Journal: Routine, Civic Duty, and Nights on The Shore

17 June, 2015

Writing on my phone, on the shore, under the stars; routine. From the 17th century French word route, meaning ‘road’, and from the Latin ruptus, meaning ‘broken’. It’s the broken road I take. Broken because it’s not the journey, that is whole, but taking the journey that makes us whole.

It was trying to escape the broken road fate hath lain before me that drove me mad. Mad to drink, mad to hate, mad to think I knew better than love what love was.

But now, though the road be broken, I traverse it ensconced in the familiar security and protection of routine, placing more of my life within my relative control and providing me with the simple things I have grown to depend on. Just as my cappuccino comes hot, the night comes cool; the air fresh and refreshing; the night breeze, soft on my face, has even grown familiar and comforting.

Another aspect of my routine, my sanctity, is volunteering at the library: a civic institution. From the Latin civicus; from civis, meaning ‘citizen’ and icus, meaning ‘belonging to, derived from, pertaining to, or connected with’.

For I am no longer a stranger, estranged from my hometown, but a citizen, and the library belongs to me and I belong to it. Hence, it is my civic duty. But it’s also so much a pleasure: intermingling with my fellow citizens: Cathi and Richard and Louisa and a small, eclectic group of others who are kind to me. Lovely people.

I haven’t even told them I am moving back to LA, but I already know I will ride the train down the coast every month to spend a couple afternoons with them and my nights here: writing on the shore.


Post publish edit: I feel it pertinent in writing on the subject of my routine to note that aside from volunteering thrice weekly and writing nightly, upon awaking and before sleep I daily recite to myself the things I am grateful for as well as my creed. These two things have been a wellspring of good.

A Walking Meditation: On Oneness, Overcoming Fear, and Mastering Perception

Meditating on the beach this morning and feeling my fearful heart beating in my chest, anxious and over-paced, just like all of us – I started thinking about what the hell I was so afraid of.

And so, I lie in the sand looking up and thinking about this, asking , how can my soul fly everyday – how can I feel grand and limitless, and connected to the universe and my dreams, and my power as the creator of my life – while still staying grounded? How can I resolve this paradox.

Like most all questions I consciously ask in the meditative state, an answer propagated itself within my mind quite automatically and without effort. That answer was that there is no ‘there’ (the universe) and ‘here’ (grounded), because “here” is a planet out in the universe. The center of the earth is as central to our position in the universe as the moon is, cosmically speaking. There is simply no difference on an energetic level; being grounded is about being grounded with yourself as one with the universe, for the here and there are one.

That might cause the uninitiated to roll their eyes. “One with the universe”. Yes: one-with-the-uni-verse. That’s something I’ve been reading about and looking into lately, this ‘concept’ of “oneness”, or, non-duality. And that’s actually what I thought of next in my meditation as I sat up and began to walk. Just this question of am I really one – a part of everything?

My first answer, looking towards the morning calm of the Pacific Ocean was, well, is a halibut one with the sea?

And then I looked down and saw a perfect white lone feather that had been cast off the plumage of a young bird. I picked the feather up and asked, well, is this feather one with the bird? To which came the immediate reply of  well, was I not too once one with my mother (in the womb)?

I almost laughed at that point because it was clear the feather had given me this beautiful symbolic metaphor for oneness with creation. Of course we all know that humans share the same genetic lineage, whether you are a creationist or a Christian, there is no arguing the ancestry of our DNA is shared, traceable to a common and once very small group.

However, I of course look like this, and you yourself look like that, and this thing called consciousness is a seemingly individuated process, which, along with the innately separatist concepts of religion, country, and creed, keeps each of us quite effectively marooned in the confines of our own minds. For we are not feathers, but conscious beings.

And so I thought of this [the idea that it’s consciousness that separates us] as I twirled the feather I had picked up in my fingers and watched as a woman walking a ridiculous looking dog down the boardwalk neared. As she passed by I smiled and remarked to her, “Beautiful animal” using the most genuinely sounding tone of voice I could muster. After she had passed completely I almost burst into side-splitting laughter at how silly the damn thing had looked.

