The Wandering Monk

Brewmaster Rysu – New Posts On Tuesdays


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Confidence of Self

I’ve had an interesting revelation that I’d like to share with you today. It involves society, how we behave when we’re among perceived variations of social situations and, more directly, how our confidence and sense of self is affected. 

I like to consider myself fearless; or at least to possess a fearless heart. I have faced challenging things in life and, while I may have been afraid, I did the best I could. I made mistakes but I always tried to do my best even as fear was my companion, I didn’t let it determine my destination. 

But there are some people in my life that, when I face them, no matter how long it has been or how much I have changed, they always seem to invoke the same sense in me. 

I recently reunited with someone that has a curious affect on my confidence. It isn’t that they demean or reduce it, but because I value them and their opinion, I inadvertently shed my own self-generation of happiness and instead pour that energy into them. I do this almost automatically. 

Today I realized that I was doing that as we talked. I realized I was not balancing this person with my ability to maintain myself. I realized that I faced this person and evaluated them as someone I wanted to see happy at any cost, but gave no attention to my own sense of happiness. 

I won’t go into how balance once again reveals itself, but what I will say is that confidence, like anything else, starts with you. 

I once heard someone say “No one can put you down without your permission.” I never agreed with that. Hurtful words were hurtful whether or not you permitted them to be. But I think what that advice is saying is that you can choose to see it as something that demeans you; they have power and you’re the victim. If this is indeed  he scenario you believe yourself to be in, then you’ve already lost. But if you can see it as another person inaccurately describing you and instead revealing their own insecurities and lack of confidence, their words ring hollow. 

I took some time to think about how my confidence can waiver depending on others and how I can cement it. The conclusion I came to was that I must equally accept that my actions will impact others and that my actions are first determined from my self. If I am not confident, my decisions and my actions will send the wrong energy to those around me. Despite my best efforts I will spell disaster for myself if it snowballs. Others will lose confidence in me if I do not have confidence in myself. Without confidence, how can they respect me? How could they perceive me any other way than how I am communicating how I am perceiving myself?

And so I have decided that confidence starts with balance. It starts with keeping the dispersion of my energy even and equal, and to include myself in my equation. It starts with not trying to grasp and wrench and control the happiness of others. 

Happiness is a delicate flower. Even well intended squeezes will destroy it. It is Evanescent. It is uncontained and undefined by singularit and form. It is born both from within through trusting yourself and without in trusting your decisions. 

Confidence comes from loving yourself, valuing yourself, and for not accepting any less than having an equal place in your world. Placing others above or below you only shatters the balance. 

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The Truest Victory

When we think of victory, inherent words come to mind:

Winner. Opposition.  Versus.  Against. Loss. Conqueor.

But is victory simply being better than someone or something else?  Do we consider ourselves the winner only if there is a loser? Do we stand high only if we stand over someone or something?

This may sound a bit dull, but Chen Stormstout says something interesting during his introduction to the Mists of Pandaria expansion in World of Warcraft (bare with me here, I promise it’s worth it).  Here’s what he says:

To ask why we fight
Is to ask why leaves fall.

It is in their nature.

Perhaps there is a better question.

Why do we fight?
To protect Home and Family.
To Preserve Balance.
and bring Harmony.

For my kind, the trust question is:
What is worth fighting for?

If you shed the Warcraft vibe and read that for what it is, you can see some interesting highlights there.  The contrast here is how we view conflict and, ultimately, victory.  Many view conflict and victory as the means and destination, respectively.  Some view it as rebellion, or defiance.  Retribution.  Assertion of dominance.

Whatever your viewpoint on conflict and victory, we can’t deny that the role these things play in the nature of all things is clear.  Life blossoms in all of its majesty from conflict.  It is at our deepest level, in every cell in our bodies.  The most basic and truest rule that all life that we know is to preserve itself and to resist death.

