Coherency at Night

I won’t lie, tonight I’m tapping my face to stay up and try to write. Switching shifts can be difficult and it feels weird to be up this late! What’s interesting is how the mind works when the body is tired. Why is it difficult to write or think straight over time? What is it that the body really requires from sleep?

Typically when I write in such a state I forget prefix and suffix on words. I’ll go to re-read them in the morning and I’ll realize that I forgot to but “ing” to make running or “‘t” to make can’t. I wonder if this can be explained in terms of psycholinguistics. Do we know words as a base “run”, then add “ing” to it, or is “running” it’s own word? If we only remember base words when we’re tired, why is that? Or if running is a different entity, why do we drop the “ing”. Either way I’m tired. I’ll write more tomorrow!


24/31 Blogtober



Like in the book “Pure Heart, Enlightened Mind” I occasionally experience moments of satori. The word satori translates into “seeing one’s nature” or “seeing things as they truly are”. More or less it means having an enlighten experience. These moments are characterized by feelings of great clarity or oneness.

While sometimes they are unexplainable, they happen most during rigorous Zen practice. After manually opening one’s mind, a person can glimpse into their true nature and see reality as it is. I feel like this past year has been a huge exercise in training my mind. Last August was a lesson in presence, January through March was a lesson in attachment, and these past few months have focused primarily on emotion.

Cumulatively I feel like I’ve started to open past the mind and I feel like I’m starting to resonate with life. I don’t have the exact words to describe it but I felt like documenting today on this blog. It isn’t much but each journey can only be taken one step at a time. This year has been long and it’s definitely taught me a lot about myself.


23/31 Blogtober

An Empty Mirror

In Zen Buddhism there is a concept about an empty mirror. We all reflect the world around us. We’re reflecting each other’s emotions, the atmosphere of where we live, and the objects that surround us. If you spend all of your time around people who complain, chances are that you also complain. Similarly if all of your friends smoke, it’s likely that you also smoke. If you live in a city, you probably take on a few of the stereotypes applied to city folk. So without the world to influence you, what are you? This is the concept of the empty mirror.

When you realize that you’re a mirror, reflecting the world, you can begin to contemplate emptiness. You are not anything that you reflect, you are just a mirror. If you look deep into a mirror that is reflecting a pond, you may think “oh that is a pond!” but no, it is just a reflection. Similarly you are not your environment, you may look at yourself and think “oh I am adventurous or a hiker”. No, you identify with those traits but you are not them.

Perhaps now you are thinking “but I am adventurous! I know myself”. No, you are empty of everything. You are not the city that you live in or the people you hang around. You are not the emotions that you feel or what anyone calls you. What you are is reflection of everyone and everything. In reality, you are empty of all of it.

When you run on a hot day, you think “I am thirsty”. That is not you, that is a reflection of the body. By being part of the swim team, you are not a swimmer. That is what you do but it is not who you are. You are nothing. There is no you.

When you go through your day, you think “maybe I should go shopping”, “today it’s hot outside”, these thoughts are reflections. Without the external world, you couldn’t think these things. Therefore they are not part of you, they are not internal. They could not exist without the world.

When you feel angry, sad, happy or any other emotion. These feelings are a reflection of your environment or your body. They are not you, they come from the world. Maybe you need to eat more food because your body is hungry or you’re sad because you missed the train. Either way, it’s not from you.

Sometimes I identify with these environments and think “I’m a photographer or artist or writer”. What happens if you take away the camera or computer, am I still any of these? No, I’m just me. I’m a mirror reflecting the world.

Why is it important to understand this? Because when we identify with the world, that is, to take on an identity relating to what we are reflecting, we simplify or limit ourselves. When you say that you’re a swimmer to me, in your head a swimmer could be someone who swims recreationally, while I think it is a person who swims professionally or as part of a team. Immediately we have miscommunication. When you say you’re a swimmer, we have two different ideas about who you are.

Now when I say that I’m a photographer, I take on all the traits I think fit the term “photographer”. To me, that means I believe I’m a photographer because I take pictures of people and I get paid to do it. I think of photography as a lifestyle. Now problems start arising. I haven’t taken any pictures in 6 months, am I still a photographer? I no longer get paid to create images, who am I?

Internally we’re always talking to ourselves to make decisions. “Well, I’m an artist so I should _______” or “what would an artist do?”. I act as if I am what I’m reflecting. No, I am not a photographer, photography is something that I do. It is not my identity. Remember, I am just a mirror temporarily reflecting whatever is in front of me. Currently I don’t take pictures. I used to but now I don’t.

