The Wandering Monk

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Eastern Philosophy: Kintsugi

 

This week, I’d like to talk about Kintsugi, also called Kintsukuroi, again accompanied by a video from The School of Life YouTube channel.

Special thanks to this channel for making such impacting videos that are easy to watch.

Kintsugi is the Japanese art of mending broken pottery back together with exotic mixtures, such as with adhesive with flecks of gold or jade.  It’s the philosophical ideal that expresses the truest nature of Zen and the Dao, in that it helps us find the beauty in things that are simple, eloquent.  It expresses the fundamental concept that we are all imperfect, impermanent, and flawed, yet these are not faults or failures, but points that make us human.  Details that give us our uniqueness and our personality.

I recall the emotions I feel when I see someone who is, by the standards of their peers, “perfect”.  Perhaps it’s a very beautiful woman, or that guy with the great personality that you just go “Wow, that <person> is just perfect, aren’t they?”

Well, what do we mean exactly?  We don’t mean without flaw, do we? We can’t honestly think they have no flaws.  Perhaps it is our perception of the number of flaws they have or mistakes they make compared to the ratio of non-flawed, non-mistake actions they make.

I know what you’re thinking.  You’re thinking, “But I don’t consider those people perfect.. my idea of it is bigger than that.”

Good, it should be. 

I think that if we analyze it long enough, we come to the conclusion that ‘perfect’ isn’t really the word we mean.  Perhaps.. ‘complete’ is the word.

I have a friend, Pam, who is a curious creature.  She is always in deep thought, always analyzing the tires even as they spin while she’s driving down the road.  I tell her sometimes that she gets wrapped around the axle a bit.  It’s her attention to detail that I think does this.

She can over-analyze many things, go down rabbit holes, and make snap judgement.  She stumbles, and falls, and makes mistakes about as often as she doesn’t.  And to me, if she was anything else, she would be less perfect than she is.

This, I think, is because perfection comes not from the absence of flaws, but from the ownership of one’s self as a whole.  Through the ownership of each part of herself; from the perceived good, the perceived bad, she is whole and complete.

What this truly means is that we are all perfect if only we accept who we really are at this moment.  Not refute the person we used to be as ‘inferior’ or ‘lower quality’, and not demanding who we may become as ‘better’ or ‘superior’ to our present selves.  But by embracing ourselves, here, now, in this moment, worts and all, as being whole and complete and perfect just how we are.

If you can pick up this ideal and truly own it then you are perfect.  If you can’t, then you’re still perfect, you just haven’t realized it yet.  And if something happens that breaks you, or makes you change your shape or purpose, then glue yourself back together with flecks of gold and embrace your inner-Kintsugi, and know that you are a timeless and perfect creature beholden and embodied with ideals that have stood four thousands of years.

Know that you are every bit as amazing and as wonderful as you should be and all that’s holding you back is your belief.

 

Featured Image by Whatever4Ever16:
http://whatever4ever16.deviantart.com/favourites/64235617/Devious-Collection-6


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Eastern Philosophy: Matsuo Bashō

 

I’ve recently begun watching these series from The School of Life and decided that it wouldn’t be a bad idea to go over some of these concepts.  I’ve included in the video above so you can enjoy it from the perspective of the talented YouTuber who created them.

Matsuo Bashō was most famous for his very humbling and Zen-oriented Haiku and artwork collaborations.  The Featured Image of this post is an example of artwork he did, where his famous Haiku is written alongside it.  It’s called the Oku no Hosomichi and is renowned for its simplistic view on the world.

What I find particularly interesting about this story is the foundation of humility it produces and yet, if you review his life, how much fame and vanity he had access to.  He’s a man who was very much at the heart of the art scene for a period of time.  He was highly involved with the social and intellectual scene of Edo in the mid-to-late 1600s.

Yet, after a time, he decided to become a hermit.  He set himself aside to ensure that he could reconnect with his true self.

This — this process — is why I wanted to write about him.  We can all learn from his example.  No matter what our successes are, we must always remember ourselves and strive to stay connected to our True Selves despite how inflated our egos get.  And even at our worst, we can connect to who we really are and persevere.

I admire the man, and I wish I could have sat with him and listened to him.  I wish I could understand Japanese better (or even at all honestly) so I could read more of his words in their original tongue.

So, with all that said, I challenge you as readers of this blog to take some time to find yourself.  Ask yourself if you’ve been in your own head too long and whether or not you’d benefit from setting aside some time in your lives for Wabi-Sabi (the acceptance of imperfection and impermanence).

And don’t forget to breath.


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The Snowball Effect

Have you ever felt like once things start going, they only keep going that way unless some major force, usually proportionate to the gathered momentum of the thing, stops it?

Sir Isaac Newton said that an object in motion stays in motion unless altered by an external force. This isn’t just true of objects though. Life and destiny, it seems, follows the same rules. 

