Tapas

Tapas. The purifying fire. This is something that I have been thinking about a lot lately. I’ve been trying to see the truth in everything. By seeing the truth, I mean seeing love and light in everything. That is the true reality of everything, it is only that we cannot see it because our perspective is wrong. We are seeing things with the wrong attitude. Flavoring the universal with our perceived individuality. This individuality is what brings the perspective which makes us think that there is something called good and bad. Black and white. Evil and righteous. None of those things exist.

There is nothing such as good without bad. The truth is neither exists apart from the other because they are only relative. A wonderful truth is this; good and evil are always in the exact same amount relative to each other. There is never more evil than good, nor more good than evil. They are always in equal amounts. It is only the perspective that changes. This is a factual statement because evil and good are relative to each other. Is is only their amount relative to the point of perspective that changes, not the amount of good or the amount of evil.

Take a line for instance with two ends. On one end is good and the other is evil. The line itself can be stretched out and the ‘distance’ between the two ends can increase or decrease, but their relative distance will never change. Now, add a point on the line. This dot represents your ‘individual’ viewpoint. The point from which you perceive the external from. This point can be moved up and down the line. More towards the one side or towards the other, but until this point exists, there is neither more good or more evil. Without the individual perspective there is no quantity of good or evil in the world.

This point, the individual perspective is the cause of the perception of good and evil in a situation. How can evil be inflicted on a rock. The rock does not have a perspective and therefore no harm can ever come to it. It is never any different than all the other rocks. So we can see that it is not the world that has good and evil ‘in’ it. We ‘put’ the good and the evil in the world based on our perspective.

If your perspective is too far to one side or the other, then you will perceive the world as either good or evil and everything you experience will be one or the other. If you are viewing things from a happy perspective as many Christians will do, then things will become more and more happy for you. You will find happiness in all things and you will forget about evil all together.

Then there are people who put their perspective too far to the evil side. They are always having problems and can never get anything done. Everything in the world is working against them. They are constantly spitting into the wind so to speak. In the study of the occult, this side is known as the left-hand-path. They are always having to work hard just to get the simplest things done. The universe becomes their adversary (the Hebrew word ha-satan means adversary) and they find life to be dark and cold.

There are those who’s point is in the middle, exactly between the two ends of the line. It is like the Buddhist to take the middle path. To find the balance between the two imaginary sides. With this perspective of balance you find calm peace and tranquil waters. Things are seen not as good or bad, just as being. They see the good man as equal to the evil man for there is no good or evil to them. This middle path seems to be the most perfect and the most powerful and it is. The problem comes when you try to maintain this viewpoint. Without a perfect balance, you end up on one side or the other and the entire perspective falls apart.

You can see where so much emphasis on meditation and control over the senses comes from in religious practice. It is very difficult to maintain this balance, this middle way and it takes great power to obtain its perspective in this world. The universal instinct for balance is so powerful that all life springs from this desire. Reincarnation is nothing but the working out of vibrations to one side or the other. This brings me back to my main topic: Tapas.

Tapas is the burning of karma. Tapas means heat or gestation. From what I can tell it is originally the word used to describe, in the most ancient texts, the act of a mother bird covering her young for warmth. I think the most direct modern parallel would be an electric incubator. Something that keeps another thing warm in order for life to be born. Another good way of explaining the word would be the mothers womb. The heat of the womb that gestates the life of the child.

We are like the child in the womb that is this universe. The entire universe is her to keep us alive through its tapas, its warming fires. The most direct manifestation of this tapas is the heat of the sun. Without the heat of the sun there would be no life on this world. Its heat creates all energy on this planet in all its forms. It is the sun’s tapas, its warming fires which keeps the earth alive. Within each one of us too is a tapas; the tapas of the Atman or the soul.

Within us lies the greatest potential for generating this life giving heat. But in order to get this heat, one must be in perfect balance. So the word tapas has become, overtime to mean the practice of generating this heat, of practicing the actions that lead to balance. Normally these actions are austerities and meditation, but the actual goal of these things, the great secret of these practices is to place the perspective in the perfect middle of the line. The perspective at the heart of all things, seeing the truth in all things as a result.

This is the point where you understand that you ARE all things. That there is nothing outside of yourself because you are all things. These actions are the generator of the fire that warms the gestation inside of us. Tapas are cause of all things everywhere. Tapas births the true self. The Atman.

