redefining stupid. I have friends who are extremely intelligent and very aware of it, this opens the door of opportunity for them to be inane at times because they assume they’re right. Or at least righter than everyone else. How often are we actually right? If we look at things from another point of view would we find that point of view right too? How many right paths are there?

It’s so easy to take the time to slow down and look at a situation from a different perspective but we often forget. This is one of the aspects I love about a sitting practice. When one clears the mind and strips the context of motive and meaning one is able to bring a new awareness into consciousness it’s looking at the playing field from the Goodyear blimp, and it all makes so much sense, to the point that one almost feels stupid for not realizing the simplicity of it. Nothing really matters. When we strip our circumstances of meaning we experience freedom.

Who cares what people say to us or about us? Usually, people are thinking about their situation (it has nothing to do with us) when the bowel speak leaves parted lips. My client asking me numerous times if I’ll be there has nothing to do with me as a copywriter it probably has to do with the eight tons of “we will fuck you sideways” coming from the client. And who knows why? It really doesn’t matter. All that matters is my state and how I act in each moment.

Do we really take the time to practice conscious and aware speech and action? Do we think about the things we say and write? When we receive that department memo do we assume we know where the person is coming from? Do we seek to understand before being understood or are we too busy trying to persuade people to think as we do because we know what’s best for them?

Take some time to look at a situation and really think, am I listening to this person or am I assuming I know what he’s trying to say? Am I projecting my experiences onto this? Am I looking at this from a place of silent knowledge?

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It’s about maintaining contact…Musubi.

Holding on to Sensei’s forearm for dear life torn between the sheer power I sense from her, and the wonder of what it’s like to be moved through space and time like a Raggedy Anne doll, she pins me and I feel a drop of sweat fall from her nose and splash on my cheek. She twists my arm into a lock and let’s me up and we do it again, and again.

This is the moment when we really feel the power from our partners yet it’s always ruined at the end of class when someone asks, “Why don’t we talk about Ki more?” My eyes roll and I’m thinking that one can have as many theories about Ki and they will all be right. Nailing Jell-O to a tree proves much more practical than defining and proving Ki.

The problem with the new age movement is, well to be quite honest… the new age movement. Aikido is famous for attracting a lot of the “spiritual” types.

But what’s the “not spiritual” type? It’s akin to asking what the speed of dark is.

We’re all spiritual whether we admit it or not. Every action every breath is movement of energy. Energy is Spirit. We are. There is no skinny man wearing a goofy hat sans soul lurking in the bushes. I honestly believe that the people who think less about spirituality are the ones who often have a stronger connection with the powers that be. So what about people who identify with a movement? Christian, Wiccan, Aikido, Zen…

Is identifying with a movement, with the exception of muscle or bowel, healthy?

“I’m working with twin energies on the ethereal plain.”

“I have a Cryonic wound”

“I’m learning the ways of the Force”

WTF. I have a screaming four year old, and a wife who thinks I’m an idiot. The Cryonic wound and Twin Energies on the ethereal plain sound like a fucking righteous alternative to dropping a hit of acid, and yet the complaints about them keep coming in. I can’t deal with my life, so I’ll participate in a reality that allows me to justify not dealing with a life I’ve chosen, and is yet equally as unsatisfying. And why is it that all of the people who follow the “Secret” and these realities are usually struggling financially. Of course, with the exception of the marketing geniuses who are feeding off of these people’s discontent and frustration. Just good marketing?

“Just envision and manifest?”

I buy into visualization. I buy into being positive, and I believe these factors are an integral ingredient to a full spectrum success formula. However, if you just sit on your ass and visualize all day you might as well spark up  a doobie and make it more fun albeit less memorable. Action.

There’s nothing more funny than watching a gaggle of geeks sitting around a table talking about Ki and how to develop it over beers. It’s like defining God. What is God? Who is God? All we know is what we experience, and there are some things we shouldn’t worry about understanding, but instead take it on ourselves to explore even though we may never understand. And the internal dialogue goes on, we keep talking to ourselves about it and defining it’s dimensions instead of basking in the wonder it offers.

And here it is the stench of rationalization employed from the time we were toddlers justifying kicking the neighbor:

There has to be a winner and a looser.

A persecutor and a victim.

A God and a devil.

I saw a movie years ago in which the characters were talking about an all powerful force and when asked, “Is it God?” they replied, “No, it’s like the space in which God and the devil wage their war.” The whole coin. If God is heads and the devil is tails, we should be more interested in the whole coin. The Supreme being no matter what you want to call him embodies all. There can be no darkness without light. When we stop identifying with the dualism we are free to set sail on a new course toward freedom. The only way to stop identifying with these two imaginary forces is to stop the dialogue.

Internal dialogue

It’s the motor that’s constantly running in the background. A hum that we become so familiar with that it just becomes wallpaper. However, in the initial phases of our practice it is the bane of our existence. Internal dialogue. How do we master it? What do we do to squelch it? Do we ever actually stop it? It plays the judge and victim constantly telling us how good bad or ugly everything about our world is. Thus re-enforcing all that we believe to be true.

I’m settled in on my mat stopping thought. And each thought squeezes through the firewall undetected and lives it’s brief life until I recognize it as a thought and let it go. There’s a moment of mental silence and I realize again that I’m daydreaming thinking about how hot my next door neighbor is, or wondering why my back hurts more than usual. Then there’s the gap of no thought. I rest in that area for a while until I realize once again that I’m thinking. And the process goes on. Sensei throws me again, and I get up and we do it again. Live, experience, and be the moment.

I grow.

