Friday, June 23, 2017

Don't push!

Oh, the joy of spirituality!
The wakening up to the realization that life doesn’t have to be a struggle, that the world can be a wonderful place and we all can be enlightened beings.
I remember the days of my youth when my eyes started to open.

I was all excited, like a kid on the Christmas day discovering a trove of presents under the Christmas tree.
The joy was overflowing and I wanted to share my newly acquired treasure with the entire world.
I wanted everybody to know about it. I wanted everybody to practice it and benefit from it.
I wanted to make the world a better place.

Little did I know…
The world doesn’t want spirituality and enlightenment.
Everybody is saying they are looking for enlightenment and happiness but the world wants what it wants and most of the time that is heartache and misery.

I saw the suffering in people around me and I approached them with a friendly advice, with understanding and love.
They wouldn’t listen to me or pretended to but then take my advice and throw it away like a piece of spoiled food, unappetizing and undesirable.

I thought maybe their distrust me because they didn’t know me and they would be suspicious by a stranger’s intentions.
So I talked to my friends, to the people that new me and new my intentions.
But the result was pretty much the same.

Nobody is interested in bettering themselves.
People cling to their misery and their problems like a precious heirloom.
Their pain and suffering is a badge of honor and they expect the world to admire and praise their suffering.

Trying to liberate them from that suffering is like trying to take away their life meaning.
If you tell them to change they will ask you to accept the way they are instead.
If you tell them there is a solution they will tell you, you do not understand their problem.
If you push them, they will resist and push back.

So don’t push!

I know it sounds simple and logical but our instinct is to help out, to push, not to sit back and let the disaster unfold in front of our eyes without interfering.
Never the less that is the proper thing to do. Acting by nonacting,
Waiting for the people to ask for help, before offering your help.

Don’t push! – Pull!
Do you think that’s easy to do?

I have a lot of friends that are still very unhappy about the presidential election.
Do you think they are waiting for the disaster to unfold before they act, or do you think they are pushing as hard as they can to change what was already done?

Do you think the pushing is working, that they are conquering and changing anybody’s mind?
Or do you think they are just creating more resentment and animosity?
I’m not suggesting an advice because I know nobody will listen. I’m just curious.

But don’t push.

Wednesday, June 21, 2017

Zen Dialectics

Dialectic or dialectics (Greek: διαλεκτική, dialektikḗ), also known as the dialectical method, is a discourse between two or more people holding different points of view about a subject but wishing to establish the truth through reasoned arguments. The term dialectic is not synonymous with the term debate.
-          Wikipedia

Zen philosophy is so darn weird and wonderful that has fascinated people since the Western civilization has come in contact with it.
Wherever you are a Buddhist, or a neophyte you have probably read or heard a koan or two.
Like the famous “Does a tree falling in the forest make any noise?” or “What is the sound of one hand clapping?”

They are intriguing little quips of whimsical wisdom that entice us to think but at the same time seem impossible riddles to understand or solve.
That is the mistake all Zen students make. Koans are not meant to be understood.
It is that it is. There is nothing to understand.

Enlightenment cannot be taught.
Enlightenment can be only achieved and experienced.
Enlightenment is not something that you know; enlightenment is a state of mind, like being in love.

Reality is the ultimate truth. The truth the whole truth and nothing but the truth.
So how do you tech reality?
How does a Zen master teaches what cannot be taught?
He can’t.

The only thing a Zen master can do is destroy your rational mind, to show you the inadequacy of logical thinking and thus to force you to accept the ultimate truth.
It is that it is.

So every time the student asks a question or comes up with an answer the teacher knows that those are just shadows of the reality.
So he devises a counter argument “a reality check” response to the student.

The counterargument is not meant to clarify the problem but to make it even more absurd.
In the end the student has no choice but to give up, to look beyond the words, to see the reality as it is, not as perception and fall in love with it.
This is the principle of Zen dialectic and has been used for centuries to create enlightenment in the Zen student,

The problem with that is when trying to encapsulate that wisdom in words, to put it in books, you lose the dynamic interaction, the dialectic that is the motor of the enlightenment process.
You end up with a bunch of anecdotes, of stories about stories that are supposed to teach you NOTHING.

