Friday, February 29, 2008

Walking Without A Problem.

Walking today one could see how the mind operates as a problem solver. Whenever there is a conflict the mind steps in and attempts to solve it, straighten it out. A lot of times the cause of said conflict is the mind itself and yet it still goes out in search of the solution. One thing ought to be clear to all reading this post, the mind always operates in a state of fragmentation, duality. And the mind will never rest until all problems are solved. The funny thing is, the cessation of problems becomes a problem as well. What does this mean? It means that the mind has become accustomed to acting, moving, and therefore refuses to stop. The fuel of the mind is problems, and finding their solutions, and so the mind continually finds or creates problems in the attempt to solve them. Clearly the nature of the mind has something to do with the problems of the world today. For to the mind, a problem is a problem, whether it be how to stop a genocide in Africa or how to get a fellow employee to notice me. The mind is never satisfied, it can never stop moving. But why? Has the human being identified itself with the mind? Has the mind identified itself with the human body? Are we confusing the mind with the brain?
Walking beneath the blossoming trees one could sense the coming of spring. Everything around oneself was preparing itself for this oncoming event. Somewhere, within all things, the corner had been turned and the winter was behind us. It was more than the sun shining and the temperature being a few degrees warmer. It was something one could not simply see or hear. It was closer, it was as if the change blowing in over the ocean, the change moving the Earth's rotation was taking place within the cells and atoms of all things as well. It was as if the mind remembered that spring was approaching, and so it was. The budding trees, jasmine flowers, orange blossoms, and roses were all welcoming that something in the air telling them to reach higher, grow faster, and take in more of the ever increasing sunlight. New, small, delicately green, baby leaves could be seen on almost every branch and the colors of spring filled more and more spaces here and there.
The brain knows the trials and tribulations of the individual but not the whole. It's attempt to solve problems beyond itself create larger problems, for the answer in one small, fleeting corner of existence does not translate to other corners, elsewhere. The brain only thinks about the part and therefore can only imagine the whole it believes it belongs to and it's relationship with it. The brain experiences a world of many brains, and since each operates from it's own center, there is boundless conflict between them. It is only when the brain is still, without a problem and without the need to create a problem, that the nature of the mind reveals itself. When one has a moment, do walk outdoors and ask yourself, does any tree or bush resist the coming spring?

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Tuesday, February 26, 2008

Spring Is In The Air.

Walking out of doors today one could smell the jasmine blossoming along every street corner and the orange blossoms, sprinkled here and there, beginning to bud. The skies have been heavy with rain the last few days but today the sun is shining and the air is crisp and clear. There's nothing like a good rain to wash away the soot, pollen, and smog of city-life. As one passes a corner of pines there are two squirrels playing in the long grass. It's funny how one sees a few squirrels at this exact spot many times when walking by. They have become quite accustomed to people and are not easily spooked. One can not be sure as to whether they are the same squirrels each time or not, but there they are, searching, playing, and eating. As one stands there watching them the sunlight becomes apparent. How it washes over the landscape and creates such a stark contrast of shadow and vivid highlights. In moments like these it's almost as if light is the main attraction and all else is simply there to reflect and project it. The way this light sets the grass aflame and how the squirrels seem to be held motionless in its grasp. Today, that light was all there was, and it knew no boundaries.
How is it that we humans live so effortlessly within the confines of our own thought process? Like the steep banks of a river directing every twist and turn of water, what we think becomes the reality that guides all our action. Could one simply say it is "our nature" and push the question aside? Nature or not, there is certainly something to be said for becoming aware of this "nature" of ours. Not because you have to become aware, or you should, that is far to unfortunate to believe. No, I mean more along the lines of coming across something you've never noticed before, and doing so all by yourself. There it is one day, right before your eyes, and you look at it, study it, not because you want or need something from it, but because it is like nothing you've seen before. It simply interests you. Curiosity is a totally different relationship with oneself because there is no reward, you're not being curious because it will take you somewhere else. You are simply curious, interested, and paying attention. If one were to be so curious, one would be a guest in the house of their own mind, watching, observing how things work in this marvelously mysterious, or not so mysterious, place. And the mind would have nothing to hide, it would simply be at work, doing what it does as one observes its every movement. The one observing receives nothing and the mind receives nothing, there is no exchange. And yet, one is no longer blindly bound to the confines of thought, for no one is bound to that which they are aware of.
The two squirrels were suddenly off and as one began to walk again the sunlight warmed one's forehead. It was the sunlight of the coming spring, the sunlight of warmer days ahead. The busy street went momentarily quiet as the light turned red and the traffic stopped. Several people holding hands walked by and their laughter and expression-filled faces could be heard and felt. Everyone, and everything, seemed delighted to be outdoors. Another jasmine-filled breeze swept down the narrow road and the black birds squawked over head. Their calling out seemed to exclaim, to everyone who could hear them, that jasmine was not the only thing in the air today.

