Treading lightly the path to enlightenment.

Posts tagged ‘peace of mind’

Zen in our Techno-Monetary society

This journal entry was originally posted in 2012.

It seemed worth repeating.

 

Seek peace,

 

Paz

Sunset Moon

It wasn’t easy choosing a name for the blog Armchair Zen, though that’s how I’ve referred to my personal philosophy for some time. Names like “Zen in the modern world” and “Everyday Zen” and the like seemed to be taken. I guess everyone has the same idea.

Mostly the idea of ACZ is to share thoughts and philosophy with those that want to seek enlightenment, peace in their daily lives, harmony with the world, nature, the cosmos and life itself. It’s not about achieving perfection or some higher plane or a place in the next life or eternity. It’s about understanding our capabilities and limitations in this life, it’s about acceptance, understanding, compassion, forgiving and letting go.

As it says in About, these things are nothing new. Applying them to today’s world is not always that easy. We live in a world I term a Techno-Monetary society. We’re surrounded by wonderful technologies from life-saving medicine, global communications, electronic entertainment, space exploration and productivity greater than mankind has ever known, bolstered by the machines and artificial intelligences of our modern world.

In ancient times and old days, individuals and whole communities were isolated, and did not have the benefit of the vast volumes of knowledge mankind has compiled since. Their lives were filled with strife, at the mercy of the elements, filled with superstitions, fears, and lack of understanding of things that seem simple to us today. The sun, the solar system, what makes rain, thunder, tornadoes. They had more time, and perhaps a greater need, to seek peace within their lives.

We are also slaves to the monetary system. In all the developed countries (probably 90% of the globe), we need to work at something to earn money for rent, taxes, clothing, food, transportation, and the list goes on. This is really not new, nor does it strictly apply to developed countries or societies. Go back a couple thousand years and we find people did not live the simple agrarian lives we might imagine. Subsistence farmers & ranchers, mountain-men and even minimalist communities of today need to barter goods or trade cash for the things they can’t make. Cooking kettles, sewing needles, broadcloth, tack supplies, sugar, salt, bacon.

Finding our personal zen and peace within our lives seems like a considerable challenge after negotiating traffic, signing in at work, talking to customers, clients or co-workers that are not seeking enlightened ways, and any number of non-zen, non-nature, non-peace-encouraging things we must do.

Still, I find my ACZ to be pervasive. It hasn’t always been that way. I was “Two Jakes” for many years, seeking solace in nature and creative expression during my precious evenings and weekends, and turning off the peace machine when going to battle with the world. After some years of concentration, practice and informal self-cognitive behavioral therapy, the zen has spread to all hours of the day.

Nowadays there are few interactions with others wherein the conscious-competence of ACZ does not rule. Filter-monitoring, managing emotions & reactions, thinking forgiveness & acceptance, seeking to navigate all situations for the best outcome of all under the guidance of enlightened thought & behavior. Spread loving compassion by being loving and compassionate. Spread forgiveness and acceptance by being forgiving and accepting. Appreciate the beauty of the world around us by opening our eyes and minds and truly seeing. It’s not always easy, but it’s always simple!

That’s really all for this post. Perhaps it’s not a lot of meat, but an encouragement to those that may be seeking the path to peace. Sure, it takes a little time and concentration, but it can be done without extensive training or effort or money or social status or massive brain power.

You don’t have to be rich, you don’t have to be beautiful, you don’t have to be perfect. Everyone is welcome.

The cosmos, and I, love each and every thing without judgement.

That includes you!

Be at peace,

Paz

Constant of Joy

Sunset Moonrise

Someone asked about happiness.

“Can you be truly happy if you are alone?”

I replied as follows:

For me, there is peace. It’s not so much about happy or sad, really. Life is a long, long road for most, and it is bound to be pock-marked with tragedy, sadness, loss and boredom as well as elation, excitement, gains and triumphs.

Having come to understand my place in the cosmos, my perspective has become one of simple reality. Like so many other beings on this planet, my existence is but a flash in the context of the universe. This existence, by its very nature, will be visited by laughter, joy, pain and sorrow in varying measures, until my light goes out. It is the knowing that all things here are transient that brings peace. Cherish the highs and endure the lows, and it’s gone before we know it.

I feel I am never alone. Wherever I go the Great Cosmos is all around me. I am a part of it as a grain of sand is a part of the beach. I feel comforted, secure. In constant company. And it is this that brings me joy (happiness) always.

