It is the end of the year. Yesterday my wall looked like this:
Today it looks like this:
A blank wall. Turn the page. Let go of 2 years worth of racing. Let go of last year's 12 marathons and 4 half marathons. Let go of the DNS due to a March snow storm in Kansas. Let go of the DNSs due to surgery. Let go of the wasted air fares, entry fees, people not seen, miserable results.
I'm starting a new position in my company in 2014. I have a new heel. I have a new philosopher to study.
I'm almost 55 years old, just a few more days. My life should be past its mid-life crisis. You would think that I would have accepted everything. But this morning, the pondering carried on. Few dopamine rewards accrue to the solitary.
When I came into sobriety, I had to admit powerlessness and un-manageability over my life. In the monastery, the act of monastic profession was bound up with the idea of total self gift to God. I really wanted to make my total self gift and have it validated by the religious order and Church. Instead, I got kicked out, so no validation of my gift. This morning, reading Plotinus' Enneads, the idea of self disposal came up. Self disposal is true if there is no outside master or compulsion over the act; and it is inwards toward The Good. I realized that I have control over this. I can do it.
I return to my life. 55 years of some interesting events, some dopamine rewards in achievements, but no visible purpose. My ego got nothing but older. But I see that self disposal is true. I have been somewhat solitary for about 10 years. In my somewhat ordinary life, dopamine rewards thwarted by solitude, self disposal is possible. Total self gift becomes real in the surrender, in the admission of powerlessness, in the ongoing spiritual practice with no worldly rewards.
This Christmas, my ego got nothing. I got what I wanted.
I'm going to be 55 on January 12. I wanted to do something special for my birthday. Usually I would run 55 miles or 55 laps; but due to my recovery from surgery, I can't do that this year.
Someone gave me this idea about 55 fortuitous moments. You'll notice I stopped at 27 (not in any order). I could think about smaller and smaller things to get 55. But already, 6 things I've picked out as very big in my life (see all caps comments).
Today, coming up on yet another annual holiday boycott, I'm off work for a few days. I have time to think about this. I usually think my life is somewhat of a failure. Today, I think, "I wanted my life to be exactly as it is. I created it to be what and where I am today. Why?" The answer is found in the financial stability of the engineer. The desire for raising my consciousness found in sobriety (conscious contact spirituality of the 12 Steps), contemplation, recognizing Jerusalem at the outset, ultra exercise as meditation. So 5 of 6 keys are directly spiritual for me and the sixth provides the environment to pursue the others.
In this context, going to the monastery and leaving it is simply part of the overall God pursuit. Not a failure. Just part of an overall theme of pursuing God and renouncing all else. So not having a marriage or family is part of that theme. Being separate from main stream society is part of that theme. I've spent many hours in enjoyable spiritual reading as a result of my solitariness.
Now, I find myself plowing my way through the Enneads of Plotinus (205 CE). I can see that only some higher God desire would provide the energy to study 700 pages of badly translated Greek. Yet I find myself standing on primal spiritual ground. It is awesome to discover the pinnacle where the end of Greek philosophy meets the start of Christianity.
As for physical fitness. I find that exercise continues to be big in my life, especially as I can wander around my house in silence, going from machine to machine, pondering the Spirit inside me.
1. circa 1977. When I signed up for Agricultural engineering, not even knowing what it was but to appease my mother who wanted me to be a vet. Since I got in to engineering school at all that way, I could then switch to mechanical engineering and find my current life. BEING AN ENGINEER IS A KEY
2. circa 1986. When Fr Mo said he knew I felt like a quivering pile of shit and sent me to Roy Davis. I was a quivering pile of shit because I had quit drinking 10 months prior, was in a new city quite different from San Francisco bay area and in a job supervising hourly employees which is totally unsuited to my personality. I quit drinking cold turkey so I wouldn't be an alcoholic like the mother I hated. Roy Davis, psychotherapist, flat out told me I was an alcoholic. I would never have figured that out by myself. He also made me go to AA. I wouldn't have done that on my own either. But because of that, I've stayed sober ever since. SOBRIETY IS A KEY
3. circa 1999. When Fr Ed said I should join a community. He thought I was spiritual and should live in a monastic environment. Because he said that, and because of my personality, I promptly found a community and applied for entrance.
