The other day, I did a search on YouTube to find the proper pronunciation of an ancient Zen monk named Mokurai for a reading that I was doing on my Soundcloud page (http://soundcloud.com/paulotus/sound-of-one-hand). What I discovered was an American monk who also had the name Mokurai shoe said that he was from a place called Silent Thunder Mountain.
After a couple of minutes of video chaos as Mokurai was setting up his camera, the monk came into frame with a very austere presence with nary a hint of joy in his demeanor. Ironically, Mokurai’s somberness caused me to giggle. I wanted to grab him, shake him and exclaim, “Mokurai! Dude! Enlighten up! You have some keys to universal wisdom and that’s a great thing. Laugh man, laugh!”.
Here was a man who was referred to as a “guru” by one of the comments below him and he seemed humorless. He may have been nervous in front of the camera but I suspect it was his regular, übersolemn personality. This is what I want to get away from with my trainings and writing – the image of that monk or nun who is conveys a sense of austerity around Buddhism.
You’ll find that I talk about change a lot. Not many people I know look forward to making major life ones or being dealt a hand that creates major shifts in their daily lives.
It’s natural to have reservations about the minor changes and fearful about the major ones. The beauty is that you can readjust your perspective and embrace the changes whether they are major or minor. If you regard fear as a motivator but don’t let it consume you, you’ll expand your powers and become a stronger and more resilient person.
A song that’s been a comfort in times of emotional and physical shifters is the tune “Changes” by YES. It’s helped me to get through some of the difficulties and has helped motivate me. If you have that special song that provides you with strength, use it!
Change changing places
Root yourself to the ground
Capitalize on this good fortune
One word can bring you round
In the past 25 years, I’ve moved at least 15 times. Originally, I moved from Boston to the Northfield-Mt Hermon School in Western Massachusetts for a Post-Grad year in 1986 before going to college at American University. My Freshman year was amazing but Sophmore year my illness took over, took me way down and then into the stratosphere when I had an insanely wild time. Junior year arrived and I crashed hard and had to return to Boston due to my illness causing me to take a break from school. After recovering, it was back to D.C. to finish my BA at American U and in 1993 upon graduating I moved to Gloucester, MA to reconnoiter and figure out my next move which of course was Boston.
I met my first wife Melisa in 1994 and got married in 1996 and had an amazing wedding and a decent marriage. We moved around the greater-Boston area 3 times and then got amicably divorced after the marriage fizzled and my illness and some other factors caused some strife. In 2001 after our separation and being laid off, and I packed up and made my most extreme relocation to Tucson, AZ.
After living a crazy year in Tucson where my hypomania increased my incandescence and I lived a rogue’s life, I met my second wife Alana in 2002 and I calmed down a bit. We lived a nice life in Tucson at a great adobe house. Due to us both being laid off from the U of AZ, we decided to move to Boston in 2006 after Alana got a job at M.I.T. running the recycling program. Things didn’t work out and we packed up and moved to the Phoenix area in 2007 and I did my best to keep my head above the very little water in the desert city. Well, the marriage didn’t work out for various reasons and we got divorced though we kept our friendship intact.
Now, in 2012 I’ve decided to uproot my life yet again and relocate back to Boston to start an entirely new life in a familiar place and get into stress management and Health Coaching and training. I fully plan to stay for a while as I’m a renewed person with my illness under control and a entirely new outlook on life. Yes, it’s been an epic life and hopefully the saga will get more stable and more exciting.
The painful thing is that when we buy into disapproval, we are practicing disapproval. When we buy into harshness, we are practicing harshness. The more we do it, the stronger these qualities become. How sad it is that we become so expert at causing harm to ourselves and others. The trick then is to practice gentleness and letting go. We can learn to meet whatever arises with curiosity and not make it such a big deal.
- Pema Chodron, When Things Fall Apart: Heart Advice For Difficult Times
As I may have mentioned before, I have a chronic condition that I’ve contended with for over half of my life. It’s called bipolar disorder and I try to look at less as a disease and more as a difficult neurotransmitter challenge. The biggest question I get from people who are unfamiliar with the condition is: “Aren’t we all bipolar?”. To some degree, yes. In this bloody complex and oft times difficult world, it’s hard not to get beaten down by all the stresses out there and in turn get cranked up when things are going splendidly. Sure, it’s easy to get depressed about the state of world affairs but to flip around and hit a manic high tends to be much less common.
For those of you not familiar with mania or hypomania, just imagine downing 10 cups of coffee, having your birthday as a kid and the excitement that ensues the night before knowing that you’re going to have a slew of presents and cake. When I was a kid, insomnia would hit me the night before but it was only temporary. Now multiply this feeling by weeks or sometimes months without an obvious precipitating event, toss in some insomnia and constant exuberance and voila, you have one of my hypomanic periods of my life.
