Self Isolation Perspective

I have been in isolation since I left my job 14 days ago (not including today). Yesterday, my employer extended the pay period to May 3. So I still have 31 precious days. My isolation is in a rhythm. I speak occasionally to store clerks and I nod hello to people on the trail. An occasional text. Conversations are very few, maybe 3 in the past 14 days. Despite these pandemic times, I enter the silence of isolation with a quiet mind and the ability to maintain inner peace. This quiet mind stands out as a difference from other times when I have been unemployed. The occasional intrusion of bad news or frightening headlines gets fed into the stream of well being, which flows quietly through me, and I watch it float away.

I\’ve wanted to be a hermit for a long time, since I learned about solitaries in the monastery. Right now is the first time in 61 years that I have achieved such emptiness as I have now. I don\’t need to worry about getting a job. I\’m not going to class. There are no AA meetings. An empty life. I am coming to see how I am in my natural state, outside of societal programming or interaction.

I like sleeping, morning coffee, the view from my kitchen table, the apple blossoms popping out, the forests in which I walk or jog , lifting weights, eating well and little, spiritual reading with meditation and writing.

I learned a new word today: elision. Elision is a deletion, like elision of my social life. Does this leave me with only my soul for company? Yes, I think. My ego doesn\’t really have any plans or things to compete for or people to push against. And I feel at peace with that, surprisingly enough. My ego has little to say.

I\’ve wondered if I should impose some more aggressive schedule on myself. So far, I\’ve let the natural rhythms exist.My ego wants a schedule to show that I\’m not wasting my life by merely existing. Using my isolation to merely exist, to commune only with my soul, cannot be shown to be productive.

I\’ve always wanted to know the value of \”just being,\” mere existence. What does it mean to be human if you are not engaged but isolated? Does my life only mean something if I achieved worldly notoriety?

I am uplifted and inspired by this intense focus this morning on communion with my soul. I sometimes call my soul the Christ within, even though the word Christ comes with a lot of religious baggage. The word Christ within came to me from contemplatives of times past. I allow the Christ within to be free of religion and just represent the inner truth of my human soul. I feel thrilled by this open door to my inner being.


Nice People

The couple stood there outside the library. The day was not too terribly cold, but it was a November day and there was a chilly wind. He was in a suit and she was in a skirt. He was brunette and she was blond. They were a nice looking couple, at least for a white suburban location.

Beside them was a portable set of shelves carrying religious pamphlets and books. By the look of the tracts, I knew what religion these people were proselytizing for. I had seen other people from that religion in that same location before. Usually I give them a wide berth, as I enter the library. The couple looked a little forlorn since it was a quiet time of day at the library, and anyway, the library makes those kind of people stand a distance away from the entrance.

Today was different. As I parked my car, looking out the car window from the parking lot, I realized that I knew these people. I worked with the girl, and her man also came into our workplace. It would be rude to just brush by them without looking. I may not be religious, and prefer not to interact with proselytizers, but I am not rude. I may not believe I am a sinner. I may not believe I need a savior. Despite my lack of religious belief, being nice is wired into my humanity.

So, I looked out my car window and saw my peeps standing there with their little book shelf. I realized that I was going to go over and say hi to them and be nice, regardless of their religion or their purpose in standing there. And that is what I did. No I didn\’t pick up any tracts. But I was nice.

Who I am, and who any human really is, is nice. We just are. Accept it. Believe it. Isn\’t it wonderful that humans are so nice? Doesn\’t it make you want to be one?

Monday Reflection

Is it Monday? No problem. It is my Saturday.

Weird thing about working at Starbucks, I can hardly wait to go back to it. I don\’t think that ever happened with my career job.

The Easter Bunny was working at Starbucks yesterday:

I never wore bunny ears to my career job. That was for grocery store clerks and other poor low wage under achievers. Ha! I had alot of fun when people noticed that a bunny was taking their order. None of my other partners did bunny ears. I\’m glad I can be silly.

Yesterday afternoon, I took a trail run at Hodge park. These trails are very easy, very runnable. They twist and turn through the trees so you lose a sense of where you are. Meditation occurs because your brain is focused on rocks and roots; not anything of the world. There were no trails like this near my house in Texas. In Kansas City, I have access to several parks with trails, near my house. Super. Next weekend, I am going in a trail half marathon. Should be fun.

