Saturday, January 30, 2010

Speaking Of Answers...

So if there are answers to be found on the side of the road, why didn't i have one the other day, you might ask. Hmmmm..... good question.

The other day someone who knows that i've done the Shikoku Pilgrimage, and knows that i want to walk it again, was asking about "this TransAm thing" i'm going to do. After patiently listening to what i was planning, her only question was, "Why do you feel compelled to continuously challenge yourself with longer and harder challenges? Sooner or later you're going to get yourself hurt, or worse. Don't you think?"

Now how am i supposed to respond to that? If that is the only question that comes up, it's obvious that the word "challenge" has different meanings for the two of us. For her, challenges are entirely mental in nature; there is no need for physical challenges in her life. Or, to put it differently, for her, life is a mental game, the physical side has been put on the shelf, ignored, simplified with all the gadgets, remotes, and toys that you can buy at any store. For her, then, the idea that someone would actually seek to throw away all those simplifications and luxuries and actually attempt to make their life more difficult physically, must seem incomprehensible.

But that's how i live my life. Always have, and, hopefully, always will. There are three aspects to our lives, and if any one of them is ignored, your life is unbalanced: physical, psychological (mental), and spiritual. All three must be tended, watered, and weeded in order for your life to blossom. Granted you can still have a very good life even if these aren't evenly balanced at 1/3 each, but for the best possible life, meaning the best life you could possibly have, these need to be balanced.

That means you can't ignore the physical side of your life. And that's why i enjoy staying in shape, and enjoy the challenge of marathons, or of walking the henro trail, or of riding the TransAm Trail, or of trekking to Mt. Everest base camp, or of walking the Appalachian Trail (which will always be a dream of mine).

But don't get me wrong, these trips are not just about the physical challenge. Anyone who has ever done any of these things will tell you that the mental side of these challenges is just as important to their success as the physical — maybe even more. And it is this combination that attracts me.

Something like the Henro Trail or the TransAm Trail very nicely combines all three aspects of who we are. Obviously the physical side is important; you have to be in shape in order to finish. Likewise, the mental side is just as important as it is this psychological aspect that gets you through day after day of hard work, sometimes boring hard work. You are required to stay focused, alert, and hungry in order to persevere to the end.

What i think many people miss, though, is the spiritual side of trips like this, and here i'm not talking about a search for God or enlightenment or Nirvana, or any of that. I'm talking about using the day-to-day experience to figure out who you are, what you are, why you are here, what the purpose of being is, what Life is all about, etc.

What is Life all about? Certainly it has to be about more than getting up, going to work, going out with friends for drinks, going home, going to bed, and then repeating that day after day, week after week, year after year, life after life. Certainly there is more to Life than that. It's obvious, isn't it???

You don't find answers to these Who, What, Why questions sitting in front of a television. You don't find answers to these types of questions simply by reading books. Or listening to mp3s. Or watching DVDs. Or only sitting on your zafu. There is a very serious experiential aspect to these questions that requires you to actually get off your butt and and observe life's experiences in all their colors, flavors and varieties.

Your books, mp3s, and DVDs may give you pointers. Your teachers may show you where the path starts. Your zafu may take you to enlightenment. But, it is only partial until you balance all three aspects of who you are: the physical, mental, and spiritual. You are a human being, a physical animal, not just a mind. Granted, you really are not this body-mind, i accept and agree with that, and on the ultimate level you are correct. But even saints and sages have to live their day-to-day lives on the relative level, which means on the level of the body-mind. It's a question of balancing the ultimate and relative.

In order to be the best, fullest, brightest blossoming human being that you can be, you have to force yourself to grow in all three areas. It's not easy, and nothing is handed to you on a silver platter; it requires a lot of hard work — physically, mentally, and spiritually.

So how was i supposed to answer her? She would have simply rolled her eyes if i had tried to explain any of this to her. If she even had that question she's not ready for this answer, is she? If you assume that challenges are dangerous, then how do you understand that i think challenge, and overcoming it, is what Life is all about?

What was i supposed to say? All i could think of was to point out to her that if i died on the side of the road in my running shoes, hiking boots, or riding shorts, as i pass on to that greatest of challenges i'd be incredibly thankful that i'm departing from there than from in my rocking chair at home in front of the television.

To which she simply said, "Oh."

DHS 80/100
(It's hard to believe that i'm at #80 already)

Friday, January 29, 2010

There Is An Answer

While George is speaking of long distance running below, it seems to be equally true for the long distance bicyclist. I guess this means i've been doubly bitten.

"The sight of a runner at dusk or in inclement weather makes me glad to be safe and warm in my car and headed for home. And at those times, I wonder how i can go out there myself, how I can leave comfort and warmth and that feeling of intimacy and belonging to do this distracted thing.

"But when finally I am there, I realize it is not comfort and warmth I am leaving, not intimacy and belonging I am giving up, but the loneliness that pursues me this day and every day. I know that the real loneliness, the real isolation, the real vulnerability begins long before I put on my running shoes.


"The heartbreaking loneliness begins when I realize that no one can think for me; no one can live for me; no one can die for me. I can count on no one for help.

"My true loneliness, then, is me seeing that nothing I do is true. Me and this inner emptiness, me and the abyss, me and the false me I am with other people, me being what I do, what I accomplish, the clever things I say. Me and that living of a lie, a long, lonely lifetime lie.

"When I'm about overwhelmed by all this, I take this loneliness out on the roads, there to find my true self, to hear my own message, to decide for myself on my life. But most of all, to know certainty, to know that there is an answer even though I may never find it.


"And then hear R. D. Laing, the psychiatrist: 'Whoever I am is not to be confused with the names people give me or what they call me. I am not my name. I am a territory. What they say about me is a map of me. Where O! Where is my territory?'

"When you see me, that lonely figure out on the road, I am looking for my territory, my self, the person I must be. There I am no longer the observer watching myself think and talk and react. I am not the person others see and meet and even love. There I am whole; I am finally who I am.

"And there I encounter myself. That encounter is a deep place totally isolated which cannot be understood or touched by others, a place that cannot be described as much as experienced, a state that philosophers could define as solitude. It is no longer me and the abyss; it is me and my God.

