100 – Keep Going

100 episodes! What an exciting milestone! In this podcast episode, I will talk about one of my favorite expressions/teachings from Sensei Kubose. “Keep Going” has become one of my go-to reminders about life in general.

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Transcript:

Hello and welcome to another episode of the Secular Buddhism podcast. This is episode number 100. I am your host, Noah Rasheta, and today I’m talking about the Buddhist teaching of keep going. Keep in mind you don’t need to use what you learn from Buddhism to be a Buddhist, you can use it to be a better whatever you already are. As I record this episode, episode 100 of the podcast, I’m feeling a lot of gratitude for all of you who listen to the podcast. One of the reasons I enjoy having a podcast is that it allows me to share my thoughts in an open and public way that allows people that I know and people that I love to get a glimpse into the way that I see life, the way that I understand reality.

And it’s sad, but it’s true, that in most of our ordinary day-to-day communications, even with those that we’re closest to, we rarely dig deep in our thoughts, and we communicate with each other usually on a superficial level. Sure, it may happen from time to time that in the right circumstances we get into the deeper conversations about life and stuff, but for the most part I think we spend a considerable amount of time just exchanging pleasantries and superficial exchanges about what we’ve been up to and how things are going, but we don’t really dig deep.

And I get it. I mean, most of our life, it would make people uncomfortable if you were just to ask the standard, “Hey, how are you doing?” And they responded with something like, “Well, you know, let’s spend a few hours here. I had some very deep thoughts I need to get off my chest.” It’d be like, “Hold on. I’m backing away here.” I get it. That’s how we normally communicate. But that’s what I love about the podcast, it allows me to do just that. I get to share some of my deepest thoughts and explore some of the topics and ideas that are most profound for me. And I get to do this knowing that some of the most meaningful things for me are going to be heard or listened to by people that I know and people that I love at some point in the future.

They might, I should say. I think about my kids and, and their kids, and who knows how many others just from that chain alone, that might one day encounter these words and they might hear the words and say, “Okay, well that’s how my dad thought or that’s, that’s how my grandpa used to think about life,” or whatever. And that’s a fun one for me, especially in the circumstances that I’m in with the various ideologies that are expressed and viewed in my kids’ lives. It’s fun for me to know that they will get to peek into my mind and listen and hear about topics and learn about me and the way that I see the world. So that’s a fun one. And I do think it’s a little strange to have to admit that some of the people who know me best, who know how I view the world, how I make sense of the world, some of those people are you, the ones listening to this podcast.

Many of you are total strangers to me. I don’t know you or anything about you, and yet I feel a total connection to you because you do know me beyond that ordinary layer that honestly, many of my closest friends and even closest family members only know me at that more superficial level. They see what I post on social media and the exchanges that we have at Sunday family dinner. Those are always the more superficial pleasantries like I was talking about earlier. But then there’s this whole unique audience out there. Those of you who have listened to the podcast since the beginning, who I feel you know me at a deeper level. You understand a lot of the inner workings of my mind, and that’s kind of trippy to think about, that some of the people that I spend the most time with don’t get me or understand me at that level, and then there are a lot of people out there in the world who do.

And based on the podcast numbers, it’s actually a big audience of total strangers who know me really well. And that’s fun to think about. Now, my parents, they listen to the podcast and we talk almost every day, and it’s been fun. This has opened up a channel to have a much more meaningful conversation about life other than the typical pleasantries, like, “Oh, how’s life? How are the kids?” We get to talk about deeper things because they listen to this podcast and I’m always expressing some of these deeper thoughts. Same with my twin brother. He doesn’t necessarily listen to the podcast. I think he does from time to time, but he and I have always had the deeper exchange when it comes to just talking about life.

But other than than my parents and my twin brother, I don’t know many others, even in my close circles, who I’ve ever even sat down to talk to about Buddhism in general, much less the deeper aspects of some of these concepts that I get into in the podcast. And I think that’s interesting because I don’t talk about these deep and meaningful things with others in my life, but I love knowing that all this info is out there. And perhaps someday some of my closest friends, maybe even my spouse, I’ve mentioned this before, she doesn’t listen to the podcast, my cousins, other family members, especially my own kids, one day all this information is out there and it’s available and they’ll be able to listen and engage with me without having to sit through what may be awkward for them to sit with me and say, “Hey, let’s talk about life.” That can be interesting.

