Category Archives: Buddhism

I’ve started this post a million times…

or so it seems. I usually know with a certain level of accuracy how to express what I am feeling, but this week I am at a loss for words. I’m unsure what to say, and I’m unsure what to think, and I’m unsure what to do.

I’ve heard people say that the election resonated with them in the same way that the Pulse shooting resonated with them, but that’s not quite it for me. I’ve heard people say that they feel like a homeless person, because their home has been taken from them by force, but I can’t say that because I’ve never been homeless.

There are countless other ways people have described their disappointment, including a customer who came in, in tears, because she fears for her autistic son’s well-being and the loss of Arctic animals because of climate change. I, too, am scared—no terrified—for my GLBT+, non-white, non-“Christian” friends and the earth. I’m pissed that we are in a war in Standing Rock, North Dakota with indigenous people who are trying to protect the tiny bit of land that they were given by our government. This article by Code Switch is an excellent article about what’s going on there.

I feel like I am inside some bad trip, where nothing makes sense, and someone is trying to help me down, but I can’t come down. I’m just stuck, here, in an alternate world where nothing makes sense and nothing adds up. People, who I previously considered friends, intelligent friends, say things that make no sense, things that don’t follow any kind of consistent ethic, and that don’t align with their previously stated morality.

I keep seeing these things posted on Facebook walls of people who voted for Donald Trump, and I can’t wrap my head around how people can reconcile this bit of Scripture with the running platform of our President Elect:

“Love the Lord your God with all your heart. Love your neighbor as yourself.”

Everyone around me is angry or sad, and those who aren’t angry or sad are elated and willing to tell me so. Over and over again. People I don’t know post hateful things on my Facebook timeline.  I spent fifteen minutes yesterday with a customer who told me all about how the next four years are going to be the best of his life. When I said, okay, he said, your products are going to be made in the US again. I said, okay, and he just kept talking about how P.E. Trump is trying so hard to establish himself as a good president. I said, okay.

I’m tired. I’m taking a break.

*

About four months ago, on my 42nd birthday, I set some goals. The older I get, the easier it is for me to just ignore my goals, to not care about meeting those goals, or to just be lackadaisical about accomplishing them.

On this coming Sunday, Advent begins, so I think I might try to accomplish my goal of going to church. I think I need it. I think you need for me to go. I say this because I have not been my best self for the majority of November. Maybe a baby Jewish refugee in a wooden cow trough, who was birthed to an unwed teenage mother and father, who was brought gifts by “foreigners,” who was worshipped by the working class, and who was later saved from infanticide at the hands of the ruling class will be just the miracle to bring me around.

Anyway, I set a couple of other goals, too: running, compassion, pay it forward, social media and creativity, and finances.

I am working on running, while also playing soccer and nursing my plantar fascia on my right foot. I won’t be running a full marathon again next summer, but I am going to run a 25K trail race at Afton; 15 miles is a more accomplishable goal for me this year.

Compassion, which includes going to church, seems to be going the best right now, since I am trying so hard to understand what makes people do what they do. I’m also trying to work at allowing myself to be in someone else’s shoes; I’m hoping that maybe I will somehow be able to better understand my fellow humans. I’ve also been a bit of a slacker when it comes to meditation, so I need to refocus on this aspect of my life as well. I can really tell when I practice mindfulness and when I don’t. I’m not so mindful right now. I’ve been vegetarian, but not vegan, which is something I will fix at the new year.

I still haven’t worked on paying it forward, and I’d love to find somewhere to volunteer every week, even though my schedule is a bit wacky, I could just RTO time each week for volunteering.

The social media and creativity goal is the one that I should’ve kept working on with diligence. More than any of the goals. I find that being on social media is really damaging to my psyche. People are mean. I should’ve been drawing or printmaking, instead of spending all those hours on Facebook, getting angrier.

Finally, my finances are slowly improving. I’m paying more on all of my credit cards each month, and I have a separate savings account, where I deposit all of my wages from Caribou, for vacation spending. We went to New York and I paid for all but the dog boarding with cash, but I quickly paid off the dog boarding upon our return.

So, while I’m not making major headway, I feel like I am making some. I’m also taking a break. Until after the holidays. Peace. Grace. Joy. Love. Hope.