The reason we identify with these labels is because we want organization and simplification. When you ask me, “what do you do for a living?”, it’s easier to reply with “I am a carpenter”. There is no problem with this simplification – we generally understand each other. However, the problems arise when you answer these questions to yourself, when you start to think that you are a carpenter.

See, the mirror concept is a little bit troubling: it’s difficult to think “oh I am nothing”. We want an identity or something to label ourselves. We want to compare ourselves to others. “Well John’s a baker, at least I’m a traveler”. We don’t need to tell other people we’re better but we think it internally.

To fix this, stop identifying with what you do and the place where you are. You are not Buddhist because you meditate or a Christian because you go to church. You are not a tired person; that is a reflection. Stop trying to identify yourself, you are only perpetuating a condition. You will act like a tired person if you label yourself as one. Instead, just be or do. If you enjoy taking pictures, take pictures. If you live in Minnesota, don’t identify and think “oh I have to be this way because I’m a Minnesotan”. Just be as you are.


22/31 Blogtober

Creating Content

As I sit in our dorm’s community room, I can’t help but look at the others in here who, like me, are scrounging for the free internet. There’s four of us sitting here in each corner of the room, all staring at our computer screens. Two of the guys are watching videos while the other one is playing an online game. They sit entranced by the content that they are viewing and it makes me think about this generation.

With how much focus we put into ingesting internet media, what is our output? The average viewer on YouTube doesn’t make videos. People view so much more content than they create. Think about how many people you’re following on Twitter, Instagram, or how many friends you have on Facebook. What is your view-to-create ratio?

I don’t want to suggest that ingesting media is bad but I can’t help but wonder what we’re contributing. Social media is incredibly interactive and you now have the ability to contact the content creators you admire, yet most people don’t interact with these people. Instead we just wait for more content.

I think that the underlying feeling is “why create in a world full of creators?”. Most people think that they don’t have anything to contribute and therefore they don’t try it. Our generation, in reality, is closer to the stars than any previous generation, yet we also feel the most powerless towards them. You could FB message, Tweet, Instagram, or comment on YouTube to almost any star and maybe get a response.

I don’t have an answer on why you should create or why I create. I just do. Sometimes the content is great, sometimes it’s incredibly boring. But it’s interesting how we live is such a free world but we’re so paralyzed by everything. It’s like sensory overload and too much to handle.


21/31 Blogtober


Is it more valuable to produce a large amount of content or to moderate what you post? I find that some of my favorite YouTubers and photographers have an incredibly small body of work available. Yet, I’m still dedicated to them and what they have to say.

Social media is an interesting beast because while it’s easy to create lots of content, it’s often difficult to view it all. I’ve posted endlessly on Facebook, yet, to look back on it takes hours and Facebook doesn’t even display all of my content. Is it worth it to be so consume in social media without a way to fully retrieve your content?

May it is better to produce less content because it’s more manageable. Anyways, I’m off Facebook for a while again. We’ll see where things go in the future.


20/31 Blogtober

Color to my Life

Back in August, I volunteered to drive some friends downtown while they were out drinking. As the night progressed they became incredibly drunk and things took a turn for the worst. There was a quarrel and a whole mess of people involved. At the end of night, one of them apologized to me saying that they were sorry about how everything happened. I replied to them with, “don’t worry, tonight added color to my life”.

What I meant is that no matter what happens, experience adds to your life. Whether good or bad, exciting or boring, you’re always growing. Sometimes it’s important to remember that even if a situation doesn’t feel good, you will learn from it and move on. That night was crazy but it added dimension to my life. I feel more vibrant having lived a wide range of experiences. Try to experience life in all ways, and, no matter what happens, grow from it.



Roadtrip Nation

At the beginning of each Roadtrip Nation video, they say “Everywhere you turn people try to tell you who to be and what to do, but what about deciding for yourself? Roadtrip Nation is a movement that empowers people to find their own roads in life…”. The show focuses on 3 strangers who are brought together to drive around the country. On their trip they interview people that inspire them and ask them how they got to where they are.

Every few months I return to the show, which is free on their site. The interviews that they conduct are incredibly enlightening. It’s easy to feel sorry for yourself and think “maybe I can’t do it”. The people who are interviewed talk about pursuing their passions and what it means to follow your dreams.

“If you don’t follow your dreams, you’ll spend the rest of your life working for someone who did”. Currently I don’t know where I’m going or what I’m doing in my job but I know that as soon as I can, I’m going to follow my dreams. Every few months I get bummed out and see the future as this far away entity. Roadtrip Nation reminds me that it’s possible to be successful doing what you love.

If you haven’t already, I encourage you to check out their latest season!


18/31 Blogtober


Each person follows their passion, or discovers their passion, as they embark