I didn\’t pay to much attention to the religious aspect of Easter. It has been a long time since I was involved in religion. I stopped supporting the Catholic Church when Pope Benedict was elected, because, in my opinion, he was the \”priest predator protector in chief.\” I think predator priests belong in jail, and non-celibate priests should go find another denomination which approves of sex and marriage for clergy. I also think that the Catholic Church has rules about celibacy for priests because it wants to own and control both the priests and The Eucharist. No one can own The Eucharist, and no one should own a priest. I decided that Jesus wouldn\’t support that church. I became spiritual not religious.

Last Friday, a couple pastors from a church came into Starbucks. They wanted to buy everybody\’s coffee for an hour, and hand out cards announcing their Easter services. The shift supervisor allowed it. From my point of view, this was a pain in the ass. When someone makes an order, a sticker is printed which goes on their cup, and then the bar knows what to put in that cup. But the church guy didn\’t give me his credit card and tell me to go to town. No, he wanted to pay at the end. So each order took 3 times as long to process because I had to take it to a certain point, save it so the sticker would print, copy it onto a different register, then void it on my register. And, I had to explain to people that a church wanted to buy their coffee and that they should go get a card from that guy over there. I wasn\’t that enthusiastic about making this speech, mainly because I\’m not a proselytizer for any church. I am in favor of nourishing the soul, which Starbucks coffee does.

Most people were happy for a free coffee. Some didn\’t want a church buying their coffee. I don\’t know if any lost souls got a free coffee and went to that church for the first time this weekend. \”He is risen,\” is the cry that went out from all the Christian churches. Anybody who really believes the religious story of Jesus probably already belongs to a church. My own story is that I decided long ago to \”shamelessly follow Jesus.\” That vow takes me to truth, inner truth, the truth of my being. And so, here I am, just me as Source made me.

Source made me good.period.

A Family of Answers

I understand gratitude. I don\’t understand the slaughter of billions of turkeys for gratitude. I don\’t understand the horrible circumstances in which those turkeys are grown; or the tremendous resources that go into their lives.

And even the poor show up at the kitchen and expect a feast.

There are questions which require a family of answers, not just a short sound bite. And I can\’t usually explain all the facets of anything all at once since I don\’t carry all the information in my buffer memory. 

Why are you a vegetarian?
Why do you think the Bible is not true?
Why do you not agree with denominational Christianity or that \”Jesus is the son of God?\”
Why don\’t you vote?
Why don\’t you celebrate holidays?
Why don\’t you watch TV?
Why don\’t you fix your hair? (Really?)
Why are you single?
Why don\’t you develop friendships?
Why don\’t you drink?
What do you mean by \”not participate in society?\”
Why do you spend so much time alone?
….the list goes on….

I am in a strange circumstance: success. I had an out-of-the-blue idea which I \”sold\” to the manager of our plant, who then asked me to sell it to his leadership team. And now, having been adopted, it has gone public in a plant of 800 employees, 1,000 contractors and massive quantities of dangerous substances. The purpose of the idea is employee engagement; which should above all else provide better safety as we work to produce products.

But for me, at this point, it would be usual for me to say something egotistical which over steps my bounds as a low level employee playing with the big boys for once. I end up ashamed of myself though maybe no one else noticed what happened. I want to continue to be guided by Spirit/ intuition/ love; not false ambitions or the getting drive.

The getting drive.
The getting drive.
More for me.
Somebody reward me.
Somebody make me important.
The small self.

Defeat of the small self is a good reason to do endless laps. Such a useless activity, but it draws my mind into endless quiet. Voluntary poverty of ego. Downward mobility of recognition.

The Yoke of God

There are people who decide to put their lives in service of religion, whether secular or monastic. As a result of taking up these responsibilities, they receive the approval of the religious community and the belief that God is also happy with them. As they carry out their religious role and responsibility, they also have engaged certain chemical functions in the brain called the dopamine reward cycle.

So the result of religion is a steady drip of dopamine which provides a sense of well being. Like any addict, the person will defend their religious practices to the death; maybe not even knowing that they are defending an addiction, not anything that really has to do with God.

Wait a second! What did I just say? \”…not anything that has to do with God?\”

Yep, either God is every where and equally FOR everyone no matter what, or God is a selfish angry bastard which I want nothing to do with. All religions think they are special to god. The bible describes the angry version of god. I studied the bible in various venues from Roman Catholic Seminary to atheist publications to scholars in Ivy League universities. I no longer believe it is 100% true or sacred. While beautiful and containing wisdom, there are plenty of other documents which are beautiful too.