September (FALL/AUTUMN) is Here, and I Couldn’t Be More Excited

Pushups for Veterans

I was challenged by friend Shon Byrum, the Mayor of Winchester, Indiana, to a Facebook challenge. I don’t typically partake in Facebook challenges, because I fail to see how they do any good, since they focus on some effort that neither raises money for, nor provides a solution to, whatever problem the challenge is supposedly addressing. This challenge, though, raises awareness about a problem that I think is particularly important.

Why is it that so many of our honorable veterans come home, only to end their lives shortly thereafter?

For the particular challenge Shon invited me to do, the acceptor of the challenge is required to do 22 pushups for 22 days in honor, or memory, of the approximately 22 veterans per day who commit suicide because of PTSD or another mental illness. I’ve done two days worth of pushups, and I’ve challenged two other people to the same challenge, which is a part of it. They are then requires to pass the challenge on, so awareness is spread via the viral nature of social media.

Starting tomorrow, I’m raising the bar on this challenge for myself. I’m putting 50¢ in a fund toward a veteran’s charity that helps with mental health care services for members of the military who are returning from war. By the end of the challenge, if my math is right, which it may not be, I’ll be donating a total of $220 to help our veterans who’ve been damaged by the effects of war. I haven’t yet decided which charity I will chose, but I’m doing research. I’m leaning toward The Soldier’s Project; my only hesitation is that their help is only available in limited parts of the country.

Starting tomorrow, I’m also going to include a different link to a different charity each day in my post. I’d love it my friends and family would also make small donations to those charities in honor of this challenge. Then, I think, I’d feel like I’m doing more than just raising awareness of a problem, but I’d also be helping to provide a solution to the problem as well.

Goals

Running: I’m doing it, and I’m enjoying it more, so I guess that’s progress. I’ve also started swimming again. Merideth and I started with a four day a week pact, but four days is a bit daunting along with running, too, so I am shooting for three days a week from here until the end of October.

Compassion: I’m struggling right now to articulate my spiritual beliefs. On the one hand, I do so love the Jesus, but on the other hand, the things I love about Jesus feel more Buddhist to me than anything, so I am reading a lot about people who have a similar struggle that I do. And there are many of us.

I’ve slipped bit on the vegan front, and I even ate a bit of meat when I was in Texas for training for work. I regretted it immediately. I wanted to breathe the life back into the cow, but I couldn’t, so I just cried instead. Into my hotel pillow. How sad.

Looking back, I’ve lumped a bunch of things into this category of compassion and the one that doesn’t seem to fit is meditation. But it does. I mentioned the other day that meditation has helped me more in my adult life than prayer has, that isn’t really true, I suppose, except that meditation is helping me become friends with myself in a new way. By focusing on my very existence—my breath—  I’m able to recognize my absolute physical impermanence, and through prayer while running, I’m able to contemplate how to use my newfound settledness, inner-peace, or contentment to love in a new way. (I’m sorry if this seems a bit scattered or not really well articulated, but I’m trying to find a way to describe some feelings that are utterly foreign to me.)

To focus my meditation, I’ve been using a mala that I made from a bunch of beads I’ve had since college, but today I ordered a new mala made of jade. Because I use beads when I pray, I find to be especially helpful—but in very different ways—to use beads when I meditate. Meditating each day for nearly a month now has helped me to empathize with people more easily, to pause and give space in conversation, to not have to talk as much, to be able to listen more, and to be able to have unbridled compassion and love.

It’s really beautiful.

Social Media and Creativity: I came back onto Facebook, because I missed some of my friends. I’m learning to balance it and my other activities, so that I am not consumed with comparison (Facebook envy), anger, and an irrational need for feedback and approval. I haven’t done any art, and I’ve done little writing. I have done quite a bit of listening to Podcasts, which are feeding my imagination and making me think differently about the world in which we live. And I’m still reading quite a bit, so I’ll call this successful for now.

Finances: I’m paying things down. Slowly but surely. Not as fast as I wanted, but it’s happening.

