Category Archives: Metaphysical/Spiritual

The Game

Is life a game?  Does it trivialize life to to compare it to a game?  Is life too serious to be considered a game?  Gee whiz, we certainly put a lot of money, time and resources into the games we play.  Every game has a primary objective.  It could be argued that winning the game is the ultimate objective.  Others say it is really how you play that matters.  And some of the best coaches I know have used the word  Love  in describing the most important aspect of playing;  “Play for the love of the game.”  Gaining Agreement on what is the primary objective is important, I believe.  Most games are straightforward and don’t have much ambiguity in figuring out the objective.  Is Life a game? What game are you playing? What is your objective? Are there any rules? What is your strategy? How do you train and get better? How do you measure your results?

Organized Religion

Religion is man made. It is obvious. Most religions refer to scriptures for validating their postions. “It is written.” Historical interpretation of scripture reveals that most of it was written many years after events or prophesies were made. But what is it that organized religion provides? Anyone who steps back and looks objectively at the circumstance one finds oneself in most certainly must first enter into some kind of existential crisis. Life is so tenuous and so short. We are consumed with needs and desires….Religion offers the believer an escape from this crisis. All one needs is faith. Faith in what others have decided as the purpose of one’s life, how one should live, where we came from and where we go when we die. Many of us have decided that all religion is a bunch of crap. Not a bad place to start. But I don’t think it is a good place to stay.

The reality is that religion has played a major role in human evolution and it does not look like it is going to end soon. Believers tell you that there is a commitment of faith that must be made in order to fully appreciate and experience their Truth. Make this commitment first and you will then understand. Well, there are a lot of us that are not willing or incapable of taking this leap. So why am I writing about this? I don’t know really…Maybe it is because I am confused. I have wanted to make a spiritual commitment and have checked out a lot of different religions. All of them tell me that there is a God. All of them tell me that I must restrict certain activities and desires. All of them tell me I should attend their weekly and sometimes daily services. All of them tell me there is an afterlife of some kind. All of them tell me that in order to ensure I get to participate in that afterlife I must do what they tell me to do. And all of them tell me I should at least think about giving them a minimum of 10% of my income. Much of what they say rings true to me but Some of it doesn’t. Most of them tell me that Doubt is the enemy so my apprehensions are normal. After a lifetime of searching and experimenting I have decided that one thing is for sure. No matter what any of them say I will not look outside of myself for the Truth. The Truth lies within. This does not mean that you should not study what others have said and what others say. But after studying and searching and testing things out I will always go within to decide. There are many ways to do it. I recommend checking out yoga and meditation. Why? Because, for better or worse, you are with your body and mind this go around. Yoga and meditation are techniques that assist you in being with your body and mind in a productive way.

I think some people should turn to religion if that is what they are called to do. I see any organized religion as a weigh station…a kind of spritual rehab for those who are spiritually empty. Another way to look at it is that religion is like taking antidepressants. It will help you get out of a rut. But once you are out I think it is time to titrate off of it. I would not want to live a significant period of my life on antidepressants. I know some medical professionals think it is necessary for some to be on antidepressants for extended or permanant periods of time. Bullshit!!! You can’t stay in Rehab your whole life and you should not stay on mind alterating drugs your whole life either. Warning!!! Getting off Cold Turkey is sometimes dangerous. It can take up to 3 to 6 months to get off antidepressants and most rehabs suggest aftercare sessions for about 3 to 6 months. So, if you have never experienced religion and have not delved into spiritual matters then check out Christianity or Buddhism or Kabbalah or whatever. Then get out and go within. Explore ways to go within that are void of secular beliefs or dogma. Good Luck

Meditation Seminar Donation

There is no charge for the Vipassana Training I participated in September. However, they do take donations. There are no employees of the center except for a 5 person management team that receives stipends. All of the support and work is done by volunteers…..Servers. This is another way of giving back. In fact, the teacher, Goenke, says that serving is more important than monetary donations. I did not donate right away. I wanted to wait and let the experience incubate. Following is my letter to the center offering my donation. It elaborates quite a bit on my challenge of balancing blood sugars with the rigors of the training…..
September 23, 2007