"But of course this is only the outline, the game plan. In actuality, it is not that easy. Like all pilgrimages, this one is filled with stops and starts, with peaks and valleys, with pains and pleasures. There are periods of depression and elation, times when I overflow with joy at this conjunction of action and contemplation. Other times when I am so tired I must stop and walk. But in that hour I know certainty. I know there is an answer to my odd union of animal and angel, my mysterious mixture of body and consciousness, my perplexing amalgam of material and spirit. And if for now that answer is only for the moment and only for me in my lowest common denominator, me the runner, it is still enough.

"By abandoning myself to this, as Emerson said, by unlocking my human doors, I am caught up in the life of the universe. Then, finally, loneliness is dispelled. I know I am holy, made for the greater glory of my Creator, born to do His work.

"Which for this day and this hour is running, a lonely figure on a lonely road."

George Sheehan
Running & Being: The Total Experience

(Underlines are my emphases)

DHS 79/100

Thursday, January 28, 2010

TransAm Planning

Here is a tree older than the forest itself;
The years of its life defy reckoning.
Its roots have seen the upheavals of hill and valley,
Its leaves have known the changes of
          wind and frost.
The world laughs at its shoddy exterior
And cares nothing for the fine grain
          of the wood inside.
Stripped free of flesh and hide,
All that remains is the core of truth.

Cold Mountain
100 Poems by the Tang poet Han-shan

The core of truth............

Have been doing a lot of reading as i work on preparations for my TransAm ride. I bought the ACA maps the other day and expect them here early next week. I bought, and received today, a copy of The Complete Handlebar Guide To Bicycling The TransAm. Once i get the maps, i'll compare the two, and look at some of the online journals to compile information on free lodging and showers wherever it is available.

My goal is to keep this trip, once i set out, down to $20 per day, all inclusive. That isn't going to leave room for luxuries very often, but i already know i'll be picking up coffee here and there, so that will have to be included. Right now i'm planning to carry my small thermos and making green tea with my stove each morning. I can't imagine not having tea breaks throughout the day. Not easily anyhow. I may be addicted to coffee, but i think my blood is green tea.

One decision i haven't made is how to get my bike to VA and how to get it back home from OR. I don't want to carry the tools to reassemble it on one end and take it apart on the other, so have been thinking about asking a local bike shop to box it up and ship it for me. I'd need to find a shop in VA that would accept it, but i think that might be doable. Then, i'd need to find a shop in OR to do the same thing when i'm done.

Then, how do i carry 4 panniers and a RackPack when i fly? Put them all in one box and check that as luggage? If the airlines lose that one box on the way to VA i'm completely screwed. Completely. And we know they would simply shrug their shoulders and say, "Oh well, we tried."

On some days i think i don't have much to do to get ready. On others, it seems that the number of small tasks is overwhelming. I only have a few items i still need to buy, but that includes deciding on food. I have to look for and get air tickets, unless i take the train. Oh well, i still have three months.

DHS 78/100

Tuesday, January 26, 2010

Become The Sky

I know i posted this once before but i was watching it again tonight and love it so incredibly much that i want to post it again so that people get another chance to watch it, reflect on it, and let the message sink in.

Rumi: Become The Sky

"Inside this new love....die.
"Your way begins on the other side.
"Become the sky."

Ahhhh, the simple beauty of that truth. Once "you" die, once that bag of beliefs, ideas, thoughts, truths, and certainties is laid to rest and given a proper burial, then, and only then, does your true life start. Only then do you really find the Way. Only then do you find out who you really are.

Your way begins on the other side of that gateless gate, that gate between where you are and where you belong. It's a beautiful gate, masterfully constructed by master craftsmen and women with incomparable skills.

It's large enough to let vast legions of people pass through yet small enough to store under one corner of your zabuton for those early morning sits when you're aching to see, aching to understand the whos, whats, whys, and wherefores of your life.

There's even a portable version of this marvelous gate that you can keep in your daypack, purse, or wallet for those long commutes back and forth to work. And even though it's compact, its gate still opens to the most amazing of places, those places of no time and no space, of no hatred or greed, of no judgment or labeling, of love and compassion, of unbridled happiness and sense of well-being.

All that's required of the user is to enter. With just one step you're through. Just one short, simple step. That's all it takes. And to make it even easier, those craftsmen and women left the gate off the hinges, so when you look closely, you see that there is absolutely nothing preventing you from entering.

Take the chance. Dare to risk it. Step through. Become the sky, accepting all, holding nothing, Being in all its simplicity.

Enter the gate. Do it now.

DHS 76/100

Sunday, January 24, 2010


DHS 74/100

So Much Happiness
It is difficult to know what to do with so much happiness.
With sadness there is something to rub against,
a wound to tend with lotion and cloth.
When the world falls in around you, you have pieces to pick up,
something to hold in your hands, like ticket stubs or change.

But happiness floats.
It doesn't need you to hold it down.
It doesn't need anything.
Happiness lands on the roof of the next house, singing,
and disappears when it wants to.
You are happy either way.
Even the fact that you once lived in a peaceful tree house
and now live over a quarry of noise and dust
cannot make you unhappy.
Everything has a life of its own,
It too could wake up filled with possibilities
of coffee cake and ripe peaches,
and love even the floor which needs to be swept,
the soiled linens and scratched records. ...

Since there is no place large enough
to contain so much happiness,
you shrug, you raise your hands, and it flows out of you
into everything you touch. You are not responsible.
You take no credit, as the night sky takes no credit
for the moon, but continues to hold it, and share it,
and in that way, be known.

Naomi Shihab Nye
Words Under The Words: Selected Poems of Naomi Shihab Nye

Throw away those old ticket stubs. Empty you pockets of that useless change. Step quietly into that gap between two thoughts and wake up to a life filled with possibilities. Wake up to being those possibilities. Be known for who you really are. Let go of what you really are not. Then, happiness will float in.

Saturday, January 23, 2010

TransAm Trail

DHS 73/100

I have been sitting on the fence on whether or not to ride the TransAmerica Trail (TransAm Trail) this summer, mostly for money reasons. Today i think i just moved a whole lot closer to committing myself to doing it, and am probably now about 80-90% certain that i will go. I'll run the numbers one more time to see what it will cost, but i'm thinking i can keep it to around $3,000.

