Tuesday, September 20, 2016

The Canopy

The Canopy, Kailua Beach Access Point #91A, Kailua, HI, October 2013, Canon PowerShot S90, 6mm, 1/30 sec @ f8, ISO 800, 0 EV, no flash © Steven Crisp  [Click on the photo to enlarge]

There is this magical place, on the way to the beach from where we first lived in Hawaii.  A healthy Banyan tree is flourishing in the sand at the beach access point.  It's not the largest tree, to be sure.  You might not even notice it while driving down the road.  But if you are walking past it, on your way to or from the beach at dawn or dusk, you will surely hear the tree -- it is alive!

In the canopy, largely hidden from sight by the dense foliage, are hundreds and hundreds of roosting birds.  And at the turn of each day, they are very chatty.  Cannot-hear-yourself-think chatty! 

And that is good, because our thinking can oft times inhibit our appreciation of the sensory world; of paying attention "now."  And what might our mind be thinking about?  Just about any thing other than our immediate and felt experience.  

So thank those flocks of birds, and anything else that jolts us awake or applies the brakes to our locomotive brain.  And be reminded of this:

"Each of us needs to withdraw from the cares
which will not withdraw from us.
We need hours of aimless wandering,
or spates of time sitting on park benches,
observing the mysterious world of ants
and the canopy of trees."

~Maya Angelou

Wednesday, September 14, 2016

When is a Question more important than an Answer?

Who am I?, Lanikai, Oahu, HI, 2/1/15, Nikon D600 with FX 28-300mm VR lens, 300mm, 1/250 sec @ f5.6, ISO 640, -0.67 EV, no flash © Steven Crisp  [Click on the photo to enlarge]

Once upon a time, I went through a mid-life crisis.  It was the good kind, not the red corvette and trophy blond kind ;-)

During those tumultuous-but-introspective days, a group emerged, somewhat as a parody of my state of mind, called "The Seekers".  It was pretty normal for every group gathering to end up discussing some of my "urgent" questions.  Who, what, where is God?  Is there a personified God?  Which religion has the Truth?  Etc.  While I may have made the gatherings somewhat stimulating, I know I also challenged a lot of deeply-held beliefs, and that is not the best way to win friends or influence people ;-)

I also read -- a lot.  And I was quite inspired by all of this.  To the point of having brief glimpses of what some might call "the divine", "satori", or the "true self".  I wrote about them on this and some of my other blogs.  But emphasis on the world "brief".  Good news:  I knew (aka experienced) that there was something there.  Bad news:  easy to lose that state, and hard to get it back.

But the end result of this wondrous 10 years or so was that I had in fact "found my answers".  I was no longer a "Seeker".  When you feel you understand the "Truth", or at least believe you have an understanding of its fundamental nature, so much of our religiosity and consumerism and modernity becomes clear as nothing more than a side-show spectacle.  So it is pretty easy to drop.

But another thing happened on the way to understanding ... I lost my voice ... my creative muse.  Where the heck did it go?  And why?  Well today I was reminded of the answer to those questions.  Which is somewhat ironic, as the real answer is the title of this blog post -- "When is a Question more important than an Answer?"  When you are looking for the meaning of life.

Meaning -- at least for me -- will not come by finding answers, but by remaining open to the great mysteries and eternal questions.  Not by understanding the evolutionary purpose of our biological life, true as that may be.  Meaning for me, will come I now realize, by continuing to delve deeply into the inner life -- my inner life. 

Recently, I made a significant decision to retire from the one and only company I have worked for my entire adult life -- 37+ years with one firm.  Pretty unheard of these days.  But October 3rd will be my last official work day.  While day-to-day activities will continue to demand much of my time, I've now realized just how essential it will be to dedicate as much quality time as I can to asking Questions.

And to what end?  I don't know, for sure.  And that, my friends, is a part of this adventure we call Life.  Anyone wish to rejoin "The Seekers"?  Everyone is welcome.  The goal is not so much to challenge, as it is to be open -- to new questions, new insights, new experiences, and to uncertainty.  I can think of nothing better to spend my "retirement years" on.  Oh yeah, and having some fun all along the way.  Welcome home, I say.

Oh one more thing.  It was this interview with Jacob Needleman (for whatever reason) that inspired me to think these sorts of thoughts again.  That's probably more a reflection of my state of mind, than this interview per se, but who knows -- it might be helpful for someone else as well.  Enjoy, if you are so inclined.

Tuesday, July 19, 2016

To breathe or not to breathe

Surely we must breathe.  It is one of the most basic, automatic things we do.  And if we don't, we die, right?

Surely we must eat.  Again, same words.  But what is really true about either statement?

