A couple days ago I started a Podcast and I just posted Episode 1! I’m excited to share this with you all and I really hope you like it!
Here’s the show notes:
A couple days ago I started a Podcast and I just posted Episode 1! I’m excited to share this with you all and I really hope you like it!
Here’s the show notes:
There’s a line close to the beginning of J.R.R. Tolkien’s book The Fellowship of the Ring that reads; “It’s a dangerous business…going out your door”. I think that probably goes double for stepping outside of your virtual doorway. The internet is a treacherous terrain. For all its benefits and advantages, it is a fickle mistress. There can be a darker, more malevolent, side to the World Wide Web, a seedy underbelly if you will. Anyone who has ever posted anything knows that every tweet, every update, every comment, picture, video, etc., places one in a precarious position of vulnerability. It opens us up to danger, that is, it opens us up to a litany of responses and replies, not all which are positive or uplifting.
Yet, in a way I think all feedback is helpful, even the negative comments. I think we can learn something from everyone and everybody, even from the critics, the trolls, the detractors, and the haters. Sometimes we just have to look a little more deeply.
I posted a video on my YouTube channel called “A Disciplined Liberation“. One of the comments I received on social media suggested that I what I was proposing in that video was way off-base, totally wrong, and that I should start taking a much closer look at myself. That’s the condensed version anyway.
Look, I’d be completely full of shit if I said that I’m never bothered by negatively critical comments and remarks. Most of the time they serve as excellent reminders of just how unenlightened I can be. But, a strange as it may seem, I wasn’t really bothered in this particular case.
Actually, I it reminded me why I started doing this to begin with – as a way of documenting and sharing this process of self-reflection, self-examination, self exploration, that is, as a way to genuinely take a closer look at myself.
I’m someone relatively new to Buddhism, Zen, and formal meditation practice. My aim here is to ‘learn out loud’ and to report the entirety of this undertaking. These videos are glorified journal entries, recording what I’m learning, thinking, pondering, and experiencing as I’m learning it, thinking it, pondering it, and experiencing it. With that being said I am certainly not an expert on these subjects or any other subject for that matter. As Socrates said, the only thing I know, is that I know nothing.
I think this is why two of the most frequently used words and/or phrases that appear in my writing and my videos are “Maybe” and “Perhaps”. These two words represent what is pivotal to me. “Maybe” represents the mysterious magnificence of possibility. “Perhaps” points toward the latent power present within potentiality. Together they are the authentic exploration of a questioning curiosity. David Dark writes that “redemption…begins with the insertion of a question mark beside whatever feels final and absolute and beyond questioning”. He say that this “gives our souls a bit of elbow room, a space in which to breathe again, as if for the first time”. I prefer the open-endedness of a question rather than the fixity of an exclamation.
I’ll be the first to admit that, ultimately, I don’t know, and I’m ok with the ‘not-knowing’. I’m simply in the process…
In this video, I revisit the topic and subject matter from my previous video “A Disciplined Liberation”. In the aftermath of posting that video I had a lot of really interesting conversations about ‘discipline’ and ‘practice’. It made me realize that I didn’t do a very good job of communicating as clearly as I would have liked but, I also realized that I had more to think about and explore, and thus there’s more to say and talk about. I think discipline gets a bad rap, especially in conjunction with Buddhism and meditation. Sometimes it seems like its treated like a dirty word. But, it doesn’t have to be. That’s what I want to try to talk about here. I’m excited to see where the conversation goes. Enjoy!
Below you’ll find links to all the books and content I referenced in the video, as well as all the gear I use to make the videos. These are amazon affiliate links, using these links to purchase any of these items is an easy way to support the channel. Thanks so much!