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Your Personal Path with a Heart

The growth of our practice depends on the energy we bring with us when we sit. Nothing new here. I have days that I settle right into my spiritual sweet spot and hover in a state of wonder, but I’ve also had plenty of days where every aspect of my practice seems awkward and clumsy. While these more difficult times tend to remind me of crossing that metaphorical gateway into modern manhood, they offer excellent opportunities to examine our practice. I think one great way to mix it up is to experiment with other disciplines. Mix it up. Make sure we are on a “path with a heart.”

No author on spirituality speaks to me more loudly and strongly than Carlos Castaneda. His stories and characters are informative and full of fruitful nuggets that fuel growth. On top of all that, unlike other authors in the genre, they are really fun to read. He is tricked into his path by his teacher, Don Juan Matus, who later tells Castaneda that he devised the plan to attract him through his interest in Anthropology and that he took the bait hook line and sinker. Don Juan’s trickery and mirth come through in Castaneda’s accounts, and I always chuckle a bit when I read his books.

My experience is that the people who like the Castaneda books really enjoy them, and those who don’t, just don’t. There are very few people I’ve met who have a tepid opinion about CC. This seems to be true with “Spiritual Culture” in general. But, one of the funniest things I’ve come across is peoples attachment to the form of spirituality that’s serving their variety of Kool-Aid.

While looking at different meditation products on Amazon one day I came across a series of CDs that guaranteed enlightenment in six months (can’t remember the exact time frame but six months sounds about right). My initial response was a resounding sarcastic “yeah right.” But, my curiosity was sparked so I read on. Gotta love advertising copy. What interested me the most were the reviews of the product. Everybody had really good things to say except one reviewer.

The one reviewer admitted to not owning the CDs yet went on about how they were a fraud and if someone wants to learn how to meditate they should pick up a Jack Kornfield book and do it the proper way. I too am a Jack Kornfield fan, but I guarantee anyone who meditates every day for six months will experience profound results in their practice whether it’s a JK book or “New Age” CDs. And what is enlightenment anyway. As I understand it there are various levels of enlightenment and probably infinite levels within those levels depending on ones definition of enlightenment.

It’s really easy to say that things should be done a certain way but until we open our minds and hearts and allow others to do things the way they need to to affect their world and produce the results that inspire, and direct them we are still in a dark place. Governments sell wars with similar taglines about groups not doing things the “right way.” Any way one meditates will be a vehicle for growth, and we shouldn’t vandalize other people’s vehicles.

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The Power of Ritual

Before I sit I turn the light switch on and off a hundred times, turn around in a circle, and giggle my bowels loose. NOT. But there is a place for ritual. As humans we thrive on it. I know people who light candles or have a special mat on which they sit (I do this). One of my friends even explained a technique to get and change core beliefs that included breaking jars.

The Japanese Tea Ceremony is laden with ritual. Every movement is precise and planned but complete awareness is infused into each of these movements which infuses us and those attending with Spirit. The explanation may sound festooned with crystals and music with nature sounds but the ceremony is quite inspiring. By paying attention to each movement the person giving the ceremony pulls all the attendees into the same mental state.

This is true with the martial arts as well. I remember bringing one of my friends to watch Aikido, as a Reiki practitioner he’s comfortable and aware of subtle energies (I, personally, could probably be punched in the forehead by subtle energies and not know it). As I’m rolling around on the mat taking turns throwing and being thrown, my friend watched, focused and intent. Curious, afterword, I approached him and asked what he thought. He commented that the energy in the room was the same feeling he has when he does Reiki. After doffing my sweaty dogi and folding my hakama we went to the local hub for drinks. It was then that we had a long conversation on how ritual forces awareness (or concentration) and the power it has on the human soul.

It doesn’t have to be a Tea Ceremony. It could be the ceremony of brushing our teeth or eating our dinner or spending time with our families. The more ritual activities we turn into a holy ritual the more likely we are to live in awareness.

The FOol’s Challenge.

Eat your meals. Chew each bite 25-50 times. Feel the texture, taste the taste, and watch how it all changes. Take a mindful breath, then pick up your next bite and do it all over again. This is a great exercise if you’re dieting too. It will provide mindful eating and mindful breathing. Not very good if you’re in a hurry though. But my experience is that most things can wait for mindfulness.

Peace.

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Choosing Happiness

As a child my mom regurgitated the words of her mother regularly: “If your not happy it’s your own fault. If people don’t like you look inside and see what the reason is. If you’re bored take a nap.” On the surface these may seem callus but they’re by far some of the most beneficial things she said to me. We all have control of our state, if we allow ourselves the control. Chances are the promotion, the new lover, or the feebwizit with the free Clapper will not ultimately make us happy. Happiness is something we decide. The circumstances are extraneous. 

 

 

Act Happy.

 

Acting happy is probably the first step to making the world right. Our posture, our facial expressions, and our tone of voice all affect our internal world. The argument: I don’t want to be fake. Why not? I’m not saying to ignore how you feel. Feel it but don’t dwell on it. Chances are we won’t come down to a clear reason we’re unhappy, but if we put the effort into changing the state instead of ruminating or trying to get to the bottom of our unhappiness, we can make a difference.

 

Find something to be happy about.

 

So we’re having a hard time acting happy, find something to be happy about. Change focus. Listen to music. The world is colored by the glasses we wear, if we can focus on something that makes us feel good we can turn to our challenges and approach them with a new zeal. 

 

Play. 

 

Playfulness makes us flexible. If we can approach everything we do with a sense of playfulness it will make things a lot better. I have several friends who have amassed millions of dollars on their own and they all have one thing in common, they look at life as a game. Everything they approach they have fun with. A lesson to be learned here.

 

Don’t think about how…just do it.

