Podcast

104 – A Limited View

In this episode, I will discuss the Buddhist teaching of the Elephant and the blind men and how my understanding of having a limited view affects the type of questions I ask about myself, others, and life in general. I will also talk about how I use Facebook as a place to practice mindfulness.

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Transcription:

Hello and welcome to another episode of the Secular Buddhism Podcast. This is episode number 104. I am your host, Noah Rasheta, and today I’m talking about our limited view. Keep in mind, you don’t need to use what you learn from Buddhism to be a Buddhist. You can use this stuff to learn to be a better whatever you already are. This week I’ve been thinking a lot about the concept of a limited view in regards to the questions that we ask. So one of my favorite stories in Buddhist teachings is the story of the five blind men or six blind men, I can’t remember now, but the blind men explaining or describing an elephant to each other. I’ve talked about this before in the podcast, so I don’t think I need to go into detail about the specific details of the story, but the gist of it is imagine five blind people describing an elephant to each other or to everyone else.

The moral of that story is that we all have a limited view, a limited understanding and the one who may be describing one thing accurately is totally missing this other part because the complete picture is an impossibility, and so it is with life and with reality. I recently came across this notion again just in the world that I reside in, the paragliding world. We fly different types of paraglider wings and there are probably a dozen or more major brands, manufacturers who make these wings and then inside of each of those brands you have some of them five to 10 different wing models and styles for flying. So like a beginner wing versus an intermediate wing or a wing that’s made for slalom flying versus one that’s for cross country flying and so on. So you can get the idea pretty quickly that there are a lot of different wings out there. I’m talking probably hundreds if not more.

I always find it to be interesting when in the paramotor or a paragliding forums online, people ask the question, “Hey, which is the best wing?” It’s always like, “What do you mean the best wing? The interesting thing is so many people who chime in, “Oh it’s this wing. Oh I fly this wing and I’ve been really happy with it so this is the best wing.” When someone asks me that question, it’s like, “Why, I don’t know because I’ve only flown a handful of wings and I can tell you between those which ones I liked, the pros and cons. But even the one that I fly doesn’t necessarily mean it’s better than this other one that I flew that I no longer fly. Just it’s based on the style of flying, where you fly, how much experience you have flying and so many other factors.”

But that got me thinking along the lines of what responsibility do we have to be more skillful in the type of questions that we ask. It got me thinking, if … It’s probably not skillful for a new pilot to get on a group and ask what is the best wing or what is the best motor or what is the best whatever, because that’s just not the right question. So again, that got me thinking, well, in what areas of my life do I do the same thing? I ask unskillful questions because of my lack of understanding of the nature of how things are. That’s what got me back to thinking of this, the teaching or the parable of the blind men describing the elephant. So I wanted to highlight a couple of things about that. I think, first of all, the wisdom of asking skillful questions. What does that mean? How can they be more wise than the type of questions that they ask?

I think very similar to the mistake that’s made with asking what is the best wing or what is the best flight school or what is the best whatever. We do this in our day to day lives when we’re wondering what’s the best job or what’s the best career path or what, where should I be living or, I’m trying to think of other examples of this, with relationships. What’s the best, how do I know that I have the best relationship or what’s the best partner for me when I’m searching for a partner and a relationship or things of that nature. We do this all the time and it makes me wonder, is there wisdom to be had in understanding first that life is the big elephant and from our vantage point, we’re all the blind people, we’re all the ones trying to describe it. Sure you can become an expert at this one area that you encountered of the elephant.

Let’s say it’s the elephant’s foot, and that’s where you spend all your time. I can give a a semi decent opinion on what I’ve learned about the elephant’s foot, but then what a mistake I make if I am asking bigger questions beyond what I understand about the elephant’s foot, if I’m starting to ask questions about what are the implications of the elephants eye based on what I know about the elephant’s toenail or something. But I think we all get caught up in that in our day to day lives. For me, this has come with the big existential questions, right? I’ve gone through quests in my life where I’m thinking, what is the best ideology, the best religion or the best … Is it no religion? Is it an absolute abandoning of beliefs or whatever? Then you kind of find that this thing that works for you, whether it’s something big like an ideology or religion, and you think this works for me, therefore, if someone asks you what’s the best religion, well then you apply that same logic, right?

It’s like, Well, it’s this one.” Well, how do you know that? Have you tried every single one out there? Have you tried to live according to every single school of thought or philosophy that is available that mankind has come up with? Because if you have, then maybe it’s a slightly better opinion, but still that’s … It’s impossible, right? That’s not doable. It’s not realistic. It simply cannot be done. I think it goes back to, well then was it even skillful to ask that question in the first place? It’s a question that’s impossible to answer and there isn’t a right answer to that question. So with paramotoring or with paragliding, when that question is asked, I usually try to reverse it because I interact with new pilots all the time as a flight instructor. Well, a student will say, “Hey, what’s the best wing?”

I’ll say, I like to help them understand a more skillful question and say, “Well, what is the best wing for you? Let’s talk about that. How much do you weigh? Where will you be flying? Is it mountainous terrain? Is it high wind terrain, like on the beach? What style of flying do you think you’ll be doing? Then with a more complete assessment we can answer the question of this is probably not the best wing but this is an appropriate wing for you.” Then I can give several opinions there but I try to eradicate that thought of which is the best wing because there is no best wing. It’s fun to think about that. Well which is the best anything, right? Which is the best marriage? Which is the best way of parenting? Which is the best diet? Which is the best job? Which is the best car? All these things that we get caught up in, you can apply that same thinking to all of those.

I don’t know what the ideal marriage looks like. There is no ideal marriage. There are marriages that work and there are marriages that are dysfunctional, and then there’s a huge gray space in between. It’s been more healthy for me using the marriage example because I kind of fit in that category where people ask, “How does a marriage work where you have two different ideologies or different political views or different whatever that we have in our marriage?” I like to say, “Well, I don’t know if that’s the right question. I don’t think the question is what’s the best way to make your marriage work?” There’s a lot of good ways and there’s a lot of bad ways, for lack of a better word. Let’s again got a skillful and unskillful.

So what I wanted to share is this way of thinking that the limited view that I have kind of invites me to want to be more skillful with the type of questions that I have, questions about myself, questions about others, questions about life, questions about the nature of reality. We spend so much time focused on the answers. Who has the right answers? What are good answers, what are bad answers? But how often do you spend time asking, well, what are good questions and what are bad questions? Because those start with me. What are the skillful questions that I have? What questions that I have are unskillful when it comes to myself and others in life and career and relationships and all the real, the meaningful day to day things that we all interact with?

Because one thing that I think gets lost sometimes in this mindfulness practice, this way of wanting to be more mindful in our lives is that we apply it to the really big upper level things, a mindful way of living as a philosophy or as it pertains to worldviews. Those are big things. But the day to day nitty gritty is how does this apply to my satisfaction with my job or the healthiness of my relationship or the way I interact with people at the store or at work or the feelings and emotions that arise when I’m driving my car on the street, inside of the day to day approach to living which is really where we all are. That’s the nitty gritty, right? That’s what really matters. What kind of questions do we have? How things are, how things should be, why it should be this way, why it shouldn’t be that way.

Inside of all of that, there are a lot of questions and those questions come from us. We’re the ones asking the questions. Do we focus a lot on the answers or have we ever spent time … What would happen if we spent a little bit of time scrutinizing the questions? Do I have skillful, useful questions and could the problem with the answers not be the answers, but actually all along it was the questions that I have? That’s been a fun and fascinating experiment for me over the past few days and the past week as I’ve explored this concept is what kind of questions do I have. Again, understanding the questions that they have ultimately gives me a slightly better and more accurate picture about myself as I’ve mentioned before, the the ultimate aim of all of this for me is that I’m getting to know me. I’m not finding any big secrets out, but I’m definitely learning a little bit more everyday as a practice about understanding the nature of me, where my questions come from, why do I have that question, why does that even matter. All of that kind of stuff.

So again, the challenge for me is to understand what are the questions I have and then to ask myself are these skillful questions to have and apply that to any area or aspect of your life. I think that’s a fun way to take a big teaching like the blind men and the elephant and apply it into a little day to day thing, what does that mean for me on a day to day basis in the ordinary ways that I interact with life. So that’s my invitation to you as you explore this concept, to think about that in terms of I have a limited view and if that’s makes sense to me that I have a limited view, then what does that say about the questions I have about that view? Can I be more skillful in the way that I approach the questions I have about everything, anything and everything in life? So that’s one of the things I wanted to talk about.

Piggybacking on that just a little bit, another concept I’ve been wanting to share for awhile, but it was kind of a short one and I didn’t think it would make its own podcast episode. This topic I just talked about is pretty short too. So I thought I would combine it with something else, which is how to practice mindfulness with Facebook as the tool. Facebook seems to be the place where I see and I experienced myself, the rise and fall of emotional states. Now, you can be browsing and you see something that makes you feel a certain way and then you scroll just half an inch later, there’s a post that evokes an entirely different emotion and now you’re feeling a whole different feeling. I’ve thought about why is it that Facebook seems to bring out the ugly or the bad in us, but also you can see so much good there.

So I’ve had this thought, how would you practice mindfulness in the age of Facebook? How can you use Facebook as a place to practice? Now, some people, I’m sure you yourself may have gone through this, but we all know somebody who signed off and said, “All right, I need a break from Facebook. I’m going to get off of this.” Well, I mean, I’ve done that too, and I’m on Facebook quite regularly posting about the businesses that I do. I do social media for clients. But also just from my own personal life, I’m always posting pictures and videos of paramotoring and flying and stuff. But when I’m on Facebook for a long time, I always find it fascinating the wide range of feeling one way and immediately feeling another way and thinking, “Oh, I need to unfollow this person. I don’t like how that makes me feel.”

So it’s gotten me thinking a little bit, can we use Facebook as a tool to practice? I think the answer is yes we can. If we understand one thing, that the point of the practice isn’t to change ourselves or others, right? It’s not like, “Hey, I’m going to look at these political posts until they start bothering me.” That’s not going to be helpful. I think the way to approach it is, again for me the practice consists entirely of getting to know myself better and better and better. So if you take that as the goal of the practice and you approach something like, well, how can Facebook be a place where I practice that, for me it’s been helpful to say, “Well, here’s so and so’s posts. There they go again with this specific message,” or political ones are a good one because they’re just so sensitive.

But to say, why does this bothering me so much or why do I feel this way when I see this or I wonder where this deep emotion arises from, what causes to feel this. With that as the premise of the practice then yes, Facebook has been a very good place to practice. I do this specifically on … We have a Facebook group for the podcast. Well, it started as a group. It’s called Secular Buddhism and then it’s morphed into two groups. One is a Secular Buddhism Podcast community, which has meant to be much more tied to the podcast. These are podcast listeners wanting to talk about things that we talk about on the podcast. It doesn’t quite work that way, but then the other group, the more general one, which is the Secular Buddhism group, that one’s kind of morphed into anybody who just wants to talk about Buddhism and specifically from a secular lens.

But when you have an open space like that, you get several personalities and characters that show up in a group like that. Our group has definitely done that. So I wanted to talk about some of the, the roles or the characters that you see on Facebook, but again, using the mirror of mindfulness to say, do I ever see any of these rules in me? Am I ever playing any of these roles? As I’ve done that in our Facebook group, I see there’s the brilliant one who has to come share their wisdom with us and make sure that you know that they’re wise. At least that’s … This is again from my perspective and I’ve seen myself do that and it’s been fun to look for the characters, the roles, and then use that mirror of mindfulness and say, “When have I seen myself do that? That’s been a really skillful way for me to practice getting to know myself. It’s been fun.”

So here’s some of the ones that I’ve come up with that I see on Facebook groups. There’s the aeriodite, right? This is the person that just knows. The thing is there really are a lot of people who know. Sometimes the people who know don’t say much, but sometimes you have people who say a lot because it’s important for them to know that you know that they know, right? This is the aeriodite who has to share their wisdom with us because man, where would we be without their wisdom? Again, I am not making fun in any specific person because I have seen myself do all of these at one point or another. Oh, I better share this and make sure everyone knows that I know this topic. Now I can see it. It’s almost laughable that, oh yeah, I do that too sometimes. So keep in mind, I see myself doing all of these things sometimes and some of them more often. So that’s one. Do you ever see yourself do that, the aeriodite?

The next one I’ve come up with as the peacemaker or the diplomat. You get some kind of a disagreement going in a Facebook group or a Facebook post and there is someone jumping in “Guys. Yeah, but think of this or think of that.” It’s the peacemaker, the diplomat that’s just like, I’m really uncomfortable with contention, so a do whatever I can to minimize it. That’s me personally. So this is one of the characters I play a lot, the peacemaker and the diplomat. But I can step back and see that again with the context of where does that come from, why does it bother me that these two people are going at it on Facebook? Why not just let them go at it? Why is it so important for me to diffuse and say, “You guys, we shouldn’t be … You shouldn’t be failing in about that.” Again, not, not from the perspective of trying to say I should be more of something or less of something. This is all done for me in the in light and in the practice of trying to understand myself and why I have that deep need of being a peacemaker.

Okay. Then there’s the saint or the sage, right? This is the person who, similar to the aeriodite, but it’s less about making sure that you know that I know. This is more, I am so holy, I need to make sure that you, that everyone out there sees that what I am about to post or what I’m about to say … It’s like, wow, look at that person. They really have their life figured out, right? I remember I was on a trip in Bali a few years ago and I wanted my wife to take a picture of me meditating on the beach and at the time seemed like, “That’d be fun. I want people to know that I meditate.” But later as I sat there with it more, I’m like, “Wait, why do I really want to post that?” This was the sage in me, the saint in me that’s saying, “I need you to know that I am super holy and I can sit here on a beach and I can meditate.”

