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Posts Tagged ‘training’

I put Kuan Yin on my computer desktop. A beautiful purple picture of the goddess….  I surrounded it with a purple gradient and there she sits.  The first day I tried to strike the same hand positions, since a friend had suggested that iconography was meant to be instructive in this way.  I would have sworn she smiled at me when I tried. I don’t mean that to be silly at all….  in that second, just as someone rang me on my phone, I thought she was smiling at me.

Since this, I have felt almost as if she watches over me all the time. Money seems to come from nowhere, a lot of new opportunities show up for me. Maybe my questions are being answered. I have been writing on the backs of the paper prayer sheets we use here in Taiwan. I don’t know if anyone ever does that, but I just write my question again and again, as beautifully or as rawly, or as simply or as ramblingly as I feel I must, “Who am I?” Now, this isn’t to make a mantra of the question, but it is to spur myself to trust the universe to answer it! To wake myself up to my own desire to know it, which I am afraid is a naive desire. When I finish two dozen of them, I will burn them at the chimney of the Temple of the Boddhisattva.

Some of my questions are already getting answered.  Long ago someone related the story of his long exchange with a zen master.  The master had told him that Karma was also an illusion, and it was kind of like how you wake up in the morning, and you go to the job you had the day before, and do some of the same things….  And I had been wondering, how do I come to see this for myself? In fact, I’ve asked the same zen master the same question, but he has yet to get back to me.

Yet last night I read someone paraphrasing something Sadhguru said, “Your likes and dislikes are your karma.” That’s it! Equanimity towards likes and dislikes, or at least seeing the impermanence of them is the key to seeing the illusion in them….  they are obviously dross.  “If I cut your hand off, would you still be you?” “If you had never had your favorite pet as a child, would you still be you?” “If you had never known your favorite pass-time, would you still be you?”

As I chat on the Skype phone, or type back and forth with friends, I see Kuan Yin’s beautifully placid smile. I find myself reflecting it back, bringing some equanimity to situations where I might otherwise get sucked into a maelstrom, even lending me more wisdom than I really possess. I swear she smiles a more brightly at times, filling my heart with clarity and equanimity.

I have returned to questioning “who am I?” Until recently I’d lost faith that the question could be answered, and I found myself stuck in ruts for months. Instead of plunging into the unknown for days to finally emerge with new knowledge, I just had the slightly lock-jawed and bitter taste of stagnation….

But in writing on those golden prayer papers, I have been emboldening myself to ask the question again, looking inside to grasp the answer. And I find myself standing at the doors of silence again. That question, of all of them I am aware of, brings me to the sense of impermanence and lack of inherence more clearly than anything else.

The feeling I get is of settling into a place that is both familiar and alien, where I seem to be nothing at all, and no moment holds any sway whatsoever except this exact one, where I seem to calmly observe everything fading like the trees in Autumn, or the setting sun. . . I even know what it is to sink into this entirely, yet I do not.  However, instead of mourning my fearful toe-dipping, I am simply realizing that it doesn’t matter if I hang about here at the threshold awhile longer….  the opening of the door is inevitable, and I care about nothing as much as the answer to Maharishi’s question: “Who am I?”

When I feel empowered, clear-headed, and open to possibility, I look out to make a move towards something, or even ask the boon of KuanYin, who seems to follow me most of the time.  When I’m innocent or naive enough to feel that ANYTHING is possible, it’s obvious that I don’t actually know what I really want, the only question that seems important is to find out who I am.  Otherwise anything else I seek is just a waste of my time…  But am I courageous enough to keep asking?

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Everything’s working out for me.

I had initially told my employer I could stay for one more year. I’d thought it through carefully and come to the conclusion that the money was good and I could keep pumping my business ventures. But when it came time to sign the contract, I got sick about it.

Actually, the truth is, from the moment I told her I’d do it, I had this feeling of loss of good breath, like I was literally, subtly suffocating. Then when the day came to sign, I felt like shit. My heart was pounding, I kept having to go to the bathroom. I just couldn’t do it. Contextualize this within a year and a half that’s been mostly in good states and you’ll see how much this was fucking up my groove.

So I decided to try to make the move South, to the middle of Taiwan, a much nicer place. But I needed to know if the money would work out. I’d already asked MaZu if my business would still be prosperous if I made the move to TaiChung and she’d said yes, but I wanted to be sane about it all.

