I love lightning. One of my earliest memories is looking out a window, watching a lighting storm from my mother’s lap.

In Southern California, land of endless sunshine, lightning was rare. The weather was fantastic but boring. So perhaps it’s just the contrast, but one of my favorite things about Buenos Aires is the weather.

Summertime in Buenos Aires means the air gets unbearably hot and heavy with humidity. But some evenings, at the end of one of these smothering days when you just sweat for hours and the skies are motionless, at around 9 or 10 at night, a sudden wind will begin to gust crazily. And within minutes it’ll be pouring rain, lightning forking across the sky.

Here’s some video* I took from the balcony of my last apartment, in December 2011.

 

“This life of separateness may be compared to a dream, a phantasm, a bubble, a shadow, a drop of dew, a flash of lightning.”  – Buddha

“I roamed the countryside searching for answers to things I did not understand. Why thunder lasts longer than that which causes it, and why immediately on its creation the lightning becomes visible to the eye while thunder requires time to travel. ”  – Leonardo da Vinci

“Genius unrefined resembles a flash of lightning, but wisdom is like the sun.”  – Franz Grillparzer

“Bring in the bottled lightning, a clean tumbler, and a corkscrew.”  – Charles Dickens

“Electricity is really just organized lightning.”  – George Carlin

*This video was my first-ever video edited using iMovie! Well, first completed video anyways. I started a Burning Man one, but I really have no idea if I will ever finish it due to the massive amounts of footage and photos I took… 

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Who Are You… Really?

January 12, 2012

So I’m still trying to figure out how to follow up the Death post… the response was incredible, and filled my heart with love. Thank you to everyone who sent love, I can feel it.

While wrestling with the draft for my next blog post, I came across this mind-blowing video:

This is pretty much the deepest fuckin’ video I’ve ever seen. I get the feeling I’ll be spending the rest of my life trying to live the truth spoken here.

And don’t you just want to BREATHE that air!?!

“You are free. You are whole. You are endless. There’s not bottom to you, no boundary to you. Any idea about yourself appears in you, and will disappear back into you. You are awareness and awareness is consciousness. Let all self-definitions die in this moment. Let them go and see what remains. See what is never born and what does not die. Feel the relief of laying down the burden of defining yourself. Experience the actual non-reality of the burden. Experience the joy that is here.”

“Liberation can only be gained by practice, never by mere discussion.” -Goenka

It’s been hard to write about my Vipassana experience, mostly because the point of Vipassana is the EXPERIENCE. Not the words, not the description, not the intellectual discussion.

So, for all of you who are curious about my experience, I say:

Go. Experience it for yourself.

Here is a list of centers in North America: http://www.dhamma.org/en/bycountry/na/

The 10 day retreat is free. TOTALLY FREE. Your lodging and food (actually, quite good food!) is included. And at the end of the retreat, there’s no pressure – there’s no long guilt-inducing speech to get you to donate; there’s no one looking at you expectantly, holding a bucket. I was actually quite surprised.

The 80 centers worldwide make enough money to continue providing free retreats because the people who experience Vipassana realize the value it holds; so they donate for the next person that will be helped by learning this meditation practice. You don’t need to know how to meditate to go. Though it probably makes it more difficult, there were people there who had never meditated a day in their lives.

I understand that 10 days seems like a lot. You’re too busy, you can’t afford the time off of work, you don’t think that you can go for 10 days without talking. But when 10 days is compared to the 50 or so years you have left of you life – 10 days of 18,250 days, assuming the 50 years – 10 days is a small price to pay for the opportunity to learn how to end your own suffering.

Vipassana is not a religion. It’s not a cult. It’s a practice. On the Vipassana retreat you have 10 days of training in the purest form of meditation that was taught by the Buddha, maintained by a small number of monks in Burma over the past 2500 years. It’s not sectarian – Buddhists, Hindus, Catholics, Baptists, Muslims and Atheists can practice Vipassana meditation. It holds no conflicting beliefs with any religion, and it’s actually very scientific, which is interesting since it was created a few thousand years before the dawn of modern science. Vipassana teaches you to objectively observe your experience of reality, without judgment or reaction. You experience reality through your body. You THINK about reality through your mind, but you can actually only EXPERIENCE reality through the senses of your body.

Two of the main causes of suffering are cravings and aversions. Addictions/desire and fear/hatred. But there is a greater truth than this, and that is that all things are impermanent. All cravings and aversions are impermanent. Your body is impermanent. Every experience you have, every thought you have, is impermanent. You experience the truth of impermanence through experiencing the impermanence of the sensations of your body, and during Vipassana meditation you practice not reacting to these sensations; they’re impermanent anyways. Over time, this leads to equanimity. Peace. That one thing that every single human wants, deep down. Peace.

The 10-day silent Vipassana meditation retreat was one of the most profound experiences of my life. I loved being in silence. People doubted I’d be able to go 10 days without talking, but that part was easy.