 

We waste a lot of time thinking about how to do something but usually, I’ve found, if I just get in there and start getting my hands dirty I approach things from a different perspective. We can approach happiness this way, or we can approach that which is seemingly causing our distress this way. Chances are once we get involved and stop over-using our imaginations they will work for us.

 

Choose.

 

Making a conscious choice to control our state will make all the difference. A friend of mine called me the other day and shared his new mantra:

 

“Circumstances don’t matter. Only my state matters. Which state do I prefer?”

 

He pulled this from a Bashar video, it’s something that I’ve adopted in the past few days as well. When the dog barks and the bee stings it’s a powerful tool to ground and focus.

 

One other great advantage to being happy is it can really piss off people who choose not to be. This is how they choose to be, I’m giving them what they want and my lizard brain seems to find a little bit of joy in this. :)

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Three Steps to Start Your Day Off Right; and four more to take it to the next level.

I’m a firm believer that the first few moments of our days are critical for setting the tone of the day. I go through seven steps, but I feel the first three are the most critical. The first three are the most simple, but their simplicity makes them easy to put on the wayside while we tackle the “major challenges.”

 

1. Smile.

Nothing sets me off on the right foot like smiling. Smile through the hangover or the poor night’s sleep. It’s worth it. My daughter’s an early riser. Some mornings her little eyes will find the new day at five a.m. When she calls out “Daddy”, it’s so easy to smile and say “Good morning Jellybean.”It makes her day and mine. This is the least time-consuming, and easiest way we can make our days and the days of those whom we hold dear better. I hear of people who say they’re not morning people. If we’re up…we’re morning people. Paint a smile on that puss and look at the day as something we get to do. 

 

 

2. Sit.

This is what I’m all about. Take that half hour and sit. Do it any way you like, but do it. Take the time to commune with All That Is. Breathe. Settle in, and settle down. Getting past the first few moments is the hardest part but once we’ve past a certain point it’s easy, and I always feel better after sitting. It brings a sense of calm into the world. If you don’t have time to sit for a half hour take at least five minutes to just be. Listen to your heart and learn from it.

 

3. Exercise.

If it’s stretching, Yoga, or Aikido. Find the time to work in a workout. Running is my morning workout of choice, when I lived closer to the Dojo Aikido took precedence, but these days running seems to work great. Put on some music and just move your body. Anthony Robbins talks in his “Get the Edge” series about having an “Hour of Power.” This has changed my life. Find your own hour of power and do it. The more in tune we are with our bodies the better off we’ll be throughout the day.

 

These are the most important steps. I mentioned that I have seven so I’ll share the last four as well. Depending on the type of work you do and your personality these may help, and then again some may just consider these as useless as man-nipples but if it helps please feel free to give them a try.

 

4.Plan out your day. 

Take a look at what you have to do. Put it into your schedule and prioritize. (nothing new but we often forget) Without a set direction for the day it can drag, and nothing about life should drag.

 

5.Visualize. Visualize. Visualize. 

What do you want to accomplish short and long term look at these things. See them, feel them, smell and taste them. Get your whole sensory field involved. It will make it more real and will help work through some of the blocks.

 

6.Appreciate. 

Feel some gratitude for everything you have. Gratitude is what powers the machine. The more appreciation we have in our lives the more we’ll focus on what is right. The more we focus on what’s right the more “what’s right” we make in our lives. Be thankful for everything. If you can’t find something to be thankful for (I doubt anyone who’s at a site like this has that problem) make it up for the future. Be thankful for something that hasn’t happened yet. When I was a child this was part of our dinner conversation. We each had to bring something to the table for which we were grateful. If I could do it as a teenager anybody can do it. :)

 

7.Tell someone close to you that you love them/Spread the Gratitude

Compliment. Whether we tell our children that they have a beautiful smile or, our spouses that we appreciate everything they do it’s spreading the gratitude. Spread the gratitude. It’ll pay off.

 

Peace.

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Extracting ourselves from negativity.

So there I was sitting in a tin can, and the world was tumbling around me. My blood pressure was high, and I thought my head would launch in water rocket fashion to a comfortable orbit outside the ozone layer and I stopped. Silence…what’s really the problem here. It’s certainly not the 180 pound winer standing in front of me. It’s how I’m reacting to the winer. I took some breaths as realization bent me over her knee and delivered a well-deserved spanking. I was allowing this situation to effect my mood. WTF my inner adolescent texted me. 

 

Proceeding to relax my scalp as I listened to this person rant about something meaningless to me but obviously important to him and it all struck home. What’s important to me? Do we really take time to ask ourselves this question on a daily basis or do we get so caught up in the daily minutia that we refrain from investing our time and energy in what we want/need?

 

Do we take the initiative to pull ourselves out of negative conversations that aren’t serving us or the people who may be ranting because we feel obligated to listen? Obviously, we don’t want to be insensitive but how often have we been in conversations where the person across from us is supplying so much negativity that we feel we may very well jump out of our scratchy meat suit?

 

I recently read a blog, and this woman tells about a man who comes into Starbucks giving off some of those vibes that should be buried somewhere in central Nevada and how it changed the whole mood of the cafe. What do we bring to our environment?

 

We have the option to duck out of negativity.

 

There’s nothing that says we have to resonate with the negativity that’s forcing it’s way into our vibratory field. I’ve recently come to a point with my clients that when I feel like I’m banging my head against a brick wall trying to get my concept across that I simply give them the information and have them call or e-mail me later for rewrites or an explanation. It makes everyone’s life a little easier.

 

Be aware.

 

Be aware of how you’re feeling when you find yourself in a conversation. Feel if it’s serving you or the other person. If it’s not. learn how to gently tell them that you prefer not to go into this topic. Is it selfish? Maybe, but chances are it will strengthen the relationship with a little transparency.