And so as human beings, with complex minds ultimately derived from this basic function, we have tied the nature of all things on our deepest levels to this concept.  Socially, victory is to thrive and defeat is to falter.  Before we find our states, the natural response of most kids and teenagers is to aggressively engage in a battle of dominance with their social peers.  Think back to high school; consider what the word ‘drama’ means in the modern world.  Look at politics, both nationally and at your office or place of work.  Look at the way people interact with each other versus how they interact in private.

It all boils down to the same instinct: survival.  To be socially accepted is to be part of the pack that survives and to survive is the ultimate objective.

Because we are complex individuals that think and see the world, through the ideology of awareness, we can analyze this and peer inward.

Consider the quote above again after thinking about this concept.  Perhaps we fight for survival — and this can and has driven many wars (think: war over resources, politics, religion, way of life, or philosophy, ultimately boils down to wanting the survival of something to persevere or overtake the survival of something else).

So, is victory survival? If we survive in an aspect (or all aspects) of our life, have we become victorious?

Let’s talk about the word equilibrium. Here, we’ll use this word to define the very center of balance.  When a scale no longer tips in any direction, it has found equilibrium.  When something is truly dead and no longer transitions from a state to another state — when it sits completely idle and motionless at every possible level or scale, we’ll call that equilibrium.  We can call this true death.  We can call it true center.  We can call it the point that something reaches when the aggregate of all of its actions and reactions finally lull to the point where no action or reaction ever exist within the boundaries of the thing we’re talking about.  When the universe reaches this, it’s called Heat Death — where the universe “has diminished to a state of no thermodynamic free energy and therefore can no longer sustain processes that increase entropy (including computation and life).”

Inevitably, survival won’t perpetuate forever.  At best, we can prolong it for a time before we descend into equilibrium. Perhaps knowing this is why we have developed such a keen awareness of the world — to find a way to transcend this!  Or because some deep part of us knows that, while survival is our prime directive, we cannot escape the fundamental balance of nature.  The fundamental truth that all of the universe wants balance and harmony and violations of this are always corrected.

In a way, the truest fundamental truth of the universe — which life is a participant in — is the nature of balance.  Existence is the culmination of both the balancing laws and the violation of those laws working as one.  Light and dark.  Good and bad.  Positive and negative.  Without one, the other wouldn’t exist.  It would all settle into a calm, dead silence, and perhaps this, too, would still maintain this duality — being both life and death, true harmony and balance, and the utter lack of it.  Unity in its truest sense.

Does that mean that ‘victory’ is the defiance of this true equilibrium? Does ‘survival’ mean we’re combating our descent into the very harmony and balance that we know must exist in all things?  Are we all rebels and resistance?  Are we all defiant?

Consider this: When we see dark things happen — crime, chaos, destruction — we dislike it.  Our very nature is to dislike these things proportionately to the magnitude of our perception of it.  If a man dies of old age, our response is different, both in scale and intensity, than if a thousand people die in a fire, or that man dies violently.

This may mark our innate survival prime directive and perhaps it is this that fuels our reactions.  But is it because we view death as our descending into equilibrium, and those who die have ‘lost’ the ‘fight’ against this?  Is it because we fear our own fight will fail too? (Spoilers: it will).

When a star explodes, it is chaos and it’s beheld as incredible from our perspective — be it incredibly beautiful, incredibly brilliant, or incredibly destructive.  We use words like ‘dies’ when we describe it.  When this happens, the stardust it leaves behind will eventually coalesce into a nebulae and then eventually reform into a star once again over an incredibly long period of time relative to our perspective of existence.  So did the star die? Or did it change?  Did the star fall into equilibrium?  No, it didn’t.

When we die, does what makes us up fall into equilibrium? Just as the star didn’t, neither do we.  At least, not at the juncture we call death. 

But if that’s true, then why do we fight death so vehemently?  I think the answer lies within the conscious state of our minds — our soul — our ego — and our inability to validate its continued existence beyond the transition of our state into another.  When we become dust and that becomes flowers, and that becomes trees, and that becomes fruit, and that becomes an animal, and that becomes part of a person, and that becomes someone in some distant time — when we are diced up a million-million times and scattered to the wind — what will remain of us?

