Monday, January 24, 2011

Motivation, Values, and Priorities: Where do they come from?

I belong to a group that meets monthly to discuss social justice and religion. At the last meeting, one of the facilitators posed a question: "what in our religion instructs us to pursue social justice?"

The question immediately made me uncomfortable. For one thing, I tend to distrust any religion that tells me what to think or do absent a robustly convincing explanation. Second, I'm stubborn and I always have been. I don't like being forced to do things. I like to do them on my own. Third, in my experience, forcing yourself to feel or believe or be motivated to pursue something is a recipe for disaster. It's a way in which we promote inner-conflict, viewing our experience as something unacceptable or defective and in need of some type of repair. In this case, being unmotivated is seen as incorrect, and we have to force ourselves to care about something. It's not only hurtful, it's unsustainable. That motivation disappears pretty quickly.

My approach, and I hesitate to call it "mine" because it suggests I created it, which I most certainly did not, is to listen and relax rather than fight and force. I trust that values, purpose, inspiration, and generally goodnesss are already within us. We don't need to force them, and we don't need to create them, and we don't need to rationalize their importance. We need to discover them all by suspending our thinking that's driving towards something. Clarity, understanding, peace, pleasure, safety...these are some of the main themes of thinking. Collectively, we can call it progress. Your thinking is always trying driven towards some notion of progress.

Meditation, to me, is suspending those needs, or rather challenging them. Saying "whatever this is, it's fine right now." At first it's always weird. Your mind is still struggling to be in control and it tries to make you panic into more thinking. Is this right? This can't be right. This seems weird. But it is right, and if you keep looking at whatever's happening right now, without any need to modify or enhance or hold on it (all notions of progress), the thinking quiets down on its own and all the goodness starts to shine.

Wednesday, January 19, 2011

Conflict and Manipulation

When I look at people on the web, in the law, and in politics, I see the same pattern of twisting statements to turn the arguer into the entitled victim and his opponent into the aggressor. It drives me crazy because I identify it as a form of dishonesty that complicates the world and really creates so much chaos and conflict. It's not the same as arguing and stating positions and backing them up. It's something else, and it really fascinates me.

It's related to anger for sure, and my guess is a lack of empathy or being able to regulate one's self-connection and level of self-intimacy. The interesting thing is how people praise it as if it's a skill that should be cultivated and cherished when in my opinion, it's pure evil masquerading as intelligence. It's a drive to conquer and shame. We need better words for this stuff.

There's a story in the Lieh Tzu (Taoist book):

Teng-Hsi was a prominent official in teh state of Cheng who delighted in finding fault with others and playing the devil's advocate. He loved to make ambiguous statement that stirred up conflict and contention among the government administrators.
Tzu-ch'an was a minister who ruled Chend with an iron fist. Concerned with the rise of criminal activities in the state Tzu-chu'an adopted a code of regulations that called for stricted enforcement of law and order. Administrators and citizens all welcomed this new legislation, except for Teng-hsi, who criticized Tzu-ch'an and his new code of law. This made Tzu-ch'an extremely angry. Not only was Teng-hsi criticizing him, but, as usual, Teng-hsi's assertions stirred up arguments and conflict in the higher levels of the government. Soon, the government officials were divided into two camps: those who supported Tzu-ch'an and those who agreed with Teng-hsi.
One day, without warning, Tzu-ch'an has Teng-hsi arrested and executed. (Holy shit.)
Did Tzu-ch'an have to kill Teng-hsi? Had Teng-hsi really committed such a serious crime to deserve to be executed? Under the circumstances, Tzu-ch'an had no other choice because he knew how dangerous a disrupting influence could be for a country that was always threatened by invasion and plagued by internal disorder. On the other hand, knowing Tzu-ch'an's unbending iron rule, why did Teng-hsi play the devil's advocate and invite trouble for himself? We can also say that Teng-hsi had no choice because it was natural for him to criticize everything under the sun. Thus, it was not Tzu-ch'an's doing that killed Teng-hsi, not did Teng-hsi bring death upon himself. Things could not have happened otherwise given the circumstances and given the natural dispositions of the two men.
In the natural order of things, life and death are not something we can control. It is a blessing to be able to live and die at the right time. To live when it is not appropriate to live and to die when it is not time to die is punishment. Similarly, not to be able to live when you should live and not to be able to die when you should die is suffering. But whether we live and die at the right time is not something we can control. Rather, it is something that happens in the context of and as a consequence of many other events. (Remind me of Salinger's short story Teddy)
The ancients say that the ways in which things happen are limitless and unknowable. Following the laws of transformation in heaven and earth, boundless and unceasing, the cycles of change come about by themselves. Heaven and earth (goddamn this is getting weird and long...that's what sh) and all things cannot go against this natural order. The wisdom of the sages cannot modify it and demons cannot escape it. All things come and go without the need of a creator or mover to make them happen. Silently their presence is recognized, harmoniously their existence is accepted, and peacefully their departure is acknowledged.