So, I put the numbers down on paper and realized that I had plenty of money. In fact, if I am a bit careful about my spending during the month of August, I’ll be able to complete my contractual payment obligation to my Engineer, visit Thailand for more or less than a month, and land back in Taiwan with about four times as much cash as I started with this last time I landed here.

So, I told my employer today that I just wasn’t willing to sign on for another year. I apologized if I’d misled her and I explained that I was getting burned out and I was trying to make the best decision for my own sense of well-being. She actually said if I ever change my mind, she will be happy to sign another contract with me. Wow…..  a better outcome than I could have reasonably hoped for.

What do I notice with all of this? I had grown stagnant in ways I hadn’t imagined. And the need to organize things and pare stuff down is already breathing energy back into my rutted oxcart.

I plan to do a 10 day long Vipassana meditation retreat in Thailand, and I’m nervous about whether I’ll have the courage and the metal it takes to actually get the practice to work. Some part of me flirts with certainty that I’ll end up in the bottom 10%, some lack of courage or wherewithal preventing me from getting much out of it, forever thinking of it as “meh” while my inner knowing of my own failure in the matter gnaws at me forever — only to go back and try again years later, and get only some scant success with it then.

But I’m hoping that’s not the case. As much as all this fear of failure and inadequacy is bugging the shit out of me, I’m excited to move towards some progress, at least waking me up to an extent. Insight, clarity, growth and inspiration are worth a lot more than money in most cases.

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“The method is medicine”

“Method is not the truth, once you get the feeling, get rid of the method.  But even feeling can become a method at some point.”

“It’s okay to take medicine when you’re sick, but if you keep taking the medicine after you’re better, it becomes dysfunctional.”

So I started noticing major gaps in my perception.  For instance, why was I willing to gloss over major issues in the film “Eat, Pray, Love” when almost every human in the free world seems to realize that movie was hollow, vapid, and patronizing.  Even as I watched it and felt the vapidness of the spirituality portrayed, some of the underlying spite in the main character, and got pissed at the way she treated her teacher, I sort of set that at the edge of my consciousness and thought, “well, she’s being braver than most people I’ve met.”

Likewise, I’ll admit, for a long time, in a tough situation I will sometimes not trust my feeling when I listen to someone.  Instead of intuition, I look to one of two things, “What is this person REFUSING or TERRIFIED to consider?” and “What is irrationally pissing this person off?”  Normally one of those two things will reveal where someone is stuck.  They’re quite effective.  But of course, resorting to those two methods every time has a deadness to it.  This is rooted in my fundamental lack of trust in myself.

Frankly, I’m refusing to and terrified of trusting myself, or of trying to step out and move and live and flow in the reality of the moment, instead leaning back on method to avoid taking the tougher steps.  This has been showing up to me for months in my Qi Kung.  When I get to a certain particular spot, it’s like I’ve absolutely done as much as I can with the Qi Kung I’m comfortable with, and I start needing to do some new excercises, specifically some that are challenging or even scary for me….  I can even go into that to a certain extent…  but there’s something, a blind spot, a space where I turn away and distract myself as rapidly as possible.

So I got wrapped up in studying Chinese.  On top of that, I started obsessing over it.  And then being a coward about it on top of that.  Moreover, I was taking every mistake I made too personally….  even making it into a wedge between my girlfriend and I.

And lately, I’m blocking something so drastically that I’ve nearly had four or five motorcycle accidents this week.  That’s from “nearly having” ZERO for the whole year I’ve been here.  I’m a good driver folks, and I can speed around on one of these things with major margins of error to play with….  now, suddenly, I’m almost running into people because I’m not looking?  What gives?

More spelling errors and such… The kinds of things no one else would notice (except some of my kids), but they reveal to me that I’m just thinking differently.  Why?  How?  Well, three things come to mind that I might be avoiding::

Something to do with Cheryl.  Obviously it’s intimidating to build a close relationship with somebody.  I do catch myself blocking my own energy and not making as free and easy of a connection sometimes in the days leading up to when I’ll see her.  I don’t know if it’s a pattern or something I can deal with with her, or what.  I’ll see her this weekend and just be honest about it when I’m talking to her.  At least we’re both honest about our intentions and how we feel….  that should be helpful.

Something to do with my business.  Obiously I’d like this to be successful.  But of course there’s a lot of hard work.  It’s easy to want to obscure innaction and laziness with “patience.”  I think I actually know how to manage this effectively and I seldom don’t know what the next step or two is that I should take….  yet it’s easy to not want to do anything.

