Help.

For the past few weeks that I’ve been an emotional mess. Last week reached its peak with the sentiment of unexplainable loneliness and despair, and a resounding sadness for humanity as a whole.

Help,” I murmured to myself out loud one day as I sat alone in my empty and dim office.

And then it all happened. Last Thursday a shaman invited me over to his nearby office and we had an amazing talk. Later that day, a friend came by for an equally energizing conversation. Just last Sunday, I reconnected with my closest friends from back in acupuncture college. And last Tuesday, I had an amazing chat with a friend of mine living in Seattle who gave me a profound tarot reading, guiding me, and showing me which way to go in life.

As much as I quite proudly fancy myself as an introvert and a loner, preferring solitude and quietness over everything else, there will be times when you simply just yearn for the comfort of friends. I love my wife and my kids, but I also need the company of friends whom you can connect with on a deep, spiritual level, who can anchor you with hope and inspiration, and remind you that you’re not alone outside of the matrix. It’s a different type of energy that your family can’t provide unless they cultivate as well.

Aside from my recent bouts of short-temperedness (probably due to the spring-wood, “rising yang” season), I feel more energized and inspired now. Mostly relaxed and at ease. The darkness of the previous three weeks have subsided, and I’m mostly myself now.

I cried for help, and my angels listened. “Help” is the most powerful prayer next to “thank you.”

And to my friends, spirits, and angels who inspire, guide, and protect me… thank you.

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It’s a lonely path.

My path is a lonely path, I wouldn’t recommend it to most people. Having a wife, two kids, and an elderly mother to care for, it’s not like I can pick up and move into a proper Taoist monastery for intensive training. Not to mention having a more than full time job as a business owner and Navy reservist. I also don’t know many people who call themselves “Taoists,” and if they do, I don’t know of any who would want to practice as deeply as I do. Well I did, but for some reason that friendship ended. Not sure why.

So that’s my dilemma. It’s lonely sometimes. Most times I’m happy with going about this mostly on my own, but the days that I can’t, I feel pretty sad. I know that I have my mentor/master and others in my group an email away, but sometimes I just want a face-to-face interaction and enjoy the nuances of a live conversation.

I’ve once wondered if I can turn back into simply a “normal” way of life. I can’t, it’s impossible. I can’t unsee what I saw, and I can’t un-experience what I experienced. I’m already deep down that rabbit hole whether I like it or not. I think I always have been. 

I’ve lately felt claustrophobic and withdrawn, and I hope it passes. But one part of me just wants to take a good friend with me and just walk. Go for a hike in the woods. Be with nature. Or just simply go outside.

Maybe I just need a good drink. Or to listen to some Count Basie.

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What is Not-Two?

Here we go, another entry-level Taoist perspective. But I love this koan. It’s a koan that’s an ongoing assignment from my Taoist master.

Not-Two, to me (so far), means that you’re not literally “one” with everything in the cosmos, but you’re not exactly “two” (or separate) from everything in the cosmos.

When you hear a lot of people who practice Eastern philosophical traditions, you hear about this “oneness.” That we are all “one.” But what I love about this “Not-Two” is that it feels more “real.”

Zhuangzi’s Butterfly Dream* gives us the understanding that everything around us is palpably different from us, that by releasing our egos and transforming our heart-minds to open our eyes to see the perspective of all things, we can truly experience the Tao… the Tao that connects all things in the cosmos.

In other words, we’re not all necessarily “one” because there’s a real palpable difference between myself and the rest of the cosmos, yet the Tao is the force that connects myself with all things in the universe… therefore, we’re Not-Two.

Believing that we’re all “one” (like we’re all this one huge clump of matter and consciousness) isn’t exactly correct, but believing that we’re eternally separate is delusion. The truth is right in the middle. Not-Two. Not-Two is harmony, destroying the dichotomy between oneness and separation.

Believing that something being different from me isn’t the same as believing something is separate than me. For example, I was on a Navy base a few weeks ago. Obviously there’s a difference between myself and the Navy base, but for me to be located at the Navy base, the Navy base depends on me, and I depend on it… so there can’t possibly be a separation between myself and the Navy base. Therefore, the Navy base and I are not “one,” we are not “separate,” we are simply “Not-Two.” My house and I are Not-Two. The world, the galaxy, and the universe and I are Not-Two.

