A Good Time to Practice the 3 Antidotes

As a Buddhist, often I need to kick myself in the butt to remind me that there are ways, even in these troubled times, to maintain equanimity of my spirit mind.  As any Buddhist will say, in her or his own words, there are three root poisons that work to impede our divine happiness, those being anger, greed and confusion.

Today, as throughout history, we easily can discern these 3 poisons infecting American society at large, regardless of one’s political persuasion, or apolitical posture.  So these poisons not only infect an individual, but spread like rotting fruit in a barrel,  pervading all society, ebbing and rising over time. This infection is always present, everywhere in the world, and has been since the proverbial Eve picked the apple (uuummm, that juicy, tasty apple!)

However, the antidotes to any or all 3 of the poisons must first be given to individuals, one at a time.  The antidotes are always present, in each of us, but have to be spiritually accepted.  And, only the individual can decide voluntarily to take the antidotes, as the curing effects will not be realized if forced upon she or he.

Everyday we witness all 3 poisons flowing and defiling our humanity.  From the highest political office in America, varieties of the 3 are pumped through channels of willing receptors, who often do not even recognize their sickness.  But every action has a reaction, so those who oppose the policies of the present Oval Office, likewise allow themselves to be infected with other strains of the 3 viruses.

So what are the antidotes?

  1.  To counteract anger:  Loving-kindness.  We must remind ourselves that each human being is just that, no more, no less, and strive to feel empathy and compassion for the challenges others are confronting that impede and block them from being the loving person they each have the potential to be, as we all do.  They are not responsible for our own feeling of anger, as no one can control how we feel if we are masters of our mind.  By cultivating a sense of forgiving, unconditional love for those who otherwise infuriate us, our internal anger will be restrained.  This does not mean we are not also responsible for externally working to arrest those in the grips of hatred from committing acts of violence or harm; by restraining them from such actions, we are actually helping them.
  2. To counteract greed:  Generosity.  We must overcome our own desire in the political realm to want everything to be the way we want it.  Our world view may have many good qualities, but it is just our world view, for none of us is omniscient. Generosity can also be expressed by reaching out to those whose views differ from us, offering a white feather of peace and a gentle request to explore together the root issues that separate us.  Lastly, generosity will not be sustained externally if we each do not strive to be more generous – consciously generous –  in all our social interactions, whether with a partner, a child, family or other close associations.
  3. To counteract confusion.  Wisdom.  With wisdom comes the faculties to negotiate this treacherous sea we live in daily.  All the great minds, philosophers and spiritual keepers knew this.  For instance, Proverbs 4:7 reminds us to get wisdom, get understanding.  Personally I like to use the term “overstanding,” to convey the higher quality that true wisdom exhibits.  One way of gathering wisdom is to practice critical analysis.  I have mentioned this a number of times in my posts.  I truly believe that if more and more younger students can be exposed to critical analytical discourse, then the fallacies, delusions, illusions and overall confusion we see today will diminish over time.  Most of those who have views supporting the Oval Office I believe are in a state of utter confusion and delusion, because they are not skilled in critical thinking, to search for the truth in any situation.  For instance, blaming immigrants for Americans being unemployed will fly in the face of logical cause and effect analysis.  Hating someone because of their skin color or customs also will be cooled when real exploration takes place.

Having spoken about these antidotes, I realize too that behind the anger, greed and confusion lurks what we can label just pure evil.  I truly believe that there is a negative higher force that is always present in the human mind, which will exist always (until we all attain enlightenment…..but that is another matter).  We see pure evil at work in the mass murders recently, but pure evil rears its supremely ugly face throughout all history, whether the genocide in Rwanda or Cambodia, or the Nazis, or the fire bombing of cities by the Allies.  When we allow evil to appear it always will.  Only the 3 antidotes keep it in check.

So having written this to share with you today, I commit to myself to do be better at taking my antidotes, and not push away the spoon like a sick boy who pushes away his mother’s hand with the spoonful of nasty medicine.

Peace and blessings be with you all.

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Jazz, America’s Classical Music

If you are not a student of jazz, nor even very familiar with its vastness, that’s ok, I just hope you will hear me out on this, and then think about how what I say applies to the music idiom you prefer or love even.  I assure you it will apply, you may just need to do some substitution.

I chose the photo above, two empty park benches, side by side.  Now imagine, on one bench is seated a single musician, playing jazz, all alone.  My vision is of a sax player, but maybe it’s a cat or a lady horn player blowing on the trumpet or coronet or …….you name it.  Now it could even be a guy on a trap drum kit, but I prefer to think in terms of a horn’s vibration.  An acoustic guitar will do well though, in this discussion.