Questions/Issues that remain:

  • Current thoughts are to start on May 1st and ride the ~4,200 mi. over ~80 days.
  • Do i fly to Virginia and then fly back to Chicago from Oregon? Or bus? Or train? (Cost driven)
  • Can i use any of my Frequent Flyer miles on Delta/Northwest or United to offset the price of the two tickets?
  • Do i take the bike with me when i travel or ship it UPS before hand? If so, to where?
  • How do i prepay 3 months of utility bills so i don't come home to a zero credit score from not paying them? How do i pay my property taxes early?
  • I will need to buy two front panniers, but i think i already have everything else, including rear panniers, handlebar bag, tent, sleeping bag, rain gear, and appropriate clothing. For the front panniers i'll probably buy some Ortlieb Sport Packer Classics to match the Back Packer Classics rear panniers and Ortlieb handlebar bag i already have.
  • Maybe i should buy an Ortlieb Rack Pack as well to hold the tent and sleeping bag? (Keeps them dry no matter what)
  • My bike already has 3 water bottle carriers, is that enough?
  • Do i need to buy a camp stove?
  • I'll need to buy some spare parts for the bike, like a foldable tire, some brake pads, brake/shifter cables, etc. Rear/Front light?
  • I used all my CashBack dollars from both credit cards this month to buy a solar charger for my phone/Reader/mp3 player. (Amazon is selling them for half-price) I have to see if i can use it to run my battery charger to recharge my camera AAs.
  • I'll need to buy a set of maps from Adventure Cycling Association. They're not cheap, at $165.
  • Will buy one of two books as i start planning: either Bicycling Coast To Coast or The Complete Handlebar Guide to Bicycling the TransAm.
  • I haven't figured out if, or how, i'll blog about the trip while i'm on the road. My phone is only an old Nokia 2610 but given that i'm Lao Bendan, it is a smart phone by my standards. However, i don't see yet how i can use it to blog more than 5 word entries.
  • I'll set up a small web site where i can post information, route, cost, packing lists, pictures, and other nonsense. Then, if i run across any internet cafes while on the road i can update that with some pictures, location, etc., in case the phone & blog idea doesn't work.
  • Do i stay in campgrounds where there will be showers? Or just off the road wherever i can pitch a tent? Some combination?
  • Do i stay in a cheap hotel once a month just for a break?
  • What to do about meals? Once a week in a restaurant and all others out of my panniers? Probably, but what food to pack? All cold food or do i try any cooking? (Adds weight and bulk but... oatmeal in the morning would be nice — taste and carbs — and instant ramen for lunch/dinner would be easy.)
  • Had the bike serviced just before the end of the year so it's ready now. Do i make plans to stop somewhere at about the 2,000 mile mark to get a tune-up while on the road?
  • I'll do a short 9-10 day training ride on the GIT at the end of March, beginning of April. This should also tell me if all the equipment is working OK.

Friday, January 22, 2010

It's Not Like Something

DHS 72/100

"When people are firmly convinced that the Buddha-mind is unborn and wonderfully illuminating and live in it, they're living Buddhas and living Tathagatas from then on. 'Buddha,' too, is just a name, arising after the fact. It's only the skin and shell. When you say 'Buddha,' you're already two or more removes from the place of the Unborn. A man of the unborn is one who dwells at the source of all the Buddhas. The Unborn is the origin of all and the beginning of all. There is no source apart from the Unborn and no beginning that is before the Unborn. So being unborn means dwelling at the very source of all Buddhas."

The Unborn: The Life And Teachings Of Zen Master Bankei

Thursday, January 21, 2010

Closing In On This

"You can tell if you're getting closer to this by the peace that overwhelms you — the happiness that takes you over. It is not a happiness because there is a thing happening in your life that you feel. It is not a happiness of something that you own that you did not own before. It is not a peace because you're in the right environment and you feel peaceful. It is a peace and happiness that is always with you. You are that peace. You are that happiness. It is always there. It never leaves you.

"As long as you believe that you're a body, it is virtually impossible to have this peace and have this happiness. You cannot, for this body is part of the world conditioning. Therefore, you have to search for peace. You have to search for happiness. You believe that if you do this, you'll be happy. If you do this you will become peaceful. And when you do this and you do that, the happiness and peace, how long will it last? For a short while. Things change. Environments change. Conditions change. Your family changes. Everything changes. Therefore, again, it is virtually impossible to have real peace and real happiness as long as you believe you are a body. Consequently, we do not go searching for peace and happiness. This is a mistake. What we do, is become our real Self by not trying to become or real Self.

"All this begins with quieting the mind. By not allowing the mind to react to conditions and situations. ...

"You have to be very honest with yourself. Do I really want to become free? Am I really looking to awaken, to be liberated? What am I doing about it? Be honest with yourself. ...

"You have to learn to sit in the Silence, to quiet the mind. And it will come by itself. ... You simply have to sit, quiet the mind by observing it, inquire, 'To whom do the thoughts come?'"

Robert Adams
Silence Of The Heart

The Full Moon

DHS 71/100

Seeking the full moon
Wandering and wondering
When will the clouds clear

Ah. Oh. Amazing.
The clouds break and through the trees,
There! The full moon shines!

Shining so brightly
Everything can now be seen
The moon fills my heart

DHS 70/100

(12:06 am) Sorry i'm a little late, i was watching a video and lost track of time.....

Monday, January 18, 2010

Unplanned Sips Of Silence

DHS 68/100

Who Says Words With My Mouth
All day I think about it, then at night I say it.
Where did I come from, and what am I supposed to be doing?
I have no idea.
My soul is from elsewhere, I'm sure of that,
and I intend to end up there.

This drunkenness began in some other tavern.
When I get back around to that place,
I'll be completely sober. Meanwhile,
I'm like a bird from another continent, sitting in this aviary.
The day is coming when I fly off,
but who is it now in my ear who hears my voice?
Who says words with my mouth?

Who looks out with my eyes? What is the soul?
I cannot stop asking.
If I could taste one sip of an answer,
I could break out of this prison for drunks.
I didn't come here of my own accord, and I can't leave that way.
Whoever brought me here will have to take me home.

This poetry, I never know what I'm going to say.
I don't plan it.
When I'm outside the saying of it,
I get very quiet and rarely speak at all.