 

One of my favorite clients has a habit of just railing on people after they leave while smiling and being overtly nice to them while they are in his presence. This is all fine but if he does it to everyone chances are he does the same thing when I leave, so one day as he was telling me how stupid so-and-so was I simply told him no. There was an awkward moment. The kind that makes you want to pick all your stuff up and just run out the door. And then he just nodded. I haven’t heard any of the rumbling about others in his presence since. 

 

The beauty of this world is that we can choose the experience we have and choose what it means to us.

 

What will we choose today?

 

Peace Always.

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The Fool’s Workshop: The next week

After we learn to sit still we can delve a little deeper into the machine. The next few steps are how I like to do things there are as many different ways to meditate as there are people who meditate. It’s extremely personal and we should each individually play with different ways to sit until we find something that suits our personality.

 

Breathe.

I like to breathe slowly for ten breaths to focus a little

 

Relax.

Start from your jaw. Relax the jaw and try to relax the scalp and all the way to the back of the head. Then move into your ears and relax your brain. Moving down the spine and outward relax your neck then shoulders all the way down to your hands. Each individual finger. Try to feel your muscles as you go go back into your arms then back up the inside of your arms into the thorax relaxing your chest and stomach then the organs within. Relax the hips legs try to feel the relaxation process into your toes once relaxing each individual toe and then go back up your body.

 

I find this relaxing technique is the best way to settle into my body. I use to do this before Aikido class to prepare myself for the class.

 

Breathe.

For me I then focus on my breath. this in the beginning drove me crazy. I felt I had to be as focused as possible. Relax. If your mind drifts to something else just notice it feel it. Don’t judge it but try to get a feel for what it is. Notice what about it is thinking and what about it is feeling, try to focus on the feeling part. Is it hard or soft, strong or subtle, vibrating or static. Don’t let my words be what you go by if it feels squiggly let it be squiggly and realize that that is the mind labeling it. Turn the light on the light. Then after the process has run its course go back to your breath.

 

Visualize.

Before I get up I like to take a moment to visualize. I’ve only shared this with one person but I like to do Aikido with Jesus. We go through the techniques and I’m able to feel the techniques from both perspectives (thrower and throwee). He’s pretty much a bad-ass. A great partner. Visualize something that will make your day better. I bet my mother will be on the ski slopes. Visualize something that excites you and moves you.

 

Smile.

I like to try to keep a relaxed smile on my face throughout the whole process. 

 

Most of all enjoy it and enjoy it enough that you push your self gently to focus more and sit longer.

 

Smiles.

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The Fool’s Workshop: First 3 Days

I took my family to The Magical Kingdom the other day, My three and a half year old daughter wanted her photo taken with Donald Duck; I watched as she approached with trepidation. How does one approach a five-foot tall three-foot wide Anatidae? It made me think about beginning a sitting practice. People always ask me how to get started. I’ll toe the party line and say it’s simple but not easy.

 

All we have to do is sit. It’s a century old practice but how do we start? 

 

This is an introduction to sitting. I’m not going to tell you this will be a profound life changing experience like the first time I suckled on the dark smokey teat of a cigarette for which I still long, but sitting has affected my life in subtle ways over the time. 

 

1. Choose a place that you can call your sitting place.

This is important just to use human nature as a tool. If you have a place that you regularly sit, you’ll associate that area with sitting, and over time it will become easier to settle into your practice.

2. Posture.

It doesn’t matter how you sit as long as your back is strait. Find a position that’s comfortable for you and run with it. I find sitting on my knees in what the Japanese call seiza is best for me. It’s probably my Aikido background that makes this my favorite posture. For some visuals check out meditation for Dummies. Gotta love the people over there they can break down everything from meditation to how to line dance with oversized partners.

3. Eyes.

What do we do with our eyes? I find it best to gaze (loose focus) on the ground about a meter in front of me, relaxing my eyes so that they almost cross. There are more schools of thought here than there are eye colors do what works best for you. If I close my eyes, I tend to lose focus and often am smacked by Hypnos’s firm hand only to catch myself right before I plant my head into the floor. So if you’re tired try it with your eyes open.

 

We’ll start with these first just try to sit still. Let your mind do what it does and try to stay relaxed. Try to sit from 15-20 and see how you feel.

 

Happy sitting cowboys and cowgirls.

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But what if…

We’ve all been there, fear masticates on our innards and we freeze even though we know that the risk:reward ratio is worth it. Whether it’s talking to the girl in class or approaching bosses for a raise. Fear can stop us dead in our tracks.

 

Most of the fears that I have in life seem silly while I sit and look at them from the perspective of the observer, but when I step out after sitting sometimes they come back and this is when strategies come in handy. I recently read a blog on ZenHabits that offered a nice strategy to deal with fear in the real world. What struck a cord in my inner violin was #3 “Feel the Fear.” This is what we do in insight meditation: feel its robustness, hardness, softness; get in touch with it.

 

The approach is befriending the fear. Getting to know it and simply not allowing it to take the wheel, but before we do this we have to know the fear. This isn’t really understanding it. A lot of these fears are deeply ingrained in our psyche and finding the source of all of them is not always practical. If we can learn to integrate them and coexist acknowledging but not giving them power, there is the chance that they will serve us. 

 

When fear overtakes us we don’t think rationally or from our heart we make decisions based on this fear which often leads to regrettable mistakes. I personally deal with more work or family related anxiety when I’m sitting but when I’m able to get close enough to it that I can smell its fetid breath and cheap cologne, I see it for what it is: my imagination. Fears are the ‘what if’’s, the things that could go wrong because, let’s face it, when things do go wrong we usually handle them. Learning to feel these, fears is quite a challenge because we are often putting tangible attributes on something very intangible but it allows us to develop a rapport with these feelings. 

