Winning by Losing

This is how we won by losing.

I am a plaintiff in a lawsuit in which some of my neighbors are suing the City because it gave a zoning permit for the County to build a very large jail in our residential neighborhood. The County was given permission to rezone residential areas in the historic district as center city, so a conditional use permit could be granted for a jail the county needs very badly. My house is near the small downtown area where the courthouse is located. The county jail has always been contiguous to the courthouse, and the neighbors have no problem with being in close proximity to all of this. But the County plan was very poorly handled.

The county claimed they had public discussion of the project, but the huge scope of the project was only discovered by accident when one of the neighbors was researching Historic Preservation issues for another local landmark (which was later torn down because “they” measured incorrectly and needed more room to work to build the jail.

In any event, we appear to be on the way to a possible resolution. We won the lawsuit by losing. Each time we lost in court, we appealed, and during the time under appeal the County could not (and still cannot) fund the project. Our final appeal will go to the NC Court of Appeals, which will take 18 months. We only want a reasonable jail facility located near the courthouse, so when we finally “defeated” the County completely by appealing, we were able to get them to agree to Mediation. I think they thought we were only a few citizens, so they would be able to “win” by defeating us in court. They have in fact defeated us each time we went to court. And based on technical legal issues, they would probably have eventually prevailed (however, way too late to build any sort of jail, which we desperately need.) The technical issue is that the courts cannot decide if a project is good or bad, but only if the procedure used was such that a reasonable person could have made that choice (even if it was a very bad choice.)

So I was most interested when my recent issue of Shambhala Sun had a brief article on Aikido. I think the principles of Aikido can be applied in many different ways. I am looking forward to learning more about this art and hope to begin classes later this month.

Mindfulness and Enlightenment

Enlightenment is more than insight. It is possible to understand much of the Dharma (the Four Noble Truths and other lessons), and still not fully achieve peace. For example, an understanding very similar to the essence of the Four Noble Truths is frequently achieved through Cognitive Therapy. This is very helpful for overcoming psychological problems, but rarely leads to Enlightenment. There are another kinds of insight that are necessary for Enlightenment, and these usually require diligent practice. This post is mostly about Mindfulness.

Mindfulness is difficult to explain, but may be approximated by, “I am not my thoughts.” This insight is closely related to the capacity to be fully present in each moment. I believe I developed this capacity through 30 years of regular meditation (I am a little slow sometimes, and I forget and remember it again and again.)

Echart Tolle author of The Power of Now, reports he achieved Mindfulness in a momentous life changing flash. I suspect that is rare, and that most people need the experience of meditation to fully realize this capacity. For most of us, this capacity is realized in meditation because (eventually through practice) one experiences the “essential essence of being” or “the me other than thoughts”, during meditation. This state of being is called Mindfulness.

The opposite of Mindfulness is over identification with our thoughts. The “internal incessant jabbering” (Fritz Perls, Gestalt Therapy Verbatim) or “Monkey Mind” is that state we enter, when we are stuck rehashing (usually) negative self-talk over and over. When we are able to recognize this “jabbering” and merely return to the present moment we have developed the capacity to be mindful. (A great exercise is to become aware of this jabbering and merely step back to listen. Obviously, this only works for a minute or so, because a necessary condition for jabbering is unawareness.)

I don’t tell this parable very well, but since it is one of my favorites I will burden you with it now. Two groups, each lead by a different Master Guru and their students met at a river. One novice from each group happened to meet and began discussing their experience. The first novice asked, “What does your guru do?” The second replied, “He performs amazing feats. If I hold a tablet in the air, he can move his finger and words appear on it. And he can perform many other miracles and healings…. And what can your guru do?” The first replied, “When he eats, he eats; when he walks, he walks; when he works, he works, - he is fully present in each moment.” The second novice exclaimed, “I have be following the wrong guru!”

For most of us who have experienced Mindfulness, we “learned” it in meditation practice of specific duration and in a specific place or posture. Later we may learn to be mindful in routine daily life. As the capacity to become fully present in each moment develops, this eventually creates Mindfulness, one of the conditions that make enlightenment possible.

