Sunday, July 28, 2013

Learning To Be The Light - The Big Picture

I have been reminded lately that "we are the sun, and not the clouds." That reminded me of the story of the optimist who is digging through the pile of dung trying to find a pony. In that case, we are the pony and not the dung. Ajahan Brahm tells the story of building a wall with one crooked brick and focusing on that one mistake at the expense of all the rest done properly. That seems to be the problem, getting wrapped up in the cloudy smelly stuff of life, and forgetting to enjoy the goodness. "But life is very cloudy and smelly!" you say. True, there are still many wars going on, political abuses, an ecological crisis, and many other serious problems we must face, but if we focus mainly on the bad, it is all too easy to miss out on the good. That's the point here. How can we focus on the good so as to keep a good attitude to deal with and improve life without getting dragged down by difficulties? For me, it is the big picture. this may not work for you, but it might, so here goes. I start with creation. If it was just all the planets, stars, solar systems, and galaxies, that is amazing in itself. Do you ever consider what a marvel astronomy really is? Yet after a few billion years of that incredible scenario, something infinitely more amazing happened; life. Something magnificently diverse, tenacious, abundant, intelligent, and beautiful came to fill the the landscape, even changing the whole dynamic of the surface of our planet and most likely many others. Imagine the great flocks of birds in the skies, schools of fish in rivers, wildebeests across the plains of Africa, wolves playing in the forests, whales breaching in the ocean, and so on. The story of life through-out the ages is certainly amazing, emotional, and dramatic. Thinking on that for a few minutes should bring a smile to your face and some passion to your soul. Consider now, the also wonderful and beautiful story that is humanity. We have developed the sciences of astronomy, geology, oceanography, psychology, biology, chemistry, physics, mathematics, reasoning, and philosophy as well as the fine arts, liberal arts, visual arts, decorative arts, applied arts, design crafts, performing arts, and so on to an incredible degree. The play of human events has been just as amazing, emotional, and dramatic. It unfortunately has also been a story of great misery, suffering, and pain, but let's set that aside for now and tap into the helping, healing, and beneficent side of the story. Think on that for a few minutes, the great intelligence of the sciences, and great beauty of the arts we created and elevated to a profound degree. That should stir your soul. If not, there is one more superb example of excellence of life; you. Think for a moment all of the wonderful, relationships, experiences, learning, trips, meals, books, movies, games, music, possessions, pets, homes, friends, and love you have had or seen. Then there are the simple things like a good shower, sleep, or conversation. Eighty two years of life are thirty thousand days to enjoy, many of them etched into eternity by their deep and  profound experiences. Think on that one for a good long while. Congratulations! You just had your first guided meditation in the preciousness and wonder of life, from the big picture of all creation and life, down to the intimate but often seemingly infinite life that you have had. YOU are awesome, amazing, and wonderful. You may not think so, probably because you spend too much time thinking about what you don't have and haven't done rather than all the wonderful things you have done and are. This is the light on the inside. Creation, life, and all the good things people have done are the light on the outside and just as important. All of this light can serve to shine through the clouds of dysfunction and unhappiness to bring us back to the well being that is our birthright and perfectly natural despite our thoughts otherwise, the BIG, beautiful picture of which you are an important part, the sun and not the clouds.

Wednesday, July 17, 2013

Living in a Grace Bubble

Self care keeps coming up for me. Am I taking care of myself in the best possible ways? Not always that's for sure. Being exposed to others negativity, upset, distress, and violence made me realize that is not where I want to be, mind or body. I had to admit as well, that I put myself in this place all too often. What if I chose to create a "grace bubble" around myself, free of these and other difficulties? As I write this, I also realize I can't keep them out completely, they are part of a full life too, so when they come up, and must come in, I give them grace too. Thic Nhat Hahn teaches that trying to keep them out completely is futile anyway, and "poor circulation" that causes even more problems. He advises to take them in our arms to comfort them as a parent would a cranky or ill child. This is not always possible in the  moment, as it is sometimes better to walk away until strength and calm are restored and we regain the poise and power to deal with them wisely. Perhaps it is because I am so visual in my experience of the world that this image works for me so well. I am verbal too, as you can see here, and writing this down clarifies and deepens my commitment to it. You might call my grace bubble a "force field" of good intention, of loving kindness. and exemplary self worth. I am worth it. I am committed. Are you? I hope so, for it is only through the experience of grace personally that we will have what it takes to save our selves and our world "universally".