My Qi Kung, and meditation….  okay, I’m sure there IS something here.  First of all, I haven’t been meditating very much for the last couple of months.  Maybe when I ended my previous addiction, it left me with a big space…  like, wow…  what do I do?  I know that sounds kind of stereotypical, but there is something to it.  Also, I get scared sometimes when my meditation connects me with a sense of eternity or timelessness…..  And my Qi Kung.  It’s easy to not want to go past a certain point, like I said above.  But not just because the excercise is scary, but because the results, like the meditation, can also be difficult to deal with….  Some part of me wants to settle into what I’ve learned and just stay there forever.

I’m reminded of how it seems like things always go the smoothest with Cheryl when I am constantly aware of the truth that everything changes.  So I never expect to sit our relationship down on one spot and keep it there forever.  It’s nice when things have a predictability for awhile, but I always proceed with the awareness that things evolve and change.  I never know exactly where they’re going, or when they’ll shift, but all I can seemingly do is observe all this peacefull.  That’s been a very fruitful attitude to have.

Maybe I should start applying this to my business, meditation and Qi Kung…. After all, Wujifa is nothing but Daoism in Practice.  “In the Dao, Everything Changes.”  What did you expect?

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And with every death, a rebirth.

I noticed the moment of change.  I saw it happen.  I’ve gotten good at seeing it and I love Aranofsky’s films above all.  Mickey Rourke’s character has asked the stripper to have a regular relationship with him.  She said she couldn’t do it.  He screws things up completely with his daughter, but the stripper comes back to him.  It happens in one perfect instant.  You can feel it, she opens up.  Two human beings in a dance.  Everything he’d asked her for, laid there in front of him, her trusting her innocence enough to make that leap.

But he misses it, he’s already closed down, maybe because of his daughter or maybe because he’s lost faith in himself.  I can only recommend “the Wrestler” as one of the best films I think I’ve ever seen.

I love watching movies to see these kinds of changes.  It’s beautiful to see even in a stupid movie like H.E.A.T. where DeNiro has a clear moment, his dying motion, in the hotel when his girl wants him to just leave with her and he jumps back into this murky, deadly world he cannot seem to let go of, long before Pacino guns him down.  Contrasted to Kilmer, who keeps his course and walks away.

I see them in my own life, as I saw the moment where everything changed with my girlfriend.  I felt it as certainly as you might notice the sun break the mountaintops.  It’s a worthwhile practice, noticing what changes.

The other thing I recently caught was my tendency to judge my actions in a situation by how peaceful, blissful, or easy the encounter felt.  However, I’m also seeing that the right thing doesn’t always flow that way, sometimes deceptions are called for, or ‘worse.’  And my judgements do little but get in the way.  The only barometer I can find for this is my own innocence.

The last few weeks, I needed to make sure I wasn’t loosing it to chemical reactions in my head when I entered the dance with my girl.  “Love” is pretty common and about as “special” as taking a shot of whiskey (both stimulate the opium receptors in the head).  I choose to stay aware, continue growing and learning.  My intention is to build connection, not just read a lot of magical mystical bullshit into an endorphine high.

The only way I find is to center myself upon the reality of death, coupled with a type of self-enquiry, and the transience of everything becomes clear.  For keeping a steady mind, death is the only worthwhile advisor.

Still today, after such a deeply intentional strike a couple of weeks ago, severing the head of a decades-long addiction, I find the difficult part is when no decisive strikes are needed…  indeed, the times when NOTHING is needed.  The hardest thing, perhaps, is silence.  I still want to think of myself as “the one who did this or that,” worse yet “the one who does this or that.”  ….and I feel that’s the road back to hell.

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I just practice every day. I notice the breath passing in and out of my heart. One important point of that simple meditation is not to hold onto it going in either direction, in fact, to grasp at or hold to anything misses the point entirely.

And I return to self-inquiry. It’s easy to pick anything and ask myself who is feeling this, and from whence does that sense of an “I” come. Inevitably the attachments weaken, sometimes ceasing entirely – as often does my sense of an individual ego.

And I can return again and again to the principles. Letting go of whatever I find myself clinging to. Observation. Acceptance. Staying grounded. Noticing what choices I’m connected to.

Much of the time, I notice an incredible flexibility growing and growing within..

