Wanting to Live

A strange new thought occurred to me today. A thought which I believe was the result of spiritual work.

I was on my 30 minute meal break at Starbucks. I was walking to my car to sit and eat. This thought passed through my mind, \”I want to relish every minute that I am at Starbucks, not wish that it was over soon.\” Wow, it was a thought easily expanded to my whole attitude and outlook on life and how my view seems to have transformed.

See, for most of my life, I wondered why was I alive. I mean, what good am I? Why would God make me? Sure, I\’m a pretty good person, but there isn\’t anything \”great\” about me. I am above average smart yes. I\’m in extreme good health, unlike most 60 year olds. I did my career. I\’ve been sober for 33 years. But, I really had no purpose for being alive.

And I spent most of my career wishing it was over. I saved money for the purpose of getting away from my career as soon as possible. And well, I guess I\’ve wanted life to be over as soon as possible too. Everything I ever did with my life was a chore and I wanted it to be over, so I could rest.

So today, when I actually felt how much I could be aware and awake and liking working at Starbucks, I….   woke up!

Wait, I want to be alive for every second of my life from now on. I don\’t need a purpose. I just want to experience my life. I don\’t want to just go through the motions, hoping it would be over soon.

I have suddenly dropped the rock of having to have a purpose for my life, or even doing anything good while I am here. I just want to be alive in my own life, to see it, to be awake in it. Not just hope life will quit bothering me soon.

And so I am free.


Rampage of Love

Early yesterday morning, as I was deciding whether to get out of bed, the word \”love\” popped into my mind. Maybe that word alone was why I got out of bed. In my writing practice, I decided to write on this word and see what came out.

At this time in my life, I am in a dopamine desert. I am not playing the dopamine reward game with anyone; most particularly a work environment. If you have not read so much on neuroscience, maybe you don\’t know that every human brain loves dopamine. We feel good when we have dopamine. Most of us unconsciously go from situation to situation attempting to trigger a dopamine hit. We try to get other people to approve of us, thus triggering the dopamine; or we find an addiction which triggers the dopamine.

The game is to get another person or situation to somehow make you feel good for a little while, like through praise or recognition, approval, reward, honor, etc.

I should mention that the first Christian monks went to the desert to practice contemplation. My dopamine desert is an analogy with those early desert monks. Stop for a moment and imagine yourself in a very silent desert cave, gazing at a star filled sky, and feeling the divine presence. That is how I want to experience my desert.

I came to my dopamine desert. I brought with me a dream. A dream of creating and giving. That is, I would take my monastic education and spiritual studies, write and publish for others. It is a dream of connection without distraction with all that is; and receiving vibrations which I would turn into words and give to others. I would turn vibrations into thoughts and then words, thus making the creative dream a reality.

To have my dream and to live in the dopamine desert, I must believe in myself and in cosmic reality, the forever partnership of us. I have a monastic education, that is, I lived in monastic formation for 3 years. Life as a monk gave me tools for consciously enabling the divine partnership. I also have sources for ongoing spiritual education.

Most of all, I have my own soul. Every soul speaks towards their human in quiet whispers. Every human can tune themselves to their soul.

Everything I do before I die will be to enhance and enjoy the relationship with my soul and the miracle of my human life. There is an unconditional love which doesn\’t depend on the world\’s dopamine rewards and which embraces the human spirit.

Everyone has a path and access to the soul. How conscious are we? I approach the monk\’s life of direct focus on the divine presence more than once in my nearly 6 decades of life.

This little journal post was started with the word love and you can see where it lead me. Implicitly, to know the divine presence is to love unconditionally.

Organizing 2016 and My Life

It is Christmas Day 2016. I am getting ready for a long walk jog. But first, I did as I always do: read an inspirational book, journal, listen for intuitive thoughts. Many times, the listening part is listening to massive amounts of emotion; but eventually, an intuitive thought comes. Then I work out (exercise). Then I go to my job. Today, I got the following clear thoughts about my life.

My response to the world is consistency. I\’ve been doing the above for decades.

In my life, but especially in 2016, I received the gift of marathons. This gift needs to be unpacked and contemplated. In my life I\’ve run 73 official marathon or ultra-marathon races, plus numerous private 26+ mile quests. In 2016, I completed 22 official races plus 4 private 26+ mile quests. In 2016, I received a dream: a marathon vacation. I went to the Black Hills area and did 4 marathons in 4 states in 4 days. Super.

