January 19./ Routine

It feels good to be writing again – like stretching old muscles that I haven’t used in a while. From time to time I get the urge to sit down and type for a little bit. It gives me an opportunity to look back at the last few months and reflect on what’s going on in my life. This blog seems to mirror that. I apologize for the sporadic postings.

Today I’d like to take the time to look at a mechanism called routine. It seems that my life has been a series of changes and reactions to those changes.

The most recent change has been moving. I’ve finally hit a point where I can say I’ve gotten used to living on the island and I’m no longer caught up in it. I don’t feel as anxious about living in a new place. My work environment feels the same way. I’ve adjusted to the people I work with and the routine of the day.

The feeling has been serene. I didn’t know that I was anxious or uncomfortable until the emotion disappeared. The calmness crept up out of nowhere. Since then, I’ve been looking at the other things that I’ve gotten used to… like living out on my own, the places I frequently go.

What I’ve noticed is that I desire the calm, adjusted feeling. I mean, who doesn’t? I want to have places I regularly go and to feel comfortable with where I live and where I work. On the same note, I’ve noticed the anxious feeling when the routine is broken – like when the freeway I take to work is closed or when I get assigned a new task at work.

The strange thing is that while I desire the familiarity and calmness of routine, I also desire newness and the unknown. I want to see new places and try things I’ve never done before. And I want to be calm and comfortable with the new things that I try. Of course it doesn’t always work that way.

A side effect of entering the nice, relaxed routine is that I don’t want to break it. I feel lazy. There’s little drive to go out and do when I can relax at home. This isn’t to say that I’m afraid to go out and explore new places but I’m sinking into lethargy.

Now, routine is nice and all but there has to be a balance of it and freshness. Not enough adjustments and the water grows stagnant. We want to keep the water moving so it doesn’t start turning green.

Lately I’ve just been feeling more cognizant of how I react to routine and breaking it.

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August 1./ What’s been on my mind lately

My nightstand is 11 books deep and over half of it is about Zen. Paper enlightenment isn’t always good for the soul. Too much reading and you’ll get stuck with ideas and no practice. That’s where I am at the moment. I’ve just finished a book on Zen Master Hakuin, and now I’m reading translations of Dōgen’s Shōbōgenzō and Mumon Ekai’s Mumonkan.

It’s wonderful to encounter different perspectives and to take time to understand them. Although I cannot claim to fully comprehend their complexity (or perhaps simplicity), it’s nice to sit with them.

In fact, it’s been nice to sit with myself too. Lately, there have been a lot of passing thoughts that I didn’t notice I have. Many of them are ideas about the world and some of them are about me. For example, one of the ideas that’s been on my mind lately is about masculinity.

It sounds unusual to talk about this because I didn’t know that I held this idea until recently. Or well, I didn’t have a solid understanding of it. Being out of the closet (as gay) at age 11, I spent a lot of my younger years introspecting about who I am. Much of that time was spent with women, exploring topics that society deems as more feminine (i.e. emotions, empathy). I did this instead of developing traditionally masculine parts of myself.

Most of these traditionally masculine parts are heavily tactile. I never learned sports, fishing, or how to fix cars*. Instead I adopted the idea that these areas were mysterious or innate in some way (i.e. some guys are just naturally athletic or mechanically minded). And I was sure that I was not one of them.

I completely abandoned these topics and paid no mind to them for a very long time… well, until I joined the military and was suddenly surrounded by guys. Areas that were once mysterious started fading. Last year I started to spend a lot of time outdoors hiking**. This was a random growth. I started exploring tactile activities that I hadn’t enjoyed or thought about when I was younger.

As I’ve spent more time sitting in meditation recently***, I’ve noticed this subtle change. Lately I’ve been craving a long list of traditionally masculine activities. I know that’s a strange way to put it but I’ve been wanting to go rock climbing. Last week I worked on my car without feeling terrified I was going to break it. And I want to know more and do more. I don’t feel exhausted of it.

To someone who doesn’t feel this divide, what I’m writing about may not make any sense. Masculinity isn’t inherently about turning wrenches and femininity isn’t about emotions and social skills. Society places these generalizations on the genders and everybody feels it in some form. If you’re a dude and you don’t know how to work on your car, maybe you feel ashamed or embarrassed. Even if only a little bit. Or if you’re a chick and you’re one of those gals who scales those crazy upsidedown rock climbing walls, maybe you feel rebellious****.