But why had I told her “beautiful animal”? This was my next thought. Of course the answer wasn’t difficult to find; I cared about what she thought. Perhaps I was even afraid of what she thought of me.

This was my next inquiry: Why are we afraid of what people think?

We fear their judgement, I pondered; although, I quickly pivoted to the realization that it wasn’t really their judgement we feared, but our own judgement of what they thought of us. After all, we cannot enter into the mind of another. It’s our own judgement about what we believe they might think of us, which we fear. We’re scared of our own judgement based on the imaginations of what we think someone might possibly think of is. This is pathetic, I thought to myself.

Continuing on my walking meditation, I thought again of the idea that we have fearful hearts, only now the feeling had lifted. I declared aloud to myself “Truly, what in the god-damn-hell do you have to be afraid of?”

In that moment, I felt completely human, only without the anxiety of being human. Something in me had become clear and free. Here I was, a temporary living entity, standing on the surface of planet earth, having realized the absurdity of my nature – and the nature of all humans – as basically afraid of our perceptions about what the other members of our species might be thinking of us. God forbid we look and act in a manner not fitting with our evolved desire to FIT IN and be accepted for who we are.

From my walk.

From my walk.

Note: Like happiness and everything else we desire, it’s best created from the inside-out, and not the outside in; however, most of us never figure that out because we can’t escape our own judgement of ourselves, that which is called perception. So we cling so dearly to a self-worth that’s extremely dependent upon what we think of others. It’s no wonder that the harshest judges of others often have the lowest self-esteem. It’s also fucking retarded that we even care. I don’t want to care what anyone thinks. Fuck what anyone thinks. Do you think your heroes lived their lives confined in the same glass houses? No way. You can’t be authentic and fear your own perception.

Walking on now, from the sand, to the sidewalk back towards my home, I saw an overweight woman who had somehow managed to charm no small part of my sensibilities with the way she had clipped her dog leash around her waist for hands free dog walking.

And so, seeing this woman on the sidewalk at the end of the street, who was dutifully waiting for her dog, I thought about how I should progress. She had looked up, aware of my presence, and I was slowly walking in her direction, debating whether I should cross the street to do as humans sometimes do in wanting to avoid having to exchange pleasantries. But then I thought just walk by say something nice to her – this being somewhat funny, since I have recently become much more aware of my mode-of-being as someone who tries to please people in an attempt to make them happy – and I realized this. Finally, it was clear, I decided no – walk by and just project and intend loving-kindness towards her. That’s it. No judgement. Just loving-kindness.

So, like a true buddah, I neared her completely unselfconscious and feeling nothing but loving-kindness towards her. And that was it! I felt completely unselfconscious because I had not only zero judgment for her, but total loving kindness. In fact, we actually ended up talking! Her dog is named Otis, and I laughed when he jumped on me,  playfully saying “Jeeze, your dog’s an animal.” She was an incredibly nice woman.

Aside: Her energy reminded me of a late friend of my grandmother. A woman named Paula Sykes who also had been overweight as well, but was the coolest person I knew at 12 years old. She [Ms. Sykes as she was known] helped teach me kindness in befriending me – plus she had this quirky sense of taste that was just classic (I remember her having decoy hunting ducks on the bookshelves in her home). I wish I could remember what she had told me about them when I asked.

But I submit this to you – had I not created that reality? The unselfconscious and playful reality, and the simple beauty of my interaction with her – was that not a result of the conscious focus through which I had chosen to perceive the experience with? I had paid her my attention and my intention. Sure, she had turned out to be a kind woman, but perhaps the nervous glance she had given the strange looking guy down the street in the hombre poncho and sweats turned into a pleasant interaction because 5 million years of human evolution instilled within her an innate ability to sense my energy, the same way a DOG can read the energy of another animal and determine it’s hostility and it’s social position in a matter of seconds – the same way her dog read my energy. You’re telling me humans don’t feel that? Okay sure. Of course they do. We all know this. Except few of us ever realize that our fears – this thing called perception IS A FILTER.