When someone doesn’t share your same views you don’t, you typically don’t want to sit and explore and understand those views, so that’s kind of the case I’m in. If they want to understand me, they can listen on their own terms and on their own time to the podcast, and they would understand a lot of my views. So in that sense, recording this podcast is a lot like journaling, but I’m doing it in public, and I often think how cool it would be to be able to get inside of the mind of people that I know and understand their deepest views and their deepest ideas. Like my Grandpa, who I didn’t, I never really knew that well, he passed away when I was young. Or his parents or his brother, some random person that I’m connected to, but I don’t really know them. How cool would it be to be able to discover all of their journals and their deepest thoughts out there somewhere? It would be fun to explore that. And that’s kind of what I’m doing.

So here I am, celebrating episode number 100 of the podcast, and I’m in a position of being able to share my thoughts and allowing others to have that glimpse deep into my mind. And what do I want to share? While I want to share the things that I’m sharing in the podcast, and today I want to talk about three things, I want to say three things. And I want to say again, this is a message to anyone listening in the future, but perhaps especially to my own kids who might encounter this one day, I want to say keep going. I want to say get used to the bumps, and I want to say keep a beginner’s mind. So I want to talk about each of those three things real quick.

Keep going. This is a lesson that I first learned from my friend Reverend Kubose, who runs the Bright Dawn Way of Oneness Buddhism, which is where I trained doing the lay ministry program. And through reading his books and the books that his dad wrote, I encountered this teaching, or this concept of keep going, and it really resonated with me when I first heard about it. The idea of keep going is that, as Reverend Kubose would say, we have tendency of going and putting periods at the end of everything. That’s what structures the sentence. The sentence is over and now let’s move on to the next one. And it helps, it’s useful, but reality doesn’t work that way. You get to where you think you were going, and when you get there, you discover there’s no there there, right? Because it’s just here. Wherever you are, that is here.

And in that same way, the idea of keep going is a reminder that whatever you’re expecting to, when you think you’re going to arrive at something, you don’t. You get there and then you keep going because the path itself is the goal, right? This is a sentiment that’s echoed over and over in Buddhist teachings, is that the path itself is the goal. And when I think of the term of keep going, I’m thinking like, the day that I think I finally got it, then my reminder is, “No, you didn’t. Keep going, because everything’s changing. The circumstances are changing. Time goes on, everything changes. I’m changing,” and you don’t ever get there. So keep going is a reminder for me when times are difficult, keep going, they’re going to change. When times are good and you think, “I finally did it,” nope, keep going. It’s going to change.

And the keep going, the expression of keep going is a reminder for me to not make the mistake of thinking I’ve ever arrived, because I’ll never arrive. This journey, this experience of being alive, goes on and on and on until the journey’s over. And even then, then there’s a lot of unknowing. I don’t know what happens next. I don’t know. It’s just infinite possibilities ,and it’s fun to know that whatever it is, I’ll just keep going.

So that’s the first term I wanted to share. The other one is get used to the bumps. And this is something I really enjoy. This is a term that we use. There’s a term that we use in paragliding and paramotoring that I really like, and the term is bump tolerance. And the idea is that as your experience and your skill increases in the sport, your bump tolerance increases, too. So when you’re flying a paraglider or a paramotor, you’re flying around on this piece of fabric that’s essentially acting as a wing, and you can really feel the bumps, right?

There’s bumpy air, there’s smooth air. When the day starts to heat up and the thermal activity, pockets of areas where you have thermal activity, you have air that’s rising, and next to the air that’s rising, there’s air that’s sinking. And as you go through these spots, you hit what we would just call bumps, and you’re flying along. And some flights are really nice and smooth, and others are bumpy. And based on the conditions or the terrain or the time of day, the bumpiness can be quite unpleasant. And when you start out and you’re new and you’re learning to fly in these pleasant circumstances, it’s always the nice smooth air that you’re flying in. ,And then as time goes by, you start to fly on your own and then you get out there and then you start hitting some bumps and you’re like, “Oh, that’s scary, I better land.”

