This morning, I hit an emotional speed bump.

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Exactly what it is doesn’t matter. And it’s private. If we’re good friends, and you want to ask, you can. I might not say anything. We’ll see.

That’s not the important part.

The important part is I was confronted with the need to address something really important, and right the heck now. To not do so would have caused suffering.

It’s been a giant part of my spiritual practice for the better part of oh, seventeen years now, to not cause needless suffering as much as I am able.

So I was in a pickle.

But I reached out to some people I love and care about very much, to be a sounding board for my thoughts. It was a mix of good friends and loved ones. And boy did they come through.

I got perspective, I made a compassionate choice, and I took action.

And feel the better for it.

Thanks you secret helpers. You know who you are.



Posted
AuthorMako Allen
CategoriesgratitudeNow

So, this is about a person, a t-shirt, and a difference in attitudes.

There’s this person I know. I’ve known them for years. I’m not going to say who it is, or even drop any hints about their gender, age, or relationship to me in any way. Because this daily think is about me, and only tangentially about them. I need to call them something, so for the duration of this post, I’ll refer to them by the wonderfully androgynous name Storm.

I’m not going to bandy about here. Storm is conservative, and more than just conservative: hatefully so. I’ve heard Storm refer to liberals as snowflakes, express glee over getting into arguments with them, say hateful, essentialist, reductive things about women, black people, and transgender people.

Over the many years I’ve known Storm, I’ve seen these attitudes go from just peeking above the surface, a little glimpse, to full on hate-iceberg floating above the water, ready to crash into my boat. (It’s not a great metaphor, work with me here.)

As this hateberg has made itself more apparent, I’ve gradually distanced myself from Storm, as well as some of Storm’s family and friends. I just don’t have the space in my life for that sort of toxic hatred, irrationality, and anger.

“Fuck Your Safe Space.” Lovely.

“Fuck Your Safe Space.” Lovely.

Recently, I bumped into them again. They were very proud of a new t-shirt they’d bought.

This isn’t the exact t-shirt, the slogan isn’t the same, nor the color. But the sentiment is very similar.

When I saw this thing, it really bothered the heck out of me.

I got a look on my face, that surely conveyed how unthrilled I was by it. I heard Storm comment to a friend, “Some people just aren’t gonna like it. Too bad for them.”

I didn’t confront them directly. I did stew about it.

Hence, this blog post.

I have this daily practice. Each day, I spend some amount of time in meditation and contemplation about some aspect of my life, human consciousness, emotional intelligence, and our relationship to one another. I study, for lack of a better term, being. This is something I’ve done for about 17 years or so now. Sometimes, I will ponder the same thing for many days, weeks, months, even years. (Compassion was one of my longest ones - I spent a good 18 months on it, several years ago.)

Lately, hate has been on my mind. What is it? Why do people do it? What can and should I do about other people’s hate?

I’ve been working on this latest contemplation for several days now. A few things have jumped out at me.

  1. That shirt, and the sort of attitude it espouses is inherently paradoxical. “Hey,” it says, “pay attention to me not paying attention to you!” The very thing it protests, it also demands. Ridiculous.

  2. For a long time now, I’ve held the belief that negative action is both more expensive and less useful than positive action. It’s human and natural to get angry. But to go out of one’s way to be negative costs a lot of energy. And it doesn’t really yield worthwhile results. Whereas positive action is the very opposite.

    I’ll use an example from my own life. I used to have this very negative boss at an old job of mine. He was horrible. Racist, judgmental, snarky and dishonest. I tried over the course of a year or so, to point out to him what an insensitive jerk he was, and to get him to do better. Eventually, I realized it was fruitless. So I found myself a new job, and quit. That was more than a decade ago. My career has blossomed since then. He’s a distant memory.

  3. I think hatred is a manifestation of a form of discomfort, or perhaps fear. “I don’t like this thing that is happening, so I’m going to react to it in this way.” It’s reactionary.

  4. Whether they realize it or not, hateful people serve a purpose that they themselves cannot avoid. They’re instructive. Every time I hear Storm open their mouth to say some terrible thing, it furthers my own resolve to be as little like them as possible. Not just that I want to be kind and compassionate, but also that I strive to be self-aware, self improving, and not blind to the ways I might harm others through my own actions and beliefs.

There’s a taoist precept, wu-wei, the “action of inaction.” It’s not passivity. Rather, it’s a form of detachment. Do that which is necessary, and only that.

There’s a particular verse from the Tao te Ching, #2, that describes this very well. (Stephen Mitchell translation)

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.

Kindness and hatred also define each other. So, Storm’s attitudes, and actions have furthered my resolve in some very important ways. More than ever, I’m committed to my default position of being kind to others. More than ever, I look for opportunities to help other people. In my voting, politics, charitable giving, I’m committed to pass laws to minimize the ability of hateful people to harm others, and to help out the little guy when and where I can.