In our homes, our lives, our “careers”, our perceptions are filtering all of our experiences. Like a tuning fork that vibrates with like frequency, or liquid finding it’s “level”, we are just a product of our perception. How long do you need to suffer before you realize this? You’re like the lower ranking animal in the pack – except you attribute this to circumstance, and luck, rather than mental freedom – freedom from the perceptions about who you are. These are the LIMITS and the ONLY limits.

If it’s not impossible, then it’s possible, but if you can’t perceive it as reality -you won’t.

Epilogue:

I arrived back at my apartment, and in surveying things I laughed and said aloud “Look at this provincial shit”. I just had a sense that my circumstance was not only a product of my past perception, but that no matter what the absolute worst case scenario in my life could be, absolutely nothing could strip me of the truth that I came to know on this walking meditation. The truth is that I am bigger than my body and my thoughts – and so are you.

P.S. Thought is perception and perception is reality. Listen to the following two songs. The people on the way up have figured these things out. Now it’s your turn.

 

Note: If the idea of a walking meditation seems silly to you, watch this video from Thich Nhat Hanh.

Finding True Jedi Wisdom in an Ancient Text: The Mind of Absolute Trust

Preface: I Guess I’m a Star Wars Geek

Having recently spent time reading Jospeph Campbell’s Hero With a Thousand Faces, and The Power of Myth, I felt compelled to watch the first Star Wars trilogy last weekend (George Lucas used Campbell’s work as part of the blueprint for the Star Wars story). It was a genuine pleasure to enjoy these wonderful treasures of film-making and storytelling, and at twenty-nine years old I felt as deeply enthralled with the myth and metaphor of the Jedi as I intrinsically did as a child. (Fitting, as I have the words of Yoda: “There is no try” tattooed – tastefully – on me.)

But beyond merely feeling captivated by the Jedi characters and their use of the force, I truly seek to embody a similarly elite level of self-discipline, mastery and heightened spiritual awareness in my own, very real life.

So, what’s a real life Jedi to do? Simple, study the trill (true+real) wisdom of the ancients, which no doubt inspired quotes like the following.

By Jin Zan (Own work) Via Wikimedia Commons

By Jin Zan (Own work) Via Wikimedia Commons

Introduction and Background

Which brings me to a 6th century Chinese poem known as The Mind of Absolute Trust, or The Inscription of Faith in Mind (Chinese: Xinxin Ming).

According to Wikipedia, the poem has been much beloved by Zen practitioners for over a thousand years, and applies Taoist terminology to the Buddhist context of awakeningprofessing the need to take pleasant and unpleasant life experiences with a sense of equanimity and broadly speaking, deals with the principles and practice of non-duality – that is, with the application of nonduality and the results of its practice.

Note: While I am not yet acquainted with the full depth and color of the text, I am already taken by the clear and poignant richness of it’s wisdom, which shines through from the first read. As someone who believes spirituality is about practices as much or more than experiences, I immediately knew this was a work I needed to integrate into my daily routine – hence, why I am publishing this: I am going to read this each morning – part of my training as a Jedi – plus, it’s very soothing and aligning. Having gone relatively deep on my spiritual journey thus far, I intuitively knew as soon as I came across this (whilst researching nondualism) that it was fated for me to internalize and call forth this wisdom as part of my daily waking consciousness – ahem, I mean to say that my inner Yoda told me this was part of my path to becoming a Jedi Knight : ) 

The source of the text is attributed to Chien-chih Seng Ts’an (modern Western spelling: Jianzhi Sengcan), the Third Patriarch of Chan (Zen) Buddhism; however, much like the Tao Te Ching, it’s authorship is not definitive; although, I quite enjoyed the story that when Seng Ts’an approached his teacher, Dazu Huike , and requested be accepted under his tutelage, Huike exclaimed: “You are riddled with leprosy, and yet you come to me?”, to which Seng Ts’an replied, “Well, maybe my body is sick. But the internal heart-mind of a diseased one is still the same as the internal heart-mind of a whole man; how, then, is my heart different from your heart-mind?” Impressed with this insight, Huike took him on as a student.