So what happens is with time, with skill, and experience, your tolerance for these bumps also increases. And I experienced this drastically in my flying career. When I went from being a new student to deciding I was going to be become a flight instructor, I wanted to do everything that I could to become a safer, more skillful pilot. So I enrolled in a course that’s a safety, it’s called an SIV course, but what it is, is it’s a course where you simulate incidents that may happen in flight. So you go up and you get towed behind a boat, it’s usually done over water, and you have your main paraglider wing that you’re flying under, and then two reserve parachutes that you pack with you.

And what you do is you get up really high and you’re on a radio with a flight instructor, an SIV instructor, and they talk you through various emergency scenarios. And you’ll do things like collapse half of your wing or let the full wing collapse. And you learn to recover, you learn the proper maneuvers and techniques to recover safely from these incidents that could happen in flight. And I noticed after going to that course, my bump tolerance level increased quite drastically because any little bump, and your scared that, “Oh, I don’t want my wing to collapse.” But once you know how to handle a wing collapse and you realize you’ve done it over and over and over in one of these courses, then you realize, “Oh, okay, I know how to recover from that,” well, your bump tolerance naturally goes up.

So that’s a concept that I like sharing about life in general. Life gets bumpy, and the problem isn’t that life gets bumpy, the problem is that life gets bumpy and we don’t like the bumps that are unpleasant for us. And that’s the nature of life. It’s bumpy, and then it’s smooth, and then it’s bumpy again, and then it’s smooth again, and this cycle goes on and on and on until one day the ride is over. And the problem’s that we believe that it’s supposed to be smooth and we believe that it’s not supposed to be bumpy. And we spent so much time and energy in our lives trying to make it smooth. And sure, there are things that we can do to make it more smooth, but there’s nothing we can do to prevent the bumpiness. Sometimes it’s just the circumstances, the terrain, the time of day, the causes and conditions arise for bumpy conditions to arise, and that’s just a part of being alive.

There will be days when you will be sick in bed. There will be days when you will be sad about something that someone said or did. There will be days that you will feel deep sadness and sorrow because someone that you love has died. There will be days when you feel like you’re in trouble, and days when you feel lost, and days when you feel like you’re not on the right path. And these are all normal part of the bumpy days of life.

And there will also be smooth days. Days where everything seems to be going your way. Days where you get the job that you wanted. Days where you’re out driving and you’re getting all the green lights. Days where you feel like everything is enough. And this is all part of the ride of being alive. And you can enjoy the smooth days, because you know that they won’t always be smooth. Every time I go flying, if I hit a day where the air is just butter smooth, I just have a smile on my face because I know that I’m enjoying something that’s unique. It’s not always that smooth and that nice, so I try to enjoy it.

And we can do the same. We smile on the bumpy days because they remind us to enjoy those days where things are going smooth. But here’s the thing, most of your growth, just like with paragliding, happens on the bumpy days. You learn to handle those bumps and your skill increases, your experience increases, and that’s what happens for us in our day-to-day practice with being mindful, right? That’s when you really get to know yourself, is when you are in those bumpy conditions, you begin to understand what you’re truly capable of handling, and you’ll find strength and courage in knowing that you’re capable of handling the bumps that will inevitably come your way.

And here’s what I think is most important, just like in paragliding, as your bump tolerance increases, what you’re gaining is a deeper sense of confidence in yourself. Not confidence in that the sky is going to be doing what I want it to do, or that my wing is going to be performing the way that I need it to. At the end of the day it’s a deeper sense of confidence. It’s a confidence in my ability to handle whatever life is going to throw my way. There’s a quote or a story I want to correlate this to from Buddhist teachings that comes from Shantideva. And the story is that there’s a man trying to cover the world in leather so that he could walk around comfortably, and wouldn’t have to worry about some of the sharp and prickly places on in the world. And the teaching was that you’ll never find enough leather to cover the world, but you can find enough leather to cover the soles of your feet. And then with that, now you can walk on all those jagged and sharp places, and it’s not the place that changed, it’s your ability to walk on it because now you’re wearing shoes. And I really like that.

The quote from Shantideva is, “Unruly beings are as unlimited a space. They cannot possibly all be overcome. But if I overcome thoughts of anger alone, this will be equivalent to vanquishing all foes. Where would I possibly find enough leather with which to cover the surface of the earth? But, wearing leather just on the soles of my shoes is equivalent to covering the earth with it.” And he goes on to say, “Likewise, it is not possible for me to restrain the external course of things, but should I restrain this mind of mine? What would be the need to restrain all else?”