I know this is basic Gender in Society 101 but I feel that sometimes I forget it. And often it feels like an invisible wall that confines me unknowingly. My car is mysterious and I avoid the thought of maintenance. I don’t think about why I’m avoiding it or why it feels so mysterious to me but I just push it out of my head.

Maybe that’s what I’ve been getting from my stack of paper enlightenment; these mysterious invisible walls are just mental constructs. Whether about gender or about my own limitations, I build my own confines. I think that everybody knows this but we’re not always conscious of it. We run into these invisible walls accidently and turn back around automatically without examining why we’ve put the walls there in the first place.

The cliché ending to this would be: “go off, do whatever you love, #noconfines #teardowntheinvisiblewalls” but I don’t think that’s quite the right answer either. Instead, I think it’s important to remain conscious. When you want to explore a new interest, whether it be in woodworking, kayaking, or maybe even the introspective stuff too, pay attention. Notice if you encounter a roadblock. Feel your way around it.

Get excited about new interests*****. Car maintenance isn’t that mysterious – well, actually it is but that’s okay too. The mystery isn’t bad. It’s all about exploring and learning.

Anyways, it’s getting pretty late here. Please forgive my generalizations about the genders. I know dudes that are very emotional and chicks that could beat me up. The masculinity/femininity was just to illustrate the most apparent invisible walls we build. These walls can be incredibly complex and difficult to deconstruct. I guess the first thing is to notice them. Anyways… I should get going. These are just the things that have been on my mind lately. Have a wonderful day/night wherever you are!


* This is to grossly undercut both femininity and masculinity
**Seriously, if I wasn’t out in the woods physically, I was there mentally
*** This sounds much more mysterious and exotic than it really is, promise
****Why would you feel rebellious? What status quo are you breaking? Oh, and P.S. I’m jealous that you can climb those funky walls. I want to be like spiderman too!
*****WOOT! YEAH! ROCKCLIMBING! EMOTIONS! WOO! FOOTNOTES! YAY!

July 23./ Laying out Excuses

Writer’s block has hit me hard for the last year. To break out of this period of inactivity, I want to do an exercise that I saw in Twyla Tharp’s book “The Creative Habit”. In it, she lists the excuses she sometimes makes to avoid creating. Afterwards she provides commentary about how she can move past them. In no particular order, here are my excuses:

  1. I’m not a professional / I don’t want to mislead others
    Excuse: A few years ago, when I was hyped about blogging, I often tried to motivate friends to start writing. I heard every excuse in the book. One friend though, said she didn’t want to start blogging because she didn’t want to contribute to the noise. “There’s too many people on the internet shouting their opinions” she said.This was hard on me because I had to ask myself if I was actually contributing online or just shouting my opinions. I’m not a professional on any topic. I don’t have a degree. Most of my knowledge comes out books or experiences. This excuse could be summed up by the introspective question all artists face: “What qualifies you to do this?”

    Rebuttal: Honestly? Most of the internet is filled with people who are not qualified to do what they do. But they do it anyways. For the most part, nothing could really qualify a person. Who says that someone is qualified to walk down the street and vlog their life on their camera? Or toss a bunch of mentos in coke? Or to do anything for that matter?

    As for the ‘shouting opinions’ portion, everyone is going to come across in this way. If you want to share, it’s inherently noisy. You don’t make the noise any louder by producing or any quieter by not writing. If you’re heart is telling you to contribute, go out and create. It’s bound to be noisy.

  2. I’m unclear about my intentions about why I write and what to write about
    Excuse: Often when I sit down when I sit down to write I don’t have a particular topic that I want to discuss in mind. I only have the feeling that I want to write. Without direction or drive, I spin between possible topics for too much time before giving up.The process of choosing a topic is… long winded? Usually this part is intermixed with the other excuses; “what qualifies you to write about this?”, “why don’t you write about a personal experience instead?”, “that’ll take too long”, et cetera. Without a topic, I don’t have clear intentions to create a good product.

    Rebuttal: The obvious solution to this excuse is to take time to define why you write and what you want to write about. Find what topic you want to discuss and stick to it. The first step you should take when sitting down is defining why you’re here and what you’re going to do. Going with the flow is a great skill to have but if you do it too much here, you’ll exhaust yourself wandering through topics with no direction. Pick a topic and hold to it.