Any place, any time, the Cosmos assures me, “I’m right here.”

 

Seek peace,

 

Paz

The Wee Hours

Moonrise

Moonrise

Awake in the wee hours, the “middle” of the night.

The world feels quiet, sleeping, and close. The world seems smaller and more intimate. Or perhaps that’s just my world. Unencumbered by visitors and conversation, undisturbed by the constant chatter of the television.

Sassy June awakes, walks to the kitchen door with one eye open, as if to say “Time to get up?”.

Sleepless, I stare out the west window through the maple trees twice my age or more, and watch the stars. One disappeared, and I thought cloud cover must be blowing in. A few moments later, the star reappeared, and I realized I stared at it so long the planet moved beneath us. As our blue globe rotated, stars would vanish momentarily behind a branch, to pop up on the other side after a minute or two.

Standing beside the wood stove, I look out the south window. Across the road and down a hundred yards, small lights glow at Hillmeyer’s farmhouse. I can’t tell if they are porch lights or within the house. Light from my own kitchen window spills out onto the snow-covered ground beneath, illuminating an odd rectangle, stretched out of shape. A trapezoidal micro world that extends no more than five feet from me. I watch as the wind blows tiny things through the spotlight. Bits of autumn leaves, little crystals of snow, an occasional leaf of grass, dried and tan.

I consider the things I might do as long as I’m awake. Get out the easel and sort paints, maybe start a new canvas. Re-string fishing rods and ice-fishing tip-ups. Write a little.

I could post to the blog or read a few others, but the thought of the laptop and its noise, the light and the connectivity to the outside world seems offensive, intrusive.

I want to do nothing to fracture the fragile silence of this hour. Like sitting in church or attending a funeral, restful quiet is in order.

Winds blow.

Stars creep.

Man watches.

Before I know it, I am waking to the dawn in the chair beside the window.

February Dawn

February Dawn

Seek peace,

 

Paz

Island

 

On the move

On the move

A dog’s life and family are a strange thing.

Taken from their mother and siblings, and raised by a different species.

Humans have ring after ring of other humans around them. Offspring, relations, parents, family.

A dog is an island in a sea of humans.

For those who may be lost at sea, the island is hope, a respite, solid ground.

A salvation.

 

Seek peace,

 

Paz

The Circle Closes

I see the world, constantly in motion, as concentric and overlapping circles. The cycles of life, construction and decay, winters and summers, birth and death. By definition, a circle must be closed.

Anyone that has read a number of posts on Armchair Zen will know that my constant companion on my path to peace is my ever-present and loyal friend Chuy the Wonderdog.

It is with a heavy heart that I must inform you of Chuy’s passing. After 15 years, 6 months and 21.25 days, my dear furry friend has laid down his burden. Nothing can hurt him now.

Chuy The Wonderdog 2001 - 2016

Chuy The Wonderdog
2001 – 2016

 

Summers and winters, through sun and rain and snow, we shared our path. Countless silent hours immersed in one another’s company. Bonds and promises unspoken. No need to speak.

Many people mourning the loss of a dear animal friend will extol their virtues and claim they were the “best dog ever”. In Chuy’s case, it’s simply the truth. I have learned so much during our time together, and he influenced my thinking, my spirit, my soul.

I have had the privilege of canine companionship my entire life, and can attest to the fact that this was a very meaningful, very special friendship, the likes of which I have never known, nor am I likely to ever know again. It will be two weeks tomorrow since his death, and this is the first day I’ve made it through without tears for my sweet puppy. I had to wait to try to compose a blog post, as I knew my head would be clouded with emotions, fond memories, mourning and missing him.

It is he and our relationship that shaped the way I would navigate this, the final step in our journey. While my heart grieves for itself, my own selfish senses of loss and loneliness,  my spirit has taken flight, and soars among the clouds, among the heavens, with my little angel puppy.

Thoughts, feelings and words came streaming through my mind since the day he died. All of the lessons he has taught me, the gifts he has bestowed upon me. Our silent covenant that we would never think of this day, but live each day together cleaving to every moment. It is he that got me through my worst week in ten years.

Love is a miraculous thing, that fills a space that did not exist before it came. The space remains, filled with joy, even after our loved one leaves us. There are bonds that transcend space and time, and even life itself. My spirit will ever be shaped by him.