The more we grow…

“The more we grow in love and virtue and holiness, the more we see love and virtue and holiness outside.” – Vivekananda, Inspired Talks p.526

This is a very wonderful quote that I read in one of my books. It struck me as the most beautiful thing and I thought that I would share it along with some thoughts that I had. The more we grow in love, the more we see love in the world. That is the basic maxim of the quote. The outside reflects the inside. What you see on the outside, what you think of as being outside, comes from within you.

Taking the thought a little farther, there is an essence, a truth being said here. The truth being that we create the world we see around us. This is not directly saying that everything we see is really just inside of our own heads. We are obviously, each having an experience, but that experience is essentially singular. There is a collective consciousness but it is not the result of our individual minds, it is the CAUSE of our individual minds. That is very important to remember. The stream only flows one way.

So in this way we are all collectively generating our existence. Each one of us being the part as well as the whole because the connection to everything being one is inherent. We are like a million eyes, creating the universe. Creating light through the eye. That too is a very strange and sacred idea that may not be understood by everyone. The idea that the eye is the thing that causes light to be. It is easy to mistake the effect for the cause. Even though the cause is always unaffected by the effect, the effect still has an inherent connection to the cause but this connection can only flow one way; from the cause the the effect, not the other way around.

On one level we can understand possibly the relationship between the mind and the world around us. The world around us is the result, or the effect of our minds cause. If we grow out selves, grow TOWARD ourselves. Then we will always be creating something that is closer to our true selves, the universal truth which is love. By coming closer to the truth, we cause an effect in the world that is also generated closer to the truth. This generation is like starting a fire with two sticks. You rub them together and they slowly build up heat and eventually, in one moment, a flame appears. This is the same thing that happens inside during this moving toward ourselves, or “the more we grow in love…”.

Even if we are not trying we are generating this world, affecting it. Some people are able to effect things more easily than others, all according to their capacity. Eventually everyone with gain independence from this Maya through complete realization and experience. There are others who are actively working in their lives toward the supreme goal. Those people have a choice. They can work the right-hand path or the left-hand path. The right hand path is the correct path, the one that brings you closer to the supreme goal. The left-hand path is the path that brings material treasures. It brings things down from above, the other end of the circuit if you will. Both paths are the same, neither really good nor bad. But the EFFECTS are different, that is the key.

The closer we get to the ultimate reality, that we are all one and that everything is one. The more that we move towards the love and virtue and holiness, the more we will succeed in our mission. In this worlds mission. If we concentrate on love then love will appear. If we concentrate on virtue, virtue will appear. If you concentrate on holiness, then you will become holy. If you become any of these things, then you will spread them like a fire and others will become loving and virtuous and holy. Even a little candle can fill a room with light.

Day-dreaming

Sometimes I find that I enjoy just sitting here and thinking. I’ve been doing it for a long time, as long as I can remember in-fact. Back when I was in grade school, around third or fourth grade, I remember it was called ‘day-dreaming’. The first time I heard that word, it was being applied to me and what I was doing which was staring off out a windows and thinking. It sounded like a magical word. I was always fascinated by dreams and this sounded to me like a way to make dreams come to me in the day time, while I was awake. Of course day-dreaming does not go that far in to the fantasy, but it can cause you to loose touch with events that are going on around you. Maybe I had taken up day-dreaming as an escape from what I saw as an oppressive and demanding world.

To this day I still day-dream. Just before I started writing this I was doing it, the act of which lead me to write about the fact and ponder it a little more. There is just something nice about day-dreaming. About sitting there with your thoughts and just letting them come to the forefront of your mind. The relaxation can go both ways. I can calm myself down by staring at a single point or object and focusing on it. I have been doing that since I was a child as a way of escaping situations that where overwhelming to me. This happened a lot, so I did it a lot.

Then there is the other way day-dreaming can correlate with relaxation. When I am feeling relaxed and free, I often drift into a day dream state where I let my thoughts wander and go where they will. It is a great past time that I cherish and hold as part of who I am. I have been day-dreaming so much over the course of my life that I feel I have done more in my mind that I have in the real world. No idea if that is a good or bad things but it has to be at least somewhat true.