I didn’t see, I didn’t really understand that the later. It’s funny seeing that in me and you see this and others too, right? Like, “Wow. Thank you for sharing your holiness with us.” Again, I’m trying to be careful with this. I don’t want to come across like I’m judging any of these roles because I’m just highlighting that I am all of these things sometimes and because that for me is a form of practice, seeing this and myself.

Okay, the next one is the warrior. We all know the warrior. These the person who’s got a message and they’ve got to make sure you know what that message is. Thank goodness for the warriors. Warriors make change and, but I’ve seen myself at times being that warrior and this one for me is usually at odds with wanting to be the peacemaker. But the warrior is the one that’s out there that’s really got a cause and they’re going to make sure you know what that cause is.

Then there’s the jester. The jester is the one that’s always trying to make light of things and make it funny. Now this one’s me a lot too. Where someone will post something and my intuitive response is to inject humor into it and to make light of it so that we don’t have to take it so seriously. I do that in a lot of aspects of my life. This is something I’ve seen about myself that I think can be good at times, but also at times it’s like, “Why do I need to try to lighten things up? Let’s just really get deep and talk about it. Why do I feel that need to inject humor?” Maybe, I think for me it stems from my discomfort with confrontation and with contention, like I mentioned before. But we all know someone who’s the jester, right?

Then there’s the cynic and the cynic has reached the point where they’re like, “What’s the point in even trying anything? I’m just going to not say anything.” I think this one can become kind of like the flip side to the peacemaker. It’s like the peacemaker might say, “I might be able to say something to diffuse the situation,” where the cynic is like, “There’s no point. There’s no fixing this. Everything’s screwed up.” I found myself to be that from time to time. It’s not a very common one for me, but sometimes it is. When it is, I feel very cynical about being cynical. So the cynic. How often are you that?

Then there’s the troll. Everyone knows the troll. Of course, the troll is never us, right? The troll is always someone else. But this one has been fascinating to really entertain. Am I ever had the troll? I think more often than not, I’m not a troll. But in my mind sometimes I’m the troll that’s like, “Oh, it would be fun to say this,” and they won’t see it or won’t post it. But every now and then I think there’s the rascal in there that wants to troll people.

So again, are the various types of people who post on Facebook. I am all of those. You are all of those. If you hear any of these and think, “No, I’m definitely never that one. I don’t know about that.” Maybe you are. Look closer. Again, the whole point of this isn’t to say, okay, well then I’m going to change this and I’m going to stop doing that and I’m going to … That’s not what I’m trying to get at. I’m trying to develop a more skillful relationship with myself and with the thoughts and feelings and emotions that are arise in me when I’m on Facebook. From that perspective, I think Facebook has become a valuable place for me to practice my mindfulness. Part of that has been scrutinizing which characters and roles I play in my life, like these that I mentioned.

I think it’s a fun experiment for you to explore for yourself do you ever play any of those rules. So tying these in together. The time that we spend on Facebook and the highly valuable opinions that we feel that we have about certain subjects combined with the limited view that I talked about earlier makes for an interesting case. So Facebook is this big massive elephant. No, life is the elephant, but we’re all on Facebook trying to make sure others know how well we know about the big picture, and that’s the irony is that there is no big picture. None of us have the big picture. We can’t see it. Life is so big and so many topics and it’s just everything is so vast and the one little area we can become experts in, maybe if it’s skillful to share an opinion on that, then do it.

The questions we have about the other areas that we don’t know. Is there a way to be more skillful with the questions that we have? Is there a way to be more skillful or unskillful with the answers that we think we have about the … When we’re describing our area of the elephant? Those are the lines of thought that I wanted to share with you this week that I’ve been thinking about. There are times in this whole way of thinking that kind of leaves me like, “Man, who am I to see anything about anything? I guess the most skillful thing I could do about life in general is just be quiet and not say anything.” But I think silence is also skillful at times and unskillful at times. So I find myself once again in this position where, well, there’s just me and sometimes I share things and sometimes those things can be skillful for … To be shared and sometimes they’re probably not, but I’m just trying to go through life being a little bit a better version of whatever am, which gets right at the heart of the whole point of this podcast for me. So we’re all just trying to become better versions of whatever we already are.

So that’s what I wanted to share into this podcast episode. Facebook as a place to practice, a limited view as the default understanding that I have about life and reality is that I have a limited view and that’s … I’m bound by that. I cannot have the more expansive view because I’m limited in space and time to being me, the me that’s here and now, that’s subject to the conditioning of where I was born, how I was raised, all the views that I have, the beliefs that I have, the beliefs that I don’t have and that’s where I’m bound. In the middle of all of that, can I be a little bit more skillful with the questions that I have? That’s what I wanted to share with you guys. I hope you enjoyed this podcast episode.

As always, feel free to review the podcast, share it with others, give it a rating in iTunes. If you want to make a donation to support the work I’m doing with the podcast, you can visit secularbuddhism.com and click the donate button. But that’s all I have for now and I look forward to recording another podcast episode soon. Thank you for listening. Thanks for being a part of this journey with me. Until next time.

103 – Making Time for Nothing

Is nothing something? What happens when we make time for nothing? In this episode, I will explore the idea of boredom and how mastering boredom could be one of the great benefits of mindfulness practice.

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Transcription:

Hello and welcome to another episode of the Secular Buddhism podcast. This is episode number 103. I am your host, Noah Rasheta. Today, I’m talking about making time for nothing. Keep in mind you don’t need to use what you learned from Buddhism to be a Buddhist. You can use what you learned to be better whatever you already are. I wanted to talk a little bit today about this concept of making time for nothing. I can’t remember where I first heard that quote or not that quote, but that expression.

Perhaps it was the chapter of a book I read, or it was included somewhere in a quote, but I remember thinking how interesting to make time for nothing. Later on, I came across a book by Thich Nhat Hanh, Buddhism at Bedtime. I think that’s the book. One of the books that I read to my kids at night, at the very beginning, it has a section about nothingness. Thich Nhat Hanh asks this question, he says, “Is nothing something?” He goes on to say that yes, nothing is something, because the moment I say nothing or that I talk to you about the concept of nothingness, something pops into your mind. It’s an idea, nothingness as the absence of something.

In that sense, nothing is something. I remember exploring that idea in my head and thinking what is nothingness? Then recently coming across another quote that I shared on Facebook earlier in the week on my own personal page, but it’s a quote that was shared by Ethan Nichtern. He says, “There might be no greater skill that comes from sustained meditation practice than the increased ability to tolerate boredom. The ability to be bored and not freak out is everything. It might be the key to surviving this technological age.”

I like that because I think about this in terms of myself and with my kids that one of the greatest things I can teach them and teach myself is how to be comfortable with boredom. It reminds me of this other quote that I like from Blaise Pascal who says, “All of humanity’s problems stem from our inability to sit quietly in a room alone.” The actual quote is from man’s inability to sit quietly in a room alone, but I replaced man’s for our because it’s applying to all of us. All of humanity’s problems stem from our inability to sit quietly in a room alone.

Think about that for a moment. How difficult is it for you to sit quietly in a room alone in this concept of boredom, this concept of nothingness? When you’re doing nothing, are you doing something? I would say that the answer to that is yes. I think there’s a little bit of a misunderstanding that happens with this way of thinking due to the concept that we associated with the word nothing. If someone says, “I’m thinking of nothing,” you would be tempted to think that what they’re implying as they have somehow made their mind stop thinking. They’ve been able to control their thoughts, and all the thoughts are gone, and what’s there is emptiness.

This is why I like Thich Nhat Hanh’s question where he says, “Well, is nothing something? What is the something that’s there when all those thoughts aren’t there?” Because there’s something there, right? The very nature of being human, of having a brain that works is that it’s always going. The absence of one thought may just be filling the mind with another thought. I think that seems a little bit more along the lines of what I understand mindfulness meditation to be as a practice. I was thinking about this concept with boredom and with my kids.

Some of you may feel this during the summer times. I usually feel this on weekends and then especially during the summer when we break away from our routine, and we don’t have a standard routine to follow, suddenly, things can be a little bit difficult. I don’t know if you guys noticed this, but in our family, we can get a little bit more cranky with each other after a few days of nothing, that nothingness, which is actually somethingness because, I think, there’s a lack in our ability to be bored. I find it very interesting right now at this particular phase in our lives, because we just moved.

We’re going on, what, four or five weeks now of being in a new country. Everything is different. The routine was entirely smashed to pieces, and you couple that with there’s no chance to rebuild the routine yet because school hasn’t started. Here we are living the days of nothingness with occasional somethingness. The somethingness that we’re doing, it’s big stuff. We went and swam with whale sharks last week. Last Sunday, I went and flew my Paramotor 50 miles along the coast. I’m filling some of the time in with big activities, but then the majority of the time we’re sitting around thinking, “What should we be doing?”

We’re all looking at ourselves bored, right? We don’t have the TV programs that we’re used to. We don’t have the habitual activities that we can do that we’re accustomed to from where we used to live. Everything’s new and it’s really forcing us to sit during these moments of nothingness that are actually somethingness. Those are moments where we’re sitting and thinking, “Ah, I missed this,” or the kids will say, “I missed this or that at home, or this friend or  that cousin.” Anyway, along all these lines of the nothingness and becoming comfortable with boredom, I’ve been thinking about that a lot this week thinking, “How can I help the kids to become more comfortable with this boredom and myself?”

I’ve had the thought. Well, we’ve been practicing mindfulness meditation, but I think this goes back to the misunderstanding of what the word conveys in the same way that the word nothing, I think, gives a misunderstanding of what it really is. The word meditation does the same when we say, “Hey guys, we’re going to practice our meditation tonight, or we’re going to try to practice being more mindful.” That immediately puts an idea in their head, and whatever that idea is, I don’t think it’s accurate. I think this is very common for us as practitioners.

Anyone who’s on the path or entering the path or interested in being more mindful, you have an idea of what that is and that may be the wrong idea. I wanted a couple, all of this with this notion, what if we swapped the idea of nothingness making time for nothing with the word suchness? This is a word I’ve heard before and I like it. Suchness to me gives off this idea of this is just how things are, and I’m just watching the suchness of the moment. Making time for suchness to me is a more powerful way of practicing what mindfulness actually is.

It’s the moment where I sit and I’m just observing the suchness of the moment, the suchness of whatever emotions or thoughts or feelings I’m experiencing including and perhaps especially the unpleasant ones. When we’re bored, someone had said that boredom is just the lack of observing, the lack of seeing. I agree with that because when we’re bored, we’re not looking close enough. How can you be bored in a world where you can stare at any little thing and see an infinite number of interdependent connections with that thing, whether that be in space or time. What did it take for this moment to arise?

That’s a question I like to ask myself a lot in those moments where I’m feeling bored. I think that is a little bit closer to the heart of what we’re trying to practice with mindfulness practice. We’re not trying to achieve nothingness. We’re not trying to understand nothingness or to see emptiness. What we’re trying to see, what we’re trying to observe is the suchness of how things are in that moment. This is how I feel. Oh, this is how I feel. Then maybe explore that a little bit. Why do I feel this way? Why does this thing make me… Why did this event triggered this feeling?

At the end of the day, what we’re gaining is comfort with the suchness of things and perhaps if we’re lucky, a little bit more understanding about the causes and conditions that lead to that suchness, that moment of suchness. I think that it gets closer to being at the heart of taking this on as a practice where the end result is skillfulness, a much more skillful way of being with whatever is in that moment. Going back to the concept of boredom and with my kids, I think, one thing I’ve been trying to change now is instead of saying at night, “Hey, let’s sit down and practice meditation,” I’ve been saying, “Guys, let’s sit down and practice being bored.”

They’re like, “Okay.” We sit there and it’s like, “What happens when we’re bored?” Everyone’s looking around, but see now, it’s triggered this attentiveness. It’s almost like, “Well, wait a second, how do I know when I’m bored?” “Well, I don’t know. You tell me.” They’re there paying attention to how they’re feeling and to looking for the signs that would say, “Oh, now I’m bored,” but looking for the boredom has made them struggle to find the boredom, which is interesting because I think that’s the whole point is you’re training your awareness to something and then going back to Thich Nhat Hanh.. Is that nothing something? Absolutely.

In this sense, the nothingness is the something that’s actually helping them to be more skillful with practicing awareness and overcoming boredom. I wanted to share that because it is summer, and I’m sure several of you who have kids or who have broken away from the standard routine of things in the summer, sometimes it can be difficult and there’s this yearning, especially at the end of summer, to go back to whatever the ordinary routine is. It can be an invitation to use these moments of boredom as moments of triggering a way of practicing mindfulness that sometimes can be harder to do when we’re back in the routine, in the mundane routine of things, because then we’re back in reactivity mode.

We’re just doing what we do because this is the routine. I get up. I take the kids to school. I come back. I go to work or whatever that routine is. It may be harder for some people during those moments to practice being mindful or to practice those moments of witnessing suchness because we’re just in the routine, and we’re going about doing our thing. This is an invitation to use the boredom of summer to say, “Well, what does that mean? How do I know when I’m bored? What does boredom look like? What does it feel like?”

Whether you’re doing this with your kids or just with yourself, the more you poke around and explore what boredom is and how it feels, the more elusive it becomes. You may realize, “Well wait a second, that’s not boredom because now I’m interested in understanding what this is, and the very act of being interested makes it go away, right?” Boredom’s gone. It can be a fun little mindfulness practice or technique to work with. That’s the concept that I wanted to share. As always, if you want to learn more about other concepts, you can always check out my books. They’re all listed on noahrasheta.com.