And NOTHING is a damn hard thing to understand. 

Monday, June 19, 2017

The Tao of Hollywood - Groundhog Day

“Phil: I'm a god.
Rita: You're God?
Phil: I'm a god. I'm not *the* God... I don't think.”

“Phil: Well maybe the *real* God uses tricks, you know? Maybe he's not omnipotent. He's just been around so long he knows everything.”

Groundhog Day (1993 starring Bill Murray) is a movie classic, one of the must see movies on your must see movie list.
It is almost universally wrongly summarized as the story of Phil, a weatherman reporter, stuck in a time loop living the same day over and over again.

“Phil: Well, what if there is no tomorrow? There wasn't one today.”

Actually, to be exact Phil is not reliving the same day over and over again; he is relieving the same date, the same time span, February 2nd the Groundhog Day.
But every time he reliving it, the day is a little bit different.

“Phil: Do you ever have déjà vu, Mrs. Lancaster?
Mrs. Lancaster: I don't think so, but I could check with the kitchen.”

This movie poses a very serious metaphysical question; if you could go back in time and relieve your life, would your life be the same?

“Phil: Do you know what today is?
Rita: No, what?
Phil: Today is tomorrow. It happened.”

The answer is “MOO” For the non-Zen speakers it means; a bit more complex than an “YES” or a “NO”
Our life, our days are the result of who and what we basically are. And since we are the same every day of our life are basically the same.

“Phil: What would you do if you were stuck in one place and every day was exactly the same, and nothing that you did mattered?
Ralph: That about sums it up for me.”

Nothing will change in our life unless we change.

“Phil: I was in the Virgin Islands once. I met a girl. We ate lobster, drank piña coladas. At sunset, we made love like sea otters.
[Ralph and Gus snort]
Phil: *That* was a pretty good day. Why couldn't I get *that* day over, and over, and over...”

It is the universal law of cause and effect at work.
To change the outcome of any action you have to change what causes it.

“Rita: This day was perfect. You couldn't have planned a day like this.
Phil: Well, you can. It just takes an awful lot of work.”

We all want a better life, a better career, belter relationships, better health in other words better outside circumstances. But we seldom ask or work for a better self. And that is the key, that is the answer, the solution to all our problems.

“Phil: Something is... different.
Rita: Good or bad?
Phil: Anything different is good.”

So if you have some spare time and a Netflix account here is a good idea on how to spend some relaxing time:
Watch “Groundhog Day” t is one of the rare movies that only gets better with time.
And a last quote from the movie:

“Phil: I killed myself so many times I don't even exist anymore.”

Friday, June 16, 2017

The Pareto principle and personal time management

Vilfredo Pareto, was an Italian economist, engineer, philosopher, and sociologist at the beginning of the 19th century.
He observed that about 20% of the peapods in his garden contained 80% of the peas and letter own that approximately 80% of the land in Italy was owned by 20% of the population.

This 80/20 connection was later empirically observed repeatedly in nature, economy, business etc. and so the Pareto Principle a.k.a  the 80/20 principle was born.
The principle states that, for many events, roughly 80% of the results come from 20% of the effort.
One of the most common uses of this principle is improving the efficiency of a given system.
For example in sales, 80% of your sales come from 20% of your clients, and 20% of the sales people bill 80% of the orders.

Knowing that it is really easy to redirect your resources on the 20% of most effective customers or sales force. 
Basically, by eliminating the 80% inefficiently used resources or by redirecting your resources away from the inefficient markets you can obtain better results without any additional investments.

That sounds like a very smart thing to do if you have your own business or you are in charge of a corporation, but how do you apply this principle to your personal life?

One of the problems I’m facing almost daily is the lack of time.
It seems to me that I never have enough time to do the things I want to do and I need a better way to manage my time.
So I started keeping a little journal with everything I was doing daily.

It turns out, roughly, that 80% of what I accomplish was done in 20% of the time I spent.
That is very interesting but it doesn’t help much.
I cannot fire the 80% of me that is inefficient.
See the problem?
This may work for a big corporation but not if you are self-employed.

So let’s look at the problem the other way:
The 80% of the time I spend solving 20% of my tasks.
Why is that? Why it takes so much damn time to do so little?
Why do I spend more time doing the small and easy tasks than the big and important ones?