4. circa 2003. When I wrote my religious vows on a piece of paper and privately committed. The Benedictine vows of obedience, stability and conversatio are a little bit different than canonical religious vows. But chastity is implied in the vows because it is in the Rule. When I wrote them on a piece of paper to give to the Prioress on my profession day, I meant them. Just because my profession was cancelled at the last minute does not mean I didn't fully intend to live a life dedicated to God. I can't seem to get around this even though I've been outside the monastery for over 10 years. RENUNCIATION IS A KEY
5. circa 2003. When Sr Dawn told me to be safe with my reconciliation to Sr Pat, but I decided on honesty and boldness. Sr Dawn knew how difficult my relationship with Sr Pat had been for 2 years. Her advice was just to get past Sr Pat, take my vows and go on with a sister's life. I couldn't do that. It meant alot to me to in detail go over many incidences of my novitiate and what they had meant to me with Sr Pat. The result was that Sr Meg thought I didn't belong in the monastery. Sr Meg, being a world famous sister who was guiding my last retreat before vows played a hug part in this fortuitous moment. She was the one who could look at me with a larger perception and see that a small life in a small monastery was not going to work for me.
6. circa 1981. When I went to Israel instead of Easter island; ending up standing in that square in Jerusalem and deciding there might be something to this God idea. THE GOD PURSUIT IS A KEY
7. circa 1998. When I got a lap top with a modem and I could load up America Online and was able to sell my motorcycle. Just after selling the motorcycle, I was thrilled to have time for meditation instead of riding around.
8. circa 1997. When the odd man in the bookstore found the Kornfield book for me. This was the moment in history when I first contemplated the idea of aloneness. The first chapter of the book describes a man who spent a year alone in a room. I wanted whatever could be gained by solitude. CONTEMPLATION IS A KEY
9. circa 1998. When I decided Henri was too much work.
10. circa 1987. When I decided to take environmental instead of body shop. And again when I decided to quit GM instead of move to Wentzville.
11. circa 1990. When I decided to quit E.T.Archer rather than continue to lie for Anthony. My professional integrity was at stake. I decided on protecting my reputation with the State of Missouri environmental staff rather than continue to support a mafioso.
12. circa 1975. When I decided to be on varsity basketball instead of JV in 9th grade. It shows something about myself that I would pick the higher ego reward. But I did receive most improved player that year and that made me proud.
13. 2012. When I looked in a mirror in a fancy women's bathroom in Germany in 2012, and was freaking happy I was sober. The result was that I went back to AA with 27 years of sobriety and ensured continued sobriety.
14. 2011. When I didn't get the Pressure Safety job in KC and it pissed me off that the plant manager said, "We can't replace you;" so I went to Texas despite him.
15. 2001. When I read in Tentsin Palmo's book that we must not eat meat. I was sort of vegetarian before that, but after that, not eating meat became a conviction.
16. circa 1998. When I told Steve I was quitting because I couldn't make a commitment to him.
17. circa 1972. When I read "Loneliness of the Long Distance Runner" in 8th grade and somehow running attracted me. RUNNING OR EXERCISE IS A KEY
18. circa 1998. When I said I'd not again have sex outside of marriage.
19. circa 1972. When I was trying to be a yogi using BKS Ayengar's book; and I was about 13.
20. circa 1981. Something about the China experience. It could have been learning about Chinese art before I went (symbolism and mysticism) or the time in China itself or the decision to read Mao's Little Red Book and the principles of integrity explained there. That is, I really wanted to live beyond materialism. I had no religion at that point. While I did good in school and was surviving an alcoholic parent, I was also drinking myself and having sex but I knew I was missing some inner strength. I wanted depth and wisdom but didn't know what those were.
