toxic thought waste site

Theological whimsy, metaphysical larks, and other spiritually radioactive waste products.

Saturday, January 19, 2008

A Random Walk Through The Bible: Hosea 7:4

Using our random verse finder and the basic methodology:
Hosea 7:4 (New International Version)

They are all adulterers, burning like an oven whose fire the baker need not stir from the kneading of the dough till it rises.

So last time God said I was to be his messenger (or something like that). Now this has *got* to be the message.

  • discern the spiritual principle in this verse
    • God hates adulterers

  • ask what was god trying to get across to these people when he spoke these words
    • you are going to experience the powers of a convection oven, up close and personal like

  • ask how does this apply to me
    • I'm not an adulterer (that you can prove) so, *whew*.

I wonder if God has any more important messages to give to me (and to the world by me). I guess we'll find out next time on the next installment of A Random Walk Through the Bible!

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Sunday, January 13, 2008

A Random Walk Through The Bible: Exodus 19:6

Using our random verse finder and the basic methodology:

Exodus 19:6 (New International Version)

you will be for me a kingdom of priests and a holy nation. These are the words you are to speak to the Israelites.

  • discern the spiritual principle in this verse
    • God wants me to be his priest unto the Israelites

  • ask what was god trying to get across to these people when he spoke these words
    • He wants me to tell them something

  • ask how does this apply to me
    • Stand by for an important announcement...

OK, folks God has chosen me to present a message. I don't know what it is yet, but I think it's going to be important!

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Wednesday, January 09, 2008

Zero to Zen Master: How I got here (again)

Some thoughts on how I came to spend my ever so valuable time thinking about silly things like zen. Like a lot of people I read a bunch of zen books in college. But that's college. You are allowed to do crazy experimental stuff. But now I'm a grown up (sort of) why am I wasting my time on this stuff again? I sort of got hit from three directions and decided to pay attention.

First, Sam Harris talks glowingly about contemplative practices in a number of places. And I was really intrigued by his essay on Buddhism and meditation.

Secondly I heard an interview with Susan Blackmore on It was a really interesting discussion on memes and parapsychology and drugs and consciousness and atheism. I was really surprised I had never heard of her before. I started reading her articles on her website and well, they are drenched in zen.

The last zen-ish thing was a little more circuitous. I had been reading some John (End of Science) Horgan writings on This led me too his web site full of his essays and book excepts. I was particularly interested in his debunking of enlightened gurus. Some how from looking at this I found this article by Brad (HARDCORE ZEN) Warner which comments on Horgan's views on the topic. Soon after I started to read through his zen essays he started a blog which I keep in my feed and check every once in a while.

The funny thing is that it was Brad's writing that sort of broke the camel's back. And mostly it was his suggestion that to do zen you need to sit correctly. To what ever degree this is true it was what I needed to start having a *serious* meditation practice as meager as it is. Sitting slightly uncomfortably and with good posture really does make a difference. And his writings on zen are believable to me. He writes how he had a semi-mystical experience transcending space and time and viewing the whole universe in a vision of sorts and his zen teacher ridiculed him and told him it was garbage. It's a little thing, but that gives him credibility to me.

Now I need to actually read one (or more) of his books and see if I like him as much as I *think* I would.

Any way, dear reader, that is how I found myself in Zenville, in the zen district accross the street from Zen R Us, on Zen avenue. Perhaps you know the place.

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Sunday, January 06, 2008

Zero to Zen Master: General Plan

My basic plan for the year is to come up with month long experiments related to zen and to read some books. Nothing much fancier than that. Unless I think of something fancier. I've pondered briefly trying to identify a zendo in my area, but the thought of hanging out with a bunch of strangers and sitting quietly for long stretches of time seems kind of weird. Almost weirder than just going to church. So we'll just stick with my modest plan.

I have a list of books I'm planning to work through. I'll go over my list in the near future in some detail. As it happens I decided to read "The Complete Idiot's Guide to Zen Living" first. And despite my knee jerk expectation that the book would suck (just the title I guess) I actually like it and it seems like a pretty calm and level headed introduction.