Humanity has invented countless ideas and belief systems to help us cope with this fact.  Some believe that when it happens, the essence that is truly and uniquely YOU goes elsewhere, while the rest of you is recycled into all of creation to be re purposed. I’m sure we’re all familiar with the various ideologies popular to our societies. Whether you’re a stout believer or a silent observer, we can’t deny that one function of these religious views is to give us some peace with the otherwise loss of our conscious soul.

But this blog post is about victory — why are we talking about all this?

Okay, okay.  So we talked about Chen’s view on fighting — and contrasted two popular views: fighting for survival and fighting against falling into equilibrium.  We ultimately concluded that the two are one in the same.

But let’s ask ourselves two questions:
1) Is our standard concept of victory possible here?
2) Is this actually victory at all?

Let’s tackle these questions in order.  First, is our standard concept of victory possible here? Is Chen’s standard of victory possible? Are they different?

As our standard of victory is generally overcoming something else, standing above it, conquering it, bending it to our will or our desire, I would say no meaningful victory can exist.  We all know we can’t fight death.

If we look at Chen’s view on preserving balance and to bring harmony, then I think we’re much closer to the truth, but perhaps implicitly more than matter-of-factually.  More on that in a minute.

Our second question, “Is this actually victory at all?” is perhaps best applied to the first concept of ‘victory’ we outlined above.  Any victory we can measure in the fight for survival is only ever short term.  Inevitably, it becomes a loss, doesn’t it?  Everything dies eventually, right?

Unless we redefine what ‘survival’ means.  Unless we take the full nature of all things into account and expand our definition to include the truth about balance and harmony — about equilibrium.

If that is the case — and if we define victory as preserving balance and bringing harmony — we’ll see that the truest sense of victory is to simply exist and be the best we can now! As an expression that will inevitably change and grow and be.  If we respond to our environment with balance and we maintain harmony among our actions and the actions of those around us, we will be as close to our truest nature as we can possibly be — aligned both in mind, body, and spirit with the very motive of the cosmos and the methodology of existence itself.

Ironically, to be truly victorious, we must surrender our resistance to the nature of things and embrace this principle in our lives.  In doing so, we preserve our balance and the balance of all things and align our spirits and souls with the same freedom that nature has shown us it has had all along.

Every war that is fought decides its victor from the leaders who see the flow of their environment and respond with balance and understanding.  Every conflict finds conclusion in favor of the force that exists within the balance and harmony of existence.  Tactics surround this philosophy.  Hand-to-hand or Army-to-Army, we interpret the nature of terrain, of people, of humanity, and of response.  We look forward and listen to the flow of battle.

When we farm, we listen to the nature and balance of all things to be successful.  Plants grow because we understand the balance life has with its environment; it needs water, food, sunlight, and attention.  Life grows when it is balanced in these things.  Too much of these things or not enough of these things, and balance wanes and the result is stunted, faltering growth, or even complete loss.

Yet when this happens, balance tells us that the loss or death of these plants will fuel and feed the soil and allow more to grow in their place, once balance is restored.

In all things, we experience this truth.  Even in our definition of victory. 

So get out there, be victorious in the way only you can.  Learn and feel the flow of balance in the things you’re passionate about.  Inhale and exhale equally, pace with each foot evenly, and explore both home and far.

Until next time.


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If Not Now, When?

If you’ve been reading this blog long, you’ll know that I stipulate that I talk about Brewing Beer, doing Kung Fu, the intricate and wonderful play style of the Brewmaster Monk in World of Warcraft, and about my philosophy on life and on the things I have seen and felt in my brief but treasured time on our mutual home, Earth.

You may also notice that there are an abundance of discussions and posts that seem to feel more like they’re philosophy and less about anything else.  Casual references here and there still hook in the other topics, but it’s as if philosophy has taken center stage.

This was recently brought up to me by a friend who found my blog while searching for philosophy blogs.

Honestly, I may have only vaguely noticed.  I read back over some of the things that I’ve written and, while I do categorize these posts into different pages, much of what I’m talking about can be applied to all of these topics.  Perhaps I think this because I have an idealistic and philosophical mind.  Perhaps I think this because philosophy is how I approach all things.

