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September 2010

Post image for Do You Make a Moral Issue Out of Being Inconvenienced?

I think I inherited it from my Father’s side. Nothing makes me lose my mind more than when I’m walking through the mall and somebody steps out of a store right in front of me and walks slowly. Why didn’t they look? I would have looked. I do look.

It might only take less than two seconds for me to skirt around and resume my regular mall-cruising speed, but that’s enough time to make my eyes harden and my teeth clench. It’s enough for my mind to start getting self-righteous.

If I’m not careful, I end up in an internal dialogue about certain basic courtesies people should uphold in public, or maybe a half-daydream about how the oblivious lady in front of me must live a life of total obliviousness, wandering into busy streets or onto active construction sites, all without a clue that she may be affecting people’s lives with her deplorable lack of awareness. In either case, I end up feeling agitated, and slightly better than her.

The basis of my internal rant always seems to surround how people ought to behave in public. In other words, I make a moral issue out of it.

In a situation like that, my distress seems to be that I am simply yearning for a world in which people don’t stand in the way on sidewalks or step out in front of people at the mall. But it’s really a clever self-deception; what I am really yearning for in those moments is a slightly easier version of my present moment — one in which there is nothing in my way.

Though I’m not always aware of it, my own personal inconvenience is what I’m really railing against, not some worldwide epidemic of rudeness. My objection is purely selfish, under the guise of a noble appeal for a better world. But I’m not really looking for a better world, only a moment that contains no difficulty for me — no oversight I must excuse, no mistake I must forgive. Read More

Post image for 28 More-Than-Just-Clever Remarks From One of History’s Great Smartasses

No one could turn a phrase like Oscar Wilde, but I think the truth in Wilde’s remarks is often overlooked because of how witty he made them.

Though he was known primarily for his wit, Wilde had a dramatic and difficult life, perpetually running afoul of society’s values, giving him some poignant things to say about humankind. It’s easy to have a quick laugh at an Oscar Wilde quip without recognizing the profound statement he is really making about human beings and their values.

The following are more than just snarky comments. Laugh, but don’t forget to think too.


1. Fashion is a form of ugliness so intolerable that we have to alter it every six months.

2. All women become like their mothers. That is their tragedy. No man does. That’s his.

3. What is a cynic? A man who knows the price of everything but the value of nothing.

4. A true friend stabs you in the front.

5. I am the only person in the world I should like to know thoroughly.

6. I like persons better than principles, and I like persons with no principles better than anything else in the world.

7. A man who does not think for himself does not think at all.

8. Children begin by loving their parents; after a time they judge them; rarely, if ever, do they forgive them.

9. As long as war is regarded as wicked, it will always have its fascination. When it is looked upon as vulgar, it will cease to be popular.

10. America is the only country that went from barbarism to decadence without civilization in between. Read More

Post image for The Art of Showing Up

Raptitude Experiment No. 8

I’m finally settled from my return to Canada, with a permanent apartment and a permanent job, so I feel ready to dig in and make some strides in the self-improvement department.

Self-improvement is about habit change, I know that now. But I have a poor track record for habit change. I have been ping-ponging between two different strategies, and neither has worked too well.

My old strategy was to summon all my enthusiasm, pick a day and try to change everything at once: begin exercising, meditating, staying organized, and practicing guitar every day. Usually I start this on a Monday and it lasts till about Tuesday.

It’s too much. There is too much of a sudden schedule adjustment, and the habits have a tendency to get in each other’s way. Any new habit makes ripples in your life that you can’t really predict until you’re doing it.

For example, if you’re in the new habit of working out with kettlebells after work, when you sit down to play guitar you may notice your hands are sore and tense, your mind is a bit dull, and it’s just not conducive to playing guitar. Your practice is an uninspiring one, and it’s getting late anyway, so you don’t do the next thing right either, if you get to it at all. Getting even the first day right is hard when you take on multiple new habits.

