Friday, December 31, 2010

Living in Isolation

I think I have a problem. I've been isolating myself a lot from people or "the outside world." I'm an extrovert, but have always practiced this hibernation to a certain extent (not on purpose). I do it way more now. It zaps hours and hours from my day. Hours that I can spend bringing in more of an income, connecting with people, bettering myself, etc. I feel it's damaging me, but people in general really get on my nerves. Like I'll be in public and just get really annoyed with noises and people and everyone that looks like they are at ease with everything. It's times like those where I just want to go home and hide under my shell. I guess you can call it bouts of misanthropy and just trying to protect myself. I also just really hate where I am in life right now. Any advice for me?
WHEN ABRAHAM MASLOW STUDIED self-actualized people, he found that they all spent considerable time in solitude. It's a way to connect to yourself. It's healthy. In your situation, though, it sounds like you're using it as a tool for avoidance. I don't blame you for wanting to get away from something that's annoying you like noises and...uh, happiness (lol) but avoidance isn't the only tool for overcoming that. In fact, your mind will keep judging things and making you miserable until you stand up to it.

I'd suggest you do something radical. Go and force yourself to spend time in the company of others. Here's the twist: instead of trying to analyze what's making you so frustrated, and thinking about all the little things that are pissing you off, I want you to turn off that inner dialogue (or just ignore it). Just sit there on your bench and experience the physical sensations of discomfort and irritability without commenting or analyzing. Be patient. There's no right or wrong way to feel it.

When you experience that stuff without the use of your mind, you get used to it and you dissolve it along with all the judgment and agitation it was causing. You may not suddenly feel OUTSTANDING, but you won't feel as bothered. Then you might start to feel okay, and even a little happy. Once you get more familiar with that okay-ness (after 3 or 4 times), you can reflect on your life and figure out where you want to be and how you're going to pull it back together, radically or incrementally.

Keep going out in public for 30 minutes at a time. Sometimes you might notice you're not actually irritated, but maybe bored or apprehensive or sad or excited or happy or nothing special. Whatever it is, just focus on the physical sensations quietly. Eventually, the irritation will dissipate and you won't feel like you need to retreat. You can keep doing the feeling-without-thinking exercises at the park or adapt them for the rest of your life.

Wednesday, December 29, 2010

Why are you vegetarian?

One reason.
Hi Edahn, 
I'm a long time reader and first time writer... I'd like to know why you're a vegetarian and if you intend to stay that way.
WELL, THE MAIN REASON I'm a vegetarian is because it serves as a moral trump card. Consider this exchange I recently didn't have with a pretend friend:

She: You lied to me! You said you weren't interested in her, then you--
Me: I didn't lie! I can't always know how I'm going to react to people I meet!
She: That doesn't mean you can go around and do whatever it is you plea--

See? It works nicely. Whatever happens, I just pull out my Veg card. V-E-G. ahem

The other much less important reasons are Buddhism, dignity, and empathy. Most Buddhists are vegetarian (with exceptions) and I practice a Zennish form of Buddhism. I also think it's important to treat animals with dignity, and many of the animals that are cooked or served in markets and restaurants are raised in absolutely deplorable conditions. Third, I like animals. Even chickens. They have families and mini-societies (hence the term "pecking order") and they feel pain. I don't wanna eat them. If I wanted to eat them, I would have put up a wall in my head to block that information out and frankly, I suck at that no thanks to my residual OCD tendencies.

I don't see myself eating meat anytime soon. I'm used to vegetarianism now and it's given me opportunities to be more aware and more compassionate. Also, the trump card.

Hey guys, if you have a question or comment or issue, send it in. I don't have anything else and I could use the distraction.

Monday, December 27, 2010

A good death

Dear Edahn, 
What is a good death?

A GOOD DEATH IS a product of a clean conscience. When you die knowing that you've lived trying to do the right thing and live honorably, you can die with dignity and peace. That kind of death is poetic and beautiful. It's the kind of death that touches people's heart.

How do you do the right thing? You don't have to worry about something like that because you already know how to do the right thing. That knowledge is like a shadow that follows you everywhere you go. Stop and listen.

Some people wait until the very last minute of their life to start listening to their conscience. It's at that point that they often realize that they've been leading someone else's life and chasing someone else's priorities. Then they realize the stuff that has always really been important to them: kindness, care, connections, intimacy, forgiveness, silence. Ask yourself "What's important to me? What moves me? What touches my core?" Questions like those might break your heart, but a broken heart is an open heart. That's the recipe for a good life and a good death.