 

We cannot shield and protect our loved ones from The Big World.

We must teach them well.

On balance, life is a wondrous thing, liberty is priceless.

Love and joy, in the end, win out over pain and sorrow.

 

I leave you now with a lesson he has taught me. A quote from the book we wrote together. It’s titled:

“Woof” (Translation: Chow Zen)

All of my life I was told “Thunder can’t hurt you.”

That never stopped me from being terrified by it.

Spare people such senseless jabber.

Hold them, and tell them

“I’m right here.”.

It is truly the only solace you can provide.

– Chuy The Wonderdog

Sleep, Little One

Sleep, Little One

Be at peace, all you fragile hearts.

Love really does conquer all.

 

Paz

This Now

Now

Now

 

I don’t know why I love this Now, but I do, now.

Don’t know how to capture it, or why I should.

Is that not the essence of Now?

It cannot be preserved or lived over or in advance.

Now it is gone, and it is now.

 

Opening

Opening

I love this now because I can be me

or choose not to be me,

or, then again, have Not Me choose

to not be me.

 

This now has all of me,

The me I am

The me I want to be

The me I might wish I was

The me that will never be.

I love this now.

These “me”s.

 

Seek Peace,

 

Paz

 

Good Gift

A Gift For You

A Gift For You

I’m going to invent and implement a new casual salutation.

Instead of “good afternoon”, “good night”, “good evening” (and especially replacing :Have A Nice Day!”) I’m going to say “Good Gift!”.

Each day is a gift. A magic moment in time. Each a thing of singular beauty and a work of art. Each one a finite resource.

This is hardly a new concept. It goes back at least as far as Horace’s famous “Carpe Diem”, or “seize the day”.

Really there’s more to it than just “seizing the day”. Great advice, but this puts the onus on You. You are charged with the responsibility to grab the opportunity to DO. You are admonished to “quam minimum credulo postero”, don’t count on the future or wait ’til tomorrow.

“Good Gift” simply reminds you to enjoy this day, this gift. To appreciate its rarity. It’s not necessary to be super-productive, take advantage of every moment, put minimum credence in tomorrow or even live in the now moment.

Enjoying The Gift relies on simple awareness. It can be as little and basic as seeing the sunset, remarking the morning star, or breathing deep and marveling at the smell of snow in the air.

Here on the Armchair Zen Tick Ranch, it often means taking the time to take those long walks with our ever-present Wonderdog Chuy (as often as not followed by Doone the Cat, who may think she’s a dog). Perhaps we’ll shoot a few photos of the trail.

Trail Buddies

Trail Buddies

Sometime’s it’s just taking notice of the simple wonderous treasures we encounter in our everyday lives.

The taste of fresh morning coffee. The thrill and chill of frost on the windshield.

The morning show, as the sun climbs its way over the horizon. Sometimes muted, overcast and gray. Sometimes blazing red, with spires shooting skyward for miles. Sometimes cool, clear, bright and blue, perhaps a few glistening flakes of snow.

Sunrise

Sunrise

There’s a load of little faces peering out the windows of the bright yellow school bus. Some are excited to get to their first grade holiday party or work on their Science Fair project. Others, older kids, are lost in thought, preparing for or worrying about the big test of the day.

There’s a flock of geese flying parallel to the highway. We can clock their amazing airspeed: 55 miles an hour. We can wonder where they’ve come from, where they’re going. Perhaps Hudson Bay on Sunday, The St. Lawrence on Wednesday, fly over Engleville Friday on the way to the Chesapeake Bay and beyond to Mexico.

Snow Geese

Snow Geese

There are small triumphs: Making it to payday with the coin jar money. Not smoking cigarettes for another day. Not getting agitated by traffic. Remembering to value the gift. Updating my blog. Accepting whatever the day brings with an Armchair Zen calm. A small kindness, given or received.

There’s the Chipping Sparrow, a tiny delicate glimpse of nature’s beauty, hopping around the stack of skids and the dumpsters at work.

There’s the hole in the sky, bringing a bright yet brief spotlight of sun into the middle of a dull, overcast, gray day.

Hole In The Sky

Hole In The Sky

There’s the taste of lunch. A smile from a friend. A handshake hello or thank you. There’s the voice of your loved ones on the phone.