Or perhaps I think this because our philosophies shape our realities.

Let’s explore.

Today I’m going to talk about something that I may have touched on in the past, but not quite in this way: Now.

Incubus is arguably one of my favorite artists.  I find their music refreshing and in my life I’ve rarely encountered a situation where at least one Incubus song didn’t apply.  One song that recently came up on randomly as I walked back from my Saturday morning breakfast place is If Not Now, When? from their album of the same name.  Here are the lyrics, for your consideration:

 

I have waited
Dined on ashes
Swung from chandeliers and climbed Everest
And none of it’s got me close to this.

I’ve waited all my life
If not now, when will I?

We’ve been good
Even a blast, but
Don’t you feel like somethings missing here?
Don’t you dare. (Ohh, ooo)

I’ve waited all my life
If not now, when will I?
Stand up and face the bright light
Don’t hide your eyes
It’s time.  It’s time.  It’s time.

No umbrellas.
No sunglasses.
Heal and hallelujah everyday.

I’ve waited all my life.
If not now, when willl I?
Stand up and face the bright light.
Don’t hide your eyes.
It’s time, it’s time, it’s time.

It’s time.

This song has an interesting tone and, while I don’t want to influence your interpretation of it too much, it seems to me to be telling the listener some interesting things.  It seems to start off as qualifying the speaker — look at what they’ve done.  They’ve had great sorrow, great fun, and accomplished great things.  But none of those things gave him the gift of this lesson.  The speaker wants you to look inward and ask yourself if something’s missing.  Don’t excuse (is how I took the ‘Don’t you dare‘ lyric).  Stand up and face what you know you need to do.  Don’t cut corners with sunglasses and umbrellas, don’t hide your eyes.  Because it’s time.

Clearly, the philosophical implication here goes without saying.  If learn anything from this message, it’s that if we wait forever for something to come, it may never.  So, with confidence and courage, we must face our lives head on, or simply be a passenger on a train, watching it fly by.

Yet, this blog is not about philosophy alone.  It’s about Brewing Beer, Making Tea, Practicing Kung Fu, and Playing Video games.  It’s about writing and expressing, reading and thinking.  It’s about the application of our ideas into physical reality. It’s about becoming alive and demonstrating just how we’ve done that and how we plan to do it — and how others can too.

 


 

In Kung Fu, we do a curious thing in a fight.  Even before we consider the philosophy of how we fight, how we receive our attacks, how we reply, we must first consider the philosophy of ourself and the very nature of the fight.

If we are in competition, the opponent may be a friend who is merely practicing with us.

If we are on the street, our opponent may be suffering and hurting, angry and frustrated, and lashing.  They may be full of pain, and in their desperation, or in their pride, or in their subconscious need, they’ve deemed this action — the action of attacking another person — to be their best option.

Before the fight begins, we must first consider ourselves and our opponent.

If a person is suffering in front of me, even with a gun, even with a knife, even with the intent to harm me, I do not want to cause them to suffer more.  I want to help them.  Of course, I can’t help them if they kill me, so I have to stop that first.  If I am angry, then I will approach him with anger.  If I am compassionate, I will approach him with compassion.

I will fight him with compassion.  

If I disarm him, I will not humiliate him or taunt him.  If I remove him as a threat, I will not then stand idle and allow him to suffer under the weight of even this loss.  Life is such a blossoming and beautiful thing that there just doesn’t feel like there’s room to shatter someone else’s opportunity for growth.

If he kills me, then it will be my legacy that others remember.  Perhaps my words, perhaps my actions.  Perhaps my mistakes.  But even as I die, I will only mourn the idea that I was not able to redirect his suffering and his anger towards a path that would ultimately bring him peace.

If I approach a fight this way, the methodology of my technique becomes clear and intrinsic.  It becomes almost automatic.  He will strike, and I will guide and deflect his blow as assuredly as I hope to guide him away from his suffering.  If he spits and claws, I will remove this threat because it does not only threaten me, it threatens him too.

