The Tao of McDonald’s

CaDhLS7VAAAB1Ln

Earlier today I realized after my morning coffee that I had forgotten my wife’s papers at the office last night, as well as a bag of gifts that one of my patients had given to me to give to my 3yo daughter. Dang… because that means I’d have to drive, which also means that I’d have to drive around other drivers, and other drivers are – to put it mildly and skillfully – challenging. After another 60hr workweek and a record breaking January at my healing practice, I was tired, and in no mood to “put up with” other people. BUT… if I were to be something of a skillful seeker of The Way, as well as bring home the stuff I left at the office, I must get out of my own dumb head and do my thing. So I got dressed, walked a half a block to my car, slapped on a good audiobook (Bill Bryson’s “The Lost Continent” – which is hilarious, by the way), and off I went.

When I got within a block of my office, and for some reason, the sight of the golden arches of the McDonald’s sign suddenly popped into view with a rather profound distinction unlike I’ve ever experienced in the last few years since I stopped eating meat and fast food. Then I felt my stomach rumble. How odd, since I don’t particularly like fast food. However, I was hungry, and I could use some hash browns and an orange juice. So I slowed down and turned into the McDonald’s parking lot.

Right as I turned into the parking lot towards the drive thru, a silver colored Honda who was driving towards me suddenly punched the accelerator and bolted aggressively right at me, then turned right into the drive thru with a daring sharp turn, finishing with a screeching stop at the ordering screen. The young millennial in the passenger’s seat turned and looked at me like they had just beaten me at ping-pong.

“Jesus fucking whore Christ,” I said to myself, while simultaneously almost regretting that I did. I tried to tell myself that they must’ve been hungry, and that their puppy is dying in the back seat, and if they didn’t get it a sausage and egg mcmuffin on time, it would certainly meet the doom of samsara. But I didn’t. All that came out of my mouth inside of the safe anonymity of my own car is “Please go on ahead of me kind sir, I do recognize how fucking important you and your boyfriend are, and that I realize that if you had to wait 30 seconds behind my order of hashbrowns, I know you’d certainly be late for your appointment with your goddamn television set. Fucking rat-race ass piece of shit.” I was saying all of this to myself as I watched him yell into the ordering monitor, watching his order on the screen becoming progressively larger and larger.

“Hooo-leeee SHIT, guy. What the fuck are you ordering? Can you even eat that much? Are you ordering for your goddamn church?” He finally stopped yapping at the machine and drove through. I proceeded to place my order and waited in line patiently, still blathering on to myself about the guys in front of me. Lord knows what I said. The funny thing was that the people in front of them apparently ordered a ton of food as well, and that’s when I remembered that five minutes in a fast food drive thru line seems like an eternity to many people. It was kind of fun watching the two morons in front of me go apeshit as the seconds ticked by. I remember the last time I was at a drive thru, it was at White Castle where it’s customary to order 30 cheeseburgers at one time. I finished about half of the book “War and Peace” by the time I got my 2 veggie sliders and fries.

Anyway, Mario Andretti and his trusty pal Sancho Panza finally got to the drive thru window, ungraciously received their order, but then waited a couple of minutes to check and recheck their order, holding up the entire line behind us. Then I watched as the driver opened up his door and tossed trash out of his car onto the ground. The littering was a nice cherry on top of their deliciously ignorant sundae.

I couldn’t believe it. That’s when I lost it. That’s when I looked at the assholes in front of me, and all the assholes behind me. I’m surrounded by assholes. I yelled at myself. Why did I do this to myself? Why did I place myself in a situation where I would willfully receive mediocre food suited for people of the most mediocre existence?

tumblr_lonv2z0d8F1qbi94vo1_500

That’s when it hit me.

Earlier today, I tweeted (including the very first photo above):

 

 

I posted that tweet because throughout my life, people were being judgmental towards me. But it struck me that right in the middle of McDonald’s today, I was being judgmental as well.

I was who I thought those people were: an asshole.

A part of our suffering comes from the fact that we believe, no matter what circumstance, that people “should” act a certain way, as opposed to accepting the fact that people simply act the way they do. There’s a huge difference there. Thinking that people “should” do or be certain things is a product of our own ego, a filter… and it causes us so much anger, indignation, and maybe even resentment. Accepting people, animals, circumstances, and weather for what they do and what they are at the particular moment is the only real skillful way to remain centered and at peace.

By no means am I condoning littering and dangerous driving as “good behavior,”  however, it’s really important to note that there are people who are so incredibly “stuck” in their own sense of self importance that, for whatever reason – whether circumstance or upbringing – they just don’t have it in them to be mindful of the cause and effect that their actions have on the world. As Jesus pleaded to God as he was being tortured on the cross: “Forgive them Father, for they know not what they do.”