If you enjoyed this podcast, feel free to share it with others, give it a review, a rating on iTunes or whatever. If you want to support the work that I’m doing with the podcast, you’re welcome to make a donation. That’s always appreciated and you can do that on secularbuddhism.com. Click on the donate button. That’s all I have for now. I look forward to recording another podcast episode soon. Hopefully given you another topic of something to think about, and that’s all I have for now. Thank you for listening. Until next time.

 

102 – Never Lost

“Having no destination, I am never lost.” In this podcast episode, I will share some of my favorite quotes by Ikkyu Shojun. I will also explain one of my new favorite quotes that’s been floating in my head…”Having no certainty, I am never wrong.”

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Transcription:

Hello, and welcome to another episode of the Secular Buddhism podcast. This is episode number 102. I am your host, Noah Rasheta, and today I’m talking about never been lost. Keep in mind, you don’t need to use what you learn from Buddhism to be a Buddhist. You can use what you learn to be a better whatever you already are. Today’s podcast episode is inspired by the quotes of Ikkyu Sojun. Ikkyu Sojun was an eccentric Japanese Zen, Buddhist and poet. And he had a great impact on the infusion of Japanese art and literature with Zen attitudes and ideals. He lived roughly at the end of the 1300s, to the early 1400s, in Japan, and I recently came across some of his poetry in his works. And there was a specific quote that I really enjoyed, came to find out later, it’s a disputed quote, but it has led to other quotes and poems of his that I enjoy, and I wanted to share a few of those with you in today’s podcast episode.

So, quick housekeeping here. I am working with a new microphone. As many of you know, I moved to Mexico, and I have a microphone that I brought with me. In the last podcast episode, I received a few emails with feedback about the audio quality, so I’m hoping today’s podcast episode sounds better. I’m learning the settings. I’m learning that there are ways to tweak the audio to make it sound better once I record it. So bear with me, as I iron all this out over the next few podcast episodes. So, today’s podcast episode, I’ve been thinking about the format of the podcast, and how to decide topics.

Now in most schools of Buddhism, it’s common to listen to what are called Dharma talks, these are little talks where you go and you listen to usually the the teacher or a Sensei, or someone shares a message. Like if you go to a Buddhist congregation, it’s very likely that you would sit in meditation. There would be silent meditation, walking meditation, there may be some ritual aspect of it. And there’s usually a Dharma talk. And that’s the moment where a concept or idea is shared, and that’s essentially what I’m trying to do with this podcast. These are like Dharma talks, and it allows the format to be a little bit more loose. It’s like just sharing a topic or an idea. It doesn’t have to be very formal or structured. And that makes it easier for me, as I prepare podcast episodes each week, knowing that it doesn’t have to be super structured. It doesn’t have to be something that I’ve spent writing a talk or writing a script to follow.

So, with that in mind during this past week I’ve been thinking about these quotes by Ikkyu Sojun, and I wanted to share a few of them. One of them is yesterday’s clarity is today’s stupidity. I like that one because it’s an expression that reminds me that what made so much sense to me in the past, I can look at today, and question that way of thinking and think how did that ever make sense to me? But I think another deeper, more important aspect of this is recognizing that today’s clarity, may be tomorrow’s stupidity.

It’s just a reminder of the ever changing nature of things. What made so much sense to me may not make sense in the future. And what made so much sense to me in the past may not make sense today. I can see that. I’m sure you can see that in different facets or aspects of your life. This is a fun expression that we can kind of keep at the forefront in our mind, as a way of remembering that we don’t have it all figured out. The clarity that we think we have, one day may not seem so clear. And this kind of goes into the overarching theme that seems to be recurrent in Buddhist teachings is this concept of uncertainty and this concept of groundlessness, which I want to elaborate on with one of the other quotes.

The next quote, I want to share this is also Ikkyu Sojun. He says, “If it rains, let it rain, if the wind blows, let it blow.” And I like that expression, I feel like it’s easy for us to visualize ourselves out walking in the street, and suddenly it starts to rain, or suddenly the wind starts to blow. Now, most of us are going to use all of our energy and resources to be skillful in that moment. Either spend the time and effort to get up an umbrella out, or to find shelter, to get under a roof, to walk into a door. We do the things that we know we need to do to be skillful with the situation at hand, which is now it’s raining, or now the wind is blowing. But we don’t waste any energy or effort or time to try to stop the rain. Or to try to stop the wind, to control the elements. We don’t do that because we know that we can’t. So, all of our effort goes into acting skillfully in that moment.

I feel like this expression from Ikkyu Sojun is a reminder to me, when I hear it, I think, if it rains, let it rain, if the wind blows, let it blow. If emotions arise, let them arise. If… I like to internalize this, and apply it to the things that arise in my day to day life. How much energy am I exerting when an emotion arises to try to fight that emotion or push it away, rather than just being skillful with it and thinking, “Okay, anger has arisen, let me go get under the roof, or let me open this umbrella because I know that for the next little bit, this is the situation I’m confronting, and I want to be skillful.” That will ultimately affect how I speak, what I do during these moments when I’m experiencing these emotions. I think that gets to the heart of what Buddhist practice is all about. It’s being able to be skillful with what arises. It’s being able to be aware of what arises. But it’s not about changing what arises.

I think that gets lost in the western approach. I see this over and over and over from the western mindset. It’s like, why are we doing all of this, because we’re doing this so that we can change. It’s like, I’m practicing mindfulness so that when the rain comes, I can stop the rain, or so that when the wind blows, I can make it blow a little bit less. And that’s not at all how it works. In the same way that we can’t control the elements, we can’t control the wind, a lot of times what arises in us and are the emotions we’re experiencing. The point isn’t to try to domesticate our feelings and emotions, the point is to try to understand them. Now, I think it’s fascinating that the more we understand ourselves, and the more we understand why certain things arise, or feel the way that they feel for us, then yeah, with time that relationship we have with that emotion starts to change. So the end result may seem like there’s more peace. But that wasn’t the goal.

I think the goal is more skillful understanding. A skillful change in relationship with what arises. I feel like that gets lost a lot in the practice the way it’s perceived in the west. And I encounter this over and over when somebody reaches out and they want to learn more about Buddhism or about mindfulness as a practice. And it’s always approached with a, “Hey, how can I use mindfulness to be more peaceful in my house, or things like that.” And it’s like, “Well, I don’t know that you’ll be more peaceful in your house. It’s not about being more peaceful, it’s about understanding yourself more.”

Then the secondary result to understanding yourself more is that you may have more peace with yourself, because you’re more comfortable with these difficult emotions that you experience when they arise. And you’re more skillful with what you do when you’re experiencing one of those emotions. But you’re not changing the emotion. You’re not preventing yourself from feeling anger, or things like that. Hopefully, that concept makes sense. To me, that whole way of thinking is embodied in that expression. If it rains, let it rain, if the wind blows, let it blow. That’s the second quote I wanted to share from Ikkyu Sojun.

Now the third one, this is the one I mentioned before, that’s it’s a disputed one. I shared the quote on social media several weeks ago, but I like this expression. It says, “Having no destination, I am never lost.” Now this, whether he said it or not, I think it’s a valid expression that’s worth thinking about. Now, if you’ll recall, this is a Zen Buddhist who’s sharing these concepts and these ideas. And in the Zen tradition, the concept of the koan is worth mentioning here. Now, these are riddles, they’re expressions. They are mental puzzles, that are meant to be troubling to understand.

If you hear this expression, “Having no destination, I am never lost.” Some of you may hear that and think, “Wow, what a profound statement.” Others may hear this, and be thinking, “What a dumb statement, or what an obvious statement, or what a useless statement.” All of those are fine. They’re all correct because the exercise of the koan is to get you thinking, and to really ponder on this. So this expression for me, having no destination, I’m never lost, kind of points to again, this concept of groundlessness. If there’s nothing to grasp I have no firm foundation, that is the base for my reality. I can’t be lost. I have no destination. There’s no where I need to be, there’s only where I am. I like thinking that way.

I feel like in my own life I have no destination in the sense of I need to be here doing this for this reason. Or I don’t know, bigger picture like if the destination is you need to be mindful Buddhist practitioner or something. That’s a destination. If I have no destination, I can’t be lost. It’s not like I’m doing it wrong because there’s nothing that I’m supposed to be doing. I’m just experiencing life, trying to be present and understanding myself in the process, so I can’t be lost because I don’t feel that there’s anywhere that I need to be. I think that’s what I enjoy about that expression.

Now, I’ve been having some mental pondering. I don’t know how to word it. I think a lot, and I like to think about ideas, especially ideas that seem very natural to me because I was conditioned to think that way. Then I like to explore those things. So, one of the ones that I grew up with, and perhaps many of you have too. As Westerners in general, we have this, the Judeo-Christian idea of heaven and hell. I was thinking about this the other day and talking to my wife about it because we have conversations from time to time about a lot of these concepts because this is a realm that she is in as a Christian believer, and a believer in concepts like heaven and hell.

So anyway, we were talking about this concept. And I said, to me there’s a conundrum when we talk about heaven and hell. At least the way that I understand. Or I was taught that heaven and hell exist as this good place. And then there’s this bad place, right? You want to go to the good place and avoid the bad place. But I thought, here’s what’s interesting. I’ve always been taught that the good people go to the good place and bad people go to the bad place. Well, what are good people? Good people are kind, and compassionate, and Christ-like.

Then I had this interesting thought of, well, here’s the conundrum. Wouldn’t the good people want to go to the bad place? Because if the people who are suffering are going to be in the bad place, then what good person who is genuinely good in their heart would want to turn the gaze and not… To turn their turn their head and not want to see and be with the people who need kindness and compassion the most The people who are in the bad place. Then I thought, “Well, that’s kind of an interesting philosophical conundrum, right?” What if the ultimate test to make it to the good place is you can’t want to be there. I’ve thought about this with just expressions. It’s been brought up to me at times, in family or friends circles. People will be like, “Hey, don’t you fear deviating from the right path? Don’t you fear the risk of not making it to heaven?”

I’ve thought about that. No, I don’t fear that. I mean, telling me that is like me telling you, “Hey, aren’t you losing sleep over the fact that you may not make it to Valhalla?” You’d be like, “Well, no, I’m not worried about Valhalla because Norse mythology is not the world that I go by.” And that’s kind of how I feel. But again, then there’s this thought of, well, if there really is an afterlife, and there are people who are going to be suffering in this place of suffering, isn’t that where I would want to go? If I feel compassion for them and kindness for them? I would certainly want to be there if someone I knew was there. Especially if it was like a family member or a child of mine. If that’s where they’re going, well there’s no way I would want to be anywhere else, but where they are. That’s really put that conundrum in the thought experiment of where should you want to go? Maybe wanting to go to the good place is what disqualifies you from going there.

Anyway, that’s a side tangent of a thought that I had all based on this concept of having no destination, I’m never lost. I don’t need to go to a good place or to a bad place. I’ll just go to wherever I am. Anyway, fun little thought experiment. The thought that I had. So, I’ve been listening to these quotes, and I like thinking about concepts. I mentioned that before. I started thinking, “Well, if I had an expression like Ikkyu Sojun what would my poetic expression be of reality for me?” One of the ones that I thought about piggybacking off of the format of his expression, if it is indeed his, I thought I kind of like this concept.

Having no certainty, I am never wrong. And that’s one that I’ve been playing with all week. What does that mean? Well, if I don’t have a place of certainty. If I’m trying to experience this form of groundlessness, what do I have to defend. I don’t have a view to defend. I don’t have a view to fight against. It makes it interesting, because well, then I can’t be right. But I also can’t be wrong. I like that thought. I think we live in a day, and in an age where things are becoming very polarized, whether its political ideologies, or religious ideologies, or opinions, or whether the earth is round or flat. It doesn’t matter what it is. If you’re a dog, or a cat person. Everything has to be a fight and who’s right and who’s wrong. I like this way of thinking that if I have no certainty, I am never wrong. If I perceive… If I view others as not having certainty, maybe they have the illusion of certainty in their argument, but they actually have no certainty then I don’t view them as right and wrong. I only view their view for what it is.

That’s a fun way of practicing. This is something that I’ve been trying to practice in my own mindfulness practice. I detected a really good place to detect this, and to practice this is on Facebook, right? Or any social media, but I think Facebook specifically is one of those places where if somebody posts something that we don’t agree with, why do we feel the strong need to go on there and make sure that they know that we don’t agree with it? Why do we do that? I think a lot of us have that tendency. I know that I do. I typically don’t go on and engage with anyone about anything like that, that’s controversial, just because what’s the point? The tendency may arise, and it’s like, “Oh, man, here’s what I would type.” I may think about it, without ever doing it. And that’s become an area where I can practice.

Now, with this kind of practice, I want to be clear, I’m not saying that we need to just tolerate or accept whatever said, or whatever belief or opinion someone has. No, certainly there may be things that we want to stand firm and say, “Well, I don’t like this way of thinking or let me express.” I’m not saying we need to change that. All I’m saying is that the practice in all of this is gaining more understanding about ourselves. For example, if if I’m browsing something on Facebook, and I see a post, and it really makes certain feelings arise, like anger, or frustration or discontent. My practice isn’t to stop those feelings. It’s not like, “Oh, I should tolerate that.” No, that’s not the practice. The practice is, wow, why does this feel like such a strong emotion? Why does this emotion arise in me, based on what this person posted or said.