From Essential Rumi
by Coleman Barks

Thanks from all to David for pointing out in a Comment to this post that YouTube has a video here of Coleman Barks, himself, reading Who Says Words With My Mouth.

What can quench the thirst
Not gallons of this and that
One sip of silence

Saturday, January 16, 2010

DHS 66/100

(Miserably bad brush today. Wouldn't cooperate at all.)

Friday, January 15, 2010

DHS 65/100

Not feeling well and spent most of the afternoon trying to sleep. Got up long enough to eat a bowl of cereal, watch the East Asian news on TV, and write today's DHS. All done, so now heading back to bed with my Sony Reader.

Thursday, January 14, 2010

The Quality Of Being

DHS 64/100

"The purpose of zazen is to attain the freedom of our being, physically and mentally. According to Dōgen-zenji, every existence is a flashing into the vast phenomenal world. Each existence is another expression of the quality of being itself.

"Everything is just a flashing into the vast phenomenal world" means the freedom of our activity and of our being. If you sit in the right manner, with the right understanding, you attain the freedom of your being, even though you are just a temporal existence. Within this moment, this temporal existence does not change, does not move, and is always independent from other existences. In the next moment another existence arises; we may change to something else. Strictly speaking, there is no connection between I myself yesterday and I myself in this moment; there is no connection whatsoever. Dōgen-zenji said, "Charcoal does not become ashes." Ashes are ashes; they do not belong to charcoal. They have their own past and future. They are an independent existence because they are a flashing into the vast phenomenal world. And charcoal and red-hot fire are quite different existences. Black charcoal is also a flashing into the vast phenomenal world. Where there is black charcoal there is not red-hot charcoal. So black charcoal is independent of red-hot charcoal; ashes are independent of firewood; each existence is independent.

"Today I am sitting in Los Altos. Tomorrow morning I shall be in San Francisco. There is no connection between the "I" in Los Altos and the "I" in San Francisco. They are quite different beings. Here we have the freedom of existence. And there is no quality connecting you and me; when I say "you," there is no " I"; when I say "I," there is no "you." You are independent, and I am independent; each exists in a different moment. But this does not mean we are quite different beings. We are actually one and the same being. We are the same, and yet different. It is very paradoxical, but actually it is so. Because we are independent beings, each one of us is a complete flashing into the vast phenomenal world. When I am sitting, there is no other person, but this does not mean I ignore you, I am completely one with every existence in the phenomenal world. So when I sit, you sit; everything sits with me. That is our zazen. When you sit, everything sits with you. And everything makes up the quality of your being. I am a part of you. I go into the quality of your being. So in this practice we have absolute liberation from everything else. If you understand this secret there is no difference between Zen practice and your everyday life.

[At the moment of Dōgen's] "enlightenment he exclaimed, "There is no body and no mind!" When he said "no body and no mind," all his being in that moment became a flashing into the vast phenomenal world, a flashing which included everything, which covered everything, and which had immense quality in it; all the phenomenal world was included within it, an absolute independent existence. That was his enlightenment. Starting from the lonely feeling of the evanescence of life, he attained the powerful experience of the quality of his being. He said, "I have dropped off mind and body." Because you think you have body or mind, you have lonely
feelings, but when you realize that everything is just a flashing into the vast universe, you become very strong, and your existence becomes very meaningful. This was Dōgen's enlightenment, and this is our practice."

Shunryu Suzuki
Zen Mind, Beginner's Mind

(Underlines are mine)

You and Me, that's two
Sit and Be in the Silence
All are known as One

Wednesday, January 13, 2010

Don't Mind Reality

DHS 63/100

"Questioner: You say that in our real being we are all equal. How is it that your experience is so different from ours.

"Nisargadatta: My actual experience is not different. It is my evaluation and attitude that differ. I see the same world as you do, but not the same way. There is nothing mysterious about it. Everybody sees the world through the idea he has of himself. As you think yourself to be, so you think the world to be. If you imagine yourself as separate from the world, the world will appear as separate from you and you will experience desire and fear. I do not see the world as separate from me and so there is nothing for me to desire, or fear.

"There is absolutely no difference between me and others, except in my knowing myself as I am. I am all. I know it for certain and you do not.

"Q: So we differ all the same.

"N: No, we do not. The difference is only in the mind and temporary. I was like you, you will be like me.

"Q: What is real, the subjective or the objective? I am inclined to believe that the objective universe is the real one and my subjective psyche is changeful and transient. You seem to claim reality for your inner, subjective states and deny all reality to the concrete, external world.

"N: Both the subjective and the objective are changeful and transient. There is nothing real about them. Find the permanent in the fleeting, the one constant factor in every experience.

"Q: What is this constant factor?

"N: My giving it various names and pointing it out in many ways will not help you much, unless you have the capacity to see. A dim-sighted man will not see the parrot on the branch of a tree, however much you may prompt him to look. At best he will see your pointed finger. First purify your vision, learn to see instead of staring, and you will perceive the parrot. Also you must be eager to see. You need both clarity and earnestness for self-knowledge. You need maturity of heart and mind, which comes through earnest application in daily life of whatever little you have understood.

"Go on pondering, wondering, being anxious to find a way. Be conscious of yourself, watch your mind, give it your full attention. Don't look for quick results; there may be none within your noticing. Unknown to you, your psyche will undergo a change, there will be more clarity in your thinking, charity in your feeling, purity in your behaviour. You need not aim at these — you will witness the change all the same. For, what you are now is the result of inattention and what you become will be the fruit of attention."

Nisargadatta Maharaj
I Am That

(Underlines & bolds are my emphasis)

Tuesday, January 12, 2010


DHS 62/100

Far off freight train wails
Speeding where i do not know
Thoughts flit through my mind

Unicorns and ghosts
Myths created for what use
Who am I to ask

Monday, January 11, 2010

I'm Talking To You, Lao

I've been laying around reading Robert Adams' Silence Of The Heart, and was getting ready to set it aside to read something else for a while when something in me decided that i should read one last chapter before moving on.

Near the end of that extra chapter, i found the message that was waiting for me, the reason i had been told to continue reading:

Stop thinking about yourself so much. About getting a new job, losing a job, about working or not working. No one is ever happy. Those people who work are miserable because they have to work. Those people who don't work are miserable because they can't find a job. And when they find a job they join the miserable ones who can't stand the job. Where is peace? Peace is your real nature. It's within you. Look for it and you'll find it. Seek and ye shall find.