There was one time, when I was on a baseball team as a child, where we where running laps around a field. I was having a tough time that day with feeling like I was part of the team. In my mind everyone was very different than me and I always felt that they didn’t like me. So we are running and I am thinking of what I would rather be doing at that time. During the 90’s a very popular game was Sim City and I was playing it religiously. In my mind I was still there at the computer building my city. I spent the majority of the run thinking not about what I was doing, but literally building a city in my head. That, to me, was much funner than running and even though I was doing one thing physically, I was doing another, much funner thing in my mind.

The moments just before sleep are also one of my favorite times to just think. I will be lying there in bed, my wife asleep next to me, and I will just think about things for maybe an hour or so. Sometimes I will try my best to run back everything I did that day in chronological order. Seeing if I could pull up from memory each thing that I did and thought. Heard and smelled. I am often surprised at how hard it can be to think of all the things that you did in a day without feeling that I am missing large chunks of my day. Those chunks must be the parts where I was day-dreaming throughout the day!

I do think that sleep is a form of focused thought no different from the more ‘forced’ or induced focus that happens when day-dreaming. The only difference is that you have reverted back to a more true state, that of observer only. During a dream you are still consciously thinking of things, but it seems that you are just watching things play out. Without the control from your conscious thought to guide a dream, you can end up with some very strange connections and events happening in dreams.

I dream very often, I would say pretty much every night. I don’t always recall all of my dreams even if I knew that I dreamed that night. Most of the dreams that I can recall are the ones that I have just moments before I wake up. When I am in a halfway place between dreaming and sleeping. Those are the dreams that have the most impact on me. I believe that dreams are very important to understanding yourself and can reveal many things about yourself to yourself.

In the same way that dreams can tell you about yourself, day-dreaming can also reveal to you aspects of your unconscious that you otherwise would not have revealed. If you day-dream with this intention, it no longer becomes the unguided and frowned upon ‘day-dreaming’ of youth. Instead it becomes something called meditation. The conscious focus of thought on a certain object or form. If you can do this with your mind, you can discover all of the knowledge that is in this world. It truly is a very powerful tool that we all have within us.

To frown upon a child who day-dreams is wrong. Instead, that child should be fostered to develop his/her talent. For if the child can start from an early age, controlling his/her thoughts and turning day-dreaming into focus and meditation. Then a great gift of love and truth can be given to the child which. If children can discover their true-selves at an early age, or even start the journey itself at an early age; society and culture will reap the rewards in the future.

For those of us who are older, lets us try and practice day-dreaming a little every day in order that it may eventually develop into intense meditation. Anyone can do this!

The ego and the Atman

In the Yoga Sutras (Sadhana Pada) the following is written:

“Egoism is the identification, as it were, of the power of the Seer (Purisha) with that of the instrument of seeing.”

That is a very sophisticated line! There is a lot to be learned in its wisdom. Here I am going to try and talk a little about my views on the ego and the real self (Atman).

To start; What is the ego? The ego is the I as you think yourself to be. In reality there is no “I”. The ego is the part of the mind that says; “I have this. I am that.” According to the ego, the entire universe revolves around I. This is the way that a child or a baby thinks. When they want something they make a noise and the mother comes to help them. They know that if they cry and fuss about something, they will get it. So that is what they do.

Most people are still like children in which they think that their needs are important enough to cause others to make them comfortable, or feed them, or tend to their needs. This is the life of the ego and there are many people who think that they can enjoy life with this outlook.

Unfortunately, the baby is never content. If the mother comes and feeds the hungry child, then a few moment later the baby is crying about something else. There is no end to the babies crying because all of its enjoyments are temporary. They bring the child pleasure for only a few seconds and then there is something else wrong.

The smarter path is to reject the ego. There are religious people in this world who tell everyone to reject the material world, reject the body. The world and all that is around us is not bad, it is here for a purpose and that purpose is love. The real problem is the ego in this world. The ego in this world sees an object that is attractive to it and it says “I WANT THAT”. If it gets the object then it things “THIS IS MINE”. So you can see here that the problems in this world do not come out of the material. They come out of the ego and its endless desires. Only then does the world become a bad place to live.

To bring our thoughts back to the sutra; it says that the ego is the identification of the power of the seer with that of the instrument of the seeing. We have defined what the ego is, but what is this instrument?