The chance to send a surprise gift to someone. Laughter.

Laughter

Laughter

Feeding the cat. Loading the woodstove. Dinner. My comfy chair. A warm home.

A place and time where I feel content and loved. A soft bed.

And before I know it, another Gift is done. Another wonderous day of seizing and seeing. Another one-of-a-kind work of art, the likes of which the world will never see again.

“Thanks for the great Gift!” we say to the cosmos. I lay me down to sleep with the excitedness of a child on Christmas Eve.

I can’t wait to open tomorrow’s gift!

 

Good Gift to all!

And for those following the Julian calendar, Happy New Year!

 

Paz

Love Is Forever

Wynonna Judd recorded a song in 1993 entitled “Only Love”. The lyrics refer to the flags flown on a ship’s mast, often called pennants, though historically, they’re called pennons. Flags indicate a ship’s activities, such as commissioning, religious services being conducted or inviting officers for drinks in the wardroom.

Out of all the flags I’ve flown,

one flies high and stands alone.

Only Love.”

As far as I can see, the lyrics continue, on this island of green, I can put my trust in just one thing.

Only love sails straight from the harbor.

Only love will lead us to the other shore.

These lyrics may have been written by an Armchair Zen Master, or perhaps they just sounded good and fit the meter. Somehow, it seems a deep level of philosophy is conveyed.

Peaceful waters, raging sea,

It’s all the same to me.

I can close my eyes and still be free.

When waves come crashing down, 

Thunder all around,

I can feel my feet on solid ground.

I like the metaphors of the boat, the sea, the threatening weather. In the first verse:

I’ve sailed a boat or two, on the wild blue.

Yonder do dreams rarely come true.

It’s not often you’ll hear poets come out and say that “dreams rarely come true”. But it’s truth.

How can love be forever, you may ask. Isn’t that one of the great heartbreaks of life, losing those we love?

Love is not something that comes and goes. We’re talking about real, honest-to-goodness love here, not infatuation, obsession, fascination. Love is kind of a magical thing, a wonderous thing. While other children don’t know me from Adam, might even be afraid of “the stranger”, my kids and grandkids love me deeply.

It’s a wonderful and predictable thing with babies. Being the grandfather, I could only see the babies intermittently. A holiday here, a visit there, an afternoon of babysitting. At first, baby sees me only as not-mommy-or-daddy, and that’s all that counts. Nothing but mommy and daddy will do for those first few months. Before too long, after witnessing the same wide grin and squeaky “It’s Pop Pop!” greeting, complete with hand gestures, baby begins to recognize me. Then, somewhere around the six month mark, suddenly baby remembers me! My ear-to-ear grin is met with a wiggling toothless smile, and we officially love one another.

Love is forever. It doesn’t die when those we love die.

I love my departed mother as much today as I did when I was a child. Perhaps not more than my younger self, but in a way deeper, broader. I know not only the rigors of raising children as she did, but by now appreciate the fashion in which we were raised. Safety and security, fun and wonder, guidance, support, laughter and hugs. Coursing along through my life I’ve had to come to recognize and appreciate the other aspects of adulthood which she navigated. Loss. Death. Insecurity. Divorce. Illness. Tragedy. Gone a decade now, I think of her as often as when she was living. At crossroads and challenges, I’ll often listen, trying to imagine the things she would say to me on the occasion. At times, she is still my mentor, as I ask myself “What would Marie do?”. She was absolutely decisive.

 

My Dad, Mom, sister & me. Circa 1966.

My Dad, Mom, sister & me.
Circa 1966.

 

My dear friend Richard died, just a couple of weeks ago. We met through work, lived our lives in parallel, raising kids, buying cars, high school graduations, weddings, grandchildren. We spent about seventeen years together, a better record than many marriages! We spent a lot of time together on the road. Shared some philosophies. We were sometimes mistaken for brothers.

Love is forever. It doesn’t die when those we love die.

My grandpa, the original Pop Pop (from whom I take the sobriquet), has been gone for more than twenty years. I never heard his voice raised. Never heard him utter a profanity. He was the gentlest and kindest, most patient person I’ve known throughout the course of my 56 years. With him, I felt secure and loved. My mother’s father, he was the next best thing to mom, almost equal in my book. I find I love him no less today than I did when he was with us on the planet.

Love is forever.

 

Pop Pop, Nana, my sister, and me. Circa 1970.