 

You’ll see as I proceed with my workshop this week that I recommend just noting the feelings and emotions in the beginning, then gradually working up to feeling and befriending these slippery little boogers. And slippery they are. Getting to know them can be pretty tough but once we achieve this we are able to integrate the fears and move forward.

 

Peace

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Relationships

Whether we’re poised on an apple crate talking with a friend over a bottle of wine snickering about awkward linguistics terms like “bilabial fricatives,” enjoying some quality family time, or by ourselves on the cushion; we are in relationships. Our relationships with ourselves determine how we interact with other people. Are we comfortable with the “who” of what we are? Do we love and accept who that who is? Are we constantly at odds with it?

 

We have a tendency to be harsher on ourselves that anyone could possibly be on us. How often have I caught myself judging me for someone else who happens to be looking at me funny. Normally, I don’t even know this person but somehow I find the almighty presence to assume I know what’s going on in their heads. “Pretzel Logic” as one of my friends would say.

 

Judge not lest ye be judged.

 

How we view ourselves is more than likely how people will receive us. We exude how we feel about ourselves and people pick up subtle cues when they meet us. I’m not saying that if we’re 40 pounds over weight, or addicted to substances we shouldn’t do anything about it but I will say that we have to accept the situation for what it is. Don’t judge ourselves and make the changes to bring us to a more positive place. Sitting is an adventure into the who of what we are. As we traverse across the single most unexplored terrain to our kind we find, we’re caught up in the weeds of the mind that we’ve allowed to flourish. It’s here that we learn and accept. Learn what allowed them to flourish or simply accept and move on.

 

Taking time to express gratitude for the relationships we have.

 

Do our friends know how grateful we are for them? Our families? Our clients, employers, or employees? The funny thing is that those whom we have animosity towards are more likely to have a clear understanding of how we feel. Getting along with people is expected from everyone in almost every culture, it’s vanilla, and that co-worker we can’t stand stands out like B&J’s Cherry Garcia. We put far more energy into conflict than pleasure. I wish I could tell you why. Maybe we just like to get all worked up about stuff. Or maybe it has something to do with clutching to our own agendas.

 

When things go awry in relationships, it’s usually because of someone’s personal agenda that’s put on hold or stopped because of the relationship. This is where learning to have no expectations has helped me. The time I spend with my daughter is usually in the park, and I try to give her total control over the time we’re together. This isn’t always practical, but it makes the relationship more fun for both of us: allows me to see life from her perspective and hopefully teaches her that she has control over her life. The times my wife or daughter and I bump heads are the times that I’m holding onto my agenda. “I must do this by this time and don’t get in my way.” If I take time on the way there to do the things they want to do, not only are they happier to be around me, but I usually get where I’m trying to go when I want to be there. 

 

Learning to expect the unexpected is a life long process. Steps forward steps back and there’s no real goal. Just being open to possibilities; we can learn to come closer to knowing ourselves and bringing awareness into every relationship for a more rewarding life.

 

Peace

 

I’ll be doing a beginning meditation workshop on a separate page of this site next week. It’ll be a four-week tour of ourselves feel free to join and chime in. 

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God’s playground

Life is so much more than God’s classroom. I don’t know about you, but “classroom” conjures up images of Sister Thaddeus whopping my wrists with a yardstick. Yes, sometimes it feels like God’s giving us a nice little wollop but if I look at the circumstances behind the wollop there’s a good chance I had something to do with it, and if I didn’t I just have to find a way to accept it. But, I do like to think of life as more of a playground. It’s just more fun.

 

Sitting practice is so much more than the time we spend on the cushion it’s the awareness we bring into our daily lives. Making every time everywhere the wholly. No this is not a typo; strangely enough the root of the word holy is actually from germanic heilig meaning whole. What does this tell us?

 

At some point we realize that we aren’t sitting, walking, or breathing aware and we have to consciously set our awareness in the moment. I’ve actually gone as far as setting an alarm at random points during the day to remind me to ask myself whether I’m aware of what I’m doing. The big fear is that the alarm will sound while I have my finger shoved up my nose but so far I’ve managed to avoid it.

 

Relationships, sports, recreational activities, work, and health all provide fodder for spiritual growth. I recently re-herniated a cervical disc and was in more pain than I’ve ever experienced. This woke me up regarding how much focus I need to develop in my practice. I couldn’t sit for longer than fifteen minutes. The pain’s subsided but I still have odd muscle contractions, and my little finger doesn’t work properly. Bringing awareness into these parts of my life has been really helpful.

 

Relationships with our spouses or loved ones are another great awakener. In Carlos Castaneda’s books Don Juan talks about what he calls the “petty tyrant” someone that the sorcerer seeks to help them relieve them of their ego through abuse. This may be a little extreme in today’s world. I don’t recommend to anyone allowing someone to abuse them physically or emotionally, in any situation, but we can come away with a great deal if we look at how our spouses or loved ones moods, and words affect us. Then we can see whether we react or act in loving kindness. 

 

We come to a point when in daily life we can watch as events cause thoughts sensations and emotions to rise. We can see from where they come and let go. While writing my last post on expanding and contracting my dog crapped on the floor. Prime fodder for spiritual development. I watched as the anger rose, watched it grow realizing that it was very apropos. Then I laughed and cleaned up after her; she just looked at me wagging her tail as if she brought me the newspaper. Gotta love dogs. Male or female they’re just men with more hair.

 

Peace.