Yet there is a deadness that shows up for me lately in this. I have been wrestling with it this whole month, maybe a little longer. Perhaps it is like when we are doing Standing Meditation in Kung Fu practice and we rigidify something, even a good structure, even a pattern of relaxation and a good way of balancing, and makes that one way into a crystalized absolute, as if it were encompassing enough to need to make a doctrine of it. Indeed, even a feeling can become a method. Then one often finds oneself standing like a dead post.

Ultimately I feel the truth of having no defined self. And many times, I sense a lot of connection with everything. In the worst of times, I feel a good deal of rightness in the world these days. In the best of times it’s like being immersed in such a dense fluid of life, everything flowing together and communicating in love and bliss.

However, I think the awareness of emptiness within should ultimately allow whatever is most appropriate for the moment, guided by intuition, to spontaneously arise. But for now my “dead post” way of approaching this is preventing such spontaneity. Absence of self-definition leads to freedom, because life is real – as Devi says, everything we touch is real, only our concepts of it are false. Maybe I am only requiring time to grow accustomed to it all.

I continue to cultivate, aware of the truths underlying my practice. I have a lot of joy and ease in my life. But from my own perspective it is hard to see what I am missing just now. So I continue meditating, hoping I’ll hit a tipping point within myself eventually. And continually watching for the solution to the constant tendency to calcify truth into some kind of concept.

To answer my own question as best I can: The obvious answer is in choice and intention. There is a need for vigilance against rigidity, but more than that — a need for a jumping into the ever changing sea of reality, a deeper kind of letting go — as there is nothing I can see that bears holding onto. And of course, I’m aware of my fear. I don’t mind fear. Still, I have only a dim idea of a way to hold such a vigilance, or to stay so keenly willing to flow with the tides of the moment.

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Amidst my loss of equilibrium earlier this week, I opened Tantric Quest at random.  I came to a place where Devi was describing how nothing can be rejected in Tantra, how we have too many half-fullfilled desires, too many half-accomplished actions due to all the cultural hazings and moral restrictions posed upon us.  That to create an asceticism that nurtures some kind of ‘purity’ born of all those concepts would be to kill the spirit. 

In the same section she also described how the “distractions” and “disturbances” that arise during our meditation can be incorporated into the process instead of trying to cultivate them out.  That in fact, they nourish the calm even further, the way the clouds nourish the clear sky or the shooting stars nourish the night time.  (I apologize, I cannot quote directly as I lent my book last night, I will later make an addendum)

She also mentioned the heart meditation, observing the breath passing through the heart chakra.  So I returned to this meditation, simply watching my breath go by, as I centered myself at my heart, like the wind blowing across my face in a train station as the train goes by.  In a little while, I started feeling equanimity again, relaxed and alert.  And the heart’s equanimity truly rejects nothing, makes no distinctions.  It is all bliss.

The practical effect yesterday was this:  I drove to a party last night with a friend.  It was a nice motorbiking day across our tropical island to a country club in Taipei.  It was nice to have a partner to ride with as well, someone to share the experiences, the beautiful places we passed, the wind, the sun, the rain.

But the rain started really coming down after awhile.  And riding a motorcyle this is hard to deal with, almost impossible in a gale.  My helmet doesn’t have a visor, so I could barely see at times.  Yet I continued doing the heart meditation, and I started noticing what choices I was making.  I noticed a very solid, powerful choice. 

Though I considered trying to stop and abandon my scooter for a cab and then find it again later, though I found the squinting against the driving rain difficult, I still noticed that my heart was making a choice for solidity.  Any of these paths would have been okay (continuing driving, taking public transportation, getting a cab).  In the past, I might have “pressed forward” with an attitude of one foot in front of the other, or some other ego need to make things go a certain way. 

I had enough equanimity to not be worried what happened or what I choce to do, yet enough clarity to know I would get there and get home just fine.

The Kung fu of this was very powerful.  Again, my vision was incredibly limited, yet I was able to drive perfectly well, and very safe, even following a bus across Taipei to get to the party (which is hard because the bus can make left turns at intersections, but I had to go to the right, then wait for the light to change, then catch up again).  And the ride back, somehow the stinging rain in my face on the freeway was irrelevent, pleasant even as we flew down the coastal road.  As for my limited vision, it just allowed me to tune into the what I could see and feel and go forward with alertness and calm.