Now why was it necessary to rub my nose in all that smelly stuff as i was relaxing before going to bed? Huh? :-)


DHS 61/100

I have long said that i consider myself rich, and know that i have been my entire life. It's true because i'm lucky enough to have a very simple definition is what that means:

  • Do i sleep under a roof each night that doesn't leak?
  • Do i know people that still call me a friend?
  • Do i have enough money at the end of each month to buy a beer if i want it?

I've been dirt poor a couple of times in my life, but those three conditions have always been true, and as long as they are, i am rich. This, to me, is the real meaning of "Think and grow rich." You are as rich as you think you are. I think that's a good definition, so i must be rich.

However, there has also been another definition that i have bantered about from time to time ever since back in my military days.

To laugh often and much;
To win the respect of intelligent people and the affection of children;
To earn the appreciation of honest critics and endure the betrayal of false friends;
To appreciate beauty;
To find the best in others;
To leave the world a bit better whether by a healthy child, a garden patch, or a redeemed social condition;
To know even one life has breathed easier because you have lived.
This is to have succeeded.

Ralph Waldo Emerson
or, Bessie Stanley
Depending on who you believe

How do you define success?

Sunday, January 10, 2010

Doing Nothing

DHS 60/100

Today was the first time Dave didn't really feel like writing his DHS. Luckily i (Lao Bendan) was able to force him to do it after dinner. Hope this doesn't become a habit, i hate fighting with the guy; he seems nice, but he can be very stubborn when he's in one of his moods.


Went for my only run of the week this afternoon. It was the first day where the weather cooperated and i thought the roads were clean enough that i wouldn't get run over. With all the snow there still aren't any shoulders on the roads anymore, but now even the 8 inches outside the white line has disappeared under snow in many places.

I was surprised when i got home to find that i ran the 4 mi. at a 9:20 pace. It sure didn't feel that slow. I normally run it at an 8:45–8:55 pace, so i wonder why today was so slow. If i tried to analyze it, i would have thought i'd run faster than usual since this was the first time i've run in a week, so why slower? Just another one of those "Who knows," i guess.

I put packing tape on my shoes before heading out today. It's hard to say how much it helped because it was a balmy 17°F, but i have to say, my feet did seem warmer. I'll keep it up and add duct tape and then make a decision later.


Was reading a little more of Anthony de Mello's Song Of The Bird this afternoon. It's hard to get tired of the short stories and anecdotes that fill the pages. Maybe because of what's been on my mind all week, but two of them seemed to stand out for me — both pointing to the same thing. Until you see that the teacher's "nothing" is of more worth than all your "somethings," you haven't found the path.

You may have found side trails leading to the path, but you're not on the main trail until you see this point. It's mind-boggling at first that nothing can be more valuable than something, but that's only because you don't understand the nature of that nothing being pointed to. It doesn't mean no thing, it means everything.

The Diamond
When the sannyasi reached the outskirts of the village and settled under a tree for the night, a villager came running up to him and said, "The stone! The stone! Give me the precious stone!"

"What stone?" asked the sannyasi.

"Last night Lord Shiva told me in a dream that if I went to the outskirts of the village at dusk a sannyasi would give me a stone that would make me rich forever."

The sannyasi rummaged in his sack and, pulling out a stone, he said, "He probably meant this one. I found it in the forest yesterday. Here, it’s yours if you want it."

The man gazed at the stone in wonder. It was the largest diamond in the world — the size of a man’s head. All night he tossed about in bed. At the break of day he woke the sannyasi and said, "Give me the wealth that makes it possible for you to give this stone away."

Drop Your Nothing
Disciple: I have come to you with nothing in my hands.
Master: Drop it at once!
Disciple: But how can I drop it? It is nothing.
Master: Then carry it around with you!

Saturday, January 9, 2010

I Thought So

DHS 59/100

"To put away aimlessness and weakness and to begin to think with purpose is to enter the ranks of those strong ones who only recognize failure as one of the pathways to attainment. Who make all conditions serve them, and who think strongly, attempt fearlessly, and accomplish masterfully.

"The will to do springs from the knowledge that we can do. Doubt and fear are the great enemies of knowledge, and he who encourages them, who does not slay them, thwarts himself at every step.

"He who has conquered doubt and fear has conquered failure.

"Thought allied fearlessly to purpose becomes creative force. He who knows this is ready to become something higher and stronger than a bundle of wavering thoughts and fluctuating sensations. He who does this has become the conscious and intelligent wielder of his mental powers."

James Allen
As A Man Thinketh

"The idler who does not exert himself when he should, who though young and strong is full of sloth, with a mind full of vain thoughts — such an indolent man does not find the path to wisdom."


On a sad note.....
I was watching a show on KBS (a Korean TV Channel) this morning and they came up with a very interesting statistic. How can you tell who is young and who is old while out skiing?

  • Old people wear thick warm clothing, younger people wear light, thin, and fashionable clothing.
  • Old people ski, young people only snowboard.

I rarely ski anymore, but i'm afraid to admit it... i fail on both counts.

Friday, January 8, 2010

The Heart Of Winter

Yes, the weather has taken a turn towards winter here in Lockport. This was the view as i went out to get the mail this morning.
(Click to enlarge for the fullest effect)

Rising gracefully
The full moon shines on no path
As I slip away

DHS 58/100

Thursday, January 7, 2010

DHS 57/100

DHS 57/100

"As a progressive and evolving being, man is where he is that he may learn that he may grow; and as he learns the spiritual lesson which any circumstance contains for him, it passes away and gives place to other circumstances.

"That circumstances grow out of thought every man knows who has for any length of time practiced self-control and self-purification, for he will have noticed that the alteration in his circumstances has been in exact ratio with his altered mental condition.

"Every thought-seed sown or allowed to fall into the mind, and to take root there, produces its own, blossoming sooner or later into act, and bearing its own fruitage of opportunity and circumstance. Good thoughts bear good fruit, bad thoughts, bad fruit.