During 10 days of silence – no conversations with anyone else, no eye contact, no input from books or tv or the internet, no cell phones, no nothing – you really get to know yourself. The clarity is incredible. You get to observe the insane workings of your own mind. And that’s the funny thing – we’re all insane. One definition of insane is “in a state of mind that prevents normal perception.” We don’t actually perceive reality, we perceive what our minds think about reality.

One realization I had the first day was that I have an image of everyone I know in my mind, and I talk to them in my head. All. The. Time. I’m either having a conversation with someone I know, planning in advance what I’ll say to them next time I talk to them, or I’m narrating a blog in my head.

If you don’t think you have this voice in your head, it’s because you’re not aware of it. Either that or you’re enlightened (Congratulations! 😉 ). I became aware of the continuous narration in my head when I was around seven years old. We all have this voice in our  heads – the voice of the ego that creates the story of our experience. It is in response to this story that we react – not the objective reality of situations, but the story that we create in our minds – ie this event/person is good/bad/right/wrong, this should have happened, this shouldn’t have happened, I didn’t do that right, I’m not good enough, I deserve more, etc etc.

During the Vipassana retreat I also met my shadow side. I got to observe how arrogant I can be, how critical, judgmental, and angry I can be. I was given the perfect opportunity – the girl bunking next to me was a drug addict/bulimic, and though part of me felt like I ‘should’ have been compassionate towards her, I was pissed because she’d make noise all night eating and snorting things, vomiting in the bathroom, and then I could hear her snoring behind me during the meditation periods. Prior to this retreat I knew that I had shadow sides, but when in silence they get so much LOUDER; it becomes incredibly, painfully, embarrassingly clear.

One of the things that appeals to me most about Vipassana is that it’s a practice for daily life. It is a tool which, if used, will actually change you, and make your life better. It teaches you to observe, question, experience, and come to your own conclusions. This appeals to me in a way that no religion ever has, since most religions rely on dogma, ideology, blind faith, rites and rituals; not actual work towards making yourself a better person.

I want freedom. Not the illusion of freedom that is provided by a democratic government or the choices of capitalistic society; the true inner freedom of not being controlled by fears or addictions, cravings or aversions. I have been seeking freedom, and the resulting happiness and peace, since I can remember; around 4 or 5 years old, I remember deciding that I wanted to be Happy when I grew up. Not a Doctor or a Teacher or a Veteranarian; just Happy. I have explored many paths, read and discussed and tested many things. Vipassana resonates as being the truest path to freedom and happiness of anything I’ve found. I think it’s because it’s so simple, so personal, so direct. It’s just you. Within you is everything you need. So simple, and so true.

http://www.dhamma.org/en/bycountry/na/

Deep down, you know.

June 11, 2010

Every morning, either while I’m walking around my gorgeous green hood or while I’m driving to work along tree-lined streets, I listen to one of Brian Johnson’s 20-minute Philosophers Notes. I love these things. Brian has read and digested 100 of the best personal growth books – books on philosophy, spirituality, psychology, wealth, discipline, etc. by authors like Nietzche, Deepak Chopra, Emerson, Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi, Wayne Dyer, Joseph Campbell, Eckhart Tolle, Martin Seligman, Dale Carnegie, Stephen Covey, Rumi, etc. He pulls out the juiciest bits from each book and presents them in a way that’s succinct and relatable.

So every morning I hit “shuffle” and get a random note. Today’s was The Power of Your Supermind, by Vernon Howard. Synchronystically, Vernon is big on authenticity and integrity, which I was addressing in yesterday’s blog. Here are a few awesome Vernon quotes:

This one is powerful:
“The genuinely spiritual person is one who has lost all desire to be anyone but exactly who he is, without labels and without apologies. He is what he is and that’s all there’s is to it. Such a man is undivided, uncomplicated and contented.”

“To be real is to be spiritual. A cat is normal because no one has fixed him with a neurotic notion that he should be a tiger. A man loses neurosis when he is what he is.”

“You know what is right. Deep down, you know. The battle between your true wisdom and the counterfeit wisdom of society is what causes frustration. Refuse to compromise with what you know is right—with what is right for you.”

“Never sacrifice your inner integrity to anyone, anytime, anywhere.”

“Don’t look for someone in whom to believe. Believe in yourself. The only authentic authority is your own original nature.”

“No one can tell you what is right for you except for yourself. So start telling yourself what to do. If you blunder for ten years while thinking for yourself, that is rich treasure when compared with living these ten years under the mental domination of another.”

“How true are you to yourself? That is the degree of your contentment.”

“If your grand purpose in life is to wake up, then whatever happens to you is good, for it can prod you into self-awakening.”

“Is the beam from a lighthouse affected by howling wind and rain? It remains perfectly steadfast and unaffected by the storm. Your true self is like that. Nothing can ever harm you once you are consciously aware that it is so.”

And a last one from Tony Robbins:
“The strongest force in the universe is a human being living consistently with his identity.”

Song of the day: Tyler James – Why Do I Do

Great voice, great lyrics, fun bouncy bumpy circus sound. Found this song on a random “House Mix” in my iTunes; no idea who did it (maybe Mes?) but there’s a remix out there that sounds awesome on the dance floor too!

