Japan

This post is inspired by the movie “Dark Waters” directed by Todd Haynes I saw the other night. Without giving too much away, the gist is about one single lawyer going up against the behemoth DuPont and the product they created Teflon. Teflon has a chemical called PFOA that has been proven to cause cancer and a number of health issues. And a well known sad fact PFOA is in nearly every human being on the planet thanks to this corporation.

Do you want to let the few live a life of power and money at the cost of so many millions of people. To not get angry, to not debate, to not speak out, to not call out power, to not tell the truth is doing a disservice to the world in which we live. I don’t care any more if I offend someone by stating the obvious truth. Just because an older person is going to most likely die before a younger one does not dismiss one from not being responsible. It’s irresponsible to let the narrative hijacked by the rich and powerful.

Average people are being hoodwinked into believing the narrative. It is an engineered form of creating a passive society. Using the mobilizing force of other much smaller issues and the money being spent to go up against the rich and powerful is a far more important pressing issue than many of the others. I do not mean to make light of the other issues, but priority is key. Otherwise, those other issues will no be around because we will not be around. I am motivated to action by writing about this.

I do my little part each and every day. A little fuck you to the man by participating as little as I can. This is done in little ways. I don’t own or drive a car. I ride my bike, walk or take the train. I don’t own a dryer to dry my clothes, just a washer and hang my clothes to dry. I only buy natural healthy food and I eat it all before going shopping again. I use small pocket hand towels to wipe my hands instead of using paper towels. I ask for mug cups when available at any of my fav coffee shops. I no longer work for corporate America. I minimize my news viewing to about twenty minutes a day, less than half of a soap opera, which it has become. And just like a soap opera I can leave the news for a long period of time, come back and very little has changed.

It is true we are all being sold a bill of goods that will come due in the coming decades. American’s are notorious for instant gratification and not planning for the future. And live a life of for the most part manufactured by fear. The irony is that the real fear is being played down and that is climate change and your loss of freedoms to name two of many.

There is more loss to come.

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So often we start something only to give it up in a short time. Whether a diet, exercise program or a creative endeavor like writing. It takes a certain kind of person to commit to something and have the discipline to see it through day after day.

We get in a certain kind of rut or habitual pattern that we do day in and day out that over time it feels impossible to step out of it. Or if we do, the rut is so deep, just as we feel like we have dug ourselves out, we slip back down into the old familiar patterns. We have all experienced this, myself included. It is frustrating to say the least.

To make matters worse we are hard on ourselves for having failed in the first place. We are the judge and jury for the crime, and with that internal dialogue we verbally punish ourselves. It is an uncomfortable feeling to be in. Rather than feel the feeling and go on, we just give up, make excuses and go back to our usual comfortable place, the rut. And that’s an okay place to go back to if you so choose. What makes matters worse is going back to that place, but not wanting to. Then continue about life with this undercurrent of frustration and angst. It’s like a self-imposed prison.

As you can tell I am speaking from past experience. Also, from friends I know who have done this over and over. I have met “writer” friends who have written and stopped. Whenever I meet them and fill them in on what’s going on, I can see envy in their eyes followed with, “Oh I really want to get back to it.” They rarely do. So I have learned over time to say as little as possible to them. I would rather not be a part of creating that feeling of envy. I just want them to do it.

I recently realized that not everyone is cut out for stepping out of the rut. It is not easy and takes a vast amount of commitment, willingness and discipline to change. I find this topic fitting given it is just past the new year and around the time that people are at that frustration stage of their resolutions. A few more weeks and the handful that are committed will rise to the top and continue on, the rest will go back to their usual routines as their own judge and jury have come to the verdict of “failure.” I think this idea of “failure” is not the right approach. Going easy on oneself makes it easier to get back to trying it again.

The key, we cannot do it alone. It takes a community and friends and an environment that fosters change. But if all around you are people in a rut, then it is far more difficult to get out of it and make that change. The energy around your life, that is the life you created, needs to be changed and that includes people, routines and anything else that we use to stay in the same place.

