Counting the Days

Today I am 20,517 days old.

From now on I am giving up on years.  I can’t relate to years.  I don’t live my life in years so why should I count by years?  I live my life in days.

I got this idea to count my life in days from Peter Russell.  I found out about him in the March edition of Ode Magazine.  And what a find! You know Ode magazine, right? If not, you really should!  It’s the magazine “For Intelligent Optimists.”

(Seriously.  That’s what it says.  I kid you not. “Intelligent Optimist” is apparently NOT an oxymoron!)

So, in the March edition of Ode (www.odemagazine.com) Peter Russell says this:

“It was something I started doing 20 years ago. It just struck me that the day is the more natural cycle of our life. We’ve got 70, 80, maybe 100 years, but 20,000, 30,000, or 40, 000 days to live on the planet.  It’s a whole different perspective and makes us value each day. When you look at your life in days, time seems to expand. It helps make me more present.”

I have to tell you though, I find counting my life in days kind of unsettling.  I figured out that if I live to be 90, that gives me a total of 32,850 days on the planet.  I’ve already used up 20,517 of them, giving me only 12,333 days left.

If days were dollars, my bank balance is only $12, 333.   That’s all I’ve got left to live on!

It’s kind of scary.  (Especially in this economy.)

But Russell is right.  It does make me value each day much more.

I needed to find out more about this guy so I checked out his website: peterrussell.com and now I am a HUGE fan!  This guy is very cool and very wise.

His website is vast; you could spend days there exploring all the neat (and disturbing) stuff he has amassed.

.

For one thing, you can put in your birthday and it will calculate your age in days.

You can also calculate your “Virtual Age.”  Just plug in your age (in years) and then answer some questions about lifestyle, diet, exercise and it will re-calculate your virtual age and life expectancy based on those answers.

My Virtual Age? 27  (yeah, baby!)

My life expectancy? 106 (giving me 18,173 days left rather than 12,333, which is good)

But what all this has made me think about is not just the quantity of days I may or may not have left, but what I can do with each one.

Like this one.  Today is Monday.  It’s 7 AM as I am writing this.  I’ve got 14 hours to deal with in this day.  It’s up to me how I live them, what I get done, what I prioritize, what I decide to eat, how I treat my physical body, what I feed my brain, how I relate to other people.

And you know what?  I can manage that.  I can manage the next 14 hours.  I can’t manage yesterday; that’s gone.

And I can’t do anything about tomorrow.

But today? I can make conscious choices today.

And I intend to.

Thanks Peter Russell!  You inspired me!

A Letter From My Self

This past New Year’s Eve I hosted a free Yoga Nidra class at my studio.  A whole bunch of cool people showed up, even though the day was bitter cold, and it had even snowed a few hours before, and the roads were very much less than ideal.  I remember I even thought of cancelling it at one point.

But I didn’t.

And all these cool people showed up: regulars, friends of regulars, and a guy I met in a store a few days before and invited.

After I guided them in, and then out of Yoga Nidra (which is a very deep relaxation, very trancey, very hypnogogic) I set them all up with pens, paper, envelopes, and lap desks and invited them to write a letter to themselves.

I asked them to channel their Inner Wisdom Guides, that voice inside them that has been with them since the day they were born.

That voice inside that knows why they were born, and what they were born to do, and is trying, desperately trying, to communicate that info, but can never get through because we are too busy, or distracted, or just stubbornly refuse to pay attention to it.

But now, in this slowed-down, trancey, receptive yoga nidra state, it might have a chance to be heard.

I told them to write, “Dear (their name here)” and let their IWG (Inner Wisdom Guide) take the pen.

When they were done, they were to fold their paper, put it in the envelope, seal it, address it to themselves, and give it to me and I would mail it to them on the first day of spring.

I did it too.

Yesterday, the first day of spring, my letter arrived.

First, I must say, it is very weird to get a letter from yourself.  There it is, this envelope among the other mail, and you recognize the handwriting immediately, (whaaa?), but it takes a few seconds to register, “Ahhhh,  the letter.”

I took mine to my Space Chair. As I opened it I could hear birds singing.  The night I wrote it, I heard nothing.  Maybe wind. Or cars driving slowly on snow.  What did I write that night?  I really couldn’t remember.  I was in a trance.

Here is part of my letter:

Dear Kath,

Think about your Commandments.  Not the “Thou shalt nots” but the the “Thou shalls.”

Thou shall be kind.

Thou shall look in the eyes of others and see there you own eyes.

Thou shall be focused of mind and strong of body.

Thou shall take care of yourself and of everyone you love.

Thou shall forgive.

Thou shall be patient.

Thou shall write thy book.

Thou shall write thy truth.

Thou shall create beauty and order in your surroundings.

Thou shall express gratitude daily.

Thou shall develop sweetness and kindness and focus and strength.

Thou shall practice incessantly, with reverence, for a long time.

Thou shall be an agent of change.

Thou shall expand the sphere of thy concerns.

Thou shall not worry about outer geography.