Again, the point isn’t about the person or the expression. For me the point is, oh it’s because this or that. I learned something about myself. To me, that’s the practice. And the more I do it, the better I get at understanding myself. I think sometimes we confuse the practice, like I mentioned before with thinking, “Well, if I practice this kind of stuff, I’ll be better at not feeling angry when so and so posts their political stuff.” That’s not the thing. That’s not the practice. You can’t fake that. You can pretend, oh, I’m not going to let that bother me. But if it bothers you, why pretend that it’s not bothering you. Sure, I don’t have to say anything or engage. But it’s the feeling, where did that feeling come from? Why is that feeling so strong? Why does that bother me, and this other topic doesn’t bother me? Those are questions that I can look at and explore and gain insight about myself. And that allows me ultimately to have a more skillful relationship with the experiences that I’m having as they unfold. But that’s the extent of it.

Again, the practice isn’t so that you can change yourself, or you can change someone else. Especially someone else, don’t try to go down that route. The whole practice is now I understand myself better. And just like with the example of if it rains, let it rain. Well, now I’m not afraid of the rain, because I know that I can do the skillful things that I need to when it starts to rain. I can go get under the roof. I can pull out an umbrella. When the political season comes, I can spend less time on Facebook. I can be more skillful with these things as they unfold because I know myself. I hope that makes sense. I like thinking about this in the context of that way of practicing. But understanding that the practice is about awareness and about understanding, not about changing things.

The changing things is inevitable, whether we like it or not. But the more we understand ourselves, the more likely it is that the change that’s going to be happening is a useful skillful change that benefits you. And it benefits everyone around you because you’re not so caught up in the the reactivity of your own emotions. You can be skillful with discussions that you have around sensitive topics. That’s a really powerful thing, especially in dynamics where with parents or with loved ones, or… I feel like we’ve gotten really bad at this in our society. We tend to want to surround ourselves with people who think the way that we think. And if you don’t think the way that I think it’s almost like, there’s this sense of indignation. I can’t be your friend. I’m going to unfriend you or I’m going to stop seeing your posts, and then that makes it worse because now we become so sensitive that we can’t be around anyone who doesn’t think the way that we think. And that is not the solution.

Communication, skillful communication, is probably the most powerful tool that we can try to develop if we want to make things better. I feel fortunate that I’m in a position where I get to practice that a lot. My wife and I have… We have different political views, different ideological views, a lot of different cultural views. We represent two ends of the spectrum on a lot of big topics. A lot of sensitive topics. And it’s allowed me to understand myself, and it’s allowed me to be more effective in how I communicate what is meaningful, and what matters to me to her without stepping on toes, or offending, and vice versa. That to me is the heart of the practice. To be able to talk to someone that you don’t see eye to eye with. That takes a lot, and I feel like we’ve gotten bad at that. And some of these quotes remind me that I want to be better at that.

I hope that that’s an aspect of the practice that all of you would want to work with as well. And again, the point here isn’t to say, “Oh, I’ll reach the point where I can finally tolerate uncle so and so who always brings up this crazy political topic.” It’s not that. Don’t put yourself in a position where you have to fake that you’re totally fine with something that you’re not fine with, or that you’re comfortable with something that you’re not comfortable. You can have your healthy boundaries, and whatever you need to do, all the while knowing that the point of the practice is for you to understand yourself, to have a more skillful relationship with the emotions and the feelings that arise when they do. So that you can be skillful with the situation that arises. That’s it. That’s the heart of the practice. That’s what I wanted to get at as far as the podcast episode and some of these topics.

If you like some of these quotes, you can look up Ikkyu Sojun. There’s really not much more out there. He doesn’t really have any books that stood out to me that I would recommend like I do in some podcast episodes where I’ll say, “Check out this book, or that.” I don’t really have that. These are just a few of the random quotes that made sense to me. And to be honest, there were several other ones that you’re like, what was this guy smoking? I think that’s common with eccentric people. Those are the quotes that I wanted to share, and I like the one that I’ve been playing with is, for me, again, this isn’t his quote, this is just something I kind of came up with piggybacking off of his way of thinking, is having no certainty, I am never wrong.

I try to remember that when I’m in a conversation with someone about a sensitive topic or subject it’s like, yeah, but at the end of the day, what do I know? I have no certainty in this matter, then I’m disarmed because I have nothing to defend. I don’t have a view that’s like, “Well, this is the right view, let me defend this.” It’s like, “I don’t have a view. I have a lot of ideas that makes sense to me. But just because it makes sense to me doesn’t mean that it’s right, and it doesn’t make sense that someone else’s view is wrong, just because it makes zero sense to me.” That’s important for me to remember. I can’t be wrong, if I don’t have the certainty. And I’m not interested in the certainty. I’m looking for it, I don’t want it. I don’t believe it’s attainable. I enjoy being comfortable with the uncertainty, and that really makes a lot of touchy subjects more pleasant to skirt around and talk about and work with, because I don’t have a certain position in it to some degree.

I mean, again, I’m not saying be wishy washy, and don’t have a view to defend. I’m not saying that. I’m talking about the big, big existential stuff. On the smaller scale of things, of course, I have opinions. Of course, I have political views that I like to defend. That I like to present as why I think this is the most skillful path or the most skillful approach, and do so in a way that is compatible with talking about it with someone who doesn’t hold that view. I get a lot of practice on that. But anyway, that’s that’s what I wanted to share.

As always, if you want to learn more about these concepts and ideas, you can always check out the books that I’ve written Secular Buddhism, No-Nonsense Buddhism for Beginners, The 5-Minute Mindfulness Journal, and I have a new idea I’ve been working on. I’ll present more about that probably in the coming months for a book that I’m working on. As always, if you’ve enjoyed this podcast episode, feel free to share it with others. Write a review, give it a rating on iTunes. If you want to make a donation to support the work I’m doing with the podcast, visit secularbuddhism.com, click the donate button, and that’s all I have for now. I look forward to recording another podcast episode soon. Thank you for listening. Until next time.

101 – What’s Your Sideshow

A sideshow is a diverting incident or issue that distracts attention from something more important, the real show. In Buddhist practice, we strive to understand the sideshows we are often presenting to ourselves and to the world. What’s the real show behind the sideshow?

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Transcription:

Hello and welcome to another episode of the Secular Buddhism Podcast. This is episode number 101. I am your host, Noah Rasheta, and today I’m talking about sideshows. Specifically, what is your sideshow? As always, keep in mind you don’t need to use what you learned from Buddhism to be a Buddhist. You can use what you learned to be a better whatever you already are.

Now, I’ve been interested in talking about this topic, this concept of a sideshow. It’s been on my mind for a few weeks. The definition of a sideshow is a diverting incident or issue, especially one which distracts attention from something more important. Think of it as the distraction. In Buddhism, we talk about the eightfold path, and the first of the spokes on that wheel of the eightfold path is wise or skillful view, or sometimes interpreted as understanding, so skillful view or skillful understanding.

To me, this is essentially being able to see past the sideshow, past the thing that’s distracting me from the more important thing, and I like to apply this, as I always do internally, right? This is about me understanding me, and when it comes to the things that I think, or say, or do, I’m trying to understand it, “Is there a sideshow? Am I running a sideshow here that’s distracting from the more important thing that often goes unnoticed, unnoticed by me or you as the person who’s running the sideshow, but also to the audience that sees the sideshow and doesn’t see the more important show taking place behind the curtains?” I like that concept a lot, and there’s a quote that I want to share from Alan Watts where he really alludes to this idea, but he’s talking about it in the context of fear, but I think it’s relevant, so I want to share that with you. The quote goes, “But you must remember that the secret to all this is not to be afraid of fear.”

“When you can really allow yourself to be afraid, and you don’t resist the experience of fear, you are truly beginning to master fear, but when you refuse to be afraid, you are resisting fear, and that simply sets up a different show.” This is the sideshow, right? A different show. “Being afraid of fear and being afraid of being afraid of fear”, those are the two shows. “Then, you try to obliterate fear, you’re working in the wrong way. To attack fear is to strengthen it.”

That’s the quote by Alan Watts, but what really stood out to me is his, the verbiage here that you set up a different show. I think a lot of times, we go through life, setting up a different show, and in this case with fear, it’s like being afraid of fear. That’s one show, but being afraid of being afraid of fear, that’s a different show. That’s the sideshow. It’s a whole different thing, and we may spend all of our time in the sideshow, the being afraid of being afraid of fear, all the while unaware of the more important show, which would have just been being afraid of fear and working with that. Other examples where I think this concept really makes sense, at least to me is when I’m thinking of things like love.

I remember, I must have been in middle school perhaps, maybe … Yeah, probably around middle school, but those of you who don’t know, I’m a twin, and my twin brother and I, he seemed interested in dating and girls long before I did. It took me a while to warm up to that, but I remember an incident in middle school with a girl that liked him, and he didn’t seem interested or maybe he did. Actually, I may be remembering this wrong. It may have been backwards, but either way, the story was she liked one of us, and that didn’t work out well, so then she liked the other one, but I remember when she liked me, I remember it occurred to me, this concern I had was, “Well, how do you know …” Because she said, “Oh, I love you.”

This is middle schoolers talking, so it’s not a big deal, but when she said that, I remember responding and saying, “How do you know that you love me? Is it that you love me, or maybe you’re just in love with the idea of being in love?” I think that gets right to the heart of this sideshow, right? Like, how often do we go through life doing similar things thinking, “Oh, I’m in love,” when really, I was just in love with the idea of being in love, and those are two different shows. Another area or aspect where I think this manifests, at least it did for me is the recognition of the comfort that I feel or felt at one stage in my life concerning my worldview. I think I have experienced just through observation that at times, people are comforted by their beliefs, but it seems more often to me that people are comforted by the fact that they have beliefs, regardless of what those beliefs may be.

On the surface, it may seem that there is a really strong connection to the person and their belief, when in reality, the connection is to the person, the illusion of certainty that arises from having a belief, something firm to stand on, a solid ground that gives that sense of certainty or hope that I know how the world works or how the universe is working because I believe that this is how it works. It’s not necessarily the belief that’s comforting me, it’s the fact that I have something to stand on that’s comforting me. I’ve recognized that in my own life in different instances with different views and beliefs that I have, but again, it’s the setting up of a different show, the sideshow, this being comforted, analyzing the belief and why a belief comforts me is very different than recognizing that it doesn’t matter what the belief is. I’m just comforted because I have something to believe. That’s the secondary thing.

That’s the other layer or the sideshow. For me, this has been a neat topic to explore and to ask myself, “What is my sideshow?” Oftentimes, these sideshows emerge in moments where I’m feeling strong emotions. Something will take place in the way that my emotional response kind of arises out of that situation. I’ll pause and ask myself like, “Why is this bothering me so much, or why do I feel such a strong emotional response to this thing that’s taking place?”

Then, I’ll follow that up with some exploration of, “Is there a sideshow here? Is there something that I’m unaware of? If I peek behind the curtains, will I see the real show that’s taking place?”, because all of this that seems real may not be real. This may be the sideshow. This is a concept that I first listened to or explored, reading Rebel Buddha by Dzogchen Ponlop.

I think I came across the concept in there, but then, soon after I attended a workshop, a weekend workshop or seminar series called Landmark, and they call it the Forum, and in that Forum, in that Landmark Education, they talked about a lot of Buddhist teachings, but using a different language, and one of the concepts that they used that I actually really enjoyed was the concept of running a racket. The idea is essentially that when someone’s running a racket in the olden days, think of the … I don’t know when, the mobsters in the ’20s or ’30s or whenever people were running rackets, I guess they kind of always are, but this is mobster language to me in my head. They would have a store, and the front that they put on is that this is, let’s say it’s a laundromat, and they do laundry there. That’s the front, but the racket is what takes place behind.

You go past the first set of doors, and there, they’re doing laundry, but you go past the second set of doors, and back in the back, they are laundering money or doing something entirely different from what’s taking place in the front end of the store. That’s the racket, what’s taking place in the back. What they talk about in the Landmark Education is that we’re all running rackets. We’re all putting up storefronts or fronts that say, “This is what I’m doing. This is why I’m acting the way that I am.”

“This is why I’m upset at you. This is why I took this job.” Whatever that reason is, that’s the front, and if you can be skillful and honest enough with yourself, you can open those doors and see what’s really happening behind the scenes and what’s the racket that’s going on. That was a really powerful concept. I remember when I first went to that forum and did the Landmark course, it was unnerving and a little bit …

It was unnerving, but it was also kind of embarrassing to realize, “Wow, what racket am I running?” I had … I was confronted with a situation right there, right then and there on the spot that was like, “Well, why am I even here? Why did they come to this thing? Whoa, but this thing’s happening in my relationship because my wife is this, this and that, or she’s hard to communicate with,” or whatever the reason was, and I had to look behind that and look behind that, and suddenly, I realized I was running a racket. I was caught up in the sideshow, and it was very liberating to get to the heart of the real matter. If we use the language or the definition of the sideshow, the diverting incident or issue is distracting attention from something more important, and I love that.

Something more important is the real thing, and I think we all do this. We all encounter situations where unknowingly, we’re caught up in the sideshow, the front that we put up for people. I’ve done this in my career. I’m in this career, and I’m doing this because I’m, whatever the reason is, and then I dig deeper and I realize, “No, that wasn’t the reason.” The real reason was something deeper that I didn’t understand.

I’ve alluded to this before with the idea of being an entrepreneur, and it’s like, “Oh, there is a deeper reason why I was doing that.” I was really trying to just prove my sense of self-worth, and that was the real show, but I didn’t know that that was the real show. I was running the racket, or running the sideshow. I was caught up in the sideshow. Anyway, that’s kind of the concept I wanted to explore a little bit in this podcast episode.