An enlightened person (1) understands the Dharma (Four Noble Truths, Eightfold Path, etc.), (2) practices Compassion (Tonglen, Relative Bodhicita, etc.), and (3) has the capacity to be fully present in this moment. There may be some other conditions for Enlightenment, but it is my judgment, these three capacities are necessary.

Presenting on Psychological Materialism

Today I am presenting a paper on Psychological Materialism at the Association for Behavior Analysis conference in Atlanta, GA. I hope some of the participants will post a comment. I believe Behavior Analysts may have an interesting understanding of Psychological Materialism and other Buddhist ideas.

Intention and Meditation

Today, for Mother’s Day I visited my mother and father at their home.

She and my dad like to take all the family out for breakfast every Sunday morning. It’s a way to stay in touch and have the family together even if only for a short time. We typically go to the same very nice restaurant. Recently, they asked if it would be OK for us to come to their house once a month, instead of going to the restaurant, and then we could all help them with a few chores that have become too hard for them to do by themselves. I think they were a little embarrassed to ask for help and I believe they even wondered if we would come see them if they were not buying a nice meal for us, and even more worried if they could actually get help from their children and grandchildren on the chores they needed done.

My partner Frances and I, typically go over to their house after the breakfast and spend some time socializing and helping with a few little chores here and there before we head back home. We think the idea of everyone being available to do some bigger projects would be a great idea. I hope that comes to pass.

For Mother’s Day, they asked us to join them at home – only because they thought the restaurant would be too crowded. Today the other family members had things to do and other family to see. Frances and I stayed (like usual) to do a few little chores.

Finally, after all this rambling: I was very grateful for the opportunity those few chores gave me to meditate. I didn’t “chop wood and carry water”; I cleaned patio furniture, and Frances help in the garden. But I attempted to do my few little chores mindfully.

Yesterday, my Men’s Group had a community service project. We painted rooms at a “Children’s Home” (orphanage). I was reminded of the instruction the Nun’s at a favorite retreat center give when we strip and make the beds for the next guest. We are instructed to think of the next person who will sleep in that bed. And then make the bed with the intention to do it in a good way, so they might have the experience they seek on his or her retreat. Those good thoughts were especially on my mind as I painted the rooms at the orphanage.

Whatever we do can be a great time to meditate.

On making mistakes

I welcome each minor mistake, misstep, disfluency, and all the other accidents that I do each day. Each one is like a bell to wake up.

Even if I continue to make the same big mistakes over and over, these are still a bell to wake up.

Some mistakes have greater consequences than others, so I certainly don’t mean to suggest I would have glee at having a major traffic accident or other tragedy. Nor would I so welcome my mistakes, that I would be happy to do the same ones over and over. (But awareness of these is necessary, as a step to changing them.)

I am working to give up ego clinging. Having a great deal of concern that other people think I am smart, together, blah, blah, blah, has been important to me (especially in being “professional” and adult.)

As I write this it is time for me to go to work. I care, to be there on time because it might be inconvenient for someone else if I am not. So I do care about my affect on others, but now I’m striving to do this in the spirit of bohichitta.

Goal Setting

I have a number of Goals and Objectives that I use to create my daily Todo list. Unfortunately, I have been so overwhelmed at my work that I have had little time or energy for anything else. My Goal directed activity wains when I devote too much energy to work. Often this problem is not fully evident to me, when I am on the surface working to accomplish things (like at work). The biggest problem with devoting too much energy to work (or any one goal) is that it leads me off the middle path. Sometimes I find myself lost out in the wilderness because I directed myself straight there.

Here is a link to my profile at Zaadz, which has a listing of some of my goals.

