So, still doing this blogging thing.

It's been 926 days now that I've been doing it, 2 years, 6 months, and 12 days.  Over this time, a lot has changed, in my life, and in even how I blog.  I've:

  • Blogged every day
  • Changed where I live (twice)
  • Blogged only when I felt like it
  • Changed my day job (twice)
  • Numbered every entry meticulously
  • Gained friendships
  • Stopped numbering altogether
  • Lost friendships
  • Skipped over days at my leisure.
  • Regained friendships
  • Caught up in waves.
  • Experienced death and loss
  • Added special titles that get used as twitter hashtags.
  • Starting dating new partners
  • Also linked to Google+
  • Deepened and strengthened my existing relationships
  • Stopped posting to Google+

Along the way, I've discovered a bunch of things.  WWFM, What Works For Me™ is a moving target.  It changes, just like I change.

One thing that I've had my eye on lately isn't just that I blog, but why.  I blog for me, as well as for you.

Yes, specifically you, the person reading this.

I'm a strong believer that we're all each other's student, and all each other's teacher, too.  It's not that I have special insight or answers to give anyone.  I don't think it even works like that.  Rather, as I'm going about my daily practices of mindful living, study, meditation, and contemplation and stumble over my own questions, I think that maybe, possibly, there's value in sharing that stuff with those who want to hear about it.

And if you're reading this, then that's you, my friend.

"All right, fine," you say, "but what's up with the passive aggressive title on this post then?"

Well, it's kind of a pun.

That character over there, that's te, pronounced kind of like "duh", and it's the chinese word for "virtue."  

Not virtue like pulling drowning kittens out of a freezing river by hand, on an arctic ice floe somewhere.  (Which begs the questions how the kittens got there, what you're doing there, and why not just look for kittens in a no-kill shelter, like a sensible person.)

Rather the virtue I'm talking about is more like the virtues of getting a good night's sleep, or regularly masturbating (especially in front of someone you love.)

There's te in a lot of things.  One of the biggest things there's virtue in is letting go of judgement, and just well, living.

There's a verse of the Tao te Ching that speaks to this handily.

2.

When people see some things as beautiful,
other things become ugly.
When people see some things as good,
other things become bad.

Being and non-being create each other.
Difficult and easy support each other.
Long and short define each other.
High and low depend on each other.
Before and after follow each other.

Therefore the Master
acts without doing anything
and teaches without saying anything.
Things arise and she lets them come;
things disappear and she lets them go.
She has but doesn't possess,
acts but doesn't expect.
When her work is done, she forgets it.
That is why it lasts forever.

Now before I even get into this, and why it's on my mind, I can already hear a potential objection.  "Wait a sec, Mako.  If you're no guru, have no special insight, why the heck are you teaching me a thing? Or telling me how to go about doing this living thing properly?"  

I'm not.  I don't have answers for you.  I'm just sharing my own exploration of questions I stumble across.  If you do what I do, and it works for you, that's lovely.  If you don't do what I do, that's lovely, too.  If you shut down the browser, throw away your bookmark for my page, and go out for pizza with anchovies on it, that's just fine with me too.  (Even though anchovies are revolting.)  

I'm just sharing.  You're free to not partake.  It's all good.

Having said that, this verse has been on my mind for days, weeks even, because of something I've been hearing going around, something I've even bought into and participated in myself, sometimes.

It's that whole "2016 sucks, and is out to get people, look at who it has killed now" thing.

I'm actively working hard to not do it anymore.  Never mind that 2016 is now over, because actually, there is no over.  This is where the shutting up part comes in.

The truth is, the fact that it's January 1st, 2017 is, at best, sort of an illusion.  The only place is here, the only time is now.  We live in the eternal present.  There's never any time you're not here, and it's not now.  Go on, name one for me.  I'll wait.

Actually, I won't.  Because you can't.  Every second of every minute of every day you're alive, you're in motion, towards (yay?) your eventual death.

Stuff happens.  People are born.  They die.  We celebrate.  We grieve.  We laugh.  We cry.

Over and over.  

Until we don't.

The thing in this particular entry from the Tao te Ching that really stuck with me is this part:

Things arise and she lets them come;
things disappear and she lets them go.

