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My contemplation today was about a superpower I have come to realize I have. Don’t get too excited, I’m not going shopping for a cape or anything, because everyone has this same power.

It’s the ability to selectively turn on or off my awareness of context.

I’ll give you a bunch of practical examples, all from this morning.

First, as I showered I put on an Esperanto podcast, to see if I could understand it. I really couldn’t I could make out about every eighth word. That made me feel a brief stab of futility at the past couple of months worth of study I’d been doing.

Then I mentally fiddled with my context dial. I stepped back to see I have only been studying a few months. Since I started I have completed around 300 little Duolingo lessons. Roughly 80 hours of study. My friend Maddy and I now regularly text each other in the language.

Tio estas damne mirinda.

So, context matters. It’s good to stretch towards goals, and there’s no crime in my finding I’m not there yet for something I’m stretching for.

A bit later I get in the car and head for work I’m very proud of myself for getting out the door around 6:30, and feeling like a grownup what’s capable of doing all the grownupping what one can do.

As I drive, I make the mistake of missing my exit off the highway and wind up doing a nice little 18 minute or so detour.

I’m lamenting this on the phone with my girlfriend, MJ as I drive.

But I still manage to park at the office at 7:30, right on target.

As I review the drive and what I could have done differently, again I fiddle with my own perception of context. This time, I turn it basically off. People make mistakes, that’s human. But I did get out the door early, with having had breakfast too. I got to work exactly when I wanted.

Ahhh.

As I walked in the door, both applications of context awareness struck me simultaneously, and started this contemplation.

I’ve known for years that I am not my thoughts. But this part is actually new to me. By treating my own mind like a tool, something I can use mindfully I can change my perceptions of myself and everything I do.

Woah.

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.

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.

As I write this, i’m getting ready to go to the gym to go swimming. For Christmas this year Missy got me an Apple Watch. I’ve been using one of its applications, that tracks movement, standing, and exercise as rings.

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Each day the rings start out empty and you fill them as you go. Workouts are an implicit thing, You tell the watch what you’re about to do and it tracks it with extra detail.

This really works for me. For one thing, the data gets shared with another application I use, Lose It. It makes it so easy to really see the benefit and interrelated nature of my choices. It’s also a sort of gamification of being healthy. I know that the swim I do a few days ago can allow me to eat an ice cream sandwich a few days later. Or conversely, see how I feel and how my weight fluctuates based on the amount of exercise I get. It makes me able to stand back a few feet from individual choices and see how they knit together.

All of which combined, help me be more fully present in both what I’m doing and why I’m doing it. I’m really excited to grab a quick shower, get dressed, & get to my gym. I like those closed green rings. I like what they do to and for me.

Posted
AuthorMako Allen
CategoriesgratitudeNow