Dear Dhamma Dhara

Enclosed is my donation. Everyone comes to your trainings with different challenges and for different reasons. I am 45 years old and was diagnosed with Juvenile (Type 1) diabetes when I was 14. Most people who “get” diabetes get Type 2 diabetes also called Late Onset. In fact, in the U.S. there are approximately 20 million Type 2’s and 1 million Type 1’s. Type 1 diabetics are different in that they do not produce any insulin whatsoever and must inject insulin to survive. Type 2’s experience elevated blood sugar levels because of being overweight, having diminished insulin production, insulin resistance and other factors. They can often realize normal blood sugars by losing weight, diet adjustment or pills that assist the body in utilizing the insulin they produce.

Insulin is a hormone produced by the pancreas. It is part of the digestive process and a good metaphor for this process is that it is the key that unlocks the doors to the cells to allow the glucose in the blood stream to feed the cells. So, when someone is diagnosed with Type 1 diabetes this door remains shut and the cells are not fed, the glucose remains in the blood stream and the body reacts to elevated blood sugars and the fact that the cells are starving by breaking down the liver and expelling excess glucose through the kidneys. The “game” of managing the disease is really a balancing act (Awareness and Equanimity). The goal is to maintain as close to normal blood sugar levels as possible. This is done by injecting insulin, knowing how many carbohydrate and fat grams one is ingesting and taking into consideration past, current and future activity levels. There are several other factors to consider such as stress, emotional responses and passing illnesses such as the common cold. In order to balance effectively one must figure out a basal level of insulin that the body requires to maintain a normal state, a carbohydrate to insulin number and an insulin sensitivity level. In order to ensure that blood sugar levels are in a target range one must continually test blood sugar levels by pricking the finger for drops of blood and using a glucose monitor. Of course, a blood sugar reading is a snapshot. It does not tell you if the blood sugar level is trending up or down. The only way to know this is to check often. There are continuous blood glucose monitors in the beta stage but they are not that reliable right now and are not very comfortable.

I currently use an insulin pump to administer my insulin. It is the best method out there right now. The alternative is to inject with a syringe 4-7 times per day. I test my blood sugar between 8-15 times per day depending on my food intake, how I am feeling and my activity level. Living with diabetes has been a challenge for me. The “sensations” that one experiences with fluctuating blood sugar levels is in itself a a challenge not to mention the associated physical demands and the emotional hurdles. In the past five years I have done some deep work on connecting with the root cause of the disease. Interestingly, I have identified the disease as a kind of addiction (cravings and aversions).

About 3 years ago I arranged a business buyout from my two partners in a business we had built over the previous 7 years. One of my business partners is my brother and the other a very close friend. Since that time the business has developed a not-for-profit entity and my partners asked if I would reach out to other people with diabetes and share my experience and also deliver immediate financial funds as needed.

That was a long introduction but I thought it important to create a context for the purpose of this letter which is my donation. I participated in the 10 day program starting September 5, 2007 as a new student. I heard of your training from my Aunt and Mother who heard about it from a fellow yoga student who had gone through the training. My Aunt went in June and my mother did it 2 weeks prior to me. They went to the Texas location. I chose to go to Massachusetts because I knew how beautiful it would be during early fall. I read the “Art of Living” and was intrigued. My brother also read the book and strongly suggested I go. I probably would not have gone unless I was pushed by my brother. I am very reactive even though I have been working hard on my self.

Please excuse me for not making my donation on Saturday or Sunday. I wanted to make it a solid and valuable donation. Goenka said during one of the discourses that serving was as important if not more important than donating money. I wanted to let my experience incubate and I wanted it to be non-reactive and include service.