Pay It Forward: I’ll be in Canada during the classes for the sexual assault advocacy, and now that I really think about it, there are probably other volunteer opportunities that will suit me better, ones that won’t cause me personal distress. I’m open to suggestions of things people might see me doing, so if you think of anything, I’d be happy to hear about it.

Fall and Autumny Things

Most people know that fall is my favorite season of the four. The air is crisp, the trees are filled with color, and everything looks and feels like it might just curl up and take a nap. Fall is filled with apple cider, hot chocolate, bonfires, and pumpkins; all of which make me extremely happy. I get to have impromptu coffee and writing time with fine people like Ico, and the drive to work doesn’t feel so bad with bright red and yellow trees guiding the way. Essentially, everything is more amazing in the fall.

The two most exciting things for me this fall are that my friends Julie and Alan are coming to visit this weekend and we’re going to an apple orchard/pumpkin farm, and then a couple of weeks later, I get to vacation in Canada with my beautiful wife and my amazing little brother. What’s most awesome about our vacation is that we’ll also get to spend time with Merideth, Josh, and T-Bean in New York.

The end. 

Basically, my life feels like it is on an upswing. I’m working hard to help this be a new way of life for me,

  • one in which I have a balance between setting goals and achieving them, or not.
  • one in which I have personal health, and a healthy way of interacting with other.
  • one in which I am serious, and also feel free.
  • one in which I respect those around me, but I also respect myself.

Peace. Grace.

My Hips and Knees Are Sore, So I Must Be Running Again

If you follow me on here, you know I set a few goals for this—my forty-second—year, and you know I said I’d check in on each goal every month on this day. I have to admit that I am not super inspired to write today, but I am going to give a run down of how my goals are progressing.

RUNNING: Let’s start with running, since that was the goal that sparked all of this. Running is both a blessing and a struggle. It’s frustrating to me when I look back at old photos and see myself 50 pounds lighter and a lot better at running, both faster and farther. But I’m doing it. I’m building my way back up to being a runner, instead of someone who simply wants to run and never does. This morning, for example, I ran 48 minutes on some fairly difficult trail at Afton State Park. Don’t ask how (not that) far I ended up going in that 48 minutes, because I’d be embarrassed to tell you, but I did it. I got up. I went to the park. I ran. That goal of running 26.2 in less than 6 hours seems so far off, I can’t even fathom it at this point, but I know I can do it. With my friend Molly supporting me and cheering me on, I can do nearly anything, even if my hips and knees get sore.

COMPASSION: The vegan diet part of this one is going really well. I’m kind of disgusted with the meat industry, so this part of the compassion goal is much easier. I never have a problem having compassion for animals; their sweet faces make it so easy to love them. Self-care and compassion is always a bit more difficult for me. Have I been to church regularly since I wrote these goals? No. And every Sunday, I say I’m going to go and then I don’t. I need to try harder in regards to my spirituality. I’m letting a lot of opportunity fall through the cracks. It’s a good thing I’m checking in on these goals I’ve set, because I have been neglecting a lot about this compassion goal: I’ve not been meditating every day, like I planned, and I haven’t been praying while running. Here is a place where I can do some serious focusing and bear down to accomplish wellness.

PAY IT FORWARD: Now that I look at this goal, it’s closely coupled with my goal of being more compassionate. I’ve been focusing on the work part of this goal, and trying to look at each customer with the love, grace, and patience I’d show my grandma. God rest her soul. I’m finding that my vocation to love is becoming easier and easier to practice, even when people can be difficult. Recently, I’ve been more able to think about how we all can be difficult and about how we all have faults. Whenever I think about how irritated I am able to get with other people, especially if my irritation is over someone’s inability to understand, I am reminded that I am likely irritated with my own insecurities more than I am irritated with that other person. In fact, I am reminded of this Thich Nhat Hanh quote: “If you are not yet able to love yourself, you will not be able to love your enemy. But when you are able to love yourself, you can love anyone. When you do this, you will see that your so called enemy is not more or less than a human being who is suffering.” The more I work on my own wellness and self-love, the more I am able to love those around me.