Sometimes when our lives gather up a certain amount of baggage, it keeps on gathering that baggage. You know that friend you’ve got that stays with her terrible boyfriend even though he’s terrible? Or that really negative guy that only ever sees the negative and seems to only experience negativity? 

It seems that “objects” includes energy. It includes the actions and reactions of things we do, think, and feel. It includes our emotions and our way of life. 

They say you should dress the part you want to play. They say you should be the change you wish to see in others. They say treat others as you want to be treated. 

It seems this fundamental law has been understood for centuries and yet it’s fundamental purpose remains unknown. Why does this happen? Does it really have to do with the physics of the universe on that basic a level? Is it more complicated than I can theorize here on my lonely blog?

Ah, who knows. As much as I’d love to know the “why”, observing the “what” is just as enjoyable. 

In hard times, I’ve found embodying the positivity I want to see in myself creates it within my life. I’ve found that the phases of negativity are often diminished by the positive reactions despite how difficult this is. 

So stay positive, my friends, and sweep those around you towards positivity too. It’ll all come around. 


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Transformation

It’s been a long time (I feel like my last few have started this way).

I return to talk about Transformation.  Change.  Growth.  It happens to all of us.  Some might even say it’s the point.  But what does it mean, how do we recognize it, and how blasted long does it take?

I may argue that transformation and change are different.  Perhaps change that enables you to be something better than you were can be called transformation.  Let’s go with that.

Let me tell you a story that might help illustrate how I’m feeling right now.  About three months ago, I decided I wanted to move to Alaska.  I had mentioned this in another post but, for those who didn’t know, that’s a thing.  Up until when I made this decision, I had a lot of variables to consider — some were more important to others, needless to say, but all presented themselves, to me, as obstacles.  I interpreted them as such.  Each time I faced one, some part of me whispered “there’s always something.”

It had always been a negative connotation.  It had always been a “oh great, here we go, this again” sort of feeling.  Then something changed — transformed, you might say — in my perspective.  This perspective is likely one of the biggest considerations in making my trip here a successful one.

I realized that the obstacles I faced could be viewed a little differently.  Some might say that their being there were tests to my conviction.  Others might say that they make the journey more meaningful.  Others still might even call them blessings in disguise; fostering growth from within, adapting and overcoming and training myself to do that.

My realization wasn’t one of those things, exactly, but just that such perspectives exist and that when I perceive it that way, I ultimately arrived at a larger conclusion.

It is my choice.

No one else’s.  No one else can say that I can or can’t go, only me.  Sure, they might attempt to invoke a sense in me that might make me agree, but it’s my agreement that’s the contingency here, not their persuasion.  Prior to this, the world had always been an obstacle.  My daughter, my job, my debt, my family, my friends.  My life.  All these things aren’t things you can really negotiate with directly.  I can’t go to my life and say “Hey, life, would you mind..?” .. sure, I could go to my daughter and ask her how she felt, but in her response, I’ll already be looking for something specific:  A reason not to go.

But guess what? When I made my mind up ahead of time that I was going, the conversation wasn’t a plea for permission, but a statement of acknowledgement and inclusion.  My daughter said she would miss me but it would be cool to visit.  My Mom said “Go do what you have to do!”  My friends supported me.  The hurdles that I had perceived for so long were gone.  In an instant, my social roadblocks were gone.

Then it simply became a matter of logistics and logistics can always reach the goal you want if you try and you follow the plan.

You may be wondering what this has to do with transformation.

Well, consider this: the moment I realized that, I changed for the better.  I transformed. But there’s more than that.  Because I was able to change my view, I was able to change my world.  Because I could change my world, I was able to change my view more.  The snowball effect is that the more I followed my heart and dreams, the more the world reacted to my doing so and either enabled it or got out of the way.  When I did encounter a direct challenge, I thought about it and resigned myself to accept what I could change with the tenacity of someone following their dreams (a powerful source of willpower), to be patient with the things I could not change, and trusting that all of my unknowns would present opportunities for solutions.

I never gave up on it, but that doesn’t mean I didn’t struggle.  I didn’t always resolve the problems that I needed to exactly when I wanted to.  I waited, and I watched, and I believed in myself.

These all sound like crappy Facebook memes, but I can honestly say that these basic fundamentals are what I followed and I can see now as I look back are what I did.  It isn’t like I intended on being a walking cliche.  It just so happens that how I reacted taught me the lessons that everyone had been saying.

That leads me to another idea of transformation.  Growth.

When our parents correct us, they often tell us the lesson.  Have any of us heeded what our parents said and learned the lesson through-and-through without life’s intervention? I’m going to go out on a limb here and say “hell no”.

We all learned the lessons life wanted to teach us, just as soon as life taught them.  We applied them to our parents’ words when they told us because life had taught them too.  When your parents say “Don’t touch that fire, it’ll burn you.” You didn’t believe them, you touched the fire, and you got burned.  And then you believed them, and then you didn’t touch the fire again.

It’s only when we abolish doubt that we can be certain.  

While it may be true that we didn’t heed the words of our parents about the fire, it’s also true that we can influence just how much doubt we have by employing faith.  I’m not talking about God-fearing, spiritual faith, but faith in ourselves and in our ability to do our best when the time comes to do it.  Faith is the abolishment of Doubt.

Whether it’s remembering the sting of the fire that removes doubt from the equation, or it’s accepting and trusting in myself and in the universes’ responses to the energies I put out, being free from doubt is the first step in accomplishing your dreams.

Doubt, by the way, is a sub-category emotion to the core emotion of Fear. 

And so, I close this with a simple statement that has proven itself to be true to me just as assuredly as that fire was hot.

Moving through life presently and fearlessly is the only true path to happiness and to your dreams.  Go scroll through Pinterest for all the memes you need, then when you’re ready, it’s time to let life teach you the lessons you need to learn along the path towards the life you want.  

Today’s the day to start, the path awaits.

 

(Image credit goes to: https://zonefox.com)


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The Wanderer in Us All

You may have noticed it has been some time since my last post. Perhaps you’ve even wondered why, or made up some reason of your own. Or maybe you haven’t noticed at all. 

No matter which flavor applies, one must ask a different question. Why doesn’t the Wandering Monk ever seem to.. Wander? In any of these posts?

Alas, my friends. The two are connected. Wandering I have been and wandering I definitely shall. 

I have made the decision to shed the bounds of my current living space and begin the pursuit of destinations I’d always intended to find. Places with qualifications that amount to pen crossings across my bucket list, boundless wonder which I have deemed must be explored, and, as perhaps a happy by-product, the wonderful enrichment of my own spirit. 

To that end, my next target destination is Alaska. 

I’ll be stopping many places along the way and it would certainly make for an interesting tale to chronicle such a journey here, and so I shall. Perhaps not all at once, but I’ll try to have a pencil and paper in hand to jot down the meaningful moments to be captured. 

But this post isn’t just a news update, it comes with a certain realization. See, his decision couldn’t have happened without my first reaching a certain mental state. 

Let’s call it courage

I have many things to consider. My beautiful daughter lives here, my mother, my friends, and my history. All other travels have been destinations with here as my home base. Now the home base is changing and, with it, so am I. 

I have spoken much to others about this topic. Most I talk to say “I could never do that, that’s wild!” or “Aren’t you scared?”

Yes, I am. And even so, I am alive. 

I’m blessed with the ability to see the world in a kind of third person from time-to-time. I get caught up in myself and in my ego just like anyone, but then, I blink and it’s as though I’ve stepped back to see the whole situation, myself included. 

It has given me great insight to myself and who I am. It has taught me that “who I am” is not static. It changes and grows. It does this with experiences and by testing the limits of its existence. It evolves. 

I am not alone in this. You do it too. And in such a beautiful way that one could spend a lifetime watching others blossom into their true selves and it would not be a wasted life. 

My journey to Alaska and my journey to deciding to go both involve one thing: Personal Courage. 

I knew I needed to go and if I didn’t, I would regret it. At first I made excuses. I said I couldn’t go, I had so much keeping me here. Too much. I said that for years. 

But one day I woke up and I realized that I couldn’t tell others to reach for their dreams if I didn’t reach for mine. If I didn’t reach for my personal legend (Alchemist fans will appreciate that). 

Speaking of The Alchemist, there’s a Quote I read that has been so true for me. It reads:

“When you truly want something, the whole universe conspires to make it happen.” — Melchizedek, King of Salem. 

Once I began reaching for this dream, all of the barriers I thought were there melted away. I discovered my problem solving abilities were exceptional and could solve problems as they came. Some things took time. Some things took sacrifice. Some things tested my resolve to doing this and some things tested how I’d react to impossibilities. 

But now, in only a few days, I am leaving. 

All of my road blocks are cleared. All of my impossible-to-break chains are broken. And I write from an empty apartment on my phone, ready to set out for a great adventure. 

Don’t give up on your dreams. Don’t spend your days telling yourself that your dreams will come “someday”. Don’t wait for someone to give you permission to be where and who you want to be. 

“Go confidently in the direction of your dreams! Live the life you’ve imagined. As you simplify your life, the laws of the universe will be simpler.” –Henry David Thoreau


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The Addiction to the Busy Mind

Think back to a time in your life where you were very busy. It may not be hard to do; you may find it easy to remember when you were busy. Perhaps even easier than to remember when you weren’t. Think about a time when your mind had trouble stopping even when it was time to sleep. When you awoke and instantly the hampster jumped up on the wheel and began running as fast as he could, from the moment light crept past the lids of your eyes.

Did you find to difficult to shed that business? When you do that long enough you’re left with the feeling of near addiction to the sensation of a busy mind. It makes facing yourself in calm silence feel terrible, uncomfortable, or odd. It makes being alone frightful, and in the wake of such a response, we can do terrible things with our lives to avoid it.

We call it loneliness, but it’s not so much loneliness as it is a fear of facing ourselves. We aren’t afraid of being alone, we’re afraid of what we’ll find when we are — that when we are alone we’re not truly alone, we’re sort of trapped in a dark room with the aspects of ourselves we’ve avoided in our busier states. We tell ourselves we will deal with those things when we are done being busy but you may recall that you always try to stay busy.

Consider this video:

True happiness comes when you are alone with your inner self and not only accept them but love them, truly, like a child or a close friend.

Don’t run away from you.
Image courtesy of http://www.biblestudytools.com/bible-study/topical-studies/the-saint-must-walk-alone-11638845.html


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Thoughts about Science and Philosophy

I was piecing through a notebook of mine and came across a little journal entry on my thoughts about Philosophy and Science and how they play together.  Here’s what’s written:

 

“[On Science]: How all things function and operate demands the exploration of Science.  I use such a broad term because granular forms of science miss the point.  To say “The science of …” is to omit all sciences not specified.  To understand how things work, all sciences must be considered.”

“[On Philosophy]:  When exploring science, one is naturally lead to the ‘why.’  How specific you are determines where you’re studying.  If, for example, I ask “Why do humans sweat?”  Both Science and Philosophy will have a response, yet their responses are wildly different.  Science will say it’s because our bodies are hot and so we use the process of evaporation and the laws of thermodynamics to cool ourselves.  Science isn’t wrong, but the philosopher will say that it is a social, or even emotional response, taking “sweat” to mean “stress” or “worry”.

This is the line we draw between the two.  If one walks this line long enough, one may begin to blur their distinction entirely.  Both follow “thought models” and accept truth as it is discovered, without first dismissing evidence because it is an inconvenience.  I find this perspective enriching and use it to highlight an even greater truth.  That is, that all things are one.”

“[On Spirituality]: Once we approach “oneness”, we also see that science merges with philosophy and both merge with spirituality.  Viewing that all things are one naturally brings us to ourselves and how we fit into this “oneness”.  Of course, or perhaps in response, we believe all the universe exists and then there’s us — separate, unique, standing outside of the box, as it were.  But, of course, this can’t be right; that’s just bias or belief talking.  Yet the perspective exists and we are evidently the only ones with it.  Surely, if we are all one, then there must be a reason the individual can even see themselves as an individual at all.  It’s as if the universe is fooling itself; tricking itself into these roles.  This is precisely what much of the Hindu perspective suggests, according to Alan Watts.  “The Drama as he describes.

Isn’t it interesting that there exists such grand and undeniable evidence that such intergalactic oneness exists, yet simultaneously, the very perspective of its opposite does, as well?  This may be the grandest example of this nature of existence on its most fundamental and incredible level.  The truth behind all truths:

/Nothing can exist without its opposite./

Dark and light, matter and space, oneness and individuality.  So, this reveals what all perspectives converge on — All that there is and isn’t is completely perceive within the contrast between the total or present state of all things.  Those things, from Stars to Nebula to bugs and dirt, are in the state of constant flux; constant change.  This is the second fundamental law of nature — that all there is and isn’t never remains in that state –> it always changes.

Considering all of this; oneness, impermanence, and distinction/contrast, we can begin to view the universe as a singular, unified thing yet with many distinct contrasts or components.  Stars, the oceans, and even us, are all the distinctions the universe expresses itself as.  It can be said that we are perhaps bad actors in the pretend drama of the universe; at least, those of us that know that we’re acting, because we sometimes detach from the act and remember our true selves.”

“[One View]: Taking all of this into account, we can see where my true view on all things lies.  Understanding how it all works tgoether, exploring scientifically, philsophically, and spirtually, I can hopefully find a path that leads me to the root answer of all things.  Or, perhaps, the answer will lie within the journey itself and that experience — perhaps all experiences — are their own reward.  Perhaps we’re all one and we’re trying to feel everything possible in as many dynamics and flavors as we can.  Perhaps we are acting with ourselves to flesh out the heart of empathy and kindness, of contrast and realization.

Just as the time comes in our live where we look inward to understand our deepest selves, perhaps so too the universe looks inward to discover it’s truest self.  And as wise and divine as it — we! — all are, it crafts all of creation and all of creation’s expressions in order to explore this fundamental goal.

That sounds wonderful to me.”

 

Image and good reading courtesy of: http://theconversation.com/when-science-and-philosophy-collide-in-a-fine-tuned-universe-25067