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Thursday, February 21, 2008

Our Total Lunar Eclipse Of Understanding.

As one looked up through the pale black sky, drowned out by street lights and the constant, nearby glare of a large city at night, one could make out the full moon begin to be eclipsed by Earth's shadow. Accompanying the sounds of people chatting, televisions flickering, and cars driving by, there was a sense of a distant spectacle happening in a blanket of deep silence. The air was cool, it had been lightly raining most of the day, but the sky broke open as the sun set, and cleared up for this evening's main event. As the shadow enveloped more and more of the moon it seemed to drown out the sounds of the city much like a fresh new layer of snow used to do in remembered years past. One was alone with that moon and the moon was alone with itself.
Being alone seems to be one of the most difficult things for the modern human being to do. One can observe an almost automatic reaction to avoid being alone, even for a moment. We must always be occupied with something and when we are not occupied with something we simply make something up to be occupied with. Surely this reaction to being alone has become such a strong impulse that it is hardly noticed and most times, when it is noticed it is praised. We reward those who remain driven all the time, those who always have something to do, somewhere to go, someone to be. Have you ever become aware of a habit? Any habit will do. A habit is a movement who's very denial creates a sense of pain, sorrow, frustration, emptiness. Not that there is something left when the habit is not obeyed that hurts or frustrates you. For the simple fact is that not flexing the habitual muscle itself hurts, is frustrating, and makes one sad. If one could pay attention to even the simplest and most insignificant of habits, paying attention to how it operates, it's nature, one could follow such awareness into the depths of oneself and our entire society. For the world runs on a habitual auto-pilot just like the one that compels you to not be alone, to always be occupied with one thing or another. Society avoids exactly the same thing you do...it's own sense of being...alone and in full view.
As one looked up the full moon was a shade of brownish red, signifying the eclipse was total. One could hardly notice, or remember, what the moon looked like without Earth's shadow covering it in its entirety. The brilliance of its full face glowing white when the sun was free to shine on it completely. In a few hours time that brilliance appeared once again. Did you see it?

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Sunday, February 17, 2008

The Air Is Crisp, Can't You Tell?

The air is crisp with a bit of that winter breeze still blowing through the trees, although one could feel the subtle heat of the midday sun on one's forehead and hands. The faint smell of jasmine flowers filled the chilly breeze with a welcome new fragrance of the spring quickly approaching. The light is brilliant as it reflects off the tall green palms and mature eucalyptus trees across the quite street. One could hear a distant plane flying over head and the sound of a few passing cars on the street behind, but none of these man-made noises could take away from the elegance of the day. Even the black birds seem to relish in the light of this day, there is a certain excitement in the air and the birds and squirrels know it well. As one walks down the street towards the shops, cafes, and eateries one can almost overlook the beauty of an Earth that has nothing in particular to do, an Earth that has permission to simply rejoice in its own ways. It only takes one thought to pull one's attention away from the beauty of this marvelous Earth.
For, unless one is fully aware, one thought will always lead to another and the subtle beauty of the Earth is lost. We seem so easily caught up in our own internal "realities". Constructed not unlike a bridge or building, our own internal process of thinking creates countless landscapes from words, phrases, memories and images. It would seem the human being would rather live in these constructed worlds than the one we're born into and of. Walking to the Pacific Ocean, past the busy shops, cafes, and eateries one can't help but notice the collision of these internal "realities" with the one we all live in and share. How convoluted the relationship between man and man, man and woman, woman and woman, has become. How no one knows were they stand, what they want, or even who they are from one moment to the next. Thought has become the cornerstone of our society, and if one is able to pay much attention to the nature and movement of thought, one would realize how absurdly dangerous it's claiming that position can be. Thought is always limited, partial, and incomplete. It can never arrive at the "whole" view about anything, yet always acts as if it can and has. It's very movement, therefore, creates further conflict and partiality, which it once again attempts to alter through it's own movement. Is the human being capable of seeing thoughts activity so completely as to no longer allow it to compulsively react within the field of our relationship with one another?
As one reaches the wide expanse of the Pacific one is left with a sense of awe for the sheer space and beauty of such a sight. The sunlight shimmering over the rough ocean surface breaks itself apart into countless pieces of dancing light. The tide is going out but the waves are still quite large. A sizable storm had been moving off-shore and the ocean is left to respond to all the added energy. Those few people out there on their surfboards look so small, so insignificant in comparison to those large, bellowing waves of churning white water. A small girl, no older than 8, is playing in the sand, holding her pant-legs up above her knees. Her excitement is refuge enough from the cold ocean water racing across her bare feet and ankles. As one looks at her playing one is taken aback by the sheer space of it all. The incredibly huge space surrounding this beautiful young silhouette playing in the glistening sand. One's gaze becomes so relaxed as to allow itself to be filled with the sight before it. There is nothing but space and no thought is present. Only that, whatever that is at the time. Life is happening and nothing else, there is no room for distinction. All is welcome in this gaze, all except thought. Thought is no where to be found.