Sunday, July 7, 2013

God Centered Life

Some may feel put off by the term God. If you prefer Higher Power, Great Spirit, The Force, or just plain life, use it! The point is to defer to the intelligent power and presence that creates and sustains all things. The "Force" is actually a pretty good description. You may have seen my reference to mentoring in other writings as I recently come to recognize the important and varied types of guidance we dearly need growing up, such as in finances, education, relationships, business and work, physical (health), mental, sexual, and spiritual matters. Any one of these or other aspects of life can become the focus and center of family life, and the individuals in it. This can have a profound effect on family members, our neighborhoods, workplaces, schools, society, and so on. Also, if it is true that children don't begin significant rational reasoning until about age six then through out the teen years it becomes ever so important to have proper guidance early on. For example: financial concerns. If money becomes the driving purpose of a persons education, work life, home life, relationships, and so on, it is a recipe for disaster. All of these things are external to our true nature and therefore doomed to correlate to the rise and fall of our worldly experience. Spirit is the opposite of physical, therefore outside the realm of rise and fall. Spiritual things like love, peace, joy, and beauty, the "immeasurables," aren't things at all, rather aspects of the infinite we carry within us that we may manifest in ourselves and our world in saner moments. In Co-dependants Anonymous we find out we have been putting others first, ourselves second, and God last. We then learn to turn this around to put God first, then practice self care, so that we may better serve others from a place of greater wisdom and power.  In a meeting once a friend asked, "must I go to God with everything?" She was told yes, but I believe if we are "in the flow" with God, grace flows naturally. Another way I see this is a triangle with God at the top and center. I give up everything to God from the side of weakness and ego (the small self), and God gives it back to me on the side of greater good and higher law to my better self, the "big S" Self. When we put God first, at the center of our lives, it is invitation to filter all our thinking, feeling, and experiences through this divine presence, power, and wisdom that we may think, feel, say, and do what is right for all, what is best for all.

Wednesday, March 6, 2013

Prayer and Meditation

Prayer and meditation are a very important part of my life. They are also an important part of my favorite paths, Twelve Step and Buddhism. Prayer and meditation are honored as the 11th step "Sought through prayer and meditation to improve our conscious contact with God, as we understand God, praying only for knowledge of God's will for us and the power to carry it out." Buddhism considers meditation as the foundation of enlightenment and wisdom, many meditating for many hours a day in silence for years at a time. Many also pray to their ancestors and others, display prayer flags, and use prayer wheels. Although there are many similarities between between prayer and meditation, there are significant differences as well, so have split them up into multiple posts. Look here for prayer, here for meditation, which includes calm abiding and insight meditation.

Welcome!

Greetings friends, and welcome!
What's this site about? I'll start at the beginning. It seemed like I had a pretty good childhood, but in my teens I realized there was something missing. After drinking, drugging, and racing (literally) through my twenties, then a very sad divorce in my thirties, I began to seek a better path in earnest. Long story short, after many years, books, recovery meetings, discussions, retreats, and workshops and much soul seraching, I gathered a lot of clarity, wisdom, and peace I want to share with you. I took the notes and sorted those into categories that have evolved and expanded over the years. I find these "paths" to be not only powerful, but truly life changing, more than able to transcend the craziness of modern society and life. Thus, I have dubbed them the "Sanity Files." Serenity files works too as that is the purpose, to transform the chaos in our lives peacefully. The idea is to show you how I work my healing to inspire you to find and work yours. I have two blogs; CowboyDharma and HikingBikingViking. The first was intended to focus on recovery, the second on personal passions. Along the way they merged as recovery became personal and personal passions helped me recover. These categories or "paths" are listed to the right on the home page of the Cowboy Dharma site and listed in the order of how they came into my life rather than importance. To access the list from HikingBikingViking click on "Introduction" on the right to bring you to Cowboy Dharma. If you want to jump to what I believe are the most powerful, start with Twelve Step Recovery, Power of Now, and Buddha Nature. Any of them can be a way to discover not only the deeply problematic and habitual thinking and behaviors we cling to, but also help to move on to the immense help, healing, and happiness that dwells beyond and within. They all work together in what I call exponential synergy. They are synergistic as they work together to achieve much more than they could alone, and exponentially as the power of each is multiplied by the others. See what resonates and works for you. I sincerely hope you find peace, love, joy, and beauty for yourself and your world, if not here, then elsewhere. Please email me at hikingbikingviking@earthlink.net with other "paths" or things you have found helpful. Sorry, but can't promise I can get back to you as it tends to stack up. Thanks for stopping by and I wish you all the best! Lars :)

