In many ways, we are all like Pavlov’s dog. And, in many ways, we are not.
If you’re unfamiliar with Pavlov and his dog(s), he was a Russian psychologist from the last century who worked in an area called Classical Conditioning. His test subjects were dogs repetitiously trained to associate the sound of a bell ringing with the availability of food to consume. Eventually, he conditioned the dogs to so thoroughly relate the bell’s sounding with food that they began to salivate at the mere sound of a bell, even when food was taken out of the equation.
This morning, my alarm went off at 7am. I had a meeting with someone on Central Time and was aware that my morning fatigue might be met by a person on the other line who’d already be invigorated by one or two more cups of coffee than me. My alarm signaled that it was time to become conscious. In fact, it was time to be awake, which brings with it all kinds of responsibilities and expectations. Read More
Before leaving bed this morning, I set a timer for 15 minutes and began to listen to myself breathe. As the air came in through my nostrils, I noticed where the oxygen traveled throughout my body, I could feel my stomach expand and the muscles along my neck and back loosen. As the air left my nostrils, I could feel a tingly sensation spread over my scalp. When thoughts arrived, such as those that visit most every morning when my mind becomes conscious, I mostly ignored them and returned to the whereabouts of my breath, as if it was the most worthy recipient of my attention.
This little practice, I’ve been told, is meditation. Read More
Consciousness is about as ubiquitous a buzz word in the Bay Area as are smartphones in the hands of those who are talking about it. But what remains incomplete when using the word is understanding what people mean by it. Never one to use a word I can’t define (most of the time, except ubiquitous, I have no clue what that means), I’ve been wanting to know what everyone around me claims to be hacking on. Read More
Dear Reader, Read More
What are your unanswerable questions? The ones that play on repeat, inaudibly, throughout every day of your life?
For many of us, they’ve become so embedded within our inner dialogue that we hardly recognize them anymore, as they quietly cause us to wonder: Am I enough? Am I too much? Why do I want to hide? What’s the point? How can I be happy? What does happiness even mean? When will my real life start? (Or, insert any number of your own unanswerable questions. We’ve all got one perfectly tailored to ourselves.)
Dear reader, Read More
In my short life, I’ve recognized personal growth as having taken place when nagging questions from my past no longer possess the same weighty relevance in my present. One of these recognitions occurred in 2014 during a conversation with Father Silouan about the worthiness of a life dedicated to monasticism.
My original question could have been harshly simplified as: “What good is a monk?” I mean, consider how they leave the world, civilization, and separate themselves from humankind in order to dedicate themselves to prayer and fasting and isolation. Isn’t this selfish? Isn’t this a life wasted?
Dear Reader, Read More
I’m sitting in front of my computer screen now, cursor blinking, and I’m literally scratching my head over how to talk about truth. I keep thinking that there must be a story to share that will allow me to transfer my mental process to you. But, maybe that’s forcing it. I do know that truth can’t be forced.
I watch a dog being walked down the street – sniffing, peeing, barking, wagging – as its owner is on his cell phone – texting, flipping, reading, seeing. They are both engaged in the same general activity – going for a walk – but they are not having the same experience. What’s true for dog is not true for man, even though they are experiencing the same time and space. They experience time and space differently.
The sound of weeping and wailing was rising and falling like waves from the main meeting room, but the volume decreased with each step I took farther away from the group’s emotional activity.
We’d begun 30 minutes earlier with a shortened version of group meditation that involved three 20-minute segments entirely dedicated to laughter, tears, and silence. I was all game for the laughter portion where, ironically, I laughed so hard I cried. But, when it came time to allow myself to give into tears induced by sadness, not even one would fall from my eyes. Read More
Dear Reader, Read More
There wasn’t an immediately obvious place to clip on the mic, so we managed to secure it to his beard. Putting it there happened to deaden the open air sound of the tile-floored room where we were prepared to conduct our interview. This was an unintended bonus.