I think the reason I wanted to bring this up here because when we approach Buddhist practices, it’s common to encounter people … Perhaps you yourself will notice this about you, where you start to understand a little bit more about these teachings, about these concepts, and then there’s this moment of, “Oh wow, I’m really peaceful. I’m really getting this.” If you’re like me, I remember early on as I was really getting all of this, it was like, “I need to make sure the world knows that I’m getting all of this,” and there I was, caught up in the sideshow. The sideshow was concerned about how people perceive me, so if I was understanding Buddhist teachings, what really mattered is that you see that I’m understanding Buddhist teachings, and to be quite honest, that may have even been the catalyst to set up my first few books and the first podcast, and I don’t know at what point in that entire process or transition I was able to finally see, “Uh-oh, I’m running.”

“I’m caught up in my own sideshow. Why am I really doing this?” That was a pivotal moment for me. It happened early on in the podcast where I was like, “Why am I really doing this?” I recognized the part of me was doing it because I wanted to be looked at like someone capable of being totally peaceful, and content, and mindful, and zen and whatever.

The moment I was able to see that, the game was over. It’s like, “Ah, I see you,” and it’s like I’m the … I’ve talked about the cat and mouse, right? It’s like the cat and mouse game was going on there, and I caught myself. “Ah, okay. Well, now that I see that, I know the sideshow I’m running.”

“Now, I’m not going to take myself so seriously because I know what I’m trying to do,” and then I started to dig deeper. “Well, where does that come from? Why would I even feel the need for that?” The more I was able to be honest with myself and dig deeper and dig deeper and dig deeper, it’s been the result of everything here is I’m getting to know myself, and it’s making it harder and harder for me to one-up myself where I’m like, “I know why I’m really doing this,” and that’s really skillful to know, not … I don’t view it as, “Oh, I’m surpassing all that and I’m going to overcome that ego.”

No, I don’t view it that way. I’m trying to catch myself in the act. “Why do I do, and say, and think the things that I think?” That’s what has fascinated me so much about this entire journey, is that the more I practice, the more I understand myself, and the more I see that rascal behind the curtains, that’s the things that’s running the show, and then it’s not, and then sometimes it is, and then it’s not, and it’s because you’re constantly peeking behind the curtains and you’re catching yourself. That has been fascinating, and it’s like I’ve said multiple times, this is just an inward journey, right?

I’m not trying to be anything to anyone. I’m just trying to understand myself because the end result of all of this, the cycle of catching myself, and then one-upping in myself, and then catching myself, the cat and mouse game that’s taking place, the ultimate result is contentment, and peace, and joy, and serenity, and almost a sense of humor as I realize the, I don’t know, the ridiculousness of it all. In the middle of all of that, here I am. I’m just living life, and I’m doing my thing, and I’ve let go of so much of the image that I’ve wanted to put out there. I’ve noticed that specifically with career choices where I would only do this, I will never do that, and silly things like that, where now, I feel like, “It doesn’t matter what it is.”

I’m just fine. Whatever life throws my way, we got it, and it’s going to be good.” Speaking of, just a quick update, some of you may know this if you follow me on social media, I recently completed a move to a new country. I’ve been living in Kamas, Utah, where my wife is from, and we’ve been talking since we first got married about one day, giving our kids the experience of living overseas, specifically somewhere Spanish-speaking because my mom is Mexican. I am a Mexican citizen, and I had the opportunity of growing up and doing my formative years of schooling. All of my middle school and high school was in Mexico and Guadalajara, Spanish-speaking, and I felt like if I don’t do something about it, my children, their connection to Mexico and the culture and the language will end.

It’ll end at their generation, and I wanted to try to get it one more generation, so we’ve moved to Mexico, and now we live in Playa del Carmen, which is south of Cancun, and our plan is to live here for at least a year, and our kids are going to go to school and Spanish, all Spanish. Our whole family is going to be heavily immersed in just Spanish for the next year, and that’s going to be beneficial for my wife who wants to be better at Spanish, but also for my kids so that they feel a sense of connection to the culture and the language that they’re inheriting from my side of the family. As part of that whole process, I’ve passed along the Mexican citizenship to them, so they are dual citizens now, just like I am. Anyway, I say all that because that’s where we are now, and that’s why I’ve been MIA for the last couple of weeks because it’s a long move. It took me, it was 3,100 and some odd miles driving, and I drove here.

My family flew down, but it took me five days of driving, long days, 10 to 12-hour days of driving, so that was long and draining, and I finally got here, and then we had to move into the house, and I’ve just had a lot going on, but we are totally settled in a new place, living this experience down here for a year, so if any of you ever find yourselves in the Riviera Maya, in the Cancun, Yucatan Peninsula part of Mexico, reach out. Let me know. It’d be fun to meet up and say hi, and I can take you to the cool sites around here that might be a little bit off the beaten path. Again, going back to the main topic, the sideshow, what is your sideshow? This is what’s fun about all this.

You spending time with yourself, you get to be the one who figures out what your sideshow is. I’ve figured out a lot of my sideshows, and I’m getting better and better at detecting them, “What are the sideshows and what are the real shows?” The real show is the cool one. That’s where you really want to spend time. The sideshow is just a distraction, and my invitation to you with this podcast episode is to spend time and ask yourself, “What is your sideshow?”

When you’re feeling really upset or emotional about something, it may be hard to do right there on the spot, but be introspective about it. It may be in the hours, or days, or weeks, in the aftermath of a conversation with someone, or an argument, or an instance where you felt really strong emotions. See if you can detect if there is anything happening on the sideshow. Was it a sideshow going on, or is it the real show? This applies not just to you, but to others, right?

If somebody comes up to you at some point as you get really skillful with this, you may be able to see right through someone else’s show, and you see that they’re totally caught up in their sideshow, and they’re not catching the important show that’s taking place behind the curtains, and I find it’s a little bit easier to have sympathy and empathy towards people who are caught up in their own sideshow. It’s like, “Well, yeah. Yeah. Here I am with you, but hopefully one day, you’ll see what’s really happening in the show behind because I don’t think this is the show. You’re caught up in your sideshow.”

Again, not to be in a place of judgment when you do that with people, but it is I find that you’ll find that you, yourself, me, myself, we’re always caught up in our sideshows, and then we start seeing other people who are always caught up in their sideshows, and it’s been really fascinating to focus a little bit more energy and attention to the real show, the important show that’s happening often behind the curtains unbeknownst to us because we’ve been so caught up with the distraction of the sideshow. That’s my invitation. What is your sideshow? Explore that a little bit. See if you can find any aspects of your life where you’ve been caught up in a sideshow, distracting you from the important show taking place behind.

I want to end with another quote, talking a little bit about fear earlier with Alan Watts. Here’s a quote by Pema Chodron also on fear. She says, “Usually, we think that brave people have no fear. The truth is that they are intimate with fear,” and I love that. As I was doing my drive down here, I can’t tell you how many people reached out, family and friends with messages of support, but of concern like, “Aren’t you scared taking your family down to Mexico?”

“I would never go down there. Why are you driving, or why are you driving alone?” Like, “Aren’t you afraid?” In five days of driving, I had a lot of time to think about this concept of fear. “Is it scary to move to a new country?” Yeah.

“Is it scary to drive through?” Pretty much the entire … I went from north, all the way to south to the very end of Mexico. “Was that scary? I wouldn’t say it was scary, but do you ever have fear?” Sure. I’m always doing things that evoke a sense of fear. I fly.

I’m a paragliding pilot and a paramotor pilot, and every time I’m up there, I’ll look at those strings that I’m attached to, and I have that moment every single time where I’m like, “The only thing that’s holding me up is a bunch of strings.” Yeah, I’ve become intimate with the fear, but that doesn’t mean … I guess what I’m saying is we’re not brave to do the things that we do because we don’t have fear. I think that can be unskillful at times. I know in flying, it can absolutely be unskillful.

If you fly without fear, you’re not respecting the fact that you’re doing something dangerous, and I tell my students that all the time when they say, “Is this a dangerous sport?” I’m like, “Of course it is. You’re flying. You’re in the air. There’s an amount of risk and danger involved with doing something like that,” but you can be skillful with that, and that fear will remind you where your limits, and I think that applies to other aspects of our life where we can become more intimate with fear. One of the big fears we have is the fear of letting go of the sideshow and getting to the more important show.

For some reason, we’re afraid to open up the curtains and show the world the real show, so we allow the world to just experience our sideshow. Hopefully you can get intimate with that fear, draw the curtains back, show yourself the real show, and then show the world the real show, and not be so caught up in the sideshow that you’re presenting to the world. Thanks again for listening. Now that I’m installed down here permanently for the year at least, I’ve got my microphone and computer and all set up, so I’m going to be caught up on podcast episodes. As always, if you want to learn more about Buddhism, mindfulness, you can always check out my books. No-Nonsense Buddhism for Beginners is a good starter.

Visit Noahrasheta.com for info on that. As always, if you enjoyed this podcast episode, feel free to share it with others, write a review, give it a rating in iTunes. All those things help, and if you want 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.

 

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.

 

99 – Presence Podcast Interview

Audio from a recent interview I did on Presence Podcast about Life Lessons.
Are the stories you tell yourself real?
How do you deal with your most sensitive emotions?
Is there such a thing as good and bad?
How do you define love?
If you enjoy this episode, check out the Presence Podcast at presencepodcast.com/

Transcript:

Noah Rasheta:
Welcome to another episode of The Secular Buddhism Podcast. This is episode number 99. I am your host, Noah Rasheta. And today I’m doing something a little bit different. I was recently interviewed on another podcast called Presence Podcast that was recently started out by my friend Kenn Sullivan. In an effort to help promote Kenn’s new podcast, he’s allowed me to share the audio of our recent interview here as an episode of The Secular Buddhism Podcast. So, if you enjoy this episode, please check out Kenn’s new podcast and subscribe. It’s called Presence Podcast, and you can find it on iTunes and all the other main podcasting places. And now, I give you the audio of episode number four, Life Lessons with Noah Rasheta on Presence Podcast.

Kenn Sullivan:
You are listening to the Presence Podcast, episode number four. And I am your host, Kenn Sullivan. And today, I have a very special guest with me, Noah Rasheta. Noah hosts the amazing Secular Buddhism Podcast. I love and appreciate his perspective and uncanny ability to teach with analogies and metaphors. And so, I really thought it would be an awesome opportunity. And I also appreciate very much, Noah, the positive impact that I can see that you’re having on the world. How is the podcast doing so far?

Noah Rasheta:
It’s doing really well, continues to grow month over month and year over year. So, really excited about it.

Kenn Sullivan:
Awesome. So, why don’t you take a minute just to tell any of our listeners about the series of workshops or anything else that you’ve been working on recently?

Noah Rasheta:
Yeah, so the thing I’ve been working on most recently is just the content for the podcast. I am trying to develop an online workshop series, mostly kind of explaining the fundamentals of what mindfulness is, and kind of like a Buddhism 101 type course. That’s still in the works. But for the most part, people can go to the podcast and listen to the beginning. The first five episodes are intended to be kind of a summary of basic Buddhist philosophy and concepts. That’s what I’ve been working on.

Kenn Sullivan:
Online workshop? Or is it an in-person workshop?

Noah Rasheta:
Yeah. No, my goal is to do an online workshop that people can subscribe to and just take it on their own time. And I don’t know if it’ll be like a series of videos. I think it’ll be a combination of videos and content to read through. But all web based.

Kenn Sullivan:
Awesome. Do you do anything … I know you were talking about your trip to Nepal. Do you want us to mention anything about that right now? Or because you already have such a big waiting list, should we not talk about that?

Noah Rasheta:
We could mention it, mostly for next year because I will do it again. But yeah, this one is totally booked and has a long wait list.

Kenn Sullivan:
So, is that the only thing that you’re doing when it comes … Like, having people … Like, any mindfulness or meditation type sessions that you’re doing in person?

Noah Rasheta:
It is right now. I’m considering doing a retreat while I’m down in Mexico. But it’s just an idea at this point. But I do think it’s very likely that while I’m down there, I’ll host some kind of a mindfulness retreat in person.

Kenn Sullivan:
Nice. You know, and I hadn’t even thought about this, but now that we’re talking about it, I should invite you to come and help out with one of our upcoming Surrender Lab sessions or retreats. We can talk more about that later.

Noah Rasheta:
Cool.

Kenn Sullivan:
When we were having lunch down at The Vertical Diner in Salt Lake about a month ago or whatever it was, I just thought it was really powerful when you were describing your experiences volunteering in Africa, and how you started seeing that you were having potentially more of a negative impact than a positive one while you were building schools and stuff. Do you want to briefly touch on that?

Noah Rasheta:
Sure. Yeah, I think sometimes we get in our mind the idea that we have so much to offer to other cultures or to other countries, and Africa is one of those where the general mindset is, “I’m going to go to Africa because they need my help or they need our help.” And you get there and it’s a pleasant surprise to discover that for the most part, it’s like, no, you get to go there and learn from their culture and spend time with them and see how happy most of them are living out in conditions that we would consider extreme poverty or we would think, “Oh wow, these poor people who live this way.”

Noah Rasheta:
And yet, they’re out there and it works and they’re happy. And often times when we come over there and we’re trying to instill our way of thinking and our set of standards of, “Well, this is a good way of living, and you need this from us,” it can be detrimental because it’s like, well, who’s to say that our way of living is the right way or any better than their way. And that was a fun experience to go out there with a group of volunteers, kind of with the initial mindset of, “Well, what do we have to offer?” Only to have the roles reversed and realize how much African culture and Africa in general has to offer us Westerner’s perspective on ways of living and what truly matters in life.