The instrument is the mind. It is the physical body. The body is a tool chest that we have been given with many tools inside. The most important tool is the mind. For with the mind we can have discretion and with discretion we can gain enlightenment and freedom from bondage. Humans are the only things on this earth that can gain freedom and that is because of their mind. The human brain is the most complicated thing known to man. There is nothing in this universe that we have discovered that is more complicated. The number of possible pathways in the brain are more numerous than the number of atoms in the entire universe!

So the sutra says that the ego is the result of the identification of the perceive with this body, with this material world. Again, it is not the material world that is the issue here, it is the ‘identification’ of this seer with that world. So that brings us to the last part of the equation: What is this seer?

The seer is the soul but not in the sense that some of us may think about it. The soul is the true source of all things. It is called the Atman and is the God that inside of all of us. I will not go too into detail here, but this Atman is the subject of all perception. It is the constant preceptor. It is untouched eternally from all changes. Is is the true self.

Atman is the true self that we are all trying to find. Everyone knows that there is a spark of light inside of them. This light will never be touched and is always pure. It is like a piece of God within all of us. In the same way that the Sun illuminates everything with its rays, so is it with the Atman and perception. The same way that the Sun is untouched by the things it illuminates, so is it with the Atman and its perception. The Sun may shine on good things and on bad things, but it is untouched by those things. So it goes with the Atman.

If the identification lies not with the body but with the Atman, then all of the problems that we think exist melt away. All becomes clear and the truth is revealed. People who have achieved this identification have their entire world-view changed. They become enlightened and no longer fall victim to the trials and tribulations of this world. Beyond that, the yogi should go farther until there is no identification with anything at all. Then the true and complete freedom is achieved!

Thought expansion

When you use your mind, it is like you are touching the universe. The universe is like a lake. The magnitude of your thought creates ripples of various sizes in the lake of the universe. The stronger the concentration, the larger the ripple. These ripples also combine with other ripples and create even bigger ripples. This continues to happen until the ripple is so large that it triggers an event.
Thoughts are like waves. Waves of a similar frequency will combine to create an even larger wave until the wave crests and is resolved back into many little waves. This happens for eternity. This also demonstrates the concept of ‘like attracts like’ or the “Law of Attraction” as it is known in New Age terms. Thoughts that are of a similar nature will combine with other similar thoughts. Likewise, thoughts that are conflicting or un-similar will cancel each other out and not continue to manifest.

There are often times that everyone has known, when you enter a room and can feel the energy inside. If you feel something like that you should know that the thoughts that are in that room are very strong and may be inharmonious with your own. There are other times when you walk into a room and can feel the love and warmth of the people there. Often times people will talk about a person’s “energy”. What they are referring to is the strong thought vibrations that are being generated by that person. These are the thoughts ripples traveling over the surface of the lake. Some people have strong thoughts and others not so much.

The stronger ripples are created by a more concentrated and focused mind. If the mind is scattered it will generate many tiny ripples. If the mind is focused on something it will generate stronger ripples. This displays the power of the mind to affect the physical world. Because the physical world is made up of the same primal energy as thoughts, strong thoughts can build to create events. It is often referred to as synchronicity but they can also be coincidence. The word coincidence when broken down displays just that. Co-inside-ence – Two things existing in the same place at the same time. The thought and the action.

Stronger thoughts generate bigger ripples which turn into waves and crest. Strong thoughts are brought about through focus. The other side of focus is expansion. Contraction of thought and expansion of thought are both very powerful things. Expansion is the other method of creating strong thoughts. Expansion involves thinking of the largest, most abstract thing instead of the single, individual thing. This is the thought form that unites all things together, because everything is part of a larger whole and therefore contains an inherent connection between all things.

These very large, expansive thoughts are more harmonious because their wave is of a lower frequency. They tend to travel untouched by other thoughts. The larger wave passes right over the smaller waves and does not much affect them. Both methods of thought are powerful but the expansive thought takes less energy and is therefore the easier of the paths.

Moving around is a good thing

Today was a pretty easy going day. I was able to get a lot done including working on the temple painting. It is actually developing nicely so I am excited about getting it done. I already have a place above my desk to put it.

Tomorrow is a workout day so I’m happy that I am not feeling too sore today. It is a whole lot easier to get motivated to workout when you are not already feeling the pain from the last workout! Plus, I don’t think that it is too healthy to work out too much. There has to be some time to get healed before you can really push it again. I also think that it is important to make sure to stay active for most of the day. You may be surprised how many calories your body burns just simply walking and standing. If you walked for an entire day straight, you would burn well over the 2500 calories recommended by the US Food and Drug Administration. That’s quite a bit!