I drove in these conditions for a total of three hours or so, aware of absolute calm and certainty inside myself the whole time.  The entire experience was of the type of Kung Fu that would allow me to lead expeditions across jungles.  I also realized it would keep me alive in a battle, or help me make the right decisions in a very tight situation.  It was a beautiful choice, not made from the mind, but made through the equanimity of my heart.  A very powerful kind of freedom.

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One thing I’ve been exploring lately is Myers-Briggs testing. In the past, I’ve found the tests assessment of my personality to be very accurate. I was looking at my profile and my weaknesses and I read through more of the profile types, etc.  I think I have a pretty good feel for the meaning of most of the types as well as a better feel for traits of my own.

What I found in reading through the strengths and weaknesses of each type was that having a personality type that is non-flexible is the root of much weakness (okay, duh). Moreover, I doubt the inherency of any personality trait. But, interestingly, I found a couple of the axis where I could easily go either way with a change that I knew how to make. For instance, in my functions for gathering information, I tend to trust symbols, personal meanings, and instinctual reactions a lot more than my five senses. That’s just been my natural “home base” for whatever reason.

So one simple thing to do is develop my ability to trust my five senses. And yes, in my experience, I’ve found grounding exercises like using Zhuan Zhang in Wujifa, or just being mindful have given me tremendous benefits.

Of course, the strengths of a person normally come from dominant traits. I observed a few years ago that in many cases, anyone that appears to be a genius in an area is highly unbalanced towards a trait or function. So the places where we’re “eccentric,” are often the places where we blow everyone else away. Or, a specific trait that is extraordinary to most people is so ordinary to us that we hardly think about it — the two side effects of this being that a) we can appear extraordinary or “genius” in that regard to others and b) we miss the ability to naturally or easily do what’s ordinary or “normal” for most people to do without thinking about it.

So we don’t want to neutralize our strengths in this process. It’s okay to have a “home base” but if we notice that our own easiest path is, in a particular case, not getting us anywhere, it’s really useful to be able to shift to another way of doing it.

The MBTI is relatively easy to work with. I think I have a really good grasp of it after only spending a few hours here and there of the last few years, as well as recently spending an afternoon and an evening reading through it. But the most useful part was in comparing how each variable shifted the whole, and changed the personality archetype significantly.  I spent a lot of time reading about the personality types that were just one change of one axis away from mine.

Knowing these little bits, and seeing where my chief weaknesses are, I can also narrow down to a few shifts I can make sometimes. Just like in Kung Fu, when someone smacks your head, you go to the highest level of training you have encoded outside of rational thought. In other words, you’re only going to use your favorite couple of moves/strategies in a fight. So it’s good to make them very streamlined and versatile.

Just my own strategies:

INFP — Shifting to ISFP when I’m failing to achieve a goal. By paying more attention to facts, data, details and concrete experience instead of symbolic interpretations, hunches, new ideas and “the big picture.”
— Shifting to INTP when I’m taking things a bit too personally and need some detachment. By thinking about hard truth and logic more than tact, compassion, people, and harmony.

I can almost boil both of those down to just a detached assessment of grounded information.

Of course, the only difficulty here would be my general “comfort” with my current personality. I mean, I genuinely do prefer to do the things that an INFP would do. I feel the personality test pegs me very well and I truly and authentically have the personality tendencies that it consistently tests in me.

One thing that helped me, in that regard, was just reading all the other types and noticing the methods other people use to engage in behaviors and preferences that I would greatly dislike. Funny, those preferences can seem so “obviously true,” even MORALLY true in a gut sense to me… yet there are people who have preferences different than my own, who feel a different set of obvious tastes.

One thing that shows up for me, for instance, and other INFPs is a problem with conflict. The conflicts show up because we genuinely want to achieve harmony with other people, yet genuinely have a deep seated sense of internally created values (separate from almost any social-group values).

I saw HOW people who take in more external stimulus to make decisions can enjoy the moment more while also being good at accomplishing their objectives (due to calibrating activities to serve their intention). And I saw HOW people who just think about things, weighing the data, instead of feeling out everything can avoid taking things personally and thus consistently choose honesty regardless of what other people think or if they feel offended.

Taken on a small level, and analyzed as a shift on those axis, I find the shifts less repulsive. In looking at the little pieces of how the behaviors I have trouble making within myself are actually achieved, I was able to find acceptable ways to get to them… the “how” of what some people are doing more easily than myself. That’s a lot of leverage to be had in overcoming habits and weaknesses!

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