21. 2004. When I got the environmental job at MGP. then again in 2009 when I got laid off.
22. circa 1969. When my mother got a horse.
23. circa 1968. When my parents first took me to Europe. Well, we went on such trips every summer for numerous years. The resultant is that I saw all the world's great tourist attractions before the age of 15; and have no desire to go again. Also, I learned how to do international travel.
24. circa 1965. When I walked from the Orinda Country Club into Orinda to the dive shop and bought a surfer's cross. I wanted the cross for its holiness. I don't know why I thought that.
25. circa 2001 when a shooter killed several monks at Conception Abby. This led to me being upset about Fr. Kenneth was shot. He had been my means of emotional support in the form of a confessor who was not a sister. I went out running in the hot Missouri afternoon summertime sun without water. About 3 miles out, I had to decide whether to keep running and die of heat exhaustion or go back to the monastery and try one more time. I went back.
26. circa December 1999. I left the world and moved to the monastery. The fortuitous moment was my decision to not rejoin the world after I left the monastery. I left it when I went to the monastery.
27. circa 2004. I left the ability to be a part of the Catholic Church in 2004 when I read Heidegger. And left totally while I was living in Atchison. And left further after I moved back to KC in 2009.
About November 4, my left foot came out of a boot; and I've been in rehab post heel spur surgery. For the month of November, I've been using a Fitbit to track my steps. Despite the slowness of recovery, I can say that things are improving. Today I did a 4 mile walk in 80 minutes and was not in pain. That is major.
I've been on vacation for a week and was able to get in more than 2 hours of various types of exercise every day. That was awesome. I look forward to more holidays in December and a big month for miles.
Here is November. Note that I surpassed both September and October.
Blogger.com bothers me somewhat as every time I post, I get 60 hits from robots. Very few actual people look at this. I like to separate the people from the robots.
A week ago perhaps, I first heard of Plotinus. Now I find myself immersed in this Greek philosopher. I am fascinated to see the underpinnings of western religion without the Christian overlays. I can move on from A Course in Miracles since I see it as the same thing as this earlier philosopher but in a more fanciful mode and with Christian semantics. Plotinus would propose the same principles of The Unity and of humans as thoughts and this world as an illusion and looking within; but in far cleaner prose. Although, without 30 years of spiritual study, I don't suppose Plotinus would make any sense to me.
Sunday Musings from 6th Ennead, 9th Tractate:
Section 7 explains the "preoccupation by the impress of something else, we are withheld under that pressure from becoming aware of The Unity, a mind gripped and fastened by some definite thing cannot take the print of the very contrary."
Herein is explained much of what I've tried to do with my life. I went into the monastery seeking contemplation. I came out with tools for contemplation. Out here, I may have to work for a living, but I am much better able to seek solitude during my off hours. In solitude, I look toward The Unity and away from the distraction of the world. That was the purpose of the monastery too.
In section 6, it says The Solitary.... In this, I see that being in solitude as much as possible, I come closer to "neither knowing nor anything unknown." In solitude, I can turn inward. Not looking at the world, I know less about it; and am more like The Solitary towards which I look.
I cook my beans and rice as I always have; knowing nothing of fancier processed foods. My world changes some but I intentionally keep constancy as a divine quality.
But there is a terrible effort to balance. I can't leave the world totally. I must interact at points. For the most part, work can be kept in a box. Other interactions are brief and can be seen as like meeting like. I have no family of relationship so I don't have the agony I see most others experiencing.
The Truth is true. So reading Plotinus this morning, I became aware of a foundation on which many theologies are built. Religion only goes on to hide the foundation. The Unity is more than a foundation of course, but it is also the thing found by the founders of theologies.