R is for Reading…

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Awesome books from the past year, mostly self-help.

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It annoys a lot of people, and it’s very…if you liked “Fight Club”, you’ll like this. However, if you’re easily distracted and tend to get too involved in unimportant nonsense and what are essentially the concerns of other people, it’s a good read. Really would recommend this to a lot of women, actually! What some other dumbass does is not your concern, results are.

Takes a while to incorporate these things….*muttering* Back in the day, I was the most fuck giving motherfucker – I’d chase grown ass people around, wipe noses, it was horrifying, really…Much tears and misery ensued, and nothing got done. Then I started to focus on my own problems a little bit more, and realized they were legion. Happy ending eventualy?

The key to a good life is not giving a fuck about more; it’s giving a fuck about less, giving a fuck about only what is true and immediate and important.

The desire for more positive experience is itself a negative experience. And, paradoxically, the acceptance of one’s negative experience is itself a positive experience.

It’s what the philosopher Alan Watts used to refer to as “the backwards law”—the idea that the more you pursue feeling better all the time, the less satisfied you become, as pursuing something only reinforces the fact that you lack it in the first place. The more you desperately want to be rich, the more poor and unworthy you feel, regardless of how much money you actually make. The more you desperately want to be sexy and desired, the uglier you come to see yourself, regardless of your actual physical appearance. The more you desperately want to be happy and loved, the lonelier and more afraid you become, regardless of those who surround you. The more you want to be spiritually enlightened, the more self-centered and shallow you become in trying to get there.

Everything worthwhile in life is won through surmounting the associated negative experience. Any attempt to escape the negative, to avoid it or quash it or silence it, only backfires. The avoidance of suffering is a form of suffering. The avoidance of struggle is a struggle. The denial of failure is a failure. Hiding what is shameful is itself a form of shame.

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Alice Miller’s lifework is helping adults overcome the negative effects of dysfunctional families-primarily personality reintegration, while promoting growth and (re)union if possible. Haven’t read a lot of her work, but this books focuses on over-coming negative emotional patterns, and physical illness as a result of denied emotion. She does tend to wander off into theoreticals (something involving Hitler’s upbringing?), but over-all a good work.

 

The real tragedy of people never given the chance to express their needs in childhood is that, without knowing it, they are leading a double life. As I made clear in The Drama of the Gifted Child, they have constructed a false self in childhood and do not know that they have another one where their suppressed feelings and needs are hidden away as effectively as if under lock and key. The reason for this is that they have never encountered anyone who could help them understand their distress, identify the prison in which their feelings are confined, break out of that confinement, and articulate their true feelings and genuine needs.

Later, in therapy, she found an answer to these questions. She gradually realized that she had been forced, perhaps since birth, to develop a strategy to protect herself from the pain of a child never perceived by her parents as a person in her own right, merely used to gratify their own needs. To evade that pain, Isabelle had learned to banish her own needs and feelings, to hide them from herself and others, to be absent, nonexistent. Today, she says that it was as if she had killed herself. She now believes that in childhood she actually split her own personality.

She herself had no right to her own identity. As a child she had been refused that right, and she went on denying it to herself for fifty years. The merciless abdominal pains ravaging Isabelle’s body after her reunion with John confronted her with questions: Who am I really? Why am I not really there in all my relationships? I suffer when others fail to see me as I am, but how can they see me if I don’t show myself, if I conceal my true nature from them? And what makes me do that?

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A classic, for a reason.

Forces beyond your control can take away everything you possess except one thing, your freedom to choose how you will respond to the situation. You cannot control what happens to you in life, but you can always control what you will feel and do about what happens to you

 

We have come to know Man as he really is. After all, man is that being who invented the gas chambers of Auschwitz; however, he is also that being who entered those gas chambers upright, with the Lord’s Prayer or the Shema Yisrael on his lips. HAROLD S. KUSHNER

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Betrayal of the self is a betrayal of nature