Discipline Equals Freedom by Jocko Willink – https://amzn.to/2Rip2Nr
Extreme Ownership by Jocko Willink & Leif Babin – https://amzn.to/2RlwmrJ
Pure Land of the Patriarchs Zen Master Han-Shan of Pure Land Buddhism – https://amzn.to/2BGDOnA
A Buddhist Leader in Ming China: The Life and Thought of Han-shan Te’Ching – https://amzn.to/2SoC7lV
Gear I use:
Nikon D5300 – https://amzn.to/2s6zF89
Nikon 18-135mm Lens – https://amzn.to/2BMShhx
K&F Variable Neutral Density Filter – https://amzn.to/2Sm93Lz
Amazon Basics 50inch Tripod – https://amzn.to/2StDwrr
Boya BY-M1 Lav Mic – https://amzn.to/2rWHbC7
Blue Snowball USB Mic – https://amzn.to/2BLvyCL
ESDDI Softbox lighting kit – https://amzn.to/2Sj1uFz
ASUS ROG G751J Laptop – https://amzn.to/2Solarw
In all honesty, as selfish and narcissistic as this may sound, when I create content, I create it for myself, first and foremost. It’s about what I’m curious about, what I’ve been thinking about, what I’ve been reading, what I’ve been pondering and stewing on, what I’ve been fixated on and, more than likely, what I’m obsessing about. In other words, when I’m writing, filming, and creating I’m not giving a lot of thought to how you all are going to receive it or how you’re going to react and respond to it. (Hopefully that doesn’t make me sound like a complete asshole). Don’t get me wrong, I hope you guys like what I make, I hope you’ll enjoy it, and find value in it, and I make every effort to give you my best but, ultimately that’s not exactly my primary concern when I’m in the thick of the creating process.
If you watched the video, you know where I fall on the spectrum, at least where I fall at the moment. But, that’s not to say that those who disagreed with me didn’t have very valid and well thought out points to counter those that I presented in the video. And that’s what I love most about making videos and releasing content, the push-back, the counter-arguments that I didn’t see coming or didn’t anticipate. Often, its these kinds of engagements where the real learning occurs for me. It helps me to see the topic in a different way, from a different perspective, and in a different light. Sometimes it just highlights where I went wrong, where I was unclear, or where I didn’t communicate as effectively or as efficiently as I could or should have.
So I fucked up, and I don’t know what to do…So lets talk about it right now, come on let’s go.
So last week I posted a video called “Think Like a Beginner“. In that I tried to talk a little bit about this Zen Buddhist idea called Beginner’s Mind. Well, shortly after I posted that video I realized I screwed up.
Somehow, someway, a pretty important section of last week’s video ended up on the cutting room floor. Well technically that’s not accurate, It wasn’t really ‘edited out’ because I didn’t even put in to begin with. Here’s footage I missed:
In Japanese Zen there’s something called Shoshin or ‘Beginner’s Mind’‘. In essence, Beginner’s Mind is an attitude, it’s a way to approach things. It’s an attitude of open eagerness. It’s an approach of wonder and curiosity. It’s an attitude free of preconceived notions. It’s when we approach a subject or a task just like a beginner would – when everything is new, vibrant, and exciting.
Suzuki Roshi wrote a book about Beginner’s Mind, called Zen Mind, Beginner’s Mind. He says that “In the beginner’s mind there are many possibilities; in the expert’s mind there are few.” It’s not the beginner that’s limited, it’s the expert, and that’s really interesting.