“Why do I do I get on the same old ride?
Why do I do the things that I know ain’t right?
Why do I do I trip on the same old lines?
Why do I do that to myself, oh why?”

Good questions to ask oneself…on a daily basis. 😉

That lovable fatty the Buddha said:
“When you realize that something
is unwholesome and bad for you, give it up.
And when you realize that something
is wholesome and good for you, do it.”

Simple, direct, easier said than done (especially since it’s the Buddha saying it). We find this so hard to follow because we were taught that we deserve to suffer, because we’re not good enough. So we trip ourselves on those same old lines. It’s also because we’re afraid of change, of our potential, and of possible failure if we DO get out of our own way. The paradox is that when you’re living an authentic life, with integrity, there is no failure.

Another (much thinner) wise man, Gandhi, said: “Happiness is when what you think, what you say, and what you do are in harmony.”

Most unhappiness is caused by living out of integrity with yourself – making decisions that don’t gel with your beliefs, or with what you really want to do. Integrity – oneness, wholeness – ties into authenticity & honesty. You can only feel whole and complete if you’re authentic, the author of your life, and doing what resonates with your own personal truth.

So try to ask yourself these questions now and then, and get off the same old ride.

Today I saw a rattlesnake. I also saw Ghandi.

I got the day off of work since we didn’t get home from San Francisco until 2am…

(five hours each way…not bad).

So, per my usual, I took full advantage of the day off.

First up was a hike in Pacific Palisades. When you turn off of Sunset, if you go aaaall the way up, there’s a little parking lot & an entrance to the Temescal Hike.

I think Topanga joins around there too…anyways, the trail takes you to these rocks that I love called Skull Rock. Perfect for a bit of rock climbing/bouldering. Me on top of the rock (you can’t tell but there’s a 40 ft drop to my right):

Skull Rock has a little cave in it. After meditating on top of the rock for about 20 minutes, I climbed into the cave and found a notebook.

It contained about two months of people’s notes – one couple got engaged up there. Another girl had recently seen her soul mate die and had moved to LA. Another had missed his flight back to Hong Kong so had gone for a hike with his cousin. I liked this one, written by some hiker on my birthday.

Most people commented on how beautiful and peaceful it was up there – which it was. I saw only one person for the first hour and a half, and they didn’t see me since I was on top of the rock. If I was a mountain lion I totally could’ve pounced on their head and eaten them.

One thing I can assure you of is that we’re not having that missing-bee problem in the Palisades. Part of the hike takes you through a narrow path with tons of bushes and wildflowers on either side. And swarms of buzzing bees. It was a bit disconcerting, and I had to focus on staying calm, cuz I didn’t want the bees to smell my fear or pick up on my vibrations or…whatever it is that bees can do. So that part wasn’t very relaxing. The second thing that wasn’t very relaxing was that I almost stepped on a rattlesnake. I was walking around the backside of Skull Rock, intent on climbing another rock formation, when a fatty lizard, doing push-ups on a rock to my left almost at eye level, made a quick movement that caught my eye. I stopped and looked at him for a second. As I was stepping forward to continue on my way I looked down at the trail ahead of me just as a rattlesnake started buzzing his tail. Luckily he was a foot or two ahead and facing away from me; I froze immediately as he was already slithering away. No more rock climbing for me!!! Back through the bees and to the car!!!

On the way back I found this cool high-tech lookin’ dandelion; each seed had what looked like an airplane propeller on top.

So after the rattlesnake incident, I decided to stop at the Self Realization Fellowship Lake Shrine to calm down a bit. And to say hi to Gandhi.  Apparently he was buddies with Paramahansa Yogananda and a portion of his ashes are interred there.

“Life is an aspiration. Its mission is to strive after perfection, which is self-realization. The ideal must not be lowered because of our weaknesses or imperfections.”  – G-dhawg

I love the Self Realization Fellowship Lake Shrine. It’s like Disneyland for meditation. Or spirituality, or whatever. It’s just gorgeous and lush and peaceful. There are deities and shrines for five world religions (Christianity, Buddhism, Hinduism, Judaism and Islam). So it doesn’t matter what religion you are, or if you’re any religion at all (which I’m not).

Here’s the Christian rep (Joseph? St. Frances? I dunno who this is):

And Buddha, of course:

Me and some dancing, jazz-flute-playing god (Hindu?):

Some of the biggest mofoin’ koi fish I have ever seen in my life (and swan):



And the Windmill (which doubles as a temple):

After enjoying some more peace and greenery, I went to Ritual Adornments and bought beads for some of the Tibetan Prayer Wheel necklaces I’m making. Then I went to write for the iPhone app project; then grocery shopping at Whole Foods and Trader Joe’s before coming home to cook some veggies for dinner. I’m on day 5 of no alcohol, and day 3 of no caffeine or processed foods or refined sugars. Been a bit tired without the caffeine or sugar (and now I’m up late writing this post, so I’ll probably be a bit tired tomorrow), but so far so good!