"Men do not attract that which they want, but that which they are. Their whims, fancies, and ambitions are thwarted at every step, but their inmost thoughts and desires are fed with their own food, be it foul or clean. Man is manacled only by himself; thought and action are the jailers of Fate — they imprison, being base; they are also the angels of Freedom — they liberate, being noble. Not what he wished and prays for does a man get, but what he justly earns. His wishes and prayers are only gratified and answered when they harmonize with his thoughts and actions."

James Allen
As A Man Thinketh

Buy this and read it several times each year.

Wednesday, January 6, 2010


DHS 56/100

Heard something on an mp3 while out and about this afternoon that deserves to be quoted:

Buddhism is not a self help program.


Love it. Who would have ever thought there was a need to point that out. But, being a teacher, he's probably seen all types of students.

Indeed it's not a self help program. In fact, it's a training program for those that hope to commit suicide! Really. But, read on before shouting at me. You see, the whole purpose of studying Buddhism is to learn that the ego is not real, you are not who you think you are, the egoic life you live is a sham. The purpose of studying Buddhism is to see behind that ego, to see the pure awareness that we really are. The purpose of studying Buddhism is to commit suicide by killing that ego that has defined you up to now and to reclaim a life free of conditioning, free of delusion, open to everyone and everything, identical to everyone and everything. To reclaim the life that is, simultaneously, the life of everyone and everything. To reclaim your Life. To reclaim everyone's Life at the same time.

So, when you have that ego down for the count, with a choke hold strong enough to squeeze every ounce of life out of it, let it die, but then, just as it does, resuscitate it. Breath life back into it — and from then on, use it as the tool it is and not as if it were who you are.

Tuesday, January 5, 2010

Mission 3

DHS 55/100

After looking over the list again and adding health and being outdoors, i don't see any reason to change it. I think this is a good list of those fundamental principles that i have used to guide my life.

  • Honesty
  • Love
  • Compassion
  • Challenge
  • Growth
  • "Truth"/Wisdom
  • Health
  • The Outdoors

Now i am supposed to use these to write a mission statement, which seems pretty difficult and is going to take many iterations, i think.

Robin Sharma says:

Make it succinct. Your mission statement is a capsule statement of what you want to accomplish in your life and how you wish to be remembered. It is a combination of the values you wish to live by and the major goals you are determined to achieve. Keep it general but focused on the true keys of your life. Your mission statement is your lighthouse.

So, with that, My Mission Statement, v1:

The mission of my life is to hold hold honesty and compassion as my two highest values and to work to love life and everyone in it to the best of my ability. I will never stop challenging myself to grow and explore my personal boundaries: professionally, physically, emotionally, intellectually, and spiritually. I will look daily for ways to incorporate my continually unfolding understanding of spiritual "truth" into my daily life. I will keep myself physically fit and will spend some amount of time each month exploring the outdoors.

I'll leave it at that for tonight and think about it.

Monday, January 4, 2010

Mission 2

DHS 54/100
(Not a good day for the brush. Distracted beyond belief and unable to concentrate so several mistakes. But, it is what it is.)

I reread yesterday's post, and realize that it doesn't paint an accurate picture. Not at all. It comes across as if the two predominate aspects of who i am are 'career' and 'spirituality.' While that's mostly true, there is a hole in that assertion big enough to drive a truck through. There is most definitely a third aspect of who i am, maybe a fourth.

As much as i value anything else, i value my health. In fact, if someone were to offer me an all expenses paid one-year retreat in a mountain monastery somewhere, but i knew that my health might suffer because of the living conditions, i would decline the offer. On the other hand, if someone offered to support me for one entire year, 100% of my expenses, on the condition that i trained hard, ran two marathons, rode by bike across the country, and went on an expedition to the HImilayas, with the condition that i could not spend any time during that year meditating or focusing on my spiritual life, i'd jump on the offer in a second. Or less.

Obviously i value my health. But it's more than just health, it's pushing myself physically to see how much i can do. You can be a reasonably healthy couch potato, but that's not the level i'm talking about. I value my health solely because of what it allows me to do with my physical body.

Another way to look at this is, on days when i'm down, not feeling all that content with life, do i head for my zafu? No. I head for my running shoes or my bicycle. And if i need more than just a few hours or a day, i head for my hiking boots and backpack and head for the trails; in the mountains if possible.

So, in addition to career and spirituality, i need to add health and the outdoors to my list of guiding principles. That leads me to list these as v1 of the fundamental principles that drive me:

Very little matters to me more than honesty. If i meet someone who isn't being honest i lose respect immediately. I have little use for people who don't hold themselves to honesty in their interactions with others. If i don't think you are honest, i don't want to associate with you.

Challenge/Living up to my potential
I really do feel on some days that i'm cheating not just myself, but the whole world, if i don't go out and be all that i am capable of being. Lately i've realized that i'm now stuck with the thought: Professionally, either i'm not as good as i thought i was, or i haven't had the chance to show that i'm as good as i think i am. Which is it? Physically, i'm content with where i am in this area.

I can't even imagine a life where i am not always trying to learn and grow in some area, whether that is a language, spiritually, a new hobby, running faster, riding further, a new subject, reviewing an old subject, etc. I don't always have to live at the edge of the envelope, continually pushing its walls outward, expanding, but i have to know that i am growing, expanding who i am, what i am, what i know, what i can do. I have to know that i am exploring, not just sitting around base camp watching DVDs and reading.

I.E., who am i, who are we, what are we, what does it mean to be alive, and how do i apply this to the way i live my egoic life,

I try to care for everyone, hope for the best for them, hope for their success, to enjoy them for who they are, with none of my expectations. With a few very rare exceptions, i'm reasonably successful. Where i'm not, it hurts. Am i good at showing that i value this? No. I'm a miserable failure in some respects because i've pulled into a shell over the past years; like living in a cave with a big sign on the front door that says "Love Ya!," even though i refuse to open the door and let people in.

Everyone in the world, no matter their choice of politics, religion, ideology, and all those other dividing beliefs, know without doubt that a more compassionate world would be a better world. Yet, egoic beliefs are held in higher esteem. The vast majority of people are two-faced liars in this area. "I'm all for compassion," they swear, "as long as you accept my beliefs first." "You convert to my way and then i'll give you compassion." Sorry, but that's not how it works.

