Treading lightly the path to enlightenment.

Posts tagged ‘thinking’

What year is it?

Clocks and calendars. Measuring sticks.

Mechanical human creations. To “keep track” of time.

An attempt to force order on the universe’s chaos?



In the west, yesterday marked the first day of the new calendar year 2014.

Everyone that marches to this calendar perceives this as a new time period. A new beginning of a record of time.

Folks are filled with ideas for commitment to goals, they call them “New Year’s Resolutions”.

I find my resolutions to be no different than at any other time of the year.

Take time to wonder. Share blessings. See the beauty in all things.

Remember you are but a flash in the universe’s timeline. A tiny unseen spark on a tiny rock, one of trillions of rocks riding the invisible gravity train around a star.

You live in a galaxy hurtling through space at 600 kilometers per second, bound on a collision course with a neighboring galaxy. Every moment is good fortune!

In Armchair Zen world, the year has already started. It began with the solstice.

It began at the time the Earth stopped tilting her frozen North Pole away from the sun.

The subtle, imperceptible yet predictable pause in the rocking of the planet, as it begins the swing back toward summer solstice.

Prior to this, since the Julian June, days became shorter a couple minutes at a time.

Now the pendulum swings past center, and the arc rises.

The “new” year is the same as the “old” year as far as the universe is concerned.

If you had to put a number on it, it would really be something like 14,500,000,000.

No wait: for those super-ordered buffs, let’s say it’s 14,500,000,001.

I hear a giant mechanical gear in a giant mechanical clockpiece, creaking and grinding as it throws another lever and drops a number for another year.

Perhaps that’s someone’s order of the universe.

Mine is counted in heartbeats.



My heartbeat, slow & steady, as I rock my baby granddaughter. My wife’s, unsteady as a newborn foal, as she palpitates her way through another year.

Counted in breaths of air.

Cold air, warm air, dusty & dry, smelling like rain, smelling like snow, smelling the mud of spring, the fishes of summer, the crisp leaves of autumn.

October rain

October rain

Counted in silent moments of awe-inspiring beauty, in the unspoken communication of eyes meeting.

In the automatic and natural gesture of holding hands.

Counted in the rare moments that will never repeat.

A captivating sunset, prisms in the grass, rainbows, ice-off, the first freeze.


Bowmaker morning

Bowmaker morning

Each day brings a new start. Any given day could be numbered “ONE”, the first of 365.25 consecutive days that represent that measuring stick called a year.

Yes, every day is a new day. Every day is a new year’s day.

So whether you follow the sun, the moon, the stars or the Julian calendar, my wish for you is good fortune in great measure.

Oh yeah, and good luck with those resolutions.

Be at peace,


You times two

There are two of you within you.

There’s the you you know, the dialogue in your head, your conscious actions and feelings.

There’s a You 2, too. This is the you that’s living deep in that brain. An instinct you and subconscious you. This you helps you out by reminding your heart to keep pumping, reminding your diaphragm to expand and contract your lungs resulting in respiration.

You 2 tells you to run when you hear a very loud noise. Tells you to stay when you see the one you love. Tells you to salivate when you smell burgers cooking.

You 2 is the you that you don’t really control. You can train You 2 a little.  To recognize that a hummingbird’s buzz is not a giant wasp buzz.  To override fear in order to jump out of a perfectly good airplane if you skydive.

Most of what You 2 does is out of your control. Like the lessons on “Seeing” that which is not there. You 2 is very good at seeing what’s not there, hearing what’s not said, fearing what’s not happening, not fearing that which in fact IS happening. 

You can’t control You 2, but you can listen. When You 2 is scared, you can reassure. When You 2 calls out a warning, you can heed.

Just be careful when You 2 does what it does best, which is to make stuff up and predict the future based on experience.

Unless you’ve led a perfect life, You 2 is operating on imperfect information.

Be at peace, both of you.


Zen in our Techno-Monetary society

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,


Zen, me, posts, following and envy

I caught myself just now, having lost sight of my light, my zen.