Thursday, December 23, 2010

Should I crush my husband's crush?

Obvious Joke is Obvious
Hi Edahn,
I'm normally a fairly confident woman but recent events have changed that. My husband and I are friends with a really awesome and attractive couple. I have noticed for a while that my husband has a slight crush on the female friend but it never bothered me until now. I brought it up to him over the weekend and he admitted he thinks she's beautiful and nice but that he would never cheat on me. I actually do believe him and even though I know it's normal for people to find others attractive, it just really hurt me. 
My question is should we keep hanging out with them? I don't want to alienate him from them at all because I care for them both and love their company. I'm just afraid I'm going to feel incredibly insecure around her and my husband now and it might bring up these feelings again. 
OKAY, I'VE GIVEN THIS a lot of thought, and here's my conclusion. If what's bothering you is that this girlfriend is attractive and has good qualities, then you should try and work on your insecurities before cutting them off. (A little reassurance from your husband or friends can go a long way.) If, on the other hand, what's bothering you is that your husband has developed a crush on this girlfriend, then you should cut them off for the sake of your marriage.

Whether you take my suggestions or not, you should talk to your husband and work with him. Make him really appreciate the situation you both find yourself in. Don't turn it into a battle, just have a conversation together. You could ask him how he would feel if he was in your shoes, and even give him a sample of the types of things you might say if you had a crush on the guy-friend. Try and inject a little humor and levity into it if you can.

Situations like these call for a lot of wisdom and understanding and talking it out helps. There's no obvious answer, you just have to decide together what you think is the most intelligent course of action. Picture yourselves as a team with a mutual interest in your well being. Leave me a comment if you have any leftover concerns or questions.

Thursday, December 16, 2010

Economics and Philosophy

I used to be against capitalism for a while. Why? Because when I think about my ideal community I think about people cooperating and not taking more than they need in terms of property, income, resources in general. When that happens, people don't suffer as much as there's less room or tolerance for exploitation.

These days, though, I've come upon the realization that the problem isn't in capitalism, but in the way people use capitalism to justify their greed. They take and take and take, and when you try and object, people say "hey, that's capitalism." My response: "hey, well you're a fucking idiot." For one thing, you've committed the is-ought fallacy, equating what is with what ought-to-be. Just because things are fucked up doesn't mean they should remain fucked up. People doesn't realize this. What puzzles me even more is why people think capitalism is so sacred. If you even suggest capitalism might be a flawed--in theory or in practice--people freak the fuck out. WTF?

But like I said, I'm not against capitalism, just the way that it's practiced. That is, capitalism is practiced without a conscience and without any responsibility. The rich have created all these clever tools for taking advantage of the poor -- business tools, legal tools, rhetorical tools, political tools -- and they've found a way to make them work together to ensure that their property is never threatened and keeps growing. And they've made themselves anonymous with the advent of entities like corporations that allow them to exploit others from a distance.*

So, conscientious capitalism. That's what I'm pushing these days. If I could really have my way, I'd push for smaller communities where people actually know one another and where people were accountable to their community. Why? Because I think that's what really makes life pleasant and peaceful. So many people are deprived of that opportunity to interact, but it's truly fulfilling. To enact a vision like that, however, means that we dissolve corporations entirely which isn't an easy task and in truth, has to be done ethically, otherwise you just create more misery, which is exactly what you're trying to avoid.

*Yes, corporations can do good too, but they also let people make decisions without feeling accountable to the community they're fucking over.

Wednesday, December 15, 2010

Being = Happiness?

You think you're confused?
I'm confused. So you believe that happiness depends on simply being. Is this right?
I BELIEVE WE SHOULD clarify what we mean by happiness first. Happiness to me isn't a state of excitement and hyper-arousal, which is how most people I know conceive of it. It's not the feeling of what I call "Dominion," the sense that you've conquered and dominated something like a person, an opponent, a partner, or life itself. 

When I talk about happiness, I'm talking about a state of complete surrender and acceptance of who you are right now, who other people are, and where your life is. Over time (few minutes, few hours, few years), you feel a sense of intimacy with things. You don't struggle to prove to yourself or others that you're someone special with talents and values. You're don't panic. You aren't in a rush to get something or hold onto something like food, sex, power, friends, dominion, even the intimacy itself. And with that, you're able to just be still and relax. No where to go, nothing to do, no one to be. Your heart is quietly ripped open.

You can definitely call that "being." A lot of people call it that and you can see why. My concern with using familiar language, however, is that it conjures up all these images and associations for people. They have a image of what it looks like to "just be" and then they try to imitate it during their meditation or daily life. That's dangerous because what they're really doing is trying to escape into a state of "just being." Adios! That's not just being -- it's just running.