The same goes for seekers of The Way, or The Tao. Not everyone is where we are in life, and we have to understand that it’s not their fault. Many people just don’t have it in them to seek a higher version of themselves, the compassionate version of themselves that realizes the interconnectedness with the entire world around them. Once we reach a certain level of cultivation, then we realize that we have to be responsible for our own reactions to what others do. We can’t judge them, but we can help them if help is what they’re seeking.

So what would I do if I had a chance to rewind? I would have simply allowed the guy to move into the drive thru first, which I did, but without the animosity. I would have simply waited, ordered my food, and continued listening to my hilarious Bill Bryson audiobook. And when I witnessed the littering, I would have waited for him to drive away, get out of my car, and I would have thrown away the garbage properly. And like water that simply moves around a stone blockage, I would have gotten my dumb food peacefully, without contrivance.

But I can’t rewind time. So all I can do is learn.

 

Forgiveness.

My meditation/qigong practice borders on obsession, my nutrition and exercise are [nearly] on point, my studies on Taoist scriptures are solid, but one thing I keep forgetting in my Taoist practice is forgiveness… I’ve got a lot of un-eradicated resentment to work through. And it doesn’t help that our society not only condones anger, but actually perpetuates it. It’s pretty toxic shit, and it feels like we’re getting worse about that.

Society says it’s okay for individuals to suffer their own anger, to act upon it unhealthily, and to even spread it to some extent. But that’s “their” suffering. The question I pose to myself is should I suffer along with our angry, polarized, and resentful society?

We should always fight for what’s right, and to right every wrong. So forgiveness isn’t about letting other peoples’ bullshit slide. As I’m learning from cultivating the Tao, forgiveness is less about others, and more about letting go of the inner wrath that I’ve allowed myself to feel. To liberate myself from the insufferable anger and resentment I feel towards others for what has happened in the past.

And only I can do that for me, no one else.

It’s empowering to forgive. When the world has hurt you so badly and has taken so much from you, then forgiveness means that they can’t take what’s left… the most important part of you: your very “soul.”

I have a lot to work on.

The Piss and Shit of Reality

Master Tung-kuo asked Chuang Tzu, “This thing called the Tao… where does it exist?”
Chuang Tzu said, “There’s no place it doesn’t exist.”
“Come,” said Master Tung-kuo, “you must be more specific!”
“It is in the ant.”
“As low a thing as that?”
“It is in the grass.”
“But that’s lower still!”
“It is in the tiles and shards.”
“How can it be so low?”
“It is in the piss and shit.” 

I love this entry from the Chuang Tzu/Zhuangzi. It’s probably my favorite entry in the whole book, because in my eyes, it talks about reality.

When I talk to some people about spiritual practice, they’re taken aback by how “ordinary” I seem. I swear a lot, I’m into punk music, I laugh at fart jokes, and have the sense of humor of a sailor. But the reason why people are weirded out by me is because many people’s idea of “spirituality” is an image of a sage with flowing robes, floating just above humanity, walking two inches off the ground, speaking in a sagely tone using the word “one” as a fucking pronoun (“one must…”), and that everything is puppy dogs and ice cream.

But that’s all bullshit.

Taoist spirituality and meditation practice is about reality. Reality isn’t about the world being such a pretty and perfect place, or at least the popular idea of what might be pretty and perfect. Reality is everything. Everything is reality. Reality is you, me, TPS reports, dick jokes, zebras, horny couples fucking on the floor, and of course, piss and shit.

The practice of Taoism isn’t an escape into a delusional reality where things look like a 1940’s cartoon with singing flowers and impromptu animal parades where everyone looks happy, the practice of Taoism is a skill that allows you to accept things for what they are in order to become the centered pivot around which the chaos spins. That’s what true inner peace is…. it’s not an escape. It’s being present in the thick of life, being exactly where you are, and finding harmony with whatever life hands you.

But the above entry by Chuang Tzu not only teaches that reality is everything around us, but he also means that in order to accept everything as reality, we can’t just concentrate on the things that we find “pretty” or “nice” or “pleasant.” Because those things are judgments relative only to the human ego. I’m not suggesting that you go out and drink some piss and eat some shit, however people have to understand that everything in nature has its purpose. To be honest, I don’t know what the purpose of piss is (I’ll look it up eventually), however, shit is not only just a stinky waste product, but it’s also food for flies and for the earth. Flies eat turds, then go on to be food for other insects or animals, who are then eaten by other animals, who are then eventually eaten by us. And if shit isn’t eaten by insects, then it eventually becomes compost to further nourish the earth and plants and trees. The ecosystem that helps give us our existence is in constant flow, and even something so “low” as excrement also has an important role in it. Hence, “the Tao is in the piss and shit.”