I looked at another blog and was envious. The writer so prolific and skilled, 900 followers, comments and compliments enough to make one blush.  (Thomas Ross’s onlyhereonlynow, to be precise).

The thoughts crossed my mind, raced through before I could catch them like startled sheep gushing through the gap in the fence. The advice from WordPress about how to increase hits to my blog. My temptation to follow other blogs only for the selfish purpose of hoping others would see mine. (Okay, not so true. I follow blogs, presently a total of two to be honest, because I genuinely like the content or people, they seem to fit my Armchair Zen)

This is not about me. No, really. As sort of crazy and hypocritical as it seems with “I”, “me” and “mine” in the sentences.

The purpose of Armchair Zen, the blog, is to seek to help others to find the path. Not to erect a tollbooth at the entrance. Not to have followers, that may be lost on the trail without me, to boost my ego. Not for social contact.

In a strange way, not blogging, almost seems as if it should be the goal. How can I profess that others should disconnect from all the manufactured connectedness of our modern world, all the noise which fills our minds and distracts us from connecting with true self?

That’s why, in spite of advice that About should tell readers about ME, the About at this blogsite lists a number of tenets and goals of ACZ. That’s why, in spite of the fact that I own the domain, there is not a lot of effort put into exposing ACZ to “the world” or increasing readership and followship.

I like to perceive myself as akin to a lighthouse. For those that draw near I hope to show them some light so they may set their own course and avoid dashing themselves on the same rocks I have. Lighthouse does not leave the shore and go look for ships to warn.

A short look around this sparsely populated site and you will see there is no daily blog activity. Sometimes posts are one per month. One month I posted nothing at all. Sorry to tell you readers (if any), but there are things more important and pressing. I trust you guys are grownups and have no shortage of blogs to read, and can carry on without me.

When I do post something, I hope it is something of some value, however small, that holds true to the goal of helping others to seek the path, and is not something contrived, nor simply words to fill a page.


The trail beckons


Perhaps that flies in the face of conventional wisdom of the modern blogger.

Then again, the power of true Armchair Zen is not conventional. If it was, we’d all be using it and therefore ACZ would be pointless. While blogging is thoroughly modern, the wisdom of zen teachers and other sages is as old as language.

A very valuable and very few actual events and other forms of inspirations have lead me to the entrance of the path.

I’m not blazing a trail, not your wilderness guide, not the cartographer.

Just pointing out the trail marker signs.


Be at peace,



Carpe diem or crappy diem?

Summer morning

The rest of Horace’s famous quote is often overlooked by most folks. The whole phrase is “Carpe diem quam minimum credulo postero”.
Roughly translated, it means “Seize the day, don’t wait for tomorrow”, or perhaps “put minimum credence in tomorrow”. There are a number of slight variations. “Don’t put off to tomorrow what can be done today.” or even “Don’t do today what can be put off indefinitely!”.

Sometimes we can “seize the day”, embrace it, race headlong into it smiling ear-to-ear with vigor. Those are some of the greatest days, providing moments to remember, the high spots in our lives.

Other times, it seems we just can’t pull it together, or something slams our great day and tries to run it off the rails.

Two mantras I use for days that will not be seized:

“You can turn your day around!”

and conversely

“Know when to write off a day.”.

The first one is obvious. Some difficulty or semi-disaster doesn’t have to mean you spend the rest of the day in the doldrums. There are a variety of things you can do, from internal dialogue to acceptance. A change of venue. Plow forward in spite of trouble. Take a break, take a walk, take a breather, take the afternoon off. It’s a matter of keeping a positive attitude and doing something, whatever is within your bag of tricks, to break the chain of negativity, and let the rest of the day unfold on its own. Sometimes, a little stick-to-it-iveness is all it takes, and what seemed a bad day can turn out to be grand, or at least survivable.

The second one is of equal importance. Know when to write off a day. Sometimes, all the pushing of the proverbial rock up the hill just ends up with the rock rolling back over you. Repeatedly.

