The gr8ful grind: August 2004

Let go of anger; It's an acid that eats away the delicate layers of your happiness

The reverse side has also its reverse side

Sunday, August 29, 2004

Changing the environment

I'm a political animal. I pay close attention to politics and have fairly strong feelings about certain political parties and politicians. I scour the editorial pages daily, I read political web sites like Preemptive Karma linked over there in the column to the right, I participate in the political process in my community.

Right now, the country is entirely polarized and I can see that the person I want to lose the presidential election is likely going to win. In a few months, the state legislature is going to meet. It's going to have an incredible funding crisis on its hands that's been festering and building for the last 3-4 sessions, but they've been unable to accomplishing anything because people are more interesting in winning than in helping, more interested in insuring power than in empowering people, more interested in clinging to their beliefs than in finding solutions. On both the state and national level, the extreme right and the extreme left have hijacked the issues and disembowled the middle. And it is in the middle that the real good gets done politically.

Frustration arises within me and I want to scream. This is somewhat in conflict with what I would like to achieve in my spiritual life, as letting go of anger, frustration, clinging to people, material things, ideas, beliefs and opinions is the way to generosityand compassion. Rather than just noting these feelings are arising within me and letting them go, I become a reactionary. I strongly believe being a reactionary is unskillful action, yet I am entirely unskilled at making the change.

So today, I sat at my kitchen table and just sat staring out the window, thinking about what I could do, personally, to make things different. We use to be able to have differences of opinion with each other, whether one be a GOP or a Dem, have decidedly different ways of approaching things, but still be respectful toward one another, still be ethical toward one another, still be able to work toward consensus. That's gone, or at least dormant these days. It's now full on attack mode for anyone who thinks different politically from our own way. Many good politicians can't really roll up their sleeves and get constructive things done because the extremists of their party (both parties) won't let them.

And I am no different. I find myself extremist on many issues politically and I am sorely disappointed in myself. I find myself falling into the trap of pointing my finger at the other guys and spewing hateful rhetoric I am convinced is the truth.

Lifelong habits die hard and it is difficult to simply recognize the anger and jealousy, let alone to make an effort to hold back the old familiar tide of feeling or analyze its cause and results. Transforming the mind is a slow and gradual process. It is a matter of ridding ourselves, bit by bit, of instinctive, harmful habit patterns and becoming familiar with habits that necessarily bring positive results—to ourselves and others. I seem to be less skillful at this than I was even a year ago as the political season gets deeper. No one escapes from their own culture. It’s hardwired in us, from birth onward. A consumer society is a consumer society. It may start with washing machines and air-conditioning, but sooner or later we consume each other. We need freedom from appetite.

So back to the kitchen table and the window. I don't know if I had a flash of Pay It Forward or what, but I went into this fantasy about contacting a decent legislator I know from the other side and ask him for coffee. I fantasized about telling him we need to make a fundamental change in working toward helping our city, state, country. That I realize he's from the other party, but now, before the election, before the legislative session, before anything else, let's bring some people with a general purpose of good and talk about what it would take for both sides to regain some common sense. I fantasized that if we could get two more and they could get two more, and then just really dedicated ourselves to working toward both sides being civil toward one another instead of having to be the winning competitor, that we could actually change things.

Am I suffering from delusion? I don't know. And I don't know if I have the courage, resoltuion, and most of all the energy to take what would be the first step of an incredibly difficult journey.

Saturday, August 28, 2004

Photo of the Day: British Columbia Parliament Building, Victoria, B.C., May 2004

Wednesday, August 25, 2004

The Wisdom of deCasseres

My studies in speculative philosophy, metaphysics, and science are all summed up in the image of a mouse called Man running in and out of every hole in the Cosmos looking for the Absolute Cheese.

Tuesday, August 24, 2004

The wisdom of Ram Dass

It’s very hard to grow, because it’s difficult to let go of the models of ourselves in which we’ve invested so heavily.

Monday, August 23, 2004

Photo of the Day: Portland, OR, skyline, Aug. 20, 04.

Sunday, August 22, 2004

The Wisdom of Lao Tzu

This is the nature of the unenlightened mind:

The sense organs, which are limited in scope and ability, randomly gather information.
This partial information is arranged into judgements, which are based on previous judgements, which are usually based on someone else's foolish ideas.
These false concepts and ideas are then stored in a highly selective memory system.

Distortion upon distortion: the mental energy flows constantly through contorted and inappropriate channels, and the more one uses the mind, the more confused one becomes.

To eliminate the vexation of the mind, it doesn't help to do something; this only reinforces the mind's mechanics.
Dissolving the mind is instead a matter of not-doing: Simply avoid becoming attached to what you see and think.
Relinquish the notion that you are separated from the all-knowing mind of the universe.
Then you can recover your original pure insight and see through all illusions.
Knowing nothing, you will be aware of everything.