To a large extent zen is really just about meditating. When I was in college reading about it it always had this sense of *magic* about it. If I could just "get it" some how I'd have this calmness, this well spring of spontaneity and I'd have wisdom in some deep way. And the ability to shoot a bow and arrow in the dark and hit my target. To what ever extent that stuff is true I currently am just of the opinion that zen is really just about training your attention.

In that vein I will try not to get too bound up in my books but will mostly focus on the zazen practice. For each month I'll try some variation of poses, meditation style, perhaps some koans and other little things that I think of. I'm trying not to plan too far ahead so that I can just do whatever makes sense based on what I've tried so far.

So for January here's the plan:

- meditate 8 minutes a day
- count to 10 with breath
- sit in half lotus
- keep in mind the first of the Noble Eightfold Path - right view
- mindfulness trigger: first bite of food each meal

8 minutes doesn't seem like very long, but if you've never tried it, it's *insanely* long. Also I don't have a lot of time. I think it's more important to establish a doable habit than to try to do things perfectly.

I'm doing the count to 10 thing as a sort of training wheel. I've kept up a nightly meditation routine for the last 6 months or so but I still find it so very hard to focus on my breath for the 8 minutes. I've read that counting to 10 is a good "hack" to help you stay focused.

Sitting in a slightly uncomfortable position has made mindfulness possible. Years ago when I tried meditating I always fell asleep. Now it's never a problem. Doing a "true" half lotus is beyond my skill but it's the perfect level for me to aim at for now. I would *love* to get to a full lotus during the year but I'm not going to hold my breath.

Right View. I'm not deeply interested in the Buddhist aspects of zen but I also don't want to ignore them completely. So I'll just review the different steps of the noble path for a while.

Mindfulness triggers. The goal of zen (for some) seems to be as much awareness of now as you can muster. A useful tip I've heard in this respect is to create "mindfulness triggers". In other words set up a habit of having your environment remind you to be mindful. My first trigger will be for first bites of meals.

Ok, that's enough talking about zen for now. Gotta go sit on my ass for 8 minutes before I head off too bed.

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Saturday, January 05, 2008

A Random Walk Through the Bible: 2 Chronicles 18:23

Using our random verse finder and the basic methodology:

2 Chronicles 18:23 (New International Version)

Then Zedekiah son of Kenaanah went up and slapped Micaiah in the face. "Which way did the spirit from the LORD go when he went from me to speak to you?" he asked.

  • discern the spiritual principle in this verse
    • huh?

  • ask what was god trying to get across to these people when he spoke these words
    • um.....

  • ask how does this apply to me
    • errr....

One verse is more profound and meaningful than the next. No wonder people people find such meaning and solace in this grand old tome. Oh, what's that you say, no one actually reads it? I guess that makes more sense.

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Friday, January 04, 2008

Adventures in Enlightenment: Zero to Zen Master

So it's time to take it up a notch. I've had some fun with my monthly samplers from the enlightenment buffet. But now it is time for a full meal. While I'm capable of many things, becoming enlightened by way of a month long experiment is apparently not within my power.

Let's make it a year then. If I can't get enlightened in a year then I think it's safe to say that this whole enlightenment thing is (gasp) a sham. Or I'm spiritually tone deaf, metaphysically color blind, or just dumb.

By a not very scientific assessment it seems that zen is the best bet. First of all the amount of clearly ridiculous beliefs you have to start out with are at a minimum and secondly there does appear to be some half way credible evidence around that meditating is good for you.

Zen seems to be one of those things that in a sense gets a "free ride" from otherwise skeptical people. My goal is to determine if there really is something interesting behind this whole zen thing or if its just more metaphysical gobbledygook. Along the way I could just get in on some of that satori action.

Over the next few days I'll start outlining exactly what my year long schedule is going to be and what the specific month long zen themed enlightenment experiments will be. Until then if you want to help a struggling zen-weenie along, what books would you recommend or warn against?

If you need a little zen snack to get you through the day while you are awaiting my words of wisdom, you could probably do worse than checking out the HARDCORE ZEN blog. (This author actually has at least a small role in my revisiting zen as I hope to talk about in the near future).

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