So what Chuang Tzu is suggesting is that everything can be both ugly and beautiful at the same time, and that if we can allow ourselves to view life past our limiting human egos, then we can truly see the endless ebb and flow of the universe around us… and to find peace within it.

On exercise.

I have no goals when I exercise. I’m only in the moment.

Fitness isn’t a goal, it’s an action. It’s what you do. To me, coming from a Taoist standpoint, the act of exercise is in itself fitness. It also goes much deeper than how you look.

When I go jogging, it’s just one foot over the other. When I’m lifting, it’s just the weight completing its range of motion, then back. When I’m tired, I stop. The more I do that every day, then the faster I can run, the more I can lift. But really, all I care about is jogging one foot over the other, and lifting the weight to its complete range of motion.

In working out, when you’re ready, then go. Enjoy every millisecond of each rep and every step. When you’re tired, just stop.

That’s how I work out. It’s a mindfulness meditation. A Taoist qigong, the cultivation of energy and stillness.

I don’t give a crap how much I lift, how many reps, how many miles, or what I look like. All I care about is how I feel inside. It makes happy. My heart is pumping, blood is flowing, cortisol cycling out. I’m boosting my energy, increasing circulation, and optimizing my organ systems. Most of all, I’m calming my mind and spirit. When the spirit is calm, I can make better decisions, especially lifestyle/diet decisions. The calmness also makes it easier to be happy and content. It’s harder to feel angry when I’m content. It’s easier to spread compassion when I’m happy. My family benefits from that compassion. My community. Everyone around me.

That’s why I work out. Doing it for looks or macho dick-measuring is not my style. I just wanna feel healthy and happy inside. By concentrating on every micro-moment of each movement, I feel centered. I want to feel centered at every moment, and to have that carry on into my daily life. Because when the chaos is all around you, someone must be the centered pivot of inner peace. It might as well be me. And you.

Knowing

My qigong master once said, “When we practice our qigong, we realize the brilliance of our own intuitive knowledge. But if we don’t practice, we not only forget what we know, but we forget that we knew.”

About a month ago, one of my former classmates from acupuncture college came into my office for a treatment. It’s been years since I’ve seen her, but that day she stopped for a second and said that I looked like a “monk.” I was pretty flattered because I knew that she meant that I have the appearance of someone who cultivates every single day. Being a person who cultivates as well, she could read that in me. And it’s not because I have a bald head and wear beads on my wrist. I guess I have a “look.” But I’m not going for a look.

I’ve been doing meditative practice since 1995, but it was only within the last 8 years when I started doing it more regularly, and it wasn’t until March of 2014 when I started doing it virtually every single day. And it wasn’t until I started doing qigong every single day that I’ve noticed the changes it can provide me. I posted this in a previous entry (twice, actually by accident lol), but my energy level is up, my mood is more stable, and I get angry/stressed/depressed a lot less.

But the most important thing that’s been happening to me is “knowing.”

In Taoism, there’s a distinction between intellectual knowing and intuitive knowing. Intuitive knowing is the raw form of knowledge that you get internally, and intellectual knowing is the type that you get from books or schooling. Even though intellectual knowledge is highly valued in our society, it doesn’t quite give us the complete picture. I also believe that in our society we don’t take enough time to cultivate our intuition. I think it’s important to have a good grasp of both.

Looking at the Yin-Yang symbol (technically called the “Taiji” or Tai Chi”), if Yin means “internal,” and Yang means “external,” then the result of the harmony of both internal knowledge (intuition) and external knowledge (intellectual) is what’s called “wisdom.”

And to me, that’s true “knowing.”

The reason why “knowing” is so important to me is because I’m in the field of Eastern Medicine. There are times when I’m intellectually at a loss when coming up with a treatment strategy for a very complicated case. But that’s when looking internally for answers helps tremendously. And every time I do that, the answers are clear as day, and my patients’ conditions improve.

People call it intuition, or a gut feeling. In any case, in order to find the “right” answer using your intuition takes a lot of the skill that meditative practices provide you, particularly in quieting all that background noise in your head. It’s the stillness of your mind that allows you to quiet all the voices and imagery in your brain that will make the answers to all your deeper questions about life jump at you like a pop tart. But it takes a lot of work to get there.

 

The Tao of IDGAF

“I Don’t Give A Fuck” is an attitude that could either mean you’re a total asshole, or that you’re conserving precious emotional energy.

You must research this.

A lot of times, when people say that they don’t care, it can often mean that they’re giving themselves an excuse to act selfishly. People like that genuinely don’t care about the consequences that their own actions have on themselves and on others. Like people who drive recklessly or people who go around instigating others. That’s just being a total asshole.