It is very difficult to leave a belief system because you lose the dopamine reward it was providing. To do without the approval and the dopamine is very frightening and depressing. But, to think different thoughts than the main stream of people, you have to step out of the stream. It is difficult to dare to be different. It is difficult to brave the disapproval of the group.

If there is one monastic practice I\’ve kept strongly, it is renunciation of the world. But I live here, so I renounce by taking myself out of the mainstream. There are numerous ways to not-go-along with the group. When you add them up, it produces a different out look on life. To have different thoughts, you have to get away from the main stream thoughts.period.

I don\’t want my life to be one dopamine reward cycle after another. I don\’t want my God to be a function of dopamine. In not-going-along, I lose my dopamine rewards. So happiness and life satisfaction has to come some other way. God has to have some other basis for being.

I do study some spiritual material, but it is not an evangelical matter. I can\’t even explain it here. The text has to be studied and digested. It\’s thesis is not at all what is taught to most people.


High Performance Culture
Creative Thinking
Breakthru Thinking
Mindful Matters

Is this just a list of industry buzz words?

I seriously love these concepts. I love them in spiritual terms. I love them in terms of character description. They might play into my personal religion. They infuse me with power and inspire me to pour energy into my projects. It is the concept behind the words which drives me to go above and beyond. In that sense, these words represent my God.

Do I have a dearth or abundance of spiritual experience? I find the answer to my experience of life in William James (see below). I have spent my life dancing or posturing or fighting or loving an inner idea which I can\’t quite make mine.

The more I learn about our so-called God, the more I think my problem is that I want what someone else says they have.

More from William James and The Varieties of Religious Experience:
\”Churches when once established live at secondhand upon tradition; but the founders of every church owed their power originally to the fact of their direct personal communion with the divine….so personal religion should still seem the primordial thing. (38)\”

\”Religion….shall mean for us the feelings, acts and experiences of individual men in their solitude, so far as they apprehend themselves to stand in the relation to whatever they may consider the divine. (39)\”

\”Religion, whatever it is is a man\’s total reaction upon life…total reactions are different from casual…To get at them, you must go behind the foreground of existence and reach down to that curious sense of the whole residual cosmos as an everlasting presence, intimate or alien, terrible or amusing, lovable or odious, which in some degree everyone possesses. This sense of the world\’s presence, appealing as it does to our peculiar individual temperament, makes us strenuous or careless, devout or blasphemous, gloomy or exultant, about life at large; and our reaction, involuntary and inarticulate and often half unconscious as it is, is the completest of all our answers to the question, \”What is the character of the universe in which we dwell?\” (42)\”

Anti-mother Sunday

Did that get your attention? Sucker! You fell into my trap. I bet you thought I should not be so crass as to speak out against mothers. Aren\’t I supposed to be some sweetness and light spiritual blogger?

OK, so let\’s move on, now that you are awake.

Here is some stuff I read in the text for A Course in Miracles this morning (14.III):

  • Peace abides in every mind that quietly accepts the plan God set for its Atonement, relinquishing its own. You know not of salvation, for you do not understand it. make no decisions about what it is or where it lies, but ask the Holy Spirit everything, and leave all decisions to His gentle counsel.
  • The Holy Spirit knows that all salvation is escape from guilt. You have no other \”enemy\”, and against this strange distortion of the purity of the Son of God the Holy Spirit is your only Friend.
  • Let Him, therefore, by the only Guide…Forget Him not and He will make every decision for you, for your salvation and the peace of God in you.

For those who have not studied ACIM, I will mention that the Son of God is all of us, not just Jesus. The Son of God is wholly innocent and pure; and that we could feel guilty is the strange distortion mentioned above. And I suppose I should mention that in ACIM, Atonement does not mean payment for guilt but the undoing of what is not and never was true. If you want to know why I don\’t engage in spiritual conversations anymore, it is because the Holy Spirit is my only Friend, the one whose language I speak. I don\’t know anyone else who speaks ACIM language.

The marathon I am going in on may 30th in Canada is the National Capital Marathon, NCM. I got my hotel and airplane tickets and entered the race in January. With only 3 weeks left, a countdown has begun. For me it is sort of an internal countdown. I feel like I am counting down to more than a marathon, but to an end of one way of life and the start of another. I feel like I am drinking the dregs of one life while planting the seeds of another; but I must complete the tasks of this life before the next can start.

