…Through the virtue of training, Enlighten both body and soul — Morihei Sensei

Archive for October, 2011

Most over-used words on the Net

Mystic, Zen, and Warrior are (IMHO) the most over-used words on the net.   These are the words, which if used in a keyword search, will most likely not turn up results related to Mysticism, Zen Buddhism, or any serious warriors.

Don’t believe me?  Do a key-word search on Twitter for any of the above, and see what turns up.

Just for kicks, here are the links in real-time–Tell me what percentage you come up with that are actually relevant:

These are just personal pet peeves of mine because they related directly to my primary areas of interest.   Are there other words you find used utterly wrong in common parlance.


Same Coin

Found this one on “Wise Guys and Renegades”

virtually naked woman and virtually completely coverd woman different sides of same coin of male exploitation

Habits: Stalking negative emotions

My favorite book on dealing with negative emotions is a compilation of meditations by Thich Nhat Hanh, Taming the Tiger Within:  Meditations on Transforming Difficult Emotions (2004).  He has several themes dealing with negative emotions.  He continually recommends honesty and openness with your loved ones about how your feeling.  (study indicating that this is a physically healthy practice).  He also recommends being gentle with one self.   He recommends reminding yourself, and meditating on, the things that make you happy.  Much of his recommendations fall under the practice of Stalking.  The practice that I touch on below is a first step in the process of Stalking.

“It is very helpful to see yourself in moments when you are angry.  It is a bell of mindfulness.” ~ p. 27

“One of the main causes of our suffering is the seed of anger inside of us.”  ~  p. 5

Notice that each of the above quotes asks us to step outside of our heads and observe (in this case our anger), our difficult emotions.  This stepping outside of our selves is a critical step in the process of Stalking, because in doing so we create some space, however momentary, between our emotion and any subsequent reactions or impulses we display when we feel this anger.

Thich Nhat Hanh doesn’t say that negative emotions are habits, but I contend that if not the emotion, then our subsequent expression and behavior is.  Further, I contend that much of our subsequent reactions are inhibitors in our life.

If we hope to restructure our reactions and impulses away from regrettable behaviors, the space Thich Nhat Hanh points to is necessary to be able to later reconstruct events and discover the lynch-pin behaviors.

Remember, typically in a habitual sequence of behaviors, there will typically be a point where we shift from mindful to auto pilot.  I discuss this sequence in my earlier post.  After an argument, or a rough weekend, or some other set  of negative emotions, once the sting has subsided, it is important to retrace events in our mind and find the one behavior or reaction which if we didn’t do, could have turned the tide.  Or once we did do, things went down hill.

A couple of weeks ago I had an especially hard day.  In looking back I can see that I had several opportunities to meditate and organize my thoughts and game plan, but I always felt rushed and put the planning off.  Had I taken five or ten minutes to make a couple of lists, when the crisis of that day peaked, I could have fallen back on those lists.  Going forward I have resolved to remind myself to set down and scratch out a couple of lists when the though occurs, and not put it off.  Since that weekend, I have had one such opportunity, and I didn’t make great lists, or give myself quite enough time, but I was able to better organize my thoughts, and operate with a better game plan.  Things still didn’t work out as well as they would have if I had focused more, but not as bad as they would have had I only the seat of my pants to work with.

Similarly with anger.  I have had a couple of chances to practice creating some space, and interrupting my impulse to escalate arguments, even when clearly invited to do so by my fellow antagonist.  This issue of escalation is interesting.  Often, in an argument, our fellow antagonist is more comfortable with an all out irrational confrontation instead of calmly addressing the points actually on the table.  We must be careful of this desire, and resist the temptation to bait people into it, and to take the bait when so deliciously offered. Some space and observation is required to see the bait coming and to resist taking it (or resist throwing it out there).

There are several specific techniques we can use to build more productive habits surrounding negative emotions.

  • cognitive restructuring
  • logic
  • humor
  • communication
  • avoidance
  • timing

I will not go into detail here.  It is most important to first practice being the observer to our emotional expression and reaction.  This simple (not easy) act of creating space and observing will often point the way to what action we can take next.



Your comments are welcome below. . .

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Awesome images: Gregory Colbert

I saw this post on Gregory Colbert today.  Colbert’s photography work is amazing, visit his site and photography: Ashes & Snow.

Read the whole post

image of girl dancing and releasing a hawk in flight

Gregory Colbert image -- http://ashesandsnow.com

Real tax burden

My bottom line on taxes is that we pay an exhorbitant amount of income tax from our paychecks here in the United States.  In fact, we pay one of the highest percentages of taxes in the world.  This is particularly so when you compare the political-economic structure of the countries whose percentages exceed ours, and layer on the fact they all have some sort of universal healthcare (read: tax-funded).  Specifically, these countries (largely) are openly socialist-influenced, and (largely) have single-payer tax-funded healthcare.