Inner certainty is hard to come by if one’s own truth, one’s very being, is constantly denied. As adults we are usually most affected and influenced by assaults to our psychic boundary when they are couched in an attitude of righteousness, blame, or caring by our mate or a family member. Unless we know that people are pretending to know our inner reality when they define us, other people’s definitions of us can shroud the truth, cloud perception, dim the light of awareness. If we accept them, we may come to believe that what is so is not so, and that what is not so is so. Most significant, we may then base our choices upon false beliefs about ourselves and find ourselves under someone else’s control

The consequences of disconnection are many and profound. They are pertinent to our problems — our daily struggles to live in a world of justice and freedom. They are problematic for a person who, after being disconnected from his or her self, wants to connect with another person.
Awareness and freedom are intrinsically linked. Without freedom awareness fades. Without awareness freedom fades. If our freedom of choice is lost, life itself loses meaning. Despair fills the void of lost meaning.

When people unwittingly form their identity out of one imposed on them by others, how they appear to others becomes an all-important barometer by which to validate their existence. In a backwards construction of self, there is no three-dimensionality, no depth, no space for future evolution and integration with the world. Human empathy, warmth, allowance for error — all that is considered to be humanity itself — may find no niche, no accommodation.

the art of living – epictetus

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The Art of Living is a collection of teachings written after the death of Epictetus by his student. I’m new to stoic philosophy, like maybe I read the republic like ten years ago, lol.
 this book is pretty up my alley at the moment – there’s a focus on self-control, and acceptance of external events and lack of interference with others. Was recommended to me based on it’s east/west flavor, it can be found online here.
I guess my current difficulty in life is consistently applying ideals/ethics to communication. Hell, consistency is a challenge in itself.
Kind of a procrastination death spiral at the moment, pulling back out of it – what a self-perpetuating mess these things are.
Here’s a couple quotes.
Know what you can control and what you can’t

Happiness and freedom begin with a clear understanding of one principle: Some things are within our control, and some things are not. It is only after you have faced up to this fundamental rule and learned to distinguish between what you can and can’t control that inner tranquility and outer effectiveness become possible.

Within our control are our own opinions, aspirations, desires, and the things that repel us. These areas are quite rightly our concern, because they are directly subject to our influence. We always have a choice about the contents and character of our inner lives.

Outside our control, however, are such things as what kind of body we have, whether we’re born into wealth or strike it rich, how we are regarded by others, and our status in society. We must remember that those things are externals and are therefore not our concern. Trying to control or to change what we can’t only results in torment.

Remember: The things within our power are naturally at our disposal, free from any restraint or hindrance; but those things outside our power are weak, dependent, or determined by the whims and actions of others. Remember, too, that if you think that you have free rein over things that are naturally beyond your control, or if you attempt to adopt the affairs of others as your won, your pursuits will be thwarted and you will become a frustrated, anxious, and fault-finding person.

Stick with your own business

Keep your attention focused entirely on what is truly your own concern, and be clear that what belongs to others is their business and none of yours. If you do this, you will be impervious to coercion and no one can ever hold you back. You will be truly free and effective, for your efforts will be put to good use and won’t be foolishly squandered finding fault with or opposing others.

In knowing and attending to what actually concerns you, you cannot be made to do anything against your will; others can’t hurt you, you don’t incur enemies or suffer harm.

If you aim to live by such principles, remember that it won’t be easy: you must give up some things entirely; and postpone others for now. You may well have to forego wealth and power if you want to assure the attainment of happiness and freedom.

 

The right use of books

Don’t just say you have read books. Show that through them you have learned to think better, to be a more discriminating and reflective person. Books are the training weights of the mind. They are very helpful, but would be a bad mistake to suppose that one has made progress simply by having internalized their contents.

(oh crap.)

Exercise caution when mingling with others

One of two things will happen when you socialize with others. You either become like your companions, or you bring them over to your own ways. Just as when a dead coal contacts a live one, either the first will extinguish the last, or the last kindle the first. Great is the danger; so be circumspect on entering into personal associations, even and especially light-hearted ones.

Most of us do not possess sufficiently developed steadfastness to steer our companions to our own purpose, so we end up being carried along by the crowd. Our own values and ideals become fuzzy and tainted; our resolve is destabilized.