SOCIAL MEDIA AND CREATIVITY: I have been off of Facebook for over two months now! And, I am finding that I really don’t miss it at all. Do I miss some of the people I interacted with through Facebook? Yes, but then I think about how easy it is to find other ways—ways that are less invasive and less public—to communicate with them, and I know I made a good decision. Have I written any memoir or drawn any illustrations? No. Have I read read any books? Yes, I have been reading so much that I finally remember what it’s like to simply read for the sake of enjoyment, instead of reading to analyze text. Of everything I’ve changed in my life, reading more is the best part! I even joined the library!

FINANCES: Um, yeah. These are goals, and, um, I am certainly a work in progress in this regard. We’ll just leave that there.

Peace and cheers!

Weightlifting and Ground Kissing

The last time I lifted weights was just after college. I was trying like mad to lose weight to get into the military to become a medic and to eventually go to medical school, because the military was the only way I could think to follow that path. I needed to lose about 40 more pounds than I had already lost, so I did the only natural thing to do. I starved myself and exercised a lot. I was teaching at Garfield Elementary then and living in Hartford City in the downstairs of a haunted house that had been made into an apartment. I would wake up most days really early and go for a 4- to 6-mile run, then I would head into Ball State Recreation Facilities to either swim or lift weights, then I would teach all day, and finally I would come home and go for a 20-mile bike ride or so. I lost weight, but not enough, so I ate less. The eventual side effect of all of this was not acceptance into armed forces; the eventual side effect was dark circles, little to no energy, hair loss, and some permanent damage to my body.

I was, as some would say, a hot mess.

Today I start weightlifting again. I’ve found a plan called the 5X5, which uses five simple, full-body lifts (deadlift, overhead press, bench press, squats, and Pendlay rows) to condition the entire body over three workouts a week. Their goal is to lift heavier weights in succession, but my goal is simply to build and balance my muscles. Truth be told, I would love it if I could bulk up my muscles a bit, but my goal here is simply fitness, so I can swim, bike, and run more efficiently.

In order to be held accountable on my goal of moderation, I’m posting my general workout schedule here:

Monday: Run and Swim
Tuesday: Lift and Cycle
Wednesday: Run and Swim
Thursday: Lift and Cycle
Friday: REST
Saturday: Weights, Run (LSD), Swim (LSD)
Sunday: REST

I mentioned that my goal is to eat more protein, because even when I was eating strictly paleo, I didn’t eat enough protein, so I have started adding a protein supplement into my breakfast. I also plan to buy a bit more meat to eat throughout the day. My problem is that I love fruit, which contains lots of sugar and almost no protein. I guess I just mention this to say that I am trying to balance my body with exercise and the tools it needs to repair the muscles, so I can keep going.

*

Over the weekend, Bec and I watched the movie Unbroken. If you know me well, you know that I hate watching movies in the theater, and this makes the second one we’ve seen in three weeks, the first being Into the Woods. Unbroken was a beautiful, traumatic, hopeful, tragic film. The scene that moved me the most was when Louis came home from Japan and got off the plane and kissed the ground. Again, if you know me well, you know how I feel about the US, that we have pretty much as many flaws as we have positive attributes, but for some reason that scene struck me. For me, that scene wasn’t so much about the US as it was about being alive, safe, and at home. I am sure for Zamporini, the kiss was about the US, at least partially, since he was a soldier. (I just want to make a side note here that while I have little to no respect for our penchant for war and military might in the US, I do have the utmost respect for our military personnel. I love and adore several current and former sailors, soldiers, marines, air(wo)men, and guardians, and I appreciate the work they do and the sacrifices they make.)

That scene, when Louis returns home, reminds me of one of my favorite sayings by Thich Nhat Hanh: “Walk as if you are kissing the earth with your feet.” Though it seems strange to pair a movie about war with the writings of a peace activist, there is a perfect connection between the two in my mind. If we could walk as if our feet are kissing the earth, we would have no need for war, because we would be so busy appreciating the beauty of our own lives and the sacredness of this earth. We would each revel in our own mysteries as we’re connected to this land, to each other, and to ourselves.

I’ve been noticing that many people function from their areas of insecurity and shame, instead of from their feelings of pride, worth, compassion, and love. We are a hurting people who keep continuing the cycle of hurt. By metaphorically kissing the ground, or imagining we are doing it with our feet as we walk, we move from a state of injury, shame, and hollowness to a state of appreciation and grace and love. Be mindful, like Zamporini, that you are alive.