You woke up late on the one day of the week when you have a meeting at 8 and have to be on time. Then you go to make coffee and that’s when you remember you forgot to buy the coffee yesterday. Then you discover that your clothes don’t just need a fluff ‘n’fold, but somehow the dirty laundry bypassed the hamper and ended up in the clean basket. You go to brush your teeth and the hot water faucet comes off in your hand, so you go to brush your teeth in the kitchen only to discover the water heater has tripped a breaker, and the water is ice-cold.  You go out to your car to discover you left the door open and the seat has snow on it, and as you grumble and sit down with no coffee and cold teeth in your dirty pants on the seat full of snow you discover the dome light has been on all night and the battery is dead. You jump-start the car with the lawn tractor which you thankfully neglected to put in the barn before the snow flew, and slam the car in gear only to find you have a flat tire.

Know when to write off a day.

“Yeah,  Hi Kelly, I won’t be in today. Tell them I’ll phone into the meeting and attend on speakerphone.”

The rest of the day I set my sites on tomorrow. It’s one day out of the 28,000 I’m allotted. Let it go.

Well, maybe I’ll try fixing that faucet. What? I left my tools at work?

Back to bed.

Be at peace,


The quiet mind

Pine Point

The quiet mind is a peaceful place.

It’s easy to get your mind filled with noise, especially during the distractions of the day that occupy our senses.

Work, getting kids to school, balancing the checkbook, visiting the sick uncle.

It’s like your mind is a big factory, all the machines running, trucks driving in & out, people moving everywhere, the lunch whistle, the fire whistle.

Good to get away from it. Think “Not-Thinking”. Seek refuge whether in the woods, on the water, or within one’s own mind.

A little diddy about escaping the madness. You may note it’s a bit dated, from the 90’s. (Last century).

A Moment’s Peace


What I seek is solace, just a moment’s peace.

Need I sail to Aruba? Need I fly to Greece?

The home phone, car phone, answering machine,

Pager, email, voice mail…What does it all mean?


Does it mean I am IMPORTANT? Does it mean I “MUST BE REACHED!”?

If I cannot respond instantly, will some agreement be breached?

Will the U.N. go to war? Will the President sit & wait?

Will Saint Peter need to confirm with me before opening the gate?


I am going fishing now, with worms in a cup.

Don’t bother trying to call me.

The machine will pick up.

Happy Independence day tomorrow, for all you fellow Americans, and a belated Happy Independence day to all our Canadian neighbors to the north.

Take the time to make yourself independent from the noise of our modern world, the chatter and distraction, the hustle & bustle, the go-go-go that is most of our society.

Break yourself free from the TV and the phone and your laptop/tablet/mobile device/PDA, and all that constant manufactured connectivity.

Liberate your mind and soul to a natural state, whether it’s in the park, on the roof or in your head.

Take the time to let your mind clear, and engage in the simple wonderments of the world around us.

Connect with something real and infinitely more precious than all the rest.

Connect yourself with Real You.

Be at peace,


Day 19,359

Solstice Moon

The world recognizes yesterday as my birthday. The date on which I first breathed the air of this planet. I couldn’t help but think I am actually 3/4’s of a year older than that. My “creation date” would be around September.
What do you think the universe did to keep track of important events in the past?
How did the cosmos ever keep it all straight before humans came along and gave labels to everything, from the stars to the sea, and measured all activities in “moons”, with sundials, marking the dates of the seasons and solstices?
From here my life seems big.
Before long, in a cosmic sense, it will be as the flash of the death of a star or birth of a galaxy. As unremarkable as the events of a billion years ago.
It brings me such peace to know that all my “worries”, all my errors and shortcomings, don’t amount to a hill of beans in this crazy cosmos.

Be at peace.


Always and Forever

My Hero

This is the premise, the basic promise for long-term relationships, such as traditional marriages.