Pop Pop, Nana, my sister, and me. Circa 1970.

 

As the road behind me grows longer with each passing year, I’ve come to know the simple sense behind a life with an end. While there are babies born to bring me toothless smiles, and there are beautiful young people standing together promising love ’til death, while there are green springtimes, bright summers and glorious crystal winters to look forward to, there will also be sorrow. There will be loss and pain and hardships to witness, presuming life continues as it always has.

It’s comforting to have all that love stacked along the road. Up the hill or down the hill, I am bounded by those who love me on every side. My heart is filled with the love of all the dear ones I am now honored to see in the flesh, and also with the love of all those that have gone before me, to the resting place where dreams do come true. Love is something that comes out of nowhere and fills a space that didn’t exist. It’s free to give and never runs out.  Another song, Minutes to Memories, by John Mellencamp, puts it this way:

My family and friends are the best things I’ve known,

Through the eye of the needle, I’ll carry them home.

Love is forever.

 

And of all the flags I’ve flown,

One flies high and stands alone.

Only love.

 

Seek peace,

 

Paz

 

My Cosmos

The Corner Star

The Corner Star

When I take the time to remember that this is My Cosmos, relief washes over me.

The world of this creature on this green rock is downright bizarre compared to the consistent, predictable, unhurried pace of the universe.

No need to run to the Corner Star before it closes because it burns always, with enough fuel to run four billion more years or so.

By then, it’ll be of no concern to me or my kin.

In spite of the seemingly-fantastic speeds, vast expanses measured, unfathomable numbers expressed using the mechanical and mathematical terms of the species trapped on a single tiny planet, the cosmos will not be rushed.

You and I cannot compel it to finish the Quasar before our vacation. We can’t postpone or reschedule the meteor shower due to cloud cover over North America. We can’t call in and skip the crash of our galaxy into the next as we hurtle through space at six hundred kilometers per second on a collision course.

And so, with relief, I said aloud to the sky, “Well, this is My Cosmos. I’ll do whatever I want with it.” I may seize the day or let it pass. I can fritter away the minuscule ration of hours afforded me. Trapped here inside this mind, on this planet, in this wondrous thing called life and time, complete and total freedom awaits me.

“The world is your exercise book.” roughly paraphrasing Richard Bach in Illusions.

You’re free to write your reps, or write lies, or scribble, or tear out the pages.

Go ahead. It’s Your Cosmos.

 

Be at peace,

 

Paz

Lesson from a Pooka

In the movie Harvey, James Stewart tells an acquaintance “You can be ‘oh-so-smart’, or ‘oh-so-nice’. I choose ‘oh-so-nice’.”

It’s a great and simple lesson if you can hear it.

Think of the people you love and admire.

How many are “oh-so-nice”?

While we may admire many smart and successful people, when it comes to those we would want to spend time with, don’t we choose “nice”?

In Armchairzen world this means accepting others as they are.

Not being the person that has a comment or opinion or advice (unless you ask for it), but the person who sits and listens.

Not being the person that starts most sentences with “I, me or my”, but the person who talks about you and “us”.

Not being the person to ask “why?”, but being the person that says “why not?”.

In Stewart’s role as Elwood P. Dowd in the film Harvey, the Pooka is a 6-foot rabbit named Harvey, a sort of spirit companion, that only Stewart can see.

It never bothers him that others think he’s crazy. He knows he sees and speaks to Harvey, and easily understands and forgives others for not seeing him.

His sister, concerned for her brother’s mental health, is convinced to commit Elwood to a psychiatric hospital.

In this Pulitzer-winning drama by Mary Chase, when Elwood finds out that his committal is his sister’s desire, he readily submits, simply to please her.

Ultimately, Elwood’s sister realizes that his craziness is just the thing we need in this world. Not someone all wrapped up in themselves, their career, their success.

Without the Elwoods of the world, who would pursue beauty and kindness, forsaking selfishness, meanness and short-sightedness?

You must see the play or the movie sometime to experience the niceness of Elwood P. Dowd. It’s infectious.

Some of the best advice I’ve ever received in my life comes from a fictional character described as insane, talking to a six-foot invisible spirit rabbit.

Crazy or not, I  too choose “oh-so-nice”.

 

Elwood P. Dowd

Elwood P. Dowd

 

 

Be at peace,

 

Paz

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