Now, not including this segment is a pretty big fuck up, I totally missed it, I totally dropped the ball. I actually excluded the segment of me explaining the primary subject matter of last week’s video. So what do I do now? I don’t know…
On one hand I got pretty lucky, the video still maintained a good flow, it still conveyed a story, and it still made sense, and it still managed to make the point I was trying to get at. But, it still bothers me and I just don’t know what to do about it, I don’t know what the proper response is. Do I pull the video down, put in the section of video I missed, and re-upload it? Or, do I just sweep the whole incident under the rug, pretend like nothing happened, pretend everything was intentional, with no one the wiser? I don’t know…
From the beginning I said this channel is all about learning out loud and documenting the process. In some ways you could say that this idea behind Beginner’s Mind is integral to this channel. If I’m going to be committed to those primary goals, if I’m going to be committed to being a beginner, then that means all the mistakes, mishaps, failures, and shortcomings have to be included, they have to be documented and displayed as part of the process of learning out loud. In that regard, neither of the two responses: ‘denying’ the mistake or ‘fixing’ the mistake, seems to be truly in keeping with the goals of my channel. They both hide the mistake. They both make me look like I know the answer, they make it look like I know how to figure it out, they both make it look like I know what I’m doing. These are the limiting options of the ‘expert’s mind’. Neither honestly recognizes the fact that I just don’t know…
I think we feel this constant pressure towards knowing, this imperative to know. We’re obsessively attached to idea of knowing. It seems that the world is screaming that we’re supposed to know. A lot of the time we’ve even deluded ourselves into thinking that we do know. But, most of the time, if we’re really honest with ourselves we don’t know.
T.K. Coleman writes that ‘Knowing” can often be “a symptom that you’re too comfortable with the familiar, that you’ve organized your life around routines and relationships that don’t challenge you anymore. And if that’s the case, perhaps you’re better off seeking a situation where you don’t know what to do.” Coleman says that “Being a person of vision isn’t about having a clear set of guidelines and guarantees for every important scenario. It’s about being committed to your principles even if you’re unsure about where that leads or even if you’re unclear about how to make the proper adjustments. Sometimes you get the luxury of finding an answer, but not always. Sometimes you have to step up and create your own road map. The most rewarding decisions often come with a responsibility to improvise.”
There’s an idea in Korean Zen that’s very similar to the Japanese Zen idea of Beginner’s mind. It’s called Don’t Know Mind – how appropriate. Don’t Know mind is the radical Zen practice of openly admitting and embracing the fact that we don’t know. This adamant admission of not-knowing is not a shameful confession of a failure or a shortcoming. Instead, its a violent act of honesty and humility that liberates from the suffocating constraints of the experts mind, and the limitations of having to know, of having to have the answer.
Zen master Bon Soeng says that “this Not-Knowing actually gives us life. It gives vibrancy and energy to the world we live in”. He says that “We fill our minds with all this stuff, and it gets stale and dead.” But, “Not knowing is what opens us up and comes alive”.
The experts mind or the knowing mind says its either black or white, its this or its that, but the Don’t know mind opens us up to an infinite number of creative possibilities. The expert’s mind says you should know, it says that you should only do this, and that you should never do that. The Don’t Know mind says that all the ‘shoulds’ of expert knowing is a cage, and Not knowing is a rebellious opportunity just waiting to be explored.
Zen master Bon Soeng says that if we really live into this practice, “it changes everything”
In this video we talk about an Essay in the book “Manage Your Day-To-Day” by Steven Pressfield, an interview with Ian Leslie, and the Zen Buddhist idea of Beginner’s mind. Rough transcript below. Enjoy!
Hey I’m glad you’re here. One of the books I just finished reading is a book called Manage Your Day-To-Day. As I was thinking about that book and as I was weeding through some old articles I had clipped into my Evernote account I came across an article called “Why the Future Belongs to the Curious”. So as I was thinking about some of the passages in Manage Your Day-to-Day and as I was thinking “Why the Future Belongs to the Curious” I started thinking about this Zen Buddhist idea called ‘Beginner’s Mind’…again. If you follow this channel at all I’ve done a couple videos on beginners mind already, so let’s talk about it…again.
In one of the last essays towards the end of the book Manage You Day-To-Day, called “How Pro Can You Go?” Steven Pressfield says the following:
* “A professional is someone who can keep working at a high level of effort and ethics, no matter what is going on—for good or ill—around him or inside him.”* “A professional shows up every day.”
* “A professional plays hurt.”
* “A professional takes neither success nor failure personally.”
* Here’s the best part – “A pro gets younger and more innocent as he or she ascends through the levels. It’s a paradox. We get salty and cynical, but we creep closer, too, to the wonder. You have to or you can’t keep going.”