 

I Have a Plan

I am guest blogging over here at Where’s the Finish Line, which is my friend Teresa’s amazing blog about her quest for a strong and fulfilling Ironman Wisconsin finish. I am writing my own little posts about every two weeks about my struggle to make it to Racine 70.3 in my own column called “Corby’s Corner.” Stay tuned there, because the posts will be solely related to my struggle to maintain moderation in food and exercise. If you’re interested in that sort of thing, head over there.

So, here’s an update for My 20 Before 40:

1. Run a marathon. I signed up for the Twin Cities Medtronic Marathon on October 5, so I have 230 days to get myself to be able to run a 6 hour or less marathon.
2. Finish the Racine 70.3 on July 21 in under 8 hours. I have signed up for this, and it’s 153 days away. My goal is to finish the 13.1 mile run in under 3 hours.
3. Swim a 500 in 7:30 minutes. This needs some work.
4. Do yoga every morning. Yeah, not so much.
5. Do a 30 burpees in 30 days challenge. I am going to start this on the day after Bec moves to MN. I figure it’s a good way to work off anxiety.
6. Ride a century ride on the bicycle. I need to sign up for something to motivate me to do this.
7. Meditate for at least 15 minutes each day. Yeah, not so much.
8. Eat paleo at least 80% of the time. Um, well, I am doing something a bit different with this: eating when hungry. Eating foods that bring me joy.
9. Try foods that aren’t the usual things I eat. I’ve had gluten-free granola, and I bought some whole-grain, gluten-free bread for PBJs for lunch.
10. Visit every Indiana state park with my brother. I think we might be back to breweries/cideries/distilleries. Who knows what we’re doing here.
11. Learn to cook one new thing each month. So far we’ve tried oxtail stew and shark. Next month, I am going to make haggis.
12. Do not drink alcohol until my birthday. This isn’t even something that makes sense for me. I love a good beer, cider, bourbon, scotch, or mead. Why be miserable?
13. Read the whole Bible. Working on it.
14. Finish the Sketchbook Project book. Decided just to fill my own sketchbook. It’s going slowly.
15. Finish my master’s degree in creative writing. Publish. Yeah. This. Class.
16. Post a blog post every Sunday. Well, I am trying, but it isn’t working. More about this goal below.
17. Get a new tattoo. I’m going to do this after Racine 70.3.
18. Lose 60 pounds. Um, yeah, about this. Why the fuck can I never lose weight?!
19. Find a job doing something I love. This may be a pipe dream, but I hope it works out.
20. Read a new book each week. I am reading so much for school, it feels as if I am reading a new book each day!

Blogging. Blogging. Blogging.

So I’ve decided that I am going to put a bit more format into my blogging efforts. I am going to write about a different goal in my list each week, with a bit more in depth of a focus. For the most part, I am going to go in order, but tonight I want to write about how I plan to structure this blog, so I can get a couple more posts in each week. Some of these post topics or ideas came from my friends’ blogs, so they aren’t original ideas at all, just themes that may help me to be more diligent in thinking about my life with focus.

So here goes:

Mystic Mondays: I’ll chose some Biblical or theological text, story, or scripture to discuss. I made this one up on my own, like the super smart kid I am. Haha!

What I Ate Wednesday: I’ll write about everything I eat that day, and I’ll include pictures when I can. I stole this from Teresa, who stole it from someone else.

Fiction Fridays: I expect my students to write reflections for Fridays about what they’ve read through the week. I think I’ll start doing the same. Some works won’t be fiction, but I’ll still call it Fiction Fridays. I stole the idea for this from many of my friends who write blogs or maintain some sort of online presence. I reserve the right to reflect on art, movies, television, news, literature, music, or any other creative endeavor.

And Sunday, Sunday will be my regular blogging day where I talk about what the heck is going on with one goal from the list. I hope in this way, this space will become more relevant and more regular so folks start reading again. The last Sunday of each month, I’ll reevaluate my goals, instead of discussing one in depth. Now, let’s just hope I can keep up with this. Writing brings me joy, so how is this so difficult?

Let’s do this.