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Posts Tagged ‘knowledge’

Speed Bump 8/21/2009
Speed Bump 9/21/09

I saw today’s Speed Bump cartoon and had to use it for today’s thought. I think it’s kinda funny, but it also illustrates for me the dangers of studying any kind of religious or philosophical path. It can be so easy to get sidetracked with the over-arcing insights and generalities that it becomes hard to apply them to the everyday choices of living. They can be a great guide, but they’re not exactly cut out to act as specific instructions.

That’s why I’ve set out to keep up my agreement to do a ‘daily zen’ thought, and end up talking about very mundane things. The zen is the compass, but it’s the mundane that is the actual journey. The more we learn how to live each day with a pretty clear perspective, making pretty honest choices and feeling pretty much at peace with them, the more we’re living zen.

An active sense of humor helps, too. 😉

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I have some vague thoughts today on how often we try to retread our old steps.

I’m looking at finally completing a project that I have put on hold for about four years or so. I’ve caught myself in self-recriminations for not finishing it earlier, even though I didn’t have the inclination and may not have had sufficient energy/motivation to actually succeed. But I’m known for my ability to just power through most things that are important to me, so I have a bit of a toe-hold there for kicking myself.

And then I caught what I was doing. Being absolutely ludicrous. I mean, honestly — what good does it do to waste time and energy wishing for the past to be different? I know better than that.

Instead, I decided to be grateful for the foundation I laid in the past. I’ve got a really good head-start on getting this thing done. In another year, it’ll all be completed, anyhow.

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I almost forgot to write down the thought I was having earlier today! It was about cause, effect, and our perceived relationship to them. I’ve been reading very different views on the idea of what can and can’t happen, of what is and is not probable, what people should and shouldn’t expect, and so on and so forth.

Personally, my current level of experience can be summed up this way:

Every single effect has at least one cause. Which causes bring about which effects, however, are where the surprises come in. We can do our best to observe effects and try to gauge the visible causes, but when it comes down to it, there’s far too much we will never accurately predict. No matter the topic, if we don’t retain enough anticipation for true surprises in life, we’re in for a real disappointing time of it.

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The quote from my calendar the other day was:

“Zazen isn’t about blissing out or going into an alpha brainwave trance. It’s about facing who and what you really are, in every single g*****m moment.”.
-Brad Warner

The guy who said it is listed in Wikipedia as a Soto Zen priest, author, blogger, documentarian and punk rock bass guitarist. He also worked in Japanese monster movies and blogs for the Suicide Girls.

This really struck me because, to start, the quote itself points out that the real point of meditation is figuring ourselves out, and that once we get ourselves sorted out the rest will fall into place. And then, the guy who said it — quite a lot of facets to that guy. That served as a secondary reminder that “ourselves” isn’t just one facet of one person. We have many facets. Throughout the day, we’re many people.

That actually kinda takes the pressure off. In searching for “our true selves”, we don’t have to settle on the one “true face” we’ll always wear in every situation until the end of time. We just have to find that place of peace and openness, from which we can freely interact with all the changeable places and things and people that we’ll encounter (or even be!) throughout our lives. It isn’t a “final answer”, it’s a starting one.

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I’ve got a quote that I’ve kept by my desk, in part as a reminder of something, and in part because I keep thinking I’ll have a thought about it I could share.  It goes,

“It is not the answer that enlightens, but the question.”
– Eugene Ionesco

It reminds me of how important it is to let yourself ask the questions that come to mind, ESPECIALLY the ones you’re resisting asking.  The idea is that asking alone opens a door that a simple straight answer might close — since just one simple straight answer is rarely the whole story.
 
Keeping a mind open to questioning is vital for a dynamic life, since the info available to us keeps changing daily.  As soon as we hook on the need for a definite answer (rather than a “workable for now” answer), we stop asking.  We run the risk of not seeing or even not being willing to consider new info when it comes by.
 
Reminds me of another quote –

“The quest for certainty blocks the search for meaning”
-Erich Fromm

 
It can feel dizzying sometimes, not being certain.  But I’ve found when I try to be “as sure as can be” rather than “positive”, my balance gets thrown off far less when I find out I’ve been very very wrong…

Which of course reminds me of yet another quote.

Losing an illusion
makes you wiser
than finding a truth

– Ludwig Borne

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The other day I read a study about middle school students and popularity. It used surveys to determine whether children felt well-liked, and whether their peers felt they were popular.

Would you believe there was only a 25% overlap of kids who were popular and also FELT like they were well-liked? Not only that, but kids who felt well-liked seemed just as well-adjusted and happy as those who were comfortably popular. Those who were popular but felt very unliked, however, weren’t doing so well. Far worse were those who felt very unliked and their classmates agreed.

It brought up again how hard it is for us to see ourselves as others see us, or sometimes even really be aware of others’ perceptions of us. We can have blind spots to our faults, sure, but we can also have serious blind spots to our strengths, too. That’s a real tragedy to me. It’s like having a $20 bill in the glove box when we’re super hungry but think we’re out of cash.

That’s why sincere friends (or even kind strangers!) are so great to have around. They can help us identify places we could improve, sure. But they can also help us see our own true beauty through their eyes. I can’t think of a greater gift someone can give.

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Today, being much like yesterday, is highlighting to me how much I just don’t feel I understand.  And things that the other day I was pretty sure I knew how they worked… today I find I was a bit off the mark.  This has specifically come up for me at work, but I think that’s a pretty good analogy to things about life, too.  Even about myself.  Just when I think I’ve got some part of myself pretty well figured out, I might find a hidden hot-button or like/dislike I’d never thought about before.
 
I’ve got a quote on my desk that I saved from my calendar from a couple weeks ago, from our old friend Shunryu Suzuki.  He said:

When you try to understand everything, you will not understand anything. The best way is to understand yourself, and then you will understand everything.

 That sounds so simple on the surface, doesn’t it?  Well okay, I know everyone here knows how tricky it is to “know thyself”.  But today, I’m feeling like maybe if I better understood how I ticked, I could plan out better for times when the facts and situations around me go all kerfloogle.
 
I think what he’s getting at is the idea that the best thing we can do is find our center and ground ourselves there, and from that foundation we can then find understanding in the always-changing world around us.  I think I’ll take that advice to heart this week, and see if I can feel less dizzy in the whirlwind!

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