Let me give you an example connected to writing. My morning routine used to be I would sleep in eat a bowl of cereal, drink a cup of coffee and read the newspaper and SNS sites online for however long I wanted to. I told myself that I had no time to do any writing except during my school vacations. So that is what I did.

During my long vacations I wrote a book, which took nearly two years. I thought okay this is something I want to incorporate into my life, this writing thing. I got an editor and edited my book. I wanted to commit to making the revisions to the book and blogging. Now what do I need to do to make this a part of my life. I know I can write everyday, just let go of spending time online, or limit it to just fifteen minutes in the morning before writing. Because I want to write everyday I now get up earlier to do it. And if I cannot then I write when I have free time, whether in the afternoon or evening. And does it have to be long marathon writing sessions? No it does not, although I do have those twice a week. The point is to write everyday to create the momentum and energy around the commitment to writing. Did this come easy? Hell no! It took time before I reconfigured my energy and focus to this commitment and discipline.

The result, it is now second nature. There is no debate about whether to write or not, I just write be it thirty minutes or three hours. I bet you’re thinking, “Yeah but you have a lot of time on your hands.” I do now while on vacation, but I will say I have a full life of many other things going on whether on vacation or not.

I simply write because it is a part of me now.

When things get tough and you feel like you cannot do it, I like to tell on myself. This means to talk to a like-minded friend or someone in the community that understands making a commitment. That way it is out in the open and you are no longer building up a wall, or maybe a ditch is a better image. A ditch making way for that rut I am so comfortable in. It is easy to go back to that if we are not careful.

While I focused on writing, the same goes for exercise, food and any other lifestyle change you may want to make.

So go easy on yourself and know that change takes commitment, discipline and time.

Skepticism weighing heavy as I began my journey to the consultation with a personal trainer (PT) we will call Jim. My first time entering the world of PT, I did not know what to expect. I kept my mind open a crack.

Waiting to greet me at the door his head peeking around the corner with a common not often seen Minnesota smile and greet I entered his space. And what a space it was. Nearly the size of the gym I would frequent in Minneapolis. This was not Minneapolis it was Tokyo and I was impressed. This must cost a fortune in rent considering it was central Tokyo, a prime real estate area. That right there was my first piece of evidence, this guy must be the real deal.

After changing into gym clothes, we dove right in. He had me doing all kinds of what to the casual observer seemed like odd exercises – squatting with my heels on a bamboo pole. Oh so Japanese. Or sitting with my butt against the wall and legs askew stretching my arms in opposite directions. Put me on a bike, no problem. A weight room, piece of cake. Static stretches, I can do them in my sleep. That’s old school, 20th century old. We are well into the 21st and I was clearly out of my element.

I was dare I say, among what I can only say as genius. More on that later. I kept my mouth shut and let him prepare to work his magic. And magic it was. He broke the silence by explaining that what he was doing was testing my strength and mobility on a muscular and skeletal level. There were clearly weak areas that needed work, but not horribly so as in having to start over and rebuild me like Steve Austin had needed to become the bionic man. I’d rather not be him, but at the very least be able to get my body to a sustainable point that will take me into old age with little to no pain. Is this even possible?

Let the magic begin. After his explanations he put me on a massage table. He started moving my legs in directions they had never experienced, feeling the stretch in muscles I didn’t know I had. He told me to hold my breath and push against the force of his hands on my leg, then relax and then would move my leg around as if twisting a pretzel. I was hesitant to let go and let him work, but he moved it in such a confident way I knew he knew what he was doing and let go. He did the same with both legs and arms.

Then Jim had me stand up to assess what he had done. Then back down to askew my legs and arms in new directions. Then back up to assess. A few more tweaks here and there and I felt the pain in my knee go away and the lactic acid built up from the morning bike ride dissipate. Then he had me go back to the same initial squat-like exercises.

Here is where I knew I had tapped into the real deal, a genius. I squatted on the same bamboo pole he used initially to assess me. This time, the lowest squat I had ever done in years, maybe ever, with no knee pain whatsoever. “Wait, WHAT?” This is not possible in less than an hour!” I wanted to scream.

Calmly, he explained in detail what he had been doing, the problem areas and how it is all tied to breath and the nervous system. He was firing a different level of my nervous system and engaging it with my muscles and massaging and working out areas that were tight.