Kenn Sullivan:
Yeah, I remember you talking about how they would make a little soccer ball out of … What was it again? Like wrapped up plastic bags or something?

Noah Rasheta:
Yeah, like plastic bags like you’d get at the store just wadded up and then one wrapped over another, over another, until it’s big enough to be a soccer ball.

Kenn Sullivan:
That’s so awesome. But over and over, you just saw they were just so happy. And then, talk about how you started to perceive that you started to have this potentially an actual negative impact. Wasn’t there an experience with one of the kids that you started … What was your first aha in that?

Noah Rasheta:
We were briefed that we should be careful to bring toys. For example, you have all these kids who are playing with sticks and bottles or whatever they have available there. And they’re using their imagination. And then you bring a toy or something out of your backpack and then you hand it to one, and it kind of creates this moment of instability because it’s like, “Well, wait a second. Why does one kid get a toy now? What do you have for all the other kids?” And it’s like, by trying to introduce something that wasn’t there before, you’re actually creating more problems. And now the kids might be fighting over the one toy that they didn’t have before, or things like that.

Noah Rasheta:
I don’t recall seeing that scenario exactly. But they had briefed us when we got there to be cautious of that. Don’t just give people stuff, because those are the kind of situations that you could present to them that we wouldn’t have thought of because we’re just thinking, “Everybody would want what I have,” and that’s not necessarily true, you know?

Kenn Sullivan:
Right. We like to project ourselves onto the world, don’t we?

Noah Rasheta:
Yeah. We do.

Kenn Sullivan:
Okay, so if I was to ask you then, what would you say have been … I mean, you and I have some pretty similar backgrounds. And if I was to ask you what you would say as of this point in time what your very biggest life lesson has been so far, what would you say is the top of the list?

Noah Rasheta:
That’s a really good question. And I would have to say my biggest life lesson so far is the realization that the stories that I have about life, about myself, about others, are just that. They’re stories. And they seem so real, and they may not be. And I think the biggest aha moment I’ve had in my life so far was the realization that the story I have about myself, specifically myself, is also just a story, and not realizing how bound I was by that story. In this case, for me specifically, it was around … I was losing my company. I’ve always been an entrepreneur, and it was instilled in me this idea of being an entrepreneur. And I didn’t realize how I had fused my sense of identity with this label of a way of living, right? Being an entrepreneur is something that you do, it’s not who you are. And yet, here I was thinking this is who I am.

Noah Rasheta:
And years after having built up a big company that was successful, when the company started having problems and it was failing, it was a really painful experience. And I was able to kind of sit with the experience as it was unfolding to really explore, “Why does this hurt so much? This kind of stuff happens all the time. It’s not like I’m losing my life over this. But why does it hurt so much?” And I realized how my sense of identity was totally wrapped up in that label, and the label was getting ready to go away. That was a big aha moment for me that made me … it kind of dominoed into other aspects of my life where I realized I’ve been so attached to these stories of, “This is who I am, or this is who you are, or this is how life is.” And every now and then, something comes along and it kind of crushes that story and it makes you realize it was just a story all along. That was a big aha moment for me.

Kenn Sullivan:
Yeah. I mean, I have story after story after story I could tell about the ahas I’m constantly having. Okay, so I get that big time. I have come to the point in my own life where I realize that I am just projecting into the past and just projecting into the future as if I am potentially right about any of those thoughts. And really, they’re only my observations and they’re only my perspective. And if I try to project those, like walking around like I use to, I liken this to thinking exclusively versus inclusively. I used to walk around thinking that I had this most special way to believe, and that eventually I was going to help those around me come around to my special way of believing.

Kenn Sullivan:
And I’ve migrated to a much more inclusive kind of a mindset where I love just looking into people’s black round pupils in their eyes and saying, “What do you have to teach me? Because you’re the only single person who’s having this observation vantage point.” And what I’ve been discovering is that every single person, especially the ones who are completely different than me, people that I would typically have not wanted to gravitate towards in the past, they become my biggest teachers. And so, I’ve just become so grateful for the whole of it, for all of us.

Kenn Sullivan:
I mean, you’ve got the guy down at the grocery store who’s really nice and everything. But then the longer you talk to him, the more you find out that he’s got all these little other idiosyncrasies that bother you. And you’ve got the girl over at the post office who, she seems real pleasant when you start talking to her, and then as soon as you talk to her a little bit longer, you find out that she’s got all these little idiosyncrasies that you don’t want to talk … And we just find all these differences when we’re identifying with our minds and seeing ourselves as these individuals. I can totally relate with what you’re talking about in my own life. Anything else that you have said would be, “Okay, this would be another life lesson.”

Noah Rasheta:
I think another big life lesson that I’ve had is concerning my emotional states. I feel like we go through life chasing after certain emotional states and chasing away other emotional states. And I thought that was kind of the point of life, right? You’re trying to get more of this and less of that, if this is happiness and that is sadness, for example. And that’s another one of those aspects of life that I’ve come to realize the rollercoaster of life is it’s the whole thing. It’s the ups and the downs, the fast and the slow. The moments where you’re elated, and the moments where you feel like throwing up, right? And it’s all of that.

Noah Rasheta:
And part of the anguish that we experience on the ride is because we don’t want the whole ride. We only want the pleasant parts. And I’ve spent time understanding that for me personally in my own individual experience of being alive, it’s become … there’s much more contentment with the experience of being alive, now that I feel like I’ve put the various emotions and experiences on equal ground. An instance where I may feel happy is just as unique and precious as an instance where I may be feeling sad, because both of them are unique in and of themselves, kind of like what you’re describing with looking at someone in their eyes and recognizing you’re experiencing a vantage point that nobody else is experiencing in life. I feel like I’ve come to see all of my own relationships with my thoughts and feelings and emotions in that same way, where whatever I’m experiencing in that moment is precious because that’s the thing I’m experiencing. So, that’s been a really neat transition to not feel such a strong aversion towards some emotions, and such a strong clinging towards other emotions.

Kenn Sullivan:
Oh my, so much. I used to be ashamed of feeling certain emotions, and I would try to suppress them as fast as I possibly could using any little tactic to just … So, we just end up skipping the now by just acting like our emotion isn’t real. And you’re saying to sit with it. What kind of language do you use? I know the words that I use, but I’d love to hear your language about how you talk about good and bad as it relates to how you used to view good and bad, and what you would call good, if anything, or a greater good, if anything?

Noah Rasheta:
Yeah. I’ve for the most part eradicated the concept of good and bad out of my mind. I try to view everything in the context of skillful versus unskillful, and especially when it comes to experiences. As I’m having an experience, I realize I can have a skillful reaction or relationship with the experience as it’s unfolding, or it can be a highly unskillful reaction. And that’s kind of the angle that I take, rather than thinking, “Oh, it was bad that I felt this way and that I said this and that I did that,” I just see it more as, “That wasn’t very skillful of me because now I can see that at the time, that feeling felt so wrong to have that feeling that I was pushing it away, and it caused this spiral of reactions.” And I try to view it in that context, skillful versus unskillful.

Kenn Sullivan:
I like that. I like that.

Noah Rasheta:
Yeah. I’ve extended that to whether these are things that I’m feeling inside, or also the interactions that I’m having with other people, conversations that we’re having, always in that context of, what is the most skillful way to navigate this?

Kenn Sullivan:
Sounds awesome. I like it. I like it a lot. The way I have been saying it to myself, and I like this, I’m actually going to be thinking about this a lot, that I have found that all of the good that I used to call good in the past has given me happiness. And then, all the things that I call bad gave me unhappiness. And like you’re saying, I just have found that life just is what it is anyway, and I can never control what anybody else is going to choose to do around me. And so, by surrendering to the reality that it’s always now and I have to just accept what is, I’ve gotten to this place where I’ve seen all of the things that I used to call good and bad as just all part of this, what I’ve been calling the greater good, that it’s all just there anyway. It just is what it is. And if I just accept the beingness of it, then I can have actual peace of mind.

Kenn Sullivan:
I’ve found that the only place that I’ve been able to actually feel the power of the feeling of love that I can’t put into words because words are just constructs that I can’t talk about this experience of what it means to feel love, the only place I can ever feel it is in the now. And it seems like it’s inclusive of all of it. I mean, I think it was Gilbran’s, The Prophet, that book The Prophet. And he uses this analogy of the wing, the loving swan or whatever kind of bird it was that reaches out with its wings and brings you in and loves you in. And when you get in there, you realize there’s also these sharp points that you have to deal with. And it’s like all the good and bad is all just there and is what it is. And we can either complain and just keep on suffering or we can choose to just accept and find that there is a way past suffering. What would you say that you have learned about suffering, Noah?

Noah Rasheta:
Well, number one that often the greatest source of suffering that I may be experiencing is self inflicted. And that’s usually centered around these stories, right? Like, the moment I want something to be other than how it is, that feeling that I would describe as suffering, that’s what arises. And it’s a tricky one because even if I want to not want things to be how they are, I’m caught in that same trap again. So, it entails not just recognizing this is how things are, but recognizing those moments where I don’t want things to be how they are, and I can except that … You know, it’s almost like that idea of it’s okay sometimes that it’s not okay, right?

Kenn Sullivan:
Right.

Noah Rasheta:
That’s also a form of acceptance.

Kenn Sullivan:
Right. Got to accept it, right? It is what it is.

Noah Rasheta:
Yeah. And so, what I strive to do in moments like that is just to seek more understanding. Like, why does this matter so much to me? Why am I feeling this? Where does this come from? And being as introspective as I can, and there’s often something pretty revealing to be learned about myself when I’m willing to do that internal exploration, you know?

Kenn Sullivan:
Totally. What would you say you have learned as it pertains to self deception and self honesty?

Noah Rasheta:
That one’s tricky. I read this book that I really enjoyed called Hidden Motives. And it talks about why we do some of the things that we do, and the reality is sometimes we don’t know. Sometimes we do. If you’re willing to be honest to yourself, you may realize, “Oh, this is why I’m being nice to this person because I’m wanting to get something out of it,” or something like that. There’s always some kind of a hidden motive. And sometimes we can identify it, and sometimes we just can’t. We’re just conditioned by our upbringing, our societal views, perhaps religious views, different things that kind of makes us who we are and make us do things and say things and think things. And we may not even know that that’s why we do it. And I feel like it’s been important to recognize that there are instances where I just don’t know. I’m not sure … I may not know, and that’s okay too.

Noah Rasheta:
But the instances that I’m most concerned about are the ones where I am deceiving myself or pretending that this is why I’m doing this, when in reality, I’m not. It’s like, “No, I’m actually doing this …” You know? Like Facebook is a good example of this. You get on there and there’s some conversation happening, and you’re like, “Oh, I’m going to comment on there.” And it’s like, “Yeah, because I want to resolve this debate that’s being had on this thread.” And if you were to really dig deeper, you may discover, “No, I just want others to know that I consider myself to be pretty darn smart on this topic.” You know? It could be something like that, that if you were honest with yourself, you may find that. And that’s been a fascinating thing for me.

Noah Rasheta:
Again, never projecting this out, like, “Oh, that’s why they’re saying this.” I don’t know why they’re doing it. But it’s very interesting when you spend the time and realize, “Oh, that’s why I’m reacting this way. That’s why I want to say this or do that.” So, for me, it’s always about what can I learn about myself in this situation, you know?

Kenn Sullivan:
I like that. What would you say about … How do you view the whole concept of complaining versus gratitude?

Noah Rasheta:
Complaining versus gratitude? I feel like if we were to look at this, for me it seems like it’s a matter of perspective. When my perspective is narrow or shortsighted, it’s easy to complain about something. But the bigger I can make my perspective, like zooming out and seeing a bigger picture, it’s usually more natural to feel a sense of gratitude. For example, you’re standing in a long line and it’s like, “Why do I have to be standing in this line?” But you zoom out a little bit and realize all these intricate pieces of the puzzle that are taking place that are making it this way. And it’s not about me, you know? The line has zero interest in my experience of how long I have to stand in it. Others are standing in the line too.

Noah Rasheta:
And I feel like when I can do that, and I can take a moment and see the bigger picture, gratitude arises naturally. And I have a question that I like to bring up when I’m experiencing these moments. For example, at a red light you’re like, “I’m stuck at the red light.” I like to pause and say, “What did it take for this moment to arise?” And then I just look around. And sometimes I’ll look down … I’ve done this were I’ll look down at the dashboard and all the buttons and all the little intricate things that went into the design of my car. I’m like, “Where did this button come from? I wonder who designed this. I wonder who popped that little button into place. Maybe it was a robot. If it was a robot, was someone controlling it? If it was software, who designed that software?” And suddenly you can take a little moment to ask yourself, “What did it take for this moment to arise?” And suddenly you’re overwhelmed with gratitude.

Noah Rasheta:
I’ve done this with a red light itself. Like, whose idea was that? Because that’s pretty brilliant. If it was only green lights, we’d have all chaos. But because sometimes it’s red and sometimes it’s green, it works best for the traffic on both sides, the guys going left and right and the ones going straight up and down. So yeah, I feel like gratitude arises naturally with a bigger perspective. And with a smaller perspective, it’s hard to feel grateful because all we care about is how this is effecting us and our narrow view.