A reason for this large number is that your body is actually very inefficient at using calories for physical energy. Only about 20% of the calories used by the body result in locomotion. The majority of calories burned are used for brain function, with the rest going to basic body functions and heat regulation. So you can see how much you can expend by just moving your body.

One can only imagine the amount of time people spend just sitting and doing nothing. People who work in offices are the most prone to this problem. I, myself used to sit for most of the day when I had a desk job. I would try my best to get out of the building and take a walk around the building, but that would only be for 5-10 minutes and then I was back to sitting at my desk for the rest of the day.

If you can just get up and move around you can actually burn quite a few carbs. There are people who think that in order to work out and loose weight, you have to push yourself to the limit and really make it a chore. The only time you need to kill yourself working out is if you want to create muscle. In that case you have to literally tear the muscle in order for it to heal stronger, and bigger than it was before. For fat burning, you only need two things: be in a fat burning mode (ketogenic), and burn more calories than you consume.

Office life is not a good way to live. I feel bad for those who are stuck at a desk job, or any job, that they hate. Being locked in to a job that you hate is one of the worst ways to spend your life, but many Americans are doing just that. It is easy to get locked into a cycle of consuming debt. With things like credit cards and home mortgages, people get locked into having to just pay the bills. There are those who have so much debt that they will never be able to pay it off. That is no way to live.

A lesson I learned early on; Don’t get put in a position where you owe someone something. As soon as you owe something to someone, you are their slave plain and simple. They can come and take your entire life away. It is always best to be as self reliant as you can. Sure there are people in your life that depend upon you and those you depend upon, but this dependence should be based on fellowship and love, not mandated by debt.

I’m digressing from by original purpose for writing this post, which was me working out and the value of being active. Again, it’s amazing what you can do for your health and fitness by just moving around for the majority of the day. I’ve even had the thought of removing the chair at my desk so that I would stand all day and never really sit down for any length of time. That may be a little extreme, but it would probably be very effective.

The other thing that I have discovered only yesterday is that it helps when going through the ‘keto flu’ to take salt tablets. I discovered that most if not all of my keto transition symptoms where alleviated by salt pills. No more dizziness or light headed feeling from low blood pressure. I would highly recommend that you check them out if you ever feel fatigued or tired. They have really done wonders for my overall vitality, especially when transitioning.

When you are going through keto, or even during keto if your body is still adjusting, it is common to loose salt when your body is flushing out all the water weight. This can result in de-hydration. Even though you may be drinking a lot of water, you will still feel thirsty because your body is loosing salt as well as potassium. An easy way to take care of this is to salt your food more. After a while your body should adjust (takes about a week or two) and then you will be back to normal and you wont have to worry about your salt intake so much.

I found that by taking a salt pill every hour or so, all of my fatigue, headaches, and dizziness upon standing quickly went away. The effects where almost immediate. The nice thing about the pill is you don’t have to take it with food so you don’t necessarily have to eat to get your salt up. I like to take one just before we go on our walks around the neighborhood in order to have more energy.

Most people think that taking salt would be harmful, but really the issue with salt is not the amount that you eat. It is more about the amount of water that you drink with the salt intake and if you have high blood pressure due to other factors which can be exasperated by the salt. What people forget is that salt is an important part of our diet and is required by our bodies to function.

With the addition of the salt pills I have been feeling great. Today was the second day taking them and they are really making a difference. Hopefully tomorrow I will be feeling just as good when I work out.

Goals for Jan 2017

Today I decided to go over my goals for the month of January 2017 and I thought I would post them as a reminder to get them done! The month is about half over, so these are goals for things that I either want to do every day, or that I want to get completed before the end of the month. A lot of the things listed here I have been doing all month already, so it should be no problem for me to knock these things out for the rest of this month. I am also planning some things for the new moon that is approaching on the 27th of this month so that will be the day where, if I need to, I will shift my focus away from things that are not working. In the meantime, here are my goals for the rest of January 2017:

Scheduled tasks:
* Write over 1000 words per day, everyday.
* Post a blog post every day.
* Learn Shinken monitoring -> Get a server up and running with monitoring of something working.
* Work out 3 times per week -> Each workout consists of:
100 sit-ups min
100 push-ups
100 squats w/ weight added (30 pounds)
As needed weight lifting
* Paint my temple board panting (Ill post it when it is done!)
* Meditate and read every day -> Reading should be non-fiction.