One of the things I have been doing regularly, that has helped me is my Lojong practice. I copied the following from a post I made to a Pod on Zaadz. It describes how I attempt to use technology to facilitate my meditation practice:

I use my Palm Treo as an aid in my Tonglen and Lojong practice. (Tonglen is addressed in another Pod here on Zaadz. Lojong is a practice of using slogans or sayings to remind us of important points in dharma practice.) I find the website called the Lojong and Tonglen Community Site very helpful. I signed up to have a slogan sent to me by e-mail each day. I read the commentary contained in the e-mail that is written by an expert, usually each morning. I also use my Palm by entering a saying as an “All Day:” Appointment for a day, that way it shows at the top of the day, so I see it each time I look at my calendar - which is frequently (That’s the main way I know what I’m suppose to do next.) I have been selecting the same saying for a week at a time (using the repeat function) as the one I am especially working on for that week. I typically have two slogans each day. The one I selected for the week and the one that comes in on e-mail. I also have a Document on my Palm in which I have written each slogan with my very brief reminder of what it means. I can use this to select the slogan for a week, just by cutting and pasting. I have most of the sayings in my Document, because I use the daily e-mail to study the saying by reading the commentary of each author, and then writing my own understanding of the slogan in my Document. Sometimes my understanding changes as I practice or relate a slogan to another that I study (often the slogans repeat, but that is not a problem.)

Each day of my calendar also contains my daily schedule, my ToDo’s for that day, recurring events like birthdays or other remembrances, etc. These functions could be done on a paper and pencil DayTimer. And I used to do it that way. But now I can synchronize my calendar with Outlook so some others at work can see what I’m doing (and not schedule me when I’m already committed!), and it will also link to my address book so all I have to do is tap the link in the event or ToDo to call that person (my Treo is my phone too.) And it does a few other things I like - connects to the Internet wherever I have phone service, collects my e-mail, plays my MP3’s, etc.

Am I too attached to this?

Last week I worked on:
12) Drive all Blames into One. (Suffering has no other cause than ego clinging)

This week I have this slogan at the top of each day’s calendar:
13) Be grateful to everyone. (Obstacles presented by others are some of the very best opportunities to grow through tonglen)

Oh, and one of my goals is to post to this blog at least twice a month. Sometimes I come close to achieving that.

Local Woman Speaks the Truth

George Bush came to Charlotte this week. I heard he was in town when one of my co-workers was an hour late for work because an Interstate Highway was closed, so he could be taken to town in the regal fashion to which he is accustomed.

The most interesting thing was a quote from a local woman who was “honored” to meet Mr. Bush. The quote I found most perspicacious was, “Meeting the president, it’s like creme brulee,” Cornellier said. “Something you would always like to do, but can’t afford to.” You can read the whole pitiful story here.

I suspect the Saudi Arabian royal family has enough money for “crème brulee” and whomever (I mean whatever) else they want to buy.

I thought about sending a modified version of this to the Letters to the Editor I mentioned in an earlier post. However, I decided not to. I would not really have been able to explain that I think Ms. Cornellier is actually doing an honorable thing.

I think Military Families are another direct victim in the “War on Terrorism”. Bush’s self-serving agenda is most squarely saddled on the backs of the young men and women who were either deceived or had no other options due to an economy that depends on low wage workers (and don’t get me off on the despicable way we treat the so called “illegal immigrants!)

Support American Military Families – Bring ALL the troops home NOW.

9/11 which conspiracy do you hold to be true?

Which conspiracy do you hold to be true? I avoid the use of the phrase conspiracy THEORY as that suggests speculation. The long history of the use of the term conspiracy theory about the JFK assassination and other topics has prejudiced use of that term.

I really do not have the energy to post much about this topic. The wind has been taken from my sails, more like totally knocked out of me. I just watched the documentary “9/11, Loose Change” (A good way to watch it is to download the Google viewer and let it download the documetary. That way you will have it to show to friends and family - as you surely will insist on doing this after watching!) Also, I have been reading on the site “Scholars for 9/11 Truth”.

Sadly, I believe Cheney and Rumsfeld have used their stupid puppet Bush in the most extreme way in the 9/11 catastrophes.

I wish I had more energy to write with outrage about this. But right now I’m just overwhelmingly sick about all the emerging evidence.

