Wednesday, June 1, 2022

Growth or transformation?

Ohhhhh, who or what should I be next?

Whether I attempt to continue with my current conditions in life or move on to something else, I wonder if I have been too lazy about self-maintenance. I don't mean eating or exercise, that's a separate issue. I mean - how to say? - allowing assumptions, attitudes, and self-perception.

People reinventing themselves is nothing new, but it doesn't always work out. Of course we have influence on guiding who we become and continue to change over time, but this must also allow for growth, which can come about through transformation, big and small. 

The absence of genuine introspection - of paying attention rather than only evaluating and judging - may have led me to a bit of a dead end. 

Monday, May 30, 2022

Holiday evening reflections (or, On being untethered in a mundane world)


The end of May draws near and in the United States it is unofficially now summer.

My job for the last nearly six years has been... uhh... well, to describe how unusual and stressful and frustrating it can be would require actual examples that no one would believe. It's not all bad, but the unbelievable and vexing parts are made worse by how unnecessary they are. So having a three day weekend is really valuable.

I would have posted something hear last week but my attention was grabbed by another mass shooting at a school in America. Once again the same well-funded political movement is blocking any meaningful changes to save lives by idolizing guns and gun violence. Once again there is a chance to put momentum into calls for reforms.

Whether heart-rending tragedies or the banal vagaries of every day life, many people have some form of reframing or re-contextualizing their experience of the world, either to try to make sense of or accept what transpires or generate and sustain motivation for change. While some will quibble over the use of spiritual as inadequate to label all such transformations in perspective, many such transformative experiences share common events such as being moved by natural beauty or music or other inspiring stimuli. Or by having one's mortality brought sharply into view for some reason.

In my last entry I referenced themes of health and wellness connected to our circumstances and how any type of spirituality, whatever its form, needs to be able to address everyday concerns as well as existential ones. The writing could use some revision but it was a quick lunchtime musing so it is a little untidy and lacking a bit in focus.

Nonetheless, it does lead to this: I never have been able to really get into or stick with any religion, sacred tradition, or anything more than an intellectual yet generic spiritual framework. As I've no doubt shared here before, I don't perceive the world around me as full of wonder and mystery and potential. It offers no sense of hidden truths or unseen depths. It's just flat. Mundane.

To use other language, no sense of the numinous. A super low score on the M-scale. A world without a soul. Neither empty nor full. Neither hot nor cold.

I like parts of Christian monasticism and a lot of the Westernized translations of Buddhism and so on, but commitment is hard when the mystique and newness wear off. I can appreciate the wisdom regarding the human condition but it's hard to not wander off and let whatever practice I had picked up lapse as there is little or no personal connection.

Some people may wonder what that means for dealing with everyday life or horrible catastrophes, but it's just like everyone else I guess only without turning to a liturgy or prayer or whatever. I guess we are all used to what we know? We all have our own ways of filtering and processing our experiences.

Sometimes I use spiritual language and gestures anyway because they are a form of expression even if you don't feel a deep belief or faith in the literal meaning of the gesture or expression, because why not? It's part of our shared human heritage. I don't mean any disrespect to those who idolize such religious forms, especially ones I have a personal connection to.

Wednesday, May 18, 2022

Late lunch break thoughts

   Original version of this photo from Pixabay


Opening sentence


Something of a late lunch break at work. Writing of any kind can help focus the mind so that gives me a chance to share something here with you as I work on an apple and a banana.

While philosophical, shared interpersonal experiences, and artistic themes are common for questions of meaning and existence, especially in any kind of religious or spiritual or closely related context, the baseline of physical, psychological, and social well-being shouldn't be overlooked. Our perceptions, thoughts, creativity, and so on vary in quality and intensity based on our health.

In addition to blogging I also keep a private journal that helps keep me honest. 

To distill some of that honesty while digesting another bite of fruit, my sublimation of and inattention to dissatisfaction with my job, financial stagnation, the state of the society I live in, and so on has helped bankroll bad fitness habits and drain the reserves of willpower needed to stay healthy physically, psychologically, and socially. 

On the surface level, my personal circumstances by broad socioeconomic metrics of human wellness on a worldwide scale is fairly high, which then compels me to an almost forced pseudo-gratitude and bypasses any helpful introspection. That simple leaves the vagaries of the day to test my ingrained inner structures of patience, releasing temporary agitation, and so on. Bobbing up and down on the daily currents of my external surroundings.

Fortunately my practiced temperance and ability to reframe many things in a way that lets me handle them better works well, but that only helps me stay afloat, not to get back to a healthier and more worthwhile state of existence.

 I mean, my job of the last several years could be the basis of a television show with no embellishment. Honestly, no one would believe me if I told them the unpolished and unexaggerated truth of it. It pays kind of OK, not great, for the workload and responsibility but has no benefits other than PTO. I do a wide variety of things I have no background for most of it other than general intelligence and strong reading and writing skills. It's very chaotic and often unreasonable or just bizarre but it looks at a glance like a normal office. It has its rewarding moments and also cascades of sudden deadlines and stress.

That is mixed with other issues outside of work, including my own variety of inner struggles. And hat would be fine if  I had extra motivational energy (and time, and other resources) to improve my health. 

So rather than just journaling where only my eyes can see, I am putting this up as an example of where the "theory" and speculation covered in places like this blog actually hits the road. Not in self-pitying fashion but to acknowledge that this, too -- no, especially this kind of thing, must be part of the talk and practice of spirituality or whatever term people are comfortable with.