If you can't just be, or don't know what it means to just be, just stick with that confusion for the time being. If you're bored or you think you're lacking some spiritual element in your life, stick what that feeling. There's no trick. There's no special way to experience it. You don't have to focus on it in a special way. Just wait. The act of waiting is usually disorienting. It can be uncomfortable, confusing, and create a lot of questions. Is this right? This can't be right. This doesn't feel good. This feels weird. Meditation is something else. This won't work. I should do xyz. 

Just shut up and wait. When you subtract the need master anything or figure anything out, being is the remainder.

Friday, December 10, 2010

So? What now?

No more question, and I've lost my motivation to go seek people to entertain me so I can entertain them. I guess this is going to turn into a blog after all.

It's Friday, 1 AM and I'm in my house and I'm tired. The Wikileaks stuff has been plastered all over the news. The Anon attacks have given me a strange sense of hope mixed with anger. These days, I've almost completely lost faith in civilization, in education, in politics, and in mankind. The rich get richer while they exploit the poor. See, Wallmart. On top of that, they lie about it, they buy politicians, and they use the legal system as a tool to attack the unfortunate even though it was designed to protect the unfortunate. The media is in it too. There's so much lying and spinning and viciousness that I just can't take it. The spinning gets me the most.

The prospects of an Anonymous group of vigilantes wreaking havoc on corporate America makes me happy. Is it right? I don't think so. But it may correct a more serious wrong in the process. That's a slippery slope, I realize.

Amidst all this, I'm still contemplating my own path. So many options, and I want none of them. Almost none. I would consider being a psychologist even though I'm turned off by the maze of "ethical" rules and formality embedded in the therapeutic culture. I've helped people before. Lot's of people. They call me up or come talk to me regularly, at least once a week (and I haven't been very social these days). I'm able to help them because they trust me and feel comfortable. Being a stuff room for one hour will fuck all that up. I couldn't see the person in their natural habitat for as long as I wanted. I couldn't buy them gifts and perform social rituals with them like eating or getting yogurt (not a very impressive array, granted). And I'd be taking money for helping them which fucks things up too. I like helping people because they need it, not because I need them.

Anyway, I don't know. I found a Zen Master named Dogen who lived in the 13th century. The guy was bad ass. The more I read about his understanding of truth and peace, the more I find agreement between his experiences and my own. I've been writing about his philosophy (Soto Zen) for a while without knowing it. Find any post I've written on Rest and you'll get a sample of Soto Zen. I'll write a poem.

Happiness is letting go,
But letting go takes practice.
Try to let go and you'll fail,
Because you can't force something unforceable,
Just as you can't grab on to empty space.

Your mind always has you running somewhere "better,"
Because it thinks this is never enough:
This discomfort, this confusion, this boredom, this void.
What are you running away from?
Stop and listen without any expectations
To what's happening right now.
Does it really have to be better?
Do you really need something to be happy? Really? 
I call bullshit.
If you think your happiness depends on anything at all,
Think again.
It depends on nothing,
Not even enlightenment.

Your mind will get away with murder,
Convincing you that you're not entitled or capable
Of sitting here in this moment
And letting things be.
Leave them alone.
Is it boring? Painful? Mediocre? Empty? Disorienting?
So what?
Just wait.

That's it. Nothing more, nothing less.

Wednesday, December 8, 2010

Viva la Cyber Revolucion

Like it or not, the revolution has started.

Hacktivists have taken to the internet to disrupt major corporations like VISA, Mastercard, and soon Paypal. Why? To protect Wikileaks and Julian Assange and their effort to expose the US government and its corruption.

Until now, I've felt powerless and pessimistic about our future. Not anymore. There's a glimmer of hope shimmering in the distance.

Unsung heroes

Tuesday, December 7, 2010

Buddhist Sudoku

Sometimes I wish there was a game I could play when I was bored that would entertain me as well as orient me. Here's my first attempt to create something like that. Enjoy.