Well, that's what i come up with as the minimum list of fundamental principles that i can't imagine not having in my life. These are the standards that i live my life to. I'll reread it again later tonight, and then again tomorrow to see how it feels, and see if i still agree then.

The important thing is this: To be able at any moment to sacrifice what we are for what we could become.

Charles Du Bois

Sunday, January 3, 2010


DHS 53/100

Over the holidays i decided to do something i've never even considered before — write a Life Mission Statement. A great many personal development books and tapes say that taking the time to write one is essential if you ever really hope to reach your potential. I've always resisted because it seemed kind of ... well ... i don't know ... not foolish, not dumb ... just ... overkill(?), too simplistic to really have an effect(?) ... as i said, i don't know.

I decided to attempt it, though, because over the course of the past several months i've decided that maybe i'm schizophrenic, and i'm only half joking. :-)

I don't know where i would draw the line, but for starters let's just put it right in the middle. 50% of me wants to be successful at a career, wants a challenging job that makes me look forward to work each day, has a very high salary, and by doing it well earns the respect of all my peers. The other 50% of me couldn't care less about a career, is completely content living on the $1,100/month i live on now, and neither needs nor wants any more material possessions than i already own (except a bigger mp3 player and more books). What is really important is my spiritual life.

As it said in one book today,

A mission statement, vital for real self-mastery, is a capsule statement of your life’s purpose and objectives. It must come from your deepest core and reflect the fundamental principles which drive you. It must inspire you and accurately represent your dreams, ideals and desires.

A mission statement allows you to live with greater integrity and acts as a powerful compass to keep your life pointed towards your values. ... You become proactive rather than reactive. You take charge and have complete control over each situation. You become principle centered, living in a way consistent with your fundamental values.

So, what are the fundamental principles i live by? This is where i get stuck because this is where i have to decide where that line really needs to be drawn, especially since i have to decide where to look when i go back to work someday.

Am i so fed up with employment simply because my last job provided zero stimulation and that has jaded me towards all jobs? If i found the correct challenge would my attitude change? People always say, once you find the correct job for you, you no longer work a day of your life, even if you work 24x7 at the office. It is just no longer work, you actually enjoy what you do.

Or, is it not that particular job and if i look to the core of the issue i could never give my life to any job or career because the line is really drawn over towards the spiritual side of my life? Maybe only 20% of me wants career success and the other 80%, the part that drives me, is the spiritual. Maybe it's even 10/90.

A very vocal part of me still believes that i'll never be totally satisfied with my life until i become "successful" at a good professional job. And, as soon as that part of me shoots off its mouth, another part of me immediately jumps up and rebels. I frequently find my days looking like this:

Get a job you slug.

Get a life you idiot.

Idiot? Who you calling an idiot? You lazy slug. You know you want to test yourself, to see if you have what it takes to be successful. You know you'll only do that with a job, but you're a gutless coward and aren't trying because you're afraid of failing. You FAILURE! Get off your lazy butt and get a job. Slug.

F you! 100 times! (my old sailor's tongue comes back easily when i get into arguments, sadly, although i don't usually swear in public.) You know as well as i do that a job isn't how we define success. We never have. Sure, i'd like to test myself, but that's not how i'm going to define my life.

Pure horse shit. Unadulterated, 100%. Who you trying to kid. If that were true, we wouldn't be having this conversation. You want it. You need it. You know it.

I don't think that's true. I only volunteer two days a week now. I could bump that up to four days, keep a day of yoga, run & ride my bike more, and fill the rest of my time reading and meditating. You know darn well this is what makes me happy.

And what are you going to do with that hole in you that isn't being filled but the challenge? Leave it empty? Let it fester? Let it spread like cancer and eat you up?

Oh go away, would you?

No. Get a job you slug.


And so it goes. And goes. And goes. And goes.

How am i supposed to write a mission statement when i can't even answer the simplest of questions? Where is that pivot point that balances these two unfulfilled potentials and lets me go the furthest i can with this life? Sighhhhhhh.....

Saturday, January 2, 2010

The Freezing Cold Gift

DHS 52/100

It's that time of year when running is getting pretty difficult around here. Today we had beautiful clear sunny skies so i decided to run this afternoon instead of tomorrow when there is a chance of clouds. Problem is, my thermometer showed 10°F and the local weather center said it was 6°F, before taking into account the wind.

For the most part, these temperatures aren't that big of a deal, i just dig out the heavy long underwear (instead of the silk weight), add a singlet underneath the two shirts i normally wear, and wear a neck gaiter to cover the neck, chin, and nose when i need it, on top of the normal two pairs of gloves, two pairs of socks, and two coats. Generally, that's just right as i head out the door and i end up unzipping the outer jacket later on as i start to work up a sweat. And i keep my face from freezing in the wind by putting a layer of olive oil on my cheeks and nose where they will always be exposed. With all this, a sunny day, even when near 0°F, can be a nice run.

The problem, though, is my feet. For example, with the wind, the weather center said today's wind chill was about -15°F, and while the rest of me was warm (sweating by the time i got home), my toes were getting pretty cold. In fact, on days like today, i seldom run more than 3 miles simply because my toes are too cold. I haven't figured out how to beat that yet. I could wear plastic bags inside my shoes, but i'm afraid that will be much too hot after just 15 minutes, or so, since the bags won't breath. My shoes won't allow a third pair of socks, so i'm stumped.

Oh well, if i can i'll hold on for 2-3 more weeks before shifting to my exercise bike inside the house.

This is how Macrina Wiederkehr chose to end her book Behold Your Life:

At the end of each day, why not glance back over your day to see whether you've been a good companion to the moments that have passed. What was the first thing you saw when you stepped out your door this morning? Do you remember? Does anything stand out as special from this day? What colors did you see? Were there any conflicts? If so, how did you handle them? What stories unfolded as you moved through the day? What did you have for lunch? Did you taste it? With whom did you eat lunch? Did the conversation enrich you? Name one piece of the conversation that you remember. What happened that gave you a sense of happiness today? What do you recall of beauty? ...

And finally, what did you touch today? Name one thing you remember touching. They way we pick things up, the way we touch and hold things in our hands, says much about our ability or inability to live in the preset. ...