Monday, February 25, 2013

Science and Technology

Science is as valuable to me as any of the other paths as science is intimately connected with each; relationships, nature, wisdom, art, beauty, and so on. Many see science as being at odds with spiritual paths, but myself and many others do not. I have felt this perhaps through out my life but have rarely seen it explained as well as a Newsweek article in 1998 Science Finds God. In it Maimonides is quoted as saying "The only pathway to achieve a love of God is by understanding the works of his hand." So true. The alternative is a big dumb universe. I find the universe much to intelligent, complex, and sublime to accept that. I am not talking about an old man in the sky, but the inherent wisdom that brought about this beautiful world and its incredibly abundant, diverse, tenacious, and complex life forms. In the article the number pi (the circumference of a circle divided by its diameter) "Turns up in equations that describe subatomic articles, light, and other quantities that have no connection to circles." Take a look at Sacred Geometry and again you see how beautiful and elegant creation really is. Buddhism's three main principles of illusion, impermanence, and interbeing, although over 2500 years old are now being proven by science and technology. Personally I always think of pounding my fist on a table to see its apparent solidity evaporated by the reality of the atoms making up table and fist being nothing more than the electrical forces of atoms, even those made up of mostly empty space proving life is an illusion. The atoms ever in action and flux prove impermanence, and that all things are made up of these same parts showing interbeing. For these and many other reasons, I agree with John Muir that "“When we try to pick out anything by itself, we find it hitched to everything else in the universe.  One fancies a heart like our own must be beating in every crystal and cell. How lavish is nature, building, pulling down, creating, destroying, chasing every material particle from form to form, ever changing, ever beautiful.”

Tuesday, February 19, 2013

Happiness Workshop



Recognizing Happiness Within
(Happiness, of necessity includes: love, peace, joy, beauty, etc.)

 In most of the Western world we have come to think of happiness as a thing; a possession and prize that we must earn through seemingly endless struggle and sacrifice. We tend to see it as something  outside of us, a destination in the distance, a fleeting experience; always out there or if and when. We think that life is about getting and having happiness and then holding onto it with a death grip. We believe this hunt for happiness is a lifelong odyssey, an epic search and chase for this holy grail.

Many of us feel “less than” others, that we must do, do, do to earn happiness, that we aren't worthy of happiness unless we rush through life, pay our dues, take our licks, and fight the good fight. This fight becomes a battle, then a war that never seems to end. We were taught that we must win the approval of others to deserve happiness by slaving endlessly to get the "best", "right" or "perfect" education, job, house, car, body, mate, kids and so on.

Even if we are basically good people: good students, workers, sons and daughters etc, we don't feel "good enough” to deserve happiness. Also the bar always seems to be getting higher, so we have to be super good in an attempt to achieve and sustain perfection in every area of life. And not just with ourselves, oh no, we have to take care of everybody and everything else perfectly before we are allowed to relax and enjoy happiness. Obviously, that never happens, so happiness remains elusive.

We may even be afraid we'll look foolish if we are happy, or that the happy people are somehow stupid or ignorant, that the difficulties of life demand a grim determination that won't allow room for happiness. We are often afraid of even having happiness; that it will make us vulnerable, that someone will stomp on our joy and hurt us. We think we must suffer now to get happiness later, or if we are happy now, we will suffer for it later. We can feel we are on the outside looking in on happy people, that we are excluded, because somehow we are different and don't belong.

We think only rich, beautiful, or lucky people get happiness, that it is uncommon and rare, and that life is too difficult, busy, frantic, and noisy to have time or room to be happy. This is a habitual thought process in which we have identified with problems, troubles, and mistakes; perhaps even feeling that we ourselves are a mistake! We have been taught that we have to make it alone, by ourselves, through rigid self sufficiency, pulling ourselves up by our bootstraps. We often think no one will help us, or wants to.

Many were wounded as children by parents, relatives, or friends; also by society, culture, and religion to the point that we learned the world was not a safe place. We internalized voices that created pain and suffering, and as we grew we developed a false self in reaction to this inner critic: a judgmental, negative, and condemning voice in our heads that told us that we were worthless; that our happiness was a reward and achievement we had to work long and hard to obtain.


