Friday, May 06, 2011

Ramblings In My Mind Volume IV

I found the following list when emptying my bookshelves recently. Even if you don't understand Zen, these are great guidelines.

Ten Principles of Zen Behavior

1.Find balance and harmony in all things.
2.All things are born, live, and die.
3.You are imperfect and still learning.
4.Lead by example.
5.Know your place.
6.Let your goodness shine through.
8.Come to term with restrictions.
9.Practice simplicity.
10.Keep an open mind and a watchful eye.

My brain is a little water logged as I write these notes. Remember last summer's drought? Remember how many people were praying for rain? Well, all of those prayers have been answered. This month is now the wettest April on record. I looked down at the Great Lawn this morning as I was driving along I-64 and all I saw was water. I had a flashback to a very hot July 4th when I sat in the middle of the Great Lawn, which is now a lake, for a Joe Cocker concert. I had another flashback from this past winter when I took a solitary walk along the river in the midst of a couple of hundred ducks gathered on the lawn. Life is like the weather. It's always changing and you never know what will happen. Unfortunately there's no Dopler radar to forecast life and to warn us what's coming our way. This is another reason to always be awake and aware.

Joy happens. Life can seem rather bleak at times, especially with the kind of weather we've been having lately. However, sometimes the sun breaks through and joy happens. I recently had a few days off from work and my usual routines. That is always a nice change. Much of the world was captivated last weekend with the royal wedding of William and Kate and the beatification of Pope John Paul II. I love all the pomp and circumstance of such events. It was great to see the happy couple and the joy of the people during the celebration and I believe Pope John Paul II was truly a holy man. In a different kind of way I think there is joy among many that Osama bin Laden is now dead. The world has been liberated from another person who did nothing but bring heartache, pain, and sadness to millions. So even though it is raining again as I write this note, there is cause for joy.

I believe that everything in life is inter-dependent and connected. When I took the Strength Finder test I was happy that "Connectedness" was one of my strengths. I have always interpreted this strength as having the ability to see the big picture, to be able to connect the dots, as well as having the ability to understand how everything relates to everything else. I can usually do this with relative ease. The down side for me is that I am not a detail person. That strength belongs to others. On a much more cosmic level, the Buddhists believe that everything in life affects everything else, that every action has a re-action, and nothing is really independent of anything else. Some people also call this karma. If you practice good karma, goodness will come back to you. If you put out bad karma, bad karma will come back to you. If I am in a bad mood, my co-workers are affected to some degree. This could manifest itself through a lack of patience on my part when they call me or some intentional sarcasm in an email. If I am happy, they may call me and I will be very comforting or understanding about whatever is bothering them. My moods do not exist independently from the experience my co-workers have of me. The same is true in reverse. My work experience is affected by all of their moods. I recently acquired two bracelets. One was sent to me by a friend who received it from a Tibetan student. This friend was a total stranger to me at one time. I met him while sitting on a bench in Gatlinburg. When I mentioned I was from Kentucky, he asked me if I was "familiar with that monastery in Kentucky". I smiled and said, "Familiar? I used to live there"! How's that for karma? The other bracelet I bought for myself to help me stay centered. Hopefully both bracelets will help me remember the inter-dependence and connectedness of life. We are all dependent on one another and connected to one another whether we like it or not.

The Greek philosopher, Socrates, said "The unexamined life is not worth living". You may have heard this quote in "Bill and Ted's Excellent Adventure". I agree with Socrates. My wife is a self-proclaimed member of the "Shallow People of the World Society". I once said to her, "Do you ever have a deep thought? You know, Denise, if you sail your ship in deep water you will never run aground". She looked at me and said, "Yes, Mike, but if you stay in the shallow water you will never drown". OK, good point. However, I still believe that introspection and serious reflection have value. Most of my life, even as a young child, has been a search for meaning. I never see life as meaningless or only having surface value. I believe in karma, that there's an order to the universe, and that everything happens for a reason. I have spent a lot of my life trying to figure all of this out as well as my place in the universe and my reason for existence. I encourage all of you to find time in your life for silence, solitude, and reflection. Sure, it's OK to sometimes be in the shallow end of the pool but isn't that mostly for children? Don't live an unexamined life by just going through the motions. Wake up, be aware, reflect, and live in a meaningful way.

When I am very busy and feel a little stressed by time constraints I sometimes lose my sense of being balanced and centered. When this happens I feel like a person with an inner ear infection. I feel dizzy and wonder if I am going to fall down. A continuing theme in my messages to others is to encourage people to strive for balance in their lives and to be centered within themselves. When you are balanced and centered you are like a oak tree with deep roots. Only the most violent of winds can knock you over. When I am balanced and centered I am operating from a position of strength. It's a kind of inner martial arts. People who are always stressed and in a frenzy are not operating from a position of strength. It doesn't take much of a breeze to knock them over. Their root system is fragile and near the surface. What does it mean to be centered? I guess it could mean a lot of things to a lot of people. For me it means being confident and sure of myself. It means following my inner compass in terms of values and moral consciousness. It means having a belief system that guides my actions. It means having courage when I am afraid and have to take a stand. All of these things together act as an inner anchor that keeps me from running aground on the sandbars and rocky shorelines of life. A balanced life is a life that has just enough, but not too much, of everything. It is a life not lacking in necessities but not too easy either. It is a life with enough sleep but not too much to be lethargic. It is a life with work but not so much that I am stressed and exhausted. It is a life with enough leisure to feel relaxed but not lazy. It is a life with enough time to expand my intellect but have time to play. You get the point....I hope.

Last night I dreamed I met the Dalai Lama. He was running a souvenir shop in India where I happened to be for some reason.

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