My major concern going into the training was my blood sugar control. My diet would change drastically and I would not have immediate access to the foods I normally use in my balancing act I perform in trying to stay in a desired range. Having diabetes is a major sankhara. And what tremendous insights I got on the matter as a result of surviving the ten day training! While I was there I had to make quick adjustments to my insulin dosage. I tested my blood sugar almost every two hours in order to monitor the physical changes. I reduced my Total Daily Dosage by almost 50% from about 50 units of insulin to 27. Even more profound was that I had to reduce my basal rate by almost 40%. The basal rate is the amount of insulin I get every hour delivered every three minutes. This number is the amount of insulin my body requires to maintain a steady level. I reduced it from .8 to .550 within the first day and a half. What makes it even more of a significant thing is that I normally engage in a high level of physical activity. Physical activity lowers insulin requirements because it burns glucose. During the ten days the only physical activity I engaged in were some short walks after a meal.

While I would not say that I enjoyed the training I would say I experienced tremendous insight and wisdom in a direct and personal way. My “issues” surrounding the contracting of diabetes in my life are perhaps unique to me, perhaps not. Nevertheless, what I learned and what I experienced will help others with the disease. Specifically, it will help those who have Type 1 diabetes who want to experience a path toward liberation. It is a disease of much craving and aversion. And these cravings and aversions can easily multiply with lack of understanding (ignorance). In my experience in reaching out to others with the disease I am surprised at the lack of knowledge and basic skills necessary to maintain good blood sugar control. Both Awareness and Equanimity are required to achieve the kind of balance one must achieve in order to be successful (less suffering, more happiness). As a training developer and facilitator myself I recognize that knowledge and skills are but only part of the whole picture in the training process. Most important is an understanding of the context one is engaged in and the primary objective (goal). Clear understanding and acceptance of context and goal leads to proper mindset or attitude; Right effort, awareness and concentration.

I was blessed with an Assistant Teacher – Robert Crandall and Course Manager – Eric who almost immediately upon my arrival ensured I was going to have what I needed to make it through the training. I was given just enough. I had a little extra food at dinner……Some beans, tofu, vegetables, rice. Eating just fruit would not have been enough. I needed a few carbohydrates to get through the night. I was also given a thermos of orange juice at night in case I went too low. I must tell you the orange juice was so important. So thank you Robert and Eric and the person who brought my orange juice and everyone else who made it possible for me to be there. My appreciation at the time brought me to tears (It was early on in the training so I was still a bit vulnerable…I am sure you understand).

So, my donation is in two parts; Monetary and service oriented.

I have enclosed a check for $____. Please accept this offering and apply it in whatever way you deem most beneficial to achieving your desired results.

I would like to be a resource for you in accommodating those who have Type 1 diabetes. I would like to offer myself as an example of someone who made it through the training with the disease and I would be willing to communicate with and offer assistance to anyone who wanted to speak with me whether student or center representative.

There are a few bullet points to be aware of with a Type 1.

The person should have relatively good control over their blood sugars. Someone coming in who is out of control will have an extremely difficult time. My thinking is that those coming to your training will have an adequate level of mastery over their disease but I could also see people having trouble wanting to participate. Good control can be measured in a few ways and it will be almost impossible for you to make an accurate assessment without blood lab reports. This is probably not feasible or workable but asking them would be a minimum requirement, I would think.

Only fruit at the 5pm meal is not enough. Theoretically, I probably could have done it but it would have been too drastic an effort combined with the other challenges presented. The person with Type 1 diabetes needs about 20 grams of carbohydrates and some protein at 5pm. A lot of diabetics are use to taking a snack before bed. I did not need it. I was allowed to have a few protein bars with carbs in my room. I really did not need them but I am glad I had them. The thermos of orange juice at night was critical.