Remember: because clarity and enlightenment are within your own nature, they are regained without moving an inch.

Saturday, August 21, 2004

Photo of the Day: Mount Hood, Oregon, Aug. 21, 2004. I like the amber sunlight the setting sun provides, as well as the little twirling cloud cap that is forming.

Friday, August 20, 2004

Photo of the Day: Sunrise over Hollyhock, Cordes Island, B.C., May 2004

Wednesday, August 18, 2004

Sorry, couldn't help myself

For those who come here to escape the awful polarity that the political is causing in the US these days, I wish to apologize for this post, but I was moved when I read it and wanted to post it. For those of you do not want to read post with a political subject matter, please click to a different site until another post arises.

Holy Terror
Religion isn't the solution -- it's the problem

By Sam Harris, Sam Harris is the author of "The End of Faith: Religion, Terror, and the Future of Reason," published this month. He can be reached at

President Bush and the Republicans in the Senate have failed — for the moment — to bring the Constitution into conformity with Judeo-Christian teachings. But even if they had passed a bill calling for a constitutional ban on gay marriage, that would have been only a beginning. Leviticus 20:13 and the New Testament book of Romans reveal that the God of the Bible doesn't merely disapprove of homosexuality; he specifically says homosexuals should be killed: "If a man lies with a male as with a woman, both of them have committed an abomination; they shall be put to death.

God also instructs us to murder people who work on the Sabbath, along with adulterers and children who curse their parents. While they're at it, members of Congress might want to reconsider the 13th Amendment, because it turns out that God approves of slavery — unless a master beats his slave so severely that he loses an eye or teeth, in which case Exodus 21 tells us he must be freed.

What should we conclude from all this? That whatever their import to people of faith, ancient religious texts shouldn't form the basis of social policy in the 21st century. The Bible was written at a time when people thought the Earth was flat, when the wheelbarrow was high tech. Are its teachings applicable to the challenges we now face as a global civilization?

Consider the subject of stem-cell research. Many religious people, drawing from what they've heard from the pulpit, believe that 3-day-old embryos — which are microscopic collections of 150 cells the size of a pinhead — are fully endowed with human souls and, therefore, must be protected as people. But if we know anything at all about the neurology of sensory perception, we know that there is no reason to believe that embryos at this stage of development have the capacity to sense pain, to suffer or to experience death in any way at all. (There are, for comparison's sake, 100,000 cells in the brain of a fly.)

These facts notwithstanding, our president and our leaders in Congress, many of them citing religious teachings, have decided to put the rights of undifferentiated cells before those of men and women suffering from spinal cord injuries, full-body burns, diabetes and Parkinson's disease.

Of course, the Bible is not the only ancient text that casts a shadow over the present. A social policy based on the Koran poses even greater dangers. Koran 9:123 tells us it is the duty of every Muslim man to "make war on the infidels who dwell around you." Osama bin Laden may be despicable, but it is hard to argue that he isn't acting in accord with at least some of the teachings of the Koran. It is true that most Muslims seem inclined to ignore the Koran's solicitations to martyrdom and jihad, but we cannot overlook the fact that some are not so inclined and that some of them murder innocent people for religious reasons.

The phrase "the war on terrorism" is a dangerous euphemism that obscures the true cause of our troubles, because we are currently at war with precisely a vision of life presented to Muslims in the Koran. Anyone who reads this text will find non-Muslims vilified on nearly every page. How can we possibly expect devout Muslims to happily share power with "the friends of Satan"? Why did 19 well-educated, middle-class men trade their lives for the privilege of killing thousands of our neighbors? Because they believed, on the authority of the Koran, that they would go straight to paradise for doing so. It is rare to find the behavior of human beings so easily explained. And yet, many of us are reluctant to accept this explanation.

Religious faith is always, and everywhere, exonerated. It is now taboo in every corner of our culture to criticize a person's religious beliefs. Consequently, we are unable to even name, much less oppose, one of the most pervasive causes of human conflict. And the fact that there are very real and consequential differences between the major religious traditions is simply never discussed.

Anyone who thinks that terrestrial concerns are the principal source of Muslim violence must explain why there are no Palestinian Christian suicide bombers. They too suffer the daily indignity of the Israeli occupation. Where, for that matter, are the Tibetan Buddhist suicide bombers? The Tibetans have suffered an occupation far more brutal. Where are the throngs of Tibetans ready to perpetrate suicidal atrocities against the Chinese? They do not exist. What is the difference that makes the difference? The difference lies in the specific tenets of Islam versus those of Buddhism and Christianity.