Whatever, I feel a call to continue my efforts to focus on spirit. I am letting go of the ego delusion and accepting spirit as the only reality.

This morning, I ordered a new Nordic-Trac Pro skier. I used to have one of these before I went to the monastery and had many enjoyable hours of aerobics without impact on it. I have wanted to get one more piece of exercise equipment for over a month, but couldn\’t bear the thought of having an elliptical as they are so big. Only yesterday, my memory dredged up the Nordic-trak memory. It is evidence of a growing change in my fitness activities.

It may look like I am giving up running. But I have a theory that ultra-marathons are built on endurance and fitness for many hours, not just running. So I am gearing up for that. As well, I read bits of the ACIM text while I am on my machines because I have written out over a hundred index cards. I exercise more than once a day, often in the extreme early morning. I want to complete my own personal ultra events in the privacy of my apartment.

I read several chapters of the Quran last night. I am very impressed with the translation I have. It may not please an Arabic speaker, but it is a sincere attempt to share a holy text with people who can\’t read the original. I have read several translations of the Bible and I studied it almost exclusively for 20 years. I have read Christian texts not included in the Bible. Recently I have also read the Bhagavad Gita (I never can spell it right) and the Upanishads (Hindu), and a few Sutras (Buddhism). Of everything I have read, the Bible is the least inspiring. Between ACIM and the Bible, relatively speaking on an enlightenment scale, the Quran rests as a true call to God.

Being a solitary, without social or familial bondage, I am free to follow the Holy Spirit exclusively. Devoting my life to God alone is the heart of any pre-religious-ized spiritual text. All holy men and women have found this immutable Presence and surrendered entirely to it. Essentially, the Tao and the Ohm are fundamental existential expressions for That Presence which is the only reality.

I want to make something unusual out of my life; not extraordinary but nevertheless strange. It is not to be bought. It is not to be a promotion. It is to be conjured or created out of thin air.

At one time, I thought success at business would bring such a life. Then I thought Harley Davidson or the Church would bring it. Then I thought meditation alone could trick the planets into sending it. As I rest in the quiet of my life, I realize that I am able to know I exist totally in The Presence.

Now I know I will run; but not on a road. I will run in light.

Easter Journey 2 – Holy Saturday

Holy Saturday was one of the dreadful sorts of days in the monastery. Everyone was trying to be solemn and meditate on Jesus’ suffering and death. Time was spent in chapel chanting lamentations. Behind the scenes, the kitchen was quietly busy as people prepared delicacies for the Easter feast. The monastics had their Easter Vigil at 4 in the morning on Sunday. In the secular church, the Easter Vigil is at 7 pm tonight. It won’t even be dark, but that won’t stop them from pretending it is dark and reverencing an Easter flame as special. Many people will be baptized.

It is weird to live with the idea that the Jesus story is not real and has no truth. I do have a relationship with Christ, just not one that goes along with what religion says.

My holy week has come. For me, it will go in the same way: no exterior holiness. No crosses got reverenced. No crucifixion stories got acted out. No holy water will be sprinkled on me. I ran for 3 ½ hours yesterday. I ran for 3 hours this morning. This evening, I will lift weights as I listen to one of the NCAA basketball games. Tomorrow, I run again, maybe more than 3 hours.

My holiness is in the idea of my existence. Nothing more or I have given it to my ego. Getting to a point where I am at peace without any religious status seems to be a process which I am not sure I am done with. Living as a solitary without any status in society, especially my lack of exterior holiness manifested as religion, is a nagging discomfort for me. My ego continually wants me to go play the game and get the holiness the others have as a result of their holy activities. Not-going-along seems to drive my ego crazy. Essentially, that is why I do it. I want to be free, the me that exists beyond the ego.

But the world is not real. To go-along is to turn away from the holiness within. Exterior holiness is an illusion. Interior holiness, as silent and benign as it is, is what is real.

I ran in a crowded park this morning. I nodded at the regulars I see every week. One lady said hi to me and I had forgotten her name; a symptom of not having been to the fellowship for awhile. The stairs got vacuumed. I had a green smoothie for lunch. I am now drinking green tea. This afternoon, I will visit Mr. Rushdie. This author writes wise nonsensical books. I’m sure I don’t understand them at all, but they do open my mind to other realities. And then my big moment, my return to being an athlete, I’ll lift weights and do core exercises.