Whether Seng Ts’an authored the work or not is a relatively moot point today – the miracle isn’t in the poem’s author, but in it’s message, which is so everlasting and timeless that it’s still applicable 2,500 years later. I love not relying on new age booksellers to tell me how to live. I prefer going straight to the source and integrating true ancient wisdom directly into my modern life. This to me is a true honor and one of the great privileges of applying a touch of intellectualism to my spirituality. I get genuinely excited about things like this.

It’s important to note that the poem’s original text was not divided into stanzas. This was something I was worried about  as the translations below have been taken from various non-copyrighted sources, and as such I was unsure of their fidelity to the translator’s original structure; however, given that the lines were grouped into stanzas in modern times, I might as well decide on my own where they should go (tongue in cheek).

I’ve included three popular translations below, though like many known ancient works, a myriad of translations exist.

Note: Grab a PDF (for those non-internet situations) of the three translations here.

Eventually, I will likely gravitate towards one specific translation, as I have found with the Meditations of Marcus Aurelius, but for now I’m inclined to prefer the Clarke translation; although, comparing translations certainly helps you better elucidate your own interpretation of the intended meaning.

Enjoy my dear reader, I hope this profits your soul on the path to Jedi Knighthood as it does mine. Together, we will both learn to use The Force (or The Source).

P.S. – I look forward to again writing on this subject [The Mind of Absolute Trust] at some point in the future.

Thank you to Sunday is For Lovers for turning me onto the Richard B. Clarke translation.


The Mind of Absolute Trust

Richard B. Clarke Translation

至道無難 The Great Way is not difficult
唯嫌揀擇 for those who have no preferences.
但莫憎愛 When love and hate are both absent
洞然明白 everything becomes clear and undisguised.
毫釐有差 Make the smallest distinction, however
天地懸隔 and heaven and earth are set infinitely apart.
欲得現前 If you wish to see the truth
莫存順逆 then hold no opinions for or against anything.
違順相爭 To set up what you like against what you dislike
是爲心病 is the disease of the mind.
不識玄旨 When the deep meaning of things is not understood
徒勞念靜 the mind’s essential peace is disturbed to no avail.

圓同太虚 The Way is perfect like vast space
無欠無餘 where nothing is lacking and nothing is in excess.
良由取捨 Indeed, it is due to our choosing to accept or reject
所以不如 that we do not see the true nature of things.
莫逐有縁 Live neither in the entanglements of outer things,
勿住空忍 nor in inner feelings of emptiness.
一種平懷 Be serene in the oneness of things
泯然自盡 and such erroneous views will disappear by themselves.
止動歸止 When you try to stop activity to achieve passivity
止更彌動 your very effort fills you with activity.
唯滯兩邊 As long as you remain in one extreme or the other
寧知一種 you will never know Oneness.

一種不通 Those who do not live in the single Way
兩處失功 fail in both activity and passivity,
遣有沒有 assertion and denial. To deny the reality of things
從空背空 to assert the emptiness of things is to miss their reality.
多言多慮 The more you talk and think about it,
轉不相應 the further astray you wander from the truth.
絶言絶慮 Stop talking and thinking,
無處不通 and there is nothing you will not be able to know.
歸根得旨 To return to the root is to find the meaning,
隨照失宗 but to pursue appearances is to miss the source.
須臾返照 At the moment of inner enlightenment
勝卻前空 there is a going beyond appearance and emptiness.
前空轉變 The changes that appear to occur in the empty world
皆由妄見 we call real only because of our ignorance.
不用求眞 Do not search for the truth;
唯須息見 only cease to cherish opinions.