  3. My writing skills are rusty and it’s embarrassing to read old posts
    Excuse: While this one is easy to counter, I often find myself faced with my old writing. Not that it was particularly good, but when I was writing daily, my skills were much higher. Now that I’ve stopped writing for almost two years, I automatically compare my current work to that which I was producing during a creative “height”.

    Rebuttal: Comparison will eat you alive. If you spend your time sulking in how you’re not as great as you once were, you’ll never do great things again. If the feeling is nagging you that bad, just work through it and continue to produce. With time and persistence, you’ll hone your craft again. Maybe it won’t be in the same way, and that’s fine, but you will get better as you work.

  4. It’s time consuming and there are other things I could be doing
    Excuse: Without skills, it takes feels like it takes forever to write. I spend 4 or 5 hours writing a short blog posts, then I over-edit it, question myself about whether it’s “good enough to post”, then ultimately log off for the night without sharing it.

    More than anything this make me feel like I’m wasting my time. It takes me a long time to sit down and produce something. “Is it worth the time if the product isn’t great?”

    Rebuttal: All art takes time to produce. You can’t go into it thinking that you’ll be able to jump in quick and come out with a fantastic product. You have to put in the time to create something awesome. Even with greater skill, you’ll still have to put in your hours. Suck it up buttercup, everyone goes through these stages of writing too much, overdoing it, and questioning if it’s good enough. It’s part of the process. Keep going and push passed it.

  5. When it comes down to it, I’m scared of judgement or being held accountable for what I write
    Excuse: These “writer’s blocks” usually boil down to a fear of being judged for expressing something. Whether it be a personal topic or a judgement based off what I choose to reblog or share. “If I write ________, will I come across as too (gay, masculine, feminine, showoff-ish, dumb, know-it-all, irrelevant)?”

    On the same note, I’m afraid that if I write casually, down the road someone is going to hold me to what I wrote. My opinions change as I gain understanding. What I wrote two years ago may not be true about me anymore.

    Rebuttal: No matter what you do, people will always judge you for it. And that’s okay because it really doesn’t matter what others think about you. You’ll always be too gay, too thin, too dumb, for somebody. So what? Create anyways. Have confidence in what you do. You feel driven to create and share. Not everybody can say that.

    The same is true about being held accountable for what you produce. People will always hold things against you. You’ll always be too much of something. Even if it was a past you. Create anyways. Be radical, then contradict yourself. Who cares? You’re allowed to change. You’re allowed to be obscene and different and too much. Do what you love.

Hey y’all, thanks for reading this. I apologize for how long this post has gotten. Brevity isn’t my strong suit. Plus, it’s easy to complain and write excuses! 😛 I hope that if you experience any of these same excuses, maybe you’ll let them go. I’d love to see what you produce. If anyone gets this far, let me know in the comments what excuses you face and how you get passed them. Have a good day/night and I’ll catch ya later!

 

 

July 21./

It’s beginning to feel like every blog post I write starts with an apology about how long it’s been since I’ve last written. This time it appears another few months have gone by. Oh well.

Summer is passing but in Hawaii it’s hard to tell. The trees are in full blossom and the fragrance of flowers awakens me when I walk outside. It’s truly beautiful to live here. Next month will mark one year since arriving.

It’s odd how so much is different when nothing has changed. It’s all empty I suppose. The luscious grass and chirping birds in the morning. I, too, am empty. Like a mirror reflecting a mirror. Jet planes crackle with speed high above my home.

 

July 1./ Flowers will die and weeds will flourish

Over the last couple weeks I’ve been reading collections out of Zen Master Dōgen’s book Shōbōgenzō (The Treasury of the True Dharma Eye). Dōgen was a 13th century monk who brought Zen Buddhism from China to Japan. One line out of the Genjōkoan chapter really stuck out to me, and it’s been stuck in my head lately. It’s translated to:
“Yet in attachment blossoms fall, and in aversion weeds spread” (Robert Aiken/ Kazuaki Tanahashi).
Even though we like some things, they come to an end. Even though we dislike other things, they continue to be. It’s also been translated to “flowers, while loved, fall; and weeds, while hated, flourish” (Nishijima Roshi / Chodo Mike Cross) or “whilst we adore flowers they wither; weeds grow strong whilst we long for their destruction” (Jiyu-Kennett).
Just because we love something, or have favorable feelings for something, doesn’t mean it will last. Good things end. Everything ends. Even if you dislike something, it doesn’t mean it will go away or weaken. Unfavorable things happen too.
But you know what, it’s okay. This line is nothing new. We all know it. I think sometimes we just forget. We want to make the good stuff last a little longer and forget that it won’t last forever. We want to push away the bad stuff and hope it ends quicker.
“…flowers, though we love them, still die, and weeds, though we hate them, still grow all over the place” (Brad Warner).