But mindful “not giving a fuck” is a true skill. It’s an art. It’s a craft that you shape to perfection out of stone. To be truly skillful at IDGAF means that you care deeply about your loved ones, forging an upward path for human society, and the well being of our planet and everything in it… but have no fucks to give about the bullshit people throw at you.

In our society, we’ve been conditioned to react in certain ways to certain stimuli… ie. to get angry whenever anyone pisses you off, whether they cut you off on the street, or if they call you names. We’ve been told that it’s “okay” to get angry if that guy in your office calls you a total pudwacker for being a White Sox fan, or if an acquaintance gives you a passive-aggressive comment on your last facebook post.

So to a lot of people, being angry is “okay.” But is it really?

In the medical theory of Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM), the liver has the energetic function to make sure energy circulates properly. By energy, I mean the proper circulation of blood, fluids, hormones, neurotransmitters, etc. The proper overall circulation is what keeps everything in your body running smoothly. But if the circulation is impeded or depressed, then you have a condition that is called “stagnation” (technically it’s called “Liver Qi Stagnation,” but don’t worry about that).

The most common causes of stagnation are physical trauma, poor lifestyle choices (bad food and lack of exercise), and most importantly to this post – emotional stress and anger. When stress and anger occur, your circulation goes out of whack, and all of your energy rises upwards like hot smoke. Your body, especially your head, becomes hot (think of the phrase “hot headed”). It affects your nervous system, the way you think, the choices you make, and in many cases, anger causes pain and tension in your head, neck, shoulders, and even lower back. If this goes on for prolonged periods of time, this lack of proper circulation can affect your digestive system, and then now we’re really in trouble – diarrhea, constipation, colitis, GERD, acid reflux, etc. I can actually go much further than this, but just know that stress and anger can snowball into a myriad of horrible medical conditions over time.

So realizing the Tao of IDGAF is important for emotional and physical health. Being able to distinguish between times to truly care about stuff versus times to not care about certain things takes a lot of skill and tremendous effort. Just like an athlete doing basic drills every single day to master his craft for the big game, you have to do your basic drills in order to master yourself for the big game of life.

The first basic drill is understanding that people spread their negativity around because they themselves are suffering. Anger and stress are suffering, and it’s many peoples’ nature to try to get you to join them. But it’s up to you to not absorb their energy. Whenever someone’s being a punk ass, just keep your distance, don’t act on any angry impulse, and simply tell yourself, “Whatever. That’s their suffering, not mine.”

The second basic drill is to build yourself an invisible violet bubble. I like the color violet because not only is it the color of healing, but it’s also the highest frequency of all visible light. So whenever anyone throws their disgusting energy at you, it dissolves right on the bubble. You’ll hear their words and see their actions, but their intent won’t penetrate you. Just use your intent to surround yourself with that barrier.

The third basic drill is to spend just a few minutes in the morning and/or evening, sitting down, closing your eyes, and being aware of your breath. Just breath in and feel the breath moving into your nose and down to your belly button. When you breath out, just feel the breath going out of your belly button and out your nose. Just fully experience that breath, the way it feels, the way it sounds. Build on a daily practice of mindful breathing just a few minutes a day, and you’re building a world of tranquility. This is the most important exercise.

All of these drills take time, so don’t let it bother you if you find it difficult to do at first. And don’t worry if you fuck up, because I fuck up too. A lot, actually. That’s why they call this “spiritual practice.” Just keep practicing. The healing is in the journey itself, not the “goal.”

But I promise you, it’s worth the hard work. You deserve inner peace.

In advanced meditation, you won’t even need to be mindful of your breath. In the advanced version of the Tao of IDGAF, you question the very nature of this thing that you call “self.” But that’s later. Much later. Just breathe.

And just for kicks, here’s a phenomenal guided meditation to start realizing the Tao of IDGAF:

Cultivation of Stillness

Here’s an excerpt from an esoteric classic of Taoist scripture of which I will remain nameless for absolutely no reason at all, but enjoy:

“During the twelve double-hours of the day,
Constantly seek clarity and stillness.
The numinous tower of the heart emptied of all things:
This is called clarity.
Not allowing even a single thought to arise:
This is called stillness.

The body is the dwelling place of qi.
The heart is the residence of the spirit.
When intent moves, spirit is agitated;
When spirit is agitated, qi is dispersed.

When the intent is stable, spirit remains fixed;
When spirit remains fixed; qi gathers.
The perfect qi of the Five Phases
Then gathers together and forms a pinch of elixir.”

It’s interesting to note that even though my studies in medical qigong and Taoist priesthood seemingly come from a vastly different place, through this scripture, the intent is exactly the same.

Follow

Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

Join 33 other followers