二見不住 Do not remain in the dualistic state
慎莫追尋 avoid such pursuits carefully.
纔有是非 If there is even a trace of this and that, of right and wrong,
紛然失心 the Mind-essence will be lost in confusion.
二由一有 Although all dualities come from the One,
一亦莫守 do not be attached even to this One.
一心不生 When the mind exists undisturbed in the Way,
萬法無咎 nothing in the world can offend,
無咎無法 and when a thing can no longer offend, it ceases to exist in the old way.

不生不心 When no discriminating thoughts arise, the old mind ceases to exist.
能隨境滅 When thought objects vanish, the thinking-subject vanishes,
境逐能沈 as when the mind vanishes, objects vanish.
境由能境 Things are objects because of the subject (mind);
能由境能 the mind (subject) is such because of things (object).
欲知兩段 Understand the relativity of these two
元是一空 and the basic reality: the unity of emptiness.
一空同兩 In this Emptiness the two are indistinguishable
齊含萬象 and each contains in itself the whole world.
不見精麁 If you do not discriminate between coarse and fine
寧有偏黨 you will not be tempted to prejudice and opinion.

大道體寛 To live in the Great Way
無易無難 is neither easy nor difficult,
小見狐疑 but those with limited views
轉急轉遲 and fearful and irresolute: the faster they hurry, the slower they go,
執之失度 and clinging (attachment) cannot be limited;
必入邪路 even to be attached to the idea of enlightenment is to go astray.
放之自然 Just let things be in their own way
體無去住 and there will be neither coming nor going.

任性合道 Obey the nature of things (your own nature),
逍遙絶惱 and you will walk freely and undisturbed.
繋念乖眞 When thought is in bondage the truth is hidden,
昏沈不好 for everything is murky and unclear,
不好勞神 and the burdensome practice of judging brings annoyance and weariness.
何用疏親 What benefit can be derived from distinctions and separations?

欲取一乘 If you wish to move in the One Way
勿惡六塵 do not dislike even the world of senses and ideas.
六塵不惡 Indeed, to accept them fully
還同正覺 is identical with true Enlightenment.
智者無爲 The wise man strives to no goals
愚人自縛 but the foolish man fetters himself.
法無異法 This is one Dharma, not many: distinctions arise
妄自愛著 from the clinging needs of the ignorant.
將心用心 To seek Mind with the (discriminating) mind
豈非大錯 is the greatest of all mistakes.

迷生寂亂 Rest and unrest derive from illusion;
悟無好惡 with enlightenment there is no liking and disliking.
一切二邊 All dualities come from
妄自斟酌 ignorant inference.
夢幻虚華 They are like dreams of flowers in the air:
何勞把捉 foolish to try to grasp them.
得失是非 Gain and loss, right and wrong:
一時放卻 such thoughts must finally be abolished at once.

眼若不睡 If the eye never sleeps,
諸夢自除 all dreams will naturally cease.
心若不異 If the mind makes no discriminations,
萬法一如 the ten thousand things are as they are, of single essence.
一如體玄 To understand the mystery of this One-essence
兀爾忘虚 is to be release from all entanglements.
萬法齊觀 When all things are seen equally
歸復自然 the timeless Self-essence is reached.
泯其所以 No comparisons or analogies are possible
不可方比 in this causeless, relationless state.

止動無動 Consider movement stationary and the stationary in motion,
動止無止 both movement and rest disappear.
兩既不成 When such dualities cease to exist
一何有爾 Oneness itself cannot exist.
究竟窮極 To this ultimate finality
不存軌則 no law or description applies.

契心平等 For the unified mind in accord with the Way
所作倶息 all self-centered straining ceases.
狐疑盡淨 Doubts and irresolution’s vanish
正信調直 and life in true faith is possible.
一切不留 With a single stroke we are freed from bondage;
無可記憶 nothing clings to us and we hold to nothing.
虚明自照 All is empty , clear, self-illuminating,
不勞心力 with no exertion of the mind’s power.
非思量處 Here thought, feeling, knowledge, and imagination
識情難測 are of no value.
眞如法界 In this world of Suchness
無他無自 there is neither self nor other-than-self

要急相應 To come directly into harmony with this reality
唯言不二 just simply say when doubt arises, ‘Not two.’
不二皆同 In this ‘no two’ nothing is separate,
無不包容 nothing excluded.
十方智者 No matter when or where,
皆入此宗 enlightenment means entering this truth.
宗非促延 And this truth is beyond extension or diminution in time or space;
一念萬年 in it a single thought is ten thousand years.