In 2016, I received the gift of emotion. That is, I finally learned what emotion is so that I could then feel it and let the energy go through.

In my life, I have received 2 Sentences. I see these as purpose, but they are not as simple as they look.
Shamelessly follow Jesus and live a life of prayer.  This thought came to me after the Columbine shootings (1999); as I was driving down a mid-western freeway in a pickup truck. It resulted in my trip into the monastery. This is difficult because Jesus is not who or what mainstream people think.
Love is the predominant mode of existence.  This came to me in a dream as I learned I was leaving the monastery and re-entering the world (2003). This is difficult because love and being loving is not what mainstream people think.

The gift of Not-Going-Along. I got this in 2003 when I left the monastery. No, I won\’t eat your food. No, I won\’t join your society. No, I won\’t share your emotional energy. Keep it away from me.

In 2016, I had to figure out what I am. The words finally arrived: Gender Nonconforming. This has nothing to do with sexuality or trans-gender. It means that I don\’t conform to the standard or typical female. I have not lived my life as a woman; no marriage, no motherhood, a male dominated career….

To Trump or Not-to-Trump. My opinions need to transcend the war going on in our nation and the world. I think this will be an ongoing contemplation in 2017.

The Blockage. I have an emotional blockage. A flaw in my DNA. A dam in my energy pattern. A deep psychic wound. This situation has come more to my consciousness this year. Exploring and healing will be an ongoing contemplation for 2017. Yes, you can heal your DNA.

That\’s all folks. It is now time for running.

Lectio Night – Fridays in Lent

When I was in the monastery, I learned about \”lectio divina\”; holy reading. It is also holy reading which winds itself down to holy listening.

Also in the monastery, during Lent, Friday evenings were special lectio nights. These night were extra quiet. After Vespers, we could have a quiet meal or not; but then most of us were in our monastic cells practicing lectio divina. Hence the name Lectio Night.

So here I sit, an ex-monastic, but real time engineer and person in the world. I\’ve been going through an experience which I can\’t figure out. Why God have we messed with this situation? I have decided to have a lectio night right now.

I said yes to the nebulous universe. I put myself out there. I took the risk. I am willing.

The older I get, the more I wonder, \”What\’s it all about Alfie?\” And I know I\’m not alone in that question. I know I can have a life of service helping others. I know I can have a life of prayer. I know I can have a life dedicated to God and striving to be of maximum service to God. Every minute of every day is a spiritual experience. But I frequently have no sense of What For?

Why did I suddenly apply for that job? Why did I get the interview? Why did I look extra nice this morning as I went to the interview? This serves as temptation for conflicting thoughts about my current job. It provides an opening for my ego to start a critical harangue about me. If I don\’t get an offer, then what was this experience for? If I do get an offer, do I want to accept it?

I knew about the job through a fluke of the modern age: LinkedIn sent me an e-mail. I applied because of a small nagging thought that I should. Then I was surprised that I got the call. Then I dreaded going to the interview. Then I decided to try for the brass ring. If I got the job, it would be a brass ring. I have to try. then I thought of the one hour interview as my hour of power. One hour in my life to shine. I did shine.

Coming home to solitude, I wonder. I see the ongoing issues in my life that require my attention. I know that I can\’t run away from the hassles of life.

More than 10 years ago, the day after I was asked to leave the monastery, I was driving to the city to figure out what to do with myself. I was crying and pounding on the steering wheel saying, \”Why me God? Why do I have to be the one that leaves? Why do those other stupid people get to stay?\” The answer I heard inside was, \”Because you can.\”

What will I hear from my inner self about why I interviewed for a job? I hope something. If it is nothing then I have to face that too. Solitude is about facing what ever it is. Conscious contact is about the truth of the silence and stillness. Nothing can fix the gaping emptiness. Cry out! Nothing answers. Sit in awe.

ACIM Forgiveness

I am always saying that A Course in Miracles (ACIM) defines common terms differently. One of them is forgiveness. Here in the ordinary world, we think of forgiveness as knowing someone is guilty but letting them off the hook. ACIM says it looking beyond.

But ACIM forgiveness gives students tons of trouble actually understanding it and doing it. And doing it or practicing it is key to ACIM. So, I\’ve been studying for 6 years. Now, here is a moment of clarity I had around this term yesterday.