I don’t know, this had just been on my mind lately.
(Translations were found in “Moon in a Dewdrop; writings of zen master dōgen” edited by Kazuaki Tanahashi and “Don’t be a Jerk” by Brad Warner)

May 4./

It’s 2:30am Hawaiian time and I’m sitting legs folded on my bed. There’s a mixture of flowers gathered in vases around the room. Some white and yellow daisies sit on the nightstand a foot away and I wonder why it seems to take a momentous amount of effort to write these days. Almost two years have passed since I was writing daily.

I don’t know my intention of writing anymore. I struggle with how much I see the “I”s and want to remove myself from the conversation. I want to talk about experiences without making them about me. Out of shame, I shy away from writing. But that’s just my ego cringing at another spot it despises of itself and wants to push away.

I’m afraid of dogma and rigidity. If I meditate daily or trust wholeheartedly in the teachings, I fear that I’ll become blind and disconnected from others. I also fear sounding stupid or irrelevant. With the amount of noise there is on social media, why would anyone want to read what I write? Everyone is shouting, desperately trying to gain attention. Views, likes, it’s all the same. Yet, I’m afraid I’ll fall to that pattern as well.

It makes me wince to write “my motivation is to help others”. So many people just want to “help”. They want to spread their views as absolute and reject anything that challenges them. Am I not desiring helping others through my own possibly foggy lens? But we cannot wait for perfection.

For now I’ll continue sitting and writing.

Taking another Break

In the wake of the attacks on Paris, I’m struck with grief and heartbreak. The response on social media has been enormous and because of that I feel the need to mourn this loss away from my friends and family online. I cannot log in without seeing hate. Friends are arguing, others post islamophobic pictures, and members of my family are posting statuses about the need for mass bombings. I cannot stand to look at the psychological trauma the west is facing now. I need space.

This page isn’t heavily viewed and I feel that I can express myself here. The hatred is making me nauseous and I need to process this alone. I plan on practicing tonglen later for those suffering from this tragedy. My heart goes out to them and I wish them ease for their losses.

Taking a break won’t be bad either. Yesterday I watched a TEDtalk about a man who quit the internet for a year. While I won’t go to that extreme, I liked how he talked about his experiences. He spoke of going through boredom for the first time in ages. I cannot remember the last time I felt true boredom; where I had nothing to do. The internet gives us access to unlimited information and entertainment.

When I feel the slightest bit bored, I turn to Facebook. It’s an impulse now. When I open Google Chrome on my computer, my hands automatically begin typing the URL. When I get tired of clicking through articles that friends have posted, as if by reflex, I reload the page. When I’ve exhausted the new posts within the last four hours, I go to YouTube, SnapChat, Twitter, and finally Tumblr. By the time that I’ve cycled through those sites, I can go back to Facebook and expect a few more new posts.

It sounds dramatic or perhaps different from your experience of social media. These are just the ways that social media has become a habit. Reflex is the most accurate word. Whenever I begin to feel bored, I reflexively load Facebook. I want to nip it in the bud by cutting it completely out. For how long, I’m not sure. My account will remain active only to allow Spotify to login.

With the time that I’ve already started spending away from Facebook, I’ve managed to read through “Walk Like a Buddha” by Lodro Rinzler. I’ve started David Foster Wallace’s posthumous novel “The Pale King”. It’ll take time to get through but I’m eager to gain a greater understanding of DFW. I’ve also ordered his book “Infinite Jest” as well as Mathew B. Crawford’s second book “The World Beyond Your Head”. Both look excellent.

One of my favorite artists, Joel Robison, is releasing a book next month titled “Create Your Self”. Terribly excited for that. Hopefully Maximilian Uriarte will open the pre-orders for his graphic novel “The White Donkey”soon, which is released in December as well. These few months feel book crazy and I’m excited to get away and read. Maybe I’ll start writing reviews or something of books that I enjoy.

Anyways, this post is getting long enough. I’m gonna go finish laundry, put some fresh sheets on, and open The Pale King back up. While I don’t anticipate buying any books for a month or so, I’m always looking for recommendations. Especially in the LGBT, memoir, or Buddhist genre. I’m a weird one. Have a good start to the week and I’ll be in touch.