無在不在 Emptiness here, Emptiness there,
十方目前 but the infinite universe stands always before your eyes.
極小同大 Infinitely large and infinitely small;
忘絶境界 no difference, for definitions have vanished
極大同小
不見邊表 and no boundaries are seen.
有即是無 So too with Being
無即是有 and non-Being.
若不如此 Don’t waste time in doubts and arguments
必不相守 that have nothing to do with this.

一即一切 One thing, all things:
一切即一 move among and intermingle, without distinction.
但能如是 To live in this realization
何慮不畢 is to be without anxiety about non-perfection.
信心不二 To live in this faith is the road to non-duality,
不二信心 Because the non-dual is one with the trusting mind.

言語道斷 Words! The Way is beyond language,
非去來今 for in it there is
no yesterday
no tomorrow
no today.


Stephen Mitchell Translation

The great way isn’t difficult for those who are unattached to their preferences.
Let go of longing and aversion, and everything will be perfectly clear.
When you cling to a hairbreadth of distinction, heaven and earth are set apart.
If you want to realize the truth, don’t be for or against.
The struggle between good and evil is the primal disease of the mind.
Not grasping the deeper meaning, you just trouble your minds serenity.

As vast as infinite space, it is perfect and lacks nothing.
But because you select and reject, you can’t perceive its true nature.
Don’t get entangled in the world; don’t lose yourself in emptiness.
Be at peace in the oneness of things, and all errors will disappear by themselves.

If you don’t live the Tao, you fall into assertion or denial.
Asserting that the world is real, you are blind to its deeper reality;
denying that the world is real, you are blind to the selflessness of all things.
The more you think about these matters, the farther you are from the truth.
Step aside from all thinking, and there is nowhere you can’t go.
Returning to the root, you find the meaning;
chasing appearances, you lose their source.

At the moment of profound insight, you transcend both appearance and emptiness.
Don’t keep searching for the truth; just let go of your opinions.
For the mind in harmony with the Tao, all selfishness disappears.
With not even a trace of self-doubt, you can trust the universe completely.
All at once you are free, with nothing left to hold on to.

All is empty, brilliant, perfect in its own being.
In the world of things as they are, there is no self, no non self.
If you want to describe its essence, the best you can say is “Not-two.”
In this “Not-two” nothing is separate, and nothing in the world is excluded.
The enlightened of all times and places have entered into this truth.
In it there is no gain or loss; one instant is ten thousand years.

There is no here, no there; infinity is right before your eyes.
The tiny is as large as the vast when objective boundaries have vanished;
the vast is as small as the tiny when you don’t have external limits.

Being is an aspect of non-being; non-being is no different from being.
Until you understand this truth, you won’t see anything clearly.
One is all; all are one. When you realize this, what reason for holiness or wisdom?

The mind of absolute trust is beyond all thought, all striving,
is perfectly at peace, for in it there is no yesterday, no today, no tomorrow.


Robert F. Olson Translation

The Great Way isn’t difficult
for those who are unattached to their preferences.
Let go of longing and aversion,
and everything will be perfectly clear.
When you cling to a hairbreadth of distinction, heaven and earth are set apart.
If you want to realize the truth,
don’t be for or against.
The struggle between good and evil
is the primal disease of the mind.
Not grasping the deeper meaning,
you just trouble your mind’s serenity.
As vast as infinite space,
it is perfect and lacks nothing.
But because you select and reject,
you can’t perceive its true nature.
Don’t get entangled in the world;
don’t lose yourself in emptiness.
Be at peace in the oneness of things,
and all errors will disappear by themselves.