This inner critic wages a personal attack on us, proclaiming that "You don't deserve happiness, you should be ashamed, you're worthless, one of the worst persons ever to walk the earth, the lowest of the low. You make everyone sick. You're a mess, a disease, a waste of air and water, just taking up valuable space, a scourge on the earth, a liar, a cheater, and a thief. You're awful, terrible, a fake, a fraud, and a joke. Only nobody's laughing because no one likes you!" The inner critic scolds us “You're ugly, stupid, wicked, guilty, and evil. A piece of crap, small, insignificant, less than zero. You were a rotten kid, and now you're a rotten adult. A bad parent, a crummy friend, an incompetent worker", and other lies like "You can't do anything right. You are a repulsive disgrace, a pathetic pervert, a taker, a useless user, a loser. No wonder you've been through so many relationships, as soon as someone gets to know the real you, they will dump you!"

   The good news, THE TRUTH IS: that's BULLSHIT! Everybody deserves happiness! Happiness is a gift you were given before time began, it is your inheritance. It has no opposite and is completely natural and fulfilling, it just is. You don't have to work, struggle, suffer, fight, wait, or achieve anything to have happiness. It's not a possession, reward, prize, or destination, it is waiting inside you to be discovered and enjoyed. Although we do have problems and make mistakes, we can make the choice to identify with the infinite knowledge, power, and presence that is our loving Higher Power, to which we connect through our Wonder Child and True Self.

   Your circumstances and situation are of no consequence in the realm of the infinite of which you are an essential part. In truth, we are not separate from others, nature, or Higher Power, rather we are an important aspect of all creation, intimately connected to and part of everything that is, was, and ever will be. We certainly don't have to go it alone, it wouldn't work anyway; a full and abundant life is always a group effort. It does take a village to raise a healthy child (and adult!), and connections and community.

   Your job here is to become your brightest, best, and most beautiful self! To be who you are, to connect with the joy of your soul, and spread it throughout the universe endlessly. There is nothing missing, broken, or flawed; you are complete, whole, and perfect as is. You have been suffering from a case of mistaken identity, mistaking yourself for the problems, disease, and insanity of the world. Choose now to identify with the solutions, well being, and sanity of your True Self.

You are not little, alone, or insignificant. You are the greatest, most glorious gift God has to give, a priceless treasure! The most beautiful, awesome, and amazing thing in existence! Not a peon or a slave, rather, a king or a queen with a kingdom you must rule. You are an angel, here to sing the praises of humanity and creation with your own special voice and vision, so everyone who will listen will hear and join in the joyous song.
Deep inside you know it's true. Tell yourself in the mirror and shout it out to the world!

   You are the creative principle that built the pyramids, mapped astronomy, discovered chemistry and mathematics, dared surgery, painted every masterpiece, and wrote every symphony. In fact, you and your life are a symphony, an ecstatic celebration of music, dance, and poetry; YOU are the greatest work of art ever made, and all of creation gives you a rousing cheer and standing ovation!