Jon, my videographer friend, had flown down to meet me in New Mexico with a large crate filled with camera equipment to help capture sights and sounds from the monastery where I’d been living for nearly three months. Unfortunately, it turned out that the monks refused to be filmed, so we resorted to recording some audio of them instead.
The instructions were simple enough: Read More
“Find someone who you’ve wanted to connect with, but who you’ve felt some kind of resistance toward.”
Once we located our person out of the 160 or so to choose from, we were tasked with sitting with them for about 20 minutes – each person getting 10 minutes of client time — and tell each other what makes us want to avoid them.
I pinned her up against the wall and yelled with all my aggression directly into her face. She told me I wasn’t enough, and that I would never get what I wanted.
“You can’t have it,” she mocked. “You never will.”
I pushed harder, my feet sliding out from underneath me, as I could feel her delicate shoulder bones start to give way under my palms.
OK, she said, losing all the intensity we’d developed in the last few moments. Now I want you to push up against the wall behind me, so that you can give it all of your aggression without hurting me. Read More
“Today, we are going to be concerning ourselves with the nature of reality and how very little we know about it.” Read More
It was Monday – as perfect a day as any to deconstruct existence as we knew it – and our class of 60 counseling students of all ages, vocations, shapes, sexual orientations, and colors were prepared to dive deep, led by our instructor Steve Bearman.
But first, we needed to come to terms with all that we didn’t know.
I look intently into his eyes and sense he’s hiding something. He’s blinking more often than what seems reasonable. I stand more firm in front of him, looking up, trying to calm his nerves by offering a stable presence, even though I feel quite small.
He’s nearly a foot taller than me and probably weighs twice as much as I do, but his eyes don’t convey the confidence his body commands. And so, in spite of my smaller stature, I feel like I must be strong for him.
His hands are sweaty; I know this because we are holding each other’s as if we’re about to exchange vows. Read More
Tonight I used too many words that made too little sense while sitting on a river bank beneath galaxies made visible by dark. Nature’s beauty abided in voiceless authority.
We both like intellectual paths. And so monologues became our feet. She led and I followed, then we changed positions and ventured places we often only go alone. Read More
When I fathom the incomprehensible, there’s God.
When I hear the inaudible, there’s God.
When I feel the inexplicable, there’s God.
God’s everything I am and everything I’m not.
Why are we straining to prove divinity’s existence?
Is it not because we’ve lost the divine within ourselves? Read More
A reverent fear of God and relationship with Jesus served as the spiritual foundation in my parents’ household, and I am eternally grateful for their devotion – especially the unwavering hope of my mother. But children don’t remain in their parent’s home forever – at least that’s the usual plan – and sometimes the foundation they’d been raised on gets jack-hammered by doubts. Read More
Let’s establish something right now and real quick:
Don’t share your thoughts until coffee’s dripped.
And don’t expect small talk before coffee’s sipped.
I’m a slow riser and mean to keep it that way.
I don’t like thinking when I’m not awake.
Have a great idea?
I’m sure it can wait. Read More
I’ve observed the placebo group;
Those proverbial pill poppers enthused by scriptural salt tablets that promise immortality.
They are drinking from a communal cup, claiming wine is blood and bread is flesh.
I’ve seen their veneration of symbols of death;
Kneeling before headstones and instruments of torture. Read More
We woke up at a 16th century colonial mansion turned backpacker’s inn.
We snuck out quietly as to not wake our sleeping compadres in the bunks around us.
Before 5am the carretera was quieter than we’d ever seen it, minimizing the need to swerve between rickshaws and cattle drives.
The cabbie didn’t have change for our US dollars, so he got a little extra tip.
Perhaps it was a commonly implemented strategy to best departing gringos.
Whatever the case, he left content. Read More
I find the manmade world to be merely tolerable;
a manipulated rendition of select natural qualities
with a domesticated lifestyle so dominant it feels unquestionably correct.
Until you question it.
Then you learn that… Read More
Societal standards are fatal,
As trivial tasks poke holes in our cups
And we drain life for the appearance of productivity
We must be filled before we can overflow
What does hustle and bustle make?
Does it offer sustenance? Read More