There are now more people in our country who believe that the universe was created in six solar days than there were in Europe in the 14th century. In the eyes of most of the civilized world, the United States is now a rogue power — imperialist, inarticulate and retrograde in its religiosity. Our erstwhile allies are right not to trust our judgment. We elect leaders who squander time and money on issues like gay marriage, Janet Jackson's anatomy, Howard Stern's obscenities, marijuana use and a dozen other trifles lying at the heart of the Christian social agenda, while potentially catastrophic problems like nuclear proliferation and climate change go unresolved.

We elected a president who believes the jury is still out on evolution and who rejects sound, scientific judgments on the environment, on medical research, on family planning and on HIV/AIDS prevention in the developing world. The consequence, as we saw in recent elections in Spain, is that people who feel misled and entrapped by our dogmatic and peremptory approach to foreign policy will be unable to recognize a common enemy, even when that enemy massacres hundreds of people in their nation's capital.

It is time we recognize that religious beliefs have consequences. As a man believes, so he will act. Believe that you are a member of a chosen people, awash in the salacious exports of an evil culture that is turning your children away from God, believe that you will be rewarded with an eternity of unimaginable delights by dealing death to these infidels — and flying a plane into a building is only a matter of being asked to do it. Believe that "life starts at the moment of conception" and you will happily stand in the way of medical research that could alleviate the suffering of millions of your fellow human beings. Believe that there is a God who sees and knows all things, and yet remains so provincial a creature as to be scandalized by certain sexual acts between consenting adults, and you will think it ethical to punish people for engaging in private behavior that harms no one.

Now that our elected leaders have grown entranced by pseudo-problems like gay marriage, even while the genuine enemies of civilization hurl themselves at our gates, perhaps it is time we subjected our religious beliefs to the same standards of evidence we require in every other sphere of our lives. Perhaps it is time for us to realize, at the dawn of this perilous century, that we are paying too high a price to maintain the iconography of our ignorance.

Photo of the Day: Oregon coast near sunset. April, 2004


One of the new duties I have at work entails attempting to create a web presences for one of the departments. So while working with our Tech Dept. I used this site as an example of a template I might like to work with. Being a techie, the person with whom I was interacting punched a bunch of stuff on the code page for this blog and changed a bunch of stuff.

I spent several hours trying to remember how I originally had set it up and got a lot of it back. But I will likely be working on repairs and restoration for the next few days, so please bear with me. One of the peaces of collateral damage that occured was that I had trouble posting this morning. So I accidently posted a couple of messages twice. Now I can't remember how to delete comments, so they'll stay ther for now. Sorry.

Thanks for your patience and thanks for visiting The Gr8ful Grind.

Tuesday, August 17, 2004

Within you and without you

What you think is a problem comes from your own mind, what you think is joyful comes from your own mind. Your happiness does not depend on anything external.

Monday, August 16, 2004

Being in control

Being in control suggests an attitude of individualism and self-sufficiency. It assumes an influence that is not typically borne out by experience. A need to control distances ourselves from others, and we experience a sterile aloneness, missing the connection and mutual support offered by relationships.

Photo of the Day: Buchart Gardens, Victoria, B.C., May, 2004

Sunday, August 15, 2004

Conceptual projection

The role of our conceptual projection is deeply ingrained, much of it occurring either unconsciously or only semiconsciously. Because conceptualization is largely semiconscious, we usually are not aware that this compulsive and semiconscious interpretation is taking place. Instead, we tend to assume we are not projecting anything on reality at all, and that our basic sense of things is valid. There can be a lot of delusion in that.

Saturday, August 14, 2004

Creative awareness

Creative awareness lets you see the problems in your relationships more clearly. We often relate to people only on certain conditions; we ask them to fulfill our needs or to be exacatly as we want them to be. But the beauty of a relationship is that it enables you to open to another person, and that person to you. With creative awareness, you become more aware and appreciative of other people. You see them as they are, not as you want them to be. You recognize their good qualities but you also see their foibles and have space for those, too. Acceptance is the ground for love.

Friday, August 13, 2004

Nonjudgmental awareness

The greatest support we can have is mindfulness, which means being totally present in each moment. If the mind remains centered, it cannot make up stories about the injustice of the world or one’s friends, or about one’s desires and sorrows. All these stories could fill many volumes, but when we are mindful such verbalizations stop. Being mindful means being fully absorbed in the moment, leaving no room for anything else. We are filled with the momentary happening, whatever it is—standing or sitting or lying down, feeling pleasure or pain—and we maintain a nonjudgmental awareness, a ‘just knowing.’

Photo of the Day: This isn't really a photo. It's my first attempt to creat digital art using Pain Shop Pro software. So it probably shoudl be called artwork of the day or some such thing.