Thou shall travel deeply inward and that will take you everywhere you want to go.

Thou shall know thyself.

Thou shall be intense.

Thou shall be disciplined.

Thou shall pause often.

Thou shall love everything extravagantly!

I love you!

That’s what inspired me today.

Switching Operating Systems

Sometimes I find it helpful to think of my brain as a computer.  My body is the hardware, and I have an operating system like Windows XP, that runs all the software.

This morning during my meditation I kept asking myself: Who is watching these thoughts?  Who is interrupting them, noticing what is going on and then switching direction?

Who IS that?  What brain function DOES that?

And in the reflection that followed, I came up with this:

There are 2 predominate ways I seem to operate.

95 % of the time I run on “Auto.” I just run the default program.  I’ll call it Samsara 2.0.

I don’t know much about Samsara 2.0.  It just came with the computer.

It’s the default, the “No Brainer.”  (Literally.)  It’s just in there humming along, and I don’t even pay attention to it.  Normally.   It’s what I generally refer to as, “me,” or “just the way I am.”

Samsara 2.0 is basically my social conditioning, the way my parents raised me, the socio-economic situation I find myself in, the safe patterns of operating I’ve devised over the past 20,503 days of my life

But here’s the thing: Every once in a while during a meditation, I actually notice this programming. And when I do, it’s kind of a shock.

“Whoah,” I say to myself, “look at me getting all caught up in that story.  That’s amazing. There’s been a whole brain takeover.  I am running an epic of complete and utter fantasy and I am really into it! I’m totally believing it.  And not only that, I’m  trying to run all my relationships, and my life, as if that’s actually ME!

Man, I am really fucked up!”

But what is really the incredible part of this whole scene I just described, is that I was able to pull out of the drama in the first place. I was able, for a brief moment, to actually notice that it WAS a drama, and that I was running Samsara 2.0.

And who exactly did the noticing here?  Which program in there allowed me to pull out and notice the running of Samsara 2.0?

Clearly, I must have 2 operating systems available to me then, right?  Samsara 2.0 (the default) and another one I’ll call “Witness 1.0” (which is still in beta testing) -a kind of  “over-lord program” which notices the running of the other one.

And I have a CHOICE of which one to run.  All I have to do is remember (no small feat), then hit the drop-down menu and switch from Samsara 2.0 to Witness 1.0.

I am thinking that if I start to run Witness 1.0 more often, there is a good chance that, over time, Witness 1.0 could move out of beta and become my new default consciousness.

And that would be a great.

Because I am totally bored and disgusted with Samsara 2.0.  It has become viral.  It has infected my whole life, causing me to run outdated, not to mention demented, programs like, “Fear of Failure,” “Everybody Has to Like Me,” and “Procrastination Will Keep Me Safe.”

So that’s what I’m going to do for the next 100 days.  I’m going to start installing a new operating  system.  Check back with me in 100 days and I’ll tell you how it’s going.

Wish me luck.

Why Tim Ferriss Is Both A Genius And An Asswipe

I really want to like Tim Ferris (author of The 4-Hour Workweek), but I don’t.

I kinda think he’s an asswipe.

But he’s also a genius, and a lot of things in this book are so cool!  So inspiring!  So right on!

I’m going to tell you about 4 things I read (so far) that I love.  (I’m reading the Kindle edition so I can’t give you a page number, but I can tell you I am 43% finished.)

He says the opposite of love isn’t hate; the opposite of love is indifference.  When I read that, I went: “Oh god, yes.  Of course.  Indifference IS the opposite of love.  As soon as indifference moves into the neighborhood, all the love houses go up for sale.  And then, as they say, “There goes the neighborhood!”

The opposite of happiness isn’t sadness.  No.  The opposite of happiness is boredom.  Again, “Oh god. Bingo.”  I mean, not all the time, but most of the time it’s the truth.  How many times have I found myself unhappy, but not particularly sad either? (Many.) And the root cause of my unhappiness?  Boredom.

He says instead of asking yourself: “What do I want?” or “What are my goals?” ask, “What would excite me?” and then just go and pursue that.  Brilliant.

        It makes it so much easier to clarify things.  So I did it.  I asked myself: What would make me excited?  Answer: To publish a really kickass piece of writing that would help people feel more alive and enthusiastic about their own lives and make them want to share their gifts with others.

        What else would excite me?  To be able to talk about what I’ve found out about how to find one’s life’s work and how to do what you were put on this earth for (since I’ve managed to actually DO that.)

        Anything else?  Yeah.  To be in high demand as a change agent for this message. (i.e. get paid for it.)

        (That’s what I came up with in the first 5 minutes of asking myself that question.  Had I asked myself: “What are my goals?” I would probably be cruising the kitchen right now, looking for something salty and crunchy.)

        And the fourth thing I really liked is when he said that most people suffer from Adult Onset ADD: Adventure Deficit Disorder.  I got all gangsta at this point and started fist pumping the air, going, “Right on, Brotha!”  We DO have Adventure Deficit Disorder, and we need to fix that.  NOW.

          But here is why I don’t like Tim Ferriss:

          He wants to automate and outsource, and cut out meetings, and email, and face-to-face interactions, and still make a bundle. And he does it. But then what does he do with all this time he’s freed up, all this bundle he’s made?

          He goes and lives the most idiotic, pointless, stupid life imaginable. He enters tango competitions, and cheats his way to a boxing championship, and buys expensive shit, and travels to exotic places and spends his time rubbing coconut oil on his belly.

          I want to scream: “Dude! No!  Make a difference! Help somebody!  Team up with Greg Mortensen of Three Cups of Tea and figure out how to stop the collective insanity of this world, one little village at time!

          Or something.

          My only hope is that this book will land in the hands of someone who will actually use the time he or she saves by eliminating pointless activities, to do something truly honorable and helpful.

          Maybe someone like me?

          Space Chair

          I have a “Space Chair.”  Do you?

          Everyone needs a Space Chair.  Virginia Woolf claimed every woman needed a room of her own. I don’t really need a room, all I need is my Space Chair.

          My Space Chair isn’t something I ordered from Brookstone. It doesn’t give me a Shiatsu massage. It doesn’t vibrate me to orgasm. It doesn’t have speakers built into the headrest.

          My Space Chair has a lot of dog hair on it. I bought it at Pier 1 for $80. It’s a papasan chair, –you know, one of those bowl-like chairs college kids buy for their first apartments.  I bought the ottoman, too (always get the ottoman.)

          It’s in my bedroom. I sit in it to meditate. The dog likes to sleep on it at night so before I go to bed I lay a beach towel on it for her.  In the morning I take off the furry beach towel, and it magically transforms back into my Space Chair.

          I call it a Space Chair because it’s the place where I go to access “space consciousness.”

          “Space consciousness” is an Eckhart Tolle-ism. It’s short for that head space you get into when you ask yourself: “Who is watching this effed up “movie of me” that’s running nonstop in my brain?”

          The answer?  “I am.”

          “And who, pray tell, is this “I am” who is watching?”

          And that is the question that short- circuits the brain, and blows up the movie.

          That’s the question that doesn’t have an answer. That’s the question that starts the experience.

          And it is this experience that Tolle calls “space consciousness.”

          So that’s why I call his pet-hair-infested chair from Pier 1, my “Space Chair.”  It’s my teleportation device into space consciousness, and as such it’s the most magical piece of furniture in my house.

          My friend Joan Tollifson who I used to sit Zen with a long time ago, has a chair in her house she calls a ‘Bliss Chair.”  (She describes it in one of her books.  I think it’s this one.)

          It was her only piece of furniture for a long time when she moved to Chicago from New York. She placed this chair in front of her living room window and sat in it and just stared out the window.  Eventually the staring morphed into the “Bliss” state.

          You see, it’s not really the furniture that brings on these altered states (though the orgasmic shiatsu massage chair from Brookstone might), but it’s rather the ritual activities that are performed in these chairs.

          Joanie sits and stares and finds bliss. I put on headphones and listen to state-of-the-art brainwave technology to access my space consciousness.

          It’s all the same, and it’s all good.

          Everybody needs a Space Chair, I think.  Everybody needs a place to go and sit and ask the important question about who is responsible for this crappy head movie.

          And everybody needs the brain blow-up that results.

          Call this experience “Space,” call it “Bliss.”  Everybody, every day, needs to pull the plug.

          Don’t you think?

          “Zen Wrapped in Karma Dipped in Chocolate”

          I just finished reading Brad Warner’s latest, Zen Wrapped in Karma Dipped in Chocolate.

          It was the first book I read on my new Kindle and both the book and the reading experience were great.

          Brad Warner is a Zen master with a dopey job making monster movies, a circus-y family life, and a past life as a punk rocker.  (He is definitely not your typical Zen master–whatever image that brings to mind.)

          What inspired me was here was someone who clearly faces real world dilemmas every day; a guy who gets frustrated, aggravated, angry and annoyed, BUT at the same time, in the midst of the whole circus, can see it. He can see that it is a circus.  He says at one point:

          “You can’t function in society if you don’t involve yourself in the fictions society accepts about time. But you do so with the understanding that you’re playing a game.”

          And how is he able to do that? Involve himself in the time games society plays without being totally played by them??

          By having a practice he is committed to.  His is a long practice of daily zazen, but as I was reading I thought that it could be anything: yoga, tiddlywinks, exercise.  Anything you are ritualistically committed to.  Ritual commitments ground a person. They ground, they do not make you “perfect.”

          This is what I aspire to, and I know the recipe: daily, unwavering and committed practice.  Like my fave yoga sutra says:

          “That practice is firmly grounded when it is practiced incessantly,reverence, for a long time.” I.14

          That’s not only how Brad Warner can simultaneously live and witness his life, but how he can manage to write books about it.  He clearly must also have a writing practice in addition to his zazen practice.

          This is a very cool book.

          It inspired me today.