Friday, February 25, 2005

How Now Broken Vow

I breached my Spiritual Books fast today. When I got home from work, I felt uber-shitty. I felt separate and disconnected. I was angry at a few people and a couple of situations. I felt negatively influenced by outside forces.

So I sought solace in one of my favorite places: a book. And it turned out to be exactly what I needed to hear. I will return to the fast tomorrow. But today I have been blessed by the words of a saint.

Read this, memorize this, tattoo it on your forehead. I present to you the Buddha's teaching on love (the Metta Sutta):

He or she who wants to attain peace should practice being upright, humble, and capable of using loving speech. He or she will know how to live simply and happily, with senses calmed, without being covetous and carried away by the emotions of the majority. Let him or her not do anything that will be disapproved of by the wise ones.

And this is what he or she contemplates:

"May everyone be happy and safe, and may their hearts be filled with joy.

"May all living beings live in security and peace- beings who are frail or strong, tall or short, big or small, visible or not visible, near or far away, already born or yet to be born. May all of them dwell in perfect tranquility.

"Let no one do harm to anyone. Let no one put the life of anyone in danger. Let no one, out of anger or ill will, wish anyone any harm.

"Just as a mother loves and protects her only child at the risk of her own life, we should cultivate boundless love to offer to all living beings in the entire cosmos. We should let our boundless love pervade the whole universe, above, below and across. Our love will know no obstacles, our heart will be absolutely free from hatred and enmity. Whether standing or walking, sitting or lying, as long as we are awake, we should maintain this mindfulness of love in our own heart. This is the noblest way of living.

"Free from wrong views, greed and sensual desires, living in beauty and realizing perfect understanding, those who practice boundless love will certainly transcend birth and death."

(translation/interpretation by Thich Naht Hanh, emphasis mine)

Wednesday, February 23, 2005

I (Heart) Huckabees

The new film "I (Heart) Huckabees" is Trev Diesel's newest pick for movie of the decade. The movie was just released on DVD this week and I found it to be the most hilarious and enlightening movie to come out in a long time.

Don't let me fool you, though. The movie is not for everyone as it does, as Roger Ebert put it, "leave the viewer out of the loop." If you're unfamliar with existentialism, the inter-connectedness of the universe, quantum particles, envrionmental issues and/or meditation/deconstruction this movie may make you chuckle at times, but will most likely leave you wondering what all the hype is about.

It also has the most hilarious few minutes of comedy I've ever seen: the lead characters sitting around the dinner table, discussing existential philosphy with a group of subburban conservative Christians. ("We don't have to ask those questions, do we mom?")

Genious script. Genious dialogue. The perfect movie for people who can't help but ask the big questions and don't mind laughing at themselves for it.

Tuesday, February 22, 2005


Who'd have thought - here in little 'ol Indiana - we'd have one of the world's most innovative communities.

This place is freaking sweet. Coffee Creek Center. Here are a few bits of cool info from their website:

  • Streets and buildings designed for pedestrians make walking enjoyable, while bicycle routes are an integral part of street and landscape design.
  • Coffee Creek Center seeks to reverse the trend towards sprawl by concentrating development to create vital population density, and sets aside high quality natural area as community resources.
  • Buildings at Coffee Creek Center use advanced materials, equipment, orientation, daylighting design and energy analysis techniques to minimize the use of energy.
  • Building to minimize the use of non-renewable resources, encourage reuse and recycling of materials and use sustainably-harvested materials wherever practical.
  • Unbuilt areas are being restored to a pre-settlement landscape to minimize soil erosion and rebuild soil integrity, re-establish native plant and animal communities and encourage increased biological diversity.

My God! It sounds like heaven! I've gotta go check this place out.

Thursday, February 17, 2005

"How strange we should be here at all."

  • "Just to be is a blessing. Just to live is holy." (Rabbi Heschel)
  • "The privledge of a lifetime is being who you are." (Joseph Campbell)
  • "People usually consider walking on water or in thin air a miracle. But I think the real miracle is not to walk either on water or in thin air, but to walk on earth. Every day we are engaged in a miracle which we don't even recognize: a blue sky, white clouds, green leaves, the black, curious eyes of a child - our own two eyes. " (Thich Naht Hanh)
  • "How strange we should be here at all." (from "Freak Out" by 311)

When negativity creeps into my life, I try to remember one of these quotes. Indeed, the miracle is life itself. Just being alive is enough to blow your mind if you really consider it. Perhaps this is why Jesus chose not to entertain people's requests to produce miracles - if you come to expect the extraordinary, you'll never tune in to see the wonder and awe in the ordinary.

Monday, February 14, 2005

Yogi Skywalker and Yoda-ji

In college, I had a ritual of popping in one of the Star Wars trilogy VHS tapes every Friday afternoon and cleaning my room. Since I had to clean house this afternoon, I went ahead and put in my favorite of the three: The Empire Strikes Back.

I hadn't seen the film in a few years and am definately in a different place now than I was back in college. I knew, of course, that Yoda was the old, wise Guru but never really thought much about what he was communicating. Today was different though - for the first time I really observed the teacher/disciple relationship and the Wisdom he was imparting (not to mention the course in Hatha Yoga - see picture!!!).

I found this following quote very interesting and profound. Who says pop culture doesn't have anything good to offer?