If you don’t live the Tao,
you fall into assertion or denial.
Asserting that the world is real,
you are blind to its deeper reality;
denying that the world is real,
you are blind to the selflessness of all things.
The more you think about these matters,
the farther you are from the truth.
Step aside from all thinking,
and there is nowhere you can’t go.
Returning to the root, you find the meaning; chasing appearances, you lose their source.
At the moment of profound insight,
you transcend both appearance and emptiness.
Don’t keep searching for the truth;
just let go of your opinions.
For the mind in harmony with the Tao,
all selfishness disappears.
With not even a trace of self-doubt,
you can trust the universe completely.
All at once you are free,
with nothing left to hold on to.
All is empty, brilliant,
perfect in its own being.
In the world of things as they are,
there is no self, no non-self.
If you want to describe its essence,
the best you can say is “Not-two.”

For the mind in harmony with the Tao,
all selfishness disappears.

With not even a trace of self-doubt,
you can trust the universe completely.
In this “Not-two” nothing is separate,
and nothing in the world is excluded.
The enlightened of all times and places
have entered into this truth.
In it there is no gain or loss;
one instant is ten thousand years.
There is no here, no there;
infinity is right before your eyes.
The tiny is as large as the vast when objective boundaries have vanished;
the vast is as small as the tiny,
when you don’t have external limits.
Being is an aspect of non-being;
non-being is no different from being.
Until you understand this truth,
you won’t see anything clearly.
One is all; all are one. When
you realize this, what reason for holiness or wisdom?
The mind of absolute trust
is beyond all thought, all striving,
is perfectly at peace; for in it
there is no yesterday,
no tomorrow,
no today.


Nothing. Stardust. The Illusion of Thought and the Nature of Reality.

Last night – just before writing this, I went for late stroll at about 1:30 am to a secluded beach where I sometimes sit under the stars and listen to music. The reason I went there was because an arbitrary stressor had upset me and I needed to change the channel in my brain to something more calming.

I am not one to stew on things these days without taking conscious action to alleviate my stress (breathe, focus on how I want to feel in that moment, meditate, go for a walk, run, hike, gym, focus on gratitude, or listen to calming music). Particularly since my “awakening” – because it was then when I learned that inner peace was absolutely real and that I could find it in the midst of any situation because it was within me and MORE powerful than fear or any other opposing emotion or feeling. (Note: feelings are how we react to things, emotions are how we feel.)

This awakening has been wonderful in empowering me to actively alter my state when my inner peace has come under the siege of stress, worry, or fear. Effectively it’s enabled me to use better coping mechanisms because I know they are capable of delivering me from the lowest valleys of my most negative thoughts and feelings.

As was the case last night. After a short while sitting on the sand and doing some light breath meditation (approx 10 mins), the initial stressor had subsided completely. From there I walked over to a still burning fire and watched it burn, staring into the pulsing glow of the red hot embers. Then I climbed up to a place I like to sit, listened to this and started thinking. Blissful for a time.

But the blissful feeling of having alleviated my stress didn’t last long.

For, I soon found myself faced an actual truth: the truth that part of the change that characterizes life is the internal changes we are constantly being subjected to by virtue of being thinking and feeling human beings.

We’re on this ride, and happiness is never a permanent feeling. We’re at the mercy of circumstance and emotions, and really, life’s this roller coaster of feelings that bounce us around like a pinball at times. Part of the day you might have an argument with someone you love and be upset, later you might worry about something coming up and feel anxious, then later you might relax and laugh, which is a nice respite – but what you really desire is inner peace that lasts and sustained freedom from anxiety, worry, and depression.

And in thinking about the transient nature of happiness and inner peace, I felt frustrated that the temporary stressors in my life had the power to so easily rob me of my highest value / most important core desired feeling (inner peace).

Why is that? Why does life get in the way of this quest for lasting inner peace?

I suppose because I allow it – because there is this perpetual flowing of thoughts and the ebb and flow of feelings and emotions that come and go in waves – and I’ve decided to let these illusory things become rule my reality.