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Tuesday, February 12, 2008

Vicarious Volunteers, Part 2

Vicarious Volunteers is a new idea, I believe, and was not only born from my roommates fascination with my lifestyle choices but also from several needs I have come across in my volunteering efforts so far. I've worked with, and within, several non-profit organizations in the past and know first-hand how, well, awful they can be in their administrative organization and overall ability to operate successfully for those they serve, as well as, those who volunteer for them. Not all, but in my experience, most. My experience is no different now with the over 14 different non-profit organizations I volunteer through in the Los Angeles area each and every day. There are simply too many people involved who don't LOVE being there and serving in whatever capacity they are supposed to serve. They are there because they receive a pay check, like anyone else in the private sector. Yes, for all those of you who do not know, non-profits do, in fact, pay most of their staff salaries with benefits and/or hourly wages. The unpaid volunteer force enables the non-profit to do what it says it does, but most everyone else is paid to be there. Except, the accountability you would usually find in a for-profit business is usually missing and people remain employed even when they are hardly competent to do what they are supposed to be doing. There are so many non-profits limping along in a manner so many degrees below where they could be with some love and basic competency.
However, the volunteer, for the most part, LOVES what they do. They are there because they LOVE what they do. I feel as if the relationship between the paid and unpaid hands of any particular organization has a lot to do with the fact that 1 out of every 3 volunteers do not continue volunteering from one year to the next, or even one month to the next. And this is a problem considering the amount of volunteer help needed in our society. For example, The Corporation for National and Community Service states that in the year 2007, 15 million children were in need of mentors. I mentor 2 children myself and I know that one of the organizations I mentor through currently has 5 children actively seeking mentors and I am the 2nd volunteer to show up this year. There are over 200 children who have sought out mentoring with this organization but they can only take 5 at a time because there are so few volunteers. There requirements for time spent with the child...a whopping 8 hours a month!
The CNCS also states that 15% of children across our country live below the poverty line and tens of millions of elderly people need help living independently in their homes, but where are the volunteers? I volunteer through a non-profit that helps the elderly live in their own homes by assisting them in the areas of their finances, food, and living environment . There are 6 of us, I'm the only one under 65 years of age and there are approximately 450 elderly people in the 12 mile radius we work within who are in need of such assistance. We are able to assist 23. The need for people who want to serve others is there, always. What isn't there are the people willing and able to serve them. Vicarious Volunteers looks to change that.

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Thursday, February 7, 2008

Vicarious Volunteers

The idea of vicarious volunteers has come about from some of my own interests, passions, and positions concerning the welfare of our human family. For the last few months I have been plugging myself into several, 15 to be exact, different organizations within the Los Angeles area as a volunteer. It was a logical thing for me to do, seeing as serving others warms my heart and allows me to love beyond the confines of my apartment walls and neighborhood block. I presently find myself serving individuals in prison, in hospitals, at risk, and in crisis, as well as, those who are currently homeless, jobless, elderly, terminally ill, receiving welfare, and in need of mentoring. It is so easy to give oneself to another and yet what I've found at each and every organization I volunteer with is that they are in constant need of more volunteers.
Not only are there never enough volunteers, the one exception I've found being L.A Children's Hospital, but even if they had the number of volunteers they feel they currently need they could easily expand beyond their present capacity to serve more people and therefore need more volunteers!
I currently volunteer about 27 hours a week, with each week adding a few more hours as I finish one training and my scheduled volunteering shift begins.
I love what I do, I love all those I have the tremendous privilege to work with and I couldn't see doing anything else right now. Of course, I'm not earning any income! And seeing as most everyone reading this does not personally know me, let me be the first to tell you that I am not a rich man. I do not have a trust fund, nor do I have an inheritance. I do not come from a rich family, or have a sugar-momma. I do not even have a savings account or a paying job for that matter. In fact, I'm nearly $20,000 dollars in credit card debt with next to no money in my checking account. So, please don't let my love for service fool you into thinking I can necessarily afford to serve in such a way.
But then my roommate came to me one day with an idea. He'd been listening to my adventures in the volunteer world for several weeks and became quite intrigued by it all. As he learned more about me and what I was doing he started to think of ways he could help me. He started talking to a few of his friends and they talked to a few of their friends and pretty soon, believe it or not, there were several people who wanted to help me continue to help others. Vicarious Volunteers sprang from our discussions and the interest people had in what I was doing with my time. The idea is simple. Those who didn't feel they had the time to volunteer consistently could give what they felt they did have a little extra of...money. And those who were volunteering their time in service to others could allow these special friends to 'vicariously' live the life of one who is serving through sharing their experience with them. We are in the process of setting up a website and platform to inform others of our idea and how they can become a part of it. I look forward to telling you all much more about it as it continues to develop in the next few weeks and hope you find as much interest in this idea as several people close to me have seemed to already. Thank you for your interest and time. Take care.

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