Jesus effin' Christ that was long. I didn't reproduce that because it supported my argument. It's what made me tune in more carefully to that, oh fuck, energy. I should punish myself right now for saying that word. Whatevs. Thanks for reading.

Monday, January 17, 2011

How do I beat self-sabotage?

No one likes being humiliated.
Dear Edahn, 
Are you bored? Sometimes I feel like I'm pushing off life and responsibilities. I work small temp jobs here and there, but nothing substantial. I think I'm afraid of failure sometimes. I used to see a therapist who said I was putting stumbling blocks in front of myself. Anyway, wanted to get your opinion and see if you had any advice for me!
I'M ACTUALLY SO FAMILIAR with self-sabotage, I thought maybe you were my brother writing in to make me question myself and my direction. Haha, isn't that so funny, ha ha ha ha ha. deadpan

Let's assume you're self-sabotaging. You're so afraid of being humiliated once people expect something out of you, that you're doing everything you can to avoid expectations by choosing inferior jobs, inferior partners, and maybe inferior friends.

Something inside you knows that this isn't right, for whatever reason. It doesn't matter. It also doesn't matter why you're sabotaging yourself. Yeah, it'd be nice to try and figure it all out and make a bunch of interesting connections between your current sabotaging and your past, but let's be honest: that can take a long ass time and you can use it as another way to procrastinate, thereby further sabotaging your future. 

Fuck that.

You've got to forget about your fears and thoughts and just start doing stuff. Put yourself in tough situations that offer decent payouts. Are you gonna be comfortable? No. Are you gonna want to escape? Yes. Are you going to question your abilities? Yes. That shit isn't under your control. The most you can do is ignore all that talk until you build up the familiarity necessary to get comfortable. You don't need any trick to do that, you just need to use your head and be slightly smart. You can do that, and you'll be surprised to find out that most working people are far less intelligent than you are. It's also okay to learn and improve as you work. You're not expected to be perfect.

Honestly, at this point, you don't need to know exactly where you're going with your life, you just have to pick something that doesn't make you a total fucking asshole. (So basically, don't work for FOX News and you're golden.) If you want to dig a little deeper, read this, and this, and then read the rest of my blog too. :-P But if notice yourself veering back into the self-sabotage stupor, just pick something decent and roll with it. 

Please feel free to leave a comment with follow up questions or whatever and please pimp me out to your friend(s). Thanks sexy readers. Twitter:

Wednesday, January 12, 2011

My grabby friend

Sneaky guy!
Dear Edahn,
I have a friend whom I love very much. Since she became single, we've been spending much of our free time together. I am beginning to fear that she is becoming a little too attached to me. My fear is that I know life always changes and evolves. I am scared that once there is a blip on the radar she is going to fall apart. I've always maintained that living in the moment is important and to understand that change is inevitable. 
When I try to talk to her about what she sees happening in the future, she changes the subject. It's like she just wants everything to be the same all the time. She's also unhappy in her job and in her living situation. How do you think is the best way to get her to understand that she needs to accept change and also to change the things that make her unhappy in her life?
THERE'S ALWAYS A BEAUTIFUL solution to every conflict and problem in life. The beauty comes internally, from you. All things beautiful have the same thing in common -- they're created by or create a feeling of sincerity, patience, and open-heartedness. That's really the same feeling described in different ways. If you try too hard to summon that outlook, you'll almost definitely fail, but that's okay because when you give up and just wait, that outlook will develop on its own. That outlook happens to be enlightenment as far as I'm concerned. Nothing less.

Take a minute and reflect on these questions: if I was sincere, patient, and open-hearted, but not in a way that I sacrificed myself or my composure, what would I look like? How would I walk and interact with this person? You don't have to know what you'd say or do to fix this problem. Just imagining what it would look like will help get you there.You'll either know what to do or wait until the right move becomes clear. If nothing ever comes, that means waiting was the right solution.

Thanks for being a good person! Edahn approves.