Monday, August 22, 2016

Smile!

”A ferocious troll sat under a bridge with his laptop, and when the villagers concurred, “Let’s give money to this wonderful cause,” the troll yelled, “Get off your ass and go volunteer in your community!” And when the villagers said, “Let’s go volunteer in our community,” the troll yelled “F..k Youuuuuuu!” And when the villagers said, “That’s not a nice thing to say, the troll yelled, “Free speech!” And the villagers tried reasoning, and shaming, and yelling back. But nothing stopped the troll. Until one day, the troll said, “You’re a f..king moron and I hate your children!!!!,” and the villagers said, “Hi there, Mr. Troll. We love you. What a fine use of exclamation points!” and the troll got confused for a while until he realized it felt quite good to be loved, and he moved into a cheery house with yellow curtains and got a nice big dog.“ —Emma Skogstad
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My daughter taught 2nd grade and she'd tell her students that in the 2nd grade we are nice to each other. 

Imagine what a world would look like if people were nice to each other. If people smiled. I used to go to Trader Joes in St. Louis if I had a hard day at work because the check out clerks were always so nice. 

Once I took a seminar in how to deal with difficult people. I remember two things I learned. One was that people are different. For example, some people like surprises and others don't. Expecting that people are like you doesn't work. The second was that even if a person is difficult, you can find a nice side in them, and you can address that.

One teacher called us all Mr and Ms with our last names. He expected us to be professionals. And we tried.

I think we are especially struck today because of people in the news who aren't very nice to others. A friend has an X who isn't very nice to her. I told her to smile. How could one be mean to someone who is smiling?

My daughter asked me to make her a painting with the word smile. I have it almost finished. I started it about 15 years ago. But she reminds me, every time the painting shows up. Today I found it, again.

Smile. Be nice to the troll and find a way of complimenting him, even if it is the number of exclamation marks he uses. I guess this must have been a text message conversation, because how would they know how many explanation marks he used. 

Smile. And he had lots of typos which I corrected. I wrote Emma and told her I corrected them, and she said that trolls make a lot of mistakes. I didn't get that earlier, thinking he was saying rather than typing. But now I get it. 

Smile. I had an aunt who told me that everyone who worked for her was incredible. I knew she had the knack for bringing out the best in people. When I hear a teacher talk about the great class they have this year, I suspect that it is more about what they elicit in the students than the students themselves.

Smile! Smile! Just Smile! Let the trolls know you love them and they won't be trolls anymore. Smile.

And keep smiling!

—Kim Mosley

Tuesday, August 16, 2016

Proposed Litmus Test

Trump’s idea of only letting people into America who pass a litmus test is interesting to me.

To become a citizen, you are tested on what you know. Here are sample questions. And I believe you have to “pledge allegiance.” How does what you know contrast to what you believe? Are there beliefs that are un-American? Is that what McCarthy was about? I realize that becoming an immigrant and becoming a citizen are different. Yet being an immigrant is the first step toward becoming a naturalized citizen.

Imagine that you wanted to limit how many people could immigrate to the US in a given year? How might you decide? Would it be first come, first served? Would it be a lottery? Would it be to only allow those that have a means of support? Would it be based on what they believe? Or what they know?

Is it un-American to believe that the constitution should be changed? Is any belief “un-American”?

Sometimes it appears that too many people live in Austin, TX. The infrastructure (esp. the highways) cannot support its current population. We limit how many people should go into an elevator or a restaurant. Should we limit how many people can move to a city… or a country?

One more question: Is it possible to think about these questions without becoming triggered? Can we have a belief that doesn’t make opposing beliefs “wrong”?

Saturday, August 13, 2016

Listen to Everyone and Believe Noone

One of my favorite teachers would say, “Listen to everyone and believe noone.”

This was never so true as when I hitchhiked with a German Shepard to visit Linda in Elgin, Illinois (before we were married). People picked me up and chastised me for being so stupid for hitchhiking with a German Shepard. “How could you be so stupid to think than anyone would pick you up?“ they would say. And once we got past that, they were all very nice people.

There was one couple in a VW Bug who stopped to pick me up, and then realized their back seat was filled with stuff and they had no room for me. But their heart was in the right place.

A state trooper picked me up. Again, he scolded me and then we had a friendly talk as he drove me for many miles.

Today someone said, “No one wants to watch a 50-minute video of a class.” My mind goes back to that summer of 1969. I know that’s the conventional advice… and I also know to believe no one.

I like better to remember that “the proof is in the pudding.”

Friday, August 12, 2016

Totally Confused


I kept imagining a timeline, with a moment in the middle, and the past and present on either sides—each as long as the other. I'm in the middle now. I’ll always be in middle.

I asked a physicist once where I was in the universe. “Was I in the center?” “No,” he said, “you are more like a 1/3 of the way in or out....” I don't remember which.

Well, that's space... And, like time, it defines where we are. 

It worried me thinking about dementia the other day. I don’t want to throw away my past or future. I want it all. The richness of a given situation seems to depend on what we can bring to it, and what we can take away.

I took a mindfulness workshop many years ago. I asked a young monk if you could be in the moment and think about the past. He talked on and on. I "got" that you could, but didn't understand what he was saying. 

So what is the difference between daydreaming, and “being here now” thinking of the good old Beach Boys? Is one state more “present” than the other. 

It is costly to be asleep. There was a $20 bill lying in the street that I missed while I was seduced by a pile of trash someone had thrown out. Someone else found the $20 and asked me if it was mine. “No,” I regretfully had to answer.

In a daydream am I in my daydream? What is so bad about sitting on a couch and thinking of some rich moment in the past, or yearning to fulfill some fantasy in the future. I could even use the meat argument... that God wouldn't have made chickens if we weren't suppose to eat them (God wouldn’t give us fantasies if we weren’t meant to fulfill them). 

I told my wife that when you enter the Buddhist stream, you become fully enlightened in no more than seven years. “Who makes up this stuff?” she asked. “I don't know,” I answered. Maybe seven is a code word for someday. 

I marvel at race car drivers, gymnasts, and others who have demanding challenges. They need to concentrate 100% all the time. I heard of a Zen priest (Philip Whalen) who could do the same. He'd count his breaths to ten over and over again for each entire period of meditation. No daydreams there!

Tuesday, August 9, 2016

Obstructions

Lisa quoted Rumi on Facebook "There is a field beyond right and wrong. I'll meet you there.”

I’m thinking of the gas chambers like Zika. The gas chambers made sense to Hitler. The problem with Zika is not solved by condemning the mosquitoes. We can’t coexist with the disease as Jews (and many others) couldn’t coexist with Hitler or ISIS. I think we can let go of the judgement because it is not productive. We can focus on the problem.

My mom used to say, solve problems, not people. Condemning others seems like a waste of time. Zika is just trying to do what diseases like to do—thrive. It isn’t “bad.” But it is a problem for us, so we try to stop it. We feel we need to judge another as evil or wrong to stop them. Beyond that field of right and wrong we see obstructions to our lives. Hatred just eats us up. Dealing with the obstructions do not.

Uphill

We read about how, when we enter the stream, we go against the flow of water.*

Not to be guided by habitual habits or by already acquired karma, we create new karma.

It is not an easy path. If we let go for a moment, the stream will take us by force and carry us away.

The stream path ends at its beginning where a few drops of water come over a rock.

Branches and debris block our way, but we persist.

No, life is not easy. Living is not succumbing to the flow.

In Qigong we learn to stand with our knees slightly bent. A giant cannot push over a tiny old master. 

P.S. I was wrong here... we go both with the flow and against the flow:

“Māra, the personification of reactivity, is conquered not by eliminating every last reaction from one’s mind but by finding a way to become impervious to his attacks. We acquire freedom from reactivity yet without the reactivity ceasing to occur. If we observe these impulses and do not feed them, they will die down over time and diminish in frequency. But, as this text makes clear, Gotama continued to be subject to Māra’s attacks even after his awakening. As long as we are embodied in flesh, nerves, and blood, reactivity will be part and parcel of what it entails to be human.

I doubt that the Buddha used the same word sota (stream) in two conflicting senses by accident. Here he says that the practice of dharma “goes against the stream,” but as we saw in the previous chapter, he described the practitioner of the dharma as one who “enters the stream.” In the first case, sota denotes the stream of reactivity; in the second, it refers to the stream of the eightfold path. By combining these two metaphors, we arrive at an image of two streams of water encountering each other head on: the stream of the eightfold path flows into and goes against the stream of reactivity. The result is turbulence.”

Batchelor, Stephen (2015-10-28). After Buddhism: Rethinking the Dharma for a Secular Age (p. 64-65). Yale University Press. Kindle Edition.


I guess “not by eliminating every last reaction” would be not to live in a protective shell, not going on long jaunts to far away places. Perhaps the idea of Buddhism bringing peace has to be replaced with Buddhism bringing turbulence.


Monday, August 8, 2016

A Moment is not on a Timeline

Yesterday I had the idea that being in the moment isn't about choosing this moment as a point on a time line, but rather it is about not using time as our lens to view our lives. Beyond time. When we stop seeing our life as linear we are brought to this moment as a collection of all moments. The past, present and future are no longer separated and become one. (Past is not what happened yesterday, but our dream today of yesterday. The future is not what will happen tomorrow, but it is our dream of what will happen tomorrow.) (In the link below, here is the definition of “Right View” as being about stress: “And what is right view? Knowledge with regard to stress, knowledge with regard to the origination of stress, knowledge with regard to the cessation of stress, knowledge with regard to the way of practice leading to the cessation of stress: This is called right view.”

When you close a book, you can embrace it as a “thing” rather than as an event that occurs in time. 

Small mind distinguishes and big mind brings them together. Seeing both, seen through a different eye, allows us to both be in our dream and to see our dream as being outside of time. Of course, seeing our dreams is just another dream. But there is a little more perspective there.

P.S. If you want something not to think about today, don't ask yourself this: “Do you control your mind or does your mind control you?” I just received that from my first Zen teacher. Is controlling one’s mind like trying to control one’s life? How does it connect to the Buddhist’s “right view.” (See: http://www.accesstoinsight.org/ptf/dhamma/sacca/sacca4/samma-ditthi/ for more on right view.)

Saturday, August 6, 2016

We Are Not Our Banana

I heard this a few weeks ago: “What we think is real but not true.”

I think that can help with creating equanimity. Though we passionately believe stuff, we should also realize that they are beliefs, not truths.

We can’t know the truth because we are just seeing the world from our vantage point, and we don’t know how things will turn out.

We can believe that one horse will win the race. But until the race is over, we don’t know who won. And in a photo finish, we may never know.

Think about times when you’ve believed something completely and then learned it was false. That’s how (I think) we should hold all our beliefs. Lightly. Ready to let go when the information changes.

We are not our beliefs. We are richer than that. If a belief was a banana in a jar, we can put our fist around it and get stuck, for then neither the hand nor the banana will come out of the jar.

Or we can turn the jar over and the banana will come out on its own. Equanimity is not holding onto the banana with a closed fist. We are not our banana.