It’s hard to resist when friends or associates start speaking brashly. Caught off guard when our associates broach ignoble subjects, we are swept along by the social momentum. It is the nature of conversation that its multiple meanings, innuendos, and personal motivations move along at such a fast clip, they can instantly shit into unwholesome directions, sullying everyone involved. So until wise sentiments are fixed into your as if they were instinct and you have thus acquired some power of self-defense, choose your associations with care and monitor the thrust of the conversations in which you find yourself.

The soul’s cry

Philosophy’s main task is to respond to the soul’s cry; to make sense of and thereby free ourselves from the hold of our griefs and fears.

Philosophy calls us when we’ve reached the end of our rope. The insistent feeling that something is not right with our lives and the longing to be restored to our better selves will not go away. Our fears of death and being alone, our confusion about love and sex, and our sense of impotence in the face of our anger and outsized ambitions bring us to ask our first sincere philosophical questions.

 

Don’t defend your reputation or intentions

Don’t be afraid of verbal abuse or criticism.

Only the morally weak feel compelled to defend or explain themselves to others. Let the quality of your deeds speak on your behalf. We can’t control the impressions others form about us, and the effort to do so only debases our character.

So, if anyone should tell you that a particular person has spoken critically of you, don’t bother with excuses or defenses. Just smile and reply, “I guess that person doesn’t know about all my other faults. Otherwise, he wouldn’t have mentioned only these.”

Writing as a Path to Awakening quotes

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Practice doesn’t make perfect, practice makes process, and with consistent attention, proficiency, and eventually, with further devotion, mastery.

Wait no longer. This rebirth of wonder starts here and now in this very moment. It begins with slowing down and observing the world as a child might, as a bright-eyed, unadulterated adult might. It’s about becoming mindful and awake to the world again, filling ourselves with awe and curiosity, and finding the outlet for expressing that awe and wonder in language. Slowing down and getting quiet is key. Start by breathing in silence and see what arises within you. You’ll be amazed. Meditation is such an incredible ground for writing because it’s a natural reset. Given all the plans and appointments we encounter in our days—the obligations, deadlines, and desires—our mind becomes incredibly busy. Poetry and meditation allow us to settle back into our natural state of calm and open receptivity. One can only think of how a snow globe, when shaken (with blizzards of thought), blurs the scene, and then upon setting it down on a calm shelf the scene is restored to its original clarity. Well, it’s just like that with thoughts, emotions, and words. They might swirl about in a chaotic mix, but once you allow them to settle, you’ll find calm and clarity, which instigates an opening for your creativity and insight to blossom.

Don’t ask yourself if you’re in the mood to write or if you feel inspired. These are fleeting and irrelevant feelings for a writer to dwell in. In our mind we think that happiness is predicated on doing what we want or like to do in any given instant, but studies show over and over again that true lasting joy-in-your-soul happiness comes from generosity, from giving to and helping others, and from a feeling of competence generated by fulfilling a commitment—that is, following projects through to completion. The more we write through resistance and the more we write through the times we don’t want to write, the less pull resistance and distraction will have on us, the more confidence we build, and the more likely we are to finish that writing project.

From “The Immoralist”…

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The only help I wish for is this — to talk to you. For I have reached a point in my life beyond which I cannot go. Not from weariness though. But I can no longer understand things. I want … I want to talk, I tell you. To know how to free oneself is nothing; the arduous thing is to know what to do with one’s freedom. Let me speak of myself; I am going to tell you my life simply, without modesty and without pride, more simply than if I were talking to myself. Listen:

“The Immoralist”, Andre Gide

B is for Buddhism

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(Note: Not written by an actual Buddhist, just by a person who tries and fails to consistently incorporate Buddhist teachings into their life.)

What-is-Buddhism

Buddhism is a complex and diverse religion with many branches. It is hard to make a general statement about Buddhism beyond that it focuses on the teachings of Buddha and is less oriented on the after-life so much as living a decent life. Another interesting component of Buddhism is due to it’s geographic spread, there is a great deal of varience between branches – Hinduism even absorbed Buddha as a god millenia ago, which may be one of the greatest anti-conversion moves in the history of time, one of those bundle package deals…

Terms/Concepts

skanda: “the five aggregates”, this is relatively close to the concept of a soul, but split into five parts – 1. the body, 2. sensations/feelings received from outside, 3. raw perception, 4. “mental formations”, aka, that weird shit constantly going on in your head and how it structures itself, 5. consciousness itself.

anatta: you know how reincarnation is like, you know, one of those major things in Buddhism? Yeah, guess what, you/the concept of a soul or an underlying permanence of “self” does not exist. Everything you think of as “you” is a goddamn illusion.