Yes, life is a whole string of nows knit together with friendship and songs, heartaches and tears, fears and courage, passion and compassion, depression and elation, patience and impatience, and more. ... So don't miss life. Take up your life and walk, whether it's happy or sad, angry or disappointing, ecstatic, hopeful, heart wrenching or tender. You name it! Just don't miss it. IT is your gift to unwrap as you move through the hours. It is God offering hospitality to you as you move into tomorrow.

How many people, i wonder, really understand that life is a gift. Really. Truly. A gift. Doesn't matter from where or from who or from what, so don't get hung up on the religion side of it; just realize that your life is a one of a kind gift, given only to you. We spend our entire lives unwrapping it and all but a minuscule few never get the job done before running out of time. Before that time, the lucky one's make great progress in their unwrapping; the unlucky one's barely get one layer unwrapped.

I think that if we were truly honest about it, as we peel off a new piece of wrapping every day, every hour, every minute, every now, we would gasp at the beauty of what is unfolding before our eyes. I mean, awareness and just the fact of being alive is an amazing thing! Have a shit job so can't see that? That's focusing on the ego, not the gift. Refocus. Have an incurable disease so can't see that? That's focusing on the body, not the gift. Refocus. Too poor to get an education so have to work at minimum wage jobs? That's focusing on the outer circumstances, not the gift. Refocus on the Gift.

The gift is Life. Consciousness. Awareness. Spend as much of your time unwrapping this precious gift as you can so that you can get clearer and clearer glimpses of the beauty hidden within.

As Rumi says,

I have lived on the lip
of insanity, wanting to know reasons,
knocking on a door. It opens.
I've been knocking from the inside!

Friday, January 1, 2010


DHS 51/100

I haven't given up on the 40 Day Behold Your Life review of your life, i just haven't felt like writing about it. You see, i don't plan anything that i write on this blog — it is all written as a stream of consciousness. However, Behold wants me to reflect on something and then write about that, and there are days when i sit down at the computer and my fingers just don't have anything to say. I guess the best approach will to be to write about each chapter as my fingers tell me they are ready and forget about the 40 consecutive days.

That said, i did notice two nice things in the book, at the end and out of the 40 main chapters. I'll post the second one tomorrow, but for today i'll mention a quote from another book that the author herself included in Behold.

"Life can become habit, something done without thinking. Living life in this way does not awaken us. Yet any of our daily habits can awaken us. All of life can become ritual. When it does, our experience of life changes radically and the ordinary becomes consecrated. Ritual doesn't make mystery happen, It helps us see and experience something which is already real. It does not create the sacred, it only describes what is there and has always been there, deeply hidden in the obvious."

Rachel Naomi Remen
Kitchen Table Wisdom

This is so very, very true; life has become habit for too many people. I can think of no other reason for the popularity of TV but that it serves as a tool to break up the habit and boredom that people have fallen into, realize they have fallen into, yet don't have the courage to try and change it.

On the other hand, as soon as i read this, i thought of Shikoku. The Henro Trail can be a magical place if you let it. In order to be that, however, the henro must recognize that it is very easy to let the daily experience fall into nothing but habit. Get up, eat breakfast, walk, eat lunch, walk some more, check in, take a bath, eat dinner, read or watch TV, go to bed, ..... and repeat this routine day in day out, week in week out, for up to two months.

That's the life of the henro when broken down to its simplest terms. And i've met henro who live on those terms; certainly not all of them, but you meet them. With this mindset, the henro is no more than a walk around the island.

As Rachel said above, though, with a little effort ritual can be found amidst all that routine, and this ritual can transform the henro into a walk through who you are. This ritual could obviously start with your visits to each of the temples and what you do there. It can also be found out on the streets and roads between the temples.

Notice what you are doing each every moment of the day. Don't day dream, stay alert. Notice the people. Notice the fishermen going out to sea in the morning and coming back home in the afternoon. Notice the farmers out in their fields. Notice the people signing your nōkyōchō. Notice the other henro chanting in front of the Hondō and Daishidō. Notice the cat sleeping under the steps. Notice the weather. Notice the cloud cover as it changes throughout the day. Notice the sun as it rises, passes overhead, and begins to set. Notice your footsteps. Notice the birds and other animals. Notice the boredom, irritation, and other emotions on the faces of the people in the cars that pass you by. Notice your breath. Notice how the wind feels as it blows against your face. Notice the sound of your walking stick as it taps the ground with each step. Notice the smell of cooking food when you check into lodging. Notice the owner's desire to talk to you and ask questions before going to your room. Notice the sound of the door as it slides open in its track. Notice the smell of the green tea as you pour a cup after sitting to rest. Notice the zabuton you sit on. Notice the music playing at the convenience store when you go in to buy lunch. Notice the face of the person who takes your money. Notice the feeling of the sheets in your futon as you go to sleep. Notice the sounds of the neighborhood as you lay there. ...

Notice your life. Notice being alive. Notice what it feels like to Be. Each and every moment. This can, with effort, become a ritual that you perform throughout the day. This can be a ritual you open yourself to. This ritual can be the door through which you can walk into that gap between two thoughts. This ritual can be the door which stretches each day from 24 hours to eternity, each hour from 60 minutes to eternity, each minute from 60 seconds to eternity. This ritual can give you Life.

As i said at the end of my explanation of the Heart Sutra on my web site about the pilgrimage:

So, if you are one of the lucky ones, the question that you find yourself faced with as you stand at the gate leading into Ryōzenji (Temple 1) isn't what kind of pilgrimage you want, but what kind of life you want. Anyone can make it around the physical henro trail.Vastly fewer will make it around the Heart Sutra trail. It's both infinitely harder and infinitely easier. It requires enormous amounts of effort and no effort at all. It's like a dream — while you may have worked up a sweat year after year after year in a dream, in that one instant when you wake up, you realize you had really done nothing at all. Yet the rewards for your efforts are unimaginable.

For those henro whose main map around the island indicates roads, highways, and cities, at journey's end, while they will have had an interesting life on the trail, the effects will slowly but surely wear off. On the other hand, for those henro that use the Heart Sutra as their main map, by journey's end they will have laid a strong foundation for an awakened life, a life with meaning, a life well worth living. A life full of living.

What kind of life do you want?

May you be one of those who dare to take the risk and see how far they can go.