Here you come, out for a leisurely walk before it gets too warm, and hearing the wafting notes of extemporaneous composition floating through the trees, you follow these, curious and perhaps bewitched.  Finding the player, who only acknowledges you with a quick glance, after standing a moment listening, you say to yourself, “I think I will just sit and listen for a while.”

Being a jazz aficionado of many years, you just close your eyes, and listen, non-judgmentally, as the player experiments, stuttering on this note, then hesitating, then repeating and repeating again, until satisfied with that stroke of the painting.  Each note you hear takes you somewhere in your soul, your memories, your very primordial essence, carrying you along the strands of your DNA to experiences and relationships of your countless ancestors, and even (in my way of thinking) your many reincarnations.  You sit listening, hearing but not analyzing, for it cannot really be analyzed, as it is “jazz,” a fully-constituted quantum wave/particle having only the smaller parts that make up your very body and all that you perceive around you and all that you do not yet perceive, the very web of the Potentiality that is what many call God, others just know no name may be assigned, for It is neither this nor that.  Of the infinite possibilities of each note you take in, your neurons fire collapsing at each moment the probability wave into that special note that you and only you can claim.  You own each note, just as much as the lady playing.  You become an Eulipion.

The thought may come to mind, does the player hear her notes and feel what you feel listening to his notes?  A little perhaps, but what she is laying down is a river, she is pouring in the sacred water, shaping the twists and turns and rapids and falls, which she navigates, but you are in your own boat, free to also navigate as you feel, or are drawn to do by inexorable forces that you have little control over.  It is her journey, her creation, but she gives openly for you to enjoy in your little “mind skiff.”

A large part of listening to jazz is just relaxing into what you hear, letting the mind and spirit, mind/spirit, synthesize the extension of the notes that are only yours alone to enjoy in the way that you do.  Each person will enjoy the same music differently, because what we hear is what each of us process as our personalized perception of those lyrical dimensions.  This is also true of what we touch and what we see, but that’s another story. All is Mind.

Of course, as I said above, please feel free to substitute your own idiom, your own instrument, and then just visualize mentally, let it be a brief meditation.  Your surely will “see” that of which I write this morning.

Enjoy your day.  Listen to some great music!

For Muhlaysia

When I heard of the murder just a few days ago of Muhlaysia Booker in Dallas, I was overcome with anger and sadness.  Just 23 years old, identifying as a trans girl, she had already been nearly beaten to death only a month before.  This is not the first murder of a trans girl in Dallas in recent times either.  And around the USA the statistics bear out that black trans girls (women) are more often than not the victims of killers, and a large part of that reason is these girls are not accepted openly by “normal” strata of society, and are often driven to engage in risky behaviors just to survive.

I have LGBTQ godchildren – and they are all just a little older than this young lady.  I cannot imagine something bad happening to any of them, but sadly that is not today’s reality, because attacks can literally happen anywhere.  Like any parent who loves their children and accepts them for what they are, I would give my life for any of mine.  But of course they are adults and I cannot be with them hardly at all now.  All I can do is pray for them.

Here in Texas, it took the murder and decapitation of Mr. James Byrd, Jr.,  in 1998 to get a hate crimes law passed, but it did not include protection for gender identity, and although there have been multiple efforts to get this done, it has been stymied in the Capitol by lawmakers representing the “usual” voters, who know not love.

I really hold our society at large accountable for letting this happen.  However, as long as we have preachers preaching hate and intolerance instead of what Jesus taught, and churchgoers voting on such misinformed interpretations of what should be self-evident, we as a society will continue to come up short on the arc of moral justice.

However, we each can do a little, besides voting in the right reps…we can stand up within our families, our social orgs and clubs, and even in the supermarket lines, in support of those who wish to express their true identities.  If we can’t individually stand up for human rights in our very midst, then what kind of persons are we?

RIP Muhlaysia, I know you are loved around the world.

Just Being…

We had some hard rain yesterday, but after some hours it let up so I could take a short walk to the grocery nearby.  On the way back it occurred to me that a topic for today should be about “being in the present.”

As I walked along I traversed fallen twigs, leaves, and other unrecognizable “stuff,” much of it left by the force of the rain, knocked from bushes above, or blown from some other spot by the winds.  I allowed myself to become very thoughtful about this, and yet allowed my mind to just be open to blending with what I perceived, visually and mentally.  I thought about how each leaf stuck to the sidewalk had a history that was infinite.  The same for even the bird poop, and how leaves and poop were directly connected and essentially part of the whole.