Kenn Sullivan:
So true. It’s all about the perspective we’re choosing to focus on at that exact moment. So, it just seems like a masterful question to ask because it takes your attention immediately to some other thing, other than the fact that, “This is not a good thing that I’m sitting here waiting in this line or in traffic,” or whatever it is.

Noah Rasheta:
Yeah.

Kenn Sullivan:
That’s awesome. I love that. I’ll be asking myself that exact same question. What did it take for this moment to arise? I like it a lot.

Noah Rasheta:
Yeah.

Kenn Sullivan:
Okay, so how do you talk about our ego and the benefits versus how we get trapped in our ego? How do you summarize the whole concept for yourself of the ego being either the pilot or the co-pilot or however you talk about that? I’d love to hear your perspective on this.

Noah Rasheta:
Yeah, I think ego is a tricky one for me. I view the ego very much as it’s the tricky thing that the ego’s the one that’s talking about the ego, right? So, it makes it kind of complicated to explain the ego because there’s me as this body that has blood flowing through it, it has a brain with electrical waves that make it think things. And I’m experiencing all of that. And then there’s the one that’s experiencing it, and then there’s the part of me that observes the experience. And I’m not entirely sure what the ego is, if it’s just an illusion, if it’s a construct, if it’s an illusion of an illusion, how deep does that go?

Noah Rasheta:
And I’ve joked before that I were able to peek behind the curtains to see the ego, what I would see is myself peeking behind the curtain seeing the ego, you know?

Kenn Sullivan:
Right.

Noah Rasheta:
And that’s kind of how I view it. I don’t know. I think the ego would be the one seeing itself, I guess. So, I try to remind myself, I have this natural thing that arises in me because I’m human that we would call the ego. But that’s not me, because I can’t separate that from the other aspects of me. Like, when I’m eating food, for example, and it’s something that I enjoy, is it really me that likes the flavor? Or is it my taste buds and the DNA that made my taste buds the way that they are that like that flavor, right? Like, did I consciously choose to like this flavor? Some people like Brussels spouts, some people don’t, because of a single gene that determines whether they can have the bitter taste, you know? And so, is it really me that likes something when I’m liking it?

Noah Rasheta:
I don’t know. I think those are really deep questions that are fun to entertain and to think about and explore. So, I like to remind myself in those moments that I feel like there is an ego and that I don’t want that ego to be there is that it’s almost like, is it egotistical to not want the ego to be there? Like, who’s the one who doesn’t want the ego to be there? I would assume that’s the ego. So yeah. That’s always an interesting topic to explore.

Kenn Sullivan:
Such a fascinating thing. I’ve seen it as like this amazing thing that I get to play with. But the more self aware that I’ve become, the more I get to observe, like what you’re saying, that I am just getting to play with it. So, it’s like I’m just this being, the real essence of me is connected to everything and everyone. And I have this beingness of all of that, and then I’ve got this … when I take the focus down to just acting like I am an individual, now everything is all about differences. And yeah, it’s a fascinating conversation. We can talk about that part all day.

Kenn Sullivan:
And I wanted to get your thoughts also on one more thing, and then anything else that you feel like would be good to share. I have had all kinds of experiences lately in what I call lovingly leaning into my edges, the edges of my comfort zones. I’ve had so many conversations with myself about my comfort zones because as I’ve sat and observed and tried to just become more okay with surrendering to everything as it is, I’ve discovered that I have all these actual limits that I’ve built up so far in my programming or whatever, however you want to call it. But what I’ve found is that when I push into the edge of my comfort zone, instead of … Like, I used to just imagine a comfort zone being like a circle around me, whether it’s a physical comfort zone or an emotional comfort zone or a mental comfort zone or a social comfort zone or a spiritual comfort zone, I used to get out toward the edge and I would feel the pain out there at that edge. And so, I would typically just retreat and come back and live and seek out some kind of a desire instead, all the while staying inside this circle and living this self sabotagingly smaller life than what I could have lived if I would have found out what was outside that circle.

Kenn Sullivan:
And so, as I’ve been lovingly leaning into these edges of any circle, whether it’s like you were mentioning emotional. I mean, I’ve had so many experiences now just sitting with my emotions, being okay with them, watching them as they change. And the new perspectives that I gain because of that, they seem to just be transforming me at such an alarming rate because I’m willing to actually push into that pain that I used to see as something that, “Oh, that’s not a good thing.” But now I’ve seen how helpful it can be and how much more skillful it has made me when it comes to actually now dealing with those same kinds of emotions, different types of agitating circumstances that I go through. What are your thoughts about comfort zones and how have you approached your won comfort zones, Noah?

Noah Rasheta:
Yeah, that’s a really good question. I feel like as a society, we kind of tend to have what you would call the dualistic mindset where there’s here and there’s there, right? And the concept of the grass is always greener on the other side is the same concept of, “I’m here and I want to be there.” And then, there’s kind of this Eastern way of thinking that says, “Well, there is no there, because the moment you get there, there’s no there there. It’s always here,” right?

Noah Rasheta:
And that way of thinking has translated a little bit into the discussion of comfort zones for me in the context of, there’s my comfort zone and then there’s somewhere else, this other place. Whether it’s more comfortable or less comfortable, it’s some other zone. And I’m playing that same game, I’m here and I want to be there. And I’ve realized that for me in my own practice, what I’m really trying to do, what seems to be more skillful than going from the zone I’m in to some new zone is to become essentially more comfortable with discomfort. Rather than avoiding discomfort, I’m just trying to become more comfortable with discomfort. And that ends up being much more skillful than trying to eradicate all those rough edges that I don’t like, that bring discomfort.

Noah Rasheta:
There’s an analogy about this with a Tibetan poet who was going around the world gathering up leather trying to put leather down on all the rocky edges and all the sharp parts of the world so that he could walk comfortably because he walked barefoot. And someone pointed out to him that, “Wouldn’t it be better to use that leather and make yourself some protection for your feet, and then you can walk anywhere?” And I always thought that was fascinating because it’s like we are going around life trying to patch up all these rough spots where, “I don’t want that one to hurt me, so I’ll go work on that,” rather than focusing on using those same tools to protect the soles of our feet, then we can work anywhere.

Kenn Sullivan:
Oh my. Yeah.

Noah Rasheta:
So, I like that as a visual when I’m thinking about the context of comfort zones. I’m always wondering what am in doing to make my leather shoes or my feet more prone to talking on more difficult terrain? Rather than avoiding the difficult terrain in the first place.

Kenn Sullivan:
Yeah. So awesome. I love talking to you, Noah. You are one of my favorite people on the entire planet to talk to, no doubt. I mean, I’m serious. You have a way about you that is just beautiful. You are a beautiful human, and I watch and I get to feel the experience of what it feels like to see and experience your positive impact and feel so much power in that. And I just want to thank you and tell you I’m extremely grateful for our connection. Any last thoughts on anything that you want to talk about at all whatsoever?

Noah Rasheta:
I do want to thank you for the time. I know it takes time and effort to put these things together. And it is an honor that you would want to spend time talking with me. I did have a thought I was thinking earlier. Have you ever heard or come across the Daoist parable of the horse? It’s the like who knows what is good and what is bad parable.

Kenn Sullivan:
Will you tell it real quick? You’re reminding me, I’ve heard somebody tell this. And it’s the … He ends up going on … Yeah, I do know the story, but I can’t recite it.

Noah Rasheta:
Yeah, well I was thinking about this in the context of what you’ve been talking about with presence, and as we were talking in the first part of the conversation, it was kind of the meaning that we’re making about things being good or being bad. And this is a Daoist parable that comes from China that I’ve always liked. And in its saying the essence of the story is that there was a farmer who had a horse. And the horse showed up out of the blue and his neighbor came running over and said, “How fortunate for you, you have a horse.” And he says, “Well, who knows what is good and what is bad?” And goes about his day.

Noah Rasheta:
And the horse runs away. And the neighbor comes running over and he’s like, “Oh no, your horse is gone. This is horrible.” And the old man says, “Well, who knows what is good and what is bad?” Goes about his activities. The horse comes back with four additional horses. Again, the neighbor comes running over thinking this is a great thing. And then, the farmer’s son is working with one of the horses, gets bucked off and breaks his leg, and the neighbor’s like, “Oh no, this is horrible, your only son.” And the next day the Army comes into town and they’re conscripting all the youth. And they can’t take his son because his leg’s broken. And at some point in the story, it just kind of ends with the neighbor running over to say this is good or this is bad, but instead pauses and says, “Yeah, who knows what is good and what is bad?”

Kenn Sullivan:
Right.

Noah Rasheta:
And that’s kind of the version I’ve heard and what it’s become for me is just this constant reminder that life is happening. At any given moment things are happening, and we are the ones who are pausing and making meaning, “Oh, this is a good thing,” or, “Oh, this is a bad thing,” with very limited perspective of how this experience fits as a piece of the puzzle and the big, big picture that we just can’t see. And how, often times I can look back into my own life and see events that I would have emphatically agreed at the time that these were bad events or unpleasant or all these other things, only to find out later have been pivotal moments that have led to this other thing that down the road I’m like, “Wow, I’m glad that happened because had that not happened, this wouldn’t have happened.” You know?

Kenn Sullivan:
Exactly.

Noah Rasheta:
And I think that’s just a really useful story for us to hear, especially here in the West as we go through life playing this game of assigning meaning to everything and some things are good and somethings are bad, and sometimes just taking a break. And like you always talk about, just be in the moment, just be with what’s happening and stop thinking of this as, “This is a good thing or a bad thing that’s happening to me,” and just say, “This is what’s happening. What does it feel like to be going through this? Where do these emotions come from? Why does it feel this way?” And just becoming more aware of the relationship that we have with our experiences as they’re unfolding. I think that’s what I would end this on as an invitation.

Noah Rasheta:
The whole premise of your podcast with presence is that. You are that story and you’re going … Whoever’s listening, right? You’re listening to this and you’re going through something in your life. This just happened or this other thing’s about to happen. We’re all playing that game. And we’re all waiting to see, “Well, is this thing a good thing or a bad thing?” And what if we could just pause for a moment and think, “I’m not going to assign meaning. I’m just going to really experience this as it unfolds and see what happens?”

Kenn Sullivan:
It’s so hard. It’s so, so hard to not assign meaning because we have all this experience that we immediately start pulling from. It’s like there’s this pressure, like, “I have to call it something. I have to call it something.” And when you let go of that need to feel like you have to be right about it and just say, “What does this feel like? What did it take for this moment to arise? What can I gain from this? How can this …” You know? You talked about when we first started talking how you’re in a back brace because you just sprained your back. I’m in a wrist brace, I just wiped out on my mountain bike. I got a concussion and I hurt both my hands.

Kenn Sullivan:
I just recently went through shoulder surgery. I mean, all these things that … how are they actually playing parts? And if I didn’t have those, who would I have not connected with? What experiences wouldn’t I have had? I think it’s a beautiful way to wrap it up, yeah. You’re awesome, Noah. You’re a beautiful … I love you, brother. I love you so much.

Noah Rasheta:
Thank you very much, I appreciate that. Love you too.

Kenn Sullivan:
This was my absolute pleasure.

Noah Rasheta:
Cool. Well, I’m excited for your podcast and I’m excited just for everything that you’re doing. Fun stuff.

Kenn Sullivan:
Thank you. Thank you. We’re just a couple of hermanos trying to do our part, huh?

Noah Rasheta:
Yeah.

Kenn Sullivan:
When somebody asks you to define love, or if anybody ever does ask you to define love, what do you say? Because words are so limiting.

Noah Rasheta:
Yeah, it really is. I don’t know that I’ve been asked that before. But I think if I were, it would be something like, I know what it is, but I can’t explain it. But I can feel it. And I think of it in the context of my family, right? Like, how would I explain that to my kids, what it is to love them? To me, that’s the perfect example of, “Well, I can’t. But one day you might get to know what that feels like. And then you’ll know how I felt, you know? Being your dad.”

Noah Rasheta:
It’s kind of like with time, it’s like we all kind of know what it is. We’ve invented ways to measure it. But at the same time, I’d love to hear someone really explain what it is because I think if we try, most of us realize, “Actually, I don’t know what it is.” All we know how to do is measure it in the context of, sun comes up or sun goes down. Divide that into a form of measurement, into hours or minutes. And I think with love, sometimes it’s similar. We try to define it, but by defining it, we limit it. And it’s so much more than just doing something for someone, saying something nice. It’s so much more than that. It can’t be defined. It’s just … It’s an experience.

Kenn Sullivan:
Yep, experience. You’re awesome, Noah. Thank you so much. This has been just beautiful. Love it. Thank you so much. I’m very grateful that you were willing to sit down and have a conversation with me.

Noah Rasheta:
Awesome. Well, thank you. I really appreciate it.

98 – The Rascal Behind the Curtain

Sometimes when we peek behind the curtain, we discover something that we wish we didn’t know. Imagine what it would be like to peek behind the curtain of the mind only to see yourself peeking behind the curtain of the mind. Discovering that what you have been searching for is who is searching. In this episode, I will discuss the idea of the rascal behind the curtain.

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Transcript:

Welcome to another episode of the Secular Buddhism podcast. This is episode number 98. I am your host, Noah Rashida. And today, I’m talking about the rascal behind the curtain. So, what is the rascal behind the curtain? Some people are curious by nature. Some people want to peek behind the curtain and see what’s going on back there and others don’t. And my whole life I’ve been a very curious this person by nature, and I always like knowing the source of where things come from. I find this sense of curiosity is what leads me to want to research or watch documentaries that you know that peek behind the curtains. We have a lot of those these days. If you’re interested in learning about food, you can watch Forks Over Knives or Food Inc., documentaries that kind of show what’s going on behind the curtain. How does food get to our table? What all does that process entail? Some people don’t want to know that. Some people do.