Quick tasks:
* Label networking equipment in the house.
* Create networking topology diagram for the house network.
* Enable SNMP on something -> One of the routers/switches maybe?

For the reading, I am also going to be trying to get at least a chapter of the fiction book I am reading for pleasure; Neil Stephenson’s Seveneves. If I could finish that book this month that would also be quite an accomplishment. It is a big read but I really enjoy the way that Neil Stephenson writes and would recommend his books to anyone who is interested in “hard science fiction”; that is, science fiction that is as close as possible to real, but with one event or thing that is changed to create the story. Something like historical speculative fiction could be considered a close relative of this genre in that everything is as close to how it really happened, but the author changed one thing (like the Nazis won the war) and takes off in that direction. The primes of Seveneves being; the moon blows up. It literally gets blown into a bunch of pieces that eventually disintegrate into a cloud that covers the earth and kills everyone on the planet (called the hard rain). The only people who survive are the ones who where able to make it off the planet and onto a makeshift space-station orbiting the earth. Ill leave it at that. If it sounds like an interesting story then you should give it a try.

Another item on my list that I am excited about is learning Shinken. For people out there in the tech world, you may have heard about Nagios. It is a tool that monitors your network and reports problems in performance and availability to you. Very useful when you have a lot of network devices all relying on each other, or even when you are managing a load of servers and special hardware. The best way to start fixing a problem is to first know about the problem and this system helps you do that. I am planning on learning the Shenkin spin-off of Nagios because I love to use things written in Python. It just makes it so much easier to deploy and use packages because of ‘pip’. Other than some architectural changes, it is completely compatible with Nagios and can even use Nagios configurations without any editing! The software is challenging but I feel that it is worth knowing how to use and configure it. The payoff of knowledge is just too sweet!

As far as things that I want to get done this month, the only one that remains on the list is painting my temple board. I have a board that I painted black and I am planning on painting a Hindu temple on it using bright and pastel colors so it resembles the temples in India. Recently I found out that even the Greek statues where originally painted and looked very real. We have sense let the paint come off the marble and that is how we know them today, but that was not always the case. Even many of the old temples that you can see in Cambodia and Thailand as well as the great pyramids and many other ancient building where painting bright colors, with the pyramids originally a bright white.

My foray into painting came when I decided to paint some dancing skeletons on a board as a Christmas present for a friend of mine. At first it was hard and I thought that I was going to mess it up and that it would not come out looking good. Instead of giving up before I even got the painting done, I decided to keep pushing and I worked hard at getting it done. Within two nights I had the entire painting done and I thought it looked amazing. For me, it was a testament to the fact that if I wanted to get something done, no matter how hard it seemed to be, I would be able to complete that thing and succeed. In reality everyone can do that. That is a fact! If you really want something, there is nothing but yourself that can stop you from reaching your goals!

Exercise is also a big part of this months goals. I lost a lot of weight last year and I am feeling great this month so far. Now that all the weight is off I am realizing that was only half the battle to looking and feeling my best. Diet is a huge part but exercise is also just as important. If I can work out on a regular basis I think that it will help keep me feeling and looking as good as possible.

Wish me luck on this months goals! If you have any goals or comments, be sure to tell me about them in the comments of this post. I would really love to hear back from you all!

Jury Duty

Today I had to go to the courthouse for jury duty. For those who live in an area where there is no jury duty, or for those of you who don’t know what jury duty is, I’ll explain.

Jury duty, at least in the United States, is a civic duty that you are required to perform if you have a drivers license (DMV) or are registered to vote. Every year you are entered into a group and that group is chosen out of a list to be called. Sometimes your group gets called and sometimes it doesn’t, but you have to keep checking back each day for a week to find out if your group is called or not. Very annoying. If your group is called you have to show up to the courthouse at a certain time. If you do not show up at the appointed time, you can actually be fined or arrested. Very serious stuff!