Take one leaf for example. We can examine how it came to be a leaf, and we can examine how it came to be one of the leaves that was displaced by the rain water, and how the wind and the rain and gravity all conjoined to place the leaf in the exact position and orientation that I saw it in.  We can trace this history of the leave, from being a sprout on a twig, to being part of the bush or tree, to the seed that the tree came from, to what carried or placed the see where the tree grew, and if carred there, how and why, did a bird carry it, and what kind of bird and the full history of that one bird, such as its migration, the food it consumed…..and well, as one quickly sees there is no end to the investigation that one can do if one wishes.

The “bottom line,” (a favorite term in the West, since we are all about the almighty dollar) is that all things if explored thoroughly, are seen to be part of the web of life, and more so, the quantum web when we drill down to the ultimate state of perception.  This is what is called “sunyata” in Sanskrit.  It is the “emptiness” of all that we perceive, meaning empty of inherent existence.  The entire universe contains nothing that is not interdependent with everything else.  It’s really quite simple, yet so illusive to those never presented with such philosophy (and physics).  By just being in the present, observing each thing and phenomena and our own thoughts at the moment, we can be transported into the heart of this concept, and for at least a few seconds, or minutes, arrive in this suspended “place” that has no time nor space nor gravity.

That we can readily access this state of being anytime, anywhere, is really “pretty cool.”  If we do practice this, the least benefit we will attain is the realization that we as a person are fully connected with the ultimate creation.  No need to do much more than this, no need to prostrate, no need to cross the heart, no need to go to a formal place of worship (except for the social experience and support).  We each are given the full throttle power to simply, “Be.”

Enjoy Being today.

Dreaming

Dear readers, starting my morning, coffee level down to one-half, and not sure where this post will lead really.  I am just sort of dreaming it up as I “type.”  I often get spontaneous thoughts, spurts of inquisitiveness, and on rare occasions, creativeness, and the notion of dreaming popped into my mind a few days ago.

Lest you immediately think I am about to write about the dream states we experience during sleep, I am not.  I ask you to consider the term “dreaming” as having to do with living our lives having “goals” that we may adjust over time – or not – depending on our personalities, versus living your life as a dream.  I know, I need to be more clear with this notion.  Life coaches will inform us that we should have goals that we work or strive for, right?  We have heard often the phrase, “dream big,” or some permutation of that idea.  What brought this to my mind actually was when I was out for my morning walk, my path taking me along a busy boulevard with heavy rush hour traffic, I suddenly felt great empathy for all those passing me, all “going somewhere,” most in a rush.  As I am retired, I do not rush anywhere anymore, and now have the luxury of doing what I want (within my tiny budget) using my time as I feel at any moment.  Sounds great I know, and it is.  I feel very blessed, and do not take it for granted, as it is only my great health that provides this comfortable lifestyle.

But all these people rushing along in the morning, and then going the opposite way at the end of the day, I ask, are they chasing their dreams for something better? Have they a vision of what they are actually doing all this rushing for?  What are they dreaming about as they drive along?

I also hope that some or many of those folks of all ages, have not dreams of the future, but are living their lives as if within a dream.  By that I mean not focusing on the future, not even focusing really on tomorrow or the next few hours, but merely relaxing and “being” in the moment they are in right at each moment.  We are so challenged, particularly in this country – USA – with temporal sensitivity:  do I have time for this or that? What time is it?  Johnny has to be at soccer (football) practice by 6, oh my, how can I make it there on time?

There is another state we can be in, and often all of the concerns we have like getting to the soccer pitch on time will just vanish if we shift into our own “dream time.”  If we just attune to being present in what we are doing, being “mindful,” using a Buddhist term, so many things just fall into place.  Important things get worked out with least effort, and small things just fall off the table, and they never should have been placed on the table.

So I ask you, are you living/dreaming within the moment right now, or rushing to achieve some thing, some place, where if you live long enough you can spend your days “dreaming” in a fantasy which you may find not at all satisfying?

Sweet dreams may you catch each dawn.  Peace.

Death by blogging…

For my avid readers (all three of you?), no I am not hinting of anything related to my mortality.  But, “One never knows, do one?” (Fats Waller).

After the attack on the WTC (9-11), my ability to write creatively just suddenly stopped.  I found myself, voluntarily, caught up in the anti-war movement, and creative writing just seemed to take a distant place in my ranking of importance.  For years I felt this way, and in spite of attempts over those years to break out of that quagmire, writing attempts that went nowhere, dampened by the continuing sickening news of death, mutilation, PTSD, civilian casualties and displacement, war, mayhem and terrorism (let’s remember one man’s terrorism is another man’s overt strike, e.g., a drone with Hellfire missiles on a wedding)…..well, I just could not bring myself to begin to write about something that was not serious, and yet I was just sick of “serious.”  Do you feel me?