To say I was impressed was an understatement. The last person who blew me away like this was someone I ended up studying with for many years, and who also changed my life. This might be the next level only in a slightly different way.

We went on to discuss diet and he sent me on my way with a vitamin C recommendation, Olive Oil and two stretching exercises I do every night.

One would think that after one consultation session it would have minimal effect at best. Not the case. I am sold.

If Jim can do what he did to me in less than an hour, think what can be done in a matter of weeks or months.

Meeting someone I haven’t seen in more than fifteen years has had a profound impact on my life. Add to that we are like-minded, resulting in an afternoon conversation of empowerment and affirmation.


We have been on very similar paths, late in life with kids, both teachers after having previous careers. The only difference, he is in Minneapolis and I am in Tokyo. The final un-canniness, we were both raised catholic and reconciled with the religion turning towards a mindful Buddhist approach that includes meditation.


We spoke for three hours and it could have gone on longer. It’s refreshing to connect on a deep level touching on a myriad of subjects. And I was able to thank him for putting me on a path many years ago when I was having issues in my life. He knows now what he has done for me and I will be forever grateful for it. We had an instant connection and history, and look forward to our continuing our friendship if it is meant to be.


It is affirming to know that there are like-minded people. It helps bring clarity to the path I am on feeling like this is where I am supposed to be. I will keep on keeping on still not knowing where it will lead. And knowing full well that there is ultimately no destination except a life of experience, service and a meeting of like-minded people along the way.

I wonder if I will ever really run out of ideas or topics to write about. It does seem as long as I am alive ideas will come to mind. I like this idea of living in the now to “find out”. I have a whole slew of mantras I say in the morning and evening as reminders all pointing to the moment: what is life asking of me now; If death alone is certain and time of death certain what should I do now; Yes to this moment; I vow to meet others on equal ground; Freedom is knowing I can go to a different window to experience and respond to life; Am I at ease and the last one – Let’s find out!

All of these are different ways of practice and bringing me back to the now. I wonder how many times per day I am brought back to it and how much I live in my thoughts without even realizing it? Each one of these sayings may point to the now, but offer up a practice in a slightly different manner.

What is life asking of me now? That is a question I sit with and being present the answer comes in time in that moment of readiness. The answer comes.

If death alone is certain, time of death uncertain, what should I do now? I am reminded of the word squander in this passage. Death is inevitable and we don’t know when that will be, so why allow oneself to get caught up in the pettiness of life, the self created dramas, emotional entanglements, and other things that we use to squander our life. I do, but far less it seems. Yes to this moment.

When I get an extreme feeling of emotion of some kind, one in which may just be a natural occurrence or one in which is self created, either way, Yes to this moment informs me to breathe, and is a reminder that just like when I am sitting in meditation observing this phenomenon to simply let it happen, don’t grasp and let it pass. And inevitably it does.

During those times that it is an all day event, I say these over and over which is very much in line with Buddhist mantras reminding us that there are things that can be changed and others that happen outside of our grasping.

Is there ease? I have not used this much, but like all of these I know that there will come a time in which I will need this saying for my practice. Is there ease? A question that signals me to search within to determine where there is dis-ease, or suffering. And I may ask the question after that, What is life asking of me now to figure out the cause of the dis-ease. Maybe I am holding on to something or creating drama. Whatever the cause, scanning for dis-ease and asking the question are the practice.

The newest “Let’s find out!” I put an exclamation point after because I am excited and passionate about life. This saying reminds me that there is no need to have expectations. Expectations are a sure fire setup for suffering. Because most likely nothing comes the way we exactly envision. And also that takes us out of the moment and into the future.

Living in either places future or past creates a fertile ground for suffering. Let’s find out is about living in the moment, be in the journey and what’s there later is out of our grasp. It also has an implication of wonderment and curiosity. I awaken in the morning. Whereas many dread the day or get right into their thinking and plans, I prefer to sit, get into the moment and then with a sense of vigor greet the day with a let’s see what’s in store attitude. The same goes with writing, life plans and goals. It is in the doing, that “first foot forward” that will inevitably lead us somewhere.