Letters to the editor

In the small town where we live there have been some local governance issues. The county “needs” a new jail so they asked the city to rezone a portion of a residential area in the historic district contiguous to town to build the huge facility (580 cells). Hey, welcome to America. We feel safe by putting the drug addicts in jail. I spoke at the county commission meeting and wrote some letters to the editor. Mostly I spoke about the ethical and social problems of building a jail instead of providing programs to keep people out of jail, but that is another story. Also another story is my more selfish recent letters to the editor, about the absurdity of living in a historic district. That’s where you have to ask a commission of totally uninformed neighbors whether you can prune your trees, replace your rotten windows, etc. (And by the way, here in this town they always say NO, just so you know who is important and who is not.)

But this brings me to my political invective. Thank God, I am in America. If I don’t like stupid county commissioners, political cartoons, or what you said about anything; I do stuff like speak at the county commission meeting or write a letter to the editor.

Moslem people scare me. My judgment is that if they don’t like my opinion, they will try to kill me. I should probably either say more about this or make some sort of apology for my ignorant belief, but I’m not. Moslem people still scare me.

By the way, here is the text of one of the published letters to the editor:

Articles of Secession from the Historic District

On this January 26th in the year 2006, we the people of xxx South Union Street hereby dissolve our political connection with the Historic District of Concord, North Carolina, and present to our confederates and the world the causes, which have led to the separation.

We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness. — That to secure these rights, Governments are instituted among Men, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed, — That whenever any Form of Government becomes destructive of these ends, it is the Right of the People to alter or to abolish it, and to institute new Government, laying its foundation on such principles and organizing its powers in such form, as to them shall seem most likely to effect their Safety and Happiness.

And for the support of this Declaration, with a firm reliance on the protection of Divine Providence, we mutually pledge to each other our Lives, our Fortunes and our sacred Honor.

Signed the Residents of the Free State of South Union
Our motto: Live Free or … Complain about it.

(and)

We also had a flag made to hang on the front porch. It’s a pink flamingo with the motto, “Don’t tread on me” (To think this is funny, you have to know a while back, we irritated some of the stuffy neighbors by putting tacky pink flamingos in the front yard. Turns out we liked them so much, we left the flamingos all over the yard.)

For Valentine’s Day: Being in love.

Think all phenomena are like dreams.

All of our reality is constructed by our perceptions, misperceptions, beliefs, truth, etc. I have been amazed at times that the proverb stated above, has been taken out of context to mean “Buddhists believe that this world is really a dream” – sorta like the plot of The Matrix – “yeah cool dude, like I’m really dreaming this is reality when I’m someplace else; like you know, asleep somewhere…” This proverb is really teaching, that we construct our reality and that we can construct it many different ways. My judgment that anything is good or bad, sad or happy, real or unreal… is my own construction. I believe certain conditions set the occasion for us to be more likely to fall to certain conclusions, …like falling in love.

When I first meet someone under romantic circumstances and certain chemistry occurs; I may “fall in love.” (I won’t bore you with the details of what those conditions are for me, since we all know them well enough; having spent huge amounts of time and energy seeking these conditions!)

Then at some point in the course of a relationship, I allow other circumstances and chemistry to occur, so then I wonder “Am I in love?” This started to come up in my relationship with my partner of 4 years, Frances. But recently, as I have come to more fully understand that I create my reality, I have been looking at how I can create “Falling in Love” with my partner in every moment.

So recently with my “beloved” (was my partner), I have been telling her I love her, doing other little things to let her know this, etc. And we have been studying Tantra together (No, I won’t embarrass us all by discussing the details here!) The result is I have fallen in love again.

On a different topic, this understanding helps account for the psychotherapy phenomenon of transference and counter-transference. Often therapy creates very similar circumstances to those that would set the occasion for “falling in love” such as self-disclosure under unconditional acceptance. Is the transference real? My answer is that it is as real as any other phenomenon we create. Some realities I chose to foster and others I chose to let go of.

So for now, I have decided to “fall in love”, and I am very happy with the reality I have created.

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