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

mystic

I Don’t Believe in Happiness.

The current Happiness meme is bullshit.

The commentary is that you are on this earth to be happy.  That you should only be doing what makes you happy.

“Follow your heart.”

This sounds nice and would be nice, if it were true.  Truth is that humans are not the only inhabitants of this planet, and most inhabitants of this planet put forth massive amounts of effort to survive.  To wake up the next morning.

Why then are we so special, that we should be put here for the sole purpose of being happy?  What makes humans so unique in this respect?

Granted, for many of us, certainly most in the United States, life doesn’t require the amount of effort that it once did.  However, that does not confer any special meaning in itself.  No more than your pet dog’s life being super easy compared to a wild wolf’s, confers any special meaning.

Additionally, how does the current Happiness ethos inform people in this world dealing with real struggle and suffering?  How does it impact the real injustices, even right here in the United States?  What does it say to someone with real horrors in their life, to say that Happiness is the standard of success.

Similarly, it seems convenient that the people who control things in this world, seem to be in pursuit of other things, largely by selling us Happiness.

Happiness has been commoditized, packaged, branded, and marketed to us as some sort of special ethos. Something that, the pursuit of, places the pursuer on a higher spiritual, ethical.  And, conversely, if you’re not happy, you fail.

I, myself, could care less about my personal happiness.  Take it or leave it.  I don’t want my life force, and my time in this life to be spent on self-gratification.  That is not growth.  That is not progress. Nothing grows without struggle and effort.  Muscles don’t. Trees don’t.  Babies don’t. Families don’t.  Cultures don’t.

Additionally, the converse is also true, lack of effort leads to atrophy, decay and death.  Civilizations die. Muscles die. Thus, Happiness, as it is popularly conceptualized is a fairly risky state.

I do believe in Goodness.  I would want my struggle and suffering in this life to lend some measure of increase to the Goodness in this world.

That would make me Happy.

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A Lot of Karma

I feel like I must have a lot of Karma to burn through.

Must have really racked up some debt in past lives.

Or, this just is the wrong era for me.

Maybe both.


Back in Stride Again

Stream of consciousness. . .

It is 2105, and I am back in the saddle again.  Not yet literally. The amount of energy I had put into ramping up for Ironman was quite remarkable, in hindsight.  Only in retrospect can I objectively see how much energy preparing for and executing that race required.   Just a few days after the race, I was T-Boned in a car accident.  And then my work (that thing I do to eat, pay the mortgage) got very crazy.  Subsequently, my blogging, and social networking in general has really suffered.  In the vein of New Year’s resolutions, I will be devoting more effort to my online activities.  I have some blog ideas that have been back-burnered for some time.

It all works for good.  I’ve been in the gym getting strong.  I am the strongest I’ve been in my life.  Though, my cardio endurance has certainly suffered, my physical resilience has multiplied.

Topical Preview for 2015

. . . Still in stream of consciousness mode. . .

Politically, I have grown more cynical and suspicious as I see the news media and national politicians directing our focus towards distracting events, and spinning even those with thinly-veiled and misleading (at best) narratives.

My spiritual focus has been more on the mundane, than the philosophical.  I continue to prioritize practice over philosophy.  Though, I have worked to put a definition on my practice.  In the past, I’ve argued that this is a gratuitous endeavor.  Nonetheless, I have found it instructive, especially in exposing certain emotional attachments I still have to my past practices, despite the fact it no longer serves.

Certain business challenges have brought me into contact with an entire class of people whom I thought I knew, but as it turns out, really didn’t.  I knew intellectually, but didn’t really know in a tangible way, the extent to which education, or the lack thereof, acts effectively like a learning disability.  The post-Great-Recession labor market environment has left some very large holes in the labor market for my very hands-on, mud and dirt business.  In recruiting to fill these holes, I have been introduced in a new way to an entire segment of our society (a significant segment), that I had not fully understood.

In fact, in this post-Great-Recession environment, I have come to a whole new understanding of the future economic prospects, investing, effects of currency manipulations, business direction.  I have always argued that our consumer/debt based economy had a certain cannibalistic tinge to it, and that wealth and prosperity required actual production.  I feel that it may be more sinister than that.

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At any rate, it’s good to be back.  Talk to you soon.