And that’s the quote from Shantideva. And I like that analogy. Me wanting to make the world, the skies, smooth so that I can enjoy it when I go fly in my paraglider is a lot like me wanting to cover the world in leather so that I can walk around barefoot and not have to worry about what I’m going to be stepping on. And as silly as that sounds, isn’t that what we do? We go around wanting to cover the world with leather. There’s this prickly person, “Oh, let me cover you in leather so that I can be comfortable around you. Oh, here’s this controversial person. Oh, I better cover you in leather so that I can be comfortable when I’m around you.” When in reality, this is what I love about Buddhism in general, it turns that focus back inward. Where can I patch some leather? I keep brushing up against you, let me put some leather here on this side of my arm, and now when I brush up against your prickliness, it doesn’t hurt me, and you’re allowed to remain prickly rather than me trying to change you.

And I love that concept. I find myself at times, like on Facebook for example, wanting to cover it in leather, wanting to curate the list, get rid of the people who say things that I don’t like. That’s me wanting to cover it with leather. And I get that to some degree, of course. But again, just picturing going to the extreme here is me wanting to cover, am I wanting to cover the world in leather for my comfort? Or can I spend time finding the leather that I need to cover my own feet? And I like that. So that’s the second one, getting used to the bumps.

The third thing I wanted to share was keep a beginner’s mind. This is a concept that I really, really enjoy about Buddhism. It’s the permission that we have to speculate, and to doubt, and to be ready to doubt. Throughout your life, you’re going to be making a lot of choices. Choices about what to study, where to work, what kind of career, where do I want to live, who am I going to live with, what should I eat, what should I believe? And so many other important choices, and the time will come where you might question some of these choices. And we’re conditioned to think that doubting is this bad thing, it’s this scary thing. I think we’ve been taught that the opposite of faith is doubt, and I don’t think that that’s accurate. I think it’s more accurate to think of the opposite of faith is rigidity. It’s certainty.

The moment it’s… Going back to the first one, keep going, right? You think that you got it, you didn’t. You got to keep going, because everything’s changing. And I think in our culture sometimes, we equate a sense of faith to a sense of permanence. This is how it is, and now I know it, and I’m going to hold fast to that this is how it is. And that’s just not how life works. The ability to step back and say, “Well, wait a second. I want to have a beginner’s mind. I want to question this a little bit. Is this really what it is, or is this just how I want it to be, or why do I feel this or why do I believe this?” The ability to question things is a really useful skill in the practice of mindfulness and in Buddhism, it’s a revered thing. You want to doubt, you want to have the beginner’s mind, and you want to question everything.

I mean, imagine how powerful that would be as a skill to be able to question your own thoughts. “Well, this is what I think. Well, why do I think this?” And to dig a little deeper, to have a more skillful relationship with your thoughts and your feelings and your emotions. That’s kind of the premise behind this concept of having a beginner’s mind or doubting, and it’s been really useful for me. Now, I’ve encountered big aspects or topics in my life that I’ve doubted. The belief of my upbringing, that was a very big thing to question, but it doesn’t stop there. I question everything, and I’m trying to instill this in my kids, the ability to stop and ask a deeper question.

We were watching Karate Kid not long ago and, the new Karate Kid, and my son and my daughter were talking, and there’s the scene where he’s practicing chi or learning chi or something. And my daughter, I think it was my daughter, yeah, my daughter said to my son, she said, “Ryko, did you know that you can…” Something with chi, like something, balance chi or something. And Ryko just, without even thinking said, You know that she’s not real, right?” And she was like, “No.” And then he said, “Yeah, it’s not real.” And then I chimed in and I said, “Ryko, how do you know that it’s not real?” It forced him to pause, and he’s like, “Well, I don’t know, maybe, is it?” And then he asked me and I said, “I don’t know.”

But the point is, it was one of those invitations to question, to doubt. And I think it’s a useful skill to doubt everything. Not just the things that you believe, but even the things that you don’t believe. “Well this is real.” Well, is it? “Well, this isn’t real.” Well, is it? I like to do that. And I’m always questioning beliefs, but I’m also questioning the counter beliefs when someone says, “Oh no, that thing that so-and-so believes, that’s not true.” I’m like, “How do you know?” Because again, I like to have, for me, the skill of the beginner’s mind, the curious mind, the open mind that’s always receptive to things that I don’t know that I don’t know. And I think that can be a useful skill in navigating with people in life.