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Expanding and contracting

Fear is the path to the dark side. Fear leads to anger. Anger leads to hate and hate leads to suffering.

–Yoda

 

As we go deeper we often uncover a variety of thoughts and feelings that we’re not use to dealing with. It takes a great deal of courage to look deep inside ourselves and accept what we are. We realize that we are capable of extremely bad things as well as extremely good things and that in every situation we can act out of fear or love. The choice is ours.

 

The mind will reveal himself for what he is, a trickster who can paint our glasses any color if we let him based on our experiences. When we watch our thoughts we can see the body reacting to them. I think of the guy on the train who called me a gaijin and soon I feel rage. Then if I’m aware I can watch and experience, this rage, and break it down to it’s individual components. Maybe some tension in the chest and my head feels pressurize my neck muscles become tense. Or on a more positive note the yummy cougar sitting across from me gives me a smile and I’ll feel a little tingle in my nether regions. 

 

I notice (if you see a hole in my logic leave a comment) that emotion is an amalgam of these two variables: thought and feeling. Thought leading to physical sensation and vice versa. Sometimes I even notice that they feed off each other. The mind will think of something the body will respond which will cause the mind to produce something even more powerful and the body will respond and on it goes. When we go deeper than this we allow ourselves to touch who we really are, the playing field of these two variables, emotion.

 

Really when you think of it there are only two emotions: ones that bring us pleasure and ones that we interpret as pain, expansion and contraction. Everything can fall into these two categories. Can we choose how we feel about events? Maybe, I’m not there yet, but we can change whether we accept or react. In Aikido we spend our first few years learning how to relax into a fall. Initially we follow our partners, and then learn how to not be ready for the technique even though we know what’s coming. It’s a state of relaxation accepting that we are being thrown. A complete surrender. This takes years because our nature is when people push to push back and when people pull to pull back but to just maintain contact and flow requires practice. 

 

I’m going to make an effort to make decisions from my heart today. Sometimes the decisions we make from our hearts don’t make much sense to our heads but they often come with great rewards if we let them. Join me if you feel inclined.

 

Peace.

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Just let go

There I stood, covered in sweat, my blood pressure was probably high enough to send that aqueous oxygen juice to a full grown giraffe brain. My daughter was screaming and kicking in my arms because she wanted her drink in Starbucks, and I was wishing I’d conceded before her upset reached critical mass. I carried her into the elevator as she waved her chocolate Frappiccino in a frenzied fit of despair, and every word I never want my daughter to hear or use was running through my mind. 

 

If you’re a parent this is probably just another day in the life, for you uninitiated, this is what we do. That’s why kids are cute, so we can move past these moments. Once she finally calmed she came to me, eyes through booger stucco, and apologized then asked me to wipe her face. It was over for her. I, on the other hand was in stage II PTSD. I think I had the thousand yard stare until about three hours after she went to sleep. 

 

Children know how to move on. As adults we tend to dwell on things, and they become a tumescent parasite that continues to swell exponentially until we find a way to put the brakes on it. We see this as we sit, It was a bad day, my boss was on my case, how am I going to make the car payment, and they grow until we feel overwhelmed. 

 

That day I was having a lot of trouble letting go while sitting so I employed an interesting technique to quiet my mind. This was inspired by a Yoga Guru friend blessed with man-pulchritude, and super intelligence. He told me one night, as we were well into the second bottle of wine, that a certain Yoga master does all his techniques with his in-breath and out-breath the same length.

 

I spent the time counting the length of each breath and kept my concentration on that. Having my mind occupied with the task of counting 1-15 and maintaining a focused rhythm for each breath I managed to keep the mind from creating more stress. I was still trying to make sense of everything, but it was working the way we’re designed for it to happen. We don’t really have to do this consciously if we let the unconscious do its job, things will be appropriately categorized into the matrix and integrated. It’s when we try to make conscious sense out of things that they swell out of proportion and cause us difficulty.

 

Don’t get me wrong counseling and talking about problems are good and they have their places but in the end we have to let go and find ways to move on. This FOol still has to find techniques to let go but once I got up from that sitting, I managed to go back out into the living room and be a positive influence on my daughter’s life again. 

 

Any smart parent will tell you that children teach you far more than you could ever teach them. Try to listen and get excited because there is only now and when the restaurant only serves tripe remember that it too is food.

 

Peace.

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The skill set

Let’s face it sitting for a half hour doesn’t have the same lure as being naked with your favorite supermodel. So why do we do it? Is it for the peace of mind, serenity, or just for your ego to feel better than the rest of the sods who live their lives on autopilot? I don’t think it really matters why we do it. Our reasons are as diverse as our beliefs.   

 

Why did I start? It just seemed like the right thing to do. Why do I continue? The reasons change with the seasons. I’ve been in a place where I felt that I’m the shit because I sit. Not the most noble reasons but I know I went through that phase in my twenties.  I also went through a phase where I thought my practice was something deeply personal and preferred to not share it with others, that’s obviously not the place I’m in now. One of the biggies for me now is the skill-set that comes from a regular practice.

 

Concentration:

The first of the almighty skills from our practice is noticeable soon after we start. Sitting much like lifting weights, good sex, or jogging is a practice, and we build endurance and strength while we battle the forces of distraction. As we learn to focus our awareness while on the cushion, it carries over into our daily lives and we find and intense and focused concentration in much of what we do. When we brush our teeth we’re brushing our teeth, when we listen to our boss we listen to our boss. 

 

Relaxation:

For me relaxation started after I’d developed enough concentration to sit through the pain in my legs. Now it’s the first place I start whenever I sit. The more we sit the more our bodies learn how to just settle into the moment. Jimmy and Jane Granola will tell you that posture is important to align your chakras I’m not going to dispute that, but for me I feel a big difference in how my body relaxes when my spine is strait because I’m able to settle my body and just be as I relax.

 

Our bodies our built in antagonistic pairs and relaxing not only our bodies but our senses put’s us in a state where we can relax the other parts of our life. As humans we often get in our own way. Ones first four to five years of Aikido are and effort to learn how to not get in our own way physically or mentally. I love feeling it though. I’m a pretty big guy, especially here in Japan, and when green partners are training with me I can feel them pushing and pulling at the same time which just leaves me exactly where we started. The good Aikidoists will gently move me never pushing or pulling and never blocking their own efforts. It’s a really beautiful experience to be moved like this, truly an art form.

 

Subtle energies:

From concentration and relaxation we are able to grow to a point where we can focus intently on experience. This focus offers experience in a new light and we perceive the energy behind experience. This enhances “positive experiences” and it takes the suffering out of the “negative experiences”. We still feel the same things but we are able to break them down into physical sensations, thoughts, feelings. Experience has taught me that most of my stress is perceived and I am the one who cultivates it to a point that it becomes suffering. As we develop the ability to perceive this energy we are able to grow into a feeling of connectedness with everything.

 

Connectedness:

This for me now is a state that I slip in and out of but when I’m there it really is something beautiful. I’ll wait to write more on this until I feel I have more experience in this area.

 

There you are, the skills developed from meditation. Sit, Smile, and know who you are.

 

Peace.

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Watching the Jabberwock from beneath the Tumtum tree

“Beware the Jabberwock, my son!
The jaws that bite, the claws that catch!
Beware the Jubjub bird, and shun
The frumious Bandersnatch!”

Lewis Carroll

 

Anxiety is probably one of the biggest challenges we face when we sit. Sometimes resting our awareness on it will dissipate it, but sometimes it grows so intense that it’s hard to sit through. Personally I’ve sat through it, and I’ve given up on occasion. Sitting through it no doubt has its rewards—when exercising breaking through the wall always produces immeasurable results. 

 

Are their strategies for sitting through anxiety? 

 

I’ve never lived in a monastery, but I would imagine it’s a lot different from trying to have a consistent practice as a lay person with the stresses of job, family, and the temptations that rock in the wake of modern existence. These are all fodder for the mind to swell into throbbing delusions of grandeur, and meditating will enhance these delusions while we sit. As we watch them grow into Kraken that rock our existence they’ll get so big that we’ll realize that we’ve blown them out of proportion and we’ll see just how trite they actually are. Meanwhile, we need some simple strategies that help us get past them.

 

I find if I try to get a feel for where the thoughts arise it makes a big difference. When we sit we recognize that experience is a mental interpretation, and our sitting space has its own space time continuum we can sense where voices and where visions arise and as time goes on we can trace them back to causal forces. This calls for a lot of concentration, and sometimes we don’t have any left in us after a day in the office, so here are some alternate strategies. 

 

Focus on your heart. I hate using the word chakra because it smells like stale granola, but focusing on my heart area seems to make a big difference. It pulls my awareness out of my head. 

 

Focusing on any part of the body or bodily sensation seems to help, resting our attention gently on the area that we’re most aware of. As Aikidoists we like to focus on our centers, just below the belly button. This works sometimes, but I’m often reminded of my ample gut, or I’ll control my breathing, so I tend to go back to the heart area. 

 

The Mantra and guided meditation again deserve some mention here. If you just can’t sit through it see if one of those work for you.

 

There are the purists who’ll say if you’re not sitting with your eyes open in full/half lotus and staring at a wall you’re not doing it right. What is right and why do we do it? I suppose if you want to be a sitting snob, that’s how to do it. I’ll continue being a FOol and enjoy myself. Sitting should be fun. It should be an opportunity to connect with who you really are. To be and to be silent. Do it the way that works best for you because the more people we have on the planet who sit regularly the better all our lives will be.

 

Peace.

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Integrate

When I first came to Japan, I worked as an actor on Japanese TV dramas and reenactments. One day while we were filming in a Catholic church with one of the most unsavory directors I used the “F” word, and another actor on set, a German man known for his contemptible explicative monologues, told me not to swear in church. I had to reply, “I would think that if the Big Man (or Woman) is omniscient/omnipresent than Sir Thomas Crapper’s Symphonic Throne is just as much holy ground as the Catholic church, more so actually, I don’t think any wars have been waged in the name of doing a dookie.”  We haven’t talked much since then, but it made me wonder why we compartmentalize our lives so?

On a similar note, what makes one moment more special than another? If you’ve read any of the popular “New Age” literature or anything on Buddhism you’ve heard it a million times: there is only Now. Which by default means that there is only here as well. As far as discourse conventions go I understand being quiet in a church or a library, I wouldn’t yell the “F” word, but if you can’t say it there you shouldn’t say it anywhere. Thus, the house of God is anywhere we happen to be. 

“Don’t mix business with pleasure.” Why not? I think business should be pleasure. I love what I do, and I do it well because of that. Working with idiots is something that can’t be helped, but you can get past that if you really enjoy what you do.

What does this have to do with sitting?  Everything. There are no boundaries to the sacred. If we can bring a degree of meditation into every aspect of our lives and integrate those compartments it will bring the fullness that we deserve. We separate these parts of our lives out of fear or doubt, but if we can bring awareness into every aspect of our lives from sitting to the time we spend with our children we can make the world a better place. 

Now for the cheese covered chili-dog: How do we integrate our lives? Talk about work with friends make friends with people from work. Sit with people. More than anything else, bring awareness into life. Be there with your children in the park. Be there when your wife is rambling on, learn to actually listen. If the whole world infused life with a little more awareness, I think we’d live in a totally different world. 

