Friday, July 20, 2018

Life in the Grip of God

I am nearing the end of my career. Just a few more days and I will quit my job, take my savings and fund a life of spirituality and service. The compensation won't be monetary, at least at first. The people I work with have not understood why this is happening at all. Why would anyone quit a six figure job at such an early age? Dreams are hard to carry out, why give up the surety of a salary and company health insurance?

I haven't been able to explain because my spiritual reality does not really overlap with the corporate reality of which these people are a part.

This is not the first time in my life when I pursued a spiritual life as my only work. At the age of 40, I also quit my job, gave away everything, and went off to live in a monastery.

Walt Whitman does an admirable job of explaining why I do this:

"Well, every man has a religion; has something in heaven or earth which he will give up everything else for -- something which absorbs him -- which may be regarded by others as being useless -- yet it is his dream, it is his lodestar, it is his master. That, whatever it is, seized upon me, made me its servant, slave -- induced me to set aside the other ambitions -- a trail of glory in the heavens, which I followed, followed with a full heart....When once I was convinced, I never let go....  "

Sunday, June 3, 2018

Bryce Canyon Ultra - the morning after

I am sitting in a very nice Best Western, getting ready to drive to the airport and go home. No 50k medal, but a great vacation experience.

Yesterday I completed 19 miles of a mountain trail 50k race. The trail wound up the mountain through pine trees and mountain meadows going from 7,000 to 9,000 feet. At one place I got to stand at the bottom of a beautiful Hoo Doo type cliff, and then stand at the 9,000 foot top looking over a vast horizon.

The trail was difficult in spots being steep in places. Not a problem going up, but my mind snapped shut at the thought of going down. I have no quads because there are no natural hills where I live; and anyway, my knees are not perfect.

I spent most of my time in pine trees looking at the trail in order not to trip. There wasn't much time to see and enjoy as I was trying to meet cut off times for the race. While the race management was allowing people to keep going as long as they wanted, they were closing aid stations; which meant no water if you got there too late.

At 19 miles, I was a little past cut off and heading into the severe down hill part of the course. It would have taken me more than 4 hours to get down the mountain, with tricky steep downhill parts. I couldn't imagine doing it. So when they said that the extraction vehicle was there, I jumped in it. I was going to get a "did not finish" (DNF) no matter what I did, so might as well skip the pain.

I have to admit that the trail in the mountain was either too long or too difficult for me. I see that I have limits. I can do alot but not everything. Or if I plan on doing everything, it might take awhile.

Trail runs are a weird animal. You must look down and watch the tripping hazards or you are going down. Even a second of inattention can bring you down. This concentration and focus is meditative in the sense that you can't think of too much else. If you want to look around, you have to stop or find a piece of trail with no hazards. My life is like this. Most of it has been spent concentrating on the trail in my immediate view, not looking around to enjoy anything.

I wonder if I can fix that when I enter retirement? Both inner and outer vistas need to be enjoyed and pondered. Stop trying to achieve, or ward off the competition, or finish projects at work as I people please bosses. My life so far: Survive a dysfunctional family. Go to college and get an engineering degree. Get a job and then get another job and then another job and so on. Who am I in all of that?

Getting sober was meaningful. Getting spirituality was meaningful. Running was meaningful. But these are things hidden from my co-workers. So, while I've spent humongous amounts of time at work, most of it was acting. I wasn't really me.

In a weird way, I am DNF-ing my career because I am resigning at the age of 59; with money but not a retirement as far as the company is concerned. No gold watches. The golden hand cuffs are being ripped off, not released. But I don't think I will DNF my life. I think I must quit my career in order to finish my life successfully.

Success for me is more about thinking than achieving, even though I have spent a good deal of my life beating other people.

You know, you can run laps around a small park for hours and look inward toward greater things. This is prayer. You can sit in your house meditating. This is prayer. You can wonder why you were at a trail race and what happened to you during it. This is prayer. I look at my career and admit my feelings about what happened. This is prayer.

During my 3 day vacation, I felt alot of appreciation for seeing Utah and hiking some incredible rocks.

See you again soon.

Friday, June 1, 2018

Zion Reflection

It is a Friday. I am in Utah in order to run a 50k race tomorrow. The race is in Bryce Canyon, which is why I was inspired to come here. I saw the pictures and said, "I must see that place."

Yesterday, I hiked around Bryce Canyon National Park. It was every bit as spectacular as I imagined. Incredible. No matter what happens with the race, I got to see that place.

Then there was the dilemma of what to do today. Lots of suggestions for beautiful things to see in this area. "Everyone" says to go to Zion. I don't want to go to Zion because I don't want to deal with crowds of people and shuttle buses. I want scenery, yes; but I also want quiet reflection walking. So I picked 2 other places to go to today.

Because I am not trying to organize a trip to Zion, which would have involved getting up early and beating everyone else to the parking places, I have time to reflect here in my hotel room.

I'm missing Zion, the most spectacular, in order to be quiet. Hummm...