I was driving through Wyoming listening to an NPR story about a woman who is priestess to the white lions in South Africa. I won\’t go into whatever it means to be a priestess to white lions. What I was thinking is how everyone has a task. Some people have fantastic tasks like being priestess to white lions. Some people have tasks which make us highly jealous. Some have \”special\” tasks that seem to make them better than everyone else. But most of us seem to have ordinary daily life. Then suddenly it clicked for me that all our tasks are equally needed.

My task appears very non-special. I work and run. But I know that I am at work metaphysically because the non-material side of my life is at least conscious; something I actively work at. And I realized that all our tasks are really one task in content but different in form.

And here is where I clearly understood what ACIM forgiveness means. If I know that everyone has a task, and that when I interact with them, I am helping them with their task and they are helping me with my task, then forgiveness has happened. Well, the whole Course in Miracles is completed in that instant of interaction. But it is also true that physical presence is not necessary.

I find it completely possible to walk the face of the earth helping others with their task. With that frame of reference, my life is not about going to work to earn money and retire and die. It doesn\’t have anything to do with whether I have a \”special\” task, or wrote a book, or was a guru. I just help others with their task.

The Nature of Things

1. Almost all stories and teachings that I have read about how to connect with God require an altered state of consciousness. That is: meditation, adoration, drugs, brain injury, fasting, long distance running, isolation and silence.

2. Sometimes God comes as a spontaneous gift of revelation. Nothing can be done to make this happen.

So, the normal waking awareness is not enough for divine Union. At least, that\’s what we all believe. I personally think that divine union experienced as a result of one of the items in #1 above are yielding a false god; more likely just brain chemistry in action. God is really dopamine.

3. My main fear is of other people.

I live in a totally man made environment. There is very little about nature in my daily life. All of my daily challenges come from encounters with others. Most people don\’t like to identify this fact so clearly or admit that fear of others is the main driving force.

I\’ve spent my adult life chasing God. I\’ve claimed that the use of spiritual practices has made me a person of great inner calm. At this point in my life, I have rejected the dopamine God.

I am alive and very emotionally stable; but I have no actual purpose for being alive. Unless you say that faith in the eventual spontaneous coming of Revelation is what I am living for, then I don\’t have a purpose.

If I see my purposelessness as a horrible thing, very sad, then no wonder I try desperately to find a purpose in serving God. It seems ridiculous that a human race would exist with consciousness but utterly no higher reason for being alive. So, yes we are driven to find the higher. We can\’t stand being nothing. (Especially Americans).

Should I go participate in public service so that I can feel good about my existence? haha, no I\’ll just go consume some more.

Why Be Alive

This morning, I had a new thought decision. I\’ve decided I no longer will say \”I don\’t want to be alive\” or \”I\’m not here for any particular purpose\”; I\’ve decided to choose why I will live. I am free in that regard.

See, my whole life, I\’ve compared myself to others and seen them doing much more worthy things. Or they had religious validation. Or they were more enlightened. Or they were part of families and caring for others. It is true that I have no particular place in society and no one else cares if I am here or not. If I disappeared, hardly anyone would notice. I interpreted this situation as meaning that I don\’t need to be alive and have no reason to be here.

This is not correct and it has been corrected. My purpose in life happens to be more abstract than others. I have the gift of life; but I happen to believe that the biggest part of that gift is not in this world. I\’ve decided to stop trashing the gift, accept it and choose to move forward with it.

Did I tell you? I just started reading the Course in Miracles Text for the 8th time since July of 2007. I always find new things I missed before. My goal is to read very slowly and savor each thing said.

Here is a map of my next race:

I will be running a 50k (31 miles) along an old railroad bed across the southern Missouri countryside. I\’ll probably take about 7 hours to do it. It is a small race; a few compatriots going 50k or 50 miles. It is nothing like Boston. And here is where my philosophy departs from this world into the abstract.

I have qualified for Boston but never entered. I could have been there this year. I look at the thousands of people and know it is one of the last places I\’d ever want to be. And with my attitude, I realize that Boston is just a media hype. Without the marketing and media, it would just be another big city marathon.

I\’ve run marathons and longer races under hot and humid conditions . I don\’t know why everyone is crying so bad about how hot Boston was. It didn\’t crack 90F for instance.