Then, not too long ago I began to feel like I must force myself to sit down once again, and write.  Life is short – I finally had to admit to myself.  So, I started this blog, and just in the last six months I have self-published a few small non-fiction books (available on Amazon).  But once again I am finding it so hard to push away the thoughts and images of the slings and arrows of our political, and generally societal at large, landscape.  There seems to be no news outlet that is not engaged in debating the daily shifts in this terrain…because it is so important….but god don’t we all need some fresh air?

I was born about four score years after the American Civil War, and until 2016 I could never have dreamed the foundation of what it means to be “America” would begin to fracture again. I thought for the longest we might be finally escaping our past divisions and angst, coming together to address common threats like global warming or exploring space, feeding the starving and “all that.”  How wrong I was.  Now we are literally in a “civil” civil war once again…there is no way to deny that, and anyone who scoffs at that I say, “you better look deeper.”  (Note that when I say “civil,” I am not over looking the bloody violence committed by domestic terrorists.)

Our country is being consumed by the “perfect storm.”  A consummate ego-maniac was elected due to the amplification of factors that individually would not have resulted in such as travesty:  egotism of the Democratic party machine, an outdated electoral college system built on gerrymandered districting, neglect of our heartland and our once burgeoning industrial cities and the thousands of small towns and rural folk, the failure of our education system to teach citizens how to critically analyze information, xenophobia inflamed by poverty of large swaths of America, outright racism, the selfishness of the major social media corps, the degenerate state of politicians within in D.C., and the failure of government to protect against cyber attacks by malevolent actors (e.g., Trump’s best buddy, Vladimir Putin).  Had any one of these factors been neutralized, we would not be in a civil war today.

Now we are faced with a highly divided nation, so divided it has wrecked marriages and families, just like the bloody Civil War did, and I fear it could easily get much worse.  We have a man occupying the presidency who knows no limits, recognizes no restraints of law or norm, will do absolutely anything to remain in power and have All the power, who has infected Washington with a fast growing carcinoma.  It is obvious he will use every trick in the book, supported by those who are too blinded by hate, or too greedy to care about the principles of our very nation.  He will not be impeached, and even if he loses the 2020 election (which certainly is not a foregone conclusion) he will not vacate the White House peacefully, for he knows prison and the collapse of his finances await him.  Inauguration day, January 20, 2021 may turn into another day of infamy for this country.

Notwithstanding all this bullshit, I will continue to blog – till death do us part – and give free reign to my mind, allowing it to roam as freely as I can given day to day matters, and moreover, abide in the firm belief that “the arc of the moral universe is long, but it bends towards justice.” (Theodore Parker).

Concluding, I know this nation will get through this.  We have met and beat all other fiends, and we will beat this, even though a large part of the fiend’s protoplasm is within our collective self.

 

Why not write that book?

I thought that today I would choose a really easy topic for me to write about, one that I hope also will encourage and inspire readers to take that step toward publishing their own first book.  For decades I have had some books turning pages in my mind, all wanting to come out.  I started two or more books writing by hand, and later on an old word processor (pre-dating PC’s).  I researched how to self-publish, researched “vanity publishing,” and each time just threw up my hands, feeling in my busy life I did not have time to do all this “stuff.”  I just wanted to write my books, push a button, and get them on the store shelves!  All those years I published nothing other than a small printed book about Ritual Male Initiation, which went nowhere.  I was really stymied.

I had known about Amazon’s Kindle for quite a while, and “print on demand,” but again I was just too wrapped up in my career and other of life’s distractions to pursue it further.  However, having retired recently, I had time to really look closely at “how to” publish using Amazon’s KDP platform, and after some experimenting, and several trials and errors (which with me is a continuing process), I was amazed to realize that even I could do it – publish my own book all by myself!

I now have two new loves in my life:  Google search and Amazon self-publishing.  I use Google although there are others available as you younger readers certainly know, but these two things have literally opened up new doors for me as I move into my elder years.  As an engineer for some 50 years, I always used my mind everyday for hours, and then when I retired, I wanted to push the gas pedal of my brain but I had no where to go.  Now I do.  Between this blogging (which I really enjoy, and enjoy just for the sheer delight of self-expression, whether or not anyone ever reads my posts), and my new-found book writing/publishing “romance,” I am as happy as a pig in slop!

So let me close by just saying that you too, if you have a good PC or laptop, and a good internet connection, can also step confidently into the book world.  It is EASY!  If any readers have questions, perhaps I can help, so just contact me, ok.

And, oh yes, the photo above:  this is the cover of my latest book, Texas Jazz Triangle, A Historic Nexus:  My Love Affair With The Music, available on Amazon, along with a few others I have happily published.  The singer in the photo is my late wife, Shirley Tennyson-McFatter, who passed 25 years ago.  You can see and hear more of her on my You Tube channel (Joe McFatter).

Peace be with you all today, and always!