1.      If you ask me to pay attention to my body, the first thing I notice is my
a.      Chest
b.      Legs
c.      Arms
d.      Head
e.      Phantom limb
f.        Stomach
g.      Genitals
h.      Back
2.      I would describe the above feeling as
a.      Painful
b.      Hot
c.      Tingling
d.      Tense
e.      Loose
f.        Unknown
g.      Itching/burning*
3.      When you pay attention to that area of your body, do the sensations change at all?
a.      Yes
b.      No
c.      Not that I’ve noticed
4.      Take a deep breath. Now another. Let yourself breathe 10 natural breaths, nothing special. How would you describe the 10th breath? Select all that apply.
a.      “Breathy”
b.      Flowing
c.      Tense
d.      Hot
e.      Cool
f.        Painful
g.      Pleasurable
h.      It’s hard to describe with a word.
i.         I stopped breathing at 8.
If you can’t decide, do it over.
5.      Did you notice any thoughts pop up during the previous exercise? If you can’t remember, do it again. How many thoughts did you have?
a.      0
b.      1-2
c.      3-5
d.      5-10
e.      10-25+
f.        I lost count at 85
6.      Meditation teachers often distinguish between concentration and mindfulness. Mindfulness is the ability to remember to do something whereas concentration is the ability to focus your attention on something like your breath or your body so it’s not scattered and weakened. If you were at work, mindfulness would be your ability to stay awake and remember to work, whereas concentration would be your ability to focus on one task at a time and do it diligently. Which of these skills are you better at right now?
a.      Mindfulness
b.      Concentration
c.      Mindful…concentration?
d.      I’m sorry, I need to reread that as I wasn’t paying attention.
7.      When you breathe, where do you notice the sensations of your breathe most?
a.      Tip of the nose
b.      Back of the throat
c.      Chest
d.      Stomach
8.      Start counting your breaths. On each out-breath count one number starting from 1. How high can you go before you lose track? When you do lose track, start over and do the exercise a second time. Did you do better or worse the second time? Stop when you reach 100.
a.      Much better
b.      Better
c.      I got to 100 each time.
d.      Worse
e.      Much worse
f.        Much, much worse

* If you selected “g” for answers 1 and 2, you should probably see a doctor.

Thursday, December 2, 2010

Why do guys back away when I say I love them?

Lean in close for best results.
so i've been dating a man from the coast guard for a month. things were going well. until i told him i was in love with him and would like to be his gf. then he deleted me from his facebook and gchat!
he told me we were different and i wasn't his "type". although i will beg to differ that i'm no one's "type". haha, actually when i ignore men - or act like they don't matter much - this is when they seem to think i'm their "type". and this is when they i think i'm the hottest thing since [insert creative word here] or some bs.
so, in closing i told the coast guard that i have a problem over reacting, i get delusional (especially when i haven't eaten in 3 days), and emotional. and that i was sorry for being overly expressive. i guess the plan is to hang out in a month...? after things have cooled down... or is this lame? i seem to never learn my lesson - i'm too expressive. and i keep shooting myself in the foot.
happy times.
THEY THINK YOU'RE THE hottest thing since the last girl they thought that about. :)

It's natural for people to get excited about someone new, especially when they're really eager to be in a relationship. Their feelings kinda hijack their mind and they start thinking the person is just about perfect, or at least perfect for them, and they start getting clingy and say crazy ass shit like "I love you."

Take a second to reflect on your past relationships and you'll notice is that those feelings eventually fade. It might take a week, it might take a year, but when they do you realize you've basically been hallucinating. You realize that you've been more obsessed with your hopes and projections about who the person might be than who the person actually is. Suddenly you realize that this person does have flaws and isn't as perfect as you thought. You then decide if you want to stick it out or not. As far as I'm concerned, this is when the authentic relationship really begins. Or ends. Watch this scene from High Fidelity, because it illustrates what I'm saying perfectly and because Catherine Zeta Jones gets a much deserved pwning.

What's happening with you, I think, is that you're succumbing to that hallucination and confessing your feelings prematurely. That's a red flag for most guys because most guys don't like clinginess. Clinginess is interpreted as a sign of lacking value, since someone with plenty of value would have options and wouldn't be so eager to get into a relationship with us. It's like Woody Allen said: "I'd never belong to a club that would have me as a member." What we guys are looking for is balance. We want you to get close at the same time we start to get close, not before, not after. To us that says "I'm not desperate to get into a relationship, but I'm still interested in you. U WANT?"

I wouldn't suggest that you try and force yourself out of the hallucination (psychologists prefer the term positive illusion) because I think that's just a recipe for disaster. The hallucination is emotional and it just takes a while for those emotions to fade. What I would suggest, however, is that you keep this all in mind next time you want to confess your feelings. You can realize you're in the middle of one of these emotional trips and either laugh at it or just wait it out. You don't have to stop being nice or interested or even get the least bit uncomfortable. Just continue with getting to know the person and keep your feelings in perspective. When you sense the two of you are both getting closer, you can say something sweet like "I think I'm starting to hate you less."