I love this idea of continually creeping closer and closer to wonder, despite the possibilities of being jaded and despite the possibilities of cynicism, and a persisting youthful innocence that actually continues to increase as we progress instead of decreasing as we move forward. This is what made me think about “Beginner’s Mind” …again…
In his book, Zen Mind, Beginner’s Mind , Suzuki Roshi writes that “In the beginner’s mind there is no thought ‘I have attained something'” Beginner’s mind isn’t primarily concerned with achievement or attainment, it’s free of attachments, expectations, judgments, and prejudices. Suzuki Roshi goes on to say that “Because your attainment is always ahead you will always be sacrificing yourself now for some ideal in the future”. In other words, beginner’s mind is so concerned with the wonder and the curiosity of this present moment that it refuses to relinquish anything that exists within this present moment for something that may or may not be there in future.
In my opinion, I think there’s something actually kind of punk rock about beginner’s mind, there’s something kind of guerrilla about this approach. The Russian novelist, Vladimir Nabokov said that “Curiosity is the purest form of insubordination.” I love that! I think there is something very insubordinate about the wonder and curiosity found in Beginner’s Mind; it refuses to see anything as average, mediocre, or mundane. It refuses to let anything become routine. It refuses to let anything slip into the status quo. It finds an element of newness and freshness in everything it encounters. And that’s because everything in every moment is new, fresh, and different if you really think about it.
The ancient Greek philosopher Heraclitus said that “No man ever steps in the same river twice, for it’s not the same river and he’s not the same man.” Everything is different. Everything is always different. The river is constantly changing. The man that steps into the river is constantly changing. Beginner’s mind recognizes the newness of every moment. I think this is why Suzuki Roshi says that the “real secret of the arts: always be a beginner.”
So, like I said earlier, I was going through some old articles that I had saved in Evernote and I came across an article called “Why the Future Belongs to the Curious“. It’s an interview with a writer named Ian Leslie. In the article Leslie explains that there are two different kinds of curiosity; Diversive Curiosity and Epistemic Curiosity. Leslie says that everyone is born with Diversive curiosity. It is curiosity at its most basic. Its a child like craving for bright shiny newness. But, he say that “The trouble with diversive curiosity is, unless it matures into something deeper, it just continues as a futile search for the next shiny thing.”
And, then there’s Epistemic Curiosity. “‘Epistemic curiosity’ is what happens when curiosity grows up.” Leslie say that “The more we learn, the easier it is to be curious, and the more powerful our sense of epistemic curiosity can become, because new knowledge hooks onto the networks of existing knowledge in our brains.” He goes on to say that “It’s all-too easy to fall back on old routines and habits and not to bother learning. Epistemic curiosity encourages you to work at it and learn new things.”
I think the way Leslie talks about Epistemic Curiosity is exactly what I mean when I talk about the Zen idea of Beginner’s Mind. Like I said this isn’t the first time I’ve talked about Beginner’s Mind. I’ve mentioned it in two previous videos; one is titled “Curiosity, Authenticity, & Beginner’s Mind” and the other is kind of a follow-up to that video called “Congruence“.
Maybe I keep thinking about beginner’s mind because I’m still a beginner on a lot of levels. Even though I’ve studied Buddhism academically, I’m still a beginner when it comes to Zen and Buddhism on a personal level. Even though I’ve been meditating for the past couple years, I’m still a beginner. i still have a lot to learn about it. When it comes to YouTube, and making videos – shooting, editing all that, I’m definitely still a beginner. I have no idea what I’m doing. But, If I’m being honest, over the past few weeks I’ve been going through something of a dry spell. I can feel myself getting a little dull, a little cynical, a little jaded. If nothing else maybe this video is a reminder for me to remember Beginner’s Mind, to remember to capture that attitude of thinking like a beginner, to remember to utilize that approach of Beginner’s Mind, and see the freshness and newness in everything, to keep my wonder and curiosity alive.