And no matter where I am and what I’m engaged in, the Tao and I are Not-Two. This is an ongoing exercise for me. I’m still no good at it though :)

*The Butterfly Dream: Now I do not know whether I was then a man dreaming I was a butterfly, or whether I am now a butterfly, dreaming I am a man. 

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Liberation is hard sometimes.

An aspect of Taoist meditation is liberation from the matrix of society. And for those of us who choose to stay within this “matrix,” as opposed to wandering off into the mountains or hermitages, it’s a difficult thing to deal with.

A side-effect of this “liberation” is that one day you’re going to hop off of that meditation cushion and see this matrix in all its ugliness. It’s a real, palpable thing. And once your eyes have been open, there’s no way to un-see it. There’s just no turning back. It changes your life, it changes everything and sometimes it sucks, and sometimes it hurts.

Everyone knows that there’s suffering in the world. Murder, war, rape, greed, hate, racism, sexism, selfishness, desperation. But not everyone knows that all of those things share the very same origin within the human psyche. And a lot of us unknowingly perpetuate it every day without even noticing. But there are those of us who understand “reality,” and can see it right down to its very root.

Being unable to see reality (or seeing it, but not doing anything about it) causes us suffering. But once you see it, you have the responsibility to help other peoples’ suffering if they let you. It’s lonely and frustrating and infuriating and it makes you on the edge of living a life of indignation – standing on the mountain top and yelling “WHY CAN WE NOT SEE WHAT WE’RE DOING TO OURSELVES?!”

But you have to be compassionate because no one can see what you see. Unfortunately, I don’t have enough talent, artistry, credentials, or charisma to express my ideas, so no one listens. To others, I’m just another voice that no one can hear through the white noise of megalomania and narcissism. And already being an introvert and a loner, it makes me want to withdraw even more.

A voice inside of me screams at me every day.

“You were never meant to have what they have, or be what they are…. because you can ‘see,’ and most of them don’t want to. It hurts, I know. But it’s reality. You can never go back. So deal with it, and move on.”

This incredible sadness I feel for humanity is my pitfall as a practitioner. I want to be able to be a guide and have compassion without experiencing grief (or even indignation), so I have to research this for myself. I am, after all, an entry-level urban Taoist monk.

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Neigong Poem

My xin (heart-mind) is a feather
Drifting gently downwards,
As I smile into the sun
Whose love is radiated in the ten directions
For the ten thousand things to cherish.

I wrote this after coming out of an amazingly energetic and insightful meditation one day. This was just an observation of what was happening internally.

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Sunday Rambling Ruminations

Ever take time to take a good look at your kids and you’re struck with the fact that they’re Mother Nature’s incredible little miracles? Every day. But as hokey as it sounds, we’re all Mother Nature’s little miracles. But the fact that some of us view ourselves as “better” or “more important” than each other is a testament to how much we take each other’s magnificence for granted. And that makes me sad. This conscious separation of “me vs you” or “us vs them” is the cause of so much crap that goes on in our lives, whether it’s familial issues or racism or sexism or whatnot.

I take a lot of time throughout my day to meditate just to return to this feeling of interconnectedness with everyone despite the fact that so many don’t believe in interconnectedness. They flat out reject it, and reject me. They sadly think it’s “new agey” or “weird” despite the fact that we all do come from the same star stuff. Even scientists can attest to that.

But what’s more weird? Feeling as if we’re a part of each other and being mindful and respectful about how our own thoughts, emotions, and actions affect each other… or thinking that our new pair of Jordans or cars or hobbies or big muscles make us better than each other?

I go back to looking at my kids and gazing into their amazing little eyes. Full of hope and potential. I don’t care what they do in life, as long as they work hard and live a life of compassion. Compassion is the root of love. Compassion comes from the understanding that whatever we do will affect everyone else. And that’s the main teaching in morality I’ll give my kids to bring out the best in them in the hopes that they’ll do that for others as well. This is how I practice medicine too. And in this seemingly small way, this is how I choose to help change the world.