I have a book called "Career Success Without a Real Job" by Ernie Zelinski. I brought it with me. I read it a few months ago as I pondered my decision to retire from my real job. Now, decision made to retire and I know what I am going to work on next, I brought the book for review and inspiration.

The second page caught my eye. "The purpose of this book is to inspire people loke you to reclaim their creativity, their freedom, and their lives." This sentence coming after a paragraph about engineers unsatisfied with corporate live and "they suffer their jobs badly and with silent indignity." EXACTLY!

The book is also for those who: want to find their own important mission, true calling, or passionate pursuit; want to gain courage to leave the corporate world; want to live an extraordinary life.

Yes to that. I need courage to leave mother corporation. I feel the call to do something more of my own creation. I have the desire to soar. I want to escape the boredom and waste of my job because it is killing my spirit.

I order to do this, I have to continually pump energy into the project of retirement and plans for "employment." Otherwise, I would succumb to the attitude of my current co-workers: just kick back and earn this great salary. Why pay for your own health insurance? Isn't it easier to have this salary than to try to do something on your own?

Years ago, more than 30, I was introduced to "The Road Less Traveled" by M. Scott Peck. I have mentally and spiritually been on that road. The energy of the words has never left me.

I must fly free. I have a budget which say yes I can. Somewhere I crossed a line which said, "more money is not the most important thing to me." Now, I am breaking the rules of corporate culture and also facing humanity's rules of survival. I must fly free.

Sunday, May 20, 2018

How to Retire Early

Retiring early is a journey not an event. There are complicated material, psychological and spiritual aspects. There is a "going to" and a "going away from." To successfully retire early, you must address all aspects, not just the money. Money is actually the easiest part.

I have been exploring various aspects of: I have a mission I want to accomplish which I need to quit my day job to get the time. I have enough money to support myself at a middle class level for life. I am quitting a very secure six figure engineering job where I am skilled and respected.

I have for my entire career thought that I would quit as soon as I got the money. Now, at the age of 59, I have the money. But I am the child of a man who never quit. He had a heart attack at the age of 76, was alive in the hospital calling clients and working, and then coded out while in the hospital. I am the child of a mother who retired at 55 and enjoyed the life provided by her husband. That is a conflict between 2 very different personalities. I am struggling on the inside with my early cultural editing.

I work with people who have mostly worked for the same company for their careers. My boss has been there 42 years! I am a person who has been laid off several times; and I even took a 4 year leave from my career to live in a monastery. Upon leaving the monastery, I had to work at 3 small jobs for a year before I got a job back in engineering. My view of my life is that it can be re-started after a discontinuity. Quitting my job now and thinking I can have a successful phase 3 of my life is thinking beyond that of the people around me. The people around me don't understand. They logically think that nothing could be better than slouching around the company collecting the huge salary. Taking it easy is their choice; not daring to try something completely new.

Once I took my dog out of the race at work, and became extremely good at what I do, I also became extremely bored as well as realizing how largely useless and administrative my job is. Actually personal growth is important enough to me that I'm willing to quit a lucrative salary in order to find something new.

And yes, there are personnel issues at work which I don't like dealing with.

I am going to something. I have for 33 years been doing daily spiritual studies. I have a collection of books written by wise people. Last June, nearly a year ago, I had an ah-ha moment. I realized what I could do with my 4 years in a contemplative monastery plus all these years of spiritual studies. I immediately started working on it and have continued daily to work on it. I also know that I live in the internet age. No one can stop me from creating a web page, an app and publishing a book. Many other people have been successful at those tasks. I can learn how and have fun learning.

For now, my quit date is not until September. So I struggle at work with less and less interest in the pettiness.

More on this journey as I go along.

Friday, May 11, 2018

Ode to Joy

This is a little story of synchronicity, of paying attention to the Universe, of cooperative components coming together. And most of all, appreciating the spiritual entities who can help us accomplish meaningful lives.

I noticed yesterday how a respected 104 year old scientist, David Goodall, had died peacefully listening to "Ode to Joy". I wondered what was so important about that music, by Beethoven, that this highly intelligent and deep person would chose to die to it. But I didn't pursue it at that moment.

Then today, I was on page 201 of Jordan Peterson's book "12 Rules for Life" where it says, "What is meaningful by contrast is the organization of what would otherwise be expedient into a symphony of Being. Meaning is what is put forth more powerfully that mere words can express by Beethoven's "Ode to Joy," a triumphant bringing forth from the void of pattern after pattern upon beautiful pattern, every instrument playing its part, disciplined voices layered on top of that, spanning the entire breadth of human emotion from despair to exhilaration."  I deeply want to feel my life as a symphony of Being.

Suddenly, I had to pull out my phone and ask it to play "Ode to Joy." Well, yes I know this song. But as I listened to it in the context of the 104 year old scientist plus "symphony of Being," I realized my life being lived for the Universe and my gift to the Universe. I felt the truth of the emotion. I felt the symphony of my life and all its ups and downs as a wonderful gift given and gift received.