I had to deal with this same sense of curiosity years ago when I was studying my religious views. I wanted to know who wrote the Bible, or where did the Bible come from? I had always been told, “Well, you’ve got to read this thing over and over and over,” but without any pressure of trying to understand other aspects of, “Well, where did this come from? Who wrote it?” And I started studying Bart Ehrman’s work with New Testament Historicity and that kind of started to change my worldview. I like to do this with anything. The Buddha said this, “Well, who says that?” The Buddha said this. “Where do these writings come from?” I like to peek behind the curtain and that sense of curiosity is natural for me.

And there’s no area where you’re safe from what you might find behind the curtain, right? Like, “Well, where does our oil and gasoline come from? What all does it take for us to consume the oil that we use?” And you peek behind the curtain and you may not like what you’re going to see. You can do this with plastics, our clothing. Where does our clothing come from? I remember watching a documentary about diamonds and the process for diamonds and I was like, “Ah, I don’t think I’ll ever buy a diamond again.” Or SeaWorld, right. And dolphins and watching The Cove and suddenly realizing, “Oh, I don’t know if that’s a place that I want to go to or support anymore,” and it can have this effect. I don’t want to bring this up all in a negative sense where it’s like, “Oh, every time you peek behind the curtains, life gets more doom and gloom.” But that does tend to happen sometimes. We peek behind the curtain. We don’t like what we see.

I bring this up because the process of introspective-awareness, the process of spiritual awakening is essentially the process of peeking behind the curtain. But we’re doing this in an investigative way, looking inward, right? What happens if I peek behind the curtain inside of me, behind the curtain of the mind? And this to me manifests in ways very similar to what I was talking about with external things like, “Well, where does this come from? How do we get this? What does it take for this thing to be what it is?” I’ve done the same journey going inward where I want to know, “Well, why do I feel this way about this, this thing? Why am I sensitive about that? Why does this cause me to feel this way? Where does this strong aversion come from?” Or, “Why am I chasing after this specific thing? Why not that other thing?” And then the big question that I’ve toyed with for years and years and years is, “What am I really after? What do I really want?”

And I think this gets at the heart of a lot of what we’re trying to practice in terms of Buddhism as a spiritual practice. It’s like we’re playing this game of, catch me if you can. We’re playing the game of cat and mouse, right? There’s the enlightened you that’s trying to outfox or outsmart the unenlightened you and it’s like, “I’m trying to figure myself out,” But the plot twist that we come to discover is that I am the one that wants to be behind the curtain while at the same time I’m the one behind the curtain that doesn’t want to be seen. And when one seems to have outdone the other, the other gets the upper hand and the game goes on and on. Just like the game of cat and mouse, right?

If you grew up watching Tom and Jerry, the cartoon of the cat and mouse, or taking this into more modern terms, any show entertainment that we watch that has a superhero and a villain, it’s the same game. The game is if you’re going to have one, the more entertaining and powerful the one is, you’ve got to have the opposite. The whole cartoon of the cat and mouse would be boring if the cat caught the mouse in episode one and that’s the end of that. We enjoy watching Tom and Jerry because sometimes one outdoes the other, and the next time the other one is the one who does the other and the game goes on and on. That’s what makes it an entertaining.

And with our superheroes and villains, it’s the same, right? We always want it to be, “Oh, the good guy wins and that’s it.” But it’s not entertaining to us if that’s just how it is. We need to think that there’s a chance that the bad guy was going to win and that’s what makes it entertaining. And to me, that’s what’s fascinating is this constant back and forth of who gets the upper hand, the enlightened me or the unenlightened me? And this realization that, “I am the cat, but I’m also the mouse.” And I love the way that Alan Watts talks about this. Well, first he has a quote where he says, “There was a young man who said, ‘Though it seems that I know that I know, but what I would like to see is the I that knows me when I know that I know that I know.'”

And it’s a fun mental, it’s a tongue twister almost, but it’s definitely a mental gymnastics twister as well, where you’re like, “What is he talking about? Who is the I that knows me when I know that I know that I know? And he’s alluding to these multiple layers, what I like to think of as peeking behind the curtain. And to me, it’s like imagine the moment of shock that you finally figure out how to peek behind the curtain of the mind and what you see is yourself peeking behind the curtain of the mind. That’s how it is. That’s it. That’s what you would see. You’d see yourself peaking behind the curtain and that’s the I that knows me when I know that I know that I know. And I love the complexity of these ways of thinking about seeing.

Alan Watts again, he calls this the element of irreducible rascality and he says, “To be human, one must recognize and accept a certain element of irreducible rascality, both in oneself and in one’s enemies. It is, therefore, an enormous relief to realize that these abstract ambitions are total nonsense,” it goes on to say, “for when it is understood that trying to have good without evil is as absurd as trying to have white without black. All that energy is released for things that can be done.” So to me, this is kind of that realization that if I’m putting in all this effort to finally peek behind the curtain and if what I see is the me that’s peeking behind the curtain it’s essentially that same release of energy. This wanting good without bad. Wanting things to be one way without being the other. Suddenly, that energy can be used for something else. What would I do if I gave up that game?

So it kind of leaves me with this, well what do we do with this predicament? And I think in the context of this topic, for the podcast episode, it’s wanting to be enlightened and to no longer be confused but the whole point of you can’t have one without the other, right? And enlightenment is the opposite of confusion, but you can’t have one without the other. So if we think of it in terms of certainty, it’s like we want certainty and not uncertainty and what we want to be as this and not to be that. And we’re always playing this game. And I caught myself even today, reading through Facebook and I saw an article that was shared in the Facebook page for the Secular Buddhism podcast. There’s a group that’s about secular Buddhism. It’s actually not specific to the podcast, it’s just a general secular Buddhism group.

It can be the source of a lot of pleasant stuff to read, but it can also be the source of a lot of contentious bickering about little things like anything on Facebook, right? It doesn’t matter what it is, read through the comments and you’ll be like, “What is going on in the world?” And so it is in this group. So there was this discussion about secular Buddhism versus Buddhism, and the article was trying to make a very clear point. It showed the biases of the author as a Buddhist against a secular form of Buddhism. And it was funny as I was reading that thinking, “Well, which one am I feeling naturally I should defend? Secular Buddhism, which is something that I talk about often? I have a podcast that’s called Secular Buddhism, or am I defending Buddhism in general, which I also feel a sense of affinity towards?”

I’ve undertaken the process of becoming a Buddhist minister, not a secular Buddhist minister, just a Buddhist minister. So it’s like, “Well, I feel like I’m both,” and I had this thought where I thought, “Man, I think the secular Buddhist that feels aversion towards the label of being a Buddhist because of all that it might entail, beliefs in this or what you would say is all the superstitious part of that.” It’s like the aversion to that is a total misunderstanding of the whole point. And if you flip it backwards, it’s the same. I think someone who would consider themselves a Buddhist, a classical Buddhist who feels a strong aversion towards being labeled a secular Buddhist is also missing the same point, which is alluding to what Dr. Mark Epstein once said, which I really like where he was asked, “What is the difference between a Buddhist and a non-Buddhist?” And the answer was that the non-Buddhist thinks there’s a difference.

I love that because, at the heart of what any of these messages are trying to get at, any form of Buddhism, any school of Buddhism is that there is no difference. And I find that fascinating f you were to take the argument of which Buddhism is correct? Is it Tibetan Buddhism? Is at Zen Buddhism? Is it Theravada Buddhism? And they’re all kind of trying to be like, “Well we’re the more accurate ones.” It’s like, “Well then all of you have missed the point. There is no accurate one.” It goes back to the analogy that the Buddha gave of the giant elephant and the blind men trying to describe it. And the whole point of that analogy is that no single person at a single vantage point in terms of space and time can see the whole picture. It cannot be done.

So here I am describing my interpretation of my experience with the reality and it comes across in this secular Buddhist lens. But that’s not to say that there’s anything more accurate than the description I’m giving of the tail of the elephant versus the description that someone else is giving of the trunk of the elephant from an entirely different vantage point. Maybe even a different worldview, a theistic one or a nontheistic one, or within Buddhism, a classical one or a whatever? And that I think is important to understand. So I kind of got sidetracked with the concept of the rascal behind the curtain. But what I want to get at is what we learn and what we practice in Buddhism isn’t about ensuring a better future or correcting an uncomfortable past. It really boils down to the discomfort and the uncertainty of the present moment.

And I want to bring this back to something that I regularly bring all of this back to, which is the game of Tetris. Think about the game of Tetris for a moment and think about what is it that would make that game stressful for someone? If someone were playing it and they were stressed about it, the stress would come from not knowing what’s coming next. That’s where the stress comes from, right? And if you’re watching someone play the game and they’re just loving it, what would make that game fun? It would probably be something similar, but it’s thinking that they know what’s about to come next or thinking, “I’ve got this game under control. I’ve got it under wraps,” and that sense of hope. The hope that this game is about to be better because I’m going to get what I need next.

But both of those players are in the exact same circumstances, which if you could slow down time, or if you could pause the game for a moment, you’d realize the game isn’t about the fear or the hope of what shape comes next. It’s about recognizing that right now we’re playing a game and we didn’t choose the game. It’s almost like the game chose us. Right? You wake up and there you are playing the game. That’s what we are. We wake up and here we are alive. “I didn’t will myself into existence but I’m here.” And to me, that’s what the game represents. It’s reality. It’s how things are. “I didn’t choose to look the way that I look. I didn’t choose to have the personality that I have. I can’t help that the rascal in me wants to peek and see what’s behind the curtain of all things. I’m just here. I’m participating in the entire process of being alive.”

And what I’m finding more recent in my life is that I’m getting comfortable with the uncertainty of it all. It’s kind of funny to see the transition of I want to see what’s behind the curtain to exploring why do I want it, to see what’s behind the curtain because that’s also a fascinating thought experiment. So my invitation to you regarding this whole topic and this concept of this specific podcast episode is to try to get to know yourself a bit more in this arena. Why do I care to know what’s behind the curtain? Do I care to know what’s behind the curtain? If the answer’s “Yes,” why? If the answer is, “No,” why? And again, the point, for me, is to have a more skillful relationship with myself as both the cat and the mouse. I want that to be a more skillful relationship, knowing that it’s an ongoing one and one’s going to outfox the other, and then the other one gets the upper hand and then it has the upper hand until the other one gets the upper hand. And that’s the game that goes on and on and on.

And I try to notice, in moments where I feel a certain sense of attachment to one thing, like, “Oh, I’m a this,” or, “I’m or that,” or, “Oh, I don’t want you to think I’m of that. So I better look like I’m a this.” Where does that come from and why do I feel aversion for one over the other? And notice how it changes. It’s fun to do this in terms of time too. I had this thought experiment the other day where I was thinking, “If the me of five years ago,” no, actually it’d be further. “If the me of 10 years ago met the me of today, what would that me think of this me?” And that was just a fun thought process. Where I was like, “Well, that me would probably think a lot of strange things about this me.” And then I thought, “Well, wow, I wonder what the me of now would think of the me of 10 years?” Or, “What the me of 10 years would think of the me now and the way that the me of now thinks of the me of 10 years ago?”

And again, you kind of play with this process in your mind and suddenly there’s this realization again of the complexity of the interdependent nature of all things and the constant changing of all things. And what I find is it seems to give me a little bit less of that strong attachment to how I am now and what I think now and what I believe now or what I don’t believe now. It’s like that’s just how things are. There’s no attachment to it. That’s how it works for me. So again, everything that I share in this, what I’m trying to emphasize is this is an exploration of you getting to know you.

I’m not trying to present any of this in the sense of here’s the goal. You need to discover this or that. That’s not what at all what this is about. I’m trying to share this is how it’s worked for me and I’m finding that this comfort with the discomfort of uncertainty in life is actually a pretty pleasant, the more you get comfortable with it. Like I mentioned in the podcast episode, stepping into groundlessness. I found that considerable amount of peace and contentment in my own life with the uncertainty, just not knowing and thinking, “I get to do this today. Well, that’s great because I don’t know what I get to do tomorrow.”

Someone was asking me today, “Hey, you seem to do a lot of flying,” because if you follow me on social media you would know that that’s pretty much what I do. Like, “What would happen if you got injured and you couldn’t do it?” And then it’s like, “Nothing. I’d just do whatever the next thing is that I can do.” I am, oddly enough, I don’t feel attached in any way to this thing that I pursue so actively in my life, which is flying and teaching people to fly and all that because I can, because if I couldn’t tomorrow I’d be like, “Okay, well, that’s the end of that,” and I’d be doing something else just like, “That’s how I was the day before I learned to fly.” It was something else I was doing. And before the day I learned that something else. And that’s just how it’s been.

So, sharing all these thoughts, that was the topic I wanted to share today, the rascal behind the curtain. You are the rascal and you’re the rascal hiding behind the curtain too, and playing with this concept, hopefully, you can have some entertaining thoughts with yourself as the cat and the mouse. As always, if you want to learn more about these topics and these concepts, you can always check out the books that I’ve published. They’re available on noahrasheda.com, and as always, if you’ve enjoyed this podcast episode, feel free to share it with others. Write a review. I’d love to hear your feedback or your thoughts. Give it a rating in iTunes, and if you want to support the work I’m doing with the podcast, you can always do that visiting secularbuddhism.com and you can click the donate button there. That’s all I have for now. I look forward to recording another podcast episode soon. This is 98. We’re close almost to the milestone of hitting 100 episodes, so thank you for listening. Until next time.