The best thing I read, filtered through me, unfortunately, was that like how you can never step into the same river twice, you are never the same person from moment to moment. It is not good to get attached to certain attributes of self, positive or negative. Everything is subject to change, constantly, all you can do is try to abide by certain rules/norms of behavior. Which you are going to fail at, from time to time.

(Going to go out on a limb and say Thich Naht Hahn said this. Unsure.)

bodhisattva: If you’re familiar with Catholicism, this is a rough analogue to a living saint. This is a person who has mastered the lessons they had to learn in this world, but have delayed their ascension out of this world in order to help others.

dharma: A bit harder to explain, and can have multiple meanings. The short version  is that it means something between “that which does not change” and “the order of all that is”.

karma: Another rough one, karma is less meant to mean the result of a negative action felt within the lifetime it occured, although this is the popular meaning and also used. It means what actions brought you to your current birth, and how your actions in this lifetime will bring about negative and positive consequences in your next incarnation.

nirvana: A main tenet of Buddhism is that existing itself implies that you will suffer, so this is the state when a person no longer has to exist in the cycle of rebirths. The ultimate goal is nothing, lol.

Another key point is the common Western misunderstandings of Buddhism. Buddhists generally don’t meditate. Buddhists are actually relatively comparable to the concept of a Christian level of adherence to their religion, meaning there is a great level of individual varience in adherence to precepts.

Also most Buddhists are not attempting to reach Nirvana or bodhisattva-hood in this particular lifetime, but are more motivated to be reincarnated into a better life the next time around. So, no, Buddhists are not saints.

The Three Universal Truths

  1. Annica. Everything is impermanent.

Everything you can comprehend is subject to change, at one time did not exist, and in the future, will not exist.

2. Dukkha: Life, because of impermance, inherently involves suffering. It doesn’t mean the point of life is suffering, or the only meaning of life is suffering – just an admission that the pain is there and is always going to be there in some way, no matter the circumstances.

A quick word on suffering: Somewhere along the way, dukkha, the first of the Four Noble Truths in Buddhism, got translated as “all life is suffering.” You hear people refer to this all the time. Let us set the record straight: it’s not that all life is suffering, but rather that in life we experience suffering. It happens. Pain—emotional, mental, and physical—is part of the human condition. But here’s the trick: the degree to which we suffer within that reality of pain is a choice. Our relationship to that pain is everything.

“Writing As a Path to Awakening” – Albert Flynn DeSilver

 

3. Annata: Again, no soul, no self. We have the five aggregates, but that’s about it.

The Four Noble Truths

  1. All life involves suffering.
  2. Suffering is caused by desire and attachment.
  3. Desire and attachment can be overcome.
  4. To overcome desire and attachment, follow the eight-fold path, unsure if bricks are yellow or not.

The Five Precepts

These are five rules Buddhists try to follow. If you try to live with them after a lifetime of flagrantly not giving a fuck, you’re gonna have a bad time. What’s interesting to me is how simple this all looks on the surface- I mean, how easy is it to not murder, rape and steal? But then if you get into more every day interpretations – avoiding “soft harm”, consistent vegetarian life, no promiscuity and start looking into grey areas, oh my god  Personally, I’ve found  violating one precept, leads to violating another with time.

  1. Do not cause harm to other living beings.
  2. Do not take what is not freely given.
  3.  No sensual/sexual misconduct.
  4. Abstain from false speech/lying.
  5. No intoxicants.

 

The Eightfold Path

How to reach nirvana, eventually, or become less of an asshole, depending on your wants and needs:

  1. Right seeing and understanding.
  2.  Right thought or intention.
  3. Right speech.
  4. Right action
  5. Right work/livelihood
  6. Right effort.
  7. Right mindfulness.
  8. Right concentration.