I wouldn't have felt that depth of my life's worth if I hadn't been paying attention to the clues, the little trail of bread crumbs left by my higher consciousness, my soul or spirit. Feeling high on life is wonderful and seldom felt by me.

I wouldn't mind dying to this magnificent truth either.

Tuesday, May 8, 2018

Resignation Stories

I am planning on resigning my job in September and moving on to phase 3 of my life. But quitting a good corporate job, even if you have the money, is a surprising challenge. That is giving up a secure salary in favor of spending your savings and doing something different defies belief systems and causes angst.

This angst has to be worked through in order to be happy. So my resignation is an emotional process. I have to face all my conditioning and resentments in order to obtain a free and happy soul.

So, 3 stories have become important ways of framing what I am going through.

First was Plato's Cave. It is a story about people sitting in chairs in a cave. They are facing the rock wall and watching shadows on the wall. Watching these shadows is their reality. Then one day, one of them stands ups and look around and sees the sun shining through the mouth of the cave. There are other people walking past the cave and these other form the shadows on the wall of the cave which are watched by the people in the chairs. My take on this: I have stood up and seen the sun, but still too afraid to walk out of the cave. The cave is the only reality I have known. Can I make it if I leave the cave?

Second is about training flies. If you put some flies in a jar  with a top, and then some time later remove the top, the flies will not leave the jar. They just won't. My take on this: As a corporate employee, I have a hard time leaving my corporate jar. The way to freedom is there for me, but I still just look at it.

Third is about catching monkeys. It is said that the way to catch a monkey is to get a large jar with a mouth just large enough for the monkey's hand. Put rocks in the jar to make it heavy. Scatter treats around and in the jar. The monkey will come for the treats and eventually reach into the jar to get those treats. But the monkey can't get its hand out of the jar with the treats balled up in it. So you have caught the monkey. My take on this: The treats are the corporate safety and salary. My hand has long been in the jar. To get out of the jar, I have to open my hand, let go of the corporate salary. There are other sources of treats but first, I have to let go.

So these stories illustrate and help me understand the angst I experience in my transition from corporate slave to free creative entrepreneur. I don't even need to make money as entrepreneur, just go be one, leaving aside the corporation. The white middle class cultural template of "go to college and get a good corporate job and eventually retire" is the conditioning I have been living. But now, I want to be free. I think I can be "more" by being free.

Understand this is an emotional journey not a logical one. Logically, I am fine. Emotionally, I am breaking my conditioning and parts of my brain don't agree. The tension is the emotion. Most of us don't like being emotional. But what is human life without emotion? Beliefs about emotion itself are a form of conditioning.

The emotional journey will continue.

Sunday, May 6, 2018

The 5th Lap

This is a race report about the Trailracingovertexas race Wildflower 50k in Bastrop State park, May 5, 2018.

But what is the 5th lap? It is the lap you can't believe you did and what you get from that.

But first, overall, a very successful trip. This weekend was my first camping trip with my Honda Odessy. Here is a picture of the back with my cot installed:

This worked pretty well. Not perfect. Improvements are needed, but for a first try at camping, it was a huge success. I also say that this van is very comfortable for long drives.

Next was volunteering at packet pickup. I met a lady who was 67. For her 65th birthday, she walked 900 miles of the Appalachian trail by herself. Wait. What? You did that? I was impressed. I didn't know 65 year olds could do that by themselves.

The following day was race day. How nice to be right in the park! The weather was clear and a little cool, to start at least. Although there were many runners, and the race started immediately uphill on single track, the whole conga line thing didn't bother me. It was dark so I wore my head light. I made it through the darkness without tripping!

Once we could see, it was a beautiful park with lots of green. Not that much shade as forest fires took out most of the trees.

The big challenge for me was that this was a trail race in hilly country. I live in a city that is totally flat, so the ups and down plus the rocks was all new to me. The audacity of me thinking I could do 50k on a trail! So I spent the first 2 of 5 laps thinking I would quit. It was going to be hot after all, and surely my quads would collapse on me. Somewhere during lap 2, I thought, "this is what it means to be fully alive."  During lap 3, I knew I would do lap 4. No heat related illness was felt which means I took enough electrolytes and drank enough fluids. Win! During lap 4, I knew I would do lap 5. What changed about my mental condition? Was this my doing or the work of my higher consciousness? Despite all those quitter thoughts, it was very easy for me to get back out on the trail for the final lap.

Having some mental gift to get back out and finish a race is a transcendence. It is also wealth and abundance beyond money. A rich experience, especially if it brings meaning to your life or knowledge of what you are made of, is worth more than money in the bank. It is abundance already in your possession. I mention my learning because I am still struggling with the idea of early retirement. Logically, the money is in the bank; but breaking my father's rules and spending instead of saving is still difficult mentally and emotionally. Going away from my lucrative but boring day job to pursue interests which don't pay that well seems to scare me. Living my life at a different vibrational order of being is new. These are the gifts of meaning and self esteem gained by going out on the 5th lap.

Well, I did finish the race: