Meditation (personal view)

I learned TM when I was 12. My parents took me to a center and I was instructed as an adult. My family would meditate together on occasion but both my parents work schedules were erratic and we never established a regular pattern. I meditated on my own irregularly for many years until I became interested in religion. As I said, my father is a Zen Buddhist whereas my mother is a barely spiritual occasional Quaker. We went to unitarian church when we bothered to go at all.

I became interested in religion because I was brought up as an atheist. My mother was more tolerant of theism but my father was not when I was younger (he has softened his views since) so I was not going to tell him I was searching for something he thought was foolish. I began going to different churches – Catholic, Baptist, Methodist, Episcopalian, Jewish and an occasional Buddhist service. None of them quite appealed to me in a broad way. I became interested in Wicca and started learning about it when I was about 15. I learned many different variations on meditation mostly referred to as “white light” exercises. Astral Projection was the idea that the body has an astral/ethereal/incorporeal presence that can be taken out of the physical. Naturally I was curious abotu that and began practicing it frequently. It was easy. I learned years later that what i was doing was really a sort of mindful TM or perhaps guided TM – acheiving a meditative state with a goal in mind by focusing my attention on my physical body instead of a mantra. I realized I did not need a mantra – quieting my mind is achievable without it. I could in fact use the meditative state of my body in deep relaxation to focus on anything inside of myself that I wanted to. I explored a lot of myself and who I am on different levels of the self. This tied in nicely to my interest in psychology. I followed several less popular psychiatric scholars (Reich, Piaget, Lacan) and discovered many of the theories they had were a good vocabulary to look within myself and catelogue in a sense who I am and who I wanted to be. I wish I could say I was a regular practitioner but I was sporadic as I was working and going to school as well. I also always seemed to have some boyfriend or girlfriend to take care of as well. INteresting that I was so busy focusing inwards that in the outer life I was drifting aimlessly, unconcerned with where my life was actually going. I realized meditation (at least eh sort I was doing or how i was using it) was becoming a way to create an apathy towards being present. A concept I am familiar with from growing up with Zen. Being present was easy to pretend by being removed and aloof -emotionally detached. It was a good way to avoid being dynamic and making real choices. I realized I also resented what Zen represented to me; a way to avoid emotional turmoil by denying its power and potential. I didn’t want to be an emotional robot forever analyzing everything with logic from an apathetic viewpoint. I had no agency in that regard. I wanted the opposite – to know how to experience the present without being ruled by it. I wanted to be able to feel in control of myself while letting go of control of my environment. acceptance, that elusive paragon of Buddhist “enlightenment” was a lot harder than Zen makes it sound! Especially when the Western interpretation is that one becomes “above” suffering of life by gliding over it rather than mastering one’s reaction to it. Rather than choosing my own state of mind, I was removing my mind from all states. Which was also why I managed to pick up a lot of wounded birds along the way and not know what to do with them.

One of my best friends is a Buddhist priest and he used to call me “Kuanyin” because I worried so much over my own emotional connection to the world that I jeopardized my connection to my own spirit. It isn’t hard to let others crowd out your own self-regard. But what he didn’t understand is that I reject Buddhism’s hyper-focus on lack of suffering. It too often translates into a rejection of emotional power. Buddhism is based on an idealized state – enlightenment but the picture of enlightenment in the West is one of detachment, rather than non-attachment. There is a crucial difference. And Buddhist practice is based on an idealized life that does not exist in the West or most industrialized nations. One does not live like a monk;full of simplicity and self-denial. Self-denial is easy when life only offers you little choices. Sandals or shoes? Robe or wrap? Pffft. Small inconsequential choices that allow a person to believe their state of mind is a clean slate when in fact is it simply in a clean environment. Throw a mirror into a crystal clear lake and your reflection is beautified. Throw a mirror into muddy waters and you’ll see nothing but filth. I cannot possibly expect to achieve the state of mind a monk has while living as a “regular” American. (and believe me, my life has hardly been “regular”) In order to attain some sort of peace within I need to accept and embrace the complicated chaotic state I am surrounded by first.

That is why TM eventually became a failed endeavor: it comes from a state of being that I do not have and do not want. I like running water, indoor toilets, sanitary conditions, transportation, easy access to information, devices that allow me to keep ties to people I love but cannot be near. I want to keep my “modern” life. It does not have to be ostentatious but I do not believe that I must throw away where I am in order to be in touch with who I am. Surely any method of self-actualization can encompass a variety of environmental differences? I don’t think TM does. Yoga does – it does not matter who you are or where you come from when you do yoga. I never was brave enough to try yoga but I have thought about it a lot lately.

On the practical side, TM involves sitting – which is uncomfortable and eventually painful for me. It also involves quietude which I have in rare precious quantities. Most of all, it involves focusing on nothing and becoming “empty”. The Tao has taught me the importance of real emptiness, I do not need meditation for that as a goal. I have different goals that I think go beyond TM – I don’t want to just relax and feel refreshed, I want to be able to actuate my inner knowledge and explore my true self. That is my connection to Godhead, of course, in whatever incarnation she may be. TM failed me there: it was a method to be calm and stop being two eyes peering out from my face but it went no further. If all I need is to relax, I can read a book or listen to music. or sing. Or dance. Or watch my daughter draw. or just be in the presence of someone who is dear to me. Those activities give me relaxation and a sense of connection to godhead because I am connected to someone else. TM just cuts me off from everyone and everything. It makes me feel void, not empty. I become a shell, not a vessel. 

After everything, I truly believe that emotional detachment is the wrong way. Of course being mired and controlled by your emotions is not good – it blinds you to the possibilities of change and you lose agency. But denial of emotions is wrong as well – it forces an artificial state and an unreal expectation. It also leaves you open to exploitation which I have learned enough of to know I want no more of ever. Emotions are powerful when they are examined and used as lessons – sometimes rewarding, sometimes punishing, but always emotions teach us something even if its just “pay attention!” I have acquired amazing energy and resolve through self-examination and realistic goals for my growth. Emotional guidance is something I think never stops teaching. 

and to be honest,what little I have learned from a small study of  Tantra has been far more helpful and introspective than anything I learned in TM or Zen meditation. TM has come to seem like a beginning to me in retrospect. I’ve only been able to understand and practice some Tantra but hopefully with the right circumstances I may be able to get back to it some day. 

From what I read on the Art of Living site, it seems that Sangha is hardly any different than TM or Chopra’s Bliss. Not that that is bad or wrong…

Different meditation styles for different stops along a path. Mine left mantra-laden TM  a while back. I need more than just mindfulness and relaxation. I aim to maintain my connection to godhead. Dharma is important but I want to get away from believing dharma alone will substitute for inner mindfulness. No matter how many rituals I perform or gurus I listen to, it all amounts to nothing if the lesson does not ring my bell inside.

The sound of seven shots – defund the police

I don’t talk about politics much on this page because I talk on my facebook page. I don’t get much feedback because I don’t have much readership here. But every now and then I post something here and cross-post on my social media because this is a better presentation.

I’m not going to bother talking about how I’ve been following the BLM movement and all the events leading up to it. Whoever you are, reading this, have likely made up your mind about BLM and you aren’t going to change. BLM has been challenging a system of inequity and inequality for some time now. They have been ignored, swept aside and ridiculed for as long as they’ve been in public. I believe there are people who have been sitting on the sidelines and carefully avoiding making any choices about this situation in our nation. People who have too many associations with BLM that incline them away from empathizing with their message. But forget about BLM for a minute. BLM has been joined by so many people that no one can ignore it anymore. No one can really sit on the sidelines of opinion anymore. Because it’s gone beyond BLM.

What’s happening now is the next step: The system is trying to defend itself against the challenge.

Do I really believe that more people have come to care about BLM? No. I wish it were so because I believe in their message too, but the reality is that as BLM has protested, marched, spoke up and gone viral, people have realized that the system is rotten for everyone. And people have joined, slowly, over time, to join the protests because they can see that even just challenging the rotten core of the system results in havoc and death for everyone. Maybe people have woken up and realized that the system may be coming for them, maybe people have finally had a closer degree of separation from the people who are being gunned down. Maybe people saw one too many videos. Maybe people just heard one too many shots.

And the word needs to spread.

This is tragic. This is beyond tragic. This is alarms and sirens for our nation. This is past “warning shots”.

What has been happening for years and years is now to the point where people are done being “nice” about it and are now protesting in the streets in whatever manner will get the attention and keep the focus. Things have progressed to the point where even the protests have stopped being “nice” and people are starting to legitimately riot – burning buildings, trashing edifices, smashing businesses, even occasionally threatening other people.

I’m not going to tell you that’s all wrong. I’m not going to start pretending that cherry-picked quotes from MLK are applicable here. I’m not going to caution people to “go high” and “be the better person” or anything like that.

Because I can’t care about that anymore. We are way beyond that. There have been too many shots fired.

Don’t you see? It’s so horrific…. we can’t take it anymore. I read about Jacob Blake in Kenosha and my heart just shredded into pieces. I’ve been upset and angry and cried and argued and pleaded and screamed and I’m just so fucking exhausted now. And at this point, is it only Black people who are being gunned down by the police? No. But they are still the main targets. They are our martyrs and examples. They are the crucified, held up to warn the rest of us what will happen if we keep shouting against this nightmare. The police are still firing “warning shots” at us all. And those shots are still killing people. The sound of shots is supposed to scare us, keep us in check, make us cower and bow down to the people with uniforms and weapons. But it doesn’t matter if we do those things… they are still shredding our hearts with the sound of more shots. How many shots can you listen to before you break down and stop letting this happen? How many deaths can you stand?

What happened to this man, and all the people gunned down by police, is just beyond heinous; it’s offensive to everything we associate with being an American. Our justice system is a system that trumpets how “fair” it is supposed to be. How we give accused people the presumption of innocence and force the prosecution to prove guilt – we do not make the defense prove innocence. This is our system and we have reason to be immensely proud of it; in theory. Because this system is not being offered to anyone who isn’t White and Able, and Hetero and living their assigned gender from birth and walking around with citizenship papers. It’s not. And what’s almost as bad is that now, that same system is trying to raise its powerful fist to crush anyone who speaks out about it. And that goes against everything we SAY we believe as Americans. We have freedom to protest. We have not just a right, but an obligation to make our government – national or local – to listen to our grievances and address them. This is one of our many rights too. We have rights that other nations dream of, yet here we are, letting the authorities pay lip service to those rights and get away with murder. We raise up the words of our founding fathers (knowing many were slave-owners and rapists) because the ideals they touted, the fine words they uttered were the goals of our nation. Even though our founding fathers couldn’t *follow* those words, they still wanted to believe in them; they wanted to build a nation that followed those ideals.

And here we are.

All those people who are protesting, you look at them and what do you see? You see reprehensible folks who aren’t bowing down to the system? The system that perhaps protects YOU just fine?

I see people who have gone from sad and grieving to angry to rageful to outraged to despondent and so many other emotions… this is our country, our culture and we look around and see a system that is trying to break us, enslave us, censor us and if we don’t comply, they kill us. All the laws in the world won’t save us if the system behind those laws puts its boots on our necks and begins to press down. All the speeches in the world won’t help us when the sound of shots ring out again.

So when I look at those crowds, I don’t just see my fellow activists, fighting the good fight to get something changed, I see people who have cried, like I did, when they read just one more damned story about someone getting killed by the police. I see people who thought about their friends, their family, their online pals, people they care about and maybe even people they don’t know – getting caught under the boot of this system and having their lives snuffed out in the blink of an eye… in the sound of seven shots.

https://amp.cnn.com/cnn/2020/08/24/us/kenosha-police-shooting-jacob-blake

Resistance is futile

I know it seems terrible that there’s this guy who is literally on top of you, hacking away at you with a machete, but I promise you, me and few other guys are holding him back. You can’t see us, because we’re behind him and we don’t want him to know we’re the ones holding him back, but yanno, calm down,. don’t start screaming or anything because we’re here, we promise. Just imagine how bad it would be if we weren’t here; he’d probably be hacking your head off instead of your legs. So don’t call for back-up. We’ll hold this guy back until he’s tired of hacking at you.
I mean, we knew he was unstable and talked a lot of shit about carving people up when we brought him along to your dinner party, but we didn’t know about the whole machete thing. We thought he was just carrying a baseball bat. No, we can’t pull him off you right now because if we did, you wouldn’t invite us to your next dinner party. Don’t worry, he’ll get tired after a while. In the meantime, you should thank us; he’s only hacked a few of your fingers off so far. We’ll make sure he doesn’t get near your neck. Don’t scream. Don’t call for help. I promise we’re here. Just try to smile and go along with whatever he says. Once he’s gone, we’ll finish up.

Emelia Holden video: No, it’s not a double standard

To the knuckleheads who say “but it’s not okay if a man does that to a woman?!” in reference to the Emelia Holden body slam video: No, it’s not okay. Because when a man is upset with a woman, all he needs to do is puff up and yell, and she will be intimidated because men are usually larger and scarier than women. When a woman wants to intimidate a man, she has to get super physical. If you doubt me, imagine if Emelia had just turned around and yelled at him,. He would have smirked and kept walking or said something infuriating like “hey, calm down honey” blah blah blah. She had body slam him to get his attention and make him realize she’s just as scary as him. THAT is why it’s okay for a woman to do it to a man and not the other way around. If a woman touches you when you don’t want to be touched, you can raise your voice and yell at her and she will likely be intimidated. If she’s not, feel free to get physical about it. But remember to pull your punch depending on how big she is. The object isn’t to hurt the offender, but to make them realize that you have power too.

smart phones and the decline of society

I am coming to the conclusion that it’s not smartphones that are screwing up society, it’s the indirect effect of “immediacy” – because of tech like smartphones, everyone expects immediate answers. So it seems like everything you do requires another meeting, another answer, RIGHT NOW

that’s what’s driving me nuts. Before this tech, people communicated by phone and letter,. so people were used to waiting and scheduling things in advance or just muddling along without everyone’s input all of the time

now in order to be a part of something you are expected to show up all the time and be an active participant on everything

no more assuming people will just do their job. You have to go to endless meetings and discuss every freakin thing at any hour of the day and figure everything out together. Which normally I’d think is great but geeziz it’s true of EVERYTHING. nobody will just do a decent job of whatever, they expect everyone to be a part of it because after all you have a car, you have email, you have a smartphone so clearly you can just show up

Millennials

Everywhere I go, especially on the internet, I hear about how “entitled” Millennials are. At the same time, I see a lot of refutations to this claim. It’s been pointed out numerous times that millennials are living in an era where the economy is pitiful, the prospects are dim and life is in many ways stacked against them. It’s also pointed out that millennials grew up without certain parenting attitudes that “build character” and “toughen” a person. They are called “soft” and “overly sensitive”, the ultimate insult being they “want everything handed to them”

I have had enough of this circular argument.

We cannot continue to denigrate the latest generation of adults with such vague, pointless and unmoored attacks. We also cannot continue to defend them against attacks by pointing a finger back at the older generations. It’s true that the millennial generation doesn’t exist in a vacuum, but it must be acknowledged that the expectations they have aren’t traditional either. We must understand what it is that Millennials truly want before we can begin to discuss whether their wants are extraordinary or not.
What do they want? They want the same thing every generation has wanted: they want to live and flourish. But what is different is not the Millennials in general, it is the privileged Millennials that is different than generations before: they want the rest of society to live and flourish too. Their expectations aren’t just about themselves; they don’t believe anyone, privileged or not, should have to suffer just to survive.

Who can truly blame them for their desires? Even before the “free love” days of the 60s, the youth of our country has turned its attention to their fellow human and little by little changed how society runs. This did not happen overnight. It did not happen in a vacuum and it wasn’t done for any other reason than to rectify grave injustices in our culture’s past. The youth has always been capable of the kind of enthusiastic energy that begets true change. Indeed, it is very nearly a defining characteristic of social revolution that leaders are young, and full of fire. Without mundane things such as a day-job, children and age-related illness, it has always been the youth en masse who lead us into the future by their actions and their numbers. As a society, America has pushed ever outward to create an egalitarian, inclusive culture that does not discriminate; does not crush some groups in order to reward others. Over decades, every successive generation has “woken up” to some extent and declared, “I do not want these benefits if they come at the cost of someone else”

What have the older generations done with this growing movement through the decades? We have derided, denigrated and even punished them at every step. We have tried to tear down these social revolutions with our words, our labels and our fists and our laws. But we have always lost in the end. Because ultimately, society moves forward. It is not a logarithmic movement, it is not even exponential, but it is always a groundswell that reaches a breaking point for every new awareness of inequality.

There have always been those who do not join in the enthusiasm for remaking our society. There have always been and there always will be. Backlash is real and often dangerous. But where backlash has sometimes slowed progress through the weight of oppressive defensive tactics, progress eventually wins out. Because as society has grown, technology has brought people closer together with every generation. No longer do people live in villages, sharing space with strangers based on proximity alone. No longer do young people feel the familial obligation that binds them to the land of their upbringing. People know that their tribe is out there, it exists and all they must do is meet it, to finally feel at home.

So, it is that we come to an understanding of the millennial mindset. The young adults of today are called “entitled” and it is true. But “entitled” does not mean someone who is lazy and wants the world handed to them on silver platter. “Entitled” is someone who expects to reap the rewards promised them. In the case of previous generations, this has always meant achieving “the American dream” but the tacit understanding was that this was an entitlement of the privileged. The definition of that dream was different depending on who you were. Millennials are the generation that rejects that final nuance; the notion of equality only for the few. Millennials believe the bar of life should be set at a point not just for themselves but for everyone. How is “privilege” defined? Why is privilege only for certain subsets of specific groups? Why should that rule continue unchecked? The very existence of a privileged group exposes the existence of imbalance in our American dream. Millennials aren’t entitled because they want a good life, they believe a good life is something everyone is entitled to.

It is this imbalance that is the root of Millennial discontent. Not for themselves but for their world. For what is possibly the first time in American history, we have a whole generation that wants to encompass all who were born into it, not just some of them based on how they were born or what family they were born to. For the first time in American history, there is a generation that is willing to carve itself into subsets and groupings of its own choosing. Based on hobbies, fandoms, feelings, visions and declarations of dedication, Millennials separate themselves by what is important to them, not what previous generations tell them. For once, a generation comes along and self-defines. So naturally, this generation cannot sit by and accept a society based on artificial and unmoving mores. They choose who they are yet remain free to change at any time. They reject the previous generations’ chains of birthright. This is their true difference and why they feel so “entitled”. From their viewpoint, they are “entitled” to a world they were promised in books, movies and songs – a world that values cooperation, tolerance and strong will to succeed. Yet we have not arrived at that world and nobody knows that more than Millennials.

Most millennials grew up being told over and over that what mattered most was trying, giving it your all, believing in yourself, and hard work, and they came of age knowing that it was all lies. Today, in their adulthood, they see how different races, different religions, different body types and different genders are treated in our society. They see the reality of what they were raised with. So the word that describes millennials isn’t really “entitled”, it’s “disillusioned”.

It’s not about “participation trophies”, it’s about the idealized worlds we showed them again and again, hoping that they would forge a better path for everyone. But along the way, we forgot that the path was being overgrown by ominous forests of inequity and patrolled by intimidating wolves of economic despair. We wanted to nurture their fighting spirit, sense of fair play, and love of learning but we failed to create an environment that would keep those dreams alive and let them take over. We raised them to be ninja turtles but let the cities turn into sewers. We nudged them to swim but never gave them land to walk on, and all they can do now is tread water. Is it any wonder they are angry? Is it any wonder they refuse to participate in the culture we have brought them to?

The most important aspect of the millennial culture isn’t their disappointment or their bitterness at having been duped, it’s their steadfast refusal to give up and give in to the state of the world. Of course, they are angry and full of criticism: they inherited a quagmire of economic slavery, outrageous societal expectations and laws that whiplash with every change in the government. They were taught, by Sesame Street, Reading Rainbow and Mighty Morphin Power Rangers that all they had to do was cooperate, put their minds to work and be ready to fight for truth and justice, and our society would happily hand them a perfect world. Yet none of this has come to pass. Yet still they fight.

What is a genuine wonder, is that they continue to fight at all. Millennials are so irritating and annoying precisely because of what we taught them; to keep fighting for truth, justice and “the American way”. They threaten us because we never realized that their fight would be against us. Their fight underscores our failure as a previous generation. This humble, cooperative, egalitarian world we kept pushing them towards didn’t happen during our time and we full well know it. We overpromised and now they fight us for it. They will not let us rest until we let them bear the fruit of their labors… even if that means pushing us out of relevance.

Millennials do have a “problem with entitlement”. It’s a problem we created and the only solution is to accept their discontent, acknowledge the inequities they point out, give them the tools they need to recreate our society, and stop grumbling while they change the world.