I maintain that the United States economic system has not been Capitialistic for a very long time (if ever).  This may sound extreme, but if our tax system is any indication, we are a long ways toward Socialist.  Here are the numbers:

We’re all in the 40% tax bracket.  An analysis of income tax brackets, including federal, state, payroll taxes, and deductions puts the average tax payer paying 40% of their income in taxes (pre take home).

We pay another 22% surcharge on what’s left.  Most first-world countries openly levy a VAT (value-added tax) on their citizens.  We don’t call it that, but we levy several layers of sales taxes on our citizens:  State sales taxes, consumption taxes (gasoline, tobacco, airlines, etc), highway tolls.  Additionally, the products we buy are produced by companies that pay these same consumption taxes (I’m not even talking about business income taxes).  These companies pass these taxes along to us in the price of the goods they sell.  Add it all up and find we pay 22% in these embedded taxes–this on after-tax income.

Wait, there’s more. . .We pay for our own healthcare.  Depending on your exact healthcare situation, employer paid benefit, self-insured, medical savings plan, traditional 80/20 health insurance, your actual annual cost will vary.  But when comparing national tax percentages, this must be accounted for as many (most) first world countries pay for their citizens’ healthcare from the taxes their citizens pay.  If we take the lower costs from employer-paid plans (remember this is money paid on your behalf by the company) we have average annual costs of $14,202 (premium, deductible, and other out-of-pockets) per family. (The Hidden costs of Health care)   The costs are even higher for smaller firms, and individually purchased plans.   This does not account for the medical cost (or lack thereof) for the uninsured, but at what cost and what risk?  There would be a good analysis:  The long term cost of foregoing medical treatment in terms of life expectancy versus the risk of financial ruin in the face of a catastrophic medical event.

Let’s run the numbers.  If we look at a family household income of $100,00 (not unreasonable ), and then an individual earning $45,000.

A family income ostensibly of $100,000. 

  • Take homepay (less 40%) $60,000.
  • Less Healthcare costs (the conservative numbers, and assuming a tax-deductible threshold) $45798.
  • Then the embedded taxes on after-tax income (money we use to buy stuff)
  • $35,722 left.
  • Real Tax Rate:  64.28%.

For an individual earning $45,000:

  • Less 40%:     $27,000
  • Less healthcare ($6191):     $20,809
  • Less embedded taxes:     $16,231
  • Real Tax Rate:     63.93%

Note:  Neither of these calculations account for the several other taxes and tax-like costs we incur:  e.g., ad valorem taxes, property taxes, public utility fees, universal coverage fees (i.e., in your phone & utility bills)

Discussions regarding what we actually pay in taxes in the United States are patently deceiving.  The tax code is so skewed.  The sheer number of different types of taxes we pay is staggering.  The different metrics we can use to describe taxes is mesmerizing.  Every one seems to be able to arrive at the conclusion they want through selective attention and willful ignorance.

Resources:  Some of these conclusions support mine, some don’t.  But none synthesize all the analyses which I’ve included above:


Please comment below.  What’s your take on this?

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The game is just a game

We had a rough game last weekend. I was reeling as the game progressed. I looked at my bench and struggled to find the right combination of subs to stop the bleeding. The second half was better than the first, but it was still rough.

After the game, I scoured my mind for two days, searching for the answer, the key, the one thing that would have turned the tide. I discovered that the entire day had conspired against me. My own mind had failed. I was disorganized, and it spilled over into our warmups. My girls were spaced out and distracted. The practices that week going in were riddled with issues. It was a triple witching situation. A perfect storm. I took it personal terribly.

But today, looking back and planning ahead, I’m beginning to see it was a game. It was not a personal failure. It was not a commentary on the entire season. It was not a sign of our wrong direction. What it was, was a game where unpredictable things happened, and discordant events came together and resulted in a particular outcome. That’s a big reason we play sports–to learn to adjust to unpredictable, and consequently, sometimes undesirable outcomes. It was just a game.

Sometimes the game is just a game.


— Old 454

Comment are welcome, as always.

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Hard Days

Hard days, are . . . well–Hard.  By extension they are generally unpleasant.  By extension we generally try to avoid them.  The irony is that these are the days we can grow from.  That make us better.  That make more Hard Days less likely.  By extension we should actually seek out more Hard Days.

This is a major principle in training, particularly when it comes to endurance sports.  But this is true to all aspects of our lives.  Hard Days give plenty of fodder to analyze our stalking (the process where we monitor our own behavior, step by step, from a detached point of view).  Stalking is a key activity in growth because it provides the vision to see, in this case, the small things that made the day hard, and which can be changed.

The principle in stalking is to detachedly dissect our internal reactions, and find the key reactions that a particular sequence of behaviors pivoted on.  Sometimes, these reactions and choices were several days before the experience of hardship.

Stalking can be applied to Easy Days or Successful Days as well, except we are usually not motivated to dissect and change these outcomes as much.

Hard Days are uncomfortable, unpleasant, painful, agonizing, miserable–take your pick.  The trigger our inherited survival avoidance mechanisms.  And they need to be absolutely sought out.

-Old 454

Please feel free to comment below.

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