When you arrive at the courthouse, in the city I live in, you have to go down to the basement where the jury check-in is and you wait. While you are waiting they play a video that goes over all the things you have to do when you get called. One of the things they have you do is wear a plastic badge that lets everyone know that you are a member of the jury. I guess this way the attorneys and people on trial know not to talk to you in the hallways. Again, if you get caught talking to anyone outside the courtroom about the trial, you can get fined or even arrested.

You wait in a room with about 100 people in it all seated. There is a little area where they have a table setup to eat food at. It’s a little strange in that you are in the basement and you can really tell. Right out-side the jury check-in area, there is a maintenance door and everything. They call out names every once in a while and if they call your name then you are selected to be on a jury panel. This is where things get interesting.

In this instance, I was selected and was told to report with a group of about 75 other people to one of the courtrooms. Once there the judge went over all of the laws and rules and told a lot of stories about different trials, trying to get us to understand what they where trying to accomplish in this trial. I find it very interesting and I understand how the law works so I was somewhat excited at the prospect of being selected. During this initial selection you just have to not have any hardships that stop you from being able to server (children, taking care of older relatives, etc.) and then they had us go into another room and fill out a questionnaire.

The questionnaire was a series of simple questions that asked you if you understood certain parts of the law. They where especially interested in if you understood that the person is innocent until proven guilty. That is one of the things that many of the people had a hard time understanding. There is no burden of proof on the defendant. If the trial ended today without any evidence being presented he would be no guilty.

In this case especially this was an issue because of the nature of the charges. The man who was on trial was being charged with ‘lewd acts on a minor’ which means that he touched a girl under the age of 16. Because of the nature of the charges there where people who said that they would require that the man himself shows evidence and or testifies or else they would find him guilty. The law explicitly states otherwise so they where dismissed.

This all happened on the first day which was last week. Today I had to come back and be present for the jury selection process. For this we where ushered into the courtroom and names where called for people who would be sitting in the jury box to be questioned. Those people who’s names where called would go to the jury box and be asked questions about the answers they had given the week before. There where no right answers; the judge was trying to get an idea if the person understood and would follow the law. People who could not where dismissed.

This process when on for some time. After the judge was happy with the 18 jurors that where in the box he passed the questions over to the prosecutor and then the defense. Each attorney would ask their own questions and at the end of the questions they would be able to dismiss whoever they thought was not good for their side. Again, this took a while.

It actually took all day. The entire time this is going on I am sitting in the courtroom, having not been called, waiting and listening to all of this proceeding. For the first hour it was kinda interesting to me and somewhat entertaining, but then it started to wear on me. I wasn’t getting mad or anxious, but the energy of the courthouse in general is weighing and I was starting to get tired.

The end of the day approached and I thought that I was home free. They had a jury selected and all they had to do was finish the process by selecting 3 alternates that would take over a spot on the jury if someone had to be dismissed. Often times during a trial things will happen like someone will get sick and not be able to continue their roll in the jury. That’s when my name was called.

I sat up at the jury box and answered the questions. I understood the law and was able to say that I thought that I was a good judge of character. After the questioning by the judge, it was the prosecuting attorneys turn and he basically selected the first to people called, which did not include me, and they where chosen as the alternates. We where all dismissed and don’t have to return for 2 years!

I have mixed feelings about not being on the jury. First and foremost; I really thought that I was going to be on the jury and I was excited. I figured, what better time for me to fulfill this civic duty than when I am not worried about it interfering with work and when I have free time on my hands to commit to this. I also thought that I would be a good judge of the case and I knew that I would rule correctly on this matter. I was excited to be able to serve.

I am also a little relieved. It was hard to sit there for just this one day and listen to the back and forth of the attorneys. I can only imagine how much more it would wear on me if I had to sit in on the entire trial which was scheduled to last 3 weeks. I probably dodged a bullet on this one!

Moving on

Over the past week or so I have been streaming on Twitch.tv, mostly playing Dwarf Fortress but also playing a game called RimWorld. The streaming is fun and it is interesting to get myself out there. I feel that it is really making me think about the things that I say and do. It is also making me re-asses my character and how I am perceived by the world.

I remember when I was a child my dad had a mini-tape recorder. It was old and was probably from the 70’s when he was in the Navy. I would take the recorder and record my voice into it and when I played it back I thought that my voice sounded strange. I’m sure that there are other people who have noticed the same thing. Streaming is the same way. I would see and hear myself and how I acted and it would seem very foreign to me. Which is strange; because it’s me!