On a personal level, I can see that, as has been my previous course, I’m steering clear of Storm. If the occasion arises for me to compassionately tell them why, I will. But I’m going to do my best to not fret about it, because it’s not necessary.

Posted
AuthorMako Allen
CategoriesDaily Think
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It’s been a while.

I was chatting with a new friend today, someone I met through the Camp Crucible chat, and showed them this blog.

Which I realized I had not updated since January. That’s been on my mind lately Brother and I were talking about my blog the other day and he lamented how much he missed it.

My new friend, let’s call her M, is a mindfulness fan just like I am. We had this amazing chat about how mindfulness pervades our lives, and the many ways it can be helpful.

That got me thinking and wanting to write here again even more. It’s been a while for many things for me, that I’ve begun to focus on again.

Here’s a few:

  • Since January I’ve been actively working out and food journaling to get in shape.

  • I’m headed back to Camp Crucible this month.

  • I’m open to new connections with other people. I don’t need them, I’m just open to them.

I’m fascinated by the fact that while I’m a different person than I was before, I CAN pick up things from the past and embrace them again. After several months of swimming, I’ve started walking on a treadmill and also hiking, which I’m new to.

There’s this thought I’m struggling to express properly. I’m grateful that while things change, while I change, nothing is ever truly lost. Nothing’s thrown away in the rubbish bin. It’s just put behind me, made part of my past. Those prior experiences, interests, connections, and relationships help inform the me-that-I-am-now, which is really the only me that there is.

I’m grateful for all that’s happened. And all that is happening.

There’s this thing that C. S. Lewis said, about how when he grew up he put aside childish things, including the worry over enjoying things which are childish. I find that really applies to me. I’m a busy, busy guy. I have my side business, my writing, my demanding day job, the podcast, and of course my relationships because I’m poly.

In the past, I’ve lamented that sitting on the couch and playing video games is garbage time, and wasteful. But after sitting and thinking about it, it really isn’t.

Overwatch is a heck of a lot of fun. It’s a social outlet too. I have some very nice friends through the game whom I enjoy playing with. The nature of the game is inherently collaborative. It’s about as close as I’m ever going to get to being on a sports team.

Over the several years I’ve been playing it, I’ve really grown my skill at it too. I know that staying grouped up is better than playing alone. I know that the healers/support should stick with the tank, while the DPS (damage per second) folks flank around. I know how to use the environment to enhance my own play style.

And, most importantly of all, I know that engaging in something I enjoy, in moderation and balance is emotionally good for me.

It’s taken me ages to figure all this stuff out.

Posted
AuthorMako Allen
CategoriesgratitudeNow

Everyone and everything dies.

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Cheery, huh? Actually, it is. Stick with me on this one, folks.

Endings and death have been on my mind a whole lot lately.

First off, two days from now will be the one year anniversary of Andrea’s passing.

Secondly, about two months ago, Squee and I broke up, after about four years together. It’s okay, really. I still love and care about her. But things change.

Third, my new job is demanding, and causing me in many ways to re-evaluate myself as a person, in all sorts of ways. I go to bed early, get up early to drive a long way to do a job I’m sort of teaching myself to do as I do it. It can be exhausting.

Last night I came home from work fully intending to work on my side business, do some podcast related work, and attend to a nagging bill related chore too. Instead I sat on the couch, lost at Overwatch for about 2 hours, and put myself to bed early, feeling low of spirit.

This morning though, I feel great. I had plans to get out the door by 6:15, an hour ago. But those plans died on the vine as I realized some other things I had to do. I made breakfast, packed my lunch, changed the cat litter, and realized I don’t have to push myself to do everything and anything all at once.

This is something Andrea knew and knew well. Don’t mistake me, she wasn’t some sanctified guru who floated an inch off the ground, and whom nothing ever bothered. So many of the phone calls and visits we had with one another started off with one of us engaging in a good old fashioned bitching session about something.

But the thing she knew, and which I also know but keep forgetting which is also, by the way perfectly human, is that everything and everyone dies. Every moment dies. Every plan dies. And when they do, they leave the ground where I’m standing fertile and ready to receive this very next moment.

Take this morning. As I made my breakfast, and checked my watch, I thought I might have enough time to change the cat litter this morning. When I went to check it, it was in a terrible state (Sorry kitties!) and I knew that I had to change it. So I did. If that means my commute will bloom up to 90 minutes today (which is very likely), well so be it. That’s okay. I will witness the death of the old plan and welcome the new one.

I know that because of my abandonment issues I have a tendency to want things to last. When I see that long arc of persistence grow around me, I lean into it and get comfort from it. It’s not an entirely bad thing either. It’s immature to divide the world into simple, absolute binaries. Yin contains Yang, and vice versa.

No matter how much energy I pour into anyone or anything in my life, it will eventually die. That’s tragic, yes. But it’s also comforting. Love and pleasure come to a fold, yes. But so does pain and suffering. That’s why it’s so import to just keep swimming, like Andrea always used to say.

The fact that the swim ends is what gives it beauty.