We may have a sense, but it is never exactly what we envision.

I coined a phrase, the “Star Wars Principle.” I googled it and nobody has used the phrase. Sure I know what you are thinking, some obsessed fan. Well truth be told, I am not a fan and in fact I have only seen the first three. The reason why I came up with this phrase is because I have been pondering for quite some time the idea of the phrase made famous by the franchise – “the force.” In my humble opinion this is nothing more than an embellishment of a simple concept for the sake of drama and the continued storylines. Don’t get me wrong I think the earlier stories were brilliant, however over time it has become convoluted and contrived.

In real life, the force is nothing more than an understanding of how to shape the moment. In order to be able to have the skill to call forth the force one needs to be present and have a keen understanding of how human character, including one’s own works. This is not an easy undertaking. It calls for one to practice some form of meditation for long periods of time, in addition to studying character and mind. This then gives a sense of clarity to determine what you need to do to get out of your own way in order to be present enough to have the skill to shape the moment.

This force is really something that we all have the ability to do, but do not because we go about our day on autopilot not living in the moment. When someone does realize they have this ability and use the “force,” the other person is unaware on a conscious moment-to-moment level that something is happening. As is clearly stated in the Star Wars films, with this ability comes responsibility not to abuse the powers that have been cultivated, and in fact work to helping others to achieve it. This is very much in line with Buddhist vows that “beings are numberless I vow to save them.”

At this point it all sounds so esoteric, which is why the Star Wars storylines about the force is so brilliant. They have taken this concept and turned it into a tangible form for entertainment. But this force can be used in very simple day-to-day ways. One such example is working a room. When working a room full of people it begins the moment the moment you step through the door way or onto the stage or any other place that one encounters a group. It starts with how you see the moment, how you connect with others, how you let the nervousness and habits fall away to make room for the moment so that you can see with utmost clarity and subtlety. What you say and how you say it is never the same, because if you are truly in the moment, you will shape how you say what you want to say consciously. And what you might have planned on saying is not what is being called for in the moment.

This still may be unclear. Let’s try another tact – the individual and a handshake. The moment you shake a hand or greet someone, that moment it is in your hands (pun intended) to be able to shape how you want it to go. Ironically, it is a difficult thing to do while at the same time simple because all you need to decide is how you want to convey that moment and occurring moments afterward. I used to say that when I was living in NYC and dating I could tell just from the introduction, usually a handshake with a woman how the date would go. If it felt masculine or hard, then it was something that would not go beyond one date or in some cases cut short.

Also it is not just a one-way street, rather it goes both ways. What I mean by that is that one must also make room for the other person’s feeling and experience knowing that they too are playing a part in the shaping. There is a sense of responsibility to shape it, which is being open to the moment between the other, not just from one side. Controlling comes when other people are not taken into account and just comes from one side. There is no room for the other person to move within the moment to be shaped. Control has sharper edges and far less malleable. Shape has soft softer rounder edges and moves with the moment on an organic level.

I am reminded of this during an acting exercise back in my days in NYC. We each had to stand up say the line, “to be or not to be, that is the question” multiple times. And each time it had to be different, because no two moments are ever the same. We had to feel out the moments based on simple movements like taking a step or raising a hand up while we spoke the lines. This is nothing more than the force, shaping and being present with each moment.

May the force be with you all.   

IF I like this word. A simple two-letter word used in a myriad of ways. I think it has a deeper more poignant meaning than the other two-letter word IT for example. It is kind of a lazy word to use. People substitute it instead of explaining something in details. IF like my friend said the other day is an active word. It, the word IF that is, can be used in mathematical equations, one of my least favorite school subjects by the way. That still does not prevent it from being used in equations. For example, if 5 is added to three what is the answer, of course 8. Now that is a very simple example and the word can be used in much more complicated math problems, but the problem is the moment I start to get into those types of problems I break out in a sweat and my breathing becomes shallow – the beginnings of a panic attack. So I will leave it here with one simple math example.