Maybe you needed to hear that too…
I want to encourage you to creep closer, and close, and ever closer to your curiosity, welcome home you’re wonder, and think like a beginner…
In this video, as a pretty skeptical dude studying Zen, I try to talk about ‘religion’, what it is and what it means. Transcript Below! Enjoy!
What is religion? Why do religions exist? What characteristically typifies religion? Every analytical study or examination of religion begins with such questions. Yet, in many ways, such questions implicitly, always-already, contain the answer within them. Perhaps, one could say that the question is, itself, the answer, or that the answer is, itself, the question. That sounded kinda deep and cryptic didn’t it? Pretty Zen right? Just me…Anyway, lets talk about it right now, come one let’s go!
As I’ve mentioned in a few of my other videos, even though I’m a Zen student, and even though I have Bachelors in religion, I still have a fairly tenuous relationship with religion, and even the word ‘religion’ still makes me a little uncomfortable. Jacques Derrida once said “I rightly pass for an atheist”. I love that quote because I think it describes me pretty well.
This isn’t my way of launching into the “I’m spiritual, not religious'” cliche, to be honest I think I’m probably even more uncomfortable with the word ‘spirituality’.
Hey, don’t get me wrong, I don’t have any problems with that “spiritual, not religious” stance. If that’s you, if that works for you – awesome – own it. I’m just saying its not me.
Regardless, the brute facticity of the matter is that Zen and Buddhism are considered religions, and meditation is considered a spiritual practice. I’m involved in all three and if you are too, well we’re going to have to deal with ‘religion’, we need to look at and talk about honestly, and, maybe even find a way to get comfortable with it.
I’m in the process of finishing my Master’s degree, and I just started a new class this semester on the History of Religion. Any good study of Religion, before it can get its hands dirty in the detailed particularities of each specific religion, has to begin with the type of questions raised in the intro of this video – ‘what religion is’? “what are its characteristics?’ etc. In other words, the study of religion begins with questions…
The study of religion begins with questions because religion and the religious life begins with questions, because to be human is to be full of questions. This is why most of my videos begin with a question, not because I have the answer, or because I’ve found the answer but, because I have questions, and usually in the process of researching and examining a question what I actually find are more questions.
In his book What is Zen? Norman Fischer explains that “Religion engages the large questions: Who are we? Why are we born? Why do we die? What is death? What is the good life?” (59). According to Fischer religion is the emergent result of existential questioning. As such, Fischer goes on to say that “Religion provides practices…that help us cement our hearts to such questions, giving our lives a sense of ultimate grounding” (59). Religion is what William James calls humanity’s “total reaction” to life’s big questions (James, 35). In other words, religion is the name given to the set of varying strategies systematically utilized in humanity’s phenomenological absorption with the large questions of existence.
Yet, Fischer makes another pivotal point to consider, he says that “Religion cannot actually give us answers to such questions; rather, it gives us ways to grapple with them together, in communities that include not only living friends, but practitioners from the past, whose words and deeds still inspire us” (59). Said another way, religion’s modus operandi is in providing one with techniques for living in engagement with the questions, strategies and practices for mindfully sitting with these questions. Here, the emphasis seems to be placed on the ‘question’ rather than on the ‘answer’, or, more specifically, the process of actively wrestling with the questions is of greater import than the answers.
I believe deliverance begins with questions. It begins with people who love questions, people who live with questions and by questions, people who feel a deep joy when good questions are asked…When we’re exposed to the liveliness of holding everything up to the light of good questions…we discover that redemption is creeping into the way we think, believe, and see the world…a redemption that perhaps begins with the insertion of a question mark beside whatever feels final and absolute and beyond questioning, gives our souls a bit of elbow room, a space in which to breathe again, as if for the first time (14).
What does it mean to study religion? What is it that one studies when one studies religion? In many ways, it seems that the study of religion is the anthropological and sociological study of the specific ways in which various cultures at various points in history have grappled with the big questions. And what does it mean to be religious? Maybe part of what it means to be religious is being devoted to the practice of mindfully asking and grappling with ever bigger questions…