All sorts of things arise.  David Bowie dies.  Trump gets elected president.  Malaria gets utterly eradicated in Sri Lanka.  US unemployment hits 4.6 percent, the lowest it's been in nine years.  I lose a very important friendship.  I regain and even strengthen that friendship.

What I see is this - pointing to some external thing, time, entity and bemoaning the tragedy is a toxic form of expectation.  By the same token, getting upset that other people do this is similarly, a toxic form of expectation.

People are people.  We're gonna do what we're gonna do.  Me, I'm not interested in being less mindful, and lamenting that things or people should be other than what they are.  

And the truth is, death's still coming for me, you, and everyone else.  Shitty things and good things are on the rise for each of us, because everything is always moving anyhow.

If you want to shake your fist at the heavens over that, you certainly don't need anyone's blessing to go right ahead.

But as for me, I'm doing my best not to do that.

When?  Right now.

Posted
AuthorMako Allen

This has been rather a sloppy sort of year for my blog. I started off not numbering, got spotty about posting daily, went back to numbering, still remained spotty.  

But I'm still here, and still blogging.  

There's a saying (usually misquoted as being said by Aristotle), that "We are what we repeatedly do."

I agree.  

I think part of that repetitive process is mindfully stepping back from it and adjusting it, the same way you aim a spray of water from a hose, or shoot a water gun.  

I go through something similar in my day job as a programmer. Try a thing, see if it works, adjust, try again.  Sometimes I will get something working, see an entirely better way to do it, and rebuild it. There's even a term for it, refactoring. 

I think adopting the practice of mindful refactoring has been, and continues to be a success strategy in my life.

  • Try something.
  • See how it works.
  • Throw it out if it's not working for me.
  • Keep going with it if I am happy with the results. 

Wash, rinse, repeat. Repeat until dead. You get the idea. This strategy is everywhere  in my life. I use it at work, at home, in relationships, my health, my finances.  

It's even inherent in my spirituality or philosophy. One of my favorite Lao-tzu quotes is "A good traveler has no fixed plans, and is not intent upon their arrival." 

I do, ultimately, have a final destination. We all do. But how I get there, what road I travel, and what I do to enjoy the trip, that's what matters.  

Years ago, several of my partners and I taught a class about kink and polyamory, for a kink group in Roanoke, Virginia. 

One of the cooler things we did was a sort of visual food metaphor I call Poly Spaghetti.

image.jpg

Here's how you do it.  

You get a bunch of people from the audience to hold different colors of rope, one at each end.  So you might have, say, Fred hold Rita's orange rope, because he's her daddy.  She on the other hand, is holding both that orange rope, as well as a blue one, linking her with Nancy, who is her slave.  Nancy in turn has Rita's blue rope, and a green one linking her to Norbert, her lover, and another going to Dave, her baby.  Dave is considering sharing a rope with Fred.   

Sounds awfully confusing right?   Let me help by asking some important questions:

Let's say that Nancy, from the example above, has a terrible day at work, takes a sick day, and has to then go into work over the weekend to finish a project, meaning she has to skip dinner with Fred and Rita, can't meet Norbert for coffee, and is going to need Dave to change his own diaper when he wakes up Saturday morning. 

Who is affected by Nancy's actions?  Who is she accountable to? 

The answers are:

Everyone Nancy has emotional ties to, or plans with are affected by her actions and choices. 

She's ultimately accountable to (and responsible for) herself. 

Power exchange, dominance and submission, and kink can make these waters seem awfully muddy sometimes.  But in the end, good healthy relationships start with good emotional health and well-being for oneself. 

Which is why this morning, many years later, I have an addendum to the poly spaghetti.   

I am the sauce of my own happiness.   

I'll throw myself under the bus for my own poly example.  I'm down at my partner Maya's house.  She's very not a morning person.  Neither is my wife, Missy.  I made the very sensible choice of not in-person or remotely-via-technology trying to wake them up.  What I did do was greet my partner Squee over Skype (who also wasn't up yet, but she actually wants me to do this), catch up my blog, and hang out with the lovely folks over in the Big Little Podcast slack.   

Later, when Squee was up, we connected and affectionately noodled with one another, and it felt great.  I feel wonderfully content, and emotionally self-regulated.   

Man, this is some good sauce. 