The real reason I wanted to bring the word IF to your attention is that for me it is related to life. In fact as I typed it I noticed they are the two letters in the middle of the word life. how cool is that? Much like a math problem except it is not an equation in that sense, rather in the sense that there is an IF equation in our lives, and each person has their individual equation for what I call a life of well-being. What does this possibly mean you might ask? Well I will answer that question for you in the form of an IF example that pertains to my life. If I make health, creativity, community and spirituality a priority in my life I can live a balanced life of well-being. Now on the surface the equation seems quite simple, but like many things it is more complicated than that. Let’s break each one down. If I want to live a life of balance and well-being and if I make health a priority then I need to eat healthy food, exercise daily and get a decent amount of sleep. Let’s go even further. If I want food to be part of the equation then I would eat less carbs, more natural foods such as veggies and cut out any form of processed foods and refined sugar. If I want exercise to be part of my equation, then I need to ride my bike, run and go to the gym or any other form of exercise. The IF to the equation of health is also sleep. And that is at least 6 hours or more of sleep. Then we add to the equation of spirituality, this part of the equation is very personal and can be in the form of organized religion, meditation or just a personal philosophy and relationship with the world. My equation consists of daily meditation and a few interesting readings related to Zen and other thought provoking books that continue to help me find balance. And the final equation to the IF word is community and friends. Recently I wrote about community and had a count on the number of communities that I am connected to and the total is 14. I will not list them here, but the point is that community is very important for many reasons besides just well-being. And of course nothing more need be said really about friends and how that fits in the equation.

Now I have laid out a a simple IF equation. The main word here is simple. It, there’s that word again, is really that straightforward. Seriously, it is not rocket science. And yet so many of us complicate it or put obstacles in the way. Our ego is a tough nut to crack and cracking it is the key to well-being. And that key is to not listen to it. Just do it! That is IF you want to.


It is quite amazing how our past experiences inform what we do and who we are today. We are not the same people and yet they do collectively make us into some sort of character. After watching a four part series on Punk Rock I was taken back to the days in which I was a punk and realize in many ways still am. Outwardly I struggled as a teenager with the usual being uncomfortable in my skin and internally with the raging hormones and philosophical battle of having grown up in a catholic family with all the guilt that came with it.

Along comes PUNK just at the right time. The words and energy conveyed in the music, and countless number of shows I attended were just what I needed to break free of the rules and all that shit that was bogging me down internally. It needed to be expressed. Fueled with music, energy from others and alcohol it was a perfect concoction. I still felt uncomfortable in my own skin, but I could blend in and let the music take me away. I spent countless hours lying on the floor of my bedroom with headphones on cranking and disappearing into the music. It was freedom. After a period of time the lyrics and attitudes associated with the movement sunk in and really became a part of me. I still had to sell out and do all that one needs to do to sort out what fits best in life, all the while being informed by my punk rock roots. I still had it. I had to go through the phases of feeling too young to be a punk, but knowing deep down I still had the attitudes without the look.

Fast forward many decades and the roots of my character are still connected to punk and have informed my decisions to not participate on certain levels any longer in the American dream, which I tried, corporate life, which I tried, car culture, which I have not done in quite some time and even paying taxes. I pay them, just not in the country of origin. I was on some level informed by the experiences of my punk days and the decision to move to Japan and no longer participate in the American culture. In Japan, as ironic as this may sound, I can blend in and not participate in the way that one would be expected if living in the US.

While watching the last segment of the punk series I was moved to tears (I know, how punk rock. In my defense I’ve softened with old age) listening to the older punks of my generation who still have the attitude, albeit with maturity. Some still look the part, not my cuppa tea, although I am by no means typical in the way I dress. As they were speaking I could hear how punk continues to inform the way in which they choose to live their lives, and on some level not participate in the typical way. I was also moved when I realized that I too am the same way with a modicum of wisdom and a whole helluva lot of life experience between then and now.

I would not have traded my punk rock experience for anything even knowing in hindsight how difficult and awkward it was at the time. I am grateful it continues to inform my life and besides that it is still great music I listen to.

What experiences inform your life?