Many people suggest never trying to change more than one habit at a time. My problem with this is always the same: I have some initial success and then I can’t help but think about other habits I could be forming. I want to ride the momentum. If there are five or six habits I want to form, and I’m not allowing myself to begin on the second until I’m 30 days into the first, that means I can’t even touch some of those habits until I’m five or six months down the road, and that assumes that I’m successful in my first attempts.

I don’t know about you, but when I want to make a change, I don’t want to put my inspiration on hold for six months. In my life it seems I am either comfortable and complacent, or I want to make a dramatic change (a revolution!) in how I spend my time. Right now I want to make several changes at once, and I’m determined to find a way.

The Plan

I have a suspicion, and I’m going to test it out.   Read More

Post image for Who You Really Are (Pt. 2)

This is part two of a two-part post. Monday’s article explained that you are not your mind or your body, but the aware space in which your mind and your body (and everything else) exist. You’ll have to read the first part to understand the context of this post.

So if you are in fact the space in which all things happen, how come you don’t always notice this space? Why does it often seem like it’s just the things that exist? If the space is you, wouldn’t it always be apparent?

Not necessarily. Think about it: you are that space, so when you are not aware of that space, it only means the space is not aware of itself. But it can still be aware of the things happening in that space, without seeing what it is that is aware. It’s a major oversight, but it is also the normal state of human existence — complete identification with form, with things.

We usually don’t recognize the space in which the tangibles of our lives happen, so we figure we must be one of those tangible, perishable things, or some combination of them. The thing, or collection of things, that we normally think we are is called the ego.

When you lose sight of the space that contains all things (including your ego) you are lost in things. You have lost sight of yourself, and the play of things seems to be all there is. Things become supremely important, because they’re all you have.

That’s a shame, because all of those things are doomed by their very nature. They’re nice when they’re around, but they are fleeting and perishable. So it’s no wonder that when we become identified with things we feel a persistent uneasiness. They are all fleeting — very certainly, inarguably, on their way out, and some part of us knows that. When life is only a race to manipulate material things into the most preferable arrangement possible before you die, it feels like a losing battle. It is.

This is how most of us live, utterly identified with our thoughts, under the impression that life is nothing but things, and that we are nothing but one of those things. Read More

Post image for Who You Really Are

Okay, this post is the last thrust in our trip down the proverbial rabbit-hole, which so far has looked at what the ego is, and how the late Douglas Harding can help us answer that big, big question — who are you, really? This is part one of a two-part post.

I had no idea what I was getting into. Back in October, I arrived at an island retreat called Hollyhock, to take what I thought was a five-day course on Buddhism. I didn’t know we would spend those days in uninterrupted mindfulness, without speaking, and that we’d spend about six to eight hours a day in formal meditation.

After the initial welcome at the main hall, our teacher led my group up the path to our meditation hut in the forest. On the way there, he stopped us and told us to look up. It was a still and clear night, much darker than we city dwelling visitors were accustomed to. I had never seen stars like that.

“Please be aware,” he said, as we all stared silently, “that you are seeing.”

He repeated himself. I was transfixed on the stars, but I remember thinking, “Well, duh,” when his comment registered. Of course I’m aware I’m seeing. How can you see without being aware of it?

His comment echoed again in my head a moment later, and I realized what he meant. For the first time, I recognized that I was normally only aware of what I was seeing, and had taken for granted that I was seeing at all. My awareness had become preoccupied with the content of existence, not the fact of existence itself. Suddenly, it struck me as so peculiar that there was stuff out there to see at all, and especially peculiar that there was something present — me, evidently — to see it. I don’t know why it had never occurred to me there was anything odd, or at least curious, about this arrangement.

In that instant, the stars became more real, more imposing, though I can’t say their appearance changed. It was something like admiring a photograph of a tree, and then realizing you were looking at a real tree. This experience definitely had an effect on me, but I didn’t grasp its relevance right away. Read More

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