My hypomania can be really fun for a while. I tend to be the life of all the parties that I attend and a social dragonfly wherever I go. Basically, I’m on happy fire and I don’t want anything to bring me down off of it (though my family would have otherwise). I tend to call them at odd hours but for my brother in Spain, calling him at 3am my time is late morning for him so he find’s it entertaining but clearly knows that I’ve entered the hypomania zone. I’ve learned not to torture my mom in the early morning but when I call her during the day and blather on incessantly about my life plans, some grandiose and others somewhat realistic, she stays calm and bears with me.
The big downside to the power of the hypomania is that when my insomnia starts to catch up, I can get irritable and easily agitated by small things. I also tend to drive a bit recklessly and want to drink more and spend money that I don’t have. There isn’t any relaxation with the hypomanic state and my stress levels can be tipped towards anxiety and constant tension even when I’m happy and high on life. (to be continued)
What were you like when you were a child who saw the world through enchanted lenses? You know the one: the version of you that could discover endless possibilities with simple items like a rock and a piece of string. You were the kid who could take blankets and chairs and construct a regal and impenetrable castle made of housewares and imagination. This was the version of you that had endless magical powers of mind and mental resources. In addition, you could host a tea party with the most illustrious of royal dolls or take a kite and fly it so high that it could touch the moon and return to earth unscathed.
As a boy, I was an unstoppable force of hope, creativity and possibilities. I had two loving and brilliant parents who encouraged me to explore the world around me with my imagination, my curiosity and plenty of book to read. To me the world was full of magic, miracles and seemingly unlimited fun vocational pursuits. I wanted to become an artist, an archeologist, a herpetologist, a rock star, a paranormal investigator and a few other cool job endeavors. My world was rife with possibilities and mom and dad gave me the freedom and intellectual powers to investigate as much as I could.
Though my later childhood and youth had their definite complications, I never lost hope in the face of some serious adversity. My father had a major personality disorder and a mental illness that caused our once healthy nuclear family to implode. This in turn created my own mental havoc and unleashed my bipolar issues but I managed to weather these life storms with my creativity and imagination intact. Even after my parents’ destructive divorce and in spite of my dad’s issues, he still showed me great love and continued to help to foster my imaginative powers as best he could. My mom (the rock solid foundation of my life) also continued to encourage and inspire me to use my creative abilities and guide me on a positive course.
Now, as a successful adult who has figured out a new version of his life’s mission, I am constantly in communication with my young Pauly. Through all my trials and tribulations, I’ve managed to maintain my creative talents and it’s my hope that I can continue to help people from all walks of life stay in touch with or rediscover that power of their inner-kid. Being able to draw on your magic child is the key to living the magic of a mindful life and rekindling your creative and mindfully healthy spirit.
one of the ultimate free souls. photo from store in Sarasota.
For many years as a kid and young adult, I kept my differences hidden in the proverbial closet. I followed a different drummer (mostly metal skin bashers) and pursued activities like ghost hunting in my friends’ old Victorian houses, keeping a worm farm, drawing weapons of war and superheroes, reading plenty of sci-fi, horror books and comics and being a KISSaholic. Not much has changed except that my illustrations are more creative, I burnt out on sci-fi book and comics and my musical tastes have expanded greatly.
When I finally got to American University, I started to become more comfortable with exposing my uniqueness. I made more friends who were also of the same ilk an we reveled in our differentness. As a psych major, I was a minority amongst the many international studies and political science majors. I worked at the school newspaper as a music and movie writer covering metal and extreme music shows and reviewing horror and sci-fi movies with the occasional drama thrown in for good measure.
Now, as a Buddhist with a general love of open spirituality and an artist and musician, I’m still in the minority and I’m happy about it. I realize that being a unique person has opened up many opportunities for me and enabled me to meet so many great people who are also free spirits.
So to all you dear readers out there, I say to you find what makes you different and revel in that. We are all unique but sometimes it takes more effort to get out of the comfort zones that can bind us. Pursue the activities that make you feel liberated. Spend time with the other free spirits out there. Meet new and interesting people. And, if you’re already doing this keep moving forward and help those who need to be liberated from the shackles of society.
I used to dread the concept of making money and believed in the delusion that the pursuit of money would lead to selfishness, greed and countered my Buddhist beliefs until I read Geshe Michael Roach’s Book “The Diamond Cutter: Managing Your Business and Your Life”. The book had a powerful effect on me as it merged Buddhist concepts of interconnection, financial health and helping people and our world. This was a mind-blowing revelation to me because now I could see money as an integral part of our lives and that it could not only make my life better but also my friends and loved ones.
The basic’s of Roach’s concepts are that by planting a seed in your mind for success in whatever endeavor you pursue, you can succeed if you also help a friend, family member or someone who has the same sort of goal for achievement. This takes the concept of thriving financially and materially to a new level where it’s not longer a selfish pursuit but one that can help people and the world around you.
Now I perceive making good money as a healthy and rewarding pursuit that will enable me to not only help those close to me but also aid me in growing my business. By making my wellness business thrive, I will in turn be able to help other people as well as being able to donate to great causes in the world.
For more info on Roach’s work, check out some Youtube videos and The Diamond Cutter Institute.