And a common scenario that I think we all encounter is when someone says or does something to you and you instantly know why they do it. Right? I use the analogy all the time of the car and the jerk driving the car. There’s certainty in that statement that that jerk cut me off, but we do that in the little things, like spouse says this and I immediately assume that, and there it is. And that’s the invitation to say, “Well is it? Is that really why they did that?” What if there’s something that I don’t understand here? What if it’s just you didn’t eat enough. Go eat something and you’ll be happier, or it can be so many things. And the thing is, I don’t know and I allow myself to try to be more, to have that be my habitual way of responding, is with the openness of, “Well, that’s what was just said or done. I don’t know where that came from, but now how do I handle that, how do I navigate the situation that I’m in now because of this?” And I think that’s been a useful skill, because it allows me to have separation between what’s happening and how I’m reacting to what’s happening.

So anyway, that’s kind of the premise of keep a beginner’s mind. The obvious beginners are kids, right? They’re learning about life, they’re just very curious, and they’re always asking why. And it’s even a stereotype that with a toddler, you’re going to get fed up with them asking why. “Why, why, why? Why this? Why? Well, why that?” And you answer it, and then, “Why,” right? It’s always countered with why. And we slowly try to stomp that out of kids because it’s inconvenient, and the truth is we get to the point where we don’t know those answers. So we just say, “Stop asking,” or it’s, “because it is.” And that’s it.

And I try to encourage in myself that attitude of the beginner’s mind, the kid that’s always asking why. I’m going to keep asking why, and then I’m going ask, “Why do I keep asking why?” And it goes on and on. So keep going, develop, increase your bump tolerance and keep a beginner’s mind. Those are the things I wanted to share in this episode. And I think it’s fun to know that we’ve hit this milestone with episode number 100, and what’s going to happen? Nothing’s going to happen. We’re going to keep going. I’m going to keep going until I’m not doing this. But I enjoy talking and sharing thoughts and ideas, and I hope that some of the people that I know that are close to me will one day maybe get to glimpse into my mind and how I think. I hope to be able to do the same back.

I would love to spend time with the people that I’m close friends with, talking about deep things. And rather than just the superficial pleasantries, really dig in. What’s bothering you in life? Why does that bother you? And where does this come from? And what are the conditioning, the factors of conditioning, that effect how we are? Those are the things that I would love to spend time with, but obviously you just don’t do that sitting with someone at lunch. So this is the platform where I kind of get to do that.

So thank you to all of you who have come along for this ride. I know many of you have been listening since episode one, and many of you are new. Many of you may be listening to this episode as the first one starting here. You can go back and catch up, or you don’t, or you just listen from here on forward and every episode kind of holds its own. But thank you for being here as part of the ride. Thank you for listening, for allowing me to share with you. Many of you have reached out and shared with me with emails, and unfortunately that’s reached the point where I have so many that I just can’t keep up. I can’t catch them all and they’re still in my to do list, but it’s a huge queue that I’m trying to catch up on. So it may be weeks before you get a response from me, but thank you for reaching out and sharing things with me. I really enjoy the connection that I have with a lot of you.

That’s all I have for this podcast episode. As always, if you want to learn more about Buddhism or mindfulness in general, you can always check out my books, No-Nonsense Buddhism for Beginners, The Five-Minute Mindfulness Journal, those are two great ones, and then my original book, Secular Buddhism. You can visit NoahRasheta.com to find links to those books. If you enjoyed this podcast episode, feel free to share it with others, write a review, give it a rating in iTunes, all of that helps. And if you would like to make a donation to support the work I’m doing with the podcast, you can visit secularbuddhism.com and click the donate button. That’s all I have for now, but I look forward to recording another podcast episode soon. Thank you for listening. Until next time.

 

About the Author
Noah Rasheta is a Buddhist teacher, lay minister, and author, as well as the host of the podcast Secular Buddhism. He teaches mindfulness and Buddhist philosophy online and in workshops all around the world. He works with others to make the world a better place as he studies, embodies, and teaches the fundamentals of Buddhist philosophy, integrating Buddhist teachings with modern science, humanism, and humor. He lives in Kamas, Utah, with his wife and three kids.