To Smell The Roses

As I struggle with problems, it is so awesome to me that I have non-painful ways to work out. Gratitude is a wonderful thing.

The gratitude started yesterday evening. Now this morning, I am up early to go to a race: half marathon. It is day one of Seabrook race weekend. Tomorrow is another half marathon. Today\’s number is pinned on and I have on a new green race hat.

The gratitude allows me to balance problems with running and the bigger spiritual picture of what my life is for. I have to go deeper into all my reasons.

Last night, walking uphill on the treadmill with ankle weights, I pondered specialness. Specialness is a topic from a Course in Miracles. Maybe a member of AA would say \”ego deflation at depth.\” In ACIM, it points out that the dream of this world is an attempt to be special to God (religious life is largely based on this); but no one can be special to God. So, the ego hated God and made the dream of this world.

My life is on a journey into less specialness. As I go in races just for fun, my ego is disgusted. My ego is ashamed. My ego is the specialness. But \”I\” am ok with anything. A day of smiling at people is fine with me.

I want to give up specialness. I want the peace of God. God dwells within. I need only look there and give up all else.

Purpose and Belief

I realize that I, and humans I know, believe we have a higher/divine purpose for our lives. We think that we are better at thinking than those animals, so \”God\” must have created us for some purpose. I realize I totally believe this: there is some reason why I am alive. And I think there is some soul or inner higher divine consciousness which will tell me my purpose.

Unfortunately, I have utterly failed to hear anything from this soul. If I say I have, I am actually just making up a story. But as of yesterday, I realize that I am just being. I have said in the past that my goal was to just be. I have in a sense achieved that. As soon as I accept \”just being\”, I am almost willing to accept \”nothing\” as my purpose. Logically speaking, God does not need anyone to have a purpose. In fact, to be only love means that you have no purpose. Purposes make that person special. They add a coloring of belief that we are special to God. So in a sense, purposes negate love because they make us special, therefore not love alone.

My condition of \”just being\” means that I have reduced my activity in the world. The type of creativity of a person just being is different because it has less physical interference. I hope that just being leads me away from specialness and closer to understanding my life at its most fundamental concept.

I continue my study of the brain (reading two books at the moment). From \”The Believing Brain\” (Shermer) I have learned of patternicity and agenticity as behavior controlling modes. Patternicity is the tendency to find meaningful patterns in BOTH meaningful and meaningless noise (experience). Patternicity is association learning. The implication is that we run our lives by pattern recognition and habit, not real thought. Agenticity is the tendency to infuse patterns with meaning, intention and agency. That is, we often impart patterns we find with agency and intention and believe that these intentional agents control the world, sometime invisibly from the top down; instead of bottom-up causal laws and randomness that makes up much of our world. In agenticity, we naturally think there is a \”god\” controlling everything. Reflect on the implications of this evolutionarily developed capacity for assigning experiences to god and not randomness. Astounding.

So I have been trying to buck the system. If you wonder why I have emotional difficulties, its because I am bucking the system.

I just started reading \”The Master and His Emissary\” (McGilcrist). His book is starting out exploring the asymmetry of the brain and how the different operating modes of each hemisphere affect our experience of the world. The hemispheres attend to the world in two completely different ways. Knowing these differences, I can begin to use them to change my experience of the world. And then I have to return over and over to the essentially chemical nature. One side responds more to dopamine and the other more to noradrenaline. I do participate in the dopamine reward cycle and the effects of other hormones.

Honestly, I think it is improper to say \”there is a God\” or \”my life is for a purpose\” until after I understand something about the brain and how I experience the world (react to it, believe in it, make decisions about it).

So when I sit alone in my apartment in utter confusion about soul or God, its because I\’ve allowed these questions to be raised. I don\’t accept divine presence or divine life at face value. I have to account for evolutionarily evolved thinking patterns and the biochemistry of the dopamine reward cycle.

Whatever I think is pretty much not true.

But I can burn calories if I want. Today, I slept in; meaning its too hot to do a long run. But working out on ex-machines is actually a more effective endurance workout that struggling slowly along in the heat would be. So now I will face the machines for several hours and deal with forces in my brain wanting to quit. Running outside is mentally easy. Running on a treadmill is mentally difficult; but worth the experience for its reflective value. Why should I care what I am doing?