At the end, if I am standing and he is neutralized as a threat, I will find him help as bests I can.

To me, Kung Fu is philosophy.  It is the physical manifestation of perhaps a lifelong journey of ideals and morals, internal feelings and external expression.  It is the culmination of our wisdom, our discipline, our compassion, and our intention.  If we treat it this way, we not only protect physical self, we also solidify our spiritual self.

 


In Brewing, we follow routine and intention and use our creativity and our intuition to find knowledge that we hope to enjoy.  Brewing teaches us patience because we must wait for our results.  It teaches us discipline because it has such exacting specifications.  It teaches us consequences because our mistakes have clear results that only happen from mistakes and nothing else.

When I make a new batch of beer, the process is long and, similar to cooking, doesn’t truly take form for hours, and doesn’t even begin to become assessable for perhaps weeks.  Sometimes, I am tempted to worry.  Did I do everything correctly?  Did I forget anything?  Did I sterilize my equipment well enough? Is the storage area cool enough? Will this turn out like I want it to?

The lesson I am taught here is that, in life and in Brewing, there are often more questions and more analysis than there are answers and results.  Because results come slowly but the production of answers come quickly and often endlessly, there is a key lesson to internalize if we are going to maintain our center.

Sometimes we just don’t know how things will turn out and that’s okay.

If my beer doesn’t turn out like I wanted it, perhaps the result will be something else that’s enjoyable, or perhaps it will be spoiled.  If it is enjoyable, of course it’s easier to celebrate.  If it is spoiled, then it is less inspiring — but perhaps it doesn’t have to be.  When my beer ends up not turning out, I think perhaps I learn the most.  I take some time to go over why I think that might be, assess the equipment and the steps I took, and consider what I might’ve done different.

All to often, when I am thinking about my mistakes, I find answers to questions I hadn’t even thought to ask!

Philosophy drips from the Brewing experience and our hearts can easily internalize the lessons of the process into the rest of our lives.

 


The Brewmaster Monk is a tanking class in World of Warcraft.  After you read the rest of this post and then came to here, you’re probably thinking “This definitely doesn’t fit the rest of the blog — especially philosophy!” 

Well, maybe you’re not.  But the Brewmaster Monk has an interesting play style, especially as we move into the Legion expansion.  Without boring you with too many mechanics, the simple idea is that you gain the attention of enemies so your allies don’t get harmed and you use various alchemical brew concoctions to deal with the damage of so many enemies at once.

Conceptually, it’s very similar to the Zhu Quan style of Kung Fu.  We stagger about, minimizing and delaying the damage we receive from our enemies, confusing them with our random beer drinking and surprisingly accurate and powerful strikes.

Philosophically, the gameplay style can be viewed as a kind of perspective on the role of a protector.  When we think about the role of a protector in a fantasy world, we usually think about Knights and Warriors that use shields and swords as a bulwark against their enemies.  But the Brewmaster Monk exists outside of this fantasy.  He doesn’t wear heavy armor, he doesn’t use magic or strength to combat his foes.  He simply uses a life philosophy — to bend and not break, to redirect, to master his own energy and the energy of his enemies and to use this to wade confidently through the aggressive blows to emerge unscathed.

In life we can learn much from this.  Mastery of self is often a prerequisite for success in what we do.  If we cannot stand as ourselves against the scrutiny of the world or the challenges we face, then we are bound to become influenced and ultimately suppressed by them.  We must understand balance, both in ourselves and in our environment, so that we can understand the nature of what we must do.  The winds can toss us around but not damage us, but we may need to act, or we may be carried away by the gusts.

Knowing when and how is the philosophy I have learned from the Brewmaster Monk.

 


 

All of the elements of this blog steer towards philosophy in some way.  In the beginning, I spoke about that Incubus song, If Not Now, When? and we saw that the song beckons us to act now on the things we need, regardless of our past feats and failures.  In my life, I have found that I must remind myself that even after I’ve done this, I must continue to do it.  Acting now is not an action, it’s a way of life.  It’s a dogma of idealism that asks us to inventory ourselves and the world around us and to shed the inhibitions we face.  If we can master this in ourselves, then we are truly free — free from pain, regret, and fear.  We are courageous.