This concept of an illusory reality – a thought centered reality – is a central theme in Buddhism. Buddhism teaches that while reality itself is real, how we perceive it and think about it is illusory. This ignorance, in living within the illusions of the thought world, is what leads to suffering.

Then if thought is illusory, what is this reality we cling so dearly to?

While on a sunset hike yesterday, I came across a beautiful spiderweb. In pausing to admire it, I was struck with a brief moment of zen awareness.

In the grand scheme of life, the impact of this spider’s existence on my city was akin to the impact of my own existence on the universe. His web and my life were both temporary yet here now. And perhaps, the web meant to the spider what my life meant to me; both of us clinging onto our respective existences out of the instinctual fear of their inevitable destruction.

Dust in the wind. Yet, we hold onto that dust because it’s solid, and we cry and scream and whimper and shout as if it all really is forever. But it’s just a spiderweb to the universe.

So, what does this mean? Are we just nothing – infinitesimal dust in the end?

Sure, perhaps. But we’re not just any regular old dust.

Allow famed astrophysicist Neil deGrasse Tyson to explain:

So, now that you know what you are made of, it’s time to put your existence within the context of the existence of the earth as a whole. For this, we’ll turn to another hero of mine – Carl Sagan. His narration of the legendary excerpt from his book Pale Blue Dot, which was spurred by the famous photograph of the same title, is an all time favorite of mine.

Enjoy some excellent animation as Sagan explains the earth in a way you may never forget:

So, where do we go from here. We’re as fleeting as a spiderweb, made from stardust, and on this pale blue dot. How do we reconcile with this reality of nothingness, with the fact that we’re meaningless to the universe?

Since, my heroes have been doing such a good job so far, let’s let philosopher Alan Watts discuss reconciling with this reality of nothingness. I’ll be damned if this isn’t the one of the most therapeutic things I’ve ever heard. (If you’re not in a rush, watch this first – before the video below.)

Well, if you’ve watched each of these videos and come this far then I hope I’ve fucked with your entire concept of reality enough to put your life into a more rational and healthy context than you previously held.

It’s pretty special to me that my journey has led me to such parallel ideas on the fundamental nature of reality. Perhaps those individuals (my heroes) arrived at complimentary viewpoints because what they are talking about is completely true. I’m being a little bit aloof here because I want these truths to set in for you.

And before any of my heroes wrote or spoke their words, a writer (and Zen kind of guy) named Jack Kerouac immortalized a similar, but different viewpoint in a 1957 letter to his ex wife, (his first wife), which was used as the script for this epic hipster short by high-end Spanish/Italian bicycle company Dosnoventa:

In a way, the words of Kerouac are very much detailing a similar kind of zen realization as the spiderweb moment I had while on my hike.

The narratives of the Buddhists, deGrasse Tyson, Sagan, Watts, and Kerouac on the nature of our existence, the world, and reality are all essentially cohesive narratives of the spiderweb story.

Life is but stardust. A temporary glistening in the sun. All stress, worry, dilemma, fear – it’s just an illusory experience veiled in this thing called thought that we accept as absolute reality, but in the end it’s all false. Our lives will disappear eventually – just like the spiderweb melts in a single rainfall. Poof. Gone. And what are we so fucking stressed and worried for?

We’re okay.

Feeling down? That’s okay too.

Stressed out? That’s okay too. It’s all okay. It’s all ecstasy inside as Kerouac said.

We float on, no matter the day to day experiences and how they effect us. Whether pleasant or pushing the boundaries of our tolerances – the constant changes in our day to day feelings do nothing to alter the basic truth that we are alive regardless of whether we are happy 100% of the time or not. We float on and the universe doesn’t give a flying fuck either way.

It’s up to us.

p.s. I did just recently say that Eckhart Tolle was full of it, but this video from actor Jim Carey, makes me think it’s time for me to read The Power of Now again:


“If you want to awaken all of humanity, then awaken all of yourself. If you want to eliminate the suffering in the world, then eliminate all that is dark and negative in yourself. Truly, the greatest gift you have to give is that of your own self-transformation.”

– Lao Tzu