“Forever” is a solemn promise, and typical quotes from marriage ceremonies in this society include dedication to be true through “better and worse, richer and poorer, in sickness and in health”.

These are the big dramatic parts of a promise ceremony, yet at the outset of a young marriage they are more like a list of tests the wedded couple will face one day. The results will vary widely from couples that endure all unto their deaths, and other cases where the least bit of stress or inconvenience can lead to dissolution of the bond.

“Forever” is the most important aspect of this promise, and that only becomes truly understood as one draws nearer to the “end of Forever”, our mortal life. It’s a lofty goal when one is young, but as one ages it becomes a foundation, something to be relied upon without question or doubt.

When we really begin looking down the barrel of aging, life’s trials, the events that befall us, we reach for the assurance that the promise of “Forever” will be kept.

When we lose a good job or position, regardless of the reason. When we lose our teeth and are fitted with dentures. When we are stricken with the debts of our years and become weakened, even hobbled, by the diseases and conditions of our bodies.

Are you really going to stick by me when I lose use of a leg? When my speech becomes impaired? How about if my brain is stricken, and I become, essentially, a different person than the one you made that promise to? Perhaps there’s a tipping point…15 years, 20 years, 30…40, when one no longer doubts the promise. Perhaps for some there is never any doubt.

Perhaps for others, the doubt is never fully quelled. Perhaps for some, they stick with it simply because of the promise. That’s “Forever” in a nutshell.

“Always” is the hard part. Always means ALL ways, ALL the time. To love someone “Forever and Always” means every day, through everyday trials and tribulations, through the ordinary and extraordinary millions of hours that will comprise our lives together.

Not only when you’re sick with the flu, but when you’re sick from drinking Pepsi & vodka.

Not just when you’re down because your dog died, but when you are unreachable and inconsolable over much greater loss.

When you’re smiling and complimenting me, as well as when you are angry and vilifying me.

When you’re all dressed up and smelling like a rose as well as when you’ve been through the wringer and smell like…what is that awful smell?

“Always” is the day you got the big raise, the day you bought a boat without even asking me, and the day your company moved to Guam and kicked you (and our finances) to the curb.

“Always” includes that touching, perfect gift only you could bring, and then again the time you showed up empty-handed on our anniversary.

Stress is relative, and young relationships are more prone to stress from short-sighted goals and egocentricity. My time for my buddies, the things you did before we were married, the friend who has been with you since first grade and thinks he can still be your fishing pal. The amount of time you spend with me, the number of things you do that rub me the wrong way, your attitude toward this big decision, this giant step, and whether you’re serious about “Forever”.

Even the Zen Master can find it difficult, while maintaining a solid commitment to “Forever”, to navigate the pop-up skirmishes of our “Always”.

Next time you get to an “Always” you think you need to address, just try to remember what’s in the best interest of “Forever”.

You can “always” say something, but do you want it to be on record “forever”?

Be at peace,


I just don’t want to argue with you any more

Into the fray

Please show me the way to make peace with your heart.

How do I stop this thing? How do I don’t let it start?

How do I know what to say? How do I know what I said?

When do I shut my mouth and keep it all in my head?

I just don’t want to argue with you any more.

I just don’t want to quarrel with you any more.

I just don’t want to fight with you any more.

I just don’t want to argue with you any more.

Can’t see my light, can’t plot a course.

Can’t navigate through the regret and remorse.

I’m trying to rise to find a better way

but it all gets entangled in all that we say.

What if I don’t argue about it any more?

Chilled to the bone, burned from the heat.

Cold as a stone, I’m dead on my feet.

Do I laugh like a fool? Do I break down and cry?

Do I fall to my knees? Do I lay down and die?

I’m just not going to argue with you any more.

Just not going to quarrel with you any more.

No, I’m not going to fight with you any more.

I’m just not going to argue about it any more.

Just not going to argue with you any more.

I just don’t want to argue with you any more.


Ah, my heart aches for

days gone by.

When thoughts raced past me

like rabbits in headlights,

and I was

young and timeless.

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