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— Old454


Training the Vehicle

In the gym lifting yesterday, I had an epiphany.  An article tweeted by @EastTriFitCrew drew the analogy of  your body as a vehicle you train and prep for race day–a vehicle that it is then up to you the driver to drive for the race.  I found this analogy striking at the moment, a great distinction between your body, training, and your self who must actually execute on race day, mechanical malfunctions, inadequacies and all.  It is similar, but not exactly, like the guy with the $5000 bike, the bike alone won’t make him go fast.  (I also appreciate the role of the self as the observer)

However, in the gym yesterday, it occurred that this analogy can be extended further, and more meaningfully to Practice and life in general.  We practice for what purpose?  It is not an end in itself.  Nor is it for the purpose of the real side benefits–reduced heart rate, longevity, improved health, better focus–but to prepare ourselves to navigate this life, many of whom’s ultimate goal is to not rinse-and-repeat next life, but ultimate freedom from Samsara.

Practice that only aims for the side benefits, falls far short.  Yoga, zazen, tai chi–whatever your practice, there are many side benefits (so readily marketed to us now), but what is the point if you don’t then use that improved vehicle to navigate this life.

You are the driver.  Your body is a shell.  You will eventually shed your body, your mind even.  Until then, to what use will you put them?

Training is my Practice.  It is what actually keeps me functional in this life.  For me the vehicle and driver analogy is perfect.  My truck with 316,000 miles on it–I do the maintenance so it will remain functional, and continue to help me navigate around town.  I don’t do the maintenance just so it will look nice, or people will think it is cool (though some actually do think it’s cool).  I practice so my mind and body will remain functional (sometimes even at peak performance), and I can use them to help me navigate this universe.


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Chief Tecumseh: Words of Wisdom

“So live your life that the fear of death can never enter your heart. Trouble no one about their religion; respect others in their view, and demand that they respect yours. Love your life, perfect your life, beautify all things in your life. Seek to make your life long and its purpose in the service of your people. Prepare a noble death song for the day when you go over the great divide.

Always give a word or a sign of salute when meeting or passing a friend, even a stranger, when in a lonely place. Show respect to all people and grovel to none.

When you arise in the morning give thanks for the food and for the joy of living. If you see no reason for giving thanks, the fault lies only in yourself. Abuse no one and no thing, for abuse turns the wise ones to fools and robs the spirit of its vision.

When it comes your time to die, be not like those whose hearts are filled with the fear of death, so that when their time comes they weep and pray for a little more time to live their lives over again in a different way. Sing your death song and die like a hero going home.”

~ Chief Tecumseh

I simply present the warrior’s words here.  They speak more eloquently for themselves than any commentary I may have in my mind.

http://www.wisdomcommons.org/wisbits/662-chief-tecumseh-s-words-of-wisdom

Additional Chief Tecumseh quotes

 

This poem was quoted, quite appropriately in the 2012 movie Act of Valor.

The abridged version presented in the movie:

“So live your life that the fear of death can never enter your heart. Trouble no one about their religion; respect others in their view, and demand that they respect yours. Love your life, perfect your life, beautify all things in your life. Seek to make your life long and its purpose in the service of your people.

When it comes your time to die, be not like those whose hearts are filled with the fear of death, so that when their time comes they weep and pray for a little more time to live their lives over again in a different way. Sing your death song and die like a hero going home.”

~ Tecumseh


On Missing Training Days

This week we had a birthday celebration, one day for family, one day for friends, and two days on the road for college visits.  The resultant effect:   I missed two whole days of training, and had three highly modified days.  Missed training days are extremely bothersome to me.  I obsess over how to adjust my schedule, and how to make up for the losses.   Truthfully, I probably needed an unload week.

All of which underscored the extent of my attachment to training and things training-related  (e.g., logs, nutrition protocols, gear improvements, results).  If Training is a Practice (as it is for me), then one very insidious, and deceptive attachment is to the Training itself.

Coaches generally advise viewing missed training days as needed recovery.  I try to get in every session I can, knowing I will miss some, and then those become recovery days, instead of lost progress.  But that is all very intellectual.   On a gut level, the missed days still feel like loss.

This feeling of loss gives us an opportunity to deepen our practice by reflecting on the nature of our attachment to training.  If Training is a Practice, then it is not the goal.  Only the goal is the goal.  (Goals and Zen have their own ironic relationship.)  Practice is a vehicle we use along the Road.  Or as Suzuki mentions in Beginners Mind, it is the boat we use to cross a stream that crosses the Way.  In this light Practice is further removed–not even the Road to the Goal.

I have no answer here, nor any real conclusions.  Only that it is an interesting phenomenon.  An experience I am thankful for, as it helps peel back another layer, another curtain between me and Reality.

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— Jalal

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