This particular type of existential suffering or dissatisfaction is a (primarily, as far as we know?) human condition, formed by our individual and collective imaginations and the pocket realities we create in our philosopher's caves. If spirituality cannot aid us to a better place and state of being here and now, it must inevitably devolve into facile habit propelled by a mindless dogma.

Perhaps such an attempt at honest introspection will aid me in my own path. Or mayhap it will spark something for you, reader.

May your day be well, and your burdens no more than you can manage.

Monday, May 9, 2022

Opened the windows today

Warm sunny day, not hot, with blue skies.

I've will have lived in the same place for 14 years next month, and tape up the windows when cold weather comes. When they get un-taped varies. This year it go to freezing or below randomly early this spring so it wasn't until today that it seemed like a safe bet to swap the space heaters for fans and let the outside air in.

I've gone from a career I worked for to employment struggles to an "interesting" job in these last fourteen years and yet the annual un-taping is a milestone for each spring. Brighter, longer days are very good for me, especially since I was recently diagnosed with a vitamin D deficiency serious enough to be put on supplements by my physician indefinitely.

Questions of mystery, meaning, causality and purpose have always intrigued me but they've been hard to connect with on a real level. But a day like today, especially getting a rare chance to work from home, doesn't need philosophy or theology or science. It is enough that it is what is.

Hopefully my decades-long inner stuckness will have another chance to get less stuck, to put it in professional terms.

Be well.

Sunday, May 1, 2022

May Day 2022

The year is now 2022.

This is only my sixth entry in this blog since 2014, which I suppose isn't really that surprising to me given the twists and turns my life went through just before that hiatus and everything since. I spent 1998 to 2010 on message boards with religion, spirituality, science, politics, and community as the main themes. I also read quite a lot of books and articles on related topics including new age/self help, general spirituality, general religion, Buddhism (many varieties), interfaith reflections, mysticism, and even some open-minded monastic Christianity. 

I was able to practice with a Chan-Pureland sangha for a couple of years and then later even get a little first hand experience with Christian monasticism (as a layperson) after giving a more "high church" approach a try from what, 2010-2013? (I think my last service at the nearby church was early 2014 after a bit of an absence.) Late in 2013 I had to have open heart surgery because of some random defect and enjoyed reading a Buddhist book in a hospital while waiting so some test a week or so beforehand.

(As I am writing a heavy thunderstorm has just rolled in for this Sunday evening.)

I think, though, that some of the steam that drove my interactions online wore out. The people I chatted with on the message boards largely evaporated or went on repeat in a shrinking medium. Personally, I was too far from any Buddhist stuff to participate in person and the intellectual intrigue of the re-visiting of Christianity had faded. Meanwhile, political hate with a religious mask was on the rise and my own personal situation wasn't so great as to encourage the hobby of religious or spiritual exploration, whatever the mode or medium.

Not to mention that apparently I score really low on tests that aim to measure your likelihood of having what many people call spiritual or religious experiences, even though the experiences need not be tied to either. There is an difference between having an intense hobby related to pathways of meaning and questions of human existence and actually being committed to and drawing strength and meaning from such pathways.

Of course, a healthy curiosity and well-roundedness in a variety of topics isn't a bad thing, but, it is different than actual paths of faith or seeking because you are trying to put a face or name to something that you have had a brush with. I still see many interesting, inspiring, and true things from what I read, saw, and heard in the past. That is well. I even got to see a couple of Buddhist sites in China during a business trip in the fall of 2016.

However, I don't seem to be much for community so wherever I end up at different parts of the rest of my life, I can try to appreciate them for what they are as much as what they do or don't inspire in myself. I suppose we shall see where that leads.

Have a happy Sunday and a good week.

Friday, January 1, 2021

The (not quite yet) Year of the Ox

 


Slow, steady strength

While the Gregorian calendar has us all in a new year, the lunar calendar hasn't quite gotten there yet. I have a connection to the Ox, so it's interesting to me on a personal level. Whether cosmic and natural forces work along the line of tradition or faith, such symbols still help color our human world.
 

The Ox is associated by those who dabble with Buddhism in the West with the Ox Herding Pictures, wherein the Ox is in some ways both (the concept of) Enlightenment and the Mind. Eventually, the Mind is tamed through practice and faith as the herder rides the Ox with ease and joy. Then the Ox vanishes. Then the herder vanishes. Then emptiness comes and beyond it is...

Well, anyway. Cool imagery, eh? 

Perhaps this year such imagery can help those interested in seeking their own peace and strength in the midst of the turmoil the world finds itself in.

I wish you all the best.

Thursday, December 31, 2020

The end of another year (2020)

 


Winter blooms and 2020 ends.

In my location we are still not yet to 2021 at the time of this posting.

I have fixed feeling about the tradition of New Year's resolutions. They are often a form of wishful thinking that can actually depress people when the resolution fails, especially if it's made in black and white (giving up this, taking up that).

Fifteen years ago I recall a Buddhist teacher saying to a small group that the precepts cannot be broken. We can take them up or set them down. But the precepts themselves are still there waiting. The same person also compared that to the practice of staying and returning in meditation. If your mind wanders from focus, just return. No judgment. It's all a success. Just stay focused as long as you can and then return when you notice your attention has wandered.

Perhaps more New Year's resolutions would benefit those making them if they were approached in this way, whether it be losing weight or taking up a new hobby or building relationships.

This is a good time for reflection as societies are also reflecting, giving us some momentum. Also a good time to then look ahead. We can't know what will happen, but we can think about who we've been and who we want to be.

If you have any resolutions, I wish you success.

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