There are Glucose Tablets available at the drug store. Every Type 1 should have a bottle of these tablets. The acute concern of having diabetes is going too low. Usually one feels it when going low but not all the time. These tablets are perfect for lows. They act fast and dissolve in the mouth. There is no reason for someone to bring food in the mediation hall. I heard someone eating and it was very disturbing. One can have these tablets available and there will be no disturbance
Testing blood sugars is critical. I check a minimum of 10 times per day. Any Type 1 in good control should be checking at least 10 times per day. I was checking more in the training because of the changes that were going on and my own general obsessive compulsive nature.

Robert encouraged me to get some exercise by walking. Great suggestion. Walking after the meals was very beneficial to me.

I want to re-emphasize that my experience is with Type 1 not Type 2. Type 2 is different but many of the points are applicable.
Michael

Meditation Seminar

I recently went to a 10 day meditation seminar. It is called Vipassana. One of the hardest things I ever did. I arrived on a Wednesday. The whole thing started that night and we entered what is called Noble Silence for the next nine days. Noble Silence means no talking or communicating in any way with other students. You could speak with the teacher or course manager if one needed to handle a material matter. In addittion there is no writing, reading or contact with the outside world. I quickly realized that I was on a journey that would take me within. Little did I know how much turbulence I would encounter on this trip. The next day started at 4am. That is when we woke up by a “gong”. There was another “gong” at 4:20am. That was because at 4:01am we had pretty much all hit the snooze button. Now we had 10 minutes before the first meditation session. From 4:30 am until 6:30 am I had a choice between meditating in the Meditation Hall or in my room. We had received instructions the night before as we would for the next 10 days on what to meditate on. Day 1 we were to observe our breathing and the area around inside the nose. We were to notice any sensations in this area. Breakfast was served at 6:30am. I really looked forward to meals. I had from 6:30am until 8am to eat, rest, walk around a bit and get ready for the day. From 8am until 9am everyone was required to be in the Meditation Hall and Goenke(the head teacher who taught via DVD) guided us into and out of a meditation session. From 9am until 11am I had the choice to continue meditation in the Hall or In my room. 11am lunch was served. This was the “big meal” of the day. It was very good. The entire diet was vegetaraion. I had until 1pm to eat, walk, rest, get cleaned up and do whatever else I could think of. From 1pm until 2:30pm I had the choice of meditating in the Hall or in my room. From 2:30pm until 3:30pm everyone was required to be in the Meditation Hall for a guided meditation. From 3:30 until 5pm I could continue working in the Hall or in my room. 5pm was the tea break. Tea and Fruit was available. From 6pm to 7pm everyone was required to be in the Hall for a guided meditaiton. From 7pm until 8:30pm we watched a DVD presentation from Goenke called the Day’s Discourse. These Discourses were very good and we were given instructions on how to meditate for the next day. From 8:30pm until 9pm we meditated using the “new” technique. 9pm to 10pm we retired to our rooms. 10pm Lights out. Each day followed this schedule. More on my experience later.

Fulfillment and Desire

Desire and Fullfillment. The Kabbalists say that “Fullfillment is the seed of Desire.” This implies that, in the context of time, Fullfillment precedes Desire. On a deeper, spiritual, metaphysical level it means that Fullfillment is the creator or originator of Desire. The Kabbalists describe Fullfillment as “The Light” and Desire as a kind of vessel or container. I reference Kabbalah because in all of the models used by religion, metaphysics, science and philosophy the Kabbalists offer an extremely profound and workable picture of existence; The mechanisms, rules and laws of our universe. Further significance is added to their model because cutting edge science in Quantum Physics and String Theory seem to run parallel to Kabbalistic “Technology.” I have added a link to a Kabbalah website that I have found useful. They offer many books and other resources if you wish to investigate their positions. The challenge in referencing Kabbalah is that it is associated with organized religion. Anything remotely associated with organized religion has become a non starter for a very large portion of our population and for those who are already associated with a religion it is an absolute non starter because it is not of their religion. Atheists, agnostics, and those that just despise organized religion have a firm belief that anything that involves the belief in God or a creator is pure poppy cock (if you have read this far you may not be one of them…lol). Continue reading Fulfillment and Desire