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Mom: “Meditation? What good does that do for the world?”

God bless Mom.

She lives with my wife and kids and I, but spends most of her time inside that tiny little dungeon called “her bedroom,” where she clutters whatever space she has left with miscellaneous things that she’s somehow become emotionally attached to over the past billion years. Not to mention that she spends countless hours reading books by James Clavell and watching Fox News. She apparently loves historical and current-event fiction.

But one day while we were on the road, she felt that she had to tell me that the Dalai Lama was basically a piece of shit who ate children and incited some sort of war killing a shitload of people.

Obviously she heard this from Sean Hannity.

I told her that’s a bunch of bullshit and she knew it. I’m not the hugest fan of the Dalai Lama myself, but eating children and starting wars? That’s not the Dalai Lama’s style. I also told her Tibetan Buddhism is as peaceful of a religion as you can get. They’re good people.

She asked me how they can be good people when all they do is beg and sit around all day thinking about nothing (my eyes were rolling at this point). I said that first of all, they’ve sworn off materialism which is why they all wear the same robes, and that they’ve cut their hair as short as they’ve cut their ego. So they look for charity in others much in the same way they serve others with charity.

She then asked, “But all they do is sit down and think about nothing. What good does that do for the world?”

That’s a valid statement, and a very good question. I can’t speak on behalf of the meditative practices of Tibetan Buddhism or any lineage of Buddhism as a whole, so the only way I can answer this is from a Taoist standpoint, albeit, a very beginner’s understanding of Taoism. But having friends of different Buddhist lineages, they tell me that Taoist meditation is very similar, so here it goes…

Let’s imagine that you had a shitty day. You wake up on the wrong side of the bed and so you start off the day in a shitty mood. So you yell at your spouse, kids, or roommates for whatever crappy thing they supposedly did. Then you can’t handle the traffic going to work or school and so you’re acting like a fool on the street, dangerously speeding or cutting people off. You finally get to work and start pissing off all of your coworkers. And after work you’re in rush hour once again acting a fool all the way back home, where your spouse, kids, or roommates are waiting for more of your crap.

But that’s the account from your perspective. What about all the people you’ve pissed off that day? Spouse, kids, roommates, coworkers, co-commuters, that barista you yelled at because they got your name wrong at Starbucks… how has your anger affected them? Maybe they had a horrible day because of you. Maybe somewhere along the line, the person you pissed off had pissed off someone else, and that person probably pissed off another person, who then probably got into a horrible fight with their boss or a deadly car accident or killed a cat in some blind rage, which then affects even more lives. Like the chaos theory of the butterfly who flaps its wings causing a hurricane on the other side of the world, you probably had devastated the lives of others somewhere in this vast web of human experience. And it all started just because you (and I do mean you) could not take responsibility for your own thoughts, feelings, and actions, and did not consider how it may affect the world around you.

What spiritual meditative practice does (again from my Taoist perspective), is it helps you understand what your thoughts and your feelings actually are, and how it affects everything and everyone around you. It makes you become accountable for everything you say, everything you think, and everything you do. And it does so by bringing you face to face with that evil monster that we call “ego.” Meditation puts your understanding of “ego” and “self” into perspective. A larger perspective. A perspective where, as the sage Chuang Tzu would describe as being able to “enter fire without getting burned, and to enter water without getting wet.” Don’t take that literally, though. It simply means to say that you’ve mastered virtuousness and that nothing big or small can jostle you out of your inner peace. Then it becomes easier to be more loving, compassionate, and happy. And that’s what the world needs to spread.

So in the case of your “bad day,” your anger would’ve stopped right in its tracks. Your loved ones would’ve had better days. Your co-commuters in traffic would’ve been more level-headed, and your coworkers would’ve been more productive. And who knows, maybe by just being patient, kind, or compassionate, you may have prevented another shooting spree or a war somewhere in time. It sounds far fetched and I could be wrong, but I’d rather be wrong in the right way.

So what good does meditation do for the world? All the good. All the fucking good. And all you have to do is sit the fuck down on your meditation cushion, shut the fuck up, and breathe.

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