I have been thinking about instinct lately. We all have it in and it comes in different forms. For some it is a feeling, others a voice and others see it in words or pictures. It really depends upon the type of character and how we are wired. I am sure most have experienced it and never knew what it was. I do think it is something that comes from the heart. And yet so often we all live in our heads intellectualizing everything. This may in part have to do with habit, and rather than feel it out, wait for an answer and guidance from the heart we go to our heads – a direct line to our egos. The result, we allow our egos to guide our lives. Then everything we do reinforces the stories of who we are, and we hold on to them throughout our life building up a fortress against instinct.

Instinct is a part of our lives and yet so often we squelch the feeling. Even if we get that inner urge, we turn away from it and put ourselves up in our heads. We get the feeling and then boom up in our head to intellectualize, justify, rationalize or defend. Of course I am speaking from direct experience. I realize these days that I really do not want to speak of anything I know nothing about. I used to be able to talk a good game about anything. I am finding it is more skillful to just speak of things I have experience with. It serves others because they can feel the place in which I am speak from. Just like building up a habit of avoiding instinct, we can find a way to get back to the place of the heart and develop a skill of paying attention to it. It takes work, practice and presence in order to be in that place. The key is to know how to discern when you are in your head or not. For me it starts as pressure and a feeling in the heart that eventually leads to words, but on occasion it can be visuals as well. And when it comes it feels like jumping into a river and riding the wave for as long it is meant to be. It is an invigorating feeling being in touch with the heart. It is a place I would like to live in as much as I can, and wish this for everyone. There is on occasion experiences of weak moments in which I want to please the intellect or what my friend in NYC would say, “the lower chakras.” I find that if I want to continue to do that, and it is my choice, then I would over time slowly squelch instinct by constantly overriding it.

I believe that many are out of touch with instinct for a variety of reasons. Everything from having dug a rut of habitual routine day after day and feel that is all there is in life and given up, others find that change is too difficult and say this is who I am and some have issues that need to be addressed to clear the wreckage of the past in order to let instinct see the light of day. It could be anyone of these or a combination. In my experience long ago I had to put down an addiction in order to start the process of getting in touch. It was a spiritual crisis at the time motivated by experiencing death first hand. Scary at the time, but in hindsight it was what was needed to wake me up. After settling down, I realized early on that it was all about the head and heart. Everything I have done up to this moment has allowed me to open up that portal to allow instinct to direct me. I must be in the moment and once I am out of it I drift ever so slightly away. And when I am off that beam I care just a little less for the world around. And who wants to live a life of not caring?


Do we just delude ourselves on a daily basis? How much of what we actually do has any meaning to life at all? And yet we must do it. Are the choices we make just another way to reinforce who we think we are? Who do I think I am?  Is there I in this equation? So many questions and yet even as I reread these questions I think how contrived they feel. I really begin to feel that there is no I and that it is being in relation to the world and people that really creates experience, and to think that there is something that exists inside is really not it. We just make moment-to-moment choices, grab those things to help reinforce who we think we are. But that is not to say there is anything wrong with it. I think that is part of the human condition.

I may be writing in such a manner that feels like judgment, but in fact is really more just an observance and acknowledgment of something that is very much a part of life. I look around and observe people, letting the feeling and notice the little things in people, and you can see just how much of their character shines through. Everything from the way they walk, look in their face, clothing and if it is someone I know the way in which they speak, the choice of words, mannerisms etc. Most people do not notice these kinds of things as they are all caught up in their own little world on the inside or outside, me included. We all do this, caught up in our thoughts as we walk, multi-task, or are ready to answer a question or speak instead of listening and feeling out what the other person is saying.

I just want to be present as much as I can throughout the day. There is a simple richness to being awake to the moment without getting caught up in the thoughts or emotions. It is like a river flowing from moment to moment. Some images are just apt for a description and do not need anymore explaining than that.

Living in the place of the heart is a really different experience when walking through the world. And one thing I am beginning to understand is the sense that we need to be responsible if we are awakened to the world, responsible to helping others to awaken to the world and help them to realize their own delusions. Each person is different in how this is and so there is not a one way for all. Some people may be ready to hear it and others will not or may fight it or intellectualize it or do what it is their character is designed to avoid. If awake to the moment you can begin to feel that out and not go too far into delusion and very quickly awaken yet again.