Wednesday, August 11, 2004

Photo of the Day: Waterfall along the MacKenzie Highway, High Cascades, Aug. 8, 04

Lost Sailor

The compass card is spinnin'.
The helm is swingin' to and fro.
Ooh, where's the Dog Star?
Ooh, where's the moon?
(Lost Sailor by John Perry Barlow and Bob Weir)

In a post last month, I asked if anyone knew the origin for the phrase Dog Days of Summer. Well, it turns out the origin deals with the Dog Star, Sirius, which appears just before the summer solstace. Mariners have for millenia used the star for navigating, as it is one of the brightest in the sky, except during parts of July when the sun obscures it. When it reappears, it's known as the dog days of summer, usually early August.

And I feel as though I am certainly in the dog daze, a Lost Sailor with my compass spinnin'. Here I'm going to be exactly in between 50 and 60 in a month, I'm married to someone with whom I am not that close and we lead serpate lives, I'm far too active in my community, and when these activities are combined with a substantial increase in the number of responsibilities at work I've been given this summer, things can get pretty hectic. So I am currently finding myself adept at being alone in the midst of a crowd.

I had an outlet. After several years of drifting on a phantom ship too long on phantom seas, I had made a real connection with someone who shared many of my same interests. I was able to relate and be open with this friend in ways I hadn't been able to in quite some time. My mornings were begun with an exchange of email, which frequently was continued through much of the day, packages were exchanged, online fun was engaged occassionally, and venting/advise was frequently in play. I had someone with whom I could relate, escape, engage, debate, trust, teach, learn, and most importantly connect with. But I lost this valuable friend about a week and a half ago and am once again a Lost Sailor, here in the Dog Days of Summer.

At about the same time, it appears my wife has gone a little more whacko on me (my sense it's all part of the menopausal factor), increasing pressures at home. I am attempting, the best I can, to assist her as she deals with her own issues, although I am not sure she is listening. Sometimes it appears that she is more attached to her suffering than to letting it go and moving on.

And about the same time, the job responsibilities were significantly added to. While welcomed, this wasn't timely positive for me with all the other crap going on. With no escapism at home, at work, or on the computer now, I must deal with reality first hand all the time.

Karma is everywhere you're going to be, I guess. Luckily, I have my spiritual practice on which to rely and it seems to be helping a lot.

I never intended to allow this space to be a whine cellar, or venting vehicle. I was going to use it to be punny and erudite, wise and whimsical. This moment's reality supports theory regarding the delusion of expectations.

But you know what? I'm in a relatively good mood today and am going to attempt to keep it without grasping at it. Let's see where that star leads....

Never could read no road map
And I don't know what the weather might do,
But hear that witch wind whinin'
See that Dog Star's shinin',
I've got a feelin' there's no time to lose,
No time to lose!
(Saint of Circumstance by John Perry Barlow and Bob Weir)

Monday, August 09, 2004

By the numbers

My weekend by the numbers:

Logs on the fire: 26
Pieces of chicken: 5
Cups of chocolate-macadamia nut coffee: 6
Books finished (Bankok 8): 1
Number of books started (Gypies): 1
Peanuts eaten: 62

Photo of the Day: Walton Lake (OR), Aug. 7, 04.

Monday, August 02, 2004

Photo of the Day: I snapped this one on Fisherman's Wharf, San Francisco, Dec. 30, 2003


There was an article in my Sunday paper about the Aladdin-Ronstadt incident. The writer, Ben Wener, really got me thinking about how polarized we are right now.

He pointed out how all Ronstadt said was she dedicated the song Straighten Up and Fly Right to the "good folks at Enron" and later dedicated to the song Desperado to "the nicest, bravest, most patriotic man," meaning Michael Moore. The rest is history with spin. She just dedicated two songs and some people caused a real ruckus. It must be remembered that the show was billed by The Aladdin as a "Greatest Hits" concert when the entire Ronstadt tour, including the Vegas show, was with the Nelson Riddle Orchestra doing mostly old standards. So some people were pissed to begin with.

Those who were indignant claimed they were incensed with what Ronstadt said. She just dedicated 2 songs for crying out loud!!!!! When did we get so intollerant???? Since Rondstadt is a close friend to such political musicians as Jackson Browne, Bonnie Raitt, and CSNY who do many political events, why should they be surprised?

Ronstadt comes from the generation of musicians who were allowed a political voice, who were, infact, the voice of the struggle of a generation. Why should they be surprised? Why are they so intolerant?

Wener goes on to note it's not just the old, drunk Vegas vacationers, either. He mentions a concert in So. Cal. that was called Rock Against Bush and people booed NOFX's Fat Mike when, between sets he tried to provoke discussion of current events. All they wanted was music, not think.
What would John Lennon do? Imagine if he were alive and got shouted down for daring to state his opinion.

It's intolerable.....