Main Branches

Theravada: You are responsible for your own salvation here, every thought and action is your responsibility. It is up to you to follow the teachings of Buddha.

Mahayana: This is the more popular branch of Buddhism, called the greater vehicle. While Theravada is a lonely venture, here the focus is on the interconnectedness of beings. Tibetan Buddhism belongs to this branch. They also believe in salvation more, in the sense that they are awaiting another reincarnation of Buddha.

Secular: There is a wonderful course on Coursera taught by Robin Wright called “Buddhism and Modern Psychology” that is astonishing. Essentially this is a Westernized version that combines scientific studies with Buddhist concepts.

-side note: There is a book called “Refuge Recovery” by Noah Levine, which combines 12 step recovery with Buddhist teachings, there are also groups based off of this book, you can find them in large cities or online.

Recommended books/quotes

The Dhammapada

 Let a wise man blow off the impurities of his self, as a smith blows off the impurities of silver one by one, little by little, and from time to time.

 

Health is the greatest of gifts, contentedness the best riches; trust is the best of relationships, Nirvana the highest happiness.

All that we are is the result of what we have thought.
For hatred does not cease by hatred at any time: hatred ceases by love, this is an old rule.

 

The “How to…” series by Thich Naht Hahn.

A series on how to walk, eat, love, sit, etc. Wonderful.

From “How to Love” – Thich Nhat Hahn

As long as we’re rejecting ourselves and causing harm to our bodies and minds, there’s no point in talking about loving and accepting others.

“No Mud, No Lotus” – Thich Nhat Hahn

“Most people are afraid of suffering. But suffering is a kind of mud to help the lotus flower of happiness grow. There can be no lotus flower without the mud.”

The way to understanding is first to listen to yourself, because the roots of our suffering are deep and connected with the roots of the suffering of others. Usually we think that other people, such as our parents, our partner, or people at work, are to blame for our hurt. But looking more deeply, we can see the true sources of our own suffering, and we also can see that the person who we think is out to get us is a victim of his or her own suffering. Understanding our own hurt allows us to see and understand the suffering of others. Looking without judgment, we can understand, and compassion is born. Transformation is possible.

“The Heart & Diamond Sutra” trans. by  Diasetz Suzuki and Friedrich Max Mueller

“Therefore, Subhuti, you should, detaching yourself from all ideas, rouse the desire for the supreme enlightenment. You should cherish thoughts without dwelling on form, you should cherish thoughts without dwelling on sound, odour, taste, touch, or quality. Whatever thoughts you may have, they are not to dwell on anything. If a thought dwells on anything, this is said to be no-dwelling. Therefore, the Buddha teaches that a Bodhisattva is not to practise charity by dwelling on form. Subhuti, the reason he practises charity is to benefit all beings.

 

 

 

“How to Communicate like a Buddhist” – Cynthia Kane

What to Remember The three Cs of communicating: Speak consciously, concisely, and clearly. To speak consciously: slow the conversation down (beat, breathe, question) and know what you are and aren’t responsible for in the conversation. (You’re responsible for your words, actions, and reactions. You are not responsible for the other person’s words, reactions, and actions.) To speak concisely: cut the fat by eliminating anything that doesn’t qualify as right speech and enhance the conversation. Express yourself with the purpose and point in mind. To speak clearly: say what you mean, incorporate the ask into your conversations, and be specific.

For one day, try not to respond to someone using “I,” “me,” or “my” in a conversation. For those of you who haven’t done this you may be surprised how difficult it is. In general, refraining from using I, me, and my and being mindful of when you do will help you shift away from a “me only” perspective and move into an awareness of others.

(conversational hell, how can I speak from a point from anything but my own limited perspective on shit?)

 

“Refuge Recovery” – Noah Levine

Even when we refrain from the primary drug or behavior, addiction at times manifests in other behaviors. We are not holding perfection as the standard, but as the goal. We believe in the human ability and potential for complete renunciation of behaviors that cause harm. We understand that for many this is an ongoing process of establishing and/or reestablishing renunciation.