We don't need to breathe all the time.  Just take a look at this beautiful and peaceful dance between a freediver and a whale shark.  So much time without a breathe.  We can train our minds and our bodies.  And then we can be somewhat more in charge of who we are and how we are.

And what about eating?  Well I'm doing a bit of an experiment lately.  Been doing it for a little under a month.  It's called intermittent fasting (IF).  And basically, it means not eating for the majority of the day.  Or alternatively, eating during a relatively short period of time during the day.  Perhaps a 6 hour window to eat, and 18 hours not eating.

It's just another form of fasting.  Something that has been done for millennia -- both borne of necessity, and of choice, often associated with spirituality.

I'm not drawing any conclusions so far; the experiment will continue for the foreseeable future.  Except two things.  First, when I don't eat in the morning, I'm no longer hungry either.  I'll either drink water and/or black coffee.  I really enjoy how it makes me feel.  Second, I am as a result, much more mindful about whether I need to eat due to hunger (or other conditioned signals).  Much more so than I was before.  I think this is perhaps the greatest benefit.

I'm sure I am eating less each day than if I was not IF, so that will contribute to some weight loss, but so far, nothing dramatic.  Maybe 5 lbs over 3 weeks.  But maybe you have heard the term:  Hara Hachi Bu.  It's what the Japanese call eating until you are 80% full.  Still a little hungry.  Not stuffed to the gills ;-)

It is the place I think I want to be.  This little article has a quick summary on it:


So anyways.  We must breathe, but we can control those conditions for when we breathe, how frequently, and how long in between breaths we want to go.  And the same is true for eating as well.  Who would have thought you could learn that from a video of a lean freediver and a whaleshark ;-)

Enjoy more by doing less.  Namaste.

Thursday, July 14, 2016

To run or not to run ...

The Run, Mill Trail, Mont Vernon, NH, 7/14/16

So today I went for my first run in quite some time, and my first run since being back in NH.  I set out with no plan, and followed my nose, stumbling onto a new housing development, which happened to have a development map, and along side the development, there was a trail shown.  So I thought, why not do trail running rather than asphalt running.

It took me through the woods, and eventually came to a stream with rocks available to cross, as seen in the picture above.  Very nice, if somewhat buggy.

And why did I choose to run, rather than not to run, today?  Was it because of my recent drives on back country roads that I had run in my earlier years?  Or thinking about the cooler temperatures on the summer mornings?  Or coming across a field mouse, tripping over himself to get out of my way?  Or that giant fungus about two feet across at the base of a might oak?  Or the dogs quietly observing me -- good boy?  Or the gentle babble of slow moving water in the stream?  Or is it the not-knowing of where one is headed, but trusting one will find their way home?  Or perhaps that gentle tightness in the stomach, perhaps there is some fat-burning underway?  Or the light sweat, that actually tingles the skin as it begins, making you think a mosquito has landed?  Or those crazy deer flies that buzz incessantly?  Or listening to my favorite Buddhist teacher (Gil Fronsdal) in my ears?  Or anticipation of the cool shower as I head down my driveway?

Yeah, it's one of those reasons for sure.  Maybe all of them.  I'm just glad I laced up the shoes finally.  Hopefully, more to follow.

Friday, July 08, 2016

To trust or not to trust ...

Directed and edited by Peter Sharp.  More at The Liberators.

Video from KarmaTube

To trust or not to trust ... perhaps that is the question?

Our reptilian brains have evolved to distrust "the other".  This has served us well from an evolutionary standpoint, where our basic survival was at stake.  But now, in an ever expanding, connected, enlightened world, where civilization has helped to provide for our basic needs, is this who we wish to be?

I mean it is a basic question -- is the glass half full or half empty?  Are you a trusting person or not?

It sort of "defines" your world view.

And yet there is a persistent drum beat of skepticism, cynicism, and out-right fear mongering that makes up much of the current day information feeds.  It takes a strong-willed person to ignore the "click-bait".

I have always been served well by conceptual test if a given idea is a good one or not:  does it scale?

Just imagine two worlds.  One world in which there is no trust, every stranger is assumed to be a foe, or out to take advantage of us, where we close up and constrict at every interaction and exchange with others.  Or another world in which you give each person you meet the benefit of the doubt, an assumption of good intent as the basis for interaction, allowing us to be open to new possibilities or new experiences.

To me there is only one answer to the question "to trust or not to trust."  Decide which world you want to live in, how you wish to go through this world, whether you will be at peace with your fellow man.  Or better, be at peace within yourself.   And feel the connections, community, and support of others.

Just like the young man in the video.

Oh, and I trust my next post will not have to wait another three years.  That was a bit excessive.  ;-) Let the games begin!