YODA: A Jedi's strength flows from the Force. But beware of the dark side. Anger... fear... aggression. The dark side of the Force are they. Easily they flow, quick to join you in a fight. If once you start down the dark path, forever will it dominate your destiny, consume you it will, as it did Obi-Wan's apprentice.

LUKE: Vader. Is the dark side stronger?

YODA: Quicker, easier, more seductive.

LUKE: But how am I to know the good side from the bad?

YODA: You will know. When you are calm, at peace. Passive. A Jedi uses the Force for knowledge and defense, never for attack.

LUKE: But tell me why I can't...

YODA: (interrupting) No, no, there is no why. Nothing more will I teach you today. Clear your mind of questions.

Friday, February 11, 2005

After dropping my wife off at her workplace this morning, I began the 15-minute commute from her work to mine. To fill that time appropriately, I turned off the radio and began using my wrist mala. As I let the mantra "Om Mani Padme Hum" (which means, loosely, that God is like a precious jewel located in my heart) resonate repetitively I began to think about how - not only is God in the lotus of my heart - but God is within every person in existence. As I passed cars or pedestrians, I would imagine God sitting at their core.

That was until I pulled behind the red car.

On this car's back window was a sticker that said "Marriage=Man+Woman." Now, I'm fine if you want to hold that view, but it seemed very closed-minded and arrogant to make it into a bumper sticker and place it on your car. The minute my eyes hit this sticker, my lips proclaimed: "Jackass."

Hahaha. Here I was, repeating an ancient prayer about God in all beings and the minute I see someone I disagree with, I curse him like he's the scum of the earth. I didn't take it too seriously though - in fact I laughed at the irony of the situation.

And then all of a sudden understanding settled in - for I realized that within the driver was the essence of God too - and that given the same conditioning, environment he was raised in, and the circumstances in which he finds himself, I would probably be just like him and behave in the same way.

And in the giant scheme of things - the great Cosmic Drama - this man's "apparent ignorance" helped teach me something today.

So, there are either accidents or there are not.

Thursday, February 10, 2005

God in the Marketplace

Before the book fast, I was reading "Paths to God" by Ram Das - a book of reflections on the Bhagavad-Gita. In chapter 3, Ram Das speaks exclusively of Karma Yoga - the path to God through action/work. The entire chapter is perhaps best summed up by the following sentence:

"So the karma yogi is the person who uses his or her life to come to God by listening for the dharmic act, acting without attachment to the outcome, all the while knowing she or he's not the actor, anyway."

This is indeed the formula for turning the home and the workplace into a spiritual practice.

The goal is therefore not to find a "more spiritual" job (like, in my case wanting to teach hatha yoga full time) but to bring spirit into the very "ordinary" work and homelife. In something as simple as a routine daily task at work, can I listen to Divine Order for instruction, act without anxiety, selfish motives or other expectations, and release any sense of ego "me-ness" in the action? If so, I have found a path to God. If not, it will not be found in a "more spiritual" profession either.

Wednesday, February 09, 2005

The Paradoxical "Softer Side" of Diesel

Due to my wife's constant commenting on how I take myself too seriously, I have decided to create a supplemental blog entitled "...on the other hand." I will continue to use this blog (The Sound of Diesel Musing) to share thoughts and reflections on spirituality, sadhana, and yoga. But if you're looking for some "light reading" and aren't afraid of being offended by the more darkly humorous side of my life, then check out "...on the other hand."

And if you don't think humor has a place in the life of of a sadhak or yogi, see the stories of Krshna's playfulness, Hanuman teasing the saints in the forest, or just open your eyes to the comedy of God that is all around and within us. Cheerio!

Tuesday, February 08, 2005

40 Days Sans

I've never been one to give up something for Lent, but this year I've decided that its something I need to do.

Starting tomorrow until March 27th I'm giving up books. Not every book - I still plan on studying my Anatomy for Hatha Yoga for example - but I'm swearing off any spiritual and religious readings and scriptures until after Easter.

I'm realizing that I am becoming a slave to them... somehow believing that I'm having valid spiritual experiences by reading someone else's words rather than actually experiencing these truths myself. I am (in Montaigne's words) "overwatering the plant." While, Jnana Yoga is the path to God through WISDOM and it indeed takes knowledge FIRST to become Wisdom, one can very easily stop at Knowledge. This is what I have done. I keep accumulating books and thoughts and concepts but very rarely actualize these truths in my life.

I have started a private journal to record my own experiences and to reflect on my sadhana (spiritual practice). I may share some of my entries in the future, but I cannot promise anything for the minute I have an audience, I know that my writing changes (if even slightly). The ego is a wiley bastard.

I'm writing this post publicly not for praise but because I want to have my intentions "out there" that I might have some accountability.

Wednesday, February 02, 2005

The Smell of Yeast Proofing

One of my favorite Sabbath rest activities is baking bread. About 6 months ago I decided to bake a loaf of yeast bread by hand (no bread machine) just on a whim.

Since that time, I've spent numerous free days and evenings baking up various golden loaves. This past Monday I experimented with Challah (see picture) - a jewish, braided egg-bread. Although I wasn't overly impressed with its taste, it's not so much the final product but the process that's most refreshing and renewing:

Kneading the elastic dough by hand, smelling and seeing the yeast proofing in warm water, punching down the inflated dough that has been rising for 2 hours, catching the most wonderful aroma that is billowing out of the oven and filling the house with tones of fresh baked bread...

It brings a smile, develops mindfulness and is the perfect way to spend a few hours.