The streaming part has been a lesson. On top of learning about myself it has also taught me about the work and setup that has to go into video and audio. Making it all work and sound good is not an easy task. There were moments when I thought that the only way to get it to work was to spend money. I found out that was not true. If you really want to do something then you will get it done. Where there is a will, there is a way so they say.

Unfortunately, it started to wear on me. Not the streaming so much as the gaming. I really found out something about myself… I’m not much of a gamer. Playing the games was fun, but I don’t really get into playing action games or other types of games that most of the people who are streaming are playing.

Instead of streaming, I am going to fill that goal with more writing. I think that writing is more relaxing for me and really is something that I have always wanted to do. All you really have to do to become a good writer is have something to write about, and to write!

Instead of writing 500 or more words a day, I am upping my lower limit to 1000 words per day which should be a challenge but should also be doable. The main idea during this time of my life is to get things done that help me explore who I am and what I want to do in/for this world. If something is not working in your life, it is best to move on as quickly as possible. If moving on was not right then you can be sure it will present itself again in your life in the future.

All is not lost for my video making. I am planning on streaming some electronics videos and maybe other IRL (In Real Life) stuff on Twitch still. I am also moving in the direction of making YouTube videos. Next week I am planning on implementing a filming schedule that will force me to shoot footage no matter what.

This week is going to be a little different, but I think that changing it up is good. Like I said, if something is not working, don’t force it… Let it go and move on as quickly as possible.

Meditation and looking within

I mentioned in yesterdays essay the importance of looking within yourself. I also alluded to meditation as being a practical way to achieve the turning within. To many, meditation seems like a strange, foreign thing. In the United States, which is predominantly Christian in makeup, mediation is not something that is practiced. In many protestant churches, it may even be frowned upon as devil worship. But there should be nothing mysterious about meditation. In reality, it is as natural as breathing.

Meditation, at its most basic level, is focus. It is the practice of focusing ones mind and gaining control over its waves. By focus, we are able to calm the thoughts which are like waves and create a serene lake within the mind. If you practice it enough and are able to calm the mind then the lake becomes like a mirror, thus reflecting the true reality. It may not be easy to reach a point where the mind is perfectly clear, but it is easy to simply meditate.

Each and every thought that you have is like a quick little mediation. All of the images and words that you think. Each and every one of them is a brief focus of thought. Sometimes you have longer thoughts, like when you are having a conversation with someone, or when you are thinking a lot about a particular thing. For most people this happens without much control on their part. If there is something that affects them they jump to a thought. There are others who can control their thoughts and guide them more easily to their will. By practicing mediation you are able to control all of your thoughts and use them, focus them.

Normally the mind will bounce from thought to thought, going a hundred miles an hour! It will jump from one thought to the next rapidly and this can cause confusion. If the mind is running quickly it cannot be used properly. In order to think clearly the mind must be able to maintain focus on a particular thing. The longer the mind can focus, the stronger the mind becomes. It is like a muscle; the more you work the muscle the stronger it becomes. The same is true for the mind; the more you work on concentration the longer you can concentrate.

Many people think that mediation is about obtaining the absence of thoughts. I’ve known many people who tell me it is hard to meditate because they cannot stop thinking about thinking. The answer to this problem is that they are trying to go too far to quickly. The main goal of meditation should not be the absence of thoughts. The main goal of meditation should be to focus one’s mind on a single thought for as long as possible. It is often helpful to utilize an object like a rose or a lotus.

At first it may be difficult to concentrate the mind for more than a split second. You will start to think about things other than what you are trying to focus on. That is your mind trying to gain control back. As soon as you try to control it, it will start to fight you a little. The more you pull it in one direction, the more it will struggle. Finally, the mind will grow weary of this game and give in. If the mind gives you thoughts let it do so. Instead of fighting them, let them come. After a few moments, bring your focus back to your chosen object. It’s like a game you are playing.

As you practice meditation, you will notice that very quickly you will be able to focus for longer and longer periods of time. This may happen faster than you would initially think. If you get tired of your chosen object our thought, change it. This way your mind will not grow tired and will not struggle so much. It is up to you what you want to meditate on. It makes no difference. The main goal is focus. Through focus your mind will become sharp like a sword. It will easily be able to discern between right and wrong. Between the real and unreal.