We are alive.


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What isn’t Meditation?

In martial arts, among many things, we learn that the philosophy of what we learn is all around us.  When we master ourselves, we inherently master our environment, and when we do that, the happy by-product is that we are able to defend ourselves against those who have not mastered themselves.  To that end, we learn the task of centering.  Physical centering, in that we must learn where the center of our bodies are, of balance and of our motions; of how to maintain our center even as we transition and move, fluidly and swiftly. But more than that, we learn about the centering of ourselves.

Finding your center is more than just finding where your center of gravity is.  It’s also above finding the present moment.  When we spend our time in the present moment, our once scattered focus becomes attuned to the now, and seeing the details we would normally miss becomes simple, and even automatic.  It enhances our memory, our productivity, our emotional fortitude, and sheds our regret of the past and our fear of the future.  You could spend your whole life trying to find your true center and it would not be a wasted life.

But what does that mean in practical, every day life?  Consider meditation.  When most hear this word, they think of dedicated monks in temples, chanting mantra and treasuring all life, down to the bug on the ground.  And they would not be wrong with this vision of meditation.  But consider that, at its heart, meditation is simply bringing yourself into the present moment. To that end, meditation is anything that engages you completely, extracts you from your linear, scattered thought processes, and that grounds you in the now.  

I read a book called the Peace is Every Step by Thich Nhat Hanh in which he describes meditation as being something as simple as washing the dishes, so long as we remain in that moment and focus only on our dishes, not on the future, or the past; not on our day, or what we will do after the dishes, or what we have done even before we began doing those dishes.  Another book, A Beginner’s Guide to Meditation by Rod Meade Sperry, describes meditation as the centering and clearing of the mind.  It further stipulates that the phrase “I will meditate on that” is nonsensical, given the goal is to not think.  

Honestly, sometimes we do need to disconnect from the world around us for a while and push all our lingering thoughts from our minds.  Zen Buddhists call this Zazen and it’s often done by focusing on your breathing.  If you’d like to try it, simply sit in a comfortable sitting position, glance downward at the floor so as not to strain your eyes and focus all of your attention on counting each inhale and exhale, aware of every breath.  As thoughts enter your mind, acknowledge them once you notice them and then gently guide your attention back to your breathing.  

This is what is taught by many Buddhist teachers.  But, let’s take a look at what we’re doing when we do this.  Are we emptying our mind?  Or are we withdrawing our awareness to a point that is within each moment, tracked by our every breath?  To me, this is as much a meditation as the dishes; you’re actively bringing yourself to this moment.

In martial arts, we do this as well.  A distracted mind misses details and goes against the flow of a fight.  A mind worrying about the future or the past is not taken by the energy of the present moment and cannot sail those waters safely.  So as we practice our martial arts, we mind our technique and our detail, our center and our stance, our philosophy and our energy, and when we practice, we are meditating.  No other distraction exists while we practice, or else if it does, we are not practicing, we are repeating.  So to find your true center in martial arts, one must find their spiritual and meditative center first.  And to find that, one must be aware of the present moment.  This is mediation.

My mother wakes up every morning and spends an amount of time sitting at her kitchen table nursing a cup of coffee.  She wakes up early so that she is alone, that she has enough time to enjoy it without worrying about her time.  During this time, she sheds her worries of the day before, her expectations of the day today, or the implications of her actions for tomorrow.  During this time, she simply drinks her coffee and enjoys it for what it is; a moment of silence in the present moment.  This is meditation.

Friends of mine are regulars at a local gym and ritually attend every morning at 5:00AM and every evening at 8:00PM.  During this time, their minds are focused on their tasks.  Further, their minds are centered on the specific action they’re performing.  To not be focused on it could mean injury at worst, or poor quality of training at least.  They are not worried about the time before or after their gym experience.  They are not worried about the machine they’ll use next or the exercise they’ll be performing.  They’re in this moment.  This is meditation.