 

Posted
AuthorMako Allen

I was just thinking that every time I feel any sort of emotional pain it's because of some expectation I have or have had. "That shouldn't happen to me" or "That shouldn't happen to anyone" or "I need this to happen/be true"

Can you think of times when you have been sad, disappointed, anxious, nervous, or angry that WERE NOT tied to an expectation?

Leave me a comment, tell me about it. That would be great. Not that I'm expecting  you to. No pressure! 

Posted
AuthorMako Allen
CategoriesDaily Think
2 CommentsPost a comment

Since I'm off today, and catching up my blog, I wanted to share something I've been noodling about for days.

A few days ago, Missy, my sister-in-law, and my not-sure-what-you-call-your-great-nephew's-other-grandmother-from-Japan went out for lunch to restaurant on a pier off Anna Maria Island.

The restaurant is several hundred yards off the shore, right at the end of the pier, surrounded by water.  It's really nice.  As you eat you get to watch the ocean, where sometimes dolphins and sharks pop up out of the water.  (Yes, some dolphins did, it was awesome.  No, no sharks did.  Wrong time of day for it.)

You also get a window seat to view people fishing.

We saw a man and a boy fishing together, right in front of us.  The man hooked a fish, reeled it in, cut the line, and dropped it to the pier.  This is where my contemplation on cruelty comes from.

The fish lay there, flopping about, struggling, asphyxiating, and slowly dying.  The man didn't care.  It was nothing to him.  At one point, it went flopping away down the pier, and he rushed to catch it, and bring it back.  Then he threw it down on the deck, and stood on it, while he kept fishing.

I was horrified.

I didn't say anything to Missy, but she could see the look on my face.  We talked about it some. Let me be clear on some things: I'm an omnivore.  I eat fish, and chicken, and beef.  I don't think it's wrong or immoral to be an omnivore.  

I did do some furious googling to see if I could find any scientific research on whether fish feel pain.  (There are conflicting opinions about this.)  I did ever so briefly flirt with the idea of becoming a vegetarian (as I have been previously).  I ate my mahi-mahi sandwich, we had a lovely time, and eventually left.

But it got me thinking.  What was it that really bothered me about the whole thing.  It was the cruelty.  I think I would have preferred it if the fisherman had put the fish into a cooler filled with water, or perhaps (gruesome as this sounds) slammed it against the side of the pier, to end its life quickly, instead of just letting it lay there, dying slowly.

I don't like cruelty.  I don't want to practice it, nor do I want to be around it.

I'm not talking about cruelty as its used in d/s relationships.  That's a different thing.  Two or more consenting parties agree to enjoy some gourmet suffering.  

But the garden variety cause-suffering-in-others-and-not-care-about-it kind is a no-no for me.  I want as little to do with it as possible.  I don't want to cause it, I don't want to participate in it.  

It's why recently I've stopped following a lot of politically minded folks on social media, why I don't lend my voice to anger and rhetoric.  Certainly I have political opinions, everyone does.  I'll vote.  That's enough for me.  

I'm not interested in being a political combatant on social media.  I've seen that same thing make a lot of people I know very upset.  I've watched close friends make each other feel like complete shit over their disagreements on an issue.  Yuck.  

It's not just political stuff on my mind, either.  

I found out through someone close recently that an acquaintance of mine thinks I'm an asshole.  Said acquaintance isn't someone I see often.  I can count on one hand the number of times we've been in the same place at the same time over the past few years.  

After finding out why he doesn't like me, I can even see it.  I get his side of the story.  He didn't like a choice I made a while back, that indirectly impacted him.  I didn't mean to make him feel slighted, or put out.  I was just making my own best choice at the time, a choice I still stand behind.  Sometimes, you make choices that make people unhappy.  

For me, It's really no big deal at all.

Not so much for this guy.  Years later, he's got his shorts in a bunch over it.  When I first found this out, I was angry for maybe 5 seconds.  I know I'm going to see this guy again.  I got to thinking about what, if anything I would say or do about my knowledge that he dislikes me.

I think the answer, for me, is to do nothing at all.  

What interests me about all this stuff is the relationship between them.  Sometimes, we're cruel to other people (or animals) without even being aware of it.  Clearly, I've been.  

It's on my radar, part of my practice, to be gentle, to be kind, as much as I can to anyone and everyone.  

Posted
AuthorMako Allen
CategoriesDaily Think