Into thy hands I commend my spirit…

Palm Sunday 2010

Palm Sunday is the start of Holy Week. Holy Week starts to get heated up with the Mass of the Last Supper on Thursday; where Jesus in His tabernacle is ceremoniously removed from the church. Then on Good Friday, the Catholics have a communion service where the high lite is kissing the cross. The peak experience is the Easter Vigil. In a secular church, many people will be baptized.

Holy Week was always very hard in the monastery. The ritual is intense. The behavior of the nuns is intense. For a novice, the feeling of being left out of community was mentally destructive. I couldn\’t stand certain parts, but luckily, at the worst of times, I could go running and then hide from the community.

Religion is on my mind today. A week ago, I was invited to be thurifer for the Easter Vigil; the Triduum of 3 liturgical events. The thurifer is the person who serves the incense in the Roman Catholic Mass. Today, I bowed out of being thurifer. I did it because I didn’t even know today was Palm Sunday until I glanced through the new Magnificat (magazine of daily Mass readings). My thinking is outside religion and I don’t want to mix it in.

I am a runner, an employee and a solitary. I still grieve leaving the monastery. I guess I am doomed to always wish that had worked out. Is it really just being upset that I got kicked out? Is it the lack of official validation by a church authority? Do I still think I missed some spiritual boat which would have made my relationship with Jesus more special?

Resentment, resentment!

\”True autonomy arises when we have broken free of all the old structures, all psychological dependencies, and all fear. Only then can that which is truly unique and fearless arise within us and begin to express itself.\” (Adyashanti)

Easter is for Christians who are believing of their religion. They believe that blessed palm fronds are different than all other palm fronds. It is a gross way to say it, but people who go to Easter services do believe that some sort of homage needs to be made to God. I should not get too involved with such people as I would have to play \”when in Rome, do as the Romans,\” and be false to my own relationship with Jesus. My Jesus is everywhere, and equally present in every molecule, including every piece of shit.

Spirituality is my gig. Running is my gig. My ego is troubled; and I live with it\’s complaints about my rejection of it\’s desires. I seem to have been programmed to strive to be a worthwhile person. I was programmed by the likes of S. Covey that I should be leaving a legacy; that I need a legacy to be happy. I am leaving behind me a trail of nonsense and failure. My greatest accomplishments are nonsense: running and weight lifting, decades of meditation, reflection and spiritual study, non-standard diet, solitary un-involvement in social activities, many areas of ordinary life where I am not-participating. No I refuse to get fat and weak as the years go by. No I refuse to eat that junk you are eating. No I refuse to join your group. No I refuse to do what you are doing.

What is wrong with being just a runner? What is wrong with having a hidden dream of spiritual nonsense? Well, nothing except my ego is so damn uncomfortable with anonymity.

Last weekend, I ran 80 miles in 20 hours. By Tuesday, I was running again at almost normal pace with just a little pain in my right foot (the shoe did a number on the top of my right foot during the 80 mile run). I ran on Wednesday, Thursday, Friday, Saturday and today, Sunday. Today I ran 3 hours without any pain. Next weekend I have 3 days off and am planning a personal long distance event.

Mass is Addictive

I have moved to the city and I have a new job with lots of responsibility. My life has changed from very empty and quiet to many relationships and demands for my time. I have again pondered the meaning of my life and what is my vocation now that everything has changed. I still want to know: who is the real me that is this consciousness? Releasing my inner divine being is still my life’s mission. How I do that now that my life has forced itself more outward is still a work in progress. I don’t know what surprises are along the way. Maybe I will join Opus Dei!

One surprise is Mass. I’ve found a thirst for Mass in the past few weeks. I disagree with the Roman Catholic hierarchy, but I want to go to Mass. I don’t agree with the Catholic explanation or catechism, but I want to go to Mass. All I can do at this point is surrender to the call and see where it is leading. Apart from Church teachings and A Course in Miracles teachings, I ask myself to contemplate the Mass in the now. If I look at Mass in a holy instant, what about love and eternity and salvation do I see? What is God saying to me right now?

Unknown to most people, I wear a crucifix ring. I love to contemplate the image of the man on the cross. Not the commonly told story of Jesus’ crucifixion but something deeper which I cannot even put words to.

There is a precarious balance between silent contemplation, Mass, AA meetings, running and work relationships.

Today I got up at 5:30 for spiritual practice, ran 5 miles, went to 8 am Mass, came home and made coffee, went to lead the 10 am AA meeting, and ran another 5 miles. This afternoon I have been involved with quiet contemplation.