These examples are only a few, but it brings along on a journey where we can arrive at the conclusion that anything we do can be meditation, so long as it brings us to the now, and so long as we are not distracted by the rest of our lives or our worries of the world.  And so we arrive at the title of this article, What isn’t Meditation?

All things can be meditation and all things can not be meditation.  Meditation and its existence is a word that we use to describe anytime we apply our whole self to a task.  So perhaps it isn’t an action at all, but a way of life.  

And by the way, if you took the time to read this post fully, and without distraction, then I thank you for meditating with me.  

Until next time.


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The Blonde Ale of Life

Yesterday was the day for opening the first bottle of my long awaited Blonde Ale.  Six weeks ago I had spent a enjoyable Sunday afternoon proudly mixing grains, malts, hops, and love into a tonic of marvelous invent.  I worried and stressed over the process; meticulously ensured it stayed clean.  I watched the temperature like a hawk to ensure the grain and malt remained at the exact appropriate temperature it needed to for hours.  I was careful with every drop, every movement.  I prepared endlessly — something I do not typically do nearly as much — and was a surgeon whilst I poured it into the car boy.  For weeks on end, I impatiently waited, going over the process in my mind every day, scrutinizing my steps to make sure I had done everything exactly as I thought I should’ve.  A true INTP, I was in a constant contest of logic with myself, determined to ensure the best possible outcome. 

In doing all of this, I stumbled upon an interesting thought path: I experienced real care and emotion for this batch of brew.  I loved the process, the chemistry, and the crafted art that I could express, and I felt as though this could be one of the finest beers I’ve made — perhaps a masterpiece — so long as I pour enough energy into it.  

Yesterday, the bottles were chilled, and I prepared for a wonderful dinner to compliment the experience.  I felt that if the beer somehow turned out terrible, it would ruin my whole night.  I found myself trapped in the thoroughs of anxiety.  I opened the first fermented wonder and the frothing brew reacted to the pressure release, bubbling up like a majestic fountain.  This wasn’t the ‘shaken soda’ kind of overflow, it was something more; something beautiful.  

I did what any self-respecting beer crafter would do and just took a huge drink of the overflowing beverage to release the bottle-neck.  It was that single, shining moment that punctuated the experience.  The Blonde Ale was absolutely amazing.

I sat down to my Shiitake and Garlic-infused burger, topped with Miso Mayo and a crisp potato bun, my tasty new discovery, and a beaming smile that closely resembled a new parent’s happiness upon meeting their child for the first time. 

That’s when it hit me. 

My journey through creating this Blonde Ale was a tiny metaphor for life.  In my daily life, I often calculate and stress, but simultaneously pour my energy into all the things I do.  If it succeeds, it brings me great happiness and fulfillment; it enables me to validate my efforts and subconsciously manages my self-esteem a bit.  If it fails, and the opposite is also true; I suffer from it.  When I was younger this was nearly crippling, but the years have taught me to remain flexible.  

Zu Quan asks us to maintain our center and to let flow the free hand of our energies, tempered by the practiced hand, harnessing the true nature of the universe to apply art, skill, and universal understanding to the situation.  Perhaps it is a fight, or perhaps it is negotiating life’s challenges.  Buddhist philosophy asks me to follow the Eight Fold Path to Enlightenment and remember the Four Noble Truths.

But was I adhering to these principles?  I think no.  We’re my beer to have failed, my mood would have soured and my self image would have altered.  I would have stumbled over myself in thought and emotion, and I would have resisted the nature of the universe.  I would have been the aging oak, not the flexible reed.  

So, today, I have reaffirmed my dedication to keeping centered.  Whether this is physically, emotionally, mentally, or psychologically, my center must be present.  Happiness is a delightful feeling and one we often seek.  But I have to remember that the happiness I felt last night did not come from the Blonde Ale, it came from the hard work, the care and love, and the time and nurtur that I poured into the effort. Perhaps if I had this same beer from a store, it would not have had the same luster.  

There is no way to happiness.  Happiness is the way.