Homecoming



From an abandonment and recovery workshop experience at the Fall Camp Recovery at De Beneville Pines 9/18/10
   During a guided meditation I imagined one of my safe places, a stream at a bend in the road between the Meadows neighborhood and Altadena proper in California where I grew up from birth to second grade. I still go there from time to time when I am visiting the area as it is a very peaceful and pleasant place, forested with old oak trees arching out among the sycamore and spruce.
    I imagined sitting on a rock looking up to the sunlight through the leaves and branches of the trees. White and spotted rocks line the steam bed, lush green vines and crimson poison ivy carpet the hillsides.  I hear the leaves rustle in the breeze I feel on my face and hair. I also hear the trickling stream, the birds darting about, and the occasional car going by.  The plaintive cry of a hawk, my spirit animal, calls out from a tree top nearby. I whistle back and he returns the call.                                  
   After a while I see myself as a little boy, my inner child arrive. He gently joins me, and gives me a hug. He sits on my knee and we share the peace and solitude of this place along with the comfort and assurance of being together. I ask if he is scared or sad. He says no, well maybe a little, but is so happy to be in this place and with me that that is far away. He then starts to wander about visiting with the lizards, dragonflies, water skaters, butterflies, and other stream life.                                                    
   My pubescent boy arrives on his Schwinn stingray and joins us to talk and play. He too needs a hug and some time softly talking and sharing our lives, our joys and fears, pleasures and sorrows.  He too then runs off to join my little one exploring the wonders of this natural and yet magical place.  
   My teenager then arrives on his bike and once again we visit and relate.  His life is more difficult as there are much more expectations and pressures in junior and high school, and socially in the family and with friends. I realize now he never really felt completely accepted or appreciated. The close friends he had felt the same, also “lost boys,” troubled and sometimes criminal in their behavior. His making it through without getting in trouble with the law, alcohol, or drugs was nothing less than a miracle.
   My late teens and early twenties lost boy arrives on a motorcycle, his escape from the confusion and desperation he feels at being so alone and without help. These boys didn’t have a mentor, a guide whether that be a teacher, parent, or other to help them navigate the difficulties or joys of life. He has given in to peer curiosity and started to smoke grass.
   My late twenties self also arrives on a motorcycle, faster and more dangerous. His life was that too, as he smokes pot and drank beer every day.  In fact he crashed once less than a mile away accidently wheelying off the side of the road late at night after getting stoned and drinking whiskey.  His angels stayed close as he wasn’t even scratched. He had to walk the five miles home pushing his motorcycle due to a flat front tire, a sobering experience in many ways.
   My young man of early thirties arrives with a wedding ring but still very much alone. He tells how he plays the role of husband by doing the yard work, paying bills, and staying to his own much of the time. He took a job working nights delivering pizza as he still doesn’t feel welcome, even in his own home. The marriage ends before long, after giving birth to a lost boy of his own.
   The man that arrives next is at last finding help and healing through a 12 step community as he rediscovers his spiritual self and finds loving and true friends dedicated to recovery. Sadly, there will be many more years of disease as he struggles to control and manipulate others and his situation to manage his disease.
   The last of the lost ones arrives, late forties and married again. These were very hard times as I continued to struggle, but this time to finally find full awareness of and recovery from my disease.  Work and home life are still a great challenge but getting easier as I learn the tools I need to cope with life one day, one moment  at a time.
   We all are so happy to be together at last that love and joy are overflowing from each of us. The excitement and joy sends us off following the stream and our adventurous spirits. We take care not to step on the salamanders hiding along the stream or tiny frogs hopping about. We must look up as well to avoid walking into the spider webs draped between the trees, the big fellows standing guard in the center of each.  Here and there the stream is exposed by rocky outcroppings or disappears among the foliage as the canyon meanders left and right.
   A passing storm tries to put a damper on our fun by drenching us in a short cloudburst, but to no avail, our happiness cannot be cooled. Drenched head and shoulders I think it is best we turn back to enjoy again the wondrous beauty unveiled at every turn. Back at the roadside, we smile, we laugh, we hug, we huddle!
   As we rest and relax, the little one reaches into the stream and cups his hands around a glint of sunlight, then drinks it in  and is filled with light. Others start to splash the sunlit water onto each other until we are all bathed in light, an incandescent aura glowing from within us all. The little one runs and hugs the next larger boy and miraculously merges into him, becoming one. He turns to the teen and merges into him, one by one all becoming one, finally stepping into my present self, whole and complete.
   It’s time to go home, all of us together, within me. As I climb the short bank to the street I see the bicycles merging as well, smaller into larger, then into the motorcycles, older into newer. I turn and look to see this safe place once more to take the image and experience with me. Riding off I can’t help but do a wheelie to salute the lost boys within me as well as all the lost boys and girls, and men and women out there, still searching, and who can find help and healing as I did.

I hope you enjoyed my story, but even more I hope it helps you find hope, that you are not alone, that you can recover and re-parent  all of your lost and scattered selves from through-out your life. Personally I use many tools and have many maps to help me find my way home. Chief among them are 12 Step programs like CODA and ACA, but I still use the Christ teachings I was raised with, and embrace Buddhism, The Power of Now, and Compassionate Communication. For a look at what works for me, Google “Cowboy Dharma” or log into www.cowboydharma.blogspot.com or www.hikingbikingviking.blogspot.com     
   I need to tell you my parents were lost kids too, my father moving from place to place most every year, usually without his parents. My mother’s parents divorced then remarried when she was a child. He then died during an operation when she was twelve. Her mother never remarried but had, as I understand, troubled relationships. She couldn’t wait to get away, and did when she was seventeen. She did have an aunt who was a great help and comfort to her.
They did the best they could with what they had to work with and gave me many fine gifts of character and personality. I owe them a lot and certainly don’t wish to discount their help. True, it wasn’t enough, but between God, myself, my family, friends, and recovery programs, we’re getting the job done.  I mention this because I don’t want to blame anyone, rather I think it best we have compassion for those who raised us, best as they could.  Best of luck and wishes in your recovery, Lars