Let’s sit and watch our thoughts more. When we train our minds we develop patience, and when we develop patience we’re no longer thinking about where we want to be rather than where we are.

 Peace

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Too busy to sit

Yes it happens to the best of us; we’re too busy to sit. The past couple of days I’ve been running around like a banker with his ass on fire from one client to another trying to meet deadlines and put presentation materials together. 

What do I do? I’m pretty normal this way; I had to skip yesterday. When this happens I think the important thing is to just realize you missed a day and sit the next day, don’t approach it like dieting. I usually try to sit for 5-10 minutes in these situations, but the wheels often are spinning out of control. Honestly, it’s probably a good part of practice. If you can sit for 5 or 10 under duress, it’s a little like strength training. 

I find that these are the best times to use the almighty “Ohm” mantra. For some strange reason disgorging my, inner honk just helps maintain focus. Of course, I feel like a total idiot but that’s probably good for me to. My daughter thinks it funny at the innocent age of four but when she’s thirteen I have a feeling that’ll rank right up there with my halitosis and smelly feet.  

Another one of my favorites when I can’t mentally disengage from the grind of life is to use a prerecorded guided meditation. There are some good ones out now. Kelly Howell puts out a couple that I like that are visualizations she has a voice like maple syrup, and if your after something a bit more esoteric: the demigod of all that is causal is Shinzen Young. Within his audiobook “The Science of Enlightenment,” a good book for anyone on a spiritual path, he has several of my favorites. 

So take some time, find a quiet place. Breathe, breath deep, and find some peace. Accept without prejudice, and love yourself. Don’t love yourself too much though because you don’t want do go blind.

Peace

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The fool’s challenge

Sitting, just sitting, is probably one of the hardest things to do. Your nose itches, or you feel bloated, or maybe you just want to alter your position to float that stinky flutter-biscuit that’s been brewing in your lower intestine for the past five minutes. 

 

Try it. Just sit. I always think it’s funny how I can spend an hour in front of the t.v. but when it comes to my practice everything turns into a big ordeal. I’m trying to tell myself to just sit more often now. If the house is noisy, I have to get my earplugs. If I have stuff in my in-box, ‘cause I work from home, I have to clear it out. I’ve learned how to just let things be the way they are recently, could be something to do with being 40 or it could be that I’m growing. 

 

So what’s Insight Meditation? It’s infusing awareness into everything you think, feel, see, and hear. A total acceptance of existence. We spend so much of our lives taking an oblique approach to looking at ourselves that to just sit and be open can be really threatening. Chances are if you feel anxiety you need to look at it carefully, find out from where it arises. There’s a pattern and if you can learn to read the pattern you’re one step closer to Being

 

I hear people say “I’m spiritual but not religious” all the time, but I never hear any one say the opposite. “I’m religious but not spiritual” it conjures a little chortle doesn’t it. The funniest part of this for me is that we’re all spiritual whether we like it or not. I think I can venture out and say that those who don’t consider themselves that spiritual may be more so than the rest of us. They manage to do this all while the spiritual purists look down their noses at the bedizened filth standing between them and enlightenment. They’re at least living and offering the experience of life to the master of ceremonies. The rest of us are searching for something to give life meaning. Shit, the people who say they’re not that spiritual have meaning, because if they didn’t they would be with the rest of us lost and looking for something inside or out to justify existence. 

 

So let’s see what we can contribute to Awareness. Here’s the fool’s challenge: Sit for 20 minutes today. Just sit. Don’t worry about what your mind does just concentrate on stilling your body for now. Take it all one step at a time. If it helps to count breaths by all means do. If you choose to run a full body relaxation go for it. Just make it yours and most of all make it real. 

 

Peace.

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The beginning

 

So there I was standing in Powell’s bookstore with a wad of cash and nothing I wanted to read. A voracious reader from the time I was a munchkin and I needed a fix. I just happened across a little book called, “Meditation in Action” by Chogyam Trungpa. I took it home fascinated. I gradually began reading as much as I possibly could on the subject yet had not yet begun actual sitting. After a few weeks of reading as much as I could I locked myself in my bathroom with the aim of “enlightenment”. Hell I was twenty and impatient, I had no idea what I was getting myself into. I sat on a pillow and forced my legs into a flesh pretzel and started counting breaths while tears of pain streamed down my tense and sweaty cheeks. Shaking the whole time I managed to sit through maybe three or four breaths before the pain was more than I could bear.

 

The next day I decided I would just sit until I couldn’t take the pain anymore. I gradually was able to increase my time to ten breaths. It was really probably something like fifteen if you want the truth. It went something like this.

 

1….2….3….”Wow I’m doing it”…”SHIT, what breath was I on”…..ok….”one….two….three….Man the chick who sits in front of me in Philosophy is hot, I’d sure like to…SHIT…did it again. One….two….three….four….Damn my knees hurt….SHIT….

 

You can imagine how this worked. Now when I sit the chick in the white pants is someone I saw on the train, or some problem I’m dealing with at work but I’m able to focus a little better. It goes through cycles sometimes, when I’m doing well my meditation carries over into my life, and sometimes my life carries over into meditation. One of my Aikido teachers once told me that the sign that you’re developing is when Aikido and life merge. I’m pretty sure this holds true with my sitting practice as well.

 

One of my favorite ways to practice now is to sit, count ten slow breaths just to get in touch with my body, and start the relaxation process. It starts by relaxing my jaw and feeling the muscles in my face and head. My eyes, ears relax the brain, down the spinal cord to my extremities. I then create a “relax” bubble around me and move into my Insight practice.

 

Peace always.

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