It turns out that is the way I do things.
Let’s say it is the start of a new day. I have a list of things to do.
I look at the list and pick the easiest most rewarding task. Like checking my email or may blog.
By the time I’m done with all the “little” stuff I realize I don’t have enough time to do the big stuff I was planning to do.
So I go back and do more little stuff or just killing time, like playing video games.

This is what I never have any time to do the things I want to do.
It is like eating the cake before eating your vegetables.
Not a very conducive to a healthy way of eating.

So I devised a system of time management where tasks are done in order of size and time availability.
Basically, you have to make three separate lists of long, medium and short tasks.
(Posted notes work very well for this)
Then do the biggest task you can do first, then when that is done repeat the process, chose the biggest task you have time left to do and so one and so forth.

Naturally, the available time will shrink to the point that you’ll have to do the small stuff last until there is no more time left.
This method will force you to use your time in the most efficient way, although not the most pleasant.
Like I said it is the choice between cake and vegetables, goofing off or efficiency.
Your choice!

Wednesday, June 14, 2017

Fat Chance!

I grew up on a farm where everything was self-sustaining.
We grew our own food, we build our houses and made our clothing.
Everything was treasured and nothing was wasted.

The world still fights to feed its people.
Having enough to eat is still a main problem in many countries.
It seems ironic then that some people’s problem is having too much to eat.

When I came to the US in 1983 one of the many cultural shocks I experienced was the American food culture.
I have never heard of “dieting” before and obesity use to be a disease caused by a wacky metabolism. I knew only one obese child growing up and yes we call him “Fatso”
But he was the exception, a medical anomaly not the rule.

America is obsessed with its overweight problem.
You cannot turn on the TV or open a magazine without being bombarded by another miracle diet plan, diet food, diet drink, diet supplements or God knows what other diet snake oil they will come up with next.

Diet is a big business and dieting has become an industry and national obsession in America.
Let me tell you a little dieting secret you’ll never hear on Oprah:
Healthy, slim, normal people don’t diet!

To listen to all the so called “experts” that have lost 300 pounds tell you how to lose weight is like taking advice from a crack addict on how to stop smoking!
Overweight is not a problem. Overweight is a symptom, for God’s sake.
We do not suffer from overweighting, we suffer from over eating.

The problem is our dysfunctional relationship you have with our food.
To go on a diet is to replace our dysfunctional relationship with our food with an even more dysfunctional one!
That’s why diets do not work. Dieting is not a normal way of living.
Once again: Look at your normal friends. They do not diet!
Why are they then not fat? Because they have a normal relationship with their food.

Yes relationship. – Don’t give me that BS excuse: they have good genes.
I used to be a therapist and I dealt a lot with overweight people. The problem is always the same. People use food as a crutch.

Some people use it as a love substitute, lover substitute, sex substitute, self-esteem substitute, success substitute and so on and so forth.
Whatever we lack in our lives we substitute it with food.
Instead of getting what we really need in our life, we eat and that creates a false pleasure in our mind, a false sense of wellbeing.

Yes, it all starts in your mind.
So change your eating habits you have to change the way you think and feel about food.
Without that you’ll never lose weight.

You have to stop dieting and instead develop a healthy relationship with your food.
But trust me if your relationship with food doesn’t change, same forces that have made you gain weight in the first place will put your weight back and then some.

Building a relationship with your food has to start with the basics; like knowing your food.
Go to the farmers market and buy your own produce instead of going to a restaurant.
Cook your own food, control what goes in your body don’t let yourself become addicted to the fat, sugar and salt that oversaturates the processed foods.

Healthy people do not eat in restaurants, at least not in the restaurants you and I eat.
If you have enough money and price is not an objection you can buy anything, even healthy food but for the rest of us, the 99% as they say, money is not a luxury.

What makes the difference between the healthy normal weight people and the overeating crowd is the relationships we have with our food.
 Healthy people do not diet.
A diet works less than 1 in a 1000 and it is by pure accident, by chance – like gaining back your self-confidence once you see yourself slim in the mirror.
So if you thinking of starting yet another diet, think again at your chance to succeed.
Fat chance!